Xena Scrolls Volume #3

The Xena Scrolls

By:  Gabrielle Bard of Potedia

Scroll#44:  Ulysses

May, 47 B.C.

As time passes by the spirit wonders.  It ponders what life means and the why the answers are unseen.  The battling bard had been traveling alongside the warrior princess now for nearly eight seasons.  When she had left her home village of Potedia at the age of sixteen she had seeked adventure and glory.  She had come to the realization that a warrior’s life was not at all what the stories had always told.  Instead it had turned out to be turbulant and unpredictable.  Most days living alongside the warrior princess had been at the mercy of the fates, the gods, and Celesta’s touch of death.  Now Gabrielle sensed that there was more that she wanted beyond the adventure she had once seeked.  She had learned so much about being a warrior and about how to fight.  Gabrielle had discovered the greater good and the passions that came with it.  The bard had learned hard lessons alongside the warrior princess and lost many things she held dear within her heart.  Her husband’s life had been sacrificed to the wrath of a soul destroyed by the evil that had once been Xena.  Gabrielle had only recently known this evil side of the warrior princess, but she was confident that it was now very distant from the warrior princess’s heart.

Gabrielle hoped to teach Xena about love and about hope.  She hoped to bring Xena out of the depression that had consumed the warrior princess for so long.  Gabrielle had gotten to know the heart of the warrior princess very well.  Though Xena did not often like to admit it Gabrielle knew her as well as Xena had known herself.  There was a certain vulnerability to this for the warrior princess.  It was a vulnerability that Gabrielle had admired about her friend.  She knew that this was what made up the true heart and soul within the warrior princess.  It was this vulnerability that few knew which made Xena so special.  There was power within it, but Xena had yet to realize it.  For Gabrielle there was only one way to help her friend learn to cope with this and be okay with it.  This recent sharing of the hearts led the two friends to the coast of the Agean.

The day was beautiful and quiet.  Gabrielle listened to the soothing peaceful waves crashing upon the shore just below the steep cliffs.  She was desaparate to walk down to get a true feel for the cool breeze that was certain to beckon all to caress the waves upon their feet.  Gabrielle’s excitement began to spill out into a conversation between herself and the warrior princess.  Yet the conversation was more one-sided as the bard beckoned the warrior princess to stop to take some time to smell the flowers surrounding them.  Xena just scoffed at the idea for smelling flowers was not productive in her warrior opinion.  She even questioned the bard’s philosophies as always challenging Gabrielle’s request.  Gabrielle of course had meant this philosophically and not literally.  She wanted Xena to realize that it was okay to stop and take a breath in life every once in a while.  Gabrielle wanted the warrior princess to see that life did not always have to be rough and full of adventure.  There were times when it only needed to be appreciated for what was being given.  Gabrielle was feeling that in this peaceful moment of walking the two friends were sharing was something to be appreciated.  This led into a tinge of frustration as Gabrielle realized yet again that Xena had been ignoring her the whole time.  The bard was determined to get through that thick warrior skull which housed Xena’s clever warrior mind.

She decided to ask Xena to stop and close her eyes.  She wanted the warrior princess to concentrate and meditate yet feel a sense of peace sweeping over her.  Xena was not excited about what she viewed as just another challenging game, but she decided to humor Gabrielle stopping to listen to the words that her friend spoke.  Gabrielle was desparate to capture Xena’s warrior imagination and to take it to a place beyond violence and beyond constant spiritual burden.  As Xena stopped and closed her eyes to listen Gabrielle then softly asked her friend what she heard.  Xena’s response was slightly candid and irritated as she spoke of the many seagulls flying above them.  Gabrielle felt for a single moment that she might be getting through to her friend as she asked her what the sounds of the seagulls made her feel.  Standing with one hand on her hip and her other to support her leaning against the staff the bard patiently and calmly awaited Xena’s answer.

Xena pursed her lips with her eyes still closed as she made a contorted face speaking of the irritation that she could not deal with because to her the gulls were extremely noisy.  The warrior princess then opened her eyes and turned to the bard as if pleading for her to stop what she viewed as nonesense, but Gabrielle would not surrender to Xena’s will.  Instead she asked Xena what else the warrior princess could hear.  Again Xena closed her eyes and then spoke of the sea.  Gabrielle felt that there was nothing the warrior princess would say that could possibly make the sea sound as horrific as the seagulls.  Yet the bard was wrong for the warrior princess again opened her eyes and turned to the bard explaining that the sounds of the sea only led her to the thought that she was glad to be standing upon dry land.

This of course was not the kind of response that Gabrielle had hoped she would be able to dig out of the warrior princess, but it was better than the feeling of irriation.  It was a start, but it also only meant that Xena had beaten her again.  She had made a game out of something that Gabrielle had felt was serious.  Xena quickly moved away from the bard continuing on down the path in triumph as the bard ran to catch up to her friend.  Gabrielle could not fathom the endless practical nature of her friend.  It was an irration in itself.  This made it nearly impossible for even the peace loving bard to stop and smell the flowers in life.

Gabrielle began to argue with Xena’s point of view defending her own position explaining that the sea was simply one of nature’s most beautiful and personal expressions of itself.  Xena responded with little interest in the bard’s statement.  She was practically ignoring Gabrielle who had decided that she would not allow this kind of ignorance from her friend.  She decided to demand concentration from the warrior princess asking her to again stop to close her eyes, listen, and hear the sounds of the peaceful waves beating upon the shore.  Her passion for this request was seemingly taken seriously for a moment as Xena stopped to try Gabrielle’s meditation excersise once more.  Gabrielle demanded that Xena learn to have a sense of peace, and some patience for new ideas to go along with it.  As Xena began to concentrate Gabrielle asked her what she felt.  Without a beat or an extra moment between Gabrielle heard Xena’s sword sliding out of its shealth upon her back.  Xena’s eyes were now open as she was ready and alert.  Gabrielle could not believe it.  The sound of the sea seemingly made Xena want to draw her sword.  It seemed that everything was about drawing her sword.  This was a frustration the bard was having trouble dealing with.

As Gabrielle spoke her thought outloud Xena replied that it wasn’t the sound of the sea that had caused this action.  It was the sound of a battle.  With that statement the warrior princess was off down the path of reeds further positioning herself for the next move.  The bard watched noticing that Xena was seemingly more at peace when her body and mind were poised for war than at any other time in life.  Gabrielle was shocked that she herself had not heard the battle for she had been listening to the sounds of life around her for some time.  The bard searched the landscape with her eyes curious to know where this had crept its way into her sense of peace.

Just below the cliffs on the beach there was a small battle between one rather strong and handsome man who was being attacked by three pirates.  Gabrielle had decided that with these odds it was time to jump into the battle to help the man who was being over run.  Yet the warrior princess did not make another move toward the battle.  Instead she just settled into her position in the light brush and reeds as if she were entertained by the battle.  Her sword was still drawn, but she did not move.  Gabrielle found herself confused by this wanting to know what Xena was doing.  Xena’s response was candid as she mocked the bard explaining that she was only taking Gabrielle’s advice.  The warrior princess then picked a tiny dandillion and threw it to the ground lazily explaining to the battling bard that she was only smelling the flowers.  Gabrielle was insulted, but this reaction from the warrior princess was hardly unexpected.  It was just another part of her friend that Gabrielle had to deal with.  She could not change it.

Gabrielle decided that although this was not what she had planned somehow it had worked for Xena was relaxed.  If watching someone else get clobbered in battle made the warrior princess feel a sense of peace then Gabrielle would not argue with it despite the morbidity of it.  As the battle raged on Gabrielle relaxed for a moment finding herself amazed at the skill of the lone handsome warrior.  He was dressed in black leather pants with a blue flowing blouse which revealed his masquline chest as he fought with double swords.  The blades of his swords appeared graceful and powerful as he defended against the advances of his enemy while using only powerful kicks against them offensively.  It was impressive.  These moves were uniquely similar to the natural flow of the warrior princess whenever Gabrielle had seen her friend in battle.  Maybe there was more to this sense of peace than Xena had been letting on.

Yet just as the bard was begining to wrap her mind around this idea the two friends watched the battle escalate.  Suddenly nine more pirates swept down onto the beach from behind the cove and cried out in an attack against the lone warrior.  Xena suddenly got serious determining that now was the time to jump into the battle.  It seemed to her that the odds would somehow be fair.  Gabrielle did not understand this at all.  Yet she did not argue.  Xena could probably take on at least five of them, and the other man three was certain.  tThis left about four more.  The odds weren’t comepletely even, but Xena loved a challenge and so Xena the warrior princess and the battling bard decended quickly down onto the beach from their position to enguage themselves into the battle.

Upon their approach the lone warrior took a stronger stance preparing ahead of his back up for the onslaught.  He was prepared to defend, but soon realized that he had the advantage as Xena came in from behind his right on the offensive.  Gabrielle took the left flank and deflected the pirate advance with her staff.  Xena took on seven men alone plowing through them with her sword clashing against their swords as they passed by.  Gabrielle took on the two to the left knocking them to the ground with her staff holding steady as the handsome warrior continued to handle the three he had been dealing with already.  The battle appeared effortless for the warrior princess and the lone warrior who seemed surprised that he had reinforcements.  In the middle of the battle as Gabrielle continued to fight and defend Xena held out her hand to her new friend and extended an introduction to him.  He smiled introducing himself as Ulyses.  Then he invited the warrior princess to lock arms with him for a thunderous move.  The two skilled warriors planted their weapons into the sand locking arms together.  Ulyses hurled the warrior princess around him through the air as Xena delivered kicks of fury out toward the men recovering from the initial attack from the right flank.  It was the most powerful defensive effort the bard had ever seen.  She rounded the perimeter creating a second barrier knocking each man back to the ground as he tried to rise to his feet.  Yet the fury of Xena’s kicks was too great for the twelve pirate men as they began to scurry away in defeat and retreat unable to recover.

As Gabrielle ushered the last of the pirates away she rejoined the warrior princess who was questioning the lone warrior.  Xena wanted to know why these pirates did not like Ulyses.  Ulyses began to explain that the pirates did not even know him.  He continued explaining that they owed their allegiance to someone else.  Someone who did not want Ulyses to reach his own kingdom.  Xena’s next question was in wanting to know what kingdom was that of Ulyses.  Ulyses’s next answer was shocking for the bard.  He was the Ulyses of the great greek legends.  His kingdom was Ithica and he was the king.  This knowledge was exciting for the bard who had heard that Ithica was one of the most beautiful islands in the Agean.  Ulyses confirmed with great pride that his kingdom held legendary beauty.  Xena seemed slightly jealous of the sudden relatability between the bard and Ulyses, but she continued to listen.  Ulyses explained with regret that he felt his kingdom would not stay beautiful for much longer for the pirates seeked to sack Ithica and destroy it.  They were prepared to lay claim to it for it had been promised to them as their spoils if they were successful in preventing Ulyses from reaching his home.  Ulyses was afraid that soon his home would be known as a wasteland.

Xena interjected with hope reminding Ulyses that those pirates were beatable for they had just gone up against them in a three to twelve battle ratio.  The victory against the pirates had come rather effortlessly.  Yet it wasn’t the pirates that Ulyses worried about.  It was their lord that he feared held the true power.  He was certain that the true foe was a force to be reckoned with.  Xena spoke up again showing off a bit certain that both she and the battling bard had seen some formidable foes as equal to the power of that of Ulyses.  Gabrielle was surprised that Xena had finally included her in the battle plan with confidence.  There was something flattering about this.  The bard confirmed Xena’s confidence with her own as they awaited more details from Ulyses.  Yet Ulyses was still uncertain of the skills that Xena the warrior princess and her battling bard possessed.  He looked out over the ocean and there before them arose a giant wave.  The wave formed into a large figure glistening and blue.  An uncanny aura of ultimate power could be felt within the soul as the being rose from the waters towering above all high up in the clear blue sky.  It was the god of the sea Poseiden.  Gabrielle recognized him with his trident and golden crown which he wore upon his transparent head.  Poseiden had a grandfatherly beard and piercing saphire eyes.

For a moment there was a bit of fear within the bard’s heart for she had not expected to ever meet a god who appeared to be a giant next to the titans.  Yet it was intriguing as Gabrielle walked toward the sea to get a closer gaze at the wonder that was Poseiden.  Then she looked back toward Xena and Ulyses who were much smaller now that they stood below the mighty god of the sea.  They appeared only a fraction of the size of one of the mighty god’s transparent toes.  He looked down upon them growling with rage as he asked Xena not to get involved with the plight of Ulyses.  Poseiden stated that he was aware of his newphew Ares’s fascination with her and their history, but that he the god of the sea would not show patience for the warrior princess’s participation in his own affairs.  Xena was cautious, but not afraid.  She stood before the god of the sea beside Ulyses asking Poseiden what it was that Ulyses had done to bring the god’s anger down upon him.

Poseiden responded within his booming echoing voice that Ulyses had blinded his son Polithimus.  It was apparent to Gabrielle that the warrior princess did not fear Posiden although Gabrielle felt that his power would be greater than that of Ares.  Gabrielle found herself slightly fearful of this billowing god as Xena looked to Ulyses and shared in a moment of triumph stating that she had blinded a cyclops before which meant they had more in common than Xena had previously thought.  Poseiden interrupted the moment angered that she spoke under her breath.

Xena then reminded Poseiden that she had never been afraid of Ares or any of the other gods she had encountered before him.  She declared that Ulyses was the rightful ruler of Ithica and that she would insure that he arrived there safely to rescue his people from the wrath of the pirates.  Poseiden then looked to Ulyeses and demanded that he stop the warrior princess in her foolish decision.  He continued by demanding that Ulyeses give up on Ithica and begin a new life without his homeland.  Ulyses looked to the god of the sea defying the request put forth to him.  His conviction for his people was passionate as he assured Poseiden that he intended to reach Ithica no matter the cost.  Poseiden reminded Ulyeses that there was nothing left for him in Ithica since the death of his beloved wife.  Gabrielle watched as Xena looked to Ulyeses unaware of this twist of fate.  Still Ulyeses stood firm in his decision as did Xena alongside him.  There was tragedy in the life of Ulyeses and it appeared that he had nothing to lose, but life itself.

Poseiden assured both of the great warriors that stood before him that no one would make it to Ithica alive for he would unleash the wrath of the sea down upon them for it was the only way to reach Ithica.  With that the great god of the sea disappeared back down into the violent waves of the ocean laughing until his laughter turned into the sounds of the waves crashing upon the cove below.  Xena and Ulyses wasted no time as they led Gabrielle down the path to the edge of the cove.  The path was treacherous with jagged rocks, but it had provided Ulyeses with the perfect hideout.  He had been living in it since the pirates had captured and killed that last men in Ulyses’s crew.  They had stolen his ship from him and been chasing him ever since.  It seemed that the warrior princess was uninterested in the problem which was rather unusual.  Her next question was not what Gabrielle had expected.  The warrior princess wanted to know how Ulyses had found himself blinding the son of Poseiden.

Ulyeses explained casually that he had stopped on the island of Polithimus on his way back from Troy.  Xena’s response to this answer was intriguing for she appeared to feel strongly that Ulyses had made the wrong choice which had put him in this terrible poasition.  Ulyses defended his decision at the time replying that he and his crew had gone there for food and supplies.  His men were starving and weak, but unfortunately Polithimus was just as hungry as the members of his crew had been.  It was obvious that some of them had been eaten by the cyclops which had led to the blinding of Polithimus at the hand of Ulyses.  Gabrielle found herself just as impressed as the warrior princess seemingly was.  It was no easy task to succeed at blinding a cyclops.  The bard remembered having to talk her way out of being eaten by one of them.  If it had not been for Xena’s blinding him Gabrielle would have become cyclops food herself.    Gabrielle joked with Ulyeses about his triumph over the cyclops which she could share in some small way as Ulyses responded back explaining that he was not about to be eaten by a cyclops.  Although Ulyses responded jokingly he was still serious minded about the task at hand.  It was as if the man never stopped.  He was a lot like the warrior princess.

Once Xena had satisfied her curiousity about the cyclops encounter she explained that the first thing that had to be done was to retrieve Ulyeses’s ship.  Yet it seemed that Ulyeses was about one step ahead of the warrior princess as he explained that he knew where the pirates were holding it.  It was in a harbor on the other side of the cove.  Gabrielle was impressed to find that there was someone out there in the world who was seemingly as savvy as the warrior princess.  There was a bit of fascination in this.  As Gabrielle looked to the warrior princess it seemed that Xena was suddenly experiencing some kind of regret as she began to explain herself to him.  He had been fighting on the other side of the war in Troy and Xena did not feel that she could ally with him until she explained herself clearly to Ulyses.  It seemed that he did not care which side Xena had chosen to fight on.  He was certain that the war in Troy was complete madness and wasteful at best.  Xena was determined to explain that her only interest in being involved in that war was to end it and to help her friend Helen.  It was obvious that Ulyses was beyond that scar by now.  He had moved onto the present.  Again he was a step ahead of the warrior princess.  Yet the air had been cleared despite there having been no hard feelings.  He assured Xena that his only enemies now were not those who fought alongside the Trojans, but those who stood between him and his homeland.  He was grateful to now have Xena as an ally.

With that Ulyses went to work preparing to scout the pirate position as Gabrielle approached the warrior princess noticing just a slight bit of romantic tension in the air.  She could see that Xena was taken with him and that had been the real reason for clearing the air.  Yet it did not matter.  It was a glimmer of hope for Gabrielle who could see the power of love creeping into the heart of the warrior princess.  She was hoping to get a little bit of feedback from within the warrior princess’s mind as she playfully commented on the handsome Ulyses.  Yet Xena just shrugged the tension off as if it wasn’t really there.  Gabrielle knew the truth about her friend, but was aware that Xena was not ready to accept this truth for herself.

By the time night fell Gabrielle and Xena had set up a camp within the forrest just a quarter marathon off of the beach.  It was perfectly positioned between Ulyses’s cave and the pirate harbor position.  Gabrielle had found herself to be exhausted waiting up for Ulyses so she fell asleep, but after about two hours she awoke to the sound of Xena suddenly drawing her sword.  Gabrielle did not move pretending to still be within slumber until she could determine the situation.  As she listened quietly she heard Ulyses complement Xena for her move against him, but call Xena on not moving to protect her friend from the intruder upon the camp.  Xena explained that she had heard his every move.  She continued explaining that she had found no need to adjust for he had not moved to attack the bard.  There was playful flirting going on between the two master warriors.  Gabrielle was pleased to find that Xena was taking a liking to Ulyses.  She liked the fact that he challenged her skills.  Xena’s next question was concern for Ulyses ship.  Ulyses explained that the ship was fine, but getting to it wasn’t going to be as easy.  He described the scene as swarming with pirates, with several look-outs, heavily armed, and with them having the advantage of position there would be little left to the imagination.

The bard felt these odds sounded grim although both Xena and Ulyses appeared to embrace the impossible with wit and confidence.  Even if they were feeling just a little bit threatened by their chances they didn’t appear to be phased by the threats they faced.  Xena then suggested that they wait until dawn to launch an attack, but it seemed that Ulyses had already made that decision.  It did not matter for the warrior princess seemingly liked a man who could plot battle plans like her.  After he agreed with the suggestion the bard heard a slight bit of giddy laughter between them, but mostly from the warrior princess.  Then there was a long pause of silence, but tension could be felt.  It was not anger, but something more passionate and sensual.  Gabrielle waited to hear more until Xena broke the uncomfortable silence with a direct and personal question.  She asked Ulyses about his wife Poseiden spoke of.  Yet before Ulyses could respond Xena tried to retract her question realizing that her crush on him was becoming a little too obvious.  Ulyses did not find the question so uncomfortable.  He wanted to answer it and put Xena’s fears about getting to know him to rest.  It was as if Ulyses wanted the same thing Xena wanted.

Ulyses spoke softly to Xena with appreciation for her concern within his voice.  He explained that he had not had a chance to talk about his wife’s death with anyone.  Ulyses then told the story of how he had run into some fisherman whom had seen the wreckage of the ship which had carried his young loving wife.  They told hiim she had gone out with a search party to find Ulyeses when he did not return home from the war that had lasted ten years.  While she was out looking for him Poseiden had taken his revenge upon Ulyses for the blinding of his son by bringing the wrath of the sea upon his wife’s ship.  She had been caught within Poseiden’s powerful storm which had crushed her ship.  No survivors were found according to the fisherman.  As Ulyses spoke there was a slight bit of anger and regret which had seeped through his cool calm demeanor.  Soon after he replaced these thoughts with the gentle thoughts of falling in love with his wife all over again.  They had met when they were only 17 years old.  It had been the moment that they had fallen in love marrying soon after.  Bliss did not last for them for just a few months later Ulyses had responded to the call to arms to fight at Troy.  He seemed confused by these thoughts as he spoke of how he had been thinking of his wife in all of the time since.  Xena spoke up with hope in her voice that assured Ulyses that love would find him again.  Gabrielle was surprised to hear this from Xena for it sounded like something she herself might have said to encourage Ulyses.  Ulyses then whispered back to the warrior princess as if he were uncertain of these feelings he was having within his heart and soul.

Gabrielle knew what he was feeling.  She could feel two people falling in love.  There was something scary about this for the bard.  It could mean a change for her and the warrior princess.  The thoughts scrambled through Gabrielle’s mind of all of the possibilities.  It was more than she could deal with in the moment.  She decided that it was time for a drink as she rose from her bed roll grabbing her leather water bottle.  Gabrielle quietly approached the couple sitting upon the log away from the camp fire in the moonlight.  She tried to move through the brush undetected, but her movements immediately grabbed the attention of the two warriors whose swords were drawn ready for action.  There was suddenly a sense of embarressment between them all.  It was obvious that a kiss may have soon followed, but for now the only response was thirst.

