by Joseph Anderson

Xena, Gabrielle and all elements from the TV show Xena: Warrior Princess belong to MCA and Renaissance Pictures. All other characters belong to the author. No copyright infringement is intended with this fan fiction, which may not be sold, may be copied for personal use only, and must include all notices of copyright.

This story includes violence and rough language. It follows Family Affair in my stories about Kimberly and Jilly, and refers to incidents in Frieze Frame and Kidnap.

Walking up his front steps Cal felt something was wrong though he didn't know what. Glancing around quickly to see if he was observed, the rangy blonde man reached into his coat, and brought out the large .45 automatic. He opened his front door and stepped aside. Nothing happened. Carefully he entered his house. He could hear sounds coming from Kimberly's study. Cal walked to the doorway, then replaced his pistol in its shoulderholster, and quickly returned to the open front door to shut it.

"What happened? Where's Sam?" he said as he returned to his wife's study. She had a bottle of Wild Turkey that was three-quarters empty. The tall dark woman was sprawled in an overstuffed chair and just looking vacantly at her weapon collection on the wall. He saw her bring the bottle to her mouth and take a swig before she looked at him.

"Sam's with Robert. I'm responsible, Cal. I wouldn't be like this around him." Her voice was slurred and filled with pain. "Take a look at that," she said, indicating her desk where Cal noticed a magazine. Walking over he saw a copy of National Geographic and on the cover was a clay representation of the helmet that Cal saw on the floor next to his wife's chair. Reading aloud Cal said, "A Monster with Many Names. A startling find by Janice Covington casts new light on China's Kimlee." He set the magazine down. "Well, so?

Kimberly's face was red. She said, "Inside they speculate if the girl's body they found under the statue was a human sacrifice. Human sacrifice, Cal! That's what they think of me! Thanks to Jilly's frieze and now this, they are managing to trace my route. Every land called me something else. They are taking a look at devil myths all through the Near and Far East trying to figure out which are demons and which were me. Thanks to my DEAR FRIEND, Janice Covington!"

"Janice suggested human sacrifice?"

"No. She didn't write the article. She just found the damn thing. Everybody's gonna jump on this now. Pretty soon they'll start saying again how I was this role model for Himmler and Goering and ATTILA THE HUN! God, Cal, I just...I just..." She gave up whatever she wanted to say. Cal came over to her and picked the bottle up but she grabbed it back. "No. Leave it, Cal."

"Kimberly, you weren't so bad. You were just successful from what I understand. You never did half the things to people I did as Callisto."

His wife looked at him. "Callisto was crazy, Cal. A lot of the time she didn't know if someone was really talking to her or it was the voices in her head. Everything she ever did was about Xena in one way or another. Yeah, I never tortured people like her but I killed a hell of a lot more. And it was just about ego. Just to see how far I could get, how many armies sent against me I could beat and how many cities I could take. I wasn't even conquering to rule; I was just a bandit. I wanted to see how much loot I could capture. All those years, Cal, and not a single one of my caravans made it to Greece." She took another swig of her bottle, then stood and picked her helmet up and carried it to the little stand she had for it on her desk. She set the empty bottle in front of it. "There I am, Cal. Kimlee, destroyer of a thousand cities."

Cal walked up behind her and put his arms around her, trying to give her whatever comfort he could. "I loved it, Cal. I really loved it. When they would crawl on their bellies to me, calling me a living god, sucking up so I wouldn't kill them but would kill somebody else. In India they told me I was the incarnation of Shiva. I thought they meant it. They were just telling me what I wanted to hear, Cal. Like I was Nero or Hitler."

"Now that they know where and what to look for they'll probably find a lot more stuff. All they had to do was feed my ego and the word went around. There's gold cups, busts, jade figures, gems, illuminated books. And, let's not forget my coins, the ones I minted myself so people would remember me!"

"Hush now, Kimberly. It's all over with. You were serving Ares; you had to run the army."

She leaned her head back to let it rest on Cal's shoulder. She was holding his clasped hands with her left hand, the old bracelet of Callisto's hair still there, repaired God knows how many times. "Yeah, but I didn't have to run it the way I did. He just wanted a local warlord and I gave him Kimlee. He wanted me to cool it, Cal. You know that? Ares came to me and told me I was going over the edge and for me to let Weldon and Jilly take the army back to Greece. That was before I even hit China. That was where I really cut loose, boy oh boy! I think it was because I knew my rap about everybody but Greeks being barbarians was such obvious bullshit in China. But I wouldn't turn back when Ares told me. Not me. No god was going to tell me how to run MY ARMY! let alone Weldon or Jilly. I don't even remember a lot of it clearly I was so out of it finally. The campaigns and the cities and the dead all run together. God, Cal...all my men...all my men...Weldon and all my men died because of me!"

"Weldon," Cal said softly. "That's the first time you ever mentioned him when you're awake."

"What?" Kimberly turned to look her husband in the face.

"Sometimes you talk to Weldon in your sleep. Telling him you love him and how you like his red hair and his accent; how sorry you are the baby you two had died."

"Oh God! Cal, I'm sorry."

"It's okay, Kimberly. Seems like as long as stuff is being talked about I should bring that up." Kimberly could hear the hurt in his voice.

"Cal, I love you. They're just dreams. He was like my first husband."

"I know, Kimberly. It's just you never talk to me in your dreams."

They heard the front door quietly open and close and a moment later the little Beretta was pointing at them before it was lowered.

"Jilly," Cal said. "Leave me and your mother alone, will you? Sam is with Robert. Why don't you go get him. Robert doesn't know anything about taking care of kids. Get a room at the Ritz and give us a call."


"Not now, Jilly," Cal repeated. They listened to the door open and close again.

"We stand by our story, Dr. Covington. We are sorry you disagree with some of the elements of it," the bureaucratic sounding voice repeated one more time in her ear. "We will be pleased to print a letter if you choose to discuss your views."

Janice Covington slammed the phone down. "Jerk!" she said as she bit the end off of another cigar. The open magazine was next to the phone. This would really make her, she knew. She was known in archaeological circles anyway, but this was going to move her to an entirely different level of success--like Leaky in Anthropology. The offers had been coming in. She sure didn't feel like celebrating though. Kimberly's daughter Jilly had helped her get the funding and clearance for the dig. Maybe this is kind of how Kimberly feels, she thought.

The phone rang. She picked it up saying, "Covington."

"Janice, how could you do that to Kimberly?" the furious southern voice said.

"Mel?" Her mouth dried and the blood rushed to her head.

"Kimberly saved my life with that awful Mr. Jameson and possibly yours too, and you do THIS! You know how she feels about the Sword of Ares. I thought better of you, Janice, I really did. You and Cal and Kimberly together saved my Kenny. How could you do this?"

"Mel, I didn't write the article, I just found the statue. I wasn't looking for anything on the Sword of Ares. I just stumbled across it the same as with the frieze. What was I supposed to do, rebury it? I wasn't alone there. There were my students, all the workers and the Chinese officials. They have the statue. All I have are pictures. Even if I had wanted to rebury it I couldn't have. I didn't know how the find would be presented. I didn't mean to hurt Kimberly. You have to believe that, Mel!"

Melinda Pappas's voice returned, calmer now. "All right, Janice. I can understand that, I suppose. I'm just upset, I apologize. I talked to Cal and he says Kimberly is drinking. Congratulations on the cover of National Geographic." The archaeologist heard the phone click in her ear. She slowly set it down. There's nothing like a southern accent for putting you in your place, she thought.


Cal sat in the kitchen trying to listen to a ballgame to take his mind off Kimberly. Robert was with him, the short powerful negro, dapper as ever. He was getting pretty successful. He was more than just a hitman now. When Cal had recruited him he had foreseen that a liaison between the family and rising negro gangs would be valuable. With Jimmy Falconi dead and the old don gone back to Sicily, Cal didn't feel any loyalty anymore to the family. He suspected Robert might wind up as a major player in a few years. That was okay with Cal. Robert would be a good friend to have.

Robert sipped his beer. Seeing Cal and Kimberly like this was awful. He knew they had some kind of secret past and he guessed something bad had come back and bit Kimberly on the ass. Skeletons in the closet were no surprise to him. He'd been on a Mississippi chain gang; and he'd still be there, or dead more likely, if they'd known half what he'd done. There was all kinds of strange things about Kimberly and Cal. Like where was their little girl, Jilly. It was like this older niece of Kimberly's also named Jilly had just taken her place. She acted like she already knew him, too. Weird.

"Hey Robert. How long have you been here?" the slurred voice said. He looked at Kimberly, shocked at her appearance. Her eyes were made up for Halloween or something and she was loaded down with jewelry. She was wearing a long brocaded robe. She walked unsteadily into the kitchen and patted him on the shoulder, then opened a cupboard and took out another fifth of Wild Turkey. Robert looked at Cal but he was just watching her.

