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The Hidden Room
by Tim Wellman
"Xena, what are these markings?" Gabrielle said, running
her fingers over the stone masonry. They had found an abandoned
temple to camp in for the night. Outside, a slight rain fell,
and through the forest, they could see very little. And the
ground was wet, so they decided to come inside.
Xena looked at the markings. "I've never seen them
before," she said. "I don't think they're Olympian."
Gabrielle grabbed a stick from the floor and scraped the
dirt from the symbols, revealing an intricate design of spirals
and crosses. "They have to mean something," she said. "No one
builds temples to anonymous gods."
"Gabrielle, eat something," Xena said. She stoked the
small fire and held out a piece of bread to Gabrielle. But she
was too engrossed in the markings to notice.
"You know, this kind of looks like the layout of the
temple," she said. She pointed to several of the spirals.
"These could be the columns..."
"Gabrielle," Xena said. She raised her voice and walked to
her side. "Eat something."
Gabrielle took the bread, looked at it, then used it like a
sponge, to clean dirt from the masonry. "Thanks," she said.
"That was just what I needed."
Xena looked at the mosaic being revealed on the wall.
Gabrielle was right, it did look like a map of the temple. "But
if these are the columns," she said, pointing to the spirals,
"Then the plan is wrong." She walked to the right until she
touched another wall. "There should be a room here."
Gabrielle's face lit up. "You're right," she said. "There
should be a room there."
Xena drew her sword and tapped the butt of it against the
wall. At first, she heard only the sounds of solid stone; but
towards the middle, her tapping began to echo. She had found a
thinly covered doorway. She softly carressed the stone.
"Anybody home?" she said, then stepped back, and with a single
kick, turned the blocked doorway to rubble. A black smoke
drifted out of the opening and hung near the ceiling. "Boy,
this looks inviting," she said.
"Xena!" Gabrielle said. "You've found it!" She ran to the
opening and tried to pear inside. She coughed. "Gez, it smells
in there," she said. She waved her hand in front of her face.
"Probably just the old sleeping quarters," Xena said. She
raised her eyebrow. "Gabrielle, get a torch."
Gabrielle laid her staff on the ground and grabbed a torch
from the wall; she stuck it inside the room. There was
definitely something else behind the wall. Where the dust of
time had not reached, the walls were still brightly painted, the
floors seemed to glow like gold. Gabrielle started to run into
the room, but Xena grabbed her by the collar and pulled her back.
"Hey!" Gabrielle said. She grabbed her neck. "That hurt."
"It may not be safe," Xena said. She took the torch from
Gabrielle, and pointing it into the room, followed the flame.
Gabrielle followed her in, not noticing Xena had stopped.
She bumped into her back.
Xena looked over her shoulder and shook her head.
"Sorry," Gabrielle said.
They walked further into the room and Xena lit the old
torches, still hanging in their holders on the walls. In
moments, they were standing in the newness of a brightly lit
room. Besides the paintings, there was a bed in one corner,
looking freshly made.
"I assume there's a reason?" Xena said.
"It's just that the floors are so shiny, I can see up your
dress," Gabrielle said.
Xena walked closer to one of the paintings. The designs
were mesmerizing, almost drawing her into the wall itself. She
backed away, and turned to face Gabrielle.
"Xena, what is it," Gabrielle said.
"Nothing," Xena said. "I just get a feeling something's
Gabrielle looked around the room. She touched the
paintings and ran her fingers through the fine linen on the bed.
"Such a beautiful place," she said. "Almost like a dream." She
sat down on the bed, then folded her hands behind her head and
lay down. "Ah. Xena, you've got to try this."
She looked at Gabrielle and smiled. "No thanks," she said.
"Not now, I have a headache." She turned back to the painting.
"I said,no..." As Xena turned around, she saw Gabrielle
sinking into the bed.
"Xena, the bed has got me!"
Xena walked to the bed and held out her hand. Gabrielle
reached out and she pulled her up. "Now just stay put, OK?"
Xena said. She knelt down next to the bed and pushed on it with
her hand. It seemed solid.
"OK, I know, maybe I've put on a pound or two, but I'm not
that heavy," Gabrielle said. She paused for a moment. "Xena?"
"What?" she said, still examining the bed.
"I think we're in trouble."
Xena looked up in time to see the doorway seal itself back
up. She ran across the room and kicked the wall, but she
couldn't break through this time. She backed up, then hit it
with her sword, bringing a shower of sparks down on her, but
doing no damage. Xena looked puzzled. "I knew this temple was
just a little too convenient."
Gabrielle walked to Xena's side, she was trying to hide her
fear, but Xena could see it in her eyes. She put her arm around
Gabrielle's shoulders and Gabrielle laid her head on Xena's arm.
