YOU MADE ME
WARNING: This is a story told by a madwoman. Her reality is not ours. There are reasons she is insane. DO NOT READ THIS if you are squeamish, under 18, or are bothered by violence, including one incident of a sexual nature. Men, especially are warned.
THIS story takes place between Surprise and A Necessary Evil.
THIS is fan fiction, written for enjoyment. All characters and situations not under copyright by Universal or Renaissance Pictures are under my copyright.
Callisto sat huddled in a corner, still shaking. The sounds of her sister's screaming still echoed in her ears. The flames were gone now, and the army, and the magnificent, scary woman. Callisto was cold now. She stood slowly. Everything in the top half of her house was charred, twisted-gone. She went outside. No one was there. Then she heard it. A crying, weeping...she followed the voice, and looking under a charred bed, found her little cousin, Etor. She looked at him, and as he recognized her, he flew out from under the bed, and grabbed her.
"Callisto. I was so scared. Are the men gone? And is she.."
"Xena is gone. The men are gone. The village is gone. All of them gone.", she said.
There was something that she could do. She knew where the fields were, and what was ready to harvest. She took Etor by the hand, and lead him to the fields. Her eyes could not believe what she saw there. The fields were in wild disarray as Xena's army had stripped them almost as well as locusts. She searched to fields for something they could eat. An onion, two carrots, and a handful of turnips were all that was left.
She carried the vegetables with her as the two children searched the village for a pot to cook in, and clean water. Callisto found a knife, and peeled and cut up the food. She started a fire by sticking a twig into a wall that was still burning, and adding it to some branches. As the food cooked, she wondered what to do. There were no grownups. No one to tell them what to do, but no one to feed or clothe them.
When the food looked done, they ate. She wondered if they were like wild animals now, having to hunt and live outside. She had helped her mother cook a little, but the animals were already dead, and skinned, and looked like food. They did not look like cute, fuzzy bunnies or scary bears. How did you kill animals to eat them? She did not share her fears with Etor. He was half her age, and would be frightened enough. Could they live on their own, or would they need to find people? And what if they looked for another village, and found Xena's army instead? The images of the woman played in Callisto's head. She was beautiful and cruel. She swore at her men, told them what to do-and they obeyed. They were afraid of her too. Nobody was afraid of Callisto.
When they finished eating, Callisto and Etor looked for blankets.
It was getting chilly. Only, there were dead people in nearly every house. It was...Callisto held her breath and ran past the dead people-people she used to know. Her heart went too fast and she wanted to scream. But they found blankets. They smelled like the fire. The two children snuggled together for warmth and went to sleep.
Etor started screaming in the middle of the night. It sounded like her sister. Callisto comforted him when she needed comforting herself. She decided then to leave Cirrah. The memories were just too much.
When morning came, they took the cooking pot, the knife, their blankets, and the clothes they were wearing, and started down the road. Callisto remembered her father saying that the next village was only a day away. But their legs were short, and Etor would need to rest. It would probably be two days. And she would have to find food. Etor wouldn't understand about hunting for food. He was only four years old. She just hoped they wouldn't find Xena's army.
Callisto and Etor had walked for hours. Etor was whining about how hungry he was, and Callisto didn't know what they would eat. The Gods must have heard the little boy, because just ahead was an apple tree. Callisto knew the bad ones were on the ground, so she the climbed the tree, and tossed all the apples she could reach down to Etor. He couldn't catch. He must have been too little, but there were at least a dozen apples at his feet. Callisto climbed down, and they sat on the ground, eating. All the sound she could hear was crunching and chewing. It sounded a little like the fire, and she shivered, remembering.
They ate about half of the apples, so Callisto put the rest of them in the pot, and they started to walk again. Now Etor was fussing about being thirsty. She wondered how long until he wanted to pee again. She was tired of being his mother. Her legs ached and her eyes hurt and she wanted to find a cave and just hide forever-alone. Then she heard a horse. Xena's Army!
"Etor, quick, hide.", and she dragged him into the bushes and pushed him down. He opened his mouth to holler, but she put her hand over his mouth. He didn't understand they could be killed if the wrong people found them. The horse came closer and Callisto's throat constricted. It was Xena on a huge roan war horse. She was wearing armor, and if Callisto had been carrying a spear she would have killed the evil woman then and there. Xena was alone. Callisto wanted to follow her, to get even, somehow. But Callisto was still a little girl. One who felt quite powerless just now.
When Xena was well past them, Callisto lead Etor out of the bushes. Xena had gone the way they were going. But she was alone. Would the village they were going to be burned too? Callisto decided to wait. She took Etor's face in her hands and made him look at her.
"We are going to rest for a while. You're tired, aren't you? We will stay here and see what Xena does, and if her army follows her. And whichever way her army goes, we go the other way."
Etor's lower lip quivered, but he was trying to be brave.
'Okay. We'll rest for a while. But I'm thirsty, Callisto."
Water. Where did people find water? How? Most villages were built by water, but they were on the road. Callisto wished it would rain, but the sky was blue and cloudless. She sat Etor down, telling him to hide if anyone came by, and walked away from the road, in search of water. The brush grew thick, and she recognized willows. Her father had said something about willows. What was it? If only she had listened more. But she never thought she would have to take care of herself so soon, let alone herself and a little boy. She wouldn't be a grown up for seven years. That was forever.
Callisto stood stock still, she could smell water. She never knew people could smell water. She ran towards it, and a little creek was right in front of her. She ran back to get Etor, excited that she could help him. As she got to where she had left him, no one was there. She was afraid to call out to him, so she carefully approached the road, and there in the middle was the little boy, crumpled into a heap. Callisto swallowed hard, and went to him. He had been trampled by a horse, and the only horse she had seen there had belonged to...
Callisto pulled Etor's body out of the road and laid it carefully under the apple tree. She wanted to cry, but she was out of tears. Something else was boiling up inside her. She could see Xena, and she imagined her hands around her neck, choking her. Callisto went to the creek and drank, then picked up her things and went on down the road, putting one foot in front of the other.
Callisto had gone down the road about a mile when she saw Xena's horse. It was hard to admit to herself, but she guessed Xena had not ridden Etor down. She wondered who had. She slipped quietly toward the sound of swords clashing together. Somebody was fighting with Xena. Maybe this person would kill her. Callisto decided she would like to see that.
