Part 3

(E-Mail Rachel)

She didn't know why she was telling Gabrielle all this, all she knew was that once she started she couldnt stop. She related the tale of her childhood, after the destruction of her village by Xena's hand, to the bard. Gabrielle sat there, listening intently as Callisto told of Kalevis...saw her eyes soften as she remembered the blacksmith, and saw the sadness when she told of her departure from him that summer day.

"Kal crafted my sword.." she spoke. "And had Seranon make my armor." She sighed as she looked at the armor she still wore to this day. "He was the nicest man I have ever known. He took me in when no one else cared."

"So, your hatred for Xena was still so strong then, that you left?" inquired Gabrielle.

"Oh yes Gabrielle....it seethed within me like a raging fire. No matter how much physical work I did, how hard I pushed myself...." A pause and a sigh. "....it never would go away. Oh I tried, and Kal....Kal tried to show me there are more important things in life than vengeance. But it was all i could think of. Every day, every moment that passed, my hatred for Xena grew. I practiced and practiced....I knew how good she was, I had seen her down twenty men in less than five minutes. It was incredible! I didn't know whether to be impressed or hate her for what she had done. Obviously the latter won out." she frowned. "I'm afraid there is just no going back for me now. This has gone on for too long...it's the only way I know."

One single tear began its' trek down Callisto's cheek.

Gabrielle's eyes softened, and she reached out to softly wipe that tear away. Callisto looked up, and what she saw amazed her. Those sea-green eyes...so compassionate, so innocent. Her mind shot back to the day she mercilessly slaughtered Gabrielle's husband Perdicus. "By the gods..." she thought. "What have I done all these years? How could I have done that to this woman? Have I been so blinded by my rage as to not see the forest through the trees?"

"Gabrielle....I...I...I'm so s-sorry." It was but a whisper, but Gabrielle heard it. "I didn't know what I was doing....the rage...it was blinding me....i needed to get back at her...I couldn't..."

"Shhhhh, shhhhh.....it's alright. In a way, it worked out for the best. I will always mourn him, but the fates have something else in mind for me." She smiled at just the thought of her warrior. "I am looking at you now Callisto, and what I see before me I have seen once already in someone else."

"Xena?" asked Callisto.

"Yes. The ability to forgive is present in everyone Cal, even you I think...." she chuckled, then became very serious..."But the ability to forgive yourself is the hardest one to master out of them all. We both know that Xena did ransack your village...and let me tell you something Callisto, the memory of it has tortured her soul ever since. The guilt she carries with her, knowing she is responsible for destroying your life, and your family...." Gabrielle shook her head at the memory of Xena's tears by the fire that night long ago...."I can tell you in truth that she wishes she could turn back time and change what she did. She has never forgiven herself for doing that to you. If you could have seen the pain in her eyes the day she went back to Sirra....to try and face what she had done..."

"But Gabrielle...my mother...my sister! I don't know if I can do what I think you are asking me to."

Gabrielle reached behind her and picked up the skinning knife. She leaned over to Callisto and brought the blade close.

"No!" shouted Callisto and tried to back away..."You can't kill me! I'm a god! Why are you bothering to do this? After all I've just told you...."

Gabrielle grabbed the struggling Callisto's bound hands and cut loose the ties.

"Wh-what? You're letting me go?" her jaw went slack in shock.

"No...." replied Gabrielle...."I am setting your soul free. You don't have to live life like this Callisto....no one should have to. Not you, not Xena." She cut the goddess' ankles free. "I forgive you. And now you need to forgive yourself. Go find her, talk to her, let it go. You just might see that she is not the same person who destroyed your village. She really is even sorta funny and quirky when you get to know her." Gabrielle smiled, remembering the tickle fights Xena had subjected her to over the years, and that goofy lop-sided half-smile she wore when caught in a prank.

Callisto stood up. She looked at the bard, and tilted her head to the side, just trying to understand how this little blonde bard had broken down the walls around her cold heart with her words of forgiveness. It felt like a weight had been lifted from her shoulders, and there was this feeling of...what was it? She tried to comprehend it....inner peace? Yes that was it. "So this is what it feels like." she thought silently.

"Gabrielle...." she took a step to stand in front of the young woman who had just changed her life.

"Yes Cal?" she managed to say without a tremble in her voice. Gabrielle was scared to death at that moment. She didn't know what to expect from the goddess...but she had taken it this far, and she was praying to any god that would listen for her life right then. She rose and stood in front of Callisto.

The goddess reached out. Gabrielle cringed. Callisto smiled, took her hand and drew her into a hug. There was no doubt in Gabrielle's mind that this was a thank you...Cal's own way of it, but nonetheless a thank you in its' own right. Callisto pulled back, leaned over and placed a light kiss on Gabrielle's cheek. She smiled again, and this time Gabrielle smiled back.

"I have to go find Xena." was the simple statement.

"I know..." said Gabrielle..."Go on then."

"Will you be alright here alone?" asked Callisto.