"Bout a half hour, Kimberly. Just came by to ask Cal's advice on something," Robert answered easily.

She smiled at him. "Somebody messin' with you? Lemme tell you what works. Skin 'em. That gets people's attention real quick. Right, Cal?"

"You'd know more about that than me, Kimberly."

"Oh, now you're being modest! You skinned your share of enemies. Crucifying works good for setting examples too, but not just one or two. You need to line a road for a couple miles. Well, that's my advice, anyway, Robert. Seeya." She left the kitchen with her bottle. Robert looked at Cal who didn't say anything. They heard a recording of strange sounding, foreign music begin coming from her study.


"I don't want to talk about it, Robert."

The house was awfully quiet when Cal got back from the restaraunt. He found he actually enjoyed running it---it occupied him anyway. Since he had retired from the family he hadn't found anything else yet. He'd been too busy with one thing then another. Cal went into Kimberly's study and wasn't surprised at what he saw. Her helmet and the samurai swords were gone. He didn't need to open the locked cabinet to know the Japanese chakram would also be gone. He saw a note on the desk.

Mom went back to Greece. Langland is with Aunt Janice. I wanted him out of Greece with Mom there. DON'T KILL HIM!!! I'm going after her. Sam is with Robert.

There was nothing for him to do but get Sam and wait. Kimberly and Jilly were the ones Ares had given his tokens allowing them to go back and forth between the two times. He'd love to go kill Langland now that he was finally unprotected but that would be a low blow to Jilly. Cal wasn't really worried about Kimberly in Ancient Greece any more than she had been worried about him. The people to worry about were whoever got in her way.


The small plane touched down outside Cairo and the couple debarked. No one could look at them without thinking how cute they looked--a naive young couple. Hope they weren't ripped off too much by the locals. The slender blonde girl looked about 20 and the good looking man about 27 or younger. They were both so fresh-faced and innocent looking, that people smiled at them.

"Langland," Jilly said, touching his arm through his sportsjacket.

"Yes," he said, as he was looking around the small landing field.

"I don't want to hear about half the local government mysteriously dropping dead. If you get bored just work on your theorems or whatever they are."

"Jilly!" He said, sounding hurt as he looked deep in her eyes. Then they both smiled. She took his right hand and pointed to a tasteful ring.

"What's that?"

"Don't you like it? I thought it was rather attractive." The girl smiled and pressed something and a tiny point capable of punturing the skin popped up. Langland looked surprised.

"Just see if you can avoid killing anybody. I know it's hard, Langland. If anybody understands, it's me."

They both turned at the voice calling, and Janice Covington approached. "Jilly. How's your mother?"

Jilly looked at the small woman in her khakis and bomber jacket. "Not so good, Aunt Janice. She hasn't stopped drinking since National Geographic came out. She's got all these journals being delivered and there's something new all the time. That big layout in LIFE with the mass graves didn't help. The Nazi stuff is what really gets her; that and the guesses that she was a sadist who preyed on young girls. That body under the statue opened up a real can of worms, Aunt Janice."

The archaeologist heard something in Jilly's voice she'd never heard before, something that made her nervous. "None of that was from me, Jilly. I just found it. Everybody is just running with it now. Sometimes that happens. Kimlee is the flavor of the month."

"Yeah, okay, Aunt Janice. This is my boyfriend, Langland."

The handsome young man smiled earnestly at the small woman as he reached to shake her hand. "Pleased to meet you, Dr. Covington. You're on the real cutting edge of archaeology. Your paper on Sumerian fragmentary coins was fascinating."

She looked at him as she shook his hand. Jilly seemed to be watching their hands for some reason. "Thank you. Call me Janice. That's pretty dry reading even for people in the field." She tried to pick up Jilly's bag but the girl beat her to it and they followed her to her jeep.

"I'm not sure what you want, Jilly. Like I said, I just found the figure. I can't put it back in the ground or control what anybody else says." She hated how defensive she sounded. She hadn't done anything wrong, but she felt like she had.

Jilly was looking at Langland as she spoke. "I'm not sure myself. I guess I just wanted to come and see if there was anything out there to improve how she's portrayed. She was nothing like they are saying--or not much."

Janice Covington didn't get it but then families were a mystery to her. She thought maybe Jilly didn't really understand what the Sword of Ares was. Then something struck her. She pulled the jeep over and turned to look at Jilly.

"The name of the Sword of Ares' lieutenant who tried to warn her about the trap she went into was Xilli in a Persian source. Is that who you are named after, Jilly, or is there more to it than that?"

Langland and Jilly were both smiling at her. Janice realized it was just an act they had. "Well?"

Jilly answered, "It's pretty complicated, Aunt Janice. The answer is yes to both. Mom named me after her lieutenant but I also have her memories. And I look like her. For all intents and purposes, I am that Jilly. I was at the last stand of the Sword of Ares, I commissioned the frieze, and I buried the girl with Mom's statue on top of her."

"What happened to the original Jilly?" the small woman asked automatically, stunned.

Jilly looked at the handsome man next to her, who was studiously looking out the window. She said, "She was murdered by her lieutenant. He shot her with an arrow when she was busy fighting somebody else."

Janice sensed something was going on here. What it was though, was beyond her. Finally she restarted the vehicle and drove in silence until they reached her hotel. "You've got a room next to mine, Jilly. If Langland needs another room I'm sure they've got one."

"No, that's fine. Let's meet for dinner in the lobby around 6, okay, Aunt Janice?'

"Sure, Jilly."

The young woman said to her, "It's really strange you discovering both the frieze and the statue. Kind of a fate thing. When I was in Athens for the frieze I remember watching a performance of Oedipus and thinking about fate."

Walking into the town in front of Xena on Argo, Gabrielle sensed something wrong. "Xena..." she said.

"I know, Gabrielle. I feel it," she said, carefully scanning the street. She saw them now, a couple of soldiers standing guard outside of what was probably the tavern. "Wait here," she said.

"No, Xena, I'm coming with you. I can feel something."

Xena looked at her about to argue, then decided against it. "All right."

The guards allowed her in, recognizing her. Inside what she saw would have broken her heart if that capability hadn't been destroyed long ago. There was Kimberly seated in a chair that had been made to look like a throne. There were warriors on each side of her. Instead of her helmet and leathers, her descendant was draped in jewelry and rich robes . Her eyes were circled by black which extended out into curls. Her lips were blood red.

"Xena! I've been waiting for you. Come, sit with me!" She said with a wave of her hand. "Bring a chair," she said to a warrior, who appeared with one. "Gabrielle can sit at our feet. That's only proper. Charlemagne had a much better grasp of protocol than you Greeks."

Xena nodded to Gabrielle and they approached the mad warlord. The warrior princess sat next to her and the bard sat crosslegged near them. Kimberly reached down and tousled Gabrielle's hair like she was a dog. "Wonderful, Xena. Really, wonderful. I should get one. In China I had a girl who had potential but she died...."

Xena and Gabrielle were just looking at her but the warlord had stopped in midsentence and was staring off into space. Suddenly she continued, "but as I was saying, what this land needs is some order. You and Me, Xena! A dynasty. We can leave it to Jilly to merge with her own kingdom. Your pet can build a library or something. What do you say?"

Xena was looking at her descendant. She couldn't count the warlords and kings she had seen like this. "I don't think so, Kimberly. You should go home to your family. I'm sure they miss you. Anyway, I can't help you." She was expecting the blow and didn't avoid it, simply rolling her head with it.

"Bitch! I shouldn't have expected better of the Butcher of Cirra!" Kimberly sat back down and held a hand out which was instantly filled with a cup.

"I can't let you do this, Kimberly," Xena said, as she stood up.

A voice rang out from the back of the room. "You don't let or not let my mother do ANYTHING, Xena!"

The warrior princess looked behind her and saw Jilly alone and unarmed. Not even in leathers. That was scary enough.

"She's not in control, Jilly. She's more dangerous than your father was."

"Let ME explain something to YOU, Xena." The warrior princess suddenly found Jilly standing behind her with her own chakram at her throat. "I will deal with my mother. No one else. If that means Mycenae goes up in flames, that's too bad. If you don't like that, why don't I just gut you like a fish right now?" She replaced Xena's chakram at her hip.

"Let's go, Gabrielle," Xena said, and walked out of the tavern followed by the scurrying bard.

"Mom? How you feelin?" the young blonde said to the seated woman who seemed to be concentrating on something. She looked up at her.

"Jilly! How long have you been here? Tell Weldon I need to see him."


Menthes looked at his new commander as she bent over her table studying maps. He was frightened of her. He'd heard of mad warlords--they were dangerous to serve and dangerous to try to leave. She had just come riding into the camp a few weeks before and everyone stared at that chainmail veil. There had been a vague story that the Sword of Ares had returned but no one had believed it. There had been a few fakes over the years. This one felt different. Their commander, Ditromax, had taken one look at her and ridden away. His second-in-command tried to claim the army and was dead almost before he closed his mouth. Now Menthes was second-in-command. Something told him not to try to leave her.

