© 2018 By C. J. Wells



Disclaimers: See Chapter One.





“What do you mean?” Lindsay asked, flabbergasted. “How do you know?”

“Before I tell you, promise me that you won't freak out,” Rejeanne responded.

Lindsay's eyebrows raised. “Why would I freak out?”

“Just promise me,” Rejeanne implored.

“I promise.”

Rejeanne took a deep breath. “Ingrid is Najara.”

“WHAT THE FUCK!?!” Lindsay shouted.

“You promised,” Rejeanne reminded Lindsay as she folded her arms in disappointment.

“Shall I leave the room?” Sir Robert interjected.

“No!” both women responded in unison before Lindsay returned her attention to her lover. “Why are you just now telling me this?” she asked as her eyes began to well.

“It just hit me Lin,” Rejeanne responded. “It's just like when I looked at Jo's picture on my fridge and realized that she was Bahri. I can't be positive that Cynthia was Najara, but Ingrid certainly is… and the similarities in each woman's temperament and demeanor suggest it. Even down to the age, hon. In 1890, Maggie was 59. She said that Cynthia was 64. You're just shy of 33. Ingrid is almost 38 and I believe that Najara was five years older than Xena. And most importantly, I suspect… can't be certain… that Najara was OBSESSED with Gabrielle.”

Rejeanne turned her attention to Sir Robert. “Do you know who I'm talking about?” she asked him.

“Yes,” he responded. “Late in the scrolls, Gabrielle spoke of a Najara of Tarsos, a Phoenician warrior who led a band of Sidonians on a mission to reclaim all of Phoenicia from the Greek politicians appointed by the Conqueror, whom Najara believed were immoral warlords ruling the various city-states of Phoenicia.”

“You've actually read the scrolls?” Lindsay asked.

“No,” Sir Robert replied. “But my Auntie Gracie spoke extensively to me about Najara of Tarsos. Auntie Stretch had told Gracie practically everything that she had read about Najara from the scrolls. How do you know about her?” He asked Rejeanne.

“That part of Gabrielle in me seems to remember her, at least in part,” Rejeanne responded before returning her attention to Lindsay. “What do you remember?” she ask.

“Xena hated the bitch,” Lindsay said flatly.

“Okay…” Rejeanne responded sardonically.

“Please, ladies,” Sir Robert stated. “Let me share what I know.”

Both women returned their attention to the elder Englishman. “Aunt Gracie told me that it all started a few years after the incident in the colosseum that claimed the life of Callisto of Cirra,” he started. “Xena's realm as the Conqueror had taken on a new light, shall we say. Her reign of terror had vastly diminished, thanks to the influence of Gabrielle of Potidaea, and Greece and the surrounding territories were flourishing in an ‘Age of Eiréné,' or peace, as it were. Were you aware of this?”

“I was,” Rejeanne spoke up.

“There have long been conflicting accounts of Xena's reign in the last ten years of her life,” Sir Robert continued, “but most historians concede that much of that period was far more conflict-free than the previous ten or so years. In any event, according to Auntie Gracie, about a year or two prior to her death, Xena was summoned by one of her governors in the Phoenician city of Kelenderis that a group of Sidonians lead by a woman warrior had invaded many of the cities and villages along the Mediterranean Sea. He advised that the band wasn't attempting to take over the cities. They only sought to ‘liberate' them from the foreign invaders. Local villagers were spared any harm. Only the officials of Greek heritage and their militias were attacked. Things were particularly brutal in the city of Tyre, where it all started.

“Upon hearing the news,” Sir Robert continued, “Xena and her elite Imperial Guard… with Lady Gabrielle in tow… sailed to Kelenderis…”

“I'm sure that Gabby downed a bunch of cherries and ginger root for that trip,” Rejeanne interrupted jovially, causing to Lindsay to chuckle as well.

“Sea sickness?” Sir Robert asked.

“Oh, yeah,” both women answered gleefully in unison in laughter.

Sir Robert also chuckled before continuing. “When the Conqueror and her entourage arrived in Kelenderis, Najara and her band of marauders had also made it to the city. The two women warriors, almost evenly matched, met in a sword fight. Gabrielle, concerned that someone would die, intervened. And then it happened.”

“What?” Lindsay asked.

“You don't know?” Sir Robert replied in question.

