Chapter Four

Note: ** = translated from Arabic.

Janice walked along side the dancer from the club, toward the home of the man that seemed to have kidnapped Melinda, who also may have been a Nazi collaborator. And on top of that Janice found it increasingly difficult to keep her eyes off the dancer.

Thank god she spoke Arabic, because the dancer knew only just enough broken English to get by. Her name was Kehlia . . . Kehlia Faerun, Tarma was her stage name. She came to Janice's uncle only a month ago having escaped from German occupied Libya.

**How much farther?** Janice asked, it's been hours it seemed since they left the club, though in reality only forty minutes had passed.

**Not far** Kehlia replied, **Amoud's home is just ahead, the Americas don't bother him, they find it better to keep him happy, that way he tells them what the Germans are planning.***

Nodding, Janice looked at Kehlia, finding her more attractive close up than from her seat in the balcony, **So Amoud's a spy for the Allies?**

**Now he is, he used to help the Germans, now to stay out of jail, he helps the Americas,** Kehlia replied, then nodded, **Up ahead, the house with the big walls.**

Nodding, Janice once again felt for her .44, then gazed up and down the street, it was an upper-class neighborhood, nice homes with palm trees lining one of the few paved roads in the city. She couldn't see the home Kehlia indicated, the high wall blocked her view, but she could see someone standing by the gate leading to the driveway.

**Your woman is there, that's where Amoud would take her.**

Janice could not but help noticing that Kehlia's tone changed when she called Mel her woman, this night was definitely on the upswing she thought.

**She's not my woman, she's my friend,** Janice just loved the look Kehlia gave her, oh yes, most definitely on the upswing she thought with a smile.

The dancer was momentarily startled when Janice wrapped an arm around her hip and pulled her closer, **We're being watched, just need to get me close to him.** Kehlia looked up the street seeing the figure at the gate watching them.

Looking back at Janice she saw that her head was bend forward, hiding her face with her hat, realizing that they looked like a couple, the dancer slipped her arm around the woman and started to laugh.

The guard took another drag on his cigarette, he had a German machine pistol balanced on his right hip. Eyes slanted as he watched the couple's approach, the woman was laughing, but the guy seemed too stiff, and that was making him nervous.

Suddenly the man stopped, causing the guard to grip tighter on his gun, only to relax when the man spun the woman around and kissed her. From the way the man hands roamed over the backside of the woman, the guard knew what they had planned for the night.

Janice watched the guard as she kissed Kehlia's chin, she was grateful that the woman understood what she was doing. Then she noticed that Kehlia's eyes were close, slowly the dancer moved her head bringing her lips to Janice's.

Leaning against the wall, the guard was becoming annoyed at the couple, the moaning emulating from them was having an unwelcome effect. **HEY, GO HOME AND DO THAT!** grinning now that the pair broke up their petting and started back on their way down the street. He waited until they were passing right by him, not able to resist he smiled, **Give her a good one for me**

Janice whirled around and nailed the guard right on the chin, driving his head back into the wall with the force of the blow; crossed-eyed he slid down the wall without a sound. While Janice was bend over repeating, "OW...ow...ow...ow," shaking her hand. Kehlia leaned over the guard grabbing the machine pistol, then looked at Janice as she opened the gate, **I have a neighbor you can do that to.**

Flexing her fingers, Janice reached down grabbing the guard's feet, dragging him inside the gate, dumping him next to the wall. Kneeling next to the unconscious guard, Janice pulled off her tie, wrapping one end around the man's ankles, then bend his legs back and tied his hands with the other end.

Kehlia stood by watching the house, the front door was about sixty feet from the gate, and it looked like every light was on inside. Standing up, Janice took the machine pistol from the dancer, drawing back the bolt making sure a shell was in the chamber.

**This is as far as you go, head back to the club and I'll see later.** Kehlia started to protest, then simply nodded, leaning forward she kissed Janice on the cheek, then without a word walked out the driveway shutting the gate behind her, and started down the street.

