An Awakening - Part 24
Here Comes Trouble
by Frau Hunter Ash
(aka Dana Cooper-Kjarr)
Ownership: Repeat after me: I don't own Xena, Gabrielle, etc. I'm borrowing them for entertainment purposes, please don't bother to sue me, you wouldn't even get court costs.
Violence: Battles between gods, character death, a new God of War, and the return of an old enemy make this violence level a little higher than usual. Strong R.
Subtext/Alt Sex: the story assumes a loving and sexual relationship between people of the same gender and of the opposite sex. If this offends you or is illegal for you then please leave. Come back when you are older, have an open mind, moved, or changed your laws.
Feedback: always welcome and responded to!
Storyline: The mystery of who Joxer has been with is solved with the return of an old enemy who brings major life changes and the possibility of a war between the gods that could destroy the Earth and all the Realms.
The story can stand on its own but it is part of a series and you might want to catch some of the earlier parts to know exactly who is who.
A Visit Home, an Awakening 1 * An Awakening, Discovery, 2 * Amazon Bonding, Awakening 3 * Healing, 4 * Trial of a Roman, 5 * Gladiator, Bard, Warrior, Mother; 6 * Reunited, 7 * Ides of March, 8 * Children of Gods, 9 * Even with Ares, 10 * Settling with Brutus, 11 * Darkness Awakening, 12 * Amazons North, 13 * Amazon Darkness, 14 * The Wild Hunt, 15 * Bard Scrolls, 16 * A God's Twilight, 17 * Chakram, 18 * Death and Rain, 19 * Beowulf & Grendel, 20 * Nightstalkers, 21 * Blood Darkness, 22 * Aftermath, 23 * Here Comes Trouble, 24 *
Xena frowned as she looked over at her mate and then over to Meg. The warrior noticed that Gabrielle was keeping Xena and Argo between her and the innkeeper. Not that Xena could blame the warrior bard, not after Meg had suddenly attacked Gabrielle.
Xena thought everything was confusing before they met up with Meg but now it was even more puzzling. Prior to Meg, Xena and Gabrielle were told the child the bard was carrying wasn't a child of Bacchus as they once feared, but magically conceived as a child of both Xena and Gabrielle by the Forest Spirits of the Siberian Amazons.
Xena was still trying to process this new revelation and she knew Gabrielle was still in shock. The bard believed the only possible answer to her pregnancy was Bacchus when they fought him and Alti in the Spirit Realm. During this time Gabrielle was tortured and sexually abused and turned into a bacchae again. Only her blood connection to Xena brought her back and saved them both.
The discovery that she was pregnant and presuming that Bacchus was the father devastated the bard, sending her into a suicide attempt. The attempt had been stopped at the last moment by Xena and some of the gods; the gods finally called the Forest Spirits forth and they revealed the truth of Gabrielle's pregnancy.
Xena and her mate were facing another child in their lives, something created by both of them this time.
They were also wondering about Joxer now.
Meg had told them of how Gabrielle had appeared a month earlier, seduced Joxer and ran off with him. The bard had quickly denied even seeing the warrior turned innkeeper, pointing out to Xena and Meg that she had been with her family in Poteidaia.
Xena knew Meg didn't believe Gabrielle and only reluctantly agreed to accompany the warrior and bard to Amphipolis because she didn't know where else to turn to find her husband.
Of course, Xena and Gabrielle didn't have an idea about where to look for Joxer either or who was actually with him. Who could look and act enough like Gabrielle to fool Joxer into going with her and then staying away for a month?
Gabrielle continued frowning as her thoughts traveled along the same path. An unexpected and still mystifying pregnancy, being mentally and physically stressed out, these did not add up to a fun ride back to her home with Xena and Meg.
You okay, little one? Xena asked softly.
Yeah, Gabrielle mumbled. Any idea what is going on? I know I don't have a twin.
I didn't think I did until we ran into Diana and then Meg, Xena grumbled back.
Meg glared at both the warrior and the bard and then concentrated on the road ahead of them.
Enough like me to fool Joxer into leaving Meg?
I can't buy that either, Xena admitted.
Who would want to do this? Gabrielle pondered. Only Aphrodite comes to mind but I can't really see that. She wants you and me together, so why would she mess with Joxer and Meg by making them think I wanted Joxer?
Gabrielle, you've been through a lot lately. Any way that the Furies or someone else could be using you? Xena questioned and wasn't surprised when the bard's green eyes flashed angrily.
You think I was with him? she hissed, trying not to attract Meg's attention.
No, I just know how Morpheus, the Furies, maybe even Bacchus can mess with people, especially us, Xena whispered back.
I was with my family! Gabrielle snapped. Lila is pregnant again, my mom got married and I was busy most of the time throwing up my guts!
The warrior wasn't surprised when Gabrielle urged her horse ahead of the other two in a fit of anger. Xena shrugged off Meg's glare, she didn't blame Gabrielle for being upset - nothing was easy about any of this.
Gabrielle was hurt and angry but knew she couldn't blame Xena for questioning her about her mental state of the last month and a half. After the mess with Alti and Bacchus she was shattered enough to try and kill herself.
She began to calm down as they got closer to Amphipolis and let her horse fall back alongside Xena's. Gabrielle was still upset enough not to meet her mate's eyes though.
She finally shrugged and saw Xena relax a little. Even after all the years they have been together, occasionally they would argue but they usually made up by that evening and Xena was grateful this seemed to be one of those times.
Gabrielle pulled her horse to a stop and Xena quickly did the same. The warrior had her chakram in hand even before she thought about it.
What is it? she asked softly as Meg looked over at the two warriors.
I don't know, something is wrong, Gabrielle muttered and pulled her sais into her hands.
Xena motioned for Meg to be quiet and listened, her eyes going unfocused for a moment. Gabrielle, close your eyes and listen.
The bard closed her eyes and let her sense shift into hyper alert.
Both Xena and Gabrielle urged their horses into a rapid trot with a surprised Meg following behind them.
What in Tartarus is going on? Meg demanded.
My daughter is psychic gifted and is yelling for help, Xena explained.
All three horses stopped on the edge of town, each woman trying to take in the sight of the village center.
Gabrielle heard a growl from her mate and felt her own ears roaring with rage.
Dexicreon, the village blacksmith and Xena's friend, was chained to a post nearest the women. The sight only got worse as they saw their friends and family chained to other posts: Cyrene; Solan; Reija and son; Joxer; Sasha; Torris and wife.
Xena heard Meg moan softly beside her as she saw Joxer hanging in his chains. The former soldier looked like he had been through a gauntlet with bruises, cuts and blood everywhere.
Everyone else looked okay but shaken.
There was no sign of anyone else in the village and there were no sounds either.
Gods, it's a trap! Gabrielle complained with a whisper.
Yup, definitely set for us and well baited too, Xena growled. She resisted letting a battle cry loose and rushing forward, especially at the sight of the toddler Kiryk, her grandson, and her daughter, Sasha in chains. The boy kept pulling on the chain around his waist, trying to crawl to his mother.
Reija and Cyrene looked frantic; Solan and Torris enraged. It didn't help that they were gagged and couldn't reassure each other or even yell at whoever had them chained.
Joxer looks dead! Meg cried, trying to keep her voice low.
I can see his chest moving, Gabrielle said softly. What do we do?
Circle around and see where in Tartarus the trap is. There has got to be archers or soldiers waiting in the inn and the buildings around the square, Xena muttered.
To rush out and surround us when we go in, Gabrielle nodded.
Let me go in and scout it out, Gabrielle suggested.
Not likely, Gabrielle! Xena's eyes narrowed. Not in your condition.
Gabrielle felt herself blushing, remembering the reason for the recent emotional and physical turmoil. It had taken years of growth and experience but she had become almost an equal partner with Xena in their battles and adventures. Now that was going to change for a while.
Condition? Meg asked and Gabrielle blushed an even deeper red.
Never mind that, she's not going in, Xena said abruptly.
Then what do we do? Meg demanded.
You wait here, Xena ordered. If it is a trap, I want you to ride to the next village and gather the militia.
I'm not leaving Joxer! Meg protested.
Just do it! Xena growled and drew her chakram. If we've been spotted they won't wait much longer before forcing our hand. Come on, Gabrielle.
Right with you, Gabrielle said easily, her sais in hand.
Fast and quick! You go for the far end, get them loose and into the stable or inn, Xena ordered.
When you reach Joxer, I'll cut the chains with the chakram and then help get the others out of the line of fire.
Let's do it!
Gabrielle wasn't surprised when Xena held back at the edge of the fountain while she dashed forward on her horse. The bard leaped off her horse before it had even skidded to a stop, landing on her feet easily, almost right under Joxer's nose.
Joxer! she yelled and raised the soldier's chin. She grimaced as she took in the sight of his battered face.
Please don't hurt me anymore, Gabby, Joxer said softly.
What? Gabrielle thought her heart would stop as his words sank in.
The bard quickly spun, swinging her sais in an arching motion as arrows began flying through the air. She managed to deflect five of the arrows and gritted her teeth as an arrow went through her right calf.
Gabrielle! she heard Xena scream as another round of arrows came flying out of the air.
The bard turned and again deflected several arrows, most of them aimed at Joxer.
Xena growled and rushed Argo forward behind the posts and began cutting the chains as she went along. She also found herself catching and deflected arrows as she went.
The warrior cursed under her breath as she took in the sight of several soldiers rushing out of the inn on one side of the square and several from the blacksmith shop on the other.
Soldiers! she shouted at Gabrielle and turned Argo to take on the soldiers from the blacksmith shop while Gabrielle turned to take on the ones from the inn.
Solan, Reija, and Kiryk were still chained. Torris and his wife quickly grabbed Joxer and Cyrene and dived to the ground; Torris covering the women with his own body.
Gabrielle growled and then yelled in anger as she broke off the arrow embedded in her leg and faced the soldiers. The bard took on the rush of soldiers easily, parrying one sword strike and blocking another and burying one sai in between the ribs of one soldier. She ducked a sword swing and came up with the blunt end of the sai under the soldier's chin, knocking the soldier off his feet.
Seeing several more soldiers rushing her, the bard sheathed one of her sais and grabbed up a fallen sword.
Xena screamed a war cry and took Argo through the middle of the first rush of soldiers and with her sword and Argo's hooves, four soldiers went down quickly. Argo spun easily back through the bandits or soldiers and three more went down.
Xena yelled again and flipped off the horse and landed in between two of the soldiers. A backhand sent one onto his back and one slash of her sword sent the other to his knees, trying to hold his stomach back in place.
The warrior turned to her family when she froze at the sound of a female war scream.
Gabrielle, finishing off another soldier, turned to face another when both froze at the sound. The bard turning pale in the sunlight.
Xena and Gabrielle knew that scream very well and both turned to the source.
No, please! Gabrielle whispered as she took in the sight of Callisto at the edge of the square, a knife held at Meg's throat.
Xena glanced over and saw the shocked statement on her mate's face and felt the same emotions overwhelming her as well.
Hi! Callisto said cheerfully, her brown eyes frenzied.
The Goddess looked exactly like she did when Xena and Gabrielle last saw her falling into a river of lava. Except her eyes were now brown again instead of new-God white.
Miss me? Callisto asked, pulling roughly on Meg's hair.
Not much! Xena growled, raising her chakram.
Now, Xena! Callisto scolded, Is that any way to greet an old friend?
What do you want, Callisto? Gabrielle demanded.
Oh, what I always want, the warrior said in her child-like maniac voice. You screaming in pain, Xena's head on a platter, the usual.
You're a god now, why bother with us? Xena tried reasoning with her. I helped you get the ambrosia.
And put me in that lava river! Did you think I would forget that little part? One thing about immortality, I can't be killed but that lava did hurt a little bit.
Gabrielle turned and blocked a sucker punch from one of the soldiers and put her sai through his throat.
Oh, interesting! You have changed! Callisto said delightedly. You know, it wasn't easy being you for the last month!
You? Gabrielle pressed, the pieces falling into place as she looked down at the barely conscious Joxer.
Trust me! It wasn't my best work! Callisto laughed. Although, he is better than he looks and torturing him was so much fun!
Gabrielle and Xena's eyes widened in shock as Callisto shifted and it was a twin of Gabrielle holding Meg.
'Gabrielle' looked over at Joxer and grinned as the former soldier raised his head and looked at her and then at Gabrielle.
How's it going, lover? 'Gabrielle' asked and laughed as he flinched and lowered his head again.
Meg yelled in anger and struggled in Callisto's arms and only stopped when the knife bit into her neck.
Let her go! Xena demanded. Then she growled when Callisto shifted again and merely laughed at all of them.
Now, Callisto yelled and both Xena and Gabrielle quickly looked around at the soldiers appearing on top of the buildings, each with bow and arrow.
No! Xena screamed and launched herself into the air, flipping over and over, trying desperately to reach her family. Gabrielle dropped the sword and dived forward herself, somersaulting towards the remaining chained members of the family.
Gabrielle grabbed a shield up from one of the soldiers and dropped it over Torris' back as she flipped by them and turned to face the arrows as she shielded Sasha and Reija.
Xena flipped in front of Solan and Kiryk just as precisely at the same moment the arrows reached the Greeks. Three arrows in one hand, two in another and one buried in her side, Xena hit the ground hard, almost next to Gabrielle.
Xena heard Callisto's laugh and Cyrene's scream.
Gabrielle quickly turned and saw that the arrows had missed Sasha and Reija and rapidly looked down. No! she cried out when she saw the arrow sticking out of Xena's side and then she stopped, stunned as Callisto laughed.
