By Reni


Xena sat on the grassy knoll near a beautiful waterfall just on the outskirts of the Amazon village. She was languidly sharpening her sword, and the rhythmic strokes were nearly hypnotic as she stared unseeing towards the beautiful sunset, deep in thought.

She was worried about Gabrielle. Recently the nightmares were getting worse, and you could now see the toll they were taking on her. Xena had brought her to the Amazon Village thinking that getting involved with Ephiny in the day-to-day administrative responsibilities of being the Queen might distract her. But she was now regretting her decision because the nightmares were now debilitating her. Xena realized that since the Amazon Village was near the Centaurs Village, where Gabrielle’s trauma had taken root, it was subconsciously affecting her poor bard.

Just the night before, Gabrielle woke up lathered in sweat and screaming on the top of her voice. Ephiny and Eponim had run over to the Queen’s hut to see whether all was well. The deaths of Solon and Hope had affected Gabrielle deeply, and it had become a routine that she would wake up screaming both the children’s names. She was not ready to talk about her nightmares and her fears. Yes, her fears, so deeply ingratiated in her psyche that she was not able to rest day or night. It had come to a point that she contemplated ending things there and then…. But that would mean leaving her Xena, her warrior. She was her anchor to this world. Her savior.

Xena was beside herself with worry and did not know who to ask for help. But she did know that Aphrodite loved Gabrielle dearly, and thought that she would take a chance and ask her if she had any solution to the problem?

Putting her sword aside, Xena looked up to the stars above, and took a deep breath. Gently, she called out to the Goddess of Love.

“Aphrodite! I need your help…No Gabrielle needs your help. Please come. We need you!”

Xena hated the pleading in her voice, but if she wanted to help Gabrielle, she didn’t want to antagonize the goddess, even though she was good natured and tolerated quite a bit from the duo.

With a burst of rose petals and glitter, Aphrodite appeared in front of Xena.

“What’s shaking Warrior Babe? Why so down?”

“It’s Gabrielle, I need help for her. She’s having terrible nightmares that are interfering in her life. She cannot sleep well, and she is exhausted during the day. I am very worried about her. Her eyes have dark circles, and she is losing a lot of weight. Instead of getting better with time, they are getting worse.


“I’m sorry, that’s grody” said Aphrodite. “Let me go and visit Morpheus and ask him why he is interfering with Gabrielle’s sleep as well as her peace of mind. You know I love the Little Bard nearly as much as you do. I will try to help as much as I can.”

With that, she disappeared again in a flurry of sparkles and rose petals, leaving behind a subtle fragrance of flowers.

Surprisingly, she came back almost immediately.

“Gabrielle is in a lot of trouble Warrior Babe” said Aphrodite with a worried expression on her face. “I talked to Morpheus, and he said that he wasn’t responsible for her disturbed sleep patterns. However, his brother Phobetor, the god of nightmares, has been recruited by Dahak to drive Gabrielle insane through her nightmares, so that ultimately she would break down and join him in his underworld.” Aphrodite sat down next to Xena on the grassy knoll, looking very dejected.

“Dahak rarely does his dirty work himself. He recruits dark gods and demons for his dire objectives. That’s even more dangerous because he infuses his minions with extra powers and energy.”

“What! Can’t that scum just leave us alone! Hasn’t he done enough?” shouted Xena. Seeing Aphrodite’s expression, she realized that she was venting to the wrong person. To calm herself, she took a deep breath through her nose and slowly released it through stiff lips. She looked at Aphrodite in despair, while her mind was churning out scenarios as fast as she could think them.

“Calm down Warrior Babe!” said Aphrodite. “All is not lost, but the solution is in your hands, and you will need help…divine help.”

Jumping up. Xena sheathed her sword and said, “Well what are we waiting for? Let’s go!”

“Hold your horses” said Aphrodite. “I am with you all the way, but it’s not going to be easy. Phobetor thrives on fear and anxiety. The more his victims flounder and are terrified, the stronger he gets. The objective and key to the solution is to show Gabrielle how to release her fear and calm down.”

“How can we do that? You haven’t seen her! She gets so scared that it hurts me when I hold her and try to soothe her when she wakes up after her nightmares.” Xena nearly shouted but still keeping a tight rein on her temper…for now. When will this demon leave them alone? What in the name of all the gods in Olympus can be done to keep him away from them!?!

“Listen carefully,” said Aphrodite. We can beat him, and we will. But we will have to enter Gabrielle’s dreamscape when she is ready. You need to think what you are going to do to calm her down. Maybe you have something up your sleeve from your friend Lao Ma?”

