Chapter 1 Part 4
Disclaimer: Please See Part One
Darius lay there on his bedroll,
twitching and turning, his breathing hurried, his heart thudding in his chest.
Dark images tormented him: memories
of peoplemen, women, children screamingcrying out in pain. Their faces
so innocent. So sweet. So real.
They tormented him, calling out
to him, asking him why he had killed them. Their number was so great that he couldn't
Night after night they tormented
him. They called him names. Murder, killer, coward, monster, just to name a few.
He cried because of themcried
in his sleep, a soft moan of distress erupting from his pain-filled face. And,
what troubled him most of all was that whenever he tried to answer their insistent
questions of why he'd took their lives, he discovered one thing: he couldn't.
He didn't have an answer.
Their moans of pain tormented
him and consumed him with guilt. He couldn't escape them. They were his constant
companions. Constant reminders of the pain he'd caused.
Their faces were bloody. Their
forms grotesque. Their bodies were decaying before his very eyes as they reached
out to him with outstretched armsskin and muscle falling off to reveal the
sickening gleam of bone
And he awoke with a jolt, screaming
out loud, completely drenched with sweat. Then his heart beat and breathing slowed
and returned to normal.
Darius exhaled loudly and then
sighed with relief. Suddenly very glad that the things he'd seen had only been
Of course he knew that they were
only dreams afterwards, only to be fooled night after night as he experienced
them again and again.
But, perhaps, they're not dreams
at all, his mind whispered. Perhaps they are simply the souls of those that you
have killed coming to you to exact revenge.
Darius shook these thoughts away
almost violently and rose to his feet, putting on his vest and belt, which contained
his sword. Then he slid on his boots. He didn't have to worry about his pants
since he slept in them night after night.
Then he sighed, wiping his face
tiredly. And, suddenly, he started walking, realizing that he needed very much
to get some fresh air.
Soon he found the room he wanted
and entered it ever so quietly. He'd chosen this particular room since it was
one of the few rooms that had a window in it. And a rather large one at that.
He turned and stared for the window
only to stop dead in his tracks.
Beside the window stood Variea,
dressed only in a white nightgown. Darius cursed silently. I didn't expect her
to be here, he thought sourly. He turned to leave the room.
Darius? Variea asked,
trying to make out his form in the faint light of the moon. Is that you?
He sighed inwardly before turning
back around. Yes, Variea, it's me Darius. He answered, walking toward
her. He stopped when he got near her, standing on the other side of the window.
For a moment the two of them stood
there, letting a breeze of the peaceful night air whip over their bodies and ruffle
So, what brings you here
at this time of night? Variea asked.
Ah, I couldn't sleep so
I thought I'd get some fresh air. Darius said.
Same here, Variea
Gods, she's beautiful! Darius
thought, taking in her beautiful form. Then, on the trail of that thought: I
wonder what she's got on under that gown? Can't be much. Maybe nothing
at all? Lustful visions of her well-toned body dancing through his head, flooding
his veins with desire. Stop it! he thought, giving himself a mental slap across
the face. You know about Athena's policy on relationships and sex! So
get any thoughts of you and her together out of your head right now 'cause it
ain't gonna happen!
Darius sighed inwardly, realizing
that as much as he hated to acknowledge these thoughts, he realized that he must.
They were right. If Athena found out they were together and had broken her policies
then the punishments would be severe. He didn't know if the goddess would kill
him but he knew without a shadow of a doubt that she would waste no time in having
Variea killed. And Darius realized that he couldn'twouldn't allow
that to happen, knowing that he wouldn't be able to live with himself if she died
because of his selfish desires.
It's beautiful, isn't it?
Variea asked, breaking his thoughts. He looked up to find her looking out the
window up at the night sky. The night, I mean. Everything about it is so
Don't you think?
Yes, it is beautiful.
He replied, looking in turn up at the night sky.
A few seconds passed, the crickets
chirping softly, followed by the gentle breeze, both sounds seeming to combined
to form a sweet lullaby that was so sweet that it served to put everything to
rest in the chaotic world around them.
Darius? Variea asked,
snapping him out of his trance. He turned back around to find her staring intently
at him, her expression completely serious.
Variea gathered her strength,
realizing that she couldn't hide it any longer. She had to tell Darius the truth
about how she actually felt about him.
There's something I feel
I must tell you and I can't keep it hidden for any longer. Variea said.
What is it, Variea?
He asked, concern for her clearly evident on his face.