That scene with Xena and Jilly the day before left him despondent. He didn't want to fight Xena, and if he was afraid to leave before, now that he knew Jilly was supporting her the idea of angering Kimberly was even more dangerous.

"Menthes, have the scouts returned?" the warlord said to him. She seemed in control now, at least. Not drinking that strong smelling brew in the finely crafted bottles which she had a supply of.

"No, Lady Kimberly. They have orders to report here as soon as they return." He wished she would put her helmet on. He liked her better that way. Without it, her eyes seemed to float in the dark paint surrounding them and her teeth looked almost animal-like in that red mouth.

She nodded and said "Do the men seem to understand the new organization?"

"Yes, but they aren't happy about it. If they wanted discipline and drills they would still be in the armies of kings or cities." He regretted instantly speaking so freely but she didn't seem upset.

"As soon as they see how successful it will make them, they'll come around. Well, most will; I'll have to kill a few, of course. I'll know which ones after the first engagment or two." She looked at him and pointed to the map, "Tell me how you would deal with a moderately superior force southwest of us if there was one."

Menthes thought about it and described in detail the troop deployment and time table he would use. She nodded. "Not bad--basic and effective. A good general on the other side would foresee that though--you'd want to know who you were fighting. I'd rather be more sly and throw some feints, but it would depend on who I was facing. All right, I just wanted to see how your mind worked. I won't kill you as an incompetent." She slapped his shoulder. "Just kidding."

Menthes knew she wasn't kidding at all.


"Xena, I'm sorry." The warrior princess looked up from the fire at Jilly standing beside her. She hadn't heard her approach. That hadn't happened in 15 years. Gabrielle was asleep already.

"I understand, Jilly. She's your mother." The young woman walked around and sat down on the ground opposite the larger woman. She was in leathers now. Gabrielle began stirring.

"She won't be so bad, Xena. She'll just be one more warlord."

"You know that's not true. She's one of the greatest generals I've ever seen. You know that better than me." Xena paused, "You've seen her this way before. This is what she was like at the end."

The girl's eyes were red as she nodded. "Close to this but not exactly. It will be a while before she starts making tactical errors. That's not what worries me."

"What worries you, Jilly?" Xena said levelly.

"After we left Greece the first time she stopped restricting herself to other warlords. It doesn't bother ME if she sacks towns but it would bother her."

Xena quietly said, "That's what I was worried about all along. Kimberly is so talented she could be the bloodiest warlord since Cortese."

"But still no Bitch of Tartarus, Xena. And that's why she's here." Jilly said, suddenly coldly.

"No, you're right. Still no Bitch of Tartarus."

Jilly stood up and turned away, "I'm sorry! All that stuff with Callisto and Kimberly is always just under the surface for me." Gabrielle opened her eyes now and sat up.

"Jilly!" The girl just nodded to her and looked back at Xena who hadn't replied.

"I meant what I said though, Xena. If you fight her you fight me. If my mother told me to burn Sparta, I would try."

"Good luck," Xena said drily.

"I just said I'd try--not that I'd do it. Xena, she's your family. Remember that. Just like me. You don't want to fight us." Xena didn't hear anything, but Jilly glanced up into the darkness and her chakram flew, followed by a bird dropping to earth near camp. "Breakfast is on me." She disappeared into the black night.

The bard looked at Xena and got up and came over to her, putting her arm around her shoulder as her friend's head slowly sank.

Janice looked up as Langland came walking up to her table. She nodded to his questioning look, and he sat down. A waitress came up and he asked for tea.

"Jilly has left indefinitely and she wants me to wait for her here. I would be happy to make myself useful to you in whatever capacity I can. I'm not very good at doing nothing." He gave her a charming smile. Janice felt a chill go up her back.

She answered him, "Thanks, Langland. Well, I'm going back out in the field. You're welcome to join me, though I don't know what you'll do. The actual digging is done by students who are trained for what to look for, so you can't do that."

The handsome young man nodded his head. "Actually, I'm good at the redtape side of things. If you've got any headaches there maybe I can help you out."

Janice looked at him. He was offering to help her in the worst part of her job--but something about him made her nervous. She wanted to accommodate him for Jilly though. She nodded and said, "Glad to have the help. I hate paperwork."

He smiled at her earnestly.

Kimberly sat on her throne. Since she had begun raiding, not only other warlords but cities and caravans, the loot had been piling up around her. She liked it but it was getting to be too much; she'd have to fence it soon. Looking down she smiled at the two children who were painting her toenails. They were ebony skinned twins she'd captured from a slaver. Their parents were dead so she decided to keep them for the time being. When she'd found out what the slaver had been doing with the 9-year-old boys she had had the children taken away and personally flayed him. Since she had children Kimberly had an even lower tolerance than she had before--she used to just crucify pedophiles.

"Mom." Kimberly looked up and beckoned Jilly in. Her daughter seemed to have a funny expression on her face looking at the young boys.

"Hi honey. Look at these little angels. Want your toenails painted?"

"Where'd they come from, Mom? You didn't take them from their family did you?"

"Jilly, how can you ask your own mother that?" Kimberly said to the children, "Take a walk, darlings." The children bowed and left. She said to her daughter, "Look under the tarp next to my tent." Jilly left to return a moment later.

"Okay, Mom. He was mean to the kids so you let him have it. Father?"

"No, baby. He's a slaver." She was fanning her toenails as she talked. "I thought of saving him for you but I wasn't sure when you'd get back."

"Mom, what are you doing? You should go back home to Daddy and Sam. Sam must be crying his eyes out." Jilly was tense as she spoke, prepared to flee if Kimberly attacked.

Kimberly didn't get angry. She looked up at Jilly and said, "I belong here, not there. This is who I really am. Kimlee. The Sword of Ares. Sam shouldn't have a monster like that for his mother."

"Jesus, Mom! You're a great mother! You act like you believe what National Geographic said. I was there. That's not who you were. You never massacred people or any of the things they said. Why do you believe it?!"

"Jilly, you remember the girl and the statue."

"That was ONE incident. And you turned right around and headed back to Greece. You wanted me to kill you. You never did anything else like that. Sam needs you and Daddy needs you! God, look at Xena. She's done a million worse things than you and she doesn't feel half as bad."

"Xena feels bad, Jilly. And she hasn't killed as many people as me."

"But Xena sold people into slavery, fomented wars and every other awful thing you can name. You never did."

"It doesn't matter, Jilly. I belong here. Really, I belong in the ground in Persia with Weldon and my men. I had that wonderful second chance with your dad and you and Sam, but now the old days have caught up to me and I have to pay my tab."

"Please go home to Daddy! Please!"

"No, Jilly. Don't ask me again."

The young blonde warrior turned and quickly left the tent. The warlord looked where she had been standing, then stood and walked to the tent opening.

"Menthes," she called. The man, small for a warrior, came up. "We're moving north tomorrow. Have the men ready at dawn. Oh, and, Menthes, are the men still grumbling about the discipline?"

The man smiled at her. He looked at the rich armor he now wore and the rings on his fingers. "No Kimberly. You were right. They're proud now." The woman nodded.


Xena came riding into the camp she had been summoned to, Gabrielle behind her on Argo. She dreaded this. She knew what was coming--Gabrielle didn't and Xena hadn't explained it to her. She halted the horse and let Gabrielle down. The banners from the different cities flew in front of the various tents. And pitched as far away from each other as they could were the tents of Athens and Sparta. Though many would deny it, all of the others would follow one or the other of the two great city-states. She had been seen and Xena dismounted as several officers approached her.

"Welcome, Xena. It's been a long time," a gruff older man said to her.

"Democles. You've been promoted. I'm glad you weren't commanding when I faced Sparta years ago."

"Very flattering, Xena. But I'm no courtier. If you'll follow me, the others are waiting."

"Fine," Xena said.

Gabrielle took her arm and quietly said, walking next to her, "What's going on, Xena? You just said you had something to do here."

Walking the warrior princess answered, "Yeah. Well, this is it."

"Xena, this is something BIG. You didn't tell me that!" Her voice had risen a little and the officers glanced at her with irritation.

Sighing, Xena quietly said, "I know, Gabrielle. I just didn't want to talk about it. They are organizing a force against Kimberly and I was invited."

"WHAT?" then quieter, "what? Xena, don't! Even if someone has to stop her, it's not you. You can't fight her. She's your family. I'd be dead and you'd be the Bitch of Tartarus if not for Kimberly."

Xena's face was stoney as she said, "I do know that I'm responsible for Kimberly being here. That's why it's my responsibility to stop her. This is exactly why I didn't tell you, Gabrielle. It's not only Kimberly. It's also Jilly. You heard her. If Jilly uses her army to support her mother, Kimberly could do anything. At least that vermin, Langland, doesn't seem to be part of it." She stopped talking as they reached the large tent of Athens. Gabrielle started to follow Xena in but was stopped by a guard. "Maybe you should find something to eat, Gabrielle. This is probably going to take a while." Xena disappeared into the tent, leaving Gabrielle looking at the chest of the guard who had stepped in front of her.