Xena turned over and somehow wasn't surprised at the sight of an arrow sticking out of Solan's chest. Exactly like the vision Alti showed her months before.
Gabrielle reached down without looking and helped Xena to her feet. The warrior broke off the feathered end of the arrow in her side with a growl and turned her attention to her son.
Solan was still alive but blood was flowing freely from his mouth and Xena groaned at the look of pain on his face.
Solan? she whispered as Reija screamed next to her. Out of the corner of her eye she saw Torris trying to release Reija and the kids.
Mom, he whispered and closed his eyes.
Xena screamed as Solan stopped breathing.
Gabrielle looked up from her mug, the weariness apparent to everyone, especially Meg as the other woman sat down.
How is Joxer? the bard asked.
Meg wiped tears from her eyes and Gabrielle could see her struggling.
I don't know, they say he'll recover physically, Meg sobbed. Mentally, he won't even talk to me. Just keeps saying he's sorry.
Meg, Gabrielle didn't know what to say. She wasn't responsible for Joxer's condition but it almost felt like it.
How is everyone else? Meg asked, dismissing the beginning sympathy.
The healer is about to remove the arrowhead from Xena, Reija is grieving for Solan, Sasha is in shock, Cyrene has lost her grandson, and my leg hurts.
The innkeeper fought against her remaining and misplaced anger at Gabrielle and helped the bard into one of the back rooms of the inn where the healer was working on her mate.
Cyrene wiped Xena's forehead with a cool cloth as the warrior grabbed the bedposts and gritted her teeth.
Xena? Gabrielle questioned softly, staying back out of the healer's way.
The warrior opened her fevered blue eyes and tried to smile at the bard and then bit back a scream as the healer prodded her side with a knife.
Meg pulled the bard back to the wall to a chair and quickly checked Gabrielle's bandage and nodded, satisfied with the stitching and cleaning of the wound.
Gabrielle found herself being held back by Xena's twin as the warrior screamed as the knife and tongs sought out the arrowhead still embedded in her body. The bard could see the pain on Cyrene's face as she watched her daughter.
Cyrene glanced over and nodded reassuringly to Gabrielle and the bard sank back down in her chair, biting her lip. She could almost feel Xena's pain herself.
Gabrielle tried not to think, it hurt too much. Solan was dead before Xena had cut his chains. It had taken Torris and Dex both to drag Xena away from her son's body so that her own wounds could be tended to inside the inn.
Gabrielle had sat in the dust with the boy's head in her lap while everyone else ran around franticly. Whatever magic Callisto had cast upon the town lifted with her disappearance and the villagers came pouring out of their houses and businesses, all wanting to help.
The bard could barely make out Cyrene's voice as she took charge and ordered the people about. Gabrielle became aware of Reija sitting next to her, holding Solan's hand and softly crying. The bard wanted to say something comforting, to lend the girl a shoulder to cry on, anything. Instead, Gabrielle found she couldn't move, speak or think.
So she sat in the dust, wiping the blood away from her adopted son's mouth, watching his blonde hair wave slightly in a breeze. Gabrielle found herself staring at the arrow still in the young man's chest, the blood turning very dark in the air.
The bard had no idea how long she sat there. She knew it couldn't have been long, but it felt like forever with Xena's screams still sounding in her ears and Reija's gentle sobs softly telling the bard of the passage of time.
Strong hands and a soothing voice reached her finally but somehow Gabrielle still couldn't respond. Those same strong hands gently lifted her into strong arms and the bard closed her eyes against the sun and the pain that filled her body and soul.
Hands and voices kept trying to intrude into her darkness and force her to pay attention to something. The abrupt pain of the arrow being forced through the rest of her leg brought the bard out of her shock with a scream.
Dex, the blacksmith, held her back onto the bed with gentle but firm hands while Reija wiped her forehead with a cool cloth. It felt like fire shooting from her leg but the pain soon eased into an irritating and painful throb and with help, Gabrielle was able to get back into the main room of the tavern.
Now Xena was screaming in pain, Reija was nowhere to be seen and Gabrielle had no idea how bad Joxer truly was.
The bard let Meg wrap her arms around her and they both finally wept as Xena sank into a troubled and fevered sleep after the healer bandaged her wounds.
Joxer? The soldier opened his eyes slowly and grimaced at the pain as it radiated throughout his body.
Gabrielle almost broke into tears when her best male friend whimpered and tried to move away from her.
Meg quickly lay next to him and took him in her arms. It's okay, Joxer, she said softly. It's okay. That's Gabrielle, remember? She's not the one who hurt you.
Gabrielle moved back away from the bed several feet, trying not to cry.
Don't hurt me, please, Joxer muttered.
Gabrielle gave up and left the room with a sob. In the hallway she sank down against the wall.
Xena was still unconscious and the healer feared the arrow was poisoned. An examination of the last round of arrows had shown they were coated with something. Reija wasn't talking to anyone, only her son Kiryk could get her attention away from the coffin the carpenter had made for Solan.
Cyrene was still trying to maintain control but Gabrielle could see the strain beginning to overtake the older woman.
Torris and Dex reported that Callisto's bandits had escaped north at a fast speed and there was no sign of the insane goddess herself.
Gabrielle looked up with a hopeful look as the healer entered Xena's room but the healer shook her head. Gabrielle already knew the answers from sitting with her mate for most of the day.
Xena was feverish, the wound was infected, and her system was poisoned.
Cyrene frowned as she wiped Xena's forehead with a cool wet cloth again and then held Sasha close. The child hadn't left her mother's side since the battle.
You said awhile back that you could heal, can't you help her? Cyrene questioned the bard.
Yes, but not a lot. To heal I have to use my own energy and now with being pregnant I don't know how dangerous it is, Gabrielle said softly, stroking Xena's cheek. I'm going to try a little bit at a time.
Gabrielle, you know, being the daughter of gods she should heal from this, Cyrene reasoned, suddenly changing her mind now that it concerned her grandchild, Gabrielle's unborn child.
I know but it might take time and I want her back, Gabrielle said simply. The bard had waited until her own body had mostly healed the arrow wound to her calf and she had gotten over some of the shock of the day.
It had been an emotionally rough ride during the last two months for the bard; all of which was draining emotionally and physically.
That included running into Meg and finding that Joxer was with someone he thought was Gabrielle.
Joxer was devastated by whatever he had been through, Xena was poisoned and Solan was dead.
Gabrielle closed her eyes and placed her hands on her mate's arm. The bard began concentrating on her breathing and focusing, drawing her energy into a focal point.
After a moment Gabrielle felt dizzy and broke off the connection and when she felt Cyrene's hands steadying her. When she opened her eyes she was relieved to find the redness around Xena's bandage was lessened.
What do we do? Cyrene asked.
I don't know, Gabrielle admitted. Wait for Xena to wake up, grieve and hope Callisto doesn't come back.
Xena won't sit still for that, Cyrene frowned.
I know but how do you kill a god? Xena may be a demi-god but Callisto is still a god and damned hard to kill, Gabrielle protested.
Callisto isn't finished, Sasha said simply.
What happened, Cyrene? Gabrielle asked softly.
Raiders came from all directions, Cyrene began, touching Xena's face gently as the warrior tossed in fevered sleep. We could hear the villagers yelling and pounding on their doors and windows but they couldn't seem to get out. The raiders grabbed all of us and threw us in the center of the square, Dex included. They beat Torris and Solan badly when they resisted and threatened Reija with a sword and rape if anyone continued resisting.
Gabrielle closed her eyes, feeling Cyrene's painful memories.
Then you appeared with Joxer thrown over his horse. We thought it was you, anyway. Then she changed into Callisto, I had heard enough tales about her to recognize her, Cyrene continued. She just dropped Joxer at my feet. Poor man was barely alive.
Joxer was begging her not to hurt him anymore, Sasha said quietly.
They chained and gagged us and we waited while Callisto ranted and paced, Cyrene explained. She then disappeared and we saw you and Xena riding towards us.
You said that Callisto isn't done, Sash, Gabrielle turned to her adopted daughter. What did you mean?
I just know, she said she was only beginning, Sasha shrugged, reminding the bard of her warrior mother.
The days and nights began to run together for Gabrielle as she kept her vigil next to Xena's bed. The warrior was getting better and on the third day her fever finally broken and her sleep was restful.
Gabrielle had expended as much energy as she could towards Xena and Joxer's recovery without draining herself too much.
By the third day Joxer was able to sit up and walk a few feet with Meg's help.
Cyrene, Meg and Gabrielle were shocked at Joxer's condition when they examined him. He had been beaten almost to the point of death with numerous cuts along his arms and legs, obviously the result of torture. All the fingers on his left hand were broken as well as his nose.
On the fourth day Torris and Dex was able to help Joxer into the back of a wagon and Meg climbed up into the seat and took the reins from Cyrene.
Gabrielle looked over the sides at the former soldier.
Joxer, you could stay longer, Gabrielle suggested and felt her heart breaking when he wouldn't meet her eyes.
I want to go home with Meg, he said simply.
Gabrielle gave up and turned to his wife. Meg, I'm sorry you both got caught up in this.
I know, Meg looked down from the wagon. Joxer and I need some time. I still love him and I think he loves me.
Gabrielle and Cyrene watched the wagon leave, both women frowning.
Give him some time, Gabrielle, Cyrene suggested.
He's loved me for so many years and now he'll always see me as his worst enemy, Gabrielle said sadly. He wanted me for years and then Callisto gives him his dreams only to shatter them along with his image of me.
That was her plan, Cyrene said firmly. Just like killing Solan was part of her plan to destroy Xena.
Gods, Solan, Gabrielle whispered. What more can she do to us?
Never ask that out loud, Cyrene cautioned.
True, Gabrielle tried to smile as they walked back into the inn.
Xena opened her eyes with a groan and then managed a small smile when she recognized familiar green eyes looking at her. Then the memories came flooding back and the pain washed over her face in a flash.
Gabrielle didn't say anything but simply took her mate into her arms as Xena began to cry.
Neither woman was aware of how much time passed as Xena's cries began to subside to gentle sobs of anguished grief. Tears streaming down both their faces as Gabrielle held Xena tight.
"I lost so many years with him," Xena cried.
"We had some good years with him and now we have his son," Gabrielle responded softly.
"How can I give up Sasha after this?" the warrior demanded.
"I don't know, love, I truly don't know."
Screams and shouts broke the women apart, both diving for weapons and Gabrielle for the door before the first scream had finished echoing throughout the inn. The bard hit the hallway at a dash and looked out over the railing to see Callisto sword fighting with Torris and Reija and a man in leather trading blows with Dex, the blacksmith.
Gabrielle felt a growl in her throat and judged the distances and positions of everyone. She felt Xena move up beside her and glanced over at her mate and wasn't surprised to see Xena sweating and gritting her teeth in pain against her wound.
Instead of scolding her mate, Gabrielle pointed to the man fighting with Dex and then at herself. Xena nodded, lifting her chakram, her eyes narrowing as she took in the back of Callisto's head since Gabrielle was going to tackle the stranger, that left the insane Goddess to Xena.
As Gabrielle vaulted over the rail Xena released her chakram. Just as the circular blade hit the chaotic goddess in the back of the head, the warrior's eyes spotted Sasha and Kiryk under a table against the wall and Cyrene sprawled near the fireplace, either dead or unconscious.
The bard landed lightly in a crouch and drove her sais upwards in the man's back as he sent Dex flying backwards over a table. The sais went deep into the man's chest, driven by the force of Gabrielle springing to her feet from the leap and thrusting the energy into her sais.
Xena screamed Gabrielle's name as the man turned and backhanded her mate, slamming Gabrielle painfully into the bar. She fell to the floor on her hands and knees.
The warrior couldn't believe her eyes as the chakram returned to her hand and Callisto merely brushed her hair back into place, looking up at Xena. Then Xena's eyes widened as the man reached behind his back and pulled the sais out and there was no sign of any blood.
"Damn!" she muttered, hanging onto the rail as her energy quickly evaporated.
"Xena!" Callisto called and casually sent Reija flying into the table over Sasha and Kiryk with a motion of her hand. "So glad you could see this!" Torris fell back, holding a wounded side and slashed thigh.
Gabrielle shook her head and looked up at the man standing over her holding her sais. Her back was hurting badly and he appeared unharmed and slightly amused.
The man was taller than Xena, which meant he towered over the small bard, but had similar black hair that was brushed back and had a full beard. Dark eyes laughed down at Gabrielle and the bard had a feeling of familiarity. The beard made him look older but the bard could see the youth behind the beard and the viciousness in the eyes. He was dressed in a leather vest with no tunic and tight leather pants. The leather gauntlets and wide belt were studded with silver and gold inserts. A large sword hung on one side of his belt and a long dagger on the other.
Gabrielle looked at the silver necklace around his neck and grew pale. She knew that design.
"Ares, the sign of Ares," she whispered and was rewarded with a grin from the obviously young god along with a kick to her jaw; sending her back into the bar where she ended up sitting with her back to it. She fell forward onto the floor onto her hands and knees again.
"Yes, very good, bard," he hissed as he knelt down in front of her.
Xena pulled herself back up to a standing position with the help of the railing as Callisto's brown eyes danced with delight at the warrior's pain. As the warrior's eyes darted back and forth between her mate and the male god, Callisto, and the others. Callisto seemed to be waiting.
"What do you want, Callisto? Leave my family out of this, I'm the one you want," Xena growled, gauging whether in her condition she could flip over the rail and land on her feet.
