Xena: "Gabrielle, in everyone's life, there's something that goes
beyond the greater good. That's what you are in my life. I
wasn't about to let you die out there if there was something I
could do about it."
Gabrielle: "What if it was my choice?"
Xena: "Especially if it was your choice."
The dark, tempestuous night sky howls with a terrible ferocity. Thunder crashes loudly around those gathered in the cemetery. Torrential rain beats down hard on Gabrielles emotion stricken face. Aidan stands behind her, beaming with satisfaction. Autolycus kneels beside the bard and gently pats her shoulder. All three of them gaze down intently upon the bizarre figure in Gabrielles arms. The cleansing rain washes away the embryonic dirt and blood which coats the strange woman. The eyes of this newly formed being stare up helplessly into Gabrielles tormented visage. The woman finally speaks, in a soft and beautiful voice, "Gabrielle, what have you done?"
Gabrielle is immediately overcome with a flood of emotion. She cries out in a despairing tone, "Xena Xena, is that you? I want to know! Is it really you I dont mean your ghost, or your spirit but you?"
The dark haired woman slowly nods her head. "Yes its really me Gabrielle."
"How do I know for certain its you? This could be some trick of the Gods."
The re-born warrior smiles and stretches her head up to whisper in Gabrielles ear. "Remember that night long ago by the campfire- when we were staring up at the night sky? You showed me how some of the stars looked like a bear- and then you smashed me on the nose?"
Gabrielle is speechless as stark realization seizes her. She smiles warmly as she recalls the event. Gabrielle and Xena lock in a powerful, loving embrace.
Autolycus and Aidan move away from the two reunited companions. The usually loquacious ex- thief is dumbfounded by the amazing event he has witnessed. Aidan grins with admiration at his accomplishment. He nods at Autolycus. "So. What do you think of my power now?"
Autolycus is wary of the guru. His voice is thick with suspicion. "Yeah thats pretty incredible in fact almost unbelievable. So whats the catch? Whats your angle in all this? Do you expect me to believe that youd bring back Xena-somebody who defeated you in the past, just out of the goodness of your heart?"
Aidan walks over slowly a few steps to meet the accusation. "You are not as dumb as you look. Is it so hard to believe that a man can change? Perhaps I simply wished to make amends for my mistreatment of Gabrielle and Xena."
Autolycus remains unconvinced by the response. "Perhaps. What about that weird spell book and that crazy chanting? Are you telling me thats all in the name of goodness?"
Aidan holds the mysterious book tightly. "This old thing, you mean? Here, take a look for yourself."
Autolycus is reticent. He gingerly holds the book and reads aloud the words on the cover. "Necronomicon what is this..Latin Spanish?" Autolycus flips randomly to a page and reads aloud, "Klattu,Varata, Nictu? - whatever ."
Aidan laughs as he takes his tome back. "Goodness no, far more ancient more ancient even than your so-called immortal Pantheon of Greek Gods. It is a Sumerian work. Autolycus, I can see that you, Gabrielle and Xena will have some catching up to do. My work here is done. I must move on. You may stay in my house for as long as you wish. Tell Gabrielle that we will meet again. I may require a favour of her."
Aidan turns swiftly away and into the darkness. Autolycus returns to the drenched women. "Hey, lets get you two out of this storm. Aidan said we could stay at his place."
Gabrielle looks up at him. "Aidan? Where is he?"
"Hes gone. He said he had to move on who knows where."
Gabrielle tries to gently get Xena up on her feet. "Can you walk?"
Xena is still in a bewildered state. "Not yet I need help." It was strange to hear the great warrior ask for assistance. Gabrielle and Autolycus each grab one of Xenas arms. With her limbs flung around each neck, the three friends slowly walk back towards town.
Gabrielle smiles for the first time since the traumatic reunion. "Well, at least you cant make any more short jokes. Were finally the same height!"
Xena replies with her trademark smirking response. "Yeah about that you did that on purpose didnt you "
The Kingdom of Heaven is abuzz with activity. Archangels and Angels converse in hushed tones. Archangel Michael bends forward to speak with his colleague Rafael. "You understand what this means dont you? Gabrielle has broken one of natures and Gods greatest laws. She has tampered with the essential cycle of life. Chaos will ensue. She is damned forever!"
Rafael is contrary and chagrined. "But it wasnt her fault it was Aidan! He is the real enemy! Gabrielle was merely led astray."
Michaels expression is steadfast and determined. "You leave Aidan to me. Gabrielle knew the consequences of her actions full well. As for Xena she did what she could to stop this abomination that she has become. She is blameless. She can still be saved but for Gabrielle there is no forgiveness!" Michael stands resolute and defiant, with all the strength of almighty God on his side. He inwardly plans his next course of action.
At the house, Gabrielle washes herself off and draws a hot bath for Xena. Autolycus goes back to the bedroom to reflect on the nights strange events. He stretches his hands over his head. An uncharacteristic solemn expression settles on his lined, weathered face. Gabrielle calls out to Xena, "this bath is ready anytime."
Xena walks in with a bath towel covering her slim, naked body. She catches a reflection of herself in a polished bronze jug. "My God Im so different and yet I feel like myself its strange " Her voice trails off.
Gabrielle looks her up and down curiously as she enters the bath. "Youre so much smaller than before, and your eyes-so dark. You say you feel the same?"
Xenas face is deadly serious. "Yes and no Gabrielle what youve done its not right you understand that dont you?"
Gabrielles eyes narrow in a defensive glare. "I did what I had to do and Id do it again! I made my choice. What are you going to tell me Xena, that Im going to Tartarus? As if I even care now! Living without you was my own personal hell. Anyway, Im done worrying about what might happen. I live in the here and now."
Xenas deep, round eyes well up with tears. "No thats not you, not the Gabrielle I knew and loved." Xenas lithe brown body is wet and smooth. She reaches out a slender arm to comfort her mate. Gabrielle feels the soft, young hand touch her face. She reaches over to hold Xenas hand. Xena rests her head gently on Gabrielles shoulder. They retire for the night. Neither Xena nor Gabrielle sleep.
Morning arrives with a blinding bright sun washing in the kitchen window. The three travelers sit down to breakfast. The table is laid out with exotic fruits and nuts, as well as some leftover chicken. Autolycus is in a typically upbeat mood. "Well ladies, fine morning isnt it? Whats on the agenda today?"
