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Changing Times

by Scott Carpenter 

©Copyright Scott Carpenter January 8, 1997 

Changing Times is a sequel to my story, Journey of Friends

As the three continued their long trek home Gabrielle listened to the many stories that Xena and Sithus told, her mind filling with visions of people and places she had never seen. Sithus told of traveling far to the east when he was very young with a trade caravan. He told of meeting a wondrous people who he learned a great many skills from in his years there before returning home. 

"Have you ever used everything you learned Sithus?" 

Sithus looked to Gabrielle. "Most of what I have learned I have used, I have taught it to others as well." 

Xena smiled. "You are good at what you do Sithus." 

Sithus smirked. "I know, I know." Xena laughed at his seemingly smug attitude. 

After almost two weeks of travel they neared Xena's home town of Amphipolis. Xena was excited to be getting home again in such a short time, she planned on spending more time with her mother and brother. 

On the outskirts of Amphipolis they approached a camp along side the road. Getting closer Xena saw a few people she knew, it was those that helped her many years ago. The three stopped at the camp and uncovered the chest. 

It was removed by the others as their leader thanked Xena. "Xena we cannot thank you enough for what you have done again for us." 

Xena shook the mans hand. "Well a great deal of thanks goes to Sithus and Gabrielle, they had a hand in it too." He shook their hands as well. 

"Sithus, Gabrielle we do owe you a debt of gratitude." 

Sithus and Gabrielle shook his hand and those of the others. "I was only looking to do what was right. I have something else for you." Sithus handed the reins of his horse to the man. 

"We cannot except such a gift!" The man attempted to hand the reins back and Sithus stopped him. 

"No you keep him, I took him from a evil bunch and he will suit your needs. I have a horse of my own." 

The man handed the reins of the horse to another and again shook Sithus's hand. "You are a good man Sithus, thank you." 

As they moved off towards Amphipolis Gabrielle looked at Sithus. "You are a very giving person aren't you?" 

Sithus smiled. "When help is needed I give it." 

Xena laughed. "Like that time you helped me off the roof?" Sithus laughed with her without saying a thing. 

Gabrielle looked on. "OK what's the joke?" 

Xena was laughing so hard it brought tears to her eyes, she wiped a tear from her eye and held up her hand to Gabrielle as she finished laughing. "Sithus was trying to teach me backflips and we were standing on the roof of his barn, I would not jump so he pushed me off into the horse trough. I eventually got it, if I hadn't he would have pushed me off again." 

Sithus was still laughing at the thought of Xena as she flipped off that roof. "You should of seen the look on her face when she got out of the water. She looks at me and says "You pushed me!" " I looked at her and asked her what she was going to do about it? She climbed back up on the roof and did the flip." 

Gabrielle shook her head at the thought of someone doing such a thing and living to see another day. "So did Sithus teach you everything you know Xena?" 

Xena shook her head. "Sithus taught me a lot but not everything I know." Xena looked to him as he did the same, a dear friend indeed. 

Once in Amphipolis Xena was once again reunited with her family. They spent three days just talking and enjoying themselves. Gabrielle told a great many stories of the adventures she and Xena had. As they left for their journey they stopped at the tomb of Lyceus to pay there respects, Xena first and then Sithus. 

As Xena and Gabrielle sat outside Gabrielle realized that Sithus had been inside for a long time. "What is he doing in there Xena?" 

Xena looked to her friend and back to the ground. "I think he blames himself for my brothers death more than I do." 

Sithus had finished saying all he could think of to Lyceus and left. As he walked out he wondered if Xena held him responsible at all, he hoped not. 

As they approached his house Sithus saw the old man walking Lika for exercise in circles, Lika came to a halt and looked behind her. Sithus saw Lika pull the reins from his weathered hands and trot over to him. The horse pushed him with her nose. "Lika have you been good?" Lika nodded and then nuzzled Thesis. 

As they approached the house Malus came out of the house. "Good to see you again sir." 

Sithus mumbled something under his breath. "Malus good to see you, have you been practicing?" 

The boy kicked the ground with his boot. "As much as I can." 

Sithus knew he had but not much. "Well keep it up. Can you and your grandfather watch the house for a bit longer? We are only stopping for the night and then going on in the morning." 

Malus looked to his grandfather who nodded. "Yes of course we can." 

Sithus jostled the boys hair. "Good and I expect you to practice a bit more while I am gone." 

Malus kicked at the ground again. "Yes sir." 

Once inside Xena took some leather Sithus had and immediately went to work on making a bag to hold the new chakram. Gabrielle did not go inside, she watched as Sithus gave Malus a little instruction in staff use. 

As Sithus went into the house Gabrielle walked over to Malus. "Malus would you like to spar for a while?" 

Malus looked at the young women before him. "Yes I would." Malus and Gabrielle squared off and began to exchange blows. 

Sithus looked out the window at the two out front. "That is good practice for him." 

Xena looked up from her leather project. "So are you starting a school now." Xena laughed to herself. 

"No, His father was killed about a year ago and his grandfather wanted him to learn, so I teach him." 

Not looking up as she cut a piece of leather Xena picked up a knife from a bench and threw it at Sithus. Sithus snatched the blade from the air and threw it back. 

Xena caught the returning blade and looked up with a smile. "Just like old times Sithus." Sithus returned the smile. "Yes it is." 

