Disclaimer: See Chapter 1
Blue Eyes, White Horse, and a Chakram
Callie blinked, the bright sun temporarily stinging her eyes. She was back in her familiar place, where her dreams often took her. For a moment she thought she was alone, but as her eyes adjusted she realized that she had company. Smiling as Xena materialized before her, the warrior wavered slightly, as if unsure of her footing.
"It's ok, Mother," Callie encouraged, taking the shock of the situation away from the warrior. "We're dreaming. I'm glad you could make it."
"Callie," Xena breathed, letting the little girl lead her over to rough wooden bench on the porch of the small farmhouse. "Dreaming again? What happened?"
Waiting until Xena sat down; Callie happily crawled up into her lap. "Nothing, I just missed you."
"Missed me? Why do I feel so weak, and why couldn't you just talk to me when I was awake?"
Callie frowned slightly, not really sure how to respond when suddenly another image appeared before them.
"Solan?" Xena asked, her breath suddenly caught in her throat.
"Mother!" Solan cried, rushing to her and hugging her tightly.
"Hey!" Callie called out from between them. "I'm getting squished."
Solan pulled back, chuckling as he hugged Callie as well. "Sorry, little sis. Hey, what's going on?"
Callie shrugged. "I guess you are dreaming too."
"I'm not asleep, and I didn't expect to find mother."
"What is going on?" Xena asked, leveling her gaze at Callie who shifted nervously.
"I've been looking for you for the last two days, Mother," Solan said as he drew Xena's attention away from the little girl and back toward him. "I finally gave up and tried something different. It didn't work with Gabrielle, but Callie…I can reach her. Master helped me figure it out."
"What do you... two days?" Xena suddenly trailed off, looking back at Callie. "Where have I been for the last two days?"
"Sleeping," Callie answered quietly.
Xena took in a deep breath, and Callie resisted the urge to flee as she felt the sudden anger rise up in the warrior. "Gabrielle…" she said through clenched teeth. "I thought there was something different about that tea."
"Don't be mad at her, Mother. She was just worried about you. You're doing better. I can feel it."
Xena sighed, suddenly noticing Solan's confused expression. "I was injured," she quickly explained. "Some sort of magic poisoning. The healer was convinced that in order to get it out of my system, I needed to take a long nap."
"Under a shield," Callie added.
"Ah, that is why I couldn't see you then. My scrying was blocked. Makes sense. Maybe I can help?" Solan asked.
"No, no magic," Xena quickly cut him off. "It makes it worse."
"Traditional magic, yes," Solan returned with a smile.
His eyes unfocused for a moment and Xena could feel the hair on the back of her neck stand up. He was probing her, but before she could challenge him and feeling stopped.
"You were attacked by a rabbits-ish looking creature?" he asked.
"You saw?" she asked as Callie cringed.
"No, you said you were poisoned by magic, and I can tell wounds on your arms and Callie's cheek," he paused waving his hand and revealing the wounds that so far had been invisible, "that you were attacked by something. Some kind of animal. There are only a handful of animals that would do that. If it were a wyrsa, you'd be dead. Probably the same with a drake, so that leaves the rabbits."
Xena raised an eyebrow, impressed with his knowledge and logic, as he continued. "They are actually called Leporines, well that's the official name my Master categorized them under."
"I was calling them Bacchae bunnies," Xena smiled.
"That works too," Solan nodded, echoing her grin.
"So is there another cure for these things?"
Solan wrinkled his forehead a moment. "Do you happen to catch any of them alive?"
"Nope, Mom toasted them!" Callie supplied with a little too much enthusiasm.
"Callisto," Xena gently scolded. "Don't talk like that."
"But you…" the girl trailed over getting 'the look' from the warrior. "Sorry, Mother."
"No, we didn't catch any," Xena repeated.
"Then you're probably best off with what you are doing," Solan decided with a nod. "I could ask Master, he would know."
"Mama says that you are doing better. Your wounds finally healing," Callie supplied.
Xena nodded to each of her children. "Good and good. And you tell your Mama," Xena caught Callie's eyes once more, "that if she doesn't wake me up immediately I'm gonna toast her."
Callie's eyes went wide, while Solan couldn't help giggling.
"It's not funny," Xena snapped. "I told her I didn't want to sleep…" Xena trailed off as Solan's giggles turned into deeper laughter. Finally rolling her eyes, she gave up. "Alright, alright, I suppose this sound pretty silly to you."
