By Joseph Anderson 

Callisto and all characters from Xena: Warrior Princess are owned by Renaissance Pictures. Jilly belongs to the author. No copyright infringement is intended with this fan fiction, which may not be sold and must contain all notices of copyright. 

Read Callisto: Child's Play to know who Jilly is.

Warning: Some violence. 

"Callisto is in town!"

 I looked at Zuccio's fat face and returned to sewing the saddle. "I doubt that. But so what if she is?" 

Zuccio said importantly, "So what? I'll tell you. She's an evil warlord, a heartless killer, a maniac!" 

"Name one person she's killed." 

His face got red. "Everybody knows about her. Athens has a price on her head!" 

"Uh huh. Maybe." I got some oil and began rubbing it into the leather. 

He puffed up. "I'm taking men to capture her. Probably have to kill her. We won't take any chances with scum like that. You can help if you know how to follow orders." 

"I can, huh? What's she ever done to you?" I don't know why Zuccio keeps coming to me. He's an idiot and I treat him like one. It's like he wants to prove me wrong. I said, "If Callisto really is here that's the last thing you should be saying. She might not realize you're a blowhard." 

A few minutes before Zuccio came to run off at the mouth, a little girl had come into my shop. She didn't say anything and I let her be. People talk too much. A red cloak covered every bit of her but her pretty blonde head. She'd been listening to Zuccio. Be hard not to. She walked up now and held up a bridle. 

"Can't you see we're talking, girl?" Zuccio growled at her. 

"What I see is a paying customer and a loudmouth." Zuccio's face got even redder. The girl still hadn't said a word. Her brown eyes flicked to Zuccio and back to me. Then she smiled. Hades couldn't resist that smile. Zuccio left the shop slamming the door after him. She pointed at the bridle. 

"Eight dinars," I said. She made a big show of examining it again and held up three fingers. I repeated, "Eight dinars." She held up four fingers. That was more like it. "Seven." She held up four and a half fingers.  I didn't say anything.  She held up five and slapped her hands with finality. I looked at her. So what if she's a cute little girl who can't talk? "Six." Her eyes got wide and her nostrils flared. I waited. She pouted, tried to look even more pathetic, and then finally counted six dinars into my hand. 

The shop door opened and it was Zuccio again I was sorry to see. He stumbled inside pushed from behind, his face white now instead of red. A beautiful blonde woman wearing black leather and weapons followed him inside. For once Zuccio was right. Amazing. 

Callisto, it couldn't be anyone else, asked, "What are you doing here?" I was confused but the little girl held the bridle up. Zuccio made a scared hiccup. Callisto brought her face close to his. "Don't do that again. It sounds pathetic. Understand?" He nodded. She looked at me. "This eunuch says some villagers planned to kill me. And it was your idea. Well?" 

Before I could say anything the little girl stepped forward and punched Zuccio right in the crotch. He sank down with his hands between his legs. She threw her cloak open revealing black leather and weapons like the woman's. Callisto looked amused. The girl pointed at me and shook her head. Then she pointed at Zuccio and at her own ear and back at Zuccio. 

"Please!" Zuccio whined. 

Callisto smiled sweetly at me. "Sorry." She looked down at Zuccio. "So it was your idea. And when I caught you, you tried to blame your innocent friend here. My, my, my. What a piece of horse dung you are." 

Zuccio pleaded, "I wouldn't really do anything! Ask him!" Callisto crossed her arms and seemed unimpressed. 

"He's a loudmouthed fool. No one would trust him to feed their dog let alone help him attack you." 

The little girl bared her teeth. Callisto glanced at her and smiled back at me.. "Jilly wants me to kill him. She likes you. That's a real compliment." 

"He's a harmless jackass."  I was disgusted with myself for helping him.

"Not so harmless for you if Jilly wasn't here." Callisto squatted down and grabbed Zuccio's hair. Lifting his head up, Callisto flicked his nose so he yelped. "You are sooooo lucky. You know that, Mr. Harmless Jackass?" She flicked his nose again. 

