Part 3 Chapter 11

By Phantom Bard

For Disclaimer: See Part 3 Chapter 1


Part 3 Chapter 12

By Phantom Bard

For Disclaimer: See Part 3 Chapter 1

June 6, 2006 - The Conqueror's Encampment, Macedonia

"Are we all clear on the plan?" Xena asked. The three other clones nodded affirmative. They'd been over it time and time again. The Conqueror looked each of them in the eyes and them ordered, "Places." And a moment later, "Now, Gabrielle."

Athena came to wakefulness with the Chakram of Day pressed firmly against her throat. To one side stood Prima, to the other side, Secunda. Each had one hand on the chakram and the other grasping a handful of her hair. The goddess could feel the hatred sizzling off of Xena's clones and knew it was directed at her. Between herself and the Eye of Hephaestos stood Gabrielle. The blonde's body was blocking its rays from falling on her.

"Move and you're dead, Goddess of Wisdom," the Conqueror sneered, "you couldn't even beat one of us and you don't stand a chance of overpowering three."

"I thought you'd have killed me by now, Xena," the goddess said, "what do you want?"

"I have a deal for you, Athena," Xena said, as she circled her captive. "As you know, I can order you killed and you'll be dead before the words are out of my mouth. Of course, if Gabrielle moves half a foot, Ares will be released. I'm tempted to give him the chakram and let you two fight it out for my entertainment." She gave an evil snicker. "Gods fighting to the death as my sport…a good way to inaugurate my rule."

"You've betrayed him, Xena," Athena said, "he'll kill you."

"Not likely," Xena replied confidently, "and certainly not until after he's killed you. Like you, his goal is the supremacy of his way. If I give him the chakram I'll be handing you to him on a platter. I've already handed him the world, and who else will rule earth's mortals in his name?"

Xena saw that her words had struck home. Just as it had after the battle, the flicker of defeat that she'd looked for showed in Athena's eyes. The goddess was wise enough to know that her captor held all the cards.

"What of your deal?" Athena asked. "It seems my only hope is to hear you out."

"It has two parts," the Conqueror began. "First, you will take the four of us to Aulis where we will watch Iphigenia die forever. You will not return to Mycenae with a cloned abomination, as your father called her."

At this, the goddess sputtered with a rage she could barely control. Her fists clenched and she gritted her teeth at being dictated to by a mortal. The Conqueror aimed to deprive her of her greatest Favorite, Elainis. No one had guessed that the Chosen she had brought back from Agammemnon's sacrifice was a modern clone. Even Zeus himself hadn't guessed the truth; how had Xena discerned her treachery? But Xena wasn't finished.

"And second, you will return us to Thrace, alive and well, on March 17th, of 44 BC."

At this, the goddess' mouth gaped open and she practically swallowed her tongue. It was all the "specials" could do not to cut her throat by accident as she reacted. She opened her mouth to refuse but Xena beat her by speaking first.

Now she employed the velvety tone she used when cajoling a reluctant ally. Standing in the eye's rays, Gabrielle knew this was part of her soulmate's negotiating technique. The silky voice was just a precursor to a return to the forceful coercion with which she'd seal the deal. She suppressed the grin that twitched on her lips.

"Athena, your defeat here is the payoff for a war you opened long ago by bringing Iphigenia's clone to Mycenae. Only someone who knows modern science could understand Elainis. It changed everything that came afterwards. You can avoid all this by undoing that act."

The Conqueror's words sounded so reasonable in the face of all that had happened. Athena considered them in spite of her resentment of Xena. If she undid her first betrayal of the Olympian gods and their ancient rules of conduct, she would still have a future in which to triumph. Yes, destiny might take a different course, but she would have the chance to twist fate yet again to her advantage. Her present situation certainly didn't have much potential.

But then there was the second condition that Xena had mentioned…returning her and Gabrielle to the world after their crucifixions by Caesar. She would be granting them what had been denied to her own Favorite. Even worse, the Conqueror would have two clones with her and three of the four chakrams. The Roman Empire itself could fall and all of later history could change. For a moment she felt the same foreboding Harry Tasker had experienced when Xena had first demanded that he clone her an army. As if reading her train of thought, the Conqueror resumed just as Gabrielle had expected.

"Athena, you have no other choice in this," Xena hissed. She was standing nose to nose with the goddess now and the velvet tone was gone, replaced by the harsh whiplash of command. "Either accept my demands and return us to the world we came from or I will kill you and rule this world I have conquered. I'm only offering you this chance in order to regain the one you stole from me long ago. It's the only chance you'll get."

Athena hesitated and Xena flicked her eyes to Prima's. The chakram pressed more tightly against the goddess' throat. Xena took a step back and shook her head as if saddened, but at the same time a cruel grin curled her lips.

"So be it," she whispered. At her nod the two "specials" forced Athena to her knees. To the goddess' horror, she realized that she was to be beheaded like a common criminal, restrained in a posture of submission at the feet of her conqueror. It was too much, but the strategos still wasn't finished. Athena's humiliation still wasn't complete.

"You've brought this upon yourself, Athena. You were so blinded by your pride and ambition that you didn't even see it coming. It's the trap of destiny that I turned away from long ago. I beat you with technology and science, and now Ares can add those to his domain. So, Goddess of Wisdom, where's your wisdom now?" Xena sneered down at the Olympian she'd effectively stripped of her spheres of influence; war and wisdom both sat in the mortal hands of Ares' Favorite.

"This world needs only one God of War," Xena announced. "Gabrielle, prepare to move so that Ares is released. I think it'll be a valuable pledge of faith and my contrition if he gets to watch her execution and the mutilation of her body."

"Good thinking, Xena," the blonde said. She leaned to the side a bit so that her body impinged on the rays from the Eye of Hephaestos and they no longer projected onto the God of War's boots.

Athena's eyes started from her head in horror. Xena intended to subject her body to post-mortem defilement. Her corpse was to become a mortal's war trophy! Her indecision and paralysis broke.

"Alright! I'll do it."

At Xena's nod, Gabrielle moved back so that the eye's rays fell fully on Ares. She took the hand Xena stretched out to her, and Xena linked her other hand with Athena's.

"Time to go," the Conqueror ordered. And then she moved in front of the eye's rays, releasing the God of War. He was already leaping aside as Athena and the clones fled.

The flash of gold flared in the tent and the five figures disappeared from the modern world. They crossed the aether under watchful eyes that none of them could see, and reappeared at Aulis on the lower slope of Glypha, the hill that rose above the Temple of Artemis on Boetia's shore. Practically at their feet lay the long bay that separates Euboea from Boetia, and covering nearly all the water's surface lay the Achaean armada. To Xena's practiced eye, it was nowhere near a thousand ships…700 tops, maybe, she estimated, not enough for a decisive siege at Ilios. The war would stalemate.

All around them the press of warriors from the kingdoms of Hellas hustled to and fro, chaffing to sail to war against the Dardanians. Gabrielle marveled at the shields and cast bronze swords most of them bore. They're dull as spoons, she thought, hardly more than clubs. No one saw them on the hillside, for by Athena's power they remained invisible.

Their gaze fell on a crowd standing before the Temple of Artemis. Its attention was centered on a young woman, robed in white, that they all recognized. Iphigenia looked exactly as Elainis' clones had, but her bearing was resigned rather than haughty, and it transformed her beauty from icy to compellingly heartbreaking. Around her stood her father, King Agammemnon, and the other "heroes" of the Achaean army, waiting with vulturine impatience for her to be sacrificed. To the side, several of Artemis' priests restrained a protesting woman of mature beauty, Iphigenia's mother, the Mycenaean Queen, Clytemnestra. The king appeared grim and determined. His brother, Menelaus, the King of Sparta and Helen's cuckolded husband, stood smirking with satisfaction. It was an ugly gathering, resembling not the best of Hellas so much as a pack of jackals. The soulmates were saddened, the two clones gritted their teeth, and Athena stood silently with tears trickling down her cheeks.

A priest came forward and offered a prayer, then bared a dagger. Iphigenia was forced to her knees where her head was jerked back to bare her throat while an attendant held a krater beneath her neck to catch her blood. The crowd buzzed and pressed forward in morbid anticipation. Clytemnestra wailed. Iphigenia sobbed. The blade came down.

Suddenly there was a flash of green light at Iphigenia's side, and the dagger slicing towards her neck stopped in midair. The priest's wrist was held in the viselike grip. Before the crowd stood Artemis, Goddess of the Hunt, who had demanded the sacrifice.

The priest dropped the blade and fell on his face in reverence. Around the temple a breeze quickened, the first to be felt in weeks. Men raced to their ships, the sacrifice forgotten as their hopes of sailing to war were renewed. Artemis turned her head, giving Agammemnon a sour look and a nod. Her eyes found the queen's, making contact and offering her a small smile. She took Iphigenia's hand and raised her to her feet. In the last instant before she disappeared with the princess in a flaring emerald light, her eyes sought those of her sister.

"You spared her," Athena whispered, "thank you sister."

A disembodied voice softly answered, mildly chastising.

"I have spared us all, Athena. Fate is bound to time, and to alter one is to alter both. Seldom does passion rule the Goddess of Wisdom, but it's coming is as an obsession."

"Now on to the next," Xena ordered. Athena nodded in assent.

In the split second before the golden light flared on the hill of Glypha, Prima released her hold on the chakram and Athena's hair. When they reappeared, there were four figures, not five. Athena stared at the three remaining clones in horror.

Xena reached over to Secunda and took the original Combined Chakram she carried. She gave it a meaningful look and then attached it to the clip at her own waist. Next she replaced the clone's hand, clasping the Chakram of Day with her own, and keeping it pressed to Athena's neck. For a moment, her eyes met those of her "special". They shared a private look that passed between two beings so close that they were "near-self".

"Check in Rome," Xena instructed. "I believe things have changed."

"Yes, strategos," Secunda answered, "I'll destroy Callisto and take the Chakram of Night." And then Secunda turned away and began walking up the road to the northwest.

Xena sighed. She suspected that they'd soon hear stories of a young Xena, returned from the grave to fight with paired chakrams and unnatural speed. Against the aging "Warrior Queen" it would be no contest. Once Secunda was finished in Rome, she'd return to her duties as guardian. The "special" had her mission.

"Prima has succeeded by now," Xena said to the goddess. "1,100 years in the past, Ilios has fallen. The future you created is no more, Athena. It's grown from those days forward as it was meant to. Perhaps we were meant to die at Caesar's hand, but now I have the Combined Chakram, not Callisto."

