If You Cannot Have Xena, Make Your Own!
Ares doesn't seem to mind it's Callisto in Xena's body -- as long as it's Xena's body.
 The next encounter between the two demonstrates a new tactic entirely, and is one that suggests that Ares has given up on Xena. It is one that involves her mortal enemy, Callisto. By now, tragedy has struck Gabrielle at the hands of the psychopathic Callisto. 'Born' out of the sacking and burning of her village, Cirra, by the old Xena's army, and driven out of her mind by a lust for revenge, Callisto has two encounters with Xena and Gabrielle [CALLISTO (22/122) and RETURN OF CALLISTO (29/205)]. In the second, she kills the newly married Gabrielle's husband and, as a result, is killed by Xena, who stands by and lets her sink in to a pool of quicksand. It is thus that Callisto ends up in Tartarus, and it is here that she meets Ares [INTIMATE STRANGER (31/207)].
 Xena is not having a very good time of it and is being plagued by nightmares of both Callisto and of Ares. In one, she sees her 'mother,' Cyrene, asking her to come home, then the figure changes into Ares. In another, we see Ares taunting her, telling her that she is the old Xena again because she 'murdered' Callisto by standing by and watching her go under the quick sand. Callisto also appears, begging Xena to save her, but Ares makes her draw her sword and plunge it into Callisto's chest. Even 'Gabrielle' gets in on the act saying that if Hercules had treated her the way she had treated Callisto, then she (meaning Xena) would be dead by now.
 While tracking down Callisto's lieutenant, Theodorus, and his army, Xena sees an image of Callisto that beckons to her to come forth. She does so, and Xena finds herself in a dream-like Tartarus with both Callisto and Ares. Ares explains that he had never really noticed Callisto until Xena had killed her and he was still looking for a warrior who could bring peace and order to the world. Xena assumes it is her, but clearly, as Ares explains, she is wrong, and he is now putting his money on Callisto.
 Ares and his new "warrior" obtain a 'confession' out of Xena that she murdered Callisto. This guilt is sufficient to transport Callisto back into the world, and trap Xena in Tartarus. One problem for Xena however, is that her body gets transported back with Callisto and thus she finds herself trapped in Callisto's body in Tartarus.
 Now begins a deception by Callisto, which will eventually result in her betraying Ares. This time, it is the deceiver who is about to be deceived. Ares considers that his new 'champion' will follow their plan through, but Callisto has a hidden agenda -- that of revenge. She intends to kill all the inhabitants of Amphipolis, Xena's home village, including Xena's mother, and burn it to the ground. This is her "payback" for what the 'Evil Xena's' army did to her home village, Cirra.
 Callisto, as Xena, and the fooled Gabrielle strike out for Amphipolis. Meanwhile, Xena attempts to convince Hades that his nephew, Ares, is up to no good. By telling him only something she would know about the relationship with her now-dead lover, Marcus, she persuades him to let her leave Tartarus in Callisto's body. She then sets out after Callisto and the unsuspecting Gabrielle. There is one proviso in this arrangement, however: Hades gives her 24 hours, after which time she will be returned to Tartarus forever if she is unsuccessful.
 This is now a Callisto at her worst. In Xena's body, she persuades Gabrielle that 'Callisto' (that is Xena) has escaped from Tartarus, and that 'she' is after Cyrene and that Gabrielle must kill her. She also severely wounds Argo, Xena's warhorse, to taunt Xena when she finds the horse. Callisto, as Xena, also teaches Gabrielle to kill with her staff.
 Xena, as Callisto, eventually catches up with Callisto, as Xena, and the two join combat. Xena, as Callisto, has Callisto, as Xena, floored, when Gabrielle turns up. Gabrielle is about to kill Xena because she thinks she is Callisto, but she is persuaded that the two have exchanged bodies, when Xena, as Callisto, tells Gabrielle something that only Xena could have known: Gabrielle had not dreamed since the death of Perdicus.
