Disclaimers: Xena and related material is owned by MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures.

This story takes place after the third season, if your not familliar with all of the events in the 3rd season, particularly in the episodes "THE FURIES", "THE DELIVERER", "GABRIELLE'S HOPE", "THE DEBT", "MATERNAL INSTINCTS", "SACRIFICE"and H:TLJ "ARMAGEDDON NOW" you may not understand what is going on.(You may not understand it anyway)

The poem "The Wistful One" by Robert Service was take from Collected Poems of Robert Service and is used without permission, but great respect.

TRIAD

I sought the trails of South and North,
I wandered East and West;
But pride and passion drove me forth
and would not let me rest.

And still I seek, as still I roam,
A snug roof over head;
Four walls, my own; a quite home....
"You'll have it--when your dead."
"The Wistful One"
Robert W. Service

A cold gray mountain rose through billows of cloud into the clear blue sky. A lone, cloaked figure carefully climbed its way along an ancient trail carved into the solid rock of the mountain's face. Cold, desperate wind whipped at the path, bringing a chill no cloak could ever fully protect against. It was rumored that the path had been carved over a millennia ago, but the traveler only cared for the accuracy of one myth.

Slowly, the path turned up the mountain, again making the traveler expend extra energy to push onward. After an eternity of climbing, the traveler followed the path into a crevice fractured into the side of the great mountain. Ahead, ages old stone steps emerged from the raw granite of the mountain, leading up to an ancient and weathered temple.

Pushing the heavy furred hood from her head, the traveler let her long black hair fall about her shoulders. Ice blue eyes looked out from the black mane as it blew frantically in the wind. Her gaze followed the great steps up to the temple. Not a single block had been used to form the magnificent structure. Every window, pillar and dome was carved from the raw granite of the great mountain.

The woman's heavily booted feet confidently carried her up each of the granite steps. Finally, the last step presented the traveler with a great stone door; a single piece of granite, carved in place and perfectly balanced. She leaned on the ornate handle, swinging the door in on its axis.

As soon as the traveler stepped into the temple and released the door, it slowly swung back into place. The great stone walls offered protection from the wind, but not the cold. It occurred to the woman to draw the sword that hung at her side beneath her cloak, but she stayed her hand as she ventured forward.

Careful foot falls echoed from the visitor's hard leather soles as she ventured deeper into the deserted temple. At the back of the chamber, a pair of wooden doors stood closed against the bitter cold. The visitor leaned on the doors, but they would not budge. Finally, she pulled a heavy dagger from its sheath and pounded the hilt solidly on the thick doors. A loud, solid thud echoed through the chamber with each strike.

After several minutes, she reached for her dagger a second time, when a faint noise came from the other side. Finally, one of the doors creaked open. A gust of warm air escaped from the inner chamber, making the visitor grimace at the sudden change.

A shrunken, old man looked from the door. His long, dirty white hair and thick beard obscured most of his creased and weathered face. Old dark eyes appraised the woman standing before him, then, at last, he stood aside and let her enter.

A loud clang carried through the inner chamber as the door closed solidly behind the visitor. She looked around the chamber, beyond the narrow and low stone entry way in which she stood, a great room spread out before her. A large smoldering brazier was in the middle of the room, providing heat for the occupants.

Dirty white robes ruffled about as an old woman shuffled about the room taking care of what ever duties occupied her. She looked up at the visitor as her companion stepped back into the main room.

"What is your name child?" she asked softly.

"I have come to ask the questions." the visitor returned.

"That is quite a long name." The old woman said as she busied herself adjusting the furniture that occupied one end of the room. "Perhaps, there is a shorter one we may use."

"My mother named me Xena."

"Xena, what a unique and powerful name." the woman said as she searched her memories. "I don't remember ever hearing it before." She gestured toward the newly straightened furniture. "Please, I'm sure your weary from your journey, won't you sit for awhile. Whatever you seek can wait a few moments for you to rest a bit with us."

