by Joseph Anderson

Janice Covington, Melinda Pappas, and all characters from the TV show Xena: Warrior Princess belong to MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures. All other characters belong to me. No copyright infringement is intended with this fan fiction, which may not be sold, may be copied for personal use only, and must contain all notices of copyright.

This contains characters from my stories, My Brother's Keeper and Good Prince Samuel, which are part of my Kimberly/Jilly storyline. If you haven't read any of them, it might be kind of confusing though it should still work as entertainment, I hope.

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

Carpathian Mountains, 1944

The trucks rolled up behind the grey clad infantrymen already waiting. There were only a few hours of daylight left. The officers were watching them tiredly. A castle was nearby which they were going to use as a headquarters and to house men. A Russian regiment was approaching and would be there in less than a week. Their orders were to delay them as long as possible. This mountainous terrain would be good for that. It was made for ambushes and snipers.

Satisfied the men were arriving without mishap, Captain Ernst Freiken along with two lieutenants and three privates, began driving up to the castle. The gate was already open though it may have been an accident. It appeared old and uncared for as the land also did. When they reached the main door of the castle they simply looked at it a moment. They had been told by smiling peasants the castle was occupied but it appeared deserted. Captain Freiken nodded to a soldier and pointed to a knocker. The private used it and the sound reverberated around them. After a moment the door slowly opened and a man with a long curling mustache who looked around 30 was standing there. One of the privates wanted to laugh; he looked womanish with his long black hair cascading over his shoulders.

"What can I help you with?" he said in flawless German.

Captain Freiken said, "I wish to speak to the master here."

"I am Prince Samuel and am master here."

"Well, your castle is going to serve as a barracks for my men and as my command post. Whatever supplies you have will also be requisitioned. These are the fortunes of war." The German was speaking in a clipped manner. He despised aristocrats and loved the opportunity to annoy one. The prince just looked at him mildly, however, and smiled.

"I understand the vagaries of war very well, uh....?"

"Captain Freiken"

"...Captain Freiken. This castle has housed many soldiers in the years since it was built and doubtless will house many more."

Somewhat disappointed that he wasn't upset, the German officer nodded and turned to his aide and told him to arrange for the men to begin coming to the castle to be billetted. A shaft of sunlight suddenly hit the aristocrat and he blinked against it, smiling self-deprecatingly. "Welcome to my home, gentleman." He stepped back and stumbled slightly, almost falling. The officers came in past him. Although the captain disliked aristocrats, the other men were impressed. The prince smiled benignly at all of them.

The Germans looked around. The inside of the castle did not show the disrepair the outside did. The prince who was richly dressed in fashionable clothes said, "Please forgive how my home appears from the outside. I no longer have the workers which I once had, due to the same conflict which brings you here. I've learned it may even be good to appear to be deserted from time to time."

Captain Freiken was listening attentively even though he did not really wish to. Something about the man's voice compelled him to hang on his every word. There was just something about him.

"Are you here alone?" the Captain now asked.

"No, my remaining servants should be arriving back in a few hours after nightfall. There are other guests here as well."

"Other guests?" he said suspiciously and looked at his men who instantly became more alert.

Prince Samuel laughed softly, "Please be at ease. They are scholars, two American women who have an interest in my family and what I can tell them: an archaeologist and a linguist. They only arrived today like you gentlemen. You can meet them now if you wish; though I would suggest meeting them at dinner where I hope you and your two officers will be my guests. It is good to try to remain civilized even in times such as these, Captain."

The officer was going to demand seeing the women now but what came out of his mouth was "I agree, sir. Meeting them later will be sufficient." He looked at his officers who seemed surprised but pleased at what he had said. "Stay here, one outside, two inside. Keep your eyes open," he said to the privates. "What time do you dine, Prince?"

He smiled, "At eight, Captain. My servants will have returned and that will allow them time to prepare."

"Very well, sir." The officers left to supervise their men. The privates conferred among themselves and one stationed himself outside. Prince Samuel was observing them, smiling.

"Does this castle seem familiar to you?" the prince said to one of the two who remained inside.

"Yes, sir. But I don't know why," the young man said openly, then blushed at a harsh look from the other older private.

The prince nodded. "Perhaps you have been here in a previous life as a loyal soldier of one of my ancestors. It is a silly superstition, I suppose. I am not so modern as you Germans."

Private Franz Bommer was mesmerized by the prince. He'd never felt like that before. Franz understood now what some of his friends said they felt when they listened to the Fuhrer.

"Sir, has your family been here long?" He ignored the harsh look from the older private.

"Yes, though it is not my family's original home. That was Greece. And they lived a great many other places as well. Perhaps you yourself even came with my ancestor and helped him erect this very building. Many strange things happen in this world, my friend." The prince then smiled at the other man and disappeared up some stairs.

"What's the matter with you, Franz?" the other man said. "Keep your mouth shut. You may say something you shouldn't."

Franz didn't back down with him like he usually did. "You're a private just like me, Gunther. If I need your advice I'll ask for it." Gunther looked shocked. There was nothing to say to that.


"Mel, this place is incredible! I don't think it's ever even been sacked. I'd love to do some excavating and see what's underneath it." The speaker was a small blonde wearing a khaki shirt and brown wool pants. She took a cigar out and bit the end off then lit it.

The woman she was speaking to was nervously wringing her hands. "How can you talk about that now when Germans are here? What if they know about you? Perhaps that's why they're here, Janice!" She spoke with a deep southern accent, and was dressed in a tailored looking dark jacket and skirt. She took her owlish glasses off and cleaned them with a hankerchief.

