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A Woman of Chains

by Amara Surakomol (Xenasister)


Walking down the dusty road, Gabrielle looked to the sky and noticed the sun beginning to fall. It was getting cooler and her feet were tiring. She and her friend, Xena, the Warrior princess had been walking for three days following the river after saving a small village from an overzealous warlord's takeover. They needed a rest, and besides that, Xena was still recovering from a battle wound that, were it not for her profuse healing knowledge and constitution as stubborn as she, could have become quite serious.

"How long until we reach the next village?" asked Gabrielle, whose stomach could now be heard growling.

"About another two days walk. How's that bump on your head?" Xena asked, referring to a knock Gabrielle received fighting in that last battle to help a woman escape a raping soldier.

"Oh!...(heh) Great if you like feeling like you've been drugged with henbane!" she replied with tart sarcasm. "Can we rest here? My head is killing me and my stomach is growling like an angry manticore!"

"Alright," said Xena. "Why don't you go find some kindling and build a fire while I water Argo?" The warrior princess realized she was developing quite an appetite herself from the day's travels. "But don't go too far...these roads are known for its thieves."

"Ok...hmm. Ah! This looks good," Gabrielle muttered to herself as she wandered around looking for some suitable twigs and branches. Meanwhile, Xena was just beyond the thin line of trees by the river, checking that her saddle was secure while Argo drank heartily from the river. She made sure to check it as often as possible. In her experiences, she could never predict when she'd have to be ready to ride off in an instant to save people from destruction or defend herself from an ambush. Better to be ready all the time than to be caught off guard, she thought.

Just as she finished checking her supplies, she noticed a rustling that didn't sound quite like an animal scampering through the bush. She slowly turned her head around, senses on alert and her hand gripping the hilt of her sword, still resting in its backholster. The rustling quickly became footsteps scuffing the dirt floor and Xena drew her sword. The metal of the blade rang out as she pulled it out which made the footsteps suddenly halt.

"Xena! Am I glad to have found you so quickly!" A young man of Xena's height with shoulder-length brown hair, dressed in a brown leather tunic and a sword sheathed in a hip-holster came out from between the trees.

"Torres! What are you doing here?" Her older brother was panting to catch his breath. Finding his sister was sometimes difficult, but fortunately, he was lucky to have happened upon a traveler coming from the last town she had saved who informed him of her direction.

"I've been looking for you. You have to come with me! It's urgent!"

"What are you talking about?" Xena inquired with a suspicious but curious look.

"Xena,'s Mother," he said, hesitating. "She's been captured. Some people say that they saw a woman with blonde hair take her. They say she has the warskills of the Warrior Princess herself but that she's even more cruel, more cold-blooded than yourself back in your old conquering days."

"....Callisto!" Xena breathed the name with a dark fire that burned at her gut. "GABRIELLE!!" she called out.

Gabrielle came running because she knew that familiar tone of Xena's voice that always said there was trouble ahead. "What is it? What's wrong?" She was harshly interrupted while in the middle of her meager feast that had barely stopped the rumbling in her stomach.

"We have to leave now !" The anger was obvious in Xena's words.

"Xena! What's happened? Where are we going?" Xena's sidekick companion was worried with confusion.

"We're going on a little trip to find Callisto...and my mother."

"Your mother ?...."


"Hey, Torres!! You think you could slow this thing down? If you go any faster, I'm going to fall off!" Gabrielle clung for life to Torres on top of his horse. She could barely keep her rear in the saddle as the horse threw her in the air and dropped her back down hard into the saddle with every gallop.

Slowing Argo, Xena called to Torres and Gabrielle behind her. "We'll arrive in Amphipolis soon. It'll be nightfall. We should rest here until morning. Callisto will be waiting for us and I want to be ready for every trap." Xena was already planning her strategy in her head. She knew it would be very tricky facing the only other person besides Hercules that matched her warskills so evenly.

