I wrote this to bring closure to Xena episodes.

THERE MUST IN ALL THINGS BE CLOSURE - This story begins at the end of third season episode Sacrifice 2, and seeks to resolve various dangling issues from that episode and others. Among these are the character, Velasca seen in the second season episodes Quest and A Necessary Evil - Who was she, and since we know Callisto escaped the lava pit - it's reasonable to assume that she did as well. Somehow I doubt that a lava bath would have improved her disposition a bit.

Moving on to the Bitter Suite - after the kidnaping and Gabdrag sequence that opened the episode there is no mention of it again. The following week we had One against an Army and no mention as to how Xena got both Argo and Gabrielle's things back from the Amazon Village.

Moving on again we come to Sacrifice 2, which ends where my story begins, with Gabrielle tightly clutching her evil offspring taking a header into a lava pit. Unlike Callisto who also winds up dead - Gabrielle is not a Goddess, and that type of high dive sure looked fatal to me. As to Seraphim, her clueless childhood friend, whose ill fated rescue set these events in motion. The series doesn't reveal what happenned to her, but given the circumstances, I wouldn't bet much on her prospects for a long and happy life.

Three episodes into season four Gabrielle comes back, slightly disoriented but again with no explanation

After the beginning of season four, I worked in references to events from it's first two episodes - Adventures in the Sin Trade 1 & 2. At the time I merely referenced those events in a short paragraph. It turned out not to be enough to give context to later references. As my beta reader had not seen the episodes, and needed context, a quick overview of that episode is included in the prologue. It is set off from the rest of the story by a double line of asterix (*) and should be considered a spoiler for those episodes. Beyond that point my story deviates completely from the televised series.

MCA/Universal and Renaissance Productions own many of the major characters. These include but are not limited to, Xena, Gabrielle, Celesta, Ephiny, Eponin, Solari, Joxer, Callisto, Velasca, Seraphim and any others who have appeared on the televised series Xena Warrior Princess. They are used here withoout permission and without commercial intent.. The ancient Greek pantheon even under their Roman names belong to history and mythology. The Goddess Celesta was not a part of either pantheon. As far as I can determine, she is also a product and property of MCA Universal/Rennaissance Productions.

Several of the characters are my own, in particular the following named characters.
Tanya, Fayla, Lyssa, Kayla - Amazon Royal Guardswomen
Delia and Alicia - Amazon Healers
Krystina - High Priestess of Artemis

There are many named Amazons who show up from time to time. As regards charactors developed by other bards. With the amount of fan fiction available some overlap in names is inevitable, there is one deliberate overlap of name and position in my story apart from MCA Universal charactors. TNovan and Word Warrior (both of whom write excellent stories) have also used the name Delia for a healer. My use of the name is for purely personal reasons, and I have made her unique. She is not the charactor of the same name developed by either of them. Neither she, nor any other charactor in this or possible future stories, other than MCA Universal charactors, regardless of name or position is interchangeable with that of any other fan fiction author.

I started this story in late May of 1998,

I do not recommend this story for young readers. While there are no graphic descriptions of sexual activity, there is reference to relationships and activities of various kinds, not all of which are consensual. Where rape is mentioned, it is treated as the vile, disgusting act that it is.

Violence - This is both a violent and emotional story. Crime and punishment, to include both corporal and capital punishment are integral parts of the story.

Suicide is a particularly painful subject to many including this author. Five months before I started this story, a close friend, poet, painter and mother of four took her own life. In writing this story, I tried to adequately express the emotional aftermath that I was dealing with at the time. In some cases it was the first time I was able to actually put it into words.

Candlemark - 30 minutes/half hour
Cycle (of seasons) - 1 Year/13 lunar months
Moon - Lunar month 28 days/quarter moon - one week etc
Cubit - 18 inches/45 centimeters
Pace - 1 yard -.9 meter (I cheated here US military marching pace = 30 inches)
League - 3 standard miles/ 4.75 Kilometers
Stone - 14 pounds AVP/ 6.36 kilograms (3 c stone = 49 pounds/22.26 kilograms)
Stadium -Old Greek 1/10 mile 158.4 meters (Plural = Stadia)

A special thanks to Pat L, my long suffering landlady, and dear friend for her many long hours of proofreading and moral support.