Janice Covington plopped down on some large pillows that were covering a stone chair built into the wall. "I'm not that well known, Mel. The Gestapo is after me in North Africa but not really anywhere else. And these are regular army, the Wermacht, not those SS rats. Guys like this hate Nazis half the time. Besides, we're perfectly innocent here."

She paused taking a long puff on her cigar, then blowing it out, making as many interesting smoke rings as she could. Finally she continued, "Montgomery said I was too hot to use for a while and I should reestablish my cover. So let's just do what we came for and talk to the prince and see what kind of records he might have. It feels good working. I hate this rotten war!"

Melinda Pappas returned to studying a thick book she had open, trying to concentrate on her work like Janice said. She could be shot as a spy herself though it was always Janice she worried about. Mel just acted as a courier, the same as Josephine Baker; she never got involved in blowing things up or stealing plans and whatever else Janice did. Well, unless she ran into Janice; then she got pulled into whatever operation her friend was doing usually.

"Look at this, Janice. It's a coin." The little archaeologist got up and came over, taking the magnifying glass the taller woman handed her.

She whistled slightly. "Sure looks like him. Can you read it?"

Mel said, "'Samuel.anno Domini.1216.Defender of the Faith.' That makes 40 languages spread over twentyfive hundred years and three continents so far. This family is incredible, Janice! At one time or another they controlled as much territory as Charlemagne or Augustus Caesar. One would suppose they'd be hated and feared, what with their proclivities, but they were loved."

"Is that what I think it is on the reverse side?" Janice asked.

"Naturally. Good Prince Samuel without his impaled man would be like Edgar Bergen without Charlie McCarthy," Mel said bitterly. "The writing says 'The Blood is the Life,' which would be a nice Christian sentiment if they hadn't had that on their coins long before Jesus came along."

She closed the thick book, and picked up another even thicker book, continuing to talk as she searched for something. "Their relationship with the church is what really offends me, Janice. They just kept doing what they'd always done but suddenly were defenders of the faith. I don't know if they or the church were the worse hypocrites! They were being touted as soldiers of the Lord, when all these Moors and God knows who all were their vassals too." Janice smiled as she saw how worked up Mel was getting. Her friend hated hypocrisy, especially the religious variety.

Mel found what she was searching for, pausing as she read something with the aid of the magnifying glass. She continued, "That's ignoring these little temples to Bacchus they put up everywhere--like those Christian saint names carved on them would fool anybody from the Vatican." She tapped the page and Janice looked at the engraving of an obviously Greek temple. "St. Cecelia--give me a break. Anyone else would've been burned at the stake," Mel said with irritation.

Janice said with a smile, "Power politics, Mel. The popes probably doubted their sincerity but cut a deal because they needed 'em. They kept a pretty low profile, considering--maybe that was part of the deal. The only reason we're finding this stuff is we know what to look for." She grinned wickedly, "That so many better known rulers were really their vassals throws a fair chunk of history for a loop. Half the wars we know about were really probably civil wars; just their vassals fighting among themselves. Historians will be jumping out windows like stockbrokers in '29 when it gets out." She added, "Mel, you can't deny it's Xena's family anymore. Don't take it so personally. We had that anyway from that Gabrielle fragment, but just look at him! He could be your brother or something."

"I know, Janice," the dark haired woman said. "But this impaling and torturing of enemies...that doesn't sound like what we know about Xena. And the blood stories; I mean, my God, Janice! It's a family of monsters if any of it is true at all..and there are too many unrelated references to not have some basis somewhere..but instead all we find are how loved they were: Good Prince Samuel this and Good Prince Samuel that."

The small blonde understood her friend's concern. When Janice had learned Mel was Xena's descendant she was jealous. But apparently there was a branch of the family that just went off the deep end, though it seemed to have worked for them. Janice wouldn't want that in her family history. Especially since the way generation after generation acted raised the distinct possibility of insanity running in the family. Mel the Impaler, she thought wryly looking at her friend--naah.

The archaeologist said, "They just gave it to their enemies, it sounds like, Mel. Everybody played hardball, not just them. They found something that worked and maybe thought why fix what aint broke. The blood stories could even be propaganda they intentionally spread to scare people." She didn't really believe that but wanted to cheer her friend up.

"Thank you, Janice, for that sensitive and humanitarian defence of my sadistic maniacal family," Mel answered.

"Anytime, Mel." Then she said, "I wonder what happened to 'em. There's nothing about a string of inbred incompetent rulers, or anything like a prince dying without a clear heir and a war over the succession."

"We just haven't found it yet. They're just like every other dynasty, Janice. It's there," Mel said. "Or maybe Christendom just couldn't stomach their paganism anymore and threw them out. What's amazing is that a representative is still around at all."

There was a knock on the door and Mel patted her hair and answered it. The prince smiled at her, his charisma enveloping her and evaporating for the moment all of her criticisms about his family she had just been haranguing Janice with. "Oh, your highness," she said and curtsied. Janice snorted before she could catch herself. She was his guest, after all.

He said, "I came to tell you that we will have guests for dinner tonight. Some German officers."

"What if I don't want to eat with krauts?" Janice said brusquely, to Mel's dismay.

Prince Samuel answered, "I'm afraid they insist on meeting you both, Dr. Covington. I suggested dinner rather than them just coming to see you. They are going to be billeting soldiers here and using my castle as a headquarters." He caught Janice's eyes with his own and said, "Please attend. I told them you would be there." Janice felt lightheaded. Those blue eyes, so like Mel's but not, just seemed to bore into her head.

"Sure, we'll be there. Wouldn't want to make you look bad."

He smiled and released her eyes and she exhaled. He touched her shoulder in a friendly way and it was like a pleasurable electric current went through her from that point. The prince left. Mel was looking at her friend.

