Just Once
David J. Duncan
March 2003

Notes: The characters from Forever Knight belong to Sony Tri-Star. The characters from Xena Warrior Princess belong to StudiosUSA and Renaissance Studios. The characters from Mutant X belong to Marvel and Tribune. The characters from Smallville belong to DC Comics and the WB. The characters from Dark Angel belong to their copyright holders. All other characters are fictitious and belong to me. Please send comments to dante0220@yahoo.com.

The beach scene and this piece is a "Duboisized" spinoff of "Motherhood" (Xena Season 5 finale). The question here is what would have happened if the gods had killed Xena, Gabrielle, and Eve there? Trust me, when you see what happens to Dave, you'll want to run for cover.

The poem Dulce et Decorum est was written by Wilfred Owen and accessed via the Emory University's English department web site.

The song "Once" was written by Joe LoDuca and appeared on The Brotherhood of the Wolf soundtrack.

Risk is owned by Parker Brothers.

Preface [Faerie Realms]

The Faerie Empress speaks....

Once again, trouble rears its head. In this case, the so-called forces of light conspire to test our friends. Great consternation wracks the university campus. Behind me, the bodies of Xena, Gabrielle, and Eve lie in state under the most stringent of guard. Worse still, a war brews-one that threatens to tear the Roman world asunder. At its head, David Dubois and Lucius of Pompeii have joined forces to gain a common end.

These are truly desperate times indeed....


Chapter 1


Michael glared into the viewing pool. He still stewed over the Child's intrusion into Paradise, not to mention the other insults. Dubois defies me and Xena encourages him. It's time to teach them both a lesson and I think I know how. A cruel smile spread across his face.

"What are you looking at?" Raphael wondered, approaching him.

"I'm watching the affairs going on below. It seems we erred before and it may be time to set things straight," the blonde archangel replied.

"Set things straight? Meaning what?"

"Meaning, it's time to teach certain mortals about the consequences of defying us," Michael noted with certainty.

"Michael, we cannot take vengeance! Let it go!"

"I will not be mocked! Let Dubois have a taste of tragedy!" Michael snapped. "Already, I have set things in motion. Let him deal with this!"

"You risk losing him to the darkness! But this is what you want, isn't it? You don't care about the consequences!" Raphael protested. "Michael, for Lorenzo's sake, I beg you. Don't do this!"

"It's too late to stop the cycle now. Besides, you forget yourself. Lorenzo will do his duty and so will you. Now come, a tempest is brewing," Michael concluded, leaving the room.

Considering the situation, Raphael worried, That's a gigantic understatement.


[Mount Olympus]

High atop Mount Olympus in Greece, the pantheon of Greek gods and goddesses assembled to discuss a brewing situation. Twenty-five years earlier, they had dealt with a dire prophecy called the Twilight of the Gods. That message had called for the downfall of their order to be replaced with the cult of Eli. However, their actions had stopped the prophecy. Despite the deaths of Zeus and Hera, the run-ins with Xena and Gabrielle, and the threat of the former's child, Eve, they survived. Nothing had happened.

However, Ares had discovered differently during a recent misadventure in Rome. There, he had discovered that Xena, Gabrielle, and Eve were alive. Worse still, the prophesized Twilight's threat was still in place. Despite the "lesson" he had administered to Eve's adopted home of Pompeii, he still burned with anger. This is gonna be trouble. Big trouble.

The other gods stared at him angrily.

"You got a problem with me?" he spat back.

"Yes, how could you keep this from us?" Hades, the god of the Underworld, retorted.

"I just found out myself." Ares shrugged.

"You should have let us know immediately!" Hades growled. "With Eve alive, the Twilight is still on!"

Yeah well, nothin' happened for twenty-five years. Why start now? Ares shook his head.

The other deities in the room began arguing amongst themselves as well.

Finally, a woman with shoulder length red hair dressed in battle garb stood from the throne in the front of the room. During the earlier cycle of events, Athena had taken part in the effort to disrupt the prophecy and thought she had succeeded. We need to take care of this matter now. "To deal with Eve, we have another problem, Xena. We must go through her first."

"And how do you propose to walk in and do that?" Ares countered.

"We can either attack directly at once or go indirectly. I would prefer the second option. Furies!" Athena answered.

In front of her, three more women dressed in skimpy crimson robes appeared. Each had a sadistic leer on her face and cackled away.

Ares broke out laughing. "We've tried this before. It didn't work."

Athena cracked a smile. "It didn't work for Xena, but Gabrielle might be another matter." Seeing the blonde goddess to her left wince, she asked, "Is there a problem, Aphrodite?"

"Can't we leave her out of this?" Aphrodite requested.

"You have a soft spot for the bard? Well then, don't watch," Athena declared. "I would rather use the indirect approach."

