Chapter 1 Part 5
by Joseph Ezell
Disclaimer: Please See Part One
The three warriors left the woods, heading across the grassy plain that was in front of them.
Xena led the pack, with Eve held securely in the sling on her back, followed closely by Gabrielle, with Hercules taking up the rear. The three of them stuck closely together, each of them focusing solely on getting as far away from the village as was humanly possibleand yetat the same timethey all kept a watchful eye out for a sudden attack Hercules most of all. The demigod knew all too well how Athena could be. They may not have had the best relationship over the years but that didn't mean that he didn't know just what she was capable of doing or just how cruel and bloodthirsty she could be. And he also knew that, given even half the chance, she wouldn't hesitate to kill Eve and he couldn'twouldn't allow that to happen. Even if it meant that he had to die just to protect Eve so be it. If it happens, it happens, He thought. But one thing is for sure, Athena's not going to get her hands on that child! Not if I have anything to say about it!
Hercules shook these thoughts from his head and was about to pick up the pace when he was suddenly overwhelmed by a powerful feeling. He didn't know how, but somehow he got the distinct impression that something wasn't right.
Suddenly, Xena came to an abrupt stop and held up her hand, motioning for her friends to do so as well. I think we need to stop and rest a minute before we go on any further. Said the warrior princess. Both Gabrielle and Hercules nodded in agreement and together the small group began to rest their tired muscles.
For a few moments the small group was enveloped in silence, each of them gasping for air, their hearts beating merciously against their chests.
They had traveled almost nonstop since they had left the village and Xena wasn't sure but she guessed that they had traveled for at least a mile or two.
Xena, Hercules said, causing her to turn her gaze toward him, something's not right. I don't know how but I can feel it.
I know what you mean. I've been feeling the same thing myself. Xena replied. She was about to say more when she was suddenly overwhelmed by a sudden feeling of uneasiness. She spun around, facing the wood line of the forest they'd just come from only moments before. She studied the shadowy outline of the trees, her keen warrior senses detecting nothing in the thick brush. But even though she didn't see anything, something just wasn't right. Something or someone was out there. She didn't know how she knew it but she knew it nonetheless. They were being watched.
Xena glanced over at Hercules, only to find him doing the same thing. The tall demigod studied the thick brush of the tree line of the surrounding forest, his face growing more and more dismayed by the second. Clearly he was feeling the same things she was feeling.
Hercules gazed intently at the lush, green forest ahead of him, a feeling of dread growing in the pit of his stomach more and more each passing moment. Something was indeed very wrong here. Even the air seemed different, like it was charged with electricity. And, although he couldn't see or hear anything, Hercules didn't doubt for a second that Athena's army could be there. His half sister was very clever and could be hiding her army from their sight at this very moment. She'd wait until just the right moment and then, when the time came, she'd strike. The attack would probably be quick and brutal so they had better be prepared for it or else she'd make short work of them. They could very well be surrounded by now and not even know it.
Xena, is something wrong? Gabrielle asked, noticing the worried looks that Hercules and Xena both wore.
We're being watched, Xena answered coolly, not taking her gaze away from the woods in front of her.
Gabrielle turned and looked in the direction of Hercules's and Xena's gaze, taking in the lush, green, thick brush of the surrounding forest before her. But, try as she might, however, she couldn't see or hear or even feel whatever it was that had caught the demigod's and warrior princess's attention. After all, she hadn't been a warrior for that long, unlike Hercules and Xena who'd been warriors for years, maybe practically their whole lives.
Alright everyone, we need to stick together. The closer we are to one another the better our chances of escaping this thing in tact are. 'Cause if we get separated then we're all as good as dead. Everybody got that? Hercules said, moving beside Gabrielle, all the while his gaze remaining on the forest before him.
Agreed, the warrior princess answered, moving to stand beside Gabrielle as well. Xena drew her sword, her gaze calm, cool, and collected as she readied herself for battle.
Agreed, replied the bard, taking her cue from Xena and drawing her sais from her boots.
Alright, everybody get ready 'cause they could come at any time. Hercules warned.
Suddenly, men burst forth from the lush, green, brush of the surrounding forest, a single, deafening roar erupting from their bodies as they charged toward the waiting heroes at full speed. Athena's army was here, each man filled with bloodlust, as they wanted more than anything in this world to please their goddess. And nothing, no matter how big or small, would stand in their way.
Me and my big mouth, Hercules replied, his eyes widening as he noticed that the number of soldiers coming toward them seemed to increase exponentially. In fact, their number increased so much that they seemed to come forth in waves. Oh boy, Hercules thought glumly, realizing that this could be the last time they ever fought again. Could this be it? Could this be the moment of truth? Could this be the day that we all die? Or, for that matter me?
Hercules shook these thoughts away almost violently, turning his attention back to the matter at hand. If we lose, we lose, Hercules thought. But if you want Eve dead, Athena, you're going to have to earn it 'cause we're not giving up without a fight! Hercules readied himself, preparing to give everything he hadevery ounce of his strengthto ensure that Athena failed and Eve lived. If she wanted Eve dead then she'd have to get through him to do it.
His decision made, Hercules stood there, his body posed to react. And with cool precision he waited until just the right moment until one of the men was closest to him before rearing back his arm. Then, like a coiled spring, he sent his arm flying forward, causing the man's nose to break in a deafening crunch of bone and spew of blood, the force of the blow sending him flying backwards.
The approaching army swarmed upon them like ants, oblivious to the fate of their fallen comrade.
Hercules waited until they were right upon him before releasing an unrelenting assault of punches at his enemies that sent man after man flying back through the air. His blows were fast and brutal, the demigod seeming to deliver them at almost inhuman speed--a fierce battle yell erupting from his beingas the son of Zeus had no intention of tiring just yet and fully intended to make Athena wish she had heeded his words and left Eve alone.
The tall, powerful demigod glanced over at Xena and Gabrielle only to smile in spite of himself as he saw that they apparently had the same idea that he did.
A fierce battle yell erupted from Xena's lips, which quickly curled into a feral smile as she delivered fatal blows for her sword, slicing and dicing every soldier she saw.
Meanwhile, Gabrielle held her own against the onslaught of their enemy, sending several powerful kicks rocketing into a nearby soldier before finally knocking him to the ground with a roundhouse kick to the head, plunging her sais deep into his chest, killing him instantly. Then she rose sending a deadly series of punches, kicks, and slashes with her sias into every unlucky soldier that was dumb enough to come too close to her.
But, regardless of how many soldiers they managed to take out, Hercules noticed to his dismay that their number seemed to be increasing infinitely as wave after wave of soldiers continued to descend upon them.
Hercules sighed, then gathering all of his strength, he pushed on, fully determined to see this thing through to the end. Bring it on, Athena! He said, meaning every word.
Darius stood there in the clearing, not far from the border of the surrounding forest, watching the battle before him unfold with growing dismay. It would be a miracle if they survived this. Frankly, Darius wasn't sure exactly why he was needed here. As far as he was concerned the army Athena had amassed was more than enough to kill Eve. Anything more than that was simply overkill. Clearly such a move like this meant only one thing: Athena and the other gods were desperate to kill Eve. Why else would they need an army such as this one?
