by Joseph Anderson

Xena, Gabrielle, and all elements and characters from the series 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 and must include all copyright notices.

This is a sequel to both Callisto: Child's Play and the three "Kimberly" stories, History Lesson, Final Exam, and Graduate School.

This story contains references to child abuse and has language some might find objectionable.

Weldon's tall shadow thrown by the fire was visible through the tent. Kimberly saw an unmistakable silhouette come up and talk to Weldon. Joxer's helmet really bugged her. She had no idea why he insisted on wearing that ridiculous thing. That was why Weldon liked it, but she still had hopes Joxer would show some more progress. Oh, well. The shadow passed on and in a moment Weldon left too. The warlord lay back on her cot, with her hands clasped behind her head. It had been a peaceful month, letting the men heal up, recruiting, restocking supplies, and converting the loot into dinars. While she was doing that she was getting reports of what other armies were doing. Kimberly had just narrowed her next target down to one of the Ethiopian brothers, Kbuta or Maka. They were both pretty successful raiders and went out of their way to hurt people. Just the kind of warlords she enjoyed going after; it would be profitable and a good deed to take one out. She never mentioned the good deed part to anyone but Joxer, and she told him to keep it quiet. Talk like that could get a leader poisoned.

She was feeling drowsy and about to drop off to sleep when she rolled off her cot, and leapt to the other side of the tent where her sword hung in one smooth fast motion. Her attacker had withdrawn the sword from the cot and was almost already on her as Kimberly began slashing down with her sword.

"Jesus!" she managed to divert the path of her sword so the little girl attacking her wasn't split down the middle. For her trouble, Kimberly felt the small sword slip into her thigh. She leapt back and grabbed a dagger and hurled it at the little blonde. Its handle instead of the blade struck her in the chest and knocked her flat on her back, and Kimberly was instantly sitting on her, holding her hands down. She expected her to struggle but instead she simply looked at her with hatred.

The tent flap opened and Weldon rushed in, wearing just a loincloth and carrying his long broadsword. He stopped in amazement.

"I hope you didn't kill any of my men. I can't spare you if you did," Kimberly said through clenched teeth. Please God, don't let her have killed anybody!

The little girl said, "No. I just came for you." Kimberly sighed with relief.

"Weldon, get her sword and chakram. Check her boots and feel over her for hidden knives." She kept the little girl in an iron grip. "And, Weldon, don't let her kick your teeth in." The Celt's long red braids dragged on the floor as he expertly got the child's weapons, keeping his face well out of range of the metal tipped boots. There were two boot knives, a throwing knife down her back, and a Corinthian dagger, in addition to the small sword and chakram. Kimberly was naked. She wasn't going to let that make her take any chances though. She continued holding the girl while Weldon tied her feet. She had never realized what a body Weldon had. She could see he was noticing her too as his hands had to work under and between her legs to check the girl for weapons. He tried to cover it up, though. Food for thought.

Kimberly heard someone run in the tent, tripping and falling. "What's going on? I'll save you, Kimberly! Whoa! You're naked and that kid looks just like Callisto!"

The child was tied to a chair and Kimberly, Weldon and Joxer sat looking at her.

"Joxer, go make her something to eat. Something good." He nodded and left her command tent. Kimberly was in a rich brocaded robe. She grimaced as she looked at the blood stain on it. Weldon had bandaged her thigh, and as he kneeled in front of her Kimberly had reached down and traced his long red moustache from end to end. The Celt had looked up at her with something in his eyes. She was disappointed when he left for a moment to put some clothes on.

"You're the child who was seen with Callisto," the warlord stated flatly. "What's your name?"

No response.

"I said, what's your name? You won't be giving me anything I can use against you."

"Jilly," the blonde child answered. Kimberly could hear the hatred in the voice but it was controlled. This kid was bad news.

"I know why you want to kill me, but why don't you tell me anyway."

"You killed Callisto." Weldon looked at her in surprise.

"That's right. How did you know? Does Gabrielle have a story about it or something?" This time it was the warlord's voice that had the controlled hatred. Weldon looked from the woman to the girl and back again. It was getting more and more dangerous to be a man.

"I found her funeral pyre and I tracked you."

"That was almost two years ago. Why did you wait so long?"

