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The television series: Xena Warrior Princess belongs to MCA/Universal... This is merely one fan's story about the travels of our beloved couple.


What a momentous, action packed ride. Take this incredible journey with Xena and Gabrielle. The Xena and Gabrielle we have all come to know and love. With each step you will become a traveler with them. Journey with them in their desperate fight with the gods as well as several old and new nemeses. If they cannot win then they will be lost forever. Laugh with them, fight with them, cry with them. You will feel their frustration, their anger, and their tears of sadness and joy. The Return an incredible adventure. An ending that will give you chills and show you the true bonds of friendship and love.

The Return

by Anita Louise


The smell of the rancid air still seemed to fill her nostrils. It had been awhile since she and Gabrielle had arrived at Potidaea, Gabrielle's home village. Gabrielle needed rest and Xena felt this was the place for it. As she watched the young woman practice with her staff she could see the difficulties she was having in some of her movements. Xena marveled at how well Gabrielle was doing after the serious injury she had sustained at Thessaly. When they found themselves in the forest, she and Gabrielle had argued a bit about what route they should have taken. Gabrielle had said that they should have taken the southern route and Xena had said that this way was shorter. It was during this time the two women ran into the crossfire of the Thessalian defense and the Matoan advance.

They found themselves in the middle of a blood bath. It was a war like no other they had been through. The Matoans were not taking any prisoners, they were killing the woman and children as well as the men.

Xena and Gabrielle found themselves in the Thessalian healing temple, which was the only sanctuary in the area. Here Thessalians and Matoans lay wounded. Xena quickly took command of the situation and, with Gabrielle's assistance, they began to sift through the wounded and dying, trying to save as many as they could. It seemed at times to be hopeless. Xena could still hear the screams of the man whose leg she had cut off, and the cries of the dying. She could also hear through this mound of fear, the joyful cries of happiness as she delivered Ephiny's baby.

It was during this time that a wounded man asked Gabrielle if someone could go out to the tree by the stream and save his young boy, who was hiding there. Gabrielle, being the very kind person she is, left the protection of the temple to oblige the man.

She ran into a Matoan who was out for blood. Gabrielle would not kill but she did try to defend herself and during the process was seriously wounded. When Xena saw them carry the wounded body of her friend into the temple she was horrified. She had stitched up many, and tended many but this was not just anyone, this was Gabrielle. This was the person who had become so important in her life that she would have given her own life to save her at any moment and now she was wounded. Xena did the best she could to sew up Gabrielle's wounds. She tried to comfort her and now wished she had taken the southern route.

During this time Gabrielle went into convulsions and stopped breathing. Xena was beside herself with worry, she tried everything she could to bring the woman back but nothing seemed to work. Everyone around her told her to let Gabrielle cross over peacefully, to let her go. Something inside her would not let this happen. She couldn't accept this, and she kept trying to revive her. She used mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. She did everything she could and at the end when she knew that she had lost Gabrielle, she let herself go. She cried, and begged Gabrielle to come back to her. During these moments, wherever Gabrielle's soul was, she heard the Warrior Princess calling her and she did come back. As she gathered the woman into her arms, Xena had never been so happy. She told her everything was going to be all right.

When the Thessalian and the Matoans finally made peace, Xena was happy that the war was over. She was also happy to see that Gabrielle was on her way to recovery, although not well, yet she was doing better.

She would never forget Gabrielle's words when she said to her, "We have so many wars to fight and despots to foil, your going to need my help."

Xena smiled remembering the words she had spoken, "I couldn't do it without you. But you're going to need some rest."

Chapter OneAn Ill Wind Cometh

There was a soft wind blowing down the canyon. The tree limbs were gently moving and the grass was weaving back and forth, as the palomino chased it with her mouth. Argo didn't know why they had been in one spot for so long but she was getting used to this lazy life. She nodded her head in her master's direction and yes, she was still watching her friend. Argo never really liked Gabrielle and wondered why Xena was always whispering in her ear telling her to be nice to the woman.

That is until the day she took over for Xena when she was so sick. It was then that Argo realized that this person was more than she seemed. And after many travels, Argo could now see what Xena saw in her friend. The two of them would give their life for the other and so the least Argo could do was the same. It seemed the right thing to do. Argo had never been so happy, after all Xena now had a close friend and she wasn't as grumpy as she had been in the past. She even smiled once in a while. Yes, this was the life.

Xena set on the hillside looking down at Gabrielle practicing with her staff, "Be careful, don't over do it."

Gabrielle looked up smiling as she waved, "It's all right, I'll just practice a bit." 

Gabrielle took her stance and began to put the staff through its paces. She had to admit that certain moves still caused her to cringe in pain but she couldn't let her friend see this because when Xena got ready to go she was going to go with her. She knew that if Xena knew about the pain she wouldn't let her. Gabrielle bit her lower lip and continued.

She heard the sound and looked up to see a staff flying at her. With the left hand she reached out and caught it but not before she grimaced in pain. She felt the strong hand grasp it from her and heard the cold voice as Xena said, "I knew it, you have been faking your health. When are you going to learn, you will never get well if you keep hiding it." 

Gabrielle replied, "It's not every day I am almost hit by a staff flying at me. You could have prepared me." 

Xena reached out to grab her friends staff, taking it she asked, "Just how are you feeling?"

Gabrielle could now see the concern in Xena's face, sitting down she said, "Ok, so I'm not in perfect health yet, that's the operative word, yet but I will be. That's why I've been practicing so much. Besides you have been watching me like a hawk." She reached out a hand and took Xena's right one in hers as she pulled her down to the ground. Xena sat, crossing her legs, looking intently into her friend's eyes, "What's the matter?"  

Gabrielle smiled as she said, "We have never spoke of this, but we need to Xena, it happened and we have to talk about it." 

Xena looked away, "It happened that's, that."

Gabrielle said, "No, that's not that. Xena I know you practically sold your soul to Hades trying to get me to come back from the other side, I also know what a toll this has taken on you. I know all that you did because Ephiny has told me. Xena I really think that if I had died, you would have gone back to your dark side."  

Xena looked down, "I, I don't know I only know I realized if I had lost you, I had nothing to live for. After all if someone as caring as you died... It would have been my fault for insisting we take the short cut I would never have forgiven myself. You are probably right and before you say it, I know I promised you but things change. Anyway you're here and I will not make that mistake again."

"That's what I'm afraid of, Xena you have to put that in the back of your mind, I will still be with you and I will travel with you, but you have to let me fight my own battles, you cannot be there all the time. I need to be with you and I need to know this will not cause you any more pain." Xena said, "I'm not the maternal type, Gabrielle but I will continue to take care of you, I haven't told you this but we will be leaving here in a day or two. I received a message from Toris and I have to go home. There is trouble with a war lord who is trying to take the valley."  

