Part 21

Two pairs of eyes fall upon the center of the room, watching as the wind picked up and swirled about. And in that tornado of dust and electricity, Aphrodite could make out the faint outline of a figure.

It was familiar. It was someone she should know, but ’t place.

“That’s not our father.” She says aloud. And Ares narrows his gaze, his jaw set and his lips in a thin line. Even if he did not feel the

This woman wrapped in leather and in battle, her arms outstretched and tense… her hands buried in the now-apparent cloud of black

“He’s there. He is just being dominated by Xena .” Ares states, his grip tightening on the stone. Aphrodite can’t help herself, she shakes with sudden laughter. Ares spares a brief look at his sister. Great, has she cracked now? Just when I think we might fix this mess, she is losing it.

The goddess of love feels the strain of this situation take its toll on her emotions. From losing a friend and not getting the chance to say good-bye to watching her family die and then come back to create more havoc… I have to laugh or I just might cry.

As things settle down, they are plain to see. The mist that is at once fathomless and then concrete, shadows of their father’s face

She is gripping air, energy… How is she doing that? Ares wonders, once again in awe at his former chosen.

You’ve made your choice, just like before. My ignorant children, forever siding with humans over …over family.

Zeus breaks through the silence. Aphrodite takes a deep breath and looks to her brother.

“I think we have a job to do.” She says quietly. Ares keeps watching the two most important people in his godhood, looking back and

And then Xena slowly turns her head, staring at the immortals. She looks at their raised arms and at the polished oblong stone in their hands. She takes in the crumbling altar room, the fallen soldiers of Zeus and his last attempt at domination.

And she looks at Aphrodite. The goddess of love does not avert her eyes in return. Xena thinks the woman is trying to tell her something, to pass along some kind of sympathy. The Xena holding Zeus back doesn’t want to care, doesn’t want to hear it… But the Xena that Gabrielle created, she hears

Gabrielle… All I …

“He killed her.” Xena says, her voice echoing against the

“I know. I am sorry… more than you can ever know.”

“I am here to finish this. Don’t stop me.” It is a threat that Xena cannot truly guarantee to carry out, but she makes it anyway. I always find a way. I can this time. I can …This time, I can get it right.

“We’re not here to stop you. We are here to help.” Ares

And she looks at the god of war. He cannot hold her gaze for long. But Xena thinks he is trying to convey something, to make her understand some kind of feeling that makes him scared. The Xena of old wants to laugh and to mock. But the Xena that Gabrielle created can only be truthful.

When I find you ’ll be so proud of me. Proud of this moment.

“Still aiming for that one in a billion chance, hmm?”

Ares looks up sharply, waiting for coldness to be in those blue eyes. But it is not there.

What he finds is merely acceptance and honesty… And my chance slipping away for good, eh ’s what you are really telling me.

Ares smiles, shoving these emotions deep inside.

“So, you gonna let us help?” He asks.

Xena smiles at the both of them, her eyes lighting up as she then turns back to her captured enemy.

“Tell me what you have in mind.”  She says smoothly.


Varia didn’t mean to fall asleep. But everything just… stopped. The fighting ended, the running ceased and the talking dwindled down

There were eyes still watching the woods and the roads, waiting for the bloodshed to start up again.

But nothing happens.

And Varia sleeps for the first time in days. She sleeps and dreams.

Dreams of Artemis, sees the goddess flying through the trees and watches the goddess chase a deer, feet and hooves kicking up mud.

She dreams of Xena, the warrior crying and killing, a mass of pain and anguish that gets caught up in the flames of Athens.

This dream, though… this dream feels so real. There are arms hugging me and a voice telling me things will be alright. This person is not letting me go, but they are not staying. They tell me to build again, to be strong, to survive… And I am

And I slowly pull back, watery gaze taking them in.


And the woman smiles, it is bright and untroubled. I wish for such peace.

“One day, Varia. One day, we will all meet again. Now is your time.” Gabrielle cups my face and kisses both cheeks. Then Gabrielle is turning around, throwing one last glance …an impish grin and a wink and then Gabrielle is gone.

Too fast for me to …

Varia wakes up to find the sun just beginning its ascent up into the sky. The dusk is still heavy in the sky and the light of day is a mirage at the horizon.

