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by Joseph Anderson
This story contains graphic violence. If you are offended by this please do NOT read any further.
Xena: Warrior Princess, Gabrielle, Argo and all other characters who have appeared in the syndicated series Xena: Warrior Princess, together with the names, titles and backstory are the sole copyright property of MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures. No copyright infringement was intended in the writing of this fan fiction. All other characters, the story idea and the story iteslf are the sole property of the author. This story cannot be sold or used for profit in any way. Copies of this story may be made for private use only and must include all disclaimers and copyright notices.
This is a sequel to my story "History Lesson."
She let the semester report with Harvard University printed in bold letters flutter from her hand without being opened. It missed the tall blue plastic trash container next to the refrigerator. This last semester her grades had tumbled, her parents were frantic, and her faculty advisor believed she was on drugs. They said her entire personality had changed. Kimberly didn't care. She took zero shit off anybody now. This guy she had been going out with before IT HAPPENED, she realized he was condescending to her; when she'd called him on it he couldn't meet her eyes. She rubbed the necklace of blonde hair on her right wrist.
She was going to change her major-her parents would like that, though her reasoning would horrify them. She knew what bullshit history was from firsthand experience. She had been able to research some of the things she had witnessed, and knowing what to look for, had discovered the officially accepted version of events had little if any justification-just some fat dead white male's theory and later dead, or good-as-dead, fat white males accepted it like dogma. She assumed everything else was just as inaccurate.
She missed Callisto so much. She was so intense and alive. Callisto lived on a knife edge and taught Kimberly to do the same 2500 years ago, 3000 years ago? It didn't matter since obviously it was an insane delusion. It was more real than this pathetic existence. For five years she had been at war, fighting Xena, the Bitch of Tartarus, and dealing with extremes of human existence 24 hours a day, heroism and sacrifice. Robert E. Lee said something like that, like it was good that war was so terrible because it was so wonderful otherwise. She liked to read the memoirs of generals-that wasn't bullshit, or when it was it was soldier's lies she could understand, covering their asses or their friend's reputations. She could read between the lines now, see the arrogant fools and the brilliant commanders who were never promoted.
Her delusion was that she had changed history. Because of her, Xena never went berserk with grief at losing Gabrielle to become the Bitch of Tartarus, and Callisto never found herself by leading the resistance against her. Xena was restored to her guilt-ridden heroism and Callisto was a footnote as either a mythic monster or a dead maniac. Kimberly had been given a role and she would do it again; Callisto would do the same to her, she knew.
Kimberly looked at the blonde bracelet of hair. Since she must be nuts she wondered where she got the hair for this. She hoped she didn't hurt somebody. Kimberly remembered Callisto giving it to her with a smile before riding off to die.
"You're ready for me, I think," a deep melodious voice said behind her. Kimberly whirled grabbing a carving knife from a wooden block and assuming a fighting stance in one smooth motion. She saw a beautiful man, muscular with inky black hair and a perfectly trimmed black beard. He was dressed in an archaic Greek style.
Kimberly said nothing, watching his hands and eyes, keeping the knife weaving and staying up on the balls of her feet as Callisto taught her. The beautiful man smiled, seeming to get a visceral pleasure from observing her.
"That Callisto," he said appreciatively. "I should have given her more proteges; she had a gift."
"Get out of here," Kimberly said sharply. He didn't seem to be defending himself but she could tell somehow if she attacked him she would lose.
The beautiful man said in an echo chamber voice, "I am Ares and you are my chosen. Get used to it." Then he practically collapsed on the floor laughing. Kimberly lowered the knife then replaced it in the wooden block. She was back in crazy land. It was about goddamn time-she figured she'd come out of it next time in a straight jacket; but she hoped she never did come out of it.
"Ares," she said. Callisto and Joxer always mentioned Ares first as the god who was probably toying with her, keeping her in their time. Gabrielle had said maybe the gods were getting interested in her.
Ares stopped laughing and said, "You're fed up with this kind of life, I imagine. After living like you did and becoming an absolutely outstanding killer, it must be hard to be a good little girl and having morons telling you what to do."