She removed the Chakram of Day from the goddess' throat. Athena stared at her, still unable to comprehend what had happened. Gabrielle did the bard thing.

"When we first appeared in the 21st century, we met a historian who was convinced that Troy had been destroyed in a war with Greece. We tried to set him straight about it. There were other things he 'knew' about ancient history that we knew were wrong…things that just hadn't happened. Eventually we came to understand that the past lives we'd lived were wrong…that something had changed the world we remembered. Our past wasn't the past of the future world we were in and it wasn't the world that was supposed to be.

It took a long time for us to figure it out. I had to die and Xena had to destroy that future world. Finally we discovered that fate had deviated long before our time because of your plots and Elainis. The Moirae worked for 3,100 years to set it right. Now it is.

See, among other things, the historian told us about some ridiculous gambit in which the Greeks pulled back from Troy and left a giant wooden horse as tribute. When the Trojans brought it inside their walls, the Greek soldiers inside emerged, opened the gates, and sacked the city. A plan like that wouldn't stand a chance. Twenty soldiers wouldn't be able to overpower the garrison at one gate, let alone a whole city…unless at least one of them could move unseen and strike too fast to be overcome. With Prima inside the horse, the plan could have worked."

"There's nothin' for ya in the future now, Athena," Xena added, "if it even still exists, Ares rules there with my army, so ya may as well be the goddess of this time like you're supposed to be. Ares an' the other Olympians are here. This is your world and this is your time."

For a while the three lapsed into silence. They were all thinking. At last, Athena shook her head and looked at the two mortals standing before her. As she had realized in a future that had never been, one of them might hold the key to ending the rivalry between herself and her brother. Maybe some day…

"What you say makes sense," she admitted, "and any future I shape begins here in the present. The future path I created was a disaster for everyone. I'll just have to pick up where we are now after finding out what's different and what's the same."

She didn't smile, but she didn't threaten them either. Instead, she flashed out of their presence in her now familiar golden light.

Xena let out a piercing whistle. A furlong up the road, Secunda turned to catch the chakram that Xena sent winging her way. She clipped the plain ring to her waist and then continued on her journey. The direction didn't concern her. All roads led to Rome.

"So now we're back," Gabrielle mused, "in Thrace, six miles north of Amphipolis if I'm judging the terrain right."

"And I'm guessing it's March 17th, or close to it. Spring's here and the river's still high with snowmelt. We'll head home and check to be sure what year it is."

"I have to wonder about all the clones in the future," the blonde said, "whether they disappeared or whether they're still there in that other timeline."

Xena looked at her soulmate for a while, thinking about the question. There was really no answer she could give; there was no way to be sure, though she had her own suspicions. For them, that reality had ended just as it should have, on June 6, 2006. The End of the World…6/6/6, Armageddon Day; the day the God of War arose to rule.

"All I know is that we aren't in that timeline," the Warrior Princess said, "but we're back in our own time despite being crucified. How're we gonna explain that?"

The bard thought about it and then laughed softly. "It's not like everyone's seen it on the evening news, Xena. Most people won't know or won't believe the stories from Rome. The few who do will realize that we're young again and they'll suspect that the gods did it. At least we won't have to explain ourselves…to ourselves."

It was true. The clones of Xena and Gabrielle were decades younger than their original selves who had died on Caesar's crosses just a couple of days before. As in any time though, people would explain the miracle in the way they found most acceptable. Xena chuckled at the thought of meeting her original older self and Gabrielle's. They'd have been the most stubborn and suspicious audience possible.

The blonde clone could never remember being happier in any lifetime. She and her soulmate had a second, no, a third chance to be together, and this time, it was in a time and place where they belonged. And, Gabrielle thought, my beloved warrior has beaten the Fates themselves. In all the histories I've ever read, no one has walked away from such a destiny, twice. She was kori Polemos, born to be the Destroyer of Nations, became the Hellene's Bane and subjugated the world as the Conqueror, but Xena turned her back on it all, and now she's mine. Surely her hardest battle was fought on the ground within her soul. Again, we are together; we are one. This is our fated destiny.

"Let's go see Eve," Xena suggested. Then she hesitated as she realized something else, "Gabrielle, she's 24 now. She's only two years younger than we are."

"And we're the same age finally," the blonde snickered. Xena groaned.

The pair turned southeast and headed down the Strymon Vale towards Amphipolis. They walked the dirt track at an easy pace in the morning sunlight, their clasped hands swinging between them. Soon they encountered riders, hikers, and wagons drawn by beasts of burden. People looked at them a bit strangely if they paid them any attention at all. Locals knew the couple, and though their ages had changed and they were younger now, it could have been the work of the gods. It was unexpected and uncommon, but not regarded as impossible in that time. They waved in response to those who greeted them.

September 12, 42 BC - Amphipolis, Thrace

"Well, the word's out that Antony and Octavian are going after Brutus and Cassius."

"So what, Gabrielle?" Xena asked, barely looking up from the maps she was using to instruct Eve in battle tactics. "Romans were born to kill Romans, and Hades take the lot of 'em."

"I was just wondering if we might want to slip out and gut Brutus in the confusion."

"Count me in," Eve offered enthusiastically.

The deep-throated growl from the Warrior Princess told Gabrielle that her notion wasn't welcome at the moment. She'd spent four years now* teaching and reforming Livia. Being her mother, she'd never be finished to her own satisfaction.

(*These currently being the last two years of her original life and the first two after her return to Amphipolis as a clone. She was ever vigilant for signs of backsliding.) ~Editor

"Okaaaay," the blonde said. "On a different note, I finally finished my poem about the future. Eve, you might want to read it sometime. It's called, 'The Lay of the Conqueror', and it's all about the world that we changed before we reappeared."

"The Conqueror?" Eve teased. "Sounds like someone had a good time."

At this, Xena produced a long-suffering groan. She wasn't very keen on her daughter learning how her mother had destroyed the world…something many orders of magnitude worse than anything Eve had ever done while calling herself Livia. She was afraid that the "girl" might find it inappropriately inspiring.

"You're tryin' to poison my daughter's mind," she mock-accused, "givin' her crazy ideas about things that'll never be…thank the gods."

Gabrielle threw up her hands in resignation. She planted a soft kiss on her soulmate's dark hair, winked at Eve, and then wandered out of their chambers, heading downstairs to the common room of what was still called Cyrene's Inn. At the bar, she poured herself a mug of cider and took a sip. She realized that she still missed Pepsi. The clone wandered over to a vacant table and sat down to think.

Amphipolis was their home now. It had been since they'd "returned" from the dead. To the people of the city, they were the second-generation proprietors of a respected inn and esteemed consultants in times of war. Both Xena and Gabrielle had created innovative improvements in their home polis…civic works and other practical adaptations of future technology. They were both more formidable fighters than they'd ever been, but their great enemy, Julius Caesar, was dead. These days most of Xena's energies went into rehabilitating Eve. Although the soulmates considered themselves retired, they would still respond to occasional requests for aid. In the last two years, though, they'd undertaken only five major missions…all for the Greater Good.

Gabrielle split her time between her soulmate in Amphipolis, and her daughter in the Amazon village. In fact, she realized that she was due to visit there soon. The tenth moon of the year marked Hope's birthday, and Gabrielle had made a point of being present for it every year since her return. This time it would be her 18th. Maybe this year she'd take off for a few weeks and extend her visit in the Amazon village. She could stay there with Hope and Secunda and continue her writing.

In Rome, "Xena" had been reported living in the Amazon village, more deadly than ever after her resurrection. She obviously had no love of Romans and the massacre of Caesar's Praetorians in 46 BC was still well remembered. More recently, three weeks after her crucifixion in the Eternal City, Xena's nemesis Callisto had been found cut to ribbons, and her trophy, the Chakram of Night, had vanished. In a typically self-serving move, the Senate had confiscated Callisto's reward money, renamed Xena Primus Inimicus, and reposted the bounty on her head. In the last two years though, no one had tried to collect it.

Gabrielle smiled, thinking of the reasons that the Romans were so wary of moving against the sisterhood. After the massacre of Pompey and his legions there in 58 BC, the tribe had grown in power. There were more warriors now and they were better trained, but there was also a terror in those forests that stayed Rome's territorial ambitions. The Destroyer of Nations, and her divine katalepsis. Six moons after her return, she had single-handedly wiped out almost an entire centuria for their incursion on Amazon land. A hekatontarchia of the nation's army had stood by, observing her techniques. The "special" knew almost everything that Xena knew and she was now a guardian again, as well as a tutor. Secunda had continued executing a last mission for her strategos.

"Protect the Nation, protect our soulmate's daughter".

Mt. Olympus - Timeless

"Brother, I have a proposition for you."

"You're going to move out of the Halls of War and concentrate on weaving?"

"Very funny…for mortal humor. No, brother, I have had an inspiration. It appears that your greatest Favorite has changed. She has gained in both lifespan and prowess, but has rejected her role as the Destroyer, and none of this was your doing. Am I right?

Then there is also the 'other' who has appeared, but by our father's decree, she is an abomination and outside our jurisdiction. At the same time, my own last Favorite was a great disappointment. Now I have a proposal that might settle our long feud."

"Athena, your last Chosen is dead. There can scarcely be a more disappointing condition for a mortal." The God of War chuckled.

"Ares, I've come to believe that my backing of Caesar was misplaced. Xena is your daughter, but that also means she is my niece. She won't serve you anymore, probably will never serve me, but there is no mortal who better represents both our domains in warfare. She is both glorious and brilliant, blessed with strategic acumen and superhuman prowess. She is the best now living at both negotiation and combat. She should be a Favorite to both of us."

The God of War couldn't believe what he'd just heard. It went against centuries of rivalry that had become deeply habituated. He was loath to share Xena and yet the cessation of hostilities between himself and his sister would allow him to concentrate on other things. It was tempting, but there were other options. He had sensed the spark of destiny in one of the young Roman leaders, and just maybe, it was coupled with the strength to master it.

"Sister, I will give your proposal thought," Ares said, "but perhaps you would contemplate a counterproposal? There is a young Roman general that I believe has great potential. I won't touch him so long as Xena lives. He might be perfect for you. I suggest that perhaps you should favor him, but curtail the antagonism between your new Favorite and mine. In the years ahead, it will serve no purpose. Rome will be the dominant power for centuries. We could lose them both in another clash."