"Are you all right?" Mel said, coming over to her.

Janice shook her head to clear it. "Jesus! If he sent me out and told me to start impaling people I'd definitely think about it; and I just met him. Imagine he was your prince and his family had ruled your land forever ...What? You wanna say something?"

Mel said gingerly, "Well, Janice. This sounds like a relatively formal dinner. I thought maybe you'd like me to do something with your hair."

"Just stay away from my hair, Mel," she snapped. "What's wrong with it?"

"There's nothing wrong with it. You might just like something a little more fancy. We are going to be eating with a prince, after all."

"Why am I even considering it? Jeez! My hair is fine like it is, Mel!" Janice said abruptly.

"If you say so, Janice," Mel said uncomfortably.

"You're embarrassed by me. That's it isn't it? This aristocratic stuff just threw you all the way back into finishing school. Fine, Mel, fix my hair if you want. Why don't you pick out what I'll wear while you're at it."

"Thank you, Janice."

The archaeologist looked at her. She was being sarcastic and expected Mel to apologize and say her hair was fine. The relief on her friend's face that she would be able to make her presentable was obvious. Janice fumed. She'd go along with it though; she could see how important all this was to her. Not only was Samuel a prince; he was a relative in all likelihood. Janice guessed she could stand letting Mel have her way this time. She knew how much Mel was risking being with her. Melinda Pappas was a conservative, upper class, southern lady who loved her family, her home and her whole way of life. If their relationship became public it would just make Janice more colorful but it would destroy everything Mel had ever known and make her a pariah. Janice guessed she could dress up a little for her.


The officers arrived precisely at eight. They did not have their dress uniforms with them, but their regular uniforms were immaculate. Captain Freiken had been thinking: although he disliked aristocrats, Prince Samuel was right. Maintaining civilized decorum in a time of war was good to do. It felt right; felt clean. Captain Freiken wanted to feel clean. He had been hearing stories about what the SS was doing in Poland. He was the tenth generation of his family to be an officer. His great-great-grandfather had helped defeat Napoleon. Nothing else had even been an option. But he didn't like what he was hearing about the SS.

One of the privates he had left, just a boy really, answered the door and saluted them. Inside the prince was waiting. The two scholars descended the stairs a moment later. They were both very attractive women, the captain saw, smartly attired and with what he assumed were fashionable hairstyles. To his surprise one of them had a very strong resemblance to the prince. He saw Prince Samuel smile at them and kiss their hands. The dark one who resembled the prince curtsied to him and the smaller blonde looked like she wanted to grab her hand back but she didn't, and nodded her head. She was obviously unaccustomed to this kind of elegance just as the captain's two officers were.

Captain Freiken clicked his heels and bowed. It felt clean. He was enjoying himself already.

The prince spoke in German, "Captain Freiken, this is Dr. Melinda Pappas and Dr. Janice Covington. I am afraid Dr. Covington does not speak German, Captain."

"An honor, Doctors," he said to them in passable English. "This is Lieutenant Jenner and Lieutenant Schmidt." The men did their best to bow as their captain had, though neither were from Prussian military families like he was.

"The honor is ours," Dr. Pappas answered in German then reverted to English so as not to be rude to her friend, just as the captain was. It all felt clean to the captain. It reminded him of his days in the military academy back before the National Socialists had blackened everything.

The prince led them to an ornately set dining table and his servants appeared: three attractive young women with pale skin in maid's uniforms. They didn't just curtsy to the prince: they got on their knees and kissed his hand. The captain felt distaste and thought he detected the same in both of the American scholars. This wasn't Western Europe, let alone the United States.

The meal itself was wonderful. To everyone's surprise it seemed Greek. The prince said, "My family is from Greece originally. I thought it would make a nice change." Everyone but him drank wine that came from ancient looking bottles.

"Don't you drink wine, your highness?" the captain asked.

He smiled and said, "Unfortunately, it does not agree with me. It is ironic since my family has made wine for over a thousand years."

"I'm sorry to hear that, Prince. This is an excellent vintage."

Janice was listening to all this, feeling like something that just fell off a turnip truck. She could see that Mel also appreciated the wine in some connoisseur kinda way. It was just tart grape juice to Janice. She'd rather have a beer. Suddenly one of the servants was next to her setting a glass in front of her with beer. She looked up and the prince was smiling at her.

"Dr. Pappas, I must say you and Prince Samuel bear a striking resemblance to each other," Captain Freiken said.

Mel said, "I believe we are distantly related, Captain. Researching that is one reason I am here. I wrote to the prince and asked if I could come and discuss it with him." She added, "The war wasn't so nearby then. We aren't that brave, Captain."

"I was wondering about that," the officer said quietly.

Now Janice spoke up. "Have you heard of Xena, Captain Freiken?"

"Yes, I have. Anyone classically educated has heard of Xena. Why, Dr. Covington?"

"Well, Dr. Pappas and Prince Samuel both are descended from Xena, I believe."

"Seriously, Doctor?" the captain asked.

"Yes. What he just said about his family coming from Greece only makes me more certain."

"That is very flattering, certainly," the prince said now. "But I have no knowlege of such a connection. However, I do believe Dr. Pappas and I are related, to my very great pleasure." Clean, the captain thought. This all feels so clean.

The evening ended pleasurably. And the captain had his men begin moving into the castle. The prince helped him select a room to use for his command post. Captain Freiken got the feeling the prince was even a little bored; like he had done all of this innumerable times before.

Prince Samuel approached Jan and Mel and said, "Would you care to discuss my family now?" They followed him into a comfortable little room and sat down. One of the maids was there. "Can Clea get you anything. A cigar perhaps, Dr. Covington?"

