The Amazon Queen
Part XX-i : Daughters of Ares
By L. M. Townsend
DISCLAIMERS: The characters of Xena, Gabrielle, CyrenL, Joxer, et al (meaning anyone else I didn't list and should have.) are the property of their creators and anyone else who has a legal claim (thanks for letting the girls come out to play!) Melys and The Amazons belong to themselves (and I dare any man to say different!) This story is mine, though, and written just for fun, not profit.
Subtext: YES, though nothing explicit. Xena and Gabrielle, while still soul-mates and the very best of friends, are not a couple in the romantic sense of the word. They are joined to others as heart-mates.
Violence: Yes, but no more than youll see on the show.
Language: Pretty tame, so far.
Spoilers: (so far) The Deliverer,
Gabrielle's Hope, Maternal Instincts, Sacrifice I&II, A Family Affair, Livia,
Eve, The God You Know, Path of Vengeance
Other: If you havent read the previous instalments in this series, you may have difficulty following along with whos who.
*************Xena saw her fall out of the corner of her eye, but focussed on the opponent before her. With a quick nod of acknowledgement to her daughter, she began to fight. Anaxilea was too good. Xena quickly saw how her heart-daughter, the most proficient warrior she had ever seen aside from herself, had been so sorely wounded.
"Where's Michael?" she called to Eve.
"Had to go," said Eve, breathlessly as she parried a blow. Anaxilea recovered from the parry and followed through with a swipe at Xena.
Xena rolled her eyes, then fought in earnest. Anaxilea laughed maniacally at the women's efforts.
"You cannot defeat me," she said and her voice had changed again. It was low and masculine and somehow slower than a normal voice would be. Suddenly Gabrielle looked up from Arynė.
"Dahak," she whispered. Anaxilea snapped her head around to look at Gabrielle. Gabrielle arose and approached. The fighting stopped as she grew near. The Bard pointed at Anaxilea. "You."
"Yes," said the possessed warrior with a hiss.
"You and I have some unfinished business," said Gabrielle, taking the sword from Xena as she passed. "I owe you - for Hope."
"Consider it a gift," said Dahak/Anaxilea with a sarcastic shrug.
"You bastard - it was < your> fault - all of it," said Gabrielle, brandishing the sword.
"Oh, come on! You don't know how to use that thing!" laughed the demon.
"Oh really?" said Gabrielle, swinging with some skill and making a hit as Xena retreated with Eve to check Arynė.
"You've learned a bit, then, haven't you?' said the demon, hesitantly as blood began to ooze from a cut on Anaxilea's cheek.
"Yeah," said Gabrielle. "Another '< gift>' I have to thank you for. Damn you! You gave me a child doomed to die because of her very nature - and mine. You knew I couldn't let her live when I found out what she was!"
"You mean < Xena> couldn't let her live, don't you?" said Dahak, bitterly as Gabrielle made hit after hit. Where the others couldn't get close, Gabrielle was fighting like a Harpy and cutting it badly all over, thought the wounds did not bleed. It seemed to have no defense against the bard.
"No, you wanted me to blame Xena for killing her, to drive that wedge between us," said Gabrielle. "You knew that if we separated, you would be able to take over and create a world of death and destruction. We were what stood in your way."
"You have it all wrong, Gabrielle," said Dahak. "I wanted our daughter to live. It was Xena who wanted her dead, remember?"
"I do remember," said Gabrielle. "I remember I loved her and I tried to save her, but it cost Solan his life. It cost a lot of lives. It almost cost Xena and me our friendship. But there is a soul bond between us, Dahak - you didn't count on that, did you?"
Dahak laughed and Gabrielle suddenly realised that she was not killing the demon, but Anaxilea. She stopped fighting. "Why is it," asked the Bard, slowly, "that I can hit you, but they couldn't?" Dahak stopped laughing and glared at the Bard.
"You see too clearly, Amazon!" he growled and came her, fighting furiously. Gabrielle stepped back, refusing to fight except to block and parry.
"No, I will not kill the body of Anaxilea while you go off to possess someone else and come back to do more harm," said Gabrielle.
With a roar, Dahak charged at the bard and Gabrielle neatly stepped out of the way. Xena ran back towards them, sword drawn to protect Gabrielle if necessary. Suddenly Michael re-appeared.
"Gabrielle," said the archangel. "Do you know the name of the entity?"
"Yes, it's Dahak," said the bard.
"Then you can command him to leave his host - hurry, Gabrielle, before it's too late for Anaxilea!"
"Wait," said Xena. "Make him tell us where Melysė is first."
"There's no time for that," said Michael. "Anaxilea will die."
"So might Melysė if we don't get to her," said Xena, desperate.
