The four men walked into a
clearing. Before them was a giant wall of rock, stretching high into the sky.
Galian walked forward. He looked off to his right. He could see the massive
forest stretched out below them like a giant rug. He took a deep breath.
"Well, we're here. At last."
Parses stepped forward.
"Now, the question is-where's the entrance to this cave?"
Martus turned to the Sovereign.
"Well, you're the demigod. Show us the way."
He raised the Hades Stone towards the Sovereign, who grimaced slightly. The demigod walked towards the wall of rock, the three warlords close behind. Suddenly, he stopped. Martus's eyes narrowed.
"Well, get going!! Why are you stopping?!"
The Sovereign let out a low chuckle. The chuckle soon turned to wild, raucous laughter which echoed all around them. He spun around to face the three warlords, grinning savagely at them. His ice-blue eyes were wild with glee and malice.
"Ooooooooh, you three think you're oh-so-clever, dontcha?!"
They glared heatedly at the Sovereign. Parses stepped forward.
"What in Hades are ya talking about, dammit?!"
The Sovereign tapped the tip of his nose.
"Yer a sloooooooow learner, Parses. I'm a demigod. Demigod nose, remember?? I smell it."
A hint of nervousness seeped into Parses's angry gaze. The other two warlords looked at each other.
The Sovereign leaned towards him, flashing a wicked, toothy smile.
Martus quickly rushed over to Parses's side, lifting his Hades Stone.
"Open that entrance, dammit!!"
The Sovereign's smile turned into a hideous sneer.
"Or what?! Yer gonna kill me?! Yer gonna kill me anyway, the moment I open that cave. Only I stand in your way to become gods. Guess what?? I'm not opening that cave. So kill me then. You ain't becoming gods with my help."
Martus thrust the Hades Stone at him. A vicious explosion of pain ripped through the Sovereign's body like an ax. The Sovereign cried out in agony. He dropped to the ground, writhing in erratic spasms. Martus approached him. His face was dark with fury and malice.
"You... son...of...a...bitch!! I'm gonna make you experience pain the likes of which you've never known!!"
The Sovereign forced himself to face Martus. He opened one ice-blue eye.
"I...c-c-can...t-take...a-any-t-t-thing you-c-c-c-c-ccccan dish out-"
Martus thrust the Hades Stone at the Sovereign again, and it was glowing with a brilliant intensity. The Sovereign let out a blood-curdling scream, twisting into horribly contorted shapes. Martus was going to make the Sovereign pay for his insolence. In a big way.
He barely heard the metallic whooshing sound.
A sharp metal disk smashed into the Hades Stone, knocking it out of his hand. His thumb exploded into pieces. Martus cried out in agony. He staggered back. The three men followed the disk as it ricocheted off the rock walls and back over their heads-
And into the hand of its owner.
She glared at the three warlords with rage and malice. Gabrielle rushed up to her side, sais drawn.
"Forget about godhood, fellas." she hissed. "It ain't happening. Not today, not ever."
Galian and Parses rushed at Xena and Gabrielle, swords drawn. The battle begun.
Galian took a vicious swipe at Xena. She leapt into the air and whipped her heel at him. It smashed into the side of his face. Blood and several teeth erupted from his mouth. He flew through the air, crashing into the ground. Xena landed, and shot towards him like a lightning bolt. Galian rolled out of the way as her sword plunged into the earth. He grabbed a handful of dirt and tossed it at Xena's face, blinding her. Less than a second later, Galian got up, lunging at her. Impossibly, she moved out of the way. Galian spun around, swinging his sword. Metal crashed against metal. He thrust out a foot. It slammed hard into Xena's chest. She flew back, crashing into the earth. Galian lunged at Xena again. She moved swiftly out of his way. Galian suddenly felt a sharp, burning pain explode from his side. Blood erupted from it. He cried out in agony, rolling along the ground. He turned to face Xena, who smiled at him maliciously. With a loud, angry cry, he attacked her again.
Parses flew back into the tree trunk with horrific force. Blood erupted from his broken nose. He clutched at it, staring at Gabrielle. She growled fiercely at him.
"Whatsamatter?!" she said jeeringly. "An armed woman too much for ya?!"
Parses's eyes went wild. Gabrielle somersaulted over the warlord as he lunged, ramming her foot into the back of his head. He slammed face-first into another tree trunk. Blinding pain screamed from his shattered nose, rippling through his head and singeing his brain. He staggered back and around to face the blonde. She rushed at him, thrusting a sai.