She didn't say anything. The impassive exterior she had developed during those years was coming back to her. It had been slipping these last six months. Ares seemed willing to wait her out, smirking knowingly at her. Finally she said, "What if I am?"
"Well, if you serve me you can live like that again."
Kimberly said, "What about Callisto?"
Ares answered, "Last year's model. We're talking about you now."
"I'm talking about Callisto. Do you know what happened to her? You abandoned her," Kimberly said, the anger coming into her voice against her will.
That got a reaction from the god. "Of course, I know what happened to her. She got careless, got taken, and was ripped apart by horses among other things. Those are the risks if you live like she did. I didn't abandon her. I don't know where your getting your information, but she wasn't serving me. She did once and she abandoned me to go after Xena before she was prepared. The outcome of that was easy to predict. She ended up back in Tartarus. Listen, the Callisto you knew wasn't the real Callisto-or it was only the real Callisto if Xena went mad like she did."
"You placed me with her so she could train me to save Gabrielle. Both of us were serving you!" Kimberly said angrily now.
The god smiled, "No, I was manipulating you. There's a difference."
His voice began building in anger with something else in it too, "Did you see Callisto ever sacrifice one stinking sheep to me, let alone a bull or ram? It's not all a one-way road, you know. It never even occurred to Callisto to simply ask me to help her. Xena, who was the delight of my heart had turned into something a jackal wouldn't eat, and Callisto who I had hoped once to make my general, just assumed I didn't care. You both should be grateful to me. Callisto would never have become the person you knew without me. And as for me placing you with her, the time she spent with you was the happiest time of her life, the same as for you."
The god was flushed with emotion as he defended himself. He caught himself and shook his head. "You've got Xena's blood in you. No other mortals can do that to me. You and Xena both would've survived the fire that killed the Callisto you knew. You're just better, faster and stronger. That's why you're my favorites and Callisto was always a second choice."
Kimberly grabbed the knife from the block again and threw herself at him, blind with rage. He caught her wrist and simply held her off the ground. She was kicking him repeatedly with killing blows, but he smiled at her and then tossed her across the room. She came at him again and this time he took the knife away from her and slapped her across her face, sending her reeling.
"I'll fix that bruise for you, don't worry," Ares said amiably.
Kimberly got up, looking with hatred at the god for what he had said about Callisto. She said, "What do you want with me?"
"I want you to come back and be my general. I had to do some serious horsetrading for this but you're worth it to me.
Kimberly, you are the only one of Xena's descendants with that killer instinct. You're grandmother was nothing like that at all."
Kimberly thought of something. "Callisto will still be alive, won't she?"
"Yes, but not the Callisto you knew. She and Xena are in reversed positions, with Callisto killing people-nothing on the scale of the Bitch of Tartarus of course-and Xena trying to atone for her past.
"I won't kill innocent people for you," she said.
Ares sighed, "You and Xena. At least you were friends with Callisto instead of having a bad influence like Gabrielle around you." He paused and said, "You don't necessarily have to destroy villages. You can just fight other warlords and carve out a kingdom. You can even save people," he said with distaste. "Xena was sacking villages but not because I told her to. She blames me for her own inclinations in those days. When you're a god everybody lays everything on you," he said sadly.
"I'll come with you if you change Callisto again," Kimberly said.
"Sorry, I can't just change personalities. You can try to change her if you want, though I wouldn't wager on your success. Xena going out of her mind is what turned Callisto around, and I'm not going to let that happen again. I'm going to give you some time to think about this." Kimberly squinted her eyes against the heat and light as Ares seemed to turn into fire and disappeared.
Kimberly felt her face and went to the bathroom to look in the mirror. There was a red handprint clearly visible which instantly vanished as she was looking at it and the rest of the bruises she felt disappeared too.
"Jesus," she said.
Ares returned her to where she had saved Gabrielle, with the mare Callisto had given her and her old armor. The army he wanted her to take over was a thousand miles away and she would probably have to kill it's current commander and his lieutenants. He assured her they deserved it from her point of view. If she hadn't accomplished that in a year Ares would kill her. He told her where she could start looking for Callisto too since that was her one demand. It wasn't hard; she just followed the mayhem. Callisto didn't have an army at the moment. She would occasionally kill bandits for villages or perform murders for hire. It was the same to her.