"Fine!" she said, turning angrily and walking away.

The archaeologist was puzzled but in a good way. Everything about the day to day operations of the dig seemed to be running smoother than she had seen in 20 years. Supplies arrived on time, theft by workers had decreased, even the food was better. She didn't get it. And Langland had reorganized her files so that they were much easier to use. Now she was drinking her coffee in her tent when Langland walked up in khaki shorts and a pith helmet. Janice smiled. He looked like a puppy. He had a telegram in his hand.

"This came for you," he said handing it to her and then pouring water over a teabag in a cup at the camp stove. He sat down as she was reading the telegram.

She whistled appreciatively. "I'm getting the Alton-Wanbury Antiquities grant. That's incredible. The original recipient died suddenly and I was the runner-up. I hate to profit from Andre's death, but I've wanted this for years."

"Well, I'm sure you deserve it, Janice," Langland said easily, sipping his tea.

Janice just didn't know what it was about Langland. Something about him creeped her out though he seemed to be the sweetest guy in the world. You wanted to protect him.

"Thinking dark thoughts about me?" Langland said.

"You a mind reader?" she said brusquely.

He sipped his tea and laughed. "No, no. Just a lucky guess."

"How did you meet Jilly, Langland? I'm just curious." Janice decided she was being paranoid.

"I used to know her a long time ago. When we met again we just clicked."

Janice nodded. "That's a nice story."

"I think so," the handsome young man said to her.

There was a loud confusion of voices approaching and four Arab workers came up to Janice's tent. She stood but Langland remained seated. They were all yelling at once but one was pointing at Langland. Janice began talking to them quickly, trying to sort out what was going on. They said there was a devil or curse in the camp, and the one man was convinced it was Langland. She sensed him stand up behind her. She was about to explain to him what they were saying when he began speaking to them in Arabic. Janice stared at him, taken completely by surprise. He was saying the same things she had been saying, asking what the problem was, trying to calm them down. But there was something else in his voice, something almost hypnotic. Janice saw him step forward and lay his hand on the shoulder of the man who said he was a devil, but the man shook him off. The archaeologist finally got them to leave, saying she would look into it. The one man looked back at Langland, a strange fearful look on his face.

They sat back down. "I didn't know you spoke Arabic. Where did you learn it."

"Here," he said absentmindedly, looking after the men.

"Oh, you mean, you've been here before? I don't suppose you just learned Arabic in the last two months?"

Langland laughed. "Of course not, Janice. I'd have to be a genius or something for that."

The sunset was beautiful; an incongruity. Bodies were scattered over the field and the birds and dogs were starting to come--trying to beat the men who were collecting the dead. Gabrielle walked among them, making sure no one was still alive. Xena had told her not to bother--they had been checked already--but she felt she had to. Like Xena, Gabrielle felt responsible for the events she had unwittingly set in motion so long before, and which had brought Kimberly to this time. The combined army of the city-states under Democles, with Xena as his lieutenant, had finally met Kimberly in battle. It was Xena's army now since the gruff old warrior had fallen in combat, insisting on personally leading his men over Xena's and his other officer's objections. The bard had left her friend preparing the funeral pyre for Democles. She knew that when Xena appeared THAT cold and unmoved it meant just the opposite. The warrior princess had insisted on the old man receiving the top post, saying she didn't trust herself to fight Kimberly ruthlessly enough. Now Xena blamed herself for Democles's death in addition to everything else.

The bard saw a movement near a body and stooped down, to suddenly draw away as a rat scurried between her legs. "Gods!" she said, almost falling over another corpse behind her.

"Were we defeated, Xena?" she had frantically asked earlier, as their army withdrew and Xena rode up to where she waited. Gabrielle couldn't tell--there was fighting then there wasn't fighting.

"No, but neither was Kimberly."

"I don't understand."

Xena answered. "Gabrielle, it isn't always clear-cut who wins or loses. If I had to say, I would say that we won since we have more reinforcments. We can better afford the losses than Kimberly. But this is bad for morale and looks bad since not only did we not route a smaller force but our commander was killed. And she may have had some other purpose that she gained; delaying us perhaps to give Jilly time. Does that answer your question?" The bard sensed her friend was impatient with her, that in a real war such as this her lack of understanding was a distraction.

"Not really. Would you have done anything different than Democles?"

Xena looked at her. "Not a thing. I'd have personally led just like he did, too, no matter what anyone said. Next time I will. I should be the one fighting Kimberly."

"Kimberly personally killed Democles?"

"Yeah. She has always done that--trying to fight enemy commanders herself. You saw it yourself once. It's part of her image as the Sword of Ares. Her troops expect it of her, now. Next time it will be me."

Gabrielle said, "Xena, what if you have to fight Jilly?"

The larger woman looked at her. "Then Agnan will get my job just like I got Democles's."

"There has to be a way to stop this, Xena! They're your family!"

Xena's cold exterior finally cracked. "I know that, Gabrielle! Do you think I want this? I turned Kimberly into the Sword of Ares as surely as I created Callisto. I have to stop her. Jilly will support her mother, of course. She'll probably kill me and then I'll be able to stop worrying about it."

The bard was stunned. She had never thought she would hear Xena talk like that. Of course, Xena had never tried to kill her own family before, either.

It was dark when Gabrielle returned to the camp. She hadn't found anyone alive, as Xena had predicted. Democles's funeral pyre was still smoldering and the mood of the camp was grim and quiet. Xena was in the command tent; now standing at the head of the table where the old general had stood the day before.

A voice said behind her, "Hi bardy."

"Jilly. Gods, what are you doing here? Are you here to see Xena."

The young blonde woman, who in the darkness looked so much like Callisto, said, "I hadn't really made up my mind. I don't want Xena and my mom to fight. There's no telling who would win. Obviously I don't want my mom killed, but if she kills Xena then that will haunt her. I thought I might just kill Xena now so at least that won't be a problem." Jilly barely moved but the staff missed her, then she seemed to simply take it out of the bard's hands, Gabrielle didn't know how. She tried to grab Jilly's dagger and the next thing she knew Jilly was holding her hands in back of her.

"Let her go, Jilly."

"I'm not hurting her, Xena. She attacked me."

"I know that."

When Gabrielle felt her hands released, she crossed quickly next to Xena. She caught the staff which Jilly tossed to her. The tall, dark, powerfully built woman seemed to dwarf the slender blonde facing her. Neither of them had the slightest doubt that Jilly could kill Xena any time she felt like it.

"If you wanted to kill me you wouldn't have announced yourself to Gabrielle like that. What do you want, Jilly?" Xena said. Looking at the girl tore her heart out. Xena felt like she was Jilly's grandmother.

Jilly was looking down at the ground. She said, "You should get Joxer. You know how much he means to my mother. She sent me to bring him to her but he won't be able to talk sense to her--it's too late for that. Maybe if he is with you it will shock her--I don't know."

Xena looked at her sharply. "Jilly, what would Kimberly do if she knew you came to me like this?"

Jilly looked up at the woman who looked so much like her mother. "I'm not sure. Maybe nothing, maybe send me away, or maybe kill me on impulse."

"Kimberly's smart. She'll know." Xena said.

Jilly looked out into the night, her face slightly lit by the embers from Democles's funeral pyre and the lamp from Xena's command tent. "I've been thinking about Callisto. How my mom came back because she wouldn't let Callisto die like she would've if she just continued on."

Gabrielle said, "What are you saying, Jilly?"

The slender blonde form faded into the night and they could hear a horse riding away.

"Oh gods, Xena!" the bard said, looking at her friend. The warrior princess's face had become masklike again, a calm to face any horror.


The warlord was waiting for Jilly as she rode into camp in the early dawn. She was in her leathers now and her daughter saw her put her helmet on.

"Have a nice little talk with Xena, did you?"

Jilly dismounted and stopped about five yards from her mother. "Yeah. Gabrielle tried to fight me. It was cute."

"She's cute all right. Noble and sweet and good enough to eat. After you kill me, Jilly, I want you to take my swords and chakram back to your dad."

"Mom, please go home to Daddy and Sam."

"No, Jilly." Kimberly drew the long samurai sword and leapt at her daughter, slashing down. Jilly jumped back but did not draw her sword. "What's the matter, Jilly? Don't you want to save me from my fate? Don't you care as much for me as I did for Callisto?" Again she leapt at the smaller woman, this time drawing the short sword in her other hand. Her daughter drew her sword and parried the blows but didn't strike back.

"Mom! Stop it! Please!" she cried, scrambling back, avoiding another blow.

"I thought you loved me, Jilly," the warlord said as she directed a vicious up thrust with the short sword at her daughter's belly.