Wiping the smile off her face, she gripped the gun across her body, one hand on the pistol grip, the other on the magazine; straining her senses, she ducked low and started to run up the driveway, heading for the back of the house.

She could not tell how many people were in the house, but heard four separate voices, all men. Rounding the back, she saw Mel momentarily though the kitchen window, then she disappeared.

Kneeling on the ground, Janice was trying to figure out what to do next, when screaming started from inside the kitchen, followed by gunshots; taking a deep breath, she ran for the kitchen door.


Melinda had never been more outraged in her life, kidnapping people just was not done back in Charleston. To have been dragged through the club, bundled into a car, then dragged once again into a stranger's home was a fine

Ali Amoud watched Mel pace back and forth, he did not like what he was doing but didn't have much choice. He just hoped the Americas would not learn of this, the idea of going to jail for helping the German controlled Vichy French was not sitting well.

Mel stopped her pacing and stared at Amoud, he was handsome all right, but had the manners of a Yankee on Sherman's march though Georgia. "So . . . so what do you plan to do with me?"

Disliking the woman's tone, Amoud stood up facing her, he had expected her to be scared, but all he saw was defiance, it was time to begin the game. "I regret the manner that you were brought to my home."

Sighing, he brushed back his hair, slowly walking around the room, "I was expecting you and your friend, but I only have need of you. I saw the fight at the club as an opportunity to bring you here for a slight task, translating a couple scrolls."

Mel narrowed her eyes, she would have to watch herself, as much as she was disgusted with him, his accent was indeed charming, "Now why didn't you just ask me to work for you, like a normal, POLITE human being would do; and how did you know I was coming?"

"Jack Kleinman," smiling at Mel's reaction, Amoud relaxed, "I let him get part of the scroll, I know what happened in Macedonia, and expected him to send it to you, and that you and your friend would come for it."

Shrugging her shoulders, Melinda crossed her arms trying to act like she was not the least bit interested, "Two scrolls, what's the big deal about getting them translated right now?"

With a nod, Amoud walked to the corner bar pouring himself a drink, "Join me?" Seeing Mel shake her head, he continued, "I could only get a little of the scroll translated, I'm in need of an expert, and that's you."

"Again I'm asking, why do you need the scrolls translated?"

Watching her eyes for the slightest reaction, Amoud sipped his drink, "I want the Aegis."

He saw the corner of Melinda's mouth twitch, then hear her laugh, only he knew that it was forced, "Remember, I said I know what happened a month ago, your huh . . . encounter with Ares, and if he can be real, why not the Aegis?"

Looking around the living room, Mel tried to think of something to say, she knew that Janice would not want Amoud to get his hands on the Aegis, if it existed, but was at a lost for what to do right now.

"Follow me," turning, Amoud headed into the dining room, pausing slightly to make sure Mel was behind him.

Walking into the room, Mel noticed the scroll on the table, and forced herself to keep from running over and grabbing it. She strolled over glancing down, then allowing a little luxury, stooped over to examine the parchment.

Squinting her eyes, Mel adjusted her glasses before looking up at the overhead lamp, "I need more light than this."

Frowning, Amoud picked up the scroll, and opened another door, taking Mel into the kitchen. Setting the scroll on the kitchen table, he turned on every light in the room. Looking at Mel he pasted a fake smile on his face, "Is this enough light?"

Mumbling about trying to read a three thousand-year-old scroll in bad lighting, Melinda sat at the table looking at Amoud. "I need something to write on, I can't remember everything I translate."

Opening a drawer, Amoud pulled out a notepad and pen, dropping it on the table; her manner starting to irritate him, "Write now!."

Frowning now, the southerner let a little more of her own accent in, let's see if he can stand-up to a ticked off lady from South Carolina, she wondered.

"I can't work with you watching over my shoulder," seeing no reaction, she stood up facing him, the look of surprise on his face plain. "Now see here Ali Bey Amoud, I've been in a bar fight, dragged against my will away from my friends, and told to translate this scroll. Now I'm guessing if I don't, things would get unpleasant for me. So either get out of here and let me work, or do what you ever you had planned, cause I'm not taking much more of this!"