Yep, and guess what champ, His mind whispered sarcastically, in just a few moments you'll get the chance to kill Eve. To kill an innocent child. Those little, innocent eyes looking up at you fearfully as you plunge your sword into its soft chest.
Stop it! He shouted inwardly, giving himself a mental slap across the face. You're an assassin for the Olympian order for the gods sakes! So start acting like it and do your job so you can get this whole mess over with already!
Suddenly, Athena, Hades, and Hephaestus appeared in separate flashes of light beside him.
Well, looks like our prey's doing better than I expected. Looks, like they're putting up quite a fight. Athena mused, with a slight laugh, a slight smile popping up onto her face as she eyed the on going battle with dull interest.
Then, with a slight sigh, the goddess of war shook her head at her opponents' foolishness. Variea, She called, her smile dropping from her face, snapping her fingers. As commanded, Variea stepped out from the brush of the surrounding forest.
Yes, my goddess? Variea asked expectantly.
Set up positions and begin phase two of my plan. Athena commanded, not turning her attention away from the battle unfolding before her.
Yes, my goddess, it will be done. Variea replied, taking a small bow of respect before turning and disappearing into the arms of the thick forest beyond.
Athena smiled once more, knowing in her heart that Eve didn't stand a chance and would soon be dead. Soon, she thought. Soon this whole mess will be over and Eve will be dead and all will be right with the world. Until then, however, the least she could do was enjoy the show. After all, how often did you get the chance to see a good battle being waged?
Athena laughed inwardly, suddenly feeling better than she had all day.
Hercules ducked, causing his opponent's punch to go sailing harmlessly over his head. Not giving his enemy time to react, he sent a punch of his own rocketing into his attacker's abdomen. The man bent over, a loud groan escaping his lips, his eyes bulging outwardonly to be hit by a powerful uppercut from the mighty HERCULES, which sent him flying through the air.
Hercules rose, smiling inwardly. It wasn't that he liked causing someone else pain, but even so he had to admit that there was a certain satisfaction that came with defeating an opponent.
Hercules sighed, and was about to rejoin the ongoing battle around him when, suddenly, he stopped abruptly. He wasn't sure but he thought that he'd heard something. It had sounded like something was whistling through the airand then he heard it. And, whatever it was, it was coming straight at him! And, almost a spilt of a second laterbefore he even knew what he was doinghis hand darted out, catching the hurtling object only mere inches from his head.
It was an arrow and an expensive on at that. Judging from the material Hercules concluded that it was made almost entirely out of silver. Hercules frowned, noticing the extricate symbols carved on the arrow and then his eyes widened as he realized who the arrows belonged to. That's just great! Hercules thought sarcastically. Could this day get any worse?!
Xena! Hercules shouted, turning his attention to the warrior princess.
Yeah?! Xena asked, impaling an approaching soldier with her sword.
Athena's archers are shooting arrows at us! Hercules shouted, clotheslineing two attaching soldiers as Xena pulled her sword out of her attacker's body, causing him to drop to the ground like a ton of bricks.
Xena turned her attention to Hercules and was about to reply when she whipped her hand out instinctively, catching an arrow only inches from her face!
Gabrielle had just finished knocking an opponent to the ground and was about to ask Hercules and Xena what was going on and why in tartarus both of them were standing around when there was a battle being waged all around them, when Hercules whipped his hand out, stopping an arrow from embedding itself in the bard's beautiful face.
So, Hercules thought, I guess Athena's archers figure that the best way for them to kill Eve is to kill us first. He had thought that Athena would obviously order the archers to kill Eve but he hadn't expected them to target them as well. Guess I should of figured that and stop under estimating Athena's willingness to kill this child. He thought, sighing inwardly.
One thing was for sure though, either way Athena didn't care who died. As long as Eve died she'd be happy.
Hercules sighed inwardly once more, before pushing these thoughts aside and putting both arrows in one hand. Xena, could you toss me that other arrow? Hercules asked, determination filling his face as the mighty demigod decided right then and there to turn the tables on his half sister and, if possibly, buy them and Eve some more time.
Xena tossed Hercules the arrow, which he caught easily with his free hand. Then he turned his attention to the surrounding forest.
The son of Zeus strained his eyes, struggling to use his sharp vision to find some evidence of their sudden attackers.
Several moments passed by as several arrows came flying by them, one of them, just barely missing his head! It had been so close he'd felt the wind off of it as had whisked by him.
Finally, he saw it! The tiny glimmer of silver amongst the thick brush. And, taking careful aim, and, without hesitation, the powerful hero sent all three arrows hurtling back in their direction.
To his surprise and not a little delight, he was rewarded with three sharp cries of surprise and pain as his arrows had clearly found their mark. Hercules smiled, and then, sighing inwardly, he turned his attention away from the brush and once again resumed fighting in the ongoing battle.
Athena watched the events of the ongoing battle before her unfold, feeling the good mood she had been experiencing earlier begin to slip away. The smile she had been wearing was quickly replaced by a frown, which gave hints to all those around her that she wasn't to be messed with at all at this particular moment because there was a very strong possibility that her mood could darken very quickly, and no one wanted to be the object of this goddess's wrath.
Before her the battle was beginning to move at a breathtaking pace.
Massive amounts of arrows continued to rain down on the three heroes out on the battlefield, while Athena's troops swarmed around them like angry bees, only to be knocked to the ground or killed just as fast. In fact, the goddess of war and wisdom's men were literally dropping to the ground like flies, regardless of the fact that there were still several hundreds of them. But there won't be for long if this keeps up! Athena thought. And, if her dismay at seeing her soldiers failing miserably against only three people wasn't bad enough, it only deepened when her beloved archers seemed to be falling just as fast.
It seemed for all their skill they couldn't even hit any of their assigned targets. Worst of all, they could even hit Eve! Which, as far as Athena was concerned, was the most important of all of the targets. At least they could hit her! The goddess of War and Wisdom thought miserably. Then we'd all get to go home and all this madness would finally be over with.
As a matter of fact, her archers seemed to be hitting everything but their assigned targets as soldier after soldier fell to the ground at the onslaught of their arrows! Either that or their arrows landed harmlessly on the ground.
Athena sighed inwardly, knowing that all of this was very bad indeed as it gave Hercules all the time he needed to make his move against them. Athena even saw to her horror that the demigod seemed to be throwing her archer's arrows back at them just as fast as they were firing them, injuring some and killing many each time it happened! If this kept up then pretty soon she wouldn't have any more archers under her command.
You see, unlike most armies Athena's archers didn't have that many members in its ranks.
Having a spot in Athena's elite guard was very honorable indeed as only the best fighters Greece had to offer (this, of course, excluded any male fighters due to a decision made by Athena herself a long time ago long before she'd started the group). And, because of this, the archers were very few in number as there weren't that many female warriors to start with. That is, unless of course, you counted the Amazons. But even they turned up low numbers, as most members of the Amazon nation were perfectly content to stay with their fellow sisters and their tribes and thus saw no need to leave them.
Athena sighed inwardly, her already icy-cold gaze turning even colder as a dark, seething rage began to fill her heart. And, as she continued to gaze at the ongoing battle before her, she finally had more than she could stand. She was a goddess of crying out loud and she wasn't about to let three, mere warriorsmortalsput a halt on her plans! She would succeed even if it took everything she had to do it.