"I didn't think I was ready." This kid was bad news.

"Leave us alone, Weldon." The tall Celt stood up and left.

Kimberly picked the small chakram up. "You know how to use this?" The child didn't respond. "You got this from Euphemies. That was where Callisto took me when mine needed repair. She said it was one of his." The child's shock only registered by her raising her chin slightly. "It's too small for you now. You need a full-size chakram. You need a new sword too though you're still too small for a regular sword. Let me think about it."

"Euphemies told me to come back when I had grown, that everything would be ready."

"Jilly, I'm Kimberly. You know that already. What you don't know is that you and me are the only two people in the world who loved Callisto. That was why I killed her. I didn't know about you. If I had maybe I'd have handled things differently; maybe not. Does this look familiar?" Kimberly held her right hand up and pointed to the bracelet of hair around her wrist.

Suddenly the child began crying and she seemed like a little girl for the first time. Kimberly didn't go over to her though. She had been trained by Callisto herself--she didn't feel like having her ear bitten off. "Nice. You're better at that than I ever got. Jilly, when your food gets here I'm going to untie your hands. I expect you to try and kill ME but don't hurt any of my men. I'm responsible for them and I will kill you if you hurt any of my people. Understand? UNDERSTAND?" The little girl nodded.

They watched each other wordlessly until Joxer returned with a plate of food. Smelled delicious.

"Joxer, just give her the wooden spoon; the small one. Untie her hands and hand the plate to her." Kimberly stood and drew her sword and watched as Joxer untied the little girl's hands.

"Gods, Kimberly! She's just a little girl. What are you so worried abo!!!" He was suddenly on his knees facing Kimberly, with the little arms around his neck choking, before they quickly released. He heard a childish laugh.

"Cute, Jilly. Really cute. Give her her food, Joxer."

After the child had eaten Kimberly sent Joxer away and told Jilly to go ahead and untie her feet. The little girl did, watching the warlord. "Let's get this over with," Kimberly said. She picked up Jilly's dagger and tossed it to the girl. It came flying back at her and she caught it in front of her face. She ducked as the little form went flying over her and caught the girl and threw her back at her chair. The girl tried to escape around her and Kimberly caught her again and threw her back at her chair. She tossed the chakram to the child. "Care to try again?"

The hatred burning in the child's eyes brought back memories to Kimberly. She knew the little girl was more like Callisto than she ever could be. Deep down Kimberly was a spoiled interloper in this time, a sort of hot house flower Ares had sent away for and carefully nurtured. Callisto and Jilly were just like Xena: the real thing; the genuine, kick-ass article. Kimberly had gone to private schools and spent vacations in Europe. She had a pretty good idea Jilly's childhood up to now had been considerably different than that, though really it was probably worse than she could even imagine. She doubted the girl had had riding lessons sandwiched between Italian and her Geometry tutor.

"How old are you, 12?"

"I don't know."

"You look 12. It will be at least six years before you can even hope to beat me. I'm sure you are willing to wait till then and come back, but I don't want you to spend your life obsessed with killing me. Jilly, I've seen what obsession can lead to. And it's especially bad when it coincides with real talent. Purely for the good of humanity, let alone my own health, I should kill you now while I still can. Now do you have anything to say?"

"Yes. I want to make a sacrifice to Ares."

Weldon had known where the altar was. There was no reason to delay but Kimberly thought doing this at night was pushing it from a purely aesthetic viewpoint. In the torchlight it was just too picturesque and dramatic; she expected Edward G. Robinson and Charlton Heston to suddenly show up. She and the Celt watched as the child tied the bullock to the altar. Joxer had invited himself along. Jilly looked at Kimberly and the warlord tossed her her dagger, and the little girl cut the animal's throat without the hesitation. Kimberly caught the dagger hurling back at her face.

"You're a riot, Jilly," the warlord said. Joxer had jumped but Weldon looked amused.

Nothing happened. The girl looked frustrated. They waited half an hour then walked back to Kimberly's tent. There he was, lying on her cot. Kimberly hadn't seen the god since he had sent her back to this time three years before. That was fine with her. Ever seeing his arrogant smirking face was too soon. Jilly though cried out "Ares!" and ran and jumped on him, and he was laughing and affectionately hugging her. He stood, picking up Jilly and putting her on his shoulders.