Solan grinned, letting his laughter settle down. "Yeah, but maybe I can see. At least give Callie an idea of how much longer you need to sleep. Mom, you know you are a quick healer. I bet you don't need to be out as long as the healer thinks."
"Probably not," Xena grumbled.
Setting Callie next to her as Solan came closer, she watched as Solan reached out and touched her temple. He closed his eyes and she felt a little prickle course through her. It was an odd feeling, especially coming from her son. He'd grown and changed so much since she last saw him. She could swear he was taller too.
"Something's not right," he frowned, and Xena felt the pressure from the probe increase. Suddenly Solan gasped and pulled back his hand. He shook it, as if he'd injured it. "Damn," he mumbled, "that hurt."
"What?" Xena asked immediately on her feet. She grabbed his hand, studying it and shocked to see blisters forming on the edge of his fingertips. If she didn't know any better, she would have sworn it they had gotten burned. "By the gods, what happened?"
"I'm not entirely sure," Solan frowned. "You have the other in you."
Solan sighed. "It's hard to explain. "We… you, me, and my master, our magic looks different. The other magic, it's sick. It's…"
"Alti," Xena seethed. "But what do you mean. It is the poison?"
"No, I didn't see any poison. I think you're body has dealt with that. There is something else there. Mom, did she touch you, do anything to you?"
Xena started to shake her head, when the memories of the fight they had a few weeks ago resurfaced. "She grabbed me, probed me. She was looking for information, but she was interrupted."
"By a bear," Callie grinned. "A great big o' scary bear."
"Yes, by a bear," Xena agreed, squeezing Callie's knee affectionately. "But what do you mean by the 'other' in me?"
"She left a mark on you. I don't know how, only know it's there." Solan paused, his eyes suddenly getting wide. "It's coming." Solan's words were almost like a beckon, for as soon as he spoke them, another figured materialized.
Reacting immediately, Xena stepped between the figure and her children. Xena instinctively reached back for her sword, quelling the sudden panic when she realized that both it and her chakram were nowhere to be seen.
"I'm hurt, Xena, no hello?" Alti cracked. "You should be a better example for your children," Xena narrowed her eyes, stepping backwards, as Alti stepped closer. "Solan, my you are growing. So bright, so full of power, almost ready..."
"Go away, Alti. You are not welcome here. Nor do you have any power in my daughter's dream," Xena challenged.
"Oh, that is where you are wrong," Alti sneered. With a sudden hand gesture, Xena found her hands gripping her neck. It felt like someone was strangling her, yet she couldn't pry the invisible hands away.
Xena felt herself sink to her knees, the pressure suddenly letting up as she gasped for breath. The grin from Alti only made her realize that the shamaness was playing with her. But she didn't give Alti the satisfaction, instead she focused on Callie. "Callie, she can't…" Xena started, as the invisible hands caught her again.
The invisible hands again let up as Solan reacted. Xena could feel a surge of power suddenly build at it was hurdled at the shamaness. Alti was caught by surprise, her concentration broken as she was knocked flat on her back.
"You think you can harm me, boy?" Alti screeched as she seamlessly floated back into a standing position. With a flick of her wrist Solan found himself knocked into the side of the house, pinned there against the rough boards.
As he struggled for freedom, Xena took the moment of distraction to grab Callie. She grabbed the girl with both hands, giving her a small shake to her attention. "Callie, this is your dream. Only you can control it. You need to wake up. She has no power here."
Callie blinked, finding blue eyes an oasis in her sea of fear. "I can't leave you, Mother."
Xena attention was suddenly brought back to Solan as he grunted and pulled himself away from the wall. Putting both hands up, he managed to erect some sort of force field around them. He winced as Alti reacted with a jolt of energy, trying to break through.
"Mother, we need to get out of here!"
"I know. Inside both of you!" Xena cried, picking up the little girl and grabbing the back of Solan's tunic. Guiding Solan backward, they used his shield as a temporary haven to cross the porch and make their way into the house
Slamming the door shut, Solan put both hands on it, as he extended the shield around the exterior of the small farmhouse.
Putting the little girl back down on her feet, Xena tired again, "Callie, you need to wake up it's the only way."
Callie quivered her lip. "I can't, I don't know how," she cried.
"Then give me my weapons," Xena implored. "If I can keep her occupied…"
"But how?" Callie cried again.
"Callie, listen to me. This is your dream you are in charge. She," Xena pointed to the door, "can't do anything unless you give her the power too."
