The characters in this story are the property of MCA/Universal/Studios USA and Renaissance Pictures. This is not for profit and is not intended to infringe anyone's copyright. It's just a bit of fun.
This story contains descriptions of rape and violence.
This part of 'The Reckoning' trilogy suggests a different history between Xena and her arch enemy, one based on the Callisto character from Greek myths. So there's not much sex here, but the kink will return with a vengeance in the concluding part. Warning: in what follows Xena has to face some unpleasant, violent things she did in the past.
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The Reckoning: Part Two
Callisto abruptly turned on her heels and marched back to where Gabrielle stood chained against the wall. Taking the key from her cleavage, she released the blonde from the wrist cuffs. Then she went to the room's only door and held it open.
"You can leave any time you want, Gabrielle. My men are outside in the passageway, including those three you met earlier. But don't worry, they have orders not to stop you. And anyway," she giggled slightly hysterically, "they're all as queer as bath-night in Sparta, so they're really not interested in you."
"I'm not leaving Xena alone with you!" declared the bard in a firm voice that belayed her confusion.
"Hmm, we'll see about that. You see, me and tall, dark and demented over there need to have a little chat. 'Bout the old days, back in Cirra. You see, there's some things we haven't properly... hmmm... well, let's just say we've got some catching up to do. You wouldn't want to hear all that memory lane stuff. You'd just be bored."
With a start, Xena now realized now exactly why she had been brought here. A strange calm came over her. So this was when the truth would finally come out. The bastard consequences of her actions had returned to destroy the family home she'd built with Gabrielle. She was surprised at the deep sense of relief she felt, as she waited for Callisto to tear down the walls. Until now, she'd been safe from the wolves of guilt that pawed outside at the doors and windows. But they always returned, night after night. She could not bear to prolong their wait any longer.
"You have your mother's eyes, Callisto," she said softly.
Callisto whirled around to face her naked captive and Xena saw a fleeting look of pain and shock cross the blonde warrior's face before she recovered her usual sneering demeanor.
"Oh, Xeenah, how swee-eet of you to remember. It was all so long ago."
"Of course she was dark..."
"Yes, yes that's right. My blonde hair is the gift of a passing mercenary. You know the type, takes whatever he wants and then he's on his way. He must've been from the north somewhere, I guess," she fingered her curls thoughtfully. "That was my mother's tragedy you see? To be used to satisfy other people's needs. I must've reminded her of that every day."
"She was beautiful too."
"Yes, yes she was...," Callisto voice trailed off.
Incredulous, Gabrielle looked from the face of one to the other during this exchange.
"Xena, you knew Callisto's mother? You told me there was a fire, an accident, that you had nothing to do with it."
Doubts began to swirl and dance around Gabrielle. She remembered the conversation around the camp-fire. Xena's story of the raid that got tragically out of control. Somehow a blaze started and the terrified villagers huddled in the houses were the victims, including - Xena found out years later - the mother and sister of a young girl, now fully-grown into a savage blonde warrior bound on a sadistic mission of revenge.
Gabrielle remembered Xena's tears and her stubborn refusal to forgive herself.
"But Xena, it was an accident. It wasn't your fault." Still the warrior stared into the flames. "Is there something you're not telling me about what happened in Cirra?"
The chilling reply: "Yes."
Xena turned to her companion, a single tear rolling down her cheek, but her voice steady. "I can't."
"Then I can't help you."
"I know. You can't help me with this, Gabrielle."
"Oh, darling, didn't she tell you?" Callisto broke into her thoughts. "I thought you two held no secrets from each other," she leered at Gabrielle, enjoying her bewilderment. "I must confess, I've probably not told you the full truth either. You see it's taken me such a long time. I've only recently started to understand that the nightmares - and all those day-time flashbacks - they were telling me the real truth about what happened that day. What I thought were my memories..." Callisto shrugged. "Well, I guess the mind plays tricks. It tries to make painful things more..." she paused, smiling with satisfaction when she found the right word, "...palatable."
