The Furies

Xena loses her mind.In the temple of the Furies, the goddesses in question dance provocatively for Ares, who watches with detached interest. After a while, he loses patience, and reminds Alecto, the head of the Furies, that he's there for business, not pleasure. Prior to the dancing, apparently, the God of War made what he thought was an "excellent case" against Xena, and now demands a judgement. So, Alecto polls her two sisters, and all three give a thumbs-down, judging Xena to be guilty of all charges. As they try to decide how best to punish her — persecution or madness — Ares suggests they use both. Though it's apparently unusual to use both, Alecto agrees, decreeing Xena's sentence to the gods of Olympus as Ares opines with a smile, "Cool!" Meanwhile, Gabrielle talks Xena into making a friendly wager, before racing her on foot. Despite a three-stride lead (and taking off before the word "Go!"), Gabrielle manages to lose when Xena simply flips over the blonde's head and lands in front of her. Just then, some thugs appear to collect a bounty on Xena's head. Xena and Gabrielle fend them off, while back in the temple of the Furies, Alecto curses Xena with madness. Xena stops what she's doing for a moment, before tossing aside her sword and fighting the thugs a lá Three Stooges. Afterwards, she picks her sword back up, and remarks, "I love the smell of warrior sweat in the morning."

Xena begins exhibiting strange behavior, like spinning her chakram around on her finger (a lá Harlem Globetrotters) and calling Gabrielle 'Mavis'. Noticing this, Gabrielle expresses some concern, but then dismisses it in favor of getting Xena to interrogate the leader of the thugs. Xena puts the pinch on him, but then asks him how old he was when he lost his virginity. Taking over the interrogation, Gabrielle asks who put the bounty on Xena's head, and the thug tells them it was a priest of the Furies. After taking the pinch off, Xena leaves to get something to eat, apparently unconcerned about the Furies. However, Gabrielle points out that Xena isn't thinking clearly, and that the Furies are obviously punishing Xena for something. After some convincing, Xena agrees to visit the temple of the Furies to find out what's going on. That night, as Xena and Gabrielle camp out, Gabrielle expresses some more concern for Xena's sanity, while the Warrior Princess uncharacteristically adorns her hair with daisies. Gabrielle finally gives up trying to talk to her friend and decides to go to sleep, but then, wakes up a little while later to find Xena gone and all her armor and leather left behind. When Gabrielle finds Xena again, she's naked and scaring a village full of women and children with talk of "delivering the wrath of justice" by fire. Wrapping a blanket around her friend, Gabrielle manages to talk some sense into Xena, and that's when Xena sadly realizes that something's wrong with her. The next day, Xena and Gabrielle arrive at the temple of the Furies, and learn from the priest that Xena's being punished for failing to avenge the murder of a family member. Xena insists she's avenged her brother's murder, and that's when the priest informs her that he's referring to her father.

Distraught, Xena runs from the temple into some nearby woods, and begins to suffer hallucinations, including seeing Bacchus in a tree and a bird turn into a dryad. She also thinks she sees Callisto, and starts attacking her, but it turns out to be Gabrielle, who's very concerned for her friend, especially when Xena appears to be babbling incoherently. Eventually, Xena becomes lucid enough to tie Gabrielle loosely to a tree while ranting about humans being "dirty little beetles" who the gods would kill for sport. Xena apologizes, explaining she's not to be trusted, then leaves Gabrielle there. As Gabrielle easily gets free and follows after her, Xena comes across the thugs from earlier, and upon seeing how vulnerable she is, they try to attack her again. However, she easily defeats them by spinning in a circle, fists out, then continues on her way. She eventually comes to Amphipolis, and seeks out her mother's tavern, where she collapses into Cyrene's arms. When Gabrielle finally catches up to Xena, she finds her unconscious and Cyrene dabbing Xena's forehead with a washcloth. Cyrene was able to deduce that Xena's being punished by the Furies, and informs Gabrielle that she's been dreading this day ever since she heard about Orestes, who was also punished by the Furies for not avenging his father's murder. Cyrene asks if Gabrielle thinks Xena could ever kill her mother, even in Xena's current state, and reluctantly admits that she's the one who killed Xena's father.