At dawn it was time to take action against the pirates.  The plan was simple and it was brilliant.  Gabrielle went to the harbor market to purchase some fine pirate wear.  She would be the distraction that could allow Ulyses and Xena to sneak onto the ship undetected.  Ulyses and Xena had built two canoes one for their sneak attack and one for Gabrielle to use to get a little attention.  By mid morning they were ready to go in for the attack.  Gabrielle approached the ship first calling the pirates attention to her.  She was seductive as she danced and demanded an invitation onto the vessel.  The pirates accepted her dance and her offer of pleasure for all as she danced them into a frenzy of sexual attraction.  Wild hormones were becoming difficult to control as some of the pirates began to grope the young maiden as she danced and held them off sneaking in a little kick or a small throw back move over the shoulder.  This only made the pirates more excited, but luckily Xena and Ulyses had finally approached the vessel, released the anchor, and prepared the sails making their way to the helm.

Suddenly Xena broke up the party demanding some attention for herself.  Gabrielle found herself relieved that her work was finally done as their attention shifted from sex to war.  Xena let out her signature battle cry as the pirates raced forward charging up the steps to the helm toward Ulyses and Xena.  It was obvious that once they had taken away the pirate adavange of scope and position there were only weapons and numbers.  The fight was now even with Ulyses and Xena up against pirates who had no time to grab their weapons.  They had been taken by complete surprise which meant the battle was fought with fists and boots rather than swords.  Gabrielle watched the scene suddenly unfolding as the action shifted from the deck toward the helm.  Yet she still found herself in the middle of the battle as some of the pirates realized that they had been taken by her seductive dance.  She had to act as she searched the deck for assistance.  The battling bard caught sight of a mop bucket which held just the right weapon.  She grabbed a firm hold of the mop using it to knock over the bucket of water as she turned it into a staff with a wet smack at the end of it.  It was lighter than her usual staff which allowed her to move more gracefully with it as she took on three pirates alone.  The movement of battle was just like the seductive dance although it was seemingly more empowering for the bard.

Xena and Ulyses kept themselves busy with the rest of the crowd of about twenty pirates as they threw each man overboard one by one.  As each pirate went splashing down into the water the battle became less of a burden and more fun.  Ulyses’s confidence was so great that he slid down onto the deck and began to help Gabrielle with the men on the deck.  Just as the last few men were thrown over board one pirate had gotten wise grabbing his cross bow from below decks.  He returned to find that only a young pirate boy facing off against Gabrielle were left, but just above him was Xena and Ulyses still across the deck.  The pirate aimed his weapon as the cowardly young boy jumped over board into the water.  Gabrielle prepared for the impact as Xena drew her chackram shouting out Ulyses’s name.  The moment was quick as Gabrielle watched Ulyses jump in front of her taking the arrow from the cross bow in the right shoulder.

Ulyses fell to the ground as the pain stung his body.  The pirate then drew his sword as Gabrielle tried to hold onto the injured Ulyses as he slumped over.  Xena jumped off of the helm onto the railing of the ship running toward the deck and then flipping into action.  She landed at the bottom of the steps just behind the attacker as she disarmed him and then threw him over board.  All was quiet except for the sound of Ulyses struggling to breath.  Xena looked to Ulyeses with concern as she quickly approached him knealing down to examine his wound.  Gabrielle was regretful that Ulyses had taken the arrow meant for her.  Yet it was obvious to the bard that Xena did not blame Gabrielle for she had been prepared to block the path of the arrow with her chackram.  Although Gabrielle had known that Xena would come through Ulyses had not trusted in Xena.  He did not know Xena the way the bard did.  Xena appeared to be disappointed that Ulyses had not known that Xena would be able to act upon that seemingly dire situation.  It was the first time since the two had met that they had not connected in battle.  Instead Ulyses’s passionate conviction and bravery had gotten him a cross bow in the shoulder.  It was not a pretty sight.

Xena comforted Gabrielle by stating that the injury was not serious.  Ulyses
responded sarcastically as if Xena did not understand his suffering, but Gabrielle knew that wasn’t true.  Xena explained to Ulyses that what she was about to perform was going to be painful.  Again Ulyses was sarcastic still blinded by his passionate convictions.  It was as if he were trying to defend his choice to jump into the path of danger.  Suddenly Xena broke off the shaft of the arrow pushing it violently through Ulyses chest freeing it from the obstruction.  Ulyses was shocked with a greater pain than before yet his chest was freed of its burden.  Xena was still frustrated at Ulyses for jumping in the way of her shot with the chackram.  Gabrielle tried to comfort his pain with a gentle touch, but the only thing Ulyses could think of was to stand back up and jump back into his work.  Xena would not allow him to rise to his feet explaining that it was time for him to finally rest.  Ulyses’s ego was begining to rage against Xena’s as if he were trying to keep up with the warrior princess in some measuring of skills and bravery.  When Xena realized this she just smiled as she explained that she would take care of the ship without him.  He appeared shocked that Xena knew how to operate a ship.  Xena only replied that she had many skills.  Then she bounded off and began to prepare the ship as she flew through the air gracefully using her sword to take care of the ropes to tie them off  for sailing.  As Gabrielle watched her amazing friend sailing through the air taking care of everything as always Ulyses uttered his admiration for the warrior princess.  If he had not felt strongly about Xena before he truely did in this moment.

Not long after Xena had finished manning the ship she took Ulyses down below decks to clean up his wounds and bandage them for him.  Gabrielle had never seen the warrior princess this interested in a man.  Something about Ulyses captivated the warrior princess and made her appear even more invincable and extraordinary.  Gabrielle sat down softly and listened quietly just below the deck upon the stairs leading down into the cabin.  Ulyses asked the warrior princess about her chackram and Xena shared her pride of the magnificient weapon.  The king of Ithica appeared impressed that Xena was the only one who could harness the power of the chackram.  This was another thing the two had in common with one another for Ulyses had such a weapon back in Ithica.  It was a bow made out of the strongest iron wood that only he could string.  It could send a single arrow through three straight men before stopping its momentum.  Xena was impressed that he had such a weapon and was thankful that Ulyses was the only who could use it; however, she herself had not tried it yet.  It was obvious to the bard that Xena would love to have a chance at it someday.  Her next question was in how he had come to secure such a weapon and Ulyses continued explaining that it had been a family heir loom passed down through the generations.  It was forbidden that he take it off of the island.  This satisfied Xena’s curiousity about Ulyses special weapon.

As they spoke Ulyses appeared impressed that not only could Xena unleash the fierce beast that loomed within every warrior’s heart, but she had a tender and soft touch as she repaired his wound.  Just before Xena could speak he interrupted her as if knowing what Xena would say next as he thanked Xena for using all of her many wonderful skills and talents to assist him in retrieving his ship.  Despite this seemingly perfect relationship between two warriors Ulyses was planning on dropping Xena off at the next port with Gabrielle and moving on without them.  Xena objected to the idea challenging Ulyses excuse for dropping them off.  He had said it would take at least a crew of three to successfully man his ship.  Ulyses was planning to seek out some local adveture seekers to go up against Poseiden.  Yet Xena explained that by her count they already had a crew of three between herself, Ulyses, and Gabrielle.  Ulyses tried to talk Xena out of the idea of traveling to Ithica with him for he remembered that Posieden would be certain to unleash his power.  It was as if Ulyses had resigned himself to death at the mercy of Posieden and he did not want to take Xena and Gabrielle there with him.  Yet Xena explained that she had already made up her mind.  She was going to see him through this voyage against Poseiden.

When Ulyses tried to object on Gabrielle’s behalf Xena explained that she had learned that leaving Gabrielle behind was never an option.  Gabrielle found herself entering into the conversation from her perch just upon the stairway leading back up to the deck explaining that she would go where Xena would go no matter where that was.  The bard hoped to help ease Ulyses’s concern for their safety.  Gabrielle was certain that Xena enjoyed Ulyses company too much to let Poseiden’s threats stop her from going to Ithica.  Yet Xena responded to Ulyses’s concern as if they were rejections of her company.  He quickly put those anxieties the warrior princess was feeling to rest explaining that he truely desired Xena’s help, but mostly her company.  His appreciation for the beauty of the warrior princess beyond the leather, breast plate, and chackram was obvious to Gabrielle.   Although as Gabrielle struggled to walk and stand up straight she found herself also feeling extremely sick to her stomach as the ship rocked back and forth over the calm seas.  This interrupted the wonderful moment everyone shared, but Gabrielle could suddenly think of nothing else.  The bard found that this upset stomach was irritated with the motion of the ship which made it difficult to concentrate on anything.  Her conclusion to the problem was sea sickness as she passed both Xena and Ulyses in an attept to find a spot that would be less likely to rock, but the attempt was futile for the bard.  There were seemingly no stable places to rest on the ship.

The sea sickness was growing more intense with each passing moment.  Gabrielle struggled to take in breath without the feeling of wanting to hurl.  The smells of the sea creeping down below decks were part of the problem Gabrielle had surmised combined with the constant rocking.  As Gabrielle tried again to move and change positions she found herself perching upon an old crate next to the navigation table where Xena and Ulyses studied a map of the sea planning their battle against Poseiden.  Gabrielle tried to focas on their conversation hoping that it would help her forget about the sea sickness.  Yet it was nearly impossible as Gabrielle found herself standing up and pacing across the cabin once more to the other side of the navigation table where Xena and Ulyses continued to talk about Ithica.  Ulyses spoke of how it would be several days of sea travel between them before they could reach Ithica.  Not only that, but he continued explaining that the days of suffering that Gabrielle would have to endure would be just as futile as trying to combat the sea sickness.  Posieden’s storms had been too furious for him to ever reach Ithica in the past.  Gabrielle was certain that this voyage would be no different.

Xena of course had the answer.  She asked Ulyses if they could take the shorter route along the chain of islands that connected Ithica to the mainland.  Yet Ulyses shot down this idea reminding Xena of the island of the sirens.  Gabrielle had heard of the sirens and as she tried to remember why their story was so important to her.  Then it came to her through the ill feelings which plagued her.  Gabrielle explained to Xena seriously that the sirens were said to have a song so powerful it could call all men to their deaths upon the rocks of the island.  Ulyses was certain that Poseiden would call upon them to help him battle against Ulyses, and Xena.  Gabrielle found herself to be alarmed imagining how a song could kill them all smashing the ship to pieces, but Xena calmed Gabrielle’s concern quickly reminding everyone that she was not a man which meant the rules didn’t apply to her.  There was a slight bit of relief in knowing that it was now possible to travel the shorter route that could offer cover from the wrath of Poseiden’s storms.  Not only that, but Ulyses’s interest in Xena was growing as he joked that he had noticed that Xena was indeed not a man.  With that the flirting continued as Xena looked to Ulyses and responded to his question.  He wanted to know if she was going to be able to singlehandedly get them past the sirens.  She was certain that the challenge of the sirens would not be an issue.  With that statement Gabrielle was satisfied.  It was certain that they would be taking the shorter route, but Gabrielle was uncertain of how much longer she would have to endure sea sickness.  She rose from her crate hoping to escape the constant bobbing up and down by breathing in some fresh air above decks.  The bard hoped that the open high seas would help relieve her of the unbearable nausia.

Yet even the open air upon the decks above held no solace for the bard.  Even worse Gabrielle found herself having to man her part of the ship duties between each burst of vomit from the inner wall of her stomach.  The bard spent most of the rest of the day trying to keep up with Xena and Ulyses, but she was unsuccessful.  There was misery within embarressment in the self discovery that Gabrielle could not handle sea life.  Xena approached Gabrielle on one of her bouts of painful misery as the bard hung her head over the side of the ship.  The warrior princess was sarcastic with pleasure at her friend’s suffering.  She used this opportunity to tease the bard about her philospohical lesson with the warrior princess on the day before.  Xena suggested that Gabrielle just close her eyes and smell the seagulls.  Gabrielle sensed Xena’s heavy sarcasm realizing that Xena was comparing a discussion of life’s traquil beauty to physical pain and suffering.  Through the emotional irritation Gabrielle was feeling she realized Xena’s humerous remarks were the honesty of how Xena viewed most days of her own life as a plight of suffering and sea sickness.  The bard once again found herself defeated not only by physical issues, but by Xena once again.  It seemed that Gabrielle would never win this battle of views between herself and the warrior princess.  Everything was always so cynical with Xena.  This thought added to the irritations within Gabrielle’s stomach as Xena delivered the final blow which delcared her victory over Gabrielle’s philosophies.  She reminded Gabrielle that they had yet to reach the roughest part of the journey.  The seas were calm in comparison to what they would experience later in the voyage.

Gabrielle could not believe that it would be possible for her to suffer worse than she was already suffering.  Suddenly Ulyses piped up that there was a major storm coming upon the horizen.  It was most certainly Poseiden’s first battle move against them.  Gabrielle realized that this voyage to Ithica was extremely symbolic of her travels with Xena.  It always seemed that when things couldn’t possibly get worse life would throw a major storm toward the ship being sailed no matter how good or how comfortable the ship seemed.  By nightfall they had reached the storms.  Ulyses, Xena, and the bard escaped the wrath of Poseiden down below decks as they tried to ride out the violence.  Gabrielle only wanted death now for it was seemingly the only thing that could bring peace back to her soul.  If she could no longer feel the physical suffering then her soul could be free to find peace.  Several times the bard begged Xena to knock her unconscious, but Xena would not honor this request.  When Gabrielle pleaded with the warrior princess for death Xena just held her friend steady as the ship rocked violently throwing its mariners about like loose dinars.  It was almost as if the warrior princess were still gloating in her glory.  As Poseiden’s wrath raged on through the night and into the early morning Xena calculated that they would be reaching the island of the sirens.  Xena decided that the only way to save the ship from their songs was to tie Ulyses up so that he would be unable to take control of the ship.  Xena would take over the helm during this part of the journey leaving Gabrielle to guard Ulyses until they began passing the island of the sirens.

The sun rose from within the darkness of Poseiden’s powerful storms bringing calm back into the water, but Gabrielle’s stomach was still battered deeply within.  It was as if Poseiden himself had been directing his wrath from within the walls of the bard’s feeble stomach.  There was no rest for the weary as Gabrielle found herself struggling to stay awake now that a large portion of the pain had subsided.  Nautia was still within the pit of her stomach, but it was no longer with the edge.  This was manageable unlike during the night’s storms.  However, the quiet calm continued the sounds of the wind soothing Gabrielle as she lied her head down upon the map table hoping to ease her physical exhaustion.  Just as the bard was about to fall asleep the sound of the wind seemingly blended itself with the sounds of a faint whispering song.  Gabrielle was not certain that it was anything more than being between a dream and real life.  Yet just when Gabrielle was about to drift into the dream Ulyses spoke.  He asked the bard if she could hear it.  A beautiful song so mezmorizing that its beauty could not be described.  Although Gabrielle was not impressed by the sounds of the sirens Ulyses was captivated.  His eyes lit up as his body longed for the extasy that seemingly beckoned him to follow the songs.

Gabrielle slowly woke from what was seemingly the dream into the reality that Ulyses was about to try escape Xena’s binds.  The bard was already weak with illness.  She was certain that if Ulyses were to escape she would not be able to stop him.  Gabrielle first tried to help Ulyses get his mind off of the deep soothing song of the sirens.  She was not certain what he was hearing for he was a man.  Whatever it was it unnerved him into insanity.  It was obvious that Ulyses had lost all self control.  When Gabrielle tried to think of something to talk about all she could think about was discus throwing.  This subject was weak in comparison to the illusions of the sirens and their songs.  Gabrielle could only imagine that their songs were filling Ulyses’s mind with beauty beyond that possessed even by the warrior princess.  Gabrielle cautiously rose from her spot upon the crates next to the map table slowly approaching Ulyses who had now picked up a piece of broken pottery from the floor with his boot attempting to free himself from Xena’s binds.

The bard realized that it was only a matter of time before he would escape.  She desparately hoped to somehow distract him from the voices which called to his soul.  Yet Ulyses was unstoppable for he was too powerful and too strong for the weakened bard.  He begged Gabrielle to help him escape, but she could only weakly remind him that it was not in his best interest.  As she approached him attempting to stop him from his madness Ulyses’s kicked her to the ground sending a whole new sense of pain through the bard’s body.  Now the only thing Gabrielle could feel was the numbness of her leg which was nearly broken by the force of Ulyses’s powerful kick.  Ulyses fled from the cabin dashing up the stairway onto the deck.  His only hope was Xena who was already busy steering the ship.

All that could be heard for several moments above were the sounds of a fierce battle between the warrior princess and Ulyses.  They battled for control of the ship which did not help the pain of Gabrielle’s leg combined with the sickness still plaguing her stomach.  The sounds above were of feet scurrying, and bodies slamming onto the deck.  After several moments of battle and of the ship being steered into the jagged rocks and away from them the course held steady.  Gabrielle was uncertain who the winner was until she heard Ulyses’s heavy boots scurrying down the stairs of the helm onto the main deck and then they were quiet.  Xena shouted out for Ulyses to stop for she could not leave the helm as the path through the jagged rocks just off the island’s shore was too treacherous.  Gabrielle knew that Xena would not be able to stop him for the sounds of the sirens were beyond her control.  Yet just when Gabrielle thought that Ulyses might face his death upon the rocks Xena began to sing her own song.

Xena’s voice began low and uncertain.  Yet it seemed to be working for it broke Ulyses’s attention away from the voices of the sirens for a moment.  The warrior princess continued to sing with more depth, and more power.  Her soul reached down into its pit to draw love and affection from within attempting to sway Ulyses’s soul from its demise.  Xena’s voice held steady for hours until finally the sounds of the sirens became more faint as time passed.  As their songs weakened blending into Xena’s voice there was no way for Ulyses’s mind to be drawn to their power.  Gabrielle heard Ulyses’s boots step back down onto the deck as the sounds of the sirens faded into the sounds of the wind and Xena’s virtuostic voice.  Suddenly all was quiet and the danger was seemingly over.  They had made it through Poseiden’s storms and successfully averted the rocks upon the island of the sirens.  It was now onto Ithica with nothing, but smooth sailing ahead.  For Gabrielle this was a relief for she would not have to bear the harshness of rough seas for the rest of the voyage.

The pain of her injured leg was also begining to subside as Gabrielle decided that it was safe to emerge from within the cabin out onto the decks for some fresh air.  Ulyses caught sight of her and inquired of her injury fearing that he was responsible.  Gabrielle would not accept sympathy from him for his irrational behavior as he desparately tried to apologize to her.  The bard knew that the power of the sirens was beyond a man’s control.  She tried to make light of the discomfort explaining that for a brief moment Ulyses had allowed her to forget about her sea sickness.

As the third day at sea had come to an end Gabrielle found herself sinking into the hamock in the cabin for some much needed rest.  Xena and Ulyses were seemingly unaffected by all of the excitement of sea life and by Poseiden’s obstacles.  Instead the two continued to enjoy sharing in each other’s company in a way that only soul mates can share with one another.  It seemed to the bard as she listened pretending to be asleep that Xena had finally found her tree within the forrest.  It was Ulyses.  He was Xena’s other half and the bard knew it.  There was uncertainty within these thoughts for Gabrielle although if Ulyses was indeed her other half then maybe the warrior princess could find the peace that Gabrielle hoped her heart would find.

Gabrielle continued to listen as Xena offered Ulyses some bread and cheese that she had gathered and cut up for him.  Ulyses seemed pleased at her gesture.  It was behavior coming from the warrior princess that Gabrielle rarely ever saw.  Xena was in love.  Gabrielle hoped that Xena could be honest with her about this at some point.  Ulyses just chuckled when Xena suggested that she had messed up the bread and cheese referring to her lack of experience with cooking.  Ulyses responded by explaining that he had a wonderful cook back in Ithica.  There was an awkward silence between the two which was smoothly broken by Ulyses who attempted to infer that he was only speaking of how Gabrielle and Xena would both be well fed if they were planning on staying in Ithica for any lengthy period of time.  It was as if Ulyses was inviting her without actually saying so.  Gabrielle sensed what Ulyses desired.  He desired Xena as she was certain Xena had desires for him.  Yet it seemed that Xena had yet to be honest with herself about this.  It was why Xena had not approached the subject with Gabrielle.

When Xena did not respond right away Ulyses then posed the question.  He wanted to know if Xena was committing herself to a chance at a relationship with him.  Xena’s response was a fumbling of words at best.  Then Ulyses charged forward within the conversation knowing excactly what he wanted to say, but chosing not to say it.  It was as if he were begging Xena to make the first move, but Xena’s heart was afraid.  This brought concern to Gabrielle’s heart for her friend wondering if Xena’s heart could remember what love truely felt like.  Then Ulyses bared his soul saying exactly what he had been yearning to say to the warrior princess.  He explained that he was in love with her.  Ulyses was even prepared for Xena’s retort about his wife Penelope.  He explained that her memory would live on despite his love for Xena.  Ulyses was not even certain if his feelings for Penolope had been real for they had been only seventeen when they had parted.  He had been certain that his love of Penelope was a love for his own ideal of her rather than the woman herself.  There was concern, and romance.  Ulyses’s words were swift as he was attempting to sweep the warrior princess off of her feet with words of love.  Xena tried to put more value into the ideal that was Penelope, but Ulyses had already devalued it within his heart and his mind.  He agreed with the warrior princess that Penelope had been a special woman.

Before Xena could say another word Ulyses explained that with Xena things were different.  He had felt like he had known Xena his entire life.  With that statement it seemed that Ulyses had somehow lost his edge and his confidence in himself.  He was uncertain that his heart was telling him the truth, but Gabrielle knew that Ulyses was smart.  He knew more about his heart than he realized.  Xena was not equipped to handle his inquiry.  He wanted to know if he was crazy for having these thoughts and feelings.  The warrior princess’s only response was of uncertainty and to remind herself out loud of what the bard’s own beliefs were.  Xena reminded herself of the story of when all people had two heads and four legs.  Gabrielle could hear this within the warrior princess’s mind.  In this moment it seemed relevant to her somehow as her thoughts surfaced into Ulyses’s reality.  Xena spoke of everyone having their soul mate.  Ulyses was softly delighted as his confidence in his heart’s voice was restored.  He was certain that Xena was his soul mate and he pressed this into Xena’s reality.  Gabrielle again heard a long pause, but this time it was of passion.