"We can do that. We can arrange for Xena and the others to die," the head Fury, a slender blonde, suggested.

Ares winced. "And...uh...what do we do about the other problem?"

"What other problem?" Discord snapped. "We take out those three and that's it!"

"You're forgetting about our future problem, Discord. I don't wanna deal with Dubois," the war god countered.

"Certainly, you're not afraid of a mortal, Ares," Athena chuckled. "We'll have the Furies deal with him too."

He cast a sarcastic look. "He's already schizo and insane, not to mention persecuted now. No, you kill Xena and we'll have to deal with him too." He shuddered, remembering the duels in Althanor, the desert, and within the Dark Land. The SOB keeps getting stronger as well. If I'm right, we'll face him and his raving lunatic dark side over this mess.

"Fine. We'll deal with him too," Athena declared.

"And his sister, the priestess. Remember that little screw up, Ares?" Discord added.

He frowned. "Thank you so much for the reminder."

"Another screw up, Bro?" Athena cracked.

The war god scowled. "A slight miscalculation."

"Whatever. We deal with Xena first. Furies, be ready for our call," the leader told the trio.

"We shall," the blonde leader agreed before she and her companions disappeared.

Athena studied her relatives' faces carefully. She would rather wait and let the drama play itself out. However, if Ares and Discord were correct, there would be still more trouble for them to contend with. "We move now."

"Count me out," Aphrodite disagreed, vanishing into thin air.

"Any others who wish to leave?" Athena asked. Seeing no further volunteers, she added, "Fine. It's time to attend to business."

With that, the gods vanished from view, heading for their targets.


[Beach, Italian coastline just north of Rome]

Xena looked around warily as she, Gabrielle, and Eve approached the shore. With the destruction of Pompeii, the warrior knew it was only a matter of time before the gods came after them. Hopefully, this will give Eve a sense of peace. Seeing that everything looked clear, she motioned to her companions.

Gabrielle approached cautiously as well. Under her cloak, her sais remained firmly in hand, ready for any attack. "Come on, Eve."

Eve shuffled nervously to the top of the bluff overlooking the beach. Until recently, she had been Livia, the Champion of Rome and slaughterer of thousands. Feeling the weight of her sins, she shook her head. "I can't. I'm not worthy."

"Go on," the warrior insisted, casting another look around. For some reason, her gut bothered her.

Eve nodded, conceding the point. "All right, Mother." She walked down the hill, trying to keep her nerves in check as she approached the small gathering at the water's edge. I'm ashamed. What right do I have to be here?

In the midst of the surf, a slender man with intense eyes and a simple robe stood over another man. He chanted something and scooped up some water in his hand. Almost like a modern day baker would do, the standing man dropped the liquid onto his companion's forehead slowly drop by drop. Finally, he said, "You are cleansed. Go forth and do good."

The man stood and grinned. "Thank you."

The robed one just nodded and allowed him to walk back onto shore. As he watched the recently converted one, his eye stopped on Eve.

"What? What do you see?" she demanded, feeling the embarrassment.

"Pain and suffering. Terrible pain," he replied with concern for her.

As she kneeled in the ocean, she moaned, "I deserve to die for what I've done."

He nodded. "Yes, you shall die to the ways of the flesh." He picked up a handful of water and began dripping it onto her forehead. "But you shall be reborn to the way of the Light."

As he did this, she felt a heavy load being lifted from herself. She felt so light for a minute. It almost seemed as if she could fly. He did it!


Xena still felt another presence around them. We're bein' watched.

At that moment, a pillar of fire sprayed down from the sky. Surprisingly, the warrior was the only one who could see it. ["Xena," it said to her.]

What in Tartarus?

["The Archangel Michael sent me to speak with you," a man's face indicated within the flames. "Eve has been chosen to be the Messenger of Eli. You must protect her against all of those who would harm her. To aid you, I have given you the power to kill immortals. You will have to kill the Olympians, including Ares."]

"If that's how it has to be," she agreed earnestly, guessing that it would have come to that point.

The fire-spirit disappeared into the sky, leaving her to her mission.

"Xena!" Gabrielle yelled. "The water! Look out there!"

Another look around revealed the waters away from shore churning. No! "Eve!"

At that moment, a watery giant rose from the ocean holding a trident in his left hand. Taking aim, Poseidon threw his weapon at Eve.

"NO!" Xena screamed, leaping to save her daughter.

However, the weapon found Eve first, ripping through her chest. She dropped to the sand, coughing blood.

"Eve," the warrior cried, looking at the dying woman.

"Mother, I die...cleansed," the former conqueror whispered with her last breath.

"Eve! No!" Xena begged. "Don't die."

But the younger woman lay still without breath.

