The Healer and
Co-creator/Contributor: Erica Christian (Callisto)
First off I would like to thank Erica Christian. Without her insight, unbelievable creativity, and faith in me, this piece would have never been written. Erica/Callisto/A.C. you will be my friend for life. Thank you for your patience, for always listening, and for just being you. Remember, it’s a gift given freely, my friend. I’d also like to thank Erica Miller/Terrwyn/Witchbaby, my Beta Reader. Terrwyn, your ability to make everything okay astounds me, and your love of life, despite your past, overwhelms me. Thank you for your belief in my writing abilities. And to anybody reading this, remember that name (Erica Miller) because one day she is going to publish something that will raise the bar for everyone else (if you don’t believe me, go check out “Feathers and Scales” on Taiko’s site). To Taiko…thank you for creating that chat room and for posting this piece. To Mantiss, who loves the dark side as much as I do…thank you, as well, for always posting all of my work. And lastly, I would like to thank Lisa Held, Alexis Michell, and Alisa Schiffman. As medical students we are very busy, yet they have taken the time to listen to my work and have been a great support to me over the last 3 years. I don’t know what I would do without you guys. To all our readers, I hope you enjoy what Erica and I have created here. I wrote this to help others during the trying times in their lives. If you find even one semblance of beauty in it, then these last 6 months have all been worth it.
This story is written in such a way that the reader, we hope, will become as involved with the characters as we have. Had it not been for a certain person, I would not have continued this endeavor…I owe you much, Nicole/Xianne/W.W., more than you will ever know. To Jeff/Maji…for giving more than you realize to this project…many thanks as well.
Comments? Email us! Xianne2003@aol.com
Disclaimer: The characters Callisto, Xena (who is only mentioned in conversation), and Yakut (who is only mentioned in a letter), are the sole property of MCA/Universal, Renaissance Pictures and Studios USA. Any and all additional characters are the sole property of the author. This story was written for the entertainment of the author and the audience only. No copyright infringement was intended and no profit has been made on the part of the author. This story may not be reproduced, in part or in whole, without the author’s permission.
Violence: There are some fight scenes and talk of past events which may be too graphic for young children. If you were old enough to watch the show, then you’re probably okay. If you’re unsure, then check with your parents first. I would rate this PG-13.
I begin my daily descent upon Cimmeria. The day is uncharacteristically warm, but I feel the chill of the northern wind zip through me. Tomorrow will be cold I think to myself. My guards surround me and talk amongst themselves while we begin our parade through the many villages that we have planned for this day. I have only been queen for a few months, but progress has been made during that time. My first order of business upon receiving my title was to make Cimmeria whole again, and to do that I felt I needed to visit the people, and hear their concerns. However, there are many towns that make up Cimmeria, and my journey has been long. I have appreciated the solitude though, as the sadness that has carved her name into my soul still bleeds as fresh as the day when all I knew was taken from me, and I have needed this time to grieve.
Though, my present state of emotion aside, I have found the people I have met to be wonderful and fascinating. The towns’ people we pass look upon me and smile sincerely, waving hello. They all know my name. Their children run and play in the streets, laughing and jumping. Watching them makes me smile. This is such a dream to them, I think, as I see two children stumble into each other and collapse on the ground giggling. Even just as little as a few months ago these beautiful children would have been prisoners in their homes, unable to go outside and enjoy the rare warmth of this fine day. I reach inside my pocket, making sure the small piece of parchment is still there. I breathe a sigh of relief once I feel it crinkle against my fingers. It is the only thing I have left of her.
One small boy runs up to me smiling and waving. My first guard and good friend, Maji, attempts to shoo him away, but I raise my hand in a gesture to stop him and let him know it is all right. Maji smiles at me but shakes his head in disapproval. I laugh inwardly at this as I remember all the talks we have had about how there could still be danger, despite the death of the evil sorcerer. I smile back at him and shoot him a look that defiantly says, come on Maji, this is just a small boy, what threat could he possibly pose??? The boy, who can be no older than 7 summers, approaches me without fear and collapses into me, giving me a hug. I tousle his sandy brown locks and kneel down before him.
“What is your name, little one?” I gently ask in a tone of warmth and kindness. He looks at me with loving green eyes and replies,
“I am Timothy and I am so happy to meet you, Queen Xianne!”
Still unable to get used to my new title, I smile at this child, so full of life, and say,
“I am happy to meet you too, Timothy, and please, just call me Xianne. Now, is there something I can do for you, love?”
Timothy ponders this for a moment. I see the culmination of an idea forming in his mind as he gives me a mischievous grin. He says,
“Queen Xianne…oh, I mean Xianne, will you tell me the story of you and the great warrior queen, Callisto? Of how the two of you crushed the evil demon and saved Cimmeria?”
Hearing my beloved friends’ name sends a wave of immeasurable sadness throughout my entire body. I pause and for a long moment look into this small boys’ eyes, the same green color that Callisto’s once were, and blink back tears that spring into my own. Maji, having heard Timothy’s request, approaches us and puts his hand on my shoulder. I look up at him and see his look of pain and concern for me. He says,
I don’t let him finish as I interrupt with, “Maji, it is fine.”