"What now?" Gabrielle said.
"There's got to be a way out," Xena said.
Suddenly, the room was filled with the sound of laughing
women. It seemed to come from the walls, from the ceiling, from
the floor. Xena turned around and held out her sword. "Show
yourself," she said.
"Xena, you already know me," a woman's voice said. It
seemed to come from the bed. As they watched, the form of a
woman appeared, draped in the same linen.
"Callisto!" Xena said. She raised her sword and brought it
down on the bed as Callisto disappeared.
Gabrielle ran to the bed and pulled off the cover.
"Ah, you can't kill me, Xena. Remember? You already did."
As Xena raised her sword, Callisto reappeared on the bed.
"How did you excape from Tartarus?" Xena said.
"You're in no position to ask questions. You and your
little girlfriend are prisoners of mine, now." She stood up and
walked across the room. She stroked the wall. "Beautiful
painting, isn't it?" She moved her hand across the images and
the painting changed to all sorts of grotesque monsters.
Callisto laughed and blood ran from the mouth's in the painting,
pooling on the floor at her feet. "Meet my friends." She
Xena grabbed Gabrielle and pulled her close, protecting
them both with her sword.
"You bitch!" Gabrielle said. "Let us out of here."
"Now is that any way to talk to the woman who liberated you
from your marriage so you and Xena could be together?"
Gabrielle broke loose from Xena's hold and ran toward
Callisto, but as she got close, Callisto hissed and the beasts
in the painting opened their mouths and roared. She backed away.
Callisto laughed again. "Oh, how sweet love is," she said.
"I personally prefer sweat to sweet."
"So this is revenge," Xena said. "You're right. I killed
you. Let Gabrielle go; it's me you want."
"Oh, I want you both, sweetheart," she said. "But that
will come. Tell me, how do you like the dress? Isn't it to die
for?" She laughed and the women's laughter joined hers. Then
she backed up against the wall and seemed to fall into it,
disappearing from the room.
Xena ran to the painting, which had changed back to normal
and tried to find an opening or a crack, but the wall was solid.
"Let's face it, Xena," Gabrielle said, "She's got us."
"One thing about Callisto," Xena said, "She's vicious and
ruthless, but she's not the brightest little blonde in the
world." She still searched the wall, looking for any place to
get the tip of her sword into.
"I'd like to know how she got out of Tartarus," Gabrielle
said. "Xena! Look." She pointed to the bed as Xena turned
around. The bed was dripping in blood, and more was pouring out
from the center, spilling over into the floor. "Great, she's
going to drown us in blood," she said.
Callisto laughed and reappeared in the corner. "You're
just a little poet; that's what you are," she said, sounding
like she was talking to a baby. Then her countanance changed.
"But I like the idea."
"Callisto," Xena said. "How can we get a chance to miss
you, if you visit so often?"
"Very witty for someone about to die," Callisto said. She
pointed toward the painting again. "Here kitty, kitty, kitty,"
she said, and the monsters returned.
The blood had reached their ankles and was getting deeper.
Callisto sloshed across the room, her long white gown soaking up
the blood, and grabbed Gabrielle's throat. "As for you, my
Xena swung her sword at Callisto and she disappeared again.
Gabrielle ran to Xena's side, and looked up into the warrior's
eyes; she saw the same fear she knew was in hers.
"Where is she getting her power from?" Gabrielle said.
"I don't know, but it has to do with these symbols," Xena
said. She pointed at the wall, which had changed back to
normal. "And the women laughing."
The blood was still filling the room as Xena walked to the
bed. Out of fustration, she thrust her sword into the bloody
opening and the women's laughter returned. When she pulled out
the sword, the laughter stopped. "Gabrielle, give me something
clean," Xena said.
Gabrielle looked around and then tore off the hem off her
dress and handed it to her.
Xena looked at the cloth. "Oh well, they're wearing them
shorter this season, anyway," she said. "Remember how Callisto
She wrapped the cloth around her hand, then stuck it into
the opening in the bed. When she pulled her hand out, the cloth
was still clean. Gabrielle grabbed her hand and examined the
cloth. It was completely dry. Xena tried it again, this time
leaving her hand in the opening for several seconds, but when
she pulled it out, the cloth was still dry. She unwrapped it
from her hand and touched it to the blood on the bed. It turned
wet and red immediately.
"Looks like this may be the only way out," Xena said. She
looked at Gabrielle. "What do you think?"
"You want my opinion?"
"I always want your opinion, Gabrielle."
"Then I say we go for it."
"I was going to, no matter what you said," Xena said with a
She helped Gabrielle stand up on the edge of the bed, then
climbed up herself. She looked at Gabrielle and raised her
eyebrow. "Going down," she said, then intertwined her arms with
Gabrielle's and together they jumped into the opening.
