The Deal Part VII

by Paully Adams

pma_adams1@hotmail.com

 

(See previous parts for disclaimers)

Gabrielle splashed cold water on her face and rubbed her head, trying to ease the terrible headache that plagued her. She has been on the frontlines for almost two months. The war was going well, at least from a military standpoint. By pushing the armies hard, they were able to capture four towns that were important to Poseidon's forces. And even though the Sea God's troops were made of his Temple army, as well as men from Zeus, Athena and Hades' temple armies, they were no match for the combined forces Gabrielle was leading. Yes, so far the war was a military success.

But the war was emotional wounding the young Queen. When she wasn't fighting the enemy, she was fighting battles in her heart. The pain of her family's deaths still haunted her. She could still see them, smell the blood, and feel the coldness that had engulfed their bodies. And when her mind wasn't on the dead, Gabrielle thought about the living.

She and Xena had angrily parted from each other, and no one else knew except Eponin and a few others. And since thinking caused her great turmoil, she did everything to avoid it, even if it meant fighting constantly.

Another stabbing pain made itself known and Gabrielle began to massage her temples with more force. Nothing, not even the herbal remedies that Xena taught her, were helping. Gabrielle closed her eyes and tried to rest.

A gentle white globe of light appeared. Artemis looked down at her niece. When she first learned that the young bard and Xena decided to settle in Amazonia, the goddess was filled with joy. She saw so much of Apollo in Gabrielle: their love for poetry and arts, love of life and nature, and their physical resemblance was striking. But over a few short months, a darkness shadowed the Amazon Queen. Her eyes no longer sparkled like they once had and Artemis hadn't seen Gabrielle smiled since the day Apollo died.

Just thinking about her brother brought an ache to her heart, an ache that would only ceased when justice was served. *But at what cost?* She studied Gabrielle's face. Even in rest, one could still see the tension. *Maybe it is too high of a price.* Since this war started, Artemis watched as Gabrielle lead the troops. She had to stand by as Ares made sure he was by Gabrielle's side during ever celebration of victory to join in the festivities, and during every moment of loss he comforted her.

Ares' actions gave Artemis one more reason to hate her half-brother. He was worming his way not only into Gabrielle's life, but into her soul as well. When Zeus was alive, he made Artemis the primary guardian over the bard. Too many other gods had jockeyed for that position: Aphrodite, the Muses, Athena and the latest was Ares. It wasn't until Ares started to show interest that Zeus felt necessary to make the final decision. But Zeus was dead, and with no one to uphold the decree, Ares took full advantage of the situation. *Do what you will Ares, but you will not have her. I swear upon my brother's name that Gabrielle will never truly be yours.* The goddess of the hunt was so lost in her thoughts that she did not see the young bard's movement.

Gabrielle opened her eyes and stared at her aunt. "A dinar for your thoughts Artemis."

Artemis snapped out of her reprieve. "How are you feeling?"

"We're fighting a war. How am I suppose to feel?"

"You know what you need, you need a break. The armies have done very well and deserve some time to rest. Why don't you go and visit Amazonia and spend some time with Xena & Eve."

Gabrielle flinched at the comment. "They aren't there any more."

"Why? What happened?"

"We had a difference of opinion. I received a message that they left two days after I did." Gabrielle ran her hand through her hair. "I guess she felt like she needed to leave."

"I'm so sorry Gabrielle."

Gabrielle didn't respond. Artemis sensed that there was more to the story, and she was determined to find out the whole truth. "What was the disagreement about?"

The bard sighed. "She believed that I was no longer fighting to protect her and Eve." Realizing that she wouldn't get any more rest, Gabrielle climbed out of the cot.

"Is that true?"

Gabrielle turned away and looked at her staff that was lying in a corner. "When I first started this fight, it was only to protect them. But after what they did, of course I want to see Poseidon dead."