Variea exhaled, sighing loudly
and looked down at the floor, wondering how she was going to do this. Then she
met his gaze once more. Darius, I don't know how to say what I'm about to
tell you but I can't hold it back any longer. I have to get this off of my chest.
I love you, she answered.
He only stood there, completely
stunned. He was about to reply when, suddenly, Variea reached forward, landing
a passionate kiss upon his lips.
Several seconds passed, both of
them lost in the moment, Darius realizing that he should stop this, but unableor
unwilling to make himself do it.
Finally, the kiss ended and the
two separated. Variea was about to come back for more when Darius stopped her.
No, we can't do this,
What? Don't you feel the
same way? She asked.
Yes, but, I
He started to reply.
Then don't deny it?
She said, putting her finger to his lips to silence him and gazing into his eyes,
seeing the same level of desire she felt for him burning in them. She wants me?
He thought in disbelief, stunned by the very notion of it.
Then Variea grabbed him, kissing
him even more passionately than before. Unable to resist any longer he gave in
and returned her kisses with some of his own.
She pushed him gently to the floor,
bringing one leg over so that she was sitting ontop his groin.
It was then he realized that she
did indeed have no clothes on under that gown of hers as the bare skin of her
pocketbook rested on his organ, which quickly began to swell under the heat that
seemed to pour from her, a faint moan escaping from her lips, her breathing becoming
hurried as she arched back, suddenly absorbed in this new sensation. Yes,
she breathed, her eyes begging him to give her the relief she so desperately wanted.
To make love to her.
Darius's heart began to pound,
his breathing hurried, every fiber of his being begging him to honor her requestand
suddenly a new thought burst forth in his head: Athena. She'll kill her if I do
this! His mind screamed.
No! He shouted, pushing
Variea off of him almost violently as he rose to his feet. Athena will kill
you if she finds out that we slept together!
I don't care about Athena!
Variea shouted, rising to her feet.
Variea, what are you saying?!
I saying that she doesn't
have the right to tell us what we can and can't do as far as our private lives
go. So, I could care less about her little policies. Variea said, angrily,
turning away from him.
But I do care about them.
Darius replied, walking over to her and turning her around by her shoulders and
placing her hand in his. Variea, I care about youI love you
and if you died because of me I don't know what I'd do. Darius said, trying
to hold back tears.
I know you do, she
replied softly, stroking his face gently with her free hand. But
Darius, I don't know if
I want to work for Athena anymore. Variea answered, realizing that it was
true. She was having some serious doubts about the goddess and her forces.
When she'd first joined Athena's
elite squadron of archers she'd done so because their organization had been one
of honor, strength, virtue, and courage. Everything she'd failed to find in society
she'd been able to find in them.
In truth, it had been an honor
to have been chosen as a member of Athena's archers considering she'd worked so
hard to become one. Not to mention that not only were they the best warriors Greece
had to offer but they were also one of the few places that was reserved for women
only. Truly only the best of warriors were accepted as members in this club.
Here lately, however, she was
having some serious doubts about the same organization. It seemed that, somehow,
over time, it had begun to lose those qualities that had first attracted her to
it in the first place. That and it seemed that Athena had changed too. At one
time she had seemed to have stood for everything that was holy and just. Now it
seemed that killing an innocent child was perfectly fine with her. But do I really
want to serve a goddess and an organization that are willing to kill an innocent
child? Variea thought only to realize that she already knew the answer to that
question. No she did not.
I've been having serious
doubts about Athena and her squadron. Variea replied.
A few seconds passed as the two
broke eye contact, both looking around the room for answers.
Variea? Darius asked,
breaking the silence that had enveloped them.
She met his gaze evenly. Yes,
Do you think I should kill
this child? Am I doing the right thing? He asked, his voice becoming
She sighed inwardly, letting a
few moments of silence pass between them before turning her attention back to
him. I can't tell you the answer to that question, Darius. I'm afraid that's
something you'll have to figure out on your own. I think, however, that in your
heart you already know the answer to that question. But whatever decision you
make I'll stand by it.
Darius sighed, nodding to himself,
realizing that he would have to find an answer to that question on his own.
Then she kissed him yet again,
this time softer than before, seeming to use her love to caress his tortured soul.
They fell to their knees. And suddenly, Darius broke contact, placing his head
on her lap and sobbing softly, overcome by the sadness of what he'd become
what the gods had made him to be. Memories of all the pain and suffering he'd
caused flashing through his head.
I'm sorry, he said
weakly, looking up into her beautiful eyes, only to see that they were filled
No, she said firmly.
