DISCLAIMER: All disclaimers can be found on "Nightmares from the Past", the first part of this series.
I can be reached at email@example.com
PAIN OF THE PRESENT
The last few candlemarks were torturous for Xena, Gabrielle, and Sophia. They had stabled their horses in town, and decided to travel the last candlemark by foot. As the distance between them and the farmhouse decreased, their pace slowed. Xena noticed that Gabrielle skin was turning paler as time passed. Her eyes no longer danced, but stared at the road, clouded with sadness and fear.
*Maybe the time is not right. She needs to deal with the past, but when she is able. I shouldn't have pushed this trip on her.* "Gabrielle, we can turn back. If you are not ready..." Xena stopped, not knowing how to express in words what she was trying to say.
"No, Xena. More than anything, I want to make sure that Mom and Lila are all right. I don't know how much longer Sophia's mind games are going to work. Sooner or later, he just won't care, and he is going to hurt them. I know that. They need to know. Just promise me that you will let me tell them, okay?"
"Of course. Now you promise me that you will lean on me. Remember that you are not doing this alone."
Gabrielle gave her a small smile. "I promise."
The rest of the walk was done in silence. As the group reached the front door, each one took a deep breath. Gabrielle knocked on the door. The door flew open. An older woman of average height and salt and pepper hair answered. "Gabrielle, its so good to see you!" The woman pulled Gabrielle into a fierce hug.
"Hi Mom." Gabrielle pulled away after a few candledrips.
"You're looking well." "I see you brought friends. Look at you Sophia." Hecuba hugged and kissed Sophia. Sophia forced a smile to her lips.
"Long time no see."
Hecuba looked at Xena. "Hello Xena."
"Well, come on in. We have been expecting you." Hecuba wrapped her arms around Gabrielle and pulled her in, with Xena and Sophia following close behind. As they enter the kitchen, a woman a couple of seasons younger than Gabrielle jumped up from her seat. "Gabrielle!"
"Lila!" The two sisters embrace one another. Looking at the two, one could never had known that they were sisters. Whereas Gabrielle was short with blonde hair and green eyes, Lila was tall with raven hair and brown eyes. Yet the affection they displayed to each other told the world how close they were. Hecuba looked on as her two children hugged.
"Oh how I wish your father was here to see this! The family back together again." Gabrielle instantly stiffened in Lila's arms.
Lila noticed her sister's reaction. "Are you okay?"
"Yeah fine. Just a bit tired, it was a long journey."
Xena walked over to Gabrielle and placed her hand on Gabrielle's shoulder, giving it a squeeze. Gabrielle smiled her thanks.
"Well, I know you guys must be tired, but you are probably hungry too. Let's sit down and eat."
The family and friends enjoyed a large meal, which included Xena's favorite, white dumplings with the red stuff inside. When Hecuba heard that they were Xena's favorite, she proclaimed, "Oh really? I didn't know that they were your favorite." *If I had known that I've would have never fixed them.* "I hoped you enjoyed them." An insincere smile appeared on her face.
*Yeah, right.* Xena returned the smile. "Oh, they were wonderful. I enjoyed them very much."
"Well, it looks like its time to clean up. Lila will you get the dishes? I want to spend some time with Gabrielle."
"I'll help Lila."
As she got up, Hecuba grabbed Gabrielle's hand. "Let's go outside on the porch. It's such a lovely night."
"I'll be right there Mother."
As soon as Hecuba was out of earshot, Xena wrapped her arms around Gabrielle. "Are you okay? Do you want me to go with you?"
Gabrielle took a deep breath. "No, I'll be fine. I really need to do this alone. But I will tell you all about it later tonight, okay?"
"Okay. Remember, I love you." Xena placed a gentle kiss on top of her lover's head.
"I love you too."
Even though she could not hear, Hecuba could see everything, and her mouth formed into a frown. She could tell that Gabrielle was stressed about something, and that Xena was trying to comfort her. *I wonder if those rumors are true. No, it couldn't be, after all Gabrielle did marry Perdicus.* "Coming Gabrielle?"
"Yes, Mother." She reluctantly pulled away from Xena's embrace and headed out the door.
A tall man with black hair and gray temples entered into the tavern and walked up to the innkeeper. The innkeeper looked up and a smile spread across his face as he recognized the regular customer and his friend.
"Hello Herodotus. I thought you were out of town on business. Want your usual?"
Herodotus nodded. "Hey, Evander. Plans changed. I'm leaving tomorrow. Do you have room in your barn for my horse?"
"Sure do. But if you want your horse to be more comfortable, I know that Tyndas has room in his stable. By the way, I saw your daughter today. She's looking mighty fine there Herodotus."
"Lila was always pretty. She'll make a good wife someday."
"I'm not talking about Lila. I saw Gabrielle today. She and her friends stored their horses at Tyndas' stable."
"Yeah, Sophia and that warlord Xena. It must be some family reunion at the house, huh? A warlord, a half-god half-breed, and Queen of the Amazons. I guess birds of a feather flock together. At least Lila is normal."
