Xena Scrolls Volume #2

The Xena Scrolls
By: Gabrielle Bard of Podedia
Scroll# 22: The Prodigal

July, 48 B.C.

I sing of my own journey to becoming a warrior and of the lesson of a truth within myself. Xena and I were traveling along a treacherous rocky cliff as I played my harmonious whistle instrument. There was much joy within my soul for all of the good that we had done together and for all of the adventures we had. Not only that, but I was joyful of the friendship that Xena and I had developed after all of the barriers that I had to go through to gain the trust of the warrior princess. Within my heart was singing for it had been on the right course though the life of a warrior is often not the most glamorous life that one might think. As I played my tune I was reminded of the story of Orpheus and how he could play tunes that could move mountains. Naturally I thought of testing my theory to the truths of a story for I had always found that with each story I had ever heard no matter how outrageous there was always at least one kernel of truth within it.
As I was about to test my theory of truth Xena forbade me to move forward with my plan. She did know me well and though I often don’t like to admit it. I’ve gotten us into a few tough spots with my undying curiosity. Like the time we found ourselves up against the Titans, or the time that I tried to stop a family feud and got sentenced to death at noon instead of welcomed as an ally by the King of Biocha. Xena was right again as always. She had always been right though I always wished that I could be right just once. And so I didn’t test my theory of trying to move massive jagged rocks with the sounds of my harmonious music. Instead we found ourselves interrupted by a new threat outside of my curiosity.
It was the threat of five rouges who had decided that they would take Xena and I as their prize. I find it funny how men always think of women as objects to be owned rather than the beautiful people that we are. The great amazon princess Terrayas once said that the world in which we live is a man’s world, but only because we allow it to be. In this moment I began to realize just how Helen of Troy must have felt when Mentalaeous, Paris, and Deifabous all battled to have her as their prize. So many lives were lost over this male need to possess. The rouges who challenged us demanded that Xena and I surrender. For if we did not they had prepared for us a demise and certain death. The men then revealed their weapons. A few cheap swords and a wagon with sharp logs aimed at us were their messages of threat. Xena was completely calm and collected as these events unfolded. I wasn’t so certain of the situation. I had found myself very uncertain a lot in the recent past.
Xena commanded her loyal steed Argo to advance running toward the enemy as she flipped into action. Then the warrior princess began to fight against the men who held swords. As she battled the odds of four against one that left one enemy for me to fight. It was obvious to me that Xena’s confidence in my abilities were beginning to expand. Yet her new-found confidence for me couldn’t have come at a worse time. Quickly I tried to think of what to do next as my lone enemy glared in my direction. He was prepared to pull the lever to the cart that would unleash certain death upon me. I had to stop him from pulling the lever and releasing the rocks beneath. As I looked about I found a large stone in the mud and retrieved it for a weapon. My staff would not work for I was too far away to attack or even defend, but the rock was perfect. As I launched it through the air I hit my mark perfectly upon his head.
As he fell backward his arm jerked the lever which released the rocks from beneath the cart at the top of the canyon. Suddenly, I found myself in a terrible new situation. My only thought was that I should duck under the cart and hope that it would blow over me. The large wooden wheels looked far enough apart for me to escape underneath. Quickly I fell to the ground awaiting the violent cart. As I fell to the ground I shouted out to Xena who was still fighting within the path of the cart. Suddenly Xena flipped into action and grabbed me returning me to my feet. Together we faced the large rolling cart. Then Xena dropped to the ground shouting for me to do the same. But I couldn’t. I was frozen as I saw the sharp edges of the logs upon the cart. They were coming straight for me and I could do nothing. My fear was so great that it was the only emotion I could react to. The mind was clouded by these fearful emotions. Within the moment before my certain death Xena cut my feet from under me and I fell hard to the ground.
As the cart passed above us I suddenly heard it crash upon the rocks just behind us. Our enemies ran for cover realizing that there was no way that they could defeat the warrior princess. As Xena rose from the ground in triumph she was delighted at our small battle. She felt that familiar warrior adrenaline that runs through your veins just as you’ve defeated the enemy. Xena was truly energized and excited commenting on how wonderful that moment had been. She was certain that I had shared in it with her, but sadly I had not. I slowly rose from the ground realizing that I had endangered my friend. If this battle had been like our battle at Troy or any other large battle I could have jeopardized her life as well. I found myself not being able to face the feeling of a fear that would endanger my friend. In my heart I knew that I could not react like a true warrior then I needed to do the only thing I could think to do. I needed to leave Xena behind and return to my home in Podedia. She would be much safer without having to worry about my freezing up in a tough situation.
Xena began to move onto the next moment upon asking if I was okay. Of course I replied that I was physically okay, but not within. The warrior princess suggested that we take the southern route along the river to our next destination. Although it would be longer it was certain to be more safe. Yet I wasn’t really thinking of our next journey together. As far as I could tell this battle against the rouges had been our last. Xena found herself confused that I didn’t agree that her travel plans were safe, but then I explained to her that I had to go home. She didn’t understand for I had never wanted to go home before. Xena wanted to know what I wanted to go home for and I explained that sometimes one needs her family to sort through life’s challenges. My friend and teacher was still confused by my emotional reaction. I explained that I needed to return home to my sister for I was certain that she would understand my feelings. Xena was offended at my comment for she thought that maybe I didn’t trust her. It was not an issue of trust at all.
Then Xena knew what the problem was. She realized that I was upset with myself for having frozen in the heat of battle. Xena explained with encouragement that every warrior has those moments of freeze. Yet I had never seen the warrior princess have a moment like that. Xena realized that I was right for she never felt that way in battle. She always seemed to know exactly what to do and how to handle any tough situation. I could sense that she was still upset that I did not wish to talk to her about it. Then I explained why I was really leaving. I explained that I did not want to endanger her because of my lack of reaction to a situation. She then explained that the solution was a very simple one. All a warrior must remember is that you never react. The answer was simple. It was act don’t react. But for me it was easier said than done. Yet Xena was still not willing to allow me to go. Even when I told her that having me around was a danger for her she accept the consequence of it. I could not accept that consequence. I could not accept being the reason Xena’ s life was in jeopardy. And I knew that she would give her life for me. When that day would come I would still be without her and if I could not stand on my own then she would be giving her life for mine in vain.
And so I stood firm on my choice to go back to Podedia. Xena understood. She inquired if I was coming back. I told her that I was uncertain. That it would depend on what I discovered when I returned home to Podedia. I could sense my friend’s disappointment that I was leaving, but I had made my choice. Soon I was on my way back on the road to home. A part of me was excited for I was going to see my sister again. I had missed Lilla very much in the days since I had been gone. She was important to me as were my family and friends back home. Upon seeing Perdicous at Troy I had been reminded of how I had left everyone without saying good-bye although I had said good-bye to Lilla.
My journey home was just as grueling as the journey to find Xena had been. Though I had a road map handy it didn’t seem to unravel the mysteries of the roads that all men travel. All I could think of was the twenty-two leagues which stood between me and my home. And of the great stories of a far off land where they had a monument known as the Sphinx. It seemed to me that men knew more about the Sphinx than they did about their own roads. My frustrations were beginning to get the best of me. I was finding that I was getting tired of walking the road home alone. So I decided to find the main road back to Podedia and hopefully catch a ride. Yet that was easier said than done for not too many traders are kind-hearted. I tried waving, being friendly, I even tried to show a little leg. But none of those tactics worked so I tried the only one I had left. I posed as an expecting young mother. Certainly no man could turn down a ride for her. As the first cart began to pass me by I was angered that not even an expecting mother was worth stopping for.
I struck my luck soon after I began to curse those who chose to pass by. An old traveler stopped and offered me a ride. The irony of it was that it was the same old man I had ridden to Amphipolis with when I had tried to catch up to Xena before. It was a pleasure to see him and I told him more stories, but this time they were my own stories and not those I learned in a tavern back home. We argued about the truth of King Sisyphus and his wife Caron. He was certain that he knew Sisyphus, but it didn’t sound as if we were talking about the same man. The old traveler was shocked to see how much I had changed since our last encounter. I decided to embellish a little on how I came to be expecting. My memory of Tallus and of his stories that healed suffering souls came to mind.
Finally our journey together was over and I asked the old traveler to drop me off. He was concerned for me because it was still a day’s walk from the road to Podedia. Yet I assured him that I’d be okay for I knew a shorter route through the woods. My old friend was shocked at my adventurous endeavor, but he couldn’t stop a young girl from her passions and so he traveled on without me.
As I walked through the woods I was reminded of the last time I had been through them. I thought of that silly cyclops I had encountered and wondered where he might have gone. He was probably pretty angry by now that I had not brought him the warrior princess as promised.
When I reached the neighboring village to Podedia I found it in ruin. It was smoldering with the remnants of a fierce fire that had recently burnt it down. All was quiet as I walked through to investigate. The village seemed eerie as if something was not right. And then I saw a man who seemed very upset and saddened. He was digging a grave alone in the ruins. When I tried to get his attention he ignored me as if I wasn’t there. Finally I broke through to him and inquired of his despair. My heart cried for his knowing he must have suffered some great tragedy. He spoke of the small army of thieves which belonged to Damon and of how they had demanded constant food and supplies from his village.
He said that he had held back for his young son in the coming winter knowing that he would be hungry if all the food was turned over to Damon’s army. Because of his defiance Damon and his army killed almost all in the village and burned it to the ground. Yet this man of despair asked that I not pity himself or the dead. He asked instead that I pity the people of Podedia for it was where Damon had declared he would be striking next. Suddenly my heart began to pound with worry and of concern. I hoped that I was not too late to save my own village from ruin. Without another question I dashed through the woods toward home. Just as I reached the last cliffs I peeked over them with the hope that Podedia would still be standing. Thankfully it was and my heart could breathe a sigh of relief, but I knew in my mind that time was very short. So I continued to run until I finally reached the gates of my familiar home.
As I entered into Podedia all was silent. It was as if it were a ghost town for it seemed deserted. Yet there were still fresh chickens hanging in the market and wet laundry drying on the lines. Nothing, but the frantic tumbleweeds blew through as I raised my staff ready to do battle. It seemed to me as if everyone had fled for their lives hearing of the wrath of Damon and his army. I then approached the door to my home tavern where I had first realized that I wanted a life of adventure. Slowly I pushed the door open with the edge of my staff and as I entered the quiet tavern there was a sudden burst of excitement and energy. Everyone was in the tavern and they were holding a surprise party for someone that I did not know. I was startled by this unexpected welcome. It was kind of nice to be welcomed with such enthusiasm, but it quickly disappeared into disappointment.
No one had expected that Gabrielle would walk through the door. Instead I was approached by my sister who hugged me with relief. My heart filled with joy to be with her again. But my heart was quickly reminded by the mind of the danger which awaited me and my village. I announced to all in the tavern that Damon was on his way to cause harm to us all. Yet no one seemed surprised by this as if it were old news. Then I was approached by the village magistrate Ferris. He first asked me with great sarcasm if I had brought the great warrior princess along with me. When I answered that I had come alone he told me that they didn’t need Xena’s help at all for they had been awaiting Meleager the Mighty. That name sounded very familiar to me. He was a well-known warrior who had killed over 100 men single-handedly at Lagoria. Yet I was corrected by Lilla who said it had been 200 men, and then by Ferris who declared with great pride that it had been 250. Then the mighty warrior entered into the tavern himself to correct us all. The exact number he had fought and killed single-handedly had been 317. Yet numbers were seemingly unimportant at the moment. I was more curious about why Meleager was in Podedia. Ferris explained that they had hired Meleager to ward off an attack by Damon and his small army. In fact, Ferris was willing to pay 50,000 dinars to Meleager to finish off Damon.
Although Meleager was told to be a mighty warrior my first impression of him was not at all a mighty one. Instead he seemed drunk, disoriented, and selfish. Melegear did not fit the mold of the typical heroic warrior that I had learned about. As he presented himself to the people he stumbled asking of Ferris the payment they had agreed upon. Ferris reminded the drunk that he was to get half before and the other half when the job was finished. It seemed to me that all the old washed up drunk was concerned about was where he was going to buy his next drink. And then suddenly as the townspeople began to leave the tavern Meleager the Mighty became Meleager the not so tidy. He fell to the ground drunk beyond control. Meleagar passed out and left Lilla and I with his responsibilities.
Ferris instructed us to take him to our home and to revive him. He assumed since I had traveled with a warrior that I knew exclusively how to deal with warriors. He was right. I did know how to deal with warriors, but I didn’t know how to deal with a drunk. Lilla and I struggled to pull off Meleager’s boots. They were strapped onto his nasty feet pretty tightly. When we finally did yank them off they didn’t smell much better. I could at least give him that. He did smell like a true warrior. I found myself disgusted with his behavior and his lack of concern and respect for my village, and himself. As I explained to Lilla that a true warrior did not behave in this way and that Xena had never taught me these warrior lessons. Lilla rose from the ground angrily as she threw one of Malleagar’s nasty boots in my face. She was clearly upset with me and I wasn’t really sure why. Lilla just mumbled something about Xena being better and then stormed off. Unfortunately she had left me with the task of reviving the drunk and hopefully bring him to a presentable state.
Later in the day Meleager did finally manage to regain consciousness. He returned to the tavern with me while I tried desperately to work through my issues with Lilla. As Meleager continued to drink himself toward oblivion Lilla and I ended up out in the town square arguing in a way that we had never argued before. Lilla was furious that I had left her for so long. But before we could finish our confrontation some of Damon’s men came into the town square for more supplies. They began to harass the defenseless villagers of my village. Suddenly Lilla and I decided that we would return to the tavern to find Meleager at the bar.
When we urged Meleager to come out and fight Damon’s men he only proceeded to ask where his money was. He was completely disoriented. In fact, he didn’t even know the name of the village he was drinking in. Again he fell over passing out onto the floor. Lilla became panicked, but I had a plan that would at least scare the enemy off until we could restore our only hope. So Lilla and I constructed a simple pulley and tied Meleager the puppet to it. Lilla controlled the motions of our great hero as I did all of the talking. I threatened the enemy with Malleager’s reputation as Lilla made his limbs appear to be ready to do battle.  Luckily my bluff worked and his reputation was larger than life because the plan worked scaring off the enemy temporarily.
I then decided that somehow I had to get control of this disastrous situation. Lilla was still certain that Meleager was our only hope, but I wasn’t so certain that he was up to the task. In fact, I told Lilla that our best chance was to rally the village people and to lead them in a fight against Damon and his men. It was quite obvious that Meleager was a useless drunk at best.
When Lilla and I returned Meleager to our home he was still passed out. But if he was any kind of warrior then he would be able to sense my malicious approach. I instructed Lilla to fetch a pail of cold water just in case my plan failed me. As I prepared to slap him silly to awaken him from his drunken slumber I found that my instincts were correct. His warrior training had sensed my approach and despite his drunken stuper his eyes flew open as he raised his sword to block my advance. He warned that I need not come any closer and that he was indeed alert. Then he looked about and asked me where he was. As he began to fumble through names of many villages I corrected him with frustration.
Then he asked me for another drink. I could not allow him to have another drop. And yet I wanted to understand why he was so broken. There had to be some truth to the heroic stories of Meleager the Mighty. As I tried to urge him that he had a job to do. I scolded him for his nasty disrespectful behavior. Meleager seemed agitated at my lashing out at him. He was certain that a farm girl could never understand the life and trials of a warrior. I knew that I wasn’t a real warrior like Xena, but I did know of the life of a warrior. As Meleager tried to convey the hardships which had brought him here to this terrible moment of his life I began to realize that I could understand him and connect. He described all of the things that I had encountered with Xena. Meleager spoke of the betrayal, and of not knowing who one could trust. He spoke of the blood, and of the violence that a warrior must face every day. He spoke of all of the things that no one ever hears about the story of the true warrior. And as he spoke I began to relate and I began to realize that he became a drunk after realizing that even a warrior as mighty as he could freeze in a tough moment of battle. I completely understood this for it was the reason I had come home. His escape was drinking and mine was to abandon my heart’s desire.
It was clear to me what I had to do. I had come home to escape the warrior life, but found that it had followed me there. My job now was to restore the true warrior within Meleager and within myself. Once again Meleager tried to take his misery back to the bottle, but Lilla came in at just the right time drenching with a dose of real cold water. It was reality at its best. Once we restored him to a state of sobriety the three of us began our mission together to save Potedia.
Our first step was to go into the woods and create a barrage for our defenses to come. Yet we needed to find coverage trees in order to make the barrage a success. Meleager could easily follow my plan, but Lilla was quite confused. She tried desperately to keep up with the warrior jargon, but found herself frustrated by her lack of understanding. Meleager and I decided that in order to move things along more quickly we would have to split up to find our coverage trees. Lilla and I went in one direction while Meleager went alone in the other. My sister’s anger burst into another argument as we continued to look for the coverage trees. She scolded me once again for leaving her behind for so long. Lilla was angry that I had gone though when I had left she had been supportive. I was confused by this for if she had told me before how she truly felt I might not have been able to leave her behind.
Lilla confirmed that she had indeed been supportive of my need for the adventure, but because I had not been back to Podedia to visit since I had left she felt that I had forgotten about her. I began to understand her deep resentment for Xena and her anger. She thought that maybe Xena had replaced Lilla’s spot within my heart. This was far from the truth. It had been that spot within my heart that had ached to see Lilla once again. Xena did have a special place too, but it could never replace the part of me that needed my sister. Then in the hope that I could further comfort my sister’s concerns I declared that I had come home for good because my heart had missed her dearly. Lilla found herself satisfied with this and she forgave me for my mistake.
Soon after our resolution of the heart we heard a shout coming from Meleager. It sounded like he had been attacked. Lilla and I ran back toward the place where we had left him alone. I was certain that he had been taken by the enemy for I had caught wind of a reward for Meleager’s capture by the warlord Romulus in my travels with Xena. His brother had been one of those whom Meleager had killed in his battle at Laguria. The reward had been for 50,000 dinars alive and 20,000 dead. I was certain that Damon had taken Meleager to his camp as I studied the scene of the battle.
Meleager had been attacked by the first man, but he had been able to take the enemy down. But two more men came from behind in a surprise retaliation and knocked him out most likely with the handles of their swords. Then I spotted drag marks. They were the kind made by a litter. I decided that I would go to Damon’s camp to rescue Meleager while Lilla went back to our village to warn of the danger. Our village had to be prepared just in case Meleager had been killed before I reached Damon’s camp. As I followed the marks I decided that I would slow down Damon’s army giving Podedia more time to prepare for their attack. I did not expect to make it back myself, but I knew that Lilla could handle things in my absence. She had grown up so much since I had last seen her.
As I approached the horses I was captured by Damon’s guards and they took me directly to Damon. Of course this worked to my advantage for there I found Meleager who was still alive, but captive. The two of them appeared to be working out a deal regarding the price on Meleager’s head. When Damon asked me what I had been doing roaming around his horses I began to try talking my way out of the situation. Yet when I mentioned the great philosopher Sophocles he seemed very uninterested and decided to have me killed instead. Just before I was about to be cut across the throat by my capture Meleager stepped forward. He declared that if he had a bit more romantic incentive he may be able to be persuaded to join Damon and his army.
And so I was taken to one of the many tents within Damon’s camp. As I awaited my uninvited lover I wondered if I could even trust Meleager. Soon I heard him approaching quite enthusiastic at this turn of events. And then when he came inside his tone changed as he questioned my appearance into Damon’s camp. In that moment I knew that Damon was a true ally. I tried to convince him that I had come to rescue him, but he wasn’t so certain that I had succeeded. Then he asked me if I had a plan. I didn’t, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t come up with one on short notice. Moments later my sharp wit kicked in as Meleager and I staged a performance like no other for the guards outside the tent. We basked in a passionate love scheme though it was strictly for the purpose of performance and escape. My plan worked as the guards became very distracted by the passion which came from within. Meleager was easily able to take them down as we escaped Damon’s camp undetected.
When we returned to Podedia we immediately began to build our defenses within the walls of the village. I of course led the troops rallying everyone including Meleager.  Together we made a great team of warriors. And after all of the necessary preparations had been made we all took turns standing watch for the return of Damon and his army.  Meleager and I were certain that Damon would return with his entire force once he figured out that Meleager and I had escaped.
A day and a night went by. Lilla and I were standing guard during the early morning hours together. Of course she fell asleep on duty. But it did not matter. What was important was that together we were about to defeat the evil which was about to threaten our village. I woke Lilla accidentally startling her. She was disappointed that she had fallen asleep on watch and had thought that maybe I would be angry. But I was not at all angry. Instead I spoke to her of the changes I had seen within her. She was no longer that little sister that needed my guidance. Lilla was a grown young woman able to stand on her own two feet. In fact, she had become extremely assertive and expressive which was a new side to my sister. Yet I liked this side of her and loved her even more.
As Lilla began to watch once more I began to find myself thinking of Xena again. I realized that I had come home hoping to return to a place that no longer existed. My sister no longer needed her big sister to show her the way. I was no longer obligated to marry a farm boy. And I even found that many people were still upset with me for leaving. Then I wondered out loud what Xena would have thought of me and my sister leading our village into battle. Lilla declared that Damon’s army was on its way, but I was still in deep thought. My spirit leapt with true confidence for the first time. Finally Lilla got my attention and declared once more that our battle was about to begin. Quickly I gave my first order asking Lilla to tell Ferris to sound the warning bell.
Then I ran to our home to awaken Meleager, but when I reached his bed he was not there. My heart sank when I realized that he had still not yet recovered from losing is nerve. I was certain to find him back in the tavern drinking, but when I arrived there I only found Ferris and an empty chest. Ferris was certain that Meleager had stolen the money and made a run for the hills. He was ready to give up without Meleager, but I was not. Instead I gathered Lilla and explained to Ferris that sometimes we must expect the unexpected. Xena and I had been through tougher spots than this. We were ready and prepared. But Ferris argued that we were not. He was not willing to stand up and fight. Ferris even went as far as to accuse me of being an outsider to my own home. But my sister stood up to defend me. She gave the most wonderful and uplifting speech to the village.
Lilla explained to everyone that we must all stand up and fight together. She told the village that it had a warrior despite what everyone believed. Lilla declared me to be a worthy warrior who would lead Podedia and its people to victory. She reminded everyone that a student of Xena could be one of the best gifts the village could have. And so I took command once again preparing all to take their battle positions. As Damon’s men came through the village gates they hit our first line of defense. It was a simple contraption which tripped them up knocking them off of their feet. The second line of defense were the hot cauldrons of stew which fell upon their heads. And finally we had the ultimate distraction awaiting Damon’s men. It seemed that no man could resist the offer of a beautiful maiden. As the young women enticed the thieves into the pit of their own despair. Village men, women, and children attacked with pots, pans, pails, and bags of wheat.
The weapons of villagers are simple, but these weapons were enough to ward off Damon’s men. We had won our first battle of defense for we had used the element of surprise in our favor. Damon’s men did not expect a retaliation. They had not expected that simple villagers would stand up and fight for what they valued most. I had learned from Xena that all that is good is worth fighting and defending. Yet I also knew that Damon and his men would regroup and then return more fierce than they had been this time. Ferris was clearly upset that I had led Podedia into this war. He was fearful of what would happen during the next battle. Ferris decided that he was going to go and surrender, but I knew that a surrender would not lead to peace within Podedia for I had seen this kind of evil before.
Suddenly Damon rode into the village and declared that his men prepare to take the village. He scolded them for having been defeated by women, old men, and children. Damon was prepared to destroy my village, but then something spectacular happened. A spear came out of nowhere piercing through the first line of Damon’s men. Every one of them had been struck through the heart by the single weapon. Then it was clear to me where Meleager had gone. He had taken the money to buy the weapons needed to fight this ugly battle. Meleager continued to hurl spears at the enemy as he took out every line of men that stood before us. Then he was left with a one on one confrontation with Damon himself. I fought alongside Meleager hoping to help in any way that I could, but Damon took me down and threatened to slice through my sister, and I with a single hook for his hand.
Just when I thought that it was over for me I took advantage of the rake beneath my feet. I talked through to Damon telling him my feet were limp as I prepared to strike him with the rake. Just before he was about to strike I struck him in the back of the head with the rake beneath my feet. Damon released my sister and threw me violently to the ground. I looked up as he prepared to take my life, but I was saved by Meleager the Mighty. Then I acted rolling out of danger as Meleager took over. He kicked Damon and scolded him for attacking defenseless women. Damon turned away from Meleager talking to distract his foe. Then he reached for his dagger and whipped around to throw it at Meleager.  Meleager acted swiftly dodging the dagger marked for him.  He then pulled his sword into combat against Damon like a true warrior.
Meleager was brave, and mighty as he fought Damon. Yet Damon was tough and skilled. Damon took Meleager’s weapon and knocked Meleager to the ground. Just as Meleager was about to freeze in the face of danger I shouted out to him to rally his confidence. Meleager quickly acted as he kicked Damon’s sword high into the sky flipping his enemy over with his powerful legs. As Damon slammed down upon his back he had little time for his own sword plunged itself into his stomach killing the warlord instantly. For a moment I could see within Meleager’s eyes the regret that a warrior feels upon taking another life, but then I reassured Meleager with a smile.  Meleager the Mighty had defeated evil and that was all that was important. His win had saved more lives than it had taken.
Later that evening there was a celebration for Melaegar who seemed disappointed that he was being honored instead of Podedia’s warrior Gabrielle. Yet I was glad to see that he had returned to his mighty self for it had not been my sword that had taken Damon down. Meleager declared me to be the true warrior. Then he left, but there was still something unsettling within. I sat within the village tavern contemplating how I would tell Lilla that I needed to return to Xena. She would certainly be upset with me for wanting to leave again, but my heart kept telling me that I must go. Then Lilla approached me noticing my mood. When she asked to buy my thoughts with a dinar I told her not to waste her money. But then Lilla handed me my warrior gear a simple bag, bed roll, and staff. She told me that she knew what I must do. She would be sad to see me go, but she was certain that my heart would suffer if I stayed in Podedia. Lilla declared that it was my destiny to do great things alongside the warrior princess the way that I had helped save my own village from ruin. She knew that I loved her, my family, and friends, but Lilla said that I must live my life’s desire for I would regret it if I did not.
My sister was right. She was genuine and supportive. As always she understood me better than anyone ever could. I found it difficult to say good-bye, but it was comforting to know her love was behind me. And so I found myself traveling back down the wooded rocky path of the warrior life in search of Xena once more. Soon danger followed me once more as I met up with the same five rouges I had battled before. In fact, I found that they were in the same place that I had seen them before. In the canyon of the large boulders they awaited me. This time I was alone and they made note. Again they asked me to turn myself over to them without a fight. But I would not. I saw that they had improved their threat. Their cart now had a shield at the bottom so that I could not duck beneath it to safety. This time it was face the cart of sharp stakes without a possible escape.
My heart pounded, but I was ready as I battled against the two rouges behind me. I whipped around and knocked them with my staff. They fell to the ground in defeat. But the leader of the rouges gave his command and the wrath of the cart was released. As it barreled down the hill toward me I charged it without a second thought. Suddenly, I put down my staff and hurled over the top of the cart to safety. My action was followed by a loud crash and then a wave of relief came over me. Yet it lasted for only a short moment as the three remaining rouges pulled their swords ready to battle to the death. Just when I thought I was out numbered the sound of a sharp wisp charged through the air. It was Xena’s silver chackram that had swooped down into the canyon as it took off the sharp edges of each sword that challenged me.
Then I heard Xena’s battle cry as she flipped down into the canyon to join me in the battle. But the enemy ran fearful of their lives. They were certain that they could not go up against the wrath of the great warrior princess. And so I was glad to be on the road again. My heart was singing with the joy of knowing that my journey with Xena to do good was to continue. She was pleased to see how well I had performed under pressure alone. I was surprised to find that I would run into her in the very place that we had parted before. Yet she wasn’t for she had been on her way to Podedia to see how things were going. Then I was full of that warrior excitement for I had not frozen in the face of danger. I had stood alone with the confidence of a budding great warrior.

The Xena Scrolls

By:  Gabrielle Bard of Potedia

Scroll#23:  Death Mask

August, 48 B.C.

 

     I sing of the wrath of vengeance.  Of how it began and of how it could end.  Gabrielle walked alongside Xena and Argo twirling her staff about.  She pondered the skills of the warrior princess with great intrigue for Xena’s warrior talents were extraordinary indeed.  The bard could only find herself dreaming of the possibility to master these skills herself.  As she imagined and tried to work through her mind how it was that the warrior princess could capture an arrow with nothing, but her bare hands.  Xena had never missed.  It was like she always somehow knew when danger was upon her.  Gabrielle found herself desperately trying to understand how the warrior princess could do this.  She came to speak her thoughts aloud.  The warrior princess found herself involved trying to explain to Gabrielle that there was nothing to think about.

      Instead Xena said that the bard must allow her body to listen for the enemy.  To feel its approach was how it was done and not to think about the process.  There was no time for thought in the times of danger.  Only instinct could seemingly save the warrior princess.  Gabrielle still did not understand for she wasn’t so certain that she herself had that warrior instinct.  Yet as the bard tried to listen she heard something not within her ears, but within her body for the first time.  It was from just beyond the trees on the path.  It felt like a crossbow releasing an arrow.  suddenly the bard’s body reacted as she thrust her staff in the air capturing the danger upon its contact with her staff.  Gabrielle found herself shocked that she had heard the danger from within the trees.  Yet there was little time to think for a battle was about to ensue.

     The enemy who had delivered the arrow into the bard’s staff revealed himself to the warrior princess as she flipped into battle.  Xena chose not to fight with her weapon for it was only one man.  She delivered thunderous kicks and blocked the enemy advance.  Then she punched back knocking the enemy to the ground.  As the bard took note of the warrior princess’s weaponless moves she found her body tuning into another intrusion of danger from behind.  Suddenly the bard whipped around behind her to find another approaching enemy.  He had a sword and the enemy was masked in metal just as was the other man Xena had been battling.  The bard blocked his advances with her staff though her enemy carried a sword.  She took the enemy down and then began to run, but the enemy did not stay down.  Instead he rose again to chase the bard down the path.  Gabrielle could feel his presence upon her heels as she prepared another move.  The bard suddenly knelt down and drove her staff into the ground.  Then she jabbed the opposite end up into the stomach of the approaching enemy.  He flipped violently overhead and landed upon his back.

      The bard rose again and prepared to strike again as the enemy struggled to rise once more.  Xena had ended her battle with the other masked man with the sword for he had escalated the fight unable to take her down without a weapon.  Despite his choice the warrior princess still one out for she was a true master swordsman.  Xena had heard the sounds of the battle between the bard and another enemy on down the path and followed those sounds to assist.  Yet when she arrived she found that the bard was doing well on her own.  The warrior princess watched in surprise to see that the bard was beating the tar out of her challenger.  And though Gabrielle was seemingly in control of the situation she reminded Xena that she was still not so certain or full of that warrior confidence.  Once Gabrielle was certain that she had come out of the battle the victor Xena looked down upon the masked victim.

     Her tone quickly changed into a serious one.  It was as if the warrior princess knew this man.  She then declared that he was wearing the mask of Corteese as was the man she had battled against.  When the bard asked Xena who Corteese was the warrior princess replied that he had been the warlord that had sent her down her path of vengeance.  It was Corteese who has sacked the warrior princess’s village so long ago and had taken the life of her beloved brother Lycious.  Gabrielle could see how much the invasion of her village had affected the warrior princess and she could feel the sorrow within the warrior princess’s voice.  The bard began to realize just what it was that had made Xena commit so many wrongs.  Xena was seemingly within a momentary trance as she thought about the distant experience.  Then she boiled over with anger realizing that this was now her chance to avenge the death of her brother who had been killed in the battle against Corteese.

       Suddenly the warrior princess delivered the wrath of her pinch upon the helplessly defeated man.  She demanded information about Corteese and his whereabouts.  The man’s fear overcame him quickly as he declared that Corteese was just down the valley in the next village.  He and his army were attacking there.  After receiving the information Xena quickly removed certain death from her victim.  Then she took off his mask and punched him the nose knocking him unconscious.  It was obvious that the warrior princess did not want to be followed.  Then Xena dashed off upon Argo riding into the village as Gabrielle sprinted behind hoping to keep the pace.

     As they approached the village Xena paused upon Argo surveying the situation below.  It was a cruel reminder of the beginning of a life of darkness and blood.  Yet the warrior princess looked beyond and then rode into the battle.  She drew her sword and began to combat against the men of Corteese’s army.  Most of them were younger than the usual army members.  They were well-trained yet were not accustomed to a challenge.  As the warrior princess jousted with the enemy upon Argo Gabrielle arrived over the valley.  She found herself looking down into the chaos of Corteese’s army.  Women were screaming, and men were being beaten by their wrath.  The bard scanned the scene looking to enter into the battle, but instead she caught sight of a little girl.  She appeared stunned with fear in the middle of the battle.  Her mother screamed for her to return into the shelter of their home, but the girl did not move.  Instead her eyes gazed out across the way to a doll which lied upon the dirt. 

      The little girl then glanced up at the dark enemy approaching upon horseback.  He charged forward toward the doll and Gabrielle knew what would happen next.  Quickly the bard dashed down into the village knowing that she had to save the little girl.  The little girl began to run toward her doll as the bard rushed to rescue her from harm.  Just before the horseman brushed behind the bard she grasped the little girl and rolled away to safety.  The young mother was filled with relief as her daughter had been rescued.  Gabrielle quickly began to engage in combat with her staff as the warrior princess continued to combat upon her horse.  Corteese’s men suddenly began to retreat at the command of their leader.  The bard looked up to see that a patrolling army was riding into the battle.  As she watched the last man from Corteese’s army disappear into battle the captain rode into the village.  Gabrielle shouted a command to the captain of the patrolling army for Corteese’s army was on the verge of their escape into the woods. 

      But the captain did not heed the command for he spoke of being restricted.  He said that his jurisdiction would not allow him to take his men in the woods.  The woods were the boundary and he noted that his army was already being well spent by the province which it was responsible for.  It appeared to the bard that their morale was destroyed and beaten down.  The warrior princess approached the captain as she dismounted from her horse.  He removed his helmet respectfully complementing the warrior princess on her fighting ability.  It was clear that the captain was impressed and could use the kind of help in his battle against the darkness. 

      Xena then asked of the captain more information about his operations and responsibilities to the kingdom.  The captain was obviously very loyal to his king and disappointed that he and his men had been too late once again.  It always seemed that they arrived after a battle against Corteese instead of before.  Corteese always had the upper hand and it was only getting worse.  The warrior princess decided that she and the bard would investigate further.  They followed the trail left by the retreating enemy.  As they walked Gabrielle was still thinking about the moment of impact when she had caught the arrow with her staff.  She was going through the motions of the fresh memory within her mind.  Her body had felt the blood rushing through its veins as if a burst of unsuspecting energy had taken it over.  Gabrielle was still very delighted as she continued to twirl the staff and reenact her proud moment. 

     The warrior princess was not as impressed.  She was barely excited as she tried to remind the bard that to acquire the skills of a brilliant warrior it takes a lot of trial and error.  Gabrielle found herself slightly offended that the warrior princess did not believe in her ability.  Then she held up a hypothetical challenge.  She asked Xena what the odds were if she were to take ten arrows from the warrior princess.  Gabrielle was certain that she would perform well under such a test.  And of course the warrior princess agreed that the bard would perform well; however, there was the reminder that her skills were far from perfect.  In fact, the warrior princess was confident that the bard would at least be able to capture nine out of ten arrows.  Yet if there was one arrow that the bard could not catch then that was one too many for it would be marked for her death.  And so the argument was won by the cunning warrior princess and her point was once again made clear to the bard.

     Soon the warrior princess and the bard spotted a lone masked warrior standing upon the hill near the trees.  He stood motionless as if he were about to strike yet he did not move.  Gabrielle inquired of the warrior princess of his intentions yet Xena was just as uncertain.  Then Xena asked the bard to wait as she approached the man for a confrontation.  The warrior princess pulled her sword ready for a duel, but received a great surprise.  This masked warrior from Corteese’s ranks unmasked himself upon the threat of being slaughtered at the end of Xena’s sword.  He then asked if it was the intention of the warrior princess to kill her brother.  Suddenly the bard found herself confused and intrigued for the warrior princess had told her earlier that her brother had been killed by Corteese. 

      Then the warrior princess answered the bard’s sudden inquiry revealing that she had two brothers.  This was her brother Toris who did not die in the battle against Corteese.  There was something very awkward about the situation between the two siblings.  It appeared as if they were rivals.  Xena seemed irritated that her brother would ride with the enemy while Toris’s emotion was not so simple to understand.  Toris explained to his inquiring sister of his reasons for riding with Corteese’s army.  He explained that he had been with them for a short time after having searched for several years to find Corteese.  His plan a simple one.  Toris wanted to get in close with Corteese’s army and to gain their trust.  His hope was to one day be face to face with Corteese so that he could have his final revenge with the warlord.  It seemed a noble idea to the bard at first until she realized that Toris was overcome with vengeance.  Gabrielle was pleased that Xena was convinced that justice was a better punishment than blood.

     Yet as the three traveled together they set up camp.  Things were very quiet between the two siblings as Gabrielle started a fire and tried to cook the dinner that Xena had hunted.  It was obvious to the bard that neither party was eager to speak to the other for they held within them grudging actions.  Gabrielle could understand Xena’s disappointment within her brother because he was riding with Corteese, but she did not understand what Toris’s grude was about.  The bard tried desperately to get them to speak to one another.  She even tried to relate to their situation by comparing it to some of the monstrous rivalry she had had with her own sister Lilla.  Gabrielle’s point was that no grude was worth turning away a brother or a sister no matter what it entailed.  The warrior princess reluctantly caught onto the bard’s insinuations as she opened the conversation harshly.  She inquired of the assassin that her brother Toris had become.  He was equally enraged however.  He shot back blaming Xena for the loss of their brother Lycious.

     Toris blamed his sister for deciding to go up against Corteese’s army.  He had preferred and chosen to run away into the hills.  Toris could barely tolerate his sister’s decision to create an army out of their village in its time of need.  He blamed her for many of those who had been taken on that fateful day which obviously changed the course of both of their lives.  They had both loved their younger brother Lycious very much and each of them had mourned their loss in different ways.  Xena had chosen to move on and forward despite her constant venture to seek out and find Corteese and bring him to justice.  The bard very much agreed with Xena’s way for it was based upon the good.  Toris’s justice was built upon the darkness of vengeance.  As the two argued Gabrielle offered dinner asking Toris how he liked his meat.  The warrior princess interrupted the break in the tension adding that drumsticks were Toris’s preference.  It was obvious to Gabrielle that she was not able to break through the tension.  Yet she was very upset that she was unable to help her best friend and Toris mend their differences and their pasts.

     Then the warrior princess asked the bard if she would go check on Argo.  For a moment Gabrielle was disappointed that the warrior princess had asked her to leave yet she realized that it was best for the current situation.  Xena and Toris needed some time together to sort through their differences.  The bard headed toward Argo yet could not resist eavesdropping from beyond the trees and the brush.  She heard Xena ask Toris how close he had come to Corteese.  It was in that moment that her prideful brother revealed that he had not really been traveling with Corteese’s army for very long.  Although he was quite confident that he would soon be face to face with Corteese.  It was obvious to Xena that her brother knew little about the dealings of the warlord.  His vengeance would not be enough to defeat their common enemy. 

     The warrior princess was then told by Toris that he wanted her to stay out of it, but Xena would not allow it.  She was not at all afraid to face the warlord yet Toris was seemingly uncertain.  The warrior princess suggested that they go to Corteese’s camp together.  She wanted to investigate the situation further.  Although her brother was against it there was nothing he could do to keep Xena from her warrior way.  So the two went off to visit Corteese together with Xena posing as his prisoner.  When they arrived at Corteese’s camp Xena discovered just how little Toris had accomplished.  He had yet to win the respect of his surrounding peers let alone that of his commander Malik.  Malik was most certainly in control.  He would not allow Toris to deliver the warrior princess to Corteese directly.  Toris desperately tried to argue with Malik, but received little recognition.  He was treading upon dangerous waters and the warrior princess knew it.  She was taken by Malik as he prepared to have her for his own pleasures before he was to take her to Corteese. 

      Then Malik went back outside of his tent to deal with the unruly Toris.  He wanted to make certain that Toris knew who was truly in command.  Malik made it very clear to Toris that he was worth little to Corteese’s army and would not have the respect of anyone within it.  As Toris continued to argue with Malik Xena escaped her weak binds using her breast dagger.  Once she had freed herself she began to investigate the tent.  It was obviously a commanders tent yet there was no sign of Corteese.  Yet the warrior princess found something much more interesting.  She found three stool pigeons and royal notes which had been carried directly from the king’s castle.  Before she could seek more information she heard the argument between Toris and Malik coming to an end.  Toris was being expelled from camp and given an unltimatum not to return.

     When Malik returned inside the tent his passions were ready to for action to the dismay of the warrior princess.  She had concealed her free hands appearing as if she were still bound by the ropes.  As Malik prepared to unleash his lusts upon the warrior princess he asked that they not waste time.  The warrior princess then took advantage of his lustful passions knocking him with a bloody nose unconscious.  Then she returned to Toris who was still defeated and almost embarrassed by his failure.  But Xena would not allow him to pity himself.  Soon the two of them returned to camp where Gabrielle awaited their arrival.  They were arguing again, but it seemed to the bard that Toris was the one who was constantly raging.  He was once again scolding the warrior princess for leading their brother Lycious and many of their friends to their deaths against Corteese.   Yet the warrior princess seemed past that.  Instead she was focused on the formulation of a new plan.  Always focused the warrior princess was putting her emotions aside.  Gabrielle found the need to defend her friend if Xena would not defend herself. 

      She spoke up declaring that she would be practicing her staff moves despite Xena’s choice to have Gabrielle stay behind at the village.  Gabrielle wanted to go along with Xena and Toris to storm the castle, but she knew when to push Xena and when not to.  The bard demonstrated openly to Toris her dissatisfaction with being asked to stay behind for safety reasons for there was never a time while traveling with Xena that was safe.  She reminded the warrior princess of this.  Xena found herself slightly amused at the bard’s show of confidence and bravery.  but Toris was even more upset with his sister.  He feared that Xena had tainted the bard with her passions of the sword.  Toris argued with the bard that it wasn’t the truth of her own passions, but the bard felt differently.  Her confidence had come through all of the wonderful lessons that she had learned from the warrior princess, and there was never a moment in which the bard had felt that the warrior princess had faltered.  In fact, when she had asked Toris how many men Xena had to be up against to return safely to them he declared that there were at least fifteen.  Gabrielle had seen Xena go up against many more than a mere fifteen men.  She had been confident in Xena’s ability.  Gabrielle knew Xena well despite the dangers she always returned to her side, but Toris’s confidence was barely present.  The bard almost could not see the family relation except for the dark hair and the piercing blue eyes.  Soon Xena and Toris were off leaving the bard to return to the village alone.

      While at the village the bard made a new young friend and decided that she would practice capturing arrows with her staff.  Her new-found recruit was happy to shoot some arrows for training without their sharp tips.  And though the bard went through many hours of trial she still found herself unable to prove that the warrior princess had been wrong about the odds.  In fact, the warrior princess had actually given Gabrielle the benefit of the doubt to Gabrielle’s dismay.  Yet the bard was still determined to master the skill of capturing the flying arrows.  As she prepared to face another her body suddenly felt something.  She turned to face the arrows only to find that Xena had returned to with her brother.  Xena informed the bard of what they had found at the castle.  The revelation was shocking for they had discovered that the king was none other than Corteese himself.  She also asked that a gathering of villagers be put together so that she could announce to them all that she had found to be true of their king.

     Corteese was using the cover of his masked army to attack all of the villages within his own kingdom.  No one even suspected that they would be one in the same.  Not only that, but the king was taxing his people to death proclaiming that their taxes were going toward the war effort.  The kingdom’s armed guard was being exploited by the king himself for the sake of a profit.  Corteese was quite delighted with his accomplishments within his new-found power and with the warrior princess which he had so successfully created.  In fact, Corteese had plans for the warrior princess.  He wanted to exploit her as well so that he could build a bit of moral for his defeated army that could seemingly never capture the enemy.  Corteese’s business was excellent, but it was clear that Xena could not allow it to go on. 

     Despite Toris’s determination to prove his courage and worth again he put the two in danger at the castle against Corteese.  Their weapons had been taken and Xena’s chackram stolen by Corteese, but they managed to escape through a window within Corteese’s well managed chambers.  The warlord was so ingenious that he had many secret traps and weapons hidden within the walls of his castle at his disposal.  It was amazing that the warrior princess and her brother had escaped alive.  Of course Toris was still arguing with the warrior princess over the issue of justice or vengeance.  Gabrielle once again stood up for the warrior princess and again demonstrated her willingness to be a part of what Xena wanted to accomplish in the face of danger.  Justice was the answer to this tragedy and not vengeance.  Suddenly Toris found himself overshadowed by a young peasant girl from Potedia and he felt defeated.  Then Toris stormed off leaving Gabrielle to wonder what the real issue was within Xena’s brother’s heart.  The warrior princess followed him closely for she needed his help now more than ever.  He could not give up now.  She aimed to encourage Toris that he had made the choices that were right for him and the choices that he thought were for the best.

      Before Xena could get through Toris’s deep emotional scars she was interrupted by an urgent message from the villagers.  When Xena returned to the village she found Gabrielle desperately trying to defend the warrior princess.  Gabrielle declared that despite their fears of being attacked again it was the warrior princess who had saved them all from devastation before.  Yet these villagers were not comforted by the fact that the bard and her warrior friend were there to defend them.  With the king declaring that the warrior princess be turned over to him it made the villagers uneasy.  Xena stepped into the conversation trying to explain to them that their king and Corteese were one in the same man.  Gabrielle declared that they would just have to stand up and fight, but Xena chose otherwise.  She explained to the bard that one must only stand up and fight when the time was right.  If Corteese wanted to duel against Xena then it would be at the castle and not within the village.

     Suddenly Xena was warned by the village messenger once again only this time it was a warning concerning her brother.  Despite the warrior princess’s efforts to convince him that his choices had been the only choices that he could have made within his past and within his present he was determined to prove himself.  Toris had  decided that he would go off alone and storm the camp and take control of Corteese’s army.  The warrior princess followed her brother’s path and allowed him to fall into his own mistake.  She realized that he would not learn unless he failed attempting his vengeance.  Xena desperately wanted to spare her brother from the mistakes that she had made within her own life.  Toris was tortured and beaten by Malik and the others and then tied to a tree covered with oil.  Xena knew that this was a trap laid out for her.  It was what she had expected of the army of Corteese. 

     When she arrived at Toris’s side he warned her of the trap, but she had already known.  Instead she tried to free him from his binds and comfort him and his heart.  She was no longer upset with him realizing that he was only as lost as she felt almost every day of her life since the loss of their brother Lycious.  As she prepared to free Toris she was confronted by Malik and his archers ready to shoot with their fiery weapons.  Malik returned to the warrior princess a blow that had given him a bruised ego.  Yet the warrior princess did not allow him to end with the satisfaction for she returned another blow just as nasty.  As Malik’s archers rose their weapons to fire he called them down for he was certain that Corteese would deal with them.  And so Xena allowed herself and Toris to be captured.

     Upon their arrival to the castle they were taken into Corteese’s dungeon.  Again Xena tried to comfort her brother.  He was so confused inside and regretting that he ever gotten Xena involved within his quest for vengeance.  It was in this moment that the warrior princess tried to explain to her brother the evils of vengeance and of how they had taken away so much of her own life.  She expressed great regret as she explained how it had all began.  Xena spoke of her dream to create the army that would defend their village forever from the spoils of hungry warlords like Corteese.  Yet somehow through all of that she had lost herself within vengeance and blood lust. 

     Then there was the problem of escaping the dungeon.  It had been very simple to gain passage into the castle.  Xena tried to enter her brother’s mind into a constructive plan of escape, but just when all seemed hopeless their opportunity arrived.  The captain of the king’s army was a very loyal and just man.  He had caught word that the two prisoners were to be executed upon the next day by fire.  The captain did not believe in such a punishment despite the crime.  He had come to let them know that he would be sure to make their deaths quick with information on where he could find Corteese.  The warrior princess knew that he would not believe the truth of his king so as she revealed the powers upon the throne Toris made his move taking down the captain with his free feet. 

     Xena disarmed him with her own kick and used her feet to free her from the chains which bound her wrists above.  With the sword of the captain between her feet she was able to escape and release Toris as well.  Once they had regained control Xena was warned by the captain that they would never leave the castle alive.  Yet the warrior princess was not planning on leaving the castle without what they had come for.  She declared that the captain tell them were they could find the king.  The captain was then reluctant as he told of the archery fields outside the castle walls.  Xena then sent Toris to take care of that matter knowing that the captain was not telling the truth.  Yet it diverted Toris from his chance at vengeance for the warrior princess was certain that Toris still seeked it.

     And so the captain took the warrior princess to the king’s throne where she found him basking in the glory of the chackram.  But there was only one true warrior that could tame its wrath and that was Xena.  With the reluctant help of the captain Xena was able to capture Corteese.  As she went outside she found that the battle she had intended was in full action.  Gabrielle had arrived just in time to battle within the action.  Once the bard had received word that the warrior princess and Toris had been captured she was on her way to the castle.  She battled alongside Toris who had discovered that Xena had distracted him from his vengeance once again.  She had also stirred things up bringing together the two biggest rivals within the kingdom.  Corteese’s army and the king’s army battled it out for the first time.  It was a fair fight and the king’s men were winning.

     Xena took advantage of the situation as she hoisted Corteese upon a post within the castle entrance as she instructed the captain to join the battle the battle with his men.  The warrior princess of course could not resist as she entered alongside her brother.  They began with swordplay mirror each other’s moves.  Clashing with the enemy they moved onto hand to hand combat against the true enemy.  They flipped in unison as Xena gave out her battle cry kicking their enemies and then reversing the move gracefully.  It was as if they had been alongside one another for years despite the absence in each other’s lives.  Soon the captain and his army were outside in the castle courtyard to fight, but did not know who they should be fighting.  All of the action suddenly stopped for neither army expected to see the other.  They had come to fight Xena from the messages by pigeons, but as their leader king Corteese hung helplessly in the castle foyer Xena declared that he ask his dark army to surrender their weapons. 

     Corteese refused Xena’s command.  He called out to his armies to kill Xena.  Xena then took two swords from the ground and hurled them in the direction of king Corteese.  They landed squarely into the castle walls one on each side of Corteese’s head.  The fear within his eyes was evidence that the warrior princess was truly in control.  Then she drew her chackram and made one last threat.  She told Corteese he had only one more chance before his life would be taken by her chackram.  As she pulled it up preparing to strike Corteese finally gave up his charade and revealed that he was the real Corteese.  When he gave the command for the dark army to drop their weapons all obeyed except for his commander Malik.  Malik was outraged and felt betrayed as he rushed forward toward the king.  He was prepared to have his blood and his vengeance, but was stopped short with a thrust by the captain’s sword through his stomach.  Although the captain had been betrayed by his king he still stood loyal protecting the king until his end. 

     Then Toris expressed his anger for the warrior princess had taken his vengeance from him with her justice.  Xena found herself frustrated with Toris’s uncontrollable emotional rage.  She decided to give him what he had been asking for.  The warrior princess then approached the helpless victim and took him down from his capture for execution.  There was fear within the warlord’s eyes.  He was about to receive vengeful justice for the murder of Lycious.  Toris then took a weapon and approached his victim from behind.  He raised the sword above his victim preparing to thrust it through the skull of the evil warlord.  Yet just before he was about to kill the helpless warlord Toris stopped.  He let go of his vengeance dropping his sword to the ground.  Xena then approached her brother and whispered in his ear assuring him that Lycious would have been proud.  And so Xena and Toris left Corteese with the captain for his final justice to be carried out.  It was now out of their hands.

     Toris found himself thanking the warrior princess for being there for him, and for showing him the truth in what was right.  He also expressed to his sister how much he had missed her in all the time that they had been apart.  Toris’s next adventure was to take him back home.  He encouraged the warrior princess to come along with him.  Xena had already decided that it wasn’t time for her to return to the peace of home for she and Gabrielle had so much more to do.  The warrior princess assured her brother that their mother would be happy.  Then she asked that he tell their mother that he had seen Xena.  Though Gabrielle knew how much the warrior princess wished to express how much she loved her mother.  There was still much shame within the warrior princess.  She had much shame for her own vengeance.  Yet she had been able to save her brother Toris from the terrible fate of a vengeance beyond control.  And though one sibling had made the right choice for himself to heal the other was still far from healing despite all the good that she has done.

The Xena Scrolls
By: Gabrielle Bard of Potedia
Scroll #24: The Greater Good

September, 48 B.C.

Gabrielle a bard in training. Working diligently with her staff attempting to perfect the art of the warrior. Her victim was Xena’s noble horse Argo as she moved forward across, over, and back with the staff in the face of her four-legged enemy. Argo and Gabrielle were constantly at odds seemingly competing for the affections of the warrior princess. It was very well-known to the bard that Argo was number one though Gabrielle fought for the spot with great conviction. Just when Gabrielle finished her move and was certain to be victorious in her training session before the great white enemy she heard Xena call out to her faithful horse. Suddenly Argo called back the way only a horse could. Gabrielle suddenly realized what was coming next, but before she could move to defend Argo disarmed the bard with a swift back kick sending the staff flying a great distance.
Then Xena emerged as Gabrielle complained that she would never learn the art of her staff if she were constantly interrupted by jokes shared only between Xena and Argo. Xena walked over to Argo and began stroking her horse as she held Argo’s reigns. Then the warrior princess whispered that one must have patience with those who annoy them. Gabrielle had retrieved her staff from its resting place and was securing it away into Argo’s saddle bag. Her response to Xena was clearly that it wasn’t that Argo annoyed the bard, but that Argo did not particularly like Gabrielle. Xena then spoke up and declared that she had not been talking to Gabrielle, but Argo when she had spoken of the annoyance. Suddenly the bard found herself annoyed and feeling belittled by the relationship between the warrior princess and her mighty white steed.
Xena had decided that she would leave the two of them alone together hoping that they could make amends and learn to like each other. Then the warrior princess whispered into Argo’s ear asking her horse to give the bard a fair chance while she was not present. Xena then left the bard alone with Argo as she went to seek out a nearby well. When the warrior princess approached the well she found herself relieved for she had needed to quench her thirst. Water had been scarce during the recent season and just as the warrior princess was about to bask in its cool essence someone came out of the woods from behind and called out to her. This startled the warrior princess momentarily as she spun around spilling her cup of paradise. The visitor was a young girl warning of the warlord Talmadeaous who had declared war upon her village. Talmadeous seeked to find Lord Seltzer who was a prominent and well-loved figure within her village. The young girl pleaded with the warrior princess for her help. Xena quickly acted realizing that her next mission was calling.
As Gabrielle tried very hard to get to know Argo better she decided to try easing her way back onto Argo’s saddle. Before Xena had left she had told Gabrielle to be sure that Argo’s saddle was tight which meant that the bard should try warming up to Argo. Gabrielle carefully stroked Argo’s neck and spoke to Xena’s horse softly. Then she stepped one foot into the stirrup, and began to rise to the triumph she seeked. Just as the bard was about to rest easily upon Argo’s saddle for a ride Xena whistled for Argo to come to her. Argo quickly ignored the bard’s efforts to become faithful friends as she quickly reacted to her command and discarded Gabrielle violently back onto the ground. The bard felt a sharp pain in the back of her neck as she landed upon her back and knocked her head down onto the ground. Gabrielle became infuriated at Argo’s lack of courtesy as she rose to curse the four-legged enemy. Yet before the bard could respond Argo had disappeared into the woods in pursuit of her true friend Xena.
As always the warrior princess and Argo had left Gabrielle in the dust charging off into another adventure. Gabrielle was only left with the hooves to followed as she tracked them down into the next village. There the bard witnessed the end result of a battle between the warrior princess and the army of Talmadeous. It was clear by the celebration that Xena had defeated the army as they fled the scene. Gabrielle also caught sight of the salesman known as Salmoneous. He was very excited to see Xena and welcomed her into the village with appreciation and open arms. The last time the bard had seen him they had spent a lot of time in Zercies dungeon yet it had been his fault for arguing with the bard over some tomatoes. This time Salmoneous seemed much happier and vibrant in his step. He was now the leader of this small village as he had suckered them into working for his own interests.
As Xena threw her arm around his shoulder she shouted out his name loudly, but Salmoneous asked that he be known as Lord Seltzer. Xena found herself to be amused that he was the well-loved Lord Seltzer. She was almost irritated that it had been the knifing salesman that she had dashed off to save. When Gabrielle joined into the conversation she asked Salmoneous how he had been able to do it. Salmoneous explained that Lord Seltzer had caused this little village to grow and to prosper in a way that it had never done before. He explained that his product was the thing that gave everyone their kick. Of course as always he was pitching his product, but Gabrielle grabbed one of the sacred bottles of his miracle product only to discover that it was seltzer water. Naturally the skilled salesman continued to defend the legitimacy of his product yet the people of this village seemed happy and as bubbly as the seltzer they consumed.
Xena then asked Salmoneous what Talmadeous had against Lord Seltzer. She asked him what kind of products he had sold to the warlord to make him want to go after the salesman. At first Salmoneous delcared that he had never done a single transaction with the warlord. He continued managing his willing staff all the while. But Xena knew that a warlord like Talmadeous would not go after a single salesman without a just cause despite the reputation. Finally Salmoneous broke his silence explaining that there was just one transaction. It had been a sale of talgamite swords and belt buckles to Talmadeous and his army. Suddenly Xena knew exactly what had happened for talgamite had the appearance of strong metal until it was exposed to the element of water. Salmoneous continued to defend his products and sales as he explained that things would have worked out beautifully had it not rained on the day of the big battle.
Then the great Lord Seltzer was called away by his people. It was clear to the warrior princess that the people of this small village would not be safe as long as they worshipped and protected Lord Seltzer. And if that was to be then Xena had to be certain to disband Talmadeous and his army for they would continue to return and sack the village until they got the return for their losses.
Soon Xena, Gabrielle, and Argo were on their way to track down Talmadeous and his army. They followed the trail of evidence which led them to their enemy. Xena instructed Gabrielle to wait in the brush while she took on the small-scale army. Xena walked alongside Argo quietly. The two were just behind Talmadeous’s unsuspecting army. No one noticed that Xena and Argo were there though they blended into the group quite well. The warrior princess smiled with delight as she listened in on the plans to rid Talmadeous of her presence in the village. Then she decided that it was time to show herself although she had been visible the entire time. She called out to Talmadeous who rode at the head. The warrior princess waved to him candidly and then smiled again.
Talmadeous’s face reacted with anger as he commanded his men to attack his annoying enemy. The men charged forward with their weapons attempting to take out the warrior princess, but instead she flipped forth giving her battle cry which signaled the fight was on. She did not choose her weapon to defeat the twenty men before her. Instead she spun forward with the speed and agility of the gods delivering punches and fury along the lines. Talmadeous’s men were no match for the warrior princess as they fell to the ground like fruit tumbling out of the wagon at the market. This effortless defeat without a single clash of the sword drove Talmadeous into a rage. He turned about to face his enemy jumping off of his horse and readying his sword to battle the warrior princess.
Xena was up for the challenge as she drew her own sword. Then the duel was begun as their mighty swords clashed like thunder. It was as if the power of Zues could be felt by all who witnessed the battle. Surprisingly Talamadeous was stronger and more skilled than any of the other warlords that she had seen Xena go up against. The two struggled within their brawn and muscle as they disarmed each other in a stalemate. Xena went for her sword and rose to take her enemy, but just as she was about to strike back he kicked her through her stomach. The mighty warrior princess fell back as if unable to sustain the power of the blow. This seemed unusual to the bard for a kick to the stomach and rib area was not usually that serious.
Quickly the battle went into the favor of the warlord as he continued to charge forward laughing as he discovered that Xena was suddenly weakened. Gabrielle did not understand and became very concerned that Xena seemed unable to fight back. The warrior princess continued to take blow after blow as if she could not see or even stay focused. Her legs gave out as she received another kick Her sword was lost to her now as she frantically searched with her hand. Talmadeous was certain of his victory as he declared death upon the warrior princess. There was fear within Xena’s eyes that Gabrielle had never seen within them before. The bard knew this was serious and could not allow the warrior princess to be killed by Talmadeous. Gabrielle suddenly entered into the battle against the warlord to save her friend’s life. The bard sprung up from her place in the brush and ran toward Talmadeous. Then she launched her staff through the air disarming Talmadeous with an accurate blow.
She ran to the aid of the fallen warrior princess as Xena struggled to whistle a command for Argo. Argo came out of her own station in the brush and joined Xena and Gabrielle. The bard helped the warrior princess struggle to her feet as Xena grabbed for Argo’s saddle. Gabrielle held onto the other side and then signaled for Argo to take them away from the dangerous enemy. Soon Argo had taken the friends back to the safety of the village. Xena was escorted immediately to Lord Seltzer’s factory where Gabrielle removed the warrior princess’s armor and scolded her friend harshly for keeping her health a secret. The warrior princess halted Gabrielle’s frustrations with her secret. Then Xena explained to Gabrielle that while battling Talmadeous’s army initially to free the village from its terror she was hit by a poison dart that came from an origin unknown. Xena described it as having traveled beyond the trees a short distance from the gates of the village. The dart had not been fired by the men of Talmadeous’s army. Gabrielle then became concerned asking the warrior princess to reveal how serious her situation was. Xena spoke of how her legs were no longer functioning and that she did not actually know the seriousness of the poison. The warrior princess continued with the bad news by explaining that things would get much worse before they would get much better. She expected her arms to go next. Gabrielle’s concern shifted to worry as she looked to Xena for certainty, but Xena could not offer it to her this time.
Salmoneous entered into the conversation with grave concern over the new turn of events. He was cowardly as always and thinking of only himself. Salmoneous questioned Xena and Gabrielle demanding to know who would lead the next battle against Talmadeous and his army when they returned. The warrior princess soon looked to Gabrielle for she had the most amazing idea. She explained that they had to make it look as if the warrior princess was healthy. Although Talmadeous believed otherwise Xena had confidence that her loyal friend Gabrielle could pull off the miracle. Gabrielle found herself the volunteer of a charade like no other before it. The warrior princess asked her friend to put on the powerful armor which protected her in every battle.
Gabrielle was reluctant yet soon taken by the excitement of playing the part of the warrior princess she admired most. As the bard put on the leather suit she basked in the glory and the feeling of the leather arm bands with the gold-plated armor. The heavy leather boots ran away with her imagination. And the gold-plated leather knee pads slid like a glove over the bard’s knees. Every piece of the warrior suit seemed to fit snuggly and perfectly upon the bard until she reached the mighty golden breast-plate. As Gabrielle hooked the bronze latches together she looked up with a grin toward her mentor as Xena smiled with delight. Suddenly one of the bronze latches released itself and the breast-plate fell down a bit. The bard was disappointed that her breasts were unable to carry the golden plate with the same pride as those of the warrior princess, but it could be adjusted. Gabrielle summoned Salmoneous over to make the proper adjustments.
He tied the leather pieces from behind the shiny leather body suit and asked Gabrielle with her hair dyed black whether or not she could do Xena’s battle cry. It was obvious that the seltzer king was not confident of Xena’s plan. Gabrielle gave it a try, but it didn’t quite have the same power and the same zest as did the warrior princess. Then he tightened the strings on the suit even more as Gabrielle tried once again. The suit was suddenly too tight as the bard squeaked out another battle cry. Salmoneous declared that the second cry would be much more convincing than the first one. Then Xena summoned Gabrielle to her side once again. The bard joined Xena as Xena gave her a wooden chackram knowing that only the hand of the warrior princess could tame its wrath.
Then Xena looked into Gabrielle’s eyes with assurance, yet with a message of caution. She spoke softly asking the bard to remember that riding into this next battle against Talmedeous would be different from any other battle that the bard had fought in before. Xena reassured Gabrielle of her confidence in her student, yet she warned Gabrielle that she must understand her own limits despite the skills she had obtained. Gabrielle understood this as she looked to the warrior princess for guidance always. The bard knew better than to go against what the warrior princess said. Xena’s words had always been the right words. Her actions seemed always to understand the duty. Gabrielle could see that her friend’s condition was becoming more difficult. The bard longed to be able to offer some kind of comfort to the warrior princess, but Xena then reminded her that this was no longer about her own well-being. Xena spoke of something she called the greater good. The greater good meant that every battle that Xena every entered into she was reminded of all the villagers and innocents she had victimized in her dark past. She told the bard that she always went into battle knowing that she may die for the greater good. That was what mattered most to the warrior princess and she urged the bard to understand this.
Gabrielle struggled to understand how someone could put a random cause and a random village before one’s own survival. But then she realized that was what made the warrior princess do good. It was what made Xena a great warrior. The greater good was the driving force within the heart of the warrior princess and it was the light which Xena could see and understand within. Then Xena told Gabrielle that she would most likely have to ride into battle to make things more convincing. Gabrielle was against the idea of teaming up with Argo for their relationship had always been rocky. Yet Xena urged Gabrielle to give Argo another chance. The warrior princess had faith in Argo’s own sense of loyalty. She was certain Argo would be there for Gabrielle in battle as she always had been for Xena. Then Xena asked Gabrielle if she had ever had a pet. Gabrielle spoke of the pony she once had whose name was Tymany. Xena tried to ease the bard’s nerves as she allowed the bard to talk about her pony. Then Xena asked Gabrielle if she had left Tympany with Lilla back home. Sadly Gabrielle reported that Tympany had left her behind in death one day when she had become very ill. Xena then urged Gabrielle on toward her duty to the greater good.
Gabrielle went outside to join Argo. There was a bit of excitement in the air for she found it very easy to climb upon the tall steed. Argo was patient with the nervous bard and then Gabrielle gave a whistle hoping to command Argo to ride into battle. But Argo did not ride. Instead Argo sat down as Salmoneous watched in despair of the mistake. Then Salmoneous tried to help by giving his version of the call to battle. Salmoneous was able to get Argo to rise once again and with a second unexpected whistle Argo dashed forth through the gates of the village with Gabrielle to face danger. Talmadeous and his army were camped very close to the village now as Gabrielle and Argo approached riding into battle triumphantly.
The two of them working together had taken Talmadeous and his army by surprise on their way back to camp. Gabrielle waved her staff in the air as she gave the warning of Xena’s battle cry. The blood rushed through her body as the anticipation of her enemy’s next move was present. Argo halted before the unsuspecting army as they could not believe what they had seen standing tall before them. Talmedeous’s men seemed confused for they were certain that Xena was unable to fight. Yet there she was the dark warrior woman. Gabrielle began to heed warnings to the enemy threatening to use her chackram against them. Talmedaeous’s men were not fearful of the resurrection of the fallen warrior princess. Instead they charged forth. Just as Gabrielle tried to give the command to ride Argo again knelt down. The bard found herself falling out of character, but she covered her mistake by declaring that she bowed to her enemy before she would strike him down.
The bard tried once again to give the correct command. She finally found it and Argo shot back up and dashed forth through Talmadeous’s troups. Gabrielle gave the battle cry once more waiving her staff in the air leading the army back toward the village in a chase. There awaiting Talmadeous’s army was a force of new warriors ready to defend and to attack. As Gabrielle rode in she positioned the enemy and declared that they had only one more chance to surrender to the wrath of the warrior princess. Talmadeous’s men were fearless in the face of their tall dark enemy as they charged forward. Gabrielle then pulled her wooden chackram and hurled out toward the enemy.
The warrior princess though weak and barely able to hold herself up peeked out from the door of the factory and threw out the real round weapon that took Talmadeous’s army by surprise. Then the weapon returned to the hand of its commander as Xena then gave another command to the newly built village army. The villagers came out of hiding with their seltzer weapons and fired upon their enemy. Talmadeous’s men were unprepared for this force. It was the force of a will known only by those who embraced the good. Then a second line of seltzer fighters advanced delivering another surprise attack. The first line of fighters charged forward in hand to hand combat which ended quickly as the army of Talmadeous fled from battle.
For the moment it looked as if good had won out over evil yet the evil was not yet eradicated. Gabrielle soon returned to Xena’s side seeing that the warrior princess was even more weak than she had been before Argo had taken Gabrielle into battle. The bard became saddened once more for she was afraid of losing her friend. Xena once again assured the young student that the best thing that she could do was continue on fighting. She expressed the feeling of duty to the greater good once more reminding the bard that it was their only reason for being in the village with Lord Seltzer’s people.
Salmoneous appeared once more to congratulate Xena for the success of their first battle without her mighty skills. Xena advised Salmoneous that he must not only be concerned for his seltzer products, but that he must also be mindful of his people. Salmoneous shrugged off the warrior princess’s request still unable to grasp the concept of the greater good. He then continued to command his workers as if the war had already been won. Then Xena asked Gabrielle to do something for her. She requested that if the end was to come for her then she wanted to be taken home to Amphipolis. Xena’s last wish was to be buried alongside her brother Lycious. Gabrielle understood, but held onto her hope that Xena would pull through this. Then Xena gave Gabrielle some new weapons to use in a second attack against Talmadeous. Again Gabrielle would have to play the part riding into Talmadeous’s camp with Argo. Xena hoped that duty would easy the bard’s worry. Gabrielle’s confidence had been secured after succeeding in the first battle as Xena the warrior princess. The bard then took the weapons provided to her and went off with Argo once more.
She and Argo set up an attack point just outside of Talmadeous’s camp where she prepared to launch the fire bombs that Xena had given her. Once the weapons were ready Gabrielle gave out the battle cry and then began to launch the fire balls into Talmadeous’s camp to disrupt their confidence. The goal was to be sure that Talmadeous would think twice about going up against the warrior princess again. After attacking with all of the available weapons Gabrielle jumped up upon Argo as the rode into Talmedaeous’s camp storming the distraught soldiers. Men scrambled in chaos to stop the fires which had attacked their camp. Gabrielle gave another prideful battle cry swinging her staff in the air in triumph.
Just as the warrior was about to ride through the camp and leave Talmadeous behind she was stopped by a counter attack as Argo was spooked by Talmadeous. Argo threw the warrior off her saddle into a troph of chilling water. Gabrielle desperately tried to recover quickly hoping that she had not lost her momentum and advantage. But it was clear to Talmadeous that this was not the warrior princess who has been wreaking havoc with his men. Talmadeous pulled the bard from the water and laughed. He could not believe that he and his men had allowed the young girl to fool them so easily. Yet Talmadeous was impressed with the spirit of the bard as she tried desperately to talk him out of taking her life.
Talmadeous explained that soon he would send company with her into death so that they could join together in the ride upon the boat of Charon. Just as the dark force was about to take his victim Argo leaped into action. She began delivering kicks of furious rage knocking down a dozen of Talmadeous’s men. Talmadeous was outraged by the bravery of the horse and the bard. He demanded that the horse be killed. Argo had saved Gabrielle’s life the way she had been there for Xena many times before. As Gabrielle rushed to rejoin her new comrade she knew that they could be true friends. Then she gave the command and Argo escaped the wrath of Talmadeous with Gabrielle upon her saddle. The new friends rode out together as Gabrielle gave another triumphant battle cry.
The excitement of being the warrior princess and wearing her armor was intense. Yet Gabrielle knew that their situation was dire for now their cover had been blown. She rushed back to the village with Argo to warn Xena of the danger which was about to engulf the village. Her sense of duty drove her like never before, but when she arrived back at the village she discovered that all was dark and quiet. The entire village was holding a candle light vigil for the fallen warrior princess. There standing before them was their leader Lord Seltzer. As if the situation couldn’t have been worse Gabrielle rushed forth toward the body that lay underneath the cover upon the altar. She did not want to believe that Xena had left her behind. It was more than the young bard could deal with. Her heart hoped that when she would lift the cover that it would be someone else underneath. Yet the look upon the face of Salmoneous told the story that Gabrielle did not want to hear.
Slowly the bard pulled back the cover and there beneath it was the one person she did not wish to see. The motionless limp body of the mighty warrior princess lay still. There were not sounds and no rise and fall of the chest. Gabrielle knelt down quietly in mourning now knowing that her nightmare was real. It was even more real than her day as the warrior princess had been. All seemed lost as the bard touched the eyes which were closed and at rest. She felt the clammy chill of a body which had been recently taken. The bard began to stroke the silky dark hair of the warrior princess hoping to be comforted by it somehow. Then her heart trembled with tears as her eyes began to well up. Gently the bard continued to stroke the hair of her fallen friend, and then her head began to fall onto the chest of the motionless warrior. Salmoneous then knelt down behind the bard and spoke softly. He struggled to bring her back to the duty which was still calling out. He suggested that everyone flee the village to escape certain death.
In that moment the bard snapped out of her painful grief for just one moment realizing that running away had never been what Xena would have chosen to do. The odds of the situation did not matter. Xena had always taught the bard that she must stand up and fight for what she believed in. The bard rose from her grief into command. She was firm as she instructed Salmoneous to prepare everyone for defenses. Gabrielle was certain that if the village built up its defenses that they would be able to hold off the enemy until she could return with help. She had heard that Iolas was in a village less than a day’s walk. With Argo Gabrielle could make the trip much more swiftly. She was certain that she could return with help before daybreak. And so Gabrielle left Salmoneous to lead his people to defend as she desperately tried to seek out support. Yet when Gabrielle arrived where she had expected to find Iolas he had already traveled on. She had been too late and she had failed. Gabrielle then rushed back to the village hoping to at least be able to help them to their escape, but when she returned in the early morning hours there was no one to be found. Not even the body of the warrior princess was present.
The bard felt more lost and afraid than ever before. Without Xena she could not do the good that needed to be done. Gabrielle needed Xena’s strength to guide her to make the right moves and to succeed in battle. As she traveled toward Talmadeous’s camp in defeat and deep despair she could take no more. Gabrielle stopped releasing her anger upon a tree in the darkness of the forest. The depth of her void was so great that Gabrielle could feel herself spinning out of control. She could not stop striking forth as her soul had been ripped apart. When her physical energy finally ceased Gabrielle fell to the ground still in despair. The bard tried desperately to focus as Xena had told her to do. And as Gabrielle had failed Xena so too did Salmoneous. He did not attempt to defend the village. Instead he led his people to Talmadeous’s camp hoping to strike up a deal with the warlord. He promised to Talmadeous the body of the fallen warrior princess, and himself in exchange for the safety and the freedom of his people.
Talmadeous agreed to the deal yet Salmoneous was unaware of the deals that warlords make. As soon as Salmoneous demanded resolution from the warlord Talmadeous betrayed the deal. It was a fitting end for the salesman who sold bad products to the warlord before. Talmadeous felt that it was the refund which he had seeked from the infamous Lord Seltzer. Soon Gabrielle arrived at Talmadeous’s camp alone. She watched as Talmadeous gloated in his victory. He thanked Salmoneous for selling out his people so that he could sell them as slaves. Soon Talmadeous prepared to kill Salmoneous, but he had a heart wrenching display planned for Salmoneous. He then brought forth the body of the fallen warrior and asked Salmoneous who had been the one that had killed her. Salmoneous did not know who had succeeded. Yet Talmadeous declared that title and that victory for himself despite the truth. He wanted the world to know him as he claimed fame to a prize he had not earned.
As Gabrielle continued to watch she saw that Argo had also been captured. Talmadeous was preparing to tear Xena’s body apart by the force of the horses pulling it to pieces. If Gabrielle could succeed at nothing else she had to save Xena’s body for she had promised Xena that she would take it back to her home in Amphipolis. It had been Xena’s last request to be buried next to her brother Lycious. Gabrielle had failed in battle, but she could not bear to fail her friend even in death. And so the bard charged into battle with rage and determination. She took out a circle of twenty men charging forward toward the enemy. As she approached the unsuspecting warlord she disarmed him of his sword with her staff and then caught it. Gabrielle dropped her staff in exchange for the sharp sword. She was prepared to kill the warlord if she had to.
As her anger boiled within her heart Talmadeous teased his new found enemy. He was not at all in fear of the young warrior. Instead he mocked her telling her that she did not know how to hold a sword properly. He continued to erode her confidence as he declared that she could not continue on against him for much longer. Talmadeous knew that he would defeat her in the end despite her passion and love within. Gabrielle began to sense that her judgement was truly clouded by the vengeance she felt rising up inside. Then Talmadeous told her that in one flicker of the eye he would have her. Gabrielle looked down at the sword which she held thinking of Talmadeous’s words. Suddenly he had her disarmed and held at the point of a dagger. The bard felt helpless once again. There before her was the warrior princess about to be taken away forever. The bard’s only comfort now was in knowing that she would soon be reunited upon the boat of Charon to travel into eternity within the underworld.
Then Talmadeous gave the command and the men whipped the horses. Yet neither horse moved despite the pain being delivered. They held steady not allowing Xena’s body to be defiled by evil. It was in that moment that Talmadeous realized that Xena’s horse was responsible for halting his desires. Suddenly Talmadeous declared death upon Argo. One of the men then raised his weapon to take Argo’s life. Just as the sword came down a miracle came to pass. The warrior princess rose from her death and stopped the weapon short of its victim. She had come to Argo’s defense and began to fight against the evil which surrounded her. Gabrielle could not believe what she had just witnessed. Her heart-felt a relief in knowing that the mighty warrior princess would battle on. The bard struggled to break free from her capture as the warrior princess battled in nothing, but her under garments. She fought without weapons skillfully and with great confidence. Her strength could not be matched by Talmedeous’s men. Xena then reached for Gabrielle’s staff upon the ground and knocked down two more enemies.
Quickly she threw the staff to the bard who freed herself from her capture with the weapon she was most familiar. Gabrielle dashed across the battle and began to scold Xena for leaving her. She demanded that the warrior princess never attempt that trial again. But Xena reminded the chatting sidekick that they were in the middle of a fierce battle against evil forces. There was not time to discuss the issue of death. Duty called and then the bard suddenly jumped into warrior form. She fought fiercely and skillfully. The villagers found themselves inspired by the miracle as well. They took up arms and began to fight alongside the warrior princess and the bard against the wrath of evil. The forces of good united were enough to defy the plans of the dark forces.
There was only one score left to settle. Xena and Talmadeous had a rematch of their previous battle in which Xena fell ill. Though the odds seemed again in Talmadeous’s favor Xena’s godlike strength challenged the armed Talmadeous. He was confident that he would be victorious over the mighty warrior princess, but she was determined to defeat him. They struggled as Talmadeous prepared to take her life for the record of truth yet Xena locked him up within her brut force and flipped him into his defeat. Talmadeous landed into the chill of the infamous water troph where the villagers awaited him with their weapons. It was clear that he had been defeated and that there was no recourse for evil on this day.
Gabrielle had found it to be an exciting and wonderful experience to be the warrior princess for a day. Yet she also realized just how difficult the job was and noted that she had much more to learn from her best friend. There was no other warrior in the world greater and more skilled. No better teacher existed, and there was no other friend as loving and courageous as Xena. As the two best friends prepared to move on in their journey alongside one another Xena thanked her Gabrielle for the great courage and determination that she displayed attempting to take her home to Amphipolis. Xena was impressed that Gabrielle had been willing to give her life for her return. Gabrielle expressed that it had been the last wish of her best friend and it was worth giving her life for that cause no matter the cost. The two friends shared a moment of appreciation for one another and Gabrielle felt great emotion within. There was a flood of relief about to shed itself in tears, but Gabrielle held strong. She did not want to think about another nightmare like the one she had just experienced.
Quickly the bard changed the subject inquiring the warrior princess about her injury, and of the poison dart which had struck her. Xena confirmed that it was still a mystery for she did not know who it had been that had struck her. Yet she was determined to find the answer for the one who had sent her to her death and back had known exactly what it was he had been doing. Gabrielle had thought Xena played the part of death, but Xena confirmed that she truly had gone to the other side. The warrior princess had to travel there in order to fight against the poison tomac. Yet as the warrior princess had battled against the poison to return to the bard Gabrielle had to battle for the will of the greater good. She had learned so much more in Xena’s brief death than she had ever learned in the days before it.

The Xena Scrolls
By: Gabrielle Bard of Potedia
Scroll # 25: The Ties That Bind

October, 48 B.C.

They say that family is what binds people together stronger than any other force. The love of one’s family and the love they give in return seems greater than no other. Yet sometimes in life there are many surprises. There are people who seem like family and there are people who were never family, but are closer than blood could ever be.
This story began as Xena and Gabrielle caught wind of a new up and coming warlord. His name was Corrillous.  Corrillous’s latest victims had been from the village of Lotia where he had kidnapped twenty young women that he was to groom and sell as slaves. Corrillous was ambitious and eager to please the infamous god of war Ares. Every move Corrillous made he had consulted with the god of war, given sacrifices, and obeyed every command given to him by the god of war. Ares groomed his new commander well as Corrillous spent almost four seasons gathering thieves and murders turning their chaotic crimes into talented warriors.
The two friends had been following the movements of Corrillous and his army in an attempt to locate their camp and to rescue the twenty young women of Lotia. Gabrielle stood up above in the trees with Xena as they observed the situation carefully. The bard was learning from her skilled teacher more and more every day. As the bard looked down upon the camp she noted that there were more men down below than could be handled by the warrior princess and her help alone. Gabrielle was certain that they would be defeated. But Xena was much more confident. Gabrielle had seen her friend fight multiple enemies and she had seen her do it well. Yet Gabrielle felt uncertain with this new fierce army and its widely spoken skill. Then Gabrielle caught sight of an old man dressed in a black warrior suit. He came charging into the outskirts of Corrillous’s camp armed with two swords. The old man began to fight against some of the guards posted as if he were unaware of what he was doing.
When Gabrielle asked Xena what this lone old warrior was doing Xena found herself just as surprised by his actions as was the bard. Xena then decided that he was destined for slaughter up against Corrillous’s fierce warriors alone so the warrior princess jumped down upon her horse Argo and rode charging into battle. As she entered into the fight the old man had been disarmed and injured, but the warrior princess quickly took out the two men he had been up against. Xena’s skills were much smoother and quicker as she struck each of the enemies down gracefully and effortlessly. Then she quickly went to the aid of the old warrior asking him what he had been trying to accomplish. Once she had reached the lookout spot rejoining Gabrielle Xena realized just how delusional he had been.
The old warrior told Xena that he had charged into Corrillous’s camp for he was attempting to save the young women. This man was certain that if Xena had not interfered that the young women would have been free in that very moment. Yet Xena shrugged and denied him of that fantasy for she knew that he would not have sustained an injury to his arm had he been skilled enough to break the guards on the outskirts of the camp. She then began to wrap his arm and tend to his wound as she cleaned it up. Gabrielle jumped down from the lookout in the trees to warn Xena of a new movement within the camp. When she called out to the warrior princess the old man suddenly became ecstatic. He could not believe that this was Xena the warrior princess. Yet as soon as he found out her identity he seemed pleased and then introduced himself as Xena’s father Atrious.
The bard found herself confused as she had thought that maybe she had heard wrong, but then the old man confirmed that he was Atrious Xena’s long lost father. Xena was not convinced and seemed rather disgusted and disturbed by Atrious’s words. Then he pleaded with her asking her why she didn’t seem to recognize him. This only infuriated the warrior princess more for she seemed angry that he had been away from her for so long. Then Xena turned away from the old warrior and joined Gabrielle. When Gabrielle asked Xena again if this was indeed her father Xena mutter under her breath that one could not believe everything that was heard. With that the warrior princess jumped upon Argo and proceeded to ride off with Gabrielle running alongside to catch up.
Though it was clear to the bard that Xena was quite angry the warrior princess quickly put the experience behind her as the two friends began to execute their plan to free the imprisoned young women. It was a simple exercise. Xena began by riding straight into camp near where the girls were being held in a large wooden cage. They were outside in the open so it was very easy to reach them. There were few guards in position near the cage so it took Corrillous’s men some time to respond to the intrusion of the warrior princess upon Argo. Xena then flipped through the air into the middle of a group of Corrillous’s men distracting them with a fierce fight in swordplay as Gabrielle pushed her way through to free the girls. The bard used an old rusty dagger and an ingenious trick she had learned from the king of thieves Autolycus. Gabrielle struggled to pick the large lock, but after several moments of working the rusty dagger she heard the lock click. With relief the bard then removed the heavy lock and opened to doors to the wooden cage.
Quickly the bard instructed the girls to run into the woods for their escape and prepare for Gabrielle and the warrior princess to rejoin them. Yet one of the girls did not follow Gabrielle’s command. Gabrielle quickly went in pursuit of the young girl who ran away in the opposite direction. Quickly the bard caught up to the fearful young girl, but just as she reached the girl they were confronted by one of Corrillous’s men. He pulled his sword ready to take them, but there was a surprising twist. Suddenly from behind the brush Atrious jumped out and battled one to one against the warrior. This allowed Gabrielle to escape with the young girl with the others into safety.
Once they reached the group Xena was there awaiting them. Gabrielle then told Xena what had happened. She told of how Atrious had been there to save her and the young Rhea from harm. Xena though still not happy about Atrious’s claim to be her father she forgave him for saving her friend. When Atrious rejoined he declared that he would get them a second horse for he felt they needed it for their journey toward Lotia. Xena then spoke of her forgiveness for his heroic deed. Then she turned to Gabrielle and said that they would journey to Lotia to return the young women to their home before they would come back to Corrillous’s camp to take out his army. Xena then urged Argo to move forth, but Atrious objected. He was upset that Xena was just going to leave him behind. Xena explained that she owed him nothing more and that she did not need him to come along. Then she and Gabrielle left Atrious behind as they journeyed toward Lotia.
As they walked Gabrielle asked Rhea why she had run away. Rhea seemed uninterested in talking about it at first. Then Gabrielle realized that Rhea must have been violated by Corrillous as many warlords often take a young woman’s chastity. Gabrielle explained to Rhea that she understood and that Rhea need not blame herself for whatever had happened between her and Corrillous. Yet Rhea was still not convinced that she was innocent as Gabrielle had believed. Soon the party of innocent women stopped by a spring to bathe as Xena and Gabrielle relaxed for a moment. Gabrielle could not help feeling as if she could help Rhea feel better inside. The bard hoped to heal Rhea’s emotional wounds from this terrible experience. Gabrielle sat down next to Rhea upon the boulders and she continued to encourage Rhea that everything would be okay. Yet Rhea was quite argumentative about it. She could not let go of her mistake.
Then Rhea explained to Gabrielle that she had gone with Corrillous willingly which shamed her more than her loss of innocence with him. She explained that her family would not want her back for it had been her choice to go in the place of her sister. Gabrielle then realized why Rhea was so afraid to return home. The bard also knew that she would need time to think about how she could comfort Rhea’s soul. Gabrielle knew that a pure-hearted young girl would not do something so terrible if there was not a good reason. As the bard contemplated Rhea’s issue she joined Xena who was humming a beautiful tune. Though the warrior princess was fierce in battle there was this tender side that Gabrielle loved very much about her friend.
The bard sat down alongside her friend as she concluded her peaceful melody. Argo stood faithfully behind the warrior princess for she loved the warrior princess just as much as did Gabrielle. Then Gabrielle inquired Xena about her father. She wanted to know what Xena remembered about the old man. Xena made certain that Gabrielle was aware that there was still a lot of uncertainty of the truth of Atrious’s words. But then Xena reminisced about the one good thing she remembered about the man that went away leaving her, her mother, and brothers behind. Xena spoke of how he used to ride upon his beautiful horse. He would charge the horse toward her and then stop just short of galloping over her. Then her father would reach down with his mighty strong arms and take her upon the horse with him. Then they would ride together through the open fields.
As Gabrielle watched Xena express wonderful memory out loud she envisioned how exciting that experience must have been for a young Xena. Xena did agree that the experience was just as exciting as it had been wonderful. Yet their peaceful moment of sharing was soon interrupted by the call of duty. Across the spring in the distance the voice of Atrious called out Xena’s name frantically. He was riding in upon a brown horse followed by to men upon their horses. They were seemingly chasing him as the young women dispersed quickly from the spring. Xena jumped upon Argo and quickly rode again into battle. Atrious had seemingly gotten himself into another helpless situation.
The two men chasing him prepared their cross bows for revenge upon Atrious, but just before they could pull their triggers Xena the warrior princess fired her chackram across the sky slicing off the point of their arrows. Then she flipped off of her horse into the air as the chackram came back landing into its resting place upon her hip. This happened as she was still flipping and then just before she landed before the enemy she drew her sword for battle. Of course she did this with her famous battle cry. The warrior princess quickly caught an ax the flew at her from the enemy just before her graceful landing. Then the second enemy approached her with his swords. The warrior princess blocked his first advance with the ax and then released it handling the enemy with only her sword.
This unexpected battle ended very quickly and the girls were safe once more. Xena found herself even more irritated at Atrious for it was revealed to her by the two men who had been attacking him that their horse had been stolen. When Xena asked Atrious if he had stolen the horse Atrious denied that it was stolen. Instead he declared that he had been owed a favor and this horse was fair payment. The warrior princess then asked the men if it were true what Atrious had said. They didn’t deny that they had owed a debt. Xena found her suspicions to be incorrect yet again. Atrious was upset with his daughter for she seemingly did not trust him at all no matter how hard he tried to win her over. Then he warmed up to her trying to melt her heart. He then began humming the same tune that she had been humming just before he had ridden in with his new-found horse. Atrious then reminded Xena of those wonderful times they had together. He expressed that all he wanted was to be with is daughter again. Xena found herself desperately trying to fight the possibility of Atrious being real to her.
Yet Xena did not reject him allowing him to travel with them this time. She left him to flank in the front of the group while she, Argo, and Gabrielle flanked the back. Gabrielle then asked Xena if indeed Atrious had stolen the horses. Xena assured the bard that they had not been stolen despite her suspicions. Once Gabrielle was satisfied with Atrious’s innocence she seeked out Rhea once more. Again Gabrielle tried to comfort and encourage Rhea despite all that had happened. Rhea finally found the courage to explain why she had gone away willingly. She told of how she wanted her sister to have the happiness that she had deserved. Rhea’s sister had her entire life ahead of her for she had been preparing to wed. Gabrielle realized that Rhea’s love for her sister had been so strong that she had willingly given up her own innocence so that her sister could be happy. The bard found this to be very commendable and expressed to Rhea how wonderful her deed had been despite the pain. Gabrielle was certain that Rhea’s family would welcome her back with appreciation and open arms.
Soon Gabrielle looked to rejoin Xena who had moved to the front talking with Atrious. Xena found herself warming up to her father for the first time all day. The warrior princess was finally feeling as if she had that wonderful man back in her life. She had missed out on so much without him and Gabrielle could see how delighted the two were with each other. Yet the peace Gabrielle saw within the warrior princess was soon interrupted by the sound of a flying dart. The warrior princess heard it too as she reached up to catch it with her bare hand. She had saved Atrious once again from being killed.
Quickly the warrior princess charged into the trees and found the sharp shooter. She then surprised him shooting his next dart through the tube back into his own throat. The warrior princess had taken him by surprise asking the skilled shooter to send Corrillous a message. She wanted Corrillous to know that it would not be easy to kill the warrior princess. As the enemy struggled to run back to his camp he was stopped by Atrious whose weapon was drawn and ready for the kill. Gabrielle rounded the corner just in time to see the cruelty within the heart of Atrious. She was astonished as Atrious showed no mercy upon the helpless victim. He took advantage of a defenseless man thrusting his sword through the chest of the victim. Gabrielle watched in shock and horror unable to move or speak. She just stood motionless as Atrious pulled out his weapon.
Soon Xena had joined them seeing that Gabrielle was clearly upset. Xena asked Gabrielle what the problem was. Gabrielle tried desperately to explain in detail what she had seen. She told of how Atrious had taken a man’s life unfairly and without remorse. Yet Atrious explained to Xena that he had done it only because he was trying to kill Xena. Then Atrious made certain that Xena knew that the man had a knife. Atrious claimed that he had killed him in self-defense yet Gabrielle was certain that she had seen no dagger. Then Xena’s suspicions were risen once more as she rolled the dead victim over. Beneath the victim was a dagger upon the ground, but Gabrielle was still certain that she had not seen a dagger. Xena then declared that mistakes can sometimes be made. She admitted that even she had made a mistake. It was obvious to the bard that Xena now fully trusted Atrious although Gabrielle could not shake the strange feeling. Something was certainly not right.
Then Xena went back to check on the girls as Atrious approached Gabrielle. He spoke to her in strange way. Atrious told the bard that after they returned the girls to Lotia he would be leaving again. He made certain that Gabrielle was aware that he could see how strong the friendship was between the bard and Xena. He did not want wish to get in the way. Atrious felt strongly that it was wrong for him to be in their way. They were a team and he felt that as long as Gabrielle were a part of Xena’s life that there was no place for him there. Then he left Gabrielle alone to ponder what he had said. The bard found herself even more shocked and confused. Then Rhea suddenly appeared and interrupted Gabrielle’s thought. Rhea asked Gabrielle if everything was okay as Gabrielle shook off the funny feeling. Then Rhea asked Gabrielle if it was wrong to leave her village with Corrillous so that her sister and her husband could be together. Gabrielle realized what Rhea had been asking. It had indeed been the right choice for Rhea and Gabrielle suddenly realized what she herself had to do.
Sadly Gabrielle prepared to leave Xena behind. Though Gabrielle loved Xena more than anyone else in the world she knew that she had to leave her friend with Atrious. Xena needed her long-lost father now and Gabrielle felt strongly that she would be an intrusion. Gabrielle had planned out how she would leave Xena without having to truely say good-bye. When Gabrielle found her friend she asked Xena to stay behind with Atrious so that they could lookout for Corrillous and his army. Gabrielle suggested that she take the girls back to Lotia alone so that Xena and Atrious could stay back and fight. Xena asked Gabrielle if she was certain that she wanted to do this. Gabrielle had made up her mind and quietly within her heart said good-bye to the beautiful warrior princess. Then the bard lead Rhea and the others back to Lotia where they would be safe once again.
Upon reaching Lotia Gabrielle urged Rhea to return to the loving arms of her family. Rhea did and her family accepted her with open arms. Her sister had been joyful to be reunited with Rhea, and her sister’s husband was grateful for the happiness Rhea had given them. Rhea found that her heart was relieved, and that her spirit could begin to heal. Gabrielle was satisfied for she had done another good deed. And as things appeared to come together for the better there was uncertainty in the wind. Xena planned to return to Lotia to rejoin with her friend. As she tried once more to leave Atrious behind he insisted that he must join her to help the people of Lotia. He seemingly knew that Xena still wrestled with past demons. Atrious took claim to some past demons of his own concerning the people of Lotia. Those were the only words needed to convince Xena to allow him to join her in Lotia where they would protect and then defeat.
When they reached Lotia Atrious was not greeted with a warm welcome. As soon as they entered into the tavern the people of Lotia took him captive. The village magistrate declared that he had to pay for his past crimes against Lotia and its people. Xena was upset that they treated him in this way. She had been treated with the very same distrust many times and felt his pain of being rejected. The warrior princess pleaded with the villagers to allow him to go and fight alongside her against Corrillous’s approaching army. Yet the magistrate refused for Atrious had fooled them before declaring that he was their ally only to betray them in the end. With the dagger to his throat Atrious begged Xena not to worry about him. He needed to pay for his sins of the past. Atrious wanted to reckon with his demons no matter the price.
Xena tried one last attempt at rescuing her father from his sentence. She declared that if she defeated Corrillous’s army alone that the village of Lotia allow her father to go free. The magistrate laughed for he was certain that the warrior princess could not defeat an army alone. Yet Xena was vigilant and confident that it could be done. With that declaration the warrior princess headed off to Corrillous’s camp. There she met face to face with Corrillous who had plans for the warrior princess. He had been challenged by Ares who declared that he could never defeat the warrior princess in battle. Corrillous asked Xena into a false truce. He declared that she drop her weapons, but Xena was too clever for that trick. Instead she declared that Corrillous be the first to show that he would spare the village of Lotia.
Corrillous threw down is sword as requested. Then Xena responded accordingly. Yet the ambitious warlord was certain of his victory over the warrior princess in front of his audience and army. He pulled a dagger from his belt and hurled it toward the warrior princess. Xena caught his weapon with her bare handed skill and then discarded it to the ground. She warned Corrillous of his unwise decision. The challenge was on as Corrillous jumped down from his horse to retrieve his sword for a duel. Then Xena flipped from her place upon Argo and ripped her sword from its upright resting place in the ground. Suddenly Corrillous charged forward as they battled violently against one another. Their duel was fierce. Xena was driven by her passionate love for her long-lost father as Corrillous was driven by his ego and ambitions. The two had disarmed one another and their battle shifted from clashing swords to a hand to hand combat. They rolled upon the ground in a struggle of good against evil.
Yet Xena came out the winner defeating evil with the intentions of love. She then took control of Corrillous’s army as they began to chant the name of their new commander. It had been over six seasons since Xena had last commanded an army. Darphus had taken her army from her, but now she had her army back again. It was well-trained and ready for battle. The warrior princess left her challenger to face his humiliation alone as she rode off at the head of her new army. They rode off toward Lotia to free Xena’s father.
Upon arriving in Lotia Xena found her beloved father displayed before her strung up in the village square badly beaten awaiting his death. The sight drove her heart into pain and sorrow, but it soon turned to a nasty vengeance which she had not experienced in many seasons. She gave the command for her new army to take the village and then the battle of goodness against vengeance commenced. The soldiers of Xena’s new army captured the Lotian people from their homes, and businesses. They began invading the tavern as the people began to scream and scatter about in fear. Gabrielle ran out to see what was happening. She spotted Xena riding in the streets upon Argo and declared that she would not hurt anyone.
Suddenly Gabrielle was captured by one of the members of the army. She demanded that he release her for she was a close friend to Xena. Yet the man did not heed her words declaring that he was related to the god Zeus. Suddenly Gabrielle realized that somehow the situation was beyond control. Sometime was definitely wrong, but she was uncertain of what it was. The feeling was like the one she had experienced when she witnessed Atrious’s murder of Corrillous’s helpless warrior. Then Gabrielle caught sight of Xena carrying her father toward the tavern where she stood captive with the rest of the villagers. Xena’s eyes were hazy seemingly clouded by anger. Atrious struggled to speak to Xena as she knelt down with him. He proclaimed that all he had ever wanted was to be with his daughter. Xena’s eyes began to well up with tears as she tried to ease his pain. The warrior princess could see he was about to leave her again. And then Atrious took his last breath leaving her behind once again. Yet this time it was different. This time he had been taken from her.
The warrior princess rose from the ground. She demanded that someone pay for her loss and so she gave another harsh command to her new army. The warrior princess demanded that her new army kill every last villager in Lotia. Gabrielle suddenly realized that she had to stand up and fight. She had to take control for Xena was beyond it. The bard released herself from her capture with an elbow to the stomach. She then grabbed a pitch fork and approached the darkness boldly and without fear. The bard held her weapon steady and with desperate anger. Disappointment had built up within her for the warrior princess was giving in to the darkness which had engulfed so many innocent people. Gabrielle pleaded with the warrior princess to stop, but Xena seemingly did not hear.
Then the bard reminded the dark warrior of a day that she saw goodness. The bard recalled the day that they first met when she learned from the warrior princess how to stand up and fight for good. Gabrielle reminded the warrior princess of the wrath of Draco who almost destroyed her home and her life. The bard reminded Xena that if she did not turn back to the light once more that she would be forced to turn against the one she loved. Gabrielle was ready to sacrifice herself and her dark friend for to good of the people of Lotia. Determined with great will the bard could see that she was beginning to get through, but just when she thought she had won over Xena’s darkness Atrious rose from the dead.
He demanded that his daughter take to lives of those villager whom had savagely beaten him. Atrious demanded that Xena stand by him with the vengeance that he knew she had within her. Gabrielle felt that she was losing Xena once more. She made a quick decision as she struck Xena from behind with her weapon knocking the warrior princess violently to the ground. Slowly the warrior princess rose from the ground. She looked to Gabrielle and then looked back at Atrious who was mumbling vengeance out of control. He was sharp in his persuasion, but then suddenly Xena caught onto the game for she saw that it had been Ares all along. Suddenly Atrious transformed into the visage of the god of war before the eyes of the villagers and all who witnessed his presence.
He then went onto explain to Xena that he had finally succeeded. Ares spoke of how he had used Corrillous to build Xena the perfect army. He had done it all for Xena in order to win her back. Ares wanted Xena to be the commander of his ultimate conquest for violent war. The god of war continued as he explained that it had taken him a while to figure out the last part of his complex plan, but then he thought of Xena’s father. It was when that came to him that he realized just how he could win Xena over. Ares had been delighted at how well his plan had worked, and now he demanded that he deserved the love and appreciation from the daughter whose father he portrayed so very well.
Xena was on the verge, but then declared that she would not follow Ares. She asked him to give up on her and to find a new conquesting warrior. Yet Ares was still holding onto some control over the emotionally confused warrior princess. He began changing back into the vision of Xena’s long lost father. And then he switched back into himself. He kept talking to the warrior princess as if he were her father trying desperately to hold control of her darkness. But the warrior princess fought against the darkness and finally broke free. She threw her sword to the ground before Ares and declared that she would never give in. Ares realized that he had lost control and became enraged. He threatened the warrior princess with death if she did not comply with his wishes. Yet the warrior princess had restored her freedom from his grasp. She challenged him to do just that. The warrior princess challenged the god of war to kill his prize warrior. Gabrielle pleaded with Xena not to do it for she knew very well the power of the gods. Anyone who dared to defy them was certain to meet death.
Ares then displayed his godly powers raising Xena’s sword from the ground without ever touching it. He then thrust it through the air forward toward the brave warrior princess. The crowd of soldiers, and villagers watched with fear as the weapon neared the victim. But just before the point of the sword struck the neck of the warrior princess it stopped short. Ares could not bring himself to kill the warrior princess and so the battle was over. The god of war vanished from sight leaving only with the whispering words of his return. Then Lotia was finally freed and relieved to be safe once more.
As the warrior princess and the bard prepared to leave together Xena found herself confiding in her friend. She apologized for straying from her path and thanked Gabrielle for reminding her of her of the truth. Gabrielle was satisfied and pleased that she had been able to help the warrior princess find herself in her time of need. Then Xena spoke words from the heart to the bard. She told the bard that everyone in the world has a family which they love and are a part of. Yet Xena was certain that Gabrielle was even more than family though they were not related by blood. Gabrielle felt the same way about her friend as they began to head off into the next challenge. And so the warrior princess and the bard have found themselves bound by ties beyond family. An everlasting friendship that will endure great things has come into their lives.