Even as Ares spoke, he was interested in a longer view. He was happily watching Xena and Gabrielle training Eve, while in the Amazon village, the "abomination" trained his next Favorite. It would be a while yet, but she would come to him fully trained by the best. At all costs he would steer his sister from the possibility that stared her in the face; that she approach Gabrielle and force a wedge between the soulmates. Now, if Athena followed his suggestion, both of the soulmates' bloodlines would be more safely preserved. Athena would preoccupy herself with the empire, but eventually Rome would fall, he expected, in less than 500 years. By then, Xena and Gabrielle's descendants would number in the thousands. But these were things the Moirae had shared with him, and he would utter none of it to his sister.

Athena gave thought to her brother's words. She knew how sharp his eye was for talent. Perhaps things had changed since she'd been away, or maybe things were back as they should have been. She mentally reexamined the leadership of the empire, which had begun vying to fill the power gap left by the death of Gaius Julius Caesar. Cassius, Antony, Brutus, Lepidus, and the kid, Julius' adopted heir, Octavian. She liked none of the older leaders. Perhaps with her favor and inspiration, the young Octavian could rise above them all. Perhaps.

"I will give your suggestion serious thought, brother. And in the meantime, I will not act against your Favorite or her soulmate."

August 14, 1940 - The Tomb of Ares, Macedonia

"Oh my," Melinda Pappas exclaimed. She reached for a scroll that protruded from the hidden repository she'd discovered, and then called out to her partner, Janice Covington.

The blonde archeologist hustled over and looked at what had caught the tall Southerner's eye. Her own lit with excitement. Over three dozen scrolls, astonishingly well preserved, and she could tell at a glance that they were of the same vintage as those already recovered from the Amazon village site they'd excavated the year before.

"This is a treasure," she declared happily, taking the one Mel offered and gingerly unrolling it in the torchlight. She held it so Melinda could read it, trusting her translating skills much more than her own.

"Hon, this is in Gabrielle's hand, but it's about the Trojan War," Mel said.

"What? Lemme see that!" Janice demanded in disbelief. She read it out loud.

"In the twelfth hour after the zenith of Helios, Xena, the Warrior Princess, burst from the wooden horse, moving too fast for the warriors of Ilios to withstand. She fought her way past a score of guards surrounding the Hellenes' gift and then vanished from mortal sight. The screams of defenders rang out from the precincts of the west gate, but none could overcome the prowess of the Warrior Princess. In a quarter-candlemark, the great gates of Ilios stood open and the army of the Achaeans surged into Priam's city on its windy hill. The sack began and ten long years of bloody war came to an end at last."

The language was so straightforward that Jan could read it herself. Even so…

"Is that what you got, Mel?" Janice asked uncertainly. She couldn't believe it.

"Exactly, darlin'," Mel said, "you're gettin' better at translatin' all the time."

"But the Trojan War was over a thousand years before Xena's time."

"Maybe Gabrielle was takin' liberties with her scrolls?"

"Huh, fiction…that'd be a first," the archeologist muttered. "How about the next?"

"Odysseus Returns to Ithaca," Melinda pronounced, reciting the title as she passed the scroll over to her partner. "Looks like they're in chronological order, Jan."

"Do I want to know what's next?" Janice asked, now fearing that she'd been the victim of an elaborate hoax. Melinda took a third scroll and partially unrolled it.

"The Song of David and Goliath," Mel read, wincing as Janice gagged at the words.

"Just kill me now," Jan groaned, "nobody'll ever believe a word of it."

After a dismal moment while she sighed and moaned, sinking toward a fit of depression, Dr. Covington asked what the last scroll contained, "since you said they seem to be in chronological order, Mel."

"The Warrior and the Emperor," Melinda Pappas recited, opening the scroll. A short silence was followed by another exclamation of, "Oh, my!"

"Do I even want to hear this, Mel?"

Melinda scanned the text quickly, not answering at first. Behind her glasses, her eyes got larger and larger as her disbelief graduated to incredulity.

"This scroll opens in the first year of the reign of Octavian. That would be in late 27 BC. After bein' proclaimed Augustus and granted imperium proconsulare status for the western provinces by the Senate in January of 27 BC, Octavian left for Spain and Gaul in June. Later that same year, he signed a decree of amnesty, pardoning Eve for her actions against Rome, ostensibly as thanks for ridding him of his old enemy, Brutus, in 39 BC. The agreement saw Eve reciprocate by foreswearing any further actions against Octavian. That decree was never published, since negotiating with her would have strained his relationship with the army that had fought her for so long. At the same time, he also entered into a verbal agreement with Xena, then age 43, renouncing her status as Primus Inimicus and withdrawing his adoptive father's bounty, in return for the same oath. With Xena, he couldn't afford to put anything in writing, but he apparently trusted her to be bound by her word. Gabrielle was also included in that agreement. It seems that the Warrior Princess and the Amazon Bard trusted Octavian as well."

"That has to be a hoax, Mel. We know Xena was born in 97 BC and would have been 70 or 71 years old in 27 BC. Her years as a threat to Rome would have been long past. Why would he have bothered?"

"I can't honestly say, but there's more. Augustus returned to Rome in 24 BC, and the next summer, in 23 BC, he was granted the status of imperium proconsulare maius, with powers of intervention over the whole empire, not just the western provinces. He was also made a tribune. In the fall, he met with Xena and Gabrielle again. Since they were no longer named as enemies of the empire, he could grant them imperial appointments as liaisons to the provincial governor of Macedonia for relations with the Amazons. This was another astute political move since by then, the Amazon's War Queen was Gabrielle's daughter, Hope. The very next year, 22 BC, he began a tour of the eastern provinces. He'd paved his way for a peaceful trip and avoided campaigning against the Amazon Nation."

Janice Covington just shook her head and sat down hard on the stone bench next to her partner. The scrolls were unbelievable; they had to be fraudulent. There was no question about it in her mind. She could never publish the translations as historical fact. Finally she shook her head sadly. Her father would have been heartbroken.

"Let's pack them up and get out of here, Mel," she said, putting the first four scrolls into a shoulder bag. "We'll study them outside and maybe we can make some sense out of this travesty then."

Within two days, Dr. Janice Covington was ready to cry. Not only did the scrolls span a ridiculous period of time, but they also named mythical characters as if they'd been real acquaintances. The Warrior Princess, and The Unchained Heart involved the legendary Herakles. They related a convoluted tale of love that grew from a combat over Herakles' assault on the Themiscyra Amazons.

Apparently after aiding in the destruction of Troy, Xena had traveled east along the southern coast of the Black Sea. There she had met and befriended the tribe, and became involved in the sisterhood's attempt to retake the Girdle of Hippolyte. She had trained one of their most controversial war queens, the youngest to rise to that office. In the conflict she fought and eventually fell in love with her distant relative, the son of Zeus. Even more eventually, he became equally enamoured of her. More eventually still, they parted on good terms, expecting to meet again.

The later scrolls, telling of the soulmates' adventures in the Roman era, were also confusing. In some, Xena fought for the Greater Good with Gabrielle at her side. In others, she defended the Amazons while bearing twin chakrams and possessed of a battle rage so overwhelming that her reputation alone kept the empire at bay for two decades. It was almost as though two separate Xenas had existed in that time. And then there was the lifespan disparity. It seemed as if the soulmates had somehow shed 25 years and their age difference. Jan even wondered if the ancient legends of ambrosia had any veracity.

June 6, 1994 - Los Angeles, California

"Well, Sam, what do you think?"

"I think the concept has possibilities, Rob, though it's unbelievable, of course."

"You mean the historical accuracy angle? It's all a fantasy. No one's going to pick at that detail. C'mon, it's barbarian babes with swords, kicking ass. What could be better?"

"Sure, the pre-adolescent guys will eat it up, but I doubt there'll be much interest from the female audience…and no one over twelve will ever tune in."

"Well, you can't have everything. I still think it'll fly; especially when we introduce it during the Hercules show we've got in production. They're a perfect match; they shoot on the same sets with the same costumes, and we can even recycle the talent. So what if it never becomes a hit? At least we've got sponsors. We'll be doubling our footage output at minimal production cost and keeping a foot in the door with the syndication."

"You're right. It's a great business concept. We could get a season or two out of it."

"Yup, and then we'll pitch that pet project we've been developing…Jack of All Trades."

June 2, 2000 - Columbia, South Carolina

Ray Fell pulled the aging VW minivan to a halt in front of the old wood frame house. The pancake engine in the back gave a heave and a gasp and then settled down to cooling with a hiss and an assortment of pings. Behind him, Lynn pulled their second van to a stop and shut off the motor. It actually hacked and wheezed like an asthmatic. The nomadic historian knew that the vehicles were on their last legs. It was time to settle down. Besides, he wanted to give their young new addition a more stable environment.

"Ok, we're here," he announced.

"Oh cool," Angie happily said as she popped open her door. She caught a shoelace on the doorframe and landed on her face on the strip of lawn at the curb. The can of Pepsi in her hand bounced across the sidewalk. She laughed and picked herself up.

"You alright?" Ray asked. He'd never known anyone so clumsy, or so irrepressibly good-natured, or, (in his academic opinion), so unrelentingly cute. He and Lynn had rescued the runaway girl and she'd fit right in with them, optimistic, helpful, and affectionate despite having spent the last six years in an emotionally cold foster home with distant parents and spiteful siblings. Ray simply couldn't believe that anyone would treat the lovable girl like anything but pure gold.

"I'm okay, Ray," Angie told him without a second thought. She brushed some stray grass off her shirt and looked up at the old house. "So this is where your teacher lives?"

"That's right…Dr. Janice Covington. She's a crusty old goat, but she's smart, and has always been an individual. I've told you about her."

Lynn and Allan walked over and joined them.

"Looks like Janice is getting some new neighbors," Lynn remarked, glancing at the massive moving van that was being unloaded next door.

Allan looked nervously at the moving men who were shouting back and forth in Russian. Ray and Angie watched as a car and a motorcycle pulled up in front of the truck. A slim woman and an equally slim daughter got out of the car, both brunettes watching as a muscular man pulled his helmet off and swung his leg over the bike. The three waved at the group of nomads and then turned to watch the moving men's progress.

