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Disclaimer: This story contains scenes of violence, and shows the aftermath of said violence. If you are offended by any of this subject matter, then I recommend that you should search for entertainment elsewhere. The characters Xena, Gabrielle, Argo, Hercules, Iolaus, Autocylus, Darnelle, Glaphyra, Lyla, Kefor, and Derek strictly belong to MCA/Universal. Any subject matter that relates to the Battletech Universe aside from the names of characters and battle star groups not including the Eridanian Light Horse is strictly the property of Activision and the FASA Corporation. No copyright infringement is intended. All other characters in this story belong to me. All characters, settings, and situations in this story are fictitious, any similarity to persons, living or dead, settings, real or imaginary, and situations, true or false, is purely coincidental. Any usage of this narration is not permissible without written or e-mailed permission that has been granted to the party who wishes to use said documentation by the author of said documentation. Any questions, comments, or concerns are welcome. Please feel free to send them to me without fear or risk of retribution. I will view any and all correspondences with an open mind. Please include a return e-mail address to which I can send a reply. Please, enjoy the story.

Authors Note: This story contains references to the Battletech universe. If you are not familiar with this universe, then I will do my best to explain it to you. However, if you are familiar with the Battletech universe and you see any discrepancies, please e-mail them to me and I will do my best to correct the problem. For those of you who know not of Battletech, then this is a brief summary: It is the thirty-first century and battles are fought in giant robots called battlemechs. The people who pilot them are called mechwarriors. The galaxy is divided into two regions, the Inner Sphere, the explored space, and the Periphery, the unexplored space beyond the Inner Sphere. There are two major powers, the Federated Commonwealth (FC), and the Draconis Combine (DC). Our hero is a member of the FC military, a commander of the battle star group The Reapers.

Copyright 1998 by Jason Drever.

PART TWO:  Sickness in Poteidaia

Gabrielle looked up at Xena and smiled. "You know, it's been awhile since I've been home. I can't wait to see my family."

"More like you can't wait to eat your mother's cooking."

Gabrielle laughed. "That too!"

They were on their way to Gabrielle's home town for the first time in nearly a season. Xena rode atop Argo while Gabrielle walked beside her. They had camped just outside town that evening so they could enter the town fully rested for what was doomed to be a full day.

The town had it's usual happiness, but the two women sensed that there was a deep fear within these people. They walked through the town while children played alongside the street.

"This is really odd, Xena." Gabrielle said. "They look happy, but it's almost as if I can..."

"Sense something is wrong?" Xena finished.

"Yeah, there's something definitely amiss here."

That was more than evident as they approached Gabrielle's house. It looked deserted. There was no fire, no people, only a lonely hut. Xena approached cautiously, waving Gabrielle behind her. She pulled open the door, and paused. Gabrielle, curious, pushed in under her arm and stopped in the doorway.

"Mommy?" She gasped and ran to the form that laid on the cot in the corner. Just then, another form emerged from the next room.

"Gabrielle!" Her sister gasped, rushing to the bard's side and giving her a hug. "It so good to see you!"

"You too, but what's with mom?"

Her sister suddenly sobbed. "She's...she's dying Gabrielle, she's dying."

"What?" Gabrielle asked in disbelief. "She can't be, not MY mother."

"She went out to gather some berries for a pie she was going to make and was bitten by some kind of snake. That was a few weeks ago, and she lapsed into a coma yesterday."

Xena pushed past Gabrielle to stand beside her friend's mother. Softly, she check her pulse, felt her forehead, and listened to the labored breathing. Then, she looked at the bite. The puncture was unique, three entrance holes in a triangular shape. Xena turned to Gabrielle.

"Do you know what kind of snake has three fangs?" She asked.

"No." Gabrielle said, fretful with worry.

"The treewyrm. They are very rare, and also very territorial. They live inside the trunk of a living tree and attack any who venture near. The only thing that will cure the poisoning is the Water of Lincus."

