Vigil of a God
Disclaimers: The characters of Xena, Ares, Zeus, Hercules, Gabrielle, et all, belong to Universal/Renaissance Pictures. I am only borrowing them for this story. No profit is being made here.
Violence: yes, there is some violence. Kind of hard not to have some kind of violence, especially when Xena and Ares are involved. Parts of this story take place in flashbacks and for the most part, and are an observance/recitation of the events.
Timeline: this story takes place in two separate time periods, past (Xena time) and present day.
Special Characters: I am including several characters of my own creation in this story
Dimension: this story takes place in an alternate dimension of my own creation (so, for the die-hard fans, this will be different.)
Final thoughts: I want to thank everyone who has written me with their comments regarding my previous story "A Heros Welcome". Your wonderfully positive feedback had encouraged me to continue writing and I hope that you will like this story as much as you have liked my first effort.
Now, on to the story
Eternity can be a very long time. Eternity can seem even longer without the one you love. Eternity is how long I have waited in this place, just for the chance to be with my one love once again. A chance that might never come, but I am willing to wait. Willing to wait until the end of time, if need be. But, I am getting ahead of myself here.
As I sit here, watching, ever vigilant, I can remember everything as if it happened just yesterday. The battle, being trapped, unable to help, the wound, her words as she lay dying in my arms, my powers unable to save her. I remember the tears falling from my face, onto hers as each breath became harder than the last. Oh, and the blood. The blood that was spilling now was different from any blood that had been spilled in my name. There was so much of it; so much in fact, that it stained not only the ground but myself as well. But nothing, absolutely nothing could compare to the pain. The pain of a bond between a god and his chosen fading.
As she drew her last breath, she asked me if I truly loved her. I love you I replied, I swear on Olympus itself, I love you as I clasped her hands, staring into her eyes as the light faded from them.
The ground shook and the skies trembled as War itself grieved
There was only one mortal that knew the depth of my pain and that was her friend, and even in my own immeasurable grief I knew that only her grief rivaled my own.
I made this place for her, in this cave, my secret retreat. I made the altar upon which she sleeps in the coffin I created for her, nestled in warm furs. I formed a protective barrier around her altar, to keep her safe throughout time, until the day came when she would be returned to me or time itself ended. What ever happens, I am prepared to wait, to keep vigil.
So I sit here in the dark, staring at my chosen in her slumber and I wait
Jenna looked up at the high, jagged roof of the cave, pausing to take a break from helping her parents on their latest archaeological adventure. She had been dragged as she put it, on more than one occasion, to various parts of the world, following her father, who was a noted archaeologist, on his many expeditions. On several of the previous digs that she had been on, the living conditions had been, well, less than perfect, but this time was an exception. The equipment that they were using on this dig was first rate, even though the torches left something to be desired, far above anything that any of her fathers colleagues had ever used before.
"Jenna, have you finished with the translation on that piece yet?" asked her father, pausing a moment to wipe a stray hair out of his eyes.
"Almost, Dad. Please remember, I am NOT as fluent in ancient Greek as you are." Jenna replied, taking a sip of water.
"It is important, you know. If what weve found so far is true, it could change history again." Bob Tolliver replied. "It might not be quite as significant as finding proof that Atlantis existed, but it would provide a whole new insight into the Olympian Gods."
"I know Daddy. I know. Youve told us this a thousand times since we got here. Why didnt we bring along a language specialist? Better yet, why not some more reliable torches or glo-cubes?" Jenna replied, pausing to relight the torch again.
"Because, daughter dear. This site had been completely undisturbed for centuries. And, no one is paying for this dig, but us. "
"You know daddy, it would make things easier if all the torches in here were lit, at least the ones on the temples steps."
"Bob, give Jenna a break. Weve been working non-stop for two weeks now. If our daughter wants to relax a bit, let her." Jennas mother replied. "Shes right about one thing, you know. These torches are really bad."
"Enough of this. Hold on a sec, Im lighting all of these stupid things. Stand back."
With that, Bob and Caroline took a step back and watched as their daughter lit the torches with fine bolts of energy that flew effortlessly from her hand. Satisfied that the torches were going to stay lit, Jenna looked at her parents with a look of why didnt you ask me before plainly evident on her face. Pleased with her handiwork, Jenna sat back and watched her mother.
Caroline Tolliver looked at her husband, a smear of dirt on her cheek and now approximately three months pregnant.
"You know coming here was your idea, youre the one who wanted to show Jenna exactly where she was born. "
Jenna turned and looked at her mother. From everything she had been told and had been able to find out, she had been born in a hospital in the states. To hear that she hadnt been born there came as a bit of a shock to her and she looked to her father for answers.
"Okay, daddy, spill it. Where WAS I born?"
"You were born here in Greece. Take a look to your right. You were born in that temple, over there. "
Jenna looked over to where her father pointed. Standing up, she walked over to the temple her father pointed at and looked carefully at the symbols carved around the doorframe. Extremely intricate and they were inlaid with gold, silver and a multitude of gems. Taking a good look at the rather voluptuous figure carved over the entrance, Jenna looked back at her father and said
"APHRODITES temple. Youre kidding, right? You had me here????"
Caroline noted her daughters expression with great amusement, thinking back to the day she was born. Of all the temples here, this was the only one that was comfortable enough (and easily opened) for her to be born in. Looking back to her daughter, she said
"Yes, Jenna. You were born on the altar in Aphrodites temple. While it wasnt the most ideal place, " she said, shooting Bob a look " It was the best place at the time. "
Jenna looked at both her parents, and sighed the way only a ten year old could. One mystery was now solved but this whole dig was a big mystery to her. She remembered hearing stories from her fathers associates about their expeditions to Greece and none of them had ever mentioned this place. Looking back to her father, she put down the notepad and walked over to where he stood, sipping from a canteen.
"Daddy, why doesnt anyone know about this place? I mean, why are we here now?"
"Jenna, I discovered this place a long time ago, when I was a student on my first expedition. You see, I sort of wandered away from the group while I was looking at a map, slid down a hole and ended up here. I looked around for a bit and saw a completely intact city with twelve temples dedicated to each of the major gods of the Greek pantheon. Rather than have the site ruined, I climbed back out of the hole and marked its location on a topographical map I had in my backpack. "
"So, when you and mom came over, you decided to take her here and began exploring. "
"Right. The doctor had told us that you wouldnt be arriving for at least another two weeks, so we both felt okay about coming here and taking a better look around. We had planned to be here only a week and were two days into the dig, when you decided to make your appearance. "
"When I went into labor with you, we were both frantic, wondering how long it would take to get to the nearest hospital or clinic. When we lost that option, and mind you it was quickly, you seemed rather impatient to enter this world, we looked around for the next best place."
Jenna looked around carefully, trying to imagine what it must have been like for them in that situation. Being stuck in a cave with no medical help must have been just awful. Looking back to her parents, she silently encouraged them to continue.
"Aphrodites temple was the first one we were planning on exploring. I had just finished unlocking the doors earlier in the day, when your mother told me that she was in labor. Like she said, you were in quite a hurry to make your entrance into the world and when we realized that we were going to have to deliver you here, I thought of Aphrodites temple. When we got into the main chamber where the altar was, we were shocked to find it in the condition it was in. "
"What your father is trying to say is that for something well over three thousand years old, it was perfectly preserved, with absolutely no decay of any kind. Our thoughts werent on exploring at that moment, though. The altar had been covered in warm furs and pillows, so I climbed up there while your father pulled out what medical equipment we did carry."