As Xena sits up, now conscious but catatonic, Cyrene explains the circumstances of Atrius's death. One night, when Xena was about seven, Atrius came home from the temple of Ares, drunk and angry, saying Xena had to die. Cyrene assumed it was because the priest had told him to sacrifice Xena to the God of War, but either way, she wasn't about to let him kill their daughter. As Atrius went to sharpen a knife in the stables, Cyrene took an axe and killed him. As Cyrene finishes her story, Gabrielle realizes that Xena's situation mirrors that of Orestes, and leaves to seek him out, hoping to find a way out for Xena. Once Gabrielle's gone, Xena breaks out of her catatonia, and accuses Cyrene of putting her in "something of a jam". She points out that she can either kill Cyrene, thereby avenging her father's murder and appeasing the Furies, or she can go the rest of her life "shuffling between babbling idiocy and vivid clarity." She then calls life a barroom joke, with the punchline being that no matter what we humans do, we still end up as worm food. So, rather than letting Cyrene off easy by killing her, Xena decides to kill herself instead, and leaves to do just that. Later, as Xena stands on a cliff, preparing to commit suicide, she's visited by Ares, who eavesdropped on her and her mother and speechifies that Xena was right about life. According to him, life is "a very nasty joke" for those who simply endure it, but "for those who form it with their will, the joke is on those who get in the way." He also says that it's common for a "jealous" man to punish his wife by trying to hurt their child, and that once Xena kills her mother, the Warrior Princess will be "reborn into a world of true choice". Feeling Ares is starting to make sense, Xena agrees to kill her mother, but only if she can do it in front of the Furies. Ares agrees to arrange it, and so Xena returns to Cyrene's tavern to retrieve her mother. First, though, she asks her mother about the night she was conceived. Reluctantly, Cyrene admits that Atrius was away at war, when he suddenly returned home and they conceived Xena. Meanwhile, Gabrielle tracks down Orestes to an insane asylum, and assumes that he chose not to avenge his father's murder. However, she learns from someone who works there that Orestes did indeed avenge his father, only to be punished by the Furies for killing his mother. Realizing there's no way out for Xena, Gabrielle quickly leaves to warn her. In the meantime, Ares finishes chaining Cyrene to an altar in the temple of the Furies, before summoning the trio to witness "this act of redemption." Ares hands his sword to Xena, who raises it over Cyrene, preparing to strike.

As Xena prepares to kill her mother, Gabrielle bursts in, warning that it won't do any good, before being silenced by Ares. Xena prepares once again to kill Cyrene, but seemingly forgets why she's doing it. Ares reminds her that she's trying to avenge her father's murder at the hands of Cyrene, but she counters that her father is very much alive and accuses Ares of being her father. After some prompting from Xena, Gabrielle does "the bard thing" and explains to the Furies that Ares is known to sometimes take the form of his warriors and visit their wives while they're away at war. Then, Cyrene confirms for the Furies that the night Xena was conceived, Atrius did indeed come home unexpectedly from war. Xena then brings up Ares's use of the word 'jealous' when describing Atrius earlier, and he explains that he meant Atrius was jealous of the attention Cyrene showed their daughter, but Xena has another theory: According to Xena, Ares impersonated Atrius and impregnated Cyrene, then Atrius came home while Cyrene was "ripe" with Xena and just assumed he was the father. Xena theorizes that years later, one of Ares's priests got drunk and told, or maybe even Ares himself told, and Atrius came home in a jealous rage. Still a bit skeptical, Alecto questions why Ares would go to all the trouble of driving Xena insane, and she replies that it was so she'd be more sympathetic to his worldview and also so he could have her completely dependent upon him. Xena even comes up with a way to prove Ares is her father: she challenges Ares to a fight, pointing out that if she is half-god, she should be able to hold her own. Reluctantly, Ares accepts, and they fight. Xena wins, of course, and the Furies reverse her madness while Gabrielle frees Cyrene. Alecto threatens to report Ares to Zeus, before leaving with her sisters, presumably to head to Olympus. Ares, however, is unconcerned. He asks if Xena really thinks he's her father, and she answers that it doesn't matter what she thinks, only that the Furies think so. Later, Cyrene starts to bring up Xena's father, and Gabrielle leaves to give mother and daughter a moment alone. Xena admits that she kept hoping she'd run into her father somewhere, and that the hardest part of her ordeal was having to give up that hope. Cyrene apologizes for taking Xena's father away from her, but Xena says there's nothing to forgive and thanks her for saving her life. She adds that she's only sorry her mother has had to carry that secret alone all this time, and they hug as Xena assures Cyrene that they'll go on and "be stronger than before".

Free Sward MySpace Cursors at