I give him a nod of understanding and appreciation and return my attention back to Timothy. By now a small crowd has gathered and they are all looking at us with curiosity. Timothy’s mother is standing nearby. She begins to scold Timothy and says,
“Come here child, and leave Queen Xianne alone now, she is very busy.”
She looks at me with sadness and concern, as if to apologize for her son’s actions. I smile at her reassuringly and say,
“No, ma’am, this is fine, and I believe it is time now to tell the story…I am ready to tell it.”
With these words spoken a silence falls upon the town. I stand in the center of my beloved followers, so loyal and true to me. Thinking of my brave friend Callisto, I reach to the place inside my soul that I have been avoiding for so long and find strength. This is what she wanted I think, remembering her words…”I need you to go on when I die, Xianne; I need you to write our story so that I will be remembered.” I can hear her saying it now with such conviction as the memory of her voice inflicts another wave of pain within my soul. I move over to a table in the center of town, followed by my guards and the very large crowd that has now accumulated. I pull little Timothy into my lap as he looks up at me with wonder and amazement. I take a deep breath and begin….
Chapter One: The Beginning
I close my eyes and let my mind wander back to that fateful day. The day that, unknowingly to me, would forever change my life and the lives of all these people who surround me now. The towns’ people are silent, waiting anxiously for my words. Timothy squirms a little in my lap, getting himself situated. Maji stands by my side, ever so watchful and protective of me. I notice none of this, as I am no longer there. In my mind I have traveled back in time…back, back…to a small Amazon village just outside of Athens. Back to where my story begins…back to where my life really began. With numerous eyes upon me, I begin my tale…
I sit alone wrapped in a blanket with only the flames of a small fire to keep me warm. It is late and the Amazon village is deadly quiet. Having only recently arrived in the village just a few short months ago, I am left alone with my thoughts. Sure these Amazons have been nice enough I think to myself. They have welcomed me into their tribe and even built me a physicians hut. Being a healer by trade and by calling I did appreciate the gesture. I smile at this and think about all the Amazons that I have been able to heal since my arrival, especially the children. They do seem to do damage to themselves while learning all the ways of becoming an Amazon. I stare out at the flames and begin to stir a pot of stew that I have boiling over the fire, lost in thought. I can’t help but notice the emptiness I feel in my soul. It has always been there. Even though I am a great Amazon warrior and a gifted healer, I have always thought there was something else I was destined to do with my life. A deep sadness encompasses me at this thought but I push it out of my mind as quickly as it arrives. No Xianne, I think to myself, you are not going to feel sorry for yourself. Annoyed at myself, I abruptly brush back a long strand of dark black hair that had conspicuously fallen in such a way as to obstruct my vision just enough to be fervently irritating. No matter how tightly I pulled my hair back, there were always pieces in the front escaping the confines of my hairpiece to cling to the sides of my face. I have always considered myself very plain, of average height and build with thin straight hair and multi-colored eyes that ranged from light brown to a soft yellow and even a brilliant green, depending on the day. My garments are the only things that separate me from the other Amazons. Like the other Amazons, I do wear the Amazon fighting get-up, consisting of brown leathers and brightly colored war-like emblems, and a variety of weapons. However, I also wear the mark of the healer. It is a six black and white leaf-like symbol with a cross through the center. It adorns both sleeves and the entire back of my top. It is large enough so that the enemy can see it in the midst of a fight. As part of the moral code of battle, when they see the one with that emblem, the enemy is to leave that person alone. It identifies me as the healer to all the surrounding providences. They know that when I am out there in an unarmed capacity, it is not to fight, but to retrieve the wounded.
The soft sound of approaching footsteps of one who is sneaking around invades the cochlea of my well-trained ears, thus capturing my attention and shaking me from my thoughts. I swiftly move away from the fire and into the cover of darkness, my hand on my sword, fear pulsing through my veins. I see a woman ever so carefully approaching my campsite. I can immediately tell by her clothing and armor that she is not an Amazon, but a warrior, possibly even a mercenary or a powerful war-queen. This intrigues me somewhat and I wonder how she made it into this village past the guards. As she moves closer to me I notice that she is inappropriately dressed for this time of year and is shivering from the cold. She moves in such a way to give off the impression of confidence and lack of respect for this Amazon nation. I continue to watch her and I begin to notice that she looks tired and pale. She closes in and stands directly by the fire and through the dim light of the flames I glimpse her numerous scars. Clearly she has fought many battles in this lifetime. I see her scan the area uneasily and stop her gaze in my direction. Although I am concealed by the cover of darkness, I can tell she senses my presence. She speaks for the first time.
“Who goes there?” she commands with an air of defiance and arrogance, as she draws her
sword and points the tip in my direction.
Wanting to avoid a confrontation with this mysterious woman, I step into the light of the fire, allowing her to see me for the first time, yet keeping my hand on my sword as a precautionary measure. I firmly state,
“My name is Xianne. I am the healer in this region. I mean you no harm, woman.”
Having heard my words she looks me up and down and with a wave of what seems like annoyance or disgust, she lowers her sword. She then turns from me and over her shoulder she mumbles,
“Oh, I didn’t know anyone was here…I will be on my way now.”
