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The Ring

A Djwp Spoiler

Brunnhilda, Beowulf and Gabrielle are deep in Grendl country, following a trail of blood – Xena’s blood – through a dense and misty forest. The question is, is Xena alive or dead? Brunnhilda thinks the chances of finding Xena alive are getting less and less (at least, Brunnhilda is HOPING the chances are getting less and less). Gabrielle’s response is to pick up the pace. She firmly believes that Xena is still alive, even though her companions don’t share her optimism.

Beowulf finds some more blood on a tree – Xena’s blood and Gabrielle finds a discarded, very familiar gauntlet. Beowulf surmises that this was where the warrior princess met her end, but Gabrielle reads the signs a little differently. She believes this is where Xena got away. She orders them to split up, reasoning that this will help them to find Xena faster.

Gabrielle, now searching alone through the thick forest, carries the bloody gauntlet in her hand. She pauses at a tree, feeling a presence nearby and tentatively calls out Xena’s name. In an instant, she is grabbed and pulled behind the tree. She tries to yell, but a hand covers her mouth. A bloody hand.

Xena urges her to be quiet and points out into the forest. The beast is not far away, at the edge of a clearing, still searching for its prey.

They can hear Beowulf calling out for Gabrielle. But so can the creature and it moves off in the direction of the voice. When the creature is out of sight, Xena and Gabrielle turn to one another and embrace. Gabrielle implores Xena to never leave her again and when she pulls away to take a good look at her partner, she sees how bad of a shape Xena really is in.

Xena has cuts and bruises everywhere. She looks like hell. Gabrielle helps her to the ground, hands Xena back her gauntlet and begins to tend to an ugly wound on her leg. Grunnhilda and Beowulf run up, finding them.

Gabrielle says that Xena needs water, and Beowulf agrees. “Yeah, clean yourself up. You look awful.”

Xena appreciates the joke, and as Gabrielle tends her wound, she puts her gauntlet back on.

Meanwhile, Brunnhilda is staring at Xena in a warrior princess haze.

“Xena, I have waited my entire life to meet you.”

“If I knew I had a fan coming, I would have combed my hair," Xena replies and smiles at Gabrielle's chuckle.

Brunnhilda gushes, “I never should have doubted that you’d be alive. Only the legendary Xena could survive against Grendl and the power of the ring.”

“I would have thought the legendary Xena wouldn’t be too welcomed around here,” Xena comments.

“Weaklings don’t like you. I have nothing but the utmost respect for you and your philosophy. From the very first story I heard, I knew I wanted to be a warrior like you. To live for battle – die with valour.”

“Well, I’ve gotten a lot smarter since then. I’ve learned to respect life, love and peace.”

Brunnhilda is appalled. “What happened?”

“Lots of reasons,” Xena answers staring at Gabrielle with a soft smile.

Brunnhilda studies Gabrielle intently for a moment.

The tender moment is interrupted when Beowulf comes back and warns them that Grendl is right behind them. Grunnhilda advises that Grendl has doubled back to their rear and now has blocked off their retreat. Xena agrees with Grunnhilda’s assessment of their situation. Gabrielle urges Xena to leave, but Xena refuses saying that Grendl and she have a date with destiny.

Xena tells Gabrielle she knows better than to try and talk her into leaving, but she urges Brunnhilda and Beowulf to go to safety – this is her battle. Gabrielle corrects her by saying it is ‘their’ battle. Brunnhilda firmly states that she will not leave Gabrielle. And Beowulf jumps in with a “me, neither.” Seems like everyone has a bit of a thing for Gabrielle these days. It is decided – they form the first official Gabclan.

A roar in the not-so-far distance warns them that the monster is on its way.

Our heros make their way back to the abandoned mine, the creature's lair. Xena is determined to go inside and take care of the problem she caused so long ago. They step cautiously into the darkness, tourches in hand, and take a look around. The plan is that Xena is going to lure the monster back into the cave. When she is in position, she wants the rest of them to bring the mountain down on her head.

“Her?” Gabrielle asks, “What is this her?”

Xena tells the story of how Grendl came into being.

35 years ago (naptime included) …

Xena forges a ring out of the Rheingold with the intent to wear it and harness its incredible power. Legend says that the gold will give the wearer the invincible power of a god.