Athena smiled, as the solution to her problem hit her with the force of a hurricane. Now, why didn't I think of that before? She thought.
She shrugged inwardly, shaking the question off before it had time to take root in her mind. It was about time she ended this little charade and put the next phase of her plan into effect.
With her decision made, Athena disappeared in a flash of light.
A few seconds later, she reappeared behind the archers, where Variea was pacing back and forth, barking orders like mad.
Athena smiled, amused at the sight before her, all the while barely containing the urge to snap Variea's neck like a twig. Athena calmed herself, taking a few moments to tell herself that that wouldn't do her any good right now as she needed her. Besides, she could always do it later after this whole mess was over with.
Variea, Athena said, causing the unexpected captain to flinch involuntarily. Variea recovered quickly and turned around to face her goddess. Yes, my goddess? she asked, bowing before her.
Rise, commanded Athena.
Variea did as she was commanded and rose to her feet.
Send out three of your best fighters to attack the enemy. Leave the rest of the troops here to continue firing at their assigned targets. Athena commanded.
But, forgive me my manners, my goddess, but won't there be a chance that they'll be hit by some of the arrows? Variea asked.
Variea, Athena said, sighing loudly and rolling her eyes. She wasn't in the mood to have a mortal back talk her right now. Especially one that was under her command, don't question my orders. Besides, that isn't going to happen. Or at least it had better not happen. Because if it does then I'm holding you personally responsible. Do you understand what I'm trying to tell you, Variea?
Yes, my goddess. I understand completely. Variea answered quickly, hanging her head solemnly.
Good, Athena replied coldly. Then see that it gets done and if everything works out right you won't have anything to worry about.
Then, in a flash of light, Athena disappeared, leaving Variea alone with her thoughts. Would she be able to pull this off for her goddess? Or would she fail miserably and suffer death at her hands later? Variea sighed, realizing that only time would tell. Gathering all of the strength she could muster, Variea turned back around and resumed her duties as captain of Athena's archers.
Hercules unleashed a powerful punch, hitting his would-be attacker square in the face, the force of the blow sending him flying backward through the air.
But just as soon as he'd dealt with that guy, two more took his place, charging him on either side, with their swords raised over their heads. Hercules sighed, waiting until just the right moment before ducking and stretching his arms out, his fists balled. With a loud Oof both men collided with the demigod's outstretched fists before doubling over, their swords falling from their grasps and to the ground with a soft thud.
Wasting no time, Hercules rose, grabbing both men by the back of their vests. Goodnight boys! He said, slamming them into one another, causing them to fall to the ground like a ton of bricks. Then he sighed inwardly, clearly tiring mentally as well as physically of the ongoing battle that was happening all around him. It was then that he realized how much they needed to get out of there.
Athena was probably desperate to kill Eve right now and there was no telling what she might throw at them. Which is all the more reason to leave, He thought.
Xena! Hercules yelled, turning in the warrior princess's direction. But he quickly saw to his dismay that she hadn't heard him as she was presently in a duel with two men. Xena issued a savage war cry, disarming both of them in the blink of an eye.
Xena uttered a sinister battle laugh. Come on boys, she said, her face transforming into a feral smile. Come and let me help you meet your maker.
And, instead of turning tail and fleeing as any sane person would do, her attackers simply turned to one another and laughed mischievously. Then they both turned back to Xena, and, like the complete idiots that they were, they charged her.
Xena only shook her head in disbelief before unleashing an unrelenting combination of punches and kicks that sent both men tumbling to the ground like rag dolls. And, just when she thought that they were down for the count, they both rose to their feet and begin hobbling over to her, determined to show her who was boss. Aw, good grief! Why must they be so stupid? For once in my life could I fight an opponent who knows how to stay down?! Then, sighing inwardly, Xena shook these thoughts away, turning her attention back to her twostubbornopponents.
Gabrielle, meanwhile, seemed to be having her own fair share of problems and was currently locked in a heated battle with one of Athena's soldiers. Both fighters exchanged heavy blows back and forth so rapidly that Hercules found it dizzying to watch.
Finally, after watching this whole confusing spectacle continue to drag on and on, with no apparent end in sight, the demigod decided right then and there that he'd had enough of this. After all, they had to get out of here and they didn't have time to play knock down the soldier with these guys.
Hercules walked forward, his anger building as he neared Gabrielle's opponent. It was often rare that the tall demigod got upset or angry but when he did you had better look out 'cause he was often very dangerous to anyone who just happened to cross his path and give him any trouble at all. After all, he did have the strength of a god and you did not want to be the unlucky individual to find this out when the big guy got ticked off.
With that said, several warriors, apparently obvious to his mood, decided that now was the time to charge him, only to find themselves flungor rather tossedvarious directions through the air courtesy of the big man.
The tall demigod never slowed momentum as he descended upon Gabrielle's attacker like plague of darkness, grabbing the poor man and tossing him through the air with ease.
Thanks! Replied a stunned Gabrielle.
No problem, said Hercules, continuing on toward Xena, intent upon handling her problem as well.
Just then, yet another warrior charged Hercules, stepping in front of him, effectively blocking his path. I really don't have time for this. Hercules growled through clenched teeth, narrowing his eyes. With a brutal slap to his face, Hercules stopped him cold, quickly disarming him and lifting him high into the air.
HEY! Hercules shouted, causing both of Xena's attackers to spin around in his direction. Catch this! He yelled, throwing the man in his grasp toward them both at frightening speed. With a loud thud the man hit the other two men, causing them all to fall to the ground in a bloody heap, a chorus of groans escaping from their still forms.
Xena, I don't want to state the obvious here, but we've got to retreat and we've got to do it now! 'Cause if we don't get out of here now and I mean right now then we're all as good as dead! Hercules warned.
Xena nodded her head quickly. Agreed. We'll fight as one and make our way to the woods and then run like all tartarturus. If we're lucky we'll lose them in the forest. Hercules and Gabrielle nodded their heads in agreement. Good, then let's move!
But, just as they were about to do just that three of Athena's archers came charging at them from the woods. Sure! Why not?! It's not like we had anything important to do anyway! Hercules thought sarcastically.
In mere seconds, the archers were upon them, their swords raised high. The three heroes faced the archers, taking them one-on-one. It was then that the arrows started to fly again.
Great! Hercules thought. It's not like things could actually work out right for us like we wanted them too! Gods knows we can't have that now, can we?! Why it would screw up the natural order things 'cause it'd be too easy!
Hercules sighed inwardly and readied himself against his opponents attack. He didn't have to wait long for it as his opponent ran at him, a savage cry of rage erupting forth from the depths of her being as she tried to impale him with her sword.
But her attack was short-lived as Hercules grabbed her by her outstretched arm, and, by one hand, picked her up off the ground, slinging her through the air like a rag doll before slamming her to the ground. Needless to say, she was out cold and would probably stay that way for quite a while.
Hercules looked up, noticing that Gabrielle and Xena were still engaged with their opponents.