"Hmmmm, I have a goddess and a warrior princess in the area, I think I'll be ok. " laughed Gabrielle.

Callisto turned to leave when the bard called out to her...."Thank you Callisto."

The Goddess turned back for a moment. "You're thanking me? What for? You're the one who deserves the thanks, I did nothing but ruin your life." she frowned.

"Thank you for Xena." said the blonde.

"Oh...." Callisto giggled. "Even though it wasn't meant as a nice thing in the beginning, right now i'm glad i did it. So...ummm you're welcome Gabrielle." She smiled and walked into the forest.....

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Xena heard the twig snap.

In the blink of an eye she had spun around and had her sword to Callisto's throat. The goddess just stood there with this funny smirk tugging at the corners of her mouth.

"What's going on here? What have you done to Gabrielle?" she asked, the fear of her bard being injured in any way quite evident on her face and in her voice.

"Relax Xena..." said the goddess...."Gabrielle is fine. She is back at the camp now waiting for your return. In one piece, don't worry." she smiled....genuine and sincere. "AND breathing." she added.

"So help me gods Callisto, if you have done anything to her I will slice you into so many pieces even Hades won't be able to recognize you."

"Xena, she is fine. I swear to you. We had a talk, me and the blonde."

"A talk?" She knew Gabrielle was capable of many things, but what had she said to the tyrant to warrant this attitude adjustment she now thought she was seeing before her? "What kind of talk?" Xena's eyes narrowed.

Callisto looked away. "She tried to convince me that what I had been doing, and what I was continuing to do all these years was wrong." She paused, threw up her arms in complete surrender to the moment, and then looked up into Xena's blue eyes. She sighed. "She was right Xena. Everything....all that I thought was for the right reasons, were for the wrong ones. I know now that you are not the same person you were back then, and I know what you have been going through inside because of that." She paused again. "Xena....I forgive you for what you did to my family. And I'm sorry for all the pain I have caused you since then. I know I can't ever make up for it.....but..."

She was interrupted by the sound of Xena's sword hitting the ground. "Xena? Are you ok?"

Xena was speechless. Her mouth moved, but no words were coming out. She bade herself look into those brown eyes, and she saw then that the anger was gone...the hatred gone. All that she saw now was sincerity and honesty. She found her voice...

"Why should I believe you Callisto? After all this time, and after all the things you have done...."

"I could say the same to for you Xena...but here I am standing in front of you. Gabrielle is right, it's time to end this. The cycle of hatred can only be broken through forgiveness...and love. I really am sorry, and i think we need to resolve this now. No more bloodshed, no more hurting."

Xena recalled the first time she heard those words from her bard and sighed. She didn't understand them at that time, but now their meaning was so clear.

"Agreed." said Xena. "Where do we go from here?"

"I don't know." replied Callisto. "This is all new for me remember." She smiled warmly.

"Well....." Xena thought for a moment...."I do know a place that could use a warrior with your many skills." She laughed. Callisto laughed.

"Trying to pawn me off already Xena? Tsk tsk! I'm insulted!"

"Some things never change." said Xena and they laughed again.

"Where is this place? And why would they want me? After all I have done, I can't expect anyone to welcome me with open arms." remarked Callisto.

"I sort of have it in good with the queen there...." said Xena. "I don't think it would take much persuading..." the amusement danced in her eyes as the realization dawned on the goddess.

"The AMAZONS????" Xena, are you out of your mind???"

"I have been accused of that at times yes...been there once..." she leaned in closer to the woman..."Wasn't fun let me tell you!" The warrior laughed at her own misfortunate incident with the Furies. She continued...."You did help them, remember? Velasca."

"Ooooohhhh.....yeah I guess I did. Wasn't intentional at the time I'm afraid..." she said. "But still, all in all I wasn't too nice to them, and I don't think they would be too nice to me. Honestly, I really don't think I deserve it anyhow."

"We all have to start somewhere Callisto. The path to goodness is not an easy one....I know. Sometimes it's hard to do the right thing. But down the road, when you look back at it, it's all worth it. Every last little thing. And you will be glad you did it that way." She felt her heart jump a little at the thought of her bard. Gabrielle had been her redemption and salvation....had believed in her when Xena herself didn't have anything left to believe in.

Callisto saw the look in Xena's eyes.

"Xena....hey...ummmm Gabrielle has waited a long time to have you to herself." She smirked. "I'll just pop out for now, and say...hmmmm....meet you back in camp in the morning?"

"Sounds good." said Xena.

Callisto began to disappear, then returned. She walked over to the warrior princess, wrapped her arms around her neck and kissed her soundly on the lips.

When Callisto broke away, all Xena could manage was..."What was that for?"

"First, that was a thank you....." she said between giggles. "Second, just because I hated you doesn't mean I never found you attractive. I just wanted to know what it was like. Very nice....veeeeery nice!" She giggled again and was gone.

Xena sighed, smiled, climbed on Argo and galloped away back to camp. Back to her bard, back to her future....

Continued in Part 4 ---->
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