Chapter 1 Part 1

by Joseph Ezell


Disclaimer: Tortured Soul is a work of fanfiction. Any characters mentioned or implied in this story that are in any way related to the television show Xena: Warrior Princess or Hercules: The Legendary Journeys do not belong to the author of this story or the webmaster of this site. They belong strictly to MCA, Universal Studios. This story is not meant to infringe upon their rights or the rights of the actors who portray these characters. The events depicted in this story are fictitious, and any similarities between persons or organizations, living or dead, is purely coincidental. Also, certain events depicted in this story such as those in the Xena episode God-Fearing Child are not in anyway the authors and are the sole property of MCA, Universal Studios. The backstory theme of Season Five included in this story is not the authors in any way and is the sole property of MCA, Universal Studios. The only character that is mine in this piece is Darius. Also, this story is not to be copied in any way without the consent of the author of this piece of fanfiction.

Warning: This story contains scenes of graphic violence. If this disturbs you please do not read this story.

Authors note: This story is set some time before the Xena episode Looking Death in the Eye of the Fifth Season.

Questions? Comments? If so, contact me at: or

        Darius sat there, his head hung low as he sat on the stone bench and pondered his existence. He sighed loudly, turning his tried eyes to look at the mirror that was propped up next to one of the walls of the small room. A man with brown hair, blue eyes and who wore black leather pants, a vest, boots, and gauntlets to match, stared back at him.

        Besides the mirror and the bench he sat on, there was no other furniture in the small room. He sighed once more and hung his head again, this time holding it in his hands.

        It seemed for as long as Darius could remember he'd been an assassin for the gods. And as he thought back he realized that this must be true because it seemed that there had never been a time in his life when he hadn't served the Olympian order.

        But he didn't serve the gods by choice as most mortals did. Oh no, he thought, I was born into it. Born into this hellish existence—this misery just so I can serve their will—do their bidding! Time and again those unlucky individuals who had had the misfortune to anger the gods had fallen under the fatal swipe of his blade. In fact, he'd killed so many people that after a while he'd simply stopped counting.

        Unlike some, however, Darius didn't enjoy killing. It was the one thing that he hated more than anything in the world to do. But he'd found out a long time ago that it was a job that he had to do and could not escape from.

        In his encounters with the gods there had been one above all that he'd had the most contact with and that was Athena, the goddess of war and wisdom. She had served as a mentor to him and had trained him in many things. She had even taught him how to fight and as a result he had become a fearsome warrior. And as an assassin, he had never lost a fight and had always killed his assigned target.

        But regardless of this, there had been times when Darius had protested to killing someone and as a result he would be punished. Darius shuddered, remembering one instance when Athena had told him to kill someone and he'd refused. As punishment for disobeying her, she'd beat him senseless. When she had finished, he had lain there bruised, bloody, and near death.

        He'd even tried to run away on several occasions. But no matter how hard he had tried, somehow, the gods always found him. He'd even entertained thoughts of suicide, but knew that he didn't have the nerve to carry them out. And on many occasions Athena had threatened to kill his family if he didn't cooperate. That is, if I have a family, Darius thought. To be honest, he didn't really know if he did or not. For all he knew, he could have been made by the gods.

        But somehow, Darius didn't believe that and he knew that he couldn't live with himself if he did have a family out there somewhere and they ended up dead because of his refusal to carry out an order.

        In the end, he'd concluded that the best thing for him to do was to follow orders and kill whomever the gods sent him to kill. A tortured soul is what I am, he thought, I have no choice but to do as they command.

        Still though—troubling thoughts flew though his head: Just how many more people have to die before the gods release me or I am killed in battle?! When is this madness going to stop?! Darius sighed inwardly, realizing that he didn't know the answer to those questions…and that frightened him.

        “Darius,” a voice said, breaking his thoughts.

        He looked up to see a woman dressed in armor standing in the doorway. She was one of Athena's archers. “What do you want?” he asked.

        “Athena has sent for you. You are to report to her at once.” the woman replied.

        “Yeah, I get the picture,” Darius said harshly.

        Then he rose, grabbing his sword from off the floor and sliding it into its case on his side. “Lead the way,” he replied.

        She nodded and turned, walking out into the hall and toward Athena's throne room, followed closely by Darius.

        When they entered the throne room, Darius saw Athena sitting on her throne, an expressionless look on her face. Darius stopped when he was in front of her throne and turned to face her. The woman bowed to Athena and then left the room. Athena had brown, curly hair, blue eyes and wore golden armor.

        “I have an assignment for you, Darius.” Athena said.

