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HISTORY LESSON

by Joseph Anderson
JAnder5988@aol.com


This story contains graphic violence and cruelty. If you are upset by such material you may not wish to read this story.

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 itself 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.

1.

"I wanted to acquaint you with some rather startling new finds which have been made." Professor Sallwethy said to his graduate students, who were sitting in his classroom casually. The card taped on the door was printed with Harvard University, Department of History, and written in was "H. Sallwethy, W. Anc. Hist. 903.1." He removed his glasses and cleaned them with his tie. His scraggly red-grey beard seemed in even more disarray than usual and he scratched it loudly with a long fingernail.

"A friend of mine, a good friend, at Oxford has just translated some references to dramatic occurrences in Greece which coincidentally relate to findings at an ongoing dig. This is most, most fortuitous." He paused and reached up to loudly scratch his head. Some of his students visibly cringed. He smiled showing yellow teeth, "Have any of you heard of Xena?"

Kimberly Fredericks checked to see her little Sony tape recorder was running. She was a tall, 22-year-old brunette, with a double major in Archaeology and History, who had transferred from Sarah Lawrence for the express purpose of working with Dr. Sallwethy. She said, "Xena was a mythical Greek warrior with links to the Trojan War and the Herakles legends. There has been research into whether an actual person may have existed of that name but nothing conclusive."

Another student spoke up, "There was a major find in the 40ís that was later judged to be a forgery."

Professor Sallwethy said, "Exactly right, exactly right." He looked at Kimberly kindly as he said, "The so-called Xena scrolls are almost certainly an elaborate hoax. However, Xena herself is a fascinating figure. These new findings are much more reliable. It is a chronicle of Corinth which has been found in the British Museum archives. Amazing as it may sound, it had never been translated. All of it is important, but as regards Xena it makes specific references to her when discussing foreign affairs. And evidence of one of the incidents it refers to is being uncovered as we speak at a dig in southern Macedonia."

"Apparently Xenaís favorite was killed in an attempt on the rulerís life. Soon after, references to Xena begin appearing as the Bitch of Tartarus. This name is important because we have seen it for years but never knew who it was referring to or indeed that it was one figure. For instance, we have clear records that the Bitch of Tartarus crucified twenty-thousand men, women and children following battles in North Africa and later ten-thousand when attempting to invade Persiaómodern Iranóalong the route later taken by Alexander the Great. There are widespread reliable accounts as far as Egypt and Sicily of mass burnings, drownings, and massacres approaching genocide linked with the Bitch of Tartarus.

Those of you with an interest in modern history should be interested in this too. In the SS cult literature approved by Heinrich Himmler, the Bitch of Tartarus is an icon and her methods are praised.

Kimberly spoke up, "Professor Sallwethy, arenít the references to Xena mixed. That is, she is referred to at times as a savior and hero and at other times as a ruthless conqueror."

"Yes," the professor answered "that is quite common with history, though. Heroes are on your side and tyrants are on the other side."

"But Xena more than most."

The professor paused, "Possibly, yes. The geographic distribution of the stories regarding her as both hero and villain is nearly peculiar to her. The Bitch of Tartarus, however, is uniformly feared. It may not have been widely known even then that Xena was that individual."

The professor then said, "Though less well known, another interesting figure of the period along those same lines is Callisto. Most researchers assume Callisto was actually several different men. I happen to think otherwise. We see references to Callisto as almost a mythical monster, then later as a hero fighting the Bitch of Tartarus. Several different versions of his death are given in different sources, among them a death and resurrection story, a version in which he is personally killed by Xena, and in another, Callisto dies in a fire rescuing children. An excellent subject for a doctoral thesis."

"But what about the site?í Kimberly said,

"Now, I have to warn you. Xena is a cult figure who attracts fringe elements. I have already mentioned the so-called Xena scrolls. As researchers and historians we must be constantly aware of the tendency to accept at face value confabulations, and our own eagerness to believe what we want to believe."

Kimberly repeated, "What are the dig findings, Professor?"

He scratched his beard again and examined something he seemed to find, "Well, a tomb has been uncovered which appears to be that of Xenaís favorite. Actually, I have slides. Mr. Williams, could you close the blinds, please. Iíll try to work this thing."

Kimberly leaped up just ahead of several others and said, "Oh, let me do that, Professor. You just tell me when to change slides."

The professor said, "Well, all right." There was an audible sigh of relief in the room he was oblivious to, "You run the projector."

With the lights in the classroom turned off, Kimberly showed the first slide. The professor spoke, "This is the outside of the dig. As you can see, a sizable monument of Athenian design is being uncovered. It was probably buried in an earthquake. There is evidence of surrounding gardens. Next; another view from a different approach. Next; here is the entrance. The name of the occupant is clearly given as Gabrielle, Bard of Poteida. Above the door is a carving of a staff and a small circular emblem which appears broken. The exact meaning of this is unclear.

Kimberly found her eyes tearing up; she had no idea why.

"Next. Ms. Fredericks, next. Here is the view inside the tomb. An Egyptian-style sarcophagus can be seen, which is a peculiarity not currently explainable. Canopic jars containing the viscera are visible on the left. Here is another view of the interior. An odd finding is the lack of riches though there is no evidence of grave robbersónot what one would expect in the tomb of a conquerorís favorite. Next; here is the top of the sarcophagus. There is a painting of the occupant, which is amazingly well preserved."

Kimberlyís hands were shaking as she looked at the slide. There was an Egyptian painting of a young woman simply dressed.

"Next slide please. Here we see the mummy itself which shows..." There was a loud crash in the room. The light was flipped on and revealed Kimberly passed out on the floor.

2.

Callisto motioned to Joxer to come up beside her.

"Joxer, I want you to take a message to Draco for me. Tell him if we want to stop Xena from slaughtering everyone in this valley we need to turn her army at the crossroads, and he needs to flank her from the south. When she realizes itís me sheíll come after me with everything sheís got."

Joxer nodded, his face lined with sorrow. The last five years had been so horrible he could barely face each morning. He would rather be dead. He was indispensable though because he was untouchable. Since she had annihilated the Amazons he was Xenaís only remaining link with Gabrielle. Joxer still wasnít any good at fighting but he could save a village by simply being there. Joxer limped away. He had been hit by an arrow the previous year. He heard stories of what Xena had done to the archer. She had turned him over to her personal guard of warriors from the Horde. They thought she was the goddess of death. They were right.

