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by Dan Heaton
Fargos, a burly man of about thirty years of age, rushed into the tent with news that he hoped would rouse his commander's dour spirits. One of his scouts had recently informed him that Xena and her companion had been spotted on the road to Troy. Knowing his master's feelings toward Xena, Fargos considered this information worthy of immediate attention, and had rode all night to convey the news. You see, his master was Draco, a ruthless warrior who Xena had humiliated to defend her village.
Fargos had that blond hair flowed only to the neck, and his uniform was well-trimmed, giving the look of a man far above the usual member of this army. A short time after Draco's defeat to Xena, he had met him in a nearby village, and they had become good friends. He was the only man that Draco trusted with anything important, and soon reached a powerful place in his army. The man who had previously held the job was killed by Draco, who was honoring a deal he had made with Xena.
Since his defeat at Amphipillus, Draco continued to move his army into villages, but had lost his true spirit and flair, and was a shell of the man he had once been. Fargos was an intelligent man, but still did not understand why his leader was torturing himself. He assumed it was because Xena had bested Draco, and he wished to exact his revenge against her. However, Draco had never made this clear to him, and Fargos still wondered what thoughts were lurking in that troubled mind. His hope was that the news of Xena would rouse Draco into action, and they would kill this warrior woman to save his tormented commander.
"Fargos, come in and share a drink with me," Draco exclaimed to his friend. He looked worn down and stressed, but still was able to smile when he saw his captain.
Fargos stated: "I have news sir, and it concerns Xena. She has been spotted with a short blond-haired girl on the road to Troy. I have the men ready to go and apprehend her on your order. You have a chance to face off with the only warrior to best you. This is an opportunity for revenge. Shall we make preparations to apprehend the warrior woman?"
Draco paused for several minutes, appeared to be recounting a past incident, and then looked at Fargos with a puzzled look. "Do you think it is revenge I seek? It is not Xena's victory in our battle that bothers me today. You see, she was once like me, leading her army into battle and conquering everything in sight. I told her she couldn't change, but Xena was stubborn, and returned to her hometown. After defeating me, she won her acceptance from the village. You see, she went home and was able to be accepted again."
Fargos was not completely sure how to respond to his commander's statements. Finally he stated: "I'm not sure what these statements are leading up to. Xena defeated you in battle, but you have another chance now, to make things right." In a sense, though he was intelligent, Fargos lacked a good understand of the human heart, and looked upon most matters in military terms.
Draco failed to respond directly to his questions, instead asking him: "I once returned home, and the outcome was quite different. Why wasn't I able to make peace like Xena? Let me tell you what happened when I traveled home, and maybe then you will understand what troubles me."
"It began about 6 months before my encounter with Xena. My small army had stopped in an area near my hometown, and had gone our separate ways, so I decided to return home. I truly felt that I would try and make peace with my family, and perhaps live there, at least for a short time. My response was quite different from my family and the villagers. But I'm jumping ahead of myself. First I had an encounter with the God who I served for years but had never met, Ares. Late at night, a few miles outside of my village, he appeared in the woods, inquiring where I was headed. Not knowing that I faced the God of War, I told him to move, or I would move him myself."
"He replied: 'Go ahead an try! Prove that you haven't lost all of your strength to foolish whims of peace and harmony! Are you a warrior, or a coward who runs home in fear?' Feeling enraged, I attacked him with full force, but he fought unlike any warrior I've ever met. He rivaled Xena in his prowess, and did not tire like ordinary men. After knocking me to the ground, he exclaimed, "See, you haven't lost all of your energy. Few men have lasted more than seconds with me, and you fought to a standstill. I ask you again, where are you headed?' I refused to answer his question, and asked him to reveal his identity. He stepped into the moonlight, and I now realized that I faced my master, the God I aligned myself with. His eyes revealed his lust for war and blood, and his fighting prowess showed me I faced no mere mortal.
