Disclaimers: See Part 1 for disclaimers.
Constructive criticism is always welcome and can be sent to yours truly.
Again, Xena was behind the town hall back door. Those guards are just too easy. Obviously my counterpart doesn't have very high standards when it comes to choosing guards, she thought. She slid quickly inside. Seeing Gabrielle while the warrior princess was in town was very risky but she had to see her.
Inside the storage room she thought about her situation. She had agreed to help Toris and his supporters to take over Amphipolis while her counterpart was away. If they succeeded in that, they would set up a trap to the returning warrior princess and her forces. If they would catch the warrior princess alive she would face trial and the most probable sentence would be death. How can I tell this to Gabrielle?
The noise behind the door caught the immortal's attention. She moved quietly to the door and peeked through the keyhole to see what was going on. She could see Callisto who had pushed Gabrielle against the wall and was holding her dagger on the young woman's throat.
"Oh, you are an irritating little slut. I can't figure out what Xena sees in you," the blonde warrior said with a cold voice. "If I'd had my way you'd been dead for a long time ago."
Gabrielle didn't answer. She could hardly breathe because of the cold blade that was against her throat and because she was too horrified. The fear could clearly be seen from her eyes.
Callisto smirked. "Of course, I would have had a little fun with you before I had let you out of your misery. To have you beg for me to take your life." She giggled at the thought. "Oh yes, that would be most pleasing."
Behind the door, the immortal woman cocked her gun silently. Xena didn't know if the manic blonde was only playing with Gabrielle but she was not going to take that chance. She readied herself to charge in and empty her clip into the blond warrior.
Just as she was going to kick the door in, she heard a voice similar to hers saying, "Callisto!" She looked again through the keyhole and could see that her counterpart had entered the room.
"What do you think you're doing, Callisto?" The warrior princess asked coldly.
"I- I was just trying to teach her some manners," the blonde warrior stammered. It was obvious that she had not expected the warrior princess to come in.
"Let her go," the warlord ordered and Callisto backed away from the frightened slave. "Now, Go! I'll deal with you later."
"As you wish, princess." Callisto said and left.
"Are you all right, Gabrielle?" The dark woman said. There was a hint of concern and warmth in her voice.
"Y- yes, mistress," Gabrielle answered timidly.
"Very well." The warmth was gone. "I'm going to tavern for a few drinks. After that I want to bathe. Make sure that the bath is ready when I return." The warrior princess walked out of the door.
"Yes, mistress," Gabrielle said to the wooden door.
In the storage room, Xena was thoughtful. Gabrielle had been right. There was an affectionate side in the warrior princess. A trivial one but nevertheless an affectionate side.
The immortal opened the door a little and saw the fair-haired woman sitting on the bed and weeping silently. She walked silently to her and put her hands gently on the young woman's shoulder.
"Oh, it's you!" Gabrielle said as she recognized the dark immortal.
"Are you all right, Gabrielle?" Xena repeated her counterpart's question. Only this time it was said with much concern.
"As much as I can be," Gabrielle said with a weak smile on her face. The immortal's appearance seemed to bring her mood up a bit.
"Does Callisto harass you often?"
"Every now and then. She usually leaves me alone when Xena is around. When not..." Gabrielle spread her arms.
"I really don't understand the relationship between Xena and Callisto," the immortal said. "In my reality, Callisto had only one mission in life; to destroy me and everyone who was dear to me."
"Why?" Gabrielle asked.
"During my warlord days, I destroyed Callisto's home village and all the people in it. Callisto was the sole survivor." Xena looked into distance. "In my reality, Callisto had every right to hate me. Not that it justifies all the horrible things that she has done."
"Well, here Callisto is Xena's right hand," Gabrielle said. "Sometimes I feel that Callisto has control over Xena without her realizing it."
"Could be," Xena commented. "The reason why I came is that the citizens of Amphipolis are planning to take over the town. They will act tomorrow, when Xena is away with her army."
"They will?" Gabrielle said with an amazed tone, then her face became more serious. "Why are you telling me this?"
"I wanted to warn you. Things might get ugly." The immortal took the younger woman's hand in her own. "I don't want you to get hurt in the process."
"What will happen to Xena?" Gabrielle asked.
Xena didn't answer right away. She tried to find the right words.
"Tell me, Xena," the young woman demanded.
"She.. The Amphipolitans will set a trap for her when she returns. They are counting that the battle has weakened her army and.."
"Then what? What will they do to her?"
"She'll have to stand trial for her actions." Xena could not look Gabrielle in the eyes.
"They'll kill her, won't they?"
"I'm afraid so."
Gabrielle didn't say anything for a while. She just looked into the floor. "You're going to help them aren't you?"
"Yes." It was Xena's turn to look down.
