by Joseph Anderson

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

This story contains references to a romantic relationship between two women. It also contains violence and rough language.

This story follows History Lesson, Final Exam, Graduate School and my stories about "Jilly."


Gabrielle and Xena, both astride Argo, were halfway across the river when the two figures emerged on the opposite bank from the forest. The bard felt the warrior tense then only partially relax as she recognized them. She had about the same reaction. The big woman lifted her helmet off, the dappled light glinting off the gold inlay and shimmering chainmail. Next to her was a slim blonde figure who seemed dwarfed by the huge black stallion she rode. They just waited for them.

As Argo emerged from the river Xena spoke in greeting, "Kimberly. Jilly." Xena felt a little nervous which was unusual for her. She and Kimberly would be almost evenly matched if they ever fought, and she knew she could still beat Jilly, but the two of them together could kill her without question. It was unsettling to know, especially since she knew Jilly identified so strongly with Callisto and Kimberly carried baggage regarding her she didn't quite understand yet. Xena could feel the teenager's eyes boring into her though she had her usual light smile.

"Hello, Xena. Gabrielle," Kimberly said. Jilly nodded to the warrior princess then smiled warmly at the bard. When her eyes returned to Xena they got cold again and her smile faded. Kimberly continued, "We were in a town you passed through. I realized what route you must be taking, so since we were heading the same direction I thought we'd try to catch you. I wanted to talk to you." She spoke to the girl, "Go kill something to eat, Jilly." The girl faded into the forest, backing her horse up, then seemed to disappear.

"Fine," Xena answered.

"Hi, Kimberly," the bard said. Ares' general made her nervous. Even though the last time she had seen her--that time Jilly was screaming at Xena--Kimberly had been gracious and apologized to her for the way she had previously treated her, it wasn't that easy for Gabrielle to let go of. The fact that the warrior looked so much like Xena just made it even more awkward.

"Our camp isn't far from here. Why don't you join us for the night."

"Whatever you want, Kimberly." Xena answered. Gabrielle was mixed. She wanted to see Jilly but Kimberly was something else. The warlord started her mare off upriver and they followed.

When they reached their campsite Jilly was already there skinning a rabbit and a bird was waiting. That was fast, Xena thought. The girl must be some kind of hunter. Gabrielle went over to help the teenager, leaving the two mature warriors alone.

They both removed the saddles off their horses and began brushing them. Xena vaguely wondered if Kimberly's mare had a name. Probably some smart ass thing she wouldn't understand. Might as well ask. "What's her name?"

"Janet Reno."

Xena knew it. She'd been watching Kimberly and now she asked her what she was really interested in. "How far along are you?"

"About eight weeks, I think."


"Yeah. He's really into it. Wants to teach the kid Gaelic; the whole thing. I told him to be careful how he feels. He had eight brothers and sisters and he's the only one who grew up. He doesn't want to hear that."

Xena nodded. Her own family wasn't that different. She and her two brothers had managed to survive childhood but her mother had lost several others. That's just how it was. Gabrielle was the same. She never thought of Kimberly as her family though she knew she should. She was her descendant. It would be easier for her to feel a connecton with the baby. Kimberly was just too lethal and just like her. She was more like a rival. Xena had some vague idea of what Kimberly had gone through too, and she knew the woman had deep reservoirs of hatred for both her and Gabrielle that she somehow seemed to have let go of. That impressed her but she knew from experience that kind of thing could be rekindled.

The bard sat down next to Jilly and picked up the bird . The girl looked at her and gave her one of her dazzling smiles. Everytime Gabrielle saw her she looked more like Callisto; it was amazing they weren't really related. "I never had the chance to thank you for helping me out when I was waiting for Xena," the bard said.

"Oh, that was my pleasure. I had a great time. I loved that story you told me. I've heard a couple of other bards and they don't compare to you at all."

"Thank you, Jilly." Her pleasure, the bard thought. It was one of the most frightening experiences of her life, and she had nightmares about what Jilly had told her about her childhood and what the girl had done to protect her. Jilly had been 15 years old. She wasn't sure how many soldiers the girl had killed for her. It was hard to tell from the pieces Jilly had arranged around the tavern they were in as a kind of recently living fence. Even Xena thought that was really something.

As they talked they were both expertly preparing the game, and soon it was on makeshift wooden spits. The girl reached into her bag and brought out a pouch like Xena used for her medicines. Jilly extracted spices though and sprinkled them over the cooking game. She took a tiny bottle of something and poured a little over the rabbit and bird. "I asked Joxer to help me learn to cook. I've gotten really used to good food from being around him. Kimberly says I'm wasting time I should be spending on strategy and tactics, but I don't care."

Gabrielle inhaled and it smelled so good she was glad she was already sitting down. Maybe she should take a few cooking lessons from Joxer too.

The two warriors came over to them, both carrying their saddles which they set down and Kimberly put her veiled helmet on the saddle horn. All three of her companions thought she looked naked without it.

"Did you hear about Joxer?" Kimberly asked Xena. She shook her head. "He's leaving me and settling down with Meg."

"That's wonderful," Xena and Gabrielle both said.

Kimberly looked worried. "Yeah, I know. I wish I wasn't so selfish. He's good for me to have around though. He helps me not do things I'll regret later." She glanced at Gabrielle and at Xena. The warrior princess nodded. Jilly looked bored. She had heard this over and over. It was ridiculous as far as she was concerned.

"Anyway," the warlord continued, "the reason I wanted to catch up to you is that I'm going to be taking the army out of Greece, and I wanted to tell Gabrielle here the whole story of what happened. Who knows if I'll ever be back? I want Callisto's other side to be remembered. She wasn't just who you knew. Jilly and I knew a completely different woman."

Gabrielle glanced at the teenage girl and saw her face was red and she was looking away.

Kimberly looked at Xena. "This might be hard for you to listen to and there's no reason really. We're going the same direction. Why don't you ride ahead. Gabrielle will be safe with me and Jilly. The story will take a few days. You can always get it later from Gabrielle if you want."

Gabrielle was astounded by Xena's answer. "Thank you. I will. I'll leave as soon as we eat and Argo is rested. I'll meet up with you in four days at Lensia, Gabrielle."

Xena felt like a coward but she was stretched as tight by guilt now as she could stand. Someday she would get the story from her friend, but not now. Gabrielle looked disappointed in her. If the story was anything like she thought it might be, she wondered how Gabrielle would look at her the next time they met.


Janice Covington did a doubletake at the woman on the other side of the dusty street. She wasn't due for another week. "Mel?" she said, unsure of herself but not wanting to risk missing her if it was her friend. The tall dark haired woman stopped and looked at her. She was dressed in khakis much like her own, but without the bomber jacket. The small blonde, who seemed much bigger than she was, approached her. "Mel?"

The woman shook her head and said, "No. You have me mistaken for someone else." Janice stared at her. Her voice was exactly like her friend's too, but without the deep southern accent. The short blond took off her sweat-stained old wide-brimmed hat.

