The Xena Scrolls: Volume #3: Scroll #54: Surprise

The Xena Scrolls

By:  Gabrielle Bard of Potedia

Scroll #54:  Surprise

October, 47 B.C.

     Deep in Tartarus there was once a blonde nemesis.  Her name was Callisto and she had done many evil deeds while in the land of the living.  However, she wasn’t born evil.  She had once been a helpless little farm girl in a village known as Syra.  At the age of 11 Callisto had witnessed the total destruction of her village and her family in the flames of a once evil warrior princess.  It was in that decisive moment of her life that Callisto had vowed within her tender innocent heart turned cold to destroy that which had destroyed her.

Nine years later Callisto had finally caught up to her enemy and challenged the warrior princess.  By then the warrior princess had changed her ways and was no longer on a path of ultimate destruction, but on a path toward serving the greater good.  The evil that the young Callisto had seeked revenge upon was no longer wandering the earth on a path of destruction.  Although Callisto had failed in accomplishing the complete destruction of the warrior princess she had managed to find a way to destroy the life of her friend Gabrielle by destroying her beloved husband Perdicas.  Xena the warrior princess had attempted to reform the young Callisto’s heart back into love, but was unsuccessful.  Upon the murder of Perdicas Xena had been left no other choice, but to allow Callisto to destroy herself.  And Callisto did destroy herself which had led her to her own demise down into the depths of Tartarus.

This is where the bard Gabrielle’s real story of Callisto begins.  The bard could imagine Callisto down in Tartarus screaming in agony and in eternal emotional pain.  Within Callisto’s rage unfulfilled a deep, dark, shadowy voice came from within the depths of her soul.  The voice spoke to Callisto who was surprised to find that anyone in Tartarus would listen to her pain.  But someone was listening.  In fact, it was a very powerful force that had taken a great interest in Callisto’s pain.  Callisto was cautiously intrigued within her emotional turmoil inquiring of who it was that had taken an interest in her.  The voice only had one response.  The voice declared that she was a follower and a fan of Callisto.  Then the voice continued speaking to Callisto.  She expressed her interest in Callisto’s passionate campaign against the warrior princess.  In fact, the dark fan proclaimed that she was regretful that Callisto’s vengeance had gone unsatisfied.

Callisto rose from within the fetal ball of pain that she had become in Tartarus and stood upon her feet to greet the voice which seemed to admire her.  When the blond approached the holographic face which appeared before her Callisto had determined it was the goddess Hera.  Callisto took a jab at the great Hera demanding to know why Hera refused to reveal her true ugliness to Callisto.  The broken blond warrior was not afraid of the gods, but it seemed that perhaps the gods were afraid of her.  This was of great delight to Callisto as she laughed maniacally at Hera.  Hera matched Callisto’s playful laughter with her own explaining how she felt about Callisto.  Hera only view Callisto as a pet really as Callisto inquired within her eternal emotional exhaustion of what Hera wanted from the condemned.

Hera then declared to Callisto that all she really wanted was to see Callisto smile again.  The great voice continued explaining that she desired to offer another chance to get her vengeance against Xena.  Callisto was cautiously interested in what Hera would offer and what kind of a deal she wished to make with her as she listened.  Hera continued  by explaining to Callisto that she would grant her one more day of life on earth and the chance at becoming an immortal.  Callisto was delightfully sold on Hera’s offer.  She only needed to know what Hera needed from her in exchange.  Hera explained that her desire was a simple one.  Callisto’s part of their deal would be in using that day to hunt down and kill her husband Zeus’s bastard son the great Hercules.  Hera reminded Callisto that it was Hercules that had made Xena, the warrior princess, whole and it was Hercules that had allowed Xena to take the path of redemption for herself.  Callisto did not need any persuasion beyond that as she spoke Hercules’s name, and smiled then laughed maniacally as Hera rescued Callisto from Tartarus and brought her back to the land of the living upon the earth.

Hera had picked a very special day in which to unleash a bloodbath upon Hercules.  It was his birthday and his mortal mother Alchmeny had been planning a big surprise party for her much celebrated son the legendary hero.  All of Hercules’s human family members were gathering in Alchmeny’s home as they prepared for Hercules’s arrival.

From one moment in Tartarus and in the next Callisto found herself in an instant within the home of Alchmeny.  The party guests appeared very surprised to see her as she suddenly appeared.  She looked of death, but was very much alive.  Dressed in a black hooded cloak Callisto timidly excused herself for intruding upon their little gathering.  She explained that she had been unable to find a guard to announce her arrival.  Hercules’s brother responded explaining that they had sent the guard home for the day since they were having a celebration and did not feel the need for the extra security.  Hercules’s human brother then inquired of who it was that had intruded upon their surprise party.   Iphacles.

Callisto used this opportunity to invite herself closer to the party guests.  She stated that she had come to pay her respects.  The darkness approached the unsuspecting guests explaining that her family had been attacked and her husband killed upon their travels along the road in Macedonia.  She continued her explanation that she and her child would have both become victims of murder along the road as well if it had not been for Hercules arriving in time to save them from certain death and destruction.   Iolas, Hercules’s best friend, did not recall Hercules mentioning this event.  Iolas found that he was suspicious of this uninvited guest and he asked her when this event had occurred.  The dark stranger continued as if embarrassed.  She ignored Iolas’s question and explained that she had heard it was Hercules’s birthday and she just wanted to leave a small gift for the hero and her proclaimed savior.

Hercules’s kind mother approached the young flower and invited her to come in and join the party.  The young dark flower expressed embarrassment yet was happy to be openly invited into Hercules’s most private inner circle.  With a cunning convincing act Callisto had been able to gain access to the people Hercules valued most.  This would make it easier for her to accomplish her goal and to become immortal.

As Alchmeny offered Callisto a drink Callisto found her opportunity to strike.  The blond darkness stood next to the large bowl of punch which had been prepared for all of the other party guests that would be arriving.  She set her phony gift upon the table next to the bowl of punch and began to concoct her vengeance upon Xena and her destruction upon Hercules.  As Alchmeny and the other party guests began to mingle with one another Callisto pulled from beneath her cloak a tiny vile filled with the wrath of Hera.  Once the deed was done Callisto reached for an empty chalice and filled it with the tainted punch.  Then the young dark flower turned to mingle with the crowd cloaked in innocence as she offered everyone a taste of more punch.

Soon Hercules arrived his mother’s home as he wandered the eerily quiet halls.  At first he thought little of it remembering that earlier in the day when Iolas had met with him he had instructed Hercules to act surprised when he came.  Their friend Falafal had accidentally revealed to Hercules that there was a surprise party being held in his honor for his birthday.  As Hercules opened the door do the banquet hall where he expected to find everyone he found himself shockingly horrified.  All of his family and closest friends, including his mother and Iolas, were all lying unconscious.  All was completely silent.  Hercules was alarmed not certain that anyone was even still alive.  As he scanned the room his eyes caught sight of the dark flower.  She raised her head as she sat alone at the table.  She looked to him and then revealed herself to him.  Callisto pulled her hood down and declared surprise alone in the room of the unconscious.

Hercules was indeed surprised, but this was not what he had intended to find on the other side of the banquet doors.  When he looked across the room he heard Callisto’s evil maniacal laughter.  It was a laughter that he had only heard about through the tales an evil blond warrior named Callisto.  He had heard of Callisto before, but he had never met the blond nemesis in person until now.  She was quite a surprise to him.  Suddenly Hercules snapped out of his shock and ran to the aid of his mother asking her if she could hear him.  All the while Callisto was enjoying herself suggesting that maybe someone had spiked the punch.  She declared playfully that she was glad that she wasn’t a drinker.  Then she threw off her disguise onto the floor dressed in nothing, but her warrior leather carrying a knife.

She approached Hercules and was intrigued pointing out it was obvious to her that he had never witnessed the effects of Xanthaleumthenum before.  Callisto began to explain the Hercules the effects of such a drug.  She stated that the mind was affected most by making victims susceptible to their wildest imaginings.  Callisto went onto explain that by the end of the day her friends would be completely mad, but only in the event that they did not kill one another before the drug fully worked their minds.

Hercules could listen to no more.  He forcefully moved Callisto away from his mother grabbing her by the shoulders.  Callisto was seemingly unaffected by his reaction as she explained that there was a known antedote.  Suddenly Callisto threw herself away from Hercules’s mighty grasp and stated that the antedote Hercules needed to save his family and friends was very rare to find.  With that the blond nemesis walked away from him and Hercules calmly inquired of Callisto what she wanted from him.  Her answer was simple, quick, precise, and to the point.  She wanted safe passage through the labrynths of the gods to the tree of life.  Then she continued explaining that it would only take one bite of the fruit of the tree to cure any illness.  Callisto was cunning, but Hercules could see through her cunning.  The blond nemesis continued reminding Hercules as she slammed an unconscious man’s face onto the table that madness for all of them was the alternative.

Hercules revealed to Callisto that he was aware that eating an apple whole from the tree of life could make one immortal.  Callisto continued chatting as if she had not just heard what Hercules had said as she playfully unwrapped his gifts for him.  She exclaimed that the two of them had much to celebrate between the two of them.  For this day was the day of Hercules’s most spectacular birth and would become the day of Callisto’s inevitable rebirth.  This was the moment in which Callisto finally decided to reveal her true identity to Hercules.  Hercules could not believe it at first.  He had heard the story of how Callisto had died in the quicksand in her epic battle against Xena.  Callisto approached Hercules again explaining how the impossible had become possible.  She revealed to him his true enemy which was not Callisto, but Hera his powerful step mother.  Callisto stated that Hera had given her a one day reprieve from death and Tartarus.  Then she went on in an attempt to convince Hercules that the two of them really did need each other.

Callisto then moved back toward the gifts and explained the reason they needed each other.  Though the blond was alive and well she was not with all of her mortal strengths from before death.  Yet, Hercules would never be able to navigate the labrynth in time to find the tree which contained the much needed antedote for his friends and family.  Callisto’s next thought was playful as she picked up a pair of new pants from within the gift box and declared happily that they were indeed nice.  Hercules could see that Callisto was bouncing between evil clarity and the mind of a playful innocent child.  He declared that she was insane, but she turned to him and calmly explained to him that she was no more than misunderstood.  Then she moved toward the door and turned to Hercules again and asked him if he was ready to go.  He had been recruited to be her new partner, but he certainly wasn’t a willing partner.

As Callisto and her new partner Hercules set off on their journey together she began to talk to him on a human level.  From what Hercules had heard about the blond nemesis she could not be trusted.  Yet he found himself attempting to be civil to someone who was obviously damaged and seemingly attempting to be civil as well.  As they walked the path together she explained how she felt like she had already come to know him as person despite their just having officially met within this circumstance.  Really, Callisto had only been dragged into someone else’s drama by an evil step mother.  Callisto could almost relate to Hercules in a way.  She had seemingly been thrown to the wolves as Hercules’s step mother was attempting to do to him.  Callisto knew she was a simple pawn and really had no ill will toward Hercules.  She had her own set of issues to deal with unfortunately for Hercules they included killing him at some point.  Deep down Hercules knew this, but he also understood that Callisto’s real enemy was an evil warrior princess whom he had rid the world of years ago.

Hercules attempted to keep his emotional distance from Callisto as he declared to her that she really did not know him at all.  Callisto seemed almost star struck in a way declaring that it was the fates that had seemingly brought the two of them together.  The blond nemesis  was seemingly innocent despite what Hercules knew of her.  She admitted to him that he was not the person that she had imagined him to be.  Despite this it was clear that she was clearly still very fascinated by him and by being in his presence.  It was almost as if she were hoping secretly that he would be able to successfully pull her from the depths of loss and despair as he had done for Xena.  Yet it was clear that Hercules was uninterested.  He was sarcastic declaring that Callisto must have been disappointed by him.  Callisto proclaimed with muffled excitement that she was not at all disappointed by him.

Then Callisto attempted to face him directly as they moved down the path together.  She was pleased at the look of emotional anguish that she had been able to invoke out of him back at the castle.  Callisto described Hercules’s reaction as one of fire and one of hate against her.  She then attempted to get deeper under his skin asking him if that was the same reaction he had had toward Hera when he had watched his deceased children die.  Hercules worked to contain his anger and not to reveal to Callisto what was going through his mind, heart, and emotions.  He warned her not to push him toward his inner rage.  She was not at all threatened by him and it was obvious.  Callisto declared that the beauty of this moment for her was in knowing that she could have her way with Hercules as long as she held the key to saving his family and friends from absolute destruction.  Although on one level she seemed to relish this Hercules sensed that she was also less interested in toying with his emotions as he would have imagined.  It seemed that there was something even more pressing for her.  Callisto’s months in Tartarus had led her to become a more patient foe.  Despite Hercules’s attempts to hide his emotions from her she declared that she could still feel them anyway.

The two continued on their journey together as the day wore on.  Hercules noticed that Callisto’s state of mind kept swinging back and forth between evil clarity and the playful misunderstood child.  She was now skipping alongside him singing and laughing, and playing.  It was unnerving even for the legendary hero for all he could think about were his helpless friends and family.  Time was of the essence in his mind.  He scolded Callisto as a father would scold his child and then she held his hand in hers and asked him why they couldn’t be nice to one another despite her having poisoned his friends.  It was as if she did not understand the urgency of the moment and the situation.  Hercules found himself frustrated realizing that his mother Hera had also victimized Callisto, but still she was not of complete innocence.  Hercules continued to be cautious with his new unexpected partner.

Callisto had finally led him to the location of the labrynth as she jumped upon the steps of the temple and declared that Hercules should have no reason to be mad at her.  After all, she was not the one who had painted a giant mark of death on his family.  Everyone knew that it was Hera who was behind it all.  Callisto was just playfully carrying out her orders.  Hercules firmly told Callisto that she should leave his family out of any further discussion.  Callisto continued with her thought out loud inviting Hercules to entertain what she was offering.  She explained that if his family was not related to Hercules then they would still be part of the world of the living.  Hercules turned away disgusted that Callisto felt it necessary to point out the things that he himself felt guilt over.  Callisto then jumped down from the stairs of the temple and declared that to be loved by Hercules was to mean that one would be cursed.

Hercules decided that he would fight back, but play the game in Callisto’s childlike world.  He asked her what the alternative was that she suggested.  He surmised openly to her that it was to be alone trapped within hate.  Hercules then looked to Callisto and shook his head.  He expressed that he would rather take his chances in going up against Hera even if it meant to continue on this quest alongside Callisto.  With that she laughed and then twirled about following Hercules as he continued searching for the entrance to the labrynth.  She wondered out loud if Hercules lied awake and alone at night hearing the screams of his children as they died.  Callisto wondered if he relived those moments and regretted the outcome wondering if there was something more he could have done to save them.  She wondered out loud if Hercules had given more respect to Hera if things might have turned out different for his family.  This touched a nerve with Hercules.  She had finally found his button and he did not like it.  He turned to her suddenly and angrily warned her to drop the subject of his family and dealings with Hera.

Hercules was now facing Callisto down declaring that he had no expectation of her understanding in the matter.  Callisto shot back at him declaring that she did understand his pain despite what he felt inside about her.  She confessed to Hercules that her family was also slaughtered like helpless animals as his family had been.  Hercules was stiff in his response stating that she didn’t learn much from her experience.  Callisto shot back at Hercules declaring that as a result of her experience she had learned how to get exactly what she wanted whenever she wanted it.  Then Callisto moved in on Hercules flatly reminding him within her evil clarity that the only reason that his friends were still alive at this point in her little child-like game was because she had decided to allow them to be alive.  Hercules retorted flatly against Callisto assuming that he was expected to apologize to Callisto.  Callisto’s response was dry and serious.  She said that she didn’t need his apology, but that he owed her everything he had in this moment.

In the moments that followed not a word was shared between them as they searched for the entrance to the labrynth.  Just when it seemed that Callisto was a complete hopeless case for Hercules there before them was an amazing site.  Callisto declared that what she saw before her was beautiful.  Hercules did not find the large stone gargoyle statue protecting the door particularly beautiful, but Callisto had demonstrated that her reactions to her surroundings were not normal as most human beings would view them.  The blond nemesis then declared that an open door was just as good as an open invitation.  It almost appeared to be too easy to enter the great labrynth.  Hercules was ready for the obstacle to reveal itself.  When it came to dealing with Hera he expected it.

As he watched Callisto approaching the steps to the open entrance he looked to the large gargoyle statue.  He saw its head slowly move and then fire shot out from every direction.  Callisto jumped back startled and screaming.  Hercules could see that the site of fire affected her deeply.  She rejoined him appearing confused for a moment as if she did not know how to handle the obstacle.  Hercules could not resist a playful joke at Callisto’s expense as a dark voice emenated from the head of the gargoyle guarding the door.  He breathed fired out of his nose as he spoke and stated that all who seeked safe passage beyond the door were required to solve a riddle.  Anyone who failed to solve the riddle would face death.  Hercules looked to Callisto inquiring with playful caution if she wished to attempt to solve the riddle first.

The gargoyle continued to speak asking its guests to give a name to earthly conceipt for it was unchangeable, but could change people, teach them, or trap them.  All who resided there were immortal, but the mortals standing before the gargoyle could never go to the unnamed place within the riddle.  Callisto chimed in commenting toward Hercules her hopes of his brain being able to match the strength of his brawn.  The gargoyle continued on with its riddle stating that the answer lied before the eyes of those who were standing witness to the riddle.  Hercules looked up to notice that the gargoyle then revealed an hour glass flipping upside down as the gargoyle continued asking that its visitors to choose their words before the words ran their course.

Callisto spoke of the unchangeable and Hercules focused on the fact that all who went to this location were immortal.  Suddenly, Callisto declared out loud that the answer to the riddle was Mount Olympus.  The gargoyle released angry fire down upon his visitors as both Callisto and Hercules jumped backward.  Hercules looked to Callisto and explained that Mount Olympus wasn’t actually a place within reality stating to Callisto that was the trick within the riddle.  Callisto barked back at Hercules frustrated reminding him that he had yet to come up with a good idea as to the solution to the riddle.  Hercules shot back asking that Callisto be quiet so he could think.  Callisto just shot back at him stating that she would not be holding her breath for his brilliant thoughts to come.  Then she turned back toward the gargoyle panicked noticing that the hour glass was running out on them.  Hercules looked to Callisto and suggested that maybe time was the answer to the riddle. Callisto hastily agreed with that thought and shouted out at the gargoyle her new answer.

Again the gargoyle spewed its fire down upon Hercules and Callisto.  She looked to Hercules again still in a panic and quickly noted that his idea was not the answer they seeked either.  Callisto wanted Hercules to offer another quick thought to their dilemma, but Hercules did not answer for he was still considering the riddle.  Callisto was impatient demanding another answer from Hercules as she yelled.  Hercules attempted to stay focused on the task as the gargoyle continued spewing fire down upon them.  Callisto had reverted into a child-like state as the fire reigned down upon them.  Hercules then spoke of the part of the riddle that they had seemingly forgotten.  “The answer lies before your eyes.”  Hercules looked to the hour glass as the sand was just about to run out.   Then he shouted out his final answer to the riddle which was “the past.”

Suddenly, the gargoyle’s fire disappeared and all was quiet again.  It seemed that Hercules had solved the dire riddle opening the entrance to the secret temple.  He then held out his arm and offered for Callisto to enter into the temple ahead of him.  She moved forward slightly cautious as if waiting for the gargoyle and his fire to reign down upon her.  As she hesitated her way up the steps Hercules then moved ahead of her confident and sure of his answer.  He knew the gargoyle had been tamed by his answer in the past.

As Hercules entered into the temple with Callisto he noticed that there was an oil pouch and a lamp already lit for their journey.  It was almost as if it had been a friendly invitation left behind by their fierce gargoyle friend.  Callisto entered inside the temple and then poked at Hercules asking him if the child inside him was afraid of the dark.  Hercules was annoyed by the comment knowing that he had just witnessed Callisto’s greatest fears of the fire outside the temple.  He realized that Callisto had been embarrassed of her open fear of fire and had to allow herself to feel as if she weren’t the only one with hidden fears reaching back into her childhood.  He then looked to Callisto who was now exploring the inside of a dark well and expressed that he didn’t feel she was doing too well.  Callisto found herself to be quite intrigued by the well in which she was climbing upon as if she barely noticed Hercules’s minor concern over her.  She warned him not to find himself within worry over her state of mind.  Callisto was certain that she would be feeling as good as new soon, but needed a drink of water to sustain her mortal self.

She struggled to pull the heavy bucket of water from the well to fill her mortal thirst, but did not have the strength to bring it up on her own.  Hercules found himself unable to stand by and watch the poor soul struggle.  He approached the well and helped Callisto hoist the bucket of water to the top.  Then he offered Callisto the ladle from the bucket.  The poor soul appeared as if she had not drank a drop of water in more than a lifetime.  She appeared thrilled and delighted at the idea of drinking water.  Again Hercules witnessed her within a child-like state.  He began to find himself feeling sympathy for her plight.  The she looked up at him and declared that he was a gentlemen.  Again she was taking a dig at him, but he ignored it knowing that her real ploy was in purposely pushing people away from her.  Callisto again looked up from her water fest and stated that the world didn’t deserve Hercules.  He played along with her little game and reflected the hatred back at her.  Hercules could see it was what she desired.  Callisto didn’t really want to be loved by anyone and it made her feel   comfortable to be hated.  Hercules found it to be the easiest way to keep her within his control.

Then Callisto stated as she drank from the ladle that she and Hercules were not as different as he liked himself to think.  Hercules knew what Callisto was up to.  Callisto was attempting to shape Hercules’s thoughts into believing that he himself deserved the same fate that she did.  He laughed at her idea almost interested in her argument for this idea.  As he listened she went on.  She stated that they both believed in the idea that the wicked should be punished.  Callisto went on to say that she saw something about people that he was unable to see.  Hercules then placed his torch to the side as he opened the bottle of oil to make the flame larger and brighter.  He expressed out loud that he was certain that Callisto would share her reasoning with him on the matter of the wicked.  Hercules raised the bottle of oil to his nose and took a whiff.  Calisto continued explaining that all people were wicked, and deserved everything that was dealt to them.

Hercules put the cap back onto the bottle of oil for the torch and placed it into his clothing for safe keeping.  He disagreed with Callisto’s reasoning stating that he had known of too much good in the world to believe in Callisto’s philosophy.  Callisto looked up from her water bucked confused by his response to her statement.  Then allowed the word “good” to escape from her lips inquiring of Hercules if it was a joke that he thought this way.  Callisto’s inner child revealed itself again stating that if mortals were indeed good then there would be no need for a hero like Hercules to even exist.  Then Callisto’s child became hidden within herself again and the evil part of her came to the surface once more.  Hercules responded explaining that he had indeed seen the darker side of people.  The hero went onto explain that the child within Callisto had earned his compassion for he realized that she had watched her parents die within fire.  However, Hercules pointed out that Callisto still had a choice which she had made.  Her choice was in how she responded to the evil that had been done to her and her family.  Callisto had chosen to follow evil rather than to fight against it which was what made his compassion for her limited.

Then Hercules picked up the torch and began to move further into the deep, dark temple.  Callisto threw her ladle back into the water bucket and began to clap within hysteria.  Hercules turned to look at her and could see that Callisto was stuck between a conflict within herself.  Callisto continued stating that Hercules’s faith in people was touching, but again it was borderline sarcastic evil.  She rose from the well having finished quenching both her mortal thirst and her thirst for toying with Hercules’s mind.  Callisto continued as she challenged Hercules to continue his newfound faith in her as their day and journey together would continue.  Then Callisto invited Hercules to follow her further into the dark temple.  Hercules watched as she moved into the darkness.  He was still very suspicious of her truest motives.  The hero could sense that Callisto’s soul was nearly damaged beyond repair.  His senses about her were heightened.

As the two unlikely companions moved through the darkness within the mysterious temple Callisto began to play with her hair as if off balance by Hercules’s response to her.  She twirled her hair nervously and stated that Hercules was not living up to her expectations of him.  Callisto was seemingly disappointed in Hercules for not having been more open to the idea that he could spend the whole day attempting to convince Callisto that she could change in the way that Xena the warrior princess had been convinced to change.  Hercules easily answered that inquiry explaining confidently to Callisto that Xena had changed because Xena had been wanting to change.  Callisto stopped and turned to Hercules not so certain that Xena had really changed deep down.  She continued her confessions of Xena telling Hercules a seemingly very dark secret about Xena.  Callisto revealed to Hercules that Xena had watched her die in quick sand during their battle over the death of Gabrielle’s beloved Perdicas.

Callisto then turned away from Hercules as she continued leading him down the path of darkness.  She twirled her hair and spoke of how ironic she thought it to be that not long before there had been a time in which Hercules would have gladly teamed up with Callisto to help bring Xena to justice for her past crimes against humanity.  Hercules argued with Callisto on that point stating she was wrong to think that about him for he did not share Callisto’s definition for justice.  She agreed with him on this point.  Callisto’s sanity quickly turned to vengeance against Xena as she declared that she believed justice for Xena would be to die a very slow and painful death just as her parents had at the hands of Xena’s army.  Hercules was frustrated as he turned to Callisto and explained that vengeance wasn’t true justice.  If she could only understand this viewpoint he thought that it might be possible for her tortured soul to find some peace within.

Callisto’s child rose to the surface as she spoke the word peace out loud repeatedly.  It was as if Callisto was considering what that meant to feel peace within.  Then the vengeance rose forth from within her again as she declared that she had once dreamed of peace.  Callisto then closed her eyes and imagined that death would be the only true way to experience peace.  She asked Hercules to allow her to die again so that she might have another chance at reaching that illusive feeling of peace within.  Callisto continued explaining that her trip to Tartarus after having been allowed to die by the warrior princess should have been a welcome for her.  Yet instead she found that she was only welcomed by eternal torture in death and in Tartarus.  She explained with anger that she had been trapped in her hatred of Xena with nothing within her power to do about it.  Hercules was not buying all of what Callisto said.  He knew the real reason they were on this journey together.  She needed her shot at becoming an immortal so she could fill her vengeance against Xena and those whom Xena loved most.  Hercules pushed Callisto’s tortured soul aside and stated that immortality would not solve her problems with vengeance.  Callisto’s frustrations with Hercules rose from within the evil burning within her as she hissed at him like a caged animal.

Despite their battle of wits they still need each other to accomplish their respective goals.  Hercules wanted to save his family and friends while Callisto wanted to destroy Xena to satisfy her vengeance.  As they continued on their journey they reached two passages.  Callisto’s job was supposed to be leading them to the antidote Hercules desparately needed to help his loved ones.  He was frustrated with Callisto.  She was seemingly confused as to which way to lead them next.  Hercules asked Callisto not to toy with him and pretend to be a lost child again.  Yet there was little he could do since it was the lost child who was now in control of Callisto again.  Callisto argued with herself about not having written down the specific details Hera had given her.  She shook her head as the confusion within unfolded before Hercules.  He could almost feel as if he were swimming around within her confused mind.  Suddenly, Callisto’s child won out and she chose the left passage and continued the journey with Hercules.

As Hercules followed behind her something came from within the darkness of the passage and wrapped itself around Callisto’s ankles dragging her into the darkness as she screamed.  Then the child within Callisto panicked and cried out to Hercules.  He thought to himself that it must have been the right passage that they should have taken.  He had two choices.  He could save himself and his family as he watched Callisto disappear into the darkness alone or he could delay saving his family and himself to save a damaged soul.  Hercules then made the only choice that he could.  He dashed down into the darkness following Callisto’s tortured screams.  He shouted out for Callisto hoping she would respond back so he could hear where she had been dragged off to within the darkness.

Her screams led him into a cavern full of black tentacles that appeared to be living breathing vines.  Just as he was about to enter the cavern a blackness covered the entrance.  Hercules could still hear her echoing screams so he shouted out to Callisto to keep talking to him.  She responded frustrated stating that indeed it was what she was attempting to do.  Hercules searched for an alternate route into the cavern which held Callisto.  When he found an alternate entrance it suddenly became blocked by a giant bolder which appeared.  He peered through the small opening left there and could see Callisto was completely wrapped up in the black vines.  She was struggling as she reminded Hercules if he did not save her then his family would die along with her.

Hercules was very aware of that fact as his frustrations rose.  He could feel Callisto’s tortured struggle as the vines began to wrap themselves around her neck cutting off her ability to speak.  It was only a matter of time before they would cut off her breath and her life.  Hercules looked for another entrance into the cavern of vines.  He could hear Callisto’s stuggle to breath and she began to choke for breath and to shout out a few last screams for his assistance.  He dashed down the dark paths until he found another entrance.  Hercules faced the living vines as he attempted to wade through them toward a trapped Callisto.  The vines were strong and he struggled through them to rescue Callisto who was still screaming in fear and panic.  She was now facing her second mortal death.  Just as it seemed he would not arrive through the vines to save her in time he ripped Callisto out of her binds.  He then instructed her to grab onto him as he reached for a live vine and swung them out of the cavern of vines.

As Callisto climbed off of his back she declared him to be her hero.  She was quickly back into her character of sarcastic evil.  It was as if she had planned her demise all along in an attempt to trap Hercules into his own death.  Hercules pushed her off of him and just looked at her disgusted at her reaction to her near death moment.  He walked away continuing on deeper into the darkness of the temple.  Callisto’s vengeful evil did not stop at its attempt on Hercules’s life.  She began to describe what her plans for immortality would be.  He first act of business would be to rip out Xena’s tongue so that the warrior princess would have to whistle her apology to Callisto for killing her family instead of speaking it.  Callisto found this to be beyond amusing as she giggled like a dissatisfied child.  Hercules reminded Callisto that her fantasy would have to be spoiled for the moment because she had not yet escaped the mysterious and dangerous dark temple alive yet.

With that Callisto reminded Hercules that he too had not t escaped the temple and its unknown trappings alive yet.  Hercules’s patience was running thin because he knew deep down that time was running out for his family.  He turned to Callisto and stated that when they made it to the tree of life and he was able to save his family and friends then his next order of business would be to send Callisto back to Tartarus where she belonged.  He would make sure he was the one to send her there.  His anger was heightened because even the child within her was vengeful.  That was too dangerous a thing to leave within the world alone.  Callisto yelled back at Hercules also impatient reminding him that there were no rooms to hold her.  She had managed to find her way even out of Tartarus.  She reminded him that he was the only one that could possibly stop her and for him to do that he would ultimately have to commit the act of murder.  Then she continued that she knew he would be unable to murder her the way that Xena had because his misguided sense of justice would not allow him to commit such an act.

Hercules calmly challenged her confidence of that point.  He stated she was overlooking something.  Callisto found herself slightly intrigued as she smiled and inquired of him what that was.  He then moved in close to her and whispered that she had already been killed.  Hercules continued by reminding her that the only reason that she was still standing was because he needed directions that only Callisto could give to him to save his family.  Again a look of confusion spread across her face as she stated that she had underestimated him.  He responded flatly stating that he was flattered by this, but she continued stating that he had also overlooked something about her.  Hercules laughed at the idea.  Then he stated that he did not believe it to be true as he continued moving forward through the temple.

Callisto did not follow him.  She only continued to state that if she went back to Tartarus she would not arrive there alone.  She then vowed to find the souls of Hercules’s dead children Clonous, Acin, and Aylaya.  Callisto promised Hercules that she would dedicate her entenity in Tartarus alongside them with her.  They would all suffer together.  Hercules knew that Callisto was good on her promise of this and Callisto was aware that she had achieved gathering Hercules’s undivided attention.  She reminded Hercules again that she had been able to escape Tartarus and return to mortality.  Not just anyone was capable of such a feat.  She was certain that she could easily reach Hercules’s children within the Elysian Fields if necessary to arrive at what she wanted for herself.

Hercules moved at Callisto unable to control his sudden rage against her promise against his children.  He shoved her up against the wall of the cave with his strong hand around her neck.  She had found his weakness which was also his strength at the same time.  Callisto had a way of pressing people’s buttons and bringing them to the brink of murder.  She continued stroking his rage against her begging him to continue the act of taking a life.  Callisto begged Hercules to kill her.  He could see that it was what she wanted him to do.  If he killed Callisto he knew he would become out of favor of Zues.  Zues would destroy him and allow Callisto to destroy the souls of his family if he followed through with the act of murder against a mortal.  Hercules had reached his breaking point, but understood the consequences of allowing himself to break.  It wasn’t worth it and so he released his grasp of her life.  His anger was unleashed through his fist upon the cave wall next to Callisto’s head.  He wanted to demonstrate his power over her so that she would not attempt to press his button again.

Callisto sank to the ground and began to laugh.  She asked Hercules which of them was trapped within their hatred.  Hercules looked back at her unable to understand her torture.  He decided that he didn’t really want to understand her anymore.  All Hercules wanted was to find what they had come to find.  He was certain the Callisto would find a way to destroy herself without him.  That was the way this would have to be resolved if he wanted to retain his own sanity.

The two fresh enemies continued down through the temple maze until they approached another entrance.  Callisto stopped, thought carefully, and paused.  Hercules jabbed at her hoping that she wasn’t confused again.  She was confident that she was not confused as she pointed him into another direction.  He had no choice, but to follow her advice despite their run in with the black vines.  As Hercules entered into the next room the walls suddenly closed attempting to trap him inside.  Just when Callisto had thought she had trapped Hercules the hero used his god-like strength to pry open the doors which were locked shut with spikes on the edges of them.  As Hercules struggled to free himself from her trap she did not raise a finger to help.  Instead she just admired the details of the many traps hidden within the mysterious temple.  She was quite pleased with the work of Hephestas’s craftsmanship.  This temple belonged to him as had been revealed by Hera.

Then Callisto moved away from the doors as Hercules continued to struggle his way out.  She shouted out to Hera explaining that Hercules had held up his end of their bargain as did Callisto herself.  It was now time for Hera produce the reward they had both come to receive.  As Hercules continued to struggle a secret door raised from within the walls deep inside the temple.  The unexpected movement grabbed Callisto’s attention as the newly opened passage way revealed the tree of eternal life.  Hercules could see that he only had moments to act.  If Callisto were to arrive at the tree with the golden apples before he could free himself all would be lost.  His friends, family, Iolas, and his mother would all perish.  Hercules shouted out to Callisto angry at what she had done.  He promised her that their battle of wits was not yet over.

Callisto casually turned back to face him.  She smiled then she approached him again and stated that she had enjoyed her little adventure with him, but she was confident that she no longer needed his assistance in handling matters which concerned her.  Then she reached out and grabbed Hercules’s long flowing hair and forced him to kiss her.  She suddenly too her torch and smashed it into his stomach knocking the wind from his lungs.  This forced Hercules to lose his grip upon the trap wall which had been closing in upon him to gore and smash him into oblivion.  Despite the momentary loss of his concentration he was able to recover and slowly push the walls back outward away from his body.

Callisto was enjoying toying with the legendary hero as she inquired if he was enjoying himself.  Callisto continued to toy with Hercules as she reached out and stroked his long hair again and promised him that soon he would be joining his friends and family in death.  Then she took one last jab at him promising him that her next move against him would be in the name of his having saved Xena’s soul.  She then used her torch and smacking his arm hard hoping that it would be the final blow that would deliver him to his death.  Despite the pain and the loss of concentration Hercules moved to block the wall from collapsing upon his body to deliver him to his death.  Callisto continued to stand watching him intrigued by his determination to survive.  Then she moved away as if suddenly uninterested.  He continued to struggle to survive and the blond nemesis appeared to be surprised at his inner strength and will.  It seemed that just for a moment she felt sorry for the hero.  Yet it was only a fleeting moment of concern for him as she shook her head and bade him farewell certain of his impending doom.

Hercules had hoped that he could use his moment of despair to convince her to change her mind and help him to escape the jaws of death, but instead she continued toward the tree of immortality.  He watched helplessly as she reached out for one of the golden apples.  Hercules had lost the battle to prevent Callisto from reaching immortality, but he was still fighting for his life.  As he struggled with the collapsing walls Callisto took the luscious golden apple she had just picked and bit into it with satisfaction.  Within an instant she had transformed into an immortal as all of her strength and more was restored and she could feel the power from within.

Hercules managed to struggle his way out using his powerful shoulders to twist himself back around to a position from which he could push the walls away from himself.  As he pushed against the mighty walls the temple began to shake as it buckled against his power.  Suddenly, he had successfully freed himself from the collapsing walls as they slammed shut behind him while he ran for the tree of eternal life.  As he scanned the temple he saw no one.  It seemed as if Callisto had vanished for a moment.  Suddenly, she screamed her signature battle cry and flipped over him from the shadows with her power.  Before Hercules could get his barrings she landed upon his tired shoulders reaching down with her hands and grabbing his face.    She was still eating the golden apple she had taken from the tree and joyfully declared that it was delicious.  She continued pressing the advantage against his tired shoulders while he attempted to recover from having his eyes nearly gouged out.

Then she kicked him with her legs and flipped off of his shoulders landing in front of him has he fell from the blow.  Callisto continued to masterfully press her immortal advantage over his mortality.  She turned back around to face him as he attempted to rise to his feet to face her.  Then she delivered an angry furious kick across his face.  She was punishing him for having had faith in Xena, but not in herself.  In this moment, Hercules had managed to get to his feet, but before he could make an offensive move against her she swept her foot beneath his and he was robbed of his balance again.  Hercules fell back onto his back again.  In that moment he decided not to struggle against her for it seemed that she was ready for his every counter attack.

Then she paused in her advances against him and smiled.  She looked him in the eye and realized declaring out loud that he was to die on his birthday.  Somehow for Callisto it seemed fitting.  This idea pleased her as she stated that it was a convienance.  Then she lifted her boot and smashed it into Hercules’s face.  Callisto then flipped backward leaping toward her torch which now held a flame within it.  Hercules realized that her plan was to kill him the way her family had been killed by Xena.  She planned on burning him to death as punishment for her suffering at the hands of Xena.  Before Hercules could move to do anything about it Callisto made another unexpected move as she moved with the flame toward the tree which held the key to saving Hercules’s loved ones.  She then lit it on fire destroying any hope that Hercules may have had in being able to save his loved ones even if he could find a way to save himself.  This led Hercules to suddenly rise to his feet into action.  He shouted out against Callisto who suggested playfully that he should blow out the flames and make a wish for his birthday.

Callisto then screamed, ran, and then flipped through the air back into an offensive stance against Hercules.  She was determined to make him suffer.  Then she kicked leaves off of the floor of the temple into Hercules’s face knocking her boot directly into his nose.  As Hercules grabbed his nose staggering backward Callisto pressed her offensive swinging around her torch and knocking it into his stomach with immortal force.  She watched as Herules staggered backward up against the temple walls and sunk down to the floor in agony.  Callisto was now beginning to feel the real power that came with being an immortal.  She dashed across the temple, then flew through the air screaming loudly.  She attempted to deliver another furious blow with the power of her boot against Hercules, but he was ready this time.  He was able to duck her offensive against him forcing her to kick the wall behind him.

Then she swung around again with her torch and attempted to knock his head off.  He was able to duck the move.  Hercules had discovered her offensive strategies as he had allowed himself to take several blows in order to learn how he could counter her.  It was a brilliant , yet painful way to do battle.  Callisto quickly realized this and began working on his weak shoulders again.  She reached out and slapped his shoulder then back kicked him across the jaw.  Hercules had not been expecting that, but it wasn’t enough to knock him down again.  He used the wall to help soften the blows against him as he ducked and dodged her advances.  Then he managed to find an opening against her and rolled beneath her offensive.  She turned to face him, smiled and then flipped across the temple back toward his new position of defense.  As Hercules attempted to get to his feet again Callisto met him and stated that it was a pity the two of them could not have worked out their differences.  She was certain the two of them together would have made an unstoppable team.

In the next moment she attempted to kick him across the face again, but he was ready for her.  He managed to block her kick with his powerfully strong hands. She looked to him shocked that he was able to defy her certain death blow.  Angry that she had been stopped she found herself surprised by Hercules’s strength yet again as he took the advantage against her grabbing her and flipping her over his knee.  Then he looked to her before she could regain her senses and stated that he already had a partner.  Then he used his powerful punch to knock her across the temple against the wall.  She didn’t recover from his power right away.  She slid down the temple wall, but soon regained her senses.  Her immortality was nearly unstoppable even  for the great Hercules.  She declared that Hercules’s partner Iolas would not be a part of Hercules’s world much longer.

Hercules dashed for the burning tree.  As he attempted to find a way to distinguish the flames Callisto rose to her feet, screamed, and dashed across the temple to attack again.  She ran up his body and flipped backward.  Then she kicked the single apple from his hand that he had managed to retrieve from the burning tree.  Callisto then tried a new offensive delivering furious punches at directly at Hercules’s face.  He managed to block them with his strong arms.  He had used the time he was allowing Callisto to pummel him to rest his tired shoulders.  Hercules was now gaining some momentum against Callisto’s advances.  She attempted to knee him in the stomach, but he was ready for it as he grabbed her head and forced in down into her own knee.  Then he swung her around and knocked her from her feet with his legs.  He then kicked her across the temple into the walls.  Callisto’s head smacked hard.

Hercules used her moment of immortal weakness and picked up the apple he had managed to retrieve from the burning tree.  Callisto quickly recovered frustrated with him.  She asked him why he couldn’t just allow himself to perish like a good son.  He declared that he just didn’t know when to quit.  Callisto promised to inspire him into death.  She stated that even if Hercules was able to find his way out of the temple maze without her help he would never be able to do it in time to save his loved ones.  Hercules was confident that Callisto was wrong in her thinking.  Callisto was ready to hear why he was so confident as she gleefully inquired.  He then held up an empty oil pouch and stated that he had known something Callisto was unaware of.  It was the fact that they were out of oil for the torch.

Callisto appeared to be confused for a moment, but Hercules continued explaining his view through his next action.  He pulled a burning branch from the tree and threw it across the temple out into the dark corridor.  The torch lit the oil trail that Hercules had left behind them as they had moved through the temple maze which led the way home.  Hercules firmly stated that the oil flame would lead right back to the entrance.  Then he declared his own surprise.  Callisto quickly realized that she was defeated.  She reached out for the bulls head lever upon the temple wall activating it to close the door and seal Hercules inside the room.  Then she grabbed a knife from her leather armor and charged Hercules attempting to stab him through his heart.  Hercules quickly ducked her charge and ran for the closing door.  Callisto ran into the burning tree and fell in frustration.

Then she began to weep in emotional anguish as Hercules was about to escape the flames of entrapment.  He looked back noticing that she had burned her eyes.  She was struggling to see as she begged him not to leave her alone in the fire.  The fearful child with in her was now talking to him.  Hercules could not allow himself to leave the child despite the evil that lurked within her.  He ran back for her and asked her to give him her hand.  In the next moment she turned on him again and jumped upon his back and screamed defiantly.  She struggled to prevent him from leaving and saving his loved ones as he struggled to throw the evil from his back.  Hercules had the upper hand and he had hope again.  His strength had been restored as he threw evil from his body and ran underneath the sealing door in the knick of time.