        “What is it that you wish of me, my goddess?” he asked, bowing before her.

        “Rise,” she commanded. He did as she commanded and stood patiently.
        Athena stretched her arm out and, with a crackle of electricity, opened a portal to the far left of her throne. In the portal, Darius saw various shapes of people and places go by. Finally, the image became clear and came to rest on two women, one of which was carrying a baby in a sling across her back. Darius noticed that one had dark hair and blue eyes and was wearing brown, leather armor. The other woman had blond hair, green eyes and wore a red top and skirt of some sort. Darius honestly couldn't describe what she was wearing. And as he studied them more closely, he saw that both of them were warriors.

        “Do you see the woman who is carrying the child, Darius?” Athena asked.

        “I do my goddess,” he replied.

        “I want you to find them and kill the child.” Athena said.

        Darius turned to Athena, a shocked expression on his face. “You want me to kill an innocent child?!”

        “Is there a problem with following my orders? Do you object to killing this child?!”Athena asked, leaning forward, tempting him to disagree with her. It was almost as if she were just waiting for him to disobey her so she could beat him senseless.

        “No, my goddess. There is no problem,” he replied quickly, knowing full well what would happen to him if he said yes.

        “Good,” Athena replied, leaning back on her throne.” The two women are warriors. The one with the baby is called Xena and the blond one is known as Gabrielle. The child's name is Eve and you must kill her at all costs. Do what you have to do to get the job done!”

        “And what if the women resist?”

        “If they get in the way…kill them.”Athena replied coldly.

        Darius sighed inwardly, looking once more at the image before him and realizing that Eve didn't have a chance. And if the two women got in his way, they'd be sorry that they did.

Gabrielle sighed, yawning tiredly. She rubbed her face and eyes and looked up at the thick, green, brush before her, waiting with anticipation for Xena to emerge.

But, after a few moments of listening and watching intently for her friend's return, only to see that there was no one there—she quickly looked away, silently begging for her to return.

Gabrielle smiled, remembering how she had gotten into this little predicament.

After breakfast they had broken camp and traveled for several hours, managing to cover several miles along the way. Then, shortly before noon, they had stopped, Xena suggesting that they needed to rest and get some food before pressing on. Gabrielle had readily agreed, taking care of Eve, Xena's daughter, while Xena had gone out to hunt for some food, promising that she would return shortly. Gabrielle had taken the child in her arms cooing softly at the adorable infant and had taken a seat on a nearby log as she had waited patiently for her friend's return.

That had been two hours ago.

Gabrielle sighed inwardly, looking down at Eve, who was sleeping peacefully. She smiled, glad at least that Eve wasn't crying at the moment. In fact, she thought, she hasn't made a sound since Xena left two hours ago. At least she should be glad for that much because Gabrielle honestly didn't think she'd be able to stand it.

It seemed that ever sense that fateful day when they had learned of the prophecy foretold by the Fates, which had declared that Xena's child would herald the death of the Greek gods that they had been under constant attack by the Olympians. Of course, Hercules had eased their burden a little bit by killing his father Zeus, who was king of the gods, the same day that dark prophecy concerning Eve was foretold.

Gabrielle shuddered, remembering that fateful day.

Not far away Zeus and Hercules were locked in a heated battle—the sounds of their struggle echoing loudly through the woods as each fought to destroy the other.

Meanwhile, Gabrielle and Xena had been experiencing a little drama of their own as Gabrielle had helped Xena deliver her baby, while not far away from them Zeus and his demigod son had fought furiously. One time she had looked up only to stare in disbelief as one of the massive stone columns, which lined the area, had come crashing down frightening close to them due to one of Zeus's thunderbolts.

Then she had turned her attention back to Xena just in time to see her deliver the child. But just as Gabrielle had held Eve in her arms she had looked up, her face draining of color as she stared in horror at the massive form of Zeus standing over them. Apparently, he had gotten past Hercules and was now intent upon killing all of them. And as he had gazed them, holding in his hand a bolt of electricity almost the entire length of his whole body, Gabrielle had been convinced that that was it and they were done for.

And then Hercules had appeared, throwing his father to the ground and sending a piece of Cronos's ribs, one of the few things that could kill a god, rocketing into his chest, killing the mighty god.

Afterwards, they had said their goodbyes to Hercules, who had gone on his way to grieve for the loss of his father, and Gabrielle hadn't seen him since. Not that she could blame him, if she had lost her father—especially if she'd been forced to kill him as Hercules had his—then she'd probably want to be by herself too. One could only imagine what sort of pain he had been through.

