Copyright: All the characters are owned by Renaissance Pictures/Universal, etc, etc, etc, but the story is entirely from my imagination.
Violence: Pretty mild this time, actually.
Teaser: Gabrielle confronts her father about the disturbing vision she saw in his Bowl of Divination which sends Xena and her on an unexpected journey.
Part three of the: And They Were Gods series (stories: Future's Past , Family Tree, Lost and Found)
Started: January 1, 2010 Ended: January 12, 2013 (Too long in the making.)
Feedback: If you’ve got any, positive or negative, or if you’d like to see more to this story email me at AkielaXal@yahoo.com
Gabrielle knew she had put this off long enough. She knew she needed to speak with her father about the vision that she’d seen in his bowl when she’d first arrived on Olympus. She just wasn’t sure she really wanted to know the answer… and she was afraid of what Xena would think. So after a romantic evening Gabrielle had left her wife sleeping in the chambers they were currently sharing on Olympus, which is why she now found herself alone, striding towards the Great Hall.
As she approached the doors she took a deep breath and steeled her nerves for the conversation to come. She quietly pushed open one gilded door, half hoping to find Apollo absent. Fortunately, or unfortunately, she saw her father in his customary place gazing into the bowl. Gabrielle sighed. “I guess there’s no getting out of it this time,” she muttered. Squaring her shoulders she entered the Great Hall. Crossing the marble floor she called out, “Hello… father.” She still wasn’t used to thinking of Apollo and Aphrodite as her parents.
Apollo held up one hand acknowledging his daughter’s greeting, but his gaze remained firmly fixed on the Bowl of Divination. Finally he shook his head and turned to face his daughter. “Hello,” he said with a smile, holding out his arms for a hug.
Gabrielle returned his embrace. She couldn’t help feeling drawn to this charismatic man who was her father. She could feel the love he had for her and wanted to return it, but she just wasn’t able to yet. After all, she hardly knew the man. Stepping back she asked, “So, what was that all about?” She gave a slight jerk of her head towards the bowl.
Grimacing slightly, Apollo answered, “Oh, something I should have left well enough alone.”
“C’mon. What were you scrying for?”
Apollo sighed. He knew he wouldn’t get out of telling Gabrielle. “I wanted to see what would happen to us: Aphrodite and I, Ares, the remaining Olympians. I wondered if your and Xena’s presence would change the outcome.” He sighed again. “It hasn’t.”
Taking her father’s hand, Gabrielle asked, “What happens?”
Trying to put a brave face on things Apollo answered, “Events in the Bowl are fluid, so things could change, but I saw our decline in power. I couldn’t really see the cause of it, but I did see the God of the Israelites rise up to fill the vacuum.”
“Did you see… our deaths?” Gabrielle asked.
“Oh, no. Nothing so dramatic as that. I did see Olympus standing empty. I didn’t get a sense of death, just that there was no longer any power here.”
“Oh.” Gabrielle thought about that for a moment before she asked, “Does the Bowl always show the future?”
“Usually, yes, that’s the main purpose of the Bowl.” Apollo shrugged. “If the viewer wants to see the past they have to make a conscious effort to do so.”
“Hmm,” Gabrielle mumbled thoughtfully.
Apollo looked at her expectantly. He wanted to know what his daughter was thinking, but sensed that she would have to go at her own pace.
Finally, Gabrielle began, “When Xena and I first got here we found the Bowl, and when I touched it the surface of the water rippled and I began to see images…”
Xena glanced at her partner, noticing the look of glee on Gabrielle’s face as she explored every nook and cranny of the ostentatious Great Hall of the Olympians. Smiling at her partner’s excitement, Xena ambled over and placed her hands on Gabrielle’s shoulders. “Find anything interesting?”
Gabrielle lifted her left hand to clasp that of the warrior, “You know what, Xena? I think I have.”
“What is it, love?” Xena asked peering over her wife’s shoulder. They were standing in a small alcove off the Great Hall.
“This,” answered Gabrielle pointing at a stand holding a gilded bowl; a bowl which the petite blonde would have difficulty wrapping her arms around. “I think this is Apollo’s Bowl of Divination,” she said placing a hand on the rim of the bowl. As she did so, a ripple raced across the surface of the water and Gabrielle began to see images. She stood still, hardly daring to breath as the images danced across the liquid.
Gabrielle’s eyes widened as she gazed into the bowl before her. The scene resolved itself into a well appointed room. Stone walls and marble floors were softened by sedate wall hangings and throw rugs giving the palatial room more of a homey feel. She could see a figure reclining on the bed, but it was obscured from view by a sheer curtain. The focus changed and Gabrielle could now see that the figure on the bed was her. When she took a second look she realized that the Gabrielle in the vision was nursing a golden haired newborn.
The water rippled again and the image changed. Now she could see herself rocking in front of a roaring fireplace, smiling as she watched a small golden haired girl and a raven haired boy wrestling on the floor with Xena.
The scene changed yet again with more rippling of the water. This time she could see herself and Xena sitting on a grassy embankment beside a gurgling stream. There was a picnic spread out before them. As Gabrielle watched, a breathless Eve ran into view and flopped down beside Xena. She was followed by a half-dozen children ranging in age from toddlers to young teens. The scene clouded over and no more images were forthcoming.
“Sounds like a pleasant vision. One I hope to participate in, I might add,” Apollo said, smiling. “I’m looking forward to getting to be a grandfather.”
“Oh,” Gabrielle said, a little startled. “I hadn’t really thought about that. I guess you would be their grandfather.” She smiled up at the man who was trying so hard to make up for being an absent father.
