And Then You Had to Bring Up Reincarnation

by Rhiannon Silverflame

DISCLAIMER: The characters of Xena, Gabrielle, Melinda Pappas, and Janice Covington are the property of Universal, MCA, and Renaissance Pictures. The Indigo Girls—Amy Ray and Emily Saliers—and their band members are actual people, and as such are the property of no one; the author sincerely hopes that they would not mind their inclusion and representation in this story. All other characters are the author’s own creation. Kaitlyn Velasquez is the property and creation of the author. This story is based on the episodes "The Xena Scrolls" and "Between the Lines," and includes elements from quite a few other episodes. All song lyrics utilized are by the Indigo Girls and will be duly credited in the appendix; the guitars described are their actual instruments. There actually was an Indigo Girls concert at The Roxy in Atlanta on August 5, 1998; the author has taken a few liberties with the setlist and made up the on-stage dialogue. The title of this story is taken from the Indigo Girls (seriously now, what else did you expect?) song "Galileo." The jam-session banter between Amy and Emily is based heavily on the music video for "Galileo," as well as dialogue from the Watershed: Ten Years of Underground Video compilation. It should be noted that Amy Ray generally doesn’t do stream-of-consciousness monologues during the song "Touch Me Fall;" the author abandoned reality for artistic license because it was the best choice. Similarly, the improv during "Galileo" is not something that the Indigo Girls really do.

SUBTEXT: Well, there’s not much in the way of subtext in this story. However, where it exists, it’s maintext. This author does not, on general principle, deal with subtext; it does not exist at all in her idiosyncratic view of these characters. (And she pointed this out mainly as an excuse to use the word "idiosyncratic.") In other words, this story deals with romantic, but not necessarily sexual, relationships between consenting adult women. If homosexuality, implied, depicted, or otherwise, disturbs or offends you, then stop reading and go seek help. If you’re looking for sex, you won’t find it here.

LANGUAGE: There is a small amount of strong language in this story, just so you know. There is also a considerable amount of praise for the Indigo Girls, which is likely due to the fact that only Xena and Gabrielle rival said musical duo in terms of the author’s obsession. The author does not apologize for this fact, and probably subconsciously hopes that this story may win the Indigo Girls a few new fans, despite the fact that she really hates proselytization.


"Maybe it’s not the first time we’ve walked down this road, huh?"

"Maybe it won’t be the last."

The bard smiled up at her companion, her newly close-cropped hair glinting in the sunlight, as they started down the road. Idle speculation became serious contemplation as they reflected over what she had learned: that throughout all their lives, both past and future, her karma and the warrior’s would be intertwined. For better or worse, they were soulmates for eternity. Their love in this life, warmed by the light of this knowledge, felt strengthened and reaffirmed.

One last misgiving remained. "How will we recognize each other then?"

Atop the chakram she’d drawn on her foot with the mehndi, the warrior inscribed, as a sign, a cross. Just like the crosses in her vision, upon which she and her beloved bard had been crucified side by side. "This way, no matter how we look, we’ll always remember the women we were." She grinned at the bard. "Like it?"

"I love it," the bard responded with a matching grin.

And as they continued on down that road together—the one they had likely walked down before, and would likely walk down again—the warrior put her arm around the bard and held her close. Half teasing, half serious, she said, "This is definitely one for the scrolls, Gabrielle."

In a tent in Thrace, a raven-haired linguist and a blonde archaeologist conferred while their workers finished the process of closing the dig.

"I can’t believe how many digs we’ve gone on together in the search for more Xena Scrolls," remarked the linguist.

"You know, I think we’ll go on many more."

The archaeologist laid the book down on the folding camp table, intense green eyes beaming with pride and excitement at her partner from beneath the brim of her battered fedora. This was the first printing of their published translations of the Xena Scrolls, a project years in the making. It even included the recently completed translation of the "Xena Blue Scroll," which they’d found in India.

Janice opened the cover of the brand-new volume and idly caressed the fresh paper. On the inside cover was the dedication: To our respective fathers, Melvin Pappas and Harry Covington, for their hard work and determination, which set us on the path that led to this accomplishment. Thank you for everything. And to Kaitlyn Velasquez, in gratitude for her invaluable help in deciphering the Rift Scrolls, and for all her help and the invaluable lessons she taught us. We couldn’t have done it without you, Kaitlyn. With love, Janice and Mel. Their friend from Harvard had refused to be given credit for her part in the work on the Scrolls, but Janice and Mel couldn’t let Kaitlyn go completely unrecognized.

"It needs a special touch," Janice remarked. "I’d like this copy to stay in my family for years to come." She pulled a fountain pen from her shirt pocket and bent down to write. She handed the book to Mel, who added a few words of her own. Then Janice took the book back, paused, and drew a small symbol next to what they’d written. They let the ink dry before closing the cover.

Janice tucked the book into her pack. "I think we’re done. We’ve wrapped up at this site, and I want to go home and get to work on these latest finds. Maybe we’ll have a second volume to add to this soon. Hey—let’s get out of here, huh?"

And as they packed up their campsite into the pickup truck and drove away, just as they had so many times before, the archaeologist took one hand off the steering wheel long enough to pat the translator on the shoulder and remark, "This was definitely another one for the Scrolls, Mel."

* * *

August 5, 1998

Atlanta, Georgia

The buzz of several dozen conversations assaulted her ears as she walked into the Roxy. That familiar vibe of pre-concert excitement was strong, and Erin Covington Chapman felt her pulse rise in tandem with it. She’d been looking forward to this show for months now; benefit shows were always fun, and when the Indigo Girls were performing, they were ten times more fun. They were a band as passionate about the causes they supported as Erin herself, which struck a chord with the young activist.

