Rebirth -- Part Four
"Its not going to work."
Lillith stopped her pacing to face the woman beside her. "What do you mean?"
Velasca pushed away from the wall shed been leaning against and drew her sword. "Your magic wont last on Hercules. I should have gone after her myself."
"No!" Lillith moved to stop the Amazon, but was halted by the sword tip against her throat. "Velasca, think. We dont have time for this. Once we get to Olympus "
"We are going to make time, Lillith. I dont give a damn about your little games anymore. You can manipulate whomever you want to. I have a Queen to kill." Velasca scratched the tip of her sword against Lilliths pale skin, drawing a tiny trail of blood. Pale eyes glared into the eyes of the woman that no man could resist and Velasca chuckled. "I didnt think your powers would work on women."
A slightly unsteady hand reached up to wipe the blood away. "We could have been allies, Velasca."
"No, we couldnt have." Velasca sheathed her weapon. "I work alone. Once I kill Gabrielle, Ill conquer the Amazons and force them to worship me as their new Goddess." She turned and started out of the cavern. "See you on Olympus!" she yelled as she disappeared.
Lillith glanced at the blood on her hand. "See you in Tartarus." She pressed a hand to the wound, healing it instantly. "Stavros!"
"Yes, Mistress?" Stavros presented himself immediately, genuflecting before the woman who controlled his soul. "How may I serve you?"
"You can complete your mission, Stavros." She motioned him to come toward her, grasping his chin in her hand when he was close enough. Her lips brushed against his as she whispered, "And if you fail, do not return."
"As you wish, Mistress." Stavros obediently removed himself from the cavern, leaving Lillith to a welcome solitude.
The ageless woman glided around the uneven ground until she found herself at a full-length mirror. Her reflection was not as sharp as it once was, and she immediately understood why. She was losing her power. She had felt Hercules slip from her grasp the night before.
She gazed at herself, remembering her first days on this world. She had been so beautiful then. Adam had been enamored with her until shed shown an absolute lack of subservience. Lillith scoffed, turning from her reflection. It was no longer relevant. Once she discovered the source of how Hercules had escaped her powers, she would ascend to Olympus and take her place upon the throne. And no woman would stop her this time.
With awareness came pain. Stabbing at first, then finally a dull ache as Gabrielle slowly opened her eyes. She touched the soothing cloth that rested upon her forehead, trying to remember what had happened. Blue eyes flashed through her mind and she was on her feet, swaying from the sudden dizziness. Instinctually, had her sais in her hands. She forced her blurry vision to focus as she searched for her opponent.
Footsteps behind her were approaching quickly. She spun around to find herself falling into the strong arms of her dear friend.
Hercules gently set Gabrielle on her feet, holding her at arms length to keep her steady. "You okay? Whats going on?"
"Thats what Id like to know." Gabrielle let her weapons drop to the ground, seeking a firm grip upon Hercules arms. "You tried to kidnap me."
"Uh, yeah, but that wasnt really me." Hercules guided her to a bedroll, urging his friend to settle back down. "Well, it was me, but Eve says I was under the influence of a woman called Lillith."
Gabrielle squinted up at him. "You dont remember?"
Hercules shrugged. "Nope. Last thing I remember, you and I were on our way to Olympus to find a way to bring Xena back."
"Oh, boy. Weve got a lot to talk about." Gabrielle allowed herself a moment to close her eyes. "And Ill get started just as soon as this headache goes away."
"Rest. Eve told me enough." Hercules placed the cool cloth across Gabrielles forehead again, gently brushing her hair with his hand until she fell asleep.
"Is there anything I can do?" Virgil joined him, crouching beside the bard, his gaze never leaving her face.
"As a matter of fact, there is." Hercules picked up the pouch that contained Xenas ashes. "Time is running out, Virgil. I need you to get this to the foot of Mt. Olympus. Aphrodite will meet you there."
Virgil took the pouch carefully. "Aphrodite?"
"Yeah. Shell be there waiting." Hercules met the young mans gaze, startled by the stark determination he found there. "Go quickly, Virgil. Ill take care of Gabrielle."
Virgil hesitated a moment before getting to his feet. He glanced at the resting bard one last time before sprinting out of camp.