After the long moment of nervous passion Ulyses posed his question straight.  He wanted to know if Xena was planning to stay in Ithica with him to see how things might work out between them.  Xena’s response was giddy yet obviously uncertain.  Gabrielle sensed fear within Xena’s voice yet it was barely noticeable to anyone else.  It was as if Xena were falling in love for the first time. As Gabrielle began to weigh the situation heavily Ulyses went back to the helm to guide the ship during the rest of the night.  As he left his genuine concern for the warrior princess was powerful as he suggested that she gather some rest for herself.  As he left Gabrielle’s eyes were wide open now as she hoped that Xena might ask for her advice.  Yet Xena kept silent as Gabrielle realized the difficult decision Xena’s heart faced.  It was as if Xena would have to chose between her life with Gabrielle and a new life in Ithica with Ulyses.  Gabrielle found herself slightly saddened knowing her travels with Xena could end as this voyage triumhped over Poseiden.  Then she remembered how Xena had handled things when Perdicas came to ask for her hand in marriage.  With that thought Gabrielle was ready to give life alongside the warrior princess up if it would tame Xena’s anguished heart.  The sacrifice would be worth it.  As the bard recalled to herself the entire journey and purpose with Xena was in showing the warrior princess how to love again.

Finally the thoughts of hope mixed sweetly with sadness faded into the slumber which captured the bard after a few days of sleepless nights.  Gabrielle found herself awakening when the sun was high overhead which meant that she had slept in for the first time in a great while.  She felt refreshed despite the events on the night before.  The sea sickness had subsided and was barely noticeable to her now.  She thought it might be for her concern about Xena and about their friendship.  Gabrielle decided that if Xena was not going to approach her then she would open up the subject herself.  When Gabrielle approached Xena as the warrior princess manned the deck Xena expressed a friend’s concern.  Xena inquired of Gabrielle’s sea sickness.  The bard quickly answered stating that although it was not completely gone she would survive it just fine.  What Xena had really hoped to do was to avoid the unavoidable.  Gabrielle quickly shifted the subject to Xena’s  feelings about Ulyses.  The bard seeked an honest answer from Xena whom appeared surprised that Gabrielle was aware of anything.  Xena then moved away from the bard onto another part of the ship to tie off some more ropes.  The warrior princess tried scolding the bard as she joked Gabrielle did not sleep all that soundly.

Gabrielle had to accept defeat in this for she had been eavesdropping on several of Xena’s personal conversations with Ulyses.  The bard joked back explaining that it was the torture of her illness which had kept her awake and listening to the passions unfolding.  Xena used this as an oppritunity to escape the real issue as she instructed her friend to try lying down on her stomach while at sea.  Gabrielle would not allow Xena to get out of answering the serious question.  The bard scolded Xena for trying to escape her inquiry.  Gabrielle hoped Xena would answer her so that she could plan her next day preparing to be alone without a soulmate.  Gabrielle needed to know what was next for her in life.  Xena paused for a long time and did not answer.  Yet Gabrielle already felt the answer.  The bard felt as if she wanted to release a tear from her eye for she could already feel the lonliness of  life without Xena.  Then she asked Xena to promise that whatever Xena’s answer was it would be the answer that followed Xena’s heart.

The warrior princess knew instantly what her friend’s fears were.  Xena knew that Gabrielle was afraid of going on without her.  The warrior princess finally answered immediately dissolving Gabrielle’s lonliness reminding the bard that Gabrielle was a part of her heart.  For a moment Gabrielle was embarressed realizing her own selfishness.  Then she reminded Xena of the advice Xena had given to her when Perdicas came back into Gabrielle’s life.  Xena had told Gabrielle that seeing her friend happy would make Xena happy.  Gabrielle wanted Xena to know that she now understood Xena’s advice more than ever.  She wanted Xena to know that she felt the same way about the warrior princess’s choices despite her own selfish heart.

There were more moments of tranquil silence, but Xena cut them with confident reassurance of Gabrielle’s place in her life.  She explained that Gabrielle had been good for her heart.  Xena continued by saying that Gabrielle being a part of her heart and her life was the reason that Xena could find herself having feelings for Ulyses.  She had learned how to love through Gabrielle.  Gabrielle realized that her place in Xena’s heart was still secure despite her having fallen in love with Ulyses.  Suddenly Gabrielle came to another realization.  Xena had finally openly admitted that she had fallen in love with Ulyses.  This led Gabrielle to rejoice urging Xena that they had already decided within their hearts that staying in Ithica with Ulyses would be their next challenge.  Just as Gabrielle blurted this revelation out Ulyses shouted out “Ithica!”  The excitement of reaching land was like no other.  Gabrielle ran to the side of the ship to view the land that was now within her grasp.  Soon her body would be released from the torture it had faced for four days.  Indeed there was a lot to celebrate upon landing.  Gabrielle thanked all of the gods all accept for Poseiden as she rolled about in the sand basking in her glorious release from illness.  Ulyses ran his fingers through the sands upon the beach.  He was finally home after ten long years of war, and battles against Poseiden.  His triumph would be remembered forever.

Soon Ulyses was showing off his childhood home to Xena and Gabrielle as if he were only seven.  He introduced his new friends to the hill in the woods that he and his friends had played childhood games upon.  Of course he remembered that it had been much larger when he was five.  As they continued on Ulyses caught sight of an old carving within one of the trees near the hill.  It was as if he had forgotten about it.  He was so excited to show off his carving to Xena who appeared to be uninterested at best.  She was more interested in the innocence of Ulyses rather than his actual childhood exploits.  Gabrielle decided to ask him what his carving represented and he proudly declared that it was an eagle which had been his favorite animal as a child.  Xena interjected that she thought it looked more like a fish, but this was typical of the warrior princess.  Everything peaceful and innocent was about fish to her.  Gabrielle took note of this observation in her mind.  Then Ulyses defended his work proclaiming that it was magnificiently done by a five year old boy.  He appeared surprised at how much had changed upon Ithica in his abscence.

Just as Ulyses contemplated these thoughts the sounds of a battle interrupted the innocence from above.  Upon his childhood hill he spotted five pirates attacking one of the islanders.  Ulyses, Xena, and Gabrielle dashed up the hill into action quickly disposing of the disturbance and rescuing the native who was now lying on the ground.  Ulyses instantly recognized the victim as his old friend Mentacles.  At first Mentacles did not recognize Ulyses until he took a moment to study the face before him.  As soon as Mentacles realized who Ulyses was he immediately rose to his feet to greet his old friend with a strong embrace.  Mentacles spoke quickly with excitement asking if it really was Ulyses and not an apparition.  Ulyses confirmed with a bright smile that he was indeed alive and well.  Mentacles gratefully thanked the gods for Ulyses’s safe return has he smiled with joy.

Xena interrupted his declared celebration reminding everyone that her respect for the gods was not high.  She pridefully declared that it was not the gods, but the three companions together whom had triumphed returning to Ithica safely.  Gabrielle looked to Xena as if slightly irritated that the warrior princess could not contain her own ego.  Yet the moment of irritation passed as Ulyses looked to his new friends introducing them to his old friend Mentacles.  Ulyses then explained that Mentacles had grown up with he and Penelope.  The three had all been very close.  Gabrielle’s heart was tickled with warmth imagining two childhood sweethearts eventually marrying as young lovers.  The mood was contagious as Ulyses joked with Mentacles asking if he was crying after being beaten up by pirates.  Mentacles explained that his tears were of joy and not pain or sorrow for now Ulyses could reclaim his kingdom and be reunited with his lovely wife.

There was a sudden wave of emotional shock which swept its way through the small group.  Ulyses quickly responded reminding Mentacles that his wife had died, but Mentacles pressed further with more truth than anyone could fathom.  He explained that it was a lie.  Penelope was not deceased for he had only seen her just an hour before.  She was still full of sorrow over the loss of Ulyses, but very much alive.  Gabrielle then looked to Xena realizing that the warrior princess’s tree in the forrest was not Ulyses.  The warrior princess appeared upset at this new discovery, but not hurt.  It was not the fault of Ulyses that he had fallen in love with another for he had been told a lie most likely orchastrated by Poseiden himself.  With a serious tone Mentacles continued explaining to Ulyses that things in Ithica had changed a great deal since he had left.  As if Ulyses did not have enough to sort through in his heart Mentacles explained that Poseiden’s pirates were pressuring Penelope to take another suitor to replace Ulyses.  Mentacles continued explaining that all on the island had been led to believe that Ulyses had been killed as Ulyses had been tricked into believing that Penelope had been gone.

Gabrielle could see Ulyses’s sadness in knowing he now had more responsibility beyond that of saving Ithica from the pirates.  He now had to figure out how to let his heart release itself from love for Xena or release itself from Penelope.  Xena was understanding of Ulyses’s situation.  Instead of responding with anger or jealousy she responded by taking action.  She wanted to help Ulyses get his restore his kingdom and to release it from the swarming pirates.  Ulyses then asked Mentacles if the old moat still led under the castle.  Mentacles responded with uncertainty explaining the delapidated conditions of things without a leader to restore them.  Xena spoke up to take the lead in the situation.  With Ulyses’s hit with all new confusion the warrior princess took over.  She asked that Mentacles lead them to the old moat to check it out.  If it was still there she was ready to take action against the pirates and to help restore Ithica even if it meant losing her tree in the forrest.

By nightfall Ulyses and his companions had reached the old moat to discover that the secret passages beneath the castle were still clear.  The passages led them to a stairway which led up into the servants quarters where Ulyses instructed Gabrielle to collect some robes.  They would prepare to attend the banquet that was about to begin as servants and peasants.  A rumor had cirrculated about the kingdom that Penelope would choose a suitor on this night by a specific test.  The test was to see who in the kingdom would be the first man to be able to string Ulyses’s bow.  This proved that Penelope was a shrewd leader.  It was the perfect way to keep the kingdom from the pirates for Ulyses was the only man able to string it.  There was still hope for Ulyses to reclaim his kingdom yet he had different plans.

When Gabrielle had returned from the servants quarters back into the passage way where Ulyses and Xena conversed she over heard something unexpected.  It began with Ulyses explaining that he had spent ten years wanted to return to his home, but now that he had returned he sensed that it was no longer his home.  As a boy he loved Ithica more than life itself, but he had left to go to Troy as a boy and returned as a man.  When Xena asked him about Penelope he pushed on declaring that he did not love Penelope anymore and felt that he had never truely loved her.  There was a quiet moment of pause and then Ulyses declared his passionate love for Xena.  He explained that he loved Xena more than Ithica.  It was a strong statement to make for all that he had sacrificed to return to Ithica.  He explained that the kingdom of Ithica was no longer his, but belonged to Penelope.  Ulyses wanted to finish the journey that he had begun.  He wanted to rid Ithica of the pirates and then leave the kingdom to Penelope.  Then he would travel with Xena and Gabrielle for he desired this more than being king and protector of Ithica.

Xena had a retort ready.  She began by apologizing to Ulyses about being more honest.  Xena surrendered Ulyses to Penelope with little arguement.  She explained that she could never love Ulyses and that she liked her life as it was without him.  It was a weak retort and Gabrielle sensed that Ulyses could see right through it.  Ulyses argued with Xena knowing that she truely did have feelings for him.  He was not about to allow Xena to surrender them now.  Yet Xena was not about to steel love from another woman.  The warrior princess desired a chance for Ulyses and Penelope.  She realized that war, and revenge had kept them apart for too long already.

The warrior princess also knew that Ulyses could not see beyond the past several days that he had spent with Xena.  Gabrielle desparately wanted to step into the middle of this emotional crisis and help ease everyone’s confusion about this complex situation, but was stopped by Xena’s next choice.  With great regret and sadness Xena pulled out pain and delivered it with harsh words to Ulyses.  She shunned his love with aggression declaring that all of her flirtation and advances had been nothing more than a show.  The warrior princess declared that their passionate kiss on the night before had been nothing more than a fling for her.  She continued with embarressment for Ulyses delcaring that she herself had been embarressed by his romantic words to her.  Xena went on to say that she had chosen not to reject Ulyses then because she had not felt that he could handle her rejection.  Gabrielle knew the truth of this.  It had been Xena who was most concerned by being rejected by Ulyses.  Xena capped off her aggressive rejection of Ulyses explaining that he could never be her kind of lover.  For Ulyses it was as if the cross bow had gone through his heart.  The blow took the breath right out of him.  All he could do for a moment was stand still and stare at Xena in confusion.  Soon the confusion turned to emotional hurt and then Ulyses retreated back upstairs toward the servant’s quarters.

Gabrielle passed Ulyses returning to the bottom of the steps feeling his heartache within her own heart.  Yet she also felt Xena’s deep regret for the harsh rejection that she had chosen to deliver to him.  Gabrielle felt that there could have been a softer way to accomplish this, but she also understood why Xena had chosen to deal with Ulyses in this way.  The warrior princess was afraid for her own heart for if Ulyses caught sight of Penelope again it may be the end for Xena anyway.  It was in this moment that Gabrielle realized just how soft and genuine the heart of the warrior princess truely was.  It was fragile.  There was so much of it that needed repair for it could not handle the thought of losing someone it held dear.  Xena had not completely committed her heart.  Yet she had come very close with Ulyses.  Xena tried to reason outloud with Gabrielle her choice to hurt Ulyses in this way.  She explained that both Ulyses, and Penelope deserved a chance and a clean homecoming.  Gabrielle could not argue with this for the warrior princess was right.  Yet the bard had faith that Ulyses’s love was still true for the warrior princess.  She was certain that if things did not work out with Penelope that Ulyses would eventually understand why Xena had intentionally hurt him.  Gabrielle was certain that Ulyses was a smart man.  It seemed that this idea comforted Xena just a little as she allowed a small bit of hope to creep into her heart explaining that maybe the three of them would one day fight for the greater good.  The bard smiled and agreed with Xena that this idea was very appealing.  It seemed to her that Xena might release a tear and be vulnerable inside.  Xena quickly averted this by reminding the bard that it was now time to prepare for the real work and so the two dashed up the stairs to bring a triumphant close to the story of Ulyses.

The banquet had already begun by the time Xena and Gabrielle had arrived.  Ulyses had gone on ahead for it was clear that there was only one thing left for him to do.  He had to prove that he was the true ruler of Ithica.  No other man would be suited for the task.  As Xena and Gabrielle circulated the banquet hall playing their roles as servants Ulyses appeared as a peasant man.  The leader of the pirates declared that it was Poseiden’s will that a successor to Ulyses be chosen on this night.  Penelope faced his challenge with courage and dignity as she explained the rules of the contest again.  The pirate took the bow and tried desparately to string it, but found it took more strength than he could muster.  He found himself irritated and almost angry at Penelope declaring that no man would be able to accomplish the task except for Ulyses who had already died.  It was in that moment that Ulyses spoke up from beneath his robe.  He declared that he could do it.  When the pirate heard this from a peasant he struck down the peasant’s request.  The pirate did not want to face the possibility that a peasant could string a bow that he could not.

When the peasant’s request was struck down there was an urgancy brought on by Ulyses.  He ushered the crowd to join him in pushing for a chance for the peasants as well as the pirates and those who had wealth.  Penelope took this idea and decided that she would agree to it yet the pirate was not so enthusiastic.  He declared that he would agree on the condition that only the one peasant would be able to have a try.  Ulyses was confident as he approached the front of the banquet hall where Penelope stood.  He took the golden bow from the pirate and prepared to string it before the crowd.  As Gabrielle and Xena looked on with the crowd they watched the intense process.  Ulyses struggled to bend the bow down as he rested it upon the floor to string it.  His face struggled as his muscles tensed.  Then Gabrielle remembered why Ulyses was having trouble.  His injured shoulder was preventing him from commanding all of his strength necessary to string the bow.

It was in this moment that Xena decided that she would help Ulyses one final time.  She was inconspicuous as she dropped a golden cup of wine onto the floor kicking it underneath the banquet table.  The warrior princess then slipped beneath the table as Ulyses continued to struggle as he got closer and closer to winning the prize.  Just when it seemed that he had no strength left to hook the string onto the bow it began to bend slightly more.  Suddenly Ulyses gathered his last bit of strength and then triumphantly he hooked the string onto the top of the golden bow successfully winning back the kingdom of Ithica.  There was a sudden pandimonioum within the crowd as people began to talk amongst one another about the event that they had just witnessed.  Yet the pirate cut the noise with his loud proclaimation that the contest had been fixed by Penelope herself.  Before Penelope had a chance to try to defend herself Ulyses uncovered himself from disguise and declared that he was Ulyses king of Ithica.

Suddenly the pirates were ordered by their leader to charge forward to attack Ulyses.  The banquet hall broke into a battle of the pirates against the king of Ithica.  Ulyses grabbed an arrow from Penelope’s throne preparing it within his bow launching it through the hearts of three pirates as people screamed and scurried about it terror.  Ulyses was fierce with his weapon as was Xena when she used her chackram in battle.  Xena burst out of her disguise jumping onto the banquet table to assist Ulyses in the fight yet she allowed him to handle most of the battle on his own.  The warrior princess understood the need for Ulyses to prove his courage, skill, and bravery to his people in this final battle against the pirates.  After unleashing the fury of his bow Ulyses grabbed a blade and began an offensive against his enemy that was comparable to the skills of the warrior princess.  Gabrielle released herself from disguise to help finish the battle as she grabbed a chair for defense against her attacker.  Xena battled with only her fists and her thunderous kicks as Ulyses was displayed to be the true warrior of Ithica.  As the swift battle drew to a close and Ulyses triumphed Penelope’s happiness in being reunited filled the banquet hall.  It was in this moment that the warrior princess decided that it was time for the battling bard to slip out alongside her onto the next voyage together.

Although Xena had tried to leave the story of Ulyses to Ulyses and his beloved Penelope even Ulyses could not allow it for on the next day as the Warrior Princess and the battling bard were to set sail he came aboard seeking her company.  There was an uncomfortable moment of embarressment for the warrior princess knowing what she had put Ulyses through.  Despite that painful rejection of the night before and the chance at a night alone with his wife Ulyses was still certain of his feelings for Xena.  Indeed he was a smart man for he had realized what Xena had done for him was out of love and not rejection.  Ulyses appreciated Xena’s concern for his marriage to Penelope yet his heart still yearned for the company of the warrior princess.  Gabrielle looked on as the conversation transpired realizing although Ulyses loved Xena Xena truely could not allow her heart itself to him.  Xena had chosen this out of her own fears and insecurities.  She had decided for Ulyses that his path would not be with her.  They had not made the journey through Poseiden’s wrath only to leave Ithica again.  Ulyses belonged there with Penelope and he would learn to love her again.  Xena was not as harsh this time when she again rejected Ulyses.  She was soft and tender as she spoke to him wishing only to convey concern and friendship rather than pain and confusion.

It was not easy for Ulyses to accept that the warrior princess would not surrender her heart.  As he left the ship his heart was saddened realizing that it held responsibility.  Ulyses was no longer a boy and could not afford the luxuries of a young man.  It was in this moment that the man had truely returned home from his long journey away from home.  The man would learn to love Ithica again and alongside Penelope he would restore it to its splendor once more.  Gabrielle watched as the ship began to turn
away from Ithica and Xena called out to the crew.  She saw the uncertainty of two young lovers as they waived good-bye to their newfound friends.  Finally Gabrielle approached Xena still confused that Xena sacrificed her happiness to someone she did not know.  Xena’s answer was simple.  Her heart was rewarded in knowing that she had helped Ulyses win back his kingdom and the life that he would have with the woman who courageously stood up to the pirates in the abscence of her beloved king.  As for the story behind it all Xena felt that it was only worth telling if it were the story of Ulyses and how he bent his golden bow to save the people of Ithica.

 The Xena Scrolls

By: Gabrielle Bard of Podedia

Scroll #45: The Lost Mariner

May, 47 B.C.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Xena Scrolls

By:  Gabrielle Bard of Podedia

Scroll #46 :  The Price

June, 46 B.C.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Xena Scrolls

By:  Gabrielle Bard of Podedia

Scroll# 47:  The Quest

August, 47 B.C.

….Xena I know you can hear me wherever you are.  I know you always told me to be strong, but I can’t be, not now.  You can’t leave me.  I know its not your time.  I can feel it in my heart.  I just feel this emptiness I’ve never known before and it scares me.  Xena above all just remember your destiny.  Remember it and fight.  Fight to come back.  This world needs you.  I need you.   For my destiny is to be alongside you.  I’ve known this since Thesaly and you know it too.  Come back to me my dearest friend for I am lost without you.

Every night I see it happen again and every morning I wake up wishing that it were only a dream.  My unbearable pain began when you took me to Syra the home of my worst enemy.  You wanted so terribly to understand why.  You wanted to understand why you brought your army down into that valley and why so many had to die.  You blamed yourself for so much, but I know in my heart that you were only confused and young.  I tried to comfort you by telling you that though the valley of Syra had once been a place of great death and destruction it had changed and become a place for vibrant life once again.  My heart was certain that you would be able to change too.  It was confident that your heart would heal from its own unbearable torments from your past.

As I watched you ride down into the valley to face your past there was peace in my own heart for you. I knew that your own peace of mind and heart would come through for you one day.  But then I was suddenly taken by those barbarians and prepared for sacrifice alongside those innocent young children.  Yet you came for me as always and you saved me from death once again.  Your battle against them was flawless except for in the last moments when I had made another mistake.  I had been so busy watching your flawless warrior skill that I allowed one of those children to get too close to the battle and the danger.  Before I could act he found himself nearly facing his own death prematurely.  As always you bravely stepped in front of him and did not allow him to die.  You acted with your warrior instincts instead of reacting with too many thoughts.  My own reactions put you into danger as you sacrificed yourself and your own life for that of the innocent blond haired boy.  You had felt that his life was worth more than yours.

