Emotions provoked at the end of the Season One episode DEATH IN CHAINS lead Xena to reflect on what she’s lost, discovered and gained.
"Since you've been gone, I kind of lost my way. Now, I found it. I thought I could start over. But no, they don't trust me. Not even Mother. I can't blame her. She can't see into my heart. But I've got to believe that you can. And I wish you were here. It's hard to be alone."
"You're not alone."
-- Xena to Lyceus at his tomb, answered by Gabrielle, in SINS OF THE PAST
Well, Lyceus, I did it again. You warned me. Bellos was the first. Remember? Idiot dwarfed me, but I wouldn't let him bully Seneas. Typical of the others I took on. You'd be so afraid they'd hurt me. "Xena! Have you lost your mind?!" Except, I saw pride too. The shine in your eyes. "That's my big sister." Heh, couldn't fool me. Just like I couldn't fool you. And I never wanted to make one of you. Too bad it didn't stop me from doing it to myself.
All those years plundering like a madwoman. Throwing myself into battles I had no business winning. Getting cozy with snakes. Traipsing around the world with a chip on my shoulder. Discovering too late it'd become a boulder. Weighing me down for the rest of my days. Pfft. Doesn't compare to the ball and chain I've got tied to me now.
That girl who came to your tomb? Caught me talking to you? Still here, like she said. Her bedroll right next to mine. Took awhile, but she seems to be sleeping okay. Been a rough day for her. She lost a friend. Only knew him a few days, but not someone you could easily forget. Talus. A good soul, taken by Death far too young .… Huh. Guess that's why it kinda got to me too. Why I've been sitting here staring at the fire. Thinking of you.
It started out like a typical enough caper. Well, the chasing bad guys part. People not dying put a different spin on things. And Hades showing up. Telling me his sister Celesta – aka Death – had been captured by King Sisyphus. You know my attitude about the gods. Surprised I'd agree to help them, huh? Thing is, the favor wasn't just for them. Mortals do need Death’s hand for relief from pain and suffering. Not to mention from the bad guys popping back up after I'd gutted `em.
I go off to free Celesta. Gabrielle's supposed to stay at a hospital with Talus. Naturally she didn't. Don't ask. Let's just say she's as good at following orders as you were. And as prone to worry about me when she needn't. She found out I'd die if Death touched me. Like I wouldn't know that. Can't be too hard on her though. She's only begun to learn about me. To see for herself how far my world extends. Olympus being one of many realms where I have … "fans."
So Gabrielle and Talus show up at Sisyphus' castle. They get separated. That's when I catch him bending over in pain. He was dying. Gabrielle didn't know. Not until after I'd kicked butt and freed Celesta. Oh, the look on Gabrielle's face when Death said she'd be taking, not Sisyphus, but Talus. The grief. The love and compassion. I felt it too. And remembered.
Blood oozing from your chest. Me, desperately trying to stop it. Begging you not to go. Bereft of the one person who believed in me, in the need to defend our home. Alone with the awfulness that it's why you followed me into battle. Watching Talus go with Celesta …. The way he turned to smile at us? Lyceus, he was so much like you! Such grace and courage. Unafraid it was too soon. Both of you, in your few years, already having given so much more than you took. At peace. Wanting us to be as well.
Humph, you chided me for all my weeping and gnashing of teeth. "No time for sissies, Sis. I held up my end. Go hold up yours." Yeah. I did all right. Then buried what you should've meant to me. Hung on instead to the bitterness and guilt. Sure, I stopped fearing death too. But not for the same reason. Without you, I stopped valuing life. Stopped caring about mine or anyone else's. Talus brought it all back. When his face suddenly became yours ….
Not sure if I would've focused on myself as usual …. You know, the emotions I'd pushed away for so long. Missing you. Missing what I gave up because you died …. Anyway, I'm looking at him, when next thing I know, Gabrielle's turned to me. For solace. Whew. Talk about catching me off guard. What I felt about you? Wasn't all I'd distanced myself from. If anybody depended on me, it’d better be for a good sword arm. That’s how I wanted it. Assumed I had little else to give anyway, not tainted with blood or selfish desire. Yet there's Gabrielle, acting as if I did. See? You in a skirt. With better legs.
Know what's even scarier? Not death. I mean, I do fear it again. After Hercules, I hoped for suns enough to pay at least a little toward the bad I’d done. Yet here’s this kid, basically saying there’s more to it than that. Convinced I actually have something else to give. Something she wanted. Needed. Forcing me to search for it no matter what I thought. Maybe quiet, sad or joyful moments I’m not supposed to waste or dismiss. Chances to share somebody else's burdens. Things I’d forgotten ….
When Talus disappeared with Celesta – Lyceus, he left me holding Gabrielle. And her, me. A … promise … in a way, like you were. That I wasn’t alone. As if, by accepting her, I could finally let you go. Release myself as well from the dark place I’ve kept you. Your soul shining in mine as it should’ve so long ago. Weird, huh? I mean, if I do – you know, let Gabrielle in – it could mean having you more the way you wanted. And deserve. Neither of us so worried about what might come of me by myself. Maybe then you could …. You could truly rest … in peace … .
Ah. Sorry. Told myself I'd never cry again. Saw it as a weakness before. Figured now I had no right. Guess that's gone too. Don’t seem to have much choice. All those tears unshed. For you. Me. Everyone I’ve harmed. A well, Lyceus. So full and … . Ahhhh ….
S'okay. You always could coax me out of my moods. Another thing Gabrielle's good at. Listening with her heart. Talks more than you though. Probably a good thing. Makes up for all those words stored up in me too. Gotta be careful. Let them out in dribbles. Can't have the flood drown her. Or me. Lucky she has your sense of humor. Your way of taking the edge off, making everything around her brighter. Even me.
We'll see how it goes. As for you, you'll always be with me. Except not chained anymore to saving me from myself. Not that I don’t still need it. Those bullies I used to whomp? After I became an even worse one myself …. Ah, the freedom, Lyceus. To do, to go or take whatever you want. No heart vulnerable to mortal cares. Oblivious to spinning out of control …. Mmmm …. The feel of a god in your blood? Once it’s there ….
What I’m saying is, for now I’ve got another hardheaded tagalong to help me stay grounded, on the straight and narrow. Someone else whose eyes shine when she looks at me. Tempering those urges – that exhilaration – of a past with no restraints. A link to memory and promise honored before your big sis lost her way. Pfft, only a few weeks with Gabrielle, I’ve done what makes us both wonder if I've lost my mind. Keeping her around – humph, more accurately, letting her stay – proves I already have, eh? Lost my mind?
Oh, well. Now that’s settled, guess I can hit the sack. Maybe lie a little closer to my young friend tonight, just in case. Somehow I think she'll like that. You used to. Oh, don’t give me that. When else did you ever know me to “sleep walk?” Fine, so I'm nuts. Nothing new about that. Except it's not so bad this time. A "good" nuts? Heh, chew on that for a while, little brother. A substitute for my old fare. And better tasting, hmmm?
Be well, Lyceus. Me? Well, Lyceus. Better than I've been in quite some time.
“Most people think of death as the end – when, in fact, death can be the beginning -- of a wonderful tale.”
-- Gabrielle, introducing her story of Celesta’s capture, in ATHENS CITY ACADEMY OF THE PERFORMING BARDS
Return to the Academy