The Xena Scrolls

By: Gabrielle Bard of Podedia

Scroll #26: Callisto

October, 48 B.C.

I sing of the woes of Callisto. A woman who was struck down by the cycle of violence. Her life began in a village called Syra located somewhere between Corinth and Amphipolis. One day her village was attacked by a well-known warrior princess. On that day many perished in the flames. There was no discrimination for women and their children this time. The flames swept through the village of Syra with a vengeance for blood. It was the vengeance of a warrior princess whose village had also suffered the fate of blood and vengeance years before. It was said that there were only a handful of survivors from that attack and a young fair-haired girl named Callisto had been one of them.

Callisto had lost her entire family to this cycle of hatred. At first she mourned for her sister, father, and mother, but the mourning did not last for it was replaced with a lust for blood. This lust for blood consumed Callisto’s tattered heart and battered soul. Her mind soon raced into a psychotic rage as the years went by she plotted her vengeance. On a day not long after the salvation of the warrior princess Callisto had completed her plan of vengeance. She knew exactly how she would get to Xena and so it began with one village and then another. Callisto and her newly acquired following of warriors descended upon villages destroying them and each time leaving few survivors. But for those who did survive she always had a message for them. “Tell them I am Xena warrior princess.” And with that she would leave them with an evil laughter to remember her by.

Callisto’s wrath lasted for many seasons with little notice until one day a young farmer named Melos was traveling to his home. Melos caught sight of an old woman from his village. She was lying on the road helpless barely clinging to life. When Melos approached her she sung the tale of Xena the warrior princess and of what she had done to her and their village. Melos was alarmed knowing that his wife and child were there in the village. The old woman told him that everything was in ruin and that it was not likely he would find anyone left alive. This messenger of death and destruction took her last breath and died in Melos’s arms.

A few days later the farmer Melos sat in a tavern a marathon from his home drowning his sorrows. Sitting next to him was a warrior woman in leather with dark hair and piercing blue eyes. She looked over to him noticing his despair. It was familiar to her and she offered him her drink out of kindness and sympathy for him. He accepted it with gratitude and then he introduced himself. He held out his hand as the kind stranger introduced herself as Xena. Suddenly Melos stumbled to his feet with rage for this was the woman whom he was told had killed his wife and son. She was the bringer of death and destruction. Xena the warrior princess had taken away his entire life.

As Melos prepared to take his own blood vengeance against Xena he was no match for this strong stealthful woman. He lunged forward toward Xena yet she dropped him to the ground in an instant. Then the warrior princess drew her sword and held it threatening her attacker by the end of her blade. Melos was certain that this Xena was the one that had taken his family from him. Xena couldn’t believe what she was hearing for she had given up the business of blood vengeance a long time before. Not only that, but Xena was certain that these stories were false and impossible for she had never been so dark as to kill women and children. She had to find out more about this. Xena had to know who was disguising themselves as the bringer of death and destruction. It was told that every traveler from the tavern to Corinth had a tale of destruction caused by none other than the warrior princess herself. And as Xena and her companion left the tavern Melos promised that he would come after Xena to receive his vengeance.

On the path to Corinth Xena and her companion ran into a small group of battered villagers. They all had the same look as did Melos. They were torn, battered, and poisoned with hatred. All of them were full of fear. Xena explained to the bard that it was that fear that she had once craved during her days as an evil warlord. That fear commanded a certain respect. But now it was different of the warrior princess. She declared that she and the bard would continue on traveling toward Corinth until they were able to find out who was truly behind all of the needless killing.

Yet as Xena and Gabrielle waded through the group of fearful commoners there was one strangely dressed man with a strainer for a chest plate and a goofy looking helmet. He shouted out an inquiry demanding to know if the woman approaching him was indeed the warrior princess. Xena answered with disgust in her voice feeling very annoyed by his question. After she answered he introduced himself as Joxer the Mighty. He said that he was a warrior and desired to join Xena’s army. He was certain to be able to offer his services to the blood lusting warrior woman. This peculiar man did not act like a warrior. He claimed to have a passion for blood, but it was obvious that he had never killed anyone before. The bard could read him very well and she let him know that she did not take him seriously. This bumbling idiot was offended and declared that he had not even been addressing the bard, but Gabrielle ignored his insulting remarks. As Xena tried to ignore this bumbling idiot he did not give up trying to convince her. The more bloody his words became the more irritating to the warrior princess. He told her that had a nickname of bloody Joxer, and that he had once bathed in a pool of blood. In fact, he was so certain that he loved blood so much that he even went as far as to say that he suffered from depression if he did not draw blood regularly. He was definitely not convincing and sounded more like a lost child than a true warrior. Finally the warrior princess had enough of the antics of the idiot. She delivered a blow to his nose rejecting his pleas to serve her reign of terror. Then she warned him that if he did not stop his lusting for blood that she would show him the reality of blood lust.

As he sat up from his place upon the ground he was disappointed that Xena had rejected his offer to join her legions. For Xena things were getting serious because now strangers were looking for her just to be a part of all of the hatred. Xena and Gabrielle continued on toward Corinth and as they traveled Melos was not far behind. In fact, even Argo could feel his presence as she stirred with a warning to the warrior princess of the enemy within the brush. Once again he tried to get his vengeance on Xena as he leapt from above within a tree down onto the warrior princess, but a farmer could not defeat the warrior princess in battle. She acted to his advance and flipped him over her shoulder down onto the bottom of the hill. Then she took a rope and tied his hands. The warrior princess led the vengeful farmer toward the tree he had scouted her from and tied him to its trunk. Gabrielle could not help, but feel sorrow for a good man such as Melos. In her heart the bard knew that he was truly a good man, but this cycle of violence seemed never-ending. It was infectious like a disease and took the goodness away from the good.

This cycle had begun with Cortese when he and his army had killed Xena’s brother Lyceus. Then Xena’s heart had been infected with this vengeful hatred which had led her to kill, and now another dark force had come forth killing Melos’s wife and six-year-old son. Gabrielle tried to comfort Melos and to dissolve his hatred as she left him a bed roll for later. Then she bade the good farmer farewell hoping that he would soon be able to defeat the darkness and come to his senses. Yet as Xena and Gabrielle left him behind he swore to get his vengeance on the warrior princess. It was clear what had to be done. This cycle of violence had to stop. Xena blamed herself for it, but it began long before Xena’s own village of Amphipolis was ever attacked.

Soon Xena and Gabrielle arrived in a village along the road to Corinth that was suffering the wrath of hatred. At the entrance were many dead villagers tied to crosses on display for all to see. The smell of death was evident yet there were still many running about the streets screaming in agony for their lives to be spared as Callisto the fair-haired warrior woman reigned within her dark vengeance. The warrior princess charged into battle upon Argo as Gabrielle ran onto the scene with staff in hand. Xena caught sight of three warriors beating an innocent smith as he was unable to defend himself. The warrior princess could take no more of this violence. She quickly pulled out her chackram and threw it in the direction of the three attackers. It bounced off the three heads of the evil warriors and rounded the village square. Just as the chackram was about to round the corner back toward its commander it was snatched by the fair-haired warlord. Callisto appeared before Xena as if expecting her arrival. A sly smile spread across her face as she stood across the village looking Xena dead in the eye. She held Xena’s chackram within her hand triumphantly urging the warrior princess onto battle.

And so the face off began. Callisto taunted Xena into a jousting combat to regain possession of her chackram. Callisto drew her sword as did Xena. As they went for their first pass at one another the fair-haired Callisto screamed with a terrible vengeance as she charged forward upon her horse. Xena responded with a warrior grumble upon her horse. Their charge ended in a stalemate to the dismay of Xena’s new rival. Neither woman took the advantage. Upon their second pass Callisto screamed with vengeance again and with even more determination. Gabrielle had never seen a warlord with the kind of passion that the warrior princess had fought with yet Callisto had it within. They clashed swords, but Callisto won the second pass for she had gotten a clean shot on the warrior princess.

As Xena turned Argo about to face Callisto again she noticed the wound sustained within her left shoulder. Then she looked out across the field at her tough enemy realizing this would not be a simple match up. Callisto found herself to be delighted that she had gotten the upper hand within this battle as she declared with confidence that she was just as good as the infamous warrior princess. And it was true. Callisto was skilled for Gabrielle had only seen the warrior princess tame the chackram. And now the fair-haired Callisto had proven her skill. Then Callisto went onto declare that it was inevitable for Xena the warrior princess had indeed created her. The warrior princess became angry unable to believe that she could have created such a monstrous creature. And so they went for a third pass and this time Xena clashed swords with Callisto only to disarm her.

As the warrior princess rounded her horse for a fourth pass she slid her sword back into its place upon her back. Then she inferred that it was Callisto that had shot her with the poison dart that had nearly taken the life of the warrior princess weeks before. Callisto responded gleefully that Xena was indeed correct for what better way would there be for her to remove the real warrior princess only to recreate her darkness. The fair-haired warrior woman had an agenda which included reviving the evil warrior princess’s reputation for killing women and children. This accusation angered Xena for she had never been guilty of intentionally taking the lives of women and children. Even in her days of darkness Xena’s warrior code held integrity. Then Callisto screamed again chagrin forward as each warrior woman took a staff and prepared to make a fourth pass at one another. The two women were truly an equal match as they knocked one another from their horses. And amazingly both landed upon their feet as they flipped backwards off of their horses. It was as if looking into a live mirror. One had dark hair, the other light, one had dark eyes, the other light, and one was of the darkness while the other of goodness. But before the duel was to continue Xena asked what Callisto meant when she had declared that Xena had created her. Callisto responded asked Xena if she remembered Syra. Suddenly the warrior princess’s eyes told of a buried darkness within. It was a look of alarm and of concern at the same time. Yet before the warrior princess could dissolve this out of control nemesis Callisto screamed and charge forward with her staff as Xena blocked the advance. Then the fair-haired warrior woman flipped over the warrior princess using her staff and onto her horse. Callisto rode away from battle screaming violently all the way out of the village leaving the warrior princess stunned and visibly upset.

But before the warrior princess had time to think about her past mistakes in battles against the innocent she heard the battle between Gabrielle and another of Callisto’s men behind her. Gabrielle struggled against this skilled warrior of Callisto’s army. He was much stronger and well-trained. The bard was having great difficulty in battling against him despite her training from the warrior princess. Xena turned to see that her friend had been disarmed and was about to become a victim of this cycle of violence as the warrior lifted his weapon to kill. She charged forth with the staff and disarmed him quickly. Gabrielle acted rolling out-of-the-way as Xena disarmed him and then put her pinch upon his neck. The bard watched as the warrior princess demanded information from the victim. He was reluctant to give any information until Xena spoke of his impending death if he did not speak. He revealed to Xena after several moments Callisto’s name and identity. Xena wanted to know more about her relation to Syra. He told of how Callisto had lost her family to Xena’s army. The warrior princess was heart-broken for she was responsible for the suffering of these people within the village now despite her struggle against the darkness that she had seemingly created.

Then the warrior princess released her emotion once more and focused again asking him what Callisto wanted from her. His answer was simple. Callisto wanted to ruin Xena’s good reputation and then she wanted to kill the warrior princess after all else was destroyed. The warrior princess realized that she must act quickly to stop this dark nemesis for it was clearly out of control. And even if she did succeed at killing the warrior princess her vengeance would never end. Xena realized that she must be the one to seek out and destroy Callisto before Callisto could succeed with her vengeance. The warrior princess demanded to know where Callisto would be striking next. She was told of the sacrifice at Delphi that would occur on the following day. Callisto was after the oracle. Xena then gave the Callisto’s warrior a final message. She declared that she would destroy Callisto before Callisto would succeed at destroying the warrior princess. Suddenly Xena released her victim from the jaws of death and knocked him unconscious.

The bard watched the warrior princess walk away with a look of devastation and of guilt. It had been a long time since the bard had seen the warrior princess suffering with so much guilt and so much shame. And then as the chaos continued to surround them Melos approached Xena apologizing for his misjudgment of her. Yet the warrior princess was in no mood to talk to vengeful farmers. She warned him of her anger within and he tried desperately to ease her pain within. He explained that he had seen all that had transpired between the warrior princess and Callisto. Melos was determined to help Xena bring Callisto down. He was still ready for vengeance, but it was now redirected at the true enemy. Yet the warrior princess was certain that vengeance was not the answer for it had been vengeance that had tainted Callisto to become the ultimate darkness. Instead the warrior princess declared that she could at least keep Melos from getting himself killed for she was certain that Callisto would not be as forgiving of him as she had been.

That night Gabrielle was determined to try to help Xena dissolved Melos’s vengeance. She sat down next to Melos who was in the depths of his hatred. Gabrielle asked him softly when he had last slept and gotten a good night’s rest. His answer was the one that the bard dreaded most. He declared that he had not slept since the day he had heard of his son’s death and seen it with his own eyes. Gabrielle tried desperately to get him to let go of the vengeance for just one moment or two so that maybe he could lie down and drift off to sleep. Yet Melos declared that Gabrielle could not understand his pain. She could not understand his loss or his anger. He was certain that Callisto’s blood would allow him to face and release his hatred and his pain within. Melos was certain that if Gabrielle had lost someone she loved in the same way that she would feel the same drive and resolution through blood. Yet Gabrielle was not so certain that she would feel that way. She was against violence and she wanted nothing more than to be the champion of stopping it alongside the warrior princess.

Finally the bard gave up trying to ease Melos’s rage and to get though all of his hatred. Instead she felt that maybe she could help heal Xena’s heart of its heavy guilt for having been responsible for the loss of Callisto’s family so long ago. The bard sat down by the fire next to the warrior princess whose heart was in mourning for Callisto’s soul. It was clear to the bard that the warrior princess wanted to be able to help Callisto let go of it all the way that she had been able to do. Xena could relate to Callisto in a way that no one else could. Gabrielle invited the warrior princess to talk about her experiences and share her pain of Syra. The warrior princess was very open unlike in the past for this time she needed the inner strength that the bard seemingly had naturally. She began the story trying to reason and explain it all. The warrior princess spoke of the one time that her army had been responsible for the deaths of women and children. It had been in Syra. They had set fire to the houses, but she was uncertain if it all had been an accident or if her men had truly been behind the fires. Despite it being just another village to conquer they were taken by surprise when the winds began to pick up and blow the fires out of control. The flames had swept through Syra without remorse and they had claimed the lives of innocent women and children. Xena had said that there were only a few known survivors and today she had met one of them face to face. Her past had stared her dead in the eye. It had come back to haunt her in a way she could never have imagined it to. It was one of the first times that Gabrielle had seen the warrior princess break down and cry as a tear dropped from her eye.

The bard found herself beginning to understand it all. This terrible cycle of violence and of hatred. She realized that Callisto had truly fallen into its wrath as Melos had. Yet Xena did not blame Callisto for her actions. Gabrielle could not allow the same reprieve for Callisto’s actions for she had known the warrior princess’s past. Xena too had been infected with the violence within her own village and despite it all the warrior princess had made the choice to turn it all around for herself. Yet Xena proclaimed that she was only lucky in having been able to be rescued from the depths of this cycle. Gabrielle was confident in her friend’s ability to do good and to be good. She could not accept the excuses that Xena tried to allow Callisto. Gabrielle was certain that Callisto must be taken by justice for her crimes against humanity. The bard argued that it was because of people like Callisto that made good people like Melos turn into vicious blood thirsty killers.

Gabrielle wanted desperately to erase Xena’s guilt for Callisto’s actions. But the warrior princess was still not certain that Gabrielle was right. She declared that she might find herself one day falling back into the cycle of violence if something were to ever happen to her mother, Hercules or even to Gabrielle. The bard refused to allow Xena that vengeance. Gabrielle pushed for Xena to promise her that she would never take vengeance on behalf of Gabrielle. The bard could not hold onto her own hope for the world if Xena were to fall into violence in her absence. To Gabrielle no death was worth a vengeance like that of Callisto or of Melos. Gabrielle pleaded with the warrior princess to promise never to turn to the cycle of violence again. Xena was still unable to make that promise to the bard. Gabrielle continued to insist that the answer was never through blood, but through love and forgiveness that would allow the violence to end. Then the warrior princess held the bard tightly and hugged her. She pleaded with her loyal friend to never change. Xena’s only strength was the bard. Xena needed her friend now more than ever. It was the light of the innocent bard that allowed Xena to carry on. The warrior princess feared her heart would grow dark without Gabrielle. Yet Gabrielle had a strong faith in her friend’s inner light. She again demanded a promise from the warrior princess that she would never go down the path of vengeance again. The warrior princess sensed the bard’s fears within and promised the bard that she would be strong.

Gabrielle continued to hold Xena for she could not bare the thought of evil claiming Xena’s soul again. She began to stroke Xena’s hair trying to settle down the demons which she could feel wrestling within the warrior princess. Yet Xena tried to close her feelings off tightly and away from the bard once more. She tried to urge the bard to leave her within her despair, but Gabrielle would not leave Xena. And so the night ended with two friends trying to be strong for one another as they prepared for their next battle against Callisto at Delphi.

As soon as the sun rose Xena, Gabrielle, Argo, and Melos were on their way to Delphi. Upon their arrival Xena suggested that they split up to find Callisto more quickly. Gabrielle took Argo, and Xena went into the temple with Melos. Gabrielle scouted the village streets of Delphi alongside Xena’s horse and found herself approached from behind. Someone had grabbed a net attempting to capture the bard, but she escaped quite easily. Suddenly there he was. He called himself Joxer a warrior, but a warrior like no other. So inept, so clumsy, and no more clever than a bumbling idiot. He insisted upon battling against the bard. Yet the bard could see that he was not a true warrior. He had little skill, but plenty of will. His failure at capturing the bard within his net led to him drawing his goofy looking sword. The blade wide and he could barely control it. Gabrielle could not handle a sword, but after seeing this Joxer try to handle his over-sized blade it was clear that he was a small threat.

In fact this Joxer seemed more annoying than threatening. The bard quickly disarmed him of his blade with a thrust of the staff. He was still very determined as he then grabbed a tiny dagger from within the mess of his lame uniform threatening to take the bard down. His anger was easily defeated as the bard disarmed him of his tiny dagger and knocked his toes with her staff. His eyes rolled back into his head in pain as he hopped around on his good foot. The bard prepared for his response. It was a cross-bow which Gabrielle broke with a thrust of the staff across the bow. Suddenly he appeared upset as if he were nothing more than a child who had lost his favorite toy. Then he remembered his challenge and prepared to take the bard down with his bare hands. Of course Gabrielle was ready again for his feeble advance as she knocked him silly with her staff taking his feet from beneath him. The bumbling idiot Joxer fell flat upon his back as his tongue hung out in defeat. He prepared to regain his senses and rise for more punishment, but the bard was becoming quite annoyed by his presence. She had little time for his antics and idiocy as she demanded that he stay down. The bard was busy trying to find Callisto before darkness could kill the oracle. And so Gabrielle left Joxer behind.

As Gabrielle tried to lose the idiot inside of the temple Xena caught sight of a mysteriously cloaked woman. It was Callisto and she had pulled Xena’s chackram hurling it toward the unsuspecting oracle certain to incriminate the warrior princess in cold-blooded murder. There were plenty of witnesses, but Xena would not be defeated. She reached for her dagger and threw it toward the flying disc to deflect its path toward death. The warrior princess was successful as the chackram was tamed by the light and returned to the hand of the warrior princess. Suddenly Callisto realizing defeat fled the temple. The chase led through the back alleys of the village to Callisto’s horse. She jumped upon her horse riding out-of-town as quickly as she could. The fair-haired woman was determined to escape the warrior princess’s justice as Xena jumped upon Argo in pursuit. The chase led to the far reaches of the valley into the desert region ten miles. Callisto was quick and agile, but the warrior princess had the better horse. Argo pushed hard to catch up to the dark nemesis so that Xena could capture Callisto and bring her to justice. Finally Argo did catch up and Xena leapt from Argo onto Callisto’s horse forcing the enemy to the ground. The two warrior women tumbled to the ground down the hill near the water down below.

When they finally stopped rolling Xena regained her balance quickly tying Callisto binding Callisto’s hands. As the warrior princess took control of her accidental creation she put Callisto upon Argo knowing that Argo would not allow Callisto to escape. Callisto tried desperately to kick Argo into action as they made the journey back toward Delphi. Xena began to become angered at Callisto’s abuse of her beloved horse. She warned that she would break Callisto’s ankles if she continued to kick Argo. Callisto resorted to taunting the warrior princess once more knowing that she was defeated for the moment. She mocked Xena for turning toward the light and declared that the warrior princess was only fooling herself if she thought that changing her ways made it simple for those she had wronged to forgive her. The warrior princess was not proud of her past and Callisto’s presence only inflamed the dark memories and the shame.

Gabrielle arrived at Xena’s side to warn her of Melos’s vegeance gone out of control. He had organized a lynch mob for when Callisto returned. It was obvious that she had been convicted before having he fair trial the way Xena had when she had fought the dark hooded Ares. Callisto then asked the warrior princess if she had ever been tried for every crime she had ever committed against humanity. It was obvious to the bard what Callisto was doing. She was playing on the warrior princess’s guilt and placing all of her own guilt upon the shoulders of the warrior princess. Xena was taking it all feeling that she deserved all of it, but Gabrielle argued that Xena could not allow Callisto to place that guilt upon her. Xena was guilty of only what crimes she had committed and not those of the people she had committed them against. Callisto found it amusing that the bard was defending her friend in this way. She began to laugh and then asked Gabrielle if she knew what it was like to wake up every night hearing her mother scream with pain as she was being burned to death. Callisto’s heart and soul were very much scared. For a moment even the bard felt some sympathy as she began to put herself in that place trying desperately to relate and understand.

Gabrielle’s thoughts were interrupted as Xena proposed to Callisto the possibility of allowing her to go free. The bard found herself suddenly aghast that Xena would even fathom the thought of allowing such a killing machine to return to her life of violence. As the two friend began to argue over Callisto’s future Callisto interrupted again and proposed her exact plan. She proclaimed that if Xena were to allow her to go that she would dedicate her entire life to killing everyone and everything Xena loved including her family, friends, reputation, and even her beloved horse Argo. Callisto declared that Xena’s pity would be worse than death for her. She then insisted that Xena carry on with the process of justice for she had indeed created a monster with integrity. Callisto was determined to win Xena’s heart back into darkness no matter what the consequences to herself. It was her passionate hatred that made her heart stale and cold.

Upon arriving back at Delphi Melos was ready with his mob. They were prepared to take Callisto to her justice created by themselves without a trial. But the warrior princess would not allow it. She declared that Callisto would be taken to the village jail and await her fair trial. Callisto seemed to bask in the glory of her success. She had created a darkness so great that hatred was beginning to take control over the goodness which had once existed within the hearts of the villagers at Delphi. Melos led them certain to gain Callisto’s blood no matter what had to be done.

As Xena stood guard Gabrielle found herself confronted by the idiot once again as she watched the mob thirst for blood. He tried to capture her with a rope, but failed as Gabrielle whipped around to face him again. She grabbed his rope and yanked him forth into her fist to the nose. The bard was frustrated with the idiot as she demanded to know what his issue was with trying to capture and defeat her. He declared that Callisto would reward him well for capturing her and trading the bard for Callisto’s release. Yet Gabrielle did not find it to be a very convincing plan she sat him down and slammed a rag down upon his injured nose with frustration. She asked him why he insisted upon following her. He was clearly determined that he was going to be a real warrior and to be well-known by all. Yet he was not at all fierce. He was tame like a lamb, but his heart was definitely that of a lion. Gabrielle laid the truth before him. She explained that he was just not a warrior no matter how much he wanted to be one. He was disappointed for he claimed that his family was a long line of successful warriors. Joxer seemingly didn’t measure up. But that was okay for Gabrielle felt that there were other things that she could urge the kind-hearted idiot to do. She asked him what other interests he had. Joxer replied with zest that he liked to steal. Of course stealing was not at all what the bard had in mind. Instead she suggested fishing. The bard tried to convince Joxer that fishing was just as noble as being a warrior. For a moment it seemed as if maybe she had succeeded for the excitement began to build within his soft brown eyes. Gabrielle began to feel sorry for this mixed up fellow as she held out her hand and introduced herself. He accepted the invitation to friendship only to grab her arm and lock it behind her back at yet another lame capture attempt. The bard’s frustrations boiled over as he took her elbow to his now swollen nose. And then Gabrielle left the idiot to his idiocy feeling that he was a hopeless delusional case.

Yet Xena had problems of her own. As she sat guarding Callisto within the jail Callisto continued to taunt her and to work her conscience. Though Callisto was beyond help she was clever and she knew exactly how to play the warrior princess. She was determined to destroy what goodness lie within Xena’s heart. Xena fought to ignore Callisto’s words, but found it difficult for she still felt guilt within her heart for what had happened. Callisto had not accepted her apology earlier on the journey back toward Delphi. The fair-haired woman would not allow Xena to be forgiven. She continued to torture Xena. Callisto’s vegeance for Xena was strange for despite her hatred and anger she truly admired the darkness of the warrior princess for it had commanded such power. But she condemned the good warrior princess proclaiming that she was too sentimental for her own good. As the warrior princess sat wrestling with her demons and trying to decided if Gabrielle was right or if maybe Callisto could be changed for the better.

And then the mob won out. It hurled a torch of fire into Callisto’s cell hoping to flush her out. Callisto relished in the idea that she could die the same violent death as did her family. She urged Xena to allow her to burn to death for it would be the fitting justice. If that were the fitting justice for Callisto then what would be a fitting justice for a warrior princess. A part of Xena wanted to let it all go within the flames, but she could not. Instead she reached for the keys to the cell releasing Callisto from the wrath of flames. Callisto knew Xena well for she had studied the warrior princess for years. She had escaped her the binds of her metal cuffs and as the warrior princess came to her rescue she fell into Callisto’s trap. Callisto knocked the warrior princess into the fire and then locked her away to burn to death.

Quickly Callisto ran out into the square hissing with vengeance as she screamed and jumped upon her horse once more. As she galloped out-of-town she swiped the unsuspecting bard and rode out-of-town having won this round of the duel. Xena narrowly escaped the flames flipping through the top of the prison ceiling. It was made of only straw which had allowed the burning flames to consume the jail vengefully. As Xena emerged from the jail a distraught Melos began to punish himself for his mistake. He realized that Gabrielle had been right. Forgiveness was the only answer and as Xena jumped upon her horse she reminded Melos that she had made the same mistake which had created Callisto. Then she rode on in the direction that Callisto had disappeared with Gabrielle.

Soon the helpless bard found herself hoisted high above the ground within Callisto’s camp. Callisto was basking within her glory knowing that she was on the verge of Xena’s destruction. Gabrielle was certain to gain the advantage knowing Xena could stand up to the darkness of Callisto. Callisto seemingly did not care if she was defeated in battle against Xena or not. She was certain that either way she would win. If she beat Xena in battle it would mean Xena’s death and if she was killed in a fierce battle by Xena it would allow her to haunt Xena within death for it was certain to unleash the demons within the warrior princess’s heart once more. It seemed that there was no escape for Xena’s heart.

And then the idiot Joxer somehow ended up at Callisto’s camp. He had been found sneaking around within the bushes by Callisto’s men. When he was asked by the blonde woman of his intentions at her camp he was left speechless and unprepared. Then Callisto asked him why he had failed at capturing the girl. He had no excuse only a fumbling of words. Callisto reminded him that it was she who had captured Gabrielle and that he had lost his chance at entry into her army. Joxer tried to declare that he had worked hard at breaking down the bard’s defenses, but Callisto only mocked him by commenting on his swollen nose. Then Callisto declared that there was one more thing he could do to prove his worth to her army. Joxer found himself delighted that Callisto was about to give him another chance to prove himself as a warrior. He was determined to succeed this time.

And so Callisto commanded to have the bard brought down to be killed. She asked Joxer to slice the throat of the irritating blonde from one ear to the other. Joxer reluctantly took the knife. Gabrielle realized that this may be her demise. She prepared for her death as she held her breath facing the determined idiot once more. This time she was unable to defend herself. Joxer realized as he looked into the bard’s eyes that he could not commit such an act. He tried desperately to talk his way out of it. He declared that there should be a better fate for the friend of the warrior princess. Joxer was certain that the warrior princess would be angry to find that the bard had been taken for a possible ransom. Yet Callisto wanted more than money. She wanted blood. Callisto wanted the bard’s blood no matter the consequences that followed. She shouted out for the kill harshly as Joxer shook in his boots.

He slowly took the knife and put his hand upon the bard’s shoulder. Joxer prepared to insert the knife into the helpless victim bound by ropes. She could not defend herself and he could see no real valor in killing the bard in this way. So Joxer refused as he threw down the knife. He could not kill the irritating blonde. This sent Callisto into a rage as she ripped her dagger from it sheath and approached Joxer. She walked about the idiot as he stood awaiting his own death. He chose to die rather than to kill the bard. Gabrielle feared more for his safety than her own. She was prepared to die, but hoped that Xena would arrive soon. Callisto’s vengeance was clearly out of control. The darkness rounded the kind-hearted Joxer as she glided the knife upon his exposed skin. She declared him to be noting more than a coward and an embarrassment to warriors. Then she commanded that he be chained up alongside the bard to await the arrival of the warrior princess. Callisto had a great emotionally charged theatrical prepared for her victims.

Soon the warrior princess did arrived to see the challenge which was presented before her. Callisto declared that it was time to find out who was truly the most skilled and the best warrior. She commanded her men to raise the helpless bard high above the camp into the air once again. And then she asked that a flame be lit to add time into the challenge. So the ropes which held the bard’s life were lit as they began to weaken with each passing moment. The warrior princess gathered great strength and focus from within as she prepared her action within her mind. She was quiet within the short moment of silent peace. And everyone heard the battle cry of the fair-haired Xena. Though her dark nemesis fought bravely she was still no match for our hero.   Desperate to save her friend the great warrior woman leaped into action. Xena began to climb one of the many ladders within Callisto’s camp. Suddenly her fair-haired dark nemesis leaped from her post above and kicked Xena’s ladder into two parts sending Xena crashing violently to the ground. Gabrielle called out to her friend worried for her safety. Yet the warrior princess rested the ladder into a bridge between the two sides of Callisto’s fortress. Callisto stood at the other end awaiting Xena’s next move. The warrior princess charged forth and was kicked down by the irritating blonde. Xena slid violently back toward the other side. And then she regained her strength as she jumped up into hand to hand combat with her dark nemesis.

She took Callisto’s furious kicks and punches until she could block them and then deliver her return assault. Callisto defeated in hand to hand combat flipped backward out of the path of Xena’s fury as Xena broke the ladder bridge in two with a powerful kick downward. Separated from the darkness she jumped across the way giving out her mighty battle cry and landed on a ladder parallel to her dark nemesis. She then began to race Callisto climbing to the top of the ladder in a competition. Callisto’s men tried to slow Xena down, but she defeated them throwing them to the ground as she made her way to the top of the fortress. Then the warrior princess paused showing her confidence to Callisto who was now fighting to keep up with Xena’s clever plan. The warrior princess then traveled across to the other side of the fortress using the ladder to spin across. Her battle cry could be heard again as Gabrielle’s hope rose within. She was determined to cheer the warrior princess onto victory over the darkness.

As Xena looked back Callisto matched her with the same spinning move across to the other side of the camp. But it was a trap for the ego of darkness. While Callisto was busy matching the skill of the warrior princess Xena began to build a rescuing device so that she could reach the bard. She did a half spin across on a second ladder and then shoved it together with another building a very large lever. Callisto paused with interest as she watched the warrior princess work. Yet the ropes still burned and time was running out for Gabrielle. Callisto continued to watch as Xena pulled down the final piece of the lever and spun across and then leapt kicking the ladder onto the base of the lever. Triumphantly the warrior princess flipped upon the lever with a confident loud battle cry.

She slowly scaled down the lever and pulled the other side up toward the helpless bard. Gabrielle could feel the rope weakening quickly as Xena concentrated and assured the bard that she would be there. Joxer shouted out the obvious making the bard more nervous. Then just as Xena was within reach of her rescue attempt Callisto flipped onto the other side of the lever and drew her sword. She declared with a bit of remorse that part of her darkness hoped that Xena would win this battle between her demons and her dark nemesis. Yet her light was not bright enough for she was overcome with her dark vengeance and declared that it was all over. Again the fair-haired Xena was heard screaming her vengeful battle cry as she plunged forward with her weapon toward the warrior princess. Yet Xena did not lose focus. Not even for a moment for she reacted drawing her chackram with one sudden movement. It floated gracefully from her grasp into the air slicing through the weakening rope which held the bard high up in the air.

Gabrielle began to fall as her heart thrust itself into her throat. The bard was certain that she was to meet her demise, but just when it seemed that Callisto had won the battle Xena flipped backwards onto the lever sending Callisto high up into the air as the bard landed softly upon the lever where Callisto once stood. Gabrielle found herself relieved as her heart pounded violently within her chest. The warrior princess slowly let the lever down to release Gabrielle from the danger. Callisto grabbed onto the burning rope above and awaited her demise. She was certain that she had blocked any chance of escaping the demons within the warrior princess. And though her first in command tried to save her she commanded him to allow her to die.

Just as Xena had lowered Gabrielle safely to the ground the rope snapped and Callisto laughed with the depths of evil coming from within. She was about to fall to her death until the warrior princess suddenly grabbed hold of the broken rope, and Xena had saved Callisto from a fate she most desired. Her own death leaving Callisto short of her goal. The irritating blonde groaned with despair for despite all that she had done she had still been defeated by the warrior princess. And so despite all of Callisto’s efforts she was made to face her own justice as Gabrielle found herself glad that Xena had been able to save her for justice’s sake. And so the woes of Callisto were no more as Xena and Gabrielle traveled onto continue the mission of the greater good and the end to the cycle of violence.

The Xena Scrolls

By:  Gabrielle Bard of Podedia

Scroll#27:  Is There A Doctor In the House

November, 48 B.C.

 

Pride holds a cost larger than ourselves.  If only we could choose the  peaceful value of life over blood and death putting our own selfish pride aside.  For there was once this king.  His name was Lubarious.  He was a brave warrior and a great hunter.  Lubarious was so proud of his hunting skills that one day he decided to test them in the sacred forest of the great goddess Artemis.  His pride was so costly that he had angered Artemis taking the lives of many of the beautiful creatures which roamed within her sacred forest.  She was so angry with him that she turned him into a deer like those he had hunted so mercilessly. 

     At first Lubarious thought of the misfortune of being transformed into the creature that he had once skillfully hunted down.  But then he became so fond of the peaceful ways of the deer that he actually grew to love them.  Of course he still missed his friends and family which made him very sad.  So Artemis took pity on him and turned him back into his human form.  For this he became a better king and a much happier man.  He  had learned that the true secret of life is to find peace within oneself and to share it with the world for life can only be what one makes of it.

     Gabrielle was reminded of this wonderful story when she and Xena found themselves traveling through the city of Thessaly for they had found it lying in ruins.  There was not one sign of life.  Not a man, nor woman, nor child were to be found alive within the terrible destruction.  It had only been a few weeks, but the pain of their deaths was still smoldering nearby.  Xena and Gabrielle continued on their way deep into the forest beyond.  It was not long before they found themselves trapped within the grasp of a bloody civil war. 

     This war was between the Mitoans and the Thesselians.  It had been going on for several months for there were the corpses of the dead lying all around the forest.  As the two traveled cautiously through the death and destruction they found themselves so close that one could hear the sounds of a battle raging beyond control.  Swords clashed, and men screamed.  It was one of the most tragic things that Gabrielle had ever seen.  She could not believe how much blood had been spilled over a battle between brothers.  Xena explained that the issue had been over religion for one side disagreed with the other upon their morals and beliefs.

     Gabrielle was fearful of what they might see next and suggested that maybe they should take the southern route around Mitoa in order to avoid becoming innocent victims.  But then suddenly there was the sound of a woman suffering not far away.  Xena and Gabrielle rushed to see who was calling out only to discover an old friend.  It was Ephiny of the Amazons and she had been hiding under a pile of leaves.  She had been there for at least two maybe three days and was quite weak.  Xena noticed that she had a large gash across her forehead and Ephiny mentioned that she had also sustained a broken leg.

      When Gabrielle asked Ephiny what she had been doing out in the middle of this terrible war Ephiny spoke of her pregnancy.  She and her loyal husband Phantes had been traveling toward Athens so that she would be able to give birth to their child.  While traveling they had found themselves caught in the middle of all of this war.  They had been attacked by the Mitoan army as the brave centaur Phantes was killed trying to protect his wife and unborn child.  The Mitoans had laughed upon killing the gallant brave centaur tearing his lifeless body to pieces before the eyes of his beloved.  They left Ephiny for death after she fought them upon losing the father of her unborn child.

     While Gabrielle was preparing Ephiny to travel to a safe place Xena had decided that she was going to save Ephiny and her baby.  Not only that, but she had also decided that she could stop this bloody war between the Mitoans and Thessalians.  Gabrielle was not so certain that this choice was a wise one for she could see no reason for them to get involved, but Xena was certain that she would be able to take on this challenge and  that she would be successful at accomplishing her goal.  Again Gabrielle feared the worst although she had seen that Xena had triumphed in battle many times before.  The bard scolded herself for expressing her sadness of this bloody war feeling that even Xena would not triumph within this battle alone for the devastation seemed larger than the largest of warriors.

     Not far from where Ephiny lay Xena discovered the general of the Mitoan army just beyond some trees rallying his troops.  They were planning on taking a nearby Mitoan healing temple for it was the only thing left standing between Mitoa and Thessaly.  He was certain that victory would be theirs if they could take the temple.  Xena allowed the general to send off his men and then she used her chakram to take him out, but not to kill him.  Then she approached the unconscious general and gave him something that he would never forget.  She took her mighty blade and thrust it into his shoulder. 

     Soon after the injury he awakened from his unconscious state and Xena took him with Gabrielle and Ephiny to the healing temple.  He was against going inside for he was certain that his rank would call death upon him as he entered this Thessalian temple.  Xena was determined to show him what his pride had done as she ripped the symbol of his rank from his clothing.  Marmax was shocked at the warrior princess’s action and her boldness, but realized that he could not argue against it.

     Once inside the temple the young bard found that her heart was breaking for what she saw was great pain and loss.  She could not understand why life was without value when it came to war.  There was  a bit of shock for Gabrielle had not imagined that she would find a healing temple that would house so many broken souls.  The warrior princess quickly glanced about to assess the situation.  She sent Gabrielle to find a place for Ephiny to rest and to prepare for the birth of her child.  And then Xena approached the priests in charge.

      The head priest was an older one.  He introduced himself as Gaylen.  Gaylen also had two other younger priests working alongside him.  Their names were Hippocrates, and Democratis.  Gaylen was enraged that this warrior woman would think to bring into his temple the injured enemy.  Quickly Marmax the general of the Mitoans was taken to the holding area with the rest of his captured and injured comrades. 

     Of course Xena ignored Gaylen for she could see that he and his apprentices were not able to heal with the help of their gods alone.  The warrior princess decided to take immediate action as she began to access the wounded.  First a young man came in suffering.  He was a Mitoan and Gaylen objected immediately to her intervention.  Again the warrior princess ignored him and proceeded to heal with the fine medical knowledge that she possessed.  And as Xena worked above the chaos and in openly defying the powers of the healing god Asclepius yet another pair of wailing wounded were brought into the already full temple.

     One of the men had a deep painful chest wound while the other had been shot through the windpipe with an arrow.  Gabrielle returned to Xena’s side listening to these awful sounds of suffering.  Men who wheezed struggling to take their last breaths of life as their chests violently rose and fell.  The sounds of the dying were almost unbearable to hear, but the bard knew that she must help in any way that she could.  Suddenly, Xena barked out an order for some rags and a hollow reed.  Hippocrates quickly jumped to aid the warrior princess as he found himself suddenly fascinated by this warrior women who seemed to have the power to heal. 

     Upon Hippocrates return Xena demanded to see Marmax at the operating table.  Upon hearing his name Marmax arrived intrigued by this woman’s disrespect for anyone.  He was clearly irritated that he had been brought here and at first refused to help Xena upon her firm request.  Yet Xena persisted in taking command of the general and he once again surrendered himself to her demands.  She gave him the rags and asked him to hold them down onto the chest wound sustained by the victim.  He did so as she inserted the reed into the man’s chest so that he could be given more air. 

     Suddenly, the second victim screamed and Xena responded quickly to his pleas.  He had a neck wound and the blood was flowing out quickly.   The warrior princess then asked for cobwebs as she broke the shaft of the arrow and then pushed the remaining arrow through.  Quickly she took the hollow reed from Hippocrates and inserted it into the hole so that the suffering man could breathe again.  Gabrielle watched as Xena then took the cobwebs from Hippocrates in an attempt to fill the wound and stop the blood.  Xena called to Gabrielle to compress the wound of this suffering soul.   The bard found herself putting her hands into the heart of the war holding the compresses upon the man.

     Soon his chest was calming and his cries were subsiding as these amazing healing women had given him breath once again.  Democratis was so very enthralled with the young bard and her beauty as Hippocrates agreed the taller one was impressive.  Xena and Gabrielle were momentarily annoyed for there was no time for love when the fight for life was not over.  The warrior princess realized that she could use the admiration of these two young priests to help save more lives.  She called to Hippocrates and asked him to separate between those who would live and those who would not be saved.  He was appalled at first for he did not feel that he could make that choice in the presence of his god Asclepius.  It had obviously been taught to him by Gaylen that life and death were not up to the people of the earth. 

     Xena realized that Hippocrates was not yet ready to accept his duty so she gave him a new task as she drew her sword.  She gave it to him instructing him to take it to the pregnant woman to set her broken leg.  Hippocrates could understand this kind of healing and so he took the sword and followed the warrior princess going to work.  The warrior princess had sent her sidekick onto tend to the soul of another wounded victim although his wound was one of the spirit.  Xena knew that the bard could heal that with her powerful words and the light that she carried in her heart. 

     Gabrielle had been reluctant to tend to the soul of a man who could not put his pride aside, but then saw the opportunity in which she had been given by the warrior princess.  The bard could not swing a sword, throw a chakram, or kill in the face of war, but she could  use her powerful words and a beautiful story to convince one of influence to call off this silly feud.  And so Gabrielle tended to the shoulder wound of general Marmax and told the story of Lubarious for she knew that Marmax could relate to a skillful hunter for it was he who hunted the beautiful people of Thessaly. 

     In the beginning of the story Marmax was pleased for he  admired Lubarious’s bravery, but then he scorned Lubarious’s choice of defying Artemis to hunt within her forest.  Gabrielle could clearly see that Marmax was missing the point so she continued on.  She spoke of how Lubarious’s choice to hunt within Artemis’s forest had been the best choice he had ever made for it taught him the valuable lesson of finding peace within himself rather than trying to create it externally.  Yet by the end of this beautiful story with a happy ending Marmax had still not understood what the bard had been trying to tell him.  She left his side upon dressing his wound disappointed that she had been unsuccessful in her quest to sway his mind.

     Upon returning to Xena’s side Gabrielle found herself in the midst of great suffering, pain, and agony.  These were all Thessalian soldiers about to be sent to their deaths for the pride of general Marmax and his army.  Suddenly, Gabrielle heard Xena call out for more supplies.  She needed another hollow reed and the bladder of a pig.  Hippocrates had returned to Xena as well realizing that Xena had been right to choose for some of the wounded could clearly never return to us despite what was done for them.  Xena then inserted a knife into the chest of the new patient as his body flailed about upon the Asclipious’s altar.  His blood spilled upon the alter staining it with the ugliness of war.  She then stitched up his neck wound hoping to stop some of the blood loss.

     Gaylen had returned to find the sacred altar in ruin defaced with the blood of the dying enemy for this man was a Thessalian.  It was the last that he could tolerate of this healing woman’s presence.  Gaylen demanded that the Thessalian guards within his temple kill the warrior princess for she was going against all that was allowed within the temple.  The two guards prepared to do battle as the warrior princess reached instinctively for her sword to find that it was missing.

     As the enemy approached she resorted to her powerful combat kicks which were a threat enough for this woman still tended to the sick and wounded as she fought against them.  Upon defeating their weak advances upon her Gaylen scolded the warrior princess for her disrespect of the gods.  Yet Xena had no remorse for her crimes against them for she declared that the gods would not heal these men.  Her belief had always been that one must take action in order to make something happen.  As the two argued over who was right and who was wrong within this realm of healing Gabrielle found herself unable to keep her patient from his suffering.  She and Hippocrates worked together pumping air into his lungs with the pig’s bladder and hollow reed yet as they pumped harder and faster the man lost more and more blood.  His breaths became shorter and fainter until finally his chest stopped.

     As the distraught bard called out to Xena for help Xena came to find that this man could not be saved.  She called off the efforts of Gabrielle and Hippocrates realizing defeat.  But Gabrielle did not want to be defeated.  She could not understand how the man could die when she and Hippocrates had worked so hard to save his life.  Xena tried to comfort the bard and to help her understand that there were just some things that were beyond what they could do to help in the face of suffering.  Gabrielle promised to Xena that she would work harder next time still feeling guilty that she had failed.

     Then Gaylen interjected into their conversation and spitefully declared that indeed the warrior princess could not heal that man.  Xena regretfully agreed that indeed that injury was one that could not be healed for the man had lost too much blood. 

     Marmax returned to see what a toll this experience had taken on the youth that traveled alongside this warrior woman as he watched the young bard try to comfort another dying man.  He could clearly see that Gabrielle knew the man would die, but she spoke gentle words to him knowing that it was those words that she could offer and nothing more.  The young Democratis sat alongside Gabrielle as he watched her tend to this man.  He too was enlightened by the bard’s great power and strength within.  Then Marmax confronted Xena for bringing the bard into this mess.  Xena could see that he was right for the pain that Gabrielle was feeling within was almost as great as the physical suffering that each of these men were experiencing within their dying hour.

      Yet the pain was still not over for another man came forth to the altar.  He was screaming in pain for his leg was badly diseased.  Xena proclaimed that for this man to live he must give up his leg in return.  The man was upset and could not conceive of cutting off  his leg.  But the truth was revealed bluntly by Xena for she said that his choices were very simple.  He could live without his leg or die with it.  Marmax was outraged yet again by her even emotionless tone.  Yet she looked to the victim and asked him what his choice would be.  The man sighed and asked the healing woman to take his leg in exchange for his life. 

     Xena then went to work once again asking for a sword, a shield, and  a torch.  Then she asked for Marmax to assist her again, but this time he stopped defying Xena’s request for he refused to help the enemy.  Marmax turned to walk away when the warrior princess boldly revealed to him that she would just give him another wound to match the one he had already sustained.  At that moment Marmax realized that it had been Xena who had wounded his shoulder.  He knew that she was serious and chose not to challenge her further.  He participated in this operation taking the shield as Xena heated the sword with the torch.  Then she used her pinch to mask the pain that was to follow.  Slowly she prepared to take the diseased leg and then with one motion his leg was separated.  The man screamed in shock, but the warrior princess knew that in time he would heal physically yet within she was not so sure.

     As the man who lost his leg screamed in terror and shock Gabrielle was stopped suddenly by another distraught injured soldier.  He pleaded with her speaking of a little boy lost out in the woods near the river.  The little boy was his son and his name was Perayous.  Gabrielle found herself becoming confused within all of the chaos and the pain yet realized that someone had to save this little boy.  She could not allow an innocent child to be killed for the pride of a battle gone sour.  As Gabrielle went for the door Deomocratis pleaded with her not to go out into the blood, but Gabrielle ignored him.  If she had to give her life for the life of that little boy then she would do it without question.

     The bard dropped her healing weapons and took up her staff to prepare to defend the innocent in the midst of all of this horror.  It was not far to the river and she knew that she could save the little boy.  She began to call out to him upon approaching the banks of the river finding herself suddenly confronted by a Mitoan soldier.  He moved to strike forward as the bard blocked his advances.  And then she saw the little boy behind her.  He was fearful and alone.  Her heart bled for him as she knocked the Mitoan soldier off of his feet onto the ground.

     Gabrielle quickly turned to run for the boy and carry him to safety, but just behind his innocence she saw another Mitoan soldier raising his sword to take the boy.  The bard threw herself in front of the boy using her staff to block the enemy, but was unable to defend against his fury.  The soldier slashed his sword across the bard’s shoulder and chest.  The pain was sharp, but quick.  She fell upon the little boy who was curled up in a ball in terror.  Then she waited for the enemy to leave and as they left she struggled to her feet.  She took the little boy although the pain was difficult to overcome. 

     Suddenly from behind a Thessalian soldier approached realizing that the young woman and child were in need.  He took them to the healing temple hoping that they would be safe there.  Upon her arrival Gabrielle was barely able to breathe.  She saw Xena approach in shock of what had just happened.  Immediately Xena tended to her badly wounded friend.  Xena hoped that she could save this victim for this victim was real.  It was not just another soldier.  As Xena worked diligently upon her friend’s wounds Gabrielle called out for Ephiny.  Ephiny came and Gabrielle asked her to lean in close for she wanted to give Ephiny her right of caste.  Ephiny would not take it for she would not lose another Amazon sister the way she had lost her husband.  She pleaded with Gabrielle as she took her hand.      

     As Xena worked the temple began to shake for the enemy was now on the doorstep.  There was no shelter left for the weak as the entire structure rocked and began to come down.  The young priests jumped into action telling Xena that they be sure to get the wounded and the innocent to safety outside the temple.  However, Democratis was distraught for he had allowed Gabrielle to go out alone into the battle after the little child.  As he and Hippocrates took the patients outside and down the steps Democratis himself was struck in the chest by an arrow.  He fell slowly as he was stunned by the sudden invasion into his body.

      In the next moment the old priest Gaylen knelt down before the altar crying desperately for the god Asclepius to descend down upon his temple and stop the madness.  As all was falling apart Hippocrates picked up the pieces bravely as Xena instructed him on how to treat his wounded friend.  Then she asked Marmax to step forward and to do his part in healing by encouraging his army to stop the fighting.  Marmax’s spirit had seen more than the light for the expecting mother had sung to him the tragic story of her husband and her loss.  She had convinced him of the  wrongs that he had committed and now he saw two more innocent before him who didn’t deserve to die for his pride and victory.

     Upon his decision the battle suddenly ceased as the first of his soldiers entered into the temple.  He was forceful with them for they didn’t understand at first what it was that they should preserve.  Marmax explained to them that negotiating would be how they would win the remainder of this terrible war.  So many had been lost already.  He would not be responsible for the deaths of anymore.  And so Marmax’s soldier went out into the field to deliver this peaceful message.  It was the first time in a long time that he himself had been humbled the way that Lubarious had been humbled.  Finally Marmax understood what Gabrielle’s story was meant to be.  It was his lesson, but he had learned that lesson only upon her nearing death.

     Xena sat alongside her friend regretfully as she expressed her mistake within her own pride.  The warrior princess had been so determined to prove that she could win this war against pride that her own pride may have cost her the one she valued most.  Marmax stood beyond and could hear all that Xena spoke of realizing that she too had been wounded deeply by this war senseless war.   Xena regretted not taking the southern route as Gabrielle had suggested, and then Marmax interjected with hope.  He delivered words of encouragement to the healing warrior confident that Gabrielle would make it through.

     Though death itself was near so was the promise of birth as Ephiny found herself about to bring her child into the world.  Marmax called to Xena unaware of what to do.  Xena responded yet again to her call to duty and realized that Ephiny’s baby was breech.  The situation was serious, but it was obvious that the exhausted mother was not going to give birth to her child naturally.  Xena would have to cut it out to save both of their lives. 

     Marmax retrieved the supplies needed to perform the miracle of birth.  Xena concentrated as she carefully took the pain from the expecting mother with the pressure points.  Then she placed a candle before Ephiny upon the table and asked her to focus onto it looking deeply within the passionate flame for Phantes.  Ephiny concentrated and felt her husband’s presence as Xena began the procedure.  She ran a knife through the flame of the candle and carefully made her incision.  Across the stomach and then down the middle.  Xena instructed Marmax to pull back the layers of skin upon the top and there just inside the gift was revealed.  It was a beautiful baby boy with four legs.  He was definitely the child of a centaur.  Marmax was delighted to be a part of this miracle as was Xena, but this joyful moment was interrupted by the other side of birth.

     Xena quickly ran to Gabrielle’s side as she saw her friend struggling.  The bard’s body shook and jolted violently.  The warrior princess was unable to act for she could not heal this.  This was beyond her control.  Gabrielle’s spirit then fluttered about seeing all who stood about.  She then saw the white light and the gates opening into a beautiful place.  It had vibrant trees and vast colorful fields.  She found herself greeted by those whom had already left her.  There were her grandparents, and her uncle Meropes.  Her spirit trembled with joy to be reunited with all of these people that she had missed. 

     But then amongst the laughter and the joy Gabrielle was touched by another vibrant young soul.  It was Talus the boy who had gone home with Celesta leaving her behind.  Talus was glad to see her, but told her that she must turn around and go back for there was still so much that she had to do.  Gabrielle was saddened for a moment for she did not want to leave this most peaceful place, but Talus insisted that she must go back.  Then he took her to a special temple and showed her the things that she must do before she could return.  Gabrielle’s soul was excited and agreed to return to Xena for she saw how much the warrior princess still needed her.

      Upon leaving the Elysian Fields behind she waved good-bye to all those that she had to leave behind again including Talus.  He smiled brightly knowing that Gabrielle’s spirit would not return until it had full-filled its promises to Xena.  And then her spirit floated above her body once more looking down upon what she saw.  Marmax’s army was retreating and sending out word of truce to the people of Thessaly.  Gabrielle’s spirit realized that she and Xena had succeeded in stopping this terrible war.  Yet her joy was interrupted by the sensation of emotional anguish.  It wasn’t her own, but the anguish of someone very close to her.  She saw Xena lying over her trying to bring her back to earth. 

     Xena was struggling and fighting a battle that she could only win if Gabrielle were to return.  The warrior princess’s heart began to break for the body did not respond.  Xena pounded on the bard’s chest jolting the lifeless body, but still Gabrielle did not return.  Marmax and many others tried desperately to convince the warrior princess that she must give up and let Gabrielle go.  But Xena would not give up for she could not allow herself to be responsible for the death of another beautiful innocent. She cradled the bard in her arms and rocked her crying with desperation.  The pain which radiated from Xena’s soul was so overwhelming that Gabrielle could not allow Xena to be alone any longer. 

      Gabrielle struggled to return into her lifeless body, but suddenly found herself taking a breath as her eyes flew open.  Xena’s spirit was suddenly relieved for her best friend had returned to her despite all that had been lost.  And so that is how the healing warrior, and Marmax found their own peace.  It was through the cost of their pride that their eyes were opened for the first time so that they could see the happiness of  a life without  blood and war, and the miracle of the birth of innocence.

 The Xena Scrolls

By:  Gabrielle Bard of Podedia

Scroll# 28:  A Solstice Carol

December 23, 48 B.C. 

     I sing of the king whose name was Silvus for he could not find the love in his heart to allow a celebration of winter solstice.  An older poor couple was brought forth to him in the king’s the court for they had not one dinar to pay him though they owed for their taxes.  Silvus had no mercy upon them and he sentenced them to ten winters in prison for their humble crimes against his kingdom.  Yet he was not finished for their crimes were not all read.  It was discovered that they had also been guilty of celebrating the time of the winter solstice.  This enraged the king even more for he gave them two more winters for this crime which they had committed.

      Thus on the very same night a warrior princess and her loyal sidekick Gabrielle entered into Silvace’s kingdom unaware of the laws which forbade the celebration of solstice.  Gabrielle was excited for it was the eve of solstice and it was a time of giving and of sharing love and hope.  Xena of course was not as excited, but the bard insisted that they each shop in the market and buy a gift of solstice for the other.  They were not to spend more than five dinars for their gift, but Xena did not see the point when she could just as easily give Gabrielle the five dinars.  Gabrielle argued with her friend reminding her that it was the surprise of the gift and the thought involved in choosing a gift that made this tradition a special one.

     Upon arguing the solstice tradition the two were interrupted by a thief who had stealthfully passed between them stealing Xena’s prized chakram.  As they watched the thief disappear into the crowd in the market they noticed that he was only a child.  They decided to separate splitting up to trap the thief between them.  The chase was on as Xena bolted closely behind the young thief watching his every move.  She noticed that he only tried to steal one other item from another unsuspecting shop keeper.  Xena decided to give him space and to follow him for he was not the typical thief.

     And then as he passed through the back alley way Gabrielle again caught sight of him.  She was about to confront him when Xena motioned quietly for the bard to follow.  The two women watched as the boy entered into a large old building which looked to be an orphanage.  This was definitely not a typical robbery.  Xena and Gabrielle followed their thief through the doors of the orphanage and looked to see why he had stolen Xena’s chackram.  There before them stood a large beautiful solstice tree with all of the beautiful trimmings and bright golden decorations.  There were candles burning upon each branch illuminating the room and there upon the top of the tree was the most lovely star the bard had ever seen.

     However, Xena was not so impressed by this beautiful star for it was indeed her stolen chakram which sat radiantly upon the top of the solstice tree.  Xena was a bit offended that someone would even think of her chakram as less than a deadly weapon, but Gabrielle was tickled to see the many functions that the graceful chakram held.  The young boy was scolded by the lady who ran the orphanage for indeed he had stolen Xena’s chakram yet the bard found it cute that he would go to any length to find a star in the spirit of solstice.  Xena approached the wonderful tree and took the chackram from its resting place on top.  It had been wrapped in little red, white, and gold bows which brought out so much color.

     Suddenly the doors of the orphanage were busted open for there were the guards of Silvus and the bailiff who sat upon Silvus’s court.  The bailiff held an order upon a scroll which read that the orphanage was to be vacated by midnight for they had been sentenced for celebrating solstice.  Not only that, but if they did not leave they would have to pay a penalty of 10,000 dinars for their crimes.  This was not fair, and seemed a cold-hearted deed.  Xena took matters into her own hands.  She took her chakram bows and all throwing it around about the soldiers wrapping them like solstice gifts together and bound. 

     As the warrior princess took the four guards of Silvus to a prison within the orphanage Gabrielle took the bailiff noticing that his heart was not as cold as the words upon his parchment.  She asked of his name and he said that it was Senticles.  Gabrielle had heard of this name Senticles as she searched within her memory to find out who he really was.  And then it came to her.  Gabrielle remembered that she had once been given a solstice gift that had been crafted by Senticles himself.  It had been a little wooden toy lamb whose mouth would open if it’s tail was pulled.  Gabrielle expressed her joy as she remembered how happy that toy had made her feel as a child.

     Senticles was delighted for a moment to see the joy that his craft of toy making had brought to Gabrielle, but expressed his sadness for toys had been outlawed the day solstice had been banned.  When Xena had returned she had wanted to take Senticles to the cell with the other solstice haters, but Gabrielle convinced her that Senticles was not one of them.  Instead they would use Senticles to help them in releasing the ban upon this most wonderful holiday. 

     Gabrielle then asked of Senticles why solstice had been banned, and Senticles told of Silvus’s wife Analia whom had passed away upon a Solstice eve many winters before.  His heart had been broken on a night that was meant for joy and so the bard could understand his loss, but now it was time for Silvus to stop mourning and to celebrate once again.

     Gabrielle had her own plan though Xena was opposed.  She wanted to fight this battle without weapons for the bard was confident that it could be done.  Xena of course wasn’t certain, but Gabrielle pleaded with the warrior princess reminding her that it indeed was a peaceful time which should be resolved with peaceful measures.  Gabrielle promised Xena that if her plan did not work that they would most certainly smash heads to release these saddened people of Silvace’s kingdom.

     The first thing that had to be done was to gather the necessary supplies.  Gabrielle was given 35 dinars for it was all that Xena had left herself.  There was a very long list, but Gabrielle promised Xena that she would be able to haggle and get everything on the list.  And as they parted Xena caught Senticles trying to escape his duty to the people of Silvus for he was a coward who could not bear to think of what Silvus would do to him if he found out about his deeds with the warrior princess.

      The hour was growing late as Gabrielle entered the market place.  It was now dark and some of the shops were beginning to close up.  Yet as her eyes roamed about seeking a deal she was interrupted by the sounds of a man cursing and a donkey screaming.  Gabrielle turned about to watch as she discovered that this stubborn donkey was not about to move anywhere, and the man shouted back.  She interjected hoping that she could be of some assistance to this man his donkey and their struggle.  The man declared angrily and with frustration that he was about to take this beautiful animal to the tannery.  He was certain to get 50 dinars for the donkey. 

     Gabrielle was suddenly upset for how could someone take a loving animal to the slaughterhouse on the night of solstice eve.  Without another thought she offered the scrawny middle-aged man 20 dinars for his animal.  He refused for he did not want to give up his 50 dinars.  In fact, the man said that he would not take less than 25.  But then Gabrielle reminded him that his donkey was only worth 50 dinars if he could get it to the tannery.  It was quite obvious to the bard that this donkey was not about to budge.  She then offered him 30 realizing that he wouldn’t even get 50 despite what he had claimed.  The man suddenly stopped trying to struggle with the donkey and he declared that he would take 35 dinars.  Gabrielle smiled with delight and then suddenly realized that she had just spent all of their money to save this donkey from the slaughterhouse.

     Yet then she realized that she had done something in the spirit of solstice and it did not matter that she had spent all of their money on this poor stubborn donkey.  So she took the donkey upon exchanging her last 35 dinars and gave him a name.  She called him Tobias.  Upon reaching the orphanage Gabrielle had been told that she could not bring Tobias inside.  As she tried to take him back out into the cold Tobias refused to budge once again.  She was beginning to feel the same frustration that the former owner had experienced with this stubborn animal.  Then suddenly someone whistled and Tobias responded.  Gabrielle was delighted to see that this donkey had been trained just the way Argo had been trained by Xena.  As Gabrielle took her new friend back out into the cold she tried to comfort Tobias and promised him that she would stay outside with him.  She did not want her new friend to be lonely.

     Upon Xena’s return Gabrielle realized that she had to explain why she had been unsuccessful at obtaining the list of things needed to complete their mission.  As Xena came into the orphanage Gabrielle confessed persuasively that she had made a wonderful investment by saving the poor animal from the tannery.  Xena could not argue or be upset with her friend for she knew how big the bard’s heart truly was.  Gabrielle had only done what she thought had been right.  That was what the warrior princess loved most about her misguided young friend.

     Xena then explained what had happened while she was at the castle.  She had found all of the things that they had needed to complete their mission, but King Silvus had not been so responsive upon her visit to his bedside.  He had called upon his guards when he discovered that Xena had come not to rob him, but to convince him to restore the celebration of solstice and to ease up on his tax laws.  It was clear that the next part of their mission was to be completed.  Yet they needed just one more person to get involved so Xena turned yet again to Senticles.  She found him in the court working very late as he always did.  Xena entered quietly behind him watching as this old toy maker changed sentences and numbers allowing some mercy to enter into the lives of the poor and unfortunate.  Xena found herself touched by this and was certain that he would get involved.

      She approached him complementing him on his good deeds, but he was modest and almost nervous that anyone had even discovered his small deed.  Xena then asked of him to join her and Gabrielle to carry out their plan yet he refused.  He would not go further than changing the numbers upon his parchment, but Xena reminded him that she could easily give word to Silvus of Senticles’s deeds against Silvus.  Senticles had no other choice, but to join the warrior princess and the bard in convincing Silvus otherwise.

      And so the first part of Gabrielle’s plan had begun.  Xena was dressed as the beautifully charming fate Clotho.  Clotho had been the fate of Silvus’s past and she was there to remind Silvus.  Silvus was afraid at first, but listened as he shook in his bed.  Clotho insisted that he come with her to visit his past, but Silvus refused.  Then Clotho reminded him of what would happen to his own future if he chose not to come with her.  While Xena performed before Silvus, the toy maker performed behind the curtain making his magic believable.

     Once Silvus was convinced of the power of Clotho he reluctantly put on his robe and joined Clotho and they went down to the basement of the castle.  It was old and musty.  There were cobwebs all about for no one had been there for years.  Yet the warrior princess had been there earlier when she had discovered the picture on the wall.  It had been of Analia and Silvus together and Analia’s eyes were very similar to Gabrielle’s.  As Clotho guided Silvus through his past there before him was a shadow .  It was the living breathing shadow of Annulya.  She spoke lovingly to him yet within a ghostly voice.  Clotho then turned to the king and began to speak to him as the suspended shadow fell suddenly to the ground.  Gabrielle fought violently through the robes which she wore for she could not see what was going on.  And then suddenly the shadow was hoisted back into the air.

      Analia then told Silvus that it was now time for him to let go of the pain of his past.  She encouraged him to leave her in peace though she apologized for leaving him in her death so many years ago.  For a moment Silvus was convinced of this mysterious shadow until he realized and reminded this shadow that she had not died, but she had left him.  Suddenly, Silvus became angry and almost distraught.  Then he fainted and fell to the floor.  Gabrielle was concerned that maybe they had gone too far, but Xena assured her that it had only been a drug that she had put into the king’s wine which would allow him to sleep, but for only a short time.

     Then Xena took Silvus back to his bed chambers and Gabrielle whistled for Tobias to take her back out to the ground outside the castle.  Once Gabrielle touched the ground she began to look for Senticles for he was supposed to have been watching Tobias.  It was obvious to the bard that his cowardice had won out and Senticles had abandon the people of Silvus once again.  Yet she saw Tobias and was delighted at how smart this animal truly was.  It was as if despite the absence of Senticles this beautiful animal knew just what he had to do.  For that he had saved the mission.

      While Gabrielle took Tobias to search for Senticles Xena returned with Silvus to his bedchambers.  There was little time before the drug from his wine would wear off and he’d be certain to figure out what was really going on.  Xena changed costume as well for phase two of the plan required that she become the fate of the present.   Lachesis rudely awakened the sleepy Silvus to take him on a journey of the present.  At first Silvus was angered yet again at his suddenly being ripped out of sleep, but Lachesis convinced him otherwise.  She began by asking him to change into common clothes so that he may walk about his subjects undetected.  Lachesis desired to show the king his ugly ways from the perspective of those who know him best.  Even Silvus seemed unaware of his arrogance being the king.  This showed in his initial defiance of Lachesis’s request of him, but it did not last.  With Xena behind the mask of the present convincing the king to so ask he had been asked was not a problem.

      Meanwhile Gabrielle found herself amongst the local townspeople in search of Senticles’s home.  The people knew just where to find Senticles and so Gabrielle followed his trail straight to his front door.  She knocked and called out to him for she was certain that he would be cowering there.  After a few moments of  persistence and determination Senticles finally answered.  Gabrielle was quite agitated that her new warrior friend was not so enthusiastic about helping in the greater good.  She scolded him for leaving and asked him what had happened.  Senticles was quick to defend his cowardice explaining that there were two guards that had come by while he was watching Tobias.  Tobias had been tied to a rope which acted as the pulley in making Gabrielle rise above the floor as the shadowy spirit of Analia.  When Senticles had run away it had almost blown the cover of Xena and Gabrielle.  Gabrielle questioned Senticles harshly wondering why he ran away from his responsibility to herself and Xena.  Senticles responded with a new defense.  He explained that he had seen Xena fight earlier and that he was confident Xena was more than capable of rescuing herself and Gabrielle.  Senticles’s faith in Xena’s interest in protecting him had been lacking.  Before Gabrielle could continue interrogating Senticles for his irresponsibility and cowardice Senticles responded that even Tobias was safer than he within the wrath of Silvus for a donkey would not be punished for a crime against Silvus.

     Gabrielle was disappointed in the toy maker whom had once brought the power of love and hope to children all over Greece.  She could not grasp what had taken that from him.  He seemed to be selfish as Silvus.  Gabrielle could not convince him otherwise for his heart had seemingly been damaged beyond repair.  With that Senticles had demanded that Gabrielle walk away and leave him alone for he wanted no part in goodness ever again.  As Gabrielle’s heart sank for his loss of hope she turned away preparing to give up and move on with the plan without Silvus.  But just as the bard turned away from Silvus she saw the most beautiful sight.  It was the sight of thousands of toys which Silvus had made for children.  There were dolls, and rocking horses, wagons, and more.  All were shimmering with hope waiting for the heart of a child to be their new home. 

     The bard was taken aback and in awe of the spectacle of all of those toys.  She felt like a child again as her eyes roamed about the beautiful toys.  Suddenly it came to her like Zues’s lightening.  She realized that the way to Silvus’s heart was still through the hearts of children.  The innocence within began to speak as she inquired of Silvus about the toys.  Of course he answered as she had expected, but then quickly scolded himself for leaving the toys about.  Gabrielle realized there would be a little work involved in winning him over, but she was confident that she could do it.  The bard then ran toward the toys and began to frolic about picking up a doll as she noticed that its eyes opened and closed.  Silvus rushed to Gabrielle’s side taking hold of the doll that Gabrielle had taken and began to explain how it worked.  But before he could get a second word out Gabrielle moved onto another toy. 

      She had spotted the very same toy that had been given to her as a little girl.  Gabrielle pulled a little wooden lamb off of the shelf before here and began pulling the tail as it made the little sounds of a lamb.  Her heart fluttered for in this moment she was a child again as Silvus followed watching how his work had touched the heart of someone he knew.  Gabrielle could sense Silvus’s heart opening up with delight and so she decided to take a leap of her own faith.  She planted the seed for Silvus suggesting that all of these wonderful toys could make more children happy again.  They could begin at the local orphanage.  For a moment Silvus was with Gabrielle again as Gabrielle began taking toys off of the shelf to be packed for delivery.  Yet Silvus was again reminded of the law of Silvus which stated that toys were illegal.  He was still hesitant despite the light in his heart.  Gabrielle continued to push despite Senticles’s doubts.  She moved ahead with new plan in mind taking the bag which Silvus held suggesting that it could be used for transport to the orphanage.  The bard continued to stuff toys into the bag as Senticles tried to plant doubt.  Gabrielle spoke against doubt explaining that when Xena was finished with Silvus that the king himself would hand out the toys to all of the children of his kingdom. 

     Then Gabrielle moved onto the issue of disguise.  Senticles would need a disguise to get past the guards so that he could deliver the toys.  Just then Senticles halted hope once again.  He did not like to be pushed into a small corner, but Gabrielle refused to allow his excuses to prevail any longer.  She reminded Senticles of his worst fears.  He feared being locked away in a small space.  Yet he was already locked up and had not even realized it.  His heart was confined to the law of the land which had been created by Silvus’s hand.  Gabrielle expressed that Senticles only had himself to fear for it was his own doubts that had held him back.  It was not Silvace’s law.  Gabrielle pointed out that Senticles was afraid to stand up for his heart’s desire and the heart’s desire of others.  Then she sealed the deal reminding him that he was the one in control.  It was Senticles who made the choice for life and the lives of others.  And so Senticles had seemingly been convinced to stop running and hiding to stand up and fight.  Even if it meant that fighting would entail making toys and delivering joys.  As expected Gabrielle, Senticles, and Tobias ran into the guards on their way to the orphanage, but they dodged them easily with Senticles’s new disguise.  Yet they would have to find a new way into the orphanage rather than using the front door in order to avoid the risk of their own arrest.

     It seemed as if the plan was back on track once again as Lachesis had just arrived at the orphanage with Silvus.  Upon entering the orphanage Silvus expected to have the door slammed in his face already aware of his impending deeds.  Yet the young boy whom had answered did not recognize his king without his crown and royal robes.  Instead the boy invited the stranger in for food and drink despite how little they had.  Lachesis urged the boy to continue sharing their hardships at the orphanage in order to paint a better picture of the king’s terrible wrath.  Silvus was angered as he listened to the boy speak of how terrible the king was.  There was not one thing nice about Silvus to the boy or to any other child at the orphanage.  Yet a stranger was welcome to share in their secret solstice celebration for the orphanage was to be shut down at midnight.  When the stranger inquired he was reminded of the law.  If taxes were not paid then the land went back into the hands of the king.  The orphanage had been taxed beyond its means and could no longer stay open.  All of the kids would be out in the street by the next morning.  Without a home the children were not afraid to break the law of celebrating solstice.

      After being described as the most tyrant king upon the Aegean the stranger listened as the children’s choir sang.  Lachesis was hoping that the king was convinced of his crimes, but instead she was shocked to find otherwise.  At the end of the celebration as the time struck the hour Silvus rose from his place with rage.  He blamed Lachesis for his nasty deeds of the past several years for it was she and the other fates that had separated Analia from him in the first place.  It was an unexpected turn of events that not even Xena could have predicted.  And so the king stormed off toward the doors of the orphanage.  He’d had enough of the fates’s silly games.  As he opened the doors he was greeted by the forces of Silvus.  The soldiers were not pleasant and they demanded his surrender, but Silvus resisted his own arrest.  When Silvus defied his own law the guards laughed in his face certain that he was not their king.  Instead the officer proclaimed himself to be the queen of the amazons and so the battle began.

      Lachesis transformed into Xena as she kicked down the columns which held up the foyer.  This gave her and Silvus the time to escape as she whisked him back through the doors inside of the orphanage.  When they reentered Lionel the young boy whom had been so kind to the stranger warned that they should leave now.  Yet just as he had spoken of the arrest that awaited them Silvus passed out from shock and Lachesis was no more.  As soon as Lynal realized that it was Xena that had brought in the stranger he warned that the guards they had trapped inside the basement earlier had escaped.  Xena was not so worried about those guards any longer.  She was more concerned with a new plan.  As Lynal directed her down into the basement she took Silvus to be watched by the keeper of the orphanage. 

     Lynal took the rest of the children to a safe hiding place as Xena looked about to design a last-minute change of plan.  But just when it seemed that things were beyond repair Senticles and Gabrielle dropped in through the air.  They had entered into the orphanage through a fire shaft which had been not so comfortable for the bard.  Yet Senticles was happy as a boy as he jumped up from the ground with his toys and danced with joy.  He picked up Gabrielle and began to dance with the bard as Xena watched with delight and Senticles chuckled within his disguise.  He wore a red suit with a large white beard that Gabrielle had found back at the basement of Silvus’s castle.  It was all too perfect for the warrior princess who now had a new plan with two new warriors at her side.

     Using Senticles’s toys and the decorations of solstice Xena, Gabrielle, and Senticles defeated the guards of Silvus.  It was beyond imagination that a battle could be won by the joy of toys alone, but it was all that had been needed to have Silvus’s laws defeated.  As the battle raged on an army of children arrived as they picked up arms and loads of toys.  The guards of Silvus were made fools for they were being defeated by women and children.  Just as the battle came to a climactic roar Silvus appeared defying his own laws.  He was the final blow to the demise of local law.  As the battle ended he declared that the orphanage would not close and that no one would be evicted. 

     In the next moment things turned solemn as a dark figure emerged from the basement.  Silvus’s fears rose as he begged the future not to take his life.  The king had hoped that this act to redeem himself would save him from the fates, but instead it healed him.  Just as Gabrielle was about to explain who was behind the dark robe the hood of disguise was lifted.  Silvace’s lips spoke the name of his beloved who stood before him with regret.  Analia had heard his desperate pleas as he had come out of his shock in the basements.  She realized now that she too had made mistakes.  Both of their selfish mistakes had caused the suffering of many innocent people.  And so the two worked out their differences and let love back into their hearts.

      As the morning sun rose Xena and Gabrielle took Argo and Tobias down the road onto their next journey.  Xena praised Gabrielle for her choice in battle plans for this particular battle and the bard was pleased that she had impressed Xena.  The giving did not stop at that for on the day of solstice the four of them ran into some weary travelers.  Gabrielle offered them a solstice gift reluctantly giving away her new found friend Tobias so that the three could make the long journey west.  Upon saying good-bye to Tobias Xena offered protection for the young couple and their newborn child, but it was refused.  And so as Xena, Gabrielle, and Argo continued on down the path Xena surprised Gabrielle with another gift.  It was one of Senticles’s toy lambs.  Gabrielle felt guilt for not having the time to find a gift for Xena, but instead the warrior princess insisted that the bard’s friendship to her was a gift.  The bard could not offer to the warrior princess any other gift worth more than her undying  friendship.

The Xena Scrolls

By:  Gabrielle Bard of Potedia

Scroll#29:  The Giant Killer

January, 47 B.C.

     I sing of David the warrior poet of Isreal.  His courage shown on the battlefield, his gentle nature within his home.  David’s truest passion was in his psalms, and within all that he did.  All that had been done had been done for the love of his family and of his god.  Upon twilight’s eyes Xena and Gabrielle walked through death’s shadows within the open graveyard of the mighty giants.  Xena whispered within the echoes of her life and of its past.  She sung of a great battle in which she had fallen.  Yet in this battle she had been rescued by a brave and noble friend. 

     Xena’s army had gone up against an army of giants and it had been mauled by their strengths and power.  The commander of the army of giants was Gareth and there was not one soul that he would spareth.  Not even the souls of the innocent were safe from his wrath and so Xena’s noble friend Golliath paid a price.  He paid it with his own sacrifice.  For Gareth had delivered Golliath’s family into the hands of death.  Distraught by his terrible loss Golliath took command of Xena’s army for the warrior princess was too wounded to continue on.  He charged forth toward Gareth, but Gareth would not stand.  Gareth’s cowardice would not face Golliath’s vengence so he sent his own soldiers into this valley of death.  After Golliath had taken the remainder of Xena’s army they defeated the giants of Gareth.  Then before vegence could strike the cowardly Gareth fled leaving a graveyard strewn with slain giants forever resting in death.        

     As Xena continued on forth Gabrielle feared the darkness of what they were about to explore.  The giants graveyard was a littered sight.  It was full of bones, and the agonies of ten years past.  Xena and her friend Golliath had promised that they would return here.  To honor all who had fallen and sacrificed their lives.  Xena felt she owed a great debt to her friend for he had lost his family as he had rescued her from death.  They had been innocent victims caught in the crossing blades.  Golliath’s loving heart and kind bravery had been stolen as had his family.      

       The warrior princess then knelt down to mourn and to pay her respects.  Gabrielle still uneasy treaded carefully through the sight.  Suddenly the bard’s worst imagined fears came to pass.  She looked out across the path and saw something that made her gasp.  The ground shook beneath her tiny boots as she tried to warn Xena of the approaching danger.  It was the imfamous giant from Xena’s past.  Yet Xena did not appear worried or inclined to act.  Instead she waited as the giant approached.  He stood proud and tall before the tiny mortals below.  When the giant stopped he smiled and welcomed the sight of his old friend.  This giant was not Gareth as Gabrielle had suspected, but Golliath the savior of the warrior princess.  Although Xena had introduced her friends to one another with pride Gabrielle found herself unable to oblidge.  She decided that she would head off into the woods beyond feeling that her life would be less in danger there.

     And so the two old friends were left to catch up alone while the bard thought aloud to herself.  She was still so uneasy about the cryptic nature of her friend even when it came from within.  Despite Xena having told her entire story she failed to mention that Golliath was just as large as the true enemy.  Yet the bard’s loud thoughts were interrupted by an unexpected confrontation.  She found herself confronted by the commander of the army of Philistine.  He threatened her for her tresspass with his sword.  But the bard warned that she was not alone.  Her warning was more for the sake of the enemy than for the defense of her own safety.  Yet the leader did not heed the warning.  Instead he laughed in the face of the innocent acusing the bard of befriending the bush.  Suddenly he raised his weapon for attack as Gabrielle readied her trusty staff.

      Then there he was a handsome man.  Who demonstrated his willingness to take a stand.  He had been one of the captives traveling with the Philistine group for crimes the bard could not understand.  Another of the captives shouted out his name as David plunged forward bravely to protect the bard from harm.  Yet he was struck down violently by the spear of Daygon the leader of the Philistines.  Gabrielle found herself determined to continue to stand against Daygon’s wrath.  She challenged him to a fight, but all he could send to her was his spite.  Suddenly the warrior princess appeared to defeat the newfound enemy.  She began the battle rushing forth attacking the two advancing soldiers.  Xena skillfully disarmed them jumping into the air then driving their spears into the ground.  She finalized her move jumping into the air once more as she doubled her kicks to the faces of the enemy. 