"Too bad it had to come to this, Xena!" Athena's voice called out.

The warrior stood to see the other gods materialize in front of her. "You!" she hissed, drawing her sword.

"Xena, don't!" her companion advised.

"Stay back, Gabrielle! VENGEANCE!" the warrior growled, charging the Olympians.

Athena drew her sword and parried the blow from Xena's weapon. For several minutes, the duel dragged on.

Seeing that Poseidon had willed his trident back into his hand and was raising it for another strike, the Warrior Princess deflected a blast away from shore with her chakram.

Poseidon felt the fatal blast hit him square as he evaporated into nothingness. "No!"

"So it does work!" Xena hissed, turning back toward the other gods.

Athena yelled, "You'll pay for that, Xena!" Throwing two more bolts at the Thracian Amazon, the head goddess resumed the duel.

Finally, Discord snarled impatiently. "Quit this!" She uncorked a fatal blast into Xena's side. "Much better!" she gloated, examining the warrior's body.

"What did you do that for?" Ares growled.

"Stay out of this, Ares! Seems as if you don't have the balls for the job!" the leather-clad goddess chided.

"Some protector you are!" Gabrielle challenged.

"This wasn't my idea!" he retorted, the pain seeping into his voice as he kneeled over the fallen body of the Warrior Princess.

"Get away from her!" the Amazon queen ordered, squeezing herself between him and her friend.

"Hey!" the war god growled. "Don't stick me in this with them!"

Gabrielle glared at him through tear-soaked eyes. "You're worse than they are! How could you?" She got up and looked at Discord. "You, bitch!"

"Better talk nice to me, Sweets," the goddess in question challenged, willing up another blast.

Gabrielle ducked out of the initial blast. As she did, she lost the last of her composure and whipped her sais at Discord.

Deimos and Hades hit her from both sides, killing her instantly. With another shot, they eliminated the Baptist.

"And so it ends," Athena declared. "Zeus is avenged and so ends Eli's pitiful cult."

"You mean one thing ends and another begins," Ares countered. "Listen."

The others did so. At first, they heard nothing. Then, they discerned a scream building in the distance, taking on the tone of a forlorn banshee. For several minutes, it continued until it reformed into words. "Ah'll git y'all! Come on, Yellah Bellies! Come n' git your whuppin'!"

Ares shook his head. "Best get ready. Trouble's coming."

"Ya'll got that right!" the Voice from the Sky boomed, "Lousy stinkin' chicken shits! Ya'll know where Ah am!"

"Dubois," Discord realized, remembering her two encounters with the mentally deranged mortal.

"He's whacked if he thinks he can take all of us!" Deimos laughed.

"My axe will look good in his skull," Hephestus, the god of metalworking, bragged.

It'll be a heckuva feat to get it there, Ares mused.

"I will not be ridiculed by a mortal!" Athena added, waving her hands, teleporting them away from the scene.


Chapter 2 [Tucson-Present Day]

Eve stood before Maria Cantaro's "Ancient Greek History" class with a smile on her face. Her lecture dealt with the transition from the Olympian order to that of Eli. For almost an hour, she recited the tales from Gabrielle's scrolls, changing a detail here and there for her audience's benefit.

For their part, the students sat entranced. Although they were not normally so interested, there was something about the religion professor that grabbed their curiosity. Something that made them feel almost as if she had been there. Unbeknownst to most of them, she was indeed that Eve.

In the back, Dave sat with Francesca, Clark, Lana, and Chloe. The two faculty members enjoyed the detailed talk in addition to the obvious irony. For the Smallville students, they learned more about their friends with every word.

Too bad Nick has class, the medievalist mused. Down the hall, the Elder taught his British archaeology course. He'd enjoy this.

As she reached the part concerning her mother's initial standoff with the gods on the beach, she hesitated for a second, wincing as if in pain.

"Dr. Messenger?" Maria asked, her eyes staring. "Your chest!"

"I..." Eve looked down to see her blouse soaked through with blood before collapsing to the floor.

Immediately, Dave rushed to the front of the room to check on his friend. "Eve, hang in there. We'll get you to the UMC."

"No...time. Thank...you," she gasped and passed away.

The students didn't know what to make of this spectacle. They sat in shocked silence.

"Lana, get Dr. Miles now," Dave stated.

"Professor Dubois, you need to get over to the UMC!" Lana told him, grabbing onto the doorframe. "It's your wife."

Then, he felt it too. What the? Over the link he shared with Angie, he felt a surge of pain. "Clark, watch her! Lana, go and get Dr. Miles! NOW!" He rushed out the door. Once alone, he opened a mist portal and jumped into it, vanishing from view. Don't die on me, Princess. Please.


