See Chapter 1 for disclaimers.
Aphrodite looked around this building that had held so much fear for her kind. This was the Temple of the Chakram. As old as time itself, and it held two powers, diametrically opposite and both as equally destructive, and yet together so perfectly balanced. She approached the altar reverently, gingerly stepping over the strewn bones of dead warriors who had come to claim the prize.
In the silence of the ageless stone, she studied the table. A geometrical design had been imprinted on the top, a circle divided in two by a curved centre line. Both were identical, one dark and one light, but facing in opposite directions so that they fit into a perfect whole. In each sector was a round indentation. She looked to the Chakram sitting on Xena's hip and knew what belonged there. But both recesses were empty. Without the Chakram of Light, returning the Chakram of Darkness here was not going to save these women. There was only one other option.
Ares wandered around the room, eventually finding the canister his father wanted him to destroy recessed in the far wall. There was nothing fancy about the jar, a plan ceramic piece just sitting there, looking like it held oil or perhaps herbs, but he knew it held far more. At this point it held life and death.
He turned to face the two women standing in the hall, contemplating his next move. Aphrodite was engrossed with the altar and Xena was standing passively near the far wall. All he had ever wanted was this woman, his right arm in the mortal world, claiming land in the name of the God of War. Was he prepared to risk all in the hope of gaining everything?
Aphrodite looked up at her brother, seeing him deep in thought. She glanced to the far wall behind him and saw the canister. "Ar, what are you doing?"
"Just thinking, sis."
"What are you waiting for?"
"I don't know what you're talking about."
"Yes, you do. Destroy the jar, bro. You know you have to."
"Why should I? She's mine, 'Ditie."
She sighed. Once her brother got something into his head... "Zeus is going to be so pissed at you if you don't."
"But with her by my side, who cares?"
"Err, one problem, bro. You're gonna need your powers and, d'uh, he has them."
"Oh." Damn, she was right. He would be stuck as a mortal. Could he control her as a mortal? Probably not. "And you're happy about losing blondie then?"
She bristled at his refusal to call Gabrielle by her name. "Of course not, but this is the way it's gotta be. Respect their wishes." It was breaking her heart, but this was one of those mortal ugly times that Xena talked about. You guys can have it because it's too much heartache.
There was a heavy banging on the solid door. "C'mon Ar. Do it now, before it's too late."
The tall god sauntered over to the warrior and looked her in the eye. There seemed to be no sign of life within those pale blue depths, only an emptiness. He studied her long form, taking in her muscular sleekness, and sighed in regret. His hand lifted and caressed her face, unable to stop the tender emotion from showing through. What a waste!
The outer door was starting to splinter under the fierce attack from the battering ram. "Now, Ares!" Aphrodite could wait no longer. He seemed to be ignoring her. She shot the jar out with an arrow, watching as faint wisps of smoke swirled around and dissipated from the shards of pottery.
In a heartbeat, the King of the Gods appeared, his presence filling the oppressive stillness of the room. Moments later Athena, Artemis and Apollo followed, taking up residence around the large chamber. Zeus took in Aphrodite's position next to the canister and found his son over near Xena. His brow creased in disappointment.
He moved over to Aphrodite, "Well done, daughter." In a moment he restored her godhood, her form covered in stardust as the power flowed through her once more. All the niggling aches and pains from outdoor living disappeared and she felt revitalized.
While she was happy to be the Goddess of Love once again, she spared a moment to contemplate the last few days. It had been an adventure where she had lived like she had never lived before, experiencing a roller coaster of emotions that she would not have had as a god. For that alone, she would be forever grateful to these two women, who guided and protected her in her moment of mortality.
Zeus moved over to his son. "Ares." The young god couldn't look his father in the eye, knowing he had let him down. "My son, until you show unselfishness again, you will remain..." With a wave of his hand, Ares was gone. "... there!" They would be looking for a new God of War.
Aphrodite's eyes widened at the harsh punishment meted out by Zeus. Her brother had done some stupid things all in the name of love, and now he was going to pay.
"Artemis, please see to the army outside." The Huntress left, sweeping away the splintered door, sending energy bolts out the building towards the scattering fighters.
"Now, let's do this." The remaining gods moved around their victim in preparation.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Xena no longer responded to the young woman's gentle entreaties as the evil swelled and rolled over her like a tidal wave. Gabrielle knew she now had to take an active part. She had stood idly by while Xena controlled the defence of her own soul, but this was no longer possible and it was now up to her.
I warned you, Xena. I'm coming to get you and I'm pissed! She let the anger grow in her to feed her emotions and give fire to her actions. She was angry with Xena for taking the chakram, she was angry with the evil for reducing her partner to this state, she was angry with herself for not stepping in sooner and, above all, she was angry with Ares for starting all this trouble in the first place.