"Oh but, Xena!" Callisto protested and moved over to pull a stunned Reija to her feet. "That's exactly what I want! You destroyed me when you killed my family. I thought I'd return the favor."
"No!" Xena screamed, taking in several things at once.
The other god, anticipating Gabrielle's reaction to Callisto's movements, backhanded the bard again and then smashed a fist down across her eye, stunning her.
Cyrene, shaking her head and trying to raise her hands, screamed as Callisto dragged Reija to her feet.
Sasha and Kiryk had terrified eyes as the young toddler screamed for his mother. Sasha tried holding him back and shielding him under the table, her blue eyes pleading with Xena for help.
Reija tried to fight back, even though she still couldn't focus her eyes, as Callisto easily turned her around and threw the Amazon across a table.
As the male god glanced over to Callisto; Gabrielle shook her head and closed her eyes, focusing on her breathing rather than the pain. The bard let herself drift for a moment and then keyed into the energy she had felt once before in the caves of Bacchus, in the Spirit Realm. She slowly sat up with her back to the bar and used it to help her get to her feet.
When the bard opened her eyes she could see the energy beginning to build around her hands, golden energy of her father, Apollo, god of the Sun.
"Stop her!" Callisto screamed and pointed to the bard.
Xena released the chakram once again, hoping to at least distract Callisto but the chaotic goddess merely deflected it with her hand, barely noticing its passage. Then Xena screamed as the male god turned with Gabrielle's sais in his hand as her mate's eyes began to flash.
Everything happened too fast.
The male god thrust forward with the sais as Gabrielle was about to release her energy bolts at him. The bard screamed as she was impaled through both shoulders with her own sais, the energy bolts dissipating into nothing.
"Gabrielle!" both Cyrene and Xena screamed at the same time as Gabrielle fell to her knees and onto her side.
Xena vaulted over the railing and landed hard on the wooden floor, falling over as she clutched her side.
The warrior looked up as Callisto laughed heartily and the blonde turned with a vicious grin and slashed out with her sword, hitting one of Reija's legs behind the knee. The young Amazon screamed and went to the floor, holding her leg.
"Damn you, Callisto!" Xena screamed, trying to sit up, blood flowing past the hand holding her wounded side.
"Oh, I have no doubt of that, Xena," Callisto grinned. "But then, you'll probably be with me so that makes it alright."
The male god grinned as he walked over and kicked Dex in the head, ensuring the blacksmith's continued unconsciousness and then joined the insane goddess.
"Hello, Xena," he said simply, looking down at the warrior, not even glancing at Cyrene, as she got to her feet and dashed over to Gabrielle. "I'm Mars, son of Ares and the new God of War."
Xena felt a chill run over her body at this introduction. He obviously was as bad as his father or maybe even worse.
Mars walked over to the table where Sasha and Kiryk were hiding, and he simply threw it aside. Sasha rushed with a scream forward, aiming for the god's face with her fingernails as Xena struggled to get to her knees. Mars merely grinned and threw the teen under one arm, then he reached down and grabbed Kiryk by his collar and turned to Callisto.
"No!" Xena screamed and finally got to her knees, feeling the blood coming up into her mouth and noticing Torris trying to get to his feet as well, sword in hand.
Callisto, Mars, and kids disappeared as Xena got to her feet and Torris slashed forward at where Callisto had been with his sword.
Xena screamed in rage as she fell back, clutching her side.
Xena winced as Gabrielle bit her lip to keep from screaming as Dex pulled the sais out of her shoulders.
The inn looked like a hospice again: Xena stretched out on the floor with Torris next to her on one side and Reija on the other. Dex with a bandage around his head and Cyrene nursing a couple of broken ribs.
The only one undamaged was Torris' wife, Serita. She and Cyrene quickly laid the bard down and pressed compact bandages against both sides of Gabrielle's shoulders as the bard cried out in pain. Xena looked down and saw that the bleeding through her bandaged side had slowed down and she no longer tasted fresh blood in the back of her mouth.
"Hold that tight!" Cyrene ordered as Gabrielle bit back another scream and then went limp.
"Mom!" Xena cried out and Cyrene glanced at her daughter as she worked on Gabrielle and then turned to Reija's wounded leg.
"She's passed out, Xena," Cyrene finally answered. "Gods, where in Tartarus is that healer!?"
"Right here," she called as she opened the door. "I should move in here free of charge."
"I'd be glad never to have your services again, friend," Cyrene countered.
Cyrene shut down the tavern for the night. She set the kitchen staff to work handing out meals out of the back of the kitchen for those with nowhere to go, she was keeping the main room of the tavern/inn shut.
Cyrene, Serita, Dex and the healer worked late into the evening on the wounded family until they were satisfied everyone was going to survive and Reija was going to be able to keep her leg. Cyrene held the young widow as the healer was forced to inform Reija that she probably wouldn't put much weight on the leg ever again and would need crutches to get around. Both Cyrene and the young girl cried as the realization of her crippling injuries, her missing son and her dead husband sank in.
Dex carefully carried Gabrielle into Xena's room as the warrior watched anxiously, still holding her aching side. Her blacksmith friend placed her mate next to her on the bed and Xena quickly checked the bard's breathing and pulse.
"Thank you, Dex, for everything," Xena said softly as the large man started out the door.
He simply nodded with a smile and was gone.
Cyrene entered the room with fresh bandages, clean water and a pitcher of wine. She handed her daughter a goblet to drink, with a stern look that which told Xena she wouldn't win an argument against drinking the slightly numbing and pain killing liquid.
Cyrene pulled up a chair next to Gabrielle's side of the bed and quickly examined the bard's wounds.
"Xena, her shoulders are going to be fine, I think," Cyrene began and Xena nodded.
"With her god-healing abilities, they should be," Xena agreed.
"I'm worried though," Cyrene admitted and Xena frowned. "I saw her hit the bar hard with her back."
Xena realized what her mother was worried about and turned pale. "No," she whispered, quickly taking Gabrielle's hand in hers.
"It's possible, she's still early in the pregnancy, dangerous times for a child," Cyrene said gently. "That was a bad blow and then the massive blood loss didn't help. We need to keep a watch on her for a couple of days, we need to watch for bleeding."
"Days? We need to go after the kids!"
"To where? Callisto and Mars are both gods, they could be anywhere in the known world!" Cyrene argued, fighting back her tears. "Even with your healing abilities you'll be in bed right beside her for at least two days."
Cyrene left her despondent daughter and daughter-in-law to join Reija in her own grief.
Gabrielle woke up feeling like Zeus had thrown two lightning bolts right through both her shoulders and cried out with pain when she barely moved them.
"Shhh," a gentle voice said softly and Gabrielle looked up to find familiar blue eyes looking down at her. The bard attempted a small smile as Xena brushed a lock of hair from Gabrielle's forehead. "You're gonna hurt for a few days."
"My sais, he used my sais, didn't he?" the bard managed to whisper.
"Yeah, you stabbed him in the back and he should have dropped but he's the son of Ares and a god," Xena explained. "It's not your fault he got your sais."
"Gods, this hurts!" the bard complained. It seemed that she couldn't even move any part of her body. It affected her shoulders or back and she growled in frustration. Then her eyes widened.
"The kids!" she cried out and managed to sit up but bit her lip to keep from screaming with the pain. Xena gently helped Gabrielle lay back down, trying not to move the bard's shoulders or back any more than necessary.
"Callisto and Mars took them," Xena felt her eyes threatening to spill over with more tears but she fought them back as she took in Gabrielle's pained face.
"No," the bard whispered. "Why? Why didn't she simply kill us?"
"She wants to destroy everything around me before she comes to kill me," Xena said bitterly.
"How long was I out?" Gabrielle asked, her jaw taking on the stubborn set which Xena knew quite well.
"All night and most of the morning. Your wounds are healing nicely and there's no sign of bleeding from your womb," Xena managed to smile. There were advantages to being the children of gods.
"Womb?" Gabrielle questioned, fear sweeping over her face. "Oh gods, the blows to my back."
"Yes, Mom was worried because it's still the first season of your pregnancy. No sign of cramping or bleeding," Xena leaned on her elbow on the bed next to her mate.
"Thank the gods!" Gabrielle closed her eyes, sighing gratefully.
Xena had to grin at that one, it hadn't been but a few days before when Gabrielle was ready to kill herself rather than have a child of one of those gods. Now she was thanking them for saving her child during the fight.
Then the bard opened her eyes again. "The others?"
Xena lost her smile. "Dex got a pretty good headache out of it, Mom has a few broken ribs but will be okay, no punctured lungs."
"Gods," Gabrielle whispered.
"Torris has a bad sword wound to his thigh, a graze across his ribs and is pissed as hell and Sarita was untouched," Xena continued.
Xena felt a tear escape her eye as she met Gabrielle's demanding gaze. "Callisto cut the back of her leg at the knee, crippling her. Reija will keep the leg but will be on crutches the rest of her life."
"No, no, please!" the bard lost her control and began crying again. It seemed like that's all they had been doing for days; and much longer for the bard with her confusion over the pregnancy.
Xena almost whimpered, she wanted to take Gabrielle into her arms and couldn't because of the bard's wounds. All she could do was cry with her wife and gently stroke the bard's forehead and wipe the tears away until Gabrielle could open her eyes again.
"Mars and Callisto took them without a word," Xena whispered.
"How long am I in this bed and how do we find the kids?" Gabrielle demanded, her grief turning to anger at the thought of Callisto and Mars with her adopted daughter and grandson.
"At least two more days and I'm not sure how to find them," Xena admitted.
"Two days!?" Gabrielle demanded.
"At least, little one," Xena countered firmly. "You could have lost your own child and were nearly killed. Another inch either way and those sais would have hit an artery or vein."
Gabrielle yelled in frustration, wanting to hit something but it hurt too much to even clench her hands into fists.
Xena rose up with a frown when a knock sounded on the door. Her tension eased up only slightly when Cyrene cautiously entered the room.
"Hey, Mom," Xena said easily, hand still on her chakram. After the last few days, the warrior wasn't taking any chances.
"Xena, you and Gabrielle have a visitor," Cyrene announced, her voice reflecting her puzzlement as she stepped aside.
Both Xena and Gabrielle were expecting maybe Meg and Joxer or Hercules and Iolaus. The Greek couple both looked puzzled when a cloaked and hooded figure entered the room.
Sharp eyes spotted the strong and masculine hand wrapped around a covered spear and Xena's eyes began to narrow. After everything that had happened, neither Xena nor Gabrielle was really surprised when the figure pulled the hood back and it was revealed their guest was Odin, god from the North.
"Odin," Xena said simply, resisting the urge to grin at her mom's puzzled face.
"All-Father God of the Northmen," Gabrielle explained, wishing she could at least sit up.
"Xena, Gabrielle, wish I could see you under different circumstances," Odin said simply, removing his cloak. Cyrene quickly offered to take it for the god as he sat down at a chair and table near the bed.
"What do you know of it?" Xena questioned, lowering her chakram to the table next to her side of the bed and leaning back on her elbow to look at the god over Gabrielle.
"I saw everything through the Well," the god answered. "I was too far away to do anything."
"Can you help now?" Gabrielle asked, ignoring the growl from Xena.
Odin smiled at Xena's reluctance in dealing with the gods, especially when it concerned asking for help.
"Yes, actually the gods need your help as well," Odin shrugged and, with a gentle smile, invited Cyrene to sit down at the table with him.
"Viking Gods asking for help?" Xena asked skeptically.
"Yes, your new God of War is messing with the strands of Fate. He intends on turning Sasha into a War Goddess, someone even more blood-thirsty than you once were," Odin explained.
"No," Xena whispered, her face stricken with horror.
"Yes, we have no idea what her inherited powers will be from you and Ares but we do know that she will be a goddess."
"Where do you fit in? I know you want to train her and have said that her future is in the North but you've been pretty vague why you want her up there in the North," Xena growled.
Odin's one blue eye flashed and Gabrielle wasn't sure if it wasn't in anger or not at being challenged by the Greek warrior.
"All the Norns have revealed is she is to be a hero and more in the North. She will ride with the gods and goddesses and be one of us," he admitted.
"Sasha?" Gabrielle questioned. She knew the child was already gifted with Sight from her parents but trying to imagine the pre-teen as a goddess was beyond her imagination.
"So, now Mars has her and intends on messing with her future and screwing up your plans," Xena said simply.
"Yes, and possibly altering the future of the world. Mars is gathering some of the minor Olympian gods and goddesses in support in keeping Sasha," Odin explained.
"You're going to march against Mars and other Olympian gods?" Xena demanded.
A war between gods hadn't been heard of since man was still figuring out how to keep fire going in a cave. The warrior felt Gabrielle shudder beside her at the thought of it as well.
"Yes, Loki and Hella are siding with Mars," Odin looked suddenly grim. "No surprise there, you never know where he's going to land. Others are standing with Freya and me, most want to stay out of it."
"Oh gods, not Ragnarok!" Gabrielle whispered.
"No, not Ragnarok but probably a good practice run at it," Odin grinned ruefully.
Xena's mind whirled. Ragnarok, the battle among the gods and the dead, among Vanir, Aesir and giants and the ending of the world. A new world would be born but the old one would be wiped away, including all but a small handful of humanity and gods.
"If Mars keeps and trains Sasha it could well lead to Ragnarok for all the cultures and world," Odin shrugged, looking very much like Xena.
"So what do we do?" Xena demanded, easily moving from reluctance to impatience.
"You and I plan a war and get her back," he said simply.
"What about me?" Gabrielle demanded, trying to sit up and falling back with a cry of pain.
"You're stuck here," Odin again shrugged and refused to meet the bard's flashing green eyes.