“Of course she does,” Rejeanne interjected.

“Oh, yeah,” Lindsay spoke up. “That bitch instantly fell madly in love with my… with Gabrielle.”

Both Sir Robert and Rejeanne shot Lindsay a look after that comment. “Precisely,” Sir Robert eventually said.

“You're mistaken, Lindsay,” Rejeanne spoke up. “I mean, you're right about the falling-in-love thing, but Xena didn't despise Najara from the beginning nor did she immediately know of Najara's feelings for Gabrielle. I believe that Najara was very charismatic, manipulative and deceptive, and I suspect that she was able to initially convince both Xena and Gabrielle that her mission was a crusade for the good of her people. In fact, a lot of Phoenicians referred to her as the ‘Crusader.' She was seen by many as a liberator from Greek tyranny.”

“Something in me feels that Xena never really trusted Najara, however,” Lindsay remarked. “And it didn't take her long to discover what she believed were Najara's true motives.”

“But the question is, what were her true motives?” Sir Robert asked. “Was it really just to liberate Phoenicia?”

Both women pondered for several moments.

“Gabrielle was a force of good,” Sir Robert continued, “and she was inclined to see the good in everyone around her. Successfully transforming Xena, in particular, made her that way. It was a blessing, of course, but a curse as well. Because Gabrielle had such a loving heart, she was completely blinded by the dark force that was Najara the Crusader, according to what Xena believed.”

“Najara was the honeypot,” Lindsay said.

“Perhaps,” Sir Robert responded. “But in everything that my dear Auntie Gracie told me, she was never able to reveal Najara's deeper motives beyond her crusade. Sadly, they were not articulated anywhere in the scrolls that I am aware. The only thing mentioned throughout, according to Gracie, was Najara's desire to unify Phoenicia. I just don't believe that that was entirely her motive.”

Lindsay turned to Rejeanne. “What do you think?” she asked.

“I really don't know, Lin,” she replied. “Do you?”

“Haven't a clue,” came the answer. “This is frustrating. Nothing in me is conjuring up an answer.”

“Me neither,” replied Rejeanne. “And somehow, I think that it's important to the narrative.”

Both women looked at each other for long moments before returning their attention to Sir Robert. “I have a question about the subsequent souls, if you know,” Rejeanne addressed to him. “Alemnesh was the reincarnation of Bahri of Napata. Your Aunt Harry was the reincarnation of Callisto. If this crazy nurse was the reincarnation of Najara, then is it a fair assumption that these women were in the lives of Valentina and Gisela and Marcella and Angela? I mean, like, the scrolls ended up in Ethiopia somehow. There must have been some African woman back in the day who was influential to Marcella or Angela or both.”

Sir Robert cocked his head curiously. “I have no recollection from what Aunt Gracie told me about the scrolls to answer that, although I have no doubt that the Axumite trader may have been your reincarnated Egyptian guard,” he said. “I'm afraid that Gracie didn't reveal too much about the earlier women, probably because Auntie Stretch didn't discuss much about them to her. However, when I was younger, I procured a couple of books about the Erasmus family. You can have them.” He stood and left the room to retrieve the books.

Lindsay turned to Rejeanne. “Have you been wondering where he got all of this stuff, Jeannie?” she whispered.

“What, you mean the pictures, the paintings, the writings and that fucking chakram?” Rejeanne replied in question. “Yeah, I'm curious.” At that moment, both women began wondering if it was Sir Robert who was actual honeypot in their journey.

When he returned, both women stood to confront him.

“How is it that you have Xena's chakram?” asked Lindsay in a tone that was unmistakably ominous.

“And Maggie's journals?” Rejeanne added as she folded her arms.

Sir Robert eyed both of the young women before him as his trepidation grew. He placed the items that he had brought into the room on an end-table next to the settee and raised his hands in a pleading gesture to the couple. “Please sit,” he said calmly. “I have the answers to all of your questions and more.” Much to his dismay, the twosome remained standing. “I assure you both that I am not the enemy here.” He took a deep breath. “Please.”

Lindsay and Rejeanne looked at each other momentarily before returning to their spots on the settee.

