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
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For all his bravado, Ares now found himself with some time to kill, and so slipped back to Rome . Nothing seemed out of place but centuries of fine tuning the destinies of millions had made him cautious. He drifted outside the Temple of Venus , close enough to perceive that his priests were in there, no doubt readying sacrifices for the consecration of the newest Great Altar. He lazily tracked the hundreds of pigeons that had been released from the Palantine to deliver the final messages from the Emperor to the outlying temples in his honour.
After all the centuries of twisting threads, of trial and more errors than he would admit to, the day had finally come. Ultimate and supreme power. It was going to be good to be the King, he thought. And smiled.
And, as he checked the position of the sun, in a few hours, in one way or another, his two greatest obsessions and foes would be his. Why was it so important to break them? he mused. He was all-powerful, what did two mortals matter? It didn't matter, he told himself, they would be on their knees praying to him like the rest of the world and their defiance, centuries of defiance, would be a memory only he would remember. But…
His wandering thoughts collided with an awareness of another of his projects, the son of the Emperor. Who seemed to be in attendance with his father. Ares was certain that the Emperor had been absent when he had last looked at the threads of the Loom of Fate. He was used to his changes having small ripples so he discounted it as having any importance.
After all, it was just a little thing.
He knew that he should be checking on the last details of his ascension, but he finally could not hold off returning and appearing to Xena. After all, what was the point of being omnipotent if you didn't indulge yourself occasionally?
He made himself appear back on the cleft, this time on the Roman side. Things seemed to be ahead of schedule. The Romans had already brought up a catapult to the edge of the abyss and were preparing to launch a grappling rope across. Xena was still in her armour and regardless whether it was in some sad hope to rescue Gabrielle or in fear of being flogged, was clearly following orders, and destiny, by preparing to cross the chasm, once the rope had been secured on the other side.
He allowed her to see him as he appeared, floating above the chasm, as she prepared to cross along the rope hand over hand, once it was secured to both sides,. He could see that she was aware of him, but she ignored him to leap out onto the rope, and begin her doomed rescue.
“I can hear the Germans, Xena,” he called to her. “They'll be coming up that hill any moment. With your bard bleeding on a cross. Just say the words, Xena, because I'll take what's mine anyways. The sun is almost at its peak. The countdown is at an end.”
Gasping, she spat out, “We've had this conversation, MARS. The Ares I knew is under there somewhere but it's not worth the effort to find him anymore. The only person that counts to me, expects me to keep my promise and that's what I'm going to do.”
Ares chuckled. “To die together? I don't think so. In fact, I know so.”
Xena paused her advance again. “Ya know what I think? You being here just shows how little mankind needs the gods, because you don't seem to have anything better to do.”
Ares ignored her and instead pointed to the rise on the other side of the cleft. “And here they come, right on time. Everything's right on time. The sun, the sun is near its peak. Let Apollo look down one last time as I rise above him forever. Soon, so very soon. I will be EVERYTHING!”
Sure enough, the tip of a wooden cross appeared over the hill. Ares watched Xena's face and to his disbelief, despite the strain of her continuing efforts to cross the cleft, there was anticipation, not fear, in her eyes.
When the cross finally rose over the slope of the hill, it was empty, and Ares anxiously scanned the tribesmen for Gabrielle. When he saw her, she was not a prisoner at all. To his complete surprise, she was actually in the lead, in full Germanic traditional dress, urging them onwards.
Like them, she was dressed in a leather poncho and the loose trousers favoured by this tribe. Like the rest, she carried a spear and shield and her short bleached hair matched her new kinsmen.
Ares cursed himself. The Germanics often bleached their hair to the exact shade of Gabrielle's, or they coloured it red and cut it short after and often over, their first kill. And with all her years of travel, she'd probably learned a dozen languages including theirs, and had no trouble convincing them she was in armour as a spy on the Romans. Here he'd been worried about Xena taking command, and that irritating but remarkable blonde had done it instead.