"You look just like a friend of mine."

The tall woman didn't say anything for a moment but looked at the archaeologist intently. Janice thought she could practically see wheels turning in her head.

"You're Dr. Janice Covington and you thought I was Melinda Papas," she stated flatly. There was something strange in her voice and face now, but Janice had no idea what it was.

"Yeah, I'm Covington. Who are you? Why do you know about us...uh, I mean how did you know who I was and that you look like Melinda Papas?"

The tall woman was a little older than Mel, Janice could see now, but more than that there was a hardness to her that Mel could never have in a million years. She was taken by surprise by what the woman said next.

"What year is it?" she said quietly. "Just humor me," she said in response to the look on the short blonde's face.


"Ares!" The woman said quietly but intensely.

Janice stared at her. What was going on here? She didn't believe herself anymore what had happened to her and Mel years before in the cave with the Xena scrolls. They never talked about it now and she felt like it was a dream or hallucination. But who was this?

"Let's talk in private," the tall woman said. She tried taking Janice's arm in a commanding way but the little woman shook her off angrily.

"Keep your mitts to yourself, sister, if you want to keep using them! We can talk in my room." The woman looked amused and exaggeratedly removed her hand.

"Where can I get a bottle around here first?" the woman said. Janice Covington was taking an instant dislike to this person; she didn't like the way she seemed to think she could just order her around. She led her to a little shop and had to translate for her. Janice haggled the price down though she got the sense the woman didn't really care what she paid. She had a wad of cash that would choke a horse. They got a bottle of fake Irish whiskey and the tall woman opened it up and just took a swig as they walked along.

"Hey, stop that!" Janice said, grabbing the bottle and covering it up. "This is Islam in case you didn't know that. Show some respect for local customs! It's bad enough we don't have veils on from their point of view. I don't want you screwing up my standing here."

She got the strangest sensation the tall woman just exerted some huge effort at self control, though all she said was "you're right, of course. I haven't had to follow anybody's rules for a while."

Somewhat mollified, Covington led the taller woman--who sure looked like Mel--to the little shack she was staying in.

"Is someone supposed to be inside?" the tall woman said.


"Well, there is." Janice looked at her, then looking around, drew her pistol from its military holster and approached the door. She saw the latch was off. She pushed the door in and saw a flash of a blade swing down where she would've been if she had simply entered. Janice leaped in and saw the Arab scrambling out the window. She managed to catch his legs and drag him back in. Before she could do anything else she saw a pair of hands come from behind her and grab the man's shoulders and yank him up like a doll. Janice let go and rolled over in time to see the tall woman had the man's long knife held in her teeth. She was smiling though. She had his arms behind his back and was slowly and inexorably forcing them up until Janice heard the two grinding pops and the man screamed as his shoulders dislocated. She dropped him to the floor where he moaned.

"Christ, you didn't have to hurt him like that!" The woman took the knife from her teeth, glancing at Janice. After setting the blade down, she grabbed one and then the other of the man's arms, pulling them till they popped back into their sockets.

"Do you have anything to tie him up?"

Covington took the bullwhip from her belt and hogtied the man. She noticed the woman had retrieved her bottle from where it had dropped and was taking a long swig. Wonder what she would do to the poor guy if her booze had broke? Janice thought. Now Janice took a look at the bag he had been carrying. Yep. Her manuscript and photographs. She put them on the battered old table. She would have to find a better hiding place.

"Is that Journey to Amphipolis?" the woman asked. Janice's head whirled and she stared the woman.


"Must be The Reckoning of Ares then. Figures. I'd like to look at the pictures if that's all right."

Janice drew her gun again and pointed it at her. "Who are you? How do you know about manuscripts that have never been seen by anyone but me and Melinda Papas!? Answer me."

The woman answered, "To your first question, I'm Kimberly. That probably doesn't mean anything to you though. To your second question, I read them in college. I don't feel like going into a big explanation of THAT now. Put the gun away. If you were worried about me hurting someone who tried to kill you, you sure aren't going to shoot me." She took another long swig from the bottle. "Why don't you question that guy about who sent him?"

Janice holstered her gun. She really didn't like this bitch. "I know who sent him." She went and knelt down next to the bearded man and spoke animatedly to him in Arabic. Kimberly heard the name Jameson a few times. When she seemed satisfied she untied him. "He's really in the wrong line of work. He was just supposed to steal the manuscript. He just panicked when we showed up."

"What are you doing?" Kimberly said.

"Letting him go. He's just trying to feed his family. I don't want to turn him over to the English or French. Colonialism is an abomination! What else is he supposed to do? Digging ditches is all an Arab can do in their own land."

"It's going to take me a while to get back into the Judeo-Christian swing of things, I guess," the dark woman said ironically, taking another drink. Janice saw that she was finally starting to show the effects of the alcohol. The archaeologist saw the relief in the tall dark woman's eyes as her senses dulled.

"Can I look at the pictures with the manuscript? I promise I'll be careful with them." She was taking them out as she said this, not even looking at Covington. The little archaeologist REALLY didn't like her. Covington saw that the woman was looking for something because she stopped when she found it. She sat staring at a picture as the bottle kept making its way to her lips.

In Arabic Janice told the would-be thief where she would leave his knife. He kissed her hands before he left. She walked over to the table where the tall, slightly drunk woman was staring at a picture of a frieze from a site in Persia. It was of a battle. Janice looked. It was fascinating though still mysterious. She was hoping Mel would be able to help her decipher it. In the center of the battle was a figure on a horse: it looked like a woman wearing a helmet with a veil. She was surrounded by a destroyed army. In the foreground was the body of a figure which looked like a Celt, which was simply bizarre. The woman ran her finger over the prone figure. Janice noticed for the first time the bracelet of blonde hair she wore.

"We don't know much about it yet. Pieces of broken weapons had been found and we started digging and we unearthed this little Greek structure with this frieze on it. There were weapons and skeletons all around it. Amazing." Janice said.

"What do you want to know about it?" Kimberly said quietly.

Janice stared at her. "Well, who it is. What a Greek force was doing there. What a Celt was doing there. Who they were fighting."

The dark woman who looked so much like Mel, but couldn't be more different, took another swig of whiskey. Covington looked at the bottle. She would be on the floor if she had drunk so much so fast. Kimberly said,

"The warrior in the veil is a warlord who was known in some circles as the Sword of Ares. She was active in Greece itself for several years then brought her army east looking for loot. She considered Greece the center of the world but to her all the other ancient civilizations were just barbarians, so things she would never do in Greece she did without a thought once she came east. Her advisor who would have argued with her about that hadn't come with her out of Greece. She cut a path of destruction all the way into India then turned north to Afghanistan and southern Russia. When she got her second wind she invaded China. She was returning to Greece when her hubris finally brought her down. She had never lost a battle and she felt invincible. The enemies she had made when she passed through had put aside their ancient rivalries and were waiting for her when she returned. They had found a great general, a man with a natural talent. The Sword of Ares felt like no one could possibly face her army since her strategy and tactics were so advanced. One of her lieutenants warned her what was going to happen but she refused to listen because the lieutenant was so young. This is her here." Kimberly pointed to a slight figure on horseback to the left of the central veiled figure. "Oh, and the Celt was her other lieutenant. He agreed about the danger but he obeyed the Sword of Ares like he always did and died defending her."