Caroline Tolliver smiled at the memory for a moment, looking between her daughter and husband, then continued for her audience of one.
"It didnt take very long after I had crawled up on the temples altar, before you made your rather loud entrance. You had so much hair, and were rather upset at your new surroundings. When you took a hold of my finger and opened your eyes, I was amazed not only at the strength of your grip, but at the bright blue of your eyes."
"Your mother and I decided to head back to town with you to have you and your mother checked by a doctor. After carefully closing the temple, we proceeded back to town, I had you and your mother checked by a doctor and then we flew back to the states with you. We had always hoped to be able to come back and finish this dig, but didnt have the money until now."
"Cool, now can we finish so we can get back to civilization? Im missing on some valuable butt kicking time."
Bob and Caroline looked at each other, their faces not betraying their inner feelings, with Jennas tiny display of her abilities. Lighting torches didnt even scratch the surface of Jennas powers. Ever since the accident four years ago, their daughter had been special. They both recalled with vivid clarity every detail of that day.
Jenna had gone out to play with some of the neighborhood kids in the park, which was conveniently, for her anyway, located right across the street from her house. Robby, one of Jennas best friends was particularly excited about something and pulled Jenna aside when she reached the swings.
"Jenna, come look. I found some glowing paint in the hole they dug for the new pool."
"Cool. What color is it?"
"All kinds of colors. Green, blue, yellow, and a couple of colors I cant tell what they are, but they sure glow bright. Hey, I dare you to climb down there."
Jenna was not one to back down from a dare and ran over to the pit dug in the ground. A ladder was still in place from where the workers left it, so Jenna climbed down and stood next to one of the paint cans.
"Okay, Im down here. Now what?"
"Ummm, go and touch it. "
"You touch it too. Whatsamatter, Robbie. Chicken?"
Jenna watched as Robbie squared his shoulders and climbed down the ladder, joining her in the pit.
"Okay, Im here. Now what."
"I paint you, you can paint me."
"Okay, okay. "
By the time the two kids were finished painting each other with the glowing paint, Robbie s arm was covered from shoulder to wrist and Jenna was covered from head to toe in various colors of this paint, having slipped in the gooey mud the paint had made. Climbing out of the pit, Jenna said
"Robbie, I dont feel so good. My head hurts a lot "
"I dont feel too good either. "
A scream from across the street caused both of them to turn and see both Jennas parents running towards them. The last thing Jenna remembered was being picked up by her father before passing out from the pain.
Jenna awoke, for what seemed to her, just a few minutes later, but in fact had been several very anxious days for her parents. Her head still hurt a bit, but not nearly as much as did a while ago and she discovered that she was very, very hungry. Slowly adjusting her eyes, she looked around the room and noticed that she was in some kind of hospital room and that a rather deep, but friendly voice was talking to her. The room was decorated in light, cheery colors, a plant was in one corner, a small door was open on the left indicating the bathroom and there were two chairs next to her bed, where her parents were currently seated.
" I see my patient is coming around. How do you feel, Jenna?"
Willing her eyes to focus a bit more, Jenna looked at where the voice was coming from. She saw a very tall, very muscular man standing there, with dark red hair, teal colored eyes, dressed in black dress pants, black loafers, deep burgundy shirt, black tie and wearing a white lab coat. The doctor looked more like some kind of professional athlete than a doctor as he studied the chart with a practiced eye.
"My name is Doctor Bret Henson. I was called in for a consult by the chief of emergency services of Lawrence Hospital to help you. "
Both Jennas parents looked at each other in shock. Bret Hensons name was known worldwide. Regarded as the best physician on the planet, he had found cures for cancer, most of the muscular diseases and mapping the entire human DNA code all before the age of 20, not to mention all of the treatments he developed for radiation contamination, synthetic skin for burn patients and non-invasive cardiac and brain surgery. Bret Henson was also the worlds leading authority on the origins and treatment of mutants. He was a child prodigy in the medical community and perhaps best known for his invention of the regenerator.
"Whats wrong with our daughter?"
Bret noticed the underlying fear in Jennas parents tone and put on his best smile for them.
"Relax, folks. Jenna will be fine in a couple of days. "
Without going into a lot of details, Bret explained (in easy to understand terms), to Bob and Caroline what exactly had happened to Jenna and what changes they could expect to happen in the future.
"A mutant, doctor? Are you sure?"
"Look, I know its a lot to deal with all at once. You find your daughter has been playing in radioactive waste, you rush her to the hospital and then a specialist is called in, me. Not to mention, almost being picked up by the M.I.B.S., before I could get here. Ive dealt with many cases like hers and thats why I had her moved to one of my medical facilities. Its fully equipped to handle cases like hers discreetly. "
Both Bob and Caroline knew what he meant by that last statement. Mutants were at the top of the American publics hate list, the prejudice against them having been amplified by small-minded government and religious leaders, and more often than not, mutants just disappeared, never to be seen again. Grateful to the doctor for his help and his discretion, Bob asked
"What can she do?"
"It varies from mutant to mutant. Jenna is definitely some kind of energy projector, what type of energy, Im not sure of yet. It might be just one type and then again it could be several. It tends to vary from person to person. From the scans Ive done so far, she will be a very powerful mutant, with increased dexterity, intelligence, strength. There will be some telepathic abilities along with heightened senses, hearing, sight, smell, and such. Shell develop more abilities over time, what theyll be, I cant tell quite yet. Ill need to see her again in a couple of months, once her DNA pattern has settled down, then Ill be able to tell you everything. In the meantime, I know of someone who could teach Jenna how to use her new abilities responsibly. "
"Please. I want to learn."
Bret turned and looked at Jenna. Studying her for a moment, he said
"All-right. But youll have to do everything they tell you. And I mean everything. This isnt some kind of game, Jenna. What you need to learn could save your life someday."
"I know. I need to learn. "
"Very well. In fact, I know the perfect person to help you."
With a smile, Bret tousled Jennas hair and left her room, leaving her alone with her confused parents. Seeing the confusion and fear on their faces, Jenna looked at her parents and said
"Its okay mom, dad. Please let me do this. I have to do this."
"All-right, all-right. Just do as this person asks okay. And be careful."
"I will. I promise."
Several days later, Jenna was released from the clinic and went home with her parents. Two days after she was home, there was a knock at her door. Getting up carefully from the couch, Jenna walked over to the door and opened it. Jenna knew all the superheroes by name and costume. Never had she thought she would actually meet one of them up close. Standing in the doorway was Jennas favorite superhero. The costume was unmistakable. A white costume with a red, eight pointed star on it. It was Astro.
"Are you Jenna? Im Astro. Doctor Henson sent me."
"All-right, Jenna. Can you let us finish here first, please?"
"Fine, mom. Whatever. " Jenna replied, walking further down the empty street.
As she walked up and down the street, pausing to look at the inscriptions and carvings on each of the temples, she noticed that one of the Greek Pantheon of Gods was noticeably absent. All that was there to mark the spot where the temple should have been was a small, flat stone, well worn with the passage of time. The stone marker was out of place in comparison to the other stone carvings here. It was much older and liberally criss-crossed with sword and dagger marks, and there was still a tiny bit of blood encrusted in the grooves. Taking out a fine brush, Jenna carefully brushed away the encrusted dirt and blood and read the inscription on the stone.