Callisto turned away from Gabrielle and called brightly across the dungeon to her captive.
"Do you want to tell her, darling, or should I?"
Xena could hear the distress and confusion in Gabrielle's voice. She felt acutely vulnerable in front of her young love, stretched out, naked and apparently powerless. She would need the strength of Hercules to bring down the roof beam, but she could easily just jump to her feet. Even with her ankles and wrists tightly manacled, she could still leap and climb the rope. From there she should be able to reach the beam and break though the simple thatched roof. But none of this was possible with Gabrielle within Callisto's grasp. Dammit, why didn't she just take Callisto's offer and leave? Well, she probably would soon enough.
"Xena? What's she talking about? What happened in Cirra?"
Callisto walked over to the center of the room, sat on the floor and hugged her knees to her chest. She turned her face up expectantly at Xena, looking for all the world like a child waiting for her mother to begin telling a story.
"I was having trouble with my men," Xena heard herself begin quietly. "It started long before we got to Cirra." She looked up and met Gabrielle's searching eyes before looking down at the floor again. She swallowed hard and felt the collar rub against her throat.
"We were not much more than kids. We'd all grown up together, fighting and robbing, getting braver and crueler each day. Daring each other to see who could cause the most mayhem. I was always the leader, the best fighter, the quickest thinker. Soon I became the most ruthless killer and they followed my example."
Xena paused to steady her breath and no-one interrupted her. The only sound was the slow creak of the rope against the roof beam.
"Then things started to change." Xena frowned as she tried to think back to when she was barely more than a girl. She remembered being intoxicated with her own strength and abilities, which seemed to grow each day. She remembered her fascination as each new confrontation allowed her to explore the limits of her own cold-heartedness. And she remembered finding none.
"We were all still growing up... physically... we started playing around with sex. Testing each other to see how far we'd go. Then, in time, the men - they were not much more than boys - they started making comments, laughing and sniggering with each other. When we raided villages they'd take prisoners, women prisoners. I told them to leave it, they disobeyed and told me to mind my own business, it was a man's thing. They used it - what they did to the women they abducted - as a way of bonding. They cut me off from that, I was losing my authority."
Xena took a deep breath before starting to describe the day that changed Callisto's life forever and that marked only the beginning of her own path of murder and destruction.
"We didn't even know Cirra existed... we were traveling back from some other town we'd sacked that morning. It was an accident that we came across it at all," she smirked at the cruel irony. "The earlier raid hadn't gone well. We'd lost two of our gang and the men were muttering among themselves, like it was my fault. I'd decided I had to act, to regain their respect in some way."
"By burning a village and its inhabitants?" Gabrielle was always incredulous whenever she had to consider the former callousness of her lover, even though she knew that Xena's very name invoked fear in people who still spoke of her in awed whispers as the Conqueror or the Destroyer of Nations.
Poor, sweet, loving Gabrielle. Xena was always shocked by the girl's steadfast faith in her, her stubborn refusal to accept just what kind of monster her beloved had once been. If only she realized just how far she had come.
"I, I just wanted it all to stop!" Xena suddenly burst out, alarmed to hear the pleading note in her voice. Her appeal was directed at Gabrielle, she realized, not even at Callisto who rightfully deserved the chance to dismiss it. "You see it had all gone too far," Xena couldn't stop the words now tumbling out of her mouth. "When you lead the pack, you kill or get killed. It got worse and worse. I just wanted it all to stop," she insisted again. Xena was now acutely aware of Callisto sitting on the floor by her side. The blonde warrior remained silent, patient, almost serene. Xena ploughed on.
"I didn't start the fire. I didn't know anything about it. That much is true."
"But you were there, you must've seen it start," Gabrielle insisted.
"I was inside one of the huts by then. In the middle of the battle... it was a completely one-sided fight, a massacre really, just farmers with pitchforks... I saw a woman. She was... beautiful. You'd scarcely expect to find such a beauty in a village backwater. I knew she would be taken prisoner by my men and there was nothing I could do - short of slaughtering them all - to stop them."