Xena picks up a strange green star-shaped fruit and peels it open. "Its funny, I still have all my memories, but my body is going to take some getting used to." Xena bites deeply into the juicy treat and smiles. "Ive never eaten this before, but I remember the taste."
Gabrielle nods with a wide grin. "I have to admit, its going to take a while to get used to this new you. Then again, I had to get used to you looking like Callisto, and this guy here." She jerks her thumb in the direction of Autolycus.
He smiles as the recollection returns. "Yeah how could I forget that? Talk about your out-of-body experience. So where to now?"
Xena becomes suddenly very serious. She stares fixedly at Autolycus then Gabrielle. "We need to find Aidan . and stop him. Those are Michaels orders."
A look of bemusement settles on Gabrielles face. "Orders? Since when do you take orders from anybody Xena? Youre not an angel anymore its time to get on with our own lives."
Xena grabs Gabrielle by the arm. "No, you dont understand its different now I understand what it is that Im here to do and one of those things is to stop Aidan."
Autolycus has listened intently and interjects. "Well, wherever it is youre going, we need to find Xena some clothes. Say, whatever happened to your chakrum, and that trusty sword of yours?"
Gabrielle reached down to a large luggage bag. "Oh I still have all of Xenas old things-well, most of them. I dont have your breastplate, not that it would fit you now anyway "
Xena looks down into the cache of weapons. "Expecting a war, are you?" She reaches in to find two razor sharp short swords. Pulling them out, she hands them to Gabrielle. "I dont remember these? Whose are they?"
Gabrielle seizes the two deadly weapons and skillfully demonstrates her prowess with them. "I traded my sais for them. One of the sailors on Autolycuss ship showed me how to use them."
Xena is aghast. "These are Roman design, and deadly. They arent defensive weapons, Gabrielle."
Autolycus gets up abruptly to leave. "Well, I can see that you two have lots to talk about if were moving on, I should go into town and get some supplies- and some decent clothes for you." He exits as the two women continue their intense exchange.
"Xena, I told you. Ive changed. The way of love the way of Eli, I know now its not my way. I made a mistake."
Xena reaches out and holds both Gabrielles hands firmly. "Yes you did make a mistake, but not about that. You need to atone for what you did, to bring me back. You always were on the right path, Gabrielle, that path of love. You just need to find that path again, and youre not going to find it at the end of a Roman sword."
Suddenly Autolycus smashes through the door to the kitchen. "Weve got to get out of here now! The local police found out about your little cemetery stunt, and I dont think theyre impressed! They seem to have some weird laws about grave-robbing here!"
Gabrielle lurches from the table to the window as a posse heads toward the house. She runs to the bedroom to grab her belongings. She shoves them at Xena, and grabs her roughly. "Lets get out of here, Xena, run!"
Xena resists. Her small frame is draped in a long white sari. Her expression is plaintive. "No Gabrielle. This ends here! This body doesnt belong to me."
A bearded warrior kicks in the door and brandishes a shining scimitar. His yells loudly, pointing to Xena. "We only want the demon who did this! And this creature, she must return to grave!" Four tall, strong turbaned men burst into the room. All are wielding deadly scimitars. Gabrielle stands resolutely before her companions. Her twin short swords glint in the bright sun as she holds them menacingly in the air. Autolycus is able to grab a kitchen knife in the confusion.
Xena is unarmed and helpless. She implores Gabrielle to stop. "Gabrielle no please!" Gabrielle is immune to the imprecation. Her blood burns hot with an intoxicating, consuming fire. The first constable lunges toward Gabrielle in an attempt to disarm her. His scimitar raised high, he slashes down at the blond bard. She expertly spins away from the attack and lunges both swords forward. The steel buries itself deep into the mans chest. He heaves once and collapses. His partners are taken aback by the vicious, brutal scene. Gabrielle takes advantage of their hesitation and continues her frenzied attack. She screams frightfully as her razor sword cleanly removes one mans head. Simultaneously, her second sword plunges deep into the heart of another. The last remaining man drops his scimitar in horror as the bloody head rolls to his feet. He reaches down to retrieve the severed, dripping mass. Gabrielle stretches her arms wide above the crouching, sobbing figure.
Xena cries out desperately. "No Gabrielle, No! Dont " Her words are cut short by the thud of the mans head bouncing next to the other. Blood pours down the two hilts of Gabrielles weapons. Her beautiful eyes shine with an unearthly glow. The room is painted with splattered red stains of death. The action is over in less than four seconds. Gabrielles face and hands are soaked with thick, dark blood. She casually wipes her swords along the tablecloth.
She turns to Xena and smiles widely. "Maybe not quite as good as you Xena, but youve got to admit, Im getting better!"
Xenas face is stricken. The nightmarish scene of destruction horrifies her. "Gabrielle what you just killed four men!"
Gabrielle kicks one of the heads across the floor. "Xena, you were the one who told me when you see the kill, you have to take it. She who hesitates is lost. Now, unless you want to see more dead villagers, I suggest we get out of here." Both Autolycus and Xena are too emotionally distraught to argue. The three fugitives vacate hastily with their belongings.
Aidan is able to secure a donkey for his journey. He travels in a northwest direction, towards Dheli. He stops at a small town along the way. The sun shines down directly on his bald, shining head. The poor village is sparsely populated. Here and there, he sees women carrying water, provisions and children. The sight of a sorrowful woman attracts Aidan attention. The teary eyed mother carries with her a young child. He tethers his ride to a post and investigates the situation. The mother with child sees the strange, blue robed figure approach. "Woman. Do not fear me, please. Your child, she barely moves, is she well?"
The suspicious villager responds cautiously. "Who are you? You are not from this village."
Aidans calming warm expression puts her at ease. "Yes, I come from distant land. Where are you taking the poor child?"
"To the great Mother of Peace," she replies.
Aidan is intrigued by the impressive moniker. "I see. Perhaps, if you wish, I may attempt to help your child. I assure you, my intentions are entirely honorable."
The desperate mother cannot refuse the offer. "If you are healer, please help my precious girl, she is all I have in the world. Her name is Indira."