"Gabrielle, you know how I feel. I too want Poseidon to pay for his part in our families' deaths. But I really have nothing to lose in going after him. For you, it is different. Is Poseidon's death worth you losing Xena and Eve?"

Gabrielle didn't answer. Artemis reached out and placed a hand on her shoulder. "Do you have any idea where they may have gone?"

"I have an idea."

"Then go."

"What about Ares? He won't like the idea of me just leaving."

Artemis scoffed. "I'll take care of Ares. Just go and talk to Xena."

***

Xena watched as people entered and exited from the tavern. Business had bloomed at Cyrene's small tavern as of late. As Xena continued to wipe down the bar, she felt a small tug on the bottom of the peasant dress she was wearing. The source of the tug was her baby daughter Eve. As she bent down to pick up her bundle of joy, three soldiers entered the tavern.

The three men took their seats. From their armor, Xena could tell that they were soldiers from Ares' army. She picked up Eve and placed her in her bassinet. "You stay here and behave yourself."

Cyrene came out of the kitchen and looked at her daughter and grandchild. "I see she is keeping you busy." She looked over at her three new customers. "Xena, I'll take these orders."

"Thanks mom."

Cyrene smiled at her only daughter. She knew that the past couple of moons had been rough on Xena, and the last thing she needed was to deal with Ares' men. Cyrene went up to the men and took their orders.

After Cyrene left, the men returned to their conversation. Xena listened in, hoping to hear something about her friend. She didn't have to wait long.

"This has to be the most safest war I have ever been in," said the oldest of the three soldiers.

"The safest war Lilos?"

"Yea, the safest. We took some of those cities without having to burn them down. And after I got this," his pointed to the long scar that ran the length of his jaw, "I learned that it is best place to be on the field is near the commander, especially when the commander is Ares' Chosen One. And it doesn't hurt that Ares is always nearby as well."

"Have any of you noticed that Ares always seem to pick females to be his Chosen One?" the red-headed soldier asked.

"Hey, the way she commands and fights, you can't blame him Balak. Besides, she's very easy on the eyes." Lilos and Balak began laughing.

The youngest soldier took a stand. "It would be best that you don't talk about our commander in that fashion."

"Oh look, Tilso is upset."

The brown hair and gray eyed young man spoke up, "She should have your respect, that's all. Not only could she beat any of us, but she has saved our lives as well. You do her wrong in speaking of her like you do."

"Come on Tilos, she is like any other commander, she pays us to fight."

"No, she is not like that. You may think she does her best work in the field, but she doesn't. When I was injured, she came and visited, not only with me, but all the injured as well."

"Most commanding officers do that."

"Not the way she does. She spent time with each and everyone of us. She even held one of the dying soldier's hand, and stayed by his side until the end. I will never forget that, not as long as I live."

Xena smiled as she listened to the young man's words. *The Gabrielle I know is not dead, just buried.* For the first time in weeks, she felt hope. As the hope sprung forth, a plan formulated in her head. She ran to the kitchen. "Mom can you take care of Eve and the tavern for a while?"

Cyrene saw the sparks in Xena's eyes. "What are you up to young lady?"

"Let's just say if this works, maybe there will be three of us staying here instead of two."

Cyrene smiled. "Do what you have to do to get Gabrielle here safe and sound."

Xena smiled as she raced out of the back door.

***

"You have some nerve showing your face!" Poseidon's anger flared as Xena came closer. "Tell me why I shouldn't kill you right here?"

"Do you really want to give Gabrielle another reason to come after you? We both know the war is not going well for you Poseidon. You have lost a number of cities, and from what I hear, Ares and Gabrielle aren't going to stop until you are dead."

"I thought you would be happy with that."

"I would if it didn't cost Gabrielle's soul in the process. You can end this war Poseidon. Offer a truce to Artemis."

"I'll offer a truce once your daughter is dead. She is responsible for the Twilight."