At that moment, a wheel dolly shifted under the refrigerator they were muscling through the front door. It hit the doorframe with an audible crunch. One of the Russian movers shrieked and danced across the lawn holding his crushed hand to his chest. The new residents' father moved swiftly to assess the injury. The mother shook her head. The daughter looked slowly over her shoulder at the group watching from the next yard and her eyes settled on Angie's. The girl looked to be about her own age. She really hoped the blonde was cool, though she looked an awful lot like Britney Spears.

Angie met her eyes with a smile. It was her natural first reaction to people. The girl looked like she was a borderline punk, worldly if not cynical, but Angie sensed she had a good heart underneath. Angie waved. The ex-runaway knew how it was, moving to a new neighborhood where you had no friends. At least the girl next door was bringing her family with her instead of being sent off to live with strangers like she had. Well, maybe they'd get to know each other eventually. The girl didn't wave back, but a small smile tentatively curled her lips. Angie thought she was pretty when she smiled.

Ray Fell had watched the drama next door, but now he turned to his own "family".

"Let's go in, shall we? It looks like we're loitering." Ray had spotted the local police.

Angie giggled, then waved at the policemen riding past in their cruiser. The officer who was driving, a handsome young black man, waved back and favored her with a smile in return. His older partner carefully took in the scene from the passenger's seat and decided it wasn't suspicious. They drove on without stopping.

The four nomads walked up to the house and Ray knocked on the front door. It opened, revealing a dark skinned woman in her 60s who met them with a broad smile.

"Why Dr. Ray, how ya been? Lynn, honey, you're lookin' well," Dora greeted as she motioned them in. She knew better than to give Allan more than a smile and a nod. He nervously tried to smile back. "Hello, darling, what's your name?" She asked Angie.

"It's Angie, ma'am," the teen answered seriously, then broke into a wide smile. "I'm real pleased to meet you."

Dora was charmed, noting the girl's pleasant manners and her slight Texas drawl.

"Well, don't just stand on the doorstep now, c'mon inside. Dr. Janice is in the parlor but she's been a might cranky this morning," Dora warned with a grin.

"I heard that, Dora," an elderly woman's strong voice called from the parlor to the left of the entrance hall. "You're tarnishing my reputation with some of the few people who don't already think I'm senile. You're a knave, Dora…now be a dear and fetch us all a round of whisky. It's not everyday I get a visit from a doctor who isn't planning on sticking me with a needle."

"I'll bring you some lemonade or ice water, Miss Janice," Dora replied without batting an eye, "these folks have come a long way to visit with you, so behave now."

Ray and Lynn chuckled. "Hospitality" was a long running joke between the two women and they'd heard some version of this exchange many times before. In 25 years, Ray had never seen Dora relent and serve alcohol. He knew that before he'd met her, Jan had had problems with liqueur. Once Mel had informed Dora, Janice had never had a chance.

The group gathered in the front parlor and seated themselves around the room in comfortable antiques. After Angie was introduced and examined by the aging archeologist, and they'd caught up on each other's doings since the last visit, Ray broached the topic he'd come to discuss.

"Janice, I know you're familiar with almost everything that goes on here in Columbia," he began, "and, well, the mini-busses are on their last legs. Lynn and I aren't getting any younger, and we're thinking that we should give Angie a more stable life than what we've had."

"Finally settling down, soldier boy?" Janice teased. "There's nothing wrong with raising a family, and typical of you, it's not a conventional situation." She turned her attention to Lynn and asked, "So, are you favoring Columbia for your first home?"

The heavyset musician laughed and nodded her head.

"It'll be quite a change, having one address instead of two-dozen post office boxes, but I think I can manage the transition, Janice," she said. "I can still have my music…so can Allan, and we've even discussed what to do here."

At this, Dr. Covington raised an eyebrow.

"Jan, do you know of any eating establishments for sale outright, or interested in acquiring working business partners?"

Janice had to think only a moment before calling her long-suffering domestic.

"Oh, Dora, could you join us for a moment, please?"

The woman came into the parlor and Jan waved her to the seat beside her on the sofa.

"Dora, are your cousin and his wife still set on retiring before the University opens for the fall semester?"

"They certainly are, Miss Janice. They're pushing 70 and the Congressional Diner is going up for sale in July. They're heading to Louisiana to be with my aunt's family in New Orleans. Have you suddenly become interested in starting a new career at your age?" She teased her boss.

"Me!?!" Janice sputtered in disbelief. "Not in this lifetime! Ray and Lynn here are interested in getting into the 'hospitality' trade," she explained. "You know they're both wonderful cooks, Dora, and they've decided to settle down here in Columbia."

"Well, bless my soul," Dora exclaimed, "why that'd be perfect. Cousin Lenny and Flo would be mighty pleased to turn their place over to new owners who appreciate history and can cook. It's a package deal though; you get the premises, the name, and the menu, and you can't change any of it for five years. I know Dr. Ray was probably thinking of cooking army chow…"

Ray looked at Lynn and saw her nod. They could accept having all the work done for them so they'd be able to concentrate on getting into the swing of their new lives without having to reorganize a business at the same time.

"It sounds perfect, Dora," Lynn said, "could you speak to your cousins and tell them we're interested in their diner?"

"I can do better than that, Miss Lynn. Why don't we all go over there for dinner tonight? We can get everyone fed and you can discuss business." She was thinking of taking a guilty break from her Lean Cuisine meals, and she knew Dr. Janice loved her cousin's fried chicken.

"Sounds like a plan," Ray happily agreed. They weren't booked into a campsite yet and that meant they didn't have time to cook. Usually they resorted to commercial fast food and he despised the stuff. Angie, Lynn, and Allan nodded.

Later that evening, as they were walking out to leave for the diner, they saw the new neighbors struggling into their house with bags of groceries. They stopped briefly so Janice could greet the new folks next door.

"It's a quiet neighborhood," the aging professor told the younger couple, who'd introduced themselves as Harry and Helen Tasker. "I'm sure you'll come to like it here as much as I have these last 60 years. You can find almost anything nearby, even though it's a much smaller city than Washington."

"Tonight I'd settle for a good place to eat," Helen confessed, "by the time I get dinner ready we'll be too tired to eat it."

"Moving day," Harry said, and shrugged, "I guess I didn't realize we had so much loot to move in and organize."

Ray and Lynn thought of how little loot they'd acquired during their years packing everything into their mini-busses. Their settling down would only be difficult because of the intangible factors, the mental and emotional adjustments.

"Why don't you two join us?" Lynn offered. "We're going to look at a diner."

Helen and Harry looked at each other for barely an eye blink before yelling "Dana, we're going out to dinner."

The teen bolted from the house a moment later.

"Our neighbors have invited us to join them for dinner at a local diner, so unless you want a microwave TV dinner, hop in the car," Helen instructed.

Dana had been staring around and her eyes lit on the antique mini-busses at the curb that the uber-hippies were piling into.

"Mind if I ride with them, Mom? Those old style SUVs look way cool and you can ride with Dad on the bike."

Harry gave Ray an exasperated look, to which Ray said, "We've got plenty of room, and she can help push if we break down."

Harry nodded and Dana quickly moved toward the VW bus. She'd only seen vehicles like them in retro ads and music videos. She hopped into the back seat as Angie scooted over to make room. The two teens looked at each other for a brief awkward moment before Angie smiled and coaxed a hesitant smile out of Dana in return.

"Hi," Angie said, "so, where ya'll from?"

"I used to live in McLean, Virginia," Dana answered, "How about you? Do you live here?" She nodded over her shoulder at the Pappas house.

"Nawww," Angie answered with a giggle, "I ran away from home and Ray an' Lynn found me. We all live in campsites, jus' travelin' around."

"OMG, that is soooo awesome!" Dana exclaimed. It was way cooler than anything she'd heard about in the suburban neighborhood where she'd grown up. They heard Harry's Harley firing up outside. Ray and Lynn piloted their mini-busses from the curb with lurches, grinding gears, and wheezing protests from the engines. Ray led the convoy, following Dora's directions.

By the night's end, Ray, Lynn, Lenny, and Flo had reached an agreement in principal and had decided to meet with a lawyer the next afternoon to begin writing up the transfer of ownership and clarify the details. The perspective new owners had offered to volunteer some time working at the diner while the old owners were still around so they could see just how they ran the place. Ray and Lynn were more than willing to gain what knowledge they could from Lenny and Flo before they retired. They'd fallen in love with the immaculate retro diner on first sight.

Also by night's end, Ray and Lynn had met Alexander and Karen Williams. The couple stopped in the diner once or twice a week. Karen's parents were friends of the retiring couple, having grown up in the same neighborhood that had once been deeded to the freed slaves by the Pappas estate after the abolition in 1865. Alex took Ray aside and warned him that he and his partner, Marcus Lewis, usually stopped by for coffee during their patrol shift, and that they'd arrest him if the cuisine faltered under the new management. Ray had confessed that he'd been contemplating serving army-style meals, since he'd learned his first kitchen skills on KP in Nam. The policeman groaned. He'd grown tired of military fare during his stint, but he wound up laughing with Ray as they started what would become a lasting friendship.

And finally, that night it appeared that Angie and Dana were headed to being new best friends, though they really had very little in common. Each was the only other teen either of them knew in their new hometown, and they actually got along very well. Next fall, they'd both begin attending a new high school, and having at least one friend there would be a source of support for the two new girls in town.

July 1, 2000 - Columbia, South Carolina

Dana came out of her new home and immediately noticed the strange car in the driveway next door. It was an old fashioned muscle car, and she thought it looked pretty hot. It was glossy black, had fat tires, and a boxy scoop on the hood. Inside she could see a roll cage like what a racecar would have. Maybe it belonged to one of the old professor's ex-students. If so, then archeologists were a lot cooler than she'd ever suspected. When she thought about it though, she realized that the only archeologist she knew was Ray, Angie's "dad". He qualified for cool in her books.

As she continued to check out the car, the professor's kitchen door opened and a tall woman with long black hair walked out. She was wearing cargo shorts, a black tank top, and carrying a can of Classic Coke. Her eyes were hidden by folding Bausch and Lomb Wayfarers. Lean muscles rippled beneath her tanned skin. She paused for a moment, gave Dana a slight nod, and then turned back to the kitchen door.

"C'mon, Gabriella," she yelled, "we're gonna be late meetin' the realtor."

"I'm coming, I'm coming," a good-natured voice answered from inside.