Impossibly, he dodged the blow. Gabrielle spun to her right-
And a fist smashed into her face. Blood erupted from her mouth in a crimson stream. She flew back, smashing sideways into a tree. Gabrielle opened one emerald eye-
Sharp, gleaming metal ripped towards her.
Gabrielle whipped her head to the side as the blade's tip burrowed into the bark. She thrust out a foot. Hard. She felt a rib crack. Parses flew back through the air, slamming into the ground. His sword remained stuck in the tree. Gabrielle threw a sai at him.
He rolled out of the way as it dug into the earth. Parses drew a knife from his boot. He quickly got to his feet, clutching his right side. Parses growled at Gabrielle.
Gabrielle sneered maliciously.
"I won't next time."
Martus clutched his wounded hand tightly. He quickly looked up, scanning the ground for the Hades Stone. The he saw it. His eyes widened in horror.
It lay on the ground. Just beyond the Sovereign.
And the demigod spotted it.
The Sovereign rushed towards it, grabbing the Hades Stone. He quickly rolled onto his knee, and faced Martus. The warlord drew his sword, staring at the Sovereign in anger and fear. The Sovereign smiled heatedly at Martus, savoring every second of the growing fear in the warlord's eyes.
"Lookie-what-I-fooooound!!" he sang jeeringly.
The demigod rose to his feet. His cruel, malicious smile grew wider and wider by the second.
"Oooooh-not so tough now, eh??"
Martus growled heatedly. The Sovereign narrowed his eyes.
"Ya know, we have stones like this where I come from too. And there's something that you don't know, sunshine."
"What?!" snapped Martus in rage and fear.
"Once one rock is destroyed, the other one inside the reanimated corpse becomes neutralized. Then that corpse comes back to life."
Martus sneered at him.
"No human can destroy the Hades Stone!!"
The Sovereign raised an eyebrow, chuckling heatedly.
"Aaaaaah-but a demigod can."
Martus's eyes widened in shock. The Sovereign instantly crushed the Hades Stone. A brilliant glow surrounded the demigod. He titled his head back, eyes closed. Bolts of energy shot around him. Then a thunderclap. The glow was gone. The Sovereign lowered his arms. Powdered remains of the broken stone drifted to the earth. The Sovereign waggled his eyebrows.
The Sovereign's icy gaze penetrated Martus's eyes. The demigod's smile turned into an absolutely feral snarl.
"Like I said-I'm...gonna...rip...out...yer... heart."
Xena slammed her foot into Galian's chin. The warlord flew through the air, crashing into the ground. His body rolled into a ditch.
She spun towards Martus and Hercules.
Martus let out a savage cry, lunging at the demigod. He snapped out an arm, grabbing the blade. Xena saw a wild look of blood lust surge through Hercules' cobalt eyes-
It happened in a split second.
It took a moment to register in Xena's mind. And when it did, shock and horror filled her soul.
Hercules had slammed his fist right into the warlord's chest. And there was an unholy glee on his face. There was an almost orgasmic joy he took in this. Xena could hear the bones popping inside the warlord's chest as Hercules dug around his insides-
Then, with a loud, sickeningly wet sound, Hercules ripped out Martus's heart. And he bit into it. With zeal. He actually began to eat the warlord's heart. The demigod tossed the body aside. His eyes settled on the Warrior Princess. He waggled his eyebrows and raised the warlord's heart in a show of thanks.
Xena was completely aghast. This was totally unlike anything she had ever seen from Hercules.
It was nothing like him.
Nothing like him-
Outraged realization swept across the face of the Warrior Princess.
"The Sovereign!!" she hissed.
The demigod tossed the heart aside. He walked over to the wall of rock, placing his hands on it. Xena began to run towards him-
And she heard an outraged cry.
Xena ducked the oncoming sword, and thrust her own back. Hard. She felt it dig into flesh and bone with a loud wet sound. She heard a harsh, gurgled cry. Xena yanked her sword forward. She heard the body hit the ground. Xena looked over her shoulder. Galian lay there, a look of horror on his face. Blood erupted like a geyser from his mid-section. Then his eyes rolled into the back of his head, and he was gone.
Xena heard the sound of rock being smashed. She spun towards the source-
And saw the Sovereign smash open a hole in the wall with his fists. He proceeded into it. Xena turned to her left.
The blonde swung a heavy branch into Parses's head. He flew back through the air, colliding with a tree. He fell to the ground. Gabrielle spun towards Xena.
"It's not Hercules!! It's his evil twin, the Sovereign!! I've gotta stop him!!"