Aidan gently takes the limp young body in his arms. He takes her to a small hut and removes several items from his pack. Tracing a pentagram in the dirt, he gently places the girl within it. He lights a heavy black candle and places it upon the girls chest. Removing his ancient book of magic, his strange chant begins, "Ia Dag! Ia Gat! Ia Margolqbabbonnesh! Ia Marrutukka! Ia! Tuku! Suhrim Suhgurim! Zahrim Zaahgurim! Axxanngabannaxaxagannababillukuk!" The distraught mother gasps at the troubling words. She is about to reach down to remove her child. Aidan sits in a lotus position within the pentagram. As he prays intently, suddenly Indiras eyes burst open. She gets up with great alacrity.
She smiles brightly, as she takes her mothers hand "Its okay mother, I am better now!" The shaking woman is overwhelmed with emotion.
She hugs Aidan with genuine affection. "Oh you are great healer! You are more powerful even than the Mother of Peace! Thank you, thank you! How can I repay you?"
Aidan smiles with pride. "No thanks are necessary. To see this beautiful child well again, that is my reward. Might you take me to this Mother of Peace that you speak of? I would like to meet this great woman." The woman gladly assents to the request and shows the guru the way to travel. They retrieve Aidans donkey and ride throughout the day. Finally they come to an unassuming mud-brick house in the middle of a wood. Aidan anxiously follows the mother and child into the austere interior of the modest dwelling. A beautiful woman with lustrous, long dark hair sits in a rickety chair. She looks up to address the strangers.
The child is first to break the silence. "Hello, I am Indira, this is my mother, Dakna." Aidan smiles and reaches down to grasp the womans soft hand.
Xena, Gabrielle and Autolycus are barely able to escape undetected from town. Borrowing two horses, they ride well into the evening. Autolycus rides behind on a brown stallion. Ahead of him, Gabrielle holds the reigns of a brilliant white filly. Xena holds tight around Gabrielles waist.
After an hour of awkward silence, Xena finally speaks. "We should camp for the night nobodys following us. Im exhausted. This body sure aint as strong as my old one."
Autolycus seconds the suggestion. "Im so hungry, I swear I could even eat Joxers cooking right about now!" The intrepid trio sets up camp by a narrow brook. Autolycus makes a fire as Xena scrounges for what little food that remains.
Gabrielle begins to walk quickly away. "Im going to find us some dinner. Wait here, I wont be long." She trudges off purposefully into the brush, bow at the ready. The two remaining companions sit by the small fire. Above them the first signs of night magically appear. Twinkling lights gradually replace the darkening sunlight. The fire crackles and pops in the silence.
Xena sits directly across from Autolycus. The dancing flames illuminate their long faces. "Autolycus, I dont know what to do. I think Gabrielle has gone mad! Even worse, I dont think this is the work of the Furies, or anyone else. Something inside her is changed I hardly recognize her! Its like this evil has infected her soul and what about me? I shouldnt even be here! I dont deserve to be here!"
Autolycuss expression is graver than any Xena has ever seen. "We need to find somebody to help her, to fix her. I just dont know how were going to do it, in her present condition. Did you see her with those swords? Ive never seen anything like that! Xena, even at your worst, I dont think you could have done that. Gabrielle is a very dangerous warrior now."
The subject of their conversation enters the scene. "Whats with the long faces? Look what I have! At least we wont starve." Gabrielle proudly shows off a small boar, hanging head down. The dark blood trickles from a deep wound in its neck.
Autolycus immediately changes the subject. "Whoa! Somebody really learned how to hunt! Nice work, Gabs! Here, let me help you clean that mess up." After several hours of roasting, the meat becomes tender and white. The three friends dine happily on the satisfying meal. They roll out their beds for the night. Autolycus is on one side of the fire; Xena hugs Gabrielle snugly on the other.
She rolls over on her back. "Xena, Im so happy! I never imagined that Id ever have you back." The night sky overhead is a blanket of wondrous, shimmering lights. "So many stars! Look at that one...it looks like a scorpion! See it Xena?"
Xena feigns a smile. "Looks more like a frog to me. Lets get some sleep, I have a feeling tomorrows going to be a long day " The embers in the fire glow gently beside the two warrior women. Xenas sleep is not a restful one.
Aidan reaches out his hand to greet the great healer. "My name is Aidan. Apparently you are a mystic of great renown. I am pleased to meet you."
The radiant woman smiles cautiously and shakes the mans hand. "I am called Eve. I am pleased to meet you. You are not from these lands?"
Aidan nods in assent. "That is correct Ive been let us say, away, for a time. Your name is Eve very interesting! I have read ancient scrolls which explain that the very first woman bore that name."
Eve smiles humbly. "What may I do for you and your friends?"
Dakna responds to the query. "I had intended to visit you to heal my poor child, but as you can plainly see, she has been healed by this great doctor."
Eve is taken aback by the explanation. "I see so you are a follower of the path of Love, the way of Eli?"
Aidan is unsure of how to respond. At length he motions to his two acquaintances. "Dear Danka, Indira, would you mind excusing me for a moment? I need to speak with the Mother of Peace alone." They accept his suggestion and leave the two spiritual beings to converse.
A flash of recognition suddenly flashes across Eves tanned complexion. "Wait my mother spoke of an Aidan once, but that was long ago, and she told me he was destroyed."
Aidan is perplexed. "How could your mother know of me nobody but hold it who is your mother?"
Eves face falls as her hands cover her expression. Stifled with sadness, she forms the words, "Xena my mother was the great warrior princess of legend. Tragically, she died in a faraway land. I was never able to say goodbye to her. I miss her so "
Aidan is electrified by his good fortune. He immediately recognizes an opportunity. "So very much we have to discuss! Firstly, yes, your mother did once vanquish me but that was long ago. I am a changed man. I see now that my methods were unsound. Secondly, and you will find this difficult to believe, but your mother, Xena, is very much alive!"
Eve jumps up from her chair in shock. She stares wide-eyed in utter disbelief. "You lie! It cant be! But why would you lie? Can it be true?" Eve staggers around the small room in an attempt to absorb the incredible information.
Aidan is both relieved and pleased. "If you dont believe me, let me take them to you see for yourself!"
Eves mind spins with confusion. "Yes take me to them! I must see if you are telling the truth."