Kimberly stood in the empty tavern, dark except for the long shadows thrown by moonlight coming through the open door and holes in the roof. No one had been here in years except for her and the person she could hear stalking her. She said in a normal voice, "Callisto, I can hear you. I want to talk to you." She could hear her behind her but she allowed her to speak before turning.
"What do you want with me?"
Kimberly's heart jumped. She tried telling herself it wasn't HER Callisto, but a psychotic killer she had only had rare glimpses of. It was hard. She had to remember since she might very well die if she forgot. She turned around and said, "Ares wants me to lead his army for him."
"So?" the shadowy figure said. Blonde hair was barely visible and points of light glimmered dimly on her sword.
"I told him I would only do it if I could talk to you."
After a pause the figure stepped further into the shaft of moonlight. Kimberly lifted off her helmet with it's chainmail veil and looked at her.
"You're too young," Callisto said, coldly.
"I'm Xena's descendant. Ares placed me with someone to learn to fight, to learn to lead an army. He placed me with you. From your point of view it never happened, but for me it happened."
"So you don't have to live the life you do. The reason I came was for you. This is yours." Kimberly held her hand up and indicated the hair bracelet. "Can I explain it to you without you trying to cut my head off when I blink my eyes?"
"If I trained you, you know the answer to that," Callisto said and laughed softly.
Kimberly's heart sank. This was just what Ares had said she would be like. There was no chink in her armor to reach her. Xena going berserk was the only event that could possibly change Callisto's path.
Kimberly put her little helmet back on, the chainmail covering her face once again. "Too bad," she said and leaped back drawing her sword. "I won't let you die the way you will if I can't save you. You mean too much to me." She could see that familiar insane smile and those glittering eyes.
"Ooooo baby. You make me wet when you talk that way," Callisto cooed, moving gracefully, her sword weaving slowly and hypnotically. Kimberly was glad she knew not to look at it or listen to the dangerously inviting voice. That was something she had never really learned to do. She was better at other things though. She leaped and brought her sword crashing down on Callisto's, her superior strength forcing the smaller woman to retreat. Kimberly ducked as she heard the chakram hit the wall and watched the deadly little weapon pass over her to ricochet off another wall and return to Callisto. Kimberly rolled to the left and threw a dagger at Callisto as a distraction and followed it with her own chakram, which Callisto ducked to avoid but still clipped her skull and made her stagger. The stagger was a ploy though as Kimberly found a dagger sticking out of her own left bicep. Pulling it out, she simultaneously leapt several feet in the air, avoiding Callisto's rush with the sword. She left a deep gash in the blonde warrior's back with her own knife as she landed in back of her, then blocked a roundhouse kick for her head. The next blow for her head was with Callisto's right hand and Kimberly met it with the dagger which impaled the hand. Callisto jumped and was suddenly across the room breathing heavily and looking at the knife blade which protruded from the palm of her hand. Callisto smiled and looked Kimberly squarely where her eyes would be behind the veil as she slowly pulled her own knife out of her hand, wiped the blood off on her leg, and resheathed it. That was another psychological ploy Kimberly found it hard not to fall for.
Kimberly had a puritanical streak which made it difficult for her to ignore, let alone perform the kind of sensual mind games Callisto liked to play when she fought. Growing up as a rich WASP did that to you. Destroying her enemies with overwhelming force was more her style, being a late 20th century North American. She leapt onto a table and threw her chakram again. Callisto caught it with her good hand and realized her mistake as Kimberly herself came down on her with a slashing blow that would have cut her in half if it had connected. As it was it opened a long deep gash from her left shoulder to her right hip and cutting her leather top open so her breasts fell out. Kimberly raised the blade to finish her off and Callisto somehow got behind her and was gone when Kimberly whirled around. It was too dark to follow the trail of blood she must be leaving. She heard a horse galloping off.
"Shit!" Kimberly cursed.
