Part 20

Artemis lends the woman strength as best as she can, considering that Xena is pushing the goddess away.
But she can feel the warrior's pain. It rattles about Xena's soul and collides with Artemis, with the spirit of Zeus, with the entire world.

And Xena holds on, though it seems impossible. Zeus is but a formless mist, a black entity... twisting and turning, trying to break free. The warrior princess laughs and it is scarily hollow.

"Who's winning now?" Xena questions the former father of all gods and goddesses.
She cannot hold me forever, Artemis! Tell her it is no use! Zeus shouts in the mind of his daughter.
Artemis looks for options and finds that there is very little to hold onto now.

Xena, listen to me... we have to find another way, we have to...

But Xena's mind is like a wall. Artemis cannot break in or find the way around. 

Xena, you cannot stop Zeus like this! Artemis shouts. Xena laughs again, her fingers going deeper into the shadows of Zeus. 

"I'll keep you here for all of time, Zeus." Xena whispers. "I'll keep you here until I find a way to rid the world of you." 
And you will fail, Xena. Just like you failed your friend there, just like you failed the Amazons and my Artemis... I will succeed and you will be ashes upon the ground.


Ares stands back, suddenly reticent. Aphrodite seems to glare at this oblong stone. 
Nothing that pretty should be so wrong, she thinks as her fingers slide softly over the surface of...
"It's his soul." Ares says quietly.
"Yes." Aphrodite shivers a bit. This moment leaves them both on edge and nervous, for so many reasons. 
"What will happen?" The goddess of love questions aloud. Ares steps closer, wrapping his palm about the blue-white stone.
"I... don't know..." The god of war replies.

And Aphrodite stands beside Ares.
They raise up the stone and the god of war quirks his eyes upward.

"Father!" He shouts. Aphrodite shoots him an annoyed look.
"Why are you calling him?" She hisses.
"So he can see it happen." Ares answers back coldly.


Zeus wants to be the victor.
But he has wanting nothing more than that it seems, forever spent in the search of... forever. Immortality in the hearts and minds of the living, his palace in the clouds and his family about him. That is what was meant to be.

But with the shout of his son and the frozen feeling in his senses, Zeus knows that the chance is slipping away.
No! Nooooo! Zeus rages, almost blowing Xena back and forcing Artemis to lessen what control she has over the formerly living warrior princess.

Artemis watches in horror as not only her father, but Xena as well, vanish into thin air.
And the protector of the Amazons, the goddess of the hunt, is left with a burning city and her fallen Chosen upon a crumbling rooftop.

She lowers herself for the first time to Gabrielle's still body. I am so sorry, Gabrielle. You've suffered so much and now... now, I fail you again.
Artemis wants to reach out. She wants to cradle this girl and bring her back to life. But it is not meant to be.
As with other times, Artemis is powerless to stop the loss of her sisters’ lives.
I do not know where Xena or Zeus has gone. I cannot feel either of them.
She looks back upon Gabrielle's face.
But there is one thing I can do. I can send your soul to peace, my chosen sister. I can fulfill this wish. And, if it is within any realm of possibility, I will bring Xena to you as well.

Artemis shimmers like a star in the darkness, spreading outward and creating a hazy white glow about Gabrielle's body. The goddess reaches out, pulling upward and speaking loudly.

Gabrielle. Come with me. It is time to go home.


It's like after a long nap. You wake up groggy and slightly confused. But then... then the fogginess falls away and you see the sunlight. You know you are awake and alive. And the day is new.
It is warm. It is good.

That is what Gabrielle notices first. And then she is moving, faster than running or being upon a horse. She is moving at the speed of wind. She can see all things and, yet, they are barely there long enough before she is past them.
Trees and mountains and sky and plants and the ocean... Gabrielle is seeing everything in a rush.

I am dead.

She knows this even as she thinks it. 
And she remembers being trapped in her own body. She recalls Zeus and fighting and...

Gabrielle stops the motions of her body and everything slows down. Everything halts and she is neither above the ground, nor below it.
Where is Xena? I need to wait for her... She asked me to wait for her...

If I can bring her to you, I will. That is a promise I will keep for eternity. A voice responds from seemingly nowhere. Gabrielle closes her eyes and opens her mouth, not sure if any sound will come out or not.
But it does. Crystal clear and echoing over this vast wintry landscape that she has paused within, Gabrielle hears her own voice.

"Eternity is too long of a wait. Xena and I... we've waited too long already."
I must find her first and I must destroy Zeus.
"Then let me help."
You are in the Amazon land of the dead. Your soul is here to rest and find peace.
"Peace is not possible for me here, not until Xena is with me."

Silence follows and Gabrielle watches the sun cast beautiful rays upon ice and within clouds. The Amazon land of the dead is gorgeous. Kind of surprising. Just missing one thing...
The phantom voice is now close as it speaks.

You are as stubborn as the warrior.
And Gabrielle, for the first time in a very long time, laughs. It cascades from her lips and into the atmosphere.
"Yes I am." 
I would have to bring you back as I did for her. And it would not be for long. I promised her that your soul would be brought here and I intend to keep that promise.
Gabrielle nods her head and feels her own lips form a smile.

"I made a promise, too." Gabrielle says softly, the memory of a spoken vow and lips against her own racing through her mind. I said always and I meant it. This time, Xena... this time, we are going to get it right.

Let's find her and then I can bring you both back here. Artemis says, standing in front of the battling bard and former queen of the Amazons, enclosing Gabrielle in that now-familiar dusky glow of a goddess.

"Xena, I'm on my way..." Gabrielle whispers as the landscape swiftly fades to black again.



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