Janice Covington wanted to think this woman was a lunatic. Unfortunately everything she said threw a spotlight on various things she had been seeing oblique references to for years. The only remaining leaf from a Persian chronicle discussed the arrogance of the Sword of Ares and how he ignored the advice of a young captain named Xilli. No one but academics of the most rarefied kind even knew of the fragment's existence. There were a hundred other things like that which related to her story about hubris and death. The woman took a long drink and continued.

"She was lured into a trap exactly like she had done herself a hundred times. It was inconceivable to the Sword of Ares that anyone would try something so obvious on HER. A force five times the size of hers, and made up of men who had every reason to hate her, caught her. It was augmented by other armies which had been waiting to see which way the battle seemed to be going--if the Sword of Ares had been winning they would have entered on her side. She wasn't winning though. No matter how many men fighting for their homes she personally killed--at least a hundred--that wouldn't win the battle. She had been out-generaled by this man who certainly had never read Clausewitz or Caesar's Wars In Gaul. He was fighting for his people of course so that is a great incentive. The Sword of Ares and her army were nothing but murderous bandits".

Covington spoke up. "Clausewitz? Caesar? The Sword of Ares couldn't know them either.

Kimberly glanced at her. "Of course not. I was just getting poetic, I guess."

"When the Sword of Ares saw the Celt die she begged her other lieutenant, the young one, to kill her. She refused though. The Sword of Ares did get her lieutenant to escape, however. She did it by holding a knife to her own throat and telling her she would kill herself right there if she didn't flee. Once she left the Sword of Ares had every intention of killing herself anyway. All around her were the bodies of men she had led to their deaths, let alone the Celt, who was the father of her baby. She was prevented from killing herself or dying as a warrior by outside forces."

The tall woman stopped talking. Janice said, "How do you know this?"

"I'm very intuitive."

"Who put this monument up?" Janice asked.

"The young lieutenant. She had it made in Greece and then brought it to the site of the battle."


"Yeah, something like that."

"What happened to the Sword of Ares if she didn't die in the battle?"

Kimberly set the picture down and said "She was saved from death as a punishment by Ares for leading his army to destruction. She could have killed herself later but it had been a momentary battle thing--suicide just wasn't her style. Fast suicide, anyway. She lived anonymously for several months then she asked Ares to send her home. He said he would think about it. That's the end of the story."

"What about her baby?" Covington asked.

The woman waited a long time before answering, then said, "He died when he was six months old. Infant mortality was high. There was nothing strange about it."

The woman stood. "I have to find a place to sleep. Is there an inn...I mean hotel?"

Janice answered, "No, there's nothing like that here. You'll need to find a place like this if you plan on staying, but it's too late for that tonight. Just stay here. You shouldn't be wandering around after drinking so much anyway. I've got a bedroll you can use."

"Thanks for the concern."

"Like I said before, sister, I don't want people judging me by you."


The little boy and girl raced into the house. "Daddy, Daddy, Daddy, Daddy!! There's a horse coming! It looks like that lady!"

Their father smiled at them and stood up as the two children plowed into him, nearly knocking him over. "Which lady? I know a lot of ladies."

"The one with a sword."

"I know a lot of ladies with swords." The kids were stumped now.

"The lady with yellow hair," the little boy suddenly said, and looked triumphantly at his sister. He picked them both up and limped outside. Meg came walking up and Joxer handed her Kimberly. The black stallion came to a stop and the slight blonde figure smoothly dismounted.

"How's my army doing?" she said with a smile and the two children scrambled out of their parents arms and slammed into her. She allowed herself to be bowled over. "Mercy! Mercy! Don't kill me or kill me fast if you do!"

Meg and Joxer looked at each other. They didn't really care for Jilly's kind of joking with the kids, but Kimberly and Xeno loved her so they accepted it. They walked over and pulled the five-year-old twins off of the 20-year-old.

"Come on, you army you," Meg said leading the children back into the house. She wanted to give Joxer and Jilly some time to talk. He helped her up and they hugged each other warmly.

"Don't waste your breath if you want me to come away with you, Jilly. I already told you. I'm staying with my family."

The beautiful girl dressed in black leather and strategically placed armor said, "Won't you even think about it? I need to start rebuilding Ares' army. I don't want to happen to me what happened to Kimberly. If she still had you with her, she never would have gone off the deep end like that."

"You can't lay that on me!" Joxer said, his face suddenly stricken looking. "My family had to come first and it still does. She knew that."

"I'm sorry, Joxer. I shouldn't have said that."

"Besides, Jilly, you don't listen to me like Kimberly did, anyway. If you want a conscience riding with you, you're going to have to find your own."

"Okay," the girl said, her shoulders slumping in disappointment.

"Come on," Joxer said, putting his arm around the girl, "I've got something really special cooking. I'm working on it for a banquet in Thebes. You came by at the right time." They walked to his small house, the master chef and the lethal young warrior.


The ladylike figure seemed out of place in the back of the broken down truck bouncing over the terrible road. She was crammed in with Arab workers. This was the only transportation she could find out to the little village Janice was staying in. Melinda Papas was acutely aware of the way some of the men were looking at her, and she had the distinct impression she was being rubbed against in ways that were not exactly proper. She had loudly said, "Excuse me!" several times, but they just didn't get the message. She finally elbowed a man in the stomach and he looked angry, but the others laughed and pulled him away from her. The ride had taken six hours. Probably the worst was when they stopped so everyone could relieve themselves. There was nowhere to go out of the way. She just went off by herself and tried not to think about all the men who could see her. She hadn't been prepared for this in Miss Parridge's Finishing School in Baton Rouge.

The truck finally jounced to a stop, everyone being jammed together one last time. The smell of the men almost overwhelmed her. Then they climbed down out of the truck. Mel looked around and instantly saw her friend. And someone was with her. Most, most peculiar. She looks just like me! Melinda thought.

Janice Covington was smiling, she hoped not too much. You could get in real trouble for certain things in some countries. She glanced to her side and saw Kimberly was taking a swig from the flask she had started carrying as a concession to propriety. I can't believe I'm the voice of respectability here, Janice thought. Kimberly just didn't give a damn about anything or anybody. People were giving the big woman a wide berth now. Janice had heard some stories about brawls she had gotten into with some local men.

Melinda walked up. She and Janice didn't hug. You had to be careful in places like this. "My, my, Dr. Covington. It is SO GOOD to see you again. And who might this INTERESTING LOOKING person be?"

Janice's heart was beating fast. She managed to control it and said, "Mel, this is Kimberly Fredericks. She says she's a relative of yours."