"He's right, little one," Xena said softly, not surprised when the green eyes burned her way. "We still don't know if your baby is in danger or not and you can't even sit up yet."
"Why can't you heal my shoulders?" Gabrielle demanded from the god of the Norse.
"Not my gig, not your fate," he said easily. "Healing is that of the goddesses and I didn't bring one with me."
Gabrielle started to say something about smart ass gods and attitudes when Xena clamped a hand over the bard's mouth and glared at Odin.
"Are you trying to piss her off?" she demanded.
Odin laughed softly and held up his hands in a gesture of peace. "Sorry, I haven't gotten to know your mate and I was testing her a little. For a small one she is strong and stubborn, a well enough match for you, Xena."
"I hate gods," Xena muttered, removing her hand from Gabrielle's mouth as the bard continued to glare at the god and then back at her mate.
"I'm not staying behind!" Gabrielle protested. "No more separations!"
"Gabrielle, we're going into battle," Xena countered. "Against gods, even if your shoulders were healed I wouldn't let you near the field. You know that, not with a child coming."
"Damnit!" Gabrielle yelled, trying not to tense her muscles in anger.
"I know, little one, I know," Xena whispered, gently touching Gabrielle's cheek.
"She can't fight against gods!" Gabrielle protested, glaring at Odin again.
"She'll be given back that power, so will you," Odin said simply.
"I don't want the power to hurt or kill gods if I'm not with Xena on this one!" Gabrielle protested.
"You may need it now since Mars has acted against both of you with Callisto's help," Odin countered and the bard fell silent.
Odin rose to his feet and offered his hand to Cyrene and helped her to her feet.
"I'll be in the stable, Xena," he said simply and walked out the door with Cyrene following.
Gabrielle fell deadly quiet as Xena got up and began stuffing things in her travel packs. The warrior tried to ignore the pain in her side as she lay back down on the bed next to her mate. One look at Gabrielle's face and Xena knew the bard was more than a little upset with being left behind.
"Gabrielle," Xena began softly.
"I know, I know!" the bard snapped. "Don't expect me to be happy about it!"
Xena moved as close against her mate as she could as Gabrielle craned her neck, her lips reaching for the warrior's. Both women fought back tears as their lips met and Gabrielle leaned into Xena's hand.
"I love you, Gabrielle," Xena said softly, quickly getting off the bed and grabbing her packs.
"I love you, Xena," Gabrielle choked out. "Come back to me."
"I'll never leave you, one way or another," Xena promised and was gone.
Gabrielle fought back tears as she heard the warrior going down the stairs. She knew Xena was in no condition to fight and hoped that one of the Northern goddesses would at least heal Xena's wounded side before they went into battle.
Gods, the thought of a battle between the Viking gods and Greek gods was frightening.
Gabrielle frowned as the door opened again and Odin walked in. He smiled slightly and went to the table, grabbing up his cloak.
"Forgot this," he said simply but Gabrielle's eyes were narrowed.
"And?" she demanded and the god merely laughed and slowly approached her side of the bed.
"You are good, bard," he commented. "What would you give to save Sasha and the known world?"
"I answered that once when Apollo told me her fate was to destroy the world if I didn't return to Xena from slavery. I'll do anything to save her and Xena," Gabrielle answered easily.
"Then I need your help," Odin began explaining. "I need Callisto distracted when we take to the battlefield and I think you can do it. I need Xena focused during the battle and frankly the sight of Callisto will send her into a berserker fury."
"After killing Solan, that's assured," Gabrielle agreed.
"Can you do it? Can you keep her off the battlefield?" Odin questioned.
"I can't even sit up!" the bard complained. "I can't heal myself fast enough without endangering my child."
Odin grinned and closed his bright blue eye and held his hands over the bard's shoulder and Gabrielle felt the familiar tingling and rush of energy flowing from the god into her body. This was followed by the strange sensation of her muscles, skin and bones healing rapidly.
Gabrielle sat up easily after a moment and narrowed her eyes as she looked into Odin's face.
"The child is fine and now you're healed. Don't let Xena know or she'll insist you come with us," he suggested.
"You planned this all along," she muttered, half angrily.
"Yes, you'll have the power to hurt and maybe even kill Callisto. Mars and Callisto wouldn't dare risk letting Xena near them before a battle but they would be delighted to get their hands on you," Odin said simply.
The thought of willingly giving herself over to those two maniac deities didn't inspire hope in the bard and Odin nodded at her frown.
"It's a lot, they may just kill you right away," Odin agreed with her thoughts.
"Or torture me for awhile before the battle; even with god-killing gifts there's no way I can handle both of them at once," Gabrielle protested.
"You underestimate yourself, warrior bard," Odin grinned. "You can take Callisto and Xena can handle Mars. Go to the temple of Ares where you fought before. Keep your shoulders bandaged and act wounded and then take her out."
"Xena will kill both of us," Gabrielle smiled at the devious deity.
"Nothing new there, bard," Odin grinned back.
Xena frowned as Odin came down the stairs. What took so long?
Odin smiled easily. Reassuring your mate I'd keep you as safe as possible. She's really upset she's not going with you.
Xena continued frowning. Me too. Let's go.
Gabrielle watched from her window as Odin and Xena left the village. She knew Odin would zap them to Asgard once they were out of view. The bard was careful to stay out of Xena's sight.
Gabrielle knew Xena would never agree to Odin's crazy plan to divide Callisto and Mars apart during the battle but the bard knew that it might be the only chance they would have to get close to Sasha.
Xena couldn't help but smile after Freya ran her hands over the warrior and all her aches, pains and the wounded side were healed instantly. It always felt strange to be healed by the gods but Xena was grateful. If she was going up against Mars and Callisto, Xena wanted to be in top form.
The Northern Goddess smiled in return and turned to Odin with a satisfied look.
You've got your warrior, Odin, she said simply.
We'll need her, Freya, Odin responded. Xena, time to plan a battle that will rattle the world!
Xena shook her head at his enthusiasm. Vikings and their fights, she grinned. How did I hook up with you Vikings? she asked with a grin. You can be as bad as Ares and Mars.
Not quite, he argued. We fight for the joy of it, yes, but not for the blood and carnage like Ares.
Very little difference at times, Xena countered and wasn't surprised when the deity merely shrugged.
You know how the Greeks and Romans do battle, Odin began, changing the subject.
Yes, I don't expect the gods to fight like a Roman legion but I do know how they think, especially if Mars has learned from Ares, Xena agreed, walking over and leaning over a table. On the table was a model of the ground where the gods from two different cultures would clash. It was a wonderful model, showing the hills, valleys, rivers, plains, everything down to the smallest detail. Xena envied the ability to have these kinds of maps and then shook her head. She didn't need maps like this anymore, she argued with herself. Xena wasn't the Warlord anymore.
Then why did she keep ending up a warrior and in battles?
Caesar had once said that his destiny was to rule the world and Xena was part of it. She had been; she had also been part of his downfall from that rule. He had felt the best thing anyone could ever know was their own personal destiny and how to fight for it.
What was Xena's destiny? She questioned with a frown. Especially now since she knew she was immortal and practically a god. No longer did she have to look at retiring and being a full time mom or innkeeper.
It had always been unspoken that Xena would take over for her mom when Cyrene couldn't work it anymore. Now was that the plan? The last two years had seen Solan and Reija working towards that goal, now Solan was dead and Reija crippled.
What was their destiny? What was right for her family?
Xena almost wished she could grow older and follow the pattern that life had set down for humans. Some things would be taken for granted and forced on you. Warriors either died or retired. They became Captains of city guards, teachers or generals. Very few warriors made it to old age in their profession.
Now Xena supposed she could go on forever as a warrior unless she was killed. Was that her destiny? Was that what she was meant to do forever? Was that the future she wanted for Gabrielle and their children?
Children, their children. What did destiny mean with children? A child with Gabrielle and Sasha and a grandson by Solan.
Xena frowned and caught Odin smiling at her.
You think too much sometimes, he teased.
And you don't? God of poetry, after sacrificing your eye for the gift of prophecy, knowledge and poetry. Hanging on a tree, stabbed with your own spear to gain the knowledge of the runes. Was it worth it? she countered.
Yes, I can tell you the future of the world but you wouldn't believe it, any of the possibilities. Do I know that I can't prevent some things from happening, yes? Do I know that I will die eventually, yes?
And Sasha? You've been rather quiet about that subject, Xena growled.
If we get her back to you, her future is glorious. If not, the future is short for most of us, Odin shrugged, vague as usual.
Let's get to planning, Xena said simply.
We know some of the names of the Greeks joining with Mars, maybe you recognize the names, Freya suggested.
Who are they? Xena questioned.
Pluto and Morpheus, Odin began.
Pluto is the Roman name for Hades, king of the Underworld. Morpheus is the god of dreams. I've tangled with him before, he wanted Gabrielle in his kingdom, Xena answered.
Which would have meant her death, Odin surmised and Xena nodded. Erebus and Ixion.
Erebus is the son of Chaos, his specialty is darkness. Ixion is the son of Ares, brother to Mars, Xena responded easily.
Dis and Alphaeus, Freya continued.
An Underworld god and a river god, the warrior answered, looking over the model map.
Neptune I know is an ocean god, what about Orcus? Odin questioned.
A Roman god of death, Xena muttered.
Phobos, Freya finished.
Another son of Ares, his specialty is causing fright. What Vikings have joined with Mars? Xena asked.
So far only Loki and Hella and some of the giants, Odin answered.
Any Greeks on our side? the warrior asked, moving around the table to get a different angle on the battleground.
Yes, Cupid and Apollo, Odin began.
God of Love and the God of the Sun, Xena grinned. I expected them. Cupid likes us and Apollo is Gabrielle's father.
Mercury and Museos, Freya continued.
God of Speed and Messages and a male muse, the son of Hecate, Xena responded. I guess that makes him my half-brother. Haven't met him.
One named Evander and Artemis, Odin finished.
Strange, a son of Ares but a god of writing, Xena frowned. The Goddess of the hunt and Amazons, Gabrielle's patron goddess.
Evander has pledged loyalty to Apollo and Zeus, Odin mentioned.
Good, not every son takes after the father, I guess, Xena muttered.
Now, about this valley here, Odin pointed, beginning the strategy session.
Gabrielle hated leaving a note for Cyrene, especially after the last note she had left. The note telling her mother-in-law she was about to take her own life because of her pregnancy. Now she was leaving another note for Cyrene to find and worry over, but Gabrielle knew if Cyrene was aware of what the bard was planning all of Tartarus would break loose.
The bard wondered, as she climbed out her window with a small travel pack, whether she was going crazy. The plan was insane and she knew it but was still willing to try it. To turn herself over to Callisto and Mars with no backup was more than insane, it was suicidal and the bard didn't consider herself suicidal anymore.
Especially now since she was pregnant and knew without a doubt the child wasn't the result of Bacchus' sexual assault. A child of Xena and herself through magic.
Gabrielle hesitated in the stable as she put the bridle on her horse. How could she risk her own life now that she was carrying a child? Especially since the child was also Xena's?
On the other hand, Odin was counting on her to distract Callisto during the battle. The details had been few and rough; he would somehow let Gabrielle know when the gods and their armies were marching against each other and it would then be up to Gabrielle to keep Callisto from the field.
The bard wasn't sure how she was going to do that; Callisto was so unpredictable and Mars a total unknown. Odin had whispered a suggestion in her ear before walking out the door, leaving a stunned bard behind. A suggestion Gabrielle found she didn't even want to think about yet alone consider.
Xena and Odin finally quit hovering over the model map with the other gods and goddesses after several candles-marks. The warrior found she was actually relaxing with the Viking and Greek deities as they argued strategy and weapons.
The warrior then found herself frowning; it almost felt too comfortable to her. Then she smiled as Cupid sat down next to her as Valkyries merrily served food and drink to the crowd gathered at the eating table.
You're thinking about your warlord days, he commented.
You reading my mind? she demanded, losing her smile.
No, it's easy to read your body language and I know you, he responded easily. You have been wrapped up in the planning and then bantering back and forth about war. Then you frowned, actually scowling at yourself, he explained. You aren't falling back into old patterns, Xena.
How do I know what you say is true? War was what I lived for and I have no idea what I'm doing now in life. We've been surviving for years without any real direction, the warrior complained. Coming together and then losing Gabrielle for almost two years, no time for planning while that was happening. Since then we've been off balance.
Cupid nodded, And most of those events were because of Ares messing with you both.
Now it's Mars and Callisto. Just when I think we can settle down and raise our families, something happens, Xena complained.
Why can't you accept that you're a warrior? he asked with a grin.
I know I'm a warrior, I just don't want to slip back into being a warlord, Xena countered.
You are a naturally talented warrior and more, just like your bard is. Maybe you two should raise your families outside the Empire for awhile, Cupid, God of Love suggested.
I've been thinking about it, Xena admitted. Especially if we don't take care of Mars and Callisto.
Even if we do take Mars out, another God will come along to replace him, probably one of Ares' other sons, Cupid complained.
What are Gabrielle and I destined for? Xena muttered.
You think too much right now, Cupid grinned. Right now your destiny is to get your daughter and grandson back, get back to your mate and help her during the pregnancy.
Xena grinned back at the God of Love and nodded, accepting a horn of mead and almost choked when the god leaned over and nuzzled her neck.
He almost choked on his own drink as he laughed at Xena's surprised statement.
Hey, he grinned. You are beautiful, irresistible, and such fun when you blush!
The warrior laughed and playfully smacked the God on his arm.