Across campus, Angie lay collapsed onto the hospital floor, gasping heavily for air. What is it? What now? Then, in her mind's eye, she saw the events replaying themselves on the beach and felt Xena's death. No! If she dies, then...

Karen crouched over her, checking her vital signs. "Hang in there, Angie! Come on!"

"Too...late...Xena's gone. The gods are...at work here," the oncologist managed to whisper.

"I can't get Dave," Lori told the gathering group. "Where is he?"

Karen concentrated and felt his drastically fluctuating moods. "He's on his way. Trust me."

As if on cue, the mist portal formed, allowing the medievalist to storm onto the scene. "Where is she?" he demanded.

"Dave, over here!" Karen declared, motioning for him.

He ran over, skidding to a halt by her side. "What happened?"

"I don't know. One minute she's fine...the next, she collapsed," his sister reported.

He took his wife's hand and stroked it gently. "Hey, you, you're scaring me. Stop it!"

Angie opened her eyes and managed a smile. "Hey...I knew...you'd...make it. Listen, take...care of the...girls."

"You stop talking like that!" he demanded. "We've been through worse. Just hang in there."

"Too...late. The gods have seen...to that," Angie whispered, her voice growing fainter. "Dave, I...love...you." With that, her eyes closed.

Karen felt for a pulse and shook her head sadly. "I'm sorry, Dave."

"No," he denied, the fury building inside of him. He shook from head to foot, feeling the darkness rise. "She can't be dead! She won't be dead!"

Karen hugged him tightly as her own tears started to fall.

Dr. Fishburne leaned over and rubbed his shoulder as well. He's been through so much already. "We'll get her taken care of. You go on."

"Stay away from her," Dave growled. "This ain't finished." Seeing the others beginning to pick her up, he bellowed, "Are you deaf? I told you to keep back!" The tears coursed down his face as he stood up.

"Now, David," Dr. Fishburne soothed. "You're upset."

The professor chuckled darkly even as he lapsed. "This...isn't upset...I'm...jus' getting' pissed..."

A second later, the Child screamed, "Git 'way! What are ya'll deaf? Ah told ya'll to git!"

"Go now!" Karen told them. "Clear the area. I'll do what I can to keep him in check! Just go! Lori, can you check on the girls?"

"Right," the receptionist agreed nervously, grabbing her purse and running for the elevator.

The administrator motioned everyone toward the exits. "You heard them!" If he's changed, I want everyone clear. "Everyone, out of this area now!" After the staff left, he told Karen, "I'll be in my office if there's anything else."

"Yes, sir. Thank you," she sobbed.

He nodded and left them alone.

"Na fair," the Child hissed tersely, the tears coursing down his cheeks. "Ah'm gonna git 'em fer this! First, Evie and now, 'er."

"Eve too?" Karen wondered. What's going on?

"Yeah. An'..." he started. "Aw, shit! What the Hell is goin' on? Frannie!"

"What?" she asked.

"They got 'er too," he hissed. "Stinkin' twits."


"Smutsky and his group a' twits! No freakin' more! Ya hear me!" he retorted sharply. "NO MORE!" For a minute, he screamed his rage and anger to the walls around him.

"This isn't doing anyone any good," Karen protested.

"Nah, this is gonna do me good," he bellowed. "Ah'll git ya'll. Come on, Yellah Bellies! Come n' git your whuppin'!"

"They can't hear you back in ancient Rome!" she told him.

He grinned. "Ares just did. Ooh yeah! Ah'm ready to start dishin' out."

At that moment, Cybelle appeared. "By the goddess! What happened?"

"Ares and the other gods apparently killed Xena, Gabrielle, and Eve," Karen sighed.

"History's already changing and...." The priestess looked around. "They're on the campus. Ares and his group are here!"

"Goodie fer them! Let's git Little Woman to yer place. Then Ah want them creeps!" the Child asserted.

"Done!" Cybelle told them. "Genaria's already gone after the three bodies in the past."

The Dark One picked Angie up in his arms and carried her into the mists.

"Can you get Steve Petersen?" Cybelle asked Karen. Seeing the latter nod, the priestess vanished behind their brother, closing the portal behind her.

Karen shook her head as she dialed the phone. Steve and Garth, brace yourselves.


Chapter 3

Lydia rushed into the Social Sciences Building and down the hall toward Eve's class site. Unbelievable. What's going on? As she approached the room, she saw the students huddled outside in shock over something.

"What happened?" she asked them.

A blonde female student replied sadly, "Dr. Messenger collapsed in the middle of her lecture. Then Dr. Alvaro did the same. They're both dead."

"No!" Lydia protested, running into the room. There, she saw that the room had been emptied save for Maria Cantaro, the new mutant students, and Nick Miles who stood guard over the fallen women. "Maria, Nick, what is it? What happened?"

