Spoiler: Heart of Darkness
The Lord of Hell, Mephistopheles heard a plea for mercy from a beautiful woman with golden hair. His heart went out to her and when she pleaded her innocence in a brutal murder. She had summarily been executed because she happened upon the dead and tried to give help. Villagers captured the murderers and one of them claimed she had been in on the crime. The villagers hanged her with the two men and she was sent to hell. Mephistopheles believed her tale and decreed for her to be returned to life. An act of compassion on his part meant certain eternal suffering if discovered. He had no authority to do such a thing, but his heart was not completely blackened.
But that changed dramatically when he was contacted by an evil presence even he didn't know about. Alti› witnessed his compassion, and her self preservation, blackmail, and darkness ate any compassion he had left. Plus, Alti if the witch killed Xena, then a certain prophecy would not happen. Alti was enthralled. Mephistopheles gave in to her demand, and hoped she would succeed. He gave her an opportunity to prevent her own death and to live as an immortal. She wanted to rule and relish the pain of others, she wanted the chance to destroy the ones who would always destroy her. The gargantuan effort to eliminate the life forces that caused her death came with a high cost.
Mephistopheles was not stupid and he knew a way to get back at Alti. He was quite annoyed with her self-centered ways and he was not aware that should she succeed his own demise would be prevented too. He granted her request, but not one mistake could be made, perfection was her only hope to change her future. The quest had to be exact, perfectly worded and delivered, because one error would exact a terrible price. The power of the spirits she would encounter if a mistake happened were worse than she ever dreamt, and Mephistopheles made that a part of the deal, and left it up to her to take the chance. Alti leapt at it and Mephistopheles vanished in disgust.
The evil shamaness whirled back and forth in front of a huge fireplace. Her body moved and writhed in a dance of chance. Her mind locked in a deep hypnotic state, Alti moved faster and faster. Her hands gyrated back and forth and her fingers clutched at unseen spectre's. She grabbed and released buried forces. Her skin color was mottled and her mouth fiercely distorted. Alti's clinched eyes suddenly opened and the fire's red and yellow flickering light highlighted her essence of pure evil. Her vision of her ultimate demise in the future ignited a quest to stop it from happening. Alti's vision ensured her survival.
She coiled tightly into a spin, turning slowly but gained velocity. Fire escaped from her fingertips, and minute ethereal sparks swallowed her. Lightning flashed, thunder boomed, nature's rhythmic drumming pounded harder... faster...then she stopped. Nothing. Beast or man made not a whisper. Her eyes rolled back into her head she began her plea: "Oh great evil, give me a hand, call out your forces to bring forth the essence that cause my demise! Bring forth the bringer of my karmic disaster, whose soul I wanted to corrupt and the blond demon spawn that was her friend!"
A large glow erupted from the fireplace and two forms shot across the great stone floor and landed in a nest of acrid straw and rags.
Her plan had Gabrielle suffering a torturous death and all her delicious pain would be Alti's to relish; Xena would beg for her friend's suffering to end, and that would bring Alti immense joy. She could not wait to see Xena's face as she stole Gabrielle's life force. She almost purred with delight. The shamaness screeched hysterically and dramatically turned to mock and sneer at her deed's result.
But as the forms became human, her eyes widened in shock. What had she done? Gabrielle formed correctly, but there was something terribly wrong. The other form....
Alti's head pounded. She felt her body mutating and screamed in agony as her heart twisted deep in her evil chest. Her legs swelled to twice their normal size; her tongue became too much for even her large mouth, and it grew larger until its vastness snuffed out the scream of her own death by the disaster of a misspoken chant.
Mephistopheles sensed Alti's demise and laughed hysterically.
Hope and Eve, the daughters of Xena and Gabrielle, watched as Alti puffed into forty times her mass, and exploded, The blast sent her entrails through the dungeon; mingled with her brain matter, splattered blood and gore flew into almost every crevice of the room and splotched on the bodies of the two beseeched souls.