Herodotus just nodded. *So she's here. And Xena and Sophia are with her.* Herodotus knew that this could only meant trouble. His blood began to boil as he remembered his last encounter with Sophia all those years ago. His mood did not improve as he remembered the last time he saw Xena either. *And they are both in my life because of that whore. I knew she was evil when she was born. Her life just proves it. She is so unnatural. Bard, Amazon, and warrior; what normal girl would be such things. On top of that she gives birth to a demon child. She doesn't deserve to live.* "Hey, I'm going to stay in the barn with my horse. I don't want to be in a house full of talkative women."
"Hey, I understand. Just help yourself."
Herodotus nodded his thanks and left. As he prepared to lay down, he thought about how he could get rid of his problem.
They sat on the front porch bench. Hecuba talked about the harvest and the local town gossip. Gabrielle barely listened as she thought about what she had to tell her mother. Hecuba noticed how distracted her daughter was. "Gabrielle are you okay? You seem distracted."
Gabrielle sighed. "Yes, Mom. I'm okay. Tell me more about the harvest."
"Well like I was saying, most of the town did well, especially your father's crop. Good thing too, with all the extra work he did. It nearly broke his body, all that work. You know, it would do your father a world of good if you could stay and visit with us longer."
"No Mother. I already told you, we plan to stay for only a couple of days. That's it."
"Don't tell me you are too busy saving the world or being queen to those Amazons. Really, Gabrielle; your father and I raised you to be healthy and normal. Being an Amazon, especially queen is not normal. Neither is traveling the world with a warlord, fighting other warlords and telling stories. Have you heard the rumors about you two? I just wish..."
Gabrielle balled her hands into fists and jumped up from the bench as she exploded. "Will you just stop it!!! I'm sick of hearing about being normal! You think we're a normal family?!? Do you?!? We are not normal, and if we are, I rather be abnormal!" She pointed at her mother. "And let me tell you something else. Xena is my family! She means more to me than anyone! She is there when I need her, in good times and bad, and she has never hurt me the way my 'family' has! So please, just stop it!" She turned away from her mother and started sobbing. Everyone inside ran to the front porch to see what the commotion was.
Xena saw Gabrielle's body rack with grief and she quickly ran to her partner's side and wrapped her arms around her. "It's okay. It's okay."
Hecuba tried to compose herself. It was true, Gabrielle's childhood was not easy. But must of her trouble she brought on herself. 'Telling her stories, daydreaming all the time, hanging out with Sophia; it's no wonder Herodotus had beaten her. She knew better, and still did what she wanted.' There were times that she thought Herodotus went too far, but what could she do? There was no place for her to go, especially with two children. She walked up to Gabrielle and Xena.
"Gabrielle, I know that you are mad. I know that there were times that Herodotus went too far, but he only hit you to make you a better person. I won't stand here and let you insult him and the rest of us. We are your family and no matter how much you love Xe..."
"Beat me? You think this is about the beatings? Yes, Mother he did go too far. And you just stood there and did nothing. But there is more. You want to know what I think about my precious father! What can I think about the man that raped me when I was a child?!?"
Hecuba jaw dropped to the floor. Emotions flooded her mind as she tried to comprehend what Gabrielle said. "Raped you? What are you saying? Herodotus would never do such a thing!"
Gabrielle looked as if the whole world came crashing down around her. "You don't believe me?" she whispered as she took step backwards off the porch. "You don't believe me." She turned and ran down the road leading to town.
"Why would she say something like that?" Hecuba wondered out loud.
"Sophia get our things!" Sophia knew Xena was losing it, so she quickly ran into the house and gathered their bags. Xena turned to Hecuba. Her eyes flashed and her irises glowed as blue flames. "What kind of mother doesn't believe her child? Yes, Hecuba, why would a child say something like that...unless it was true." Xena ran off the porch and headed towards Gabrielle.
Sophia exited the house with the saddlebags. She heard what Xena had said. She stared at Hecuba, dropped the saddlebags and walked towards her. "Hecuba, next time you see that husband of yours, tell him that Sophia asked about those nightmares he has about once a month."
Hecuba looked at Sophia. "How do you know about those?"
"If you really want to know the truth, I gave them to him. I couldn't protect Gabrielle from Herodotus, but I made sure he wouldn't hurt Lila." Sophia glanced over to Lila and Lila looked on in shock, her eyes wide open. Sophia looked back at Hecuba.
"Those nightmares show him his place in Tartarus that Hades had set up for him if he ever touched Lila. You see, there's a special place there for people like him. The essence of pain is waiting for him. You know, he did things that not even the gods themselves dare to do. Yes, Hecuba, your lovely husband raped his own daughter." Hecuba lowered her head in shame.