 Callisto flees, and finds her old army, being led by Theodorus. He thinks that she is Xena and orders all weapons thrown down as Xena's code of honor does not permit her to kill in cold blood. Unfortunately, Callisto's code does and as he turns his back on who he thinks is Xena, she cuts his throat. Now, again in control, the deception that she is Xena continues. She orders that all the Amphipolians be rounded up and brought to the cave where her army is encamped.
 Ares realizes that he has been tricked, deceived and used by Callisto for the purposes of her revenge. He appears to her and a brief discussion ensues. He shows his dislike of what she is doing but she retorts, "no one, god or man, forbids me to do anything." He returns, "this was not my plan," to which she counters, "funny, it was always mine - I guess I used you." Ares leaves and his last comment to Callisto is, "You're on your own now."
 It is now up to Xena, Gabrielle and a tag-along Joxer. Callisto's army is about to put the villagers to the fire, when the three start throwing oil over the soldiers, which makes them put out the flaming torches they are carrying quite rapidly.
 Xena confronts Callisto, who is now deserted by Ares, but before they can fight, Xena (as Callisto) is called back to Tartarus by Hades. As she disappears, she puts Callisto to sleep with a well-aimed dart to the neck. This is now a reverse of the start of the story, with Callisto being summoned to a dream-like Tartarus to be confronted by her own guilt, which she at first denies. However, seeing her dead mother again, (who tells her what she has done is wrong) and some of her victims, she also confesses.
 This is a case of 'the biter bit' and it is enough to propel Xena back to the real world, leaving Callisto where she started, in Tartarus. Unfortunately, Xena is still in Callisto's body.
 This is really a Xena/Callisto story, but with a sub-plot of Ares backing the 'wrong horse' and being fooled by Callisto and she, in turn, by Xena -- the result being that both Ares and Callisto lose. Having little success with returning Xena to her old ways, Ares attempts to force his plans through with Callisto, who really was not the best of choices under the circumstances. We see here again the fallibility of Ares. For a god, he is far from perfect and he is once again manipulated by a mortal, this time by the psychopath, Callisto.
Xena, in Callisto's body, plays nurse for the temporarily mortal Ares in TEN LITTLE WARLORDS.
 In the episode TEN LITTLE WARLORDS (32/208), as if life isn't bad enough for Ares already, it gets worse! Following on the heels of the encounter with Callisto, Xena is still trapped in Callisto's body. While traveling, Xena and Gabrielle encounter Joxer. He has a message for Xena, which is that Ares has summoned ten of the most powerful warlords by way of an invitation.
 Xena and Gabrielle walk on to a village, and they come upon two warlords who are sworn enemies. Expecting them to battle, both the girls are amused to see them greet each other as old friends. Xena breaks off from Gabrielle to look around, and it is now that Gabrielle, totally out of character, gets into a fight and appears to be enjoying it. Not only this, the whole village appears to join in.
 Xena pulls Gabrielle away, and they come upon a disheveled traveler. Not recognizing him at first, Xena eventually realizes that it is Ares. He is in a poor state, drunk and mortal. He explains to the two that someone has stolen his godhood while he was dealing with Callisto. The godhood is his sword, and without it, he will remain mortal and be exiled from Olympus. He also explains that this is why Xena did not get her own body back when she vanquished Callisto in Tartarus. [Editor's note: Of course, the other "reason" was that actor Lucy Lawless had fallen off a horse and broken her pelvis.]
 Gabrielle is still enjoying 'mixing it' with the villagers and breaking a few heads, as Ares tells Xena that without a god of war, this is what the world has to look forward to: total chaos. As a result, Xena agrees to help him recover his godhood. Gabrielle is getting more and more belligerent, and turns on Xena when she is told that Xena has agreed to help Ares. Xena orders her to stay behind.
 Here, Ares is totally powerless and completely reliant upon Xena for help. Ironically, as a mortal, he has what he has always wanted: Xena on his side. As the god of war, the 'new' Xena would have nothing to do with him and nothing to do with what he stood for. Now, however, it is a different matter. Seeing the change in Gabrielle and the villagers, Xena recognizes that Ares is needed as his old self. She agrees to help him regain the equilibrium, but no more. Once he is again a god, she will leave him to his own devices. Ares says that being mortal has changed him and he can change. She, quite justifiably, takes that with a 'pinch of salt,' recognizing that he will return to his old ways once he regains his godhood.