"They...they...collapsed," Maria replied hesitantly. "Dave ran out into the hall and we haven't seen him since."

"Nick?" Lydia asked,

"They're both gone," the archaeologist stated. How am I going to explain this to LaCroix?

"And Dave?"

"Changed," Nick asserted. Just then, he looked around the area, his senses picking up on something. "Lydia, get those students in the hall out of here! Maria, go with her! Now! Clark, get the door!"

When Maria and Lydia had left, Clark shut the door. "Now what?" he asked.

"We're about to find out," the Elder told him. "Get ready! If you can contact Adam and the others, I suggest you do so!"

Before anyone could make another move, Athena, Ares, Hades, Deimos, Discord, and Hephestus, materialized in their midst.

"Yup, this is the place all right," Ares told his companions. Glaring at the vampire, he challenged, "We want the bodies."

Nick's eyes turned yellow and his fangs descended as he vamped out. "Try it," he hissed.

"I'd listen to him," Clark advised, stepping between the newcomers and his friends.

"Oh yeah, right," Ares willed up a blast and fired at the teenager...only to see the burst have no effect. "How in Tartarus?"

"I'm full of surprises!" Clark retorted, winding up and punching the war god into the wall. "Back off!"

Chloe 'glowed on' and irradiated the invaders with various frequencies. "Stop it before we really have to hurt you!"

Athena growled. These mortals are more than what they seem. Still, we will not suffer this abuse. "We won't be dictated to by mortal children!" She flung twin energy pulses at the remaining girls. Chloe's passed through her radiation form, impacting with the wall. The other blast staggered Lana for a second before she regained her footing.

"Take this!" the former cheerleader replied, returning fire.

The gods couldn't believe that she had used their own energy against them.

"Surround them!" Athena commanded.

But before the attackers could do so, a snarling could be heard from behind them. As one, friend and foe turned to see Cybelle standing there grimly. Worse still, the Child growled, unable to speak and burning with rage.

"Stop now," Cybelle commanded, her hands glowing with mystical energy. "What have you done?"

"We killed Xena and her companions. What's it to you?" Hades challenged.

"Step aside, Cybelle. You can't stand against us," Ares challenged.

The Child snickered darkly, allowing his hands to glow with dark light. The fragment glowed like a neutron star and his left eye was blood red. "GRRRAARRR!"

"I'd give up now," Nick advised, stepping to his friend's side.

Athena, Discord, and Deimos hit the Child simultaneously with energy blasts.

The Dark One staggered but returned fire, stunning them in return.

"This is so pointless," Ares hissed.

"Either join in or stay out! Either way, I'm changing things now!" Hades asserted, willing up a mega fire burst and throwing it at the Enraged One.

Recalling the stories he had heard on the way back from the Dark Realm, Ares winced. Dumb.

The blast hit the Child, knocking him back into the wall hard and causing him to scream. "RAARRRRGGGHHH!!!"

"Finish him!" Athena ordered.

Cybelle interceded. "If you can come through me, Sweets." With that, she nailed the head goddess square, knocking her backward.

Nick felt something coming from the Child. Something's definitely not right here.

Clark looked over at the Child from where he was wrapped up with Hephestus. "What's with him?"

Through her "spirit vision," Lana could make out a dark corona forming around their professor's alter ego. "Clark, something's happening!"

The Child glared at the other combatants as he turned black with the dark red glow. A crimson fire burned about him. Something else-both eyes were open. He pointed at Hades and threw dark fire at the god of the Underworld.

The fire hit Hades. The flames spread quickly, consuming him. He ran around the room screaming in pain. Two minutes later, he hit the floor in a dead heap.

"Venge...ance," the Child growled. Wheeling on Discord, he blasted her with a pulse, smacking her into the wall, snapping her neck in the process.

Hephestus tried to whip a chain around the maniac professor.

The latter grabbed the chain and sent a hellacious jolt through it, frying the forge god and dropping him as well.

Athena gaped. "Ares, how is he doing this?"

"This is new. I suggest we split!" the war god urged.

"Ye...llah," the Child snarled.

Athena shook her head furiously. I thought Xena was the only one who could kill gods. "He's right. There will be another day." Turning to the mortals and Nick, she challenged, "If you come after us, you'll face us and our followers!"

"Ah'll be there! Bring 'em on!" the Child bellowed.

The gods teleported themselves and their dead companions away from that place.

"That was different," Chloe said, landing and glowing off.

The Child hissed in disgust. "Shit! Damn 'em! Little Woman's dead cuz of 'em!" He kneeled over Eve and Francesca. "Ah couldn't save 'em. Couldn't help 'em."

"Ummm...Dr. Miles, in the corner," Lana indicated, pointing to the glow over there.