Torres finally slowed his horse to a slow walk that matched Argo's speed, to Gabrielle's relief. "Thank the gods!" she exclaimed to herself, her rear end exhausted by the long, rough ride. She was still a very inexperienced rider compared to her best friend and she longed to ease the soreness.

"Gabrielle, tomorrow, I want you to head for Cythera. You'll be safe there. Just head west on that road up ahead for a day and you'll find it. There's a family there...nice people. They owe me a favor. I want you to go and stay with them."

"Ooohh, no, n-no, no! I'm staying with you to help you find your mother. Xena, you need me. I can't leave you now!"

"Gabrielle, you remember Callisto's words? She said she would devote her life to destroying everything I love and she's got my mother held captive. She'll kill her if I don't stop her and she'll kill you if she can. I don't want you getting hurt."

"But, Xena..."

"Gabrielle, please.....Do it for me."

"Oh, alright." Gabrielle was sorely disappointed for not being given the chance to prove her warskills again, but she remembered they weren't much use after being strung up to die and coming very close were it not for Xena's fast thinking and clever tactics that saved her from being murdered by Callisto. "Well, at least I can finish my sandwich now."


Nightfall disappeared quickly as the sun peeked just over the treeline. Gabrielle was glad for it, too. She hated sleeping out in the chill of the night, even with the fire she'd built, which was just burning itself out. She awoke to find Xena and Torres packing up their saddlebags.

Xena turned to face Gabrielle. "Gabrielle, I want you to promise me you'll stay in Cythera until I come for you."

"Xena..." Gabrielle's eyes filled with ache and worry for her closest friend. No one else but Xena had ever been so close to her heart and she wanted desperately not to lose the best friend she had in the world.

"I'll be alright. I promise I'll come back for you." Xena grinned shadily. "How could I leave you? I'm just getting used to you!"

"Oh! FUN-nee, very funny!" Gabrielle asserted, but suddenly became very serious. "Xena, please be careful."

"Don't worry. I'll see you in a while, alright?" she reassured her companion by putting her hand tightly on Gabrielle's shoulder. She gave a warm smile that spoke comfort, then she quickly jumped on Argo who bolted off as soon as she felt Xena in the saddle. "Hyaaaa!"

Torres followed immediately after her, eager to rescue their mother and defeat Callisto. He was very concerned for her since he had spent so little time with her after hunting Cortes for so long that it was difficult to bear the idea of losing her so soon.

As Gabrielle watched the two disappear down the road, she wrung her hands and gathered up her satchel and staff. "Please come back to me alive! " she whispered, knowing Xena was well out of earshot. She turned and headed down the trail to Cythera.

"Xena..." said Torres as they trotted along the curving road. But Xena cut him off before he could say anymore. She already knew what he was going to say.

"Don't worry. We'll get her back safe. I'm not about to let Callisto take her away from us."

Before long, they came to the familiar road that leads to Amphipolis, their home for many years before Xena left it to search for power and dominance as a ruthless warlord. It was the first time she had returned since then, but the surroundings were still as well-known to her as the weapons with which she fought for so long. The trees lining the entrance stood tall to create a luscious green canopy above and the road followed a familiar path.

"Callisto's got guards posted at the gate. I don't see any other soldiers. She's probably got an ambush planted. We may have to take them out quickly and find Callisto before anyone has a chance to realize what's happened," remarked Torres who spyed the build and weapons of the three guards at the entrance. They would have no trouble with them, but when it was that easy, Xena always moved more cautiously, for it usually meant a slippery trap of some sort.

Xena kicked her heels into Argo's hind quarters and she and her brother charged the entrance gate, leaving a large cloud of dust behind them. Her sword pulled easily from behind her. "Ayiyiyiyiyiyiiiii! YAAAH!!" Xena's famous battle cry called out to the guards and they could see her fierce, contorted face staring hard at them. But before the guards could swing first, the brother and sister team were already upon them and with the advantage of being high on horseback.