The moment was horrifying for me knowing that there was nothing that I could do to stop it from happening now.  And so you took the blow and began your journey toward death.  As I stepped in to protect you from the remaining barbarians I was wounded, but it was only a wound of the leg.  It was only a wound that would one day heal.  Yet this wound in my heart now is so great that I am more lost now than ever before.

As I prepared to take you to Mount Nestus where you said we should go I tried to wipe it all away.  I tried to wipe away the blood that flowed out of your ears, and your mouth, and your nose.  There has never been a time that you had looked more seriously injured than in that moment.  Argo even sensed your death approaching.  She was strong for me for she knew that I needed her to be.  After traveling almost all night long I asked you if we should go north or south of the Streimen River.  You mumbled and I thought you said north so that is which way Argo and I took you.  You were right for we did get there early in the morning snows.

I was so tired and exhausted from traveling all night, but Argo kept me on our quest.  And finally when we reached your old friend Nicklio I was certain that you would be okay.  Yet Nicklio wanted to repair me first though I tried to tell him that it was not me who needed his help.  He refused to help you for he could face a reality that I was unwilling to realize.  Still I can not accept it.  Your death was not supposed to happen that way.  Not without me and not now.

I cried alongside you through the day for I could not leave you.  I know that you could hear me.  You could hear my every thought.  Everything my heart ever said to you and everything my mind ever thought.  Xena I miss you.  But now I know that no matter how many tears fall from my eyes and down my face none of them has the power to return you to your life’s place.  So I am preparing to take you home.  But this journey is even more difficult than the journey to reach Nicklio for the word has spread through the land very quickly that you are now dead.  I promise you that I will get your body back to Amphipolis again no matter what it takes.  I shall die to fill your wishes.  You belong home with your family next to your brother in Amphipolis I know.  But I wish you would come back.

This afternoon as Argo and I have traveled toward Amphipolis.  We were confronted by five henchmen.  They were the usual kind that you always defeated with barely breaking a warrior sweat.  These men angered me for they did not respect you the way they would have if you were still alive.  All they wanted was to profit from my loss and your death.  You would have been proud for I stood bravely to defend you.  I have promised you in the past that I would bury you next to your brother.  And that is where you will go no matter what.  I may only be a small young village girl, but you have taught me well.

As I fought them I did not think.  I only used my feelings for you to guide me.  But you made sure that I did not have to fight them alone for you sent Iolas to help.  I didn’t really need his help to fight our enemies, but I did need him.  I needed Iolas to comfort my wounded heart, and I thank you for that Xena.  Sadly, I must admit that for a brief time I have felt anger for your choice to leave me behind.  My heart was not ready for this life challenge alone.  There were so many things that I have left unsaid to you.  Like how much I truely love you, and how much I appreciate your teaching me all of the lessons I’ve learned from you.  It was after telling Iolas how I was feeling that he released me from my anger.  He reminded me that though I had never said those things to you while you were here with me.  You can still hear me now.  I was comforted and ready to continue on toward Amphipolis reminded that even in death you can hear my thoughts.

I want you to know that Iolas was sad for you too.  Even though you had hurt him in the past and tried to break up his wonderful friendship with Hercules he too still loves you.  He shed tears with me and then told me that he must go.  Iolas wanted to return to Hercules to make sure that the news of your death did not get back to him without first hearing it from Iolas.  Hercules loved you too.  Iolas was certain that he would take our loss hard.  Yet no one loves you more than I do.

After Iolas left Argo and I alone again we continued on and found ourselves deep in the amazon forrest.  It was scary traveling without you for I’m not yet as skilled as you.  There are still things that I cannot sense, or hear, or feel the way that you always do.  I’m still amazed at how you could know that someone was following us from so far behind.  Your skills are truely brilliant like the light I have felt within your heart.  Argo of course began to fuss before I realized that we were being followed.  So I stopped and stepped forward declaring that those following show themselves.  With relief it was only a group of our oldest friends.  The amazons came sailing out of the trees just like they did the first time you took me to meet them.  I  remember how excited I was and how I didn’t understand what being an amazon was all about.

Then I remembered that you had taught me that amazon symbol for peace.  So I declared myself peaceful and they did something very special.  Though you never thought that you deserved the respect and love of the amazons they too love you.  I watched them honor you in silence as they placed their swords upon your sarcoughagous.  Ephiny was with them and I was glad to see her.  It was comforting to be surrounded by friends in your abscence.  Ephiny expressed her sorrow for my loss and invited me to take you to the amazon camp.  There they were prepared to honor you with an amazon funeral fire.  Yet I did not feel that you would have wanted that so I told Ephiny that I was going to continue onto Amphipolis.

She could see that I was suffering inside and Ephiny urged me to at least stay with the amazons for a few days.  I told Ephiny that I would stay for a little while, but only because I needed to talk to Queen Melosa.  Without you I know I need to find a new life and so I thought that maybe Queen Melosa could help guide me in your abscence.  Ephiny then broke the news that Queen Melosa had also been killed.  She had been killed in royal combat like the one you had enguaged in to unite the centaurs with the amazons against Krykus.  My heart could barely take the pain of your loss and to find that Queen Melosa had been taken was a shock for me.  And then I asked Ephiny who the new queen was.  She looked to another of the amazons that I had not met the last time we had come to amazon lands.  Her name was Velaska.  Velaska had been the one that had challenged the Queen to the royal combat.  And as you know Xena it is a fight to the death.

Veleska did not spare Melosa with mercy the way that you did.  She argued that her combat against Melosa had been ruled by the tribunal as a fair defeat.  But Ephiny seemed displeased about this.  Yet she was also pleased that I had returned for by amazon law the Amazon Princess is the next in line to take the mask of the queen when she passes.  Because of my right of caste Ephiny was delighted to announce that I was now the rightful queen of the amazons.  I’ve suddenly found myself more lost and confused than before Xena.  I don’t know what to do.  My heart says that I am not ready to be an Amazon Queen.  Last time we were here I learned the responsibility that a Queen must carry and it was more than I am ready for.

With my wounded heart I have decided to join Ephiny and my other amazon sisters for I need to mourn.  Yet I feel that I am being pushed foward suddenly into a life that was not meant to be for me right now.  Ephiny has explained to me the truth of Velaska’s challenge to Melosa.  Melosa had adopted Velaska as a step daughter when her mother had been killed in a battle against the centaurs before you and I had come.  Velaska had challenged Melosa once before, but was unsuccessful.  Because Melosa had been her new mother she had been spared the penatly of the challenge.  Yet Melosa banished Velaska from the amazon nation for her defiance of her mother as punishment.

After you and I had come to the amazon lands Velaska returned.  She returned to challenge Melosa once again.  Only this time if she lost Melosa would have had to take her life.  I know in my heart that Melosa did not lose because she was less skilled or less of a warrior.  She lost this second battle against Velaska because of her love for this child though Velaska had truely been the child of another amazon.  Velaska has taken advantage of Melosa’s love for her and that is why Ephiny felt that the challenge had not been a fair fight.  Ephiny explained to me the reason that Velaska wanted to be queen.  She revealed that because Velaska’s true mother had been killed by a centaur Velaska did not agree with the new alliance.  If Velaska had her way and continued to reign as queen then Ephiny, and her son Xenan would have to make choices.  It would be impossible for them to live with either nation for she is an amazon and he has been born a centaur.

Ephiny has me thinking about my responsibility now, but I’m still not confident that I would make a better queen than Velaska Xena.  She has been an amazon since birth while I’ve only been an amazon for only ten short seasons by a rite.  I’m so confused Xena that I’ve decided to hear out Velaska’s side just incase Ephiny is just over reacting.

As I walked with Velaska today Xena I could feel her ambition.  It  is driven by something other than what drives Ephiny.  Ephiny’s intensions are driven by a mother’s love for her son while Velaska’s intentions are clearly driven by vegence.  Velaska tried to talk me out of chosing to accept the queen mask.  If she had been a true leader she would have allowed me to make that choice on my own.  A true amazon sister would have trusted in me to make the right choice.

Though the right choice for me would be to allow Velaska to continue to reign as queen for she is indeed much more experienced and better trained than I.  Yet my heart tells me that the right choice for the amazons is for me to embrace this huge responsibility and take the queen mask.  I know I am not ready, but my intensions are more noble than the intensions of Velaska.  If she were to continue to reign as the queen I am certain that the amazons and the centaurs will be at war once again.  All that you and I have done to unite them in peace will be destroyed and I can’t let that happen.  Not now.

Xena I’ll always love you, but I know I have to let you go.  I have always thought of you as my home, and since you have left I  have felt so lost.  Maybe my new home is here.  And so I think I will tell Ephiny that I am going to accept the queen mask.  Not only for your legacy, but for my own purpose.  Know that you will be an amazon sister in death for you will have the proper funeral fire that you deserve.  You will always be honored and remembered by the amazon nation and by the centaur nation.  But after your amazon funeral know that I will keep my promise.  I will take your ashes back to Amphipolis.  And that is where I will finally let you go.  I will say good-bye and then I shall return to the amazons and rule as their queen.  Your memory will always be my guide.

Upon preparing for my ceremony I have been nervous yet there is a sense of excitement for I do indeed have a home.  For the first time in days I am feeling confident of my direction without you Xena.  Proudly I will walk through the ceremony and stand before my sisters and accept their honor to me.  But I promise that I will not abuse this power or their trust in me.  I will use it to benefit the good and to fight against what is wrong.  There are so many people who have power in this world that should not hold it.

I have returned from my masking ceremony.  Xena look.  They have made me their queen.  Me the little girl you found in Podedia.  It’s time that I let you go.  You see I have to find my own life.  Just as you were searching for yours.  You know there are two kinds of tears.  Tears for those who leave you.  And tears for those whom you never let go.  And I won’t say good-bye to you Xena.  For we shall be together again one day.

Before I go let me tell you what happened.  I was taken before my sisters and presented with the mask.  Velaska waited for me to make my choice.  She was certain that I would chose her and forfeit all of my rites.  But I did not do that, and as I began to accept my queenhood before the amazon witnesses she took vegence upon me for my choice.  Her act was a violent one for she had thrown her daggar steeling the mask from my grasp.  It was an act of disrespect.  A true amazon sister would never show selfish vengence against her own queen.   Now I am certain of the choice I have made.  All of my sisters were as shocked and surprised as I, but Velaska did not stop there.  She tried desparately to deface my name and Ephiny’s name.  Velaska called me a fraud and Ephiny a lier declaring that neither of us could be trusted.  It was true that Ephiny had been the only witness to Terreis giving me her rites, but she is honorable.

It was in Velaska’s moment of defiance that  I decided to take control and demonstrate that I am indeed the right choice for my sisters.  I took the queen mask and the knife down from their resting place on the wall behind me.  I held both of them out.  Then I asked Velaska to choose.  This was her last chance to prove to me that she could be the right choice.  If she had chosen to take the mask first then I would know that I should step down, but if she chose the daggar then it would prove the truth of her intensions.  And so as every amazon was silent.  My sisters watched.  Velaska stepped forward and made the choice that I was certain she would make.  She chose the daggar before the mask.  And so I had proven to my sisters that though I am not as well-trained I am the right choice.  Velaska left camp after that for I accepted my duty and my rite.  There was a wonderful welcoming and celebration for my return.

It is much later now Xena.  When I returned to see you just one last time before your funeral I caught Autolycus the king of theives trying to steal your body.  He left me a bit confused.  At first I was angry for I was certain that he had come to profit from your death like the five henchmen that stopped me a few days ago.  But then he told me that you were in his body.  He said that it was you who wanted to steal your own body.  In my fit of anger I did not listen, but now I am left to wonder.  Maybe everything that he said was really true.  I need to know Xena if you are still here with me.  Please show me a sign.

I am so excited.  My hope has been restored Xena.  Today I saw you.  I mean I saw Autolycus.  He has broken out of the amazon jail which was hardly unexpected considering he is a theif.  But when he jumped upon your sarcoughagous as it began to burn in the fire he hurried to save your body from being destroyed.  My sisters began an attack for his intrusion, but then he whistled for Argo like you do and he had your chackram.  I watched him do the amazing flips that only you can do and he threw your chackram catching it like only you.  That was when I knew that it was true.  That was when I realized that it really was you.

I had no other choice so I left behind my sisters to join Autolycus to find you and to save you.  He explained everything to me.  Autolycus told me of how you had been with him for several days.  He told me of how you had given him his inspiration for stealing the daggar of Helios.  It is the daggar that is the key to your safe return home to me.  I want to thank you for showing me that you are still with me.  Your comforting words through Autolycus and the vision of us together has given me new strength inside.  I must admit that it was a bit strange to find myself opening my eyes kissing Autolycus, but it was really you I know.  Now I am going to send your sarcoughagus down the river like you had asked so that the amazons will not find it before we make it to the ambrosia.

Sadly Xena I must tell you that time is running out.  Autolycus and I were followed to the temple where the food for the gods is kept.  Velaska does not yet know that the daggar of Helios is the true key to the ambrosia.  I think Autolycus still has it stashed away in his boot.  You should know that though the amazon nation is now divided over your death and rescue many of them are behind you including Ephiny and Eponin.  Unfortunately Autolycus has now been returned to us in the jail.  Velaska has beaten him and broken his arm, but it is only a minor break and can be repaired.  Autolycus is truely amazing.  On the outside he appears only a thief for hire, but on the inside he has a truely caring heart.  He is committed to helping you Xena.

You made a good choice when you chose Autolycus’s body.  He has become so involved in your rescue that he has used his unusual skill for picking locks and freed us all from the jail.  It was amazing the way he picked the lock by using only a small metal piece that held together Eponin’s clothing.  Of course he was his usual seductive self, but I can overlook that flaw.  And after we escaped we fought our way through those loyal to Velaska so that we could return to the temple of ambrosia.  I exepect to find Velaska there as well.  She’ll want the powers of a god.  I’ve sent Ephiny and the others to fetch your body from the river to save us time.  They will meet us at the temple and I’ will get you the ambrosia.

Xena this experience has been like no other.  When I reached the temple Velaska was there, but your spirit witin Autolycus was growing weak.  Velaska threatened me with the daggar of Helios, but then you stepped into me and helped.  The feeling of being one with you was warm, and caring.  It was passionate to fight a battle with your spirit inside of me.  I never knew that part of you.  I am glad that we have had the chance to connect in this way.  Our battle was a memorable one for me.  We fought Velaska upon the ropes and I found myself moving in ways that I never thought I could.  I can see now why you enjoy the thrill of a battle so much.  Yes there is your guilt, but your passionate love outweighs that.  When the battle finally ended and Velaska fell to the ground upon the trap of spikes below.  I felt your pain.  You didn’t really want her to die, but there was nothing that you could do to save her and to save yourself.  She had no intention of letting you come back to me.  And she wanted to kill me.

As everyone who witnessed our battle together watched the Ambrosia fall from its place to the ground  into the fire.  I could hear their disappointment.  But you and I knew that you had saved just enough to bring you back.  It is amazing how you have every last detail mapped out within your mind as you go into a battle.  You truely are the greatest warrior who ever lived.  I don’t care what the other legends say.  Of course when you left my body I felt the emptiness again though you had left me with the ambrosia that would return you to life.  Ephiny and the others had brought you to me and so I opened your sarcoughagous.  I placed the small bit of ambrosia into your cold lips and hoped that it would be enough to bring you back.

We all waited for a long moment and wondered.  There was hope, but our disapointment grew when you did not awaken.  Of course all that we really needed was patience for the ambrosia finally did work its magic and brought you back to me.  It was wonderful to see you again.  To look into your blue eyes and to hold you in my arms once again.  I missed you Xena.  It was the hardest week of my life without you.  Please promise me that you’ll never leave me again.  Don’t ever die without me.  I know in my heart that your true destiny is with me and mine with you.  Never ask that question again for you now have the answer and the truth.

The Xena Scrolls

By:  Gabrielle Bard of Potedia

Scroll#48:  A Necessary Evil

September 18, 47 B.C.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Xena Scrolls

By:  Gabrielle Bard of Podedia

Scrolls #49:  Destiny

September, 47 B.C.

3 months and 21 days since visiting Syra Callisto’s home.  3 months 13 days since Xena died at Mount Nestus.

We spend our lives trying to understand what our own true destinies will be.  Wading through the waters of the unknown we find ourselves often confused and drained within our spirits.  Though we do not consciously know our destinies there is always a part of us that holds the deepest truths within.  This confusion of destiny and of what direction the warrior princess was to travel had haunted her.  One day as she had found herself with Gabrielle near the place where Callisto was born.  She had taken Gabrielle with her to the valley where the village of Syra had once existed.  It was there that she had taken so many lives and tainted the spirit of one young girl.  The bard could read her friend well.  She could see how guilty Xena felt about the wrongs that had born upon Callisto’s most tragic loss of her family.

Gabrielle tried to comfort Xena.  She explained that though Xena had been the cause to Callisto’s own destiny Xena had changed.  Once a warrior of evil and of darkness, but now it was clear that Xena had turned toward light.  Gabrielle was proud of her friend and to see the ongoing growth that had been taking place within her friend’s spirit since their first day of meeting.  The bard was philisophical explaining that once Syra had been the location of great death and of awful destruction.  But on this day it had healed and it now held vibrant beautiful life once again.  Gabrielle knew that Xena’s soul could go through that same transformation for it had already begun on its journey.  Two winters had gone by since Xena and Gabrielle had begun their travels together.  Gabrielle was certain that they would share many more that way.

Then Xena spoke of how she needed to go down into the valley once more to confront the horrors of her past.  She hoped that there she would find the answers she seeked about her own destiny.  Gabrielle stood over the valley watching Xena disappear into the tranquility.  She waited patiently  for the warrior princess to return.  Gabrielle hoped that Xena would find the answers that she so desparately seeked.  The bard’s wait seemed endless.  And then after many moments had passed Gabrielle found herself kidknapped by a group of strange men.  They were almost not human and they did not speak the same language.  These people were of strange custom for they took Gabrielle to a sight not far from the valley into the woods.  There Gabrielle was tied to a relic which hung between two trees.  She was tied  alongside several young children.

The barbaric men prepared for a ceremony.  It seemed to be one of a sacrifice.  To whom they were sacrificing was not clear.  Maybe it was Hades for their relics surrounding the camp were of skeleton remains hanging from all of the trees about the camp.  In the center was a pile of wood, and rock.  There it seemed that they  would  place their fire.  As Gabrielle thought of how her situation would progress the warrior princess came storming into camp upon her trusty steed Argo.  She flipped off of her horse in style and was holding Gabrielle’s staff which had been robbed from her earlier.  Gabrielle watched as the warrior princess gracefully worked with the staff flipping it behind and over her shoulder then back around.  Xena used the staff long and swiped it across the two barbarians which stood between her and the victims.  Then she suddenly reached for her chackram and threw it cutting down every hanging relic and freeing all who were being held captive.  It was amazing the way that the chackram had sailed in a circular path across the sight and then returned after one throw to the hand of the warrior princess.

Xena then called out to Gabrielle and instructed the bard to catch her weapon.  The warrior princess threw it across the battle to her sidekick.  Gabrielle used her most familiar and effective move.  She thrust the staff across grasping it firmly with both hands.  It moved forward and knocked down one of the enemies in front of her.  Then she used her favorite cross over move to rob the enemy of his balance.  Quickly the battling bard acted and took the other victims rushing them away from the heart of the battle and onto safety.  Xena stayed behind and continued on.  There were at least ten more barbarians to deal with and to disable.  She decided after fighting a handful of them that it would be better to finish the battle within a second location away from their relics.

She rejoined Gabrielle and the group only to urge the bard to keep moving.  And so the bard ran further down the path and just out of reach of the battle.  There she stopped to watch Xena finish the battle ready to step in just incase Xena needed her help.  Xena fought without her weapons.  She did her favorite running up the enemy’s chest move flipping and then kicking him to the face.  Xena quickly flipped into a tree above and then back down to surprise three more of the barbarians.  The warrior princess then finished off the rest of the group fighting in the center of a battle circle spinning quickly with agility as she punched and kicked through the lines.

As the battle neared its end one of the children from the group had stayed behind to watch Xena fight up close.  The blue eyed boy could not resist the power of the warrior princess.  He emerged thinking that it was safe to rejoin his newfound hero, but there was still a live barbarian ready to attack.  The barbarian took his knife and cut a rope hanging from a tree.  This released something deadly.  It was a large log swinging down out of the trees toward the helpless child.  Xena quickly acted and jumped infront of the young boy pushing him out of harm’s way.  But then it was too late.  The warrior princess was violently hit by the oncoming log which had gained momentum.  It slammed into her body and pushed her across the woods into a tree where she was crushed between the trunk and the log.

The remaining barbarians quickly approached their victim and Gabrielle knew that it was now that Xena needed her help.  Gabrielle entered into the battle slamming one of the barbarians from behind with her staff.  The blow had knocked him unconscious.  A second barbarian swung around behind the bard and jabbed her in the outer right thigh with his knife.  The blow sunk into the muscle quickly bringing sharp pain and cramping.  Gabrielle then took her staff and jabbed back as her leg gave out and she fell upon the injured warrior princess.  The battle had finally ended, but Xena was in terrible shape.  Gabrielle looked to her friend hoping that the damage had not been serious.  Yet it was obvious with blood running out of her ears, nose, and mouth that Xena was on the verge of being taken by death.