“I am glad you inherited the gift,” Apollo said, growing melancholy. “At least you’ll be able to use it when I’m not around anymore.”
“Oh, c’mon… father,” Gabrielle said lightly, “You’ll always be around, even if you decide to retire to some island paradise.”
This caused Apollo to chuckle. “You’re probably right.” He paused. “So, with such a nice vision of your future with Xena, why are you troubled?”
Gabrielle couldn’t quite meet her father’s gaze. “I wanted Xena to see what I’d just seen, so we both touched the Bowl… Xena never did see anything, but what I saw that time confused me.”
As soon as Gabrielle’s hand touched the Bowl the water rippled and a scene slowly began to form. This one was sluggish and out of focus. At first all she could make out were two figures sitting on a hillside. As the focus became a little clearer, Gabrielle was able to see that they were two blonde youths. They were laughing and joking around with each other. When the scene finally resolved itself, Gabrielle was startled to discover that the two teens in the vision were Solan and… Hope.
“But that’s not possible,” Gabrielle said with a shudder.
“Why not, my dear?” Apollo asked. “Anything is possible.”
“This is Solan and Hope we’re talking about here. They’re dead. She killed him.” Gabrielle shook her head. “And I’m pretty sure they never had the chance to pal around when they were both alive.”
“No, the sluggishness of the water tells me that it’s a possible future. The future is fluid; ever changing. Some events, such as those you saw with your future children are more likely to happen, or rather not many things could cause them to not happen,” Apollo said. “But this vision of Hope and Solan is different. It is possible that at some point in the future something may happen that would bring about the return of both children.”
“How can that be? Is there a way to stop it? At least a way to stop Hope from returning?”
“Since it’s only a possibility, then, yes, there should be a way to change it,” answered Apollo. “Here, why don’t you check the vision again? See if it stays the same now that we’ve discussed it.”
Gabrielle stepped closer to the bowl, hand hovering over the rim. “Um… How do I do that exactly?”
Apollo smiled. “Stir the waters with your fingers, then touch the bowl like you did before. This time concentrate on your previous vision. Watch carefully. See if even the tiniest detail has changed.”
Gabrielle did as instructed. This time the images took shape much more quickly, though not as fast as those of her and Xena with their future children. To her untrained eye the vision appeared unchanged, but before she could remove her hand the water rippled. This time she saw herself and Xena sitting at the dinner table with two small children. She smiled at the image, intensely glad that there were happy times ahead for her and Xena. As she continued to watch a door opened and in walked Hope and Solan. They crossed the room, hand in hand. As they neared Gabrielle could see it was Hope, but it wasn’t Hope as she knew her. She was… changed in small ways. No longer a carbon copy of Gabrielle, but still very much her daughter. When the two reached the table Solan pulled out Hope’s chair for her. She reached up and kissed Solan lightly on the cheek before sitting to join the rest of the family at the table. Gabrielle’s hand rose to cover her mouth and the vision was lost.
Concerned, Apollo asked, “What did you see?”
Reluctantly Gabrielle told him. “It started out the same as before. I let that play out to its end, then the scene changed to what appeared to be a few years later. But this one wasn’t as sluggish. Why would a later event be clearer than an earlier one?”
“That is strange. Perhaps we should look for the trigger point,” Apollo mused.
“Yes. The point at which the prophecy, if you will, comes into being. The point where a choice determines if a vision will occur or not.”
Gabrielle agreed and they spent the better part of the next candlemark looking for the trigger point. They couldn’t be certain that they had found the exact point because it was completely shrouded. They couldn’t see a thing, but everything pointed to this one specific spot.
“I don’t know Father. I’m still pretty uneasy about this,” Gabrielle said.
“When are you going to tell Xena?” Apollo asked.
“Tell me what?” Xena asked as she crossed the Great Hall toward the pair. When she reached Gabrielle she embraced her and gave her a quick kiss.
Father and daughter exchanged a glance before Gabrielle said, “Let’s take a walk, Xena.”
~ ^ ~ ^ ~ ^ ~ ^ ~ ^ ~
The arbor on Mt. Olympus was beautiful. Stately old trees interspersed with younger ones. Bushes and flowers arranged in natural seeming patterns. Gabrielle and Xena sat together on a rock outcropping at the base of a large waterfall.
Gabrielle sighed, “Aren’t you going to say anything?”
Pulled out of her musings, Xena looked at Gabrielle and said, “It’s a lot to think about.” She shook her head. “I don’t like to think our lives are predetermined.”
“I don’t think it’s like that at all, Xena,” Gabrielle said. “From what Apollo told me it’s more like every choice that each of us is faced with leads to a different path. This decision leads to this path, and that decision leads to another. The future is constantly changing.”
“Then how does a prophecy work?”
“It’s more like a glimpse into a possible future. Some prophecies are more likely than others to come true, depending on how many specific choices must be made to lead to that path.” Gabrielle thought a moment. “I think it might also have to do with how likely the person or people involved are to make a particular choice.”
“Hmm…” Xena said. “It’s still a lot to digest. Would you… ah… would you mind letting me think about this… alone?” Xena saw the hurt look flash across Gabrielle’s face and reached over to give her a hug. Kissing her on the temple, Xena said, “Don’t worry. I’m not angry and I’m not gonna do anything foolish.”
Gabrielle gazed into Xena’s eyes for a long moment. Finally she said, “Alright, I’ll be inside if you want to talk some more.”
Smiling Xena said, “I always want to talk with you. I just need some more time to organize my thoughts so we can have a coherent conversation.”