The two women looked each other in the eyes which were exactly level with each other and the same exact shade of blue. Melinda smiled graciously and Kimberly seemed amused. "I am afraid I don't know you, Miss Fredericks. How are we related?"

"I'm your granddaughter," she said, then laughed and walked away, taking another long swig from her flask.

It was evening and Mel and Janice approached the shack Kimberly had obtained the day after she had arrived in the small village. Janice knocked on the door. "Kimberly? Kimberly?" After a moment of silence the door opened.

"Come on in," she said, and turned and walked back to her bedroll. Melinda saw four empty bottles and one that was a third empty. Kimberly sat back down heavily on her bedding. In front of her on the dirt floor was an ornate Celtic knot she had been drawing with a stick.

"Why did you make that RIDICULOUS statement that I was your grandmother?" Mel said sharply. As much as she revered manners and propriety, sometimes you simply MUST take the bull by the horns. A real lady could do nothing less.

"Want a drink?" Kimberly said. Mel shook her head but Janice nodded and picked up her glass from where she had set it down a couple of days before. She blew dust out of it and held it for the big woman to poor whiskey into. "Because you are my grandmother. You had that escapade with Ares and the Xena scrolls, so it shouldn't be that hard for you to accept."

Melinda tried to keep from wrinkling her nose at the smell of her "granddaughter." She was worse than the workers in the truck.

Janice said, "Okay, Mel is here, so NOW will you tell us what is going on. Who you really are and why you're here?"

"I already told you who I am. And I don't know why I'm here except as more punishment. If you want to ask me anything, go right ahead. That is if you can keep your mind off getting in my grandmother's pants that long."

Janice drew her hand back and stepped forward, intending to slap her. Suddenly though Kimberly was standing and Janice couldn't breathe. She was being held off the ground by the woman whose hand was around her throat. She sensed movement and suddenly Mel was beside her with a hand at her throat too. The crazy bitch was smiling. Then a look of horror came over her face and she released them. Janice hit her as hard as she could. The woman made no move to avoid the blow and staggered back. She sat back down on her bedroll and picked her bottle back up. "Like I said, just ask me whatever you want. It doesn't matter. Maybe I can clear up some historical inaccuracies for you." She was dabbing at her mouth and looking at the blood on her hand. "There was a time that would rate an ode at least," she said ironically.

Janice was hovering over Mel. She was shaken but seemed all right. Janice opened her bag and took out the packet of photos. She found the picture of the frieze from the site in Persia again. She handed it to Mel, whose face was red from what Kimberly had said. Janice REALLY didn't like her. She told Mel everything Kimberly had said previously about the picture. The researcher in Melinda Papas overtook the outraged southern belle and she was fascinated. Kimberly had gone back to working on her Celtic knot on the floor and didn't seem to be paying attention to anything but that and her bottle.

Melinda listened closely. "That is ONE FASCINATING STORY. My, my! The Sword of Ares, the Sword of Ares. Oh, I know. The Sword of Ares was just in the news. Well, if you call academic journals, the "news." Kimberly stopped working on her design on the floor and looked up. "They were talking to some German generals and they said the Sword of Ares was an inspiration to them. That Himmler and Goering admired the Sword of Ares."

"Why is that?" Kimberly said in a hollow voice. Jan and Mel looked at her in surprise. The look in her eyes was something for nightmares.

"Well, they said the fact that she changed her tactics and became more ruthless when she headed east demonstrated that the inferiority of non-Aryans had always been clear, that they didn't deserve to be treated like humans. Oh, and Goering said that the Sword of Ares' tactics, especially the coordination of light cavalry and heavy cavalry, was an inspiration for blitzkrieg."

"Jesus!" Kimberly said. She fell back on her bedroll and put an arm over her face.


Kimberly sat on the river's edge listening to the crickets and frogs and looking at the swirling water in the moonlight. She heard the light steps and looked over as Callisto sat down beside her, kicking her feet in the water. The moonlight fell on both of them, the scars on their beautiful nude bodies barely discernible.

"Where's Joxer?" Kimberly said.

"Dead for 3000 years, just like me," Callisto said with a soft laugh.


The little house was drenched in rain and mud surrounded it. Lightning occasionally lit the sky. Inside Joxer finished refilling everyone's cup with wine. He felt so bad he could hardly move. Looking around the table he could see he wasn't the only one. Xena was staring moodily into her drink and Gabrielle's face was red. He had sent the kids to bed but they had picked up on the mood of everyone and were crying, he knew. He didn't want to look at Jilly. She'd removed her sopping cloak and sat there in her ragged leathers; she was practically naked actually--they had been so cut to shreds at Kimberly's last stand. She hadn't bothered getting them repaired though it had taken her months to get here. Joxer thought she probably liked the opportunities it gave her to maim or kill anyone who tried something with her. Meg went over to Jilly and put her hands on her shoulders. It was right that Xena and Gabrielle happened to be here when she knocked on his door. He opened it and there she was, dripping wet, her blonde hair plastered down and her eyes looking dead.

"Joxer," Xena said, "it's not your fault. Kimberly made her own choices."

"She changed my life, Xena!" he said, his voice breaking. "No one ever treated me like she did. I should have gone with her!"

"She rescued you from us, you mean," Gabrielle said quietly, staring at the table.

"Joxer, one of the last things she told me was to tell you not to feel responsible. So don't, okay." Jilly said despondently. She stood, "Xena," she indicated with a jerk of her head she wanted to talk to her alone. The warrior princess and Jilly walked into the kitchen.

Gabrielle jumped when she heard Xena's explosive, "Ares!" followed by Jilly's murmuring voice. When they came back Xena was practically quivering with rage but Jilly looked the same, just hopeless.


"You really make me sick, you know that?" Janice Covington said . The recipient of this comment was looking at the blurry face through half opened lids. The angry little face was sideways. Wait a minute; maybe SHE was sideways. Kimberly managed to bring herself upright. UH OH!! The little blonde smoothly brought up a bucket and held Kimberly's head as she puked one more time. The archaeologist wiped her mouth.

"I need a drink."

"No you don't."

"Listen lesbo! I'm not your punk! Now get me something to drink!" Kimberly barely felt the slap as she drifted off again.


Janice Covington was sitting at her table writing. She was sending out telegrams to colleagues looking for everything anyone knew about the Sword of Ares. Especially sites. She looked up as Mel stuck her head in the door and said, "I'm going to Kimberly's." She was dressed in khakis now. They looked strange though, like she had had them custom made in some upscale dress shop in Manhattan. Janice saw she was carrying towels and a bucket.

"Why? Be careful of her, Mel. DTs are probably going to start pretty soon. That broad is bad news."