It's alright to cry, Darius. Everybody cries at some point in their lives,
Darius, and your no exception. Don't be afraid to let it all out.
And, as he took in her words,
he found that they only made him want to cry even more.
Shh, it's okay. You go ahead
and let it all out, baby. Okay? she said softly, pulling him to her chest
in a warm hug. He hugged her back fiercely, almost as if he was afraid she'd vanish
into thin air.
Don't leave me, he
whimpered softly in a childish voice, resting his head on her lap once more.
I won't, she reassured
him, stroking his head gently.
Why do you love me? What
have I done to deserve this? I'm a monster and I don't deserve your love.
Darius replied quietly.
She bent over, kissing him gently
on the forehead. Well, that's too bad 'cause you got it.
Darius's only response was to
snuggle up to her like a little child and strengthen his grip on her as if he
were afraid to let her go.
Darius smiled, realizing for the
first time in his life that he felt whole. It seemed that all his life he had
always lacked something and that was love. And as he thought back he realized
that this must be true because never in his entire existence had anyone shown
him love. That was, until now.
Why exactly Fate had given him
someone like Variea he didn't know. But, perhaps, he didn't want to know, caring
only instead that she loved him and wanting to keep that love in his life at all
costs. It was then that he realized that now that he'd found it he didn't want
to let it go. And, ultimately, he realized that he'd die to protect Variea and
not even Athena herself would take her from him
even if it meant his death.
Darius? Variea asked.
What is it, my love?
He asked, sitting up.
I was thinking about leaving
this place soon but I can't do it alone. Will you help me?
Variea, I've tried to run
away from the gods before and, no matter what I did, they always seemed to find
me. I can't escape from them. Darius said.
Your right. You can't escape
from them. Variea answered. But together we can escape from
them. Athena and the gods don't have dominion over every place in the world. If
we can make it to Egypt then they can't touch us. After all, they don't rule over
Egypt so we'll be safe there.
A few seconds passed as Darius
took all of this in. Okay, He said at last, I'll do it.
Great! Whenever you're ready
you come and tell me and we'll leave as soon as possible. Variea said almost
Then the two embraced, kissing
each other tenderly.
For the next hour or so they remained
together. Darius seeming thrilled by the whole experience. And, after gathering
a little courage, he even dared to explore her body gently with his hands, as
she did, in turn, with his body. But, at the same time, they both realized that
they had to be careful least they get too carried away and end up having sex anyway.
Finally, after both of them had
tired of this, Variea grabbed Darius's head, pulling it close to her own. Now,
you get some rest and you go do whatever it is you feel you have to do tomorrow,
Okay, but only if you'll
promise me that you'll be careful and watch yourself tomorrow.
I promise, She said
with a laugh only to end up kissing him again.
Then they both said their good
nights to each other, kissed once more, and left the room to go their separate
A few seconds passed as nothing
moved in the room. Then a figure emerged from the dark, shadowy recesses of a
corner of the large room. The figure hadn't meant to be in the room when Variea
and Darius had stumbled into it. It had only come here for a breath of fresh air
as well. But, regardless of this, it had seen and heard all. Poor Darius and Variea,
if only they hadn't been so wrapped up in each other, perhaps, they would have
noticed the figure in the room.
But they hadn't noticed it and
now they would pay dearly.
The figure headed for the door,
and, being as quiet as possible, it opened the door, stepped through, and closed
it and headed on its way.
Somewhere in the forest, the cry
of an owl erupted through the trees. Xena whirled around toward the sound, pulling
her sword from its case before it dawned on her that what she'd heard had only
been an owl hooting and not the footsteps of an approaching assassin. She sighed,
sliding her sword back into its case, and let her hands drop to her side.
Then she turned back around and
resumed her duty of keeping watch over Eve, Gabrielle, and Hercules, all of which
were sound asleep at the moment.
Xena sighed once again, remembering
how she'd managed to get the night watch. It had been shortly after their conversation
about Darius and the gods when Hercules had declared with a yawn that he was going
to turn in for the night. He hadn't gotten far, however, before he'd been stopped
by Xena who'd suggestedor rather demandedthat they should decide who
would keep watch while the others slept.
But this had proved pointless
after the three of them had argued heatedly about who this person should be as
none of them wanted to keep watch, preferring to sleep instead.
So finally Gabrielle had halted
the argument, declaring that they should draw straws and that whoever got the
shortest straw would become the unlucky individual to get to keep watch over the
Well, as luck would have it, Xena
ended up with the shortest straw, much to her dismay. Either because he wanted
to be fair to her or because he saw the displeased look on her face, Hercules
suggested that they take turns keeping watch, each person taking only a few hours
at a time after which someone would take their place.