Darkness bombarded her from all sides, trying to break through to her to claim one more soul in its victory. She could feel the misery and desolation she had felt before through Xena, and it battered her defences with great force. The older woman had taken the brunt of this attack and she knew she wouldn't have lasted long against such a prolonged assault by herself. She now understood only too well the huge heart and great determination that lived within her lover. Xena was by far stronger physically and mentally than she was, but Gabrielle also knew that she was vulnerable in matters of the heart.
She thought for a moment on how she could get Xena back. Her enemy used strong weapons – violence, death, misery and the glorification of war – pushing Xena's basic instincts into overdrive. Well, there was one primal instinct that Gabrielle could claim as her own - that basic animal drive that there was no substitute for, and she had had a couple of years' practice at it.
She had once told Xena that she was emotionally unable to fight, but her partner had replied that there were times when there was only you, so you do it. She was right. This is one of those times. Now Gabrielle, take that fire and go and get her!
She rallied her courage and mentally pushed her way through the gathering dark, looking for her one goal. If taking back her lover meant debasing herself, then so be it. Her sensibilities were well worth the sacrifice to gain back the other half of her soul.
The power within was making a final push to totally possess the older woman. She had been steadily losing ground since the journey began, despite the reprieve to ditch the army. Here, in the Temple, was where this evil was at home; this was where it was strongest and it was taking Xena along with it.
Gabrielle applied herself to the task at hand, bringing forth an image of both of them into Xena's brain. Using her body as a tool, Gabrielle was going to seduce her partner in the basest of ways. This was unfamiliar territory for her, but she had anger, guile, imagination, and finally love, on her side and she was going to use everything she possessed to win this particular battle. To her, there was only one outcome - to win at all costs.
Slowly she rotated her hips in a gentle sway, beginning a dance of seduction in front of the seated woman, but Xena's eyes were vacant, apparently not interested in what she was offering. She could see that just being there was not going to be enough; she had to physically take back what was hers. Wasn't getting Xena back worth the sacrifice?
She mentally closed her eyes, drawing explicit images from her memory, feeding off them to get lost in the raw feelings her lover could instil in her. Eliminating the overwhelming emotion she felt, Gabrielle concentrated on the sheer intensity of the passion this woman could draw from her, where her body would crave her touch and accept nothing less than all she had to give.
She became more animated, hips gyrating in a slow rhythm as pieces of clothing were slowly and sensuously removed. Her own hands roamed over her skin, teasing the woman in front of her by driving herself close to the point of completion and then blatantly inviting her to look. Xena didn't move, but continued to sit as the blonde moved closer to the chair. Gabrielle could feel her partner's heated stare run down her body, stopping several times to take in what she was offering.
Gabrielle sat herself in the older woman's lap, unable to stop herself from touching what she so desperately wanted, bringing the dark head in for a long, passionate kiss. She aggressively sought out and captured Xena's tongue, pouring into it all the want and desire she held inside for this woman. The ramrod posture slowly relaxed and Xena's hands came up and roamed over the naked body that was sitting on top of her and grinding herself into her lap.
Gabrielle continued her possession of her lover's mouth, not giving the invading presence a chance to regain control. Her hands moved in slow circles, each pass becoming more demanding as her passion rose. Clips, buckles and ties gave way under her agile fingers, eager to seek the skin underneath. Lips and tongue burned a path down her partner and back up again, claiming territory as she went.
She returned to Xena's mouth, concentrating her efforts there, and she could feel the older woman slowly respond to her heated advances, firm fingers kneading her skin until it was almost painful. But her aggression was suddenly ripped away from her when the older woman violently took the initiative.
Kisses became nips, and nips became bites, as Xena's superior strength and sexual drive increased. Gabrielle knew this was not her Xena, the one who lived so deep within her; this was the Chakram's work, using her partner as a vessel to punish her for her impudence in trying to take away what it had claimed. It was now full-scale war and her partner's body and soul was the prize.
Gabrielle relaxed and tried to feel the pleasure her lover was so aggressively giving her. She closed her eyes and brought forth images of those times together that had brought her great joy, to ride out the pain and look for the pleasure in such an act.
Her Xena would never have treated her this way – with such cruelty and disdain – she knew that implicitly. The cornerstone of their relationship was love and affection, not sexual promiscuity and violence. There had been moments when they abandoned themselves to lustful endeavour, but even then they never lost sight of the genuine, all encompassing love that held their relationship together.