Gabrielle touched Xena’s face trying to revive her friend.  She called out to Xena whose eyes struggled to open.  Xena was aware that Gabrielle was there by her side as she struggled to instruct her friend where she must go.  Gabrielle was told that Xena had to be taken to Mount Nestus.  As Gabrielle tried to remember the way she was certain that it was too far to be reached in time.  With her injured leg Gabrielle knew that it would be nearly impossible to get her friend to Mount Nestus.  But Xena insisted barely within consciousness.  Gabrielle realized that she had to find a way to get Xena there.  No matter the pain or the danger Gabrielle had to take her friend to that far away place.  The bard whistled for Argo and then prepared a contraption using the relics and rubble from the barbarian camp.  Gabrielle and Argo then began their journey to save Xena’s life.

Xena had also begun a journey of her own.  It was a journey that would answer the question that she had been asking just before the battle against the barbarians.  It had all begun back in Amphipolis with Cortese’s brutal attack upon Xena’s village.  That day was one of many events that would shape Xena’s true destiny.  After losing her brother and many friends within that battle Xena made conquest her goal.  Yet it was conquest to protect her home rather than to conquer.  Though the young warrior princess had known early that in conquering one would more effectively protect her home.  The warrior princess had stolen and looted many villages along the way.  Syra had been one of them and sadly Xena’s army had burned it to the ground within its passion for conquests.  Certainly there were many riches to be gained, but there were also many enemies out there waiting to rob the young conquerer of her power.

After the events of Amphipolis and of Syra there was another day that connected Xena toward her destiny.  It was the day that her army had sacked the village of Nexous.  There they had obtained many riches yet they had also captured a soldier.  At the time he was of no identity yet he was dressed  well.  His armor was flashy and his defiance was hardly possible to overlook.  Xena’s soldier known as Tallis badgered the new captive for he felt the disrespect of the flashy soldier.  The captive did not submit to the fear which Tallis tried to overpower him with.  Instead the young soldier held onto defiance.  His confidence was amazing and intriguing.  He proclaimed to Tallis  that his capture was merely a barbarian.  This implied that Tallis was of less intelligence.  Tallis found himself offended and rose his sword after a beating did not phase the captive.  Just before he was to strike the captive Xena stepped in and saved the life of this most intriguing man.

He was of a different breed.  She had never seen someone so confident and so sure of who he was.  When asked why he did not even fear death the solider replied that he did not fear death for he knew what his true destiny would be.  Xena was taken by this answer and so she asked him what his certain destiny was.  And then the man revealed in a very foward manner that his destiny was to conquer the world.  The young warrior princess found herself slightly amused by this answer.   Then Xena explained to Tallis that they should not kill this soldier for he was a Roman nobleman and they could gain wealth from his capture.  She was certain that this man would fetch at least 20,000 dinars.  Suddenly the soldier intervened declaring that the Roman nobles would never believe that she had him within captivity if she asked for so little.  This bold ego driven soldier suggested a price of at least five times more than what Xena had suggested.  The warrior princess was again amused and sent Tallis off to be sure that the message sent would demand 100,000 dinars for this soldier’s release.  Though she was still intrigued and asked of a name from the self proclaimed conquerer.  He then proudly spoke that his name was Ceasar.  Julious Ceasar he repeated with more conviction this time.  Xena shouted out to her comrades the name of the captive for the message.

Upon the next morning as she and her army set sail upon the seas.  They began to go through the riches which they had obtained the day before upon attacking Nexous.  One of Xena’s men opened a beautiful large chest and something emerged from it.  It was not gold, or diamonds.  This was a living person.  It was a skilled warrior.  The warrior was cloaked in disguise as he moved swiftly to take out his enemies.  He did not carry a single weapon only the power to disable.  His technique was to use pressure points.  No one could stop his wrath as he took down fifteen of Xena’s men.  He moved with speed, accuracy, and grace.  Xena had even fallen vicitm when she tried to take out this magnificient warrior.  The warrior princess was struck in the leg and unable to continue combat.

She watched as the warrior scaled to the top of the crow’s nest and just as the warrior swung onto the sails of the ship Xena threw two knives slicing through the fabric taking down the skilled warrior.  Her men quickly took control of the warrior as Xena rose from resting her paralyzed leg.  The warrior was then revealed to be a young woman.  She was beautiful and not of Greek heritage.  Ceasar himself had been intrigued, but not impressed with her performance.  Just as Xena’s men were about to take the young girl’s life Xena haulted her execution.  The girl pleaded for her life within her own language.  Ceasar spoke to her presuming that Xena’s heart would spare the life of the lighting speed warrior.

Xena was again impressed by the nobleman.  He was highly intelligent and most definately a future threat to her and her conquests.  This man was more educated, but had yet to prove that his skills matched those of the warrior princess.  She could see that both of these new captives could match her in a different way.  Each had skills that Xena seeked to obtain for herself.  The young Xena knew that she must learn from each of them their strengths.  And so she asked Ceasar to tell the girl that her life would be spared if she would in exchange teach the warrior princess how to use the pressure points in battle.  Smoothly he spoke to the slave girl and then the girl spoke back agreeing to exchange her warrior skills for her life.

The girl was then escorted down into Xena’s cabin below awaiting a visit from the warrior princess.  As the crowd of men dispearsed from the deck Xena again spoke with Ceasar for she was still very intrigued with his certainty of knowing his destiny.  As they conversed he spoke to Xena with more knowlegde.  He gave her more insight explaining how he had figured out the origins of the young warrior girl.  Ceasar said that she was from the provinces of western Gual.  He declared that there were three provinces in Gaul and that she spoke the Galic from the western province.  Ceasar also revealed that the girl had probably originally been a stowaway from the land of the pharoahs for her light brown complexion gave away her birth place.  Rome was known for capturing people from the northern lands of Egypt to sell into slavery back in his own land.

Xena realized that indeed this Ceasar had his entire life laid out before him.  Every detail had been mapped out within his intricate mind.  She was slightly jealous that someone could have that kind of greatness and power despite being a captive.  It was in that moment that Xena decided that she would get involved with Ceasar.  Slyly she proclaimed that his next desinty of the moment would be to dine with her in her cabin later in the evening.  It was a lustful invitation as Ceasar was freed from his binds.  And then she left him to contemplate her sinful beauty for it was clear that the young Xena enjoyed the sport of playing with a man’s heart.  It was a new challenge and a new conquest different from the ones she had always enguaged in before.

Xena then went down to her cabin to learn from the warrior girl.  When she entered into her cabin Xena noticed that the girl was working to free herself and escape the chains of captivity.  It was obvious that she had done this many times before.  The girl had escaped slavery and been running from it her entire life.  Xena walked in so that the girl could see that she was present and watching the girl’s every move.  This slave girl expected punishment for all slaves were punished for attempting to escape.  But Xena was different.  She could see that the young girl was much more valueable as an ally fighting alongside her rather than in slavery.  Xena approached her fearful subject and then asked her softly to show her how to kill using the pressure points.  The girl showed Xena in silence, but spoke within her eyes.  She did not really want to show the warrior princess the power of pressure points.  Xena demanded that she show her upon her own neck for it was that point that could kill the enemy.  The pressure points in the legs and arms could only disable.  Xena wanted to bring fear into her enemies for they would be less likely to challenge someone they feared.  She had learned that from Cortese.

And so the slave girl did as she had been asked.  Reluctantly she quickly put the move of death upon Xena.  Xena was upset for her subject had done the move much too fast and she could not learn it if she could not truely see and feel it.  The young warrior princess asked her subject to take the move off and do it slower so that she could learn.  As Xena suffered her subject watched her suffer and did not move to release her.  It was as if the slave girl was irritated that Xena had wanted to kill rather than to defend.  Xena could see as her pain within grew that this girl contemplated taking her life for her decision.  Yet in the last moment the young girl took off the pressure and released Xena from death’s grip.

The warrior princess breathed heavily clutching her throat with relief.  She was disgusted with her subject for her clever joke.  And so Xena asked the subject to show her again, but this time on herself.  The young girl took Xena’s hand’s and placed her fingers upon the veins that would be shut down.  Quickly she pushed Xena’s fingers into the grooves of the neck and turned the pressure onto herself.  The feeling was a strange one yet Xena immediately felt the rush of power that it gave her.  She backed away from her subject and watched gleefully as the slave girl suffered and her fear rose.  Xena then contemplated allowing this girl to die for she had played such a cruel joke moments before.  Yet at the last moment Xena too decided that she would have mercy upon her subject.  She released the slave girl from death and delcared that she too could play jokes.  That moment led to a most wonderful and loyal friendship between two young women though Xena had never known what the slave’s true name had been.  Xena had given her slave freedom, and her slave had given Xena the power to deliver fear.  It was an ironic twist.

Later that night Ceasar finally came down into Xena’s cabin to exchange lustful excitement and passions with a young warrior princess.  He was intrigued by her looks for she was beautiful yet barbaric.  Xena was just the kind of person that Ceasar felt he could never ally with.  Barbarians were the uncivilized beasts that he had to control and to conquer.  He had to add their lands to his own in order to build the ultimate empire for Rome.  Yet Ceasar complemented Xena for the red dress she had stolen from another raid during her many conquests.  He realized that it was the only way that a barbarian would be able to obtain any kind of wealth or power.  It was unfortunate, but Ceasar was not sympathetic.

Then Xena knew for certain that she wanted to ally with Ceasar.  She offered him the oppritunity to be a part of her army.  Xena dreamed of a conquest with Ceasar for if she were united with his intelligance, charisma, and charm she and the people of Amphipolis would always be safe.  Ceasar found her reasons for conquest interesting at best.  Her passions came from within her heart and all that she had done was to protect those that she loved with a few laughs along the way.  It was a wreckless existance he thought, but then he was asked of his driving force.  Ceasar then explained to Xena his desire to be great.  When Xena asked him what made a person great he explained that it was only achieved by a chosen few.  He knew for certain that he was to be great for it was part of his destiny.

Ceasar’s confidence was dangerous, but it was what attracted the young warrior princess to him most.  The two shared in a passionate affair together for several months while Xena and her sailing army awaited payment from Rome for Ceasar’s return.  And then one day their passions were separated for Rome came to retrieve its prize general.  As Ceasar bade his farewells to Xena she asked him to promise that he would return to her.  Ceasar promised his lover that he would indeed return to her in time.  As Xena watched her love leave her behind her heart felt the pangs of separation.  Just as Ceasar left the shores to return to Rome he saluted his loving partner with an honorable Roman salute.  And then the warrior princess was certain that she would indeed see her friend again.

Many seasons went by as the ebb and flow of life for the warrior princess and her army continued on.  They continued their lustful conquests conquering Syra along the way and many other helpless villages.  And after each conquest she and her army would return to sea sailing within the tranquility of Posiedson’s ocean.  And then the day finally came when Xena’s separation was no more for her love had returned to her as promised.  The young warrior princess’s heart lept with joy for she would be with Ceasar once again.  Her aimless life of conquering others was seemingly over for she would be a part of something that would build an empire.  It was in the night that Ceasar returned.  Xena and her young warrior friend stood upon the bow of the ship as Xena watched him returning to her.  Her excitement clouded her mind as her friend warned her of Ceasar’s true intentions.  Yet Xena was certain that Ceasar would never go against her for they were in love.

Finally Ceasar’s great ship docked with Xena’s and the two found themselves face to face once again.  The moment was silent and long for neither moved toward the other.  There was almost a slight tension in the air as one of Xena’s men drew his sword.  But Xena insisted that Ceasar was indeed their friend.  Then slowly the two approached one another as all watched their reunion.  Xena’s heart felt a powerful love within it.  She had so much to give and so much to do for her lover.  There was total admiration and she was prepared to sacrifice for him.  When they finally approached they looked into each other’s eyes and prepared to share in a passionate kiss.  Ceasar gently moved for his lover and then as their lips were about to touch he drew his daggar and took Xena into his custody.  He ordered his men to fire upon Xena’s army and to  kill them all.  This battle of betrayal ended quickly for without Xena’s leadership her army was helpless against the powerful Romans.

As Ceasar prepared to take Xena and her army away he had not been able to find the young slave girl.  When he asked Xena of her loyal friend she declared that her friend had betrayed her and she had been killed.  It was a punishment fit for the crime and Xena’s heart was now broken for she had been betrayed by her passionate lover.  Ceasar did admit that he indeed had feelings for the warrior princess during their affair before, but his feelings were stronger for Rome.  His love for Rome outweighed his lust for the warrior princess.

As Xena’s dreams revisited her earliest past Gabrielle and Argo had finally reached the Striemen river, but Gabrielle did not know where to go beyond there.  She was uncertain if Mount Nestus was north or south of the Striemen.  The bard desparately tried to bring her friend to consciousness long enough to find out which direction they must travel.  It was clear that Xena was delerious.  Gabrielle was also finding herself tired and weary for her injured leg was slowing them down.  Despite the pain and the exhaustion Gabrielle finally continued on north of the Striemen with Argo leading the way.

Of course Xena’s dream had not ended.  On the morning following Xena’s capture she and her army were taken to the same beaches where she and Ceasar had parted before.  Ceasar had prepared 135 crosses to kill every last man within Xena’s army.  They were all tied and ready to be escorted to their deaths.  As Ceasar admired his work alongside his officer Brutus he explained to him that in order to defeat a woman such as Xena one had to divide her passions from her senses.  He called this technique divide and conquer.  He had taken Xena’s heart and separated it from her mind leaving the young warrior princess helpless against his wrath.

Then he approached Xena as she was strung up to her cross and sent into the air to suffer.  She suffered inside and now he was going to kill her.  So wounded now Xena wanted to die for if love wasn’t real then life wasn’t worth living.  Ceasar then gave the order to break her legs for it would be the fate of all who had conquered alongside Xena.  The Roman soldiers sent the mallot crashing into Xena’s legs disabling then forever and robbing her of all that she had ever been given in life.  Her pain was so great that her soul became numb.  And once each man’s legs were broken Ceasar and his men left them all to die.

Yet there was a force of goodness left for late into the night Xena’ s loyal friend broke into camp and took out the few Roman guards left behind by Ceasar’s army.  She did not kill them for her power was never used in that way.  The young girl then freed Xena from her binds and certain death for a second time and took the weakened warrior princess to the top of Mount Nestus.  There Xena was greeted with kindness by a healer named Niklio.  Nicklio quickly went to work on the injured woman for her legs had been shattered.  The skilled healer reset the broken bone fragments as he spoke the name of the slave girl upon his lips.  For the first time Xena knew who her loving friend was.  Her name was M’Lila and though Xena was torn apart inside her hope was restored for a moment.  Her loyal friend had been the truth of love while Ceasar had been the betraying love.  For several days Xena was cared for by Nicklio and M’Lila as Ceasar’s men searched for the escape barbarian.

Nicklio found himself impressed by Xena’s ability to heal for her body was gaining strength faster than he had anticipated.  His healing techniques were in using special needles to bring the feeling back to the damaged limbs and feet.  As Xena’s body was healing so too was her heart for M’Lila was there to love the broken warrior.  M’Lila stayed by Xena’ s side as the warrior princess recouperated and though they did not speak the same language their loyalty and love for one another held their souls together.  Yet even love alone could not defeat the darkness of conquest for it came back to haunt the warrior princess.

Just before she was to return to full strength Ceasar’s Roman guard had found her.  They burst into the home of Nicklio and began their wrath of destruction.  Nicklio was knocked unconscious as the Roman’s prepared to take Xena’s life.  One of them held a small cross bow and aimed for the warrior princess.  But M’Lila’s loyalty was so great for her friend that she sacrificed her own life for that of the warrior princess.  Xena held her friend in her arms as M’Lila passed onto the world beyond leaving Xena behind.  Upon the death of goodness came the birth of hatred.

Xena the warrior princess then fought with vengence against the intruding Roman soldiers.  She killed them all without mercy and gave the last man a signature death using the moves taught to her by the deceased M’Lila.  As the last Roman solider perished within his last 30 seconds Xena declared the birth of her own darkness with a new purpose in life.  It’s purpose would be the total destruction of the world for it held nothing, but darkness.

Finally, Gabrielle and Argo had reached the top of Mount Nestus.  It was late in the night and cold.  Snow fell upon the ground softly as the bard collapsed with exhaustion and physical pain.  She could barely move when Argo continued on pulling the body of the warrior princess forward toward the healing house.  Gabrielle rose from her anguish and continued forward finally reaching Nicklio’s door.  She desparately knocked hoping that someone would answer her cries for help.

The door finally opened and it was Nicklio.  He recognized the warrior princess and knelt down to observe her state of health.  Gabrielle could only beg and plead with him for it was obvious that Xena was indeed in bad shape.  The bard knew that her friend was close to death despite her own hypulthermic illness.  Nicklio quickly brought the body of the warrior princess inside who was barely breathing.  Gabrielle continued to plead with Nicklio to do something for her friend.  But Nicklio refused to do anything for Xena for it was only Gabrielle that he could tend to now.  And as Nicklio aided the bard in repairing her injured leg and restoring her body temperature to normal Gabrielle watched her friend.  Her nerves would not allow her to sit still and her heart could not stop feeling the need to help Xena.

Finally Gabrielle was able to return to Xena’s side.  Nicklio knew that Xena was going to die, but Gabrielle had not yet accepted this fate for her friend.  She could not accept that Xena would leave her behind alone.  Gabrielle for the first time was feeling very lost inside.  A part of her was seemingly separating itself.  As the desparate bard tried to revive her friend she begged for Xena to wake up again, but the lifeless warrior princess was now gone.  She demanded that Nicklio do something, but he looked to the bard regretfully unable to rescue her from her pain.  Gabrielle sobbed uncontrollably unable to regain composure.  She cried on by Xena’s side for hours waiting, but Xena had already gone.

The Xena Scrolls

By:  Gabrielle Bard of Podedia

Judgement Day

Scroll #50

September, 47 B.C.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Xena Scrolls

By:  Gabrielle Bard of Potedia

Scroll#51:  The Furies

October, 47 B.C. 

     Pain and tragedy are powerful forces.  They often lead one down the roads of emotional turmoil.  The fates can be as evil in their deeds as the gods they serve beneath.  Xena and Gabrielle had been through a lot together.  They had almost lost each other many times.  Their lives had led them on a challenging journey yet there was a need for the warrior princess to visit family beyond the bard.  Gabrielle understood this for she often found herself missing her sister Lilla, and her mother and father back home in Potedia.  It was fortunate for the friends that they had found themselves winding their travels back through Macedonian territory.  This was where Amphipolis was located.  It was just north of the coast near the border to Thrace west of the Strymon River.  The warrior princess appeared to be delighted, and at ease to finally be near familiar territory again. 

     As Xena, Gabrielle, and Argo traveled north along the main road parallell to the Strymon Gabrielle had decided that gambling would be an excellant way to pass the time.  She was looking to challenge the warrior princess to a foot race.  Xena seemingly refused to take the risk of losing to Gabrielle.  The bard was delighted that her friend was seemingly doubtful of certain victory against her sidekick.  Xena tried to avert the challenge stating that she did not like to gamble all that much.  Gabrielle found this to be an amusing and weak arguement against the race.  She was quick to remind Xena that her life was a gamble everyday.  This was hardly a solid reason not to accept the bard’s challenge to a foot race.  Xena realized that the bard had trapped her within her own words which the warrior princess had always known to be Gabrielle’s strongest asset.  She was a professional with words.  The warrior princess quickly surrendered to Gabrielle sighing weakly as if there were a tinge of boredom to the idea of yet another friendly travel game.  This was something Gabrielle was also famous for.  She then asked Gabrielle what the stakes would be since playing the game of gambling seemed inevitable at this point in the conversation.

     As soon as Gabrielle realized that Xena was in she soon thought of what her prize should be.  She gleefully told the warrior princess that she would be cooking breakfast on the following morning which was a chore normally reserved for the bard.  Gabrielle was feeling playful, confident, and triumphant.  She was certain to win the foot race if Xena had easily caved to the idea of the gamble.  Xena then looked to Gabrielle as if she were nuts.  The warrior princess could not believe that Gabrielle would imagine that she would be able to cook a decent meal.  As the bard pondered this comment she knew that Xena was right.  Cooking was definately not one of Xena’s many skills.  Yet Gabrielle soon had a new idea.  She requested that Xena would collect all of the firewood for their camps every night for a week. 

     Suddenly Xena was very willing to participate for she had an immediate request from the bard if she were to win the foot race.  Xena was practically begging for Gabrielle to agree to making her special dumplings with red sauce.  The bard realized that the stakes were high for it was not easy to gather the ingrediants needed to make the dumplings.  The other problem with this request was that the dumplings took an entire day to perfect.  It had been a long time since the bard had even had the time to sit around and make her dumplings for their latest adventures had kept them at sea much of the time.  Not to mention that Xena had died, and Hercules had almost died during the same period.  Gabrielle thought of this and decided the gamble would be worth it for the chance to cut out firewood detail for a week.  Everyone seemed to be satisfied with the bets placed and now it was time to put the words into action.  Gabrielle picked the tallest cypress along the road to Amphipolis and pointed it out with her staff.  She had determined that the cypress would be the finish line.  She pushed Xena behind her as she began to take her position.  Xena held the bard’s arm firmly asking her friend to remind her of the lead that she had been asked to give to the bard.  Gabrielle reminded Xena that it had been three large strides in front to give Gabrielle a fighting chance at winning.

     Gabrielle began to slowly take three large strides forward into her starting position as Xena prepared for the signal to begin.  The bard began to shout out the three commands to begin; however, after the second she began to move forward.  She had actually decided to give herself a few additional strides.  Xena would not be able to argue for after the second command was given she should have assumed the race would commence.  Gabrielle dashed forward confident that she had finally out smarted and out witted the warrior princess.  As she dashed full speed forward the bard could hear the sounds of the warrior princess closing in.  Gabrielle found it rather odd that Xena would have chosen to race by flipping her way to the finish.  It didn’t matter.  This only made Gabrielle’s win that much easier.  As Gabrielle was only a few strides away from reaching the cypress she jumped up into the air throwing her arms out in triumph as she shouted out to declare her very first victory over Xena. 