Gabrielle looked concerned, "Oh, Xena, I'm sorry, you probably would be there if it wasn't for me."

"Don't start that, we will get you well and then we, we'll both go, there is time."

"Hey you two."  

They looked up to see Gabrielle's sister, Lila heading in their direction "Boy you two are hard to find. When are you coming back to the village? They are planning a celebration of your recovery Gabrielle and also to Xena because she brought you back to us."

Gabrielle and Xena stood up Gabrielle said, "They shouldn't have done that, after all it should just be a celebration thanking the gods that we are both here right now." 

Xena laughed and said, "Your so right Lila, it's time we had a little fun, couldn't hurt to listen to some good music, dance a little, and have a good feast, besides Gabrielle, the food will help you regain your health sooner. And I've never known you to turn away from that.  

Gabrielle tapped Xena on the shoulder and said, "Would be worth it just to see you dance."  

Xena raised two fingers and pointed them at Gabrielle and said, "Oh no, that's your speed, you'll never catch me doing that, but it is fun to watch."

Back at the village Lila approached Xena, "Xena." 

The woman turned and answered, "Yeah."

"I want to thank you again for all you have done for my sister, I don't know what I would do if I lost her."

Xena smiled "She is a wonderful person and the world would be lost without her spirit and kindness. As I have said before, it was Gabrielle who decided to come back I was merely there."

"Well I know better and so does Gabrielle but Xena, I have noticed you have been looking tired, are you all right, maybe this has all been to much for you. I have seen you attending to Gabrielle, and I know that worry can be a terrible thing to have to carry, I owe you so much."

Xena took Lila's left hand in hers and said, "I have been repaid a million times, just having your sister as my friend. So let's forget the thanks and just enjoy the celebration." 

Lila smiled as she turned to go help with the food. Xena was beginning to feeling faint and she went into one of the huts, found a pan of water, and began to splash water onto her face.

"What's wrong?" 

Xena whirled to see Gabrielle looking concerned. "Nothing, just washing some of the dirt off."  

Gabrielle threw her a towel and said, "You know, I really miss our dips in the lake. Now that's the way to clean up, besides it can be an adventure, and so much fun. Remember the fishing, bet you thought I'd never catch it."

Xena looked away, "No, I knew you'd get the hang of it, after all we had only been practicing for months. It was worth it to see the look on your face when you came up with that fish in your hand. I have to admit you are getting really good, almost as good as me." She laughed as she threw the towel at Gabrielle.

Everyone seemed to be having a good time that evening, the music played and they danced around the fire.

Xena wouldn't let Gabrielle join in. "I would rather you sit here by me. Don't need you over doing it after today. Besides there will be plenty of time to dance. Remember we have to go see Ephiny for the Celebration of Life Festival, the Amazons are having."

"Oh, yeah that's right, after all, they taught me most of the things I know because a certain person wouldn't." 

Xena wrinkled her nose at Gab.

The celebration went on into the night and toward early morning one could see people lying about, some huddled together and others leaning up against trees. Xena felt a blow to her back and immediately knew Gabrielle was having another bad dream. She rolled over to catch her friend's hands which were beginning to strike out, she whispered, "Shhh, it's all right, it's over. I'm here, your safe, Gabrielle, wake up." Gabrielle opened her eyes, they were filled with terror and pain which broke Xena's heart; she couldn't stand to see her friend in such torment.

Tears began to roll down Gabrielle's face. Xena pulled her close as she rocked her in her arms and began to hum the song that Gabrielle loved to hear. Soon Gabrielle was fast asleep. Xena laid her back down covering her with a blanket.

She sat staring into the coming dawn and said, "I am so sorry. If I could take it all back, I would have gone the other direction. I only hope you will forgive me..."

A cold wind blew in from the hills and Argo knew that the life of luxury was over, she had been saddled and could tell things were different. Before long Xena and Gabrielle came out of the hut. Gabrielle was hugging her sister and thanking her for letting them stay and for taking care of them.

"I am just happy you are ok, and that you have such a good friend as Xena. If you two ever need anything, you remember to come here." After a few hugs and kisses, the two of them were on their way, Gabrielle on Argo and Xena walking. Argo thought, This is different. Usually Gabrielle walks.

Gabrielle looked down at Xena "You know, you really should be riding, I can walk."

"No, No, I'm loving every minute of it. As soon as you get your strength back we can switch. If I get tired I'll ride up with you. For now we are going to be taking it slow."

"Xena, are you all right?" 

The warrior looked up at her and said, "I'm fine but I'll be better when I reach home." 

They traveled most of the day and when Xena found a stream and decided to put up camp. Gabrielle went to get firewood while Xena went after some water. While at the stream, she noticed a fish jump and thought, "That would be good eating, much better than bread or cheese." 

She put down the bucket and proceeded to fix a stick, sharpening it. She sat, watching as the fish came up out of the water and went back down. She waited and then, bam, without warning, the fish was on the stick. She raised it out of the water and smiled, pleased with herself. She walked over, picked up the bucket and headed for the camp.

As Gabrielle set down the wood she said, "Fish, wow, thank the gods, but how?"

Xena handed the fish to her, "It's your turn, to fix it. One day I'll show you the trick."

Gabrielle took the fish and turned, "You know there are plenty of horse tracks back in the woods, looks like there have been a lot of people there. I would say an army of some sort." 

Xena looked worried, "I'll go take a look, you stay close to camp. I'll be back."

Gabrielle was right, Xena knelt down and surveyed some of the tracks. She laid the palm of her hand over one and grimaced. She knew the person the horse belonged to, Draco. He was close, heading for her village.

She wouldn't tell Gabrielle, no need to worry her. She would go back and tell her that it was probably a band of wanderers, nothing to be concerned about ,but she would keep her eyes open. That night they dined on fish, bread and cheese, with nut bread for desert. Xena was happy; she glanced at her friend whose strawberry, blond hair seemed to be dancing in the light of the campfire. And to think I wanted nothing to do with her when she first approached me, Ephiny was right, Gabrielle grows on you. After all, Ephiny was always asking Xena how she put up with Gabrielle and now the two of them were the best of friends. Ephiny and Gabrielle, one born an Amazon, the other brought to it through fate. Watching the two of them, it was as if they never disliked each other. Gabrielle grown but so had Ephiny.

Xena was feeling warm from the fire and she was full. Gabrielle was walking about humming and Argo was grazing nearby. Xena thought if Draco wasn't looming in the picture this was what made life worth living.

Not realizing just how tired she was, she set back feeling the warmth of the fire, and listening to the lovely humming of her friend, she drifted off to sleep. Gabrielle walked over and seeing Xena sleeping, she smiled, took a blanket, placed it over her, and went back to cleaning up. A scream woke Xena up. Jumping to her feet, she felt the stabbing pain across the back of her head. She fell forward. Seeing Gabrielle in the clutches of a man, she shook her head trying to see more clearly.