Just never try that when Gabrielle is around, you imp!
Cupid laughed as the warrior shook her head. He could be a handful, Xena thought to herself, like his mother. One thing about both of them, the warrior didn't feel threatened by his playfulness. She knew he wasn't serious and had gotten her to laugh and she was grateful.
She also noticed him carefully watching a couple of the Valkyries moving around the table and some of them watching him back. They seemed more than curious about his wings, which he tried to keep tucked behind him.
The night before a major battle could guarantee several things, the warrior knew; one would be alcohol and another would be sex. Not too much alcohol and not too much sex but it would happen among a lot of them, Xena knew. Some of the midnight connections would be out of the knowledge that death might wait for them the next day; others out of the incredible energy that would be building up between everyone.
Xena wished even more that Gabrielle was with her, the warrior's eyes clouding over with thoughts of her bard.
Gabrielle camped two marks away from the Temple of Ares. She knew the gods would be meeting on the battlefield during the daytime, probably at first light.
The bard leaped to her feet, sai in each hand when a figure appeared suddenly on the other side of her campfire. Gabrielle blinked as she took in the male smiling at her.
Wearing nothing more than a pair of cut off trousers, a shining helmet and tight shoes, the well fit youth looked like a swimmer. Or a runner, Gabrielle corrected herself and smiled, lowering her sais slightly.
Hermes, or are you calling yourself Mercury these days? she greeted.
Either works for me, he grinned as she took in the wings at his ankles and the ones behind his back, like Cupid's, only these were smaller.
What's up? she asked as she invited him to sit by the fire with her. The God of Speed and Messages sat with a smile.
Xena and the others have planned the battle and now are settling in for the evening, he said easily.
Gods, I miss her, Gabrielle muttered.
She is missing you, badly, Hermes smiled, Especially with Cupid trying to nibble on her neck.
The Greek Trickster God laughed heartily. He doesn't mean it, he got her to laugh and relax a little.
I assume Odin sent you, she guessed.
Yes, just checking on things, he confirmed.
How in Tartarus am I supposed to get Callisto and Mars apart before a major battle? Gabrielle complained.
Well, they actually plan on it, Hermes said cryptically.
What do you mean? Gabrielle asked, her curiosity now heightened.
They plan on Callisto kidnapping you from your sick bed while Xena is in the middle of the battle, he explained.
And how do you and Odin know this? Gabrielle's eyes narrowed.
Loki has joined with Mars and Callisto, Hermes said easily. What they don't realize is he's been feeding Odin information about everything. Hella may stand with them but when the battle begins Loki will be by Odin's side.
Trickster Gods, so damned unpredictable, Gabrielle complained with a smile and was pleased when Hermes joined her laughter in agreement.
So, I go into the Temple when I get some kind of signal and I'll find Callisto alone about to go off and kidnap me? Gabrielle frowned.
That's pretty much it, he agreed.
Then I need to keep her busy, hopefully not busy killing me, the bard said thoughtfully.
Yes, and you have got to keep her busy and not simply turn yourself over, he stressed.
She can't be given time to follow through with her plans for you, you have got to keep her off balance, Hermes urged.
Gabrielle felt a chill run up her spine. What is her plan for me? she asked softly.
To torment you, Mars to rape you and then turn you over as a slave to the Romans again, he answered bluntly. Gabrielle fought down the urge to throw up at the rough description of Callisto's insane plans for her. The bard clenched her hands into fists as her eyes closed in rage. The memories of her time as a slave came rushing back and she resisted the urge to scream.
When Gabrielle opened her eyes again Hermes was gone, leaving the bard with her thoughts.
Xena growled as sunlight hit her eyes as she mounted her horse. The few horns of mead she had the night before were making her grumpy this morning. The warrior was pleased with the horse, a beautiful black mare which reminded her a lot of Argo. Xena missed her beloved and well-trained warhorse and felt another stab of pain. It was getting time to retire Argo from her rough life-style and Xena knew it.
It was another loss coming up and another reminder of the passage of time for the warrior.
Xena frowned as she took in the sight of the deities also mounting their horses. Each lost in their thoughts before the upcoming battle. They each knew this was serious; everyone on the battlefield would have the ability to hurt or kill each other. No one was exempt from the potential of death in this battle. That was something the deities weren't accustomed to.
Even the soldiers and warrior priests of the gods could kill them. Somehow the Fates, Norns or whoever had evened the odds between everyone.
Xena saw Cupid leaning on a doorpost as a Valkyrie leaned into him and began kissing him passionately and the warrior shook her head with a smile. Another Valkyrie walked out behind the Love God and pinched his ass with a grin and Xena continued to shake her head. At least he had kept busy the night before, she thought.
The warrior quickly checked her gear, once more. Everything in place, strapped down, buckled, and tied down. The shield was an excellent piece of work which had pleased the warrior when Odin had presented her with it. Her sword was as sharp as it ever had been, as was her chakram. Several daggers were hidden on various places of her body and a whip was hanging at her side.
Even Xena was impressed when Odin rode out of the stables to join them. His armor was bright and perfect; the tall God was imposing with his long spear in hand. Several whistles greeted the god and he grinned in response.
Let's do this! he shouted and was greeted with massive cheers.
Xena felt her body beginning to hum.
Gabrielle watched the temple and everything around her from a position in the woods, out of sight.
It was about a candle-mark past dawn and the bard was waiting impatiently. She had no idea yet how she was going to distract Callisto long enough for the battle to be decided. Some battles had been known to last all day, some even days.
Gabrielle looked up as two ravens began circling overhead, cawing loudly and circling her tree until she waved at them. The two ravens landed on a branch near the bard and she smiled slightly.
Some sign, tell Odin I'm going through with it. I still don't know what in name of Zeus I'm going to do but I'm going in, she said softly to the birds as they watched her closely.
One more set of caws and the two dark winged creatures flew off, heading up into the sky and out of sight.
Gabrielle looked down at the temple and steeled herself.
Xena screamed a war cry and slashed out at one of the dark soldiers trying to impale her with a spear. She parried the spear easily and slashed backhanded, as the mounted soldier drew closer, and struck him solidly. Her sword ripped through his leather armor from the neck into his chest.
He was forgotten in an instant as she turned and met danger coming in from the front and the side.
Xena had been in the last wave of those going into battle. She and Odin had stayed on a high hill, overseeing and directing the battle.
Xena had been content to let Odin plan most of the battle; the warrior knew Mars would be familiar with everything that Xena had been taught by Ares and her experiences with the Romans. She was trusting Odin to be unpredictable enough to counter that knowledge.
The first unpredictable thing had been the opening feint of both armies. Mars had sent his priest army onto the field with the spearmen first and Phobos riding in front of them, instilling fear in the scout troops of Odin. One thing Mars hadn't counted on with the Vikings, they didn't run when afraid, they went berserk.
The scouts went insane and threw themselves into the middle of the mounted spear soldiers, many of them impaling themselves on the spears in order to break them. The small scout units were massacred but not before they had fought past the spears to sink their swords or even their teeth into their enemies. A third of the spearmen went down to the scouts.
Instead of meeting cavalry with cavalry, Odin met them with arrows and stake traps. With one of her famous war cries, Xena signaled the release of massive logs from the surrounding embankments leading to the woods. The logs had been embedded with spikes and pitch. At the sound of her cry the logs were set on fire and released. The cavalry found blazing spiked logs hurling at them from the sides and a massive wall of stakes facing their horses from the front.
Just as the logs hit the horses and men and the screams of both horse and man began, fire arrows rained down on them from the safety of the trees.
It was all common sense battle planning but it was something Xena excelled at. She was spectacular at all out battle and frontal assaults but she was also talented in ways of wearing down an army and thinning out its ranks before meeting it head-on. These were some of the same tactics she had used on Brutus.
The next tactic was unexpected though, something she had never used.
In typical Roman style, the army of Mars attacked in ranks. There were advantages and disadvantages; one advantage was the separate units could be directed quickly into changing directions and battle plans. The disadvantage was one the Roman god was about to learn.
As the next wave came to the forefront, foot soldiers with spears this time. They left a gap between the last row and the next rank.
The foot spearmen were surprised and confused when they had gotten near the front rank of Odin's troops without any confrontation. They were even more confused when four riders broke out of the trees on each flank behind them and in between the ranks of Mars' army.
Mars himself was confused until he saw they were trailing burning bundles of hay. The Roman God of War began cursing loudly when he realized the ground between his two ranks had been prepared before the battle with oil. The ground became a burning inferno in a matter of moments, cutting off the spearmen from the rest of their troops.
Screams of rage from Mars sounded out across the meadow and then were drowned out by the screams of pain from men burning or being killed by sword, spear and arrow.
Xena gritted her teeth against the horror as she slashed out again. One flank of Mars cavalry had broken through and had threatened Odin's position. Xena had urged her horse into action and into battle.
Gabrielle managed to hold open the door with her foot after a petitioner left the temple. She took a deep breath and pushed the door open further and walked inside, still pretending to nurse her shoulders but mentally prepared for anything.
Odin had suggested playing she was still injured and the bard had ensured that the white bandages and wrappings showed from under her simple tunic. It was times like this she wished she could still wear her old favorite clothing. What little of it there was, she reflected with a smile. Nowadays she didn't dare for fear of being mistaken for a slave because of the lash scars across her back.
Gabrielle lost her smile and felt a shudder run up her spine. Which was exactly what Callisto wanted for her again, slave to someone brutal, maybe even the gladiatorial games again. A guaranteed short life, even for an immortal.
Gabrielle wondered for a moment how much Callisto knew about them since she had been in the lava rock. Obviously enough to fool Joxer into believing she was Gabrielle. Callisto must know that she was the daughter of Apollo and immortal now. The bard frowned, how much did Callisto know about them? She knew about Solan, Sasha and even Dex being Xena's boss and friend. Did she know Gabrielle was now pregnant with Xena's child? That would not be good, Gabrielle thought to herself.
The temple only had one priest this early in the morning and he wasn't paying attention to the female in the cloak that kept to the back of the temple. When the half-asleep priest went outside for something the bard quickly moved behind the altar and towards the step to the hard wooden and leather throne.
Gabrielle really didn't know what she was doing but she trusted her instincts. Whenever Ares had appeared in the temples or Olympus it was always on his throne first. The bard quickly moved up the stairs and sat down before the priest could come in and cause problems.
Callisto! she shouted loudly, startling several doves that had taken refuge in the rafters.
Xena shouted and waved her bloody sword over her head and the troops of Mars looked up with startled faces at the screams of horses and women above their heads. Even Phobos looked surprised and a little fearful at the sight of the well armed and battle frenzied Valkyries on winged horses diving at them.
At the same time, Odin's troops pressed forward, two units of berserkers and werserkers leading the charge. The combination of the half-bear, half-wolf warriors and flying Valkyries was more than some of the Greeks could take and panic began to spread throughout the soldiers of Mars.
Xena grinned and saw Odin stand up in his stirrups, his cloak flowing behind him, his wolves standing on each side of Sleipnir, his eight legged horse. She was surprised when his two ravens appeared and landed on each shoulder.
The warrior's sharp eyes took in their cawing in each ear and the Norse gods' close attention to his messengers. Then the deity stood higher and shouted a war cry of his own and raised his spear.
All who fall come to me! he shouted, his god-voice carrying over the din of the battle, causing an almost supernatural silence for a moment. In that space of silence, the god threw his spear over the heads of Mars' army.
All of them, even the Greeks knew that was a dedication of souls to Odin upon their death. Whoever died this day as a hero would go to Valhalla and to Odin. A hero's fate.
It also meant he was dooming the enemy army to failure.
Mars roared his anger and began shouting at his own troops to get back to the front and hold the line.
Xena sent her chakram flying as two of Morpheus personal priest warriors managed to use their ability to cloud minds to work past the front lines and were heading for Odin. The priests never knew what hit them. One moment their heads were attached to their bodies and the next moment they weren't. The faces on the severed heads actually managed to look puzzled before dropping to the ground.
Odin looked over and grinned viciously at the warrior.
Both armies were holding their own but it was becoming obvious that Odin's side was beginning to make progress. Mars may have started out with almost double the number of troops, but the surprises Odin and Xena had sprung at him and his troops had cut the advantage down.
Gabrielle blinked as she took in the sight of the living space around her and wasn't surprised to find it very masculine. Leather covered furniture, shields and various weapons decorated the walls with black, red and silver tapestries with intricate interwoven designs. A long table with gold goblets and plates ran down the center of the room. Off to her left was a large and comfortable looking bed of rich linens and furs.
In the center of the bed was Callisto, looking somewhat surprised to be looking back at the bard sitting on the throne of Ares, now the throne of Mars.
Well, well, Callisto purred, sitting up on the bed. Her movements reminded Gabrielle of a snake or a harem dancer - erotic and deadly at the same time.
Gabrielle resisted the urge to dive off the throne with sais in both hands. The bard knew she now had the ability to hurt the goddess in front of her and Callisto didn't know it. Gabrielle didn't dare risk it until she knew where Sasha was, however. One wrong move and Callisto could blast Gabrielle into flames and Xena would never see Sasha again.
I didn't expect visitors! Callisto exclaimed easily.
Gabrielle stood up slowly, keeping her arms close to her body and moving stiffly.
I thought I'd save you the trip, Gabrielle taunted back.
How did you know I'd be coming for you? Callisto stopped as she stood up and drew her sword; Gabrielle losing her chance to surprise the goddess immediately with an attack.
Logic, Gabrielle said easily, moving down from the steps to meet the blonde chaotic goddess. Xena is off battling Mars, leaving me unprotected and injured. You don't want Xena dead, you want to hurt her.
