Legendary Journeys
Legendary Journeys

Death Mask
Gab catches arrow death.jpg
Gabrielle catches an arrow for the first time
Series Xena: Warrior Princess
Season 1
Antagonist Cortese
Setting Greece
In-Universe Date Year 1
Production # 76917
Filming Dates January 1996
Original Air-Date 3 June 1996
Written By Peter Allan Fields
Directed By Stewart Main
Episode Chronology
Order in Series 23 of 134
Order in Season 23 of 24
Order in Franchise 64 of 304
Previous Episode in Series "Callisto"
Next Episode in Series "Is There a Doctor in the House?"
Previous Episode in Franchise "Callisto"
Next Episode in Franchise "The Cave of Echoes"
Title Image
Death Mask TITLE.jpg

Xena comes face to face with Cortese, the man who killed Xena's brother, Lyceus, and the reason why Xena became what she was. She is forced to team up with her older brother, Toris, to get close to Cortese.


Xena learns Cortese the warlord who attacked her village is raiding again

When Xena and Gabrielle turn the tables on two masked assassins who ambush them on a mountain trail, Xena learns that their leader is none other than Cortese, the ruthless warlord who destroyed her village many years before and set her on the path of war and destruction. Determined to defeat him once and for all, Xena rides into a small town under siege by Cortese's masked bandits, emits a piercing war cry and charges into battle to take on the entire raiding party by herself. But the fighting is soon interrupted by the arrival of a company of king's soldiers under the command of Aescalus. Cortese's lieutenant Malik and his raiders beat a hasty retreat into the woods, but not before Xena is recognized by one of Cortese's men, who turns out to be her estranged older brother, Toris.

Xena reunires with her brother Toris

Xena is astonished when Toris confronts her and Gabrielle on the trail and removes his mask to reveal his true identity. When he explains he has joined Cortese's raiders in order to get close enough to kill the evil leader, Xena joins forces with him to devise a plan. Toris hauls Xena into Cortese's camp, bound as a prisoner, and demands to see Cortese, but Malik decides to present the Warrior Princess to his commander himself. Xena quickly overpowers her captor and explores the camp before returning to Gabrielle and Toris.

Gabrielle practices training at the village

When she informs them that Malik is using carrier doves which bear the royal crest to send and receive messages, Toris agrees that Malik must have a spy inside the king's household. Xena and Toris manage to get into the castle only to discover, to their surprise, that the king is Cortese. His ingenious masquerade as a bandit has allowed him to collect the spoils of war, as well as huge taxes from his subjects, who think the money is being used in their defense against the raiders. Cortese informs Xena that his next step is to sacrifice her to his army, knowing that his demoralized troops desperately needs a victory. But before Xena and Toris can be taken prisoner, the two make a spectacular escape and rejoin Gabrielle in the small village raided earlier by Cortese's men.

Xena and Toris chained up settle there differences

Xena tells Gabrielle that Cortese and the King are one and the same and asks Sera to summon the village elder. Meanwhile Toris, angry that he and Xena failed to kill Cortese when they had the chance, heads off into the woods alone. When Xena goes after him, he finally admits that he left their village when it was under siege years before not out of principle, as he has always insisted, but out of fear for his own survival. He confesses that when he found out their brother Lyceus died in that battle, his life meant nothing to him anymore and he decided the only thing left to do was to kill Cortese. Increasingly worried about Toris and eager to protect the villagers from the soldiers who are hunting for her, Xena leaves the village with Gabrielle, only to discover that her brother has gone off on his own.

"Go on, do it. And then tell me how much better you feel about yourself."

Xena tracks him to Malik's camp, where she finds him bloody, beaten and strapped to a large pole surrounded by bales of hay soaked in oil. Knowing full well she's walking into a trap, Xena allows herself to be captured by Malik's raiders, armed with flaming arrows aimed at her brother. Xena and Toris are hauled off to the castle dungeon where they are chained to the wall. While being questioned by Aescalus, who refuses to believe their claim that the king is Cortese, brother and sister team up for a daring escape.

Xena and Toris say goodbye

Xena then sends a message to Malik ordering him and his men to attack the castle and forces Aescalus to take her to Cortese. As the battle begins in the castle courtyard, Xena emerges with Aescalus and Cortese, both bound by ropes. She frees Aescalus to marshal his troops and forces the king to call off the raiders. When he does, the king's secret identity as Cortese is revealed. Unable to stem her brother's rage, Xena hands him a sword and invites him to take his revenge on the evil warlord. Much to her relief, however, Toris quickly loses the will that it takes to murder in cold blood and manages to walk away. In the end, Toris thanks Xena for helping free him from his terrible guilt about the past and sets off to pay their mother a visit back home.


No messenger doves were harmed during the production of this motion picture. However, several are reportedly missing in action and search-and-rescue efforts are under way.

Background Information[]

  • Xena doesn't use her chakram in this episode.
  • This is Toris's only appearance on the series.
  • Gabrielle catches her first arrow.
  • Cortese is the one who attacked Xena's village that caused the death of her brother Lyceus and set her on the path of war and destruction.

Links and References[]

Guest Stars[]

  • Joseph Kell as Toris
  • Michael Lawrence as Cortese
  • William Davis as Malik
  • Doug McCaulay as Aescalus
  • Elizabeth Skeen as Sera
  • Peter Needham as Village Elder







When the soldiers are practicing in the archery yard, right before Toris enters the scene, the camera quickly pulls back from the archery targets. It's not hard to see that the targets are cardboard--not something that was around in Ancient Greece.

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