 Xena has an invitation as Callisto, but Ares does not. That is soon rectified when one of the warlords gives up his invitation from 'Ares' after a little persuasion. Xena and the real Ares board a ship with the other warlords for travel to the meeting. All the warlords think that Xena is Callisto and she goes along with the deception as a cover for her real mission.
 The pair arrive at an island with the warlords, and are confronted by King Sisyphus. Sisyphus was previously condemned to Tartarus, his punishment being to roll a rock up a hill for eternity. He explains that he escaped, and stole Ares' sword while Ares was not looking. He also says that he struck a deal with Hades in that for finding a new god of war, he would be released from his eternal task and be made immortal. One small test was needed though to find the new god. There was a monster outside the castle and whoever killed it, would be Ares' successor. As you can imagine, Ares is not very pleased that his uncle Hades had made such a deal with Sisyphus.
 Although Sisyphus recognizes Ares and reveals him, both Ares and Xena go along with the plan and draw lots to see who fights the monster. Xena draws the first slot. As was the plan, the warlords start to fight amongst themselves to move up the list and during this period, Sisyphus attempts to kill the still mortal Ares, but Xena saves him. Xena searches for the sword as, eventually, all the warlords are killed off, with Ares and Xena dispatching the last. She has found Ares' sword by now and Sisyphus, seeing his plan in ruins, suggests that she should be the new goddess of war. It is a forlorn hope and she hands the sword back to Ares.
 Ares is immediately transformed back into his godly bearing and Sisyphus is returned to Tartarus. Ares also disappears, leaving Xena still in Callisto's body. Gabrielle has caught up with Xena by now, with the tag-along Joxer. Before his departure, Gabrielle reminded Ares of his promise to return Xena to her own body. He does not...immediately.
 It seems that he needed to remind Xena who, of the two, had the most power. Ironically, Ares was a god with an inferiority complex. It was Xena who helped him regain his godhood, but now he had it back, he had to show that he, of the two, was the more powerful.
 Xena seems resigned to the fact that she will be left in Callisto's body, but for Gabrielle, seeing Xena in the appearance of the one who had killed her husband was nearly too much. It seems that Ares is of the opinion that the lesson is learned (or it could have been that he was just playing with her?) for he suddenly returns her real body to her, much to the relief of her young friend!
The Decline of Ares These two second season episodes in the Xena and Ares saga show a god not only not in control of the destiny of mortals, but not in control of his own destiny, either. He is shown to be flawed. His desperation to see his plan -- world domination -- come to fruition is thwarted by Callisto when she dupes him into believing that she will work with him for the success of his dream. When she betrays him in such a major way, his disgust, not only with her, but also with himself for being tricked, means that he leaves her to her own devices. It is up to Xena to save the day.
 It is also up to Xena as well to save Ares from his mortal fate. We see him as pathetic, weak-willed and weak-spirited, as he cannot save himself. On losing his godhood, he becomes a wretch of a human being, a drunkard and a layabout, wallowing in his own self pity. Once again, it is up to Xena to step in, but towards the end of the show with Xena beside him, we start to see the old Ares 'spark' even before he regains his godhood. Even so, one of the warlords still taunts him, "Behold, the once fearsome Ares' (mistaking Xena for Callisto), Callisto's new lap-dog."
 As previously, temptation is placed in Xena's way. This time however, not by Ares, but by Sisyphus. Once all the threats are vanquished, she has the opportunity to raise herself up as a god. Instead, she resists and returns the symbol of the god of war to its rightful owner. On so doing, he says to her, "I'll not forget this," and Xena immediately retorts, "Yes, you will," with a wry smile on her face.
 Clearly, there is a bond between them that we do not know about and at the time of these events, neither does Xena. Ares is infatuated with her, that is clear. He says to her, "You'd be surprised the change you can inspire in a man, or a god." He is desperate to have her back by his side. But why?
The Future of the Relationship, Now
Ares can't keep his eyes (or hands) off Mel Pappas.