"I DO!" the young woman said and suddenly lashed out with a foot, sending Kimberly stumbling back.

"That's the spirit! that's my girl! But why didn't you kill me? You could've with the kick."

"Mom, please!"

Kimberly resheathed the long sword and took the Japanese chakram from its thong on her hip. She threw it and it was deflected by Jilly's own chakram. A split second after she released the weapon the girl got a shocked look on her face as she felt the arrow bury itself in her leg. She jumped and avoided the first net thrown at her, but was caught by the second and third, followed by ten men rushing at her and crushing her to the ground. She could've killed some but they had her so she stopped struggling. She looked at her mother who was sauntering over to her, that chainmail veil enigmatic as ever.

"What was it Callisto used to say to you? You're too soft, Jilly." The girl felt a cloth clamped over her nose and mouth from behind and smelled the familiar odor before she blacked out.


Sinatra was singing Three Coins in the Fountain softly on the radio. Sitting on his couch with Sam asleep next to him while he read the paper, Cal looked up, dropped the paper and was at his and Kimberly's bedroom in an instant. Inside he saw Jilly lying on the bed in her leathers, unconscious with her left thigh bandaged. Cal walked over looking at her closely. She seemed all right except for her leg. He saw she no longer had Ares' token around her neck. Kimberly had sent her back and kept her means of returning to Greece. He was relieved. Since she had left Cal had been searching Callisto's memories and realized Jilly might decide it was her duty to kill her mother, if she couldn't bring her back. Cal understood the reasoning but he didn't agree with it--it wasn't the same situation. Luckily for all of them, Jilly wasn't remotely as crafty as Kimberly, no matter how great a fighter she was. There was a small scroll in her belt which he took out to read.

"Cal, take her to a doctor immediately. She was shot by an arrow. Kiss Sam for me. Love, K".

"You're too soft, Jilly," he said, looking fondly down at her.

Janice Covington looked curiously at the jeep arriving at the dig and the two men who couldn't have been dressed more inappropriately in their dark suits. One was olive skinned and young with curly hair and the other was a heavyset white man with graying hair and a red face. She knocked some of the dust off her hat and set it back on her head as she walked from the dusty hole she had been examining.

"Dr. Covington?" the older man said with a Boston accent.

"Yeah, I'm Covington. What can I do for you?"

"This is Agent Bashrabi and I'm Agent Chadwick. We're with Interpol. We'd like to have a word with you, if you don't mind." They both showed her badges which she examined closely.

"Let's go over to my tent and get out of this sun. It can't be pleasant in those wool suits," Janice said leading the two men.

"What do you know about this man?" Agent Bashrabi said with a slight Indian accent. He showed her a black and white picture of Langland. It appeared to be several years old and Janice recognized Chicago. He was dressed in a casual suit and wearing dark glasses.

Janice thought quickly. Her first impulse was to deny knowing him, but the fact they were here meant they knew that would be a lie. Being honest was actually her best course, she realized with surprise. She didn't know anything bad about Langland.

"Well, his name is Langland and he's a friend of a friend. I don't know much about him. He's been helping me with some of my office work here and in Cairo. What's this about?" The two agents looked at each other when she mentioned Cairo.

"It may be nothing. We are investigating a matter we can't really discuss. What about this friend of his. What's his name?"

Janice hated this. Ratting out people wasn't her style and Jilly was upset enough at her because of her mother. Noting her hesitation, the older agent said, "We have jurisdiction here, Dr. Covington. You are required to answer our questions."

"His friend is Jilly Snopes and I have no idea where she is now."

"Snopes!" the younger agent said, and received a hard look from the older man.

"Would she be related to Calvin Snopes?" Chadwick said.

"I wouldn't know about that." Janice said coldly. She took a cigar out and bit the end off, spitting it to one side. "If you have nothing else, I've got work to do."

Agent Bashrabi spoke. "Awfully lucky for you that Andre Charcot died so suddenly, Dr. Covington."

The little archaeologist who had been turning away stopped and looked sharply at the agents. "What the hell is that supposed to mean? Are you accusing me of something?"

"No, no, Dr. Covington. It's just strange is all that you would receive Dr. Charcot's grant when he died, fell under a train in fact, and a known associate of your assistant Langland just happened to be in Paris at the same time. On the very same train, as a matter of fact."

"What kind of 'associate' of Langland?" She spit out.

The American answered, his Boston accent dripping in sarcasm. "One of his boys. He was helping Langland when he was in Chicago a few years ago trying to take over the rackets. So Langland is with Cal Snopes' niece or whatever she is. Guess that explains why Cal didn't put Langland in the cornerstone of some building after Falconi's murder. Maybe he was even in on it."

"Are you saying Andre Charcot was murdered and that I supposedly got Langland to arrange it?"

Agent Bashrabi answered, "The death of Dr. Charcot was ruled an accident. That is a peripheral issue for us. Here," he held a card out to the archaeologist who didn't take it. He set it on her table. "If you think of anything you'd like to tell us, there is our number." The men turned and, sweating all the way in their wool suits, returned to their jeep and drove off.

Janice picked up the Interpol card. "Shit!" she said, putting it in her pocket.

"It's been a long time, Kimberly."

The warlord's heart was beating fast, and she felt like she might cry. So much came back to her with that voice. When she lost him was when she lost herself.

"Yeah, Joxer, it has." She took her veiled helmet off as she spoke. As he was awkwardly climbing off his mule she couldn't restrain herself and ran up and hugged the man, crying as she did so.

He returned it, patting her back like a child. "Hush, hush, Kimberly. Joxer's here now. It will be all right."

With the kind words she finally lost all control and just slumped to the ground, still holding him and crying. He could smell the alcohol on her breath: something strong--unlike anything he knew. He'd known that could be a problem for her. She'd always drunk a lot of wine even though it didn't seem to affect her much. Procuring good wine, one way or another, had always been a priority for Kimberly. Somebody like that, well, when something REALLY bad happened, you knew what they might do.

He looked around. Her men were studiously ignoring them. Joxer knew what that meant. He wasn't the fool anymore who didn't even realize she had killed to protect him. Offending her must be dangerous.

"I rode ahead to see you first. Meg and the kids are waiting in Trieme."

Kimberly stopped crying and managed to stand up. She said to Joxer, "I'll send some men to get them." She had her arm around his shoulder, almost like she was leaning on him. The Kimberly he remembered never leaned on anybody. He looked at her. It had been something like ten years since he had seen her. Jilly had told him she was alive long before but he hadn't seen her since he had stopped traveling with her army to marry Meg. They looked alike but they didn't. Just like Xena and Princess Diana, too. Their different lives had made all of the women look individual in spite of their physical resemblance.

Back in her tent, which Joxer saw was lusher than anything she would've had before, they had some supper which Joxer involuntarily grimaced at.

"Come on, Joxer. It's not that bad. You're just spoiled by your own cooking."

"I suppose," he said eyeing the rice and meat dish critically. Now he looked her in the eyes. "Xena sent for me. She wanted me with her AGAINST you. I sent her word that I had to talk to you myself and see what was going on. Well, Kimberly, what is going on?"

The woman stood and walked to a table where Joxer saw her pour herself a drink from a finely crafted vessel which he could see through. She turned back to her friend. "I had an entire other life Joxer. One with a husband and kids, but that wasn't me. So I decided to be myself. I'll just raid until somebody manages to kill me--probably Xena."

"Where's Jilly now?" he said quietly.

"I sent her home. She felt the same as you, that I shouldn't be doing this. Oh, did she tell you she's my daughter now? I mean my actual daughter."

"No, but I could see she was the wrong age, and she seemed different. More calm. That was a slick trick. Ares?"

"Yeah. She got killed so he had her reborn as my kid."

Joxer got up and walked over to her. He took the cup out of her hand and set it down, and put his hands on her shoulders. "This is about what happened after you left Greece, right?"

Kimberly nodded, her eyes red and downcast. "That's the real me, Joxer. Without you I became what I had been fighting."

"So you're giving up?"

She looked up defiantly at him and her eyes were different now, with a strange gleam that reminded him of Callisto. She smiled dangerously and reached for a small jar and took it to a silver mirror. Joxer watched as she applied some heavy black lines around her eyes and extending past them; then picked up another jar and applied bright scarlet coloring to her lips. She said to him, "I'm not giving up. I'm doing what I'm good at. I'm glad to have you with me again, Joxer." She walked to her tent flap and opening it called out, "Menthes." When the richly dressed warrior approached her she said, "Send some men to Trieme and have them escort some friends of mine back here. It's a woman who looks like me and--still two kids, Joxer?--and two kids. They're good friends of mine. The men are to protect them, not grab them. Understand?" The man nodded. She looked at Joxer, "Okay?"

Joxer was depressed, but he was sure his family would be safer with Kimberly than not, so he nodded. Since she was making enemies her known friends would be targets to be used against her. She motioned to him.

"Come on, Joxer. I'm going to introduce you to the cook. You can supervise him now."