     Gabrielle fearlessly went into combat against the leader.  She despised his act against the young handsome David.  Gabrielle did not care what his crimes may have been for she could see within his eyes that he had no sin.  To the bard’s surprise she held up against Daygon well, but soon lost the momentum against him.  Daygon was stronger and more experienced as he knocked the bard from her feet.  Xena came to Gabrielle’s aid instantly as she cut Daygon down using her superior warrior skill.  He fell  easily for the warrior princess, but was angered for he had been defeated by the warrior woman.  Xena held her sword to his throat as he raged on about wasting money to pay a giant who was not worthy.  And then the great Golliath appeared with a large smirk across his face.  It was revealed that he had been working for Daygon for a large price.  Yet he would not fight against an old friend despite what Daygon had been paying.  Disgusted yet intrigued Daygon stood down with his men upon discovering the identity of the great warrior princess.

     Soon the early morning twilight turned into the promise of a new day yet for David and the Isrealites the future seemed darker.  Xena and Gabrielle watched as Daygon presecuted his prisnors for their accused misdeeds.  Gabrielle could not tell who was in the right and who was in the wrong.  It appeared as if theIsrealites had been stealing from the Philistines.  Yet there was something in the eyes of the one they called David that led the bard to believe that there was much more to the story than what was being told.  She watched as Daygon punished David for carrying a small leather weapon known as a sling.  It appeared to be a harmless weapon, but Daygon insisted that it was highly dangerous if used by one who knew how to harness its wrath. 

     As David tried to sooth Daygon’s rage against himself and against his people another young man spoke up.  He declared that he was John the eldest son of King Saul of Isreal.  Daygon’s anger shifted toward his bold interruption as he continued to demonstrate his power over the Isrealites.  Then Daygon commanded that his prisinors be taken into the prison.  The Philistine guard was unkind as they roughly escorted their captures to their cells.  It was clear to Gabrielle that even Xena was suspicious of Dagyon’s actions.  She too had seen the truth in the eyes of the innocent and the accused.  Xena pleaded with the Philistine guard to be sure that they bandaged the wounded head of the young David.  Her sypmathy for him was obvious.

     And then as the prisinors were whisked away Daygon cunningly approached the warrior princess.  He invited her to dine with him for midday feast.  Daygon was preparing to win her support.  During the feast Xena and Gabrielle sat before him as he gorged himself with countless chicken legs, fruits, and fresh grains.  He drank as he spoke of his turbulant encounters with the Isrealites.  Daygon proclaimed that the Isrealites had been stealing from him and had been invading the Philistine lands.  He made it known that it was his people that had turned  a dessert into a flourishing land of riches.  When Xena asked him why the Isrealites would steal from him he proclaimed it had been because all of their lifestock had perished.  Daygon blamed his rivals for their irresponsibility in handling their own riches.  Yet Xena and Gabrielle were not so certain that all that was being said rang true.  They suspected that maybe Daygon had actually poisoned their lifestock hoping to force his rival into slavery.  The choices for Isreal’s people were simple.  They could hunt upon Philistine lands and risk capture into slavery or they could starve to death. 

     Gabrielle did not like what she was hearing as she quietly began to steal Daygon’s riches.  She carefully took one apple, then two as she slid them into her leather scroll bag.  Then she went for the bread just resting upon the edge of the table.  Xena did not touch one bite of food as she continued interrogating with caution sensing what the bard was planning to do.  Finally the conversation had ended as Daygon’s gluttony ceased to his greed.  He wanted to profit from the people of Isreal and control them if he could.  And so Xena and Gabrielle left his tent as they conferred with one another in secrecy.  Xena agreed with her friend that she and Golliath needed to talk about his misleading employer.  Golliath was too kind hearted to be working for the petty dinars that Daygon was paying him.  Xena and Gabrielle were hopeful that they could sway him to fight on the side of the Isrealites.

     As Xena seeked out Golliath Gabrielle could not resist the intriguing David.  She went to the dungeon that held him and his people hoping to gain his trust.  Gabrielle had noticed before that David and his people had already judged the warrior princess.  Once again her dark past had come back to haunt her.  People still did not believe in Xena’s goodness.  But Gabrielle was certain that she could help turn the tables.  When she entered into the prison she noticed that David and his people were digging a secret escape tunnel.  Yet it wasn’t a very good plan for it was quite noticeable.  Even the bard could see the truth.  David approached the bars to greet his unexpected visitor though he seemed unwilling to accept her help.  She revealed to him the food she had taken from the feast and passed it onto those who were with hunger.  This lightened the moment between the bard and the brave. 

     As Gabrielle tried to ease his distrust of the warrior princess he would not see the light.  Instead David spoke of how he knew all about the deeds of the evil Xena.  He spoke of a Xena Gabrielle had never known.  Then he told the bard that he himself had written of her exploits which struck her deep within.  Gabrielle found herself fluttering with excitement for he was brave, handsome, and a bard.  They seemed to share so much already.  Gabrielle felt compelled to get to know him.  Then he told the bard that she could never understand his problems for he only wrote them as pslams.  Yet Gabrielle was very educated in the many styles and works of great bards.  She knew that psalms were religious poems which made David’s heart even more attractive to her.  He was just the kind of companion she seeked.  David was someone who could understand her in a way that not even Xena could.  Gabrielle then told of her own craft with great confidence and pride.  David then encouraged her to write a story that would heed the escape of he and his people.

     The bard had a wonderful story in mind, but she was certain that David would not approve.  Her story spoke of the heroic exploits of a warrior princess who would save him and his people from his pain and suffering.  Yet as they shared this small moment of connection they were interrupted as the Philistine guard barged in.  They quickly denounced the Isrealites for their feeble attempt at escape.  The punishment for this crime was worse than the punishment for survival.  Death to David and the Isrealites was the punishment for their attempt at freedom.  Gabrielle now knew what she must do.  And so she prepared to take another stand.

      As Daygon and his men brought the accused forth toward their execution Garbrielle had an idea.  She would try to use her words to fight against these absurd crimes which the Isrealites had been accused of.  Gabrielle pleaded with Daygon to let them go taking responsibility for their attempts to escape.  She was instantly forgiven for her own involvement with the prisnors despite her having stolen Dagyon’s food to give to the accused.  Gabrielle thought that maybe there was a small chance now since Daygon would not punish her for her own crimes against him.  She then pleaded for Daygon’s heart to let the people of Isreal go free.  Without hesitation Daygon proclaimed that he could not ever forgive the attempts of their escape.  Instead he decided that he would humor the young bard.  He told her that he would pardon all, but one.  They would stay prisinors, but that he would only take the life of the small one.  Daygon was speaking of the young David.  His men quickly rounded up their victim and escorted him toward the executioner.  John the eldest of the brothers pleaded to take David’s place, but his pleas fell upon deaf ears.

      David struggled to break free, but could not for the strength of the darkness which held him.  Gabrielle was in disbelief for the situation was beyond her control.  Without Xena she could not fight against the Philistine army, but she desparately searched her mind still for a solution to this problem.  Suddenly as she watched the men shove David’s head upon the block she jumped forth speaking once more.  Gabrielle stepped courageously upon the platform where the execution was to take place and placed herself upon David.  She had used this plan once before.  The last time she had saved an accused it was Xena who was reckoning with her past demons though she had been innocent of murder.  Gabrielle was certain that if she declared the words of murder stacked against the innocently accused that she would be able to buy David enough time for Xena’s return.

      Yet this time was different.  As David pleaded with Gabrielle to leave him she refused.  She was certain that things would be okay.  But instead of the wise judgement of the law presiding victory it was the greedy desires of Daygon that declared that murdering two would be no problem.  He did not care if David was innocent or guilty.  Daygon wanted blood and he wanted power.  The Philistine leader was willing to take the life of the bard as well.  He gave the command to the executioner to proceed as he laughed amused at the fatal mistake made by Gabrielle.  Gabrielle was now beyond control.  There was little she could do as the executioners pulled down the binds sending the two innocent souls toward death. 

      The bard’s heart pounded wildly as her mind desparately tried to think of a last minute reprieve, but nothing seemingly came to mind.   Then just as the ax was about to come down upon the innocent the crisp sound of the chackram could be heard whisping through the air toward the hands of death.  It suddenly decapitated the head of the ax which nearly befell upon the innocent.  Instead it cut through death into life catching all who witnessed it by complete surprise.  Not one person Philistine or Isrealite expected the warrior princess’s arrival.  The chackram did not stop with the separation of the murder weapon.  It continued on its path knocking down the executioner, terrorizing the men of the Philistine army and finally it cut through the ropes freeing Gabrielle and David to fight another day.

     The bard quickly rolled into action as she grabbed another ax to free David from his own binds.  Then she broke off the sharp edge and used the ax as a staff.  David quickly jumped into battle rushing to take out the Philistine guards and to free his people from their binds.  Xena sat upon Argo surveying the situation calmly not jumping in to fight.  She watched as Gabrielle battled against the enemy and the Isrealites began to take up arms against those who suppressed them.  Then the warrior princess retrieved her mighty chackram once again and flipped down upon the ground drawing her sword for battle against Daygon and his men.  She sent the first soldier violently crashing into a feasting table. 

      Gabrielle continued to fight with her new staff quicker and more agile than in any battle before this.  Her confidence raced through her as she fought through one, then two, and then a third Philistine soldier.  As the warrior princess and the battling bard held off the Philistine army David and his brother John prepared for escape as the Isrealites freed took the horses and the weapons of their enemies.  Just as David was about to command his people to escape he caught sight of John struggling against Daygon.  Daygon was about to take John’s life in the heat of battle when David intervened.  He saved the future leader of his people as Xena gave the command for all to get up onto the horses to escape.  David and his people quickly heeded Xena’s command as Gabrielle rushed to rejoin Xena and Argo. 

     Xena quickly hopped upon Argo and awaited Gabrielle’s arrival.  She then pulled the bard upon her horse as they followed the Isrealites to freedom.  Gabrielle’s spirit soared with confidence and with energy for she had helped to write the story that she had spoken of which would save David and his people.  And when then finally reached the kingdom of the Isrealites Xena and Gabrielle were introduced to King Solomon.  Solomon was grateful after hearing from David how his sons and his people had successfully escaped.  There was great joy within their land for they were preparing to defeat their enemies once and for all.  And David then complemented Gabrielle for her brilliant story now knowing that the warrior princess was not of the darkness.

      Soon Gabrielle found herself helping the house doctor tend to David’s small wounds.  She had noticed back at the battle that when Daygon had summoned Golliath to come out and fight that Golliath had not come.  The bard was certain that Xena had succeeded in convincing Golliath to swith side, but soon she was to find out from the warrior princess that Golliath was still against them.  When Xena had spoken with her friend she had expressed her displeasure with what he was doing for Daygon and the Phillistines.  Golliath had defended his actions reminding Xena of his reasons for working with the Phillistines.  He had lost his family ten summers before and he had vowed to hunt down and execute the one responsible.  Golliath was willing to sacrifice anything including his soul to gain his revenge against Gareth.   Soon Golliath would have enough money from the Phillistines to complete his mission to seak out and find his enemy.  Xena realized that vegence had eaten away at her friend so deeply that he would never make the right choice no matter the consequences.  Golliath accused Xena of going against him for not fighting alongside him.  She had reminded him that she owed him only her own life and not the lives of the Isrealites.

     And so it was to be that Xena would have to fight an old friend.  She and John were going over their battle plans.  John’s scouts had relayed to him that Golliath and the Phillistines had taken out two of their outposts already.  The enemy was heading straight for their kingdom.  It was clear that the Phillistines would win the battle with a giant on their side.  Yet Xena had a plan.  She suggested that there be a contest.  The warrior princess declared that it would be a battle of one against another.  She declared that she would volunteer to fight against Golliath in a duel to the death.  Whomever the victor was would be the winner of the lands.  John and David were not so certain that Xena’s plan was a good one.  David reminded Xena that Golliath was her friend.  Gabrielle could see the seriousness of the warrior princess’s tone.  She could see that the warrior princess did not really want to go up against her friend. 

      Then John objected to the idea declaring that anyone going up against a giant in a one on one battle was certain to be going into a suicide mission.  Gabrielle could see without being an expert that John was right, but Xena knew more than the commander of the Isrealites.  She knew of only one way to kill a giant.  The warrior princess then gravely picked up an empty skull lying upon a table and demonstrated the blind spot that all giants have.  It was located just above the bridge of the nose upon the giants forehead.  Xena declared that if one could deliver a strong blow to the soft spot that the battle would be one and that the giant would be killed.  And then the conversation ended.  No one could argue with Xena’s decision for it was the only way to ensure the freedom and the future prosperity of the Isrealites.

     Gabrielle found herself intrigued by David despite the difficult decision that the warrior princess had been faced with.  She followed him with a bowl of soup hoping to find out more about him.  When Gabrielle finally found him she caught him writing more of his psalms.  It fascinated the bard even more and she wanted to hear from him.  Though he had a large gash upon his forehead from the battle Gabrielle was still mezmorized by his beauty.  His soul was radiant like hers and to be around him felt wonderful for the bard.  He was full of a mysterious strength and commitment.  All that he did was done unselfishly and it was amazing.  As he wrote she set down the bowl of soup asking him to read his story to her.  Yet David refused to read his current psalm to her.  He told her that his stories were not of greatness. 

      Gabrielle found this intriguing that he was so modest.  She urged him once more to read her his new psalms.  The bard pleaded with him with her persuasive words expressing to him that all stories are meant to be told no matter the skill of the bard.  Every bard is unique and has a unique view of life.  She wanted desparately to view life through the eyes of David.  And so David finally surrendered to her.  He told her that his psalms were of the battle that they had just fought and of his brother John’s exploits.  Gabrielle found herself dissapointed that David was writing his psalm about John when he had been the one who had saved John’s life.  It was David whom Gabrielle had seen lead his people fearlessly with great skill and courage.  This didn’t seem fair to the bard that John would get all of the credit in this psalm.  David reminded Gabrielle that it was John who would be Isreal’s future king.  He defended John’s weakness in battle declaring that John would have saved his life if the situation had been reversed.  Yet Gabrielle had made up her mind in that moment.  She had decided that if David would not write his pslams with pride then she would write hers of David.  

      In that moment she began to sing to David the opening lines of his story.  The verse came to her with passion and with love in her heart.  Gabrielle’s voice was soft and soothing as she continued hoping to win the heart of the warrior poet.  As she finished her first spontaneous verse she looked deeply into David’s eyes.  The bard could see that he was fascinated by her story so far.  She had him captivated and hoped desparately that she would not have to continue on for what she wanted was a special moment to share.  Gabrielle prepared for David to reach over to kiss her softly certain that he felt the same within his heart as she had been feeling toward him.  Yet just before the moment was about to unfold the tender silence was broken when the lovely and beautiful young Sarah entered.

     She had come to tend to David and Gabrielle felt a certain sense of jealousy coming over her as she stood with David to greet Sarah.  Then David smiled for he seemed happy to see Sarah.  He then introduced Sarah and Gabrielle to one another.  Suddenly the bard realized that she had been a fool for David then revealed the heart breaking detail.  Sarah was his wife to be.  They were planning to wed in the following spring.  The bard felt true embarressment within knowing that it was no secret to the warrior poet that she was in love with him.  Yet he was a gentlemen and did not make a scene.  He was honest and pure just the way she had felt that he would be.  Gabrielle could not allow herself to come between the two young people.  She realized that she had to let go of that pang within her heart.  It seemed cruel that cupid would play such a trick upon her.  The bard only hoped that the poison of love’s arrow would wear off soon.

      Gabrielle tactfully exited the situation suggesting that Xena must be looking for her.  As she left the room her embarressment peaked as she beat herself up inside over her terrible mistake.  The bard was so upset that she hoped to share her embarressing mistake with Xena, but when she found the warrior princess she saw that Xena’s issue was even greater.  It was a pain more than love’s disappointment.  Xena was standing before an open window in the darkness alone.  The bard could see the light wind blowing through grasping Xena’s hair gently.  Yet Xena seemed unaware of this.  Instead she was staring off into an abyss of lonliness.  Gabrielle hoped that she could comfort her friend knowing what Xena was about to do.  There was a night storm raging in the distance.  It was as if it foreshadowed the raging battle that was to take place on the next day with Xena and Golliath.

     The bard broke the silence asking if it was the distanct thunder which kept Xena awake.  She knew that it was more than that.  Xena then turned to her friend with great sadness and regret within her eyes.  She reminded the bard of the story of the battle of ten years past.  Xena told Gabrielle of how Golliath had been too stubborn to stay back when Gareth had caught them off guard.  Instead he had stayed beside her leaving her with a debt that she could never repay.  Her debt was simple.  The lives of his wife and children had paid for Xena’s life.  Xena was feeling great guilt and sorrow feeling it was wrong to kill her friend that she owed so much to.  Gabrielle could see it was tearing Xena’s heart apart.  This choice between knowing what was right and what was just.  Xena had already chosen justice over what she felt was right, but there still seemed to be something wrong.

     Gabrielle knew that she could not take away Xena’s pain no matter how much her heart desired to.  Then did the only thing she could think to do.  She took Xena’s hand into hers hoping to give her friend strength though she could not give her the wisdom.  And so the two friends journeyed together into the uncertainty of the next sun.  As the sun reached the high point in the sky the Phillistine army arrived over the valley in a large mass.  They chanted the name of Golliath yet Golliath was not with them.  Daygon was at the head as he commanded them into their formation.  Then he smirked at the Isrealites at the gates of their city and took out his horn to call for Golliath. 

     Xena was hopeful that he would not come, but her hope was replaced with the sounds of the earth shaking beneath.  As Xena prepared for Golliath’s arrival David put a comforting hand upon Gabrielle’s shoulder.  It was the hope that she needed to help Xena face this terrible trial of faith.  Xena then looked to David asking that his people be prepared to do battle.  John took Xena’s command and prepared the men.  It was obvious to the bard that even Xena knew who the real leader was though John was the future.  As all watched Golliath approach the gates the worst had been revealed.  Golliath had not come to fight fair as the Phillistines were not about to fight fair.  He came armed with a protective helmet so that Xena would not be able to strike the soft spot. 

      Then he laughed as Xena approached him.  Her plan would have to change quickly for there was no way that even the warrior princess could defeat a giant with these odds.  Then Golliath made the first move.  He swept his mighty hands across the stone gates knocking them down effortlessly.  As the rocks fell all about the warrior princess she turned to flee Golliath’s wrath.  Gabrielle could see his poisoned vengeful heart.  She knew very well how vengence could poison the soul.  Though Golliath had been Xena’s friend and saved her life he was now a blood thirsty killer.  He charged forward shaking the ground with every step.  Though he was big and powerful he was not quick.  The warrior princess flipped and rolled to dodge his advances. 

     Then she rose to her feet to face him as she drew her sword.  Xena tried to entice him into making a mistake by taunting him, but was unsuccessful.  Instead it only enraged a vengeful heart more as the giant created a path of destruction through the Isrealite town.  Suddenly it was obvious that it was a trap as Daygon gave the command for his army to charge the gates behind Golliath.  The Phillistines stormed the town as David and his people fought to defend themselves.  Gabrielle fought alongside David as she knocked two approaching soliders with her staff.  They rushed her unsuccessfully as David fought two more approching enemies.  John approached the front lines only to find himself within the path of the giant.  Golliath did not spare him of his ignorance as he picked up a wagon and smashed it down upon the victim. 

     The warrior princess then threw out her chackram to hold off the lines of the Phillistine army knowing that the Isrealites had to regroup.  There was no way that they would leave this battle alive unless they retreated in the moment for their future king was badly wounded now.  Xena gave the command to the officers of the Isrealite forces as they took up their commander from his resting place underneath the wagon.  David helped to gather the remaining people within the kingdom including his father Solomon.  Gabrielle followed along with them as they escaped to the caves in hiding.  Xena was left behind with Golliath who was determined to end this conflict between himself and his old friend.  He had taken out the Isrealites commander and now he was going to be certain to complete his mission to Daygon. 

     Just before Golliath was about to strike Xena hid within the market area.  She waited for Golliath to approach.  He declared that she show herself and when she did he was greeted by a large bag of salt in the eyes.  This allowed Xena to escape and to rejoin the Isrealites.  Yet the situation seemed very grim now for who would take John’s place to lead the people of Isreal?  The news was broken to king Solomon of his eldest son’s death.  There was nothing that could be done to repair his wounds.  The old king wept silently for his loss as the warrior princess found herself in a deeper despair than before.  Not only had she led the Isrealites into their failure, but her friendship with Golliath was forever lost.  Gabrielle followed her friend to the next victim as Xena tried to push away the stresses of the mind and of the heart.  Gabrielle realized that Xena felt as if she should just give up for she did not know what to do.  The bard knew that she had to give Xena more strength.  She then reminded Xena of their delemma.  Golliath would never be defeated as long as he wore the helmet.

     The warrior princess was seemingly irritated that Gabrielle would not let the battle go.  She suggested that they just make sure that Golliath took his helmet off during their next encounter.  Gabrielle found herself increasingly frustrated at the warrior princess yet she continued.  She asked Xena if it was certain that even with the helmet off that the giant could be killed with a single blow to the forehead.  Xena held steady on that claim, but she made a declaration.  She said that she would not do it.  Gabrielle realized that her friend was upset at being at odds with Golliath, but there was seemingly no other choice.  The bard had seen the vengeful heart of Golliath and it had to be stopped no matter the cost.  Yet Xena explained that it wasn’t her feelings about her friendship with Golliath that had driven her to this new decision.  She reminded Gabrielle of how the Isrealites were led by John.  Now that their leader had been taken from them it would not matter if she killed Golliath.  For if she killed Golliath and left them they would still be in ruin.  Xena explained to the bard that the Isrealites needed a new leader.  This was the reason that she would not be the one to take Golliath down.

     Suddenly the unexpected happened.  David approached Xena asking to speak with her on a serious matter.  Xena seemed relieved that the young warrior poet had stepped forward.  She had planned on him to take the place of John, but David had already made the decision without Xena.  He declared that his people needed a new leader and that he would be the one to step up.  David also realized what taking the leadership role meant.  It meant that he would have to be the one to kill Golliath and he accepted the responsibility with great courage and strength.  And then both Xena and Gabrielle knew that the warrior poet was ready to take control.

     Later that night Xena tried one last time to meet with Golliath in the sacred graveyard of the giants.  She hoped to save his life, and their friendship.  And she hoped to save the Isrealites.  In the darkness Golliath stood still wounded deeply by the pain of his loss of long ago.  He could not let go of the vengence in his heart though he was able to forgive Xena knowing that her choice had been right.  The two exchanged good-byes knowing that one of them would die.  Golliath was unaware that he would not be meeting Xena on the next day, but someone else.

     Gabrielle was summoned by David to the supply room where she found him preparing for his greatest battle.  There before her she watched him swing his little weapon which he called the sling.  Gabrielle broke the silence with David though she was uncomfortable with his presence.  She was still embarressed by her actions on the night before upon meeting David’s betrothed.  Gabrielle was uncertain of why David had wanted to see her.  She was afraid of what he had to say.  David was curious as to why Gabrielle had been avoiding him.  When she tried to tread softly upon the new knowlege of his betrothed David put her at ease taking responsibility for not telling her about Sarah.  He declared that he loved Sarah and that she was a good woman.  Gabrielle was glad for them though she had hoped that David would be with her.  David recognized Gabrielle’s innocent feelings for him knowing that they had much in common.  The warrior poet then asked Gabrielle for her friendship though he could give her nothing more.  Gabrielle found herself comfortable with that now knowing that his path was not hers.  He had a people to lead into a future and she had to finish her story of the warrior princess.

     Of course Gabrielle now passed the uncomfortable feelings she became critical.  She was not so certain that the little leather pouch with a stone in it would take down Golliath.  David again prepared to put her at ease for he declared that one only needed faith in God to believe in their future.  Gabrielle stated that she was unfamiliar with the idea of there being only one God.  She had never seen him, or touched him, or known him.  Only Zues, Hera, and the other gods were familiar to her.  Yet David explained that it was okay that she was not comfortable with his god.  He declared that his god was even more special and more powerful than any of the gods that Gabrielle had ever known.  David spoke of his god as being the ultimate power like a shepard caring for his sheep.  The bard was intrigued yet confused for her uncertainty prevailed.  She wasn’t sure that she would ever be able to understand the god that David worhsiped.  Yet she was certain that He must be special.  For if one god could give one young man the faith and the strength of David then His goodness must be endless.

     Then David revealed his true reason for summoning Gabrielle.  He wanted to share with her his psalms knowing that he was willingly walking into the darkness.   David handed Gabrielle one of his psalms certain that she would share it with many.  He was not afraid to be called into death if his god willed it to be.  David then commended Gabrielle for her observation of the story for she had been right.  Stories must be shared and his psalms were no acception.  Gabrielle found herself flattered to be given this awesome responsibility.  He was giving her his psalms to share with all.  Gabrielle wanted to be certain that she could recite his pslams correctly so she asked him if he would read them to her before she left.  David understood her request and the importance of it so he took his scroll and prepared to recite it.  Yet before he began he had decided instead to recite to her spontaneously the way she had done for him before.  He stated that it had just come to him the moment before Gabrielle had entered.  David then began reciting his psalm numbered twenty and three beautiful as a tender song.

     “The lord is my shepard I shall not want.  He maketh me to lie down in green pastures.  He leadeth me beside the still waters.  He restoreth my soul.  He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.  Yeah, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…I shall fear no evil.  For thou art with me.  Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.  Thou preparest the table of nourishment for me in the face of my enemies.  Thou hast welcomed me as thy guest.  For your blessings..they overflow.  Your goodness and unfailing kindness shall be with me through life.  And afterwards I shall live with you…forever in your home.”  

     The bard found herself enthralled and enchanted by the beautiful psalm as the warrior poet recited.  She felt as if she were facing his god through the eyes of the poet himself.  And then she knew what it was that she had felt before.  It was the love of David’s god that had emenanted through him that had touched her own heart.  Gabrielle knew that this moment with the warrior poet was a special one for she began to feel the courage and the strength of David as he recited the words from his heart.  It was in his heart that his god lived and breathed.  The heart of the warrior poet was where power resided and so the bard understood the god of the Isrealites.

     On the next day all were ready.  The army of Isreal stood before their homeland preparing to reclaim what had been given to them by their god.  Xena walked down the lines in command overseeing the duties as the leader prepared for his battle against the giant.  David and Xena had come up with a plan to get Golliath to remove his helmet.  There was only one problem.  The weather had to be perfect for their plan to succeed.  On this day it was cloudy and the sun did not shine.  Xena stepped forth and spoke to David asking him to speak about this to the devine.  David nodded his head as he bowed it down.  Gabrielle could see that he was speaking to his god.  Then the silence was broken by the sounds of the roaring horn.  The Phillistines summoned the giant to protect what they had stolen.

      Golliath stepped forward prepared wearing his helmet and carrying a giant sword.  He was certain to take down the warrior princess this time yet he was unaware that he would not be fighting her.  Golliath snickered for a moment knowing that he was too powerful to be defeated now.  Then the new leader of Isreal stood forth.  He did not wear any armor, and he carried only a leather sling.  He reached into his belt as he approached the giant and took out a stone the size of a fist.  David placed it carefully into his sling and began to swing the weapon.  It seemed to take an eternity to gather the energy needed to be powerful.  Yet David was patient as he concentrated.  But Golliath then let out deep laughter from the pit of his giant stomach.  The giant was not afraid in the face of David.

      Instead Golliath raised his mighty sword and began to attack David who stood barely tall enough to reach his knee.  David dodged each swing of the sword still concentrating on his weapon.  He thrust his first stone straight into the giant’s chest and got little more than another giant laugh from his enemy.  Then Golliath had decided that he was going to end this once and for all.  He began to swing his sowrd more rapidly slicing through the muddy ground.  David ran through the giant muscular legs of Golliath preparing to shoot a second time at the giant.  Golliath turned about to face David nearly being hit in the face by the flying stone.  David had only one more stone left to try.  If he did not succeed this time he would surely die.

     Again he was patient and brave preparing his third and final stone for its journey.  Just as the giant prepared to strike back something amazing happened.  Suddenly the clouds began to clear and the sun began to shine brilliantly as if everyone would be blinded by its light.  In that moment Xena gave the command to the Isrealites to hold up their mighty golden shields.  The people of Isreal held up their shields deflecting the sun’s rays into Golliath’s eyes exposing the giant soft spot.  Golliath was confused and unable to move.  He could not see and then he took off his helmet as David hurled his last stone into the air.  It flew gracefully toward the giant and hit its mark perfectly.

      Golliath took the blow and began to scream within his physical pain.  He fell backward dropping to his knees as his sowrd fell to the ground.  Xena felt his pain and wished to comfort her old friend, but it was too late for him.  He had made his choice before going into this final battle.  The bard knew that Xena had done the right thing.  And so as the giant fell to the ground defeated the Isrealites followed their leader David into battle against the Phillistines.  They fought passionately with their faith for their victory would be certain now.  And Daygon soon found himself retreating in anger for he had been defeated by the warrior poet.  The people of Isreal rejoiced honoring their new leader for his courage and his faith.

      Though there was celebration there was also defeat.  For the loving husband and friend of the warrior princess pain prevailed.  His choice to follow a path of vegence had led him into his death.  As he lied on the ground he pleaded with his friend for comfort.  He asked what of Gareth and of a place beyond earth.  Xena comforted her friend the only way she knew how.  She told him that his war was over for vegence no longer matter.  All that was important now was that he could rejoin his family in peace beyond life.  Golliath looked to his friend and accepted her comforting words.  He struggled to smile softly knowing that she was true and that it would be alright.  And then the giant collapsed his head upon the ground.  His last breath had come to pass.  Gabrielle could see that Xena was upset though she had been a good friend even in death. 

     David had spared Xena the responsibility to the greater good.  He had taken the responsibility himself through his undying faith in his god.  His god had indeed delivered him and blessed him with great things.  Gabrielle was certain that the kingdom of Isreal would flourish for many years to come.  And the warrior poet would be writing his psalms reciting them and sharing with all.   

The Xena Scrolls

By:  Gabrielle Bard of Potedia

Scroll#30:  Orphan of War

January 8th, 47 B.C.

     The bard of Potedia had been traveling alongside the warrior princess now for nearly eight seasons.  She had learned so much about her friend the warrior princess and of the warrior arts.  Yet on this day she was to find that Xena held more secrets than she could have ever imagined.  There was still much more to learn of the warrior princess and of her heartaches, and of her past mistakes.

     On this day the warrior princess and her loyal friend were tracking down the warlord Dagnon.  It had been spreading throughout the taverns of Greece that Dagnon had been searching for the Ezixion stone.  This stone held great power for any man who had it within his possesion.  The great and powerful warrior Ezixion had once been given its power as a gift from the god Ares.  And with this gift Ezixion had been given two choices.  One he could take the stone and use its power for the good of humanity or the other choice was to take the stone and create an empire of darkness.  Knowing how persuasive the god of war can be it was obvoius that Ezixion would choose the power of war and so the stone was created.  However, upon Ezixion’s triumph alongside the god of war he was destroyed and himself became the stone.  Ezixion’s warrior soul was then sent to Tarturus for payment to Hades. 

       Yet the story of Ezixion’s stone does not end there for the warrior princess had once found herself mezmorized by the potential of its power.  During her days as an evil warlord she had worked closely with Dagnon as a senior member of her army.  Though the two warriors respected one another very little they did respect the skills that each comrade possessed.  Unfortunately for Dagnon the warrior princess was in command so he would have to take a secondary role within the warrior princess’s master plans to conquer and rule the entire world.  But she needed the stone to do this.  The stone itself had been sealed within a secret cavern beneath the earth somewhere near centaur territory.  It had been hidden there by Hades for his brother’s abuse of Ezixion’s ego.  Xena and her army had conquered many before, but it came down to a great battle between the centaurs in the end. 

     As Gabrielle listened to Xena’s story of the stone she wondered how the centaurs would take Xena’s return for she had known a small part of this story during their travels through the amazon territory.  They had met the centaur commander Tyldus there and Xena had made peace with him despite their past rivalry.  Yet not every centaur within the centaur nation had forgiven the warrior princess for her past evil doings.  Gabrielle was very aware of this as they found themselves entering deep into centaur territory.  The bard found herself feeling quite nervous because the area was wounded with the markings of a fresh battle.  Centaur peace banners were smoldering having been set ablaze by Dagnon and his army.  When Gabrielle asked the warrior princess of how she thought the centaurs might react to her presence Xena’s answer was not promising.  For the warrior princess upon having not beaten the centaurs had reached a treaty with them.  Within the treaty her promise was never to return to centaur land. 

      Now the warrior princess had returned and she had returned while Dagnon was present with evil motives.  Former allies were now enemies yet would the centaurs undersand this?  The warrior princess was not certain.  Yet that was the smallest of their worries as Xena had felt the presence of an impending attack.  She asked the bard to ready her staff for the enemy was just moments from enguaging them into a battle.  The bard readied her staff and just as she scanned the field she caught sight of what the warrior princess had sensed.  Five of Dagnon’s men charged forth toward the two friends as the warrior princess drew her sword ready for battle.  Yet one of the men threw a large round tipped weapon.  It floated slowly and heavy toward the warrior princess.  Gabrielle watched in awe as the warrior princess caught it effortlessly.  Then the bard found herself being attacked by two of the five enemies.

     The warrior princess then returned the weapon to its owner knocking him over the head with it.  Just as the warrior princess defeated the first attacker she looked up to find that two more were charging forward.  She battled them with her sword side to side and then a sixth man came rushing out of the distant brush.  He had a long spear with a sharp tip.  The tip was of metal and not bark.  The enemy powered his weapon forth toward the warrior princess who stood holding only the blade of her sword upright for her defense.  As the spear made contact with the blade of the warrior princess it split into two pieces and found its victims rising from the sides of the warrior princess. 

     The bard continued to battle on with her two enemies, but then suddenly more of Dagnon’s men enguaged.  As the battle began to escalate help arrived with five centaurs charging into the open field.  Their presence was enough to force Dagnon’s small band of men to retreat.  Yet the danger was far from over.  The leader of the centaur group approached the warrior princess who stood serious.  She stood down her weapon and watched her uneasy ally closely.  Neither side moved.  They just stared and waited for someone to make the first move.  It was the warrior princess who finally broke the tension.  She threw down her weapon showing the sign of surrender.  But that was not enough for the centaur leader.  The warrior princess then reached for her chackram and threw it down alongside the sword.  Gabrielle realized that she too must follow in the symbolic surrender throwing down her staff.

     The uneasy silence between the warrior princess and the centaur leader finally ended.  He expressed disgust for her return.  The warrior princess was quick to let him know that her intensions of return had nothing to do with a battle for the stone or anything to do with taking anyone from him.  Gabrielle found herself confused that Xena was talking with her cryptic tone.  The bard was uneasy with the constant secrets that her friend tried to continue to hide from her.  When she questioned Xena of this there was an unexpected interruption.  From within the trees above the sounds of a young boy’s battle cry and then he appeared before the warrior princess and her friend.  He appeared angry and upset with her as if he knew exactly who she was.  The boy accused the warrior princess of having killed his father the great Borias and savior to the centaur nation.  Xena appeared disturbed and upset by this young boy’s presence.  She seemed to know him just as well as he seemingly knew her history. 

     Then Xena spoke of her true intensions.  She expressed that she was not within centaur territory to harm anyone and she tried weakly to defend herself saying that she had not been responsible for the death of this boy’s father.  The warrior princess stated that she was only present to help the centaurs to fight against Dagnon and his plans to retrieve the Ezixion stone.  Then she would be on her way.  Of course Xena also knew this centaur leader well.  His name was Colliipous.  Colliipous appeared to be a fearless and brave leader.  He had been through some very tough battles for he wore a patch over his left eye.  Despite this he appeared strong in his resolve.  Then Collliipous accepted the truce reluctantly although he sensed something within the warrior princess.  Colliipous then took the boy whose name was Solan back toward camp leaving Gabrielle and Xena behind.  When Gabrielle asked Xena who the boy was she only stared blankly and said with shock and sadness that he was her son.

     The bard found herself extremely upset for a moment that the warrior princess had never told her of this son.  Not only was the bard confused about the secret, but of Xena’s intensions for keeping her identity from him secret.  The friends found themselves following behind into the centaur camp as guests who were only tolerated and not welcomed.  Gabrielle continued to inquire the warrior princess of this story for it was obvious that there was more to it than just the Exixion stone.  With great regret and reluctance the warrior princess sung her tragic tale to the bard and of an orphan of war.  The reason that Xena had chosen to surrender to the centaurs was because of a baby boy.  She had been lovers with Borias the great savior of the centaurs.  Infact, he had once been a leader within her army until he had found his way toward the light within himself.  He then turned against the warrior princess and made it his goal to stop her from getting to the Exixion stone.  He had told the centaurs of the warrior princess’s plans, but before the centaurs could win in a war against Xena the baby boy was born. 

     The warrior princess found herself torn between the desires of a lust for great power and the newfound love within a mother’s heart.  She had found herself confused and not knowing what she should do.  The father of her child had been killed within her camp, but she had not killed him.  Xena did not know who had taken the life of the noble warrior Borias.  Yet she had to make a choice.  It had been one of the most painful choices of her life.  She had to choose between her lusts and the well-being of her new baby boy.  Xena could not choose between them so she called the commander Colliipous to set up the truce.  Upon their meeting Colliipous was angered of Borias’s death.  He blamed the warrior princess and promised her that Borias’s death would not be without consequences.  Borias would always be honored and remembered by the centaur nation.

     The torn warrior princess then shocked Colliipous by presenting him with a gift.  It was the newborn child of Borias.  She expressed to her enemy that she was handing the child over to him knowing that if she were to raise him that he would become evil like her.  It was more than a loving mother’s heart could bare.  She could not allow her darkness to take hold within the innocence of her helpless child.  And so she handed the child over to the centaur commander.  For the first time it was obvious that their truce was real.  Colliipous promised the distraught mother that he would raise the son of Borias as if he were his own son.  It was a great honor for the centaur leader and he accepted the orphaned child with love and open arms.  And then the warrior princess walked away from her responsibility returning to her way of evil.

     Gabrielle was even more upset with the warrior princess after hearing this painful story.  She was upset that the warrior princess would leave her son behind without letting him know who his real mother was.  She was certain that there was more to this dreadful story, but the warrior princess sharply responded to the bard.  Xena had said that was all to the story and nothing more needed to be said.  Then she left the bard to think of Solan the young boy who was confused about his life and about his past.  The vibrant young boy needed his mother the bard thought.  She put herself into his place and felt his emptiness knowing that despite not knowing what it was like to be a mother she was certain of what a child would feel without his mother.

     The bard could not resist leaving the past within the past.  She followed Xena listening in on the conversation she was having with Colliipous.  The bard felt there was something missing.  As she eavesdropped on her friend she heard Colliipous and Xena arguing over Solan’s zest for becoming a warrior.  It was just the thing that Xena had not wanted Solan to become.  This was the true reason she had given him to Collipous.  She knew the nobility of the centaur race and had been certain that Solan would be raised without the thoughts of vegence and of the warrior life.  Yet his display of vengence against her earlier had proven that she had failed as a mother.  Colliipous argued the warrior princess’s point reminding the mother that it had been her choice to abandon her son nine years before.  Yet the warrior princess though hurt was angry for Colliipous had not kept him from the warrior path.  Colliipous defended himself once more reminding the warrior princess that to be a good father he must give Solan the freedom to choose his own life path even if it meant that of a warrior.  Colliipous could only guide his adpoted son within the right direction.  It was up to Solan to choose it.  And so the warrior princess had lost the arguement knowing that Colliipous was right.  She realized that if she had raised him herself he wouldn’t have had that same choice.

     Disgusted she left Colliipous’s hut to find Gabrielle awaiting her return.  Gabrielle wished to continue to conversation about Solan, but the warrior princess had already moved on.  She was back to focasing on the reason that they had come.  Colliipous was full filling the responsiility that she was regretting that she had given up.  The warrior princess explained that they had to find Dagnon before he could find the stone.  It was a very simple solution and obvious to even the bard.  Xena could sense the bard’s impatience with her guarding her true feelings.  And so she finally broke the barrier and told the bard that giving birth to a child was not the end to the process.  Despite her having been separated for nine years from her son she proclaimed that she felt him still growing within her heart every day.  A mother giving up her child did not mean the end of her love for him.  The warrior princess suffered every day since for her loss within the heart.  Gabrielle realized that she too felt the same way that Solan must feel.  And if this was true the bard knew that it was right that Xena tell Solan the truth.  But Xena snapped at the bard for even suggesting the idea.  She was firm with Gabrielle expressing that it was not the bard’s concern to stir up these unresolved feelings for herself or her son.

     Then Xena left the bard angry and on edge.  Gabrielle watched her friend leave the centaur village disappointed that Xena would not gather the courage to what she was certain was right.  The bard wanted so desparately to bring a mother and her son back together, but heeded Xena’s warning.  Though Gabrielle knew what was right she also did not want to jeapordize her valued friendship with Xena.  This friendship had become the most important and prized of Gabrielle’s life.  She couldn’t take that risk and would not if she was the loyal friend that she prided herself to be.  And so Gabrielle left it at that.  Yet she followed the warrior princess worried about her state of mind.  Though Xena had spoken of going to Dagnon’s camp instead she went to pay her respects to the man that had died to save the centaur nation and the world.  His sacrifice had also saved his son in some distant resolution.

      Gabrielle watched with pain in her heart for the suffering within her friend’s soul.  She could see that Xena felt her presence even from the distance.  But there were more eyes upon the warrior princess as Solan was just above in the tree that hung over the grave of his father.  Solan tried to stay still and silent, but his skilled mother felt him.  And if not through the way of the warrior through the bleeding heart of a mother.  She demanded that he show himself and that he come down.  Xena would not allow her son to have vengence upon her.  Her tone was that of a scolding mother and Solan obeyed as if he really knew the truth of the warrior princess.  When he came down he was angry that the warrior princess was near his father.  Solan threatened her again, but she assured him that she had come only to pay respects to the courageous warrior Borias.  She explained to the boy that she and Borias had once been very close and that she had not been the one who had killed his father despite what he had been told.  Colliipous had given Solan that false story so that he could honor his mother for the truth of Solan’s mother was shameful.  Xena understood why Colliipous had told Solan the false story, but she knew now that it had been one of the many mistakes and was compelled to correct him.

     Solan was not completely convinced and still held ill will toward the warrior princess.  Then Xena tried to reach his light by asking him what else he knew about his mother.  Solan’s rage calmed for a few moments as he imagined what he had heard his mother to be.  He described the most wonderful vision.  His eyes twinkled with delight and of love’s light.  He spoke of a woman so special that her smile was like a whispering wind.  And of a mother who had a voice that sounded of the muses of the great Orpheous.  There was no better way to envision a mother he had never known.  But what he described was what he had felt within.  It was what Xena had felt growing within her own heart for nine years.  Then the warrior princess took this oppritunity to speak of his father.  She told Solan that his father could sing with a beutiful voice too.  Xena remeniced of how she and Borias had sung together, but this only returned innocence to its anger.  Solan stomped off leaving Xena hurting inside for leaving him behind.

     Then the warrior princess turned away quickly, but not from pain of the heart.  Instead she had spotted a third pair of eyes spying upon her.  They were the eyes of the enemy.  She quickly attacked the spies stationed just moments away.  Gabrielle realized that there may be more of Dagnon’s men about the area and so she dashed off to catch up to Solan hoping that she could protect him while the warrior princess dealt with the spies.  When Gabrielle caught up to Solan she yearned to help him understand that the warrior princess was not the evil warrior that he had learned of.  Solan was reluctant to talk to Gabrielle knowing that she was a friend of his lifelong sworn enemy.  She then tried an approach that Xena had not yet attempted. 

     Gabrielle spoke of all of the wonderful lessons that she had learned from her friend the warrior princess.  She told Solan of how being a warrior was not always as noble as he thought.  Then Solan asked her where she got her staff.  Gabrielle explained that it had been a gift from that amazons.  She also told Solan that it was a weapon used to defend herself from trouble.  Solan bragged of his weapon too.  He explained that his sword could do the same thing.  He was very proud of it although it seemed to be much too large for him to handle for it was a man’s sword.  It had been left to him by his father.  Yet the bard countered Solan’s attack knocking Solan’s ball to defend herself with the staff.  Solan found himself impressed for a moment as Gabrielle took advantage of the moment.  She explained that a staff was much better than a sword for she had learned a long time before that a sword makes a person a certain target.  The staff is a noble weapon that has no threatening sharp ends to entice an enemy to attack.  Solan was intrigued as the bard went on to tell him that she could use the staff well and she did not have to be a warrior to know its art. 

     Gabrielle could see that she was breaking through to the innocent boy, but just as she was making progress and getting through they were attacked.  Six of Dagnon’s men swooped down upon the two vicitms as Gabrielle fought passionately with her staff to protect and defend Solan.  She knocked down three of the men allowing Solan for time to escape yet Solan froze and did not move.  Soon the bard lost her momentum within the battle and was taken down by Dagnon’s men.  She received a hard blow to the back of her head with the metel handle of one of their swords.  All went dark until the bard found herself awakening with an extreme head ache.  She found herself fortunate to be alive, but now the game was serious.  Dagnon now had the innocent young boy as Gabrielle rushed back toward the centaur village to warn Xena of the new situation.

     As the bard traveled she ran into Xena who rode up behind her upon Argo.  Gabrielle told Xena of Solan’s danger.  Xena had just been to Dagnon’s camp and had sized up their situation.  His army was quite large and powerful and they were planning on taking the centaurs in a battle through the woods which would give them an advantage.  Xena told Gabrielle that she must warn the centaurs not to fall into Dagnon’s trap for they would be slaughtered in a battle within the woods against men.  Then Xena rushed off back toward Dagnon’s camp while Gabrielle followed Xena’s order to warn the centaurs.

      When the bard returned to the centaur village she told Colliipous of Solan’s capture.  She was certain that Xena would be able to rescue her son and that there was no need for them to fight.  Colliipous and the other centaurs would not stand back.  They were determined to help rescue the son of Borias no matter how many of them would have to die.  Gabrielle pleaded with Colliipous and the centaurs not to fall victim into Dagnon’s trap.  She warned them of their certain slaughter against the men within the battle field in the woods.  But Colliipous and the others did not heed the warnings.  Instead Colliipous spoke of the men that he had fighting alongside the Centaurs.  He was certain that they would be able to help support the centaur army sufficiently.  Gabrielle realized that the centaurs were determined to honor Borias with their bravery.  She realized that there was only one thing left for her to do.  The bard jumped upon Collipous and decided that she would ride into battle with the commander of the centaurs. 

     And as the centaur army rode on toward Dagnon’s camp Xena had arrived there with a plan of her own.  She scouted the area once again to find that her son had been locked up within a wooden cage guarded by six of Dagnon’s men.  Xena was certain that she could defeat them, but knew that it was a trap.  She could not risk her son’s life without knowing Dagnon’s true plan.  Helpless she watched her son struggle to reach his father’s sword stuck in the ground just in front of the cage.  Then Xena made her move once she caught sight of  the crippled warlord Dagnon leaving his tent.  Moments later he returned inside shocked yet impressed with the warrior princess’s move.  She had left nothing more than a small opening within the top of Dagnon’s tent.  He admired her skill, but was determined to have his stone.  Dagnon could barely resist the beauty of the warrior princess and like many other warlords had plans of passion.  But first he had to lay out his demands.  He had kidknapped Solan as a bargaining chip and the warrior princess realized this.  She kept calm as she reclined upon his furnature and listened to his demands.

     The warlord had three conditions for the warrior princess which would lead to the return of her son.  The first was that he needed the Exixion stone.  Xena assumed that he needed the location of the stone which she herself did not know.  She expressed this to the warlord who said that he did know where it was.  He spoke of the hidden caverns.  Xena had already know that information as well, but Dagnon wanted to know where the hidden caverns were.  The warrior princess did not know the location of the caverns accept that they were in the general area.  Dagnon then went onto his second condition which was for the shared passion with the warrior princess.  She assumed that he would ask that of her, but it was something that she could not give up to him.  And so she took advantage of Dagnon and bound him with his own ropes.  He was still impressed with her cunning abilities and skills, but was still angered to lose.

     The warrior princess knocked him out and then flipped out the same way that she had arrived.  She used her knowlege gained from the amazons and glided through the trees above until she arrived  just above her captive son.  The warrior princess prepared her whip using it to grasp the top of the wooden cage.  Solan took notice of the distrubance above as the warrior princess warned him toward silence.  As she pulled the cage up using her whip as a pully she scanned the camp below.  Dagnon’s archers were too close for comfort as the swordsmen training just below.  Just when Xena had finally gotten the cage within reach Solan reached down for his sword.  He would not leave it behind despite what his mother had wished.  Xena had hoped his capture would have deterred her son, but he was brave like his father.

     Suddenly Dagnon’s men caught sight of the attempted rescue.  Xena flipped giving out her battle cry from the tree into the heat of a battle.  Solan’s cage fell violently to the ground before he could escape and then crashed through the grass into the depths of a secret pit.  Suddenly the warrior princess heard the pleas for help coming from within the pit.  She flipped backward continuing to battle as she reached down into the pit to save her son.  Suddenly the warrior princess jumped up with Solan and grabbed the whip which still hung from the tree branch.  As she tried to formulate a plan of escape Solan warned of the archers.  Then the warrior princess asked that her son trust in her as she let go and they tumbled to the bottom of the pit.

     Upon reaching the bottom the warrior princess realized that these were the caverns that she had once seeked herself in her quest for power.  Now Dagnon knew their location and it was clear that she and Solan had to find the stone before Dagnon could get to it.  Xena moved quickly, but found herself having slowed down by the injury that Solan had sustained from the fall.  His arm had been broken and the warrior princess now found herself becoming a mother over a warrior.  She was gentle with her son as she eased his pain with her pressure points.  Then she took his sword cover using it as a splint for her son’s arm against his wishes. 

     The warrior princess found herself very impressed with Solan’s warrior instincts and praised him.  Yet she reminded him that what made his father such a great man was not because he was a great warrior, but because of his wisdom of the heart.  Borias had followed that wisdom and saved the centaurs from being slaughtered by Xena in her days of darkness.  She expressed to Solan her regret for her past, but her relief for Borias’s acts of bravery.  It was his brave heart that had saved Solan and the centaurs from Xena’s evil.  She could not respect Borias’s memory enough to make up for all that she had done.  For Solan this was just the moment that he saw the truth of the warrior princess.  In the face of great danger he had seen the truth of the warrior princess.  As she released the numbing pressure to his arm the pain returned as she held her son in her arms for the first time since she had given him away.

     Yet their reunion lasted only moments for Dagnon and his men were now hot on their trail.  The warrior princess and Solan quickly moved to find an escape from the caverns.  As they searched they found themselves discovering the temple of the Exixion stone.  Xena explained to Solan that it was there that they would find the alter which housed the stone.  Yet when they approached the alter they found that the stone was missing.  For Xena it was a relief.  She realized that Borias had indeed found the stone and he had hidden it away for safe keeping.  Borias’s secret would stay a secret from it rested with the noble father for eternity.  And now that the problem of the stone had been solved escape was the next move.  Yet Solan had made a discovery of his own upon the alter.  His father had left behind his hand prints upon the alter within the centuries of dust.  Solan asked the warrior princess if the prints were that of Borias.  Xena confirmed that Borias had  indeed left them behind.  Her son was fascinated by the prints as he touched them with his own hands despartely yearning to connect with the father he had never known.  Solan then asked the warrior princess of how they would escape.  Xena looked up above to find an opening higher than she could reach.  But she knew that she could summon Gabrielle’s help using the vines of Orpheous to signal her loyal friend.

     As Gabrielle and the centaurs traveled toward their battle they heard a strange noise.  It echoed through the land like  the deep voices of the gods.  Colliipous and his army haulted its advance questioning the sound.  Gabrielle responded that only Xena could be calling them and so they followed the horn until they found the opening to the caverns.  Down below Gabrielle called out to Xena.  Xena and Solan prepared for their rescue as Gabrielle and the centaurs sent down a rope.  The warrior princess and Solan began their ascent being pulled up by the mighty centaur army.  Yet Dagnon and his men arrived at the temple within the cavern attacking the warrior princess and Solan.  They released the rope cutting off the rescue effort.  Xena fought to protect her son against them in hand to hand combat as Gabrielle regrouped the rescue party.

     Quickly the warrior princess swiped her son from danger as she jumped upon the alter grabbing the rope.  The centaurs quickly pulled Solan and Xena to safety leaving Dagnon and his men behind.  Yet Solan had dropped his father’s sword unable to hold onto it.  It was the worst thing that could have happened for within the handle of Borias’s sword was the secret of Borias.  The Exixion stone had been hidden in the handle of the sword and popped out upon its harsh landing upon the floor of the temple.  It’s power was so immense that it shun brightly.  The stone was a green emerald and it glowed within the hands of the enemy.  Dagnon rejoiced and celebrated his win over the warrior princess this time.  The only thing that could be done now was to return to the centaur village and await the arrival of the powerful evil.

     Xena and Colliipous discussed a defense plan together.  For the first time they had found themselves allied within a noble cause together.  Their solid handshake bound them together within an alliance for life.  Together they would defeat the evil of the stone and together they would love the orphaned boy.  Colliipous urged Xena to promise that she’d care for his son if he should die in battle.  The centaur leader now trusted Xena for he had seen the change within her.  He trusted the warrior princess and Xena regretted that they had ever been at odds.  Colliipous reassured the warrior princess expressing that he had never been at odds with the noble warrior princess.

     And so they prepared their battle plan as Gabrielle sat with the injured Solan tending to his broken arm.  She rewrapped it for the young boy as they talked about Xena together.  Solan spoke of how he had never been told of the truth.  He had never known of the warrior princess to be so loving and so special.  Gabrielle only said that she herself had never known of any other warrior princess, but of the good.  Solan seemed almost relieved that Xena was not the woman he had been told of.  And Gabrielle was relieved that the truth of his mother could one day come out.  She was confident that Xena would gather the courage to tell him the truth.

     When the bard returned to the front line she felt compelled to apologize to the warrior princess for having thoughts to intrude upon her relationship with Solan.  The bard assured the warrior princess that although she did not agree with Xena’s choices in the matter she respected them.  Expressing that her pride in being Xena’s good friend had been enough to stop her from interfering.  Xena accepted the bard’s apology although she greatly appreciated the concern of her loyal friend.  Gabrielle left Xena with the assurance that she would always be there for the warrior princess no matter the consequences. 

     Then the bard caught news of the battle plan.  Xena and Collipous had created a giant cross bow that was the size of five centaurs put together.  It had a metal tip to pierce the enemy.  Obviously they expected evil to be larger than life.  Xena instructed Colliipous to use his archers as a distraction, but that the final blow would have to come directly from the giant cross-bow.  They only had one chance at hitting the enemy and so it would have to be precise.  Xena was uncertain of which direction Dagnon would be coming from so they had to be ready from all angles.  Gabrielle then asked what her position would be and the parents of the orphaned child both responded with worry and concern.  It was obvious that the bard was responsible for his protection.  So she decided that she would take Solan to the underground barrax.  But before Gabrielle could move to position there was a loud growl which emerged from the trees beyond.   The ground beneath shook as if it were about to divide and then there it was.  A large centaurlike creature with a face like that of Bacchous.  Veins popped out of the head of the beast with pointed ears.  The voice was that of Dagnon and the teeth were sharper than those of a griffen.

     Evil held the sword of Borias as Solan cried out preparing to reclaim his father’s pride.  But Gabrielle would not allow Solan to jump into battle against the beast.  Only Xena and Colliipous could handle its powerful evil.  Together Xena and Colliipous rode into battle going up against Dagnon and the beast that he had become.  The first line of centaurs was demolished by the power of the stone within the forehead of the beast.  His eyes radiated with evil as Colliipous approached ready for combat.  Dagnon’s power was too great for the centaur leader.  He easily defeated Colliipous as he grabbed the helpless centaur and lifted him by the neck into the air.  Just before Dagnon was about to crush his opponent Xena rolled beneath the beast and took a shot kicking him below.  Dagnon released his grip as the warrior princess prepared to face him alongside Colliipous.  She tried to use words to entice Dagnon into her trap, but he knew his old ally well.  He was aware of her cunning skill and would not allow himself to fall victim to it like all the others. 

      Instead he warned the warrior princess that she would be the one that would die in this battle.  He was certain of his victory as their swords clashed.  Suddenly Gabrielle felt the attack of Dagnon’s men coming from behind the village.  She began to battle against them protecting Solan from their wrath.  One of her enemies tried to disarm the bard of her staff, but she countered flipping over him taking it back.  From behind she was grabbed, but the bard used her strength and delievered a blow with her elbow.  After freeing herself from his grasp she prepared to finish the task.  Yet before she could end the battle in triumph the sound of the mighty chackram cut through the air and hit her enemy straight in the chest.  Gabrielle looked back toward the warrior princess who had been way across the battlefield.  The bard was amazed at how the warrior princess still protected her even as she battled the largest dark force ever known.  Yet there was a part of the bard that felt intruded upon for she was certain that she had controlled her own battle.

     Yet Xena was begining to lose her footing and her grasp over evil.  Dagnon continued to battle against the warrior princess with words insisting that he had been the one who had killed Borias.  He laughed in the face of goodness and prepared to strike down the warrior princess.  The evil beast rose his sword above the warrior princess who turned and threw her sword cutting the rope of the large cross-bow releasing the powerful weapon.  Xena ducked allowing the giant spear to strike down the enemy straight through his chest.  And though it had seemed that evil would triumph once again the warrior princess had defeated it.  Dagnon now joined the warrior Exixion in Tarturus in the hands of Hades forever. 

     Despite all of the truths that had been told and revealed to the young Solan there was still just one left to be known.  The warrior princess sat down alongside Solan on the next morning following the great celebration.  She was preparing to tell him who she really was, but was afraid.  Xena began by apologizing for all of her past mistakes openly to her son who had already forgiven the warrior woman.  But it wasn’t Xena’s passion for evil and for the stone that she had been apologizing for.  It wasn’t her attempt to take over the world or to kill the centaurs that she had been regretting most.  And so the warrior princess left it at that.  She allowed her son to continue believing that Xena was just a very good friend to him and to his father.  He pleaded with the warrior princess and Gabrielle to stay for a while.  Solan was certain that they could all enjoy life together.  But the warrior princess could not endure her painful mistake.  Though she was brave in battle it was the matters of the heart she had much to overcome.  Xena desparately tried to convince herself aloud that Solan truely had the best life now that she could have given him.  He had a family and friends who truely loved him.  Solan had everything that she felt her own life lacked.  And so the bard thought that maybe it had not
been Solan who had been truely orphaned.  Maybe the true orphan of war was the crying heart of the warrior princess.

The Xena Scrolls

Scroll #31:  Remember Nothing

By:  Gabrielle Bard of Podedia

January 16th, 47 B.C.

I sing of a time when Xena the Warrior Princess never existed, and her best friend and loyal sidekick Gabrielle remembered nothing.  It all began on this day eleven years in passing since the death of Xena’s brother Lycious while fighting against the warlord Cortese.  Xena had lead the way in the fight to protect her home village of Amphipolis from the spoils of an evil warlord, but at the cost of the life of her dearly beloved brother.  The warrior princess had carried this guilt upon her shoulders for eleven years now as she had blamed her beliefs in fighting for the cause to protect her village, family, and friends.
Every year on this day Xena would come to the temple of the fates as she lit three large candles.  The first candle was for the maiden, the second for the mother, and the third for the crone.  She asked for the fates blessing and for their mercy upon her brother’s soul so that he may rest in peace.  After making this proclamation Xena’s sidekick Gabrielle entered the temple as she had been listening to Xena’s prayers for her brother.  Gabrielle expressed that she wished she could have known this great brother Lycious for she could feel how important he had been to Xena.  In fact, Lycious was still very much a part of Xena, and very much alive within her heart though she mourned his loss greatly.
Suddenly there were screams which came from outside the temple.  Xena the warrior princess and her faithful sidekick Gabrielle exited the temple to investigate the disturbance.  Once outside the temple they discovered that an army of evil warriors descending upon the monks of the temple attacking them in an attempt to destroy the temple of the fates.  Soon Xena the warrior princess burst into action as she twirled around upon the steps of the temple knocking out ten warriors with a quick move.  Then she flipped from the steps to the front of the temple where she met another skilled warrior in mask.  This skilled warrior appeared to know her quite well and most likely was yet another of the evil men she had encountered during her dark past.  She fought him gracefully as she blocked his kicks, but he slipped one by her as she took it across her face.
This mystical warrior flipped around her looking to set himself up for the next offensive strike, but Xena was not fooled for it was obvious that she knew his fighting style well.  She quickly took him out only to be attacked from behind by another young warrior.  Her sidekick Gabrielle shouted to warn her friend of the danger which lurked behind and with one move she put the final blow to her skilled enemy and whisked her sword from its resting place thrusting it into the attacker from behind.  The sword slid in smoothly.  Then as she turned to face the coward whom had met his death he fell to the ground and his helmet came loose.
It was only a young boy who had been taken by evil and had given his life in the thirst for blood.  He was now a lifeless young boy as Xena looked upon her bloody sword.  Once again she had caused the death of yet another young boy like that of her brother who had died at the tender age of fifteen at the battle against Corteeze.  As Gabrielle approached Xena, Xena stood as if she had drawn blood for the first time.  The guilt had built up within her and now after this event it had overcome her.  She stared at her bloody sword and then found herself drawn back into the temple of the fates leaving Gabrielle stunned with the lifeless young boy.
Once inside the temple Xena saw something extraordinary.  For the first time she had been given the privilege of seeing the faces of the three fates.  They proclaimed to her that it was rare that anyone was permitted to see their faces, but Xena had saved their temple from its attackers and now they were prepared to reward her for her heroic deed.  But Xena did not feel heroic.  She felt sick to her stomach as if this last kill had been her first.  Xena defied the fates offer explaining to them that she did not deserve a reward for taking the life of a young innocent boy.  She had known that he had only been caught up in the wrath of war as many young men and women do.  Xena’s wish was that she could have that young boy’s life back.  That was what she truly wanted and further more she had professed that if she hadn’t drawn blood and become a warrior in the first place life would have been simpler and better.
And so the fates bestowed their power upon Xena releasing her from all that she had done and they had given her a clean slate.  But there was just one condition for restoring all that had been lost as a result of Xena’s warrior path.  That one condition was that she was never to spill one drop of blood for if she would do so that would be the event that would turn the tables back to the current life path she had been on.  Xena explained to them that it wasn’t possible for she was a warrior.  How could a warrior live true to her way without spilling a drop of blood?  The fates proclaimed that it was not possible for a warrior to be a warrior without the spoils of blood.  They made it clear to Xena that in order for her to receive this gift they were bestowing upon her she must give up the warrior way.
Xena left the temple disgusted and almost unbelieving that they would give her such a gift.  When she stepped outside she called for Gabrielle, but Gabrielle did not come.  She looked frantically about, but there was no one around.  All of the dead warriors that had been there before she had entered the temple had disappeared, and there were no others around.  The moment was quiet as the wind whisped across the face of the warrior princess.  And then she was no more.  Xena looked down to see that she no longer wore that famous leather, and she no longer felt the weight of the mighty sword she had always carried upon her back.  As she looked down she noticed that she was dressed in one of her most favorite dresses as it felt soft and light.  There was no weight of blood only the power of pure light could be felt within.  It was a strange release for Xena for she did not understand at first.
And then she heard a familiar voice calling her name.  It was a man’s voice.  And as she turned around to see who it was she found herself to be greeted by the handsome young man named Lycious.  Xena could not believe that this was really happening.  Her brother was a grown man and he was alive.  Lycious was beautiful with his blond curly hair, and his dark piercing blue eyes.  Xena was overjoyed as she ran to throw her arms around the brother she had not seen in over ten years.  The brother she had lost had been given back to her for she had never drawn blood at the battle against Corteeze.  Lyious was surprised to see Xena in all of her excitement.  He didn’t understand that for her he had been taken from her for eleven long years.
And as they walked Xena couldn’t stop looking at him.  She couldn’t stop feeling the immense joy to be in his presence once again.  And as always Lycious still looked up to his big sister.  He still looked to her for guidance and support.  Lycious trusted in Xena as always.  And then Xena noticed that Lycious was wearing his barillas token.  It was a token worn by all of the young boys of her village as a sign of good luck and good fortune.  She couldn’t believe that he still wore it.  Infact, she teased him for it until he reminded her that it had been this token which had spared his life from the arrow that almost took it at the battle of Corteeze.  And then Xena realized how truly important this token was.  It was a symbol of her own good fortune.  Lyious was still confused at his sister’s sudden strange behavior so he suggested that she go home.  As he walked on down the peaceful green pasture in the forest Xena realized that for the first time in many years she was able to be home.
All she had ever wanted was to be able to have that place where she could be accepted and loved for she had shamed her village and family as a warrior, but now all had been restored.  As she skipped into the village the day was beautiful for life now had new meaning and it had joy for Xena.  She had never committed any of the wrongs that had caused her to hurt so many in her alternate life .  And when she arrived home she was still uncertain that all of this was real.  It was more like a beautiful dream than reality.  She looked upon the kitchen table and at the flowers upon the window.  It was as if she had been seeing life for the first time again.  Xena was as youthful and innocent as Gabrielle had always been.  She was the light of hope instead of the darkness of hate.
As Xena looked through her box she sifted through the keepsakes, the sentimental jewelry, and then suddenly from behind there was a presence.  Xena spun around with the reflexes of a warrior pinning her attacker to the wall instantly.  Only this was no attacker, but a suitor.  In fact, this suitor was none other than Mufias the boy next door.  According to Mufias he had been courting Xena since before the battle of Corteeze.  He was confused at Xena’s reaction to his entrance.  Mufias inquired if Xena had, had a bad day at the inn where she and Lycious worked side by side housing the great travelers of Greece.  But it had not been a bad day at all and Xena was hoping that Mufias was the only surprise that awaited her in a life of love.
And though Mufias was a surprise to Xena he was a pleasant one for he was tall, with dark coarse hair, and deep brown eyes.  His nose was a bit peculiar, but he would be just fine for Xena.  At least this Mufias was not some evil warlord like the many she had been courted by as a warrior like Draco, or even her great lover Marcus.  A passing thought of sorrow came to her as she thought of Marcus, but she knew and believed that things must have turned out better for him in this life because she had never gone to his camp to save that girl to stop a war.  Xena’s presence in his life had been a confusion which had led to his demise for he had loved her with all of his heart.
As Xena’s mind wandered Mufias interrupted reminding Xena that if she was getting cold feet about their wedding that he would only wait about fifteen more years on her before he would give up on courting the beautiful princess.  Apparently this Mufias was very much the comedian of the family clan.  But his comedy turned to sudden tragedy when Mufias also reminded Xena that it had been her mother’s last request that Xena and Mufias wed one another.  And so the surprises continued although this surprise was tragic for Xena’s mother had been lost as a result of Xena, Lycious, and the others deciding that retreating to the hills was their only hope against the wrath of Corteeze rather than to stand up and fight.  Mufias also mentioned that she and Lycious had been involved in the reconstruction of their village of Amphipolis and that her mother had died of a broken heart for the loss of everything she had ever known to Corteeze.
Xena immediately went to her mother’s tomb because although she had been gone for ten years it was as if she had just lost her mother.  She was mourning this loss knowing that if she hadn’t killed that boy in the battle at the temple of the fates she would never have been led to this alternate reality.  Xena cried for her mother as the tears streamed down her face from the depths of her innocent heart.  She professed to her mother that she was sorry and that though she would lose her mother and her friendship to Gabrielle at least the world would be a better place.  Without the existence of the warrior princess Gabrielle would never have left her family to join the warrior, and Xena would never have shamed her mother and all of the others she loved dearly from her village of Amphipolis.  And so Xena had reasoned that this choice was her only choice and it was for the best.
After mourning for her mother Xena found herself walking through the village once again.  It was a very vibrant place and she was happy to know that without a drop of blood she and her brother Lycious had been able to help lead the effort to rebuild their lives after war and destruction.  Yet while Xena was at the market she saw something that disturbed her.  An old man in the market was attacked by a warrior for accidentally bumping into him.  The warrior held a knife to the old man threatening his life.  And just when he was about to thrust the knife within the neck of the old man Xena pulled the rug right out from under him knocking the evil man to the ground.  She had clearly taken him by surprise though she played it off like a master proclaiming that she had only been checking the price of the rug and didn’t realize that the warrior had been standing on it.
The evil warrior held back from his anger and forgave the pure soul for her accident because she was a beautiful woman.  As he walked away from her he demanded that the rest of the warrior men bring out the slaves to collect the pickings for a dinner to the warlords in the area.  Xena was unaware of who was there, but all of these warriors she recognized for she had killed many of them in the battle for the greater good in the alternate reality.  But that was over now though there was a part of her that was still uncertain of how she was going to live her new life without blood shed.  It would be nothing short of the greatest challenge she had ever faced.  As she thought deeply the maiden appeared before her telling her not to have a second thought of it.  She was confident that Xena would make the right choice.  The maiden knew that Xena had a burning passion to be the warrior she had been destined to be in her other life.  Yet there was so much at stake for Xena.  No blood was allowed if she were to be a warrior here.
Then as the maiden disappeared into thin air Xena saw a vivid familiar face.  It was the face of her best friend Gabrielle.  Only Gabrielle was not who she had been in the alternate reality.  Gabrielle was a slave.  She was collecting food at the market for the dinner of her evil masters.  As Xena looked into the eyes of this familiar face she saw pain.  She saw grief, and she saw anger.  These were things she had never seen within the bard before.  How could it be possible that Gabrielle’s life would hold a worse fate than leaving her family?  But then as she tried to search Gabrielle with her eyes to be recognized within Gabrielle backed away from her with fear and suspicion.  And then she clumsily backed into the leader of the warrior gang in town.  It was the one that Xena had confronted about the old man.  The warrior leader was angered at the slave’s clumsy move and he raised his club to her to beat her as punishment.
Xena could not allow this to happen to her best friend.  She would not see Gabrielle beaten by these thugs.  Xena stepped in saving Gabrielle from the strike of the club only to anger the evil warrior even more.  Now she had made herself a target.  And then just as the warrior was about to attack Xena Mufias stepped in apologizing for Xena’s actions.  He claimed that it was all just a misunderstanding for they had been looking in the market to purchase a slave for themselves, and Gabrielle was perfect.  She was exactly what they had been looking for.  Mufias urged Xena to go along with his story and she did so with great reluctance for she did not see Gabrielle in the light of a worthless slave as did Mufias.  But that was all he had known.  He never knew Gabrielle the way Xena had known her.
Gabrielle looked to Xena with disgust knowing that she was just another piece of meat to be sold or a possession to be owned, used, and abused.  There was such a burning fire of anger within her emerald eyes.  And just when Xena thought that she would be triumphant in releasing her friend from the wrath of evil by a simple purchase the warrior leader rejected the sale for he said that the warlord Mezentious liked this one too much.  Xena was crushed for she couldn’t save her friend.  She couldn’t come to the rescue as she had always been able to do in the alternate reality of the warrior.  And then she watched helplessly as Gabrielle was dragged away in the binds of slavery as she struggled against Mufias to get to her friend.  Xena called out to her friend frantically, but her pleas were not heard by fate and not by Gabrielle.
But Mufias was not humored at Xena’s actions.  He scolded her for thinking that she could ever make a difference in the world.  In fact, he couldn’t understand why she would be so passionate about saving a worthless little slave girl.  But this wasn’t just any slave girl.  This was Gabrielle that they were discussing and for Xena there was no question about it.  Gabrielle had to be rescued from her binds in this life for if Xena had been a warrior Gabrielle would never have been a slave.  Again Xena was at fault for wanting this new bloodless life.  Xena could not live with herself knowing that Gabrielle’s soul was bound in chains.  As she argued with Mufias he reminded her that in this world she had to learn to go along to get along.  And then he left Xena alone to think about her latest actions.
Suddenly within all of her confusion the crone appeared before her.  She reminded Xena that Mufias had been wrong.  Xena did have the power to make a difference and Xena knew what the remedy was.  The remedy was to draw blood and to go back to the life path of a warrior which was true to her destiny.  But Xena could not believe that the world was a better place with the warrior princess in existence.  She argued with the crone that her life was better this way, but the fate reminded her of the life of Gabrielle and how different it was on this current path.  Yes things were different within this alternate reality, but this was Gabrielle that they were talking about, and Xena did not believe that Gabrielle was beyond saving.  Xena had faith that she would be able to find that light within Gabrielle that she had always loved during her life as a warrior.
Later that night Xena went to the supply market just before close to purchase a chicken.  She needed some information from the man at the market who dealt with the warlord Mezentious.  Xena was determined to save Gabrielle no matter what she had to do to get there as long as there was no blood spilled.  She had a plan and she would start at first light sneaking into Mezentious’s castle to retrieve the life and soul of her best friend.  Her plan was ingenious as it always was with the warrior princess.  She arrived at the castle within the delivery of goods under the wagon.  Xena had anticipated that they would do a check for stowaways so she was prepared.  And when the wagon stopped they did check only to find the red wine of a drunken wagon man.
As the goods were unloaded Xena made her way into the castle hiding around a nearby corner.  She watched her best friend work diligently in the binds of slavery.  And as she watched she noticed many of the other female slaves looked very familiar to her.  In fact, they looked a lot like the amazons she had known as the warrior princess.  Then she recalled her conversation at dinner the night before with Lycious of how he had said the amazons had been captured and demoralized by the warlord Chricous.  She realized that the only reason that these amazons were even here was because Chricous had been the one who had forced a war between the amazons and the centaurs which as the warrior she had been there to stop.  But now there was regret for she realized this too was her fault.  Lycious had wanted to start plans for an attack on these warlords last night, but Xena knew that she was bound to life without a sword and so she knew in her heart that there had to be another way.  The problem was that the answer had been eluding her.
Xena waited for the right moment and then suddenly she snatched Gabrielle startling the young slave girl.  Gabrielle was astonished for this woman from the market was obviously not one to take no for an answer.  The slave girl was almost angered for she could get in trouble if she were found talking to an outsider.  Xena reminded Gabrielle of their meeting in the market the day before.  Gabrielle confirmed that she remembered, but was less than pleased to see Xena.  In fact, this was unlike the Gabrielle that Xena had known before.  As her sidekick and best friend Gabrielle would have been over joyed to be reunited with her friend, but Xena had to remember that Gabrielle did not know her like she had known Gabrielle.
The slave expressed her disgust for the offer to be bought for her services while at the market the day before.  Xena had realized then that Mufias’s offer had offended her friend, but she couldn’t explain herself to this slave girl yet for her story was so outrageous that Gabrielle wouldn’t understand.  The explanations would have to wait.  For now Xena had to get Gabrielle back to freedom, and as she prepared to explain her plan to rescue Gabrielle to her freedom she was interrupted by a cold rejection.  Gabrielle walked away from Xena, and expressed that she was not inclined to do anything more than get back to work before being caught with Xena on a pleasurable break.  Xena could not take no for an answer.  She couldn’t accept that Gabrielle would not want to be free.  So Xena reached out to her friend once more with her heart, and as she did so Gabrielle reminded Xena of what happens to runaway slaves for she had tried her way at freedom once before.
The slave girl pulled down the sleeve of her old blue rags and revealed to Xena the marks of a scar that could never be healed.  She stared coldly at Xena as if she had convinced Xena that freedom was not an option for this slave girl now.  Her life path was that of a slave and nothing more as her fate had been sealed.  She was as worthless as the next slave.  Xena’s heart broke upon this sight for she could feel the pain of Gabrielle.  She could see how much had already been lost as a result of the fate of a slave.  Xena expressed to Gabrielle her sorrow of this great pain for it had been her fault again as Gabrielle’s name suddenly slipped from her lips with great compassion.
This intrigued the slave girl for just as she was about to walk away from Xena she looked upon this strange and stubborn young woman as if she had seen a ghost.  How did she know her name?  And just as the slave inquired of Xena, Xena revealed her own identity hoping to break through once again.  Xena could see how serious this truly was and how much of that beautiful light she loved about the bard had been lost.  And then she tried to convince the slave to try for her freedom once more, but was rejected once again until she mentioned that her brother Lycious would be able to protect her from this evil.
The slave girl was once again intrigued for she had heard of this Lycious person.  In fact, she had heard of him at dinner with Mezentious and Crichous on the night before as they had been disguising their plans to team up with a third powerful warlord.  Xena recognized all of these names from her life as a warrior, and in that life she had defeated them all.  In fact, she had defeated them all with the help of her loyal sidekick Gabrielle.  The slave girl continued by explaining that she had known about Lycious because it was said that he had run to the hills against Corteeze instead of standing up and fighting.  How was a coward going to protect her?  Xena could understand this reasoning and again she felt responsible.  The slave girl continued to express how though she was only a slave she could still see and she could still hear life happening around her yet life for her was over.  It had been over for a very long time.
Xena could see that Gabrielle though drained within was still as sharp as ever and this gave her hope for if Gabrielle could still hear and see life she could still write about it as she always had in the alternate world.  Xena knew that she had to get her back.  She tried getting through to Gabrielle’s heart by touching on that fiery part of her that had always believed in goodness and fighting for it no matter what the price.  But this slave girl once again rejected her.  It was as if she didn’t care.  This was unlike the Gabrielle Xena had known.  Xena reminded the slave girl of all of the people who would suffer as a result of these three sworn enemies banning together.  This certainly would snap her out of this dismal depression, anger, and hatred for Gabrielle had always cared more for others than she had for herself.  Xena thought of the time Gabrielle had taken an arrow to save a child during a bloody war almost ending her life.  But even that part of her had been seemingly lost as she once again tried to reject Xena.  Gabrielle reminded Xena that she didn’t even really know her.  But Xena did not believe that.  Xena recanted by reminding Gabrielle that maybe she didn’t even know herself.
And then it happened.  Xena could see a tiny bit of fire reviving from within this slave girl.  It was that fire that she had always known and loved.  It was that little bit of passion for others that was still within this Gabrielle that Xena had tapped into.  She had finally talked Gabrielle into another escape attempt.  Xena’s plan wasn’t going to fail this time.  And so they carried out the plan as the slave rolled Xena out in a large wooden meat barrel.  She rolled her right into the middle of the action as all of the slaves continued to work and unload the delivery.  Then the slave girl was stopped  under suspicion as one of the guards approached to check the goods.  He took a mug and unplugged the cork at the bottom of the barrel waiting for the liquor to come out.
Gabrielle waited nervously realizing that if this stranger’s plan failed she would be back under the whip to be punished for another escape attempt.  All that she could remember was the wretched pain and agony of the whip across her fair skin.  She cringed for a moment for not a drop of alcohol came out of the barrel.  Just as he looked to the slave girl for an explanation Xena suddenly exploded from within the barrel stringing the culrpit up by some rope.  She fought off a few of the close guards swiftly with a few kicks and punches, but without a weapon.  Xena instructed Gabrielle to put out the burning fire as she prepared a little contraption for successful escape.  This contraption was a simple one for it was only a large board placed upon a barrel on its side.  As Gabrielle put out the flames with a broom Xena called to her for the burning broom, and as always Gabrielle learned quickly and adjusted well just as she had as Xena’s trusty sidekick in the reality of the warrior.
Xena quickly took the broom setting fire to the armor of her attackers.  They screamed with agony, but not a drop of blood had been shed.  She quickly barked out another instruction to Gabrielle telling her to jump upon the contraption that she had set up.  Gabrielle was confused as to what this was supposed to do to help her escape.  For a moment she questioned this strange woman’s actions, but jumped upon the board obediently.  And then Xena cried out with her signature battle cry and flipped upon the opposite end of the board launching Gabrielle into the air out the chimney into the back of the trader’s wagon that Xena had arrived on.  But for the plan to be finalized Xena had to make her own escape so she burned the rope of the man she had strung up as she jumped upon the board ready to fly.
Soon she was back with her friend taking Gabrielle to the free life she deserved.  Xena was certain that Gabrielle would thrive once all was repaired for Xena’s faith in Gabrielle was strong.  She had no doubts that the bard would live once again.  When they arrived back home to Amphipolis Xena had given Gabrielle her mother’s dress.  It would be a first step in restoring that pure soul that she had always known and loved.  And Xena would accomplish this without blood.  She had to succeed.  Gabrielle took the dress with uncertainty for she had not yet figured out why this strange woman seemed to care.  She explained to Xena that the one thing she had learned in life was that she could trust no one.  Xena explained to Gabrielle her reasons for fighting so hard to bring Gabrielle to freedom.  She explained that Gabrielle reminded her of a friend that she had always known.  Xena described to Gabrielle a beautiful pure soul who was full of stories, light, and of love.  Gabrielle then glared back at Xena, and coldly reminded her that she had better take another look because she was not that person.
Then Xena knew that this was serious.  She realized just how much damage had been done to the young girl from Podedia.  But Xena was determined to breath life back into that vibrant soul yet.  She would not give up.  Xena left Gabrielle to change.  When she entered the front Lycious was there to congratulate her for rescuing this slave girl.  He looked up to Xena for it, and because of her action in the name of goodness he was determined and ready to plan an attack on these warlords.  Lycious was ready and willing to give his life for this cause of goodness.  He was full of drive, excitement, and energy as he went onto explain to Xena his plan of attack.  Lycious wanted Xena to lead one of the fronts for he knew how skilled she was from their sparring practices.  But Xena did not want this for there had to be a way to live and do good without shedding blood.  Lycious did not understand this as he continued to explain his battle plan.
As Xena argued with him Gabrielle appeared before them.  She was polite and apologized for interrupting them.  Xena looked upon her friend in her new clothes, and realized that it truly was the same Gabrielle for Gabrielle had always been one to eavesdrop because of her great curiosity in wanting to know what was going on around her.  In fact, it was this habit of eavesdropping which had given Lycious valuable information regarding the seriousness of their current situation.  This was almost comforting because for the first time within this life she saw the light of Gabrielle beginning to shine a bit brighter.  How pure she looked with her hair brushed and all cleaned up.  Xena was pleased and so was her brother Lycious.  It could be described as love at first sight.  Xena saw a chemistry between her brother, and this slave girl that she could never have foreseen, but was not surprised by it.
As Lycious looked into Gabrielle’s eyes she looked back.  He too could see that light, and Xena knew that he could love her the way she had always loved her as a warrior.  Lycious offered Gabrielle a chair graciously.  For the first time in two years this slave girl felt like a real human being.  A small smile spread across her pure face as she accepted this man’s charming offer.  And then suddenly there was a knock at the door.  Gabrielle jumped up from her perch in fear for it was her only reflex.  But Lycious tried to put her fears at rest explaining that it was only Mufias.
When Lycious answered the door Mufias appeared, but so did the army of Mezentious.  Mufias had made a deal with Mezentious.  In exchange for the return of his slave girl the deal was that the triple alliance would not attack Amphipolis, but as always the evil warlord cannot be trusted.  Then Mufias was left behind as Lycious tried to pursuade Xena to fight with a sword in the hopes that they could save themselves and their new friend Gabrielle.  But Xena refused to take up arms once again, and the three of them found themselves in Mezentious’s dungeon locked away in cages.  Lycious was not happy with Xena’s choice not to draw blood.  In fact, he was disappointed in her for this wasn’t the way he had thought that his sister would go down.
Lycious tried desperately to free himself with his barillas token as he was cutting with it in the wrong direction.  Xena tried to help her brother explaining to him that he should cut against the grains, but Lycious was not amused.  He was angry at Xena’s choice, and he couldn’t understand why she had not chosen to stand up and fight.  Xena reminded Lycious that it had been Mufias that had betrayed them, but Lycious was not in agreement for he felt that Mufias’s actions had been for the best intentions although they had failed.  Then Xena realized that somehow she would have to explain herself for she couldn’t bare to lose her brother’s respect.  She tried desperately to explain in some way as she fumbled for the right words, and then out of frustration she found herself about to tell the true story.  But then she realized that he would never believe her so she had said that it had been fear.  But it was never about fear for Xena.  It was about releasing herself from the shame of her past blood lust in the life of the warrior.  She then realized that if she had told Lycious she would not fight because it would result in his death that he would have gladly died to change things for the better.  Xena was beginning to realize that this life was a losing battle.
And then as she thought about this she heard sobs of anguish coming from below.  They were the sobs of a defeated soul.  Gabrielle had never sobbed that way before.  It was a pain within her that Xena did not recognize.  She realized that this pain was her fault too for Gabrielle would never have been a slave if Xena had not made the choice to live a blood free life.  Gabrielle agreed that it was Xena’s fault for she would never have remembered what it had been like to be free if it hadn’t been for Xena.  Gabrielle confessed to Xena through empty eyes that she didn’t know whether to thank Xena or to hate Xena.  And then Gabrielle scoffed at Xena’s earlier reference to a great friendship.  But Xena could not hear that.  She would not allow Gabrielle to sell herself short.  Gabrielle felt worthless again, and Xena couldn’t bare that feeling illuminating from her friend.  Xena then confessed her deep love for Gabrielle passionately reminding Gabrielle that she was her friend.  But this slave girl remembered nothing.
Suddenly two warriors came in to take one of them to Mezentious.  They chose to take Lycious, and just when they were about to cut him down one warrior turned on the other.  There was a great duel and Xena took advantage of the situation.  She grabbed hold of a loose knife hurling it to the rope which restrained her from the ground.  With great accuracy she hit her mark as always and released herself from her binds in warrior style.  As she reached the ground she burst out ready to face the warrior left standing at the end of the sudden duel.  But this was not an enemy.  The warrior removed his shroud of mystery.  He had been Mufias.  Mufias had realized his mistake and was now ready to follow Xena and Lycious in their beliefs.
Gabrielle looked down upon her new friends with disbelief.  Just when things had looked bleak they had come through again.  Xena and Mufias quickly released the two remaining prisoners, and Lycious had forgiven Mufias restoring their kinship of family.  Then Mufias explained their plan of a quiet escape to Xena and Gabrielle only to find that Lycious had plans of his own.  He was going to take on the entire party of warriors because they would be surprised and unsuspecting of his arrival.  Lycious also had faith in Xena that she would stand up and fight for what she believed in.  And so they soon found themselves within an epic battle.  It was the single event which Xena had fought so hard to avoid, but it was obvious that avoiding battle was impossible.
Lycious had entered triumphantly knowing that he would win his sister over in a decision.  Just as he had made his stunning entrance Xena saved him from an oncoming pickax meant to take his life by catching it barehanded.  And then the fight was on.  However, Xena still did not pick up a sword.  She fought skillfully as she disarmed a warrior only to pass the weapon onto Mufias.  Lycious kept urging her to arm herself, but she refused knowing the consequences of holding a sword.  Xena had always said that when you pick up a sword you become a target.  She refused to put herself in that position for she knew that she would most certainly have to draw blood.  Xena battled on without blood until Lycious looked her into her soul between kicks and punches only to say that she should not fight destiny.  And then Xena took a moment to reflect in the heat of a bloodless battle.
It was as if everything was in slow motion for her as she saw the events which were unfolding in this bloodless world she had been living for the past few days.  She compared the good with the bad on both sides of the dinar, and then as she gazed across this great battle to crush the evil triple alliance she saw her worst nightmare unfolding.  It was Gabrielle.  The young innocent bard from Podedia had a new fire within her as if she had made a new discovery.  A sword had fallen to the ground before her.  She made the choice to pick it up, and in less than a split moment she had made herself a target for blood.
Suddenly from across the battle the warlord Mezentious caught sight of his slave girl defying him in battle as he charged forward to take her life.  His last words to her were unkind for she was just another prize from the spoils of war to him and nothing more.  The slave girl knew this and she didn’t care anymore.  She had the power now  for she held the sword.  And then she made her choice thrusting the sword through the chest of the warlord Mezentious.  Xena watched as her friend died before her not in body, but in spirit for she had chosen blood lust, hate, and evil as her savior rather than to embrace love and peace.  At that moment Xena realized that this was not Gabrielle.  It wasn’t the friend that she had always known for the blood, and the hate illuminated violently from those tarnished emerald eyes.  Now Xena knew it was truly too late for the slave girl Gabrielle.
And so Xena had made her choice.  She looked to Lycious who had passed her a sword.  And then she looked to him one last time to say a regretful good-bye knowing that he had to die in order for her friend to live, and for all who had been saved by the warrior princess to be restored once again.  The warrior could feel the presence of an approaching enemy from behind as she thrust her sword into his stomach.  The battle raged into the sound of another familiar voice warning her friend of the danger which lurked from behind as she whisped around with one graceful quick move knocking the attacker to the ground without one drop of blood.  Her attacker had been only a young boy, and as the other evil warriors fled the scene Xena warned this young boy that he had been given a second chance.  She demanded that he change his ways avoiding bloodshed for her sacrifice to him.  He agreed to do so in fear, and then he too fled from the wrath of Xena the warrior princess.
Gabrielle stood beside her friend watching the young boy flee with the others, and then suddenly Xena grabbed the bard embracing her friend tightly.  The bard did not understand what was wrong with her friend.  But Xena laid Gabrielle’s suspicions to rest by thanking her friend for being the light.  Gabrielle then inquired of Xena about going back into the temple to see the fates once more, but Xena refused.  Gabrielle then asked Xena  why she seemingly was not herself, but Xena replied by telling her sidekick that she was more herself now than ever.  And as the two best friends left the temple of the fates Xena asked Gabrielle if she thought that the fates truly had control over our fates in life, and the paths we must walk.  Gabrielle wasn’t so certain that the story of the fates and their power of destiny was truth, but then Xena sung to the bard her story of the warrior princess who never existed and of the slave who remembered nothing.

The Xena Scrolls

Scroll #32:  Girls Just Wanna Have Fun

By:  Gabrielle Bard of Podedia

January 21st, 47 B.C.

     All was silent in the Baccae forrest for Gabrielle did not hear a single note.  The music of Orpheous did not speak.  It was now six young girls from the neighboring villages who had all disappeared without a single trace.  And so this place was the hunting grounds of Baccus whose wine was the blood of innocent young women.  It was said that only Orpheous’s song could tame the wild beast.  Xena was certain that the beast had risen once more into his furious spree of vicious crimes. 

     Gabrielle knew this famous old story all too well.  It was told to all young girls in her village who did  not behave.  They said that a single bite from a baccae could turn a young innocent woman into a wild soulless creature whose only allegance is to Baccus.  And once bitten she is loured into his lair to drink his blood.  If she does there is no way to save her.  She becomes a baccae forever.  They say that baccae women can take on many forms.  Sometimes they just go roaming the forrest as wolves.  Driven with an unquenchable thirst for blood they track their intended victim relentlessly.  Until they corner them.  Then they tear them apart lim from lim. 

     Carefully Gabrielle constructed the tale for Xena as they ventured through the depths of the Baccae forrest.  Xena had asked what the bard had known although Gabrielle was not so certain that these stories were of truth.  She was convinced that they were told only to scare people and there was nothing really to fear.  Yet the forrest itself seemed dark and treacherous like no other forrest they had traveled through before.  Just as the bard turned the corner around a tree she was instantly flattened by surprise.  There before her an idiot stood screaming and then Gabrielle screamed in terror as her imagination had been in high gear.  Then she fell to the ground instantly after being knocked over by the bumbling idiot known as Joxer. 

     Joxer was screaming and ranting as he went running up into the trees.  He had been running from a pack of wolves who were now attacking the warrior princess.  Two wolves ran right past the bard within a breath as Gabrielle stayed still upon the ground in terror. Xena quickly drew out her whip as she scooped up the bard protecting her from the vicious wolves.  The warrior princess held them back as they growled and sneared at their intended victims.  Then they barked and howled their warnings showing their vicious teeth.  These wolves looked bloody with their mouths foaming ready to strike at any moment. 

