After it is
all said and done, Varia leans against a charred tree. She mourns its loss of
bark and the intrusion to its wooden body. She sends a prayer... then halts the
words in her mind.
No point in that. Artemis is here, in a mortal body.
warrior looks for Xena, but does not find the woman.
The sisters that are left sink down to the ground, despite ash and bodies, wishing for just a moment of peace.
Being an Amazon doesn't afford many times of rest. Or calm.
Varia used to love that - the constant pull of the fight, the anger, the need to prove yourself by the edge of a blade.
What I wouldn't give to just sleep... How time has changed me...
we do now?" A young Amazon asks.
And Varia wishes there was an answer.
I need to do what is right for us now... I do not know where Xena is, which means I do not have Artemis to even ask assistance of... And we have no queen, not now...
“We move on and find shelter for the night. We take the bodies of our sisters and set them free with fire.”
“What of the price on our heads? Do we keep fighting when there are so few of us?”One girl asks, her voice tinged with fear.
“And the fire will gain us nothing but attention!”Another warrior shouts.
“What would you have us do, Amazons?” Varia questions. All are silent.
“Do we run and hide? Do we let our fellow warriors lay here to rot? Do we throw away all that we are just because we are hunted?”Varia feels tears pierce the face of the control she is struggling to have.
They all see it. Some are moved and continue on, others stay around...but their eyes suggest otherwise.
Their eyes speak of wanting to run away.
Artemis, if you are not too busy, please...help me know what to do...
Let me go.
Did you not see yourself out there? All the strength that grief took from you… It returned! And it is glorious. Do you not see how powerful you are?
I cannot kill her.
She is still dead. She is only here for this battle. Even if she won, her body would still crumble and her soul would go back to the unknown. She is gone.
Let me go!
It was I who raised you up again, it was I who brought her to you… for you to see once more! Without me, you were wallowing. Without me, you were a shell of a mortal.
I can fight you. I can make you let me go!
Do not make idle threats, child. If I were to let you go now, the chances of you surviving are slim.
…I don’t believe you. I lived before you. I can live again, even if I don’t have your power… even if I have to lose her again…
Do you really think so, little one?
Gabrielle is silent and Zeus stares out into the burning night.
“You really are naïve, Gabrielle. Mortals always get so caught up in emotion, that is how they stay on the ground and the gods reach the sky. “
Then I will reach further than you.
Zeus laughs out loud.
“Don’t force me to abandon you too soon, Gabrielle. I kind of like you. You are full of willpower.”
And two pairs of eyes look out as another explosion destroys the forest, taking down anything in its way.
One in rapture…and the other in sorrow.
Xena! I am begging you… please get up! They are running now, in fear… their hope is hanging by a thread! You are here for a reason – fulfill it!
But Artemis knows her pleas are falling on deaf ears. The warrior princess is tuning her out, which under other circumstances would be fascinating. On this night, though, it is maddening.
Xena turns it over and over in her mind, trying to find the loophole or the secret. She thinks on ancient texts, on spells, on prayer…
How do I get her back? What do I do?
Deep down, the answer is too little and too late.
If I had not left her, this would not have happened.
Guilt washes over Xena and it is painfully familiar.
Oh, Gabrielle… Will my actions always harm you? Even when I am trying to do right, I seem to hurt you.
Xena sighs and stands up. This simple action dislodges some of the silence and Artemis comes barreling through.
Are you going to help them?
Only if you help me get Gabrielle back.
You are in no position to make demands of me!
“And what right do you have to bring me back? To bring me here to fight your battles? To watch someone I love…” Xena shuts her eyes and clutches her hair, screaming loudly into the night.
She chose Zeus out of grief, out of pain. I cannot change that. I cannot alter the past, Xena of Amphipolis.
“Will she die if Zeus leaves her body?”
It is very probable.
Xena feels the swirling cold in her gut and Artemis cannot push it away. It slides into every pore of Xena’s skin, into every inch and every hair.
And for a brief second, Artemis feels the dread of the mortal. It is overwhelming and agonizing.
It is a total lack of control. It is the finality of knowing nothing can be done and no one is safe.
I am truly sorry, Xena. If I could…
Xena reigns in her emotions, that old mask of steel coming down.
I know what I have to do. Let’s go.
“You never come around here, especially at this hour.”
“Well, things are happening…”
“Wow, things, eh? Cut the cryptic stuff, bro…”
“Zeus is back.”
Aphrodite admits that there are times when she misses her family. Everyone thinks of immortals as feeling nothing because they live forever and never grow old.
She could illuminate the world on a few things.
Loss is loss. In fact, Aphrodite would bet that living on while those you care for die is the short straw immortals draw.
She turns her attention back to Ares, who is still talking.
“…and she lifted me up, which is not too out of the ordinary. But this was different. Xena has finally taken up with a god, well… goddess--”
“I am. Are you sure it was her?”
Ares lets his eyebrow rise sharply.
“I know Xena when I see her.”
Aphrodite keeps an eye out for all her brethren, the saints and sinners of love. Even if they do not worship her as much these days, she still watches over them.
Even when they travel far away, even when they think no one can see them… Aphrodite keeps an eye out for those who love.
That is how she knew, once Gabrielle came back to Greece, that Xena was… dead.
So, this new development is a shocker… And Ares doesn’t seem to know…
“Did you know Xena went to Japa?” Aphrodite says quietly.
“I…didn’t keep up with her.” Ares admits, letting his eyes dart downward.
He’ll never learn… Better to just let this stay unknown, I think. For now.
“How can Zeus return?”
“Turns out the soul of our dear father can pick a body and have fun with it.”
“He is in Xena?”
“No. He is in Gabrielle.”
Well, that is shocker number two… Poor Gabby. I guess I didn’t keep up with her either.
“Xena is…merging with Artemis and Zeus is killing Amazons, trying to take over the world. Kind of standard stuff for good ol’ Pops, don’t you think?”
Aphrodite understands her brother’s humor better than most. It is not a cold humor, but it is not a soft kind of humor. It can sting… if you let it.
“I assume you two have talked?”
“Yes. Same old song and dance about joining forces and choosing sides.”
“And did you choose?”
“I am planning to stay neutral.”
“Even with Xena running around?” Aphrodite grins, though inside she wonders if this is truly Xena or not. I mean, the souls of gods and goddesses taking over bodies is one thing… but a dead warrior princess returning after all this time… Seriously, what next?
“We’ll just see how things go.”
They are both silent for a while.
“Gabrielle is striking as a warrior. Bet Xena is livid.” Ares muses aloud with a smile.
Aphrodite rolls her eyes.
Yep… some things change, but some things remain the same…
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