The Xena Scrolls
By: Gabrielle Bard of Podedia
Scroll#10: Death In Chains
December, 49 B.C.
Most people think of death as the end. When in fact death can be the beginning of a wonderful tale. So I sing the tale of love and of death for there was once a young man named Lepethus. He was from the city of Carthage where he met the beautiful Eyo and the two fell madly in love. But then the gods grew jealous of their great love and condemned them to separate destinies. Lepethus could only live in the summer and Eyo only in the winter. Luckily Aphrodite took pity on the lovers and thought of a way to reunite them. That is how we were given the seasons of rain and of snow for Lepethus is the snow blanketing his love for Eyo. And Eyo is the gentle spring rain caressing Lepethus.
My own tale begins with my own thoughts of what was truly missing from my own life. After meeting Hercules and sharing a tender kiss with his best friend Iolas I wondered if maybe it was time that I find my own Lepethus in life. Of course I truly loved traveling with Xena and all of the wonderful adventures that we shared together, but there seemed to be more death than love. I thought of all this while walking through a beautiful orchard with Xena and noticing two lovers sharing within their own passions. Yet I was not complaining for what followed love? Marriage and a family of course, and that was why I had left behind my betrothed Perdicas. I suddenly realized that I had traded love for adventures. And then as I was working through my envy I decided that I was quite capable of picking my own apples from the orchard without the help of a handsome young fellow.
As I reached for the most passionate red apple from the orchard an arrow suddenly sliced right through it robbing me of my choice. It was another crazy ego driven warlord who introduced himself as Toxious. He was quite interested in teaming up with the warrior princess in conquest as he had seen and been impressed with her during a battle that she had fought in Nespar. Xena was obviously uninterested in his offer for it was not her current path to gather riches, but to gather redemption for her past sins. Most recently she had been willing to die for the will of mortals to free Prometheus, but it was obvious that Toxious was unaware of that legend to be told. He had called her legendary, but she was legendary for her wrongs and not for her rights.
As Xena turned to walk away rejecting Toxious’s offer he declared that there was only one way he recruited people. They must choose to live and fight with him or to die. There was no walking away. Xena met his challenge with her defense for she was not going to choose to fight with him or to die. She created her own destiny and strongly believed in this. The fight was not much of a challenge for Xena as she immediately moved with her sword blocking his thrusts which nearly missed me. The swords were so close that they clashed just inches above my head. The sounds were like chimes ringing, but Xena’s chimes were much more powerful than those of Toxius. She quickly defeated him first by disarming him and then taking his feet from beneath him.
Once again Xena turned away from him and began to walk on for it was obvious that she did not want to fight. Usually Xena savored the opportunity to feed her inner rage, but this time it was different. This time Xena had decided that she was not going to end this battle in death, but in peace by her own choice. Yet Toxious had other ideas. He was intent on becoming the victor and bringing death upon the legendary warrior princess. Suddenly, Xena whipped back around to face him blocking his thrust and then thrusting her own sword deep into his stomach. Toxious then had that look that all men get when they’ve finally met death. It’s as if in a moment of surprise as their eyes open wide and their breath is robbed from them. And then Toxious fell to the ground into silence.
He had that look that all who have been taken by death in the end. Despite if a person was of good nature or of evil intent they all still have a look of eternal restful peace in the end. Then Xena muttered under her breath her frustration of having to kill yet another. I myself could not understand why a man like Toxious would want to voluntarily meet his own demise. It seemed quite obvious to me who would win a battle to the death when it came to fighting against Xena. And so as Xena and I continued on down the path I asked her why he would want to do this. He had wasted so much for so little. Xena reminded me of his ego and of how all men like Toxious were out to capture the prize and claim victory. The big prize was in demonstrating their power for if they could kill the warrior princess then they too would be feared as she was feared.
I knew in my heart that Xena was not someone to be feared. She was a beautiful vibrant spirit with lots of love and compassion, yet she was very troubled within. She had been confused early in her life which had driven her to mistakes that she was not proud of. Yet that is what I love about Xena.