Sithus set the table with plates and food and called Gabrielle and Malus inside. 

Malus entered for only a moment. "I am going to take my grandfather home Sithus, we will be back tomorrow." 

Sithus handed Gabrielle a cloth. "All right Malus see you tomorrow." 

Gabrielle wiped the sweat from her face. "You taught him well Sithus, he almost got me a couple of times." 

Sithus handed her a mug of water next. "He probably didn't want to lose to a girl." At the word girl Gabrielle elbowed him in the ribs. Xena was amused by his words and at Gabrielle's reaction. 

Gabrielle was fascinated at what she had just realized, up until she had met Sithus she had never heard Xena laugh or be as happy as she was in the past years as she had in the past five weeks. It must be Sithus. 

As they ate no one spoke, it was a simple quiet evening. The fact that Gabrielle was as quiet as she was made Sithus speak up. "So Gabrielle why are you so quiet this evening? You always have something to say." 

Gabrielle looked at him and then Xena who seemed intrigued as well as to her silence. "Oh I was just thinking of all that had gone on in the past few weeks, a lot has gone on." 

Sithus could tell she was deep in thought. "Working on more tales are we bard?" 

Gabrielle looked her plate and then him. " Trying to keep everything straight." 

Xena found her friends silence a bit strange, she had not seen her this quiet in such a long time that it did seem odd to not hear her voice. 

As they finished Xena continued in her work on the case for the chakram. Gabrielle put ink to a pen and began to write the many tales she had heard on paper so that someday they may be heard by those yet born. Sithus cleared the table and placed his pack on it and began removing it's contents and laying them out. Various items he put away and others were taken from shelves and boxes and placed back in the pack. 

Early the next morning Gabrielle awoke with a start, Xena sat up as well. A faint sound from outside had awoken them, the sound of Sithus opening the barn door. 

Gabrielle looked to her warrior friend. "Is it me or did I just wake up on my own because I heard something?" 

Xena smiled at her. "You are more in touch with your mind and body than ever before, it is all part of being in control of your senses." 

Gabrielle shook her head. "This is going to take some getting used to, I usually sleep through fights not wake up to avoid one." 

Xena chuckled as she gathered up her bedroll. "Well get used to it." 

Sithus fed and watered the horses as Malus came inside. "Will you be gone long?" 

Sithus turned to the boy. "Maybe a week, Why?" Malus petted Lika's nose. "I was just wondering if Gabrielle was coming back." 

Sithus looked at the boy. "I think they have other plans Malus, she will not be back for a while." Sithus could see the disappointment in his expression. "Maybe by the time she gets back you will have a fighting chance against her, you keep practicing or she will defeat you every time." 

Xena readied her things without a care in the world, she had not felt this free in such a long time that it was invigorating. She had also realized the fact that she was laughing and enjoying herself more now than ever before. She credited Sithus for that. His teaching of Gabrielle and of Joxer was the key to lifting a huge weight from her shoulders, no longer did she constantly have to watch out for Gabrielle's safety or worry about Joxer getting himself killed. She would still watch Gabrielle's back but she would not worry about her dear friend. 

Gabrielle had noticed the change and enjoyed it. Her friend and confidant was like a changed women in every respect. There was an air about her that let Gabrielle know that Xena considered her more an equal now and not a hindrance to her. 

As Gabrielle stepped out of the room Xenaturned and threw a knife at her. Gabrielle's hand snapped up and caught the blade. She stared a cold stare at her friend. "Why did you do that?" Xena only smiled. 

Gabrielle continued to stare at her with a look of frustration and anger and threw the knife back at Xena. Xena moved as the blade neared and turned to see it impact the wall behind her. Turning to her friend 

Xena still smiled. "Sithus and I used to do that all the time, I would be doing something and he would throw knives at me just to keep me on my toes. I was doing the same with you, that blade would have missed you if you had not caught it." 

Gabrielle shook her head. "Well warn me next time you decide to test me by throwing sharp objects my direction." 

Xena went and pulled the blade from the wall. "Now what good would that do. If you know an attack is coming you have no need to be ready for anything." 

Gabrielle put her bag down and sat down in a chair. "Boy this warrior stuff is hard." 

Xena messed the bards hair. "Well that's life, get used to it." 

Gabrielle knocked her hand away in mock anger. 

Xena snapped her fingers up. "Whoa, look out, mad bard." 

The two of them laughed together as Sithus entered the house. 

"I hope that laughter is not at my expense." 

Xena turned to him. "Oh no Sithus it was not at you." She turned back to Gabrielle and they laughed some more. 

Sithus only shook his head. "Well that's good I wouldn't want to have to beat up on the two of you." 

Gabrielle leaped from her chair and tackled Sithus from behind sending him tumbling out the door. Sithus never expected this from her but it showed that she was capable of making split decisions. 

Gabrielle tried to pull one of his arms behind him but he tossed her aside, as he rose Xena attacked as well knocking his legs from under him. As he landed he tripped Xena and sent her to the ground as well. 

The three looked at each other laying in the dirt and began to laugh themselves to tears. 

After cleaning up and eating the three readied their horses and headed down the road towards the land of the Amazons. Gabrielle had realized she had never asked Sithus how he knew the Amazons. "Sithus how did you ever get to know the Amazons?" 

Sithus turned in his saddle. "Who do you think taught them to use the staff?" 

