Part Seven

And so it begins...

Xena finds herself standing at the edge of Amazon territory. The ever-present whisper of Artemis at her back.

'Xena, you must be sure. Once I am within you, you will have more power than ever. But you must do what you have promised. You must save the Amazons.'

"I know." Xena answers softly. The spirit moves around the warrior, swaying to and fro. 

'You still have concerns.'

"I have too many to count, Artemis. I...I am nervous for the first time in my existence."

'How can I set your mind at ease?'

"How does killing the Amazons give Zeus power? And...why choose me to save them? My daughter is the reason for the twilight. For your--"

'For my demise, yes, I have not forgotten. Zeus wishes to gain back power in the living world and the more followers he gathers, the more chance he has. Anyone connected to the one god is a threat, so they must be eliminated.'

Xena feels her heart stop, constricting from the sharp and painful realization. He will come after those that I love… The warrior clears her throat.

"What of my daughter?"

'The messenger of the one god is already protected. She cannot be touched. But you see now, do you not? You see why I have chosen you.'

"Because of Gabrielle." Xena lets a bit of human reaction follow, letting her body sag slowly to the ground.

'You are her champion, even in death. She has not chosen anyone else to protect her... and thus, you are the one I had to bring back. Only you can reach her before Zeus does, Xena of Amphipolis.'

Gabrielle, I just wanted to come back to you. I didn't want to fight anymore and I didn't want to be dead... I just wanted to return to you, to us... And wherever you are, you are hunted. You are in danger.  I wonder what you would think, to see me here and about to accept a goddess into my body, my mind... All for the greater good. All for...

"Well, there is no point in waiting. I need to find her. And stop Zeus."

'Thank you.'

And like that, Xena feels a pulse winding through her body, like the hum after lightening strikes. It is powerful, it is intoxicating...

Artemis is living with each breath the warrior princess takes.

Xena can hear her as well, but it just thoughts... My thoughts, her thoughts, one in the same.

"Let's go." She says aloud, taking the first steps as a goddess and ghost, together.


The other Amazons are worried. Nervous. And Varia cannot blame them. Our Queen is losing her mind. 

"Varia, you should take control!" One of the Amazons hisses.

Varia shoots them a look and everyone becomes quiet.

A timid girl, barely over her 18th moon, speaks up. "Where is she taking us? To other Amazons?"

"There are no other Amazons, Cyrus." Varia says sharply.

"Then where? Where are we going?" The girl asks again, her voice taking on the tone of one who is scared.

And Varia has no answer for them. Gabrielle is more and more of a mystery, sleeping away from camp and traveling like the fire of Hades is at her back.

"Everyone, just remain calm. I am sure the place Queen Gabrielle is taking us is safe." I hope I am right. For all our sakes.

Gabrielle wants to sleep. If I rest, though, I can hear him. Whoever he is. Taunting me, tempting me... The bard wondered if it was Ares, at first. But the god of war was never one for shyness. He would just pop up and annoy me to my face. Besides, she doubted Ares knew she was back yet. Or about Xena... She keeps her distance from the Amazons, however. The increase in her paranoia...well, Gabrielle knows how it looks to them. Like I am insane. Which, perhaps, I am.

'I can cure you of these ills, Gabrielle.'

The blonde covers her ears, digging her fingernails into her scalp.

"Leave me alone." She whispers brokenly. If I had not been there to see most of the immortals die, I would swear this is the Furies!

'Not quite.'

At this, Gabrielle stands up quickly. Her hands automatically draw her sais and thrusts them before her.

"Who are you?" And she knows she is yelling, but does not care.

"Show yourself! You cannot be an immortal, for they are all gone! If you are not real, is..."

And she is crying, awash in terror and anger. She does not notice Varia watching her from the shadows, a look of shock on the young woman's face.

The bard throws the sais, the force driving them deep into a tree.  "If you are not real, then it is true... I am mad." Gabrielle whispers, dropping to her knees. 

Varia takes a tentative step toward the Amazon queen. And Gabrielle does not move, not even when Varia places an awkward arm about her shoulders.

"You saw all of that, then." Gabrielle states.

Varia nods a silent 'yes'. 

"I do not know if I can protect the Amazons."

The young woman looks closely at Gabrielle with this sentence. "What are you--"

But the bard interrupts her. "In my vision, you had the queen's mask. I think I should let you take command, give you my right of caste. I am not safe for any of you now."

Varia pulls her arm away. "What?"

The blonde gets up at this and begins to gather her belongings.

Varia watches her, mute. "I am not sure what is going on, Varia. If I am mad, then I am a danger. If I am not, then..."

"Then what?"

"I am not sure, but it does not seem good."

They stare at each other for a moment or two, until Gabrielle finds the woman looking at the chakram.


The bard turns away.

"Xena taught me that grief must happen, that to not let go of anger or sadness would just poison me. Is that what is going on with you?"

The question catches Gabrielle off guard. Grief? No... I am familiar with grief, Varia. I feel that every day, every second.

But the bard never answers. She leaves Varia standing there, in the night.


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