Copyright except as noted -- John S.. Gerow 1999


"GABRIELLE" the anguished cry echoed down the shaft."Xena" died on the bards lips as the sulfurous fumes overtook her. Horror struck the watchers as clouds of blazing gas rose from the glowing depths. The lava had engulfed her, the gentle bard was dead. In the temple tears streamed from blue eyes as Xena turned to the taunting figure in black leather. The blonde Goddess silently raised her dying hand to Xena's cheek. Her final thought was "Thank you." Aries, not wishing to feel the bite of the hinds blood dagger, vanished.

Joxer dropped two coins into the glowing pit. He prayed silently to Artemis, *protector of the Amazons, guide their queen safely to the Elysian Fields.* To Hades Lord of the Underworld went a grim plea,*If there's any doubt about her place in the Fields give her mine, she was the only person in this world who ever loved me.* With that he slumped to the floor, and not withstanding his warriors bravado, cried. Certain either Xena or the other warrior would follow her, Seraphim quietly slipped out of the temple and disappeared into the woods. Where to go? She couldn't return to Potadeia, that'd be the first place they'd look for her. It all seemed strange to her. She had been a willing sacrifice. Run thru and dying, her blood had nourished the Goddess Hope's rebirth. Could Dahok have granted her immortality as a reward for her devotion? Gabrielle her childhood friend, the betrayer, she whose name could not be spoken, was dead. Stubbornly, though she had carried the child of Dahok within her, she had clung to her childish beliefs in the Olympian Gods. Indeed what good had it done her? Two gods had been standing there when she fell into the pit, neither had intervened. She grieved for Gabrielle, knowing she would face the just but terrible wrath of Dahok on the other side.

Joxer finally found his voice,"Xena, we have to get out of here." Reverently he picked up Gabrielle's staff, then took Xena's arm and lead her from the temple. They walked silently to where Argo was tethered. Xena took Gabrielle's things and fastened them to Argo's saddle. "Joxer" she said "take Gabrielle's horse, let's get out of here"
Gabrielle awoke on the rocky shores of a steaming river. Hope was nowhere to be seen. The last thing she remembered was falling into the pit. Obviously she was in a cave, but she had no idea where. From a distance she heard Xena's voice, cursing the gods. It sounded as though she were crying. A moment later she heard another voice, one which caused her to turn sharply. She started in disbelief for emerging from a dark tunnel was Callisto. "What are you doing here?" Callisto laughed,"same as you, waiting for Charon's boat. Xena kept her word."

At that moment a dark shape emerged gliding over the fog shrouded waters. As it drew closer the two women saw an ancient river ferry poled along by a hideously wrinkled creature with grey skin. "All right you two, single file. Have your passage ready." Callisto started "passage, I don't have any money" Gabrielle held out her hands to show they were empty when two dinars appeared in them. "What?" Callisto explained "Joxer dropped them into the pit after you, so you could afford to pay this pirate" "Pirate, you calling me a pirate, both of you been here before, you know the rules." "Charon" Callisto started. Looking at the money in her hand Gabrielle interrupted,"How much for both?" Charon grabbed the coins "That'll do, now get aboard I haven't got all day."
Near dusk Seraphim came to a clearing bounded by an abandoned apple orchard and a brook. A woman not much older than she sat under the trees. Seraphim thought *strange she seems unconcerned about the approaching darkness.* There were no signs she intended to camp there. She hadn't even built a fire. She wasn't hunting, for though a bow and quiver lay beside her, she took no interest in the stag watching her approach.

Stopping first at the brook to drink, Seraphim told herself the apples would still the hunger in her belly. Perhaps the woman lived nearby, if so she might get a meal and bed with her people. Something was familiar about her, but she couldn't place what it was. She started as the woman softly called her name *how could she know it?* Hearing the soft voice call again, she turned abruptly and froze. The woman was standing, her cold eyes boring into Seraphim like daggers, the bow was in her hands. Her voice was like ice when she spoke again. "Seraphim, I have waited for you"

Trying to defuse the situation Seraphim fell to her knees pleading "I have no money, and mean you no harm" Two dinars appeared in her outstretched hand, she looked in confusion from them to the woman. Her reply was equally confusing "a gift from a friend." Seraphim stared at the coins, "How? Who?" The archer replied, "Your friend Gabrielle sends you an obulus." Seraphim trembled for an obulus was payment to Charon the ferryman. "Who are you?" she cried.