She found her seat and settled in for the next three hours. It was really too bad that she’d had to come alone, but so soon after Ash, she wasn’t sure she was ready for the dating scene again.

Erin laughed and ran a hand through her short, spiky red-blonde hair. Three rows from the stage! This was great! She was close enough to be sprayed by Amy Ray’s spit. Over the din of the crowd, she caught a few guitar chords drifting out from just offstage and listened carefully; the Indigo Girls must be warming up. She could make out a soprano voice singing, "So I spent four years prostrate to the higher mind, got my paper and I was free . . ." She grinned knowingly. They wouldn’t hear that song until much later in the evening—"Closer to Fine" was, by tradition, always the closing song—but for a young woman fresh out of undergraduate studies at Hampshire College, the feelings in that line could never be expressed enough.

The theater was packed, except for the seat next to Erin’s, which remained vacant until just before the lights went out. As the Indigo Girls took the stage amid wild cheering, a young woman clambered over several people and collapsed into the vacant seat. "Hi," she offered with a smile, ice-blue eyes raking over Erin’s form with a devilish glint.

Erin, petrifyingly shy despite her punkish clothes and tough demeanor, stammered a reply. She was quite disconcerted by the girl’s daring flirtatiousness, which contrasted sharply with her conservative, somewhat innocent appearance.

"Valerie P. Jackson," the newcomer said, offering her hand to Erin, who shook it awkwardly. She licked her lips slowly in a way that made Erin shiver despite herself.

"Erin. Uh . . . E—Erin Chapman," she half-mumbled, just as the opening chords of "Shame On You" crunched out of Amy Ray’s Fender Stratocaster and rang throughout the theater.

"Pleased—quite pleased indeed—to meet you, Erin. You can call me Val," the young woman purred, brushing a stray lock of her shoulder-length raven hair behind her ear.

"Sure. Will do." Erin felt herself blush a bright, hot crimson at Val’s overtures.

Quicker than a guitar string popping, Val’s face fell. "Oh, I’m so sorry!" she blurted. "Am I making you feel uncomfortable? Aw geez, I’m doing it again—I’ll stop—I’m so sorry!" There was no hint of flirtatiousness in her voice now, no sophisticated talk; just genuine remorse and honest friendliness.

Erin laughed, immediately put at ease by the apologetic tone in Val’s voice. She found it endearing somehow. "No, don’t apologize," she said. "I’m just, well, I’m pretty shy. Don’t feel bad, I always clam up like this." Her green eyes met Val’s blue ones, and a jolt of understanding—or was that recognition?—passed between them. At once, they turned their attention back to the stage.

Amy Ray, the intense, rough-voiced, dark-haired member of the duo, was in her element, hammering out chords on her classic Strat with typical energetic abandon. Meanwhile, her blonde partner, Emily Saliers, picked out an intricate lead line on the banjo with a cool concentration that left Erin, herself a guitarist, feeling terribly jealous.

"My friend Tanner, she says, you know, me and Jesus, we’re of the same heart," Amy sang, eyes shut and shoulders slumped in her customary pose. "The only thing that keeps us distant is that I keep fucking up . . ."

The story of my life, Erin thought. Aw hell, it’s the story of my whole family’s life. All those stories she’d heard about her relatives, her great-aunt Janice in particular, convinced her of this. People in her family always seemed to take so many wrong turns on their way to their goals . . . but they always made it somehow.

Up on the stage, Emily’s light soprano harmonized with Amy’s gruff alto. "I said, come on down to Chicano city park and wash the blues away; the beautiful ladies walk right by, you know I never know what to say!" A wild chorus of cheers greeted that line. Emily and Amy made no secret of the fact that they were both gay. Contrary to some speculation, they were not, and never had been, involved with each other. On stage, they were the perfect team, and the best of friends, but in their free time, they moved in different social circles.

Val chuckled. She loved this song. She really loved anything the Indigo Girls did, but "Shame On You" stuck out as a particular example. At first, she never would have expected an electric guitar and a banjo could blend so well, but in this song, they just sounded right. It was, she thought, indicative of the unique dynamic that was Amy Ray and Emily Saliers; passionate fury tempered with fluid lyricism, raw power and insightful sensitivity side by side. They wrote separately, but brought their creative efforts together in performance. Amy added fire to Emily’s songs, and in turn Emily added a mellow quality that helped smooth some of Amy’s rough edges. And together, they managed to achieve something truly powerful.

There was something about that combination . . . she couldn’t quite pinpoint it, but it felt familiar somehow. The sensation grew stronger as Jerry Marotta, the drummer, struck up a new beat. Emily traded in her banjo for her National, and the audience went wild at the familiar screaming intro line to "It’s Alright." As always, Val marveled at how someone so seemingly laid-back and mellow could cut loose as dramatically as Emily Saliers did with an electric guitar in her hands.

"And it’s alright if you hate that way, hate me ‘cause I’m different, hate me ‘cause I’m gay . . ." Again a good portion of the audience erupted into cheers in response to Emily’s words.

Val glanced to her left, where Erin was dancing to the music, caught up in the excitement of the song. There was something about this girl that she felt drawn to very strongly. Maybe it was the fact that Erin reminded her, in a way, of a bard she’d read about in a book at her parents’ home.

Some thirty years ago, a cousin of her grandmother’s, a brilliant student of ancient Greek, had published a series of translations of scrolls from those far-off times. Val’s father seemed strangely reluctant to talk about his aunt Melinda, except to make the occasional bitter remark that Val was an awful lot like her, for reasons that Val had yet to understand. In fact, he’d been pretty upset to learn that his daughter had found the translated volumes of The Xena Scrolls.