As these realisations were coursing through Ares' mind, Xena shouted, “You think you know her and yet you still keep underestimating her, don't you, MARS? It's like her secret weapon, I swear.”
The pleasure in her voice caused Ares to snap and without thinking of his greater plans, he pushed in her direction. The force of the god's rage flung Xena back across the gorge, up and tumbling over the plain. She was able to pull into a ball before receiving any major injury, then sprang out of the tuck, landing on her feet. She was already running back up the slope to the crest when a well-aimed fireball smashed into the Roman catapult, reducing it to smoking fragments. There was a call from the Roman commander to retreat and Xena found herself alone on her side of the gorge.
On the other side, Gabrielle's forces had also panicked upon seeing the War God, but when she shouted her orders, a few managed to rally and let fly their own rope across the gorge. Xena was at the Cliffside, tying it off immediately and once again crossing hand-over-hand.
Ares flung out his arm once more and this time a fire ball burned through the rope, which snapped half way across. Xena fell with it, falling for several feet into the gorge until the rope held, smashing her into the cliff face. While she managed to keep her grip on the rope, there was another wave of the God's hand and a salvo of arrows materialized in the air above her, before moving swiftly at her. He watched as they soared towards the helpless warrior with satisfaction, until they were suddenly sliced in twain by a familiar whirring object, which returned with a snap into Gabrielle's hand.
Spinning about to deal with this latest attempt to thwart his vision, Ares sent another fireball directly towards Gabrielle, who barely dodged it. It struck one of her tribesmen and his shrieks of pain drove off the remainder of her forces. There was no cover for her to run to and she knew it, so as she rolled away she threw the chakrum towards Xena hoping the warrior could use it to defend herself at least. Again the war god sent out a fireball but this one struck the chakrum with a cracking sound that echoed across the gorge, and to all of their astonished eyes, it hung there for a long moment, split into two pieces, before falling, useless, into the depths below.
Another series of arrows appeared and hung in the air, waiting for a command to launch at Xena. A fireball formed in Ares' hands and he looked to where the Bard was crouched, waiting to see which way to jump. Instead he formed two more, and threw all three towards her, arcing at her from each side, with no way to escape.
It was not entirely as he'd planned, but it was close enough.
And then he stopped time once more.
He took in the partners' positions and noted with satisfaction that they would both be dead in the moment he allowed time to continue.
Xena still held onto the rope, though there was no longer any need, as she was suspended in the air, weightless. She maintained her composure, glaring with slitted eyes as the War God walked across the gorge, striding on the air as if it were the firmest of paths. He stopped in front of her, his face almost sad and said quietly, “Game over, Xena.”
She narrowed her eyes at him, silently seething at their defeat. “It's never been just a game, Ares. And whatever you're selling, I don't want any.”
Ares' expression didn't change. “That's what I figured.”
“So what's this been about for the last few centuries? Just getting your jollies?”
“Nah, I had a hope. Even the omnipotent have hopes, you know. You always were special to me. And I did really think that just maybe the whole evil Gab thing might break you, but I was rushed. Other things on my mind, big day and all.” He sighed dramatically.
“Nope, sorry Xena, but for the last century… you've only been the back up plan.” He smiled at the mounting horror in the warrior's eyes as the realisation struck; exactly what the true plan had been and that Ares' absolute self-assurance meant that it was about to be fulfilled.
The God turned, his laughter filling the air, negligently flicking his fingers towards the hovering arrows. They responded like attack dogs released from their leash and instantly flew towards her. Xena tried to bear down on against the cliff face, hopelessly attempting to spring across the gorge by sheer force of will, needing to do something, anything, to get to her partner to stop whatever inducement Ares had planned. But she had barely enough time to scream “NO!” when the torrent of arrows struck and pierced her, humbling her in agony.
Ares smiled with satisfaction one last time before turning away and saying, “See ya. I'll try to make sure my new Queen has the time to say goodbye.”To be continued...
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