Gabrielle kissed her partner before turning and walking back to the palace. Gabrielle wasn’t really paying attention to where her feet were taking her, but she wasn’t surprised when she found herself outside her mother’s rooms. She politely knocked on the door and waited for Aphrodite to let her in.
Aphrodite took one look at her and knew something was wrong. “What is it, honey? Did you and Xena have a fight?”
“Not exactly.” Gabrielle’s voice waivered and before she knew it the floodgates had been opened, tears streaming down her face.
She felt Aphrodite’s arms encircle her. “There, there sweet pea. Everything will be alright.” Aphrodite led them over to a plush sofa where she continued to comfort her daughter.
When she could once again speak Gabrielle haltingly told Aphrodite what was wrong. Aphrodite listened calmly without interrupting, which was very difficult for her.
~ ^ ~ ^ ~ ^ ~ ^ ~ ^ ~
Xena slowly made her way through the halls of Olympus. She still had mixed feelings about Gabrielle’s vision, but she knew that wasn’t Gabrielle’s fault. She wanted to ask some more questions before she came to any decisions.
She had just raised her hand to knock on Aphrodite’s half open door when she heard Gabrielle’s voice inside. Pausing she listened to her soulmate’s distraught words.
Sniffling, Gabrielle said, “I would absolutely love for Xena to have a second chance with Solan. I know how much she loves him and regrets not being able to raise him. I’ve always felt terrible that it was my actions that took him from her.” Gabrielle clenched her fists in her lap. “I hope that Xena knows I would never, ever do anything to bring my daughter back.”
“I do,” Xena said as she crossed the room and enveloped Gabrielle in a tender hug. Stroking the younger woman’s hair she said, “I know you wouldn’t do that, and I love you all the more because of it.” Xena and Gabrielle remained in each other’s arms, awash in memories of their children.
“Dite, have you…” Apollo was saying as he entered the room. “Oh. Is everything alright?”
“Yes, dear,” Aphrodite answered as she rose to embrace Apollo. “Xena and Gabrielle were both a little upset by that vision of Gabrielle’s.”
“I see,” Apollo murmured. “As I already explained, no matter how it might seem, that vision is still only a possibility. Not a certainty.”
“How do you know that Apollo?” asked Xena. “What is so different about this vision from the one that you saw about me?” she asked, referring to his vision so long ago of her becoming the destroyer of nations.
“In this case it was the clarity of the vision and how quickly it came into focus. What I saw regarding you was crystal clear and each image came into focus instantaneously. The vision my daughter described was hazy, as though looking through a layer of fog, and it was slow to develop. The more sluggish the vision, the less certain its probability.”
“The first time it was like that, but the second time…” Gabrielle started.
“What do you mean?” Xena asked.
Turning to Xena, Gabrielle replied, “Don’t you remember that I told you Apollo asked me to seek out that vision again? The second time it was more responsive, but I don’t know what changed to make it that way.”
“Hmm,” Xena murmured.
“Father?” Gabrielle asked. “Is there a way to bring Solan back? I know that Ares gave up his godhood to bring Eve and I back… I’d be willing to…”
Apollo interrupted, “There’s no need for that. As firstborn Athena took over as ruler of the gods when Zeus died. She expressly forbade any of us to help you, Xena, or Eve. So, for Ares to do what he did, he had to be willing to give up his godhood.” He glanced from one woman to the other. “But there has been a power vacuum since Athena’s death. Until the rightful heir assumes the mantle of leadership, we can all do just about anything.”
“So, my son’s life could be restored?” Xena asked, a glimmer of excitement showing in her normally stoic features.
“Yes,” Apollo answered simply.
“Oh, Xena!” Gabrielle threw her arms around the other woman. “I so want you to have another chance with Solan.”
“I… think I’d like that,” Xena said. “But I’m not sure it’s a good idea.” Xena’s shoulders slumped in defeat.
“Why wouldn’t it be?”
“I’m afraid I’ll be a terrible mother,” Xena replied. “I’m afraid that Solan’s time in the Elysian Fields would be better than any life I could give him now…”
“Xena,” interrupted Gabrielle, “Don’t say things like that. I know you’re a good mother…”
“How Gabrielle? I gave up Solan when he was born and I didn’t do much better with Eve…”
“Xena, you ‘gave up’ Solan to protect him! A bad mother wouldn’t have cared if he was a target for her enemies. And as for Eve, well that wasn’t your fault. We faked our deaths to protect her. Neither one of us had any way to know that Ares would interfere. I know you were a good mother to them, just as I know you’ll be a good mother to this child.” Gabrielle placed a hand over her still flat stomach.
Locking eyes with her soulmate, Xena asked, “How can you be so sure, Gabrielle?”
Smiling, Gabrielle said, “Because I know you. I know what you’re like. And because I’ve seen how much love you and our children have for each other. How could you not be a good mother?”
“Thank you,” Xena said, simply. She felt a knot in her chest loosen.
“So,” Gabrielle said, holding out her hand, “Are we going to go get your son?”
Xena stared at Gabrielle’s hand for a long moment before grasping it firmly in her own.
~ ^ ~ ^ ~ ^ ~ ^ ~ ^ ~
Xena and Gabrielle materialized inside a cavernous antechamber. A long line of bewildered individuals snaked around the perimeter of the room and down a long tunnel. They were all waiting for passage in a small narrow boat across a subterranean river. Not bothering with the line, Xena and Gabrielle approached the boatman as he pulled his craft ashore.
“Hello, Charon,” Xena said.
“Hell…Oh, it’s you.” Charon grimaced as he recognized the speaker. “Show me the money.”