He stayed in the shadows, watching the young man rush from the small camp. He briefly wondered about his destination, but realized that it did not matter. She was still there. The men behind him were growing restless, anxious for the battle to come. He simply motioned them to silence, knowing he needed to wait.
When Gabrielle woke again, it was to the early light of dawn and a substantially lesser headache. She moved slower this time, wincing when the pain came. Across the fire, Eve was already up preparing breakfast. Hercules was by her side and, from the look of it, was teaching her to cook. The sight of it made Gabrielle smile.
"Shes too much like her mother, Hercules. She cant cook."
Eves smile brightened as Gabrielle joined them. "I tried to tell him, but he wouldnt listen."
"Hey! Im an optimist!" He chuckled, stirring the water that would soon be soup.
"Good to know that some things never change." Gabrielle enjoyed the laughter until she realized the pouch was gone. "Xena! Wheres "
"Virgil has it." Eve laid a comforting hand on her arm. "Hercules told him to take it on to Olympus."
"Why? Did you find a way?"
Hercules hesitated only a moment. "Aphrodite has an idea. Im not sure if it will work, but I didnt really have anything to go on. Shes waiting at the foot of Mt. Olympus for Virgil."
"If she needs Xenas ashes, why doesnt she just pop over here and get them?" Gabrielle asked, growing suspicious. Aphrodite was her friend, but her magic was not something to be trusted. "Youre not going to let her do a spell, are you?"
"No, no!" Hercules almost laughed at the thought. "Look, she cant leave Olympus right now. If she does, then her plan might not work." The hero leveled his gaze at the bard. "Youve just got to trust me on this."
"I do trust you, Hercules." Gabrielle sighed. "Its Aphrodite magic Im worried about."
Hercules started to reply, but stopped when he caught movement behind Gabrielle. She noticed it at the same time, her hand sliding to the chakram. They nodded to one another a second before the chakram left Gabrielles grasp.
The circular weapon ricocheted off a tree to their right, then a tree to the left before slamming into the helmet of the soldier closest to them. The man fell backwards, unconscious, as the chakram continued its journey. Four more men were knocked out before it returned to Gabrielles hand.
By then, all three companions were on their feet, standing back to back as the soldiers ran out of the woods at them.
Gabrielle used the chakram like a mace, swinging it back and forth, slicing her way through the onslaught of soldiers. For every two that she defeated, it seemed like three more rushed at her. Blood dripped from the chakram, spattering on her face as she swung it around.
Her head began to pound and it took a lot for her to ignore the pain. Thats what Xena would do, she told herself. Ignore the pain and fight.
As more soldiers advanced, Gabrielle split the chakram in two, using the halves like her sais, cutting down any soldier that was within her reach. More blood as she continued, the razor sharp weapons easily slicing through her opponents. Two men came at her together. She nearly cut out the windpipe of the one on her left. Warm blood pumped from the severed artery as the man on her right fell to his knees. Gabrielle watched in macabre fascination as he bled to death.
For just a second, she thought about the men she was killing. Gabrielle put the chakram together again, placing it on her belt. She reached down to draw her less lethal sais. It was just a second, but it was long enough.
Hercules grabbed the first soldier that he came to, tossing the man into a group of his companions, toppling them all. Another four rushed the tall hero, but he easily dodged them, taking two by the arms as they passed and slamming them into each other. The men fell to the ground unconscious. The other two turned and made the mistake of rushing Hercules again. He tossed both of them over his shoulders and into the trees behind him.
He turned to find Gabrielle, but only found another half dozen soldiers coming his way. With a deep sigh, Hercules stepped into another melee.
Eve delivered a spinning back-kick, sending the man behind her into the air. Diving across the campfire, she barely avoided the net tossed by his companion. She did a forward roll and came to her feet. Eve noticed a slight movement to her left and ducked a sword blow meant to decapitate her. As she sprang back up, she punched the swords owner in the face. Blood spattered from his broken nose, dousing her in the all-too-familiar red liquid. The smell of it was intoxicating and Eve had to move back from the melee to center herself as the darkness began to creep into the edges of her soul.
