Whoosh! Issue 28 - December 1998


IAXS project #624
By Lance Whitney
Content copyright © 1999 held by author
This edition copyright © 1999 held by WHOOSH
2703 words

Xena and Gabrielle in War and Peace (01)
The Horde Attacks (02-03)
Attitude Toward the Enemy (04-05)
Defending the Fortress (06-07)
Xena the Warrior (08-09)
A Clean War? (10-12)
A Truce? (13-16)
Kaltaka is the Key (17-19)
Stronger Together (20-21)

Xena and Gabrielle in War and Peace

Xena and Gabrielle in War and Peace

No kickin', b*tt*n', or gougin'!  Break!

Xena has a single-minded purpose in THE PRICE.

[1] Although the bond between Xena and Gabrielle has been tested and torn during the first three seasons of Xena: Warrior Princess, it has remained strong. It has maintained its strength despite the different and often opposing views of the two partners. A key area of conflict between Xena and Gabrielle has been their individual attitudes toward war and peace. Xena is the pragmatic, take-no-prisoners warrior, easily swept up by the thrill and excitement of battle. To Xena, war may be an evil, but it is sometimes a necessary evil. Gabrielle is the idealistic, often naive pacifist, shocked and appalled by violence. To Gabrielle war and killing are horrors to be avoided at all costs. One of the finest episodes to demonstrate these differences and bring them to a boil is THE PRICE (44/220).

The Horde Attacks

[2] Xena and Gabrielle are attacked by the Horde, a deadly band of savage warriors. Xena has a history with the Horde, having faced them years before in a brutal battle where her army was "stripped of their flesh and tortured as they were skinned". Indeed, the Horde is one of the few enemies to strike true fear and terror in Xena.

[3] Trying to escape by boat, Xena and Gabrielle run into several wounded and dying men. Gabrielle, always thinking of others first, wants to help them. Xena, realizing that to stop could mean their own deaths, pushes on. Xena has already begun to revert to the cold, pragmatic warrior she once was. In battle, people die, and you cannot save everyone without risking your own neck. At the last moment though, she stops paddling long enough to rescue one of the wounded, perhaps because of Gabrielle's influence, or perhaps because Xena still has some compassion left.

Attitude Toward the Enemy

The line originally was 'Tie their shoelaces together!'

Xena's goal is simple -- 'Kill 'em all!'.

[4] From the beginning, we see the different attitudes between Xena and Gabrielle toward "the enemy". To Xena, the Horde is an inhuman mass to fear and hate, an enemy which she must flee or fight. Though Xena has faced the Horde before, she has never made an effort to understand them, to learn why they attack. The Horde is simply a killing machine which must be stopped. Gabrielle finds it hard to accept the Horde as simply "savage" without some motive behind the savagery. She needs to understand why they attack. Though obviously terrified by the Horde, Gabrielle still pauses to question Xena, "What are they? They must want something". Xena says simply, "Nobody knows." The true answer is nobody is too interested in finding out.

[5] Xena knows she is going to have to dredge up her old warrior ways to fight the Horde. She tells Gabrielle, "Things are going to get worse. Especially with what I have to do to get us out of here". Xena is preparing both herself and Gabrielle for her reversion to the old Xena, the cold Xena, the Xena who fights hard and dirty to defeat her enemy. Gabrielle does not yet understand the significance of this remark, but she soon will.

Defending the Fortress

[6] Xena and Gabrielle escape to a fortress manned by Athenian guards. These men, under siege by the Horde, have given up all hope. When one soldier is told to man the walls, his cold reply is, "Who cares. We're dead anyway". To defend the fortress against the Horde, Xena realizes she must take command. When the Athenians learn who Xena is (the price of fame in Ancient Greece) their spirits perk up. With her reputation and skills as a warrior, Xena may be their only chance for survival. She quickly assumes control of the army, plans strategies, barks orders, and reverts to the warrior she used to be. This paints a picture of Xena as she once was, brutal commander of armies, sharp tactician, all focused on killing the enemy and winning the battle. This is not quite the Xena we know, and she's not the Xena Gabrielle knows, but it may be the only Xena who stands a chance of defeating the Horde.

[7] As Xena plays the role of commander to defend the fortress, Gabrielle turns to her natural role of care giver to help the wounded and dying. Gabrielle shows Xena the makeshift hospital she has created. This leads to the first chill between them. Xena knows that saving the wounded and dying cannot be a priority if the fortress is to survive. She wants the food and water rationed to the healthy, fighting soldiers, even if that means the wounded will die. This is a simple reality of war, a basic fact of survival. Gabrielle, naive to the ways of war, is shocked by this attitude:

GABRIELLE You expect me to decide who lives and who... XENA I want men outside, Gabrielle. You figure it out. And let Menticles know when they die. We need them out on the wall. GABRIELLE (to herself) I can't. I can't.