Amused, Xena said, “I’m not dead.”
Charon rolled his eyes. “You expect a freebie just ‘cause you’re still breathing?”
“Charon,” growled Xena.
He crossed his arms over his chest. “Two dinars… each,” he stated firmly.
Xena made a move as if to throttle him, but Gabrielle stopped her with a touch to the other woman’s arm. Making sure she had Charon’s full attention Gabrielle said, “Two dinars.” Two gold coins appeared in her outstretched palm. “Each.” Two more coins clattered onto the first.
Charon’s eyes grew wide as they darted from one woman to the next. “Step right this way, ladies,” he gestured with a sweep of his arm. Xena and Gabrielle stepped into the boat. When the next person in line tried to follow them, Charon barred their way. “Wait your turn. VIPs here.” He shoved off and they began to cross the river. The craft reached the far shore and Xena stepped out, holding out her hand for Gabrielle.
Charon’s voice halted them. “A few things have changed since the last time you were here.” Xena arched an eyebrow in response. “Once you go through that arch the tunnel will branch into three forks. The left heads to Tartarus, the right to the Elysian Fields, and the middle heads to the Asphodel Meadows.”
“Thanks. Why the change?”
Charon grimaced. “Since Persephone can only be here half the year she had to come up with some way to assign the souls of the dead. As each one passes through the arch it weighs their souls and depending on how good or bad a person’s been it ‘opens’ the correct tunnel for them.”
“Huh,” Xena grunted. “Good system.”
Passing through the arch they heard a humming and saw the mouths of three tunnels open before them. Knowing that Solan was in the Elysian Fields they chose the right branch. There was a slight incline to the tunnel floor and it gradually brightened until it finally opened into a beautiful field. To one side they could see a huge waterfall emptying into a crystal clear lake. Everywhere they looked were smiling people in flowing white robes.
They hadn’t gone more than three paces when Gabrielle heard her name called. She turned to face the source and saw three figures approaching. “Mother! Father!” Gabrielle cried flinging her arms out to embrace the people who raised her. “It’s so good to see you.”
“And you, Daughter,” Herodotus replied.
“We’re so proud of you,” Hecuba added. Turning to Xena she said, “Proud of you both.”
Xena actually blushed. “Thank you. That means a lot.”
“And you,” Hecuba said, turning back to her daughter, “You’re finally going to make us grandparents, I hear.”
It was Gabrielle’s turn to blush. Ducking her head she said, “Yes. Is that alright with you? I mean that… um… Xena’s the baby’s other parent?”
Hecuba answered before Herodotus could even open his mouth. “Of course it’s alright, dear. I love you and couldn’t be happier for you both.” Turning to Xena she added, “You’ll make fine parents.”
Giving Hecuba another hug, Gabrielle said, “Thank you, Mother.”
Xena cleared her throat. Motioning with her head she said, “I think someone else wants to talk to you.”
Gabrielle turned to the third white-robed figure. Holding out her hand, she said, “Perdicus. It’s good to see you.”
Taking her hand Perdicus replied, “It’s good to see you too, Gabrielle.”
They walked a little ways away from the others. Squeezing Perdicus’ hand Gabrielle said, “I’m so sorry, Perdicus.”
“It’s ok Gabrielle. It was my time. If it hadn’t been Callisto it would have been something else.” He smiled at her. “I’m really happy for you Gabrielle. I’m just sorry that I tried to take you away from Xena.”
“No, Perdicus. You were just following your heart.” Gabrielle glanced at Xena and a small smile played at the corner of her lips. “I just wish I’d understood mine.”
“You two are great together,” Perdicus observed. “And a baby? Congratulations!”
Gabrielle blushed once again. “Weird, huh? Xena and I are going to be parents.”
“You’ll be terrific.” He paused, his expression growing thoughtful. “I always knew there was something special about you.”
“Ah, that…” Gabrielle scratched the side of her nose. “I really had no idea about that.”
“I know. None of us did until you found out… well, maybe your mother suspected, but I don’t know for sure.” Perdicus buffed the nails of his right hand on his robes. “But I get to brag that I was married to a god.”
“Stop that,” Gabrielle scolded, bumping his shoulder with her own. Perdicus laughed and they rejoined the others.
Not knowing what else to say, Xena said, “Well, it’s been really good seeing you, but we have things to do…”
”We know, Xena,” Heroditus said. “Take care of each other,” he added with a stern glance at Xena.
Xena and Gabrielle resumed their search for Solan. They’d made it about half way around the lake when they were hailed once again. They turned towards the voice and Xena’s face lit up like a school girl’s. “Mother! Lyceus!” She ran to greet them and Lyceus swept her up into a hug and swung her around in a circle.
“It’s good to see you too, sis!” he said before finally setting Xena back on her feet.
“Daughter,” Cyrene said, opening her arms to receive Xena’s enthusiastic embrace.
Gabrielle hung back, not wanting to interrupt the family reunion. Noticing her reticence, Lyceus walked over to Gabrielle. “It’s good to finally meet you,” he said, holding out a hand. She grasped the hand and was surprised when he pulled her into a hug.
“I feel like I already know you,” Gabrielle said, pulling back a little. “Xena has told me so much about you.”
“Me too,” he answered. “Xena talks to me quite a bit, and a lot of the time it’s about you.” He winked at her.
Gabrielle blushed. “I hope it wasn’t too bad.”
Lyceus let out a laugh. “Of course not. Usually she tells me how much she loves you and how glad she is that you are in her life.” He pulled her into another embrace and whispered into her ear. “Thank you for making her happy.”