"Oh, you are just TOO judgmental, Janice! I'm going to give her a bath, if you must know. I feel responsible for her. Even if she's not my 'granddaughter' she may be related to me in some way, and I cannot BEAR the way she smells. I simply CANNOT!" Melinda continued on down the dusty street till she reached Kimberly's shack. Mel could smell her from outside. She pushed the door open and stepped in. From the looks of her Kimberly had vomited a few more times after Janice had left. She was shaking, lying on the filthy bedroll. Melinda sat the bucket and towels down and rolled her sleeves up. Sometimes a lady just HAD to take control of a situation!


Callisto splashed some water on Kimberly. "Feeling guilty, huh?"

"How did you do it, Callisto? After you changed how could you live with what you had done?"

"There was a job to do so I did it. That's all. I tried not to think about it. Brooding is what got me in trouble in the first place. You and Xena both think too much, in my opinion. Here," the blonde scooped up some water in both hands and held it over Kimberly's head, then opened her hands and let it splash down on the dark hair. "Now you're not guilty anymore. I just washed it away."

"Jesus, Callisto, I wish it was that simple."


The men were waiting for her. Almost every other one planned on taking the army over after Jilly had built it. They would let her do the work though. The black stallion came into camp and the slight blonde looked at them a moment before dismounting.

Jilly already knew which men she would have to kill sooner or later. It was too bad; they would be the best fighters. No way around that though. It would be a while before it came to that. She might be able to finesse it so they died in battle; Kimberly used to do that. Just killing subordinates was bad for morale if you did it too much. At first she had planned on just taking over an existing army, but Ares had told her not to do that--that HE didn't want a used army. He provided her with a chest of treasure but said it was up to her to put the army together.

There was no question of Jilly not serving him. After her escape from the battlefield, when she learned Ares hadn't allowed Kimberly to die with her army she was angry. She still owed him everything, though. She wasn't quite as wide eyed with him as she had been. She still loved him but it was more complicated now. Ares had always been great to her from that first time when he had given her back the tongue her father cut out. Jilly was always careful to make sacrifices to him and visit his temples whenever she was near one. She had killed a couple of men just for making jokes about Ares. Probably she overreacted there. Kimberly told her cutting off somebody's finger was plenty for a bigmouth.

Ares had wanted to take her away from Kimberly's last battle but she said no. She could still hear him:

"You know as well as I do what's going to happen."

"Kimberly didn't abandon Callisto and I'm not abandoning her. Kimberly is a fantastic general; maybe she can pull it off."

"Not a chance. I've seen this happen a thousand times. The better they are the more likely they are to be brought down by hubris. If Xena had stayed in my service this same thing would have happened to her. Even though you're warned, you'll probably end like this too."

"Well, I'm not leaving her. And I don't want you protecting me in the battle, either. If I die with Kimberly that's fine with me."

"It's NOT fine with me," Ares said and disappeared. He left her alone, though. Sometimes she wondered if he helped her escape. If he did he was pretty sly about it.


Janice looked around the shack. It was spotless now. She was surprised Mel hadn't found flowers and lace curtains somewhere. Kimberly was huddled in a corner, shaking. She was clean now and wearing Mel's nightgown--the regular one, not the "special" one. Covington had to admit she was definitely easier to be around. She just smelled of alcohol now. She hadn't had a drink in days but she was sweating it out. She had lost weight too. God, Mel had actually curled Kimberly's hair! Mel wouldn't let Janice drink either. What had SHE done? she wanted to know. But Mel said it was up to the two of them to set a good example for poor Kimberly. "Poor Kimberly," that's what she always called her. Janice considered taking her friend to see the men "poor Kimberly" had put in the clinic since she had blown into town but decided not to.

Janice was holding a telegram she had received. It informed her that a site relating to the Sword of Ares wasn't that far from where she was now. "Hey you." The dark haired woman raised her head and looked at her. "Since you know so much about the Sword of Ares, can you tell me what would be at a site a day away from here?"

"Where is 'here'? Show me on a map."

"Don't you know where you are? Did you just drop out of the sky or something?"

"Yeah, as a matter of fact."

Janice made a disgusted sound and left to return a moment later with a map. She squatted down next to the woman. "Here is where we are now, and here is the site."

Kimberly was looking at the map. She stood up smoothly though Janice could see she was still tremulous.

"It was the base camp for a campaign. The Sword of Ares stayed there several weeks while she gathered supplies, had war engines built, sent out scouts, stuff like that." She handed the map back to Covington. She suddenly got an amazed look on her face and began looking around her shack and down at what she was wearing.

"Just registered on you, huh? Your 'grandmother' did it. Waste of time, if you ask me. Here, take a look at this." Janice pulled a small mirror from a pocket. She carried it in case she had to signal and didn't have a radio. She held it up in front of Kimberly's face.

"Jesus Christ! I've got makeup on! What did she do to my hair?"

"Knowing Mel, it's probably the latest thing. Looks good, actually."

"Don't you like it?" They turned and saw Mel standing in the doorway.

"Um, it just caught me by surprise. It's fine. Thank you."

Janice stared at Kimberly amazed. What had come over her? She was actually civil there and seemed concerned about another human being's feelings. Melinda looked at Janice with an I-told-you-so look. Poor Kimberly just needed a chance. The whole thing was probably the little archaeologist's fault, in fact.

"Why, dear Kimberly, I am THRILLED that you like it. Here are your clothes." She handed the khakis to Kimberly. They looked pressed. How had she done that? Janice wondered. The big woman just stripped off the nightgown right there and began pulling the pants on. Janice looked at Mel. She looked absolutely stunned.

"Were you in a train wreck or something?" the archaeologist asked as Kimberly was unbuttoning the folded shirt so she could put it on. Kimberly glanced at her, then down at her torso.

"More like about a hundred train wrecks." She looked at Mel and saw how red her face was. "Sorry. Nudity is no big deal where I've spent the last several years."

"Wh..where is that?" Mel asked politely though she stumbled on the words.


Janice walked over to Mel and took her outside while the woman finished dressing. "Why didn't you tell me about all those scars?"

"Why, Janice, that is her personal business. Poor Kimberly, the dear must be traumatized from all those train crashes."

Sometimes Janice thought Mel must be putting on an act. No one could be that naive. "She wasn't in any train wrecks, Mel. We were joking. Those are knife scars and god knows what else. I'm amazed I didn't see any bullet holes."

"Oh DEAR!"

"Yeah, poor Kimberly has really been around."

The woman came walking out. She definitely looked shaky. Janice knew she must have the constitution of a draft horse to be up so fast after what she had looked like. The alcohol smell preceded her.

"Would you like to visit that site?" Kimberly said to Janice.

The little blonde took out a cigar and bit the end off. "Sure. Right now?"

"Why not?"

"Come on, Mel. We're going on a little expedition," Janice said to her friend.

"I'll pack a basket," Mel said cheerfully.

As they were getting in the archaelogist's jeep Janice asked, "Why the new attitude?"

"I remembered something a friend once told me."

"What was that?"

"Don't think so much."