"Seraphim do you not recognize me?" A transformation came over the woman as she raised her bow, the chiton was gone, replaced by a halter and knee length apron skirt of buckskin. On her head rested a feathered mask, pushed back to reveal her face, now that of the grim avenger. The woman slowly but smoothly drew back her bow. Seraphim watched in horror as the arrow continued rearward, stopping at the corner of the archers mouth. Recognizing the woman she started to speak, "Spare me lady Artemis, I beg you" As the arrow plunged into her chest, a second woman dressed in white and carrying a candle appeared next to her. As she crumpled to the ground she heard the first woman's voice a final time, "Seraphim of Potadeia, for your betrayal of the Gods, may you be forever damned to the deepest pit in Tartarus." Celesta, reaching out to Seraphim, answered - "I second the motion."
Charon shook his head disgustedly at the woman leaning over the rail of his boat. "Two lousy dinars and I got to put up with this" The short blonde spoke weakly "Have some respect would you, I feel like I'm dying, no wait, I can't be dying, I already did that or I wouldn't be on this boat" "Shuddup, you too" indicating his other passenger. The boatman steered for a stark stone pier. The younger seasick woman spoke "I don't remember this from before." Her traveling companion did, looking at the boatman she laughed "my stop I presume." The boatman shrugged "Orders were pick up two Amazon types for passage to Tartarus." The younger spoke "amazon types? I am, was Amazon queen," her eyes grew wide, her face went paler than death. "TARTARUS?" With a mocking bow and welcoming gesture the creature cackled "End of the line your majesty. Now both of you off."

Callisto sighing, stepped resignedly to the pier. Hearing a splash she turned to see Gabrielle had fallen headfirst into the murky waters of the Styx, and was making no attempt to swim. Callisto, jumped into the fetid water, grabbed her arm and pulled her to shore. A grim faced figure appeared before the dripping women. He was dressed in black armor with a helmet under his arm. "Welcome back Callisto." Turning to her companion "Gabrielle of Potadeia, Queen of Amazons, chosen of Dahok. You consorted with the arch enemy of the Gods, bore his child, then twice murdered her." "I never knowingly consorted with Dahok," Hades cut her off "According to the scrolls you offered him a blood sacrifice just prior to conceiving a child on his altar. How do you explain that?" "I offered him no sacrifice, I was trying to save a friends life, I never meant to kill the priestess. His chosen? He raped me! The child he forced on me was evil, it killed the first time before it was a day old." The figure never wavered "No child has a voice in their conception, how dare you hold that against her."

Eyes of blue ice fixed on green counterparts wide in terror and amazement "Even so, that is not your only crime. Your impiety towards this one has offended the Gods. Whatever your grudge against her when mortal, when she became a Goddess you failed to show her the respect her new status demanded. You compounded your crime by encouraging others to view her with contempt. Your preaching of contempt, your consorting with Dahok are nothing short of blasphemy."

Gabrielle, not yet recovered from the boat ride, realized what was happening and swallowed hard "Lord Hades . ." He cut her off with an icy glance, "You followed a warrior woman in life, so shall it be in death" Callisto spoke up "Hades, she was raped. Give her a break. She had reason to hate me, don't condemn her for that, I don't" Hades replied "She placed herself within Dahok's temple, had she not done so, he couldn't have raped her. Your own forgiveness of her is irrelevant." He went on "Callisto of Cirra, Goddess of Olympia. Your godhood is ended, the prior judgement of your mortal soul stands." Callisto shrugged "Hades, she's the VICTIM here, Dahok's and mine. What does my judgement have to do with her?" He said sharply "Enough Callisto, you try my patience. With the powers you were given, you could have done much good, instead you returned to your evil ways without even a pretense of trying to reform. You killed another God, that alone is reason enough to condemn you." Hades drew himself erect, and spoke with the emotionless finality of a judge passing sentence. "Gabrielle of Potadeia, Callisto of Cirra you shall spend eternity linked to each other in Tartarus, GUARDS"