He had no illusions anymore. He had lost all that when he saw Gabrielle die and Xena turn into what she was now. They were just boys playing at being bandits. Gabrielle and Joxer hadnít even taken them seriously. One of them was a lot meaner than he looked though, and when Gabrielle offered them some food he had stabbed her. Xenaís chakram was a fraction of a second late to save her, shearing the blade off at its handle and spinning Gabrielle around like a rag doll. Joxer had never seen anything like Xena galloping up on Argo just as Gabrielleís lifeless form fell in the dirt. He didnít know bodies could be cut into pieces so fast. Now he knew a lot about things like that.

Xena wasnít conquering territories. She had no goal beyond killing and the loot taken was secondaryójust payment for her troops. Her protection of the Centaurs was a mystery. Fighting Xena was the right thing to do, even if all they accomplished was to slow her down and probably get others killed who happened to get in her way. Draco and Callisto focused on diverting her from populous areas.

Callisto had been transformed. That was the only good Joxer could see in all these years. When Xena turned into a monster Callisto was suddenly in the position of saving people. Somehow it was natural to her, as if everything had been leading up to this. People forgot what she had done and said sheíd been right all along about Xena. It was Xena now who was obsessed with Callisto. Living in the past, Xena wanted to kill her for everything she had ever done to Gabrielle. Joxer had tried to tell her that was the last thing Gabrielle would want. Soon after she had told him to get away from her while she still had some control. He had refused since he could sometimes restrain her, and Xena had him carried off.

3.

Kimberly was sitting in Dr. Sallwethyís office.

"Iím so embarrassed, Professor. Nothing like that has ever happened to me. I mean, itís not like I havenít seen mummies before."

Dr. Sallwethy said gently, "Donít worry about it, Ms. Fredericks. I understand that you have a special interest in the Xena scrolls and their supposed author, Gabrielle of Poteida."

"What?" Kimberly said, completely taken by surprise. "I donít know what you mean."

Now the professor sounded puzzled, "Ms. Fredericks, are you unaware that your grandmother was involved in the discovery of the Xena scrolls?"

Kimberly was speechless, then she said, "Janice Covington discovered the scrolls."

"And Melanie Papas was with her," Dr. Sallwethy said. "Dr. Covington was one of my professors at Cambridge. Her presentations regarding the scrolls were the most vivid and entertaining lectures Iíve ever attended. There were pictures of your grandmother among them, as I recall. You resemble her very much, in fact. I realized who you were because your grandmotherís last book was dedicated to you, Ms. Fredericks.

Kimberly had her hands tightly clasped in her lap. "I never met my grandmother. My parents didnít want me to. They said she was out of her mind, and it was just better I had nothing to do with her. She died when I was 15. My father disapproved of my interest in ancient history and archaeology."

"Amazing," Professor Sallwethy said. "Youíve gravitated to her field of expertise. I assumed it was a family tradition." He thought a moment and spun around in his chair, loudly cracking an elbowóKimberly wincedóand he began typing with two fingers at a computer terminal on his cluttered desk. Then he said, "Ah," followed by a look of pain.

Kimberly said, concerned, "Professor."

"I want to print something," he said.

Kimberly leaned across his desk, reached and pressed Send to Print and Execute. She saw he had called up a list of books and articles by Janice Covington and Melanie Papas, some of which were co-authored. How could her parents have kept this from her?" When it had printed out he handed it to her saying, "This is for you, Ms. Fredericks. After youíve read some of them, come to me if you want to discuss them."

Later in her apartment, with a bottle of Anchor Steam beer next to her, Kimberly was reading an article by her grandmother discussing the chaotic violent conditions of Ancient Greece and the role of bards as a civilizing influence. There were footnotes to works by Janice Covington. "What exactly was going on with those two," she found herself wondering. Earlier she had read a co-authored article titled "Joxer: foolish saint."

There was a loud knock on her door. Kimberly saw it was past midnight. She peered through the peephole and at first didnít see anything, then realized the top of a blonde-red head was visible. Kimberly opened the door and felt ill as the figure from the sarcophagus painting said to her, "Well, can I come in?"

4.

Xena grabbed a jug of wine and stumbled across her tent, somehow remaining upright though she was blind drunk. She looked at herself in the polished silver mirror. "Is that me?" she thought, as she saw the debauched, cruel face and disheveled hair. Next to the mirror was Dracoís head. It had just been taken and brought to her. She should have it preserved she knew, but she liked the way it felt fresh. She picked it up and brought it close to her face, smiling at it.

"You donít look so good, Draco. Can you still kiss, I wonder."

Holding the head with one hand, with the other Xena opened Dracoís jaw with her thumb and began kissing the dead mouth, her tongue exploring, manipulating the lifeless tongue.

Xena laughed bitterly and dropped the head with a thud. She said "oof" and kicked it out of her tent. "Somebody pickle that!" she yelled.

She smiled craftily and suddenly threw her chakram, watching it ricochet around her tent off of shields and swords, and breaking priceless treasures. She thought, "If I put my throat 4 inches to the left I will be out of my misery." But instead she caught it deftly. Xena sat the jug down on a pile of dried skins, saying to a flat distorted face, "You donít mind if I set this here do you, Ephiny? All you Amazons are such a strict bunch." She ran her fingers lightly down along the edges of the pile. Her son Solan was with the Centaurs, and she had destroyed every possible enemy of them starting with the Amazons. They werenít very appreciative, though. Xena smiled to herself then stopped and stood up, squeezing her eyes shut.

Xena told herself "Donít do it. Donít do it. Donít do it." She kept saying that as she opened the tall case and took out the old nicked staff. Holding it she fell to her knees, quiet at first and then beginning to sob uncontrollably. When she heard a soft sound behind her she whirled around with the staff at the ready. Dolon was standing there. He said, "Mistress, do you require anything?"

Xena said drunkenly, "Gods, Dolon. You know what I need!" the tears running down her face. The Egyptian eunuch approached her and tried to remove the staff from the warlordís hands but she held it tightly for several moments glaring at him before finally releasing it. He replaced it in its case as Xena sank to the floor of her tent. He began massaging her shoulders and she seemed to calm down. She let him lead her to her bed where he undressed her completely and then laid her down and covered her. The eunuch sat in a chair beside her, holding her hand as she jerked and twitched, mumbling to herself, and eventually fell asleep.

5.

"How can you people wear clothes like this? Donít know why they couldnít send me in my own stuff," the small woman said to Kimberly, who was staring at her speechless. She adjusted her bra. "This is worse than a breastplate. And these shoes, gods. Iím lucky I didnít break my neck coming over here. Now THAT would be ironic. Euripedes would like that." She looked at Kimberly and said, "You look like youíre trying to catch gnats." Kimberly closed her mouth.