"Close your eyes," Xena directed. "Imagine my sword and chakram. See them on me."
Callie chewed her lip for a moment, but did as Xena asked. It only took a heartbeat for Xena's sword and chakram to appear.
"Good girl," Xena praised. "Solan, take Callie upstairs. Find a place to hide, protect her." "Mom, no I'm not leaving you," Solan protested.
Xena, however had made up her mind and grabbed his arm, putting him away from the door. "If she gets past me, Callie needs someone to protect her. Once Callie wakes, I want you to go back to the tower."
"No, don't argue. Go," Xena commanded to both children, giving them a push toward the stairs.
Solan opened his mouth to protest, but realized he was just making things more difficult. They'd help, their own way. Grabbing Callie's hand, he pulled her toward the stairs, ignoring her cries and protests.
Watching them go, Xena nodded her head. This maybe Callie's dream, but she wasn't powerless either. Taking her sword off her back she opened the door and ventured back out onto the porch. Expecting to be hit immediately, she was caught off guard as scanned the now empty yard.
Twisting her sword in quick flourish, she stepped off the porch and into the yard itself. "Alti, I know you are here. I can smell ya," she taunted.
It was quiet for a long moment and Xena waited. Her senses were on hyper alert for any signal, but when suddenly felt the pickle on the back of her neck, she was ready. Darting quickly to the side, she just barely missed a fire ball strike. The flame simmered and scorched the ground, burning the very dirt beneath it. It was almost without conscious thought that she reached out with her Gift and put it out. Suddenly realizing what she did, she realized that Callie had not only given her her weapons, but all of her skills.
Looking up at the source of the flame, she caught Alti's eye and grinned in that feral way, only the Warrior Princess could. Letting off a sudden war cry, she sprung into the air and on to the roof, landing just a few feet from her arch-nemesis.
Hearing his mother's war cry, Solan stiffened. He knew that his mother was in trouble, but at the moment he couldn't help. The best thing he could do would be to follow her direction and get his sister to leave Morpheus's realm. He had a message to give her first though. "Callie, you need to listen to me. You need to wake up, but you need to remember something when you do. That lady, Alti, she did something to Mom. She put something in her head. She's been watching you, and you need to find a mage to fix it. Do you understand?"
"Solan," Callie shook her head. "I don't want to leave. What about you and Mother?"
"Don't worry about me. I'll leave when you do. The dream should close when you leave, but just to be safe, get them to wake her up, right away, ok?"
Callie looked toward the front of the house, where they could hear Xena and Alti taunting each other. "She needs help, Solan."
"Help her by listening to her."
"No, I have another idea."
"What? Wait?" Solan called as Callie turned and headed down the hall. Following her, he stopped short at a very familiar sight. He had entered a small room with two child-sized beds. On one of them was someone he'd never expected to see again. Rocking back and forth, holding a doll was the adult Callisto.
"Callie, no," Solan hissed, grabbing for her, but missing as she scurried across the room.
"Hi," Callie said, suddenly coming to a stop in front of the blonde warrior. "Remember me?"
The adult Callisto stopped, acknowledging her. "I found her," she said, holding the doll out to Callie. "Danae will be so happy, we thought she was lost."
Callie nodded. "I know. I need your help."
Callisto shifted her head to the side, as if curious in what the child had to say. "You want me to stop the bad woman?"
Callie nodded. "She's trying to hurt my mom. I'm too little, but you aren't."
"Callie," Solan tried again, but was ignored by both of the blondes.
It was only after taking the adult's hand that Callie turned back toward Solan. "I miss you, Solan, but don't worry. It's time for you do go now."
"What? Wait!" Solan cried as he started to fade from view. "You don't know who she is! She's not going…"
"Who was that? He looked familiar." Callisto asked as Solan's last sentence was cut off as he fully disappeared.
"Just my brother," Callie shrugged. "Come on, my mom needs us."
"I always wanted a brother," Callisto commented as she allowed the little girl to lead her down the stairs and out the front porch. Once there Callisto took a moment to survey what was going on. She saw a woman in animal skins lobbing different types of magical attacks at someone very familiar. Narrowing her eyes, she pulled her own sword off her back. Letting out a screech of rage, she charged into the fray.
"What do you mean she's gone?" Gabrielle exclaimed as Rylie gave her the news. "I thought you said she was up in your room."
"She was, at least I thought she was. I swear, I saw her on the stairs. She didn't leave. She has to be here somewhere. I just don't know where that somewhere is."