Aidan grins and claps his small hands together. "Excellent! We will depart in the morning. We still have the evening here together, then. Perhaps we might share some knowledge? It is said that you are a woman of supreme peace and stillness. I have some fascinating yogic techniques that I have learned which might increase your perfection. Here, let me show you "
The Archangels in Heaven gather around their leader, Michael. The holy group of twelve listens intently as he speaks. "My heavenly warriors, listen carefully. We are about to face our greatest challenge ever. We are facing a being more powerful than any that has come before- stronger even than accursed Lucifer or Mephistopheles. This abominations name is Aidan, and he carries with him a terrible knowledge this knowledge comes from a time before our God, before man. Aidan is a creature of pure will. His resolve is unshakeable. He worships the ancient Sumerian God Enki, a name even our God fears for its terrible power. He is even now attempting to bring the Mother of Peace under his diabolical control. His ways are puzzling, for he manifests both good and evil. He is truly the great confuser. We must destroy this being, or face a world of ultimate chaos. I must go to Xena in her dreams, and warn her. Prepare yourselves!"
Xena is roused from her fitful sleep by the image of Michael standing before her, in all his magnificence. She gasps at the wondrous, comforting angelic sight. "Michael! Thank God youre here! Gabrielle has gone mad, and I dont know what to do!"
"Xena. It is strange to see you in the world of the living, and in such a very different form. You realize that you cannot keep this body, dont you?"
Xena nods her assent. "I dont care about that anymore. Im not afraid of death. I wont leave though until Ive saved Gabrielle- from Aidan!"
Michael folds his wings away and stares intently at Xena. "Aidan may already be too powerful for you. Perhaps, together with some allies, he may be defeated. He is attacking Eve at this very moment. You must awaken and find her. I will show you the way. If you hurry, there may be time to save her yet. But be warned, he will stop at nothing to get what he wants. Xena, you must do this alone, Gabrielle can no longer be trusted."
The uttering of her daughters name galvanizes Xena. "Oh my God, Eve Eve! Hold on, Im coming!" Xena awakens from her conversation with Michael and quickly makes her way from the camp on horseback. She flies down the dusty road towards her only daughter.
Eve grabs her back legs to form a long arch with her body. Only her stomach touches the ground as she closes her eyes.
Aidan encourages the movement. "Thats it, yes! Do you feel the stillness inside? Thats the inner you, your very essence showing through. Your power is great Eve, but it could be greater still. With the methods I am showing you, you will become an invincible force for good. Excellent! Deeper and deeper, sink down, lower and lower " Eves breathing grows slower and shallow. A cobalt blue skin tone covers her body, beginning at the extremities. With each slowing breath, the trance deepens, as does the blue colour. Her skin grows rough to the touch. Aidan prays intently beside the yogic figure. The bright insignia adorning his forehead glows with an unearthly brightness. This third eye illuminates the entire room. In a final burst of energy, the encroaching blue consumes Eves body. Her breathing stops as Aidan shrieks in victory.
He jumps up and raises his fists high in the air. "I have done it! Neither man, nor God may defeat me now! I am invincible!" Aidan smiles with a malevolent glee. He slowly folds his arms across his long blue robe. He closes his eyes. His terrible third eye pulsates as his robe is magically transformed into a splendid, golden silk. A dazzling emerald and ruby crown materializes on his head. He catches his reflection in a polished bronze jug. Aidan is pleased by his spectacular new image. He strokes the exquisite gold and blue silken raiment. Gazing with admiration at his reflection, he remarks. "I no longer need to play the part of the poor healer, I am now a God, and will be treated as such by all!" He leaves the elegant blue stone statue of Eve in the small house. He disappears in a Godlike flash of light.
Gabrielle is awakened by the dawns first light. She groggily rubs her eyes and looks out at the morning sun. "I had the worst sleep, Xena. I think I slept on a rock all night, my back is killing me!" She smiles and rolls over. "Xena? Autolycus, wake up! Xenas gone!"
Autolycus shakes his head and stares wide-eyed at Gabrielle. His usually perfectly groomed hair is plastered over his face. "What are you talking about? Where would she go?" Gabrielle walks impatiently around the campfire. She notices one of the horses gone. "Ill tell you where she is, she went after Aidan without us! Shell be killed. Hurry up! Weve got to follow her!"
Autolycus quickly puts his pants on, hopping comically on one foot. "Okay, okay but how do we know where she is? She could have been riding for hours. Theres no guarantee well even find her."
Gabrielle is in no mood to debate the issue. "Shut up and get ready. Im riding in two minutes, whether youre with me or not!"
Autolycus sleepily replies, "alright, no need to get angry. There, Im ready." Gabrielle slings her belongings onto the white horse. She grabs Autolycuss hand to help him up. They bolt from the camp like a shot.
Xena rides hard through the night. The horses hooves pound out a repeating drumbeat. The cool midnight air whistles in her ears. Overhead, the sky is still and cloudless. Only the occasional wild animal cry breaks the silence. Xena knows instinctively the direction to travel. Though more slender and less powerful, Xenas skillful horsemanship remains. At first she is hesitant of pushing too hard, her new body being unaccustomed to the act of riding. In time, her limbs remember the motions, like the familiar taste of a favourite dish. After several hours of hard riding she finds the small house in the wood. She leaps from her horse and runs to the door. Opening it, she drops to her knees in abject despair. Xena howls in horror, "No no not you Eve! This is all my fault!" Xena stares in disbelief at the cold blue statuary remains of her daughter. "Oh Eve, I had so many things I wanted to say to you! I wanted to tell you how proud I was of you!" A flow of tears streams down Xenas face. She crawls over to the beautiful blue stone figure and cradles it in her arms. "No. I wont let this happen! Michael, where are you? Ares why dont you help? Are you dead? Nothing makes any sense anymore! I dont know what to do!" Xena cries herself out on the dirt floor. Empty and alone, she kneels and prays for divine assistance.
Aidan materializes within a small village not far from Eves house. Morning is slowly breaking through the twilight. Here and there, the townsfolk begin to stir. Immediately they notice the sumptuously dressed guru. An old, tired looking man limps over to speak to him. "Who are you? You are not from these parts. What is your business here?"