Xena the Warrior

Bet I can hit it with my chakram first!

Xena's assured exterior comforts the soldiers.

[8] As the battle rages on, Xena eases further into the role of warrior and commander. She does not merely accept her position as leader, she relishes it. She feels the excitement of commanding an army in combat again. She feels the passion of fighting and killing an enemy she hates.

[9] The next skirmish between the Athenians and the Horde is fierce. As one Horde warrior retreats from the fortress, Xena hurls an ax into his back. Gabrielle witnesses this act with horror. This is no longer just a fight for survival; this is a bloodthirsty battle, with both sides fighting dirty. Gabrielle challenges Xena's lust for killing:

GABRIELLE What is going on with you? XENA I'm trying to save our skins. Those things outside will kill us all. GABRIELLE This is insane. You're letting these men die. You axed that man in the back. XENA He was inside our battlements. He saw our defenses. I couldn't risk it. GABRIELLE I can't believe this, Xena. You're scaring me. XENA This is war. What did you expect? Glamour? There are no good choices, only lesser degrees of evil.

A Clean War?

[10] To Xena, there is no such thing as a clean war. War is a brutal, savage act that requires her to be brutal and savage in return. Gabrielle tries to tell Xena that she does have a choice, but Xena brushes this off, perceiving her enemy as a force that cannot be reasoned with.

GABRIELLE There is a choice: to stop fighting. XENA They aren't like us. There is nothing about them that we can or should understand. GABRIELLE But have you even tried? XENA I know them. There's nothing.
[11] Xena's tactics become more merciless after she captures a member of the Horde. She strikes her prisoner, then applies her infamous pressure point attack on him, trying to gain information. Gabrielle is shocked by Xena's actions. She has seen Xena use harsh methods on people before, but never with the cold, calculated intensity she shows here. To Gabrielle, this is murder. To Xena, it is war. Xena will do whatever it takes to survive. She cannot afford compassion toward her enemy. Also, she cannot muster up patience for a naive Gabrielle who constantly challenges her. Though she releases her pressure point grip from the prisoner, Xena coldly rebukes Gabrielle for interfering.

XENA Don't you ever question my authority or methods in front of my troops. I told you I'd do whatever it takes, and if that means killing him later, I'll do it. GABRIELLE Your troops? I don't understand. XENA We didn't ask for this. If they want a fight to the death, they're going to get it. What part of that didn't you understand? GABRIELLE You. Who are you, Xena? What happened to the Xena that I know? XENA That Xena can't help us now. If losing her is the price for saving us all, I'll pay it. It's just a part of me I didn't think I'd need anymore.
[12] We have seen Xena as two different people before. In DREAMWORKER (03/103), the "good" Xena battles the "dark" Xena in a bizarre dreamscape. Xena then recognizes that the good and dark sides are both part of her. But in THE PRICE (44/220), she believes that repressing the good half and summoning the dark half is the only way to win the battle. The good Xena is still there, but she is sitting on the sidelines, giving the dark Xena full rein to wage war.

A Truce?

When you do get close to 'em, these guys *are* pretty bad after all!

Gabrielle uses her Bardic abilities to decode 'kaltaka'.

[13] Despite Xena's hard battle tactics, it is Gabrielle as diplomat who first makes a dent in cooling the hostilities. As Gabrielle spoons out water in front of a Horde prisoner, the man cries out, "Kaltaka, kaltaka". Kaltaka is a word uttered so often by dying Hordesmen that one of the Athenians dismisses it as a cry to their god of war. Gabrielle brings the water closer to the prisoner and discovers that Kaltaka is not a god. It's their word for water. The dying men simply want water. Gabrielle understands that the Horde would need water, like anyone else. But Xena and the Athenians see the Horde as inhuman. A simple need for water is unthinkable since it would humanize their enemy.

[14] Throughout the episode, the Horde is continually reduced, by Xena and the Athenians, to animals. Xena describes them hunting like a pack of wild dogs. During the interrogation of the Horde prisoner, one of the Athenians says, "Look, the animal understands, but he's not going to help us". Reducing your enemy to animals makes it easier to hate and fear them.

[15] Gabrielle tries to communicate with the Horde prisoner. She slowly reaches out her hand to touch him, but he recoils. Gabrielle now realizes that both sides are blinded by fear and hatred. Both sides have lost their humanity, the price one pays in war. She knows that unless someone makes an effort to stop this, the battle will rage on until everyone is dead. Gabrielle leaves the safety of the fortress and risks her own life to bring water to the wounded Horde outside.

