Aftershocks
David J. Duncan
July 2001

For notes & such, please see Part 1



Chapter 11

That night, Tracy pulled into the parking lot behind the precinct. Looking around, she saw no sign of the Caddy, nor Natalie's or Schanke's respective cars. But then again, they had all been avoiding her lately, in any event. She sighed deeply. Perhaps, she was being way too cynical over the Xena thing. Perhaps, her friends knew something about the case that she didn't? And would it be so bad to give them some leeway so that they could explain their views?

"Something weird's going on," she surmised, picking up her pace through the dimly lit lot.

"You can say that again," a familiar voice replied.

The detective froze. That voice...It sounded like.... "Vachon?" she asked, turning to see the Iberian vampire standing behind her.

"Yeah, Trace. It's me. Took me long enough to track you down," he answered.

"B...But, you're dead. You forced me to stake you," she argued.

"We missed. You got me just above the heart. The pain was enough to cause me to black out for awhile, but eventually, I woke up and dug my way free," he recounted. "After that, I have searched Toronto for you. I heard that you and Miles were dead, but I refused to believe it."

"I did die," she admitted, a tear forming in her right eye. "But, I was sent back to finish my tasks here on Earth." She sobbed a bit.

"What's wrong?" he wondered, taking a tissue to dab her tears.

At first, she wanted to pull away, but surprisingly, she let him wipe away the moisture. Then, she continued, "I...I never had the chance to tell you how I feel." The emotions from the night of his "death" surfaced suddenly and swept across her consciousness. 

"And that would be?" he asked.

Tracy spontaneously grabbed his face and planted a long, wet kiss on his mouth. For a long minute, they lingered in this contact before she needed to surface for air. "Like that," she giggled nervously, suddenly feeling a schoolgirl on her first date.

The vampire, for his part, stepped back to consider the situation for a moment. In the time they had known each other in Toronto, there had always been a cat and mouse game between them. He never knew whether she wanted to be intimate or just friends. "I guess I know now," he thought mischieviously.

"So, when did you get back into town?" she wondered.

"Two nights ago," he indicated. "Thank the Duboises for that. They gave me a lift although they didn't know it. That cloud trick is something else."

She nodded, "Yeah, it can be a bit disorienting. I had to do it once back in New Mexico and it takes some getting used to."

"That was a weird day. First, watching the scene in that junkyard between Xena and Gabrielle. Then, seeing your friends there and catching a ride...Wow," he recounted.

"Right. Everyone says that there is something weird going on," she interjected. "Something about two Xenas and two Gabrielles."

"I don't know about that," he continued. "But that hag, Alti, was there and Xena took off with her, leaving her blonde friend in a bloody heap. Then, there was that mess at the museum last night...."

That comment made her ears perk up. "What mess? I know Nick and Schanke were there, but they're keeping mum about it. What do you know?"

Vachon thought about what to tell her about the situation. Then, he reported, "The Enforcers attacked the museum last night and stole some chest and a necklace. Nick, Alyce Harriss, and I were cornered. And then, the door blows in and your friend, Dubois, stepped in through the smoke, took down two Enforcers on either side of himself and stared down the leader, Bertrand du Dijon. I couldn't believe a mortal would have the nerve to do that."

She snickered, "Oh, trust me, Dave has that much gall, and you don't want to get him mad. He beat...I mean pummeled...Divia up in New York state."

"He beat her?" Vachon wondered, remembering how powerful LaCroix's daughter was. "Anyway, it sounded as if he and Dijon have a history."

"According to Nick, they do. Apparently, Dijon and his Enforcers were sent by LaCroix to kill Tony Samuelssohn in 1989. They did that, but midway through the job, our boy arrived and challenged them. In that battle, your Code-Protectors set him off and triggered his Dark Whatsis. Since that night, both he and Dijon have sworn to kill the other at the right time," Tracy told him.