Gabrielle heard rustling. She spun towards Parses. He drew his knife and threw it. Gabrielle dodged it, and at the same time, threw her sai. It whistled through the air-
And buried itself in Parses's throat.
The warlord's eyes widened in agony. His eyes rolled into the back of his head. He fell to the ground, dead. Gabrielle ran up to Xena's side.
The two women rushed into the opening in the wall.
The Sovereign ran through the long passageway, following the smell of ambrosia. It grew stronger and stronger.
He ran into a large cave. Hanging on a chain, suspended over a large pit, was a golden bowl.
And inside that was a large cluster of reddish fruit, clumped together.
Ambrosia. The food of the gods. With the power to make a mortal a god.
The Sovereign noticed that there was no way to reach the ambrosia. He hastily looked around. A massive stone pillar lay on the ground a certain distance from him. He ran over to it.
With incredible strength, the Sovereign picked it up and hoisted it onto his shoulder. He carried it to the edge of the pit. He tossed the pillar across the hole. It crashed into the ground violently, the earth shaking below his feet. The demigod looked into the pit. Far below, a river of lava threaded its way through the mountain. The Sovereign jumped onto the pillar. He smiled with anticipation.
"Come to pappa."
The demigod walked along the pillar. He came closer and closer to the ambrosia. He reached out towards it, hoping to grab a handful of the fruit and stuff it in his mouth-
Then he heard it. A metallic whooshing sound, slicing through the air-
And the Sovereign saw a metal disk rip through the chain holding the bowl. His eyes widened in horrified shock.
The demigod leapt for the chain. But it fell just past his reach. The Sovereign stared in outraged shock as the ambrosia plunged into the fiery river below, Then, with a burst of fire, it was gone. The Sovereign's eyes widened in fury.
He spun his head towards the origin of the flying metal disk-
And the Sovereign saw her holding it.
She stood there with Gabrielle. A spiteful smirk was on the Warrior Princess's face.
"Lose something??" she piped with a light air.
The Sovereign instantly rose to his feet. He somersaulted back through the air, landing near the edge of the pit. He turned towards the Warrior Princess. Surprise mixed with the rage in his ice-blue eyes.
"You!! You're... Xena?!"
Xena hooked her chakram to her skirt. She raised an eyebrow.
"Yeah. And you must be the Sovereign. I thought Ares killed you!"
The Sovereign's eyes narrowed.
"Your little warlord friends used the Hades Stone to bring me back. And now that I destroyed Martus's stone, I'm back- for good. As for your Ares-we have a little score to settle.."
He pointed his finger at Xena, the furor beginning to shadow his face again.
"You took away my chance at becoming a god!!"
Xena snorted harshly.
"We've got enough trouble with the ones we have. And you're the last person who should have a chance at godhood."
The Sovereign growled savagely. He took a step towards Xena.
"My Xena wouldn't treat me like that!! If she did-I'd put her in line."
Xena laughed harshly. She glared at the demigod in spiteful defiance.
"Your Xena is a brainless idiot, from what Iolaus told me. I'd slap some sense into her if I could."
He then looked at Gabrielle.
Gabrielle chuckled harshly.
"Oh, no-no-no. I'm nothing like my counterpart in your universe. Don't even go there."
Xena stepped forward. Her ice-blue eyes narrowed.
"I don't know how those warlords brought you here to this dimension, but you're going back."
The Sovereign smirked.
"Uh-uh. I don't think so. And, if you plan on trying to kill me, let me let ya in on a little secret. I die, your Hercules dies as well."
Xena's smirk disappeared. The Sovereign could see the surprise in Xena's eyes. He chuckled harshly.
"Not to mention, I'm a demigod to boot. And I'm not that easy to beat."
"You don't know me very well." she said with a slow, dangerous purr.
The Sovereign spread his arms wide, a brilliant, sinister smile crossing his face.
"Then let's get acquainted. Too bad it'll be a short honeymoon."
The Sovereign lowered his arms. The smile turned into a vicious snarl. With a furious cry, he charged at Xena. She somersaulted over his head, landing behind him. The two spun to face each other. The Sovereign threw a savage punch at her. Xena side-stepped the blow and rammed a foot with all her might into the Sovereign's face. His head snapped back. Blood burst from his nose. He staggered back. Xena leapt into the air, ramming her feet repeatedly into the demigod's face. She forced him back towards the wall of rock. She dropped to the ground and sent another foot hard into his chest. The blow sent the Sovereign flying. He crashed into the wall.