“Lao Ma taught me a lot, but I am not sure if I can apply anything that I learnt at the time to heal Gabrielle’s anxiety and her nightmares.” Said Xena. “I wish I had had more time with her. I am sure she would have taught me much more. But I was impatient and have forgotten more than what I learnt.” Xena stared to chew on her thumb nail in frustration.

“But you still can learn from her Xena” said Aphrodite. “I can take you to her in a dreamscape, and you can ask her for help.”

“Can you really do that?” asked Xena, her voice a medley of hope and frustration. “But I need to hide somewhere safe while I am in the dreamscape” said Xena.

“That is no problem. There is a cave nearby, it’s quite comfortable, and I will put a cloaking spell on it so that no one bothers you while you are sleeping there.”

Xena jumped up, eager to get started. Aphrodite took her hand and wrapped her cloak around both of them. She transported them in the blink of an eye to the top of an unknown mountain where the winds were rough, and the sleet stung their eyes. Xena could barely make out the entrance to a cave just to the right of her. Struggling against the wind to make her way there, she was quite surprised when she entered.

The cave was as large as a room with a clay floor. It had a cheerful fire burning in the center and sleeping furs were laid beside it. Food and drink had been set out on a ledge near the fire. It was as if the setting was just about ready for Xena.

“Ď would suggest that you eat something before you start,” said Aphrodite with a smile. These dreamscapes take a lot out of a person, and I see that you have also not been eating well.”

Xena was amazed. Everything was ready for her quest. Though she wanted to argue, she knew it was sensible to listen to Aphrodite. These dreamscapes never turned out what they initially predicted, and some caloric energy would only help.

Once Xena had eaten her fill and drank enough water (another suggestion from Aphrodite to prevent dehydration), she took off her armor and lay down in her shift, making herself as comfortable as possible. She wanted to concentrate completely on her mental faculties and not be distracted by anything else. She trusted Aphrodite to keep her safe as she promised, so she was as calm and collected as she could be, given the situation. She vaguely remembered that she hadn’t told Gabrielle where she was, but then thought to herself that she will anyway know soon enough once her quest was completed.

Aphrodite sat nearby and arranged her pink gown to her satisfaction. “Are you ready?” she asked.

Xena answered that she was. Aphrodite started to talk her through meditation and relaxation techniques, to ease Xena into the dreamscape.

“Focus on my voice and just relax” said Aphrodite,

Now take long, slow, deep breaths. As you breathe, gently disengage your mind from all distracting thoughts and sensations.”

Xena tried to follow the instructions, but initially she was too wound up to for a proper rhythm. But after a few tries, she found it was quite relaxing.

“Focus on one part of the body or group of muscles at a time and mentally releasing any physical tension you feel there. “continued Aphrodite.

“Think of soothing scenes and places. Concentrate on Lao Ma, and the last time you saw her in happy circumstances. Focus. Yearn to be there. Mentally push yourself gently towards the image that you have created in your mind.”

Xena concentrated on the almost somnolent cadence of Aphrodite’s voice. She felt as if she was pushing through a translucent but foggy tunnel with a bright light at the end of it. Suddenly she felt as if she was pushed out of the tunnel through sheer will. She saw that she was in a beautiful garden fragrant with cherry blossoms. Under the cherry tree, was a feminine figure, sitting in a relaxed lotus position, quietly meditating. Xena walked softly towards her, not wanting to startle her out of her reverie. It was Lao Ma!

Without opening her eyes Lao Ma spoke. “Welcome Xena. I think it’s not yet your time to be here. I presume you need my help?’

Xena watched in awe as her friend and mentor stood up with a graceful fluid motion and came to stand in front of her. Lao Ma took her hand and lead her to the white bench that was set in the shade near the koi pond. The scene was idyllic, and Xena had to remind herself that she was here on a quest, and not to stay.

Taking a deep breath, one that suspiciously held a slight shudder, Xena explained Gabrielle’s predicament and she wanted to learn from Lao Ma how to calm the bard so that they could conquer the god of nightmares forever.

Lao Ma laughed and said, “if you used relaxation techniques to get to me, then you definitely don’t need any instructions from me. But I see your point and I will help you.”

After you left me in Chin, a travelling healer from Japa visited me at my court. She was proficient in a new way of healing that they had developed and called reiki. I quickly learnt reiki from her and found that this technique was especially beneficial for stress reduction and relaxation so much so that it also promoted healing. It is based on the idea that an unseen "life force energy" flows through us and is what causes us to be alive. Therefore, if one's "life force energy" is low, then we are more likely to get sick or are stressed, and if it is high, we are more capable of being happy and healthy.

The healer told me that the word Reiki is made of two Japanese words - Rei which means "God's Wisdom or the Higher Power" and Ki which is "life force energy". So, Reiki is actually "spiritually guided life force energy."

