"You remind me of someone," she whispered, her voice almost that of a little girl, though the woman was no child. Neither was she quite human, nor quite a Goddess. And, like the small creature that had entered her realm, she was completely trapped, bound into this Tartarus of ice and heat by layer after layer of rock. Far above, a volcano boiled, stacking more lava on top of her prison, but through a weird trick of fate and convection, the rough walled caverns so far below were sheathed in ice.
She petted the frightened creature with an odd sort of tenderness, as if to soothe its fears. "I remember now," she decided suddenly, then uttered a single name. "Hercules." A long moment's pause followed before she continued. "The rat...not the demiGod." Her lip curled in dislike. "Didn't like the famous one...stiff prig..." Arched brows lifted in a mockery of regret. "Rather sorry I killed the other one though." She lifted the creature close, peering directly into black eyes. "I seem to have a knack for that--killing the wrong one, I mean. Now, what shall I call you?" she mused aloud. Perhaps it was loneliness that drove her, perhaps madness, most likely, it was both, but she felt an odd kinship with the trapped creature. "Don't think it should be Xena...even if you do have black fur...that would just be too tempting." She petted it again, growing used to the texture of short, stiff fur. "I'm afraid we'll have to give you a name without the bad associations." By now, the creature had settled in her hold, relaxing, as though sensing it was safe enough for now. Tomorrow, perhaps, her mood would change again and she'd kill for pleasure, but not today.
And the rat, being merely a rat, knew only that at that very moment, she meant it no harm. Or perhaps it was actually paralyzed by terror. Certainly, it wouldn't have been the first creature to have that response to Callisto.
Suddenly, a smile twisted her lips. "Gabrielle," she giggled. "I think I'll call you Gabrielle...I've always thought we could have been friends if not for Xena." She kissed it on the nose, the gesture profoundly perverse, and the rat suddenly broke into struggle, its beady black eyes panicked. Callisto released it, watching as it scuttled away, down the corridor. "Just like your namesake." She shrugged. "Can't handle a bit of affection. Don't worry, we'll get closer tomorrow." It was still in her view, a tiny shape, dark against the ice streaking porous volcanic rock. "Soon, you'll realize you can trust me, Gabrielle," she called out.
Light flashed and there was a tiny scream, then silence. Tiny droplets of blood spattered the ice, while the air smelled of singed fur, and burned meat.
Velasca bent down to pick up the blackened remains of the rat, dangling it by the tail. "That made for a nice bit of target practice," she said with a dry smile. "Got a few more around?"
ll images © 1996, 1997, 1998 Pink Rabbit Productions