The door soon sealed shut and the immortal Callisto was now trapped within her immortal body within the flames of the burning tree.  As Hercules dashed through the temple maze following the was now trapped forever within her worst nightmares.  Yet Callisto was no longer his concern.  He had burning oil trail he had laid for himself he could hear the deafening anguish of Callisto’s emotions as she given her a chance to be saved yet she had taken that opportunity to betray him.  She had been responsible for creating her own nightmare this time.

Despite Callisto’s attempts to carry out Hera’s wishes against Hercules and his loved ones, Hercules had defeated them both.  He went on to save the lives of his loved ones.  Just before the sun was to set he provided each of them with nourishment from the single apple he had managed to save from the flames of Callisto’s darkness and despair.  Upon hearing this news of the now immortal Callisto’s demise, to the bard Gabrielle it was most certainly no surprise.

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The Xena Scrolls: Volume #3: Scroll #50: Judgement Day

The Xena Scrolls

By:  Gabrielle Bard of Podedia

Judgement Day

Scroll #50

September, 47 B.C.

    The bond of friendship is a strong one.  As the bard Gabrielle had discovered it is stronger than the god Poseidon, and even death.  True friendship is driven by love, and the love that Gabrielle had for Xena, and Xena for Gabrielle was what brought them back together time and time again.  After having left Callisto and Velaska behind Xena opened up to Gabrielle in a way that she had never done before.  Xena had been reminded of her past during their time sailing the seas.  Though the memory of a past with Caesar of Rome had been painful it explained a lot about the warrior princess that Gabrielle had come to understand about her friend.   Xena explained that even more than the warlord Cortese it was her crossing paths with Julius Caesar of Rome whom had instilled into her the worst evil qualities and desires for blood-lust.

Xena had always been a secretive person, even with Gabrielle often times.  Since their earliest adventures together Xena, for the most part, kept her darkness from Gabrielle’s knowledge.  Yet after Xena had shared her story of betrayal by Julius Caesar of Rome, Xena began to share even more.  She explained to Gabrielle of how she had been informed by Hercules months before that he had found himself crossing paths with Callisto.  Hercules had sent Xena a message about it while she was visiting with King Lias two seasons before.

Suddenly, the bard realized that if it weren’t for that important message from Hercules Xena would not have been able to find the immortal Callisto to enlist her help against Velaska.  Gabrielle found herself torn about the idea that Xena had kept such a secret from her.  Although the bard had heard the story of Callisto escaping the underworld, and becoming an immortal before, it seemed as if it was something that bard should have been made privy to sooner.  It should have been Xena telling her and not strangers in a village tavern.  Xena began to explain why she had decided to withhold this information from the bard.

It was yet another secret that Xena had kept from Gabrielle, but Xena explained that it was only because the warrior princess wanted to spare her friend the pain of being reminded of what Callisto had done to Perdicas.   Hera had brought Callisto back from the dead in the hopes of wiping out Hercules and his family in exchange for escape from the underworld.  Callisto had wanted another shot at Xena after Xena had succeeded in defeating her yet again as she attempted to steal Xena’s body, family, and reputation of being a warrior who loves the common person.  Hearing that Xena had known all of this months before only made it more difficult for the bard to continue on her own path of enlightenment and forgiveness toward Callisto.  Listening to the story of the immortal Callisto only made the bard feel raw inside again.

As the two best friends sat together in the tavern for some dinner and relaxation they began to over-hear two drunkards speaking quite loudly and over all of the other voices inside the crowded tavern.  Xena and Gabrielle found themselves to be quite annoyed by their rambunctious behavior.  It was over the top and unnecessary.  The two men were talking about Hercules which was what caught the ears of both the warrior princess and the bard.  One of the men stated very loudly that he could not believe that the hero Hercules had gotten married.  Not only had he said Hercules was married, but that Hercules had given up his super-human strength to marry a deer.

Suddenly, the warrior princess had enough of their shenanigans.  She did not enjoy listening to two scum poke fun at her dear friend and former love.  It was a disgrace and they were defacing his name.  Hercules didn’t deserve that for all of his good deeds to humanity, and especially to Xena.

Xena had just found her new mission and she was ready to put out the raucous laughter and humiliating jokes.  As the warrior princess rose from her seat, and turned to confront the hoodlums she directed to them her curious question.  She asked them if in fact what they had said about Hercules having gotten married had been true.  One of the men answered her, but he answered her with yet another insult to Hercules.  He was so drunk that he couldn’t even distinguish a question from his own bad jokes.  He responded as if Xena weren’t even there as he pressed forward with his assault on the reputation of Hercules.

Suddenly, Xena turned back to Gabrielle after the man gleefully stated that Hercules had not only married a deer, but he had also given up his god-like powers to do it.  Xena commanded Gabrielle to rise from her place at the dinner table and declared that they were leaving immediately.  Though Gabrielle was slightly annoyed by Xena’s sudden need to leave the tavern she started to understand that there was more to it than Xena simply being annoyed at the drunkard’s insults.  Xena actually believed that there was truth in their drunken statements about Hercules.

Gabrielle was not laughing at the insults, but she was laughing in her heart having quickly realized that Xena actually still had romantic feelings and perhaps a bit of a passionate flame and attraction toward Hercules.  Xena bolted out the door of the tavern as Gabrielle grabbed her staff and exited not far behind.  Although it was refreshing for the bard to get out of the company of the obnoxious hoodlums.  She was slightly irritated that Xena was suddenly leaping at the excuse to go out and find Hercules after over six seasons since their last encounter.

There was a small part of the bard that understood Xena’s need to fill her passions, but the bard did not agree with any plan or idea that Xena might be having with in her warrior mind to perhaps talk the hero out of his decision to marry what was said to have been a deer.  The whole thing seemed ridiculous to the bard.  Even if it were true that Hercules had fallen in love with and married a deer the bard’s motive was in expressing to Xena that the warrior princess should clear any idea of meddling in the romantic affairs of the legendary hero.  The bard had learned pretty early in her travels with the warrior princess that meddling in the affairs of love could be dangerous.

If the man wanted to marry a deer who was Gabrielle or even Xena to criticize?  To the bard love was all about being happy and feeling at home with the one you loved most.  Gabrielle was certain that Xena was jealous and upset with Hercules for not having bothered to tell Xena about his wonderful news.  Xena scoffed at the bard for even thinking about scolding Xena for her feelings.  Xena attempted to play it cool, but Gabrielle knew better.  As Gabrielle continued the conversation Xena suddenly bolted ahead as if Gabrielle no longer existed.  Gabrielle could barely believe what she was witnessing unfolding.  Especially since only minutes before all of this Xena was pouring her heart out to the bard back inside the tavern.  It was as if they were making a certain break-through, and it had suddenly been interrupted by madness, and a certain warrior lust.

Then Xena untied Argo from the post, and moved quickly.  Gabrielle attempted to catch up to Xena as the warrior traveled with a sense of urgency toward the main road.  The bard shouted out to Xena to slow down, but to no avail.  Gabrielle asked Xena what the hurry was to reach her old flame.  She wasn’t so certain that rushing off to inform Hercules of the rumors floating about was all that important.  It felt as if Gabrielle were talking to herself.  As Gabrielle dashed down the road to catch up to Xena, the warrior suddenly halted on down the road upon Argo.  It was clear to the bard that Xena had made some kind of startling realization.  As Gabrielle caught up to Xena and Argo upon the road Xena calmly called upon Ares the God of War.

Ares appeared within an energetic fiery flash.  Gabrielle had never seen Ares do that before.  She had seen him as a mortal, and she had seen him transform shape from playing the role of Xena’s father morphing into himself, but never as a powerful flash of light.  The god of war appeared just down the dirt road before the warrior princess who sat upon Argo and smirked at Ares’s arrival.  It was as if the warrior princess had somehow sensed the god’s presence before he had even arrived.  The bard found it to be impressive warrior senses.  Even after traveling with Xena for this many seasons Gabrielle found her to still be full of surprises.

Ares was delighted and excited that the warrior princess had called upon him as he approached her.  With one hand upon his sword, which was sheathed in sleek black leather, Ares taunted the warrior princess about how she had just lost out on the love of her life to a deer.  He cackled loudly and boisterously over the topic.  Xena was clearly not amused by this.  As Ares stood there before her in his tight, sleek black leather warrior presence he expressed to Xena that despite his brother Hercules having rejected her he would be there for her.  Ares proclaimed, although he didn’t like to be second choice, he would graciously accept any passes or offers of love that Xena might want to make toward him.

It was clear to the bard, and obviously to Xena herself, that the extremely sexy, god of war was no more than a glorified whore.  Ares of course did not pretend to be anything else.  He pressed forward with his sales pitch, and laid it all out for the warrior princess.  He reminded her that they had once had a very hot, and heavy romance that involved some of the best wars and blood baths he had ever seen in the known world.  Ares then moved in closer to the warrior princess as if attempting to create some kind of irresistible sexual tension.   If the bard had not known Ares to be such a tricky adversary she might have found herself to be somewhat attracted to him herself.  The smell of his cologne permeated the surrounding air as if Zeus himself were standing there.

Ares reminded the warrior princess of how much Xena’s blood lust had once inspired him.  He balled up his fist, and flexed his enormous, exposed biceps as he delivered his passionately lustful speech of the warrior princess and her past successful bloody exploits alongside him.  Ares brought up a specific battle, the battle at Torrence, in which he had been extremely proud of their work together.  He described the battle as having been one of bloody limbs scattered everywhere upon the battlefield as Xena had led her army through her opponent’s infantry like flies.  The god of war proclaimed this battle to have been one of the most beautiful battles he had ever witnessed or had ever been a part of.  It was clear to the bard that Xena was disgusted and seemingly felt dirty as Ares jumped up on to the horse with her.  He started touching the warrior princess who was struggling against the urges toward him she seemingly felt.  Gabrielle feared that Ares was tapping in to Xena’s dark side and this Gabrielle wanted to avoid.  The bard cleared her throat loudly.

Ares then whispered into Xena’s ear, and pressed further into the warrior princess’s mind and into her emotions.  He told Xena that they could easily leave the irritating blond behind, but if the warrior princess absolutely needed her along for the ride he could always make a minor exception.  Then the god of war explained, as he whispered to the warrior princess, that this was his offer to her.  With that the god of war suddenly disappeared within his blue flame leaving the warrior princess to contemplate his offer.  Gabrielle could see that Xena’s mental wheels were spinning as she dissolved back into a thinking mind rather than one of raw emotion.  Gabrielle approached Xena and stepped in front of Argo upon the road.  The bard wanted to know what it was that had just happened between Xena and Ares.  She also wanted to know what was pressing through Xena’s warrior mind.

As Xena continued to travel down the road with the bard alongside her horse she explained to the bard that there had been a time in which she had partnered with Ares on the battlefield.  It was after she had partnered with Caesar.  Xena explained that she was confused during this time in her life, and that she had been through some very traumatic experiences.  Ares had come along, and sold himself as her savior and as the one who would help her pick up the pieces of her failed war campaigns up to that point.  He promised her that they would conquer the world together, and that they would defeat her worst enemy Julius Caesar.  The young warrior princess had bought into Ares’s persuasions back then, and that mistake had led her into the battle at Torrence.

Strangely, the battle of Torrence had taken place not far from where they were, and Xena decided to take Gabrielle there with her to see the destruction and devastation that Xena had left in her wake along side Ares.  As the two quietly walked through the empty battlefield they found it still littered with the bones of many corpses.  And as Ares had described, there were the bones of the limbs scattered everywhere severed from the rest of their bodies.  Gabrielle could see that her friend was disturbed to be reminded of this.  Traveling through Torrence might not have been something that had even occurred to the warrior princess before the conversation overheard in the tavern.  Now the mood was completely different.  Gabrielle was concerned for Xena, and had a difficult time believing that Xena could have ever been capable of such destruction, but Xena assured the bard that she had been.  Xena explained to the bard that this was the reason she had never wanted Gabrielle to experience what it was like to kill someone.  Gabrielle’s light had become Xena’s strength, guide, and moral compass.  Xena would do anything in her power to protect the bard from this path.

The two best friends and companions continued on through the rotted carnage left behind in near silence.  As they reached the opposite edge of the battlefield they could hear the sounds of a mob off in the distance.  Xena paused and held up her hand commanding the bard to stop, stay silent, and to listen.  As they listened Xena moved forward toward the tree line for a better observational position.  In most scenarios this might not have caught her attention, but as the bard followed she peered through the tree-line.

On the other side indeed there was a mob, and at the head of the mob was Iolas Hercules’s best friend.  Along with him was the local town magistrate of the village of Torrence.  The magistrate urged the mob forward as if they were on a mission.  He mentioned an argument that Hercules had with his new wife on the morning before.  Iolas responded explaining that his friend was seemingly not himself recently, and in fact, that the gods could be behind something.  Another village leader piped up, and stated that responsibility was of no consequence because it was clear that Hercules had become a danger to their community.  As the mob continued on by, Iolas stated that he was going in ahead of the mob to get Hercules.  Iolas explained that since he was Hercules’s friend that perhaps Hercules would listen to him and would get himself up out of bed.

As the mob passed by Gabrielle looked to Xena alarmed at what she had just heard.  Xena looked to Gabrielle, and cautiously instructed the bard to follow her into  the opposite direction along the tree line staying off of the village road.  The two continued to travel alongside the tree line following the village road into Torrence.  As they continued, and were a safe distance away from the mob, Gabrielle broke the silence and asked Xena what she thought that Iolas meant when he said that the gods might be behind whatever was going on with Hercules.

The warrior princess responded by explaining that she suspected Ares was behind whatever it was.  Ares only appeared to Xena when he was behind something or was up to something.  Xena suspected that it had something to do with Zeus because Ares had been wearing the essence of Zeus when had appeared to them on the road earlier that morning.  The warrior princess explained that the fact that Ares had mentioned the battle of Torrence, and the fact that he had mentioned Hercules’s new marriage could only mean that Ares had somehow set up his brother.  Xena explained how Ares had always been jealous of Zeus’s love for Hercules the half mortal son.  It was one of Ares’s motivations for teaming up with Xena in the beginning.  It was Ares who had sent Xena to kill Hercules in the past, but it was to the god of war’s detriment.  Thankfully it had led Xena to be defeated by Hercules who was the first person able to re-direct her path away from the darkness.

Gabrielle inquired if Xena was worried about Ares and what he was up to.  The warrior princess replied that she wasn’t all that concerned.  She explained that though Ares was conniving he almost always failed in the end because of his arrogance and over confidence.  Gabrielle chuckled at the thought that Xena was unconcerned about the god of war and his motives.  It appeared that Xena was still more interested in finding out more about Hercules and his new bride.  The bard then inquired again.  She wanted to know if Xena was at all concerned about why a mob was out to get Hercules.  Again, the warrior princess was seemingly not all that concerned.  Despite that she did not have any ideas as to why a mob would be after Hercules, and Xena was certain that Hercules could handle himself.  She still strongly felt that to get answers they would have to visit another tavern and preferably one in the nearby village of Torrence.

As the two friends continued following the path alongside the tree-line they heard the mob racing back up the main road just on the other side again.  They appeared to be even more angry than they had been on their way back down the other direction.  Xena and Gabrielle stopped and looked through tree-line, and there behind the mob was Iolas calling out to them attempting to explain why Hercules was not at home.  By this point it appeared that the mob had lost all faith in Iolas.  They nearly trampled over him as they were no longer interested in what Iolas had to say.  Iolas was easily pushed him aside as the mob marched on back toward the village.  Soon the mob had passed on down the path into the distance.  Quickly and with stealth Xena pulled Iolas off of the road and back into the trees alongside her and the bard.  Iolas seemed to be taken completely by surprise as Xena covered his mouth so that he would not give away her position with the bard.

Iolas was seemingly in a panic.  Gabrielle asked him what was going on, and inquired of why a village mob was searching for Hercules.  Xena uncovered his mouth and Iolas stated under his breath that he was glad to see both Xena and Gabrielle, but that they had to hurry and find Hercules.   Iolas said that Hercules was in trouble.  Gabrielle wanted to know what Iolas meant by that.  Iolas stated that Hercules had not been himself for the past several days.  Iolas stated that since Hercules had married his new wife Serena, and given up his half-god power to do it, he had become belligerent.  Xena didn’t understand why that would make Hercules unstable, and it certainly didn’t explain why the mob was after him.

Iolas continued explaining that when he had gone to visit Hercules earlier that morning he had found the legendary hero in a state of emotional shock.  Gabrielle wanted to know why Hercules was in shock.  Iolas stated that someone had murdered his new wife Serena.  Iolas explained that they had to hurry and catch up to the mob back in the village because Hercules was being accused of murder.  Iolas had been able to buy Hercules some time to escape allowing Hercules an opportunity to find his wife’s murderer.  Xena agreed with Iolas that it was important that they try to stay ahead of the mob in finding Hercules, but she felt that she and Gabrielle might have a better chance at flushing out the real culprit behind all of this which Xena suspected was Ares.

Ares, as always, Xena said, had shown her too many of his cards.  Xena mentioned that setting up Hercules for the murder of a mortal was Ares’s plan.  Murdering one of Zeus’s mortal creations was the highest sin Hercules could ever commit against his father Zeus.  The warrior princess explained that Zeus had only one rule when it came to Hercules.  No other god was permitted to punish his son except Zeus himself. Ares was very aware of this and was smart enough never to cross that line himself.  The only condition in which Zeus would allow Hercules to be judged, and punished by another god was if Hercules were to ever kill a mortal in cold blood.  Xena certainly did not believe that Hercules was capable of such an act.  Which was why she was certain that the god of war was behind it all somehow.  Yet she explained it was not Ares’s style to do the dirty work himself.

The warrior princess realized that they needed a quick simple plan to deal with the immediate situation.  She wasted no time in deciding what to do next.  Xena decided that the three friends would follow the mob back into the village of Torrence.  Iolas would go on ahead using Xena’s horse to try to find Hercules ahead of the mob.  Xena felt Hercules needed to be found and escorted to a safe place away from the danger it posed to him.  Once Xena and Gabrielle arrived at the village behind Iolas they would attempt to stay out of sight of the mob.  Xena and Gabrielle would only reveal their presence if necessary.  Iolas stated that at this point anyone who was thought to be an ally or a friend of Hercules would be in just as much danger.  Xena instructed Iolas not to worry as she urged him to get up on to her horse.  Iolas did so thanking Xena.  Then he raced off down the village road.  Xena and Gabrielle followed behind on foot as they dashed up the road behind him.

By the time Xena and Gabrielle had arrived there was a large fight brewing at the center of the village.  Iolas had already arrived, but the mob was holding him back from defending Hercules who appeared to be nursing an arrow wounded shoulder as the village mob beat him mercilessly.  Iolas was shouting out desperately to his friend helpless to stop the brutal beating.  As Xena and Gabrielle approached, Xena instructed Gabrielle to come into the fight after she found her moment to take on the mob while Gabrielle would flank them.  Gabrielle wasn’t so certain that she and Xena could take on an angry mob on their own, but it was going to have to happen because there was no time to waste.

The mob began to beat Iolas down to the ground as Hercules could no longer be seen within the pile of people beating on him.  Suddenly, a few local soldiers mixed up with the mob pulled him out of the pile of villagers and began to beat him with their weapons of war.  It went from wooden clubs to professional weapons in a hurry.  They thrust a large round weapon through his stomach knocking the wind out of him.  He was clearly in anguish as they were about to give him the death-blow.  Suddenly, that was the moment in which Xena chose to strike.  With her signature battle cry she entered into the fight, raised her mighty chakram, and aimed it right through the raised weapons of the mob.  Flipping through the village behind her chakram Xena had given Hercules just the opening he needed to rise from his defeat and fight back against his attackers.

Quickly Xena’s chakram sliced through the enemy weapons as Xena reunited with her chakram catching it at the end of her series of acrobatic flips.  Someone from the crowded mob shouted out her name as many of them ran from the mighty warrior princess in fear.  Gabrielle did not know if it was because of Xena’s many well-demonstrated skills in an instant or if it was her history with the village prior, but Xena brought fear with her as she battled on.  This was Gabrielle’s signal to enter the battle.  The bard charged in alongside Xena, Hercules, and Iolas to fight off the enemy.  A small band of local soldiers had been called in to deal with the situation, and as the mob dispersed they charged into battle against the four friends.

Though both Hercules and Iolas had been badly beaten by the mob already they rose with power in their charge against the small army.  Xena easily defended against her attacker as the bard pulled out her staff to defend against the power they faced.  Though Hercules had risen he had been overwhelmed by the pain of the shoulder injury as Gabrielle smacked her attacker to the ground with her staff.  When the bard gazed across the battle she saw Hercules was being beaten with weapons of war again as two soldiers held him defenseless.  Hercules was then kicked to the ground as Xena punched and smacked her way through the line to get to him.  Gabrielle flipped her staff around to regroup against the next approaching enemy soldier.  She smacked him in the stomach knocking the wind out of him as Iolas found a way to free himself from his over-sized opponent.  Iolas flipped his attacker from behind over his shoulder onto the ground.

With Xena enemy bodies were flying everywhere.  Her power and strength was amazingly displayed as she fought alongside Hercules who struggled to push himself back off of the ground again.  Xena and Gabrielle continued to defend him from as many attackers as they could knowing that he was now truly mortal and unable to handle the volume of attackers coming at him.  Iolas went to Hercules’s aid as another attacker came at Hercules.  Iolas threw off another soldier as Hercules’s weakness was becoming clear.  Hercules struggled to stay upon his feet as his legs collapsed beneath him and he grabbed for his injured shoulder.  Iolas attempted to catch Hercules’s fall, but the legendary hero fell hard.

The battle had been won by the four as Iolas’s concern for his friend was rising.  Hercules passed out as Iolas tried to talk to him, but both Xena and Gabrielle could see that Hercules was in serious condition.  Xena instructed Gabrielle to fetch Argo.  Gabrielle quickly moved back across the village toward Argo and quickly Xena instructed Iolas to help her hoist the body of the injured Hercules onto her horse.  The friends had to act quick and swift in order to get the legendary hero safely out-of-town.  As Xena jumped up on to her horse she instructed the bard to bring Iolas with her using Xena’s trail left behind to find them.  Xena knew of a safe place they could take Hercules until they could figure out what to do next.  Iolas was grateful for the help his friends offered him and to Hercules in their deepest time of need.  As Xena rode out-of-town with Hercules, Gabrielle knew Xena had just given her an unspoken command.  It was up to the battling bard and Iolas to find a way to cover their tracks so that they wouldn’t be followed when they rejoined Xena, Argo, and Hercules.

Once the four had reached one of Xena’s secret weapons storage caves from her days as a blood-thirsty warlord Xena removed the arrow shaft still lodged inside Hercules’s shoulder, cleaned out the wound, and then stitched it up.  Iolas stood by feeling helpless for his friend explaining that he had never seen Hercules in this bad of shape or ever to have taken such a beating.  Xena instructed the bard to hurry and get more water and bandages for Hercules.  Gabrielle handed Iolas a bowl with the medicinal contents that Xena had used to clean out the wound.  She quickly grabbed the water bucket and ran out of the secret cave hide-out.  As Gabrielle left the cave she overheard Xena give Iolas Hercules’s condition.  She stated to him that she was certain that his shoulder had been dislocated and he could have possibly fractured his skull.

Soon after the bard left the cave Iolas emerged within distressed silence.  As she was leaving the stream with her full bucket of water she saw him standing on the bank alone.  The bard called out to him asking if he was okay.   Iolas bravely and quietly replied that he was, but Gabrielle could see that he was upset.  As she passed him by with her bucket of water she decided to turn back to comfort her friend.  Gabrielle put her bucket of water down, approached Iolas and gently laid her hand upon his shoulder.  She explained that she knew Hercules would be okay.  Gabrielle went on to explain to Iolas of Xena, and how great the warrior princess’s battlefield medical knowledge was.  Iolas interrupted Gabrielle’s thought already knowing that about Xena himself.  Gabrielle inquired more about Iolas’s obvious and deep concern.

He hesitated, but then revealed to Gabrielle the true nature of the dire situation.  He gravely laid it out to the bard stating that Hercules was certain that he had killed his own wife Serena.  Iolas stated the evidence to Gabrielle explaining that when he went to visit Hercules earlier that morning, he himself had seen Hercules over the body of his wife with a bloody knife in his hand.  Gabrielle could understand Iolas’s shock in seeing his friend like that.  It made Gabrielle think of her stroll through the stale battle of Torrence that Xena had revealed to her earlier in the day.  It seemed that both she and Iolas had witnessed the darker side of their friends.  Gabrielle decided in that moment that Xena needed to be with Iolas to help comfort him.  The two of them needed to figure out who could have committed this awful crime.  Gabrielle could not believe for a moment that it was Hercules.  She recalled the time when Ares had framed Xena for the murder of three innocent villagers.  Gabrielle suspected that Xena was onto something when she had mentioned Ares having shown his cards when he appeared to them on the road just after they had left the tavern to visit Hercules.

When Gabrielle returned to the cave she could hear that Hercules had awakened.  He and Xena were having a heart-felt conversation.  Xena explained to him that she had come as soon as she had heard the news of Hercules’s new marriage.  Xena had wanted to come to share in his new-found happiness.  Hercules then revealed to Xena that his wife had been murdered.  Xena inquired of how it happened and of what Hercules knew about it.  Hercules explained that he had been having a strange violent nightmare and that the killer hadn’t even awakened him when he killed Serena.

For Xena this didn’t add up.  Hercules agreed that it did not make sense that he would not be awakened by the sounds of his wife being murdered in cold blood right next to him.  He explained to Xena that the sleep he was in was like no other he had experienced before.   Then Hercules tried to rise from his injury expressing that he was certain Ares must have had a part in all of it since it was Ares who had promised Hercules eternal happiness with Serena in exchange for Hercules giving up his immortal powers.  Xena was knew that Hercules was right, and was not surprised that Ares had reneged on his promise to his half-brother.  She scoffed at the idea that Ares could ever keep his word in any deal with anyone including his brother Hercules.

It was obvious that Hercules wasn’t even certain that he hadn’t killed Serena himself.  Xena instructed Hercules to rest before he attempted to face Ares again.  Gabrielle quietly entered the cave with her bucket of water.  She expressed to Xena her concern about Iolas and suggested Xena go out to talk with him.  Xena appeared to be annoyed at the situation because Xena suspected just what Gabrielle had suspected.  Ares was attempting to get his brother killed, and to regain Xena’s affections at the same time.  Xena handed something to Gabrielle as she was leaving the cave to speak to Iolas.  Gabrielle asked the warrior princess what it was.  Xena revealed that it was a goat skin, and that hopefully it would be something that would save Hercules’s life.

Gabrielle sat quietly next to Hercules.  It appeared that he was having another one of his nightmares as he tossed and turned.  He kept calling Serena’s name and telling her that it was all his fault.  Hercules was still fighting a fever and delirious as he went in and out of consciousness.  Gabrielle’s heart felt for him as he struggled with the demons he could not understand and could not find.  The bard could sense Hercules’s guilt as she sat beside him attempting to keep the legendary hero’s fever under control.  It seemed that Xena had been outside with Iolas for a very long time.  Iolas was in deep despair for his friend.  He didn’t want Hercules to suffer and did not want his friend’s good name to become tarnished.  Even if Hercules really did murder his wife in his sleep.

Iolas had made an offer to Xena.  He offered to turn himself in on behalf of Hercules for the murder.  Xena didn’t feel that was the right course of action.  Iolas also offered to kill Hercules himself if indeed it was found for certain that Hercules had killed his wife.  Xena didn’t believe for a moment that Iolas could go through with it.  Iolas wasn’t so certain Xena could kill Hercules either, but Xena knew that she would if that was what should happen to resolve the situation.  Yet Xena wasn’t convinced that was necessary.  Xena was pretty certain of Ares’s involvement, but she didn’t think he had done it all alone.  The murder plot was too complex for him to have done it all alone.  Xena wanted to be able to flush out the accomplice.  The warrior princess had devised a plan in which she would allow Hercules to go and turn himself in which was exactly what Iolas didn’t want his friend to do.

And so Xena’s plan was set in motion . Gabrielle had gone to fetch another bucket of water for Hercules.  By the time the bard arrived back at the cave Iolas and Xena had already returned.  Yet when Gabrielle returned moments behind them Hercules was nowhere to be found.  Xena asked Gabrielle if she knew where Hercules was.  Gabrielle explained that she had only been gone for a few moments.  It was just long enough to fetch a pail of water.  Iolas looked to Xena and was certain that his worst fear was becoming a reality.  Hercules had gone to turn himself in.  Then Gabrielle set down her full bucket of water and noticed that Xena’s sword was missing.  The bard deduced that Hercules must have taken it.  Xena looked to Iolas inquiring if Hercules might have wanted to take her sword to commit suicide.  Iolas was certain that Hercules would never turn a sword on himself.  Instead Iolas was convinced that Hercules would commit suicide by charging himself into overwhelming odds.  Xena could understand that.  Dying a warrior’s death would be a more noble resolution, especially for someone like Hercules.

Xena’s plan was now fully in motion.  The three friends knew just where they would find Hercules so they grabbed their weapons, and prepared to return to the village where they expected  he would be.  When the three arrived back at the village Hercules was in the process of  turning himself in to face his demons.  Iolas shouted out to Hercules.  The town mob began to approach, but Xena warned them to stay back unless they wanted to experience her wrath once more.  The mob backed off at her warning.  Iolas rushed to stop Hercules from jumping in, and taking on the mob alone, but Hercules was determined and certain that he had killed Serena.  He was intent on doing what he felt was the right thing publicly.  Suddenly, Iolas tried to convince Hercules that he was wrong in believing that he had killed his wife own wife.  Iolas pleaded with Hercules to go back to their hide-out until they solved the murder.  Instead Hercules drew his sword and jumped into a sword battle with Iolas.  Though the legendary hero was gravely injured his natural strength and power allowed him to easily defeat his opponent knocking Iolas to the ground.  Hercules seemingly went off of the deep end.  Then Iolas recovered in the duel with a defensive move plunging his sword straight through the stomach of Hercules finishing off the battered hero.  As Hercules seemingly took his last breath he uttered his last words proclaiming that his friend had killed him.

As Hercules fell to the ground Iolas was seemingly in shock at what he had unintentionally done.   Xena responded in emotional anguish to the death of her once passionate lover.  She attacked Iolas intending to punish him for her pain.  She demanded, from within her passionate rage, that Iolas to get up and fight her.  As their swords clashed violently before the village mob Gabrielle ran to the aid of the fallen hero to comfort him.  The duel between the two friends turned sudden enemies did not last long.  Xena quickly got the upper hand on Iolas with an elbow to the nose as she charge forward clashing her sword with his and then quickly thrusting it right through his chest.  He gasped for his last breathes as Xena jerked her sword from his body and pushed him to the ground with her hand upon his face.

Then she looked wild-eyed to the village mob and asked them if they were ready to see more blood.  It appeared that the warrior princess had taken a sudden turn back down the path of her blood-lust.  The village mob was shaking with fear for the wrath they expected to come from the warrior princess at them.  It was clear that they remembered the battle of Torrence years before.  Just as the village army stepped forth to defend their people against the wrath of the warrior princess Ares, the god of war, appeared from within the crowd ecstatic with excitement.  He congratulated the warrior princess on her performance against Hercules and his friend Iolas.  Xena had defeated the legendary hero to the satisfaction of war.

Ares chucked as he approached Xena who with suspicion asked Ares what he was doing there with her.  Ares proclaimed confidently and proudly that he had an interest in the situation that was unfolding.  Xena held steady to form as she spoke out-loud the truth that Ares had planned the entire circumstance.  Ares’s response to Xena was that he had to keep himself busily amused.  Then Ares looked to Xena and explained that there was a way to bring the hero back if that was indeed what Xena wanted.  Ares made his offer stating that all she had to do was come back to him, and to once again become his warrior queen alongside him where she belonged.

Xena was torn inside hoping to be able to bring forth the rest of the story in front of the village audience.  She asked Ares how he had managed to take such a strong and honorable man to a place in which he could take part in the act of killing his own wife.  Ares was sly and was not about to give up the full truth in front of an audience.  He proclaimed that he would keep that little secret to himself.  The god of war knew that he was in the better position with in this battle of wits against the warrior princess.  He had not forgotten about how he had been defeated by Xena when he had tried to frame her for the murder of those innocent villagers.  He wasn’t about to let the warrior princess defeat him again.

Just when it seemed that the warrior princess would have to choose between restoring the life and honor of Hercules or becoming a blood-thirsty warlord along side Ares again, someone came forth.  It was a young god dressed in leather.  He was a god that no one had ever seen before.  He addressed Ares as his uncle explaining that he had used a Morpheus induced sleep upon Hercules in order to be able to slip by the hero while he did the deed.  Xena looked to the young arrogant god and repeated the statement that he had killed Serena.  The young god explained that it was indeed very easy for him to accomplish.  Strife was proud of his accomplishment.

The village mob began to whisper within itself as Ares began to realize that he was losing control of the situation.  He barked out that it did not matter who killed Serena.  The fact was that Hercules was dead there before everyone, and if Xena wanted him returned to the living she would belong to Ares now.  Xena looked to Ares as he proclaimed himself victorious over her and over his brother Hercules.  Suddenly, a shout came from within the mortally wounded Hercules.  Shocking the gathered village crowd, and everyone who was witness, Hercules seemingly rose from certain death to challenge Ares’s comment stating that finding his wife’s murderer mattered to him.  As gasps fell through the crowd Hercules’s best friend suddenly rose from the dead as he moved to his feet alongside Hercules.  Hercules pulled something from his torn sleeveless yellow shirt and revealed to all that he had been protected by a blood-filled goat skin.  Xena smirked with delight knowing that her plan had succeeded in flushing out the true murderer of Hercules’s beloved wife Serena.  She had publicly exonerated Hercules.

Suddenly, Hercules charged at the lesser god Strife enraged by Strife’s confession to Serena’s murder.  Hercules, as all mortals, wanted vengeance against the one who had taken his wife from him.  The legendary hero went for the throat taking down Strife with his heart’s anguish.  Both man and god fell to the ground in the scuffle as a nearby wine barrel fell over onto Strife.  Hercules was going in for the kill as he shook Strife attempting to strangle the immortal god.  Strife struggled to fling Hercules off of him as the legendary hero rolled over some hay bales onto the ground.  Strife then rose to his feet ready to take on the grieving enraged hero.  Ares stood by watching appearing entertained yet disgusted at Strife’s inability to keep their little secret.

Hercules quickly recovered rising to his feet to charge at Strife again knocking the immortal to the ground once more.  Then the hero shouted a command to the immortal demanding that Strife pick himself up to face Hercules for more punishment.  Strife quickly rose to face the hero taking a powerful slap across the face from Hercules.  Then Hercules sent a powerful punch into Strife’s jaw, and continued to pound Strife’s immortal body with his fury.  He kicked Strife to the ground, but Strife rose to his feet from the blow with little effort as Hercules attempted to deliver an even more powerful kick to Strife’s skull.  As Strife rose again he took a boot to face flipping over backward back to the ground.

That blow took Strife down hard and Strife attempted to quickly scurry away from Hercules’s rage on his hands and knees as he rolled over onto his back, and dragged himself to the aid of his uncle Ares.  Strife whispered to Ares begging for his help in Hercules’s onslaught against him.  Ares was not amused and disgusted at his inexperienced nephew.  He grumbled under his breath reminding Strife that he too was a powerful god, and that he should use his powers against the now completely mortal Hercules.  Hercules moved toward Strife for another attack as he raised his fist and threw another powerful punch at his wife’s killer.  Strife had risen back to his feet and easily deflected Hercules’s mortal blow.  Strife’s deflection of Hercules’s power was turned against Hercules as it became a punch of equal power sending Hercules flying across the village to the ground.

The hero was not used to being mortally wounded in such a battle and took the fall hard.  One could see that he was still feeling the pain of his bleeding chest wound from the arrow and his dislocated shoulder as Hercules struggled to  rise to his feet to face Strife once more.  Strife yelled out against Hercules in triumph and then charged the hero with his newly recognized advantage.  Strife kicked Hercules across his face as the hero was attempting to get up.  Gabrielle looked to Xena as the hero fell hard.  His new mortality was showing itself in exhaustion as the hero was losing his strength and stamina in the fight.

Strife reached down and grabbed Hercules from the back of his neck and began pounding the hero’s face violently into the ground.  One could hear Hercules struggling as he grunted in agony at each blow Strife delivered to his mortal body.  Strife then picked up Hercules’s body and thrust it even further across the village to the ground again.  Ares looked pleased, but Xena could see that Hercules needed help.  The hero needed her help, but she could see that he needed to win this fight on his own.  Xena looked to Ares and demanded that he even up the fight god against god by returning Hercules’s powers to his brother.  It wasn’t a fair fight and Ares had reneged on his deal with Hercules when he promised his brother eternal happiness with Serena in exchange for Hercules giving up his super-human strengths.  Ares flatly refused stating that he was enjoying watching his brother’s suffering.

Gabrielle could see that Xena was deeply concerned for Hercules as Strife continued to abuse the legendary hero to death.  Strife grabbed Hercules and slammed him into a barrel of wine.  Hercules was now struggling to breathe and stay conscious.  Iolas shouted out to Ares reminding the god of war that he had reneged on his deal.  Ares defiantly admitted that he lied to his brother, but he didn’t care.  If the god of war wasn’t going to get Xena back he would at least destroy the brother that he was so jealous of and retain his father Zeus’s greatest affections for himself.  With Hercules out of his way he would become Zeus’s pride and joy.  Ares then smiled, laughed, and continued watching his brother suffer.  Strife began to jump upon Hercules’s chest attempting to collapse his lungs.  Just when it seemed that Strife would finish off Hercules, a brave old man stepped out from the crowd and demanded that Ares play fair in this duel against his brother.  The old man’s voice grabbed Strife’s attention and the mini-god stopped his onslaught stepping down from Hercules’s chest to see who was interrupting his show of power.  Strife stepped away as if he knew the old man and respected him.

The crowd was quiet as the old man approached Hercules and offered both of his hands to the exhausted hero.  Hercules attempted to rise to his feet, but then stretched his arms out to take the old man’s hands for assistance.  As the old man took Hercules’s hands into his own there was a large bright ball of surging energy that appeared between the two men.  The energy was powerful and electrifying.  Hercules was regaining his super-human strength.  As he rose to his feet his wounds instantly healed and then suddenly the old man morphed into a god.  It was the most amazing sight.  A powerfully wise elder man cloaked in a brilliant shiny silver elegance now stood before the village crowd.  Zeus had appeared before all in the village to save his most beloved son Hercules from the wrath of his jealous son Ares.  It was a miracle.  Hercules was touched to see his father come to rescue him from certain death.  The tender moment between father and son ended as Zeus stepped back and away from Hercules and Strife.

Hercules then looked to Strife realizing that Zeus was allowing him the opportunity to punish Strife for Serena’s death.  Hercules looked to Strife ready to take down the lesser god.  The fight was now even.  Hercules took a swing and Strife ducked away, but Hercules countered with another punch to Strife’s chest effortlessly sending the mini-god into the air across the village.  Strife screamed loudly and then plunged through a thatched roof into a village home.  It created a loud thunderous crash.  Gabrielle looked to Ares who appeared disgusted once again.  Hercules charged across the village and entered the village home forcefully throwing the doors open.  The brutal sounds of their battle could be heard coming from inside.  Suddenly, Strife plunged back out of the village home through the wall into view of the village crowd.  Strife attempted to scurry away once more as he felt for his feet beneath him to stand up again.

Hercules busted through the wall after him as Strife reached for a large ceramic water jug to use as a weapon.  Strife reached back, and wound up to slam the jug into Hercules’s body.  Hercules effortlessly blocked it with is gauntlet then disarmed Strife’s weapon twisting the mini-god’s arm.  Strife’s body slammed toward the ground as Hercules flung the mini-god over his head and slammed Strife continuously upon the ground.  Strife screamed loudly as he took the abuse from Hercules.  The crowd was in awe as Hercules spun Strife’s body above his head and then threw him back to the ground with his rage.  Hercules continued to disfigure Strife’s face with thunderous punches until the god of war had decided he had seen enough.  Suddenly, Ares whipped up a ball of godly energy and flung it across the village like a lightning bolt.  The bolt of energy sent Hercules falling backward onto the ground.

The villagers began to descend upon Strife as he lied upon the ground.  Then Strife slowly rose up unable to stand, looked to the crowd and laughed maniacally.  Then he disappeared in within a fiery ball light as his laughter echoed into silence.  Hercules was not satisfied for he did not have his full justice against Serena’s killer.  The hero rose to his feet and shouted out to his brother that their sibling rivalry would not end without Hercules receiving his retribution for Ares’s unfair deeds against him and wife Serena.

Ares agreed with Hercules angered that he had been exposed by both by the warrior princess and Strife’s inability to stay in the shadows.  As the god of war rested his hand upon his sheathed sword he engulfed himself into a flame of power disappearing as triumphant laughter echoed in his wake.  The all-powerful Zeus had seen enough as well.  He quietly exited the village on foot.  It was an invitation for his son Hercules to follow.  Hercules looked confused and dissatisfied for he did not get his revenge or his satisfaction.  The hero ran out of the village after his father to confront Zeus.  Xena and Gabrielle moved to go after Hercules, but Iolas signaled that Hercules needed to face Zeus on his own.

Xena attempted to lighten the moment expressing that Iolas gave a good scream when she had thrust her sword through him.  Iolas then looked to Xena and opened up his shirt.  He showed Xena the mark she had left on him with her sword during their theatrical performance to expose Ares, and Serena’s true killer.  The warrior princess laughed with pride as she joked that it was going to make a nice scar.  Then Iolas complained that Xena had cut him a bit too close.  He said that it was a little too real for his taste.  Gabrielle chimed in defending Xena explaining to Iolas that it was the only way they could have made Iolas appear mortally wounded.  Xena realized that she had to reassure even Iolas that she would never have killed him for real despite what she had done to him in their past.

Soon Hercules returned and Iolas quickly inquired about his private conversation with Zeus.  Hercules walked ahead frustrated and asked Iolas not to be concerned with his dealings with his father.  Iolas jumped ahead to join Hercules in an attempt to comfort his friend and sooth Hercules’s frustrations.  When the bard and the warrior princess finally caught back up to Iolas, Hercules had gone to be alone.  Iolas said that despite having exposed the real killer Hercules still blamed himself for allowing himself to marry the last of Serena’s kind.  If Hercules hadn’t made the deal with Ares Serena would still be alive.  That was what Hercules believed.