And then suddenly Argo began to stir as the earth began to move beneath us. The ground shook like an earthquake as the wind swirled the dirt around like a twister. I was afraid for a moment for I did not know what was happening. As Xena tried to calm her horse. she shouted for me to run and take cover in hiding. I hid just below in the valley from the path where I then saw a dark force riding from within the dust bowl. He was tall, and dark, and powerful. This dark warrior came in upon a chariot with horses. I heard their hooves pounding upon the ground as I watched the figure approach the warrior princess. Xena was ready to do battle with her sword drawn as the man then slowed to a stop. All was quiet as he stepped down valiantly from his chariot and told Xena that she had nothing to fear. He showed admiration for the warrior princess as if he had known everything about her. Removing his helmet he introduced himself as Hades the god of the underworld. Xena stood down from her battle position for it wasn’t everyday that one is visited by a god. Of course there was that one time that Ares had visited Xena exclusively, but he had not shown himself to me or anyone else. This indeed was an experience for it was the first time that I had ever seen a real true olympic god. I was greatly intrigued.
As Hades approached Xena he told her his reason for a personal visit. He mentioned that there was this king whose name was Sisyphus. This king was also a talented scourcerer. Sisyphus had invited his sister Celesta to his castle. Celesta accepted his invitation thinking that he was ready to make his journey back home, but it was only a trick for Sisyphus had captured her within his trick instead. Hades said that time was of great importance. He needed Xena’s help in order to free Celesta from the chains which bound her within Sisyphus’s castle. For if her flame was to burn out then mankind would be sentenced to eternal life and no hope of peace for those who suffered. Hades then told Xena that there were only hours left before this terrible fate were to come to pass upon mankind.
Xena agreed to help Hades in freeing Celesta and so we quickly began to travel toward Corinth where Sisyphus’s castle was. On our way to the castle I began to think of love again realizing that not only would people suffer, but that if they professed to love someone that it would be for an eternity. It was quite an infinite thought and almost too powerful to contemplate. And then as I was talking to Xena she suddenly rode off ahead as if something had grabbed her attention. I ran to catch up to her only to find something very unsettling up ahead.
It was a sea of people who were suffering great pain. They had all been caught within a terrible accident. It had been a rock slide. One of the more fortunate explained that they had all been on their way to the hospital in Corinth when the rock slide occurred. Most of those who had been caught were on the verge of death for their injuries were so great. Yet for them death would never come. One could hear the screams of great suffering and pain. As for those who were unharmed there was nothing that could be done to help them. It was then that Xena realized just how important it was for her to succeed in her mission. Xena suddenly handed me a rag and asked me to help tend to the wounded. The man that she was helping had more than a broken leg as did many of the people I encountered.
It was difficult to care for those that were meant to be taken by death. I tried to comfort their pain as best I could, but soon realized that there was nothing that I could do to take away their pain. This broke my heart as I tried to stop the bleeding of another man in pain. And then as he yelled at me to stop a young boy came along and showed me something special. First he wiped the blood off of the man’s face and then he began to tell the most beautiful love story I had ever heard. It all started with a simple question to the patient. The young man had asked him where he was from and then suddenly Carthage turned into the most wonderful story. I was in awe of this handsome young boy. He had light brown hair with a slight curl. His eyes glowed with passion as I watched him comfort the injured man and make him forget about his pain. It was the most wonderful thing I had ever seen.
After the story had ended I asked this young man where he had learned such a wonderful skill. Naturally he had thought I was speaking of his medical skills, but I had been speaking of his healing power. The young man introduced himself as Tallus, and I found myself in awe of his aura. He told me that he had been on his way to Corinth where he was from when he had run into these suffering people. He too felt their pain and could barely keep his own heart from breaking amidst the suffering. And though suffering had brought us together my heart-felt joy within his presence and there was so much that we seemed to have in common. His love for stories seemed as great as my own.
Then Xena called out to us asking for some more water for the wounded. Tallus was familiar with the area so he showed me to the pond. On our way there I had to share a story of my own. As Tallus and I walked down to the pond to fetch some water for the sick and injured I told him the story of Celesta and of how no one could die until Xena and I could free her.
When we reached the pond Tallus commented on how he had never seen so much suffering before. I agreed with him for I had never known how important death was until this day when the people of the earth were without Celesta. I spoke of how I had always thought it was something to be feared until this day. Tallus then said that there had once been a day that he too would have been overjoyed to have the ability to live eternally, but that he no longer feared it. It was as if he would welcome death into his arms without fear if he had to. And then he sat down next to me and complemented me on my courage, but he had yet to meet the warrior princess whose courage was much greater than my own. There was so much I still had to learn from her. Then as I was embarrassed by his complements of me he put my feelings to rest picking from the bank of the pond a most beautiful flower. It was a jasmine blossom.