"I saw Xena earlier today." The immortal looked at Gabrielle. "She ruthlessly killed an unarmed man in the middle of the street. A man that I considered a friend."
"She did?" Gabrielle's tone was dumbfounded.
"Gabrielle, I don't think that Xena of this world can redeem." Xena could see the disappointment on the young woman's face.
"How can you be certain that I won't reveal your plans to Xena?"
Xena had expected this question. "First answer me this: Deep inside your heart, apart from your feelings for her, do you approve her acts?"
Gabrielle thought about the question for a moment. "No," she finally said quietly.
"I think that answers your question." The immortal walked towards the door. "I have to go."
"Yes, Gabrielle?" Xena stopped at the door.
"If you catch Xena alive, would you speak on her behalf?" The young woman pleaded. "Even though she has to be punished, I don't want her to be killed."
"I'll speak on her behalf," the immortal promised. "I'll see you tomorrow." Xena closed the door behind her.
The pale afternoon sky greeted the group of people that were standing in the alley. The atmosphere was very excited. One could almost feel the tension among the people. They all were armed. In front, a tall, dark-haired woman observed the main street and the town hall that was on the opposite side.
Xena looked at her watch. It was now two hours from the departure of the warrior princess and her army. They were far enough. She looked at Toris who was standing next to her. "Well, it's now or never," she said.
"All right," Toris complied. "Aris, take five men and go take out the guards at the gates," he said to a young man.
"Will do," Aris said and turned to choose his group.
"The rest of us will take out the men in the barracks," Toris said.
"You go ahead," Xena said. "I have to get Gabrielle. I'll join you as soon as I can." The immortal left the others.
Xena circled once more to the back entrance, where she found the guard. This time she sneaked quietly behind him. A precisely targeted pinch made the guard fell sluggishly on the ground.
The immortal proceeded through the door into the storage room. She walked to the other door and put her ear against it. She couldn't hear any extra noises so she cracked the door a bit and cast a quick glance into the living quarters. Gabrielle was there alone, looking out from the window. The young woman turned to face Xena as she entered the room.
"Has it begun?" Gabrielle asked.
"Yes," Xena answered. "Come with me. I'll take you to Cyrene. You should be safe there."
"All right. Just let me grab a few things," Gabrielle said and begun to gather her few belongings into a small pouch.
"Hurry, we don't have much time," Xena said impatiently.
"What's the rush?" A voice like Xena's asked suddenly. The warrior princess was standing in the doorway and looked viciously at the dark immortal. "So you're the impostor I've been hearing so much about.
Xena couldn't hide her surprise as she saw her counterpart. She turned to look at Gabrielle but the young woman was as surprised as she was.
"Oh, don't blame Gabrielle for this," the warlord said. "Gabrielle didn't reveal your presence to me although she should have had. Looks like that I have to take some disciplinary measures with her."
"Over my dead body you will," Xena said and moved to protect the young girl.
"That can be arranged." The warrior princess smiled wickedly. "You look and sound like me but it takes a lot more to be me." She unsheathed her sword.
"Oh, but I am you." The immortal grinned back and readied her sword.
"We'll see about that," the warlord said and started to circle around her opponent.
The dark immortal responded to that by adjusting her position. Now she had the opportunity to study her counterpart closer. The warlord was her perfect mirror image. Only the slightly longer and more tangled hair and the lack of makeup were the only noticeable differences in addition to clothing. The dark cold look in the warrior princess' eyes reminded Xena of her own dark past. Her moves were smooth and quiet. Her every muscle was ready to release the lethal power that she possessed.
Xena kept circling with her counterpart. She knew that the warlord was playing with her, trying to make her nervous. Just like I would have done.
"You know, even as we speak, my men are suppressing that puny rebellion of yours," the raven-haired warlord said, trying to taunt Xena.
"That's too bad for them. It wasn't my battle anyway," the immortal said coolly. She knew that the warlord was trying to get her mentally out of balance. You'll have to do better than that.
The other Xena wrinkled her eyebrows for a moment, trying to consider her next move, then a complacent smile rose on her face. "If you're still wondering who sold you out, I can let you out of your torture. I have an informer within that renegade gang of my no good brother. I've known about their plans since the beginning. I have to teach him and my mother once and for all not to come out against me. "
That remark got through Xena's defenses. The incredulous look on her face told her counterpart that she had hit the right spot. She barely had time to raise her sword to stop the warrior princess' attack. The two blades hit each other, clanging loudly. The battle was now in full motion. The two women were stepping around each other, trying to get their hits hrough.
Right in the middle of this quarrel, Xena tried get herself together. Damn! She cursed herself as she tried to hold on against the warrior princess. She really caught me with my pants down. Xena shook her head. This was neither the time nor the place to think about that. She was fighting against an enemy more dangerous than she ever had fought during her long life, her doppelganger. She would need all her skills and experience to win the warrior princess. And she had to win, for Gabrielle's sake.