Eight guards in black armor appeared, Hades ordered "Take them away." He vanished. Gabrielle collapsed "NOOO" Two guards grabbed her arms, Callisto shoving them aside shouted, "LEAVE HER ALONE" Kneeling beside Gabrielle she whispered "Stand up" "I can't" Callisto was almost gentle "Don't give them the satisfaction of dragging you" Gabrielle rose slowly to her feet, as the guards looked on silently. "Dry your tears and hold your head up, we'll do it together" Despite the grim circumstances, Callisto tried to lighten her mood, "Xena'd be jealous of you." "Of what, being led into Tartarus?" Callisto forced a laugh "No silly, being the one to lead me there." The guards reached again for Gabrielle, she shook them off with calm defiance, "I'll go under my own power thank you" Turning to Callisto she offered her arm "Shall we go." Callisto forced a smile and took it. Then Gabrielle startled everyone, by leading off towards the great dark doorway that loomed menacingly in front of her.

Passing thru, they entered a large open area where a group of people were milling around looking lost. Gabrielle glanced back, the doorway was gone. The Guards steered them towards a dias, where a black robed clerk sat facing a large pile of scrolls.

Gabrielle whispered "What happens now?" "We try to stay in one piece, guy behind the desk, he's the principal keeper, basically runs the place for Hades, assigns punishments etc." Though he knew full well the clerk barked out "Stop, who are these people and what were their crimes? The guard pushed Gabrielle forward. Bowing slightly he spoke "Excellency, may I present Gabrielle of Potadeia, daughter of Herodotus and Hecuba, Queen of the Amazon Nation." "Her crimes?" "Multiple counts of murder, attempted murder, allying herself with known enemies of the gods, impiety and other crimes. Callisto of Tartarus, an escapee. Condemned for murder and other crimes. While at large she became a goddess thru the help of this blasphemer, and an accomplice who later killed her. While a goddess she murdered Strife an Olympian." "By order of Lord Hades their fates are linked."

The clerk commanded Gabrielle to step forward. "We get a great deal of royalty here your majesty, let me assure you, your title means nothing here." Callisto shot back "She never claimed it did" "SILENCE" the clerk commanded. Callisto retorted "There's been a mistake, she doesn't belong here" The clerk ordered the guards "Give them the grand tour, a look at the tortures that may await them. When you're done, leave them at the holding ring to await Lord Hades pleasure"
****************************************************************** *****Their tour over, Gabrielle sat with Callisto under a rock outcropping. What she'd seen truly frightened her. Gabrielle chokes "why?' Callisto snorted in reply "Like I said before back in that purification hut, you've got Xena to blame for this, she dragged you to Britannia because of her grudge with Caesar. If she hadn't you'd never have heard of Dahok. If she hadn't burned my home, killed my family and started me on this path ..." Gabrielle lunged for the taller woman, "Xena was my friend. You murdered my husband, and tried to burn me at the stake to get back at her. Impiety towards you. What did they expect, I'd leave you offerings. I hate you" Callisto laughed cruelly "Good you're mad, stay mad. It's the only way you'll survive here" Callisto continued "Justly or unjustly you're being punished. My guess is we're supposed to spend eternity at each others throats, you really want to give Hades the satisfaction?" "No, damn it" Gabrielle released her hold and stood up "Okay so you spoke for me, with Hades and the clerk. Why didn't you just let me drown?"