"Then we need the Water of Lincus." Gabrielle stated. Then she looked up at her friend. "Where is it?"

"I don't know."

"Then how are we going to save my mother?"

"We still have plenty of time. The venom is slow working, we should have nearly a month."

"Oh, that's great. There's no problem there, except when our month is up and don't have any Water."

"We'll go to the Oracle in Athens. She'll tell us where to look."

"You also know that she helps only those who prove themselves worthy."

"Don't worry," Xena said, a sly grin spreading over her face, "She owes me a favor."

Two days later, Gabrielle and Xena entered Athena's temple. It was large and well decorated, with statues of the Goddess of Wisdom lining the walls. The marble pillars that held the roof up were shiny, in perfect condition. At the end of the large room, sat a single robed figure. Xena strode up to her and smiled.

"We need your guidance, oh, virtuous one."

"In order to help you," came the soothing reply, "I need to see that you truly support this temple and her Goddess."

"I believe that I proved that to you a long time ago." Xena said, unbuckling her shakram and setting it down on the altar in front of the woman.

"You're Xena?" She exclaimed, "Athena has deemed you worthy of her prophesy. What do you wish to ask?"

"How can I get the Water of Lincus."

"The Water of Lincus is hidden in the ruins of old Babylon. However, to open the door it rests behind, you need the Sword of Dellnus."

"The Sword of Dellnus?"

"Yes. The Sword is in a temple north of Delphi. But to get it, you need help.

"Many will join you in your quest. A big man, and a little man. A man who an animal, yet is still a man. An honorable man of the shadows, a male chauvinist, and a feminist. And a man of metal. All will assist you when you ask their help. Together, you will achieve your goal, divided, you will fail."

Then the Oracle turned and left, striding away from the warrior and disappearing into an alcove in the wall. Xena turned to the little bard at her side.

"So it begins." She said.

"A big man, that should be Hercules," Gabrielle said to Xena as they walked from the temple, "and the little man..."

"Iolaus." Xena finished.

"Right, but 'a man who is an animal, yet is still a man'?"

"I know, vague, but 'the chauvinist and the feminist'," Xena mused, "remind you of anyone?"

Gabrielle thought for a moment then brightened. "Darnelle and Glaphyra!" She exclaimed.

"Right!" Xena agreed. "I know they settled in Lithus, to the east. I want you to go there and recruit them. Tell'll be like old times."

"Where are you going?" Gabrielle asked.

"To find the 'big and little man'."

"Alright. Meet you back here in say, five days?"

"Sure. Five days."

So Gabrielle headed east and Xena headed north. On the outskirts of the city of Athens, Xena's luck was phenomenal. She met Hercules coming into the city. Pulling Argo to the side of the road, she dismounted to stand beside the taller man.

"Greeting, stranger." She said.

"Hey, Xena, how are you doing?"

"Just fine. Say, what are you doing right now?"

"Heading to Derek's to meet with him and Iolaus. Why?"

"Just wondering if you were in the mood for an adventure?"

"I'm always in the mood for adventure. Who are we saving?"

"Gabrielle's mother."

They continued walking into the city, heading for the house on the other side. They talked as they traversed the city.

"So who's Derek?" Xena asked.

"Just a friend to whom I owe a visit. His son is almost four now."

"You don't say."

"You know," Hercules grinned, " you do look a little like Lyla, his wife."

"Oh, really, when do I meet this beautiful woman." Xena smiled. Hercules laughed.

"Right now. Here's his house."

The cottage they approached was little more than a barn in the woods. It was made of stone, and the door was a flap of hide strung in the doorway. Iolaus walked out to meet them.

"Hi Xena," he said, "hey, Herc, have you seen Kefor? We're playing hide and seek and he's, uh... really good."

"Uh, no, I haven't." Hercules replied.

The blonde man looked frustrated. He put his hands on his hips and let out a big sigh. Xena smiled.

"The third tree on the left," she said to him, " the bushes around the trunk. I see a little blonde head."