Janice cringed at what the big woman must be feeling like as the jeep bounced along over the rough roads and when they went off road. Well, she just hoped she didn't throw up in her jeep. Glancing over at her, she saw she was deathly pale and sweating. She would stop if she asked her too, but the woman just stared at the bleak landscape as they drove along. When they finally stopped to eat, Kimberly walked off by herself unsteadily behind some rocks. She returned wiping her mouth with a handkerchief.

"Would you like some sardines, dear?" Mel asked. Kimberly looked at her and turned around and walked back behind the rocks again.

There was still some light left when they reached the abandoned site. The team had run out of funding and it didn't seem promising for anything important anyway, so they left it. Janice Covington grabbed a pick and handed a shovel to Mel. Kimberly looked like she had enough to do just staying upright. She had begun shaking earlier. Please, Janice thought, now is NOT the time. Kimberly began walking around. It was strange, she seemed so at home in some way. "What did they find here?" she asked.

"Coins, broken pottery, fire pits. The coins had the Sword of Ares on them. We have found those a few other places too, even in India."

Kimberly nodded, walking around. "Minting coins with her own image on them. She really had quite a view of herself. Al Capone had about as much right." She pointed. "Start digging there. There should be some weapons there. They belonged to traitors so the Sword of Ares didn't want to use them anymore."

Janice stared at her. "How can you possibly know that?"

"It'll probably come to you pretty soon. You're not as intuitive as Gabrielle but you're smart in a linear way."

Covington dropped the pick. "All right, tell me what the hell is going on here! Why did you mention Gabrielle to me? How do you know these things, goddamn it?!" Mel just stood there, wringing her hands.

"You have to be Gabrielle's descendant. You look just like her. It'll come to you why I know this stuff. You better start digging while you have light."

Janice was angry. Kimberly's attitude seemed to be coming back. Frustrated she grabbed the pick and began breaking ground. They got lamps from the jeep when it got dark. After hours they reached the weapons cache. She and Mel were standing in the hole and Kimberly sat on the edge of it, watching them.

"You can just hand them up to me. You don't need to worry about wrecking anything priceless. Oh, I forgot to tell you, there are some traitors down there too underneath the weapons. So don't dig down any further if you don't want to deal with that." Janice glared at her, then she and Mel began handing the ancient weapons up. They seemed in pretty good shape. The ground was so dry they hadn't rusted much. There were five swords with decomposed sheaths, 12 knives of different designs, 10 spearheads though the shafts had decomposed, three shields and five helmets also of various designs.

Jan and Mel clambered out of the hole, Kimberly giving them a hand. Janice had to admit this was a good finding, irritating as Kimberly was. Not spectacular but pretty damn good for a day's work. She saw that Kimberly was picking up the swords, comparing them. She finally selected one and Janice said, "Christ!" and Mel exclaimed, "Oh my!" as Kimberly threw the blade high up in the dark sky. She caught it when it came down. Janice had tried to cover Mel with her body. "Goddamit! What do you think you're doing." She felt like hitting her but thought that maybe when she had a sword wasn't the best time for that.

Kimberly looked over at Gabrielle's descendant and her own grandmother. She smiled at them. She felt whole again. She sent the blade flying up in the dark sky one more time. She closed her eyes--Covington exploded in curses--and caught it as it came back down. She wished she had someone to fight here; someone who stood a chance against her. She could kill the little archaeologist in her sleep. She didn't want to hurt anybody anyway; she just needed some action.

"I'm sorry. It just feels so good. Even with a third rate piece of crap like this. It has better balance than it has any right to have." She sent it flying up once more. This time Covington's bullwhip snaked out and caught it, pulling it toward the little blonde who jumped out of the way as the sword buried in the ground. Mel gave an alarmed cry. Kimberly looked at the archaeologist and smiled, raising her eyebrows in appreciation. "Figured out who I am yet, sweet cheeks?" She walked over to her and grabbed the sword out of the ground. She suddenly whirled and threw it at a dead tree, where it buried itself all the way to its hilt.

"Janice, I do believe our friend Kimberly is the Sword of Ares," Mel said.

Covington just took a cigar out, biting off the end and looking at Kimberly with dislike.

They made camp at the old dig site, laying their bedrolls out. Kimberly seemed transformed as she played with the old sword. She searched the ground till she found a stone that she could use on the weapon. She had selected a dagger too. Janice saw she was still pale and shaking but was simply ignoring that somehow. Well, she thought, mass murderers like that had to have great concentration.

"You really are my granddaughter, then?" Mel said to her.

"Oh yeah. I never met you though. My dad wouldn't let me."

"And why is that?"

"He said you were nuts. Probably because you made the mistake of telling him about things like this, is my guess. He's a big corporation lawyer so he kept the family tradition of rapacity alive and well."

"Aren't you worried about telling us these things?" Janice asked her from the other side of the fire.

"Well, at first I wasn't going to, then I figured I was placed here for a reason. Ares can always make you forget it anyway if that is what the big scheme of things calls for."

"That's a cheery prospect!" Covington said bitterly, and Mel brought her hands up to her face in alarm.

"What I can't figure out is your story about Ares being held captive in that cave."

"Maybe he gets out later," Janice said. "The cave gets reopened. Somebody important just decides it's time for him to be loose."

"Yeah, Xena never saw the big picture. If anything the world is better off with Ares. He gave things some order. She just disliked him so much she couldn't see that. Hell, so do I. Hitler was worse than anything Ares ever did and he had nothing to do with that. I probably had more to do with the Nazis from what Mel said earlier about those German generals." The light went out of her eyes as she said that last part, and she stopped working on the sword. She stood up shakily and walked off into the darkness. Janice and Mel just looked at each other.


"Um, that feels good," Kimberly said as Callisto's hands massaged her naked shoulders.

"You like that, huh? How about this?" Callisto's hands cupped her breasts.

"Callisto." The hands returned to her shoulders and continued massaging.

"Can't blame a girl for trying," she said and giggled.

"I thought you were dead for 3000 years."



Mel awoke with a gun poking her in the ribs. "Oh my!" She looked over and saw Janice sitting on her bedroll, her hands tied behind her back. Several men armed with tommy guns surrounded them. Janice was glaring at a fat overdressed man who was smiling at her. Kimberly was nowhere in sight.

"Dr. Covington. It is a real honor to finally meet you. Smythe had nothing but the highest regard for you." His delivery had an affected sound to it, like he had rehearsed it.

"Did you two live under the same rock or something, Jameson?" Janice spit out.

"Be polite," the fat man said and knocked the archaeologist over with a slap. As she fell she recognized one of Jameson's men. "Take the girl," he ordered. Two of his men roughly grabbed Mel up and took her off in the darkness. A third looked contemptuously at Jameson and followed them. Janice heard a truck drive off. "Who else was with you. Someone who looked like she was your friend's twin was with you when you left town."

Janice didn't answer and received a kick in her stomach. "I didn't really expect you to answer and it doesn't actually matter. I just felt like doing that. Now we are going to start where you left off with Smythe. The Eye of Hephestus. I'll trade you your friend for it."