As she begins to walk back in the direction of her horse I say,
“Wait… you are welcome to sit with me by this fire. I am cooking a rabbit stew and there is
plenty if you are hungry.”
Immediately after the words leave my mouth I am regretful. In the name of Zeus, Xianne, what in Tartarus are you thinking? You don’t know this woman from her horse. She could be dangerous. I stand there, very unsure of myself, as these thoughts race through my mind. Callisto stops dead in her tracks and spins around to face me. By the look on her face I can tell she either thinks that this is a trick, or that I am crazy, the latter of which I am beginning to believe myself. She gives me an angry glance and loudly says,
“Xianne, you must take me for a fool. But I will play your game for now. Don’t you know,
Healer, that I am Callisto, enemy to all, even these pathetic Amazons.”
With this she throws her head back and laughs wickedly. Having only heard tales of the evil goddess Callisto, I am taken aback for a moment, unsure of how to respond. I then take a good look at this woman before me…she is cold, tired, and bleeding from a small gash in her left knee. Wait,
gods are immortals and that being the case, gods don’t bleed…drums in my head. Regaining my confidence I say,
“Callisto, I don’t care who you are. It doesn’t matter to me. I can see you are cold and
tired and I am offering you a meal and a place to get warm. Take it or leave it.”
She looks directly at me and with her steely green eyes boring a hole straight through me she replies,
“And Healer, how am I to know that this food you offer to me is not poisoned?”
I think about this for a moment and a part of me aches for this woman. She is so badly scarred, inside and out, and clearly has no trust or faith when someone tries to offer her kindness. I respond by walking over to the pot and begin to carefully scoop out some of the stew into two bowls. She watches me intently, never taking her eyes off me yet constantly surveying her surroundings for any signs of danger. I then bring a small portion of the stew to my mouth and ingest it. Once I have finished chewing, I say,
“There, see Callisto.” I go out on a limb and offer her a smile, “Now unless I suddenly drop
dead, I can assure you that this stew is untainted.”
I watch her reaction to this, wondering if I have gone too far in my attempt to lighten the mood. For a second I see her drop her guard with me as she gives me what I think is a partial smile. She walks over and sits beside me, saying nothing. She picks up the bowl of stew and begins to eat heartily. I watch her out of the corner of my eye and wonder when her last meal was. Upon finishing my own bowl I get up and walk to the other side of the fire to retrieve a blanket. I come back around and place the blanket over her shoulders. She looks up at me with wide eyes and I can see that she doesn’t understand my kindness. I retrieve my original seat beside her and stare out into the dancing flames. I feel a strange sense of comfort come over me that I do not understand. The silence is broken as she speaks again.
“Xianne…” she begins, as one lone tear escapes from her eye. She turns away so I cannot
see her face. Her voice barely above a whisper, she continues with “Thank you for your kindness…”
With that she jumps up from the ground and dashes to her horse. I sit dumbfounded as I watch her command her horse into motion. She yells “Yah!” and with the speed of lightening and kicking up dirt behind her, she exits the camp, with as much stealth as she had entered. In the next passing moments I sit alone stunned by what has just taken place. I recover my composure and roll out my bedroll. I lay back upon it, gazing up at the stars. Although I have a hut of my own, frequently I like to sleep outside. I find a certain peace and simplicity in nature that I can’t seem to find within humans, as hard as I try. Well, except maybe for this woman. But how can that be? I have only just met her, yet she has somehow awoken something inside of me. Who is this Callisto? I wonder in the silence of the night. As sleep begins to wrap comforting arms around me, an inviting sense of joy flows through my soul. I drift off, wondering if I’ll ever see this strange woman again, somehow knowing that I will.
Slowly she descends from her hovered position. With a single motion of one shimmering hand she closes out the image before her. She has seen all she needs to see for the moment. Quietly she sits on her floor with her legs crossed and one hand on each knee, her unyielding light outlining the image of her immortal body.
“So, they have met,” states Nadia, shaking her from her trance.
“Yes. Yes they have,” she softly says.
“Let’s hope that’s enough,” responds Nadia.
She looks over to Nadia, her sister and dearest friend, together in this reality as they were in life when they were both mortals. She loves Nadia dearly, and feels her anxiety, as she feels the emotions of all.
“Have faith, Nadia. That’s all we can do. They will make it through this.” she simply says, trying to calm her sister’s nerves.
“But they have so much stacked against them…” Nadia says sadly.
“Have faith, Nadia,” she repeats, in a calm and soothing tone.
“Katharine, how can you be so sure?” asks Nadia, using the name she was called so long ago as a mortal.
“Because I am The One, Nadia,” she says and smiles lovingly at her sister.
Nadia smiles back and gives Katharine her eyes, before stating,
“They are not ready.”
The One pauses, her goodness spilling out with every breath she exhales, and takes a good look at her sister. She thinks on what she has seen displayed from Callisto and Xianne. After a minute she shakes her head.