"Let it be known to all here, that this stone marks the entrance to the temple of the God of War, Ares. All who enter, be prepared to pay tribute to the God of War."
There was no more inscriptions on the stones surface, nor was there any hidden chambers or inscriptions anywhere else on the stone. Jenna looked around the spot for any remnants of the temple, but found none. Ares was part of the major pantheon of Greek Gods and to have his temple not represented physically was DEFINITELY significant. Jenna looked back down the empty street to where her parents were busily examining a statue.
"Hey, Dad? Can you come down here a minute? Theres something you definitely need to see."
Bob Tolliver looked up from the statue to see his daughter about a quarter mile down the street, alternately looking between a stone marker and flat, empty knoll. Putting his notebook down, he walked the short distance to where his daughter stood, looking rather confused.
"What is it Jenna?"
"Look at this dad. One of the temples is not here. I only counted eleven temples, not twelve. "
Bob looked at his daughter, and then slowly counted the temples in the cave. Scratching his head, Bob realized that his daughter was correct.
"I must have miscounted. I thought I saw twelve temples. Which one is missing?"
"Aress Temple. Its not here, just this stone marker. And I think this may have come from a different temple. Its a lot older than the other temples. I think it was put here well after this area was built. "
Bob looked at his daughter with pride. She had a knack for discovering things and this time was no exception. Pushing his hat further back on his head, Bob contemplated the meaning of this latest discovery. As he examined the stone and empty knoll where the temple should have been, an old story he had heard as an archaeology student came to the front of his mind. A huge smile crossed his features as he realized the significance of his daughters find. Motioning to his wife, Bob sat down on one of the stone benches that lined the street. Jenna, just as curious as her mother appeared to be, sat down on the opposite side of her father as he dug in his pack, pulling out a very old scroll.
"Bob, what is it. You look like the cat that swallowed the canary. Jenna found something, didnt she?"
Bob Tolliver smiled at his wife, then at his daughter. Carefully unrolling the scroll, he showed them some of the faded writing as he replied
"Oh, yes she did, Caroline. I dont know why I didnt think of it until now, but the last two times I was here, I was a bit pre-occupied to really notice. Can either of you read this?"
Both Caroline and Jenna looked at the scroll and shook their heads in unison. The writing appeared to be in ancient Greek, in a dialect that neither of them had seen before, but there were some distinct differences between the writing on the scroll and the samples of ancient Greek writing they had seen before.
"Okay, Dad. What kind of writing is this? It looks like ancient Greek, but there are some differences."
"Ill make an archaeologist out of you yet, Jenna. Take a good look at the scroll, especially the signature at the end. I think that will solve the mystery of who wrote it."
Jenna looked carefully at the writing, delicately unfurling it to look at who had signed the scroll. Her eyes widened as she saw the unmistakable signature of a god. More specifically, the sign of the God of War, Ares. Looking back to her father, she asked him.
"Is this what I think it is? Is this actually signed by the God of War? This could be a fake, or someone just pretending to be him."
Bob looked at his daughter, understanding her skepticism. Looking at his daughter, he replied
"It is signed by him and Ive carbon-dated the scroll. Its approximately 2,987 years old. "
"It could have been written by one of his temple priests or someone like that, Bob."
"Caroline, Jenna, what I am about to show you goes no further than this. After I first discovered this little area and returned to the group I was with, I stopped at every little museum and shrine I could find while not with the group and asked a lot of questions, hoping to find some kind of clue about this place. I managed to hear a lot of stories, superstitions and a few tales that were just not believable. The time with the dig was just about over when I found a very, very old man minding a tiny shrine on the outskirts of the town. The shrine was ancient; Id have to say about 2-3 thousand years old just by its looks alone. "
"A functioning shrine that old? Why didnt anyone know about it, Bob?"
"After introducing myself, I asked that same question. When the old man turned around, I could see that while his body had aged, his mind was still very sharp and I thought that he might have the answers that I was looking for. What I found out, still haunts me to this day."
"Dad, what could be so terrible and why did you wait so long to tell us?"
"Jenna, Caroline. It wasnt the appearance of the man; it was the story he told me. A story about a gods love of a mortal and how the god was betrayed by his father and lost the only love he swore hed ever have."
Jennas eyes grew wide as she began putting the pieces together.
"Are you saying that the village, its temples, the shrine were all ."?
"Yes, Jenna. One God built them all. Ares."
Both Caroline and Jenna looked at Bob in surprise at his simple statement
"Bob, you expect us to believe that the God of War was in love with a mortal human? And to top it off, he was betrayed by his father somehow? Thats a lot for us to believe. "
"Dont you think I know this, Caroline? I was skeptical myself at first, but then the old man began relating this story."
"Go on, dad. Were waiting."
"All-right. If youre sure youre both ready. This will take some time, its a long story."
Caroline handed a can of soda to her husband, daughter and then opened one herself and motioned for her husband to continue. Encouraged by his wife, Bob Tolliver unrolled the scroll and proceeded to relate his tale.
"It all began just over three thousand years ago, in a small, but fairly prosperous village in Greece. There were three children born to one woman, two boys and a girl. The oldest boy was not as entranced by the stories of soldiers and battles like his sister and younger brother were. They were fascinated by these stories; they spent all of their free time trying to learn the various arts necessary to become a great warrior. They studied swordplay, archery, staff, and spear much to their mothers dismay. They often begged any soldier or warrior who happened to be passing through their village to teach them what ever they knew. Both brother and sister were determined to become the best warriors in Greece. However, little did they know at that time, what the fates had in store for them. Both of these children had been watched from afar since the moment of their births and very carefully and subtly nudged to choose the path of a warrior.
Several years had passed and the brother and sister had become fairly adept with the weapons they had to work with. Although these weapons were of rather poor quality, to these two, they were treated like gifts from Hephaestus himself. Lyceus and Xena took great care to clean the weapons and repair them as best they could, while getting into all kinds of mischief as only a brother and sister could do.
Several moons later, a traveling merchant rode into town with the news that a warlord was nearby and had plans for attacking the village. Secretly thrilled by the news, both Xena and Lyceus gathered as many villagers as they could and began preparing for the fight they both knew was to come. Their mother however was not thrilled by their actions and tried vainly to get them to stop the preparations, fearing for the safety of her children. Whether it was the thrill of the battle the siblings knew was to come, or something else. Little did either one of them know that this moment would change not only their lives, but in time the lives of everyone in Greece and beyond. "
Bob paused a moment to take a sip of soda before continuing, noticing that he had the attention of his daughter and wife.
Several days later, the warlord and his raiding force came riding down into the town, expecting to find rather easy pickings in this village. Previous scouts had reported that this was a village of farmers and would offer no resistance. Still thinking that this village would be easy pickings, the warlord rode into the village, expecting to find a group of frightened villagers who would give him anything he wished. Instead, he found a group of armed villagers, being led by two very young, inexperienced people.
The battle was soon raging in and around the village. Raiders and villagers fighting fiercely, each side determined not to let the other side win. The ground ran red with blood from both sides as the bodies began to pile up. It looked as if the villagers were about to lose this fight with the warlord until one name was screamed out loud
"Then what happened daddy?"
