Part Eleven

Xena. Awaken. It is time.

Warrior princess, forgiven soul and dead bones... It is time.

It started as a whispered thing, a secret in the nighttime. Then the attacks came, every break of dawn found Xena and the Amazons defending themselves from warlords... from killers... from loyalists to the Gods.

Must be getting close, eh Artemis?... Zeus waits for us. For you.

Each step toward Olympus brings more stone arrows, more blades... And blood, much more blood. Soaking the ground with body after body, life pouring into the dirt. Men and Amazons, already enemies most of the time - more so now.

Xena is able to fight and still watch, like her mind is split. Which it is. I am two people at once. She spins her leg out and sweeps a man to the ground. And Artemis raises the sword, carving out a hole in his chest.

Beyond the battle, the running of feet and the sounds of death, Xena listens. She waits for a sign. Anything, Gabrielle, anything. Just give me something!

And that is when the road ahead seems to explode, sending a mixture of Chin's black powder and Greek fire through the trees. The fire turns the world into ash for endless minutes.
Varia grabs Xena's arm and jerks her down.

"It's...trailed along the... the...roadside...lines" The Amazon sputters and coughs the words out.

Xena feels the dust and heat, yet her eyes stay clear. Clear and sharp, staring ahead... past the fire, past the shimmer of this inferno.

Xena, Zeus is here.

And one by one, head-hunters and Amazons begin to fall. Burned bodies, charred flesh. Xena recalls a memory of another time, another life.
Not now. That is over. Not now, I need to focus.

So, Xena rises up and drags Varia with her.

"You need to fall back!" The warrior princess shouts. Varia struggles and yells.
"No! Not... leaving my... sisters... not dishonor... them!"

Send them to the river. Let me take over.

"Go to the river, take them quickly!"
"" Varia heaves the question out, soot covering her body.
"Go now!"

And Xena shoves her away, watching for a brief moment as the women run, stumbling and crawling away. A few of the attackers do the same.
The warrior can feel Artemis rocking under her skin, turning and twisting with building power.

Then the charge begins. Xena runs forward, into the flames. They do not touch her. Not a single hair torched.
She sees them then, armored soldiers. She sees the glint of golden weaponry, all aiming at her form.

I don't like this deja-vu, Artemis.


"What will it be Ares? Another betrayal? Or will you join me, your father, this time?"
"As far as I can see, Pops, what I did back then doesn't matter because you are still around."

Zeus chuckles and it hardens Gabrielle's features. Ares turns his head quickly at a not-so-distant explosion. Hmmm, might be time to make some kind of decision...

"For the God of War, you are certainly sentimental. All this indecision about one woman, about Xena."

Zeus feels his hold slip a little at saying that name aloud, feels Gabrielle surge a bit at that name and he struggles to push her back.

Not now, little one, not with everything you want so close.

"And tell me, Ares, did you get what you wanted by letting your family die?"

The god of war stays silent. Zeus laughs out loud and claps Ares on the back.

"Choose wisely, my son. I am but the first to return. Once I am back, all of them will return. We shall reign once more."

Gabrielle hears it, somewhere far above her head, in the a place of confusion and pain and light. She hears a name that is familiar.
A name that causes her heart to beat faster and her fingers to clench at air.
Xena. Xena...

Every time she looks for more than that, a firm hand keeps her still.

Xena... Xena...

It sounds so nice as it rings in her ears. She can roll this name around on her tongue. She wants to hold this Xena close.


And Gabrielle is shouting, trying to get out of this dark place and back to the light, back to knowing and seeing and feeling...

Xena... find me...

"What will it be? Now, before I take the field and regain my kingdom!"

And Ares reaches out his hand slowly, shaking a pale hand.

"Alright. I won't help Xena this time... but I won't help you either. We can discuss the particulars when, and if, you win."

Gabrielle's face turns into a sneer.

"So be it."

The god of war takes one last look at the body of Gabrielle, the bard, as she walks from the temple and towards a war. It is still her, but with the hint of electric blue along the edge of her arms and legs. The current of Zeus.

So be it, Ares thinks before snapping his fingers and disappearing.