Gabrielle's mouth dropped open. "You taught them?" Sithus tried to contain a laugh. "Well only one." Gabrielle got the joke as did Xena, he was talking about her. 

Sithus thought for a moment and began to tell another tale. "I was making my back home fourteen years ago when my horse spooked and threw me in the Amazon lands, I broke my leg and laid there for two days before an Amazon hunting party found me. Now they considered me an intruder on there lands but rather than kill me one of them decided to keep me." Sithus stopped for a moment as he remembered those days long ago. "I was allowed to live for a reason and stayed there for two years. After that I was allowed to leave and told I could never return unless I brought them a gift." 

Gabrielle listened intently to the tale with every intention of telling it again someday. "So what are you bringing them?" 

Sithus smiled slightly as he looked at her. "You." 

Gabrielle was confused. "Me?" Sithus shook his head. "It is not everyday that someone returns a Amazon princess to the tribe, I think that will be good enough." 

Xena looked at her friend and mockingly punched him in the arm. "What about me, I'm the queen remember." 

Sithus rubbed his arm. "Well yes you too I suppose." 

Xena smiled. "That's better." 

As night fell they made camp near a stream. Sithus removed a bundle from his pack and moved from camp. Gabrielle watched as he removed a tie from the bundle and rolled it out. Inside were a dozen knives with no handles. Sithus pulled each one out and set them in his left hand, he picked a large stump as a target and began throwing them. 

Gabrielle approached as Sithus removed the blades from the stump. "Are you always practicing?" 

Sithus pulled the last of the blades from the stump and handed it to her. "I always practice." 

They moved back and Sithus threw the blades again, as the last on left his hand Gabrielle drew back and threw the blade he had handed her, it stuck in the stump amongst his. 

Xena watched the two and thought of the days long ago when that was her standing by his side throwing knives. A large piece of her life was before her, Gabrielle and Sithus. 

As they slept Gabrielle had a vivid dream of her adventures with Xena. She saw Iolaus and Hercules from their quest to free Prometheus, she saw Talus and Death and then of going to Troy and meeting Helen and finding Perdicus there. The dream of Perdicus made her wake up. She sat up and could still see his smiling face in her mind. 

A form moved through the rising mist of the forest. Gabrielle snapped her head around as she caught the movement out of the corner of her eye. 

It seemed to glide from tree to tree. Gabrielle catching only glimpses of the form as it moved as if it were floating on air. Gabrielle looked to see her friends sleeping, she knew if there was trouble that they would awake. She grasped her staff and slipped quietly into the mist after the form. 

As she followed the form she was intent on catching it. She saw the form dart quickly behind a large twisted tree, she stopped and waited for the form to move from the other side but it did not. With an air of caution she crept forward staff at the ready. As she neared the tree and looked to the other side of it's twisted bulk the form moved behind her without a hint of sound. 

She sensed the movement to late as a hand grasped her around the mouth as another knocked the staff from her hand. She felt a hot breath on her neck. A hushed voice spoke. "Hi Gabby, what are you doing?" Gabrielle spun as the hand was removed. In front of her was a familiar yet changed face, Joxer. 

Joxer smiled at her as she picked her staff from the leaves. "Joxer what are you doing here?" 

Gabrielle hushed her words as she looked back towards camp. Joxer was not the same from what she had last remembered, the helmet gone along with the odd bits and pieces of his armor. A look of confidence on his face. "I was traveling south and saw your camp, I thought I would get in some stalking practice. I didn't know it was you and Xena." 

Gabrielle had thoughts of grabbing him by the nose but did not, she could see he had changed. "Joxer you should leave, you know how Xena gets when she does not get a good nights sleep." She again looked back towards camp. 

His word filled her ears as she turned but he was no where to be seen. "Fairwell dear Gabrielle." 

Gabrielle looked in all directions yet could not see where he had gone. A frightening thought ran through her mind, Joxer had snuck up on her. She was glad he did not have his families black heart as Sithus had said. 

As she moved through the flowing mist Gabrielle could hear in the distance the sound of Joxer moving through the forest. He had learned well from Sithus and she would never worry again when he showed up to help. 

Gabrielle moved back to the camp with stealth as to not wake her friends and quietly laid down with her staff at her side. 

As she lay on her bedroll next to the glowing embers of the dying fire she again had the face of Perdicus fill her mind. She drifted off into a peaceful sleep with thoughts of him in her head. 

Early the next morning Gabrielle opened her eyes and looked to see a bright blue sky before her. She rose and saw Xena and Sithus already awake and moving about. Gabrielle gathered her things and noticed the roll of throwing knives still laid open. She drew one and hefted the cold blade in her hand. 

From a crouched position she drew back her arm and let the blade fly towards a log near Sithus. As the knife thumped into the log next to Sithus he only glanced down at it. Xena watched the blade fly and looked at her friend with a gleam in her eye and drew a blade of her own and threw it at Sithus. With his back still turned he reached out and caught it. 

Sithus shot Xena a cold stare that gave Gabrielle a chill, he looked mad. He pulled the throwing blade from the log and walked to Xena. She stood before him with her stoic look unflinching, he handed over her blade and continued to look her in the eye. "You want something Xena?" 

Xena looked into his eyes and saw the same look she had seen so many years before after Lyceus was killed, the same cold look after she had told him it was her fault that Lyceus had died. Xena looked at the knife in her hand and she felt his hand lift her chin to face him. "I asked you if you wanted something?" 