Bob smiled at his daughter, then continued
"Xena turned around when she heard the scream. She turned around in time to see her beloved younger brother Lyceus fall to the ground, dying from a sword strike to the abdomen. Something inside her snapped at that instant. Xena turned around with a vengeance, the light in her eyes now turned to cold, her face now twisted into a feral smile. She fought without mercy, ignoring injury until Cortese and the remaining men of his band ran into the hills, licking their wounds. Unknown to her someone else had been watching this battle from afar, having been attracted to the fighting, the smell of blood being spilled and the sound of his name being called. He had appeared just a moment before the fatal blow to Lyceus and watched as the innocence of a young girl was lost and replaced with something he considered, far more desirable.
The observer watched undetected as Xena cut down over a dozen men with her sword, hands and feet. He saw the change take control as she gently picked up the body of her brother and carried it back into the village, unmindful of the various battle wounds she had received. This is who I have been searching for. I will make her into my Warrior Princess. With her by my side, we will be unstoppable.
"Yes, Bob. Please continue. What did happen next?"
"Over the next few moons, Xena amassed an extremely large army, at first for the protection of her home village, but then thoughts of conquest began creeping into her thoughts, those thoughts having been encouraged by Ares, God of War. Not too long after that, Xenas name became the most feared name in Greece and beyond. Her army had grown along with her reputation and so had her relationship with the God of War. This relationship continued for many years until she was later betrayed by one of her lieutenants and forced to walk the gauntlet. Although she managed to survive the gauntlet, control of her army had been taken from her, and all that she had grown to know in the past ten years was suddenly gone. She was determined to get her army back until Hercules had intervened and shown her a different way. A way of life that was different from the one shown to her by Ares.
Over time, Xena began to do everything she could to make up for her past deeds and was aided by, some say, her best friend, Gabrielle, whom she had rescued from a group of slavers, just outside the village of Potedeia. Their first several moons as friends and traveling companions were rocky, to say the least, but slowly the two women grew close as friends. Over the next few years, their friendship grew and was tested by great adventures and great hardships. And during this time, Ares had tried many times to get Xena back into his fold, never succeeding at each attempt.
It took a long time for Ares to fully realize that Xena would never come back to him, especially in the way he was trying to get her back, using threats and blackmail. It took him an even longer time to realize that he, the God of War was actually in love with Xena. Once he realized the depth of his feelings for Xena, he also realized that the only way he had a chance of truly winning her back, was to change his ways.
Ares began to change his ways slowly and subtly, not wanting to draw the ire of his father, Zeus. He quietly arranged for large sums of money to be used to rebuild towns and villages destroyed by war, disease and famine. He allowed the outcomes of certain battles to go a different way. Needless to say, eventually Zeus did find out and brought Ares before him to confront him about this. They argued for what seemed "
Bobs voice trailed off as Jenna put up a silencing hand, craning her head around, trying to locate the source of the disturbance. They watched as Jennas eyes shifted colors, meaning she was using her enhanced sight to try and visually locate the source of the disturbance. Both Bob and Caroline knew to trust their daughters instincts when it came to approaching trouble. One of the abilities she had was the ability to detect trouble close by and this time was apparently no exception.
"What is it?" Caroline whispered
"Trouble, Less than a mile off. Theyve been following us since we left the hotel. I just couldnt pinpoint it until now"
"Damn. That jerk will destroy this cave and claim it as his own."
"Who is it, Dad?"
"Ed McKinley. "
Carolines face fell as the name she hadnt heard in years fell into place. Jenna, being a quick study, noticed this and asked
"Just exactly who is this jerk and will I have to deal with him?"
Caroline looked at her daughter and said
"Ed McKinley and your father were archaeology students at BU when I was a student there, studying engineering. Ed had a thing for me and I had absolutely no interest in him. I was already dating your father at the time, although it was still rather casual. But Ed didnt see it that way. He began to actively pursue me and didnt want to take no for an answer. When your father went on that first trip, Ed was also in the group and we believe he tried to arrange an accident "
"Thats where I got this." Replied Bob, pointing to a faded scar on his leg. "Only things didnt go quite as we believe he planned. He was injured as well."
Both Bob and Caroline saw the expressions on their daughters face harden, as coldness crept into her eyes. They had seen that look before, from the person who had been teaching their daughter how to use her abilities. He was about Jennas age and they had become fast friends after their first meeting. Bob and Caroline regarded Astro as their son now, having informally adopted him into their family. He had been patiently teaching Jenna everything he knew about using her powers to the best of her ability with the responsibilities that went along with that kind of power and that knowledge had saved not only Jennas life, but also their lives on more than one occasion.
"Mom, Dad, gather our stuff and head to the back of the chamber. I think theres some kind of passageway or door there. Im going to lay down a few surprises for our visitors and put the torches out."
While Caroline and Bob rapidly packed up their equipment, Jenna strategically placed a few traps around the cave and joined her parents at the back of the chamber after extinguishing the torches and wiping away all traces of anyone having been here.
"How are we going to get this door opened? Its sealed with some kind of key."
"Relax, Caroline. I know the combination; its part of the scroll. " Bob replied, as he slowly moved the gemstones in the small panel a certain way.
With a faint pop, the enormous stone door slowly disappeared into ceiling, allowing Bob, Caroline and Jenna to step inside. As soon as they were inside the door, torches lining the walls burst into life, their light eerily outlining a long corridor leading deeper inside the cave. As they walked cautiously down the corridor, the door slowly slid shut behind them and the temperature seemed to decrease rapidly as they approached another door like the one. Reaching the far door, Bob keyed in the same sequence with the gemstones he had used to open the previous door. No sooner had the door slid open and they had stepped inside, were they prepared for the sight that greeted them. In the middle of the room, surrounded by ornate torches, on an altar made out of the purest black marble, was a long, ornately carved, rectangular shaped box made out of what appeared to be smoked glass. Surrounding the altar and glass coffin was a very faint, multi-hued mist.
Stepping up closer to the altar, Jenna could make out what appeared to be someone lying inside of the box, but she could not tell who it was, although whatever had killed this person was quite obvious. Even through the smoked glass, Jenna was able to see the large, gaping hole in the persons chest. Upon a little more inspection, Jenna could make out that the person lying inside was a woman, dressed in some kind of leather armor, but who she was, Jenna could not tell. She was just about to bring her father up to the altar when a deep baritone voice roared throughout the chamber
"TOUCH THAT ALTAR AND YOU ALL WILL DIE ."
Bob, Caroline and Jenna whirled around as the figure slowly came into view, emerging from the shadows. There could be no mistaking who this was. A tall man, very muscular, hair the color of darkest night, with eyes the color of the darkest steel, clothed entirely in black leather, which was trimmed in intricate patterns with silver. A large sword rested on his hip and he wore an amulet that matched the sigil on the scroll, and a ball of energy was ready in his free hand. The man that stood before them was none other than the Greek God of War, Ares
Ares had quietly observed the progress of these three mortals into the city he had built, mildly curious as to their intent. No one had ever occupied this city and only one mortal still living knew of its existence. And he had been sworn to secrecy, having had a taste of the fruit from the Tree of Life. Ares was particularly interested in the young girl, who bore a bit of a resemblance to his chosen, both in looks and attitude. His curiosity had quickly turned to protective anger as he felt the outer door of the chamber being opened and three mortals had stepped through. The blood-lust which he had not allowed himself to feel in nearly three thousand years since that fateful day, rose to the surface when the young girl had stepped too close to the altar. Young child or not, no one was going to disturb his chosen in her protected slumber. He readied a ball of energy, and let it fly
Jenna saw the energy bolt fly at her, her instincts quickly bringing up the force field she had learned to project and watched as the bolt bounced off her harmlessly. Brushing off her shirt where the bolt had hit, she looked at Ares and said
"Cool it, leatherhead. Ill let it go this time. Next time, Ill return the favor."