They turned to see Lorenzo standing there watching them.

"Now what? Grandpa, how could ya let this happen!" the Child spat angrily.

"It wasn't my idea," the angel sighed sadly. "But you're wrong. There is a way to save them."

"And that is?" Nick asked. "Lorenzo, what is it?"

"Michael has given David the power to kill gods. Now, he must go and defeat them," the angel asserted. "It's his task now, but he can't do it alone."

"What will be waiting there?" Cybelle asked.

"They have an army of followers to stop any incursion," Lorenzo pointed out.

"An' this is what an' when?" the Child asked. "Ita...ly...about oh...what...80 AD?"

"Yes. Why?" Lorenzo retorted.

Nick gave the other a curious stare. Oh, he's thinking of the impossible. Then again, this time he might go for it.

"Cybbie, git Croisie! We're gonna talk," the Dark One urged.

The priestess nodded, summoning the mists. "Consider it done. Clark, can I get some help with Eve and Francesca?"

The farm boy picked Eve up in his arms and carried her into the mists.

The priestess carried her cousin into the portal.

"Meet us at the Gato," Nick directed.

The priestess nodded as she vanished.

"Come on," Nick asserted.

"For what it's worth, I'm sorry," Lorenzo asserted as he vanished.

The Child fell to his knees and cried. "Damn 'em! Ah wanna kill 'em! Ah want 'em dead!"

"I know. Kids, if anyone needs us, we'll be at the El Gato. See to the twins," the Elder advised. "Come on, we'll take the Caddy." Seeing the Dark One nod, he guided his grieving friend."

"We'll let the others know, Professor," Chloe assured him.

Getting only the smallest of nods, the girls watched their mentor depart.

"Let's get the others," Chloe told Lana as they left the room.


Chapter 4 [Faerie Realms]

The Faerie Empress speaks....

Even if one wasn't watching the events on Outer Earth closely, nobody could miss David's outburst. As his friend from the future foretold, he has evolved yet again. Darker and meaner than ever, he teeters on the razor's edge. Fortunately, Nicholas remains vigilant in his watch over him. Meantime, I've sent Grimwilkin to Ferali's door for aid once more.

Cybelle is heading for Toronto to speak with the vampire, LaCroix.

Right now, David needs all of the friends he can get....


[Toronto-CERK Radio]

LaCroix sat in his radio booth, overseeing his latest broadcast as the Nightcrawler. The topic on that particular evening concerned estranged family members. Given the Elder's own experiences with Nick and Eve, the issue held deep significance. For some reason, I feel ill at ease...as if... At that moment, he felt another presence in the room.

"It took you long enough," Cybelle indicated dryly.

He scowled. "What are you doing here, Witch?"

"Watch it. I'm not in the mood, Lucius," she hissed at him. "We have a serious problem."

"Again?" he chuckled. "It seems your brother is always creating problems for us all."

The priestess released an energy blast, scoring the wall beside his head. "I'm serious! This is important!"

"What is it this time?"

"Eve died tonight," she sighed. "I figured you would want to know."

"You lie!" he hissed, vamping out.

"Keep a lid on it!" she retorted firmly. "Xena and Gabrielle are dead as well."

"Really? Interesting. And I suppose Dubois is enraged?" he replied.

"That's putting it mildly," she informed him. "The gods struck them down. Ares showed them where they were."

At the sound of the war god's name, the General growled noticeably. Curse him. Again, he seeks to take more from me! "One minute." He switched the console back on, saying, "I think that's enough chatter for tonight, Gentle Listeners. The night is pleasant. Go out and enjoy it for I have a mission that cannot wait. I'll be back soon. Remember, my children, that I love you all--for I am the Nightcrawler." With that, he signed off.

"Corny but effective," she scoffed. "Do you think Divia can handle things here?"

"She'll want to be there," he replied. "She's at the Raven."

She willed up a portal. "Step through and you'll be there."

He did so and she followed closely behind.


[Halls End, Kingdom of Ruthwen]

Ferali slid his pint-sized armor on over his shoulders, feeling its reassuring weight on his back. I'll need this before the adventure is through.

"I'm sorry to drag you out of council, my friend," Grimwilkin apologized. "Matters of state are important."

The gnome-king shrugged. "Tedious, you mean." He eyed the blade of his axe carefully. "I'd rather deal with a horde of trolls than a roomful of bureaucrats. Besides, we have bigger issues to deal with, my friend."

"Indeed," the wizard concurred. "For the Lady has asked us to venture to Outer Earth tonight and attend to our friend. We have a dire situation."

"David has suffered too much. What is it now? I hope Angela can help him," Ferali stated, whipping his weapon through the air.