Anger filled Xena's eyes. "Give it a break Poseidon. Eve is not even one year old and she hasn't laid a finger on any of the gods. Yet five gods are dead. Face it Poseidon, the gods are fulfilling the prophecy through their anger and need to control everything. Zeus saw the baby as a threat, Hera didn't. They didn't agree so Zeus killed Hera. He came after the baby knowing that Hercules was willing do anything to protect us, and Hercules killed Zeus.

Then Athena killed Hecuba, Herodotus, Lila and Apollo. Gabrielle then kills her, and Hades is murdered with a Kronos' rib. By your own hands and actions, you are killing one another. So maybe you need to think who is actually responsible for fulfilling the Fates decree, the gods or a baby." Xena turned and began to walk away. "This may be the only way to save yourself Poseidon. Take it before it's too late, for all of us."

Poseidon's eyes followed Xena as she left, while his mind thought about Apollo. The Sun God was his favorite nephew. He did not want Apollo killed, that was not in his plans nor did he believe that Apollo had to die. In that one respect he was different than Athena and Hades. And now he might be forced to kill Apollo's only surviving child. *No, not a child* he thought to himself, *but a capable, strong woman. A woman who would do anything to protect those whom she loved.* Add to the equation two gods, Artemis the goddess of the hunt, his favorite niece and Ares, the no good but very cunning god of War. It was then Poseidon realized that he may had made a mistake by declaring war. *There must be a way out but how?*

He knew that Artemis and Gabrielle's anger was too strong; neither of them at the moment would settle for a truce. And Ares... Poseidon knew he couldn't be trusted. "Well Poseidon, a fine mess you got yourself into."

***

Xena returned to the tavern. As she walked through the door, she saw a sight that made her catch her breath.

At the back corner table sat Cyrene and Gabrielle with Eve on the table. Eve was playing some type of peak-a-boo game with Gabrielle while Cyrene watched and smiled. Xena felt an ache in her chest as she took in the sight.

Gabrielle looked up and her breath caught in her throat. "Boy, you are a sight for sore eyes." Gabrielle stood, waiting for a response.

Cyrene looked at her daughter and the woman whom she loved as a daughter and decided that they needed to be alone. She picked up Eve and said, "I think you two need time to talk. Besides, it's Eve's nap time." And on cue, Eve began to rub her eyes and yawn. "Talk to the both of you later."

The two friends stood in silence. Finally Xena broke it. "A new look I see."

Gabrielle looked down. She had forgotten that she no longer wore the two piece leather and brass armor. Even though her new armor was still the same color, it was full body. Around her neck was no longer the simple three bead choker, but a choker that contained the two pendants of her fathers. Her honey-colored hair add also began to grow out, especially in the back. In addition, brass leg and forearm bracers completed the new look. "Yeah, well the new leathers and armor were Artemis' idea."

"So, what are you doing here?" The warrior princess hoped that her friend had quit the war, that she wanted to return home to them.

"The army was doing very well, so Artemis thought the soldiers deserved a few days off. So I came to see you and Eve."

"A few days off? So you are planning on returning." Disappointment shone through Xena's eyes.

"Xena, I have obligations..."

Xena did not wait to hear anymore excuses. "And so do I." She walked away from her friend and into the kitchen.

Gabrielle went after her friend. "Xena, wait!" She caught up to Xena and grabbed her arm. "I didn't come here to fight, but to rest and to see you and Eve."

"Fine. You can stay here at the inn to rest. But as far as seeing Eve, I'm not sure it is a good idea."

The bard felt as if a knife had plunged into her heart. "Why not?"

"I don't want her to get use to having you around if you're not going to stay. You can't pop in and out of our lives in between battles Gabrielle. That's not fair to us."

Gabrielle backed away Xena. "Fine, if that's the way you want it."

"It's not the way I want it, but it is the way it has to be."

Gabrielle turned and walked away, as tears threatened to spill from her eyes. She walked right past Cyrene and headed to her room.

Cyrene grabbed her daughter by the arm. "Are you crazy?!?"