Ares was momentarily shocked, as his power had no effect on the young girl. A God, she wasnt, but something else, someone with the ability to shrug off a shot from the God of War, without so much as a singed hair. Even his chosen wasnt able to do that without some assistance and the fact that this girl could do that softened his anger a bit and definitely sparked his curiosity. Striding over to the altar, he stood in a defensive stance between the three mortals and his chosen. Ares looked directly at the young girl, expecting her to back down, and was both surprised and puzzled when she stood her ground, not giving him an inch. His puzzlement changed to silent admiration and he was once again reminded of how his chosen had done the same thing to him on more occasions than he could count. Taking a different tack, he waved his hand and three chairs appeared about ten feet away from the altar. Motioning for the three mortals to sit in the chairs, Ares remained between the chairs and his chosen.
"Who are you?"
The tone of his voice left no doubt in either Bob or Carolines mind as to who he was protecting, but Jenna wasnt too impressed by his godly display of power, and decided to return the question with one of her own.
"Who do you think you are?"
Ares was a more than a bit taken aback by the underlying sarcasm of Jennas reply.
"I am someone you do not wish to anger, child. Now answer my question. Who are you?"
Bob took this moment to speak up, knowing his daughter and her temperment all too well and seeing where this battle of wills was rapidly heading
"My name is Bob Tolliver, Im an archaeologist, and this is my wife Caroline and my daughter Jenna. "
"How did you get in here?"
"An old man living in a small village nearby, gave me this scroll. Said he didnt feel safe keeping it any longer. "
"So, that explains that bit. How did you find the city?"
Inwardly, Bob was relieved to have avoided a direct confrontation with Ares, so he continued
"I found it by accident almost fourteen years ago. While I was an archaeology student on my first overseas dig in Greece. "
"Another piece of the puzzle. How did you come into possession of the scroll?"
"Like I said, an old man entrusted me with its safekeeping. He said there had been a few people around asking odd questions."
"He must trust you for some reason. He had been instructed never to give that scroll away. "
"Like my dad said, the old guy didnt feel safe keeping it anymore. Now, what is your particular malfunction again? "
Caroline closed her eyes, expecting a fight to break out right here and now. Placing a calming hand on his wife, Bob continued:
"I didnt know about this chamber when I discovered this place by accident. I managed to climb out and covered any evidence of having fallen down here. I marked its placement on my map and rejoined the dig. I found the old man on my own time, by talking to various small museum proprietors and listening to various stories. He told me a very interesting story, then handed me this scroll for safekeeping. "
Ares eyes closed for an instant and after opening them, he looked at the three mortals who had breached this chamber with a bit more softness than usual, his instincts telling him that they might be able to help him.
"So, the story dad told us is true, isnt it? The person inside there is the only woman you have ever loved?"
Ares looked at Jenna, not wanting to acknowledge that fact to three mortals, but his instincts told him that he could not fool these three.
"You are impertinent and should be taught a lesson in manners."
"Look whos talking leather-legs. I hate to be the one to remind everyone, but theres a butt-hole outside, trying to get in. "
Ares took in this information rather quickly and looked to Bob for an explanation.
"An associate of mine. He will do anything to get his hands on these artifacts "
Almost, as if on cue a voice filtered into the chamber.
"Well, Tolliver. Looks like Ive finally found your little secret. Wasnt too hard, you know. You never were that careful about hiding your tracks. You know, you had your chance, Caroline. I could have given you the world, but you chose him, not me. Now you can suffer along with that freak kid of yours."
Bob was about to answer, when his daughter uttered an all-too familiar phrase
"I DONT THINK SO."
Ares froze to where he was standing as another voice wafted its way into the chamber, a voice he hadnt heard in almost three thousand years .
"Its over, Ares. "
Just as Jenna was about to bust through the cave door, an explosion from outside rocked the chamber. Boulders began to fall from the ceiling overhead, raising clouds of dust from where they impacted on the cavern floor. Immediately Jenna pushed her parents into a safe niche and was about to duck in herself when she heard Ares cry out
Jenna turned and saw that a very large boulder was about to crush the glass coffin and its occupant into tiny pieces, permanently destroying the body that had been so carefully preserved inside. Instinct taking over, she extended her hand and with a flick of her wrist, bolts of energy flew from her hand and the boulder was shattered into pieces no larger than a small pea, which bounced harmlessly off the coffin. That business dealt with, Jenna looked around the cavern with dismay. Turning to her parents, she said
"Its over now, and we are stuck inside here, unless you know another way out."
Ares just shook his head, still rather amazed at the simple display of power from the young girl.
"Why did you save her?"
Jenna turned and looked at him, then said quietly as she moved past him to start cleaning up the floor
"Its my job."
Ares turned to Bob for an explanation, confusion plainly evident on his face.
"Jenna is a very special child. A few years ago, she had an accident and developed many special abilities. As a result of this, she asked if she could be trained how to use her abilities to help other people. We agreed, knowing if we didnt, Jenna would find a way to learn on her own and shes been learning ever since. There are many people in the world today who fear these special people and their special abilities and my colleague is one of them. "
" And just what does she do with these abilities?"
"Put criminals in their place. " Jenna said, "Depending on their crimes, they either go to jail or are permanently dealt with."
"Permanently dealt with? "
"Our daughter has a strict code regarding criminals and lets just leave it at that for now. Sweetheart, can you see another exit?"
"No, mom. That door is the only way out. I cant blast through it until the cavern settles down on both sides and thats gonna be a couple of hours."
"So, my fathers finally won. " Ares said quietly, sitting down heavily into the large chair positioned at the head of the coffin. "After all this time, hes finally won."
Jenna looked at Ares with disdain and said
"Some kind of warrior you are. You know, for a God you give up way too easily. "
Ares looked at Jenna, the anger beginning to build again inside. First this child, brushes off a shot from him, insults him and then dares to call him weak. Despite his predicament, Ares was not about to let a mere girl get the best of him, even if she reminded him of his chosen.
"Thats Zeus out there, little girl. Despite the passage of time, he is still the King of the Gods. "
Jenna looked at Ares, shaking her head in disbelief. Here she was sitting no more than ten feet away from the God of War and HE was admitting defeat. She was sure glad that she didnt follow his line of thinking as she decided a little display of her own powers were in order. Walking over to where he sat staring at the coffin, Jenna lifted his chin just enough so she could look him directly in the eye.
"Look, I dont care WHO it is out there. Cowards like him dont impress me all that much and I will deal with them shortly."
Caroline, wanting to avoid a knockdown, drag-out fight right here, looked to where her daughter stood and spoke quickly
"Please, while were waiting, can you finish the story? We all will help in whatever way we can"
Ares looked at Bob, Caroline and then Jenna, his instincts telling him that not only could they help, but also they might be able to save his chosen. His gaze settling on Jenna, Ares leaned back in the chair, draping one leg over the side and said
"All-right, what can it hurt? How much did you hear?"
"I know what the old man told me, but I was only able to relate to them up to something about an argument between you and your father."
A touch of humor crossed the God of Wars face as he remembered that little discussion as if it were yesterday.
