Disclaimer: Characters from the television show Xena: Warrior Princess are not owned by me, to my regret. This is written purely for enjoyment with no thought to monetary gain. There are women in love (eventually, as Gabrielle is a bit miffed) and if that is illegal for you or where you live, move on or simply move.

Post FIN, I guess, though I have kept specific references to a minimum.

Mail is always answered and appreciated at Kamouraskan@yahoo.com

My website is at http://dreamcatching.netfirms.com/kam/index.htm

Thanks for corrections and encouragement to the members of the Bardic Circle and Tavern Wall, especially Extra, Jaden, Dawn, JLynn, Jordon Falconer, and Sue. More thanks to Claudia, Morgane, and for rereading this countless times, Abardreader. And my thanks as always, to the great Mary Morgan.


When In Rome

By Kamouraskan


The waning sun struck the slopes of Mount Parnassus , revealing a line of men and women waiting for what their patience indicated was a most popular shrine.

Centuries before, a goatherd had found a mysterious cleft in the rock which released a vapour that caused the sheep to stagger about. Upon further enthusiastic study, it was discovered to have the same effect on men, though they also had an unfortunate tendency (or fortunate, if you were one of the amused Gods,) to fight one another or jump off cliffs.

Centuries of further investigation had led to the present arrangement. Specially gifted women, after defined rituals, of course, would be allowed to partake of the fumes, at which point they would, under the influence, babble incomprehensibly in response to written questions. Male priests, in exchange for large sums of money, would interpret this babble as an answer to the specific question, though it was always couched in the most cryptic of terms. This rather shady enterprise had nonetheless become so successful that an entire theme park of magnificent proportions had grown about the site, including several theatres, an art gallery of treasures sent from across the various empires, picnic areas and other amusements for the family.

The associated venues of entertainment were already closed for the day but the remaining queue was there for the main attraction. Many had waited since morning but they were lethargic after standing for so many hours under a scorching sun. So it was not entirely peculiar that no one noticed when a hooded figure replaced the devotee who had been first in line. The figure advanced towards the shrine, striding through and ignoring the scents and smoke that could overwhelm even the hardiest of men. As the figure made his way through the miasma, a priest suddenly appeared in the gloom, standing self-assuredly in his way. The cloaked figure paused and let him speak.

“Might I assume, Pilgrim, that you know the requirements to meet with the sybil?”

“Yeah, yeah. A burnt sacrifice and gold.”

“Yes, and your question must be written before it can be passed on. Would you like me to scribe it for you? It's only a small additional fee.”

“Nah, I‘ll skip that. But you could be a big help with the sacrifice.”

A bluish ball of flame erupted from the figure's hands and quickly engulfed the priest. His shocked and pained screams echoed for a moment in the chamber. The hooded figure smiled benignly as the dusty remains swirled about before they settled on the stone floor. There was the sound of approaching footsteps and a young girl entered the chamber. A fine silk covered her face and head but a tendril of hair was exposed, wet from the ritual bathing. She stared at the figure, silently waiting for a question to be posed. He ignored her and shouted towards the ceiling, “Come on, Apollo, get your ass down here. I don't have time to waste with your mouthpiece.”

There was no response and the girl cupped her hands over her face as though praying, a focus away from the shouting.

“I don't need a bunch of half-gassed ramblings. SOME-body brought a certain irritating blonde back from the dead and while I was busy dealing with THAT, they stole a certain Loom!” There was still no answer but the figure continued to rant. “You have to know there are gonna be paybacks. And you gotta know you're too late. I don't need the Loom anymore. All you did, was get me ANGRY! You and those whores are going to pay BIG TIME for this. And you know I CAN make you pay!”

With the outburst over, he rolled his head back and around his shoulders for a moment to calm himself. In a quieter voice, he continued.

“I just wanna make sure there are no more little surprises. That you know your place in the new order or else you won't have any place. Not one on Parnassus , or anywhere else. You got that? If you think that your little pawns were anything other than a distraction, that you could use them to beat me, you must have been breathing in the smoke here a little too long. Unless you think that you can stop the destiny I created. With or without the Loom, tell me I don't already CONTROL destiny.”

The figure was somewhat startled, when instead of the usual incomprehensible gibberish, the Oracle spoke clearly in answer to his question.

“You cannot control the thread of destiny.”

He turned to the sybil with disdain. “Really? I don't need the threads anymore. I played that Loom like a lyre and made them into a cloth so perfect, even I'm amazed at its perfection.”

The Oracle countered, “The thread of destiny is not on the Loom. It is within each mortal. It is their soul. You can only destroy it, not change it.”

The figure chortled. “Shows how little you know. You don't know power. The kind of power I'll have when your boss drags the sun highest in the sky next time. I'll shape everything as I want. And those pawns of theirs are going to suffer ten times for screwing with me. They're going to know pain in a big way and they are going to bleed.” There was a flash and the figure was gone.

Even after the blaze of light vanished with the God, his anger still seemed to manifest itself in the temple.

A much gentler sparkle of light occurred in the corner and the sybil turned to it, dropping to her knees. The Oracle bowed low, cupping her face in her obeisance to her Lord.

Apollo spoke cheerfully to His servant. “So what did He miss just now, eh, Pythia? I know it may be against company policy, but explain it to me. What's the Thread of Destiny?

The seer recited in a sing-song voice, “There are three threads in each and all of mortals. Two of which every farmer and breeder uses with familiarity. They are of this world and determine the physical, the seen. The colour of eyes, the height, they are wrapped about each other and are hidden in more numbers than you can count in every man. But the third strand will not be seen by even the greatest of healers or after the longest passage of time.”

“Cool. So what's it do?”

“Someday, the healers will adapt the first two. Adapt and transform as You,” and she bowed again, “already may. They will never see or know of the third, and will try to make explanations for it. They might see twins that will be exact in every way because of the first two strands, but try to explain why they also share non-physical traits. Such reoccurrences they will call coincidence. They will never be able to concede that the twins also share this third strand, this thread of destiny, wrapped just as closely around the other two strands but existing not in their world of reason.”

“Okay, I got that. But what's that mean for Xe and Gab? The big man who just left, he's made a mistake? Do they have a chance?”

“The Bard and Warrior will die.”

The gods were not ones to show mercy or sympathy, but something close to that brushed the figure's face. But the Oracle was not yet done.

“If each makes the true choice for their redemption, with the help of the Gods, their thread may continue.”

“May, huh? Clearer than usual, though, thanks. Well, you know where I'll be at noon. See ya, sweetheart.”

The sybil bowed to the empty space, carefully arranged her ceremonial robe, and moved to her ornate seat over the cleft in the rock. She reached over to the golden platter beside her throne and plucked a few fresh laurel leaves to chew on, and then breathed in the fumes that escaped from the unknown depths of the earth. Under its influence, she shuddered slightly before primly re-seating herself. She closed her eyes in concentration and waited for a question to be posed. There was a pause before she realised that there was no longer a priest to assist her. She sighed, chewed thoughtfully for a moment on the laurel leaves before calling out loudly in the direction of the crowds waiting outside the doorway, “ NEXT!”


To be continued...

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