Gabrielle knew all too well what that felt like.  It would be a pain that would never leave, but she was certain that Hercules would one day be able to learn to deal with the violent loss of his wife for Gabrielle had learned to live everyday with the loss of Perdicas.  As the bard stood alongside the warrior princess and Iolas at Serena’s funeral by the water she felt Hercules’s pain.  She looked on as the hero stood in solace over the stone grave of his beloved.  He had lovingly built it and marked the spot upon which she would forever lie.

The bard listened to the warrior princess sing her beautiful song of farewell which was the song of the dead that those from Amphipolis would sing for those lost to us.  Gabrielle was reminded of Perdicas’s funeral and how Xena had sung the beautifully moving chant for her beloved husband.  Despite wanting to share Hercules’s grief with him Gabrielle knew that for Hercules grief had to be experienced alone.  As the song ended into the silence of nature’s sounds Hercules placed Serena’s necklace upon her stone marker, and pounded it into the stone reminding all who would pass who lied beneath.  She was the last of her kind, and so the three friends left Hercules behind within his solace so that he might quietly bade his sweet wife farewell.  The bard was certain that one day they would be brought together again for death can never sever the power of love.

Xenaverse Timeline

Xenaverse Timeline

A Brief Overview

In 1940 Dr. Janice Covington and Melinda Pappas the daughter of the late Mel Pappas joined forces on an archeological dig in Macedonia.  What they uncovered were the first of over 100 ancient scrolls written by a bard from the ancient village of Podedia located in ancient Thrace.  In the words of the late Dr. Covington, “These scrolls will revolutionize the way we look at the ancient world.”  Dr. Covington’s find led the scrolls underground for 50 years until they later resurfaced in Hollywood, California and became the basis for a popular 1990’s television series  known as “Xena Warrior Princess.”

*Please note that dates listed on the scrolls are the dates in which Gabrielle wrote her scrolls and do not necessarily reflect the date of a specific event in the Xenaverse.  Any scrolls on this site are strictly the translated English language interpretations of the scrolls themselves.  The original texts were written in a combination of ancient Thracian dialects and those of ancient Greece.  Below are the findings and conclusions of both Dr. Covington and Melinda Pappas as they had studied and translated the scrolls.

Xena is conceived unexpectedly one night when her father visits Cyrene sneaking away from battle.

Xena is born in 74 B.C.

At the age of 7 Xena’s mom is forced to kill Xena’s father with an ax to save Xena’s life from him. He was drunk after leaving the temple of Ares and tried to kill Xena. Xena’s father served in the Greek army. 67 B.C.

At age 16 Cortese’s army invades Amphipolis killing Xena’s 15 year old younger brother Lycious. Xena’s 19 year old brother Toris flees the battle in shame. 58 B.C.

After Xena’s loss against Cortese she rounds up as many followers as she can to create an army to protect her village of Amphipolis from any future armies from attacking. 58 B.C.

For two years Xena sacks and conquers villages all around Amphipolis and through many parts of Greece. She also encounters her tragic loss of a scouting party against the hoard. This leads her army out to sea. It supports itself through the spoils of its conquests against rival villages. 58-57 B.C.

During her second year in command of her rouge army she takes it into piracy sacking several villages along the coast. One of those villages is the village of the young Callisto who is only 8 years old. Xena’s army burns Callisto’s village to the ground overzealous in its attacks and leaves the young child’s soul damaged for life at the loss of her family. Xena meets Caesar for the first time. 57-56 B.C.

At the end of the third year Caesar returns after several months away upon returning to Rome and he betrays her breaking her legs. After being rescued by the slave she had captured and learned the pinch move from Xena is filled with rage and anger. She meets Borias and they go on a rampage across the lands in the east which leads them to Chin. Xena is 19. 55 B.C.

At the age of 20 Xena and Borias conquer Ming-Su and defeat Lao-Mao’s dreams of peace. The two move onto the land of Chuppa and Japan. Xena and Borias try to obtain ransom money for Akimi’s return to her father. Xena spends several months traveling with Akimi without Borias. Akimi accomplishes her revenge on her father and commits suicide begging Xena to take her ashes to their final resting place. 54 B.C.

At the age of 21 Xena rejoins Borias. Xena travels with Borias back toward the west. During their travels they meet with the shamaness Alti who persuades Xena to go against Cyan Queen of the Amazons and annihilate the entire Amazon race. Alti follows them through their battles encouraging Xena toward her ways. Xena becomes pregnant with her first child Solan with Borias being the father. This changes Borias and he becomes a more honorable man. He gives up his interests in world conquest. This leads to Borias’s death and Solan’s birth. 53 B.C.

After losing Borias to death, her army at the hands of the Centaurs, and Solan to her own darkness Xena finds herself to be lost. It is in her loneliness that she decides to travel to the north. The warrior princess stirs things up in the north in places such as Britannia where she meets Bodecia and betrays her. Still searching for conquest as she sets her sights on Valhalla, Odin, and the Rhinegold. Xena is 22. 52-51 B.C.

After being defeated by her own evil and Grenhilda’s passion for humanity which was turned into Grendel Xena is feeling frustrated and defeated. At the age of 23 Xena travels toward Rome where she meets Ares for the first time. Ares has taken an interest in Xena and decides that she is the one he needs to conquer the world. Xena will lead to world domination and a world governed by wars. Ares offers Xena the ultimate weapon in exchange for her services. Ares introduces Xena to the chakram. During his intense molding period with the warrior princes Ares falls for her and never loses his passion for her. Ares’s plans with Xena go awry when Hercules defeats Xena. A few months later Xena regroups to get revenge against Hercules, but is unsuccessful. She ends up losing her army to her second in command Darphus. Later she unites with Hercules against Darphus and turns away from Ares. Xena then leaves Hercules feeling ashamed and in despair of all of the wrongs she has committed. Xena is 25. 50-49 B.C.

1) Now 26 Xena decides that she is done with her warrior ways. Her despair and shame leads her to give up her weapons and herself. She is on the verge of her own self-destruction when she meets the young bard Gabrielle at the age of 16. 48 B.C.

1) Xena and Gabrielle travel together and Gabrielle becomes an amazon princess. They run into famous personalities such as Helen of Troy, Hercules, and they meet up with Xena’s past for the first time through Xena’s older brother Toris. Gabrielle also meets Cortese for the first time. 48-47 B.C.

2) Xena and Gabrielle continue their travels. Gabrielle meets Xena’s son Solan and the centaurs. Callisto confronts Xena for the first time since her family was killed by Xena’s army. Gabrielle marries her childhood sweetheart Perdicas who is killed by Callisto. Gabrielle becomes an amazon queen when she is informed by Ephiny of Queen Melosa’s death. Xena and Gabrielle meet Joxer for the first time and he begins to travel with them on occasion. 47-46 B.C.

3) Gabrielle and Xena take on Ceasar of Rome and Ares begins taunting Xena on a regular basis. Gabrielle begins developing a friendship with the goddess Aphrodite. Gabrielle is impregnated with the child of the evil Dahok. Xena and Gabrielle’s friendship experiences a rift due to Gabrielle’s evil daughter Hope killing Xena’s child Solan and due to Xena’s debt to Lao Mao in killing Ming Tien of Chin. Gabrielle passes into the darkness of fire with her child Hope leaving Xena and Joxer to mourn. Xena kills Callisto with the hindsblood dagger. 46-45 B.C.

4) Xena, Gabrielle, and Joxer are reunited in Podedia. Xena begins to go through a spiritual transformation as does Gabrielle. They travel to India where they meet Eli who later learns the way of love and spreads its message throughout the land. He touches Gabrielle who surrenders her staff for a peaceful existence still alongside Xena. Gabrielle must return to the Amazons when news of Ephiny’s death comes to her. She and Brutus make a pact of peace between Rome and the Amazons, but Caesar rejects it and instead crucifies Xena and Gabrielle. Callisto returns by way of Satan. 45-44 B.C
Ides of March 44 B.C.

5) Xena and Gabrielle are brought back into life by Eli and the powers that be. Xena becomes impregnated. Gabrielle faces Alti in order to save Xena’s child’s soul. Eli is killed by Ares in a battle of love v.s. war. Both Xena and Gabrielle travel to Egypt to defeat Brutus’s invasion and to hand over control of Rome to Caesar’s relative the young Octavius. Xena then gives birth to Eve who becomes hunted by the gods upon Mount Olympus due to the fates and their proclamation of Eve’s destiny to bring down all of Olympus. Xena and Gabrielle fake the three of their deaths in order to save Eve’s life and Ares buries them in ice at the top of Mount Edna where the two stay frozen and lifeless for 25 years. 44 B.C.-19 B.C.

5) As the climate change melts the ice caps upon Mount Edna Xena and Gabrielle are then freed from their frozen graves. They return to life only to find that they have been resting for 25 years. They immediately search for Eve who has now become Livia champion of Rome. Livia is an angry lost young woman who has a thirst for violence and power. Ares has been nurturing her for quite some time. Xena and Gabrielle work desperately to free Eve from her anger only to lead them to the death of their friend Joxer. Joxer’s son survives his vengeance against Livia as Livia is brought back to Eve by a prayer Xena has said to Eli. Xena is then given the power to kill and wipes out almost the entire Olympic race except for Aphrodite and Ares who surrenders his godhood to save the lives of Eve and Gabrielle. His love for the warrior princes is proven although the warrior princess does not return the feelings. 19-18 B.C.

6) Eve goes off to follow Eli’s path while Gabrielle learns of the last links to Xena’s past before their meeting one another. This takes them to the land of the Norse Gods where they confront Odin and his Valkyrie and Grenhilda. Grenhilda is then saved from being wronged by Xena 35 years prior. Gabrielle and Xena finish out their travels together as Xena begins to becomes settled within her soul. Finally Gabrielle learns of Xena’s time in Chuppa and her friend Akimi. Xena discovers that she had wronged 40,000 souls accidentally who she had left at the mercy of the evil of Yodoshi’s soul. Xena sacrifices herself in death to free those souls and leaves Gabrielle behind. 18-16 B.C.

Caesar 100 B.C.- 44 B.C. age 66
Toris 77 B.C.
Eli 76B.C,- 44B.C. age 33
Xena 74 B.C.- 44 B.C.——–} 44B.C.-43B.C.——–} 18B.C.-14B.C. age 60
Lycious 73 B.C.-58B.C. age 15
Joxer 72 B.C.-18B.C. age 55
Ephiny 68 B.C.-44 B.C. age 24
Callisto 65 B.C. -45 B.C. age 20
Gabrielle 64 B.C. – 44 B.C.——-} 44B.C.-43B.C.——} 18B.C.- 13 B.C. 51 age —-?
Lila 63 B.C.-18 B.C. age 47—-?
Octavius 64 B.C.- 18 .C. age 48—-?
Solan 52 B.C.-46 B.C. age 8
Eve(Livia) 43 B.C.-16 B.C. age 26—-?
Sarah 39 B.C.- 18 B.C.
Virgil 36 B.C.- 16 B.C. age 19—-?

Detailed Overview

Xena born March 29, 75 B.C.- September 13 B.C. Age 62
18 B.C. Preserved at just under age 32. Xena is physically 36 when she dies.
Gabrielle Born February 15, 67 B.C. Age 54
18 B.C. Preserved at age 24 and is physically age 29 when Xena dies.
Callisto born July 68 B.C. Callisto is 20 when she physically dies in 47 B.C.
Julius Caesar born July 13, 100 BC-March 15, 44 B.C. Age 55

January 16th, 58 B.C. Amphipolis is attacked by the warlord Cortese and Xena’s younger brother Lycious, 15, is killed in battle while her older brother Toris, 19, runs for the hills. Xena is 17.

August 58 B.C. After expanding out to surrounding villages and finally to the coast Xena takes her army of followers on a rampage to protect Amphipolis. It is at this time she is sailing near Gaul and meets Caesar of Rome. She also meets her good friend Malia from Gaul. Malia is the first to teach the art of pressure points to Xena. Xena is 18.

October 58 B.C. Xena returns Caesar to Rome in Gaul for ransom.

In March 57 BC Caesar returns to Xena to betray her breaking her legs upon crucifixion of her and her army.

In July 57 BC After having been saved from the Roman Army by her Gaelic friend Malia, who was later killed by Ceasar’s soldiers at Nicklio’s, the healer, Xena has been befriended by Borias. She joins his army and becomes his lover and protégé. She convinces him to leave his wife and son Balok behind and they travel across the land to the east to Chin with his army. Xena is a young girl with a limp that Borias was taken by and decides to take under his wing as well as to be his lover. During the next months Xena is introduced to La Mao, Ming Tien, and Ming Tien’s father. Lao Ma attempts to save Xena from herself and teaches her and loves her with many things. Lao Ma discusses Xena’s knowledge of pressure points. Xena kills Ming Tsu and kidnaps Ming Tien his son teaching him to be a monster. Xena and Borias feud, but their feud is resolved by Lao Ma who is later betrayed by both during her quest for a peaceful Chin.

In December 57 B.C- February 56 BC. Xena and Borias set sail for Chuppa to do business. While there she meets the young Akimi who wishes to be taught to be a warrior by Xena. Xena teaches Akimi the warrior arts and later finds that Akimi wanted to use those skills to kill her father Yudoshi. Akimi then asks that Xena take her life after the deed. Xena is heart-broken and is forced to do it by Akimi. Xena condemns over 40,000 souls when in her emotional rage she accidentally sets fire and kills an entire village.

April 56 B.C.- Xena’s army comes upon Syra the home of Callisto where they burn the village killing women, and children in the process. Callisto’s evil is born in her loss of her entire family in the flames of destruction. Callisto is 11.

May 56 B.C.-July 56 BC Xena and Borias meet Alti. Alti reveals Xena is pregnant. Borias and Xena plan to sack the Amazons and later the centaurs. Alti offers the gift of ultimate power and for Xena to become “The Destroyer of Nations.” Alti introduces Xena to a new young friend who is later killed during a battle. Alti takes Xena to the land of the dead. Otari is only a child and meets Xena at this battle in which Xena’s young Amazon friend is killed. Alti entices Xena to kill the young 6-year-old Amazon Otari. Borias saves Otari.

August 56 BC-September 56 BC Xena attempts to assassinate Cyan Queen of the Amazons. Borias scolds Xena for attempting the assassination. Xena decides to learn Cyan’s fighting moves. Cyan attempts to turn Xena’s life around offering her to join the Amazons and leave Borias to change for the good. Cyan attempts to reverse Xena’s murdering ways. Alti attempts to win Xena over in a duel of spirits with Cyan in front of Xena. Cyan wins the battle. Cyan again offers Xena the chance to change. Alti curses Xena’s unborn child to never experience the love of his parents. Xena betrays Cyan the Queen of the Amazons of the steps. She kills her young red-headed warrior for sport, Cyan, and most of those in Cyan’s tribe. Alti takes the blood of Cyan to enhance her own powers. All major Amazon leaders at the time were killed in Xena’s betrayal.

October 56 BC- Xena attacks Corinth with Borias, Dagnon, and her army. Borias had split command of the army with Xena so each controlled half. They had taken control of the Centaurs. The plan was to grab the Ixion stone and then later to use its power to sack Athens. Borias offers to meet Colliapous to arrange a treaty of peace. Xena and Dagnon betray Borias. Borias then turns to the centaurs and allies with them. Xena blinds Colliapous in one eye in the battle. During this same time Xena’s personal servant Satrina offers her lover the warlord Damaious’s plan which defeated Rhodes when he sacked it. It included poisoning the grain of the people of Corinth to reduce their strength in defenses. Xena had defeated Damious in a prior battle and killed him obtaining Satrina.

November 56 BC- Xena and Dagnon meet the Centaurs and Borias in war for the Ixion Stone. Xena gives birth to Solan and Borias has changed his ways. Satrina stabs Borias attempting to stop him from taking Xena and his son away from the way of war. Dagnon kills Borias in a sword duel after Satrina exposes Borias has entered the camp. Xena gives birth to Solan during this time. Borias is killed by Dagnon a member of Xena’s army which she has taken over from Borias. Solan is born on December 8, 56 BC. Xena gives Solan to the Centaur leader Colliapous to raise as his own. Xena withdrew her army and left Corinth not finishing her attack.

February 55 BC- January 52 BC 35 years- Xena enters the Norse territory where she meets the Norse God Odin suffering. She stays in the Norse territory until March of 51 BC where she convinces Odin to fall in love with her, becomes a Valkarie, betrays Brenhilda, the other Valkarie, and the Rhine maidens to steal the ring in order to gain ultimate power. Brenhilda becomes the Grendel and gets the last laugh keeping the ring of power from Xena’s grasp.

March 52 BC-September 52 BC Xena moves back toward Greece passing through Britannia. She gathers and picks up an army of loyal followers to lead. This is when she first meets Ares and begins her romantic as well as business partnership with Ares. He appears to her and makes a deal with her using her past with Odin and Caesar’s past betrayal to gain her loyalties to his cause to conquer the world for his image. Xena encounters Bodecia and betrays Bodecia pretending to ally with her while satiating her quest to defeat Caesar in his quest to defeat Gaul. She defeats Caesar in battle then steals Bodecia’s army to march toward Rome.

October 52 BC – On their way toward Rome, in pursuit of Caesar, Xena’s army encounters the hoard (Pomira). She loses half of her men. She meets the young girl Vanessa whose father Raul is a fighter in her army at this time. Vanessa is taken from her family by the Pomira. Vanessa is 7.

November 52 BC- Ares guides Xena to Kal’s temple in Celtic lands to steal the dark chakram so that she can use it to fill her destiny to rule the world through force. In exchange Xena is to kill Hercules for Ares. During this time is the first time Xena encounters Hercules and Iolas.

December 52 BC- Xena marches through Thelassa’s village and leaves Thelassa to be torn to death by flesh-eating crabs.

January 51 BC- Xena meets Thalia who joins her army and co-leads with her for a time.

February 51 BC – March 50 BC- Marcus joins Xena’s Army. Xena turns away from Ares when she falls in love with Marcus. Ares is hurt, but continues to support Xena’s campaign to shape the world in his image. During this time Thersities the assassin, and many of the other personalities she later encounters again in Gabrielle’s scrolls join Xena’s army after being captured in villages she defeats and destroys. She trains those who will join her allegiance.

March 50 B.C. – Thersities has affections for Xena and tricks Marcus and Xena both into breaking off their relationship so that he can ask for her hand in marriage. She accepts. Marcus’s heart is broken and he leaves Xena’s army.

December 50 B.C. Thersities betrays Xena leaving her army and abandons their marriage.

June 49 B.C. – Xena‘s underling Darphus betrays Xena and takes over her army banishing her. Hercules is hot on their trail until he finds out that Xena’s army is no longer under her control. Together they defeat Darphus, Xena delivers the death-blow. Ares resurrects Darphus and gives him his pet Greigous. Xena and Hercules team up with Iolas and defeat Darphus a second time. It is during this time that Salmoneous meets Xena becoming her army’s jester and then ally alongside Hercules and Iolas against Darphus.

#1 Sins of the Past
July 2, 49 B.C. Gabrielle is age 18.

#2 Chariots of War
August 49 BC

#3 Dreamworker
September 49 BC

#4 Cradle of Hope
September 49 BC

#5 Path Not Taken
October 49 BC

#6 The Reckoning
October 49 BC

#7 The Titans
November 49 BC

#8 Prometheus
November 49 BC

#9 Hooves and Harlots
December 49 BC

#10 Death in Chains
December 49 BC

#11 The Black Wolf
January 48 BC

#12 The Warrior Princess
January 48 BC

#13 The Gauntlet
January 48 BC

#14 Unchained Heart
January 48 BC

#15 Athens Academy of Performing Bards
February 48 BC

#16 Fistful of Dinars
March 48 BC

#17 Royal Couple of Thieves
April 48 BC

#18 Warrior, Princess
April 48 BC

#19 Altered States
May 48 BC

#20 Mortal Beloved
May 48 BC

#21 Beware of Greeks Bearing Gifts
June 48 BC

#22 The Prodigal
July 48 BC

#23 Death Mask
August 48 BC

#24 The Greater Good
September 48 BC

#25 The Ties That Bind
October 48 BC

#26 Callisto
October 48 BC

#27 Is There A Doctor in the House
November 48 BC

#28 A Solstice Carol
December 21, 48 BC

#29 Giant Killer
December 25, 48 BC

#30 Orphan of War
January 8, 47 BC 1 year 2 months and 12 days until Maternal Instincts

#31 Remember Nothing
January 16th, 47 BC

#32 Girls Just Wanna
January 47 BC

#33 Warrior, Princess, Tramp
January 47 BC

#34 Return of Callisto
February 47 BC

#35 Intimate Stranger
February 47 BC

#36 Ten Little Warlords
February 47 BC

#37 Here She Comes Miss Amphipolis
March 47 BC

#38 A Day in the Life Of
March 47 BC

#39 Blind Faith
March 47 BC

#40 The Execution
April 47 BC

#41 For Him the Bell Tolls
April 47 BC

#42 A Comedy of Eros
April 47 BC

#43 Been There Done That
April 47 BC

#44 Ulysses
May 47 BC

#45 The Lost Mariner
May 47 BC

#46  The Price
June 47 BC

#47 The Quest
August 47 BC

#48 A Necessary Evil
September 47 BC

September 47 BC Lao Ma is executed by her son Ming Tien.

#49 Destiny
September 47 BC

#50 Judgement Day
September 47 BC

#51  The Furies
October 47 BC

#52 The Quill Is Mightier
October 47 BC

#53 Aphrodite’s Enchanted Scroll
October 47 BC

#54 Surprise
October, 47 BC

#55 King of Assassins
November, 47 BC

#56 Warrior, Priestess, Tramp
November 47 BC

#57 Dirty Half Dozen
November 47 BC

#58 The Deliverer
January 46 BC

#59 Gabrielle’s Hope
January 46 BC

#60 The Debt
February 46 BC

#61 When In Rome
March 46 BC

#62 Maternal Instincts
March 20th, 46 BC

#63 Bitter Suite
April 46 BC

#64 Forgiven
May 46 BC

#65 Vanishing Act
May 46 BC

#66 One Against An Army
June 46 BC

#67 Armageddon Now
June 46 BC

#68 King Con
June 46 BC

#69 Forget Me Not
July 46 BC

#70 Fins, Femmes, and Gems
November 47 BC

#71 If The Shoe Fits
July 46 BC

#72 Tsunami
July 46 BC

#73 A Tale of Two Muses
August 46 BC

#74 Daughter of Pomira
September 46 BC

#75 A Good Day
October 45 BC

#76 To Tartarus and Back
January 45 BC

#77 Sacrifice
February 45 BC

#78 A Family Affair
April 45 BC

#79 Soul Possession
April 45 BC

#80 In Sickness and In Hell
May 45 BC

#81 Crusader
June 45 BC

#82 Locked Up and Tied Down
June 45 BC

#83 Past Imperfect
July 45 BC

#84 Adventures In The Sin Trade
July 45 BC

#85 Paradise Found
August 45 BC

#86 Devi
September 45 BC

#87 Between The Lines
September 45 BC

#88 The Way
October 45 BC

#89 The Play’s The Thing
December 45 BC

#90 Takes One To Know One
February 44 BC

#91 The Convert
February 44 BC

#92 Endgame
March 44 BC

#93 Ides of March
March 44 BC

#94 Fallen Angel
March 44 BC

#95 Chakram
March 44 BC

#96 Animal Attraction
April 44 BC

#97 Succession
April 44 BC

#98 Seeds of Faith
May 44 BC

#99 Them Bones, Them Bones
May 44 BC

#100 Purity
July 44 BC

#101 Back In The Bottle
September 44 BC

#102 Punchlines
November 44 BC

#103 Lyre, Lyre, Hearts on Fire
November 44 BC

#104 Little Problems
December 44 BC

#105 God Fearing Child
December 44 BC

#106 Eternal Bonds
January 43 BC

#107 Lifeblood
February 43 BC

#108 Kindred Spirits
February 43 BC

#109 Amphipolis Under Siege
March 43 BC

#110 Anthony and Cleopatra
July 43 BC

#111 Looking Death in the Eye
August 43 BC

October 30 B.C. Cyrene is burned at the stake by the people of Amphipolis accused of being a witch due to the evil spirits which invaded her tavern.

April 25 B.C. Sarah Lila’s daughter, Gabrielle’s niece, at age 15 is taken by Gurkhan and his men. Lila’s husband and Gabrielle’s parents are beheaded by Gurkhan.

#112 Livia
July 18 BC

#113 Eve
September 18 BC

#114 Motherhood
November 18 BC

#115 Coming Home
December 18 BC

#116 The Haunting of Amphipolis
January 17 BC

#117 Heart of Darkness
January 17 BC

#118 Who is Gurkhan
February 17 BC – May 17 BC

#119 Legacy
June 17 BC

#120 Dangerous Prey
July 17 BC

#121 The Abyss
September 17 BC

#122 The Rheingold
December 17 BC

#123 The Ring
January 15 BC

#124 Return of the Valkyrie
February 15 BC

#125 Old Ares Had A Farm
April 15 BC

#126 The God You Know
August 15 BC

#127 You Are There (The Golden Apples)
January 14 BC

#128 Last of the Centaurs
April 14 BC

#129 Path of Vengeance
May 14 BC

#130 To Helicon And Back
June 14 BC

#131 A Friend in Need
September 14 BC

#132 When Fates Collide
October 14 BC

#133 Many Happy Returns
February 13 BC

*For more information on “The Xena Scrolls” please visit the links below.

http://warriorprincess.wikia.com/wiki/The_Xena_Scrolls

http://thexenascrolls.homestead.com/

The Xena Scrolls: Volume #3: Scroll #48: A Necessary Evil

The Xena Scrolls

By:  Gabrielle Bard of Potedia

Scroll#48:  A Necessary Evil

September 18, 47 B.C.

After a long quest and much personal debating a decision was finally made by the amazon princess.  She prepared for a beautiful ceremony in masking the new queen of the amazons.  It was a peaceful and beautiful moment as the amazons passed the mask of queenhood down from the mighty Melosa to the elequent Ephiny.  Princess Gabrielle received the beautifully decorated mask and then turned to face the wise new queen.  Gabrielle had determined that Velaska was not fit to carry on the amazon nation ethically and respectfully as she herself was not prepared for the awesome responsibility that comes with being masked as the queen.  The amazon princess was certain that there was much more she could learn alongside the warrior princess and was confident that Ephiny would be the right choice.

The moment had come to present the new queen to all as Gabrielle stated before the amazon nation that the queenhood rightfully belonged to Ephiny.  Gabrielle was certain in her heart that Melosa would have wanted it that way in the abscence of the former amazon princess Terrais.  Ephiny’s response was gentle and selfless.  She declared before the amazon nation that she would only accept the mask of queenhood in Gabrielle’s abscence.  Ephiny reminded the inexperienced amazon princess of her rite to the amazons.  Amazon law still declared that Gabrielle was the rightful queen despite Gabrielle’s decision to pass the responsibility to Ephiny.  Then Ephiny smiled reminding Gabrielle of what the sisterhood of the amazons was truely about.  It was about selfless sacrifice, trust, and courage.

Gabrielle suddenly found herself embarressed and then managed to find a way to lighten the serious moment.  She turned to Xena and posed a challenge.  The bard wanted to know if an Amazon Queen beat a warrior princess.  Xena’s sarcastic smile said it all as she responded to Gabrielle’s question with another question.  She asked the bard if she wanted to really find out the truth of that.  Gabrielle took the hint realizing that titles meant only as much as could be proven by those who held them.  Gabrielle was certain that she was far from skilled enough to challenge a warrior princess.  Becoming an amazon queen would hardly sharpen her warrior skill by sheer title alone.  And then the bard turned back toward the standing queen and reminded Ephiny that it was not likely that she would ever return to reclaim the queenhood.  Still Ephiny held steady in her leadership and looked to Gabrielle in a serious manner.  It was a reminder that Gabrielle was still a young girl at heart.  Gabrielle knew this despite all that had transpired.

Suddenly the ceremonial drums sounded as Ephiny raised the mask above her head and prepared to wear it with dignity and pride.  The amazons shouted out with joy and celebration for their new leader as she prepared to complete the ceremony.  Yet just as the amazons were at the dawn of a new era an uninvited blood curtling  scream crept into the celebration.  It was the scream of Velasaka.  All were surprised to see that she was still alive.  Gabrielle had been certain that Velaska had died in the rope battle the day before.  Yet by some strange miracle Velaska had survived and she was filled with even more rage and anger than before.

As Velaska limped into the amazon camp it was clear that she was on the brink of death.  Gabrielle looked on in shock as the amazons drew their weapons preparing to defend their queens.  Velaska’s injuries were impressive yet haunting.  Her legs were bleeding from their large gashes and her left arm was completely broken.  Velaska immediately looked to Gabrielle after declaring that the mask belonged to her and no other.  She was still delusional about the truths of Amazon law.  Gabrielle felt almost regretful that Velaska believed her own truths.  Then Velaska spoke in her haunting death filled voice.  She saw right through the eyes of the bard and with the weapon of every single thought that came from behind them.  This haunted the bard for she found guilt knowing that in her heart she had been so afraid of Velaska that she had found some sort of solace in knowing Velaska was dead.  But now Velaska seemingly had Gabrielle’s soul at her mercy despite the hand of Celesta.

Xena stepped forward upon the ceremonial platform realizing the severity of Velaska’s injuries.  The warrior princess wanted to help Velaska realizing just what Gabielle had realized.  Xena offered to help Velaska, but Velaska responded with defiance and strength.  She declared that she needed the help of no one.  Gabrielle could see as Velaska spoke helplessly that she had felt betrayed by her sisters.  Though it was her own selfish aspirations which had brought her to this demise.  Velaska had sadly betrayed herself.

Suddenly the thought of pity for Velaska left the bard’s mind and the minds of all others who witnessed the next unexpected event.  Velaska smiled with darkness in her eyes as she reached into her belt pouch.  Then the worst nightmare possible came to pass.  She held up the ultimate weapon and the ultimate revenge upon her sisters and upon Gabrielle.  It was a small piece of ambrosia that had not been destroyed in the fire.  Somehow Velaska had been able to save just enough to bring her the ultimate gift from the gods.  Immorality with the power of the gods behind it.

Just as Velaska’s breaths were audibly becoming shorter and struggled she smiled and stuffed the ambrosia down into her mouth.  As her hand shook uncontrollably she suddenly fell to the ground in weakness.  Then all was quiet momentarily until the power of the ambrosia took the place of certain death.  Velaska’s mortal body lit up as it blinded all who beared witness.  Suddenly she cried out in pain and anguish and then the transformation came to pass.  For a moment all was quiet again as Velaska slowly rose from the ground and felt the power of the ambrosia running through her veins.  Then she looked up at her stunned audience seemingly uncertain of what she wanted to do next.

Gabrielle knew exactly what Velaska would do next and just as the thought crossed the bard’s mind Velaska fixed in on her.  She looked up and shouted out Gabrielle’s name in a commanding tone.  Then Velaska rose her arm and pointed her finger in the direction of the startled bard.  Gabrielle found herself frozen within her boots.  It was like a nightmare, but it was real.  Xena quickly acted noticing the fearfully frozen bard.  Xena called out to Gabrielle as Velaska took aim and  a powerful static beam eminated from her body.  The beam was perfectly on target taking down the queen’s ceremonial throne as Xena dove upon the bard to save Gabrielle from Velaska’s wrath.

Gabrielle found herself suddenly dragged back into the reality of the situation.  She found herself realizing that she had reacted to Velaska instead of acting as Xena had done.  Yet there was little time to think about this amateur mistake.  Xena and Gabrielle looked upon Velaska awating her next strike as Ephiny made a fatal choice.  She courageously gave the command to the amazons to attack the enemy, but Xena quickly responded openly against this idea.  The warrior princess was certain that Velaska could wipe out the entire tribe in just minutes.  Suddenly Velaska responded with more power and static beams.  She next took down the Queen’s hut demonstrating futher the wrath of her chaotic power.

Amazons rushed to dodge the flames and the beams as Velaska was testing her new strength.  She was exploring her new found power and the warrior princess knew it.  Xena quickly realized that this was the time to escape.  Velaska had quickly become distracted by her own power and was for the moment no longer focased on Gabrielle.  Suddenly Ephiny gave the commaned for the amazons to run.  Everyone fell back toward the woods with Xena and Gabrielle leading the way.  For Gabrielle there was little time to think.  The only thing she could feel was her legs carrying her away from the impending danger.

Then her mind was interrupted by the horrendous voice of vegence once more.  It reminded Gabrielle that it was coming for her and it would stop at nothing to destroy her.  Xena soon caught up to her helpless friend encourging Gabrielle to go on ahead.  The warrior princess would stay back and take care of the amazons.  She would be certain to bring them to safety.  Gabrielle wasted little time in allowing her legs to carry her to the safety of the woods as Xena returned to the battle.  While the bard continued to move toward the cover of the trees she could still clearly hear every moment of the battle.  It was a terrifying thought to imagine what Velaska’s power might do if Xena were to fall victim to it herself.  Yet Gabrielle could not allow herself to fix on that thought for too long.  Suddenly she heard Velaska’s voice chiming in again.  It echoed through the land and into the depths of the forrest.  Gabrielle had just reached the trees as she heard Velaska shout out against Ephiny.

The bard heard Velaska proclaim her vegenance against the new Queen and then there was the sound of a large explosion.  Gabrielle was uncertain if anyone had been injured.  There seemed to be little hope for any amazon or even the warrior princess of escaping the wrath of this newborn goddess.  Then the former amazon princess found herself having to stop for her heart was pounding seemingly outside of her chest.  Her legs were burning with exhaustion from running as her chest rose and vell violently.  Gabrielle leaned up against a nearby tree and suddenly felt a hand upon her shoulder.  The moment was startling as if Velaska were standing right there beside Gabrielle.  Yet as she turned to face the enemy and her fear she found that the hand belonged to the warrior princess.  Xena smiled softly hoping to comfort her terrified friend, but to no avail for Velaska again cried out.

The goddess seemingly held no mercy for the innocent despite it all.  Velaska then reminded Gabrielle again of her power as a god.  She strongly reminded all who could hear her that Gabrielle could run, but would never be able to hide from her wrath and power.  Then Velaska cackled and it echoed on for several moments and through every tree in the forrest.  Xena looked to her friend saddened for her.  She wanted desparately to be able to take away this burden from the bard, but it was obvious that there was no turning back for the rightful amazon queen.  There was a sense of regret within the bard’s heart for having ever thought that she could ever have led the amazon nation alone.

Quickly Xena and Ephiny led the amazons and Gabrielle to a cave.  There they hid from Velaska and regrouped.  Yet there were so many injured amazons who had laid their lives on the line for the glory of their queen.  Gabrielle felt almost undeserving of this.  She began to feel as if this were her fault.  The bard took full responsibility within her heart.  As Gabrielle tended to Eponin’s sprained arm Xena spoke to Ephiny and Gabrielle about the plan of action.  Xena mentioned that at the moment of the large explosion she had thrown herself in front of Ephiny.  The warrior princess expressed that there indeed was a powerful punch to Velaska, but not enough to destroy anyone yet.  Ephiny had also noticed this weakness, but there was another weakness to the goddess.  Xena told Ephiny of how she had noticed Velaska’s fascination with herself.  The warrior princess was certain that it would hold off Velaska for a while, but not for too long.

The main plan was for Ephiny to remove all of the wounded from the cave and to take them to Tyldus at the Centaur camp.  Xena was certain that they would be safe there for the moment since the Centaurs had not yet made it to Velaska’s target list.  As Eponin argued that they should go back and fight Velaska Xena reminded her that a goddess could not be defeated by warrior skill alone.  Xena had an alternate plan.  She instructed Ephiny to take the amazons out and use themselves as a distraction to keep Velaska from reaching Gabrielle.  The warrior princess needed as much time between herself and the goddess as possible.  It was obvious that she had a final part of the plan yet she did not choose to openly express it.  And then Gabrielle realized that it was time to make light of the situation.  It seemed the only way to make it bearable.  She chimed in reminding everyone that no one was in more trouble than she herself at the moment.  Despite her efforts to comfort herself with a sarcastic spin on the situation it came across with a serious emotional  response.  The dreadful feeling of being grippd by fear still found its way through the bard’s heart.  Everyone in the group looked to the helpless ametuer queen realizing her fears as their own.  Ephiny then reminded Gabrielle that she too was on the top of Velaska’s target list.  It was an attempt at comforting the inexperienced amazon.

Gabrielle had finished wrapping Eponin’s arm as Ephiny reminded the warrior princess of her own injury.  Xena had hit the ground pretty hard in challenging Velaska to protect Ephiny.  Yet the warrior princess never seemed to be phased by the pain of her dislocated arm.  Eponin jumped up with enthusiasm ready for battle once again despite her own brush with death against the power of Velaska.  There was something seemingly comforting for Gabrielle as she saw the great courage illuminating from every amazon and even the warrior princess.  It seemed that everyone had a much brighter perspective on this seemingly doomed situation.  Still Xena warned that the amazons were only to hold Velaska off without risking death to a single amazon.

Then Xena walked over to the wall of the cave and relocated her own arm.  Gabrielle found herself stunned knowing that in her own mind she would have been screaming with pain.  Xena joked about her injury and Ephiny responded with concern and duty.  Then Ephiny took Eponin and the other amazons into battle once again.  As they left Gabrielle began to feel ill in the pit of her stomach.  It was unbelieveable that she could ever find herself the prey to an all powerful goddess.  As she looked to Xena the warrior princess was concerned for her friend’s well being.  Gabrielle continued her thoughts aloud to the warrior princess unable to fathom what plan could be the solution to this disaster.  Yet Xena did have a plan as always.  Xena revealed that the only way to defeat Velaska was to enlist another immortal to help them fight her.

Gabrielle seemed hopeful for a moment, but the hope quickly passed when she realized that immortals were not a dinar a dozen.  Where would a person find an immortal was the next question to the warrior princess.  Fortunately Xena did have someone in mind that could do the job yet her response was cryptic and the look in her eye more terrifying.  Gabrielle couldn’t imagine what the down side of this could be.  Until she thought of a story that she had heard in a village tavern recently.  The bard had caught wind of a battle that had occurred between Callisto and Hercules.  Details of the encounter between them were foggy, but Gabrielle did remember that Callisto had been left in a state of immortality despite being killed by the quicksand in her last battle against Xena.  The good part was that Callisto was trapped for eternity in a place of Hercules’s chosing, but that place was not one that Gabrielle cared to visit again.

The bard argued with the warrior princess about this choice.  Xena knew that the bard would disagree, but the warrior princess felt that it was the only choice.  The warrior princess reminded Gabrielle that Callisto’s immortality was the key, and the fact that Callisto could fight well in a heavy combat would prove an asset when it came down to the final part of the plan.  Gabrielle still refused to accept that Callisto was their only choice.  There had to be a better choice, and then it occurred to her.  She spouted off the name of Hercules for he was half god.  He could most certainly go up against an inexperienced goddess like Velaska.

Xena was firm in her choice of immortals for the job.  She reminded Gabrielle that it could take weeks to find Hercules and time was not on their side.  Xena stated that every time Velaska would use her powers they would drain her into a weakened state yet those periods of weakness would grow shorter as her powers matured.  Gabrielle was still firmly against this ludicrus idea.  It was the worst idea she had ever heard come from the mind of the master.  She could not face the demon that had taken Perdicus.  It was enough to have to deal with the fear of being hunted, but to couple it with fresh emotional wounds was too much.  Xena was asking for something Gabrielle refused to offer up.

The warrior princess then rose from her spot on the rock and spoke softly to the bard.  She reminded Gabrielle that she knew how much it hurt inside to be reminded of Callisto.  Yet Gabrielle could not accept Xena’s condulances for the warrior princess could not possibly understand this kind of loss.  As Gabrielle expressed her anger and refusal Xena seemed hurt by it.  Yet Gabrielle did not care.  Nothing mattered because all she could ever see when she closed her eyes was the death of her husband and the sounds of Callisto which had followed.  That irriating phsycotic scream coupled with that ugly evil laughter.  It was too much to bare again.  As Gabrielle continued her anger at Xena she reminded Xena that Callisto would never help her.  There would be no way to convince the blond nemisis to fight on the side of the good.  Gabrielle was certain of this.

Xena responded to Gabrielle’s harsh words with a reflection of the bard’s ugly outburst.  The warrior princess insisted that they would just have to find a way to talk Callisto into siding with them in the matter.  And then that was the end of the conversation.  The plan was set and Xena was going to follow it through.  Gabrielle had no other choice, but to follow the warrior princess to the place she never thought she would have to return to.

And the day was long as it wore into the night.  The two friends traveled with Argo in silence and without a word.  Gabrielle’s fear dictated her direction for she knew deep down that without Xena there would be no chance at survival despite this horrid plan.  Xena was completely focased on the mission and ignored the pouting bard.  By morning Gabrielle realized how much Xena loved her for she could just as easily have walked away after the bard’s defiance of her plan no matter the cost.  Yet the bard was still uncomfortable in having to face her enemy again.  She found herself spending the next morning preparing her heart for the torment that it would most certainly face.

As the day wore on a certain peace found its way into the bard’s heart.  She began to realize how special and how brave Xena truely was.  Gabrielle had almost forgotten through her anger that Xena’s heart had stakes in this too.  Her heart had to deal with the pain of knowing that it was her army that had destroyed Callisto’s family.  And it was in that moment that Gabrielle realized that the score was truely even and that Xena too carried a burden.  Yet she was willing to face that burden.  Gabrielle found herself willing to face that same burden if not for her own life for the lives of her amazon sisters.  Xena soon interrupted the peaceful and clarifying thoughts with more details on the location of the trap that Hercules had set for Callisto.  He had left her deep beneath the collapsed ceiling of an old demolished temple.  It was clear to the bard that they had arrived at the ruins, but finding the small collapsed area underneath the rubble proved to be more difficult.

After several moments of prodding through the sight Gabrielle caught sight of a possible entrance into the world of the blond immortal.  The two friends approached their fears together as Xena prepared a rope to lower herself down into the pit of despair.  As Xena prepared the contraption using an old cross beam Gabrielle took a deep breath and closed her eyes in an attempt to visualize her challenge and face it with courage.  Then she looked to Xena and said a comforting word.  She expressed to Xena her confidence in Xena’s idea and solution to the true issue.  Xena gave Gabrielle cautious instructions.  She wanted to be sure that Gabrielle was aware that Callisto could be freed only in the event of a solid agreement and commitment to go up against Velaska.

Then Gabrielle watched as Xena faced the unknown.  On the way down Gabrielle wished her friend goodwill and listened intently to the moments that followed after.  There was a lot of fear, anticipation, and emotion racing through the heart of the bard.  Yet she kept a tight grip on focas knowing her duty at hand.  Still she was afraid for Xena and of what to expect next.  After many long moments Gabrielle suddenly felt the double tug on the rope.  It was Xena’s signal to bring it up.  There would be only one way for the warrior princess to return.  It would be in the success of selling the deal to Callisto.  There was no turning back from this moment.