The woman noticed the open bottle on the table, picked it up and sniffed it, wrinkling her nose. "Figures," she said, setting it down.

"Who are you?" Kimberly finally said.

"You know who I am. You wouldnít look like that if you didnít. Iím Gabrielle and you, though you donít know it apparently, are a direct descendant of Xena, the warrior princess."

"Iím descended from the Bitch of Tartarus?" Kimberly said.

Gabrielleís eyes flashed and she said sharply, "Watch your mouth. Thatís my friend youíre talking about." Then her voice softened and she said, "sheís known as that, huh?" Kimberly nodded and Gabrielle sighed.

"Do you have anything to eat around here? You wouldnít believe how long itís been since I ate," she said and laughed.

"Um, I can heat up some cold pizza in the microwave."

Gabrielle looked mystified then said, "That sounds nice." She followed Kimberly into the little kitchenette and watched curiously as she took the bread tomatoey thing out of the big cold white thing and put it in the small dark glassy thing, which began making a humming noise.

"The gods almost always put stupid conditions on things. No reason; they are just irritating that way. Plus, the Egyptian pantheon got in on it thanks to the way Xena had me entombedóbird heads, dog heads, yuck! It was a sticky situation. Anyway, I couldnít come back until the right conditions were met. My tomb being uncovered was one and you feeling a link to me was the other," Gabrielle explained between mouthfuls of mushroom-pepperoni pizza.

Kimberly knew she was dreaming so she was just going with the flow now. It felt different than any dream she ever had, though.

Gabrielle said, "It doesnít matter if you think Iím a vision or real. Iím not so sure myself. As long as you help me, makes no never mind to me."

Kimberly started then said, "Well, now that you mention it, I think Iím dreaming."

Gabrielle smiled, nodding her head, rolling her eyes in appreciation of this delicious bread tomatoey thing. "Iíve been there," she said. "It takes a while to get used to this kinda stuff, believe you me."

Kimberly decided to throw herself fully into it and said, "Well all right, Gabrielle. Why are you here then?"

Gabrielle wiped her mouth with a napkin, took a sip of 7-Up and said, "Xena has friends in high places who donít like how things turned out any more than I do. I donít know the full story but I wasnít supposed to die like I did. That means Xena wasnít meant to go," she paused looking for words in the language she was speaking, "meant to go ape-shit like she did. It was just some minor forest deity who didnít want anybody tromping her grass or something. She got reamed out by everybody from Aphrodite to Zeus. Ares was pissed, whew! Youíd think heíd like it, but he wanted Xena as his general not as some drunken lunatic. It was like somebody took his favorite chariot and turned it into a garbage wagon."

Kimberly couldnít believe she was having this conversation. "So where do I fit in this?" she said smiling.

Gabrielle looked at her and said, "Go ahead and laugh. Remember, even if this is a dream itís real as long as youíre in it. You treat it like a joke and you might be in some trouble if you donít wake up when you want. I know now how Cassandra felt."

Kimberly tried to keep a straight face and she said, "Iím sorry. Please go on."

"Yeah, right. Anyway, I take you back, you save me from getting killed, and Xena doesnít become the Bitch of Tartarus. Simple."

"Why canít you do it?"

"Iím dead, remember. Somebody actually alive has to effect changes in the real world. In this case, you, because you are Xenaís descendant. If my tomb had just been discovered 40 years ago it wouldíve been your grandmother, who, if you donít mind me saying so, was much more up for this sort of thing."

Kimberly thought, "Thatís it! This dream is about my grandmother. Me as her successor. I must be asleep right now on the couch with those books and articles. Itís Joseph Campbell stuff. I have to go on this quest."

She said energetically to Gabrielle, "Well, letís go then. Letís do it!"

Gabrielle was taken a little back, then said, "Struck a nerve, huh? Okay. I donít suppose we could get a ram or a bull somewhere around here to sacrifice. No, I didnít think so. Weíll just have to assume the gods are on our side on this."

Kimberly suddenly found herself sitting on the ground in some woods across from Gabrielle who pushed the last of the pizza into her mouth and held up a hand as she chewed and swallowed. Gabrielle was dressed as she had been on the sarcophagus and Kimberly tried to cover herself as she seemed to be in a skimpy dominatrix outfit.

"Okay, here we are. Right over there is where I get killed in about five hours." Gabrielle pointed as she picked up some grass to wipe her hands on. "I should probably tell you, once you save meówell not ME but the me here who gets killedóexcept I wonít be killed nowóget it? Well, Iíll just be gone. Donít worry though, youíre going home. Somebody would really get in trouble if you stayed in the pastówell not the past, itís the present, but itís your past. You know what I mean."

Kimberly thought, "This is the greatest dream Iíve ever had. I love it." She said, "How am I supposed to save you? Iíve never done anything remotely heroic."

Gabrielle answered, "Youíre descended from Xena and look just like her. Believe me, youíve got it in you. If anything you should worry you might have too much in you. You might wind up as the Bitch of Harvard."

"You mean itís in my genes?"

Gabrielle looked blank then said, "Yeah." Suddenly she looked alert and listening, and then spoke as if to someone invisible next to Kimberly. "Oh, come on. Canít something just once be simple?" she paused, then asked, "Well, just where was I supposed to find a bullock? (pause) What about her? (pause) Okay, but that stinks. (pause) All right. (pause) Okay. (pause) Well, I donít have much choice now, do I?"

Kimberly was enthralled. She knew the journey had to have complications; she watched PBS.

"Kimberly, Iím sorry. Youíre going to be on your own a lot more than I thought; the gods wonít let me lead you by the hand. They might be getting interested in you now and want to see how you handle yourself," Gabrielle said. She was puzzled by the way the girl was reacting. She seemed happy. "You understand what Iím saying, right?"

Kimberly was excited. She tried to play along and look serious but this dream was just too great. "Yes," she said.

"They might," Gabrielle paused looking for a figure of speech from Kimberlyís time, "They might throw you some curves. Youíre going to have to try to figure out how to save me yourself. Remember, itís right over there around dusk. Me and a friend named Joxer were talking to some kids. One of them stabbed me and Xena was too late to stop them."

Kimberly remembered the class. "I thought it was an assassination attempt on Xena and you got killed by accident."

Gabrielle said, "What? No. What are you talking about?"

Kimberly answered, "My professor said that Xenaís favorite was killed in an attempt on Xenaís life."