Xena continued to listen attentively, trying to learn as much as she could in the short while that she was there.

“I can assure you that with just one treatment Gabrielle will feel a wonderful glowing radiance that will flow through and around her” Lao Ma continued.

“Reiki will treat Gabrielle as a whole, including her body, emotions, mind and spirit creating such beneficial effects like relaxation, feelings of peace, security and wellbeing.”

“But will there be any negative effects for Gabrielle if we try this treatment?” asked Xena. Lao Ma could see that she was worried and tried to reassure her as much as she could.

“You have to understand that Reiki is a simple, natural and safe method of spiritual healing and self-improvement that everyone can use, yes, even you Xena!

Don’t worry, it’s an amazingly simple technique to learn, because the ability to use Reiki is not taught in a conventional way but is transferred to the student by the teacher. You have to be "attuned" and thereafter you will be able to tap into an unlimited supply of "life force energy" to heal Gabrielle as well as yourself.”

“Me?” laughed Xena? “But I am perfectly fine.”

“Do you think all the trauma affecting Gabrielle and Solen’s tragic death hasn’t affected you? I see that you undeniably need to be healed as well before you even try to help Gabrielle” said Lao Ma.

The time in the dreamscape was relative, Xena was not sure how much time had gone by. In one instance it seemed just moments and in the other as if months had passed in the blink of an eye. But in her stoic way, she plodded on and tried to learn as much as she could from her former mentor. Sitting still, meditating and finding inner peace, once an inherent part of her, was now more difficult to achieve, but slowly and gradually she felt a peaceful change coming over her.

Xena stood up with the intension of saying that she was ready to help Gabrielle, but she saw that Lao Ma was already standing in front of her, holding miniscule, but intricately carved jade figurines in her hand. She gave them to Xena, explaining that the dove was for Gabrielle and the dragon belonged to her. They were to be always kept on their persons and to be used as stabilizing elements in case they were distracted. The figurines would help ground them in their battle against Dahak and Phobetor.

“Remember at all times Xena.” Said Lao Ma. “The key to victory is to be calm and focused. These two evil entities feed on fear, stress and negativity.”

“I would like to repeat what I told you so many years ago… to conquer others is to have power, to conquer yourself is to know the way”

“I will try my utmost. I just can’t see Gabrielle suffer anymore.” Said Xena with a hitch in her voice.

“Then go my friend, and blessings upon you…..”said Lao Ma, her voice fading away.

Xena collapsed as if her legs were boneless, and she became unconscious. The next thing she was aware of was Aphrodite leaning over her to see whether she was alright.

“Oh good, you’re awake!” said Aphrodite. “I was getting a bit worried because I couldn’t hold you in the dreamscape any longer. You did take your time!”

“How long was I out for?” asked Xena.

“About 20 minutes!” said Aphrodite.

“Twenty minutes!” exclaimed Xena. “It felt as if I was away for days! We need to hurry! Gabrielle will be worried, and I want to start helping her…well let’s go as soon as possible, Thank you so much Aphrodite, you have been a real friend!”

Xena felt something in her hand and was astonished when she saw that she was actually holding the two jade figurines, The dragon, and the dove.

Aphrodite once again draped her cloak around herself and Xena and transported them to the Queen’s hut in the Amazon Village.

“I will come with you inside, and I will add my two bits to the narration. Gabrielle is my friend, and I want her to be her usual happy self once again as much as you do.”

They both entered the hut and saw an exhausted Gabrielle sitting on the bed with a defeated slump to her shoulders. Her demeanor belied the cheerful ambience in the room. There was a roaring fire in the hearth, and the table was set for a meal. But that didn’t seem to affect Gabrielle. The only glimmer of joy was when she saw Xena enter the hut. She ran towards her warrior and hugged her tightly.

“Where were you?” she said. “I was worried!”

Just like Gabrielle” thought Xena. “She is the one hurting, and she thinks of me. No wonder I love her so.”

Looking past Xena’s shoulder, Gabrielle saw Aphrodite smiling at her.

“Hey Little one,” said Aphrodite. “Xena and I are here to help you with your nightmares.”

“Nothing can help me ‘Dite” said Gabrielle sadly. “They are my demons to bear. My guilt and my trauma overpower me. I am exasperated and disheartened.”