Gabrielle then waited for what seemed to be an eternity.  She was begining to feel that maybe she was stuck within an immortal nightmare.  The bard finally rose from listening to the sounds that were not audible down below.  There was not one clue as to how things were transpiring between the dark forces and the light.  As she leaned on her staff for comfort for several moments she drifted off into more scenarios and attempts to prepare for Callisto’s arrival.  Torn by her fear of Velaska, responsiblity to the amazons, and her hatred of Callisto the bard could barely breath inside.  Until her thoughts were interrupted by a cheerful sound.  It was Xena’s command for Argo.  Gabrielle now knew that Xena would certainly return to her, but it was still questionable as to whether or not she had succeeded at rounding up the support of Callisto.

Reluctantly Gabrielle threw down the rope and the waited.  Moments later she could see the rope moving and could soon hear the sounds of heavy breathing.  Her heart lept with the hope that it would be Xena, but as the arms rose from the darkness one of them grabbed Gabrielle and pulled her toward despair’s pit.  The bard struggled to gain her balance and was startled with the horrible face of Callisto.  It was scared by a blade, but those eyes were still a passionate fire of evil.  Gabrielle jumped back and away from the pit and scooped up her staff preparing to do battle against evil.  Evil struggled toward its own freedom gleefully.

Gabrielle was certain Callisto would try to kill her, but just when it seemed that there would be a battle to the death Callisto rose from the pit, took a deep breath, and expressed how beautiful the day was.  Yet she imagined it a beautiful day of blood and battle rather than of peace and harmony.  Gabrielle found herself unable to act or react to this statement.  It was hardly unexpected, but then Xena emerged from the pit of despair.  As the warrior princess struggled to her feet Gabrielle expressed her concern hoping that Xena would answer with strength and stealth.

Xena was in one piece and ready to complete the mission now that she had obtained the prize.  Yet Callisto mocked Gabrielle’s concern for Xena.  Gabrielle sensed a bit of hurt coming from within the seemingly soulless immortal .  It was obvious that Callisto did not appreciate the  rejection from Gabrielle.  For a slight moment Gabrielle found herself intrigued and wanting to understand this glimpse into Callisto’s soul, but the moment passed.  Callisto began to small talk with Gabrielle as if they had been lifetime friends.  It was confusing and eerie for the bard as Callisto seemingly expressed an interest in life outside of death.  Yet this turned into a virtual stabbing within the heart as Callisto defied her own interest with the reminder of the death of Perdicus.

She was cryptic asking if Gabrielle had married again since their last meeting.  This enraged the bard who could only react out of raw emotion as she struck Callisto broadly across the face with her staff.  Callisto’s head took the sharp blow returning to face Gabrielle.  The blond laughed in Gabrielle’s face with a slight sarcastic scream amused by the bard’s reaction to her words.  Callisto then reminded Gabrielle that she was immortal and could not be killed.  Yet the blond continued on as if to understand how Gabrielle felt inside.  Callisto was calm and spoke with an understanding tone describing the pain of the loss which Gabrielle still felt over Perdicus.  She explained how she knew that Gabrielle wanted nothing more than to be able to draw Callisto’s blood even within her immortal state.  The taste of it was still there in Gabrielle’s heart and Callisto could see it.  She could also bring it to the surface faster than any other.  Only Callisto could win Gabrielle’s battle within her heart over peace and blood.

Then Gabrielle stepped back slowly with great intrigue.  There was something strange about all of this connection with the one she hated most.  Though the bard did not dare to verbalize it openly.  She only listened to Callisto’s words and Callisto’s eyes.  There seemed to be someone peaking through all of that darkness.  Yet it was still phsycotic.  Then Callisto proclaimed that she would even volunteer her assistance in helping Gabrielle to ease that nagging thurst and pain.  She unsheathed her sword and prepared to strike.  For some strange reason the bard could suddenly relate and was unafraid of Callisto for the moment.  Her heart knew that Callisto was not going to kill her.  Instead Callisto turned her own sword against herself as she plunged in straight through her bare stomach.

The bard could feel Callisto’s pain within the pit of her own stomach.  It was an empty pain and it was sickening.  Gabrielle could barely keep her eyes focased to watch.  She wanted to close them and to shield them from this horrid desplay of self-hatred and destruction.  Gabrielle suddenly realized that this was the path she would have followed if she had taken her vengance when Callisto was still mortal.  It was then that the bard realized that no blood was worth that kind of pain.  Within that moment there was a sense of sorrow for this tortured individual.  Yet just as the sword went through the fair stomach of the blond the sound of shallow breaths eminated from her being.  Then the sword slid back out of Callisto’s body as she displayed it proudly proclaiming that there was not one single drop of blood upon it.

Callisto flashed a smile and then reminded all that immortals heal quickly, but there was one drawback.  The only way to defeat an immortal was to find a way to put her into pieces and that was not as easy as it sounded.  Few mortals would have that skill and ability.  Yet Callisto seemingly respected the warrior princess enough to know that Xena would probably succeed if pushed to the threat.  With that comment Xena was pushed to stop Callisto’s self-destructive show of her own pain.  Gabrielle suddenly found herself aware of what Callisto was doing.  She was very good at it too.  Callisto was pressing the buttons of both herself and Xena.  It was the only way Callisto knew how to communicate with people.  There was a strange admiration present within Callisto though the bard could not grasp or understand it.  Yet it was still clear that Xena was ready to move on and to finish the job they had come to do.

Xena began to move forward, but Callisto again took control.  There was rage within her voice as she denounced Xena’s command.  Defiant Callisto made it clear that there was one stop that had to be made before she could completely sign the deal.  It was something that Xena could never have expected and it would shock Gabrielle.  Gabrielle found herself trying to take control of the arguement between Xena and Callisto.  As she whispered into Xena’s ear reminding both that the amazons would not be able to hold off Velaska for long.  Xena quickly snapped out of her own disgust for Callisto’s show and again stated what Gabrielle had reminded.  Yet Callisto switched her voice into more of a calm soothing tone.  She promised that their stop would  not take long.  Callisto then reminded the two helpless mortals that without her there would be no winning the battle against Velaska.  And with that the blond sheathed her sword and led the way toward her selected destination.

It was a small prosperous village near where her own village had once stood.  Callisto demanded that Xena announce to all what she had done.  Humiliation was on Callisto’s personal agenda for the day.  She desired that Xena’s crimes against her family be stated openly for judgement.  And so Xena stepped upon the town square platform standing before Callisto’s selected jury.  The people of the village were unknowns yet they played the part of Callisto’s family, friends, and village aquaintances she had once known in Syra.  Gabrielle watched with disgust at this unnecessary sharade as the warrior princess took a deep breath and began.

The warrior princess then spoke to the essence of the people whom she had once wronged yet they had all perished so long ago.  There was only one who had survived yet she her soul had not.  Though Callisto herself did not die when Xena’s army had come to her village her soul had been tarnished forever.  Gabrielle watched both Xena and Callisto as Xena spoke to the lone survivor.  It was as if the audience was no longer there.  It seemed that only Xena and Callisto stood within that village alone as the warrior princess continued her confession.  Gabrielle caught sight of deep remorse and regret within the warrior princess as Xena spoke of the small village that had perished at her hands.  It had been very much like the village that they stood in at this moment.

There were so many parallels and comparisons.  There were so many innocents that were taken upon the arrival of Xena and her army.  Gabrielle looked back to Callisto only to see how pleased the blond was to watch Xena’s personal humiliation of herself and her own actions.  At first Gabrielle had thought that Xena had only been playing Callisto’s silly game, but then Xena spoke of the innocent young girl that stood before her.  The child that was lost and who would never return for she had lost her life and her family because of the warrior princess’s wreckless ways.  Gabrielle found herself shocked to look back and to notice that there was a deep connection between two fiercely bitter enemies.  For a moment it was as if there was a personal reconsiliation going on between them.

The bard could see deep sadness emerging from the depths of Callisto’s eyes.  It was as if Callisto was going to shed her first tears, but the blond fought desparately to hold them back.  For a moment Gabrielle began to understand Callisto’s pain as the warrior princess continued on.  Xena spoke of the lost little girl whose true fate in life would never be known now that Xena had entered it so violently.  Gabrielle found herself astonished yet almost driven to want to console the pain of Callisto.  She wanted to forgive Callisto for killing Perdicas knowing now that Callisto could relate to losing somone she had once loved.  It was amazing to see that somewhere within all of the darkness there was a small little light that still shun through Callisto though still confused.

Then the warrior princess was finished.  She was finished with her regrets and finished with her attempts at healing the wound that she had cast upon the young innocent Callisto so long ago.  Xena stepped down from the town square and approached Callisto who appeared deeply stunned and unexpecting of Xena’s final statements.  It seemed to the bard that there was only one thing left that could be done now to finalize the healing process.  Xena stood before Callisto for a long moment.  All was quiet between the two of them as if they were looking into each other’s souls.  Gabrielle thought for a moment that the warrior princess might reach out to Callisto and embrace all of the pain that the blond carried inside.  The bard thought that Xena might aplogize and that Callisto would accept that apology and move on.

But then Xena turned away from the ruined soul and declared that the time had come to complete the mission against Velasaka.  Gabrielle thought for a short moment that it was cold, but then she looked into Callisto’s eyes once more only to see empty confusion.  Maybe there truely was nothing there, and maybe what she had seen inside moments before was only hope reflecting back into her own heart.  Gabrielle was uncertain now yet she knew that her own heart still ached for Perdicas.

For many long moments as the three traveled things were uncomfortable and quiet until they finally reached the temple of Artemis.  It was the only thing that could have broken the unbearable silence.  Callisto laughed candidly at the sight of the crushed temple.  She commented on how effective the power of ambrosia really was.  Callisto couldn’t wait to get her hands onto some ambrosia herself.  Xena looked to the blond with a slight sneer as Gabrielle noticed at the gate on the other side of the temple court yard a dead man lied alone.  When the three approached him Xena noticed that his death was a fresh one which meant that Velaska was near.  She had been by within the last hour for even the temple itself was still smoking with the energy of Velaska’s now destructive powers.

Xena quickly led Gabrielle and Callisto to a nearby canyon knowing that Velaska would be sensing Gabrielle’s presence soon.  When the three entered into the canyon the sun was high over head.  Callisto looked about as did Gabrielle as the two assessed the situation.  Callisto seemed impressed with the location Xena had chosen to do battle as she complemented Xena with a subtle coment.  She spoke of Velaska’s lightening bolts and of how their power would be useless to Velaska within this tall unstable canyon.  Gabrielle found herself concerned noticing that there was a pile of rock above across the canyon that looked as if it were about to fall.  Xena then expressed how much of an advantage it would be for the new team of three to use those rocks against the power of Velaska’s lightening.  The warrior princess was certain that Velaska never thought things through very thouroughly.  Xena was counting on this as the third element of the plan.

Of course Callisto switched from complementary to irritated knowing that she was the fourth element of the plan.  She was expected to be the bait that would lead Velasaka into a fight.  Callisto questioned  the warrior princess on how the duration of the battle between herself and Velaska was expected to play out.  Xena simply answered that it should last only long enough to lure Velaska into the trap beneath the rock ledge.  Though Xena played coy with Callisto the blond was certain that there was betrayal at hand in the mix.  The prize for her was to obtain the ambrosia from the goddess of chaos, but Callisto couldn’t calculate how she would be able to get to it at the bottom of a pile of rock.  Yet Callisto decided to handle this personal concern casually and with some humor.  She asked Xena how she felt about sharing in the wealth of the ambrosia.  Of course Callisto thought it might be fun for the simple purpose of battling against her rival for enterity.

There was something quite strange and futile about that thought.  It led Gabrielle to feel as if Callisto had a bit of compassion for Xena depsite their differences.  Gabrielle knew that if the situation were reversed she would never invite Callisto to fight against her for an enterity.  Of course Xena’s response was just as casual with a certain avoidance to it.  She just reminded Callisto that Velaska was the priority and that they would deal with the ambrosia later.  And as expected Callisto seemed irritated in knowing that Xena gave away nothing more than was necessary for the current problem.  With that there was only one thing left to do.  Sitting and waiting was the most difficult part of the plan because no one was really certain how long it would be before Velaska would find them behind their haven of the rock pile.  Several hours went by with mostly silence although Callisto couldn’t resist taunting and torturing Gabrielle emotionally.  The sun fell deep into the western canyon before anything was to transpire.  Waiting for certain doom seemed to take a lifetime as Callisto looked to Gabrielle with an evil smile and then a grin followed by subtle yet playful laughter.

Gabrielle found herself just about at the end of her emotional rope until just a moment later Velaska appeared at the opposite end of the canyon.  Callisto was suddenly fixated onto the new challenge that had arrived barely able to contain her lust for a healthy battle.  Xena had to calm the child within Callisto as the three hid behind the large rock pile awaiting the right moment to attack.  All was quiet as Gabrielle watched Velaska intently.  The bard’s heart began to beat harder as Velaska continued to scan the canyon with her eyes and atune herself to the canyon.  Then Velasaka stopped scanning as a smile spread across her face.  She stated quietly under her breath that she could sense that there were three heart beats instead of two.  Velaska seemed pleased at this new surprise for she had fully expected to be taking on only Xena to get to Gabrielle.  The goddess seemed pleased at the challenge yet fully confident in her certain victory.  Gabrielle found this chilling as her heart raced with fear.  Velaska quickly responded to this allowing her prey the knowledge of her impending death.  The goddess was ready to stop the beating of the heart of her rival the amazon princess.

Under her breath Xena stated that it was the time to take action and to put things into motion.  There was not a better moment of opportunity and Callisto agreed that the moment was indeed perfect; however, not for the greater good.  Callisto’s voice was sour as she spoke and then suddenly she grabbed Xena’s chacrkam from its resting place and flipped into the battle arena.  Suddenly Callisto made her next move of defiance as she threw Xena’s chackram into the canyon walls delfecting it right into the rock pile above the canyon securing it from a fall.  And then the chackram was tamed by the blond with little effort.  Gabrielle had known only Xena to be able to tame the beast that was the chackram, but Callisto was dangerous with it.  Gabrielle found herself confused for the moment as she inquired of the new situation with Xena.  The bard was certain that the rocks falling onto Velaska had been the original plan.  Now it was suddenly changing and with no warning.  That was when Xena confirmed Gabrielle’s fear.  Callisto had just switched sides in the battle against Velaska.  Now they were finding that they would be up against not one immortal, but two.  This was not looking good in the bard’s eyes, yet Xena seemed quite calm as if she had expected this to happen.

And then it happened.  Callisto greeted Velaska as if she were offering her a deal.  It was one that could seemingly not be refused.  Callisto wanted to take down Xena and Velaska wanted Gabrielle.  Though the deal couldn’t get any sweeter for the enemyVelaska seemed unaware of the advantage of having Callisto as an ally.  Her response was a simple one.  She seemed disappointed that this strange warrior woman wanted to ally with a goddess.   YetVelasaka was curious to know more about this Callisto person.  Callisto explained in her usual manner of sarcasm that Xena rarely spoke of her.  It was another open stab at Xena’s heart.  Callisto invited Xena into the confrontation indirectly as she openly insulted Velaska’s intelligence.  Velaska then responded raising her arm preparing to zap

Callisto into oblivion.  Yet Callisto calmed Velaska quickly asking that Velaska hear the details of the offer on the table.  Callisto reminded Velaska that she had only one ally in the moment and that was Callisto herself.  Yet Velaska did not seem amused or at all interested in the deal.  Her pride got the better of her as she firmly stated that she did not need any friends and that she didn’t want any friends.

Callisto was quickly realizing that allying with Velaska was one thing, but convincing Velaska of the need for an ally was another challenge all its own.  Of course Callisto masterfully chimed in that Velaska had that feeling in common with her new ally as well.  Yet Velaska’s response was rejection again.  She was uncertain as to why Callisto was so casual about the subject of her own death.  Callisto’s response was again candid and sarcastic yet the situation between them was begining to lighten with Callisto’s demeanor.  It was as if Velaska were about to respect and trust in someone.  Just as the conversation became less tense between Callisto and Velaska Xena decided that it was time to act for if Callisto succeeded in winning over Velaska there would be no victory or life thereafter.  Gabrielle grabbed Xena’s arm unable to figure out what advantage was left, but Xena was confident.  She flipped out from behind the rock into the arena shouting across the canyon at Callisto.  Xena gave the command to take Velaska to Callisto knowing full well that Callisto had already chosen Velaska over Gabrielle.

Callisto was taken by surprise as she whipped around behind to see that Xena was grinning and bearing down waiting for battle.  Velaska wasted no time as she threw out a lightening bolt in the direction of the warrior princess who flipped out of its path toward the rock ledge.  The goddess struck a second time as Callisto watched her plan fall apart in horror.  Callisto shouted at Velaska to stop as she violently pushed the goddess to the ground.  It was in that moment that Gabrielle realized that this had been part of Xena’s plan all along.  The warrior princess ahd known that it would be Callisto who would betray an ally.  Yet Callisto’s attempt to force Velaska to wise up did not work in her favor.  Gabrielle quickly realized that she had her own choice to make.  She could push Velaska over the edge and defeat Callisto’s plan of defiance by jumping out of hiding and taking a chance.  Gabrielle lept up from behind the rock pile and shouted out to Velaska challenging her to strike a third time.  Velaska did not resist and stuck effortlessly and without thought.

Rocks flew in all directions and with great force and destructive power.  Callisto was enraged at Velaska’s unintelligent response.  She bolted for the goddess pushing Velaska to the ground as she screamed in fury.  Then Callisto reiterated to Velaska the seriousness of using her powers within the canyon.  The blond was desparately trying to win Velaska’s emotions and control of the battle, but it was too late.  The fragile trust she had built with Velaska had been destroyed by Xena’s defiance of Callisto’s betrayal.  Suddenly Velaska’s powers were unleashed upon Callisto sending her across the canyon smahing into a pile of rubble.  Callisto was then motionless and silent.  Gabrielle looked across the canyon and saw little movement from underneath the rubble.  The bard found herself a bit worried realizing that Callisto being knocked out of action had definately not been part of Xena’s plan.  Gabrielle then heard Xena calling out her
name as Xena flipped into action to face Velaska alone and without Callisto’s help.

The pace of the battle began to pick up as both Xena and Velaska drew swords.  Strangely Velaska could have easily taken Xena with the simple strike of a lightening bolt, but she had seen the damage that she herself had done to Callisto.  Velaska thought better of using her powers.  Gabrielle found herself watching in horror as Xena went up against Velaska in a battle to her own death.  Though Xena was brave and hopeful Gabrielle was not certain that Callisto would recover in time to join Xena in the battle.  After several strokes of the swords clashing Velaska paused against Xena in a stale mate and pleaded that Xena give up.  She reminded the warrior princess that because she was a goddess and Xena was mortal that the battle would never end, but Xena was confident that it would not be a long fight.  Just three clashes later Velaska decided that she wanted to end the battle herself.  She grabbed the end of Xena’s sword and stopped it instantly.  Xena’s strength was no match for Velaska’s power.  Suddenly Velaska grabbed Xena’s neck and lifted the warrior princess off of her feet and into the air.  The goddess began to choke the life out of the warrior princess who hung helplessly unable to save herself.

Gabrielle found herself frozen and unable to move.  It was a like a nightmare as the bard tried desparately awaken.  As the bard watched Xena’s sword left the warrior princess’s hand in the struggle to survive and dropped helplessly to the ground.  Just as the warrior princess was about to lose her life something miraculous happened.  Callisto sprung up from the pile of rubble and jumped onto Velaksa’s back enraged that the goddess had treated her so disrespectfully.  The blond had been offended by Velaska’s careless nature in dealing with her and expressed her displeasure as she broke Xena free from Velaska’s grasp.

Xena quickly fell to the ground as Callisto flipped over Velaska with her back to her newest enemy.  Then Callisto slyly pulled her sword from its sheath behind her back turning to face Velaska.  Anger poured from within Callisto as she fought Velaska with a forceful power.  Soon Xena jumped back to her feet retrieving her own sword from the sand.  The warrior princess charged into the battle with Callisto at her side.  Gabrielle watched curiously as the two women fought on the same side.  Each had her own style and intension behind each stroke of her sword.  Callisto’s rage was her power as Xena’s love was the power of the warrior princess.  Strangely both fought with the same technical skill, but neither seemed to be more powerful than the other.  Yet together they were the perfect balance against the unbalanced goddess who fought with neither love nor hate.  Velaska’s intension was seemingly more about making a statment and less about emotion.

After several moments of two on one fight Xena dropped out of the confrontation leaving Callisto to handle Velaska on her own.  The warrior princess rolled toward the pile of rubble on the ground retrieving her chackram as she came back to her feet again.  Then the warrior princess called out to Gabrielle who knew that it was time to jump into the battle.  The bard quickly jumped out of hiding using her staff as a javalin and hurling it toward the rock ledge above to free the the secured rocks.  Xena’s chackram gracefully deflected off the sides of the canyon until it raced toward the freed rock pile upon the ledge.  Callisto could hear the sounds of the whispering chackram as she quickly sheathed her sword and withdrew from her battle against Velaska flipping backward and away.  In the next moment the chackram had struck the unstable rock pile and the rocks tumbled down below onto their victim the goddess of chaos.

Velaska screamed horrified and surprised as the rocks came down upon her.  She was powerless and unable to stop her doom.  The three women watched as their enemy disappeared underneath the rubble hoping that their battle was won.  Yet there was no one more relieved than Gabrielle as she asked Xena if the battle had been over.  Sadly Xena spoke with little hope in her tone realizing that Velaska had become too powerful to be held by a pile of rock for eternity.  It was the sidetrip to that village to satisfy Callisto’s ego that had cost them a certain victory over Velaska.  It was obvious to Gabrielle that Xena was quite disgusted with Callisto for that unnecessary trip.  Then Xena walked away as Gabrielle followed leaving Callisto to contemplate her mistake.

Soon after leaving the canyon Callisto rejoined Xena and the bard as the sun went down and the three set up camp.  Again there was the strange silence between them that had been present before the battle against Velaska.  Yet there was something different this time.  Xena had left Gabrielle alone with Callisto for several moments by the campfire.  There was a certain discomfort, but the bard was troubled by something else.  She watched as Callisto played nervously with her sword sharpening it and reshaping it.  The bard noticed that even Callisto seemed a bit peturbed by something which Gabrielle found to be unusual for the blond.  Gabrielle never remembered seeing Callisto appearing nervous.  And so the burning question passed through the bard’s lips.  She broke the silence with Callisto enticing the blond into a practical yet emotional conversation.  Callisto was flattered yet shocked that Gabrielle was even curious about her.  Gabrielle felt confident for a moment in knowing that there was a possibility that Callisto did have a soul underneath all of that rage.  Suddenly she posed the question that burned within.  Gabrielle wanted to know if it was true what she had seen and felt from Callisto back at the village.  She wanted to know if Callisto truely had felt remorse or sadness back there as Xena had confessed before the masses.

Just when it seemed as if the two could have a real conversation without Callisto’s wall of sarcasm and Gabrielle’s unforgiving pain Callisto snapped back into her defense.  At first Callisto did not answer.  Gabrielle pressed harder for the light that she had thought she had seen within Callisto back at the village.  Then Callisto suggested with a soft smile that the two play a game with one another.  She promised to answer Gabrielle only if Gabrielle were to volunteer an answer to her own question.  There was a serious tone within Callisto which did not appear threating yet Gabrielle was uncertain still.  The bard knew that she would never get her answer if she did not agree to the game.  Gabrielle decided that the risk of the game was worth Callisto’s answer to her own question.  And so Callisto began.

She spoke softly and regretfully and it was almost soothing as the blond described the feeling behind it all.  Callisto began with bits and pieces.  They were fragments of feelings and emotions, but nothing that she could grasp hold of.  She said that her heart was not capable of grasping feeling anymore.  Instead she described it in a way that Gabrielle could understand.  Callisto told Gabrielle to think of the love that she had for her own family back in Podedia.  She continued asking Gabrielle to embrace their love for her in her mind and in her heart.  Gabrielle was feeling the warmth and the comfort of Lila and her mother and father as she listened to Callisto speaking.  The bard began to feel the elequence of Callisto’s heart and of Callisto’s soul as the blond continued her epic spiritual struggle within.  Suddenly, the elequence was interrupted with the horror of having to kill Lila, and mother, and father.  There was so much pain and saddness within.  Gabrielle began to feel Callisto’s pain as her own and to embrace it with an understanding she had never been able to accomplish before.  There was a bit of comfort creeping into her heart in knowing that Callisto could relate and that she could relate with Callisto despite having lost Perdicus.

Just as Gabrielle felt that she might want to comfort Callisto for the first time Callisto’s spirit turned cold and black resuming the game it had begun with Gabrielle.  Callisto then posed her question as Gabrielle waited with fearful reluctance knowing that she was now vulnerable before Callisto’s darkness.  Darkness did not waste time in finding the thread to unravel.  Callisto’s voice creaked with evil as she was curious what she had evoked from Gabrielle’s innocent heart in the moment that she had sliced Perdicus open with her blade.  The bard’s heart felt the ache once again as if she were reliving Perdicus’s death.  She watched horror turn into pain, and then into rage.  Vegence soon followed leading into hatred.  It was the hatred and the rage that she had been fighting for months to hold back for she had never wanted to act on it.  Yet it seemed to be Callisto’s ultimate goal.  Callisto wanted to draw that bloodlust from within Gabrielle’s innocence and Gabrielle was highly aware of it yet still vulnerable.  The bard quickly rose from the camp fire and bolted out of the camp as Xena was returning.  Gabrielle was so enraged that she walked right through the warrior princess who was confused by the bard’s action for a moment.  Yet that moment was quickly realized when Callisto revealed that she had proudly caused the bard more pain.  As the bard walked on into the lonliness of the night Callisto’s laughter echoed in the darkness through the campfire and beyond.

For the bard the night could not end.  After several moments of silent meditation in the woods she found herself returning to the camp.  She had calmed her her heart of its rage and was again ready to face Callisto.  As the bard approached she overheard Xena discussing the day’s plan with Callisto.  Callisto had just posed a quesiton to the warrior princess wondering if she would trust Callisto with the plan.  Xena explained confidently that she could trust Callisto now for the battle at the canyon had ensured that both Velaska and Callisto were now enemies to each other.  The warrior princess also boasted that she was highly aware of how much the ambrosia meant to Callisto’s own cause.  Of course Callisto found it clever and amusing at the same time as usual.  Although there was a sense of annoyance within Callisto’s demeanor realizing that Xena knew her too well.

It seemed to the bard that Callisto’s hatred had turned into a sisterhood between herself and Xena.  There was a certain admiration and it was another way to relate to Callisto.  In a way Callisto was yet another of Xena’s students as Gabrielle was.  Yet Callisto had been a student of the darkness that Xena had once carried.  Gabrielle found solace in knowing that she couldn’t blame Callisto for being mislead as a young girl by the attraction of the warrior princess despite the darkness.

The conversation continued between the two women.  Callisto sighed in defeat and then posed another battle question to Xena.  Xena explained how there was a lava pit beyond the moutains in the canyon beyond some ruins.  It was not far from the camp.  This was the place that she had planned to defeat Velaska.  Suddenly it all began to make sense to Gabrielle.  The plan had never been to defeat Velaska in the first battle for the warrior princess had known that Callisto would betray her.  The first battle was set up to ensure that Velaska would be defeated alongside Callisto despite Callisto’s own feelings and desires.  Callisto of course had figured out Xena’s brilliance too.  She thought outloud as she spoke repeating back Xena’s thoughts.  The plan was simple.  Velaska would be led to the ruins where her powers would be contained.  Once those powers were contained Velaska would be easy to take out.  The lava pit would be certain to trap a godess forever and since Velaska was inexperienced she didn’t have much of a chance against an immortal with equal strength.

There was only one problem.  Someone had to draw Velaska into the trap.  There had to be a sacrifice to entice Velaska into the canyon ruins.  For Callisto the answer was simple.  She gleefully spoke of Gabrielle reminding Xena of Velaska’s obscession to kill the bard.  Callisto was certain that it would be enough to occupy Velaska’s ego so that she could push the goddess into the lava pit for enternity.  Xena reluctantly knew that she would have to ask Gabrielle to put her life into the path of Velaska’s destructive power.  And as Gabrielle listened she knew that it was the only way and so she would do her duty.

Early the next sun the three left camp for the canyon beyond the mountains.  They would have to hurry their pace to make it to the ruins before Velaska would catch up to them.  By mid morning they had arrived and as the three entered the ruins Callisto led the way.  At first all was quiet.  The morning was calm and serene with only the sound of three sets of boots sloshing through the dried leaves on the ground.  Yet Callisto couldn’t resist the silence.  It was as if it always made her feel uncomfortable.  It did not last as she commented on how the spot was perfect and she took another stab at Xena stating that it reminded her of home.  Gabrielle realized that Callisto was just irritated that Xena had won the first battle succeeding in pitting her against Velaska.  However, Xena responded by ignoring the comment and proceeding with the problem at hand.  She immediately spoke stating that the three of them needed to find higher ground before the arrival of the goddess.  It would give them an advantage.  Xena followed with a declaration marking certain within her mind that this would be the certain end for Velaska.

Of course Xena’s lack of response to Callisto’s emotional stab only made the blond more determined to get under Xena’s skin.  Callisto continued taking stabs as she inquired of Xena how to present Gabrielle to Velaska.  Callisto’s suggestion was to put Gabrielle upon a stake like a helpless little sacrificial lamb.  The blond insulted the bard further by alluding that the bard might run and hide otherwise.  Gabrielle found herself in need to defend herself against Callisto’s tasteless remarks, but it wasn’t a vengeful sense of defense.  It was more of a factual defense.  Gabrielle was begining to see that what Callisto preyed on within herself was her own innocence.  Callisto viewed it as a weakness.  Gabrielle was determined to prove her innocence was indeed the strength.  The bard could understand why Callisto felt this was for it was within her own innocence that Xena’s darkness had stricken her and her family so many years before.  Gabrielle followed up reiterating what Xena had stated before.  She spoke again of Velaska’s end yet her heart was even sensing that this could also be the end of her own pain.  Gabrielle hoped that maybe her forgiveness of Callisto could lead to Callisto’s forgiveness of Xena and the end of each suffering individual.  The three of them working toegether in a common cause could heal them.  But just as the bard had hoped to turn the light on within Callisto’s heart Callisto only responded with a reminder that once Velaska had met her end their alliance would be over.  It meant that Callisto would battle the warrior princess until the end.  Callisto could not forgive Xena which made Gabrielle her enemy despite Gabrielle’s forgiveness.

Gabrielle watched as Xena looked on knowing what Gabrielle had tried to do.  Callisto continued ranting about how she would have her ambrosia in the end which would make her impossible for Xena to defeat.  But Callisto paused a moment within her glorious victory realizing that Xena had probably already thought of a plan that would rob her of even that pleasure.  Callisto then turned away from the bard and paced in front of and then around the warrior princess going over this new scenario within her mind.  She did indeed know the warrior princess well as Xena had known her very well.  ThenCallisto paused and looked the warrior princess over while Xena again reminded Callisto that the first battle against Velaska would have to be won before she needed to worry about dealing with Xena again.  Xena’s next statement was a reminder to Callisto that staying alive against Velaska was the most important part of their plan.  Yet Callisto only snickered at Xena’s suggestion and retorted reminding the bard and the warrior princess that staying alive was no longer a concern for herself.  She was immortal.  It was all a silly joke to her really.  Callisto looked back to Gabrielle flashing a silly smile with a triumphant glance.  Even Gabrielle found herself realizing defeat, but not by Velaska and not in a life and death battle.  Gabrielle was defeated in knowing that despite her hopes for releasing Callisto from her pain there was no saving Callisto’s soul.  For the bard this was a frustrating yet saddening prospect.  Gabrielle then leaned upon her staff sighing within her own heart yearning to let go of Callisto’s pain and of Callisto’s crimes against Perdicas.

Just as Gabrielle had found herself lost within the emotional web between Xena, Callisto, and herself there was a strange sound.  It sounded as if there was a storm coming, but the sky was completely clear.  Yet the sound began to turn into a whispering wind and then suddenly into a strong gust.  The gust became the sound of Velaska’s evil laughter and then the goddess appeared.  She appeared within a cyclone that was so powerful that the bard could no longer stand.  Suddenly she found herself being dragged across the ground by a force stronger than her own will.  As Gabrielle went hurtling toward the cyclone she clutched her staff and called out to Xena.  Xena called back frantically unable to decide what to do next.  Gabrielle found herself unable to hold onto her staff and lost grip.  The only thing she could do to save herself from the vortex of evil was to grab a loose tree root sticking out from the ground of the ruins.

Next Gabrielle heard Xena call out to her to hold on and that she would come to help.  The bard did not feel that she could hold onto the root long enough to save herself from Velaska.  Yet just as the bard was about to lose her grip she felt Xena slide down upon the ground next to her.  Xena had grabbed hold of an old rod sticking out of the groun of the ruins directly in the path of Velaska’s vortex.  When she arrived by Gabrielle’s side she asked that Gabrielle grab hold of her, but the bard was not so certain that she would be able to transfer her grip successfully from the root to the warrior princess.  Quickly the bard switched to the warrior princess, but in the next second both were hurtiling toward Velaska’s ligthening filled vortex of wind, evil, and fury.  Just before reaching the grasp of the goddess Xena used the old pole to plunge them over top of Velasak’s fierce vortex to safety using an old fallen column as a catapult.  Gabrielle screamed with surprise and fear as the two landed safely away from the vortex on the other side of the ruins.

The two then hid behind a pile of columns to cover themselves from the fury.  Velaska had been unable to find them within her vortex and suddenly she dissappeared.  All that could be seen were a few rustling leaves and then nothing.  There was an eerie calm silence across the ruins.  Even Callisto appeared surprised and a bit confused.  It was as if Velaska had been fooled into thinking they were gone.  Until there was an echoing of a voice calling out Gabrielle’s name.  It was indeed the goddess and she had finally caught up to the amazon princess.  Velaska declared that Gabrielle had done well in avoiding her for the past few days, but that it was now time for the bard to meet her demise.  This statment was followed by that echoing evil laughter as the bard and the warrior princess desparately searched for Velaska’s visual.  Suddenly there was a moment of quiet and then the warrior princess quickly responded pushing Gabrielle foward to run toward the lava pit.  This action was followed by a sudden bold of energy which struck the place where Gabrielle had been standing.

Gabrielle and Xena continued to run across the ruins toward the lava pit as Velaska’s bolts of energy exploded in a path just behind them.  Xena dove behind and rolled foward over and around the columns which stood in their path.  Then the warrior princess grabbed the bard when they had reached higher ground concealing them behind an old stone wall.  Callisto was just in front of them now and behind the column which had sustained the most recent blast.  Callisto turned to the warrior princess candidly as she was about to rise.  Xena knew that they had the advantange when she realized that Velaska thought that she was only up against two instead of three.  She instructed Callisto to stay down and then told Callisto that all she needed to to was get behind the ruins on the other side of the canyon where the lava pit was.  Callisto responded looking forward to her challenge against Velaska.  She couldn’t wait to throw Velaska to her doom into the pit.  Xena continued explaining the plan to Callisto stating that there was a rope bridge just over the pit.  It would be there that they would have to lead Velasaka.

Callisto looked to the bard responding that that part of the plan would be easy since Gabrielle was the prize for Velaska.  Then she stood giving Velasaka every oppritunity to see her and stated that the next time they met she would be a god.  Callisto’s eyes burned of determination and fire.  She knew that to defeat Velaska would mean that she could easily rip apart the warrior princess.  Then Callisto ran for the lava pit.  There were a series of explosions which followed Callisto’s path, but they did little damage to Callisto.  The ground shook beneath the bard and the warrior princess as Gabrielle spoke up.  Her voice was grim as she reminded Xena that Callisto was right.  It was she who had to lead Velaska to the bridge.  Xena objected harshly explaining that it was never in the plan for a moment that the bard should sacrifice herself.  Yet Gabrielle did not care.  Though she was still fearful she knew that Callisto was still in the right.  It was the only way to be certain that Velaska would get onto the bridge.  Then Xena reminded Gabrielle that they also had to get Callisto onto the bridge as well.  The plan was to despose of not just Velaska, but Callisto too.  Xena’s final plan was revealed to the bard quickly and between blasts.  She said that she would certain that during Callisto’s battle against Velaska upon the bridge the ropes could be cut and the two would go plunging into the lava pit for eternity.  They would be so busy fighting each other that neither would notice Xena cutting the ropes.  Gabrielle quickly braced herself for action knowing that it was now the moment of truth.

Xena and Gabrielle then ran toward the rope bridge as they tried to out run Velaska’s blasts.  The warrior princess shouted when she saw the bridge instructing Gabrielle to get to the otherside quickly.  Just before the two reachd the bridge there was another loud crash and boom.  It knocked both off of their feet to the edge of the lava pit.  Gabrielle hit the ground hard losing her senses for a moment until she heard Velaska’s voice as the goddess stood over her.  Velaska was pleased that Gabrielle was seemingly an easy prey as the bard flipped over to face Velaska still upon the ground.  Xena jumped up quickly from the edge of the pit and drew her sword instantly to face Velaska.  Velask was annoyed by the warrior princess’s presence and with just one  raised arm she threw Xena across the lava pit effortlessly with her power.  The warrior princess could be heard struggling through the air as Gabrielle watched Xena slam onto the wall on the other side of the canyon.

Though Xena had not been killed she was incapable of helping the bard now.  Xena had to scale the side of the canyon to save her own life.  The bard was quickly ripped out of her concern for Xena into her own dire situation against Velaska.  Velaska asked if the bard was afraid.  Gabrielle took a deep breath and responded with honesty.  She told Velaska that she was afraid for she did not want to die.  Velaska seemed pleased by the honesty and thought for a moment that maybe she did not want to kill the bard.   Gabrielle urged Velaska to follow that feeling, but Velasaka would not.  Instead she laughed slightly and smiled reminding Gabrielle that her death would please her even more although Velaska had a bit of respect for Gabrielle.  It was the bard whom had given her the gift of godhood when Gabrielle guided her to the realization that she didn’t need to be queen of the amazons.  Instead Velaska could be a goddess and shape the world as she pleased instead of trying to shape an amazon nation that was already expired in her opinion.  In the next moment Velaska pointed her finger out toward the bard about to strike her dead with her powers, but as the bard closed her eyes awaiting her death and her last breath Velaska stopped.  The goddess could not kill her that way.  Instead Gabrielle opened her eyes again as her chest rose and fell violently to find Velaska reaching into her leather arm cuff for her knife.  Velaska had decided that Gabrielle needed to die a long painful death.  It was the only thing that would seemingly satisfy her rage.  Gabrielle’s muscles tensed and her heart raced within her chest as if trying to get out.  She watched the long thick blade approaching her.  Then as Velaska was about to strike she asked that Gabrielle deliver a message to Hades.  She told the bard that she would be dropping by to visit him in Tarturus soon.

Life was fluttering away from the bard until suddenly she saw hate jump upon the back of evil and scream out for the ambrosia.  Callisto quickly grabbed the knife and used it to cut the pouch of ambrosia hanging from Velaska’s belt.  There was a fierce struggle between the two dark beings as Gabrielle watched the ambrosia fall to the ground.  Her first instinct was to grab the ambrosia and go running across the rope bridge.  Just as the bard acted and was about to rise to her feet to run away Velaska kicked the bard hard sending Gabrielle through the air and falling directly into the lava pit.  The bard screamed with surprise, but was able to grab hold of the rope bridge barely saving herself from certain death for the moment.  When she looked down all that could be seen was the raging lava running beneath her.  The heat rose from the depths of it as if beckoning death to take its certain victim.  Gabrielle hung with just one hand gripping the rope.  She realized quickly that there would be a little chance of survival holding on with only one hand.  The bard transferred the ambrosia into her mouth and held tightly to the rope with both hands.  She looked across the canyon to see that Xena had reached the rope and was about to save herself from death.  Soon Xena would be able to rescue Gabrielle as Callisto and Velasaka continued their intense battle.

Suddenly Callisto was at the edge of the bridge about to climb onto it until she realized that it was not wise.  Then she begged Gabrielle to give her the ambrosia.  Gabrielle refused knowing that it would be Xena’s end if Callisto had the ambrosia.  Callisto found herself frustrated and screamed demanding that Gabrielle give her the ambrosia.  Gabrielle looked to the other side of the bridge for a sign from Xena.  The warrior princess shouted out that Callisto should have the ambrosia.  Reluctantly Gabrielle took her hand off of the rope and threw the leather pouch to Callisto who caught it gleefully.  She wasted no time in opening the gift from the gods as she stuffed it into her mouth.  Gabrielle watched as the immortal went into a painful transformation as she screamed and struggled to stand up upon the rope bridge.  There was fire and lightening emminating from her body as the bard held tightly to stay alive.  Callisto then rose to her feet now an immortal god as she took a few steps more onto the bridge and turned to face Velaska once more.

Gleefully Callisto smiled ready to do battle against chaos and Velaska wasted little time in enguaging with Callisto who was another annoyance to her.  Velasak was about to join Callisto on the bridge until she realized that Callisto had already eaten the ambrosia.  This meant that the battle had been evened and that to enter onto the bride would be a higher risk than before.  Velaska stayed close to the edge upon the bridge as Callisto was just feet from Gabrielle.  The two clashed in a battle of godly wills as lightening bolts emminated from their hands.  They screamed in their powerful struggle as the bridge shook violently.  It was becoming increasingly difficult for Gabrielle to hold onto the bridge as the two goddesses battled it out.  Gabrielle looked to Xena and called out to her frantically seeing that the warrior princess had finally reached safety.  Xena called out for Gabrielle to hold on as she prepared a rope.  Gabrielle was quickly losing her grip upon the bridge as the two gods continued to struggle and called out to Xena again.  There was no way that her will could battle against the wills of powerful gods.  Her mortal strength could not outlast theirs.

Gabrielle was quickly realizing that she would have to die in order to save the lives of others.  She asked that Xena hurry and cut the rope in that moment, but Xena refused to let go of Gabrielle’s life.  The warrior princess continued preparing the rope as she tied it to her waste.  Gabrielle knew that this would be Xena’s only chance to defeat the two goddesses.  The bard scolded Xena for not cutting the rope, but Xena refused to do it until she had Gabrielle safe.  Suddenly the bard noticed that the bridge jerked violently for the battle of the gods had ceased between their powers.  Neither could out will the other.  Suddenly the two met each other in the middle battling it out physically as if one could kill the other.  There was so much anger and rage to will against that the bard found herself begining to slip.  Xena kept calling out to the bard trying to get her friend to focas as she asked Gabrielle not to look away from her.  The warrior princess then grabbed her chackram and used it to slice through the first of three ropes which held the bridge in place.  It was enough to plunge both Callisto and Velaska into the depths of the fiery pit.