Langland was sitting in his tent reading a monograph on quarks when Janice simply stepped inside and pointed her old .45 at him.

"Hello Janice. What's the matter?" he said with an easy smile.

Through gritted teeth the archaeologist said, "Tell me what the hell is going on, Langland. I had a visit from Interpol. They said you probably murdered Andre Charcot so I could get his grant and that you're involved in a lot of other stuff, too."

"Put the gun away. You can't just shoot me."

"Don't bet on what I can or can't do."

Langland smiled and said, "Look at my wife and in-laws, Janice. I know a lot of cold blooded killers--I'm one myself--and you just aren't. Don't feel bad. You've got other good qualities. And to answer your question, I'm not responsible for Dr. Charcot's death."

"Interpol said one of your 'boys' was there when he was killed," she said furiously.

"A coincidence, that's all. He was arranging an arms shipment for me. So you see, I'm innocent."

"So you are a criminal? A gangster like Cal?"

"Well, no. Cal was more of a field operative; I'm more back office. He's retired now, by the way. These days I'm more international, too."

"What are you doing here, Langland? Really." The gun pointed at him had not moved but he seemed to have no trouble ignoring it.

He got up and put some water on the camp stove. "I'm doing just what I told you. Waiting for Jilly. She's trying to talk sense into her mother. Since Kimberly is so confused these days, because of the statue you found, Jilly thought it best I was as far away from her as possible. She wants to kill me. So does Cal but she is more likely to act on it. I'm here because Jilly thought I was less likely to get in trouble here than in the states."

"Langland, that Arab who called you a devil died from something no one seems to understand. Would you know anything about that?"

"Really? Why no, Janice. Why would I?" He looked at her earnestly. She decided to scare him, so aimed next to his face and pulled the trigger. All she heard was a click though, followed by another and another.

"You forgot to load your gun. You have frightened me though. I've learned my lesson, Janice! Would you like some tea?"

She was staring at her gun and then up at Langland like he was from another planet. She turned and left his tent, walking quickly.


Janice was in her tent rechecking all of her ammunition one more time. So far it seemed all right. She had no idea how Langland had gotten to her revolver. It had been two weeks since she had talked to the Interpol agents. The archaeologist had been avoiding Langland though he was keeping the camp running as smoothly as ever. She heard a familiar sounding voice that sounded angry and was speaking loudly. She stepped out of her tent and followed it back to Langland's tent.

"Keep your voice down, Jilly."

"Don't tell me to keep my voice down, you asshole! If you'd done what I asked I wouldn't be raising my voice. Jesus, Langland, you don't even live here!"

"Now, just calm down, Jilly. What happened to your leg?"

"My leg? Oh, that's a good story. My mother's taking lessons from you now. How do you like that, you little ratfuck?.....Come on in, Aunt Janice."

The archaeologist almost jumped, but she pushed the tent flap open and stepped inside. Jilly was standing there leaning on a cane and Langland was standing near her. Jilly's eyes were showing whites all around her brown irises and the corner of her mouth seemed to be twitching.

"What has he done exactly, Jilly?" She asked.

The girl glared at the calm handsome young man. "God knows. He'll never tell everything. The FBI was coming around asking Daddy questions, and some Interpol guy said a couple of their agents disappeared." Janice looked at Langland quickly but he didn't show any reaction. "And then while I'm flying over here, what do I read on the plane?" Her voice had gotten sarcastic.

"What, Jilly?" Langland asked.

"Well, it seems there has been unforeseen instability in foreign money markets and not only that but there's been political instability in several previously peaceful geopolitical theaters. Now let me guess, Langland. You wouldn't by any chance be trading in foreign currencies would you? Or dealing arms?"

"I'm helping indigenous peoples find their freedom."

"Don't hand me that crap, you bastard! You don't care about anything but science. Everything else is just a game to you."

"Not you."

"Yeah, right. How do you do it? I'd really like to know. Daddy was ready to come twist your head off, but of course I showed up at just the right time to head him off."

"I just figured."

"Do you know what would happen to you if I told my parents they could have you?"

"I'd rather not speculate."

"Think Cortese, Langland. Think Detrius. I've never told you about them, but I'm sure you know. You know everything else."

Langland approached closer to her, holding his arms out. She hit him in the chest and at first pulled away, but didn't stop him. Janice was watching, almost sickened. He put his arms around her and after a moment Jilly relaxed as she laid her head on his shoulder.

"Ah, Jilly, what would I do without you?" his voice had taken on a hypnotic quality. "You know that. I'm sorry; I just got bored." He began stroking her long blonde hair. "Can't you forgive me? I'm no good without you. You're my woman. My one and only Jilly. Who loves you?"

"You do, Langland," the words almost seemed forced from her. The archaeologist couldn't help herself. She drew her .45 but suddenly found herself flat on her back with Jilly standing over her, unloading her pistol. "Aunt Janice, I told you that you wouldn't like Langland if you ever met him. I appreciate your motives--I really do--but I won't let you kill him anymore than my parents." She stepped back and held her hand down. After a moment Janice took it and allowed herself to be helped up. The girl handed her unloaded gun back to her. "Me and Langland will leave in the morning. I'm sorry about everything that happened."

Janice turned and left the tent, taking a cigar from her pocket. She felt she had to go for a long walk. She'd never wanted to kill anyone so much in her life. She could hear slow music start coming from Langland's tent. They must be dancing.

The warlord was cantering her horse around the camp, checking on the guards' alertness. She didn't want their recent successes to make them overconfident or lax. She found a guard sleeping on duty. Kimberly dismounted and simply walked up and kicked his feet. He scrambled up, looking terrified. She was going to kill him but decided not to. A backhanded blow sent him reeling.

"You're forfeiting your shares. Get out before I change my mind." Looking stunned, the man turned and ran. When she turned around she saw Menthes near her horse and looking at her.

"You have something to say, Menthes?"

The warrior chose his words carefully. "He deserves to die. What will the men think?"

"What about you? Aren't you responsible for him? Maybe I should just punish you."

"You're splitting hairs."

"Yeah, all right. I just didn't feel like killing somebody. I know you're right but let him go anyway. What's done is done."

As Menthes walked away Kimberly knew she had just made a huge mistake. She would almost certainly have to kill Menthes.

Menthes was frightened. Kimberly was totally unpredictable now. Showing sudden mercy like that was even worse than the haphazard killing she also did. He had to do something. He still knew he couldn't just leave--there was no telling if she'd let him go or kill him.

The warlord rode up to her tent and the ebony twins came out and took her horse. She saw Meg and HER twins, Xeno and Kimberly, who were 13 now. Meg's eyes teared up whenever she saw her and she seemed to be keeping her children away from her as much as she could. That hurt Kimberly but she understood it. She stepped into her tent and stopped.

"What are you doing here?" she said coldly. Kimberly took her helmet off, walked to the bottle on her table and poured herself a cup of Wild Turkey.

"That stuff'll kill you," her visitor said, coming over to her.

"I thought you wanted me to degenerate, Ares." She lifted the liquor and took a long swallow, feeling relief course through her.

The god answered her. "That was years ago after you lost my army, Kimberly. After Jilly was born, all that changed. And you're still my favorite, anyway. I haven't mortgaged myself for the next 100 years for you and Jilly to have you just toss it away."

"What, you feel responsible for me?"

Ares looked in her eyes. "Of course I do. What do you think being my favorite means."

"Gee, I dunno. That I kill people for your entertainment until a new favorite comes along and kills me?"

"No. I never intentionally pit my favorites against each other. And war is not entertainment for me. I AM WAR. Without me the world would be a quivering jellyfish. I give the world its backbone."

"Thanks for the enlightment. What do you want?"

"Go home, Kimberly. This life is over for you. I told you that before. You don't belong here anymore. Look at what you just did. That was me, by the way. I joined your army soon after you took it over. It's been fun but now it's over. You are going to start making bigger and bigger mistakes--just like before."

Suddenly enraged, Kimberly slammed her drink down, drew her sword and slashed at the god. Looking bored, Ares blocked the blow with his hand and held onto the blade. Kimberly released it as a shock coursed through her hand.

"Look at you, Kimberly. Should you be leading men? You tried to attack a god. What kind of judgment is that?" Taking the sword by its grip he shoved it back into her scabbard. Her eyes were mad and she was baring her teeth. He hoped she didn't attack him again. He had to be careful about setting bad precedents himself; and allowing mortals to attack a god without punishment was frowned upon. He disappeared to forestall having to punish her if she did something else stupid.

Kimberly, quivering with anger, stared where the god had been a moment before. She picked her drink back up and drained it, then went to her tent flap and called out, "Joxer! Get me something to eat." She returned to the table, and poured another cup for herself.

Ares had an idea of what might get through to Kimberly but it would mean getting something else from Hades, and just as he had told his favorite, he was in hock for the next hundred years. He thought of Jilly and how much Hades cared for her. The God of the Underworld might do it simply if Jilly asked him.