Both Hercules and Iolaus looked to where she described, and neither saw the boy. Iolaus walked over and reached into the bush, and a squeal of young laughter broke the air.

"Well," he said in chagrin, "here he is!"

The young lad walked out of the bushes, holding Iolaus' hand. Xena saw the blonde hair, the leather jerkin, and the equine hooves.

"He's a centaur?" she asked.

"Yes, didn't you know?" Hercules answered.

"The man who is an animal yet is still a man! Where's Derek?"

Suddenly a woman exited the hut, a human woman in the spitting image of Xena.

"Lyla, meet Xena, Xena, meet Lyla." Iolaus said, introducing the two.

"But she's a woman." Xena said.

"So?" Lyla asked.

"I'm sorry, I just expected a centaur. But who am I to judge two lovers?"

Then she pulled Hercules aside, whispering harshly in his ear. "She looks nothing like me!"

"You can believe that if you like." Hercules smiled. "Let's go find Derek and you can tell us your story."

"So he's 'the big man', I'm 'the little man', and Derek is the 'man who is an animal, yet is still a man'?" Iolaus asked, trying to get things straight.

"Yes!" Xena said for the fourth time. Sometimes those two could be so dense.

"So who is the honorable shadow man?" Derek asked.

"And the metal man?" Lyla added.

"I don't know yet, but I'll know them when we meet them." She eyed the group. "So, who's with me?"

Hercules reached up and rubbed his chin, smiling. "Well," he said, "I've never one to pass up an adventure, besides, Gabrielle's mommy needs us."

"You can count me in too!" Iolaus agreed.

All heads turned to the only one who had yet to commit. Seeing the stares directed at him, Derek grumbled an assent.

"Fine, I'll go, but only because I owe Hercules."

So that was it. Hercules, Iolaus, Xena, and Derek one their way to meet up with Gabrielle. They headed east, because Gabrielle had just left that morning and they didn't need to wait a few days. Time was of the essence.

Gabrielle had headed east while Xena had gone north. A little chilled, the bard felt uneasy, she rarely ventured off by herself. She was cautious, looking to the tree line along the road for any indication of bandits. If she were attacked, she felt confident in her abilities, but it never hurt to be too careful. She gripped the staff in her hand tighter, and hurried her pace.

Soon, just as the sun rose high, she came across a structure built in the side of a mountain. It was old, decrepit, and musty looking. It was made of stone, the pillars out front crumbling from age. Curious, Gabrielle headed to the entrance. She pushed the old rotted doors open and walked in.

When her eyes adjusted to the dim light, she could make out faint foot prints in the dust on the floor. Someone had been here recently. The fact the footprints went in and not out, showed that the person was still there. Gabrielle advanced slowly down the corridor, where the sound of grunting and labored breathing came to her ears.

Turning a corner, Gabrielle spied a figure dressed in green, pushing an old casket against the wall. Whoever it was, the person had yet to notice that she was there. Suddenly, the figure slipped, landing on the floor face first, and issuing a very elaborate curse.

A man, then, one she thought she recognized. The green suit, a dark temple, the greedy eyes.

"Autolycus!" Gabrielle called softly, playfully. The figure paused, and cocked his head. Then he shook his head and kept on pushing the box.

Again, Gabrielle called his name and again, he paused.

"Must be hearing things," he muttered, "I'm going mad, too much time in a dark temple can do that to a man. See, I'm even talking to myself, a definite bad sign." He continued pushing the casket.

Gabrielle softly crept up behind him and screamed in his ear. "Hey, Autolycus!"

The master thief abruptly stiffened, banging his head on the side of the casket, and let out a yelp of fright. Half a moment later, he was on the other side of the casket, peeking over the edge at the beaming woman who had scared him so. He stood up, straightened his tunic, and cleared his throat.

"Uh, hi, Gabrielle, fancy meeting you...uh, here." he said, looking around him innocently.

"So," Gabrielle asked him, slowly walking past him to lay her touch upon the coffin, "who's body are you stealing this time?"