A moment later a short blonde woman bounced out the door, turning to pull it closed and then joining the taller woman. She was wearing white tennis shorts that displayed the muscular legs of a gymnast, and a powder blue cropped T that showed off chiseled abs. She shook out slightly damp, short pale locks and offered Dana a warm smile. Then she got in the passenger's side as the car's engine roared to life. To Dana, it sounded like raw power, an impression that was reinforced when the brunette revved up the engine before rolling the car backwards down the driveway. For a moment the vehicle sat still in the road, then it lurched into motion with a chirp of the tires and took off down the street. Dana didn't believe for a moment that the two women were archeologists.

Since it was summer and she didn't have school, Dana was off to visit her only friend, Angie, at the Congressional Diner. The deed had just changed hands, and the ex-runaway was helping her "folks" with the business. Dana walked down the street, following in the wake of the black racecar.

A half-hour later she was sipping a glass of lemonade in the diner, chattering with Angie as she stared out the front windows. As if it were appearing out of a mirage, the same black car came rumbling past. It slowed and then pulled to the curb outside of a boarded up storefront several doors down. Sure enough, the same tall brunette and the short blonde got out, along with a nervous looking man in a suit. The realtor, Dana thought, happy to be privy to the information she'd overheard.

"Know them?" She asked her friend.

Angie looked out the window and shook her head.

"Never seen 'em before in my life," the girl told Dana, "but that's an old Camaro."

"They're Dr. Covington's great niece, Gabriella, and her partner, Serena," Ray told them, having come up behind the two teens unseen. "Janice said they're planning to open an athletic school of some sort."

Dana and Angie looked at Ray with curiosity. What kind of a school, they wondered.

"They drove in from California last night and they're staying with Janice until they get themselves settled here in Columbia. I'm kind of surprised that they're already talking to a realtor though. I guess they like to move fast."

Considering the car, their behavior made sense to Dana. She watched to see when they came back out. After a half-hour, the trio exited the building and locked the door behind them. They piled into the racecar and drove off. Dana found herself curious about the women, the car, and the school. It wasn't anything diabolical, but it was the closest thing to a mystery she knew of and it was going on right next door. Besides, it was summer and she was bored.

The next time she saw the two women, they were in their backyard, which Dana had learned was much larger than the Tasker's backyard. They were in the middle of a sword fight and the sounds of the clashing blades had drawn the teen's attention. She watched over the hedge for a long time before going back into her house.

In the meantime, when she'd visit Angie at the Congressional Diner, Dana had noticed the process of renovation going on at the empty building the women had visited. A plywood contractor's wall had gone up in front along the sidewalk so she couldn't see any details, but workmen came and went, tradesmen's trucks were constantly parked out front, and building supplies were delivered. The sounds of power tools and transistor radios came from within the barricade. At least once a week, the teen checked their progress from a booth in the diner. For some reason, her curiosity had been peaked and it just grew as the renovations proceeded.

September 8, 2000 - Columbia, South Carolina

School had begun and Dana had made a stop at the Congressional Diner a regular thing on her way home. Since the first day, she'd ditched the school bus and walked with Angie, then sat and drank lemonade or Pepsi as they chatted. Today, there was a change. The contractor's barricade was gone, the renovation was finished, and the storefront sported a new sign. The two girls didn't even stop at the diner. They walked directly to the newly opened space and stared through the window. Their curiosity quickly changed to amazement.

The space was a single stark room. The left wall was mirrored floor to ceiling, the right wall was bare save for a weapons rack. Equally spaced in the ceiling, two large whisper fans spun, drawing out heated air. The back of the space was walled off to create a locker room. The area in front of the locker room hosted boxing equipment, a hanging heavy bag and a spring mounted cylindrical bag on a stand, both brand new. A speedbag hung under a backing board in one corner. Nearby was a stack of cinderblocks supporting a thick canvas sack filled with steel shot. In the opposite corner, down a short corridor that passed the locker room, was a fire door with an alarm.

Dana's next door neighbors were near the center of the long room and both of them were moving fast; the swords in their hands were lost in a blur of motion. The overhead florescent tubes were still off, but the afternoon sunlight pouring through the large front windows lit the pair as they fought. It glanced off the whistling blades, defining their arcs with glittering reflections and spectral highlights that flared briefly as the weapons made contact. The two women didn't stop and start. They attacked and defended continuously at the same relentless speed, neither making a visible error nor giving her opponent an opening to exploit. At the rate they were swinging their weapons, a mistake could have had catastrophic consequences. It looked much more dangerous than anything either girl had seen in the movies or on TV. The teens stood holding their breaths as they watched. Neither of them noticed the two Columbia municipal police officers who'd walked up and now stood behind them.

After what seemed like an hour but was probably only ten minutes, the two women slowed and eventually stopped. They turned to meet their audience. The girls were petrified by the intensity of the expressions on the women's' faces.

"Excuse me, honey," a middle-aged policeman asked Angie as he moved to walk past her through the door and into the school. Angie moved to the side and they traded small smiles of familiarity as he and his younger partner passed by.

"That has got to be the most complex weapons form I have ever seen," the younger officer said in awe. His own smile and sharp honest eyes flashed brilliantly from skin as dark as ebony. Both of the women could feel his genuine interest in what he'd watched. "I'm Officer Lewis," he said, venturing into the school a few steps and offering his hand to Serena, who was closer, "and this is my partner, Officer Williams." The older officer smiled at the women as he too moved into the school to join them.

Serena shook Officer Lewis' hand, feeling the strength of his grip and noting the calluses on the knuckles at the bases of his index and middle fingers. "Pleased to meet'cha, Officer Lewis. I'm Serena Pappas and this is my partner, Gabriella Covington. You study too, don'cha?"

"You're very perceptive," Officer Lewis replied with an appreciative smile. "I've studied Hung Gar for eight years. What's the system you teach called? Some of the movements seem familiar, but I really can't identify it."

"Actually I'm not surprised that it's unfamiliar," Gabriella answered. "We're the only teachers. The system's a historical relic and was only rediscovered by my great aunt about 60 years ago. We've spent our whole lives studying it and we're opening this school to pass on some of what we've learned."

"Some of the movements look like they're from southern Chinese systems," the older officer guessed, "but a lot of them aren't Chinese at all. The whole system looks vicious, very suited for practical application. I'd venture to say, scary."

"It should be, ya know," Serena replied. "It comes from practical combat in ancient times. The exercise ya saw is derived from a solo form called 'The katalepsis'. We've analyzed the original technique an' calculate that it results in exactly 100 deaths."

"katalepsis is not a Chinese word…I know that for a fact…" Officer Lewis began.

"It comes from ancient Greek, and translates roughly as 'battlemania'," Gabrielle said, "but 'The katalepsis' doesn't contain any out of control movements. It's precise, deadly, very difficult to learn, and extremely efficient. I've studied it my entire life and still can't perform some things right…especially the original solo exercise."

"You said it was a relic system," Officer Williams said, "so, how did your great aunt learn it?" A relic system was one in which the continuity of teacher to disciple had been broken and the direct passing on of information had been interrupted.

"Actually, she never learned it," Gabriella answered, "she discovered the scroll and her partner translated it. They spent decades, generating sequences of line drawings to make sense out of the text. More recently, we've created computer simulations."

The officers gave them curious looks. If they hadn't seen these teachers' proficiency, they'd have suspected a martial arts scam. As it was, they were both intrigued.

"Who originally developed this system? Where and when was it used?" Officer Williams asked.

"It's attributed to a warrior of the 1st century BC, named Secunda. She taught it to the Macedonian Amazons. It was a system of armed and unarmed combat that she said had come from the 'strategos Hypatos', and ultimately from Ares, the Greek God of War. It was deemed unbeatable when mastered. They used it to defend their territory for nearly 350 years after the Pax Romana broke down, while the Amazon Nation still maintained a visible political presence."

"Weren't the Amazons a Greek myth?" Marcus Lewis asked. He remembered them vaguely from his high school world history class.

"Actually, now they think they were around all through the Roman Empire," Dana interjected, speaking for the first time. She'd learned about the newer archeological discoveries in her school in McLean the previous year. "Some people think they'd been around a long time already, but they disappeared when Rome fell to the Visigoths in 410 AD." Next to her, Angie favored her friend with a proud smile.

The police officers looked at Dana with renewed interest. The punk-looking kid actually remembered stuff from her history classes?

"That's partially correct," Gabriella said, smiling at the two teens. "In fact, the Amazons persisted long afterwards, but the Amazon Nation disappeared as a political entity. It wouldn't surprise me if there were still some Amazons left in the world." She flicked her eyes to Serena's, whose right eyelid twitched in something shy of a wink.

Their great aunts, Janice and Melinda, had published only a small fraction of the scrolls they'd eventually unearthed in Macedonia. Most, both from the tomb and from the village site, had never been released. There had been a prodigious trove of material that they'd kept semi-secret. These had become their joint obsession; comprehending the social framework within which Xena and Gabrielle had functioned.

While the world watched a TV show based on some of the Roman era material that had been embellished with a large dose of fiction, the bulk of the scrolls dealt with the culture of the Greek Amazons. What it amounted to was a manual for a lost culture, including its history, mythology and rituals, military science, social and survival skills, and some tantalizing hints about that culture's disappearance.

Serena and Gabriella had been born into a wellspring of ancient knowledge. For some reason, that ancient culture had resonated within each of them with more purity than the modern culture into which they'd been born. With the elder members of their family as teachers, they'd grown up practically bicultural. They could live off the land, speak, read, and write ancient Greek, Latin, and the dialect of the Pontus-Caucasus tribes. They could wage war and heal, grow crops and raise livestock, build, spin, and weave. They knew most of what an ancient Amazon would have known.

"So what ya'll are teachin' is Amazon warfare?" Angie asked, intrigued.

"That's just part of a whole program. There's meditation, history, ethics, and even some healing techniques. We're teaching Amazon training methods as depicted in Secunda's scrolls," Gabriella confirmed. "We've both been active in sports all our lives, as well as other martial arts. Neither of us has ever found a tougher workout geared to women."

"So, when do your classes meet?" Marcus Lewis asked.

"We're just openin' an' we don't have a schedule set up yet," Serena told him, "but we're flexible, an' we can work with advanced students who've got jobs. Maybe the beginners' classes'll be on weekends or in the afternoons…we'll just have to see what the students need."

In the two policemen's eyes, she saw the spark of interest. They would be welcomed as the school's first advanced students. Their class tuition would defray some of the costs and legitimize the purpose of the Columbia School of Martial Science. Eventually they'd compete under its banner and spread its reputation.