Xena and Aphrodite sat Gabrielle down and explained in detail what they went through that day, the dreamscape, Lao Ma, and of course the reasons for her nightmares stemming from the evil machinations of Dahak and Phobetor. Before Gabrielle could panic, they explained to her the manner that they were going to take care of the nightmares and conquer the demons. Xena continued to tell her how she went to visit Lao Ma in her dreamscape, and the solution that was offered to her. The more she heard Xena, and Aphrodite speak, the calmer Gabrielle got. The trio decided to start the healing process that very evening. It had to be understood that one session wouldn’t offer a miraculous cure. They had to persevere, and it would probably take a few days to see some results. But every time they went through the procedure, the more serene Gabrielle would get, and ultimately the vile demons would be conquered.

Aphrodite stayed long enough to set the stage for that evening. Thereafter she left in her usual swirl of sparkles and rose petals.

The room was lighted by candles set in nooks and in the corners. The firelight added to the ambience of the room, the flames casting soft shadows that danced over the two friends. Xena guided Gabrielle through the meditation procedure, and showed her how to relax her body, stage by stage, muscle groups by muscle groups. They had agreed upon a happy place where they would take their thoughts and hold on to. It was the waterfall near the Amazon Village. Both felt a companiable serenity whenever they lay on the banks of the pool and listened to the steady thrum of the falls. It was without doubt their happy place.

As Gabrielle sunk deeper and deeper into the calming trance that Xena guided her into, she felt something being placed in her right hand. She didn’t look at it, but it felt comforting and warm to the touch. It was her jade dove.

To calm Gabrielle further, Xena warmed her hands and gently massaged her back with lavender oil. She was happy to see the peaceful expression on her soul mates face as she sunk deeper and deeper into relaxation.

Xena braced herself, took a deep breath and started to collect the energy around her to start reiki on Gabrielle. Initially she didn’t feel anything, but gradually the power increased and soon she felt the energy passing from the crown of her head towards her hands. Her palms became so hot that she nearly stopped because she was afraid that she might get burnt with the sheer force of the power. But the energy stabilized and flowed smoothly from her fingertips to Gabrielle’s body.

Gabrielle was so relaxed that she had fallen asleep. It seemed as if she was in a dreamless slumber. Xena was just about to heave a sigh of relief when Gabrielle cried out in terror. She gently continued reiki and simultaneously soothed Gabrielle with warm hands on her back. Thankfully, she settled down once again she slept most of the night quite peacefully.

In the morning, Gabrielle was rested and the bags under her eyes had to some extent diminished. But they were still not out of the woods. They still had to exorcise the demons.

They continued this way for at least 10 more days. And the longer they connected energetically, the more both became calm. It was now time to enter the dreamscape and conquer at least one of the demons forever.

Gabrielle was happy that she was stronger and rested, and she was aware that she had to be vigilant so that she isn’t caught again. After discussing amongst themselves, they decided to enter the dreamscape that night together. But they needed help.

“Aphrodite!” called Gabrielle. “We need your help! Can you come please?”

With her usual sparkle and the requisite petals Aphrodite appeared once again with a flourish.

The duo was happy that Aphrodite had responded so promptly, and immediately told her their plan for that evening. They wanted her to protect them while they were “under” in their dreamscape.

They had decided to take an herbal draught to help them along, and waiting for it to take effect, they sat chatting with Aphrodite while sipping on their laced tea. As their eyes began to droop, they lay down on the furs that were spread out near the hearth.

Xena reached out and held Gabrielle’s hand. She had her jade dragon in her right hand while Gabrielle had her dove in the left hand.

“Don’t let go of my hand under any circumstances” said Xena.

Slowly they slipped into a deep slumber, but after a while, they became aware of each other in a dark desolate landscape. The trees were convoluted and twisted with no leaves on them. The trunks looked charred and nearly dead. Noxious fumes were emanating from the ground, and nearby a polluted creek lazily bubbled by.

Still holding each other’s hands, Xena turned to Gabrielle and told her, “No matter what, do not to show fear. If necessary, stop, focus on your jade dove, and take a deep breath.”

“Don’t worry about me Xena,” said Gabrielle. “As long as you are with me, I have nothing to fear.”

Suddenly, they heard a loud and terrible roar and saw a dark whirlwind blowing towards them. When it stopped, a terrifying being appeared in front of them. He was part man, part dragon and part horse. His eyes glowed red with an unholy light that seemed absolutely terrifying. It was Phobetor! Where Morpheus might at times be considered handsome, his brother not only looked frightening but also extremely ugly.

Gabrielle started to move behind Xena, but the look she got from her friend reminded her that she had to be calm and not show any fear. That would weaken the onslaught and the tenacity of this vile god of nightmares.

Xena held on to Gabrielle’s hand and indicated that she should copy her. Both took deep and calming breaths and centered themselves. A cloak of calm settled on both of them and the calmer they were, the more translucent Phobetor became.

“Begone Phobetor! Leave us alone! You don’t scare us anymore!” shouted Xena.