The hint of a tear in her eye, Gabrielle said, “The feeling is very mutual. Believe me.”
“Hey! That’s my wife you’re mauling,” Xena teased her brother. She was pleased, though, that they were getting along.
Cyrene held out her arms to Gabrielle. “Lyceus, let me give my daughter-in-law a proper greeting.”
Gabrielle readily stepped into the embrace. “It’s good to see you again.”
Holding Gabrielle back, Cyrene said, “I hear congratulations are in order.”
The younger woman looked momentarily bewildered, not knowing to what Cyrene was referring, but blushed yet again when she made the connection. “Yes. It’s true.” Gabrielle smiled and held out a hand to her soulmate who took it. “I’m still having trouble wrapping my head around it, but Xena and I are going to have a baby.”
Lyceus let out a whoop. “Way to go sis!” he said as he clapped Xena’s shoulder.
“Thanks,” Xena said, puffing up like a peacock.
“I know you two will make wonderful parents,” Cyrene chimed in.
“Thank you. That means a lot,” Gabrielle told her earnestly.
“Speaking of…” Xena looked around, “Mother, where’s Solan?”
Exasperated, Cyrene said, “That boy. He takes after you.”
“Ever since Hades’ death, Solan has taken to exploring all parts of the underworld.”
“Sure, Xena,” Lyceus added, “with Hades’ death the spell of forgetfulness on the Elysian Fields dissipated and Solan, like some of the rest of us, got bored. Since there’s nothing stopping those assigned to the Fields from entering the other areas he’s taken to exploring every nook and cranny he can find.”
Gabrielle put a hand on Xena’s shoulder. “That does sound a lot like someone I know,” which elicited a chagrinned smile from Xena. Turning back to the others Gabrielle asked, “Do you have any idea where he might be? We really wanted to talk to him.”
Cyrene smiled sadly. “I know dear. I’m not sure what he’ll decide, but I hope you’ll bring him and my other grandchildren to visit once in a while.”
“We will, mother, but how did you know what we were going to ask him?”
“Xena,” Cyrene rolled her eyes, “the dead can hear the thoughts of the living. When you thought about bringing me back as well, I knew.” She patted her daughter’s arm. “Thank you for thinking of me Xena, but I had a good, long life. I’m content to remain in the fields.”
“Me too, sis. I’ve been gone so long it wouldn’t be the same going back.”
“About that,” Xena asked. “Are you two alright with what I…” she took Gabrielle’s hand, “I mean ‘we’ are?”
Cyrene hugged them both. “Of course I am, girls. I think I’ve always known on some level that you were different Xena. And I definitely knew that Gabrielle was special. I’m proud of you both for everything you’ve accomplished together.”
“Thanks mom,” the younger women said in unison.
~ ^ ~ ^ ~ ^ ~ ^ ~ ^ ~
Xena and Gabrielle continued their search for the missing Solan. When they didn’t find him in the remainder of the Elysian Fields they decided to move on to Tartarus. Both knew from experience that it was a dark and dreary place – one that neither of them really wanted to revisit, but just the sort of place a twelve year-old-boy might enjoy.
“Strange,” Gabrielle said. “Here in Tartarus everyone is still bound to their torments, but those from the Fields are free to roam anywhere.”
“I think,” Xena replied, “that they were always free to move about. They just didn’t want to.” Xena stopped walking and turned to face Gabrielle. “Do you remember when I came here with Marcus?”
“Even though things were backwards, only the souls in Tartarus were bound in place. Those in the Fields could cross into other areas.”
“Did I hear someone mention my name?” A tall, handsome dark-skinned man approached from behind them.
Xena turned around and recognition flashed in her eyes. “Marcus!” She pulled him into a fierce hug.
“Xena,” he said, patting her on the back. “It’s good to see you.”
“You too, Marcus.” Xena pulled back so she could get a better look at her old friend. “Don’t tell me Hades reneged and put you back in Tartarus?”
Marcus laughed. “No. Nothing like that Xena.” He gestured around them. “You’ve seen it here. I like to come and talk with those who seem to have been sent here unfairly.” He grinned sheepishly. “Solan thinks it makes it easier to bear if you’ve got a visit to look forward to.”
“You know my son?”
“Sure, I do, Xena,” Marcus replied easily. “I was one of the ones he sought out after Hades died.” Marcus laughed again. “Solan wanted to know everything about you.”
“That sounds like Solan,” Gabrielle said, lightly placing her hand on Xena’s arm.
“Gabrielle, good to see you.” Marcus looked her up and down. “You’ve grown up, I see.”
“That tends to happen as we get older,” she replied drolly, eliciting a chuckle from Marcus.
“So, what brings you to Tartarus, Xena? I can tell neither of you is dead.”
“No. We’re not dead. We’re here looking for my son.” Xena glanced around. “Any idea where he might be?”
“Sorry, Xena. That boy of yours gets around.” Marcus paused in thought a minute. “He does like to explore Hades old castle. Have you tried there?”
“Not yet, but sounds like as good a place as any to try next. Is it still guarded by Harpies?”
“Nah. That was Adaminius’ doing.”
“Thanks, Marcus,” Xena gave him another hug. “It was good seeing you again, but we’d better find Solan before he gets into any more trouble.”
~ ^ ~ ^ ~ ^ ~ ^ ~ ^ ~
Arriving at the main entrance to Hades castle Gabrielle placed her hand on the doorknob. At Xena’s frown Gabrielle asked, “What?”
“You’re just going to walk in without knocking?”
“Xena.” Gabrielle shook her head in bemusement. “It’s spring topside. That means Persephone’s with her mother, not here.” Gabrielle turned the knob and the heavy door swung open easily on well-oiled hinges. “Where to?” she asked.