Xena pulled away. "Mom, were you listening in?"

"This is my tavern, Xena." Cyrene crossed her arms. "I don't believe this. I simply can't believe this."

"Believe what?"

"How can you be so cruel?"

"Mom, I don't want her to think she can just walk in and out of our lives anytime she wants. She came here to rest, so I'm giving her all the space she needs to do just that."

"Let me see if I understand you. Gabrielle, your best friend through all these years, the one who you told me was your soul-mate, the one who help you discover that you had a light of your own is now lost in her own darkness, and you want to abandon her to it."

Cerulean eyes opened wide in shock. "That's not how it is."

"Yes it is. Gabrielle's put up with your episodes of darkness, she was there for you through think and thin, even when you wanted to give up. But now, when she needs you the most, you turn away. What is going on Xena? This isn't like you. And don't try to use Eve as an excuse, you have fought whole armies while holding her. This is just one person."

Xena turned her back towards her mother; for she did not want her mother to see the feeling of utter helplessness shining from her eyes. "Mom, if this was Gabrielle, the Gabrielle I knew, then I could help her. I understand the anger she felt when she found her family slaughtered. I understand the anger she felt when Apollo was killed right in front of her eyes. I could help Gabrielle thorough that if we have time. But we are not talking about normal anger here mom. Add to her human anger the emotional drive and power of a god. The gods don't stop, especially when they believe that their goal is within reach. And within her reach is Poseidon's death. She had learned to control her powers, but she has yet to learn to control those drives and passions, and that makes her dangerous. I can't help her to control that, and Artemis is so busy grieving and seeking revenge, that she can't see what is happening to her niece. For the first time in our lives, I can't help her." Silent tears fell from her eyes.

Cyrene knew her daughter was hurting. She reached out and placed a hand on Xena's shoulder. "Xena, you can't help Gabrielle with her gifts and you may not be able to fix things. But you can start Gabrielle on the right path. For all those years she was your light. Maybe it is time for you to be hers."

***

*BANG BANG*

Gabrielle woke up with a start. As she fumbled with the sheets, she grumbled. "Don't know why I came back. Should have stayed on the front lines where I belonged." She tripped over her bags. She didn't bother to unpack after her discussion with Xena. She thought she would just stay overnight and head back out. In fact, she slept in her leathers, so that she would be able to leave as fast as possible. She caught herself before she fell. As she opened the door she yelled, "WHAT IS IT?" What she saw helped her remember why she came to Amphilopis.

Xena stood outside the door, Eve in one arm and a picnic basket in the other. "Well, I see you are still a grouch in the morning. I thought that being in the front lines would help you with that."

Gabrielle smirked. "I guess some habits will never change." She opened the door wider. "What to come in?"

"Sure."

Gabrielle went to the basin and poured cold water over her head. As the water shocked her into being awake, she hoped it would also kick start her brain. She couldn't figure out why Xena was here. The warrior princess made it all too clear that she didn't want her in their lives. After combing her mid-length hair back, she turned and faced Xena. "So what are you doing here?"

"I came to apologize Gabrielle. I'm really sorry about last night. I remembered all the times that you were there for me when I struggled with my dark side."

"If you are trying to pay back some debt that you think you owe me..."

"That's not it Gabrielle. I remember that we're strongest when we're together. Nothing, no one stood a chance against us. It was only when we were separate that we lost. I'm determined not to lose this time, how about you?"

Gabrielle didn't know how to respond. Luckily for her, her stomach decided to make its presence known. As it growled loudly, Gabrielle pointed to the basket. "Hey what's in there?"

Xena knew that Gabrielle had avoided the question, but she decided not to push it. "I thought that maybe you would like to go on a picnic with Eve and me. I have some chicken, nutbread, fruit, cheese, wine and my favorite dumplings. So how about it?"

"You don't have to ask twice. Let's go."