"Not bad," the warrior princess said as Xena blocked another one of her hits. "A far cry from me, but not bad." She smiled but the sapphire blue eyes burned in fury.
"I'm just warming up," the immortal grinned back. Inside, she didn't feel so self-confident. I can't believe it! Two thousand years of sword fight and I can hardly hold on against her! She parried another deadly swing. Xe, you're doing this the wrong way! She said to herself. This is you who you're fighting against! Don't react to her moves! Think in advance and act! Xena looked quickly at her opponent. There! That move! She ignored the warlord's diversion and made quick swing, managing to slash her counterpart in the arm and making her back away.
"You'll pay for that!" The warrior princess said in fury. She took a quick glance at her arm, where a narrow trickle of blood slowly ran towards her wristband.
"Put it on my tab," Xena said and advanced to another strike.
The warlord realized that she had lost her grip of the battle and somersaulted over the immortal. She took her chakram and threw it towards her opponent. She couldn't hide her astonishment when the dark-haired immortal firmly caught the sharp weapon in her hand. "But, that's impossible!" She said in disbelief.
"For someone else perhaps, but not for me," Xena said and dropped the chakram on the floor. She pulled her gun and fired a shot right next to the warlord, breaking a clay amphora to tiny pieces. "Next one will go through your heart, if you don't drop your sword," she said to her counterpart who stared at the broken amphora.
"And if you don't drop that weapon of yours, I'll slash her throat!"
Xena turned towards the voice that she knew perfectly well. Callisto was standing close to the door with Gabrielle, holding her dagger on the slave's throat. Damn! When did she come here?
"What will it be?" Callisto asked with her taunting voice.
Xena didn't know whether the blonde warrior was bluffing or not. She took another glance at her counterpart, but the warrior princess' expression didn't give any hint. The immortal couldn't take that risk so she lowered her arm and threw the gun on the floor. She saw a triumphant smile on the warlord's face as she picked up the ivory handled gun and observed it.
"Too bad. This could have gotten interesting," the warlord said. "Take her to the dungeon," she commanded two guards that had just arrived. The men took the immortal in a firm grip and escorted her out of the room.
"You haven't seen the last of me," Xena said to her counterpart as she was being dragged away.
"Oh, I hope not," the warrior princess said wickedly. "I'm hoping to share everlasting moments with you when I'm interrogating you."
Xena took a quick glance at Gabrielle just before the door was closed behind her and her guards. She could see the despair in the young woman's eyes.
Xena opened her left eye. The opposite wall seemed dark and blurry. She couldn't see anything with her right eye. It had swollen shut. She took a deep breath but groaned when she felt the slashing pain from her broken ribs. The pain made her cough and she could taste the blood in her mouth. She took a look at her T-shirt, or what was left of it. The tattered cotton was full of bloodstains. Her every muscle was sore and achy and her head was swimming.
She was shackled in rusty chains that were hanging from the wall. She didn't know how long she had been hanging there, but it felt like an eternity. The warrior princess had been interrogating her for a good while, or rather tormenting since she had not asked any questions. The warlord had whipped her and, when she had refused to let out one sound, whacked her with a wooden club until she was almost unconscious.
Xena knew that the aching was caused by her healing factor as it worked to cure her wounds. She also knew that the healing process would take time and time was a luxury she couldn't afford right now.
Xena had no idea what had happened to Toris and Cyrene. Even more concerned she was about Gabrielle. Was she all right? Had the warrior princess carried out her threat to punish the young slave? Again, too many questions. She had to get out of this dungeon somehow and find Gabrielle.
Suddenly, her cell door opened. Xena lifted her head. Cyrene was standing in the doorway. The immortal let her head down limply.
Cyrene walked inside the cell. "Gods, child! What have they done to you?" She walked to the immortal and lifted her head.
"I've been worse," Xena croaked and tried to smile.
"That's pretty hard to believe from the looks of you," the old woman wiped the blood from the corner of Xena's mouth.
"What about Gabrielle? Is she all right?" Xena asked.
"I don't know," Cyrene answered. "I haven't seen her."
"Will you do me a favor? See to her," the immortal said.
"I will," the old woman promised.
"Well, how are we doing here?" the warrior princess asked as she stepped inside the cell with Callisto.
"Much better than you would expect." Xena kept on smiling, this time defiantly.
"Cyrene, are you still here?" the warlord said angrily to the old woman. She couldn't hide her aggravation when she found that she had not broken her doppelganger's spirit.
Cyrene withdrew quickly, leaving the warlord and the blond warrior alone with the immortal.
"I have to admit that your are a lot tougher than I thought," the warrior princess said to the chained immortal. "Did Nike send you?" She touched the printed emblem on Xena's T-shirt.
"Nope," Xena said and grinned again.