Backing up in shock, Amoud was not used to women that demanded him to leave a room in his own house. Fighting back the raising anger, he turned and locked the back door, then headed for the dinning room door, stopping as he started to exit.

"Miss. Pappas, there will be a guard outside this door, and there's one outside on the grounds, so don't try to escape."

After he left the room, Mel could hear him locking the door. She stayed at the table head bend forward, eyes closed for five minutes; listening for any sound that could indicate that she was being watched.

Opening her eyes, she for the first time examined the room while not moving from her chair. It was more modern than she expected, slowly standing so not to make a sound; she made her way though the cupboards searching for anything that could help get her out of this mess.

Only thing she found was a half size cupboard, nearly empty, but big enough for her to hide in if she wanted. But how to keep them from searching the room, her mind wandered over the puzzle.

They would have to be in a panic, people in a hysteria look for simple solutions. Looking around once again she walked over to the sink and opened the cupboard doors.

Grabbing a pile of cleaning rags she moved over to the stove, dropping them on the counter, then retrieved a iron frying pan, her mind briefly thinking about throwing it at Amoud's thick skull.

Seizing a bottle of cooking oil, she placed the skillet on the stove, turning the burner on high. Pouring half the cooking oil into the pan followed by the rags, using her fingers to turn the rags over until they were soaked in oil, and dumped the rest of the oil over the rags.

Standing back she glanced at the dining room door, moving swiftly now as the rags started to smoke, she took a kitchen table chair, and gently placed it under the door handle.

Moving back to the sink, Mel took two of the biggest rags, wetting them down. By now the rags in the skillet had caught fire, using one of the wet rags, she threw it on top, which put the fire out, but started to send up clouds of thick black smoke.

Wrapping the other wet rag around her head, so that she looked like some wild west bandit, she headed for her hiding place. Well, here goes nothing she thought as someone started to pound on the door.


**FIRE!** the guard at the dinning room door was screaming as he pounded his fist against the door, smoke was billowing from under the seams, the acidic smell filling his nostrils.

Amoud came running from the living room, the other two guards right behind him, seeing his man pounding on the door, it took him only a moment to decide what to do. Keeping his momentum going, Amoud threw his shoulder into the door, feeling it give away under his bulk, then stumble forward onto his face as he tripped over the chair that had been wedged under the door knob.

Mel shuttered when she heard the door break, but she kept silent, the wet rag, closed door, and being low were all working in her favor. She only hoped that they were panicked enough to not search the room.

Cursing in Arabic, Amoud stood back up as one of the guards grabbed the frying pan, only to scream as it burned his hand. I'm going to kill that woman, was going through Amoud's mind as he picked himself off the floor.

Amoud saw that the kitchen door was intact, quickly sweeping around the room, his eyes settled on the half size cupboard, just big enough to hide in he thought as he pulled his gun and fired into the cupboard door.

Chapter Five

Janice kicked the door open, sending shards of wood flying into the kitchen. The men inside the room froze, looking at her in shock.

Squeezing the trigger of the machine pistol she send a quick burst bullets into the ceiling, raining plaster on the crowd. **Don't move if you want to see the morning!** she screamed, adrenalin rushing through her veins.

Quickly sizing up the situation with the smoking frying pan, she turned a cold eye towards Amoud, **Drop the gun.** Seeing the pistol hit she floor, Janice released the breath she was holding, **Where's Mel?**

Ali licked his lips, his eyes on the whiffs of smoke drifting from the barrel of the gun that Janice was pointing at his heart. Quickly he shifted his gaze to the cupboard marked with bullet holes.

Catching the look Janice tighten her finger on the gun's trigger, **Open it, if she's dead, you're following her.**

Whispering a quick prayer, Amoud open the bullet ridden cupboard, only to find it empty.