Never one to be stopped by such things, the headstrong seventeen-year-old had continued to read them, intrigued not only by the unfolding story of a warrior princess and the Amazon bard who had been her companion, but by the discovery that Melinda Pappas, along with her archaeologist partner—one Dr. Janice Covington—had been personally involved in the discovery of those scrolls. Not only that, but it seemed that Dr. Covington and Miss Pappas—whose last name had been passed down to Val as a middle name—were directly descended from Gabrielle and Xena. That revelation had excited Val; it meant that the ancient heroine was her own ancestor as well.

"And for every thing I learn, there are two I don’t understand; that’s why I’m still on a search through the weather-strewn church, and I’m doing the best that I can, and it’s alright." Val felt a strong connection to those lines as Emily Saliers sang them. It had been hard for her to come to terms with the fact that she was attracted to women as much as, probably even more than, she was to men, and even harder for her family to accept that. It had taken her all of high school and much of college to reconcile her feelings with what she’d been taught her whole life, but in the end she’d decided that what it all came down to was that love, in any form, couldn’t possibly be wrong.

"And it’s alright if I feel afraid, my plans in pieces, my plans mislaid. It’s the will of the way, the will of the way, the will of the only way that could have brought us here today, and it’s alright!" Emily Saliers belted out the final lines of the song with heartfelt conviction. She had a lifetime . . . sometimes it felt like lifetimes . . . of experience when it came to that.

"Thanks, y’all," she shouted in chorus with Amy over the cheers of the crowd. "That song means a lot to me, you know. I hope that what it has to say meant something to you guys too." And so she did. As musicians, she and Amy chose to devote their energy and influence to fight for the causes they believed in. There was so much oppression and ignorance and injustice in the world, and they both felt compelled to speak out and work against it. "Y’know, we’ve met our share of opposition," she remarked. With a chuckle, she added, "That song is for our friends at Irmo High School in South Carolina."

Erin whooped loudly. She remembered the incident over the summer, when the Indigo Girls’ free concert at Irmo High had been cancelled due to parents’ protests over the duo’s sexuality. Controversy seemed to follow the Girls, but they kept to their path doggedly.

"It’s for enlightenment," Amy put in with an infectious grin.

As the concert continued, and especially during the intermission, Erin and Val got to talking, and discovered that despite their vastly different backgrounds, they had much in common. Even better, Val knew all about the Xena Scrolls, a subject that had fascinated Erin ever since her freshman year of college.

"How did you find out about them?" Val asked excitedly, hardly able to believe her luck. The Xena Scrolls were—unfortunately, she thought—not widely known, and she had always longed to find someone with whom she could discuss them at length.

Erin explained, "We’ve had a copy in my family for years now, one of the first printings ever. See, my great-aunt—I’m named after her . . . well, sort of, my middle name is her last name—she’s the one who discovered them."

Val’s jaw dropped. "What?" she gasped. "What’s your middle name?" She was gripped by an electric force. Everything was coming together now.

"Covington," Erin answered, understanding dawning on her face. "Janice Covington was my grandfather’s older half-sister. And you’re . . ." Her eyes widened. "You’re related to Melinda Pappas somehow, aren’t you?"

Val nodded dumbly.

"My god," Erin murmured. "Who would have thought? Talk about fate, or karma, or whatever . . ." She brightened. "Talking of it, have you heard of the Xena Blue Scroll?"

"Have I ever!" Val came alive, beaming with elation. "It’s my favorite of all the Scrolls! I mean, wow, have you ever read something so incredible? You know how happy I was to find out that Xena and Gabrielle’s souls were connected for eternity? That was the most touching thing I’ve ever heard!" She grinned. "It still makes me cry, you know, sometimes. I just wish they’d figure out who wrote that scroll."

"Last I heard, some professor at SUNY Stony Brook was working on that," Erin replied. "If you ask me, though, it was Gabrielle."

"We’ll find out one day," Val told her with a smile.

Intermission ended, the noise of the crowd died down, and Emily Saliers stepped up to the microphone again, slinging the strap of her Martin D-45 acoustic over her shoulder. "This next song goes back a long way," she announced softly. "It’s about . . . sometimes, you see, relationships go bad. There are hard times that you think you’ll never get through, and nobody else thinks you’ll make it. But if love is strong enough, and you have enough faith in it, you’ll pull through." Closing her eyes, she let her fingers play over her guitar strings in the flowing melody that led into "Love’s Recovery."

"During the time of which I speak," she sang, "it was hard to turn the other cheek to the blows of insecurity. Feeding the cancer of my intellect, the blood of love soon neglected lay dying in the strength of its impurity. Meanwhile my friends who thought they’re so together, they’ve all gone and left each other in search of fairer weather. And we sit here in our storm and drink a toast to the slim chance of love’s recovery." There was a special energy to the song tonight, she felt. Somehow she sensed a deeper connection to the lyrics than she ever had before . . . a connection that reached back in time farther than she’d ever consciously realized, and one that, in retrospect, she must have tapped into when she’d first penned those words ten years ago.

Amy’s voice blended in with hers on the second verse. "Here I am in younger days, stargazing, painting a picture-perfect map of how my life and love would be. Not counting the unmarked paths of misdirection, my compass faith in love’s perfection, I missed ten million miles of road I should have seen . . ." Images flashed before Emily’s mind’s eye, stunningly familiar, clear as crystal. A young girl betrothed to a man she never wanted to marry, leaving home to follow the warrior woman who’d saved her village from raiders and whose fire and passion drew her like a magnet. A wide-eyed tagalong growing up on the road with the warrior, a bond forming between them with frightening strength and speed.

