Greetings. I am Souzan, humble scribe and honored to be called "friend" by the bard, Gabrielle. It is through her efforts, and the love shared between the bard and our Lord Conqueror, that the Conqueror's Library was established. And now, at long last, I have been granted permission to tell the tale of the building of this library.

I was present at Gabrielle's "trial", and I don't think I will ever forgive myself for remaining silent. Oh, my friend has told me, repeatedly and often loudly, that there is nothing to forgive. After all, she insists, isn't silence at a public trial the law, and isn't the penalty for violation of this law swift, immediate, and final? Ah, my friend, you forget that I was witness to your "crime" and arrest. Your only crime was to crush the testicles of a pig.

How I wished that the Conqueror's accused were allowed a defense. Perhaps I could have spared my friend the incredible pain she endured at the hands of the executioner. But then again, the subsequent salvation of the Conqueror and her realm would have been forfit, would it not? I suppose that is only for the Fates to know.

Gabrielle was a bard at my mother's tavern. Surprisingly, storytelling was not forbidden in Corinth, though one must always take care to give no hint of rebellion or treason in the tales. It is common knowledge that the Conqueror respects honesty; so long as a bard speaks the truth and avoids embellishment, they are usually safe. Certain topics, such as her family, are off limits, but apparently she approves of stories of her conquests, no matter how gruesome or detailed.

It's ironic, actually. Gabrielle was a favorite of the soldiers, for she told stories of a different Xena. A warrior princess who turned away from the darkness and fought for the greater good. It seems these soldiers believed in a different side of the Conqueror. One that wanted moderation, that tried to temper justice with mercy, one that seemed to regret her past and wanted something better.

But then there was Darphus. Her second had the ability to provoke the Conqueror beyond reason. Somehow, for reasons that were beyond the soldiers, her second was able to drive Xena into insane rages that usually resulted in populating the field of crosses outside the gates.

We didn't know that, of course. To the people of Corinth and the rest of the known world, the Conqueror was as she always had been. Brutal, cruel, unforgiving...a tyrant. An unpredictable tyrant, to be sure. We watched her build an orphanage last year, we saw her finance hospices, and we wondered. But then out of nowhere, she went on a rampage. We watched her crucify countless "rebels" and listened as she declared new laws to fight the realm's "greatest enemies-rebellion and betrayal". And always there was Darphus beside her.

I am not the bard that Gabrielle is, but I will try to tell the tale as she told it to me.