After the initial shock of the moment, Eve and Hope wiped Alti off their bodies, and when they noticed each other their eyes widened. What was this encounter about? Why had the shamaness brought them together?
Both looked around the dungeon for an escape they might need later. Neither feared the other. But their curiosity got the best of them and they walked face to face, and stopped just before their noses would have touched.
"You're not Gabrielle,"
"No, I'm not my mother," Hope sneered. "Nor would I ever want to be."
"Hope?" Eve's eyes widened in disbelief.
"Well, now you know who I am. Who in Tartarus are you?"
"Eve," She had finally met the demon child of Dahok.
"What?" Hope didn't like the smirk Eve had spread across her face.
"You sure have your mother's look." Eve walked around Hope taking in all aspects of Gabrielle's daughter.
"Wait a minute. I know you now. Xena's little girl, the bitch of Rome."
"No, that is not exactly right," Eve smiled sweetly. "I am Xena's daughter though,"
"Well, I think I might've struck a nerve there." Hope waited for Eve to react.
Eve remembered Hope's story from Gabrielle's scrolls and knew she could be quite dangerous. She began to feel uneasy with Hope demeanor and decided to gain the advantage. Eve flipped behind the blond and kicked her feet from under her. She yanked a piece of rope from the straw and bound Hope's hands before she knew what was happening.
"What in Tartarus are you doing?"
"I know who you are, I read about you and your attempts to kill my mom. I'm not stupid."
"Says you." Hope disintegrated the rope with flames from her fingertips, and jumped to her feet. She knocked Eve down and tied her the same way.
Eve rolled away and sprang to her feet snapping the rope with her sheer strength.
Hope backed up and Eve did the same. They eyed each other cagily.
"Well, I guess we cannot bind each other," Hope said with no animosity in her voice.
"Nope, I don't know why we're here, but I'm not staying."
"You know, you have her look," Hope said sternly. "It is not attractive."
"It's not supposed to be attractive."
"Why don't you tell me about yourself. We're not going anywhere and I have no reason to kill you." Hope struck an amiable pose.
"A heart to heart?" Eve asked sarcastically.
"Well, I don't really care for your..."
"You don't know me! You've read my mother's tainted views on me! You cannot know me when I do not even know myself!" Hope was angry with herself because she has said so much about her thoughts.
Eve recognized exactly what Hope meant, and at times she felt the same way. She sat down and with an even voice attempted to calm Gabrielle's daughter.
"I know what you mean, I didn't have my mother around either."
"Save your pity.".
"I don't pity you. I know how much it hurts, and I know you've been hurt..."
"By my mommy. Yes, my mommy tried to kill me twice. And then, she and your mommy got my son to kill me finally," Hope said in a rather calm voice.
"So you're dead?"
"Yes, in hell too," Hope added.
"Oh, so I guess you don't want to rush back."
Hope laughed with Gabrielle's voice.
"It's amazing how much you sound like your mom."
"Yeah, I get that a lot. Mom's sent quite a few people to hell and when they see me, well, I am a veteran fighter now." Hope laughed despite her truth.
"I never thought about that, I guess it could be tough looking so much like her and ending up where the bad...."
"I revel in my bad self. Where were you?"
"I just helped Mom and Gabrielle send the Furies to hell...."
"I knew it! Ha! Caesar owes me big time! There was a bet going on who sent them there. Caesar said it was the one god, but I knew it was your mother's bad assedness..."
"It's true, she is a tough one," Eve said proudly. "Your mom's not a wimp you know."
"Really?" Hope urged Eve on. She was anxious to hear about her mom.
"Yea, she's taken up sais and is damned good with them."
"Does she kill?" Hope asked and watched Eve's reaction.
"Really?" Hope urged.
"Yea, she's taken up sais and is damned good with them," Eve said.
"Does she kill?" Hope asked and watched Eve's reaction.
"Yes. Yes, she does," Eve said sadly.