“No, they are not ready. But, they will be,” she softly says. “They have to be…”
Chapter Two: The Promise
In the weeks and months that followed, Callisto became a part of my life. It was always the same. She would sneak into the village in the early morning hours, covered by the blackness of night. I began to leave a candle burning in the window of my hut so she would know that I was still awake. She would often comment that I kept strange hours. I simply told her that I was a creature of the night, much like herself. She would just smile at me and say that I was too good to ever compare myself to her. Most nights I would have some food prepared for her arrival, but times were hard, and food was scarce. She would contribute to the meals as well, bringing bread or fruit, or whatever she could find. Somehow we always managed to make do with what we had. I became very accustomed to her company, almost relying on it, yet I often wondered why she kept coming to see me at all. Each night we would talk and drink Amazon wine until just before the sun came up and then she would secretly depart before any of the other Amazons awoke. I felt a strong bond being formed between us even then, although if it were possible to ask her about that now, even to this day she would adamantly deny it. She could be so damn stubborn. Somewhere deep within me I felt that there was something on her mind…something she wanted to share with me…but she was waiting for something. I didn’t know what that was and I didn’t want to push her. I knew when the time was right, she would tell me her story. Then one night she arrived at my door later than usual, and it was on this night that everything between us changed forever…
I walk over to my window to once again survey the village. Seeing no sign of Callisto a sense of fear slices through me. By the gods, I think to myself, I hope she hasn’t gone and gotten herself killed. Just as I am about to blow out my candle and head off to bed I hear the creak of my door. I spin around to investigate the noise and there she is, standing before me. I smile at her and playfully say,
“Well, Callisto, it’s about time you finally showed up!”
Although there is a jolly tone to my statement, I am actually inwardly very relieved to see her. She looks at me and gives me a tired smile.
“Hello, Xianne,” is all she can muster.
I move a step closer to my friend and see for the first time that she looks very different than usual. Her face is completely ashen and her expression gives away her pain. I give her a wary look but she won’t return my gaze.
“Callisto…” I say in a questioning tone of concern.
As she lifts her eyes to meet mine I realize that something is dreadfully wrong. Before I can question her any further she collapses into a heap on my floor. Feeling the adrenaline coursing through my body I run and fall to her side. I grab her arm to turn her body toward me.
“CALLISTO…” I scream as I hover over her, “CALLISTO, WHAT’S WRONG?”
Hearing me, her eyes flutter open. She looks up at me in a daze and says nothing. She lifts her hand to gently caress my face but I grab it in mid air. It is covered with blood. I throw back her cloak and it is only then that I see the gaping wound in her side. Her cloak is saturated with blood, sticky and warm. I feel a vile sickness run through me at the sight of her wound. It is deep and has the horrifying look of infection already setting in. Callisto is mumbling something but I ignore her. Somehow I manage to find my legs and begin running over to the table that holds all my medical supplies. I frantically grab clean rags, water, and a variety of medicinal herbs. My mind is blurred by the electricity of a billion neurons all firing in anarchy. I am blinded by my purpose; Callisto is all that I see. I find myself back at her side. My hands are shaking as I begin tearing rags and attempt to clean her wound. She is losing too much blood, I think, as I see the pool of dark red liquid that, by this point, has now saturated my floor. The tip of the arrow that ravaged her body still lies within the wound. I realize that at some point she had already broken the back end off. I pull her into me and say in a low tone,
“Callisto, I need to get the tip out…brace yourself.”
Before she can reply I push the end through and it emerges out her back. She lets out a sharp cry and I feel tears stinging my eyes.
“I’m sorry,” I whisper in her ear.
I lay her back down on my floor and move the tip of the arrow aside. I begin methodically working on her wound. First I clamp off certain arteries to get a handle on the bleeding. Once that is done I begin to assess the damage. I breathe a sigh of relief in that I don’t think it has damaged any major organs.
“Xianne…” she pleads…”Xianne.”
Hearing my name I stop what I am doing and look into my friends’ eyes for the first time since she has collapsed on my floor. There is a sense of peace there that I have not seen before. I move closer to her face so I can hear what she is saying.
“Callisto, I think I can get a handle on this,” I say in my best calming tone. She continues to hold my gaze.
“Xianne, no, I don’t want you to help me…I am ready to die.” Upon hearing this I sit beside her in shock.
“WHAT?” I scream.
I search her eyes for understanding but find none. I see her slipping into unconsciousness so I grab her shoulders and start violently shaking her.
“Callisto, I am going to help you. You are delirious and you don’t know what you are saying. We need to get your blood volume up. Here drink this.”
I hold the opening of my water skin to her lips. She refuses to take it and with her last bit of strength she pushes me away. I lose my balance and fall backward. Quickly I regain my composure and in a heartbeat am back at her side. Understanding none of this I continue to tend to her wound. She lets me but I think it is because she doesn’t have the strength to fight me. She says,
“Xianne, it is hopeless…” I interrupt her and feeling the anger building up inside me I snarl, “Callisto, it is NOT hopeless. Just be quiet and let me work.”
She grabs my hand with her own.
“Xianne, look at me.” I ignore her. She squeezes my hand and says, “Xianne, please look at me.”
I stop what I am doing and give her my eyes. She takes both my hands with hers and says,
“Xianne…you have been so good to me. I have never understood it but I have come to accept that this is how you are. I deserve no kindness from anyone, as badly I have treated others, yet you keep giving it to me…freely.”
She pauses for a moment and takes a ragged breath. I watch her intently and wait for her words.