Callisto laughed and drew her sword, handing it hilt first to Gabrielle, "Take it, kill me, run me through, you could always try falling on it." Gabrielle shook her head, "Oh no, you don't get out of it that easy " Callisto laughed "Get out of it. Death here only lasts a day, I'd be back at your side tomorrow." Her voice and expression softened as she put a hand on Gabrielle's shoulder, "Gabrielle, Something is wrong here, Hades is strict but he's usually fair. I belong here, but you don't. If there's any way to get you out of here or over to the Fields we'll find it" Speaking through tears Gabrielle replied "I know you mean well, but isn't it hopeless?" Callisto gently took her chin in her hands and looked her in the eye "I got out of this hell hole (laughs) twice before didn't I?"
Xena and Joxer sat quietly on opposite sides of their fire. They had made a quiet camp, neither felt much like talking. Neither could face the thought of food. Finally Joxer asked "Xena what will you do now?" "I have to see her family, tell them - tell them what, their daughter is dead. What do I say when they ask how it happened?" Joxer quietly lowers his eyes saying " The truth, I really don't envy you that task," Xena continues "I'd rather face the horde barehanded. What do I tell Seraphim's family?"

Joxer asked "What about the Amazons? Ephiny will need to know she's queen." Xena replied "That should be fun, we haven't been back, since I dragged her out." "Xena, they were pretty upset, but it's been close to four moons." "I'll bet they were" Joxer added "When the search party lost you at the cliffs, they figured you were both dead. Then when Gabrielle's things and Argo came up missing Ephiny went nuts." Xena said quietly "I can imagine. How long did you stay" "Five days at the healers. Had a concussion, so did one of the women. Ephiny had a broken arm, a few others had injuries, and No Xena you can't imagine"

Xena asked "what happened" "They would've accepted that Argo ran away, but her tack was gone. When Gabrielle went into the purification hut, Ephiny locked her things in the queens hut under guard. Either her or her second," Xena asked "Eponin" "Sounds right, but they checked them at each change of tour. The guards had no idea they were gone until their tour ended. They swore no one had gone in, and they hadn't fallen asleep. It wasn't pretty." "Just tell me Joxer." "She couldn't prove they'd taken them, but she broke them from warrior to worker, and had them publicly whipped for failing to carry out their duties. Two days later one of them hung herself. Ephiny was so furious, she wouldn't even allow her a funeral, ordered her buried outside the village like a criminal. That was the day I left."

Xena thought for a few moments "Doesn't sound like Ephiny, but I've caught guards sleeping and done worse." She asked, "Do you remember her name," "sorry" Poking the fire Xena said "Doesn't sound like I'll be very welcome there, especially with this news." "You never sent word?" "We met a centaur in Thessilly, about two moons ago. Gabrielle sent Ephiny a message telling her she was alive, and --- was alive" her voice faltered.

Joxer spoke "Xena she died a hero, remember that." "Joxer, she had more courage in her than anybody I've ever known." She started to cry, "The way it happened, Oh Gods I just hope it was quick" *Xena love* thought Gabrielle from the underworld " *I didn't suffer, the fumes got me before my body hit the lava, I wish I could tell you. I love you Xena* "Joxer we'll talk in the morning. I just can't right now" "You're right, try to get some sleep, before I start crying too" Joxer admitted. "Go ahead Joxer, it's ok" Xena replied.
In the Amazon village a scout reported to Ephiny that a centaur had been killed by a bear just inside their hunting grounds. She'd notify their village so they could retrieve the body. Ephiny sighed, hoping it was no one she knew. The scout had brought it's pack, hoping the contents would identify either it or it's mission, but both were badly damaged. While it had been carrying messages, what was left of them were far too torn or bloody to read. Ephiny directed the scout to refresh herself, as she would need to guide the centaur patrol. As acting queen she would grant them leave to cross Amazon lands on their mission.

Ephiny called for Solari, and told her about the dead centaur. Solari suggested sending a party to hunt down the bear and kill it, before anyone else was injured. She offered to lead it, saying it would give her a chance to get out with some of the younger warriors in training. Ephiny agreed, but insisted that each young hunter have an experienced partner. Solari agreed. Secretly she hoped for a good warm hide to use as a winter bed cover. The meat would be a welcome addition to the village larder.
****************************************************************** ******In Tartarus, Gabrielle and Callisto were attacked by a group of thugs who thought any woman consigned to the pit belonged to them. Callisto using her sword killed one of them holding a staff which she kicked over to Gabrielle. Gabrielle had picked up the staff and fought like a demon. Together they had just finished dissuading this group of crazed men.