Sir Robert sat facing the two women, brought his hands together to his lips as if in prayer and closed his eyes. He took a deep breath and opened his eyes. “My mother's name was also Harriet. My grandmother named her after her enigmatic great aunt Lady Harry because, for much of my family, she was an enigma, even to those who knew her. This was most pronounced when the American Maggie presented to my great-great grandmother Olivia the mysterious Valentina scrolls. After Maggie took the original Xena scrolls and the English translations to her brother, she returned here to England. She took up residence in my great-great grandparents' guest cottage that was adjacent to the Windom House, our family manor in Birmingham, and then she resumed her work as an art buyer. By the time Olivia and my great-great grandfather Bertram passed away in the late 1890s, their grandson John and his wife Nora, my maternal grandparents, were already residing in the Windom, my mother's maiden name. Both Aunt Gracie and my mother were born in the Windom. So you see, ladies, Auntie Stretch was in their lives from the very beginning.”

Lindsay and Rejeanne relaxed as Sir Robert continued. “Four generations of my family felt the power and infiltration of Stretch Needham. But by the mid nineteen-tens, when she was a woman in her eighties, she had no direct heirs to which she could bequeath her valuable personal possessions. Her brothers had already passed, and she wasn't particularly close to any of their offspring, I don't believe. But she had the trust and loyalty of my grandparents, my Aunt Gracie and Mother. In turn, she trusted them with everything she owned, her writings, Bronny's writings, and their photographs and the Valentina scrolls. Sadly, the only two things she didn't leave to them were the original scrolls or the English translations.” Sir Robert took a deep sigh. “And she neglected to reveal to them where they were hidden.”

“And the chakram?” Lindsay asked. “You never mentioned that it was in that big chest found in Ethiopia.”

“It wasn't,” Sir Robert answered. “To answer your question; in a word… Alemnesh. In 1902, Alemnesh paid Maggie a surprise visit to the Windom. In the subsequent years after her adventure in Ethiopia, Alemnesh likened herself an amateur Sherlock Holmes. Still living in Italy, she embarked on a mission to uncover who was behind the betrayal that lead to her dear Harry's death. Thus, in the late 1890s, she returned briefly to Gondar. I don't know how she did it, but somehow Alemnesh was able to piece together Cynthia Riley's alliance with the Italians and her involvement in the attack. And I don't know why, but this revelation lead her to Latakia, the famous port city in Syria, where she found the chakram along with a few artifacts from the Mesopotamian Amazons. Like most, she thought that the Amazons were a myth until she translated the scrolls. After leaving Latakia, she traveled north to Samsun, in northern Turkey, where she discovered more evidence of the existence of the Amazons.”

“Pontus,” Rejeanne quietly injected.

“What were these artifacts?” Lindsay asked.

“I don't know,” Sir Robert replied. “When Alemnesh came to visit, it was essentially to bequeath her life's treasures to Maggie. Sadly, Alemnesh's sleuthing came at a cost. She contracted a respiratory illness while in the Middle East that was slowly killing her. Maggie insisted that Alemnesh remain with her. With my grandmother's help, they were able to make the last six months of Alemnesh's life comfortable. When she died, Maggie had her cremated and placed her urn next to Lady Harry's urn in the Hastings family mausoleum.”

“Aww, that's so beautiful,” Rejeanne said. “Maggie was such a sweetheart.”

“She was a very loving woman who deeply adored both Alemnesh and Lady Harry,” Sir Robert agreed before continuing. “After Alemnesh's memorial, Maggie again traveled to the States the following year with those Amazon artifacts and Alemnesh's Italian translated scrolls. She never revealed to my aunt or mother what she did with them, but I suspect that they're with wherever the Xena scrolls are hidden.”

“Do you think that Maggie forgot to reveal to your aunt the location of the scrolls in the States?” Lindsay asked. “Or do you think she purposefully kept the info to herself?”

“I can't answer that,” Sir Robert replied. “But my suspicion is that someone or something enticed her to keep mum about the hidden location.”

“Okay, but why didn't she take the chakram to the States to hide as well?” Lindsay asked Sir Robert.

Rejeanne's eyes widened at the question. “You already know the answer to that question, dude,” Rejeanne retorted.

Lindsay slightly cocked her head curiously and thought for only a second. “Oh yeah,” she said. “It was THE chakram. No way was the reincarnated Xena the Conqueror parting with that piece of hardware.”

The threesome burst out in much needed laughter. “Before I forget, here are the texts on the Erasmus family,” Sir Robert said as he presented to the women the two books that he had brought into the room minutes before.