"No, no!" Sophia grabbed Hecuba's chin and forced her head up. "You are NOT going to look away, not this time! You turned your head when he hit and had beaten Gabrielle into a bloody mess. You looked away when she came home from those outings with Herodotus and was not herself. You even turned away when she came home sick, so sick that I had to carry her in! Tell me, Hecuba, how do you manage not to see what is in front of your eyes?"
"I...I didn't know. I swear."
"The only reason you didn't know is because you did not want to see. You are telling me that when Gabrielle came home and did not want to be touched, and was quiet, and became the perfect and obedient daughter that you and Herodotus wanted so badly, you did not notice that something was wrong? The way she would stay at my house for weeks, and when she did come home, I was by her side, that didn't tip you off? And you actually believed that Gabrielle was that sick from eating too many unripe berries? My gods woman, she tried to kill herself! She finally started to believe that junk that she was evil and deserved everything that happened to her. She was so afraid that she wanted to end it."
"I've never told her she was evil and I never laid a hand on her," Hecuba whispered.
"No, you just let Herodotus do it while you stood there and watched. He called her evil, and you just stood there. He hit her, you just stood there. He took her away, and you just stood there. And your silence encouraged him, and told Gabrielle that he was right. He may have broken her body, but you did your damnedest to break her spirit." She let go of Hecuba's chin. "You are right about one thing Hecuba. Your daughter isn't normal. She is the most extraordinary person I've had the good fortune of knowing. I've seen spirits broken beyond repair because of the abuse. And yet, Gabrielle still has enough love in her heart to light up the whole world. I wondered what she would have been like if she had a loving and caring family."
She looked at Lila. "You were the only one who really cared about her. She came back for you. She wanted you to know the truth, so that you would be able to protect yourself." She picked up the bags and walked closer to Lila. "Now you know the truth. If I were you, I would run. Run far away from this farm and from this town as fast as you can. Because if you don't, they will poison you. And either you will become like them or you will die." Sophia turned and headed into the darkness.
"She didn't believe me. I should of known better." Xena embraced Gabrielle as she looked out of the window of their room.
"There was no way you could have known. You did what you had to do; now it is up to them. There is nothing more you can do." Xena continued to hold Gabrielle. "Come on. You need your rest. Let's get to bed."
"No. Please, let's just stay up for a little while longer."
"Whatever you want. I'm here."
"Just hold me tighter."
Xena made her embrace stronger as Gabrielle leaned back against her chest. They stood like that for two candlemarks until Morpheus extended his mercy and placed Gabrielle into a gentle but sound sleep.
"Mom, we need to talk about it."
"There is nothing to talk about Lila. She's wrong. Your father..."
"My father would do something like that. And it is about time we face that bit of truth."
"Lila, how can you say that? Your father has shown nothing but love towards you."
"Yeah, thanks to Gabrielle and Sophia. Mom, I remember those beatings. Gabrielle couldn't leave the house for days, sometime weeks. And I remember what Gabrielle was like when she came back; first from that fishing trip and then from that trip to the show." Lila stood up from her seat. "You can turn your head and look in the other direction, but I can't. Tomorrow, I'm going to town, and tell Gabrielle that I know she told the truth. I hope you will be by my side."
"Then Mom, you will lose two daughters." Hecuba eyes questioned Lila. "Yes, Mother. I said two. I know the truth, and I can't pretend like everything is all right. I can't live here and act like we are a happy and normal family." She paused and took a deep breath, gathering all her courage. "I'm going to Amazonia. With or without you."
"You can't leave me here by myself."
"Why not? Are you willing to stay here after what you have heard? Is the opinion of your neighbors more important than your daughters? You want to stay, fine. But I'm leaving. Goodnight, Mother." Lila left her mother and went to her room.
Hecuba tried to hold back the tears that were welling up in her eyes. She stood and walked to the window. She looked out and sighed before she closed the shutters, trying to keep out the night air. She did not notice the figure that hunched below the window, listening to every word that had been said between Lila and herself.
It was still dark outside when Gabrielle woke up, her body tense from stress. She could not fall back asleep, nor did she want to just lie there. She quietly got up and threw on her leathers, boots and sais. She scratched out a note and placed it on the table, and head out to the stables.
Horse knew that his master had come in the stables. He neighed softly. Gabrielle patted him on his neck. "I missed you too. Ready to ride? I hope so, cause we are going to race like the wind. I need to work out some of my frustrations." Horse neighed loudly and raised his front paws.
"Hey, what's wrong? What's got you so spooked?" She looked over the rail and into his stall. Suddenly she felt a sharp pain in the back of her head, and her world turned dark. She rolled over on her back as her vision became less dark. Even though her sight was blurry, she could make out that a male figure stood above her.
"Frustrated, huh?" Gabrielle squinted as the voice broke through the quietness of the pre-dawn morning. He father stood above her. She threw up a hand, trying to connect with him, but he easily caught it. Then another sharp pain, this time to the side of her temple, took all the fight out of her. She laid flat on the ground as darkness overcame her.
Rays from Apollo's chariot beamed down on Xena's face. She reached her arm to where her lover should have been; instead her hands caressed the cold sheet.