The Sovereign shook his head. He stared at Xena, a wicked smile crossing his face.
"I like your style!!"
Xena glared at the demigod, a cold sneer curling her lips.
"Ohhh, but I'm just getting started."
The Sovereign charged at Xena like a bull. She somersaulted over his head again, this time ramming a foot into the back of it. He stumbled forward, tripping over a rock. The Sovereign fell to the ground. He quickly rolled over onto his back, and got to his feet. Xena leapt at him with a flying kick. The Sovereign dodged the oncoming foot, grabbing her leg in mid-air-
And he slammed Xena down hard into the ground. The wind was knocked out of her lungs in a flash. A half second later, a massive hand curled around her throat. Xena's glazed eyes dilated as the demigod's fingers began to cut off her air supply. The Sovereign smiled ravenously at Xena.
"Getting started?!" he cackled heatedly. "I'd say you're finished!!"
It came out of nowhere.
A large slab of rock smashed down onto the Sovereign's head. It bounced off, falling to the side. Stunned, he turned to his left-
And a stone club hit him full-force in the face. The Sovereign flew back, crashing into the ground. Xena's eyes widened in terror.
With a furious cry, Gabrielle attacked the Sovereign, swinging her club down at him. The Sovereign grabbed it-
And he rammed a foot into Gabrielle's side.
Gabrielle's eyes bulged out of her head. A ferocious blast of pain erupted from her side. She felt ribs crack. She flew through the air, slamming into the rock wall. The blonde fell to the ground. Horror filled Xena.
She quickly turned towards the Sovereign, her face filling with an all-consuming rage. The Sovereign got to his feet, club in hand. He rushed at Xena, swinging the club full-force at her. Impossibly, she leapt into the air, the mortal blow just missing her. With all her might, she rammed both feet into the Sovereign's face. The savage blow sent the demigod cartwheeling back through the air, crashing onto his stomach in a cloud of dust. The club flew out of his hand, slamming into the earth. Xena leapt at the club.
The Sovereign rose to his knees, shaking his head to clear it. He looked up. A massive club filled his vision-
And it slammed full force into the Sovereign's face. His head whipped off to one side, a crimson stream flowing out of his mouth. With a savage cry, Xena swung the club into his head again. It whipped off to the other side. More blood streamed forth. She rammed the end hard into the Sovereign's chest. His ice-blue eyes bulged out of his head. He was lifted into the air. With a piercing scream, Xena then swung the club into his chin. The brutal blow sent the demigod cartwheeling back again. He slammed face-first into the earth.
Xena swung it down at his head-
And a massive hand grabbed it. Another massive hand snapped forth like a cobra-
And an eruption of searing pain tore through Xena's shoulder. Her shoulder bone popped out of its socket. Xena flew through the air, smashing down onto the injured shoulder. She cried out in agony. The pain was almost unbearable. She quickly looked behind her-
And the Sovereign was charging full force at her, club raised. Xena's eyes widened in rage.
She grabbed her chakram and flung it at the Sovereign. It ripped across the side of his face. Blood erupted from it. He cried out in agony, clutching it. His eyes darted forward-
And Xena's feet slammed into his face again. The Sovereign flew back through the air, hitting the ground hard, rolling over his head onto his belly. Stunned, he began to rise. He saw Xena rushing at him, club in hand. His ice-blue eyes widened in rage.
He charged at her. Xena leapt into the air, slamming both feet into the top of the Sovereign's head. He rammed face-first into the ground. Xena flipped through the air, landing behind him. She looked over her shoulder. Xena was at the edge of a cliff, and a hundred feet below lay an underground river. She spun towards the Sovereign. He rose to his feet and turned to face the Warrior Princess. His ice-blue eyes were wild with bloodlust.
"I'm gonna rip out yer spine." he snarled.
Xena bared her teeth in fury.
"Bring it on." she hissed.
With a loud roar, the Sovereign ran at her. He swung his fist at Xena. She barely dodged the blow. Xena swung the club at him with all her might. This time, the Sovereign was ready. He lifted his massive right arm, and the club smashed into it with little effect.
The Sovereign snapped out a foot. It burrowed into Xena's side.
Blinding pain tore through Xena's side like a tsunami. A strangled cry came from her throat. She flew back, slamming back-first into a boulder. Xena fell to the ground. She gasped heavily, her side pulsating in brutal explosions of pain. Xena turned quickly towards her adversary-
And the Sovereign was rushing at her, fist raised, ready to bring it down on her head.