"MELINDA!" Janice screamed; a muffled yell answered her, then the cupboard doors beneath the sink opened, followed by a moaning Melinda Pappas.

"I'm getting to old for this," the woman muttered as she banged her shins pulling her legs out. Grinning, Janice kept her eyes on the men, "Why were you under there?"

Standing, but having the sense to keep out of the path of Janice's gun, she ran behind the blond, "I hid there cause they would have expected me to hide in the other cupboard. And not finding me there, I had hoped they would have left the room to search for me."

It was then that an astounded Mel saw the bullet holes in the other cupboard, "WHAT!!!, who shot. . .Amoud?" Moving back around Janice she crept past the guards grabbing the scroll off the table, "I think this is mine for that."

Amoud started to move as Mel took the scroll, but a sound from Janice changed his mind, **All of you on the floor, NOW!** she called out, "Mel, grab Ali's gun."

Stepping over the prone guard, Melinda grabbed Amoud's gun, looking at him in the eye, "You know, I'm very disappointed in you, you're very handsome, but you have the manners of a Yankee."

"HEY!" Janice said raising her tone with a mock look of hurt.

Smiling, Melinda scooted back behind Janice, mouthing I'm sorry, her mood more lighthearted than ten minutes ago.

"Can you run Mel?"

Looking at Janice like she lost her mind, Mel nodded, "Of course I can run, I'm not crippled."

"Good," Janice replied, "Now go out the door, and turn right, go around the house and you'll see a gate, open the gate and wait for me, I'll be there in two minutes, now go!."

Not wanting to argue with her friend about leaving without her, Melinda ran out the door, much to Janice's pleasure, then turned her attentions to Amoud.

**Amoud,** Janice began, **You almost killed my friend, if that had happened, I would have killed you, don't push this, you played your hand and lost, don't push it.**

Looking behind her, Janice gave one last look to the men on the floor, then took off running out the door. The woman rounded the corner of the house and saw Mel waiting by the gate, her breath already coming short, getting out of shape she thought, when the front door burst open.

Skidding to a halt, Janice cut loose with the machine pistol, sending most of the rounds into the frame above the door. But the last few rounds she send into the door, no use threatening people if they don't believe you, she was thinking.

When the gun ran out of ammunition, she dropped it and pulled her .44, and started running again. Grabbing Mel by the arm, the two of them ran down the street as Amoud and a guard reached the gate.

Kneeling down to sight his gun, the guard was about to squeeze the trigger when a shot rang out pinching him forward, a bloody hole in the back of his head.

Spinning around, Amoud watched a figure step out of the shadows, "I thought I said they were not to be harmed, only I'm supposed to kill them. . .well?" The figure said as it looked at Amoud.

"He would have missed, there was no need to kill him," Amoud was nervous, the Gestapo always did that, more so from one who it seemed liked to kill.

Staying in the shadows, the figure laughed, "Like you firing into the cupboard, listen Ali, if. . .IF you kill one of them before we find the Aegis, I'll play with you for days, making you wish for death, understand?"

Biting back a remark, Amoud nodded as the figure drifted back, "How will I know when they plan on coming back for the second scroll?"

Laughing, the figure paused and turned to Amoud, "Cause they'll tell my spy, and then my spy will tell me, now get rid of that." Waving a hand at the dead guard, "and relax, I'm sure the answer is in the second scroll, but they'll need the whole story. Let them relax today, tonight push them some more, keep them from thinking to much."

Amoud looked at the dead guard, then around for the Gestapo agent, this deal was getting worse with each passing minute he thought.


Kehlia was waiting for the pair as they walked into the club, so was Janice's uncle, the look on his face told her he was not a happy camper, "I'm sorry about the fight, but I couldn't let that guy molest Mel could I?" Smiling at the hesitation on his face, Janice agreed with whoever said, a good defense is a good offense.

"Janice, you asked about Ali Amoud, you never said anything about you having troubles with him?" Taking off his fez, Al Covington threw it on the table, "Now tell me what's going on."