She looked at his eyes once again looking for answers. "Yes there is, I want my rematch." Sithus moved away and tossed the throwing knife near the others and grabbed his sheathed sword and moved into the woods. Gabrielle watched him move away and watched as Xena followed him into the woods. She could tell that this was an event where her presence was not welcomed or wanted. 

Sithus walked a good distance and then turned to face his friend. "So what is it they say about the student beating the teacher?" 

Xena deftly drew her sword and spun it in her hand. "Something about realizing what you have done only after it is over with." 

Sithus sank to the ground with his head in his hands. Xena moved to his side. She knew what this was about, she had seen the pain in his eyes after they left the tomb of Lyceus "This is about Lyceus isn't it? I blame myself for his death as much as you do Sithus, we will share the pain together." Xena laid her sword on the ground and hugged her friend for what seemed an eternity. 

Gabrielle waited for the sound of swords clashing in the woods but it never came. She looked up as the two of them returned from the woods. 

"So who won? It must have been a quick fight because I never heard a thing" Sithus began rolling up his knives as Xena took Gabrielle to the side. "We didn't fight Gabrielle, we just talked." Gabrielle understood Xena's words and said nothing else. 

As they rode on towards the land of the Amazons little was said. Gabrielle could not stand the extreme silence that pushed her tongue to move. "I had a dream about Perdicus again Xena." 

Xena remembered the man who was Gabrielle's one and only love. "It is good to dream of those you love." Xena's thoughts turned to Marcus. "I also saw Joxer last night." 

Xena snapped her head around to look at Gabrielle. "Joxer! last night?" 

Gabrielle could tell that she was alarmed, for Joxer to get near and Xena not know it had put a slight hint of worry in her voice. "Yes last night. I woke up and saw something, it turned out to be Joxer." 

Sithus's attitude had changed from earlier in the day. He was amused by the slight crack in Xena's voice that he had heard, he knew that the thought of Joxer actually being able to get near camp without her knowing was more than she had expected. "Joxer is a sneaky fellow without all of his old armor isn't he Gabrielle? Did you know he had four different types of armor on? Quite a collection." 

Xena bowed her head when she heard of Joxer's ability to get so near the camp without her knowing. As she brought her head back to it's statuesque position she sighed relief knowing that Sithus had indeed trained Joxer well if he could get so close to camp undetected. "So how is it Joxer was able to get so close to camp Sithus?" 

Sithus pondered his answer for a moment. "The skill was there Xena, it was only a matter of bringing it to the surface and refining it. We all have talent inside of ourselves, it's just a matter of uncovering it and shaping it." 

Gabrielle though of an example of her own. "Like a sculptor knows there is a form in a rock, it only needs to have the unnecessary areas removed to bring out that which is hidden." 

Sithus marveled at Gabrielle's skill. "Yes exactly, Joxer had unnecessary things in his life and mind which hindered him from being what he is now." 

As the three neared the Amazon lands things seemed out of place, there was an air about the land that was wrong. There was a faint smell that both Sithus and Xena recognized, death. Entering the forest all three of them could sense the eyes watching them from the trees. 

Deeper into the forest they rode with out seeing a trace of the Amazons. It was unusual for anyone to move this far into Amazon territory without their presence being challenged. Without warning ropes dropped from the trees and eight Amazon warriors descended from above, they surrounded the trio. 

A lone Amazon stepped forward and removed her mask, it was Ephiny. "Gabrielle, Xena, how are you?" 

Gabrielle leapt from Thesis and into the arms of Ephiny and almost knocked her to the ground. As Gabrielle and Ephiny hugged Xena and Sithus climbed from their saddles. Ephiny knew Xena but this man with them she had never seen. She eyed him over Gabrielle's shoulder as the other Amazons kept their attention on him as well. 

Ephiny moved to Xena and shook her hand and nodded towards Sithus. "Who is this Xena?" 

Xena could hear the caution in her voice and knew she was concerned with his presence. "He is OK Ephiny, he is a friend." 

She turned to him. "Sithus this is Ephiny." As Sithus moved forward he saw the Amazons slightly recoil at the mention of his name. 

Ephiny moved toward Sithus. "We know that name, we are taught that if a man by that name ever comes to the Amazon lands he is to bring a gift. What have brought us?" 

Sithus motioned to Xena and Gabrielle. " I bring the Amazons their Princess and Queen." 

Ephiny looked at Gabrielle and Xena. "We shall see." 

As they moved toward the Amazon village Sithus was watched by all of the Amazon warriors, two in particular watched Sithus with vigor. They were both about the same height, one with brown hair that had a tint of blond to it and the other was a blond that had an air about her that said she was up to something. Maia and Anthea watched him carefully. Sithus could feel the two of them trying to stare right through his head but he did not turn to meet there glaring eyes. 

At the Amazon village Xena and Gabrielle were greeted by all, Sithus was not. As Melosa came forward to greet them Ephiny took her aside and whispered into her ear. A serious look washed over her face as Xena looked back at Sithus, what was his secret. 

Melosa shook the hands of Gabrielle and Xena and looked at Sithus. "I understand your name is Sithus. You will follow me." As Melosa headed for a hut Sithus followed. 

Xena was not concerned with his well being, she knew he could take care of himself. She did wonder what was going on. Gabrielle was worried about what was going on as she moved to Xena's side. "What's going on Xena?" 

