by Joseph Anderson

Xena, Gabrielle, and Callisto are the property of MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures. Jilly and Kimberly are mine. No copyright infringement is intended with this fanfiction which may not be sold, may be copied for personal use only, and must contain all notices of copyright.

This story assumes the reader knows the history of Callisto with Jilly and Kimberly in my stories History Lesson, Final Exam, and Callisto: Child's Play. No violence, rough language or sex.

The tune I used for Callisto the Sword was called Rosin the Bow on a Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem album. However, I've seen it with several other names too and just used as a folk tune.

Gabrielle smiled her thanks at a bearded man who had held the tavern door open for her as he was leaving. Inside she looked around seeing pretty much what she expected in a tavern at a market town in harvest season. Amphipolis was a week away and the bard had finally talked Xena into going to visit her mother--without her along. She hoped they could work out some of what was between them, anyway. Gabrielle didn't get her hopes up too high though. When she was there both women just talked to each other through her. It was hard to let go of the past.

The little woman saw with interest a platform for a bard. She looked around the room calculatingly and walked up to the bar. A heavyset woman with long graying hair said, "What do you need?"

Gabrielle said, "A meal, please. It smells delicious!"

The woman said with a cynical smile, "These are working men. You can't smell anything out here except spilled wine and sweat. What do you want?"

The bard rolled her eyes. She tried to con people too much. It was an occupational hazard. "I'm sorry. I'm a bard. Anybody declaiming tonight."

The woman nodded and looked around the crowded room. "Not tonight, but it looks like a good crowd for it. You're welcome. I get half the take."

"What?!" Gabrielle exploded. "I've never given more than an eighth!"

The woman scratched her ear and looked around the room some more. "Eighth, huh? Now whose lying?" She looked in Gabrielle's eyes and said, "They're already here. You aren't bringing 'em in. A quarter just like you and me both knew all along. I'll get your food, my crafty young thing." She patted the blonde's arm and left.

Gabrielle was looking the crowd over, thinking about her repertory. This wasn't Athens. Xena stories wouldn't play in the sticks and Amphipolis being nearby made it even worse. There could be people who remembered Xena picking her nose or something as a little girl. They would want juicy tales about Zeus seducing mortal maids or Hercules kicking butt. Gabrielle was glad Xena wasn't savvy enough about stories to know where she stood in the pecking order.

The large woman returned with a plate of food and a cup of wine. "Don't get fancy, dear. You look like an artist to me; no offence intended. These men are tired from working in the fields and herding sheep and cattle. They want to be entertained, not made to feel ignorant."

The bard looked at the woman. Beneath her tough exterior she was motherly to her hard working customers. Gabrielle smiled, liking the woman more and more. "This is what I do. Don't worry."

With her plate and cup she began looking for a place to sit. Then she froze. At a table two women were sitting wearing bulky cloaks. The younger one, a teenaged blonde looked bored and the other had her hood up so her face was hard to make out. Gabrielle took a breath and approached them.

"May I join you?" she asked.

The blonde smiled and said enthusiastically, "Yeah, bardy!" but then looked nervously at her companion, like she'd spoken too soon.

The hooded figure said, "Nice to see you, Gabrielle. Have a seat."

"Thanks, Kimberly."

The blonde teenager said, "We were wondering when you'd spot us. I wanted to just grab you, but you know how Kimberly is. Gotta be careful. Always gotta be careful!"

The other woman looked around the tavern and threw her hood off. Kimberly smiled self deprecatingly. "Maybe I'm paranoid."

"Maybe!" the teenager said.

"You never had the Bitch of Tartarus trying to put your head on her wall. When you do, you won't call it paranoid," the big blue eyed woman answered, but obviously was trying to relax a little.

"Yeah, yeah, yeah...and you walked 20 miles to school in the snow everyday and had to eat rocks!" Jilly said in a mocking voice.

Gabrielle was interested watching. It was obviously a game they played all the time. Gabrielle knew the girl had been through far worse than Kimberly had, fighting the Bitch of Tartarus or not. But acknowleging that wouldn't be fun as pretending Kimberly was the long suffering guardian of an ingrate was. Gabrielle knew about Jilly's childhood before being rescued by Callisto. The bard didn't want to think about it now though--she wanted to be able to eat.