Callisto turned to Gabrielle saying "you always were pretty good with a staff." She walked over to one of the bodies before it could disappear, and stripped it of a short sword in a shoulder scabbard and a dagger. "here you'll need all the protection you can get" Hades looking on from behind his cloak of invisibility silently agreed. Gabrielle replied "I can't use a sword" Callisto snorted "If you're worried about killing someone, what is anybody going to do about it, send you to Tartarus?" She waved her arm across the barren landscape "Look around lady you're already there. And for what, impiety towards me?"

She slung the sword onto Gabrielle's shoulder, concluding the thought as she adjusted the harness "Never thought much about that being a god thing. Maybe I should have taken it more seriously, built a few temples or something." Adjusting the scabbard she said, "try the draw. By the way don't worry about killing these scum, they were already just as dead as you are."

Gabrielle drew the sword and stared at it saying " It's not that, I really don't know how to use one of these" Callisto was surprised "Xena never taught you? Figures. Well I'm a good teacher, and you've got eternity to learn. Someday she'll join us and you'll be able to show her just how good you've gotten with it." Hades had looked on in wonder at the budding friendship between the damned women. He thought "Strange they're supposed to be at each others throats, but they're cooperating with each other."

Hades had met Gabrielle during her travels with Xena. While neither of them knew it, Xena was his daughter, and he was grateful to the bard for her part in turning her life around. Then too, they had rescued his sister Celesta from King Sisyphus. Unfortunately just as Xena's crimes had once forced him to sentence her to Tartarus, Gabrielle's as reported to him had left him no choice in the matter. He considered that he had been easy on her, she was free with Callisto to wander the outer wastelands. There were far worse fates he could have assigned her.
Joxer and Xena woke early the next morning. Tortured by nightmares of the gentle bards final moments, neither had slept well. Joxer having found a brook near their campsite decided to refill their water skins and try fishing for breakfast. Walking upstream he found a shallow pool where he succeeded in clubbing a large carp. Noticing a nearby orchard he walked towards it thinking to find some apples for the horses. All thoughts of food vanished when he heard buzzards; a sound he truly detested. He knew something had died up ahead.

Drawing his sword he crept quietly to the tree line. A group of the large black birds, were sitting around what appeared to be, the body of a young woman. It was more than he could stand. Yelling and swinging his sword, he charged the birds scaring them away from the body. Carefully rolling it over, he found himself staring into the lifeless eyes of Seraphim.

Hearing movement in the trees he turned, prepared to defend himself when a figure clad in dark leather appeared. "Xena" he called "It's Seraphim she's dead." "Dead?" Kneeling to look closely at the body, Xena saw it was indeed Seraphim, and more ominously that she'd been shot. "Joxer, go back to the campsite and get our things. I've got them pretty well packed up anyway. I'll wait here in case whoever shot her is still around."
Solari sat with her hunting party watching several hares roasting on spits. Earlier that day two of the young ones had brought down the marauding bear. The way they'd stood their ground when it charged made her proud. They would be fine warriors, credits to the nation. She would make a point of noting their bravery to Ephiny on their return to the village. There would be celebration in honor of their first hunt. The party would be good for the village, there hadn't been much for them to celebrate lately.

They had cached the meat and continued hunting, towards nightfall two fine stags had been added to the cache. Come morning they would load the pack animals and return to the village. Tonight however, for the first time since Xena dragged the queen out of the village, almost four moons now, she felt truly at peace.

Artemis had been good to them, each of the young ones had taken big game. Solari reflected back on her own first hunt. She had been, as were these girls, just passing into womanhood. Queen Melosa had declined royal privilege and offered her the shot at a small stag. Before the entire village she had been given it's antlers in recognition. One hafted the hunting knife on her belt, their tips adorned her necklace. Two of these women would be honored with horns, two with claws and a fang each of the bear. Again she thought of Gabrielle, this tale would have been worthy of her bardic talents. Believing her dead at Xena's hands, she gave a quiet prayer for her soul.