The chords grew more agitated, leading into the bridge of the song. Pain and wistfulness filled Emily’s voice and contorted her face, emotions that resonated strongly enough to be mirrored in Amy’s own face and voice, as they continued to sing. "Rain-soaked and voice choked, like silent screaming in a dream, I search for our absolute distinction, not content to bow and bend to the whims of culture that swoop like vultures, eating us away, eating us away, eating us away to our extinction . . ." Again the faces and emotions overwhelmed her. Broken promises and betrayal. Hanging on a cross only to be rescued by that same warrior woman. The cruel shock of being deceived into shedding blood, taking a life for the first time. The terror of being suspended in the air, engulfed in living flames, her very essence violated. A child born of that unholy union, and the terrible strife it caused between her and the warrior. Standing before two flaming funeral pyres with the warrior, lost in mutual grief that ripped them apart in a cruel twist of irony. Being dragged behind a horse for horrific miles, then lifted above a windswept cliff, bloodied and battered. Screams of "Vengeance!" and "I hate you!" Plunging over the cliff, falling . . .

"Oh, how I wish I were a trinity, so that if I lost a part of me, I’d still have two of the same to live. But nobody gets a lifetime rehearsal—as specks of dust, we’re universal. To let this love survive would be the greatest gift that we could give . . ." Bright colors. A land of music and rhyme, where all was laid bare and confronted in its purest form. The deepest levels of hate and anger giving way to confession and forgiveness.

Tears flowed unbidden down the face of the blonde woman carried away on undercurrents of emotion that transcended generations and lands. "Tell all the friends who thought they’re so together that these are ghosts and mirages, all these thoughts of fairer weather. And though it’s storming out, I feel safe within the arms of love’s discovery." Elation. Reconciliation. Waking up on the beach in the arms of the warrior, all the pain and resentment between them washed away. And a simple proclamation: "We’re home." "At last."

Emily opened her eyes and caught her breath. Amy was gazing at her in awe; in all the years they’d been performing together, they had both infused their music with a passion born of personal experience, but she’d never seen her partner so transformed by a song before. The audience sat in an incredulous hush, blown away by the power of what Emily had just done.

"That song . . ." Emily stammered, shaken by everything that had overwhelmed her. "That song goes further back than I ever realized."

Val recovered from the spell Emily’s voice had cast to realize that she’d been gripping Erin’s hand tightly. When she’d reached for the other girl’s hand, she couldn’t remember. "Did you feel that?" she whispered.

Erin turned dazedly toward her. "Yeah," she responded in equally subdued tones, knowing instinctively what Val referred to. The dark-haired young woman, like Erin herself, had been in tune with whatever profound emotions Emily Saliers had been channeling. "Yeah, I did."

"Uh . . . wow." The crowd at the Roxy laughed at Amy’s understated evaluation of the performance. "Em, I hope you’re not waiting for me to outdo that. Anyway, we’re gonna go electric right now." The guitar techs brought out Amy’s Strat, as well as Emily’s vintage Gibson archtop.

"This is a song about things changing, and falling apart," Amy began. She gave a subtle nod to Emily, who understood it immediately as an indication that Amy planned to do one of her trademark stream-of-consciousness monologues during the song. She was a bit surprised; Amy often did such monologues, but she had never done so during this song.

Sliding her fingers into position halfway down the neck of the guitar, Amy raked her pick down the strings in a distinctive E-minor chord. "Yes!" muttered Erin. "Touch Me Fall," with its surreal, mysterious lyrics, was one of her favorite songs. She shut her eyes and leaned back in her seat, letting the ethereal yet disturbing melody wash over her.

"I’m waking from a dream; the neighborhood is green. All the sounds I’ve missed, all the years, come down to wedding, death, and fears. All I’ve heard has been in vain, like water on a stain . . ." Amy stared out into the crowd, her expression distant, as though she saw something that no one else could. And in truth, she did.

What Amy saw wasn’t the audience. Instead, visions of burning villages flickered before her, and dying screams rang in her ears. She saw herself walking a gauntlet, savagely beaten by soldiers, then standing over a tomb, then battling a wild-eyed blonde woman, among other scenes of death and cruelty.

"Touch me; I’m so beautiful. Run your hands across my head just like this. Come with me now—it’s not worth it if you don’t . . ." She saw a young girl sitting across from her, determination written in her guileless features, pleading, "You can’t just leave me here!" She saw that same young girl, her pupils dilated from the effects of some drug, whispering, "By the gods—you are beautiful!"

Amy continued on into the song, not even aware of her voice carrying throughout the theater. She was too captivated by what she was seeing. On her left, Emily looked over and knew instinctively that Amy was now going through what she just had. There’s something really big going on here tonight, she thought, as she transitioned into the extended instrumental, signaling to Jerry and to their bassist, Sara Lee, that Amy was about to lapse into her monologue. Amy’s stream-of-consciousness monologues were always intriguing; Emily enjoyed them, though many times, only Amy, if anyone, really knew what they were about. She had a way of switching viewpoints and trains of thought abruptly that seemed confusing.

The intense rhythm guitarist cast an unseeing gaze about the theater and began to speak. "There’s a darkness inside me and I can’t let it go. Every day I fight it, and every night it comes back to haunt me, when I close my eyes and try to surrender myself to sleep. Years of bloodshed, fear, hatred, evil, they’re a part of my past and they drive me down a path, seeking to reclaim the goodness in me. With her at my side, I have a light, a source, a hope to go on. But I fear for her innocence and I fear for her youth. You put someone on a pedestal, and someday they’re gonna fall down.

"That girl whose family I killed years ago, I made her what she is. I can’t blame her for what she became, because it happened at my hands. I’ve done so much wrong, and that’ll never go away. Do you know what it feels like to have gods lusting after your soul? Do you know what it’s like to carry all this baggage? Do you know what it’s like to be hated and feared for a past you only want to escape? The moment you kill, everything changes. You put someone on a pedestal, and they’re gonna fall down."