The tavern keeper came up again and refilled Kimberly's cup. The commanding dark woman said, "Just leave the amphora." The big female tavern keeper frowned but left the container of wine. Gabrielle saw Jilly was frowning too but looking away as Kimberly refilled her cup. It was none of her business. The bard noticed the bracelet of yellow hair on Kimberly's wrist again and knew what she would do to open her set.

When she finished eating, she said, "Gotta go to work," to Kimberly and Jilly and went up to the platform.

Gabrielle, Bard of Poteidaia looked around and said, "Who here has heard of Callisto?"

She sensed the tension at the table she'd left and looked. Jilly's hands were under the table and Kimberly had her arms around the girl's shoulders and was watching her closely.

Around the room there were various "ayes." Who hadn't heard Callisto's name even if they had no idea who she was specifically?

Gabrielle continued, "Well, when I was in Britannia, I heard some great tales there and from Erin and Pictland. They sing them there and I'll do that now. There was a fine tune that was used with many different words. These are my words. It's for drinking, so join in and don't be shy!"

Gabrielle looked back over at the table and saw Jilly's hands were visible again. The bard was relieved, not wanting to meet the business edge of a chakram if she could help it. She began to sing:

She's traveled all over this world
Now the deep yawning chasm has roared
And I know that good quarters are waiting
To welcome Callisto the Sword

To welcome Callisto the Sword
To welcome Callisto the Sword
I know that good quarters are waiting
To welcome Callisto the Sword!

And soldiers, who can you name,
To more bravely defeat a bold foe?
Leading the fight without fear,
Why it must be Callisto the Sword!


Gabrielle grinned as she saw how everyone in the tavern was caught up in her song and singing along with the chorus. The tavern keeper smiled widely at her. She looked at the table with Kimberly and Jilly. Both of their faces were red and Jilly was holding Kimberly's hand like a four year old. Looking directly at them Gabrielle continued:

And though it's hidden from many,
Callisto had friends not just foes,
Lives she changed with her greatness,
Have a drink to Callisto the Sword!


A young child, friendless and hopeless,
Oh, who could save this poor soul?
Just one magnificent warrior,
Who else but Callisto the Sword?


Jilly buried her face in Kimberly's shoulder. The big woman, fingering the blonde bracelet of hair she wore, was watching her as Gabrielle continued.

A teacher for a commander,
The great Sword of Ares, you know.
Who taught the feared warlord her lessons?
Why none but Callisto the Sword!


Gabrielle thought of Jilly and Kimberly, and Xena, and continued. She had to see it through.

As a child she was battered and broken,
By an awful remorseless cruel foe.
Callisto survived through her bravery,
Have a drink to Callisto the Sword!


At Cirra her family was slaughtered,
Her sister, her mother, her soul;
A young girl swore to have vengeance,
Oh, dauntless Callisto the Sword!


The Warrior Princess has butchered,
A thousand times Cally's poor toll.
But only one of 'em will have to pay,
Oh, pity Callisto the Sword!


And though all the gods are against her,
Despite all her horror and woe,
Her friends will never forget her,
Have a drink to Callisto the Sword!


As Gabrielle finished the song, the pleased tavern keeper brought her a cup of wine. The bard looked at the table and saw Kimberly and Jilly were gone. It didn't surprise her. She scanned the room again and stopped at a pair of blue eyes. She stepped down from the podium and walked over.

"How long have you been here?" the bard asked.

Xena answered, "Long enough. My mother and me didn't have much to say to each other." She paused and looked around. "Jilly and Kimberly left. Jilly looked pretty broken up--Kimberly too." After another pause she said, "I didn't know that was how you felt about it."

Gabrielle said, "Xena....Xena, it's now how I feel or don't feel. It's just the truth."

The warrior princess looked down a moment and said, "Yeah, it is. I hoped maybe you didn't see it quite so clearly." Xena looked at the bard. "After what Callisto did to Perdicus, you can still do that. You're really something, Gabrielle. I've got a room at the inn down the road. I'll see you later." She turned and left. The bard frowned but looked around at her crowd. She climbed back on the podium to recite a nice hot Zeus seduction story.