"Angela was murdered tonight," Grimwilkin reported. "The history of Outer Earth changes with each passing hour. The Olympian gods changed destiny, striking down our warrior allies, Xena, Gabrielle, and Eve. In the process, they slew Angela and Francesca."

No. Not after his family. Ferali screamed in rage and buried his ax's head in an oak beam. "Damn them! This will not go unpunished!" He stalked over to the gong beside the throne and struck it hard with the baton.

Two servants rushed into the chamber. "Yes?"

"Prepare the council chamber for an emergency meeting. Prepare rooms for Meroli, Eadmer, Elsin, Grimwilkin, and Garth Singleton," Ferali informed them.

"We shall convene within the hour. Go! You heard your ruler!" the wizard added.

Ferali stared out the window toward the horizon and the Dark Land just beyond. He recalled the trials that he and his friends had endured there. You deserve peace, David. If only I could give you this mantle so I could go back to fighting. "Either way, Grimwilkin, Ruthwen is at war with these so-called gods and their cowardly minions! I hope for aid, but the knights respect David and will want to avenge Xena and Gabrielle. Enough so that we'll go it alone."

"Come," Grimwilkin assured him. "I don't think that will be necessary. Meroli won't stand for this either. Remain calm, Ferali. We will stand with our friend in his time of need as he has done with us in the past."

"Count on it," the resident host hissed, ripping the axe out of the wood and stalking off toward the meeting room. "Meantime, I need to meet with my generals."


True to Grimwilkin's word, the lords of the surrounding kingdoms sat around the meeting table an hour later. With Deirdre's aid, they appeared suddenly and took their places. Meroli, the elf-king of Nurrengaard sat to Ferali's left. On the host's right, Eadmer and Elsin of the Plateau regions awaited word about the summons. To Elsin's left, Varia the Amazon stewed over the death of her sisters.

"Grim tidings appeared in the skies tonight at sunset," Meroli noted.

Eadmer nodded. "Aye. The sky was blood red and the air seemed charged."

"I wonder why," Varia scoffed sarcastically, shaking her head in disgust.

Elsin inquired, "Varia, what happened?"

Seeing Ferali and Grimwilkin enter the chamber, the Amazon regent replied, "They will tell us in a moment."

As soon as the doors closed, Grimwilkin leaned heavily on his staff in the corner and made no effort to hide his concern.

Ferali slumped onto the throne and glared at his comrades. Thank the goddess that they're all here. "Good evening, my friends, and thank you for coming on such short notice. We have an emergency to deal with on this night. Several of our friends have died because of a cowardly attack on Outer Earth."

"That's David's responsibility," Meroli pointed out.

"And he is dealing with it as best as he can," Grimwilkin pointed out. "However, one of those who passed away is his wife."

"As well as Queen Gabrielle, Princess Eve, and Xena," Varia snapped.

A hush descended around the table.

"Who could do this?" Eadmer demanded.

"The Olympian gods. You've met Ares. He's one of them," Varia continued angrily. "They changed history tonight."

"What do you mean?" Ferali wondered.

"Eve was supposed to be baptized as the Messenger of Eli. Xena supposedly slew most of the Olympians soon after that. However, now the gods have turned the tables, killing them. When Xena died, the bond between her and Angela was severed," Varia recounted.

"And Papa has changed. According to Aunt Cybelle, he's darker now. Mama held him in check, but now, I don't know," Deirdre added, choking back her tears. "I won't lose him to the darkness now! I won't!"

"Not if I can help it," Ferali reassured her, remembering the scene at the farmhouse. "Your father will not be alone in this time of need. My generals requested the Muster of Ruthven and I have granted it to them. By daybreak, 200,000 troops will be ready to march."

"And the Amazons are also ready for war," Varia grimly agreed. "Nobody attacks our queen. Besides, we owe David for his help against Velasca."

"The Faerie Empress has instructed the priestesses to join you as well," Deirdre chimed in.

Eadmer looked to Elsin and nodded. "For the future, we say yes as well. Give us until tomorrow at noon. Deirdre, can you get us back to the Plateau as soon as the meeting is over? From there, we can begin our preparations."

"Of course," the priestess agreed.

"And Nurrengaard will not turn its back on one of its own. My warriors stand ready to fight for their friends' honor as well," Meroli concluded. "Well then, it seems we are on our way to war, Gentlebeings. Ferali, do we need a vote, then?"

The gnome shrugged. "I think we know what the result will be already, but all those favoring war, show your hands."

As one, everyone in the chamber raised his or her hand.

"I see," Grimwilkin commented dryly, raising his staff in the air as well. "We are in agreement."

"Return to your respective lands and muster your arms. With the assistance of the priestesses, we'll meet at noon at the edge of the plains of Joltenheim," Ferali instructed. "By then, I wish to give our friends a definite show of support."