I could feel his warmth and sensitivity through his pale blue eyes. Those eyes were so comforting and I could feel love. The moment was beautiful, and then he said that his mother used to work for king Sisyphus in the castle when he was a boy. This was indeed wonderful news for maybe Tallus could help Xena and I get into the castle to see Sisyphus. Suddenly, Tallus was grabbed by the resurrected warlord Toxious. I jumped up to help grabbing Toxious’s arm hoping to free my new-found love from certain suffering. Yet I was no match for the warlord Toxious for he then grabbed me and held a knife to my throat ready to deliver pain and suffering for he could not kill me.
As always Xena appeared to step in and rescue me from evil preparing to do battle with a man she could not kill. Toxious was quite defiant and certain of himself this time for he had discovered a secret and that was that he could not die. As the two battled he moved a little slower for he was injured with a gaping hole in his side from their previous battle. Though it did not seem to phase him as if he had grown comfortable with the pain of his wound. Toxious laughed as he proclaimed that he and Xena could battle on for an eternity, but Xena assured him that she was going to make sure that death would take him soon. Then the warrior princess suddenly flipped over him yelling out her signature battle cry and then waiting as he charged toward her turned back. He was going to wound her, but she flipped her sword and then thrust it into his stomach again behind her.
Toxius then fell to the ground only to rise up again and defy Xena. He made certain that he would be sure to stop Xena in her plan to rescue death. But Xena pulled out her chackram and threw it into the tree limb above the unsuspecting warlord. Amazingly the chackram was so sharp that it was able to slice right through the thick branch sending it crashing down upon Toxious. He was now trapped unable to free himself. It was then that Xena had finally decided for certain that she would do the bidding of Hades. For a warrior princess it would be exhausting to have to fight off the many who wanted a piece of the action.
As the three of us walked on down the path toward Sisyphus’s castle I was in awe of my new-found love. Of course I was hoping to get the approval from Xena that he was the right choice for me considering some of the other men that I had thought were my tree in the Forrest like the warlord that wooed me on our first adventure together. As I went on and on about Tallus and how wonderful he was Xena finally did agree that he was a good man for me. Then she told me that she was happy that I had finally found some good company. At first I was confused for I thought that Xena was going to leave me behind. I didn’t want her to go on without me for she was my best friend. Then Xena assured me that she was only going to see Sisyphus alone. I still wanted to go with her, but she assured me that Tallus and I should continue on to Corinth where the hospital was. We could do a lot of good and help a lot of people there. I couldn’t argue with that, but I was still concerned for Xena. She was about to come face to face with death herself. Xena’s courage seemed endless. And then I watched the dark warrior princess ride away on another journey of self-sacrifice.
Tallus and I did continue onto Corinth as I recited Sophecles to him and he recited back. We had so much fun together, but our joy was soon dampened by the suffering at the hospital in Corinth. It was time to work again as we heard the desperate pleas of an old woman who needed water. Tallus volunteered to fetch the water as I sat beside the old woman’s bed to comfort her. Yet she had a story for me instead. She struggled to speak, but she asked me not to be afraid. Then she told of how earlier that morning she had died and gone to the Elysian fields. Yet just before she was about to cross over to eternal peace she found herself back upon the earth on the brink of death and suffering. There was fear within her heart for she was confused. She did not understand what had happened to the wonderful gift of death. I then told her of king Sisyphus and his capture of death. I assured the poor old woman that Xena could handle the king and rescue death for she was quite able to take care of herself.
Then the old woman asked me if Xena was a god. I could understand her concern for my friend, but I was confident that Xena was up for the task. Yet the old woman was seemingly not convinced. She asked me to lean in closer. As I leaned into hear her speak she told of something far worse than I could have imagined. She spoke of how no mortal could touch death for if they did they too would be taken with her. My heart stopped for a moment as I thought of Xena’s life. I couldn’t allow her to die when I could have lost her to Prometheus’s chains. Tallus soon arrived back and I demanded that he take me to the castle for Xena was truly in danger. Tallus was concerned about the castle guards, but I convinced him to take me there. I assured him that he did not have to go for we might come into contact with death herself, but Tallus was brave and unafraid of meeting her.