Gabrielle fought with all she had, gritting her teeth, as she blocked her opponents almost unrelenting attacks before sending several punches to her head, knocking her to the ground with an uppercut that caught her opponent totally off guard.
Meanwhile, Xena fought just as fiercely, unleashing a devastating series of kicks to her opponents midsection, ending it with a roundhouse kick to the head that sent her opponent crashing to the ground.
To the group's relief none of their attackers rose again.
The three of them stood there, casting one last look at their fallen opponents before turning and beginning their fight toward the woods behind them that would ultimately grant freedom and safety.
Athena stood there, once again standing amongst Hades and Hephaestus as she surveyed the ongoing battle before her.
She cursed under her breath, her face filling with disgust. Athena sighed inwardly, barely able to contain the rage she felt at seeing the three heroes defeat the three archers so quickly. Oooooooooooh, I could scream! She thought, turning around, looking desperately for someone to strangle and thus free herself of the almost blinding rage that had descended upon her and that was presently building to an almost intolerable level.
She looked from Hephaestus to Hades but quickly decided against attacking either of them very quickly as it would most likely be a very bad idea. She didn't know about Hephaestus but she knew without a shadow of a doubt that Hades certainly wouldn't tolerate it. After all, he wasn't called the dark lord of the underworld for nothing. And there was no telling what he might do to her in retaliation. Besides, she also knew that right now she needed both of them to help her deal with Eve. Clearly, attacking either of them would be a very dumb thing to do as they would not only turn against her but such a stupid stunt would also mean that they'd stop helping her as well. And that was one loss that she knew she couldn't take. At least not right now when she needed them the most.
She turned away from them only to have her gaze fall on Darius. The goddess of war and wisdom smiled a sweet smile, her eyes twinkling with joy, her whole face lighting up like a Christmas tree. Yes, he would be the perfect target to vent her rage upon. She started to go over to him, intent on doing just that when, suddenly, she stopped herself abruptly, her better judgment getting a hold of her as she realized that such a move would probably result in the death of her best assassin and she couldn't allow that to happen. He was just too important to her right now.
It was then that an idea came to her and she wondered why she hadn't thought of it until now. As a matter of fact, she should have thought of it much sooner and thus saved herself the frustration she had already experienced. That's twice today that's happened, She mused silently. Athena shook these thoughts away, smiling once more as she shook her head at her stupidity, once again beginning to feel in control of the things that were going on around her.
Darius stood there, calm and collected as he watched the battle before him unfold. He sighed inwardly, taking in the senselessness of it all.
Most of all, his gaze fell upon the bodies of the fallen warriors, only to realize with despair that not long ago that those same men had been alive and kicking. Men with livesperhaps even familiesonly to die for what?! So an innocent child might die so that a selfish pack of gods might live? Where's the justice in that? Darius shook his head, realizing the foolishness of it all.
Darius, Athena said, breaking his thoughts. He turned to face her, seeing almost immediately that she had something on her mind.
Yes, my goddess? He asked solemnly.
The next phase of my plan is about to go into effect. I want you to go down there and kill Eve for me. You knowhelp me eliminate my little problem? You think you can do that, Darius? Athena said, her tone strangely quiet and menacing.
But, my goddess- Darius began, trying once more to voice his previous protests to killing Eve even though he knew that it was hopeless.
That wasn't a request, Darius. Do what I say. Is that understood? Athena replied, her tone harsh, her gaze as cold as ice. Darius turned to the other gods, searching for answers only to find none. Instead they only looked back at him expectantly, awaiting his answer.
Darius held his head down, sighing slightly. Yes, my goddess, I will obey. Please forgive my outburst. He answered quietly.
Good. Then it's settled then. You have your orders, now get to it and dispose of Eve already! Athena hissed.
Sighing inwardly, Darius turned, drew his sword and began walking towards the three heroes, telling himself that all he had to do was kill Eve and then after that everything would be okay and he could finally get away from all of this madness and run away with Variea. And when that happened it would be then that he would finally have the freedom he always dreamed of and longed for with the only woman who had ever loved him. Besides, with Eve dead Athena would probably care less about what happened to him then.
Darius pushed these thoughts aside, sighed inwardly once more, and continued on his course to intercept them and, ultimately, complete his mission and end this whole nightmare that had been his existence for so long and finally have the peace he so richly deserved.
They had managed to get within a few feet of the forest borderline, on the other side of the clearing, when the battle begin anew.
Xena spun around and raised her sword, blocking a blow from an enemy soldier that had been meant for her head. Xena smiled, her face transforming into a feral grin as she sent a brutal kick into his stomach. His face contorted in pain as he issued a silent scream before falling to the ground like a ton of cement.
But she didn't get to enjoy her victory longher keen warrior senses telling her that someone was behind her. And, without really thinking about it, Xena raised her sword over her head, blocking a blow from an enemy soldier's sword that would have surely cut her in two.
With an angry yell, Xena spun around, sending a powerful front kick into her opponent's midsection, causing him to bow over in pain, only to receive a brutal kick to the head, which sent him spinning. And with a hard thud he hit the ground, out cold.
Xena looked down at her fallen enemy, taking in his still form before turning her attention back to the raging battle all around them. And then she saw somethingsomething that she really didn't want to seebut saw nonetheless.
Before her, less than thirty feet away, stood Darius, his handsome form standing out amongst everything else around them, reminding Xena of death itself.
Darius stood there, eyeing her coldly, wearing the hardened expression of a professional on his face.
For several seconds the two warriors stood there silently, their gazes locked onto one another as they studied each other intensely. Then Eve cried, breaking the silence between them both. Xena turned and tired to calm her daughter down.
Seeing his chance, Darius drew his sword from its case on his side and charged forward, closing the distance between them both in the blink of an eye.
Xena turned her attention from her daughter back to her opponent just as quicklyand barely managed to raise her sword to defend herself from harm as Darius sent his sword rocketing toward herthe blades clashing with a loud Ching!, a deafening explosion of sparks erupting off them.
Xena grunted and managed to use all of her strength to knock him backwards. But the blow had little effect, Darius seeming unfazed by it. He charged her again, unleashing an unrelenting series of blows from his sword her way, all of which she managed to block, but just barely.
Xena issued a blood-curtling war cry and retaliated, sending a powerful kick to his midsection, causing him stumble backwards. Then, seeing her advantage, the warrior princess didn't give him time to recover, unleashing a brutal combination of her own, lunching a series of blows from her sword that sent him reeling backwards.
But the assassin of the gods wasn't about to give up so easily, and, issuing a blood-curtling roar of his own, he sent a series of punches and kicks toward Xena that caught her totally by surprise.
She stumbled backwards but quickly regained her footing before turning her head to the side, spitting blood.
Then she turned her attention back to Darius, a wicked laugh erupting from her lips, a sinister smile spreading across her face. Xena charged, determined to end this fight once and for all, which quickly began anew.
Hercules stood there, watching the brutal battle between Darius and Xena unfold at a breathless pace. But, as much as he might like to watch it go on and on, he knew he couldn't afford to. Athena's army would surely overwhelm them soon if they stayed her much longer and that was one risk Hercules couldn't allow them to take.
That and as he continued to watch the fight before him, he realized that the rage that he'd been feeling earlier was by no means dead, and, like any monster, it wanted to be fed. They didn't have time for this and it was high time they got outta here already.