From her view in the bushes, she saw Xena fighting with a hooded man, who parried every blow Xena made. He flicked her sword downward, and lunged into the space her had made, but she turned sideways and he lost his balance just for a second. He regained his footing as she slashed at his shoulder, knocking her blade away, then slashing at her face. She never took her eyes off his face, even as he backed her to where a root stuck out of the ground. Callisto held her breath. Xena wouldn't see it, and would fall and then she would die.
Xena suddenly gave a blood-chilling war-cry and jumped into the air, sommersaulting over the man, and landing behind him. She laughed joyously, then sent her blade into...thin air. The man disappeared. Callisto rubbed her eyes. It couldn't be. Then the man reappeared, letting down his hood. He was a handsome man, with dark hair and a neat beard. He wore an earring in one ear. He laughed, then took Xena in his arms and kissed her. Callisto searched her mind. He was familiar.
The Market. She had seen his image in the shop that sold little statues of the Gods for family altars. Nobody bought it, but the shopkeeper felt it wouldn't do to offend the God of War-Ares. Now they had laid down their weapons and were kissing like lovers. And, as Callisto watched, Xena and Ares made love. Something in her tingled all over to watch. She was excited, and maybe jealous, a little. Xena was with the God of war. He was on her side, and that was what made her so powerful. Callisto slipped away before they finished. She didn't want to get caught. God's punished people for spying on them. She knew that. She had heard stories.
Callisto continued her walk to the village. Dobapolis wasn't far now, especially since she didn't have Etor holding her back. It was easier without him. Part of her was glad of it. She walked most of the morning, then discovered she was hungry. She knew she needed meat. But to actually kill something to eat? How? She sat very still under a tree, as a curious squirrel approached her. Her hand tightened around the rock she was holding. The squirrel grew more confident. At last it was close enough. Callisto hit it in the head with a rock. As it fell dead, she was amazed to discover she didn't cry. She took the knife and skinned it. She wondered about how to start a fire, then remembered that Xena's army was about. She couldn't eat it raw, so she cut the meat into the thinnest strips she could and laid them on a sunny rock to dry. She chased off flies and animals, until, hours later, the meat was as dry as old leather. She put a bit in her mouth. It was good. She ate half of it, and saved the rest. Then she finished with a few apples, and got back on the road.
The sun was setting as she entered Dobapolis. The people stared at her. She stared back to show she wasn't afraid. Her father had told her once, that the first place to go in any new village was the inn. That the innkeeper knew everybody. She scouted the village for lots of people gathered in one place. There it was. The inn. Callisto took a deep breath and squared her shoulders, then walked in the door.
The inside of the inn was smokey from the cooking fire. It was hot, and smelled of wood smoke, food, and sweat. Farmers lounged around, drinking wine and playing Penta. They stared as Callisto walked in the door.
She knew she was dirty, but she couldn't live on her own. She had to convince someone to let her work for them. But what could she do? She couldn't cook. Her father had said she was good with horses. It might not do to tell these people too much. The innkeeper glared at her. She gave him a steady look with her brown eyes, until he looked down. She walked over to him.
"Hello. My name is Callisto. I come from Cirrah. I need a job.", she said.
"Cirrah? Then you must be some kind of ghost. I heard tell that Xena, Warrior Princess had the place burned to the ground and no one survived."
Callisto drew herself up to her full height.
"*I* survived. I'm the only one that I know of. That's why I need a job."
"You are too young to be any good to anyone. Get on with you."
Then a woman's voice came from behind her.
"We can find her something, no doubt. What kind of people would we be if we turned her away?"
Callisto turned to see an older woman standing behind her. The man growled at her, then told Callisto,
"My wife's right. What can you do?"
"I'm good with horses."
"Then go to the stables. Be sure all the customer's horses are well taken care of, fed and watered. You can sleep in the stables."
Callisto smiled then, grateful that the Gods had looked out for her once again. She heard the innkeeper's wife return, with a blanket over her arm. She followed her to the stables, and after learning where everything she needed was, set to work feeding and watering the four horses inside. After that, she was hungry, and wondered if pay would include something to eat. As if she had asked aloud, the innkeeper's wife appeared with table scraps for her meal. Callisto ate hungrily, then saw that she was not alone. A pair of eyes stared at her. She hissed at the rat, and it scampered away. Callisto hated rats. She found a pitchfork, searching through the straw, then skewering each rat as she found it. Her heart pounded, and she laughed as she hunted them. Soon there was a pile of them outside the door. Callisto knew she would get into trouble if she left them there, so she buried them in a mass grave, washed her hands in the horse trough, and went to sleep in the straw.
And so the time passed, with Callisto caring for the horses, eating table scrapes, and being the terror of the rats. Then, one dark night, she was awakened by the innkeeper. His breath was thick with wine. He pulled her out of the straw, and held her at arm's length.
"You are such an evil creature. Why did the Gods make such evil ones as you?!" Then there was a blur as his hand moved toward her face. She felt the pop of his hand against her cheek, then another as he struck her shoulder. Callisto knew she was helpless. If she fought back, she lost her food and shelter. She froze, and his fists continued to pound against her tiny frame. Finally he exhausted himself, and staggered back to the inn. Callisto collapsed into the straw, and slept.
When the innkeeper's wife appeared with her food, Callisto saw that she too was covered with bruises. They looked at each other knowingly, but said nothing.
And so it continued, year after year. That is until Callisto had grown into a beauty. She was fourteen now, and Callisto had a secret. She would meet him in the woods just outside the village, where she and her love would indulge their hunger for each other-safe from the prying eyes of the village, and especially his wife.
Callisto suspected that the innkeeper knew, for the beatings suddenly stopped. She thought her lover might just have threatened him, and it made her smile to be so loved. She was humming to herself as she worked, now. Happily reliving their last tryst, and his assurances that he would leave his wife-soon, and marry Callisto.
Callisto woke even earlier than usual, with an upset stomach. She wondered if the scraps she had been eating were making her sick. She went out behind the stables where everyone used the bushes, and emptied her stomach. Then she went back inside. She was currying one of the horses when she heard the familiar voice.