***

After they had their fill, Xena, Eve and Gabrielle stretched out and looked at the sky. "I forgot how much I enjoyed doing this. Thanks Xena."

"You're welcome. Besides, you are doing me a favor as well. I get tired of being cooped up in the tavern all day."

"I can imagine." They spent the next few moments in silence.

"Gabrielle, I need to ask you something."

"What is it?"

"How is it going out there?"

"Fine."

"I heard that you haven't had to destroy any towns yet. And just how have you managed such a feat?"

"It was easy. I just pointed out to the town leaders that I had more and better skilled soldiers. It also helped that both Ares and Artemis were by my side. Usually that worked. When it didn't, we fought. After we wiped out their forces, the towns were more than willing to sign a treaty and to give us supplies. There was one town that gave us trouble, but we were able to take it with little bloodshed."

"A little bloodshed?"

Gabrielle sighed. "One of Poseidon's priest became highly upset when I decided to destroy the temple. He attacked me with a dagger, and got me right here." She pointed to her side. "Not too bad, but it made me mad. One punch, and his nose was broken. After that Artemis made me wear full body leathers." She patted her leather-clad belly. "No more showing off the old abs."

"I tried to talk you into that for years."

"And I still say my abs are a weapon, they distract while I attack."

"Hmm". Xena paused and looked her friend straight in the eye. "So did you destroy the temple?"

Gabrielle returned her attention to the sky. "Yes."

"Do you always go around destroying Poseidon's temples?"

"Why are you asking so many questions?"

Mirth danced in the cobalt orbs as Xena remembered all the times the Bard made her talk about her feelings. "Think of this as payback. You use to make me talk about my battles and the way I felt, now it's your turn."

Gabrielle sighed. "Fine. Yes Xena, I destroy Poseidon's temples. In fact, that is the first thing I do after I conquer a town. Now would you like to know how I do that?" Gabrielle sat up and looked at the warrior princess, not waiting for an answer. "Since I'm not strong enough to topple Poseidon's statues down, I usually throw fireballs at them. Then I proceed to destroy the temples with fireballs and light beams. Is that what you wanted to know?"

"What does Ares and Artemis say?"

Artemis has stayed away since the first temple I destroyed. Ares just laughs."

"Why is he still in the picture?"

"The same reason he's always been there. You were his Chosen One, and I'm the heir."

"Not of my old legacy." Xena sat up and faced the Bard. "You helped me bury it a long time ago." She reached out and picked up her daughter. "Because I chose to hold on to my anger and darkness, Solon never knew Borias' or my love. And now, you are making the same mistake. And Ares' is more than willing to guide you there."

"But with him by my side, we both can get what we want. You want an end to this war? Ares can help me accomplish that faster."

"Killing Poseidon will end the war. But Gabrielle, so will a truce."

Gabrielle's jaw tightened. "Never."

"Why not?"

"Do you really hold my family's lives at such low value? He killed them."

"Athena killed them."

Green eyes flashed with anger. "He knew, he stood by her side, and did nothing. He is just as guilty."

"And killing him will change what?"

"Xena, I don't want to argue with you. Let's drop it okay?" Gabrielle could feel the beginnings of a headache so she started to rub her temple.

They sat in relative silence, neither of them speaking a word. Xena watched as her friend messaged her temple. Even though she didn't say anything, Xena could see that Gabrielle was in pain. "Do get those headaches often?"

"Yes."

"What do you take for them?"

"Nothing helps Xena, except for going off by myself and shooting off some beams."

Xena quirked her eyebrow. "Did you have them as a child?"

The Amazon Queen thought back to her childhood. "Yeah, I did when I was young."

"Gabrielle..."

"Xena I know. But things are different this time. I couldn't handle my powers then, I can now."

"Are you sure? They almost killed you before. How you know it isn't happening again?"

"Because the pain is different. It is weaker."

"Yes, but for how long? Amuse me Gabrielle. Let's drop Eve at Mother's and then we'll go and see Artemis about this. Maybe she can help."