"Thank you," she said. The girl held an open box for her. "Where are you getting Cuban cigars, Prince?"

"Cuba," he answered simply.

"Prince Samuel, do you know anything about your ancestors impaling their enemies on stakes and drinking blood?" Janice asked bluntly. Mel blushed.

The prince smiled at them as Clea handed him a gold goblet, which he sipped before answering. "Yes, I do. Many of them used impaling as a way of punishing criminals and breaking the will of enemies in war. As for drinking blood...well" he chuckled. "Here." He opened a drawer in an ornately carved desk and brought something out. He handed it to Janice who frowned. "You'll notice the engraving. That was my family's emblem."

"Is it still your emblem, Prince?" Janice asked. Mel didn't understand why her friend seemed so chilly.

"I suppose it is. Naturally, I don't impale my enemies, though," he said with a smile. Mel took the object from Janice and looked curiously. There was the same simple picture of an impaled man she had found on coins, in manuscripts, and on buildings throughout Europe, the Mediterranean and Near East.

"What is this?" she asked, at a loss.

Janice looked at the prince who raised his eyebrows at her. The archaeologist said, "It's a thumbscrew, Mel. It's for torturing people. How old is this, Prince Samuel?" Melinda Pappas nearly dropped it, which would have been unforgivable with an artifact like that.

The prince smiled and took it back from Mel. "About 2800 hundred years, I would estimate. I have reason to believe it was carried by the captain of the guard for one of my ancestors."

"Captain Angela?" Mel said.

The prince looked at her and something came into his eyes. He held the thumbscrew in his hand almost tenderly. "Yes," he said slowly, "Angela."

"Sir, that would be around the same time as Xena the warrior princess was alive. You said earlier that you knew of no connection," Janice said almost accusingly.

"Did I? I do not wish to seem to be bragging about family connections." He was speaking distractedly as he continued looking at the torture instrument. He shook his head and replaced it in the drawer and smiled at them again. "Forgive me. I was just thinking of an old friend, one whom I miss very much."

"A thumbscrew makes you think of an old friend?" Janice asked.

"The mind works in odd ways, Dr. Covington," the prince answered. "You yourself resemble Gabrielle of Poteidaia and are a descendant very likely. Yet you are not proud of that. I would consider that extremely odd, for instance. The bard was the cherished friend of the warrior princess and a fine poet in her own right. She was also highly esteemed by Queen Jilly who had known her since childhood."

Janice was shocked. "How can you know that about me? Or know that about Gabrielle of Poteidaia?" Mel also looked surprised.

"Come with me, please," the prince said. He led them into an adjacent room and then down a flight of stairs, led by Clea holding a torch. He tripped once and Clea kept him from falling without even glancing at him. They arrived at a heavy locked door which Clea opened. They entered and Janice and Mel gasped. They were looking at a marble statue of two figures. The taller one looked like Mel but was dressed like a warrior and the smaller looked like Janice but garbed as a peasant and holding a staff.

The prince spoke again. "This was commissioned by Queen Jilly, sister of the first Prince Samuel. Xena and Gabrielle were much older than they appear here, but the queen wanted them as they looked in their prime. It has been in my family a very long time. Unfortunately some other figures she commissioned have disappeared. I have been searching for them for years though I'm afraid they are destroyed."

"My God, Prince! And your family has kept it secretly all this time. If this were known it would be as famous as the Laocoon or the Apollo Belvedere. Don't you think you have a responsibility to share it with the world?" Janice asked.

"No," he said simply. "It's ours. Why should we share it? If my family dies out..then certainly. But not until then. And now if it were discovered it would simply be taken to Berlin and probably end up in Goering's garden. Is that what you want?"

"Of course not," the archaeologist said brusquely. She and Mel were both walking around the statue, devouring it with their eyes. Even more than any personal connection, it was of fantastic historical importance.

Mel glanced back at the prince and saw him draining his goblet and handing it to Clea. Before he licked his lips Mel caught her breath. He heard her and frowned.

"He's drinking blood!" Mel whispered to Janice.

The archaeologist was prepared to jump him if necessary to get her friend out, but found herself suddenly held by the maid with one hand. Clea held Mel with her other hand. Janice hit her in the face with no effect whatsoever except for Clea making a hissing sound. She saw the long canines for the first time.

Prince Samuel sighed. "Do not be alarmed. Nothing has changed. Clea is merely protecting me. If she releases you, will you not do something stupid? Dr. Pappas, you and I are much more closely related than you can imagine and your welfare is important to me, to say the least. And you, Dr. Covington, are so bound up in the lives of my family that you are also in absolutely no danger. Please. Relax. Release them, Clea." The woman did not move. "I said release them, Clea." The maid finally did as she was told. "Leave us alone." The girl did not move. The prince sighed again. "When it comes to my safety, I am constantly disobeyed," he said to Jan and Mel. "Fine, Clea. Stay but don't hurt them. They are family, understand?" Clea nodded. She hadn't taken her eyes off of Janice.

The door opened and the other two maids came in. However, they were no longer dressed as servants. They wore diaphanous robes with nothing underneath and one of them carried an unconscious German soldier as if he were weightless. "What timing," the prince said, rolling his eyes. Clea had grabbed the scholars again. The two other girls had stopped and were staring at Jan and Mel. They looked at Prince Samuel who said in a resigned tone, "Sure, go ahead. They've seen this much." Speaking to Janice and Mel, he said, " Oh, by the way, this is Fotena," he indicated the girl holding the limp soldier, "and this is Elvira."

"What's going on?" Janice said through gritted teeth.