Gabrielle narrowed her eyes, all but forgetting about the water that she's begun to heat for the tea. She shook her head slowly. Finding a missing child was the last thing that she wanted to deal with. Quickly deciding to make this as easy as possible, she took a deep breath and took a moment to steady herself.
"Alright, let's not panic," Gabrielle started. "Go back upstairs; check your room, and Quinn's. I'll look in my own way."
Rylie nodded, not wasting another moment before bounding back up the stairs. Now alone Gabrielle closed her eyes, and lowered her shields allowing her Gift to surface. Following Rylie up the stairs, she quickly did a sweep of the third and second floors of the ekele, where the girls' room and Quinn's were located. Not seeing any signs of Callie she then expanded her search across the much larger ground floor, and then out of the ekele.
Still not seeing any signs of Callie, she pushed away the worry and anger in order to maintain her focus. Flowing further out she grazed passed the Companion's verifying with Lysander that they had not seen Callie in several hours. Kaylin had escorted her back shortly before dusk, and they were certain she hadn't left.
Slowly Gabrielle expanded her search, briefly touching each soul she encountered in a fruitless search for her youngest. By the time that Rylie had returned Gabrielle was in a near state of panic. She had pushed her Gift to its limits and was positive that the girl had somehow left the village.
"She's not upstairs, Mama G. I looked everywhere," Rylie reported when the bard opened her eyes again.
"She's not anywhere," Gabrielle frowned. "I don't even know where to start…" Gabrielle started when she was suddenly cut off by a loud scream. Quickly exchanging a glance with Rylie they both headed into the room in which Xena was sleeping.
Relief washed over them both as the bard and teen found Callie in bed with Xena. At least the girl was safe, but something was definitely wrong.
"Mama," Callie cried. "We need to wake her up. Now!"
Gabrielle's eyes widened as they traveled from Callie to her sleeping partner. Almost as soon as they did, a wash of emotions also flew through her. Xena was in trouble, Callie was terrified, and something was definitely not right.
"What's going on?" the bard cried, instantly at the warrior's side. Putting her hand on Xena's forehead she was shocked as the emotion almost physically knocked her back. Xena was fighting, she was desperate, and she was losing. "Callie," Gabrielle tried again, noticing that the little girl was also being overrun with emotion. "I need to know what's going on."
Callie looked up, meeting green eyes. "She said that if I woke up it would end, but she's trapped. She needs to wake up too."
"Rylie," Gabrielle snapped, "Go get the healer. Tell him we need to wake up Xena, hurry."
Rylie nodded and was gone before Gabrielle could say anything else. Turning back to Xena, she tensed as Xena's body suddenly shook, and s trickle of blood raced from her nose. It was like some invisible force was battling with her, and at the moment Gabrielle was powerless to help. :I'm here, Xena.: she sent through her touch. :Just hang in there. I'm here.:
Xena's world suddenly became too real as she saw the impossible happen. Catching the motion out of the corner of her eye she was shocked to see Callie escorting an adult Callisto out the front door of the little farmhouse. She was then relieved when she saw Callie fade out, hoping that her hunch was correct. If Callie woke up the dream would end, it had too. Her instinct though, proved very wrong as the adult Callisto pulled her sword and charged.
Alti's attack suddenly ceased as both their attention was drawn to the advancing blonde warrior. Xena wasn't sure if Alti was more surprised or amused to see Callisto, but the warrior wasn't given a chance to think about it as she brought her own sword up to defend against Callisto's charge.
After exchanging a quick series of blows they both pulled back. Xena took advantage of the brief circling to position herself so that Callisto was between herself and Alti. She couldn't afford to turn her back to either of them.
"Xena, you've been busy," Callisto taunted.
Xena narrowed her eyes. "What were you doing with Callie? Stay away from her."
"Ah, is that her name? Pretty little thing, reminds me of myself… once upon a time, before you ruined my life," Callisto screamed again and renewed her attack.
Parrying the blow and pushing Callisto back, Xena quickly checked on Alti, making sure that the shamaness hadn't moved. The ex-Amazon was hanging in the air, watching as if some sort of spectator of a sporting match. Feeling a warm trickle of blood leave her nose from Callisto's last blow, she ignored it as she addressed the dark warrior again. "She is you. She's a child, lost and afraid."
"What do you know about being lost and frightened? The mighty warrior princess," Callisto paused as they exchanged another series of blows. Pulling apart again, Callisto spat a mouth full of blood onto the ground. "The mighty warrior princess knows nothing about being helpless."