Gabrielleís face got beet red. "Favorite? Xenaís favorite! Like her sword, her horse, her sandals, her favorite!" She got up and was pacing around shaking her head. She stopped and said, "No, no. Get a grip, Gabrielle. After all who thinks that? Who am I kidding? Everybody thinks that!"

She came over to Kimberly and asked, "What exactly is meant by Ďfavoriteí?"

Kimberly was embarrassed. She avoided Gabrielleís eyes saying, "Well, uh, you know, um..."

"Gods! I donít believe this!" Gabrielle exclaimed, grabbing her own hair with both hands and pulling. "Your teacher is just some small town storyteller though, right? Nobody respected would talk about my private life like that, right?"

"Heís a full professor at Harvard, one of the most prestigious schools in the world," Kimberly said in a small voice. Gabrielle went, "Arrrrrghhh!"

"I was married, you know! And Xena had a kid! Obviously she had a kid, youíre here! Did he mention that? No, of course not! Listen, what me and Xena might or might not do..." Gabrielle started to say, then in frustration gave up and paced around some more, making extravagant hand gestures. As Kimberly watched she seemed to fade away.

6.

Kimberly felt nervous alone in the woods. She kept telling herself, "Itís a dream; itís a dream," but she remembered what Gabrielle had said about a dream being real as long as you are in it. She stood and drew the sword that had come with the costume. It felt strangely right in her hand; thatís how dreams worked though. She walked around a little bit peering, feeling foolish because she had no idea what to be looking for. She suddenly found herself flat on her back and her hand stung badly and was empty; another sword was 2 inches away from her face and pointing at her. Standing over her was another woman in a dominatrix outfit, a slender blonde woman.

"Youíre too young. Who are you? Ares?" the woman said in a controlled voice. Kimberly tried to keep from wetting herself.

She managed to say, "My name is Kimberly Fredericks." The sword didnít move.

"Why do you look like her?" the woman said coldly.

Kimberlyís mouth was dry, she said, "Xena?"

The blonde woman smiled dangerously and she exaggeratedly said, "Yes, Xena."

Kimberly had no idea what to say; should she just tell the truth. It was a dream after all; she had to keep reminding herself that. She didnít know enough of what was going on. A lie might get her killed as easily as the truth. She said, "Iím a relative. She doesnít know me."

The woman reached down and took the chakram from Kimberlyís belt, stepped back a few steps and said, "Get up."

Kimberly felt that following her instincts so far had worked, so she tried again. She said, "Who are you?"

The blonde womanís eyes widened and she laughed softly. Then she said, "All right, Iím Callisto." She paused, "Is that you, Xena? Did Ares make you young as a reward?" Then she shook her head. "No, if you were Xena one of us would be dead nowóprobably me."

Kimberly flashed on what Professor Sallwethy had said. "Youíre the leader of the resistance against the Bitch of Tartarus. Youíre a hero."

"Not much on family loyalty are you, Kimberly Fredericks?" Callisto said ironically.

Gabrielle hadnít told her not to tell anyone the truth; she had said that she had to find her own way. She thought, "Who better to trust than Callisto?" She said, "Gabrielle brought me..." she found Callistoís sword pointed at her face again.

Callisto said, "Just tell me what is going on."

Kimberly was afraid she had made a bad mistake but it was too late to stop now. "Iím a descendant of Xena. Gabrielleís ghost, I guess, brought me here to keep her from getting killed and keep Xena from going crazy. Itís hard to believe, I know."

"Oh, no itís not. I know quite a bit about how fluid life and death can be. Time is a new one but it doesnít surprise me. Youíre late though."

"What do you mean?"

"Gabrielle died five years ago," Callisto said, sheathing her sword again. "Some god is playing games with you. Where is Gabrielleís spirit?"

"I donít know. She brought me then said I would have to do this myself."

Callisto giggled seductively and crooned, "Sweet Kimberly Fredericks, how did you let yourself get trapped into this? Let me guess, Gabrielle charmed you into it. All that nobility and sweetness, but tempered by humor. Good enough to eat." There was a menace in Callistoís voice that sent a chill through Kimberly. She looked at her fearfully and Callisto stopped and stared at the ground. When she looked up she said in a normal voice, "Sorry. I had a little flashback there. Be glad you didnít run into me five years ago."

They walked into camp. Kimberly cried out as Callisto immediately caught two arrows with her hands and pushed her out of the way of a spear. She yelled, "Stop that!" Several people started to flee but Callisto waved them back. Kimberly inadvertently looked directly in the eyes of a man who began crying and fell to the ground. Callisto walked over and patted the man on the shoulder and said, "Relax, itís not her." She returned to Kimberly and said, "Come on. I want to introduce you to somebody. And donít look anybody else in the eyes."

Callisto led her to a campfire where a man was sitting hunched over with his back to them. Callisto went up and said something in his ear. He stood and turned to face Kimberly. She saw a tall thin man who looked around 45. He had deep furrows running through his face. His hair was streaked with gray and his eyes were sunken deep in his head. He seemed to shake when he saw her and Callisto put her hand on his arm to steady him.

"Kimberly Fredericks, this is Joxer."

"Just call me, Kimberly. Hello, Joxer, Iíve heard of you."

Joxer, Kimberly and Callisto were seated inside Callistoís command tent. Kimberly had repeated her story to Joxer, and several times she saw them exchange glances. She said, "You donít have any trouble accepting this either, I guess."

Joxer answered, "You might be lying, but itís not impossible, what with everything else Iíve seen. Excuse us." He and Callisto stepped outside the tent and Kimberly waited inside.

"If this is true, Callisto. This is it. This can change everything."

Callisto said, "I know. Xena wouldnít mount something like this with a double to get me. Itís not her style. And she knows things only you and Gabrielle would know. The gods are involved in this. If they are toying with us thereís nothing we can do about it, but if this girl is for real we can undo everything that has happened."

"If she is supposed to save Gabrielle, then Iím the one who can tell her to do what I didnít do," Joxer said, his voice breaking.

Callisto squeezed his shoulder slightly and said, ""So when she is ready whoever sent her hereómy guess is Aresówill send her back five years." Callistoís face had an odd expression and she said, "and the last five years wonít have happened. Everything will be like it was before."

Joxer was looking closely at her, his left cheek twitching involuntarily. "Callisto," he said, "maybe Ares will help you."

She laughed and said, "Yeah, heís known for being thoughtful and kind like that. Listen, Joxer, donít say anything to Kimberly about me; this is strange enough for her. She doesnít think any of this is real, anyway. I can tell by looking at her. Thatís good and bad. Sheís not as scared as she would be, but she also isnít as serious as she needs to be when the time comes. Letís go talk to her."