Fotena just leapt up. When she came down she had left the man hanging from a hook in the ceiling by his bound feet. Elvira was easily carrying a large marble bowl over that must have weighed several hundred pounds. She positioned it underneath the soldier.

"Oh my!" Mel said.

"That's an understatement," Janice growled. The prince nodded to Fotena who drew a fingernail across the man's throat and blood began gushing down. The prince handed her the golden goblet and she held it in the flow, letting it fill up. Then she returned it to the prince who looked at Janice and Mel, shrugged his shoulders and began drinking. The two girls were lapping up blood from the bowl now or just catching the dripping blood in their mouths. Then Elvira stood and went to hold Janice and Mel while Clea drank.

"What kind of sick perverted monster are you?" Janice said with disgust to Prince Samuel. She felt a sudden intense pain as Elvira began squeezing her arm but stopped at a gesture from the prince.

He held his goblet in the blood again and the girls instantly backed away until he had enough. He drank some more before answering.

"I don't consider myself a monster at all--just someone playing the hand dealt me, the same as you or anybody else, and doing my duty. In case you've forgotten, your country is at war with this soldier's country. Not only has Germany invaded my current home but many of my former lands, visiting destruction on my subjects. This is war. I've never killed an innocent in all my years."

Mel spoke now in a quavering voice, "And just how many years would that be, your highness?"

"There has only ever been one Prince Samuel," the prince answered. Then he took another drink of blood and smacked his lips. "I love Germans. I think this one is a mixture of Visigoth and Saxon, with a hint of Ostrogoth or Lombard. Don't you agree, girls?" Fotena, Clea and Elvira all smiled at him and nodded, their faces smeared with blood.


"Sir, a man disappeared on guard duty during the night."

Captain Freiken looked at Lieutenant Schmidt. "Double the guards and give them orders to shoot anyone suspicious." The captain frowned. "Dismissed, Lieutenant."

He tapped his fingers on the desk, thinking. Partisans were to be expected. If Prince Samuel believed in tradition as he said, he might believe in his traditional role of defending his people as well. Captain Freiken respected that more than he could say. If in fact that was the case here, the captain would dislike executing the prince very much.


Mel looked over at her friend. They were both in the room the prince had given to Janice. The door was locked from the outside and the window was barred. Prince Samuel had explained he couldn't let them just wander around now. He had to decide how to handle this awkward situation. He had assured them they were absolutely safe from him. Janice didn't believe him for a second.

The archaeologist had changed back into her khakis but still had the elegant hairstyle Mel had given her. She was pacing and chewing on a cigar. "We have to get out of here before we're next on the menu," she said, finally stopping her pacing. "Then I want to kill this crazy monster. He really thinks he's three thousand years old!"

Sitting on the bed, Mel was looking down at her hands. She said, "He's related to me, Janice. He also said we were safe. He seems to see what he did to that soldier as part of fighting a war."

Janice stared at her. "What are you saying, Mel? He's a maniac. He'll kill us."

"Janice, I don't think he will. He could've last night if that's what he wanted. He won't hurt me. We're related."

"Oh, really? And what about me, Mel?" the blonde said sarcastically.

"He said you were safe because of your importance to our family. I believe him, Janice. We're at war and he killed an enemy soldier. Maybe in a not-so-nice way but he was still an enemy soldier," Mel answered.

"Christ, I don't believe this," Janice growled. "And how do you explain those girls of his? They must be hopped up on something." She rolled her sleeve up and looked at the bruise in the shape of a hand. Elvira would have crushed her arm if Prince Samuel hadn't stopped her.

"Janice, we don't talk about it anymore, but you remember when we found the scrolls...and Ares...and Xena," Mel said.

"Yeah, so what?" the little blonde answered.

"Well," Mel continued, "this could be another thing like that."

Janice stared at her. "You believe him. You really think he's thousands of years old."

"Yes, Janice, I do," Mel said defiantly.

"All right, Mel. Say that's true. Then what?"

"We promise we won't tell anyone about him and go on our way."

"What? He's killing people and drinking their blood, Mel! Jesus, we can't just forget that. We've got to stop him." Janice said vehemently.

"Not 'people,' Janice. Enemy soldiers. We're on the same side."

"I can't believe you're saying this."

"War is hell, Janice. That's a concept anyone from the south is very aware of. Do you want to hand him over to the Germans?"

"Of course not."

"You just want to kill him even though he has said he won't hurt us and I believe him. He offends your tender sensibilities."

The archaeologist was uncomfortable. She was used to telling Mel what to do without an argument. What was most unsettling about this conversation was her distinct impression that her friend was smarter than she was and much stronger than she usually let on. She had hidden that from her. Mel was a southern belle raised to make men feel important. She had just used the same techniques on Janice when they got involved, building her up and downplaying her own abilities. Janice had fallen for it just as if she was Beauregard Brunswick III or somebody.

Janice gave up, feeling deflated. "Okay, Mel. We can try it your way. I still don't trust him though."

Her friend got up and hugged her. "Oh, thank you, Janice! You know that I'd be lost without you. I'm just emotional and silly."

"Yeah, sure," Janice answered feeling like one of Pavlov's dogs.


Private Franz Bommer nervously looked around the trucks he was guarding. Gunther had disappeared the night before. There must be partisans everyone said. This was frightening, waiting for someone to sneak up on you and cut your throat.

"Good evening, my young friend."

Franz said, "Halt!' automatically. He kept the gun trained even after recognizing the prince.

Prince Samuel was dressed in dark clothes this time and he appeared rather ghostly. He smiled and said, "You are a good soldier. You are right to be careful of me. After all, who am I? I could very well be responsible for your comrade's disappearance last night.