Not that they had time to look for him either with Athena and the other gods's constant attempts to kill Eve they had their own problems to worry about. This was one problem Hercules would have to deal with on his own.

Suddenly, Eve awoke and began to cry, breaking Gabrielle's thoughts. Gabrielle looked down at Eve and began trying to sooth the crying child, all the while keeping a watchful eye out for an attack from the surrounding forest.

After all, when you were on Olympus's most wanted list you learned to expect anything. Here lately nothing really surprised her anymore. Clearly, it wouldn't be too much to assume that an assassin could jump out from the brush. As a matter of fact, after what she and Xena had been through so far, she wouldn't be surprised if Athena herself showed up to kill Eve. Having all of Olympus after you was tiring because Gabrielle and Xena had been living on the edge and constantly looking over their shoulders because they knew that an attack could come at anytime and if they let their guards down even once Eve was as good as dead. Gabrielle sighed, wondering how much more of this she could take. Something's got to change, she thought, this can't keep going on forever.

She shook these thoughts from her head and turned her attention back toward Eve, trying desperately to silence her.

She tried everything she could think of, when, suddenly, she heard a noise coming from the forest off to her left.

Being as silent as possible, she lowered Eve to the ground, drew her sais and turned toward the sound—her body tense and rigid as she prepared for whoever or whatever was about to emerge from the woods in front of her.

Suddenly, Xena burst from the woods, a huge smile spread across her face as she held a rabbit proudly in one hand.

Gabrielle sighed in relief and put the sais back in her boots. “Xena, you scared me half to death! I thought maybe you were an assassin or something.”

“Is that a good or bad thing?” Xena teased, her eyes twinkling with mirth.

“Xena, where were you?” Gabrielle asked, her tone serious.

“Same place I said I'd be. I was out in the woods getting us some grub.” She replied, throwing the rabbit on the ground and scooping Eve up in her arms.

“Aw, don't worry, little one. Mommy's here,” Xena said, stroking Eve's face gently. And, almost immediately, the child stopped crying and laughed joyfully at her mother's loving gestures toward it.

“Hey, how'd you do that? I've tried everything I know and still couldn't get her to stop crying.” Gabrielle said, her previous anger toward Xena temporarily forgotten.

“Maybe all it takes is a mother's touch,” the warrior princess replied, not taking her gaze away from Eve.

Then she turned to Gabrielle, laying a warm hand on her shoulder and giving it a gentle squeeze. “Listen, I'm sorry about being gone for so long but it took a lot longer than I realized to find something to eat.” Xena said. “Besides, you're a good warrior and I knew I could depend upon you to take care of Eve for me while I was gone. Okay?”

Gabrielle sighed, running her hand through her hair and rubbing her tired eyes once again. “I'm sorry, Xena. It's just that here lately I've been on the edge and—“

“Hey,” Xena said, lifting Gabrielle's head gently by the chin, “it's okay. We're in this together, remember? We've been through tougher situations than this and survived, haven't we?”

“Yeah, you're right, Xena. I'm just tired, that's all.”

“So am I.” Xena replied. “We're going to get through this, Gabrielle. Trust me, we haven't gotten this far just to let a few gods stop us. We'll get through this all right, you'll see.”

Gabrielle nodded, satisfied at Xena's answer. That settled, she started a fire while Xena began to skin the rabbit.

Once these two things were accomplished, Xena hug the rabbit over the fire and, while Gabrielle cooked the delicious morsel, Xena sat down with Eve in her lap, making soft cooing noises at her adorable child, who giggled joyfully, obviously enjoying the affection her mother was showering her with.

When the food had finally finished cooking, the two warriors ate their full, and after Xena breast-fed Eve, the two began to pack up their belongings, knowing they had to be moving on soon. After all, when you were being hunted by all of Olympus you learned real quick that staying in one spot too long could get you killed.

Xena tucked Eve into the sling she wore across her back and, carefully, put it on, adjusting it so that it held Eve on her back securely. Then she went and put out the fire and helped Gabrielle finish packing up all of their belongings. Once they were finished with that task, Gabrielle stopped to adjust her boots.

Xena grabbed Argo's reins. “Come on, Gabrielle. Let's get going…”she began, but trailed off when she heard a noise.

Somewhere close by a twig had snapped. She whipped her head around, toward the forest in front of her. Immediately, her eyes confirmed her ear's suspicions: the shadowy outline of a man standing amongst the trees, who was almost completely invisible in the thick, green brush of the surrounding forest. Wait, she thought, there's more of them. And, on a closer examination, she saw that she had been right. There were at least three other men, one on the first man's left and two on his right. Somehow, although Xena couldn't explain how she knew, she sensed that there were more men than she was seeing. Probably behind them where I can't see them, she thought.