His nostrils flaring, his heart thudding against his chest, his skin practically boiling with rage, Hercules stared forward, fully intent on ripping Darius in half.
He had made his decision: he was either going to end this whole mess once and for all..or he would die trying.
Athena stood there, with her back to the wall of the lush, evergreen forest behind her, coldly surveying the scene before her. Beside her stood Hades and Hephaestus.
The goddess of war and wisdom frowned, a look of disgust filling her face at the outcome of the battle so far.
At least there's Darius, she thought warily, sighing inwardly. Clearly, regardless of what else happened, Darius was the one thing she could depend on at that moment. And, from the look of things, her assassin was quickly proving her right. The warrior princess was good but she wasn't that good. And, with the almost unrelenting assault Darius was throwing her way, she was as good as dead. Athena realized this without question and it was just a shame that Xena hadn't realized it yet, but she would soon enough. And, after that, Eve would be slim pickings for her assassin and once he had done his duty then they could all return home and all this madness would be nothing more than a bad dream and would finally be over with.
It was then that Athena saw somethingsomething that she just couldn't believe. Her eyes widened as she saw Hercules running full speed toward Darius. Then her gaze turned even colder than it had all day, her eyes filling with an anger that transcended any she'd ever known.
How dare he! Her mind screamed inwardly. How dare he think of even interfering in Darius's mission! The tall demigod clearly meant to put an end to Darius's fight against Xena and thus completely ruin any chance she had of killing Eve. Oh, yeah, well, we'll just see about that now won't we Hercules?! Athena thought darkly.
Hades, Hephaestus, Athena said, I think it's time we made our presence known in this whole little conflict. Target Hercules. Kill him if you have to but keep him away from Darius!
But, Athena, I thought you wanted to kill Eve Hades began only to be cut off by Athena.
DO IT! DO IT NOW! Athena screamed through clenched teeth, her face turning as red as hot coals, her body literally shaking with rage. Both gods flinched involuntarily at her sudden outburst. Although they didn't really fear her they were both smart enough to know that Athena wasn't one to be messed with when she was angry like she was now. That said, neither one of them wanted to be the object of this goddess's wrath.
Hades sighed inwardly, squashing down the annoyance her reaction was causing in him and then nodded to Hephaestus to comply with her demand. Both gods turned their attention from her back to the battlefield and pointed their arms at Hercules.
Athena turned her attention back to the battlefield and pointed her arms at the mighty hero as well. Athena smiled, her dark mood lifting as the familiar feeling that she was on the top of the world and totally in control began to slip over her once again.
Fire, She said coldly. Hades and Hephaestus obeyed, releasing a barrage of fireballs and energy balls at Hercules.
Athena laughed inwardly, suddenly feeling like she was a child again and had just been rewarded by Zeus for a job well done on something that he'd assigned to her. A dark smile slowly spread across her faceand then the laughter that she'd been trying for so long to suppress suddenly burst forth from the depths of her beingfrom the depths of the dark prison it had been confined to all this time, which seemed to disturb her fellow gods. With a sadistic gleam in her eyes and with malicious and devious glee she let loose a ferocious of barrage of energy blasts. Let's see him dodge that! Athena thought smugly, suddenly very satisfied that her little problem that was Hercules would soon be out of her life for good. And once that happened Eve was as good as dead.
Hercules walked along, totally oblivious of the battle raging all around him. The mighty demigod had one purpose and only one purpose now and that was to stop Darius any way possible and get himself, and, most importantly, his friends out of here before it was too late and Athena succeeded in killing them all.
Suddenly, something extremely hot passed by his head, sizzling as it went pastand then, with a huge it explosion of dirt and grass, it hit the ground like a comet. Hercules stood there, a million thoughts whirling through his head in a split of a second as to what in tartartus the mysterious object that had just nearly took his head off had been. But just as his tired brain was about to reach a conclusion, another of the mysterious objects passed by him at break neck speed.
He dodged, his instinct taking over as he barely stepped out of the way of the object as it careened past himand yetat the same time, somehow managing to catch enough of a glimpse of it to know what it was.
It was a ball of energy. And if Hercules didn't know any better he could have sworn that it had been a ball of electricity.
Hercules turned around, facing the direction the blasts had come fromonly to come face to face with a scorching, hot fireball that was aimed directly for his head! He dove to the ground, the ball of flame flying over his head, hitting the ground several yards away from him in a fiery explosion that quickly caused the grass around the point of impact to burst into flame.
Hercules looked up, his ice, blue eyes scanning the horizon for what he knew to be a divine opponent. After all, he had dealt with the gods before and knew from years of experience when he was being attacked by one and when he was not.
Then he found them. They were standing by the forest, nearly a hundred yards or more away from where he was. Athena, Hades, and Hephaestus as I live and breath, He thought.
Sure enough, the three gods stood there eagerly firing energy blasts at him. Hades and Hephaestus stood as still as statues, seeming not to be enjoying themselves at all.
Athena, however, seemed to be the exception to this, as the goddess of war and wisdom seemed to be thoroughly enjoying herself. Even at this distance Hercules could make out the facial expressions she wore. The goddess wore an expression of sheer delight, her face literally beaming like a happy two year old's would, except for her eyes of course, which seemed to bore straight through him. He quickly turned away from her gaze, the goddess giving him one of the coldest stares that he'd ever received.
And to think that at one time I thought that she was one of the good guys and that she actually cared about people. Hercules thought. But why are they after me?! Shouldn't they be trying to kill Eve right now?
Well, maybe it's because you're Mr. Popular? His mind added answering sarcastically. Shut up! He thought, silencing the thought. Besides, I think you better make that Mr. Unpopular. After all, you did kill Zeus. No sooner had he thought that thought than did the answer to his previous question come to him, hitting him like a ton of bricks. Gods, now why didn't I think of that?! Hercules thought, wondering why he hadn't noticed it before. Clearly, Athena saw Darius as her only means of killing Eve and obviously would do anything to keep something or someone from foiling her plans, even if that someone just happened to be Hercules.
It was clear: Athena was desperate to kill Eve and things were about to get real ugly and around here when they did. All the more reason to get out of here, don't you think, Hercules? His mind quietly reminded him.
Hercules rose as the ground all around him exploded in clouds of dust from the onslaught of the three god's attacks. Hercules ran forward, his pace fueled by the rage that had by now become his traveling companion and something else fear. Would they truly get out of here? Or would they die now?
The mighty hero trudged onward, shrugging off his doubts as his heart thudded in his chest, his massive, bulging muscles propelling him along like a raging locomotive, his speed increasing more and more as each second passed, the ground around him continuing to explode into massive clouds of dirt due to the unrelenting assault of energy blasts from his divine opponents. And if that wasn't bad enough, some of them landed only mere inches from his feet, causing him to nearly loose his footing and go tumbling to the ground, a move that Hercules knew would probably result in his death. Countless blasts of electricity and fire whizzed by him as well as other types of energy that Hercules couldn't identify but knew were just as dangerous as any of the others.
But the mighty Hercules was unfazed by all of this and kept on running. Then, just as he had started launching himself into the air, a blast of energy hit the ground almost right under him. Hercules went flying forward, using the force of the explosion and his awesome strength to propel himself toward his unsuspecting target.