"You don't know what I've been through," Xena suddenly yelled back, using her brute strength to push Callisto back. "I've done horrible things, but I know what it's like to lose the people I've loved. I know what's it's like to hurt inside. Do you think you're the only one that's ever been lost?
"I'm trying," Xena continued. "Every damn day I fight against that; with Callie, with Gabrielle, with every essence of my being. You're the one that doesn't understand. You are so trapped by your hatred, you can't see anything else!"
Xena stepped forward and pushed her back again. "You don't understand. You never will. You were never given a chance. I'm trying to fix that, but you need to let go. Leave this place and let that little girl grow up."
Callisto growled, and raised her sword, but paused. Cocking her head to the side as if she were listening to some music that only she could hear, she was quiet for a long moment. Suddenly she refocused on Xena. "You know nothing…" she trailed off, again as if something was invading her thoughts.
"Shut-up!" Callisto yelled, suddenly stopping and putting her hands over her ears. "You know nothing. Just shut-up."
Watching Callisto fall to her knees, Xena was even more confused as Alti suddenly was next to them both. "Clever, Xena. Very clever. I was wondering where you hid her. Nicely played," Alti cackled as she suddenly faded from view.
Xena looked down at a now obviously distressed Callisto. The blonde warrior wasn't herself. It was almost as if she were only an emotional shell of her formal self. She'd never been very stable, but to go from pure rage to desperate sorrow, not only confused Xena, but made her realize that she was seeing more then what her eyes were telling her. This Callisto, the one sobbing in front of her, was only part of the Callisto she knew. The other part of her was living and well in the form of her youngest daughter. This part, the broken part, was the part that Xena was responsible for creating.
Kneeling down next to Callisto, Xena reached out for her hands, but the blonde pulled them back from Xena's reach. "Don't touch me, don't' you dare touch me," Callisto warned.
"I'm sorry," Xena tired, her own eyes sudden welling up with tears. "I know you can never forgive me, but I'm trying to make up for it. I'll try every day until I draw my last breath. I'm so sorry."
Callisto looked up, and for a moment Xena though she was going to charge again. Bracing herself for impact she was surprised when instead the blonde warrior started to fade from view.
Xena blinked, the hot sun causing a trickle of sweat run down her neck. Alti was gone. Callisto was gone. She saw Callie fade, and was betting Solan had done the same. She was utterly alone, in a place she'd never hope to see again. There had to be a reason; something she was missing.
She stood and slowly walked in a circle. She used her senses to reach out; for someone, something, anything, but found nothing. After a long moment, she replaced her sword and then ventured to the barn, only to discover it was an empty as the rest of the grounds. Moving back into the yard, she watched the front door to the farmhouse. She didn't want to go back inside, but something was telling her that's where she'd find was she was looking for.
Crossing the threshold was difficult. Xena felt like an outsider, invading someone's personal space. It was an ordinary house, with homemade furniture; a simple table and four rough chairs, a bench with a cushion, a chair that rocks sitting in front of a fireplace. Along one wall she spotted an old bow and quiver. The fact that it had Amazon symbols upon it wasn't lost on her. Ignoring it for the moment, she felt drawn to the fire place, and noticed for the first time she was no longer alone.
The chair had been empty just moment before, but now a woman sat in it, rocking and petting a very familiar looking cat in her lap.
"Starry-eyed," Xena greeted as the women looked up, her dark pupilless eyes acknowledging her.
:Hello, Xena,: the Firecat answered.
Xena nodded to the Firecat as well, before she narrowed her eyes. "Alright, no riddles, no messing around. I want to know what's going on, and I want to know right now."
"Come on, Xena. Wake up, you have to," Gabrielle encouraged as she took the warriors hand in her own. The touch was hard, for Gabrielle could physically feel the extreme range of motions that Xena was dreaming. She was tense, worried, and scared. Not something that Gabrielle was used to feeling.
Suddenly Xena quieted, and Gabrielle was confused as she felt the tension leave Xena's body. The feeling caught her by surprise but she didn't have time to dwell on it when the tension was replaced by a deep sadness. Gabrielle felt her own heart crushed under the pressure as tears sprung to her eyes. Glancing at Callie, she noticed the girl was going through a similar range, although it was with a start that Gabrielle realized that Xena's and Callie's emotions weren't reflective, but individual. Something was happening between them, it was more than Callie just echoing what she was picking up from Xena.