In the two teens' eyes, she saw the flaring of imagination. Now that she and Gabriella were finally ready to teach, they'd be looking for girls and women for whom the idea of the Amazons sparked something more intense than interest. The school was intended to eventually teach much more than combat techniques. It was a gesture, an outreach to something she believed still existed. Someday, perhaps its lessons would bear fruit, she thought, someday maybe they'll contact us.

The End

Phantom Bard, Brooklyn, N.Y.

August, 2004


The Lay of the Conqueror

(Author unknown, circa 42 BC)

Come to me at twilight when the shadows fill the shade,
Caressing all the world with night, so gently day to fade.
Then gift me O my goddess, with a song for every age,
And let me sing it truthfully upon this mortal stage.

I'll tell of things to shape our world in centuries to come,
When men shall fly, the earth unite, and speak with anyone.
They crafted like Hephaestos, and in hubris knew no shame,
Until they raised an ancient curse, the long lost Hellenes' Bane.

Lament the fate of future days in Wisdom's power snared,
Both mortal and immortal caught, by Science none were spared.
She germinated veiled plots, waged wisdom's frontless war,
Unseen and unsuspected, ever lurking at its core.

Come to me at morning as the clouds don Eos' hues,
Waking Helios' bright blessing, to prophesize my news.
Then gift to me the wisdom unlike those across the sea,
Not to necromance the living in lives never meant to be.

I'll sing a requiem for souls borne out of place and time,
For those not born of mothers, hapless victims of Her crime.
But like Cronos to Uranus, and then mighty Zeus in turn,
The clones slew their creator and with hatred watched her burn.

Lament these souls from ages past, adrift in future days,
Assailed by all its madness, unaccustomed to its ways.
They gave the world that which they knew, hard won in days of yore,
Until they found their enemy, the proud Goddess of War.

Come to me in darkness where Persephone is blind,
Interring all the world with night that's deeper than a mine.
Then into hidden places where discoveries are made,

Await such scenes of horror to make mortal conscience fade.

I'll sing to you of motherhood frustrated yet again,
A daughter slain, a sacred pyre, an oath of blood begins.
And then upon a heartbeat, yet a greater blow was borne,
A pair entwined was sundered and from love a heart was shorn.

Lament the souls of ancients ground 'neath battle's heated steel,
When Cupid's flush was sacrificed and broken on the wheel.
Now heart of fire to heart of ice, a living heart to mourn,
O Phobos, Deimos, Nemesis, your equal has been born.

Come to me when winter's snow lies thick upon the ground,
Cloaking all the world in white and shrouding every sound.
Then gift me with a peace so still, all's frozen as in death,
And the only hint of living is the billow of my breath.

I'll sing to you of battle fought on ground within a soul,
When men and gods contested 'neath the sacred olive's bole.
Medusa bearing aegis facing He of reddened spear,

In sibling conflict rampant ran through every mortal year.

Lament now for this future time, its doom so close at hand,
God's blood, God's blessing, frozen soul, an army soon shall stand.
With will of iron and sword of steel, the Hellenes' Bane arose,
And strode a disbelieving world, whose time had reached its close.

Come to me in summer when Apollo's disc doth reign,
Blazing through the heavens and inciting warfare's flame.
Then gift to me a conquest with all lands bent to my will,
When all earth's nations bow to me, Nike proclaims my skill.

I'll sing to you of destiny, of fighters all the same,
Each born of one, yet from no womb, in the Destroyer's name.
As Eos rose to battle's call upon that fateful hill,
Then 'neath Helios they vanished, bright ichor and blood to spill.

Lament now all ye nations, for the past has come to be,
A path not taken long ago, lost to eternity.
But on that day of glory even Clio held her breath,
When the strategos set Day's Chakram to bright Athena's neck.

Come to me with hidden light, illuminate my soul,
Transforming rage and darkness there while thawing out the cold,
Then gift to me an answer I could change the world with,
And we'll live to seek our future in those ancient days of myth.

I'll sing to you of healing and of two hearts lost and found,
And of a war that never was, fought on enchanted ground.
'Till timeless love rekindled as the earth went up in flame.
And history repeated what had ever been the same.

Lament no more O nations bright, your life has been redeemed,
Through changes wrought by heroes only Mnemosyne esteemed.
The past through present sacrifice has been their just reward,
Eternal soulmates proved the heart is mightier than the sword.

Come to me in Elysia where we'll sip the nectar sweet,
Rejoicing there together on the day Fate bids us meet.

Then gift to me your loving heart I need more than my own,
And all the blood and all the pain will finally have flown.

I'll sing to you of lifetimes in a never-ending row,
Shared reincarnations the Moirae promised long ago.
And so one day we'll take up our mortality again,
Bearing witness to a future world where we've already been.

Lament no more upon that day the blood spilled by your hands,
For through your darkness light was gifted to these mortal lands.
Then on some blessed morning in that lifetime yet to be,
While riding through a field, I'll see you and you'll see me.

Here ends the Lay of the Conqueror

(Attributed to Gabrielle of Potidaea - Trans. by Melinda Pappas 8/1941)

Appendix 1 (Titles of TV episodes in Italics)

The Journey of Soulmates

Xena and Gabrielle's Timeline

(As reported by the Clones)

100 BC Gaius Julius Caesar is born in Rome.

97 BC Xena is born in Amphipolis, on the border of Thrace and Macedonia.

90 BC Callisto is born in Cirra, on the north coast of the Gulf of Corinth, near Delphi, in Phocis.

89 BC Gabrielle is born in Potidaea, at the narrows of the neck of Pallene, the western most peninsula of Chalcidice.

80 BC The warlord Cortese's army attacks Amphipolis. After their defeat, Xena is driven from her home, estranged from her mother, and blamed for the death of her brother. She begins a two-year apprenticeship under Mithridates VI, the King of Pontus.

78 BC Xena takes command of an outlaw army, having deposed their leader, and transforms them into a pirate force. She sacks Cirra and many other coastal towns on her way towards Corinth, where she is forced to withdraw after a protracted stalemate.

77-73 BC Xena encounters Caesar for the first time, holding him hostage during the sack of Thasos. The Roman navy rescues him and Xena rues the decision to stay her hand and not execute him when she had the chance. Caesar defeats Xena's pirates. They become enemies for life. With her forces in shambles, she accepts patronage from the God of War, becoming known as the Favorite of Ares. She travels through the eastern steppes, as far as Chin, regrouping and forging a new army. During this period, Xena is first called the Destroyer of Nations. For another three years she leads her growing forces in mayhem, eventually becoming such a threat that she is finally defeated by an uneasy coalition of Athenians, Corinthians, and Greek and Roman mercenaries.

The Early Years (72-70 BC)

(These 3 years were Gabrielle's most active as a writer.)

"Sins of the Past" (72 BC) The meeting of soulmates, Xena is 25 and had already been a warrior for over 7 years, the last 5 as a warlord commander. It had been about a month since she'd left her defeated army when she rescued Gabrielle, who had barely turned 17. She was ignorant, idealistic, but also loyal, feisty, and most surprisingly, literate. Within a year, Xena teaches her the nerve pinch and basic staff fighting techniques. (Note that the word "Sins" in the title reflects the Christian ethos of the modern translators. Gabrielle's clone stressed that the ancient Greek word she'd used could be more accurately translated as "Dark Deeds". It was a vernacular expression, where "dark" was synonymous with "bloody" or "violent", and didn't carry the implied moral judgement or condemnation of the word "sins". This relates to the bard's presentation of Xena's past history as a warrior, from the attack of Cortese to their meeting outside Potidaea.)

"Chariots of War" (72 BC) Xena and Gabrielle assist a Thracian settlement in repelling a warlord's army. To break the siege of the settlement, Xena resorts to coating hogs and cattle with pitch and bundled straw, and then stampeding the livestock into the enemy lines after setting them afire. These flaming "chariots" introduced the bard to the horrific necessities of war, and the understanding that her soulmate would do whatever was required to save the settlers. It was her first real introduction to being forced to choose the lesser of two evils, a demand they jokingly came to refer to as the "Greater Good". Gabrielle notes that the battle was followed by a victory feast of BBQ'd pork and beef.

"The Reckoning"

"The Greater Good" (72 BC) The soulmates deprive the warlord Talmadeus' army of supplies with a plan to demonstrate a farming village's resolve with a controlled crop burn. The army was threatening the city of Abdera, but without food, the army would fall apart. Somehow the burn got out of control and destroyed all the crops. The army disbanded, the city was saved, and the farmers starved. The Greater Good was served. The episode, "The Greater Good", made from this scroll was almost unrecognizable.

"Callisto's Predations" (71 BC) This scroll became two episodes, "Callisto" and "Return of Callisto". It should be noted that Perdicus was Gabrielle's cousin, NOT her husband, and that at Gabrielle's urging, Xena spared Callisto's life an unprecedented second time. Callisto was tried and imprisoned for 20 years on Shark Island.

"Is There A Physician in the Stockade?" This scroll was originally a manual of Xena's battlefield medical techniques, and was written during the Mitoan-Thessalian Conflict. Sections detail first aid, triage, surgery, bone setting, and herbology. In addition to giving rise to the episode, "Is There A Doctor In The House?", this scroll includes an anecdotal story that became the core of the episode, "In Sickness and In Hell". Note that there was no word for "doctor". Healer, physician, and butcher were the applicable contemporary terms.

"Hooves and Harlots" (70 BC) Note that the actual scroll was as much a history of the Amazon and Centaur cultures as a chronicle of a dispute with a neighboring warlord. It was during this dispute that Xena's son, Solon, (age 5), was actually killed. We are given a rare account of the rage of the Destroyer of Nations. Elements of this history appear as background in several TV episodes, including, "Hooves and Harlots", "Adventures in the Sin Trade 1 & 2", "Lifeblood", and "Orphan of War". For her defense of a wounded Princess Terreis, Gabrielle is made an honorary friend of the Amazons.

"When In Rome" This scroll tells of the origins of the struggle between Julius Caesar and the Warrior Princess. Julius Caesar's ransom and defeat of Xena's pirate army is included as background, while her revenge, achieved by freeing Vercinix and arranging the execution of Crassus, is presented as current. It gave rise to the episodes, "Destiny", "The Quest", and "When In Rome". (Note that some scholars believe Xena's actions were aimed at avenging the death of the rebellious gladiatorial slave, Sparticus, a fellow Thracian, who died at Crassus' hand in 71 BC. This goal is as valid as that of freeing Vercinix or destabilizing the Roman leadership by breaking the First Triumvirate of Caesar, Pompey, and Crassus.)