     As the words of victory were ringing through the air Gabrielle was suddenly startled by the presence of the warrior princess barely a nose length away directly in front of her.  The warrior princess had flipped over the bard just in time to steal the victory away from Gabrielle.  Xena’s celebration of victory was nothing more than a slight smirk to patronize the bard.  This led to Gabrielle finding frustration with Xena and her tactics.  It seemed that the warrior princess would do anything to win despite promising a three stride lead in the begining.  The bard’s enthusiasm of victory quickly deflated into an accusation of cheating against the warrior princess.  Gabrielle pointed her staff in the direction of the warrior princess shocked by the sudden invasion of personal space.  The warrior princess wasted no time in responding to the bard’s harsh critisicm.  Her face quickly turned into extreme intensity as if the warrior princess were suddenly angry.   Xena swiftly drew her sword ready for a fight as Gabrielle quickly backed off of her earlier accusation of cheating.  Gabrielle knew that she didn’t want to battle Xena.  That had not been part of the gambling arrangement.  The bard soon tried to take back her pettiness as she quickly backed away from Xena who slowly stepped to her left and then looked just beyond the bard’s shoulder.  Suddenly Gabrielle realized that Xena’s intensity was not as a result of her cheating comment, but of something else Xena had spotted down the path beyond her.  The bard suddenly heard the laughter of men behind her.

      Gabrielle moved with Xena slowly as she heard the sounds of footsteps and then laughing men approaching behind her.  She quickly spun around to the left facing the men to rejoin Xena within a defensive stance.  Without taking one eye away from the approaching party of men Xena gently ushered the bard to move just behind her.  Gabrielle’s ability to read Xena’s actions had improved greatly over time.  She took Xena’s non-verbal command without a single word or inquiry.  The bard had put great trust into all decisions made by the warrior princess for Xena had never lead the bard astray.  Xena’s sudden tense silence was soon followed by a relaxed body language and tone.  Gabrielle still felt extremely cautious of the situation yet Xena was seemingly comfortable and at ease.  It was amazing how the warrior could instantly adjust her tone and demeanor.  Xena opened up a casual conversation despite the fact that there were ten warriors standing before her weapons drawn hungry for a battle. 

     The warrior princess inquired the leader of his intensions.  He responded just as casually back to the warrior princess.  His reflection of the warrior princess’s ease was amazing as the bard continued to observe the transaction of words.  She even found herself lowering her staff slightly attempting to relax as Xena had been able to do.  The warlord responded candidly explaining that he was indeed out for a morning hunt and that Xena was the prey.  Xena could not resist the mystery or the details of why he would choose her to hunt down.  The warlord calmly explained that there had been yet another bounty placed upon Xena’s head.  His motive was to take his men and find Xena in order to collect the bounty.  With that statement he twirled his sword flashing it as a threat that the battle would begin, but Xena quickly countered with more words.  She was demonstrating rule number one again hoping to avoid battle the bard presumed. 

     Then Xena spoke with ease as if making a friendly joke explaining to the warlord standing just feet in front of her that she assumed that there were easier ways to make a dinar.  She accompanied this statement with a threat of pain as if it were a last effort to avoid what she felt was an unnecessary fight.  Then the warrior princess rubbed her nose and looked down as if it were some kind of signal or test to see if her enemy would take the advantage.  He barely flenched his body as he made a slight move forward.  Instantly the warrior princess responded casually into a bold blunt move into battle knocking the warlord across the chest with the handle of her sword.  The warlord was taken by complete surprise as he fell to the ground windless.  Within less than a moment the entire scene exploded into a bold forceful battle.  Xena fought with great energy as she countered an attack coming in from the left.  The bard quickly backed into position ready to strike down any of the men Xena had thrown back into her space.  Gabrielle was approached by an attacker whom she broadsided across the chest with her staff reflecting the move she had just witnessed Xena pull on the warlord with her sword handle.

     It worked brilliantly allowing the bard to be prepared for the second attacker just in front of her now.  She undercut his legs with the opposite edge of her staff throwing him violently onto the ground.  As the bard looked behind her she sensed that there were yet two more sets of boots approaching her from behind her.  Gabrielle quickly twisted back to the front of the battle and dug her boots into the ground firmly.  She pushed her staff long down low to undercut two more attackers.  The two warrior women had created a circular fighting stance recycling the enemy right back into the other to keep them from gaining their advantage of numbers.  The warrior princess drilled a thunderous kick into the chin of the enemy as she swung back around to take on those that Gabrielle had flattened down onto the ground.  Xena kicked one from behind and then spun around forward to face another in sword combat.  He fought her with double swords as Xena defended against his advances.  The bard could hear Xena’s short battle cries as the struggle between the two ensued.

     Soon Xena took a shot with the handle of her sword knocking him to the ground.  For a few short moments it appeared as if the battle was going to cease.  Then something strange happened.  The warrior princess carelessly decided to throw her sword to the ground leaving herself disarmed against ten warlords.  Xena fought hand to weapon combat as if it were a game rather than life or death.  It was as if she were playing with the enemy without the thought of the danger involved.  She smashed heads together, and reached out kissing a warlord’s arm.  The warrior princess jabbed her fingers in the eyes of another.  As Gabrielle continued to battle on she began to notice the sounds of the battle on the other end of the circle.  They were abnormally strange.  Xena’s battle cry was not the same as she flipped another warlord over her shoulder behind.  Gabrielle’s eyes flickered away from her battle over to the warrior princess to notice she was behaving ridiculously.  The bard was certain that this was not the best time for a friendly joke.  Gabrielle called out to Xena between breaths, but before she could receive a response two more warlords approached her armed with swords.  As they charged in for the kill Gabrielle quickly disarmed them with her staff knocking them under the chin and then spinning around for the final momentum.  She knocked them off of their feet and then looked back to Xena who was seemingly doing well despite her sudden craziness. 

      Gabrielle caught a glimpse of Xena disarming her attacker, but then as he approached going in for the tackle the warrior princess stopped him pulling up her hands into his face.  Then she instructed him to wait for a moment as she picked up his sword handing it back to him.  She was like a child unable to realize the mistake of handing a weapon back to the enemy.  This was unlike Xena.  Gabrielle was extremely puzzled as she watched the confusion unfold.  Even the warlord was seemingly confused.  Gabrielle thought for a moment that this could be a new unconventional battle tactic although it seemed highly unlikely the warrior princess would ever resort to this.  The bard watched as Xena urged the enemy to attack her.  Xena then kicked his sword out his hand sending it directly up into the sky floating high above.  Then she sent a kick across his face as he wobbled unconsciously eyes rolling into the back of his head.  Suddenly his sword landed upon his skull knocking the warlord out cold. 

     As he fell to the ground Xena snapped up her sword off of the ground with her boot by the handle and caught it effortlessly.  Then she lifted up her sword above her head and sniffed her arm pit exclaiming that she loved the smell of warrior sweat in the morning.  The warrior princess then pulled back her hair casually and walked back down the path where she had left Argo just before the foot race had begun.  Gabrielle shouted out to the remaining conscious men lying on the ground commanding them to move on.  She checked to make sure those who still lied down motionless were alive.  Once Gabrielle had confirmed that there had been no deaths she looked up to notice the warrior princess was eating one of the apples from Argo’s saddle bag and twirling her chackram on the edge of her fingers.  It was as if Xena were in her own little childlike world.  Gabrielle was intrigued yet irritated by Xena’s strange new behavior.  As Gabrielle approached Xena the warrior princess shouted out with excitement over the greatness of her chackram.  The warrior princess continued explaining that she had discovered it to be more than a weapon, but an exciting toy.  Then the warrior princess turned away from Gabrielle as the bard was about to interject a comment.  Gabrielle watched as Xena began to juggle the apple and the chackram ignoring Gabrielle.  The bard wanted to say something, but she was unable to express anything.  She was confused yet becoming greatly concerned for Xena’s mental health. 

     Finally Gabrielle had decided to reveal her concern to the warrior princess who just turned back to the bard and denied that there was anything wrong.  She even called Gabrielle by the wrong name.  Then she jumped into a backward flip onto Argo’s saddle landing upon her horse facing the wrong direction.  Argo was startled as Xena spit out her apple and replaced her chackram into its loop upon her hip.  Then she smiled candidly and exclaimed that she had never realized how wonderful the view was from that angle upon her horse.  She was seemingly excited about the prospect of riding backwards into danger only to see where one had been.  For a slight moment Gabrielle wanted to laugh at Xena’s idiocy, but that moment passed quickly into worry for the bard.  She was watching Xena attempting to understand what was transpiring within the warrior princess’s mind.  She decided to approach Xena with a serious question.  The last thing the bard wanted was to offend Xena in such a way that would curb her mood into violence.  Gabrielle reminded Xena of what the warlord had said about there being a bounty upon Xena’s head.  The bard was concerned that Xena appeared to have no curiosity about the bounty.  The bard demanded to know expressing concern if Xena was at all worried about this information.  The warrior princess responded by jumping off of the back of her horse flipping up into the trees above and then finding some fancy acrobatics down landing just in front of the bard. 

       Xena responded cryptically explaining that she was indeed interested yet she was not certain the warlord would elaborate on what else he knew.  This response to the bard’s question was semi normal despite the fact that the warrior princess appeared only about half serious with a cryptic tone.  The cryptic part was a comfort as the bard reminded Xena of her famous pinch interrogation.  She was certain that it would work.  It always had before.  Gabrielle began to think that the warrior princess might be just playing a game with her for pushing Xena into her gambling game unwillingly.  The bard decided to play along for the moment.  Xena raised her finger as if a gesture of faith in the bard’s idea which intrigued Gabrielle although she found herself to be confused by Xena’s reaction to the statement.  The bard followed the warrior princess over to the leader of the warlord group who was just begining to find his way back into the realm of consciousness. 

     Xena quickly jabbed her fingers into his neck before he could realize where he was as Gabrielle knelt down beside Xena listening to the interrogation.  The warrior princess explained her procedure to the victim reminding him that the flow of blood had just been cut off to his brain.  As usual he had only thirty seconds to respond.  Xena’s first question was outrageous.  She demanded to know how old the warlord was when he had lost his virginity.  Gabrielle attempted to scold Xena.  Xena responded by commanding Gabrielle to shut up although Xena did not refer to her as Gabrielle, but Maivis.  Then the bard looked to Xena realizing that her friend was not in control of her own actions which made Xena lethal.  The man could die if someone did not regain control of the warrior princess even if it was not the warrior princess herself.                                                                             

     Surprisingly an answer to the ridiculous question came from the warlord struggling for a breath.  Xena did not approve of this answer and asked for another response.  The warlord quickly submitted stating that his virginity was lost at a much later age.  Then Xena looked to the bard again referring to her as Maivis explaining that asking nicely was the only way to get good information.  Gabrielle had been counting down the seconds.  Time was running out.  She had to get some real answers if Xena refused.  Gabrielle quickly looked to the dying warlord and asked him desperately for answers to the mysterious bounty on Xena’s head.  His breaths were more difficult now as he explained that it was the priest who had ordered Xena’s head.  Gabrielle demanded of him the identity of the priest.  The warlord barely breathing now struggled to say that it had been the priest at the temple of the furies. 

     Gabrielle sat back for a moment and thought of this knowing that if there was any other information to dig out this was the last chance.  Then it occurred to her that there was no more information that could be mined from the pinch interrogation.  She remembered the legend of the furies as Xena asked the warlord what the capital of Assyria was.  This snapped Gabrielle back into the moment as she demanded forcefully that Xena release her victim from certain death.  Xena’s response was slow and seemingly without concern or awareness.  She was certain that the warlord could answer more questions.  The amount of questions was not the issue.  Gabrielle was certain that they had all that they needed, and that there would be more information in a trip to the temple of the furies.  The bard looked to Xena again demanding with a glare that the warrior princess release the man from his pain. 

     Finally the warrior princess released the warlord within the last moment.  She jumped up from the ground as if annoyed and irritated that Gabrielle had demanded that her game of life and death end before it had begun.  The bard jumped up following Xena demanding to know where the warrior princess was going.  Xena answered shortly stating that she was going for a bite to eat.  Gabrielle then wanted to know what Xena had planned to do about the issue of the furies.  Xena’s answer was sarcastic as she had determined that the furies could feed themselves without her.  This confirmed that Xena was in serious trouble as the bard demanded that the warrior princess focas on her problem of being unable to control herself or her own thoughts.  Xena turned to Gabrielle reminding the bard that missing breakfast always made her cranky. 

     For Gabrielle this was different than a cranky morning with an empty warrior stomach.  Gabrielle grabbed Xena’s arm firmly to hold onto her moment of focus.  She explained her theory of how serious Xena’s trouble was revealing a small portion of the mystery of the furies.  The legends had told the bard that the furies often punished their victims by persecution which had only explained the bounty on Xena’s head.  Only the priest of the temple of the furies would have that kind of authority.  As for Xena’s insanity Gabrielle was uncertain of how to release Xena from it.  Gabrielle tried desperately to reach Xena explaining that the madness was the real problem.  Xena’s response was seemingly on track with Gabrielle and for a slight moment the bard felt a sense of relief.  Yet the warrior princess made a joke of her situation at best.  She exclaimed that she had never felt better a day in her life as she playfully slapped the bard’s checks with her hands and turned to move onto the next uncertain moment.

     Gabrielle struggled to hold onto Xena’s focus firmly grabbing the warrior princess by the arm again forcing Xena to look her in the eye.  The bard felt that if she could not reach Xena’s mind she should try to reach out to Xena’s heart.  Gabrielle demanded that they go to the temple of the furies to investigate things further.  Xena then looked to Gabrielle as if formulating a plan.  Then her look turned to spite as if this were just another game.  It was like a battle of wills and the competative side of the warrior princess was not about to lose it to Gabrielle.  Gabrielle asked nicely hoping that she could revert Xena back to the moment of the game with the warlord’s interrogation, but Xena swung her head away refusing to give in.  Then Gabrielle spoke softly asking with concern and with her heart.  Gabrielle begged Xena to do it for her friend even if Xena could not do it for herself.  For a moment Xena’s eyes flickered of suspicion and then she smiled gleefully and agreed that they should go to the temple.  The warrior princess then moved into the next moment flipping backward upon Argo and shouting out a childlike command for go.  Then she kicked Argo’s sides and laughed hysterically as they rode down the path.  The bard was becoming frustrated, but she was certain that Argo was aware of Xena’s madness as well.  Xena’s horse would not let her get far without Gabrielle.

     Gabrielle and Argo had spent the entire day trying to keep Xena under control.  The bard had difficulty focusing on coming up with a solution beyond the temple of the furies. 

After hours of playing Xena’s child-like games of fury and madness the bard had finally wrangled the warrior princess into camp for the night.  Of course it had been made possible by an agreement that they would pick daisies until sunset.  The warrior princess was no help in gathering the firewood or starting the fire.  She spent several moments seated upon a large log next to the camp fire.  The bard paced as she tried to think of how to solve the delema.  She remembered that the furies had been known to punish people for their crimes with madness or persecution, but she had never heard of a person being punished by both persecution and madness at the same time. 

     As the bard paced about the campfire she spoke her thoughts out loud.  The warrior princess casually interrupted with sarcasm as if asking Gabrielle why she suspected that the warrior princess was crazy.  For a moment the bard thought that maybe there was still someone in there underneath all of the madness as she approached the warrior princess who fussed with a headdress of daisies.  The bard went for the last dinar of hope asking the warrior princess if she felt even a drop of concern for herself at this juncture.  The warrior princess answered seemingly concerned only for her vanity as she stared into the copper plate adoring her leafy flowered head laurel.  It appeared that Xena was only amused as Gabrielle’s irritation rose nearly to a breaking point.  The bard demanded to know if Xena was concerned about the depths of what was going on inside her mind within the past day and within the current moment.  Xena just shrugged off Gabrielle’s concern joking about how her mind was the last place the bard wanted to venture into.  The warrior princess described her condition as terrifying at best as if it were nothing at all.  Then she proceeded to ask about the leafy laurel wondering if she should lose the daisies. 

      The bard’s resolve within the situation had been spent.  She was now totally exhausted from the mind tricks and clever mental gymnastics Xena had been demonstrating all day long.  Gabrielle turned away from her hopeless friend deciding that the only way to come to a solution would be over a good night’s rest.  Not only that, but with any luck the warrior princess’s sudden breakdown might be gone once she had worn herself out with the daisies.   Upon lying down the bard’s eyes closed sending her into an instant deep rest yet it did not last the night for Gabrielle found herself awakening while the stars were still out.  When she awoke she noticed that there was no sign of Xena within her bedroll.  Gabrielle quickly rose from her graugy state into an alarmed concern.  She looked about the camp frantically to find that Xena was not there. 

     Not only that, but there was evidence of a greater more sinister madness for Xena had left her clothing behind including her breast plate and armor.  Even Xena’s weapons were left unattened.  This was unlike the warrior princess.  The bard wondered if the bounty hunters from the previous day had returned to capture the warrior princess within her weakened state of mind.  There was little time to consider this for the bard had to find her friend.  Gabrielle ran for her staff and then began the task of tracking the warrior princess.  She quickly realized that were ever the warrior princess had gone she had gone there alone.  There were no signs of a struggle.  The tracks were the footprints of a person not wearing boots.  In fact the foot prints were of the the warrior princess.  Gabrielle followed them to the Streimen and then to a small village in the early morning darkness.  As she approached the scene she saw the warrior princess standing before a frightened crowd of villagers holding a large burning torch.  The flames were immense, intimidating, and extremely hot.  Xena was completely vulnerable and defenseless yet her darkness echoed as she lashed out at the crowd. 

     Gabrielle heard the warrior princess’s sinister words as she blindly accused the people of the village of being shameful for their hayneos crimes.  The bard heard the warrior princess shout out that she had come to take retribution for the actions of the innocent villagers.  Gabrielle rushed to Xena’s side as the warrior princess continued the madness exclaiming at the top of her voice to the people of the village that she was to take her retrabution in flames.  Gabrielle suddenly realized that Xena was about to burn down their village.  Gabrielle knew that the warrior princess was in a fragile state of mind.  Even within her vulnerability Xena was dangerous.  The bard sensed that she was more dangerous now and had to be handled gently.  As Gabrielle approached carefully she stood by Xena’s side softly asking the warrior princess what it was that she had been doing.  Xena firmly explained that she was simply delivering the people into their wrath of justice.  It appeared that Xena was convinced that they were all evil and that their evil had to burn.  Gabrielle looked out into the faces of the crowd.  Most of them were the startled faces of women and children.  Innocent young eyes gazed upon their enemy in disbelief and fear.  There were no evil people in sight.  Gabrielle was confused yet alarmed by the suddenly irrational behavior Xena was now displaying. Xena was getting worse. 

     Gabrielle was firm yet still soft as she demanded of Xena what crimes these innocent people had committed.  The warrior princess lashed out with a powerful uncontrollable anger declaring that they had all crucified the women and children.  The bard’s heart broke as
she felt powerless to stop Xena and to rescue her friend from the uncontrollable madness.  Gabrielle reached out to her friend desperately as her eyes welled up with tears.  She grabbed hold of her friend’s face and pulled Xena’s eyes forcefully into her own.  Gabrielle hoped to convince Xena of the reality that the warrior princess could no longer see.  The bard lashed out under her breath within a whisper of frustration that there were only women and children standing before Xena’s own wrath.  Gabrielle continued to paint the picture of reality for the mad warrior woman whispering under her breath softly that they were afraid of Xena.  For the innocent could not see Xena’s world or Xena’s reality.  They could not see the warped mind that Xena carried within.  The moment of madness seemingly dissipated into deep regret and saddness for the warrior princess began to cry like a child who was hurting inside.  Gabrielle realized that she had to diffuse Xena’s fears and the fears of the innocent standing before them as she asked Xena calmly to hand over her large burning torch.  The bard gingerly took the weapon of fear and laid it aside into a harmless resting place. 

     For a moment the warrior princess had seemingly snapped out of her madness back into reality as she sadly commented with defeat that she was indeed in trouble.  It was as if it had been difficult for Xena to admit that she had been defeated by her own madness, but that did not matter to Gabrielle.  For the first time in almost a day the warrior princess had finally realized that Gabrielle’s pleas with her friend had not been part of a game.  For the first time Xena’s mind had found its clarity within the situation.  Gabrielle had only wanted to help Xena restore her sanity.  The bard looked to her friend as she searched for a covering for the warrior princess.  She explained that although the warrior princess was defeated for the moment there was still hope.  Gabrielle was intent on helping Xena find those responsible for her madness.  Xena would not lose this battle.  Then the bard covered Xena and softly explained the importance of why she had wanted to visit the temple of the furies the day before.  Xena’s mind was open to this idea long enough for them to return to camp and prepare for the journey to the temple. 

     For the next several hours it was an ongoing struggle for Xena to compete with her madness.  Gabrielle could see her friend’s suffering and her pain.  It was difficult to watch Xena struggle so hard within herself, but it was a fight Xena had to partake in to survive.  The warrior princess was within a battle of her own wits.  Gabrielle spent the morning hoping to help Xena by connecting with her friend’s emotions.  It had seemed the only way to control the madness up to this point, but the effort was constant and draining the bard’s emotional energy.  When the two friends had finally been able to reach the temple of the furies after veering off into several distractions Gabrielle was barely able to contain herself from bursting out against the madness.  Gabrielle finally resorted to restraining Xena’s hand keeping it firmly within her grasp.  As she dragged her friend into the temple Xena flopped about like a child as if it were yet another game.  Gabrielle shouted out to her friend to restrain herself from the madness as they approached the priest in the temple. 