They seemed to fall only a few feet, and landed on the
soft, damp ground. They were in the forest, again, with Argo.
In the distance was the temple.
"Which way?" Gabrielle said. "Back to the temple, right?"
"Right," Xena said and they made their way along the path
to the temple steps. As they approached, the trees began to
laugh with the same voices they had heard inside. "The nymphs,"
she said. "I should have known." The laughing stopped. "The
temple belongs to the nymphs."
"You mean, the story about Callisto, Queen of the Nymphs is
true?" Gabrielle said.
"Yea, but not this Callisto," Xena said. "Somehow she got
a god to enchant them, to make them believe she is their queen."
"Ares!" Gabrielle said.
"Same old tricks," Xena said. "Let's hope Callisto is
weaker outside the temple."
"Xena, notice the trees."
"Yes, I know, they're very beautiful when they're wet,"
"No, I mean, notice how they're placed," Gabrielle said.
She walked around, touching each one, until she suddenly
stopped, and put her hands up.
"Right where the wall was," Xena said. The trees were
arranged in exactly the same pattern as the columns in the
temple. "You can put your hands down, Gabrielle, I get the
"No," Gabrielle said. "There's really something here."
She banged her knuckles on something invisible in front of her.
Xena grabbed her arm and pulled her away. She then stood
in front of Gabrielle and raised her sword. "She's around here,
somewhere," Xena said.
Suddenly Callisto stepped through the invisible wall. She
was dressed in leather, this time, and was carrying her sword.
"Pretty clever," she said. "Figuring out my little mistake.
But then, you let me sink into that hole, didn't you." She
pointed at Gabrielle. "Trees!"
The trees near Gabrielle began wrapping their limbs around
her, forcing her against a large trunk. Other limbs grabbed her
arms and legs. She was locked tight to the tree.
"Xena, do something!" Gabrielle said.
"I'm working on it," Xena said.
Callisto looked at Gabrielle. "You know, the key to a good
present is in the giftwrapping," she said. She turned to Xena
and drew her sword. "Now, let's replay our last dance, shall
She swung wildly, clashing into Xena's sword above her
head. Xena twisted her arms, driving Callisto's sword into the
ground. She backed up, then ran at Xena, again meeting metal to
metal. They were face to face, inches apart.
"So, you've lost a little of your power, now," Xena said.
"I guess being dead can do that to you."
Then Callisto licked Xena's cheek, stunning her for a
moment. Xena backed away. She quickly regrouped, and the two
women circled each other.
"You still fight like a girl," Callisto said.
"That girl's going to kick your..." A limb wrapped around
Gabrielle's mouth and she couldn't finish the sentence.
"What deal did you make with Ares?" Xena said.
"Why don't you shut up and fight?"
"What did he offer you for my life?" Xena said.
"My life back," Callisto said. "You were the one who
should've been sucked down that hole." She lunged at Xena,
putting her sword through the hole on her chakram; she flicked
her sword and the chakram went flying off into the forest.
"That will cost you," Xena said. She swung at Callisto, so
closely, she clipped a few strands of hair.
"Such a shame. And I had it done just for you," Callisto
said. She swung again, causing Xena to fall back. She followed
her and pounded her sword against Xena's, again.
Then Xena smiled. She worked her way over to a large tree
and stood near it. Then, as Callisto spun around to gather
speed and swung her sword at her neck, Xena ducked, and
Callisto's sword passed over her head and buried itself in the
Suddenly, the trees began to cry and the sky exploded in
thunder. Callisto moved back from the sword until she was
against the invisible wall.
"Nymphs!" Xena said, "Would your queen try to destroy you?"
"No!" Callisto yelled. "I am your queen." A small root
worked its way out of the ground and immediately wrapped itself
around Callisto's leg. Then, another root grabbed her other
leg. She struggled to get free, but it was too late. Slowly,
the roots began pulling her into the ground. "Not again," she
said. "Not again! Xena, help me!"
"I think we've been over this before," Xena said.
"Here, kitty, kitty," Callisto said. She looked around but
nothing happened. "Xena, you've got to..." she said, as the
last traces of blonde disappeared into the earth.
The limbs holding Gabrielle loosened and she fell to the
ground. Then, vines began twisting around the temple, until it
was covered by the forest.
Xena ran to Gabrielle and helped her up. "Are you OK?"
"I'm fine," Gabrielle said. She brushed herself off and
leaned against Xena, then together, they walked to Argo. Both
women looked back at the scene and sighed.
"Xena, next time, even if it's raining, let's camp outside,
"Good idea," Xena said. "Come on, let's find my chakram."
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