[16] Gabrielle seems to have placed herself in obvious danger, yet the Hordesmen leave her alone and, instead, collect their dying warriors. They interpret her action as a truce, which allows both sides to gather their wounded. Gabrielle's effort serves as a wake-up call to Xena. This is the first break in the battle, and it was achieved not through force, but through a compassionate act of self-sacrifice. Xena now sends men to Gabrielle to help with the wounded. She brings back the same Horde prisoner she tried to torture before, this time to prove a point. She draws her sword on him. He backs down, not because of her skills as a warrior, but because he thinks himself unworthy of her. Xena realizes she and the Horde do have something in common, a code of honor.

Kaltaka is the Key

[17] Until now Xena had underestimated and dismissed Gabrielle's attempts to help. She now approaches Gabrielle tentatively, seeking to make peace with her friend and express admiration for her compassion:

XENA Kaltaka turned out to be the key. When you went out there, they thought it was a truce to retrieve the wounded. I let my fear and hatred blind me to everything. GABRIELLE Sometimes the past can do that. Xena, if I had been through what you've been through... XENA No. No. You understand hatred, but you have never given into it. You don't know how much I love...that.
[18] Xena realizes that fear and hatred of your enemy are not strengths but weaknesses, even in battle. Understanding your enemy is key, whether you are fighting them or talking peace. Of course, peace does not occur easily. Gabrielle still hopes that Xena can reason with the Horde, but as Xena explains, "peace and understanding don't happen overnight. This is the only communication we both understand: a warrior's code of honor". Though Xena still considers the Horde her enemy, they are now the enemy on equal terms, no longer reduced to animals.

[19] A show of force is needed to end the hostilities. Instead of a full-scale battle, however, it must be a fight between Xena and the leader of the Horde. Though Gabrielle at first questions this strategy, she accepts Xena's judgment. She sees that Xena has gotten past the fear and hatred that crippled her before. Gabrielle is able to trust Xena's instincts again. Xena defeats the Horde leader in a personal skirmish but refuses to kill him. Losing his army's respect, he is killed by his own men, who then retreat into the woods. The battle is over--for now.

XENA They'll be back. Maybe not this year, but some day. GABRIELLE Can anyone stop them? XENA Yeah. But it won't be warriors. It'll be someone like you. I just hope that wherever the Horde is from, they have a Gabrielle.

Stronger Together

No worries.  Hey, it's not as if you're gonna kill my kid or anything goofy like that.

Xena makes up to Gabrielle (sort of) by the end of THE PRICE.

[20] THE PRICE (44/220) pits the attitudes about war of both Xena and Gabrielle against one another, yet, ironically, the episode avoids taking sides. Both Xena and Gabrielle are justified in some ways, while misguided in others. The Horde is a brutal, savage army - certainly not an enemy you can easily make peace with. In the midst of battle, you sometimes must make decisions that seem cruel and heartless, sacrificing a few to save many. Gabrielle's innocence and trust in people leave her ill-equipped to accept the unpleasant realities of war. Yet Xena's passion for battle and bitter hatred of the Horde prove to be flaws. Letting fear and hate cloud her judgment, Xena cannot see a way for the two sides to resolve their dispute without great bloodshed. It is Gabrielle, as diplomat and pacifist, who makes Xena see that there is a way.

[21] Xena and Gabrielle spend much of the episode at odds, world's apart on their feelings toward war and peace. Yet, once they repair their differences, the two are stronger together than apart. Gabrielle's compassionate gestures open a break in the battle, but Xena must still show force to defeat the leader of the Horde and gain the respect of his men. THE PRICE (44/220) shows that peace is a difficult but necessary process. The next time Xena and the Horde meet, they may still meet as enemies, but the combined efforts of Xena and Gabrielle have brought the possibility of peace a bit closer.


Lance Whitney Lance Whitney
Lance Whitney is a computer analyst and freelance writer living in Westchester County, New York. By day, he works for a large company, where he tackles computer and network issues and problems. By night, he writes computer articles and software reviews for several national magazines. He's a member of the Westchester PC Users Group and contributing editor for the group's monthly newsletter "Westchester PC News." He's a huge movie buff with a preference for classic films from the '30s and '40s. He's also a big fan of other SF/fantasy shows, including: Star Trek, X-Files, and Alien Nation.
Favorite episode: THE BITTER SUITE (58/312), THE PRICE (44/220), THE DEBT I & II (52,53/306,307), ONE AGAINST AN ARMY (59/313)
Favorite line: Xena to Gabrielle, "And I want to be like you." ONE AGAINST AN ARMY (59/313)
First episode seen: I remember watching bits and pieces of earlier episodes but I think the first complete show I saw was THE XENA SCROLLS (34/210). I actually didn't become a hardcore fan until the third season.
Least favorite episode: IN SICKNESS AND IN HELL (72/404), FINS, FEMMES AND GEMS (64/318), QUILL IS MIGHTIER (56/310). I'm not a fan of the silly, campy, slapstick stuff. I much prefer the more dramatic, intense, meatier episodes.

Return to Top Return to Index