“Xianne, I am battered and beaten. I have committed too many horrible and unforgivable sins. I cannot go on living any longer. I want peace. I want to be freed from this torment. Please, just let me go.”
She stops speaking and closes her eyes. I feel her life force slipping away beneath me. Tears are once again blurring my vision and I find myself angry and confused.
“NO!” I yell and direct my attention back to her wound. “I CANNOT LET YOU DIE.”
Her mood changes and she begins to laugh at me. This angers me further but I ignore her and keep working. She tauntingly says,
“Healer, you are such a fool. You cannot fix this. You cannot fix me. Even if you somehow get this wound closed, you cannot fix my non-existent soul. And by the way, didn’t you notice? The arrow…it is poisoned.”
Ignoring her statement about her not having a soul and thinking that I will have to address that some other time, the poisoned arrow gets my attention. I pick it up from where I had placed in earlier and bring it to my nose. I inhale the fumes and recognize the scent of cobra venom. This realization causes a wave of nausea to pass through me. I feel my heart begin to race as I enter a complete state of panic. I run to my shelves and begin searching like a mad woman for an antidote to this poison, knocking bottles off the shelves left and right. They crash to the ground and break the unbearable silence. Callisto has passed out. I feel the sickness within me rise to my throat at the sight of her lying there so still… too still. I double over and purge the contents of my stomach out onto the floor. Crying and wiping my face I think to myself, Xianne, you can’t fall apart now. Finally finding what I am looking for I rush back to her side. For the next few hours, all is quiet. I don’t notice the time creep by as I am completely focused on my task. By now, I have injected Callisto with several doses of the anti-venom but she has not regained consciousness. I work harder than I ever have before on her wound, stopping only to check to see if she is still breathing. By the time I finally look up, the sun is starting to come up. Having cleansed, sewed, and wrapped her wound, I put the finishing touches on and stop. I wipe the sweat from my brow and realize there is nothing more I can do for her. I lift her into my lap and push the hair out of her face. I take a clean rag and apply cool water to her forehead and cheeks. She is still very warm and feverish. Tears I cannot control fall from my eyes. I whisper over and over,
“Callisto, wake up. Please wake up.” Exhausted, I lie beside her on my floor and pass out…
When I awake, darkness has once again settled in. I feel a presence beside me. All at once everything comes back to me. I bolt upright and light a candle so I can see. Callisto is stirring from her slumber. I touch her forehead and she is cool and clammy. Her fever has broken, I realize, and relief fills me as I wipe the sweat from her face. Her eyes flutter open and she blinks a few times while looking up at me.
“Xianne?” she hoarsely questions. I can see her confusion. “Am I dead?” she asks.
“No, Callisto, you are not dead.” She tries to sit up but I stop her. “Callisto, just relax. Lie still and let me check your wound.”
To my surprise she listens to me. I roll her on her side and have a look at her wound. There is no sign of spreading infection and I see the beginning stages of healing taking place. I am hit with another wave of relief as I roll her back over.
“Callisto, it looks good, but you are going to have to rest here for awhile while you heal. I want you here so I can look after you, and I don’t want you to argue with me.” I firmly state.
She looks at me as if to mock me and says,
“Healer, I can’t stay here.” She once again tries to get up but falls back weakly.
“Callisto, you are too weak to go anywhere, and you will be a prime target for your enemies in your present state. Just stay with me for at least a few days until you get your strength back, okay?”
She gives me a defeated look and slowly nods her head in agreement. I gather myself together and grabbing my bow and some arrows I prepare to head out of the hut in an attempt to catch us something to eat. She sees what I am doing but there are no words spoken between us. We are both still trying to process all that has happened. As I am heading out the door she says,
I turn to look at her and am amazed at her strength and resolve, but still angry with her. I avoid her eyes because although I realize that we need to have a discussion, I am not ready for it right now.
“Thank you for saving my life.”
This catches my attention and I meet her gaze.
“Callisto…” I begin, as fresh tears appear and blur my vision. She lifts her hand to stop me.
“Xianne, please, let me speak. I know you don’t understand why I wanted to die last night. I will soon explain everything to you. But for right now I just wanted to say thank you…and to tell you that I am forever in your debt. You have proven your worth and your loyalty to me. I will not forget it. You have my word, Xianne, I promise you that from this day forth I will never intentionally hurt you again, and I will protect you, whatever the cost.”
Hearing this I stand by the door and take it all in. Protect me from what? I silently wonder. After a moment I reply,
“Callisto, I accept this for now. We do need to talk soon, I agree, but I will wait until you are ready.”
She smiles at me and gives me a grateful look. I once again turn to leave and behind me she says,
“Remember, Xianne…remember this promise I have made to you…”
As I open the door and step into the night I turn around once more to face her.