     The priest looked up calmly to notice the commotion within his temple.  He immediately recognized the warrior princess as the friends approached him.  For a moment it appeared that Xena was able to pull herself out of the madness, but the moment did not last. The priest knew that Xena had come to ask about the bounty on her head.  Xena’s response was not serious.  In fact she was candid as she reverted into a child like remark asking the priest to take her head for it was driving her crazy.  As the warrior princess spoke those words she put her finger into her mouth and then reached out to touch the priest’s forehead with it.  Just before Xena could make contact Gabrielle grabbed her friend frantically and pushed Xena behind her desperate for the answers she seeked about Xena’s madness. 

      The bard’s concern for her friend was growing larger as the priest stated the obvious.  Xena had been punished by the furies with both persecution and madness.  He surmised that Xena’s crime must have been quite appauling for this to happen.  The furies punished few with both crimes.  Gabrielle’s concern grew into frantic worry unable to imagine what crimes Xena had committed in her past that the bard was unaware of.  She demanded of the priest Xena’s crimes.  He stated that Xena’s crime was simply a breach of duty.  When Gabrielle heard this she was hopeful that the answer would be simple and the solution possible as the priest explained that Xena was to avenge the murder of a family member.  Gabrielle was suddenly confused for the only member of Xena’s family she had known to have been murdered was her brother Lycious.  That had seemingly been resolved, but then Xena responded lashing out at the priest.  She instantly grabbed him by the throat with passionate anger declaring that she had indeed avenged her brother’s murder.  Anyone whom had stated otherwise was lying. 

     Gabrielle suddenly snapped out of her confusion and surprise as she slowly tried to restrain Xena again.  Yet Xena was beyond restraint.  The warrior princess threw the bard away from her as she prepared to kill the innocent priest.  Gabrielle shouted out to Xena hoping to divert the warrior princess away from her madness for a single moment.  The priest prepared to speak his last words as he struggled to state that it had not been Xena’s brother the furies were angry over.  Gabrielle quickly asked the priest who before his certain death delivered by Xena’s madness.  The priest struggled again to get out the words revealing that it was Xena’s father whom had been murdered.  This seemed to quiet the madness for another moment as Xena loosened her grasp slightly upon the priest’s neck as he struggled to breath.  Gabrielle could see the wheels of reason spinning with her friend’s fragile mind as it searched for the illusive answers.  As Gabrielle again tried to slowly approach and calm the warrior princess Xena released the priest from death and began to pace about the temple.  Gabrielle approached the priest hoping to help him regain his breath as she asked the priest who had murdered Xena’s father.   The priest barely able to speak now stated that he did not know that answer. 

      This was not what Gabrielle had been looking for.  Xena’s problem was not any closer to being solved than it had been as they had entered the temple.  Gabrielle felt a bit of panic, but she quickly realized that she could not allow herself to panic.  Xena needed her to be strong now more than ever.  Gabrielle approached the pacing warrior princess who seemed to be within her own panicked madness.  Gabrielle asked Xena if she wanted to sit down for a moment hoping to get the warrior princess to calm down, but Xena’s response was a sudden forceful push of rejection.  Xena pushed Gabrielle away as if in great pain and fear as the warrior princess dashed out of the temple leaving Gabrielle behind with the priest.  Gabrielle instantly knew what Xena was trying to do.  She was trying to protect Gabrielle, but Gabrielle could not let Xena go out into the world alone with her madness.  The bard was willing to risk her own life to save Xena no matter what it would take.  Without Gabrielle Xena might hurt many innocent people.  Xena was more dangerous now yet as vulnerable as a young child.

     Keeping up with Xena was nearly impossible for the bard as the warrior princess sprinted through the forest off of the beaten path.  Gabrielle tracked Xena’s frantic movements following the prints of her warrior boots into the depths of despair.  The boots weaved in and out of the trees leaping over a pile of dead trees.  Xena had dashed in and around spinning in circles.  There were places in which the earth was out of place as if Xena had stopped within a frantic panic.  As Gabrielle followed the desperate trail she could hear the sounds of Xena’s madness echoing through the trees.  First Xena screamed out enraged against Baccus, and then she dashed on through the trees.   Gabrielle could hear the sounds of Xena’s boots hitting the fallen leaves and then she heard the sound of Xena’s sword leaving its sheath.  The bard saw a flock of birds just ahead and there she watched as the warrior princess swung her sword about enraged and afraid.  It was as if Xena were swatting at dryiads as she screamed out within the agony of her madness.  The warrior princess’s movements were out of control as she fought against thin air above her.  Xena was focased on whatever it was that only she could see within the depths of her own mind.

     Gabrielle could see how sick her friend was and helpless Xena had become.  She was out of control and reality was nowhere to be found.  The bard tried to approach Xena carefully and calmly from behind.  As Gabrielle walked slowly to approach the warrior princess Xena’s warrior senses kicked in.  The warrior princess swung around violently ready to face her enemy.  She kept shouting out Callisto’s name as she began to charge forward to attack.  Gabrielle shouted out trying to reach the warrior princess within all of the babbling words and fear.  Xena raised her sword for the kill swinging it violently in the direction of the bard.  Gabrielle could see the madness within Xena’s eyes as she ducked the attack.  She tried desperately to regain Xena’s attention away from the visions of madness which now infested the warrior princess.  The bard’s heart was racing with fear, but no for her own safety.  She was afraid that Xena was beyond even her endless  love for the warrior princess.  Gabrielle’s heart sank feeling that her friend was gone yet she still fought to regain Xena’s mind.  First she tried to reveal that it was the bard that stood before Xena and not the vision of Callisto.  She asked the warrior princess calmly to put the sword down, but Xena was too disoriented to understand the request.  Her eyes flickered about as if she could not even see the bard standing an arm’s length before her. 

     Gabrielle continued to try to break through the madness as she begged Xena to put down the sword and allow the bard to help her friend.  With frustration building within Gabrielle shouted hoping to get through the babbling madness.  She was certain that the next step beyond the temple of the furies was to find out who murdered her father.  Gabrielle was desperate to approach the warrior princess to disarm her and get control again.  Xena was more difficult this time than back at the village earlier that morning.  She was refusing the bard’s help this time as she shook her head unable to accept that she was out of control.  Just as Gabrielle was about to make full physical contact with Xena she was overtaken by Xena’s madness.  Before the bard could finish telling Xena about the  misfortunes of another man whom had suffered madness for the death of his mother the madness had taken over.  Gabrielle was now fearing that her life was about to end at the hand of the warrior princess’s uncontrollable madness. 

      Xena now had Gabrielle restrained and her sword pressed to the bard’s neck.  Gabrielle continued to try to get more words in explaining that Orestease had not avenged his father, but the warrior princess had now slammed the bard up against a tree and begun to tie her friend up.  With the cold blade of Xena’s sword still pressing across Gabrielle’s neck and chest the bard stood quiet, calm, and still.  Her chest rose and fell with fear for the next moment she would face with Xena’s madness.  Xena spoke through the madness in her usual cryptic way babbling something about the gods and how human beings meant nothing to them.  She compared people to beetles and went onto say that people were toys for the gods and would be killed for their sport.

      Gabrielle felt the vines Xena used to tie her to the tree tightening across her arms and wrists.  The bard was uncertain as to what Xena’s madness would do to her.  Gabrielle felt Xena’s hand running through her hair and across her face as the sword tightening across her neck.  The bard closed her eyes for a moment and took a sudden deep breath hoping that Xena was still in there somewhere within the jumbled mess within her mind.  Xena continued to speak to her as she stroked Gabrielle’s head and shoulder softly as if trying to communicate her true intensions despite the madness.  She apologized cryptically to the bard that she would have to leave Gabrielle behind for she was fully aware that she could not be trusted within her madness.  Then the warrior princess smiled as she slid her blade across the bard’s body off into the woods.  The bard heard the sound of the blade scraping the tree echoing through the woods as if it were death whispering into her ears. 

     For a few brief moments the bard was still in shock, but as she heard the sounds of Xena’s warrior boots disappearing into the distance Gabrielle snapped back into reality relieved that Xena had not yet been able to kill her best friend.  It meant that there was still time to save Xena from her madness, but Gabrielle was even more irritated and frustrated than before.  She was keenly aware that if Xena was able to leave her friend behind then it meant that the warrior princess was still rejecting Gabrielle’s help.  Gabrielle was hurt by this thought as anger began to build within.  That choice had not been as a result of Xena’s madness, but her lack of confidence in Gabrielle.  Gabrielle began  to forcefully remove herself from the vines which she found to be not very difficult.  The warrior princess had not tied her very tightly.  Xena was on the move and she had to stop her friend from hurting anyone else for they might not be so lucky as the bard had just been.  Only Gabrielle’s pride had been injured for the moment.  Yet the bard was determined to win her battle against the madness.

     Gabrielle followed Xena’s trail once again following it into and through a nearby warlord’s camp.  The bard found that most of the men within the camp had been pummeled by the warrior princess for they were all passed out upon the ground.  She continued carefully through the camp hoping to attract little attention to herself.  The bard noticed that the trail of the warrior princess led toward Amphipolis.  This did not shock the bard, but it became a bit of a comfort.  Xena had gone to see her mother.  It would be easy to find Xena, but Gabrielle could only hope that the warrior princess was able to control her madness enough to protect her own mother.

     Soon Gabrielle reached Cyrene’s tavern and ran inside within a panic.  She was extremely concerned for both Xena and her mother.  Instantly the bard spotted Cyrene with Xena lying down upon one of the tavern tables.  There was no one else in sight.  Gabrielle called out to Cyrene as she approached.  Xena’s mother was tending to her very ill daughter wiping Xena’s face gently hoping to calm the madness.  Cyrene spoke up and spoke to Gabrielle about the madness which had consumed her daughter without mercy.  Gabrielle was shocked that Xena had been able to tell her mother what had happened to her, but Cyrene interrupted explaining that her daughter was incoherent.  It was the story of Orestese and of how the furies had punished him for not avenging his father that Cyrene spoke of.  Gabrielle was surprised to know that Cyrene was familiar with this story.  Cyrene continued explaining within her own sadness that she had hoped this day would never arrive.

      This led Gabrielle to realize that Cyrene had the answer to the problem.  She inquired Xena’s mom of what she had known about the fate of Xena’s father.  Cyrene continued as if she were talking to herself outloud that Xena’s father had been murdered.  There was regret in Cyrene’s voice as Gabrielle found herself to be almost relieved yet still concerned about the unknown.  Gabrielle softly asked if Cyrene knew who had murdered Xena’s father.  Cyrene answered with a soft affirmation..  She stopped stroking Xena’s forehead and then slowly turned away as if she were agonized by her own knowledge.  Cyrene walked away from Gabrielle without a word as Gabrielle followed pursuing Xena’s mom for the answer.  The bard begged Cyrene with her heart for the answer to the mystery so that she and Xena could bring the murderer to justice in order to satisfy the furies. 

     Slowly Cyrene turned to face Gabrielle and then gently spoke the bard’s name.  She then posed a question to the bard.  She asked if Gabrielle felt that Xena could go through with the murder of her own mother.  Gabrielle was shocked at this simple question.  It was the answer to the riddle of the furies.  It was the solution to the madness yet there was tragedy in the thought and the idea that Cyrene was guilty of murdering her daughter’s father.  Gabrielle could not wrap her mind around the thought and was unable to grasp what would drive a mother to commit such a tragic crime.  The bard refused to believe it as she spoke her thought outloud.  Cyrene moved forward closer openly confessing to the murder.  Gabrielle stepped back still in disbelief of the facts. 

     Cyrene continued as Gabrielle stood motionless within the tavern.  Xena was now sitting upright still dazed within her madness although for the moment it
was quiet.  Cyrene approached her daughter explaining that it had happened when Xena was only seven years old.  Her father had come home from the temple of Ares within a drunken rage.  He had told Cyrene that Xena had to die.  Cyrene suspected only that Xena’s father had been confused by the priest.  She thought that maybe the priest had demanded that Xena be sacrificed to the god of war.  Cyrene had known Xena’s father to have been very dedicated to the god of war.  She was now speaking directly to Xena who appeared to be listening within the madness.  Her mother continued explaining that she had gone against Xena’s father’s wishes.  She would not allow her daughter to be sacrificed to the gods.  His response to a mother’s love was to kill Xena’s mother too. 

     Cyrene’s recounting of the memory was a painful one as she continued explaining that Xena’s father then went out to the stables to sharpen a knife for the blood letting.  She described his preparation for the sacrifice as a methodical one.  Gabrielle could only imagine that Xena’s father had taken the seven year old out to the stable with him and prepared her upon his alter.  Cyrene had been forcefully dragged out to the stable where she must have killed him to save Xena from sacrifice.  Cyrene’s weapon of choice had been an ax.  The god of war had gotten his sacrfice either way.  It seemed that the god of war had been obsessed with Xena for her entire life.  Gabrielle found herself sitting at the next table feeling the emotion of a mother’s love and the conflict of Cyrene’s difficult choice.  It was exactly the same situation that had occurred with Orestese.  Cyrene paused for a moment as if waiting for Xena to respond, but all was quiet.  Then Cyrene joined Gabrielle sitting down with her as Gabrielle broke the silence hoping to move the moment of sadness forward. 

     Cyrene responded agreeing that Xena’s circumstance was exactly the same as that of Orestese.  She continued explaining his mother had also killed his father which made his obligation by the code of the furies to kill his mother in order to avenge his father.  Gabrielle then inquired if Orestese had actually avenged his father.  She wanted to know if the act of murdering his mother had released him from madness.  It was an uncomfortable, but necessary question.  Cyrene did not have the answer.  All that she knew beyond that was that Orestese lived in the village of Andreas not far from Amphipolis.  Gabrielle pondered this information for the moment.  She was not certain that killing Cyrene was the answer although it appeared to be the only solution within the moment.  Even Cyrene was aware of this although not completely comfortable within herself.  Gabrielle sensed this.  She decided that the next step would be for her to make the trip to Andreas to find Orestese and the solution to the problem which faced them. 

     With hope Gabrielle looked to Cyrene and tried to offer comfort and understanding despite the feelings deep within both women.  Gabrielle then spoke with confidence and told Cyrene that she would go off to Andreas.  There she would find the way out of the mess.  Then Gabrielle took Cyrene’s hand into hers and rose from the table.  Cyrene sighed with relief that the bard was not judgemental of a mother’s actions.  Gabrielle reached out and gently stroked Cyrene’s shoulder as she moved toward Xena.  The bard stood before her friend feeling Xena’s hopelessness.  The situation seemed impossible, but Gabrielle could not believe that it was.  She spoke to Xena softly knowing that Xena was still within somewhere.  Gabrielle continued to offer her hope to Xena determined that together they would get through it all.  Gabrielle could not remember a time or a moment in which the two friends did not triumph over the obstacles they faced.  The bard reached out to stroke her friend’s shoulder knowing that it was the only way to communicate the feeling inside.  Then Gabrielle left the tavern with the determination and the hope to defeat the furies for it was the only way out.

     Her journey to Andreas was only a few hours walk.  When Gabrielle arrived there she found herself guided to the village assylum.  Gabrielle was confused for Orestese should have been released from madness according to the code of the furies.  The village man whom had brought Gabrielle to Orestese explained that it was all a lie the code of the furies.  Avenging the death of his father could not possibly release Orestese for how could Orestese avenge the death of his mother when he himself was the killer.  His punishment from the furies for this crime was unimagineable.  Gabrielle knelt down before the man chained to the moldy walls of the basement of the assylum.  It was dark, and dreary, and musty.  This was a most unpleasant place to spend one’s last days upon earth.  Gabrielle looked into the old man’s eyes.  He was lost within his incoherence and alone.  It was a fate worse than death itself.  His soul was empty and defeated.  Gabrielle’s heart sank into the pit of her stomach as she imagined that man chained to the wall as her best friend.  The bard could not allow Xena to kill her mother.  It would free no one.  Panic and alarm began to rise within the bard as she quickly rose from Orestese and began the hurried  journey back to Amphipolis. 

     When Gabrielle had finally returned to Amphipolis she found that both Cyrene and Xena were gone.  Her heart race with concern as she scoured the village looking for Xena and her mother.  Some of the people of Amphipolis had heard that Xena had taken Cyrene to the temple of the furies to be sacrificed before the god of war and the furies.  Gabrielle wasted no time in finding them.  She hoped that she was not too late.  After running for hours Gabrielle finally reached the temple.  The sun was low in the sky as Gabrielle busted through the temple doors hearing Xena’s voice screaming for the kill.  Gabrielle looked across the temple alter to see Xena there with a dagger raised above her head.  She was about to commit the crime and seal her fate forever.  The bard shouted out to Xena not to kill her mother.  Gabrielle kept talking about to explain why it would not work and release Xena.  Just before she could reach the warrior princess to stop her physically Ares the god of war restrained the bard and covered her mouth so that she could not speak.  His grip was solid, strong, and tight.  Gabrielle could feel his power running through her skin and did not dare to move another step forward.  She did not struggle.

     Xena then spoke to Ares as if pleased by his action against the bard.  Gabrielle then looked to Xena and tried to speak through Ares’s grasp hoping to reach Xena in some small way.  Then Gabrielle looked to Cyrene who was preparing to face her own death.  Xena raised the dagger above her head once more preparing to kill her mother.  Gabrielle again tried to get out a word through the god of war as she looked to Xena with pleading eyes.  The furies stood before the alter awaiting the deed and then Xena suddenly paused as if she had been hit by a small moment of clarity.  Still holding the dagger above her head Xena’s mind went over the details.  Gabrielle could see the warrior wheels spinning despite the heat of the moment.  Then the god of war became impatient asking the warrior princess about the delay.  Xena spoke asking herself outloud why she was about to kill her mother.  Gabrielle had somehow been able to reach Xena with her presence.  The bard did not know how long Xena’s clarity would last as Ares responded explaining the code of the furies to Xena once more.  He was more than ready for the sacrifice of Xena’s mother.

     Then Xena moved back into madness entranced by Ares’s words and again she prepared to kill her mother raising the dagger above her head.  Gabrielle again tried to get out a word through Ares’s grasp stopping Xena again.  Xena looked up to Ares and went over the details of her situation again as if delaying for something.  Ares responded with an impatient affirmation of Cyrene’s crime.  Then he demanded that the warrior princess show her mother no mercy.  Within the next moment Xena babbled something seemingly incoherent as if she had forgotten what was going on around her.  She asked how her mother could have killed her father if he was very much alive.  This statement was confusing for everyone who witnessed it.  Gods and mortals were astounded by Xena’s strange revelation.  Gabrielle searched Xena’s eyes as Ares released his grip of the bard distracted by Xena’s madness.  He countered to the furies stating the obvious that Xena was indeed crazy.  Xena continued explaining that she was still thinking of killing her mother for fun despite the fact that her father was still alive.  Everyone was captivated by Xena’s madness as Gabrielle found herself trying to sort madness from clarity.  Xena was rapidly shifting between the two states of mind.  It was difficult for the bard to keep up.  Gabrielle sensed Xena was fishing for a solution to the problem. 

      Then Xena stated before the furies and all who witnessed the moment that Ares was her father.  The furies were now intrigued by this shifting of events.  Xena continued candidly asking her mother to take another look at the mythic lover whom had given her Xena.  Ares brushed off the idea as nonsense asking why Cyrene had not mentioned this fact before the current moment.  Xena countered Ares’s statement with the unexpected.  Referring to Ares as daddy Xena drove the point home to the furies that he was her father.  Then Xena urged Gabrielle to do her bard thing.  Gabrielle was uncertain of what Xena was asking of her for the moment.  She was still sifting through the mood swings, but it suddenly all came together for her.  Xena needed Gabrielle to set up the legend and the myth to fit all of the pieces together to implicate Ares as the father. 

     The bard released herself from Ares’s grasp and began to tell the women’s tales of their exploits with the god of war.  It has often been reported that while the husbands are away at battle the god of war will take their forms and visit the beds of each of their wives.  Gabrielle was not certain that this was what Xena had been looking for, but it seemed to fit the situation.  The bard began to question things for herself wondering if Ares was indeed Xena’s father.  It would explain Xena’s amazing natural abilities.  She could be the female version of Hercules.  The god of war glared in the direction of the bard irritated that she had been able to implicate him into Xena’s mad ideas.  He approached the alter where Xena stood before her mother.  Xena then asked Cyrene to tell the furies about the night she was created. 

     At first Cyrene was lost, but she too was able to follow what Xena was trying to put together.  Cyrene began to explain how Xena’s father had unexpectedly come home from a distant battle to be with her in a night of passionate love.  Ares then looked to the furies expressing his displeasure with the entire shirade.  Xena’s next question was posed to the furies.  She wanted to know if they eavesdropped on their victims while they tormented them.  The head of the furies responded that they often listened in on the mortals they tormented.  Xena then asked them if they had overheard the conversation that she had had with Ares when she had planned to throw herself over a cliff to save her mother.  Then Xena looked to Ares and teased him about how she had been able to set him up for this moment.  The furies did not respond until Xena again asked if they had heard the conversation with Ares.  They affirmed  that they had heard.  Then Xena joked about their scantilly clad red outfits.  There wasn’t much clothing  to cover the women who took the forms of the furies as their existence. 

     Xena did not linger on that point too long for she asked them if they wondered why Ares had chosen the word jealous to describe the man who was supposed to have been her father.  The head furies looked to Ares and asked him for an answer to the question of the word jealousy.  Ares realized what Xena had put together.  She had created an excellent defense and way out of insanity. She had turned her trial of defense into a trial in which he was now the defender of his own actions.   He calmly explained to the furies that when he spoke of jealousy he had meant that Xena’s father had been jealous of the attention that his wife had paid to their daughter.  The god of war stated that it was common for mortal men to become jealous of the attention their wives paid to their children. 