     Joxer began to taunt them feeling as if he had defeated them somehow escaping within the trees.  One of the two wolves then rushed up the tree toward him as if it had heard every word with complete understanding.  It growled as it sunk its teeth into Joxer’s boot.  He suddenly found himself challenged yet again as the wolf began to tear the boot off of Joxer’s foot.  As Joxer screamed and struggled the warrior princess suddenly shifted her attention in his direction as a third wolf brushed by from behind the bard.  Gabrielle shrieked and then Xena slashed her whip in the direction of Joxer’s enemy.  After several long moments of Xena’s whip against the wolves they finally retreated from the scene.  Soon all was quiet again as it had been before.

     Joxer began to laugh boisterously as if nothing had really happened.  He climbed down out of the tree and Gabrielle found herself concerned.  She asked him if he had been alright for the wolves had gone straight for his limbs as the stories told.  Joxer declared that he was just fine and that he had been in control of his unfortunate situation.  He said that the secret to defeating a wolf pack was to wear them down.  It was as if he were an expert, but Gabrielle found herself not at all convinced of his self proclaimed skill.  And then Xena asked him what he was doing in the baccae forrest.  He said that he was on a life saving mission.  Then the idiot handed Xena a package.  It was a large bag of some sort.  With pride he had said that it was from the great Morpheous and that it was exclusively for the warrior princess.

     Gabrielle found herself going from utter disgust at his antics to complete intrigue knowing that this bag was from Morpheous.  As the bard leaned in closer to get a better look Xena asked Joxer what was in the bag.  Joxer’s only statement was that the package could speak for itself.  Then Xena reached into the bag and pulled out something truely horrid.  It was the live head of a man who screamed in agony as the warrior princess held him by his hair.  Suddenly Joxer ripped the head from Xena’s grasp and sat down upon a boulder with it.  He began to part the hair down the middle declaring that Orpheous should never be handled that way again.  It was strange for he had seemingly been traveling around with this head for quite a while.  Joxer had a personal relationship with the head of Orpheous.

     As Xena began to analyze the situation she declared to Orpheous that she suspected that his demise had been the work of Baccus himself.  Orpheous did not argue.  He only confirmed that Xena was correct.  Gabrielle found herself horrified yet intrigued for it seemed that Xena knew everyone who she had thought to be only ficticious.  Orpheous went onto explain that Baccus had hunted him down and decapitated him leaving him alive to bear witness to the crimes he could no longer prevent.  Xena asked Orpheous of his lire.  Orpheous said that his friend Melodous was keeping it safe and in hiding.  He was certain that if they could return to Melodous that together he and his friend could stop Baccus as Melodous played the lire and Morpheous sang.

     Gabrielle suddenly realized that the events of the past few hours had all been a part of that seemingly false old legend.  She felt real fear now as she confirmed through Orpheous that the six missing innocent girls had been taken by Baccus himelf.  It was clear what their mission was.  They had to help Orpheous so that he could save the young innocent girls of the world.  And with that the warrior princess commanded Joxer to make Orpheous presentable and then they would be on their way.  Xena seemed almost disgusted with the situation yet she knew that it could not be ignored.  As long as Baccus could run free he would wreak havoc everywhere.  Not only that, but Baccus was certain to be on the hunt for Orpheous’s lire.  There was little time to spare.

     Then Gabrielle was curious to know just how Xena had met Orpheous.  As always her story was cryptic and tragic.  It had involved Xena’s army on a day when she had gone up against Baccus and his army.  During their fierce battle an innocent woman was caught in the cross swords.  Unfortunately there was nothing Xena and her army could do to protect her from Baccus and so the young woman perished.  Xena was certain that it had been Baccus who had killed her although Orpheous had blammed both.  Gabrielle found herself confused for a moment for she did not make the connection between Orpheous and Xena.  And then Xena revealed that last detail with regret.  The young woman who had died had been Orpheous’s bride.

     Soon the four friends arrived at the village of Melodeous where the lire was being kept in safety.  Gabrielle gazed down below at the foot of the hill through the gates and noticed that there was a festival in progress.  Joxer explained to Gabrielle that it was common for every year they held a festival here to ward off the wrath of Baccus.  He said that they even dressed up in fancy costumes and held a contest.  The winner would receive a prize.  As Gabrielle observed the people dancing in the streets and listened to the music from down below Joxer commented that he was certain he knew who this year’s prize would go to.  The bard knew who Joxer was talking about.  He was speaking of Orpheous whom Joxer had cleverly disguised as a scarecrow.  It was kind of amusing to the bard for she had never known a muscian without hands or a body.

      Upon entering into the village Orpheous rode upon Xena’s horse as he led his new allies to the home of his friend Melodeous.  When they went inside all was silent the way the forrest had been.  There was a strange feeling as Orpheous called out to his friend.  Yet there was no answer only more silence.  Then there was another gruesome sight.  It was Melodious hanging from the beams of the ceiling.  Again Xena proclaimed that it had most certainly been the work of Baccus.  Gabrielle heard women screaming outside as Xena then asked Orpheous if he knew where Melodious may have hidden the lyre.  When they looked to find the lyre it was missing for Baccus had taken it. 

     Now the stakes were much higher as Xena was about to rush off to hunt down Baccus, but the bard would not allow her to go alone.  Xena rejected Gabrielle’s protest asking her to stay behind to protect Orpheous.  Without him the lyre was useless and so Xena was off.  Gabrielle found herself very worried about Xena not knowing what Xena was up against.  Only the stories that she had heard could tell her, but they were not very comforting thoughts for the bard.  She tried to listen to Joxer and Orpheous chat about music only to discover that Orpheous was quite a crank.  He had a terrible attitude, but what could one expect from a muscian without his hands.  She continued to listen as Joxer played Orpheous’s instruments.  Joxer belittled the helpless musican for his craft proclaiming that his mother had dreamed of her son becoming a musican.  It was clear that Joxer had little respect for Orpheous.  Yet there was little Orpheous could do to get away from Joxer’s antics.  He yelled at the idiot to put down his instruments, but Joxer continued to annoy him. 

      Gabrielle found herself becoming frustrated with Joxer and Orpheous so she ventured outside onto the balcony.  She hoped that the excitement of the festival below would take her mind off of her irritation and her concerns for Xena.  As she watched the activities below something seemed very strange.  Everyone seemed like they were enjoying themselves yet she kept hearing those sudden screams like before when they had first entered into the village.  The bard decided that she would go investigate to be sure that there were no baccae lurking about.  If she could not help Xena find Baccus she could at least stop the baccae from taking more victims.

     As she entered into the festival something about it seemed very powerful and mezmorizing.  Though Joxer had said that it was a festival to ward off Baccus she soon discovered that these people were not against Baccus at all.  In fact they seemingly worshipped him as they chanted along with the music.  They chanted about blood and about dancing.  Gabrielle quickly decided that she would have to blend in so she began to dance to the sounds of the mystical music and chants.  So many women were dressed in costume that it was difficult to tell who was a baccae and who was not.  Gabrielle tried looking into the eyes of every young girl she danced along side yet she found herself seemingly surrounded by women with fangs.  Thought it was frightful Gabrielle found herself soothed by the muscial chanting.  She kept dancing, and dancing until she could no longer distinguish herself between what was real and what was play.

     Suddenly the moment of pure soothing pleasure was interrupted as Joxer had entered into the festival.  He had been looking to find the bard in the crowd and when he finally approached her he was abrupt.  Joxer grabbed her arm and yanked her out of the mezmorizing trance.  Gabrielle found herself angered by his intrusion.  He declared that she had been dancing with baccae and that he had come to rescue her from them.  Gabrielle was insulted by his comment confident that she would be able to identify a baccae if she had seen one.  As they argued with one another Xena arrived taking Orpheous from the stranger that Joxer had carelessly left him with. 

      Joxer then asked Xena if she had gotten the lyre back, but Xena reported that she had been unsuccessful in her conquest.  Instead she had run into the three baccae who had stolen it.  They had been attacking some innocent men by a campfire just outside the village.  Xena had to battle them fiercely, but she was certain that they would find the lyre in Baccus’s lair.  Joxer broke in once more going over Xena’s plan.  He asked her if it meant that they would be going to retreive the lyre.  Xena confirmed that he had been right as he continued to lay out the plan.  Not only did they have to retrieve the lyre, but they needed Orpheous to sing, someone to play it now that Melodeous was dead, and with that the girls would be freed and Baccus could be slain. 

      Xena was seemingly impressed yet irritated for she had not wanted her plans to be completely revealed before those who clearly worshipped Baccus.  Yet it was too late and now the word was out.  Joxer was proud of himself for having constructed Xena’s plan so successfully.  He smiled with his goofy teeth, and then Xena said that she and Gabrielle would be going on the next part of the mission without Joxer.  Joxer was suddenly crushed for he was certain to be a part of Xena’s plan.  Now he was offended and upset as he reminded the warrior princess that he had been the one that had assembled the group of four.  His initial greeting was not exactly genious, but he did have a point.  If it had been anyone else his persuasion would have succeeded, but this was the warrior princess he spoke to.  She could not afford to have such a careless idiot tagging along.  Xena was certain that his presence would complicate the plan so she rejected him once more.

     Joxer turned away from Xena angry.  Yet he had one last attempt.  Xena had everything she needed accept for someone who could play the lyre.  He then proclaimed that he had not wanted to reveal his secret, but he had indeed known how to play the lyre.  His mother’s pleas with him as a youngster had won out.  Yet Joxer wanted to be certain that his secret wasn’t made known.  He proclaimed that he had a reputation to protect, but Gabrielle could not see anything valueable about the idiot.  Yet Xena did need a lyre player and so that was his way to reenter the mission. 

      Xena and Orpheous then walked ahead as Joxer grabbed Gabrielle once more.  He was clearly upset again, but this time it was about Xena.  Joxer was certain that he had seen a baccae bite upon her neck as she had turned away.  Gabrielle was not so certain of his accusation for if she had been bitten she should have turned into a baccae.  Yet Joxer would not let the issue go for he proclaimed that it took time for a baccae bite to take effect.  Again he played expert to something that he was clearly without knowledge.  Gabrielle was only a bard, but had discovered very quickly that the lyre player was little more than a nusance at best. 

     He continued to persist about the bite he had most certainly seen.  Joxer said that it had been the real reason that Xena did not want him to be present at Baccus’s lair.  Gabrielle was still not at all convinced.  She decided that she would end his feeble charade at pretending to be a warrior once and for all.  Gabrielle was prepared to march right up to the warrior princess and ask her to reveal her baccae self.  Yet Joxer jerked Gabrielle backward fearful of Xena’s baccae tendancies.  He then took the bard’s staff and ripped out his daggar to sharpen it.  Gabrielle found herself busting with irritation as she took back her weapon struggling with the idiot as they argued.  Suddenly Xena turned around to notice that the two were quarreling.  She asked what the issue was over, but neither Joxer nor Gabrielle were inclined to answer.  Instead they stopped their quarrel and continued on down the path toward Baccus’s lair.

     Their travels led them into the darkness of the night.  At dinner Joxer’s imagination became even more dramatic as he stared at Xena with his beady brown eyes.  Suddenly the irritation was so great that the bard’s cooking knife slipped and she sliced her hand open.  Joxer took the knife which had dropped to the ground and implied that there was danger afoot.  Gabrielle knew what he had been referring to yet Xena was still in the dark.  Then Xena rose from her place on the log and walked over toward the resting head of Orpheous.  She tried desparately to comfort him knowing his pain and anger over his loss.  Though she felt responsible she had done the best that she could to try to save Euridicy.  Orpheous would refused to accept Xena’s apology.  It was obvious that he held her responsible despite all that she had tried to do.  Orpheous made it clear that this journey to take down Baccus was the price that would never be enough to bring back Orpheous’s wife.

     Xena was angered by his attitude and lack of appreication for her efforts to help him.  She picked up the knife and suddenly hurled at a tree near the fire where Gabrielle and Joxer sat.  The two looked at one another as Joxer was certain that her action had confirmed that Xena was indeed a baccae.  For the first time Gabrielle was filled with fear for if the warrior princess was truely a baccae then time was running out.  That night as they slept Xena stood guard.  She awakened the bumbling idiot with fright as she stabbed a sand spider with her daggar.  This made Joxer more nervous than before as he played off his fears of the warrior princess.  He proclaimed once more that he was an expert on killing baccae.  Yet Xena knew he was only fooling himself.

      On the next morning they set off for the catacombs where the graveyard of the driads was located.  There they would find the bones of the driad which was the only weapon that could be used against a baccae.  Both Gabrielle and Joxer had never seen a driad.  Joxer inquired about what it was as Gabrielle wondered if they would have to dig up the bodies of the dead.  Xena explained that they would not have to dig anything up as she jarred an old box loose.  Joxer then laughed for he was certain that the draids would not jump out easily.  Yet his laughter suddenly turned to screams as he was being dragged into a grave by something from beyond.  Xena and Gabrielle quickly rushed to his aid as he began to sink into the ground helplessly. 

     The struggle was difficult for even the strength of the warrior princess could not pull him out alone.  He sank deeper and deeper as Gabrielle held tightly to his arm.  Yet he was taken beneath the ground in the struggle.  Gabrielle pulled harder, but found that the arm she held was not Joxer’s.  It was the arm of the dead man in the grave which was a shocking discovery.  Gabrielle screamed, but then she and Xena dug down into the grave in search of Joxer.  Soon they found him and slowly pulled him out together.  He could barely breath, but was very fortunate for soon Xena and Gabrielle had been able to rescue him.  As Joxer rolled out of the pit of death he could only complain about his missing boot which he stated had been worth at least fifty dinars. 

      There was little time to complain for there was yet another startling surprise.  Suddenly fire pits shot out from the ground and from them emerged three winged creatures made only of bone.  They shrieked with a horrid sound that made the ears curl.  Xena and Joxer drew their swords as Joxer ran from the sight.  Gabrielle took refuge behind the warrior princess as Xena began to swing her sword wildly.  These were the driads that Xena had been searching for.  All it took to kill one was to make contact with the sword, but it was easier said than done.  One of the three driads attacked the helpless Orpheous as it tried to capture his head and fly away with it.  The warrior princess caught sight of the fury and drew her chackram to save him from capture.  Quickly is soared in the air and struck down the first driad.  When it returned Joxer was making his own kill striking down the second.

       Again he was quite proud of his accomplishment.  It only helped him with his delusions about being a true warrior.  He then taunted the third and final driad as Xena struck it down before them.  Again all was quiet as everyone began collecting the driad bones.  Orpheous had thanked Xena for saving him, but it had been the first time he had ever shown his appreciation.  Joxer was still gloating about his kill against the winged creatures as he declared that the bones of a driad were as sharp as a nail.  Gabrielle began to feel strange as she collected the bones left near Argo.  It was as if she were begining to lose her concentration.  She tried desparately to listen to what Joxer was saying to Xena, but all she could hear was that she had thought that Xena was a baccae. 

      Suddenly Gabrielle felt herself losing control.  It was like no other feeling in the world.  Her mind lost its wits and her body filled with hot blood as she popped up from the ground and turned to face the enemy.  Yet when she caught sight of her enemy it was her friends.  There before her stood Xena and Joxer.  Gabrielle’s mind confused beyond recognition as her eyes filled with nightmare visions.  For a moment she could focas only to hear Xena pleading with her to fight it.  Yet the short moment of clarity ended once more as Gabrielle had turned into a baccae and soared into the air with her invisible wings.  She whisked by Xena and Joxer flying into the catacombs nearby.  Gabrielle’s soul was being pulled toward a force so strong and full of darkness.

     The goodness in her heart fought desparately to regain control, but instead it was replaced by the insatiable urge to bite.  There below her she caught sight of the enemy once again.  Gabrielle scaled the walls and the ceiling of the dark catacombs following her intended victims.  Her heart continued to fight, but instead she had to bite.  Suddenly she swooped down upon Joxer catching him from behind.  As she knocked her victim to the ground he struggled, but Xena’s skill prevailed.  Again Gabrielle soared through the air her blood angered by the urge.  Xena pleaded with Gabrielle to continue to fight against the raging force.  As Gabrielle tried to fight within she was again whisked away by the darkness.  She found herself within the lair of Baccus the evil one.

      It was familiar like a vision.  The vision she had had two days before.  Her baccae eyes saw there before her more of her kind.  All were enthralled to dance, and to drink the blood within the alter.  Gabrielle’s eyes spotted the one and only Baccus sitting upon his mighty throne.  There were hundreds of baccae women lining up to drink from his wine.  As Gabrielle tried to rage against it she found herself within her own fright.  Slowly she reached the head of the line trying to regain her mind.  Instead she found herself face to face with the evil one.  He had horns wrapping around out of his head.  His face was red like blood and his eyes were yellow piercing through the soul.  As he handed her a cup of blood he encouraged her softly to drink from it. 

     Gabrielle’s mind was enthralled by the great one.  Yet her soul still fought the darkness.  But the harder she fought to regain her sanity the more Baccus’s eyes pierced through her light.  They reached deep down into her soul and lit it with agony and fire.  Gabrielle could no longer resist the temptation as her blood began to boil.  Slowly she raised the cup to her lips and as about to drink from its bliss, but a familiar sound pierced the air.  It was Xena’s chackram that had stolen the cup.  The blood crashed to the floor slowly as Gabrielle watched it splatter into oblivion.  Then she turned to see the light.  It was Xena the warrior princess. 

     Xena had prevented the fatal drink as she began to fight hundreds of baccae.  Joxer had arrived alongside her and quickly went  with Orpheous to seek the lyre.  Gabrielle began to feel her mind coming back although the blood still boiled violently within.  Her heart yearned to help the warrior princess fight, but her mind could do nothing.  Instead she had to use all of her strength to continue to fight the battle within.  Baccus soon raged against the light as he took Gabrielle to the alter once again.  He then drew another cup of blood and handed it over to the helpless bard.  Its power was so great that again she was pierced within her soul.  Gabrielle raised the cup to her lips.  She could almost taste its wonderful richness, but then she heard Xena shout out to her and then to Joxer to play the lyre. 

     Suddenly there was an aweful sound.  It was like the sounds of dying animals.  The sound screetched through Gabrielle’s ears.  It was unbearble as she dropped the cup of blood to the floor.  And then he was gone.  Baccus had left the alter for Joxer.  He flew up to the top of the lair where Joxer and Orpehous made music together.  Upon his arrival the music stopped.  Yet the warrior princess was already scaling the walls.  She struggled to the top to confront Baccus as she drew a daggar and thrust it into his stomach.  Baccus fell to the ground far below.  He was motionless for a short time.  All of the baccae women found themselves within a state of confusion as Gabrielle again fought the darkness within.

     Soon Baccus rose again he laughed with evil intent.  He declared that only a baccae could kill him and Xena was not one of them.  The forces within Gabrielle were like a violent storm.  Only the sight of Xena’s light could bring her out of her rage.  As she looked upon Xena above he heart realized what she must do to win against the rage.  Gabrielle then flew up to join Xena.  She approached the warrior princess who pleaded with her friend to bite her.  Gabrielle’s boiling blood lusted for Xena’s blood as she sunk her newfound fangs into the neck of the warrior princess.

     This victim’s blood was able to sooth the rage within Gabrielle’s body momentarily.  She could begin to feel some sanity returning to her mind.  Quickly Xena too developed fangs and piercing evil eyes, but together they swooped down upon Baccus.  The warrior princess thrust her weapon into his stomach once more and this time her attack was a success.  Baccus suddenly lost all of his power within the darkness and disappeared into a ball of fire.  As the darkness began to dissapate within and about all was restored to its original beauty.  Even Orpheous himself received a gift for his body was miraculously returned.  All the women seemed happy yet unaware of what had just happened to them.  And thanks to Xena the baccae were turned into the beautiful women they were before.

      And so Xena, Gabrielle, and Joxer continued on down the path.  Joxer was already prepared for the next mission yet three can often be a crowd.  Neither Xena nor Gabrielle were prepared to deal with the idiot any longer.  Gabrielle decided that she would reveal their next mission.  She told Joxer that they would go up against Medusa the woman with the snakes coming out of her head.  This legend could be scary for a young man for it was said that she could turn even the mightiest of men into stone.  So Joxer quickly decided that he would sit this next one out.  He proclaimed himself to be mighty yet he would not test his strengths against Medusa.  As Joxer left the friends behind Gabrielle thanked Xena for saving her from her baccae self.  Xena told Gabrielle that she was thankful too for Gabrielle had saved the warrior princess from the wrath of  Joxer the Mighty.

The Xena Scrolls

By:  Gabrielle Bard of Podedia

Scroll  #33:  Warrior,Princess,Tramp…

January 28th, 47 B.C. 

     It seemed that word traveled fast in the land of Greece for Xena the warrior princess was needed by everyone.  Her schedule was so busy and so dangerous that she had gone off to Thebes alone and without Gabrielle.  Though the bard had wanted to go only close friends of King Capous had been invited to Thebes.  The bard found herself in waiting for Xena had sent word to her while away at Thebes.  Xena had been asked once before by King Lius of Liberia to be his daughter’s protector for Princess Diana’s life had been threatened many times before.  Yet this time it was different for Princess Diana and her husband Prince Phillimond.  They had a newborn child and King Lius’s health was not so well.  Now it was the Princess herself whom had sent for Xena’s help.  Diana was afraid of the future of the kingdom of Liberia knowing that she and Phillimond would soon be taking the place of her beloved father Lius.   There were many renegade armies in waiting just outside the castle walls and beyond to take over the kingdom at the slightest hint of the king’s impending death.

     Gabrielle got word of this from Xena and was instructed to meet with Xena just outside of Liberia at a local inn.  As the bard sat in waiting at the inn she overheard what she thought was the horrid voice of Joxer the idiot.  The bard was not certain that she had heard his voice until she heard it blurt out the names of Callisto and of Xena.  She began to listen in upon Joxer’s crazy tale.  He told it very well and held the crowd in the palm of his hand.  He was boisterous and full of excitement yet there was one problem.  He was telling the story of Callisto all wrong.  Joxer called himself “Joxer the Magnificient” and declared it had been he whom had been the hero of the story of Callisto.  He was telling a mistruth and the bard could no longer listen to his tale another moment. 

      Gabrielle stood from her chair and casually entered into the scene standing just behind the idiot as he told his tall tale.  Just as he was about to explain his heroics in saving Xena from Callisto at the moment of truth he noticed Gabrielle to his left.  For a moment his concentration was thrown off as the bard greeted him with irritated sarcasm.  Joxer knew that he was in the frying pan and so he cowered from his moment of triumph trying to recover from his folly before the audience.  If his story had not been so false he could have gone to Athens himself and beat out Homer, but Gabrielle could not ever let that happen if Xena’s reputation were to be on the line.  She expressed her displeasure with Joxer’s intentional phibs reminding him that not only was the bard herself tied up, but he was tied up with her on the same post in the ground.  In fact, it was Xena whom had come to save them both from the wrath of Callisto.

      Joxer quickly recovered delivering the unexpected to Gabrielle.  He swore that he had just seen Xena at the inn hours before and that she had asked him to join her at the castle in a few hours.  Not only that, but apparently Xena had suddenly become in lust with Joxer the idiot which seemed to the bard highly unlikely.  Gabrielle decided to ignore Joxer’s lies and to understand his facsination with tall tales.  According to the message that Gabrielle had recieved from Xena just days before Xena was not planning to be back from Thebes until the next sun.  To the bard it was just another of Joxer’s tall tales yet there was something strange about it.  She decided to leave him to his crazy antics and  to investigate his claim.  It was highly unlikely that it was Xena that he had seen and so Gabrielle made the journey to Liberia on her own.

     As the bard arrived at the king’s castle she was greeted cordially by Lius’s guards.  They invited her in immediately for they had remembered the last visit from the warrior princess and the bard.  Gabrielle was escorted into the castle and immediately taken to see the princess who was talking with the warrior princess.  Diana was just as shocked to see Xena as Gabrielle was knowing that it was a day earlier than Xena had expected to arrive.  Xena confirmed with Diana that indeed she had made very good time from Thebes.  Then Xena introduced a former advisor to the king of Thebes to Diana.  Apparently she had brought him along to help with the mission.  Xena then asked Diana about the status of her father’s health.  Diana was saddened when she answered and Xena expressed her shallow condolances yet promised that they would get through these times of hardship together.  Gabrielle entered into the conversation and was instantly welcomed by the grateful Diana.  The bard was pleased to see how well the princess looked and the handsome Phillimond too.  Then Diana introduced the guard to Xena and instructed him that Xena was to be honored as if her orders were those of King Lius himself.  Then the princess and her prince exited leaving Xena, Gabrielle, and Agus with her guard.

     Gabrielle instantly tore into Xena a bit disgusted by the lack of good communication between herself and the warrior princess on this mission.  In fact, Xena’s message never even alluded to the fact that she would be bringing Agus into the mission.  It didn’t even mention that there was anyone named Agus involved or even known the warrior princess.  As far as meeting at the castle the message she had recieved never mentioned that she should meet Xena at the castle.  It was back at the tavern that Gabrielle had expected Xena and not for another day.  Then Gabrielle found herself intrigued as to why Joxer would remotely think that Xena was in love with him.  The bard warned Xena that she needed to be more cautious about what she said to the idiot in the future.  He was a crazy lunatic at best.  Gabrielle continued her elaboration of her experience at the inn with Joxer who had the entire bar thinking that the warrior princess was a tramp by the time she had left him.  There was something very strange to this entire scenario, but before the bard could even put her mind and emotions back in order Xena gave the order to the guard to throw Gabrielle in the dungeon.

    Finding oneself in the lonely dungeon was not what Gabrielle had anticipated when arriving at the castle.  She paced in her cell trying to figure out what Xena had meant when she called her a big mouth idiot just before finding herself the dungeon.  The bard wasn’t sure if it was a new code or a test of her will and prowess.  One thing was certain and that was the burning irritation of being left out of Xena’s plan.  Moments later Gabrielle heard the door to the dungeon echo shut and then the warrior princess appeared.  Gabrielle quickly tore into Xena again demanding to know what was going on.  Xena explained to the bard that her being thrown into the dungeon was all part of her plan to protect Gabrielle and Princess Diana.  Gabrielle’s heart sank when she heard this coming from the warrior princess after all that they had been through together.  It didn’t make sense that Xena would suddenly be treating her like a kid again the way she had when they had first begun their travels together.  Gabrielle felt certain that she was very able to defend herself against anyone who might attack her. 

     Yet Xena persisted in saying that the man they were up against had a strange method of torture in order to extract information from his victims.  She said that he liked to shove burning splinters under the fingernails of his victims.  When the bard was asked by the warrior princess if she had ever had this experience Gabrielle found herself confused, but certain that she could not recall that experience within her realm of memories.  With that the bard was still concerned because Xena still refused to tell her what the plan was.  In fact, the bard was quite certain that if this shady character was to get a hold of her he would still shove the burning splinters under her nails despite Gabrielle’s lack of knowledge.  He would not know if she was telling the truth of not knowing the plan.  Xena then followed up with that being the main reason that Gabrielle should stay locked up inside the dungeon.  Before Gabrielle could think or respond to Xena the warrior princess was gone and out the door of the prison.  Gabrielle was still confused and still irrated by this latest mood of the warrior princess.  The bard had always known Xena to have mood swings, but never like the mood of this day.

    As the day pressed on and the moments dragged by slower and slower the bard’s frustrations rose.  If only those frustrations could have led to her escape from being locked up by her own best friend.  There was seemingly no response from the outside world and so the bard finally decided to stop pacing and sit down to relax.  Maybe relaxation was just what was needed to answer these burning questions about Xena’s mood.  Yet just when things began to calm down within the bard the dungeon door swung upon and Joxer the magnificient idiot was thrown in face first to the ground.  As Joxer tried to gather his composure he made mention of Xena’s unpredictable mood.  Gabrielle couldn’t agree more with the idiot yet it was a rare occasion that the two could agree on anything at all.  This lastest development sparked the bard’s curiousity.  She decided that this was the closest to the outside world that she would be able to connect with so she interrogated Joxer about his most recent experience with Xena. 

     Joxer began again with his lustful story that he had been telling about his first encounter with Xena on the night before.  Gabrielle could have spared those details and could barely believe anything Joxer spewd from the top of his fantasies.  Then he recapped his run in with the bard herself earlier in the morning.  Gabrielle explained what had happened upon her arrival at the castle and then Joxer picked up with his story explaining in triumphant detail how he had muscled the guards into letting him in despite their unwelcome reaction to his presence.  The bard could believe that one, but was having difficulty with Joxer’s muscle.  Yet he did get into the castle, but his story didn’t end there. 

     He spoke of how he had been thinking of his statements to the audience back at the tavern.  After talking to Gabrielle who had reminded him of what he was saying to the masses he had realized that it had truely been inappropriate for him to share his most intimate moments with a crowd of strangers.  Although he was quite exhilerated and confident of himself at the time.  Gabrielle had to interrupt the idiot again and pump more of the story out of him.  Her impatience with Joxer led to him explaining that he looked for Xena upon entering the castle.  He had wanted to apologize to the warrior princess after being advised by Gabrielle.  Yet when he finally found Xena she had seemingly been irrated by Gabrielle’s intervention into their romantic esacpades.  He even said that Xena called Gabrielle a big mouth idiot.  Gabrielle thought about that for a moment and then remembered that Xena had called her that earlier just before being thrown back into the dungeon.

       As Gabrielle began to pace again and to contemplate all of this new information Joxer continued on with the worst part of his story.  He swore to Gabrielle that Xena couldn’t keep her hands off of him.  Joxer must have been hallucinating.  It was the best conclusion to all of his fantasy for the warrior princess would never fall for the idiot.  And as Gabrielle argued this point with Joxer he explained to her that nothing had happened.  Even when Xena had tried to arouse him putting her hands on his thigh he was honorable.  According to Joxer he bravely left the scene despite Xena’s wild hormones for him.  Gabrielle felt good about his intensions, but only until Joxer finished his story.  He explained to the bard that as he was walking through the halls of the castle in manly confusion he ran into Xena yet again only this time she was wearing a beautiful red dress.  Joxer again tried desparately to fight his manly urges and scolded the warrior princess for trying to swoon him with a passionate dress.  But then Joxer’s manhood won out and defeated his resolve.  That was when he apparently reached for Xena’s buttox and grabbed it in pleasure.  That was how Joxer had ended up in the dungeon.

      It was all begining to make sense to the bard now.  All of it except for the part about Xena’s lust for Joxer.  The reason he had been thown into the dungeon was because he had run into Princess Diana.  He was unaware that the princess and Xena were one in the same when it came to their looks.  Joxer began to laugh boistrerously at his mistake yet he was embarressed and suddenly shamed of himself.  His shame didn’t last long though for he was excited to know that Xena was still lusting after him.  Gabrielle again argued against this.  It just wasn’t Xena.  Joxer smiled and showed his love marks apparently given to him by the warrior princess.  The bard didn’t want to see them and was becomming extermely distraught with confusion.  Joxer explained that there was nothing to worry about for he would still be honorable.  He was going to ask Xena to marry him.  Then the last straw for Gabrielle came when Joxer told Gabrielle that she could still be a part of their lives.  She could be just like their daughter.  The bard went off of the edge at that point.  The thought of Joxer’s fantasy possibly coming true was beyond her grasp of imagination or reality.  She ran for the door and grabbed the bars desparately hoping that someone would let her out of this nightmare soon.

     Her wish came true with the arrival of Diana at the dungeon.  She entered explaining that she had just talked to Xena who had told her the plan.  Yet when Gabrielle impatiently inquired of the plan Diana said that it was still not able to be disclosed to the bard.  Then Diana looked to Joxer and explained that Xena had told him of her lust for Joxer and of how Joxer had mistaken the two.  Diana was forgiving of Joxer as Joxer bowed his head down for her forgiveness.  His shame lasted very shortly as Diana explained that Xena needed his help with the plan and that he would take part in it.  As for Gabrielle she had to stay in the dungeon alone yet again.  Joxer was high with pride because for the first time ever he was at the top of the list of Xena’s sidekicks.  He was the important one and he was gloating within every moment.  As Diana dragged Joxer out of the dungeon Gabrielle followed in anger feeling very upset about being shut out by all of her truest friends.  The guards did not allow her to get two steps out of the dungeon before throwing her back in and slamming the door in her face.  The rejection was almost unbearable.

      Suddenly all of the anger within the bard unleashed itself in fury.  Gabrielle began to go insane as she punched and kicked an old sack of wheat lying on the floor of the dungeon.  The bard was envisioning what she would do to Xena once Xena came back for her.  This was too much for Gabrielle to handle.  Not knowng the plan, being called a big mouth, being thrown in a dungeon, and being thrown aside in favor of Joxer were more than Gabrielle could take.  A true friend did not treat someone like this.  All of the rage turned into pain as the bard kicked the bag so hard that her foot hurt.  As she tried to calm down for a moment and gather her composure the door to the dungeon opened again.  It was Xena and Gabrielle could do nothing, but yell and scream out all of her frustrations.  Gabrielle was certain that Xena’s real plan was to drive her insane for the day.  For a moment Gabrielle expected Xena to retailate against this accusation and emotional outburst demonstrated, but instead Xena coldy invited the bard to her freedom outside of the dungeon.  Joxer laughed at the bard still gleefully exstatic about his new status in Xena’s life, but Gabrielle didn’t allow his pride to last too long as she nailed him in the stomach on the way out. 

      Gabrielle had a million questions for the warrior princess as they walked down the hall.  She could barely contain herself or her loud rising voice.  The warrior princess tried to explain all that had been happening through the day starting with her own experience back at the tavern.  She began by stating she found it strange when almost every man at the inn wanted to take her to bed.  The warrior princess found it very irritating and filthy for them to all be trying to get her in the sack.  It seemed that everyone wanted to get their hands on the warrior princess.  Finding herself trying to ignore the scumb in the tavern she asked the bar keep if he had seen Gabrielle.  The bar keep explained that the bard had left for the castle earlier in the morning.  Not long after Xena had received that information she found herself in the middle of a bar fight with some warlords passing through who seemed to be targeting her specifically.  The warrior princess defeated them with one of her favorite techninques.  She used alchohol and a torch setting fire to the place.  This was to accomplish two things.  It only accomplished one for the warrior princess was still being hit on even after she had terrorized several warlords.

     When Xena had entered the castle she seeked to find Diana who seemed to be overly emotional about her father.  The warrior princess was hoping to discuss plans for securing the castle with Diana, but Diana insisted that she be left alone.  Xena had decided that maybe King Lius’s health was more serious than Diana had stated in her message.  Xena then decided to investigate the castle and check out what was going on for herself.  That was when she ran into Joxer who had just been let out by Diana.  At this point in Xena’s story Joxer chimed in with great confidence and manly pride as he told his tale of how Diana’s plans for him had begun with a passionate kiss.  This was very dificult to calculate or to believe.  Yet it explained why Xena was acting so strangely because it wasn’t really her.  It also explained why Xena had arrived at the tavern a day early.  It wasn’t Xena it was Diana.  Gabrielle had remembered Diana to be exhuberant about dressing up and pretending to be the warrior princess before, but Joxer again did not seem to fit her type.  Xena’s story was missing something important. 

       As Gabrielle thought outloud about the entire scenario presented by Xena Joxer again prided himself on being a cunning sex symbol for all women.  Gabrielle punched the idiot in the stomach for he hadn’t heard a single word the warrior princess had said.  Then Joxer defended himself explaining that he did.  Xena interrupted the squabble between Joxer and Gabrielle when she continued with her own version of the story.  She had seen Joxer admiring himself in the mirror and when she confronted him he couldn’t keep his hands off of her.  Naturally she had to put Joxer in his place and remind him that he wasn’t really her type.  She explained to Joxer that it wasn’t she who lusted after him, but someone else.  At the time Joxer was certain that if it hadn’t been Xena then Diana definately was in love with him and very cunning about it. 

      With all of this confusion within the castle the warrior princess was desparately looking for the bard.  She was certain that Gabrielle would be able to help her put together the pieces to this mysterious puzzle of princess’s Diana’s emontional state which had seemingly led her into the arms of Joxer the idiot.  When Xena confessed to Joxer that she couldn’t find Gabrielle Joxer explained impatiently that Gabrielle had been in the dungeon where Xena had left her.  Joxer had obviously found himself agreeing again with Gabrielle’s observation of Xena’ s mood swings.  It seemed that everyone involved was in a state of mass confusion. 

     As soon as Xena was aware that Diana had thrown Gabrielle into the dungeon she took Joxer with her to retrieve the bard.  It was on that journey to the dungeon that they ran into the third Xena.  This was the answer to all of Xena’s questions and those of everyone else involved as well.  Meg was her name and she was well-known, but only within her profession which was discovered to be that of the local tramp.  Xena and Joxer listened behind the tapestry as Meg spoke of how much of a man Joxer was.  Joxer of course was loving this part of the story.  Then Xena continued stating that she was with a warlord named Agus.  Gabrielle began to put the pieces within the puzzle together in her mind.  Agus must have been the advisor from Thebes that Gabrielle had seen upon her own arrival to the castle.  Only this person wasn’t an advisor or a friend.  Agus was the enemy that was trying to take control of Lius’s castle.  He was using Meg to pose as Xena and Diana so that he could make his move upon the castle using some insiders he had planted in the guard force. 

       The bard was finally able to put all of the pieces together.  It had been Meg who had thrown Gabrielle into the dungeon fearing that she would blow open Agus’s plan before it ever got off of the ground.  It had been Meg whom had been calling her a big mouth idiot.  Suddenly Gabrielle didn’t feel so rejected or ignored.  It all made sense now.  Every bit of the story and every part of her day.  Meg was lusting after Joxer and Meg was the one who didn’t respect Gabrielle.  It wasn’t Xena at all.  There was much relief within the bard as the three entered into the castle courtyard outside.  But the relief faded quickly when Gabrielle realized that she might not be with the real Xena.  This entire story could have been a fabrication.  The bard demanded some identification from Xena as did Joxer.  Xena’s reaction was to grab her chackram and toss it across the courtyard.  It deflected off of a guard’s shield and then the castle walls.  The chackram busted opon the side of a bucket, then deflected off the walls again slicing  through four standing spears.  Finally it circled back around deflecting off of another hanging shield which fell off of the wall, then it scraped across an urn setting fire to it, knocked over a piece of orange pottery as it rounded back toward Gabrielle.  Gabrielle’s eyes followed it all the way across the courtyard as it hurled back toward her face with great speed and velocity.  The bard began to fear that she may have just asked for her death until in the last moment Xena tamed the chackram and put it safely back into her belt.

      It was a sudden relief to know that it was really Xena and not Diana or Meg.  Now that everyone was straight on the plan and on what was really going on within the castle walls Xena suggested that the three of them split up to find Diana.  When Joxer asked how he would know which one was the real Diana Xena reminded him that the one who lusted after him was the bad one.  Joxer contemplated this for a moment,but quickly determined that despite Meg’s bad image it would be worth the suffering he would have to endure. 

     The grueling day wore on as this mission became more complicated.  It was tangled with look alikes that all resembled the heroin.  After an hour of walking through the castle Gabrielle ran into Xena again back at the courtyard.  Joxer’s point of confusion was well taken, but Gabrielle knew Xena well.  Especially now that she had met the best and the worst of Xena’s look alikes.  Xena had come up with a new idea for the plan to find Diana.  The warrior princess was certain that Agus’s men would know where Diana was.  Diana had been captured and they weren’t keeping her within the castle.  Xena decided to pose as Meg dressed as Diana.  She took Gabrielle outside the castle walls.  The two tracked down the camp of the enemy and then set up a rendez-vous point just outside of there. 

      The warrior princess called out to one of the men who were guarding the outskirts of the camp hoping to get his attention.  Her attempt worked as she concealed Gabrielle behind a rock where they waited.  When the guard approached Xena played Meg and said that she had found Gabrielle snooping around outside the castle walls.  Now that there was a prisinor Meg begged the guard to take her to the place where they had taken Diana so that Gabrielle could be locked away with the princess.  The guard was smarter than Xena had anticipated and he drew his sword from his belt preparing to strike down Xena.  Yet Xena did not move or even try to block the striking blow.  She held her cool and the man stopped short of loping off Meg’s head.  Once the guard was convinced that Xena was really Meg the plan went smoothly.

      Soon both Xena and Gabrielle were inside the dungeon where they were keeping Diana.  Diana was terrified as Gabrielle had expected.  She sat on the dirty dungeon floor with her arms chained above her head.  Xena played up her part as Meg almost too well as she dragged the helpless bard around making the sale that much better.  Gabrielle was tied to the wall alongside Diana who was complaining of her dire situation.  The bard ‘s heart chuckled as she recalled her last experience with the princess.  Gabrielle reminded Diana that despite her situation it was not the worst thing that could befall the princess.  Then Xena went into full action.  As Meg she suggested that she and the guards toy with their new prisnor.  The guards were delighted at this idea as they rose from their gambling and approached Gabrielle.  Of course Xena wasn’t about to allow the guards their way.  Instead she grabbed hold of one of their swords cutting the bard free as the battle in the dungeon began. 

      The warrior princess fought against the three guards as Gabrielle freed Diana from her binds.  Then Gabrielle picked up a large round weapon and used it in the battle assiting Xena in the defeat of the guards.  The warrior princess finished the battle with one of her favorite moves as she ran up the side of a wall and flipped back down into the pursuit of battle.  Her battle cry could be heard echoing through the dungeon as Diana found herself unable to resist taking a punch and a kick at one of the guards herself.  The battle was a quick one and it seemed to Gabrielle that she and Xena were becoming a more solid team with each passing adventure.  Despite this minor celebration there was a new issue at hand.  Agus’s first in command had gotten away and he was certain to return to the castle to give Agus the new word.

      Though Xena, Gabrielle, and Diana rushed back to the castle they were too late for the baby had been kidknapped by Agus.  Xena had decided that it was no longer safe for Diana and Phillimond now that Agus was certain to know of Xena’s plans.  He would be certain to assasinate both Diana and Phillimond if given the chance.  Xena asked if Diana knew of a safe place within the castle.  Diana spoke of the royal chamber known only to those within the royal family.  The warrior princess felt that it would be perfect to hide the prince and princess there until she and Gabrielle could find Meg and save the baby.  Yet Phillimond was against sitting by and waiting while his child was in danger.  Xena had to remind him that he too was in just as much danger if not more than the child.  She asked Phillimond to trust in her and then she said no more.

     Xena was off to find Agus leaving Gabrielle to search for Meg.  For Gabrielle it would be simple to find Meg for wherever Joxer was Meg would most certainly be there with him.  Gabrielle went to Joxer’s chambers in the castle and sure enough she found Meg although Joxer was not there.  As the bard stood in the doorway she watched Meg primping herself dressed as princess Diana.  Moments later as Meg peered into the mirror at herself she saw Gabrielle’s reflection in the doorway behind her.  Meg turned to face the enemy ready to take her down.  Yet Gabrielle was not afraid of a dirty tramp.  Meg demanded that she get out of her way, but Gabrielle proclaimed that it would be death before she would allow Meg to continued her dirty deeds. 

     Meg held a pair of sissors certain that she would win this battle of witts and braun, but Gabrielle was poised for action.  This tramp had damaged Xena’s reputation with Joxer just by looking like Xena and she had disrespected Gabrielle.  Meg was the reason for Gabrielle’s dismally confusing day.  She had to be stopped no matter the cost.  Gabrielle enguaged in battle with Meg who threated to cut the bard with her golden scissors.  The bard moved quickly using a kick to disarm Meg who then lunged forward grabbing Gabrielle by the back of her hair shoving her face first into the fruit on the table by the bed.  Then she slammed the bard face first into a large vase which led to a painful headache.  As the bard tried to regain her strength and control Meg stepped upon her boots. 

     Suddenly Gabrielle found her second wind.  She lept forward tackling Meg as the two rolled on the ground in a stalemate.  The two pulled hair and poked eyes as they screamed within their struggle of wills.  Meg soon had the advantage as she tried to strangle the bard, but then she grabbed a lock of Gabrielle’s hair ripping it from its roots.  The pain sent shocks of agony through Gabrielle’s body which turned to rage against the enemy.  Meg seemed surprised that she had been able to rip a handful of hair out of someone’s head.  Her hesitation gave Gabrielle a chance to take control of the battle as she tried to strangle Meg.  Instead of killing her Gabrielle raised her fist ready to rearrange Meg’s face.  Meg’s eyes were wide with fear as she panted and begged for mercy.  Then the tramp began to cry, but the bard felt no sympathy for the tramp. 

     Gabrielle wanted to hit Meg, but something inside her could not do it.  Maybe it was because Meg looked so much like Xena.  Gabrielle wasn’t certain.  Then Meg spoke after the moment of silence and it was clear that she was in shame.  The tramp was accustomed to being on the bottom in every way.  Gabrielle rose from the floor and helped the tramp up as they moved to sit down and relax their furies.  Meg expressed her pain as Gabrielle listened.  Strangely the bard began to feel sorry for the tramp despite Meg’s recent actions.  Although Gabrielle couldn’t forgive Meg for everything she wanted to give her a chance to defend her actions.  And so Meg continued explaining to Gabrielle why she went along with Agus’s plan to overthrow the kingdom of Liberia.  She was afraid for her life and Agus had played on the emotional weakness within Meg.  The tramp seemingly despised Gabrielle for being a good girl and doing the right thing when she herself could never make that choice. 

      Gabrielle still didn’t quite understand what Meg had to be angry about.  She didn’t understand why Meg would torment herself with the lifestyle of a tramp.  It was so disrespectful to oneself to life that kind of life.  But then Meg explained with sadness that she had been taking care of herself since the age of ten.  Gabrielle listened to Meg’s story for it was beginging to sound interesting until Meg said that her father had died in childbirth.  This sounded a lot like one of Joxer’s tall tales until Meg  continued by stating her father had been so drunk on the day she was born that he had fallen off of a roof to his death.  Meg looked to Gabrielle with envy knowing that because her father hadn’t been there she had grown up to be a tramp.  She had longed for a father her entire life.  Meg went onto express her envy more assuming that Gabrielle probably had a good father.  Gabrielle couldn’t deny that her father had been good to her as a child, but it still didn’t explain the other half.  Gabrielle inquired of Meg’s mother.

     Meg explained that her mother had not been a very good one.  She had loved her mother dearly, but her mother had kept bringing home bad men.  These bad men would beat her and her mother.  Meg was defenseless against it until one day she decided to run away from it all.  She never turned back until a year later when she had caught word that her mother had died one day.  Meg expressed her regret in not going home to say good-by to her mother.  She regretted not telling her mother that she had loved her despite the abuse she endured with her for all of those years.  Meg began to remenice in her heart the fun times she held closest within.  Suddenly Gabrielle began to feel Meg’s pain and she began to understand.  Meg was a lost child who was afraid and made the wrong choices because she had no where to turn.  Meg needed guidance and seeked it desparately.  Just when the two were begining to connect Meg stood up from the bedside and scolded herself for getting emotional in front of a stranger.  Yet Gabrielle was glad that Meg had shared that intimate story with her.  She was able to forgive Meg for her mistakes and hoped that Meg would be able to learn from them.

      Gabrielle decided that they should find the king now that she had rounded up the tramp.  The two went to his bedchambers to find that he wasn’t there.  They waited for his return or the return of the warrior princess.  The ill king had been walking about the castle looking for his beloved Diana.  He had returned to find her waiting for him with Gabrielle.  Lius then sat down beside his lovely daughter scolding her for not visiting him.   Meg played the part of his daughter knowing that it was another lie yet she longed in her heart for a father like Lius.  Of course Meg did not have the answer to Diana’s abscence.  All she knew was that she was part of the reason Diana had been missing from her father’s life for the past day.  Lius seemed pleased that he was with Diana again. Despite his illness it gave him strength to see her beautiful face.  Gabrielle watched as the king put his fatherly arms around Meg and cuddled with his daughter.  For the first time ever Meg was feeling a real father in her heart.  Gabrielle did not wish to interrupt this moment of bliss, but it was not up to her.

     After several moments of taming the wild heart Agus and his guards entered into the king’s bedchamgers.  Immediately Gabrielle was restrained as Agus took control.  Knives were pulled upon the king and Gabrielle as Agus handed the last knife over to Meg.  He gave the order for her to kill the king seeking to take advantage of her confused innocence as he had done for an entire day.  Meg took the knife in fear yet there was great reluctance within her eyes.  She held the knife to the king’s throat, but her hands shook with uncertainty.  Agus urged her to make the kill as he beat her down with disrespectful comments.  Although Meg was a tramp there was a pure heart within.  It didn’t deserve to be abused any longer.  Meg finally decided to stand up and defend herself against the abuse for the first time.  She turned upon Agus and held the knife upon him.  Determined to protect the king Meg held steady just in time for the warrior princess to arrive with Joxer.  Xena entered with a battle cry and a warning to those who dared to defy her.  Sword in hand dressed as the princess Xena began kicking through Agus’s men.  Gabrielle used the oppritunity to escape from her capture and join in the battle alongside Xena and Joxer.  She grabbed her resting staff and put it into action as Meg took the king to safety away from the battle.  The battle in the king’s chambers ended just as quickly as the battle in the dungeon to save Diana.

      There was just one person left to save from the wrath of Agus and his men.  It was the baby and the young heir who would be there for Phillimond the way Diana was there for Lius.  Gabrielle suggested to Xena that they allow Meg to stay with the king.  The bard was certain that she would protect Lius for his kindness to her.  Meg had demonstrated her strength when she saved him from Agus.  Xena agreed with Gabrielle that Meg could help them.  In fact she was certain Meg would be more helpful than Joxer for it was Joxer that had blown her cover.  When Xena had found Agus she pretended to be Meg again.  She tricked Agus into bringing the baby to her, but then Joxer walked in just before Xena was able to get the baby safe in her arms.  He mistook Xena for Diana as he tried to be brave and save the baby from its captures.  As always it didn’t work out and he bumbled away another golden oppritunity.  Yet who could blame the kindness of a heart so desparate for heroism. 

     It was this spirit of heroism that seemed to strike the hearts of almost everyone involved.  Xena had taken Gabrielle and Joxer to rejoin Diana and Phillimond at the royal chamber.  The two could wait no longer for their child was in great danger.  Xena decided that everyone should split up again and search the entire castle for the baby.  Xena traveled with Diana, and Gabrielle searched the castle with Phillimond while Joxer went on a search of his own.  After scouring the castle Xena and Phillmond ran into the nursemaid down in the dungeon.  She spoke of how the baby was taken from her care just moments before by Agus himself.  And so it all came down to one single battle in the castle.  It began with the arrival of Diana who tried, but failed to play the part of Xena.  She had everyone going until she had forgotten what Xena’s most important weaopon was.  Diana called it a round killing thing. 

      Just as Agus and his men were about to string the baby up in a basket above the burning alter a second Xena came rushing in.  This time it was Meg whose chackram broke as she called it a shamrock.  Her effort was good, but moments later the real warrior princess came leaping into the battle still dressed as Diana.  She smiled and then charged into battle against Agus and his men.  Joxer entered still confused despite all of the explanations.  Everyone including Gabrielle, and Phillimond were fighting to save the life of the baby who hung above the burning alter.  Swords clashed visciously, but it seemed that no one was winning the battle.  Finally in an attempt to end the struggle  the true hero of the story stepped into action.  Diana grabbed the rope and pulled it as hard as she could sending the baby catapulting out of the basket and through the air.  As everyone watched in horror and gasped with surprise the baby fell safely into a tapestry held by the princess herself.  And with that the battle was won as those fighting for the baby’s life had defeated enemy.

     For a moment everyone was relieved until Meg spoke of Lius.  He wasn’t doing so well and she hoped that Diana’s presence would be able to help him.  Meg spoke of the king’s surprise in finding that his daughter had two look alikes.  And just as the tramp was getting to know the king his breaths became a struggled silence.  All rushed back to the king’s bed chambers hoping that he had not yet passed.  Indeed the king was alive only resting within all of the confusion.  It was a lot to handle that there were three women who looked alike.  One was a warrior, another a princess, and the third a tramp.  It was a highly unlikely scenario.  As all was well again in the castle and everyone was safe it was because of the three women working together.  They used their skills in battle in their own unique ways.

     Gabrielle spoke again to Meg who was still concerned for the king.  Lius was going to be fine as Gabrielle tried to reassure Meg.  The tramp had adopted him as her father even though she would never be his daughter.  Meg spoke of writing him from jail, but then realized that she had never learned to write.  Gabrielle assured Meg that she wouldn’t be going to jail for her crimes for she and Xena had already decided that Meg derserved the chance to change.  Just then the king summoned Meg into his bed chambers and offered her a job within the castle.  Though Meg tried to refuse his hospitality for all of the wrongs she had committed the king would not accept those feelings for he trusted in her heart.  She had made the right choice when it counted despite being mixed up within Agus’s plot.  The king understood why Meg had been lost and decided that he would be the one to give her that second chance.  He declared that no one should talk bad about his personal cook.  With great surprise Meg found herself delighted that he was inviting her into his heart and into his home.  She was determined not to disappoint him. 

      And so the story ended with Xena, Gabrielle, and Joxer leaving the castle together.  They were about to embark on a new journey together yet not to the delight of the warrior and the bard.  As Meg waived good-bye to her flame he left the castle vowing to return.  Despite Meg’s attempting to reform she still could not resist the sword of Joxer the Mighty.  He was mighty for Meg, but for the world he had a long way to go.  His heart was courageous, but he still had much to learn.  As did the tramp who looked just like a princess, and the warrior princess.

The Xena Scrolls

Scroll #34:  Return of Callisto

By:  Gabrielle Bard of Podedia

February 13th, 47 B.C. 

     I sing of the wrath of Callisto, the pain of Gabrielle, the courage of Xena, and the inefitable mystery of a friendship as immortal as the Gods.  This tragedy began during the early morning hours before the sun rose over the valley of Greece.  Xena and Gabrielle were settling into their camp by the fire when there was a strange movement coming from the brush just beyond in the woods.  Gabrielle was unaware of the presence as she slept, but Xena was like a panther yet acting without her weapon drawn.

     Xena’s reaction to the intrudor brought out of hiding the betrothed to Gabrielle from her home in Podedia.  It had been Perdicous sneaking upon them, but he had not been successful.  He had come to surprise Gabrielle for the last time they had spoken was back in Troy when Xena had rescued the beautiful Helen.  Gabrielle was very pleased to be reunited with Perdicous though back in Podedia she had rejected his courtship and wishes to be married.  And of course Perdicous had accepted that and left Podedia to become a great soldier not long after Gabrielle had left on her adventures with Xena.  He had been broken hearted and led into a new life as a result of this.  But he had triumphed over the past rejection and the two reunited in Troy rekindling their loving friendship. 

      Being with Perdicous again in this moment brought a smile upon Gabrielle’s face and a twinkle to her eye.  It was like the feeling one gets when they fall in love during those awkward years growing up.  Her heart lept as he hugged her and he too was filled with joy.  Perdicous continued flattering his old friend reminding her of how she had always been his best friend in their childhood.  Xena watched the two, but she was not surprised by their reaction to one another.  She had sensed something was going on between them, back in Troy, but chose not to bring the subject to light.  Perdicous then said that he had been searching all over for Gabrielle for all that he could see was her face.  He had said that he was unable to stop thinking about her since the day that they had parted in Troy.  And then he took her hand into his and asked her to be his wife.  Gabrielle found herself shocked and frozen within that moment. 

     It had been completely unexpected and sudden.  She did not know how to answer, but Perdicous did not show a lack of patience.  Instead he sat down alongside the camp fire with his betrothed as the two began to chat about old times and to catch up on the latest news in each other’s lives.   Gabrielle asked him what he had been doing all of this time and all he could tell her was that he had been fighting within yet another war.  Somehow he had stumbled again into a senseless battle.  It was clear that he was confused for he had not been seeking more blood.  Yet blood had somehow found him once again.  As Perdicous continued on with his own life the conversation turned very grim.  It was obvious to Gabrielle that Perdicous was deeply upset about something within.  She inquired of him with only a look, and he told of a battle that he had recently been involved in.  He spoke of how he had killed three men.  This experience had led him into dreams and visions of all of the men’s lives he had ever taken as a soldier.  The feeling that overtook him drove him to almost take his own life as he held his own daggar over his heart.  And just as Gabrielle was begining to feel great sadness and guilt for leaving him back in Podedia for a life with Xena Perdicous finished his story.  He spoke of the thing that had made him rethink taking his life.  That thing was a vision of the face of his betrothed looking him in the the eye and asking him to give life another chance.

     That experience had led Perdicous to seek out Gabrielle and to drop before her with his now sudden surprise.  Gabrielle found herself uncertain that she would be able to fill his heart.  She thought that maybe Perdicous was placing too much hope within her.  Gabrielle expressed to him her uncertainty.  She did not want him to be disappointed by a second rejection.  The bard did not want him to be disappointed for she too had been in battle alongside Xena many times.  Yet Peridcous reminded her that he knew within his heart though he had never been there that Gabrielle never took a life.  Gabrielle was still uncomfortable with this for there was at least the possiblity for her to take a life.  She had learned that about herself long ago. 

     Perdicous then looked deeply into her eyes and he reminded her of her first rejection.  The bard’s skin crawled with guilt as she was about to try to defend her choice.  Yet Perdicous’s kind and soothing voice told her that though it had hurt him that she had been in the right.  Neither had been ready to wed when he had asked for her hand in marriage the first time.  Then Peridous took a deep breath and confessed that he was now certain he was ready to marry.  The bard could see the hope he placed upon her as she mulled over this difficult choice before her.  Gabrielle found herself extremely uncomfortable for a marriage proposal was not at all what she had expected from Perdicous on this morning.  Suddenly she found herself at a cross roads with her oldest friend.  Gabrielle did not want to offend him or make the wrong choice.  She had felt responsible for his having chosen to pick up the sword and lose his blood innocence.  The bard realized that whatever the choice she made it could affect the outcome of Perdicous’s life again.  Gabrielle was not as certain of her feelings for Perdicous as he seemed to be for her.  And then she could not take the pressure within this moment.  She excused herself from Perdicous’s side for she needed time to gather her feelings and to think.  Perdicous understood as she went to seek her answer.

     Later in the morning as the sun had risen Xena, and Gabrielle walked along the coast chatting.  Perdicous walked ahead of them patiently as Gabrielle watched him with innocent eyes.  She was still intrigued yet her thoughts and joys were interuppted by Xena’s question.  The warrior princess wanted to know what Gabrielle’s choice was going to be.  Gabrielle wasn’t certain really because she was still thinking on it.  Yet the bard played it off for she knew this choice would affect one friend or another.  She was trying to decide who would need her most.  Gabrielle loved both Perdicous and Xena very deeply.  She did not want to hurt either of them.  Then she answered the warrior princess by telling her that her choice was that she would not marry Perdicous. 

     Xena knew what was going through her friend’s mind although she was waiting for Gabrielle to bring out the truth within her heart.  The warrior princess challenged Gabrielle’s answer by asking her why she had not yet told the poor lovesick young man who walked just twenty paces ahead of them.  Gabrielle found herself feeling guilt once more for she realized that she would not be able to keep up this charrade much longer.  Even if Perdicous didn’t know what was going on it was clear that Xena did.  Then Xena tried to help her friend with her choice.  She told the bard that she felt that Perdicous was a good man.  Gabrielle agreed without hesitation as she thought about him.  She thought of how kind, sensative, and caring he was.  Gabrielle expressed to Xena how she felt more comfortable around Perdicous than anyone else she had ever known in life with the exception of the warrior princess. 

     Xena then paused with Argo and looked directly to Gabrielle.  She told Gabrielle that she need not worry about her for she could manage on her own.  Gabrielle had Xena’s blessing for if settling down and marrying Perdicous was what made the bard happy then Xena would be happy too.  Xena’s words were very encouraging for Gabrielle   And then she thought about what Xena had said.  She began to find more reasons to say yes than she realized.  Xena’s  encouragement had somehow released the pressure of this choice.  Yet as one burden had suddenly been released a new one approached from above just upon the cliffs.  It was the voice of the bumbling idiot Joxer.  He seemed gripped by fear and excitement.  Joxer had been running for a long time for he was out of breath revelaing that the infamous blonde warrior Callisto had escaped from prison. 

     There was little time to think now for Xena was ready to clean up the mess that she had seemingly left behind.  The warrior princess tracked Callisto to a village half a marathon away.  There she found a new dark force burning the village to the ground as the people were ravaged by an army of darkness.  She waited for the right moment and then she caught sight of the blonde nemisis.  Callisto drew her sword and was about to strike a helpless man down when Xena’s chackram cut in.  The sword was robbed from the enemy as Xena’s trusty chackram returned to her hand.  Callisto screamed with frustration, but then she looked up to see the one she seeked.  The warrior princess was ready for Callisto’s next move, but instead of a move it was a sentimental moment.  Callisto told Xena that she had missed the warrior princess.  Xena smirked at the comment and waited. 

      All was silent as Callisto’s eyes scanned the village.  Then a smile spread across her fair face.  Xena followed those firey brown eyes to see that there was a little girl no more than the age of seven.  The warrior princess knew instantly what her fate was to be.  Callisto then looked back toward Xena and suddenly drew her daggar from her side kicking the victim behind her.  She then began to advance slowly walking with great confidence and spite.  Though she was looking at Xena her eyes flickered in the direction of the little girl.  Suddenly Callisto raised her dagger for the throw still looking in the direction of Xena, but Xena saw her release it in the direction of the girl.  The warrior princess rushed to aid the little girl as the path of the daggar approached the innocent.  Then Xena dove for the weapon of death and caught it just before its impact.  The little girl was saved, but Xena was facing her own death for Callisto’s quickness. 

      Callisto had recaptured her sword and held it to Xena’s face.  She was clearly in control and the warrior princess was at the mercy of darkness.  Then Callisto commented on the passion that drove Xena’ s warrior skill.  She said that Xena was too sentimental for she fought with her heart.  Callisto had exploited the heart of the warrior princess in order to gain the advantage.  She had succeeded and reminded Xena of this.  Callisto declared that she herself no longer had a heart.  Then she told the warrior princess that she was not going to kill her now for she wanted to kill her soul and then take her life.   The blonde nemisis then laughed as she shealthed her sword flipping out of the village and screaming out with rage as she left.  Before she made her final exit she laughed once more as she looked to Xena and kissed her from a distance.  Then Callisto turned and ran awaiting the outcome of her new game.

     The chase lasted through the day and into the night as Xena, Gabrielle, and Perdicous tried desparately to stop her army from destroying villages.  Yet Callisto’s armies seemed endless.  They were everywhere and there weren’t enough good warriors to defeat the dark warriors.  Perdicous fought well for he was indeed a good soldier.  He could block the advances of the enemy and he was brave as he moved in battle.  Gabrielle fought alongside him with her staff only to find herself being overtaken by the enemy.  She struggled to regain control of the staff as the raging fires burned all around her.  In the heat of battle Perdicous had found himself having to take another life.  He thrust his sword straight through his enemy’s stomach.  The enemy fell instantly into death as Perdicous froze. 

      Xena saw what had happened as she rushed to aid Gabrielle.  The warrior princess attacked the enemy that fought against Gabrielle and reclaimed the staff for her friend.  Gabrielle was grateful for the assistance as she prepared to continue on in the seemingly endless abyss of the battle.  Yet before she could look to strike another blow upon the dark forces she caught sight of Peridous knealing before the dead man.  She approached him as he clutched his sword resting the point upon the ground.  His head was bowed in silence and the bard could see that he was distraught and hurting inside.  She then knelt down beside him as he looked to her with anger and cursed the acts of a soldier.  He proclaimed that he could not fight anymore.  Perdicous would no longer carry a sword or allow himself to fight and take another life.  He then stood angerily throwing down his weapon and  finished his statement.  Perdicous told Gabrielle that it no longer matter to him whether or not she said yes.  He was going to return to Potedia where he would hopefully find peace.  Then the kindhearted Perdicous stormed off into the darkness of the night.

      As Gabrielle watched him leave she realized what it was that ate away at him.  Every kill that he had ever made had taken away a part of him.  She was begining to understand what it was that had made Xena speak so strongly against living by the sword.  The bard was suddenly interrupted by Xena who was shocked to see Perdicous leaving yet again.  Then Gabrielle knew what she must choose.  If she continued on with Xena she risked her heart being torn apart the way Perdicous’s heart had been.  The bard looked to her friend and answered the question from the morning.  She was going to marry Perdicous. 

     And so on the next day Perdicous and Gabrielle were wed.  The ceremony was small, quiet, yet beautiful.  Only the old priest, Xena, and Joxer witnessed the union as the final blessings were given.  The priest sprinkled the petels of fresh flowers upon the two young lovers as they looked to each other with joy and happiness.  There was bliss within Perdicous’s eyes for he was truely happy.  Peace could finally come into his battered heart.  Gabrielle then turned to Xena as the warrior princess gave her happy blessing once again.  Joxer’s deep goofy laughter echoed through the temple as he congratulated Perdicous upon his new union.  And then Joxer approached Xena and Gabrielle awaiting to steel an embrace with the bride, but Xena gave him a sidelong glance asking him to step outside.  Joxer took the hint, but he did not go outside.  Instead he joined Perdicous by the door as two friends began to say their good-byes.

      Gabrielle looked to Xena seeing the sadness in her friend’s eyes.  Xena tried to be strong as she grabbed the bard’s shoulders and squeezed them saying that this was not good-bye.  The warrior princess insisted that she would be knocking on Gabrielle’s door often.  So often that Gabrielle would be weary of her visits.  Gabrielle wasn’t so certain that this was true for she knew the life of the warrior princess.  Then Xena tried to reassure the bard that everything would be truely all right.  Xena asked Gabrielle if she was now happy and Gabrielle’s heart replied with a smile.  She felt the joy of being released from the warrior life though she would miss Xena dearly.  Then Xena embraced Gabrielle and then she looked down into her soul.  The warrior princess leaned down to touch the lips of her friend sharing in the joy of her new life.  Through this Gabrielle could feel what Xena’s heart truely needed.  She was reminded of the Chariots of War and of how Xena had once had the chance to settle down before.  The bard decided that she would encourage this for her friend hoping that she would be able to find the same peace and joy within.  Gabrielle then gave her the beautiful bouquet which she held as Xena smirked at the action.  Then Gabrielle parted from the warrior princess and joined her new husband.  She looked back at the warrior princess just one last time as Xena stood alone in the temple waiving with the lonely bouquet.  Gabrielle then felt Perdicous pull her onto their path together as laughter filled her soul.  

     The two lovers then traveled on toward Potedia to return home.  That night they stopped at an inn near the main road.  As the two prepared to share in their physical union Gabrielle was curious and nervous.  Perdicous noticed this and tried to break the silence as he inquired of Xena.  Gabrielle had indeed been still thinking about her friend.  The bard was still concerned for Xena’s new void.  Gabrielle had sensed Xena’s lonlieness when they had parted.  It was difficult for her as well yet she thought of Perdicous knowing that she was not as alone as the warrior princess would be.  Then Perdicous asked her if she had made the right choice.  He wasn’t so sure that she was happy being with him.  Yet Gabrielle eased his worries as she approached him with a bright smile. 

     Then she asked Perdicous if  they were to make a little girl if they could honor Xena.  Perdicous interrupted Gabrielle knowing that she wished to name their first girl Xena.  He was proud to share that name for his first baby girl.  Then Gabrielle asked Perdicous if he was still innocent, but Perdicous was not.  He was caught off guard and uneasy by her inquiry for it brought a sense of shame and guilt.  Perdicous tried to search for a worthy explanation.  He reminded Gabrielle that it was part of the life of a soldier.  This did not comfort the bard much and it made her still more nervous for she was inexperienced.  She was innocent in every way.  As she approached her husband she looked to him and tried to lighten the mood and to ease his guilt and pain.  He was truely tainted yet his soul was still pure.  Perdicous let out a nervous laugh trying to drown any expectations his new wife may have had of him.  Then he took Gabrielle’s hands into his and gazed deeply into her soul.  The two lovers shared in a soft tender kiss which lead them into a passionate night.

      And after sharing a night of love and of passion the two awoke together on the next morning refreshed.  Gabrielle was certain that she had finally discovered the truth of life.  She had been seeking it for so long and especially after all of her experiences alongside the warrior princess.  The bard was fortunate to have been able to have all of the wonderful adventures, and now she was fortunate to have love.  She and Perdicous traveled along the highway toward home stopping to share a passionate kiss together along the way.  As Gabrielle ran her fingers through his hair she was drunk with love.  Perdicous’s name escaped softly from her lips.  Then she was compelled to share her discovery of love telling Perdicous that love was more powerful than any other force upon the earth for it could unite everything.

      The moment of love and of power continued until it was interrupted by a familiar voice.  It was the voice of the blonde nemisis.  She was upon a horse smiling with a clever eye as she intruded upon Gabrielle’s comments of love.  Callisto then agreed with the innocent bard for love was indeed powerful for it did unite.  But she was certain that there was another force that was just as powerful.  Hate divided she said and with that she inquired of which must be the stronger.  Then Callisto dismounted from her horse instantly drawing her sword.  Perdicous turned to face hate with love proclaiming that darkness would be fighting the unarmed.  Callisto ignored Perdicous’s peaceful advance for it was not Perdicous that she was after.  The blonde nemisis then took her sword and slashed it across the arm of Perdicous and threw him to the ground wounded. 

      It was as if he had not even been present for she walked right through him.  Callisto’s firey brown eyes looked to Gabrielle as she approached the bard.  Gabrielle shouted out to her wounded husband with concern and great fear.  He did not answer as Callisto kicked the bard’s chin knocking her violently to the ground.  Gabrielle lied down in the dirt knowing that the end was near.  She and Perdicous would face death together at the hands of the evil Callisto.  Callisto raised her weapon for the kill as Gabrielle could see the phsycotic rage within her.  Then the bard heard the sounds of hooves pounding upon the highway as Callisto proclaimed words of death.  Suddenly Argo’s voice sounded followed by Xena’s battle cry through the darkness and she flipped off of her horse through the air landing to face the evil nemisis.  Callisto screamed with frustration as she was kicked in the chest by Xena as they flipped apart. 

     Gabrielle suddenly rose from the ground and fell back to watch the battle between love and hate unfold.  Callisto declared that she had come to take away Xena’s friend.  She was certain that she would soon see Xena standing over the body of her slain friend.  Xena was defiant of Callisto’s rage declaring that Gabrielle would not be taken from her.  Callisto tilted her head with the sound of inquiry and then the battle began.  Two clashes of the sword followed by one slap across the face from Callisto responded with a return slap.  Then the sounds of rage exchanging with passion.  Xena swung her sword above her head and then down matching Callisto’s moves.  Neither made contact, but then Callisto struck again with an offensive kick missing the target.  Xena reflected the move with great speed and agility making contact to the face of the enemy. 

     Callisto fell back with surprise not expecting the warrior princess to adjust.  She was now with her back to Xena stumbling to regain her balance.  As she rose up Perdicous was coming out of his injury.  He was trying to stumble to his own feet when he looked up to find a direct confrontation.  And then it was all like a nightmare.  His eyes spoke of shock, surprise, and fear.  The warrior princess stood frozen in the moment unable to make a move for this was beyond what she had expected.  Callisto charged forward with her sword as Perdicous was helpless and without defense.  Yet he did not attempt to fight.  He walked toward Gabrielle as he looked into her her eyes.  It was as if he were saying good-bye.  His hand reached out as he stumbled toward his love.  And then Callisto’s sword went straight through his innocent heart. Her screams echoed through the air as Gabrielle’s heart felt the blow of her weapon. 

      The bard screamed out as if barely able to breath and within disbelief.  Then she called out to Perdicous with desparation running forth to save him.  Callisto smiled and sheathed her weapon.  She flipped backward upon her horse and proclaimed that she had succeeded beyond her imagined dream.  Then she rode off screaming all the way.  Gabrielle watched with great anger as her wounded heart bled like never before.  Once the blonde disappeared and her screams could no longer be heard Gabrielle shook her head still shocked by her tragic loss.  Xena was helpless to comfort her friend as she stroked her shoulder within her own disbelief.  Gabrielle held Perdicous’s head tightly into her chest.  His eyes were distant and lost.  There was blood seeping out from the corners of his mouth.  The breath in his chest was no more and his heart was gone forever. 

     Gabrielle held Perdicous within her arms for a long time.  The stunning feeling of this loss could barely escape her.  She rocked with him as knelt down beside the divided lovers.  Divided by hate and by death now Gabrielle had to go on.  Xena spoke of how she had known to come looking for Callisto.  She had run into Theodoras Callisto’s first in command.  He had told her of Callisto’s plan.  Yet this did not comfort a wounded heart.  It only made the blood that it was drenched within run cold and hard.  That night Xena prepared a funeral fire to honor the one they had lost.  She sang her beautiful native song with love and hope.  Yet it was not enough to ease the pain inside.  All Gabrielle could think to do now was to get her vengence.  Suddenly it was all very clear to her what the farmer Melos had been talking about.  It felt as if the only way to quench the pain was to have Callisto’s blood.  Gabrielle was certain that it would release her heart from the pain.  It would wash away the hurt and her heart could be restored.

     The bard told Xena what she was going to do.  She would finish mourning on this night and then set out to fight hate with vengence.  When the warrior princess heard those words escaping from the innocence of her truest friend she found herself alarmed.  Worry filled the warrior princess as she tried to convince her friend that vegence would not cure her bleeding heart.    Yet Gabrielle’s mind was clouded by this certainty of the vengence.  She argued with Xena who seemingly did not understand the hurt she felt inside.  Xena continued to plead with Gabrielle about this, but Gabrielle challenged her.  She told Xena that she would not mourn another moment upon the rising sun.  Instead she would seek out and find Callisto.  She then told Xena that she could either join her in her quest or she could kill Callisto without Xena.

     Gabrielle did not sleep at all on this night for when the first sun rose she was practicing with Perdicous’s sword.  Her frustration was unbearable as she hacked at the large oak with the sharp weapon.  The bard knew that she was not a skilled swordsman, but felt that she had no other choice.  So she continued to pour out her pain and anguish onto the tree as the warrior princess watched helplessly.

 Xena had hoped that Gabrielle would have been able to cool her rage inside during the night, but it was clear that it would take more than a night.  The warrior princess called to her friend softly approaching.  Gabrielle haulted within her rage for a moment and turned to face her friend.  She asked if it was time to begin their quest to seak out and kill Callisto.  Xena answered her reluctantly, but warned her not to approach a battle against Callisto alone.  Gabrielle was not afraid.  She was wreckless at best and Xena could sense it.  Xena understood this feeling for it was how she had felt upon losing her brother Lycious.  Then Gabrielle demonstrated her careless attitude further declaring that it did not matter if she died as long as Callisto went down with her.

     But Xena feared that Gabrielle would never get close enough to strike a blow.  Callisto would take her down and then mangle the helplessly innocent creature.  Xena knew that it was what Callisto wanted.  Vengence would deliver Gabrielle into Callisto’s hands without the slightest effort.  Gabrielle’was unable to think clearly.  She was blinded by her hatred as she scolded the warrior princess for never teaching her how to use a sword properly.  Xena was hurt by this attack for because Gabrielle’s heart had turned cold Xena’s heart suffered.  The warrior princess could not let Callisto succeed at destroying her greatest treasure.  Xena reminded Gabrielle of her ideals and values.  These were the reasons that Xena had never given Gabrielle a sword.  There were truths within the innocence yet innocence suffered.  Xena reminded Gabrielle that if she traded that innocence for vengence that Callisto would win.  Yet Gabrielle was certain that Callisto had already succeeded in her victory for she had proven that hate was more powerful than love upon taking the life of Perdicous.

     Xena’s frustrations boiled over as she realized that teaching the art of the sword to an innocent out of control would certainly bring it to its death.  The warrior princess then turned away from Gabrielle in disgust refusing to give innocence its desired vengence.  Yet the bard persisted as anger spewed from within.  She turned and struck the tree again with the sword.  The sound of innocence clashing with vengence echoed through the peace.  It was enough to bring Xena back to face Gabrielle.  Again she refused demonstrating the strength that Gabrielle’s innocence had given her.  Yet Gabrielle could not see through the darkness.  She began to jab her weapon into the stomach of the warrior princess crying out for a lesson like a child.  The stubborn bard would not lose this war of words.  And so Xena finally released her displeasure and disarmed the bard with a single harsh kick.  Again she said no.  Xena turned away once more denying her heart of the new truth of innocence.

     Gabrielle then shouted out knowing why the warrior princess refused her a lesson.  She could see that her friend was trying desparately to protect her from the world.  Yet this time she could not for the world had come in and taken her love.  And so Gabrielle declared what the warrior princess did not want to hear.  She said that her innocence was dead.  There was nothing left inside to protect.  Then the bard pleaded with Xena calmly expressing her desire to at least have a chance at erradicating the evil that had stolen her innocence.  The warrior princess then surrendered realizing that only Gabrielle could make the decision to protect her own innocence.  And so the lesson began Xena instructed the bard gravely serious and harsh.  She wanted to teach Gabrielle how ugly vegence really is.  As she told her to look for an opening Xena explained that the eyes always revealed the next move.

      As the day wore on Gabrielle was tireless in her yearning to learn the sword.  As Xena stared blankly into her eyes Gabrielle could see that Xena was shielding her soul from the truth.  Xena was still in denial.  Gabrielle began spinning and weaving the images of blood within her mind.  She could visualize Callisto’s final moment at the end of her sword.  Gabrielle could see the open wound and flowing out of it like a raging river Callisto’s blood.  These horrid thoughts drove the vengence even harder.  They took vengence on a frenzy of fantasies about killing the enemy.  Every possible scenario of Callisto’s death at the end of her sword ran through her mind. 

      The morning led into the afternoon, and afternoon into the evening.  Darkness fell upon the camp as the lessons of the sword finally ceased.  Yet the desire to kill would not go still.  Joxer had soon arrived at the camp with news of Callisto.  He told Xena where her hideout was located and then Xena left him to stay with Gabrielle while she scouted.  Gabrielle sat alongside Joxer who said little.  He was unable to relate and did not want to stir a raging heart.  The moments of waiting wore on as if it had been an enternity since Xena had gone scouting.  Gabrielle began to feel that maybe Xena would try to steal her kill.  She rose from her spot upon the cold stone next to Joxer ready to seek out Callisto herself.  Joxer held her back as Xena returned.  Xena had been watching and waiting to see if Gabrielle might come to her senses.  Still blinded Gabrielle was ready to fight, but Xena advised against it for the moment.  Vengence would have to wait another night. 

     Xena had a plan and she went over it with Gabrielle.  She spoke of the party going on in Callisto’s hideout.  Xena suggested that they wait until early morning to strike for all would be passed out from the wine.  They would be defenseless and killing Callisto would be simple for there was a hidden passage to spy.  Again Xena warned Gabrielle of going up against Callisto alone.  She knew what the bard would try to do.  Xena was firm with her blind friend explaining to her that if Callisto was going to suffer it would have to be done by the way of the warrior princess.  Then Xena left Gabrielle within anger and frustration as the bard slammed her sword down upon the rock.  The longer the bard waited to relieve her heart’s pain the more she was driven to want to kill.  She was not certain that she could hold back for much longer.  Gabrielle knew that Xena wanted to steal her kill because she felt responsible for this mess.  Xena blamed herself for creating this phsycotic witch. 

     But then out of the loud frustrations Gabrielle heard the sound of a soothing voice beyond the brush.  She went to investigate it and found Xena knealing down to pray.  Gabrielle had never known Xena to pray to the gods for the warrior princess made it known that she despised them.  And then as Gabrielle listened she heard the prayer.  It was for her.  Xena was praying to save Gabrielle’s soul from its vengence.  She spoke eloquently of the light that Gabrielle was to her and of how Gabrielle’s friendship had inspired her.  It was because of Gabrielle that she had continued on at a time in her life that she had been ready to give up.  She pleaded with the gods to save Gabrielle’s light from going out.  The warrior princess was uncertain of the darkness that would most certainly follow. 

     Then Gabrielle returned to her rock where she debated within trying to sort out vegence, truth, justice, and faith.  It was more than she could understand now.  There was a moment when the mysteries of life had seemed clear to her, but now she stood before uncertainty.  When Xena returned to her Gabrielle told her that she had been right about mourning.  Gabrielle truely did need more time to mourn Perdicous yet she did not share her undying vengeful desires.  Xena was surprised for this was the first moment of calm she had seen within Gabrielle since Perdicous’s death.  The warrior princess encouraged the bard with her loving compassion to continue the unfinished mourning process which tormented her friend.  And then she promised that she would be sure to take care of Callisto.  In Xena’s eyes Callisto was not Gabrielle’s responsibility.  Gabrielle then told Xena that she was going to travel out alone for a while.  Xena did not know how to respond.  Instead she watched as Gabrielle held Perdicous’s sword tightly to her chest and left camp alone to wade through the darkness.

     As the sun rose Gabrielle had escaped Xena’s watchful eyes.  She found the secret passageway that Xena had scouted the night before and entered into her most tying moment.  As the bard walked among the passed out soldiers deep within Callisto’s cavern she approached the sleeping enemy.  There was something strange about seeing the enemy in such a vulnerable state.  This was the only time that Callisto ever appeared remotely innocent to the bard.  Yet the rage and the blood were driving her heart and soul as she raised her weapon for the kill.  And then just before Gabrielle was about to surrender innocence to vengence a memory began to flood into her mind.  It was a reminder of the day that Gabrielle realized what the cycle of violence was.  She recalled telling Xena that she never wanted to see her friend give in to it even if the bard herself would be taken by it one day.

     Then another more recent memory flooded into her mind.  It was the face of her betrothed reminding her of what it was that he loved most about Gabrielle.  She had never before raised a weapon to kill.  He professed his love for her once more through this vision.  Then there was a final vision.  It was of Xena’s prayer from the night before pleading with the gods to protect her inner light.  Gabrielle soon realized what all of these visions meant.  The first was reminding her of what would happen to Xena should Callisto succeed in killing Gabrielle.  Gabrielle knew what would happen.  The second was to remind her of what it was that made people love her.  It was her pure innocent heart despite the pain it must face.  And the final vision brought her to understand what Xena meant when she had spoken of the darkness that would follow.  She was not talking of Gabrielle’s darkness.  Xena was talking of her own.

      Gabrielle realized that if she surrendered innocence to vengence that it would destroy Xena.  She could not allow that to happen to her.  This kill would cause more destruction in the aftermath than it would to surrender it to innocence.  And so her pain began to well up into her eyes as small tears began to fall.  Her body became limp as the sword suddenly dropped crashing onto the floor. 

     The sound startled the sleeping nemisis awakening her.  Callisto’s first in command Theodoras also awoke drawing his weapon to protect Callisto.  Callisto had a daggar and it was drawn before her eyes were open.  Finally when they came into focas the look of pleasant surprise pierced through Gabrielle.  Yet as Gabrielle’s chest rose and fell with fear and anticipation Callisto found confusion.  She expressed that she was uncertain of Gabrielle for she had not been able to kill despite all of the pain Callisto had caused her.  Callisto appeared intrigued by this innocence.  Then Gabrielle explained that with her powerful innocence she could not take a life though her pain was great.  Callisto relished the moment knowing that either way she would have won.  She was just going to kill Gabrielle in the end.  Gabrielle expressed that she was willing and ready to die.  Yet Callisto wanted to make a spectacle of Gabrielle’s death for Xena to witness.  Callisto was cryptic and dramatic.  This was something that Gabrielle despised.

     Soon Callisto had Gabrielle prepared for her death as she and her men quietly awaited Xena’s arrival.  All lied down pretending to be sleeping as Xena tip toed into Callisto’s trap.  As Xena scanned the scene she had no chance for soon the helpless Gabrielle caught her glance.  Gabrielle had been tied to a post and surrounded by logs ready to be burned to death by fire.  Callisto seemed to favor an agonizing death.  It was the scar in her heart from a death she had witnessed long ago.  Callisto and her men soon rose from their positions capturing Xena who could do nothing, but surrender.  Soon the warrior princess was bound to the chair from which she had taken command.  Callisto seemed to enjoy hearing herself talk.  She talked about her escape from that very same chair which had held her in her prison for so long.  Callisto explained her plot and how she had escaped.  The guards would beat her daily, but they were careless for they had left the keys within reach of the infamous killer.  And with that Callisto escaped killing all twenty guards that worked within her prison.  Those who had once been captive with her were released and recruited into her army.

     After telling her story of triumphant escape Callisto commented on the beautiful new weapon she had aquired.  She then held it up to display it and then placed the chackram into her belt for safe keeping.  Xena warned Callisto not to enjoy the company of the chackram too long, but Callisto shot back asking her how she was planning to escape this complicated scenario.  Xena did not have an answer.  Instead Callisto answered herself looking to Gabrielle.  Her firey eyes were almost regretful for a moment as she expressed her jealousy of the bard.  Callisto spoke of how Gabrielle would leave life in tact without having been tainted by the loss of innocence.  Then the moment of regret passed back into the phsycotic rage which engulfed it.  Suddenly Callisto gave the command to burn the bard.  Theodoras and the other men lit the logs which surrounded Gabrielle.  Gabrielle found herself regretful for having brought Xena into this mess of her heart.

      The flames quickly rose as the fire crackled beneath her feet and around her.  Gabrielle looked down helplessly and without hope.  Then she heard Xena struggling to break free from the chair which bound her.  Gabrielle looked up and noticed that Xena’s eyes spoke.  Xena’s hope was still intact for she had not given up despite the odds.  Callisto’s attention was then drawn away from the burning bard back to Xena.  She was amused that Xena was even trying to break free for her victory was certain.  Then Gabrielle suddenly realized what Xena’s plan was.  She was bringing Callisto close enough so that she could steal back her chackram.  There was only one problem.  Callisto’s attention would have to be diverted again once the chackram moved within reach of the warrior princess.  Gabrielle then waited for the right moment and then she began her own dramatic struggle. 

     Just as Xena was going to reach for her chackram there was an unexpected disturbance.  Xena quickly retrieved the chackram with her foot as Callisto moved away to confront Joxer charging into the cavern with his sword raging above his head as he screamed out.  Yet his moment was short lived for he found himself suddenly struck down by Callisto as he tumbled backwards onto the ground.  Callisto became enraged at his interruption as if commanding him.  She demanded to know what he was attempting to accomplish.  Then Joxer rose before Callisto courageously though clumbsy.  He said that he had come to save his friends as he walked passing Callisto toward Xena.  His glory was quickly deminished for he found himself struck in the shoulder by an arrow.  The the bumbling idot fell to the ground in shock yet his wound was not serious.  Xena quickly took advantage of the moment as she used her foot to hurl the chackram into the air releasing her hand for a throw.  Then the chackram roared as she thrust it toward the binds which held the bard within her furious fire.  As the chackram ripped through the ropes Gabrielle flipped over the burning fire to safety as Xena then used the returning chackram to free herself from her own binds.

     Gabrielle found herself having to choose a weapon.  She chose to take up the staff once more as she stole one from the approaching enemies.  As Gabrielle held the men off Xena completed her escape and began battling through the approaching lines.  She kicked and punched her way down toward Callisto as Gabrielle battled on with her staff.  Xena then flipped up to the top of the cavern and used her whip to swing down onto Theodoras rendering him helpless.  For Xena to win this battle against Callisto it would have to be a one on one confrontation.  Xena then flipped into action standing before Callisto with her weapon drawn.  Callisto smiled as if satisfied that she would have to be challenged yet again by the wrath of the warrior princess.  She complemented Xena’s skill although hers matched with equal power. 

     And then the ultimate battle began between the forces of love and of hate.  The two women mirrored one another’s moves as they fliped across one another clashing swords together.  The battle cries of the rivals were heard clearly defining this moment of history.  Opposite one another again Callisto shouted out and charged missing her first strike.  Xena retaliated with a blow on the back as the two rounded to face once more.    Callisto pivoted with her evil smile showing as the two women twirled their weapons for the next round.  This time Xena went on the offensive as she turned her weapon downward and perried with this unique style.  It was a test of Callisto’s skill.  Xena was hoping to catch the advantage, but instead the swords clashed with equal force.  Callisto then resorted to using a spin and then a kick.  Then there was as second kick.  Xena quickly recovered taking the blows and mirroring Callisto’s move.  Callisto went for a slap, but Xena dodged it.  The two returned and exchanged kicks and punches until Callisto went high.  Xena ducked and went low with her sword.  Neither could gain the advantage. 

     Callisto pivoted around to face Xena again.  She was out of breath realizing that she could not win the test of endurance.  Then she suggested a chariot race instantly sheathing her sword and flipping out to her chariot.  Theodoras charged at the warrior princess to protect Callisto again, but Xena took him down with a single punch.  Callisto was unpredictable as always.  Gabrielle then called out to Xena to charge Callisto in the chariot race.  Xena quickly rushed out to the chariot that awaited her.  Callisto had a good start, but Xena quickly coaxed her horses to speed.  Hooves pounded, and horses screamed as the two women raced along the shore of the ocean.  Xena called out to Callisto as she approached upon her chariot.  Callisto let out a scream and then banged her chariot up against Xena’s.  She began slapping Xean accross the face and clearly had the advantage. 

       Callisto’s chariot had sharp edges upon its wheels which ripped through the wheels of Xena’s chariot.  Xena’s wheels soon shredded to pieces as her chariot went crashing violently out of control.  Just before Xena was about to lose the race she reached for her whip and used it to grab onto Callisto’s chariot.  Suddenly the warrior princess was yanked from her ride and dragged along the wet sand behind Callisto.  The nemisis was delighted to be winning and took great pleasure in Xena’s struggle to survive the game.  Xena slowly climbed up the whip toward Callisto.  It was difficult to say what Callisto would do next.  She then decided to speed up the chariot race to throw Xena off into the water down below.  When Callisto noticed that Xena was too close she began to struggle to free the whip from the chariot, but without success.  Xena had already reached her and climbed in to battle. 

     The two women struggled punching one another, and wrestling around for control.  There were the sounds of love and hate crying out desparately for a victory.  Neither could overpower the other.  Yet they found themselves suddenly falling out of the chariot in their struggle rolling down the beach into an unexpected despair.  It was quicksand that they had fallen into and it seemed that the forces of love and of hate would perish in doom together.  Callisto found it amusing, but Xena ignored her cryptic excitement.  Instead she struggled to reach for her most valueable weapon.  Beneath the quicksand as Xena sank further she obtained her chackram and then broke it free.  She then threw it into a boulder just outside the pit and used her whip to climb out. 

     Callisto was impressed that despite the odds again Xena was going to escape death.  It was almost as if she were begining to see the light that had escaped her entire life.  As hate sank loved rose from its demise.  Callisto then pleaded with the warrior princess to save her.  Her pleas came upon deaf ears for love could no longer save one tainted with so much hate.  Finally Callisto’s end had come for her vicious fearful screams could be heard throughout the land.  Then hate disappeared forever within the sand as the warrior princess had defeated the vengence she felt she had created.