"So I grabbed her. I dragged her into an abandoned hut and screamed at one of my men to stand guard outside the door. I threw her to her knees and put my sword to her throat." Xena could clearly see the woman's brown eyes looking up at her with silent resentment and hatred - mirrored in Callisto's eyes that still taunted her. "It was only then that I realized she held a child by the hand, but I barely gave it a second thought."
For the first time since Xena started the story, Callisto made a small sound. It sounded like a sigh.
"I looked down at the woman. She was maybe ten years older than me, but gods, she was exquisite. Deep brown eyes, olive skin smooth as a teenager's, beautiful full lips. I thought she must've been one of Artemis' own. A strange feeling came over me. I knew it soon enough. It was desire. I wanted to know what she was... like." Xena paused again. "So I cut open her dress."
"While she held on to her child?" Xena could hear the rising anger and disgust in Gabrielle's voice.
"She spoke then. She pleaded with me. Said she'd be my slave but would I please just spare her child. I was only thinking about what I wanted. I felt like my body was aflame, gripped in the rage of battle... I had to act," Xena repeated, looking up at Gabrielle with no expectation of forgiveness. "I just needed to touch her. I really believe I wouldn't have hurt her. Gods, I mean we'd been slaughtering people all morning... This was different."
"So, I grabbed the child, a tiny blonde girl of 10 or 12 years, and dragged her outside. She was kicking and screaming. I called to one of my men to get off his horse. I picked up the child and put her in the saddle. Then I slapped the horse and shouted at her to ride to the hills and 'don't come back until nightfall'. I figured the survivors would have buried the dead villagers by then."
Gabrielle was looking at Callisto, a look of anguish and pity on her face that would surely only enrage the blonde warrior if she looked around and saw it.
"When I went back inside the hut, I saw..," Xena paused. "She'd stabbed herself... blood everywhere. She must've had a dagger hidden somewhere. It was in her belly. I pulled it out and tried to stop the bleeding with a strip I tore from her dress. But she'd known exactly what she was doing. There was no way to stop it. She died in my arms. I told her, 'Your daughter is safe. I saw her get away.' She let go then."
Gabrielle buried her face in her hands.
Xena looked at Callisto for the first time, but her expression was unreadable. She looked right through Xena then seemed to rouse herself.
"Yes, that's right. You see, you do remember? I hoped you would," she gave Xena her sweetest psychotic smile. "I didn't come back for days."
"You stayed in the woods?" Xena asked.
"Yes, I don't really remember much about that. I do remember that when I finally walked back to the village - I don't know where the horse went - I was cold and wet. It must've been rain that drove me out of the wood. But when I got there no-one could look me in the eye. The few people who were left, well, they had their own problems. I'd go up to people, tug at a sleeve, but I couldn't get any answers to my questions about my family. In the end, it was one of the village children who told me. My sister had burned to death in the blaze set by the retreating soldiers. My mother died because she was raped by the knife of Xena the great Warrior Princess. He was quite gleeful, the little boy, when he told me. So, I picked up a pitchfork and ran it right through him..."
Xena and Gabrielle stared open-mouth at Callisto's off-hand admission.
"That was my second important lesson in life - that revenge can turn unspeakable hurt into delight and then numbness."
"What was the first lesson?" Gabrielle asked quietly.
"That what you love, or even just what you rely on, will be taken from you," replied Callisto, staring blankly at Xena.
"Oh Gods, Xena, do I know you at all?" Gabrielle asked.
Panic and anger rose like bile in the warrior's throat.
"Don't pretend you don't understand, Gabrielle! You know what being a warlord means. It comes with the territory. Whether you're a warlord, a slaver or bandit. Big, bad people hurt little people. It's the way of the world and you knew I was one of the baddest."
"I never thought..that you'd do that. Why? Just to get respect? Was that the only way? What could you have possibly got out of that?"
"What do you think Satrina was? She was my slave-girl, remember? She wasn't there just to give me back-rubs."