I smile at her, holding her gaze for a long moment. In that time I feel the depth of our friendship pass between us. I then shut the door and feeling the cool nights’ breeze on my face I prepare to hunt. An exciting chill passes through me as I realize that this woman is somehow tied to my destiny, whatever that may be. I catch sight of an unsuspecting deer in the distance and begin to take aim. My mind is alive with many thoughts and somewhere inside me I know that our journey together is far from over…in fact, it has only just begun…
Chapter Three: The Necklace
The incident in the hut was a turning point for us. After that things were different. There was a trust that wasn’t there before. We could both feel it, but we didn’t speak of it. We got to know each other more and more with each passing day. I would often catch her watching me and I didn’t know what to make of it. She grew stronger every day, but as always I would worry about her and wonder when the day would come that I would get back to the hut after my Amazon duties to find her gone. One day I had a break in my daily activities so I sat down and made her a gift. It was just a simple necklace, made from Amazon healing stones and crystals. I was pleased with my work once it was finished and chanted a quick blessing of protection onto it. I kept it with me for a while, trying to find the right time to give it to her.
I enter my hut after a long day of training. It is late and feeling the aches of the day I think to myself a dip in the hot springs is in order tonight. I remove my armor with care and lay it by the door. I look up and see Callisto busily preparing some type of meat that she no doubt took pleasure in slaughtering some time during the day. As had become the routine of the night I walk over to her to perform a quick check of her wounds. And, as always, she begins to give me a hard time.
“Xianne, would you quit this fussing over me?” Callisto says with a playful but painfully obvious eye roll. I smile and shake my head in annoyance.
“Callisto, it will just take a minute. Must we go through this every night?” I say.
She smiles sweetly and innocently says,
“Well, now wouldn’t life just be excruciatingly boring if I didn’t give you a hard time? Where’s the fun in that?”
Noticing she is in a good mood tonight I think about the necklace I have made for her. Maybe I will give it to her tonight. Once satisfied that her wounds are fine I smile at her and say,
“What have you got there?” pointing to the food.
“It is wild boar. I killed it just a few hours ago so it is still fresh. Now, why don’t you let me finish cutting it up while you go start a fire.”
I nod in agreement and swiftly exit the hut. I begin collecting firewood and although this task resides at the bottom of my “least favorite activities” list, I can’t help but smile as I look forward to a good meal with the company of my dear friend. The village is quiet as usual. I pass a few Amazons while doing my chore but they barely give me a glance. Word has gotten out now that I have been caring for Callisto, and because of this, my relationship to my Amazons has become strained at best. I must admit this did cut through me like a dagger at first, but now I don’t even bother to worry about it. I have come to understand their concerns, as in the weeks since I have been caring for her, Callisto has told me many stories of her past crimes. However, it is not in my nature to turn my back on anyone, regardless of their past. Besides, I think, she has shown me a different side to her…one that contradicts everything that she has told me of her former life as a warlord, and then a god.
I think back to those first few nights in my hut after her near death experience when Callisto told me the story of how she had received that wound. She had happened upon a family including three small children being beaten and robbed. She stepped in to help and saved the family, only to be hurt and left for dead in the process. I quickly begin to build a fire as I think about this. I remember Callisto seeming so confused about her actions as she recounted the story. This whole “being good thing”, as she referred to it, was all so new and foreign to her. I’d often wondered how she came to be mortal again and why she’d given up her godhood. Or maybe it had been taken from her by something out of her control? She never spoke of it though, and I didn’t want to push. My thoughts are interrupted as I see Callisto approaching the site, food in hand. She says,
“Xianne, I couldn’t carry the bread and fruit…would you mind going back to the hut to get it?”
I throw her a playful look and tauntingly say,
“What, the great warrior queen couldn’t carry everything by herself?”
She gives me a sidelong glance.
“Healer, you are just lucky that my hands are full right now.”
I laugh at this and take off for the hut. She yells after me,
“OH, AND BRING SOME WINE TOO!”
I bounce into the hut and over to the table, grabbing the bread and some grapes. I start out the door again and stop abruptly thinking, damn, I forgot the wine. I return to the hut again and grab the wineskin. On my way out this time I notice that Callisto has already packaged the unused boar and placed it by her bag on the floor. I stop and reality hits me as a wave of nausea. She is leaving tomorrow, I think to myself, and that is why she has packaged the meat. She will use it on her journey. Sadness overcomes me at this thought but I push it away. I can’t allow her to see me like this I think as I make my way back to our campsite. Although my light mood has changed considerably, I don’t let her know it.
“Hmmm, that smells good!” I say as I drop the bread and fruit onto the blanket.
I then take our goblets and begin filling them with wine as she continues to season the meat. Once she is thoroughly satisfied, she lets it cook and takes a seat next to me as I pass her one of the goblets.
“Thanks” she says and smiles at me.
We chat for awhile about the days’ events while we eat. I keep up the light banter although my mind is plagued with thoughts of her departure. Once we are finished with the meal we consume more wine and pick at the grapes. I carefully begin to massage the aches in my shoulder muscles. She watches me do this and says,
“Xianne, lets go for a dip in the hot springs. You look like you could use the warm water.”
I nod in agreement and we both stand up and stretch. We proceed to the springs, ripping off clothes left and right. I dive in and feel the warm water surround me. Already I can feel the tension of the day beginning to melt away. As I surface I see that Callisto has taken her favorite spot by some rocks in the middle of the springs. I swim over and join her by her side. She has grown quiet and thoughtful and I realize that there is something on her mind. Having learned enough about my friend from our time together, I realize it is not the time to pry. She will tell me when she is ready. In the silence between us my mind drifts back again to the packaged meat. Is she really going to leave tomorrow without saying goodbye? I ponder. My thoughts are interrupted by Callisto, as she breaks the silence with her words.