Stavros threw the net around her, pulling her to the ground. She struggled immediately, but could not escape the five men that now held her down. He tightened the net around her, reaching through the small holes to remove the weapons from her hands. "Get her out of here!" he ordered.
The men lifted their prize and ran from the camp. Stavros tucked the sais into his belt, and then followed his men.
Hercules brushed his hands together, satisfied that the last of the soldiers was unconscious or too whipped to fight him any more. It never changed, really. No matter how many of them attacked him, they never seemed to figure out that he was stronger. He shook his head and wandered back to their camp.
"Eve? Gabrielle?" He called out to them, stopping short when he found Eve kneeling beside a dead man. "Eve! Wheres Gabrielle?"
"I dont know," Eve whispered, looking down at her hands. "They took her I was going to follow, but he tried to stop me." She held her hands up so that Hercules could see the blood there. "I just reacted."
"You killed him." Hercules knelt beside the young woman, gently taking her hands into his. His dark blue eyes held hers as he recognized something he had seen in Xenas eyes so many years ago. "Eve, you had no choice. He would have killed you."
"Eli taught that the only way to stop the violence is through love. How can I do that when I can so easily kill?"
"It wasnt easy for you." Hercules pulled her to her feet. "Youre kneeling beside him in grief. How does that make it easy for you?"
Eve looked down at the soldier, then back to her friend. In that moment, she understood how he had been able to save her mother from the darkness. She also realized that the one person that had kept Xena from that darkness, was in serious trouble. "Weve got to find Gabrielle."
It took all six of them to drag her out of the camp. Ropes bit into her soft flesh, pinning her arms to her sides. Another inch and Gabrielle would be able to reach the chakram on her belt. She had been carried by horseback for nearly a full candle mark, and then deposited inside a wagon, which now raced along the roadway.
Two soldiers accompanied her, one of them jabbing her side with the toe of his boot when he realized she was trying to get her weapon. "We should take that from her," he pointed out to his companion.
The other, much older soldier, frowned. "Not a chance in Tartarus. No way am I taking that net off so we can get her round killing thing. Besides, she cant even get to it," he reasoned.
The first soldier accepted that, but leaned down close to Gabrielles ear. She wrinkled her nose at his foul breath. "Be still or Ill give you a reason to wiggle around."
Gabrielle rolled her eyes, almost wishing hed follow through with the threat. "Where are you taking me?"
"To Lillith, of course."
"Of course," she repeated, not surprised to hear that. Gabrielle twisted around so that she could see the first soldier better. "What does she want with me anyway?"
He started to answer when a man rode up alongside the wagon. Gabrielle could barely see his face, but his voice was familiar.
"No talking. Understood?" He glared at both men until they lowered their eyes in acquiescence. "Good. Lillith does not want the bard harmed, Derrick. See to it that she is not."
Derrick, the soldier with the foul breath, nodded. "But Stavros, what if the Amazon " Derrick stopped short at the glower he received from Stavros.
"You leave the Amazon to me." Stavros kneed his horse into a gallop, leaving the wagon behind.
Velasca watched the fight from the trees. The little queen was impressive. She would enjoy killing her.
She turned her attention from the Queen to watch the man fight. It took a moment, but she recognized the hero of legend. "So, thats Hercules." She smiled in appreciation as he tossed two men over his shoulders like they were empty sacks. "Not bad. Not bad at all." Velasca decided she would have to pay a visit to the hero some time.
The young woman was a different story, though. She fought through a half dozen soldiers as if no! Velasca shook her head in disbelief. The woman fought like Xena. Her stance, her speed, her ability to react before her opponent could deliver the next blow were all traits that reminded Velasca of the Warrior Bitch.
Two men were sent flying through the air and into the trees. The dark-haired beauty turned toward Velascas hidden roost as though she could sense her there. Blue eyes narrowed, nearly settling on Velascas. "You know Im here," the Amazon whispered.
The woman turned away to engage another opponent and Velasca smiled, only to have that smile fade when she realized that the little queen was no longer in the camp. There was no sign of her, and the soldiers were beginning to pull back. "Damn! He took her!" Velasca leaped along the trees, following Stavros as he predictably headed for the caves.