So we went back toward where victims of the rock slide lied suffering in pain. For them it all started in the king’s castle. Death mighty as she was had been captured by Sisyphus. It was up to Xena and I to rescue them from their pain. Fortunately we had Tallus to help us. When Tallus and I had finally arrived at the castle he spoke of how he knew of several secret escape passages and tunnels beneath. As a child he had played within these passages when his mother had worked for the king. When we went inside I asked him not to come with me again for he did not have to risk his life when it was my friend that we were helping. Yet again Tallus refused to leave me telling me that he would be there to protect me from harm. Though I did not want him to be in danger I was glad that he wanted to be there by my side and so we began to travel through the dark dirty passages. The tunnels were quite scary and full of rodents and bugs. They were musty and smelly with strange sounds that made one cringe within.
As if it wasn’t scary enough we suddenly found ourselves face to face with two of the walking dead. They looked awful, but they were ready to strike us down with their weapons. We quickly turned and ran as Tallus guided me to a stairway. As I reached the top of the stairs Tallus was suddenly taken from me by one of Sisyphus’s traps. The stairway collapsed beneath his feet and turned into a slide leading to a trap door. Tallus disappeared through the trap and then the stairs reappeared. I called out to him, but realized that I was now alone for the two walking dead men were hot on my trail. There was nothing left to do, but run.
Fortunately Tallus had been reunited with Xena after being whisped away from me. He found her within another of Sisyphus’s traps that Xena had fallen into upon arriving face to face with the tricky sorcerer. Because he had been unsuccessful at convincing the warrior princess to allow death’s flame to burn out he had released her within a deep dark trap. There were skeletons of the less fortunate everywhere as she fell into the depths of the secret passages. Once there she had heard the strange sound of someone screaming. It had been Tallus and when the two were reunited they had been surprised to see one another. When Xena asked Tallus why he had come he explained that Gabrielle had wanted to warn Xena not to touch death. Xena expressed that she had known that already, and then Tallus began to blame himself for allowing Gabrielle to come into danger.
Xena continued to focus for they had to find a way out of the trap. She heard the sounds of water which led them to an old drainage system beneath the castle. It too was infested with many disease infesting creatures, but it was the only way out of the labyrinth of Sisyphus’s castle. Once the two reached the main floor a tragic secret regretfully revealed itself to the warrior princess. Upon climbing out of the drain Tallus found himself within great pain and suffering. He grabbed his chest in anguish as Xena watched him suffer. When the pain had finally passed Xena asked him why he had been on his way to Corinth. He told her with great sadness that he was dying. And then Xena knew why Corinth had been so important to Tallus for it was there that he had grown up. Tallus had wanted to see it once last time before he was to go with death.
Then Xena asked Tallus if Gabrielle was aware of his illness. He regretfully reported that he had not yet told the unsuspecting bard. Xena then thought that maybe it wasn’t too late if his illness had not matured. She asked him how long he had known about it. Tallus told her that he had been getting pains in his chest for the past year now and that they had begun to grow progressively worse as time went on. It was then that Xena realized that there was nothing she could do for him. And so she was brought to a choice. She had to choose to save death and the world from suffering or to choose life for all so that Gabrielle could have Tallus in her life forever. As she thought of this Tallus insisted that Xena was doing the right thing by freeing Celesta for there truly was no other right choice. Tallus had decided that he was now ready to leave the earth for the suffering within had grown so great.
Then they were interrupted yet fortunate to find another soul who wanted to help in freeing death. It was Caris the wife of king Sisyphus. She too realized the importance of death. She wanted to make sure that Xena and Tallus reached death before she was to disappear for eternity. Only Caris could help them wade through all of the traps within the castle to make it to Celesta in time. Her plan was a simple one. She took Xena and Tallus near where Celesta was being held. And then she summoned for Sisyphus tricking him into thinking that he had trapped Xena. It was Caris that he had trapped with Tallus and the warrior princess armed with weapons and words ready to convince the king of his mistake.
At first he was defiant suggesting that because he was not yet suffering he would be a fool to allow death to escape. He was certain that Xena wanted to fight him, but Xena insisted that this battle be won without weapons. And so it was Tallus who explained to the king of his illness. He begged the king one last favor for he needed death’s help now more than ever. Sisyphus was still not convinced of death’s importance until Tallus reminded him that though his people may seem happy they would soon realize that one day they would all need death’s peace. That would make Sisyphus die inside for he would realize that it was he who had caused his people unnecessary pain and suffering. Sisyphus then saw what everyone else had been trying to convince him of. And so he led Xena and Tallus to death.