With skilled precision Darius brought his sword back, managing to block what would have surely been a fatal blow from Xena's sword.
The warrior princess only shrieked a fierce battle cry, unleashed a savage display of strikes from her sword, determined to destroy the assassin of the Olympian order once and for all.
With skill brought only by countless years of training and experience, Darius managed to block them all, surprising Xena with a kick to the chest that sent her stumbling backwards.
Darius was about to take advantage of this and strike, when suddenly he stopped. Was it his imagination or did he hear something? Darius whirled his head around, looking in all directions for the mysterious sound.
The sounds of the battle filled the air, men falling under Gabrielle's expert hand, a massive shape flying toward himWhat a minute? What TH--?! Is that Hercules?! Too late!
With a deafening thud and with a roar of anger, the tall demigod slammed into the unsuspecting Darius, a loud Oof, escaping his lips, causing him to drop his sword. And, with another loud thud, the two men fell to the ground, rolling end over end before coming to a stop several feet away from where they'd last been.
For several seconds both men lay there, breathing heavily. For several more seconds, Darius lay there stunned, literally seeing stars.
Then he got his bearings, shaking his head to clear it of the nonsense he'd been seeing. And, with all of the strength he could muster, he shoved Hercules with all of his might, trying desperately to remove the mighty superhero off of him before he came to his senses and started using his massive strength to unleash a beating that Darius knew he wouldn't survive.
To his surprise and relief, he managed to succeed, causing Hercules to topple off of him and hit the ground like a ton of bricks. With a groan Darius rose painfully to his feet, followed by Hercules.
For several seconds both warriors stood there, both eyeing each other warily, perhaps remembering the outcome of their last fight against one another.
Then, with frightening speed, both hero and assassin charged one another, each unleashing some of their most powerful blows.
Although Darius had to struggle to block Hercules's attacks, he knew that, regardless of the big man's far superior strength, he could and more likely would defeat him. It wasn't that he was cocky, he just knew it would happen. After all, it always had before, why should now be any different? Ultimately, Darius's problem was that he was simply too good and sooner or later he would kill Eve. It was just a shame neither Hercules or Xena hadn't figured that out yet. Darius sighed inwardly, realizing with more dismay than he'd ever known that he would have to kill these two great warriors and possibly Gabrielle, and knowing that was the greatest heartbreak of all.
Then, suddenly, with a fierce cry of rage, Xena joined into the fray, a look of rage spilling across her rage that instantly told Darius that the warrior princess had teamed up with the son of Zeus to bring him down.
With frightening speed the two heroes unleashed an unrelenting display of punches and kicks that sent Darius reeling backwards. With all of his might he somehow managed to block a surprising number of their attacks. But, regardless of this, he still managed to take more blows than he could block.
And, before any of them knew it had happened, the fight quickly turned into a free-for-all. Hercules punched Darius. Darius punched Hercules. Xena punched Darius. Darius punched Xena.
This went on for several seconds before, with a savage roar, Hercules tried to knock out Darius with a single punch, only to be beaten to it as he was caught by surprise by a punch to the face by Darius. And, with a deafening thud, the mighty hero hit the ground.
But, no sooner had Darius started to enjoy his victory over the powerful demigod, did Xena put a stop on his party by sending a punch rocketing into his face that knocked him clear off of his feet. And, with a deafening thud, the assassin of the gods fell to the ground and lost consciousness.
Xena sighed with relief, overjoyed when he didn't rise to his feet.
The gods had long since stopped firing. Athena watched the heated exchange between Darius, Hercules, and Xena with growing interest.
And when Darius had knocked Hercules off of his feet, giddy laughter had escaped from her lips. The goddess of war and wisdom sighed, a slight smile claiming her pretty face, shaking her head. When would they ever learn? They couldn't possibly hope to defeat her assassin in combat so why did they even try? As a matter of fact, why couldn't they stop fighting and give up already? Athena thought.
And then it happenedwith a single punch to the jaw Xena knocked Darius off of his feet, sending him crashing to the ground, where he lay unconscious.
Athena's smile and good mood quickly fell away, only to feel the cold pangs of anger creeping up on her. Athena tilted her head back, letting loose a chilling scream. The other gods looked at her, disturbed looks spreading across their faces.
Athena brought her head back down, now completely consumed with a blind rage that was so intense that it must be sated or she knew that it would drive her insane, that is, unless, of course, she hadn't already crossed that line.
Athena whipped her head around, desperately searching for someone or something close by to rip apart. Panting like a wild animal, her vision clouded with a red haze, her eyes glowing like two, red, hot coals.
She turned to the other gods and had to restrain herself from tearing into either of them. That and judging from the looks they were throwing her way she caught on real quick that not only did they know what she was thinking but would by no means tolerate such an act either.
Athena turned away, her gaze suddenly focusing on Hercules, Xena and Gabrielle. And it was then that she finally understood who was to blame for this whole mess. The answer was clear: they were.
First off, Xena had given birth to her little spawn, bringing about the death of her father Zeus, dooming the Olympian order, and putting a death warrant on all of their heads. Gabrielle had foolishly stuck by her friend's side and thus had helped to protect Xena's little brat from death. And let's not forget HERCULES, Athena thought sarcastically, He had killed Zeus by stabbing him with one of Cronos's ribs, thereby starting this whole nightmare. Finally, as if all of this wasn't bad enough, the three heroes had managed to defeat her most precious toy: her assassin Darius and now fully expected to retreat to the safety of the surrounding forest to live another day.
Well, not if I can help it! Athena thought darkly. THEY ARE GOING TO DIE AND THAT IS THAT!
I think it's time we go to the final stage of my plan. Athena said coldly. Except we're going to make a few changes to it. Now, all of them will die.
But, Athena, I thought that we were only going to kill Eve- Hades began.
Athena spun around, giving him a dark look.
He responded with one of his own, letting her know right then and there that he didn't fear her at all. Very well, The dark lord of the Underworld replied, but if we do this and we succeed, don't you ever ask for my help in anything else again 'cause, chances are, I won't grant it! Xena and I are old friends so I don't want to kill her unless I have to! And Hercules is family need I remind you! But, whatever you wish, Athena, just as long as Eve dies, right?!
And what about you, Hephaestus? Athena asked sharply.
The god of the forge looked away for several seconds, pondering her words carefully. Then he turned back toward Athena's beautiful form.
I agree with Hades for the most part. Eve must die. But I want to kill Hercules. Do you understand me, Athena? If anyone's going to kill him it should be me. Hephaestus answered.
Okay, now that everything's settled, Athena said, turning her attention back to the battle at hand, we can begin the attack. Hades, you take Gabrielle. Hephaestus, if you want Hercules so bad then you can have him. As for me, I'll deal with Xena myself. Any questions?
There were none.
Good. Okay people, let's get this show on the road! Athena shouted. And, with that said, the three gods disappeared in flashes of light, head bound toward their unsuspecting targets.
