The Deal Part VI
by Paully Adams
(See previous parts for disclaimers)
She took another swig of wine, hoping that this drink will be the one that caused her to forget--forget what she had done. She looked down at the broken bottle and the shards of glass on the ground. The broken pieces sparkled as they reflected the moonbeams that bounced on them. They reminded Gabrielle of the sparks of light that flew into the sky when Apollo, Athena and finally Hades had died.
Hades. The God of the Underworld was now dead. She took a big gulp of the wine, trying to swallow down the memory that threatened to overtake her. But the memory replayed itself in her mind over and over again.
"Hello uncle." Hades looked up and saw Ares as he appeared before him.
Hades sneered as his nephew came into view. "You are not welcome here."
"Ouch, that really hurts my feelings." Ares stalked around his uncle. "Almost makes me believe that you are not happy to see me."
The god of the Underworld narrowed his eyes. "Don't you dare call me uncle. You betrayed us."
"Like you and Athena have any qualms about betraying your family. Let's not forget Apollo was your nephew."
"Apollo chose his fate."
Hades did not notice the lone figure as Gabrielle quietly made her way into his chamber, taking his Helmet of Invisibility. After she placed it on her head, she drew out her dagger and made her way towards the quarreling gods.
"The only thing he chose was to love his daughter, to protect her and her family. The same thing you are claiming to do."
Hades sighed. "Neither Poseidon and I wanted Apollo to get killed."
*Come on Gabrielle, strike him.* Ares started to get nervous. The plan was simple, he would distract Hades while Gabrielle stole the helmet so she could kill Hades. The deathblow shouldve been struck already. Knowing that she was listening, Ares decided to do something before his plans went up in smoke. "So why is Apollo dead?"
"Unlike Poseidon and myself, Athena knew Apollo would rather die than to see anything happen to his 'family'. But when he decided to fight to protect that child, he slapped all of us in the face. And if you were smart, you'll join with us, or maybe you want to meet with a similar fate as Apollo did." His voice became low and menacing, "and as his 'family' soon will."
Rage pumped through her body as she listened to Hades' words. No longer did she want to stab him in the back, but Gabrielle wanted Hades to know exactly who killed him-- she wanted her face to be the last thing he will ever see. As she pulled off the helmet, she rose her dagger in the air, "Not before you." As Hades spun around, she drove the dagger into his heart.
Hades' eyes bulged from his head as he stared right into the bard's face. Fear and astonishment came face to face with rage...and lost. The lifeless body of the god of the Dead slid to the floor.
Ares had to stop himself from dancing with joy as he saw Hades body as it slowly disappeared. "It is time to go Gabrielle. The others must know by now that another god is dead." Actually, Ares knew it would take a few moments for the other gods to figure out just who was dead-- just enough time to cover his tracks. "And remember to clean your dagger." With a wave of his hand, he sent her back to the cave.
Ares watched as Gabrielle took another drink. He could still feel his blood racing through his veins just as it did when he watched his Chosen One as she plunged the rib dagger into Hades chest, all the while looking into Hades' eyes. Ares was in the mood to celebrate. The God of War walked up to Gabrielle and grabbed the goblet from her hand. "You did well tonight. And now, the only one left is Poseidon. No rush to take him out, we will just let him live with the fear of his impending death for a while; sooner or later he will make a mistake. And that is when you will get him."
She did not hear a word he said; instead all she could hear was Hades' final breath. All she could see was his face as the blade entered his chest. She closed her eyes, but she could still see him. She wanted her face to be the last thing he ever saw, but now it was his face that haunted her, and she wasn't sure she could ever erased it from her memory.
But what really scared her was that a part of her did not want to erase the memory, part of her enjoyed the rush that ran through her body, the look of pain that embraced Hades' face, the power to control life and death. In her heart, she wanted him dead. "How did things get so out of control?" Gabrielle asked out loud. In her drunken state, there was nothing to stop her outburst of confusion and tears. "How did everything get so crazy?"
"You did what was necessary and don't let anyone else tell you different." He grabbed her chin and forced the young queen to look at him. "With the gods, it is kill or be killed. Hades doesn't deserve your tears. In case you have forgotten, he's responsible for your family's deaths."
"Don't you think I know that?" Slowly she shook her head as the tears flowed anew. "All I wanted to do was protect Xena and Eve."
"And you did. He would have killed Xena and Eve in a blink of an eye. But you got to him first. You need to continue being strong, because if you don't, the next set of tears you shed will be over Xena and Eve's pyres."