Incredibly, she moved out if the way. The Sovereign's fist ripped into the earth, smashing open a large crater. He quickly looked to his right-
And the chakrum ripped across the other side of his face. More blood erupted forth. The Sovereign cried out in pain-
And Xena leapt up, ramming her foot viciously into his chest. He stumbled back-
And fell off the cliff.
As he fell, the Sovereign whipped out his hand, grabbing a rock. His fingers dug into it. Xena reached the cliff's edge, looking over. He glared at the Warrior Princess with ire and hatred.
"I'll KILL you, you BITCH!!"
Then the demigod lost his grip.
The Sovereign fell, screaming in rage at Xena. He tore into the water, and was swept by the rapid current deep into the mountain. Xena grimaced in pain, glaring at the rushing torrent of water.
"Famous last words." she mumbled in disgust.
She quickly turned towards her companion.
Xena ran over to her, kneeling at her side. She took the blonde into her arm.
She slowly opened her eyes, staring at Xena in surprise.
Xena quickly, and carefully, felt around her friend's mid-section. Gabrielle cried out in pain. Xena grimaced at feeling her friend's broken ribs.
"Gods!!" she swore, infuriated.
Xena placed her hand on Gabrielle's face, stroking it lovingly. Tears came to the warrior's eyes.
"Ssssssssssh!! Don't talk!! Just rest."
"Xena, the Sovereign!!"
"We don't have to worry about him now. He fell into Mount Kristos's underground river."
"B-But Xena-that ends up as a waterfall!! He'll end up between Piros and Mergaris!! H-He may go hurt innocent people!!"
Xena frowned deeply.
A sharp stab of pain ripped through her shoulder. Xena grunted harshly. Gabrielle gasped.
The Warrior Princess gazed at her friend with a tired smile.
"Dislocated shoulder. And a fractured rib, I think."
Gabrielle rolled her eyes.
"Gods, not again!!"
"Hold on a sec."
Xena released Gabrielle, laying her gently on the ground. She rose to her feet. Xena then slammed her left shoulder into the rock wall. Another vicious blast of pain. The bone popped back into the socket. She turned towards Gabrielle, smiling weakly.
"All better now."
Gabrielle's eyes narrowed. She could see her friend struggling with massive pain, despite the mask of bravado.
"Don't even try that, warrior."
Xena walked over, and knelt down by Gabrielle. She tenderly stroked the blonde's head.
"I'm gonna get the horses."
"Xena, how in the world are we going to send the Sovereign back into his dimension?! And besides, he's a demigod!!"
Xena raised an eyebrow.
"It won't be easy, that's for sure. Talk about the irony."
Gabrielle stared at her, puzzled.
"A good Xena going after an evil Hercules. A little switch of the role."
"Huh. That's ironic, all right."
Maria gently cracked the reins. The horses drew the carriage along the winding road. She looked back at Meg, her face full of worry
"Meg, I don't know about this."
Meg shook her head, her face full of anger and determination.
"Maria, we went over this!! We have a business to run!! We've got to pick up those tables and chairs we ordered from Mitros!!"
"She's not budging, Maria."
"Don't you think this trip to Kratos is a little dangerous under the circumstances??" asked Francisca.
Meg sighed, and shook her head.
"Francisca, I'm aware of the risks. I'm also not going to allow myself to be intimidated by some thugs. I've had to deal with that all my life. Besides, I trust Xena and Gabrielle. I'm sure they'll find a way to stop them."
Joxer placed a hand on Meg's knee, smiling.
"You're brave, kid."
Meg placed her hand on Joxer's. She raised an eyebrow.
"Don't think that I'm not scared too, Joxer. But we've got to live our lives. We can't stop living them because of some thugs."
Maria turned towards Meg, and smiled.
"Yeah. You're right. Anyway, you've got me to protect ya."
Maria turned around, and brought the horses to a stop. Meg stared at Maria.
"Why are you stopping??"
Maria sighed with disgust.
"I thought you took care of that before we left!!" chuckled Francisca.
"So did I."
The massive woman climbed off the cart, and walked towards some thick bushes. Joxer rubbed Meg's hand affectionately.
"Anyway, we do have a wedding to pay for."
Meg smiled at him with affection.
"That's right, sweetie."
Francisca folded her arms, smirking in amusement.
"Now, what's this about changing the name of the place??"
Meg smiled warmly.
"I'm changing it to Meg and Joxer's."
Francisca returned the smile.
Joxer looked up.
"Hey. Someone's coming."
The three turned forward. A burly man, wearing a leather outfit, walked slowly towards them. Francisca squinted her eyes.