"Well then, who did?" The warrior princess was starting to lose her temper again.
"Wouldn't you like to know?" Xena looked her counterpart straight in the eyes.
That pulled the warlord over the edge. She pinched her fingers on the immortal's neck. "I've cut the circulation to your brain. You'll die in thirty seconds," she said matter-of-factly.
Xena felt how her vision started to blacken and her body went numb as her brain cried for the precious blood that it now lacked. She felt the piercing pain as the last drops of blood left her head. She had gone through this only once before then M'lila had demonstrated it to her. Only this time it seemed that she had to go all the way. Xena felt how the very life escaped from her body little by little, until she felt nothing. Last thing her brain registered was the wicked smile of her mirror image.
Xena snapped back to consciousness. She felt a sudden rush as her circulation worked its way through to her brain. She felt a slight tingle in the pressure point that her "death" had released. The first thing she saw that the warrior princess and Callisto were leaving the cell. "Now, that wasn't very nice," she said to them, startling them both.
"What! You're alive!" the warlord said in disbelief. "But that's impossible! No one has ever survived that pinch if I haven't released the pressure point."
"Well, it was about time someone did," Xena said as she got back on her feed.
"Leave us alone, Callisto," the warrior princess said to the blonde warrior.
"Do as I say!" the warlord snapped.
"Very well, my princess," Callisto said and walked out of the cell.
The warrior princess grabbed the immortal from her shirt and shook her furiously. "Who in the name of Hades are you?" she asked furiously.
Xena grinned at her. "I'm your fucking conscience," she said. Her counterpart smacked her in the face. "You can hit me all you want," Xena said. "That won't take you anywhere. You want answers? I'll give you answers." The immortal's tone was strict and firm. "But first tell me this. Why did you kill Calimos?"
"I couldn't just let him insult me and let him get away with it," the warrior princess said. "I would have looked bad in front of my men."
"Who cares about an old man's talk?" Xena snorted.
"If you know anything about leading an army, you know that you have to have the respect of your men. Callisto says that you can't show any weakness."
"Callisto," the dark immortal interrupted. "I understood that she is your right hand woman."
"Yes, she is my second in command," the warrior princess said.
"How long have you known her?"
"For quite some time. She was hardly grown up when she joined my army but she has proven herself. I'd trust my own life with her. Why are you asking me all this?"
"All in good time," Xena said. "Have you ever been to Cirra?"
"Yes, but what does it have to do with this?" The warrior princess was beginning to get annoyed.
"You raided and destroyed that village, didn't you?"
"And the only person you left alive in that village was a young girl?"
"How did you know that?" The warlord couldn't hide her surprise.
"Because I am you," the immortal said firmly. "In my own reality, I also raided and leveled Cirra, leaving no-one alive except a young girl. Several years later, our paths crossed again. She was now a grown woman, determined to take me suffer for the death of her family in one way or another." The immortal sighed deep. "She found out that I had a son and killed him. That didn't bring her peace, though. The hatred and bitterness had pushed her over the edge."
"Do you mean that..." The warrior princess started.
"...Callisto is that young girl from Cirra? Yes, exactly that," Xena confirmed. "I don't know what Callisto is planning but whatever it is, it serves her own purposes."
"How right you are!" A voice from the door said, accompanied with a slam and a click when the cell door was shut and locked.
Both Xena and her counterpart turned to look at the door where Callisto was watching them through the peephole. The dark warlord leaped to the door and tried to open the door without success.
"Callisto! What do you think you're doing? You let me out this instance!" The warrior princess shouted and banged the door.
"Sorry, I'm afraid I can't do that," the blonde warrior said viciously.
"Callisto I'm ordering you! Open this door at once!" The warlord shouted.
"I'm afraid but your doppelganger is right," Callisto said. "I am that girl from Cirra. All these years I've waited for my
revenge." She twirled the key ring in her finger.
"Why didn't you kill me in the first place?" The raven-haired warrior asked.
"I would have eventually, after I had conquered Greece, with your help," Callisto said. "Her appearance tangled my plans a bit." She pointed at the immortal. "Well, I suppose I have to do the rest of the conquering alone." She giggled. "Gotta go now, I have a town to demolish."
"My men will stop you," the warrior princess said.
"Your men?" Callisto laughed. "Your men are only loyal to you because I'm telling them to. If you weren't so self centered, you'd know that your men don't respect you one bit." She walked towards the stairs. "But don't worry. After I've destroyed Amphipolis and its people, I'll let you out to witness how I slowly kill your family and that irritating little blond that you seem to care so much about. And as for you -" She turned at the cell door. "After I'm finished with you, you'll be praying for me to end your sorry life." The dungeon echoed with Callisto's laughter as she walked away.
"CALLISTOO!" The warrior princess shouted into the empty corridor.