She hears the distinct sound of someone coming down from the trees and looks to her left. It is Anteris. Varia stands up and waves the woman over. They clasped arms in a warrior greeting, more for the sake of it than for a real reason.

It reassures them both in a time when assurance is rare.

“I hope you got some sleep in those limbs.” Varia states.

“Plenty. And you?”

“My sleep was… full of visions.” Varia answers softly. Anteris leans against a tree and crosses her arms. Varia takes her in, the honey-rich blonde hair and myriad of bruises on the skin. This fellow Amazon… …

“Everything will be alright.” Anteris looks at Varia as she says this. And Varia lets her eyelids flutter shut for a moment, the last

“Yes. It will. We will build our nation up again and we will survive.” Varia speaks, her eyes opening and a faint smile tugging at her

Anteris smiles back then grips Varia’s shoulder.

“Spoken like a queen.”

Like a queen, for that is who I am now. Queen of the Amazons.

“Let’s give these fellow warriors safe passage, then let ”

And Varia looks up to the skies, sending out a final ….

And to you, …Godspeed…


Did that help you?

“Yes, very much. She needed to know. I needed to let her …well, that things will work out.”

She will be a good queen. Much like you would have been.

Gabrielle let go of that possibility many moons ago. It might have been the secure thing to do or even the right thing to do… but

Gabrielle was made for Xena.

“Thank you for that. I know my time is limited.”

I have promises, too, Chosen. I still cannot sense Zeus or Xena.

Gabrielle beckons this white light closer still, she pulls Artemis into her soul and finds her body lifting up, her arms and legs filling up with hot liquid fire. Not at all like Zeus, which was cold and sharp like a knife.

This is warm. This is life-giving.

“Zeus should have never picked me for his vessel.”

Why?, Artemis ’s mind, an peculiar reverb inside her skin.

“Because there was always the chance I would escape, would find a way to fight him. And so… I didn’t forget anything I witnessed as he ”

And Gabrielle finds her feet firmly on the ground, can feel the clothes on her body and the wind in her hair. She takes a deep breath, finding smoke and decay.

She begins to run, images jumping into her brain… places where her feet walked, where tears were shed, where she let go of herself and

Wait. Something…

“It’s a family reunion then.”

You sense my father there and I do not? How is that possible?

But it is not Zeus that Gabrielle feels. It is not the former god of Greece that causes her heart to beat as if real again. It is not Zeus that makes Gabrielle want to shout out loud with glee.

It is Xena.

“Wherever she is… that is where Zeus is, Artemis.”


Xena isn’t sure how she is doing any of this. Sheer determination is all she can think of. Willpower that no god or demi-god or upstart can stop… That is what makes this possible, this moment in time where

And here I thought I would have to do this for eternity, Zeus. Turns out it will be a lot simpler than that.

It won’t bring her back, you know. She is in the land of the dead. Artemis may take her chosen, but she can’t take you. She lied to you. She used you. Your soul will wither in

“Fine by me.” Xena responds coolly. She looks over at Ares and Aphrodite. She lets her vision rest upon the stone, this innocuous

How simple. I could have saved a lot of time and grief if I had known about that little thing.

Something catches Aphrodite’s attention and she stares past Xena, past her father. And her throat closes up, it tightens and an odd

It is like joy, but …

She looks closer, staring with not just her eyes but with everything that makes her the goddess of love, of desire, of affection and want.

And it is not a dream. It’s Gabrielle…

“Sweet pea…?” It is out of her mouth before she can censor it, a startled whisper coasting over her lips. Her arm involuntarily

“What are you doing? Bring it back up!” He growls.

But everything happens quickly then.

Xena hears the term of endearment, hitting her ears like a thunderbolt. And her head whips around, frantic eyes searching for the face to go with Aphrodite’s utterance… and finds it there, finds Gabrielle standing

“Xena…” Gabrielle sighs, the name like a prayer.

And the warrior princess feels like falling to her knees.

It is that moment that Zeus reaches out and thrusts ’s chest.

You let your guard down, Xena… Zeus laughs, twisting and turning inside her body, slowly moving to completely take her over.

Gabrielle watches in horror as Xena crashes to the floor.



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