Mel's eyes grew wide but she held in her laughter, as expected Mr. Covington was bald, but the top of his head that had been covered by the fez was pale white. Giving her the image of a brown bottle with a white cap.

Kehlia nodded to Janice as she sat with her uncle, grinning at the wide smile she received in return, then turned her attention to Melinda, who took a seat at her table.

Extending her hand, Mel looked the brown dancer over, "Melinda Pappas, Janice told me what you did, and I want to thank you for leading her to me." Mel continued to tell Kehlia about the events of the night, while Janice talked with her uncle.

Shaking his head furiously, Al glared at Janice, "Girl, there is no such thing as the Aegis, I want you and Mel on a plane back to the states, I'll arrange it."

Now it was Janice's turn be furious after listening to her uncle, "I'm not leaving, Mel told me Amoud got another scroll, and I'm going to get it, dad gave his life looking for them, and I'm not quitting."

Blowing out a breath, Al's anger seemed to deflate, he knew when it came to anything about her father, Janice was unmovable. It was her devotion for his dead brother that was his weakness.

"You know Amoud's not going to let this go, he can't let strangers in his city win, he can't show he's weak with the business he's in."

Pausing, Janice looked over her uncle, seeing that he was giving up, "I'll be careful, I promise."

Melinda finished her story, looking at Kehlia, she realized that she had not let the girl say a thing, "I'm sorry, here I've been blabbing away and didn't let you get a word in, I'll be quiet now."

Startled by the sudden silence, Kehlia looked over at Janice, then back to Mel, biting her lip, she hesitated before speaking, "Happy you ok. . .Roosevelt good."

Stunned, Mel had a feeling she just made a total idiot out of herself, leaning forward she kept a smile on her face, whispering to Kehlia, "I heard it snowed here yesterday, and that polar bears were seen walking down the street?"

Looking once again at the Arabic speaking Janice, Kehlia turned back to Mel nodding, "You like here, want drink?"

Laughing quietly at herself, Mel nodded, "Thank you, water please."

Standing up, Kehlia gave Melinda a thumbs up sign, "Water, A-OK!"

Chuckling as the dancer went to the empty bar, Mel heard Janice stand and head over to the table, "Is everything's alright?"

Sitting with a sigh, Janice had felt better, arguing with her uncle seemed to always take it out of her, "Every things fine, he's just worried that's all." Leaning back in the chair, she rubbed her eyes and cupped her hands over her face. "I'm looking forward to getting some sleep, did you realize that we only been in town less than twelve hours?"

Looking up as Kehlia returned, Mel took her glass, "Thank you."

Placing another glass in front of Janice, the dancer smiled at Mel, then pointed at her glass, "Mai, thank you. . .Shokran."

Sipping from the glass Melinda nodded her understanding, "Shokran for the mai. You know Janice I know you're used to this, but I'm too excited to sleep, after being in a brawl, kidnapped and all, I thought I would work on the scroll in the room."

Groaning, the archaeologist laid her head on the table, "Mel, it's two in the morning!."

Mel started to reply when Kehlia started to speak to Janice in Arabic, it must be handy she thought to know a language other than one three thousand years old. Watching the discussion between them, Melinda decided to ask what it was about.

Janice had explained about Mel's plan to work in their room, so Kehlia offered Janice a place to sleep. Mel was all for it, though Janice was worried about Amoud showing up, but was convinced finally by the pair that Amoud no doubt was through for the night, as well as surely not knowing where they were staying. . . yet.


She was playing over in her mind how she got to Kehlia's room, with the small dancer drawing a bath for her. Pondering while Janice studied her more closely, they were the same height, but Kehlia was a bit more thinner, belly dancing must keep you in shape.

Kehlia, stood up turning the water off, she was slightly embarrassed at the room Al Covington gave her, all it consisted of was a large bed, a dresser and table with a lamp, and the bath, toilet, and sink in the corner. She herself put up the curtains around the bath for privacy in case she did have guests, she just never expected a guest like Janice.