"You made Satrina have sex with you? No wonder she betrayed you."
"She betrayed me for her own reasons and you know it. We'd reached an understanding. She was my prisoner. Satrina knew she got off lightly being under my protection. But I never killed Callisto's mother," Xena steadied her voice again. "Yes, I accept that my actions led to her death, but I didn't hurt her. It was just how it looked. My men believed I'd killed her in some kind of sadistic frenzy and that was the story that got around."
"Didn't anyone believe you?" Gabrielle asked.
"I didn't try to deny it," said Xena softly, looking down at the floor between her knees. "And you know something, Gabrielle?" she looked up directly into the eyes of her lover. "It worked. When the guard - I forget his name - burst into the hut to tell me the men were ready to leave, he saw the woman in my arms, both of us covered in blood. His face went white, then he just turned on his heels. When I came out, him and the rest of my men were waiting patiently, sitting on their horses. They didn't say a word, just waited for me to lead them back to our camp. I never had one insolent comment out of them after that. They would have followed me to Hades if I'd asked them."
There was silence for a while.
"What do you want with us, Callisto?"
Gabrielle's question seemed to shake the blonde warrior out of her reverie and she got to her feet. "I wanted to hear it from Xena's lips. Xena: Warrior Rapist." Callisto giggled her psychotic giggle to herself and stood over her prisoner, tugging on the rope and forcing Xena to struggle to keep her balance. "I wanted to be sure I wasn't losing my mind. Not completely, anyway."
"But she's saying it didn't happen the way you were told. Do you believe her?"
"I don't know, really. I don't know if that matters..." Callisto said thoughtfully. She moved behind Xena and started toying absentmindedly with a small dagger she'd retrieved from her cleavage. "It's true that the story faded. It never became part of the canon of Xena the Conqueror legends. After time, it faded from my memory too. A different, kinder story took it's place - that my mother was with my sister when she died. Not really much of a choice, eh Xena? Not that much kinder."
Callisto stepped forward and kicked the warrior soundly in the back. Xena was expecting it and flinched away from the blow as far as her restraints would let her. Suppressing a cry of pain, she regained her composure.
"The story died because it was too much for people to accept," she said calmly. "They preferred to think rape and murder were the business of men. People need to hold on to their beliefs or their little worlds fall apart. They didn't want to believe it. I didn't care," she added with contempt. "It had served my purpose well enough."
"Yes, that just about sums you up doesn't it, princess?" Callisto bent down to hiss in Xena's ear. "Everything has to serve your purpose."
"Did you love your mother, Callisto?"
"I adored her," Callisto looked up sharply, as if surprised both by Gabrielle's question and her answer.
"She gave her life to give you a chance. Was it worth it? How have you repaid her?"
"No. I'm not going there, Little Pest. This is between me and her now," Callisto nodded down at the helpless warrior. "You can't change anything, and frankly..." the blonde warrior had recovered her usual threatening manner. "I'd really rather you fucked off and left us alone."
It was getting dark now and one of Callisto's men came in to light flaming torches on the walls.
"So, are all your men homos, Callisto?" Xena asked casually, in an attempt to distract the blonde warrior so she could think how to escape, or at least decide if she wanted to.
"Oh yes," she replied following Xena's gaze to the man lighting the flames. "They're so motivated and so loyal. They understand the need for underdogs to stick together, you see. They're mostly rejects from the ranks of the honorable Athenian army. Not even good enough to die for their bloody miserable city. Extraordinary isn't it?"
"If they applied that equally there would be no fighting women in the whole of Greece," Xena agreed.
"I know, funny how the Athenians didn't get upset at all when I spent time fighting with them at the gates of Troy."
Gabrielle started questioning her own sanity as she heard the conversation between the warriors move from Xena's unforgivable crimes against Callisto to casual chit-chat about the Athenian army's recruitment policy.
"Who taught you your fighting skills?" asked Xena carefully. "You didn't learn to fight like that with an effigy of me hanging from some clothes line. Where did you go after Cirra?"