Xena shrugged. “He could be anywhere. If he’s even in the palace. I guess we just start at one end and work our way through to the other.”
The two of them proceeded from one room to the next on their hunt for the missing Solan. After searching every room in the castle Xena was visibly discouraged. Giving her a quick hug, Gabrielle said, “It’s alright, Xena. We’ll find him.”
“Where?” Xena huffed in frustration.
“We haven’t tried the Asphodel Meadows yet,” Gabrielle replied.
~ ^ ~ ^ ~ ^ ~ ^ ~ ^ ~
Wandering around the nearly treeless plain, Xena and Gabrielle could immediately see the difference between the Asphodel Meadows and the Elysian Fields. The Meadows weren’t barren by any means, but they weren’t entirely pleasant either.
The voice from behind them made Xena stop in her tracks and Gabrielle could see the other woman visibly shiver at the sound.
Turning around slowly Xena said, “Hello, Borias.” Her face showed a mixture of emotions, as though Xena couldn’t decide if she were happy or frightened at running into her old lover.
A grin spreading across Boras’ face, he said, “It’s good to see you.”
Xena visibly relaxed. “It’s good to see you too Borias.”
Somewhat uncomfortably, Gabrielle chimed in, “Hi. I’m Gabrielle. It’s nice to meet you.”
Borias’ grin grew even wider if that were possible. “I’m glad to meet you also.” Sweeping her into a bear hug he went on, “Thank you for helping her find the way.”
Smiling shyly, Gabrielle said, “You and Lao Ma got things started.”
Pulling back to look Gabrielle in the eyes, Borias said, “That may be so, but you gave her the courage to continue.”
Coughing Xena said, “Hey, I’m right here. It’s kinda rude to talk about me like that.”
“I’m sorry, Xena,” Borias apologized, releasing Gabrielle and turning back to face Xena. “I know you’ve come here on more important matters.”
“We’re looking for Solan.”
“Do you have any idea where he might be?”
Pondering for a moment, Borias finally said, “I can’t be sure, but I know he spends a lot of time in Limbo.”
“Limbo?” the two women chorused.
“I’ve never heard of Limbo,” Gabrielle said, puzzled.
“It’s not exactly part of Hades domain. It boarders all of the different realms of the dead, but is not really part of any.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Xena asked, exasperated.
Borias smiled enigmatically. “Come. It will be easier to show you.” He led them across the Meadows. They crossed an invisible barrier and found themselves in a vast, dark expanse, broken by irregularly spaced circles of light.
“What is this place?” Gabrielle asked.
“Limbo,” Borias answered.
“What’s with those lights?” Xena asked.
In answer Borias led them to the nearest patch of light, halting their progress before they crossed the threshold. “Outside the light we can see them, but they have no idea what’s outside.”
Within the circle of light the trio could see a man suspended in mid-air over crashing ocean waves. Lying on a small rock outcrop just out of reach was a trident.
With a hiss of indrawn breath Xena said, “If I didn’t know better, I’d think that was Poseidon.”
“It is,” Borias replied nonchalantly.
“He looks… normal. What happened to his watery look?”
“This is how really looks. The water was just for show.” As Borias resumed walking, he explained, “Limbo is the place where dead gods end up. Since they’re not truly mortal, they can’t spend their afterlife with the rest of us. Limbo is its own kind of torment…” Borias trailed off as he realized that Xena was no longer with them.
Looking back the way they’d come, they saw Xena standing beside one of the circles of light. They retraced their steps and watched as Xena took a hesitant step through the barrier.
Gabrielle made a move as if to follow her soulmate, but Borias stopped her with a gentle hand on her wrist. “No, Gabrielle, this is something she must do alone.” Gabrielle turned and watched helplessly as Xena confronted the person imprisoned within this sphere.
~ ^ ~ ^ ~ ^ ~ ^ ~ ^ ~
Not knowing what she intended to do Xena crossed the threshold from the rest of Limbo into this personal nightmare. She found herself in an exact duplicate of the Great Hall of Olympus. Bound to the replica of Zeus’ throne, Xena could just make out the figure of Athena, seemingly oblivious to her surroundings. In life Athena had coveted the power the throne represented. Now she had the throne with absolutely no power.
Xena just stared at the woman before her. The woman who had almost cost her so much. Xena wanted to hate Athena, but somehow seeing her trussed up like a pig for slaughter began to melt that hatred.
Xena stood for a long time scrutinizing every inch of the former Goddess of Wisdom, Warfare, and Weaving. Finally she broke the silence with a bemused, “I have your eyes.”
It didn’t seem as though Athena would respond, then she blinked as though coming out of a trance and her head slowly turned in Xena’s direction. “What?” she croaked, voice rough with disuse.
Xena took a step closer. “I said, ‘I have your eyes’.”
“Wha—? Comprehension dawning all at once, Athena said, “No, it can’t be…”
Xena advanced and placed both hands menacingly on the arms of the throne. “Oh, yes it can.” Xena let a feral grin form. “I’m your worst nightmare. Your shame. The woman you tried to have killed, multiple times!”
“Xena, I –”
“What? What can you possibly say?” Xena shook her head. “Look at you, you’re pathetic.” Xena spun away.
“Xena. If I’d known… If I’d remembered the truth – that you are my daughter…” Athena swallowed hard. “I never would have come after you and Eve.”
Xena’s shoulders tensed, but she didn’t turn around. “And that’s it?” Xena asked, still angry, but with less venom than before. “I’m just supposed to forgive you for trying to… No, make that killing my daughter? And my wife?” Xena finally turned back to face Athena. “The fact that you chose not to remember makes it all better?”