"Melysė < might>, Anaxilea < will>, Gabrielle," said the archangel before disappearing again.
"Dahak, I command you by your name - where is Melysė, priestess-queen of the Amazons?" said Gabrielle. The entity merely laughed.
"Ask the fallen one - she knows all," he said with a sneer. Gabrielle glanced quickly back at Arynė. Eve was tending her and offered them a gesture that she was alright - for now. Gabrielle looked to Xena, who nodded.
"In that case, I have no use for you. Dahak, I command you to leave Anaxilea," said Gabrielle, her voice taking on a tone of authority - it was her bard voice, strong and sure, despite her trembling body. "I bind you from harming the children of the goddess and I bind you back to your prison within the black stone in the pit bound and guarded by Leukippe."
With a stricken look, Anaxilea dropped the sword and collapsed, her wounds, inflicted by Gabrielle now bleeding freely. Xena and Gabrielle cautiously approached. They could feel the absence of the entity now. Anaxilea breathed, but it was a struggle.
"Come on," said Xena. "We have to get these two back to AemetzainL."
Xena took Arynė on her back while Gabrielle and Eve fashioned a litter for Anaxilea. They arrived in AemetzainL just after sunset and carried the wounded warriors to the Temple where Lucina was waiting with CyrenL and Hypsyple and half a dozen other healer apprentices.
"I wish 'Lysė was here," said Xena, worriedly tending Arynė's wounds herself.
"So do I," said Gabrielle, assisting.
"She's like your own daughter, isn't she, Xena?" said Eve, quietly watching Xena tend Arynė.
"Yes, she is, but Eve ... " began Xena hesitantly.
"I know - Mother," said Eve, smiling at her. Her face was transformed by that smile and the ravages of time seemed to disappear in the lamplight of the healing chamber. "It wasn't your fault that you couldn't raise me. I know you loved me."
"I still do, Eve," said Xena, turning to embrace her daughter. "I always have and I always will."
"Eve, we both do," said Gabrielle, placing a gentle hand on Eve's shoulder. "Xena and I had talk today which we have both put off for too long. We talked about ... well, many things we've both avoided over the years, but one of the things we both know is that you were a daughter to both of - a second chance to be a mother for both of us. When that was taken, it was taken from both of us. You are still our daughter, despite everything which has passed and we would like another chance - a fresh start with you and Lucina and now this new child."
"I'd like that, too," said Eve, moving towards Lucina who was rocking her son in corner of the room. "In the meantime, I need to talk to my daughter. We have some things to resolve before we can move on. And moving on is something I learned from both of my mothers a long time ago. I guess I just forgot how important it is to leave the past behind."
She left the temple with Lucina and Xena and Gabrielle turned their attention back to Arynė.
"Xena is she going to make it?" asked Gabrielle, worried.
"She has to, Gabrielle," said Xena, quietly.
"What about Anaxilea?" asked Gabrielle.
"I don't know - the damage to her wasn't so much physical as spiritual," said Xena. "Her wounds will heal, but her spirit ... Hypsyple is working with her now."
"We sure could use a little ... 'god-thing' right about now," said Gabrielle, looking down at Arynė.
"Say no more," said Aphrodite, appearing. "Ares is still looking for Melysė, but he can't come here in the Temple anyway, so I offered to help. What's up with little 'Ryn?"
"She fought a demon," said Xena.
"Ouch!" said the goddess, gently running a slender finger across Arynė's bruised face.
"Yeah," said Xena, quietly.
"Aphrodite, can you help her?' asked Gabrielle.
"Of course I can, Sweet Pea - she is my goddess-daughter, after all," said the goddess of Love. "That, and she carries the blood of Zeus, diluted as that may be."
Aphrodite produced a small pink satin pouch and extracted a bit of ambrosia from it which she placed under Arynė's tongue. 'Ryn's eyes fluttered open even as the bruises began to fade from her cheek.
"Mother?' she said, weakly, then she sighed and closed her eyes again. "Xena."
"'Ryn, where is your mother?" asked Xena.
"I don't know," said Arynė, sitting up slowly. "Thanks, <tanti> 'Dite. The Amazon Land of the Dead isn't even a nice place to visit, let alone to live."
"That was close," Gabrielle whispered to Aphrodite. The goddess nodded.
"I forgot, you Amazons don't go to the Fields or to Tartarus," she said with a shudder.
"'Ryn, you were in the Land of the Dead?" asked Xena.
"Yeah," said 'Ryn, climbing off of the table. "I tried to cross over, but this old woman stood there and blocked my way."
"Hekate," said Aphrodite, nodding.
"I guess," said 'Ryn. "I was looking for Mother - even though Anaxilea said she hadn't harmed her, I just had to be sure."