Xena sprang up. From the sheets, she could tell that Gabrielle had been gone for at least a couple of candlemarks. She looked around the room, and noticed a note on the table.
Left to work out Horse and some of my frustrations. See you in a few.
Xena walked over to the water basin and gave herself a quick wash. She then donned on her leathers, armor and weapons and headed down into the tavern for breakfast. She gave Tyndas a note to give to Gabrielle when she got back. Sophia was sitting at a table in the back left corner of the tavern. Sophia spotted her and waved her over.
"How is Gabby?"
"She's fine, I guess. She woke up early and took Horse for a ride. She should be back in a candlemark or so."
Sophia nodded. "And how are you doing most stoic one?"
Xena smiled at Sophia's reference. "I'm fine. I'm worried about Gabrielle. I know that Hecuba and Lila were shocked to hear about Herodotus. But I hope that they have come to their senses, and will be there for Gabrielle; because the last thing she needs is to lose her mother and her sister."
"Well, that's up to them. If they love her, they will believe her. Until they come around, there is nothing none of us can do except wait. And hope."
"As you know, I'm not much for waiting around."
Sophia narrowed her eyebrows together. "Got a plan?"
"Sure do, but I'm going to need help to pull off this."
"Count me in. What is it?"
"I want to take Gabrielle on a picnic. A little surprise for lunch. I'm hoping it would lift her spirits some. And I need some help to acquire the food and wine at a reasonable price. Usually Gabrielle handles that stuff..."
"Say no more. I'll help you. But I doubt if I'm as good of a haggler as Gabby. But I do have my ways." She looked over at Tyndas. "Watch and learn."
Sophia slowly rose from her seat and casually walked over to the innkeeper. "Hello Tyndas. How much for a bottle of your best wine?"
Tyndas held back a sneer. He never liked Sophia. She was too different, not only was she a half-breed (which he really didn't mind too much), but she was a half-god. Too different to really fit in with the good people of Potiedaea. "For you, Sophia, it will be ten dinars."
She smiled at him, and then quickly reached for his shirt and pulled him over the bar. "Listen Tyndas, lets stop playing games. I still remember how you banned your children from playing with me because I was different. You don't like me and I don't like you. So I'm going to make this very simple."
She tightened her grip until his face turned read from lack of oxygen. "You see my friend over there." She nodded her head in Xena's general direction. "Well, she wants to plan a surprise for someone she and I really care about. And I promised to help her. So this is what we are going to do. You are going to get me that wine and sell it to me for three dinars, and I won't rip your head off your shoulders, okay? And don't try again Tyndas," she made sure his eyes were on her. As he looked in her eyes, pools of what appeared to be black smoke invaded her eyes, changing them from brown to black. "Because if you do, I will be very, very angry. And you don't want that do you?"
He shook his head no.
"Good, so you are going to do what I said, right?" He nodded."Good." She threw him away from her. "Now go." He quickly ran to get the wine. Sophia took a deep breath. She was trying to gain control again when Xena came up to her.
"Nice moves there Sophia. Are you planning on doing that to all the merchants?"
Sophia turned to her. "No, just my friends."
Xena noticed Sophia's eyes. "Nice parlor trick. Where you learn that from?"
By this time Tyndas returned with the bottle of wine. With shaky hands, he placed the bottle on the bar. Sophia tossed him the dinars. "Now scat." He quickly disappeared, leaving behind both the wine and dinars.
"He showed me how to use my powers, and I didn't cut him completely out of my life. How about you, have you heard from 'dear old dad' lately?"
"Not recently. I think he finally got the message that I'm not coming back."
"Are you kidding me? He never gives up an obsession."
"I know that. He just trades one obsession for another."
"So, do you have any clue who he is obsessing with now?"
"Yeah, he's obsessed with the one who he believes is my successor."
"And who is that?"
"Gabrielle." Sophia eyes budged out of her head as her jaw dropped to the floor.
Xena laughed at the sight. "Long story, tell you about it later," she placed a hand on Sophia's shoulder and guided her out of the door, "but first time to plan a picnic."
They came back to the inn with everything Xena needed for the picnic. Xena headed towards Tyndas. "Did you give Gabrielle my message?"
"She hasn't come back yet."
Xena walked back to Sophia, a worried look across her face. "Tyndas said that Gabrielle wasn't back yet. I'm going to check upstairs, just in case he missed her." As she turned and headed for the stairs, Lila came down. "Lila, what are you doing here?"
"Hi, Xena. I wanted to talk with Gabrielle. Listen, I know she was telling the truth. Even though Mom doesn't want to accept it." While she spoke to Xena, Sophia came up. "And I decided to take your advice Sophia. I'm getting the Tartarus out of this place. Do you think that the Amazons have room for one more?"
Xena placed her hand on Lila's shoulder. "I believe the Amazons can make room for the sister of their Queen. By the way, have you seen your sister?"