I was not far behind them for I had been running throughout the castle trying to escape Toxious and his men. Quickly I hid behind an old tapestry hoping to lose them. For a moment the men stopped confused for they had indeed lost me. They stopped right in front of the tapestry that I hid behind and discussed how they were going to find me again. Then I heard a strange sound. It was the sound of a small rat approaching on a shelf above my head. The rat stopped next to my head and began to sniff into my ears. I let out a small sound hoping to get him to leave for he was about to give me away. And then he jumped down and ran out of hiding. Toxious was still there and he would have found me had it not been for my unfortunate acquaintance. The rat found himself at the mercy of Toxious’s massive boots.
Then Toxious laughed and walked on. As I emerged from hiding I saw the poor little defenseless rodent lying flattened upon the floor. He screamed within pain although I can’t say that I regret that he gave his health and life for mine. Just a few moments later I found myself again being chased down by Toxious and his men. We ran throughout the entire castle until finally I saw Xena. I called out to her as she and Sisyphus were unlocking the chains binding death. Then Toxious grabbed me again putting a knife to my throat. His grasp was much harder than the last time we had met. The metal was pressing down hard against my neck and I was certain to be taken. Yet I knew it would be okay for Xena still had Tallus.
Then Xena called out to Toxious and offered him her life in exchange for mine. She had suddenly decided to give Toxious what he had asked for before she had killed him the first time. I couldn’t let Xena turn to save my life. As I shouted to Xena not to give her compassion for my life Toxious threw me to the ground. Just as he was about the thrust his sword into her stomach Sisyphus used his powerful magic and made a large blinding flame which knocked down Toxious and his men. Then Xena flipped into the middle of all the action to fight off those who wanted death to cease. She thrust her sword into them many times though each time they would return to their feet as if nothing had happen. They all began to bleed even more with each blow, but they still rose ready to take the warrior princess. Eventually she gave up trying to use weapons for it was futile to try killing them.
And then while Xena was busy fighting the others Toxious rose to take Tallus, but I would not let him. Again I stepped in to protect him from harm. Toxious was so strong and he was prepared again to take my life, but Xena heard my screams and responded by drawing her chackram and throwing it to disarm Toxious just as he was about to thrust his knife into my chest. But the chackram did not stop there. Amazingly it went right through death’s chains and freed her for all to embrace. At that moment Toxious’s grasp over me ceased as he grabbed his many wounds and felt the suffering once more. Celesta rose from her chair and then took her candle back. She floated by each and every dying warlord touching him along the way. And though they didn’t deserve death for their deeds death was not judgmental. It was clear that her purpose was to give all men peace in the end.
After she touched the last dying man she paused as if there was someone she had forgotten. She turned to take the one that needed her most as Sisyphus stepped forward. Yet it wasn’t Sisyphus that she needed to take. It was Tallus. He stepped forward bravely facing her. I was shocked for I had not known that Tallus was sick. Xena tried to comfort me, but I refused to accept this for we had risked our own lives and suffering to free Celesta. I begged her not to take him from me, but Tallus insisted that he must go. He was genuinely sorry that he had not told me, but he had wanted to leave the world with the memory of his love. Then I saw that there was nothing I could do. He had to go with her for he would still be suffering though he was with me. I couldn’t let my love suffer eternally for me. And so we said good-bye as I hugged him. My tears fell upon his soft shoulder as I held him in my arms for the last time. I asked him not to forget me and he promised that he wouldn’t for he assured me that someday we would meet again on the other side.
Then I watched him walk away joining Celesta. She was fair-skinned and wore a beautiful white dress. Her hair was long and infinite as she touched his shoulder and escorted him through the most amazing white doors. The gates of the other side opened and a pure white light illuminated into my heart as Tallus and Celesta disappeared within it forever. I cried upon Xena’s shoulder for I knew that I would miss him dearly. Xena comforted me knowing of how much my soul suffered.
And so I sing the tale of love and of death. Of Tallus the gentle warm young man who was from Corinth where he met a young compassionate bard. They shared in the suffering of others and in the joy of life together. Yet their story ended tragically when Tallus had to leave Gabrielle behind so that death could be free for all. And so that one day we could all be reunited in peace with those we loved so dearly.