The god looked towards Gabrielle with a malevolent question in his eyes…

” Begone Phobetor! I am not afraid of you!” yelled Gabrielle.

As soon as she said that a light emerged from their clasped hands that travelled first to the jade dove and then towards the jade dragon. The little dragon seemed to have a life of its own and belched the energy towards Phobeter while the duo remained in deep and calm medication.

As the energy blasted him, Phobetor splintered into a thousand fragments that were sucked into the whirlwind that slowly disintegrated into the ground. All of a sudden, the surroundings became lighter, and they could even see some buds and leaves sprouting on the trees.

A sucking sound was heard, and they found themselves back in their room. Aphrodite was comfortably sitting at the hearth with a slice of nutbread and a glass of Amazon wine in her hand.

“Comfy?” asked Xena with a smirk when she was fully awake.

“Oh yes,” said Aphrodite. “This nutbread is amazing!’

Gabrielle just smiled and reached out for a slice. Her moans of pleasure brought smiles to her two friends.

“Well, thankfully we are rid of Phobetor, but now we have to tackle the stronger demon, Dahak. That will be a bit more difficult. But I have faith in us, “said Xena to Aphrodite and Gabrielle.


Xena was worried. She paced up and down while deep in thought. She didn’t

want their confrontation with Dahak to have a heavy toll on Gabrielle. But despite all the

planning and trying to work things out in different scenarios, she could not think of any other way.


Gabrielle had to face that despicable demon to ultimately live in peace. Thank the gods she was sleeping better now that Phobetor had been overpowered, but there was no guarantee that Dahak would recruit another minion to plague them once more. Time was of the essence. They had to always keep in mind that Dahak was the personification of evil and destruction, so his weakness, nay his nemesis was the presence of anything that benefited good.


Xena explained to Gabrielle and Aphrodite that they urgently needed to know where the ancient Stone of Creation was hidden. The last time they heard of it, Hercules had used it to send Dahak back to his domain. But now, it seems that the effect of the stone was diminishing because he was rearing his ugly head once more. To push Dahak back, or finally destroy him, they primarily needed the Stone as it generated a pure light that was able to push back any darkness or malignant evil. The stone drew its power from the sun, and needed to be precisely aligned with it, otherwise it would not work. This pure and divine light would render him powerless.


Aphrodite had an idea. She said that she would immediately go and visit Ares and Hercules. She believed if anyone knew where the stone was, they would know about it. Disappearing in her usual way, she left the duo alone who started to get ready for the long arduous journey. Since time was of the essence, they decided that Gabrielle would also ride instead of walk alongside Xena.

By the time Aphrodite returned, they were already packed and ready to go. To their surprise, Ares was with her, and as usual, Xena became defensive with her hackles up.

“What are you doing here Ares!” she said in a cold voice.

“Now, now Xena, is that the way you talk to a god who wants to help you and the irritating blonde?” he answered.

“I am sorry Xena, he insisted to come along,” said Aphrodite.

“Well as long as he has some concrete information on the artifact that we are looking for, I guess that is all right.”

“I certainly do” said Ares, “and as I told my dear sister, I owe you for the trouble I stirred up in Thrace, so let me make it up to you.”

Xena gave Ares a look that was pure distrust mixed with exasperation.

Finally, after an internal debate with herself, Xena asked, “Do you mean that you know where the Stone of Creation is hidden?”

“Not only do I know where its hidden, I also know where Dahak is wallowing nowadays.

And since I did promise Aphrodite to behave, I will tell you exactly what I know.”

Ares told the women that the stone was hidden in a secret archive at Al- Khazneh, one

of the most elaborate temples in the Nabatean Kingdom’s capital city, Petra. This temple was nearly impenetrable because it was completely carved out of a sandstone rock face. There was only one heavily guarded entrance, and no way to escape in case they were caught. Worshippers were allowed into the temple twice a day, and they were strictly monitored and counted. That was necessary because of the Stone of Creation as well as other priceless artifacts and holy relics that were stored there.


“Well, what do you suggest we do?” asked Xena. “Do you have a solution, or have you just come to gloat at our predicament?”


“Patience Xena, patience. Let’s go over the plans of the temple...” with a flick of wrist, a map appeared in his hand. He spread it out on the table and gestured to everyone to come and have a look.


Ares explained that the front entrance was 5 meters wide and was the only (known) entrance to the temple. The treasury was situated on a lower level and was hidden by a secret door. If by any chance anyone was caught either near the treasury, or at times when pilgrims and worshippers weren’t allowed in the temple, the penalty was death without any questioned asked. No matter how they would try, even if they entered the temple as worshippers, finding the hidden door would be extremely difficult and time consuming. The only way would be if Ares and Aphrodite transported themselves into the chamber where the stone was hidden and bring it back with them. It would be done within seconds, and no one would know.