“Okay, Xena. I'm coming,”Gabrielle said, walking over to Xena, a sweet smile on her face. But when she saw her friend continuing to stare at the woods ahead of her, her smile fell away, her expression turning serious. “What is it, Xena? Is something wrong?”

“It appears we're not alone,” Xena replied, not taking her eyes off of the woodline.

Gabrielle turned, following Xena's gaze only to see the lush, green forest ahead of them. She was about to tell Xena that she was seeing things when she saw it. Although she had to strain to see it, there were four warriors standing among the trees. If it hadn't been for Xena, I wouldn't have even known they were there. She thought. How did she do that? Does it matter? her mind hissed. They're a threat to you, Xena, and Eve and that's all you need to know.

“Alright, I know you're there so show yourself!” Xena shouted, drawing her sword. Gabrielle took her que from Xena and drew her sais as well.

With that said, the men stepped out of the woods, followed by six other men. In all, ten men stood before them. Thick, black cloth covered them from head to toe and Xena also saw that they even wore black cloth on their heads, which seemed to serve as some sort of hats.

One of the men drew his sword, pointing it in their direction. “Get them!” he shouted, the other men drawing their swords in response to his words. Then, as one, they charged forward, an ear-splitting war cry erupting from their lips.

Xena readied herself and when the nearest warrior came her way she didn't hesitate, sending her sword slicing into his gut. The blow stopped him cold, and, without a sound, he collapsed to the ground in a bloody heap.

Xena glanced over her shoulder only to see a man trying to sneak up on her, hoping to get at her from behind. Without turning around, she thrust her sword behind her and was rewarded with a cry of pain from her attacker.

She withdrew her sword, causing him to fall to the ground like a ton of bricks.
Then she looked up and saw two more men running toward her on either side. Xena readied herself and when the moment of truth came she jumped into the air, stretched her legs out, the heels of each boot connecting solidly with the bridges of each man's nose, sending them rocketing into their brains, killing them instantly. Just as they collapsed to the ground, Xena landed, trying her best to make it as smooth as possible for Eve's sake. Four down, she thought, six more to go.

Xena glanced over to her left and saw Gabrielle battling with one of the remaining men.

At the moment she was holding her own, easily deflecting his blows—and then, suddenly, her head jerked sideways as the warrior managed to land a lucky blow to the side of her head. He laughed, amused at his luck. But it didn't last long though as Gabrielle sent three, well-placed kicks into his mid- section and several more punches to his head, the last of which, sent him toppling to the ground. Five down, Xena thought, correcting herself. Gabrielle turned her gaze, searching for more attackers but stopped when she saw Xena.

Gabrielle, who was now covered in a thin layer of sweat, wiped her forehead with the back of her arm and nodded at Xena before turning her attention back toward the ongoing battle. Xena did the same, angry at their sudden attackers and yet exhilarated at the same time that she and Gabrielle, had, at least so far, been successful in defeating them.

“Let's get this over with,” she said, determined to do just that.


        From the shadowy confines of the woods stood Darius. He now stood in the exact same spot the men had been in before.

        Completely silent and with growing interest, he watched the battle before him unfold with breathtaking speed.

        The two women before him were indeed warriors as Athena had said they'd be. With almost unparalleled skill and grace they fought their opponents, who seemed by comparison to be sloppy and amateurs at best.

        The men before him had been given to him by Athena just before he'd left her temple earlier in the day. They were his, she had said, to do whatever he wished with them.

        Although Athena hadn't told him why she had given them to him, Darius thought he had a pretty good idea. It was obvious that she'd intended them to be the backup he would need to get the job done. So, when he'd finally come across the two just a few minutes ago, he'd dispatched them, while he'd stayed behind to study Xena and Gabrielle in combat. But before they'd left he'd given them specific orders not the harm Eve in anyway. They were to only kill Xena and Gabrielle. Of course he'd knew they wouldn't succeed even before he'd sent them. Although he couldn't explain it, somehow when he had first laid eyes on them through the portal in Athena's throne room, he'd sensed that they'd be difficult to defeat. And, as he gazed at the battle before him, he realized that he'd been right.
        But upon realizing that a thought flashed through his head: Yeah, and it's going to make this job that much more difficult to complete.

        And just as that thought came to him another quickly followed closely behind it. One that was much more sinister and dark. And, in truth, Darius didn't know if he really had an answer for it. When the moment of judgment came could he kill this child?