Kimberly looked up as Joxer and Callisto reentered the tent. She was enjoying the dream quest again. She tried to keep her face appropriately serious, though. The blonde warrior said to her, "We think youíre here to learn how to save Gabrielle. So we are going to teach that to you and then see what happens." Kimberly couldnít keep from smiling. She wanted to jump up and hug her. Callisto was her Yoda.

7.

The three of them were standing amid some trees outside their camp. Callisto was tossing her sword high in the air spinning and catching it almost absent-mindedly as she spoke to Kimberly.

"The best thing for you to do would be to simply warn Gabrielle and Joxer that these young bandits are going to try to kill them. If you can tell Xena too that would be even better. But that might not be possible. So Iím going to teach you some basic moves and weíll run over what to do in different situations."

Kimberly was thrilled, watching the flying flashing blade in the morning light. Since she had arrived the previous afternoon, she had become more and more fascinated by the blonde warrior. After a simple meal, Callisto had her sleep in her tent with her. She had said she wasnít taking any chance of something happening to her. She gave her a little bedroll next to her own. Callisto had asked her to tell her everything she knew about history and Kimberly tried. The warrior had listened intently. She had gone over everything Dr. Sallwethy had said in his lecture the previous day. Kimberly thought she would think it was funny that Callisto had been considered a mythical monster before she was recognized as a hero, but Callisto just seemed somber as she heard. Kimberly thought that just must be what real heroes are like.

Joxer didnít like what he was seeing. Callisto never played dangerous games with a sword like that. Sure, it wasnít dangerous for her, but Joxer didnít like surprises where Callisto was concernedónot with her history. He hated to be thinking like that since he couldnít count the times she had saved him in these last years. What he would do if she turned again, he had no idea. He couldnít just fail as he did with Gabrielle. He always thought Xena should have killed him along with the young bandits, but instead it was the only time she had ever hugged him.

Callisto handed the circular weapon to Kimberly. "Hereís your chakram back."

Kimberly reached out and said, "ouch" as she cut her finger.

Watching her, Callisto said, "Didnít you know it was sharp?"

Kimberly said, "No, Iíve never touched it. I just had these clothes on and that thing was with them, like the sword."

Callisto shook her head. "Maybe the gods just gave it to you as Xenaís descendant or maybe thereís more. Letís see. Try throwing it like this," Callisto took her own chakram from her belt and demonstrated but did not throw it, "at those trees over there."

Kimberly managed to keep from saying, "Just like a frisbee! Iím great at that!" She took the weapon and threw it smoothly to imbed in a tree. "Yeah!" she said.

Callisto seemed unimpressed, however. "All right, maybe you could learn to use it eventually but we donít have time now. You might be able to stop somebody just by doing what you did though so keep on carrying it. Iím just going to work on simple sword moves." She glanced at Joxer and realized he was watching her closely though trying to be unobtrusive. She thought, "Heís right to watch me. Xena never appreciated him like I do."

She and Kimberly walked to retrieve the chakram and Callisto grinned as she noticed Joxer following.

"What are you smiling at," Kimberly said, smiling herself.

"Our chaperone back there," the warrior said.

Kimberly could tell this was some kind of in-joke. To her pleasure Callisto continued, "He wants to make sure youíre safe is all. Youíre very important to him. He was close to Gabrielle and feels like he should have prevented her death."

"He must really be worried if he thinks you arenít enough protection," Kimberly said. Callisto laughed with that strange giggle again. Loud clumping sounds came as Joxer awkwardly began running towards them. Callisto turned and waited with her hands outstretched and open. Joxer stopped.

Kimberly wondered if maybe they were lovers. Something intense was going on here; that was clear. Callisto walked over to Joxer and they spoke softly so she couldnít hear. The two of them walked back to Kimberly. Joxer was pale and Callisto was looking serious now; she winked at Kimberly though when Joxer wasnít looking and Kimberly was thrilled.

For an hour Callisto watched her as she hacked at trees. Then she had Kimberly start swinging at her and she parried her blows simply. Joxerís eyes never left them.

Later, Callisto said she had to check on her troops. She said to Joxer with a smile from her stallion, "Sheís all yours." Then she spurred her black horse and rode out of camp. Kimberly thought that Joxer seemed visibly more relaxed with Callisto gone, which she could not understand at all. Maybe they were ex-lovers and that was where the tension came from.

"Joxer, did you think I looked all right with the sword?" She asked, trying to draw him out. She wanted to ask him about Callisto.

Joxer answered, "Whatever Callisto says. Iím nobody to ask about stuff like that. The only better fighter than Callisto is Xena." She could hear his self-loathing. She remembered the article by her grandmother and Janice Covington, "Joxer: foolish saint." They had portrayed him as some sort of simpleton with a kind heart, but that seemed a far cry from the tragic wounded man she was talking to. She suddenly realized it was because of Xena. He blamed himself not only for Gabrielleís death but for what Xena had done. She remembered the atrocities by the Bitch of Tartarus and wondered how she would feel if she thought her inadequacy was responsible. She touched his hand the way she had seen Callisto do and he looked like he wanted to cry.

"How long have you been with Callisto?" she asked him.

"Three years now," Joxer answered, trying to get his voice under control. Kimberly seemed what Xena might have been like if she hadnít become a warrior. Her every look went through him and awakened good and bad memories. "Since right after I left Xena." Kimberly stared at him.

She asked, "Callisto has saved a lot of people from Xena, is that right?"

"Yeah, thatís right." He thought how insane that would have sounded five years before. Callisto at her very worst had not even approached what Xena had become, though.

"Can you tell me about Callisto? She seems so wonderful," Kimberly gushed.

Joxer thought, "Here it is. I could see this coming."

"Sheís just what you see," he said, "a great warrior fighting Xena. Theyíve been at each otherís throats for over ten years." He didnít want to lie to heróthat could wreck whatever the gods were doing with her; but he didnít want to complicate her relationship with Callisto either.

Kimberly thought a moment and said, "But I thought Xena only went crazy five years ago. You mean they were fighting before that?"

Joxer nodded, not wanting to say anymore. He gave up and said, "Itís complicated. Youíll have to ask Callisto about it."

The next evening she and Joxer were in Callistoís tent when the warrior returned.

"Jesus!" Kimberly exclaimed.