"So, that's what did it," he realized. "Wow, there had been stories about him. Then, I saw the fight at the Raven....Ay caramba!"

"You were there?" she needled. "So, there was a fight?"

"Oh, there was a fight all right. Two of them actually. Xena and LaCroix dueled until sunrise. Then, Dubois and Janette mixed it up in the corner. Nick interceded before things got too rough, but Dubois nearly lost it in there as well," he continued.

Tracy mentally stored all of these items away for future reference. At some point, she would get all of the dirt on the Raven situation. Still, that was a matter for another night. Right now, they had the situation in front of them. "So, is there anything else that you can tell me?" she asked.

He shook his head, "Not right now. But, I'll be in touch. You can count on it." With a smile, he took off into the sky, leaving the detective behind.

She smiled contentedly. At least now, she could face Ramirez's lecture.

*******

Meantime, in the morgue, Natalie sat at her desk and pensively stared at Nick and Schanke who nervously twitched in silence. For five minutes, nobody had been able to speak because they all dreaded the lecture from Ramirez which they knew was coming within the hour.

Finally, the ME started, "So, what happened to the chest? I heard it was taken."

Schanke gaped and stared at Nick, "I didn't say a word!"

"Relax, Schank," the vampire maintained. "The word is out. So, who told you?"

"Steve Petersen stopped by earlier today," she commented. "Apparently, he's in town to arrest our friends. But, he talked to Dave first and was set straight on a few things."

The paunchy detective suddenly felt a shudder. "Yeah, like the 'don't mess with my family' speal. I can see Dave pullin' that one on him."

"So, what else did Steve say?" Nick probed.

"Apparently, he's going to work with us in getting to the bottom of this mess. Since so many of us have seen both the real Gabrielle and the clone simultaneously, he's willing to jump in. Just as long as the clones are stopped," she reported.

"And his superiors?" the blonde detective followed.

"They gave him 36 hours to come up with some hard proof. Not a helluva lot of time if you ask me. However, he is going to go with Dave to the lecture at the U of A tonight," she continued.

"It makes sense," Nick realized. "Alti's going to want a public spectacle to draw on fear, and that audience would be perfect!"

"Especially when she has her powers back," Tracy stated, from outside the open door. She walked into the room and closed the door behind her. "You really should be more careful." Looking at the three guilty faces, she shrugged, "Vachon already told me everything."

Natalie glanced at Nick and inquired, "Vachon's back? Nick, you didn't say...."

"Yes, he's back," Tracy continued. "And he's filled me in on several items not to mention your little party at the museum last night. So, are we going after that hag or what?"

The coroner shook her head and disagreed, "That would not be a good idea. Trust me, Tracy, I know what that woman can do to your head. Discretion is the better part of valor here."

"But, we can't let her get away!" the other woman protested.

"Who said anything about letting her get away with it?" her immortal partner surmised. "Dave's got a plan, and we're working with him on it. We're staking out the session tonight,"

"And we're gonna drop every homicide in this part of town?" Schanke supposed. "C'mon, Nick!"

Just then, the phone rang, allowing Natalie to break away from the conversation, "Lab, Lebeau," she answered.

"Natalie, this is the captain speaking. Listen, I'm going to keep this short. Umm, please let the detectives know that you and Detectives Miles and Schanke are working with the FBI until further notice. I just received a call from Bill Campbell in San Francisco, and he commandeered you to work with Agent Petersen. Comprende?" Ramirez explained.

"Got it," she agreed.

"How is the Mendoza case coming?" he pushed.

She looked at the slashing victim on the table and declared, "She's ready to go, Captain. I'll have the report signed, sealed, and delivered to you within the hour."

"Muy bien!" her superior complemented. "I'll expect that paperwork from you on your way out. By the way, Agent Petersen said that you would know where to meet him?"

"Yes, Sir, we do indeed. Be seeing you in just a few minutes. Thanks!" she concluded and hung up.