Xena looked up at the night sky,
taking in the stars, which seemed less like stars and more like gleaming jewels.
Finally, her eyes came to rest on the moon. Although she couldn't be sure, she
guessed that, judging from it's position in the sky, that meant that it was probably
somewhere near midnight.
Xena looked back down at the surrounding
forest, a smile slowly spreading across her face as she realized that in a few
more hours she'd be able to wake up someone to replace her and fulfill her duties
as night watchman.
Xena chuckled softly, knowing
already who she would pick: HERCULES!
The tall, groggy demigod wouldn't
be pleased when she woke him up but it was better she chose him since Gabrielle
was a heavy sleeper and probably wouldn't want to get up unless you spent several
hours pestering her. As a matter of fact, Xena thought, nothing short of an explosion
would stir her from her slumber.
Xena laughed silently, a mischievous
gleam flashing in her eyes and her smile transforming into a devilish grin as
she pictured Hercules trying to wake the sleeping bard. Boy, won't he be in for
a surprise?! She thought. Then she sighed, shaking her head, pushing the thought
from her head and turning her attention back to the matter at hand.
Xena scanned the dark shadowy
outline of the surrounding brush, using her sharp vision to search for any trace
of a hidden attacker. Finding nothing menacing lurking out in the brush, her eyes
finally came to rest on Eve, who lay nestled in a few blankets under the protection
of Hercules's outstretched arm. Xena didn't know exactly what, if any, protection
the sleeping demigod could give her daughter should an unexpected attack occur.
But for some reason unknown to her, seeing Eve near him brought her a sense of
peace that she couldn't explain.
Seeing Eve with Hercules also
brought back memories of before she'd stared on her adventures with Gabrielle,
when she and Hercules had shared a passionate, yet brief relationship together.
As the years passed, however, they began to drift apart considering they never
got to spend any time together and never knew where the other might be next.
Xena smiled as she took in the
handsome form of the fair-haired son of Zeus, remembering on several nights past
when she'd entertained lustful fantasies of being in the embrace of his strong
arms as he made love to her. And, even after all these years of their being apart,
she wondered that if he made advances toward her if she'd refuse.
Xena also knew from talking to
Gabrielle that the bard had said that she'd even entertained such thought concerning
the demigod. Which didn't surprise Xena at all considering almost every woman
in Greece would probably throw themselves at him, just to say that they slept
with the mighty Hercules.
Xena guessed that, in the end,
that she still had feelings for him. But she knew that there could never be anything
between them considering the demanding aspects of their jobs.
Not to mention that part of her
feelings for him mostly derived from the fact that he had been the first person
in her life to show her the pain and suffering her misdeeds as an evil warlord
True, Gabrielle may have been
the one to have given her hope and kept her from returning to her evil ways, but
it was Hercules who had helped to generate the spark which had made her give up
her evil life and start on the path of good.
And, Xena knew, because of that,
she would always be grateful to him.
Xena stretched her tired muscles,
wishing that she was asleep at this very moment. It wasn't that she minded watching
over themespecially Eveit was just that after the day she'd had she
really wanted to do nothing more than curl up somewhere and fall fast asleep.
Xena turned around and started
to head toward the opposite side of the camp, when she stopped suddenly.
The hair on the back of her neck
stood up, as a chill moved down her spineand then it came, that familiar,
dreadful tingle she always felt whenever a god was near her but remained unseen.
Clearly, she was not alone.
Xena whirled back around, drawing
her sword. Her body remained tense as she tried to figure out who this particular
god or goddess might be. Then it hit her, the realization painfully obvious, making
Xena give herself a mental kick in the rear. Ares, she said darkly,
almost as if the name were a dirty word.
And, as if on cue, the black,
leather-clad God of War appeared before her in a flash of blue light, laughing
Hello, Xena. You know, you
never cease to amaze me. How do you do that anyway? Ares said, clapping
his hands together, smiling broadly, and shaking his head before sighing loudly.
Call it intuition,
Xena replied. What do you want, Ares?
Do I always have to be after
something? he asked innocently.
Cut the crap, Ares. I'm
not in the mood to play your little games. Okay? Xena replied venomously.
Who said I'm here to play
games? I came here to offer you a deal. Ares answered, walking up to her
and then behind her, tracing her shoulders with his hand before leaning toward
Give me a child. He
said, whispering seductively into her ear. Then, suddenly, he was in front of
her once again. Xena hated when he did that. First he'd be in one place then he'd
pop up in another without her knowing it until after he'd done it. She slipped
her sword back into its case.