"Well, I wouldnt call it a discussion " Ares said, stroking his beard thoughtfully. "It started with "
Zeus looked around his throne room on Mt. Olympus, searching for Ares and not finding him anywhere in sight.
My son has defied me for the last time. I will not only teach him a lesson, but also permanently end his association with his princess once and for all.
The King of the Gods seethed with barely controlled rage, furious with Ares at the outcome of the latest battle between Greece and the Persians. The odds were weighing heavily in the Persians favor and the only seasoned military commander that Greece had left was the Warrior Princess. The leaders of Athens and Spartas militia had come to her, literally begging for her to take command of their combined army. Most of the high-ranking commanders of both city-states military were either seriously wounded or dead as a result of earlier battles with the Persian Army. Despite the many problems that asking Xena to lead their army, had posed for the leaders of both Athens and Sparta, they both knew that she was the only one that stood any kind of chance of defeating them.
Both sides were relieved when after a chat with Gabrielle, Xena agreed to help. Taking a vastly out-numbered force, Xena had called upon all her many years of experience, battle tactics, and strategy, to try and win this battle. The Destroyer of Nations was back.
The battle raged on for days and many times it looked like the Persians were going to win, but the troops rallied time after time around Xenas battle cry and fought with a ferocity unmatched by any army. On what turned out to be the last day of the battle, the Persian army rallied their remaining troops and launched an all-out assault of what was left of the Greek forces. The tide was rapidly turning in the Persians favor, until both sides saw the dust clouds of thundering hoof beats rapidly approaching. Xena had not really noticed Gabrielles absence from the field of battle, but relief flooded her face as she saw the group Gabrielle was leading, Amazons and Centaurs. Xena saw the fear rising in the eyes of the Persian army as the combined forces of the Amazons and Centaurs joined the fray and took the opportunity to rally her troops one last time. Allowing the battle fury to fully rise to the surface, Xena screamed out her battle cry at the top of her lungs and ran into the thick of the Persian army, her body and sword as one. She was only peripherally aware of Gabrielle in the middle of a group of soldiers with the elite Amazon Royal Guard, very competently holding their own. Satisfied that Gabrielle was safe especially with Ephiny and Eponin right beside her, Xena turned her attention and fury to the group of Persian soldiers vainly attempting to surround her. It was no longer the Xena who fought for the greater good; the Xena fighting now was the legendary Destroyer of Nations, the Warrior Princess.
The battle was almost over when a group of ten soldiers charged her from behind. Instinct told Xena that this was probably the end for her until the feel of a rather large, definitely male, muscular body at her back and an all too familiar presence permeated her senses.
Ares had stepped out of the aether between the group of soldiers attempting take down Xena from behind, swinging the sword of war, in a wide, sweeping arc, and thereby preventing Xena from being killed. He swung with a ferocity that matched Xenas and didnt stop until all the soldiers were gone. Knowing that the battle was now won, he left as quickly as he had appeared.
The battle now over, Xena forced the battle fury back into the corner of her mind where she kept it under tight control and surveyed the battle zone. Bodies lay everywhere and now came the task of caring for the wounded that would survive, and making those that wouldnt live as comfortable as possible and trying to rebuild as much as possible. With the help of the Amazon and Centaur healers, the wounded were tended and the dead were given a warriors funeral.
Gabrielle approached Xena; her face was dirty and tired from helping with the wounded and seeing to the funeral pyres.
"Xena, why did Ares show up like that and then just leave?"
Xena turned to Gabrielle, the confusion evident on her face.
"I dont know, Gabrielle. I just dont know. If he hadnt shown up when he did, where he did, we wouldnt be talking right now."
"Do you think what Aphrodite said is true?"
Xena looked at Gabrielle, her face not betraying her inner thoughts.
"I dont know. Where Aphrodites concerned have you ever known her not to speak oddly?"
With a nod to Xena, Gabrielle turned and left the hospital tent, leaving Xena alone with her thoughts and suspicions about the God of War.
"So what happened next?"
Ares looked down at Jenna, his previous anger with her now since long gone. So much like Xena he thought. Knowing that he had a semi-captive audience, he paused a moment, allowing Jenna and her family to absorb the story before continuing.
Looking around the interior of the cavern, his gaze rested on the altar as he watched the patterns the torches made on the walls. Knowing mortals needed nourishment to survive, he said
"If you have food, eat it now. I dont know how much longer we have until my father destroys the door and "
Jenna looked Ares in the eye and said
" Look, I wont let that happen. Ill make you a promise. If he does somehow get in here, Ill take that sorry bastard father of yours outside and deal with him there. "
"You honestly think that you, a child, could defeat the King of the Gods. Hes lived for thousands of years and has an unbelievable amount of experience."
"Yep. I have something he doesnt. Serious attitude. And I will deal with Mr. Ed McKinley as well. Nobody hurts my family and gets away with it. "
Making sure that he had their attention, Ares continued
"Needless to say Zeus wasnt happy about the outcome of the battle "
Ares knew that his father would not be happy that the Greek army had defeated the Persians again. And with the very timely intervention of the Amazons and Centaurs, Zeuss anger would be a great deal more than just formidable. Ares also worried about what could happen to his sister, Artemis for her subtle assistance in the fight. While the combined forces of the Amazons, Centaurs and the Greek militia could have won the battle, a great many more lives would have been lost if Xena had died in that last fight. Zeus had discussed the war gods obsession with Xena many times and had tried on several different occasions to end the relationship. While trying to avoid his fathers mercurial temper where Xena was concerned, Ares had time to analyze his feelings about Xena and much to his own surprise, he realized that he was truly in love with her and the only way he might have even a slight chance to win her heart was to change his ways. He avoided playing with her, subtly shifted battles to her favor and quietly left vast sums of money with villages destroyed by battle so they could be rebuilt. Ares hoped that Xena would somehow realize who had been doing this and maybe give him a chance.
He still did his job as he now called it. The thrill it used to bring him wasnt there any longer. Ares still planned numerous battle campaigns, raids, and visited various warlords, inspiring them to do battle in his name. But if that battle meant that Xena would be involved in any way, he saw to it that somehow both she and Gabrielle survived, even if it meant sacrificing a warlords army or even part of a nations army to achieve that goal.
Trying to figure out a way of easing his fathers displeasure at his actions, Ares built an underground city with temples designed for each of the twelve enthroned Olympians of the pantheon, except his own. They were extravagant to say the least, each of them had gold and silver inlays around the doors, gemstones embedded in the statues and altars, the finest tapestries and furs he could find hung from the walls, with each temple keeping in line with the job each god or goddess was responsible for. Zeuss temple was by far the grandest of them all, with pure white marble walls, gold and silver patterns inlaid around the doors, floor and ceiling. Even a throne that rivaled the one Zeus occupied in the Great Hall on Mt. Olympus. But apparently it wasnt enough for Zeus, for not too long after the end of that battle, his presence was requested in the Great Hall.
Ares nearly jumped out of his own skin when Hermes delivered the message to him in his northern temple. This is it Ares thought. The day he knew and dreaded would come; had now arrived and he knew that somehow Zeus had found out about everything that he had done and Ares hoped that somehow, his father would see reason for once.
