by JayBird (Jay Markle)

Callisto finally caught up with her on the road to Amphipolis. The little girl was still as clueless as ever, not even sensing her presence until Callisto was right on top of her, leaping from an oak tree with drawn sword, silently honing in on the top of Gabrielle's sweet head...

Gabrielle parried her blade with her war staff, catching Callisto off guard. She managed to land on her feet and block Gabrielle's forward thrust, but not the wide leg-sweep that caught her at the ankles and sent her sprawling.

Callisto was back on her feet in an instant. The two women stared each other down, weapons ready. Behind Gabrielle, Argo nickered nervously, unable to do much with the cart and heavy load that harnessed her.

"Thought you were dead," Gabrielle muttered.

"I was," Callisto replied. "It's an over rated experience."

"Too bad," Gabrielle said. "Now what?"

"Ohhhhh... The usual. I intend to take you hostage, gut Xena's pet warhorse, sack Amphipolis and then torture you until Xena decides to show up. Then I will rip her heart out of her chest with my bare hands and make her eat it before she dies. How's that for a plan?"

"You really need to get a life," Gabrielle said, shaking her head. "You've carried this revenge thing waaaay too far."

"Don't..." Callisto took a step, rage burning in her eyes. "Don't... mock me, little girl. I can make you suffer."

"You've already made me suffer, you soulless bitch."

"Ah... That's right. But don't think that just because I was nice enough to give your husband a clean death, I'd do the same for you." She laughed, that dangerously off-kilter chuckle that always made Gabrielle wince. "Y'see, things have changed Gabrielle. I am now immortal."

She watched as disbelief and then horror edged across Gabrielle's face.

"Thanks to your friend Hercules, I have tasted of the Tree of Life. I will live... forever. Xena can never defeat me now. I can now kill her at my leisure. I have all the time... in the world..." Callisto's voice dropped off as she realized that Gabrielle was laughing. Hard, racking sobs of merriment that took her to her knees, holding onto her staff for support.

"Ohhhhhhh... Oh, boy... Have I got some baaad news for you, girl!" She finally looked up at Callisto, tears still coursing down her face. "W... Why do you think I'm traveling alone, huh? Why am I traveling to Amphipolis? Why would Argo let me yoke her up like draft horse? Think... about... it..."

"No..." Callisto blinked, trying to keep her soul from unraveling. She dropped her sword and staggered past Argo to the heavy cart and pulled back the tarp covering a heavy sarcophagus of wood and inlaid metal.

Callisto screamed, clawing at the wood, clamoring on top of the cart and pulling at the latches...

The heavy top edged off. Callisto smelled death. Her old friend, sweet and cloying. And then she saw...


She looked so peaceful. Still clad in her armor and leathers. Hands crossed.

"Please, don't do this to me," Callisto whispered. "I won't let you!"

She reached down to touch her. That's when Gabrielle's war staff caught her at the knee, snapping it at the joint with a crack of bone and cartilage. Callisto tumbled off the cart and hit the ground hard.

Gasping in pain, she pulled herself up, only to have Gabrielle strike her at the elbow. Her face again hit the dirt, this time her right arm twisted back at an impossible angle.

"I've heard about immortality," Gabrielle said, standing over her. "The good news is, you'll heal up pretty quick. The bad news is, you'll still feel the pain. Guess that means I could beat you to a pulp and still keep my 'blood innocence'." She looked down into Callisto's eyes, seeing a flicker of fear amidst the madness. "But you're not worth the effort. You are nothing to me."

And with that, she turned on her heel and walked away.

Callisto sobbed. Rolling onto her back, she looked up to the sky, already feeling bone and muscle knitting together. All her life had been centered on Xena. Now Xena was gone and she had nothing. She was nothing.

"Oh, Callisto!" Gabrielle called out. Callisto turned her head and saw she was already a ways down the road with her cart and horse. "Remember this! You will live forever! But Xena is already playing in the Elysian Fields! The one place in the entire Universe you can never, ever reach her! But I'll tell you what I'll do! When I finally die, and join her for all eternity... I'll tell her you were thinking about her! Bye now!"

Callisto wanted to shout, to scream her reply, but she couldn't find her breath. All she could do was stare as Gabrielle disappeared from view. Soon, the skies darkened and it was night. By morning, others passed her on the road, either trying to ignore her or staring unabashedly at her still prone form. She didn't care. Nothing mattered anymore.

And she'd have all eternity to think about it. ===========================================================

Callisto screamed. Awakening from her dream covered in sweat and gasping for breath. Wild eyed, she looked about, realizing she was back in the burned out room of stone that had trapped her for... how long? Days? Weeks? Months? She didn't know anymore. She couldn't starve or die of thirst; she was, after all, immortal. But she could still feel the dryness in her throat and hunger pangs that now felt like a small animal gnawing at her belly.

The charred branches of the Tree of Life mocked her. She had eaten the last of its fruit long ago, knowing her torments would now be eternal. But that didn't matter. Somehow. Someday. Someway... she would claw her way out of this prison and find Xena...

"Because it was just a dream," Callisto said to herself, realizing she was chewing on her fingers again. "Just a dream. Xena is alive, she has to be. Wait for me... please. I"ll be there."

And with that, she rolled on her side laughing, letting the madness sweep her away once more.


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