Down on the battlefield Xena and Gabrielle had just defeated yet another wave of troops from Athena's immense army when, suddenly, in three flashes of bright light, Athena, Hephaestus, and Hades appeared. Gee, that's just great! Xena mused, sighing inwardly at the sight of the three gods and wondering if they would ever escape this place alive. And just when I thought we might get outta here they show up! Can this day possibly get any worse?!
A few seconds passed by as the gods stood there, quietly observing their preyand suddenly they were upon them.
Athena charged Xena, a chilling cry of rage erupting from her being and, with a deafening ching and a shower of sparks they began to exchange heavy blows with their swords.
With an ear-splitting roar Hades ran at Gabrielle, bringing his sword downward in at lightening speed, utterly determined to cut her in half. Using all of her strength, the warrior bard managed to block his blowbut just barely.
Hercules quickly rose from the depths of unconsciousness and groaned, trying to get his bearings. Then, hearing the sudden commotion that seemed to be going on all around him, he tried to sit up.
With breathtaking speed and an ear-splitting roar, Hephaestus brought his ax flying down toward Hercules's chest. Acting on pure instinct alone, and even before he knew what he was doing, Hercules caught the god's ax, with his bare hands, only mere inches from his chest.
With a roar of his own, Hercules sent a brutal kick rocketing into Hephaestus's stomach, causing him to stumble backwards, giving Hercules all the time he needed to rise to his feet.
And, unwilling to give the god of the forge time to come back to his senses, Hercules sent a powerful uppercut backslap flying into his half brother's chin that caused him to drop his weapon and knocked him clean off of his feet. Hercules bent down, grabbing his half brother's ax from off of the ground. Hephaestus shook his head, quickly getting his bearings back. And, shouting a fierce battle cry, he charged. With a wham Hercules swung the ax like a baseball bat, hitting Hephaestus square upside the head, causing him to hit the ground like a ton of bricks. Hephaestus uttered a loud moan before darkness began to cloud his vision and he lost consciousness.
Hercules shrugged, surprised that he'd beaten his half brother the god of the forge and fire so easily. Sighing inwardly, Hercules took one last look at the form of his half brother and friend before turning and tossing his weapon to his side, where it hit the ground with a dull thud.
Hades struck at Gabrielle yet again, a savage roar erupting from his being.
The bard managed to block the blow only to receive a surprise kick to the chest that sent her stumbling backwards. Hades roared yet again, unleashing an unforgiving combination of punches and kicks that sent Gabrielle stumbling backwards, desperately trying to avoid his ferocious attacks. The dark lord of the Underworld didn't halt in his attack sending a punch slamming into her faceand in the same instantshe found herself lifted high off of the ground as he held her by her throat, by one arm, his hand wrapped firmly around her throat.
Hades laughed sadistically, tightening his grip ever so slowly on his prey, watching with growing satisfaction as her face began to turn a deadly shade of blue. The dark lord of the Underworld gazed into her beautiful face, giving her one of the coldest stares she'd ever received, her vision growing darker and darker by the minute as she felt her life slowly draining away.
Then, without warning, he suddenly tired of this game and dropped her, sending her crashing with a hard thud to the ground, coughing and wheezing as she struggled to breath. Finally, regaining herself, Gabrielle looked up, only to see Hades standing over her, his sword raised high, clearly meaning that he was ready to send his sword rocketing into her strong, yet fragile warrior's body. The dark lord of the Underworld laughed coldly, a sadistic gleam covering his face as he realized just how vulnerable she truly was and how easily he could kill her.
Hey! Hercules shouted, causing Hades to spin around to face him. Hades roared, his sword still raised over his head as he charged the mighty demigod, only to receive a powerful punch to the face that knocked him clear off of his feet and sent him toppling to the ground with a hard thud, where he quickly lost consciousness. Hades was out of commission, though for how long Hercules couldn't be sure.
Athena brought her sword down lightening fast, only to watch in dismay as Xena somehow managed to block it.
Athena laughed, a sadistic grin transforming her beautiful face into the hideous mask of a monsterher eyes filled with malicious intent.
Give it up, Xena! Athena shouted venomously, clearly enjoying herself. You know we're going to win sooner or later!
Never! Xena answered defiantly, issuing a fierce battle yell as she used all of her strength to push Athena's sword from off of her ownand in the same instant sent a bone crushing kick flying into the goddess's abdomen that sent her reeling backwards.
Then, just as she was about to lose her balance, Athena managed to stop herself, before looking up at Xena. For a moment the two of them locked gazes, the warrior princess and goddess of war and wisdom giving each other looks that were as cold as ice.
Then the moment passed, Athena's face contorting with a feral rage that chilled Xena to the bone. Uh-oh, here we go Xena thought. Athena let loose a blood-curtling scream, literally throwing herself at her opponent, striking at her sword again and again relentlessly and without mercy.
Xena managed to block the blowsbut just barely as it took all of her might, strength, will power and warrior skill to do it.
Suddenly, Athena sent a low kick flying towards Xena's feet, taking the warrior princess totally by surprise.
Xena fell to her knees and began trying to get up. With lightening speed, Athena brought her sword flying toward Xena's head. Xena looked up, her eyes going wideand with a loud ching she managed to use her sword to block the blow only mere inches from her head.
Athena retaliated, a primal scream erupting forth from the depths of her being as she struck at Xena again and again with her sword, the attack even more unforgiving than before. Finally their blades clashed, both warriors now locked in a fierce struggle to win as only one of them would walk away from this fight.
Not daring to give Xena even a glimmer of hope at defeating her, Athena knocked her to the ground with a brutal backslap to the face.
The warrior princess lay there on her side for a few moments, dazed, trying desperately to get to her feet. But, unfortunately for her, luck, apparently, wasn't on her side on this day, and, despite her best attempts, her body refused to cooperate and she collapsed to the ground, once again on her side and lost consciousness.
Athena smiled, a triumphant grin spreading across her face. She'd won. Now all I have to do is take care of business and then I can go home and this whole stupid mess will be finally be over with. Athena thought smugly.
First, she'd kill Eve, the bearer of the prophecy that had shattered her family and doomed them all. Then, she'd kill Xena for choosing to oppose her. As for Gabrielle and Hercules, that would have to wait for the moment. For now it was time to have some fun.
Athena sighed, preparing to deliver the blow that would kill Eve and finally set things right once and for all.
ATHENAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Roared a very ticked off Hercules. Athena spun around to face him, her face showing her annoyance at his interruption. The two warriors locked gazes, Athena picking up on the grim determination that seemed to ooze off of Hercules's massive form.
He meant to stop her. To stop her mission. He meant to ruin the moment of triumphher moment, just so he could play hero! Even if it means my demise! How DARE HE! How dare he interfere with my plans! Athena thought, her previous rage toward him rekindled once again. And, as the goddess reveled in this familiar sensation, she reached a decision: Hercules must die. Not later as she had originally planned but right now. And once she realized this it dawned on her that there really was no other choice, as he would surely try to stop her from killing Eve.
Both warriors charged one another, savage roars of rage erupting forth from their beings. Athena swung her sword towards Hercules's head, determined to cut him in two. Hercules managed to stop the blow, catching Athena by the arm, and, sending a brutal backslap rocketing into her face, he threw her to the ground, literally slamming her down on its hard surface with a hard thud.