Franz lowered the gun, knowing he shouldn't. Something about Prince Samuel's voice, his appearance, made it unconscienceable to threaten him. The long haired man approached him.

"What is your name?" the prince asked.

"Private Franz Bommer, sir."

"Franz, how old are you?"


"I see. I see. I want you to serve me, Franz. Would you like that?"

"Yes, your highness, but I cannot. I must do my duty."

The prince walked closer and put his hands on Franz's shoulders, looking in his eyes. "Franz, your duty is to serve me. You have served me well before. Not once, but many, many times. When I needed Terrukan prisoners you went into their lines for me, losing your arm and your brother. You brought them back to me. I said you were a hero and wished I was a man like you. Think, Franz! Remember."

The young man began crying and took Prince Samuel's hand, kissing it. He said, "I remember, Prince! But I cannot betray my duty now!"

The prince's eyes were red. He released the boy's shoulders. "I'm sorry, Franz." Franz suddenly felt inhumanly strong hands grab him and then he didn't feel anything.

Prince Samuel said to Fotena who was holding the boy's body. "Bury him. We will not feed on him. Get Elvira and take the rest of the men guarding the trucks, then crack the engine blocks. Clea will stay with me." The bacchae nodded and flew off with the dead young private.


There was a knock on their door. "Come in, " Mel said. It unlocked and Prince Samuel came in.

"Where are your girls?" Janice demanded, surprised to see him alone.

"They do not get out much during the day. This is your chance to escape and kill me if you wish. I am very clumsy, Dr. Covington, and certainly no match for you."

Mel spoke up. "We have been discussing our situation, your highness. Isn't that so, Janice?"

The little archaeologist looked at her friend. "Mel feels that since we're all on the same side fighting the Germans, we should promise to keep your secret."

The prince smiled. "Really? That is wonderful. I hoped you would come to that conclusion. Dr. Covington, I understand your reaction. You thought I was a mad killer. Perhaps you still do. Once I would have felt the same, I am sure."

"Yeah, okay." Janice said. It sure sounded like Mel was right at least about his not wanting to harm them.

"Dr. Covington, I would recommend you and Dr. Pappas leave immediately. The situation with the Germans is deteriorating rapidly and while you are safe from me, I cannot say the same about them. I am attempting to cripple this command so it will be unable to effectively delay some Russian forces coming this way. Last night I damaged their trucks. Some sort of retaliation may very well be coming from Captain Freiken."

Janice said, "You really are just fighting a war, aren't you? The blood is just a side angle."

"Well, more than a side angle. My girls and I need it. However, there is always plenty from justifiable sources, either criminals or enemies ...repulsive as I am sure you find that."

Janice had been thinking and now asked. "Why are you restricting yourself to this? You could lead a country. You know the effect you have on people; you must know."

Prince Samuel said, "I have been forbidden to do that. I went to Germany long ago to try to prevent Hitler from ever coming to power, but I was told that those days for me are long past. Helping in small ways is all I am allowed."

"Who has forbidden you, Prince?" Mel asked.

"The gods," he answered simply. "My long life is unnatural as it is. They do not want me compounding that by ruling a great state as I used to. If I disobeyed I would simply be returned here again or someplace similar and accomplish nothing."

The archaeologist nodded. She said, "Lemme help you with these krauts. You're right. We are on the same side."

"Thank you, Dr. Covington. But I don't think I can allow you to do that. It is too dangerous and you are too important to my family in years to come."


Clea, Fotena and Elvira were furious with him. They wanted him to remain with them while they slept during the day. Sam knew they had very nearly locked him up. But disobeying him as completely as that was as difficult for them as allowing him to be in danger. Sam sympathized with them. He could be killed and the bacchae had been placed with him in order to protect him. But he wasn't going to hide behind them now anymore than he had when he had ruled half the known world. His soldiers had never had supernatural protection. Times had certainly changed. For most of his life he had been more in the position of these Germans--or more accurately Hitler in Berlin. As the modern world approached though, the gods had begun cutting him back more and more; taking his many lands and armies away.

Sam knew the gods were anything but unanimous about it. He had had plenty of time to think it over and spoken to any number of priests, favorites, oracles, and even one or another god every few centuries. Bacchus didn't want him hobbled at all and others wanted him dead. Ares had a long relationship with his family so might be in his corner for his own reasons. Christ knows where Athena would come down on it now. She'd turned him toward blood in the first place merely as a way to punish his sister, then was horrified when Bacchus made Sam his immortal favorite. Athena couldn't just outwit her brother, Bacchus, like her brother, Ares. His mind and motives which revolved around mystic ecstasy and blood were too foreign to the way her own mind worked. Ares could deal with him better. He just kicked his ass and didn't bother with some brilliant scheme like their sister always did. Bacchus could turn his men into drunks and drug addicts though and corrupt them with women, so he wasn't someone Ares would cross lightly.

Athena had tried a few times to lure Bacchus into some complex argument or convoluted trap, and he just laughed at her, seduced her priestesses and turned them into bacchae. That's what two of Sam's girls were; Fotena had been a priestess of Artemis, instead. Athena suspected Ares had suggested using those particular bacchae, since he understood Athena and how to annoy her better than Bacchus, just like he understood Bacchus better than Athena did. She could move against Bacchus through her favorites, of course, persecuting his worship and killing his followers. Ares' favorites were always more dangerous than Athena's, personally at least, thanks to their berserk streak, so she had to be careful of pushing him too far as well.

The way they all balanced each other was fascinating in a way. That was just three of the Olympian gods. All 12 might be in on it and probably were. These days they didn't have much else to do, having outlived their time even more than Sam had. They might even be restricted somewhat like Sam was by the gods of the modern age. Sam's current situation was in all likelihood a compromise no one liked. He'd requested death many times but of course what he wanted had no weight at all.