***

As they approached the temple, a priestess came out of the doors. "I was just sent out to get you two. Artemis needs to see you." The priestess escorted them inside.

Artemis stood by the altar and watched as they approached. She wasn't sure how her Chosen One was going to take the announcement, but she thought that it was for the best. "Gabrielle, I have some wonderful news. The war could be over soon."

"What, do we have Poseidon cornered or something?"

"No, Poseidon wants to discuss a truce."

"A truce, huh?" Gabrielle eyed Xena angrily. "I wonder where he got that idea from." She turned her attention back to her aunt. "I hope you told him where he can put his truce."

The goddess folded her hands. "Actually, I'm considering it."

"You are?" As she watched her aunt nod, rage gripped the young Queen. For weeks, her anger had been a constant companion, and now Artemis and Xena were asking her to let it go. "No, no, no! The war ends when Poseidon is as dead as Hades!" Gabrielle walked over to a small pillar and slammed her hand into a vase. Sharp pain exploded in her head, as if a needle was stabbing in her brain. Gabrielle grabbed her head as she tumbled to the floor. Xena and Artemis ran to her side.

"What's wrong?"

"It is her powers. The headaches she had as a child are returning. Can you take away her powers?"

"No!" the young bard yelled.

"Even if I wanted to Xena, I can't. Only Apollo could do that. But I can ease the pain." A white glow emitted from the goddess hand as she touched Gabrielle. "Why didn't you tell me Gabrielle?"

"They are all I have left of my father."

She grabbed her niece by the chin and looked her in the eyes. "If you think that's all you have from him is your powers, you are wrong. You have his eyes, which sparkle when you laugh. And you both love mischief and poetry. But I haven't seen that side of you in a long time. If I have to choose between his death while watching my brother die again as you lose that part of him that is inside of you or letting Poseidon live, then I rather have him live." Artemis released her grip on Gabrielle. "The price for his death is way too high for me."

Gabrielle closed her eyes, as the wave of emotion began to break down the walls in her heart. She never got the chance to grieve her loss, but now the heartbreak could not be pushed down. Silent tears became racking sobs as Xena wrapped her arms around her friend. "Let it go Gabrielle, let it go."

For a candlemark Xena held Gabrielle as her grieve escaped its confinements. When she had enough Gabrielle pulled back. Xena smiled faintly. "A truce?"

Gabrielle took a deep breath. "Ares won't agree to it."

"Why not?" Artemis questioned. "What does he gain with this war? The only reason he is involved is because Poseidon accused him of killing Hades. He has nothing to gain by continuing this fight."

"Except for the death of another god." Xena eyed Gabrielle and noticed the tightening of her jaw. "Gabrielle, who killed Hades?"

"Xena, it is complicatedů"

Xena narrowed her eyes. "We have all the time in the world."

***

Gabrielle stomped through the woods, throwing her sais into trees in her path. She felt the familiar tingle in her neck. "Ares, we need to talk."

"What is it? What's wrong?"

"Poseidon has just offered Artemis a truce. And she wants to accept it."

"What? We're crushing his forces."

"She says she's doing for me. She said that when she looks at me and sees what I'm becoming, it's like watching Apollo die again."

"Well, don't worry your pretty head about it. She needs for one of us to join with her. And that isn't going to happen."

"There is something else." She rubs her temple. "They know, Ares. Artemis and Xena know that I killed Hades."

Alarm came over his face. "How?!?"

"When Artemis came to me with that stupid suggestion I told her no. She said she wanted to end this war. I grabbed my dagger and told her the war ends when Poseidon was as dead as Hades. Xena accuse me of knowing something, so I left the temple."

"Well then she doesn't know."

"Not for sure, but what if she suspects?"

"Don't worry, it doesn't matter; we will just move our timetable up. Are you ready to kill Poseidon tonight?"