"Good to see you again my beloved." 

Draco, the voice was Draco's; once again she'd underestimated him. Thinking he had traveled on and he had doubled back. "Let her go, Draco, it's me you want, not her."

He belted out a sadistic laugh, "You're right, it is you but I have found the only way to get to you is through your little friend here. Everyone knows how you brought her back from the dead and how you have been hovering over her taking care to see she gets well. Now I have her and I have you. You see Xena, I can get you to do what I want, as long as I have your pesky little friend." He twisted Gabrielle's arm as she cried out.  

Xena still shaking her head said, "Let her go, I will do what you want."

"No, no my pet. I know you will do what I want, as long as I have my knife at your friend's throat. Don't get any ideas. I would kill her without hesitation. But right now I need your help."

Gabrielle yelled, "No, Xena, don't listen to him."

"You win, Draco. I will not do anything, don't hurt her. I will do what you want."

He handed Gabrielle over to one of his men and said, "Take her to my tent, I have to talk with Xena."

Xena felt helpless as she watched them lead her friend off. Draco brought her back as he reached down, grabbed her by the hair, and pulled her to her feet. Without warning his fist slammed into Xena's stomach. She doubled over, feeling another blow, and then another. She crumpled to the ground folding, feeling his boot kick her over. She looked up to see Draco smiling down at her, "That's only a start of what I owe you. Just think of it this way, you take the blows and I won't have to harm your little friend." He turned to a guard, "Tie her up, I have to go see to my other prisoner."

Xena pleaded, "Please, don't hurt her. If you hurt her, I'll kill you. There will be no place you can hide." 

He laughed as he walked off. Xena let the guard tie her up and pull her over to a tree where he bound her to the trunk.

She was feeling extreme pain in her stomach but knew she had to make herself stay alert. She had to keep an eye on Draco's tent. If she heard one sound that meant Gabrielle was being harmed, the ropes that held her would be gone in an instant. But she could do nothing for fear he would carry out his threat and kill her friend. She would have to bide her time.

Thinking back she had had the chance to kill Draco and she let him go. She faintly whispered, "One day you'll learn Xena, some people just can't be trusted."  

The next day they had picked up camp and were beginning to mount up, getting ready to move on. Draco came out of his tent pulling a bound Gabrielle behind him. She was trying to keep up with the man all the while her eyes were darting around looking for Xena. When she found her, Xena looked haggard. She had dried blood about the mouth. Gabrielle knew the man had hurt her. "I must pray to the gods, to please help her," she thought, "even Ares, who loves Xena very much, must know what is going on. Maybe he will help her."  

Xena's eyes met Gabrielle's and she could feel the fire there. She shook her head as if to tell Gabrielle to be calm, not to start anything. She tried to smile just to let her know it was all right. If one could call the situation they were in, all right. Gabrielle smiled back and then she said, "What have you done to Xena? What is wrong with you? You'd be dead if it wasn't for her." 

Draco lifted her up into the saddle as he climbed up behind her "She'll be fine. Your friend is a strong person and she's alive because she didn't kill me, so think of that."

"I.... can I go to her?"  

He yelled, "Tie her to the horse she can keep up behind it walking or running,"

"No, please she's hurt. Let her ride, I'll walk." 

He snarled, "Really you two are something else. If Xena had never met you she would not be in this mess and if you had never met her you wouldn't be in this mess. So it looks like your fates have been sealed. Sit back and enjoy the ride. Lets go." He waved his men on.

As the horses started off, Xena felt the ropes tightening around her wrists. She found herself running to keep up with them. A few times she stumbled, falling and was dragged a small distance but she managed to regain her footing. She would not let this man win. He would pay. By the end of the day, they had reached the plateau above Xena's village. He ordered his men to dismount. When the horse stopped, Xena fell to the ground. Her legs were shaking and her wrists were throbbing. She could see the blood around the ropes. She knew that her wrists had been bleeding. She sighed.

"What's the matter? I thought the woman warrior was stronger than this."

She looked into Draco's face, "Try keeping up with a running horse all day while being tied to it, Draco, it might improve your disposition." She never even saw the boot coming at her, but she felt it. She blacked out.

"Wake up, sleepy head, wake up." Xena felt the boot on her chest. There was something about the rhythmic sound of the voice. She felt a chill run over her body as she focused her eyes on the form towering above her. The blond hair, the evil smile, the cold brown eyes, her worst nightmare had become a reality. There stood Callisto, looking no worse for wear. Last time she had seen her she was in chains heading for jail. "How? What are you doing here?"

"Well Xena, I told you we would meet again and under different circumstances. Draco said you shunned every advance of his and every offer he made you. Well, I'm not that stupid. Together the two of us have made an invincible army. Our only problem would have been you, but as long as your pesky friend is ours, so are you."

"Don't count your chickens before they're hatched. You will not win." 

She shifted her weight causing more pressure on Xena's chest, "Chickens, couldn't you think of anything more timely like a Hydra? Tssk, tssk, you are slipping Xena. I can see that Draco has made you right at home." 

Xena realized the spot she was in as she said, "Look Callisto, I hold you no ill will. What you have done in the past is your concern, you will have to atone for that. But here, now. Think. Joining Draco will only get you killed."

"By who Xena? Surely not you. You are bound up like a pig to slaughter. Surely you don't think I fear you." From a tent came the cry, "Callisto, get in here."  

The woman looked away and Xena asked, "What's the matter, your master call?" 

Callisto said, "Don't you wish. No one is my master and Draco will soon learn that. I will be back and we can finish our little discussion. Don't worry your friend is now in good hands, mine!" She turned and walked away.  

Xena strained at the ropes binding her hands. Realizing this was futile, she set up looking down at her breasts and closed her eyes mustering up all the air she could get into her lungs. She prayed to the gods that she would have the strength to perform this one more time. As she exhaled, the dagger she kept there popped out and flew up. As it came down, she caught it with her hands. She had used this many times and every time she thought about how Gabrielle had come out of that shop looking so smug, standing so straight and tall. Xena had asked her if something was wrong, telling Gabrielle she looked different. Her friend puffed up and said, "No it's just the air." Then it fell. Gabrielle tried to make an excuse about how the dagger got into her clothes. Xena had picked it up and put it between her own breasts. She knew it wouldn't fall through on her. No, it would sit snugly, until she might need it.

Gabrielle had told her she didn't need it because her breasts were dangerous enough. She couldn't help but smile when thinking about her. Gabrielle's face had turned rich red from the embarrassment. Yes, her friend kept her on her toes and she couldn't help but marvel at Gabrielle wanting to grow up. It was as if she wanted to experience everything all at once. If only she knew that sooner or later there was no going back, "Thank you Gabrielle for buying this and I'm really glad it didn't fit."  