Yes, go on, Callisto muttered, her eyes burning brightly as she watched the bard move slowly to a well cushioned chair near the fire at the head of the room.
You've killed her son, kidnapped her daughter and grandson, Gabrielle continued, picking up a goblet of rich wine and pretended to drink. Crippled her daughter-in-law, injured her brother badly, destroyed our friend Joxer, broke her mother's ribs. What could be next except me?
Very good, you always were smart, Callisto smiled, her eyes dancing with a manic gleam. Many have underestimated you, haven't they?
Yes, Gabrielle admitted.
You know something, Callisto suddenly said thoughtfully. You never did thank me.
Thank you? a puzzled Gabrielle asked.
For killing that boring farmer you picked for a husband, Callisto grinned evilly. If not for me you might never have gotten together with Xena after that disaster.
Gabrielle felt her eyes flashing with anger, her breathing quicken and she quickly resisted the reaction of tightening her hands into fists and then attacking Callisto.
Oh goodie! Callisto cried, delightfully clapping her hands. It still gets to you, does it? Is that because you really loved him or do you feel guilty because you're glad he's dead and you're with Xena?
Gabrielle somehow kept her anger in check but she could feel her cheeks blushing with anger and guilt. Callisto had hit a little too close to home for the bard. In fact, she had hit dead center, Gabrielle did feel guilty that Perdicus was dead because she was happy to be with Xena and only his death had made that possible.
Callisto laughed heartily at the bard's statement of anger.
So what do you have planned for me? Gabrielle demanded, hoping to change the subject.
Oh nothing much, Callisto purred, moving closer to the bard and raising Gabrielle's chin up with the point of her sword. I thought I'd torture you for awhile and then turn you over to one of the more vicious gladiatorial schools in Rome.
Gabrielle let the fear show in her eyes as well as the anger.
Been there, done that, she said bravely, hoping Callisto caught the tremor in her voice. I survived and won my freedom.
I know, I saw that! Callisto exclaimed and laughed at Gabrielle's baffled look. I had the ability to watch the two of you while I was stuck in that damned lava!
The goddess looked furious for a moment and Gabrielle felt her heart skip a beat as the sword bit into her throat slightly and then Callisto looked amused again.
I got to see you sleeping with that other Amazon gladiator of yours; you are definitely more talented than you think! Callisto said and then laughed as the bard blushed a bright red. Both in bed and in the Arena. I never thought you'd get out of that one!
Callisto lowered the sword and sat down in a chair across from Gabrielle.
Then I got to see Xena's brat being born, quite a sight! she continued. Vikings and blood everywhere, Xena screaming and helpless! Oh it was such fun!
Have you ever thought of having children, Callisto? Gabrielle asked and wasn't surprised by the shocked statement on the goddess' face.
Why would I subject a child to my life? the blonde goddess demanded suddenly angry.
Good question, then what do you have planned for Sasha and Kiryk? Gabrielle countered.
Mars gets Sasha to raise as he sees fit, Callisto shrugged. As for the other brat, you'll have to guess about that one.
Gabrielle's eyes narrowed in anger but she resisted snapping back at the goddess.
Amazing, Gabrielle commented and wasn't surprised when Callisto leaned forward, her eyes flashing with anger.
What? she demanded.
That you would make the same mistakes as Xena, the bard said thoughtfully, appearing not to notice Callisto's rising anger.
Mistakes? Callisto hissed.
Creating another Xena. Really stupid.
Gabrielle wasn't surprised when Callisto backhanded her, almost tipping the chair over backwards. Again the bard resisted reacting physically.
You better explain that, bitch, Callisto growled.
Xena was partly created by Ares. The Warlord Xena killed your family and created you. Now you're going to turn a child over to Mars so he can create another Warlord Xena, Gabrielle reasoned. Sasha is as innocent as you were, now you get to create a monster, just like Xena did.
You've killed Sasha's brother and are going to turn her over to Mars to be turned into a monster. Xena may well have raised you herself, Gabrielle snapped. You want revenge on Sasha or Xena?
And what would you suggest, bard? Callisto laughed. I let Sasha and Kiryk go, send you back and forgive Xena for everything?
I know you won't do that, Gabrielle said simply. I do know a way to get revenge on Xena without turning Sasha into the monster Xena was and which you've become.
So you haven't come to argue for yourself or Xena, Callisto commented, nodding to herself as if accepting the observation.
No, that would be useless, Gabrielle said simply.
You are sharp, Callisto admitted. So in your mind what could I possibly do with Sasha that would hurt Xena without hurting Sasha.
Nothing, Gabrielle admitted. But I do know a lesser evil for Sasha. Give her to the Norse gods.
What in Tartarus are you talking about? They're the ones fighting Mars right now! Callisto demanded.
Haven't you asked yourself why they are fighting Mars? Gabrielle threw a question back at the goddess.
By the frown on the blonde's face, Gabrielle knew Callisto hadn't bothered with the question and probably neither had Mars.
They are fighting with Xena not because they're friends with her! Gabrielle said forcefully, as if instructing a slower student. They want Sasha for their own. The Northern gods know she's going to have powers and want her for their own. They intend to turn her into a Valkyrie and take her from Xena and me.
What the difference between Mars and the Norse and why should I care? Callisto demanded.
Do you want to do to a child what Xena did to you? Gabrielle demanded. Mars will warp her and turn her into what Xena was. Sasha will turn around and destroy many more families than Xena ever did. Families like yours. The Warlord Xena will win over you, Callisto.
Callisto seemed lost in thought.
The ultimate irony, Xena created you by killing your family. Now you'll create a hundred more Callistos by creating the next Xena with her daughter. Gabrielle said bitterly.
So why the Norse? Callisto was still frowning.
They want to take and train her to become one of them, Xena isn't happy with that and won't give up her daughter to them, Gabrielle said, hoping the truth would cloud over the slight lie under the sentence.
What if I want her to become the next Warlord Xena? Callisto asked with a grin.
Why, everyone will know it's your fault, you and Mars. Xena will be seen as the suffering mother who lost her child to an insane goddess and a power hungry war god, the bard said simply.
Callisto continued pondering.
Instead of Xena being blamed for her past crimes, you'll be the one blamed for the terror. Cirra will be forgotten and you'll be cursed for taking an innocent child and turning her into a monster. Gabrielle pressed.
You talk too much, Callisto growled and Gabrielle nodded her head in agreement.
Gabrielle watched as Callisto snarled at her and then at herself.
They'll possibly turn her over to you again after the battle! Callisto protested.
No, were you watching when we fought the monster Grendel? Gabrielle asked.
Yeah, you actually stayed dead for awhile over that one! Callisto grinned in pleasure and Gabrielle glared at her. I saw.
Then you know Freya and Odin are demanding Sasha for their own.
Xena was getting tired, battle took energy very quickly and this one was lasting towards noon.
The warrior spotted Cupid falling back from the battle, wiping sweat from his brow and ignoring blood dripping from a serious cut along his left bicep and another under his right ribs.
He saw Xena and rode his horse over to her and smiled slightly.
How goes it? he asked.
So far, so good. We're holding our own and Mars is getting more and more frustrated, Xena answered.
Good, some of them are getting really tired out there, he commented.
I know, hopefully the last surprise we have in store for them will break it, Xena grinned.
What do you have planned? the god of Love asked.
Just wait and see, don't get yourself killed before then, she joked and he merely grinned at her and turned his horse back towards the battlefield.
Xena rode over next to Odin and they watched the battle for a few moments. They could both see Mars on an opposite hill doing the same. He was pacing his horse back and forth, obviously impatient and frustrated.
Getting close, Odin, Xena said simply.
Not yet, I'm waiting for something, he grinned.
What? The troops are getting tired and we need a boost, Xena asked.
I'm waiting for your daughter, Odin said, intentionally watching the battle and not the warrior. He didn't want to laugh at her amazed statement.
What? she demanded after a moment.
I'm hoping Sasha will show up, he smiled.
What have you done? she demanded, her eyes narrowing. What have you and Gabrielle planned?
We'll have to wait and see, Xena, Odin said simply.
Don't even think about it, Xena! Odin said sharply. If you leave now you could destroy everything and kill both Sasha and Gabrielle.
If either of them die, Odin, Xena began threatening.
I know, I know.
Gabrielle resisted shifting uneasily in the chair under Callisto's unrelenting stare and finally the goddess broke the stare and growled as she drained a goblet of wine.
She glared at Gabrielle again and snapped her fingers.
It took every bit of Gabrielle's self control not to leap to her feet as Sasha appeared next to Callisto's chair. The child rushed forward and hugged her adopted mom.
Gabrielle carefully wrapped her arms around the child, cautiously watching Callisto.
Say goodbye to Gabrielle, brat, Callisto snapped and Gabrielle pulled Sasha back to look the child in her blue eyes.
Callisto is going to send you to Odin a little early, okay? Your mom and I are going to get you back someday, Gabrielle said simply, hoping Sasha would keep quiet and just listen.
I don't want to leave you and Mom! Sasha cried and Gabrielle almost sighed with relief, somehow the child knew what to say.
Just don't anger Odin and remember I love you, Gabrielle hugged the child tightly.
Sasha backed out of Gabrielle's arms with tears flowing down her face and was gone.
She's with Odin? Gabrielle demanded from Callisto, who now looked bored.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, the goddess waved her hand, dismissing the subject. Happy?
Yes, Gabrielle admitted.
Now what to do with you? Callisto turned her attention back to the bard, her eyes dancing with insanity.
Gabrielle felt her heart skip a beat with fear. She had the power to hurt Callisto but Callisto had the power to zap things and she was unpredictable as Tartarus.
The bard knew the next few moments could determine whether she would go through torture and end up as a slave or maybe get out alive.
Gabrielle stood up and shrugged her cloak off as Callisto's eyes narrowed with suspicion. The bard kept her movements simple and her hands away from her sais as she reached up and pulled her tunic off. It was revealed that Gabrielle was wearing one of her old favorite outfits, a leather top which barely covered her ample breasts and a leather skirt that left little to the imagination but her legs free for movement.
The bard noticed the flash of interest before Callisto masked it with a look of disdain.
That god healing ability take care of your shoulders? the goddess asked, trying to sound bored.
Something like that, Gabrielle shrugged. So, after you send me to the Romans, kill Torris and his wife, then what?
I don't know, Callisto admitted.
What would be left for revenge? Gabrielle continued, throwing her tunic onto the chair with her cloak.
You talk too much, Callisto complained again.
Yup, I admit it, Gabrielle said softly and walked up to the goddess as Callisto's eyes narrowed again with suspicion. Before Callisto could respond, the bard pulled the goddess to her and kissed her passionately.
Callisto protested for a moment and then began responding to the kiss, pulling Gabrielle closer.
The bard tried to shut off of her mind and let her body respond to the sensations. She had done it often enough when she was a slave and separated from Xena. Forced into a relationship with her female trainer, she had started out the sexual relationship by shutting off her mind and letting her body respond. Later she had needed the contact with Nikki, but the first time with Nikki had felt like this, somehow unreal and distant.
The bard moaned and kissed the goddess back even more roughly than before.
Not surprising the bard, Callisto suddenly thrust Gabrielle back, a shocked statement on her face.
What in Tartarus are you doing?! she shrieked.
Gabrielle slowly pulled her sais out and threw them on the chair behind her. She saw Callisto's eyes narrow in suspicion.
The bard also caught Callisto's eyes roaming over the bard's body now the tunic was gone and Gabrielle was dressed more like she had in her traveling days with Xena. Skirt and very little for a top.
"Tell me something, Callisto," Gabrielle said softly, letting her voice go a little husky. "Why haven't you killed me yet?"
"What? Don't be an idiot," Callisto snapped. "If I send you to the slave pits, then Xena will go insane trying to find you."
"I think there's more to it," Gabrielle said softly and gently stroked Callisto's cheek and the chaotic goddess closed her eyes for a moment. Then the other blonde snapped her eyes open and grabbed the bard's wrist tightly. Gabrielle ignored the pain. "Did you enjoy watching me with my trainer?"
Callisto refused to answer but released the bard's wrist with a frown. Gabrielle moved slowly behind the goddess, keeping her hands trailing over Callisto's shoulder and maintaining contact.
"Did you?" Gabrielle persisted, running her hand through Callisto's hair.
"Yeah, you hated it so much and then couldn't help yourself!" Callisto growled.
"Did I hate it?" Gabrielle purred and grinned when Callisto squeaked as the goddess felt her armor buckle being undone at her shoulder and then Gabrielle's lips on her skin.
"What in Tartarus are you doing?" Callisto snapped again, this time her voice a dangerous growl.
"I don't think you could even kill Xena if she were kneeling in front of you totally unarmed," Gabrielle said, ignoring Callisto's question.
"Of course I could! It's just more delightful to torment her," Callisto protested.
"Nah," Gabrielle said thoughtfully and the goddess turned, her brown eyes blazing. Gabrielle appeared not to notice but continued 'contemplating.' "You've been so obsessed with her since you were a child. I don't think you could kill her."
The bard turned and sat down on the edge of the bed and leaned back on her elbows casually, seeming to be oblivious to the body she was presenting to the chaotic goddess in front of her.
"I know I confuse you," Gabrielle smiled at Callisto and her sharp eyes caught the goddess clenching her fist and silently hoped she could play this out. "I'm not a warrior; I couldn't even fight when you first met me."
"That's for sure!" Callisto agreed, grinning at the memory of Gabrielle dangling from the end of a burning rope and Xena desperately fighting Callisto to get to the bard in time.