The goddess of war and wisdom rose to her feet and glared at him defiantly, pure hatred oozing forth from her steely gaze. Athena grimaced in disgust and ran forward, this time intent on taking the tall demigod's head off.
But her charge was short-lived as Hercules stopped her dead cold with a powerful kick to the stomach. And, with skilled precision, the mighty son of Zeus knocked her sword from her hands and then proceeded to grab her and send her flying through the air.
But, just as he was about to grab her, she suddenly recovered, kicking him square in the abdomen. He stumbled backwards only to steady himself just as quickly. But no sooner had he done so, did Athena send a volley of punches and kicks his way, most of which he somehow managed to block.
Hercules retaliated, sending series of punches and kicks of his own her way that sent her reeling backwards.
For several seconds the two warriors exchanged heavy blows, the battle going back and forth, with no clear winner in sight.
Hercules grabbed Athena's arm, with the intention of throwing her to the ground, only to have her suddenly turn the tables on him and twist his arm around and send him crashing to the ground.
Hercules rose to his feet almost instantaneously and dove for Athena. The two collided with a bone-jarring thud and hit the ground equally as hard, rolling end over end. When they finally came to a stop Athena sat perched on Hercules's chest, with his arms pinned securely to his side with her legs. Athena stretched her arm out in the air, and a second later her sword came flying into her waiting hand. Athena raised her sword above her head, pointing the business end at Hercules's throat. The goddess of war and wisdom looked at him coldly, a sadistic grin claiming her face almost instantaneously.
Well, well, well. Athena said, clearly amused at the sight of her mighty half brother's sudden plight. Things just aren't going well for you at all today, are they?
Hercules didn't answer, choosing instead to cast her a look of defiance.
Athena laughed, amused at his antics nonetheless. Well, I warned you now didn't I, Hercules. I told you to stay out of my way but you wouldn't do that now, would you? Tsk, tsk, tsk, Athena chided, shaking her head at him as if he was naughty two year old. Foolish. Very foolish indeed. But I'm afraid you won't be around to realize the wrongness of your actions. Athena said almost sadly. I'm afraid it looks like your time to die has come, brother. Athena said as she raised her sword even higher, preparing to deliver the blow that would kill the noble hero. It's been nice knowing you, Hercules.
Hey, Athena, a voice purred dangerously from off to her right.
Athena turned her head in the direction of the sound only to find Xena standing there solemnly with her arm held out in front of her, coiled around herchockrum? Athena thought, only moments before Xena released her special weapon from her grasp, sending it flying at her head.
The chockrum whirled through air at breathtaking speedand slammed into Athena's head, causing the goddess to cry out in surprise as she was thrown violently to the ground, where she quickly lost consciousness. The chockrum whirled around through the air some more before finally returning faithfully to Xena's outstretched hand.
Xena walked over to Hercules and helped the stunned, yet extremely grateful and relived demigod up to his feet. Hey, what can I say? She deserved it. Xena replied, a devilish grin spreading across her face.
Hercules stood there, several seconds passing before he caught the joke, unable to suppress a grin of his own as he chuckled to himself quietly.
Then the two warriors wiped the grins from their faces, turned, and walked over to Gabrielle who was already coming around. They both helped her to her feet and embraced each other in a brief, but warm hug before turning toward the forest. Then, as one, they fought their way forward and disappeared into the lush, green arms of the surrounding forest.
Several minutes later Athena emerged from the depths of unconsciousness, rising to her feet at once. For several seconds she simply stood there, trying to get her bearings.
When she was finally able to determine where she was and remember what had happened before she'd lost consciousness, Athena quickly noticed that her fellow gods were standing calmly on either side of her. Athena looked around the battlefield, only to discover that it wasn't a battlefield anymore.
Before her, scattered about like confused insects, her remaining troops looked at her with a mixture of fear and loyalty, as if they were unsure whether they should run or stay put.
Athena sighed inwardly, disgusted at the sight of them all. Before the battle had begun they had numbered in the hundreds, now they were lucky if they even had a hundred men left. And all because they let three little warriors stop them! Pathetic! Athena thought. Athena looked away from them, knowing that if she looked at them any longer she would vomit.
Athena turned her attention toward the forest where her remaining archers lay in wait. Even they had failed her. Athena looked away from them as well, her depression at the outcome of the battle quickly turning to anger. Athena looked desperately around her for someone to punish. Clearly she needed someone to blame for the defeat she'd been forced to suffer. It was a familiar rage that was like a raging beast that would have to be satisfied now or it would consume her and she would be at a loss to control it.
It was then that she spotted Darius's unconscious form. Yes, he would do quite nicely. After all, he had failed her and who better to vent her rage upon than her little toy as she called him. She had depended upon him to get the job done and he'd let her down. Athena smiled, realizing how much she was going to enjoy this.
Darius lay there, slowly emerging from the depths of his mind as he began to gradually regain consciousness.
Get up! A voice shouted, grabbing him roughly and lifting clear off of the ground.
It was then that he came face to face with a very enraged Athena. She looked like she might just kill him. Oh, what now?! Darius thought sourly, ill to the point that he really no longer cared what she did anymore or why she did it.
You failed me, Darius! Athena spat harshly.
I'm sorry, my goddess, but I didn't expect Xena and Hercules to double team me like that. Darius replied, his voice sounding more sarcastic than he wanted it to be.
Failing me is becoming a habit with you as of late, Darius! You're better than this and you know it! Athena yelled hotly.
Darius looked at her beautiful face, unable to stop the incredulous look that spread across his face. After all I've done for you, you dare to treat me this way?! For the love of the gods, why must I be submitted to torture such as this?! Darius thought glumly.
Then, Athena suddenly dropped him, causing him to hit the ground like a ton of bricks. Athena looked at him, a look of disgust filling her face, instantly replacing the rage that had previously been surging through her firm, muscular body. She turned around towards the woods, unable to look at him any longer.
Athena sighed loudly, annoyed with him beyond measure. If I didn't need him so much She thought. They obviously left her through the woods, how long ago I can't be certain. Athena said. Find them. Do whatever you have to do, but get the job done. I want Eve dead once and for all! IS THAT UNDERSTOOD?! Athena said darkly. Then she spun around on her heel.
Do not fail me again, Darius! Or I'll have your worthless hide! Athena said between clenched teeth. Now get going!
Darius got up, practically jumping to his feet and heading for the shadowy, lush, green forest beyond.
Oh, and, Darius, Athena said, causing him to stop and turn around, I don't think I need to remind you of what will happen if you fail.
Yes, my goddess. I understand you completely. Darius said, bowing before her. Then he rose, picked up his sword for off of the ground, slid it into its case on his side, turned, and ran off into the forest before him.
Athena looked on in the direction he had gone for several seconds more, hoping that if he found them not only would he kill Eve but Hercules, Xena, and Gabrielle as well and that their deaths would be slow and very, very, painful. Either way, she'd send her army after him after a certain amount of time just to make sure the job was done just incase he failed her yet again. And it really wouldn't surprise her at all if he did indeed fail her since he'd been doing that a lot as of late. Athena shook these thoughts off, hoping against hope that that really wouldn't happen and that her assassin would do as just she'd trained him to do and kill his assigned targets.
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