     Peace had come upon all once again although no one would ever be the same.  Xena tended to Joxer’s wounded shoulder as she pumped up his warrior pride.  He had been worried his wound was serious, but Xena assured him that it would soon heal.  Then Joxer the Mighty said that he had decided he would travel alone for he would be a much better warrior lone than as a sidekick.  And so Joxer the Mighty was off on his own mischevious adventures while the bard stood by the ocean before the setting sun.  She watched its light slowly disappear over the western horizen and listened to the gentle waves.  The sun was Perdicas going home and the waves were his soul whispering to her heart reaching out.  Gabrielle’s heart reached out to Perdicous’s soul for she wanted to hear him, to feel him, and to love him again.  As she took a deep breath in and closed her eyes she was interrputed by the warrior princess.  Xena asked of her what she had been doing.  She spoke of how she was only loving Perdicous once more.  It was time to begin healing from the pain.  Xena assured Gabrielle that Perdicas was there still.  Gabrielle knew that he could hear her thoughts of love.  She knew that he would be there with her forever in her heart.

 

The Xena Scrolls

By:  Gabrielle Bard of Potedia

Scroll#35:  Intimate Stranger

February 23rd, 47 B.C.

 

     In life there is a fine line between what is a dream and what is a reality.  Though sometimes it is difficult to define.  The warrior princess awoke from several nightmares which dealt with her guilt.  These nightmares were so intense that Xena awoke from them in a cold sweat.  Soon after she could not stand the lonliness which had set in as a result so she softly woke the bard from slumber hoping she could receive some comfort. 

     The cool morning air rushed over Gabrielle’s face suddenly for Xena had pulled back her blanket from her face.  It was still dark out for the sun had not yet risen.  Gabrielle looked over to Xena seeing the warrior’s chest violently rising and falling.  Xena’s eyes were distraught with worry and with guilt as she held her forehead with her right hand leaning her back up against a tree.  Gabrielle sat up on her elbows with concern and inquiry asking the warrior princess if there was anything wrong.  As usual Xena would not answer the truth.  She only said that it was time to continue their pursuit of Theodoras Callisto’s first in command.  Since Callisto’s death Theodoras had taken over her army.  His goal was to take Athens though the bard had heard that all he really wanted was to sooth his heart’s pain.  Theodoras had been in love with Callisto and now his violent army expressed his pain with each village it retained. 

     As the two women prepared to scout Theodoras’s nearby camp the uncomfortable silence between the two friends ceased.  Xena broke in with an inquiry of dreams.  She asked the bard if she had ever experienced a dream.  Gabrielle sensed Xena’s heart was within a confusion.  It was obvious now that it had been a dream that had brought it to this place.  Gabrielle then replied that she had indeed dreamed before.  She said that it was within her dreams that her best stories would come flowing through her soul.  Yet it had been a long time since she had dreamed.  Gabrielle had not had a single inspiration within her nights since the violent murder of her beloved Perdicas. 

      The warrior princess found herself saddened by this loss within the bard.  Gabrielle was still feeling numb with the pain of her loss despite Callisto having been gone.  Then Xena broke into the bard’s numb feelings with her own waves of guilt.  She began to open up her fears to her friend which had been building within her recent nightmares.  It was on this morning that she had awakened from them yet again.  Xena described having had four successive dreams.  The first began like a normal scouting mission.  She said that she was with Gabrielle and they were following two of Theodoras’s men.  Xena said that she remembered jumping down from the trees and then Gabrielle joined her upon command.  Gabrielle had asked Xena if she was certain that these men belonged to Callisto’s army.  Xena had confirmed that they had and were most certainly going to rejoin their new commander.  Then she asked Gabrielle if things were okay.  Gabrielle expressed her discomfort with the thought of Callisto again.  Xena understood her friend’s pain.  Then explained that Gabrielle’s pain was the reason that they had to stop Theodoras and his men so that they could all be brought to justice.  The bard seemingly understood this and then left Xena to rejoin Argo in the brush. 

      As Xena stood to hunt down the enemy she heard a familiar voice calling her name.   She turned with her weapon drawn and discovered that it was her mother.  Cyrene kept asking Xena when she was going to return home to where her friends and family loved her.  The warrior princess had said that she felt confused and afraid that Cyrene was present.  She then told her mother it was not safe for her to be there.  There was danger just beyond the trees where Theodoras was with his men.  Xena could not attack with her mother there for the guilt of her past deeds began to intrude.  Then Xena found herself realizing that it was all a trick.  That it was not really her mother who stood there before her.  And as she approached the imposter Cyrene revealed her true identity.  She was Ares the god of war.  He was still after his favorite warrior princess.  Ares commended Xena for rejoining his darkness for he was certain that she would one day command his next great army. 

      Xena was not at all amused by his presence.  She despised it and reminded him that his ambitions were only a dream.  Then Ares showed the warrior princess her recent fault.  He accused Xena of being a murderer.  When Xena tried to defend herself he only reminded her that she had been the one who killed Callisto.  The warrior princess desparately fought against her guilt.  She had killed Callisto for a justice.  Callisto’s death was justice for the death of Gabrielle’s Perdicas.  But Ares persisted with more.  He claimed that the warrior princess had murdered Callisto because she had allowed her to sink into the quicksand despite Callisto’s innocent pleas for help.  Ares declared that if Callisto’s death had been in the name of justice then it would have been a fair fight by the sword.  Yet instead Xena had just let her enemy die helplessly unable to rescue herself.  Ares insisted that this act had ensured that Xena was a murderer when she did not try to save the once innocent.

     Xena’s guilt began to rise as she tried deparately to hide it from Ares.  But the god of war then showed her a vision.  It was the dark memory of the day that she had watched Callisto die.  Callisto was sinking rapidly as she called out to Xena.  Her eyes no longer of firery rage.  They only spoke of a childlike innocence and fear.  Callisto reached out to Xena as she called for her rescue.  Xena tried desparately to distance herself from all of the guilt within, but could not.  Her hands which held her sword then pulled her toward the vicitm.  The warrior princess tried desparately to fight it, but the sword then plunged into the victim as Ares laughed triumphantly.

      Suddenly Xena awoke from this first nightmare with great fear.  She jumped to her feet from her slumber swinging her sword wildly ready to do battle.  Her warrior senses were confused as she scanned the camp.  There was nothing there, but a frieghtened crow and Gabrielle sleeping soundly alone.  Xena then slowly approached her friend desparate for comfort.  As she turned Gabrielle’s shoulder to awaken her the bard’s face turned into that of the dead Callisto.  Callisto’s brown eyes stared lifelessly.  They stared deeply into Xena’s freightened soul.  The warrior princess jumped back in disbelief as she saw the  endless blood dripping from her hands. 

       This time she awoke to the face of Gabrielle who had been trying to save her from her nightmares.  Gabrielle had shaken the warrior princess startling the guilty soul.  Then the bard’s soothing voice expressed its pity for the soul that could not release itself from deep guilt.  Xena then felt safe again as she asked Gabrielle if she felt what Ares had said  was true.  Had she really executed Callisto by allowing her to die helplessly within the quicksand.  Gabrielle’s voice was reassuring to Xena telling her that she had only done what had to be done.  These were the words that Xena desparately needed to hear from her friend.  Xena continued by expressing how every dream she had had was about Callisto and no one else.  The guilt ridden warrior continued by explaining that it was Ares taunting her and saying that she really had become a murderer when she did not try to save Callisto from her own darkness.  The warrior princess felt guilty for not giving Callisto a chance to change the way that Hercules had given Xena that chance to change. 

     Gabrielle  sharply yet confidently refused that statement for she said that Callisto had chosen her own path and demise.  It was not Xena’s responsibility to try to change Callisto according to the bard.  Gabrielle continued soothing the guilty warrior’s soul with more words yet they began to sound confusing to the warrior princess.  The bard said that just because Xena had not tried to change Callisto or to show Callisto any mercy as others had shown Xena that these things did not make Xena a murderer.  Xena began to move away from the bard slowly though Gabrielle’s hands did not release her shoulders.  Gabrielle continued her strange twisted soothing statements.  She said that if Hercules had chosen to judge Xena the way that Xena had chosen to judge Callisto then Xena would most certainly be dead by now.  Xena then questioned the bard with alarm.  Gabrielle continued as her words became more harsh and that soothing familiar sound suddenly began to change its tone.  She said that Xena deserved death more than did Callisto for it had been Xena who had created Callisto.  Though it was Gabrielle’s face that Xena saw her voice was now that of Callisto and before the words could finish the warrior princess awoke a third time.  That was when she had awakened startled Gabrielle out of slumber.  Finally Xena had reached the safety of  reality.  Yet even then there was seemingly little comfort for the warrior princess’s heart.

      As the two friends continued scouting on after exchanging their woes and dreams Xena’s pace suddenly quickened.  Gabrielle’s concern rose as her own thoughts of pain deminished into the alertness of preparing to do battle.  Xena then knelt down before some footprintes in the mud along the road.  Gabrielle followed inquring the warrior princess uncertain if they were following the trail of Theodoras.  Xena answered her friend with confidence saying that Theodoras and his men had gone over the river through the woods toward a deserted village.  Not only were they following the trail of the enemy, but there was another man following as well.  In fact, Xena was certain that this lone warrior was about to get himself killed.  Gabrielle pieced together the sarcastic comment and realized that it was Joxer that Xena spoke of.  Somehow he had managed to find himself right in the middle of the action once again.

      When Xena and Gabrielle finally arrived on the outskirts of the deserted village they found that Theodoras was about to execute Joxer.  The so called warrior challenged Theodoras proclaiming that soon the Athenian army would storm the camp and seize Theodoras and his army.  Theodoras was slightly amused, but more irritated at the annoying intruder.  He had decided that he was going to have Joxer killed this time for he was growing tired of dealing with his idocy.  Theodoras was angered when Joxer mentioned the name of the woman he had loved.  He then said that he would spill Joxer’s blood carving him from the inside out.  Joxer was defiant yet slightly fearful at the thought of his violent oncoming death.  He tried to talk his way out of it reminding Theodoras that he would need Joxer as a hostage when the Athenians came to take his army.  Theodoras ignored Joxer’s pleas as he and his men began to beat their victim senseless.  Joxer was helplessly hanging upon a rope as Xena’s battle cry raged out from within the woods.

      Suddenly Theodoras and his army dispersed into the woods looking to kill the warrior princess.  Yet she had already arrived into the village as she flipped violently crashing through the walls of a large barn.  Within the barn was Joxer hanging from the ceiling beams.  Gabrielle entered through the gaping hole left by Xena’s wrath as she and Xena scanned the barn for any of Theodoras’s men.  No one was present except for the idiot who proclaimed that he had been the one who had scared the enemy off.  Gabrielle was prepared to go after the enemy into the woods, but Xena declared that it would not be wise in the night.  She decided that they would camp and so Gabrielle went to fetch the blankets.  Xena began to pace within the barn planning her next move.  Joxer could barely stand being ignored any longer demanding that Xena free him from his ropes.  The warrior princess finally decided to free him, but not without punishment for his stupidity in acting alone.  Joxer suddenly found himself eating the dirt with little sympathy to follow.

     As the friends prepared to try to recapture their dreams Gabrielle approached the warrior princess staring off into the distance.  She brought a blanket to cover Xena’s shoulders realizing that though Callisto was gone from the world her presence still lurked within it.  Xena then continued expressing her guilt.  She was now certain after having her terrible nightmares that her guilt was real.  Xena really felt that she had committed an injustice allowing Callisto to die in the sinking pit of quicksand.  Gabrielle was disappointed for she now realized that Callisto had truely won despite her death.  Callisto had taken Xena’s light turning it into an endless guilt while she had handed Gabrielle endless pain and empty rage within her own heart.  Gabrielle expressed her disgust with the situation as she spoke these thoughts aloud.  For Xena was wishing that she had not killed Callisto, Joxer had developed a death wish because he had not succeeded in killing Callisto, and Gabrielle now felt that the world would have been a better place had the blonde nemisis never existed at all.  With that the bard left the warrior princess within her guilt unable to console her friend beyond her own heart’s lingering pain.  And so Xena’s nightmares continued relentlessly and without end.

     Upon the early morning before the next sun Gabrielle found herself suddenly awakened by Xena’s jolting her shoulder.  The bard was startled out of her slumber barely able to focas on Xena’s quick words.  Xena said that she had finally figured out what was really going on all of this time.  She said that Callisto was back somehow with the help of the god of war.  Gabrielle suddenly found herself alarmed by the thought of Callisto’s return.  She was uncertain of how she would deal with another face to face meeting with her worst enemy.  When Gabrielle inquired of the warrior princess what she felt that they would do next.  Xena responded with zest.  She said that they must immediately go onto Amphipolis for Callisto was certain to strike there next.  The bard did not understand how Xena had come to this conclusion so easily.  Xena continued explaining that because of Callisto’s undying revenge for her she was most certainly out to kill Xena’s mother.  There was someting eerie about Xena’s quick knowledge of her enemy’s certain motives.

      Just when Gabrielle was about to awaken Joxer to join them on their new mission Xena grabbed the bard’s arm.  She then told Gabrielle that it was best that they leave the idiot behind.  Xena was certain that he would only get himself killed.  Gabrielle could most certainly understand that.  And so as Gabrielle prepared herself and Argo for their journey to Xena’s home Xena vanished for a short time.  Gabrielle found herself increasingly confused.  She began to wonder if maybe she too had been having a strange dream.  Yet her concern dissolved upon Xena’s return as the sun began to rise.  Xena, Gabrielle, and Argo traveled together.  Yet the entire journey seemed like a strain and a struggle.  Argo was extremely fussy on this morning.  It was unusual for Xena’s horse to be so upset.  Gabrielle tried to figure out what may have spooked Argo, but most of her effort had gone into keeping Argo still.

     Then Xena started revealing her plan.  It was not typical for her to be so open and seemingly vengeful.  She said that Callisto most certainly had gone to fetch her army.  Xena was planning on reaching Theodoras before Callisto could regain control.  Argo continued to express her discomfort.  Gabrielle wondered if maybe it was because of Xena’s guilt.  She wondered if maybe it was the guilt begining to poison the warrior princess’s heart.  Then Gabrielle asked Xena if she would take Argo from her.  The bard was certain that Argo would calm down if Xena were to take the reigns.  Yet Xena refused to comfort her horse.  Instead she declared that Argo was only behaving in this way because she sensed Callisto as she had the last time they had gone up against Callisto.

     Then Xena turned to Gabrielle proclaiming that she had a confession.  She said that it was not right that she had been the one to kill Callisto before.  Xena said that Gabrielle should have been the one to spill the blood for her vengence deserved to be tamed.  The bard suddenly found herself disturbed by Xena’s sudden change.  Before Xena had fought desparately to keep Gabrielle from drawing Callisto’s blood.  And now she was determined to convince Gabrielle that it was her responsibility.  Gabrielle listened to her friend as Xena continued.  She said that her guilt over the issue was about to tear her apart.  The bard’s worst fear was seemingly playing itself out.  Gabrielle did not know what to do or how to visualize the truth.

     The bard then tried to verbally make sense of things.  She asked Xena if what she had said was the truth.  The bard wanted to know if Xena truely felt it was her responsibility to kill Callisto.  Xena’s reply was strange.  She disputed that statement only to say that Callisto was most certainly after her mother.  Gabrielle stated that Callisto had to be stopped short of killing Cyrene.  Xena did agree with this, but her blank stare pierced through Gabrielle like fire as Xena said that stopping Callisto wasn’t the problem.  She continued stating that once Callisto was stopped there had to be a resolution.  Xena seemingly did not know the resolution yet Gabrielle sensed that there was something beyond.  The warrior princess then stated that she was not so certain that she could go through with killing Callisto again.  Then she walked away from Gabrielle and Argo leaving the bard to contemplate Xena’s strange new demeanor.

     As the day wore on Gabrielle found herself even more confused for Xena began to teach her the art of vengence.  She had chosen a small tree to be the devout enemy and commanded the bard to strike it down.  But Gabrielle had already made up her mind.  She had already learned that the vengence would not calm her raging heart.  Gabrielle’s efforts were futile against Xena’s constant beckonings as she scolded the bard for not trying hard enough.  When Gabrielle tried to talk her way out of learning the truths of vengence Xena only pursued further.  She told the bard that it was not about vengence at all for Callisto was already dead.  All that she asked of the bard was to send her back to Tarturus where Callisto belonged.  Xena proclaimed that Gabrielle’s heart could bring the strength of vengance forth for it still existed within the bard.  Gabrielle knew Xena was right.  She had only buried those lustful feelings deep within.  Yet Gabrielle was afraid to release them openly knowing the damage that would most certainly follow.

     As Gabrielle prepared to strike at the tree once again Xena’s rage spilled out with even more power.  The bard suddenly found herself frustrated as she turned to face her friend.  There was definately something wrong within.  As Gabrielle searched Xena’s eyes for some light Xena calmed her tense muscles for a moment.  She shifted the sudden suspicion to a challenge.  The warrior princess then asked Gabrielle to allow Xena to play the part of Callisto.  Gabrielle found this sickening and not at all amusing.  Xena persisted with the charade saying that she only looked like Xena, but that she was really Callisto.  Though the idea seemed impossible the bard’s mind momentarily grasped the idea as truth.  She thought that maybe it was a true explanation to this situation yet her heart worked desparately to deny it.  Then Xena beckoned her to strike and so weakly Gabrielle struck for she did not wish to unleash vengeful feelings upon her best friend. 

     Again Xena persisted trying to belittle the bard with insults, but even that did not allow Gabrielle to strike a powerful blow.  Yet Xena tried once more to grasp the vengence with the bard.  She began to describe the sensation of killing Perdicas and of how she had felt his blood on her hands as he died.  Gabrielle’s rage began to surface as her soul began to boil and the darkness emerged from within her heart.  Then Xena finalized the statement by belittling the bard again telling her that she was incapable of killing the one who had taken her love from her.  And with that Gabrielle lost all of her senses.  Her self control was completely gone.  Her muscles tensed within her arms and her legs thrust forward with the staff as it struck Xena in the chest violently.  The warrior princess suddenly fell to the ground for Gabrielle had knocked the wind out of her friend. 

     As Xena rose slowly from her defeat Gabrielle’s darkness quickly retreated into realization.  The bard suddenly felt great guilt for what she had felt and acted upon.  She turned away from Xena who praised her yet Gabrielle did not feel like a celebration.  Instead her stomach felt ill.  As if she wanted to purge it of the evil lurking within.  Xena then continued to stroke the bard’s dark ego telling her that she was proud of the action against her.  Gabrielle expressed her deep concern for having felt hatred within that moment.  She had truely believed in her mind that Callisto was real within Xena’s eyes and that was what had allowed her to strike.  Gabrielle did not want to face that moment again, but Xena only commented that hatred had to be faced no matter the consequences.  Then Xena handed the bard her weapon, but this time it was not just a simple fighting staff.  Xena had fashioned it into a spear using the breast daggar that Gabrielle had once purchased for herself.  Then Xena said that she was going to take care of the one who was following closely behind.  Upon her abscence Gabrielle found herself barely able to move or to function.  Instead she just stood against the tree and stared at the weapon of death that now faced her.  She sensed that this was a moment of choice.  Gabrielle desparately hoped that she would not make the wrong choice.

     After many moments of spying the weapon Gabrielle finally picked it up.  She began to inspect the point of the weapon as she tested it up against the tree.  The bard questioned her resolve wondering if she would be truely able to make the choices that Xena had to make every day with the sword.  There was still a great deal of uncertainty within her as Argo began to stir upon Xena’s return.  The warrior princess seemed a lot more at ease as she grabbed a drink to quench the thirst of her passionate encounter with war.  When Gabrielle inquired of who had been following them Xena said that it had only been one of Theodoras’s men.  Then she confidently brushed off the situation stating that she had been able to scare him off. 

     Gabrielle prepared to grab Argo to continue on their journey, but Xena’s calm nature began to shift back into that crazy uncertainty for the bard.  She said that Argo would not be going with them onto Amphipolis.  Xena stated that she feared for Argo’s safety.  Again this was unlike Xena for Gabrielle had never known the warrior princess to go anywhere without her horse alongside her.  Gabrielle investigated this with a question for she wasn’t sure that an emotionally distraught horse should be left out in the woods alone.  With Callisto lurking about she might fall victim.  Xena was certain and persistant that she should leave Argo behind.  She was so confident that she asked Gabrielle to move ahead while she hid Argo’s briddle.  Gabrielle looked to Xena once more with grave concern, but she did not argue with the warrior princess.  She was often cryptic about many things. 

     Gabrielle walked on alone for about two hours until she began to hear some very strange sounds lurking behind.  The bard circled back upon her path to investigate what was just behind her.  To her surprise she caught sight of  Joxer walking alongside Callisto, and then suddenly she heard the distant sound of the roaring chackram.  Then the chackram was in plain view, but it was not Xena who tamed it.  Callisto took the mighty weapon as Joxer narrowly escaped its wrath.  He fell backward passing out after Callisto tamed the weapon.  Then she prepared to return it to the warrior princess only to find herself confronted by the warrior woman.  She warned Callisto not to send back her weapon for she would only recapture it.  Then Callisto demanded to know where the bard was, but Xena played her off without revealing a single detail.  Gabrielle strained to hear the dialogue between the two women, but found it muffled by the sounds of the wind blowing through the brush.

     All she could do now was watch and hope Xena would be triumphant.  The sounds of screams and battle cries broke through the rustling plants as the two women flipped across one another clashing their swords into action.  It seemed all of their battles began this way.  And then they would face one another swords ready.  Callisto was seemingly on the defensive in this battle as Xena attacked to perry.  The warrior princess swung missing Callisto as the blonde jumped backward.  Xena then charged forward with even more aggression and force.  There was great power and strength, but it was not coming from Xena.  It was coming from Callisto.  Callisto seemingly fought to avoid drawing blood.  She only fought to defend.  Strangely it seemed to the bard that Callisto was fighting like Xena and Xena like Callisto.  She thought maybe it was because Xena was seeking a justice fairly deserved. 

     Then Gabrielle saw Callisto flip and roll to the ground dodging another advance.  Gabrielle thought that Callisto could have easily taken the advantage against Xena, but for some reason she had chosen not to.  Instead she knelt down in the mud blocking Xena’s downward motion from behind.  Then Callisto spun around from the ground looking to strike at Xena’s feet, but the warrior princess flipped over her to escape the move.  Callisto rose to face Xena who attacked high against the blonde.  There was a massive struggle for control.  Callisto used her sword to hold off Xena’s.  Xena twisted her sword to disarm Callisto who suddenly kicked Xena’s sword from grasp.  Then something extraordinary happened.  Callisto ran up Xena’s chest flipped backwards and kicked Xena in the face.  It was the same move that Gabrielle had seen Xena use many times, but this was the first time Callisto had ever used it.  Then there was a pause in battle as Gabrielle thought of this.

     Yet her suspicions were rested when Xena mirrored the move that Callisto had made.  Then Xena flipped Callisto by the arm only to have the move reversed by Callisto.  Callisto then kicked Xena who fell back and then she slid a daggar from her boot returning to the offensive against Callisto.  The blonde warrior did not have a weapon.  Instead she dodged each strike and then jumped into a reverse flip using her legs to capture Xena into submission.  As the women fell to the ground Xena ended up on the bottom as Callisto took control.  The daggar held steady with neither woman taking the advantage.  Gabrielle suddenly sprung up from the brush realizing that she had to enter into the battle.  Callisto was about to take Xena’s life.  Gabrielle arrived behind Callisto with her spear pulled to attack.  The bard was prepared to take Callisto’s life.  Gabrielle was totally focased and could hear nothing.  Her blood raced through her veins as the vengence began to rise.  Suddenly her concentration was broken by Xena’s voice.  Xena commanded her to kill the blonde warrior, but before Gabrielle could respond her ears were filled with Callisto’s voice asking for soft mercy. 

      Callisto continued explaining to Gabrielle that she was about to tell her an impossible story.  Then it was out.  Callisto proclaimed herself to be Xena.  Her voice was calm unlike usual.  It wasn’t phsycotic or crazed.  Yet Xena responded quickly saying that Callisto’s statement was only a trick.  Callisto quickly replied with the trick being that of Ares.  She said Ares and Callisto worked together to use her own guilt against her.  This had been how Xena had become Callisto while she slept during the night.  Gabrielle found herself suddenly confused.  There was a fine line between vegence, and truth.  Xena then spoke up once again reminding Gabrielle that Callisto had taken Perdicas.  Gabrielle fought the urge to kill knowing that Callisto might be telling the truth.  Callisto’s explanation explained why Xena had been behaving so strangely and why Argo had been upset.  Then the vengence rose and almost overcame the bard’s resolve. 

     Callisto broke in one last time.  She asked Gabrielle to question Xena about her dreams since Perdicas had died.  The bard found herself confused by this strange request coming from the blonde warrior.  She wondered how the blonde even knew what she and Xena had talked about the night before.  Xena accused Callisto of tricking the bard once more.  But Gabrielle felt that the question was a valid one.  it would prove the truth in all of this confusion.  And so Gabrielle asked Xena to answer knowing that it would be simple.  Xena hesitated and then struggled to find the phsycotic words that would pull vengence from within Gabreille’s heart.  The answer Xena gave was wrong.  Xena said that Gabrielle had been dreaming of her vengence, but that was not the truth.  Then Callisto calmly broke in proclaiming that Gabrielle had dreamed of nothing since Xena had killed Perdicas.

     And so it was true.  Callisto was Xena and Xena was Callisto.  Somehow the impossible had happened and they had traded bodies.  Gabrielle was stunned and Xena relieved for she had won this battle of truth with words.  Xena looked to her friend who dropped her weapon as Callisto took the moment to escape running for the horse that Joxer had brought along with Xena.  Gabrielle then looked at Xena totally astonished by the incident.  In disbelief Gabrielle was stunned only interrupted by the sound of a flying daggar approaching her.  When Gabrielle suddenly snapped back into reality she looked up to see death.  Yet Xena was there to save her capturing the daggar within her hand.  Then Callisto rode off only she looked so much like her friend.  This left the bard with Xena who looked exactly like the one she despised.

     Again doubt rose within Gabrielle as she looked to the blonde woman who now stood before her.  The person that was once Xena rode off triumphantly as she recaptured the chackram and screamed through the woods.  This thought was chilling.  Gabrielle could not understand or comprehend.  She then asked the blonde if it was true.  Xena confirmed that she was really the bard’s truest friend.  Gabrielle was very upset.  She did not want to face this new reality.  The bard wished it were a dream, but this was truely reality.  Then Joxer awoke lost for a moment only to discover that he had missed his oppritunity to kill Callisto once again.  When Gabrielle asked Xena how this had all happened Xena revealed a plan and of how it all began.

     On the night before she had been standing staring out into the woods.  As she leaned up against the doorway she had fallen asleep.  Xena had been unable to distinguish her dream from her reality for she had just experienced the three nightmares hours before.  As Gabrielle and Joxer slept Callisto had come.  She beckoned Xena into the fog and into the darkness.  This led her into the depths of Tarturus where Callisto taunted her with her guilt.  Then Xena realized what had been happening to her.  She had been a victim of Ares who had taken the world of dreams and the world of reality making them into one.  This allowed Callisto to become his new warrior that would replace the many rejections of the warrior princess.  There was only one way to allow Callisto and Ares to succeed.  They had to bring Xena to admitting her own guilt.  The two had been successful and so Callisto was released from Tarturus as Xena and Xena found herself trapped forever.

     Xena had only one hope of escaping her guilt and eternal life within Tarturus.  She seeked out Hades who would be the only one that could help her.  Xena argued with Hades over the truth of her identity for he did not believe that she was the real Xena.  He too knew as Gabrielle had known that Callisto was very clever.  Hades continuously refused to believe Xena’s story though she seemed to know every secret of the underworld.  There was only one way that the dead could escape the underworld and it was through the guilt of those who had killed them.  This made sense to Hades, but he still did not believe.  Then Xena spoke of her beloved Marcus and of how together they had saved Hades kingdom from Atyminious.  Again Hades decided that everyone knew of that information too.  Then Xena reminded Hades of what had happened in the end.  She reminded him of how she had stabbed Marcus through the heart before him.  Her love had been unmistakeable.  Hades had been the only man to witness that knowing that Marcus would have kept that moment to himself.  Finally Hades relented although he was still displeased with Xena for allowing her guilt to free Callisto.  He said that he could only give her one day to repair her mistake for his displeasure would yield no more.  

     As soon as Xena had returned to life within Callisto’s body she found something that nearly broke her heart.  Argo had been badly wounded by Callisto though Xena was able to save her horse.  Joxer of course had to jump into the conversation reminding Xena that he had come to Argo’s aid.  The idiot was courageous and brave with his heart, but abscent with his mind thinking he could go up against Callisto alone.  Xena had thanked Joxer for his help in trying to protect her beloved horse.  She then explained that Callisto had meant for Xena to have to kill her own horse certain that it would break Xena’s heart. 

     Soon Xena, Gabrielle, and Joxer had reached the cave near Amphipolis where Callisto had told Gabrielle she was going to take the people.  Armed with fire bombs Gabrielle and Joxer awaited Xena’s command for an attack.  Callisto had killed Theodoras and taken over his army as Xena.  She was preparing for Xena’s arrival as Xena had suspected.  Callisto was preparing to burn the people of Xena’s village to death the way that Callisto’s family and friends had suffered at the hands of Xena’s own army.  Then Cyrene called out to the dark nemesis unaware of the evil that lied within her.  Soon Cyrene’s senses were sharpened with truths as she gazed into the eyes of the enemy playing the part of her daughter.  Callisto then left her within fear and requested that the first torch be thrown at the feet of Xena’s mother.  She wanted Cyrene to meet certain death even if the warrior princess were to arrive before death had taken her. 

     Callisto was unaware of the danger that lurked within the cave waiting to strike.  She taunted the idea of the warrior princess’s arrival, but found herself interrupted by the arrival of Ares warning her of her out of control vengence.  Callisto did not heed Ares’s warning of Xena’s skills.  She was blinded by her vengeful goals against the warrior princess.  Callisto proclaimed that Ares was no longer in control of the situation for he had promised her satisfactin and she would have it.  She didn’t care what happened to Xena after that.  Callisto was certain that Xena would be reclaimed by Hades in Tarturus before she could stop Callisto.  Then Ares left his newfound creation with anger.  He too had underestimated his new warrior queen.  She had used him to have her vengence and now he was defeated.  As Ares disappeared Xena gave the command as Joxer and Gabrielle began to hurl the fire bombs into the cave.  Callisto’s army put out their torches immediately as the dispersed from the cave fearful of Callisto’s arrival.

     Yet Callisto had already been there and now Xena flipped into action.  Callisto was ready for battle against Xena.  She was ready to satisfy her vengeful heart.  And so the battle began as Callisto drew her sword and clashed with Xena’s.  This time Xena moved offensively within Callisto’s body.  She tried a new series of moves to catch Callisto off guard as she spun around several times an perrying with her sword after each spin.  Xena delivered a few kicks and then received a return kick from Callisto which disarmed her of her weapon.  Suddenly Xena began to fade into the setting sun as she warned Callisto that her vengence would never be realized now.  Callisto would not give up her victory over Xena for she reminded her that Xena would always know who had killed her loved ones despite being in Tarturus.  Then Callisto turned and ran for the people of Amphipolis locked away helplessly within their cell.  But before Callisto could get to a lit torch Xena made one last move.  She took a poison dart from the cuff of her wrist armor and plunged it into Callisto’s juggular. 

      Gabrielle and Joxer dashed into the cave with their weapons raised ready to do battle against Callisto.  Yet they were too late for Xena had finally disappeared forever returning to the depths of Tarturus.  Then Callisto ripped out the poison dart from her neck.  She appraoched the people of Amphipolis, but fell to the ground passing out into slumber from the poison dart.  Gabrielle realized what Xena had done.  She was making one last attempt to return Callisto to Tarturus.  Gabrielle and Joxer could only hope that Xena would return to them when it was finally over.  And so the battle raged on within Tarturus.  The battle of guilt and vengence persisted.  Xena put a face upon the vicitms that Callisto had ever taken.  She had called upon Callisto’s mother who came to reclaim her innocent child.  Callisto retreated to denial, but soon she put herself on trial.

     And then it was finally over as Xena’s body fell into Callisto’s.  As Callisto slowly rose to her feet those who had weapons held them steady.  Gabrielle then faced her enemy prepared to do battle, but the enemy had not returned.  It was Xena still within Callisto and Gabrielle was still in despair.  She did not want to believe that Xena could not return to her the way she had remembered her friend.  Callisto then proved her innocence to the bard with the words of her truest friend.  Xena spoke of Gabrielle’s own words about her belief in the power of love.  Gabrielle had once said to her friend that the true weapon against the cycle of violence was not vegence, but love.  Suddenly Gabrielle realized the she was seeing a reflection of herself within.  It came through the face of the enemy and the eyes of her truest friend.  Though Xena would never be restored to herself her soul had learned a lesson that Callisto could never understand.

     Early the next morning as Gabrielle awoke she found it difficult to rise from her slumber.  For the first time in weeks she had a dream though she wished it had been reality.  Then the bard found Joxer who stood with the blonde warrior princess.  He was clearly still shaken by the new home which now housed the soul of the warrior princess.  Gabrielle heard Xena thank Joxer once more for his courage in protecting Argo.  When Gabrielle approached Joxer’s nerves were on edge as he jumped back startled by her arrival.  The bard tried to calm him down reminding him that there was nothing left to be fearful of.  Yet Joxer protested that he was completely at ease.  As he left the two friends alone Gabrielle found herself missing Xena again.  Though her friend was right there with her it was still a great reminder of the one who had taken Perdicas from her.  Xena put Gabrielle’s heart at ease reminding her to think of Perdicas and the love she had for him when she looked at the face of Callisto instead of the hatred it commanded.  And so as the two friends moved foward together Gabrielle began to sing the song of Perdicas.  Her love for him was endless as was her love for the warrior princess.

The Xena Scrolls

By:  Gabrielle Bard of Potedia

Scroll#36:  Ten Little Warlords

February 28th, 47 B.C.

Pulling oneself out of the depressing nightmare that is reality can be tough.  And though the nightmare of Callisto had seemingly ended Gabrielle awoke just before dawn to the familiar sound of a crackling fire and the boots of Callisto stopping before her.  When she opened her eyes all that could be seen was not the comforting face of Xena, but the reminder of her rage that continued to stir within.  The voice that spoke Gabrielle’s name was soft and soothing yet it was Callisto’s voice.  Though it had Xena’s familiar tone Gabrielle’s body reacted as she jerked into sudden consciousness and realized again Xena’s face was now that of Callisto.  The bard worked hard everyday to get over that anger and that constant sadness of her loss which ate away inside her heart.  This pain seemingly bled so deeply at times that it found its way into the pit of Gabrielle’s soul. She felt certain that it would be much easier to deal with if only Xena could really be Xena.  At least then the constant reminder of Perdicas’s abscence would be less of a burden to the heart.

Though it was Callisto’s face which stared softly into the bard’s eyes Gabrielle was still having much difficulty accepting it as the now true face of her best friend.  She felt almost saddened knowing that it must not be easy for Xena to understand that her presence was a constant reminder of the one who murdered Perdicas.  Not only that, but Xena had to endure the constant darkness which followed Callisto for no one else knew the truth that Gabrielle and Xena knew.  Then as the bard rose to her feet slowly with Xena’s assistance and attempt at comforting her Gabrielle expressed her frustration of the situation.  Xena did understand.  Though there was nothing that could be done about it all now.  At least together they had succeeded at ridding the world of the evil soul of Callisto, but her presence in their lives would never be completely gone.  Gabrielle attempted to come up with a temperary solution to this issue pleading with the warrior princess to at least try to change her hair color back to its natural darkness rather than the irritating blonde it had become.

Xena’s reaction was seemingly abrupt as the bard found herself being thrown by the mighty hands of Callisto the warrior princess behind the brush.  As Gabrielle quickly tried to recoil her suggestion the warrior princess moved her finger to her lips in an attempt to hush the frantic yet momentarily startled bard.  Gabrielle’s confusion was almost so overwhelming that she had forgotten that there was indeed one other person in the world who knew of the truth about Callisto the warrior princess.  As Xena held steady she knelt down beside Gabrielle as they watched and listened together upon the intruder’s entrance into camp.  He wore a small bush over his goofy yet ugly bronze helmet in a lame attempt to conceal himself from view.  As always the warrior princess had sensed his presence way before he had even been fifty yards from camp.  Despite being in Callisto’s body the bard found herself impressed by Xena’s ability to adjust to her new surroundings.  It was obvious that Xena was handling things much better than Gabrielle.

As the idiot entered from beyond the darkness and the brush Xena instructed the raging bard without words.  Gabrielle knew that this was a test to see if she could control the enemy’s approach.  Although the enemy was an idiot he was a perfect decoy for a young bard in training.  Gabrielle watched as the enemy took one, two, and then a third creeping step toward the fire ten yards away from their position.  Just as the idiot was about to turn the corner toward the crackling fire Xena squeezed the bard’s arm signaling the take down.  Gabrielle rose from her knelt position with her staff and lunged forward shouting out Joxer’s name and sweeping him to the ground with a kick to the knee and a leg sweeping staff move.  Joxer suddenly fell upon his back to the ground unaware of the danger which had awaited him

As he lied upon his back blinded by his crooked helmet Gabrielle took the advantage stabbing him in the breast plate with her staff.  There was a yearning for attack coursing through the veins of the bard as she looked down to notice that Joxer’s breast plate wasn’t really much of a plate at all.  It was more like an old strainer used in every kitchen she had ever seen back home in Potedia.  Yet this sidetracked thought soon left and any mercy she may have felt for the idiot quickly left her heart.   Joxer’s response to Gabrielle’s cunning move on him was sarcastic and less than complementary.  He tried to play off his blunder in battle stating that he had been noisy purposely as if he had conspired with the warrior princess before arriving.  As Joxer brought himself back to his feet brushing his brown trousers off Xena soon emerged from the brush.  She was actually quite surprised to see the idiot and was highly curious of his arrival.  Whatever the reason it seemed important to the warrior princess as Joxer continued to speak.  He took off his helmet with pride and confidence and removed the fern sticking out of the top.

After he finished his presentation of warrior prowace he continued his statement explaining that he had received an important message for Callisto.  Joxer was certain that the blonde warrior would want to know of this message.  Yet he was still quite confused for he couldn’t remember if Callisto was actually Xena or if Xena was Callisto.  He looked to Gabrielle who was reminded that there was just one other who knew the true identity of Callisto the warrior princess.  The bard could sympathize with his confusion for she too was still feeling it inside.  Yet Joxer’s presence was still as annoying as ever.  Gabrielle then thought as he continued to converse with Xena that maybe it would have been better if Joxer had been the one stuck in Callisto’s body instead of Xena.  At least she could deal with her frustrations by popping him in the nose or beating him with her staff.  The bard was very aware of Xena’s warrior skills and did not dare to move upon her frustrations against Xena who was still stuck in Callisto’s body.

Then the bard realized that even Xena was still having some difficulty in dealing with her new identity for she seemed irritated that Joxer would even think to bring her Callisto’s personal messages.  Xena turned from his ignorance with irritation in her voice declaring that he should burn the message rather than waste her time with it.  Gabrielle found herself in private agreement with the warrior princess’s attitude, but Joxer was not so certain that this message should be burned.  His persistance prevailed as he explained that this message was from none other than Ares the god of war.  Joxer was an idiot, but he did have at least a tiny brain working within his dumb skull part of the time.  His observation proved to be of great interest to the warrior princess.  She remembered that there was at least one other that knew that she wasn’t really Callisto.  Ares most certainly knew the truth for it was Ares that had helped Callisto escape the underworld by using Xena’s guilt to get into Xena’s body.

As Xena’s interest in Callisto’s message intensified Joxer demonstrated his pride in knowing that he had Xena’s undivided attention.  It was rare that Joxer had ever had Xena’s attention at all.  He then stated that Ares had sent only ten personal invitations to ten different warlorads.  Callisto had been one of those ten.  As the warrior princess continued to listen and to run the scenarios through her mind Joxer fumbled through his lose gear to retrieve the actual message.  The bard’s curiosity of Joxer’s story turned to irritation, and then to a sudden uncontrollable impatience.  Her eyes darted about his clothing looking for something randomly hanging out until finally they spotted the misplaced scroll.  Gabrielle’s arms jerked her staff forth stabbing Joxer’s side where the message for Callisto hung.  Joxer looked up surprised yet annoyed that the bard had interrupted his performance for the warrior princess.  He then brought his sarcastic tone into the conversation once more downplaying Gabrielle’s impressive move.  He asked her if maybe she was a fierce warrior trapped within the body of the bard.  His implication was that she was clumbsy and uncoordinated.  Yet the bard did not find his sarcastic humor at all amusing.  Xena continued to ignore the tension between the two inexperienced warriors still thinking of the message as she read the scroll.

Then she proclaimed that it was not Ares who had sent the letter.  He would have no reason to send such a letter to Callisto for he knew that the real Callisto was back in Tarturus where she belonged.  Yet Xena was uncertain of whom had sent the letter which brought her to her second question of why.  The warrior princess needed to know who really sent it and why they would send such an invitation.  Of course Xena’s thoughts were spoken aloud almost as if she had forgotten that Joxer and Gabrielle were there.  Joxer took advantage of the moment and tried once again to prove that he was a worthy sidekick.  He desparately wanted a mission and a quest and now he had found one.  Joxer asked Xena when, but Xena cut him off immediately.  She declared that he would not go with she and Gabrielle at first light.  Joxer’s face turned to extreme disappointment and Gabrielle felt a sense of relief in knowing that she would not have to spend the day warding off Joxer’s idocy on top of trying to keep her anger in check.  Dealing with Xena as Callisto was difficult enough for the bard.  Yet Xena let Joxer down gently.  The bard couldn’t understand why the warrior princess didn’t just tell him the truth about himself.  Instead Xena gently placed her hand upon his shoulder and asked Joxer to stay behind to protect the local villagers from the nine other warlords that would be passing through.  She assured Joxer that his warrior presence could prevent panic from breaking out.  Joxer’s dissapointment turned to sudden delight for he had never thought of doing that.  It was as if he had come to a sudden revelation.  His part in Xena’s plan was even more important than what Gabrielle would be doing.  Somehow he had gone from a childlike idiot to a confident and well respected hero within seconds.

As Xena ushered the bard away from Joxer leaving him to think of all the good that he would do without them he tried to thank her.  Yet he was still confused for he was getting this wonderful warrior advice from Callisto yet it was really Xena inside.  Gabrielle turned to face him and to try to sympathize with his confusing pain.  Yet even Gabrielle was finding that it was getting a little less confusing to identify what Xena now looked like.

As first light broke into the warm mid morning sun Xena and Gabrielle had approached the outskirts of the next village.  There they stayed hidden in the tall brush to watch as the other nine warlords arrived.  One by one each warlord made his dastardly appearance.  And each one had that suspcious look about them.  It was as if they held the key to the greatest secret in the world.  They were a select few, but no one knew why.  The first three warlords came quietly and did not think to speak to anyone.  They just entered into town trying to be inconspicuous, but the bard could see right through their evil presence.  Then two more came into town almost at the very same moment.  One was short and stought.  Xena named him as Tegasaur.  Then the bard spotted the fifth noticing that he was rather large almost like a giant cyclops.  The hairy giant pushed an innocent villager aside.  Xena declared the two approaching warlords as bitter enemies.  Gabrielle noticed that they seemingly recognized each other and  awaited the bloodbath to begin.  It was as if she yearned to see blood on this peaceful morning.

Suddenly Gabrielle realized the importance of finding out the answers to Xena’s burning new questions.  The who and the why was burning within the bard’s own heart like no other questions she had ever asked before.  She suggested that Xena close in quickly using her infamous pinch to defeat every warlord before he had a chance to strike back.  Yet Xena seemed calm and patient.  As the bard found herself to be extremely fired up with rage inside she was ready for an offensive move.  Xena noticed the bard’s unusual mood and spoke softly to her friend in an attempt to calm the raging heart within.    Gabrielle’s raging mood calmed for a moment, but the calm did not last.

As the bard prepared for the battle to ensue the two warlords suddenly stopped before one another.  Instead of drawing each other’s blood as the bard had expected the two men pooled thier information.   The bard found herself in a state of confusion yet disappointment.  Just moments before Xena had declared that the two were certain enemies.  In fact she had compared their encounter to throwing oil on a raging fire, but it didn’t appear to the bard that they were about to draw any swords or daggars.  Gabrielle watched the two disgusting men spit upon the ground as if it were the sign of an ugly greeting.  It was clear that the two had not been raised with one manner within either of their bones.  They were truely hideous as they each held up a scroll.  The scrolls looked exactly like the one that Xena had received as Callisto.  Then the two shook hands firmly as if sealing a deal.  It was then that Xena and the bard realized that the two had decided to join forces, but their motives were still shady.

Suddenly the bard felt the need to pounce.  As her muscles tensed and she grabbed up her staff she began to charge forward.  Xena quickly grabbed her friend who was seemingly unable to control the burning rage within.  The warrior princess spoke soothingly to her friend.  She  encouraged patience and then tried to lighten the mood by asking Gabrielle if she had slept on another rock the night before.  Though at first Gabrielle did not see the humor in Xena’s joke she finally realized that Xena was right.  Xena insisted that she follow the warlords alone while Gabrielle should go on toward the market to grab something for her stomach.  The warrior princess was certain that it was the bard’s empty stomach that caused her friend to be so vengeful on this morning.  Yet Gabrielle herself was not exactly certain what the issue was within.  And although she was confused she listened to the warrior princess as always knowing that Xena understood her even when she herself did not.

As the bard watched Xena go in after the warlords she herself went in the opposite direction into town.  Gabrielle desparately tried to hold down the anger and the pain of her recent losses, but it seemed that the harder she tried the more the fire burned inside.  The bard thought maybe it really was her stomach that actually burned as she heard the sounds of the approaching market.  An old hag called out for a sale on fishcakes which actually began to sound very good for the moment.  Gabrielle remembered how much she really loved how the flavor melted in her mouth.  Fishcakes suddenly seemed to be the answer to all of the bard’s problems as she approached the old woman’s stand.  The bard was swooned by the sale of six for only one dinar.  That was unheard of and most definately a deal worth cashing in on for the most seasoned of bargain hunters.  It was just one of the bard’s many skills aside from her storytelling.

As she approached the woman for the sale she found herself suddenly entranced by the man across the way.  The sound of his voice was so soothing as it called out fishcakes ten for only one dinar.  Gabrielle quickly turned away from the cheap old hag and rushed over to the peasant man who sold ten fishcakes for only one dinar.  Her stomach would be full for days for that kind of deal.  She wouldn’t have to feel the raging fire within the pit of her stomach for at least ten days.  Yet just before the bard could pull out the single dinar that would pave the way to her soothing happiness the old hag chimed in once more.  This time she offered twelve fishcakes for a dinar.  The bard’s head began to spin with confusion once more as her stomach felt that aching pain and the fire began to drive up into her heart once again.  It was more than she could bare to take.  Not only that, but she could suddenly feel that her arms were being torn apart by the two marketing fishcakes.  The competition was fierce as the battle began to rage between the peasants in the market for the sale of twelve tiny little fishcakes.

Gabrielle had reached her breaking point.  She suddenly ripped her arms from their restraint as she shouted out at the top of her lungs.  The bard no longer seeked fishcakes.  She seeked vengance and rage.  She seeked blood and sweat.  Gabrielle needed to release her nervous energy in the heat of a battle.  And so the bard turned and took barely a glance at her new peasant enemies and began to smash her way through the market delivering thunderous punches to anyone who dared get in the way of her destructive path.  She tossed innocent peasant girls to the ground just for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Then she focased back upon the two peasants that had been trying to make the sale.  They were the true culprits of it all.  And as the market had now broken out into total chaos Callisto appeared to investigate what she had missed.  Actually it wasn’t really Callisto, but everyone in the market stopped for they were certain that the wrath of the irritating blonde would rain down upon them.

Gabrielle was on the rampage determined to stop the raging peasants in their sale before anyone else fell victim to their entrancing fishcakes.  Gabrielle chose the first weapons she caught sight of as one of the fishcake dealers pleaded and begged for Callisto to spare his life, but Gabrielle knew the truth.  Callisto was not at all the one they had to worry about.  She was in control of her rage yet Gabrielle was not.  The bard suddenly picked up a large trout from one of the nearby stands and prepared to belt the fishcake dealer with it over the head, but just before the bard could strike Xena grabbed her friend by the ear and yanked hard dragging the bard out of the market and into the nearby tavern.  Xena then scolded the bard for her crazy actions.  The warrior princess realized that her friend was delusional which was strange and out of character for the bard.

It was a painful journey for Gabrielle as she could not break free of the grasp of the mighty warrior princess or the rage that boiled within.  As soon as Xena had busted through the doors she threw Gabrielle down into an old rickety chair and again demanded that her friend calm down.  It seemed that the bard’s mood was a result of more than just an empty stomach.  Xena found herself quite confused at this strange turn of events.  It seemed that no one’s true behavior could be predictable.  Her warrior instincts were not working as they normally would.  It was possible that the warrior princess was unable to judge the character of a warlord now that she was stuck within Callisto’s body.

As she thought out loud wondering why innocent peasants were ready to kill one another and why warlords were on their best behavior she was interrupted by the voice of an impatient bard.  Gabrielle shouted out to the barkeep demanding service for thirsty customers as she pounded her wooden mug upon the table.  Yet just as the bard was unable to control her mood swings her mind was still sharp as her ears caught the conversation between the barkeep and one of his obviously drunken customers.  The angry bard was determined to find out who it was that held the barkeep’s attention.  As she listened to the conversation she could have sworn that the drunken customer dressed in dark rags and leather pants was bragging himself to be a god.  Xena too had caught a bit of the conversation because she seemed to be focased on the drunken fellow.  As Xena approached him he turned around and flashed a crooked smile toward the warrior princess.  He then shouted out her name, but he didn’t call her Callisto.

Xena suddenly rose from the table and began to walk toward the bar uncertain of who knew her true identity.  At first the man with the black hood over his head didn’t look so familiar yet as she approached and listened to the voice she paused in her advance.  Suddenly it was all very clear to the warrior princess.  Yet to the bard it was still foggy.  Then escaping from Xena’s lips was the name of the god of war.  Ares grinned back as if delighted that the warrior princess had figured out his true identity yet Gabrielle found herself not so certain that the god of war would be found in a petty little tavern among peasants.  Yet the drunk was determined to make his impression.  He laughed as if amused that Xena didn’t recognize him.  Moments later Xena confirmed that it really was the god of war only he had been turned into a mortal.  Of course that was the real mystery because even Ares did not know how he ended up becoming mortal over night.  Yet it seemed like justice to Gabrielle who was still angry at him for not giving Xena her body back.  If anyone had the power to give Xena her true self it was him.  But now he was just a plain old mortal idiot just like Joxer or any other mortal man.  In fact, the bard noticed that he spoke with a bit of slurr  in his speech.  He was just as big of a loser as any.  Ares was hardly impressive and definately not what Gabrielle had imagined a god to be like.

Gabrielle found her rage taking over as she rose from the table and approached the mortal god of war.  She wanted a piece of action and she was determined to show him what real pain was.  Yet he did not take her actions against him lightly as he tossed her aside out of drunken anger and frustration.  Xena did not allow his disrespecting ways to go unpunished.  The warrior princess suddenly picked up the mortal man and threw him across the tavern over her head.  He flipped  out of control until he crashed into some bar furnature before coming to a rest.  Gabrielle was delighted to see how truely vulnerable he really was.  She was ready to finish him off, but Xena would not allow it.  Instead Xena threw out a rag to the demoralized god and instructed him on how to heal his new wound.  His mouth was bleeding from the corner.  He looked like a helpless little child as if about to cry, but he didn’t.  Instead he made a notation of what mortal pain felt like for the first time.  Gabrielle found herself enthralled with the idea of giving him more pain, but was again scolded for her out of control behavior.  Xena demanded that the bard leave her alone with Ares.  Gabrielle reminded Xena that if she needed an extra warrior to be there she would be most definately ready for battle.  Yet just as Gabrielle felt this energy surge she realized that her thirst called out to her and was again focased on the lousy barkeep.

The anger redirected itself as she tossed some bar stools aside and sat before the barkeep.  There was an unusual power that could be felt within the bard.  She had never before experienced this kind of power.  It was an uncontrollable driving force that could barely be controlled.  She snapped out to the barkeep for a drink and though he tried very hard to service the angry young blonde he was unable to appease her.  He must have served her at least three or four different drinks and none of them soothed that unquenchable thirst for blood and violence.  And then it dawned upon Gabrielle that she was feeling the wrath of warrior power.  She looked to her left and tried unsuccessfully to use Xena’s famous pinch upon an innocent drunk.  The drunk fell not because he was about to die of a blockage in his artery, but because Gabrielle had become frustrated with her failure in using the famous move as she threw his stool from beneath him.

And while the bard argued with the barkeep and continued her scene of rage Xena and Ares conversed and exchanged information.  Neither really knew the answer to who had been the one who invited Callisto and nine other warlords to the village, but the two had come to an agreement before leaving the tavern.  Suddenly the bard was ready for more action as Xena prepared to leave the tavern and Ares behind.  Gabrielle was glad to know that he would not be joining them on the next leg of their mission.  Yet as the day fell into night Xena explained to Gabrielle the conversation that taken place between herself and Ares.  He had told her that he was unaware of how he had ended up mortal.  His godhood had been stolen sometime during his preoccupation with Xena and Callisto in Tarturus.  By the time he had returned home to Olypmus his sword had come up missing which held the key to his immortality.

This was a big disappointment for the bard knowing that Ares could have helped Xena, but now there was no chance.  As the bard began to write him off of her list of known gods Xena explained that there was more at stake than her return to her own body.  She explained to the bard as explained by Ares that the world would never know peace again.  No matter how much Xena and Gabrielle wished to end war by condemning Ares to mortality the fact was the world was imbalanced without him.  Ares had said that without a sitting god of war no mortal would be able to control anger and every peaceful peasant would rage inside starting more wars than could be imagined.  When Xena revealed to Gabrielle that even she was falling vicitm to this imbalance Gabrielle’s uncontrollable anger began to boil even more.

Xena felt that she was losing her friend, but knew of no other way to save her from the imbalance and indifference of war.  Gabrielle rose from her log by the fire suddenly exhilerated and alert like Xena.  She was certain that what she had been feeling inside must be what Xena felt like inside everyday.  Finally the bard had made it to warrior status, but as she rejoiced over this new self discovery Xena interrupted her with reality.  The warrior princess explained that Ares had been right when he had said Gabrielle was already infected with uncontrollable hatred.  Gabrielle did admit to the warrior princess that she was infected with a boiling anger inside.  Her anger was so great that she felt the need to hurt Xena because Xena was in Callisto’s body.  It was difficult to deal with as Gabrielle desparately tried to hold onto her sane mind for a solution to her anger problem.  If only one of the other gods could put Xena back into her real body.  There had to be at least one of them that would be willing to help relieve Gabrielle of her painful anger.

As Xena realized Gabrielle’s confession and desire to hurt her she knew that it was the reminder of Callisto that kept her from regaining control of her emotions.  Xena knew that there was only one way to help her friend.  She had to go with Ares in the morning and she had to go alone.  Gabrielle was disappointed that Xena was going to help Ares the one who had caused all of this pain.  The bard was desparate to plead with Xena not to help Ares, but Xena’s mind had already come to its decision.  Before Xena left Gabrielle to join forces with Ares she asked the bard to try something in an attempt to calm the raging anger within.  Xena reminded Gabrielle of one of her most favorite poems about the Elysian Fields.  The warrior princess asked Gabrielle to remember that poem and to recite it when the rage became unbearable.  “Elysian Fields calm and green, love birds singing so serene….”    Before Gabrielle could finish Xena interrupted her reminding the bard only to recite it when she was feeling the anger inside.

Upon the next morning Gabrielle awoke from her slumber to find that Xena had gone without her.  She was confused at first, but suddenly the urge came over the bard to follow Xena’s trail.  Gabrielle knew the warrior princess well now that she had aquired that warrior anger and rage.  She was certain that she had what it took to take out even the most vicious of warlords along the way.  Gabrielle feared nothing as she took her trusty staff into town following every detail which led her to track down where Xena had gone.  After trying to use Xena’s pinch unsuccessfully to obtain information from the local villagers Gabrielle stumbled into someone she would rather have never even met.  It was Joxer whom had plowed her over with his sword drawn ready for action.  Yet Gabrielle was not at all amused by this.

Angry at Joxer for his clumbsy blunder Gabrielle snapped at him as she used her staff instinctively to knock him to the ground from his feet.  Joxer’s sword flew out of his grasp into the air and then landed near the water in the harbor.  The boiling bard attempted to finish her victim off until he popped back up angerily questioning her action against him.  Gabrielle responded with impatience stating that she was on a mission to seek out and find Xena and Ares.  The bard was certain that Xena was in danger being in the company of the mortal god of war.  Joxer’s pride was high as a goofy smile spread across his face for he realized that Xena had trusted in him well this time.  She had given him two orders of command which directly related to the mission.  Yet Gabrielle had seemingly been ignored by the warrior princess.  Joxer bragged of guarding the docks in the harbor until the boat which carried ten little warlords would return.

Gabrielle lowered her staff and suddenly drove it into the ground.  Tapping her boot knowing instantly that Xena was only fooling the idiot with his overzealous warrior wanna be attitude.  Gabrielle was the real warrior for she knew that only a real warrior could follow one as skilled as Xena.  As the bard bragged and attempted to set Joxer straight on this fact he only scoffed at her statement against him and against his intelligence.  Joxer then explained that he already knew exactly where the boat was headed.  He even bragged of what he had seen transpire just before it had departed.  Joxer stated that Xena and Ares had ambushed one of the other warlords in order to gain Ares an invitation and passage onto the boat.  Gabrielle found herself laughing with disgust as she imagined the god of mortality trying to pose as a mighty warlord.  Joxer agreed with the bard on this point for he had witnessed the hung over god of war.  In fact he had run into Ares in the tavern just before the god of war had met with the warrior princess.  Joxer had seen the mortal suffering of another idiot hung over.

Suddenly Gabrielle’s anger rose within again for she was jealous that Joxer seemingly knew all of these important details.  She was becoming ill of his over sized pride as she searched for a point of attack against his confidence.  Gabrielle then asked Joxer what reason did he have for staying behind when he could have been on the boat with Xena and Ares.  Joxer thought about it for a moment only to reply that he had already been on the boat.  He had followed Xena and Ares and proclaimed himself the mightiest of warriors.  Though as he retold his version of the event to the bard his face turned from lit excitement to sudden disappointment for he had been reminded of the response.  He realized that no one respected him not even the bard before him.

Gabrielle knew what must have happened next when he did not finish his story.  The crowd of warlords must have laughed in his face.  Joxer finished his wonderful tale reminding the bard that he played his fine role of fear in the face of the evil Callisto although he knew that there was nothing to be afraid of.  He even went as far as to say that if it really had been Callisto he still would not have been afraid.  Gabrielle scoffed at the idea in her mind knowing that Callisto would waste the idiot in an instant if given the oppritunity.

As Gabrielle and Joxer argued and bickered over what their next role in the mission would be Xena and Ares traveled across the sea with eight nasty warlords.  The best of the best had been invited to join the ranks of this honor.  There was a prize to be won at the end of the journey although no one had been allowed onto the boat with a single weapon.  Most of the warlords would not have complied with the phony Ares’s demand although it was said that one of them would obtain a prize in the end.  As they sailed the sea Ares tried desparately to deal with his throbbing headache unaware of what the hangover would deal him next.  Xena played the part of Callisto listening to the many warlords who bragged of dastardly deeds.  Many had staked claims on triumphs won by others.  One had proclaimed that he had personally smashed down the gates of Spartika, but it was actually Ares who had done that deed.

Another warlord proclaimed that he had defeated Xena shamelessly in battle only to be shown up by Callisto’s own claims to the same story.  There were a lot of vengeful feelings upon this journey as Ares played low key per the advice of the warrior princess.  After almost a day of sailing the boat finally docked upon a small isolated island.  On the island was a castle in which Ares was said to be residing.  As the true god of war and the warrior princess fell behind the pack the warrior princess wondered what it must be like for a god to have to ask for the help of a mortal.  Ares’s response was unexpected for he replied with his own question.  He wondered what it was like for Xena to be wanting to help the god who had made her a legendary warlord.

As the mortal god bragged of the talent of some of the other warlords he spoke of Virgileous proudly.  Yet he also stepped back from Virgileous realizing that his complements of the giant oversized mongral were not making Xena jealous.  The god was hoping to win over the warrior princess as always.  He finished the conversation adding that though Virgileous did him proud he had known no greater emeny and friend than Xena.  What Ares didn’t realize was that Xena was finding him more irresistable as a mortal than as a god.  He was human to her for the first time.  She even felt pity for the man who knew nothing of mortality until now.

By the setting sun the ten little warlords had reached the castle and entered in through its mighty doors.  Callisto led the way as the mighty doors opened magically and without effort.  Suddenly as the pack moved inside cautiously torches lit themselves to reveal an empty hallway.  In a circle they lit one by one and there were ten when it was finally done.  Xena suddenly found herself putting together the truths of this mysterious game.  There was only one whom she knew that would create such a show.  She recalled the begining of the journey remembering the mysterious godlike voice that introduced all of the warlords to the contest on the boat.  It seemingly came from a spinning silver disk although Ares had not been flattered.  Xena remembered he had been right about the fake who tried to immitate his infamous voice.

Callisto then declared before the audience of warlords that it was Sysphus whom had most likely been responsible for sending them all on this wild goose chase.  Ares found himself confused for a moment reminding Xena and the other warlords that Sysphus had been comdemned by Hades himself to push a rock uphill in Tarturus for an eternity.  All of the warlords had heard of this story fearing Hades and fearing death despite their dangerous career choices.  They had faith in only Ares whom they worshipped hoping that their beloved god of war would be there to save them in their time of need during battle.

Suddenly there was a bright flash and then a puff of smoke.  There before the warlords in the middle of the circle stood Sysphus.  He appeared irritated that Callisto had figured out part of his scheme.  Yet Sysphus played her down only to say that he was flattered to be in the presence of the mighty Callisto.  Sysphus also knew a secret about Callisto as he revealed it to the rest of the warlords.  Ares’s cover was now blown as all of those whom had once followed him had now seen him at his worst.  It was most likely one of the most embarressing moments the god of war had ever experienced.  The warlords suddenly realized that they had all been taken for fools.  There was no real prize to be won.  As they turned to leave Sysphus with his games he retook their attention disappearing like a god.  Then he reappeared before them at the doors explaining that though he was no god of war he held the ulitmate prize within his possession.

It had all begun with Hades whom had said to bring together ten of the best and most skilled warriors.  One of these warriors would be the winner of a contest to slay a monster known only as the Barracas.  Each warlord was to draw number from the bowl.  They would go in order by number to see who would get the first chance at slaying the mighty Barracas.  Yet no one had ever really seen a Barracas or even heard of one.  Their chance to slay the Barracas would begin at sunrise with number one and then as each was defeated by the Barracas the next was to take his place attempthing to slaughter the nasty beast.  Whomever was able to slay the Barracas successfully would win Ares sword which contained his godhood.

Ares was upset that his sword was being used as a mere prize in a silly game.  He felt disrespected and upset at Hades for allowing such an imbisole to steal his sword.  Naturally Vergilious stepped forth to claim the sword, but was rejected by Sysphus who was very much in control of these puppets who thirsted for the ultimate power.  Sysphus explained that his own reward for redistributing the godhood of  war would be immortality for himself.  He also declared that each warlord would be provided with a weapon to use against the Barracas in the morning.  And with that he disappeared as one of the other warlords announced that no one would leave the island on this night.  Their boat was no longer docked on shore for it had mysteriously disappeared.  This meant that all were staying within Sysphus’s castle for the night.

Soon Gabrielle and Joxer had landed upon the mystical island as the sun began to set.  By now Gabrielle was extremely irritated by the presence of Joxer.  No matter how hard the bard tried she could not get it out of her mind to want to kill Joxer yet she fought the rage.  Her heart was strong though her wits were tested by his stupidity.  Despite Gabrielle having thrown Joxer off of the boat after he argued with her about Xena’s wishes he would be fine she thought.  Yet she was still angry at Xena whom had left her behind to deal with Joxer and had gone off with Ares alone.  Gabrielle fought back the sails of the small vessel which she had arrived upon as the winds picked up off of the sea.  Then she felt a presence from behind.  Instinctively she picked up an or and swung around slapping the enemy across the face.

As the enemy fell to the ground she realized it was Joxer.  Gabrielle found herself shocked that he had been able to swim from the ocean and reach the shore.  She was begining to get irritated that he kept sneaking up on her like that.  There was seemingly nothing that would rid her of his irritating presence.  When she asked the idiot warrior what he was doing he answered that he rethought Xena’s earlier orders to him.  He thought that just maybe this dock had been the one she had meant when he was told to guard the dock.  The bard could see that he was confused and out of his mind at best.  As he rose from the ground where he lied on the beach he stated that it was time to find the castle.  He began to walk in the opposite direction.  Gabrielle corrected him explaining that the castle was in plain sight straight ahead.

Joxer turned to see that the bard was indeed correct.  Yet he was determined to prove himself to be the best warrior.  Just before the arguement was about to ensue once again there was a mysteriously strange sound coming from the wind.  The bard paused for a moment to listen.  It sounded dangerous and vicious.  Joxer was obviously afraid as he too had heard the sound.  Yet Gabrielle put the fear aside knowing that a true warrior fears nothing.  And so she led the way toward the sound.  Maybe it was a vicious monster that could kill Joxer so that she could find peace once again.

After following the sound into the night the two were led into the mouth of a dark cave.  This made things much more exhilerating and exciting the bard thought.  Her irritation of Joxer began to turn to a competition of warrior skills.  She knew that she could kill that monster if that was indeed what they were hearing.  Gabrielle tried desparately to focas on finding Xena knowing that there must be a drain pipe somewhere leading into the castle.  Of course Joxer the idiot had wanted to actually storm the castle doors.  Gabrielle realized quickly that he’d get himself killed that way knowing that even she could not go up against ten warlords alone.

Suddenly the sound of the monster echoed at the pass.  There were two choices.  One was to go toward the castle and the other was to slay the monster.  Joxer of course was cowardly stating that the castle was the obvious choice, but Gabrielle rejected that idea.  She was the leader in this search party and they were no longer searching for Xena.  It was all about killing the monster now.  She had to prove her superior skill to Joxer and she had to get rid of him somehow.  This had to be the way.  Yet he was still persistant in arguing with the bard who could no longer resist the urge to grab him by his nose and snap it off.  Of course she tried, but failed although Joxer let out a whimper of pain as Gabrielle twisted it around till it would twist no more.

Back at the castle the warlords were ready to kill one another as they had drawn their numbers only to discover that Callisto had drawn number one.  The number two warlord would not settle for second prize for he began a brawl warlord against warlord hoping to win against Callisto for number one.  Every warlord in the castle had known that he could not take Callisto on alone.  Yet eight against two was a certain victory.  Yet Xena in Callisto’s body was more than they could handle.  She fought them all off protecting the weakened god of war from a fate of certain death.  It was lucky for him that he had drawn number ten for no one feared Ares now.  As the battle ended someone died for there were left now only nine.  Number two whom had foolishly begun the battle found his fate.  Suddenly the voice of Syshpus chimed in pleased at what he had seen.  Yet he advised all to save their strengths till morning for it was the monster that deserved their warnings.

As the warlords went off for their slumber Xena found herself again feeling sorry for the mortal god of war.  He had been stripped of it all including his pride.  He that battle he had almost died.  Ares had sustained an injury to his shoulder as Xena cared for him.  She was feeling a strange love, but it wasn’t like any other.  The warrior princess knew that he didn’t really care wishing that he would understand.  Yet a god can never understand mortals though he has become a mortal himself.  Ares expressed how though Xena was within Callisto’s body he could still feel her true self.  Even her touch was real to him although he had mentioned that both had been his pleasures past.  It was just like a god to brag of all those he had.  So many mortals had played his vicitm for he had pulled their strings of passion and emotion.  As a god Ares was a master, but as a man only a helpless disaster.  That was what made Xena feel for him.  His helpless mortal state.

Yet the night was violent in the castle for each warlord plotted against the other.  They built shallow alliances with one another in an attempt to get a step closer to the Barracas.  The second to go came in.  It was number seven who had claimed number two.  He burst in through the door of Xena and Ares about to strike only do die before them.  After he fell all that could be seen was a huge ax in his back.  Xena and Ares had been given only a small daggar and a mace.  It was clear these weapons were meant to kill warriors and not monsters.  Yet the why of it all was still as foggy as the location of the sword.  Xena was certain that it was within the castle in plain view.  It was obvious now what they had to do.

As Xena and Ares searched the castle for a clue they stumbled upon two more bodies of dead warriors.  Three and four had now perished.  They had perished at the point of each other’s sword.  It was an obvious trick played upon them by those  warlords remaining alive.  The situation was grim as Xena knew that they would soon find themselves in another battle of warrior skill.  This time it would be four against two although Ares as a mortal was not much of a warrior at all.  As the two true allies searched for the sword Ares tried desparately to convince Xena to take his sword.  His mortal heart desired more to be with Xena than it did to reclaim his godhood.  He could not imagine being a god again knowing that Xena would never trust him.  She had made it clear to him back at the bedchamber that if he ever lived to see immortality once more that he would always forget what he had promised as a mortal.

Ares had tried desparately to convince her otherwise, but Xena was not easily fooled.  Even mortal men tell lies to full fill their own desires.  Of course Xena rejected his idea knowing that she was not the woman for the job.  She did not wish to be a goddess or an immortal.  Yet Ares agreed that she should be the goddess of desire rather than of war.  He was planting the seed for immortality with the mortal he loved most.  Ares would make her a goddess with his sword and then convince her to give him his own immortality so that they could reign together upon Olympus.  Xena refused his offer again as number nine approached from behind.  The warrior princess had spotted his reflection within a shield upon the wall.  He carried a sword as he struck from behind.

Effortlessly Xena pulled out her daggar given to her by Sysphus.  She sentthe daggar into number nine sealing the deal with Ares.  She admitted that he was the right man for the job despite how much she wished to keep him from regaining his reign.  Not one of the other remaining warlords would be trusthworthy for as mortals they would turn on one another.  Ares had yet to try to kill Xena so she knew that his heart was true.  If he had been the evil that she had known him to be Ares as a mortal would have been without remorse.  Yet she could see it in his eyes as they placed the body of nine upon the alter of warrior’s sacrficed in the name of his sword.  Ares regretted yet another of his lost warriors on the battlefield.  Though soulless he wasn’t heartless which made him the one who should reign as god.

They continued on searching through the castle.  Their search for his sword led them into the castle dungeon.  Xena was cautious as they searched knowing Sysphus would have many tricks and traps set for anyone lurking about.  She was certain that it was down in the dungeon that he would hide the sword for it could be in plain sight and he could capture an unsuspecting victim.  As they walked Ares found himself stumbling over a dungeon rat which startled him with surprise.  The warrior princess laughed at the helpless god of war who mistook this mortal experience for fear rather than surprise.  Again Ares tried to convince Xena the become a goddess and take his sword.  He was not so certain that he would make it out of Sysphus’s contest alive.  The two were about to exit the dungeon as they slowly ventured up a staircase only to be surprised by an appearance by the magical Sysphus.

Sysphus was candid as he laughed in the face of his helpless contestants.  He was confident in having the upper hand.  Yet Xena interrupted his confidence by revealing that she was onto him.  It was a contest of wits between the magician and the warrior princess for it seemed at each of their meetings a new piece of the puzzle was openly revealed.  Sysphus shot back at Xena revealing he knew that she was Xena and not Callisto.  He tried to figure out how this could have come to pass.  And then he looked to Ares laughing at the god for his blunder.  Sysphus explained how he had taken advantage of Ares’s passions for Xena when Ares was not so careful to guard his sword.  It seemed that Hades was angry at Ares for tampering with the souls that belonged in Tarturus.  Switching Xena’s for Callisto’s almost cost Hades all the power in Tarturus.

Xena could see that Sysphus was setting a trap.  He proclaimed that he hoped that Xena would win the sword of Ares yet Xena knew that it wasn’t true.  Sysphus played on Ares emotions as he declared the former god a loser in front of the mortal he loved most.  Ares reacted as Sysphus expected.  He ran down the stairs toward Sysphus to attack and save his pride.  Yet he also was there to restore Xena’s honor for it had been  he who had stolen it from Xena.  Xena called out to the blinded Ares, but Ares was helpless at Sysphus’s hand.  Suddenly the stairs collapsed beneath the god sending him to the bottom back into the dungeon.  As Ares struggled to rise from his fall Sysphus pulled out one of his endless tricks.  Ares found himself hanging from a rope unable to free himself.

Sysphus then disappeared within the depth of his laughter as another trick revealed itself upon his exit.  Ares was about to meet his doom at the end of a floor full of spikes.  Fire shot up from beneath them as Ares screamed with fear and terror.  The warrior princess quickly acted saving him from certain death.

As the early morning hours began to wear on into the dawn Gabrielle continued searching with Joxer for the infamous monster.  Yet her irritations were rising as Joxer’s presence drove her blood to a boil.  Joxer mocked the bard of her irritations.  He had been dragging the point of his sword along the walls of the cave for the past ten minutes.  Suddenly Gabrielle stated that she was ready to kill at any moment.  She wanted to kill Joxer.  As he tried to speak she haulted his comment not wanting to deal with another of his statements.  If only Joxer could stay quiet long enough for her to kill the rage inside or the monster down the corridor.  One of the two would most certain help her control her pain within.  She was begining to understand that all of this pain could be controlled if only she could have that moment of peace away from Joxer.

Again Gabrielle began reciting the poem that she love most as Xena had suggested before leaving with Ares.  And then suddenly Joxer began to speak of blood lust.  He was certain that he knew exactly what Gabrielle was feeling inside, but Gabrielle knew that he was clueless.  Joxer tried desparately to out due Gabrielle’s anger as he drew his sword and prepared to slash open an annoying buzzing around his head.  It was a little fly that had been following him for sometime.  Gabrielle paused to watch  him within his dillusional battle against the small winged beast.  Then she realized that he had snapped.  She began to laugh hysterically for she had now seen it all.  There couldn’t be a worse situation than being stuck with Joxer in a cave with the worst anger within.  Not only that, but there was an unknown monster somewhere up ahead.

And then it happened.  Gabrielle heard the monster as if it were only moments away.  She needed something powerful that would be certain to kill it.  The bard realized that Joxer was a bonus for he had a sword.  She turned to Joxer and asked of his sword, but he would not give it up.  He whinned declaring that a warrior never gave his sword away just before a battle.  This only infuriated the bard more as she lunged forward attempting to strangle the big lug who knew nothing about being a warrior.  She was tired of hearing his warrior stories and advice.  The bard had enough.  Suddenly she realized she had to get rid of the rage before she hurt someone even if it was only Joxer that she had to kill.

Gabrielle reached for Joxer’s sword removing it from the scabbord and then she charged forth toward the wrath of the monster.  Joxer tried desparately to follow, but instead decided that he was going to fight the monster with his bare hands.  He quickly passed Gabrielle in the race to see who would kill the monster first.  When Gabrielle finally arrived trailing behind she found Joxer beating a large machine with a stick.  He was intense in his battle against the contraption.  There was no real monster.  It was only a noisemaking thing.  Gabrielle found herself to be disappointed that she had been chasing down a machine with the world’s biggest idiot.  Someone was going to have to pay for this crime.  There was only one thing left to do.  It was time to find Xena at the castle.

Inside the castle darkness was giving way to the light of day.  Xena had finally figured out what Sysphus was planning to do.  There were now only five left of the ten that had been invited to participate in the contest for Ares’s godhood.  As Xena and Ares returned to the scene of the crime they were interrupted in a battle of three against two.  One of the three enemies stepped forward delcaring that he and the other had decided to ally.  Yet just as his pride was high he found himself betrayed by two.  Vergilious and the other took his life stabbing him to death with a knife.  Now the odds were even two against two.  Only true warriors fought one another in this way.  Vergilious was definately worthy in Ares’s eyes, but his new partner was a traitor.  Xena warned Vergilious that there could only be one god of war reminding him of his folly.  Suddenly Vergilious turned to see his coming deminse.  He ducked missing the blow that would have surely taken his life.

The battle then ensued.  It was every man and woman for themselves.  Xena took on the betrayer as Ares found himself having to fight the second best warrior in Greece.  It was now a battle for survival as the weapons clashed and punches were thrown.  Gabrielle and Joxer could hear the sounds of the ensuing battle as the rushed up the staircases toward the bedchambers.  Joxer was determined to get there first and to settle things once and for all.  He had killed the monster and was worthy of the prize.

Suddenly Xena was looking death in the eye.  Yet now it was time to declare where the real sword lie.  She reached across the dead upon the alter of sacrficed warriors.  Xena grabbed what everyone had been searching for and rose to take her enemy with Ares’s sword.  There was a strange power in killing with the world’s most powerful sword.  The warrior princess felt a certain exhileration and it was entrancing like no other mortal sensation.  As her victim fell before her she looked to the other warriors fighting.  Ares was losing against Vergilious.  Xena could almost feel her sense of duty.  Though she did not want to be a goddess she knew what she must promise.  If Ares were to die she had to take the sword.  Yet in the last moments before his certain death Ares reached for a loose dagger.  He acted quickly sending it through the heart of one of his most prized warriors.

Vergilious took the blow surprised at Ares’s sudden advantage.  He had been certain of victory against the mortal god, but now it was all over.  Xena watched Ares experience blood for the very first time as a mortal.  There was a look of shock and regret which she did not expect.  As the battle was seemingly over Sysphus appeared before the remaining contestants.  He tried desparately to convince Xena to take Ares before he could take her.  A momentary thought crossed her mind until she was interrupted by the sound of a familiar idiot.

Joxer entered into the room where the dead lied.  He declared himself to be the new god of war for he had been the slayer of the Barracas.  Gabrielle was not far behind entering into the room.  She revealed to Xena the truth of Sysphus’s contest as she described the machine that made all of the noise, but was nothing more than a ploy.  Xena was suddenly aware of what she had almost taken.  She had almost taken not Ares’s sword, but Sysphus’s eternal punishment in Hades.  He had planned on allowing the warriors to kill themselves leaving only one to push his rock uphill in Tarturus.  And the sword of Ares was to fall to him and he would reign upon Olympus as the new god of war.

Ares found himself disgusted that Sysphus had almost succeeded.  Had it not been for an idiot and a bard Xena would have taken his life and his sword only to spend enternity in Tarturus.  Ares wanted to strike, but couldn’t for he was about to meet his doom.  From behind there was a sign of life still coming from the fallen Vergilious.  The ax rose for the kill, but Xena acted quickly hurling Ares’s sword into the surviving warlord.  Vergilious fell  to the power of the sword leaving all with just one thing to do.  Ares removed his sword from the eighth fallen warrior.  It suddenly glowed with an immense power as he held it in his mighty hands.  Like fire it burned with passion as lighting struck about it.  And the rage within the bard began to dissapte into the storm.

There was a certain relief in knowing that it would be easier to deal with the pain, but there was one more thing.  Ares scoffed at the mortals who stood before him for they had allowed him to become a god again.  Yet he seemingly did not apreciate it as the evil Sysphus disappeared from mortality back into his eternity in Tarturus.  Gabrielle and Xena waited with high hopes that Ares would hold up his end of the bargain.  Yet he did not keep his promise for he had not made it as a god.  His promise to put Xena back into her own body was made while Ares was mortal.  And so he was not held to it and did not bind it.  Ares laughed as he disappeared leaving Xena as Callisto in sadness.  Gabrielle was disappointed and full of sorrow for the friend who would never know peace.  And now the bard had to make a choice.  She had to choose to stay with Xena as Callisto or to go.

Yet the choice was simple for the bard.  As the three friends left the castle and seeked out the ocean Gabrielle walked alongside her friend.  She expressed her regret that they had helped Ares at all.  Yet Xena reminded the bard that without him the world would have been full of uncontrollable rage.  Gabrielle understood what Xena had meant yet she still felt like killing Joxer whose presence was annoying beyond comapre.  The two friends watched as Joxer frolicked about like a child along the beach.  At least there was something true about him.  He was as innocent as a child and could be trusted despite his lack of warrior skill.

Yet the bard admitted that life would still be hard though she was willing to stick by her best friend despite her forever being reminded of Callisto’s wrath.  Xena seemed satisfied at that, but then she tried to lighten the moment.  She then asked Gabrielle if she would even stick by her if she one day turned into a snake haired gorgen monster.  Gabrielle laughed, but admitted that she would have difficulty looking at her.  Yet even then Gabrielle would not leave Xena’s side.  And then for a moment there was an uncomfortable silence between the friends.  But Xena interrupted it with a complement to Gabrielle.  She praised the bard for not giving into the violence and the rage within.  The warrior princess expressed the strength that it required for one to go against the rage within.

Gabrielle found herself flattered that Xena had noticed her battle within.  She realized that Xena had understood all along and even understood the pain that still lingered.  Gabrielle laughed for a moment realizing that although she had survived  a world full of rage she had yet to survive the ride back to the mainland alongside Joxer.  But just when it seemed impossible to journey on a familiar voice echoed wihtin the bard’s ears.  As she turned around she saw Xena standing there on the beach before her.  It was not Callisto there anymore.  Ares had taken pity upon Xena and the bard.  Gabrielle tested Xena for a moment asking her which body would be the worst to be trapped in.  When Xena responded with the snake haired gorgon monster Gabrielle knew it was true.  Xena was back to her true self and within her true body.

And so the nightmare had finally ended although the pain would never die.  Gabrielle would always be reminded of how Perdicus had to die.  It was not because she saw Callisto’s face everyday, but because of his abscence.  She would never see Perdicous again, but he would always be there forever in her heart.

The Xena Scrolls

By:  Gabrielle Bard of Potedia

Scroll#37:  Here She Comes..Miss Amphipolis

March, 47 B.C. 

    Peace in life was seemingly very difficult to find in these days alongside the warrior princess.  Yet Gabrielle had hope that there would come a day that their travels together would lead them to a place beyond the violence.   The bard was begining to long for an adventure of the early days with Xena which was full of excitement and of love.  There was hope when she and Xena had recently received a message from Salmoneous one of their dearest friends.  It had been nearly six months since they had last seen him.  All that Gabrielle could remember was his ficticious name Lord Seltzer and his infamous seltzer water.  Though that adventure had been the place that first allowed Callisto to enter into their lives it had ended with a celebration of life.  It was a difficult time, but a fond memory despite Gabrielle almost having lost Xena to a poison dart.

      Salmoneous’s latest message calling for Xena’s help had led them to a beautiful place along the coast of the Agean.  Upon their arrival the weather couldn’t have been more perfect, and the ocean more peaceful.  As Gabrielle took a deep breath of fresh air and thought she realized that this would be the day that she could put the entire saga of the blonde nemisis behind and start fresh and new again.  It was an oppritunity for Gabrielle to renew her passion for ending the cycle of violence.  As she thought of all of this and expressed her enthusiasm Xena agreed that it truely was a nice place to be yet she reminded Gabrielle that even this nice place had suffered in war just a year before. 

      The warrior princess pointed out the evidence left behind of an old ship wreck upon the rocks of the shore.  The bard noted that it looked like an old warship.  Xena confirmed that indeed it had once been the vessel that had carried violence to these shores.  She began to detail how the war had once brought blood which had stained the beaches and the sea itself.  Gabrielle had hoped to let go of the ideas and thoughts of bloodlust, but as always the warrior princess had to be the one to remind her of their reality in the world.  It almost ruined the tranquility that Gabrielle had been feeling during the walk along the beach.  Yet the bard found it within herself to reach out to find the positive of this thought.  She expressed to the warrior princess that a year was most certainly long enough for life to recover and return to normal again. 

      Suddenly Gabrielle’s feet were pulled down into the sand as she tripped and fell upon the beach unexpectedly.  When she investigated the obstruction Xena suggested that from the looks of it there below them was a pair of wagon tracks.  Gabrielle noted that the tracks were deeper than normal wagon tracks which led Xena to her own grim conclusion which she had certainly chosen not to share with the bard.  While Xena thought yet again of violence and war Gabrielle noticed that within the tracks were lots of shells from the tide and several fresh clams.  It was the clams that grabbed the bard’s attention and excited her for she could not wait to begin preparing them for lunch.  Clams were not something that the friends had the luxury of eating everyday for they had spent most of their travels away from the coasts inland.

     Then Gabrielle’s mind again turned back to the deep tracks wondering what kind of thing could make ruts as deep as those that she had tripped upon.  Xena was forced to answer truthfully as she explained that only a war wagon could have made those deep tracks.  Gabrielle looked to the warrior princess with a bit of confusion.  They had just finished talking about the ending of a war over a year before.  The bard couldn’t understand why a war wagon would still be in the area if there was peace present.  Just as Xena was about to try to answer her friend they heard the sounds of several young women screaming  from behind them across the beach.  As Gabrielle observed the situation she couldn’t help, but notice that there were about twenty young women dressed in barely anything.  It was a very unusual sight.  The girls were running through the water being chased by two ugly looking oagars.  Actually they were two men waiving swords around more to harrass and scare the young women.  Gabrielle looked to the warrior princess who grabbed a handful of clams and began to hurl them across the beach down upon the enemy.

      Gabrielle decided to jump into the action as she tossed more weapons up to the warrior princess who fired upon the men with a barrage of clams knocking them across their foreheads.  Every shot seemed to hit its mark perfectly as the girls all ran into the sea to get away.  Many of them fell into the tide getting wet and looking quite exhausted.  The twenty beauty queens quickly became muddy and dirty.  Gabrielle thought about the absurdity of the situation and found a bit of peace in knowing that this tiny show of violence was nothing in comparison to what she had witnessed recently.  It was comforting to know that behind all of this chasing was Salmoneous who came charging down the beach shouting at the men who had terrorized the women.  He was a bit late for Xena had already scared the men away with her excellant skills with clam shells.  As the battle drew to a close the women were rescuing themselves from the devastation as Salmoneous approached them with the concern of a mother hen. 

      Of course the response he received was less than appreciative.  All of the women appeared to be disgusted at the very least with his lack of bravery.  He then revealed that what he had truely been conercerned about was how well those skimpy white costumes would hold up through that kind of wear and tear.  The women left him behind as they walked back up the beach to return to wherever it was they had mysteriously appeared from.  Salmoneous soon caught sight of the warrior princess and gleefully welcomed her arrival.  He was excited that Xena had responded to his urgent message and there was only one thing left to do.  When Xena asked Salmoneous what had been so urgent he explained the entire scenario.  There was just one small problem.  It was all about a beauty contest.  

      The warrior princess was clearly irritated that his life and death message had been about nothing more than scantilly clad women dressed in barely nothing for the praises of a panal of unintelligent male judges.  It was nothing more than a beauty contest.  Salmoneous was quick to defend and flower it with a name like pageant.  Gabrielle found herself feeling just as displeased as the warrior princess to find out that Salmoneous was involved in such a scandalous activity.  In knowing Salmoneous to be a desaparte salesman Gabrielle had never imagined that he would degrate women in such a way as to exploit them for his own personal gain.  The worst part of it all was that the he had called upon the help of women for what he called a form of competative combat.  Salmoneous was working his magic with words as always and he ignored Gabrielle’s statements as if were one of his abused contestants.  The bard did not like the vibe she was feeling from him.

      Salmoneous continued to explain his situation and plans for the future of this once peaceful place.  He strongly felt that such competitive combats involving beautiful women were just what was needed in the area to drive an economic boom.  Yet the only real boom was about Salmoneous’s pockets and how he could quickly line them with an array of dinars.  Just when Salmoneous had lost Xena’s attention he revived it with a little bit of history.  He brought up the treaty that had been signed by the warlords who had fought in the battle from the year before.  Xena’s knowledge was tested for a moment as she recreated history outloud.  She gave the names of the Dosia of Mesinni, Regid of Skiros, Botine of Parnasis without hesitation and suddenly her interest was peaked.  This was something she had not expected from Salmoneous.  As usual he complemented the warrior princess profusely now that he had grasped her attention.  He went onto explain that it was all very relevant to his pageant.

       In fact, Salmoneous stated that all had been going well until those three warlords had decided to enter their girlfriends in the pageant.  Lord Claron as he so eloquently put it had even tried to cancel the pageant to avoid conflict, but the warlords would not allow it.  Since then there had been little peace within the comeptition and scenes like the one just witnessed on the beach were becoming quite common.  Xena quickly stated that those three warlords had entered their girlfriends into the pageant in order to destroy their treaty by proxy so that they could re enter themselves into a war.  There was no money in peace accept for in Salmoneous’s derranged plan.  Yet even Salmoneous could make money in a new war selling the headstones he feared might be handed out instead of prizes to the girls.  Salmoneous was smarter than Gabrielle had previously thought.  He was smart enough to figure out that the death and destruction of his pageant would mean war.  Yet the bard was still not convinced it was urgent enough to warrent services from Xena and the battling bard.  There was little danger of war unless someone were actually killed.  Then Salmoneous explained that the stakes were indeed as high as mortal death for none of the three warlords wanted to be the first to defy the rules of the competition.  Each was so competitve with the other that they were certain that their girl would be the winner.  It was an issue of male pride for them.  Yet it all seemed so unimportant when it was the women and not the men dressing up and performing tricks for the masses.

     However, Salmoneous had the ultimate solution.  He approached Gabrielle as if to size her up for something as he began to explain how she could help him with his pageant.  Salmoneous made the assumption that Gabrielle would be more than willing to jump into the pageant and become the insider with all of the tips on the danger within the pageant.  Instead the bard was highly irritated and very unwilling to be flaunted like some kind of an object.  She flatly refused this mission.  Then Xena suddenly stopped and turned to Salmoneous.   Gabrielle had spoken of the women of the pageant being vicitms of Greek society yet Xena took that idea further.  The warrior princess said that an impending war made every person a victim.  Her eyes were lighting up as the warrior wheels turned within her mind.  Suddenly she prounced herself to be the newest contestant of Salmoneous’s pageant.  She would be known from now on as the lovely Miss Amphipolis.

     Gabrielle found herself shocked as did Salmoneous, but he couldn’t resist the idea for Xena had the looks of a winning contestant.  She obviously didn’t have the manners or the training, but Gabrielle was up for the challenge.  Salmoneous then reminded everyone that time was short.  This was the day of the pageant and it was already just a few hours before the first event was to begin. Salmoneous had already made preparations for the arrival of his friends for he had already picked outfits yet because he had not expected the change in strategy he wasn’t completely prepared.  Quickly he rounded up a few things to cover for the bard for she would now play the part of the sponsor the Marquessa; however, finding an outfit for the rather tall dark and beautiful warrior princess wasn’t as easy.  Salmoneous quickly threw on some torn rags to cover Xena’s trademark leather and golden breast plate. 

      The kingdom of Claron was spectacular with its beautiful mountains and valleys surrounding the coastal cliffs.  It was green everywhere and burried within all of nature’s beauty was the golden city of Claron.  Gabrielle could not believe how much things had recovered since their war had ended.  All of the beauty surrounding the bard motivated her even more.  As the three entered inside the courtyard where the pagent contestants were practicing for their events the bard observed the beautiful young women in their bustling excitement.  Maybe the idea of a pageant was not as horrid as she had viewed it.  There was a bit of excitement as Salmoneous explained that Xena would not be able to miss any of the events.  She would now be known as Miss Amphipolis and if anyone’s identity was compromised it would be all over and war would be certain.  Salmoneous was seemingly over dramatizing the situation, but this passing thought did not last long for the bard.