She quickly cut the ropes on her hands and then those on her feet. Her wrists were bloody and she moved her hands slowly in and out trying to get the circulation back into them. Holding the dagger, she silently crawled toward the horses. A guard was standing leaning his back to a tree. He never even heard Xena creep up and before he knew it she put one hand over his mouth and with the other, she slit his throat and said, "One less of Draco's men to contend with."

She quickly found Argo and saddled her, leading the horse into the bushes where she tied her. Creeping back into the camp, she squinted her eyes and focused on the surroundings. Draco had built up a big army and with Callisto joining him, they would be hard to stop.  

She centered her attention on Draco's tent. Although her wrists were stinging with every move, she whispered, "Come on Xena, you have to focus. Gabrielle is the important one now."

Making it slowly to the back of the tent she proceeded to silently cut a slit into the material. She took a hand and opened the flap. Surveying the inside she immediately saw Gabrielle lying on her back, her hands tied to stakes above her head and below her feet. Xena felt something stir within her. It had been there before but she had not understood it. The first time it happened Gabrielle had reached over to touch her hand as she smiled and told Xena she could be so clumsy. Gab's eyes had sparkled and danced as the words flew at Xena and she was perplexed at them. "For someone who can fall giants, hydras, armies, and gods you are so naive in some things, Xena."  

Xena had fallen deep into Marcus' world. When she lost him she had sworn she would never feel again; it made her so vulnerable. Yet the feeling was there. She chose to believe it was because she had been beaten so mercilessly. Her senses were not as they should be. She knew she was tired and her head was feeling fuzzy. 

"If I never do another thing, I have to get Gabrielle out of here." Callisto had tried to kill her once before and Xena knew that Draco would not be able to keep Callisto from harming her friend.

Gabrielle was sleeping soundly. Xena put her hand over her friend's mouth. The eyes flew open in terror as Xena put a finger to her own lips, "Shhh, I've come to get you out of here."  

She quickly cut the ropes loose and led Gabrielle out of the tent. The two of them made their way to the bushes and a waiting Argo. Xena jumped into the saddle. Reaching down for Gabrielle's hand, she pulled her up behind her, urging the horse forward with a , "Go Argo." The horse reared her head and began to gallop into the forest. Gabrielle held onto Xena's waist, laying her head against Xena's back. She didn't say anything. She was just so glad to see her friend and to be with her again. The questions would come later, but for now she felt content.  

Gabrielle reached down with her right hand to feel her stomach. She thought, I must be hungry. My stomach feels so different. Suddenly it was as if someone had taken her and turned her upside down over a high cliff. Her insides were up into her throat. She had never felt like this before. She must remember to talk to Xena about this. There must be some new sickness going around. They needed to go the see Hestia and get a drink of the water there at the shrine. It was supposed to help health and family.  

Xena felt the wind against her cheeks, felt her hair blowing in the breeze, and felt Gabrielle's arms around her waist. She was glad she was able to free her friend and she was glad to have her with her again. For now they were heading for Xena's village to get ready for Draco and Callisto's army which would be coming down on them as soon as they knew Xena had escaped and had taken Gabrielle. 

Gabrielle said, "Thank you, you have saved my life again."  

Xena answered, "Glad to have you back, we have a lot of work to do. As a team we can't be beat." She called, "Go Argo, go," and a smile crossed her face.


Chapter Two


As Argo's mighty legs took them into the village of Amphipolis, a villager could be heard yelling. "It's Xena, It's Xena!" Xena pulled back on the reins as the horse slid to a stop. She helped Gabrielle down and flew off onto the ground. Gabrielle stood staring at her in amazement. She always marveled at the way Xena dismounted. She remembered there was one time that she tried it and landed on the ground in a heap, looking up at a smiling Xena.

Toris came running out of the tavern, a wide smile across his face until he saw the faces of the two women. "Xena, What's the matter? Your face..."  

Xena scowled, "Never mind that, we have work to do."

Toris reached out to greet Gabrielle and noticed she seemed even paler than usual. "All right, Gabrielle, someone tell me what is going on. I can see that Argo has been run hard. She's covered with lather. I know that you wouldn't do that unless there was a good reason."

"Xena, Xena, you've come home." Xena turned to see her mother running toward her. Reaching out her arms, she embraced the woman. "You should have let us know that you would be here, we could have prepared a feast."  

Xena looked into her mother's eyes and said, "Mother try not to be alarmed."

"No, don't tell me something has happened to you." Her mother now had a look of dread in her eyes. Xena took her right hand in hers and said, "Mother, we have come to warn you and the villagers of an impending attack."  

Toris swung her around and said, "All right, tell us, what has happened." 

Xena replied, "It's Draco and Callisto. They've formed a union and they are at this time probably bearing down on the valley."  

He said, "There's more to this than that. What has happened?"

"I don't know about Gabrielle but I could use a drink. Let's go inside and I will fill you in."

They all turned to walk into the tavern. Her mother went and got them something to drink. As she brought it over to the table she set the tray down, Gabrielle reached out and took a goblet, waiting for the others to get theirs.  

Xena sat back in the chair. Raising one leg, she let it fall onto the table. Her mother gave her a scathing look but didn't say anything. They all waited for her to speak and finally after she drank down all the port in the goblet she said, "I really needed that, ask Mendia to bring me another." Toris smiled and called to the young woman at the counter and she walked over to them. Smiling she went to bring some more port to the table.  

Xena reached up a hand to wipe her mouth and grimaced. Gabrielle reached out and said, "Don't, Xena, I need to tend to that. You have a bad bruise and an ugly cut on your mouth."

The woman replied, "I had forgotten, I have so many things on my mind. And that's not one of them."

Her mother reached out, touching her cut with her hand and said, "Gabrielle's right, you need to have this cleaned."

"You two, worrying about a silly cut! We have more important things to tend to. Toris we have to get the villagers together and tell them what has happened. Those who want to stay and fight can and those who chose to run can. These two people are a wicked lot and I won't begrudge any one who runs."  

Toris jumped up and said, "Well I won't run this time and I will fight to the death."

"Don't be a fool brother, I have lost Lyceus and I don't want to lose you also and there is mother to think about."

"Don't worry about me," Cyrene said, "I can fight with the best of them."

"I know you can Mother, but I don't want to see you stand and fight the likes of them. Besides if I know Callisto and Draco, they will try to get to you and to Gabrielle as well as Toris. They will try to hit me where it hurts and that includes all of you."  

Gabrielle set down her goblet and said, "She's right you know, they captured me. Thank the Gods Xena saved me. Maybe you should go." 

Xena slanted her eyes toward Gabrielle and said, "You too."