Kimberly said, "How long do I have? You went to so much trouble to get me, I thought you'd want me around for a while."

The god answered, "Oh, I do, I do. You're still my favorite. It's just so is this little death dealer. You told her yourself it will be at least six years before she can hope to take you. That's a nice long run, Kimberly. This is fantastic. I had a real dry spell after Xena left my service, but now I'm booked up years ahead. Must come from living right. Wish I could find a man some time. Lately they've all just been wannabes. I had hopes for Weldon but he likes living too much; doesn't even WANT to lead even though he's got the ability."

Kimberly glanced at her second-in-command and saw that both he and Joxer had a dazed look on their faces.

"They're all right. I just wanted a private conversation," the god said.

"Jilly wants to kill me, Ares. Any suggestions from you about that?"

The god got serious and set the girl down. He knelt down looking at her. "Jilly, the reason Kimberly killed Callisto was that if she didn't Callisto would have been tortured to death eventually. Kimberly knew what the future was; that's where she is from. Remember what you and Callisto did to your father? It would have been as bad as that."

Jilly started crying, really crying this time, and hugged the god of war. He smiled up at Kimberly. "Now I want you to make friends with Kimberly. She was the best friend Callisto ever had in her life, except for you. All right?" The crying little girl nodded her head, sniffling. "You two can decide what you want to do. You can stay here or just stay on your own, but I want you to promise me not to try and kill Kimberly. Promise?" The child nodded again. "Go stand beside her."

Kimberly looked down at the little girl standing next to her, her face red and puffy.

"You have time to take her to Euphemies before your new campaign. She could go herself of course, but you're looking a little raggedy yourself, Kimberly. Oh, let me fix you're leg. I want you and Jilly to start fresh."

The god waved byby to the little girl and disappeared. Weldon and Joxer both began shaking their heads as if to clear them.

"Weldon, have a bedroll brought into my tent for Jilly tonight."

Xena and Gabrielle were used to being the center of attention. It felt odd to both of them to be ignored when the three dazzling figures came in the crowded tavern. Kimberly's been to Euphemies, Xena thought. She wore the same style of small veiled helmet, only now there was an intricate gold inlay winding over it; and the chainmail veil sometimes seemed to be silver, sometimes gold, and sometimes jet black, in a shimmering pattern. Her black leathers had a glossy sheen and the gold and silver buckles winked from it. Xena recognized both of her companions: Weldon was unmistakable, towering over everyone in the room. He wore a rich fur cloak and his long red braids had gold bands. There was an ornamented breastplate with Celtic knots. Xena knew how to read signs; Kimberly had taken Weldon to Euphemies. Maybe she saw him in a loincloth, she thought wryly, remembering the young Celt who had joined her army. Euphemies probably acted like he had never met him before with Xena.

And there was Jilly. She was around 14 now apparently. She was hard to look at, she looked so much like Callisto. Like Kimberly she wore black leather, only instead of glossy black it was somehow like the depths in a lake. Discrete gold or silver seemed to appear and disappear. Her blonde hair shimmered with gems braided into it. The warrior princess glanced down at her own worn leathers. It was her choice, she knew. She didn't care for herself though sometimes she thought Gabrielle should have the chance to experience it. Xena had had all of that; you paid for it with people's blood, which was fine if you were the right kind of person. She wasn't anymore. She glanced at Gabrielle. She was almost open mouthed. Xena had to admit that was about as godlike as she had ever seen mortals look.

"Uh oh," the bard said. Kimberly was coming over to them. Xena could tell the warlord was relaxed though, so Xena relaxed.

"Xena, Gabrielle," the shimmering veil said to them. Jilly and Weldon had located Kimberly and were coming over now too. Jilly smiled warmly at the small blonde. Kimberly came to the bard's side. "Gabrielle, I want to apologize to you for the way I've treated you."

The bard had been tensely holding her breath. She exhaled relieved and said, "Oh that's all right."

"No, it's not. I blamed you for something you had no control over. It was human nature that forced me to do and witness the things I did, not you. I was upset about Callisto and you were an easy target for me. Joxer helped me a lot. I'll tell you the whole story if you want. It should be written down, I suppose." She paused. "I want the Callisto I knew recorded, especially for Jilly. I'm sorry; you don't have any idea what I'm talking about."