In the meantime, Xena and Gabrielle should start their journey to find the lair of Dahak in Persepolis. Originally a demon god from Persia, he had his main temple there, and reveled in persecuting the natives of the area.

With a snap of their fingers, Ares and Aphrodite were clothed in home spun robes with cowls. They looked like any other pilgrim wanting to offer homage to their gods in a temple. They wouldn’t stand out at all. With another snap, they both disappeared, leaving a bemused Xena and Gabrielle behind.

“We have just enough time to say goodbye to Ephiny, and then we should be on our way” Xena told Gabrielle.

As they walked out of the hut, they saw that Eponim had already saddled a horse for Gabrielle, and Argo was nearly ready to travel as well.

“We thought you might be leaving immediately once we heard the voices in your hut my Queen” said Eponin to Gabrielle. “We wish you well and hope for success in your quest.’

With that, Ephiny and Eponim came forward and hugged Gabrielle. Xena clasped their arms warrior style, and was about to turn away, when Sarisa, who overlooked the kitchens, brought a bundle wrapped in an oil cloth and gave it to Gabrielle.

“There is nutbread, trail bread, dried venison and cheese for your journey. Please do hurry back. We will miss you.” Said Sarisa.

The Amazon Guards escorted Xena and Gabrielle to the border of the Amazon land. They wanted to accompany them till Persepolis, but Gabrielle told them to return to the village, because she was quite safe with her warrior.

They rode hard for most of the day. By sunset, they were both tired and the horses were lathered with sweat. They rode into the small hamlet they had seen on the horizon while riding this way and asked for a room to stay the night.

The food in the inn was palatable and though the bed didn’t look very comfortable, at least it was clean. Obviously, the large tub helped to soothe the misused muscles, and they were able to sleep well.

They woke up early the next morning, eager to press on with their journey. Gabrielle really liked the sweet rolls the innkeeper’s wife had baked for breakfast, so she asked whether they could buy some for the journey.

The next day, Ares and Aphrodite caught up with them, and thankfully had the Stone  in their hands.

“What took you so long?” aske Xena. ‘I thought you said it was just to go in and out, and you would have the stone on a blink of an eye.”

“We thought so too” grumbled Ares, but there seemed to be a cloak around the chamber where the stone was hidden. Whenever we got near the cloak, it gave off a spark of energy that singed us even though we are gods. We looked for a solution for quite a while but at first couldn’t find it’

“But you have the Stone now with you!” said Gabrielle. “How did you finally get it?”

“Simple,” said Aphrodite. “We called for reinforcements”.

“Artemis and Athena helped us figure out the maze in the treasury, and we were able to calculate fluctuations in the cloak and slipped in when it was at its weakest. We reversed the procedure to get out. Ares nearly got caught by the guards, because he just had to admire himself in an ornate mirror that was in one of the halls. Thankfully, we were able to come out in one piece…and here we are!”

Almost reverently, Ares handed the ornate box that had the Stone of Creation in it to Xena. She carefully took it from him with both hands and packed it in her saddle bag.

“Well, I’m out of here” said Ares. “Are you coming ‘Dite?”

“You go ahead, I’ll be behind you said Aphrodite. Thank you for helping my friends”

Ares just grunted and disappeared with a snap of his fingers.

“Well, that went well” said Aphrodite cheerfully. “I just stayed back to wish you luck and to remind you that you can call me whenever you need me.

“Thank you so much” said Gabrielle and she stepped forward to hug Aphrodite, who first looked surprised then pleased. “You are a true friend. Bye for now”.

After travelling at high speed for a week, they finally reached Persepolis. The city was bustling with visitors who were there to attend a festival. The architecture of the city was magnificent. The temples were massive and quite ostentatious with giant statues of the gods and goddesses of Persia in every entrance or niche. The main characters seen were griffins and lions with wings. Some columns held two headed bulls. The intricacies in the carvings were actually very artistic and interesting. Gabrielle was sorry that they didn’t have time to explore. She would have liked to learn about the history of these proud looking people.

All the inns were understandably full, and no one was very interested in accommodating two weary and dusty women.

“I saw an orchard on our way into the city, and there was a stream flowing through it. Why don’t we ride back and set up camp there?” said Xena.

Agreeing that that was a good idea, they made their way to the lush green grove where there were mango trees, orange trees and date palms. A stream flowed with crystal clear water through the orchard, and if one looked carefully, they could see trout swimming lazily through the water.

After spreading their sleeping furs on the springy grass, Xena went to catch some of the trout she saw in the stream, and to have a bath. In the meantime, Gabrielle lit a fire and got ready to cook dinner.