“Xianne, there is something that we need to talk about,” she begins.
Saying nothing I turn to face her and meet her eyes, allowing her to continue. She takes a deep breath and not being one to beat around the bush she says,
“Xianne, you no doubt saw the packaged meat by my bag earlier when I sent you back to the hut.”
Hearing this statement I can no longer hide my pain and I give her a weak nod, still saying nothing.
“Well, I am leaving tomorrow to begin a very long journey. One that will take me to lands farther north than I have ever been, to a region known as Cimmeria.”
She pauses and allows me a second for this realization to set in. I look away and say,
“Callisto, why are you going there? Aren’t you happy here in this Amazon village?”
I look back at her and meet her eyes. She flashes me an angry look and firmly states,
“Healer, I have never known happiness.” She pauses for a moment and then gently touches my arm. In a lighter tone she adds, “Yet, here, with you, I have been content.”
I smile at her and hold her gaze for a brief moment. Callisto continues with,
“I am going to Cimmeria because I have made a promise to help the people there. It is there that I will fulfill my destiny.”
Her voice trails off at the end of this statement and she looks away. Understanding none of this I am suddenly overtaken with a force that is uncharacteristic for me. I violently grab her arm and with this action she turns to me somewhat shocked by my efforts. I say,
“Callisto, take me with you. I can be very valuable to you on this long journey.”
Barely breathing I continue before she can interrupt.
“I am a healer of the highest quality and you will need me if you get hurt along the way. I can help you fulfill your destiny, for as you know I am also a skilled fighter, almost as good as you.” A million thoughts are buzzing in my mind but I just keep talking before she can stop me.
“Callisto, I have always felt there was something I was meant to do with my life…something more than this. I feel such a connection to you…I felt it the moment we met. I believe that my destiny is somehow tied to yours.”
I finally stop and take a breath. Callisto is starring at me somewhat dumbfounded. Only a moment passes before she speaks but to me it feels like an eternity. In a low tone she says,
“Xianne, you cannot come with me. You cannot leave your Amazons behind. This is where your place is, with them, not with me. I can only bring you pain.”
I look at her with an intensity I have never known.
“No, Callisto, you are wrong. I do not belong here. I may be an Amazon, but my place is not here. You must have noticed by now that I don’t fit in here. I am not like the other Amazons. No, my place is with you, helping you. I am sure of it.”
To my surprise Callisto doesn’t argue this time. She leans back against the rocks and slowly gives me a smile, saying nothing. Dying from suspense I grab her arm once again and in a pleading voice I say,
“Callisto, what are you thinking?” She looks up at me and finally says,
“I am thinking that you are too stubborn for your own good.”
With that she flashes me another smile. This time I return her smile with one of my own and say,
“So, does this mean I can come with you then?”
She exhales a breath and takes my hands in hers.
“Xianne, ever since I came to this village I have been drawn to you. I have watched you and as much as I hate to admit it, what I have seen I have truly enjoyed. Although I fear I may regret this decision, I can think of no better person to accompany me on this journey than you.” Overwhelmed with joy at her words I feel tears forming in my eyes. I sit speechless, holding her hands in mine.
“Besides,” she adds, “Our destinies are tied…”
I look at her curiously, but the look she is giving me lets me know that I should not question her further about this at this time. Then a darkness enters Callisto’s features and her smile vanishes. She says,
“Xianne, we will leave tomorrow, and on the road we have much to discuss. Don’t get too excited. This journey is far more complicated than you realize now, and it will be extremely dangerous. I do not wish to discuss it any further tonight, for we have much to do if we are to be ready to leave in the morning.”
I hear her words of foreboding danger, but I am too happy to care. I say,
“Alright, Callisto, but before we head back to the hut to begin packing, there is something I want to give you.”
With that I turn from her and swim to the banks to retrieve my bag. I hold it up above my head as to not get it wet and return to the rocks. With a look of curiosity on her face I slowly open the flap of one of the pockets and produce the necklace. I hand it to her.
“Here, I made this for you. It is not very much I know, but I have blessed it with a protection spell and it would honor me for you to wear it.”
I place the necklace in her wet hand and close her fingers around it. She looks at it for a long moment and when she finally looks up at me, I see fresh tears glistening in her eyes by the light of the moon.
“Xianne, I don’t know what to say. Thank you,” she whispers.
I smile and am pleased that this gift has been received so well. I stare at her in silence as she ties the necklace around her neck. I can sense a deep sadness within her that I do not understand. Once she is finished she leans over to me and gives me a quick hug. Pulling back she says,
“Come, there is much to do. Tomorrow will be upon us before we know it.”
With that she swims for the banks, with me in quick pursuit.
Chapter Four: Leaving the Amazon Village
That night we packed and readied our supplies until the early morning hours. I could feel the excitement of our near journey buzzing in the air as we worked together to get everything in order. Once we had everything packed, we slept for a few hours, only to awake again to meet the sunrise of a new day. We finished up some last minute chores and adorned our horses with all of our supplies. Once I had fed my horse, Alcina, I was finally ready to depart. I returned to the hut to find Callisto staring out my window, lost in thought…
“Callisto, are you ready?” I quietly ask and lightly reach my hand up to touch her shoulder. After a moment she turns to meet my eyes.