The others stood and filed out of the room, heading for where the priestesses awaited them.

Ferali stormed out of the area. "Come, Grimwilkin, first we set things in motion. Then, we have a trip of our own to take."

The wizard nodded. A gesture of support might be what he needs right now.


[Campus, Adam's office]

Adam sat at his computer, typing away on a report for the upper administration. While he was glad that the officials supported his ideas for new classes, he didn't like the paperwork. Still, it is a necessary evil, he mused, hitting the "Save" button.

Almost time to call Shalimar and the others. He looked the document over one last time before sending it off to print. Then he heard a knock at the door. "Yes?"

"Dr. Kane?" Lana asked. "It's Lana and Chloe. Can we come in?"

What are they doing here at 11:00? He opened the door to find the two girls staring back at him. The concern was very clearly written on their faces. "What's going on?"

Chloe slumped into a chair with a miserable look on her face. "We start with a class and end up with a bloodbath."

He furrowed his brow. "What? What happened?"

"You mean Emma hasn't come in here yet?" Lana sighed.

"Should she have? What happened tonight?" he wondered.

"Drs. Messenger, Alvaro, and Dubois dropped dead. Worse, Professor Dubois had another of his tantrums, although this time it was justified," Lana continued.

Angela's gone too? He winced, not knowing what they would do. "Tantrum, you say?"

"As in Wabash-level from last year. Fortunately, we got everyone out of the room before the attack," Lana continued.

"Attack?" he inquired.

"Yeah," Chloe reported. "These weird people popped out of nowhere, demanding the professors' bodies. We stood up to them and so did Clark. One other thing, they called us 'mortals'."

"Mortal children actually," her classmate clarified. "After we had the others clear, Professor Dubois and Cybelle showed up. One of the attackers hit him with a fireball or something. He was already in well...you know what mode, but this really made him go berserk. He...well...he killed three of the attackers."

Adam frowned. He actually murdered three of them? "Just a minute." Speaking into his comlink, he called, "Emma?"

"Yeah, Adam?" Emma replied.

"Have you picked up on anything tonight?" he asked.

"That's an understatement. I've been overwhelmed here. What happened? I've been getting images of Angie lying dead or something," the psionic noted.

"She's dead. So are Drs. Messenger and Alvaro," Chloe responded. "Was he like this in New York?"

"Yes," Emma replied anxiously. "Adam, I'm picking up on him right now. Believe it or not, he's actually quieting down. Still, he's incredibly upset."

"Fortunately, it's summer pre-session, so there weren't too many people around," Adam agreed. "Where is he? Can you pick up on him, Emma?"

"He's riding with Nick, I think," the psionic guessed.

"They're heading for the vampire bar, I think," Lana said, recalling Nick's last words to them.

"I'm calling Lex. Should I have him meet us there?" the reporter asked, pulling out her cell phone.

"That would be a good idea," he concurred. "Emma, can you get the Sanctuary ready for guests? I'm asking Dave and his daughters to stay with us. I don't want him alone."

"Absolutely," Emma concluded, signing off.

"Okay, let's go," he told the two female students. "Can you drive your car, Chloe?"

"Absolutely," she agreed. "Follow me." She headed out the door with the others following closely behind.


[New Sanctuary]

As Adam and the others headed for the El Gato Negro, Emma signed off and shook her head. When do we say 'enough is enough'? Apparently, Dave already has. She shuddered, recalling the dark explosion from several hours before. What happened in that room? How has it changed him and the Child? She took a deep breath and walked out of the lab. At the bottom of the stairs, she found her teammates sitting around the table, sharing in a game of poker.

"Hey," Jesse greeted her. "Want to take my place? I'm out."

"No thanks," she declined.

Brennan and Shalimar studied their friend's features.

"Hey, Em," Shalimar asked. "Are you okay?"

"No, I'm not. I'm still feeling the headache from earlier."

The electrical mutant looked anxiously at her. "Anything to do with Dave?"

Emma nodded. "Angie died earlier tonight in his arms."

The quartet froze and dropped their cards. Recalling the Wabash scenario, they could easily imagine the potential rampage.

Max took a deep breath to calm herself down before asking, "Any word from Tucson?"

"I just spoke to Adam. Apparently, there was a battle of some sort. We're bringing Dave and his daughters back here tonight," the psionic stated.

"And if he doesn't want to come?" Brennan asked. "We can't exactly force him to come with us, especially in his dark ugly mood."

"We'll think of something," Shalimar replied. "Come on, we better get going. Did Adam say where they were going?"

"The Gato," Emma sighed as they headed for the Double Helix. Brennan's right. What if he resists and wants to be left alone? That could be a big problem.

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