Amy ground out a series of chords on the Strat, coming back to the song and driving it into double time. Moving closer to the microphone, she rasped, "Jump, jump, jump so high, watch me let you down. If I stumble, I will stumble; if I fall, I will fall. Try to hold it like rain in a river—everything is getting bigger. Better this won’t last forever—touch me, fall. Touch me, fall . . ."

Still lost in the visions she was seeing, Amy banged away at her guitar and unexpectedly let out a loud war cry before repeating the verse again; Emily visibly jumped at the sound, obviously startled. On the last repetition of "Touch me, fall," she slammed out a final chord that quickly faded into silence. At that second, her normal vision came back to her, and she was staring down into the third row, her eyes locked directly on Val’s. Emily saw a look of recognition cross her friend’s face, and followed Amy’s gaze just as Erin looked up at her, and their eyes met as well.

Amy Ray and Emily Saliers were oblivious to the applause and cheers for the briefest of moments; all their attention was drawn to Valerie Jackson and Erin Chapman. All four of them were gripped by the same thought: All the pieces are in place now.

Amy recovered first and managed to wave to the audience and yell, "Thanks, y’all!" Emily came to her senses a few moments later and echoed Amy’s words.

Erin grabbed Val’s arm. "We have got to get backstage later," she said urgently. Almost unconsciously, her hand had moved to a well-worn leather volume inside her canvas backpack.

"Yeah," Val replied, understanding Erin’s plan. "Definitely."

Onstage, the Indigo Girls quickly conferred with each other and then with Jerry and Sara. Amy jogged to the side of the stage and held a brief conversation with someone.

"This next number wasn’t originally on the setlist, but we’ve gotta do this now," Emily told the audience. "I don’t know why, but Amy and I just have this feeling that we have to."

Amy returned with her scuffed-up black Martin J-40, accompanied by Sulli, their guitar tech, who handed Emily her Martin D-35. "Not like you’re gonna complain," she added playfully, "’cause I know y’all like this song!"

Erin leaned forward, peering intently at the guitars. "Are they gonna do what I think they are?" she murmured. Sure enough, both guitars had been capoed at the fifth fret. "Yes!" she exclaimed, clapping her hands together. "I knew it!" She’d spoken a lot louder than she realized, though, and blushed a furious red, sliding down in her chair. Judging from the looks on Amy and Emily’s faces, they must have heard her.

Val laughed, a deep, throaty chuckle, and patted Erin on the shoulder comfortingly. "It’s okay," she assured the other girl.

Up on the stage, Emily looked down at Erin and grinned. "I think you know which one we’re gonna do, huh?" she asked. She received a brief, embarrassed nod from the shy young woman, and went on, "Well, good. Hey, everyone, this song is for all of you, but especially for the two girls sitting in the middle of the third row."

Over the audience’s delighted laughter, Amy instructed, "Sing along, y’all!"

Emily nodded, cueing Jerry to start into a percussion section that everyone recognized and greeted with another round of wild cheers. With an infectious smile, Emily started strumming and singing.

"Galileo’s head was on the block; his crime was looking up the truth. And as the bombshells of our daily fears explode, I try to trace them to my youth." The blonde guitarist smiled knowingly at Val and Erin. "And then you had to bring up reincarnation over a couple of beers the other night, and now I’m serving time for mistakes made by another in another lifetime . . ."

Val shouted with laughter. "No way! This is too perfect!"

"Tell me about it," Erin shouted back. She was on her feet now, dancing to the music, all traces of her shyness forgotten. Leaning over closer to Val, she added in a low voice, "They know, don’t they?"

The taller girl’s eyes met hers. "They have to. Or they at least suspect something."

"How are we gonna get backstage? I don’t have passes."

"Me neither. But we’ll figure something out."

"Sing along now, y’all!" Emily yelled, launching into the chorus. "How long till my soul gets it right? Can any human being ever reach that kind of light? I call on the resting soul of Galileo, king of night vision, king of insight!"

Emily continued on into the second verse. "And then I think about my fear of motion, which I never could explain; some other fool across the ocean years ago must have crashed his little airplane . . ."

Erin fingered the book in her backpack again and chuckled. "Oh, no, Emily, that’s not the reason why . . . you have no idea," she murmured.

After the audience had joined in on a raucous sing-along the second time through the chorus, Emily signaled to Amy and the band. The Indigo Girls were well known for breaking into extended jam sessions in the middle of songs, and now, that was exactly what they were going to do.

"We’re gonna try something new here," Emily yelled. "So hang tight; I think y’all are gonna like this." She shot a look at her partner and began the improvised banter they’d decided to do just before agreeing to perform the song. "So Amy, what do you think you used to be in past lives?"

"I was gorgeous and mindless," Amy deadpanned. "It was fun."

"I think I was a Viking once," Emily replied. "My name was Inga the Faire."

Amy snickered. "I was a gangster named the Mole, and I had a black pinstripe suit and a little mustache."

"I was a watermelon."

"Funny, I always thought your personality would be more like a strawberry."

Emily laughed and picked out a flashy little solo. "Y’know, sometimes I feel like a strawberry. And you’d be black beans and rice!"

"That’s ‘cause that’s what I eat!" Amy shot back. "I bet I was a priest once. And thought about God and sex all the time."

"Yeah, you would. I bet I played baseball for a minor-league team in New York somewhere," Emily riposted.

"Salam, Princess of Beer. That’s what they called me once." The dark-haired rhythm guitarist grinned. "And another time I was Pinocchio."

"And I wrote that story!" the blonde lead guitarist returned.

The playful banter had turned into friendly competition, and Amy was starting to feel like she was losing. Without really knowing why she did it, she let out the war cry again and retorted, "That’s because I was a big bad warrior princess who wore a lot of leather and swung a big sword." She stopped and blinked. "Leather?!?"

Emily burst out laughing. "And I was your sidekick, a spunky little bard who swung a mean staff!"