There was so much blood on the trail that even Gabrielle noticed it. That must've been why Xena had gotten so quiet back there before the bard had seen anything. They were following it now along the side path whoever it was had taken, Xena leading Argo. They saw the black stallion now standing protectively over an inert form. Xena's eyes widened and she stopped.
"What's wrong? Is there someone else here?" Gabrielle asked, looking around.
Xena said, "No. We should just leave, Gabrielle. This is nothing for us to get involved in."
The bard looked at her in shock. "We don't even know if this person is alive or not. If he's not we have to bury him."
"Gabrielle," Xena said almost plaintively, as her friend ran towards the figure on the ground. As the warrior walked up the bard was staring down at Callisto. Gabrielle could see slight bubbles of blood forming at her nostrils; she would have sworn she was dead otherwise-the flesh that wasn't covered in blood was almost dead white.
"Gabrielle, get my healing pouch," the warrior said, kneeling down next to the blonde woman. The bard seemed to come out of her daze and ran to Argo, returning with the pouch and the water bag as Xena was cutting the remainder of Callisto's clothes off. The bard thought she had seen bad wounds and scars before, but something about Callisto's naked body, so torn by new wounds and old scars lying there helpless made her start crying at the cruelty of everything. Knowing this was her worst enemy was just one more cruelty to weep over.
"Why don't you take care of her horse while I do this, Gabrielle." Xena said as she began washing out the ghastly wounds. The little woman nodded and led the black stallion over by Argo and began taking its saddle off.
Xena's emotions were in turmoil. She knew what Callisto was, but seeing her enemy like this brought back to her strongly that she had created her. Callisto was an insane killer because Xena had driven her to that, burning alive her family and everyone she knew. Xena herself had never had the excuse of madness for her actions; the village of Sirra was just in her way. This beautiful body was ravaged by hardship and madness because of her. She had washed Callisto's front and now rolled her on her side to see her back. Another deep long gash ran down parallel to her spine and bones were visible. Gabrielle came up and Xena told her to spread a blanket out, which she did. She washed her back and bandaged it temporarily, then got her needle and thread and after pouring liquor over the needle, she began sewing up the long wound on her chest and abdomen. She was just finishing when she heard a horse coming.
"Gabrielle, get your staff," she said. She turned Callisto over and began sewing up her back wound and waiting for the rider.
The horse stopped. Xena looked up and saw a woman in black leather with chest and shoulder armor, and whose face was covered with a chainmail veil hanging from a small helmet. Her left arm was bandaged and in a sling. She dismounted and began walking towards them.
"Just hold it right there!" Gabrielle called, trying to sound confident. Xena looked to make sure she was nowhere near the warrior, who simply ignored the bard and stopped a few yards from where Xena was still kneeling over Callisto.
"If you save her, you know she'll just kill more innocent people. That will be on your head, too," the strange warrior said, in a voice that sounded a lot like Xena's to Gabrielle. "You can protect your pet here probably but what about everyone else?"
Xena continued sewing Callisto's wound. It was important to get done, especially if another fight was coming with who knows what consequences. "Did you do this alone?" she asked. The strange warrior nodded. "Impressive work. Did she kill someone in your family or a friend?"
"Just finish what you are doing, Xena. I'll wait. You don't have to stall me." The warrior returned to her horse and took a flask from it, taking a drink.
Gabrielle felt a strange sensation in her stomach at the way the woman warrior had referred to her as a pet. She began walking over to her and Xena said to her sharply, "Don't get near her, Gabrielle!"
The strange woman laughed bitterly and said, "Don't worry. She's safe with me. I swear it on my ancestors." Xena looked at her then went back to working on Callisto.
Gabrielle stood in front of Kimberly and asked, "Why did you call me Xena's pet?" Her face was red. Kimberly was struck again by how easy she looked to kill. That was one pleasure she would just have to forego though.
"I know all about you, Gabrielle. Let's just say I have a personal reason to dislike you which is completely unfair. A person I respect more than anyone in the world thinks you're noble and sweet and good enough to eat, so don't worry about what I may think of you."
The bard felt the contempt almost like a blow. "What did I ever do to you?" she asked.