Xena was happy that they were staying outside the city because the Persians and the Greeks were not very friendly with each other. Xena herself had been in skirmishes with Persian soldiers. It was therefore decided that both of them would wear Persian clothes to disguise themselves and try not to attract any attention. Their mission depended on speed and they needed a quick way out in case things went askew.

The next day, after a good night’s sleep and a refreshing bath, they dressed and went to the market to see if they could get any information on Dahak. Ares had just vaguely said that he was languishing in his temple in Persepolis. But the exact one, and the way in still had to be found.

“Let me do the talking,” said Xena. “I happen to know the dialect of the region, and I am sure people would be willing to talk to me in their own language instead of Greek.”

Wandering in the market, they were astounded with the wonders they saw. There were acrobats and fire eaters. Dancers added splashes of color to the kaleidoscope of sights and sounds. Music was everywhere, and most people were smiling and enjoying themselves. Gabrielle was attracted to the stalls where meat was barbequed on skewers. The savory smell made her mouth water. Xena immediately bought two skewers for her with some of the Persian money that she had exchanged with a merchant on their way here.

While they were eating, Xena looked up and saw a banner with a picture of a three headed dragon that was supposed to depict Dahak. It was strung over a stall that was manned by men and women in white silk with braided gold belts tied around their waists. They were handing out small scrolls that people were reverently taking from them. She nonchalantly strolled over to the stall and listened to what a woman in white was telling a passerby.

“Come to The One god’s temple tonight. This is the time of the year when the veil between good and evil becomes very thin, and wonders can happen. Our god Dahak has promised us power and wealth. Any follower will be rewarded by our lord. Take this parchment and read the prayer in unison when the sun touches the horizon in the evening, creating the beauty of light and dark.”

“Give me one of those parchments,” said Xena. “I would also like to experience what Dahak has promised. Tell me, where is the temple? I have travelled far to worship at the one god’s feet”

Hearing her words, the woman, whose name was Fariba, smiled and handed one of the parchments to Xena. She told Xena that the Temple of Dahak was near the outskirts of the city in a salt cave. All of the structures inside it were made of pink mountain salt and were intricately carved. Fariba was excited because this would be the first time that she would be allowed into the temple.

After learning the exact location of the temple. Xena and Gabrielle rode to the cave where the temple was supposed to be located. They hid their horses in a grove nearby and made the rest of the journey on foot.

“Xena,” said Gabrielle. “Dahak has his temple in a cave. How are we going to get the stone to work properly if there is no sunlight?”

“That’s exactly why we are here before the ceremony. I wanted to check out the inside of the cave to see how we are going to do this. I’m sure there are ventilation shafts or even holes in the roof where light comes in, after all, it would be difficult to light a large cave and a massive temple just with torches.”  

The entrance of the cave was ornate. It was flanked with marble columns that were topped with sculptures of three headed dragons. Probably a tribute to Dahak. There were a few acolytes already there, some were bustling about and cleaning the place while others seemed to be in a devout trance. Their eyes fixed and expressions blank. These were the true mindless followers of the demon.

Bowing their heads in a parody of prayer, the duo slipped inside the cave. Just a few feet from the entrance was the temple whose gates were even more ornate than the cave entrance. The sculptures and decorations were covered with filigree gold, giving it an almost ethereal sense. The devout would be pulled even further towards the temple with this display of splendor.

Looking around, Xena saw to her dismay that there were no openings in the roof, and neither were there any ventilation shafts. So, there was no hope of sunlight in the cave or temple. Signaling to Gabrielle, she walked out of the cave to look around outside. They both climbed on the mountain where the cave was and examined the rocks there. Just where the roof of the temple was, Xena saw a very small opening. If she wasn’t looking, she might have missed it. She sat down and started to think what she would do next.

Xena measured the angle of the sun in reference to the opening in the roof. According to her calculations, the sun would be exactly at the position needed, to have a strong sunbeam stream into the temple, when Dahak was supposed to appear to his followers. If only she could just make the opening larger without attracting much attention, it would be ideal to align the sun with the Stone of Creation.

“What is that smell?” asked Gabrielle. “It smells like Sulphur”

“You are right, it is Sulphur” said Xena. “Those yellow clumps in the corner are Sulphur in its purest form.”

Suddenly her eyes lighted up and an idea struck her. She looked around and saw a few pine trees in a grove nearby.