Athena’s head fell back to rest against the throne. “No, Xena. Nothing can excuse what I did. I’ve done many things in my day. Some of them pretty awful, but none of them are even remotely as bad as attempting to kill my own daughter and granddaughter.”
Xena’s shoulders slumped in defeat at the final, barely audible, “Why?”
“I was scared, Xena. That doesn’t excuse my actions, but there it is. I was afraid to die. And look what it got me?” She futilely tried to gesture with one arm to indicate her faux surroundings. “Dead anyway, by my own daughter’s hand. A daughter whom I was so worried about from her conception all due to prophecy. A daughter that I gave up to protect her. A daughter that if I’d raised her myself, none of this would have happened.”
“That gods-be-damned prophecy,” Xena muttered. “I wish people wouldn’t put so much stock in prophecies.” She paused. “Then again, if it weren’t for that prophecy, Gabrielle might not have been born.”
“Gabrielle? What are you talking about? The prophecy was about you.”
Xena smirked. “Gabrielle, the daughter of your dear brother and sister, was born as the counter to that whole ‘Destroyer of Nations’ prophecy. She was born to be the one to turn me from my evil ways once and for all.”
“Where did you hear something like that?”
“From her mother, Aphrodite, and father, Apollo.”
“I never knew.”
“I guess there’s a lot of things you never knew, “Xena said. “Like that whole business of the twilight being ushered in by a child not conceived by man? That’s because Gabrielle is Eve’s… father, for lack of a better term. I guess that’s one of Gabrielle’s little gifts.”
Athena was stunned, she didn’t know what to say. Then, finally, “For what it’s worth Xena, I’m sorry. I’m sorry that I tried to kill you and Eve. I’m sorry I gave you up and that I made myself forget. I’m sorry I ever listened to prophecy.”
In the blink of an eye Xena’s chakram was out and speeding straight for Athena. At the last second the chakram split in two and sliced through Athena’s bonds before ricocheting off marble columns on either side of the throne and winging their way back toward Xena. The two pieces rejoined in mid-air, with Xena easily catching the once more whole chakram.
“I doubt you’ll be able to escape your prison, but at least you won’t be bound to that throne anymore,” Xena said. She turned and strode purposefully toward the spot where she knew the boundary to be.
Athena shrugged out of the shreds of her bonds. Rising to her feet she called out to Xena’s retreating back. “Why, Xena?”
Without pausing, Xena replied, “Because… I forgive you… mother.” And with that Xena exited Athena’s prison where she found Gabrielle waiting with open arms. She fell into the embrace. They just stood there for several minutes, neither needing to say anything.
Finally, Xena cleared her throat and said, “That was – unexpected.”
“I never thought that she…” Gabrielle shrugged.
“I know.” Turning to Borias, Xena asked, “Why do you think Solan would spend time here?”
“You will see,” Borias replied enigmatically before leading the way deeper into Limbo.
After several minutes Boras halted his steps. Pointing at a sphere that was still a ways off he said, “If Solan is anywhere in Limbo, he’ll be in there.”
Puzzled, Gabrielle asked, “Aren’t you coming with us?”
“No.” Borias shook his head. “I don’t want my presence to influence his decision.”
Both women gave him a hug and proceeded toward the sphere. As they drew closer, the contents of the sphere began to take on definition. They could see a stone chamber that looked vaguely familiar. A figure lay upon a stone altar with a second figure sitting comfortably on the altar beside the first, legs swinging back and forth.
Crossing the threshold Xena called out, “Solan!”
Solan turned away from his companion at the sound of his name. Face breaking into a wide grin, he launched himself from the altar and ran to Xena giving her a huge hug.
As Gabrielle’s view of the figure on the altar became clear, she let out a gasp. “By the Gods!”
Glancing at her wife Xena asked, “What?”
Gabrielle could only point at the supine figure on the altar in reply.
Xena’s gaze followed the wavering arm to rest upon the visage of… Hope. With a strangled cry Xena reached for her sword and charged at the supine figure. She raised the weapon high overhead to deliver a massive blow, but was stopped short by the sudden appearance of Solan between her and her intended target.
“Mother, wait,” Solan begged.
“It’s alright Solan,” the first words spoken by the trapped goddess were resigned. “Xena has every reason to want to attack me.”
“That’s right,” Xena spat through gritted teeth.
Gabrielle stepped up beside Xena. “Honey, your anger is justified.” She pointed at her near double, “She took your son from you, but what good will it do to plunge your sword into her? She’s already dead.”
“It would make me feel better,” Xena grumbled, slowly lowering her sword.
“Mother…” Solan started.
“Solan,” Xena interrupted, “Why in Tartarus would you come here?”
Seeing reason reenter his mother’s eyes, Solan took a deep breath and plunged into an explanation. “At first I came because I was curious. I wanted to know why she killed me. And I wanted to know why she treated both of you so bad.” He looked a little embarrassed. “And I guess I wanted to rub it in that she was trapped and I was free to go anywhere.” He turned to Hope. “Sorry, ‘bout that.”
Hope’s smile of reassurance was halted by Xena snapping, “Don’t apologize to her. She killed you. She took your life away from you.”
“And if you have your way,” Solan interrupted, “I’ll have all that back.”
“What do you mean, ‘If I have my way’?” Xena asked, sheathing her sword. “Solan, don’t you want this too?”
Solan looked at his mother through eyes more mature than his juvenile features implied. “Mother, everyone I ever knew is dead – ‘sides you and Gabrielle.” He shrugged.