"Do you have to ask? I even been thinking up a plan."

"I love it when you use your devious mind. Tell me."

"Do you still have the Helmet of Invisibility?" He nodded. "I will go to Poseidon's temple and tell him that I want to discuss terms for the truce. Knowing him, he will demand Eve's death. I will of course tell him no, but I can offer him something else, the person who killed Hades. I will then tell him for exchange of that information, he will agree never to come near the Amazons, Eve, and Xena. And for my part, I will stop seeking his death. As soon as he agrees to my demands, I will tell him that I killed Hades. He will try to strike me dead with his trident, and that is when you stab him in the back with a Kronos' rib."

"Sounds fine, except one thing, why should I kill him?"

"Because I have to honor the bonds of the new truce. I can't seek his death. But I can watch. Besides, my diplomatic skills are required, not my warrior skills."

Ares came closer to his Chosen One. "Fine." *Then I will celebrate my victory.* With that he disappeared.

***

"So you want a truce?" Gabrielle sneered at the Sea God. "These are my terms."

"Your terms?!? How dare you walk in here..."

"Listen Poseidon, it's not my army that's losing. I'm not the one being hunted. Either you accept these terms or I tell Artemis and Ares that the war is back on." She grabbed her dagger. "And this time, I won't stop until you're dead."

"I think you misunderstood something Gabrielle. I'm not surrendering. You are here to discuss a truce. We both have demands."

"Fine. My first demand is that you stay out of Eve and Xena's life. There is no discussion on this point. If you can't agree with that, then I won't waste any more of your and my time."

"And what do I get?"

"Your life. Your cities. But if they are not enough, I can sweeten the pot." She paused. "I can tell you who killed Hades."

Poseidon's eyes bulged. "You know who is responsible?"

"Yes. But I'm not telling you unless you agree with my terms. And one more thing, you will not seek retribution against the Amazons or any of the gods who are protecting what's left of my family. So what is it going to be?"

Poseidon eyed the young woman. "Fine. Eve and Xena will be safe from me. And I will not hold the other gods responsible for siding with you. So who is Hades' murderer?"

She calmly eyed the god. "Me."

"Impossible."

"Not really. I've been through Hades before. I know the tunnels and I know how to get in and out. And I've stolen his precious Helmet of Invisibility before. So it wasn't hard to do what I did."

"You do know your life is in my hands."

"Yes."

Poseidon aimed his trident towards the young Queen. "So be it."

Ares, wearing the Helmet of Invisibility, stealthy crept upon the unsuspecting god. He raised the rib above his head. Unfortunately, he did not hear the whooshing sounds until it was too late.

Xena stepped out from a shadow and threw her chakram. The chakram hit Ares in the head, knocking off the helmet. At the same time Artemis appeared and shot her arrow true, sending the rib flying out of Ares hand. Poseidon quickly turned around. "Hello nephew." A blast came from his trident sending Ares reeling on the floor.

Poseidon picked up the rib and stood over the fallen god. "I know everything Ares. And for your part in Hades death, you deserve death." Poseidon raised Kronos' rib over his head. Ares closed his eyes waiting for the death blow. "However, there has been too much already." He glanced over at Gabrielle. "Instead, I rather hurt your ego. Until Hercules decides to claim his rightful place as heir to Zeus' throne, I will rule with Artemis. And as for you Gabrielle," Poseidon turned towards the bard, "Since your life is in my hands, I will give your life to Artemis. She is the primary goddess over you once again. Ares can no longer affect your life in any major way without Artemis' consent."

"You can't do that!" Ares challenged. "She is my Chosen One as well, and she accepted that role."

"True Ares. And that is why you may tempt her, just as you had Xena."

"I don't believe this!" He turned his angry gaze upon his Chosen One. "I will see you later." In three flashes of light, he was gone.

Poseidon turned to face his three former enemies. "Well, it looks like this is all over."

"Looks like it," Xena responded. She could sense the tension in her friend, so she placed her arm around Gabrielle.