"No, I've been waiting around here for the a quarter of a candlemark. Maybe Tyndas knows." She ran down the final three steps to Tyndas. "Tyndas, have you seen my sister?"
"Like I told the warlord, I've haven't seen her since this morning. Why?"
Xena looked at Lila. "It's not like Gabrielle to be gone for this long."
Tyndas continued to wipe the glass in his hand. "Well, maybe she wanted to spend some time with her father."
Xena pounced on Tyndas and pulled him up to meet her eyes. "Her father?!?"
"Yes. He...he...was here...last night..."
"Where did he go?"
"He stayed in my barn."
"Lila and Sophia check the barn. I'm going to check out the stable."
She lowered Tyndas to the ground and all three ran to their destinations.
"I don't see a sign of Father anywhere." Lila scanned the small barn. All she saw was some hay, a couple of stalls and a dirt floor. Of course Lila had no idea what to look for.
Luckily Sophia did. "Hey Lila, come over here." Lila ran to the first of the stalls. Her eyes looked to the rock that Sophia was pointing.
"Yes, it's blood. And look footprints. See the first set, leading away from this stall. The second set, same footprints, leading towards the stall, but deeper, as if the person was carrying something."
"Yeah, and these are the tracks. From the looks of this," Sophia picked up some horses pellets, "they left here four maybe five candlemarks ago."
"We better find Xena."
Xena Gabrielle's footprints outside of the stall, but there were no signs that Gabrielle actually made it into the stall. Xena bent down to have a closer look at the footprints. She found drops of blood on the ground. Horse and Argo both neighed and jumped back on their hind legs.
"She's in trouble, you know that right? Okay, we are going to ride." She was taking Argo out of her stall when Lila and Sophia ran in.
"Xena, we found blood in the barn. It looks like he was carrying someone with him. He's on a horse, and he has a four or five candlemark lead on us."
"Damn. Lila, I need for you to go back to the farm, get your mother and a few things, and leave for Amazonia. Take Horse with you." Xena turned to Sophia. "We are going to track him down."
Sophia hopped onto her horse. "Let's go. Safe journey, Lila."
"You too. Please bring her back." Xena nodded, as she and Sophia took off. Lila hopped on Horse and offered a prayer to the gods for the safe return of her sister and friends.
Her head screamed with pain. She tried to lift her head, but the dizziness forced her to keep her head still. She felt the breeze on her face, and she knew she was outdoors. Her hands were tied behind her and from the feeling of roughness on her arms, she knew she was tied to a tree. She moved her hands slightly, trying to test the tightness of her bonds.
Herodotus watched as his daughter struggled against her bonds.
"So, you are awake?"
Gabrielle stopped moving. He walked over to her, and jerked up her head by her hair. She winced in pain.
"Looks like you took a nasty bump on the head. It seems you lost a good amount of blood too."
She managed to open her eyes. There was nothing but pure hate and contempt in Herodotus' eyes. "Why are you doing this?"
"Why?" His cackle shook her to the core. "As you said before, frustration. You see, I understand about frustrations. Imagine my frustration when I heard that my daughter Lila wanted to run off and join the Amazons. I wonder who put that idea into her head? Imagine my frustration when I heard that someone told my family about what I did to you. You know, you should have never came back here. Everything was going smoothly. You couldn't be satisfied with the nightmares, could you? No, you had to come back and ruin my life."
"I did not come back to ruin your life, you did that on your own. I just wanted to make sure Mom and Lila was safe "
He slapped her hard. "I WOULD HAVE NEVER HURT LILA AND HECUBA!!!" He took a couple of breaths. "You see, Lila was all I ever wanted. And Hecuba learned to be a good wife. But you, you never stood a chance. You were born evil, and you will always be that way."
He stepped back a couple of steps. "You and your voice, you and your words, your daydreaming, your prophecies, all of it evil. And then, you had a daughter, who looked like your twin. When she first came to us, I thought that you had finally changed your ways. But no, it turns out that she was really your daughter, and your grandson, that beast, was to destroy the world. And you killed them. Tell me, Gabrielle, did you kill her because she wasn't evil enough?"
As he talked, she managed to untie one of the knots. She knew she had to keep him talking.
"Do you really hate me that much? If I'm so evil, why didn't you kill me when I was born?"
"Because Hecuba loved you. Of course, she didn't have a choice, she is your mother after all."
"And you are my father." Herodotus gave another cackle. He stepped toward Gabrielle.
"So you want your father to love you? Is that it?" He stood nose to nose with her. Gabrielle tried to push herself into the tree. Lust and hatred met fear and sadness as he savagely took her lips. She tried to scream and he forced himself on her more. She lifted her knee with all the force she could mustered, and connected with his groin. As he doubled over in pain, she managed to get herself free. She started to run, but he made a swipe with his arm and tripped her. Her head connected solidly with the ground as she fell. She slowly rose up, but the dizziness and her lost of blood only allowed her to rise to her knees.