Joxer got up quickly and went over to Callisto, removing her heavy sword and scabbard with practiced hands. He tried to lead her but she shook him off and walked to her chair and sat down. Joxer poured her some wine. She was covered in blood and dirt, and Kimberly could see bruises and cuts all over her body. Most of the blood didnít appear to be hers, she noted with relief.

Callisto said to Joxer, "Draco and his men are dead."

"All of them?" Joxer asked in a pain-filled voice.

Callisto shrugged and said, "Somebody always survives something like that, but, yeah, all of them. I saw Dracoís body myselfówhat was left of it." She had considered not telling Joxer about this in front of Kimberly but then decided she had to face what was happening. "Most of them managed to kill themselves before being captured and Draco died fighting."

Joxer gave a sigh of relief. Kimberly looked from one to the other, feeling queasy.

Callisto rose and said, "Iím going to the river to wash this off," and she exited the tent. Joxer indicated for Kimberly to follow her. The warrior didnít say anything as Kimberly hurried up to her side. They followed a path to the river bank. The moon was rippling in the water, and it was dim but light enough to see. Kimberly realized she hadnít washed since she had arrived, so as Callisto was stripping off her dirty bloody leathers, Kimberly tried to follow suit. She couldnít figure out at first which buckles or straps to undo, and Callisto glanced at her and naked came over and wordlessly untied a couple of knots. Kimberly took the armored leather off, unable to resist sneaking looks at Callistoís lithe, muscular body. Somehow the scars looked good on her, Kimberly thought. Callisto walked into the water and submerged herself and Kimberly followed her in.

After that they began bathing together all the time though neither commented upon it.

8.

After Dracoís army was destroyed, Callisto began moving their camp frequently. She would also leave for extended periods. Kimberly guessed there were scattered forces rather than one large one and Callisto was going from group to group coordinating them. After about a month, she asked Callisto about that while they were doing their sword practice, and the warrior said, "I was wondering when something of Xena would start coming out in you." Kimberly realized it was a compliment even though she had come to despise the Bitch of TartarusóJoxer and Callisto had been letting her see more and more of Xenaís handiwork as they traveled, and she had been talking with refugees. Callisto and Joxer never called Xena that but Kimberly thought of her as nothing else.

Callisto said, "Get ready," and began swinging her sword at her faster and harder than she ever had before. Kimberly found herself parrying the strokes though. Suddenly she no longer had her sword and she could see Callisto had it in her free hand. She had no idea how that happened. Callisto had a strange light in her eyes that Kimberly hadnít seen before. She smiled widely and handed her sword back to her. "Again, my sweet little Xena. Try to kill me," she almost moaned.

"Donít call me Xena!" Kimberly said, amazed at the anger she felt as she attacked the laughing woman.

Kimberly practiced with Joxer when Callisto was away for more than a day or two. The next time she did that she realized exactly why Joxer said he was nobody to ask for advice. She could tell he wasnít using his weight right or even holding the sword efficiently. He didnít seem to watch what was important, and she was afraid she was going to hurt him, since she could tell he couldnít parry her if she pushed him.

Joxer said, "Thatís enough." and stepped back sheathing his sword. He looked happy. "You should just work with Callisto from now on. Letís get something to eat." He came over and put his arm around her shoulder and smiled, the first smile Kimberly had seen from him. It made him look years younger. He even seemed to be humming something as he limped beside her back to camp.

Callisto began taking Kimberly with her when she left. The warrior was pleased that she already knew how to ride and got her a dappled mare. Joxer wasnít happy about it but he accepted it; he seemed to have relaxed from that first day.

Kimberly wore a full-face helmet or a veil whenever they met the other anti-Xena factions. Callisto insisted on it. All the groups looked pretty much like Callistoísóragged, haunted soldiers with old people, women and children trailing behind them. In Callistoís camp Joxer and the warrior wouldnít let her go to see the refugees without a veil. They had a hard enough life without being scared to death.

9.

She could hear them talking about her.

"Itís been six months, Callisto."

"Weíve been over all this and nothing has changed since she first got here. Meleager went to Delphi and the Oracle had nothing to say. Continuing to train her is the only course I can see. She could have saved Gabrielle long ago, so I donít know what the godsí agenda is."

At the camps they traveled to, Callistoís veiled or helmeted companion was no longer commented upon. She had said her friendís face was badly disfigured in combat, and the men she was talking to could well imagine what they were being spared. They were ready to accept her in whatever capacity Callisto chose. They could see that Callisto seemed to be training her, including her in their strategy meetings. They were glad for all the help they could get. Whatever Callisto said was fine with them: since Dracoís death, Callisto was the only real leader against Xena besides Meleager, and he was drunk half the time.

A year had passed. Kimberly and Callisto had just left one of the smaller group encampments when the blonde warrior stopped her horse.

"Do you hear it?"

Kimberly listened and somehow she knew. "Men in hiding. Trying to be quiet, but their armor and weapons are squeaking. Up on the left," Kimberly said. "At least ten," she added.

The warrior looked at her with her eyes wide and that insane smile. "What should we do, avoid them and go on our way?"

Kimberly said, "They know where this camp is. We canít let them go."

"Should we capture them?"

"The Bitchís soldiers never give up information. They are too scared of her." Kimberly said. "We donít have the supplies or people to handle prisoners."

Callisto said, "Are you ready?"

"Iím ready," Kimberly said. She found herself smiling in anticipation. She knew she shouldnít be feeling like this.

Minutes later, Callisto said, "Youíve been practicing on your own with the chakram." She was wiping her sword off on one of the bodies.

"Yeah," Kimberly answered.

10.

They had gotten word that Xenaís army was approaching a small village. They sent word to Meleager who was nearby and started their own forces marching, and then Callisto, Kimberly and Joxer had ridden hard for the Bitchís newest conquest. They could see smoke rising from several sites as they arrived at the outlying fields cultivated by the village. Several frightened inhabitants were there, among them a woman who screamed, "The children are in the granary! The granary! Itís burning! Save them, gods!"

Callisto said, "Kimberly, stay here and protect these people. Joxer, come with me."

Kimberly remembered with a jolt Professor Sallwethyís classóso long agoóand she said to Callisto, "Let me go to the village and you stay here. Something unexpected might happen here."

Callisto and Joxer were both frozen looking at her. Callisto walked her stallion next to Kimberlyís mare. She laughed softly, drew her sword, grabbed a fist full of her own hair and hacked it off. She handed it to Kimberly, who accepted it with a shaking hand. Then Callisto spurred her black stallion toward the village and Joxer followed on his mule.