"You already know where I am going!' I exclaimed, and he gave a sinister laugh. He replied: 'Do you really think that they'll except you after what you've become? You are fooling yourself to think you can change. You are mine forever, and would be nothing without war. It is all you know, and these people want nothing of it. Let's go, I have a new campaign for you to join in, and your army is needed.' I was shocked at his statements, and told him he knew nothing about my life. Ares told me I would regret this and disappeared with a laugh. You see, I truly believed that I could go home and end this life of war. This was, of course, before I reached my family's house. It looked virtually the same as it had when I was a boy, and reminded me of many homes I had destroyed in the past. I forced this out of my mind, saying that this was different, it was my home. The next afternoon I decided to return home and greet my parents.
"I was an only child, and had not seen my mother in 5 years. When I entered, she nearly passed out, and simply yelled "Dracinius!" in a loud voice. That of course, was my real name. She then began weeping, but quickly composed herself, and asked me to leave. She spoke:'There is no place for you here. You are not my son. No one in my family would do the things you've done. Don't think we haven't heard here. Our neighbors scorn us, claiming that it was our fault you became a murderer. You father has lost almost all of his business. I would leave before he comes back. You know he is very proud, and has lost all sense of honor from your way of life.' I told her that I would remain, and nothing could keep me from talking to him, and setting things right. My mother pleaded and begged that I leave, and but it was no use.
"Later that night, my father Licius returned. I head his coming from far away, as he had heard from the villagers that I was at the house. I expected an angry welcome, but nothing like this. He entered with a ax, and proceeded to strike me over the head with it. He then dragged me out in the streets, screaming that I was a "disgrace to all mankind!" and that he would "save everyone from me". He beat me for nearly an hour, until I was completely unconscious. I was unable to even raise a fist against him, as he was my father, and had surprised me with his malice. I awoke the next morning in a pile of mud, with bruises across my body. I believed that this was my punishment, and accepted it, but now was ready to face him. I never got the chance.
"The villagers surrounded me, lead by my father, and began to throw rocks and taunt me. I ignored them at first, but it became so much that I couldn't bear it. I drew my sword, and my father stepped forward, telling me to "kill him first!" When I refused, he cursed me for a coward and got out his whip. As the villagers pelted me, he proceeded to whip me until I again fell unconscious. My mother woke me next, and told me to leave, as they were preparing to hang me at dawn. By this point, my anger had raised, and I cursed the villagers and my father. My mother told me,'Please leave. I love you my son, but nothing will work out here. You have destroyed villages where friends of this village lived, and have tarnished the name of our village. You must leave.
"I was actually ready to shun my anger and leave, but then a man shot at me with an arrow, and hit my mother instead. She died within a few seconds. At that point, I wasn't thinking straight, and killed the man before I knew what I was doing. My mother was always a good woman, and these horrible people had just destroyed her for showing humanity and helping me. I left the village in a rage, and conveniently found a small band of my army, who had been sent by Ares. Ares had been there in my mind while I was being beaten, urging me to kill them all, and had won me over after my mother's death. I lead my men forward and we burnt the village, killing nearly everyone, including my father. My house was destroyed and there was no return for me. This was the tragic end to my wishes for redemption.
"You see, for a moment, I truly believed that I could be redeemed, but my pride was too much. Ares knew I could never leave his side, and he was right. For the time after this event, I was the coldest man you'd ever meet. I became one of the greatest warlord's Ares ever knew, and I felt no remorse. Until I met Xena. I have told you of this story before Fargos, so I shall pass on relating it again. Xena was like me, but she was able to turn her life around. I can never do that, and will always be bound to Ares until I am killed. Xena, however, was able to escape, and I refuse to take that away from her. If I devised a clever plan, we might defeat Xena, but I don't see the point. She has earned her freedom, and I will only confront her if she stands in the way of my goals. I will not pursue her, and that is my final decision. I hope you now understand my motives for avoiding contact. Some of the men may even try to win my favor by killing Xena, but they will meet their match. If you hear anyone discussing a plan to find her, bring them here, and if they resist, kill them."
Fargos, amazed at this story, now
held a completely new respect for his master. In his own mind,
he had relished in the idea of killing the Warrior Princess, but
that goal no longer appealed to him. He told Draco, "Sometime
in the future, you will have to face her again. She will not
allow you to continue your actions forever." Draco responded,
"I know that this time will occur someday, and Xena and I
will battle again. I dread this moment every waking day of my