Xena looked at the sturdy wooden furniture with its thin cushions. She allowed a sigh of exhaustion sweep over her body as she moved toward an old heavy bench. As she walked, she opened her thick, fur lined cloak and dropped it off her shoulders. Beneath the cloak, Xena wore her traditional metal breast plate armor and weapons over thick woolen robes. As she sat down, she laid the cloak across the bench next to her.

"We have us a warrior here, papa." the old woman said to the old man.

"We still have introductions to complete." Xena said, standing back up to face the old couple.

"Of course," the old woman apologized. "I am Elioze and my husband's name is...." she thought for a moment and smiled. "I've been calling him papa for so long, I have to think about it."

Xena looked to the old man, waiting for him to help, but he just smiled back.

"Alrich, is my dear husband's fine name." the old woman admitted with a grin. "Now, tell me of your journey up the mountain. So few visit any more, we do not know how the trail fairs."

As the two women spoke of the trail and the weather, the source of the fur in Xena's cloak and other trivial matters, Alrich brought them tea, bread and cheese. Once Xena accepted the snack, Alrich set about placing lamps in another chamber of the great room. As the light was brought up, it revealed a small table with two chairs. Filling the rest of the chamber were shelves, filled with books and scrolls, towering into the shadows.

Once things were settled, Elioze stood and motioned for Xena to follow her. "Come, it's time to look at the questions you carry in your heart."

The two women sat at the small table, facing each other. Elioze looked deeply into Xena's eyes. "You have remained silent and in control of your emotions since arriving." the old woman told Xena. "It may be from fatigue, or respect, but in either case it is not your nature to remain quiet in the matters of your emotions."

"I think it is fatigue." Xena admitted, allowing a smile to form on her lips for a moment.

"Yes, of course, you seek answers, but do not believe or perhaps do not trust in my skills as a seer." Elioze stated. She looked at the volumes around them. "But you are a practical woman, and know that buried in legends of good and evil is a truth that may help you in your quest."

"Since we understand each other," Xena said flatly, "perhaps, then, we can skip your ceremonies and you can help me find the...."

With a waive of her hand, Elioze interrupted the warrior. "I have only one way, mine." she said softly. "Please, let us begin so that I may help you understand the burdens you carry."

"Very well."

"Now, I saw a weapon on your belt, the round one. It is very personal to you? Yes?"

Xena nodded.

"Good, please, place it on the table. We will use it as a window to the turmoil in your life."

Fingers hesitated over the weapon for a few seconds, finally, Xena grabbed the chakram from her hip and placed it on the table. Very carefully, Elioze reached out with both hands and slid the weapon to the precise center of the table.

Placing her hands on the table to either side of the weapon, Elioze stared at the circle of steel for a few minutes. Finally, she looked at Alrich. "Papa, would you fetch me that book with the round design on the cover?"

The old man made an almost imperceptible nod then shuffled off looking for the volume his wife had asked for. Behind the stacks, the old man could be seen moving carefully amongst the books, at one point pushing a small ladder. Finally, he returned holding a small bound book and gave it to his wife.

Elioze placed the book on the table in the center of the Chakram. The book's brown leather cover was stiff with age, and the symbols on the front were dark and faded. Leaning over, Xena looked at the small book and studied the cover. There was no writing, but a simple symbol, a circle with a triangle in the middle.

"You have come in search of the root of the turmoil in you life." Elioze stated.

A raised eyebrow was Xena's first response to the statement. "I came in search of a way to return a friend."

"They are different quests with the same answers." Elioze opened the book. "There is a Triad, three souls joined as one." She pointed to the first page. The pages of the book were rough with jagged edges. Xena recognized that the material as hide rather than parchment. It was a thin hide she didn't recognize.