At a moment of hesitation, Gabrielle pounced, pushing over the chair they were both sitting on. Lying on top of the taller woman, she took what was hers, actively seeking out those points that would bring Xena great pleasure. She drove her libido up without preamble and with great vigour, drawing out cries from the woman underneath her. She gave everything that she was – her body, her soul, her very life – in the pursuit of what she knew she owned. She is mine and you cannot have her!
For a moment in her mind she heard a deep chuckle, its resonance setting her on edge. She repeated herself, SHE IS MINE!
She increased her assault on the older woman's body, claiming every corner and sweeping away the darkness with her own brand of fire. C'mon Xena, I know you're in there. Come to me...
Gabrielle was everywhere, her lips, her tongue, her fingers, her heart, all demanding everything that Xena was. A harsh, strangled moan escaped those perfect lips, crying out her release to the surrounding darkness. The evil faltered under the flood of emotion this woman let flow over her partner. Selfless love, pure as the day it was conceived, bathed the warrior in an ethereal light, and it was blinding to the darkness.
Harsh fingers on her back began to lose their strength, dropping to the floor in defeat. Gabrielle steadied and slowed her assault, easing back to gentle caresses, awaiting the return of her one true love. Once she had Xena's attention, she pulled back slightly, looking into clearing blue pools.
"I love you, Xena. Remember what we had. It was so beautiful, and it could be again. Just take my hand, sweetheart. Come with me and leave this all behind."
Gabrielle stood, ignoring her nakedness, and extended her hand for Xena to take. She saw her hesitate as the entity tried one last grasp for her partner's spirit. She grabbed her chin, bringing her warrior's vision directly to her eyes and she poured all the love and tenderness she could muster into one look.
"Let's end this and go home. We have a family who needs us."
Hesitantly, a shaking hand raised up to meet her own. She pulled her up and into an intimate embrace, to reinforce the tentative bridge she had built to her partner's soul.
"C'mon, I want a warm bed and you in that gladiator costume of yours... and perhaps two or three days without interruption."
Oh, yeah... That thought came through clear as a bell. Oh, yeah...
* * * * * * * * * *
Xena moved to the table, seemingly oblivious to the movement around her, and placed the Chakram on the altar. The circle glowed and a second Chakram appeared, seated in the opposing recess. The supernatural glow from the two discs lit up the room, drawing the attention of everyone in the room. The glow faded, leaving in its wake a second Chakram, identical to its twin, the azure gems glinting in the dying light.
The malevolent heaviness in the air did not dissipate with the arrival of the second Chakram, leaving the gods no choice but to destroy it before it reached its full potential for destruction. Zeus watched Xena, a ghostly aura emanating from her pale blue eyes. He had hoped that it wouldn't come to this, but the second Chakram had not returned the balance. It was now too late.
Circled around Xena, the small group of gods made preparations to destroy the two women who had given their best to get the Chakram here. Sparks began to fly from figure to figure as the intensity grew, circling around the lone figure in the middle like a giant chakram of its own.
Their attention was riveted to the tall woman, who stood leaning over the altar, lifting the Chakram of Darkness up in one large fist. Her free hand slowly came up, resting on the stone surface. Vibrant blue eyes opened and cleared, looking to Zeus in sad understanding. He watched the hand move and hover over the Chakram of Light, twitching lightly as it slowly descended to a hair's breath away from the metal ring.
In a voice hoarse with strain, Xena looked to Aphrodite, "If we don't survive, tell Marina I'm so sorry."
Xena's voice changed slightly as Gabrielle spoke, "We have both agreed to this. It has to end here. Watch over her, please."
Xena's hand opened and grabbed the ring and then held both Chakrams aloft. A few moments passed silently before long strings of electrical discharge ran along the new weapon, arcing through the body holding it and encircling its opposite.
The room pulsed with energy, even greater than that of those immortals who were witnessing the exchange. With shaking hands, Xena brought the two circles together. To those present, for a moment it looked as if there were two people within the Chakrams' field. Xena and Gabrielle acted as one to bring together the ultimate good and evil in a desperate attempt to end the danger once and for all.
The two women stood, one within the other, bathed in their eternal love and awaiting the end of their lives. They were secure in the knowledge that even this evil could not separate them; that they would truly live on after their mortal bodies had given out.
Zeus motioned the other gods to step back and wait. The two Chakrams lifted from Xena's hands, suspended in the dusty air by its own power. The two discs twisted and turned around one another in a ritual dance for domination. The weapons spun together, gathering momentum until they were just a blur.
Not a sound could be heard in this ancient place, save the whirring of the spinning circles, as attention was focused on the outcome of this sudden turn of events. Zeus kept his power at the ready in case things turned nasty, hoping that it would not be needed. These two women had surpassed his greatest expectations and it gave him great hope for the survival of humanity.
Continued in Chapter 20
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