Xena saw her concern for the well being of Sithus. "What ever it is we will have to wait and see." 

Xena and Gabrielle were treated as royalty, even if it was not by blood. They were still considered the Queen and Princess of the Amazons. Ephiny approached with her son in tow and Xena realized something. Other than small children there was not a centaur in sight. "Ephiny were are the centaurs? Has something happened?" 

Ephiny watched as Gabrielle played with her son. "Xena Krykus is back. He escaped and has come back for revenge. The Centaurs are guarding the southern border against his advance." Gabrielle ran about with the young Centaur and was amazed at his agility even at his young age. 

Gabrielle stopped as the approached Xena and Ephiny. "Ephiny what do you know of Sithus?" 

Ephiny looked at her son and then Gabrielle. "All I know is the name was taught to all Amazons starting about twelve years ago and that if ever a man called Sithus came into the Amazon lands he was to be bearing a gift." 

Gabrielle knew Ephiny was older then she was. "So do you remember him being here?" 

Ephiny shook her head as her son ran in circles around the three of them. "I may remember something but not much, it was quite some time ago. 

The young Centaur ran up to Xena and wrapped his arms around her leg. She looked down at him and jostled the boys hair. 

Sithus stood before Melosa as she moved about. She remembered this man from so long ago. "So as your gift to the Amazons is the returning of Gabrielle and Xena as Princess and Queen?" 

Sithus recognized Melosa from those years gone by as well. "Yes that is my gift." 

Melosa looked at him for some time and then went to a large ornate chest, she opened it and removed a small scroll. Stopping for a moment she then turned and handed it to him. "Celia died four years ago, she wrote this to you before she died." 

Melosa exited the hut and spread the word that Sithus was welcomed as he unrolled the scroll and began to read. 

The name of the Warlord Krykus ran through Xena's mind like a crashing storm. He had returned for revenge and again threatened the lives of the centaurs and the Amazons. Krykus was in for a surprise of his life, Xena knew that with the combined efforts of the Centaurs and Amazons and the tactics of hers and those of Sithus that he could be defeated once again. The only question was to what end, simply to defeat him was not enough. 

Xena looked to the hut as Sithus exited holding a scroll, he was upset she could tell. He dropped the scroll and walked into the woods, no Amazons followed. Xena went to where the scroll lay and read the words. "My dearest Sithus. Even as I leave this world you are still with me. Do not grieve with an empty heart for I am alive inside of your heart and in the lives of our daughters." Xena looked to her friend as he walked in the trees. He needed to be alone and she would let him be alone, for the time being. 

Gabrielle saw Sithus in the woods and started towards him, she heard Xena call her name. Gabrielle saw Xena and went to her as she watched Sithus. "Leave Sithus alone Gabrielle, he needs time to himself." 

Gabrielle looked at the scroll in Xena's hands. "Why? What's wrong?" 

Xena looked to Sithus who was now leaning against a tree and then to Gabrielle, she handed her the scroll. As Gabrielle read the words the story Sithus had told before made sense now. "Sithus is a father?" 

Xena continued to watch him as Gabrielle spoke, she did not answer. Gabrielle looked at Xena for the answer that did not come, she only saw the same pained look she remembered from when she told of having to leave her son behind with the centaurs. Gabrielle rerolled the scroll and walked away. 

Sithus sat by himself for quite sometime before noticing a young Amazon stalking her way behind him. She had no weapons and did not look to be dangerous so he let her alone. As she approached Sithus she picked a stick from the ground and held it like a dagger. Her hand rounded the tree in a mock move to slit the throat of Sithus. 

Sithus caught her arm as it neared him. "You should try and not make as much noise." Sithus pulled the young amazon around the tree as he stood, she was young, about thirteen or so. "What's your name?" She looked at him as he released her arm. "I am called Leto." Sithus nearly collapsed as the young Amazon ran into the village. He knew that name, it was the name of one of his daughters. 

Sithus walked back to the village and looked for Melosa, Xena stopped him. "Are you all right Sithus?" She saw a haunting look in his eyes, like he had seen a ghost. "Sithus are you OK?" 

Her words finally registered in his head. "Yes Xena I am fine, have you seen Melosa? I need to speak to her." 

Xena could tell he was distracted by something. "I saw her near the horses." Sithus pulled away from her and she followed. Xena had never seen him like this. 

Sithus saw Melosa talking to a Centaur, as they finished the Centaur moved out of the village at a gallop heading south. Melosa turned and saw Xena and Sithus approach. "Xena, Krykus is on the move with his army." 

Xena thought for a moment. "Is it possible to catch his army in the open? If we can catch him in the open we will have a better chance of defeating him." 

Melosa looked as Sithus seemed to be looking for someone. "Yes if we move in the next two hours we can keep his army out of the woods." 

Xena looked at Sithus who still seemed distracted by something. "Sithus I'll find Gabrielle and we can get going." Sithus only nodded as she moved away. 

Sithus finally saw the Amazon Leto and turned to Melosa. "That girl there, is she Celia's?" Melosa looked to where he was pointing. "Yes Sithus that is Celia's daughter, she is a good stalker. We call her Snoop because she is always snooping around. She will be a fine Amazon." 

Gabrielle was talking with Ephiny as Xena ran up. "Gabrielle get your things, Krykus is on the move." 