Herodotus recovered, and knocked her fully to the ground. He backhanded her twice. The cut above her temple began to bleed again. She could feel as he pinned her arms above her head. She lifted her legs and threw him off of her, but the force was not strong enough for him to let go of her arms. He quickly straddled her and punched her in the face. As the darkness overcame her, she could feel him on top of her, forcing himself into her.
"It looks like he went off the road right here. He sure didn't try to cover his tracks, did he?"
Xena looked at the trail. "No he didn't, which means he is dumber than what we thought, or he just doesn't care. Which makes him more dangerous." Xena and Sophia hopped back on their horses. "Let's go."
Sophia watched as Xena pushed Argo harder and harder. She had hoped that she wouldn't need to do what she was about to do. But as they were getting closer to Herodotus and Gabrielle, Xena started to show more of her darkness. After another candlemark of hard riding, Sophia pulled her horse along side Xena. "Xena, we need to talk."
"Now? Can't it wait."
"No. If you want to do what's best for Gabrielle, stop Argo now!"
Xena reigned in Argo. "What is it?"
"Gabrielle might be seriously hurt when we find her..."
"Tell me something I don't know."
"And she is going to need you to totally focus on getting her to help and safety."
Xena grew impatient. "Do you have a point?!?"
"Xena she needs you to get her out, not me. You do not need to be distracted by Herodotus." Sophia paused for her words to sink in.
"Do you know where you are going to take her?"
"Do you have a plan to get her out of there?" Xena did not answer.
"So what have you been thinking about for the past few candlemarks?!"
"I've been thinking about her, how she doesn't deserve this, and how I should have protected her, and what I will do to him when I find him."
"No! You do not need to be the one that goes after Herodotus. You need to focus solely on Gabrielle. How far away is Amazonia from here?"
"About one and a half days journey, maybe two."
"Okay, so you will take her to Amazonia. I presume they have healers, and more importantly, she will feel safe there."
"And what will you be doing?"
Sophia looked down at her hand. She knew she was taking a big risk, but she did not see any other way. "I won't lie to you Xena. I have certain powers, and one of those powers is to temporary take away someone's darkness and claim it as my own. Ares taught me how to use it. Unfortunately, I've never tried it with someone whose darkness equals my own. But it is the only guarantee that we have to make sure that your darkness doesn't overcome you." She raised her hand to stop Xena from interrupting her. "And don't tell me it wouldn't. For the past few candlemarks I've seen your muscles clench up, as if you were preparing for a battle. I've seen you push Argo to her limits. Besides, our darknesses are similar. And I too have been thinking about charging in there, cutting Herodotus into tiny pieces and scattering him to the four corners of the earth.
But Gabrielle doesn't need for the both of us to go in like raving lunatics. And since I'm the one with the needed "skill," she placed her hand on Xena's shoulder, "I guess I get to be the raving lunatic."
Xena felt no pain as the darkness left her body, but Sophia felt as if someone hit her mind with a wagon and then rolled over it again for good measure. As her and Xena's darkness came together, her mind filled with images of revenge and torture. Her body collapsed, and Xena caught her before she fell off her white steed.
"Sophia are you okay?" Sophia lifted her head and opened her eyes. Xena inhaled sharply. Sophia's irises were enlarged, almost taking up the entire surface area of the eyes. And they were black, black as Greek fire and just as dangerous.
"I'm fine Xena. Let's go."
Her body racked with pain. She tried to move, but couldn't. Even without opening her eyes, she could tell that her hand and feet were bound and something was covering her. She laid there, silently praying to the gods, *Artemis, please protect the Amazons. Athena and Aphrodite please watch over my love. And Hades, please take me.*
Xena and Sophia crept up upon the camp. They stood downwind from the camp, and they could smell blood in the breeze. Xena slowly stood up and saw feet poking out from underneath a blanket. Sophia pulled her down.
"Any sign of Herodotus?"
"No, looks like he's gone."
"Good. That means I don't have to enter the camp. Get her out of here as fast as you can. I don't need to see her." Sophia shut her eyes and lowered her head.
Xena walked into the camp and to the blanket. She held her breath as she gently lifted the blanket. Tears ran down her face as she saw the condition of her lover. Her face was shades of red, blue, and purple and her eyes were swollen shut. There was a large gash on her left temple that was still oozing out blood. Purple and blue bruises had from on her arms and thighs. And from the tautness of the rope, Xena knew Gabrielle would have rope burns around her wrists and ankles. She grabbed her breast dagger and gently cut the ropes. Gabrielle did not move. She tried to prepare herself for what she was about to see. She gently eased Gabrielle's legs apart. The tears that silently ran down her face became a raging river. There was no doubt about what had happened.
Gabrielle moaned as she felt the large hands on her. "Gabrielle, it's me Xena. We're going to get you out of here." She gently lifted Gabrielle up into her arms. Gabrielle moaned again. "It's me, baby. I promise you are safe now. Come on, I've got to take you to the horses."