        Never before in his entire existence had he been asked to kill someone so young or innocent. He'd figured the gods to be selfish and cruel, but this was unspeakable. What kind of person, or god for that matter, could be so selfish as to order an innocent child dead and then go on about their day as if what they'd just done meant nothing? How could they live with themselves?

        Does it matter? his mind hissed, You've got a job to do so quit thinking about it already.

        Darius pushed these thoughts aside, telling himself that this was just a job like any other and that child's life meant nothing now because Athena had ordered it dead and orders were orders. But Darius knew that when this was over his conscious would crucify him as it always did whenever he killed an assigned target. But Darius wondered, not for the first time since he'd been given this assignment, if he'd be able to live with himself when it was over. It was then that he realized that he didn't have an answer to that question and, as always, that frightened him.

        Darius pushed these thoughts aside as before and continued to watch the battle unfold before him. Before him Xena and Gabrielle were present battling five men. How they had managed to survive and remain standing for this long, Darius didn't have a clue.

        Then three of them stood together and proceeded toward Xena. Big mistake! And Xena, seeing this opportunity, wasted no time, hurtling her chockrum. The weapon made its rounds, taking all three men out before returning faithfully to her outstretched hand. She hooked it onto her side and then, issuing a war cry, she turned her attention back to the battle.

        Darius cocked an eyebrow, surprised by the use of his enemy's surprise toy. Athena didn't mention that either, he thought. That's just great! I kill whomever they want me to kill and they don't even bother to fill me in on all the details! That was typical of the gods, expect him to complete orders without question and, instead of respecting him enough to let him know everything he needed to know, they'd neglected to mention it. It was things like that that could very well cost him this mission. Knowing that the gods treated him like that filled him with a rage that sometimes he had a difficult time controlling.

        Then, clearing his head once more, he sighed inwardly and prepared himself for what was to come and what he must do.


        Xena readied herself, her body tense as she waited for the next man to come her way. Of the ten men who had attacked them, only three remained standing, the third man being the one Gabrielle had knocked down earlier.

        “Come on, boys. Come and get some.” Xena said to one of the men who was closest to her. They turned and looked at one another and laughed, grinning broadly as if they thought defeating Xena were an easy task. And with that they charged forward with their swords raised.

        Xena laughed, exhilarated by the battle and, issuing her famous battle cry, she jumped up into the air, stretching both legs out in front of her, the heel of each boot connecting solidly with their faces, sending them crashing to the ground with an “uhn,” escaping their lips simultaneously. Xena landed and then turned her attention to Gabrielle, who was fighting with the last of the men standing. Gabrielle grit her teeth, unleashing a powerful combination of punches and kicks, which sent him reeling backward. Then, with a kick to the groin and a roundhouse to the head, he fell to the ground, somehow still conscious. He groaned but other than that he didn't move a muscle.

        “What was that all about?” Gabrielle asked.

        After making sure Eve was okay Xena walked over to the man Gabrielle had just knocked to the ground. “I don't know but I'm about to find out.” Xena said angrily, still feeling the effect of adrenaline left over from the attack. She jerked the man up onto his knees, preparing to put that deadly, deadly pinch on him.

        “Don't bother,” a voice said, making both Gabrielle and Xena lookup. They whirled around, turning toward the source of the sound.

        Before them stood a man, completely decked out in expensive looking, black leather with a medium build to heavy build and handsome features.

        And, almost immediately, Xena decided that whoever he was he meant business and was trouble with a capital “T”.

        “Who are you?” Gabrielle asked.

        “Name's Darius, assassin for the Olympian order. I sent those men you just fought after you with orders to kill you as a means of studying you both in combat.” The man replied.

        “And why would you want to do that? Just why would you want to kill us?” Xena asked.

        “I don't, actually. I'm here for your daughter, Eve.”

        “And why would you want her?” Xena asked, already having a good idea why but not wanting to acknowledge it.

        “Xena, I regret to inform you that Athena has sent me here with orders of kill your child.” Darius said, a sadness filling his eyes which only Gabrielle seemed to notice as Xena was too focused on her discovery that he was here to kill her daughter. And, just as quickly, it was gone, replaced by a cold, expressionless gaze.

        “Oh, you do, do you?” Xena asked, anger welling up inside of her, threatening to make her explode into a violent rage as it infuriated her every time someone, whether they be a god or a man, tried to kill her daughter.

        “Yes, more than you can know. But I have my orders.” Darius said.

        Xena didn't respond, too angry to even speak.

        “Xena, my orders are to kill your daughter and no one else. The two of you are free to go. Just give me Eve and no one else will get hurt. Xena, please, just let me do this and the two of you can walk away unharmed.” Darius pleaded.