Confused, Hope waited a moment and then asked, "why the look of sadness. You think she is better than committing murder."
"I didn't say she committed murder, I said she had killed."
Hope salivated with the knowledge that her mother ended another's life. She wondered if she had killed more than once. "How many did mommy kill?"
"I don't know." Eve felt uncomfortable with Hope's delighted demeanor.
"That many! Wow! Go mommy!" Hope laughed and clapped her hands. "Killing is so sweet, the warm blood, the fear in the eyes, and the intoxicating power of taking life."
"I don't think she feels like that...."
"Look! The one thing I relished about mommy was her dark-side, and now it has arisen," Hope crowed. "Perhaps to overtake her. Maybe it will make her realize I inherited some of my darkness from her, and she can become like me! Like daughter, like mother!"
"Events forced her to fight for her life," Eve defended Gabrielle. "She isn't happy with killing...."
"Good! That allows the dark-side access." Hope decided Eve was not going to go back to her life with her Mother. She felt intense jealousy and felt righteous when she shot fire balls into the straw, igniting them. "Mother will learn that darkness is powerful. She needs to wallow in it, taste it, feel it and then she'll love it!"
"What are you doing!" Eve stamped out the flames.
"I'm not gonna let you go back. I'm taking you with me! Mother doesn't need you to turn her away from her darkness." Hope shrieked and attacked Eve.
"Wait!" Eve dodged Hope's strike. She jumped at a high arc, flipped over Hopes head and clubbed her across the shoulder.
Hope landed hard on her behind, and stayed there stunned by Eve's brute strength.›
Eve watched her while still in a fighting stance. "This is stupid! I haven't done anything to you!"
"No, but you would. Your mother hated me and I hate her!"
"I have no reason to hate you. Hope, you must be in terrible pain. Let me help you." Eve reached out her hand.
Hope laughed and then became angered by Eve's concerned expression. "Do not pity me!"
"I don't, I can help ease your pain."
"How?" Hope seemed confused, and acted like a trapped animal. "Why?"
"Because love is the answer."
"Oh please!" Hope sneered and rolled her eyes. "Love sucks bacchae butt."
"You can love. Your mother loves you."
Hope looked at Eve and felt a slight crack in her hard heart. Maybe Eve was right, and maybe there was hope. She smiled and shook her head. "No, there is no love in me." Darkness returned instantly and sealed the crack. "I'd rather be with Dahok's minions in hell, than in some sycophantic love hut with you, your mother and Gabrielle!"
Hope grabbed Eve's hand, but before she could lash out the room began to shimmer. Hope started to fade.
"Thanks for nothing! There is no love!"
"I didn't do this!"
"I'll bet!" Hope said as she disappeared. Eve looked around and the room became suddenly pitch black and she couldn't even see her hand before her face.
A moment later she heard her voice. "Eve?"
Eve opened her eyes and her vision was slightly blurred. "What did you do?"
"What did you do back there?"
"I did nothing. I don't know what you mean."
"What's going on?" another voice asked.
Eve turned to see her mother and hugged her. "Oh mother!"
"Evie?" Xena stroked her daughter's head.
"Oh mother, I thought I'd never get back."
"You didn't go anywhere," Gabrielle interrupted. "You've been talking to me and then you fainted or something."
"Yeah, but you were only out for a second.".
"You okay sweetheart?"
"I think so," Eve looked around the campsite and remembered that was where she was before the whole conversation with Hope. "Gabrielle?"
"We'd better get going," Xena said and looked worriedly at Gabrielle.
"Yes, let's." Eve flipped up onto Argo II's back.
Xena shook her head and smiled.
"Like mother like daughter," Gabrielle patted Xena's shoulder.
›Xena headed after Eve and Gabrielle turned back to the campsite, she was sure she'd heard laughter.
"Hope? Are you there?" Gabrielle listened. "I love you Hope, always have and always will."
She peered over her shoulder once more, shook her head, and ran to catch up with Xena and Eve.