"I can't wait, Kimberly. I'm just glad you don't want to kill me anymore!"

"I came pretty close. You need to watch your mouth around distraught people with swords, if you don't mind an observation."

Jilly approached Xena. The warrior princess knew some of her history now. She braced herself.

"Hello Xena." She had heard she could talk now.

"Hello Jilly. You've got a full size chakram."

"Yeah, I've still got the other though. I guess it's a real collector's item."

"That would be my guess."

"Jilly, do you want to talk to me about Callisto?" The teenage girl turned her face away.

"What is there to say? You're a different person now and you're Ares' favorite."

"I'm not Ares favorite!" Xena said vehemently.

The teenager laughed and said, "I talk to him all the time, and YES you are a favorite. Why do you think you're still alive after defying him over and over?"

Jilly could see she had upset the warrior princess. This was fun. She had a real talent for getting under people's skins. When she tried it with Kimberly or Weldon they threw her across the room but Xena didn't know her well enough for that.

"Let me just ask you something, Xena. How old were you when Cortese attacked Amphipolis."

"I was 18."

"And you just immediately took command and became Xena the warrior princess." Xena didn't respond. She could tell Jilly had begun by taunting her but had lost that and was completely serious now. "Do you know how old Callisto was when you burned Cirra?"

"She was around ten." Xena answered. She knew where this was going. But the girl needed to say it, to get it out, and Xena knew she deserved it. She could never make up for what she had done to Callisto. Never.

"That's right she was ten," her voice started getting louder and other people started looking at them, "and she was taken from the ashes of her home and the bodies of her family and raped by your men for hours when she hadn't eaten in four days. And then they sold her to a pimp and things really got bad then. And all that time you were making your reputation as the Great Commander, the Great General, the Destroyer of Nations!" Her voice was getting louder and louder and Jilly's eyes had taken on an insane light. Kimberly and Weldon materialized beside her. "And you cut Callisto's tongue out when she was a little girl and you gave her to your friends like a snack, making her beg for food by croaking, or you auctioned her off, stripping her naked and making her stand on a table...And you FUCKED her yourself OVER and OVER!!! .And, And then when she was ready to finally face you, after trading every hole in her body in order to learn to fight, to learn to read, simply to eat, YOU were suddenly GOOD, and Callisto was the one everyone HATED!! After YOU had burned HER family alive!!! And, And..." her voice had gotten hoarse from yelling. Suddenly her eyes rolled back in her head. Weldon grabbed her, pinning her arms as Jilly let loose a blood curdling howl. Kimberly covered the girl's nose and mouth with a cloth.

Gabrielle felt dizzy both from what the girl had said and from whatever was in the cloth they were pressing against her face. The teenager's eyes were completely mad as they sought out Xena. She collapsed after a minute of struggling.

"Nice seeing you, Xena, Gabrielle," Kimberly said, nodding to them, and Weldon smiled at them as he and Kimberly carried the unconscious 14 year old out.

The drowsy lizard was nearly crushed by the hoof which came to a stop next to it. It was dawn and mist still lay heavy on the ground. The approaching standards were all that was visible at first. Kimberly sat on her mare calmly waiting, her veil shimmering. To her right she saw Weldon and the infantry. Kimberly herself led the heavy cavalry. She looked to her left and the slight blonde figure came into view on her black stallion. The warlord gave Jilly a chance to get her light cavalry positioned. She looked approvingly. Kimberly had been telling Jilly about Robert E. Lee's grandfather, "Lighthorse Harry." She learned fast. Jilly had had to fight for her leadership just like anyone else. After her first kill they stopped assuming she was a joke. It didn't help them any though; she still killed them. If they tried to disappear and then come back, Jilly hunted them down. Kimberly told her not to try for Weldon's spot and the girl got this innocent look: how could Kimberly DREAM of such a thing.

The warlord scanned the terrain. She had never been this far east before--well, except when she was a girl and jetting around with her parents. She was running out of targets in Greece and she refused to raid villages. So she brought Ares' army east. There they were. The Assyrian infantry began coming into view. She drew her sword and brought it sweeping down, and she and her army began moving forward.

The End