"Uh, nobody's." he answered. "Merely redecorating. You know, I think I might move in here."

The amazon princess rolled her eyes at the obvious lie. "Really, what is the King of Thieves doing in this place. Is there gold?"


"Are there jewels?"

"A whole garden full of karats."

"Any monsters guarding them?"

"Many, lot's of riches need monsters."

"Then let's leave." She reached out and grasped Autolycus' sleeve, intent on dragging him from there.

"What?" he said, pulling from her grip. "I don't think so. I'm here for gold and I'll not leave until I've got it." He tweaked his moustache with a flourish and leaned against the wall, smiling. Then the portion of the wall he had leaned against pushed in, and he abruptly pulled away.

The entire building began to shake, a distant roar filling the air. The rumbling grew in volume, and pieces of rock and dust began to spill down around them.

"I think," Gabrielle commented, backing away, "that we, perhaps, should be on our way!"

"Perhaps," Autolycus agreed, following the smaller form, "you are right, my dear."

Suddenly, the corridor behind them erupted in a torrent of rushing water, a wall of wetness that threatened to overtake and eat them. They broke into a run, trying to stay ahead of it. Gabrielle was the first to reach the door, the King of Thieves right behind her fleeing form. As they reached the exit, the water overtook them, forcing them out the door at a speed thrice that of when they were running. However, because they were no longer in the corridor, the pressure dropped off and the river deposited them roughly a hundred yards from the temple.

Gabrielle stood up, retrieved her staff from where it had floated to rest near her, and glared at Autolycus, water dripping from her golden hair down her arms to the ground.

"Next time I say 'let's go'," she hissed, "let's go!"

"Alright, already." Autolycus sputtered, getting to his feet and shaking, and collecting a horse from a grove of trees nearby. "So, what are you doing here?"

"I'm on my way to a friends' place." Gabrielle replied, turning her back to him and walking east. "Want to come?"

"Sure, why not, sounds like fun."

Gabrielle and Autolycus went east, not the least bit wary that Xena and her group chased after her a few miles west.

And she was rushing to catch up with her little friend. Xena thundered along on Argo, while Hercules and Iolaus rode Derek. Much to the centaur's dismay, the group agreed that speed was more important than pride, and he was forced to allow the son of Zeus and his friend to mount him. So that was how they traveled, soon they were splashing through the wet grass left by their quarry at the temple.

As the crested a hill, Xena spied a pair of forms walking with an equine, and thought nothing of it, because Gabrielle had no horse or playmate when she left. Then she glimpsed a flash of golden hair and a stick. She slowed, studying the two closer, looking at the pair over the great distance.

The others slowed beside her.

"What is it?" Hercules asked.

"Look there," she replied, pointing at the distant travelers, "do those two look like Gabrielle and a friend?"

Iolaus squinted, peering closer. "I think so!"

"Yes," Derek agreed, "Let's go get them so these two can get off me."

Xena smiled to herself, and spurred Argo into motion. The great mare thundered down the slope, bearing down on the far pair. Derek pulled up beside her, panting from the labor. Soon, Xena shouted to the two walking.

"Gabrielle!" she called, "Gabrielle!"

One of the forms turned in time to see her slow beside them. Xena gasped.

Neither one of them was Gabrielle.

Quickly, she asked the two farm hands if they had seen a young woman with a staff. They jeered and elbowed one another, commenting on what they'd do if they did.

Disgusted, Xena kicked the closest sharply, and turned her horse around. Then she was away again, Derek close behind.

"Xena!" The Warrior Princess turned to the sound, seeing Gabrielle and a man in green, riding a black stallion, crest the hill they just came over. She was riding so hard, she overshot them!

Soon, they were reunited, and Gabrielle dismounted. Hercules and Iolaus, much to Derek's relief, followed suit. So they walked, all of them, as Xena contemplated Autolycus' part in this.

Then it made sense. 'The honorable man of the shadows!' The King of Thieves could be nothing else. She mentioned this to Gabrielle.