Gabrielle's blue green eyes shot sparks at her as she said, "Not me, I will stand by you. I'm not running and you can forget that right now. Now let's talk strategy."  

She was happy that her brother had not been idle since his return home. He had already dug trenches and covered them with straw and wood. He had barricades ready to put up if need be and he had an ample supply of weapons. He told Xena that their mother was not happy with what he had done, but he was glad he had done it.

Gabrielle tugged at Xena's right arm and she turned to look at her. "Xena, it looks like Toris was already prepared for something like this to have happened." Xena looked down at her and replied, "It's better to be prepared. We could never get this place into any position to withstand what is coming and even with all this, I'm not sure."

Her friend's eyes glistened, "I have no doubt that you will be able to. Just think about yourself. Don't get side tracked over Toris or me. You know that's how they get you every time."  

"Well not every time, but you are right. If Callisto can get her hands on you or Toris, my fight is gone. I will not be responsible for the death of either of you, you know that. And by the gods if anything were to happen to you I..."  

Gabrielle reached out and took her right hand in hers, "It's ok, nothing is going to happen to me and right now you just have to think about Callisto and Draco. Prepare yourself for what's coming. I know that you can do it." 

Xena smiled as she looked into her friend's wondrous eyes and gave her hand a squeeze, "What would I ever do without you?"  

Turning, she went to talk strategies with Toris as Gabrielle ran to catch up. Xena and Toris gave their mother a hug good-bye and reassured her everything was going to be all right. When the few carts left the village, Toris rode with them. He wanted to make sure they made it to the fork in the road, then he would return. Gabrielle gave him a startled glance and he said, "It's all right, Gabrielle. I will be back, I won't let you two and the rest, face them without me." He rode off and Xena even wondered if it was the last they would see of him. She would reserve her opinion until the sun hid in the great waters and darkness fell. Then she would know.

Watching one of the men struggling while trying to put up a barricade, she rushed to help him. She grabbed the heavy wagon just as it was about to fall on the man. Pushing it back, he reached up and helped her set it down. "Thank you Xena. It could have killed me." 

She stood motionless as she said, "It's all right, go be with your family, I will call you when it starts."  

Gabrielle had a special sense inside of her that seemed to know when Xena was in trouble, within seconds she was by her side and her hands had already reached out as if to catch her.  

She couldn't hold Xena up, but she could soften her fall and that is exactly what happened. Xena fell as Gabrielle grabbed for her. They both landed with a thud. Staring into Gabrielle's eyes she said, "Thanks, you make a great cushion." Gabrielle stared into Xena's bottomless blue eyes as if mesmerized.

Xena rolled off onto the ground with a groan. She didn't move. Gabrielle was on her side getting to her knees she said, "Xena, what's wrong?" 

Xena answered, "Guess I'm not as invulnerable as I thought, Draco must have messed up my insides."  

Gabrielle seemed perplexed and Xena told her about Draco's beating her..

"Why didn't you tell me?"

"There wasn't any time and I wouldn't be telling you now except I seem to be in a strange situation. I can't move. Gabrielle, we can't let the villagers see me like this. If they do all hope is lost. You have to help me up and into the tavern. Get Argo." 

Gabrielle was up and running for the stable as quick as her feet could propel her. She found Argo and saddled her. Within moments she jumped into the saddle, reining her in the direction of Xena. As she slowed the horse down and Argo came to a stop, she flew from the saddle and hit the ground, kneeling at Xena's side.  

Xena asked her for the whip that Gabrielle tied to the saddle horn and with Gabrielle's help, Xena raised herself up and was standing as she held onto the saddle. Gabrielle walked along side her as the two made their way to the tavern. Argo walking very carefully so as not to hurt her master. She didn't know what was wrong, she only knew that for Gabrielle to ride her like she had just done Xena must be in some kind of trouble.  

As they stopped in front of the tavern, Xena whispered, "Gabrielle get your staff and bring it here. I will support one side with it and you can help me on the other." Gabrielle ran into the tavern to retrieve her staff. She rushed back out to the waiting horse and her friend who was hanging on to the saddle looking paler by the minute.

"Xena here!" Handing her the staff. "Get a good hold and I'll try to get you from this side. If you fall this time, could you do it on my other side? That way both sides will look alike. I'll have a bruise on each."  

Xena managed a laugh as she took the staff and put one arm around Gabrielle. The two moved slowly toward the tavern door. Once inside Gabrielle took her over to the closest bench and helped her to sit down. By this time Gabrielle was shaking and her eyes were filling with tears. Xena reached out to wipe off a tear that was rolling down her cheek and said, "Be strong Gabrielle. If something happens and I can't... then it's up to you"  

Gabrielle took a deep breath as she replied, "Xena, I need to get someone in here to look at you. You know I will do what I can but right now I think we should run. I think we should all run and return to fight another time. You know if you are injured there will be no way to protect yourself from them. No, I won't see you killed."  

Xena forced a smile as she replied, "Gabrielle it's going to be all right, I'll be ok. Just let me rest for a few minutes and get me some henbane. I know what it did to you but you ate too much of it. If I get just enough and drink some warm leafed water I will be all right." 

"Xena, if there is something really wrong, won't that hide it? I mean you could kill yourself couldn't you?"

"Not to worry, Gabrielle, I've done it before and everything will be fine. Just get me some henbane." 

Gabrielle got up from the bench and said, "All right but don't go anywhere." 

Xena forced a laugh and said, "I'll be right here, wouldn't leave without you."  

Xena tried to move but the fire that was coming from her insides sent a lightening bolt of pain throughout her body and she set motionless muttering under her breath, "What have you done to yourself now, Xena? Come on body, you're not going to let a pair of smelly boots do you in now are you? Have to concentrate, have to think positive. By the gods, I will not be defeated this way. Ares, can you hear me?"  

The silence was evident. There wasn't even a sound coming from outside. Just as suddenly she saw a swirl of dust sweep through the doorway into the room. She couldn't imagine how a wind devil had gotten into the tavern, but there it was and she just hoped it didn't cause any damage. Just as suddenly as it had appeared it stopped and there stood Ares, just as smug as ever. He walked over to her and reaching down, he grasped her left hand in his. Raising it to his lips, he planted a soft kiss. "Hello, my dear, we meet in the oddest places. But at least this time you're not attacking me with your sword. By the way, where is your trusty friend?"  

She sneered up at him and pulled her hand back, "My trusty friend, would you be speaking of my sword or Gabrielle?" 

He raised his head and laughed, "Your sword of course. I know where she is."

"Ares, you haven't done anything to her have you? If you harm one hair on her head, I'll..."

He said, "Do what? From what I have seen, you can't do much at the moment. I can't believe that the one person to finally fail the mighty Xena is my old friend Draco."