"Yes!" Zuccio cried. 

Callisto released him and stood up. The little girl brought a small slate out from her cloak, wrote on it angrily and held it up, tapping it  for emphasis. Too soft 

The woman pursed her lips and studied the girl's pale taut face.  Callisto's brown eyes were serious for a moment.  Then the moment was gone.  Jilly couldn't be more than eleven years old. I could have spoken up for Zuccio again.  I didn't.   I wanted Jilly to keep liking me. That seemed very important at that moment.  Callisto was amused again 

 "Please. I'm sorry!" Zuccio whined again from the floor. 

Callisto shrugged.  "Do whatever you want, Jilly. Say, now I LIKE that!" She went to a tooled scabbard hanging on my wall as Zuccio let his melon-sized  head sink to the floor in relief. Jilly gave me that dazzling smile again but her eyes looked wrong--empty. She picked the bridle up and walked over to Zuccio. He raised his head. She smiled at him and he smiled nervously back. The little girl held the bridle out. He didn't understand. 

I said, "Put it on, Zuccio." 

"What? I'm not putting it on!"

 I heard Callisto ooing and ahhing over the scabbard, not even paying attention apparently. The girl took something from inside her cloak, a flat engraved metal ring the size of a plate. I could see the razor edge on it. Callisto wore a larger version.

"You better put it on, Zuccio."

 He didn't move for a moment then took the bridle from her small hand and slipped it over his head. He hesitated. The little girl barely touched his throat with the round blade and I saw blood.  Zuccio took the bit in his mouth.  With the round killing thing out of sight under her cloak again, Jilly pointed at the floor. Shaking, Zuccio got on all fours and a grinning Jilly climbed on his back and picked up the reins. It wasn't hot but I was sweating.. Callisto came beside me holding the scabbard. 

"What do you want for this?" 

Jilly yanked back on the reins so the bit cut into Zuccio's mouth. He reared up and made a sound between a whinny and a scream while Jilly croaked a laugh.

"Take it." 

Callisto grinned but the little girl grunted. Callisto glanced at her and Jilly shook her head. The warrior sighed. "How much?" Jilly rode Zuccio around the shop digging her heels into his side. I hadn't noticed her spurs before. 

"Thirty dinars," I said. Jilly made a harrumphing sound. "Twenty-five dinars." 

Callisto looked at Jilly again, shrugged and took a purse from her belt. She only had sixteen dinars. Before I could say that was plenty she said, "Jilly." The child stopped her ride. Callisto walked over to Zuccio who had tears streaming from his eyes and blood from his mouth and sides. Jilly climbed down and held the bridle like he was a horse. Callisto went through Zuccio's pockets and found eight dinars. "Can I borrow a dinar, Jilly?" The girl handed her one and Callisto gave them all to me. She ran her hands over the tooled scabbard. "Draco loves this stuff.  I'll give him your name unless I kill him for some reason." 

"Thank you." What was I supposed to say? 

Jilly took the bridle off of Zuccio. She suddenly slapped him across the face with the reins hard enough to leave a welt. 

"Let's go, Jilly. We have a long ride." 

The girl indicated Zuccio. 

Callisto said, "Oh, I don't think he'll make any trouble. Will you, Mr. Harmless Jackass?"

"No! No!" 

"Now kill him or not but let's go." Callisto sauntered out of my shop. Jilly brought out that ring weapon again. Zuccio covered his face with his hands and wept. I smelled him as he fouled himself. The leather-clad girl studied the shaking, heaving mass.  I couldn't read her expression.  Then Jilly turned to me and shrugged her shoulders comically. She rearranged her cloak to hide her weapons again, patted my hand and left with the bridle. 

As Zuccio blubbered, I dragged him out onto the street and dropped eight dinars in the dirt for him.  Leaving the door open to air my shop out, I finished oiling the saddle.