Gabrielle watched as the two fell and struggled all the way to their demise, but then lost grip on one of her hands upon what was left of the bridge.  Gabrielle called out to Xena once more in a last moment of desparation as she felt her other hand slipping unable to stop it.  Gabrielle watched as Xena dove into the pit to rescue her with a rope tied to her waste.  The bard’s will was finally exhaused as her fingers slipped off of the rope and she felt herself plunging toward the immense heat of the lava.  Gabrielle looked up for Xena and suddenly felt the comfort of Xena’s strong hands.  The bard grabbed hold of them tightly her arms stretched beyond their own strain.   Gabrielle’s chest rose and fell as her heart had almost stopped.  A sigh of relief had spread throughout her body as she looked up at the warrior princess who smiled in triumph.  Gabrielle looked down one more time realizing how close she had come to becoming a victim of hot running lava beneath.

Finally the end of a seemingly long journey had come as both Gabrielle and Xena had reached the safety above the canyon once again.  Gabrielle wondered how long the lava would hold their enemies.  Xena’s hope would be that eternity would be enough time.  She explained that they would have to take the long way out of the canyon now that the bridge had been destroyed.  Then the warrior princess joked about the inconvience expressing that now they had plenty of time to waste.  Time was no longer their issue or their concern.  Yet Gabrielle looked back to the lava pit once more as she expressed to Xena her feeling and concern.  She wondered if Callisto felt sorry for all of the things she had done.  Xena harshly answered that she did not feel that at all.  Gabrielle explained then that despite what Xena thought she felt that Callisto truly did feel sorry for if she didn’t Gabrielle would not be able to forgive Callisto.  Then the bard continued explaining to Xena that if she could not forgive Callisto then she would not be able to move on with her own life.  It seemed that Xena did understand despite her opinion and so Gabrielle took one last look at the lava running beneath and said good-bye to the blond woman who had taken her love.  Forgiveness was the key if not for Callisto for the bard of Potedia.

The Xena Scrolls: Volume #3: Scroll #46: The Price

The Xena Scrolls

By:  Gabrielle Bard of Podedia

Scroll #46 :  The Price

June, 46 B.C.

     Their day began in the calm quiet comfort of the rural wild where no one lived and no villages existed.  Deep into Gaul territory they traveled to find what Xena had hoped would be the best fishing conditions for the season.  It seemed that the warrior princess had a pattern to her madness.  Not only did she know where to migrate, but she knew exactly when to find the best catches during every season in every part of the known world.  Gabrielle was not quite as fond of fishing as her best friend, but she decided that on this day she would make it a point to learn the fine art of fishing.  At first she began slow unable to land a bite at the end of her fishing stick.  Xena was a natural, but Gabrielle already knew this considering she could catch a slimy eel with her bare hands without breaking a sweat.  There was something extremely unappealing about that thought as the bard stood on the banks of this rural river and tried patiently to wait it out for at least a sign of life at the end of her pole. 

     After several hours had gone by the bard was about to throw in the staff once more in this battle of man verses fish, but Xena would not allow it.  She was determined to succeed at proving that even a farm girl could learn her warrior crafts and techniques.  Soon after the sun had hit over head the fish began to bite with a vengance.  Of course for the warrior princess it was easy and she had been landing catches along the banks all day.  For Gabrielle the moment of truth finally came as she struggled to reel in the big one.  Xena instructed the bard coaching her through every move.  To move with the fish was to be the fish as Xena called out that the fish was moving in from the left as he tried to escape to the right.  The bard’s muscles were tensing with excitement as she could see his giant head popping in and out of the rough river waters.  He was a strong one she had to admit, but the determination was strong and so the battle raged on between woman and fish until finally the adrenaline pushed its limits allowing Gabrielle to hoist the giant fish into the air over her head and onto the bank.

      The fish flopped violently about having to accept his defeat as Xena was pleased with her pupil for the effort and accomplishment.  As Gabrielle dashed off behind her she knelt down to free her victim from the line.  The battling bard felt a great deal of new confidence and for the first time she felt that fishing was a true adventure.  Then she declared to her fish friend that though her defeat was sweet it was meant without harmful intensions.  Xena just scoffed at the bard’s philosophical side basking in its own triumph.  The warrior princess asked that she not talk to her food and then Xena moved onto the next moment as she threw her own line back in.  Gabrielle had finally freed her new friend reminding him that he would be going to the elysian fields in her stomach later on, but that it would be a far better place than here on the violent earth. 

       With that the bard threw down her lunch and ran back to the edge of the water for more excitement and adventure as she cheered herself on.  Suddenly all was great and well as Gabrielle complemented Xena for her choice in fishing venues.  The fish certainly were biting better than ever here.  Gabrielle wondered if maybe it was because they were the first people on earth to ever fish in this spot.  Xena’s admiration for her friend could be felt in the air as she explained that the fish felt that way.  In fact Xena went as far as to say that the fish seemed to be jumping willingly out of the water.  Gabrielle pressed her advantage allowing herself to interject some philosophy into Xena’s life.  Yet as Xena threw another fish onto the bank she grabbed it by the line and shook it in the bard’s face reminding Gabrielle of the day that Xena would not stop throwing fish into her face.  Cold, wet, and slimy were not the words that Gabrielle was about to use to be  philosphical.              

     Instead she chose to ignore Xena’s interruption.  Then she expressed her vision of how she felt that everyone came from the oceans just like the fish.  She felt that the fish were people in their own way just waiting to reach out for that magic moment to touch their human family.  Just before Gabrielle could finish her statement she found herself struggling with yet another of her brothers in the water as she was reeling him in reaching out to grab him until suddenly someone grabbed back. 

     The bard was shocked by the sudden burst from within the water.  It was not a fish, but a man whom had grabbed her.  He was badly injured as Xena reached in alongside Gabrielle to help bring him to dry land.  The man would not let go of Gabrielle’s arm as he held it with a death grip.  Gabrielle was terrified at what she saw protruding from within his chest.  A large metal ax was lodged deep into his chest.  The man wheezed to grasp a breath as he tried to speak.  He spoke of a garrison.  His words were broken as he struggled to get out an important warning.  The man said he had been seeking help.  His final words were desparate within his eyes as he struggled to speak within his last breath.  He spoke of the horde.  Gabrielle watched as the man died right there before her.  Death had never seemed so fearless.  His death grip released Gabrielle’s arm as his body fell limp onto the bank. 

      Gabrielle was still terrified and shocked.  Her mind and heart were full of confusion.  She had never heard of horde.  She did not know what it was.  Gabrielle looked desparately to her friend for the answer.  Xena’s only words were a command for the bard to get her things.  Gabrielle wanted an answer to her question for fear of the unknown was spreading through her mind quickly.  Xena snapped for Gabrielle to move and to obey the command for there was an urgency to vacate quickly.  The bard ceased her arguement and ran for her staff and her leather scroll bag hanging from the trees just behind them.  As Gabrielle looked back over the water she saw something worse than she could have imagined.  There was not just one dead man with an ax in his chest, but hundreds.  The dead men floated like a school of fish down the waters of the river from the north.  Gabrielle’s mind could not process the horror fast enough.  She felt stunned and barely able to move for a moment.  The only comfort she could find within was the thought of Xena nearby.  She whispered Xena’s name as Xena approached Gabrielle’s position to survey the situation.  It was more grim than the warrior princess could have hoped.  Gabrielle found the courage to move her legs, and to move closer to Xena.  It felt safer somehow.  Xena’s lips released a bit of unexpected panic.  Quietly Xena was anquishing over the dead as if somehow she had been responsible for them.  Gabrielle hoped to receive information from the warrior princess.  Her heart fluttered hoping that they could be helped, but Xena confirmed cyrptically that they were beyond help.  Xena continued by explaining that the dead men were of the Athenian infantry.  Xena surmised that they must have been surrounded. 

     Gabrielle waited patiently, but with great fear and anxiety for Xena to continue her short quick explanation.  The bard wondered how it was that Xena was certain that she had already known their fate.  Xena suddenly revealed that they worked in this way.  Who they were was still a giant mystery to the concerned bard.  The warrior princess stated that they too were surrounded now.  Gabrielle was desparate to know what it was that they were surrounded by so that she could survey the landscape for it.  She desparately needed to know what her eyes searched for.  The answer soon came just off the banks and to the right.  Gabrielle reacted to the sounds of boats knocking up against the shore.  She saw what looked like giant ape warriors.  Yet they were men.  Their heads were full of dark thick hair yet their chests and legs were carefully maintained.  The ape men were painted all over with white, black, and red body art.  Their clothes were finely crafted out of thick animal furs, and some of their clothes were decorated with human bones.  The canoe boats they rode in were built sturdy out of nature’s best trees.  Upon the stern and the bow were human skulls screaming of danger.  Some of the ape men had primitave jewlrey painfully pierced through their noses.  Their eyes were raging with fire, but it wasn’t hate and it wasn’t vegence.  It was the fire of primal survival and of fear.  The bard’s reaction was to call Xena to action with her sword, but Xena stated that her sword would do nothing to stop the advance of the horde men.  Xena’s next command was out of fear which was something Gabrielle had never felt from the warrior princess before.  It was obvious to the bard that for the first time she had ever known Xena to be afraid for her own survival.  Xena’s command was to run and then she pushed Gabrielle into action.

     Gabrielle’s feet carried her quickly back toward the forrest as Xena followed quickly behind.  The bard found her legs leaping and bounding like never before.  Her heart raced quickly for she barely noticed a single breath from within.  She felt like the prey hunted by the beast.  Just behind the first line of trees there was a small clearing within the foilage.  Gabrielle’s feet stopped abruptly beneath her when her eyes caught sight of the largest horde of them all.  The only one to be decorated in full red body art he appeared mercilessly out of control.  It was as if the red paint possessed him to lust for the kill.  He wore the most elaborate of nose ornaments.  It was the bone of a large beast.  Gabrielle’s eyes met his, but there was no understanding to be found.  It was like two souls with different languages unable to connect with sensabilities only fear.  Gabrielle called out to Xena unable to decide what to do next.  Xena approached from behind only to find her worst fears to be true.  Indeed the two friends were surrounded by the wrath of the horde.  Suddenly it was time to fight for Xena was without her sword.  The warrior princess’s survival instincts kicked in as she grabbed a large heavy branch from the ground using it as a staff while Gabrielle fearfully tried to hold back the group in front of them.  Xena quickly defeated the three which had followed in from the river grabbing Gabrielle and commanding her to return to the river. 

      The Warrior Princess and the Battling Bard returned to the banks steeling one of the two vessels which had brought the enemy to them.  Leaping into the large canoe boat Xena shouted out another command to dig in hard.  Gabrielle did not argue knowing that Xena had the command.  These creatures were something even Xena did not understand.  The horde sloshed through the water on foot in their leather skin boots while some of them followed in pursuit on the second boat.  Xena’s voice was desparate as she commanded Gabrielle to pull harder.  Gabrielle pulled every bit of strength she could from within the rush of adrenaline that flowed through her arms hoping to get away from the beasts as their voices raged of foreign frieghtful sounds.  Their language was seemingly nothing more than a series of ugly harsh grunts.  Each sounded more threatening even if it may have been otherwise.  Gabrielle kept pulling harder each time Xena shouted out the command.  The bard could not resist looking back to see if they were gaining any distance between them.  

     Suddenly Xena pulled her chackram hoping to slow the advance of the horde as she deflected it off of a rock upon the bank and then off of a tree back into the canoe boat in pursuit of them.  The chackram thankfully returned to the warrior princess who had succeeded in slowing the advance by damaging the enemy’s boat.  Gabrielle watched as it sank while the men within it scrambled to abandon ship.  Suddenly from in front of them Gabrielle’s ears caught the sounds of defeat as the one with the red face screamed out echoing through the land.  He did not like defeat as he swung his strange moon shaped weapons upon their chains threatening death upon the warrior princess and her companion.  Gabrielle called out to Xena hoping the warrior princess would have a solution to the danger just ahead.

      For the moment it seemed that both Xena and Gabrielle had escaped the grasp of the horde.  Xena ushered them onto a hidden place along the river bank where they could pull off and rest.  Gabrielle hoped that Xena could tell her more about the horde and about how to deal with them.  As they sat in the eerie quiet of the afternoon the air was thick with humidity and heat.  Everything around them seemed stale.  Even Xena’s mind was affected by it.  As the two pulled out of the river they carried the canoe to a large fallen tree hoping to conceal their current position until they could gain some kind of advantage.  While Xena’s mind worked on the solution her heart told the tale of her first run in with the horde.  The first time she had ever taken her army to the west she had met up with them.  She had sent a scouting party out ahead to look for a mountain pass.  Her scouting party had been trapped in the ravine below when the horde made their move down upon them.  All Xena was able to do was watch from above helplessly as the massive army of beasts reigned down upon her men.  Xena watched as her men desparately tried to fight them off, but could not match strengths against them. 

       The warrior princess was as cryptic as ever as she told her tale of death and ultimate survival.  Gabrielle could sense the regret in Xena’s voice as if had only been in the day before that Xena had encountered the enemy.  She spoke of the ugly voices of the horde and the agonizing screams of her men.  Xena had spent the entire day trying desparately to reach her men with the rest of her army, but by the time they had massed within the ravine the horde had disappeared into the shadows of the evening.  The only thing left of her scouting party were bones.  Their flesh and muscles had been torn from them and taken by the horde.  They were tortured alive until they had been skinned to death and to nothing.  Gabrielle’s fears began to rise as she imagined these pictures in her mind.  They were almost impossible for her to comprehend.  She hoped to understand what the horde were for men did not do these horrible things.  Men killed, and men destroyed, but they never tortured other men in this way.  Gabrielle hoped Xena could give her a comforting explaination to all of this, but the truth was that Xena could not.  Xena was scarred by her past experiences with the horde and it was obvious that their presence now was nerve wracking for the seasoned warrior. 

      Xena struggled to stay focased as she explained that fighting one or two alone would indeed be difficult, but to fight a large party of them would be suicide.  It was written all over Xena’s face and Gabrielle knew it.  She knew that she would have to find her own strength somewhere in order to cope with this unpleasant ordeal.  The bard only hoped that they would find a way out together alive.  There had never been a moment more grim than this.  Even Callisto was nothing compared to the savage beasts that lurked about out there.  Gabrielle thought there had to be more to these creatures.  They seemingly had souls although even the bard’s heart could not connect.  She suspected that they wanted something, but that was a deeper mystery than even Xena could master.  It was clear that the warrior princess was in complete survival mode out of fear and necessity.  The warrior princess was seemingly no longer talking to Gabrielle, but to herself outloud.  Xena was plotting their next move.  Her memory told her that the horde hunted like a pack of dogs only they were equipped with the capabilities of man surrounding their prey until they would make their move to attack.

      Xena’s horrific memories were strong with angry emotion.  Her old frustrations were simmering to a boil as she rose from the resting place and threw the ax weapon she held tightly into a tree.  This weapon she had taken as they had escaped was seemingly Xena’s only comfort despite Gabrielle’s presence.  Xena’s frustrated grunt said it all.  At this point the bard had decided that Xena’s fears and frustrations were clouding the warrior’s mind.  It would be Gabrielle who would have to ground them this time.  The bard was up for the challenge if it meant saving their lives.  Xena suddenly moved toward the banks deciding that they had to move within the moment.  When Gabrielle thought for a moment she decided that the quickest way would most likely be the river.  Xena rejected the idea immediately reminding Gabrielle that it was indeed true that the river led somewhere, but where the horde would be waiting they were unaware.  Gabrielle realized that Xena was right, but she was not so confident that Xena knew how to get them out by the end of the night.  Xena’s next words were grim as she told Gabrielle that things would get worse for her plans to escape would require something Gabrielle could not expect.  The bard moved her eyes about hoping to see whatever it was that Xena saw, but to no avail.  She would just have to follow blindly until Xena could get them to the next safe place.

     Back into the boat they went following the river as Gabrielle had hoped they would do.  The only sounds that could be heard were the uneasy silence between the friends, the waves of the water crashing up against the side of the boat, the oars pushing softly through the water, and the secadas surrounding them on all sides.  The senses had to be heightened in this way in order to catch the sounds of the horde if they were still out there.  Gabrielle hoped that the river would soon save them from certain torture and death, but she knew deep down that they were still out there.  She could hear their breaths under the sounds of the water and soon the sounds of the suffering followed.  Just to the left bank over the water there were more men from the Athenian army.  The six men were barely alive still suffering greatly as they cried weakly for the goddess Athena to have mercy upon them.  They were bound to crucifix type contraptions in the shape of diagonal crosses.  They suffered greatly and Gabrielle could not bare to hear their cries any longer.  Her impulse was to save them before there was nothing left to save, but Xena snapped back rejecting the idea.  Gabrielle argued that they were crying out for the goddess Athena.  They could not ignore Athena’s wishes.  Xena again rejected Gabrielle not believing that Athena had dispatched the fates sending them to help the suffering men.  Gabrielle did not care about fear for she believed the fates were wise as was Athena.  Xena snapped back again reminding Gabrielle that there were too many to save for they would not be able to save themselves.  The fates had already decided death would come to those men. 

     Gabrielle’s arguement had led to their reveal.  The horde had been waiting for them and suddenly they appeared all around them.  Hidden from beneath the water the horde popped out and hidden in the dark evening forrest they came.  Their axes began to hurl through the air.  One nearly took Gabrielle’s life almost lodging itself through the side of her head.  Xena’s reflexes blocked death’s intension for the bard as she used her oar to stop its path.  Suddenly more axes came flying as Xena urged Gabrielle to paddle faster.  Yet the bard soon found herself robbed of even her paddle by one of the axes which struck it at the base.  Gabrielle was desaparately freightened now as she paddled with her hands helplessly. 

       The sounds of a battle beyond control were raging about as the voice of a man could be heard from across the water.  One of the Athenians was trying to make his escape as he dove into the water and swam toward the canoe carrying Xena and Gabrielle.   Gabrielle looked up hoping that he would make it.  She could see that he still had strength left to swim halfway out and so she urged Xena once again to try to save a man in distress.  Xena finally caved in begrudgingly to the bard’s heartfelt desires despite the risks they were now incurring to rescue this man.  Gabrielle reached out as Xena steered the canoe toward him.  The bard grabbed hold of the man whose weight quickly slowed them down.  Soon the enemy could be heard just behind them in another canoe with their voices raging ready to strike their slow prey.  Gabrielle shouted out to Xena that they enemy was closing in fast.  The man then urged them to let him go for they would capture them all.  He knew that he was to die.  Yet Xena would not let him accept his death now. 

      All that could be heard was the suffering moans of the man they had now rescued and the angry voices of the horde on all sides of them.  Xena then warned of a new problem.  Just ahead they were approaching a dead end.  It was a giant waterfall that the river had led them to.  Now they would have face the horde.  Xena called out to Gabrielle commanding her to jump at the edge of the shore where the waterfall met.  The warrior princess hoped to spare Gabrielle a treacherous death by the horde.  Yet Gabrielle would not accept this command from Xena.  She would not leave her friend only to be saved by the gods to travel alone.  Gabrielle could not bare to think of the regret that would follow knowing the terrible fate of Xena the Warrior Princess.  If Xena was to die a torturous death then she too would follow her friend until the end.  Gabrielle’s loyalty would not faulter despite the risks and the agony that was certain to follow.  The bard looked about to see that the horde were clammoring to get at them.  It was certain.  Gabrielle prepared her mind for the pain and the suffering she would soon have to endure.  If this was what Athena and the fates had planned she would face it all with courage.

     Xena argued with Gabrielle, but Gabrielle’s mind was made up.  The warrior princess tried to argue that she would be unable to fight the horde worrying about Gabrielle.  Yet Gabrielle did not care for she was going to fight alongside the warrior princess.  She would not allow Xena this fight alone.  As all hope was dwindling away Xena paddled up toward the shore preparing for the terrible end.  Yet from beneath the ground upon the banks more Athenian men popped up from their positions ready to fight against the hunters.  There was a sense of relief which swept over both the warrior princess and the bard as they dragged their Athenian victim to the safety of healthy infantry.  The infrantry shielded them with a counter attack upon the horde who were unsuspecting of the Athenians’ ability to regroup.  As the three pulled up to the bank Gabrielle shouted out to the Athenian men for their assistance with the injured man.  She helped them remove the man from the side of the boat while Xena jumped into the battle to assist the Athenians.  The horde were out numbered now that the Athenians had shown up and Gabrielle felt more confident in her safety.  Upon letting her guard down she ran back toward the boat to grab her staff and her leather scroll bag.  As she turned back toward the battle Xena was just steps in front of her shouting out to duck.  Gabrielle acted without a second thought as Xena used her whip hurling an ax into the chest of the enemy approaching from behind out of the water.  The horde man fell into the lap of his comrade in the boat and then they retreated.  Gabrielle’s heart stopped for a moment knowing that her mistake was in letting down for a moment.

     Twenty-four Athenians had come to fight against twelve horde.  It seemed to the bard that the power of two men were needed to fight one horde man.  The horde had only retreated because they found that they were out numbered.  These creatures had strategic intellengence.  It was impressive yet scary for it meant that the danger was extremely serious.  Gabrielle was only begining to understand Xena’s deepest fears.  The Athenians formed around their injured and the strangers they had rescued in their own ambush against the hoard.  There was a bit of comfort in this until they reached the outer walls of the Athenian fortress.  As the leader Mercer warned for all to watch for a counter ambush Gabrielle saw that the battle field surrounding the fortress was littered with  dead hoard men.  Death on the field here was fresh and unkind.  Yet there was not a single dead Athenian left behind.  The bard hoped it was because the army was strong, but once they entered passage through the gates Xena and Gabrielle found the remnants of what used to be an army.

      Mercer quickly ushered his men into the fortress and immediately commanded them to get back to manning the battlements in preparation for another attack.  There was seemingly no time for rest for the obviously weary men.  The man they had saved was dying upon the ground as he called out to the soldier Mercer.  Gabrielle leaned down hoping to comfort the fallen man who was now barely able to speak.  He struggled for breaths in the way that the first man had whom had died.  Mercer whom had led the ambush upon the hoard approached suddenly hoping to comfort his dying soldier.  The now dying man pleaded for Mercer’s promise to stop the wrath of the dangerous hoard.  Soon the man’s last breath escaped from his body and he fell into death’s arms as did his comrades before.  Mercer appeared staunch yet touched by the death of yet another soldier.  There was a sense of defeat and of frustration within his pale blue eyes.  It was as if he was on his last crutch of hope.  With another man to die before him his inner strength as a leader was diminishing.  Yet he quickly closed the door upon his own humanity and gave another shallow command.  He asked that this body be thrown to the pit with the hundreds of others that had already been collected.

      Gabrielle looked to Xena for hope for Mercer had none left.  None of his men held onto hope either for as Mercer gave another hollow command to get back to the walls another man approached defiant of him.  It was an older experienced soldier whose hair was silver with battle memories.  The man’s head was weakly bandaged as if his temple wound was as fresh as the dead man on his way to the pit.  An old soldier who had no more strength spoke with more conviction against another fight and another battle than to hope for life beyond the walls of the broken fortress.  Mercer pushed the hobbling man to the ground out of anger yet desparation to regain control of his men.  The man begged again fearful for a his slow torturous death that he was certain would come for him yet Mercer ignored the fearful unreasonable pleas.  He only barked out the same command as before to get back to the wall.  Then Mercer walked away standing as tall and strong as he could despite the weak foundations within. 

     Suddenly it seemed hopeless to the bard that even these men could be any help in aiding a desparate escape from the clutches of the barbaric enemy.  Gabrielle looked to Xena for hope wishing that Xena would be able to comfort her with warrior confidence.  Yet even Xena could not offer this.  Xena’s next statement was factual and firm at best.  She explained calmly yet harshly that the men within the fortress were just as dead as the men outside on the river banks.  Gabrielle could see it within the eyes of her friend that there was still little hope despite their having escaped the hoard for the moment.  And then Xena left Gabrielle’s side as if entranced by the serious challenge that faced her and the bard.  There was more of a chance within the walls to put together a survival plan with more force and more men to fight, but getting them to fight another day was going to be the issue for they had already given up.

     Gabrielle decided that she herself needed to survey the situation in her own way.  She followed one of the men to his battlement and sat along the wall hoping to get a glimpse of the souls within the men who were of a different language.  After squatting along the wall peeking over into the scene of death below the bard could not get the visions out of her head.  She kept hearing the hoard men below screaming out for “caltucca.”  It sounded important, but what it meant she did not know.  Some of the men below were not dead, but still suffering from the pain and anguish brought upon them in their defeats in battle.  Those were the men Gabrielle’s heart felt for.  She wished deep down that she could help them, but it was seemingly too risky to try for no one seemed to understand them.  Not only that, but Gabrielle found herself listening for the sounds of danger as her ears caught the danger of a large ax weapon flying toward her face.  She looked to her right to see the blade just moments away from its target.  The bard slid down behind the fortress walls avoiding the close call.  The constant threat of danger and of death interrupted any thought of reason that may have been invested over the hoard. 

     Gabrielle’s chest rose and fell violently out of adrenaline, confusion, fear, and relief.  It was all so difficult to grasp.  The man next to her did not offer any comfort for all he could do was remind the bard of how the hoard could not be seen for their stealth.  When they would strike no one knew.  They were just out there shouting out “caltucca.”  Gabrielle’s mind was brought back into focas with that word caltucca.  What did it mean?  She was desparate to know for it could hold the key to the entire mess.  The man’s answer was a typical soldier’s reaction.  He was certain that it was the name of their god of war whom they were calling for.  Then he kept repeating it as if he were engulfed in it and his own insanity.  At that moment Gabrielle decided that she could not stand his company any longer.  As she rose from her position on the walls she caught sight of the warrior princess who had obviously scouted out the entire fortress by now searching for the solution to their current problem.  Gabrielle was pretty confident that the warrior princess had most likely already formulated some kind of plan, but the bard was not so certain that these men would be contributing much. 

      The bard explained to Xena that the men seemed prepared for death.  It was as if they did not care anymore.  All had given up and without hope there would be no chance for life.  Xena confirmed the bard’s fears yet she was not going to lie down and die for the hoard.  She assured Gabrielle that she would die a warrior with a sword in her hand fighting until her last breath.  The bard did not doubt this which was some what comforting, but it meant that even Xena had resigned herself to death in some way.

     Gabrielle followed Xena who led her right back to the wall where the insane man still slouched and pelted the wall with small pebbles.  He was beyond saving yet Xena’s approach was unexpected.  She suddenly barked out a question to him.  She wanted to know if he was taking a break.  His response was candid and defiant.  The soldier stated that he was breaking from reality where he chose not to live now.  Xena’ s next question was obvious.  She wanted to know if he would be ready to grab his sword in the event of an attack over the walls of the fortress.  The man looked to her as if she were joking rather than being serious.  He paused from his pebble throwing for a moment to explain what was obvious to him, but not to the warrior princess.  The soldier explained that there were not enough men, food, or water to put up a decent defense or an escape against the hoard.  His skin was seemingly crawling with fear as he shuttered at the thoughts of emminant torture the bard could see running through his mind.  The man was right in saying that they were surrounded, but to allow an easy kill for the enemy was not an option for the warrior princess.

      Xena tipped her boot kicking up the soldiers sword grabbing it with her left hand using her right hand to yank him to his feet by the shirt.  The man seemed stunned that a woman could be so strong and so persuasive.  She began barking out commands as if she were the one in charge.  Then Xena explained to him why it was impairative for him to do his job.  She was certain that dying at the hands of the hoard would be more horrific than any other way of meeting death’s hand.  Xena was determined not to see another man skinned and tortured alive the way her scouting party had been taken from her so long ago.  The scars were deep and the emotional wounds fresh.  These were the forces that were driving her within.  They were forces just as out of control as these men and their own hopeless insanity.  Suddenly other men on the wall began to attack the warrior princess, but they were no match for her quick and agile moves.  She threw one of her attackers over the wall and knocked one behind her onto his back.  Another hoard ax came flying through the air at its target the warrior princess.  Casually she caught it with her bear hand and then looked to the man she still held up by the shirt.  He was shocked and stunned yet impressed at the same time.  Suddenly he was convinced of something, but what he did not know.

      He was entranced by the warrior princess desparate to know who this tall dark warrior woman was.  She spoke her name as it escaped across the fortress into the ears of every man who looked on.  It whispered of hope, fury, and of rage.  The man’s eyes lit up asking if she was Xena of the battle of Corinth.  He wanted to know if this was the Xena of Calmeye whom had defeated Callisto.  Xena’s answer was calm, calculated, and bearly audible.  She was milking the mystery and yet there was a certain fame to all of her deeds.  Most of them were the bad ones, but her defeat of Callisto had proven her good intensions.  She was not to be feared, but reveared.  The man’s attention was firmly in the grasp of the clever warrior princess as he suddenly looked to her for more commands.  As she released his shirt from her firm grasp she gave him the obvious answer and advised him to put his weapons in a place that he could quickly get at them.  It was amazing for not only had she grasped the attention of one soldier, but every soldier within the walls was now looking to the warrior princess for a command.  Xena quickly seized the moment realizing that now was the only chance she would have to grasp what was left within every man on the wall. 

     She continued commanding them louder and with more conviction.  The warrior princess told all to stand at the wall rather than behind it or under it.  She wanted them to show their determination and wills within their eyes.  There had to be a way to convince the enemy that there were too many of them to bust down the fortress successfully.  The enemy had been waiting for the perfect moment to demoralize them.  Xena wanted to take this moment away from them and to gain the advantage.  Her last command was to kill anything that moved between the fortress and the dense forrest beyond.  Gabrielle’s heart sank when she heard these careless words escape the warrior princess.  She interjected that friends should not be killed.  Xena’s answer to the debate was to snuff it out firmly stating that there were no friends left out there.  The words were as harsh as a slap in the face.  Gabrielle could not accept this and found herself upset by this sudden fury within the warrior princess.  There were no hints of possible remorse for these violent choices.  Then Xena walked across the walls down into the center of the fortress as another man asked Xena what they were going to do next.  She began a verbal campaign to encourage the men to revive their own confidence.  The warrior princess declared that the elite of the Athenian army would not be defeated.  These men now entranced responded strongly to the chants.  Then the warrior princess declared that the plan was to kill every hoard man out there.  The cheers from the crowd of infantry men were powerful.  Gabrielle could feel the dirty blood lust and the taste in her soul was thick.  It made the soul heavy with sadness and personal defeat. 

      Every man began to wave his sword in the air while Xena called them to lustful action.  Gabrielle could not stand to watch these horrors unfold.  The warrior princess had lost her own wits and could no longer think with a clear mind.  Without Xena’s heart Gabrielle’s soul was alone to face certain death.  It was like a bad dream and the bard could not wake up.  Reality could no longer be escaped.  Gabrielle had to act on her heart’s desire.  If she could not win Xena’s heart or her life from the hoard she would choose to die her own way.  Gabrielle soon found herself in the infirmary where the injured and the dying men were being held.  There was an eerie silence in this place that could no longer be found out upon the walls.  In fact there were no doctors tending to these men.  When the bard approached one of them she inquired about the doctors, but he answered that they had lost every last one of them during the first attack.  There was not a single soul to tend to the wounded.  The man even joked cryptically that only the goddess of mercy resided there to offer her help.  When Gabrielle thought of his tone she realized he had created his own goddess hoping to ease the pain and the suffering that could be eased no where else.  Not one man within these walls had a grasp on reality anymore.  Even Xena was gone now.

     Gabrielle’s mind was made up.  She was reminded of her days in Thessaly during their violent war against the Mitoians.  There at the temple of Esclipias she learned the arts of battle medicine.  She realized that these skills would now have to be called to action.  Gabrielle suddenly decided that she would die tending to the wounded and the dying.  Her soul could accept this fate.  As she walked about the infirmary she began to seek out the walking wounded knowing that she could not accomplish this task alone.  She would teach them how to help their suffering comrades.  With any help from the fates they would be able to help everyone survive this aweful tragedy.  The bard began to bark out orders as if she were the commander of medicine.  Men began to rise to their feet for there was a sense of relief in knowing that someone still had hope and someone still cared.

     After grabbing one of the men to fetch fire wood, and several others helping to clean up the dirty bandages Gabrielle felt confident that she could accomplish the impossible.  She had now separated the serious cases from those who were not so dire.  She was certain that no one here was going to die if they were well-cared for.  All of these men could make a recovery.  Though the apron she now wore was soon full of blood stains from her dilligent work.  Her heart felt strong and hopeful for she now had healing blood on her hands.  Soon she caught sight of the warrior princess returning from the battlements.  Gabrielle hoped to show Xena another way out.  With all of these men healthy and strong she was certain that there would be enough to bust through the hoard forces to escape if they had to.  Xena wanted to know how many more of them were on their way to death.  Gabrielle was certain that she could rescue them all.  She explained to the warrior princess with pride how she had come to organize the troops.  Xena seemed uninterested.  She felt that if the walking wounded could be nurses to the wounded then they were capable of holding a sword at the wall.  Suddenly all of Gabrielle’s work was being torn down and away from her.  Xena asked that Gabrielle choose which men were going to live and which would die for she needed all of the living at the wall now.

     Gabrielle did not want to make that choice.  It was not fair for her own heart could see that every man in the room had a chance to survive.  Xena harshly explained that there weren’t enough supplies to finish what Gabrielle had started.  The suffering and the dying would have to starve in order for the living to survive.  Xena had specific orders for Gabrielle.  She wanted all of the dead men to be brought to the south wall to portray the illusion that there were more men within the fortress.  Her goal was to fool the enemy into thinking they would be in for a battle that they could not win.  Yet Gabrielle was not so certain that the hoard men were the enemy.  It seemed to the bard that the true enemy was misunderstanding and its cycle of violence.  Xena ordered that all of the walking wounded were to be given swords.  All food and supplies would be rationed to the fighting men.

     And then Xena was gone.  Gabrielle was left to tend to the wounded without a choice.  They would have to die by a command.  The bard realized now that her only choice was in hospice.  She would only be able to comfort the dying with soft words and a gentle touch.  Prayers to the gods if any man still believed would accompany them to their deaths.  It was the only care she could offer now that Xena had forced these harsh seemingly unncessary choices upon Gabrielle. 

     Not long after Xena had left Gabrielle could hear the sounds of the fortress gates opening.  She was curious to know what was going on out there.  If danger was indeed there no one would be opening the gates.  She hoped that Xena had finally come to her senses.  Yet the sounds of battle began to rage just outside the gates between the Athenians and the hoard.  Twelve Athenians went out and only seven men returned followed by the hoard men who had been fooled into entering the fortress walls.  Suddenly they found themselves trapped and surrounded as Xena gave a command from the wall above the gate.  Archers emerged from hiding within the empty supply barrels bringing their wrath of arrows down upon the seven victims within the fortress.  The hoard men screamed as they fell in battle.  To the bard it seemed an unfair fight as she watched the horrors unfold.  Standing in the infirmary doorway she observed the warrior princess who took hold of the action grabbing a bow from one of the archers using it as a weapon against the approaching hoard men.  They were trapped like animals beaten down and demoralized.  There was no fairness in this fight when they were clearly out numbered within the walls.  The seven brave hoard men desparately tried to regain their dignity as they fell into death one by one.  As the gates began to close to seal them off one of the seven men escaped.  The warrior princess grabbed a hoard ax and ran to the wall ready to strike down the one who had escaped the trap. 

      Gabrielle had never seen Xena fight dirty, but this time she held no inhabitions.  She hurled the ax into the back of her enemy.  He did not have a chance against the skilled warrior woman.  When Xena turned to face the men there was no pain to be seen.  Only excitement and blood lusting becomming thirsty for more.  She was grasped by the hand of evil and seemingly had no desire to fight against it.  Gabrielle was disgusted for Xena had thrown away all that the bard had ever taught her about love.  The bard did not know this Xena who stood before the men as they chanted her name victoriously.  They won a small battle, but had lost everything they may have had to live for.  Gabrielle’s eyes could no longer take the sights they witnessed.  She returned inside the infirmary and looked for someone in need of comfort.  Another man was being brought in suffering on the brink of death.  This was a young one not more than seventeen.  Gabrielle imagined that he was probably once a farm boy like Perdicas had been.  The glory and adventure of war had probably lied to him telling him stories that were untrue.  Today he had learned the truth and it had cost him his life. 

      Even before he could die more men came to take him from her.  She had decided that she would defy the warrior princess.  Gabrielle would not allow him to take his last breath within the pile of decaying bodies that were now ridiculously propped upon the south wall.  There was no comfort in that.  As she took his cold hand in hers she soon realized that he was already gone.  She looked into his blank staring eyes and gingerly reached out to close them.  There was little time to mourn now.  Frustrations were building for Gabrielle’s choices had been robbed from her one by one.  It was all because of the fear and determination of Xena’s darkness.  Soon Xena appeared in the doorway, but Gabrielle could no longer face her.  This was not the friend that she knew.  The bard was alone, but hardly afraid of the warrior princess.  She would defy her till the end.  Her heart would not bend.  Gabrielle retreated to the supply room hoping to gain solace there.

     Solace did not last long for the warrior princess had found Gabrielle there only to scold her for not rationing the food to only the men outside.  Gabrielle could only counter by scolding the warrior princess for her own wreckless choices.  Xena defended herself quickly reminding the bard that the hoard outside would kill every man inside the fortress.  Gabrielle did not care about that.  She raised her voice to Xena angry that the warrior princess had used dirty tactics axing a man in the back.  The warrior princess fumbled to defend her actions.  It seemed that there was a slight crack in her story for her only defense was that the man had seen the Athenian defenses.  Xena was certain that he had to die in order to protect the Athenian position.  Gabrielle would not accept that answer.  She was begining to find Xena’s presence freightening.  It was even more freigtening that Callisto’s presence.  The bard’s nightmare was growing into a vortex of darkness.  Xena sensed her loss of control over the defiant bard and she grabbed hold of her soldier’s shoulders.  Then she wanted to know what Gabrielle had expected of her.  Xena declared that what they were experiencing was what war was truely about.  It wasn’t glamourous or adventurous.  It wasn’t glorious or heroic. 

     Gabrielle struggled to walk away from Xena’s grasp.  Without love she could see no reason to be a warrior.  Hope without good intensions was not hope, but evil.  Xena spoke of the unthinkable.  She declared that there were no good choices that could be made within this situation.  There were only lesser degrees of evil that could be embraced.  Yet embracing evil would never be a choice for the bard.  To embrace evil would be to embrace the darkness that she would fight against.  Gabrielle did not embrace darkness when Perdicas died at the end of Callisto’s sword.  She would not embrace it now even if it meant saving her own life.  Life was not worth living within darkness.

     Gabrielle countered Xena’s arguement with her own desparately trying to win back the warrior princess’s heart from the evil which had now consumed it.  She wondered how Xena could be so convinced that there was nothing to understand about the hoard.  Gabrielle was not so certain that the hoard were so different than people.  There were good souls inside of them just like there was a good soul inside of Xena.  It was the effort it would take to find the goodness that would be harder than dying within the never ending pointless violence.  Xena’s darkness would not let go of the warrior princess.  It refused Gabrielle’s hopeful notions of the hoard men.  The commander ended the debate abruptly reminding Gabrielle of how it began.  All rations were to go to the men on the wall.  All others were to suffer and to die.  With that the warrior princess forced the bard out of her way as she barrel back through the wooden doors and into the darkness once more.

     The bard was now faced with a choice.  It was a new choice.  She could surrender to Xena’s darkness and to bloodlust or she could take Xena back from the darkness within.  Gabrielle decided to follow Xena hoping to understand these strange choices that her friend was making.  The bard followed her to the command hut where she listened from just beyond its shallow walls.  There inside Xena spoke with Mercer and his second in command. Gabrielle had to know what Xena was plotting.  She heard the second in command inquire of a new device that Xena had suggested that they prepare.  The warrior princess indeed had a plan despite her out of control rage within.  It seemed that embracing her rage had somehow cleared her thoughts.  This made little sense to the bard as she continued to listen.  Xena had planned for the weapon to be used a smoke screen.  She was preparing the leave the fortress under the cover of smoke so that she could rally for reinforcements.  There was a new courage and confidence in Xena’s voice.  It was caring for she was willing to risk her own life out there alone in order to bring the help that all within the fortress so desparately needed.

     Gabrielle’s mind tried to wrap itself around the necessity of Xena’s darkness, but there was still great distrust of it.  The second in command argued against Xena’s leaving the fortress stating that without Xena the men would be unable to sustain their confidence and their defenses.  Xena agreed with him without question.  She quickly volunteered Mercer without a second thought.  It was as if she had planned the conversation between them before it ever happen.  As if Xena had known what would be said.

      The bard moved her position as the three commanders moved to the outside of the hut.  She roamed about the fortress investigating Xena’s intensions.  Gabrielle was preparing her own strategy against the warrior princess hoping to regain the light from the darkness.  The bard watched as the men prepared the smoke weapons.  Soon Mercer was prepared as Gabrielle spotted him down by the south wall alongside Xena and the other commander.  Xena had originally planned to follow the river down the the cliffs to reach reinforcements.  Yet she had decided that Mercer should take the long route away from detection by the horde.  She was certain that the river was swarming with them.  Mercer was convinced that it would take too long if he were to go away from the river. Xena handed him a weapon telling him to go north and double back south on the other side of the forrest.  Mercer took the weapon looking ragged and weak.  He wore no armor.  Gabrielle sensed the danger that Mercer would face.  She watched intently as Xena called the men to be ready for action.  The second commander followed up the command to the men who prepared the smoke screens.  Soon Mercer would disappear.  The bard knew it was not likely that he would return.  She was watching another man walking into his own suicide at the hands of the warrior princess. 

      Suddenly the command was given and the men began to throw their smoke screens over the walls.  The cloud of smoke thickened quickly.  Its intensity made visibility difficult.  Part of the bard was relieved that Xena had chosen to stay despite all of her actions of the day.  The smoke caused great fires just outside the walls as Xena commanded that the gates be opened.  Gabrielle watched Mercer dash out into the smoke and disappear into the abyss of a battle which began to rage on.  Horde men stormed the walls moments after the gates opened.  The Athenians were tough and confident now.  This small battle was just another diversion that would last a short time.  As horde men spilled over the walls they were greeted with certain death. 