Gabrielle went to where her staff lay as Ephiny sent her son away. Melosa came up behind Xena. "Xena before we go to battle there is one thing I want." 

Xena slowly turned to Melosa, she did not like her tone of voice. "What do you want?" 

Melosa stepped back. "I want to lead the amazons into battle as Queen, therefore I demand the Royal Challenge." 

Xena said nothing, she moved to the center of the village and spoke in a loud voice. "Melosa has challenged me, all Amazons will come forth as witnesses." 

A ring of Amazons slowly formed as Sithus finally made his way back from checking on Lika. Gabrielle watched as Xena and Melosa prepared to fight. "So choose your weapon Melosa." 

Melosa smiled. "No weapons." 

Sithus saw the ring of Amazons with Xena and Melosa in the center. "Gabrielle what is going on?" 

Gabrielle turned to Sithus with a smile. "Melosa challenged Xena." Sithus watched as Xena and Melosa squared off. 

The two warriors circled each other looking for an opening. Melosa fainted a move to her right but Xena did not fall for the false move, she only continued to circle with Melosa with a big smile on her face. 

Melosa finally did move on Xena. Kicking at her side Xena blocked and drove her fingers into her leg. Melosa collapsed to the ground as her leg went numb. "This is a waste of time Melosa." 

As the two had been maneuvering Gabrielle had not noticed the two Amazons on each side of her. As Melosa fell Anthea and Maia looked at each other and made there move to help Melosa. Gabrielle saw the two head for her friend and did the first thing she could think of. 

Grabbing a handful of blond and brown hair she pulled the two of them backwards. Gabrielle spun Maia back towards Sithus. "Hold on to that one Sithus, I will deal with her later." She turned to face Anthea who had now drawn her sword, Melosa and Xena turned as the two squared off. 

Anthea stared at Gabrielle, she knew the story of this girl an her rise to be a Princess. "You are not an Amazon by birth and you were never trained as an Amazon, it will be my pleasure to kill you." 

Gabrielle held her staff at the ready. "Your right, my title is not by blood but my training is as good as yours." 

Anthea laughed. "Your training is no match for mine little girl." 

Anthea charged Gabrielle with every intention of making it a quick kill. Maia looked at the man who held her arms fast, she attempted to loosen his grip to no avail. Maia moved to break his grip once again an Sithus pinched her arm in the right spot to make her legs grow weak. "Relax Amazon you will get your turn." 

Anthea's charge was meet by Gabrielle's staff, blocking the blow and moving from her path. Anthea turned to face her once again. "Oh that was good little one." Anthea moved closer. Gabrielle thought to days long ago when she hoped Xena would come to her aid against such a strong opponent, but not now. 

Xena looked at Melosa. "We need to be fighting Krykus Melosa, not each other." 

Melosa nodded. "I submit Xena, Queen of the Amazons." Xena smiled and pinched the right point to let the feeling come back to her legs. 

Anthea made her best move on Gabrielle but was met by the sting of a staff to her legs. Before Anthea could rise from the ground Gabrielle snapped her staff around with the point at her throat. "Do you yield?" 

Anthea looked at Gabrielle and saw not a girl but a formidable opponent who she knew was better than her. 

Anthea tossed her sword from her hand. "I yield." 

As Anthea got up Gabrielle looked toward Sithus. "OK Sithus let her go." Sithus pushed the pressure point that returned the feeling to Maia's legs. 

As she regained feeling she turned and snarled at Sithus. "When I am done with her I am coming for you." Sithus looked at her with a blank expression. "I'll be right here." 

As Maia retrieved her staff Sithus put his hand out behind him and caught a small head. He turned to face Leto. "Hello, Snoop is it? Nice try." He removed his hand from her forehead, she smiled at him and then ran. 

Maia was better at fighting than Anthea, she trained every day for hours with her staff. Maia looked to the girl who had just defeated her friend. "You may have beaten Anthea but not me." 

Maia swung her staff and Gabrielle blocked the blow. "You under estimate your opponent, I am not an Amazon but I am as good as any Amazon with a staff." 

Maia was infuriated. Gabrielle backed away from Maia as she fumed at her words. "I will beat you and make you regret that you ever came back." 

Gabrielle only smiled as she circled her opponent. The smug look of Gabrielle made Maia's blood boil, this little girl before her was going to pay for her behavior and then that man would as well. Maia charged at Gabrielle. 

Maia began throwing blow after blow at Gabrielle but to no avail, Gabrielle blocked each one of them and then began to push the attack back onto Maia. Maia swung her staff towards Gabrielle's side and the attack was blocked, she attacked her legs as Gabrielle rolled out of the way. Each attack that Maia tried was defeated, this continued to infuriate Maia even further. 

Gabrielle deflected another attack and jammed her staff into Maia's midsection, knocking the wind from her body. Gabrielle backed off. "You don't have to continue. Just apologize to me and that will be the end of it." 

Maia glared at Gabrielle. "Never." 

Maia charged and attacked with her best move. She set her staff in motion to strike Gabrielle in the head. Gabrielle ducked low and kicked Maia's legs out from under her. Swiftly drawing the blade from the sheath at her back Gabrielle held the blade to Maia's throat. 

Xena gasped as she saw the blade leave the sheath, was Gabrielle going to kill her. Xena moved toward Gabrielle and Melosa stopped her. "It is her right as Princess to kill Maia if she so chooses, don't stop her Xena." Xena looked at Melosa and then Gabrielle as the blade neared the Amazons throat. 