"It's something I had to do for you. All right, I'm sorry. No one can dislike Gabrielle of Poteida. I wouldn't want to hurt your feelings and have Xena crucify my entire city or something."
Gabrielle felt her insides curdling. Xena called, "Come over here and give me a hand, Gabrielle." She went over and her friend had to search around for something to give her to do.
Xena was finishing up with all of the bandages when the strange warrior came over again. She braced herself but the woman kneeled down and said, "That's not how she likes her hair." She reached over with her good hand and gently repositioned Callisto's head and began rearranging her hair, covering the gash from her chakram with it. She seemed to not want to stop touching her, though she wasn't really accomplishing anything after a while. The chainmail veil was vibrating and Xena saw that there were tear stains on Callisto's bandages. The blonde bracelet disappeared when her hand was in Callisto's hair, indistinguishable from it. She took a cloth and and wet it from Xena's waterbag and washed Callisto's face. Xena had just cleaned off enough blood to see the wounds but this woman was trying to make her look as good as she could in the circumstances. Her hand was badly shaking.
"You've done your duty, warrior princess," she said in a strangled voice. "Now take Gabrielle and let me do my duty to my friend." Gabrielle approached her to put an arm around her shoulder but the veiled face turned to her and said, "You have no idea what it takes for me not to kill you."
"Stay away from her, Gabrielle. Come over here," Xena said watching the stricken figure of her young friend. Xena stood up and said to the warrior, "All right, we're leaving. Take good care of Callisto." The veiled face nodded at her.
Gabrielle cried out, "What are you doing, Xena? She's going to kill her. You can't just let her murder Callisto. I won't let you do that! I won't let her do that!"
Xena wanted to put herself between the stranger and her friend. Gabrielle may have just pushed her too far. The strange warrior stood up.
"Get her out of here, Xena. I can't control myself around her much longer."
Xena grabbed Gabrielle and picked her up, carrying her kicking over to Argo. She pulled some rawhide thongs from the saddle bag and tied her friend's hands together. Gabrielle was cursing and struggling. She threw her over Argo and tied her feet together then tied her hands to her feet under the horse. Gabrielle was using language Xena didn't know the sensitive little bard even knew. Xena quickly picked up her healing pouch, the water bag, and Gabrielle's staff and mounted Argo and began galloping the horse away. She glanced back once and saw the strange warrior standing over Callisto with her sword out.
She finally stopped riding after an hour. Gabrielle had stopped cursing after 15 minutes. Now Xena dismounted and untied Gabrielle and helped her off of Argo. The bard walked away, rubbing her wrists.
After about ten minutes, Xena said, "It was the right thing to do, Gabrielle. What she said about Callisto killing more people if I saved her was true. This was something between them. You can see that can't you?" She continued, "Should I have tried to kill that warrior to save Callisto? Because that is what it would have taken. You saw Callisto's wounds; I wouldn't be able to just capture someone who did that. What if I had killed her? She was saving people from Callisto, Gabrielle."
"Could she have even killed you, Xena?" Gabrielle said quietly.
"She was wounded so I could have probably taken her. Otherwise, I don't know. I beat Callisto but I never carved her up like that. It's a different fighting style. It's more like Callisto's style," she said thoughtfully.
"You respect her don't you, Xena?"
"I respect them both. For Callisto to have a friend like that she must have had a side to her that we never saw."
"Had?" Gabrielle said. Xena nodded.
Kimberly watched Xena ride away with Gabrielle tied to the horse. She had almost lost it there when the bard had said she wouldn't allow her to murder Callisto. If she had killed Gabrielle she would have to kill Xena to prevent her from turning into the Bitch of Tartarus again. And Kimberly knew she couldn't do that with a wounded arm and probably not anyway.
Kimberly removed her helmet and set it on the ground. She tried wiping her eyes but everything had a liquid appearance to her from the tears. Drawing her sword, she stood straddling Callisto's body with the blade positioned over her friend's heart. Her throat was painful and choked feeling. Kimberly looked at Callisto's face and saw her eyes were slightly open and looking at her, and there was a trace of a smile on her bloodless lips.
"Oh, Jesus!" Kimberly cried and drove the blade down through her friend's broken body.