Soldiers stood on either side of the prince, their guns trained on him. Lieutenant Schmidt stood nearby. Captain Freiken looked at Prince Samuel, with his long mustache and womanish hair.

"Your highness, several more of my men disappeared last night. Do you know anything about this?" he spoke coldly. He was certain the prince was behind the partisan activity. That he was doing it right under their noses just showed his bravery and amateurishness. The prince was not a soldier; the captain was sure of that. He should have officers to carry out his policy for him. Captain Freiken could imagine doing that himself in other circumstances. It would be a clean life serving someone like this.

The room was bright with sunlight. The prince answered. "How should I know anything about that, Captain?" This was a game the two of them were playing. Sam had done this thousands of times. Playing cat and mouse with an enemy. Both of them knowing he was lying but both going through the motions, acting their parts. He was almost bored, even knowing what could happen.

"Lieutenant Schmidt, I want you to interrogate Prince Samuel."

"Yes sir," the man answered. The captain could tell the officer hated this as much as he did. Ordering him to do this was nauseating for them both. They respected Prince Samuel as much as anyone they'd ever met in their lives. Schimdt led the prince away. Captain Freiken drummed his fingers some more hoping the two American scholars were not involved.


Mel's face was red. "They've got him Janice. What will they do to him? They wouldn't hurt him would they?" They were in the room Sam had spoken to them in the previous night. The archaeologist was in her old bomber jacket, with her pistol hidden and her bullwhip on her belt. She had no intention of leaving the prince in a jam like that no matter what he said. A plan of action hadn't come to her yet, though.

Janice looked at her friend. Mel had gone completely to the other side and viewed Prince Samuel as family now. She tried to think of a reassuring lie when she felt a presence in the room; something menacing, cold, brutal. Janice took her bullwhip from her belt. Mel felt it too, Janice could see. There was a shifting glowing mass in the center of the room that gradually coalesced into a woman--a tall woman with red hair and freckles dressed in black leather and wearing a sword.

"Where's Sam?" the woman said harshly.

"Who are you?" Janice asked and found herself flat on her back, her face stinging.

"I said, WHERE'S SAM?"

Mel spoke excitedly, "The Germans have him. They know he's fighting them."

"You must be Aunt Mel," the woman said.

"What?" she said, mystified.

Janice had gotten back up, furious. She threw a punch at the slender redhead and found herself back on the floor again, with no idea how she'd gotten there. Janice got up more cautiously this time. The woman seemed to be looking around the room searching. She stopped when she saw the prince's desk which she approached, opening up a drawer and taking something out. Janice watched her attach the thumbscrew to a hook on her belt that seemed made for it.

"You're Captain Angela."

"That's right. And you look like the bard. That's the only reason you're still alive after you tried to hit me. Don't do that again. I'm not in the mood."

She drew her sword and opened the door and strode out. Jan and Mel followed and heard a guard say "Halt!" Mel shut her eyes at the blood splattering them. She opened them and saw Janice taking the dead man's weapon. Angela was already gone. They heard a few shots followed by a scream around a corner, which they followed.

"Holy shit!" Janice said, looking at what was left of three German soldiers in the hallway. A fourth was alive with the redhead sitting on his chest.

"Where is the prisoner? The long-haired man who lives here," she demanded in German.

The man didn't answer and suddenly began screaming. Mel covered her ears. Janice ran up to try and stop her and found herself bouncing off a wall. Angela gave another twist to the thumbscrew. "Where is the prisoner?" she repeated cruelly. Her eyes were gleaming and she was smiling. She gave another twist and the man screamed again.

"...first room on the left on the second floor... just off main dining room..." he sobbed out. Angela took the thumbscrew off and just left the moaning man. Mel wanted to help him, but instead followed Angela as Janice did. They saw another guard and this one Janice shot with a burst of machine gun fire.

Captain Freiken had run to where the prince was being interrogated. He had heard shots and yells from inside the castle, but the exact location was hard to determine. "Get more men," he'd ordered a man who ran out of the castle. There were two guards in the hallway. The door opened and Lieutenant Schmidt came out. Captain Freiken looked inside. Prince Samuel seemed semiconscious. He was tied to a chair and looked bloody, his face badly swollen.

"He hasn't said anything, yet." Schmidt said. "Is it the Russians, sir?"

"I don't think so, Lieutenant. I suspect a rescue attempt for the prince." There was a burst of gunfire and one of the guards fell. The three men jumped back into the room with the prince and slammed the door.

Angela ran up and took the machine gun from the body of the guard, quickly getting away from the door as bullets suddenly came through it. She looked at the weapon . "Show me how this works," she ordered Janice, who quickly explained the basics.

"Where are his girls?" Mel said frantically.

The redhead glanced at her. "Taking their beauty sleep. They'll be back as soon as it's dark."

They heard soldiers and Captain Angela jumped out and began picking them off as she kept in constant motion, ducking and rolling.

"I thought you didn't know how to use that?" Janice said, looking with amazement at the ten dead Germans scattered about now. She had barely gotten a shot off.

"I don't. I've never held a gun before," Angela said. "Is there a window to that room?" she asked.

"Yeah. There's another room here with a window." Janice led them all into a room, and Angela ran to the window and peered out, took her boots off and just disappeared out the window.

"Jesus!" Janice said and looked out, expecting to see her body on the ground. Instead Angela was somehow finding hand and toeholds in the wall and was just climbing across the face of the building.

"Janice!" Mel called, and the little blonde ran back to the doorway and began firing at a new group of German soldiers who had arrived.