Xena and Gabrielle's first trip to Chin (70-69 BC)

(Over a year of travelling, the trip was, in part, a measure of expedience, putting the soulmates beyond the reach of Julius Caesar and the vengeful Romans.)

"The Kingdom of Lao" (70-69 BC) This scroll became the episodes, "The Debt 1 & 2". Xena assassinates Ming Tsu to honor an old alliance, securing the rule of the House of Lao. Gabrielle first uses the Sai in battle and they become one of her favorite weapons.

"Bad Rye" (69 BC) This scroll was greatly dramatized and became "The Furies". Xena and Gabrielle had been back in Greece for barely 2 moons, and Xena was still suffering debilitation from ergotism, when they were recalled to Chin. (Ergot poisoning, caused by a fungus growing on rye because of wet weather, was relatively common in their time).

Xena and Gabrielle's second trip to Chin (68 BC)

(Most of 1 year travelling)

"The Dragon and the Phoenix" (68 BC) This scroll gave rise to the episodes, "Purity", and "Back in the Bottle". Recalled to Chin, Xena captures Ming Tsu's son, Ming Tien, the "Green Dragon", (age 22), and turns him over to the Laos, who execute him for breaking the peace with his black powder army. The restored peace of Chin is the reborn "Phoenix".

"Giant Killer" (68 BC) Written on the road, this scroll begins with a short history of giants, during which Gabrielle recounts a legend that became the episode, "Giant Killer", and continues with an adventure that became "A Day in the Life". It probably also inspired the anecdotal scene with Gabrielle and the blind cyclops that was inserted into the episode, "Sins of the Past".

The Birth of Eve (12th moon, 68 BC)

(Xena is 29 and Gabrielle is 21)

"The Blood Shamaness" (late 68 BC) Immediately follows the soulmates' return from Chin. This scroll tells of Alti's reappearance after 8 years, again threatening the Amazon Nation. Still obsessed with forcing Xena to assist in her plans for destroying the Amazons, she attempted to steal Eve's soul during Xena's pregnancy. The episode, "Them Bones, Them Bones" was based on this scroll. It was left to Gabrielle to actually defeat Alti, after Queen Melosa was mortally poisoned by the renegade, Valesca. At this time, Gabrielle was named a full sister and Amazon Warrior, by the newly crowned Queen Terreis.

"The Dirty Half Dozen" (67 BC)


"In Sickness and In Hell" (66 BC) Gabrielle writes of the plagues and diseases the soulmates had encountered during their travels. Among these we can recognize malaria, yellow fever, small pox, dysentery, leprosy, influenza, bubonic plague, tin and lead poisoning, acromegaly, chrondistrophic dwarfism, Siamese and parasite twinning, tuberculosis, gonorrhea, typhus, cholera, and several types of food poisoning. Note that the title of this scroll was borrowed for the title of an episode based on content from the scroll, "Is There A Physician In The Stockade?".

"Past Imperfect" (66 BC)

Xena and Gabrielle's trip to Indus (65-63 BC)

(Over 2 years, during which Carthage falls to a plague, probably Yersinia pestis)

"Paradise Found" (65 BC) Gabrielle and Xena learn yoga techniques and a new system of pressure point attacks from the Tibetan mystic and holy man, Ai-den. The techniques compliment the famous "nerve pinch" that Xena had learned years before in Chin. It is believed that these methods predate and predict the later Chinese system of fighting called the "Poison Hand".

"Karma" (64 BC) The events of this scroll, actually a travelogue of the journey to Indus and a record of the philosophies they encountered, became, after great embellishment, the episodes "Devi", and "Between the Lines". Xena and Gabrielle meet Eli and again defeat Alti, this time in spirit form.

"The Way" (64-63 BC) Xena is purified by her acceptance of the Way of the Warrior, under the guidance of a spiritual teacher in Indus. It is during their return to Greece that she is able to take possession of the Chakram of Light and combine it with the Chakram of Darkness. This material, much modified, is the basis for the episodes, "The Way", and "Chakram".

The Middle Years (63-58 BC)

(5 years of relative peace that began in war end in tragedy)

"The Best Day" (Summer Solstice, 63 BC) This scroll includes the material that became both "A Good Day" and "Amphipolis Under Siege". Xena engineers the destruction of Caesar and Pompey's eastern armies outside of Amphipolis. The combined Roman casualties are estimated at over 40,000. Xena had returned home with Gabrielle and 4 ½ year old Eve, hoping for a semi-retirement in which to raise her daughter.

"The Play's the Thing" A self-deprecatory piece by Gabrielle, telling of the fiasco arising from her attempt at theater production.

"Crusader" (61-60 BC ?) This scroll tells of the warrior, Najara, seducer of the Roman Governor of Pergamum. She had so bewitched the weak willed governor with her ambition and delusions of supernatural invincibility, that he had begun the secession of Pergamum from the Roman Empire. Her crusade was to supplant the Roman pantheon through forced conversion, and create an empire dedicated to an ancient and bloodthirsty monotheistic faith, the worship of Ba'al. It was her use of captured Greek sailors, (fishermen and traders from Thracian coastal villages in particular), as human sacrifices, which prompted the soulmates to become involved. Staying ahead of soldiers dispatched by Pompey the Magnus to depose the governor, Xena and Gabrielle track down and battle Najara. After finally dealing Najara an incapacitating wound, the soulmates left her in local custody for the arriving legions. Charged with sedition, piracy, and heresy, Najara was executed for her crimes following her trial and conviction by a Roman court in early 59 BC.

The Birth of Hope (10th moon, 60 BC)

(Gabrielle is 29 and Hope was not the rape-spawn of a demon or evil god)

"Lifeblood" (60 BC) Xena and Gabrielle return to the Amazon Village for the birth and christening of Gabrielle's daughter, Hope, who receives her Right of Caste. They find that Queen Ephiny had succeeded Queen Terreis in 62 BC.

"Succession" (59 BC) Xena and Gabrielle confront and kill Mavican, Callisto's would-be successor, sparring partner, and disciple, who had escaped from Shark Island in 60 BC after studying there under the "Warrior Queen" for 10 years. It should be noted that for several years, Gabrielle had been as deadly a fighter as Xena, and inflicted Mavican's fatal wound with her sai.

Caesar's Kidnapping of Eve (58 BC)

(Xena is 39 and Gabrielle is 30)

"Endgame" (Vernal Equinox, 58 BC) This scroll tells of Caesar's revenge. On his orders, Brutus attacks the Amazons, knowing Pompey is nearby. Queen Ephiny is killed, and Eve, (age 9), is kidnapped. In the power gulf, Xena takes temporary command of the Amazon army, slaughters Pompey's legions, and personally beheads him, believing that he, not Caesar, was responsible for Eve's abduction. At the same time, Gabrielle leads a war party to recover Ephiny's body and rescue Amazons taken prisoner by Brutus. She was almost successful in killing Brutus as well, a lost opportunity the soulmates would be thankful for years later on the Ides of March. Only weeks later, Caesar sends a gloating message explaining how Brutus' troops had dressed in Pompey's uniforms for the kidnapping, and that Xena's rage had removed his greatest rival for power in Rome.

The Bloody Years (58-47 BC)

(Most of these 12 years were spent trying to free Eve from Caesar)

It is during this time that Gabrielle trades her sais for a pair of Amazon short swords, the blades of which she has lightened by "ventilation", removing windows of metal to leave the blades "skeletonized". The resulting whistle when slicing through the air becomes a fearsome trademark of the "Amazon Bard".

"One Against an Army" (58-47 BC) Xena declares war on the Roman Empire with the objective of recovering her daughter from Caesar. Although this scroll contains the story of Xena's defense of a high pass, that battle was only one of many, fought over a dozen years, against the Roman army, not the Persians. Over the years, Xena was credited with causing destruction equivalent to over five Roman legions in Greece, two in Italia, one in Gallia, and one in Germania; including auxiliaries and mercenaries, a total of over 86,000 soldiers. This includes the Roman casualties of "Endgame", but not those of "The Best Day". (The Battle of Thermopylae was fought in 480 BC, over 400 years before Xena's time).

"Queen Marga" (58 BC) Documents the short reign of the Amazon Queen Marga, and provided material that became "Coming Home" and "Dangerous Prey". Note that Prince Morloch was the leader of the hostile army, while Ares and the Erinyes never appear.

"Queen Varia" (57-54 BC and 46 BC) Documents the beginning of the reign of the hotheaded Amazon Queen Varia, and the 3-year war against Helicon. It provides material that became, "To Helicon and Back", as well as relating Varia's later "Oath of Blood", the Amazon Nation's vendetta against Livia, that served as the background for the episode, "Path of Vengeance", which occurred after the rescue of Eve.

*Note 1: (52 BC) Callisto escapes from Shark Island Penal Colony and temporarily disappears. At some point after this time, it is suspected that Callisto made her way to Asia Minor and took possession of the Chakram of Night, which she used in her attack on Xena in Rome. This weapon turned up millennia later in Ares' tomb and was seen there by Janice Covington and Melinda Pappas. It was the rumor of Callisto in Rome that had brought Xena and Gabrielle out of semi-retirement for their last adventure).

"The Abyss" (48 BC) The events of this scroll were probably also dramatized to become "The Price" and "Daughter of Pomira", as well as the episode, "The Abyss".

The Rescue of Eve (46 BC)

(Xena is 51, Gabrielle is 43, and Eve is 21)

"The Eternal City" (46 BC) Regarded by scholars as the continuation and culmination of the scroll, "One Against An Army", it contains the story of the rescue of Eve, now known as Livia. To free her, the soulmates infiltrated Caesar's Palace in Rome and arranged the decimation of three cohorts of Praetorians within the city. Xena and Gabrielle spent almost all of their remaining lives on the run, undoing Caesar's influence on Xena's daughter. By this time, Xena had been named First Enemy of the Imperium, with the price on her head growing to 6 million denarii.

"The Ides of March" (44 BC) Begun by Gabrielle in a Roman prison, and completed by an unknown author after the crucifixion. Xena was 53, Gabrielle was 45, Callisto was 46, and Caesar was 56, on the Ides of March, 44 BC. Xena and Gabrielle were executed on the same day as the assassination of their archenemy Gaius Julius Caesar. The unknown author attempts to claim that they all died within moments of each other, in different parts of the city of Rome. Only Callisto survived, and her fate is not recorded.