"So, what was that about?" Schanke asked.

"Apparently, Steve took care of the red tape. We're working directly with the FBI now. Ramirez just ordered us to the session," she stated, standing up from behind the computer. "I'll meet you in a few minutes after I change."

The others nodded and left the area. Nick allowed a bright smile to flicker at her before his depature.

Natalie straightened the area up and put the corpse back in the cooler. Finally, she changed into her good suit and printed up the report. Looking around her, she mused, "Steve, I hope we're all going to be okay." With that, she shut the lights and left the examination room.

*****************************

[Althanor, On the Shores of the Great Lake]

Cybelle's conference with the high priestess had dragged on for hours. During this time, Gabrielle's clone glanced out across the waters and into the fog. As Xena had done the night before, the Bard wondered how their next confrontation with the shamaness would go. However, another question burned at her: Did she truly belong there? She was, after all, a clone...a fabrication.

"Gabrielle?" Francesca asked. "There you are!"

The Bard-clone turned to see the woman with whom her true essence was bonded. Sensing the dual-presence in front of her, she sighed despondently.

"What's wrong?" the literature professor probed.

"It's me. I guess....I realize that I'm just a fake, unnatural..." the other started.

Francesca's temper flared, and she informed the other, "Look, Gabrielle! Yes, maybe your body was grown in a tube, okay? But, I know you. I feel you, and you are like my twin sister. You are not unnatural or a fake. You are still Gabrielle, warrior, bard, Amazon queen."

Concentrating within the light, she changed into the 'other' Gabby and continued, "We are pieces of each other. Don't forget that." 

With that comment, the two women embraced tightly.

"Now, isn't that great?" Xena smiled as she approached them. "Look alive. Cybelle's ready to take us back to Tucson."

"Indeed," the priestess agreed, "I am ready." Summoning the fog, she indicated, "Step through. I will be right behind you."

The three women vanished into the mists. As Cybelle prepared to do the same, she looked over her shoulder. Behind her, her sister priestesses had gathered to wish her well. With a silent wave, they conveyed this feeling to her. With a curt nod, she reciprocated. Then, she stepped into the mists, vanishing from the holy site, and once again, entering the world of man.

As the bank dissipated, the High Priestess raised her eyes to the sky and invoked, "Great Mother, help your daughter and her allies as they fight your most accursed enemy on this night! Guide and protect them please!"

In response, the moon showed through the clouds, illuminating the concern on the sisterhood's faces as they prayed for their friends' success on that evening.


Chapter 12

Even as Natalie and the detectives left the precinct building, heading for the university, activity stirred at the Arizona Inn as well. There, Alti meditated silently, preparing herself for a possible confrontation. She remembered her last visit to this place with Ares very well. Trust Dubois to be waiting for her with surprises at hand.

"Are you ready?" Dijon inquired. "You only have an hour."

"Patience, my immortal friend," she advised. "I only need to shift my appearance like so." Focusing, her appearance shimmered, taking on the form of a normal academic. "How do I look?"

"Very good," the Burgundian complemented. "Do you want me nearby?"

"No. If you stay here, you'll be close enough to intervene if needed. If you come with me, Dubois will sense your presence," she disagreed. "Stand ready though."

"Indeed," he agreed.

The shamaness grinned enthusiastically. How ironic! To speak on herself! "I wonder if the irony would be lost on anyone?" she cackled.

"Probably not," the Xena clone indicated. "So, when are we going to move?"

"Soon, My Dear. Very soon," the shamaness assured her creation. "When we get there, I want you to conceal yourself behind the curtain. I'll signal you when it's time."

The duplicate nodded, albeit unenthusiastically. She hated the waiting game and wanted to kick tail right then and there.