“Lady Harry found the older of the two books during that eight-year investigation period,” he said. “The other book was published in the 1920s. I found it in a bookstore in Venice during holiday, about, oh, forty or so years ago. They're both in Italian, and I don't speak the language, I'm sorry to say. I had hoped to have them translated someday, but sadly never got around to it. There are photographs of old paintings in the newer of the two books, including one portrait of Marcella that I'm sure you'll both find interesting. This brings me back to Alemnesh. She orally translated the older book for Maggie during her stay in those last months of her life. Neither my mother nor my aunt ever knew why, but whatever Alemnesh told her, it was the reason why Maggie felt that she had to take those particular Amazonian artifacts to America.”

“Well, I don't speak Italian either,” quipped Rejeanne. She looked at Lindsay. “How about you, ye possessor of many skills?”

“I don't, but I know someone who does.”


“Heather Courtney.”

“Really?” Rejeanne asked.

“Yup,” Lindsay replied. “Heather's dad is of major northern Euro stock; Irish, Danish and Finnish. But her mom is one-hundred percent Italian; born and raised in the rugged countryside of Salerno.”

“Well then, I think it's about time that we bring the reincarnated soul of Lady Harry into the fold,” Rejeanne pronounced.

* * * *

The second visit with Sir Robert had been an exhausting one for Lindsay and Rejeanne, both physically and emotionally. After revealing to the duo the existence of the ancient artifacts, Sir Robert decided to relax in a recliner in his study and permit the women to peruse through Maggie's journals and the Erasmus books. Both women took great care in handling the texts, especially the journals, as most were over a century old. Lindsay was particularly interested in viewing the illustrations in the one Italian book. She actually found two paintings that depicted Marcella Erasmus. One was a portrait of Marcella presenting her in her early twenties. Unlike the painting of Angela, the Marcella portrait was not an exact likeness. As was typical of many paintings of the Renaissance era, certain facial features were slightly exaggerated. As Lindsay studied the painting, she found herself slightly shaking her head in disappointment. She also grimaced at the clothing worn by Marcella. I wouldn't be caught dead wearing that dreadful frock, she thought. The second painting was of a group of individuals that included Marcella. Lindsay liked the artist's rendering of Marcella's face in this painting. Yup, that's more like me , she thought as she chuckled to herself, still amazed at all she had discovered in the last few days.

Rejeanne focused her attention on Maggie's journals. Because of the sheer volume, she found herself skimming through the texts rather than taking the time to focus on one.

Unfortunately, nothing that they viewed or read lead them any closer to the whereabouts of the scrolls.

However, after two solid hours of perusing, Rejeanne had an epiphany. “You guys,” she started, addressing both Lindsay and Sir Robert, who had dozed off in his chair. “Let's assume that Cynthia is Najara.”

“Okay,” said Lindsay.

“Najara supposedly wanted to return Phoenicia to the Phoenicians, right?”

“Right,” Sir Robert spoke up.

“But after Xena was defeated, almost all of Phoenicia ended up falling to the Romans instead.”

“Okay,” Lindsay repeated. “So?”

“So crazy Cindy was helping the Italians, who so happen to be modern-day Romans, defeat Maggie, who so happened to be the 19 th century Xena the Conqueror. Cindy wanted the Italians to take the scrolls from Maggie. She failed, but what if Najara succeeded.”

“What are you saying?” Lindsay asked. “The Romans never got ahold of the scrolls, or they wouldn't exist now.”

“Right, but what if it was Najara who betrayed Gabrielle somehow, took the scrolls to Pontus and hid them from both her and the Romans after they conquered Phoenicia.”

“But you both believe that Najara was in love with Gabrielle,” asked Sir Robert. “Why betray her?”

“Because in her mind, the betrayal was out of love,” Rejeanne answered. “We want to know what Najara's true motive was. What if that true motive was to erase Xena the Conqueror from history? Erase her empire, her decimation of the Amazons and her brutality toward Gabrielle. That was the irony in hiding the scrolls in the birthplace of the Amazons.”

“But Najara wasn't an Amazon,” Lindsay said.