      Salmoneous quickly returned to the courtyard where Miss Amphipolis awaited with her sponsor the Marquessa for a room and some privacy.  Miss Amphipolis took note of the strange characters that appeared within the courtyard.  She was certain that at least one of them was not a true contestant, but further investigation of this hypothesis was needed.  Salmoneous returned shortly after having registered Miss Amphipolis and her sponsor the Marquessa.  He took them to the room of one of his top contestants to introduce everyone.  Salmoneous was certain that Miss Messini was in danger for she was a competative contender in the trials. 

      During the introduction Marquessa found herself investigating the other side of the story wondering if maybe this contestant was in on the war plan.  While she examined she began to speak, but before she could get out her thought Miss Amphipolis drew her weapon from beneath her concealed rags and haulted the cross-bow which sent its arrow hurling toward Miss Messini.  The agile chackram split death’s wrath in two as it had been attatched to Miss Messini’s beautiful harp as she was about to play.  The moment happened in the blink of an eye as Salmoneous took credit unexpectingly for saving Miss Messini’s life.  He fumbled with the weapon trying desparately to grab control of it.  Miss Messini was ever so greatful for his actions as she embraced him with relief and a kiss on the cheek.  Yet fear still lingered from the heart stopping experience.  As Miss Messini exited her quarters to find her sponsor the Dosia to speak of the news it was suddenly clear to both Miss Amphipolis and her sponsor that things were on the verge of disaster.

     The first event was creeping closer as Salmoneous quickly escorted Miss Amphipolis and her sponsor to their quarters to prepare for the pageant.  As they entered all stopped to express their mounting frustrations.  Salmoneous began to express his relief for how close he had come to losing all of his invested interests in the pageant.  Miss Amphipolis was not amused or pleased at his lack of interest in the well-being of his contestants.  She ripped the chackram from his grasp as she passed as the Marquessa expressed her disgust with Salmoneous outloud in the closed quarters.  The Marquessa continued with a solid plan for how to deal with the volitile situation.  She felt that if the contest could be kept completely fair everyone would be safe and the mystery could be solved without a messy fight.  There was a certain excitement ignited now that the stakes of the competition had been raised dramatically.  Miss Amphipolis began to order everyone into action as she asked Salmoneous to return to searching for her new disguise as Miss Amphipolis while the Marquessa was to find, meet, and get to know the other sponsors.  Miss Amphipolis would try getting the inside track with the contestants and all of this had to be done within the hour before the first event.  Everyone was to meet back just before the event was to begin. 

     Although things appeared serious Gabrielle’s fire and excitment were fueled by the idea of a competition.  It seemed that all of this was more about egos and nothing else.  The best part for the bard was playing the role of the powerhouse sponsor which she took extremely seriously.   After walking through the golden courtyard and exploring the palace she found a secret hallway underneath the kingdom of Claron where she heard the sounds of men’s voices echoing in the corrider.  Folllowing those led her to a secret meeting place for sponsors only.  She listened behind the curtains to the door for a few moments as the men argued with on another about how each of their contestants had been threatened.  Yet it was as if the threats were directly to the male sponsors.  They all took it personal as if they had been the ones about to lose their lives.  It was at this point that the Marquessa realized it was more about the money they would lose and their pride. 

     She decided to enter into the room and put on her show.  If egos were going to fly the Marquessa had an ego larger than the Agean.  One by one she insulted each of the other sponsors for their lack of concern for their femal contestants.  The Marquessa ended her grand speech to them by proclaiming that her contestant would be the winner of the madness.  It was now very personal for the Marquessa to be certain that Miss Amphipolis took the crown if for no other reason than to batter these giant male egos.

      While the Marquessa drilled the sponsors Miss Amphipolis was finding some adventures of her own.  Just before she left for the baths she was intruded upon by the matron of the pageant who seemed less than thrilled to see Miss Amphipolis’s entrance into the pageant.  In fact, she joked with sarcasm that if she had the looks of Miss Amphipolis she would be ruling the world.  She was unaware of just how true that statement could be.  Miss Amphipolis was discombobulated for she had put on her robe backwards, but it was all a part of her show to conceal her true identity from everyone.  When Miss Amphipolis arrived at the baths the she listened as the other girls spoke of their reasons for entering the pageant.  Most of them appeared not so thrilled and some even forced to participate.  It seemed that every girl had her hardships to face and each was counting on victory in the pageant to save her from doom. 

      Miss Amphipolis again spotted her suspicious rival who appeared to be posing as a pageant contestant in disguise.  It seemed that every moment became even more tense than the one before as the tall, blond, rather manly looking woman watched Miss Amphipolis’s every move.  Miss Amphipolis also ran into Miss Skiros again whom she had briefly met in the courtyard earlier.  Miss Skiros seemed very threatened by Miss Amphipolis, but not for blood and war.  It seemed she felt threatened in another way as she exited the baths in anger upon Miss Amphipolis’s arrival.  All of the other girls appeared disturbed by this brief tiff between the two contestants and one by one each found her excuse to leave the baths not wanting to offend either girl.    

     Finally it seemed that Miss Amphipolis found herself alone.  There was something unsettling about this for her.  Realizing that the first event was drawing near Miss Amphipolis decided that she had to return to her quarters.  As she tried to exit she pulled the doors only to find them locked.  She found herself trapped in the baths alone.  Miss Amphipolis scouted the room with her eyes looking about for a threat, but also a way out.  Soon she realized that she was clearly safe and soon after she discovered a door which led to a water shoot large enough for her escape.  With great skill she ripped her towel from her body and used it as a whip in order to free herself from imprisonment.  The shoot was just above the door and to the left.  After opening the door Miss Amphipolis then climbed out in the nude with nothing more than her towel for protection against evil and the elements.

     There was only one problem for Miss Amphipolis left to solve.  She still needed an outfit for the first event for Salmoneous had not returned to her quarters with one.  At the end of the shoot she found herself inside the quarters of Miss Artifice.  Before entering the room she waited for Miss Artifice to exit for the first event.  Miss Amphipolis would be late, but she was not worried for she was not one of the first contestants on the list.  As soon as Miss Artifice exited Miss Amphipolis climbed out of the shoot down into the quarters where she searched for an outfit.  Miss Amphipolis was certain that she would be able to find what she needed since Miss Artifice appeared to be as tall as Miss Amphipolis herself if not taller. 

      Back in Miss Amphipolis’s room the Marquessa had returned waiting for either the return of Miss Amphipolis herself or any word from Salmoneous on her whereabouts.  Time was running short and the frustration was begining to build for missing the first event would sink the operation entirely.  Salmoneous soon entered looking for Miss Amphipolis himself as he was making his rounds to gather all of the women for the first event.  He appeared frustrated and upset reminding the Marquessa of the tradegy she already knew.  They clashed in a minor arguement for each was worried about Miss Amphipolis, but for different reasons.  When Salmoneous asked the Marquessa if she had a beat on which sponsor was the culprit she could only explain that she did not know and that it seemed the only thing that was clear was that each man had an ego that could bust open at any moment.  Salmoneous appeared irritated that the mystery had not yet been solved.  He exited the quarters reminding the Marquessa that it was now her responsibility to make certain that Miss Amphipolis made it to the stage on time for presentation.  Then he left to begin the show.

     Soon after he had left Miss Amphipolis arrived back in her quarters.  The Marquessa drilled her for information and scolded her for being so late.  As soon as Miss Amphipolis explained to her sponsor her story of the baths the Marquessa was forgiving, but time was running out for the first event had already begun.  The Marquessa rushed Miss Amphipolis off to the contestant staging area as Salmoneous announced the last contestant Miss Artifice.  Quickly the Marquessa made an appearance on the floor with the rest of the sponsors giving the signal to Salmoneous that he could introduce Miss Amphipolis.  The applause from the crowd had calmed down to a dull roar until Miss Amphipolis entered.  Suddenly all stood and cheered for her beauty could be matched by no other contestant in the pool.  Certainly every contestant was beautiful, but none had the charm and the charisma of Miss Amphipolis.  She pranced, danced, and smiled as she showed off her priceless beauty.  The Marquessa cheered her contestant on with great excitment for she was certain that her contestant could not be beaten. 

     As the introductions came to a close the audience dispearsed for an intermission as the Marquessa met with Miss Amphipolis and Salmoneous backstage to discuss the situation.  Salmoneous was still irritated that Miss Amphipolis arrived late, but she was defended by the Marquessa who explained the seriousness of the situation in the baths.  Salmoneous wanted to know if that experience had given Miss Amphipolis any leads and her answer was cryptic.  She was certain that she knew who had trapped her in the baths, but she did not know why.  Miss Amphipolis did not believe that her this rival was behind the war cries.  She only had two solid leads.  One of them was Miss Skiros, and the other was Miss Artifice. 

      Upon returning to her quarters with the Marquessa they discovered that the door had been unlocked while they were gone.  Miss Amphipolis was also missing her leather and breast plate from the beautiful purple chest which had housed it earlier.  There was something suspcious going on.  It appeared that at least one person knew Miss Amphipolis’s true identity and that person wanted to expose her.  The pressures were building and the tensions were rising.  Miss Amphipolis decided to go back down to the baths to see if maybe the enemy had left anything behind.  Soon after Miss Amphipolis had left for the baths the pageant matron entered to inform the Marquessa of another sponsor meeting taking place.  The Marquessa rushed off only this time she had been invited.  She felt that she was moving up in the world of pageantry.  This time there was a special dinner prepared for the sponsors which was quite elegant and much better than eating clams.  Only hours before it seemed that clams would be the best meal for days. 

      As the dinner wore on the other sponsors continued to complain and moan about the prospect of war.  Everyone was seemingly on edge even more than during the previous meeting.  Each man was ready to draw his weapon at the slightest hint of a fight or a battle.  Yet it seemed that even if there were no more incidents a loss to the ego would send all of the edge.  The count of Parnasis explained this very well stating that his contestant had better not lose.  As tempers flared the Marquessa played it cool when asked what she did to motivate her contestant.  Her response was candid yet more true than anyone could have known.  She stated simply that nothing was necessary to motivate her contestant when they worked together as a team.  There was a certain pride to that.  This only appeared to irritate the other sponsors all of whom decided to leave except for Miss Messinni’s sponsor.  Of any one in the group the Marquessa could feel that he was the most sensative and understanding to his contestant.  He was genuiunely concerned in making her happy and when he asked the Marquessa her advice she explained that all he needed to do was to listen to her.  She was confident that this would be the secret to strengthening their bond.  Miss Messini’s sponsor appeared delighted with the Marquessa’s advice as dinner finally had ended after several hours.

     By the time the Marquessa had arrived back in the quarters Miss Amphipolis had already returned to tell her the story of her discovery.  Miss Amphipolis had returned to the baths where she found an earring on the floor.  She was certain that the earring had belonged to either Miss Skiros, or Miss Artifice so she had waited for one of them to return to look for it.  Indeed her plan worked for just an hour later Miss Artifice returned to the baths scouring the floor for her missing earring.  That was when Miss Amphipolis came out of hiding to confront her enemy.  The enemy seemed taken off guard unexpecting of Miss Amphipolis’s presence.  Miss Amphipolis quickly reached for Miss Artifice’s hair to reveal her true identity.  Miss Artifice was not a woman.  She was a man.  He would have fit the description of a true enemy if only he had not explained the unexpected.  Miss Artifice began by apologizing for locking Miss Amphipolis in the bath.  When Miss Amphipolis asked why he had done it he explained that it was because he was certain that Miss Amphipolis had known his secret.  He was extremely sensative and emotional about it all.  Miss Artifice continued by explaining that the pageant was his only refuge for being the woman he truely was inside.  There was no other place like it on earth where he could be a woman and be appreciated for it.  Miss Amphipolis began to understand yet found herself confused that a man could be such a beautiful woman inside.  He seemed nervous that she did not understand him, but it did not matter.  Miss Artifice was now clear as a suspect in the bigger picture.  Miss Amphipolis returned Miss Artifice’s earring and declared that the best person should win the pageant for she would not turn Miss Artifice in for being different. 

     Early the next morning the Marquessa had to prepare Miss Amphipolis for the rehersal of the dance competition.  She found herself completely elated to be confident with their team attitude.  The Marquessa was certain that it would be this team attitude that would bring them the crown of Miss Known World.  However, it seemed that Miss Amphipolis was less enthused.  When the Marquessa tried to give her contestant a pep talk about attitude and about wanting the crown Miss Amphipolis appeared distracted.  She even concluded that it wasn’t about winning the crown, but about finding the warlords that lurked within.  The Marquessa had not completely lost her focas on the mission at hand, but did not see why winning the crown wouldn’t be a bonus.  Yet for Miss Amphipolis it winning the crown would be a distraction for herself. 

      Quickly the Marquessa sent Miss Amphipolis on her way.  It seemed that none of the girls on the stage had much talent in dance.  They all kept bumping into one another, tearing each other’s costumes unable to get the moves.  By take five one could see the hopeless frustration on Salmoneous’s face as his girls tried once more to get his coreography down.  It was a seemingly impossible task, but all had to be ready before late afteroon arrived for the second event would be taking place.  The Marquessa was confident that Miss Amphipolis could steel the win in this event as well with her powerful personality. 

     By the time the event started the dance went off with success.  There were only a few minor collisions, but nothing serious.  Salmoneous announced each contestants name again as each girl presented herself in costume and he described her talents, hobbies, and skills.  Everything appeared to be quiet and well with the pageant with the exception of one concern.  Earlier during the rehersals Miss Amphipolis was confronted by the Palentine of Parnasis.  He touched her hands and kissed them throwing Miss Amphipolis into an firery rage which she could barely contain.  She gave him a quiet warning and demanded that he apologize to Miss Parnasis for his treatment and unnecessary beatings of her.  She had seen the marks on her back in the baths.  The Palentine of Parnasis did apologize, but he threatened Miss Amphipolis.  Miss Amphipolis was certain that she had blown her cover with him, but that hunch was still not confirmed.  It had been hours that had passed without incident since.  The Marquessa hoped that maybe he had not caught on to Miss Amphipolis’s disguise.

     As the pageant continued on all appeared to be wonderful and soon Miss Amphipolis herself was introduced.  Before Salmoneous could complete her list of hobbies the Palentine of Parnasis rose from the audience in a fury.  He demanded the arrest of the contestant Miss Amphipolis for he declared that she was not a true contestant.  The Palentine quickly revealed to all that it was Xena the Warrior Princess who stood before him.  A hush fell over the crowd until other sponsors stood before the crowd declaring her to be a mercenary as they drew their swords declaring war.  Just when it seemed that the entire operation had been compromised the truth came out.  There upon the stage approaching to the front from behind Miss Amphipolis was Miss Artifice dressed in the costume of Xena Warrior Princess.  She was tickled to receive all of the sudden attention declaring that she was not a princess at all, but a queen.  With grace Salmoneous chimed in not missing a beat as if the disruption in the audience had never occurred or was just a part of the show.  He then introduced Miss Artifice and spoke of her talents which included, archery, horse breeding, and knowing the complete score to every musical ever written.  It was amazing the way that Miss Artifice fit right into the team.  She was willing to help out a girl who could keep secrets.  That was all that needed to be said. 

       The moment that everyone had been waiting for had finally come as the five contestants who would be finalists were narrowed down.  Miss Messinni, Miss Skiros, Parnasis, Miss Artifice, and Miss Amphipolis.  The Marquessa was delighted that not only had they averted war, but they had made it to the semi-finals.  This was cause for a celebration.  Yet there was a slight problem with this as was revealed by Salmoneous as the Marquessa ran to the stage to congratulate her contestant.  The third and final event was a talent competition.  It was clear to the Marquessa that Miss Amphipolis was highly talented, but not in the traditional sense.  If her true talents were revealed it might tip off the other sponsors into an all out war.  That had to be avoided at all costs.  It appeared that both Miss Amphipolis and the Marquessa had gotten into the Miss Known World competition a bit in over their heads.

      Upon returning to the quarters of Miss Amphipolis the Marquess began to feel a great deal of stress.  Her passions went from winning the contest to protecting the well-being of her contestant.  The Marquessa paced about the room as Miss Amphipolis lounged about filing her rough nails with a boot knife.  She was much too warrior like to stay dressed in proper costume.  To the Marquessa it seemed as if Miss Amphipolis was taking a more hands off approach to the situation.  The issue of talent was just as important as solving the mystery itself.  As the two discussed possible talents the Marquessa was convinced that singing was their best shot at winning both the contest and the trust of the warlords.  Yet Miss Amphipolis was completely against this idea.  It seemed the more the Marquessa lobbied for singing as the talent of choice the less interested in the conversation Miss Amphipolis became.  The Marquessa could not understand why Miss Amphipolis kept rejecting the idea of singing.  She had seen Miss Amphipolis sing at funeral fires before and her heart poured out with songs richer than the sirens.  There was always so much passion in Miss Amphipolis’s voice whenever she had released the emotions from within her heart like the time she had sung for her beloved Marcus. 

     Miss Amphipolis finally chimed in with a valid explanation that the Marquessa could relate to.  She explained that she could only sing like that when she was moved and at this particular moment she did not feel moved by anything.  It was obvious to the Marquessa for the boredome was written all over her contestant’s face.  Yet she could not argue this point for she herself was an artist and could understand that true art had to be moved with a passion from within.  Without the passion there would be no magic.  Which led to the begining of the problem.  The Marquessa’s frustrations could not be eased for if Miss Amphipolis could not sing what could she do. 

     Miss Amphipolis was as dry with ideas as the Marquessa yet seemed unaffected by the pressure.  It was as if she basked in it some how.  Her next comment was seemingly more pressing to her.  She was extremely preoccupied with who was behind all of the sabbotoge, but had no answers when the Marquessa inquired.  The suspension of not knowing who wanted to kill all of the warlord beauties was almost unbearable for the Marquessa for all she could think of was how easy it would be for them to knock off Miss Amphipolis.  As the Marquessa gestrued dramatically hoping to drive her concern home to Miss Amphipolis the beauty’s eyes lit up with the golden answer.  She spoke with a bit more enthusiasm now exciting the Marquessa who thought that maybe she had somehow helped to solve the mystery of who was behind the sabbotoge.  Yet that was not what Miss Amphipolis was talking about.  Instead she had an idea for her talent.  This was not what the Marquessa had expected, but it was good that she had been able to help solve one of their problems. 

     Suddenly the door to Miss Amphipolis’s quarters swung open with the pageant matron entering interrupting the discussion.  She appeared just as surprised and shocked as did the Marquessa and her contestant.  The martron suddenly asked Miss Amphipolis what she was doing inside her room.  It was an odd question since this was Miss Amphipolis’s assigned quarters.  The matron recovered well knowing how odd her question was as she rephrased it slightly.  She wanted to know why Miss Amphipolis wasn’t out practicing her talent as were the other contestants.  To the Marquessa this was obvious, but then the matron looked suspiciously to the Marquessa asking her why she wasn’t at the sponsor meeting.  The Marquessa thought of this for a moment and then realized that the sun was directly over the ocean now.  It was early evening and indeed there was a sponsor meeting to take place for every day now they had met at this time.  There was a bit of embarressment for her blunder, but who could remember to go to meetings when their friends were clearly in danger.  The Marquessa played off the question as if she had been unaware of such a meeting hoping to cover her obvious mistake.

     Quickly the Marquessa found herself rushing off to the meeting.  If nothing else this was yet another chance to put some clues together.  As always the Marquessa approached just outside the meeting and eavesdropped a few moments before entering hoping to hear something valueable.  Yet there was nothing, but the same arguing, accusation, and bickering that had been occurring on the previous nights.  The Marquessa decided to enter dramatically once more.  If nothing else she could try to settle the tensions between the troops so that war could be averted for a third day.  She entered as Lord Claron was trying to gather control.  It seemed to the Marquessa that Lord Claron had been the most passive of all of the sponsors.  He was trying to downplay the joke that had been played on everyone by Miss Artifice.  It was truely unexpected.  He tried to tell the other sponsors that it was nothing to go to war over.  The Marquessa chimed in reminding everyone of their unneccessary paranoia.  Jokes were nothing to go to war over.

     The Palentine of Parnasis stepped up agreeing unwillingly that both Lord Claron and the Marquessa were right.  Yet he was still not convinced that calling the troops was a bad idea for all of the girls had been suffering with fear and anxiety over the possibility that they may lose their lives.  Then he looked to Miss Skiros’s sponsor for she was the only one of the five semi-finalists who had not been affected by the circus of events and of danger.  Miss Parnasis had suffered an attack on the beach, Miss Masini in her quarters, and both Miss Amphipolis and Miss Artifice had been embarressed by the joke of earlier although it had not begun as a joke.  Suddenly Miss Skiros was now at the center of arguement for her sponsor appeared to be the culprit to start a war.  It seemed to the Marquessa that of anyone the Palentine of Parnasis was the most likley of anyone to be prepared to go to war.  Miss Skiros’s sponsor stood his ground with the Palentine expressing the threat that if his contestant were to experience any harm that he would be the first to sound the trumpets of war.  That led Lord Claron to decide that he needed to lobby for tighter security.  Abruptly he left the meeting with unexplained urgency as the rest of the clan of warlords stormed off in anger on the brink of war.  Only Miss Massini’s sponsor was left behind with the Marquessa.  The Marquessa decided the end the tension with more dramatic tension blaming him for threatening Miss Skiros.  Though he was clearly not involved in any of the blood lust the Marquessa wanted to convince him to help her lobby for peace for she suddenly realized that she could no longer keep back the troops alone.

     When the Marquessa was finally able to return to Miss Amphipolis the horror of what she saw was more than she could take.  There standing before the ovular golden mirror was her contestant in a chartruesse colored dress, with large pink chaffon flowers pertruding from her veluptious breasts.  It was the most ugly dress she had ever seen and it was not all that flattering despite Miss Amphipolis’s natural beauty.  Miss Amphipolis was still calm despite all of the tensions being felt through every contestant’s room.  War was looming more now than ever before and as the Marquessa was unable to contain her frustrations Miss Amphipolis came to the rescue.  Suddenly she grabbed her boot knife and began to remove pieces of her dress.  She cut off all three pink chaffon flowers, she cut off her long ugly sleeves, and made a nice accented layer around the front to enhance her look. 

      It was shocking, surprising, and the Marquessa was impressed, but again the matron had barged in on them in the middle of an important moment.  The matron commented on how good Miss Amphipolis was with a knife.  Miss Amphipolis down played her actions explaining that she had many skills as she picked under her finger nails with the tip of her knife.  It was not a lady like moment, but at this point there was little to hide.  The only hope was that by morning Miss Amphipolis would be able to come up with some answers over a good night’s rest.

      Early the next morning Miss Amphipolis had gone down to the beaches to practice her talent.  She had decided that sword twirling would be impressive enough and more suitable for her personality.  The Marquessa watched from the windows of their room still basking in the relaxation of being holed up in their marvelous room.  Miss Amphipolis was very professional as she practiced and there was definately a passion within her moves.  As the Marquessa watched over her friend she could feel the passion of her art and decided that singing would have bombed horribly.  Yet there was also another contestant on the beach.  It was Miss Messini who played her harp alone.  Miss Messinni thought she was alone as she began to cry.  Her tears were of sadness.  Miss Amphipolis heard the pain of Miss Messini’s heart and decided to go down the beach to investigate.  When she approached Miss Messini she thought that maybe it was fear that had caused the tears, or even nerves.  Miss Amphipolis opened the conversation hoping to relate to Miss Messini’s stress, but it had nothing to do with the pageant.  In fact, Miss Messini was only participating in the pageant because her sponsor had asked her to.  She thought that it seemed very important to him so she became a contestant despite her own reservations about such an event. 

       It seemed to Miss Amphipolis that she had finally broken through the silence of the contestants.  They had all seemingly kept to themselves up to this point.  Miss Messinni explained sadly that every contestant seemed to despise the competition except for Miss Amphipolis.  The girls had all felt the entire pageant was a farce.  Miss Amphipolis urged Miss Messini to go on wondering why the girls participated if they all felt this way.  Miss Messinni explained that Miss Parnasis had made a deal with the Palentine her sponsor that if she participated and won that he would make sure that her village received enough food for the winter.  Miss Skiros had been so scarred by the many wars which had plagued the area during her life that she just wanted to use the prize to get away from it all.  Her memories were too painful to stay.  Miss Messini continued on explaining that she herself could have rejected the idea, but she was so concerned about her boyfriend’s feelings that she could not reject his wishes for her. 

     Miss Amphipolis chimed in with deep concern for Miss Messinni asking the contestant why her own feelings didn’t matter enough to say no.  Miss Messini didn’t have an answer for that question.  All that she really knew was that she deeply loved her boyfriend and that she was tired of being treated like an object.  This pageant was the pinacle of that terrible feeling for Miss Messini.  Yet Miss Amphipolis urged Miss Messini to go to her sponsor and to express her true feelings.  Miss Amphipolis felt that if their love was true that he would back down and understand Miss Messini’s heart and her feelings. He would begin to realize the beautiful woman that Miss Messini was on the inside. 

     When Miss Amphipolis had returned to the Marquessa with this story the Marquessa was touched by her friend’s sensative loving heart.  Not many had known that side of Miss Amphipolis until now.  This was why Miss Amphipolis was going to win.  She was going to solve the mystery of the warlords and she was going to be the first Miss Known World winner.  Winning would mean that they would return again next year to this beautiful place of peace.  It would stay peaceful, but first everyone had to get through the next day and a half without a scratch or a drop of blood.  That was easier said than done.  Miss Amphipolis felt that if anything was going to happen it would not be on the off day it would occur at the talent event itself.

      After a day of peace and relative quiet the true test would finally come.  All of the other events had been taking place in the late afternoon, but on this day someone had decided to move up the talent event to the late morning which seemed unusual.  Miss Amphipolis had gone out and about looking for answers while the Marquessa stayed behind in the room again.  The matron came by during the mid moring to announce that all the sponsors were to round up their contestants for the final event.  Soon the Marquessa was rushing about the courtyards and every corner of the beautiful complex, but she was unable to find her contestant.  When she finally returned to the room there she found Miss Amphipolis just outside with Miss Skiros who was trying to get a glimpse of her competition in secret only to be embarressed by the sneaky Miss Amphipolis.  Miss Skiros was not happy to be caught spying on her competition, but Miss Amphipolis was not at all concerned.  Quickly the Marquessa grabbed her contesant and rushed her down to the competition.

     Once backstage they found that they had made it just in time to hear the final notes of the first contestant Miss Messini and her harp.  Salmoneous then urged applause from the audience who congratulated the first contestant.  Then it was Miss Artifice who had a rather interesting performance.  She danced with her long flowing colorful ribbons, but was unable to show much grace for by the end of her performance she had found herself tangled yet still smiling brightly.  Salmoneous joined the Marquessa and her contestant back stage.  When asked if there had been any danger yet he reported that things had gone smoothly up to this point.  The Marquessa was hopeful that they had finally convinced the warlords to ease their tensions; however, Miss Amphipolis felt that it could only mean the situation was more volitile.  She was now afraid that who ever was trying to sabbatoge the pageant would switch to targeting warlords.  Salmoneous quickly rushed back out to encourage support for Miss Artifice’s performance and to introduce the next contestant Miss Skiros.

      Miss Skiros’s act was daring and dangerous.  She brought out a large basket with a horn and began her charming song.  Emerging from the basket was a large black cobra.  Salmoneous returned back stage as the Marquessa could sense Miss Amphipolis’s new concern.  She asked Salmoneous why there was such a rush to finish the event.  Salmoneous explained that he had been ordered to by Lord Claron to whom he pointed in the audience.  Miss Amphipolis scanned the situation with her eyes fixed on Lord Claron who appeared to know something that no one else did.  His eyes darted above the stage and then back down to the contestant below.  Suddenly Miss Amphipolis leaped into action flipping onto the stage.  She was face to face with the evil cobra until she flipped backwards face to face with Miss Skiros.  Quickly Miss Amphipolis pushed Miss Skiros off toward back stage and then kicked the snake out of the basket into the air.  Then Miss Amphipolis flipped again as a small portion of the ceiling above her collapsed onto the floor leaving nothing, but a thick cloud of dust.  All was silent in the audience for a moment until the confusion cleared and there standing before them upon the broken beam was Miss Amphipolis smiling enthusiastically holding the snake delicately around her neck like an ornament.  There was a roar of cheers and applause that engulfed the entire room.  Even Lord Claron seemed impressed, but it was clear to Miss Amphipolis who she was after.  She just had to prove it.   It was clear to the Marquessa that Miss Amphipolis would most likley win the pageant for her passionate performance in saving the stunned yet thankful Miss Skiros.

     Soon after the event ended Miss Amphipolis was on the war path searching the complex for Lord Claron.  Yet it was obvious to the Marquessa that the place to find all of the warlords and sponsors would be at the nightly meeting.  Salmoneous followed the Marquessa concerned that Miss Amphipolis was running around alone in the dangerous political climate, but the Marquessa was certain that there was little to be concerned about for no one knew Miss Amphipolis’s true identity. 

     One by one Miss Amphipolis waited for the warlords to arrive at the meeting.  As each man entered the meeting room she immobilized him and tied him up leaving him underneath the banquet table.  Once everyone had entered she waited for Lord Claron.  She knew that he was prepared to entice the others into a war with the latest threat of death on Miss Skiros.  When the Lord finally arrived he was just as confident of success as ever.  It seemed the perfect situation.  He was alone in a room with Miss Amphipolis.  There would be no witnesses to a murder that would inevitibely start his war.  All that needed to happen now was for Miss Amphipolis to prove that he was the one who would kill her.  She played along realizing that Lord Claron was still unaware of her true identity.  It was her advantage.  She asked him his motives and he explained them to her gleefully unaware of who he was dealing with.

     He stated that when wars raged throughout the country side economic times were good.  Since peace had reigned everyone had seemingly lost in his view.  He felt the only way to restore the good times was to restart the wars and that was why he had commissioned the pageant.  Lord Claron was certain that there would be no better way of starting a war without detection than the illusion of a beauty pageant.  He was not so complementary of his warlord counter parts of whose presence was soon revealed to Lord Claron.  Now that he was revealed there was no turning back.  Lord Claron was surprised at the intelligence of a beauty contestant.  When he asked Miss Amphipolis how she knew about his plans she explained his obvious actions.  His lack of security despite his promises, and his actions during the talent event when he looked to the danger which lurked above Miss Skiros. 

     Lord Claron would not give into Miss Amphipolis.  Although he had been compeletely exposed he was prepared to kill her for there was nothing left to lose.  With all of his competitors helplessly bound and gagged beneath the banquet table he could kill them all starting an even larger war than he could have imagined.  He threatened the lovely Miss Amphipolis with his weapon, but she would not allow it.  She fought him off without a single drop of blood or a weapon to defend.  Miss Amphipolis used hand to hand combat to defeat the infamous Lord Claron and she did it in a dress.  As the quick decisive battle of sexes ended Lord Claron found that even his sword was no match for the strength and skill of Miss Amphipolis.  Soon the Marquessa entered looking for Xena only to realize that the warlords now knew Miss Amphipolis’s true identity.  They were shocked to realize that they had been unable to notice Miss Amphipolis’s true identity until now.  Gabrielle tried to cover her mistake, but it was all over now.  Miss Amphipolis was now Xena again with only one thing left to finish.  Gabrielle explained that the winner was about to be crowned.  Sadly Xena had decided that Miss Amphipolis would be dropping out of the race.

      No sooner were the words spoken was Xena back in her leather, and golden breast plate.  No more was the blond flowing locks from her head.  And as for the chartruese with chaffon well it had to go as well.  Gabrielle understood although it would have been nice to win she understood that even Xena could not play the painful charade any longer.  As the two friends stood backstage to catch the final act Salmoneous was given the scroll which held the name of the winner and the runner up.  He was seemingly distraught for the winner was not present on the stage.  Yet he suddenly caught sight of Xena the Warrior Princess watching from the sidelines as he desparately wanted to know what had happened to the beautifully charming Miss Amphipolis.  Xena’s response was that Miss Amphipolis would be dropping out despite it having now been announced by the normally persuasive Salmoneous that she had been the winner.  She also explained that Miss Amphipolis was happy to have known each and every one of the beautiful contestants on stage for she had learned a lot from them.

     Despite Salmoneous’s desparate persuasions he had to move on from Miss Amphipolis.  The next on the list was Miss Skiros who also stepped forward to say that she did not need the crown for she would be able to find a new life without it.  As for Miss Messini she had indeed spoken to her sponsor about her true feelings for when her name was called she stepped forward to reject the crown.  Salmoneous was obviously frustruated by now for his worry about war sabbotoging his investments in the pageant had ended, but it seemed a warrior princess would succeed in proving that such events were unfair to women.  Miss Messini’s sponsor was firm alongside the decision of his lovely girl friend and he would not stand for Salmoneous’s pressures.  Just before Salmoneous could name Miss Parnasis she too stepped forward to reject the prize and the crown.  The Palentine of Parnasis threatened her openly, but she stood firm and strong determined to help her village grow food without his promise of a winter’s worth. 

     There was only one finalist left standing on the stage.  It was the beautiful and lovely Miss Artifice.  She happily accepted the crown of Miss Known World although it was a surprise to all that a man would have become the winner of a beauty contest.  Miss Artifice accepted graciously as she held her bouquet of flowers and wore her golden crown.  She was crying with happiness as tears rushed down her manly face.  Salmoneous sarunaded the Miss Known World Song with relief that his pageant did not go completely bust.  There was applause from every man and every woman who attended as guests.  Miss Known World basked in her glory sharing it with those who had helped make it possible for her to realize her dream.  Miss Artifice grabbed the warrior princess and gave her a great big hug and kiss.  Then he grabbed her hand and raised his arm alongside hers bowing delightfully for the crowd.  He felt that everyone was a winner, and Miss Artifice wanted to share this special moment in his life with the Warrior Princess whom had made it possible.  Gabrielle found herself just as shocked as the warrior princess at this open display of sudden affection, but who cared as long as the best woman wore the crown.  For beauty was beauty, but peace would always be peace.

The Xena Scrolls

Scroll  #38 :  A Day In The Life of

By:  Gabrielle Bard of Podedia

March, 47 B.C.

It has recently been brought to my attention  that waking up alongside Xena the Warrior princess must be described to all who dare inquire about a day in the life of.  The first step to a day is often treacherous and sometimes deadly.  In waking up on this day there were no exceptions for Xena and I were awakened by an attack of some henchmen sent by the warloard Zagrious.  The battle began with only two as Xena sprung out of sleep into action sending lightning speed punches and thunderous kicks at the two intruders whom had entered our small camp.  They had caught Xena somewhat off guard being that she had been in slumber, but the Warrior Princess is never sleeping as soundly as some might hope for.  Knocking one henchmen down, and then another she grabbed the nearest weapon she could find.  It was our only frying pan.

She smacked a third in the face and went choe-boe to pot with a fourth man. But even he was no match for the agile warrior princess.  Six more henchmen decended upon us from the surrounding woods and Xena decided that it was time for a wake up call.  Flipping through the air she gave her signature battle cry and landed squarely on my leather water bottle.  Water shot out like an arrow from a cross-bow rudely awakening me from my slumber.  Suddenly anger broiled from within for the action of the Warrior Princess, but there was no time to argue about her method of waking up. There was a battle to join.

Surrounded on all sides I reached for my old friend the trusty staff.  Then I delivered one blow and then a second knocking two of the henchmen flat on the ground.  As I rose up to my feet from the knees Xena could see that I was clearly out numbered so she quickly resorted to flinging the frying pan at them like a chackram.  It flew through the air with almost the same grace, but not the same sharpness as the chackram.  The frying pan wobbled through the air bouncing off the heads of one, then two, and knocking out three men with just one thrust.  As it continued on its course it was haulted violently by a tree so it could not make its return home as did its predicessor the chackram.  As the frying pan dropped to the ground Xena spun around behind her to take care of the man who was about to jump upon his feet to continue the battle.  She gave him the pinch with just one unified motion as the words began to fly.

Not only had she disturbed my slumber, but she had destroyed the only means of cooking that was left.  In fact, just the week before she had thrown our only cutting knife at yet another of the many warloards out to destroy her.  To Xena anything was a useable weapon and nothing was sacred.  No object organic or inorganic was safe from her wrath of destruction.  Now that the battle was seemingly over and Xena was in control all I could do was pick up what was left of my bent frying pan.  This was the last quill.  After all of my recent sacrifices to the warrior princess and this was how she respected me.  My next move was to argue and to express my anger over my loss.  This diverted Xena’s attention from the final moments of battle.  Our squabble over cooking utensils led to a  forgotten prisnor on the ground who was losing life fast as the blood flow to his brain was quickly thinning out.  The man struggled to interrupt our squabble reminding Xena that she had intended to interrogate him.  The pinch interrogation is the most quick and efficient way for Xena to find out vital details reguarding the enemy at hand.  It is the standard method and most preferred by the warrior princess.  Although it doesn’t seem all that humane I will admit that it is much less painful than other well-known forms of torture such as having burning splinters shoved under one’s fingers so eloquently described by a tramp I once met.

As was demonstrated on this morning waking up is not always pleasant in the company of the warrior princess; however, finding your way is entirely another challenge.  Based on the information of the interrogation Xena and I knew little of the location that we seeked.  On this particular day the goal was to find the village of Piedmont.  It was the village that the warloard Zagrious was planning to loot.  The only problem was that no one thought to ask for directions during the standard interrogation process so we were at a loss.  Xena had never been to this part of the countryside which was actually quite surprising since the warrior princess seemed to always have the answers to everything on any other day or in any other situation.  Yet who could think to complain for this scenario was quite normal.  As for me I was still irritated about the loss of my only good frying pan.  I decided that it was time to stick it to the warrior princess, and then it happened.

As I challenged the warrior princess on her mistake in gathering information Xena suggested that the next time she pinched someone for information that I should ask the quesitons.  She then stated that I often asked good questions.  Now there was shock for a moment.  Xena was actually complementing me for once.  This emotion quickly led to excitement.  Suddenly I was feeling confident in myself about asking quesitons.  And then it happened. Oppritunity soon came running just over the hill down the path. A heavy-set, blond haired, blue eyed village man was moving into our direction.  He was waiving his arms and calling out in desparation.  This was my chance to try my hand at the pinch interrogation.  He was going to give us the information we seeked.  Yet the warrior princess suggested that maybe this man didn’t need to be pinched prior to an interrogation.  Just as I was feeling my moment of glory she smacked it down yet again.

Upon his arrival the man was stunned by the presence of the warrior princess.  One would have thought that she was like the Goddess Aphrodite, or Athena, or someone of that status, but it was only Xena.  No one special really.  But Hower was dumbstruck.  He informed Xena and I of the giant known as Gareth.  Apparently Gareth was threatening to stomp their village to sticks if they didn’t pay him what he had asked.  There was only one problem.  This scencario created a delemma for Xena and I.

Making a decision isn’t always easy when so much is at stake like in this case.  Saving Piedmont or taking out the giant no one could decide really.  There was only one solution to this problem. There were the two villages Laurel and Piedmont.  Each had its own uniquely dire situation.   One was dealing with a gaint while the other a warlord.  To me it would be quite a contest of decision.  In sizing up the situation I  took out some fresh srcolls and began to make my list of the pros and cons.  There could not be a better method in coming to a fair decision.  And no sooner had I begun my list did the warrior princess whip out a dinar flipping it through the air.  She seemingly ignored my hard work, and had come to her own conclusion with just one simple action.  The fates stated heads we were to take on the giant.

Of course this was not an acceptable means of decision making in my opinion, but it is sometimes difficult to argue successfully against the warrior princess.  Not only that, but once again Xena had demonstrated her lack of confidence in my abilities as a sidekick.  There  was only one thing left to do.  Continue the arguement about the frying pan because after all it wasn’t a suitable choice of weaponry.  Without a good frying pan to cook that fish Xena liked to eat so much there would be only raw fish to sooth the beast with in my stomach now. Maybe the lovesick Hower had a spare pan back in his village.

Now in traveling to Laurel there had to be a way to pass the time.  One of the daily travel games Xena and I like to play is warlords and victims.  It always begins with my interrogation of Xena.   The first rule to the game is process of elimination.  One must find out if the warlord is male or female, and in our case living or dead.  This all stems from our travels together of course.  Xena naunchelanltely answered my first two questions easily.  We had a male dead warlord.  In fact, Xena stated that this particular warlord was “very dead.”    One would think that this game would be simple, but nothing is ever simple with the warrior princess.

Yet I had thought of the perfect question.  I wanted to know if the warlord we were talking about had been killed by a certain warrior princess.  Xena answered gleefully as if she were hiding the ultimate secret and riddle.  Her answer to my quesiton was of course a yes which for a moment led to personal excitement.  I knew of every warlord that Xena had ever killed.  At least within our travels together.  I was betting that Xena would not cheat and go outside the rules of the game.  She would never name someone that she had killed prior to meeting me.  It wouldn’t be a fair game and I would have to complain.  Xena hates it when I complain.  This is why I kept complaining about our current lack of a frying pan.  Yet there was a bright side to the day.  The weather was  completely beautiful.  It couldn’t have been more perfect with the sun shining warmly on our exposed legs and arms.  Usually it gets cold  a lot in traveling with the warrior princess.  Yet this moment of peace and tranquility quickly passed.

For a moment I tried to calm myself with the peace and serenity of mother nature as we traveled through the forrest onto Laurel.  I got lost in the moment, but only briefly for I was reminded of the presence of the lovesick Hower who was constantly turning back around in awe of the warrior princess.  He seemingly couldn’t get enough glances back at her.  Suddenly it occurred to me how I could get back at the warrior princess.  She would never expect my next move.  Suddenly I turned to the warrior princess spinning around with my staff in an attempt to knock her flat on the ground.  Effortlessly she stopped my staff dead in its motion with only one hand.  The look on her face was priceless for she did not even blink one of her blue eyes.  She just held my staff steady with that smirk on her face that turns me ridged.

This only frustrated me more yet I was certain that if I had been just a moment quicker in my motion that the warrior princess would have been on the ground.  I would have been laughing joyfully at my triumph over her.  Yet she insisted that I hadn’t even been close.  She wouldn’t begin to give me the satisfaction of almost knocking her flat onto the ground with my staff.  I was of course defiant of her confidence in her warrior abilities.  Yet Xena was more defiant of my fire against her on this day.  It was a battle of wills now.  I was determined to win it.  The stakes were suddenly raised.  Xena looked into my eyes as if she were going to give away something within our little warlord game, but again I was rudely interrupted as the warrior princess brushed me aside and consulted with Hower for more information about the giant Gareth.

Hower had said that Gareth’s actual size was unknown to his village people.  In fact, their only evidence of his existance was the fact that he had constantly been sending them threats.  The stomping of Laurel was the consequence if they did not comply with his demands.  It was at this moment that it dawned on me to ask another question.  I wanted to know why Hower and the people of Laurel were so certain that this Gareth was a giant.  To me Gareth sounded like another Zagrious with only a slightly better plan of attack.  It was genious like the warrior princess to state that a giant was coming to stomp the village if it didn’t supply the army with goods and services.  Yet Hower went on to explain that he and his village friends had seen the destruction of neighboring villages in the next valley who had not complied with Gareth’s wishes.  In my own mind I visualized what a village might have looked like destroyed by a warlord versus one destroyed by a giant.  It seemed to me that the two villans would leave little behind their wraths.  Of course a giant might flatten a village whereas a warlord might burn it to the ground.

Xena seemed convinced that there was a giant for she then wanted to know if Gareth had ever been to his village.  Hower replied that Gareth had never actually been there which led Xena to a new strategy.  Watching her mind work like that is often fascinating, but I can never let her know about that.  Her head is already way too big.  Suddenly there was a loud grumbling from the pit of the warrior’s stomach.  This was my chance to hound her about her mistake in chosing to use the frying pan as a weapon instead of a cooking utensil.  I wanted to burst with laughter, but Xena held it off when she reminded me that she hadn’t had breakfast.  Of course no one had had the pleasure of a good morning meal.  I held my tongue, but only because I was just as hungry.  The warrior princess might use this against me if I pressured her any further with the frying pan issue at this moment.

Xena then asked Hower if there was water nearby.  She was planning on having fish for lunch.  Now this was a laugh and I couldn’t resist it any longer.  I decided that I didn’t care if I didn’t get to eat.  I wanted blood and vengence for even if Xena did catch enough fish to eat it would all be raw and not cooked.  Again I needled the warrior princess about this issue.  Xena only responded with disgust and frustration.  She couldn’t control the beast with in that pressed me to argue about the old trusty frying pan.  Me without my frying pan is like Xena without Argo.  No one was truely happy.  We were all tired, hungry, and ready for action.  Except for Hower of course.  He was happy as a piece of flying parchment.

Briefly I decided to try to forget about the frying pan as we headed for the creek.  It wasn’t a long journey to get there and I was glad to get off of my feet for a bit.  Xena loved to fish.  Maybe that was her way of dealing with being hungry.  Somehow it seemed to sooth her.  Those slimy creatures slivering through her hands somehow gave her solace.  In fact, a sword in her hand gives her solace.  As for me I started back in my thoughts of our game from earlier.  I was hoping that would get my mind off of the pain in my stomach.  My next question to the warrior princess was if this was a warlord or royalty we were talking about.  Xena answered while tying her hair back for the kill.  She said that it was a warlord which was suddenly quite puzzling.  It was a victim obviously, but most victims are not warlords.  Yet it did make sense for Xena kills warlords sometimes.

I was truely stumped as I tried to piece all of these little bits of information together.  None of it made sense yet it all fit together somehow.  As I was falling within the depths of my memory Hower returned from his short walk.  I wasn’t really certain where he had gone off to, but he interrupted my thoughts asking why Xena didn’t use a fishing pole.  Most people don’t understand the tequnique of the warrior princess. As I sat there and stared at the warrior princess standing in the creek I found it quite barbaric to sit there and watch her leaning over into the water.  She would seemingly listen for the fish underneath the muddy waters.  It was like eavesdropping on nature.  Suddenly I had a new source of pain for her.  I would distract her from hearing the fish so that she wouldn’t be able to capture lunch with out a fishing pole.  In my opinion she was just showing off for Hower.   Yet who knew why.  He wasn’t all that attractive..  Hower had a more humble look about him unlike the warrior princess full of fire and rage.

My next question to Xena as I laughed at Hower’s inquiries was if the warlord was Dagnon.  Xena responded barely divided from her fishing stating that Dagnon was not the answer.  She was barely listening to me and suddenly she ignored me realizing what I was trying to do.  Xena loudly responded to Hower asking him if he wanted trout or perch.  Hower responded back greatly impressed with the skills of the warrior princess.  I decided to prove that she wasn’t capable of wining every battle.  My answer to the warrior princess ignoring me was in asking for salmon.  There was no way that she would be able to produce a salmon from that creek.

Xena called me knowing that salmon were out of season and that this creek was not capable of supporting salmon.  She had beaten my wit again.  Now this was getting really serious.  I decided to go for the kill.  She would never capture an eel out of that creek.    Xena’s response was candid yet irritated.  She read me like a scroll, but I had won this battle as I triumphantly smiled and nodded to Hower who was seemingly enjoying our little squabble.  He probably thought Xena was cute or something.  I don’t view the warrior princess as cute.  Anyone who has ever dared to do that has ended up on the ground or worse.  Yet triumph was interrupted by Xena’s next statement.  She had seemingly observed some wagon tracks just on the other side of the creek leading toward Piedmont.  This meant that Zagrious and his army would soon strike there.  It was a shame that Piedmont was going to have to suffer the wrath of Zagrious and all because of a dinar toss.  I would have personally decided upon saving Piedmont rather than Laural for I was still not convinced that the giant Gareth even existed.

Xena responded to my arguement of her dinar toss explaining that she was not going to allow the destruction of Piedmont.  The warrior princess was often too full of pride to even realize that even she could be wrong sometimes.  I argued with her that there was no possible way that she could be in two places on the same day at the same time.  Xena continued to listen for the fish as she responded saying that she didn’t have to be in two places at once.  It didn’t make sense.  I couldn’t figure out her angle.  In life and in sport Xena is always a tightly woven mystery.  Yet that is what makes the warrior princess so fascinating.  Just as I was thinking about this for a moment Xena suddenly moved into the water with her powerful arms.  She struggled with what seemed to be a dangerous beast below the surface.  It was definately not a trout or a perch.  Suddenly Xena shouted that eel was coming out of the water and lunch was about to be ready.

Water splashed violently as Xena had yanked the long slithery black beast out of the water.  She struggled with it for a few moments trying not to allow it to escape.  Just when it seemed she would lose the battle against the eel it came flying in my direction slapping up across my face slithering down into my lap.  It was slimy and slippery.  The beast sqirmed violently across my exsposed legs as I tried desparately to free myself of its grasp.  It screetched loudly as I struggled to my feet grasping the slime in my hands and finally releasing it into the tall weeds along the bank.  Xena just grinned with that silly triumphant smile.  It was actually more like a goofy childish smirk.  Then she leaned back down to listen to the fish in the water once more.  I was humiliated in front of a guest companion and I didn’t like it too much.  There had to be a way to beat her at her own game.  It was just a matter of figuring it out.

Hower quickly chimed in softly and with his soothing voice.  He tried to settle me down into a change of conversation.  Hower asked me if Xena might be interested in settling down and getting married someday.  I knew I was going to have to try to let Hower down gently for Xena would never settle down.  She was too wild and barbaric for that.  Somehow Hower seemed to find it attractive that she was throwing our lunch in my face.  I tried to keep my pride as I kept talking through the fish smacking up against my face.   With each fish it seemed they were larger than the previous fish.  Each bash was more harsh that the previous slap.  It was as if Xena were kicking me while I was down.  Again I tried to keep my composure and ignore her childish games, but she would not be ignored.  At least not by me.

I decided to surrender for the moment as I asked Hower to go fetch some firewood for our lunch.  He gleefully went off to fetch wood for Xena’s lunch as I loudly reminded everyone that we were going to have to find some way to try to cook these raw slimy fish.  As Hower left to seek fire brush Xena proudly sat down up against the tree next to me all wet, smelly, and sweaty.   She was a big nasty fish and could not have smelled worse.  The warrior princess obviously didn’t have time to take a bath after her catch.  I of course had given up on proving to Hower that the warrior princess was not for him.  He was too dumbstruck.  Even raw fish for lunch couldn’t dampen his lust for the warrior princess.

As Xena smiled I could not be angry for she was just being playful at my expense.  Yet I still didn’t appreciate it.  I began to explain to her that Hower was in love with her.  She wasn’t phased by it for all she could do was wonder why so many men kept falling for her.  I explained that some guys just liked her dark long flowing hair, and her deep oceanic blue eyes.  Even her leather wardrobe could draw a crowd as long as it was the warrior princess who was wearing it.  Of course our battle of wits was subsiding for the moment because our focas was now on Hower who kept staring and guawking at the warrior princess as he picked up firewood from afar.  As our conversation wore on Hower shifted his scavenger hunt from firewood to wildflowers.  I don’t think the warrior princess noticed his boyish smile meant to grab her attention.  Instead Xena was concentrating on how to deter Hower from his lusts for her.  She thought maybe a wardrobe change would do the trick; however, she was only joking.  Xena just didn’t seem to be herself when she wasn’t wearing her leather suit and golden breast plate.  Life wouldn’t be the same without those articles of clothing.  They were like a personal attachment and trademark.

Here was something new to attempt to tease her with.  I suggested a chainmail might help with her wardrobe issues, but she just laughed and stated that it would probably only attract a slightly more rambunctious crowd as if warlords like Draco weren’t bad enough.  This thought led me to glance back at Hower for a moment as he gingerly plucked another dandillion from the ground and admired his work.  He certainly took much more time and care for his courtship than someone like Draco would.  Xena interrupted my thought by explaining that life without bathing and wearing a smelly wolfskin might work.  She had a point and I could certainly imagine how much more difficult life with the warrior princess would be if she ever followed through with that change.  I could still feel the slime all over my own skin just thinking about it knowing how much Xena liked to fish.  She still smelled even now.  This led me to my only response which was to remind Xena that she would most likely be traveling alone if she made that a permanant new lifestyle.  Dodging all of the lovesick Howers in the world was not worth that.

This of course brought laughter to both Xena and I for the first time the entire day.  We were finally settling down with our rivalry as Hower returned with a handful of purple wildflowers.  He offered them to his obsession as Xena tried to accept them graciously, but somehow she appeared more disgusted with the idea.  Xena rose to help Hower get the fire started for lunch yet she appeared very reluctant.  Hower paused for  just a moment until he was certain Xena was not within earshot.  He then giggled with glee and celebration feeling that he had finally gotten the attention of his new found romance.  All I could do was smile and pretend to be excited for his accomplishment knowing that he would only find himself disappointed in the end.  As he walked away my thoughts turned to the challenge of cooking the slimy beasts that had attacked me earlier.

Then it suddenly occurred to me that the perfect tool for cutting the fish would be Xena’s chackram.  It was the sharpest weapon I had ever known and since she had thrown our last good cutting knife at a warlord the previous week it would have to double as a pearing knife.    Soon I was sawing off the heads of Xena’s catch.  Two pearch and one rather large eel.  I began with the eel, but soon had to resort to using a large stone on the ground to hold it in place while I worked.  The job was a bloody one, but I was determined to eat lunch reguardless that it was a an eel.  Before I could finish gutting lunch Xena returned and revolted against me in anger.  She ripped the chackram out from my grasp and shouted out that it would smell like fish for days.  The warrior princess wasted no time in whipping out an old rag to wipe the aquatic blood dripping from the chackram’s blade.

Hower appeared to be stunned and unable to respond or even begin to handle the anger of the warrior princess.  I handled it by snapping back.  Someone had to stand up to her fury.  As I rose to my feet I quickly yanked my rag from Xena’s grasp.  This was when I reminded her of how she had used our knife the previous week.  I wanted Hower to know exactly what he was getting himself into.  This was my oppritunity to gain some ground on the warrior princess.  Then I turned away and ignored her while she stewed in her anger over the chackram.  It was time for her to know how it felt when friends didn’t respect belongings.  She was going to learn manners even if it killed me.  Of course she turned away from me leaving Hower speechless until he came up with the perfect solution.  He offered to clean Xena’s chackram for her.  As I would have expected Xena refused.  No one is allowed to touch her prized chackram.

Instead Xena’s fury was high as she turned to Hower seriously and asked him how much further it was from his village.  Hower replied that it was directly east about a two hour’s walk.  I was waiting for the next blow from the warrior princess as I tried desparately to figure out how we were going to eat lunch.  Without a knife, a frying pan, or even the chackram we would definately be eating raw fish and eel from the bone.  As I tried to come to terms with raw fish in my stomach, and sinking my teeth into the outer layer of skin Xena told Hower that he had an important mission for him.  This snapped me to attention for if she were seriously sending Hower on a mission I needed to know why she wasn’t asking me to perform the job.  Of course Hower was exstatic to be asked to help Xena with a mission.  She explained to Hower that he needed to deliver a message from her to Zagrious.  It was simple yet cryptic.  Both Hower and I listened intently.  The message was this.  Xena would not get in Zagrious’s path if he agreed not to enter into hers.  And that was it.  Hower appeared confused and I found myself even more mystified.  When Hower asked Xena if there was more to the message she was candid and confident stating that there was no more.  She then turned away from her audience and walked to join Argo.  Hower then looked to me as if I had all of the answers to the mystical warrior princess, but I didn’t.  Instead I just explained it to him how it is.  I’ve learned that Xena works in mysterious ways and that one doesn’t question them.  Although I still do question the warrior princess often.  She hates that about me too.

And so Hower set off to find Zagrious while I tried to figure out what Xena was doing.  She obviously had a plan, but I was still trying to figure out how she could be in two places at one time.  There was no way that she could make it back to Piedmont in time to save it from Zagrious.  Not only that, but she had just told Zagrious that she had no intention of impeding on his territory.  I decided after thinking on this over raw fish that it wasn’t important for me to know.  Instead I just decided that I would work on one of my scrolls of a time when the warrior princess seemed a little less myterious.  The thought of Joxer was even a bit of a relief after the day that Xena and I were having.  Of course most days are like this one.

About an hour from Laurel Xena experienced a call from nature.  I was certain that it came about as a result of the raw fish not in agreement with the stomach of the warrior princess.  My stomach was struggling to keep them  down.  I decided that the only way to ignore the raw pain in my side would be to re enact a dramatic interpretation of my experience with Bacchus and his baccae slaves.  I was feeling the rage of a baccae over the rude wake up call, the raw fish for lunch, Xena’s constant insults ,  inconsideration, and the fact that when I reached into Argo’s saddle bag to write another verse a corner of my scroll was now missing.  The baccae in me had taken hold at this point.  This was the last straw.  My prize possession was being used as toilet paper for Xena’s call from nature.  Again she had gotten the better of me wining the battle of wits.  I had only used her chackram for fish, but she used my scrolls for far worse.

As I rounded the corner of the horse toward the bushes the triumphant warrior princess emerged seemingly relieved and in good spirits.  Yet she also seemed quite prepared to deal with my wrath over the scrolls.  As I ranted she made up a lame excuse stating that there weren’t any good leaves in the bush.  Yeah that was a good one.  There are millions of leaves in the bushes.  I’ve used them many times and there are always at least ten possible leaves amongst hundreds.  There was no way I was buying into that excuse.  I could see it in her eyes and all over her face.  Xena was about to laugh in my face boisterously.  Before she could let out a peep the earth beneath us moved.  I was almost knocked off of my feet by the loud stomping sounds approaching through the forrest.  The entire earth shook about us and then Xena just fizzled my anger by reminding me that the giant was our enemy not each other.

The warrior princess had a point, but I was still livid.

Although Xena appeared to travel with me for laughs and my own daily humiliation I do have a lot of skills to offer.  In my struggle to remind her of this she ordered that we take cover into the trees from the open field.  While running for cover I came up with a brilliant plan as to how we would buy time.  I suggested to Xena that we make a sign with Laurel  and post it in the wrong direction so that we could mislead the giant.  That would most certainly delay him since according to Hower he had never been to their village.  Xena ignored the suggestion as she scaled up into the tallest tree she could find.  The warrior princess was looking to see exactly how much time we had before we would be battling the giant.  I don’t think she had a plan of action in place for him just yet.  She had been too focased on Zagrious determined to prove to me that she could be in two places at the same time.  I was still unconvinced.  Although I did finish building my sign.  My hope was that I had been able to spell Laurel correctly.

About this time Xena had jumped down out of the tree and was in a bit of a rush to move on.  She was frustrated with my need to finish the sign telling me that giants didn’t know how to spell so it didn’t matter that I had even made the sign.  Even so I was determined to post it so I did.  I posted it right in front of an offering statue to Aphrodite.  As I struggled to get it to stay in the ground Xena grabbed me by the clevage point and yanked me toward Laurel.  She was still unappreciative of my work.

Soon we were back to our game of warlords and victims.  I had yet to determine if who we were talking about had dark hair or light hair.  Xena responded that it was someone with dark hair.  I was begining to think that this was definately a warlord, but I was still grappling with the victim status.  Then I thought that maybe it was someone with a heavy build.  Xena quickly replied to that with a negative response.  That eliminated a few people from my list.  Maybe it was Draco because he wasn’t fat, and he was dark haired.  He was also buff, but that would be too easy.  I decided that my next best guess would be Toxious.  Xena’s response trailed off with a no.  She had suddenly switched gears again as we were entering the village of Laurel.  The warrior princess was thinking out loud.  Her words were simple.  All she could say was the word interesting.  Of course I couldn’t figure out what was so interesting about this little village.  We had been to millions of other villages just like Laurel.  They all looked the same to me.  In fact, most of them reminded me of my home village of Potedia.  Peace loving villagers tend to live very similar lives all over the countryside.  Laurel was no different.

A thought occurred to me in that moment.  Lining the main road into the village with birch trees to go with those lonely goats and chickens might be nice.  It would be a step out of the normal landscape anyway.  Xena of course was not talking about the asthtetic appearance of Laurel.  She was more interested in the fact that there seemed to be no one there.  There was not once soul roaming the streets.  No one was shopping at the market.  It was ghostly and almost eerie.  Life in this village seemed a bit too quiet.  As Xena and I looked about we were suddenly on high alert until the silence was broken by the sounds of a struggle.  Xena and I turned to look behind our path to see a peasant woman with dark hair struggling with a baby goat.  She was the only voice other than that of the goat which had spoken since Xena and I had arrived in Laurel.

Xena decided to approach the peasant in blue.  It seemed as if the woman had not even noticed our arrival until she turned to see who it was that had called out hello.  This was when things turned into a strange surreal experience.  The peasant woman’s facial expression went from surprise, to awe, to excitement all in a matter of moments.  Then she requested confirmation that Xena was who she appeared to be.  Xena was modest confirming her identity as she looked behind her.  The warrior princess was clueless as to the fame she was experiencing.  She also failed to realize that it was because of my scrolls that she was enjoying this praise.

As the peasant woman struggle to hold onto her goat she could barely contain her exasperation for she was finally getting to meet her idol.  Xena the legendary warrior princess whom she had heard so many stories about.  In fact, the woman spoke of all of Xena’s adventures including how Xena had liberated Prometheous, and unchained Death.  It seemed that the favorite legend had been those that involved Xena defeating Callisto.  All of this was within what seemed to be a single breath.  Though this woman was seemingly impressed with Xena I found myself impressed that my stories had made it this far.  I was flattered that even people who lived in villages as quiet as Laurel have been able to enjoy my scrolls about Xena and our adventures together.  Xena appeared not to be phased by her status, and soon I found myself as unexcited about it when the peasant approached me unable to figure out who I was.  She didn’t even know my name although she did try to give me a name.  It was a miserable fumbling of syllabols.

Yet the peasant woman made up for it when she began to ask me what it was like to travel with Xena.  In fact this was my inspiration for a day in the life of Xena.  I was glad to oblidge the most intimate and embarressing details of Xena’s life for Xena had been indulging in my humilation all day long with Hower.  The first question was if Xena liked to snooze in the buff, but just as I was about to answer Xena interrupted.  She resorted to the mission as the reason my fun had to end.  Sudddenly that threw the peasant woman, whose name we later found to be Minya, into action.  Minya explained that she and her boyfriend Hower were the only people from their village who had been brave enough to stay behind to defend their village against the giant.  Everyone else had apparently run to the hills for safety.  Xena’s battles for the greater good had some how inspired these two villagers to become heros especially Minya.  Minya went onto explain that she was highly qualified to help with this mission.  She described herself as tough and bold, and that she was able to read quite well.  According to Minya literacy was scarce in this part of the valley.  If nothing else sounded promising within this situation one had to hold onto Minya’s determination and exhuberance to impress the warrior princess.  She was just as bad as Hower, but in a slightly different way.

Then Minya suddenly found herself wondering about Hower whom she had forgotten about within the presence of the warrior princess.  Xena then had to explain with a bit of guilt that she had asked him to do her a favor.  She promised Minya that Hower would return.  I found that to be quite funny since Xena had yet to figure out how to tell Minya that her boyfriend had fallen for her while he was away looking for help.  Suddenly even Minya was a bit demanding.  She wanted to know what Xena’s plan was to defeat the giant.  In fact, that was the big mystery that all of us had been waiting for an answer to.  Xena finally came right out and answered it.  She didn’t have a true plan formulated yet.  I knew it!  I had known it all along.  Xena had only been sending phony messages to Zagrious to delay him until she could figure out what to do.  That was exactly what I had done with the giant.  It was a good thing too since Xena needed some more time to think.  Yet as always Xena would prove that she still didn’t value my skills to be as crafty as her own.  Quickly Minya found herself begging the warrior princess for a command.  With one sly glance Xena had come up with the perfect plan.

That was when Minya graciously offered us a nice warm bath which was quite relaxing.  It had been quite a while since Xena and I had had a bath inside.  The water was blissfully warm and relaxing although Minya was a bit overzealous in attempting to please the warrior princess.  She was exactly like Hower only the female version of him.   As Minya kept returning with large buckets of hot water to keep the bath maintained Xena and I turned our thoughts again to the game.  My next guess was Mezentious.  Xena again replied that I was wrong.  Still determined to win the game I prepared to try at another guess.  Just then Minya returned yet again filling the steaming bath with more scalding water.  She must have been boiling endless pans of water over a fire the size of an Amazon funeral fire.  When she asked if the warrior princess was too hot Xena was gracious yet it was obvious that she was begining to feel just as uncomfortable as I was.

This led me back to thoughts of the giant Gareth.  I inquired if Xena had come up with any new ideas on how to deal with him.  Xena’s response was again without an answer.  It appeared to me as if she was struggling to find the answer.  These occasions were rare, but when they come along I always try to include my input.  For a moment I drew back from conversation as I scrubbed Xena’s back hoping to release some of the stress and the tension she was feeling.  Part of it had been of my doing, but I still wanted to make up for it.  So then I had a suggestion.  It was actually the perfect plan.  We had used it before against Golliath when he went up against David and the Isrealites.  It had worked before and the day couldn’t have been more perfect for this plan.  The sun had been out shining brightly all day, and there were no clouds in sight.  I spoke these thoughts out loud to Xena reminding her of the previous success of this plan of action against giants.  Of how we could ask Minya to gather all of the mirror in Laurel so that we could get Gareth to take off his helmet and expose his soft spot.  Using the mirrors to blind him with the sun’s reflection we could easily take out the giant.  Xena seemed uninterested in trying that one again.  I didn’t understand why she wouldn’t want a guarunteed win in battle.  It was almost frustrating and personal again, but I refrained from taking it personal this time.  I was begining to understand that what Xena enjoyed most about the heat of battle was that each battle was unique to her.  Each battle had its own personality and though Gareth was a giant like Golliath this was different for the warrior princess.  Xena sensed my understanding of her and it led her to offer to take away the tension in my back.  She too was begining to feel slightly guilty for all of the bickering that had gone on between us on this day.

Then it happened again.  Minya came running with the scalding hot water which fell directly onto Xena again.  This time Xena almost snapped at Minya demanding that Minya ease up on the fresh bath water.  I was glad that Xena finally put a hault to Minya’s overly gracious offers.  Her presence led me to remind Xena of how much she too was within the grasp of Xena’s warrior princess haze.  Xena reluctantly agreed that it was true that she had not just one, but two secret admirers to deal with.  For some reason this made her uneasy although she did complement Minya on wanting to be so helpful.  It was almost as if Xena felt slightly connected to Minya in some way.  Xena was finally learning to appreciate being idolized instead of despised.  In the days when we first met it seemed that Xena had enemies in every village that wanted her blood.  Now she was being worshipped like Hercules or Aphrodite.

This led me into reminding Xena of our third problem of the day.  The problem of Hower and Minya.  Hower being in love with Xena would definately put a damper in Xena’s new found relationship with Minya.  Xena did agree that this was an issue, but it was obvious that it was the furthest thing from her warrior mind.  I could allow her take on the giant and try to make it back in time to wrestle with Zagrious, but there would be no way that Xena could handle Minya and Hower’s relationship issue.  This was definately my territory because it always takes a more sensative person to help straighten these emotional issues of love out.  It was nice to know that there would be at least one thing that I could do to make the greater good better today.

Yet as I basked in my own pride Xena found herself offended that I didn’t feel she could handle that third issue.  Again she wanted to rise to the occasion and prove to me that she could handle that better than me too.  Xena’s zest for competition was begining to truely annoy me.  I asked her why she was so set on competing with everyone and being the best.  Her response was weak, but forceful in tone.  She accused me of being overly competative.  Xena did have a point.  I was and I had been all day, but mostly with her and she definately had me beat at that.  This I stated as a fact.  She could not deny it and just as she tried desparately to come up with a retort to the naked truth Minya arrived yet again with another bucket of scalding hot water.  It splashed a divide hotter than the lava of Vesuveous.  Minya obviously didn’t hear Xena the last time she requested that Minya cease in her work.  This time Xena shouted and it got Minya’s attention.  It was obvious that Minya was quite fearful of disappointing her idol.  Xena then thanked Minya as her new disciple knelt down with excitement.  Minya inquired of Xena’s plan hoping that there would be an answer.  Yet Xena was truely stumped.

As the warrior princess fumbled with her own confidence I stepped in to save the day.  I told Minya to go ahead and gather all of the mirrors in the village to prepare for the giant’s arrival.  If Xena was unable to come up with a better more ingenuitive plan then at least we would be ready when the giant came.  Minya looked to Xena for confirmation that this was the plan.  Now Xena was stuck for I had forced her into using her old plan, but the only problem was that Xena explained that it was only a contigency plan.  It didn’t matter to Minya though.  She dashed off faster than a bolt of lightening to please the warrior princess.  I found myself irritated that Xena was still not going to go with my latest suggestion.  The competition was on as our battle of wits continued.  Xena didn’t want me to ever get the last word or the last command.  I had found her weak spot and she was trying desparately to defend it.  Xena only responded by first playing it off as if she didn’t know what I was talking about and then she had a retort.  She accused me of being an ametuer reminding me that being a real warrior means being flexible within any battle situation.  This was just as irritating as the sudden lump underneath me which Xena discovered to be the soap.  Suddenly we found ourselves within a wrestling competion within the bath splashing each other until we couldn’t see anymore.  And again the warrior princess beat me.

I had finally decided that I had come to the end of my rope with her for the day.  While she was outside talking with Minya and Hower who had just returned from his lastest mission I went shopping.  Since there was no one around I couldn’t go to the market so I decided to trade, but there was only one problem.  Minya was the only one I could trade with since everyone else had run for the hills.  Yet it would be easy.  All I had to do was pick out a frying pan that I liked and I was certain that Minya would find something enticing that I could offer to her in exhange. When I finally managed to join everyone outside again I overheard Xena talking to Hower planning to send him on another mission.  She was still unable to deal with that problem too.  She just kept sending everyone away from Laurel hoping that her ulitimate plan would ferment in her mind.  It seemed to me that Xena had lost her mind.

Xena told Hower exactly verbatum that Zagrious had refused her offer.  When she repeated back to Hower word for word Zagrious’s response Hower seemed impressed and in awe.  Xena then told Hower to go back out and find Zagrious to warn him not to come near Laurel.  She also wanted Hower to make sure Zagrious knew that Piedmont and any other village was his for the taking.  Hower was exasperated and ready for action saying good-bye to Xena.  He practically blew the warrior princess kisses through his eyes.  Xena’s way of dealing with this was to order him to say good-bye to Minya whom he wouldn’t even take the time to glance at.  Hower did say good-bye to Minya, but it could barely be heard by anyone.  Then he went running, and leaping away to find Zagrious to deliver Xena’s latest message.  It seemed insane to me that Xena would continue to send Hower out to tell Zagrious a lot of nonesense.  Apparently Xena had known Zagrious before and they had been warlord pals in the past.  This led me to think that maybe Zagrious was the answer to the game.  As I approached Xena while Minya was finding herself struggling to deal with her new reality Xena ordered me to do something about their current state of emotions.  Although she didn’t actually say that I should she alluded to it.  Of course I had better plans for Minya.  Soon I was on my way to gaining ground against the warrior princess.  After trading to get Minya’s frying pan I had come up with my answer to Xena’s warlords and victims riddle.  Since I was on a role I decided that I would try my hand at the element of surprise just one more time.

As they say practice makes perfect.  I had seen Xena go into a barn up the path and decided that she would be at her weakest when in deep thought.  I took my staff and listened intently from outside.  There was not a peep.  The only thing that I could hear was Xena breathing deeply within meditation.  She was definately not expecting an attack.  Quietly I inched around the corner through the doorway of the barn.  As I peeked in I could feel that Xena’s eyes were closed.  She was totally focased on her thoughts.  I knew that now was my chance and so I went for it.  As I drove forward into the barn with my staff in the ready Xena suddenly jumped up high into the air kicking down two buckets full of water and giving her battle cry.  She hit each bucket simultaneously with her warrior boots as she spun around in mid air prepared and ready to face me in battle.  Although I knew now that I was whipped I still had to attempt to make the striking blow.  Just as I lifted my staff to thrust it into the chest of the warrior princess she landed spinning around to face me.  She kicked my staff effortlessly to the floor in the final movement of her entire body.  It was amazing I have to admit, but it didn’t help me in winning the battle.  All I could do was throw my arms down in frustration and aggitation.  Just when I had thought I would beat her with the one two punch I had lost my battle advantage.

Yet at least I still had my wits about me.  Quickly I brushed off my loss in the battle to approach the warrior princess with my answer to the riddle of warlords and victims.  Already she had turned her back to me and fallen back into deep mediation.  I approached her from behind and whispered slyly into her ear.  The answer was most certainly the great Centaries.  She responded quickly with a negetive answer.  It was short and it was spiteful.  Frankly, the warrior princess was driving me insane which led me to my earlier suspicion.  I then demanded to know if it was indeed someone she had fought before I had met her.  The answer had to be yes, but it was no.  My emotional breaking point was now for my wits had been smacked down just as hard as my staff had.  So far I had lost two out of my three advantages with little effort from the warrior princess.  Now that I had finally given up on warlords and victims I was dying to know the answer.  Xena slyly spun back around to face me smiling as she spoke the name of Theodoras.

Now that couldn’t be right for Theodoras had been killed by not Xena, but Callisto.  Xena had a clever supporting arguement for that as well.  She proceeded to remind me that Theodoras had been killed by Callisto when Callisto had been in Xena’s body.  Who knew that Xena would go that far in being certain to defeat me in cold blood, but she had.  She wasn’t wrong, but she wasn’t right either.  Yet who could ever get the warrior princess with that.  As Xena stood in the barn within her own glory there was a nasty sound which had come from just outside the barn.  It snapped and suddenly Minya could be heard struggling and crying out in pain.  Xena quickly moved outside to investigate as I picked up my staffed off of the floor.  As we made our way outside all was still very quiet in Laurel, but Minya stood alone rubbling the sting of the whip off of her face.  Xena called out forcefully to Minya.  She wanted to know why a peasant woman would take it upon herself to play with weapons of mass destruction without proper training.

Minya argued with Xena reminding the warrior princess or me rather that she had traded her best frying pan to me in order to gain a piece of Xena memorabilia.  Okay so even though Xena had beaten me in battle and with wits I still crushed her with surprise.  I had forgotten about my trade from earlier and I had no idea that it would bring out the anger that it did.  Xena was furious that I had traded her weapon.  What she didn’t realize was that I had let her off of the hook for it was the chackram that Minya had truely wanted.  Quickly I had to defend my choice for Xena was fast approaching in her fury.  I retorted with the fact that we needed to be able to cook our food reminding Xena of the fact that the fish were still not settling within my stomach.  I had matched her fury with my own emotional fury, but it wasn’t enough to mask my real pain.  Xena called me on my excuse knowing that the real reason I had traded her weapon was to get back at her for using my scrolls as back up toiletry.  This was true, but it didn’t seem to matter.

Xena decided since that trade had already been made that there was only one way to resolve this issue.  She turned immediately back to Minya and demanded that Minya return it to her.  Minya was firm and did not budge.  She was certainly more assertive than her counter part Hower.  It was kind of nice to see that someone else could stand up to the warrior princess.  Minya reminded Xena that a trade had been made and in that transaction the whip had become her property while the frying pan had become ours.  Not only that, but Minya went one step further in reminding Xena that Hower was hers and that I belonged to the warrior princess.  That part of the deal didn’t sound all that attractive, but it certainly was amusing.  What was unfolding was emotionally interesting about the warrior princess.  For the first time that I could ever remember she was being told no.  I had never seen anyone be able to tell the warrior princess no and be successful in keeping their lives.  Minya was quite courageous and bold in standing up to her.  I was quite impressed.  Then Xena realized that she had lost.  Both Minya and I had ganged p on her and there was no way to win.  As Xena looked back at me with disgust I tried to hide me laughter, but I’m not really sure if I masked it all that well.  Then she looked to Minya and instructed her to be certain to get all of the mirrors ready at the north end of town.  Xena quickly brushed Minya out of her way as she went to find out how close the giant was.

Minya would not allow Xena to have the last word.  Instead she forced Xena to pause as she moved toward Argo.  The two dark haired tall women exchanged a glance of toughness as Xena walked away seemingly hurt by this gesture and disrespect.  As Xena saddled up onto her horse I realized that Argo was the only one who truely understood the warrior princess.  Argo was the only one that Xena could go to in her times of emotional need.  I began to feel even more low as I watched Minya drive the final nail into the coffin as she taunted the warrior princess as Xena rode out of Laurel.  I realized that I had deeply bruised Xena’s pride.  Not only that, but I had created a new enemy for Xena.  The poor warrior princess was having a bad day and all I had done was make it worse for her.  I decided that I had to do something to make up for it.  The begining of that would have to be in repairing Minya’s relationship with the warrior princess.

My scrolls were the perfect solution to the problem for it had been my scrolls that had given the warrior princess that certain glow within Minya’s heart.  It wasn’t fair that Minay had met the warrior princess on an off day.  And so I sat down in the barn with Minya and helped her read some of my scrolls.  In fact, we read the story of Baccus and the beautiful girls that Xena had rescued from his wrath.  I had to remind Minya of Xena’s heart and commitment to goodness.  As Minya read the final lines of the scroll I asked her how she liked the story of Xena’s kindness and bravery.  She really did enjoy the story which pleased me, but Minya then responded by asking for the stories in which Xena was the harlot that stole the men of good and decent women.  I looked to her and softly scolded her for having such mean thoughts toward the warrior princess.  Desparately I wanted to project my guilt into Minya’s heart knowing that it had been my fury that had been injected into hers.  I then reassured her that Xena was out to find Hower and to straighten things out for the two of them.  My lack of confidence in the warrior princess had not boded well for the faith and belief of others.

Yet just when I was about to turn Minya’s heart back to Xena Hower arrived in a tizzy.  He seemed nervous and unable to stop shaking with fear.  Yet his fear was more in hurting Minya for he began to confess that he had fallen in love with the warrior princess.  My own heart sank for it was as if Hower had broken up with me for it had sealed the deal of any hopes to restore Minya’s faith in Xena or Hower.  Minya looked to me with disgust and frustration.  Her anger was more from being hurt by her idol and her lover.  Both had gilted her today.  Suddenly Xena entered the barn with business and nothing more.  As she was about to discuss our dire situation I interrupted her hoping to remind her of how important it was that we restore Minya and Hower’s relationship.  Xena ignored this issue with the dire details of the giant.  She had confirmed that it was indeed Gareth by the size of his footprints.  Xena explained that our time was extremely short which meant that our mirror plan was out.  Then as Xena was about to address the situation with Minya and Hower Hower stepped in to explain to Minya who Gareth was.  But Minya already knew.  She quickly filled in the rest of the details cutting Hower off.  Minya detailed that Gareth was the meanest giant to ever walk the earth and she continued onto explain that he had killed Xena’s friend the giant Golliath’s family.  Both Xena and I were impressed for Minya continued on to tell the story of the battle of the Isrealites and the Phillistines and of how it was there that Golliath met his own demise against Xena.  It was as if Minya had been there herself and she explained that she had read it in one of my scrolls.

As exciting and impressive as that statement was there was work to focas on.  I turned back to Xena and asked her if Gareth was wearing a helmet.  Xena explained that indeed he was and that it also had a heay nose guard which would most certainly protect his soft spot.  I still didn’t understand why the mirrors wouldn’t work until Xena explained that heavy rain clouds were quickly moving in from the west.  It was all a timing issue and Gareth was moving slower than the weather.  Our situation seemed grim, but Xena seemed to be in control.  It was as if she had already made another plan.  As I waited with Minya and Hower for the answer to materialize Xena moved deeper into the barn.  Then she paced back and looked to me for an answer.  She wanted to know if it had been true that Zues killed giants with lightening bolts.  Indeed it was true, but my faith was being tested as she spoke.  Using a lightening bolt and actually being able to handle one were two different things.  Especially since neither Xena, nor I, nor Minya or Hower were gods.

We were racing against time through trial and error yet somehow the warrior princess kept trudging forward.  Xena led Howard, Minya, and I back out just beyond the lookout tree into the open field from earilier in the day.  It was about a mile just outside of the village.  Once we arrived she began constructing a strange new weapon.  It was made out of some old worn out blankets that Minya had provided, and one of Hower’s ropes from his stable horse.  There was only one problem.  It seemed that there was a piece missing.  Xena spent a few moments in thought as the three companions looked on hopelessly.  We all thought Xena had lost it by this point, but nobody had the heart or the will to tell the warrior princess.  Suddenly Xena called out to Hower who was excited that she needed him for something.  It was as if she were holding the key to a big mystery and only Hower would be important enough to be told about it.  The warrior princess quickly reached for Hower’s waste only to rip his belt buckle right off of his belt.  Hower’s pants did stay on, but there was a sense of embarressment within him as the warrior princess went back to operating on her new contraption.

It looked nice as she was tying the final touches onto it, but I still didn’t see the vision.  That was when I finally had to ask her what it was.  Xena’s response wasn’t all that promising.  She didn’t even have a name for her diamond shaped cloth with two sticks, and some old rags on a string hanging from a belt buckle.  Yet the warrior princess continued to be confident in her new accomplishment.  She went onto explain to me that all that needed to happen was to be certain to get the weapon up into the air.  I was still lost because I didn’t see exactly how this was helping us conquer the giant.  It was too soft and light to do any real damage.  At least with the mirrors one could attempt to blind the giant.  This was stretching it for me, but at least the warrior princess was creative.  Xena seemed to ignore my lack of faith in her vision explaining that it would be the perfect weapon to nail the giant with if we could just get it into the air to harness the lightening bolts.

Okay so it sounded great, but I was still lacking the vision of how this thing was going to get into the air.  Xena continued to explain her vision as she expressed it with such passion and glory.  She spoke of how the wind would carry it and in a sense there was the small possibility of success.  If only Zues were feeling frisky with the elements he might actually help the warrior princess with her plan.  Yet gods are not known for their respect of humanity.  I was actually shocked to see that Xena was evening turning to this as a valid alternative, but I decided to sit back alongside Hower and Minya and hope for the best.  That was all that one could do at this point.

The warrior princess then held the weapon straight up in the air pointing the top of the slender shaped diamond toward the heavens.  She let out a cry and released it into the air with force as the winds began to pick up slightly.  Suddenly the diamond began to fly as it took the string off of the small roller that Xena had designed to tame it.  It was amazing to watch as the wind began to carry the weapon further and further into the air.  Suddenly it seemed possible that it may be able to reach the heavens toward Zues and his lightening bolts, but just as I was about to feel the excitement and the confidence that Xena seemingly felt the diamond deflated as the winds died down and it plummeted dismally to the ground.  It slammed down with force as Minya let out a snicker and Hower looked extremely disappointed and confused.  Minya was still on her high in defeating Xena back in the village for possession of Xena’s whip.  Of course I had fueled that.  I was really begining to feel sorry for Xena.  This was a rare feeling, but she seemed to be a broken washed up warrior out to prove she was still the best.

I approached the warrior princess and knelt down beside her trying to offer some support.  It was like trying to let Hower down in knowing that Xena would never be his, but only worse.  This was my best friend and she was going off of the deep end to think that she could harness the lightening of Zues.  The desparate warrior princess was frantic in trying to repair the damage to the tip of her diamond weapon.  As she tried to smooth out the rough edges I tried to let her down easy.  She needed to realize that now was the time to move onto another plan or a more solid idea.  Her latest idea was too abstract even for me.  Yet the warrior princess was extremely defensive and could not admit defeat.  She snapped at me demanding to know what my plan was, but the truth of it was that I didn’t have one either.  Xena was extremely stubborn as I tried to hold down my temper.  I only wanted to explain to her that I was there to help, but she didn’t see it that way.  Instead she ignored me as I tried to explain to her that there would be a day that she would be wrong despite all of the times that she had already proven herself to be right.  On this day I was certain that fate would step in for it was about to become a rainy day for the warrior princess.  She was havind difficulty accepting this.

Xena continued to venture on her own out beyond the realm of normal thoughts as she decided that the solution to her problem would simply be solved by running with her new weapon.  Suddenly the warrior princess jumped up from her latest defeat and began running all about the field desparately trying to get a response from the weapon.  This self-humiliation went on for several minutes as I tried desparately to restore my faith in my friend and her skills.  I breathed in deeply and out slowly as I spoke within my mind and desparately called out to my soul for restored faith.  Hower simply became more enthralled with the warrior princess finding that she was rather cute when she was frustrated while Minya gave up on winning him over.  For Hower Xena could do no wrong and so Minya decided to return to the village.

There was a point that Xena had found that her weapon was tangled in a rather large bush, but even that could not stop her in attempting to defeat the wind.  I began to realize that no matter what she would never give in.  This made me feel less threatened by all of the times that she challenged my will.  If the will of nature couldn’t prove itself right then I would never be able to either so I decided to stop trying.  Instead I built up some faith again, but just as I was about to jump back into the game Xena hurled her weapon across the open field and it flew again for a brief time only to come crashing down right on top of my head.  It wasn’t a pleasant feeling to be attacked by a diamond that slightly resembled a giant amazon queen mask, but it did knock some sense into me.

If Xena was going to go down I would go down with her since I was her best friend and friends stick by each other until the end.  Even if it was against the biggest meanest giant to ever walk the earth.  And so we spent the next several moments working together as a team for the first time of the day.  I grabbed the parchment as Xena stood several feet away and began to run as I ran with her still holding the parchment.  Suddenly I felt the power of Zues lifted the parchement from beneath me and I let it go up into the heavens once more.  My excitement and hope were restored as I cheered with the warrior princess on our accomplishment together.  The parchement stayed in the air for several minutes until Xena finally decided that her weapon would work.  She handled it with percision as she controlled it like her chackram only it was more graceful as it floated freely.  Quickly Xena’s mood had changed from frustration to relief.  It seemed that she had now solved at least one of our problems, but there were still two more.  Yet the warrior princess had moved onto the final problem for she had already solved the problem of Zagrious.

I was impressed as she explained that her intentions in sending Hower with cryptic messages to Zagrious was to ambush Zagrious and his army at Laurel using the giant.  She was planning on being certain that both would face each other just before they reached the village limits.  Now that her flying parchment worked she would be able to harness the lightening to defeat Gareth as soon as Gareth has smashed up Zagrious’s army.  Now this was all very wonderful news to me and a bit of a relief, but Xena wasn’t going to stop there.  She decided that she was on a role and handed over her flying parchment for me to tame while she went back to the village to attempt to straighten out the mess she had made with Minya and Hower.

My taming of the parchement did not last long for became so powerful that it stole the weapon from my grasp sending it slaming out of control into a tree in the wood just beyond the village.  After chasing the parchment down I decided to return to the village to check on Xena’s progress with Hower.  When I arrived she was inside the barn again talking to him.  I was a little insulted by her arrogance in thinking that she would be able to resolve the relationship problems of Minya and Hower.  As I listened just outside the door I heard her tell Hower that he didn’t have a chance with her.  She tried to be forceful with him and nasty, but it didn’t seem to dampen his resolve.  Instead he responded to her force with denial.  Yet he insisted that it was Xena who was denying her feelings for Hower.  He was certain that the warrior princess would come around.  Then he continued to brush Xena’s horse as if it were going to impress her.  It didn’t matter anyway.  I had a new attack planned for Xena and she would never suspect it.

As the warrior princess exited the barn I found myself climbing up onto the roof in anticipation.  She called out my name in desparation.  I knew that her next command would be to take care of the situation with Hower, but that wasn’t enough for my ego.  I needed more and so as I waited she came out around the corner of the barn.  She knew I was lurking because I could see her shoulders tensing up in anticipation.  The warrior princess is always aware of her surroundings even when she can’t see them.  I still had the advantage because she would never suspect me from the air.  As she walked around the corner of the barn expecting me to jump out with my staff I lept from the top of the barn in an attempt to knock her down.  Instead I landed flat on my chest knocking the wind out of myself for a moment.  As struggled to rise back to my feet I grabbed for Xena’s breast plate for balance.  She just glanced at me with her warrior smirk knowing that she had beaten me again.  It was now becoming more of a game rather than a direct challenge of wills.  I had tried giving a battle cry on my way down, but realized that it had been what had given my position away.

Xena responded doubtfully to my assumption that my mistake had been the battle cry.  My next question had already been answered, but I still had to ask her how things had gone with Hower.  As I had expected she commanded me to take care of that situation and then I had to explain that her flying parchement was now stuck in the trees.  Our truce had not lasted long and so the day drug on toward the climax of all three of our issues colliding simultaneously.  I dreaded having to bring reality into the love life of Hower, but as I sat there with him in the barn for over an hour he kept proclaiming that he and Xena were destined for each other.  It became a saliloquey that drug on forever and repeated itself in circles.  My attempts at convincing Hower that Minya was the one he was meant for ended dismally as I myself had to admit defeat in the arena of emotional repair.

As I trudged back out into the world away from Hower’s fantasies I caught sight of Xena who had returned with her flying parchement in tact.  She was talking with Minya who appeared to be very responsive to the warrior princess.  Suddenly, Minya was running back into the village as if she were going to deliver a message to Zagrious only Zagrious was already coming.  I approached the warrior princess with curiousity as she explained that she had given Minya some personal advice on dealing with men.  Apparently whatever Xena had said sparked something in Minya although Xena didn’t appear so confident about Minya’s trust in her at this point.   Whatever was said I could only hope that it was going to work because Hower was hopeless as far as I could tell.  I decided that the only solution to his problem would be found in being kicked around by the warrior princess.  Xena jokingly disagreed with me stating that he’d probably enjoy a beating.  She was right of course.  The beast known as man is a creature of lust.

Our conversation suddenly turned to a more serious tone in the next moment when Xena reminded me of how important it was for her succeed in defeating Gareth.  If for no other reason than to repay Goliath for having to die against the Isrealites and for the loss of his family when he once saved Xena from Gareth’s wrath.  It was in this moment that I was reminded of why I traveled with Xena.  She need someone there to remind her that she was doing the right thing.  The warrior princess needed my support and to be reminded that Goliath’s death was for the good of others.  I soothed Xena’s concerns for Goliath reminding her that he could hear her thoughts.  He could feel Xena’s friendship and love for him even in death.  I had to remember this myself every day for Perdicas was forever listening to me.

As I was falling into that thought and that wonderful feeling it was interrupted by the sounds of stomping echoing through the woods and the ground shaking violently beneath me.  Hower quickly came running out of the barn shouting out about the approaching giant with worry.  Yet Xena was not at all worried.  She was extremely pleased for Zagrious had fallen right into her trap.  The warrior princess was reminded in this moment of how Gareth couldn’t resist stomping an army to pieces for he had stomped her army once on the battle field.  She spoke her thoughts outloud as Hower found himself surprised that one of Xena’s hairy brained plans had worked.  He suddenly had faith in the warrior princess and he wondered if all of Xena’s plans worked as she had constructed them in her mind.  Xena wasn’t certain that the rest of her plan would work, but it was all that she had to work with.  With Zagrious out of the way the only contender would be Gareth who was still coming to Laurel reguardless of the outcome.  Everyone had to be ready for battle.

Waiting for Gareth was the most uneventful part of the day.  Xena, Hower, and I spent what seemed to be hours just sitting and waiting in silence.  The only sound that could be heard was Xena’s chackram being hurled out at the campfire pot, to the dry bones hanging from the abandoned butcher shop, to the old wagon wheel at the edge of the village and then back again.  There was the occasional sound of the giant approaching, but he was certainly in no hurry.  He was probably consuming the army that he had just stomped to bits.  I found myself pacing and twirling my staff with bordom as Hower just stared at Xena attempting to figure out a way to get her to admit her love for him I would assume.  He kept shooting her these flirtacious glances that the warrior princess completely ignored, yet Hower didn’t seem to notice.  Finally the boredom became a bit overwhelming for me and I was getting impatient with Gareth.  I sat down next to Xena on the log by the campfire and asked her what could be holding the giant up.  Xena explained that he was probably taking a rest after all of his hard work destroying Zagrious’s army.