"Yeah, until you went and threw it into a river," Amy exclaimed. "What was it with you and rivers, anyway? And holes?"

"Oh, god!" It was all Emily could do to keep from dissolving into helpless laughter. Instead, she shook her head and segued back into the bridge of the song, looking down at Erin and Val, both of whom had their mouths hanging open at the last part of the dialogue.

"I’m not making a joke," Emily sang. "You know me, I take everything so seriously!" Amy joined in with her as they continued, "If we wait for the time till our souls get it right, then at least I know there’ll be no nuclear annihilation in my lifetime—I’m still not right. Hey!"

And as Emily broke into a guitar solo that made Erin just about turn as green as her eyes with envy, Amy remarked thoughtfully, "You know, I think they called me the Mother of Peace once . . ."

Emily looked at her, and her face turned reverent. "I offer thanks to those before me," she sang. "That’s all I’ve got to say." She gestured to the audience to pick up the verse.

Val and Erin joined the rest of the crowd in belting out, "’Cause maybe you squandered big bucks in your lifetime—now I have to pay!"

Amy and Emily took over again, wide, knowing grins on their faces. "But then again it feels like some sort of inspiration to let the next life off the hook. She’ll say, ‘Look what I had to overcome from my last life: I think I’ll write a book!’" Erin whooped at that.

"How long till my soul gets it right? Can any human being ever reach the highest light? Except for Galileo, God rest his soul, king of night vision, king of insight! How long till my soul gets it right? How long till my soul gets it right? How long?" The song ended, and the audience went wild.

Several songs later, the concert was winding to a close, since the Indigo Girls were getting close to the curfew time. Those strange sensations of déjà vu had come up several more times, though.

During "Reunion," when Amy had sung the line, "I have no need for anger with intimate strangers, and I’ve got nothing to hide," she’d had a vision of herself trapped in the body of the wild-eyed madwoman.

On the closing lines of "Mystery," Emily had harmonized with Amy, "And maybe that’s all that we need, is to meet in the middle of impossibility. We’re standing at opposite poles, equal partners in a mystery." As she sang those lines, she was struck by the thought that the way of peace and the way of war could, perhaps, somehow work together and truly achieve a worthy end.

And finally, during a rare performance of "Keeper of My Heart," Amy had sung, "Lift me through my love and anger; my arms are burning, but they’re open wide," with a conviction, as though it were a promise. The words came in response to the vision she saw, and the determination in the voice of a young blonde girl insisting, "No, look, you promise me. If something happens to me, you will not become a monster!"

All in all, it was an intense night.

"Yeah, we go to the doctor, we go to the mountains, we look to the children, we drink from the fountains. There’s more than one answer to these questions pointing me in a crooked line, and the less I seek my source for some definitive, the closer I am to fine . . . the closer I am to fine . . . the closer I am to fine!"

No sooner had "Closer to Fine" ended and the final shouts of "Thanks, y’all!" from Amy and Emily faded away, than Val grabbed Erin by the hand.

"Come on, let’s go!" she whispered.

"What?" Erin blurted, barely managing to snatch up her backpack as Val dragged her away.

"To the stage door, we’ve got to hurry," the dark-haired girl responded. "Come on!" she repeated, sprinting down a side hallway with a stunned Erin in tow.

Erin’s timid nature chose to kick in at that point. "Um, Val, are you sure that this is a good idea?" she inquired weakly.

"Oh god, Erin!" Val exclaimed. "This was your idea in the first place! No fair going and chickening out on me now!" She gave another insistent tug on the shorter girl’s arm.

"Yeah, but . . . but . . . well, aw geez, Val, I didn’t hear you complaining before!" sputtered Erin as they rounded a corner and stumbled down an empty corridor. She offered no further protest, though; the prospect of meeting the Indigo Girls and the growing feeling of having an urgent mission at hand spurred her on with something resembling courage. "Aw, for Christ’s sake . . ." she muttered, only half-reluctantly.

Val skidded to a halt long enough to read a sign on the wall. "This way," she told Erin, dragging her through an open doorway. Fifteen feet further away, two yellow-jacketed security guards blocked off the stage door, where a small crowd of fans had already begun to gather. Undaunted, Val pulled Erin in front of her and gripped the shorter girl firmly by the shoulders. Maneuvering deftly, she shoved the two of them past a large leather-clad woman with bright purple hair, and up to the front of the crowd.

"Hi," she said breathlessly to the big security guard. "I know you’re gonna think I’m crazy, but you gotta let us through. We absolutely have to see Emily and Amy. It’s really important." She mentally kicked herself for sounding so lame. Like he’s ever going to buy that!

The guard gave her a skeptical look. "Right," he replied dryly, dragging the word out as if it weren’t worth devoting all his energy to. "You and everybody else here. So where’s your pass?"

"Oh, well, um, we don’t have one," Val fumbled desperately, her cheeks warming with the flush of embarrassment. "But we just . . ."

The guard snorted. But a hand stuck out between the double doors, tugging on the guard’s sleeve. He moved aside enough for Emily Saliers to poke her head through the doorway. The blonde guitarist looked Val and Erin over, then nodded to the guard. "Hey," she said to him. "Go ahead and let them in, will you?"

"These two?" he asked, indicating Erin and Val.

"Yeah, them," Emily answered, winking at the two girls. "Just let them in, okay?"

The guard blinked. "Um, right. Go on in, you two," he instructed, moving aside and motioning for them to pass. Val and Erin didn’t need to be told twice; they were through the door as soon as he’d moved out of the way. Now face to face with one of their idols, they were tongue-tied. Val’s hands were balled into fists and shoved deep into the pockets of her black parachute-nylon jacket. Erin’s knuckles were white from the force of her grip on her backpack straps. Both of them were breathless from their sprint to the stage door and from the surprising ease with which they’d managed to get backstage.