     Soon the small battle was ending as the horde found themselves overwhelmed a second time.  It all came down to which army of men had the stronger will.  In this battle and in the previous two before it the Athenians had somehow been able to hold that advantage.  It had been out of the charisma of Xena’s darkness.  Gabrielle found this to be a stunning revelation.  Suddenly the second commander shouted out a command to cease fire.  He commanded the men to save their arrows.  Gabrielle found this odd for she did not hear Xena make those commands before him.  Her eyes searched frantically about the fortress unable to locate the warrior princes.  Just as the men were begining to celebrate again Gabrielle shouted out a command of her own.  She cut through the cheers with concern.  Gabrielle wanted to know where Xena was.  This quickly hushed the chanting and the cheering.  The bard ran to the gates to look out.  She saw Xena sneaking about the field of dead horde men.  It was as if she were checking for the men who were still alive.  The bard was yet again confused by Xena’s actions.  None of her decisions made any sense.  Then the commander shouted for the gates to be opened again as Xena entered through them with one of the horde men.  She had disarmed him throwing his weapon to one of the soldiers as he stood by the commader.

       Xena called out for assitance from the men.  Men quickly responded taking the horde man from the warrior princess as she commanded that he be taken to the hut.  She reminded her men that it would be dark soon.  The warrior princess demanded that double guards be posted there and that the torches stay lit through the night.  Then Xena moved on as if there were little time to stop and rest.  Gabrielle followed the warrior princess who appeared exhausted yet unshaken.  She wanted to know why Xena had suddenly shifted her choices from killing men to saving them.  This horde man that Xena had saved was not badly injured at all.  Xena looked to Gabrielle with frustration.  She suggested that this man was not being saved.  He was a prisnor being held for questioning.  This made even less sense to the bard for Xena had previously stated to her back in the supply room that there was nothing that she wanted to know or nothing that should be known about the horde.  Suddenly she was going to try to question one of them.  She didn’t even speak there language.  In fact, no man within the fortress walls could.

     Gabrielle followed Xena to the hut where she was to attempt to question the horde man.  Xena spoke to the man with attempting bit of respect.  He did not understand.  The horde man was alone in a place full of strange unkind men.  He had no one to defend him.  Gabrielle decided that she would stand up for his rights.  Xena brought out a map hoping to find out where his people were hiding.  She pointed to the map and then pointed to herself hoping that he would understand.  The horde man seemingly understood this as he shook his head.  Then Xena touched his shoulder softly and made a gesture back to the map.  It was as if she were treating him with kindness.  No one standing in the room believed that this horde man would be capable of answering back with kindness.  It seemed to Gabrielle he did not wish to answer the question though he understood it very well.  She could feel that he was concerned for his fellow horde men.  The horde man hesitated as he thought of the consequences.  Yet just as he was seemingly about to return the respectful gesture given to him the Xena the second in command pulled his sword lunging forward hoping to take command of the situation.  He was lusting to kill the prisnor before the prisnor was given a chance to communicate. 

      This action broke any trust that could have been gained between Xena and the prisnor.  Xena did hold back the commander yet she was afraid of losing control.  Gabrielle could sense this.  She soon shifted back to the darkness desparately trying to regain control.  The horde man struggled out of anger for the savagery of the commander’s actions.  Xena’s frustrations were mounting quickly.  She commanded Gabrielle to go outside.  Gabrielle refused the command.  She was not just another soldier.  The bard was Xena’s friend and she was the only friend that the horde man had within the walls of the fortress.  She would stay no matter the consequences.  Xena did not argue any more.  She was aware of the instability of the current moment.  Losing Gabrielle’s loyalty seemed trival to her now.  Her next move was cold.  Xena used her pinch of death upon the prisnor forcing him to suffer an unkind torture.  Gabrielle objected openly to this use of unfair and disrespectful tactics.  The commander was unaware of Xena’s technique as she had to explain it to him.  She was calm and calculated as she told of its horrific deeds to men. 

     Gabrielle watched as the horde man suffered.  His eyes were full of fear and lonlieness.  The bard could see that Xena was not going to release him from the clutches of death.  She was just going to make an example of him to prove some kind of commanding presence to the commander whom had just defied her.  Xena was desparately trying to assert her power in front of everyone.  Gabrielle could not allow this behavior from the warrior princess.  She knew that although Xena was giving into her darkness she was not unaware of it.  Xena could control it.  She was chosing not to.  Gabrielle pleaded with Xena, but the anger was building.  Gabrielle reminded Xena that she was becoming a murderer again.  Xena snapped back at the bard commanding her to go to the hut.  Gabrielle defied the warrior princess’s command.  She knew that if she continued to obey these commands as the men did that it would only feed the darkness more.  Gabrielle was now struggling to starve the darkness within the warrior princess.  She wanted to make it suffer if it meant relief to those who suffered because of it. 

      The bard continued to defy Xena openly in front of the men that did not belong to her.  She reminded Xena that she would not go back to the infirmary to play Celesta chosing death for some, but not for others.  Gabrielle would not be a murderer because darkness commanded it.  She would lash out against it.  The struggle of evil Xena verses the goodness within soon ended.  Xena’s good conscience seemingly won out as she released the horde man from death’s grasp.  It was clear that she was emotionally drained and weakened mentally.  Frustrated and tired the warrior princess commanded the men to take the prisnor to the supply room and chain him up.  The commander’s rage chimed in certain that Xena wanted the horde man to be executed.  Xena snapped back at him again stating that the man was to be chained up.  The conversation ended as the commander took the prisinor with the other soldier to the supply room.

     Gabrielle found herself to be relieved for the moment.  She reached out to the warrior princess and thanked her for saving the horde man’s life.  The pressures that she faced within as well as from the commander had been taxing for her.  Gabrielle knew it.  She hoped to comfort the warrior princess somehow, but was uncertain of how to accomplish this.  Xena did not accept the thanks from the bard.  She lashed out with anger that the bard had embarressed her and defied her openly in front of the men.  Xena then reminded the bard that she would kill the prisnor if it would save her troops from death.  This was about survival and nothing more.  Gabrielle had been right in her observations of the warrior princess.  Her heart was torn by its past and the suffering of the men she could not save.  There was something phsycotic about the warrior princess now that Gabrielle could not understand. 

       Xena continued as Gabrielle’s thoughts began to escape her lips.  The warrior princess’s mind was now focased on the battle and of the blood that would come with it.  She reminded Gabrielle that none of them had asked for this war.  It just was.  This would most certainly be a fight to the death.  Xena wanted to know what part of war Gabrielle could not understand.  Gabrielle realized that it was Xena who did not understand.  She did not understand herself.  The bard understood war, but she did not understand the out of control darkness that now relentlessly consumed her friend.  Gabrielle’s heart was broken by these thoughts of Xena’s darkness.  They went to a place that she could not travel to.  It was too much for the bard.  She was desparate to reach her friend.  Gabrielle cried out softly for the good Xena who was always wise and with good intensions.  The dark warrior princess turned to the bard and explained that only her darkness could help them now.  There would be no revival of goodness for it could not live in this reality of war.  Xena was willing to let her soul die in order to save every man within the walls of the fortress.  She left explaining coldly that the darkess was a part of her she had not realized she would ever need to call upon again.  With that the conversation ended as the warrior princess left Gabrielle’s heart to fend for itself once again.

      Gabrielle knew that she was losing the battle for Xena’s soul and Xena’s heart.  It was almost too much the bear.  The death and war outside seemingly did not matter to her anymore.  She went to the supply room where the horde man was being held knowing that he felt just as alone in this as she did.  Gabrielle could relate to him in a way that no one else could.  Yet she could not speak of this with him or understand him.  The bard decided that her only chance to save her own soul was to face the danger alone.  She would leave the warrior princess here with the darkness that consumed her.  Gabrielle was ready to die outside the walls in an attempt to escape darkness.  She began to gather water for her leather water bag.  As she grabbed a laddle off of the wall she began to fill it only to hear the prisnor struggle to speak.  He kept saying that word again.  The man cried out “caltucca” as he reached for the bard.  She looked to him soon realizing that he was desparate for a drink of water.  Caltucca was water and not a god of war.  It was life.  Gabrielle approached the man with water as he drank it thankfully.  The dying men wanted water and nothing more.  The magnitude of this misunderstanding between men and other men had spun out of control.  It was all over a lack of communication and willingness to try.  It was all over a lust for violence out of control.  It was about Xena’s lust for violence. 

      Gabrielle’s heart reached out realizing that this was the price.  The price was in losing one’s humanity when it came to the drums of war.  No matter what people were willing to lose themselves and for nothing more than a ridiculous war.  The horde man had finihsed his drink as Gabrielle had knelt down beside him to take the ladle for more.  She wanted to touch him and to let him know that it did not have to be about war.  Yet he was just as mezmorized by it as was Xena.  Xena had been right about only one thing.  If all were going to die there was only one choice left to make.  Gabrielle would die her way.  She prepared for her death without a weapon.  The bard would go onto the battlefield to save lives until hers was taken from her by the hand of the fates.  She soon filled her water bottle and then went outside back to the wall.  Gabrielle spoke to the gatekeeper telling him it was Xena’s command was to send her out to tend to the wounded men.

      The gatekeeper did not give it a second thought.  Xena’s commands were like gold to him.  That was the key to Gabrielle’s chosen fate.  She quietly went from one man to the next looking for those who still had breath.  Gabrielle shared the precious caltucca with her distant brothers as they lay suffering, thirsting, and dying on the battle field.  It was not long before Xena had realized that Gabrielle had been let out.  The warrior princess was enraged that she was defied yet again.  Her control over the bard’s fate and the fate of her men had been lost.  As the sounds of battle preparations from behind the walls began Gabrielle found herself facing death.  There surrounding her as she shared water with another one of the suffering men were his comrades waiting for the kill.  Gabrielle was surrounded just the way Xena had described it to be.  She looked up into the eyes of the men who raised their weapons, but did not strike.  Instead the began to gather their friends who lied dying on the ground.  The wounded horde men were taken back with their friends as Gabrielle rose from the ground carefully watching with amazement.

     No one was trying to kill anyone.  There was love and care in the air.  For the first time in a day it seemed that this battle could end and be fair.  Gabrielle then continued to share the water with every man there.  More horde men came to retrieve more of their dead and wounded as the Atheninans finally found the courage to venture out to retrieve theirs.  As Gabrielle continued carefully across the battlefield Xena came charging out of the gates after her.  Xena pushed her to the ground commanding her to get down.  She was extremely against the choice the Gabrielle had made.  Gabrielle did not care what the evil warrior princess wanted.  That was not the friend she had traveled into this mess with.  Then Gabrielle’s eyes caught Mercer struggling across the field.  Mercer struggling to move.  Gabrielle ran to him calling out.  He struggled to call back.  Mercer was lying on the battlefield wounded.  Xena followed Gabrielle to the wounded commander.  Mercer had not taken Xena’s advice.  He explained how he had tried to go the shorter route.  His attempts to rally reinforcements had failed.  It had been for nothing.  Gabrielle comforted Mercer with a drink from her leather water bag as Mercer lied there upon her lap.  Xena muttered under her breath that it was time to get back inside the fortress for she did not know how long this sudden truce would last.  Gabrielle looked to the dangerous warrior princess confirming to Xena that she had most certainly gotten what she had wanted.  Her war to the death.  It was now certain for all that hope was lost.  Without Mercer’s reinforcements no one would get out of the fortress alive.

     Gabrielle soon returned to the infirmary with Mercer and the other wounded.  She prepared the fire, and more clean bandages alone as she began to mourn the loss of the soul of her friend.  Gabrielle had fought hard to hold onto Xena, but she could not win.  The darkness was just too much for her to purge it of its sin.  In the darkness of the night she worked to ease Mercer’s suffering wrapping his head in the new bandages that she had prepared.  As she continued her work three men entered the infirmary.  They were not injured like the rest.  One of them spoke to Gabrielle explaining that Xena had commanded them to take order from Gabrielle.  The bard could not believe it.  She was insulted for a moment sarcastically reminding the men that Xena desparately needed at them the wall.  The man pleaded for a command from Gabrielle explaining that the basket of food that he held had been rationed by Xena for the men in the infirmary.

      Gabrielle’s heart found a bit of hope in this gesture.  Her soul felt relief realizing that her battle against Xena’s darkness had finally broken through.  Gabrielle began to ask the men distribute the rations to the suffering hungry men surrounding them.  She asked for more bandages as well.  Then Gabrielle continued her work deciding that her heart still loved Xena despite all that had transpired.  The bard mended wounds through the night and through the early morning when all was silent.  While the soldiers slept Xena finally found the courage to speak to her friend again.  Gabrielle was glad that Xena was by her side again.  Xena spoke with hope once more praising Gabrielle for discovering the key to the misunderstanding.  Knowing that caltucca was only water had led to the temporary truce between the two armies of men.  Xena spoke of how Gabrielle’s kind gestures to the strangers had made them think there was peace.  The warrior princess was disappointed in herself knowing that the peace was not her own.  She had let her fear and hatred blind her and she was regretful of it. 

     Gabrielle had already understood this.  She had spent the entire day and night trying to figure it out.  It all made sense to her when the war cries had finally settled down.  Gabrielle tried to comfort Xena and to apologize for her own actions against the warrior princess.  She had pushed her friend hard yet with little understanding until now.  Yet Xena would not accept Gabrielle’s apology to her.  Xena wanted to accept full responsiblity for her actions and wreckless choices.  She did not blame the bard for any of it.  The warrior princess wanted to express her admiration for Gabrielle.  Xena knew that Gabrielle understood hatred, but she had always fought against it.  Gabrielle would never step across that line despite being aware of it within herself.  This was what Xena wished to share with her friend.  The understanding of hatred and Gabrielle’s passionate fight against it.  This was how the rest of the peaceful night played out.  Forgiveness and a sharing of peace between two friends who could finally come to that understanding of each other.  Their differences within one another were to be loved just as much as the things that made them so much alike.  Gabrielle’s heart was warmed by Xena’s gestures of admiration.  It was more than she had ever expected from the warrior princess.   

      As personal issues were being resolved and peace embraced for all within the walls the sun rose without remorse.  It brought upon all the time to hold their resolve for there was a new challenge.  As Xena approached the gates Gabrielle followed desparate for a solution beyond a sacrfice.  Xena had declared on the night before through her prisnor’s release that she would fight only their leader and that would settle the fight for all.  Gabrielle pleaded with Xena hoping that there would be some other way.  Maybe they could talk to the otherside, but Xena knew this possibility was nothing more than a flaw.  It was not logical for peace to have come overnight, but indeed it had.  There was still a great divide between the two sides as misunderstanding still thrived.  The only two things that both knew was that caltucca was water and that a warrior code must always be honored.  This was Xena’s statement to Gabrielle as she prepared to do battle against the horde leader.  She had tried to encourage a duel against the prisnor the night before, but he refused her sword.  He would only accept that of the men who stood behind Xena.  This was the solution that Xena had seeked to release all from this impossible situation. 

      In the warrior code of the hord she had discovered that only a leader could fight another leader.  It was their law.  Xena would fight within the confines of their law hoping that in defeating their leader she would gain a permanant truce and a binding peace.  Soon Xena turned to her friend pleading that Gabrielle leave and go to the river in the event that Xena’s attempt at fighting for peace did not end in triumph.  Gabrielle again refused Xena’s request that she leave to go on without her.  The bard reminded Xena that they had traveled into this place together which meant that they must leave together.  Gabrielle would accept no other code between friends.  It seemed that for Xena there was some comfort in this loyalty that the bard had expressed.  She took the bard’s determination as she walked into battle.

     The gates opened slowly as all was quiet about the field.  There were only the sounds of the horde leader as he stood alone on the battlefield to await his challenger.  He appeared tall, strong, and intimidating as he prepared his moon shaped metal weapons for battle.  The horde leader swung his chains about him preparing to do battle.  Xena approached him calmly and without a single sound.  She did not try to intimidate him with her battle cry for she was fearful deep down inside.  Only the bard could see this and she was glad for if anyone else could have seen or known Xena’s fears then her chances of survival would dwindle.  Xena was brave as she made her final steps stopping before the enemy with a smirk and a slight smile.  There was a certain delight for the battle and she could see her enemy’s strategy.  For the first time the warrior princess knew that the enemy was just as afraid of her as she had been of him for so many years.  This empowered the warrior princess with strong confidence as she slowly reached back behind her to draw her sword.  She did not do it quickly for it was clear that the enemy would no strike until his challenger’s weapon was ready for battle.  In the moment that Xena would flash her weapon he would strike.  He was ready and poised, but the warrior princess refused to hand him his obvious advantage. 

      There was a slight admiration for the brave horde leader who stood before her.  Gabrielle could sense that the warrior princess admired his strict adherance to his own code.  He suddenly looked to the warrior princess making a loud grunting growl urging the warrior princess to begin the battle.  Xena did not delay as she grabbed for her weapon.  It slid smoothly and stealthfully out of its shealth upon her back.  There was barely a moment between the sound of Xena’s weapon emerging from its fortress to the sudden clashing advances of the enemy upon it.  Xena immediately went into a defensive battle stance.  It fooled the enemy into thinking that he could over power her quickly as he charged forward with his own weapons.  The enemy was powerful yet slow while Xena was quick and agile dodging each strike he attempted to make.  Xena held her sword steady as she successfully blocked every move the horde leader made.  She gave him some ground leading him into her trap.  He was begining to spin around moving forward with certain victory on his warrior mind.

      Suddenly there was an unexpected shift in the battle.  Xena had discovered another part of his code.  The horde man would not fight with his weapon if Xena would not charge with hers.  Gabrielle could see this in Xena’s eyes.  She could see that Xena was searching the eyes of her enemy for his intensions.  He began kicking with force as Xena dodged defensively.  His legs were poweful muscles driving forward.  His voice made sounds of frustration and irritation for he had come out for the kill and now he had to fight to obtain the blessings of his people.  He was not allowed to kill the enemy if the enemy did not go in for the kill.  This threw the enemy off balance.  He had been unprepared for this strategy. 

     Xena had to regain control of his mind’s focas as he powered toward her out of control.  His furious kicks began to connect with her face.  Her chest rose and fell with the rush of warrior adrenaline as she blocked an advance from behind her back with her sword.  She had to regain some ground from the enemy in order to win this battle.  She began to reflect his movements as if she were learning a new method of fighting.  It was amazing to see all of this unfold.  Xena could adjust to any situation so quickly.  She suddenly shouted out a warrior cry swinging her sword in front of the enemy to threaten him convincing him to give up ground.  As he lepted backward Xena was expecting his next attack.  He drove both of his sharp weapons down upon her as she readied her weapon long across her shoulders above her head.  Xena spun around throwing a hard elbow across his jaw.  She threw him back ward driving her thick leather booth into his abdomen grabbing back more ground from him.  Xena used her sword making contact across both of his weapons shaking his balance from beneath him.  The horde leader fell across Xena’s boot upon his back.  He did not stay there long as he popped himself back up onto his feet.  Xena countered for more ground as she used a jumping spinning back kick across the enemy’s face.  He lost more ground and did not recover as quickly from this move against him. 

      For a moment he appeared disoriented, but Xena’s advantage did not last long.  The horde warrior reached from within his inner warrior strength to gather the energy to attack.  There was anger and frustration behind his warrior emotions as Xena’s emotions were steady and focased.  Every time Xena would take ground in the battle she would do it defensively.  He could not compete against this strategy though it was clear to the bard that this warrior was equipped with much more physical power and strength that the warrior princess.  It appeared that Xena’s strategy of following his warrior code rules was working.  She was wearing down the enemy and his mental focas was weakening.  It was soon to be realized that his next move would lead to a violation of his own code. 

     Suddenly the enemy jumped forward charging with great force and awesome power.  Xena was seemingly prepared to lose what she had gained as she dodged his strike yet again.  His weapons drove down upon her only to miss their target and connect with a war wagon which had littered the field.  For a moment the battle was a stalemate as the horde leader cried out in frustration.  It was clear that he was tiring of Xena’s mental games.  Xena moved quickly to try to take the offensive knowing that this might be her only moment of offensive advantage.  She spun her sword in her had swinging her arm around for a power move against him, but he had been ready to defend.  Using one had to free one of his weapons from the wagon and the other to block Xena’s sword.  He was successful at stopping Xena holding her sword by its blade as blood dripped down his hand.  The horde warrior gripped the sword tightly and fearlessly with strength.  Xena was now at the disadvantage.  She had not expected him to move quickly. 

     Gabrielle could see Xena’s eyes trying to focas and search for a way out as the horde leader freed one of his weapons with his other hand.  Before the horde warrior could act on his advantage Xena took hold of his surprise as she grabbed his offensive arm releasing her grip upon her own weapon.  She ran up the front of his chest with he boots launching herself into a backwards flip sounding out a confident battle cry.  By the time she had landed upon her feet she had regained the advantage slyly swiping the enemy’s oww weapon.  Gabrielle watched the warrior princess’s own surprise realizing that Xena had not expected that she would come out of that moment alive.  Xena had impressed herself and built upon that momentum as she looked at her new weapon.  The warrior princessed smiled with delight for she throughly enjoyed the challenge of a battle with new weapons.  She was a natural at learning new warrior arts and using new weapons. 

      Quickly the enemy made his move with her sword.  He went in for the kill swinging the small weapon in his had wildly forward.  The horde warrior was unable to control the weapon for he did not know how to balance his moves with it.  Xena dodged his advances gracefully as he fell forward slumping over in his stance.  The warrior princess used his fatigue to her advantage grabbing him on one of his spin around moves using her new weapon to disarm him of her sword.  She now had his arm pinned and his own weapon to his neck.  There was a struggle of wills, but it was clear that Xena had the larger will.  She held the enemy steady as he continued to wear himself down trying to escape her grasp.  Xena attempted to use her forearm to drain the life and strength from within her enemy as he continued to struggle to escape weakening with every passing moment.  Just when it seemed that he would lose conscieneness due to lack of oxygen Xena freed him from her grasp throwing him to the ground releasing him from death.  She threw down his weapon next to the defeated leader picking up her own and walking away back toward the gates of the fortress. 

     All was silent for a moment except for the sound of Xena’s warrior boots making crunching their way across the dirt upon the battle field.  Gabrielle cried out for Xena to watch out.  The horde tribe stood just beyond the woods as they had watched their leader be defeated, but not to the death.  Soon their leader rose from the ground and shouted out in agony over his defeat.  It seemed that he was calling for his men to attack and the warrior princess paused prepared, but then she realized what he was doing.  He was trying to intimidate her into allowing him to save his own honor.  The horde leader wanted his battle to the death.  Xena refused it knowing that she had already won the honor and the blessing of those men that he had led into battle.

      As the defeated leader cried out his men raised their weapons and aimed them not at Xena, but at their unworthy leader.  Gabrielle watched as their axes flew across the battlefield and into the back of the defeated leader.  He fell to the ground defeated by his own code and his own society.  There was a lonely feeling which swept the battlefield in that moment as a great leader had perished alone.  All of the men whom had once followed him then retreated back into the trees.  It was clear that for now the war was over.  It all made little sense to the bard.  As little as the word caltucca.  When Gabrielle approached the triumphant warrior princess Xena explained that she did indeed understand that one leader had to die.  Then Xena looked to the Athenian commander and suggested that this was the time to send out a patrol to fight them if war was meant to continue.  The commander rejected this idea.  His only want now was to abandon the fortress and be certain that he could get his surviving men back home to safety.  With that statement he walked away.  There was little time to talk about all that had transpired.  It would be only a few hours or so before the horde had chosen their new leader who would most certainly return to fight the Athenians another day if they had chosen to stay. 

       When Gabrielle asked Xena if they would return Xena only cofirmed that it may be longer than hours.  She surmised that in a few years the horde would rebuild and return to fight again.  Gabrielle wondered if their rampage could be stopped somehow.  Xena explained that it would not be by warriors.  She was certain that it would be by someone who seeked peace.  The warrior princess grabbed Gabrielle’s shoulder squeezing expressing her admiration for the bard once more.  She explained that it would be someone like Gabrielle that would put a stop to the endless bloody misunderstanding between humans and horde.  Xena only hoped that the horde people had a Gabrielle within their tribe for that was what she felt it would take to be certain that peace would be obtained.  For now the price for war would continue to be losing one’s humanity to the cycle of misunderstanding.

The Xena Scrolls: Volume #3: Scroll #45: The Lost Mariner

 The Xena Scrolls

By: Gabrielle Bard of Podedia

Scroll #45: The Lost Mariner

May, 47 B.C.

My story begins with a violent stormy black night and the uncertainty that is brought to us all upon our own fears.  Xena and her friend Gabrielle had been sailing upon the merchant ship which had left Ithica just days before.  Poseiden had been quiet for a while yet Ulyses’s defeat of the pirates in Ithica had led Poseiden to promise his pirate henchmen the riches upon the merchant vessel.  They were to go in pursuit of the merchant ship.  For three days and three nights Xena had been able to successfully maneuver the merchant ship safely away from the pirate ship yet on the third night Poseiden intervened sending his wrath down upon both vessels in anger of the pirates for their inability to conquer Xena, and for Xena’s role in assisting Ulyses in his triumph back in Ithica.  The pirates took advantage of Poseiden’s storms gaining ground over the merchant ship which finally led the two ships into battle against one another at the height of Poseiden’s storm.

The last thing the bard could remember was calling out to Xena as the waves rose higher washing up onto the decks.  Xena quickly acted throwing her sword down to Gabrielle from the top of the crow’s nest to the deck commanding her to cut the ropes releasing the sails attempting to slow the ship from colliding with the rocks just ahead.  As Gabrielle completed Xena’s command the pirate ship rammed the merchant ship sending it wobbling over onto its side into the rocks smashing them right through the center of the merchant ship’s hull.  Gabrielle desperately called out to Xena as the water burst through the ship into the lower cabins swiftly sweeping the bard off of her feet as she disappeared into the sea.

As the sun rose overhead the next morning another old rickety ship approached the wreckage.  Those aboard noticed that there were two survivors of the storm from the night before.  Miraculously the battling bard Gabrielle had been overlooked by Celesta’s touch.  Gabrielle’s eyes opened as a result of the stinging salt water and the sounds of men’s voices shouting out from over the starbord side of the ship.  Her eyes focased on a tall dark man who stood upon his ship seemingly reluctant to rescue the stranded mariners.  As the helpless bard lazily floated upon a piece of the wreckage one of the other men upon the ship stepped up to the dark captain addressing him as Rama.  Following that strange name the bard’s ears caught only the word sharks for she was barely conscious.  Few moments passed on between that moment and the next as they had finally decided to bring her and her companion on board their ship.

As the bard’s body finally hit the deck she could feel that her lungs were full of salt water, her soaked clothes clung tightly to her body, and all that could be sensed was the horrifying smell of rotten fish.  It was a smell so aweful that it could revive the dead.  The bard moaned in anquish feeling the punch of seasickness begining to kick into her stomach.  She heard the sounds of a sword being dragged across the deck as it verberated beneath her body.  The captain of the ship had noticed that the young girl had been carrying a beautifully crafted sword.  He smiled so impressed with it that he ordered it to be taken to his quarters to reside with his many other riches.  As Gabrielle’s mind began to clear itself from its state of disorientation she noticed something familiar about this dark captain.  He had made sarcastic reference to Poseiden as if there was an unsettled debt between them.  Just as Gabrielle’s mind wrapped itself around this thought she removed her wet hair from her face to get a better view of the dark captain.  She hoped to jar her memory with a tale from the tavern back in Potedia.

Before Gabrielle was able to muster another thought she was boldy addressed by the captain of the old rickety ship.  He wanted to know which vessel the bard had been sailing upon on the night before.  As Gabrielle struggled to recall the events of the previous night between the merchant vessel and the pirate vessel she slowly tried to rise to her feet.  Her mind was begining to sharpen again.  She reached out to her companion lying motionless on the deck next to her.  The bard began to recall her horrifying experience from the night before.  As she spoke she thought that it was rather odd that Xena had been silent.  Then Gabrielle looked to her companion suddenly realizing that the companion they had brought on board with her was not the warrior princess.  This thought instantly ripped Gabrielle’s mind into clarity as she inquired about her friend.  There was no response only a look of curiosity and interest coming from the captain as he leaned in closer as if he could hear Gabrielle’s thoughts.

It felt like a violation to the bard as if there were something not quite right about her situation.  Gabrielle quickly rose to her feet frantically searching the deck for her familiar companion, but Xena’s face did not emerge from within the crowd of men.  The bard suddenly felt alarmed thinking that maybe she was now on the pirate ship.  Gabrielle’s next thought was more horrifying as she surmised that these pirates had captured Xena or maybe even worse.  Suddenly Gabrielle’s response to this idea was to defend and to gather strength.  As she looked to the captain glaring she demanded to know where Xena was.  The captain appeared surprised at the young girl’s sudden change in demeanor.  She instantly went from a helpless mariner to a threatening foe.  Yet the captain answered in both tones explaining that if Xena had been on the merchant ship she could not have survived.  His tone turned away from empathetic concern to an angered spite as he explained that the pirate ship had been lucky as it had averted disaster upon the rocks.  It seemed that the captain had answered his own question about the young girl.  Her companion had been a young pirate and only the pirate ship had survived.  These two factors combined with the knowledge of the merchant vessel’s demise had led him to believe that Gabrielle was a pirate.

Gabrielle spent little time thinking about this for her mind was still wrapping itself around the idea that Xena had most certainly drowned.  The image of her friend pushing up seaweed in death was not pleasant, but it was the only solace that the captain could seemingly offer her.  Yet Gabrielle’s heart reminded her that Xena was too strong to allow Poseiden’s wrath of storms or his pirates take her away from the bard.  Gabrielle looked out into the sea for an answer noticing that there was land seemingly with in reach of the ship.  This filled the bard’s soul first with relief and then fluttering hope as she turned to the captain in defiance of his own asessments.  Gabrielle insisted confidently that Xena had made her way to land pointing in its direction as she stepped down toward the lower part of the deck.  The idea of land so close tempted the bard to jump over the rails on the side of the ship.  Her mind quickly interrupted the idea as her ears caught the captain’s weak acknowledgement of Xena’s survival which led him to his next command.

The captain instructed his men that it was time to get back to their duties for his goal for the day was to get his ship around to the other side of the island by dark.  This snapped Gabrielle back into reality as she turned back to the captain asking him to take her back to land.  Yet the captain seemingly did not care.  He just stated that he was keeping Gabrielle on board now despite what her will otherwise would argue for.  The captain was calm and cool as he explained this stating that he was certain that there would be danger for the bard should she resist the idea.  Gabrielle could not believe what she was hearing.  Her heart was full of laughter for it could clearly be more dangerous for the captain.  He would have to endure the constant sea sickness that would plague the bard causing his deck to become very colorful.  She was certain now that she was indeed on a pirate ship if not the one from the night before.  Gabrielle was determined not to become the slave of a ship full of pirates.  It may have been Poseiden’s idea of a punishment fit for a warrior princess, but Gabrielle’s will was most certainly greater than that of Posieden.

As she graphically argued her point with the captain and demanded to be taken on another boat to the shore the captain laughed.  He was seemingly more amused by the bard’s colorful and passionate spirit than any thing else.  It was obvious to Gabrielle that he was not taking her seriously.  As he laughed he shared his laughter with his first mate Hidsim.  It was as if the captain was entertained for the first time in a while, but that was not the tone Gabrielle had been going for.  As she thought of this the captain softly reached out and gently touched her face reiterating that his decision was final.  He would not be allowing her to leave his ship.  Although Gabrielle felt that she was being held against her will she could sense that even the captain himself seemed regretful as if he felt that he had no other choice, but to imprison her.

This intrigued Gabrielle for a moment as her pirate companion began to rise from the deck into consciousness.  When the young pirate finally rose to his feet he looked up to see the face of a legend recognized by all mariners and pirates sailing the seas.  When the bard heard the familiar name escape the lips of the alarmed young pirate she realized who the captain really was.  It was begining to make sense to the bard as the legend of Cecrops surfaced into her thoughts.  He was the lost mariner who by Posieden’s rule could never find his way home from the sea.  Before Gabrielle could say any more the young pirate quickly drew his sword in fear of the lost mariner.  He declared to Cecrops and all the other men aboard that he would not end up like one of them.  Cecrops was seemingly fearless and valiant as he declared to the pirate that it was his choice.  The rules of Poseiden were clear.  The young pirate could choose to live out the rest of his life cursed alongside the lost mariner or he could choose death.

Suddenly the young pirate charged at Cecrops with his sword swinging it wildly once and then a second time as Cecrops smoothly dodged each move.   Then Cecrops effortlessly robbed the pirate of his weapon and took control striking the young defiant pirate upon the head with his own sword knocking the pirate at his feet.  The lost mariner then declared with authority that the young pirate would not be leaving his ship.  It was as if this had been some old ritual between Cecrops and his pirate captives.  The young pirate had lost the duel against the cursed Cecrops which meant that he now belonged to the lost mariner.  Yet the young pirate was still defiant refusing to become a part of the decrepit old curse.  The young pirate screamed in emotional anguish as he rose from the deck and ran like a mad man to the railing throwing himself overboard unto his own doom.

Gabrielle watched with great interest to see what the pirate’s fate would be.  It seemed for a moment that the curse was only another myth as the pirate swam halfway to shore as if trying to out swim Poseiden.  Yet Gabrielle’s hopes were crushed by the power of Poseiden as the young pirate was engulfed by the green glowing power beneath the sea.  The man’s life was instantly taken as he screamed in agony until his screams turned into an eerie silence.  Gabrielle’s heart sank with defeat knowing that her hopes of reaching the shore were crushed with the body of the young pirate who dared to defy Poseiden’s curse over Cecrops.  As she looked on she watched the lifeless pirate floating back to the surface.  The bard was angry for Cecrops had not tried to stop him from jumping over board.  Gabrielle scolded Cecrops with a calm, yet quiet firm tone.  Cecrops’s only response back was harsh reminding Gabrielle that the choice had been made by the pirate whom had unsuccessfully tried to defy 300 years of curse.

The bard still gazed out over the water seeing the land that she now knew that she would never reach.  Soon the sharks had approached to finish Poseiden’s bidding of them.  As Gabrielle watched them move into take the body of the pirate Cecrops gently forced Gabrielle to look away from the horror.  He possessed the concern of a father as he softly asked the bard to look away from the tragedy before her.  Gabrielle was stunned as the sounds of the sharks destroying the body of Poseiden’s latest victim as they cut through the calm splashes of the waves upon the sides of the ship.  The only thing Gabrielle could hope for was the strength to cope with the idea that she would be imprisioned on the ship for eternity.  She spoke her thoughts outloud as if inquiring of Cecrops a way off.  Her hope was that he would have the piece of the story that was missing.  The resolution that could free everyone from the cursed ship.  Only the idea of freedom by the touch of Celesta could be offered to the bard by the lost mariner.  One day Gabrielle would finally grow old and die just like all of the others except for the lost mariner.  Only he was cursed to live on through eternity.  This did not comfort Gabrielle in the way that she had hoped.  Although Cecrops was kind he was harsh within the same breath for he stated that Xena had been the lucky one.  Cecrops reminded Gabrielle that Xena had probably drowned as he stormed away from the bard with disgust.

With all hope of ever seeing the warrior princess again lost Gabrielle found herself succumbing to the dreaded seasickness once again.  The bard spent most of her day hanging over the railing of the ship realizing that she might be doomed to be ill for a lifetime.  If she was lucky one day she would become so ill that Celesta might have mercy and come to touch her softly releasing her from her now cursed life.  As if the idea of seasickness wasn’t enough to bare Cecrops returned to Gabrielle to deliver news.  He explained that he had come to a decision.  The battling bard would now be the new ship’s cook.  Thinking of cooking and the smells of food made Gabrielle’s stomach turn over once more as she released yet another bout of sickness into the sea.  As she struggled to respond to Cecrops she pleaded for some sympathy.  The bard was still trying to accept her new life on his ship.  Cecrops was cold and uncaring explaining that she would be needed soon.  Gabrielle would have to forget about life outside the ship for it no longer existed for her.

Then he spoke under his breath explaining the real reason behind his urgency.  It had been a very long time since he had had a woman aboard his ship.  With an all male crew he was certain her presence would cause problems for his men would not be able to resist their new distraction.  Gabrielle looked about the ship to notice that almost every old decrepit man was staring in her direction.  It was as if they were entranced by something mezmorizing.  Yet there was little to be excited about.  She felt very tiny now as if waiting to be taken by the wild beasts upon the ship which was more freightening than being sick until the mercy of death.

As Cecrops walked away Gabrielle caught sight of one of the old men approaching her as if preparing to court her.  She was not certain how she would deal with this new issue.  He began to speak standing extremely close.  The bard did not find anything the least bit attractive about a man who had a thin layer of white hair barely clinging to his balding head.  He was no Adonis yet this dirty old man was determined to give something special to the bard.  Just as he was about to pull out the unthinkable the first mate Hidsim approached to rescue the bard from the old man whom had just introduced himself as Altrek.

Altrek was determined to offer his services despite Hidsim’s interruption as he displayed a small brown pouch and pulled ash out of it.  Altrek explained that eating the ash helped settle his stomach of the sea sickness.  Then he began to stuff the ashes into his mouth demonstrating his remedy to the bard.  He looked like an adolescent who had just rolled around in a pit of mud after having a day of sport with his friends.  With the sight and smell of this new crush Gabrielle found herself barely able to fight back another urge to hurl over the rail of the ship.  Hidsim firmly swept Altrek away ushering him to return to his post.  Gabrielle could not hold back her urging illness as she hurled over the side and Hidsim tried to comfort her.  He was more like a fatherly figure rather than an irrational teenager who could not control his hormones.  After several moments of anxiety and illness Hidsim urged Gabrielle to go below decks and rest for a while.  He was seemingly the only sympathetic soul aboard the ship of the lost mariner.  Gabrielle hoped that he would be on for a while.

After spending several moments of thought in an attempt to distract her mind from reality Gabrielle imagined what Xena might be doing if she were alive.  The bard imagined that the warrior princess might have jumped onto the pirate ship in order to survive the wreck.  Maybe the warrior princess had to battle her way to safety on the island after reaching the shore with the pirates.  Most likely Xena was enjoying the games she was playing with them as if she might enjoy being out numbered.  Xena always liked a challenge.  Her goal would be to find Gabrielle hoping that the bard had somehow reached safety on the shore too.  That thought led Gabrielle to a feeling of sadness realizing that Xena might someday give up when she realized that her friend would never return.  Gabrielle knew that Xena would never find her on the cursed ship for the warrior princess did not believe in legends and stories.  The bard decided that the only way to accept her fate was to learn to love Cecrops for he would never ever leave her.  There was some comfort in knowing this, but first she had to get to know his heart if he indeed possessed one.

This led to the bard investigating Cecrops’s cabin.  She wandered into it alone looking about to notice the vast lost treasures it held.  This was an adventure within itself for it reminded Gabrielle of what it was like to hold a fistful of dinars.  That day had been exciting for she had seen the vast treasures of the ancient sumerian people.  No one had ever thought they had existed.  Maybe pirates would catch up to Xena and she would find out about the lost mariner.  It was all Gabrielle could hope for as her eyes caught sight of a large emerald stone placed on top of a black silk box decorated with smaller stones and pearls.  The bard could not resist picking it up as it shimmered in the light finding its way down into the dark cabin.  This brought a smile to the bard mezmorized by its beauty.  She imagined that it came from a treasure like that of Sumeria or some other exotic ancient place.  She held it up to the cabin windows hoping to get a better look as she laughed thinking of how worthless it was aboard a cursed ship.  After looking at it more closely she wondered if it was even real at all.

It was in the next moment that she had been caught by Cecrops snooping about his cabin.  He confirmed that it was indeed worth something for it was real.  Gabrielle found herself suddenly embarressed realizing that she had been very inconsiderate in not asking permission from Cecrops to investigate his treasures.  She feared he might be angry and was uncertain of how he would deal with her intrusion.  Gabrielle desperately fumbled for a good reason for her actions explaining that she was only trying to forget about her sea sickness caused by the constant rocking of the boat.  Cecrops calmly approached the bard and gently took the emerald from her grasp relieving the bard of having to explain her curiosity about him.  He continued to devalue the emerald’s worth explaining that it was worth little more than a grain of sand to him.  Gabrielle was still astonished by the size of the emerald for it had been virtually the same size as her own hand.

Cecrops continued as he praised the emerald for being valueable for what it represented to him as it glistened in the sunlight.  He was happy within one moment and then saddened by a seemingly distant memory as he gently handed the emerald back to the bard.  Gabrielle realized that he did have a heart for it must have been sentimental for someone he had once loved.  She complemented him on his wisdom agreeing with him that his love for that person of long ago was the only way to truely judge beauty.  His soul had once been touched by someone and Gabrielle hoped to help Cecrops find that special part of himself once again.  Cecrops was quiet for a moment as if there was something more he wanted to share.  Then he walked over to reveal from underneath a plain old cloth something more elegant than the emerald.  It was the golden bust of a woman.  Gabrielle recognized it to be the lost Athena of Antigous.  Her hair flowed within the light as it bounced off of the solid golden lockes.  Gabrielle approached the magnificient bust inquiring Cecrops if he had heard of it.  She wanted to see how much he knew of the legends beyond his own.  Gabrielle was curious if the story of this beautiful golden bust was true.  As Gabrielle spoke of the carving men swore came to life of its beauty she touched the golden face hoping it would become real.

Cecrops confirmed that indeed the lost Athena did come to life and offer its wisdom, but only in the magic of the moonlight.  He continued to tell the story of the journey of the lost Athena explaining that she had come to be lost by pirates whom had stolen it.  Cecrops proudly declared that he had stolen those same pirates some of which were still among the crew on his ship.  This reminded Gabrielle of her own predicament.  She had become another one of Cecrops’s lost treasures making her part of his current crew.  As she said this out loud without another thought she realized that she had upset Cecrops who quickly covered his pride.  It seemed the bard had ruined any chance at easing his pain.  The sharing was now over as Athena was now hidden away again.

He looked to the bard and then walked away back toward the door out of his cabin.  Gabrielle regretted having said anything at all for Cecrops had retracted from her attempting to guard his heart from more pain.  Just when she was certain that he would value her as he valued his lost treasures Cecrops inquired of Gabrielle her knowledge of how Athena had been declared the goddess of Athens.  The bard then turned from her defeat and felt that maybe she had not lost all that she had worked for in these precious personal moments with Cecrops.  She began to recite the old story feeling rejuvenated by a bard’s passion.  Gabrielle told of how both Poseiden and Athena desired the affections of Athens.  It was decided that a contest would be held for them.  The first citizen of Athens was chosen to arbitrate.  Suddenly Cecrops interrupted Gabrielle’s story as if he were an authority on it explaining that it had not been the first citizen whom had arbitrated the contest between the Poseiden and Athena.  Yet he was willing to allow this minor mistelling of the story.  Gabrielle was intrigued by his interest in the detail, but she continued on as if feeling challenged by Cecrops.  Her passions grew as she continued explaining that Poseiden had brought forth a spring upon the acropolis while Athena had created a beautiful olive tree sprout upon the fruitless rocky soil.  Gabrielle continued explaining that Athena had been declared the winner by the arbitor and then her story trailed off for the rest of the details were seemingly lost to history.  There was something unnerving about it, but Gabrielle hoped that maybe Cecrops could finish the story since he was so keen on its details.