Then she finished wiping off the debris from the chackram’s blade and hurled it out again as I watched it hit the same three objects for the hundreth time.  Hower seemed impressed at how effortless and accurate Xena was with her weapon.  She never missed her mark.  This was nothing new for me, but I was very concerned for Minya now because we hadn’t seen her for the entire hour.  Hower was falling deeper into his warrior haze fantasy and the giant was about to arrive.  Xena explained that her hope for Minya was that Minya had finally looked past their differences of the day and taken her advice.  Just as she finished that statement the conversation was interrupted by the sounds of an angry and crazed warlord.

Hower jumped up startled from the chair in which he had been seated backwards in.  There was alarm and worry in his eyes.  I don’t think he believed that Xena was a real warrior because she hadn’t really demonstrated her skills well today.  Yet it seemed that Xena wasn’t the only warrior having an off day.  Zagrious was insane.  His anger and frustration had reached the boiling point.  The man couldn’t control his emotions which Xena has often said can lead to mistakes.  Xena was having a great time and agreed that it was a tough day for those who made their living as warriors.  Yet she wasn’t phased by Zagrious, or Gareth, or Hower, or even me and my antics.  She was completely poised and ready to battle as Zagrious approached expressing how much he despised Xena’s change from looting and steeling, to saving the day.  He spoke of her like a true bard, but without the admiration.  As he approached with his scratched up face, and his half sword he was suddenly approached by the dark haired woman dressed in leather.

It was Minya.  She stood before the battered warlord ready for action.  Hower suddenly appeared upset and worried as he ran around the side of the barn to save Minya from the wrath of Zagrious.  Yet just when it seemed that Minya needed a man to defend her Zagrious attacking finding himself running straight into the heel of Minya’s powerful hand.  She gave him a good beating with just one thrust under the nose sending him flattened onto the ground.  He was knocked out and defeated.  There was nothing left to pick up as Hower found himself enthralled with Minya’s warrior skills.  Of course Minya was dressed in leather which she assumed was the real attraction.  Indeed she had taken Xena’s advice and it was refreshing to see that Hower and Minya were back together with all of their differences worked out.  That was the last we had seen of them for the day.  As Xena and I found ourselves relieved that Hower wouldn’t be another tag along in our travels together.

There was somehow a sense of relief in the resolution of two of the day’s issues and Xena and I both breathed a sigh of relief for the load which had been lifted from both of us.  Yet there was still one problem left to tackle and it was a giant problem.  The sounds of laughter coming from within between Hower, and Minya were suddenly drowned out by the sounds of Gareth’s giant boots approaching the village.  As the earth shook beneath us again I looked to Xena who was no longer relaxed, but poised yet again.  Her first words in response to her poised body stated that Gareth was headed toward the giant’s burial ground before he would return to smash through Laurel.  There was a bit of good news to this for it gave Xena some time to set up her flying parchment, but it was still not certain if this wild plan was going to work.  Yet I had to have faith that the warrior princess would succeed in defeating the giant for she had succeeded in both Zagrious and the relationship of Hower and Minya.

Even Xena as she continued to speak was not certain of her plan, but her heart was where it always is.  She was concerned for the safety of the people that she was attempting to save.  Xena directed me to be certain that if her plan failed that I was to make sure that Hower and Minya’s lives would not end in a lost cause.  My heart was touched as the concern flowed out of the heart of the warrior princess and I decided that it was time for me to lay my irriations to rest.  I didn’t want to part with the warrior princess on bad terms for I had sold her whip for a frying pan just to get back at her.  It was wrong and it wasn’t thoughtful of me and as I expressed my regret and sorrow for my actions to her she only paused me to remind me that she too was sorry.  Xena apologized for disrespecting me when she had thoughtlessly used my scrolls for the call of nature.  It made me feel better about my bad behavior toward the warrior princess to know that she too had been able to stand up and admit when she was wrong.  Our arguements of the day had been silly and petty.  Xena established that by parting in saying that we were even despite all of our battles of will.

Soon the warrior princess was off for the final leg of the mission.  She rounded up her flying parchment and dashed out of the village toward the edge of the woods.  When she was close enough to the path of the giant she seeked out and found a tree that would bring her to his eye level.  Xena bravely scaled the tree with her flying parchment and positioned it at the top.  Then she awaited Gareth along the path toward the burial ground.  Soon all of nature felt to wrath of the giant approaching as all of the birds fled and the deer found themselves almost frozen with fear.  Every animal in the forrest scattered leaving Xena to be the last one standing against the giant.  As Gareth walked up the path Xena called out to him to get his attention.  With just two giant steps he was at the tree where Xena awaited him.  As soon as he recognized his old foe in battle Gareth was angry and tried to swat Xena down out of the tree.  Xena was ready to react for she jumped down from the top of the tree down to the waist of the giant.  She knew that his slow movement would be a distraction in itself as he tried to swat her from the tree.  It was then that she took the oppritunity to fasten the weapon to his metal armor near his belt.

Suddenly the chase was on and it was the most dangerous part of Xena’s plan.  She had to be able to outrun a giant, get him out into the open, and hope that Zues would be throwing down lighting by the time they reached the giant’s burial ground.  The chase was long and vigourous, but the warrior princess stayed steady as the approaching dark clouds gave her the hope that she needed to defeat the giant and win the battle for to pay her debts to her old friend Goliath.  As they approached death within the giant’s burial ground Xena kept tuanting her foe as she dodged the bones of the giants who had once ruled the earth before Gareth.  The grounds were littered with danger as Xena lept forward and rolled over an old jaw bone.  Gareth tried to use the bones to his advantage as he disrespectfully picked off an old arm bone and hurled it at the warrior princess.  She made another move to dodge him attempting to take cover within a giant skull.  Soon Zues came to the rescue as the winds picked up and the lightening bolts began to fly.

Gareth was still attatched to the flying parchment which had stayed strong up into the heaven the entire chase.  As the evening began to fall into the day and the day into the night Xena approached Gareth certain that Zues would soon throw down the final blow that would catch her flying parchment and send Gareth crashing to the ground.  Xena spoke out loud to Goliath whom she was certain was there with her in spirit guiding her to the defeat of Gareth.  Gareth found himself making one last stand against the heavens as he raised his giant powerful shoulder into the air preparing to smash Xena with his fist.  Just before he was about to take the final blow against the warrior princess and all of his enemies Zues threw down his most powerful bolt and hit the flying parchment which faithfully guided the power of Zues into the giant’s back.  Gareth had been stabbed by the power of Zues as he fell with a giant thud to the ground.  Xena was sent several feet into the air as her body absorbed the immense energy of Gareth’s fall.  The power of Zues and the death of a giant was so large that even I could feel the death of Gareth from the little village of Laurel.  Yet as soon as I heard it I knew that it was over and I had faith that Xena would return to Laurel soon.

Darkness had fallen by this point as I prepared the camp fire in the streets of Laurel.  I cooked dinner with Minya for Xena when she would return from her rough day of warrior life.  Minya’s frying pan was excellant and I was thankful that Xena would be able to enjoy the fruits of her loss of the whip.  Upon Xena’s return she was quiet and reflective as she sometimes is at the end of the day when the battles were tough.  I did most of the talking as I often like to do because somehow it helps to sooth the beast within Xena’s heart.  As we finished with dinner I had begun to prepare the bed rolls by the fire.  Both of us were exhausted and going to bed, but glad the day was over.  The storm clouds had passed by now bringing a beautiful scene in the night sky.  Xena began to talk about the stars and of how they seemingly formed giant pictures in the sky.  Maybe she was looking for Goliath up there in the heavens.  She even thought that she had seen a giant dipper that he could have used to eat dinner in the heavens with his family safe and together.  Of course for me it only looked like a giant bear with a giant head, but cute little ears.

The warrior princess was yawning by now and near sleep, but I was certain that she was poised and ready for anything that might come her way.  And so I decided to test my theory knowing that it would most certainly be true.  I grabbed my staff from my side and jumped into action lunging from my back to my stomach in an attempt to make contact against the warrior princess.  Just when I had thought that I would be defeated effortlessly by the strength and agility of the warrior princess I felt the tip of my staff make contact with the bridge of Xena’s nose.  This sent Xena’s body jolting with surprise and sudddenly I felt very small inside.  As I desparately tried to apologize for my mistake the warrior princess just brushed it off.  She was in a bit of shock and even some anger, but realized that the only way to get out of this new arguement was to surrender and call it a night.  She rubbed her sore nose and rolled over hoping to reassure me.  I felt guilt, but it dissolved into wonder for I would not have been so understanding had I been nailed by Xena.  Her forgiveness of me on this day seemed endless, and as I settled back down to that comforting thought I suddenly realized that it wasn’t forgiveness she felt for me, but pity.  Xena had felt sorry for me and decided to let me win just one time.  Now this I could not stand for.  This was why she appeared to have so much faith in me.  She wanted to go to sleep and didn’t have time to argue.  I decided that I would show her the truth of this.  I owed it to her since she had so rudely awakened me by jumping onto my leather water bottle and squirting me in the face with it.

As I attempted to start a new arguement with Xena her only response was a weak yet firm statement.  She just stated that it was time to go to bed.  I couldn’t really argue with that.  And so I lay still next to the warrior princess feeling the closeness of our friendship.  Knowing that we are there for each other through the good and the bad, the smelly, and even the ugly.  This was enough for me.  And so yet another day had ended in the life of Xena the warrior princess and her loyal companion the bard Gabrielle.  Yet I was still thinking about how I knew that she let me hit her though she has sworn otherwise.

The Xena Scrolls

By:  Gabrielle Bard of Potedia

Scroll#39:  Blind Faith

March, 47 B.C.

       I sing of a day of darkness.  A selfless choice which lead to the sacrifice of the eyes of the warrior princess.  It is the story of a blind faith known by no other once sung to the bard by her beloved friend.  In the morning hour of this day the bard Gabrielle walked alongside the warrior princess munching upon a delicious apple.  It had been the last in Argo’s saddle bag.  The warrior princess had given it up to her friend willingly despite her own hunger as they walked through the village market.  Xena’s only focas was in finding the nearest tavern after walking for most of the morning.  Gabrielle was fascinated with the sights and sounds of the market as people scurried by with their goods and haggled all around her.  This brought excitement to her which suddenly sent her into a need to impulsively shop for something.

By this point the warrior princess had spotted the nearest tavern and was about to head off into that direction.  Just before Xena could change course Gabrielle made her thoughts known to the warrior princess.  Xena was caught off guard for she had not remembered that they needed anything except for a bite to eat.  It seemed impractical yet she ran through her mind the possibilities of neccessity.  Gabrielle realized her friend did not understand the request.  She elaborated on her thoughts explaining that she wanted to shop for the sake of shopping.  Gabrielle expressed how much she truely enjoyed the entire process of haggling for the deal.  The bard found herself desiring to be a part of all of the bustle surrounding her.  Xena seemed uninterested suddenly realizing that the bard was only being frivilous and nothing more.  The warrior princess did not appear to enjoy the idea of getting involved, waiting in line, or aruging over material things.  It was true there were enough dinars to spend on a few things, but Xena was not interested.  Instead the warrior princess turned to her young friend and explained her thoughts on the idea and the subject of shopping.  She preferred breakfast at the tavern over shopping.  Xena was not against allowing the bard to participate despite her opinions of shopping, but she did not forbid it.  The warrior princess decided that she would go on to the tavern and meet Gabrielle there as soon as the bard tired of her frivilous adventure.

As the warrior princess left the bard alone Gabrielle was slightly disappointed that Xena did not want to share in a simple adventure.  Yet her thought passed into the distraction of all of the wonderful goods being displayed up and down the streets of the village.  The bard noticed that this village was larger and more exciting than most.  Its population was bordering on crowded.  This explained the reason for such a large market.  Then Gabrielle noticed that many of the vendors were from all over the world.  There were ethnic people she had never seen before.  This was fascinating to the bard.  As she scanned the scene with her eyes she caught sight of a fabric vendor.  His fabrics appeared bright and exotic.  This caught the bard’s attention immediately.  She thought that maybe she could go for a change in wardrobe so she ventured over to haggle with him.

Just before reaching the vendor she had decided that she would spend no more than three dinars for she intended to shop at as many places as she could with only ten dinars to squander.  It wasn’t much, but she was certain she could stretch them far.  In approaching the far eastern vendor she began to pick through his fabrics noticing the bright green silks, and the many other assortments of fabrics.  She picked up one that looked most intriguing.  It was dark blue with red and white designs.  Although Gabrielle had fallen in love with this piece of cloth she decided to play it off as if it were dirty and damaged.  Her first question to the vendor was his price.  He smiled speaking smoothly explaining that it was a Roman Egyptian prayer scarf.    Then he gave his price.  It was five dinars.  He flashed as smiled back at his customer who was not at all charmed by his handsom demeanor.  Instead she went with the angle that he was most certainly joking about his request.  He was willing to haggle explaining that he would drop a dinar from the price.  It was more than the bard was willing to give up and so she played the best move of all.  She shunned his offer and turned to walk away sending the young handsome vendor into a panic.

He gently grabbed her arm as she turned away pleading for a sale at three dinars.  Gabrielle was certain she could do better judging by his reaction to her leaving.  It was clear that he was not having a great day in sales.  Although she had nailed down her own offer he did not have to know.  She deicided to take the haggling one step further.  Gabrielle played up the effect as she took a deep breath casually picked up the scarf and stated that she could use it to wipe the sweat off of her horse.  She offered one dinar.  The vendor thought for a slight moment and then decided that his final price would stand firmly at two dinars.  The bard realized that her own mistake had been in picking up the scarf before hearing the final offer.  Yet it did not matter for she had already saved at least one dinar.  He played the sympathy card well as she retrieved two dinars from her leather scroll bag and placed them into his rough hands.  Then she sighed smiling gleefully as she wrapped the scarf around her head and shoulders.  With that the bard left with a final dramatic glance at the vendor who flipped one dinar and then kissed his prize  sending another happy customer her on her way.

The bard was feeling high with energy and relaxed realizing that her shopping adventure would last a little longer than she had anticipated.  As she walked through the market she caught sight of something that looked like a large leather water bottle, but when she picked it up she realized that it was something else.  Gabrielle threw it back down onto the table and gave it no more thought as she decided that she would walk to the other end of the market.  With her guard down the unsuspecting victim found herself suddenly startled by someone from behind her who had a rather strong grasp on her arms.  Gabrielle’s reaction to being restrained and pushed back toward the alley was to use her staff in self defense.  She swung it over her head backwards making contact with her attacker’s head.  As she defended she noticed a second attacker moving in from the front.  She deflected him with the bottom edge of her weapon knocking him to the ground.  The attacker from behind had released his grasp falling to the ground behind her.

Then Gabrielle turned to get a look at him and then dashed back into the alley in an attempt to disappear.  She sensed that there were more attackers just waiting in the market.  Her suspcion was that someone was trying to grab her for slave trading.  She ran down the alley, but just before she could reach the end of it to safety away from the crowds a second attacker came in from the right out of the shadows restraining her.  He was a young blond warlord cleaner than most.  Gabrielle could feel from his firm grasp that she would not be able to free herself from his clutches.  Then he whispered a firm threat into her ear.  The idea of having her neck broken was enough for Gabrielle to submit to his demands as he ushered the bard out of the alley.

Xena had waited for her friend in the tavern for a few hours.  Her patience for Gabrielle’s shopping adventure had grown thin for she was now board with the scenery and the people around her.  As Xena left the tavern she scanned the market for her friend, but could not catch a glimpse of her.  The warrior princess called out to her friend a few times, but the bard did not respond.  Xena found a slight bit of irritation begining to build for her friend’s lack of consideration.  Yet the warrior princess knew in her heart that Gabrielle would not just leave the village without having returned to the tavern to tell her.  Most likley she would have attempted to drag the warrior princess back out into the market instead of leaving.  As Xena rounded the corner and quickened her pace she caught sight of Gabrielle’s scroll bag, an unfamiliar scarf, and the bard’s trusty staff.  This was not normal.  Xena was certain that by now Gabrielle was too aware of the dangers to leave her staff unattended.  Yet her scrolls were even more dear to the bard and so Xena surmised that there was something terribly wrong.  She had one theory.  The warrior princess suspected that her friend had been abducted, but by who she did not know.

Then the warrior princess reached out to grab Gabrielle’s belongings hoping that the bard had just been abscent minded as in the past for there was seemingly no sign of a struggle.  Just then a blond warlord stepped from just beyond the alley and pointed to the staff stating firmly that it belonged to him.  Xena looked to him casually picking up Gabrielle’s scroll bag, and her staff certain that a warlord would not carry an amazon staff.  They were rare and usually carried by amazon women.  She confirmed confidently and with a cool head that they belonged to her friend.  Then the young blond warlord with a scarred face made reference to a young irritating blond.  As Xena looked back up at him with interest and inquiry he stated coldly that the blond girl would not be needing the weapon any longer.  Xena feared the worst, but hoped for the best.  She asked him why her friend would no longer be needing a staff.  The young blond warrior proclaimed confidently that he had killed her.  Then his playful demeanor transformed into seriousness as he reached for his sword and firmly delcared that he would kill the warrior princess.

The warrior princess did not break.  She stood firm knowing that there was a possibility that he was telling the truth.  His threats were certainly real, but his motives were not clear.  The warrior princess used the idea of her friend’s death to fight with strong vengence yet it was controlled for there was still the possibility that Gabrielle was alive.  Xena had not seen a body and had only the word of a warlord she did not know.  She began on the defensive to get an idea of his fighting style.  This gave him false confidence which gave the warrior princess an advantage.  She said that he was strong, skilled, but extremely arrogant and wreckless in his fighting style.  The warrior princess flipped over him landing behind him.  He had reflected her move only flipping backwards over her to get into position behind the warrior princess.  Xena was indeed surprised, but she did not want to give this away to her opponent.  She blocked his moved from behind down upon her spinning around to face him.  As she went out of one defensive move with her sword she went on the offensive kicking him back to gather some distance between the two.  She realized that she could not kill him even if she desired it for if Gabrielle was still alive he was the only person who could tell her where the bard was.

Xena decided to go back on the defensive hoping to hold him off long enough to tire him.  She fell back defending his advances then flipping onto a market table.  There she stood above him as the crowd watched to see what would ensue next.  The warrior princess was extremely irritated for she knew that she could not kill him, but he had no reservations about killing her.  As she tried to realize his motives for killing her he paused the battle seeing her mind working to figure out his motive.  He looked up at her with his blue eyes and confidently stated that he was certain that the warrior princess feared him.  It wasn’t that she feared him.  He was seeing her emotions for her friend and how that effected her battle.  Xena realized that she had to bury her heart in order to survive and to save her friend.  Her fears of losing Gabrielle had to disappear from sight.

The blond warrior was not sure that Xena had given him all that she had in the battle.  He was feeling cheated and he expressed it.  Xena listened as the blond warrior gave away more about himself.  He stated that he did not have a soft spot for the warrior princess as did the warlord Draco and that he was not out of control like Callisto.  This gave the warrior princess more insight.  She was curious as to why he knew so much about her.  It was about pride for him and about proving himself as a worthy adversary.  Xena was now confident that he did not really want to kill her.  This made it more possible that he had not killed Gabrielle.  Then the blond warrior drove forward to attack as the warrior princess flipped back ward off of the table putting an obstacle between her and her opponant.  She decided that the only way to win this battle was to bruise his ego.  The warrior princess could not give him the satisfaction of winning.

He was seemingly frustrated for Xena would not verbally give anything away to him.  The blond warrior missed striking her only to crush a large vase to pieces.  It was a clumbsy move which lead him to grasp the table and toss it aside in frustration.  Then the warrior princess attacked attempting to wear out her opponent into submission.  She came on strong gaining a lot of ground.  The warrior princess had fought him from one end of the market to the other end.  He had not expected the burst of strength and energy that she had given him to grapple with.  His ego was being split apart with every strike of the sword and every offensive move Xena used without it.  The warrior princess made him appear worthless and ameteur although she had found herself to be quite impressed.  He was no Callisto, but Xena found the challenge to be exhilerating.

As his ego began to rage out of control his tecqunique became more sloppy and desparate.  He began to throw goods at the warrior princess who realized that the battle would have to end soon for innocent people were going to be injured.  She could see that he was trying to reflect her style as if learning as he fought.  This was a threat for the warrior princess for if he could reflect her tecqniques then his strength would give him the advantage.  She could not allow him to have this.  There was a bit of panic as the emotion of losing Gabrielle still whispered in the background with all of the other thoughts the warrior princess was experiencing.  This led to a wreckless mistake for Xena did not anticipate that her emotions would force her to strike the opponent with her sword.  As the warrior princess went in for mortal damage the blond warrior was quick enough to dodge a direct strike.   He was more agile that Xena had realized causing her to strike one of the large brown leather bottles from the market.  Her sword struck deep into it piercing the bottle.  Suddenly a liquid came spewing out directly into the warrior princess’s eyes.  The sensation burned as if someone had set Xena’s eyes on fire.  Yet the warrior princess could not allow the pain to cause her to lose her focas.  She knew that the loss of focas could mean her death.

After pausing for a moment to regain her focas after experiecing the burning eyes she felt the presence of her enemy from behind.  She was certain that he could have struck her down right there, but he had chosen not to.  Instead he paused as if having second thoughts about killing her.  She took advantage of this throwing her elbow into his chin turning to drive her fist into his chest.  This sent him onto his back.  He dropped his sword surprised by the move out of Xena’s weak moment.  The warrior princess held her sword steady down upon him threatening to kill him.  She saw his eyes flicker for a moment to grab for the weapon he had lost.  Xena quickly dissolved any chance he would have to recover as she stomped her boot onto his wrist restraining it from movement.

Before he could say another word Xena demanded to know what he had done with Gabrielle.  The blond warrior opened his mouth to answer only to be interrupted by the warrior princess who was certain that he didn’t kill her friend despite what he had said.  Then he asked how she was so certain of this.  She informed him that his moment to take her down had passed when she had gotten the oil in her eyes.   He defied the warrior princess still trying to hold onto his advantage of the unknown.  Gabrielle’s well-being was still in question despite his lack of killing Xena in the moment of truth.  He weakly tried to recover from that obvious mistake explaining that it would have defeated his entire purpose for battling Xena in the first place.  The blond warrior tried to proclaim that he was honorable in not stabbing Xena in the back for it would not be considered a fair fight.  He explained that he wanted to be known as the man who killed the warrior princess in a fair fight.  Xena’s heart was relieved by this statement knowing that despite his attempt to betray the truth he had not killed Gabrielle.  He had only stated it to make her emotional enough to fight him.  She was disgusted that he had played her emotions.  The warrior princess replaced her sword into its shealth tiring of the blond warrior’s game.  Now that he had told her what it was that he had been after she was uninterested.  She would never give him what he wanted.  She just wanted to find Gabrielle.

When she asked him directly to answer her question about her friend he igored it.  He remembered instantly that he was still in control despite having lost the fight.  The blond warrior defied the warrior princess deciding not to tell her where Gabrielle was.  This only frustrated Xena who had no second thoughts about putting on her pinch move.  He was surprised, but still defiant as the crowd watched his life draining from his nose before them.  Xena announced for the spectacle that he was about to live his last thirty seconds unless he chose to give her the information she seeked.  She waited until the very last moment suddenly realizing that he was willing to die to prove that he was worthy of the warrior princess.  He was willing to become a legend told by commoners for glory he would never live to experience.  Xena was shocked by this yet she had no choice, but to release him from death’s grip for he was her only hope in finding Gabrielle.

Reluctantly Xena gave him his win, but the sacrifice of her old reputation was worth it for the safety of her friend.  She watched as the young blond warrior rolled about in the dirt with triumphant laughter.  He declared to all in the market who had witnessed the event that they tell his story.  Palaemon wanted everyone to know that he had defied the legendary warrior princess.  Then he demanded congratulations from the warrior princess herself as if he deserved her respect.  Xena would not give him this satisfaction.  She scolded him for being stupid enough to egg her into an emotional fight.  She had wanted to kill him.  Only the thought of Gabrielle had saved him from death at the hand of the warrior princess.  He had played her emotions in ways that were dangerous.  It was a brilliant battle strategy, but not if he wanted to stay alive.  Xena did compare him to Callisto.  He was wreckless in a different way.  She was certain that he was not ready to be that warlord he pretended to be.  He was certain to get himself killed before realizing it.

Xena did not feel sorry for him.  She grabbed a loose piece of wood from the ground and some rope.  Then the warrior princess turned him over onto his stomach and tied his arms to the long board.  Palaemon was suddenly worried for he had finally lost control over the warrior princess emotionally.  He demanded to know what she had intended for him and she responded that he would be her prisnor until they found Gabrielle.   Then Xena regained her reputation by reminding everyone mostly Palaemon that he would face death if Gabrielle was harmed in any way.  As the warrior princess restrained her new irritating blond prisnor she began to notice that her vision was starting to blurr.  She looked up to the man who sold the oil and asked him if the oil had contained sumac.  He confirmed that it had been used as part of a mixture for his dyes.  This only added more difficulty to Xena’s situation.  The warrior princess was in no mood to deal with blindness.  She had only twenty-four hours to find a solution to save her eyes from permanant damage.

With time limited Xena’s patience with Palaemon was thin.  He was still trying to play his game, but he was trying a new angle.  Palaemon had gone from vicious warlord to confident warrior.  His curiosity about Gabrielle did not escape the warrior princess.  She did not care to share the details he seeked.  If he knew the reason Gabrielle was so important to her he would use it against her.  The warrior princess shrugged off his inquires about Gabrielle and he retaliated with frustration threatening the warrior princess with his own friends.  He was bluffing.  Xena knew that they weren’t being followed.  They were completely alone in the woods traveling the road.  Palaemon would not tell Xena what she wanted to know so she decided to try to fool him into giving away information.  To save time she attempted to track Gabrielle following the main road.  The bard had left a few clues behind knowing that Xena would be looking for her.

Xena’s biggest problem was that her sight was going fast and any clues that Gabrielle left later on the trail would be difficult for the warrior princess to see.  When the warrior princess tripped over an exposed root on the path Palaemon continued to press her buttons certain that it was battle fatigue.  The warrior princess was not physically exhaused and mentally she was completely sharp now that she had a better idea of who she was dealing with.  Xena found a moment of relatability to that assumption remembering the comradery of being in an army, but it passed when Palaemon asked her to rate his fighting style.  For a moment she was not listening only thinking of the situation at hand.  When she finally realized what he was asking the irritation had risen to another level.  His ego was larger than the man.  It was his weakness and easy to exploit.  He was blind to this fact.  Unlike the warrior princess who was completely aware of her weakness.  This gave her an advantage.

He continued bragging about himself which was difficult for the warrior princess to stomach.  She decided that she would endure the torturous conversation in the hopes that something would slip out.  If he talked this much about himself it was only a matter of time.  She just had to be patient.  She decided to insult him insisting that young criminals like him were worth less than a dinar.  There were hundreds of them and to her they were all pretty much the same thing.  He retorted with confidence explaining that he could name five warlords he had killed.  If only they had been alive to tell their own stories about Palaemon.  Then he picked a random warlord that was dead.  He named off Krykus the Pilot.  Xena had killed Krykus.  It was not something that she shared with everyone.  She knew he was lying.  He had killed no one.  She was certain that he did not have the killer instinct.  Palaemon was just full of hot air to release.  He was nothing more.

This only frustrated the warrior princess more, but he was playing into her hand as she scolded him for kidknapping young girls.  In fighting for the respect and acknowledgement of the warrior princess Palaemon slipped.  He casually responded that he had to make his living.  It was the first real clue she had gotten out of him.  Then she inquired as if asking him to repeat his statement.  He was glad to explain the details of his financial venture.  Palaemon had gotten Xena’s undivided attention.  He stated that when he had heard of what type of girl his buyers had been looking for the deal was sealed.  It was obvious to the warrior princess that he had been studying her for quite some time.  He had been modeling himself after her long enough to know that she had a young blond friend.  This was unsettling to her as he continued explaining how worthless the bard had been to him before now.  Xena could only think of the many possibilities of who might want to buy someone.  Slavery was certain and the thought of it reminded her of her experience with the fates.  She was passionate about keeping Gabrielle from suffering at the hands of slave traders.

Xena made another move hoping to threaten Palaemon into given her the information she needed.  The warrior princess took the rope she was using to keep tabs on her prisnor to threaten to strangle him.  He had learned enough about her to know that she would never kill him until she knew where Gabrielle was no matter what he did.  Xena hated him more for this.  Gabrielle’s life and well-being her not a game to her.  She had to come up with something to convince him that giving that information to her was worth his while.  He did not want to make his riddle easy and Xena reminded him of what he already knew.  Without Gabrielle she would kill him in a heart beat.

As Xena followed the clues to Gabrielle’s disappearance they led her into an abandoned village.  It appeared to have been ransacked by warlords.  Xena was certain that it not been at Palaemon’s command although he would have liked to claim responsibility to it.  Instead Palaemon casually stated that they were about to walk into some of his friends.  He was certain that they would fight to reclaim him from the warrior princess.  Xena did not believe this.  She had figured out that he had been working for someone else.  His goal was to gain the respect of the other men in his band of warlords to become the supreme commander.  There was no better prize than to lay claim to the assasination of one of the best.  Soon Xena sensed that there were enemies near.  Just when she looked up across the village her vision blurred more.  She could barely make out the shapes standing before her.  The warrior princess calculated that there were six to seven armed men she would be dealing with.  Palaemon had seen them approaching reminding the warrior princess of her raw odds.  He was delighted that he would now have an audience to watch in his demise of the warrior princess.

Xena heard the voice of one of those approaching call out to Palaemon displeased that he was at the end of Xena’s rope.  Palaemon was seemingly the butt of a joke.  The warrior princess pieced together the lack of respect he found with his friends translated into his obscession with the warrior princess.  Xena was amused by this, but it was another piece to the puzzle that was Palaemon.  As the attackers advanced the warrior princess chose not to draw her sword.  Since she could not see she would have to fight them close so she could feel their moves.  Xena knew that her chances would be better if there was no threat of a blade.  Her enemies would fight fair.  She let go of Paleamon’s rope so that he could help her fight, but it was a risk.  The warrior princess defeated her enemies easily with no weapons, but as soon as they had been blasted on the first pass the battle would escalate into weapons.

Xena prepared for this still uncertain of where Palaemon would stand.  She knew she needed his eyes to help her see.  The warrior princess had to admit that his help in the battle would protect her from the enemy.  As he begged her to let him go free several times she finally had to make the choice to release him.  She was dead either way if he did not jump on her side.  As she drew her sword and released him the battle escalated and Xena could hear the blades of the enemy passing her closely.  The warrior princess was mostly on the defensive using a wild fighting style hoping to keep them from coming in too close.  Xena took down most of the men she was fighting against, but was disarmed in the process.  Palaemon was successful  in finishing the battle as the enemy limped off the battlefield.  Xena was alarmed when she could not find her sword for she was certain that Palaemon would strike her down next.  His warlord buddies would be witness to his great triumph.

Then she heard him approach her from behind and declare that it was time for their next battle.  The warrior princess searched for her sword with her foot and found a set of chains.  When she felt his presence she turned to face him with unshaken confidence.  She inquired of his issue with her as if they had an honored agreement of some sort.  He responded to her inquiry realizing that she had not looked in the eye as she had earlier.  Xena felt a slight breeze across her face.  Then Palaemon declared that he had discovered her blindness.  The warrior princess could not deny it, but decided to use this disadvantage and an advantage.  She listened as he walked about her picking up her sword off of the ground just next to her.  He handed it to her expressing his frustration that he would not be able to have a fair fight with her now that she was blind.  Suddenly she was worthless to him, but he was still worth a great deal to her.  Quickly she used her foot to search for the chains she had sensed before and kicked them up off of the ground to restrain him.

As he was about to leave her alone, lost, and blind, but she had regained control over him.  When Palaemon demanded to know what she intended she explained that she was very much in a hurry.  She needed him to guide her, but he was not keen on the idea.  Palaemon tried to break free in definace, but Xena forcefully dragged him back into her power.  He could not break free of his binds.  Xena reminded him of their task.  They had to find Gabrielle together whether he wanted to or not.  He would be her eyes and he would take the first step into any thing they encountered on that journey.

Palaemon had finally been forced into telling the warrior princess what she wanted to know.  He had nothing to lose for it had already been lost.  His grand battle to the death against Xena was now only an unrealized dream of his.  Palaemon began to guide the warrior princess with no other choice.  He explained to her who had purchased the bard from him and why.  Gabrielle was slated to become the wife of King Solace.  When Palaemon had heard that the type of woman the buyer had been looking for was similar to Gabrielle he decided to make a buck.  Xena’s mind was suspicious of the idea of Gabrielle being purchased to become a queen.  It was unlike a kingdom to declare a peasant girl its new queen.  Although Paleamon was being cooperative he was still trying to get away.  The warrior princess could hear him picking away at the lock on the shackles.  She scolded him for trying to escape more out of necessity than his value as a prisnor.  Her mind continued to work on the problem as she tried to deceipher the real plot behind the sale of Gabrielle.

Then the warrior princess reminded Paleamon that he would not be escaping without the key which was hidden tightly within her golden breast plate.  Paleamon tried to be hard again declaring that Xena was afraid.  The warrior princess responded with her own hardened response reminding Palaemon that he was not a man that she could bring herself to fear.  Palaemon changed his tone to one of more concern.  He spoke of the unknown as something the warrior princess should fear.  It was the first time that he had stepped away from his act and into his real skin.  There was a sense of concern for the blindness that Xena was suddenly experiencing.  The warrior princess allowed herself to speak frankly and truthfully realizing that there was something more to Palaemon.  She took a deep breath explaining to him that despite her eyes being damaged she was aware of their certain fate.  The warrior princess explained that it been sumac that had spilled into her eyes which caused temporary blindness unless it was untreated after a day of exposure.  Paleamon’s curious concern for the warrior princess interjected asking what would happen if Xena did not receive treatment.  Xena responded seriously explaining the blindness would be permenant.  She would have to endure it for a lifetime.

For a moment Palaemon said nothing as if pondering this idea.  Then he wanted to know of the treatment.  Xena answered explaining that her eyes would need to be clensed with palm oil and Egyptian cenna.  Suddenly the warrior princess was conerned that she had trusted in him too much.  Yet she realized that the closest place to get this kind of treatment was Athens.  It was a great distance from where they were.  When Palaemon heard these thoughts he argued with the warrior princess.  He could not believe that she was not headed in that direction.  She was not phased by this.  Her goal had already been determined.  Xena’s anger and frustration raged against Palaemon’s selfish needs.  The warrior princess was struggling to make clear to him how valueable her friendship was.  She was willing to sacrifice her ability to see the world forever in order to save Gabrielle from whatever fate might be awaiting her.  It was the unknown that Xena feared more than the unknown that was now a blackness with every step she took.  Palaemon gave up for the moment realizing that the warrior princess was more determined than he was.  He was confused by this.

The warrior princess’s senses suddenly kicked into high gear as her nose caught a whiff of manure coming from up ahead carried by the soft breeze blowing through the trees.  She was certain that there were stables nearby.  Palaemon’s interest was peaked by this for he had not sensed this slight ambiance in the air.  He could not believe Xena could smell horses from the distance, but Xena corrected him.  It was not the horses.  He paused for a moment and then realized that he had just learned something new from the warrior princess.  Xena was not amused by his inference of this.  When she rejected the idea that she would teach him new tricks he argued that he had already learned a great deal by studying her battles.  It was as if he were trying command respect from her as he confidently spoke closely to her face.  He demanded respect from his idol.  Xena turned to him trying to convey her confused choices of youth.  She had been wrong in the things she had done and did not like that Palaemon was modeling himself after her dark side.

Palaemon would not accept this wisdom from the warrior princess.  All he could rave about was the power, and the respect that Xena commanded in those days.  Xena interrupted him firmly feeling the painful memories trying to flood themselves to the surface.  She explained that fear was her only prize for the deeds of her young warrior days.  He would not accept this advice.  Palaemon was drunk with anger and the need for the respect he thought that Xena had once had.  He wanted to be known as the new warrior giant that was unstoppable.  Palaemon wanted to kill Xena to prove to everyone that he was worthy of her titles.  Then he lurched forward leaving the warrior princess to wonder how to diffuse his high emotions.

She soon realized that there was only one way to do this.  It was to offer him the respect he desparately seeked.  Even if it was only respect coming from her it would be valueable to him.  The sounds of men were near as both warriors knelt down into the tall grass.  Xena listened to what the men were saying it sounded as if they were planning a counter attack against Xena and Palaemon.  It was obvious that they had caught onto Xena’s new weakness, but Xena and Palaemon still had the advantage.  They were still hidden.  Palameon spotted them with his eyes revealing what Xena already knew.  He explained that there were some woods just behind the patrol of men.  Xena thought of this for a moment and suggested that they make a dash for the trees.  She was certain they would lose the guards in the woods.  Palaemon agreed with her as if he had already determined this for himself.  Then Xena gave the command and they dashed for the woods.  Xena led the dash for the woods now more confident in her blindness as she became more aware of her other senses.  The warrior princess admitted she was enjoying the challenge of being blind.

She could hear the sounds of the patrol passing by her right as she and Palaemon ran.  The warrior princess began to feel the branches on the trees brushing across her face as Palaemon jumped in front of her to warn of an obstacle.  Xena decided to challenge Palaemon, but it was a wreckless calculation for just as she was passing ahead of him he shouted out to her, but it was too late.  The warrior princess had dashed blindly off of a steep cliff that had been hidden until the last moment even from Palaemon.  Xena was saved by the shackles which bound her to Palaemon.  Her arm jerked hard causing a sharp pain in the shoulder as she hung above rushing water below.  She could hear the sounds of the water, and the chains rubbing across the rocks as Palaemon struggled to hold on.

The warrior princess could feel he was losing the struggle as the chain sudden slid down further.  Palameon had somehow caught himself after falling.  She could hear a loud cracking sound as if he were desparately holding onto a branch.  Then he shouted down to her that his grip was slipping away.  She asked him how far it was to the bottom and his answer was only certain death for both of them.  The warrior princess decided that their chances would be better if they were separated.  She would slide down the rocks and hope there were more ledges or branches to grasp onto.  Palaemon would be safe as long as she let herself go.  The warrior princess pulled out the key from her breast plate knowing that she could lose her only chance to save Gabrielle.  She had to trust in Palaemon and so she unlocked the binds and tumbled down the cliff rock further as Palaemon shouted out to her in a panicked shock.

The warrior princess could feel the mist of the rushing water below.  Just before she could feel it upon her boots she was able to grasp a loose vine to save herself from the fall.  Xena was lucky, but still very aware of her task.  After gathering her composure from the unexpected fall she began to climb back toward the top of the cliff.  She did not know how far she would have to climb.  The warrior princess did not know if letting go would be better.  She assumed from Palaemon’s assessment that climbing was her only option.  Then she heard his voice as she began her slow climb.  He assured her that he would help her find Gabrielle on one condition.  She would have to promise him another fair battle to the eath once she was able to see again.  Reluctantly Xena agreed dispite her distaste for the idea of giving him what he wanted.  He threatened to cut the vine if she did not agree.  Xena realized that she could trust in only one thing when it came to Palaemon.  He would give her what she wanted to get his respect.  To him it meant that Xena would have to die or he would gladly accept his own death.

This was becoming an irritation for the warrior princess.  It was difficult to deal with his blind arrogance of holding power by fear.  He called it respect, but to the warrior princess the two were not one in the same.  As they continued on their journey to find Gabrielle Palaemon found himself obscessed with how they would defeat the castle guard once they arrived.  He kept spewing out battles from Xena’s past.  Palaemon recalled every strategic detail of almost every battle Xena had ever been famous for as an evil warlord.  This made the final leg of their journey emotionally difficult.  Xena’s breaking point came when he mentioned the worst slaughter of all.  Her battle at Corinth.  His desire for these evils were more than Xena could bare.  What was missing from all of his studies was the toll it would all take on his soul once he had committed it to the deeds of darkness.  She burst out in anger grabbing Palaemon and shoving him up against a tree in the forrest.  The warrior princess threatened him out of emotional anguish rather than real fear yet she wanted him to understand how fear should not be respected despite human nature.  It was the reason evil lurked about unchecked.  Xena did not want to be the cause of another human disaster modeled after her own mistakes.  The warrior princess desparately hoped that she was striking a chord with Palaemon.  She could not see his face.  Her faith in him and his conerned heart was all that she had to hold onto.  Palaemon’s only response was in the hope that he would someday be half as good as the legendary warrior princess.

While the warrior princess had spent her day fighting Palaemon’s philosphies with her own Gabrielle found herself thrust into the unexpected.  She had been sold to some strange men who had taken her to a castle.  Gabrielle suspected that she had been bought by a royal to become a servant.  Yet she was surprised to find out the contrary.  She had been chosen to be the bride of King Solace.  As this was explained to her by one of the castle guards she could only find herself reviewing her memories trying to think if she had known him or even heard of him in passing.  Gabrielle’s mind was racing, but without answers.  Instead it was filled with images on the castle walls of women who all seemingly looked like her.  There were also many statues as well.  Gabrielle thought that there might be a mistake.  She thought that maybe she looked like someone else that had been lost.  Yet the castle guard raved about how lucky Gabrielle was to be the chosen bride of the King.  Gabrielle was not excited about being thrust into a marriage.  She did not even know the man she was to marry.  It was all happening too fast.

As the guard continued to explain the connection Gabrielle looked about explaining that she was really not blond, but red.  Her only defense was to attempt to talk her way out of whatever was to come next.  The bard began casual as she spoke demonstrating a calm demeanor, but when the response from the guard was of ignorance she switched to a more firm and threatening tone.  Gabrielle defied the guard’s wishes desparate to explain why she could not marry the king.  Yet he was seemingly persuasive when he pointed out an adonis that represented the handsome man she was slated to marry.  Gabrielle could not ignore that he was indeed handsome as she examined his statue, but that was far from the point.  She knew she could not marry a king she did not know.  No matter how powerful and beautiful he was.  Yet as Gabrielle tried to argue the guard just urged her to go along with things explaining that the king would get his way despite Gabrielle’s own wishes.  Before Gabrielle could say another word about the dilemma she was ushered away quickly by two more guards.

The treatment she was receiving was seemingly less than royal.  Future queens did not usually find themselves locked up within their own chambers against their will.  Gabrielle sensed there was something more to all of this sudden unwelcome fame, but she did not desire to stay and find out the outcome of it all.  She began to gather blankets, and clothing, and anything else she could find hoping to create an escape.  As she finished tying together the last pieces of fabric she checked the stability of her self made rope.  The bard had been working for a few hours on her escape and just as she had thrown her rope out the window preparin to climb out and into obscurity again the door to her chambers opened unexpectedly.

Two servants and a rather peculiar looking man dressed in elegant robes entered foiling Gabrielle’s escape attempt.  The bard was frustrated and angry for being a prisnor in a castle was not her idea of an exciting adventurous day.  Again she tried to plead for freedom and a dissalusion of marriage, but was politely rejected by the short peculiar looking man.  He gently put his reassuring arm around the bard as she threw her rope onto the floor explaining that all brides get wedding gitters.  Then he went over a list of valid jitters that the bard was most certainly feeling.  He ended his persuasive gentle statement explaining that vidalis would take care of it all.  His attitude was of no worries.  Gabrielle was confused for she had never heard of vidalis.  When she asked what it was the short peculiar man stated that he was Vidalis.  Then he smiled softly as Gabrielle hoped to explain to him why she was the wrong choice.  She tried a threat throwing out Xena’s name and how her friend would be displeased with a forced marriage.

Yet Vidalis seemed uneffected by this.  He just went on to criticize the bard.  First he disapproved of her threatening nature.  Then he went onto say that she looked like a scrub woman.  Gabrielle was confused for she had never been picked apart in this way.  Vidalis stated that he would turn Gabrielle into a lady as he turned his student about observing her every detail.  The bard was angered by this as she turned around to slap his hands away.  With anger Gabrielle defended herself stating that she already knew how to behave like a lady.  Vidalis continued strong insulting Gabrielle further comparing her hand gestures to that of a wagon driver.  The bard was shocked by the degradation.  She was certain a queen would not be treated with this kind of disrespect even if she was out of place.

Vidalis continued to pick her apart.  He pointed out Gabrielle’s dialect.  Vidalis suggested that it might be Thracian or Macedonian.  Either way he was not impressed.  Gabrielle was amazed at how he had been able to pick out her native background by just listening to her speech.  She was indeed from Thrace, but understood that being around Xena gave her a Macedonian edge.  Xena was from Macedonia.  As Gabrielle thought of these things she began to wonder why they would even bother trying to transform her into a queen when it was obvious to Vidalis she was not the right type.  It was as if Vidalis were insulted that he had to even bother with Gabrielle.  He continued explaining that he would cover up her midriff muscle and give her white gloves to conceal her rough hands.  Vidalis was right about one thing.  Gabrielle was from the back woods and she was not in shame of it.  She explained with some relief that she agreed with him when he answered yes to her question of his opinion about her queen potential.

Gabrielle decided to use this mutual ground as a weapon.  She then asked him why he thought a king would want to marry a peasant girl he did not know.  Vidalis did not have an answer.  Gabrielle pressed this advantage firmly threatening Vidalis with defiance explaining that she would not follow through with th marriage.  Yet there was presuasion in the offerings of fruit brought to the future queen by her servants.  As Gabrielle began to melt into the idea for only a moment she snapped back into the suspicious reality pushing Vidalis out of her way as she bolted for the door.  Yet there were two massive armed guards preventing her from leaving.  Gabrielle turned back to Vidalis suddenly realizing that she was not alone in being forced into marriage.  She realized that Vidalis was teaching her royal manners against his better judgement.  If there weren’t something threatening him she was certain he would not be speaking to her.  As she looked to him for an answer he only asked her how her curtsie was.  Gabrielle could only respond by trying one uncertain if it was enough for Vidalis.

Then Vidalis explained that they had less than an hour before Gabrielle’s big introduction ceremony.  He quickly had Gabrielle dressed in the finest gown and jewelry ready for a presentation.  The queen’s wardrobe was not particularly comfortable for the bard and she found that it was difficult to move.  She could barely walk in the queen’s shoes, but the show had to go on.  Gabrielle was not feeling particularly gracious or giving considering Vidalis had just torn her apart with insults.  She learned the name of the guard who had been in charge of the entire fiasco.  His name was Apex.  It seemed that this was the man that Vidalis feared.  He kept reciting the name as if it were a reference to Zeus.  Soon Apex entered demanding that Gabrielle be ready for the crowd was waiting eagerly to view their future queen.  The bard felt extremely defiant realizing that it was Apex not Vidalis that was her problem.

As Gabrielle listened to Apex addressing the crowd just outside the curtains of the doorway she heard him say that the king had selected his bride.  This was not true for she had yet to meet the king.  It seemed that Apex had selected the king’s bride.  Then Apex asked for the approval of the people introducing lady Gabrielle to her subjects.  Gabrielle’s instructions were to follow Vidalis out into the hall where her people awaited her.  Yet she was determined to defy her captures.  The bard hoped that defiance would cause the people to reject her as their queen, but Vidalis begged for her mercy in the wrath of Apex.  Gabrielle reluctantly entered through the curtains realizing that Vidalis might be her only chance to escape.  As she entered she smiled feeling awkward and uncomfortable.  She tripped over her shoes and was caught by Vidalis.  Vidalis was supportive yet afraid for his own safety as Gabrielle approached Apex.  She was instructed to bow only to Apex as she continued on toward the crowd.  Gabrielle curtsied again tripping as she fell into Apex.  He held her up as she addressed him politely strugling to keep her dialect under control.  Then Apex introduced her to the people as they accepted their future queen with celebration and wine.  As they toasted Apex sent Gabrielle back with Vidalis to return to her prison until she was summoned again.

For the next several hours Gabrielle decided that her only hope of escape was to speak to the king directly.  In order to do this she had to build a trusting relationship with Vidalis.  While he tried to teach her how to be a stunning queen she was patient with his criticism.  Gabrielle began to realize that Vidalis was putting up with a lot in having to teach her how to be a queen by the end of the day.  It was seemingly an impossible task as was her escape.  While practicing how to extend her hand for a kiss Gabrielle was insulted yet agian as Vidalis scolded her for reaching for a beer in the tavern.  The bard could not help her inadequate gestures.  Her life was spent in a lot of taverns along the way.  Vidalis showed her again and as she tried to gracefully imitate his movements she accidentally slapped him in the face.  The two shared in a bit of nervous laughter as Vidalis tried to teach her how to walk with perfect posture.  He gave her a large scroll and instructed her to put it onto her head as she walked.  This was even more difficult than extending one’s hand for a kiss.  Although for a moment the bard felt that she just might be able to pull off the walk.  Yet Gabrielle could sense Vidalis’s impatience with her performance in this excersize.  He told her to stop trying to pull the plow.  Movements were meant to be slow and gentle.  The bard could no longer take the criticisms as she yanked the parchment off of her head and threw it violently across the room onto the ground.  Vidalis’s reaction to her outburst was a glance of shock and surprise.

Then she looked to Vidalis and spoke softly and gently asking him if he would take her to the king.  Vidalis rejected the request explaining that he would not risk a royal hanging for such a frivilous request.  Gabrielle could see that cooperation was not the way to Vidalis.  She had to come up with another weapon.  She decided that she would try to open his heart by asking him seriously if he had ever been in love.  Vidalis thought of this for a moment and revealed through his eyes and then his soft words that he had once loved someone deeply.  Gabrielle urged him to imagine being with that person again.  Then she asked him to imagine having to be with someone other than the one he loved.  When Vidalis thought of this Gabrielle could see that she had finally gotten through.  Vidalis realized that it wasn’t about escape anymore for the bard.  It was about someone she loved.  Although it had been five seasons since Gabrielle had lost Perdicas to Callisto’s sword she still loved him.  She could not imagine being with another man even now.  Gabrielle pleaded with Vidalis once more for his permission to see the king.  Vidalis was no longer reluctant to help understanding Gabrielle’s pleas from the heart.  With no hesistation he softly spoke under his breath as if trying to conceal a secret the directions to the location of the King’s chambers.

The guards were no longer a problem as Gabrielle quietly found herself sneaking through the dark cold halls of the castle in search of her husband to be.  By now night had fallen over the castle and it was late.  Few people were circulating the castle as Gabrielle took one last glance behind her entering through the large heavy door to the king’s chambers.  He was most certainly sleeping by now like every one else.  She was concerned about awakening him, but she had to let him down gently.  Gabrielle was certain that she would be able to use love as the ultimate weapon to convince him that marriage to a Thracian girl from the back woods was not what he was looking for.  Quietly she sat down next to his bed and addressed him respectfully.  She spoke softly, but with a bit of a nervous edge.  To her it seemed as if he might be a tyrant considering how much Vidalis and many others about the castle seemingly feared him.

As she spoke to him she could barely see him for he was concealed behind the canopy and fabrics which enclosed his bed.  It was a rather large yet elegant place to sleep.  The privacy was noted within the bard’s mind as she continued explaining her concern about meeting before the ceremony.  She hoped that his response to this idea of meeting would be agreeable and it seemed that the king was willing to offer his hand to the bard.  She was delighted that he offered her a gesture of kindness in this way despite her hopes for a more formal and face to face chat.  Yet the bard could accept his unusully cold hand in hers as a gesture of faith.  Gabrielle quickly decided that it was nerves that kept the king quiet with unusually clammy and cold hands.  She tried to further break the ice of the moment by laughing nervously hoping that maybe this would loosen his lips a little.  Gabrielle was hopeful for a two way conversation on the matter of marriage.  Yet there was no verbal response of any kind just complete and total silence from within the bed chambers.

Gabrielle took a deep breath as she held the king’s hand caressing it gently hoping to ease the angry reaction she expected from him over her next statement of inevitable rejection.  She was certain that a king was not used to being told no by anyone especially someone as low on the social ladder as herself.  As she spoke of her true feelings she could feel the cold response as she caught a glimpse of his head turning away from her.  She desparately wanted to make this split as simple and painless as possible for everyone involved.  Gabrielle desparately explained to him that it was not that she was rejecting the king as a person or as a man, but more for her fear of falling in love and losing someone all over again the way that she had lost Perdicas.  She was also reminded of falling in love with Tallus before that.  He had been terminally ill.  As Gabrielle continued on with her concerns she found herself becoming more frustrated with his lack of response.  For a moment she was certain that he had fallen into sleep over bordom of her pleas and depth of her past stories.  Yet just as she tugged upon his hand attempting to wake him up the king rolled off of the bed and fell upon the bard’s lap.  As she looked down she noticed not only were the king’s hands cold, but his head and face was also clammy and cold.  In fact, it was pale and white as if he were dead.

When the bard could not feel his breath upon her fingers which now supported his head upon her lap she was certain that he was dead.  Gabrielle was shocked and cried out to the mother of Zeus.  It was as if every man she touched with compassion and love was destined to die in her arms.  Then Gabrielle heard the voice of Apex as she looked up to find herself  even more surprised and confused.  The entire castle guard stood behind him before her.  It was as if they had been expecting her arrival.  Apex explained that the king had been dead for a few days now.  He had died in the royal baths in a mysterious accident.  As Apex spoke Gabrielle struggled to replace the dead body back into its resting place.  She felt extremely dirty knowing that she had been caressing the hands of a dead man and held him in her arms.  Suddenly Gabrielle rose from the chair she had been seated in next to the bed and completed the puzzle not certain it made sense.  She declared that she had been expected to marry a dead man.  Apex confirmed her declaration with confidence and as if there were nothing wrong with the idea of the living marrying the dead.

Gabrielle noticed Vidalis standing just behind Apex cowering with fear as Apex approached Gabrielle with more details.  He explained that the kingdom was governed by a constitution which stated that if the king died unwed then his throne would be passed on to a cousin which was the ruler of another kingdom.  This would create a collapse which would lead to one ruler over a larger land rather than two separate rulers of two smaller kingdoms.  Gabrielle looked back to the dead man realizing that he had died alone.  For a moment she felt sorry for the dead king only to realize the true intensions of Apex.  Apex explained that if the king had been married at his death his monarchy would be dissolved leaving all power and control to the ministry of defense which was Apex himself.  Vidalis chimed in confirming the idea with a somber yet serious tone while Apex stood before the bride in triumph explaining how fortunate it was for him to have found a bride for the king just in time for the moment of his death.  Only for Gabrielle it had seemingly been a few days late.  This led her to an unusually cryptic question.  She wanted to know what her role would be in the end of this finely woven plot to power.

Apex was ready to answer the question.  He spoke with no compassion and little concern.  It was pure darkness that was in control for he explained that by ancient proclaimation of the kingdom all queens were required to follow their husbands into death.  Even if the queen was healthy and young despite the old man she had been expected to marry she would be put to death by the ceremonial laws of the kingdom.  Apex continued as if gleeful of the fate of the vibrant young blond.  He explained that her honeymoon would be an exciting trip to the royal creamatorium.  For Gabrielle this was hardly a bonus.  Just as the realization of death began to dawn on her after wading through the disbelief of the dead husband to be Apex ordered the guards to sieze her for the ceremony.

As night settled into dawn Xena and Palaemon had arrived at the castle gates.  Xena was determined to teach Palaemon how to storm the enemy without the aid of fear and destruction.  There was a certain finesse and style in accomplishing the goals of a true warrior.  Xena had multiple reasons for wanting to sway Palaemon’s views.  She needed to save Gabrielle and to ensure that she needed to have control over Palaemon’s choices in the next several moments.  Once they would enter into the castle there would be no guaruntee that Palemon would not use wit to his advantage.  The warrior princess felt that it was unlikely that he would decide to switch sides suddenly, but in a warrior’s world anything is possible.  One must anticipate the seemingly impossible and the unexpected.

As the two scaled the wall Xena instructed her newest student to keep as quiet as possible.  Palaemon was apparently captivated by the experience of spending a day with the warrior princess despite her blindness.  She was even more attractive to him and her truest most valueable skills were being revealed by her now heightened senses.  As the warrior princess inquired of Palaemon about their situation upon scaling to the top of the castle walls he explained that their situation appeared grim and impossible.  He was not so confident that they would be able to enter the castle undetected.  Xena was more confident as she listened to the sounds of the guards below as their commander barked out an order.  The warrior princess heard a small group of guards marching by down below.  It sounded as if there were only a handful.  She also noted the one manning the wall alone.  Then the warrior princess asked Palaemon how long the other castle walls were.  He judged them to be around twenty lengths.  Xena evaluated this in her mind and then reached down pulling out her chackram.  Before Palaemon could figure out what Xena’s actions meant she was already hurling her chackram over the walls across the courtyard to the other side.

The chackram clanked loundly as it bounced off of the far end of the castle walls which created a diversion.  Xena listened intently as she heard about ten sets of boots run from the near side across to the farside of the court yard.  There were others too, but they were already in position.  Every guard had run off to see what the breach was.  Yet the breach was on the near side as Palaemon gleefully congratulated Xena on her brilliant plan.  It was smooth, painless, and practically effortless as well.  Just as Palaemon was pleading with the warrior princess to teach him more about her effortless ideas and skills the warrior princess lost her connection with the chackram.  She shushed her student hoping to quiet him long enough to save him from the weapon which was just about to bury itself into his face if he did not follow her command.  Just then Palaemon was quiet and Xena’s ears caught the swoosh of the chackram once more.  Gracefully she retrieved it before the eyes of Palaemon who was thankful for her talent and even more in awe of the warrior princess.

This made him more cooperative and willing to assist Xena in her search for Gabrielle.  Quickly Palaemon led Xena through the courtyard and into the castle.  Xena could hear the sounds of guards marching about in every direction.  Palaemon slowed down to a stop for a moment explaining to the warrior princess that he could see guards everywhere.  His assessment was that there was at least an entire regiment of men guarding the place if not more.  Xena did not doubt this observation.  As she thought of this factor in their search for Gabrielle Palaemon inquired her about her eyes.  It was as if he were hoping that she had some minute bit of sight even if things were only a blurr.  This would allow them to split up and cover more ground quicker.  Xena’s response was only in that her eyes were stinging less than before which meant that the sumac oil was settling in permanantly.  This seemingly annoyed Palaemon.  He sighed in frustration realizing that his chance to have a fair fight to the death against the warrior princess would be impossible.  Xena sighed realizing that their time was short and that the only payment she would accept from the fates was in finding Gabrielle.  Palaemon then asked Xena if Gabrielle was truely worth her sight.  Without hesitation Xena explained that the cost was worth her eye sight and more.  The warrior princess explained that she would give her life without hesitation for the bard.

This was the part of the warrior princess that Palaemon could not begin to understand or appreciate.  Her loyalty to Gabrielle and her love of her best friend.  Palaemon spoke with disgust explaining that the weakness of friendship was the reason he chose not to have any friends.  Although Palaemon was attempting to be harsh the warrior princess could sense that it was an act and nothing more.  She had decided that a man without compassion would not have come this far with her.  The warrior princess only scoffed at his comment knowing the truth.  Palaemon did not like her reaction as he continued to act as if he were hard hearted.  He was certain Xena’s comment was as a result of her dislike of him.  Xena quickly corrected him in explaining forcefully that it was who he pretended to be that she did not like.  She verbalized her thoughts about him to him only to be challenged once more.

Xena continued explaining that he was not a hard hearted warlord.  Palaemon declared that he would show no mercy to the warrior princess who again scoffed at his act.  She layed out her deductions of character openly to Palaemon despite the risk of losing control of him.  Xena reminded him of his sense of compassion toward her when he saved her from death in the ravine on the day before.  Palaemon desparately tried to hide the truth of his compassionate side declaring that the warrior princess knew exactly what his intensions were.  They were not honorable, but selfish in his quest for the fair fight to the death against his warrior hero.  She continued on reminding him of their initial meeting when he could have easily killed her in combat for he had so eloquently played on her emotions.  Her weakness known to many now was Gabrielle and it could have killed the warrior princess.  Xena knew this and was aware that Palaemon knew it too.  Yet Palaemon continued to argue with the warrior princess when she flatly stated that she felt he did not have the killer instinct in him.  She pushed him further stating that she was certain that he had not yet killed a single soul.  Palaemon struggled to defend his carefully crafted self-image.  Xena knew that she had him for she had torn it all down in a matter of seconds within just a few short statements.  Palaemon grasped for his last straw as he firmly declared that he had killed Krykus the Pilot.

Xena had finally won this battle of wits after a day of haggling with Palaemon.  He had played right into her hands.  She scoffed at him in triumph explaining to him cool and calmly that she was certain he had not killed Krykus the Pilot for she had been the one whom had delivered Krykus to his death.  Palaemon was silent for a long moment.  Xena could feel the fear for he had been certain that he had won the battle of wits up until now.  The warrior princess had been working him for an entire day wearing him away until he had no verbal defenses left.  Although he was fearful the two were sharing in the same fate.  They were right in the middle of a castle full of armed guards unable to find Xena’s friend.  Whatever happened to Xena was now about to happen to Palaemon.  He had no other choice, but to submit to Xena’s demands and follow her into the battle that most certainly lied before them.  As the guards moved closer Xena instructed Palaemon to move.  They continued on through the castle in search of Gabrielle.  The warrior princess decided to capitalize on her advantage over Palaemon as they rounded a corner she heard Palaemon move into a struggle with one of the guards.  Then she took him out with a solid punch impressing her student once again.  She joked that he had been right to say that the place was crawling with guards.  Xena hoped to lighten the mood that had become so tense within the last several minutes.  Palaemon appeared concerned for her safety despite her move on the guard.  It was as if he had been testing her, but she had easily put all doubt aside.  In fact the warrior princess reminded him that his compassion was creeping out into her view once more despite her physical blindness.

Just outside in the court yard the subjects of the kingdom awaited news of the wedding of their king to his new queen.  No one was permitted inside to witness the ceremony except for the guards and of course Apex himself who conducted the scandalous ceremony.  Gabrielle was helpless to defend herself or even try to escape for she her wrists and ankles were tied.  She was unarmed and up against the entire castle full of guards.  Even Xena would have diffculty in this situation.  Gabrielle hoped that there would be a window of opportunity between the time of the ceremony and the scheduled honeymoon.  She found herself disgusted by the spectacle of fixed ceremony and of the fact that she was forced to stand next to a dead man propped up by a large chair.  Apex consummated the holy bond between man and wife with the wine from and ancient golden goblet.  He poured the wine upon the lips of the dead man and then upon the bride’s chest.  Apex took joy in the idea of sending Gabrielle to her death for it meant his acsension to ultimate power.  Gabrielle growled with disapproval for her mouth was also gagged leaving her unable to cry out for help from her subjects down below.

Apex then shouted out to the gods asking for a sign of disapproval if one existed.  Gabrielle hoped that the gods might object, but to no avail.  All was silent in the banquet hall as Apex gave the last words sending Gabrielle into her latest marriage to a dead man.  Then Apex walked out onto the balcony above his subjects who were unaware of the wrath which soon faced them.  He declared that the gods bless the union of their king and new queen.  Gabrielle desparately tried to free herself from the ropes realizing that this might be her only chance to escape.  She would have to try to take on the guards alone for death awaited her either way.  The bard had decided that she would not die without a struggle.  Just as she was begining to losen the ropes binding her wrists she could hear the sounds of the crowd cheering down below.  Her time was running out as she feverishly tried to free herself.  The bard thought if only her husband could truely be with her in her time of desparate need.  It was a sarcastic thought, but it was the only thing she could hold onto to keep her sanity.

Apex soon returned to talk to the dead king congratulating him and his new bride on their union.  Gabrielle was irriated and desparately wanted to attack Apex with words, but he had taken that weapon away from her as well.  Apex had left the bard completely helpless and defenseless.  As Apex continued to bask in his glory he ordered the guards into action as the brought in two large caskets.  One was designed with a golden freeze of the king and the other was decorated with the peaceful looking face of the dead queen.  It was too eerie for the bard to see herself depicted in this way as the guards grasped her firmly following their orders to imprison her into her chamber of death.  Gabrielle had just freed her hands, but it was too late as she stuggled with the guards who easily over powered her.  She quickly found herself enclosed within the darkness of a hopeless situation.  It seemed as if there was no turning back.  She cried out in fear and desparation hoping that someone with compassion would hear her pleas for life despite still being gagged.

As time began to run out for Gabrielle Xena and Palaemon were still moving through the castle searching every dark corner in the hopes of finding Gabrielle.  Xena paused for a moment for her senses took notices of the sudden smell of something burning within the castle.  It was as if a large furnace had been fired up.  This was unusual for it was not the season for cold weather in this part of the country.  Xena was mystified for a moment as she tried to figure out the sudden change in smell and the silence within the castle.  Palaemon paused inquiring of the warrior princess her next move.  Slowly Xena moved against the wall as if about to turn the corner when a voice came from behind whispering a a shaky and quiet greeting.  Both Xena and Palaemon turned to face the one who confronted them drawing their weapons.  The soft spoken  man’s voice stated that if the woman who stood before him was Xena then his prayers to the gods had been answered.  Xena noticed that the man struggled to breath as if he were hanging off of the ground.  The man continued stating that he was Vidalis a good friend to the lovely bride.  Vidalis continued speaking with a tinge of relief that someone had come along to notice is predicament.  He then gave a critique of Xena’s leather determining that she was not what he had expected Xena to be.  The warrior princess quickly assessed that th bard had described her friend as loving which would not excentuate the boldness of the warrior woman.  Yet that was beyond the point of the moment.  Xena quickly cut Vidalis off asking him where she could find Gabrielle.  The warrior princess was growing more worried now that she could smell the burning of dead flesh flowing through the air within the castle walls.

Vidalis answered Xena without hesitation.  He explained Xena’s worst fears.  The friend of the bride stated that Apex had taken her along with the king down to the creamatorium.  Vidalis continued on with the grim news determining for himself that if he could be cut down from his binds upon the wall that he would be able to guide Xena and Palaemon to the location of the bride.  Xena heard Palaemon’s sword swing through the air and then cut the ropes dropping Vidalis what seemed to be about half a man’s distance to the ground.  She could hear Vidalis struggle to regain his breath and control of his arms from the strain of hanging.  He was a short stout little man with extra weight which led the warrior princess to a vague idea of Vidalis’s appearance.  Xena realized quickly that there was little time to waste as she instructed everyone to lead the way to her friend.

Gabrielle found herself terrified.  She could hear the sounds of the crackling fire and of the burning wood of the king’s coffin.  She shouted out for rescue angry that her fate was seemingly sealed and hopeless.  The bard did not want to die and certainly dreaded the idea of being burned alive.  She clawed and scratched at the top of her own tomb desparately hoping she could bust through the top with her fists somehow.  It was her only chance, but then she heard the order from Apex to execute the queen.  She could feel that her tomb was moving and as it moved the bard could feel her body sweating as the heat began to fill in the air pockets around her.

It did not take long for Vidalis to lead Xena and Palaemon to the doors of the creamatorium.  Xena could sense that they were moving in the right direction as the smell thickened.  There was smoke coating the air as Vidalis stopped revealing the location.  Just as Xena and Palaemon prepared to enter through the doors three guards ambushed them from around the corner.  Xena was about to go into battle mode when she noticed the smell of burning wood which meant that the creamation had already begun.  She only hoped that Gabrielle was still alive.  The warrior princess decided that she could leave Palaemon and Vidalis on their own to deal with the three guards flipping over the battle allowing access through large heavy wooden doors.  Apex stood before the warrior princess for she heard him greet her with a sarcastic apology.  Suddenly Xena heard the sounds of at least five swords maybe six being drawn into battle stance.

Gabrielle continued to struggle to think of a way out of her demise.  As she tried to think of how Xena would escape she thought she heard the sounds of the warrior princess.  It was as if Xena’s battle cry echoed in her mind yet Gabrielle was not certain if she was begining to hallucinate due to the heavy smoke begining to engulf her tomb.  She decided to listen closely hoping that just maybe the warrior princess was just outside there ready to rescue her friend from the flames which now crackled even more loudly than before.  It seemed that all Gabrielle could hear was the sound of the chains and the belts pulling her into Celesta’s arms.

Xena decided that she had to act quickly for she was certain that Gabrielle was about to be burned alive, but she could not see her friend only hear the sounds of the flames, and smell of burnt materials.  The warrior princess hoped that she could avoid a long battle.  She was counting on the threat of her presence to intimidate her enemies.  Xena was certain a battle would take too long.  Xena decided to risk a question hoping that Apex and his men would not realize her blindness.  Apex was quick to acess that the warrior princess was blind for her question of the bard’s whereabouts gave her away.  It was obvious to everyone in the room that Gabrielle was being swallowed up by the flames within the moment.

Xena could hear the sounds of boots approaching her setting up for a fight.  Apex was not certain that Xena was blind so he responded with his own question. The warrior princess listened intently to the sounds surrounding her.  She could still hear the battle going on just outside the doors between Palaemon and the three guards outside.  Xena noticed that some bodies had fallen to the ground behind her.  Suddenly Apex shouted out his own answer to the question.  He ordered his men to battle Xena and to her own firey death upon defeat.  Suddenly she heard the slow moving boots quicken into a stance surrounding her.  The warrior princess decided that her best chance to win the battle was to fight in hand to hand combat.  Her sword drawn and ready she held it out waiting for the first move.  There was a guard to her right that kicked her hand disarming her of her weapon.  Xena then elbowed him to the ground awaiting a frontal assult using her boots to kick down the advance.  Although she was being approached from all sides defeat was not an option for death would take her friend away if she did not take out the five guards within her final assessment.

As two battles raged on Gabrielle thought she could hear the sounds of men falling to the floor.  Yet again she was not certain if they were true sounds for she was begining to feel the grip of suffocation by smoke.  She beat the top of her box once again hoping desaparately that someone could hear her pleas.  If Xena really was with her Gabrielle needed to be able to make enough noise from within to stand out above all of the other commotion about outside of her death prison.  She shouted out with one last attempt of desparation for she was no longer able to take a breath of air to fill her lungs.  The smoke coated her airways with a thick weight reminding the bard that her death was emminant.  Gabrielle decided that she had two choices in death.  She could fight it and struggling hoping for rescue or she could just give up and die without a fight.  The bard was determined to pound on the top of her box and claw at the wood until death or rescue took her.  She cried out for Xena hoping that the warrior princess was there and could hear her pleas.

It was as if the sounds of the battle were subsiding as Gabrielle listened in between pounding which became weak.  She found herself going in and out of consciousness struggling to hold onto her life.  The bard was soaked with sweat, and her lungs were saturated with smoke.  Her hands were now badly bruised as she felt her own blood seeping through her finger nails.  Soon she could feel the beginings of the flames invading the wooden box which had held her captive for what had seemed like an eternity.  Gabrielle’s toes were begining to feel the pain of the seering heat as she weakly cried out for Xena once more.

Xena had defeated her enemies swiftly as she listened and tried to hone in on every sense within her body.  Although she had defeated her enemy there was no one there to guide her to where the fire burned her friend.  The warrior princess then heard the weak voice crying out her name.  It was most certainly Gabrielle.  Xena’s heart pounded with hope and urgency for there were no moments left to spare.  Xena dashed forward tripping over the belts which carried the body of her friend.  The warrior princess called out desparately to Gabrielle with worry deep in her heart.  Gabrielle found herself certain that she had been hallucinating the entire time.  She found comfort in knowing that Xena was there with her in spirit and within her heart.  The bard imagined that she could hear Xena’s voice.  It was the only thing she could focas on as the flames began to surround her becoming unbearable.  Gabrielle began to slip out of consciousness again calling out to Xena one last time hoping the warrior princess was there despite certain hallucination.

Then Gabrielle could remember nothing more.

The warrior princess had found her friend, but she could also sense that there was not a moment to lose.  Xena struggled to pull her friend out of the fire for the entire box was practically inside the fire.  The warrior princess’s arms were scortched by the hot flames, but Xena did not give up.  She pulled against the belts and chains with all of her strength to pull Gabrielle to safety.  Xena then heard the sounds of the gears clicking and jambing which meant that the box was no longer being pulled into the flames.  It had finally come to a rest.  She only hoped that she had not been too late.  Xena called out to her friend once more desparately hoping Gabrielle would call back to her again.  The warrior princess pried open the hot steaming box and called out to Gabrielle once more.  Her friend did not respond.  The warrior princess felt the sudden wiff of smoke into her face realizing that Gabrielle might have already suffocated to death within the box.  Xena reached down into the box with a panic.  Without her eyes she could not see if the body within the box was even that of the bard.  Xena grabbed hold of a shoulder and then an arm.  She knew that it was Gabrielle.  As she tried to pull her friend out of the box she could hear the sounds of coughing.  Xena realized that Gabrielle was indeed still alive, but seemingly unable to breath.  Gabrielle struggled to rise on her own as Xena helped her sit up.

Xena softly spoke to her friend concerned for her health.  All Gabrielle could do was laugh nervously for she had not been hallucinating.  She had made the right choice in having faith and not giving up hope.  The warrior princess had not given up hope of finding Gabrielle.  Gabrielle stated that she was okay despite the struggle as she buried her head into Xena’s chest.  Xena put her arms around Gabrielle’s head and then Gabrielle looked up into Xena’s eyes.  The bard desired to connect with her friend as did Xena with the bard.  As Gabrielle looked into Xena’s eyes she noticed that Xena was struggling.  It was as if she was trying to see into the bard’s eyes and could not.  Gabrielle sensed worry and then inquired Xena of her eyes.  Xena paused for a moment and said nothing.  Then she softly admitted to the bard without regret that she was blind.  Gabrielle found herself to be unsettled and upset by this idea.  She immediately realized that Xena had given up her sight to save her from death.  Gabrielle felt guilty for not being able to save herself from the wrath of Apex.  She felt responsible for the loss of Xena’s sight.  This made the bard realize just how much Xena loved her.  The warrior princess would sacrifice anything for the bard.  Gabrielle hoped that there would be a way to save Xena’s eyes.  Xena explained with a deep acceptance of her loss that the cure was available in Athens, but it would be too late by the time they could arrive there.

Gabrielle’s heart sank for her friend.  Yet just when it seemed that all hope for Xena was lost Vidalis chimed in with great news.  He explained that he happened to grow Egyptian Cenna in his garden within the courtyard.  Vidalis chucked explaining that he used it to make face cream.  Gabrielle looked behind her relieved that her new found friend was able to help Xena.  Soon everyone was cleaned up and the plants were made ready to cure Xena’s eyes curtosy of Vidalis himself.  It had been close to a day since their ordeal had begun.  No one was certain that Xena’s eyes would be able to heal despite Vidalis’s help.  Gabrielle tended to Xena hoping that squeezing the cenna into Xena’s eyes using Vidalis’s sponges would give her friend her sight back.  It was the least Gabrielle could do to express her appreciation for Xena’s faith in their friendship.  Gabrielle spoke softly to her friend preparing Xena for the burn that might accompany the medicine.

The warrior princess braced herself and then Gabrielle gingerly applied to cenna to Xenas eyes.  She watched it drip down Xena’s face as the warrior princess jerked for a moment at the stinging sensation within her eyes.  Vidalis stood by watching with hope that he had been able to help Xena.  He realized now why Gabrielle had described Xena as someone with deep love in her heart despite the leather exterior.  As Gabrielle finished the application she stepped back and hoped.  She asked Xena if she could see anything yet for she was uncertain how long it would take for the cenna to settle into the eyes.  Xena struggled to look in Gabrielle’s direction searching blindly for her friend’s face.  After several moments Xena could see that there were a few fuzzy colors coming into her sight beyond the darkness that she had been seeing for almost a day now.  Then she struggled to focas and could see the shape of a face.  Gabrielle’s strawberrry blond hair was obviously in place as Xena began to smile.  She made a joke at the sight of her friend for the first time in a day.  Gabrielle rejoiced with Xena excited that the warrior princess would be able to heal her wounded eyes.  The bard laughed with nervous relief as she approached her friend to offer a loving embrace.

Suddenly a firm voice and a the sound of a drawn sword cut through the joy.  Xena quickly prepared to do battle with Palaemon for she had promised him a battle to the death for his part in Gabrielle’s rescue.  Yet Palaemon was not there to fight.  He explained that he had come to thank Xena for pointing him in the right direction.  The young mercenary had learned that he needed to be someone he could live with being.  As Palaemon’s demeanor went from firm and harsh to calm and soft he put away his weapon and explained that he was going to pretend to be good for a while.  Then he thanked Xena and left to have his own adventures for the greater good.  Gabrielle had decided that this side of Palaemon was much more attractive than the man who had tried to kidnap her on the day before.  Vidalis chimed in agreeing with the bard as he explained that he had decided that his next adventure would be alongside Palaemon.  He had decided that he had done well as a sidekick against the guards in the battle with Palaemon.  Gabrielle found joy in Vidalis’s idea.  She encouraged his choice to be the support behind a hero.  All heros needed a good strong friend and support system.  The bard felt it was the best most noble work one could find.

Then Vidalis complemented the bard explaining that she was an excellant lady extending his hand out to her.  Gabrielle demonstrated what she had learned from Vidalis before Xena politely accepted his complement with class.  Then Vidalis kissed the bard’s hand preparing to part ways.  Before he left he joked once more about Gabrielle’s rough hands and then went off to join Palaemon before he got too far off down the road alone.  As Vidalis left Gabrielle led the way down the road to the next adventure alongside the warrior princess explaining how difficult learning to be a lady had been for her self-esteem.  The bard could not get over the requirements of the lives of royal women.  The experience had really made her appreciate life in the back woods with Xena.  Xena teased her friend about the lack of royal skills demonstrating that her curtsie was much better than the bard’s royal hand shake.  A playful competition ensued as the two friends continued on down the road together.  Xena appeared pleased and relieved that in her own experience of the past day she had been able to shape another young warrior using the examples she set in the present rather than those in her dark past.  The warrior princess desired to create no more Callistos for that had been a painful price.

The Xena Scrolls

Scroll # 40:  The Execution

By:  Gabrielle Bard of Potedia

April, 47 B.C.

     The story of Meleager was coursing through my heart as Xena and I rode into the next kingdom upon Argo.  For all hope had been lost to the people of Potedia until Meleager appeared returning to the village crushing Damon’s troops.  He had single-handedly pulled a war wagon full of spartan javalins over twenty leagues of rocky road to save a people who loved him very dearly.  At least that was how I had remembered the story although Xena seemed board of hearing it for the sixteenth time.  I could not help my excitement for I had not seen Meleager in almost eight seasons.  Yet Xena seemed a little irritated that I was telling such passionate stories about one of my life’s greatest heros.  Xena didn’t believe in Meleager the way that I did, but it was only because she had not yet met him.  I was certain that she would feel less suspicious once she got to know him.  Suddenly it dawned on me that maybe Xena was jealous of my complements for Meleager so I asked if it bothered her.  Naturally she replied with a no, but I was not so certain that she was confident in that answer.  I decided that maybe she needed a reminder of how passoinate my stories of her always are.  Not even Meleager the Mighty can top my adventures with Xena.  I would not want things any other way.

Yet it was still wonderful to receive a message from my old friend although it only contained two words. Meleager’s message was “come quick” and nothing more.  This peaked my curiousity for it sounded a bit troubling to me.  As I wondered about this Xena was just finishing tying off Argo at the saddle post.  We began traveling through town only to notice a barrage of people walking out of one of the buildings in the alley.  There were four men walking swiftly as if there were something serious going on.  I decided to stop one of them and ask if he had seen Meleager, but when I tried to ask him my question he brushed me off with urgency.  His only response to me was that he was sorry and that he had to get to court.  Then Xena and I watched him follow the others across the square toward the town court.  Xena just looked at me when I inquired silently.  She appeared uninterested in what was going on.  It really didn’t matter.  Whatever the trouble was here it had not been the reason for our coming.

Although I was still curious, but Xena was already into the next moment scouting the square trying to decide where to look for Meleager.  Hands on hips demonstrating a slight bit of impatience the warrior princess looked into the direction of the tavern.  She suggested that we start there.  I found that idea to be a bit ridiculous for I was certain that the tavern would be the last place we would be likely to find Meleager.  If for no other reason than the fact that in the past Meleager had his little drinking problem.  It wasn’t something I often liked to mention and I could not remember if I had told Xena that part of the story before.  She looked to me reminding me with a candid glance that she remembered that part of the story clearly.  It was not something I liked to broadcast for even the warrior princess has her flaws.  Those don’t include drinking of course.  Xena seemed skeptical that Meleager was able to quit his drinking binges to sober up to save my village from Damon’s army, but he had.  That was the most admirable part of the story.  If someone could gather the courage to stop drinking to fight an army then there was no doubt in my mind that Meleager would never set foot in a tavern again.  Xena wasn’t so certain.  She seemed to be mocking the idea that a person could succeed at this.  As we continued on toward the tavern to satisfy Xena’s judgements she explained to me of how she had seen many men destroyed by the very same flaw.

It was then that I knew she would never be convinced and so I politely asked that we stop discussing this unpleasant topic.  It was too personal even for Meleager.

Just as my words cheerfully escaped from my lips a rather gruff man with a large sword and enterrage approached us.  He inquired if he had heard us right.  The man wanted to know if I had indeed said that Meleager was my friend.  With confidence and pride I confirmed that he had heard this correctly.  I was certain that he must be a friend to Meleager as well.  These men that followed him must have all been trained by the mighty Meleager.  Though our friend could not drink surely there were many toasts made in his name.  Yet the response was not what I had expected.  The gruff young warrior violently drew his weapon and declared that we christen the battle with him and his men.  He moved quickly into an offensive mode swinging his sword across both Xena and I.  We responded quickly ducking to miss his unexpected attack upon us.  I jumped back three steps putting out my staff not ready to defend hoping that this was all just a misunderstanding.  Again I shouted out that we were friends of Meleager, but Xena was already in a warrior sweat.  She was tossing men over her shoulders as they approached her for attack.  Xena called out to me tryiing to get my attention.  She was certain that these guys were not so friendly for they were our enemies and not friends.  It was all so sudden and confusing, but I found myself dodging the men Xena was thowing over her shoulder trying to get out of the way.  I found myself fighting to help Xena calm everyone down as Xena continued to do battle in hand to weapon combat.  The enemy was fully armed and ready.  Xena was pressing for an oppritunity to gain control.  She never did draw her weapon.  Xena fought all six men with the fury of the fist and the thunder of her boots.

I decided that it would be to my own advantage to gain a higher vantage point.  There was a long table in the market square so I jumped upon it and began to defend the advancing attackers from above.  This strategy of defense worked pretty well as I was able to jump and dodge their blows and knocking them over the head since they were at my boots.  Yet one of the men was able to jump onto the table from behind while I was distracted by the sounds of Xena’s boots running up the side of a building and her battle cry.  My enemy was fully armed with a blade.  He perried into my defensive stance breaking it sending me spinning around.  I had almost lost my balance.  Suddenly he was upon me on the table.  I was unprepared to defend so I ducked and swept his feet with my staff.  This move was pure adtrenaline, but I was impressed with my ability to recover.  Suddenly as I was defeating my enemy I heard the sounds of a large crash just to my right.  When I glanced over I realized that our battle had just ended.  Xena had thrown the aggressive rogue leader into several barrels  in the market.  He was unable to return to his feet.  Xena and I had left a path of destruction without drawing a single drop of blood.  It was impressive.

When I approached Xena grabbed the enemy shaking him hoping to get some answers to his violent advances.  The man was nearly unconscious yet still full of fire and rage.  He had only the strength to say that if we had come for Meleager we were too late.  Then he passed out.  I looked to Xena realizing that those men we had seen rushing off to court must have been the jury off to give their final verdict.  On what we did not know, but somehow it seemed to be the reason that Meleager had called upon us to come quick.  Just moments later Xena and I were busting down the doors of the court where the most unfriendly of the town were entertaining themselves.   The scene looked dramatic as I scanned the court room for Meleager.  Then the most unimaginable events began to unfold.  It was like a bad dream as Xena asked with a sarcastic tone if maybe the man in chains on the witness stand was indeed Meleager the Mighty.  When I looked up I was devastated.  The ungrateful people in this town had chained his wrists and put him on display in a courtroom drama.

Meleager seemed cheerful despite his situation as he proclaimed how glad he was to see us, but not so satisfied with our timing.  He joked about it explaining that the verdict had just been given.  Meleager was guilty, but of what I did not know.  I did not care for I was certain that whatever he had been acused of it had not been true.  I’d seen this happen once before with Xena.  When Ares the god of war had set her up making it look like she was a murderer when infact she had been a healer and a defender.  It had to be the same with Meleager.  Only I had to find out.  I wanted to give my defense for him, but I had to approach the judge politely.  He said that his name was Arbus.  The sound of his name was smooth and calculated yet Xena interrupted declaring that she had heard judge Arbus to be a just and fair man.  Arbus thanked the warrior princess for her complements and then asked me what my relationship was to the defendant.  I explained that I was a friend to Meleager.

Although I felt uncomfortable I  suddenly found myself challenging the verdict explaining why Meleager could not have been guilty.   I didn’t care what the crime may have been.  Suddenly I went into defense of Meleager the Mighty as I asked the spectators and the jury to consider the names of the heros we turn to in our times of darkness.  I mentioned Hercules the obvious one and of course Meleager.  I was certain that there was not a person out there who had not heard of Meleager’s exploits in the tavern.  That was how I had come to know him.  I began to recall them begining with the 100 warriors of the evil Dulcecan that Meleager had slain, and I went onto remind them of the 317 rogue Lagruians that he had taken down.  I was on a roll and so excited to come to his defense that I found myself caught up in his legend for Meleager corrected me stating that it had only been 300 men.  He reiterated modestly that it had all been in the name of saving the lives of the innocent.  I followed up reminding the crowd that despite the numbers and the legends he was a good man and a hero.  His path was of a righteous warrior and a champion of the greater good.  I swore my own honor by him to demonstrate how true all of this was to me and about Meleager.

Then I looked to the judge after giving my heart felt plea.  Arbus paused seemingly contemplating all that I had said.  Then Arbus looked up and stood explaining that though my testimony was moving he could not allow the heart to sway his judgement.  Therefore the defendent was found to be guilty of murder.  His sentence would be death carried out in one turn of the sandglass.  Arbus had dropped the ax upon Meleager and pulled the rug out from my heart.  I could not believe what I had just heard.  It was like another nightmare.  How this could be was a mystery to me.  As the sentence and judgement were passed the men of the court took Meleager to the town prison while the people prepared for the execution in the square.  I watched as the sand fell into the glass as it was posted for all to see.  It was madness.  Everyone was so eager for vengence on anyone reguardless of their guilt or innocence.  This was worse than when Xena had been tried.  She knew that she was up against Ares, but it seemed to me that Meleager was up against an unfair Arbus.  I didn’t care what the people said.  There was no way that Arbus could have been fair in Meleager’s trial.

As Xena and I were down in the prison with Meleager we discussed these issues.  Unfortunately for Meleager he had the priviledge of watching the people prepare his hanging rope through the bars of his cell.  He felt that the only thing that was to be discussed was how to execute him either by hanging, beheading, or tearing his limbs apart.  Meleager was hoping for beheading or even being torn apart, but hanging had won out.  He spoke with sarcasm and a slight humor although his impending death was not a humerous subject.  Even a strong spirited warrior like Meleager could not laugh about his own execution.  I was furious as I confirmed with Meleager that he was innocent.  It was even ridiculous for me to have to even ask him about it.  Meleager was deeply disappointed that Xena did not believe in him.  He was upset that Xena had seemingly passed judgement on him without knowing the truth of who he was.  Yet Xena quickly defended her suspicions stating that although she didn’t know Meleager she knew me very well.  Then she stated that she also knew that a judge could make a mistake.  She was very interested in hearing Meleager’s story.  Xena asked for more details about the one who had been killed and how it happened.

Meleager was eager to share what he knew with Xena.  He explained that the murder had happened last winter and the victim had been a man named Akalman.  Meleager stated that he had never even met this man before and that he had not even been in town at the time.  When he had passed through town again recently he suddenly found himself under an arrest directed by Arbus.  Now he was in the middle of a contraversy becoming the acused on trial about to be executed.  It seemed to me that Arbus just wanted to make an example out of Meleager for he had been unable to track down the real murderer.  Xena was quick to disagree with me explaining that Arbus was not known for jumping upon an accusation.  She went onto explain her knowledge of the trial of Valker the Vicious.  Xena told of how the towns people had wanted to tear Valker apart, but Arbus did not allow it until sufficient evidence was able to be presented to prove his guilt.  The warrior princess was not so certain that Arbus was capable of making a fatal mistake.  Although Xena had a good arguement for Arbus I was still not convinced that he couldn’t be wrong.  I reminded Xena of how sometimes these vengence cases can spiral out of control.  Xena could not deny this for she knew exactly what I was referring to.  I decided to give Arbus and Xena’s arguement for him the benefit of my doubt for a moment asking Xena if he had been aquitted as a result of careful trial.  Xena chose not to answer so I knew the outcome had not been so positive for Valker despite his vicious nature.  Xena seemed just as torn as I felt.  She looked to Meleager with sympathy in her eyes knowing that Arbus was also a tough law man.  She decided to go talk to Arbus herself to find out if there was more to the story.  I decided that I would try to help Meleager get his mind off of the issue at hand by hopefully lightening the conversation, but it led back to murder in the end.

In fact, Meleager told me the whole story from his point of view.  He explained to me that there was indeed one witness that he had known of who could tell the truth.  It was a man who had only one eye.  I was full of excitement when I found out about this witness for it was just what we needed to prove to Arbus that Meleager was not the killer.  Quickly I ran to find Xena for our mission was clear.  We had to search for this witness.  He had to be nearby for Meleager said that the man lived in a  neighboring village.  As I searched through the town and the square I found that there was a pandamoium of sorts.  I ran into a Salmoneous type salesman offering feak reproductions of the murder weapon that had never been found.  This only lended more evidence to his case for innocence.  As I rushed through the square I saw people lining up to get a spot for viewing the execution.  They were aruging with each other as if they were going to miss something if they didn’t get the best spot.  It was sickening, but I kept searching for Xena.  Finally I had found her.  She had just been talking with judge Arbus.  I was certain that she had been able to convince him to retry Meleager.

Xena explained to me that it was not the case for Arbus had heard of her reputation and past.  He did not trust Xena despite her changed ways.  She even went onto say that if Arbus had been able to come up with enough evidence against her he would try her for her past crimes against humanity.  Although I did not like his attitude toward Xena she seemed to be understanding about it going onto explain that the judge was a good man.  She spoke of how Arbus seemed to be a good leader and of how he told of the star witness.  In fact, Arbus had introduced this wintess to Xena and she told her story.  She had witnessed the crime on that night.  The woman had stated that she had seen the victim stumbling out of the horse stables in the dark falling to his death.  He had been badly wounded.  When the woman had approached the victim lying on the ground that was when she had seen Meleager walking out of the stables with the bloody sword in his hand.  It was then that Xena asked me to stop.  She told me that I should stop chasing the man with one eye.  When I told her about him she thought that Meleager was talking about a cyclops.  I was insulted that Xena didn’t believe in Meleager.  Yet I was more hurt that Xena didn’t believe in me.  She didn’t trust in my judgement of people and for this Meleager would have to die.  I could not let it happen.  If Xena would not help Meleager with me then I would help him on my own.  As I ran Xena tried to stop me, but I didn’t want to waste time talking when I could be acting.