"So who's the 'man of metal'?" She asked.

"Who knows." Xena replied, "but for now, we should concentrate on getting to Darnelle's place."

So the group of heroes struck a pace that would have shamed a marching legion and arrived at the home of the two rehabilitated criminals in only two days.

"Xena!" Darnelle called loudly when they approached, reaching out to grasp the big woman's arm. "Been along time!"

"It has at that." Xena agreed. "I heard that you two stayed together. Wonder how that happened." she added with a sly grin.

"I don't know," Darnelle laughed, shaking his head, "sort of crept up on me!"

Last season, Xena had broken these two, Darnelle and Glaphyra, out of a prison on the promise that they would help her destroy the castle of a warlord named Agathon. He had acquired the technology of a super-strong metal and was terrorizing the region with it. Xena, Gabrielle, Darnelle, and Glaphyra had been the only to survive to ordeal.

"So where is Glaphyra?" Asked Gabrielle.

"Somewhere around here." He answered. "But right now, come inside and tell me why your here."

So the seven of them were cramped in the main room of the little house. Even Derek was there for Darnelle had no prejudices against the greatly prosecuted centaurs. So Gabrielle and Xena traded turns at telling the story of Gabrielle's mother's untimely sickness and the subsequent adventure that was building. Darnelle talked little, asking a few questions here and there, but mostly remained quiet and listened to the tale with great interest.

"So," Xena asked after the recounting was finished, "will you join us?"

"Of course, but I'll have to discuss it with Glaphyra when she returns."

"Discuss what?" Glaphyra stepped in through the doorway. Smiling, Darnelle took her by the arm and lead out of the room.

"Uh...we need to talk." He said.

Major Mike Sedrik was new at the time travel experience, and he was amazed at the veiw outside the cockpit of his 'mech. The mottled lights of time travel were spinning around him. Then they shifted into something recognizable. Stars. It was dark out, that was good. He wanted to come in under the cover of darkness. Less chance of him being seen that way.

His infrared eye let him see relatively well in the gloom, and he looked around. He had landed beside what looked like a deserted temple. To the south, his scanners, after they came back on-line, had located what seemed like a large bustling city. However, they were of middle eastern design, not Asian.

"Nicole," he said, confused, "When are we?"

"According to the calculated jump parameters, we have arrived at 2133 AD, Terren III, Tokyo."

"Have you looked outside recently?"

"However, according to stellar and continental drift, I estimate that we are approximately three thousand years early."

Finally, an answer he agreed with. "Now why," he asked, "are we early? What went wrong?"

Nicole paused, not answering for a moment. Then she came up with a reply. "According to the sensor logs, there was a power surge in the TFG that increased the field strength by four times. The resulting effect caused us to be propelled four thousand years back, rather than one."

"Well, then recalibrate the TFG for a jump forward three thousand years."

"Unable to comply."

Now what was wrong? This was getting tedious. He wanted to get the mission completed as soon as possible. "Explain."

"The power surge burnt out three main power relays that connect the TFG to the reactor."

"Can you repair it?"

"Built in resilience programs dictate that the self repair units are to be activated. I have done so."

"How long until the repairs are complete?"

"One hundred and ninety four hours, thirty eight minutes, four seconds."

Great! Over a week. What was he going to do for a week.

"Nicole," he said, "engage the beta shielding."

"Accessing...task complete."

Through the cockpit windows, the outside view wavered for a moment, like he was looking through a glass of water, but then it cleared, returning to normal.

Perhaps he could investigate that temple he had seen nearby. He found those things interesting. If he wasn't a soldier, he'd probably be an anthropologist.

Silently, he unbuckled the belt that held him to his seat, stood up, and put on his battle vest. He checked the weapons, made sure he had enough ammo in case something happened, and headed for the hatch. He triggered the beta shielding on himself, pushing the button on his wrist PDS. Then he opened the door, climbed out and down and stood on the ground, nintey feet below his 'mech.