Just as young, evil Xena finishes forging the ring, her nemsis Grinhilda surprises her, shooting an arrow that snatches the ring out of Xena’s hand. Grinhilda takes possession of the ring for herself. The reason: she doesn’t want the power of the Rheingold to fall into the hands of a monster like Xena.

As Grinhilda threatens to put the ring on her own finger, Xena warns her that if she wears the Rheingold, it will destroy whatever it is that Grinhilda values most. Grinnhilda is willing to pay the price if it gives her the power long enough to destroy Xena.

Grinhilda puts the ring on her finger and gets a surge of godlike power. With a malicious sneer, Xena and the Queen of the Valkyries do battle. Though Xena is strong, she is no match for the power of the Rheingold. Grinhilda plummels Xena mercilessly. Just when it seems as though Grinhilda is going to make the final, fatal blow, the curse demands its payment.

Grinhilda is painfully transformed into …

An apple tree?

No, make that Grendl.

Grinhilda loses what she valued most: her beauty and her humanity.

Xena takes Grinhilda’s Valkyrie amulet as a token of her victory and cuts off a long, thorny finger to steal the Ring for herself. She puts the Rheingold on and receives the power without any worry of the curse –for you see, Xena, in her youth, had indeed forsaken love.

Once the ring is on her finger, Xena is able to force Grinhilda into the mine and trap her inside, securing the gate with the Odin's raven lock. But in the struggle, Grinhilda steals the ring from Xena's finger and takes possession of it away from the Destroyer of Nations.

Thirty-five years of entrapment later, and Grinhilda’s heart has hardened (along with her limbs). Eventually, with all love gone, Grinhilda was able to harness the power of the ring to give her the strength that she needed to escape and seek her revenge.

And so here they are now, in that very same mine only the tables have been turned. Grinhilda, as the monster Grendl, is the one who has the forsaken love and is, therefore, able to harness the power of the ring without fear. And Xena, who dares not use that power, must find a way to defeat her nemesis, the very creature she created, once again.

They can hear the sounds of the creature entering the cave. Putting the plan in action, Xena attempts to lure the creature to her, deeper into the dark depths of the abandoned mine. Grendl really wants a piece of the warrior princess and follows where she leads. The creature is almost right where Xena wants it – one more step and they can trap it in the cave. Only Grendl is smarter than the average bear –it takes off in the opposite direction.

Xena runs after the monster, ordering the rest of them to wait where they are.

Gabrielle yells her protest and takes off after Xena. Brunnhilda takes off after Gabrielle and Beowulf takes off after the lot of them.

Xena follows the creature down a dark passage and when Gabrielle catches up, Xena yells at her partner, “I thought I told you not to come in here!”

“I never listen,” Gabrielle replies.

Any response Xena could give is cut off when the monster attacks.

They join forces, battling the creature fiercely, but it is strong and tosses them aside left and right. A supporting beam cracks and the roof threatens to cave in. Xena takes advantage of the opportunity and uses her chakram to break the timber the rest of the way. The resulting cave in traps her and Grendl inside, leaving Gabrielle and the others safe on the opposite side of the fallen rock wall.

Brunnhilda is only concerned for Gabrielle's safety and asks if she is all right, but all Gabrielle can think about is Xena. She calls out urgently, but the rock fall has blocked the entrance to the chamber and Gabrielle can neither see nor hear her partner.

“Xena!” she cries out and scrambles up the fallen boulders to try to find a way inside.

Inside, Xena battles the monster. She sees her chakram laying on the floor, but can’t get to it – the creature stands between her and her weapon. She fends the monster away with a torch as it rushes at her through the dark, cavernous passages.

Outside, Brunnhilda and Beowulf assist Gabrielle and they struggle to remove the fallen rocks.

Inside, Xena battles the monster.

Outside, Gabrielle, Brunnhilda and Beowulf struggle with more rocks.

Inside, Xena struggles with the monster.

Outside, Gabrielle, Brunnhilda and Beowulf still struggle with even more rocks.

Inside, Xena is beginning to lose her struggle with the monster.