It is not long before fighting breaks out at the river. Varia sidesteps a blade to her side and grabs this man's arm, slamming her elbow into his own and hearing the snap of bone.

Everyone first plunged into the cold water and let the coal-like substance wash away. Varia was dragging two women to the edge of the river when the attackers bust through. They were all in just as bad of shape, yet still determined to 'collect'.

People will go to great lengths for some dinars.

Varia watches as her own skin peels some, leaving a raw trail along her arm. Her blood is all over her animal skins. There is blood and flesh everywhere. Any other time, she'd be sick. It was a little known fact that Varia, for all her talk, was a tad squeamish.
And this is bad - bodies of her sisters, burned and broken. The Amazon feels no sympathy for the attackers, their wails of pain as the hit the river and the chilled water.

You hunt my kind, so your death is welcomed.

Varia tries to assess the damage to her tribe, all the while thinking on Xena and Artemis, all the while watching the bank and hoping for a miracle, all the while drawing her sword and cutting down walking dangers.

Then the smoke clears. The carnage is laid out for all to see. Ten sisters left, six gone. Bodies of men scattered everywhere.
And when another blast comes from above, Varia knows that the Amazons must return to the fight... and possibly their deaths.

"Amazons! Do not fear this moment... our time is now! Now!" Varia yells over and over, until it makes even the most shell-shocked of her tribe pick up the weapons and charge the hill, tear down the road and to whatever awaits.


Artemis comes in waves, sending warriors flying back. And Xena lets them all fall, her sword swinging down and taking out her fair share. In the distance, in the haze, she hears the Amazons again.
Fighting... defending...

They never quit, eh Artemis? And Xena finds some of the old rush come forth, a little innocent battle happiness. Her movements, coupled with immortal power, are so fluid and so quick.
Another body falls at Xena's feet and she is about to slam her shoulder into an approaching soldier when --

There. Be strong. Do not falter.

And there she is. Stalking down through the smoke, the firelight catching on her blonde hair like a deadly halo. Xena watches in muted horror has every stroke of Gabrielle's blade takes out an Amazon.

Take him down. Now. What will it do to her? Now, Xena. Before he gets too close and destroys them all!

Xena shoves Artemis aside and runs to Gabrielle, just in time for the bard to spin around and face her. A cold smile graces those missed lips.
And the tip of Gabrielle's sword pushes against Xena's neck.

"So nice to see you again, Xena." The voice purrs and that is what tortures Xena the most. It is her voice, her face, her body, her everything... and it is being corrupted by...

"I have something long overdue to give you, Xena. And, though it pains me to say it, I now have something to give Artemis as well. Your eternal peace at the end of this sword."

You, all I have lived for and all I have longed for... here again, near me... I know you, I have known you forever and ever. No one can take you away.
I won't let that happen, Xena.

You, all I have dreamed of and all I have needed... here again, near me... I love you, I have loved you forever and ever. No one can take you away.

I won't let that happen, Gabrielle.

Zeus cannot hold on much longer, the sword arm dropping down and the bard's body staggering backward.
Artemis tries to regain some control of the warrior's movements, but finds it to be difficult. Xena falls to her knees and reaches out a hand.

Almost there, Gabrielle... Just reach out to me... Please...

And slender fingers find Xena's, a light touch, fingertips grazing ever so softly.


Varia stops and hopes, for the first time in her life, that things could be easy, be right and be good. She sees the two of them, barely close enough to hear a thing over these flames and the clash of metal...

And then the bodies blow apart, like a wind just came through and the figures were leaves. A crack and a spark, the air shooting off colors.
Gabrielle is standing and laughing soon enough, lazily twirling the chakram. And Xena is crouching down, clutching at her chest.

Varia doesn't have to truly see Xena's face as the blonde bard in warrior's armor strides away. Varia knows what is on that face.

She is not strong enough. He has her, for good.

Xena ignores Artemis. For Artemis knows nothing, not really... Not about love or destiny or a soul. You know nothing.

"I felt her and she came to me. She is still there. I can save her... I can find a way and save her." Xena whispers, to Artemis and to herself.

I can find a way... can't I?


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