The first guard felt the slice of Torres' sword falling hard onto his shoulder. The blade cut cleanly into the nape, spurting bright red blood as the man fell to his knees, one by one, his face grimacing in excruciating pain before toppling onto his face, dead.

The second guard met Xena's boot heel fiercely in the jaw, sending him spinning back. He grunted out. Shaking his head to regain his orientation, he lifted his crossbow and aimed squarely at Xena's heart. She reached for her chakrum which rested at her right hip, though she had no time to throw it. The arrow had already been sprung and whistled through the air toward her. But lightning reflexes set in and she caught the arrow in her left hand, just centimeters from passing through the breastplate she wore over her leather armor. She responded with a grin that scorched clean through the guard's body and the next thing he knew, he'd been struck in the face by her chakrum and he dropped with an earthy thud, never having seen her throw it.

She dropped out of her saddle to the clanging of metal blades and saw Torres swinging with all his might, countering every thrust the third guard made. Soon, Torres had the obvious advantage and grabbed it. He threw himself forward, knocking the man to the ground which sent the guard's sword out of his hand and out of reach. He felt himself being dragged to his feet with his wrist pinned to his back, completely disabled. The coldness of a sharp blade against his throat combined with the thought of his it being slit, gave him goosebumps. His eyes traced the blade to a hand which belonged to a beautiful dark-haired woman in warrior garb.

"Tell us where Callisto is and we may spare your life," she said slyly. But her statement was met with an indignant silence. She lowered her sword from the shaking man's neck and put it back in the holster behind her shoulders. Then, she raised her hands with her index and middle fingers pointing out and jabbed him in the neck. Thwap, thwap, thwap.

She put her mouth to his ear. "I've just blocked off the flow of blood to your brain. You'll be dead in seconds if you don't tell me where to find Callisto," she said in a soft but acrid voice.

He still struggled and paused, but the effects of her touch were creeping over his consciousness. He decided to give in. "(choke) She's (cough) on the south side of the village (choke)...near the pond. But you'll never defeat her! (cough)"

She reversed her death touch on the witless man and he gasped for air, clutching his throat. He collapsed on the ground, weakened. Xena simply stepped over his body and sneered with frustration. "I know," she said.


Those two words cut through her brother who shuddered with surprise. He thought that if anyone could defeat her, it would be his sister! The Warrior Princess ! He looked at Xena, his eyebrows scrunched in angry wonder. But he knew her well enough not to protest.

"Welcome, Xena!!" Callisto's words beckoned to her in that devilishly seductive and annoying tone that grated Xena's stomach. "I'm soooo glad you could make it! I wouldn't want you to miss seeing your mother die! (heh, heh, heh). I'll have her screaming in no time!"

Xena quickly eyed the camp Callisto had set up. Of course, there was a spot that was obviously where Callisto planned to execute Xena's mother. There was a pit dug in the ground and she could see a circle of long wooden spikes protruding from the hole. Emitting from the center of the spikes was a wide length of black smoke which she could tell came from an ample fire. High above the pit, she could see her mother hanging by her wrists, feet bound and eyes blindfolded. She was quietly wailing in fear of dropping. Though Xena's mother could not see what was below her, she knew it was enough to kill her and she did not want to die. There were two towers on either side of the pit which probably served both as Callisto's planning room and sleeping chambers. It was an all too familiar set up: virtually an eerie recreation of the first meeting the two women had when Callisto had abducted Gabrielle and strung her up above a similar trap. But this time, the pit was much larger which made it more difficult to perform the same type of rescue for her mother that she had done for Gabrielle.

"Let her go, Callisto." Xena said to the blonde warrior who was insolently standing high on a tower ahead.

"XEENAAA!" her mother wailed.