Outside, Gabrielle claws at the debris, finally making a hole in the wall big enough for her to slip through. She sees the chakram lying on the floor, picks it up and dashes into the cave to find Xena, not even caring if Brunnhilda and Beowulf follow after.

Inside, the monster has Xena in its clutches and is squeezing the life out of her.

Inside (finally), Gabrielle rushes down the dark passage and jumps on the creatures back, pummeling it with her fists and sai in an effort to save Xena.

The bard stabs the creature repeatedly until it has to let go of Xena in order to get this annoying little gnat off of its back. It drops Xena and then throws Gabrielle away. As the bard crashes to the cave floor, the chakram goes flipping into the air. Xena catches it and then plunges it into the belly of the beast. It roars in pain. She pushes it in deeper and the pushes it up, disemboweling the monster.

The beast falls to the dirt, dead. Xena looks down and says, “Forgive me Grinhilda,” and then takes the ring and then starts counting fingers.

One, two, three four, ... five? What's up with this? Gabrielle sees the expression on her partner's face and knows something is up. “What is it?” she asks as they hear something from within the bowels of the cave. Xena does not answer. “Let’s get out of here,” she says instead.

Once more in the misty forest, Gabrielle insists that its over, that they killed the monster. Xena, however, knows that, 35 years ago, she cut off one of the fingers of the monster to get the ring. The creature she just killed in the cavern had all of its fingers intact.

“If that’s not Grinnhilda, then what is it?” Gabrielle asks.

A agonizing roar in the distance causes them all to stop in their tracks. “That’s Grinhilda,” Xena says as she listens to the bellowing, “and whatever it was I killed, she’s not happy about it. We’ve got to get to the Rheimaidens – I got something that belongs to them.”

A raven flies to a branch and listens in on their plans. Beowulf follows quickly after Xena and Gabrielle. Brunnhilda, however, pauses to stare at the raven, which she seems to recognize indeed.

Inside the cave, the monster lies dead on the floor. But it appears that Xena was right – she didn’t kill Grendl at all, but a member of her family tree.

In fact, it is a chip off the old bark. Grendl/Grinnhilda roars at the death of her very own sapling.

The raven flies through red skies back to Valhalla to report to Odin. It whispers in the god’s ear that Xena has returned to the land of the Norse.

Our heros rush off to return the ring to the Rheinmaidens.

“She really is giving up the power of the ring,” Brunnhilda says in dismay, “She is not the Xena of legend.”

“She fights for good now,” Gabrielle responds.

Brunnhilda is not so sure this is the club she really wanted to sign up for. In battle, Xena is everything that she imagined, but she not so sure about the rest of it.

“There’s more to being a warrior than skill,” Gabrielle comments, “there’s fighting for what you believe in … for people that you love.”

Xena stops a moment to fix the bandage on her leg. She listens intently to the discussion, but says nothing.

“I never thought of a warrior having any love but the love of battle,” Grinnhilda says to Gabrielle staring at her with admiration.

Xena has heard enough, “I’m going to tend to this. Brunnhilda can you scout up ahead over that ridge?”

As Brunnhilda walks off to do Xena’s bidding, Xena calls out a perfunctory “thank you,” and then stands and turns to her partner. “I don’t like her,” she says bluntly.

Xena can smell a rat a mile away, and right now, as far as Xena is concerned, Brunnhilda is drooling over Gabrielle like a piece of cheese.

Though Gabrielle tries to convince Xena that Brunnhilda is only going through a change in life, Xena doesn’t trust her -- not one bit.

Brunnhilda scouts ahead and runs into another one of Odin’s ravens.

Odin materializes, along with his Valkyries and scolds Brunnhilda, asking her what went wrong. The plan was for Brunnhilda to kill Xena and get the ring as soon as Xena got it from Grendl.

"There were complications," Brunnhilda attempts to explains, but Odin isn’t buying it.

His ravens have told him that Brunnhilda has fallen in love with Gabrielle. He knows that Brunnhilda would not kill Xena if she thought it would ruin any chance she had of getting Gabrielle.

He readBrunnhilda's beads right, all right.

Brunnhilda looks at the raven and calls it a stool pigeon, then tries to use the excuse that she played up to Gabrielle so that she wouldn’t suspect her true motives, but Odin knows only one thing – Brunnhilda failed to bring the ring to him.