"That was an interesting move, I'll have to remember it. Do you give up or would you like to continue?" Maia stared at the girl who had just beaten her, she let her staff fall from her hand. "I yield Princess." 

Gabrielle stood and offered her hand, Maia just laid there. "Well fine stay in the dirt if you like." 

Gabrielle turned to Xena. "I thought for a moment there you were going to kill her Gabrielle." 

Gabrielle placed her knife back in it's place. "Kill! Her! Ha, that's funny Xena." 

Sithus walked to where Maia still lay on the ground. "You still want to fight me? I warn you I am better at staff fighting than Gabrielle." Sithus extended his hand. Maia looked at him and then took it. Rising from the dirt 

Maia began dusting herself off. " So why is it that you are better at staff fighting than the Princess?" 

Sithus smiled a wicked grin. "Because I taught her." 

As Maia walked away with Anthea, Sithus again stuck his hand out behind him and caught a small head. As he turned he again saw the same smiling face of the one nicknamed Snoop. "Nice try again little one, maybe next time." 

Sithus stopped in mid-sentence when he saw that she had the dagger he had taken from one of Draco's men in her hand. Sithus smiled at the daughter of Celia. "OK maybe you are getting better, can I have that back." Leto handed him the blade and ran back into the trees surrounding the village. 

Xena had seen the girl twice approach Sithus from behind, she had seen her sneaking all over the village. "Sithus I see you have made a friend. She is a sneaky Amazon isn't she." 

Sithus looked at the blade in his hand and then to Xena. "Well you know what they say, like father like daughter." 

Xena watched as a large smile grew on his face. "So she is one of your daughters. Why didn't you tell me before about this?" 

A Centaur came into the village at a gallop and was greeted by Melosa. As Xena and Sithus turned the Centaur turned back in the directions from which he had come and left. Sithus looked at Xena as Melosa approached. "It was never important Xena and it isn't now. They will never acknowledge a man as there father so why start now. It was nice to see her." 

Melosa rushed up to the two. "If we move now Krykus will be caught in the open with his army." 

Sithus turned to get Lika. "Well lets go Xena it's time for a fight." 

As Sithus untied Lika he again saw Leto sneaking about, only now she had another young Amazon following behind her. Sithus smiled as he recognized the platinum blond hair of his other daughter Dianara. "Teach her well my little snoop." 

The Amazons marched through the woods with Melosa, Xena and Gabrielle leading. Sithus rode off to the side farther to the back. As they passed through the expanse of trees sounds of an army could be heard in the distance. Xena looked to Melosa and the two agreed with each other without saying a word, the column picked up the pace. 

As they neared the clearing Xena stopped Argo and turned. With a motion or her arm she sent two halves of the column of Amazon warriors to the east and west. Sithus stayed with the three as the rode ahead. 

As they cleared the trees and approached the Centaur line of defense they could see the hundreds of men that Krykus had gathered for his attack. Lines of archers stretched across the field. Tyldus approached the three as they neared. "Xena it is good to see you again. Sorry I did not come to greet you but I have been busy. Where are the rest of the Amazons?" 

Xena smiled. "Oh, half of them are moving on Krykus's right flank and the other half on his left flank." Tyldus smiled at her words, Krykus would not expect a flanking maneuver from them. 

As they waited and watched for the Amazon signal that they were in place a lone figure on a horse suddenly bolted from the woods and headed straight for the army. Xena thought she recognized the figure, it was not the same but it was him. "Sithus, that is Joxer!" 

Sithus and Gabrielle rose in their stirrups to better see the riding form that approached the army. Sithus could only smile. Gabrielle did not have the confidence that Sithus had. "He's going to get himself killed, we have to stop him!" 

Sithus looked at the worry that furrowed her brow. "If he dies at the hand of a fierce Warlord in the heat of battle than he will die happy, but don't give up on him that easily." 

Joxer rode toward the army of Krykus at full gallop with confidence. He was not afraid of the army before him or the their leader. As he approached Krykus only thought him to be one of his scouts. He turned to his lieutenant's. "Be ready to move on my command." 

As Joxer pulled his horse to a stop behind Krykus he realized that he had no scouts out. Turning he saw a young man with a goofy grin on his face. "Who are you and what do you want." 

Joxer sat proud in his saddle. "I, am Joxer the Magnificent. I am giving you this opportunity to leave this field of battle with your life." Krykus could not believe the insolence of the man and began to laugh. Joxer only shook his head. "You know it's that kind of attitude that gets guys like you killed." 

Krykus stopped laughing. "What are you talking about." 

Joxer smirked. "Hello, evil Warlord, you are only surrounded on three sides! the Centaurs control the high ground and you have Amazons on your flanks. They are going to wipe your army off this field in no time." 

Krykus could no longer stand this fool before him. "I don't believe you. I'm going to kill you and then wipe them from this field." 

Joxer backed his horse a bit and pointed up the hill. "Do you know who is up there with the Centaurs? Xena." 

Krykus looked up and saw riders on horseback but could not make her out. "You lie little man, I'm going to kill you for all the time you have wasted." Krykus climbed from his horse. 

Joxer backed his horse a bit farther and climbed off. "Well OK if you want to try." 

The three watched as Krykus faced off with Joxer. "I hope he remembers everything you taught him Sithus. 