****************************************

Dave had cancelled his office hour and had April hold his calls in an effort to prepare for the evening's events. For most of the afternoon, he locked himself in his office and floated in a meditative trance to collect both his and the Child's thoughts. The setting for this activity was as surreal as possible. Prayer candles burned in every corner of the room, incense permeated the air, and a faint Celtic chant could be heard eminating from the CD player. Whatever it took, the professor was determined not to let the witch get to him this time.

After several hours of this activity, he detected another presence in the room. Snapping his eyes open, he recognized Cybelle standing in the corner, observing him. "Hi, Sis. How long have you been there?"

"Only a few seconds," the priestess smiled. "Your senses are getting very refined. Good. Nice use of ritual here. When did you...?"

"I observed your sisters during my trip to Althanor," he replied. "Did you get the herbs?"

She nodded and handed him a brown pouch. "Here they are, straight from the Faerie Ring itself. The High Priestess sends her regards and blessing as well, Dave."

"And I thank her," he expressed. "If we're right, tonight will be a fierce test."

"Indeed," she agreed. "Especially if the other Xena's with her."

"They're both close at hand," he revealed, "as are Dijon and his goons. I sensed them during my meditation." Reaching under his desk, he produced five shafts with hollow arrowheads in addition to a mortar and pestel. Opening the pouch on his desk, he saw several piles of plants. "St. John's Wart," he smiled.

"Among other things," Cybelle informed him. "Be careful how you use that stuff."

"Right. Well, I think this stuff will give our witch a nasty surprise," he snickered. "Kind of ironic, don't you think?"

"What is?" she asked.

"Alti's speaking on shamanistic ritual, and I'm going to beat her at her own game," he grinned, grinding the herbs into a thick paste, filling the arrowpoints with the stuff, and placing wicks in them. "If she tries anything, I'll shoot her so full of this stuff, she'll fly higher than a kite on a summer breeze."

She watched the preparations with admiration. Dave's trials and tribulations over the past three years had reforged him so that he wasn't so rash. Also, the deal between the two sides of his personality had to be admired as well. Always an expert strategist, he now prepared with precision and the patience not present in the past. "Nick and Xena have done their work well," she mused. Looking at her watch, she indicated, "We're under twenty minutes now until the talk starts. All set?"

"On my end," he agreed, placing the shafts back in his quiver and checking the bow one last time. "How about the others?"

"Angie, Francesca, and Eve are going to meet us there. The other Gabrielle will be right outside if needed," she explained.

"Good," he replied nervously. "It's time. Let's go." With that, he placed his gear in a duffel bag and walked downstairs, followed closely by his sister who had disguised her appearance. 

Making their way through the busy crowd, the two siblings made their way into Social Sciences 100. As predicted, the room was stuffed with onlookers, but, with the aid of his senses, found Angie and the others quickly.

"Hi, Honey," the oncologist greeted, kissing his cheek.

"Hi, Princess," he replied. "When did you get back?"

"This afternoon," Francesca informed him. 

Dave scanned the room. In the back, he saw Steve standing by the door. Over by the side door, he sensed Nick's presence and was sure that Schanke would be close to him.

Right at 9 PM, Caitlin Sommers rose from her seat to the left of the podium and announced, "Good Evening, Everyone. I want to welcome you all to this special session. Tonight's speaker comes to us from the University of the Ukraine. She is an expert on ancient shamanistic practices. Let's welcome Dr. Althea Stepperider."

After the crowd applauded, Stepperider stepped onto the dais and began to speak. For fifteen minutes, she droned on about common facts concerning the Steppe. Then, she allowed her eyes to glimmer at Dave in addition to his companions and stated, "Of course, men are not known for their feats during this time. In fact, the shamanesses often trounced them."

Caitlin stared at her speaker and then, at her friend. What was going on? Then, an icy feeling ran up her spine. For some reason, she felt as if this woman had met her before. Looking at Dave, she mouthed, "Who?"

He glanced at Angie knowingly and then nodded. Focusing on the speaker, he saw her suddenly for what she was. "Alti," he whispered, a smile spreading across his face.