"He looks like he just took a swim in the river!!""
Joxer took a closer look. His eyes widened in joy.
"Hey!! It's Hercules!!"
Joxer jumped off the cart and ran towards the man. But as he took a closer look, surprise crossed Joxer's face. The man had two deep gashes on either side of his face. Blood flowed down them. And more importantly, was the expression on his face. It was not a friendly one by any means. Joxer swallowed hard.
"U-Um-Hercules?? A-Are you okay??"
The Sovereign gazed at Joxer intently.
"I know you!!"
"W-Well, yeah!! I'm Joxer the Mi-"
In an instant, the Sovereign rushed up to Joxer and grabbed him by the throat. He hoisted him into the air. Meg and Francisca stared on in terror.
"Joxer!!" they screamed.
The Sovereign smiled heatedly at Joxer, who squirmed in his steel-like grip.
"Joxer...you're the counterpart of that rebel in my world."
The Sovereign looked towards Meg. His cold smile grew wider.
"Meg...Xena's twin in my world-Meg...that warrior who destroyed half my army..."
He looked back at Joxer, an insane gleam in his eyes.
"And if I kill both of you, that husband and wife team in my world will die. Ahhhhh, vengeance is sweet."
The Sovereign slowly began to crush Joxer's throat. Joxer's eyes bulged out of his head-
And the Sovereign heard a savage scream come from his left. He quickly turned in that direction-
And Maria slammed into the Sovereign with incredible force. Joxer flew out of his grasp, crashing into the earth.
Both the Sovereign and Maria flew across the road. They rolled down the steep hill, landing on the riverbank. Maria threw the Sovereign off her. She quickly rose to her feet. He rose to his. Maria growled heatedly at the demigod.
"I'm gonna pound you silly." she snarled.
The Sovereign smiled heatedly.
"You've got a surprise coming, tall, Amazon, and butch."
He charged at Maria, throwing a vicious punch at her. Maria sidestepped the blow and rammed her own fist hard into the Sovereign's face. His head snapped back. Maria then grabbed his shoulders and head-butted him twice with all her might. He staggered back. Maria threw a punch at the Sovereign-
And something hit her face with horrific force.
Maria went airborne. She felt a gush of warm fluid cascade out of her mouth. She saw several of her teeth fly out with a large stream of blood-
Then she crashed into the earth.
The Sovereign lowered his fist, a feral smile twisting his features.
"Oooooh, yeaiiiiah. Some good ol' fashioned woman beating."
At the top of the cliff, Meg, Joxer, and Francisca stared in horror at Maria.
"Oh my gods!!" cried Meg in disbelief.
"Has Hercules gone crazy?!" exclaimed Francisca.
Joxer rubbed his throat vigorously, staring at Maria, who struggled to get to her feet. He thought about what the demigod had said. Suddenly, he remembered a story Iolaus told him...
About another universe. ..
Joxer's eyes widened in shock.
"The Sovereign!!" he gasped.
He turned to the two women.
"That's not Hercules!! It's his evil twin from another dimension!! The Sovereign!!"
Meg and Francisca stared at him in disbelief.
"I'm serious!!" exclaimed Joxer. "It's a story Iolaus told me! He was in another universe, where there's a duplicate of everyone here!!"
Joxer grabbed Meg's arm.
"Meg, we gotta get outta here!!"
"I'm not leaving Maria!!" shouted Meg angrily.
"Meg, listen!! The Sovereign said that if he killed you and me, our counterparts in his universe would die too!! They're warriors who used to give him trouble!! He wants to kill us so that they die too!!"
Meg's eyes grew wide with shock.
"Look!!" shouted Francisca.
Meg and Joxer quickly looked down onto the riverbank. Maria had just gotten to her feet. Blood was dripping from her mouth. A look of pure rage hideously twisted her features. The Sovereign cracked his knuckles.
"Time to put ya in yer place, woman. I'm gonna break ya."
The demigod's eyes widened in fury and bloodlust. With a harsh cry, he charged at Maria. The Sovereign threw a right. With incredible speed, Maria dodged the blow. She rammed her own left with all her might into the Sovereign's face. His head whipped to the left. Blood burst from his mouth. With a hideous scream, she grabbed his leather outfit and rammed her head repeatedly into his. Maria rammed her knee full force into his groin repeatedly. Finally, a vicious right cross. The powerful blow sent the Sovereign flying through the air. He crashed into the sandy earth. Maria picked up a massive wooden branch. She flew at the Sovereign, the branch raised high above her head.