Cecrops continued explaining that people had long since  forgotten the most important details of this story.  He passionately explained that the arbitor had only been reflecting the will of the people and that Poseiden had become so angry over the decision that he had put a curse upon the arbitor.  Yet to Cecrops the detail that mattered the most was that all had forgotten that the story of the lost mariner, the story of the lost Athena of Antigus, and the story of how Athena had won Athens were all details that belonged to a single story.  Cecrops had been the name of the man whom had been chosen to arbitrate the contest that Poseiden had lost over 300 years ago.  It was within that moment Gabrielle could feel Cecrops’s sadness.  She understood that being forgotten by the world was a worse fate than dying on a cursed ship.  The bard could see that Cecrops felt a lonliness beyond life without Xena.  He would never be able to leave lonliness for it had somehow become his true companion.  It had been the only thing he could count for the past 300 years.  It was like being an imprisoned immortal, but without the power of the gods.

Cecrops continued his story explaining that Poseiden’s curse was that he would never be able to return to land until love redeemed him.  This part of the story did not make sense to the bard for at least six lifetimes had passed since Cecrops had been cursed.  He should have died, but Cecrops explained it was Athena whom had given him immortality which for him made both Poseiden and Athena his enemies.  It was obvious to Gabrielle that Cecrops’s anger against the gods had made him blind to the solution.  She explained to Cecrops that Athena had given him a gift which shouldn’t have been shunned.  It was the gift of hope for eternal life would give him the time he needed to solve Poseiden’s riddle and return to land.  Athena had given Cecrops the chance to live life again despite Poseiden’s anger over losing Athens to her.  It was love versus hate all over again.  Gabrielle had learned through the death of Perdicas that love was indeed more powerful than anger and hate and indeed Athena was wise of this too.  Suddenly Gabrielle was hopeful again now knowing that everyone could be released by the power of love.

As soon as love redeemed Cecrops, but that was the problem.  Gabrielle was stuck for the answer of how this would be possible.  While she thought of this Cecrops just shunned the idea of freedom and life once again.  He retorted explaining that no one could love a cursed man.  Sarcastically grim Cecrops continued reminding Gabrielle of how rare it had been that he had ever had a woman aboard his ship.  He spoke slightly fondly yet bitterly of the last woman aboard whom had lived 200 years before.  She had been angry at Cecrops her entire life for he had sunk her ship.  Before anyone had a chance to investigate the solution further Altrek had entered into Cecrops’s cabin with exciting news.  He urged Cecrops to come up to the deck to witness the miracle.  As Cecrops went to the stairs Gabrielle quickly followed with curiousity.  Unfortunately Altrek was waiting for her at the door which made it difficult for her to ignore him.  She reluctantly thanked him for something, but she was not sure what.  Then the bard pushed her way up to the deck.

Yet there was seemingly no escaping Altrek’s advances for upon reaching the deck starbord side Gabrielle stood next to Cecrops only to find that Altrek was closing in on his new love.  There was a strange sensation as the 60 year old adolescent sniffed as if trying to capture the bard’s essence somehow.  All that Gabrielle could think of was how uncomfortable this made her feel.  There was something icky about the idea of Altrek being her only hope for love on the ship.  He had become obscessed with someone who did not feel quite the same about him.  Hidsim came to the bard’s defense again scolding Altrek for his advances toward the bard.  Gabrielle found this to be a bit relieving as she stared out over the water to get a glimpse of what everyone was fussing about.  In the next moment Hidsim pointed out in the direction of the island to a sight that Gabrielle could almost not have believed.  Yet there she was the warrior princess as the bard had imagined.  Xena was fighting her way through several pirates on the coast of the island as the warrior princess dashed toward the rocks above her.

As Gabrielle watched she could see that Xena was going to try to jump onto the ship of Cecrops.  The bard realized that Xena had indeed discovered the story of the lost mariner.  It was the first place the warrior princess had gone looking for her friend.  Gabrielle’s faith in the warrior princess’s abilities had been restored as she shouted out to Xena from the ship with excitement.  Xena paused for a moment from her battle against the pirates looking up to catch a glimpse of her friend upon the ship.  The warrior princess then shouted out to her friend flipping over the remaining pirates in her path toward the rocks above.  Gabrielle’s heart was joyful seeing that soon she might be reunited with Xena yet Cecrops interjected a dose of reality.  He reminded Gabrielle that Xena did not want to become another lost soul on his ship.  Cecrops played Gabrielle’s heart against her for a moment as Gabrielle thought of the consequences of Xena’s jumping onto the ship.  The bard realized with annoyance that Cecrops was right.  Gabrielle did care about Xena, but life without the warrior princess upon the cursed ship of Cecrops would be unbearable.  Gabrielle could not allow herself to give up the chance to be with Xena once again.  The bard decided to wait patiently to see what the outcome of the situation would be.  She deeply hoped that Xena would succeed despite Cecrops’s advice.

The bard continued watching the events unfold as Xena had reached the bottom of the hill which had led up to the rocks above.  Gabrielle could see that there were plenty of tall trees at the top which might be just what the warrior princess needed to reach the ship.  Yet Cecrops was just as determined to keep the warrior princess off of the ship as she was to find her way onto it.  Gabrielle head Cecrops give the order to man the sails and to sail the ship as far away from the rocks as possible.  This was disheartening for Gabrielle knowing that Cecrops just might succeed.  She watched desparately hoping the warrior princess could run faster than the wind could carry the sails.  The odds were against Xena this time for not only did she have to out run the wind, but she had to do it while keeping the pirates from slowing her down.

Suddenly the ship began to turn away from the island as Xena began to take a barrage of arrows from the pirates.  It was becoming difficult for Gabrielle’s hope to hold onto the promise of Xena, but just as the ship turned away the bard heard a familiar sound.  Xena’s chackram hit the water deflecting itself high up into the air hitting the top of the ship’s sails.  The chackram had hit its intended mark perfectly as it sent the main sail crashing down upon the deck of the ship.  Gabrielle looked out over the water seeing that Xena had found her way up into the trees still taking arrows heavily.  Then the bard heard Altrek shout out to the captain explaining that the ship was now heading back into the shore.  Cecrops’s voice was laced with frustration as he declared death overboard for his men if they did not restore the sail instantly.  Gabrielle smiled with confidence for she was now certain that the warrior princess would win this battle of wills.  It was the faith in their friendship that would bring them together once more.  The warrior princess was fearless as she caught two arrows intended for her.  Gabrielle watched as her friend used the arrows to scale her way to the top of the tallest tree upon the island.

By now the pirates had reached the bottom of the tree ready to take Xena, but the warrior princess was too fast.  She quickly jumped off of the flipping over to the longest branch reaching over the rocky cliffs of the island.  Xena then grabbed the branch firmly as she swung around several times to gather momentum for her long jump.  Gabrielle could hear Xena’s voice battling for strength and hope.  Faith was certain to prevail as Xena flipped up to the top longest branch narrowly being missed by the cross bow arrows sent up to knock her down.  As Xena landed firmly upon her feet on the top longest branch she then gave her signature battle cry flipping out into the sea toward the cursed ship of Cecrops.  It was a spectacular show of acrobatic skill as Cecrops watched stunned alongside the bard.  Xena’s jump was perfectly calculated for she landed upon her mark grabbing onto the ship’s netting.  The warrior princess let out a brief triumphant sigh for all of her hard work.  Gabrielle could see the smirk of triumph within the warrior princess’s smile for she had succeeded in her quest to reach the ship.  With style and confidence Xena then grabbed a rop swinging down from near the crow’s nest toward where her chackram rested awaiting her return.  She then yanked it from its resting place flipping backwards down toward the deck.  Then Xena turned to face her defeated opponant who took a moment to congratulate the warrior princess silently with a glance.

The crew cheered with excitement for now there were two woman aboard the ship.  Gabrielle ran toward her friend for a tight embrace of relief.  Xena returned the embrace still holding her chackram tightly.  Cecrops interrupted the happy reunion with anger over his defeat.  Xena looked up for a moment, but then decided to ignore Cecrops for the moment to express her concern for Gabrielle.  The warrior princess looked her friend in the eye brushing back Gabrielle’s hair to check for harm.  As Xena inquired her friend of her well-being Gabrielle only sighed with joy and relief explaining that she was okay beyond the seasickness and the curse.  Then the bard buried her head into the warrior princess’s breast plate feeling greatly ill over the idea of a long life at sea.  Xena stroked the bard’s hair as Cecrops interrupted again with an angry question.

Finally the warrior princess decided to acknowledge his angry concerns explaining that she had known that he was indeed Cecrops.   Before Cecrops could say another word Xena was firm in stating that she was not going to allow him to go out to sea with Gabrielle.  It seemed that Cecrops was flustered by mumbling barely over his breath.  Then he spoke firmly and loudly proclaiming with frustration that he now had to deal with both women aboard his ship.  Although Cecrops did not find any humor within his new situation Xena could not stop from pointing it out as she confirmed with a slight bit of sarcasm.  Then she looked to Gabrielle who looked back to her friend.  They shared a quiet joke as Gabrielle answer Xena’s unspoken inquiry with her eyes.  The warrior princess had wanted to know if Cecrops was always like this.  Gabrielle confirmed that indeed he was an angry old mariner.  With that Cecrops just growled and then stormed off down into his cabin.  Hidsim followed, but not without interest in the warrior woman.  Hidsim exchanged a brief glance and then followed his captain down into the cabin.

Then Xena turned to Gabrielle as the bard inquired of Xena’s own day long adventure with the pirates.  Xena explained that Basculis was the one who had let her in on the secret of the lost mariner.  Basculis had wanted to capture Xena and sell her for money yet the warrior princess was not about to let that happen.  She had spent the entire day dodging the pirates and looking for a way onto the ship.  When the warrior princess questioned the bard about the truth of death by way of jumping ship Gabrielle recounted her experience of the young pirate whom had jumped to his death earilier.   This led Xena onto the next quesiton.  The warrior princess wanted to know the lay out of the ship.  Gabrielle began to show Xena around as she filled in the missing details to the story of the lost mariner.  As she was finishing her story she took the warrior princess down into the mates’s quarters.  The bard was not too keen on spending a lot of time down in their cabin for it was not all that comfortable and the smell wreaked of sweaty old men.  Not only that, but Gabrielle was reminded of Altrek everytime she had set foot into the mates’s quarters.

As they walked down the steps to the main cabin Xena wanted to know where Cecrops’s cabin was.  Gabrielle explained that it was in the back of the ship.  She was not certain what Xena was planning on, but when she inquired the warrior princess explained that she wanted to convince him that there was a way out.  Gabrielle was not so certain of this.  After her earlier experience it seemed hopeless.  Xena then explained that Athena would not have given Cecrops the gift of eternal life if there was no solution for him.  Then the warrior princess joked sarcastically proclaiming that there would be plenty of time to figure out the answer to the riddle.  Gabrielle did not find this funny at all for she could feel the power of illness building its intensity within her stomach.  It was begining to cause her head to ache.  The bard stepped in front of the warrior princess forcefully slamming her hand into Xena’s stomach.  She was hoping to give the warrior princess a tiny sense of her unbearable illness.  Gabrielle moaned to the warrior princess declaring that she would not endure a life time of fulile seasickness despite Xena’s company.  Then the bard helplessly tripped over a crate and fell onto it.

Gabrielle surrendered to the crate deciding that it would be as good a place as any to try to relax and forget about being sick.  Just then the warrior princess knelt down with empathetic concern for her friend.  Xena then took Gabrielle’s arm into her hands explaining to the bard a way out.  She gingerly touched Gabrielle’s wrist pointing out a small bump.  Gabrielle weakly listened and then suddenly Xena jabbed her index finger deep between the bones.  This sent a sudden  pain through Gabrielle’s body as the bard shrieked with surprised irritation.  The bard desparately tried to slap away Xena’s grasp upon her wrist, but then found herself to be quickly soothed and relieved of illness.  Xena was patient as she waited for the bard’s response.  Gabrielle smiled with excitement for this new way of getting rid of her illness.  Xena then explained that this was the way to get rid of illness any time it came creeping back into the bard’s stomach.  With that thought Xena left Gabrielle to seek out Cecrops.  The bard wondered for a moment why Xena had not shown her this before.  Just as Gabrielle was about to look up and ask she saw the most horrific sight.  It was slimy with tentacles and wet.  Gabrielle shrieked again with surprise only to find Altrek behind the ugly beast he was displaying.  He politely explained that he had brought a gift of squid.  Gabrielle found herself unable to enjoy this gift instead quickly jabbing her wrist desparately hoping to hold back any urge to hurl.  The bard’s attempts to relieve herself of the urge did not succeed.  Her next instinct was to jump up off of the crate and dash for the deck to hurl over the rails.

After the exhilerating release of illness into the sea Gabrielle decided to return down into the pirate’s cabin for some rest.  With the illness now gone the bard was finding herself to be extremely hungry.  There was seemingly little food about the place yet Altrek’s raw squid was still lying in a wooden bowl next to the crate Gabrielle had been sitting on.  She decided that raw squid would be just as good as any other morsal she could scavange about the ship so she risked a taste of it.  If nothing else the bard thought that she could just release it from her stomach instantly if it did not satisfy her appetite.  She had not eaten anything since the night before Poseiden’s nasty storm upon the merchant ship.  With the first careful bite of it she found it to be quite tasty.  It looked horrid and was quite messy to handle, but despite these drawbacks the bard enjoyed the sweet fleshy flavor of the raw squid.  She had not tasted anything so satisfying with the exception of her absolute favorite food which was nutbread.  The more she delved into the taste it almost had the a familiar flavor yet it was extremely chewy.  Despite that Gabrielle continued to enjoy the raw squid.  Her only hope was that Altrek would not return to catch her eating his gift to her.

As she stretched out a few more bites from the long tentacles she caught sight of Hidsim across the cabin who politely asked her how her stomach was feeling.  Gabrielle was pleased at his concern and responded cheerfully that her stomach was now able to again sustain digestion.  This was a good sign for the bard.  It meant that she could now try to enjoy sea life and the experience aboard a ship.  The bard suddenly thought of sharing in her meal with Hidsim for there seemed to be plenty of squid to go around for all.  Gabrielle rose from her spot upon her crate and walked across the cabin to offer her lunch to Hidsim.  Hidsim declined Gabrielle’s offer politely explaining that he could not eat and twine rope at the same time.  Then Hidsim smiled brightly as if glad to share company with the bard so Gabrielle took this as an invitation to join him.  She sat down next to him on his crate while leaving her bowl of squid upon the floor.  The bard was curious about how to twine rope for she had never tried it before.  She asked Hidsim if it was as difficult as it looked.  The old pirate responded light heartedly explaining that it was mindless work.  He explained that twining rope was simple once the pattern was learned.  Then he offered to help Gabrielle try her hand at twining rope.  The bard accepted with a bit of relectance yet it soon shifted to confidence as she realized how easy it truely was.

Hidsim helped Gabrielle twine and just as she was recognizing the pattern of the task he handed it completely over to the bard saying that she was condemned to twining rope for life.  He said it with a serious unfaltering tone.  Gabrielle was suddenly alarmed feeling betrayed by the seemingly old kind hearted pirate, but before she could respond from within her own surprise he smiled laughing stating that it was only a small joke.  The bard’s betrayed heart transformed into laughter itself as she then continued to twine rope while Hidsim grabbed another for himself.  He sighed with relief and then expressed how happy he was to hear laughter again for Rama did not laugh.  It was then that Gabrielle realized that Cecrops’s shared misery was an additional part of the curse.  No man dared to laugh when Rama was about.  Then Gabrielle inquired Hidsim of his first encounter with the lost mariner.  Hidsim explained that it had been a great while since that fateful day in his life.  For a moment he paused as if trying to grasp the memory from the distance of time aboard the ship and then he continued.  He explained that he had been rescuing orphans from a tidal wave that had hit his village upon the coast while trying to save his mother from drowning with them.

Gabrielle listened feeling a bit of sadness and regret for the hold cheerful man for he was not a pirate at all.  It made sense when she heard this story for he was the only friendly mariner aboard since she had arrived.  Just as Gabrielle was about to commend him for his courageous unselfish actions he again laughed and sighed explaining that his story was only a wishful lie.  It seemed that he was carrying a bit of shame in knowing that he had been a pirate in his younger days.  Yet Gabrielle did not judge him for his past deeds for she could feel that he was good at heart.  Hidsim continued explaining that he had actually been planning on getting out of the pirate business when he had met Cecrops.  He said that he had only promised to go on just one more raid with his pirate ship and then he was to retire.  The fates had decided to punish him for his wreckless choices condemning him to be cursed with the lost mariner for it was the ship of Cecrops that he and his pirate friends had decided to raid and attack.  Gabrielle continued to listen quietly with understanding realizing that Hidsim’s life lesson had already been learned long ago.  It was time for Hidsim to be released from the curse as it was all the other old men aboard the ship.  Gabrielle’s next curiosity was in knowing how long Hidsim had been aboard the ship.  Hidsim seemingly could not remember as he sat back and tried to think of the answer.  He explained that he did not even know how old he was anymore for he had given up on life without the ship many years before.  The bard could see that there was now new and restored hope with the arrival of the warrior princess.  Gabrielle reassured Hidsim that his hope was not in vain.  She explained that it was okay to be confident in his faith in Xena for Gabrielle’s faith in Xena was undying.

Hidsim’s heat seemed to melt at this idea of freedom as he spoke genuinely to the bard.  Gabrielle could see his face light up as he remembered life before his time aboard the ship.  He spoke of how he had once enjoyed laying on the green grass with his daughter.  It was as if Hidsim were at that place again within his heart as he painted a beautiful picture for Gabrielle to imagine.  She could see Hidsim as a young father lying on the grass with his lovely daughter sharing a sense of peace together as they looked at the clouds.  Gabrielle expressed her surprise at this for a moment as Hidsim continued explaining to her that his daughter would be just about the same age as the young woman who sat before him.  He then addressed the bard as “little one” almost as if he were imagining that Gabrielle was his long lost daughter.  The bard did not mind sharing the memory of his daughter in this way .  She felt honored for she imagined that his daughter must have a heart as genuine as her father’s.  Then he sighed leaving his happy place once again still full of uncertainty about how Xena’s attempts to release them all from the curse were going to be realized.  His sadness came from another place it seemed to the bard.  Hidsim was certain that his daughter had almost certainly forgotten about him by now.  This was even more of a reason for Gabrielle to convince Xena of the importance of releasing the curse soon.

Suddenly there was a shout from up above the decks of and approaching ship.  When Gabrielle and Hidsim had reached the deck Xena stood alongside Cecrops to view the incoming ship.  The man in the crow’s nest pointed out over the horizen in the direction of the ship.  Cecrops was the first to respond exlaiming that the ship was a pirate ship.  Xena stepped toward the rails to get a better look certain that it was Basculis the one who had been chasing her on the island.  She was certain that they were chasing Cecrops’s ship in the hopes of robbing it of its vast treasures.  This only irritated Cecrops for he stated that they were not making a wise choice in pursuing his ship.  Yet it was all the same to him and as Altrek pointed out he was in need of a new crew.  The new ship’s crew was now fast approaching their destiny.  A fresh young crew was just what Cecrops was looking for to relieve his old decrepit pirate crew.  Cecrops seemed delighted at the least for he had been waiting for a moment just like this.  Just as Altrek asked Cecrops if they were to turn back to attack the approacing pirate ship Cecrops stated that they would not turn around.  He ordered that they would continue east on course as they had been.  Cecrops was certain that the pirates would eventually catch up to them and there would be no need to turn to face them.  Then he barked out an order to Hidsim to grab the wheel.  Hidsim jumped into action running up to his post with great loyalty to his Rama.

As Gabrielle watched Hidsim dash up the stairs to the wheel her attention was turned back to Xena who had spotted something else upon the other horizen.  When the bard looked in that direction she could see what Xena had spotted.  It came from within the sea a bright blinding light within the deep blue waters.  The sounds were like violent waves crashing upon the side of the ship and then emerging from within the sea was a titan.  It was the familiar essence of Poseiden that Gabrielle had seen once before.  As he rose from the sea he growled with fury and anger.  His eyes glowed piercing all who looked into them with their fury.  He held his mighty golden trident as if threatening all who dared to defy him.  Posiden’s shoulders splashed out like waves spraying out upon his golden crown.  His entire body glowed transparent with large defining chest muscles.  The ship shook as if there were an earthquake beneath it nearly knocking every man aboard to his knees.  A sudden mist emenated from his essence brushing across the deck spraying everyone aboard.  Then Xena shouted out to the mighty god of the sea.

It seemed that none of the pirates aboard had ever been in the presence of Poseiden before.  They all shook with fear cowering waiting for him to crush them with his mighty fist.  It seemed only Xena, Gabrielle, and Cecrops did not fear his presence.  They were more intrigued by him.  His decision to appear before them had been calculated.  Only Xena was bold enough to challenge him with a question.  She demanded an answer for what he had planned next for the lost mariner for all that he had been through at Poseiden’s will already.  Poseiden stood before all aboard with his hand upon his hip and his trident planted firmly into the sea.  He declared that his latest issue was between himself and Cecrops.  The god of the sea did not address Xena with a threatening tone.  Poseiden was seemingly amused by the warrior princess’s will to defeat his curse.  It was in that moment that the bard herself had gathered enough courage to address Poseiden reminding him that all others aboard the ship were not given a choice.  Cecrops added with digust reminding Poseiden that it was he who had made the rules to the curse not the warrior princess or any other soul trapped aboard his ship.

Poseiden quickly responded to this offering safe passage off of the ship of Cecrops for the warrior princess without a second thought.  Xena looked to the god declaring that she would not leave the ship without Gabrielle.  Poseiden’s next act was surprising.  He offered both Xena and Gabrielle safe passage off of the ship.  It did not matter to him.  Poseiden was more interested in keeping Cecrops imprisioned for enternity.  Poseiden declared with laughter and amusement that it did not matter how many people he released safely from the ship.  He continued defacing the will of Cecrops promising that there would be more victims as long as Cecrops chose to face the curse rather than the risk of life without it.  Xena’s response to this was more of a shock to the bard.  The warrior princess declared with defiance that she would choose to stay aboard with Gabrielle for a while longer.  She was deterimined to accept the challenge of breaking Poseiden’s curse even if Cecrops was not up for it.  Gabrielle could barely bite her tongue realizing that Xena had just chosen to throw away the only oppritunity that they would ever have of leaving the ship.  She had committed the greatest sin in defying the gods.  Gabrielle was uncertain as to how the warrior princess would recover.  Even Cecrops spoke up scolding Xena for her seemingly foolish choice to stand up against the gods.  Then Poseiden just laughed boisteroulsy declaring that there would be no second chance as he sank back down into the sea disappearing within the mist which brushed across the deck and shook the ship violently.

The bard decided the only thing to do now was to retreat back to her bowl of squid for the stress of knowing that her chance at life upon land again was fading away with Poseiden.  She sat upon the deck near Cecrops’s cabin door awaiting Xena’s grand plan.  Gabrielle had to have faith that Xena had a plan for it seemed that she would not have taken that risk otherwise.  Although Gabrielle was reminded as she chewed through her dinner that Xena had almost gotten her killed during the war between the Mitonians and the Thessalians.  The bard was uneasy about Xena’s passions for a challenge more now than even in that time.

When Xena returned emerging from the cabin her first response was of repulsion as she inquired Gabrielle what she was eating.  Gabrielle’s mind was drunk with numb feelings about the situation.  All she could offer was some of her raw squid to her seemingly dilusional friend.  Of course Xena refused this only to follow Cecrops about the ship who was seemingly uninterested in the warrior princess’s company.  Soon Xena returned to Gabrielle who had decided to forget about her squid friends for a while and examine the situation more closely.  She was curious to know what Xena was going to do next.  It was then that Xena told of an earlier conversation with Cecrops down in his cabin when she had first arrived.

When she had entered his cabin he had been looking over his maps of the sea.  Then he looked to the warrior princess and began to speak to her as if he had already gone mad.  He had spoken passionatel of land.  What it felt like to touch the sand, the dirt, and the earth.  How he often closed his eyes reminded by the smell of the land when his ship had been the close to it.  For hundreds of years reaching land again had been only a dream for him.  Once he had finished raving about his dreams of reaching land he returned Xena’s sword which pleased the warrior princess.  She had actually gone down to retrieve it.  Her interest in Cecrops’s problem had been minimal.  Although she had been irritated to find out that he had even thought of throwing her sword overboard.  He proclaimed that it was not a necessity aboard his ship.  It was then that Xena decided to call him on his declared wishes.  He had boasted his reason for deciding not to throw her sword overboard was in defiance of Poseiden.  Cecrops explained he never gave anything away to Poseiden.  Yet the warrior princess did not see this.  She was certain that he had given up on hope a long time before that.  He had given everything to Poseiden despite the vast treasure he carried aboard it.

When the warrior princess challenged his will having chosen to give up hope he only mocked her calling her a warrior philosopher.  The bard found this part of Xena’s story to be amusing for Xena hated philosophy.  Not only that, but he had compared her to Centaries whom Xena had defeated long ago.  What intrigued the warrior princess most was that it seemed to her he was desparate for someone to rescue him for he did not have the will to rescue himself anymore.  He had gone into great detail with her his story.  Cecrops filled in the blanks with Xena where he had left off with Gabrielle.  The bard was jealous of the warrior princess for she had missed this moment with Cecrops.  Yet she was satisfied in knowing that he had finished telling someone his story even if it was the warrior princess.

It had been three days before the summer solstace and twenty-seven years after Poseiden had cursed the lost mariner when he had decided to give up hope.  Then he picked up the large emerald that Gabrielle had held in her hand explaining who his love had been.  Her name was Terraye.  Cecrops described to Xena a woman who had hair like the midnight sun, skin as soft as silk, eyes so green and deep that a man could fall into them, and a face that lit up with the power of faith so great that it seemed nothing could separate their love.  Terraye had been the love of his life and it was clear to the warrior princess his passions for a woman who had died long ago.

When the warrior princess had tried to offer him her condolances he continued his passionate story of love shifting into anger and loss.  He explained that three days before the summer solstace he had been on his way to see Terryae.  Just before he had arrived at the port where Terraye’s village had been Poseiden had risen out of the waters and cursed him.  The god of the sea had separated the soul mates before each other’s eyes creating the mighty whirl pool Caryptous to separate them further.  It was a reminder to both that they would never be able to hold one another again.  Although they had been separated by Poseiden their souls searched for one another every night for Terraye would meet Cecrops along the cliffs of the island she lived upon.  The two of them would spend hours admiring one another and loving each other despite their tragic separation.  Cecrops never aged, but Terraye fell victim to the cruelty of mortality aging as the years went by.  Despite this Cecrops grew to love her even more declaring to the warrior princess that Terraye had grown more beautiful as her years went by.

Cecrops’s emotions eventually got the best of him for one night Terraye did not return to the cliffs to meet with Cecrops.  It was in that moment that he had lost his sanity and realized that his faith in love was lost for he could never be with the one he loved most for she had finally left him.  Celesta had taken her and it was then that Posieden had defeated Cecrops’s heart.  The warrior princess’s heart reached out to Cecrops as tears streamed down the broken mariner’s face.  She declared with hope and excitement that they should return to Terraye’s village, but Cecrops could only reject the idea with anger reminding Xena that Terraye was already gone.  He cursed Poseiden, Athena, and the fates for not bringing Xena to him sooner.  Cecrops reminded Xena that the power of Caryptous had been the reason that even Terraye’s village had succumbed to death.

Yet Xena was determined that it was Caryptous that held the key.  Poseiden would only have created it if it meant something.  Xena was also reminded of Athena and how her gift of immortality was a part of this hope.  The warrior princess pressed the issue with Cecrops, but he refused to accept faith and hope.  Instead he angerily declared that faith had killed more people than war.  It was nothing to give his life for.  Xena scolded him out of frustration retorting that his story of passionate love and faith in Terraye was all a lie.  She was certain that he had been lying to her or maybe worse he had been lying to himself and his lost love.  Cecrops did not have a response to Xena’s determined will.  His own will was to weak to fight it.

Later Xena had followed him onto the deck hoping to convince him that Caryptous was the answer, but he was seemingly more interested in collecting more pirates to man his ship condemning them rather than to save those who were already cursed.  This greatly disheartened the warrior princess.  She was certain that Cecrops was afraid that she had figured out the answer to the curse.  He was afraid that he had allowed himself to live with and to accept Poseiden’s curse upon him for three-hundred years.  The warrior princess was certain that he hated himself for condemning so many others whether they were innocent souls or not.  Then she retreated from the conversation with the bard declaring that soon darkness would fall upon them which meant Posieden would be waiting to lash out in the night.  It seemed to the bard that there was a part of the warrior princess that could relate to the pain of Cecrops.  The bard had seen how often Xena had blamed herself for the life of Callisto and the lives of so many others she had once harmed.  This made understand Cecrops possible.

Gabrielle follwed the warrior princess helping to secure and prepare the ship as the moon revealed itself and lightening struck out into the distance.  For the first time Gabrielle found herself truely enjoying the labors of the mariners.  It helped that she had not felt sick since before the sun had been high over head.  As the storm clouds began to roll in closer Xena ordered almost all of the men below decks explaining that their preparations made it possible for fewer men to be endangered.  Altrek followed her down into the cabin warning that Poseiden’s storm was going to be massive, but the warrior princess expressed little fear over Poseiden’s threats.  She was certain that she had experienced much worse when sailing with Ulyses.

Morale was now high aboard the cursed ship of Cecrops for the news of hope had been delivered by Hidsim to all of the men that Xena was going to defeat the curse.  When he approached the warrior princess with more hope than he had displayed earlier the warrior princess fed it with her confidence and determination.  It was all that Hidsim needed to hear.  He was ready to be loyal and do whatever the warrior princess asked to get a chance to see his daughter once more.  Gabrielle found herself thankful that the curse would be ending soon so that she could stop jabbing her wrist although she was thankful to the warrior princess for introducing the remedy.   She shared her new found content with sea life alongside the warrior princess.  Xena’s concern was less with Gabrielle’s sea sickness and more of Poseiden’s intensions.  She shared her suspicions about Poseiden not wanting them to reach Caryptus.  This was an exciting idea for the bard for it meant that Xena had solved the mystery of Poseiden’s curse.  The warrior princess appeared to be less certain about herself, but only in front of the bard.

Gabrielle reminded Xena of the importance of defeating Poseiden and his curse if not for her sea sickness for another matter.  Altrek passed by brushing closely next to the bard who suddenly felt another bout of illness.  Then she jabbed her wrist again explaining her latest delemma to the warrior princess.  Xena found Gabrielle’s sarcasm over the bard’s admirer to be amusing as she smiled silently agreeing that it was a problem.  It was in this moment that the bard finally remembered what she had wanted to ask the warrior princess earlier.  She wanted to know why Xena had not shared her  wonderful remedy for illness aboard Ulyses’s ship.  Xena’s answer was reluctant as the warrior princess explained that there were side effects to the pressure point.  When Gabrielle inquired of the side effects that she had yet to feel the warrior princess explained that the pressure point numbed the tastebuds.  It took a moment for the bard to realize what Xena was trying to tell her.  Then the warrior princess continued explaining that the side effect was in chosing to eat things that don’t normally taste good.

Suddenly Gabrielle came to the realization that the raw squid she had been eating all day was what the warrior princess was talking about.  The bard dreaded what she would feel when her next bout of illness showed its ugly presence.  As Gabrielle found herself fighting the urge to hurl again she realized that there would be a cabin washing in the near future for it was now too dangerous to run up to the deck and hurl over board.

As Gabrielle purged herself of lunch and dinner Xena was approached by Hidsim who explained that Cecrops was keeping something from her.  Hidsim explained that Cecrops had decided that they were not going to make their way to Caryptus.  Instead they would turn back to attack the pirates at dawn.  This led the warrior princess storming out of the pirate’s cabin into Cecrops’s cabin to confront him about the decision that affected everyone aboard the ship.  Cecrops’s answer was calm and defiant of the warrior princess as if he were reminding Xena who was in charge.  His ego was becoming larger than even the ego of Poseiden himself.  As Cecrops looked over his maps of the sea casually explaining that he had changed his decision the warrior princess charged forth forcefully declaring that he had changed his mind out of fear.  Cecrops did not enjoy having his ego being bruised in this way and he retaliated shrugging off Xena’s remarks reminding her that Poseiden was nothing to fear.  The warrior princess retracted her emotional attack against Cecrops for a moment to explain that there was more to fear than Poseiden.  She challenged him again carefully.  Xena was certain Cecrops was afraid that Xena had come up with the answer he had been unable to find for hundreds of years.  When the warrior princess received no retaliation to this statement she continued attempting to use hope and faith as weapons within the emotional battle.  For the first time the warrior princess found herself having to use kind words with passionate heart to defeat darkness.  Xena again reminded Cecrops of Athena’s gift to him.  She urged him to take Athena’s gift and end the curse.  Then she ended her statement reminding Cecrops that she had been the first person to ever be offered the chance to leave the cursed ship alive.  There was something to that.  It meant that Poseiden had something to lose.

Cecrops found himself to be angered and irritated knowing deep down that the warrior princess was right.  It was painful for him to realize that he had been able to end the curse all along, but he had chosen the condemn himself to it instead.  When Cecrops challenged Xena’s confindence in his miscalculations she only struck him down with firm facts.  She could relate to his pain for she too felt guilty for what she herself had done to condemn others to great pain and suffering.  Cecrops was suffering the same trama.  He was seemingly unable to over come it.  It was obvious that his soul was turning dark underneath all of his emotions confusing itself into feeling empowered by a curse so old waiting to be broken.  For a moment Cecrops retreated as if struggling to decide which side he was on.  He agreed that he had wronged many innocent people kidknapping merchants to man his crew in the first hundred years of curse.  Yet he felt that now he only condemned pirates which was justice.  Cecrops seemingly enjoyed dealing out justice even if it was justice for himself for his own mistakes against the innocent.

With every retaliation Cecrops used against Xena’s reason she had a better retort.  She reminded him that although the men on his ship were pirates they eventually became friends who were close to his heart.  The warrior princess could think of no better emotional anguish to edure than to allow oneself eternal loss and emotional suffering.  Losing friends, and lovers all to the justice he imposed upon himself.  Despite Cecrops’s attempts to shrink away from his own emotional issues Xena kept gently pressing forward hoping to help him realize that she could relate and understand his plight.  Yet Cecrops could not accept redemption even from the woman who seemingly would not accept her own redemption.  It was the blind leading the blind and Cecrops pressed on that point.  He wanted to hear it from her her greatest fears.  Cecrops was certain that the loss of Gabrielle was a fear within the warrior princess for her determination to board his ship had displayed it well.  He was certain injury and death were things that Xena did not fear, but there was something far worse to fear.  Cecrops himself feared his own life for every day that it dragged forward meant another day men continued to suffer under his self made justice.  Enemies had become his greatest and truest friends which made him despise himself even more.

As it seemed that Xena was succeeding at breaking down the fortress of emotional barriers Cecrops had built around himself Cecrops retreated again. When Xena attempted to empower him with the right choice in following through with the trip back to Caryptus Cecrops shunned it yet again.  He sarcastically asked the warrior princess if her great plan was to fall in love with him for he did not yet understand.  With this remark Xena could only walk away and return back into the pirates cabin for his defiance of faith seemed hopeless to her.  She could take no more of this.  Just before she opened the door Cecrops inquired about her choice to sacrfice the freedom of herself and her friend.  Xena’s answer was simple.  The warrior princess desired to rescue every soul that sailed aboard the cursed ship even the soul of the lost mariner.  Cecrops appeared irritated by this, but not yet defeated.  Now he was fighting against Xena to retain his self preserved eternal justice.  The cost no longer mattered to him as he sunk into darkness isolated from all.

The night wore one and with it came a giant tidal wave created by the wrath of Poseiden.  A god expressing his anger over the defiance displayed by the warrior princess.  Gabrielle held on for dear life as the water came crashing into the cabin from the deck.  The warrior princess rushed to retreive her friend from the danger as Gabrielle reassured her friend that she was not injured.  Cecrops suddenly burst into the cabin barking out orders to his men.  He was concerned about the large heavy crates that were now loose about the cabin.  Xena and Gabrielle were narrowly able to escape being crushed by one of them.  Suddenly a second tidal wave came crashing in from the deck sending another crate across the cabin toward Cecrops.  Before Cecrops could react Hidsim shouted out to his Rama and dashed across the cabin sacrificing himself for his beloved Rama.  As the crate crused Hidsim a large gasp came from within the old pirate’s body as his eyes displayed the physical suffering he was trying to endure.  Xena shouted out to the other pirates to remove the crate, but it was too late.

As Cecrops and Gabrielle helped Hidsim lie down on the cabin floor Cecrops wept asking Hidsim why he had risked himself for an immortal.  Hidsim’s only answer was that he reacted wishing to protect his Rama.  The consequence of this was nothing for the old kind hearted pirate.  While the warrior princess attempted to find a way to save the old pirate from Celesta’s grasp Hidsim looked to Gabrielle addressing his little one once more.  He regretted that he would not have the chance to live for the day he would lie on the grass with his lovely young daughter once more.  Although the bard could see the old pirate’s eyes begining to glaze over into an entranced stare she grasped for hope to offer him declaring that he would be okay.    The old pirate called out for his Rama once more as Cecrops called back to him knowing it would be the end.  Hidsim’s last words were a plea and a promise that Cecrops would touch the earth for him one day.  With that the final breath and last life left the old pirate’s body as his soul was finally free from the curse.  Although it had been Celesta who had rescued him instead of the warrior princess this only drove Cecrops to become even more determined to beat Poseiden at his own game.  The lost mariner retreated in emotional anguish suffering the same torture he had subjected himself to for over 300 years.  Everyone else stood still and quiet in silence as the bard and the warrior princes gently closed the staring lifeless eyes of a man all had loved and admired aboard the ship.

After holding a small vigil aboard the ship in the middle of the night when Poseiden’s wrath had finally subsided for a while the warrior princess and the bard helped the men prepare the body of Hidsim for burial in the morning.  Many could not sleep over their grief, but the warrior princess most of all for now many more lives were at stake for her own actions against Poseiden.  The warrior princess decided to try to convince Cecrops to continue onto Caryptus once more.  When she was about to enter Cecrops’s cabin the sounds of Poseiden could be heard echoing within the quiet darkness.  The god had more in store for the defiant warrior princess.  This time he decided to offer someone else freedom.  Poseiden had decided that he would make a trade with Cecrops in exchange for the warrior princess.  He assured Cecrops that not only would he free the mariner from the curse, but he would allow the pirates aboard to go free as well.  Although Cecrops was confused by this offer it was hardly an offer he could refuse.  The warrior princess had been foolish in her choice to have faith in Cecrops and hope for all aboard the ship.  When Xena entered his cabin once more hoping to change his mind Cecrops had already decided that they would stay the course toward Caryptus to end the battle.  As the lost mariner bolted out of his cabin Xena was left to wonder if he had finally figured it all out.  All that was left was faith and hope.  These were things that the warrior princess needed to hold onto if Cecrops could not.

When day broke the clouds Poseiden had brought in laced with violent storms were begining to dissipate into clear blue sky.  It seemed as if Poseiden were still trying to entice Cecrops into the deal for it was clear that the lost mariner’s mind had not been set on a choice.  Gabrielle looked out into the sea noticing that the Basculis and his pirates were still following closely behind.  Surprisingly the storms had not taken them out.  Just then Hidsim’s body was brought out onto the deck for its departure.  Gabrielle watched as the men were silent.  Their respect for their beloved Hidsim was enduring even in death.  As then men placed his body upon the rails ready for burial the warrior princess helped to secure it for final words.  Cecrops reached across the wrapped corpse and gently placed his hand over where Hidsim’s heart once resided still stunned at his old friend’s unneccessary sacrifice.  Once enemies Xena reminded Cecrops that Hidsim had grown to love, care for, and respect the lost mariner despite the curse placed upon him.  Cecrops remembered the name Hidsim had given him.  He spoke of Rama as someone who may have been a hero in the place that Hidsim had once called home in life.  Cecrops expressed that he did not feel he deserved the honorable name, but the men silently expressed their difference of this opinion held only by Cecrops.  With one last moment Hidsim was finally sent off into the sea to rest enternally.  Gabrielle wondered if one day she would meet his daughter.  She thought that if she ever did she would sing to her the wonderful story about his kind hearted soul.

As all continued to look out into the endless sea there was a suddenly jolt from beneath the ship.  The warrior princess was certain that they had finally reached the outer rim of Caryptus.  She explained that they had to break free of it for the safety of all aboard.  Cecrops ordered a man up into the crow’s nest, but as he called out the names of Diniasis, and one-eyed Pellerman all of the men shrank back in fear.  Gabrielle could see that even if there was a brave soul left aboard none were young and vibrant enough to survive what was about to come.  Finally Hidsim’s replacement stepped up and reminded of the danger that no man was willing to face.  It was as if he was trying to explain that Cecrops was asking too much.  He painted the image of the lines holding the nest together severing and bringing down the entire crow’s nest into the sea.  No one wanted to fall into the mouth of Caryptus.

Despite this the warrior princess volunteered without a second thought quickly scurrying up the ropes and into the most dangerous place aboard the ship.  Cecrops and Gabrielle ran over to the ropes to try to hold them steady, but they were so old and frail that the weight of the warrior princess snapped one of them at the top as Gabrielle watched in horror.  The bard called out to her friend with grave concern who was now swinging above holding tightly to the remaining ropes.  Xena did not answer for she was concentrating on the winds picking up rapidly making her journey to the crow’s nest more treacherous.  Quickly the warrior princess regained her balance and finished her journey up into the crow’s nest.  Then the warrior princess looked about to see Caryptus’s massive strength and power.  When Gabrielle was certain that the warrior princess was safe in the crow’s nest she looked out across the sea hoping to see Caryptus herself.  Instead she noticed the pirate ship still following them closely.  When the bard thought of their rash decision outloud Cecrops just confirmed that the pirates had made a fateful choice in chasing his ship into the mouth of Caryptus.

The ship began to shake violently as if it were being pulled apart.  Xena shouted out several decisive commands hoping to release the ship from the grasp of Caryptus, but it was too late for now the ship of Cecrops was deep into its mouth.  The men struggled to stay on their feet as they were thrown about the deck unable to stand.  Debris was flying about as the warrior princess lost her footing upon the crow’s next.  Her sword came crashing down from above digging itself solid into the deck.  Somehow it seemed that Xena had gotten caught up within the ropes of the crow’s nest as Gabrielle still held tightly to the bottom ropes.  Cecrops struggled to retreive Xena’s sword from where it was sticking out of the deck.  Gabrielle could see that this was now the moment of truth for Cecrops.  He could make two choices.  The lost mariner could use Xena’s sword to cut the ropes sending her crashing down into the sea or he could choose to have faith that Xena was right all along.    After a few short moments of debate Cecrops had made his choice.  He called out to Xena throwing her sword back up to her.  The warrior princess caught it using it to cut herself free of the ropes she had become entangled with.