Captain Freiken was trying to think. His men should have arrived to reinforce him by now. That they hadn't made him suspect a larger force than he thought must be in the castle attempting the rescue. The prince must be an important leader. He looked at the two soldiers with him. They all might very well die, he thought. Ordering information tortured out of a brave man wasn't exactly what he would have chosen as his final act. He approached the prince. It looked like Schmidt had been burning him and beating him. Most of his fingers looked broken. The lieutenant looked ashamed. This wasn't what he had become an officer for either.

"You did your duty and followed my orders, Lieutenant." Captain Frieken said to the officer. Then he spoke to the prisoner. "Prince Samuel, can you hear me?" the captain asked.

The man opened a swollen eye but didn't say anything.

"A rescue attempt is being staged for you. I just want to tell you I respect you."

Somehow the bound tortured man managed a shrug. Captain Freiken drew his Luger intending to kill the prince rather than let him be rescued. He believed Prince Samuel was a partisan leader and that his duty was clear.

Angela had nearly slipped several times but she managed to reach the window to the room Sam was held in. As she peered in she saw a middle aged officer say something to Sam, then draw his gun and point it at him. Angela brought the machine gun around which was on her back and fired with one hand as she was climbing in the window. The hand holding the Luger exploded in blood and the man cried out. The Luger went off. Angela dropped to the ground, rolling as bullets sprayed around her and she felt a searing pain in her left arm and leg. She came up shooting, taking the head off the private shooting at her. She felt another bullet tear into her and she threw the empty machine gun which sent the man flying and broke his neck. She limped over to Sam. The officer who had been about to kill him was trying to get to his feet and reach his officer's dagger with his left hand; he no longer had a right hand. He had caught several other bullets in his torso, she saw and was clearly close to losing consciousness. Angela smiled and took her thumbscrew from her belt.

Sam was looking at Angela. He wasn't as weak as he had been acting with the officer interrogating him. "Don't. Make it fast," he said, then spit out some blood.

She frowned at him. Angela reached out and took the dagger the officer was trying to get. He looked in her eyes. She handed him the dagger, drew her sword and drove it through his body.

"What are you doing here?" he said through smashed swollen lips. Angela was untying him, trying to ignore her own wounds. Her left side was largely unusable. There was a bloody groove on Sam's neck with powder burns that must be from the shot fired by the officer's Luger.

"Can't I leave you alone for a minute, Sam? It's only been a couple thousand years," she said, smiling crookedly.

She looked down. She had been shot in her left arm twice and left leg three times, at least, and there was a hole in her side that seemed to have gone right through her. She had a high tolerance for pain; her own and other people's. "Bacchus and Ares, you know...horsetrading with Hades. All that god bullshit...I can't stay, Sam...a few hours is all."

Sam managed to get up. He gently kissed her cheek, leaving blood on her and her eyes teared up. Angela noticed his broken fingers for the first time. She looked back at the officer she had just killed. She wouldn't have been so merciful if she'd seen that before no matter what Sam said. The shooting was still going on. She weakly walked to the door and opened it up.

"Get in here!" she commanded and Mel and Janice scurried instantly inside. They both were carrying several bags of ammunition they had gotten from dead soldiers.

"Oh my!" Mel exclaimed looking at both Sam and Angela.

"Lemme take a look at those wounds," Janice ordered Angela.

"Check Sam."

"You need it more."

"Do what she says, Angela," Sam said and to the little blonde's amazement the woman meekly sat down and let her begin looking at her wounds.

"Do you think we can hold out here till nightfall?" Sam said. It was an open question.

"Yeah, but what good will that do? Do you think we can sneak out?" Janice said.

Angela said, "He means his girls will come for him when it gets dark. Yeah, Sam, we can do that. The soldiers out there don't even know what's going on most likely. I killed a lieutenant coming here..and here's another one and a captain. How many more officers can they have?" She reached over and touched Sam's leg tenderly. "Hey!" she said as Janice cut her short black pants up the side to get to a wound in her hip.

"I think those were all of their officers," Sam said.

Mel was cleaning Sam's face and neck as well as she could, using water from a canteen one of the dead men had and dabbing at his wounds. She looked at his broken hands, having no idea what to do at all for that and feeling horrified. He caught her eyes, "I'll be all right, Aunt Mel."

"What can his girls do? I mean they're tough but they can't just fly in here and fly us out can they?" Janice asked.

Sam and Angela looked at each other. Angela said, "Well, yeah, they can actually. But I think when they see what Sam looks like they'll do a little attitude adjusting of our friends out there instead."

"What kind of attitude adjusting?" Mel asked.


The corporal ran up to his sergeant. "Comrade Sergeant! Come look!"

"What is it," Sergeant Vasily Vasilokov said.

"Bodies, Comrade Sergeant! Many of them!"

The sergeant carefully looked around, indicating for his men to wait with a hand gesture. He followed the corporal, young Andrei Gorachevsky. He shouldn't really have been promoted, but there were so many dead in his unit there was no one else. The sergeant came over the rise and stopped.

Vasily Vasilokov indicated for the rest of the men to come up. He was looking at hundreds of bodies impaled on whatever could be made to serve the purpose: mostly pieces of wood that looked like they had been torn from fences or buildings.

"Those filthy German butchers!" the corporal said. But the sergeant was just carefully going down see what there was to see.

"Come on," he called, "they won't bite." The rest of his men followed. He said sharply, "Andrei Gorachevsky, what do you notice here?"

"Comrade Sergeant?" the young man said helplessly.

The sergeant sighed and said, "These are German soldiers. Think! Who would kill our enemies? Why like this? Where are they?" He looked at the blank face of his corporal and shook his head resignedly.

The End