The Sovereign got to his knees-
And Maria brought it down full force into his head. The branch splintered into kindling-
And a savage explosion of pain erupted from Maria's stomach. Blood burst from her mouth. Her eyes dilated in agony. She saw a massive forehead fill her vision-
And her face exploded in white-hot pain. She felt her nose snap-
And something smashed into her face. She went airborne-
And Maria collided violently with the earth face-first.
She lay there, moaning in agony. Tears streamed down Meg's face.
"Maria, GET UP!!"
Maria trembled erratically. The Sovereign approached her. Maria clutched a large stone. Her grip on it tightened as the demigod got closer and closer. With her other hand, she grabbed a fistful of sand-
And she threw the sand into the Sovereign's eyes. He shrieked in shock, blinded by the sand-
And Maria rushed at the Sovereign, slamming the rock with all her might into his face. His head whipped back, blood bursting from his mouth and nose. He fell onto the ground, and Maria was on top of him.
She slammed the rock full force into the Sovereign's face, over and over again. She wouldn't stop until he was dead-
Then a hand grabbed her wrist, stopping her. Maria's eyes widened in horrified shock. The Sovereign glared at her, a hideous smile crossing his face. Bloodlust roiled in his ice-blue eyes-
And he rammed a fist into Maria's face. There was a loud crack as her jaw snapped. A huge explosion of blood and teeth flowed out of her mouth like a raging river. She flew off through the air into a cartwheel. Maria slammed into the earth in a huge cloud of dust and sand.
Meg's eyes bulged out of her head.
Joxer grabbed Meg's arm.
"Let's go Meg!!"
Agony surged across Meg's features.
"MEG!! LET'S GO!!!"
Joxer got to his feet, tugging Meg up with him. He looked back at Francisca.
"Fran. let's go!!"
"Get outta here, Joxer!!" shouted Francisca. "I gotta keep an eye on Maria!! GO!!"
Joxer nodded once. He pushed Meg into the cart, and he climbed aboard after her. Joxer grabbed the reins, and cracked them across the horses' backs. The cart tore off down the road. Francisca ran over to a boulder, hiding behind it. She looked back down at Maria. Tears rushed down her cheeks.
The Sovereign walked towards the fallen warrior. Maria slowly propped herself onto her hands. Blood flowed from her almost toothless mouth. Her bruised eyes narrowed in rage. The Sovereign smirked coldly at Maria.
"Ya should've stayed at home in the kitchen where you belonged." jeered the demigod.
Maria's eyes widened heatedly. With a furious cry, she got up and rushed at the Sovereign. Maria threw a deadly right at him-
And he caught her fist, crushing it.
Maria screamed in agony as the bones popped and cracked inside her hand. The Sovereign threw a savage right into her belly. Red-black blood erupted from her mouth and nose. She was hurled up into the air by the blow. As Maria landed, the Sovereign grabbed her and lifted Maria high above his head. The demigod smiled wickedly.
"I said I was gonna break ya."
The smile was replaced by a hideous snarl. With a bloodthirsty roar, the Sovereign slammed Maria down onto his knee. There was a loud crack as Maria's back snapped. He then tossed her off his knee. She crashed into the sand, rolled onto her back, and lay still. Francisca dove out of sight. She let out a strangled sob, overwhelmed with grief.
She ran off into the bushes.
The Sovereign glared at Maria's broken body. She stared into the sky, her eyes dilated . He then looked up at the cliff. Taking a run, he leaped high into the air, his body twisting into a tight somersault. He landed on the road. The Sovereign quickly looked around. No one was in sight. The Sovereign snarled in disgust.
He looked down the road. His eyes narrowed.
"I'll take care of Meg and Joxer later. It's time I ruined Hercules' spotless reputation."
He walked off the road, and into the forest.
Maria lay in the sand, staring up into the bright blue sky. Puffy clouds went past her line of sight. She tried as hard as she could to focus on them. But the pain that was tearing through her body was greater than anything she had ever experienced before. She didn't know how long she had been laying there, but it seemed like forever.
Then Maria heard it.
Footsteps, approaching rapidly. Her eyes darted left and right in terror-
And Francisca's face popped into her vision. Tears streamed down her face.
"Maria!! By...the... gods!!"
Maria gave the barest trace of a smile.
"No-no-no- no!!" Don't talk, honey!! D-Don't talk!! Just rest, okay sweetie?? J-Just rest. J-J-Just take it easy."
Maria rolled her eyes. She groaned slightly. Blood flowed from her mouth.