I did take Xena’s advice in one way.  Quickly I scouted the market for the best food and wine that could be offered.  Every dinar that I had I spent for I wanted Meleager’s last meal to be the best.  After about an hour I had purchased a large cart containing fruit, and wine, and all of the trimmings available.  When I entered the prison the guards were suspcicious of what I had covered underneath the cart.  They were certain that I had brought the warrior princess, but instead I had brought them bliss.  Although Meleager found himself utterly disappointed that he would not be able to participate in the consumption of his last meal it did not matter for I had plans.  Once the guards had consumed all of the food and wine there was little left for Meleager.  Soon after their feast the guards fell victim to their own gluttony as they fell into sleep one by one.  As soon as the last man began to snore I went for the keys to Meleager’s door.  If Xena and I weren’t going to find his witness then he would have to find the man.  Meleager seemed pleased that I was able to come up with such an excellant escape.  I urged him to hurry and find his freedom.  As I opened the door to let him out he grabbed a weapon from one of the sleeping guards and urged me to leave town as soon as possible.  He was certain that I would find my own trial and punishment if I did not go right away.  In a moment and a blink he was gone disappearing back out into the world, but I wasn’t so lucky for one of the guards had just awakened and I found myself being dragged out into the town square.  An angry mob surrounded me led by the man that Xena and I had made enemies with when we had entered into town earlier.  He led in the action against me as the crowd began to tear me apart limb by limb.  I cried out for them to stop, but nobody heard me.

Just when I thought that my life was about to end painfully I heard Xena whistling for Argo.  Argo responded to Xena with great loyalty as she broke free from the stable post.  Suddenly I heard Xena’s battle cry as the warrior princess jumped into the middle of the mob to separate them from my limbs.  Xena meant business as she pulled her weapon ready to injure the next person who tried their luck with her.  The mob was still poking and prodding attempting to find a way though the warrior princess.  Xena stood strong as the crowd continued to grow more enraged.  It was all out of control until judge Arbus entered the square and shouted out for order.  Suddenly everyone melted into silence as Arbus appraoched the center of the crowd.  He declared that I would be held responsible for the release of Meleager the Mighty.  However, I explained my actions to Arbus hoping he would understand that Meleager was only trying to prove his innocence.  The judge ingnored my pleas again.  He was ready to lynch me, but only after my trial.  Xena stepped into the battle of Arbus and myself.  She declared to Arbus that she would seek out and find Meleager.  Xena vowed to Arbus to bring Meleager back to serve his sentence.  I felt very alone in that moment despite my life having been saved for the moment.  Xena then ordered Arbus to allow her to take me with her before she would bring Meleager back.

Arbus agreed to Xena’s terms, but promised that if she did not return with Meleager he would send men out to find us all.  Xena agreed to Arbus’s terms and then pushed me to move forward forcing me to participate in Meleager’s capture.  I was angry at Xena.  Furious with hurt for Xena did not understand and seemingly did not care about justice for Meleager.  I did not understand why the warrior princess was so determined to make Meleager face an unneccesary death.  As we rode out of town I argued with her and refused to help her track down an innocent man.  She explained to me that the only way to find the truth was to bring Meleager back first and then ask Arbus more questions.  It seemed to me that Arbus had already asked all of the questions he was willing to ask.  Xena was so focased that it was making me uneasy.  She declared that Meleager was going north for if he were to reach Gaul he would be able to roam without being questioned of his crimes.  Gaul was a rough country without much in the way of law and order.  I desparately hoped that he would be able to out run the warrior princess.  Yet she was so good at tracking that I dreaded what would come next.  I tried desparately to plead with Xena to give Meleager a chance, but she had already made up her mind.  There was no changing it.  She was too stubborn to notice the truth in front of her that was always loyal and walked beside her.

We rode on through the open pass for another hour traveling north upon Xena’s anticipation.  I spotted a thick line of trees just up ahead.  My hope was that those trees were the way to Gaul for if Meleager had made it there it would be much more difficult for Xena to capture him.  Suddenly Xena began to call to Argo to pick up the pace.  I tried to see if I could spot something up ahead.  Just off in the distance was Meleager upon a horse.  He was just about into the woods.  Xena was determined and closing in fast as I desparately called out to Meleager to warn him of our approach.  I hoped that he could make his way to safety, but Xena was too quick.  Moments after Meleager had disappeared into the woods Argo stopped as I dismounted hoping to be able to stand between Meleager and his enemy.  Xena dismounted just behind me.  I wanted Xena to just let him go.  Yet I knew that she wouldn’t.  I felt her presence coming up from behind and then I made a choice.  Spinning around to defend I confronted Xena not allowing her to go a step further toward the woods.  If I could slow her just enough maybe Meleager could get enough distance.  I asserted my position upon the warrior princess who seemed surprised at my action.  Her surprise only lasted for a moment before it shifted to frustration.  Xena firmly comanded me not to participate in Meleager’s escape.  I knew that I would never be able to fight her in a combat and I didn’t really want to.  My hope was to make one last attempt.  I pleaded with her to forget and to just let him go.  We could just walk away from it all and forget we ever came to this place where Arbus held the law.  Yet Xena could not hear me.  She was too busy trying to get justice.  It was all about justice for her.  Xena was blind like Arbus.  She was just like him.  My heart could take it no more.  I raised my voice with conviction for Meleager could not be capable of killing an innocent.  If Xena couldn’t see that then I had to stand in her way.  Justice could never be served in killing an innocent man.

For a moment Xena was quiet as if she were contemplating my motive.  I hoped that she could see it if not in my eyes, but feel it in my soul.  Suddenly she smirked shaking her head with disgust as she flipped over me sending out her battle cry which echoed through the woods.  Before I could even think she was gone.  All I could sense were the sounds of her boots closing in on Meleager’s boots.  I had taken a risk with Xena.  Hoping she could back down I found that she defied our friendship and so all I could do now was hope to catch Xena before Xena could catch Meleager.  Quickly I dashed into the woods.  My heart was pounding with exhaustion and my soul with ache.  I tracked Xena hoping that she would not make the same mistake that Arbus had.  The problem was that because there were two warriors in the woods it was difficult to tell who was who.  They moved in a similar fashion although Xena appeared to be a bit more graceful while Meleager’s path was heavier.  I kept calling out to Xena in desparation as I tripped and fell over a fallen tree.  By the time I returned to my feet I could hear the sounds of a battle ensuing and voices exchanging.  First one sword dropped to the ground followed by a second.  I recogized that as Xena’s sword for it was familiar.   I kept on running and calling out to Xena.  My hope was that no one would get hurt for passions were high.

By the time I reached the battle it was ending with Meleager on the ground and Xena standing over him triumphantly.  I heard him tell her that he would not go, but she pleaded with him to return for if he did not I would be hunted by Arbus for life.  It did not matter to me that Arbus would not rest without my conviction.  I would never return to this land.  It was time for me to make my final stand against Xena the warrior princess.  I stood before Xena declaring that I would not let her take him.  Even if I had to walk away from her and be sentenced to my own death.  I did not care.  There was no way that I would let an innocent friend die.  Yet Meleager pleaded with me to stop.  He said words that I’ll never forget for they stung my heart like a raging nest of angry bees.  Meleager had betrayed me too.  He quietly admitted with his soft words that he indeed was guilty of murder.  Meleager went onto explain the true story.  In this story he had been drunk sleeping inside the horse stable.  He was barely able to remember the details because his intoxication was so intense.  Meleager said an man came bursting into the stable upon a horse slumped over.  When the man dismounted he came at Meleager who staggered to defend himself.  Meleager assumed that the man thought he was about to be robbed by Meleager.  After he died Meleager still held the bloody sword in shock as he ran out of the stable away from the witness who had seen him strike the blow.

I could not believe that Maleager could ever lie to me.  He finished his story explaining that his lie was to avoid my disappointment for his returning to the bottle.  It wasn’t his drinking that disappointed me.  I was too angry to feel anything, but stunned and alone.  My loyalty to our friendship was so great that I challenged the limits of my friendship with Xena.  I hurt another friend because of Meleager’s lies.  Yet the worst part was Meleager was willing to sacrifice my honor to protect his own.  It was more than I could bare to hear and so I walked away from it all.  No one could take away the anguish of betrayal.  Even Xena could not comfort me for my nieve choices.  I didn’t like being played the fool.  It was embarresing to realize that  I was the one who did not believe in Xena.  She really was a good judge of character.  I was the blind one.

We spent the night in the woods.  Me, Argo, Xena, and of course Meleager.  I could not stop brushing Xena’s horse for it seemed that only Argo could put up with my flaws.  As I brushed and brushed I found myself unable to come to terms with it all.  Later in the night as the moon rose from the low horizen Xena came to reckon with me.  I hated being wrong again.  Xena tried to tease me about how well I had been treating Argo all night.  I was only keeping busy, but Xena knew the truth in me.  She knew that I could not face someone who had lied willingly to a friend.  Yet Xena tried to persuade me to talk to Meleager.  Maybe he had not really been a friend at all.  That was when I admitted to Xena that she had been right about him and his dishonesty.  It was difficult to admit that for I had to swallow my pride.  Yet that wasn’t enough.  I had to apologize to Xena for I had behaved terribly against her.  It was a disgrace and I wouldn’t blame her for never wanting to travel with me again.  What I did was not forgiveable.

Xena continued reminding me that we had plenty of time to work out our differences of the past day, but Meleager’s time was short.  She kept talking.  Xena’s voice was soothing yet serious as she pointed out another of my flaws that I did not want to see.  She was speaking of how I idolize my friends including Meleager.  I didn’t want her to be right, but she continued with a warning.  She said that although we all have heros and idols they are all people like ourselves.  There will be a time that they will disappoint us.  She finished by reminding me that Meleager was about to pay for a few of his mistakes with his life.  Xena was certain that I would regret not working things out and coming to forgiveness.  She was concerned that I would live with that guilt for a lifetime.  Xena was hoping that I would choose forgiveness.  Then she quietly slipped back into the darkness from which she had come.  She left me to think about these things.  Although I was disappointed in Meleager it was my own mistakes that truely bothered me.  In order to work through my own flaws I had to help Meleager work through his.  I had to accept my own as well.  For the rest of the night I spent it with Meleager.  He apologized to me for his betrayal and asked for my forgiveness.  I did forgive him and I forgave myself.  We shared in more stories.  It was nice, but I wished that it could last forever.  About an hour before the sun rose we finally settled in to sleep.  It was bitter sweet for in the light justice would have to be carried out and I would lose a friend again.

In the morning we took our time getting back to judge Arbus.  It seemed that Xena was still asking questions despite the truths that had revealed themselves already.  Meleager had told Xena the night before that he allowed himself to be captured not because he was drunk, but because he didn’t want to harm an innocent trying to escape.  The day before he would not allow himself to fight Xena with a sword to escape.  Xena had felt that there was something more to the story.  When she asked Meleager again about the night of the murder she wanted to know if the Callamond had looked okay when he got off of his horse.  Meleager recalled that the victim may have stumbled, but again he wasn’t certain.  Meleager went onto say that if Xena and I were hoping that he could confirm that the man had possibly fallen on his own sword it was too fuzzy to remember.  I then asked him if the lady had actually seen him commit the crime at the moment it happened.  Maleager then said that the proof of his guilt lied in the fact that the female witness had seen him carrying the bloody sword.  As usual Meleager was joking about a serious matter.  There was something humble and courageous about that.

Then Xena had another question.  She wanted to know what happened to the murder weapon that was never found.  Meleager explained that he had held onto the sword and found it lying next to him in a cave the next morning upon waking up.  He began to describe the weapon as monsterous and ugly with a skull for a handle.  Calliman’s description suddenly escaped from Xena’s lips.  She said that he was big, burly, and ugly.  It was strange and as if Xena had seen this man before.  Meleager was just as surprised as I was asking if Xena knew Calliman.  Suddenly I could see Xena’s senses sharpening as her body reacted to the sounds of arrows flying through the air.  The first one she caught just before it could strike Meleager between the eyes and the second near the same mark as she called for me to get down.  I responded as I looked for the shooter who was up in a tree yards a way.  The archer fired a third arrow as Xena dove over Meleager catching it in her teeth.  It was an amazing move and even Meleager was impressed.  Indeed it was true that Xena was young, ambitious, experienced, and the best.

Quickly Xena took the advantage as the archer tried to reload.  She dashed off toward the tree flipping up to the top with her battle cry.  The archer tried to avert capture by Xena jumping down to the branches below, but he could not hold on.  Xena then grabbed the rope he had used to climb the tree and made a noose.  She the threw it down around the archer capturing him and hanging him by the waist from the tree.  His fear of the warrior princess was obvious as he begged her to allow him to bring in Meleager.  He had been ordered by judge Arbus.  It was all begining to come together.  The man was not really afraid of Xena as much as he was of judge Arbus.  I found myself irritated that justice was so swift in Arbus’s country that one had to come out and excute the sentenced before he could make it to his scheduled execution.  Meleager had a few words of his own for the man who had just tried to execute him.  Yet Arbus’s henchmen swore that he was within his rights.  It didn’t matter for Xena was the one who would bring Meleager back.  This brought Meleager to his next point.  He was curious to know why Xena was saving his life from an execution only to take him to one.  Xena explained that she was not going to take him back just yet for she wanted to go see the cave that Meleager had said he left the weapon in.

It was not far from where we had run into the archer.  In fact, the bloody sword was still there where Meleager had left it in the burned out fire.  It was drenched in old dry blood which didn’t look so good for Meleager.  The blade was curved like a thick sharp spirol and indeed it did have a monsterous skull on the handle.  Xena carefully picked up the weapon and studied it as if in shock.  I pleaded with her to leave it behind for it only proved more against Meleager.  Yet Xena said that was a wrong assumption.  Cryptically she explained that she was certain that Meleager was not guilty.  It seemed it was just one shock after another.  Twists and turns around every corner made it difficult to piece things together.  Xena began her story with last winter at the time I had gone off to the Athens Acadamey.  She explained that she had run into Callimond on the road just outside of town.  There she witnessed Callimond attacking a man and so she stepped in to protect the victim.  Xena enguaged in a fight with Callimond who ended up taking his own sword in the chest.  As Callimond tried to escape the battle with Xena he jumped upon his horse which must have led him back to the stable where Meleager and the witness had been involved.   Xena was certain that the man would have died as a result of the wound through the chest.

This was exciting news, but there was still a problem.  It was how to prove all of this to judge Arbus.  Xena had an idea.  She spoke of the man she had saved.  At the time he had explained to her that he had been chased by assasins wanting to kill him.  When Xena asked what he was wanted for the man would not say, but she advised him of an old hiding place that she used to use for her armies in her days of looting.  Xena hoped that this man would still be there and so she advised us to stay in the cave until she could return with the proof needed to free Meleager from his execution.  Meleager was glad and relieved to know that he had not killed anyone and that he had not lied to me about being a murderer.  Despite all of the confusion there was hope once again.  I was confident that Xena would find the witness.

All of this excitment has led to this moment as I transcribe the events of the past day and a half.  Meleager has let down his guard thinking that he is saved already, but I know that it will not be over until Xena returns with the witness.  I have asked Meleager not to go outside for fear that someone may spot him.  Xena has asked us to stay in the cave.  She only asks these things for good reason.  Meleager has now sat down before me and has asked me to transcribe his will.  Most certainly this is his idea of light humor, but I will play along.  He says that he leaves his humble posessions to me  Gabrielle, his family, the only daughter he has ever known.  I take this as an honor and as a complement, but I have faith that Xena will return.  Meleager’s valuables are of sentement for the innocent lives of villagers he has saved.  Many  are trinkets he carries of those who have been grateful for his courage.  These trinkets are his only worldly possesions.

Yet endings come in mysterious circumstances as Arbus has turned out to be persistant and ambitious. Meleager and I were indeed captured at the cave by Arbus and his henchmen.  We were taken back to the prison to await Meleager’s execution and my sentencing for his escape.  Xena had been unable to return in time to save Meleager’s life.  It all seemed like such a waste.  As Meleager and I spent our last moments together we tried to comfort one another.  Although Arbus had promised a good show it didn’t matter anymore.  All that mattered to me was that Meleager go in peace.  I wanted the last thing he saw in life to be a friend.  My request for him was that he look at my face as he was leaving this world.  I wanted to be able to help him if not in life in death.  And so we held each other for the last moments as I shed tears with Meleager.  It was like saying good-bye to a father.  He was too brave to cry.  When Arbus’s men came for him they threatened to take his life right there before ever getting to the public square.  Meleager only said that he could never give them that satisfaction.  So they took him away to be hung in the square.  My heart wept for him and all of the days that should have belonged to him.

I held onto the bars tightly as I watched them bring him to the platform.  My heart fought my emotions to keep a smile and a bright face till the end.  Yet it was the hardest thing I have ever done.  It was nearly impossible for me not to shed my tears.  Meleager looked to me as they placed the noose around his neck sending back a smile of confidence as he welcomed the shadow of death.  He seemed satisfied with all that he had done.  The irony of Meleager’s life was that his death was by those whom he had spent a lifetime defending.  It was not fair and it was unjust, but Arbus would never see that.  He seemed only hungry for blood like the warlords, and the assasins he fought for justice against.  Maybe they were more just than Arbus himself, but it seemed no one would ever know.  I heard Arbus call for the gate to be cleared.  The hooded executioner then pulled back the lever and Arbus’s man declared that it was indeed clear.  Now it was only a moment before Meleager would be gone forever.  It was difficult for me to watch as they tightened the noose around his neck.  Meleager was indeed more brave than I.  He was facing death still smiling as if he were about to make a joke, but then Arbus caressed the large emulet around his own neck as if preparing to give the order.  Then it happened.  Arbus declared Meleager’s death.  The dark hooded executioner then pulled the life from beneath Meleager.

As he dropped I could no longer watch.  All I could do was sob with loss.  I was unable to control my emotions, but it didn’t matter anymore.  Now that Meleager was gone I no longer had to be brave.  My only regret was that our last days together could have been lighter.  For several hours I waited as I tried to remember the good things about Meleager and the wonderful adventure we had together back in Potedia.  Though it seemed my heart would not stop aching.  It was like losing Perdicous all over again only it was to justice and not evil.  As I leaned against the cold hard walls of my cell I wondered what Arbus had in store for me.  It seemed there would be no mercy.  My life would be spent running from the justice I had once embraced.  Justice by men can never be flawless.  There will always be tragic errors and mistakes.  The only real clarity is between good and evil.  At least those are black and white.  Night soon fell upon me in the prison followed by the sound of a key unlocking the main door.  I heard Xena call out to me, but sadly she was too late.  Part of me felt discouraged for she had disappointed me for the first time.  This was the first time she had been unable to save a good man.  Yet then there was another voice that spoke.  It was haunting, but I turned to see Meleager.  He unlocked my cell and smiled brightly.  I could not believe it, but he was alive.  He asked what he had missed and all I could do was reach out and hug him.  I did not want to let go.

Then I hugged them both for my two dearest friends were still with me.  It was the best gift I could ask for and my hope had been restored.  At first I was a bit angry that they let me think Meleager was dead all of this time, but Xena apologized as Meleager stated that she had indeed almost been too late.  Meleager then took us to the tavern for dinner, but he did not drink one drop as the two of them divulged to me the story of how Xena saved Meleager’s life.  Xena had indeed found the witness in the place where she had left him.  The witness was just as jumpy as she had remembered him to be.  Yet this time he was willing to divulge his reason for running and hiding.  It had been judge Arbus who had sent assasins after the man.  Xena’s witness knew something about the Vulker case that would have aquitted an innocent man.  Arbus had built his entire reputation on that case, and had to keep quiet his mistake.  When the assasin who tried to kill the witness in the Vulker case failed and was found dead near the stable Arbus had to find justice even if it were a lie to protect his reputation.  Meleager happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.  If it had not been for Xena’s intervention judge Arbus would have succeeded in the cover up.

I asked Xena what happened to the witness.  She explained that he was too cowardly to stand up to Arbus.  The attempt on his life eight seasons before had spooked him beyond his wits.  By the time she and the witness had arrived back at the cave Arbus had already taken Meleager and I back to prison.  It was there that Xena had made a mistake when she had mentioned why she had come for the witness.  When her witness realized that he was up against Arbus he decided to run back into hiding.  Xena decided that she had only one more chance to save Meleager.  When she arrived back in town under disguise she seeked out the executioner and explained why he had to stop the execution of an innocent man.  The warrior princess knew that because the executioner was from outside town he would not be biased in favor of Arbus.  She also knew that a professional executioner could not bring himself to execute an innocent if he knew the truth.  Xena hid underneath the gate during the execution and just as it took place she stood beneath the trap door to catch Meleager’s feet.  He had to quickly adjust and play along without knowing the plan.  Once the square had finally cleared and Arbus and his men were out of sight the executioner took Meleager to his coffin where all awaited Arbus’s record.   Arbus was surprised to find a live corpse when he came to declare the cause of death.  It was then that they exsposed Arbus and arrested him for his crimes against the innocent and against justice.

Late the next morning Xena and I left town off to find another battle to fight.  As we left town we saw Meleager gleefully taking an ax to the hanging post.  It was the final justice to be served and his final duty before leaving the town himself.  As we said good-bye I was certain that one day we would cross paths again.  I only hoped it would be on a day when no one was accused of murder.  Continuing on I caught sight of the old hag whom I had seen knitting in the square the day before the execution.  She had finished her craft; however, it was morbid at best.  The old hag had knitted a man hanging.  It looked a lot like Meleager.  She was a bitter old woman and I hoped that I would not be knitting such things when I reached her ripe age.  Xena explained that I had nothing to worry about for in our line of work people never lived to see that age.  I hoped that she was wrong for I liked that outlook even less.  Still I thought that knitting socks would be much better than an execution.

The Xena Scrolls

By:  Gabrielle Bard of Potedia

Scroll#41:  For Him the Bell Tolls

April, 47 B.C.

As my nightmares cease to end Xena has left me yet again.  She has gone off on a mission to see our friend King Lius without me.  When Xena left me behind she had said that it was only a ceremony, but that it was important that she attend.  At the time I didn’t really see the point of leaving me behind unless there was some sort of danger affoot.  Xena always leaves me behind when there is danger to be reckoned with.  Her excuse to me was that it would take too long to get to Liberia if Argo had to ride hard with both of us.  She said that it would take her at least three days to ride with Argo alone.  All I can think is that maybe she is still angry at me for selling her whip to Minya.  Or maybe it was when I hit her in the face with my staff that has led her to leave me on my own.  She left without me earlier this morning.  I thought that maybe I could at least be of some help if there was some danger.  I even suggested to the warrior princess that I would just follow behind and meet up with her when I got there alone.  My suspsicion is that King Lius has called upon Xena for security of some sort.  Although I pleaded with Xena to ask for my help in this matter she declined.  She was even a bit patronizing about it.  She told me to relax and take a few days to rest.  I can’t think of any reason why I would need to rest.  I’m perfectly fine.  So that brings me to my next challenge.  I have to prove to Xena that I’m worthy.  I have to prove to her that I can take care of missions without her help.  She doesn’t think that I’m capable of independence.  Xena can not fathom the idea that I could be self reliant.

Unfortunately for me not long after Xena had left I walked up the path to hear the sounds of a battle.  Yet it wasn’t the typical battle.  I decided to step off of the path and to scout from the brush to see who it was that was battling up the path.  As the sounds came closer it seemed as if it were really only one man swinging his sword wildly.  Maybe it was a warlord gone insane.  I wasn’t really certain until I heard his familiar voice.  Danger was not affoot.  Instead it was entertaining to watch a wanna bee warrior defeat his non-existant enemies.  He sheathed his sword once again as he came closer down the path.  Then he paused and started his drama from the begining.  Unsheathing his sword now he poised himself for attack.  He shouted to his enemy Megalopolis that he would be the next victim on his list of defeated.  In fact, he even went as far as to threaten to feed his victim to the fish.  It was almost more than I could bare to keep quiet.  My stomach was bursting with laughter ready to come apart at the seams.  Yet I stayed calm and poised in my place in the brush beyond.  My unsuspecting victim would most certainly defeat himself momentarily with idoicy.

His next moves were wild and uncontrolled as he perried with his phantom enemy and then suddenly went into the most horrid interpretation of Xena’s signature battle cry that I could have imagined.  I knew that I wasn’t so great at it, but as Joxer flew through the air attempting to emulate Xena’s famous flip he fell flat on his face as I sprang up from the brush to attack.  Yet I never had my chance to take him down unexpectedly for he had done that on his own.  He landed face first right next to my boots.  That was when I rested my staff gently on the ground beside his head and greeted him with a sarcastic glow.  If Xena thought that I was shameful to hang around with she would never believe it if I told her what I had just witnessed with Joxer the Magnificient or whatever he called himself these days.  He really wasn’t all that magnificient or mighty.

Naturally he was surprised to see me.  So surprised and even embarressed that he tried to play off his blunderous mistake.  He moved his ear to the ground as if listening for something.  As I watched his warrior skill he assured me that he was listening to make sure that he had not been followed by giants.  What he didn’t realize was that we were no where near where the giants lived.  Then he fumbled nervously to rise to his feet trying desparately to appear confident and in control.  He obviously wasn’t.  He then assured me as he shealthed his wide blade that no giants had followed.  All was safe and calm in the land of Joxer.  What a relief it was to know that I had run into the dumbest warrior that had ever lived.  He was hopeless.

His next move appeared confused as he looked about.  Then he asked me the one question I dreaded most.  He wanted to know where Xena was.  Unfortuneatly I had to admit that she didn’t need her sidekick.  She was perfectly capable of being a hero without me.  Within that moment Joxer’s face lit up like lightening.  It was as if he was having the revelation of his life.  He then spoke his thoughts outloud gleefully reminding me that I was a sidekick without a hero, but continued onto remind me of how he was dellusional in thinking that he was a hero who needed a sidekick.  Of course I could take no more of his insanity.  I challenged him asking him what he was a hero of.  He seemed irritated that I would even question his prowess.  Joxer insisted that he was a well-known hero and even went as far as to call himself Joxer the Mighty.  That was what I had thought he would do, but I wasn’t expecting what came next.  It was a dreadful theme song to promote himself as if he were Hercules or someone like that.  I didn’t appreciate it as he began to sing it to me passionately in his deep goofy voice.  I had to stop him before I hurled on the side of the path.  It was more than I could handle.  Danger was definately affoot now.  I was not going to find myself stuck with this man for the next several days.  If this was a vacation from my nightmares it sure didn’t appear that way.  Xena would have to pay for this when she came back.  A week of traveling with Joxer the Mighty would drive me insane.

I began to walk up the path attempting to ignore him, but he would not be ignored.  He was determined to convince me of his heroic talents.  All I could think of was how much shame he brought to the world of the heros for he knew very little about what made a hero.  I expressed my thoughts outloud knowing that Joxer would never understand any of it, but I didn’t care.  I was just trying to figure out how I could get myself out of this situation.  Joxer wanted to prove that he could be just as worthy a hero as Xena.  He then asked me what Xena would do in the current situation.  I was a bit confused by his question until I realized that I now held a golden oppritunity in my hand.  He had just given me my way out of this entire scenario.  It was so easy for the man was so eager to please and to prove his worth that he walked right into my trap.  I suggested to him in a serious tone that he guard the rear for that is what Xena would most certainly do.  We had to be sure that the enemy was not going to approach us from behind.  Joxer seemed pleased and excited about this for he was certain that he could guard the rear.  I even told him that he had to go way back because that was what Xena would do.  So Joxer the Mighty went running down the path with his sword ready for battle.  He wanted so desparately to be something that he could never be.  Yet that was alright with me.  I could once again enjoy some solace and time alone.

Life was good for the moment for I had decided that I should just take Xena’s advice and try to relax.  With Joxer out of the way I had decided that I should count my blessings from the gods and enjoy the tranquil walk in the sun.  How bad could a vacation be when there was the warm sun to enjoy and the sounds of love in the air as spring was just about to turn to summer.  What I didn’t realize was how true love would be for the next couple of days.  I didn’t realize that I would be meeting the goddess of love herself.  It was only a matter of love.

My tranquil walk did not last long for soon I ran into some trouble up the road in a small village.  I heard the screams of young women as I watched them scramble about for their lives.  They were being attacked and kidknapped by a small band of renegade soldiers.  This was the moment of truth for me.  It was the oppritunity I had been waiting for.  I was determined to defeat the enemy without the assistance of the warrior princess.  Though I felt courageous my confidence was not solid yet now there was little time to question that.  I had to jump into battle alone and so I made my choice.  Quickly I ran into the chaos about the small village.   From behind one of the men whom had found himself a captive I charged in.  With full force I swung my staff nailing him from behind.  My confidence was building as he fell to the ground releasing his victim from harm.  Then I went for my second enemy with a swift move across his face with a one handed staff move.  I had never tried it before, but it worked.  Suddenly I felt a force charging in from behind as I spun around to take him down with a jab underneath the chin.

There was a fourth man whom had jumped into the fight, but he was strong.  He grabbed hold of my staff attempting to rob me of my weapon.  I struggled desparately to get control, but after serveral moments I was overpowered by his force as he kicked me to the ground and threw down my staff.  Suddenly I was defeated and uncertain of what to do next.  My confidence had been shattered, but just when things seemed grim something amazing happened.  Flipping into battle was the cheerful voice of Joxer the Mighty.  He seemed extremely athletic and graceful as he entered into the battle.  A large gleeful smile spread across his face from ear to ear as all of the women in the village were seemingly swooned by his presence.  Even I felt the energy and the love eminating from this sexy warrior.  It was Joxer, but then Joxer ripped off his ugly breast plate along with the rest of his mismatched armor revealing his sexy style.  He looked almost like a handsome prince with his brown hair slicked back almost perfecty in place.  Suddenly he adjusted the cuffs on his sleeves and then gracefully drew his sword to fight against the enemy that had taken me down.

It was time to rise to the occasion for I could not bring myself to allow Joxer the Mighty to be the hero.  Yet as I rose to my feet Joxer had already defeated the enemy with just three perrying moves and a kick.  He now had control of my staff and was using it against the enemy.  I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.  It was like having a silly dream.  For a moment I thought that maybe it was a dream that I had just drifted off into mistakenly.  Unfortunately it wasn’t as Joxer continued to battle on.  He suddenly looked to me and threw my weapon back to me.  It was a perfect throw and it was solid.  Normally Joxer was weak, but he seemed so manly.  The impossible was happening as he continued confidiently and valliantly.  He finished off his second attacker by doing some fancy acrobatic move that I hadn’t thought possible.  The enemy was at the mercy of this joker pummeling him in the face while the superhero’s ankles had him in a head lock.

Joxer then flipped backwards sending the enemy over his head rolling violently down the hill.  He continued to show off his grace as he threw his sword down into the ground and fought his next attacker in hand to hand combat.  I didn’t think Joxer could throw a punch straight, but somehow he was landing each jab perfectly.  As the last man went down the girls began to scream while Joxer continued to woo them with his tricks.  In fact, he finished off his side show by proclaiming to the ladies that his sword was there to pleasure them.  With that he threw his sword up into the air spinning above his head.  Then he managed to capture it perfectly into his scabbord without even breaking a sweat.  This was all too much for the women who witnessed his prowess.  They suddenly came rushing over to him swooning over the idiot.  I was begining to feel that I was the only one who knew the truth.  Yet it didn’t matter because the girls were saved as it was so eliquently put.

Suddenly I was feeling quite jealous for Joxer had stolen my chance to prove to Xena that I could be a hero.  It was time that I made things absolutely clear to him before he was to get any other ideas.  As I approached the crowd of women surrounding him I was pushed aside.  It was as if no one had even noticed that I had been involved in the battle.  There was quite a bit of pandamonioum surrounding him as he glowed within all of the female fans he had just aquired.  There was more lust than love within all of this and something was definately abnormal.  Joxer then proclaimed that he had come to deliver a gift to the one they called princess Illiandra.  This naturally upset all of the other women who had surrounded him as the princess stepped forward with enthusiasm.  She was definately under his spell.  I felt a little sorry for her as she approached him.  He then produced a trinket which was a golden bell.  It was held by a pink ribbon which was to be given to the princess.  As Joxer proceeded to put the trinket onto the princess she seemingly could not wait for she insisted that he hurry.  Joxer sang praises to her of her beauty and began using strange yet smooth metaphores to enhance her beauty for all to notice.  There was definately some kind of love in the air, but I couldn’t really figure it out.  None of this made sense.

What happened next was even more strange for when Joxer leaned in to touch lips with the princess he missed cracking heads instead.  Now that move was more like the Joxer I knew.  At this point the pandemoneom had finally died down so I decided that this was my chance to interject a question.  I began by complementing Joxer on his performance, but I was wondering more about his sudden sexy side that had sprung out of nowhere.  Joxer looked to me and appeared just as confused as I had been feeling.  He seemed oblivious and unaware of what had just happened.  Princess Illiandra was still swooned by his presence and begged that he again repeat the elequent poetry that he had just spouted off.  He looked to her and then looked to me confused.  It was as if he were asking me to repeat his poetic words so that he could impress the princess again.  I did not feel sorry for the guy at all.  In fact, I felt like laughing at him because it was just so funny to me.  Shrugging my shoulders was the only answer I could come up with for the guy.  Suddenly he just walked away back toward the trees in confusion.  It was as if he were trying to retrace his steps or even figure out how he had arrived within the current moment.

As I watched him walk away Illiandra interrupted my thoughts assuring me that she was happy that the two of us had arrived in time to save her and her enterrage.  I was flattered yet strangely fascinated by Joxer’s issues.  Maybe there was another side to the idiot that I had not considered.  Illiandra then intoduced herself and said that she was from Mylon.  Though I was more intrested in Joxer I tried to focas on Illiandra.  Politely I introduced myself to her and then asked her where she had been going.  With excitement she expressed that she was headed for Pylos to marry her betrothed Prince Sarpedon.  This led me to a strange thought that didn’t make sense.  Joxer was mysteriously courting a Princess who was about to wed her betrothed yet Illiandra seemed to be lusting after the idiot.  Both appeared unsuspecting of their lust for one another.  Illiandra continued to speak about how impractical it was to just run off and elope.  She continued on about how unexpectedly dangerous it was outside the safety of the castle walls back in Mylon.  Yet I was really not that interested in her plight.  It was familiar to me from my experiences with Princess Diana.  I tried desparately to focas on Illiandra, but Joxer just kept bumping his head and knocked his blade on the side of a tree that he had been standing next to.  Even Illiandra seemed a bit intrigued by the idiot in his clumbsiness.  Out of frustration we watched Joxer kick the tree only to injure himself.

Illiandra began to wonder if this was the same sexy warrior that had flipped into rescue her.  Indeed it was Joxer the one whom had somehow managed to save her.  I wasn’t sure where he had suddenly found his warrior way, but for a short moment in time he was  a real hero.  Now it seemed that he could barely remember who he was.  Suddenly he found himself deciding to rejoin the world as he sheathed his sword, rubbing his head, and stumbling back into a conversation with Princess Illiandra and myself.  Joxer then tried desparately to reconstruct his heroic act stating that there had been at least twenty men involved.  There had only been four.  He looked to me, but I could not reassure him of that being the truth.  He then reached for straws hoping that it had been more than twenty.  I couldn’t confirm that one either.  Joxer tried desparately to recover his story as he spoke of the non-existant cross bows that had been involved.  Only swords and a few fists had been the weapons that Illiandra had seen.  Then Joxer just decided to forget about the details of the battle and continue on with his poetry.  He tried desparately to recreate the moment of bliss between he and Illiandra, but this time it didn’t come off quite as beautiful.  Joxer confidently put his arm around Illiandra and began walking with her.  The next thing he told her was that her skin was like cream when it curtled.  No woman could possibly take that as a complement.  Even Medusa would have to walk away from an idiot like that.  Yet I was still intrigued because it seemed to be a serious problem that Joxer was experiencing.  An entire drama within his life had been wiped away from his memory.  The only thing that was left was his idiocy.

I decided that the only thing left to do was to investigate.  Joxer and I would escort Illiandra to her destination and then we would be on our way.  As we walked I found it pleasant to speak with the princess for she was very gentle and kind hearted.  The only problem was that she had trouble remembering Joxer’s name.  It seemed strange, but as I listened her talk about her betrothed with such love and conviction I had decided that the Joxer moment had been some kind of fluke.  Sadly for Joxer it was castastrophic for he had been given the chance to swoon one of the most beautiful women in the world, but botched it up in the end.  I had to feel sorry for him and when we finally met up with Prince Sarpadon my heart reached out to Joxer within his disappointment.

Joxer was desparate to know what Sarpadon had that he did not.  It was obvious to me that Sarpadon was handsom, sexy, extremely attractive, with muscles and he had Illiandra.  Joxer’s bubble had been burst at that point, but who could blame Illiandra for she was indeed meant to be with Sarpadon as the two shared in a passionate kiss together.  When their long kiss finally ceased Illiandra introduced Joxer and I to her love although to Joxer’s dismay she had forgotten his name for the tenth time.  Then both Illiandra and Sarpadon valliantly thanked us for our trouble and sent us on our way.  As the two of them walked away happily with their entrerrage I  expressed to Joxer how wonderful it was that we had helped them to have a happy ending.  Joxer didn’t seem to be as delighted about the ending as I was.  It was at that point I decided that my mission for the next few days while Xena was away would be to repair Joxer’s dismay.

As we walked down the path together I began the story from the begining when I had first run into him.  I wasn’t sure how far back he had lost his memory.  I went through every detail with him and when I reached the part about the battle that was where he seemed to be extremely lost.  He couldn’t remember a single detail about it until the part where Illiandra had first asked him to repeat the statement about her beautiful creamlike skin.  Joxer couldn’t believe that he had fought all four of the rouge warriors alone and was still standing in the end.  It was as if he had not believed a single word I had said.  As the two of us tried to figure out what went wrong I suggested to him it may have been because he had hit his head that he did not remember the details, but instead he had an explanation all his own.  He suggested that he had been within what he called a warrior haze.  It was an interesting thought.  I felt sorry for the guy, but he was begining to push my patience with that lame idea.  Joxer continued explaining what his warrior haze must have felt like as he spoke of the blood pumping, heart pounding, and muscles flexing.  He was so excited about it that I decided to let it go.  Whatever made him feel better would complete this mission a lot sooner which meant I could get away from him.  I patted him on the back and agreed with him to stroke his ego a little bit and reiterated that now everything was happy again.  Princess Illiandra and Prince Sarpadon were safe and to be happily married all because of this so called warrior haze.

As I thought of all of this I suddenly found myself alone again, but unexpectedly.  Joxer was walking alongside me in one moment and in the next he had vanished.  I found myself worried about him and was desparate to find him.  I tracked his moves down the path which led back to a place near where we had left the Prince and Princess together.  When I walked through the trees I took a glimpse to notice that there they all were.  The Prince, the Princess, their enterrage, a priest, and Joxer.  I was relieved to see that Joxer was safe and with the two lovers, but I had not expected that from him.  The only conclusion I could come to was that he had decided to share in their happiness since it had been his warrior haze which had brought them back together.  Just as I was approching to ask him what he was doing I found myself interrupting a marriage proposal.  It was all so peaceful and romantic as Sarpadon proclaimed his love for Illiandra.  I was feeling all warm inside until she proclaimed her love for Joxer who quickly stepped between them and swept her into the most passionate kiss imaginable.  Sarpadon looked to me broken hearted and with confusion within his eyes.  I didn’t quite understand it myself.  Joxer was seemingly going back into that mysterious warrior haze as he continued to kiss Illiandra.

Sarpadon interrupted with anger and hurt demanding from Illiandra an explanation for her behavior.  Joxer answered for the princess to Sarpadon with arrogance as he drew his weapon for a fight.  Sarpadon found himself challenged by Joxer the Mighty.  He was driven to respond by drawing his weapon.  Two handsome and sexy men fighting for the affections of one beautiful princess.  The passions of a battle for love were dangerous and things were spiraling out of control.  Joxer may have been able to defeat the four rogue warriors, but I wasn’t so certain that he could match the skill of Prince Sarpadon.  I stepped between the two with their passions flying demanding that Joxer wise up and lay down his weapon.  He was behaving wreckless and stupid.  I didn’t like this side of him.  Yet Joxer just brushed me aside proclaiming that he was destined to fight for the affections of Princess Illiandra.   Then Joxer invited passion and love to enter into battle as Sarpadon charged his enemy.  Sarpadon’s attack was gracefully deflected by a block and then spin by Joxer who could have easily taken the life of the helpless Prince.  Instead he threatened the Prince knocking the broad side of his sword upon the back of Sarpadon.  Then Joxer laughed and taunted the prince.  It was unfair.  Sarpadon vowed angerily to Joxer that he would never allow him to take Illiandra away.  Joxer just smirked at the passions of the prince as Sarpadon went on a full attack smacking swords violently with Joxer who was effortlessly deflecting every move that Sarpadon tried against his enemy.

Tempers were flaring as Sarpadon was about to take the advantage.  Joxer paused and interrupted seemingly impressed by Sarpadon’s passion for Illiandra.  Yet he declared that Sarpadon was without the warrior skill needed to win this passionate battle for love.  Joxer then powered through Sarpadon’s momentum pushing him back down the hill toward the lake below the trees.  Sarpadon desparately tried to spin around to confuse his attacker, but was instead taken off guard by a retaliation.  Joxer’s sword was to his throat before Sarpadon could even blink or think to take a breath.  The Prince was cunning in battle for he then looked to Illiandra expressing no fear and reached for the bell which hung from her neck.  It was the mysterious bell that had been given to her by Joxer earlier in the day.  Which brought me to my own inquiry.  I was curious to know where this bell came from.  Yet there was little time to think of this for Joxer’s answer was confident as he downplayed the significance of the gift.  Joxer stated that it was merely a trinket that could never be worthy the beauty of Illiandra.  Illiandra was wooed once more by the sexy Joxer the Mighty.  Her reaction sent Sarpadon into the final and painful last passionate advance upon Joxer as he snapped the bell from Illiandra’s neck throwing it in the face of the enemy.  As the bell flew through the air it rang and fell directly into the hands of Joxer the idiot.

Suddenly Joxer shouted out in fear calling out to me for answers.  He was back to his state of confusion and loss of memory.  It was not the ideal time for his warrior haze to suddenly dissipate, but it did.  Sarpadon took the advantage preparing to finish off the defenseless Joxer who cowered away from the fight confused.  He demanded to know what the problem was, but Sarpadon did not buy the trick.  Instead he shunned Joxer for interfering with the love of his life.  The Prince was offended by Joxer’s tricks, but I knew that this was no trick.  Joxer was sick, but I didn’t know how or why.  Sarpadon continued by reminding Joxer of the gift of love that had stolen the affections of Illiandra.  Joxer was terrified and desparate as he threw the bell back to the prince.  It rang again as it flew through the air and so again the warrior haze began.  Joxer again stood upright ready to do battle as before.  He taunted the prince again disrespecting the love that belonged to Sarpadon.  The attack was fierce which came down upon Sarpadon.  Joxer moved swiftly perrying forward and finally disarming the prince.  Now with two swords in hand it seemed that Sarpadon’s life was about to end.  Yet instead Joxer the Mighty took mercy upon Sarpadon calling him a valliant warrior.  He then handed Sarpadon his weapon holding the blade to his own chest.  Sarpadon took his weapon back by the handle as he was instructed to go home for the battle was now won.  Illiandra now belonged to Joxer leaving Sarpadon’s heart in ruin.  And so Sarpadon gently returned the bell to the hands of Illiandra shealthing his weapon in defeat as he left Illiandra with a bleeding heart.

I thought that the worst was over, but I was wrong.  In the next moment Joxer and Illiandra were lusting all over each other.  It was sickening in many ways, but mostly to my heart.  Because of Joxer’s illness true love was being torn apart.  I could not bare to see true love taken before it could start.  So my new mission was to be in making sure that Illiandra and Sarpadon were reunited for they were the true lovers and Joxer was delusional with illness yet it did not explain Illiandra’s sudden lust for him.  When I promised Illiandra that I would take her back to Sarpadon her true love she only proclaimed that she was already with the one she loved.  I was begining to realize just how difficult this was going to be as I tried to get between the two lusting to be.  Joxer then pushed me away attempting to convince me that I should not interfere with the powerful muscles of the heart.  The day was becoming a nightmare as Illiandra begged Joxer to become one with her.  He was very willing to give Illiandra anything including things that he shouldn’t have.  The moment of truth for me was in hearing myself being referred as Joxer’s sidekick.  That I could not let happen.  Joxer was the one who needed my help and not the other way around.

As evening fell into the night we found ourselves camping out in a nearby cave.  It was difficult to cook dinner and keep two walking hormones separate.  I tried distracting them with stories of who they were as opposed to who they thought they were.  Especially Joxer for I desparately tried to remind Illiandra of the idiot that she had met in the morning.  Joxer leaned in as I was cutting the potatoes to explain that he knew nothing of this idiot Joxer.  He only knew of himself and his love for Illiandra.  Illiandra was just as hopeless for it seemed that Joxer the Mighty was more sexy by the moment.  I tried to talk myself through what was causing the problem with Illiandra and as I thought it through there was only one idea that came to mind.  Maybe it all had something to do with the necklace that Joxer had given to Illiandra for everytime it rang Joxer became strange.  He was either strangely sexy or strangely stupid.

My frustrations were rising as I went across the cave to retrieve my water bottle.  I was hoping that maybe a drink would cool everyone’s passions down.  Turning my back on them for just one moment lead to passions beyond control.  Frustration turned to anger for this situation was absolutely insane.  I tried desparately to cool them off with torrents of water, but instead it seemingly made them more lustful.  Somehow Joxer the Mighty was turning into Joxer the Sexy.  It was madness and disgusting.  This night would last forever, but then it finally dawned on me.

The only way to keep Joxer from thinking of Illiandra was to appeal to his ego.  There was only one solution that I could come up with.  I asked him to teach me his little song.  I knew that it would work because Illiandra would be able to enjoy hearing about how wonderful her new lover was in the form of a song.  It was also certain that Joxer wouldn’t be able to control his urge to stroke is own ego.  Ego was a powerful thing and it was the only weapon I had against the heart muscle that I was fighting against.  When I tried my weapon it did not fail me as Joxer began to sing.  Unforunately in his warrior haze his voice was super sexy, but it soothed the lustful beast that had taken Illiandra.  We spent all night singing together.  Everyone sang until they dropped.  In the early hours of the morning both of them were finally sleeping peacefully and lust free.  As for me I was exhausted and a bit dillusional.  I found myself still singing the silly song as the sun rose over the horizen.

Joxer the Mighty

Roams through the countryside

He never needs a place to hide

With Gabby as his sidekick

Fighting with her little stick

Righting wrongs and singing songs

Being mighty all day long

He’s Joxer, Joxer the Mighty…

Joxer the Mighty

He’s very tidy

Everyone admires him

He’s so handsome its a sin

When things get grim

He’ll take it on the chin

If you’re in jeapordy

Caused by the enemy

Don’t call the calvary

There’s a better remedy

Although he doesn’t work for free

He’s every man’s trustee

He’s every woman’s fantasy

Plus he’s good company

Lookout, golly gee

He’s Joxer, Joxer the Mighty,

Joxer, Joxer the Mighty.

I was begining to feel safe as I was letting my guard down.  The last coals of the campfire were burning out by now.  Just as I was about to close my eyes and drift into wonderful sleep I heard the sounds of a small army coming from deep in the valley outside the cave.  Suddenly I popped out of the trance as I awakened Joxer the Mighty.  I grabbed his shoulder as I stood up to study the scene just outside.  Illiandra was awakened by the commotion as I viewed the field.  My warrior instincts were kicking in for a small army could be a serious thing.  Illiandra spoke up with some intelligence suggesting that it was probably King Linias father of Sarpadon.  This made sense because it appeared as if they were looking for someone.  There was only one person that could have brought a small army upon himself and that was Joxer the Mighty.

Joxer popped up from his slumber and prepared himself for the unthinkable.  One man against an army alone he did not stand a chance.  He was a super warrior, but even Xena would never fight alone with these kind of odds.  Joxer was still brave in his love for the princess assuring her that she did not have to be afraid.  Yet Illiandra’s fear was the least of our problems within the moment.  It was time to choose and the solution was obvious to me.  We had to escape from the wrath of Linias’s army.  There had to be another way out of the cave.  As I grabbed my staff from its resting place against the wall Joxer argued with my decision.  He had already decided that running was not an option.  This was a wreckless idea for I knew what he would say next.  Joxer the Mighty was prepared to fight and to die for no real reason.  Maybe it was warrior pride or male ego.  It could have been both, but neither made standing and fighting a wise decision and I firmly expressed my opinion to Joxer.  Yet he seemingly did not hear a word I said.  It did not matter to him.  He said death would not stand between he and Illiandra.  Joxer proclaimed that nothing could allow their love to die.  His words were lovely and sweet, but they were not well thought out.  Illiandra was entranced again.  All reason had flown out of the cave the way it had come in.

Joxer left the cave in his warrior haze as I warned Illiandra that his fate may not be so nice.  Illiandra was lost within the whirrl wind of it all, but not enough to be blind to what Joxer was about to get himself into.  Illiandra and I dashed out of the cave hoping to catch Joxer before his tragic mistake.  We watched him as we approached as he walked galliantly down the hill toward the army massed against him.  I saw the king as he instructed his men to wait before they were to attack.  He was obviously afraid of Joxer.  One could only imagine the tales told by Illiandra’s enterrage and Prince Sarpadon himself.  Joxer then paused standing tall before the army.  He then proclaimed fearlessly that the fates of those who chose to fight would be at the point of his sword.  Joxer the Mighty had just opened the battle as King Linias was to give the order for an attack upon a lone warrior.

As Illiandra and I approached the hopeless warrior her bell began to toll.  Just as I had suspected I saw an instant change within Joxer’s eyes.  He was becoming the idiot again, but this time was not the time.  I pleaded with him to stop the madness if it was possible for him to control it at all.  Then I watched him as he fainted out of shock and fear.  He dropped to the ground like a falling tree.  Nothing could have been worse for me.  All I could do was try to protect him and prevent King Linias and his army from bringing harm to my helpless friend.  As the small army approached they surrounded us.  I pulled up into a defensive position standing over Joxer’s limp body hoping to block and attackers.  King Linais did not give the order to strike, but instead proclaimed that we be arrested  and then executed for threatening the peace.  Our fate would be execution for our crimes against the two kingdoms that would have united as a result of union between Sarpadon and Illiandra.  Now the future of the two kingdoms was uncertain as was the fate of myself alongside Joxer the not so Mighty.

Illiandra pleaded for our lives proclaiming that we were her friends, but Linais of Amphous would not have mercy.  He accused Illiandra of being a harlot and warned her that another outburst could lead to her own execution.  Yet I knew that she would be safe as long as Sarpadon’s love was strong.  Joxer and I would be helpless and left to fend for ourselves.  There had to be a way to fix this.  If only I had some time to think.  There would soon be plenty of it for we were locked up awaiting our formal sentencing by Linias’s court.  They had decided that Joxer was too dangerous to be allowed to roam freely within our quarters so they chained him to a post.  I was actually relieved hoping that it would keep the sexy warrior from getting us into any more trouble.

As I paced back and forth I was in deep thought.  There was a piece missing within this rather complex puzzle of irrational events.  At one point I found myself listening to the conversation between King Linais and Princess Illiandra as they rode by our quarters through the sqare.  Linais was obviously angry by Illiandra’s choice to deface his son’s love.  Illiandra was desparate to explain, but didn’t quite know how.  She had never meant to cause Sarpadon emotional anguish or embarressment, but somehow she had gotten caught up into Joxer.  It seemed to me that their union had been an important event between the two kingdoms and now everything was in ruin.  Emotions were running high, but it wasn’t clear to me of who would want to sabatoge these two kingdoms.  Of course Joxer found this to be a blissful experience for Illiandra had chosen him over Sarpadon.  He was elated unlike the day before when he was let down by the fickle tastes of a beautiful woman.  Joxer was dillusional as I tried to explain to him that Illiandra had not picked him, but the other Joxer.

By this point I was becoming extremely frustrated realizing that even if I was unable to solve our problem I had to get us out of danger long enough to find Xena.  Unforunately I had to admit even to myself that I had not been able to handle even a mission as simple as love without Xena.  Being a sidekick was going to have to be enough for me.  I would have to accept it and after all of this I was begining to long for the lighter load of being a sidekick.  There was a lot of tension and anger boiling with in me over Joxer’s emotional decisions over the past couple of days.  He began to go off into his warrior haze theory again admiring himself for what he had accomplished while in that state of mind.  I was at the end of my rope at this point and had to stop trying to break through the walls of our quarters.  It was becoming a race against time.  I couldn’t give up.  There had to be someone behind all of this that I could go to and plead with.  Joxer was convinced that he could put himself into his warrior haze, but he couldn’t and I knew it.  I approached him and punched him in the stomach because that was the last thing I needed.  Then I went onto explain to him that he was under a spell of some sort.  It had everything to do with that bell or any bell ringing.  This led me to ask him if he could remember where he had gotten it.

Joxer tried to retrace his steps of the previous day.  Most of it was lost to him due to his haze, but he began to remember some things.  He began by waking up, and then having breakfast.  Joxer continued by meeting up with me, guarding my rear, he met Aphrodite,and continued on about eating a pommogram.  Suddenly there was a possible answer.  I asked him to repeat the part about meeting Aphrodite.  Joxer seemed enthralled with the goddess stating that she was nice to look at among other things.  This made sense to me.  I had heard of men being swooned by the goddess of love just has many women have been swooned by the god of war.  Aphrodite had a reason to break up the two kingdoms, but I didn’t know what it was at this point.  All that mattered was that I now had someone to go to and ask for help other than Xena.  I had to get the rest of the pieces to the puzzle.

Now that I had a motivation escaping from our wooden prison was a lot easier.  I had found a wooden spoon earlier which I used to pry loose the boards which held together the walls.  As I was working Joxer was certain that in my escape I would find him a bell to ring so that he could escape and become his alter ego.  That was not going to happen.  It was the reason that we were even in this mess.  I could take no more sudden changes in mood from him.  As I successfully pried open the side wall I kicked through the boards.  Joxer insisted that I was just jealous of his heroic accomplishments and he was right.  In the begining I was, but now it was about proving a point.  I was a sidekick, but he wasn’t even blessed with enough talent to find his way out of a barrel of meat.  Jumping out into freedom I shouted out to him promising him that a little faith could go a long way for him.  I was just finding my faith in myself again.  My determination to find Aphrodite was as fierce as the passions of Sarpadon for Illiandra.  As I ran back into the woods all I could hear was the voice of Joxer singing his mighty song as it echoed into the distance.  That was certain to get him executed sooner.

It wasn’t difficult to find one of Aphrodite’s temples.   She had at least a half dozen of them along the river on both sides.  The kingdom of Amphous on one side and the kingdom of Myon on the other led me to my next conclusion.  It seemed that Aphrodite had so many temples here that they had become a burden to the people of both kingdoms.  The best part was that because of love’s power some of the temples would have been replaced with a union of the two kingdoms.  This was why Aphrodite didn’t want Prince Sarpadon and Princess Illiandra to marry.  If they did then two of her temples would have to be destroyed in order to build the bridge that would unite the kingdoms.  It seemed selfish that the goddess of love would shun the love of others for her own pleasures.  Yet I decided that I would give her a chance.  Maybe I would be able to convince her it was wrong to break apart two people who were in love.

As I approached one of the temples on the Amphous side it was immense.  The steps were of gold and the doors stood taller than even the giants.  Pushing the doors open all seemed quiet and calm.  There were many gifts and offerings within Aphrodite’s temple which made it beautiful and inviting.  I could feel the power of love coursing through my soul as I called for the goddess of love hoping that she would appear.  There were candles burning, and offerings lying around everywhere.  I decided to leave by weapon against the door feeling that any sign of aggression might ruin my chances of seeing her.  Mezmorized by the beauty and the art of love I accidentally backed into a half marble column which held a large greek vase.  The vase was saved by the presence of the goddess Aphrodite who was seemingly annoyed at my clumsy move.

I was startled by her reaction, but then astonished by her beauty.  It seemed as if she had just appeared from within the fresh flowers which surrounded everything.  I couldn’t take my eyes off of her radience.  She wore a pink flowing gown and her hair was seemingly made of golden silk.  It was naturally waivy and perfect in every way.  Her eyes were green like emeralds sparkling with positive energy.  Joxer had been right.  She was truely a sight to look at.  It was almost like being with one’s mother only a bit more egotistical and selfish than a mother might be.  I followed her across the temple as she searched her archieves for my identity.  She caught my aura swiftly recognizing that I was a friend of Joxer’s.  Aphrodite referred to Joxer as her boy which I found to be exciting.  Had I known that Joxer had close ties with the goddess of love I might have had more respect for him.  This was my chance to win her over.  I told her that Joxer was the reason I was here.  My hope was that she would see how damaging her spell was to him and to many others.

I was especially concerned for Princess Illiandra and Prince Sarpadon.  There could be no reason to break apart their love for each other.  Yet Aphrodite seemed disinterested in love which surprised me.  She picked up a golden brush and referred me to cupid who suddenly appeared before me.  He was beautiful and tall with stiff white wings.  They were radiant and they appeared soft to the touch.  Cupid seemed annoyed that his mother was so wreckless in her selfish desires.  She seemingly didn’t have time for love anymore as she vanished off to the ocean.  Apparently she was going to enjoy the surf and her indulging lusts.  I decided that cupid was my only chance.  He listened to my pleas for help with sadness explaining that his mother’s mind was already made up.  She had won the battle over love using lust as her greatest weapon.  All of these lives were being ruined so that she could hold onto two more temples.  Suddenly I realized that ego would be the weapon I could use against her.  If she would not take off the spell then I would bring the destruction to her.  As long as cupid could restore the love between Princess Illiandra and Prince Sarpadon I told him that I would take care of the rest.

Time was running out as I dashed back to the square.  I only hoped that I would have enough time to track down a bell.  Yet it seemed that when I finally reached the square I was too late for Joxer’s head was already on the chopping block as the executioner was about to fill his duty.  King Linais was already shouting the command of death to the burly looking executioner who held a long massive ax over his head.  There was little time to think, but Joxer bought me some time as he made his last proclaimation to the crowd.  He proclaimed himself unable to understand what he was giving his one and only life for.  Whatever it was he was afraid and feeling cowardly.  His heart was still pure thought there was not one ounce of bravery left in him.  Suddenly I had an idea.  I grabbed the largest stone from the ground beneath my feet as I searched the square for a bell.  There were three of them with a slight wind from behind.  I thought that I would go for the closest one as I took aim my hopes were shattered as two men placed a large piece of cargo between me and Joxer’s savior.

Though it was the closest bell there were still two others.  I went for the second closest bell only to be cut off by the head of an innocent child whom had been brought to witness the execution of another innocent.  The third bell was quite a distance and I was not certain that I could make the throw.  I decided to wish for luck with the fates as I spit on my hands and rubbed the rock for their blessing.  Then I threw my arm back into position as I plunged the rock with everything I had into the side of the building above.  The rock bounced off of its roof and ricketed up to the bell tower above, but it missed the target miserably.  Yet the force of the rock bounced from the tower down upon the helmets of one of the royal guards sending him back a few steps.  It then continued on its path as if it were Xena’s chackram rounding the corner to its last mark bouncing off of a copper post finally hitting the second bell.  The sound of a bell tolling could not have been more beautiful as it echoed through the square and within my ears.

As the executioner’s ax came down upon the helpless idiot he sprang into Joxer the Mighty lifting his head from the block replacing it with the ropes binding his hands.  The executioner hit his mark perfectly slicing the ropes and returning freedom to the heroic warrior.  Suddenly he was back as he went onto antagonize the defeated executioner and the men who surrounded the block.  Joxer lept upon the block breaking the executioner’s ax turning it into a broad staff.  He laughed gleefully as he flipped down into the square to take on Linais’s guard. The crowd who had come to watch his demise was suddenly in awe especially the women, but no woman more than Princess Illiandra.  It was the price that had to be paid to save the life of the bumbling idiot turned super sexy war hero.  As Joxer approached the Princess and her enterrage he swiftly took a handkerchief from the breast of another fan and sniffed it passionately.  He then proclaimd that the woman’s scent would be his inspiration to continue into the battle as she could barely contain her own desires for the handsome warrior.

As Joxer fought two of Linias’s men in the middle of the square another one came to take revenge upon the Princess for her lusts for Joxer.  I stepped in to protect her for no one could know the truth of her lust came from the goddess Aphrodite.  After knocking him to the ground with my staff Prince Sarpadon proclaimed that he had forgiven the Princess for her blind lust.  Although he did not understand it his love was strong enough to overcome it as Illiandra pushed Sarpadon aside to watch the ensuing battle of Joxer the Mighty.  Joxer continued to fight with the broken ax which had now been reduced to only a handstaff as he flipped over the backs of men and beat others senseless with his weapon.  As I watched him fight I began to realize that although he wasn’t normally this graceful he fought the same without grace.  Joxer laughed within one moment, proud in the next, and then bravehearted to finish the job.  He paused for a moment with his comedy as he grabbed a ladle full of water in the middle of his wrath which distracted the enemy for a moment.  Suddenly another attacked Joxer as he drank only to be defeated by Joxer’s ridiculous weapon.  Joxer fought him one handed while still drinking with the other.  It was truely amazing and in the next moment he found himself defeating not one man with a sword, but four.  As he gracefully disarmed them he threw their weapons into the air replacing his own with on of their swords.  Joxer seemed delighted with himself.

While Joxer was having the time of his life Sarpadon was again feeling broken hearted as Linias approached watching Illiandra’s lusts grow for the sexy warrior.  Linias seemed more angry than Sarpadon who appeared only confused and defeated by all of this.  He did not have the desire to see his love punished, but Linias wanted someone to pay the price and so the King lept in to do battle with Joxer as he pulled his weapon for the challenge.  Joxer found himself  impressed and driven by adrenaline for he was about to fight the man known as the greatest swordsman in the kingdom.  This was truely an honor to one who had been recently known as the greatest warrior in the kingdom.  And so the two would do battle to prove which man deserved the honor of being the best.  Linais was powerful as he perried into attack the one who had disrupted the peace between two kingdoms.  The king was fierce and seemingly unstoppable as he pushed Joxer back quickly gaining ground.  Joxer appeared nervous as he swallowed hard, but only for a few moments.  The warrior then paused with a strong block complementing the king for his skill.  Howerver, Joxer then revealed the greatest secret of all.  He quickly threw his sword from his left hand to his right proclaiming that he had not been fighting with his best hand.

Suddenly the tides were turning as Joxer became the overpowering swordsman to King Linias who had obviously never been beaten by anyone.  This was shocking to the king and his loyal guards jumped into the fight to assist their king in battle.  Joxer was seemingly not phased by this as he flipped away from the king to defend his rear from the new players.  Now it was three men against one and I was growing weary of Aphrodite’s wrath for at this rate it would never end.  Joxer looked to me with glee as I demanded that he take the fight to the temple.  Suddenly I found myself engulfed within the passionate fires that were Joxer the Mighty as he swept me off of my feet and planted a large kiss onto my lips.  It was bliss like no other as the waves of passion rose uncontrollably within.  Then Joxer spoke within his sexy entrancing voice proclaiming that he would do as I wished and then he lept back into the fight toward the temple.  For a moment I was still engulfed within the lust and the pounding heart muscle until I came back to reality and wiped the essence from my lips.  There was something icky about having been paralized by the lust that was Joxer, but the moment had passed and I was back on the war path.

Suddenly I heard the screams of the goddes herself as she demanded that the fighting stop.  She was obviously upset that there was a battle within one of her beautiful temples.  Only destruction could follow and that was what I had hoped for.  As I entered into the temple.  Joxer was standing upon the golden table which was placed in front of a golden statue of the goddess.  There were many beautiful trinkets and flowers that were being destroyed by the clashing of the swords of men.  Though Aphrodite had picked a great weapon in the power of lust I had out witted her with the power of the male ego.  No man could resist proving who was the bigger man.  No spell of Aphrodite could defeat the power of a man’s ego.  I entered into the temple and demanded that Aphrodite stop it herself by removing the spell from Joxer.  Of course within all of her frustrations she could not admit defeat to the girl she had called innocent just an hour earlier.

So the battle continued as Joxer was having so much fun mastering the fight against Linais and his best swordsman.  He was becoming so comfortable that he decided to toy with them as he laughed, lept, and bounded about the temple.  Joxer then approached the large bell at the center of Aphrodite’s temple climbing the stairs slowly backward as he watched his rear with two men on his tail.  His sword drawn Joxer was ready.  I knew this could last, but only as long as Linais and his men could outlast Joxer if it was even possible.  All Aphrodite could do was watch in horror as Joxer threw one of Linias’s swordsman down into the bell pit and then threw Linias into her favorite vase from Thrace.  As it crashed to the ground I tried desparately to convince Aphrodite that she had lost, but her response was a grumble of frustration instead.  She would not give in.  The goddess of love was more stubborn than I had thought.

As Joxer continued to battle the second of Linias’s swordsman Linias rose from the bell and his other swordsman recovered.  Yet the next vase found its doom as Joxer threw another man into it.  Again Aphrodite was crushed as I tried again to convince her to take off the spell.  I tried aruging that love was soft and kind rather than violent and cruel.  It was obvious to me that Aprhodite knew a lot about alter egos.  That was how she had pulled off her spell on Joxer.  Aphrodite suddenly turned to me determined to convince me that I knew nothing of her or of love.  She was confident that her power over me was endless.  I argued that I knew that love was not war.  War was destructive just like what Joxer and Linias were doing to Aphrodite’s lovely temple.  This was the sore spot for the goddess.  She responded hoping to win my smypathy for her as she gave her reason for holding the spell on Joxer.  In that moment I realized that all the goddess of love was really about was material love and lust.

I promised her that I would be taking Joxer on a tour of all of her temples if that was the only way to win this war of love and lust.  Aphrodite didn’t appear to feel threatened as I held my staff as a symbol of determination.  Yet the sound of another vase crashing to the ground appeared more powerful than words or spells could ever be.

Suddenly Joxer decided to be funny again.  He jumped up and grabbed onto the rope of the large bell behind him and began swinging and shouting with joy.  The bell tolled once as Joxer began to scream in terror coming back toward us confused as ever.  Twice the bell tolled as Joxer shouted with joy and glee once more.  This truely was the most clever joke I had ever seen him play.  It was genious only I don’t think he was ever aware of it within either of his egos.  With each toll of the bell Joxer’s ego bounced from one side to the other and with each toll a vase was shattered into ruin.  It seemed that Linais and his swordsman found the joke to be a little confusing.  No one could control the wrath of Joxer.  Finally Aphrodite found herself feeling sorry for the idiot.  Not even the goddess of love could watch this bell toll forever.  She then proclaimed Joxer the be the idiot that he was and then with an effortless waive of the hand Joxer the Mighty was no more.  Linias’s sword then cut the rope leaving Joxer the idiot confused and unable to realize the danger falling toward him.  Yet even in the heat of battle Joxer the idiot had reflexes.  Suddenly the idiot screamed violently and then rolled out of harm’s way reacting to the danger of the large bell about to crush him.  It landed upon the floor with a thud tolling the defeat of Aphrodite and the triumph of true love.  With that the exhausted warrior fainted as his head hit the ground with a thud.

The rest of the week without Xena was quite dull and uneventful with the exception of the newly wedded Prince Sarpadon and his new Princess Illiandra.  They seemed happy and content together.  I was honored to have been able to play a part in the restoration of their love and peace with the kingdoms of Amphous and Mylon.  As Joxer and I prepared to leave the kingdom after the beautiful ceremony the prince and princess came to thank me once again.  Prince Sarpadon proclaimed me to be a hero.  Although I was pleasantly flatter I didn’t need that title anymore.  I wasn’t a hero at all only a sidekick trying to achieve excellance in her field.  My real strength was in philosophy as I reminded both of them that love was about trust and giving rather than anger and jealousy.  Then the moment was interrupted by the sounds of someone blowing his nose.  It was Joxer who seemed confused about how he had aquired a silky blue handkerchief.  The owner of the piece was not thrilled about it having been used by Joxer, but that was the least of his problems.  Prince Sarpadon and Princess Illiandra bid me farewell and swifty exited back into their court as Joxer and I began to travel down the road.  He asked me if they were afraid of him.  I tried to build his confidence agreeing that they were, but even Joxer knew the truth of it all.  He had finally realized that he was not a hero.  His disappointment was powerful and full of saddness.  Joxer was so depressed that he even proclaimed that I was the hero.  This was serious as I tried to help him feel better about himself, but he could not listen.  All Joxer could feel was what he had been seeking his entire life.  It had all been a lie in his heart.  He had been telling it to himself.  But he was wrong.  He was all of those things in his heart.  Joxer was brave, courageous, sexy, and all of the things his alter ego was.  At least that was what Xena had convinced him of later when we finally met up with her again.  It didn’t really matter.  Joxer was a true friend.  He was loyal and sometimes brave, but never really sexy.

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.

The Xena Scrolls

By:  Gabrielle Bard of Potedia

Scroll#43:  Been There…Done That

April, 47 B.C.

 

        If today was actually yesterday for the warrior princess then for all others today is today because no one else can remember that yesterday was actually today.  Is it the furies?  No.  Has baby bliss escaped cupid’s attention again?  No.  It seems that the warrior princess has been suffering from some type of stress which has caused her to go bonkers it would appear.  Despite all of these thoughts and ideas the bard of

Potedia had decided that she will tell the story as told by the warrior princess herself.  However, going against the first rule of the bard’s scrolls Gabrielle can not write what she knows for the following events did not actually occur within her own reality. 

       On the first time today occurred for the warrior princess she awoke within the village horse stables to the sound of a rooster crowing.  Just as she would come out of slumber sitting up slowly the stable door would open allowing the bright sunrise to blind her eyes.  This would cause Xena to try to block the sudden brightness with her hand.  She found this rather annoying, but what always made it worse was that the person who would enter after the door opened was Joxer.  He would shout out at the top of his joyful lungs that it was time for everyone to rise and to shine.  Joxer would repeat this statement twice everytime.  The warrior princess would begin to reach for her wrist plates realizing that it was time to get up anyway.  Just about that moment Gabrielle would be grumpy and defiant of Joxer’s interruption of slumber.  She would comment that she would rise, but she would never shine.  Then Joxer would declare that he had fetched breakfast for everyone.  His choice was not anyone’s favorite and no one ever appeared to get very excited about goose eggs.  The idiot would hold out his great find triumphantly and in the next moment it would happen.  A large horseshoe would seemingly fall out of the sky and knock the idiot squarely on the forehead.  It would bounce off of his forehead and into his hat full of goose eggs.  The chain reaction would cause his goose eggs to spladder all over his face which would amuse both Xena and the bard everytime it happened.

      There would be a long pause as Xena would look up to see where the horseshoe came from and there in the stable loft would be a Menos stableman who would hope that he had not hit anything.  Xena would never comment on this, but Gabrielle would always state that it was nothing important.  Then both Xena and Gabrielle would rise dusting off the hay that they had slept in the night before.  Xena would ask the stabbleman where she could get shoes for her horse.  The stableman would answer that the Likos blacksmith across town could do it, but he wouldn’t be able to shoe Xena’s horse.  Then he continued explaining that he could shoe Xena’s horse, but he would not be able to pick up the shoes for the blacksmith was from a rival house.  Xena would have to pick up the shoes and bring them back to the stable herself.  The warrior princess stated that she thought this to be ridiculous, but it was just another minor annoyance like Joxer. 

     Then Xena would leave the stables with Gabrielle and Joxer to go seek out the blacksmith for the horseshoes.  Gabrielle would attempt to find a way to ditch Joxer.  The warrior princess was aware of how the bard was not so fond of having the extra travel companion.  For Xena he was annoying and in the way, but these were minor issues to her.  Gabrielle would always try to trick Joxer into going to get some more goose eggs to replace the ones that had been ruined by the falling horseshoe.  She would begin by telling Xena she was going to get the eggs.  Joxer would then beg to go with her.  He would always tell Gabrielle that retrieving goose eggs was a task too dangerous to accomplish alone.  Then Gabrielle would agree with Joxer and say that Xena should go get the eggs.  The bard was really hoping to stick Xena with Joxer while she could enjoy a pieceful morning without his company.  It had been a few weeks of putting up with his antics.  Everyone’s nerves were shot.  This could explain Xena’s repeating day. 

     Despite that the conversation would continue with Joxer feeling as if the bard were insulting his warrior talents.  Joxer would whine about how he had been the one who had retrieved the first batch of goose eggs.  Xena could see that Joxer was desparate to prove himself and impress Gabrielle.  If he could be more warriorlike he was certain that he would get his prize.  The warrior princess knew that Gabrielle was definitely not into Joxer that way, but it was an entertaining exchange.  Joxer would turn off of the path and walk up a set of stairs ranting to himself about being the man to send on a goose egg hunt.  Then he would nearly fall off the side of the village walls before realizing that he had not been paying attention.   Xena was certain that he was lovestruck for Gabrielle.  Gabrielle just liked to point out Joxer’s mishaps.  She was not about to be replaced by the idiot as Xena’s sidekick.  Then Joxer would calmly walk back down the steps and suggest to everyone that he would take the safer surface streets to accomplish his important goose egg mission. 

     Gabrielle would be delighted that she had succeeded in sending him away as she and Xena would be at peace without his presence.  Xena would then ask her what she was going to do when Joxer came back with goose eggs beyond her wildest dreams.  Gabrielle did not like goose eggs.  Gabrielle would never think that far ahead with her plan and her response was always a laugh at Xena’s question.  Just before the bard would have time to think about her comeback the conversation would be interrupted by two men in the town square having an argument.  On the first day Xena only heard the beginning of the argument.  Tybolis demanded of the Menos house where they learned to drive their carts.  The Likos man would respond saying regretfully that he had heard about Caska and that it was a terrible accident.  Tybolis then aggressively approached  the young Menos gentleman and he would push for the duel certain that there were no accidents between the two houses.  On the first day Xena drug Gabrielle away from the fight on down the street for she was not going to get involved in this personal issue between two men.  She sensed that it was going to get ugly and though Gabrielle was fascinated Xena would not allow the bard to dwell on it. 

     Xena then turned the corner with Gabrielle hearing the men draw their weapons and one of them apparently did not want to fight.  It was none of Xena’s concern so she moved on alongside Gabrielle as they looked for the blacksmith who could sell Xena some shoes for Argo.  Neither Xena nor Gabrielle exchanged any words.  It appeared to the warrior princess that even Gabrielle had picked up the art of paying attention to one’s surroundings no matter how insignificant.  Xena heard the other man respond in the distance demanding that his rival defend himself.  There was the clashing of swords and then there was the voice of a third man.  It was Joxer who interjected.  Xena heard Joxer state the names of both houses and ask them candidly what was in a name.  Before Xena could think her body acted as she grabbed Gabrielle without thinking and both of them turned to stop Joxer from making a mistake.  The warrior princess was certain of the consequences of getting involved in a family fued.  Joxer the idiot had just put himself in mortal danger and he wasn’t capable of defending himself against it. 

     As Xena dashed around the corner and gazed down the street she saw the two dueling men standing with their swords resting and Joxer standing in the middle of them.  There was not a sound and all was silent as Xena shouted his name across the street.  As she approached the motionless Joxer the two dueling men began to sheath their weapons.  It appeared that Joxer had succeeded at stopping the duel which was odd to the warrior princess.  Then Xena heard Gabrielle call out to Joxer as she approached the scene behind the warrior princess.  In that moment Xena noticed that Joxer had been mortally wounded as Gabrielle suggested with concern in her voice that she thought that Joxer had gone to get the goose eggs.  It appeared that Gabrielle was about to scold Joxer for his stupidity, but Xena realized that there would be no scolding this time.  She was uncertain of how Gabrielle would take Joxer’s death.  Xena was lost for words. 

Xena turned to Gabrielle as the bard approached.  Then Joxer turned around slowly to face Gabrielle as if he wanted to apologize for getting wounded.  Xena watched helplessly as Gabrielle could suddenly see the gaping hole through Joxer’s stomach.  It was bleeding a lot.  Joxer was in shock as he looked to Gabrielle and then looked at his hand as if he could not speak.  Then his eyes rolled back into his head as he began to fall into Gabrielle’s arms.  The bard could not support Joxer’s limp weight as she fell to the ground with his lifeless body.  She called his name again as they fell together and then picked his head up and put it into her lap.  Xena could see that now Gabrielle was in shock over this sudden unexpected loss.  Gabrielle spoke softly to Joxer hoping to bring him back into consciousness, but Xena knew that he was gone.  The bard patted his face gently attempting to wake him from death’s grip, but there was nothing that could be done to save him now.  Gabrielle began to cry as tears rolled down her face.  Xena looked down upon Joxer and then into her friend’s eyes with regret.  The warrior princess knew that she should have gone back to get Joxer as soon as she sensed the trouble between the two houses.  If being more careful would have saved both of her friends the warrior princess would have gladly done it over again.

      Xena hurt inside for Gabrielle’s pain over the loss.  The warrior princess and the bard spent the rest of the day preparing a funeral fire for Joxer.  Argo’s shoes seemed unimportant now.  They would have to wait for a better day.  By the time the sun began to set Xena, Argo, and Gabrielle had left town.  They had built a beautiful funeral fire upon the lake where they laid Joxer to rest.  Xena sang her beautiful funeral song.  It was the song she had sung for Marcus she said.  As Xena had finished singing alongside Gabrielle the bard looked to her friend and spoke of her guilt.  Gabrielle blamed herself for Joxer’s death for she had been the one who had sent him away to search for goose eggs that she hadn’t even wanted.  The warrior princess wanted to ease her friend’s guilt explaining that Joxer had died a hero just the way he had always wanted to die.  There was no one to blame for the warrior princess knew that because of Joxer’s death he had stopped a family fued from errupting into a death nightmare for an entire town. 

      Xena sensed someone was watching them within their grief.  She looked back into the brush in the distance.  It was lit up by the fire.  She noticed that there was a young couple standing there.  They seemed saddened for the loss of Joxer despite having not known him.  Xena noted within her mind that she had seen the young girl earlier back in the street.  Joxer had saved her lover from his own death.  It seemed they were appreciative of Joxer’s sacrifice.  Xena then looked to Gabrielle and embraced her friend suggesting that they get some rest.  Gabrielle was doubtful that she would be able to sleep through her heavy grief.  Xena would not allow Gabrielle to continue to blame herself.  The warrior princess was well aware of her friend’s heavy conscience.  Xena laid down with Gabrielle and continued to embrace her friend.  It was obvious to the warrior princess that her friend was emotionally exhausted as she stroked Gabrielle’s hair softly.  Gabrielle snuggled up next to her friend closer.  The bard touched the warrior princess softly as if trying to hold onto what she had left within the moment.  Xena softly spoke to her friend whispering to her to sleep for in the morning the pain would hurt less.  The warrior princess only hoped that she would be able to help Gabrielle through the guilt.  It would be a rough task.  The friends fell into sleep together to the sound of the crackling funeral fire. 

      Suddenly there was that familiar irritating sound of a rooster crowing in the morning.  Xena’s eyes popped open.  Her first thought directed itself into figuring out why there would be a rooster in the middle of the woods.  Then she looked around and focased in noticing that she was waking up in the stables.  The warrior princess was not certain if she was even awake for she had fallen into slumber in the woods the day before.  Then the warrior princess rose and stuck her hand into the hay attempting to awaken Gabrielle.  She needed to know that she was truly awake.  Xena spoke Gabrielle’s name,  but didn’t get a response.  Her hand could not even find the bard within the pile of hay.  Then the door creeked open again as the sunlight blinded the warrior princess like the day before.  Her body reacted as it had the day before as her hand rose to block the sunlight from her eyes.  Joxer appeared again repeating twice the statement to rise and shine just like yesterday.  Xena was in shock and extremely confused by this.  Nothing made sense yet everything was exactly like yesterday. 

       It didn’t matter as long as Joxer was alive.  The warrior princess jumped up with excitement as she spoke Joxer’s name.  She repeated his name stating the facts.  He should have been dead according to what had transpired on the day before.  Joxer’s response was candid as usual.  He said that he should have died a thousand deaths.  Then he hyped himself up as usual explaining that he had skill and nerves of steel.  Xena did not care as long as he had not died.  She grabbed him joyfully and gave him a friendly head rub as if he were Lycious her little brother.  The warrior princes suddenly felt playful and light as a child.  She pretended to play fight him only to find that Joxer was confused by her behavior so she decided that she had better explain.  The warrior princess began to tell Joxer the tale of her dream as Gabrielle began to rise up slowly out of the hay  from her slumber.  Then the bard said exactly what she had said in the dream about rising and refusing to shine.  Joxer responded to Gabrielle gleefully again telling everyone about his goose eggs.  Xena realized that there was more to her dream than she could understand.  She pushed Joxer and commanded him to step back for she was certain that the horseshoe falling out of the sky would come next. 

     Joxer complained about Xena’s response to the goose eggs and told her she didn’t have to eat the goose eggs.  Then the horseshoe fell only this time it fell onto Joxer’s toes which caused him to drop his hat full of eggs onto the ground as he grabbed his foot in pain and hopped about.  Then the stabbleman appeared as before and hoped that he had not hit anything.  Xena realized that she had not dreamed the events of yesterday because yesterday had really happened.  Gabrielle responded by saying that the stableman had not hit anything important and so the day began again.  Xena decided that she had better tell everyone what had happened, but no one seemed to remember.  Even Gabrielle had seemingly forgotten about yesterday.  Joxer appeared pleased that he was a hero as he continued to hype himself up.

      Xena led the group down the street again for she still needed horseshoes for Argo.  As they walked Joxer continued to talk about his warrior senses as he juggled Argo’s old shoes despite tripping over his own feet.  As usual Gabrielle ignored his attempts at swooning her.  The bard was more interested in Xena’s dream which was no surprise to the warrior princess.  Both Gabrielle and Xena stepped over Joxer who was face down on the ground now.  Gabrielle suggested to Xena that her dream may have been a vision.  Xena was certain that it was more than a vision for the experience for her had been too real to dismiss in that way.  The warrior princess thought that it was more likely for Gabrielle to have a vision than herself.  As the two thought of the riddle before them Joxer interjected that it might be his own dream that they were within.  Xena continued to wrack her mind with the evidence of the riddle as Gabrielle had grow annoyed with Joxer.  She began pinching the idiot carelessly battering his confidence as she often did.  The bard asked Joxer if he could feel her pinching him as he cried out in pain.  He responded with an affirmation and then Gabrielle walked away proving her point to him that he was not dreaming. 

      Then Gabrielle rejoined Xena up ahead confirming with Xena that she had actually forgotten all of the events of the previous day.  Xena turned around frustrated with Gabrielle for she had not just forgotten.  The warrior princess was certain that none of the events of the previous had happened to anyone, but her.  Gabrielle’s response was typical as she stated the facts.  If the day before had never happened then what was there to forget.  Xena realized that Gabrielle had a point, but she wasn’t quite sure how to elaborate further to come to an understanding with her friend.  Xena sensed that Gabrielle thought she might be going crazy, but Xena was certain that she was not crazy.  She reiterated that today did happen.  Gabrielle argued with Xena that today had not happened yet.  Xena’s frustration with her new situation was growing.  She insisted to her friends that today had happened to her despite everyone’s lack of knowledge.  Gabrielle responded by stating that today was yesterday.  Xena explained that it wasn’t yesterday, but the other today.  Xena felt that maybe Gabrielle was beginning to understand despite this breakdown in communication.  The bard was smarter than she had thought. 

      Then Gabrielle put it all together within one statement.  She said that today was actually yesterday for Xena, but for the rest of the world today was today because no one could remember that yesterday was today.  Xena was impressed as she gave the affirmation that Gabrielle’s complex jumble of words explained it all.  Just when Xena was certain that she was getting somewhere within the conversation Gabrielle said that she still didn’t understand what Xena was saying.  Xena could not believe it, but then it got worse.  Joxer interjected a thought.  He suggested that maybe everyone’s reality was just in someone else’s head and that the other someone was making up their day and their lives.  Everyone was quiet for a moment and Joxer was excited for he thought that he had made sense, but he hadn’t.  Xena wrote off Joxer’s idea and resorted to asking Gabrielle again why she couldn’t remember Joxer’s death.  That was the most real part of the day to Xena.  It was too emotionally painful to have been a dream, or a vision, or something other than a real day. 

      She decided that a description of the event might jar a memory from with the bard.  Xena spoke of the sword plunging through Joxer’s heart into his chest which was covered with blood as his eyes stared blankly into the sky.  Gabrielle just appeared more puzzled as Xena continued her description.  Joxer appeared appaulled by all of this as he imagined himself within this scenario.  He gabbed his chest and almost fainted in the exact same way Xena had witnessed it the day before.  Gabrielle had been there too, but she didn’t seem to be able to recall the experience in the slightest.  Joxer had fallen to the ground by this point as Xena continued hoping to remind Gabrielle of the beautiful funeral they had prepared for Joxer.  Gabrielle had cried for Joxer as Joxer stood back up excited at the idea that the bard could have an emotional response to his death.  The bard appeared very frustrated with Xena for the warrior princess was so certain that Gabrielle had experienced things that to Gabrielle had never happened.  Gabrielle was so irritated at Xena and Joxer that she couldn’t remember these things about herself.  She decided to give up on trying to relate to Xena and suggested that she would go get her own goose eggs for the road.  Joxer decided that he would go with Gabrielle, but Xena stopped everyone.  She was not about to screw up the day again.  The warrior princess was determined to keep Joxer from getting killed, and Gabrielle from having to feel guilty about it.  Xena decided that all of them would stick together for the day to avoid the tragedy that was certain to happen if they did not.

      Then the Likos, Menos duel began to fire up right on queue.  Joxer responded remembering this part of the story from earlier as he looked to the two friends.  He could not believe that they would think that he would be stupid enough to step into the middle of a feud.  Gabrielle did not hesitate to answer with an affirmation as Xena agreed with her from personal experience.  Xena decided that she had better stop the duel herself as Joxer had the day before.  His death had prevented an all out family war.  She instructed Gabrielle and Joxer to go wait for her in the alley.  Joxer complained citing that he was Joxer the Mighty and that he did not need to go to an alley to be protected.  Gabrielle followed Xena’s order as she usually did without question.  That was the one thing Xena could count on from the bard if nothing else.  Xena approached the dueling men as they went through their argument word by familiar word. 

      Just as Xena was stopping one fight she heard another beginning in the alley behind her. That was where Joxer and Gabrielle and gone.  Swords were unshealthed as Gabrielle’s voice shouted out reacting to the scene.  Someone accused Joxer of insulting his house.    Xena heard Joxer’s voice again as he mentioned Menos and Likos and stated what was in a name.  Xena turned around to notice that the entire town was gathering at the corner near the alley.  She was irritated now for she had to hurry if she was going to save her friends.  Both were certain to die today.  She cursed herself as she flipped into action.  The crowd was larger than on the day before.  It was blocking her from running into the alley.  She flipped over the crowd for it was her only option as she gave her battle cry and landed right into the middle of the duel.  Yet she was too late for the next things he saw was a sword plunging into one of the strangers in the duel.  It was an unpleasant sight even for a seasoned warrior. 

     Xena quickly snapped out of that moment as she heard another man state that the other family was hiring mercenaries to do its killing.  The other older gentleman responded coldly as he denied that his family would hire mercenaries to do a job that they would gladly do themselves.  The other man responded back declaring that they were now at a full scale war.  His enemy was not disappointed at the declaration as the two older men drew their swords preparing to duel each other.  Xena decided that it must be the family feud that was meant to be stopped.  She drew her weapon and apologized for her action in advance.  The warrior princess kicked the weapons of the dueling parties and then destroyed them as the fell to the ground.  No one was going to duel anymore if she could stop it.  Everyone appeared confused at Xena’s actions, but the warrior princess was certain that stopping the family war and saving Joxer were the things she needed to do to get out of this terrible day. 

      Xena commanded everyone to go home until they could learn to get along.  One of the elders was unhappy about her interference.  He did not know Xena, but did not much care for her.  The man had written her off as a sworn enemy.  He declared that she was now with the other side despite Xena’s having no relation to either house what so ever.  This posed a new problem.  The warrior princess realized that the three of them would have to be extremely cautious for the rest of the day as long as they were still in town.  They had become part of the fued unwillingly.  As Xena watched the people of the family who lost another to the feud she felt sadness knowing that she could have saved him if she had just stuck to her original plan of staying together at all times.  Trying to stop the original feud meant nothing.  Suddenly Gabrielle expressed her amazement at Xena’s predictions.  She could not believe how exact Xena’s description of the events had been.  Gabrielle reminded Xena that her second chance to save Joxer had succeeded.  Joxer interjected with confidence that he had the situation under control, but if he had then no one would have died.  Someone did die.  Xena made her concerns for their safety known reminding everyone that they were now the enemy.  Every step made would have to be made with care.  Joxer seemed to be unaware of the seriousness as he always was. 

    After retrieving the new shoes for Argo from the blacksmith Xena, Joxer, and Gabrielle returned to the stable.  Gabrielle was certain that they would be free from the wrath of the village feud as soon as they had returned, but it turned out to be wrong.  Xena saw the stableboy had been seriously wounded as he lay struggling outside the door.  When Xena asked him what had happened he only said that he would not tell them which horse was hers.  Xena was afraid of what she might hear next as he explained regretfully that the rival house had killed all of the horses in the stable.  Xena quickly entered the stable calling out to her horse.  Her eyes scanned the scene of devastation to find that her worst fears were confirmed.  Argo her beautiful faithful horse was lying on the floor of the stable in a pool of blood.  She had been killed by a sword plunged through her heart just like all of the other horses.  Xena’s emotions ran high.  This time she was the one who had broken down as Gabrielle and Joxer tried to comfort her. 

     The three of them prepared a beautiful funeral fire for Argo in the lake as Xena had described for Joxer.  There was a lot of silence for the rest of the evening as Xena sat before the camp fire trying to figure out what went wrong.  Somehow there had to be a solution in which the day would end and no one would die.  Xena desparately wanted today to end, but she hoped for today again so that she could do it over again to save both Joxer and Argo.  As Gabrielle stood silent watching her friend suffer inside Joxer felt the guilt this time.  He told Xena that if the day did repeat again he would not want Xena to save him instead of Argo.  Joxer was offering his life to Xena if that was what would save her horse.  His gesture was of a true friend.  This was what Xena loved most about Joxer.  She did not blame him for the death of her horse.  If she had not tried to stop three duels no one would have tried to destroy her horse. 

     On the third day Xena awoke again with the rooster crowing.  She rose and looked about the stable and saw Argo’s beautiful eyes staring back at her lovingly.  Xena called to her horse, but just as she did the door swung open again, the beams of sunlight blinded her and Joxer appeared cheerfully with his goose eggs.  Gabrielle slowly rose from the dead of sleep complaining about rising and refusing to shine.  Xena asked Joxer to move.  The idiot was confused and asked why he should move.  Xena just commanded him to move again.  Again Joxer defied her order.  That was his problem.  Xena realized that his defiance of command and constant questioning of her authority was the reason he had died in the first place.  She decided that he could just get another horseshoe on the head.  He would have to learn the hard way.  Again the