She pulled away from him and looked down at her hands and then at her dagger. The lines between the need to protect and the need for revenge were becoming blurred and twisted. But she was in no mood to think about it, all she wanted to do was to get as far away from this place as possible. When she tried to stand, she stumbled, but Ares was there to catch her, which only made Gabrielle mad. "Let me go Ares! I need to get out of here."
Ares gently lowered the drunken bard. "I was going to suggest the same thing. You can't go back to the village. And I'm not going to leave you by yourself. Look, I know that you are confused right now, but that I understand your confusion and your pain and I'm the only one who will. I am here for you Gabrielle." He reached out and caressed her face. "I'll always be here for you." He moved in closer. "You won't have to face anything alone."
Gabrielle woke up to a sledgehammer pounding in her head. She felt around the bed. The instant her hands registered that she was in a bed, she forced herself to sit up. *How did I get to my bed* she thought to herself. When she finally forced opened her eyes, she realized that it wasn't her bed. As she looked at the stone walls with her still fuzzy vision, she wondered how a bed got into the cave. As her sight cleared up, she noticed the small torches on the wall. "Where am I?"
It was then that Ares made his entrance as he appeared lying on the bed next to her. "Good morning."
"Ares, what happened?"
He leered at her, a smirk plastered on his face. "What do you think happened?"
She thought about the previous evening events. "I remember going to the cave. I remember you showing up. I know...I know I killed Hades and then I got drunk. I don't remember anything else."
"You don't? Too bad." Even though he knew the truth, he wasn't about to tell her. "I think I'll leave it to your imagination." Then out of no where a speeding flash of light entered the room.
"Opps, am I interrupting?" Hermes, the messenger of the gods asked. The small statured god crossed his arms in front of his chest and tapped his wing-sandal-covered foot on the floor. "Really Gabrielle, I thought you had better taste."
Ares balked at the interruption. "What do you want Hermes?"
"Everyone's been looking for you two. Artemis needs to see you at her temple, pronto."
"Fine." Ares nodded towards Gabrielle and she found herself instantly dressed and standing in the middle of Artemis' temple. As she readjusted to her new surroundings, she was shocked to find three others waiting in the temple. Xena and Artemis were standing left of the altar, and both were glaring at the third. When Gabrielle saw who it was, she pulled out her dagger.
Poseidon eyed the half-mortal child of Apollo. "Well, look who finally showed up."
Gabrielle began walking towards the Sea God. "What is he doing here?!"
Xena moved behind Gabrielle and placed a hand on her shoulder, both as a sign of support and to stop her from moving closer to Poseidon. "Gabrielle calm down. This isn't doing anyone any good."
Artemis eyed her niece, "Where were you last night?"
"Just admit it, you killed Hades!" Poseidon accused.
Artemis spun around, her green eyes flared with anger. "You are lucky I even allowed you on my lands Poseidon. Don't you dare accuse my Chosen One in my temple." Artemis turned back to Gabrielle, "Please, just tell us where you were last night."
Ares decided to make his appearance. "If you must know, she was with me." Ares silently laughed at the shocked expression that graced Xena's face. He then turned to Poseidon and said, "So Hades bit the dust huh? So what killed dear old uncle?"
"It was a Kronos' rib," he pointed at Gabrielle, "that she stabbed him with."
Artemis started to move towards Poseidon, but Ares stopped her. "Are you sure?"
"Yes. It was lying on the floor."
"Well, Poseidon, I hate to point out the obvious, but Gabrielle's weapon is still on her."
"She could still have killed him."
Artemis spoke up. "No, it couldn't have been her. Gabrielle never received a rib. The only weapon she has is the dagger."
"So who killed him?"
"It had to be another god," Artemis answered. Each of the three gods looked accusingly at one another. Only Xena noticed that Gabrielle slowly exhaled a breath that she had been holding.
Xena tried to look at Gabrielle eye to eye, but the bard wouldn't look at her. "Gabrielle, why were you with Ares last night?"
Ares smirked and turned to the pair. "Isn't it a bit late for you to be so naive Xena?" When Gabrielle did not deny what Ares' words, Xena headed out of the temple. "Xena, wait!" Gabrielle yelled as she tried to catch up with the angry warrior.
Ares turned back to the gods. "So what are we going to do about this? One of the gods is taking the others out."
Poseidon glared at his nephew and niece. "I know exactly what I'm going to do."
"Xena, let me explain...."
"Explain what Gabrielle?!!" Xena turned to the bard. "I warned you about him! He is digging his claws into you, and you are letting him. Why Gabrielle? What happened after I left?"