She felt Janice watching her which felt good, standing and moving back before her new friend, she knelt on the floor, beginning to unlace Janice's boots much to her surprise. But a gentle slap on the wrist and reminding her that she was a guest, silenced the delighted American.

Kehlia slowly undressed Janice, smiling wider when she got to the woman's boxer shorts; after Janice asked her what was so funny, she replied, that her wearing men's shorts seemed natural for her.

Once Kehlia got her boxers off, she steered her to the bath, then turned, drawing the curtains closed, much to Janice's disappointment. Running the washcloth over her shoulders, she decided it couldn't hurt to at least try, **It's a shame to waste so much bath water on one person, I thought water was valuable here?**

Turning her head listening for an answer she just heard the dancer moving around, when the curtains parted and a nude Kehlia started to climb into the tub facing her, **I had to wait for you to ask, it would have been rude for me to join uninvited.**

Not even attempting to avert her gaze, Janice took in the dancer's body, while water splashed around Kehlia's attempts to get her legs over Janice's thighs. Biting back her smile, the blond helped the dancer straddle her lap, Janice's hands moved forward, gripping Kehlia's rear cheeks, pulling her tight against her body.

I'm in heaven, Janice was thinking as she kissed Kehlia with a moan of passion.


I'm in heaven, Melinda was thinking, as she translated the scroll, Janice really doesn't know what she's missing. At first Mel was tempted to go get Janice, then thought she most likely did need her rest.

Mel never expected it to be this easy, the writings of Gabrielle were unaccountably distinct and clear, very unusual for that time period. She was so absorbed in the translating, that it took a full minute for her mind to realize what the bard wrote, when it did, Mel stopped, rereading the part to make sure she translated it right.

Shaking her head, Melinda covered her mouth in shock at the revelation of the terrible secret that was uncovered about the bard, alone in the room Mel could only say, "OH MY!"

Chapter Six

Mel sat on her bed, the day's events were beginning to take their toll on her. What she read in the scroll, well, she just had to take a break from translating it. Now she knew for sure what Xena and Gabrielle's relationship was, and the other revelation about Gabrielle.

Ok Melinda Pappas, so what if you're descendent from . . . one of those type women, that don't mean you're like that, her mind was thinking. I mean it's not like you and Janice are like that. I just wonder what Janice's reaction will be after saying yesterday that the pair was just best of friends.

Too tired to think about it further, Mel slipped under the covers and turned off the light. She laid in bed listening to the ceiling fan slowly turn, hoping she would have good dreams.

When she finally did fall asleep, she dreamed of the scroll.


Xena pulled Argo to a halt glancing behind her, scanning the distance she could see nothing that would suggest they were being followed.

Gabrielle looked at the surrounding woods, tightening her hold on the warrior in front of her. They had been riding hard for three days, ever since Athena gave them their task. The shield hung from Argo's saddle covered in furs, as if that would help hide it from the person that would be hunting for it.

Xena stole a look at the bard, raising an eyebrow, and seeing the returning nod, she once again pushed Argo into a trot. The warrior knew about Gabrielle's silly fear of heights, even sitting on Argo sent tremors through the young woman, but she never said a word about it since they broke camp after Athena's visit and race for the sea.

They talked about what to do with the shield. Gabrielle's first thought was to take it to the lava pit that held Callisto prisoner and throw it in. But Xena quickly turned that down, it would mean heading toward the former goddess, their best chance was to avoid Callisto.

Knowing the tracking prowess of their pursuer, hiding it seemed out of the question, then Gabrielle asked about throwing it in the sea . . . hire a ship, head out and throw the shield overboard in deep waters.

Xena started to turn down the idea, but then thought more about it; water deep enough so that even the immortal Callisto could not withstand the pressures. And as long as she and Gabrielle were out of sight of land and didn't see the charts, they would never know just where they threw it overboard.