"Ohh, I think not, Xena! Remember what I told you? I'm going to destroy you by taking away everything you love, starting with your mother !!" Her tone calmed, "Let's see if you can stand hearing your mother scream out in agony the way my mother and sister did while they burned to death, by YOUR hand!!" Callisto's words, like always, lingered slowly and the hatred in her heart ate away at Xena's confidence. "After that, I'll kill your pesky little friend. Huh, ho ho!" she mocked. "Even your horse won't survive my wrath!"

"Give it up Callisto. I defeated you once before. Don't make me do it again." But Xena knew it would have no effect on the snake before her.

Callisto smiled wryly, her eyes narrowing, "Ohhh, but I'm having so much fun !! .....DO IT BOYS!!" Xena's eyes widened to view a large vile being tipped by some slightly intricate mechanism. From the mouth of the vile dripped some kind of clear liquid on the rope from which Xena's mother dangled. The rope began to smoke and the individual twines that made it slowly began to burn apart.

Xena knew Callisto would never give her the chance to save her mother without a fight, so she would have to take care of Callisto first and hope that she still had time to rescue her mother before the ropes that tied her mother gave way.

She jumped quickly into action, running full speed toward the tower upon which Callisto stood. But arrows began zinging all around her, shot from three archers posted in the opposite tower. She drew her sword, deflecting each one that came too close for comfort. The arrows gave a pinging sound as they bounced off her sword. She grabbed her chakrum and gave it a mighty throw. It whizzed through the air in a blur of silver and smacked each of the three archers' crossbows, cutting them in half, useless. The chakrum came flying back and Xena snatched it out of flight with that familiar ease. She sprinted again toward Callisto.

Meanwhile, Torres was holding off a small band of men with the same confidence that ran in his family. He parried and thrusted, countered each blow the men dealt, and was successfully beating the men at their own game. Though he was surrounded, there were only three of the six men left standing. One man charged him, but Torres gave a high kick to his chest and stabbed him through. He fell. Another man charged him from the right and Torres punched him in the nose, sword still in hand. The blow was so heavy, the soldier passed out immediately, his sword clanging to the ground as he fell. But the third was not so easily defeated. Torres continued to fight the guard, sword to sword. Soon, another soldier appeared, then another. This is going to take some doing to finish these men off, thought Torres.

Suddenly, Xena came to a halt. A soldier with a very large build and a very foul smile landed in front of her, staff at the ready. The end of the thick pole came dropping toward her head, but she deftly shifted her head and torso to one side to avoid the blow. At the same time, she reached out with her hands and grabbed the staff, pulling it and the man toward her. As he came within range, she raised her leg shoulder high and kicked him square in the face. Fortunately, her strength was ample enough to topple the large man onto his rear end. While he was confused and disoriented, Xena snatched away the staff and butted him in the face with it and continued her advance on Callisto. The man fell to the ground, not to wake for several hours.

She kept her eye on Callisto all the while she ran forward. Callisto jumped off the platform in an overhead somersault. She landed on the ground, sword at the ready, facing Xena with a snarl on her lips. She hissed, sounding much like a hysterically defensive cat. If Xena didn't know her, she would have mistaken Callisto for one. Callisto screamed out, "YAAAAAAAH!" The noise pierced Xena's ears, but she attempted to drown it out with her own attack yell, "YAAAAAH!!"

Both women were now engaged in a heavy battle to the death which Xena knew but wanted to well avoid. She knew she would never be able to kill Callisto since their powers and abilities were so evenly matched. She would neither be able to murder her since she would never be able to live with it in her heart, knowing she didn't give Callisto the chance for a fair and just trial. No, she would have to disable Callisto just enough to send her to the jail and pray that the people of Amphipolis would judge her accordingly for her crimes. That would have to be enough for Xena.

"You're going to have to kill me, Xena. Or else your mother will DIE! Ha ha ha ha!!" she cackled out as she thrust her blade heartily toward Xena.