The village granary where the children had all gone had been hit by several burning arrows which spread the fire quickly. Xena was barely visible, watching the attack from a hilltop. Callisto came galloping in, killing the two archers with quick vicious kicks. She leapt off her black stallion and looking over her shoulder saw that Joxer was in trouble and his mule dead. Callistoís chakram cut his attackerís throat and Joxer was sprayed with the manís blood. He didnít even look at the fallen man as he ran toward the granary. He managed to awkwardly wound a soldier who leapt at him. Several others who recognized Joxer ran the other way. Callisto caught her chakram and stepped over the four additional bodies which surrounded her now.

"Wait here, Joxer!" she yelled and leapt at the granary door, which burst open as she hit it. Inside the children were screaming and huddled in one corner. Large sections of the wall and floor were flaming. She knocked aside a flaming board falling towards the children with the chakram, and Callisto caught it with one hand as she grabbed a baby from a shaking young girl who had a badly burned arm. She yelled, "This way!" to the children and ran out the doorway which was blazing now and set the baby down near Joxer who was fighting. Callisto threw her sword impaling his opponent and ran back into the burning building. Only about half of the children had gotten out; the rest were too petrified to move. The walls were completely ablaze now and looking up Callisto saw the roof was too. She ran into the group of children and screamed at them in her old voice, "Get the fuck out of here!" The children screamed in fresh abject terror and ran for the door, getting out just as the doorway collapsed. Callisto dodged a falling timber and saw the burned girl she had taken the baby from was still there. She was hurt worse than she saw at first, with a large gash on her leg. She was moaning and shaking on the burning floor. Callisto grabbed her just as several more burning timbers came down. The doorway was completely blocked now except for a small opening near the top. Callisto yelled, "Joxer!" She could hear the roof of the granary collapsing. She thought, "If I were Xena I could get us both out." She smiled in her old mad way, picked up the girl and threw her through the tiny opening just as the entire burning roof came down on her.

Kimberly was sitting in Callistoís tent, staring at the bunch of yellow hair in her hand. She looked up and dove to the left as, from behind her, Joxerís sword cut the chair she had been sitting in in half. He awkwardly extricated it and ran at her again. She dodged out of his way easily and he fell.

"Joxer!" Kimberly yelled at him loudly. "Joxer! Joxer!"

He stared at her, preparing to attack again.

"I wonít become another Xena. Itís all right!"

He ran at her again and she took his sword from him. "Listen to me! I wonít do what Xena did when she lost Gabrielle. Do you understand me?" Joxer seemed to collapse in on himself and Kimberly sat down next to him, her hand touching his arm as she had seen Callisto do.

11.

Gabrielle was excited to finally be back and getting on with this. After Ares had told her that Kimberly was going to have to prove herself, Gabrielle had been whiling away time in the Elysian fields. Hades had just told her she was going back to finish what she had started, and here she was. She seemed to be in a war camp, which surprised her, and she could feel that the person she was looking for was in that tent over there. You could do stuff like that when you were dead.

She walked up, listening to grinding noises and, after a moment considering, simply stepped into the tent. What she saw wasnít what she was expecting. There was a muscular woman naked from the waist up sharpening a sword on a stone which she was turning with her foot. The figure looked up and stopped the grindstone. She stood, the lamplight glinting off her skin, throwing scars into relief. She had on leather pants and high boots, and wore an eastern looking helmet with a chainmail veil covering her face.

The figure coldly said, "Hello, Gabrielle. I was wondering how long you would wait outside."

"Kimberly?" Gabrielle said.

Kimberly Fredericks lifted her helmet off and looked at Gabrielle. She wasnít sure what she felt. Her first thought was how easy she looked to kill; no wonder somebody had.

"Is it finally time?" she said sarcastically.

Gabrielle stared at her. "Yes, yes it is. Um, Kimberly how much time has passed? Itís hard to tell where Iíve been."

"Five years."

Gabrielle cried, "Oh gods, Kimberly! Iím sorry! I didnít know it would be like this!" She was devastated. She had stolen this girlís life. It wasnít her decision but she had done it.

Kimberlyís face was expressionless. She said, "I wouldnít have missed it. I wouldnít have met Callisto otherwise.."

"Callisto!" Gabrielle cried, "that harpy!" She suddenly found herself on her back, her face stinging.

"Watch your mouth. Thatís my friend youíre talking about." Kimberly said, her voice as calm as her face. She returned to sharpening her sword as Gabrielle got back up weakly.

"Sorry, I guess," Gabrielle said, feeling her jaw. She could swear she had a couple of loose teeth. She looked around and noticed a familiar helmet. "Is Joxer here?" she said excitedly.

Kimberly answered, "No, heís been dead for two years." She was carefully examining her sword and, apparently satisfied, wiped it with a cloth and put it in the scabbard hanging near her. "He was killed by some of Xenaís men. Unfortunately for them, I didnít kill them. Your friend the Bitch of Tartarus outdid herself."

Gabrielle thought better of telling her not to call Xena that.

As she watched Kimberly put on a leather shirt with armored shoulder and chest pieces, Gabrielle said, "I hate everything youíre telling me, but itís all the more reason to go through with what we began. Xena isnít supposed to be the Bitch of Tartarus. We can prevent all of this."

Kimberly was looking at Gabrielle coldly. "All right, but first you are going to tell me all about Callisto. You hate her. Tell me why."

"What does Callisto have to do with anything? Is she here?" Gabrielle said, looking nervously around.

"No. Sheís dead too. I just want to know about her. Iím not helping you until I do."

Gabrielle noticed that Kimberly was aimlessly fingering a bracelet she was wearing that looked to be made of yellow hair. She began to speak, calibrating what she was going to say to fit what she thought Kimberly wanted to hear; suddenly she was looking at the sword again, this time 2 inches in front of her face.

"Just tell me the truth, bard. I remember that you can eat, so do you want to see if you can bleed, too?" Kimberly said. She was running out of patience and her voice had a deadly ring to it that Gabrielle was all too familiar with.

Gabrielle talked for hours. All of this was in her scrolls, of course, so she just recited the pertinent ones. She left out the poetic flourishes, though. Occasionally Kimberly asked a specific question, as if testing her knowledge of combat or geography, making sure these werenít just stories. When she described Callistoís murder of her husband Perdicas, Kimberly said, "Iím sorry I hit you."

At the end Kimberly sat looking at Gabrielle sadly. She understood so much more now. About Joxer, about Callisto, about things that had happened. It only made her care for her friend more. No demigod had helped Callisto. No one had ever helped her.