        “Not a chance,” Xena said defiantly.

        Darius sighed inwardly, realizing now that he would most likely have to kill them both in order to kill Eve.

        “Here, hold this,” Xena said, pulling Eve from the sling and handing her to Gabrielle. Then she slid the sling off of her back and drew her sword. And, without a word, she started walking toward him.

        “Very well, if that's your decision…” Darius said, drawing his sword in return and started toward the warrior princess. When the two were less than ten feet from one another they both stopped, studying one another intently. Neither warrior spoke, choosing instead to silently dare their opponent to attack.

        Darius struck first, swinging his sword in a downward arc at Xena's head. With a deafening Ching! the two blades clashed in a blinding shower of sparks.

        “Nice blade,” Xena said, noticing Darius's sword which had a handle furnished with silver and brass as well as several emeralds, sapphires, and rubies which were embedded in the bottom of the weapon as well as the wedge-shaped hand guard just before the blade. The blade itself was mirror like and was covered with Greek letters, which were engraved into the blade.

        “It was given to me by Athena and was made by Hephaestus himself on Zeus's decree.” Darius replied.

        “There's no need to do this, Darius. You're a warrior and warriors follow their own path. You can choose not to do this, Darius. Just because Athena's a goddess doesn't mean you have to obey her.” Xena said.

        “Xena, if only it that simple. Unfortunately, I haven't a choice in the matter. My orders are my orders and I must obey them.” Darius answered.

        The two parted blades—and just as quickly Xena sent her sword flying at Darius's head, which he quickly blocked. He retaliated, striking relentlessly at her from almost every direction with his sword.

        Somehow, Xena managed to block his attacks, launching her sword back at him in much the same way.

        This went on for quite some time before Xena managed to gain the upperhand and, by planting a few well-placed kicks to his mid-section, she was given the chance she needed to kick his sword from his hand. And, without giving him a chance to recover, she knocked his feet out from under him with a backsweep kick.

        He fell to the ground only to have Xena swing her sword at him, determined to cut him in two. He rolled out of the way at the last second, barely avoiding the swipe of the blade as it sliced the ground mere inches from where he'd been before.

        Before Xena could strike at him again, Darius raised himself up by one arm, sending a well-placed kick rocketing into her abdomen. Xena stumbled backwards, dropping her sword in the process, giving Darius the time he needed to get up off the ground.

        Xena quickly recovered and with a blood-curdling war cry she jumped up into the air, sending several sideways bicycle kicks into Darius's mid-section. He fell to the ground with a hard thud only to rise to his feet just as Xena landed. Without hesitating he sent a barrage of kicks and punches rocketing toward Xena all of which she blocked.

        Both warriors were tiring considerably and Xena, knowing she had to end this battle quickly before she became too tired to fight, used the only move she could think of to stop this seemingly unstoppable warrior: the pinch.

        But just as Xena was about to hit him, she saw with disbelief that he was using the same move against her! Miraculously, both warriors managed to block each other's move.

        “You know, every one who's seen me use that move against them in combat is dead. Ares must have trained you well,” Xena said, figuring that was the only way he could have known that move as Ares had shown it to her when he'd trained her so many years ago.

        “Ares didn't teach me to do anything. Athena taught me everything I know. You might as well quit now, Xena because I will defeat you sooner or later. The choice is yours,” Darius replied.

        In response to his words, she knocked him backward with a kick to the stomach.

        Finally, determined to end this once and for all, Darius grit his teeth, unleashing a powerful series of unrelenting punches and kicks too numerous to count, ending it with a roundhouse kick to her head, which sent her toppling to the ground.

        Darius walked toward Gabrielle, knowing he had to end this now and complete his mission or he would probably never get this chance again.
        Gabrielle put Eve on the ground and then drew her sais, preparing to dish out everything she had to protect Eve and stop him dead.

        In a second, Darius was upon her, and although she fought bravely, Darius disarmed her in a matter of seconds, sending her crashing to the ground with a punch to the head.

        Darius walked over to his sword and, tossing it up off the ground with his foot, he caught it with his hand. He walked over to Eve, flipping his sword over so he could send the point of it into her.

        He stood over the child and raised the sword high. He glanced at her, his eyes stopping on her face. It was then that he noticed the fear in her eyes and the innocence in her face. It was almost as if she could sense that her mother could no longer protect her.

        “Nooooooooooo!” Xena screamed, her arms outstretched as Darius raised his sword even higher and she realized what he was about to do.