"You know I'm not going to do that, Callisto. I'll defeat you and you'll stand trial for all you've done." clang, clang, shiiing!!

"You're a hopeless fool, Xena! SPARE ME your petty sympathies!! They make me sick!! EEYAAAHH!!" CLANG CLANG! She swiped at Xena and made contact with her forearm, leaving a deep gash that stung smartly and quickly began to bleed. "You can't defeat me, Xena!" she said, still smiling. "I'm too good. After all, you made me, remember???"

Xena paused to look at the damage on her sword-arm. It was painful, but she wasn't going to let that hinder her. She mustered more strength and parried back. But Callisto was headed back for the tower. Xena glanced at the acid burning on the rope, then to her mother still wimpering and still in danger. The rope had burned halfway and the rest was going to give way in minutes if Xena didn't defeat Callisto soon. She sheathed her sword and gave out a call, "Ayiyiyiyiyiyiyi!!!" Xena was catapulting herself from a series of roundoffs into back-handsprings and finally into a high forward somersault over Callisto's head. Callisto stopped in her tracks, savoring this wonderful feeling that she had Xena right where she wanted her.

"The rope's almost burned through, Xena! Soon, you'll be able to hear your mother screaming to a very painful death!! She'll die the same way my mother did...burning alive with no escape!!"

To this, Xena swung her right fist and back handed Callisto broadside in the cheek. The blow struck with a loud "BAP!", but Callisto was still standing. When she straightened up again, the diabolical grin replaced her pained expression. Callisto threw her leg around in a roundhouse kick that just missed Xena's head. She kicked another sideways blow into Xena's gut that nearly knocked the wind out of her. Xena stumbled back a couple of steps, but quickly recovered. Xena turned and flipped upside down, standing on her hands, using both feet to rear into Callisto's stomach, the way she'd taught Argo to do on command. Callisto let out a scream but soon gathered her wits back and she howled. "AAAHHH!!!"

Xena landed back on her feet and whipped around to face Callisto, fists ready. They exchanged blows, punch for punch and it was clear there was not going to be a winner anytime soon. Xena was getting worried. She saw in her mind the rope snapping and feared it would be soon. But she couldn't take her eyes off Callisto for even one millisecond. Something had to happen that would give her the advantage or it would mean her mother's death. But she couldn't gain the advantage.

Suddenly, Xena heard a man's yell and a thud. She couldn't believe she was watching Callisto fall forward, smile removed from her face. Torres had delivered a crushing whack to Callisto with a staff which he removed from the posession of one of the guards. Xena leapt forward, kneeling on top of Callisto's back, pinning her arms behind her. Callisto fought hard to escape, growling and kicking the air, but to no avail. "Get off me!!" she cried.

"Oh, no no no nooo! It's time for you to face the music. Torres, tie her up but good. I'll go after Mother."

"Right," said her sibling already pulling out a rope and tying Callisto's wrists to her ankles like a roped animal.

Xena ran to the ladder of the tower where Callisto had mocked her from above. She spied the acid on the rope which was one twine away from snapping completely. As she reached the top of the platform, she heard a "SNAP!" that stopped her heart. Her mother screamed as she began falling toward the fiery pit below. Xena immediately sprang off the platform in a giant leap and flew into her mother. She grabbed her falling mother mid-air and used the momentum of the leap to make it safely across the pit to the other tower. Her mother let out a hearty breath while Xena untied and unblindfolded her.

"XENA!! My daughter! You came back to rescue me!!" Xena's mother weeped.

"It's good to see you, Mother!" With that, she embraced her mother, satisfying the long held desire to hold her. After so many years of being away, it felt better than she could have ever dreamed to feel her mother in her arms once again. The two were both crying from not having seen each other for too long. With a tear in a quivering voice that spoke a daughter's true love for a mother, Xena said, "It's alright, Mother. You're safe. I'm here, now. It's over..." For now, she thought.
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