As she past by, Sophia kept her eyes closed. Unfortunately, her ears worked fine. She heard Gabrielle's moans, and her raged began to grow. She could hear Xena walking by. And the next thing she heard would send shockwaves through her.
Gabrielle realized that Xena was carrying her. Her voice was hoarse and barely above a whispered. "Xena, please. Let me die. Please." The darkness mercifully took over once more.
Xena stopped. She looked down at her love. "No, no don't give up Gabrielle. Don't give up, we're too close." She moved toward the horses. "Down Argo." Argo lowered himself to the ground. Xena straddled Argo, while she placed Gabrielle sidesaddle across her lap. She looked at Sophia. "Aren't you coming?"
Sophia did not look up at her friend. "I'll catch up with you. Go now. See you in Amazonia." Xena took off carrying her precious cargo. Sophia lowered herself back to the ground and burst into tears of anguish.
Herodotus staggered back into the makeshift camp with a bottle in his hand. He looked over to the figure laying on the ground. "Oh daughter, are you up yet?" No sound came. He took another swig from the bottle and walked over to the blanket-laden figure. "Don't tell me your dead already?" He lifted the blanket. A hand quickly grabbed his throat.
"No, Herodotus, I'm not dead. But you are going to wish that I was." Sophia stood up, keeping her vise-like grip on him. "Tell Herodotus, did you really enjoy hurting her like that? I didn't see her, but you really must of done a number of her, because she was begging Xena to let her die." She tightened her grip and in return she could hear him struggling for air. She looked down and noticed the bottle in his hand. She snatched it away from him and brought it to her nose.
"So, getting drunk Herodotus? Why? You know I really hate this. I wanted you to be sober when I killed you. I wanted you to feel every bit of pain. Well, I guess I'm going to have to sober you up myself." She dropped the bottle to the ground and placed her free hand on his forehead. "I won't lie to you Herodotus, this will hurt you far more than it hurts me."
The images flashed in his mind. It was unbearably hot, and the air was full of the smell of sulfur and burning flesh. His naked body was painfully stretched out over a pit of Greek fire, his arms and legs chained to boulders. Little specks of Greek fire popped up burned his skin. He could hear a whip cracking in the distance. It grew closer and closer until finally he felt the whip as it pierced his stomach. The whip cracked again and pierced his chest. He couldn't see the whip or the person doing the damage, but the damage was real and very painful. The whip did not stop until his whole upper half was covered with lashings.
He could feel the gentle vibrations as they shook his chains. Some sort of mass was moving over the boulder near his feet. He tilted his head up and saw the same mass approaching over the boulder near his hands. But it was not a mass, but an army, an army of tiny red fire ants. They crawled across his legs and arms, each insect biting his body. Soon the swarm had covered his whole body, eating its way through. And he could feel every one of the bites as it burned into his body and soul. Herodotus piercing scream filled the air as he fell to the ground.
"Sober yet Herodotus?" She leaned down towards him. "That is what awaits you. Now it is up to you how you get there." She stepped back, raised up one of her daggers and threw it into the ground near Herodotus.
"Option one: You could do the honorable thing and kill yourself. Option Two: You could attack me with that dagger and run. Of course you won't get very far, and that will just make me mad. Option three: You could kill me with the dagger, but then you will have to deal with the Amazons and Xena. There will be no safe place for you to hide. And trust me, those Amazons would love to get their hands on you and torture you in such a way that you will be looking forward to Tartarus." She stepped back three paces.
"But before you decide, I really need to know why. Why did you hurt her so? What did she ever do that was so bad? She's your daughter. Why?"
Herodotus picked up the dagger and rose to his feet. "She was born, that is what she did. Have you ever noticed something different about her Sophia? Look at me. Now think about Hecuba and Lila. Now think about her."
Sophia eyes grew when she realized what he was talking about. "She's not yours, is she?"
"So, you think that because she's not yours that gave you the right to do what you did? She loved you. You were the only father she ever knew. My gods, you had a gift from the gods, and you abused and tried to destroy it." Sophia swiped her hands through her hair, trying to control the rage the brewed inside. "Do you know who her father really is?"
Herodotus smiled. Then before Sophia could re-acted he plunged the knife into himself. She ran to him.
"No! No, tell me Herodotus." His eyes turned glassy and rolled into the back of his head. Sophia shook her head. She reached down into her small bag and pulled out a coin and placed it in his mouth, "Got to make sure that you make it to
She lowered him to the ground. She walked over to her horse, as pain throbbed through her head. Herodotus' death was supposed to be the release for her pinned up rage, but his actions denied her. *Who knew he still had some honor* She knew that honor had nothing to do with it. *He manage to spill a piece of information that he knew would hurt her, and took his life before I could make him tell me the truth. You were a piece of work, Herodotus.*
She knew she couldn't go to Amazonia, in the state that she was in. She needed release. She got on her steed and turned him towards Poteidaea. *Maybe I can get some answers from Hecuba,* she justified in her mind.