"Marcus. Just a second."
Shivers ran down Callisto's spine. The Warrior Princess. She debated running. Then decided to face the evil woman. She watched as a handsome black man walked in, leading a spirited horse, and followed by-her. Callisto took several deep breaths, then turned so that her face showed.
"Can I help you?", she said, in a voice so calm it surprised her.
"Yes, put up our horses and take good care of them.", said Xena. Then her eyes narrowed. "Don't you dare let anything happen to them."
Callisto dredged up a sincere smile, taking the reigns of each horse.
"I'll care for them as if my life depended on it.", she said.
Xena smiled. "Well, it does, doesn't it?"
Callisto felt strangely calm. She wasn't sure what she was going to do yet. She had the picture of herself making the smallest of cuts to the horses' legs, but kept smiling.
"Yes ma'am.", she said.
Xena wheeled on her. "What did you call me?"
"I was raised to be polite.", said Callisto.
Xena gave her a dirty look, linked arms with Marcus and walked out of the stables.
Callisto giggled to herself. It was fun playing this game, and she was good at it. She made the Warrior Princess mad, but not mad enough to hurt her. Callisto unsaddled the horses, fed and watered them, then began to curry them. There was a small sound behind her. She turned and looked, half expecting to see the Warrior Princess standing there. It was Narkis. Her heart fluttered inside her chest. He looked so handsome. He was wearing a blue chiton that set off his eyes, and his blonde hair flopped out of place on one side. She slid her fingers into his hair and smoothed it back. Then they kissed passionately.
"I still have to curry these horses."
"Can't it wait?", he asked urgently.
"Don't be silly. Special customers. I won't be long, my love."
Narkis waited, pacing, kicking at the straw.
"I have to get back to my wife soon."
"Haven't you told her about us yet?"
"Not yet. Soon. I want to wait until after the harvest. We can be married at the Harvest Festival. You'd like that, wouldn't you?"
Callisto melted inside. It sounded so perfect. She finished Xena and Marcus' horses, and settled them in stalls, then sneaked off with Narkis, for a glorious joining in the woods.
She got back in time to see the Warrior Princess' temper in action. She had just rounded the side of the stables when she saw Xena pick the innkeeper up by his collar, her face in inch from his. She was snarling. Callisto was afraid she had done something wrong, so she listened.
"You do not feed me and my first man here dog meat and call it pork. I know the difference, no matter how much honey sauce you pile over it. I should kill you, but I'm in a good mood. We'll be leaving now, with as many of your chickens as we both can carry-call it payment for trying to poison us."
Callisto giggled into her hand as she saw the brutal innkeeper wet himself. The Warrior Princess knew how to get what she wanted. Xena threw the innkeeper to the ground, and she and Marcus chased chickens, wringing their necks. They took almost all of them. Then Callisto got their horses ready. As they left, Xena turned and threw a coin at Callisto.
"At least YOU did your job.", she said as they rode off.
Callisto hid her coin quickly. She knew she was in for a beating, and didn't want the innkeeper to find her money. She had carefully hoarded each coin customers had given her as a sort of dowry. She had nearly twenty dinars now, Thanks to Xena. Life is funny, she thought. She placed the leather bag in its hiding place up on a rafter, then jumped down. She stomach was acting up again, and she hadn't bled this moon. She wondered if she was carrying Narkis' child.
Callisto woke in the dark of the night, hearing and smelling the innkeeper heading for her sleeping place. He yanked her out of the straw and slapped her hard across the face.
"It's all your fault, you evil thing. You brought that woman here. And you have been stealing too. I saw her give you money. Where is it?
Callisto said nothing. His fist pounded into her eye. Then her got a torch and lit it, digging around, looking for the coin. At last he stood, climbing to the very rafter where the bag was hidden. Callisto held her breath. He grinned triumphantly as his hand closed over her life savings. Furious, Callisto pushed him. He fell heavily, grabbed the torch and waved it in her face.
"Afraid? You don't like fire, do you?
Callisto gulped. He was right, she was afraid of fire. She knew too much about what a fire could do.. She stood in front of him, her heart racing, seeing her mother and sister trapped once again. She wondered what he would do next. He grinned, showing rotten teeth. Then he hefted the bag of hard earned coins.
"That ought just about cover the chickens you helped that bitch steal from me, but I might a known a little whore like you would help the Warrior Princess."
Callisto couldn't breathe for a second. What did he know?
"You think no one knew about you and Narkis? I'll bet he told you he would marry you. He says that to all his little harlots."
Callisto must have lost her mind for a second, because she answered him. "He said we'll be married after the harvest."
"Are you calling me a liar?", he roared.
Then Callisto felt his fist slam into her temple. Something like a lightning bolt appeared inside her head, then everything was black.
That was when the vision happened. Callisto saw herself leading an army-an army of righteousness. They rode, under her leadership, righting wrongs all over Greece. The people loved her. She hunted down warlords, like Xena, and brought them to justice. They protected children and women from brutality and slavery. Callisto burned with ambition to lead this army.
The harvest festival was approaching. Callisto hummed to herself. Narkis talked of their wedding, and Callisto knew she was carrying his child. Hearing a step into the stables, Callisto turned, expecting to see Narkis. Only the person who faced her was not Narkis, It was Irena, his wife. She looked angry. Callisto thought he must have told her that he was leaving her for Callisto.
"You poor foolish girl.", she said.
"What? I don't understand. Are you angry because Narkis is leaving you?"
Irena laughed. She shook her head.
"Narkis is going no where. You are not the first girl he has done this to. You will not be the last. You may be young and beautiful, but I am rich. Narkis will never leave me, his life is too comfortable. I came to tell you that the women of the village are planning to drive you away. You should leave before they get here. They can be very...enthusiastic with their judgements. You are an outsider, so they have no one to answer to. If you have any Gods you pray to, now is the time."
Callisto was bewildered. She could not believe that Narkis had lied to her, so Irena obviously was mistaken.
"He loves me. We are going to be married at the Harvest festival."
"The only thing he loves about you is between your legs. Did you honestly think to hide your pregnancy? Get out while you can. Don't say I didn't warn you."