Aidan waves his hand casually and replies, "I am the great God Aidan."
The questioner continues his inquiries. "Aidan you say? Never heard of him! Cant be too much of a God! Anyway, we worship the great Krishna in this town. We have no use for you!"
Aidans expression remains perfectly unperturbed. "Of course. I am a stranger why would you trust me? You are a wise man. I see that you walk with a limp. May I see your leg?"
The man is cautious, but relents. "Go ahead, its an old injury a cart ran over it."
Aidan bends down to see the thin, crooked leg. He gently lays both hands upon the old scar. A flash of energy seems to extend from his extended fingers. The old man looks down to see that his leg has straightened, and the scar has disappeared.
He is bewildered and jumps in the air for joy. By this time, a small gathering of interested villagers watches intently. "Look at me! My leg is healed! You are a great God! Praise Aidan!"
The group surrounding him joins in the jubilant chorus. "Praise Aidan!" Aidan folds his arms confidently across his chest. His body seems to radiate with a cool light.
Autolycus and Gabrielle ride down the trail for hours. A fork in the road presents itself. The horse stops as its reigns are gently tugged. Gabrielle looks down and speaks. "I dont even know where Xena is. It could be either of these roads. What do you think?"
Autolycus is dumbfounded. "How the heck should I know? Youre the world traveler."
Gabrielle is downcast. "Well, do you know anything about this area?"
Autolycus gets down off the horse and stands arms akimbo. The air is silent, save for the horses shuffling hooves. He rubs his goatee and thinks hard. "Okay I might be crazy but I think theres a small village down that way." He points to the northern path. "Yes, Im almost sure of it."
Gabrielle grins sarcastically. "Right, just like that guy in town you knew but didnt really know."
Autolycus waves his hand. "No. I made a slight mistake there, I admit but Im pretty sure about this." Gabrielle reaches down to pull her friend backs up onto the horse. They continue along the chosen path.
The milk-white horse gallops strongly as Gabrielle speaks, "I hope weve chosen the right way. Id hate to have to double back. I guess sometimes you just have to go with your gut, and your instinct."
Autolycus takes the opportunity to broach a difficult subject. "Speaking of paths, Gab are you sure youre on the right one?"
Gabrielle is at first puzzled and looks back. "You pointed north, right?"
Autolycus shakes his head in response. "Thats not what I mean, and you know it. I mean back there at the house. Was all that bloodshed really necessary? I mean in the old days, you would have smashed them on the head with your long-fork things "
Gabrielle interrupts, "Sias theyre called sais yeah, youre right, maybe I have changed. But Ive learned one thing. If you dont watch out for yourself, and your friends, nobody else will. You have to be prepared to die, and kill. My old weapons were okay, but look what happened? My whole reason for living died. Obviously I needed to change, dont you see that?"
Autolycus replies quickly. "Listen, from what youve told me, Xena had no chance against an entire village, let alone her past. There was nothing you could have done. I dont know I guess I just miss the old peace-loving Gabrielle."
Gabrielle shakes her head several times. "That person is gone forever " They race through the blackness of night. To their right, the first signs of morning appear.
Xena staggers from the ramshackle dwelling. Her face is etched with a fierce rage. Her dark eyes glower with a piercing intensity. For the first time since her return from the dead, she feels a return of her old passion, her former awesome power. A thin brown arm reaches heavenward in a defiant gesture. Xena lets force with her trademark shrill war cry. "Alalalalalalala Michael! Michael why have you allowed this to happen? This was not part of the deal! I demand that you show yourself!" Silence greets her request. Oh so youre ignoring me now? Is that it? Well see about that!" Xena lies down on the grassy ground. She reaches up with both hands and pokes herself hard on the left side of her neck. Instantly her body freezes. A small trickle of blood runs down from her nostril. Xena is quieted for a moment. Her eyes suddenly burst open to the sight of Archangel Michael towering over her. She catapults into the air and reaches for her chakrum. Its razor blade finds its way quickly to Michaels neck.
The heavenly scion merely chuckles. "Come now Xena, what happened to your new self? Were both on the same side, you and I."
Xena replaces her chakrum and points an accusing finger in Michaels direction. "You told me that Eve could be saved! Now shes dead! That wasnt part of the bargain! Just tell me what to do! I want Aidan dead!"
Michael walks a few steps away from the perturbed young woman. "Xena, this battle is far greater than you, I, Gabrielle or Eve. This is a battle for the very control of the cosmos itself! Eve was a messenger, like Eli. Her time had simply come and you cannot change that. Aidan may represent the greatest threat the world has ever faced. He is now a God and a very powerful one. He may attempt to gain even greater power. Soon he will become unstoppable. There is only one means to stop him. We need a warrior to slay this abomination a being that can destroy Gods."
Xena nods and smiles knowingly. "So you will give me the power so I can once again kill Gods!"
Michael shakes his head slowly. "Not not you it will be Gabrielle " Xena awakens from her death trance and quickly mounts her horse. She gallops quickly to the next town.
Gabrielle and Autolycus ride until the find the a small Hindu temple. They both dismount and walk towards the edifice. Gabrielle tethers the horse on a post. Together they enter the small gold-encrusted doorway. The room is sparely decorated, save for a magnificent blue stone representation of the great God Krishna in the centre. The magnificent blue statue enthralls the two wanderers. "Krishna once saved Xena and I from Indra. Eli and I were nearly killed. Ive learned a lot since then."
Autolycus shrugs his shoulders. "Yeah, like what exactly?"
Gabrielle circles the cobalt figure as she speaks. "I was weak then. I nearly got myself and Xena killed. Now Im strong, strong enough to take on anyone."
Autolycus is skeptical. "Anyone Gabrielle? Youre not a God, you know! Youre one mean warrior, but youre not invincible!" Gabrielle continues to walk about the temple. She tells Autolycus that she is going outside for a drink of water.