*Note 2: Eve and Hope both survived their mothers' deaths. Eve lived in Amphipolis while not on the road continuing Xena and Gabrielle's work. In 39 BC she was able to avenge herself by killing Brutus. She became a well-known warrior and hero, hunted by Rome, until she was granted amnesty and banished from Italia by Augustus Caesar, in 27 BC. In return, she foreswore carrying on her mother's war against the Empire. The agreement was one of mutual convenience, as she was 40 and had two children by that time, and Augustus was in the process of securing his rule. Unlike Xena, Eve lived to retire and raise her family at her grandmother's inn. Eve and Hope were never more than acquaintances, as Hope was only 2 when Eve was kidnapped, and 14 when she was freed. By that time, Livia/Eve was regarded as an enemy of the Amazon Nation. Hope exceeded Gabrielle's status as an Amazon Warrior, while living fulltime with her tribe. At the age of 18, she earned the grade of Master Warrior, upon achieving her 25th kill in battle. At the age of 19, Hope became War Queen of the Greek Amazons, following her challenge and defeat of Queen Varia on the summer solstice in 40 BC. Using that position to honor the relationship between her own mother and Eve's, she declined to prosecute Varia's "Oath of Blood", and the Nation's vendetta against Livia/Eve was laid to rest. Almost nothing further is known about her.

*Note 3: Deadly Xena and Gabrielle were both hunted by Rome, but because of the personal enmity between Xena and Caesar, it was always the Warrior Princess for whom the Empire reserved its greatest hatred. Over the years, (with Gabrielle's help), Xena was involved in the deaths of something in the neighborhood of 156,000 enemy troops, 40,000 in "The Best Day", 86,000 during "One Against an Army", and 30,000 in Chin, primarily in "The Dragon and the Phoenix". Figures on deaths during her years as a warlord are sketchy, however best estimates place the total at something in the neighborhood of 12,000 to 15,000. A conservative total would count 170,000 dead over the course of her career. For purposes of comparison, Hannibal Barca is credited with the destruction of about 85,000 legionnaires and allies in three major battles, (Trebbia River, Lake Trasimeno, and the Plain of Cannae), within three years. In the American Civil War, about 185,000 men were killed in action or died of wounds. Another 186,000 died of diseases associated with the war. Civilian casualties are unrecorded.

April 27, 2000 (AD) Cloned Xena and Gabrielle escape from the clandestine lab of Alexis Los Alamos, (Alti), in City of Industry, California.

September 21, 2000 (AD) Dr. Janice Covington, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of Archeology at the University of S.C. passes away after a third stroke. Ray, her colleague and one-time graduate teaching assistant had introduced the soulmates to her on June 2. She had used her old contacts in the underworld to provide personal identities for the clones, who settle down with her in Columbia S.C., in the old Pappas family house. Janice makes Serena Pappas and Gabriella Covington her heirs, and the inheritors of the Pappas estate. The clones learn the truth of their origin.

April 30, 2001 (AD) The cloned soulmates travel to New Zealand and confront Lucy, Renee, and Rob on the set of the final episode of the TV show, Xena Warrior Princess. They learn the secret of how the show was conceived and confirm their suspicions that an old influence is again active in the modern world. (End of Part 1)

June 1, 2001 (AD) The clones open the Columbia School of Martial Science. Their first students are the Columbia, S.C. police officers, Marcus Lewis and Alexander Williams.

September 13, 2001 (AD) Gabrielle wins the Women's Division of the 23rd National Open Full Contact Martial Arts Championships, to honor the soulmates' fallen student, Marcus Lewis, who was killed in a hijacked plane on Sept. 11, in Stony Creek Township, Pennsylvania. On the same day, Xena foils a bio-terrorist hostage situation in Quantico, Va., which initiates the clones' contact with the FBI's elite Hostage Rescue Team.

September 16 to October 14, 2001 (AD) The soulmates serve as guest instructors in unarmed combat to the FBI's Hostage Rescue Team, at the FBI compound in the Quantico Marine Base, Quantico, Virginia. They have also drawn the interest of a covert government agency, the shadow organization, Omega Sector. A team led by agent Harry Tasker investigates them, while at the same time forestalling investigation by other government intelligence agencies.

November 2, 2001 (AD) The Columbia School of Martial Science is attacked by clones of Callisto and her disciple, Mavican. Those clones are defeated by Xena and Gabrielle and then tracked when they flee by agents of Omega Sector, who subsequently contact the soulmates about a covert mission.

November 7, 2001 (AD) The clones are recruited by Harry Tasker to join in a mission to neutralize a secret DOE cloning facility near Atlanta, Georgia. During that mission the Destroyer of Nations is reborn. (End of Part 2)

November 8, 2001 (AD) The clone of Elainis of Mycenae attacks the Columbia School of Martial Science. Because of that battle's outcome, the Destroyer of Nations accepts the Blessing of the God of War and embraces her ancient heritage. Serena Pappas disappears and the Pappas estate is taken over by Artiphys International, a subsidiary of the DON GROUP, Inc., an investment consortium ultimately headed by Kori Polemos.

November 10, 2001 (AD) The Destroyer of Nations claims the Chakram of Day.

March 28, 2002 (AD) Mass cloning of Xena's army begins in two locations. The initial work had already been completed over the previous three months.

June 1, 2002 (AD) During the first successful flight test of a scramjet engine in Woomera, S. Australia, a speed of Mach 8.6 is achieved.

September 11, 2002 (AD) Athena opens her war by proxy. The United States attacks Iraq and Afghanistan with airstrikes, which include the use of nuclear weapons. Days earlier, a covert war had begun using engineered bioweapons to cause epidemics in North Korea and the Sudan. The combined death toll eventually tops 3 ½ million.

September 12, 2002 (AD) The Destroyer of Nations is successful in enlisting the leading theoretical researcher in nanotechnology, and isolates him with a support team at her lab in Yokohama. The DON GROUP has invested extensively in Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, providing the Destroyer with a manufacturing base and technological assets in Japan.

December 2003 (AD) Athena's forces release an engineered plague in Beijing. The death toll eventually climbs to 27.5 million.

April 1, 2004 (AD) Two genetically enhanced clones mature to the point that they are able to escape the primary lab site and join the Destroyer of Nations.

January 5, 2005 (AD) As expected, Athena destroys Xena's primary cloning site.

March 2, 2005 (AD) The refitted Miss Artiphys puts to sea.

July 6, 2005 (AD) The chiliarchoi join the Destroyer of Nations.

October 14, 2005 (AD) The Argo puts to sea.

December 2005 (AD) Athena's forces release an engineered plague in Europe.

December 6, 2005 (AD) The strategos opens her war with the release of plagues.

December 18, 2005 (AD) Neutralization of the US and Russian North Atlantic Fleets.

December 30, 2005 (AD) Destruction of USAMRIID and the Hanford, Wa. site.

January 1, 2006 (AD) New Years Day attacks destroy the Mediterranean cities of Athens, Rome, Tel Aviv, and Alexandria.

January 2, 2006 (AD) Destruction of London, Paris, Brussels, and Berlin with Mach 8 cruise missiles.

January 17, 2006 (AD) The Persian Gulf oil reserves are struck and neutralized.

January 18, 2006 (AD) The "Second Phase" is complete and a migration begins.

March 2, 2006 (AD) The Destroyer of Nations' army emerges from the mirror site.

April 12, 2006 (AD) The Destroyer of Nations lands her army at Kavala in Macedonia.

April 22, 2006 (AD) The Destroyer of Nations successfully defeats Athena's armies in a three pronged preemptive counterattack.

May 5-7, 2006 (AD) The Destroyer drives Athena's army from their camp in Macedonia.

May 15, 2006 (AD) The Destroyer of Nations draws Athena's army into battle at her selected location in the Strymon Vale. She defeats them decisively but refuses their surrender, preferring to leave them demoralized.

May 22, 2006 (AD) The Destroyer of Nations annihilates Athena's army in a final battle and captures the Goddess of Wisdom. She becomes the Conqueror, but circumstances cause her to postpone completing her subjugation of the modern world.

June 6, 2006 (AD) The Conqueror abdicates her position and leaves the modern world.


Appendix 2

A Brief Glossary of Greek Military Terms

Aspis A shield.

Chiliarchia A unit of one thousand troops.

Chiliarchos A commander of a thousand.

Daemons In Greek and Roman mythology, the daemons (or genii) were an order of invisible beings. The Greeks believed them to be inferior deities and that Zeus assigned one daemon to each man and woman at his birth, to attend, protect and guide him or her and at his or her death dying with him or her. They were nameless, and like the multitude of mankind, innumerable. Some of them acted as personal attendants to deities of a higher order, and in that case were represented under particular forms, and enjoyed distinctive names, while others were believed to watch over particular districts, towns or nations. The Romans believed them to be intermediate beings linking mankind with the gods. (This definition from an online dictionary but I can't remember which one…sorry).

Ektaxis Battle order, or troop formation.

Epilektos An elite soldier.

Euzonos A light infantryman. (Also: Psilos)

Gorytos A quiver.

Hekatontarches A commander of a hundred.

Hekatontarchia A unit of one hundred troops.

Hippikon Cavalry

Hoplites Heavy infantry troops, typically armed with spear, shield, sword, and dagger.

katalepsis Battle mania, battle madness, or hysteria.

Kataphractes Body armor, particularly mail or scale.

Kataskopos A scout.

Kranos A helmet.

Machaira A sword. (Also: Spathe, Xiphos)

Machairophoros A swordsman.

Pelekus A battle-axe, usually a double-axe with two blades.

Peltastès A skirmisher equipped with a light shield.

Pezos An infantryman.

Phrouros A guard.

Poliorketès A besieger.

Poliorkia A siege.

Praipositos A commander (generic).

Psilos A light infantryman. (Also: Euzonos)

Spathe A sword. (Also Machaira, Xiphos)

Spathe makra A longsword

strategos A commander of an army, a general.

strategos Hypatos The supreme commander of a nation's or confederation's armies.

Stratiè An army (generic).

Synedrion A military council.

Thoorakitès A skirmisher equipped with body armor.

Toxotès An archer.

Toxon A bow.

Xiphidion A short sword or dagger.

Xiphos A sword. (Also: Machaira, Spathe)

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