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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.

Gabrielle giggled.

"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 not right."

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 smiled.

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 pretty..."

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 died?"

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 smile.

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," Xena said.

"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 point."

"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 we."

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 tree.

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, OK?"

"Good idea," Xena said. "Come on, let's find my chakram."

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