Even the gods would have difficulties finding the shield if they even looked for it. The only problem was the nearest seaport was Athens, five days hard ride, and they didn't think Ares would start the chase with Callisto far behind.

In fact they were a little grateful that the god of war didn't just transport Callisto to their camp. More so since common sense left them that night, and the pair made love by the fire. Both of them knowing that until the task was competed, they would have little time for each other.

Hours passed by as Xena drove Argo on, she knew that soon the two of them would be walking the rest of the way to Athens. The horse was near it limits, she loved Argo and didn't like the punishing pace she was putting her through, but each trot got them closer to Athens.

Finally pulling Argo to a halt, Xena dismounted, reaching up to help her bard off the horse, "There's a well here, fill the water skins, we'll let Argo rest a bit, then ride to the next village and stable her there."

Running her hand over the lather-covered breast of the horse, Gabrielle looked at her with concern, "Xena, will Argo make it to the next village?"

Examining the old well, Xena nodded, picking clumps of moss off the outer wall sniffing it, and rolling it between her fingers, "Yes, if we walk her there, but she can't carry the two of us any further."

Walking over to join Xena at the well, the bard looked at the moss she was examining, then peered over the edge trying to see the bottom, "Is it safe to drink?"

Xena touched the tip of her tongue to the moss, then spitting with a grimace, "Yes, I've seen this moss before, the water will have a slight tang, but it's not poisonous."

Looking at Argo, the warrior shook her head, feeling guilty about her condition, what made it worse, the horse followed every command from her without the slightest sign of protest. Strolling back to the horse, she ran her hand over the mane promising that she would try to make it up to her.

Grabbing a rope off Argo's saddle, Xena joined Gabrielle back at the well, tying one end around the water skin handle, then throwing it into the well, trailing out the rope.

It took longer than Xena liked to fill the skins, Gabrielle suggested that they forgo the others after getting two filled. But Xena reminded her it was best to have a full supply, rather than have something happen and need it.


Gabrielle finished taking a bite out of a chunk of cheese, then walked over to Xena offering a piece. Xena took the bard's hand in hers, moving it to her lips, nibbling the snack from between Gabrielle's fingers.

"My, that is so cute!"

Wheeling toward the sound of the familiar voice, Xena pulled her sword holding it in both hands facing the source of the voice. "Hello Callisto," the flat tone of her own voice, showed she was less than pleased.

Gabrielle had dropped the cheese grabbing her staff, and stood next to Xena, apprehension on her face remembering all their encounters with the woman.

Callisto herself was squatting on a tree branch, she was just as they saw her the last time, her low-cut leather armor didn't cover much, more to show off her body than for protection. And the scar running from over her right eye, across the bridge of her nose and ending under her left eye, took a lot away from her beauty.

Yet she seemed happy where she was, careful not to make a move, "I see a lot has been going on between you two since I've been gone, you're getting soft Xena."

Smirking at the blond warrior, Xena stepped in front of Gabrielle, only to become tense when the bard moved back in front of her. "Don't try to protect me Xena," the bard hissed.

Laughing, Callisto dropped to the ground, slowly waving her finger, "Now . . . now, let's not have some lover's quarrel now that you have company, I only want to talk."

Taking an instant to shift an angry gaze at Gabrielle, the tall warrior shook her head, "We have nothing to talk about Callisto, you're not getting the shield."

Rolling her eyes, Callisto voice took on an exasperating tone, "Xena, I only want to talk right now, I have all the time in the world to get the shield." Switching her gaze to the lather-covered horse, the warrior clutched her left breast, trying to sound sincere, "Oh Xena! I'm so. . . . honored that you and your little bard rode so hard to find me."

Gabrielle showed the shock that Xena kept hidden, "What do you mean, you weren't following us?"

Grasping her hands behind her back, the warrior drew circles in the dirt road with her boot, "Noooooooo, you see, Ares in order to be fair, waited until you started for Athens, then he transported me there. Since he told me where to you were coming from, I just came to the well and waited, I knew you would have to stop here."