        But just as he was about to strike he hesitated again, unable to look away from Eve's face. She was so innocent and totally vulnerable. Completely at his mercy. Darius panted heavily, completely absorbed in the form of the still child and it was then that he realized that he couldn't do it. He couldn't kill Eve. He forced this from his head with lightening speed, knowing he had to do it but once again unable to look away from the innocent and frightened face of the child.

        It was then that he felt his legs go out from under him, courtesy of a powerful kick by Xena. And as he hit the ground he looked up and saw Xena standing over him with her sword raised high overhead, preparing to behead him.

        “Do it!” He screamed, begging her to end his torment. Xena raised her sword even higher, preparing to honor his request—and then she stopped abruptly lowering her sword.

        “Come on, kill me, Xena! I tried to kill your child! I'm scum and you know it! And I deserve to die!” Darius shouted.

        “No, I think I'll let you live. Killing you now would be wrong and I won't give you the satisfaction of that. We're going to leave now and I suggest you don't follow us. 'Cause next time I won't hesitate to kill you.” Xena said, her voice low and menacing.

        And with that Xena and Gabrielle loaded Eve up in the sling, put her on Xena's back, and together, with Argo, they began walking toward the woods. Soon, they were out of sight, disappearing into the thick brush of the surrounding forest. All the while Darius didn't bother to stop them, choosing instead to hang his head in shame. He'd had the chance to kill Eve and hadn't taken it. And, because of that, he'd failed his mission. What would he do now? Athena would surely punish him for his failure. And, more than likely, she would kill him for it. Darius burst into tears, knowing that he was as good as dead.


        Later that same day, sounds could be heard coming from inside Athena's temple.

        With a brutal slap Athena sent Darius flying into a wall, causing him to bounce off of it with a sickening crunch and hit the floor with a hard thud—a blow that would have made a normal man howl in pain, but not Darius. He'd had years of training which had given him the ability to take a good beating and still block out a good deal of pain, making him that much more deadly as an assassin and warrior. But even so, Darius found it wasn't so easy to block it out now as even he couldn't take the type of pain Athena was dishing out and not at least make a whimper. But he decided he'd better at least make an effort to because if Athena saw him show the slightest bit of weakness, given the mood she was in she'd probably beat him even more for it. That or she'd just beat me just for the fun of it, Darius thought, remembering on many occasions of times in the past when she'd done just that. Time and again she'd made it perfectly clear to Darius that she was a goddess and he was a mortal and that he'd had better not forget that.

        Because of it he'd grown to hate her for it. Even though on many occasions he had tried not to hate her he'd found that he just couldn't help it. But, no matter what, he'd never raise a hand against her because she was his goddess and like it or not he was bound to serve her as he was bound to serve the Olympian order. Regardless if she sometimes took joy in beating him up.

        Shortly after he'd arrived and told her what had happened the punishment had begun. She hadn't even screamed at him. She'd simply reared back and, in the blink of an eye, knocked him halfway across the room. After that, she had descended upon like a wave of darkness, choking him, even throwing him across the room repeatly and laughing all the while in amusement.

        Darius had gone before her thinking that she'd just kill him outright and that his death would have been as painless as possible. He should have known that she would have resorted to this. Of course, she'd probably still kill him. She was probably just beating him senseless because he was the perfect object to vent her rage upon—that, and he'd failed to kill Eve. Frankly, he couldn't understand why she wanted the child dead so much. After all, just what had it done to her anyway, it was, after all, only an innocent child.

        Suppressing the almost unbearable pain in his ribs, which burned like fire at the moment, Darius slowly began to rise to his feet.

        “Oh, no you don't!” Athena screamed, picked him up by the throat and slamming him against the wall, “I'm not finished with you yet!”

        Darius looked into her eyes and instantly looked away as if the rage pouring from them was toxic. In truth, it seemed as though Athena was so enraged her eyes had been replaced by two red, hot coals.

        Her expression itself was one of pure hate and disgust. Why did she hate him so much? Would it kill her to be nice to him for once in his life?! Then, on the trail of that a thought popped into his head: Think of what you are, Darius. You're an assassin of the Olympian order, nice isn't in their vocabulary.
        “You failed me, Darius! You had a chance to kill Eve and you didn't take it! You blew it, you idiot!” She screamed. Then, with a grimace of disgust, and noticing that his face had begun to turn a dangerous shade of blue, she released him, causing him to hit the floor like a ton of bricks. He lay there, gulping in huge breaths, wheezing and coughing for several seconds before finally regaining control of himself. With tired eyes and every joint in his body screaming in pain, which, miraculously he managed to suppress, he looked up at Athena.

        “Oh, did that hurt?” Athena asked, sarcastically, fake concern in her voice.