"Don't become too confident, Ares. I still have a lot of life left and I wouldn't give you or him that satisfaction."  

Walking around the room he turned and said, "You know the offer still stands. I will make you the head of my army and you will rule the world. Just say the words and I will make your pain go away. We will make a great team. People will tremble at the names of Ares and Xena."

"I can't. It's not just me anymore." 

He snarled, "It's that pesky friend of yours isn't it? You just don't want to leave her. Well I could find some place for her in my army. She would make a great concubine." 

Xena jumped to her feet and swung at him, catching Ares off guard. The blow landed a solid right to his chin and he crumpled to the floor. He looked up to see her right leg swing and felt the blow to his head from her boot.  

As he lay dazed, she leaned over him and whispered into his right ear, "Be nice. Don't ever underestimate me, Ares. I owe you for what you have said about Gabrielle, and you'd better think better of it in the future. If there's ever to be anything between us you'd better remember that." She pulled herself up to stand statuesquely above him before she turned and walked out the door. When she looked back inside, he was gone as quickly as he had arrived. Leaning up against the wall, she felt a cold chill run over her body and sweat pouring down her face. The earth under her feet began to swirl as all she saw was blackness.  

"XeenNAH. .XeenNAH!" She heard the words coming to her as in a fog but they were strong and so was the hand that was slapping her face. She opened one eye and squinted into Gabrielle's face. Her left hand reached up and grabbed Gabrielle's hand. "I'm awake, what is going on?" 

Gabrielle said, "I was so worried. Xena what in the world were you doing passed out in front of the tavern? Of course I guess if one passed out in front of a tavern it would probably be from too much port but in..."  

Xena interrupted, "Gabrielle, there you go again, rambling. I'm glad to see you."

The girl seemed to glow, her eyes sparkling at Xena, "Whew, makes me feel better. Now here, sit up. You can lean on me and I'll hold the cup, just drink it. I make a mean pot of henbane if I do say so myself." 

Xena managed to sit up, leaning against Gabrielle. She reached out to grasp the cup, her hand shaking. Gabrielle grasped Xena's hand in hers and held it to the cup, helping her raise it. Xena drank the entire potion. When she finished, she wrinkled her nose and said, "You're right, I've never tasted a better cup of henbane, Gabrielle"  

Gabrielle kept asking why she was outside and Xena finally told her of her visit with Ares, she just left out a certain part. Xena began to feel warm inside and the pain she had been feeling was ebbing away. Slowly she let herself fall back. Gabrielle went to move but she couldn't. Xena muttered as she closed her eyes. "Stay, Gabrielle, you make a great cushion." She managed a smile and was fast asleep. Gabrielle looked down at her friend and knew that the henbane had to work. And the praying she had done at the shrine couldn't hurt. She didn't know what she would do if Xena were never a part of her life. She would never let that happen. She whispered softly, "Sleep Xena, sleep. You'll feel better when you wake up."



Chapter Three


The sounds of people talking and the pleasing aroma of her mother's cooking caused the woman to stir. She could almost taste it. Opening her eyes, she glanced around the room. Toris and Gabrielle sat at a table. They seemed to be deep in conversation and she knew at once that Gabrielle was probably telling him another of their adventures. If anyone could write a book, she knew it would be her friend. She always had people on the edge of their seats with her stories, waiting for what was to come next.  

She raised herself into a sitting position. Gabrielle was aware of Xena's movement and she turned and called, "Hey sleepy head, glad to see you among the living again. Did you have a good rest?" 

Xena stood swaying for a moment, her head throbbing. The pain in her stomach gone. She walked over to the table, pulled out a chair and sat down.

Toris laughed, "If Gabrielle hadn't told me about the henbane, I would swear you were drunk."  

"Well, I've had fewer headaches from that. Did everything go all right?"

"Not to worry. They're all on their way. I checked around a bit before I came back. So far nothing. Gabrielle told me what happened." 

Xena shot a cold stare at her friend, "She would. Is that mother's cooking I smell?"

"Yes, she fixed it before they left and told me to warm it up. I knew if anything would wake you up that was it." Gabrielle went to get a bowl and spoon. After filling the bowl she walked over and set it down in front of Xena.  

"I guess I will have to live that down from now on." She looked at the two of them questioningly and Toris said, "Its ok we've already eaten. It's time for me to take my turn around the village. Gabrielle fill her in will you." He turned and left.  

Gabrielle sat and watched as Xena scoffed down the food. "I can see you must be feeling better. Seriously, Xena did it work?" 

In between bites she said, "I do feel better, just a headache but that's to be expected. Stomach's back to normal and after this delicious meal I'm ready for almost anything. Has Toris been back long?"

"He arrived right after you went to sleep. I had to tell him what happened. He was surprised to see you sleeping with Callisto and Draco not far away."

"Is everything ready for them?"

"Best we can do. I only hope what we have will throw them off guard." She reached over and grasped Xena's right hand, "It will be all right, you've beaten them before and you can do it again."

Xena smiled at her friend and said, "That's why I love you Gabrielle, you are always the optimist. When I am down you always seem to have a way of lifting my spirits." Pushing the bowl away. "I must tell mother how good that rabbit stew was."  

The woman warrior had walked over to Argo's saddle, reaching up she removed a leather pouch. Turning she walked toward the table where the strawberry blond-haired woman had began scribing on a parchment. As Xena set down she said, "Still writing your stories? Who are you writing about now?" 

Gabrielle set down the quill she had been using as she turned to face the mischievous grin on Xena's face. "As if you don't know. Of course I'm writing about you. Why are you looking at me that way?" 

Xena set the leather pouch down in front of Gabrielle and said, "Go ahead open it."  

Gabrielle reached for the pouch a look of anticipation on her face, "You shouldn't have gotten me anything, but I'm glad you did. Did I forget something?"

"No, Gabrielle, it's just my way of saying thanks for being you. I know I may not show you often , but I appreciate all you do for me."

Xena received more pleasure in just watching the look on her friend's face as she opened the pouch. Gabrielle reached in and brought out a small package. Unwrapping it she asked, "What in the world did you get me?" 

Xena smiled, "I thought it would look good on you."

"OHHHHH! I love it, how did you know I've been wanting one?" Gabrielle brought out a very delicate, beautiful amulet.  

Xena reached over, "Here let me put it around your neck." Taking the leather she tied it around Gabrielle's neck. The amulet fell down resting on her friend's warm skin.

Gabrielle reached up to touch it and said, "It fits just right. Thank you Xena." She gave her friend a very warm hug.

"I know you have wanted one and I feel that you could use a talisman against evil and also for luck. I was going to give it to you after we left Amphipolis." Gabrielle's eyes began to water up and Xena said, "Well I've got to go check the area, want to come?" 

The woman jumped to her feet, "The story can wait. Hold up."  