Autolycus responds casually, "Sure, and see if weve got any food left! I think that pork is getting a little rank!" He is alone with the magnificent deity. Krishnas face wears an expression of supreme satisfaction. A garland of colourful flowers adorns the head. The hands hold a silver flute to the lips. Autolycus is strangely awed as he kneels before the God. His eyes averted, he whispers in hushed tones. "Listen Krishna Im really not into praying, religion or Gods, or any of that junk. Im just an average guy whos really worried about his friends. I just want Gabrielle back the way she was, and Xena to be happy . oh yeah and I guess we need to get rid of this Aidan dude " Autolycus finishes his prayers and moves to get up and find Gabrielle. A hand upon his head prevents his motion. He stares up in shock at a smiling blue-skinned God. "Krishna! What wow Ive really got to learn more about this Hindu stuff!"
Krishna takes casual remarks in stride. "You have captured my attention. Only the special few are able to do this. It required the request of somebody who doesnt believe in praying, or Gods."
Autolycus can barely believe his eyes. "Well, that would be me. Can you help us?"
Krishna ponders the question. "I dont think that will be a problem. Gabrielle has been given an awesome gift. I will be watching, Autolycus and remember, when you need me most, call my name."
Autolycus falls to one knee in an attempt to process the wealth of information. He stands up to make an additional inquiry. "Okay but " His words cease as he notices that Krishna has reverted to his original stony form.
Gabrielle leaves the temple to quench her thirst. She walks a short distance and finds a well. She begins to pull up the bucket for a drink. She reaches for her wineskin to fill it with water. A reflection seems to shimmer in the waters reflection. She hears a faint voice call her name. Staring down, she makes out the image of the Archangel Michael. "Michael is that you?"
The image nods and speaks ever so faintly. "Gabrielle. The time is drawing near. Aidan must be stopped."
Gabrielle is mystified but cautiously responds. "I know that. Wheres Xena? I need to find her!"
Michael waves his hand to calm her. "Xena is fine. She is on her way to meet you. Aidan is the problem he has become a God."
Gabrielle stares in disbelief. "A God but how ?"
Michael stops her in mid-sentence. "Theres no time for that now. There is only one being who can destroy Aidan now."
Gabrielle nods. "Xena."
Michael shakes his head. "No Gabrielle. It is true that you have committed a great crime, but you are humanitys last chance. Your skills have increased, as has your capacity for violence. You must use these tools to defeat him."
Gabrielle is adamant. "I cant kill Gods Michael! Im not powerful enough!" Michael smiles with a quiet confidence. "Maybe not yet, but after you are provided with this ability to destroy Gods, nothing can stop you! Step out now into the light of day and behold the power of Heaven!" Gabrielle steps away from the well. A whispy angelic image materializes high in the sky. A pulsating ray of brilliant light shoots down towards Gabrielle. As the light penetrates her, her body convulses as if electrically shocked. Her eyes shine with a rapturous gaze as a gasp escapes her lips. The force retreats upward as she recovers her senses. She casts her eyes around and notices Autolycus exiting the temple.
He jogs up to her in a highly agitated state. "Gabrielle, are you okay? You look different somehow. Youll never guess what happened to me in there! It turns out this whole Hindu jazz really is on the up and up! I just met Krishna!"
Gabrielle smiles in appreciation of the story. "What a coincidence. You just met a God, and I just met an Archangel! And get this he says I now have the power to kill Gods! Can you believe that?"
Autolycus nods his head. "Actually I can. Krishna told me that you had been given a great gift, maybe thats he meant."
Gabrielles expression is suddenly all business. "Enough talk. Weve got to find Xena before its too late." The two companions ride towards the small village. Gabrielle is outwardly confident, but a residual fear troubles her. She wonders if she has, not the strength to kill a God, but rather the confidence; the confidence that Xena once possessed.
Aidan continues to regale his enraptured audience. A young woman with a disfigured face kneels before the God. Aidan smiles with beneficence. "How may I help you, woman?"
The woman reaches upward in a self-deprecating manner. "Oh great Aidan, my face was mangled in an accident. One of my eyes was blackened! Please help me!" Aidan nods his bejeweled head and lays his hand gently upon her dirty forehead. A surge of energetic light flows through his hand. The peasant falls back in wonder.
She reaches up to feel her face. She exclaims with joy, "I can see! Oh praise you great Aidan! Praise you!"
Aidan raises his arms in a gesture of power. "As you can all see, I am the greatest of all Gods! You no longer need any other Gods! I will heal your sick, and care for your needs. In return, I ask but one thing. You must have no other Gods before me. You must destroy all others, including Krishna. After you have destroyed the figure of Krishna, you may create a new idol, in my name! Go now, and destroy all Temples! Spread the word far and wide, to all the lands, Aidan is the one true God!" The villagers cheer their assent. They scatter to their houses, grabbing whatever in the way of weaponry they may find.
A shouting mob heads toward the Temple shouting, "Down with Krishna! Long live Aidan!" Aidan sits down on the hot ground. The sun dances and glimmers off of his sartorial finery. He closes his eyes for a moment to savor his victory. He then hears the rhythmic pounding of hooves vibrating in the ground.
Without opening his eyes, he speaks in a slow, measured tone. "Xena. I was wondering when youd get here."
Xena leaps from her horse and stands arms akimbo. Her face is a picture of intense concentration. "Get up now or die where you sit!"
Aidan laughs heartily at the threat. "Xena, your confidence is unwarranted, I assure you. You once defeated me, that is true but my powers have grown immensely. I no longer have any need for books, spells, chants, or weapons for that matter. You cannot hurt me."
Xena shakes her head in fury. "You murdered my only daughter! For that I will kill you somehow!"
Aidan again simply smiles. "Xena, it was unfortunate that Eve had to be sacrificed, but it was necessary. Her spirit was powerful, I needed to harness that energy."
Xena yells loudly, "Enough!" She cocks her arm and flings her chakrum at Aidans head. It bounces off harmlessly. Xena stares in disbelief. "No no "
Aidan is unbothered and barely flinches at the attack. "Xena please, dont embarrass yourself. I could crush you like a bug but I wont. Dont forget, I created you. Now go find your friends. They are at Krishnas temple but hurry, it wont be there for long!" He chuckles to himself and again shuts his hypnotic green eyes.
Gabrielle points ahead from atop her white ride. "Look..must be some villagers. They seem to be angry, theyre all shouting."
Autolycus notices the spectacle ahead. "I dont like the look of this Gabrielle, I say we get out of their way!"
Gabrielle is bolstered by her newfound power. "Did you forget? Me God killer here! A few peasants arent going to bother me."