Then Irena was gone. Callisto decided that she was just deluded into thinking Narkis would stay with her. She put the whole conversation out of her mind. She worked, ate her table scraps and slept.
The noise that woke her made the hair on her head and arms stand. The sound was of metal pots and pans being beaten together. Women sang.
Callisto spread her legs
For Narkis, Irena's man.
Now she has his child inside
And she has nowhere to hide.
The singing grew louder. The door burst open and every woman in the village rushed her. They pummelled her, driving her out of the stables. Fingernails scratched her. Spit landed on her. They continued their awful song, driving her down the road to the forest.
Callisto knew she would be unwelcome in any nearby village, for word had a ready been sent. She was going to have to survive in the woods with nothing more than the clothes on her back.
It was getting dark, and cold. Callisto had nothing with her, but she knew she couldn't die. She was going to lead an army to fight all the bad people-Xena, the Innkeeper, Irena, Narkis, the women of Dobopolis... She knew she needed fire, somehow. How did you get fire? Most people borrowed it from a friend. Callisto had no friends. Others struck flint along iron. Flint. Chert. Sharp rocks. Her eyes searched the ground in the growing dusk. A jagged stone caught her eye. She picked it up and felt it with the tip of her finger. Chert. Very good. But without iron, it was useless. She walked along the deer path a bit farther. And there, stuck into a tree, was a rusty knife. She pulled it out. Perfect. Now all she needed was fuel. As she looked around, she spied an old bird's nest. She climbed up and got it, then searched for enough dry wood to warm her.
Half an hour later, it was so dark she could barely see to lay the fire. She tore the bird's nest apart and placed chunks of it here and there in the dry sticks.Then she set to getting a spark going in the handful she had left. Finally she was able to blow one up into a flame. The fire was going, and none too soon. Callisto could hear animals nearby, checking her out. She didn't feel like being eaten. She huddled close to the fire. It was too cold to sleep. She sat and shivered until morning.
As soon as it was light, Callisto found more fuel. The fire was not going out. The sky looked threatening. She needed shelter. She got up and walked around, searching for something she could stay warm and dry inside.
The clump of boulders ahead looked promising. She approached cautiously, then stopped in shock as she saw the panther lying in the sun, asleep. She realized that she was still carrying the knife. It was either the panther, or Callisto. She came closer, and closer. The animal opened one eye, lifting its head, and turning it's ears towards her. She stopped breathing. Slowly, it dropped its head again. Callisto knew she had one chance to survive. She sprang, and the animal turned to race away as the rusty knife cut its throat. Callisto couldn't believe it had been so easy. She scouted around, and found the panther's lair. Ir was just big enough for Callisto to curl up, and stay warm-especially since she would now have a blanket.
Callisto moved her fire and fuel to the cave, skinned the panther-Gods it was hard. She needed something sharper. She went back to the place where she had found the chert. Several jagged pieces were scattered about, and some fit her hand as if they had already been shaped into scrapers. She came back to find vultures at her panther carcass. She hissed at the and charged. This was HERS. They flew off. So, she cooked the meat. It was nasty, but she was determined to live to lead her army of righteousness. She ate as much as she could hold, then cached the rest. Now the hard work began as she scrapped the raw side of the panther's pelt. Her arms burned with the effort. It was finally clean. She knew that the next step was the smear the brains of the beast on the rawhide. She got a big rock and cracked the skull open. The mashed brains spread evenly. She washed her hands in the nearby stream, admiring the panther's choice of living space. She rolled the pelt and cached it too. Then completely exhausted, she went to sleep. Her pregnancy was beginning to slow her down. It was hard to run, bend or climb. It was also getting quite cold. Callisto had to keep constant guard on her cave to keep out animals wanting to winter there. Especially persistent was a family of wolves.
She was climbing back up the boulders with an antelope over her back. The legs tied together left her arms free. She carried a staff, partly to steady herself, and partly to drive off animals. As she made the final push to swing up, over the rocks, a wolf jumped at her chest, knocking her down. The weight of the antelope unbalanced her, and she crashed crazily down the rocks. She ricocheted against the biggest one, and fell heavily, the antelope flying off her neck and landing in the bushes. The wolves ran after the meat. Callisto sat up, intending to go after them, when an unbelievable pain shot through her. She threw both arms over the swelling in her abdomen, and grunted. The pain continued, in waves, as if her insides were being ripped apart. She gritted her teeth. It was too early to have her baby.
"No! I can't lose this baby. Oh Gods, help me."
No one answered. The pain grew until Callisto thought she would die of the pain alone. Then blood flowed between her legs. She ripped the clothing away and pushed as hard as she could. The contractions rocked her whole body. She stopped to breathe, then started all over again. Then she opened her mouth and screamed, and the baby was out. Callisto folded herself so she could reach the tiny body. It was covered in blood, only the size of her hand, and the head was huge, and mishappen. She was bleeding profusely. Callisto stuffed a cloth between her legs, and held the poor creature. The tears ran down her face. She struggled to a pile of rocks and covered the small corpse. Then she fainted.
She awakened to the sound of wolves eating. She opened her eyes, and saw the single most horrifying thing of her entire life. The family of wolves was eating her baby's body. Callisto felt something leave her body. She got up, and went to her cave, somehow reclaiming it and using her creek's icy water to staunch her bleeding. Everything else was a blurr.
"So, Perdicus how do you like my story so far?"
The little art blinked its eyes, confused.
"I'll tell you what. I'll let you choose. You can stay and listen to the rest, or run along home. Here you go."
As the rat ran for cover, Callisto drew her sword.
The rat was dead in seconds.
"This is...so, so boring. I wish Xena was here, or Hercules, or, or Phantasi. YES, even Phantasi."
Callisto took a deep breath inside the prison Hercules had left her in. She closed her eyes and remembered.
Somehow, when spring came, Callisto was still alive. She didn't remember how. She didn't care, really. The flowers were blooming, spreading their stinking perfume all over. Callisto washed herself in the stream. The cold water should have shocked her. It didn't. There was nothing left inside. She was completely empty. Then came the singing. Callisto covered her ears. The sound hurt. It wasn't another human voice-it couldn't be. She was alone.