The young women had been watching the back trail when the bear broke cover and charged. There was no clear shot, as they were between the rest of their party and the bear. Both had grounded their spears, and been knocked over by impact, as the bear impaled itself on them. Arrows had flown that instant as shots became clear, but the bear was already dead. Both were shaken but neither had been injured, thank the Gods. One felt an urgent need and disappeared behind a bush. She had been embarrassed by that. No matter Solari assured her, she was a far from the first, and certainly wouldn't be the last person whose body reacted to fear. She stayed steady in the face of it, that was far more important. She told her, had either of them panicked when the bear charged, both would likely have been killed.
Joxer and Xena returned to the temple of war, where they cremated Seraphim and Callisto's bodies. Seraphim's more out of respect for her family than anything else. Xena was surprised to find herself feeling grief for Callisto. She had been responsible for turning the happy young girl into a monster. In the end however Callisto had joined them in the fight against Dahok, the fight which had taken Gabrielle's life. She sang the funeral song over them, and when finished prayed simply "May the gods have mercy on you both."

Xena and Joxer traveled together for three more days. They talked of many things, including the incident at the Amazon village. Joxer remembered at one point that the Amazons had placed a reward of 5,000 dinars on Xena's head. She asked "Maybe you should turn me in. I assume that's 5000 dinars dead or alive. You got a preference?"

Joxer grabbed her and spun her around. Xena was so shocked by his fury, that for once she didn't react. He glared at her "That wasn't funny. I loved Gabrielle, I never told her out of respect for you. I want to be able to face her on the other side, and I can't do that if I turn in her best friend for money" Xena was stunned by the venom in his speech, it belied totally the meek image she had of him. "Joxer I'm sorry, I didn't mean it that way." Joxer, only somewhat mollified, continued "Yes you did. You don't want to face life without Gabrielle, well neither do I but I have to. Now she's dead and you're the only friend I have left, I don't want to lose you too." More calmly "Besides Ephiny wants you alive, and they know you well enough to know there is no way I could just bring you in."

They parted company the next morning. Joxer was headed for Athens but told Xena he could wait if she needed anything. He offered to travel to Potadeia to inform Gabrielle's family. She thanked him, but told him she felt an obligation to do that herself. He had understood, besides she said she wanted to stop by the Amazons first, in case they wanted to send an envoy. He asked if she wanted him to go with her, to speak for her in case the messenger hadn't made it.

She had developed a new respect for the clanging good hearted wannabe. She needed time, but she'd be back in Amphipolis before winter. She told him he'd be welcome to visit her at the family inn over solstice. If he got there first would he give a message and broach to her mother, Cyrene the innkeeper. Despite serious misgivings he had clasped her arm and they parted.

****************************************************************** ****************************************************************** ************************
One thought haunted Xena more than any other. What had happenned to Gabrielle's soul, where had it gone. Xena was certain the gentle bard belonged in the Elysian Fields, who could argue otherwise, but her death at the hands of Dahok gave her cause for concern. Hope had clearly come back to life more than once and might have survived even the pit. Suppose Dahok had his own underworld realm, could Hope have somehow dragged her mother there?

Xena had no illusions about her own afterlife. Compared to life without Gabrielle, the thought of eternity in Tartarus no longer frightened her. She thought *I'm already there.* Still she wanted to see the gentle bard one last time, to say goodbye and know that she was safe. Knowing Hades could arrange that, and that he did owe her a couple of favors, she set out to find him.

Several days after parting with Joxer, Xena saw a heavy cloud of black smoke, such as would come from burning thatch in the distance. The volume of smoke, the faint noises of battle meant two things to the former warlords. It was clear that a village ahead had been sacked and burned. People would be dying and Hades would be making an appearance.

Xena raced towards the smoke and noise. When she reached the burned out village Hades and his legions were already there sorting souls. He claimed no knowledge of Gabrielle's death, and pressing him for answers got Xena nowheres. He did remind her that not all the worlds dead came to him. It was obvious to Xena that he was uncomfortable with the discussion.

Xena finally remembered something from her darkest past. Amazons had their own underworld, the Land of the Dead That explained Hades lack of knowledge, Gabrielle being an Amazon Queen would likely have gone there. To see Gabrielle, Xena would have to travel to the Scythian steppes, and perform the blood rituals long ago taught her by the sorceress Alti.