Autolycus is taken aback by her nonchalance. "Gabrielle, if Im not mistaken, werent you a peasant once upon a time? I just dont want to see anybody else get hurt, thats all."
Gabrielle pulls the reigns as the horse comes to a halt. She leaps down masterfully and addresses the throng. "Whats going on here? Where are you all headed?"
A young man yells out, brandishing a crude axe. "We have been commanded to destroy Krishnas temple! Out of our way!"
Gabrielle pulls out her swords and raises them in the air. "Now hold on minute! Nobody is destroying anything! Who told you to do this?"
The now healed woman cries out gleefully, "It was the great and powerful Aidan! Aidan is our new God! Praise him!"
Autolycus and Gabrielle both stare at each other in amazement. He states, "what the heck is going on around here? Everything is upside downways!"
Gabrielle nods in agreement. "Well, Aidans not going to get away with this one not if I can help it! You people go back to your houses! This man is no God he is evil. Turn back!" A heavily muscled man lunges suddenly lunges at Gabrielle with a massive, sharp scythe. It narrowly misses her as she jumps in the air. Spinning in mid-air, she delivers a powerful kick to his head. He is knocked unconscious. Another, smaller man reaches to grab Gabrielle. She uses his momentum to fling him down hard hard to the ground. The rest of the mob takes a step back. Gabrielle returns her swords to their sheaths. "I dont want to hurt any of you but I will if I have to and believe me, you dont want to get my angry!"
Autolycus steps up in front of the battling bard to address them all. "Listen folks seriously, she may not be too big, but she packs a mean wallop. If youre smart, youll do as she says."
The leader of the group shouts out a defiant reply. "You may stop us now, but we will be back, with the great Aidan you will listen to him!" Collectively the deflated townsfolk head back toward the towns square.
Xena sees the action from a distance away. She rides past the chastened mob to find Gabrielle. Autolycus spies Xena headed towards them. "Hey look, its Xena, thank Zeus!" The blond bard rushes up to meet the warrior princess. Xena leaps practically from her horse directly into Gabrielles arms. They hold each other tight for several precious moments.
The slightly taller woman whispers into Xenas ear, "I thought Id lost you again you shouldnt have left me alone like that."
Xena pulls back and gazes deeply into Gabrielles eyes. I had no choice Eve Eve is gone "
Gabrielles body is rocked to the ground by the painful message. "Xena Im so sorry, maybe this is my fault, maybe if I hadnt brought you back, Eve would still be alive. I loved her too "
Xena holds Gabrielles head gently in her arms. "Its not your fault, Gabrielle stop blaming yourself. The problem now is Aidan." Gabrielle nods in agreement.
She begins to explain about Michaels gift to her, but Xena stops her. "I know all about it. Michael told me. He explained to me how dangerous Aidan has become. Even with the power to kill Gods, you may not be able to defeat him."
Autolycus, who has been silent the whole time, enters the conversation. "Well, its three against one, I like those odds myself!" He removes his sword from its sheath, and points it towards the town. "I say, lets do this thing rock and roll, baby!" Both Xena and Gabrielle are amused by the usually diffident thiefs uncharacteristic bravado.
Xena cocks her head and rolls her eyes heavenward. "Whats up with you? Why are you so confident all of a sudden? You do realize this is most likely a suicide mission? Youve never struck me as the dying-for-a-cause type, Autolycus."
He responds with mock annoyance. "Xena, how could you say that? Im offended! Anyway, lets just say I have a new friend watching my back."
Gabrielle is mystified by the response. "What are you talking about?"
Aidan sits in quiet splendor within the towns square. Eyes closed, he hears the approaching footsteps of the villagers. The heavily muscled leader walks up to the God. "Oh Aidan, please forgive us! We were not able to destroy Krishnas temple! There was a great warrior woman who stopped us."
Aidan stands up to face the speaker. "I see and this woman was a slender Indian woman, riding on horseback?"
The man shakes his head. "No, almighty Aidan. Her hair was golden and her face was very beautiful. Her fighting skills were great."
Aidan nods his head and clasps his hands together. "Gabrielle it would seem that the student has indeed become the master in this case. I may have underestimated this woman. Perhaps she is not yet under my absolute power yet " He smiles with a demonic delight. He motions the men and women to gather around him. "Yes now join hands " Aidan steps outside the ring of people. He picks up a stick and begins to trace a pattern in the sand. As he finishes tracing the huge pentagram, he returns to the centre. He raises his arms high above his head and begins to chant aloud. "Alal Barra! Telal Barra! Masqim Barra! Utuq Barra! Idpa Barra! Lalartu Barra! Lallassu Barra! Akhkharu Barra!" The mesmerized group takes up the chant as ominous clouds form overhead. Thunder rumbles as a heavy rain begins to pelt down. The chant grows louder as Aidan stretches his arms ever higher. Crashes of blinding lightning illuminate the scene, as the sun is blotted out behind dark clouds. A bizarre, unearthly transformation is initiated. The men and woman begin to grow and mutate in horrible ways. The powerful leader grows several feet in height. The flesh of his arms becomes sharp and long. Suddenly two terrible, fleshy swords are projecting from his torso. A young woman screams, as her jaw is ripped open. A second set of razor sharp teeth pierces outward from her skull. Beside her a young man grows and second set of arms, each sporting a horrible metal spinning blade. The nightmarish scene continues as one after another are unnaturally changed. Aidan smiles as he admires his creations. The hellish brood heaves and moans in a terrifying symphony of horror. Aidan address them all kindly. "My creations. Now you are truly an admirable, unstoppable army of the dead! Go now, and destroy the temple and bring me the head of the great warrior Gabrielle." In unison they turn to face their objective.
The three visitors hear a spine-tingling howling and moaning. "What in heavens name is that sound,"Autolycus exclaims as the group walk determinedly towards town.
Xena shakes her head. Her expression is deadly serious. "I dont think heaven has anything to do with it " As her words trail off, she sees the approaching monstrous horde. She stops to face both Gabrielle and Autolycus. She puts a hand on both their shoulders. "Well this is it I dont know if any of us will survive but this is our time our battle may God protect us!" She now puts both hands on Gabrielles face. A single tear falls down the blonde warriors cheek. Xena gently brushes it away.