As Xena freed herself she flipped down from the crow’s nest returning to the deck as Cecrops declared in defiance of Poseiden that he had finallly figured out the curse.  He shouted out with triumph that love redeemed.  It was not that someone had to fall in love with him, but the love that he had for others.  Cecrops then reminded himself of those who had shown him the answer.  He remembered the love Xena displayed in sacrificing her freedom for Gabrielle upon entering his cursed ship.  Cecrops remembered the love that Hidsim had shown by chosing to die in order to protect him from death.  The lost mariner suddenly realized how simple what Xena had said to him truely was.  With that he laughed joyfully and then shouted out his grateful thanks to Xena and all of his friends.  Then Cecrops dashed for the rails of the ship and plunged himself deep into the mouth of Caryptus without a second thought.  Before Xena and Gabrielle could respond in the hopes of trying to save him from Caryptus he was already gone.  He had disappeared as the rest of the ship and its crew sailed down into the mouth of Caryptus with the pirate ship alongside them.

The next thing the bard could recall of this experience was waking up on an island along a coast someplace alongside Altrek.  It was a horrifying experience through the hazy mist that had once been Caryptus.  As Altrek tried to comfort the bard from her left over sea sickness he patted her gently on the back.  Gabrielle just struggled to rise from the ground to assure him that leaving her was the best thing for everyone.  With that he waved good-bye finally ending the two day relationship that they had endured together.  Gabrielle was relieved, but sore from all of the illness and the bruises Poseiden’s wrath had given her.  Just then the warrior princess aproached kneeling down concerned for all that Gabrielle had endured with her.  Gabrielle responded that everything was becoming normal again for she was glad to be ridding herself of the last squid and her latest flame.  The bard waived reluctantly spotting Altrek who still had not left yet.  Xena looked up sharing Gabrielle’s misery with her friend in an attempt to comfort the bard.

The warrior princess assisted her friend to her feet and then carried Gabrielle along helping to hold the bard up for a short walk along the shore.  As they walked along the bard began to think of how Cecrops had truely known the answer within his heart.  Gabrielle could not believe that she had been unable to figure out the riddle for herself for the love given to others was most certainly more important than the love recieved by oneself.  As the bard looked to Xena for an agreement with this philosophy the warrior princess did not give and benefit to a bard’s philosophy.  Instead she stated that what had given the riddle away for her was Poseiden’s statement directed at Cecrops.  He had said that the lost mariner never known where to look for the answer.  It was then that Xena had realized that the answers inside oneself were the keys to freedom even if it was only freedom of the soul.

Sadly it seemed that Cecrops would never be able to enjoy his own freedom for the friends spotted him lying face down among a pile of debris from his old ship.  It seemed that he had been taken by Celesta after all.  Yet as they approached him to be certain Cecrops flipped himself over laughing hysterically with joy shocked that he was even alive.  The warrior princess found herself to be just as surprised after watching him throw himself into Caryptus.  It was a wonder than anyone had survived the ordeal.  Yet it had been Athena who had made it possible for she had given him immortality which had almost been forgotten by everyone.  He declared that he owed the goddess his deepest apologies for cursing her for hundreds of years.  Cecrops rolled about like a young boy as if he were experiencing land for the first time.  He reveled in it and could not believe he had been away from its wonderful sensation for so long.  The lost mariner suddenly jumped up from the earth and hugged the warrior princess who did know how to accept his gratitude.  Gabrielle was humbled to see the true man behind the curse.  He was just like Hidsim only more vibrant and much older in a manner of speaking.

Just then Gabrielle wondered what the lost mariner would do next.  Anyone he had ever known had long since gone, and the only people he knew were the old pirates that had surrounded him aboard the ship.  Cecrops had yet to think of this for himself for he had spent 300 years trying to reach the land again.   Then he fell back onto the ground and pulled from his clothes the lovely memory of his beloved Terraye kissing it softly.     Even the warrior princess could feel the joy of the lost mariner sharing in his memory of the woman he had once loved so dearly.   His dream had finally come true and now he had to discover a new life for himself.  With that Cecrops rose upon his feet once more reaching out to thank Xena for her determinated will to help him break the curse.  He thought that maybe he could help others in the way that Xena had helped him.  Gabrielle suggested that Cecrops seek out and find Hidsim’s daughter.  The bard was certain that this would be a nice place for the lost mariner to start.  He could honor the memory of Hidsim and who knew what might happen to the lost mariner beyond that.  With that he kissed his fingertips and then softly touched Gabrielle’s cheek taking in the guidance offered to him.  Then the serious tone turned to joy once more as he joked that he would gladly walk there.

The final thought from the lost mariner came from his certainty that Poseiden’s anger was more fierce within the sea now that he had lost the battle.  As the three friends looked out into the sea Xena hoped that Poseiden might release his new anger upon someone who warrented the reception.  This led the bard to a fascinating thought.  The new lost mariner was most likely a pirate named Basculis who had been involved in the misfortune of attacking a ship with treasures so vast that they could belong only to the mighty god of the sea.   Angered by the destruction of Caryptus during Basculis’s attack Poseiden cursed Basculis to enteral life at sea destined to be lost within the misinformed legends forever.

The Xena Scrolls: Volume #2: Scroll #42: A Comedy of Eros

A Comedy of Eros

Scroll #42

By Gabrielle Bard of Potedia

April, 47 B.C.

I sing of the day when love ran deep and bliss was left unattended.  Love ran hard and rampant within everyone whom had crossed the path of bliss.  Even Xena the warrior princess and the battling bard of Potedia found themselves wrapped up within all of it.  Their adventure began with word of the warlord Draco in the valley.  He planned on kidknapping the last of the hestian virgins and to make a profit from their spoils.  As soon as Xena had heard of this she had decided that protecting the sacred rites of the last of the hestians was her personal responsibility.  Actually Xena was bored for there had been little good to be done in the world.  So this was a chance for the warrior princess to make another mark within her own legends.  The bard had known her friend to be unable to sit still within quiet peace for too long.

Now that the restless warrior princess was back in action she and Gabrielle found themselves attending a sacred hestian virgin ceremony.  The two warrior women stood watch over the young hestian virgins as the young women followed their priestess outside the temple and down the temple stairs.  Each of the women wore white flowing clothing and white veils which covered their faces.  They carried their white doves with them as the head priestess led a prayer to their virgin goddess.  Ceremonial bells rang as the young women released their white doves into the sky as a gesture and a promise to the goddess Hestia.  Their promise was to remain committed to Hestia for peace, and charity.  They promised that their minds and bodies would be free from impurity.  Gabrielle looked to Xena with a subtle opinion about this as the ceremony came to a close.  There had been no sign of Draco or his men yet.

Gabrielle watched the virgins head back into their temple quietly and then made her thoughts known to Xena.  She was amazed by the commitment of these young women to their goddess.  Yet Xena was unimpressed, but not about the virgins.  She was certain that Draco might show himself at the ceremony, but he had not.  Xena was speaking her warrior thoughts outloud to the bard explaining that she thought that Draco most likely would be scouting out the village first before bringing in his troops to take the virgins.  Xena was not amazed at all that Draco had not shown up for she commented that he was as smart as warlords come.  Gabrielle had not been thinking of the same thing that the warrior princess had been.  She interjected that her amazement was about the virgins and their commitment.  Xena’s mind was still focused on looking out for Draco despite having answered Gabrielle with a joke.  She added that the requirement beyond the commitment was something to be impressed by.  Xena was still scouring the village intently with her eyes as Gabrielle interjected into Xena’s thoughts more deeply explaining that being chased must be really difficult when the requirement was so difficult to keep.  Xena appeared slightly annoyed that the bard was even talking about chastity.  Her response to Gabrielle’s comment was to play it off explaining that she had been talking about having to listen to those annoying bells for a lifetime of commitment every morning.  Then Xena walked away.  Gabrielle was left to think of her own dirty mind for a moment realizing that she had been caught fantasizing.  The bard was not certain that Xena really knew what she had been thinking of or had been talking about so she just agreed about the bell comment and followed the warrior princess onto the main road through the village.

Gabrielle could not give up the thoughts trying to imagine and wrap her mind around the life of a hestian virgin.  She again tried to entice Xena into thinking about it explaining that it would be hard to give up the chance to fall in love again.  That was even more tragic than the passion that would obviously be missing in a virgin’s life.  Xena didn’t seem to care too much about that part of the commitment.  She was still looking for Draco or any sign of his men scouting the village.  Gabrielle pressed the warrior princess for more conversation despite the distraction of looking for Draco.  She explained that Xena could not give up on love despite the past and the many heartaches.  The warrior princess responded to the bard explaining that she had not given up on love.  It was obvious that love was the last thing on Xena’s mind.  Gabrielle was hoping to teach the warrior princess something about love on this day.  She continued by explaining that yes there were no guaruntees with love, but it was good that Xena had not yet given up on love for when love was right it could be the most potent force in the world.

Xena then responded to the bard attempting to snap Gabrielle out of her blissful love fest explaining that this was exactly the reason why they needed to stay focused on finding Draco and protecting the virgins.  The bard realized that Xena was in no mood for philosophical conversation.  She was totally focused on the mission.  Gabrielle realized that she had to change gears for Xena was in no mood.  Gabrielle began to talk about Draco something Xena appeared to be extremely interested in.  Her first question to Xena was why did he seemingly have the entire field to himself.  Gabrielle was certain that there should be a flock of warlords lining up for the chance to sell all of the hestian virgins for profit.  Every last one of them in the province were with in the village.  There were no others any place else.  Xena explained that only the most courageous  warlords would commit such a crime defiling the temple of a goddess.  She was certain that it would require even more courage for a warlord to go up against Draco himself.  Xena finished by stating that she could not think of any warlord by name crazy enough to defile the temple and go up against Draco.  If there were another warlord capable of this madness she would have remembered him by now.

Just then the answer to that question made his presence known.  He shouted out across the village market calling to Xena.  The voice was all too familiar.  It was annoying to hear its echo.  The ears could hear his bumbling approach from behind with the sounds of his breast plate clapping up against his cheap armor.  Xena realized in that moment that Joxer was truly crazy.  Only he would be stupid enough to show up in a duel against Draco.  Joxer was delighted to find Xena and Gabrielle there.  He explained that as soon as he had heard the rumor about Draco he was certain that he would find Xena there.  For several seasons Xena and Gabrielle had been able to avoid the presence of the bumbling idiot, but now that they had returned from their long journeys at sea in far away places it seemed that they could not avoid Joxer the Mighty.  Xena was clearly annoyed and irritated as Gabrielle muttered under her breath that the mission couldn’t be more difficult without his presence.  This only added to the difficulty.  Everyone would have to watch out for Joxer for he would be certain to find his own doom quickly.

As Xena and Gabrielle quietly continued on walking through the village Joxer wanted to be filled in on Xena’s plan for he had heard Draco was a tough guy.  There was a quick response, but it was not from Xena.  It was Draco himself.  He responded to Joxer affirming the rumors.  Suddenly the three companions turned around to see Draco riding into the village with three of his scouts.  Xena’s sword was instantly drawn to face the enemy.  Joxer had drawn his bulky dull blade, but did not know how to hold it properly.  Gabrielle just put her staff down relaxing herself as Xena approached Draco calmly.  The bard could see that Xena did not feel threatened for she was holding her sword by the side.  Usually the warrior princess would be in a ready for battle stance.  This time was unusual and different.  Xena greeted Draco casually, but with bravado.  Gabrielle sensed that Xena was trying to project a certain image to him.  Draco dismounted his horse calmly and approached Xena with respect and the same bravado.  He spoke her name attempting to read the warrior princess’s intensions.  Joxer had lowered his sword by now as if trying to understand what was going on.  There was a long pause between Xena and Draco.  Uncertainty cut through the air for no one could determine if there would be a move toward sudden battle.

Draco attempted to ease the tension reminding Xena that it had been a while since their last meeting.  Xena spoke nothing.  She walked casually toward Draco and then agreed that with him that it indeed had been a long time.  It had been too long for her as she went in for the passionate kiss.  Both Gabrielle and Joxer found themselves stunned for neither of them had expected that move from Xena.  The passionate kiss lasted several moments until Draco ripped himself away from the warrior princess in shock yet complete satisfaction.  It took him a few moments to regain his composure, but then he commented on the positive welcome and asked the warrior princess what he had done to deserve her passions.  Xena then responded as she walked around him with her back to his men.  She explained that it was what he would not do that earned her affections.  It appeared to be another warrior princess clever ploy, but Gabrielle thought that maybe that kiss was a bit over the top.   Xena continued that a lot more was to come for him.  She was smiling as if she were tickled inside by his presence.  Draco appeared irritated by this request and firmly stated that he would not allow Xena to foul up the largest score of his life no matter what she had to offer him.  Her passions were not enough.

Draco had put his hand upon his sword ready to make a move for he became instantly untrusting of the warrior princess despite the passion.  He turned to face Xena firmly standing his ground.  Xena appeared to feel little threat from him as she reached up to his face and began stroking it.  Her eyes were fixated into his as if she were entranced by the dark warlord.  She smiled gently reminding Draco that he had forced a love affair between them in the past.  It was as if she were hoping that he would still have feeling for her.  As Gabrielle watched the scene unfolding before her she struggled to figure out what was actually going on.  It appeared that Xena was in love with Draco.  Her performance was too genuine to be an act.  If it were the bard thought that it was the best performance she had ever seen from the warrior princess.  Joxer interrupted the moment of thought demanding to know what it was that Xena was actually doing.  He was on the same thought as Gabrielle just one verbal moment ahead.  Gabrielle was concentrating on her own observations.  Then she noticed Draco’s soft emotional response to Xena.  He had indeed remembered the past that Xena reminded him of.  For the moment Gabrielle was relieved voicing out to Joxer with reluctant confidence that this was all part of Xena’s plan.

In the next moment Draco took Xena’s hand and kissed it pausing for a long passionate exchange of emotion.  It was sexual tension screaming out to everyone who was witnessing the event.  It appeared that even Xena was no longer in control of herself.  Gabrielle was sure that something had gone terribly wrong.  She was just not certain what it was.  Then she responded to Joxer expressing her hopeful concern to him.  It appeared that Xena was lost as to where she had been taking things.  The warrior princess suddenly backed off from Draco’s recipricating passions and pushed herself away from him.  This prompted Draco’s men to dismount their horses preparing to do battle.  Draco stopped them shouting out that Xena was his alone.  Xena created more distance between herself and Draco.  Gabrielle realized that all of the sexual tensions and passions were about to explode into a full battle.  The bard began to create some distance between herself and Draco as Joxer followed her movement.

Xena then smirked at Draco and enticed him into battle.  Draco appeared to be angry with his male ego bruised deeply.  He ripped his sword into battle swinging wildly for Xena cutting through the air above and below as the warrior princess ducked and jumped to miss his throws.  Draco screamed out his powerful battle cry in frustration.  It was as if he were experiencing a bit of hurt inside.  He charged forward in for the kill as Xena flipped across his move toward her and landed behind him with a battle cry.  Draco countered her flip to recovered running up the body of his scout flipping backward turning to face Xena again.  His sword was already in motion before he had completely faced the warrior princess who was more than ready for his move.  She met his sword at her face with his defensive yet smooth.  There was power within her grip as she held steady against his brawn.

Xena interjected with excitement that he had picked up some new moves since they had last met.  Draco responded that he had been practicing well.  With that he spun around in the opposite direction and cut his sword from low to high, but Xena countered that move as well defensively down steadily.  She retorted that practice sounded exhausting.  Draco tried to grab the advantage of Xena’s seemingly out of control passions.  He stated that instead it was refreshing.  Draco powerfully threw Xena’s block down and tried to back hand his sword across her head, but she ducked the move and then blocked his reverse move edge to edge.  Xena responded by stating that she could think of other ways to get refreshed.  She was inviting him to her bedroll openly.

Draco quickly disarmed her, but did not raise his sword for the kill.  Instead he responded that he could not deny his passions for her, but if she stood in his way he would kill her despite the irresistable passion.  He was uncertain if the warrior princess understood him.  She responded that she indeed knew him better than he thought.  With that she kicked him across the face.  His ego had been greatly worn down, but Draco did not cave in.  Instead he ordered his men back to camp and shealthed his sword.  He stumbled away extremely hot and bothered as he mounted his horse and gave Xena another warning to stay out of his business.  Then he rode off.  Gabrielle suddenly approached Xena very disapproving of this methodical plan of passion.  It was more than anyone watching could handle without getting extremely excited.  Gabrielle demanded that Xena talk about this issue and get it worked out.  It appeared that Xena herself was unaware of her sexual energy and drive for Draco of all people.  When Gabrielle suggested to Xena that it was time for a deep conversation Xena was still distracted as if she were within her own erotic fantasy.  The warrior princess was caressing her breast plate.  Gabrielle could not believe that there could be a fate worse than madness until now.

Upon returning the camp just outside the village the warrior princess had decided that all she really needed was to work out her intense sexual desires.  She crafted a pig’s bladder into a punching bag and hung it from a tree.  For over and hour Gabrielle and Joxer watched Xena pummel the pig’s bladder hoping that Xena could enlighten them on her condition and poor choice of planning.  The warrior princess refused to admit that her sex drive for Draco had defeated her in some way.  Gabrielle found herself nearly disgusted with the idea that Xena was hot for Draco.  The bard stood watching with her staff trying to piece together what had gone wrong.  This was unlike the warrior princess, but it was definitely not madness this time.  Maybe Xena was enchanted by Aphrodite’s power.  Ares could have arranged for it as a way to get back at the warrior princess for outwitting him against the furies.  Then again he might find himself jealous of Xena’s lust for another mortal.  Gabrielle was at a loss for answers.  She continued to watch Xena pound the bladder and she began to count the number of punches.  Gabrielle was fascinated by Xena’s intense concentration despite the fact that it seemed to do no good.

Finally Gabrielle broke the long intense silence asking the warrior princess what was wrong with her.  Xena just continued punching the bladder responding that her workout would solve the problem.  Gabrielle was certain that if the workout had been the solution it would have been over by this point.  Then Joxer interjected as if amused at this new side of the warrior princess suggesting that she try a cold swim.  He expressed that it always seemed to work for him and then he laughed.  Gabrielle shot Joxer a disgusted glance irritated that he was even encouraging the warrior princess to take her desire seriously.  The bard was still very much in disbelief of the idea of Xena being in lust with Draco.  She did not like that Joxer was no solidifying it.  Joxer received the hint clearly explaining that he had only heard that cold swims cured desire.  He tried to regain serious thoughts, but appeared to be just as lustful about someone.  Who knew what could turn on the idiot.  Yet this was not Gabrielle’s immediate concern.  The thought passed quickly as Gabrielle questioned Xena about being hot for Draco.  If the idea was going to be real Gabrielle had to hear Xena speak it.  Xena replied that it was a ridiculous idea and brushed off Joxer’s personal discovery.  Gabrielle was seemingly more relieved that Joxer could be wrong about his observations of the warrior princess although it certainly did not appear that Xena was telling the truth about her feelings for Draco.  Gabrielle’s open relief was crushed when Xena explained that she was responding to the dark part of herself that had a weakness for bad boys.  There was no comfort in this thought for the bard.  It was just like dealing with the furies all over again.

Gabrielle continued to watch the warrior princess who had stopped punching the bladder.  She was now punching thin air as if she were a captive of her own desires.  Joxer quietly acknowledged that he was correct about Xena.  He was extremely amused by it.  Unfortunately this meant that Gabrielle would have to rely on him since it was obvious she would not be able to rely on the warrior princess in stopping Draco.  Gabrielle was irritated and frustrated that she had to deal with this.  She expressed this openly to Xena stating her thoughts outloud.  Xena was too worked up over the bad boy warlord to be useful to anyone involved.  There was not a chance of her coming out of this mission alive if all she really wanted to do was bang the warlord.  Xena’s response to this was that it would not be a problem for he had attempted to change himself for the better in the past.  Xena was seemingly fixated on this idea as Gabrielle found herself unable to believe that the warlord who had almost succeeded in selling her entire village to slave traders could be changed for the better.  There was not faith in Gabrielle’s heart for Draco.  Xena rebutted the argument reminding the bard that she herself had been able to change for the better after all that she had committed in the past.  She was certain that Draco was no different.  Gabrielle found herself wishing that the furies were still within Xena’s mind.  At least that would explain her irrational thought process and behavior.  The bard could have accepted that.  Xena ended the futile conversation with a powerful spinning kick knocking the bladder from the tree bouncing right off of Joxer’s forehead.  Then she proclaimed that she would be the one to save Draco and dashed off toward Draco’s camp more excited than ever.

Gabrielle decided that the best thing to do was to take Joxer and go back to the village to keep an eye on the hestian virgins.  Eventually either Xena, Draco, or both of them would return there to duel over their fates.  The bard found herself openly confiding in Joxer on the journey back to the village.  She obviously did not realize that he could at least read the warrior princess somewhat for it was Joxer whom had brought the issue of Xena’s sexual desires into the open.  Joxer could even sense Gabrielle’s uneasiness within their situation.  He confidently asked Gabrielle what there was to be worried about.  Xena’s plan was a good one.  Gabrielle explained that it was not Xena’s plan that worried her.  It was the fact that it now included saving Draco from his bad boy self.  This was unlike the warrior princess even in madness.  Joxer brushed off the bard’s concern reminding her that it was bad boy types like himself that got the warrior princess all hot and bothered.  Gabrielle could not classify Joxer as a bad boy, but that was not the point.  If Xena being attracted to bad boys was all it was then why would Xena want to put in the effort to change the bad boy.  Joxer paused in his step for a moment and realized that Gabrielle was right.  That course of action was abnormal for the warrior princess.  Gabrielle continued asking why the warrior princess could not just get a grip over her lustful desires, save the virgins, and move onto the next thing.  Joxer agreed without question to this theory brought forth by Gabrielle.

Gabrielle was running every moment through her mind in analytical detail.  She asked Joxer if he had been watching the way that Xena had fought Draco.  Normally Xena would have pressed her advantages, but she had not pressed any of them.  There were many moments within the battle against Draco in which Xena could have just taken control and the virgins would have been saved already.  Joxer appeared to miss Gabrielle’s point.  He didn’t appear concerned about that.  Gabrielle could only think of the trouble that they were now deeply buried in.  Not only that, but Xena was no where to be found in the village which meant that she was probably with Draco doing who knew what.  For several hours Gabrielle and Joxer stood in front of the temple of Hestia guarding the virgins inside.  Not a thing happened.  All was quiet, but there was still no sign of Xena or Draco.  Joxer voiced this same thought outloud thinking that it was possible that Xena had succeeded in changing Draco for the better.  Gabrielle was not so convinced of this idea for this was Draco the flesh peddling warlord who would sooner kill people than have mercy upon them.  She made her thought known openly as she paced over the steps and twirled her staff out of boredom.  Then she asked herself out loud as if she were alone now hoping for an affirmation of her own thoughts.

Suddenly there was a response from a familiar male voice.  It wasn’t Joxer, but Draco who had now arrived affirming Gabrielle’s certain thoughts.  Gabrielle was ripped into clarity for Draco had brought a few of his scouts along to defile the temple of Hestia.  Joxer was now held by the scouts upon their horses.  They had a large rope constricting his neck as if they were preparing to hang him.  Gabrielle’s staff was instantly raised ready to defend as if it had somehow become instinct.  Her muscles were tensed ready for battle.  She suddenly realized she was alone going up against Draco.  Draco responded to Gabrielle’s physical readiness explaining bluntly that if she resisted him that Joxer would most certainly be killed.  Now Gabrielle had to make a choice.  It was either Joxer’s life or the virgins as she whispered Joxer’s name regretfully across her lips.  As she accessed the situation with her eyes she realized there were at least four warriors against herself.  If Xena were there it would be a no brainer.  The risk would be worth it for Xena could most certainly press the advantages, but Gabrielle was certain that she herself could not handle a battle with odds of four to one.  As Gabrielle was accessing things Draco grew impatient and shouted out the command to hang Joxer to his men.

Gabrielle watched Draco’s men tighten the noose upon Joxer’s neck as the helpless inexperienced warrior struggled for a breath.  The bard responded verbally pushing Draco to raise his hand against the command.  He waited with confidence for Gabrielle’s final response.  The bard lowered her staff sideways and then slowly dropped it to the ground surrendering to Draco.  She was certain that Draco would most likely kill her next, but to save Joxer she would sacrifice herself and the virgins.  Draco gleefully commanded his men to round up the virgins which surprised Gabrielle for a moment.  She expected to die, but instead Draco’s men rushed into the temple and grabbed her taking her captive along with Joxer.  Quickly he commanded his men to tie up the captives and leave them at the center of the village.  Bound and gagged with Joxer was not a pleasant experience.  Gabrielle was angry that she had even been forced to make the choice to save Joxer or the virgins.  He was such an idiot.  If he had only been watching for Draco instead of talking about the warlord the two of them might have had a fighting chance to stop him.  Two against four would have been much better odds despite the fact that Joxer was one of the two.  There was little time to debate this being bound and gagged to a post in the middle of the village.  Gabrielle decided that while Draco and his buddies were occupied insidet he temple that it was a great chance to escape.  She tried to communicate this to Joxer who seemed to miss every command.  In fact it seemed as if he were trying to get physically closer to the bard.  She thought that he was trying to deny touching her, but she wasn’t certain that was what he had said.

Just then the temple doors swung open.  Both Xena and Draco had emerged calmly together.  It appeared that there was no tension between them of any kind.  They were relaxed and seemingly having a good time together.  Gabrielle called out to Xena through her binds relieved that she might be freed from being tied down to Joxer.  Xena exchanged a few words of banter with the warlord as they approached.  She was confident that Draco would not kill her friends for they would make good bargaining chips.  Draco just laughed for he was forever impressed with the warrior princess’s mind.  She was a master of war and could be a great teacher even for the bad boys who followed her career.  Xena approached Gabrielle taking down her gag.  Gabrielle thanked the warrior princess for being relieved of this torture in being with Joxer.  Just as Xena was loosening the ropes from their wrists Gabrielle suddenly felt a strange sensation within her left shoulder.  It felt almost like she had been pierced by a sharp object like an arrow or a poison dart.  When Gabrielle looked down to see what it was her mind suddenly went numb.  She felt a strange emotional response coming on.  It was almost as if her mind were lighter than it had been while under the influence of henbane.  Gabrielle called to Xena and looked behind for her friend, but Xena was not there.  When the bard turned to look the other way she saw something so serene and handsome.  The charm was unmistakeable.  He was so cute the way he wiped the sweat off of his tongue onto his finger, and that sour face was enticing and loveable.

Gabrielle could not resist the urge to reach out and touch his clothing.  As she stroked his chest gently and gazed into his manly eyes Xena said something about going off to play with Draco.  The warrior princess left leaping and bounding, but that seemingly did not matter any more for there before the bard of Potedia stood Joxer the Mighty warrior.  Joxer looked to Gabrielle expressing that things were strange.  For a slight moment there was focas within Gabrielle’s mind as she agreed with Joxer, but it passed quickly into complete and utter bliss.  All was crazy with in the world, but no one cared because everyone was surrounded with eternal bliss.  The bard had forgotten the problem of Xena being in love with Draco.  In all fairness Xena deserved a little rest and relaxation even if it was with Draco.  Gabrielle spent the afternoon with Joxer the Mighty singing his famous song.  She wanted to make sure that she had it recorded perfectly within her scrolls because Joxer deserved nothing less than perfection.  The first rule within the bard’s scrolls is write what you know.  Gabrielle had not had the true blissful experience when writing “For Him The Bell Tolls” because she had not experienced his bliss for princess Illiandra until now.

Joxer again blew his brilliantly constructed whistling instrument and began the tune.  His voice was soothing and sexy as Gabrielle tuned her own voice to his.  Yet he was much more lovely with his enticing smile as he belted out his famous tune.  The bard could not resist touching his arm and stroking it gently as she focased in on his manly bodice.  She was moving in closer as the song finished and Joxer’s smile glowed delightfully.  The bard used the opportunity to move into her love focasing on his lucious ear as she blew into it to entice his love for her.   Joxer missed this moment of passion eminating from the bard’s lust for him.  She decided that she needed to set the mood to losen his nerves as she rose from the bedroll they shared together and reached for her scroll bag.  There she would most certainly be able to recapture the essence of Aphrodite’s bell which tolled for Illandra and brought love’s passionate power out of the super sexy warrior.  Gabrielle longed to feel what princess Illiandra had felt and so she proceeded to remind Joxer and to read from the scroll.  When Gabrielle asked Joxer if he remembered the beautiful love story he agreed with her that indeed that story had been beautiful.

Joxer was seemingly unaware of Gabrielle’s growing passions for him as he sipped his water from his wooden mug.  Joxer the Mighty was seemingly unaffected by the reminder of his love for Illiandra so Gabrielle decided to move in close to him and to caress his chest as she pulled playfully with his clothing.  He was so cute when he was nervous as Gabrielle bit one of the loose strings of his shirt hoping to recapture the overwhelming lust that he had felt for Illiandra. Gabrielle asserted herself and her thoughts outloud explaining the rules of her scrolls to Joxer moving in even closer to him.  She could feel his pulse rising as was her own as she began to kiss his neck and shoulders while he continued to talk.  There would be time to talk later as Gabrielle pursued her love and began to kiss his face and then nimble upon his ear.  Joxer said something about keeping an eye out for Xena, but the bard did not have her eyes upon the warrior princess.  Her eyes were now only for Joxer.  No one else could quench her lust and her feelings of passionate love.  The moment of passion had come as Gabrielle thrust forward onto Joxer delivering furiously passionate kisses upon his sweet tasty lips.  She could still feel his nervousness.  As he grasped her shoulders to take hold of the passionate fire buring within his manly strength.

Just as the exstacy of passion was rapidly rising within their bodies Joxer was overpowered into a choking fit.  He pushed away from the bard trying to recover.  Gabrielle was delighted that he felt so passionate about her.  This was more than should could have ever dreamed or wished for.  Yet her delight turned to concern when Joxer could not stop choking and coughing.  She began to pound upon his back hoping to help him regain his breath once more.  The bard asked if he was okay as he responded through the coughing with an affirmation.  Then he whispered as if his mouth and throat were suffering from extreme dryness as he asked for some water.  He repeated the request a few times before Gabrielle could understand.  She was quick to respond as soon as she knew how she could rescue Joxer from his suffering.  Gabrielle dashed for the water bottle grabbing her staff along the way.  Then she rushed down toward the lake.  The bard’s feet could seemingly not carry her fast enough to get to there.

When Gabrielle finally reached the lake she saw Xena in the middle of it just sitting there submerged within the cold water.  Only the head and shoulders of the warrior princess were visible.  Gabrielle’s passions began to fade slightly as her curiosity of the warrior princess rose within.  As Gabrielle knelt down to retrieve water for Joxer the Mighty she inquired of Xena’s seemingly strange actions.  There was a hint of a reminder of slight jealousy creeping within the hazy passions for Joxer.  Xena soon reminded Gabrielle of her uncontrollable lust when she stated that she was taking Joxer’s advice and taking a cold swim.  Although the warrior princess stated that it was hard to believe that she was even taking Joxer’s advice Gabrielle didn’t find it implausible that Joxer the Mighty would be full of graet advice and ideas.  The bard then thought of his song again as Xena responded as if disgusted that Joxer even had a brain at all.  Gabrielle shrugged off the negetive attitude toward her love coming from Xena as she defended him explaining how wonderful his song was and how he had been teaching it to her all afternoon.

The bard began to embody herself with the passions as she imagined that she was pricness Illiandra and he was singing his beautiful song to her.  Somehow the song embodied him and his essence which allowed Gabrielle to carry it with her everywhere she went as long as she could just sing it.  The bard was enthralled as she sang and caressed her water bottle for she could not wait to get back to him with his request and to save him from dehydration.  Xena rose from the lake disgusted again stating that there was something off balance about Gabrielle suddenly complementing Joxer for in the past she had always detested him.  The bard did admit that there had been a time that she had felt that way about her love, but now it was all so very clear to her for the first time.  Gabrielle proudly declared to the world and to the warrior princess that she loved Joxer the Mighty.  Xena stood up from her seated place upon the log by the lake and she responded in disbelief as if she had not heard Gabrielle’s declaration.  The bard admitted that indeed these feelings and actions coming from her were a shock, but all Gabrielle could think about was the moment in which she had suddenly fallen from him back at the village after being untied.  It was a bliss like no other.  Even Perdicas had not evoked such deep feelings from her heart, her mind, and especially her body.  The bard declared herself to have been blind of her own feelings which led her to preach her philosophical thoughts outloud with conviction.  For maybe love truly was nothing more than blindness.  For a moment the bard’s thoughts turned to the idea that maybe she was ranting, but instead she decided that the idea sounded romantic and that it needed to be recorded upon her parchment when she returned to Joxer.

Xena was arguing the bard’s point reminding her that Joxer was nothing more and only Joxer.  Gabrielle witnessed the disgust eminating from Xena’s face.  The face that the warrior princess made when talking about Joxer was insulting and unattractive.  This only angered the bard for it demonstrated Xena’s lack of respect for the Mighty and sexy warrior.  She decided that there was only one course of action.  Gabrielle would entice Xena into a duel to fight for Joxer’s honor.  It would most certainly prove her love and commitment to him.  Gabrielle reminded Xena that Draco was not the prize that she made him to be on this day.  Then she drove her passion home by comparing Joxer to the bloodthirsty and unattractive warlord Draco.  Gabrielle declared that being in love with Joxer was most certainly more noble and worthy.  Xena was quick to defend her ugly lover trying to argue that he had seen the error of his warlord ways and that he was no longer the way that Gabrielle had described him to be.  She stumbled to defend him and Gabrielle could see that even Xena was not so certain of Draco’s truest intensions, but it did not matter.  Gabrielle knew exactly what Joxer’s intensions were.  They were of pure love and lust.  As the argument of lover’s escalated it was soon interrupted by the sounds of screaming virgins from the village in the distance.

Both Xena and Gabrielle sanpped into action as they dashed toward the village continuing their battle of verbal wits.  As they entered the village Gabrielle shouted out to Xena reminding her that he had not changed.   His present actions only proved it as he could be seen ringing the bell in the center of the village while his men were snatching up virgins all around them left and right.  Xena had been defeated in proving that her lover was the better prize.  She approached Draco with disappointment reminding him that she had thought that they had agreed that he would not steel the virgins.  He laughed defiant of the warrior princess and stated that she had thought wrong.  It was obvious to the bard that Xena was in love with a man that could never have respect for her.  Draco pushed the warrior princess away and onto the ground as he drew his weapon and prepared to rid himself of her.  Gabrielle knelt down to help Xena and then noticed Draco’s threatening presence behind her.  She turned to face him and defend the warrior princess with her staff as she pressed him back and away from Xena.  Despite Gabrielle’s anger for Xena’s disrespect of Joxer she would not allow Draco to treat Xena with the same disrespect.  The bard demanded that Draco leave her friend alone.  It wasn’t enough for him to batter Xena’s emotions.  The drove the bard mad with anger.  Gabrielle declared Xena’s love for him openly for all in the village square to hear.  There was silence for several moments as Gabrielle sensed a strange presence about the village.  Lust was growing stronger as Draco’s fiery bloodthirsty eyes transformed into tenderness as he looked to Gabrielle.  Maybe she had been able to get through to him.  Xena had risen from the ground and affirmed that Gabrielle’s declaration of Xena’s love for Draco was indeed true.

Draco refused Xena’s love immediately explaining that the warrior princess was too late.  Just when it appeared that Draco was about to go back into battle mode he declared that Xena could not keep him from what he truly wanted which was Gabrielle.  The bard’s mind could only process that the moment was one of complete insanity.  Draco the warlord who almost destroyed her home village on their first meeting was declaring his love for Gabrielle.  It was unbelievable.  Something was definitely in the air, but the mystery ran deeper now that Draco was suddenly infatuated with Gabrielle.  His stare into her eyes was eerie and powerful.  Xena expressed outloud what the bard was only thinking.  Something strange was going on.  Then Xena continued explaining that Draco could not possibly want Gabrielle’s affections.  Even if it was an insult to the bard Gabrielle agreed that she did not want Draco’s passions for herself.  Her heart began to pound with fear and uncertainty as love’s bliss was raging out of the realm of reality and control.  Draco ignored Xena’s attempt to degrade her friend’s value as he stated that he knew exactly what he wanted now.  Draco then barked out a command to his first in command Kragen and told him to round up the virgins for the warlord Penellous would be arriving soon to collect them in exchange for payment to Draco.

Then he smiled and reached out grabbing Gabrielle’s arm demanding that she go with him.  Gabrielle knew for a certainty that she could never love and spend her life with a warlord like Draco.  She smacked him away violently with her staff declaring that she would never go with him.  Xena took the advantage that Gabrielle’s rejection of Draco had created to make a mad dash for the virgins on the loose.  She attacked Draco’s army as Gabrielle struggled to get away from the creepy warlord who would not leave her alone.  Each time he would get close enough Gabrielle would strike him with her staff.  She warned him not to touch her as she battled him defending.  Gabrielle was prepared to do whatever it took to keep herself away from him even if she had to feed him to the gorgon monsters herself.  He was only enticed more by these threats as he referred to her as a sptifire.  Gabrielle responded by smacking Draco across his face and nose determined to tear him apart to save herself from the unquenchable lust.  He rose from defeat yet again to reaffirm Gabrielle’s passionate vengence against his lust for her.

Then Gabrielle saw her love.  Joxer the Mighty appraoched Draco from behind tapping him on the shoulder into distraction.  Joxer the Mighty then delivered a thunderous punch straight into Draco’s nose.  The sound echoed through the village like thunder.  Gabrielle cheered for him with delight for he had saved her from Draco’s advances.  Just then Draco drew out a knife and as he prepared to stab Joxer the Mighty one of Draco’s men flew across the village knocking Draco into the ground.  Gabrielle suddenly noticed that her love was hurt.  She quickly came to his aid as he expressed his pain stating with the cutest little whimper that the big bad warlord had injured him.  Suddenly the warrior princess barked out a command to all to head for the temple.  Gabrielle shouted out to all that they must be swift and hurry inside.  The bard led the way opening the doors of the temple alongside Joxer the Mighty as everyone filed into the temple.  The virgins were panicked with excitement and the thrill of being in fear of lust.  Gabrielle then instructed them all to hide in the back of the temple.  She looked outside the temple to see if Xena was close.  The warrior princess was rounding up the last of the virgins.  One of them cried out that she had dropped her prayer scroll.  The warrior princess assured her that they would retrieve it after the danger had passed.  As the battling bard watched the last of the virgins enter the temple with Xena she ran over to shut the door and secure it for their defense.

Just when it seemed that things were calm and safe again Xena asked Gabrielle where Joxer was.  Gabrielle could not believe that she had lost track of him.  His voice could be heard crying outside the safety of the temple doors.  He could be heard begged Draco to let him go and to put him down.  Both Xena and Gabrielle ran to the temple windows to catch a glimpse of Joxer’s fate.  He was tied to the back of Kragen’s horse as he begged and pleaded for Xena’s help.  The battling bard wasted no time in acting.  She was out the temple doors instantly to rescue her pookie.  Draco then declared that if she wanted to see her friend that she knew where he could be found.  It was an invitation to his camp.  He had the advantage and snatched up Gabrielle alongside him as he rode out of the village back to camp.  Gabrielle called out to Xena.  Being the lust of Draco’s life was more dangerous that even Callisto.

Upon returning to Draco’s camp he held Gabrielle hostage in his tent and promised her that his physical jewels would not disappoint.  Gabrielle warned him about touching her again as she rammed her head into his abdomen only to be nearly knocked unconscious.  He laughed gleefully and reminded her that he was indeed solid as rock.  Gabrielle spoke of his stubborn head comparing it to his painfully rock solid abs as she rubbed her own throbbing head.  He asked her what she had mumbled.  She was afraid that offending him would only empower him more.  She tried to twist the words explaining that she had said that she had agreed with him and what he had said.  Although it seemed that she had slipped one past him his reaction suggested otherwise.  He only responded by saying that if she kept agreeing with him then their relationship would be fine.  Draco was uncomfortably close now as he reached out and grabbed the bard’s chip.  She sensed a bit of physically forceful threat within Draco’s body language.  Then she sensed his lust building.  It was the same feeling she had felt eminating from within herself when she was with Joxer earlier.  As he moved into the bard to quench his lustful thirst she quickly pushed him away noticing a bowl of cherries sitting upon the bedtable.  Gabrielle moved in for the cherries and began eating them attempting to avert Draco’s intense lust for her.  The bard declared her love for cherries as she continued to stuff them into her mouth so that he could not kiss her.  He only knelt down to her eye level and agreed that cherries were something that they could love together.  The waves of lust were hitting her violently through Draco’s eyes.  Gabrielle was extremely unsettled now as Draco reached for her shoulder and began to caress it gently with his hand.

She hoped that mentioning that she was not a virgin for she was now a widow would discourage his intensity for her, but he only appeared to be slightly interested in this fact.  Instead Draco just laughed as he jumped upon the bed next to Gabrielle and stated that it was lucky for he would not have to kill the bard’s husband since he was already dead.  The bard’s heart jumped from within her chest as if it had been slightly cut out with a sharp daggar.  She had been disgusted before with Draco, but now he was infinately unattractive to her.  As he laughed with an idiotic evil laughter Gabrielle took rage upon him knocking him back with her elbow in the face.  Then she jumped up to face him preparing her next angry statement.  She decided that the best way to fight disrespect was not with more of it, but with compassion despite it being for a warlord.  She opened by stating that she had not wanted to hurt Draco’s feelings, but the reason she could not love him was because she was in love with someone else.  The bard hoped that this knowledge would deter his lust and he would get the point.  Being in love with someone who doesn’t love you is only setting oneself up for inevitable disappointment.

This statement most certainly retrieved Draco’s serious attention as he inquired the bard of her love.  For the first time Draco appeared to be softly concerned for Gabrielle’s feelings, but as he approached she sensed his evil intensions.  She knew that if she told him that she was in love with Joxer the Mighty that Draco would instantly go after Joxer and kill him.  Unfortunately Gabrielle’s nerves were running so high that she expressed her thought outloud before Draco unwillingly.  Draco’s argument that he would not hurt Joxer had somehow tricked Gabrielle into thinking outloud.  He had defeated her with the battle of wits.  The warlord was indeed a sharp minded man, but not at all someone to be falling head over heels for like Xena had done.