"Yup, I become a warrior when I didn't want to," Gabrielle admitted. "I've heard you ask Xena several times why she kept me around. Have you figured out the answer?"
"True love?" Callisto sneered.
"Yes but also great sex," Gabrielle caught the jerk of Callisto's body and resisted letting her own revulsion show through. "Tell me the truth, Callisto; do you enjoy watching Xena and me together? I know you and Ares think my relationship with her makes her weak as a warrior, Does it help to watch us together?"
Gabrielle rolled out of the way as an energy bolt shot up the bed, catching the quilt on fire. The bard rolled the cloth onto itself, pulled it off the bed and stomped on it to put the fire out and turned to the goddess with a smirk of her own.
Did you like watching Xena in such a vulnerable position, my hand deep inside of her?" Gabrielle taunted. "Her back arching, her hands clutching at my shoulders, crying out my name?"
Callisto screamed and released another fire bolt and Gabrielle back flipped out of its way and looked over at the scorch mark on the stone wall.
"Good thing Mars doesn't like a lot of flammable stuff around, huh?" she grinned as Callisto's eyes blazed at her.
"I can't see the two of you!" the insane blonde goddess screamed.
"What?" Gabrielle asked, her voice reflecting her amusement at Callisto's frustration.
"Aphrodite put a spell on the both of you!" Callisto admitted with a shout of anger. "No one can watch you two when you're having sex!"
Gabrielle fell onto the bed laughing and continued laughing even when Callisto screamed again and jumped on top of the bard, hands wrapped around her throat.
"No wonder you're pissed off!" Gabrielle said breathlessly with an impish grin, her hands holding onto Callisto's arms lightly. "Not only can't you have Xena, you can't even watch!"
"Damn you!" Callisto growled. "I'm going to kill you!"
"How about letting me show you why Xena keeps taking me back?" Gabrielle offered, her voice soft.
"What?" Callisto demanded, her hands easing up slightly.
Gabrielle thrust her arms between Callisto's arms and broke the hold the goddess had on her throat and knocked her arms out to the sides, sending Callisto right down on top of the bard. Gabrielle took advantage of the position and grabbed the back of Callisto's head, kissed her roughly and brought her leg up between Callisto's.
"You want to know what Xena feels? You want to know how I drive her insane," Gabrielle whispered, nibbling on Callisto's earlobe and resisted grinning when she felt the warrior shudder.
"Damn you!" Callisto growled. "You're trying to trick me. You'd never betray Xena!"
"Use your powers, Callisto," Gabrielle whispered, unhooking the other shoulder of Callisto's leathers. "Do you seriously think Xena got me pregnant?"
The bard wasn't surprised when Callisto fell off her with a stunned statement as she tried to recover and then leaned over Gabrielle on one elbow. Gabrielle saw Callisto's eyes brighten somewhat and become slightly unfocused and felt a tingling all over her body. The bard instinctively grabbed at her abdomen and Callisto suddenly laughed.
"I know Xena has many skills but I didn't think that was one of them!" Callisto grinned and Gabrielle couldn't help but blushing. "She took you back?"
"Yeah, but do you think she'd take me back after being with you?"
Callisto's face grew serious. "Why should I believe this?"
"Because I get to stay alive and you are irresistible in an insane way," Gabrielle shrugged instead of shuddering. "I stay with you, it drives Xena insane and I stay out of the hands of the Romans."
"I don't believe you'd betray Xena just to stay alive. Not your style," Callisto grumbled. "You've even died for the bitch."
"If I become a slave gladiator again then I'll either be killed when they find out I'm pregnant or be turned over to the kitchen. My child will be taken from me after he or she is born and I'll be turned into a sex slave," Gabrielle reasoned. "You know I've been through that. With you I'd have a chance of talking you out of whatever you might come up with."
Callisto grinned a rueful smirk at the bard's last bit of logic. "Now that sounds like you!"
"Don't you want to take and conquer everything that is Xena's?" Gabrielle taunted, her eyes flashing finally with the anger she felt and Callisto laughed.
"You know I do," the goddess agreed and bent over to kiss Gabrielle roughly, her hand reaching around the bard's ribs to pull her close.
Gabrielle put a hand on the goddess' chest and lightly pushed Callisto back.
"Your word, no Roman slavery?" she demanded.
"You wouldn't trust my word!" Callisto grinned.
"You sent Sasha back to Odin, I'll chance it," Gabrielle said firmly.
"Oh, alright," the goddess said after a moment. As long as Xena looks for you and you being with me drives her crazy, I won't send you away."
"And after the child is born you'll send him or her to my family," Gabrielle persisted.
"I am not a goddamn fishmonger to be bargained with!" Callisto snapped.
"It's my life, damnit! You're a god, I've got a child to think of," Gabrielle snapped right back.
"Okay, fine! I agree!"
"Then let me show you what drives Xena insane," Gabrielle whispered, turned her mind off and began pulling at Callisto's leathers.
Xena broke into a smile when her daughter suddenly appeared next to the Norse god Odin. She quickly dismounted as Sasha caught sight of her and dashed towards her Mom. Xena easily lifted her daughter into her arms, hugging her tightly.
Sasha! Xena set her daughter down and wiped a tear of joy from her eye as the dark haired child hugged her tight around the ribs. How? the warrior questioned Odin.
Apparently your bard is quite persuasive, Odin grinned.
What about Gabrielle? Xena demanded. How do we get her back?
I'm not sure if we can, that part is probably up to her as well, Odin said reluctantly and wasn't surprised when the warrior growled.
Sasha looked up her mom. She was okay when I saw her, the child said.
Where was that, Sasha? Xena asked gently.
The Hall of Mars in Olympus, Sasha answered easily. Callisto was about to leave and kidnap Mum. Then Mum showed up in the hall and they talked. Callisto released me because Mum tricked her into thinking the Norse gods want me without your permission.
Gabrielle, Xena muttered, her voice reflecting her admiration. What does Callisto plan for Gabrielle?
To turn her over to a Roman gladiator school again, Sasha said.
No, Xena whispered and turned to Odin.
How do we get her back? she demanded again.
Just be patient and watch Mars, if he disappears then we spring our last surprise and, hopefully, get your mate back, Odin urged.
Hopefully? Xena almost shouted. You planned this with her, didn't you?
Most of it, Odin admitted. I knew she'd be willing to sacrifice herself, if necessary, for your daughter and a chance at stopping Callisto.
Without consulting me? Xena snapped.
Without you, Xena, Odin said. You would never have agreed.
No, I wouldn't have! I can't lose her, damnit! Xena protested.
And she wasn't willing to lose Sasha to Mars. Hopefully she can get Kiryk back too, Odin said simply.
Odin, you'll wish you stayed on that damned tree with your spear stuck in your ribs if she gets hurt! Xena threatened.
The Norse god laughed and turned to see how the battle was going, watching the opposing god closely.
Gabrielle felt Callisto running her hands through the bard's short hair and moaned into the goddess' lips, her own hands running up and down the smooth back of Callisto.
Oh gods, the bard muttered as the goddess' lips left hers and trailed to Gabrielle's neck and she begin nibbling lightly. The bard cursed her own body as it responded to the chaotic goddess.
I'm going to make you forget Xena ever touched you, Callisto promised, pulling Gabrielle on top of her. Her hands were undoing Gabrielle's top, freeing the bard's breasts for her hands. They were different than Xena's, Gabrielle reflected for a moment, rougher but her body was still responding and the bard fought down a sensation of shame and repulsion. Trying not to think or feel, just let her body react.
"Release Kiyrk, please," Gabrielle whispered.
"Shut up about the boy brat or I'll fry him!" Callisto warned, her hand firm in Gabrielle's short hair in warning. Gabrielle continued what she was doing and stopped asking about Kiryk.
She had managed to get Callisto undressed and was now on top of the goddess, her leg pressing between Callisto's, a hand on the goddess' breast and her lips on the other nipple. Gabrielle pulled on the nipple with her teeth and felt Callisto jerk under her at the sensation and moved her lips up to the insane woman's lips. The bard wondered if a Tavern wench felt like this, like something mechanical, going through the motions of being aroused and enjoying it? Did they hate this a much as she did or was it just because it was Callisto?
After a moment of dueling with Callisto's tongue and lips she trailed down to Callisto's ear and neck.
"You know what drives Xena right over the edge?" Gabrielle whispered.
"What?" Callisto gasped.
"My fangs," the bard whispered and ran a tongue over Callisto's neck.
"Your what?" Callisto sounded confused until Gabrielle bit down into her neck, hitting a vein perfectly. Callisto screamed in both fear and sensation as the Bacchae erotic magic hit her.
Xena paced relentlessly back and forth in front of Odin, glancing every other second at Mars, who was also pacing. Mars was watching the battle, Odin and Xena were watching Mars.
What in Tartarus are we waiting for? Xena demanded again.
Not much longer, Odin said gently. If he doesn't move soon then we'll have to.
What are we waiting for? Gabrielle to die?
I hope not, Odin said simply.
Xena shouted in frustration.
The goddess dug her nails deeply into the bard's shoulders and Gabrielle growled with the pain. The bard refused to release the hold with her fangs and felt Callisto shuddering again and again with waves of orgasms.
Gabrielle wasn't sure if Callisto was pleading with her to stop or to continue but didn't care. Her grip on Callisto's neck was firm and she drank deeply from the woman she didn't trust and almost hated.
The chaotic goddess fell back limply against the linen and furs, weakly trying to pull Gabrielle back from her neck but the bard held firm and continued to feed.
Gabrielle could feel the tears flowing down her face.
A few minutes later the bard felt Callisto's heart slowing down until it almost stopped and finally released her fang hold on the goddess and rolled to the edge of the bed. Gabrielle looked back at the goddess and took in the sight of Callisto's body as it began changing subtly, shaking as if still in the throes of sexual climax. The paleness became more apparent and the lips a fuller red. The goddess' eyes took on a darker color around the lids and Gabrielle knew if Callisto opened them they would be a bright yellow rimmed with red.
Gabrielle recognized the signs of a Bacchae, exactly as she had hoped and planned.
The bard turned away and went to her knees, tears streaming and began vomiting up the blood she had seconds before drank from Callisto.
Odin caught Xena's eyes and pointed across the battlefield.
The warrior's sharp eyes took in Mars. The War God had stopped pacing and seemed to be listening to someone or something that they couldn't see. Suddenly he screamed in rage and disappeared.
Odin rose up on Sleipnir and waved his sword in a signal.
Xena and Sasha looked up at the sound of the Valkyries taking flight again. This time the warrior grinned as she took in the bundles they trailed behind their winged horses with ropes. A team of exceptional archers stood by with fire arrows and, when the Valkyries reached a certain point in the sky, released their arrows. The arrows set the ropes on fire and the Valkyries cut the bundles loose over the enemy army.
Xena turned Sasha around away from the view of the pots catching fire and exploding just as they reached the soldiers of Mars. Greek fire rained down unrelentingly.
The warrior felt a shudder run over her body and she closed her eyes. Xena discovered once again she no longer delighted in the screams of the dying.
Both Xena and Sasha were knocked to the ground by a massive thunderclap which rattled everything for miles around. The warrior sat up in time to see monumental thunderclouds form almost immediately above the battlefield and let loose with an overwhelming torrent of rain.
Lightning bolts began raining from above in between the two armies, effectively separating them like a parent separating two fighting children.
Odin looked almost indifferent as Zeus appeared in front of them.
This stops now! he shouted.
I agree, Odin said easily. I didn't want this in the first place. Just put a stop to Mars taking Sasha. Your grandchild's fate belongs elsewhere, Odin said firmly.
With you? Zeus demanded.
You damn well know it does, Odin snapped, his bright blue eyes flashing at the challenge.
Yes, I do and I'm pleased you're willing to fight for her and the world, the Greek god turned to his daughter and granddaughter. Come, Xena, time to end this madness.
The warrior accepted his hand in getting to her feet and she turned to help Sasha to her feet.
Gods, Xena, Zeus exclaimed. She looks just like you and has gotten taller!
Xena couldn't help but grin proudly and wrapped an arm around Sasha's shoulders.
Yes, she's a good kid, Xena said, her voice reflecting her pleasure.
And she would have been a demon if Mars had kept his hands on her, Zeus muttered, losing his smile. Come, my kin, let's settle this.
Xena's mind could barely take in the sight which greeted her and Zeus a moment later.
Mars and Callisto were attempting to choke each other; Callisto sprawled backwards over the large long table, her claws digging into Mar's neck and his hands around hers.
Xena's eyes widened as she took in the fangs and claws Callisto now had and the fact those same fangs were attempting to bite Mars as he tried to hold her down to kill her.
The warrior also tried to process the fact Callisto was naked in the middle of this battle.
A quick glance around told her Zeus hadn't brought Sasha with them and Gabrielle was keeping behind the throne of Mars as the two deities in the room fought it out. The bard was holding her tunic against her chest.
Xena, she shouted with relief and Mars looked up with a snarl at Zeus and Xena. Then he growled and backhanded Callisto as her fangs managed to sink into his right arm.
Damnit! he shouted.
Enough! Zeus shouted and sent a lightning bolt between the two deities. Before Callisto could gain her feet, Zeus sent an energy bolt her way and the goddess disappeared, leaving Mars fuming and facing his grandfather and aunt.
Alright, Mars, Zeus said firmly. Enough of this.
Where's Callisto? Xena questioned, keeping a close eye on Mars and a hand on her chakram. Out of the corner of her eye she saw Gabrielle starting to move slowly out from behind the throne towards Xena and Zeus.