Xena crouched in front of her son and placed both hands on his shoulders. “Solan, this has to be your choice as much as mine.”
Solan cast a glance at Hope before returning his gaze to Xena. “Then I want a friend,” he stated determinedly.
Gabrielle noticed the exchange. Softly she said, “You’ll make lots of new friends.”
Solan stepped away from Xena and hoisted himself back on the altar. “I want you to bring Hope back too.”
“Solan!” all three women cried with varying degrees of shock and outrage.
Solan crossed his arms in a boyish display of defiance. “I want my friend.”
“Friend?’ Xena asked shaking her head. “Why would you call her ‘friend’, Solan? She killed you.”
“So?” Solan quipped. “You tried to kill Gabrielle and you’re still together.
“Solan,” Gabrielle said gently. “That was different.”
“Not really,” he said. “It happened, you talked it out and forgave each other.” Solan shrugged. “So did we.”
Gabrielle took a deep breath, exhaling slowly. She moved closer to Solan and placed a hand on his shoulder. “Solan, I’m glad that you have found it in your heart to forgive… Hope.” Gabrielle swallowed. “As admirable as that is, we still can’t restore her. Not just because of what she did to you, but because of what she did to so many and what she would have done to countless others. And because of what she may do in the future.”
“She’s changed. I know she has,” Solan cried.
“It’s all right, Solan.” Hope’s gesture of comfort was aborted by the chains that held her fast to the altar. “You deserve a second chance at life.”
Solan sighed. “I want to go, but…”
Hope managed to cover his hand with her own. “Go. I’ll still be your friend.”
“Please come with us Solan.”
Meeting Xena’s gaze squarely Solan said, “Even if I do come , it won’t work.”
“Apollo said it would.”
“Only if you have my body,” replied Solan. “You gave me a funeral pyre which makes it harder.” Looking from one to the other he went on, “It was windy that night and my ashes scattered. You’ll never be able to find them.”
Quietly Hope said, “I could.”
“What do you mean?” snapped Xena.
“Some of our ashes mixed. I could use my ashes to help you find Solan’s.”
“I don’t know…” Gabrielle said.
“No tricks Mother. You could use your power to tether my spirit to you so that I can’t go anywhere you don’t want me to and you could create a second tether to tie me to this altar so that my spirit will snap back here once the task is complete.”
Hesitantly Gabrielle asked, “Xena?”
Xena started to answer, but was interrupted by Hope. “One more thing I almost forgot. Once we get there, I’ll need to borrow your body, Mother. I can’t use my powers when I’m only a spirit.”
“No,” Xena said adamantly.
“Xena, I understand your mistrust,” Hope said. “I haven’t given you any reason to trust me. I’m not trying to trick you. The tether will work and I won’t try anything.”
“No. Gabrielle won’t be your link. I will,” Xena insisted.
“You don’t have to do that,” Gabrielle said. “I can control her.”
“It’s not about control, Gabrielle. I don’t want you to have to go through that pain again.” With that Xena began forging the chain of power that would tether Hope to both this limbo prison and to Xena herself.
~ ^ ~ ^ ~ ^ ~ ^ ~ ^ ~
Xena and Gabrielle, along with the spirits of Hope and Solan began their search at the Amazon village.
Turning to her companions, Hope said, “Xena, if you’re ready?” At Xena’s nod, Hope stepped forward and merged with Xena.
“Alright.” The voice was a strange mixture of both Hope and Xena. Hope/Xena closed her eyes and let her senses reach out. After a few moments she nodded and opened her eyes. “This way,” she said, leading the way.
Eventually Hope/Xena stopped and said, “Here.” She again closed her eyes and slowly made a lifting motion with her hands. The air started to swirl in front of her. An indistinct mass began to take shape. Instead of clarifying the swirling air became opaque. After several minutes Xena’s body jerked upright then slumped back.
Oblivious to anything else, Gabrielle placed her arms around Xena to steady her. “Are you ok?”
Not yet ready to speak Xena merely nodded.
A child’s voice asked, “Mother?”
Gabrielle looked up at the sound and gasped. Standing in front of her were not one, but two children. The boy was instantly recognizable as Solan. He hurried to Xena and threw his arms around her.
The other was a girl with long reddish hair and blue-green eyes. Slowly she came to stand in front of Gabrielle and hesitantly repeated the question, “Mother?” Gabrielle looked down at the girl then up at Xena.
With a slow smile, Xena said, “Yes, this is Hope.”
“But, why, Xena?”
Smiling slowly, Xena said, “When Hope and I were one, I could tell that she had changed. Really changed. She wasn’t the same woman who did all those evil things.” Looking at Hope, Xena continued. “I realized that I got a second chance and she should too.”
“Thank you, Xena,” Hope said.
Solan ran over and hugged Hope. Laughing, he took her hand and pulled her toward a small hill. The teens flopped down and basked in the sun.
Shaking her head, Gabrielle smiled at both of them. “Why a child?”
Xena chuckled. “The ashes we found were of the ‘child’ Hope, not the ‘adult’ Hope. If I was going to bring her back, it had to be as a child.”
“I think you filtered out much of what was once Dahak, too. Didn’t you?” Hope asked from her perch on the hillside.
“I tried,” Xena answered. Turning back to Gabrielle, Xena continued, “You so wanted me to have a second chance with Solan, I couldn’t deny you that same chance with Hope.”
Gabrielle gave her wife a hug. “I guess that vision came true after all.”
“Let’s go home.” Each woman took the hand of her child and they faded in a burst of blue and green sparkles.
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