Odin tells his Valkyries that though Xena does have the power to kill gods and Valkyries, she has a weakness: Gabrielle. He orders them to capture Gabrielle. Either Xena will trade the ring for her partner, or Gabrielle will be killed.

As they wait for Brunnhilda, Xena has the feeling that something is rotten in Denmark. Sure enough a pack of Valkyries arrive and attack them. As swords clash, Brunnhilda rides up and whisks Gabrielle away. Xena can only watch as the rogue Valkyrie dashes off into the sky with her partner thown over her saddle.

“GABBRRIELLLE!” the warrior princess cries as they fly away. Xena hates it when women steal her bard.

As Xena slices and dices as many Valkyries as she can get her sword on, she yells to Beowulf to see if he can track where Brunnhilda was aheaded.

All the Valkyries have been dispatched, save one. Before Xena can take care of the last, Odin appears and calls for a halt.

He confronts Xena, telling her she looks pretty amazing for a mortal who has aged 35 years since the last time he saw her.

Xena ignores the complement and gets right to the point, telling him she knows that he is after the ring. She tries to assure him that her intent is to return the gold to the Rheinmaidens where it belongs, but then she realizes the truth. Odin wants the ring for himself. When Odin suggests a trade, Xena doesn’t go for it. She saw the Valkyies faces when Brunnhilda flew off with her partner; they were just as surprised as she was. No, she knows that Odin doesn’t really have Gabrielle in his clutches and that Brunnhilda was acting alone.

“You kill Grinnhilda’s son,” Odin tells Xena, stopping her from walking away. “She was with child when you caged her. She will be most upset to find out it was you who killed him. If I enlist her help as an ally, together we would be formidable. So, why don’t you give me the ring, Xena and go back to Greece where you belong.”

Xena tells him she intends to give the ring back to the Rheinmaidens where it belongs. She’s surprised that Odin wants it, knowing what it would do to someone who hasn’t forsaken love. Then she realizes that Odin’s heart must have forsaken love.

“After you, it wasn’t very hard,” Odin tells her. (I assume he was talking about forsaking love.)

Xena tells Odin she will never give the Ring to him.

Odin leaves telling Xena tell her he will give Grinhilda her regards.

As Odin disappears, Beowulf returns to tell Xena that Brunnhilda has taken Gabrielle to the eastern bog. They jump on the next flying horse heading east and take off into the mist to rescue the bard in bog.

Brunnhilda lands and Gabrielle falls from the saddle.

“What are you doing?” she exclaims.

Brunnhilda tries to explain, “Odin and the others were going to kill you for the ring,”

Gabrielle is only concerned about her partner. “We left Xena to fight them all!”

“Is Xena all you think about?”

Damn right. “She’s my family. She’s the most important thing in my life.” Duh!

Brunnhilda tries to convince Gabrielle of her devotion, but Gabrielle is not the least bit interested.

Her answer to Brunnhilda is … sorry babe.

Brunnhilda is pissed. “I defied my god for you, Gabrielle!”

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.

Speaking of scorned, back in the cave, Grendl/Grinnhilda is still mourning over the death of her sapling. Odin pops to let her know the gardner who did the weeding was Xena, the same one who robbed her of her beauty.

Needles to say, Grendl's branches are in a real twist.

Meanwhile, back at the bog, Gabrielle tries to explain why Xena is her main squeeze. Despite everything, Brunnhilda still tries to convince Gabrielle that her love is just as strong. But Gabrielle insists that she and Xena were meant to be together and there is nothing that she nor anyone can do about it.

Face it Brunn, the bard knows who she wants and it ain’t you.

The sound of Xena’s voice calling for Gabrielle in the distance causes Brunnhilda to draw her sword.

“I can see your heart lies with Xena, but I’m gonna to prove to you which one of us deserves your love.”

Beowulf and Xena rush through the bog searching for Gabrielle. Beowulf admits to Xena that he has fallen in love with her partner. He would go through the fires of hell for her. Well, join the club, Beowulf. Maybe they should start a mailing list.