I sent her to Tartarus, Zeus said simply. As for you, Mars, it's over. Sasha is not yours to play with and neither are Xena and Gabrielle. Your father is paying a heavy price for meddling in their lives and I'm not likely to look any more kindly on you.
Yes, great Zeus, Mars responded, his jaw clenched in anger.
The war is over. None of the gods were killed but several will require some special healing. Everyone is to return to their lands and people and not interfere with the humans like this again, Zeus commanded. Everyone is hearing this right now. This was too close, for both peoples. If this had spilled out into the mundane world it could have destroyed the earth and everyone on it!
Gabrielle moved around an obviously angry Zeus and into Xena's arms, tears of relief and regret racking her body.
Sasha will stay with the Northern Gods, as agreed. Her powers are about to manifest and I agree she will need more training than you can give, Xena, Zeus continued. You will see her frequently, though. Even if I have to take you there myself or Apollo in his chariot. All those who fought on the side of Mars, Xena and Gabrielle and their kin are off limits. No revenge, no meddling and that is an order!
Zeus turned to the two Greek women. Stay here as long as you need to. Simply go back to the throne and it'll take you back to the temple Gabrielle traveled from. Mars will go with me for awhile until he calms down.
Kiyrk? Xena demanded and Zeus turned to Mars but the War God shrugged.
I don't know, he said in a sullen voice. Callisto zapped him somewhere and I didn't care. He was human.
Zeus, how do we find him? Xena asked.
I don't know. I'll question Callisto but if she won't tell us then I don't know what to do.
Callisto? Gabrielle questioned.
Deep in Tartarus, powerless and out of your hair, he promised.
Is she still a Bacchae? the bard questioned softly.
No, I took that away from her, just like you no longer have the power to hurt gods after this day, he said gently and noticed the relief in the bard's green eyes.
Sasha? Xena questioned.
She'll be at your mother's inn when you get back. Sasha needs to travel North soon but I'm giving you all time to grieve and to adjust to the situation, he said gently and then nodded at Mars.
The War God disappeared without a word and a moment later Zeus was gone.
After a moment Gabrielle turned out of Xena's arms to put on her tunic and the warrior's eyes caught sight of the deep scratches on the bard's back and the fact the bard's sais were on a chair with the bard's cloak.
Xena felt her jaw muscles tightening as she remembered Callisto's state of undress as she fought the God of War as a Bacchae. The warrior's hands clenched into fists and she saw Gabrielle flinch, even though the bard had her back to her.
Her empathic powers, the warrior realized. She's picking up on me.
Then Xena frowned, Callisto had been a Bacchae, she remembered. Bacchae, turned into a bacchae by Gabrielle. The bard having used her Bacchae curse to turn the deity into a blood crazed vampire. Xena realized how Gabrielle got close enough to sink her fangs into Callisto's neck long enough to drain the goddess to the point of turning. Xena had seen marks like those on Gabrielle's back before but she had always been the cause of them, not someone else and especially not Callisto!
The warrior could see how tense Gabrielle was and that the bard was waiting, not moving and not reaching for her boots or anything. Waiting for Xena to explode and reject her.
Gabrielle, Xena said softly and noticed the bard flinch again, as if struck with a lash. Please talk to me.
Xena's voice seemed to break the bard's stillness and she moved forward to grab her sais, still keeping her back to her mate.
I don't think I can, she whispered.
You saved Sasha, Xena pointed out. She wanted to take Gabrielle into her arms but wasn't sure how the bard would respond and Xena wasn't totally sure of her feelings right then either.
The warrior had to admit the image of Callisto and Gabrielle together sexually was more than she could take right then, no matter what the reasons.
I betrayed us to do it, Gabrielle countered bitterly. I seem to be doing that a lot lately.
Xena wanted to break something. Her first impulse was to shout, scream and rant but she tried to think rationally. It wasn't like Gabrielle had sought Callisto out for an affair. Was it any different than what she had done as a warlord when she used sex as a weapon?
Yes, it was different, a voice shouted at her. She hadn't been mated and it hadn't been Gabrielle, damnit!
Gabrielle, we need to talk about this, she tried to reason.
The warrior felt her heart skip a beat when Gabrielle turned around and her normally green eyes were Bacchae yellow.
I don't know how we can talk about it, Xena, she snapped. I seduced Callisto to get close enough to bite her!
The bard put on her tunic and then sat down in the chair and started with her boots.
I let her kiss me and take off my top so I could use my damned fangs to change her! the bard suddenly shouted and threw a sai across the room, flying barely a foot away from the warrior and embedding itself deep in a wooden pillar. "I lied about our relationship! I convinced her I was unfaithful to you all the time."
"Well, we know differently and you used a weapon which she didn't think about, Xena countered, her rational mind trying to stay on top and not let her emotions take over. She wasn't sure what would come out if she did that. She was angry as Tartarus with a lot of things and knew this wasn't the time to hash them out or the relationship might be damaged beyond repair.
I should have tried the sais, Gabrielle muttered, lacing up her boots and swiped angrily at tears overflowing her eyes.
What happened? Xena asked softly, sitting down in the chair Callisto had occupied earlier.
You figured out that Odin healed me and planned a bit of this with me before leaving the inn, right? the bard questioned.
Yes, once he said he was waiting to see if Sasha showed up, I knew you were somehow here, Xena nodded.
He healed me and said to keep Callisto distracted and from the battlefield, Gabrielle continued. He didn't have any idea of how to make that happen except that I would have the power to hurt gods and he whispered in my ear before leaving that maybe I should consider my fangs.
The bard looked up, her eyes glinting in the light of the hall.
My fangs, I should consider turning someone else into a damned Bacchae! she shouted, slamming a fist down on the arm of the chair.
Xena kept quiet, absorbing the information and Gabrielle's emotions. The tears began flowing freely from her mate's eyes.
Turn someone into a Bacchae, Xena, she whispered. Using this damned blood thing to curse someone to an existence worse than mine! Even if it was Callisto, how could I do that?
Xena's anger broke and she moved forward to kneel in front of Gabrielle and took the bard into her arms. After a moment she pulled back and Gabrielle nodded.
I talked her into turning Sasha over to Odin, the bard continued. I convinced her they wanted Sasha against our wills.
Why would she turn Sasha over to Odin instead of Mars? Xena questioned.
Because she didn't want to be responsible for creating another Warlord Xena and repeating the cycle which had created her, Gabrielle answered softly and wasn't surprised to see a blush of guilt run across her mate's face. No matter how many years they faced it, it seemed they would never escape Xena's past or her guilt about it.
She didn't want to become you in that regard and let Sasha go to Odin, thinking that would hurt you just as badly, Gabrielle continued.
Sasha said she planned to turn you into a gladiator slave again, Xena mentioned.
Yes, that was her plan. After she sent Sasha to Odin I knew I had to think of something quickly. She was intent on torturing me and sending me back to that hell, Gabrielle said simply, her thoughts becoming lost in the fear of what that would have meant.
You stopped her, Xena prompted and Gabrielle blinked, coming back to the present. She laughed bitterly.
Oh yeah, I stopped her from that plan, she said softly, fresh tears beginning again. I initiated it, Xena, I'm the one who seduced her. She said she could watch us when she was in the lava. She saw me with Nikki when I was a slave. I taunted her with her obsession with you and asked if she liked watching you give yourself over to me.
Xena fought to control the roaring in her ears and held her gaze firmly with Gabrielle. "You were lucky she didn't kill you."
"Yup, she fried the hell out of the top blanket," Gabrielle agreed, a bit of humor coming through. "She let it slip that she couldn't see us when we're sexual with each other."
"What?" Xena blinked as she tried to take this current revelation in.
"Yes, Aphrodite has apparently put a spell around us so none of the gods can see us when we're sexually intimate with each other," Gabrielle continued.
"But she saw you with Nikki?" Xena frowned.
"They can't see me with you and apparently she didn't see into the Spirit Realm any of the times we've been there," Gabrielle explained.
"Why do you say that?"
"I figured if she couldn't see us when we're together sexually, she might not know about me being part Bacchae. Maybe that was what Odin was hinting at when he told me to use my fangs. She didn't know I was pregnant and she believed me when I hinted it couldn't possibly be you."
"She didn't know about the Forest Spirits helping us out in that department and she didn't see the bacchanalia," Xena said thoughtfully.
"She did see the Bacchanalia, she told Joxer about it, that's how she convinced him we had broken up," the bard snapped. "She couldn't see us together and didn't seem to realize I have bacchae blood already in me. I guess she just thought Bacchus wanted me as a Bacchae again and didn't pay attention.
She probably wouldn't, her warped mind was too busy watching and not listening, Xena agreed.
Gabrielle clenched her fists tightly in anger. Xena, I convinced her I was willing to leave you to save my life, I betrayed us!"
Why did you do it?
So I could keep her distracted and to give me a chance at turning her, the bard answered. She had a sword at my throat at one point and was watching me closely. I couldn't think of any other way to get her to drop her guard. It was unexpected for her.
Xena grinned ruefully at the description. I'll bet! Last time you saw her you whacked her up side her head with your staff.
The bard managed to smile slightly at the memory. Not that it did any good. I kissed her and she responded and then demanded to know what I was doing.
Xena reached out and took Gabrielle's hands in her own, wanting to keep contact with the bard to reassure her.
I pointed out this would be the ultimate revenge against you and that she was irresistible. She believed me, Xena, Gabrielle said, turning her eyes away.
Gabrielle, Xena waited until the bard looked at her again. I'm not going to lie to you and say I don't feel anything about this but I'm beginning to understand. You've had to do worse before to survive.
Not with Callisto! the bard attempted to grin.
That's true! Xena managed to smile. Although, she is kinda cute in a warped sort of way and extremely sensual without knowing it.
Xena grinned when Gabrielle playfully hit her on the arm, looking more like the normal Gabrielle.
It wasn't hard to get her into bed once she figured she was getting revenge on you, enjoying herself and corrupting me. I was able to get my fangs into her and drain her.
"Gabrielle?" Xena said softly. "How far did it go?"
The bard lost her smile and Xena wasn't sure if Gabrielle was going to throw up right then, unaware the bard had already thrown up most of the blood she had taken from Callisto.
"I got her undressed and she got my top off," Gabrielle admitted. "Some foreplay and then I sank my fangs in. Xena, Gabrielle said softly and closed her eyes. I changed someone, I fed on someone enough to change them.
I know but it's probably what Odin was planning and it saved all of us. It distracted Mars into coming back here, broke the spirit of the battle, kept Callisto distracted and caused enough chaos so Zeus and Odin could put things right again, Xena countered.
I know all of that but it's not helping! I consciously called my Bacchae curse to the surface and used it!
Maybe it's time you faced it and dealt with it, Gabrielle, the warrior said firmly, almost brutally.
Gabrielle opened her Bacchae yellow eyes with a frown.
You are part Bacchae and you've found you can call it to the surface and it also comes up when it wants to, Xena continued, firmly. Learn to live with it, Gabrielle. It's not going away and now you can use it if you need to.
Gabrielle continued to frown.
You've got some amazing gifts, lover, Xena said, a little softer. You have the ability to heal, you have premonition dreams at times, you charm everyone you meet
Except Ares and Mars, Gabrielle said with a grin.
Well, maybe not the bad boys, Xena agreed with an answering grin.
I guess I leave them to you, and smiled at Xena's glare and then grew thoughtful. Okay, I'm a Bacchae. I am a Bacchae, I can grow fangs and my eyes change color.
Xena smiled, it was if Gabrielle was trying out a new pair of boots.
I don't know about this, Xena, the bard said after a moment.
I know, it's taken years for you to finally get over the guilt of drinking my blood once a month, the warrior said gently. Speaking of blood, if you just drank enough to kill Callisto and change her, why are your eyes yellow and your fangs still out?
Gabrielle began blushing. I threw up her blood. I couldn't take the thought of having turned someone.
Can you send the Bacchae part back consciously? Xena questioned. This was a new development for both of them.
I can't, I've been trying since Mars showed up and started fighting with Callisto, especially when you and Zeus showed up. I didn't want you to see me like this, Gabrielle admitted.
You need blood then, Xena said simply and wasn't surprised when Gabrielle jumped to her feet and angrily threw the other sai into the post next to the first one.
You tell me to accept this! she snapped. I'm tired of it!
Well, Xena began easily, watching Gabrielle's eyes narrow in question. I'm not.
What? the bard demanded.
I happen to like those fangs of yours, Gabrielle, Xena said simply, getting up and grabbing her mate by the arms. I like the connection we have. It doesn't hurt me and I enjoy the daylights out of the sex which comes with it. I'm also grateful to a goddess for once, thankful to Aphrodite that none of those perverts like Ares, Mars or Callisto can watch us.
Gabrielle blushed but looked calmer.
So you need blood like everyone needs food, Xena said firmly. So what? It can be a pain if it gets out of control, we just won't let it. It also gives you powers which most others don't have and control that all other Bacchae don't.
Okay, Gabrielle said softly.
What? Xena asked, not sure if she heard the bard right.
Okay, I give up, the bard answered. We learn to live with it. I'm tired of fighting it and it did stop Callisto.
Probably the only thing that would have right then, Xena agreed.
Let's go home, Xena, Gabrielle said softly.
What about your fangs?
Not here, please! the bard frowned, looking over at the bed and shuddering. She could still smell the blood and smoldering cloth in the room.
Let's go home then, take care of your fangs and find out if Zeus knows where Kiryk is, Xena decided.
Continued in Northern Scrolls
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