"It's hard to explain."
"After you left, Ares showed up, and I started to drink, and I...I woke up in one of Ares' temples."
"So, he drugged you."
Gabrielle shook her head. "I got myself drunk. It was stupid."
"It was more than stupid Gabrielle. It was careless. I know that you are grieving, but you can't let your guard down around Ares. He will use your grief to his advantage."
Gabrielle felt Ares' presence. "He's here." Ares appeared behind the Amazon Queen. "It is amazing how you do that. I guess we are connected," Ares whispered into Gabrielle's ear. He then looked up and acknowledged the warrior princess. "Oh Hi Xena. If you would excuse us, I need to talk to Gabrielle."
"Anything you have to tell me Ares, you can tell me in front of Xena."
Ares sneered at Xena while the warrior princess smiled. "Fine. I came here to tell you that Poseidon has declared war upon all of us."
"All of us?"
"Well, actually he declared war on Artemis and me. Both of us are his prime suspects in Hades' death. He promised to destroy everything that is precious to Artemis and me."
"Does anyone have any idea what Poseidon is planning?"
"No, not yet. But we should know in a few days. In the meanwhile, Artemis wants to discuss strategy with you. As our Chosen One, you will lead the Amazons, Apollo and Artemis' temple armies as well as mine against Poseidon. We knew that you would want to be in on the details."
Xena was about to interrupt when Gabrielle grabbed her arm. The bard looked at Xena and Xena nodded. The warrior princess knew that Gabrielle needed to take the lead. She backed off and waited for Gabrielle to say no to Ares.
But instead, the young Queen turned to Ares and said, "If Poseidon wants a fight, then he shall get it." She then placed her hand over the bone dagger. "And he will lose." With that she headed toward the inner sanctum of the temple.
Ares watched as Xena's jaw dropped open. "Underestimating her again I see." He turned and looked towards the door that the bard walked through. "She is truly amazing to watch. You should have seen her in Loka. She may not be as good as a fighter as you, after all you are the champ. But with her skills, she doesn't need to be."
"What do you want Ares?"
He did not even look her way. "I've got what I want Xena."
"Ares, I know you are up to something. I don't know what it is, but I do know one thing, Gabrielle isn't yours and she will never be."
"You obviously don't know her the way I do." He turned to Xena. "I know exactly what my Chosen One wants, I know what she needs. And more importantly, I can give it to her. Face facts Xena, the innocent, naive bard that you were so fond of disappeared a long time ago. She could talk one into eating poison and enjoying it. If you don't believe me ask Yarak. Opps, you can't. Oh well, ask the Lokans. That treaty she got them to sign was a doozy. Yes, she has many skills. You would be amazed at what she is capable of when given the proper motivation." The God of War disappeared, leaving Xena with something to think about.
"Eponin, can we talk?"
The Weapon Master looked into the cobalt eyes of her friend. "Sure Xena, what's up?"
Xena took a seat. "You were there in Loka with Gabrielle. Did you notice anything strange?"
Eponin's eyebrows furrowed as she thought about the diplomatic trip. "Nothing strange, just different."
"Well, the last time Gabrielle was here, she was into that non-violent stuff. Even though it took some time, I got use to the idea. But this time when she came home, she was a warrior. I guess I wasn't sure what to expect. But she did us proud Xena." Eponin eyes beamed with excitement. "She had all of them eating out of the palm of her hand. And poor Yarak, he didn't know what hit him. She is an excellent tactician. Because of Gabrielle, the Amazon territory has almost doubled in size and the Northern Amazons are now occupying the northern part of our new territory. With them and Tobisa's kingdom to the north and the Centaurs to our west, we are well protected."
"What happened with Yarak?"
"She didn't tell you?" Xena lowered her eyes to the ground. "Well Xena, with all that has happened, I guess it slipped her mind." Eponin proceeded to tell the warrior princess everything she knew. "I didn't know Gabrielle could be so cunning. She sure learned a lot from you."
Xena nodded her head. "Yeah, a whole lot," she whispered. Guilt and fear for her friend filled the warrior's mind. Without knowing it, Gabrielle was becoming a warlord. And unfortunately, with the skills Gabrielle had acquired in addition to her natural talents, the young Queen had the potential to fulfill one of Ares' greatest desires: to have all of Greece under His domain.
Eponin noticed the concern shown in her friend's eyes. "Xena, what's wrong?"
"Thanks for the information Eponin." Xena walked away, wondering if she could stop Gabrielle from making the worst mistake of her life.
