Always, Part Six

This is a dream.

Gabrielle knows this and, yet, she cannot awake from it. Her heart beats like a drum, pushing at her skin and threatening to burst forth. And she is searching, digging through the dirt and the leaves and rocks...

This is a dream... right?

Her hands grab onto something solid and smooth. She is smiling, so very happy now that she has it. 

It... What is it?

Her eyes look upward and her arms open, waiting and waiting. Then he is there.

Sweeping over her body, into her bones and blood, taking over.

This is a dream, only a dream, just a dream...

Gabrielle is silent as the Amazons move alongside her. The bard can sense the others wanting a break, but she cannot stop. That dream... Gabrielle finds the images haunting her. And, more than that, scaring her.

She felt such power, such joy, such... I did not feel like myself anymore. I felt invincible.

"Queen Gabrielle!" A shout from behind and Varia's hand gripping her arm. Two more feet and Gabrielle would have been at the bottom of a ravine. She darts her eyes to the Amazon and mumbles a 'thank you'.

"Maybe we should rest. For now." Varia says to the others, but Gabrielle knows it is directed at her. I have to stay sharp, now more than ever. I can't let them down. What is going on with me?

The bard leans against a tree and sighs. Xena...I wish you were here. I wish I could reach out and find you there, find your comfort and solace. I many things...

You can have everything your heart desires, if you let me help you.

Gabrielle spins around and finds no one there. But I am sure I heard someone speak to me...Am I losing my mind? The bard feels tears slide down her face silently. 

She doesn't wipe them away.


The temple, once a place of worship and gifts, is empty. Xena looks around, seeking out the voice from the night before. 

"I know you are here." The warrior says in a sing-song voice. 

A cool wind picks up, blowing leaves to and fro. And though a body never appears, an energy is present. Xena can catch glimpses of it from the corner of her eye.

'You know who I am and why you are here.'

The warrior leans against a dusty wall, letting her gaze move around slowly, taking in the decay of an ancient deity's home.

"I am beginning to understand, yes. Maybe you'd like to fill in the gaps."

'Are you able to answer the riddle?'

Xena feels her jaw tighten in frustration. Old habits do die hard...

"I wake up, back on Earth, alive and with abilities that I did not have before... I am never tired, never hungry, no need for the normal human requirements. Kind of like a god."

'One of my children, you met her in that village... she saw me within you. Do you remember?'

And Xena did, the final piece coming into place. But how...?

"You are dead."

'Yes. But my spirit, along with others, still exist. And in this time of peril for my Amazons, I needed help. That is why I brought you back. To save them.'

"From who? Who is doing this? Another god or goddess?" Xena could feel something inside of her getting nervous. Gabrielle, I need to get to you. This unease I am feeling... it is very dangerous.

'Xena of Amphipolis, if you let me guide you and assist you in battle, I promise you a true home for your soul, with my Amazons. Not the blankness you have been in.'

"You didn't answer me. Who is doing this?"

A shift in the atmosphere and Xena feels the tingling along her spine, her body giving in to another force, letting this energy in... if only for a moment.

'It is Zeus.'
Why would he want the Amazons dead?
'He wants power back. And nothing, nor no one, matters to him.'
Wouldn't his spirit have been destroyed when Hercules--
'Our souls remain when followers remain. The one God did not wipe all of them away. We still hear them and still try to be there for them. Zeus is ready to return.'

Xena finds herself slumped on the stone floor. Alone.

She walks unsteadily outside, shielding her eyes from the sun.
If this is what I must do... to save the Amazons, to save Gabrielle... then I will, Artemis.

"Do you hear me? I will help you, one last time."


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