"I would ask a question of an audience member if I could?" Stepperider requested and continued to press on without waiting for a response, "Mr. Dubois, what do you think?"

Francesca, Eve, and Angie stared at him nervously. 

For his part, he shrugged and replied, "About what?"

"My statement of course. I have it good authority that you would know about such things," the speaker baited.

He shook his head and retorted, "And how would you know that?" The concentration was evident on his face as sweat beaded across his forehead.

"What are you doing?" Angie hissed low, not understanding why he was engaging in this deadly gamble.

"Get ready! And trust me, I know what I'm doing!" he whispered. Then, turning back to the questioner, he continued, "I asked you a question, Madam. Can you answer it or would you allow me to tell a story of my own? Everyone, despite what our speaker said, there are exceptions to the rule. Alti was a mighty shamaness in her own day, wouldn't you say, Dr. Stepperider?"

"Yes indeed," Stepperider concurred. "Your point is?"

"Well, despite her power, or...dare I say...the stolen powers of others, she still couldn't beat a certain man face to face. In fact, rumor has it that the last time they confronted each other, she ran like the coward she is...oops...I meant was...." he taunted deliberately, watching the other carefully.

His words burned at her craw. Oh, would she make him pay for those remarks! Running her hands through her sandy-brown hair, the disguised witch signalled to the rear of the room.

Up on the catwalk, the Xena clone grinned and flung her chakram towards Dave.

As the weapon neared him, Dave sensed its flight, but kept his attention focused on the podium. Suddenly, just as it was a foot from his head, he snatched it out of thin air. "Whoa! Lookie here!" he cracked and turned to the catwalk. There, he saw the other Xena leaning over the rail.

"Angie, Francesca, Eve, get going! Now!" he advised.

Alti hissed menacingly. By now, the cattle was getting nervous in the audience. Worse still, Dubois was indeed ready for her.

For her part, the clone flipped down to the audience level and rushed towards Dave.

"Get real!" he snickered and fired a psychic bolt at the doppelganger, knocking her off of her feet momentarily. "Now, drop the act, Alti," he challenged.

"As you wish," she agreed, shifting her form back to the military garb of previous incarnations. "Yes, you were right and now, your friends are going to die for it."

Everyone in the room recoiled at once in fear. The witch was back...again! Still remembering the last time, they rushed for the exits in a maddened frenzy. For their part, Schanke and Steve tried to control the exodus, but had little luck in doing so.

The shamaness soaked in the wave of terror and laughed, "Oh, that is sweet! Fear from the sheep! Yes, Dubois, you were right. Now, what are you going to do about it?"

Dave looked about him. Fortunately, the others had mostly made it to the exits and disappeared into the night. "I'm going to put you back where you belong, Hag," he hissed.

"And he's not alone," Nick indicated, alighting in front of her on the stage.

"The vampire!" she complained. "Oh, go away!" She rushed him, readying to touch him and shred the immortal's mind.

The former crusader avoided her rush and delivered a hard elbow in her back. "I don't think so," he growled, allowing the vampire to surface visibly on his face.

"Xena, take them!" the shamaness commanded.

The warrior rose and charged Dave again. At that moment, a deadly streak arrested her progress. "What in Tartarus?" she asked.

At the side entrance, the real Xena caught her weapon and returned it to her side. "Just your real self," she informed the other. "Gabrielle, be careful," she added to the Bard as the latter entered the room.

"Right," Gabrielle agreed, holding her staff at the ready, knowing that the moment of truth would soon be at hand.

At that moment, Dave grabbed his bow and arrows under the seat and called, "Now, Cybelle!"

In response, the priestess filled the room with cottony mist, enveloping the combatants in its embrace. When it had cleared, they were on the mall area. 

Once they all got their bearings, it was clear the battle would resume. Only Heaven knew when it would happen.