 The next episode of the story is THE XENA SCROLLS (34/210). Ares does not play a major role in events here, but again, it shows a bond between he and Xena. The main characters are Melinda Pappas, a descendant of Xena; Dr. Janis Covington, a descendant of Gabrielle; and, Lt. Jacques S'er (and alternate identity of Jack Kleinman, a salesman of the Victory Brush Company in Hoboken, New Jersey), a descendant of Joxer.
 A tomb is excavated by Dr. Janis Covington's expedition during an archaeological dig in Macedonia in 1942, with a somewhat inept Melinda Pappas bumbling around. They accidentally release Ares' spirit to potentially wreak havoc upon the world. However, Xena's spirit also returns, taking over the body of Mel Pappas (who has an uncanny likeness to her forebear) for the purpose of returning Ares to his imprisonment.
 Here, it appears that Xena is Ares' jailer, although we are not told of how each got in to that position. When he is accidentally released from the tomb, even here, Ares is not willing to give up on Xena, offering her an alliance if she lets him leave. She refuses and eventually he turns against her as she faces him down, fights him, and vanquishes him again, to trap him back in the tomb where he has been imprisoned.
 There is little background to this story, and we are left to speculate on how each got there. What is apparent is that both know of the other's situation as neither was surprised at seeing the other in the tomb.
Ares, Returning to the Fold? Jumping now to the Hercules episode, JUDGMENT DAY (H52/315), we find an Ares at his manipulative best. This episode is the third installment of 'The Golden Hind' trilogy. Briefly, Hercules has married Serena, the last golden hind. To enable them to live a normal life, he has agreed with Ares that he will surrender his strength. This was in return for Serena being made fully mortal, since before this agreement, if she was touched by a human while in human form herself, she would return to her other form as a golden hind.
 We are not told whether the Xena dimension was part of the original plan, or whether this was Ares as an opportunist seeing an opening. Ares has manipulated Hercules into willingly giving up his powers in return for marriage to the potentially mortal Serena. After they are married, Hercules is framed for her murder, an act committed by Ares' nephew, Strife.
 Xena overhears a set up conversation between a disguised Ares and Strife that Hercules has re-married. Not at that time knowing about the murder, she nonetheless senses trouble. Xena goes in search of Hercules, hotly followed by Gabrielle. By now, Ares and Strife are also causing havoc for Hercules, who is being hunted for murder. Hercules is injured in a fight and the women arrive just in time to stand alongside him and Iolaus to fight off the 'Big Guy's' potential captors.
 Ares, knowing Xena is racing to the scene, takes time out to gloat to Strife about the old Xena. Once again, his love, admiration or whatever you wish to call it, is clear. They are walking through an old battlefield and the solders remain where they fell. He says to Strife, ."..one of my greatest triumphs, the Battle of Torrance." Strife returns with, "Who was the general?" Ares says, "[it] was no general, it was a warrior. Xena, she led her army through the opponent's infantry like flies. Limbs were scattered everywhere, it was: Beautiful." Strife says, "Shame she decided to change sides," and Ares comes back at him with, "[I] wouldn't give up on her just yet. Death's perfume can be very addictive."
 Ever the optimist, Ares still thinks that he can draw her back to him and it now transpires that Xena was part of the plan all along. Here, Ares is attempting a 'double whammy,' finally ridding himself of Hercules and, at the same time, 'recovering' Xena.
 Hercules has been badly injured and is ministered to by Xena. He slips away while Gabrielle is looking after him, but appears at the village, sword in hand, followed by Xena, Gabrielle, and Iolaus. Iolaus tries to talk Hercules into tracking down the real killer. They fight and Iolaus apparently kills his friend by running him through with a sword. Seeing this, Xena fights with Iolaus and she dispatches him in like manner.
 Ares then appears and smugly thinks his plan has worked. Strife admits to the killing of Serena, and Ares says that there is a way to bring Hercules back, implying, that if Xena returns to him, he will restore Hercules' life. Events now show that Ares is far from infallible. It is clear that Hercules and Xena have concocted a plan that has worked and Ares has been sold a dummy, thus being totally fooled. Strife's admission of guilt is all that Hercules needs to hear and he jumps to his feet, followed by Iolaus. The fights where they apparently perished were shams.