"Yes, Helms?"

"A mortal is sacrificing to you. You may be interested." The ancient demon looked up at Hades, trying to make his eyes puppylike. He never wanted to displease his master again, not after what happened last time. Hades had told Helms to select a fitting punishment for himself and the demon had been ruthless as befitted failing his wonderful master.

The god looked down at the crablike or was it doglike, snakelike? creature. He liked Helms. The ancient monster had gone overboard with his own punishment but Hades had allowed it--countermanding it would have insulted Helms' judgment. Even Hades shuddered at what the creature had selected as a punishment for himself. "Who is the mortal?"

"Ares' favorite. She is sacrificing a fine bullock to you, gracious lord."

"Jilly!" Hades was surprised. He had tried to kill her mortal shell so that he could have her spirit with him and steal her from Ares. That had been Helms' failure. "Well, let's see what she wants, Helms." The black garbed god and the bald, ancient demon disappeared.

Jilly was torn about this whole thing but she didn't see what else to do. Ares had left it up to her though he could have commanded her, of course. She loved both her parents; and her father was also Callisto, besides. In her previous incarnation she wouldn't have done this since Callisto was her first loyalty. Now in this life Kimberly was her real mother, so she was her first loyalty. If it came to it, she would even kill Langland for her, though neither her mother nor Langland probably knew that.

Langland was waiting by the animal trailer. He and Jilly had constructed a makeshift altar with a large ringed post buried in the ground and surrounding torches. They were outside Chicago. She hoped the Humane Society didn't show up. It was midnight now and the torches were lit. She drew the Corinthian dagger she carried, and limping with her cane, approached the animal, slit its throat and stepped back.

She heard a clicking sound and turned to see Helms near her, his pincers clicking in appreciation of the sacrifice to his master. He smiled up at her ingratiatingly, to show he didn't hold a grudge at the way she had hacked him to pieces before.

She felt a powerful hand on her shoulder and she turned to look in Hades' handsome face. "Great Hades, thank you for honoring this undeserving mortal with your divine presence." She could hear Helms practically sigh in ecstacy but the god looked suspiciously at her.

He walked close to the bullock as the last of its blood ran out. He didn't want to be easy but he couldn't help closing his eyes and inhaling. He could hear Helms excited clicking--he'd have to talk to him about that. He gave away too much of how the god felt.

"Ares is behind this," he said. The clicking stopped.

"Mighty Hades, my master the God of War advised me, but it is my request."

"All right, what do you want, Jilly?" The god was inclined to give her whatever she wanted, within reason. Jilly had lost her childhood because of him. Ares had speeded her growth so she could defend herself against Helms.

"Lord of the Underworld, my mother is lost in the darkness of her mind and her past. In your kingdom is one who may be able to help her."

"I know. We've all been watching Kimberly. Xena and her descendants, including you, are very important to all of Olympus. Your mother has served us well." He paused. "You want the Celt. What about your current father?"

Jilly had no answer to that. Her eyes were red. Hades looked sadly at her. He felt sorry for mortals in general and Jilly in particular. Some of the other gods had no compassion at all. Hades knew first hand what kind of torment they went through.

"Let me think about this, Jilly." The god disappeared, followed a moment later by Helms after he made his version of a courtly bow to the girl.

Back in Tartarus Hades spoke to his servant, "Helms, remember what you did to yourself as a punishment?"

"Yes, master" he said nervously, swishing his scaled tail.

"Well, do that to Jilly's first father, Detrius, but worse."

"YES, MASTER!" the creature said and scuttled off down a smoking hole. Hades sat on his throne, drumming his fingers, considering what to do about Jilly's request.

The armies were arrayed. This time Xena was commanding the combined army of the city-states, with two lieutenants, one from Sparta and one from Athens. She hated this, all the more because she knew she would win. Kimberly had been cutting a swath through central Greece, destroying warlords and towns alike but Xena could see how rapidly she must be deteriorating. Kimberly at her peak had never been content simply to win; she won with a kind of artistry to her tactics that made other generals whistle in appreciation. Just a month ago there was still an echo of that, but not now. She was simply rolling over whoever got in her way with about as much finesse as a minotaur. Instead of the almost musical coordination she used to have between the heavy cavalry under herself and the light cavalry under Jilly back in the Sword of Ares days, she had combined them into a single thundering juggernaut. That was fine as long as you weren't fighting somebody who knew what they were doing.

Kimberly had actually fallen off her horse drunk several times, though she had managed to survive the assassins coming after her, sent--Xena suspected--both by her Athenian lieutenant, and coming from Kimberly's own people. No matter how drunk she was, Kimberly had easily survived and cut her attackers down. Xena considered. What had been so bad about herself as the Bitch of Tartarus was that none of her abilities had deteriorated. Not only had she still been lethal personally like Kimberly was, but the Bitch of Tartarus remained a great general, despite being a drunken homicidal maniac. Putting a stop to her was what brought Kimberly here in the first place.

Jilly had disappeared after speaking to her. Xena prayed that Kimberly hadn't killed her daughter. Without Jilly and her army to back her up, Kimberly was just another warlord no worse than Cortese--her abilities had crumbled to the point that besides Xena there were probably four or five others who could defeat her. Xena glanced down at Gabrielle. She allowed her to stay with her at this stage, though when the battle was actually joined she would send her to safety. If she argued her men already had their orders. Xena couldn't spend time worrying about Gabrielle, not when she was fighting someone like Kimberly.

"You're awfully quiet," the warrior princess said.

Gabrielle looked up at her friend. She'd given up trying to talk her out of this--she just made it harder for her, she knew. "Those stories about her falling off her horse--she doesn't stand a chance does she, Xena?"

"Not unless it's all been an act. But I don't think it is. That's not what Ares looks for in his favorites. I might be worried about that if Langland was advising her. The state Kimberly is in though, if Langland came within a kilometer of her, Jilly or no Jilly, she'd kill him if she could."

A horse came riding up with her lieutenant from Sparta. "The troops are all in position, Commander."

Xena nodded. "Stay here, Gabrielle."

"I'm staying with you, Xena."

The warrior princess looked at someone in back of the bard who felt strong hands grab her and a rope go around her. "Xena!" but her friend wasn't even looking at her as she rode off with Agnan to the head of her troops.


Joxer was polishing Kimberly's helmet for her as the warlord studied the map one more time. She spilled her drink on it twice. He felt responsible for this. If he hadn't left her to settle down with Meg, she wouldn't be this caricature of his friend he saw now. He didn't even know who her second-in-command was. She'd killed at least two. After that first attempt on her life, after killing the archer with a throw of her chakram, she had just looked at Menthes. The man met her gaze, drew his sword and advanced on her.

"I'm really sorry about this, Menthes," she said as she drew her own sword. Joxer had seen her fight enough to know she was taking her time, parrying the man's blows. Then she whirled and the man's head flew off.

"Kimberly?" Joxer had said questioningly. She looked at him.

"I wanted to show him some respect, Joxer. I didn't want to just kill him like a dog." She walked several yards, picked his head up and returned to place it next to the body. Waving some men over she said, "Bury this man. Tigan, you're my new lieutenant." She said quietly to Joxer, "I'd like to burn him on a pyre, but I can't. It would send the wrong message." She took a flask from a pouch she carried and took a swig. She'd killed Tigan about a week later after he tried to poison her.

Now she was getting ready for a major battle. With Xena. Meg and the kids, along with the African twins she had taken on, were in a fortified building she had found. "They'll be okay there, Joxer. No matter who wins they'll be safe. I just want them away from the battlefield. Anything can happen. I want you there, too." He'd looked at her. He wanted to be with his family, but he felt like he had abandoned her once and he wasn't going to do it again. Especially not now.

"I'm staying with you, Kimberly." She'd looked at him and begun crying, holding onto him. She was doing that more and more, smearing her heavy makeup on him. The men around her seemed to change almost daily, as they deserted or she killed them when they tried to murder her.

"Oh God, Joxer, I just want it to be over!"

"I know. It'll be all right. Joxer's here."

She straightened up and said in an artificially controlled voice, "What am I doing? I don't know how many times Callisto told me crying was dangerous and weak, let alone Jilly." She poured another cup of whiskey and downed it. "Come on, Joxer. You can watch from the rear. It's you and me, just like the old days." She stumbled and grabbed his arm as they left her tent. As she approached her horse the two ebony twins ran out to her and hugged her.

"What are you doing here!?" She was horrified.

One spoke haltingly in his bad Greek. "We stay you, Kimly," and the other was nodding.

She knelt down almost falling, hugging them both to her, and began crying even harder now. "You can't stay with me...I'm going to die now. Joxer, get them away from the battle. Have you talked to Meg about them?"

"We're glad to have them." He took the two young boys' arms and dragged them off of her. Kimberly waved a wagon over and told the driver to do what Joxer said.