As they walked along the edge of the village. Gabrielle took in a deep breath, "It's hard to believe that they are out there somewhere. It's such a wonderful night, the stars are shining down upon us so brightly, it's as if the gods are pleased."

"Don't let a few stars fool you, Gabrielle, we both know how devious Callisto and Draco can be. They probably have Ares on their side already. You are right though, it is a lovely night and if we didn't have them looming in our future, I can think of other things that a night like this can be used for."  

Gabrielle smiled and started to say something when Toris loomed into view calling, "Xena, we've got trouble." Xena turned to see her brother hurrying toward them his face red from running. He was out of breath as he said, "They're here. I can see the campfires on the north and it won't be long before they will be right here."  

She reached out a hand and placed it on his right shoulder, "It's just a fire. They want to get us confused. We won't let that happen. Go get the villagers and take them to their posts. We have to be ready from here on out. No telling what those two are planning." He nodded, turned and ran off hastily to warn the others.  

Gabrielle stepped forward, "Got to go get my staff. What a waste."

Xena smiled, "There will be other nights, Gabrielle."

Gabrielle sighed as she said, "That is if we live."

"We will and Callisto and Draco will regret what they have done." 

The two turned and walked toward the tavern. They had to get their weapons and join the villagers who were already gathering at the defensive lines. By the time they approached the entrance of the tavern, the campfires had encircled the village. Gabrielle said, "They are all around us."

"That's what they want us to think. We're ready for them just don't get confused. That's what they rely on. If we get confused, we can't predict their attack, and we will be vulnerable to them."  

They waited through out the night, smelling the burning wood from the campfires. Toward dawn a horn could be heard. Those that had been nodding off were fully awake. Toris looked at Xena with apprehension and Gabrielle walked over to her friend, "Xena, what's that?"

"It's Callisto's way of telling us she's coming down. This could be a trap. Toris make sure everyone is ready all around. I don't want anyone sneaking through the back while I'm busy up here with her."  

It wasn't long before the lone horse could be seen coming into view and sitting regally on its back was Callisto. She stopped short of the village and called, "Xena, oh Xena we need to talk."

Xena stepped forward as Gabrielle grabbed her by her right arm, "Xena, don't be a fool, you can't go out there. It's probably a trap."

"I have to Gabrielle."

"Well, if your going then so am I."

"No, you stay here. Toris will need all the help he can and I would feel better knowing you are here and not out there where they can get to you."

Gabrielle wasn't very happy but she replied, "Well all right, but you be careful. I know how Callisto can get under your skin."  

Xena started walking toward the horse as she called, "I'm coming out to talk, Callisto, you tell Draco to back off." 

Gabrielle and Toris watched as Xena walked proudly out to meet Callisto. As she approached the horse, Xena could see the sneer on Callisto's face and she said, "Think better of it Callisto, turn and leave. We won't give in to the likes of you two." 

Within a second Callisto did a forward flip off the horse and landed at Xena's feet, "Surprise, I learn from the best. Why must we always meet like this Xena? You could just give in to your feelings and things could be different."  

"How different Callisto, you have vowed to see all my loved ones dead. I have tried to tell you that the burning of your village wasn't my fault. It was the fault of renegade men in my army." 

Callisto cocked her head to the side as she said, "Tsk tsk, trying to blame men for your failings. Not like you Xena. They were your men, and you should have known what they were doing. It was your army and I don't buy your excuse. I have told you before, when I feel satisfied I will quit. You will pay and so will your loved ones. After all, I lost mine. Now isn't fair, fair?"  

Xena stood, uncertain what Callisto's next move might be as she eyed her carefully, "Where is Draco?"

"He's around just waiting for my sign. You know Xena, I can't wait to get my hands on your pesky little friend again. Only this time you won't take her away from me."

Blue eyes flared as Xena stepped back, "You touch Gabrielle again and I'll kill you."

"OHHHHH so scared. Xena you make me quake." She laughed sadistically. "Well got to go, see you real soon." She flipped backwards, leaped and was in the saddle, turning the horse she ran it up the hill.  

Xena stood still, trying to take in Callisto's final words. What had she done to bring this woman's hatred upon her family and friends. She turned and walked back to the village.  

Gabrielle ran to meet her, "Xena, what did she say?"

"Not important, we had better get ready and I mean now. They will be upon us before we know it." She reached out and said, "Gabrielle, this may be the worst of all of our situations and I just wanted to..."  

Gabrielle touched her hand and said, "I know, Xena, me too." 

They walked back into the village and to a waiting Toris.  

Within seconds the village was bombarded with flying rocks, flaming arrows and an army of men, attacking from all sides. People were trying to dodge the arrows and trying to avoid the rocks. The flying debris hit many. Buildings were set on fire and they ran to try to put the flames out. The men stood bravely at their watch and as the army started to run into the village, the trenches that Toris had prepared began to swallow them up. Many of Draco's men saw what was happening and they jumped over them, continuing to attack.

Xena and Gabrielle stood back to back taking on each and every one that made their way over the pitfalls that had been prepared. Gabrielle could see that Toris had too many against him and she ran to help. Taking them down with her mighty blows from top to bottom she struck and Toris beamed a thank you as he continued to defend himself.

Xena had glanced over and was happy that Gabrielle had learned the staff so well when Ephiny and the Amazons had taught her.  

A woman's cry could be heard and Xena glanced in the direction of the sound and could see two of Draco's men bearing down on her mother's friend Herma, who had refused to leave her husband. Xena reached to her side and grasped her chakrum swinging it with the velocity of a falling star toward the men.. The chakrum knocked the swords from their hands. Flying on into the wall it bounced off and started back to the men. As it passed them the round disc made contact with their heads sending them both face down into the dirt. Herma looked toward Xena and approvingly gave her a nod. Xena reached out and caught the chakrum as it made its way back to her.  

Gabrielle had glanced in the direction of the noise and when she looked back she saw one of Draco's men bearing down on Xena's back, his sword thrust out in a deadly rush. Before she could warn her friend, Xena had drawn her sword. She twirled it around in her hand flipping it backwards. She ran the sword straight back under her arm into the on-coming man's stomach.

Gabrielle shook her head. As many times as she had seen Xena do this, she still never could understand how Xena knew just who was coming and where.  

Xena felt a pain in the back of her head. As she stumbled forward, she turned to see Draco bearing down on her. She quickly stepped aside. Throwing out her foot she caught his as he stumbled and fell forward. As he hit the ground she was on his back kneeling as she pushed her right knee into his back. One hand reached around his head as the other one held the sword to his throat. "UH HUH, don't you move. I'd as soon slit your throat as not. Call off your dogs, Draco." 

He grimaced, "I should have killed you when I had the chance Xena. You know I can't control Callisto."