You already know the answer
to that question, Ares. Xena replied.
Do I? Ares asked softly.
The answer is no, Ares.
I've told you that already. So, why don't you do me a favor and accept it.
Xena said, walking up to him until they were almost nose-to-nose, almost shouting.
Xena, Xena, Xena,
Ares chided, shaking his head. So quick to make your decision, are you?
I thought I taught you better than that. I don't know if you're willing to acknowledge
the truth yet but sooner or later you will. The other gods are relentless and
they're not going to stop until they destroy your baby.
Maybe, maybe not. That remains
to be seen. Xena replied, backing up a step. Ares laughed, clearly amused
at her words.
Xena exhaled loudly. She'd had
enough of this. That's it! She shouted, throwing her hands up into
the air. I'm waking Gabrielle and Hercules up. I've had enough of this!
And, for some bizarre reason,
this only caused Ares to laugh even more.
I don't think that's going
to be possible. Ares replied, now behind her. She whirled around, anger
creeping onto her face.
What do you mean?! What
have you done to them?! She asked between clenched teeth.
Oh, well, I'm afraid they'll
be out for quite awhile, or at least as long as I'm here. I put both Hercules
and Gabrielle as well as Eve into a deep sleep. Let's just say I wanted us to
have a quiet meeting with no interruptions.
Oh, yeah, well, how do can
I be sure that this isn't some sort of elaborate trap set by Athena?
Xena, have a little more
faith, He said with a laugh. I only put them under so I could talk
to you alone. Although, I must admit that the thought did cross my mind to use
the opportunity to kill Hercules but I didn't.
And why not? Xena
Because may be I'm not here
to kill him or anyone else that matters to you. Did you ever think about that?
Xena cocked an eyebrow and took
in what he'd just said.
Xena, what do I have to
do to convince you that I'm only interested in the welfare of your baby?!
He asked, throwing his hands up into the air.
That's the problem, Ares,
you can't. Xena answered coolly.
And why is that?
Because you're Ares and
you always lie! Xena shouted.
Really? He replied,
suddenly behind her again. She spun around. I'm really getting annoyed with that
little stunt of his! She thought.
The two of them fell into silence,
neither of them speaking for several seconds.
Ares, let me ask you something,
and it's about Darius. I've heard rumors that he's been known to have killed kings
and warlords amidst their kingdoms and armies. There any truth to that?
said the warrior princess, breaking the silence that had enveloped them.
Of course and those are
just a few of the things he's done. Truth is, he's the best mortal assassin Olympus
has to offer. And, now that the whole ordeal with Eve has started, the Order,
particularly Athena, is looking to him more and more everyday as a means to end
it and solve all their problems. And I'm sorry to say, Xena, that, despite your
vast training, that you aren't capable enough to deal with him. And that goes
for Hercules as well. I saw what happened today, Xena. I know how close he came
to killing Eve and then Hercules. Ares said.
But how do you know that?
I'm a god, Xena. I have
my ways. Ares replied sarcastically with a slight laugh. Besides,
I don't think you need to concern yourself with that. You see, in the end, Darius
doesn't need to defeat you or Hercules to kill Eve. All he really needs to kill
Eve is an opportunity, no matter how small of impossible it is, and he's already
proven that once today when he defeated you and Gabrielle. Given that he's on
your tail, as well as the gods, it's only a matter of time before your daughter's
time is up. Consider that, Xena. Think about it and then tell me if my offer is
really so bad after all.
But don't take too much
time on it, Xena. 'Cause, given the relentlessness of the other gods, Eve may
not have that much time left. Ares said before disappearing in flash of
Xena stood there, knowing that
he was wrong. But, at the same time, she wondered what would happen if it turned
out that he was right all along and Eve ended up dying because she'd failed to
heed his words. Would she be able to live with herself then?
Xena sighed, telling herself that
she was over worrying and that, in the end, everything would be alright before
turning around and resuming her watch over the others.
Gabrielle kneeled down by the
water's edge of the small pond and dipped the bucket into its cool surface. Then,
with a small grunt, she pulled it out of the pond's still surface and set the
bucket onto the dry bank, water sloshing noisily over its sides.
Then she proceeded to repeat this
process with another water bucket that she had brought along as well.
And just think, Gabrielle thought
sarcastically, when you're finished with this you'll get the joy of lugging both
of these heavy things back up to the village!
Gabrielle sighed, remembering
how she had gotten this assignment.