A bright light flickered three times and a puff of smoke appeared before her.
"Not now! Go away, Father."
"No." Ares crossed his arms in front of his chest. "I'm not going to let you do this."
Sophia jumped down from her horse. "This is not your concern."
"Like Tartarus its not. You can barely control your darkness. What makes you think you could control yours and Xena's? Both of us know what is going to happen when you reach Poteidaea. You are going to wipe out that town."
"Why do you care?"
"Well, seeing that this concerns my daughter, my former chosen one, and the one who I want to be my new chosen one, I think thhat I have a right to step in before you do something stupid. Even if Herodotus had died by your hands, it wouldn't be enough; you know it and I know it. Killing Hecuba wouldn't stop the thirst inside of you, neither would wiping out Poteidaea. Now yes, I would love
to see you loot and rampage the entire earth. But in my name, not in Gabrielle's name." Ares smiled. *Just a little more gloating should do. Come on Sophia, let it go.*
Sophia stepped up to him. "Move out of my way."
"Make me." Ares braced himself for the blow he knew was coming.
The battle was on. Sophia slugged Ares in the chest; the blow sent him 5 paces backwards. Ares retaliated with an energy bolt that reeled his daughter. She got up and ran full steam at him, tackling him to the ground. She swung her fist at him, But Ares managed to catch it. She swung her free hand and he managed to catch it also.
He slowly bent her hands up, applying painful pressure to her wrists. He rose to his feet, and she had to follow him to keep her wrists from breaking. "Now, if you are ready to calm down a bit, we can talk about this."
"I don't want to talk, I want to fight!" Sophia jumped up and kicked Ares with both feet; forcing him to let go of her hands. Sophia started to charge him again. Ares sent a more powerful energy bolt towards her. The bolt found its target and sent her crashing to the ground.
Ares realized that he would have enjoyed this if the circumstances were different. His child had grown into a tremendous fighter and her natural darkness inside of her had increased her power and strength. But her darkness combined with Xena's had started a chain reaction that would eventually led to insanity and her death. Sophia could not handle that much darkness inside of her, and that darkness would drive Sophia to try to satisfy its lusts for blood and revenge; first by destroying everyone and everything around her and second; by destroying herself. *I've managed to worm my way into her life finally, I'm not going to lose her now.* "So you want to fight? Fine! But know why you're fighting and whom you want to fight. Your reasons for fighting are fine. But look in your heart and soul. Do you really want to fight Hecuba? Do you really want to kill everyone in Poteidaea? Tell me, who is it you want to fight? Who are you so angry with?"
Sophia stood to her feet, her body ached with each movement and breath she took. She balled up her fists and her body shook. The guilt and anger; both hers and Xena's took control. "Me! I should have protected her." Sophia walked to a tree and began to punch it. "I couldn't protect her when we were young, and I couldn't protect her now. I should of killed him when I first had the chance. I should of went after her when I first read the note. It's my fault. My fault! MY FAULT!" With a blood-curdling scream she drove both fists into the truck, and embedded them two inches. Both hands were a bloody and broken mess by the time she stopped.
Ares came over and helped his daughter extract her hands from the tree. "Had enough?"
"Yeah, thanks." For the moment, her mind was clear; thoughts of rage and death receded from her mind. She looked down at her hands as the pain started to make itself known. "Guess I won't be using my daggers anytime soon."
"It doesn't look like it. But from the way you fight, you don't need those daggers. You are really good. Of course I wouldn't expect anything else."
"Thanks. I learned from one of the best." Sophia looked at the god who was partially responsible for bringing her into the world. She knew he had help her, but she didn't know why and she knew that this was not the time to ask for a reason. She was just grateful he decided to help.
Ares looked at his daughter as he read her mind. It was true, he never helped no one unless he got something for it. Ever since he found out he had a daughter, his eyes never strayed to far from her, for she had potential to be a great warlord. His darkness was in her, and her anger about the way that she was conceived and her hatred towards him made her that much stronger. He always took what he wanted and did not care about who it hurt until now.
He felt Gabrielle's pain and torment, and realized what he put Sophia' mother through. He felt the pain and guilt in Xena and Sophia's souls. If he was capable of caring for anyone, it would be these three. And experiencing their suffering at the hands of one who was just as selfish and brutal as him racked Ares with guilt. Of course, he would never admit to that.
"Come on slugger. We need to make a pit stop before I drop you off at Amazonia."
Sophia narrowed her eyes at Ares. Despite his recent actions, she did not trust him. "Where?"
Ares smirked. "Your body may be tired and broken. You may feel calm now, but the darkness still rages underneath. We're going to Tartarus to work out some of that energy."
"Um...," she looked down at her hands, "what about these? Can't fight in this condition."
He placed an arm around her as the his light and smoke transportation mode kicked in. "Think of this as a learning experience." He laughed as they disappeared.
To be Continued in Part 4: "Healing for the Future."
Written and (c)Copyrighted by: Paully Adams
July 29, 2001
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