She mounted her horse unsteadily. "Goodby Joxer." She rode off to her army as Joxer and the soldier were tying the little boys up and putting them in the back of the wagon on some grain sacks.


Something didn't feel right. Xena sat on Argo surveying Kimberly's approaching army. It had lost over a third of its strength in desertions within the last weeks. Xena's army had more than the numbers now to crush them--they didn't even need someone like Xena or Democles anymore, considering Kimberly's condition. She looked around at the crack Athenian and Spartan troops under her command, and behind them regiments from almost every major city. In a way it was her old dream, her in command of a united Grecian army.

Kimberly's infantry and cavalry were in position now. Something was wrong. They were too simply deployed, even for Kimberly now. Kimberly rode her horse in front of her troops and raised her sword, bringing it down and her troops charged. Xena swung her own sword down, looking for a trap, as she led her charging army. The ground was shaking. She and Kimberly were heading directly for each other. Suddenly Kimberly let out a piercing war cry and her army began scattering for the sides, breaking formation, throwing their weapons down so they could flee. Kimberly's charging horse changed direction veering away from Xena.

"No!" Xena yelled, hoping to intercept her. Kimberly tore her famous helmet off and flung it aside. Xena could see now she wasn't wearing any armor and she was riding toward the lancers. "No!" she cried again. A moment later she saw her descendant's body lifted off her horse by the two lances which had struck her simultaneously, forming an X behind her where they crossed after exiting her body. Out of the corners of her eyes, Xena saw a wagon and a horse come onto the battlefield from different directions.

"Get away from her! Get away!" Xena cried, riding up on Argo. The lancers were circling the downed warlord. They wanted to finish her off, but they were disciplined troops and Xena's commands instantly arrested them. Xena leaped off her horse and opened her saddlebag.

"Xena don't! Please!" It was Kimberly's weak voice. The warrior princess stopped, and ran over to the bloody figure on the ground. She could hear the wagon approaching and looked.

"Let them through!" Xena yelled and the wagon rolled up. At the same moment Gabrielle climbed down from in back of the officer and ran over to them.

"What did you do?" Xena said, kneeling next to her. An instant later Joxer and two crying black children were there. Joxer took one hand as Xena held the other. The children held onto her, ignoring all the blood. Gabrielle just stood behind her friend, speechless.

"Xena, where are the men that got me?" Xena looked around and two Athenians dismounted and approached. "You're good men. That wasn't an easy...ahhhh!" her eyes seemed to flutter and blood was coming from the sides of her mouth.

"Thank you, Lady Kimberly," one said, and the other hurridly followed suit. "Thank you."

"Hello Commander." Xena and Joxer whirled at the long shadow suddenly enveloping them.

"Weldon!" Joxer said. The Celt smiled at him with a nod.

"Oh, Jesus! Weldon, is that you?" Kimberly's eyes were open but they seemed blind now.

"Yes, Kimberly."

"Oh Christ, Weldon, I'm sorry!.... I didn't want to leave you at the battle!... You and all my men!... Ares took me... I didn't want to leave you!"

"I know, love. We'll be together now."

Xena sensed something and looked behind her to see the two gods.

"This isn't exactly what I had in mind," Ares said sarcastically.

"No? Well this is what you're getting. You don't like it, take it up with Zeus," Hades answered. "This is better than what you wanted. It's more fitting."

Ares made an angry sound and the gods vanished. Xena looked back at Kimberly and she was dead, her eyes staring. Weldon was gone. Joxer closed Kimberly's eyes and just let his hand rest on her forehead. He let go of her hand and patted the children. They swarmed over him now and he began comforting them. Xena released Kimberly's hand and stood up, feeling like an interloper. The only thing she had ever done for Kimberly was destroy her life; she had nothing to do with living it the way Joxer and children did. She walked off.

"Xena, where are you going?" Gabrielle said, quickly coming up next to her.

Xena's face was even calmer than usual. "I'm looking for Kimberly's helmet. I want Joxer to have it."

Jilly and Cal came home from the restaraunt. She was still using the cane though the doctor said eventually she wouldn't have a limp. Langland had an apartment across town; Jilly about evenly divided where she slept. Now as they came in they both sensed something and began prowling the house; Jilly with the little Beretta her mom had given her and Cal with the big Smith & Wesson.

"In here, Daddy," Jilly called from her mother's study. Cal entered and found his daughter looking at a large manilla envelope. She handed it to him. Written on it was H. Sallwethy. Visiting Prof., Oxford Univ., Seminar. The Cult of the Warlord in Ancient Greece. 10-5-97 He tore the envelope open and found a spool of recording tape. He upended the envelope and a token on a chain fell out and a bracelet of blonde hair. Cal tossed the token to Jilly and took the tape to the living room where he threaded it onto the reel-to-reel and pressed PLAY. After a loud hissing there was the sound of shuffling feet and chairs being moved before the voice started.

"Yes, well, I'm glad you all could make it. Thank you, Mr. Merwin. Ms. Jackson. What? No,'s fine, thank you...We were discussing Xena the other day, and the subject of her rivals came up. You should all realize that at the time there were a great many other warlords. Just as now we only remember, say, Laurel and Hardy or Charlie Chaplin, during the 1920s there were many other silent comedians who were popular. It may seem a strange analogy but it is apropos. When we think of warlords of Greece we instantly think of Xena, but as I said before, Callisto was a rival warlord who was famous in her day as were Draco and Cortese. Another warlord, who not only was famous in her day but who used to receive a great deal of attention in scholarly journals was the Sword of Ares. During the 1950's she eclipsed Xena in the public awareness, and you couldn't open a journal without seeing her. Janice Covington again was instrumental in finds relating to the Sword of Ares, and these great finds do not have the cloud of suspicion hanging over them which the Xena scrolls do."

There was the sound of something falling, and muffled voices. Finally Dr. Sallwethy's voice returned.

"Thank you, Mr. Merwin, you may show the slides. Here we see side by side the two most famous artifacts related to the Sword of Ares, both found by Dr. Covington. Have any of you heard of Kimlee? Yes, Mr. Sims."

An upper class English voice spoke. "Thank you, professor, Kimlee was what the Chinese called the Sword of Ares. Dr. Covington proved her identity with a find in the Gobi desert in the late 1950s. The clay statue in the slide on the left."

"Indeed. What else do you know about the warlord?"

"Well, she was known for her ruthlessness and she was an influence on the Nazis."

The professor spoke. "Yes. That was a common misconception during the 1940s and 1950s. In fact, it was a falsification perpetrated by Heinz Brecker, a doctoral student who manufactured interviews he supposedly conducted with German generals just after the war. The Nazis were completely unaware of the Sword of Ares, as was Attila the Hun. Another story started by Herr Brecker."

"You seem angry, sir."

"Well, I uncovered this scheme. He had parlayed it into a full professorship in Berlin. I was present at the Gobi dig, and Dr. Covington felt strongly that the Sword of Ares was being misrepresented. She requested me to investigate it further, as she was not at ease with the politics involved in academic publications. Dr. Covington was only comfortable out in the field, really. I am happy to say I was able to substantiate her feelings. It was my first published paper, in fact. It led me to switch to History from Archaeology."

Something else fell and there were murmuring voices, followed by a loud crash, before the lecture resumed.

"At any rate the Sword of Ares, also known as Kimlee among many other names, was not the monster purported during the 1950s, although she certainly was a great commander and extremely dangerous. Given the standards of her time, if anything she was merciful. After years of success in Greece she began plundering throughout the Near and Far East. The Sword of Ares and her army were destroyed at a battle in Persia The slide on the right. I'm sure you have all seen this before as PBS trots it out everytime anything Greek is discussed, though you may not have known that was what it represented. Next slide, please. Here are closeups of her left wrist from both the frieze and the clay statue. Dr. Covington claimed this was a bracelet of hair of a friend. She never explained to me how she arrived at that conclusion, though I would agree it looks like hair."

"Did she actually wear a veiled helmet like that," another voice asked.

"Apparently, Mr. Merwin."

"So she died in the battle in Persia?" Sims' voice returned.

"The last stand of the Sword of Ares. Almost certainly. There were several later imposters in Greece, one of whom had considerable success though military analysts consider it unlikely to have been the Sword of Ares. Coincidentally, the pretender was killed by Xena, supposedly meeting as champions in front of their respective armies. Gabrielle of Poteidaia left a poignant description, in fact. Unfortunately only a fragment of it has survived and it raises more questions than it answers. I'll read it for you."

In great victory was great defeat for the Warrior Princess, with tearless weeping for her distant daughter, Xena's savior; Ares' Sword, who sought death as her only battle prize. Great Xena built high a pyre for the fallen foe and thought to throw herself upon it but was prevented by her faithful comrades, warned by the bard, friend to Xena...

"As I said, poignant but puzzling."

The tape ended and Cal stood and turned it off. He returned to sit next to Jilly on the couch, putting his arm around her.

The End