But Emily’s quick smile and casual familiarity relaxed both the young women. "Hey there, you two. Glad you came back here, ‘cause me and Amy were thinking of going out to hunt you down!" She led them down the hallway a little way, her eyes gleaming teasingly. "Come on."

"Seriously?" Erin managed to ask, following the singer. "You were really thinking about coming to find us?"

"Absolutely," responded Emily. "We’ve been watching you both the whole show, you know, and decided we had to meet you guys. Don’t ask me why; I’m not sure. It’s just one of those feelings, y’know?"

"Yeah," Erin answered with a shy laugh. "Yeah, I know what you mean."

Emily stopped in front of a door and opened it. "Here we are," she announced, gesturing for them to enter. The two girls stepped into a comfortably furnished lounge, complete with 40-inch TV and minibar. "Have a seat, hang out with Jerry and Sara and the crew for a bit. Amy and I’ll be back soon . . . she’s still messing around up there on the stage somewhere, I think . . . We just have to go and meet all the other fans." She smiled. Y’all don’t mind waiting a bit, do you? This won’t be keeping you up too late?"

Erin and Val both dissented, settling down on an extremely soft couch.

"Cool. We’ll be back soon, ‘kay? Hey, Amy, let’s go!" Emily yelled out into the hallway, then disappeared through the door.

The two girls spent the next hour chatting with the Indigo Girls’ band—or more accurately, most of it was spent with Erin and Sulli, the guitar tech, avidly discussing the technical aspects of acoustic guitar amplification in minute detail through mouthfuls of potato chips. Val, on the other hand, sipped coffee and had a lively, lighthearted political debate with Jerry and Sara. They were so engrossed in their respective conversations that they almost failed to notice Amy and Emily’s return. Almost. Amy Ray had a certain charisma to her that was very hard to overlook.

"They’re ba-ack," Sara intoned in her British accent.

"And aren’t you happy to see us?" Amy asked with a grin.

"God, you know what? We haven’t even been properly introduced!" Emily slapped her forehead. She offered her hand to Val for a handshake, and then likewise to Erin. "Emily Saliers."

"Amy Ray," added her singing partner, following suit. "But you knew that, I guess. And you are . . .?"

"Valerie Jackson. But, uh, just call me Val."

"Erin Chapman."

"Let’s go on a first-name basis, huh?" Amy looked at the other people in the room. "Hey, listen, guys, I hate to kick you out, but . . . do you mind?"

Jerry put on a mock wounded look. "Oh, sure, sure, we understand." He pretended to sniffle, and Sulli swatted him on the arm. "Val, Erin, it’s been nice meeting you. Sara and Sulli echoed the sentiment, and with a wave, they left the room.

"So." Emily flopped down on the couch across from Val and Erin. She looked them over curiously. "Have you two known each other long?"

"Well, believe it or not, we didn’t. We never met until tonight," Erin said.

"You’re kidding!" Amy was rummaging around in the minibar. "Hey, can I get you guys anything to drink?"

"Yeah, sure," Erin said.

"That’d be great, thanks," Val added. "Whatever you’ve got."

Amy returned with four bottles of Guinness and a bottle opener, handing the bottles round and sitting in the armchair near Erin, which Sulli had recently vacated. "Weird night," she commented. "Glad you guys decided to come backstage. It feels like we’ve got a lot to talk about."

Despite the mutual feeling, they sat awkwardly for a few minutes, sipping their beer. Ironically, it was Erin who broke the ice, commenting, "You know, I’ve seen you guys in concert so many times, but I’ve never experienced anything as amazing as tonight’s show. It’s like . . ." She paused, searching for words. "Everything was so totally in tune. I felt so connected to you somehow."

There was no real small talk after that, none of the typical, silly "I’m your biggest fan" type of conversation. Val spoke of how the Indigo Girls’ music had helped her through the difficult months after she’d admitted to her family that she was bisexual. Erin told them that everything they stood up for meant a great deal to her, and how her activism was the only thing that drew her out of her shell.

"It’s like fighting for the causes I believe in is the only thing that gives me any kind of courage whatsoever," she reflected.

In turn, Amy and Emily talked about some of the other songs they’d written, and how after tonight they felt that deeper connection to them. Amy reflected on how "Dead Man’s Hill," which she’d written about her first real experience with shame and cruelty, felt much more powerful now. Emily told them that "Everything In Its Own Time" was inspired by thoughts about spirituality and the quest for meaning. They mentioned how lately they’d felt frustrated and discouraged, how they’d been encountering feelings of hopelessness in their continuing struggles against injustice and oppression. And they talked about what they’d experienced during the concert, describing the visions they’d seen.

"I felt like I was living another lifetime up there, you know?" Amy remarked. "And it was all so real. The way everything and everyone looked, the voices I heard . . ."

"Yeah, same here. Like I’d experienced it firsthand," Emily added.

Erin smiled and leaned back into the couch. "So that’s why you decided to do ‘Galileo’ on the spur of the moment, huh?" The singers both nodded.

"That dialogue you were doing, I loved that." Val’s expression turned serious. "Where’d the last part come from, though? I thought I recognized the rest from the video, but . . ."

Emily leaned forward. "That just . . ." She glanced at Amy for confirmation. "That was everything clicking, really. All the images making sense." She and Amy had done some talking on their way back to the lounge after the meet-and-greet session with the fans. They’d realized that the visions they’d been seeing were all from the lives of just two people—two people who were connected in a very profound way.

"Well, I think I know why." Erin reached into her backpack and pulled out her well-read copy of The Xena Scrolls, Volume One. She handed it to Emily. "This has been in my family for years now, and it’s my favorite book. But I think you should have it."

Emily ran her hands over the leatherbound tome. She protested, "But it’s been in your family for years now, Erin . . . I don’t know if we should."

