Part Seventeen

Are you watching? Do you see how the world is changing, turning and falling into my hands?
Silence greets him. 
You cannot stop it, girl. It is too late.
It is quiet. Much too quiet.
Then rot in there, dear child. Stay hidden and watch me rule the world; watch me kill all who stand in my way... Watch and learn, Gabrielle.

Zeus sends out another round of warriors. He can feel the tide shifting and presenting him with victory. It is so close, so tantalizingly near. 

If only the others were here, to see this grand display. They had no vision, no foresight. They got too close to mortals, too close to thinking... somehow... that they could just be better versions of humans. My children... my foolish children...

Another explosion rocks the ground. This youthful body in his possession holds fast, steady feet on the moving surface of the world. He moves Gabrielle's legs, like a puppet, bending down and launching upward.
It is glorious. It is joyous.

This is the last night of your life, Gabrielle. Come out and enjoy what you can.

And Zeus laughs, the sound coming from Gabrielle's lips... It echoes into the burning night.
He laughs more as lightening courses from his palms, shooting out and cracking trees, opening the hard-packed dirt, creating a crevice running into Athens.

It is then, in the height of power, that Zeus feels her and hears her. 
It reminds him of the sound of Poseidon's roar and tidal wave. So loud and so strong.
It is then that Zeus feels this body plummet and crash, taking away not just the flight... but...

But how? You are mine!
This... is one... mortal... you cannot... best... Gabrielle's voice rasps out.

And for the first time ever, Zeus feels pain. Creeping and sharp, stinging and raw - Gabrielle's body is suffering wounds from her descent back to the earth.

I won't let you go! You hear me? You are mine to control and to--Ahhhh!
Gabrielle laughs now, cold and calculating. Her fingers are coated in her own blood. She digs deeper into the shallow cut, the pain causing her own mind to reel.

This will kill you! Severing ties with me will kill you... I'll take you down, girl!
Such... an old... threat, Zeus... You know I do not care.

Zeus surges back, struggling to lift the body and make it move. The steps are halting and contorted. He gets so far and then she pulls back. 

I'll give you death, a very painful end.
And Zeus jerks the reins, leaving Gabrielle behind for breathless seconds. He runs this body closer to Athens and to battle, drawing the sword and preparing to end this girl's life... once and for all.


Gabrielle fights back, though she is weary. In her own mind she can hear the many voices of her many lives - peasant, queen, bard, and warrior - and they push her forward.
Forward to death... how bizarre that I set out for an end to my life and that was from grief, only to save myself... by dying...
So many questions dive around Gabrielle's brain and there seems to be no answers.
Will I go to the Amazon land of the dead? Will Zeus remain even if I am gone? And... will I see her again, before my last breath?

She can see Athens. The city of her youthful imagination, just ashes and smoke.
She can see Amazons and centaurs and men and women, alive and dead. She sees blood. She sees carnage.
And she can see her own body, stumbling and careening, killing and bleeding.
Zeus is giving it his all.
Every form that is not on his side, he is slaughtering.
Gabrielle concentrates and makes her body rear back, slamming into the crippled wall of a building. 
Her body is aching, weak in some places and too strong in other places... The battle between mortal and immortal, playing out in her skin and bones.

Suddenly, arrows cascade down from above, moving rapidly into the bodies of unknown men. Each sharp tip finding that vulnerable spot between armor. 
Gabrielle looks up and Zeus sees the cause.
It makes them both freeze, but for vastly different reasons.



Varia can take no more.
The power to stand, much less fight, is waning. The others, those still alive, marshal on. But in their eyes... there lurks the realization that this battle will mark the end for them.
Xena took out many and continues to do so, but it is not enough. Artemis, it is too late, I fear. My bravery is strong, but... the rest of me is shattered. What do I do?