A more detailed circle and triangle symbol was drawn on the front leaf. Elioze pointed to the corners of the triangle. "Each soul bound to the other, fulfilling a single purpose and destiny." She turned the page, revealing writing Xena didn't recognize. The left page had a circle on it, detailed like the one on the first page, only without the triangle. "They are three women." the old woman said after looking at the page of writing. "The Sister, the Daughter, and the Mother. Three souls sharing the common goal of a single destiny."

"What does this have to do with me?" Xena asked, trying not the growl her question.

Ignoring her guest's question and tone, Elioze went on. "Destinies are the desires of the gods, but mortal man has the power of choice." She looked in Xena's suddenly intent face at the mention of the desires of the gods. She turned the page. "The creation of a god has a single purpose and has no choice in its destiny. It comes into the world only to manipulate those with choice.

"There are times when the gods choose a mortal, usually one of their own making, to do their bidding." Elioze turned the page.

"A mortal who was made by the gods?" Xena asked. She thought she knew the answer but wanted to be sure.

"When a god takes human form, it can procreate." Elioze stated. "These mortal children, made by the gods, are favored to be their champions. But as mortals, they have the choice the demons do not." She turned the page.

"The Triad takes on new faces; The Chosen, The Sacrifice and The Betrayer."

Xena's eyes snapped open and she leaned forward. "The Betrayer, what of the Betrayer?"

"Who does the Betrayer really betray?" Elioze asked. "Through it all she stays true to her nature and never betrays herself." she looked at Xena. "That is the strength of the Mother, to be true to herself when protecting the Daughter. It is also the weakness the Triad depends on." She turned the page.

"The Chosen is not only chosen, but has a choice to fulfill the destiny that has been laid out for her." Elioze pointed to a line of symbols on the left hand page of the book. "For the Chosen to properly fulfill that destiny, she must make the choice freely. She might not even know that the path she is on is the destiny that was chosen for her. As long as she continues to follow it, the destiny will be fulfilled, for.." Elioze pointed at the page and quoted. "'For where the Chosen goes, the world will follow.'" She turned the page.

"The Sister, the Daughter, and the Mother; The Chosen, The Sacrifice and The Betrayer. The Triad, three in one. The Mother bringing strength and betrayal to the Sister, both acts pushing the Chosen either to her own destiny or one that was set for her. The Daughter a demon created as The Sacrifice to force The Chosen to the destiny she was meant for." Elioze looked at the warrior, whose face had gone sheet white.

"Through it all, the strength of the Mother will be underestimated. Her betrayal of those around her will be complete, but her conviction in her own principles can give the Chosen the strength to choose her own destiny. Thus keeping the darkness in her soul at bay."

Tears had formed in Xena's eyes as she looked at the old lady. "But how do I get her back?"

"I can not tell you, but understanding the nature of what has happened, may help you choose the right path." She stood up and held out her hand. "Come, it is time for you to continue your quest. I can only tell you, The Betrayer is not dead. She is waiting for the Chosen to find her and once and for all defeat the purpose of the Triad."

Xena took her hand and stood to gather her things. The chamber suddenly seemed awfully cold as she wrapped her cloak about her tall frame.

"Here, take these for your journey." Elioze offered a loaf of bread and quarter of cheese.

"I don't want to have you do without." Xena said, holding up her hands.

"Non-sense, we have plenty."

With a nod of thanks, Xena took the offered supplies and slipped them into one of her pockets. Pulling her thick furred gloves on, Xena stepped into the raw rock alcove and looked back at the pair. Elioze and Alrich both smiled and the old lady bade her farewell, then Xena stepped through the door, into the bitter cold of the old temple. Outside, the wind continued to howl.

The loud clank of the door shutting behind her never came so she turned to pull it shut. There was no door, just a solid raw rock wall where the door had been. Had it all been and illusion, or hallucination brought on by fatigue and cold. Xena reached into her pocket and brought out a loaf of fresh, steaming bread. She sniffed the delicious aroma and bit into the soft loaf.

"Not bad for an illusion." she said to herself and headed out of the temple.