Lowering her sword, Xena shook her head, "I guess I'll have to thank him later, what do you want now Callisto?"

The blond warrior watched the exchange of glances between the pair, Gabrielle seemed upset, nervous, Xena, more curious. "Just wanted to talk Xena, I see that you and the little thing are now going at it . . . pity, thought better of you Xena, than wanting to have sex."

Snarling the bard kept her staff at the ready, "My name is Gabrielle, not thing, you should be used to it by now Callisto."

Coming to the defense of her bard, Xena raised an eyebrow, "Besides Callisto, Ares told me what you two did when you were in my body, I would say that you're not one to talk about forgoing having sex."

Tilting her head, Callisto moved around them in a circle, the pair turning with her, keeping her in sight, "Xena, that was not my body I was using, besides I was only trying to keep Ares happy while I got what I wanted. But at least you're with the little brat; if it had been a man, you may have gotten pregnant and that's really sick."

Xena strolled around Gabrielle, keeping her body between the bard and Callisto, "Why is that sick?"

Rolling her eyes as if she just heard a stupid question, Callisto spoke slowly, "Because sex is just an excuse to make babies, and then they grow-up into you and me, Xena."

Stopping her pacing, Callisto looked disappointed, "Xena, that's pretty bad, if that's the best you can come up with, I would rather talk to my little friend." Wiggling her fingers at the bard, Callisto smiled wide, "I missed our fireside games Gabrielle, but I'm here if you want to play some more?"

"I'm not interested in your games Callisto," Gabrielle said through tight lips, her staff moving in front of her.

"Ok, then can I ask you a question about your love for Xena?"

Walking closer, the blond warrior crossed her arms over her breasts, her look that of innocence, "Those nights you and Xena are beside the fire, and Xena's on top of you and you're both all hot and sweaty."

Grinning at the bard's reaction, Callisto glanced at Xena moving to stand near the woman, "And Xena doing whatever she does, pushes you over the edge . . . Did you ever think to yourself, Thank you Callisto for killing what's his name?"

The scream of rage from the bard surprised Callisto and Xena; as Gabrielle stepped forward swinging her staff, connecting the end against the side of the blond warrior's head.

Callisto, expected a reaction, but didn't expect the bard to move so fast, nor the rage that seemed behind her scream. Her momentary pause was just enough for Gabrielle to get a stunning hit in.

Leaping backward, Callisto reached behind her back pulling her sword, swinging it at the bard's head. Only to have it blocked by Xena's sword; the raven-haired warrior yelled for Gabrielle to back off.

But the bard seemed consumed by rage, pressed her attack twirling the Amazon staff, she struck a powerful blow to Callisto's ribs, the sound of bones cracking could be heard above the fighting and screaming.

Although immortal, Callisto could still feel pain, and as her bones knitted themselves back together, her body was crying in agony. The rage of the bard had brought her to a skill level equal to hers and Xena's, reacting with a quickness that surprised her, Callisto was doing all she could just to defend herself.

Xena hung back from the fight, she tried calling for Gabrielle to back off, but the woman's rage was too intense for her to hear. Then her bard suddenly collapsed at Callisto's feet, her rage seemingly spend.

Callisto stumbled back glad of the reprieve, then seeing the bard on the ground raised her sword to strike, only to hear Xena's battle cry. Looking upwards she just caught the end of the warriors flip, her sword swinging at her.

Callisto just barely blocked the blow as the pair fought around the well. The blond warrior was covered in blood, Xena seemed to be hitting her at will, opening cuts only for them to heal after bleeding for a few seconds.

The warrior realized for the first time that Xena's skill far surpassed her own, the blows she was blocking were killing blows. She now knew that the woman she hated had always held back; had always fought without the intent to kill her.

Xena swung in a high arch, Callisto managed to turn the blow away that would have taken her head, but left her throat cut, the blood pouring down her chest until the wound sealed shut. The raven haired warrior let loose with everything she had, knowing that no matter what she did she could not kill the woman.

Continued - Part 3