It was another part of her past that Xena did not want to remember, the part she was most ashamed of. The sorceress had offerred her ultimate power, but as with all things there had been a price. The Scythian Amazons who had befriended her paid that price in blood, Xena had paid her share of it with her very soul. If Gabrielle was now in the Sacred Forests of Eternity, she likely knew the story of her lovers ultimate betrayal.

Xena knew she would never be welcome in the Forests, but still she had to know Gabrielle's fate, before consigning herself to her own. The decision made, Xena left most of her gear as well as Gabrielle's, hidden in a cave outside Amphipolis. She decided not to visit her family, though she never expected to see them again. Better I just ride out of their lives. The note she'd given Joxer would explain she'd gone on a long journey and would not return for some time.

Traveling to the land of the dead would involve a sacrifice, as she would need it's spirit to guide her to the underworld. The bitter memory of human sacrifice, offered by her under the direction of Alti weighed heavilly on her conscience. To sacrifice an innocent would be unthinkable, and she knew she could not bring herself to kill Argo. The faithful warhorse had served her well for many cycles and deserved better than that. Even thinking of the look of betrayal she would see in her eyes was too much to bear. Bidding an emotional farewell to her faithful warhorse, she put what gear she'd need on another and rode away.

The journey to Scythia and back had taken several moons. While there she learned the results of her past evil. The Scythian Amazons had been almost wiped out by her army. Only a handful of Queen Cyane's tribe remained, and they were again being terrorized by Alti, whose sorcery had trapped their souls in the land of the dead. A barren windswept plain it was both the transition between this life and the next, and for those who deserved it the Amazon equivalent of Tartarus. Xena had done what she could to right the ancient wrong, training a new shamaness and teaching the remanants of the tribe a few things they needed to know.

By killing Alti in a fierce spirit world battle she freed the Amazon dead to pass into eternity. It had been a bitter fight between teacher and former student, during which Alti threw the most painful visions from Xena's mind at her as weapons. Alti had even shown her a vision of a future death beside Gabrielle, but Xena knew Alti's ways too well. When Alti hadn't known who Gabrielle was she simply tucked it away as she did all of her nightmares.
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Xena returned to Greece as the winter was giving way to spring. She found Argo running with a group of wild mares. The warhorse remembered her, and though resentful of her abandonment answered her call. When Xena retrieved her things from the cave, all of the pent up emotion hit her. She realized she couldn't face her families questions right now, and it was likely the Greek Amazons still didn't know about Gabrielle's death. Turning away from Amphipolis and the sympathetic greeting she couldn't handle, she headed for the Amazon village, and the hostile reception she'd likely receive.

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Two days later Xena had made camp just outside Amazon territory. She sat under a tree by her fire. Argo was tended and loosely tied, she could free herself if attacked. "Gabrielle I can't join you in eternity, I'm sure you know why, but I've done the best I could for your people. I don't want to go on without you, you were the light in my life and I'll never see that light again" Kneeling she picked up her sword and bracing the hilt between her knees started crying. " Gabrielle, forgive me, may you live forever with the Gods." She closed her eyes and brought the point of her sword to her chest. At that moment lightning flashed and Xena fell back away from the blade. Aries materialized and shaking his head, reaching down to pick up her sword, he sheathed it and waited.
In Tartarus, Gabrielle had developed a grudging friendship for her companion. While Callisto had given her instruction in the sword, she decided to keep the staff as well. She took comfort in the familiarity of the weapon. While it reminded her of her life with Xena, it was also a symbol of justice, the same justice she had fought to bring to others. A symbol of the justice she herself had ultimately been denied.

She had heard of Tartarus since childhood, a threat from the priests, an oath from her father but the reality of it still shocked her. She could still hear the angry words her fathers had spoken "Damn you to Tartarus" when she left with Xena after Perdicus's death. They had been the last words he had ever spoke to her, how much they hurt her still. She thought bitterly "father, would it bother you, even a little, to know you finally got your wish" Callisto held her gently when Gabrielle told her of this, saying "the poor man didn't have a clue did he" "For his sake I hope he never gets one." In the Elysian Fields, a newly arrived Herodotus heard his daughters thoughts, and feeling her anguish, hung his head in shame.

Chapter 1

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