They hear Gabrielle calling in the distance and rush in her direction, but Odin appears, blocking their path and throws a fireball at them. It knocks Beowulf to the dirt.

Then, the Valkyries arrive to stand behind their God and they face off to battle.

Fireballs fly and Xena jumps to avoid them, ending up in the arms of Grendl. Ooops. Maybe Grendl’s taken on a new leaf? No such luck, Xena is entwined in Grendl's arms. Odin orders the Valkyries to find Gabrielle and at his order, kill her. Beowulf gets up and attacks the Valkyrie with his axe. The distraction allows Xena to draw her knife and plunge it into Grendl. Then, Xena sends the god-killing chakram flying and it whirls all around Odin, keeping the Norse god busy avoiding it as Xena takes on Grendl and the Valkyries.

During the battle, Beowulf takes a sword in the gut and falls to the ground. Grendl takes the opportunity of Xena’s distraction and smashes her into a rock. Grendl, Odin and the Valkyries surround the warrior princess.

Xena is stuck between a rock and a hard place.

Odin offers a compromise – turn over the ring and he won’t kill her friend.

Very quickly, Xena sees she has no choice but to place the ring upon her own finger, no matter the consequence.

Once she wears the ring, Xena is zapped by the energizer bunny and becomes a super-duper god-killing machine. If you thought she took out the Olympians quickly, wait til you see her slice her way through the Valkyries. They are just a bunch of Swedish meatballs by the time Xena gets through with them.

Back in the bog, Gabrielle rushes after Brunnhilda trying to convince her not to take Xena on, but Brunnhilda wants the bard and wants her bad … and she's willing to stop at nothing to have her.

They hear the sounds of battle just beyond the trees. A swarm of Valkyries rush at them and Brunnhilda fights to protect Gabrielle. The love-struck Valkyrie strikes at her sisters, killing them all. Then she gets a little mad thinking that Xena is going to be killed before she has a chance to get to her first.

Gabrielle can’t believe that Brunnhilda wants to prove her love by shedding blood (especially Xena's blood). In fact, she thinks its sick and tells Brunnhilda so.

As she stomps off, Brunnhilda realizes that she will never have Gabrielle’s heart.

Xena fights Grendl and chops her to bits, limb by limb. Odin tries to stop Xena with fireballs but cannot. Even the leader of the Valkyies does not last long against the newly energized Xena. Xena kills Grendl with the slash of her sword, but all it takes is Gabrielle’s voice calling her in the distance, and she leaves Odin and his Valkyrie leader alive to go to her partner.

They don’t go after her. They have no need to because the ring is going to destory Xena for them - by killing what she values most.

Brunnhilda finds Xena walking through the dense forest. When she approaches her, it is apparent that something is wrong. Xena doesn’t recognize Brunnhilda. In fact, she doesn’t even know herself.

Brunnhilda sees that Xena is wearing the ring made of the Rheingold. The curse is already working.

Xena doesn’t know her own name, and even worse, she doesn’t remember Gabrielle at all.

Brunnhilda tells Xena that if she gives her the ring everyone will leave her alone. Xena drops her sword and gives Brunnhilda the ring.

Brunnhilda takes it and leaves.

Xena removes her chakram from her waist and holds it, not recognizing it. It cuts her hand and she drops it, stumbling away.

Brunnhilda returns to Gabrielle and tells her that the Xena she knows is gone. Xena put on the ring to fight Odin and so has sacrificed what she valued the most: Gabrielle and what Gabrielle has helped her to become.

She gives the ring to Gabrielle for safekeeping. To protect Gabrielle and the ring from Odin and the rest of the Valkyries, Brunnhilda turns into a ring of fire and surrounds Gabrielle, placing her under a spell.

She becomes an eternal flame in Gabrielle’s name, and will allow only the bard’s true soul mate to pass through the flame.

Brunnhilda whispers the sacred runes and the spell is cast. The flames surround Gabrielle and she falls to rock, a sleeping princess protected by the flames of eternal love.

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Beowulf returns to consciousness, wounded but still alive, finding nothing left of the battle but Xena’s discarded sword and chakram.

Xena wanders through the misty bog alone, scared and helpless without her memory or the love of her bard.

As she screams out “Who am I?”

We answer, “To be continued …”

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