“We don't know that, Lin,” Rejeanne replied. “She was a warrior almost evenly matched to Xena. She was from Tarsos, in southern Turkey, on the coast of the Mediterranean. One of the largest and oldest Amazon tribes hailed from Lāŏdĭc ḗ a a.k.a. Latakia, in Syria…”

“How do you know so much about the Amazons?” Sir Robert asked.

“Gabby was one,” Rejeanne responded to Sir Robert before returning her attention to Lindsay. “Do you recall in Jo's dream journal when that priest guy told Maggie that she was the ‘protector of the scrolls?' Well, I think that Najara and her reincarnations have had a role too. I think that they're the destroyers of the scrolls.”

“Jeannie, this all may make some sense, except that Najara didn't destroy them,” Lindsay said.

“Maybe it was her love for Gabrielle that prevented her from outright destroying them,” Rejeanne replied. “They were, for the most part, Gabrielle's writings. Perhaps she couldn't bring herself to burning them or something.” Rejeanne took a deep breath. “I know this is all speculation, but somehow it just makes sense to me.”

Lindsay and Sir Robert looked at each other in skepticism. Rejeanne, sensing their doubt, pressed on. “Remember what Maggie said in her journal? She said that Cindy unexpectedly came to her at her brother's place demanding Bronny's journals back. She also dismissed Maggie and Bronny's love for each other while insisting that it was she who Bronny truly loved. But if you look at the whole picture here, for Cindy, it wasn't enough to have Bronny's writings. She had to have Gabrielle's scrolls too. Cindy's story, her mission, practically duplicates that of Najara.”

There was a long silence as Lindsay absorbed Rejeanne's theory. However, both women realized at that point that they had spent much of their day with Sir Robert. It was nearly ten o'clock in the evening when the women decided that they needed to call it a day. The information that the kindly nobleman shared was invaluable to the couple with regards to the histories of the souls that preceded them, but their shared disappointment in the continued mystery of the whereabouts of the scrolls was also evident to him.

“May we visit one last time tomorrow morning?” Rejeanne inquired. “We're due to fly out tomorrow night.”

“Absolutely,” Sir Robert replied. “Before you leave,” he continued as the two women were putting on their coats that Paul had returned to them, “there's something that I want you to have in addition to Erasmus texts.” He stood and grabbed off the end-table the other two items that he had brought to the room with the two Italian books. One was an old journal that he presented to Rejeanne. The other item was a framed tintype photo in an antique frame that he gave to Lindsay.

“This journal was Bronwyn's,” he told Rejeanne. “In it, she describes her time with Maggie in the months before the disillusion of their relationship. It is both a beautiful and woeful read.”

He turned to Lindsay. “If you and Maggie share DNA,” he said as he pointed to the adolescent girl in the old photo. “Then she must be a part of you too.”

Lindsay looked down at the picture of a beautiful brown-skinned girl with thick curly hair, recognizable cupid bow lips and a slightly raised left eyebrow. “It's Lucy,” she whispered.

Rejeanne looked at the photo. “God, she was so gorgeous,” she said. “So much potential destroyed. Fucking Maxwell,” she hissed before looking up at Lindsay, who was visibly shaking and crying. At that moment, both women closed the space between themselves and Sir Robert. The embrace lasted for several minutes as all three found themselves in tears.

The drive back to the Tostig Guest House was a quiet one as both women were in individual deep contemplation. The only thing connecting them to each other in their silence were their tightly clasped hands. Rejeanne also found herself looking down at the items on her lap; the books, the photo of Lucy and the paper bags containing the strands of hair and jewelry. After Lindsay parked the vehicle, the couple exited and walked arm-in-arm into the now familiar lobby of the inn and were immediately met by the innkeeper's daughter Gwyneth.

“Good evening, ladies,” she said. “I have a message for ya. I wrote it word-for-word. The lady over the phone said that it was quite urgent.”

Rejeanne rudely snatched the slip of paper from Gwyneth. “Ingrid again. Fuck that bitch!” she exclaimed as she balled the paper and aimed it toward a trash bin. Before she could toss it, however, Lindsay gripped her wrist.

“No, wait,” she said as she took the crumpled slip from Rejeanne and opened it up. After reading it to herself, she raised to Rejeanne to show her. “It's from Jo!”

Rejeanne grabbed the slip of paper and felt her heart skip a beat as she read:

Hey girls! You two need to call me ASAP. I just had another one of those A-l-e-m-n-e-s-h dreams!



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