"I'll take care of her, call off your men, now, Draco!" She helped him to his feet as he called out, "Drop your weapons, stop, retreat."

"That's better, Draco. Now let's go find Callisto."  

Toris had walked over to Gabrielle as the two of them smiled at Xena. Toris said, "I knew she could do it." 

Gabrielle replied, "Yeah but they never seem to learn. I'm going to check out the tavern. Toris tell Xena I'll be there. After this we can all stand a good drink."

Toris answered, "I'll go for that. I'll tell Xena and as soon as we round up the remaining prisoners, we'll join you." He went to help Xena with Draco and his remaining men. The villagers were yelling in celebration. Others were tending to wounds. Xena turned to Toris and asked, "Where's Gabrielle?"  

He looked up, "She went to the tavern to check it out. Said when we finished to come over and get a drink." 

A flash of fear traveled across Xena's face as she said, "Toris, you let her go there alone?"

"What could be the harm," he replied.

Xena stood up, "Callisto, that could be the harm. Take care of Draco." Toris watched her as she ran across to the tavern.  

As Xena approached the door, she drew out her sword. Holding it in front of her she called, "Gabrielle, are you in there?"

"She's right here waiting for you, Xena, enter at your own risk."

A skitter of fear lashed through her stomach and she felt she would be sick. Walking into the tavern she glanced around the room, her eyes stopping on the figure of her friend, who wasn't moving and the all consuming figure of Callisto standing behind her holding her sword at Gabrielle's throat. She sneered, "This what your looking for?"

Xena walked cautiously toward them, her eyes darting from Callisto to Gabrielle, "Gabrielle, are you all right?"  

"She's better than she should be. You have taught her well Xena. She didn't give in without a fight." Callisto grabbed Gabrielle's right arm as the woman cried out.

Xena could see the red flowing down Gabrielle's arm as she said, "The gods had better protect you Callisto because I won't, this is it. Let her go. It's me you want, or are you too much of a coward!"  

Callisto looked at Gabrielle and said, "It's not over till its over. Seems like I've heard that before. Little girl go sit down while I deal with your would-be protector." She pushed Gabrielle toward a chair. Callisto, white-lipped, eyes flashing, leaped and lunged swinging her sword at Xena. "Ready or not here I come."

At the same time Xena charged at her, belting out her battle cry. As the two approached each other they both somersaulted into the air and as they passed, their swords met with a resounding impact that shot off sparks. As they both touched the floor, they turned and eyed one another for a second then Callisto began her charge again, straight for Xena.  

Xena deftly side-stepped her rush, circling warily watching her closely trying to see the movement of her hands and her body before she made a move. She whirled just in time to avoid Callisto's blade. Xena grabbed a small footstool with one hand, trying to keep her back, her sword in the other hand.

Again Callisto swung her sword, shouting and Xena ducked. Bringing up her sword, she nicked Callisto's right arm. Callisto swung again and this time Gabrielle dropped to the floor to avoid Callisto's wild circles.  

Callisto was strong and for a moment Xena felt she had met her match. Callisto swung again and this time splintered the stool Xena was holding like it was a piece of kindling. She swiftly raised her left leg and kicked Xena in the stomach while her fist came around and caught the woman on the left side of her face sending her reeling back. She kicked the sword from Xena's hand. Xena saw her lunge for her again and this time she dodged the woman's powerful thrust.

Gabrielle picked up the sword. As she threw it she yelled, "Xena catch."  

Xena caught the sword while nodding approval to Gabrielle. She began to move stealthily in a circle dodging Callisto's fury. Finally Callisto seemed to be faltering and this gave Xena the opportunity to move in. She flicked her sword in and out, moving swiftly around her opponent.

Still circling and dodging Callisto's sword, she jumped from table to table, flipping and landing on the floor. Callisto was spitting like a mad cat and her dark brown eyes shooting fire as she swore, screamed and lunged at Xena.  

Too late, Xena stepped aside and Callisto nearly fell. Xena moved deftly and lashed Callisto's left arm leaving a deep gash. Callisto yelled in surprise and pain. Staring for an instant at the hideous slice, she charged at Xena with new intention now born of fury.

Calmly Xena stepped around and behind her laying a swift kick to Callisto's back sending her sprawling to the floor. Callisto screamed and rolled on her back flipping to her feet. Holding her sword with both hands she caught Xena's right shoulder, slashing it open and the sword served a glancing blow on Xena's forehead. She rocked back falling against the wall. Gabrielle had watched the two with horror on her face. She was terrified.  

Callisto parried the sword one more time with a demonic blow. Now Xena fought for her life. She balled her fists and her face was white with strain. Her shoulder felt useless to her, but she knew if she faltered she would be dead. Callisto lunged hoping to decapitate Xena, who was pinned against the wall but she swung too far and wide. Xena bent down on her knees coming up under her arm, she thrust upwards with her sword and cut Callisto's face.  

Turning to look at Gabrielle, sure the fight was out of Callisto, she lowered her sword. From behind her Callisto rushed her again, her sword held high, blood flowing down her face.

Gabrielle yelled, "Look out Xena!" Xena moved just in time to avoid her thrust as she fell to the floor, rolling behind her.

Callisto stabbed viciously into the floor beneath her. Though Callisto seemed to be near blind from the blood that flowed from her face she hacked wildly in all directions. She swung for Xena again and Xena rolled under a table. Callisto's sword hit the leg of the table and fell from her hand. Xena rolled out from under the table, bounced to her feet, and in a flash her sword was at Callisto's throat.  

Toris came running in yelling, "Xena, he got away!" He stopped when he saw his sister with her sword to Callisto's throat.

"Let her go Xena!" Xena turned to see Draco holding a knife to Gabrielle.  

Xena scowled at the man as she said, "Draco, let Gabrielle go."  

He sneered, "You first, let Callisto go and I'll let your little friend go.

"Let her go, now!"

He snarled, "You let Callisto go, drop your sword and step back, that goes for your brother too."

Xena could see the fear on Gabrielle's face and she gave her brother a cold hard look as she dropped her sword she said, "You win, Draco, take Callisto and leave."  

Callisto picked up her sword. As she reached up to wipe blood from her face she stepped close to Xena. Her face was almost touching hers as she said, "You will learn Xena, we are meant to be and after we leave you can think about what you have brought on everyone." She reached up with her bloody hand and wiped it down both sides of Xena's face. Xena looked revolted but didn't move a muscle. She turned the sword around and quickly ran the handle into Xena's stomach as she said, "Nighty night."  

She flipped backwards two times and hit Toris knocking him out, she then turned to Draco," "Come on let's go, we'll return but at another time. And bring the pesky friend. I'm sure I can find a use for her, besides if Xena knows we have her she will come after me. Only next time she won't win."



To be continued in Chapter Four.

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