Materializing in the Great Hall of Olympus, Ares looked around and noticed that every seat was gone except for two, his seat and Zeuss throne. He also noticed that the seats were facing each other, just a short distance apart, which was highly unusual. In all his many years on Mt. Olympus, never had the Great Hall been completely empty, even the minor gods were absent. Ares knew that this did not bode well at all for him, and especially not for Xena. Zeus had been acting rather strangely of late, his displays of temper becoming more and more frequent and violent each time. Most of the other gods avoided Zeus when at all possible, each of them choosing to spend time either in their own personal realm or on the mortal plane. When there was a formal meeting where it was necessary to be around him, they all tried not to do anything to provoke him, even Hera and Aphrodite kept their little spats to themselves
Thinking to himself, Ares realized that several things could happen now, given Zeus current state of mind. Zeus could strip him of his role as the God of War and make him the god of something else, he could kill him, or he could strip him of his godhood completely. That had happened once before and it was Xena who had helped him to regain it. Walking around the dais that held Zeuss throne, Ares wondered what could be taking his father so long. Usually if one of the gods was in trouble, Zeus didnt wait this long to talk to them. Something about this summons wasnt right, and Ares had a sinking feeling growing in his stomach and was about to leave when he heard
"Sit down, Ares. We have much to discuss."
Zeus appeared rather quietly (for him, anyway) and walked slowly to his throne, sitting down carefully, waiting for Ares to do the same.
Unable to shake the uneasiness, which surrounded him, Ares sat down in the chair, expecting the chair to throw chains around him holding him in place. His uneasiness grew as he saw the madness lurking in Zeuss eyes.
"Sorry to keep you waiting, my son. I had a few things to attend to. "
"What is it you wished to see me about, father?"
" No sense in wasting words here. Why did you let Xena live?"
"It wasnt her time to go."
"And how did you know that? Did you consult the Fates or Hades?"
"No, father, I did not need to consult either. I knew that her time had not yet come."
Ares noticed the subtle shift in Zeus posture and the madness that was now racing through his eyes and the uneasy feeling he had upon arriving on Olympus was quickly escalating into fear. Fear, not for himself, but for Xena and what unknown plan Zeus had in store for her.
"Your association with Xena is over, Ares. You have done enough damage already. "
"Damage, father? Just what damage have I done? Wars have been fought, people have died, and lands have been conquered."
"She wasnt supposed to survive the battle. And you intervened by killing a group of warriors that would have killed her."
"Did you check with the Fates, father? Did they deem her time at an end?"
"It doesnt matter my son. I need not to consult with the fates on this matter. Your association with her is about at an end. "
"Just what do you mean, father?"
"Watch and see, my son. Just watch and see. While you were kept waiting, several moons have passed down below ."
Ares tried to rise from the chair but was held in place by invisible bonds. What the other gods had privately feared for some time was now true, Ares realized. Somehow, something had driven Zeus mad and Xena was his first target. Unable to rise from the chair, seeing that he was held in place by invisible bonds, all Ares could do was sit back and watch helplessly as the scene unfolded before him .
Xena and Gabrielle had been riding along the northern road to Athens, having been asked to attend a mediate a truce between Athens and Sparta. The recent battle with the Persians had finally driven some sense into the leadership of both city-states and each side had agreed that Xena should be the one to mediate a truce, having successfully led them to victory over the Persians. Gabrielle was attending, not as Xenas friend, but as Queen of the Amazons, having been asked to join in the truce talks.
Being accompanied by the Royal Guard, their trip was taking longer than Xena would have liked it too. But seeing as Gabrielle was attending the talks as Queen, she put up with the request from Ephiny and Chilapa to have the Royal Guard as their escort. This upcoming treaty marked the first time that the Amazons had been invited to join in the negotiations and could prove very prosperous for all involved. The treaty would give all sides time to regroup and rebuild their strength. It also called for mutual protection for the villages between Athens, Sparta and the Amazon Nation, offers of trade, education for all and training in various crafts and skills.
The entourage reached Athens several days later, only encountering a couple of bands of would be thugs, which were easily dispatched. After finding their accommodations the group settled down for a bit of rest and relaxation. Enjoying a fine meal in the tavern, the entourage settled down for the night, the talks having been set to begin in the morning.
The next morning, having risen early, Gabrielle, Xena and the Royal Guard ate a hearty breakfast and set off for the negotiations. Having reached the site where the negotiations were to take place, Xena sat down in the mediators chair and was quickly joined by representatives from all sides involved
The treaty negotiations took over four days to complete and would have taken much longer if it hadnt been for the presence of Gabrielle and Xena. Having accurately anticipated what the other two sides would ask for in concessions and demands from each other, Gabrielle had already drawn up a long list of proposals and counter-proposals, which she hoped, would be accepted by both sides. With a copy of the treaty having been sent to Ephiny and Chilapa by fast courier, Gabrielle had dismissed the Royal Guard when they had reached the valley leading to Amazon territory. Bidding a fond farewell to their friends, and a promise to visit soon, Gabrielle and Xena headed towards a long overdue visit to Amphipolis. As they traveled, Xenas senses perked up and she motioned Gabrielle closer.
"Gabrielle, keep you voice down. Were being followed."
Gabrielle looked around at the edges of the forest, her senses now picking up on what Xena had felt.
"I feel it too. You know, I felt something rather odd back in Athens. Kind of like we were being watched."
"Me, too. I dont have any idea who, though. "
"Ares? Hes been awful quiet lately."
"No, not him. I could tell if it was him a league off. Someone else, though and a very powerful god at that. I dont like it at all. Youre right about your feeling of being watched in Athens. I didnt want to say anything while we were there and spook the Guard. They are entirely too paranoid as it is. "
"You are right about them. I dont like being this out in the open. This place seems all wrong. Xena, lets get out of here."
Xena nodded in agreement, nudging Argo to move faster, the feeling growing more and more ominous as they traveled across open country. The air had seemingly grown stagnant and the normal sounds of the forest were eerily absent. They were near the far edge of the forest when the attack came. Seemingly from out of nowhere the attackers emerged from the sides of the forest, brandishing every weapon known to man, yelling oaths of loyalty to their master as they charged across the open field towards Xena and Gabrielle. Flipping neatly off Argo and sending her on a hard gallop towards Amazon territory, knowing that when the border patrols saw Argo come in riderless, they would send help; hopefully it would arrive in time. Xena quickly calculated the odds and they werent good. Outnumbered by at least three to one, Xena figured, they would be lucky if they survived this at all. Xena saw someone standing on the hill, apparently directing these troops. Taking a brief instant to study the attackers armor, Xenas eyes widened in shock as she recognized the symbol on the armor and the robes of the man on the hill.
"What is it? Who is that guy on the hill?"
" The guy on the hill goes by the name of Keltos. Hes the high priest of Oh, lords, what have we done to piss him off?"
"Piss who off, Xena?"
"Its his army, Gabrielle. The only army even my army and I hoped never to face in combat."
By the time Xena had uttered his name, the army of Zeus was upon them, swinging their weapons mercilessly, their swords carving deadly arcs in the air, each and every single of them sworn to do Zeuss bidding. And his bidding was to kill the Warrior Princess at any cost.
Ares could only watch helplessly as Zeuss private army swarmed down around Xena and Gabrielle. He struggled against the invisible bonds holding him in the chair to no avail. He saw the madness now in complete control of Zeus and knew that this was the punishment his father had decided upon. His punishment was to watch his own fathers army kill the woman he loved, with him absolutely helpless to stop it. Ares sat helpless as he watched Xena and Gabrielle take down one opponent after another, only to have even more charge forward. A slight glimmer of hope came when out of nowhere, a deadly accurate shower of arrows started raining down upon Zeus troops and a large force of Amazons and Centaurs came pouring out of the forest, quickly joining the fray. Artemis must have been watching her own chosen and transported the combined Amazon and Centaur army to the battlefield to help in what way they could.