Callisto followed the sound cautiously. She rounded a bend in the stream and found Xena standing there, singing. At her approach, the Warrior Princess turned, and stared at her.
"Hello, Callisto.", she said.
"Xena?"-and Callisto sank to her knees.
Then Xena shifted shape to become Narkis. Callisto whispered to him,
"Why did you leave me?" He turned away, then shifted again into a horse.
" what are you?", cried Callisto.
And a grinning Demon stood before her.
"I am Phantasi, your own personal demon. I am here to keep you company.", he said and an irritating voice. "I can become whoever you want, do whatever you like-fight, give you a ride, or make love to you."
"Noooo! Never again."
"I'm a demon. You won't get pregnant from me. I'll prove it."
And Xena stood before her again.
"I know you hate me.", she said..
"Yes, I do.", said Callisto.
"The boundary between hate and love is very slender, very slender indeed. Care to join me? We can celebrate your hatred"
And Callisto found her feet moving her toward the demon. She was afraid, but fascinated. She looked into it's eyes. They looked like the Warrior Princess', but different. A shock went through her. She reached up to touch the Warrior Princess, who moved quick as lightning, and grabbed her, pinning her arms. Then they kissed. It was the single most erotic moment of her life. Heat surged through her body. She wanted this Xena. She plunged her tongue into her mouth. Her arms were free now, so she wrapped them around the soft body opposite her. She pulled her mouth free.
"Xena. I've always wanted you."
When they made love, it was a wild orgy. Callisto was ecstatic. It was her wildest dream come true. She lay panting afterwards, and Phantasi reappeared.
"See, I'm anyone, anything you want. Just trust me. I can get you your army."
Callisto sat bold upright.
"How did you know?"
"I know everything about you."
It was then that Callisto learned that Phantasi could take on any form-any shape. And there were so many people Callisto wanted to see. Narkis was first on her list.
"Show me Narkis.", she said.
And there he was, blinking his eyes.
"Hello there. How's your lovely wife? I had your child. It was born just a few months ago, over there.", and she pointed. "Wolves ate it."
Narkis looked at her incredulously.
"You let wolves eat my child? How could you? It's you duty as a woman to protect children."
"Like you protected me? Or is was that asking too much? I survived out here. I wasn't supposed to, but I did. And all you can do is whine about your baby. YOU'RE baby? All you provided was the seed. I carried it. I protected it, until it died. You see, it was dead already when the wolves came. Dead, just like your heart."
"You were nothing but a harlot. I had no responsibility for you."
"The truth is, I really don't care what you say. It's like the wind rushing by. No meaning. No meaning at all."
She was edging closer with each word, holding one hand behind her back. In a blur of movement, the rock in her hand appeared, and she bashed Narkis in the head. He lay on the ground, bleeding.
"Oh dear.", she said brightly.
She watched as Narkis' breathing stopped, then walked away. A feeling of justice fulfilled was in her chest-where her heart used to be.
There was a soft sound, and Callisto turned, to face Phantasi again.
"That was nice. Can you be whoever I want? I have more people I'd like to bring to justice. I'm the judge, jury and executioner-oooh, I like that.
So next they put the Innkeeper on trial. Callisto bashed his with her fists just as he had done to her, only adding a few embellishments of her own. Then started all over again. When Phantasi reappeared, they had a good laugh together at the Innkeeper's expense. It was nice to have an indestructible friend.
Callisto thought. The village women? No. Xena? Not yet. She wanted to work her way up to that one. Then something told her the answer.
And the little boy stood in front of her. He hugged her hard and Callisto forced back tears. She leaned down and held him.
"I'm sorry. I wish... I wish I could have saved you. You were the only one who cared. Say, did I tell you I had a baby?"
He looked up at her with wide-eyed innocence.
"Can I see it?". he said.
"No, it-didn't live. Just like you. Why does this always happen to me? What did we two children do to deserve the Fates or the Gods wrath? We were good children, especially you. I never caught you being naughty. Oh Phantasi, please stop. I can't do this."
And Phantasi reappeared.
" I think I'm ready for the Warrior Princess now."
The ice blue eyes bored into Callisto's soul, searing some secret place within. Then almost before she saw it, the blade of Xena's sword was in her. Callisto fell to the ground and everything was black.
Then she opened her eyes. Phantasi was standing over her, grinning for all he was worth.
"You could have given me a sword.", she grumbled.
"Whatever for? I thought you wanted me to be Xena. Do you think she would have wanted you armed? Silly girl.", and he shook his head.
"I want to learn how to fight her. To defeat her, like I did the others.", said Callisto getting to her feet.
"Well then, a sword it is. Now where can we find a sword in this wilderness?"
"You have one. Give it to me."
"Ah, but that would be too easy. Let me think. Hmmm."
"If you can make one sword, you can make two."
"Ah, ah, Callisto. Patience is a virtue. Maybe, if a certain well armed person were to just wander through here."
"We could steal it. I like that.", said Callisto. "Let's wait by the road."
As Callisto started toward the road, Phantasi stopped her.
"Don't you think you'll need some sort of weapon?", he asked.
And Callisto took the rusty knife blade, and a stout tree limb and ran to the roadside. As they crouched low, waiting, Callisto could feel her heart racing. Then she smelled something. Wine and sweat. A man, carrying a sword in a big scabbard, and a nice big knife approached. He was wearing leather armor too. This was just too wonderful for words. She suppressed a giggle. As he passed, she leapt put of the bushes like a deer, and bashed him in the head with the tree limb. Her arms jolted to a stop, then the limb broke against his head. There was a spray of blood as he fell. Callisto turned him over. Dead. She rubbed her hands in glee. Such treasures. She hardly knew where to begin. She rapidly stripped his body, then pulled it off the road, using a branch to sweep out the marks of the fight. She covered his body with rocks, then saluted him with a sardonic smile.
"Thanks for-everything.", she said, then bounded off with her prizes.