        Darius gazed at her darkly, unable to restrain himself any longer. He might be resigned to his fate as an assassin to the gods, but he wouldn't stand to serve them faithfully and without question only to have one of them make fun of him, even if it was Athena. “What do you think?” he spat.

        “You dare to talk back to me?!” Athena asked.

        “Why in tartarus do you want that child dead?!” he asked, the volume of rage spilling from his body making him flinch inwardly. What was he doing?! Had he gone insane?! Athena would surely kill him for such an outburst!

        “You dare to question me, Darius? A goddess no less?” She asked, narrowing her eyes.

        “I do on this!” he replied, a part of him screaming at him to stop this foolishness before he got himself killed. But it was a small part as the rage and pain that he had suppressed for so long had suddenly come erupting to the surface, demanding to be heard.

        Athena looked away, sighing, realizing that she had pushed him too far. She didn't need this now, one way or another she and the rest of the gods needed Eve dead and right now, like it or not, Darius was their last hope it seemed to accomplish just that. Where else would they find one as committed and loyal as him. Darius may hate their guts for what they'd done to him but at least he'd follow orders and he'd do anything to complete a mission. In fact, this was the first time he'd failed to kill his assigned target.

        “So, you wish to fight me, Darius? Clearly, your tone would suggest that.” She said, looking at him with tired eyes, her voice surprisingly calm.

        “No, that's not want I want.” He said quietly, suddenly feeling very tired.

        “Then, what do you want?” she asked, walking over him.

        “Peace,” he replied.

        “What do you mean by that?”

        “I want peace from this…place…this…existence. I want death.”

        “You wish for me to kill you? Is that it?”
        “I want to die so I can go to the Elysian Fields and just—get away from everything and be happy for once in my life. Going to the Elysian Fields will give me the life I never had and take me away from the cruelties of life.” Darius answered.

        Athena turned away and began to pace, taking in what he'd just said.

        Darius took the opportunity to repeat the question he had asked earlier. “Why do you want this child dead, Athena?' he asked, his voice calmer this time.

        “It's not just me, Darius,” Athena answered, turning back toward him. “All of Olympus wants her dead.”

        “But why? Why is she so important to them?”

        “Because, it was foretold by the Fates that the birth of this child would mean the death of the Greek gods. And, if that happens, all is lost. Regardless of what you may believe, Darius, mankind cannot survive without gods. So, if you kill Eve for us, we would be very grateful. Why, if you do this, then you can have anything you want: your own home, even a kingdom to rule if you want it.”

        “I want only death and peace in the Elysian Fields.” Darius replied.

        Athena didn't reply, choosing instead to look away, thinking this over. “Very well,” she said finally, “kill Eve and you shall have it. After all, I'm sure Hades will agree with me on this. Considering that you've helped him before.”

        Then she walked back over to him, and, placing her hand on him, she sent healing energy coursing through his body, causing every muscle in it to relax. In truth, it felt as if every fiber of his being was being massaged. But, regardless of this feeling, he knew that just because she was healing him, which she didn't have to do, deep down that she didn't really care for him. Then, as quickly as it had begun, it stopped and the process was over.

        “Rise,” she commanded. Darius did as she commanded, rising slowly to his feet. “As we speak I have deployed another group of men to attack Xena and Gabrielle. At the moment both women have been spotted a few miles from here. You are to find them and kill Eve. Do you understand my orders?”

        “Yes, my goddess. Perfectly,” Darius answered, and nodded and walked past her, heading toward the exit to the chamber which consisted of two huge double doors and was the only way out of Athena's throne room. It was that room that they were in now. Stepping through them would take him outside the temple.

        “Oh, and Darius,” Athena said, causing him to stop and turn around, “if you ever pull a stunt like that again—you know, have a chance to kill Eve and don't take it—you won't have to worry about dying 'cause I'll make sure Hades sends you strait to Tartarus. And, even if you aren't afraid to go there it won't matter to me 'cause I'll be able to look in on you at anytime and I'll be see you suffer. And I promise you I'll enjoy every minute of it. Do you understand what I'm telling you, Darius?” She gazed at him, a sadistic gleam in her eyes and a menacing smile on her face.
        “Of course, my goddess. I promise that I won't fail again. Eve will die one way or another.” He answered, meaning every word.

        “See that you don't,” Athena replied coldly.

        And, after bowing in respect to her, he turned and left her temple, determined, now more than ever, to accomplish his mission. Because this time he had something to fight for. And, one way or another, he was going to get it…or he would die trying.

        Little did he know that chances were that there was a strong possibility that Athena wouldn't honor her promise to him.


Part 2

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