Sithus moved to a better position so that he could see the confrontation unfold before him. "Well you did, didn't you. Relax Xena he will be fine." 

Krykus drew his sword and approached this thorn in his side. Joxer just stood there sword in hand waiting. "Hey isn't there some rule that if I beat you I get your army?" 

Krykus stopped dead in his tracks and thought for a moment. "Yes that is how it works." 

Joxer nodded "You know I always wanted my own army." 

At those words Krykus charged Joxer. Joxer ducked the swing at his head and turned to face Krykus. "You know all that running will just tire you out." Krykus lunged at Joxer who knocked his sword aside. "No, no your doing it wrong, you need to attack like this." Joxer moved to Krykus's left and attacked. 

Xena watched as Joxer dodged the attacks by Krykus as Sithus laughed. "Sithus what is so funny?" 

Sithus looked at Xena and Gabrielle. "You know there is one thing Joxer was good at and that was talking, I think that's what he is doing to Krykus. He's talking to him." 

Joxer's attacks were weak at best, his only intention was to infuriate Krykus further. Krykus moved again to remove this pain from his sight but again was met by verbal jabs. "Now see you did it again, you need to keep me in front of you." Krykus finally came toe to toe with Joxer. Krykus swung with the intention of cutting him in two and Joxer moved to the left. Krykus tried again and Joxer moved to the right. 

Now Krykus was to the breaking point and lost all control as he swung his blade once again Joxer spun around to his left blocking the blow. As he continued in a complete circle his sword met the flesh of Krykus's belly. 

As Krykus fell in a heap at his feet Joxer smiled. "You see, you loose your cool and what happens." 

Joxer pulled his boot from under the body and moved to his horse, as he did the former lieutenants walked up to Joxer. "We will now follow you, what are your commands." 

Joxer twisted his face while thinking. "Well my first command will be for you two to bury that body and then you can all go home." 

The two lieutenants stared at their new leader. "You want us to leave sir?" 

Joxer climbed into his saddle and wheeled his horse around. "Do I need to repeat myself! Yes you all can leave, I have no use for an army." Joxer headed up the hill towards his friend as the two turned to order the army to go home. 

The three watched as Joxer rode up the hill towards them. Both Xena and Gabrielle were stunned at what Joxer had just done. Sithus could only smile. As he neared the three got off there horses to greet him. Xena could now see that Joxer had changed. His armor mostly gone and a confident look on his face that made him look different. 

Joxer halted his horse at the top of the hill an dismounted to greet his friends. "Xena, Gabrielle, how are you." 

Xena hugged Joxer as did Gabrielle. "Hey Sithus your here too! What a surprise. Are you checking up on me?" 

Sithus shook his hand. " No Joxer I'm not checking up on you. We are all traveling together." 

Xena could still not get over how different Joxer was from before. "So Joxer where are you and your army off to know?" 

The serious tone of her voice was evident to all, especially Joxer. "Whoa wait a minute Xena, I sent them all home. I have no need for an army. My only need is to see justice done." 

Xena smiled at his words. "Well that's good, I didn't want to have to kill you." 

Gabrielle grabbed Joxer by the collar. " I owe you one for sneaking up on me the other night Joxer." Gabrielle grabbed his nose playfully and then hugged him. "You stay out of trouble." 

Joxer returned the hug as he turned to get his horse. "Xena you will have to teach me pressure points sometime, Sithus says you are a good teacher." 

Xena shot a look at Sithus who shrugged his shoulders. "Well you are Xena." 

Gabrielle elbowed her friend. "Hey I want to learn those as well." 

Xena shook her head and threw her hands into the air. "Fine, fine I will teach the two of you sometime." 

Joxer astride his horse turned to leave. " That would be great Xena. Well I'm off to right wrongs and take justice to the guilty. Good Bye Friends." Joxer's horse reared up and Joxer waved good bye before tearing down the hill at a gallop. 

Xena put her hand on Sithus's shoulder as they headed back for the Amazon village. "So where are you off to now Sithus?" 

Sithus put his arm around her. "I need to get home and work with Malus and a few others. How about you. Where are you and Gabrielle going?" 

na looked to Gabrielle who waited for her answer. "Well I hear there is trouble not far from here with a band of thieves. Thought we might go see if we can change their ways." 

As the neared the village the three stopped. "Xena, Gabrielle you two take care of yourselves and come back and see me once in a while will you?" 

Gabrielle hugged him. "We will Sithus and thank you for teaching me." 

Sithus kissed her on the forehead. "It was my pleasure Gabrielle." 

Gabrielle went to the village to say good bye to Ephiny as Xena approached him. "Well this is good bye for a while Sithus." 

Xena moved closer still. "You still owe me that rematch." The two kissed. 

"You will get it Xena, just don't wait as many years as you did to come see me again." 

As they parted ways Gabrielle looked back and nudged Xena. Sithus had two young Amazons in tow. "Those are his daughters Gabrielle." 

She watched as they moved from the path to the trees every time he looked back. "Do you think they will ever know he is there father?" 

Xena watched as he finally caught sight of them. "You never know Gabrielle, times and people change." 

The End

I would like to thank Snoopmeff and Cigar4Me from UTV for giving me the idea of letting them be part of this story. Cigar4Me was Anthea and Snoopmeff's inspiration was Maia and Snoop. Thank you ladies. 

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