Shortly after breakfast, just
after the sun had rose, Xena had suggested that they head toward a nearby village
that was only a few miles away considering that there was an old friend of hers
that owned an inn there where they could stay and lay low for a few days.
So, after an unanimous vote, the
group had headed toward the village, arriving shortly before noon. Once there
they had headed for the inn, and, once inside, had been welcomed by a kindly,
elderly gentleman by the name of Dirk.
After that they had all settled
into the only available room in the place. It was then that Gabrielle had decided
that she needed a bath only to be informed by Dirk that there wasn't any water
in the inn for that. So, being the good-hearted person that she was, Gabrielle
had immediately suggested that someone do the deed and go and fetch the water.
But what little good mood she'd
had had up until that moment had quickly faded away when she'd seen the funny
expressions Hercules and Xena both wore. They had given her a look that had instantly
made her regret ever opening her mouth in the first place.
Hey, that's a great idea!
Hercules exclaimed, picking up some water buckets that just happened to be lying
on the floor and tossing them to her, both of which she caught easily. So,
why don't you just mosey on down to this village's local water source and get
us some water?
But, Hercules- Gabrielle
had started to protest.
Ah, quit your whining, ya
little baby! You were the one who wanted the bath so it's only fair that you get
the water. Now get going. Xena said. And then both the warrior princess
and the son of Zeus had begun pushing her toward the door, much to her protests
and hadn't stopped until they'd pushed her right out of the door into the hallway
where they'd slammed the door in her face.
Sighing loudly and muttering obscenities
under her breath, Gabrielle had headed out of the inn.
And when she had discovered that
the village didn't have a well, she had stopped a passerby and asked them where
the nearest water source was only to find out to her dismay that it was a pond
which was located a few miles from the village.
It was that very pond that she was at now.
Gabrielle pulled the bucket from
the water and set it down onto the bank. Then, grabbing both buckets by their
handles, she rose to her feet.
Beyond the pond was a grassy plain,
which stretched on for as far as the eye could see.
Gabrielle started to turn around
and head back to the village when she suddenly stopped. She gazed out along the
vast plain. She wasn't sure but she thought she saw something. A group of men
perhaps? Using her sharp vision, she studied the object, which was fast approaching.
And then as it got closer it dawned
on her that what she was seeing was more than a mere group of men. It was an army,
massive in size. Probably the largest she'd ever seen! As they got closer she
saw that they were covered in black leather from head to toe and carried silver
shields in front of them.
Then Gabrielle froze, finally
able to read the symbols that were etched on their shields. This was no average
army. These guys belonged to a god or goddess. Gabrielle squinted her eyes, trying
to use the symbols to determine which god it wasand then it hit her, the
realization sending chills down her spine. These were Athena's men and they were
headed straight for her! Gabrielle frowned. No, they can't be heading for me,
She thought, They probably don't even know I'm here yet. So that means
their heading for
THE VILLAGE! She shouted,
dropping the buckets. They've come after us no doubt! I've got to
warn Xena and Hercules! She thought.
Then she turned and headed back
toward the village.
Back at Dirk's inn, which was
actually a combination of an inn/tavern, Xena leaned back in her chair, downing
her glass of ale and slamming the mug on the table before her. At the moment the
tavern was filled with people all of whom were engaged in a conversations, which
filled the tavern with a steady roar.
On the other side of the table
sat Hercules who, at the moment at least, held Eve in his comforting arms. He
gazed down at the child, lovingly, a warm smile on his face.
I think she's taken quite
a likening to you. Xena said, smiling at the sight of them together.
I guess she has, Hercules
replied, not taking his gaze off of Eve as he spoke.
Here you go, Xena,
an elderly gentleman said, setting two glasses of ale on the table, compliments
of the house.
Why, thank you, Dirk,
Xena said kindly, looking up at the elderly gentleman, who had gray hair, blue
eyes, and who was dressed rather simply. His wardrobe consisted only of a meek,
brown shirt, pants and shoes. I'm sure my friend and I will enjoy them very
Good, good. Glad to hear
it and if you need anything else you just tell me and I'll make sure you get it.
Dirk said, smiling from ear to ear. Then he turned around and headed back for
the tavern's bar.
So, what's his story?
Hercules asked, looking up from Eve and turning his attention to Xena.
Ah, I saved his son from
being run over by a runaway wagon a year or so ago. He's been grateful to me ever
sense. Not to mention he's a heck of a nice guy and a good friend. Xena
Hercules nodded and then turned
his attention back to Eve, while Xena downed her glass of ale.