Covington looked at the man looming over her in disbelief. "You fat moron! I don't have it. It's underneath a hundred tons of rock along with Smythe. Have you been following me for years thinking I've got it? Would I be living in a tent if I had it, you halfwit? You're just muscle that worked for Smythe, and now you think you are him."

The fat man looked enraged as uncertainty crossed his face. "I'm supposed to believe that? That you left it there?" He kicked her again and Janice groaned. He was afraid she was telling the truth and it infuriated him. Jameson quickly looked at his men; he didn't like the way they were looking at him. He kicked her again. The local man he had hired ran up and grabbed his shoulder, speaking to him frantically in Arabic. Jameson cursed and ran in the direction the truck had gone followed by the others. The man who had been speaking to him quickly knelt down and cut Janice's hands and feet free. It was the Arab she had freed earlier. She tried to take his arm to make him come with her, but he shook his head. She tried again and he pushed her away. She ran out into the black desert. She heard shots from the camp.


Covington had to rescue Mel. She wanted to find Kimberly too. For herself she didn't really care what happened to the bitter drunken woman, but she was Mel's granddaughter and would be good in a fight even if she was only at a small fraction of what was normal for her. She didn't think Kimberly could have gotten far. She'd been looking pretty bad, shaking more and more, when they all laid down to sleep. It would be dawn soon, but it was still too dark for Jameson to follow her. The archaelogist had been circling the dig in wider and wider circles. Jameson probably figured she was miles away by now. A hand grabbed her ankle and Covington dropped to the ground. Kimberly had half buried herself in the dirt and rocks and her khakis blended in almost perfectly. She looked like she had vomited again. The woman's body was wracked with shaking and she was biting down on a stick to keep from making any sound. Janice wondered how many hours she'd been doing that, if she was having hallucinations about insects or snakes or something--probably griffins and gorgons in her case. Janice took the flask from her pocket--she'd sneaked it along when Mel wasn't looking. She took the stick from Kimberly's mouth and held the flask to her lips. She let her drink about half of it before she pulled it away. She stopped shaking. Her eyes finally focused on the archaeologist.

Janice and Kimberly were hidden watching the camp. It seemed to be just Jameson and two men. Covington was in despair at seeing the body of the man who had helped her. It was at the edge of the pit they had dug earlier for the weapons.

Kimberly was disgusted with herself. She had to be careful here. She wasn't used to dealing with guns and she wasn't moving nearly as fast as she used to. At least the shakes had stopped. Kimberly wondered what would happen if something happened to her grandmother. Would Kimberly herself just disappear? Would her bloody invasion of the East have never occurred? But then that raised the whole Xena and Bitch of Tartarus issue. Being drunk was a lot easier. She had to admit the little archaeologist was pretty good. She had been kind of rough on her, she supposed. It had just become a habit with her to taunt Gabrielle and Covington looked just like her. One more thing to feel bad about along with Weldon and the tens of thousands of dead.


Kimberly stood by the river. Callisto sitting down, looked up at her with that crazy smile of hers. Their white bodies seemed to almost glow in the darkness and monlight.

"Ares really let you have it, I guess."

Kimberly didn't respond but just stared into the black depths of the river. "I'm surprised at him taking you from your army. He is supposed to be the god of war and blind rage, but he has plenty of subtlety when it comes to hurting people. I wonder if he gets in trouble with Athena when he shows too much foresight? What do you think?

Kimberly didn't answer but just continued staring into the river.


The bullwhip wrapped around the man's neck and pulled him back, at the same moment a tall figure stepped forward and grabbed his tommy gun from his hands. Not a sound had been made. "Mr. Jameson! Fritz is gone!" the other man standing guard yelled after a moment. The fat man came tearing out of his jeep where he had been talking on the radio to someone. He had a tommy gun. He started firing at random outside the camp. His man looked at him peculiarly. What good would that do? He thought of what the little blonde woman had said to Jameson.

"What are you looking at!" Jameson yelled at him. "Go out there and find him! I'll take this side." The man nodded. At least that made some sense. A tall figure loomed in front of him. At the same moment, Janice's boot buried itself in Jameson's groin and she grabbed the gun from him.

Jameson and his two men were sitting with their hands and feet tied. Janice was just looking at them. Kimberly seemed to be eyeing a bottle she had discovered in Jameson's gear. Jameson sneered at them, "Covington, I know all about you from Smythe. My men have your "friend" shall we say. So just untie me now and stop this charade that you have the will to play with me when the stakes are high. What are you going to do? Torture her whereabouts out of me. You don't have the stomach for it!" Jameson had probably been working on that idiot speech for the last ten minutes. His affected "gentleman" accent had come back. Janice guessed it impressed his men who didn't know he was just like them. Smythe himself would have taken one look at Kimberly and spilled his guts. It wasn't going to be that easy with Jameson.

Janice felt sickened. She didn't know by what more: worry for Mel, by this stupid vile pig, or by what was going to happen to him. He had her pegged, that was for sure. She looked over at Kimberly who barely seemed to be paying attention. Janice had to try to prevent what seemed inevitable. "Jameson, listen to me. You have no idea who you're dealing with here. For your own sake tell me where Melinda Papas is."

The pig laughed and his men taking his cue laughed too.

"We're only a few yards from five men I buried alive because they betrayed me. I wasn't even angry with them; it was just policy. I AM angry with you. I'm only asking once. Now where did you take Melinda Papas?" Kimberly said quietly, speaking for the first time. Jameson looked at her and laughed again. Janice closed her eyes. "Dr. Covington, why don't you go for a walk," Kimberly said.

"I'll stay," Janice said. Kimberly looked at her.

"What do you know? I finally found a way to make up to Gabrielle for how I treated her." She stood up and suddenly the archaeologist didn't remember anything.

"Come on. Rise and shine, Butch." Janice opened her eyes with Kimberly patting her cheek. She had a terrible headache. She was lying on her bedroll and Kimberly was sitting next to her sucking on the bottle she had taken from Jameson. "Let's go get my grandmother."

"Can I have a drink of that?" She held out her hand and Kimberly handed her the bottle. "Good stuff. Jameson must've copied that from Smythe too." She stood up and picked her hat up from the ground. Jameson and his men were nowhere to be seen. She saw that the hole they had dug earlier was filled in now. Their guns were still here though. They walked to Jameson's jeep, each carrying a tommy gun. Janice saw that the sword and dagger Kimberly had selected were already in the vehicle.

"Do you know how to use that?" Covington asked indicating the gun.

Kimberly answered, "Yes, I know a lot of interesting things now. " She opened a map, "Mel is here with three guards," she pointed to a spot. "You drive. I won't even get my Learner's Permit for another 40 years."

"Were you always this funny, sister?" Covington asked, as she started the jeep and tore out of the camp, spraying dirt.

"No. I didn't get funny till I'd killed two or three thousand people. You just have to relieve the tension somehow."