Back at her cave, Callisto set aside the sword and dagger. She picked up the armor, eyeing it critically. It was clumsy. Wearing it would encumber her movements. She took the dagger, feeling the blade with her thumb. It was nice and sharp. She liked that. Then she cut the articulated paldrons away from the curiass, setting them aside. There was scale armor down to mid thigh. She needed to be able to run, as well as protect her legs. She cut off enough to protect her thighs, front and back, as well as most of her abdomen. There was a bit of fine chain mail too, and some strong leather straps. The rest she would have to discard. She did have some leather she had made herself from animal skins. It was soft enough to wear against her skin, and tough enough to protect her some.. She searched through her victim's pouch. Now here was a real treasure-an awl, strong linen thread and wax.
"Perfect.", she said to herself.
Two days later, Callisto stood in her new armor, including the boots she had filched from the man she had killed. She tried some experimental kicks. The only thing she disliked was the open space at her abdomen. So she had placed a wolf skin over it. The skin of her enemy protected her.
"What poetic justice.", she said.
She strapped the sword on, heard a faint noise behind her, and turned, sword drawn to face Xena.
In panic, Callisto willed her hands to stop shaking. She held her sword out in front of her. Xena grinned evilly. She plucked her sword out of its scabbard daintily. It flashed and Callisto felt her sword push the blade away. the sound of metal scraping along metal hurt her ears. Now the blows were coming hard and fast. Callisto moved as fast as she could. Then her blade was knocked away and Xena's sword tip entered her heart. The world exploded. Then Callisto was on the ground with Phantasi standing over her.
"Ah, much better. You lasted all of half a minute this time."
Callisto stood, fury in her face.
"Then teach me how to win. I want to kill her, not me."
"Ah, well. We shall have to do something about that, now. Don't you think?
Callisto nudged him with her sword.
"Oh yes. We shall. Now."
And Phantasi drew his sword.
"I know your history, Callisto. Believe it or not, your best teachers are not who you would think. The innkeeper did you a favor. He taught you basic self-defense. All you have to do is apply those lessons."
"What on earth are you talking about? He taught me nothing."
"Look at a tree behind me-not at me."
"What? I thought I was supposed to look at your eyes.", said Callisto.
"Trust me. Look at a tree."
" Any particular one? The laurel tree perhaps?"
"Fine. Just look at it and remember how it was when the innkeeper would come in to beat you."
Callisto tensed. She looked at the laurel tree. Something moved at the corner of her eye. She felt her blade knock it aside. She looked at the tree again. Over and over the blade moved toward her and she pushed it away.
Then an un-nervingly shrill cry shook her to her very core and she felt the sword enter her body again. This time she stood her ground instead of dying.
"What was that? I believe I've heard it before.", she said.
"Xena's battle cry. She uses it to break people's concentration. You need one."
"Now just what could I use as a battle cry? I won't copy her's."
"That's where your other teacher comes in.", said Phantasi, showing his teeth.
"Who? I've never known a warrior."
"The panther you killed. Let its spirit into your heart. Use its battle cry for your own.", he said.
And Callisto relaxed and let the animal inside her heart. She actually could feel it settle in. Then she hissed, snarled and, throwing her head back, she screamed. All her rage traveled along the sound. She knew it would disarm even the strongest warrior.
As Callisto and Phantasi waited in the bushes, the snake slid closer and closer to the rabbit. Callisto could hardly breathe. It was hypnotic, watching the graceful predator easing its way to the unwary prey. The snake struck like lightening, and the rabbit was in the air. It turned its body in a half twist, landing behind the snake, and was gone.
Callisto turned to Phantasi.
"Can you teach me how to do that?", she asked.
"The rabbit leap? Why yes, I can teach you. But I suppose after you learn, you'll want to fight Xena again. Am I right?"
"La, la,la,la,la. I'm going to beat you someday. Just wait and see."
And they spent days on the rabbit leap, followed by the bat roll and the falcon spin. It seemed that every animal Callisto saw do something extraordinary, she wanted to copy. And after each move was mastered, Callisto insisted on trying it out on, "Xena". As Callisto learned, The Fates were spinning away elsewhere.
THE PELEPONESE MOUNTAINS
Theodorus had just lead another retreat. His men were taking a beating with nearly a third of their attacks. One young fool had even lost a whole string of horses they has already captured. The wounded were being patched up, and Theodorus was having second thoughts. Was it worth it to fight back when the rich could just hire a professional army? Maybe they should give up and just take everything in their path, like Xena Warrior Princess did. He's heard she was just an innkeeper's daughter.. Sure, she was haughty and cruel, but she had made all the greedy ones afraid of her.
Theodorus took another drink. He laid back on his bedroll and tried to ignore the cries of the wounded. He could see the cooking fire off at the clearing. Guards were posted, and these mountains were hard to penetrate. He relaxed and went to sleep.
He dreamed of the woman warrior again. She was thin and blonde, riding a dark horse. Her dark eyes bored into his very soul. He saw her leap from the saddle and turn in the air, like a falcon. He didn't know her name, so he started calling her, "Falcon", in his mind. She would lead his army. She was strong and smart-like the Warrior Princess. And then he knew he was already in love with her.
THE ROAD TO AMPHIPOLIS
The Warrior Princess took off her armor and weapons. She dug a hole in the soft earth, and laid her past inside. She took one final look at her chakrum. Her hands shook as she buried them all. She knew of a cliff nearby. She was ready to end it all. Just a short walk, then she would fly-and the Warrior Princess would be gone.
A sound alerted her. She took refuge behind some bushes. She wanted to see what was going on. Then she saw the slavers. The cage, the whips-and the incredible girl who fought back, then offered her life for the others. Something inside her changed. She wanted to protect this-this...words failed her. She stepped out of the bushes and faced the slavers. And when she fought, she was alive again.
It was a perfect little month for Callisto. By day, she fought Phantasi, the demon, in the form of Xena, the woman she hated above all others. By night, she conquered Xena, quite forgetting, in the heat of passion, that this was still Phantasi. The lust for blood and the lust for Xena's flesh merged in her mind. She was a woman obsessed.
Then, one cold, muddy morning as the mist as emphasized by intermittent rain, Callisto heard the unmistakable sound of horse's hooves. Maybe another person. It had been so long. She hurried along the boulders, moving like a crab. Then she peeked over at the road.