What Xena had neglected to mention
to Hercules was that not long ago she'd heard rumors that his son had died after
drowning in a nearby pond and, because of that, Dirk had turned away from the
gods and embraced the teachings of Eli to heal his pain over the loss of his son.
Not that Xena could blame him, considering that the gods often had a habit of
promising to help their followers and then abandoning them in their greatest time
Suddenly, the door to the tavern
burst open and Gabrielle came running through, coming to a stop when she got to
Xena, there's an army heading
this way and they're going to be here any second! Shouted a nearly hysterical
Gabrielle, causing everyone else in the tavern to stop talking and turn their
attention to her.
Did you see any markings
to identify who they might belong to? Xena asked.
They belonged to a god
Which god? Hercules
asked, his attention completely on Gabrielle.
They were Athena's men,
I'm sure of it. Gabrielle answered. At this both Xena and Hercules stood
Where did you see them at?
On the plain not far from
a pond which is a few miles from here. Gabrielle answered.
Okay, let's go. Xena
said, grabbing the sling up off of the floor. Hercules carefully put Eve into
its snug folds before Xena slipped it onto her back.
Xena, Dirk said, walking
up to them. They turned to face him. I have a back door to the place. I
can show it to you if you'd like. It could provide you with an easy escape.
Okay, show it to us,
Xena, wait, what about Argo?
We haven't got the time
to go get her. If we get time later then we'll come back for her. But I'm sure
she'll be just fine for now in the local stables where I left her. Xena
Then Dirk started forward, followed
by Xena, Gabrielle and then Hercules. Once they had worked their way to the back
of the room, Dirk led them down a series of hallways, before coming to a stop
at a door located on what had to be the back wall. Dirk opened the door, revealing
a brown, dirt plain that stretched on for several yards before coming to a stop
at a dense wall of trees that marked the start of the forest.
Go on, Xena, I'll stay here
and stall them for you. Dirk said.
Are you sure you want to
do that? They're liable to kill you if you do. You'd be safer if you came with
us. Hercules said.
No, my place is here. Now
go, before they get here already. Dirk said.
Then you be good now, ya
here? And be careful, okay? Xena said, patting Dirk on the back.
Then they all clasped hands with him and said their goodbyes before Xena, Gabrielle,
and Hercules stepped through the door and headed on their way. Soon they were
out of sight as they were quickly lost in the arms of the thick forest beyond
Goodbye, my friends. May
Eli watch over you. Dirk said, watching the forest they had disappeared
into for a moment longer before turning around and, gathering all of his strength,
prepared to face down the approaching army. Then, sighing inwardly, he walked
forward, heading back the way he had come to the front of the tavern.
Soon, Athena's army arrived and
it wasn't long before the lead commander had everyone in the village lined up
in the street with the army facing them. In the back of Athena's troops stood
Variea and her fellow archers. And, near the front of Athena's army stood Darius,
who watched the crowd with both a sense of detachment and pity. It wasn't their
fault that the people Athena was looking for had decided to stop and rest in their
village. But Athena wouldn't see it that way. They'd be lucky if she didn't kill
them all, which she was probably prone to do just for the sheer fun of it. Or
at least that was his opinion anyway and Darius really hoped that, just for once
in his life, he was wrong about her.
Suddenly, Athena, Hades, and Hephaestus
appeared in flashes of light not far from him.
What is the status on the
current situation? Athena asked the commanding officer.
We've searched the village
and there appears to be no sign of the fugitives. We believe they may have escaped
and that these people may know where they went. The commander said, gesturing
to the crowd before him.
Well then, that is a shame,
now isn't it? Athena asked, turning to the crowd, malicious intent clearly
evident in her eyes. The people shuddered and cowered in fear, afraid of what
she might do to them. The Goddess of War and Wisdom walked forward, stopping when
she was a few yards from the crowd
If anyone should tell me
where they went they shall have my favor. Athena stated, seeming to talk
at the crowd instead of talking to them. But also know that if anyone
lies to me then they will die. Now, who knows which way they went?
No one spoke.
Athena was about to say more when
a soldier handed the commander a piece of cloth, whispering something in his ear.
Excuse me, my goddess? Please
forgive my interruption but I just received this from one of my men. He
said, walking forward and handing it to Athena. I was told that it came
from one of the rooms in the inn. The commander bowed before her before
scampering back to the safety of his fellow troops.