"And she wasn't there?" said Gabrielle, relieved.
"No," said 'Ryn.
"Wait - she said 'Lysė wasn't harmed - what else did she say?" asked Xena.
"Just that she had put her someplace where Mother wouldn't get in her way and maybe she would find her way back here someday," said 'Ryn, her jaw tightening in anger. "Where is Anaxilea, anyway? I hope you killed her. Actually, I hope you didn't because I would like to."
"She's not dead, 'Ryn," said Gabrielle. "But it wasn't her. It was Dahak."
"But I thought ..."
"Dahak is bound again," said Gabrielle. "But I think we know now that we have keep our guard up against him from here on. And the Destroyers ..."
"Gabrielle, the Destroyers were already here," said Xena. "Think about it - all Dahak did is dress them up in the image of people from our past. Human beings battle the Destroyers every day - doubt, fear, mistrust, jealousy, guilt - all of the destructive emotions. Our worst enemy is ourselves sometimes."
"That's true," said Gabrielle, thoughtfully.
"Whatever - I want to talk to Anaxilea," said Arynė, standing. "She must know where that thing put Mother."
"Not necessarily," said Gabrielle, shaking her head. "And anyway, she isn't ... conscious. Hypsyple is working with her, but ... there is very little hope of her coming out of this. Dahak did some damage. If 'Lysė were here, I know that she could probably do something for her, but ..."
"Damn!" said Arynė, clenching her fists in frustration. "I have to do < something>!"
"Not until you're fully recovered," said Xena. "And then you can go to Amphipolis to bring Romy home."
Arynė nodded in defeat. "I may as well leave now," she said, pulling the bandages off. There was no sign of scars or any other evidence of her wounds. Gabrielle looked at Aphrodite who smiled brightly.
"Ambrosia - works every time," said the goddess. "Gotta go - all of Olympus is looking for 'Lysė. I need to check in." She blinked out.
Chapter Nine - Conclusion
Xena returned to the Queen's Cottage. She had had a long day. During her talk with Gabrielle, she had absorbed all the pain and the guilt of that time so long ago with Hope. She had been battling Dahak all day and worried about Arynė until Aphrodite showed up with the ambrosia, dealing with Eve and mourning the loss of her youngest children, though Hekate, in her own way, had at least let Xena know they would be alright and where they were. < Well, at least I know where the children are - stroke of genius, that - putting them with the Elisians, > thought Xena. < And it was very generous of Hekate to let me know, even though I wasn't exactly cordial to her on our last meeting.> Hekate knew that Xena would neither act on this knowledge, nor would she share it with anyone - not even the other mothers. < She knows that Melysė and Gabrielle have faith in Her, more so than I will ever be able to have faith in any god, but I'm getting there. She knows that I just needed to know where they were>
Now she was simply wrung out. Physically, mentally, and emotionally, the warrior was exhausted. She wanted nothing more than to fall into bed and sleep for days.
Xena lay down on the bed and suddenly she was stricken. Melysė was gone! Her scent still lingered in the bed she shared with the warrior and Xena breathed deeply of it, willing the priestess back to her, but Melysė remained gone. Xena sat up and called out, "Ares!"
The god appeared with no bright flashes. His face was sombre and his voice was quiet when he spoke.
"Xena I have every god and demi-god on Olympus searching this world - and as many others as we have access to - and there is simply no sign of her anywhere," he said.
"Okay," said Xena. "So, how do we find her?"
"We keep looking," said Ares, with a shrug. "I don't know what else to do. Do you remember the last time she disappeared?"
"Yes, but that was her own doing," said Xena. "This was Dahak."
Melysė opened her eyes slowly. Her head was throbbing and her whole body ached. She had never felt so beat up, even after battle. The priestess surveyed her surroundings. She was lying on a soft bed in a darkened room. The smells of this place were all wrong, though. She could detect some kind of smoke, but it wasn't wood smoke. It was harsher, more acrid and it burned her nose. Melysė tried to cover her face with the blankets, which also felt somehow wrong. She could hear a panicky voice in other room, but the words were unfamiliar to her. It would take some time before she could assimilate the language, though it sounded remotely familiar, especially with the hammering pain in her head.
"Come on Nat - you have to help me - this is all your fault!" said the voice. "Oh, yeah - big uptown MD. Well, if it weren't for you, I < could> have called the police when I hit her - you're the one responsible for me losing my driver's license. Never mind that - I don't need the damn pills - just get over here - she's hurt and I don't know what to do - if I end up in jail, think what a scandal it will be for your big career - I can see the headlines now, 'Prominent Physician's Cousin Kills Woman' details at eleven. Okay, I'll see you in a few. Thanks, Natalie."
(To be continued in Part XXI: "Once and Future Queen")
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