A riderless horse ran along. He was black, and complete with saddle and reins. It was too perfect. Callisto tensed, then jumped down and landed in the saddle. She got the reins into her hand just as the horse reared, whinnying his objection. The horse took off at a dead run, straight at a tree with an over hanging limb. Callisto pulled on the reins.
The horse ignored her. He was a smart one, planning to scrape her off like that.
"Phantasi, help me.", called Callisto.
And a mare appeared just under the tree. Spooked, the horse turned aside, then looped back, torn between getting this human off his back, and checking on the mare. At this point, Callisto took control. She jerked on the reins.
"Whoa!. That's right. Slow down boy. Yeah, that's right.", she cooed.
The horse walked toward the mare, sniffed her, then turned away.
Callisto walked the horse down the road a bit, while Phantasi turned back into his own shape.
"A horse? This is great. You can lead an army from a horse like this.", said Phantasi.
"Perfect. I want to learn to fight on horseback. I want to ride into battle, leading an army. And I want to wipe Xena off the face of the earth. Will you teach me?"
A grin formed on the demon's face. He turned into Xena.
"Not only will I teach you. I will make you into the best warrior in Greece."
After another stunning defeat, Theodorus was ready to give up. He decided that his vision of, "The Hawk" was just craziness. He looked the the dying and wounded around his, and remembered the laughter of the paid army.
"They laughed at us. That's how much our freedom means to us. We are dead men. "
He put his face in his hands, wondering what to do next. There was the sound of a horse approaching. He looked up to see a lone rider. His heart began to race. He stood up, energized. It was her-"The Hawk". Her blonde hair was flowing behind her. She rode a black stallion, and wore leather armor. She held her head up with pride. And she rode straight up to him.
"Are you the leader of this...army?", she asked.
"Yes, I'm Theodorus. I don't know who you are. I only know you have come to lead us.", he said.
Her brown eyes narrowed.
"Why do you say that?", she demanded.
"I have been seeing you in visions for months now. You are here to lead us to freedom."
"Oh, I'll free you alright. We will be Lords of all we see. The equal of any army. No, I've changed my mind. We'll be their superior." A small smile hovered on her lips. "Now gather the troops."
Her tone allowed for no questioning. Theodorus sent word for the troops to gather. And they did, grumbling. They lined up haphazardly, staring at Callisto.
"Men, the Gods have smiled on us and our cause. Meet our new leader..."
He was interrupted by his best fighter, a proud warrior named Methiodus. His black eyes flashed at Callisto.
"What right have you to turn this army over to a woman? We haven't even seen her fight.
Theodorus' blood chilled at the inhuman sound coming from Callisto's throat. Then she vaulted out of the saddle and landed, sword drawn, in front of her challenger.
Methiodus drew his sword, and they faced off. Their blades met with a clang, and Callisto's wrist flicked. Suddenly her blade was in his belly. His face contorted, as he feel to his knees. She pulled her blade out, wiped it on him, and turned away.
"Any questions?", she asked sweetly.
Theodorus watched as Callisto trained his army. She was merciless, having them spar with her for hours, until they were really to fall over from exhaustion. A group sagged, waiting for the next onslaught.
Callisto stood, sword in hand, and smiling, motioned her opponent to come closer. He was a tall, raw boned lad. His Adam's apple bobbed as he gulped. He took one tentative step.
"Now is that any way to win? You can't kill me if you stay way back there, now can you?"
"No. I mean no, Ma'am.", he said.
She took a step forward. He gulped again, but stood his ground.
"Very good.", and her sword flashed up and a tiny trickle of blood came from his shoulder. He looked at it, stunned.
"Don't let me hurt you. Protect yourself.", she growled.
And he stuck out at her. She easily parried his sword, but he pushed her sword to the side and down, then kicked at her knee. She lept out of his way, laughing.
"Aha, you are finally showing some spine."
She played with him for about fifteen minutes, then he slumped, exhausted.
Callisto sheathed her sword, frowning slightly at the men, then beamed as an idea came to her.
"Oh, I know. You need to build up your endurance, and I have a fun idea. Are any of you musicians?"
The men looked at each other, trying to fathom what she was about.
Finally, a wiry fellow with a beard spoke.
"I play shepherd's pipe"
"Go get it, then play something lively. If you do it well enough, I'll let you live.."
The musician looked horrified..
"Only joking.", said Callisto.
The men fidgeted quietly until the piper returned. He fussed with his pipe until he was able to squwak out a tune. The men looked at each other blankly.
"Now, everybody dance, you know, one of those men's dances where you all try to prove your manhood.", said Callisto.
And the men danced. They made a line, and joined hands, leaping and kicking in unison. Then individual men would break away and dance , spinning, and jumping for all they were worth. As they danced, Callisto would motion for the piper to play faster and faster. By the time he was finished, the men fell to the ground, exhausted. Callisto looked at them, shaking her head.
"I think we will dance every day from now on. Then we will practice a bit, shall we? And at the end of this week, we will attack someone particularly odious, and wipe them off the face of the earth."
Theodorus walked over to Callisto, trying to look casual, as those brown eyes looked at him. His throat was dry. He took a deep breath.
"Who do you mean to attack?"
"Who has abused your army the most?"
"About two days ride from here, is an outpost of mercenaries. They work for the same rich people who have either enslaved or outlawed over half of this army.", said Theodorus.
"How many? What sort of fortification? What weapons do they have?"
She was so intelligent. She asked things they had never had the sense to think about before attacking. Before, it was just revenge, and a thirst for freedom.
"About thirty men, with bows and arrows, inside a ring fort."
"Goody. I like projectiles. Do all our men have shields?", she asked.
"No, maybe half. Now what?"
"Send out a hunting party. Bring back as many wild bulls, cows, harts, and stags as you can find. And send out a party of men used to working with wood. We need something that bends, so we can make frames and bows.", said Callisto.
The hunting party returned, and while a few were assigned to cook and preserve the meat, most skinned the animals, and made glue of their hooves and bones. Their sinews were set aside to be made into bowstrings and to haft arrows. Then holes were dug, and smoldering fires set. Round pieces of the hides were cut, and staked over the fires. Every once in a while, glue was smeared over the hides. The men who worked wood constructed frames, and set aside special wood for bows. The next day, every man in the army had a shield. They practiced working in a phalanx, as a unit. This moving wall would protect them from their enemy's arrows.