"Ah well, you see, I wandered here and there for days, maybe moons, begging for food and running away from slavers. I didn't know it, but all that time a goddess was watching over me. One day she revealed herself to me and asked me to join her and her nymphs in the forest."
"Artemis?" It was a suspicion Xena had silently held for some time.
"Yes. Ironic isn't it? I grew up in the forest with her followers. I was her favorite of all her hunters and nymphs. Her 'juvenile delinquent' she thought she could reform. Of course, she wanted to fuck me, but she wanted to wait until I was older. Very noble, eh? For a god."
"You grew up under the protection of Artemis, the goddess of the Amazons?" Gabrielle managed to find her voice.
"Yes." Callisto was pacing around Xena's helpless form, twirling her dagger. She was growing bored of this conversation. "Luckily she kept us all well away from those smelly Amazons."
"And even the love of Artemis couldn't soften your soul?" Gabrielle asked.
"We-ell," Callisto ran the point of the dagger over Xena's shoulder in an off-hand manner, "she might've won me over eventually, I suppose. I was her finest pupil, her swiftest hunter. I tried so hard for her. I kinda had a crush on her I guess..." The slight, but deadly, warrior stopped as if remembering something. "But then, well, then one day Zeus came along..."
"Oh, come on, Callisto. Is this some childish fantasy..?" Xena was starting to doubt her wisdom in encouraging the warrior to tell her story.
Callisto suddenly jabbed the knife into Xena's arm, only just digging into her flesh but deep enough to make her yelp. "No! It's true! You see Xena, no one knows about this because it's no-one's business to know. You could ask Artemis' precious nymphs, they'll remember me," she brought her face close to the warrior's. "How one day they made me undress to bathe in the lake with them, and my swollen belly betrayed my condition. My betrayal of Artemis' love. You see, I fought like a savage possessed when Zeus caught me asleep by the river. Yes, even against the great god of gods himself. He fooled me, disguised himself as Artemis. I thought she'd decided I was old enough now, so I spread my legs gladly. Then he revealed his true self. I fought with everything I had, but it was useless and he planted his godly spawn within me."
"I hid my shame for as long as I could," Callisto stood and calmed down as quickly as her ire had risen. "But eventually she found out. So I was thrown out of the forest, driven out by Artemis' fury. Three moons later, when my young body finally gave up Zeus' child, I tried to murder it. My son. But someone stopped me and rescued him..." She trailed off, confused, as if the memory of that episode was fading even as she described it. "I still don't know who that woman was or where the child is now."
Xena was dumbfounded. Whatever she had done to the young innocent in Cirra, her cruelty had been redoubled by the characteristic arrogance and selfishness of the gods. Callisto had inherited more than her mother's eyes.
"You see, every violation, every rejection, it has just made me feel more numb," Callisto's eyes were blazing now as she turned to face Xena. "But my rage, my fury, it's my closest companion, you see? I enjoy it, Xena. I crave it. It sweeps over me, my hatred, my need to kill. Can you understand that, Xena?" She bent close to her captive again and whispered, "I expect you can, can't you? Just a little?"
"Gabrielle?" Xena ignored the dangerous blonde whose breath she could now feel against her cheek. She called across the room to her young lover. "Callisto's right, this is between me and her now."
"I won't abandon you, Xena. Even after hearing what you did."
"You're my hero, remember?"
"Oh, hang on a minute," Callisto interrupted, looking from one lover to the other. "You think you can escape, don't you? But you want her out of the way before you try it. Of course, I'm so stupid. Guards!" Two of Callisto's soldiers ran into the room with their swords drawn. "Put those away. Chain the irritating blonde against the wall and find a gag from somewhere. I don't want her to move and I don't want a squeak out of her, understand?"
Ignoring the sounds of Gabrielle struggling to fight off her men, Callisto squatted on her heels in front of Xena and regarded her frankly.
"You need to understand, Xena. Saying sorry can never be enough. You see, you've squandered my love."
Continue on to Part Three