"Is there a Gabrielle in the Elysian fields for Callisto?" she asked Gabrielle rhetorically. She knew the answer: Xena was a pet of the gods; Callisto wasnít.

Gabrielle said, "I guess people can change. I knew Xena did but I didnít know about Callisto. Could you tell me about her?" Her heart went out to this young woman. She was just like Xena when they first met: hard as stone but wanting to do the right thing.

"No," Kimberly said abruptly. She wouldnít defile her friendís memory by talking about her to the Bitchís toady.

"Letís go change history, Gabrielle." She said sneeringly as she picked her helmet up and her face disppeared behind the chain mail again. Gabrielle looked at her in surprise. Kimberly despised her. She had never experienced thatócertainly not from Callisto.

"Okay," she said, and they were back in the woods where they had first appeared.

"What direction were the bandits coming from?" Kimberly asked, sniffing the air and scanning the trees for archers.

"Well, west, but they werenít really bandits. They were just kids. The one that stabbed me, I guess, was bad, though maybe he was scared. The rest of them though were just kids," she said, pointing west. Kimberly starting walking in that direction.

Gabrielle said, "All you need to do is warn me and Joxer and weíll go a different way." Kimberly ignored her.

"Is that them?" Kimberly asked. They had been walking at a fast pace for hours. Gabrielle was tired but Kimberly didnít seem to feel it.

Gabrielle said, "Yes," looking at the four teenage boys walking along below them. Before Gabrielle had heard a thing, Kimberly had led them up onto a ledge overlooking the path; then finally Gabrielle had heard the tramping, swearing boys.

Kimberly leaped out from the ledge and landed in front of them. Gabrielle yelled, "No! Donít!" and scrambled down as fast as she could. The boys were looking at the veiled warrior in open amazement as Gabrielle ran up next to her.

"Itís that one," Gabrielle said, pointing. "But you can just scare them off."

Kimberly was smiling behind the chain mail, "It doesnít matter which one of them it is, Gabrielle. If you hadnít been such a fool in the first place this wouldnít be necessary. Go make up a limerick about Xenaís twat or something."

The boys began running and Kimberly leaped and caught the one that had stabbed Gabrielle. She ran up just as Kimberly spun him around, reached inside his trousers, pulled his genitals out and sliced them off with the chakram. Gabrielle ran up next to him and held him.

"What are you, some kind of monster??" she cried. The boy was shaking and screaming.

Kimberly looked at her contemptuously as she tossed the bloody penis and testicles aside and replaced the chakram on her belt. Taking her time, she drew her sword and then explosively drove it through the boyís body which jerked for several moments, then stopped. She was careful to avoid impaling Gabrielle. "Iíll let the rest of them go, since you asked," she said, yanking the blade out and letting the body fall.

As she was looking at Gabrielleís horrified face it seemed to turn into mist and disappear.

12.

The bard waited outside the burning granary with the hysterical children. She heard Xena yell, "Gabrielle!" and then the child came flying through the small opening at the top of the door. Gabrielle managed to catch her, though she was flattened to the ground with the breath knocked out of her. The child was lifted out of her arms and she looked up to see Xena looking down at her with that smart-ass expression she had. She reached down and helped Gabrielle up. The attacking soldiers had all fled, routed by Meleager who had arrived just after Xena and Gabrielle.

"Xena," Gabrielle said apprehensively.

"I feel it," the warrior answered still holding the girl, who she placed behind her. She drew her sword.

They saw a glowing misty shape which gradually assumed form.

"Xena," Gabrielle said again.

"I know, Gabrielle."

Before them they saw a younger version of Xena, dressed differently and wearing a small helmet with a chainmail veil. As she removed the helmet, her hatred washed in waves over the two of them.

The vision approached. "Put your sword away, warrior princess," the words seemed to leave a bad taste in her mouth. "Iím no danger. I just helped you."

Xena lowered her sword but did not sheath it.

"How did you help me?" Xena asked.

"By condemning my best friend to living hell."

Xena was mystified. She had a feeling if she understood, though, it would be just one more horror to add to the load of guilt she already carried.

"So thatís the staff." The vision said. Gabrielle looked at it and back at the ghostly young Xena.

The vision seemed to be trying to control its anger. It said finally to Gabrielle, "Give Callisto a chance," as it resolved into mist and faded away.

"That wasnít Callisto attacking the village, was it?" the bard asked.

"No," Xena answered with a puzzled expression.

13.

Kimberly opened her eyes and she was in her apartment. The books and articles she had checked out were on the couch next to her.

"Jesus," she said to herself. She got up, picked up the empty beer bottle and took it into the small kitchen and put it in an empty slot in the six-pack in the refrigerator. After a momentís hesitation she took out a new one and opened it up. She scratched her head and her eyes caught the 7-Up can and the pieces of pizza crust on the kitchen table. She pulled her sleeve up and saw the hair bracelet. Her heart was pounding loudly in her head. She went to her coat hanging on the front door and took her small tape recorder out of the pocket and hit Rewind, then Play. She could hear Professor Sallwethyís voice:

"I wanted to acquaint you with some rather startling new finds which have been made." Kimberly began fast forwarding, listening every few seconds. "... good friend, at Oxford...dramatic occurrences...fortuitous.

"Have any of you heard of Xena?" She paused, then continued fast forwarding, hearing her own voice ..."mythical warrior... evidence..." She finally reached what she was searching for.

"The so-called Xena scrolls are almost certainly an elaborate hoax." She began fast forwarding again. "...fascinating figure ...more reliable. It is a chronicle of Corinth...a dig in southern Macedonia."

"Apparently an enemy of Xenaís named Callisto was captured by allies of Xenaís, most likely by using poison. In an attempt to please Xena they killed Callisto. This is similar to Pompey the Greatís death in Egypt at the hands of those attempting to curry favor with Julius Caesar."

"What are the dig findings, Professor?"

"Well, an ancient dump has been uncovered which appears to contain Callistoís remains. They were probably placed there as a calculated insult. Actually, I have slides.

Kimberly fast forwarded to Dr. Sallwethy saying, "This is the outside of the dig. It was likely a dumping site for a village which no longer exists. It is full of broken pottery and the general refuse one would expect. It was probably also a latrine. Here in one corner we see a small plaque which reads roughly ĎCallisto, bitch of Tartarus,í followed by more insults. Here are the skeletal remains, which show signs of burning and are scattered and broken suggestive of dismemberment and mutilation. Whether the victim was alive or not at the time would be something for a forensic pathologist to attempt to determine."

With a steady hand, Kimberly stopped the tape.

The End


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