"B..Back-k-br-brokan..." she uttered in a hoarse rasp. "C-Can't rrrrmmove..."
Francisca suddenly heard horses galloping rapidly towards them. She looked up. A sob of relief escaped her mouth.
"It's Meg and Joxer!! Thank the gods!!"
Joxer brought the carriage to a halt. Meg and Joxer jumped out of the carriage, rushing over to Maria. They knelt at her side. Meg gently picked up Maria's head, cradling it in her arms. She was overwhelmed with grief. She trembled erratically.
"Maria!! Oh by the gaaawwds...Mariaaaaa..."
Meg's eyes roamed erratically over her friend's body. She saw Maria's crushed, mangled hand. A loud sob burst from her throat. She slapped a hand over her mouth. Maria grasped Meg's arm with her good hand.
"Mrreg..." she croaked.
Meg instantly looked down at her friend. She bent over and tenderly kissed Maria on the forehead. She rubbed her head against Maria's.
"P-P-PPPlease... don't die!!" she sobbed. "Oh sweetheart, please...oh gods, please hold on!! Please!! Hold on, baby!!"
Maria sighed slightly.
"Brack-b-broken back...b-bad...won't...mrrake it..."
"No!! You're NOT gonna die!!"
Maria began to cough. Blood burst from her mouth. Joxer quickly took out a rag and wiped Maria's mouth as best he could. Tears streamed down his face.
"Oh gods... "
He swallowed hard, and spoke again.
"L-Listen! N-N-Now you listen to me, ya hear?! M-Meg and I are gonna get married, and-a-and you promised that you'd be at our wedding!! I-I'm not gonna let you get out of that!! You got me?? You've got a commitment to follow through on, dammit!!"
Tears began to flow down Maria's cheeks. She placed her hand on Joxer's face.
"I-Irrl be therrr-innn spirrit Jerx."
Maria looked at Meg, then at Joxer. She managed a slight smile.
"Irrrrove you Mreg an Jerrxer. Yerrmmmmy brether an sistur..."
Meg cradled Maria's head closer, kissing her forehead gently. Meg tenderly stroked her head.
"I love you too, ya big lug." she said softly, her voice trembling. "Ya got that?? I love ya. I don't want you to go! I need you Maria!! We need you. We need you here with us! You're part of the family!"
More tears flowed down Maria's cheeks. She rubbed Meg's head affectionately.
"M-My famery...Y-Yer...my..lirrle sisser. Don cry....sweeheerd...don wan you to cry."
Meg kissed Maria's forehead, caressing it with her lips. She rocked her gently. Joxer grasped Maria's forearm, rubbing it with affection. Tears streamed down his cheeks. Maria looked at him, and saw his overwhelming grief. She placed a hand on Joxer's face again.
"Don cry Jerrxer...sweeheerd...don wan you to cry too."
Francisca moved close to Joxer. Agony overwhelmed her. She began to sob. Maria's eyes narrowed in pity.
She stretched out her hand to Francisca. She kissed it, holding it against her face. Maria's hazel eyes turned towards Meg.
"I-I gorra go..."
Meg shook her head vigorously.
"Like Tartarus you are!!" she growled heatedly, her voice filled with rage and grief.
"I wranna sssdday, buu Iaaam sllippennn...."
"You're staying HERE!!"
Maria gave a slight, tired smile.
Maria's head rolled slightly to the right, her vacant hazel eyes gazing out into space. Her chest stopped rising and falling. Meg's eyes widened in horror.
Joxer quickly grabbed her left wrist, feeling for a pulse. There was none. Immense grief darkened his features. Joxer choked back a sob. He placed his hand over Maria's eyes, and closed them. Meg's lower lip trembled. She grimaced in agony. Her grief was so great that it made her shake.
"Oh nooooo...ohhhhh nooooo...oh no-no-no-no-no-no-no-no-no-nnooooooooooooo...."
She lowered her head to Maria's and wept softly. Then slowly, the sobs grew louder and louder. And finally, Meg threw her head back and screamed at the top of her lungs. Francisca lowered her head, sobbing uncontrollably. Joxer came over to Meg's side, and took her into his arms. They held each other tight. Meg burrowed her face into Joxer's neck, crying hysterically. Joxer let out a few sobs of his own. He gazed at Maria's body. A rage he had never known before swept through his soul like a hurricane.
He gazed at the sky, his brown eyes filling with bloodlust and hate.
"He won't get away with this, Maria." Joxer growled harshly. "I swear it."