He turned around, not seeing the 'mech. The beta shielding really worked! He looked down at his arm, but was unable to locate it. He could, however, see the heat given off by both him and Nicole with his prosthetic eye.

Slowly, he trudged his way to the temple, entering the door and drawing one of his barracudas. The 9 mm weapon felt reassuring in his hand.

Inside, it was dark, but he could still see, his fake eye making up for darkness by automatically switching to night-vision mode. The entrance chamber was small, merely stairs leading to a door. The door itself was odd.

On it were many markings, runes of some old language. There was a circle carved into the door's face, with three smaller holes within. They were in a triangular shape, two below and one above. Around the holes there was a single string of characters. His interest peaked, he activated a com-channel back to Nicole.

"Nicole," he said into the mic at his mouth, "are you receiving these images?"

"Affirmative, Major, your eyepiece is working efficiently."

"Can you translate these characters?"

There was a pause as Nicole checked the her internal database. Then a reply came over the com. "Yes, they are an ancient form of writing, developed by Hammurabi, the first leader of the Babylonian civilization to use writing effectively. The string under the circles reads:





"It appears to be a puzzle."

Sedrik moved his gaze to another string of runes, circling the top of the doorway. "What about those?"

"They read:





"What is this 'Sword of Dellnus'?" Sedrik asked the computer.

"I am unsure, there is no mention of it in the historical database, however, my resources are rather limited, the 'mech being a machine of war, not science."

"Right." Sedrik glanced around the cavern again. Suddenly, Nicole's electronic voice squealed in his ear.

"Warning, warning, proximity alert, object approaching!"

Quickly, Sedrik ran from the cave, and exited into a steady drizzle.

"When did it start raining?" he asked, perturbed. Then he ran to where he had left the 'mech.

After they had convinced Glaphyra to join them, they had left the hut to start their search. The oracle said that the Sword of Dellnus was hidden in a temple north of Delphi. So that was where they headed. It took the eight of them three days to travel to Delphi, and another half day to spot the temple. A light rain had started, falling in warm droplets on the group. They approached the temple when Gabrielle cried out.

"Look over there!" she said, pointing to the left of the temple. She had seen something in the gloom, something big. The others looked to where she pointed and saw it too.

It was large, whatever it was, and they could not see it itself. But the falling rain was being deflected by something very tall, and they could see the water running off it. Curious, Gabrielle approached it, and the others followed close behind.

When she reached the point where the running water ran to the ground, she tentatively poked out with her staff. It made contact with something solid, and hard. Again, she tapped it with her staff, hearing the dull clang it produced.

"What is it?" she asked softly. No-one had a clue. Then a unfamiliar voice sounded in her ear.

"It's Nicole!"

She spun to the sound, but there was no-one there. "Did you hear that?" she asked the others.

"Hear what?" Autolycus replied.

"Me" Again the voice struck, and this time Autolycus jumped. But he saw a wavering shadow rush past him, and he reached out, and caught a hold of it. Then something struck him in the arm, and he lost his grip. But he still see the form. Shouting, he pointed it out to the others, and they quickly encircled the figure. Seeing that he was not going to escape, Sedrik deactivated the beta shielding, and appeared.

The entire group stopped, stunned. It was Derek who overcame the shock first. "Are you a god?" he asked.

Sedrik smiled, and holstered the barracuda. "No." he answered.

"Then what are you?" Xena asked.

"A traveler, new to your lands."

Then Gabrielle looked closer at the figure. She looked at the body armor, the odd gauntlets he wore, the bulky one on the right arm, the small one on the left. She saw the shining metal boots, and the stiff fedora. And she saw the prosthetic eye.

"The man of metal!" she whispered, and then they understood.

"This," Sedrik said, disengaging the beta shielding on the warhawk, "is Nicole."

"Victory of the people." Gabrielle said, translating the name.

Sedrik smiled at her. "Ah, a beauty and a scholar."

The group looked up in awe as the ninety foot 'mech appeared out thin air.

