DISCLAIMER: Please refer back to "Step 1" for specific disclaimers. It gets a little hot in this step. Better have something cool to drink nearby.

Feedback is always welcomed at <poorldl@earthlink.net>







"I must diligently plant my own field.

There is within a spiritual germ that may

live a thousand years."

-- Shah, 201-2


A golden red light infused it’s way through the black that was engulfing Xena, pulsating at its center, pushing against the boundaries of her unconsciousness, finally propelling all darkness away. She had to shield her eyes against the incandescent brilliance suddenly igniting her senses. As soon as her eyes had adjusted to the intensity, she lowered her arm and gasped at the sight of clouds burning with the beauty and power of both sunrise and sunset.

A sulfurous ocean spread in supplication before her as far as the eye could see. The inferno which before had beckoned to her from a distance had risen like the tide, covering the once cool gravel of the hill in shimmering waves of fire.

Xena smiled and closed her eyes, basking in the warmth of a wind that spread an overwhelmingly sexual passion across her skin as though blown by the breadth of the gods themselves. It filled her entire being with a heat fiercer than any earthly flame.

"This is bliss..."

Xena’s eyes flew open in surprise. Did she just say that or was someone else speaking? She could not tell.

"Who’s there?" Xena spoke aloud.

There was no reply save the hiss from the fingers of flame that were lapping at her toes and beginning to coil their way up her legs in a fiery caress.

"Hades?" The warrior called out.

"This is not Tatarus...," a distant voice answered.

Xena narrowed her eyes and took a small step forward, the burning tide following her movements.

"Ares." Xena growled, certain this had to be the work of the God of War.

"Show yourself!" The warrior demanded.

"You are the only god here."

Xena stopped moving forward abruptly, suddenly recognizing the answering voice as her own.

"What’s going on here? Where am I? AND WHO ARE YOU?!" Xena was yelling now and looking out into the inferno for the source of the voice mocking her own.

She saw nothing but an ocean of fire and a sky filled with burning clouds.

"I must be in the Underworld. Burning forever, consigned to flames of woe...." Xena whispered under her breath.

"There is no underworld," her own voice replied.

"Some call this Tuat or Ament, others Khert-Neter. You would call it Tartarus...and Elysia...combined. A place of sensual pleasure. Your place...," came the explanation in her own tones.

"How can Tartarus and Elysia exist together? Tartarus is a place of punishment. Elysia, reward." Xena asked to the wind.

"There is no punishment. There is no everlasting torture. There is only death... death...or...rebirth."

The warrior thought about this for a moment, watching as a distant volcano spewed forth a breath of twisting fire. The flames danced upward, licking the air in a seductive kiss before disappearing in a hiss of brilliant gold.

"So, you’re saying that death is the punishment and rebirth is the reward?" Xena asked, trying to confirm her understanding...watching...while her eyes absorbed the red and gold of the burning landscape.


The warrior’s sardonic chuckle cleared the flames from her eyes.

"Then I guess not many people have seen their just rewards." Xena snorted.

She looked around with a smirk, briefly wondering if she wasn’t talking to herself.

"Am I to be rewarded then?" The warrior queried, placing her hands on her hips.


"Just what do I have to do to get my ‘reward’?"

"Embrace the flames."

Xena nodded. She thought as much.

"You gods are all the same. There’s always a catch."

"You are the only god here."

"I am *not* a god." Xena demanded, losing her patience with divine propositions.

"This is yours."

"I don’t want it!"

"You already have it."


She heard her own words echoing back at her from across the inferno.

"No." Xena whispered, taking a step back.

"This is you."

"No, it’s not."

"This has always been you. This power is you. This is your essence."

"This is NOT me."

Suddenly Paracelsus’ words surged through the flames.

"Each of us carries around, each of us is, a miniature cosmos. We carry the power of the universe inside even as we are contained within the universe itself."

"Your spirit is immortal by its very essence."

The burning tide surged upwards to engulf Xena’s entire body in a fervent caress.

The warrior could not help but groan, feeling the fire course along her skin, infusing her blood with its divine heat.

"It feels sooo good," she moaned.


Xena was both talking to and answering herself now. The voice no longer without, but within.

"I’ve always loved this feeling."

The tendrils of fire spiraled upward encircling her waist, then reaching to lick fiery kisses across her breasts. The warrior opened her arms and leaned her head back, closing her eyes to accept the heavenly embrace.

"Ohh, yes!" Xena purred, her head rolling in a circle, her body withering in sensual overload.

"This is bliss..." Her words.


"Take what is yours."

"I love this."


"Its what I’ve always wanted."

"Power. It is you."



"It’s always been me....."

"Claim it and live forever..."





A light, clear voice called out to the warrior from another place. The flames receded just a bit, just enough for Xena to hear the call and open her eyes.

"Xena. I know you can hear me."

The shock of recognition tugged at Xena’s awareness.

The flames receded just a bit more and Xena struggled to turn around, to face in the direction of the call.


She could see the bard shimmering far away in the distance bright and clear, sunlight reflecting in sparkles against honey red hair.

"Xena, please...."


"Xena, please come back to me."

Xena turned away from the bard and looked out across an ocean of fire whispering promises of eternal bliss.

The warrior smiled again, turning her back on the offer and took a step out of the arms of everlasting rapture. The flames pulled along with her, entreating her to return, but Xena ignored them and walked away from the hilltop, taking long, purposeful strides off in the direction of Gabrielle.



Continued in Step 22


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