Ares almost missed it, but his well-trained eye caught sight of a lone spear sailing across the battlefield, headed straight for Xena. Unable to break the bonds holding him in the chair, he tried desperately to deflect its trajectory, but to no avail. Nothing could have knocked this spear off its course, the spear having been guided by Zeus himself. He saw the maniacal smile on Zeuss face and knew that he was powerless to stop it. Ares watched helplessly as the spear seemingly avoided other targets and continued on its course.
Time seemed to slow to a stop when the spear hit Xena, striking her in the chest. Slowly sinking to her knees, one hand still on her chakrum, her blue eyes wide in disbelief, as the other hand clutched the spear. Ares watched, horrified, as Xena slowly fell to the ground, blood now dripping from the corners of her mouth, and her features clouded with pain and confusion. The God of War felt the excruciating pain of her injury thru their bond and watched as she sunk to the ground, the chakrum fell from Xenas hand and scored a long cut on her leg as it skittered across the battlefield only to come to a rest at the feet of Keltos, Zeus temple priest. His prize now in hand, the priest quickly signaled for retreat and the battle was over as quickly as it had begun.
Ares saw Gabrielle turn in that instant and watched as her eyes widened in horror as she saw Xena lying on the ground in a growing pool of her own blood, a spear sticking out of her chest. He heard the scream as he saw Gabrielle run to where Xena had fallen, taking the warrior princess head into her lap.
As he felt the invisible bonds holding him release, nearly collapsing to the ground himself, he heard Zeus say.
"Its over Ares. "
Materializing on the battlefield, Ares knelt down beside Xena, unmindful of the Amazons clustering around them, forming a circular defensive position. Taking the utmost care and tenderness, Ares gently cradled Xena in his arms and looked at Gabrielle as she asked him through tear-swollen eyes, her voice hoarse and raw with emotion.
"Why? Why her?"
Fighting his own emotions, Ares whispered
"Zeus has gone mad. Because of me, because of what Ive done, she was his first target."
The amazons that were standing around the trio on the ground closed their eyes as their biggest fear was confirmed. Not even Artemis could protect them from Zeus if he has gone insane. The King of the Gods had gone mad and Xena had been his first target. Ephiny stepped forward, kneeling down beside Gabrielle. Forcing down her own urge to vomit, the Amazon Regent laid her hand on her Queens shoulder, and spoke quietly.
"Let us take her to the village to try and save her. "
The statement didnt come from Gabrielle, but from Ares as he brushed a strand of raven hair out of Xenas face, his hand now covered in her blood. Ares looked directly at Gabrielle and Ephiny, unmindful of the tears that were slowly tracing a path down his face, his own voice raw with emotion,
"It doesnt matter, dont you see? No medicine can help her; no god can heal her, not Athena and not even me. Zeus himself guided the spear. He wanted her dead so I would suffer and he got what he wanted."
Sparing a glance at Ephiny, Gabrielles suspicions about Ares had been confirmed by the God of War himself.
" .Gabrielle ."
The voice was so faint, that Gabrielle almost didnt hear it. Swinging her head around, Gabrielle looked down and saw Xenas eyes flutter open, her face clouded in pain. Each ragged breath was rapidly draining more of her life away. Hearing her voice, Ares looked at Xena and listened as Gabrielle spoke.
"Xena I ."
Taking one of Gabrielles hands, Xena placed it around the spear. Unable to hold the tears back, Gabrielle acknowledged Xenas silent request. Xena didnt want to die with the weapon of her death still in her. Steeling her reserves and taking a firm grip on the weapon, Gabrielle pulled it out of her, knowing that would hasten the Warrior Princess death. Xenas chest, now free of the spear, began pumping blood out faster through the hole. Willing herself not to lose it in front of Xena, Gabrielle knelt back down next to her, taking up Xenas right hand. Even the battle-hardened Amazons and Centaurs had trouble keeping their stomachs under some kind of control after catching a glance at the hideous injury to Xena.
With her free hand, Gabrielle brushed away the tears that were tracing paths down the warriors face. Gabrielle needed to be strong for Xena, to reassure her that she would be all right.
" A always "
As soon as Gabrielle had pulled the spear from Xena, both Gabrielle and Aress clothes were soaked with her blood. Ares looked down at the woman now dying in his arms, his warrior princess, his chosen, and the woman he loved above all else, feeling the bond he shared with Xena fading fast. As he cradled her close, tears fell freely from his face, only to land on her forehead.
"Xena, please dont leave me ."
" .not your .fault .know you .tried to .help ."
By this time, Ephiny and Eponin were beside Gabrielle, each of them silently lending her some of their strength, finally able to comprehend what had just happened. The King of the Gods had sent his private army to kill the Warrior Princess because Ares, the cold, unfeeling God of War had fallen in love with her. Exchanging glances, they both knew that the only peace they could give the dying warrior now was to let her know that the Amazons would now take care of Gabrielle. Xena needed to hear that Gabrielle would be taken care of. Casting a glance at Eponin, Ephiny leaned down and looked Xena in the eye, unable to stop the flood of tears coursing down her own face and said
"Xena, we swear as not only as Gabrielles and your Amazon sisters, but as friends to you and Gabrielle, we will take care of her. She will never be alone until it comes her time to join you."
Traces of a very faint smile crossed the face of the now very pale Warrior Princess as shifted her gaze to the man who held her so loving and carefully, his immortal eyes now filled with tears. The God of War, Ares, who had once been the focus of her entire life and later the bane of her existence. Xena knew that she had very little time left before Celesta came to claim her and take her to Hades for judgement and there was something that she needed to know from Ares. Reaching down into what precious little reserves she had left, Xena raised her free hand to his tear and blood stained face and asked Ares
"Is what Dite said true?"
Clasping Xenas raised hand tightly with his own, Ares replied
"Yes, its true I swear on Olympus itself I.. love you, Xena ."
" .love ."
Xenas voice trailed off as her body shook in one last violent spasm and was suddenly still. Gabrielle, realizing that her best friend of so many years was dead, simply collapsed across the still form, her head coming to a rest upon Ares chest. Ephiny and Eponin put their own grief aside and both were about to wail the Amazon funeral dirge, normally reserved only for a Queen, when a cry broke forth that tore at the depths of both their very souls.
The force of Ares cry not only shook the mortal plane, but the realm of all the Gods as well. Everyone across Greece heard the cry ring out over the land as they felt the violent shake of the land. Everywhere they stood, leaders looked out their windows, temples went silent, entire armies stopped in mid-battle and citizens just stopped whatever they were doing. They looked to the skies for answers and found none. And somehow, everyone knew that a God was in mourning. Zeuss madness had not only claimed the life of a mortal but the soul of a god as well. All of the other gods were reeling in shock, not only from the action Zeus had taken, but their worst fears had just been realized. Not even if they banded together could they take Zeus on and they could not change what had been done. Not even the Fates could interfere this time. Whatever, or who ever had driven Zeus mad could do the same to all of them. Unable to help, fearful of Zeus, the only thing the other gods could do was watch in silence as Ares mourned alone
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