As Kimberly swam to the other bank, she saw Callisto coming the other way. They both stopped in the middle and simply floated on their backs, looking at the moon and letting the current take them.

"I want to just let myself sink, Callisto."

She heard that soft giggle. "Kimberly, that won't give you any relief. You'll just be trying to dry your lungs out for the next century. After you're dead you have to actually see all the people you killed all the time. It really stinks! I shoulda killed more interesting people; that's one thing I know now. Gabrielle should've paid me for doing Perdicas. You've got a better group than I do. I never left Greece, but you've practically got cities of people I've never heard of.'

"Thanks for the comforting words."

"You're welcome, Kimberly."


Her guards were clearly nervous. They hadn't heard from that rude Mr. Jameson. They had tied her to a chair. One of them, a big ugly one with an Irish accent, had just come over to her and began playing with her hair and running his hand down the front of her shirt. His hand stopped when she heard a loud click. Mel looked up and one of the other guards was holding a huge pistol to the Irishman's head.

"Get your hands off of her, Mike." The southern accent was unmistakable.

"What's it to you?" that rude man said, very, very angry.

"If we have to kill her, we have to kill her. But I'm not letting a southern lady be touched by the likes of you. Get it?"

"You just made a big mistake!' the Irishman spit.

The southerner, who was tall and rangy with limp blonde hair, said, "You're even dumber than Jameson if that's possible." He reached forward and took the pistol from Mike's belt. "Go help Jimmy try to raise Jameson on the radio."

"You don't tell me what to do!" the big man said angrily.

"How did I get myself into this?" the southerner said laconically. Mel cried out at the loud report of the pistol. She was sprayed with blood. She saw the tall man turn and point his gun at the door and wait. When it started to open he fired through the door twice, then walked quickly to the door, opened it and fired down at something once more. He carefully reloaded his pistol before returning to Mel. Her heart was beating so fast and hard she thought he must be able to hear it.

The man stood before her looking at her. Mel could see he looked about 35. He was handsome, unshaven and had brown eyes. They had a crazy look in them but he gave her a crooked smile.

"Th..th..th. thank you, sir. You are a true southern gentleman, Mr...?"

"Cal. Just call me Cal. And I'm no gentleman."


In the jeep, Janice was frantic when she heard the shots. They were too late! The little shack was visible ahead with the truck near it. She looked over at Kimberly and was surprised by the expression on her face. She'd expected panic or anger like her own but she just looked dumbfounded. She was playing with that little bracelet she wore. The archaeologist stopped the jeep with a jolt and jumped out with the tommy gun.

"No!" Kimberly said, and the tommy gun was torn from her hands. She looked at the big woman who had her in an iron grip.

"What are you doing, you crazy bitch!" Covington said to her urgently but in a low voice.

"It's all right, Janice. Something else is going on here. I can't explain it but I know. I'm sure Melinda is fine. Okay? If I give you your gun back will you promise not to just shoot anybody you see?"

The archaeologist stared at her, furious. They were wasting time. "You're worried about ME killing somebody? YOU?" The big woman nodded. "All right. Let's go, goddamnit!"

The little archaeologist took the machine gun back and ran toward the shack in a zigzag pattern, looking for possible cover the whole time. She saw that Kimberly wasn't carrying any weapon at all and was just walking directly towards the small building. "Shit!" Janice cursed, watching her. There was a body in front of the door. Kimberly looked over at her then sprinted to the door so she reached it first. She picked the body up and held it like a shield as she opened the door and just walked in.


The ram had bled its last drop when Ares finally appeared. The god looked suspiciously at Jilly. Ordinarily he would have smiled at her. All of the favorites in all the thousands of years and he had never felt about one like he did about Jilly. Sure, Xena was special as a warrior just like Kimberly and a hundred others had been. Jilly though was something special to him; probably it was because he gave her her tongue back and she actually LOVED him. That was a new one for Ares. It wasn't his province. He was still trying to figure out how he felt about that. She didn't make sacrifices to suck up. She really meant it.

"What is it, Jilly. Need money?"

"Lord Ares, thank you for coming to your humble servant."

He had a BAD feeling about this. He tried to keep from beaming at her.

Jilly stood. She had strangled the ram with her bare hands just to show how serious she was, before she had cut its throat. Ares had to have the blood to smell, though. She looked at him, her heart filling. Really, she just wanted to serve him but she had steeled herself for this. "I want to talk to you about Callisto and Kimberly."

Ares sent out messengers to Hades and Zeus as she spoke. He started Strife and Rage looking for favors he could call in. He wished he could threaten her or something; try to make her do something she hated. She would be glad to do anything he told her though. She loved serving him. Maybe he should talk to Athena about how to deal with that kind of thing.


He had his gun ready. Why couldn't he shoot? Cal stood, the hostage tied to the chair in back of him. He saw Jimmy and some broad who looked an awful lot like the hostage step in the room. She dropped Jimmy and Cal lowered his gun and put it in his holster. "Oh my!" he heard behind him.

Covington was squatting in the doorway holding the tommygun. Mel was tied in a chair and a tall blonde guy was walking toward Kimberly. She wanted to shoot him but she remembered what she had told Kimberly and instead just stood up, coming into the room and keeping the weapon trained on him. Janice quickly ran to Mel and untied her. She kissed her---screw being discrete!

"What do you know?" Kimberly asked.

"Squat," the southerner answered. Why couldn't he kill her?

"That's okay. I'll explain everything to you, Cal."

"How did you know my name?"

"You probably know my name too. Just let it come to you."


Janice Covington was going through her mail. Several more packets of information relating to the Sword of Ares had arrived. She had been a role model for Attila the Hun too, apparently. What a gal! She and that white trash killer, Cal, had become inseparable. He'd moved into her little shack with her. Janice had no idea what their relationship was exactly. She saw them outside the village. Kimberly was showing him tricks with the sword and dagger she'd brought back, and he was teaching her how to shoot. Janice saw them playing catch with his giant pistol and shooting rocks thrown in the air. Some kind of game they'd devised. Really sweet. To Janice's amazement, Cal didn't drink and Kimberly had stopped too. It was rough but the worst seemed over.

Mel was ecstatic. Janice was grateful to Cal for what he had done but that didn't prevent her from recognizing what he was. To Mel though he was the embodiment of the mythical Old South; like Stonewall Jackson himself had saved her from a Fate Worse Than Death. It was funny; really she was just a grandmother who was glad her Kimberly had found such a nice boy.


Xena sat in the inn waiting. She was in her usual position with her back to the wall so she could watch everybody coming and going. It had been four days since she left Gabrielle with Kimberly and Jilly. She was nervous. Gabrielle wouldn't leave her she knew, but she was still apprehensive about what effect Kimberly's story would have on her.

"Xena!" the bard came in and quickly came over. She hugged her so tight it actually took her breath away. Well, okay, Xena thought, that's not too bad.

"How was Kimberly's story?" Xena asked tentatively. The bard looked up at her. She was crying!

"It was a good story."

The End