Chapter 13

As the combatants were in transit, the crowd spilled out of the Social Sciences Building, desperately seeking to be anywhere but there. Well away from the scene, the media assigned to the talk began rolling film footage of the event in progress, relaying it to all points within the Old Pueblo and beyond. 

********
In the nearby hotel room, Dijon cursed himself for letting the witch talk him into staying behind. "Now, we must intervene and risk further exposure!" he hissed.

At that moment, the phone rang shrilly. The Burgundian answered it. "What is it?"

"Dijon, it's us," the head renegade spat into the receiver. "What's going on down there? I thought she said it would be cut and dried with no problem."

"I told you I didn't like the plan," the Enforcer reminded the other. "Now, it's going to get messy."

"Try to keep a low profile if at all possible, Dijon. It's her funeral. Just make sure that nothing remains of our role in this affair. At least to the outside," the other dictated. "As for our targets, if the opportunity comes to take care of them, then do so. Otherwise, don't go out of your way."

"We'll try," Dijon noted and hung up. Turning to his four remaining companions, he barked, "Come with me!"

The four companions took off, making a beeline for the battle.

If they had stayed but a minute longer, they would have seen a misty column materialize in their room. Cybelle stepped into the area and, after a quick search, found the necklace which the Enforcers had carelessly left behind.

"Thank you very much, Boys," she chuckled, vanishing back into the mists again.

************

At KRAN, LaCroix prepared for his next Nightcrawler segment. Given the lecture at the U of A on that evening, the DJ was going to do one of his "Story-time" shows pertaining to Amazons and shamanesses. However, a special report of the battle drew his attention.

"What?" he wondered and noticed the fog. "So, the Celtic witch makes her appearance. Interesting," he mused.

Reaching out with his enhanced senses, the former general picked up both Nick's and Eve's presences in the midst of the conflict. In addition, the Kurgan witch was there, and the Enforcers were rapidly approaching them. "So, the renegades sent their messengers again, did they?" he grumbled. "Very well. It's time that an Elder got involved." With that, he took off into the night sky, heading for the U of A as well.

**********

Under the misty cover, Cybelle reentered the battle zone and stared at the various combatants, tensing for any movement. She was tempted to let the cover burn off, but, given the trouble that the media blitz would give them, the extra concentration was worth the effort. However, given the battle which was about to take place on the other side, the attention would be worthwhile. Accordingly, she allowed the cover to lift, revealing the two Warrior Princesses. 


*******************
Off to the left of the priestess, the two Xenas circled each other, swords raised and poised to strike the first blow.

"Who are you?" the clone asked.

"I'm the real Xena," the warrior stated grimly, holding up her sword.

"Oh really?" the other Thracian demanded and swung her blade.

The two Warrior Princesses battled tooth and nail as the fog faded around them, revealing their presence to the gathered onlookers.

"My Lord!" an elderly man yelled.

"Look, there are two Xenas! This is so cool!" a teenaged girl cheered, thinking that this was a publicity stunt. "I knew Tapert wouldn't let us down! Season Seven! Yeah! Wait'll they hear about this on the list!"

"So, which one is the real one?" Steve wondered, scratching his head at both the girl's reaction and the double dose of Warrior Princess mania in front of him.

"Darned if I know," Schanke replied, giving Natalie a concerned look. "As long as the original wins." Staring into the fog, he wondered how his partner and Dave were faring against Alti.

************

Dave and Nick carefully circled the shamaness. Knowing what she could do, each man gave her a wide berth. For each one, the memory of their last encounter across the mall area was still fresh in their minds. Accordingly, they wanted no part of a sequel to that experience.

"So, when are you going to do something?" Alti taunted. "Are you going to back up what you said in there?"

The librarian pulled two shafts out of his quiver and lit the wicks. "Patience, I'll deal with you in a sec. Here's something to keep you occupied!" With a single motion, he sent the missiles at her, planting them on either side of her form.