     Xena was not beaten with Ares’s argument over jealousy.  Instead she was fueled with an even bigger story.  Xena approached Ares and pushed him on the shoulder playfully.  She told her view to the furies explaining that shortly after Ares had planted his seed into her mother creating Xena Cyrene’s husband  returned home.  Thinking that he had impregnated his wife Xena was born.  Years went by without him knowing any different until one day he arrived to worship his favorite god at the temple.  On that day someone maybe a priest or even the god of war himself revealed the truth of Xena’s creation to him.  This led to the jealous rage which forced Cyrene to kill her own husband with an ax to protect her child and then led to the present circumstances.  It all made perfect sense until Ares laughed nervously yet with godlike confidence.  Then he repeated forcefully that he was not Xena’s father.  Everyone looked to the furies who looked to Ares and then to Xena.  They wanted to know why Ares would go to all the trouble to drive Xena insane.  Ares was delighted at the question posed by the furies.  Everyone shifted their focas back to Xena.  For a moment it seemed that he had finally beaten Xena at her own game.  Yet Xena had the perfect retort.  First she delivered a complement to Ares telling him that he had made a bit of sense to her when she had spoken with him during her attempt at suicide.  Then she went onto explain to the furies that a mad Xena would be more sympathetic to Ares’s world view.  Again her madness made perfect sense. 

     Xena smiled with craziness in her eyes and then looked to the furies to check their response.  It was obvious that they were not totally convinced.  Xena continued talking to Ares explaining that he had made sense of life to her when they had been talking earlier.  She went onto explain that the best part of it all was the fact that once she killed her mother she would be doomed to complete dependence on her father for eternity for she would never be free of her madness.  Then Xena drove her argument home stating that she could prove all of this to be true.  Her final solution was to fight against Ares in a one on one combat.  Xena was sacrificing herself in front of everyone.  If she was going to be doomed it would be on her terms.  She would die in battle against the god of war.  There was no other glorious end for her.  She explained that if she was half god she would be able to hold her own in a battle against a god.  It was a challenge to Ares.  He would have to kill her or let her go.  The tables had turned in Xena’s favor.  Ares could not win this battle of wits.  By this point in the spectacle even Gabrielle was beginning to believe that Xena was half god.  Xena’s arguments were too convincing to believe otherwise. 

     The curiosity of the furies was heightened as Ares again stated firmly that this entire story was ridiculous.  Gabrielle could not determine who to believe.  The god of war with his genuinely intense statements or the mad warrior princess.  It was obvious to Gabrielle that Xena’s mind was still extremely sharp.  Xena was somehow still in control despite her madness.  The furies looked to Ares who appeared to be almost disgusted with Xena’s suggestion that she could hold her own against the god of war.  Then the furies asked Ares what he was afraid of.  It was obvious that he did not have the desire to fight Xena.  Xena smiled candidly and declared that Ares was afraid of the warrior princess.  Then she explained why driving her points home.  Xena declared that she was indeed a half god and crazy beyond control.  Suddenly the warrior princess charged forward toward Ares with her sword.  Ares dodged the move.  He had not expected the warrior princess to charge him so quickly.  He had to adjust into battle mode.  It was obvious to all who witnessed Xena’s trial before the furies that her actions were extremely  unpredictable.  Ares godlike movement gave him the advantage of quickness.  He had disarmed Xena of her sword within seconds and defended himself with solid strength and brawn.  Xena did not let up or allow the furies to see weakness within her for this battle was to regain her wits.  Without pure warrior determination, power, and drive Xena would be doomed if Ares did not kill her first. 

     For several moments the two battling forces exchanged blocks and punches only to find themselves within a stalemate.  Cyrene was below the blows upon the temple alter unable to remove herself from within the middle of the intense action above her.  Xena had to find an opening for Ares was going to demonstrate that he was superior by immorality for Xena would tire out if he held her out long enough.  Finally Xena was able to break through finding a small opening within Ares’s defense.  She delivered a powerful blow to his face.  If he had been mortal his nose would have been broken instantly from the force.  Ares fell backward surprised by Xena’s offensive move.  He did not fall though as a mortal he would have landed flat on his back.  Instead his powerful aura absorbed Xena’s force and he fell forward onto Cyrene’s chest.  Xena made a sexual joke about his relations with her mother further bruising his god sized ego.  Ares was being enticed into the fight of his life as he suddenly recovered and prepared to prove that Xena was truly mortal.   Xena grabbed the chandeleer above and swung over the alter driving both of her warrior boots firmly into his chest.  Using all of her warrior strength the force of her double kick drove Ares’s body across the temple into the wall. 

      The building shook with the power of an earth movement as Xena had already planned her next move before she would make it.  This was Xena’s battle strategy.  It was as if she were playing a game of chess.  The warrior princess was seemingly always just a few battle moves ahead of Ares so that she could hold her advantage of being unpredictable.  She had to be able to counter Ares’s unbeatable strength.  Gabrielle watched as Xena flipped gracefully through the air and landed below the tapestry rods.  Then she thrust herself up into the air jumping to grab hold of one of the outer golden plated rods.  Xena hung awaiting her foe’s arrival and response to her challenge.  She had taken the battle into a higher level.  The god of war was angry and his aura delivered the hard feeling through the souls who witnessed the battle.  It was an eerie moment as he flipped backward across the temple to the opposite wall where Xena awaited him.  He then thrust himself up into the air grabbing hold of the opposite tapestry rod.  Gabrielle saw his eyes disappear within his head and then reappear with a passionate fire of anger.  Xena had the god of war tied up within his passions.  It would be the perfect diversion of his attention which would allow Xena an even larger advantage against him. 

     Xena flipped down onto the second level of tapestry rods and enticed Ares into battle.  He responded without thinking.  His passions guided him down onto the opposite side as he met Xena down below.  Xena then yanked her sword from her scabbord upon her back.  Gabrielle found herself extremely impressed for she had remembered that Xena had been disarmed.  The warrior princess’s moves had been so quick and swift that Gabrielle had missed the moment of the battle in which Xena had rearmed herself with the sword.  Xena charged forward above giving a firm battle cry into action as Ares reflected Xena’s moves following right into Xena’s trap for him.  Gabrielle watched as their swords clashed with intensity.  The entire temple shook as they fought.  With each clash of the sword the floor shook beneath ever so slightly.  Ares went high with two swings of the sword and then low offensively as Xena defended high then low.  His aim had been to knock her off balance, but Xena had been ready for his move.  Instead she pushed him back with two  kicks one to the face and one low as he began to lose balance.  Xena moved high across Ares charging  for his head.  He recovered easily ducking the move and then returned powerful kicks.  Xena defended his kicks seemingly effortlessly.   Ares then went for the high move across Xena’s face, but missed as she created distance between herself and his sword.  She ducked his offensive in full control until he disarmed her perrying into the middle with his sword. 

     The bard watched helplessly as Xena’s sword flew through the air across the temple violently leaving Xena without a weapon to defend herself against Ares.  Yet the warrior princess was quick as she kicked Ares high into the chin sending him backward as she flipped up off of his chest backward landing at the edge of the tapestry rods miraculously recapturing her sword.  She gave a confident battle cry affirming her power against Ares as she looked to him and smiled delighted that she had been able to carry the battle this far.  Then she moved forward simultaneously with the god of war as both flew through air forward clashing swords in the middle.  Gabrielle saw the sparks of their power as each landed on opposite ends of the tapestry rods.  Ares attempted to intimidate the warrior princess with his own deep battle cry, but it did not have the same thust that Xena’s did.  They again repeated the previous move clashing swords in the middle creating powerful sparks, but neither could seemingly gain the advantage large enough to defeat the other in battle.  Finally Ares had enough of Xena’s little games.  It was obvious that the god of war was not used to being the victim of manipulation.  He wasted no time in charging forward across the tapestry rods on foot.  His powerful drive forward was seemingly going to drive the warrior princess from her pearched position, but instead she had been prepared for his move.  She drove forward just as he was about to strike with kicks of fury.  Xena drove him back across the tapestry rods and then over the edge. 

     Ares recovered although it was clear that he had not been prepared for that move.  He rolled down entangled within the tapestry, but then reversed the gravity with his god force and thrust himself back upon the tapestry rods.  Gabrielle watched as he then tore the tangled purple and gold tapestry from his body enraged that the warrior princess was proving the impossible.  The bard was uncertain if Xena had thought this far ahead into the battle.  She could see that Xena had planned on that last move to have been the end.  Now the true strength would be told as Ares charged forward, but then Gabrielle noticed that Xena had already repositioned herself.  She had already dashed across the tapestry rods to meet Ares attempting to rob him of some of his momentum.  As the god of war clashed forward Xena defended allowing him to drive her back.  His moves were high, but not well-controlled.  He was too impatient for a win and the advantage.  Xena took this lack of self-control from the god of war and armed him with false confidence.  Just as he had driven her back to the edge of the tapestry rods Xena defended wide pushing Ares’s weapon powerfully away from its offensive.  Unsuspecting Ares again was taken by surprise.  Xena used his moment of surprise backhanding him across the face then kicking low hoping to rob him of his balance again.  Ares returned the low move uneffected by it.  The high move had been more potent, but not enough.

     The two exchanged simultaneous kicks and then Ares drove down with his sword.  Gabrielle could see that fatigue would soon take hold of Xena if she did not find a way to end the duel soon.  Xena absorbed Ares’s drive down upon her blocking with her sword and then using the power of her legs to push the momentum back into her favor.  Again Ares was surprised by the move as she regained the advantage and kicked his weaker leg.  This sent both of them backward and off balance, but both recovered.  They were now below grabbing hold of the tapestry rods.  Ares had realized where Xena’s true power was.  Her legs.  The warrior princess met him in the middle of all of the hanging tapestries as they exchanged powerful kicks against one another.  Xena then did a double kick pushing off of his stomach and then using that momentum to swing back and grab hold of his waist with her legs upon her return.  She locked him into submission and then knocked her forehead into his which sent them both falling.  They fell down to the next level of hanging tapestries. 

      Xena’s sword and Ares’s swords rested there, but the god of war was quicker to his feet.  As he rose to retake the advantage he prepared to take Xena’s life with one powerful thrust.  His pride had been bruised badly and he had to prove himself now more than ever.  The warrior princess reached desparately for her sword behind her not allowing herself to take her eyes off of the enemy.  She had to be ready to defend for his next move.  Xena allowed Ares to feel the certain victory and then as she held her hand up to take the blade she used her leg to rob him of his advantage.  In that same moment the warrior princess had retrieved her sword and then flipped down onto the floor of the temple.  She grabbed the bard and turned her to face the god of war who was now recovering again and fulling ready to strike with all of his godly force.  He sailed through the air bearing down upon his enemy as Xena told the bard that she was planning to use her as a shield.  Gabrielle now found herself in the middle of the two most powerful forces she had ever seen.  She was about to be come the sacrifice.  Xena was truly mad beyond doubt.  As Gabrielle prepared to take Ares’s blade through the chest Xena threw the bard down out of the path of the god of war and used his sword against him.  She deflected his advance sending him right onto his temple throne.  Xena had successfully disarmed and beaten the god of war in a fair battle. 

     She turned to face Gabrielle and all who witnessed the battle declaring candid victory as she laughed playfully and danced with delight.  Ares just watched the scene disgusted that he had been defeated by a mortal.  His hopes for controlling Xena had been destroyed.  There was no way for him to win the trial now.  With that Xena and Gabrielle went to the temple alter to release Cyrene from her binds for she was no longer in danger.  Xena did not have to avenge her father since he was clearly there alive and well before the jury of fury.  The warrior princess then approached the furies and their head priest declaring again that she had proven herself.  Xena stuffed some fruit into her mouth only to spit it back out reporting to the lovely furies that the priest had been leaving them rotten fruit.  The furies appeared displeased by this as they looked to the priest who was in shock of what he had just witnessed.  He was unable to respond to the accusation.  Xena affirmed her victory again to the furies awaiting their release of her mind.  With that the head of the furies reached her arm out with her thumb facing down.  She slowly turned it back up as Xena’s mind began to clear from its imprisonment.  Gabrielle was delighted to see that Xena was finally free of her torments.  The warrior princess looked to her mother with love and concern for her actions against Cyrene over the past day.  Then the furies looked to Ares assuring him that they would report his misdeeds of the sacred trust  to the Olympian family.  Gabrielle looked to Ares to see his reaction to this defeat as the furies assured their priest that they would discuss the issue of rotten fruit later.  Ares was casual in his response to the furies as if unconcerned about being the black sheep in the family.  He was confident that they would come begging him to help them with something in the future.  The furies disappeared instantly to report him to Zeus. 

     Ares then looked to Xena and inquired the warrior princess if she truly believed that he was her father.  Xena responded that it did not matter if she was or she was not.  What was important was that the furies believed in the idea.  Ares then rose from his place on the temple throne and applaueded Xena for her efforts.  He complemented her for her brilliance despite the madness and stated that if he was indeed her father he would have been very proud of her actions.  Cyrene appeared to be unamused at the god of war’s meddling in her daughter’s life.  Xena’s mother glared at him as if she had known some kind of secret.  With that Xena motioned Cyrene and Gabrielle to leave the temple.  As the three prepared to leave Ares interjected a comment of his own.  He did not understand why Xena cared so much for the bard.  Gabrielle looked to Ares disgusted that he would even make that comment.  It did not matter for both Xena and Gabrielle had defeated him in proving that Xena deserved a pardon from eternal torment. 

     Later that day after the excitement had died down Gabrielle found herself having time to analyze it all and to reflect.  She realized that Xena’s gift of anticipation was a little unsettling.  As Gabrielle brought wood back to the camp to set up the fire for the evening she approached Xena stating that it was obvious that the warrior princess would know what Cyrene would say for Cyrene was her mother.  Yet Gabrielle was uncomfortable with the idea that Xena had also known exactly what the bard would say within an unpredictable moment.  The bard expressed to the warrior princess that she was not sure if the idea of being predictable was a comfort or something to fear.  Xena just responded  joking that she had known that Gabrielle would even approach her with this concern.  Gabrielle was playful as she gently slapped the back of Xena’s shoulder.  It reminded her of being with Lilla again  for a moment. Xena was Gabrielle’s family now and it was a comfort to have Xena back to normal.  Just then Cyrene began to speak with grief to Xena almost whispering of Xena’s father.  Gabrielle decided that she would leave Xena alone with her mother out of respect.  It had been a difficult day for both of them.  Many old wounds and regrets had been reopened.  Despite Xena’s lost hopes of ever meeting her father in life to discover a better understanding of herself Gabrielle knew that Xena would forgive her mother no matter the truth.  Xena loved her mother very much and could not hold the murder of her father against Cyrene.  Cyrene had done it with a mother’s love for her daughter.  There was nothing to forgive for Xena had been given life despite the dark deed that her mother had been forced to commit.  The lessons of the gods are selfish for their tricks pleasure no one and are ill tragedy for all.  

The Xena Scrolls

Scroll  #52 :  The Quill is Mightier

By:  Gabrielle Bard of Potedia & Friends

October, 47 B.C.

     Xena had gone fishing.  The lone warrior Gabrielle awoke with a jerk as five barbarians rode out of the woods.  Twirling her trusty staff she delivered kicks of such fury deflecting the thrust of a sword with her mighty abs.  As the last of the barbarians fled the scene Joxer took the staff of Gabrielle unable to control himself.  He hit himself once, twice, and then three times on the head with the staff only to knock himself off of his feet falling onto the ground.

  After realizing the power of the scroll, and the will of a mighty quill, Joxer and Gabrielle met the sisters of Guya.  The sisters were seeking a donation from Joxer to their orphanage.  But Joxer would not give up his scabbard because it had been given to him by his father.  And so the bard Gabrielle wrote her magic and suddenly a kind man came from the woods offering his own gift, a kinsman sword.  The sisters of Guya were delighted to receive such a wonderful gift.  And so the good that was to be done by the will of the mighty quill had only just begun.

      The day went on as Gabrielle and Joxer entered a nearby tavern to have breakfast.  Out of the kindness of his heart the tavern owner offered to Gabrielle and all who were in the tavern free food to eat and drinks on the house.  And with that statement all who were at the tavern drank and ate joyfully together in the spirit of peace.  Then the five barbarians returned for Gabrielle, but they didn’t stay long for they decided to go west instead.  But the sister’s of Guya orphanage would be in their path so they turned east.   The barbarians disappeared from the land!  The barbarians went to the caves and fell into a deep sleep.

     Then the will of mortals won out…and war lost all its power.  The force that enchanted the scroll lost its powers.  Aphrodite is as she was before.  Suddenly, there was the arrival of the woman wearing leather carrying the whip of Xena.  The woman was not Xena, but her friend Minya of Laurel.  Xena goes to a number one friend.    Xena rejoins the woman who brought her to a new life.  And now Xena returns from her journey.  Scaberus the man whom had offered his kinsman sword to the sisters of Guya arrived at the tavern, and decided that he too would go to the caves with the barbarians to get some deep sleep.

     A warrior Joxer the Mighty,

     asked a boon from the God Aphrodite,

     and what a surprise he saw,

     but love’s eyes three times,

     three Gabrielle’s to the caves go nighty.

      And then it began to rain riches all over the town.  Dinars, dinars, all around the town raining dinars!  All who were enchanted went into the caves and then out again.  One following the other all in search of Xena the warrior princess the scroll went.

     Xena fought the army of the warlord Thelonious.  For two days Ares had planned for this battle all day long.  Xena leads with a pike, then a trout, bam, bam two quick bass.  Oh, he is taking it on the chin.  Xena threw a starfish at the warriors.  Then Xena laughed, picked up a giant squid, and wound her arm around for the throw.  That octopus came out of nowhere.  She must have thrown that just for the howl of it.  Ares took over asking Gabrielle to write that Xena hit the warrior with a squid.  Joxer argued with Ares declaring that it was not a squid, but an octopus, but Ares countered confident that Joxer had been wrong and that it indeed was a squid that Xena had just thrown.  Gabrielle hesitated for a moment as they worked out their creative differences, and then continued to write upon the scroll as Xena then threw a sword fish like a javelin at another warrior hitting him in the head.  As the enemy sank to the ground she reached for her chakram, but instead grabbed an eel, pausing to notice, then throwing the eel like it was her chakram knocking out two more warriors.  When the eel returned to the warrior princess it was no longer in the form of a chakram.  Xena threw it aside then she grabbed another big fish and slapped it across the faces of two other warriors.  “Xena hit the warrior with her sword then fought with the warrior leader Thelonious.” 

     As Joxer continued to give Gabrielle the correct words, and descriptions of Xena’s battle against Thelonious he stopped for a moment, and inquired about the earlier phrase ‘Gabrielle awoke with a jerk.’  The bard was delighted at the thought and then Ares demanded that the creative writing team keep to the task at hand.”  Suddenly, Minya arrived along side Gabrielle and her team.  She declared in a whisper that she was “ready for action.”  Gabrielle was surprised to see Minya.  She seemed to appear out of nowhere.  Gabrielle was going to be out of scroll soon as everyone stood up to get a better look at what was happening on the battle field.  Joxer inquired of Minya about what had happened to those barbarians she had been chasing.  Minya declared that the barbarians had suddenly decided to stop fighting and head back to Barbaria.  She defeated him as the barbarians turned around and went back to their homes in Barbaria.  And with that Minya stepped forward ready to join Xena in the battle.  Minya said, “I’m ready for action.  I’m going to crack some heads.”  Then Joxer and Minya looked to one another as Aphrodite became a goddess once again.  Then Aphrodite enchanted Joxer and Minya with a love spell and said, “I’m back!  Later.”  Then the restored goddess of love disappeared with in a bright light and went home to Mount Olympus.  As soon as Aphrodite disappeared her enchantment spell wore off.  Joxer’s fish stuck between himself and Minya turned Minya’s raging hormones off.  Joxer apologized for his slimy fish, but Minya instantly pushed him away.”

     “Gabrielle’s eyes darted back into the direction of the battle.  She watched as Xena ducked the advance of Thelonious’s raging sword, and quickly took the offensive advantage against him using her sword to swipe his feat from beneath.  Thelonious fell to the groudn as Xena spun around and sheathed her sword into it’s scabbard upon her back.  Xena was intense in battle.  She jumped up and back flipped onto her fish wagon catapulting the remaining baskets of fish into the air across the battle down onto the warlord and his men.  Fish piled onto Thelonious rendering him helpless to continue the fight.  As Thelonious’s men began to scatter Ares become a god.  Ares wound up his fist into a ball, harnessed his godly force from within his breath, and managed to shake out a mighty bolt of lightening across the battle field.  The lightening bolt of godly force struck one of Thelonious’s men as he tried to escape the wrath against him.  Ares shouted out, “Run maggot!”  Then he laughed and Gabrielle was taken by surprise.  One bolt of the god of war’s fury against Thelonious’s man wasn’t enough as the god repeated his previous action.  “Finally, Love’s eyes three times vanished from existence leaving the lone bard alongside her friends in peace once again.  Lies will make the world go round till truer words are written down.  The End! “

 

The Xena Scrolls

By:  Gabrielle Bard of Podedia

Scroll #53

Aphrodite’s Enchanted Scrolls

October, 47 B.C

The Xena Scrolls 

By:  Gabrielle Bard of Podedia

Scroll#54:  Surprise

October, 47 B.C.

The Xena Scrolls 

By:  Gabrielle Bard of Podedia

#55 King of Assassins
November 47 BC

#56 Warrior, Priestess, Tramp
November 47 BC

#57 Dirty Half Dozen
November 47 BC

#58 The Deliverer
January 46 BC

#59 Gabrielle’s Hope
January 46 BC

#60 The Debt
February 46 BC

#61 When In Rome
March 46 BC

#62 Maternal Instincts
March 20th, 46 BC

#63 Bitter Suite
April 46 BC

#64 Forgiven
May 46 BC

#65 Vanishing Act

May 46 BC

#66 One Against An Army
June 46 BC

#67 Armageddon Now
June 46 BC

#68 King Con

June 46, BC

#69 Forget Me Not
July 46 BC

#70  Fins, Fems, and Gems
July 46 BC


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