"Theyre heading for the caves." Hercules knelt beside the fresh wagon tracks, his gaze fixed on a spot just beyond the trees.
"Lets go, then." Eve started forward, but he stopped her. "What? Hercules, weve got to find Gabrielle."
"I know." He continued to stare ahead of them. "What do you want?" He asked, alerting Eve to the presence of another.
"Ares," she breathed, seconds before she felt him materialize behind her. His hands gently massaged her shoulders.
"Eve, you look terrible."
Eve jerked away from him, moving to Hercules side as the hero stood up. "What do you want?"
"Im here to help. Thats all." He glanced over her shoulder and tossed Hercules a nod. "Hey Bro."
"You didnt answer the question, Ares." Hercules took a step forward, placing Eve slightly behind him. "What do you want?"
"Ah cmon, Bro. I know youre in trouble here. Is it really so strange to think Id come help you out?" Ares shrugged, knowing Hercules didnt believe him. And why should he. Ares was, after all, lying. "Okay, ya got me. I came for Xenas ashes." He held out his hand, palm up.
"We dont have them." Hercules answered simply, raising an eyebrow at Ares outstretched arm. "Anything else?"
"Wheres the urn?"
Hercules nudged Eve to turn around and started walking along the wagon tracks. "Stay out of this, Ares. We dont need your help."
"That true, Eve?" Ares focused his dark eyes on his once-protégé. "I know you felt it back there, during the fighting; that little thrill tickling the back of your brain."
Eve spun around so she could meet his gaze, holding it. "I dont need you anymore, Ares." She turned her back on the God of War and started toward the caves.
Hercules waited until Ares was gone before he caught up to Xenas daughter. "Eve "
"Lets just find Gabrielle, okay?"
The wagon came to a sudden stop, sliding Gabrielle forward and hitting her head on the front board. The movement was enough for the bard to be able to reach the chakram. Her fingers were just gaining purchase on the weapon when Derrick landed on top of her, a string of curses on his lips.
He righted himself, looking over the drivers seat to see what had happened. His face paled. "The Amazon!"
The older soldier was on his feet in seconds, and out of the wagon in one swift motion. He was nearly out of sight before Derrick realized he had been left alone.
"Hey!" Derrick jumped down and started shouting at the fleeing man. "What about the warrior? Were supposed to be guarding her!"
"I wouldnt worry too much about her."
Derrick slowly turned toward the voice behind him, getting about halfway around before a leather boot connected with his jaw. The young soldier toppled to the ground, unconscious.
Gabrielle leaped out of the wagon, crouching beside it. The entourage that had been following the wagon was charging for the shoreline. A cold wave of fear struck Gabrielles heart when she recognized the woman they were attacking. "Velasca." She barely spoke the name, afraid that by saying it aloud she would somehow validate what she was seeing. How in Tartarus had she escaped the lava pit?
A shudder traveled down Gabrielles spine, as she remembered how Hope had freed Callisto. Was she also responsible for Velasca being turned loose? The bard shook her head sadly and retrieved Xenas weapon from her belt. She held it up, letting the sunlight glint off the razor sharp edges.
Aphrodite stared at the archway, smiling when it was filled with a familiar form. "Welcome back, Warrior Babe."
Stepping through the archway, Xena glanced down at herself, not surprised by the appearance of her armor. One corner of her mouth lifted into a smile. "Thanks. Its good to be back."
"Did you find the answers you were looking for?"
Xena nodded. "Lets get this done."
"Just as soon as Virgil gets here "
"Virgil has been delayed." Ares popped in beside his sister, leaning against the edge of the viewing pool.
Ice blue eyes glared at the god, making him shift uncomfortably. "What happened to Virgil, Ares?"
"Hes taking a nap." Ares held out the urn in front of him, running his fingers along the smooth edges. "But enough about Joxers kid. Lets discuss your options, Xena."
The warrior took several quick strides toward Ares, stopping a few feet in front of him. "Give me the urn."
"You know," he began, tossing the urn from hand to hand as he paced around her, "if I toss these ashes into the viewing pool, youll be forced to stay here. Youll be immortal."
"Ares." The deadliness of her tone made him stop. Xena eyed the object that held the remains of her body, knowing that without it, she would never be able to return to Gabrielle. She was about to make a grab for it when Aphrodite got between her and Ares.