 Zeus appears and restores Hercules' strength when Ares refuses to do so. Hercules then proceeds to beat up Strife, until his uncle intercedes. Strife and Ares disappear. Seeing not only his plan for framing Hercules as a wife-murderer, but also his plan for Xena compromised, Ares withdrawal is done with a vow that the 'fight' is far from over.
Like the Energizer Bunny, Ares Just Keeps On Going
Ares gets a lap dance from the Head Fury.
 One would think that anyone (or any god) would have given up on Xena by now, but Ares thinks he is defeated for only a short time and presses on with yet another plan.
 In the first episode of season three, THE FURIES (47,301), we find out why and the true relationship between the two. Ares has been a part of her life for considerably longer than she could have imagined.
 The story opens with Ares being 'entertained' by the Furies, but he makes it clear that he is there on business. He wants a judgment handed down. That judgment is to be on Xena. At the time, we are not informed of what the evidence against the Warrior Princess is, but she is unanimously found to be guilty. The Furies sentence her to a punishment of both persecution and madness. Normally, it is only one, but with Ares' influence, they make an exception.
 The sentence takes its toll almost immediately. In the middle of a fight, when Xena and Gabrielle are crunching a few bad guys' heads, Gabrielle sees that something is wrong with Xena, although in her new, crazy state of mind, Xena does not recognize it.
 The leader of the ruffians is interrogated by Xena at the suggestion of Gabrielle although she does not make a good job of it until Gabrielle intercedes and elicits that the group that attacked them had been hired by the priest at the temple of the Furies. Gabrielle hits the nail on the head when she recognizes that the Furies are involved and that they are punishing Xena for something. She goes on to explain to Xena, who is rapidly going 'wacko,' that The Furies punish by persecution -- hence the price put on Xena's head -- and by madness.
 Xena is not listening and later, a searching Gabrielle finds Xena in a village, in a state of undress, threatening to destroy it. Xena becomes sufficiently lucid for long enough to realize that there is something wrong and recognizes that she needs some help. Gabrielle takes Xena to the temple where the two confront the priest. The priest explains that Xena has been found guilty of 'a breach of duty' and that she must avenge the murder of a family member. Xena says that she avenged the death of her brother Lyceus, but is stunned that the revenge has to be for the death of her father.
 After a nightmare-like journey caused by her madness, Xena reaches her mother's tavern. Cyrene is there and takes her in. Gabrielle explains what has happened, and Cyrene admits to killing her husband -- Xena's father. Xena overhears this, and, later, Cyrene explains that it all happened one night when her daughter was seven years old. Atrius came home from the temple of Ares drunk and said that Xena had to die. Cyrene informed Atrius that she would not permit him to kill Xena and while he was preparing a knife to do the deed, she set upon him with an axe.
 Like the story of Orestes, Xena is now left with the dilemma of killing her mother or being mad for the rest of her days. She decides that she will no longer be a plaything for the gods and proposes to end it all.
 Now, Ares reappears, worried that his investment is about to do herself in by jumping off a cliff. Once again he attempts to persuade her back to him. He tells her that she is his favorite and persuades her not to end it all. "Xena," he says, "you've spent the last few years trying to find a meaning in your existence. At times you found it in being a silly do-gooder. Now you see the uselessness of it all." He attempts to cajole her, "Satisfy the Furies and give your mother to the worms," and to "sever yourself forever from those cowardly limitations men call morality. You're on the brink of freedom Xena. Take the next step."
 His persuasion is overwhelming and there is passion in his words. Xena appears to go along with what he says and explains that if she is going to "whack" her mom, she wants something out of it. She wants the Furies to see. Ares agrees.
 She goes and collects Cyrene and takes her back to the temple of the Furies. Meanwhile, Gabrielle has been on an errand of her own and has tracked down Orestes, who everyone thought was dead. She finds out that although he killed his mother, there was no way out for him. He was in an asylum because although he had avenged his father's death, the Furies had then sentenced him to madness for killing his mother!