“I am ready,” she says, “but the real question is, are you ready, Xianne?”
Her look of concern for me takes me somewhat by surprise. I search her eyes for what she is thinking and it is at that moment I realize that this journey is of more significance than I had ever thought. I swallow hard.
“Callisto, we are never coming back, are we?”
She turns from me and once again looks out the window. After a long pause I hear her exhale a deep breath. She then turns from the window and gives me a small smile. Reaching down to pick up her sword and placing it in her scabbard she says,
“Xianne, I am going to ride ahead. I will meet you at the village entrance. You stay here as long as you need to say goodbye…I will wait for you there.”
She then turns to leave my hut, grabbing my hand and giving it a quick squeeze before she exits. I don’t stop her and realize that her avoidance of my question tells me more than had she actually answered it. From my window I watch her mount her horse and ride off. Once I can see her no longer I turn around and survey my hut…my home. Alone now, I begin to walk around, picking up various bottles and healing remedies and holding them tenderly. The new healer will enjoy what I am leaving behind, I think, as I read some of the labels of the potions and herbs I have prepared. I again gaze around the small room, taking it all in, trying to hold on to every detail. Everywhere I look holds a memory of the time I have spent here. Many moments pass as my mind drifts back to the last few months. On a whim, I pick up a scroll and begin to write…
To my Amazons,
Thank you for the kindness you have shown me over the last few months.
You took me in when I needed a home and a place to do my work. For this I will
always be grateful. The time has come for me to leave. There is something else
I must do now. Forgive me if I have caused you any undue stress. I have sent
for another healer to take over my duties. She is of the highest quality and I
would trust her with my own life. Her name is Yakut, and she comes from the
Western tribe. I know you will welcome her warmly. Be safe and well, my
sisters…I will not forget you.
To a strong Amazon nation….
Upon finishing the letter, I roll up the scroll, tie it, and carefully place it on my bed. Sadly, I realize that the tribe will be more relieved than saddened by my departure. I have become a liability because of my friendship to Callisto. I proceed to the door to leave my hut, taking one last look around before I exit. I smile to myself because with this final glance around, I realize that all my happy memories in this place are tied to Callisto. I step into the morning chill, closing the door behind me; satisfied in my realization that this is, indeed, the right thing to do. I proceed toward Alcina, who throws her head up in what I think is a greeting. I reach her side and touching her face I whisper to her,
“Well girl, it’s time to go…are you ready for this?”
She seems to nod at me, as she and I have always had a special connection. Ever since I left my home in the north, so long ago, she has been by my side. The only one by my side I inwardly think. I mount her and from my height I can see the entire village. A single tear escapes my eye as for the first time I realize I am leaving the comfort and safety of this place to journey to strange lands unknown to me. My mind drifts back to last night and Callisto’s words echo in my head…This journey is far more complicated than you realize now, and it will be extremely dangerous… I wonder what she meant by this and a fear of what is to come grips me. As I continue to think and gaze around me, the fear subsides and is replaced again by an overwhelming feeling that this is the right thing to do…that this is the right path for me to take. I can’t explain or understand why I feel like this, but I am sure that this journey will lead me to my true destiny. Finding comfort in this, I turn Alcina and begin riding off in the direction of the entrance. I ride as fast as I can, with the wind whipping my face and drying my tears. I see Callisto in the distance, sitting on her horse, waiting for me, as promised. I reach her side and with a quick glance I let her know with my eyes that I am all right. Without a word we ride off together, side by side, and out of the Amazon village forever, not looking back…
The vision again dissipates into thin air with the slight motion of Katharine’s hand. She smiles and looks at Nadia who is also smiling and nodding her head.
“They have set out,” The One says with great satisfaction in her voice.
“Yes they have,” Nadia responds, equally joyous.
The One raises her hand, the light radiating from her every fingertip, making dancing patterns against the wall. She moves her hand in a circular motion and opens another window of vision. Nadia shutters once he comes into view.
“He can’t see us, right?” Nadia whispers.
“No, he can’t see us,” The One confirms.
Katharine and Nadia had known Seth as a small boy. They had grown up together, even playing together as children. Now he is known as The Other, and he who was once their friend is now their mortal enemy.
“He is nearly done gathering his army in preparation,” Nadia states, dread in her voice.
“We have less time then we anticipated then,” The One softly says.
“Callisto and Xianne took too long to figure out what they must do,” states Nadia.
The One exhales a slow sigh and is quiet for a moment.
“They needed that time,” she finally says.
They sit in silence for a while and watch The Other in all his vile evilness put the finishing touches on his sick and twisted preparations.
“Nadia, we have no choice. You must go to them now,” The One says.
“But they may not be ready yet,” Nadia quietly says.
“It doesn’t matter. Ready or not, we are out of time,” says The One, before raising her hand and closing out the vision, trying her best to hide the fear and sadness dimming the glow of light from her immortal eyes.
Taiko's Scrolls of the Xenaverse