"Give it to her!"
"Not a chance, Sis." Ares held the urn out of Aphrodites reach. "Not this time. Besides, she gave us back our immortality. Dont you think its time we returned the favor?"
Aphrodite glanced back at the Warrior Princess. "Not if it isnt what Xena wants."
Ares looked over his sisters shoulder, holding Xenas steely gaze. Very deliberately, He held the urn at arms length, then released it from his hand, not even flinching as it fell to the ground and shattered.
Velasca easily fought off the soldiers under Stavros command before coming to stand before the little man that had caused her enough problems. "Youre a pathetic excuse for a warrior."
"Then kill me." Stavros was on his knees, blood dripping from the wounds to his head and chest. He had failed his mission and was ready to die. The Amazon had won.
"No. This is too easy." Velasca shoved him to the ground, picking up his sword and throwing it aside. "Wheres Gabrielle?"
"Right behind you."
Velasca smiled, turning around to find the little Queen standing there with Xenas chakram in her hand. "Well, my Queen." She half bowed and then drew her sword. "This should be interesting."
"Very." Gabrielle moved forward, making her nemesis back up a few steps. The bard glanced down at the soldier, whom she now recognized as the man who had attacked her outside of Amphipolis. "Ill be taking those now." She removed her sais from his belt, placing one of them in her left boot and keeping a tight grip on the other with her right hand. "Just you and me, Velasca."
"Oh, I have been looking forward to this." Velasca grinned, twirling her sword in a wide, impressive arc.
The sound of someone running caught their attention and both women turned to find Hercules charging up the beach. Eve was right on his heels.
"Hercules, Eve, get out of here! This is my fight!" Gabrielle stepped between them and Velasca.
"Our fight, Gabrielle." Hercules said his face set with determination.
Eve gave her a look that reminded her so much of Xena that Gabrielle knew to not even try to convince her to leave. Together, the three friends faced Velasca.
The self-proclaimed Goddess of Chaos shrugged. "This is not a problem." She waved her hand toward Eve, sending the woman flying through the air several feet. Hercules charged Velasca, trying to reach her while her attention was on Eve.
Velasca saw the hero and threw a ball of energy at him. He dove out of the way at the last second, but wasnt able to get up fast enough to avoid the second one, which drove him to the ground. A third one kept him there. Velasca tossed his body with a wave of her arm, watching it land near the water.
"No!" Gabrielle ran along the beach, the chakram still in one hand and her sai in the other. The bard threw herself to her knees beside Hercules, dropping her weapons to cradle his head in her lap. "No!"
Hercules body was unnaturally limp and Gabrielle could not feel him breathing. Her eyes scanned along the beach to where Eves body lay. Xenas daughter stirred and relief flooded through Gabrielle. She looked back at the still face of her friend. She felt a rage suddenly fill her; a rage she hadnt felt since the day she picked up a sword and chose the way of friendship.
Gabrielle rose to her feet, her stomach stained with her friends blood, her hands clenched around her weapons again. She could no longer see Velasca anywhere, but sensed she was still near. "Show yourself!" She screamed. "Fight me!"
"Oh, my little Queen has lost her friend." Velasca appeared in front of Gabrielle, a satisfied smile on her face.
Gabrielle launched the chakram so fast that Velasca had no time to react. The weapon was imbedded squarely in Velascas chest. The Goddess of Chaos stumbled back a few steps, her arms pin wheeling for balance as she screamed, "You bitch!"
Like a woman possessed, Gabrielle launched herself at Velasca, taking them both to the ground as she did. Velasca used their momentum to roll to the left, pinning Gabrielle beneath her. She pulled the chakram from her chest, watching as the wound healed itself. "Bad move, my Queen."
"Rot in Tartarus, Velasca." Gabrielle tried to dislodge herself, but did not have the strength. The fight was lost. She lifted her chin, exposing her neck to her adversary. "Go on."
Velasca pressed the razor sharp edge of the weapon to Gabrielles tender flesh. "Ive waited a lifetime for this moment."
Gabrielle closed her eyes and waited for her chance to finally join her soulmate.
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