"Trust me," Erin said, her green eyes glittering with intensity.

Emily started, feeling despite their differences in appearance as though she were staring at her own reflection. All of a sudden, another lyric she’d written gained a new level of meaning. "I see my eyes in your eyes through my eyes—still waters," she sang softly, the words barely more than a breath.

Erin was beyond astonishment by this point. The same line had gone through her head just then, yet somehow she’d known that Emily would pick up on it too. "Trust me," she repeated. "Read the inscription on the inside of the cover."

Emily complied, opening the book and leaning over so that Amy could see.

In slightly faded brown ink, a short paragraph was scrawled. This book is an achievement I’ve worked my whole life for. It’s a momentous achievement, if I do say so myself. It’s changed my life and the way I look at the world. It’s changed my understanding of my purpose in this world. And I can’t shake the feeling that someday, it’ll give someone else a greater sense of their own purpose. – J. Covington.

Beneath that, in a more elegant hand, a few more lines were written. These scrolls mean a great deal to me, to the both of us. This is our family history, and a legacy that we hope lives on. They speak of love, courage, and the spirit of the greater good prevailing. And I hope that someday, the story contained here will make a difference to someone who fights for good in the same way our ancestors did, and continued to do in many subsequent lives. – M. Pappas.

"This made the banned book list once, you know," Erin offered softly into the silence that followed. "Janice Covington and Melinda Pappas’s ancestors—our ancestors too—were lovers. It didn’t go over very well with some people, as you’d probably figure. I didn’t know why I brought the book with me tonight. Now I do."

Emily looked at Erin, awe written in her features. "Wow," was all she said.

"Hey, Em, look!" Amy pointed at the book. Next to the handwritten dedication, the circle and cross of the female symbol had been drawn. Emily leaned over further to get a better look, grabbing Amy’s wrist in the process.

Val and Erin looked on, both unconsciously holding their breath, anticipating, without really knowing why, that something was about to happen. As the contact was made, both Emily and Amy stared at each other with new recognition.

"Xena?" Emily murmured.

"Gabrielle?" Amy responded.

Val reached out for Erin’s hand. "Oh my god," she murmured.

"Looks like we’re at it again, huh?" Amy asked, a light touch of humor in her voice, which seemed to take on a low, musical tone somewhat different from her usual way of speaking.

"The work never ends," Emily replied wryly, somehow sounding much younger. "And like always, we’re going at it together."

Amy grinned, tears forming in her eyes. "Just like we always have." For the moment, the two girls in the room were forgotten. There was nothing but these two souls recognizing each other once more, for the first time in countless years. All the good of lives both past and future . . . They both felt renewed. Despite the discouraging odds, their battle would go on, and they would make a difference. With the assurance of centuries of experience, they knew this now.

The magical moment of reunion passed, and the two older women seemed to remember themselves again. "Val . . . Erin . . . thank you," Emily whispered. "You don’t know how much we needed that."

They talked for another hour or so, sometimes just discussing various issues, sometimes speculating on what this new discovery could mean in their lives. They perused the book from Erin, expressing delight at how familiar the accounts were now.

When Val showed them a particular passage from the section devoted to the Blue Scroll, another connection was made. "Naima told us that Alti’s soul had not been destroyed; it would simply go on to its next life. It would always be filled with evil, but Xena and I would always be there to meet it—together," Amy read aloud. She shot a halfway mischievous look at Emily. "Hey Em, you don’t think that really growly guy from Irmo High School . . ."

Emily laughed, knowing what Amy was thinking. "Who knows? Could be." She glanced up at the clock. "Oh, my god. Look at the time. We gotta get out of here."

"Holy shit!" Erin exclaimed. "It’s almost two o’clock!" She jumped up from the couch.

"Listen, you two. Em and I can’t thank you enough. This has been an incredible night." Amy stood up and scrawled something onto a sheet of paper. "Keep in touch, okay? Erin, we have to get together and jam sometime. Here—I trust you not to make this public knowledge." She winked and handed the paper to Erin, who opened it. On it, Amy had written her home phone number, and Emily’s as well.

"Thanks," Erin gasped. "We most definitely will. Um, keep in touch, that is, not give this out." She and Val both accepted warm hugs from Emily and Amy as they all prepared to leave.

Amy looked at them. She reached out and placed a hand on each girl’s shoulder. "Xena and Gabrielle both want you to know how proud they are of you," she said seriously. "Take good care of yourselves."

Erin walked Val to her car. But after the dark-haired girl clambered into the driver’s seat and tried to start the ignition, she climbed right back out, looking distressed. "I must have left the headlights on," she moaned. "The battery’s dead. I can’t start it."

"Aw, no!" Erin leaned against the hood of the Lincoln. "Well, hey, listen, is there an alarm on it?" At Val’s nod, she continued, "How about I drive you home? Lock it up and leave the alarm on. We’ll come back for it tomorrow with a tow truck or something."

"We?" Val echoed.

"Sure! After everything that happened tonight, and how we’ve found out how we’re connected, you think I’m just going to take off and never see you again?" Erin smiled and laid a hand on Val’s arm. "No chance of that, Val. So how about it? I’ll pick you up tomorrow and we’ll come back for your car. It should be safe here."

Val beamed. "That sounds good."

The two girls headed over to Erin’s Volkswagen Beetle and climbed in. As they pulled out of the parking lot, still awed by the night’s events, the Indigo Girls’ Rites of Passage album played on the stereo. Erin looked over at Val and grinned widely as the last verse of "Joking" poured out of the speakers.

"We were girls in bars, boys on the town, bumping like a pinball off a careless crowd. Who said good friends are hard to come by . . .?"

Val grinned back at Erin. Who said, indeed?


Return to The Bard's Corner