Poseidon sighed. He wondered if it will ever truly be over between him and Apollos' daughter. "Gabrielle, I know that this may not mean much now, but I want you to know that I didn't want Apollo to die. I just hope one day you will believe me. I'm truly sorry."

Gabrielle didn't say a word. Instead she turned and walked out of the temple. Xena decided to follow her. Once they were away from the temple, Xena placed a hand on Gabrielle's shoulder and asked, "Are you okay?"

"No I'm not." Gabrielle looked down at the charms around her throat. Once again, the anger made itself known. "I'm not sure I'll ever be."

Xena embraced her friend. She knew that the road ahead would be hard. "I'll be here for you."

***

Epilogue

Two months had past and they were on the road once again. Gabrielle woke up and headed to the woods. Xena looked up at her friend. "Where are you going?"

Gabrielle smiled down at her. "Going to take care of some business. Go back to sleep."

Xena nodded and as Morpheus arms claimed the warrior once again, Gabrielle walked into the woods. "Okay, Ares," she whispered. "What do you want?"

Ares smiled. "You know, I was pretty mad at you for betraying me. But I understand now."

"You understand what?"

"That you're not ready to accept your destiny."

"Ares, I have already accepted my destiny. My destiny is to be by Xena's side, come thick or thin."

"Is that so? So tell me, do you regret killing Athena and Hades?" He watched as Gabrielle's jaw tightened. "Wasn't a part of you hoping that Artemis would have been too late to stop the rib from cutting into Poseidon's flesh? I bet you wouldn't have cried over Poseidon's death."

She looked down at her new pendant. It was still shaped as the sun, but on four of the rays were symbols from the family heirloom given to her by Herodotus. Artemis asked Hept to make it for her. "It's over Ares."

"You think so? Poseidon is no Zeus. If a few months time, he will be too busy playing with a sea nymph or causing trouble in his playland, and he won't care what I do. After all, you are still my Chosen One, and I still can tempt you." He placed a hand on her cheek. "Yes Gabrielle, I do know you. I've felt your darkness, I've have taste it. And no matter how much Xena pretends it's not there, no matter how far you bury it, we both know the truth. Admit it Gabrielle, you like having power, the ability to control life and death. You even like showing off those fireball skills." He caressed her cheek. "And I can give you what that part of you needs."

Gabrielle forced herself to grab his hand and back away. "I know I have a darkness in my Ares. Everyone does, but I chose to no longer let it control me. And even if I get lost in the darkness again, I have someone who will help me through."

Ares smirked, "Maybe you are a child of the light. I just find it amazing that god-like passion only affected your desire for revenge, it did nothing for your desire for peace. And as far as Xena and Eve go, how long do you think it will be before the darkness you both have swallows all of you? Just something for you to think about." He walked away from her. "I can wait Gabrielle, I have all the time in the world." He disappeared in three flashes and a cloud of smoke.

Gabrielle shook the cobwebs from her head and slowly made her way back to camp.

"So what did Ares want?" Xena asked sleepily.

Gabrielle tucked the blankets around Eve. "Nothing new. Just came to tell me that he understood me and that I should really considered his offer."

"And of course you told him what he could do with his offer."

"Not exactly." The Bard watched as Xena bolted up from her bedroll. Gabrielle laughed at her reaction. "Just kidding."

Xena shook her head at her best friend. "Don't ever scare me like that again." The warrior watched as Gabrielle's green eyes sparkled with mischief.

"Go to sleep Xena. See you in the morning." The bard herself laid down, her back towards her family, her eyes staring into the dark forest. Even though most of her body was tired, two things kept her awake: the little tickle in the back of her neck and the whispered laughter in her head.

No it wasn't over. Not by a long shot.

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You have just read the finale for this series. Hope you enjoyed it. If you did, let me know. If you think it could have been better, and have suggestions, let me know. I like to hear from you.


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