"You missed!" she cackled. "Is that the best you can do?"

"3...2...1..." the librarian counted down. As he reached "1", the pasty solution exploded into a fine cloud of herbal particles, choking the witch.

"<cough>I'll make you...both...suffer for this!" she hissed and advanced out of the greenish cloud. Charging Nick, she missed by the slimmest of margins.

"Are you feeling all right?" Dave baited. "You seem a tad bit off."

Alti rocked on her feet. "What did you do to...me? You drugged me...What?"

"St. John's Wart, among other things," the librarian grinned. "By now, you should be feeling so good that you won't be able to hurt a fly."

"That's what you think!" she snarled and charged him this time.

Without her powers, the shamaness was just a warrior. Granted, she was a gifted warrior, but only a warrior and thus, vulnerable.

Dave avoided her charge and kicked her square in the posterior, sending her flying against a nearby brick fa┴ade.

"Now, we get down to business," he snickered, floating deeper into the gray zone between his personalities. He delivered a powerful mental blast, sending Alti flying backward.

By now, the herbs were starting to wear off. A smile crossed her face. "You'll regret that!"

"Ah, promises...promises! Is that all you're going to do?" he baited, coming very close to her.

Suddenly, she grabbed him around the throat and flooded him with negative mental energy. "I will shred your mind for the indignities which you have heaped on me!"

For a split second, he felt a glimmer of pain and his knees began to quake. Then, taking a deep breath of the St. John's residue, the librarian regained his composure and ripped his attacker's hands off of him. "Nice try," he cracked. "But, no cigar!" Emitting another psychic pulse, he flung the shamaness away from himself.

Somehow, despite the pain she felt, Alti managed to stagger to her feet once more. There was no way that she was going to let him win! Somehow, she would break him and take his power again. 

Then, from out of the mist, Cybelle appeared directly in front of her. "No more, Alti. You're finished!" she declared defiantly.

"You!" the witch snarled and charged the priestess. 

Cybelle smiled and, using her abilities, popped in and out of the mists, avoiding the other's move.

Alti spun to see her opponent watching her. "That power of yours! Damn it!" she cursed.

"Are words all that you have left?" the priestess inquired, concentrating on her opponent.

"No," the shamaness asserted and locked eyes with Cybelle, thus starting a battle of the wills. For her part, Alti sent negative mental energy at her adversary, causing the other to sweat profusely and ground her teeth under the strain.

"Great Mother, help me..." she pleaded, trying to find her composure.

"Now, you fall," the witch crowed.

But, at that moment, the necklace's gem began to glow and somehow, helped to deflect the negativity. With that assistance, the Althanorian regained her composure and, with one great effort, reflected the energy back at Alti. "You...can...have that back!" she grunted.

As the energy hit her, the shamaness was consumed by her own memories and nightmares. Suddenly, she felt Borias striking her in his yurt and throwing her outside. Then, the scene in India played itself out as the Darsham forced her death yet again. In between worlds, she saw Xena destroy her essence. Finally, back in the Amazon burial ground, she felt the sharp, cold pain of the branch impaling her anew.

"Alti, I can help you!" Cybelle told her. "Please stop this!"

But, the process was too far advanced. Scores of bruises appeared on her face and all over her body. Then, a spot on her chest appeared as the blood from the past wound soaked through her garb. Unable to stand, the witch fell to the ground. "Someday!" she hissed. "Someday!" With that, she breathed her last breath.

The priestess rubbed her temple, trying to get rid of the headache. "I wish I were in the herbery right now," she sighed.

"You okay?" Dave wondered.

"Yeah, I guess so. Other than this headache," she assured him. "At least, she's gone." 

"One can hope that it is permanent this time," Nick stated.

"Right," the medievalist agreed. "At least, we survived her attack yet again."

"Now, we can hope Xena does the same," Cybelle added. "Come on."

Please send comments to dante0220@yahoo.com


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