Varia doesn't feel like a leader now.
There won't be a nation left to rule or care for, not after all this. All of Greece is changed. If, by some miracle, Zeus is defeated, who will remain?
In all this time, Varia found the necessary will to carry on.
Even when Gabrielle fell apart, even when Xena disappeared, even when Artemis floundered... Varia looked to the women in her tribe and found the strength to go on.
But now, they are almost all dead... or will be soon enough... 

Someone jerks her down, her head narrowing escaping a spear thrown in her direction. She looks toward her left and nods a thank you to a fellow Amazon.

"Are you alright? Are you injured?" The woman asks.
"I'm fine."
"You were just staring, not moving."

Varia blinks, as if waking from a dream and then pulls the woman with her, the both of them running and dodging falling debris. Kill or be killed, Varia, you know this... get it together, for them...

"Thank you."
"You'd do the same for me."
"To a strong Amazon nation, then..." And Varia reaches out, gripping the woman's arm. It is warm and alive. It is powerful. And the woman returns the hold.

"You're Anteris, right?" Varia questions, lifting her blade once more.
"Then to a glorious night, whether we are here to see it or not, Anteris." 

They smile at each other. And then, they run back out into the fray.
And Varia knows that if tonight is the end, then she passes on with friends in her midst.
No gods or goddesses, no mystical heroes... But friends who have fought by her side, some for years and some for just these few weeks. 

I can do this, for them... for them...

So, they fight. As if the streets were not already littered with the dead, as if they were not all tired and failing, as if they have every chance to win.


Xena felt it first.
The hot and then the cold, running up her spine. And then... there, in the shadows and the fire, the reason for all this destruction... and the reason for all this love... All in a pair of green eyes, staring upward.

Artemis took note of the golden blade in those deceptive hands, hanging between air and ground, motionless. The goddess focused even more, sensing the struggle between Gabrielle and Zeus. It might be their only chance, the only moment in which to strike... to get Gabrielle back or...

Xena feels her heart beat faster, such a wonderfully human reaction. Artemis sways with it.
She is fighting him.
Of course she is.
Artemis can feel the warmth, the overwhelming devotion and knows that to restrain Xena is pointless. The warrior has her sights set. Nothing will stop her now.
I suspect she knows you are here. Try to reach her and I'll give you as much time as possible. But beware, Zeus is there and he will attack.

Xena doesn't wait for more. Her eyes close, even though her body continues to move and pull the bowstring. And Xena reaches out with everything she is and with everything she has. She lets Artemis be the warrior.
All Xena wants is to reach Gabrielle. 
Anything, Gabrielle, just give it to me and I'll find you... I'll bring you back and you'll be safe... Nothing will stop me, Gabrielle... Nothing and no one...

A tugging inside her gut is the first feeling, pulling her from the rooftop. But it is not her flesh and blood moving, it is her soul. It feels like the finest dream, liquid and pure. She spins and spins, catching the brief look of horror in that familiar emerald gaze.
Then darkness. Am I in her? Is this...?
It is, at first, oppressive. Xena starts to panic in this blackness. Up and down, left and right... they mean nothing in here. And hands, large and cold hands seem to push her, hold her, and smother her.
Zeus... Her minds hisses.
The hands remove themselves and Xena feels not only relief, but she can feel a sense of herself again.
Not her body, but something close to that... something like being alive... Just different.
Is this what it has been like for you, Gabrielle? With him holding you back? With this coldness?

Xena senses movement. It sounds close, it sounds like a gale ripping through trees. The pressure comes back... only to be pulled away again. Artemis and her comment comes back to Xena, reminding her of the internal war going on. 

"Gabrielle! I'm here!"
The roar of sound gets louder and Xena covers her ears, dropping down and surprised to find some kind of surface to hold her up.
Then light, dim and twinkling, like the stars... we would watch and talk about, your hand in mine and the feeling of everything being right in the world...
And then, soft and radiant, the darkness is pushed aside. The light of a million stars burst forth and Xena sees her. Gabrielle...



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