The next day, Poseidon struck. Any ship that had Amazons or their goods were caught in mighty storms and destroyed at sea. He had wiped out a number of the scattered tribes that had settled by the sea. That morning, Ares and Artemis decided it was time to strike back.
Xena watched as Gabrielle prepared her things for a long campaign. Every move was serious and had a purpose. Xena recognized the moments, she had moved with the same purposefulness back in her warlord days.
Gabrielle felt Xena's stare. "What?"
"So you are really going to wage war against a god?"
"Been doing it for a while now."
"No. Before, you fought to protect."
"He started it."
"You use to tell me that it didn't matter who started it, as long as it was finished...peacefully."
Gabrielle finally looked up from her packing. "The gods don't understand about peace, Xena."
"And apparently you have forgotten about it."
"I'm doing this to protect the ones I love."
"No you're not! When we were in the temple, no one was in danger. Yet you pulled out your dagger and headed straight towards Poseidon."
"That's not fair Xena! They're all dead! Poseidon killed my family and I'll be damned if I let the same thing happen to Eve or you."
"Gabrielle you are becoming like I was, I see it in your eyes. You are letting the darkness consume you." Sadness filled Xena's eyes. "Eponin told me what happened at Loka. You negotiate a treaty with them that basically makes them a territory of Amazonia. And during your negotiations with the Lokans, set a trap for Yarak. You knew exactly what he would do and you were prepared. So now Amazonia rules Yarak's territory as well. And the treaty you have with Tobisa makes you very powerful and well protected. Now, you are about to lead one of the most powerful assembled armies in Greece to fight against a god and you don't care what or who you have to destroy to get to him. Both you and Artemis are blinded by your sorrow and thirst for revenge. Tell me, when you two finally do capture Poseidon, how are you going to decide who gets to kill him?" Xena paused as she looked at the young woman who she no longer recognized. "And I know that Ares is up to something."
A flashback of Hades' death attacked Gabrielles mind. She knew that she killed him, she also knew that Ares was responsible for the rib that was found there. *If Poseidon ever found out, * Gabrielle eyed her soulmate. "It doesn't matter what Ares is up to, this war is about Poseidon. They keep striking first, and all I just do is react. Athena threatens you, I react. They kill my family, I react. Well, I'm sick of reacting. Now I'm going to strike first before Poseidon can hurt anyone else."
"Maybe if you keep telling yourself that, you will finally start believing it." Xena angrily swiped a hand through her long tresses. "We both know that this is about revenge. How can it not be? You haven't had time to grieve, and yet you are heading out to lead an army to fight Poseidon, a god who helped to destroy your family." Xena watched as Gabrielle's normally green eyes turned dark. "Gabrielle, you want him dead. But killing him is not going to ease your pain. It won't bring your family back."
"I'm going to do what I need to do Xena." Gabrielle grabbed her things. "See you when I get back."
"No you won't." Xena paused. "I won't be here when you get back."
Gabrielle stopped and turned around. "What?"
"I can't stay here and watch as you become a monster. I can't stop you Gabrielle. And even though Eve is your daughter also, I won't allow her to grow up this way. You are becoming the most powerful Amazon Queen ever known and your name and kingdom are growing by shedding blood. Eve is the heir of your name and kingdom. Which means she is a target." She took a step towards her friend. "I won't allow that to happen."
"Too late. She was a target the day she was conceived. At least here she's safe."
"She will be safe no matter where we are."
Gabrielle ran a hand through her hair. "So you are leaving?"
Xena nodded. "Yes, and I want you to come with me. We could leave, and let Ares and Artemis fight Poseidon all they want. They could find another leader. Besides, we don't need Ares' protection; Hept and Aphrodite are more than enough."
"NO, NO. NO!" Gabrielle pointed accusingly at Xena. "I'm not going to turn my back on the Amazons. And you are sadly mistaken if you think that I'm going to let Poseidon get away with what he did." She turned back towards the door. "Do what you feel is necessary Xena."
"Gabrielle, if you do this, you will live to regret it."
Gabrielle thought about Athena and Hades. She remembered how it felt as she ran her dagger through them. She saw herself as she held each body of the members of her family. It was then she realized what was missing, what was different. She turned her head to the side, keeping her back towards Xena. "No I won't." Without looking back Gabrielle walked out of the hut.
All Xena could do was watch as her soulmate leave. When she finally found her voice, she whispered, "Please, let her find her way home."
Okay folks, that is the end of Part VI. Join us for the thrilling conclusion of this series in part VII.
Return to the Academy