“Gabrielle, can you carefully pick up a few clumps of Sulphur and bring them here? I’m just going to see whether I can get some resin from the pine trees over there” said Xena over her shoulder while cautiously jogging towards the trees, dodging behind boulders to make sure that she wasn’t seen. Thankfully, the trunks of the tress were sticky with resin, and Xena was easily able to collect a mug full. She had also noticed that there were small pools in the rocks around the mountains containing an oily yellowish-black substance. She bent down and sniffed it. She had seen this oil burn brightly when she was in Chin. It had a distinctive pungent smell that reminded Xena of smoke and blazing fires. Now, if she calculated her ingredients right, she could have a small amount of Greek fire!

Keeping in mind that the concoction was extremely combustible, she gently mixed the resin, sulphur and the oil together and smeared it thoroughly on the rocks near and around the opening in the side of the mountain. Now they could only wait for the sun to heat it, to make it spontaneously flare up and cause a small explosion. The roof will then have an opening big enough for sunlight to stream into the cave.

The acolytes had started to congregate in the temple. Platters of food, garlands of flowers and goats for sacrifice were being brought to the entrance and arranged in a festive manner on the tables set just for that purpose in the courtyard below. It was nearly time. Calculating the time in proportion to the sun, Xena and Gabrielle went to fetch the stone from where they had hidden it. Xena took it out of the box and handed it to Gabrielle who put it in her bag.

Covering their faces and head like the other worshippers, they slipped into the temple and waited. Suddenly the hustle and bustle around them stopped and it became very quiet. Everyone was now looking towards the ornate altar. Suddenly the lid of the altar opened, and in a flash of green light and putrid smoke, Dahak pushed his way out. His devotees started to chant his name “Dahak, Dahak, Dahak”. But the demon ignored them. He was looking for somebody, and his eyes were darting here and there, seeking and probing.

“WHERE IS SHE!!!!!!!!!!!!!” he roared! “I know she is here! I can feel her!”

Just as his eyes alighted on Gabrielle, there was an explosion on the roof. Xena’s concoction had exploded as planned. Part of the roof fell away. Thankfully the debris fell towards the back, where there were no worshippers. A shaft of light streamed into the cave, making many blinking its brightness.

“Gabrielle now!” shouted Xena. Hearing her signal from Xena, she took the stone out of her bag and angled it into the shaft of light. The Stone caught the light and bounced the rainbow colors towards Dahak who started to roar on the top of his voice.

“You can’t vanquish me! I am more powerful than your gods! Who do you think you are going against the mighty Dahak?”

But as the light hit him, he started to squirm, and columns of smoke were seen coming from almost every part of his body. Finally, there was a bright flash of light that almost blinded everyone there, and Dahak shrunk to the size of a desert lizard and slithered back into his domain.

“Well, that will keep him for a few more millennia” said Xena. She couldn’t believe her eyes! The stone had turned the so called mighty Dahak into an innocuous small lizard. Gabrielle and Xena looked at each other and started to laugh. Not exactly a good idea if you are standing in the middle of a crowd of Dahak worshippers, and you have conquered and sent their god away.

Grabbing Gabrielle’s hand, Xena ran out of the temple towards the grove where they had hidden their horses. They immediately mounted and rode as fast as they could from Persepolis.

Now that they had achieved what they had set out to do, they made their way leisurely home. Stopping whenever they felt like it and travelling when the weather was good.

They finally reached the Amazon Village once again and were greeted by a relieved Ephiny.

“Thank Artemis you are safe!” she said and hugged her Queen. “We were starting to worry, but then a trader returning from Persia told us the story of how a local deity was conquered by two women and a ray of sunshine. We knew then that you were all right.”

That evening, they had a candlelight picnic near their favorite waterfall. After dinner they lay down and played their usual game of identifying the stars. They hadn’t felt so relaxed in a long time.

With a whisper of wind and a light fragrance, Aphrodite appeared before them. “Welcome back Little One…and you too Warrior Babe. How’s it shaking? I heard you kicked demon butt in Persepolis.” Smiling she sat down on a log near them.

“I believe you have something to give me?” she said.

“Oh yes, we were waiting for you” said Gabrielle, and she handed over the ornate box with the Stone of Creation inside it.

“Thank you for helping us ‘Dite, you are a good friend. Please thank Ares too.” Turning towards Xena she nudged her in the ribs. Xena just grunted, and said “Yeah yeah, thank him too. But seriously Aphrodite, we couldn’t have done this without you. Thank you”

Aphrodite left in a flurry of rose petals leaving the friends to settle down for the night.

“I didn’t thank YOU for all you did Xena” said Gabrielle. “I would have died, but as usual you saved me my Warrior”.

“Good night Xena, I love you” said the Amazon Queen.

“I love you too” said the Warrior Princess with a smile.

Gabrielle snuggled into Xena’s embrace and fell deeply asleep, The soul mates finally were able to peacefully rest. Till their next adventure….

The End


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