They had talked for a little bit and Xena had told him of their quest, and his apparent part in it. He had smiled, and stated that he had already been to the temple. He had offered to take them there and show them what he had found.

Smiling still, he re-engaged the shielding, and Nicole disappeared again.

"Let's go to that temple." he said, taking a step towards the dilapidated structure. The others turned to follow him, Xena walking to the front and taking a place next to Sedrik.

Soon, they were inside the temple and looking at the runes. Sedrik told them the translations.

"This one says: 'When wisdom and strength walk hand in hand, power will rise from the pairing. Then the barrier will be thrown wide, revealing Dellnus' sword of daring.' and this one, 'The heroes' triumph on victory's eve wins three symbols of virtue. The Sword of Dellnus they then receive, seeing a loved one through'. Any idea what they mean?"

"I think I do." Gabrielle said, "the first one makes mention of three ideas, or virtues, wisdom, strength, and power. The second one has a reference to ' three symbols of virtue'. Perhaps we need these three 'symbols' to open the door."

"But what are these 'symbols'?" Derek asked.

"Maybe these will tell us." Autolycus was staring a set of runes that were carved into the wall beside the stairs that lead out. Quickly, Sedrik rushed over, and got Nicole to translate.

The Pendant of Strength is a well guarded one,

when the Queen of the Spiders' defenses are done.

To retrieve the first of the three virtues sought,

nine must free those who have been caught.

And then the death of the monarch will pass,

lowering her kingdom to ruins in the grass,

and nine will walk away from that place,

holding the Pendant of Strength with grace.

The Pendant of Wisdom sits on the head

of a necromancer, the Lord of the Dead.

He keeps it safe in the hopes for a birth

of a group of heroes who will prove their worth.

So he with his legions of dead veteran men,

will protect the Pendant until a time when

the nine who have a legitimate claim,

come to his castle and call out his name.

The last of the virtues is the Pendant of Power,

hidden high in an abandoned tower,

once used by great wizards of forbidden might,

the Tower of High Sorcery has taken to flight.

So up on the wings of flame they soar,

a metal warrior and a group of eight more,

and with their arrival at the tower they earn,

the Pendant of Power, if it they discern.

Sedrik turned to look at the others. "Anybody else not get a word of the nonsense?"

"They're instructions." Gabrielle mused. "Telling us where to find these pendants. The first is straight forward. Find the Queen and free her slaves. The second is a little more cryptic, a necromancer and his name. I think we have to find the name of the man and call it out at the gates of his castle. Otherwise, we won't be able to get the pendant. The last one is confusing. Wings of flame? Are we to ride a phoenix or something. And 'if it they discern'?" Gabrielle shrugged.

"Well, I am not going to just sit here." Xena exclaimed. "We need to find these 'virtues' or we'll not get the Sword, or the Water."

"But where are these places?" Autolycus asked. "Gabrielle, you're the bard."

The young woman was confused. "I haven't ever heard of these things before. Don't ask me."

Then Sedrik saw something. "Over here," he called, and the others crowded around. "Look on the wall there."

On the wall, there were five symbols, in the shape of a cross. In the center, there was a sword. Above the sword, a skull. To the left, a crown. To the right, a single wing. And below, a vial.

"It's a map!" Iolaus cried. "Look, where are here." He pointed to the sword. "Because this is where the sword is, right? Below, the vial represents the Water. Here, the crown, that could be the Lord of the Dead."

"No, no, no, no." Autolycus interrupted. "The skull is the necromancer, the crown is the spider chick."

"How do you know," Iolaus retorted.

"Well look at the runes. 'The monarch', the crown, that's the queen. But the skull, legions of dead? Any body else seeing this?"

Xena did. "He's right. The skull is the necromancer, the crown is the queen, the vial is the Water, and the sword, is here. That leaves the wing as the tower."

Sedrik stepped back and smiled. This just might work.

"Let's go get that Queen of the Spiders' very nice jewelry." He said. And they left the cave.


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