Then next few days were spent in making arrows. With a lack of arrowheads, Theodorus feared they were doomed. Callisto simply smiled, and showed them how to fashion flint into arrowheads.
Armed with makeshift bows, plenty of arrows and protected by their shields, the army advanced. They marched until the ring fort came into sight. Now the custom at the time was to announce your attack. Callisto ignored the time honored gambit, and simply had a few good archers climb some trees and rain arrows down on the mercenaries below. The air was full of the lethal weapons. Callisto's men formed their phalanx and moved forward. The arrows bounded off the shields as they inched toward the ring fort. As they neared the earthworks, they could hear the cursing of the mercenaries within. They just kept advancing.
Two men fell as they adjusted the angle of their shields. And they kept walking. Now face to face with their opponents, Callisto's Army used their new found fighting skills to beat back their enemy. Callisto was in her element. She dazzled everyone with her almost supernatural skills. And she laughed as one soldier called her, "Xena". She took that one prisoner.
Soon weapons were hitting the ground in a mass surrender. And Callisto and Theodorus surveyed their army's work. Ten men were alive inside the fort. Ten men were shaking in their boots.
"Make your speech", said Callisto., "Then kill all but one, to tell the tale."
Callisto had a knack for planning their raids. They fought their way in a loop. They loosed lightening raids on a series of villages, attacking the wealthy section, killing every man, woman and child of means in their path. Then Callisto stood aside, to let Theodorus give his speech about how they were fighting for freedom. Then they split the loot with the poor who remained behind. By the time they had returned to their base camp, their army had grown fourfold.
They trained the new recruits in almost the same merciless way Callisto had trained her original army, including her demand that they dance for endurance. And always, people were making more shields and bows and arrows. When the army was trained to Callisto's satisfaction, they set out on a march to the flatlands. Their objective, known only to Callisto, turned out to be a sleepy village known as Dobopolis. And her orders seemed so odd. They were to attack, capture the women and the innkeeper, and a man named Narkis.
It had been raining. The ground was muddy, and the air smelled fresh and sweet. Callisto hand picked those who would help her avenge herself, and they surrounded the village. At her signal, the arrows flew. People panicked, running every direction. Then Callisto lead the charge of those men with horses into the village which had hurt her so. They rounded up the women and men, corralling them in the village green. Theodorus went to her now, asking what to do with the children. She smiled a tight little smile, and said,
"Nits make lice. Kill them all."
The women wept as they watched the slaughter of their young. Callisto went to the women who had driven her into the wilderness. She took Narkis' wife by the arm and pulled her to face the avenger.
"Do you know me?", she asked pleasantly.
"No. Why are you doing this? This is inhuman."
"Any more inhuman than driving me out of this village when I was big with your husband's child?"
At the name, all the women shook with well earned fear.
Now Callisto took the innkeeper out of the coral. He was drunk even then. She eyed him with disgust, then dropped her weapons. She handed him her own sword, and faced him empty handed.
"Just like old times, right?", she said.
He handled the sword like a club, swinging it at her head. She leapt over him, like a rabbit, and landed behind him, laughing.
"Ah, ah, ah. You'll have to do better than that. I'm not a child anymore."
"You are a child of some demon, or that warlord, Xena.", he shouted.
"Uh oh. Big mistake. You see, I don't much care for the Warrior Princess. She killed my whole village, as you recall. Now I'm just a bit miffed at you."
She kicked the sword out of his hands, and caught it before it hit the ground. Then, in a single, fluid motion, she lunged for him and cut his throat.
"Oh dear, I have blood on my wolf skin.", she said. Then cut it away to reveal her abdomen.
Leaving his body, she sauntered over to Narkis. She batted her eyes, and blew him a kiss, then stroked his handsome face.
"I know a secret", she chanted. "Your baby is dead."
She let him out of the coral and gave him Theodorus' sword. He wasn't going to be was easy as the innkeeper.
Narkis smiled, completely confident. He made a few practice swings with his blade. Then he ran his fingers through his wavy hair.
"I missed you.", he said.
"Oh, and did you tell your wife?"
"You know, we could forget all this petty revenge stuff, and run away together."
At that Callisto lunged. Her blade was a blur, but Narkis parried. She sought an opening, but every effort was blocked. Narkis smiled again.
"Too bad, little one. You have met your match."
Then Callisto quit toying with him. She slit his chiton down the front, revealing his private parts. His face went bright red.
"Why are you doing this? I loved you."
"Is that what you call it? I'm not fourteen anymore. I know the sound of a lie. So I'll take my vengeance here, then move on to the biggest evil of them all, Xena, the Warrior Princess.", said Callisto.
"Too late. She's reformed. She protects villages now."
Hatred welled up in Callisto, burning everything else in its path. She face transformed, and what Narkis saw in her eyes made him stiffen in fear. Callisto looked down at his manhood, for it too was stiff with terror.
"Perfect.", she said, and with a single swoop of her sword, lopped it off.
Narkis cry of pain was reflected by every man in sight. That wall of masculine solidarity descended, and several of Callisto's army reached for their swords. She turned, the madness still on her face, and looked at the men.
"Next?", she said.
And swords returned to their sheaths. Men licked dry lips, and looked away from the bleeding Narkis, who was crumpled on the ground.
"Kill everyone in the coral.", she ordered, then walked away.
Theodorus found her, kneeling over the body of a boy who looked about four years old. She was stroking his hair, and singing softly.
"Now you won't have to live with the memories I do. You can be in the Elysian Fields. You can stay innocent.", she said, then she stood, and looked at Theodorus. The madness was completely gone.
"What do you want to do next?, he asked.
"Well, I was going to go kill Xena, but if she has reformed-*somebody* has to be Xena. I guess it's my turn."
Callisto held the rat, stroking it fondly. The hole she was stuck in for eternity was just as boring as Tartarus. But she had at last bared her soul.
"How did you like my story, Narkis?", the rat struggled to get free. Callisto let it go, and as it ran away, she brought her sword down on it, breaking its spine. Then she looked around for another rat.
"Who wants to hear another story?", she called.
Return to the Academy