 Meanwhile, back at the temple, Ares is triumphant as it looks like a plan is finally going to work. He summons the Furies as Cyrene is laid on the altar to meet her fate at the hands of her daughter. Gabrielle returns to survey the scene, but is restrained by Ares. Xena starts to plunge the knife into Cyrene, but stops. Confused, she asks why she is doing this -- she now appears to be totally 'gaga.' Ares explains that Cyrene killed her father, and she seems satisfied.
 Xena again takes the knife in a downward plunge, but again stops and looks confused. She says, "She killed my father?" Ares says, "Yes, murdered him in cold blood. Don't show her any mercy, Xena." Confused again, she says to Ares, "But how could she have killed my father when my father is very much alive? Right Daddy?"
 Ares holds down the accusation well and tries to make light of it, suggesting Xena is mad. Everyone is stunned, however. Once again, she says, "You're my father, Ares." Ares says that this is nonsense. She then turns the floor over to Gabrielle, who, recovering from the shock of the revelation, goes on to explain that Ares was renown for taking the form of warriors and having his way with the warriors' wives while the husbands were away fighting.
 Cyrene explains that Atrius did come home unexpectedly from battle the night Xena was conceived. Ares now sees things rapidly slipping away from him, and continues to deny the accusation. Xena asks whether the Furies overheard the conversation that she and Ares had on the cliff and further, whether they had heard Ares say that Atrius was jealous.
 She goes on to say that Atrius probably found out about the "incident," either from a drunken priest at the temple of Ares or from Ares himself, and decided that Xena had to die. Plans did not turn out quite right however, and he found out first hand that his wife could wield an axe.
 Xena now has Ares' plan all figured out as she goes on to explain that, in her madness, she would be totally dependent on Ares. He would have won and he would have had her back. It was a 'Catch-22.' If she did not kill her mother, she would be condemned to madness. If she did kill her, the Furies would condemn her still to madness for murder. Ares laughs it off, but there is sufficient doubt now cast in everyone's minds.
Ares and Xena fight it out atop flagpoles.
 Xena now suggests that she and Ares fight. If she is half god, then she should be able to hold her own against him. If not, then she should lose. They fight, and Xena wins, although Ares still denies that Xena is his daughter.
 Xena's victory over Ares is sufficient to cast doubt in the minds of the Furies and Xena's punishment (her madness and persecution) is lifted. With that, Ares once again knows that he is beaten. Still maintaining that he is not her father, Ares says to Xena, "If I were your father, I'd be very, very proud."
 So now the truth of Xena's parentage is open to question: is she the daughter of the mortal Atrius, or the offspring of the god of war? If it is the latter, then it explains why Ares has been so keen to turn Xena back to her old ways. In view of his potential status, however, it has to be said that some of his methods were fairly unusual.
 One thing is certain, THE FURIES (47/301) will not be the last encounter between the two. And, to quote a certain bard of our mutual acquaintance, that, no doubt, "will make a great story!"
Ian Rentoul is 38 and single. He worked in the legal profession for 16 years, in the private practice and latterly, the corporate environment. He now works for the government in the United Kingdom.
He has also worked as a semi-professional military photojournalist and has had many magazine articles published in the UK and Europe. He has co-written four photo books on military aviation subjects and edited two military magazines.
He started watching and became interested in all things Xena from her first appearance in HTLJ's episode THE WARRIOR PRINCESS. He is a self-confessed Renee O'Connor/Gabrielle fan.
In July last year, he co-founded the XenaNet, an internet based fan-group for the UK, Eire and Associated Isles. The group now has over 110 members, and meets (mini-XenaFests) are arranged regularly.
He currently lives in Guildford in Surrey, he is the owner of large hairy and boisterous 'bearded collie' dog and a paranoid/overworked PC which has threatened to leave home should he subscribe to one more mailing list.
Favorite episode: THE GREATER GOOD (21/121)
Favorite line: Gabrielle: "Thank the gods for dumb cyclopses." SINS OF THE PAST (01/101); Gabrielle: "You can't judge a scroll by its paper." HOOVES AND HARLOTS (10/110).
First episode seen: THE WARRIOR PRINCESS(H09/109)
Least favorite episode: THE TITANS (07/107)