Athena examined the piece of cloth
closely before wrinkling her face in disgust. Who's is this?! Athena
asked the crowd, holding the cloth up in the air as if it were diseased. The cloth
was white and scrawled upon its surface were some teachings of Eli.
If no one will claim this
then I will have to kill all of you to ensure that the offender is punished. Is
that what you want? asked the goddess of war and wisdom coldly, her smile
never leaving her face.
The people looked at each other
uneasily but otherwise made no effort to speak.
Very well, Athena
replied, preparing to pull her sword from its case on her side.
Wait! Cried a figure
from the back of the crowd, who had already started making his way to the front.
The crowd quickly parted for the mysterious man, who stepped through the opening
they had created and stopped when he was at the front of the them. It was Dirk.
You dare to defy the gods
with fifth such as this?! Athena asked hotly, dropping the cloth to the
ground in disgust.
Well, I'm sorry, but I don't
think I had much of a choice in the matter, goddess! I prayed to you and
your order to protect my son from harm and do you know what happened?! He drowned
and not ONE of you did anything to stop it! So, I don't think I'll go on
serving an order that'd let my son die regardless of my service to it! Dirk
spat venomously, his sudden outburst causing those closest to him to flinch involuntarily.
Athena grit her teeth, her face
turning red with rage. How DARE thisthis lowly mortal think
he can speak to me this way?! I AM A GODDESS and won't be treated in any
other respect! Athena thought darkly.
Athena started forward to draw
her weapon, hell bent on doing nothing less than gutting her intended target like
a fish when she suddenly stopped, a better idea popping in her head almost instantly.
She turned and walked back toward her army.
Kill him! Athena shouted
But he's only an old man!
Darius protested, an incredulous look filling his face.
DO IT OR I'LL DO IT MYSELF!
Athena screamed at him, literally shaking with rage and giving Darius one of the
coldest looks he'd ever received. And, somehow, Darius got the impression that
if he didn't do as she asked right here, right now, that she'd do nothing short
of beat him black and blue, regardless of the fact that there were other people
Darius turned, sighed inwardly
and drew his sword, walking toward the old man, stopping when he was several feet
from the crowd.
Come forward, Darius
Dirk obeyed and stepped in front
Fall to your knees.
Again Dirk did as he was commanded
and fell to his knees.
Then Darius raised his blade high
over his head, preparing to behead the kindly old man named Dirk. It was bad enough
that he had to kill him. So the least he could do for the guy would be to make
his death as quick and painless as possible.
Dirk looked up at Darius and the
two locked gazes. And it was in this moment that Darius saw that the old man seemed
to have lost his animosity toward the gods which had been quickly replaced by
fear and it was also in this moment that Darius saw how truly afraid the old man
Darius sighed inwardly once more,
his eyes swimming with apology for what he was about to do. I'm sorry,
He said softly, pitching his voice so only Dirk could hear it. The old man nodded
slightly, his gaze seeming to say, I know you are. Now you do what you have
to, son. My time has come. Then, struggling to hold back the tears that
threatened to burst forth from his eyes, in a stroke like that of lightening,
Darius sent his sword hurtling toward Dirk's head, cutting it clean off. And,
with two, sickening thumps, both the head and the body both fell to the ground.
The crowd looked on in horror,
some of the women who were mothers turned away to shield their children from the
gruesome sight before them.
Darius resheathed his sword, turned
around, and walked back toward Athena and her army with his head held low, his
heart already consumed with guilt, his face an expressionless mask that hid the
torrent of emotions swirling around inside of him that threatened to erupt to
the surface at any moment. He may be the assassin for the Olympian order but that
didn't mean he had to like his job because of it.
Search the village again!
I'm sure we'll find some sign of where they went. Athena said to the commander.
Then, as the army dispatched to
follow her orders, Athena, Hades, and Hephaestus all disappeared in separated
flashes of light.
Less than an hour later, Athena's
army had found the tracks of the three fleeing fugitives behind the inn.
Athena's commander stood in the
center of the village, eyeing the people suspiciously.
Then, in a flash of light, Athena
appeared before him.
What have you found?
She asked him.
We've found the tracks of
the fugitives behind the inn, heading due west towards the forest. He replied.
Excellent. Get your army
moving at once. Once you find them follow my orders I gave you earlier to a 'T'.
Understood? Athena said.
Yes, my goddess. We will
not fail you.
See that you don't. Now
move out. Athena commanded coldly, before disappearing in a flash of light.
Alright, troops! the
commander shouted to his men. Let's move out!
Then Athena's army, archers, and
Darius headed out of the village in the direction of their fleeing prey.
| xena homepage | what's new