"Xena. Im afraid how do I know Ill be strong enough?"
Xena smiles warmly in response. "Gabrielle, you were always the stronger one I know that now believe in yourself and you will be victorious and dont hold back fight with every once of your being!"
Gabrielle throws her arms around her beloved companion. "I will always love you, Xena!" Xena kisses Gabrielle softly on her lips.
Autolycus pokes Xena on the shoulder. Pointing to the horrible army, he speaks in a hushed voice, "I think its showtime, ladies "
Gabrielle stands resolutely in the middle of the road. She wears a black, embroidered leather halter top. A short black leather skirt covers her thighs. Her shoulders are protected by light silver plated armor, as are her shins. On either side of her waist, a fine Roman short sword is sheathed. Her blunt blond hair is drenched to her wet skin. Her beautiful eyes are cold and fierce. Xena stands beside in a long white sari. Her chakrum hangs on one side, her broad sword on the other. Her soft, brown skin sticks to the wet material. Autolycus stands on Gabrielles other side. His graying thin hair is slicked backwards. He wears a brown leather tunic over an ornate green blouson. Affixed to his black belt are a knife and one long scimitar. His expression is stony and intense. They three warriors await the final onslaught. The mobs leader shrieks as he flies towards Xena. The seven-foot creature flings his razor arms downward toward her head. Xena moves to one side. Gabrielle instinctively plunges both her swords deep into the creatures loins. Blood pours over the ground as the unholy beast crashes to the ground. Gabrielle twirls to see a spinning blade graze her hair. She raises her arms and brings them down forcefully through the monsters flesh. It splits in two, as the sharp Roman steel is bathed again in blood. Several creatures attack Autolycus at once. A two headed woman with four legs kicks viciously at his head, while a monstrous double jaw lunges at his chest. Autolycus yells in pain as a huge chunk of flesh is ripped from his torso. Blood splatters his face and clothes. He hacks away at his attacker with his weapon. Finally the horrible head is removed cleanly. The battle is absolute pandemonium. Gabrielle continues to kill, one after another. A woman with tentacles emanating from her chest attempts to ensnare her. Gabrielle leaps and spins in the air landing behind the creature. She cocks her mighty arm and slices the body asunder. The teaming rain washes away the buckets of blood that stain the ground. Severed limbs and dismembered heads litter the ground. Gabrielle pushes on with her frenzied blood lust. Her power is superhuman. Blood continues to pour as Gabrielles steel flashes with electrically charged rapidity. Ten, twenty, forty and more fall victim to the blond warriors rage. Xena fights on with ferocious zeal. Her chakrum splits open countless wounds. Her dress is now soaked in blood and dirt. Her small frame awkwardly wields her heavy sword. Xena finally tosses it aside and utilizes her chakrum as a knife. It slices and cuts its way through the attacking throng. Autolycus is nearly overwhelmed by the brutal attack. Their numbers thinning, the hellish army still attack. Four men leap upon him. He feels a biting jaw rip off half his arm. He screams in agony. A sudden recollection floods his mind. "Krishna please, I need your help!" Instantly he feels his body grow in strength. Miraculously, he watches as his severed arm and torn chest heal. He flies into the air as the creatures fall in his wake. He lands upon them and slices each of them apart. Xena battles on bravely, but realizes that her physical strength is not what it once was. She gazes in admiration at Gabrielles dizzying fighting skills. Her speed is unparalleled, as bodies are ripped apart by her lighting fast steel swords.
Finally there remains but one lone adversary. It is Aidan. He walks toward the blood-soaked warrior and claps, stepping over mutilated bodies as he speaks. "Well done, Gabrielle! If I didnt know any better, Id think some demon had committed all these atrocities. You are well on your way."
Gabrielle wipes her blades upon her leather skirt and replies sarcastically, "On my way to what exactly?"
Aidan answers triumphantly, "To becoming my consort, of course, one can hardly be a proper God without a Goddess at his side." Xena walks up quickly towards the God and reaches out to grab his throat. She is flung back twenty feet in the air. Gabrielle and Autolycus both reach for their swords. Aidan stands confidently. "You see, you may be able to eliminate these minor beings, but I am a God now, Gabrielle. You cannot hurt me."
Gabrielle smiles and walks slowly up to the guru. "Yeah? Who says?"
Aidan reaches out to touch Gabrielles beautiful, soiled face. "I watched you Gabrielle, in battle you are even more beautiful than I recalled. This is all for you, my precious Gabrielle. You were meant for me, and I for you." He reaches down to kiss her lips. Suddenly a trickle of blood slips from his grinning mouth. He gasps and looks down in disbelief. He watches as Gabrielles sword continues to slowly plunge into his still beating heart. He stares at Gabrielle in utter shock. "But how Im a . God "
Gabrielle cuts his words short with a final shove of her sword. "Yeah well as it happens Im taken " Aidan falls to the ground in a heap of smoking flesh. His magnificent crown tumbles away in the dirt. Sparks and thick black fluid fly from his torso. His face is twisted in an expression of exquisite agony. Bubbling and bursting, he finally explodes in a flash of blue light. Xena gets up and returns to her friends. All three stare at the scene of immense carnage.
Autolycus dusts off his hands and throws his arms around his stalwart companions. "My God, what a horrible mess! Did we do that? Well, Id say that was a job well done. Man, I am starving! Nothing like being attacked by a blood-thirsty army of multi-headed zombies to work up an appetite."
Xena stares in disgust at him. "How can you think of food? Uhhhh . I need a shower not to mention a new dress."
Gabrielle smiles and looks intently at both of them. "I wonder if weve seen the last of Aidan?"
Xena nods as she ponders the question. She shakes her head. "I doubt it. Evil that strong doesnt die, it sleeps and waits."
Gabrielle looks into Xenas eyes and nods, "Ill be ready. Xena, Im worried about one thing I killed so many I wish there had been another way "
Xena shakes her head. "Listen. This is something I know a thing or two about nobody enjoys killing, but sometimes its necessary, for the greater good."
Gabrielle listens intently and ponders her answer. "I know that Xena, I know I had no choice in fighting what bothers me is that part of me enjoyed it "
Xena holds Gabrielle close in a comforting embrace. "It worries me too Gabrielle "
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