In a rush of godly energy, Aphrodite and Ares find themselves at the temple, resting in silence at the foot of Mount Olympus.
"Seems rather quiet here, don't you think?" Ares questions aloud. Aphrodite looks around at the disrepair, the untouched feeling that hangs all over the stones and the altar.
"Do you think we are too late?" She asks warily, her eyes darting to and fro. Ares lowers his head, just the slightest move, and then shakes his head 'no'.
"Father is moving toward Athens, ready to strike the final blow."
"You can read minds now, bro?"
"No. I just understand how a war-like thought process goes. These smaller villages were just a way to cause fear. Once he takes Athens..."
Ares lets the sentence trail off there. Aphrodite doesn't need her brother to fill in the blanks. Greece will belong to Zeus, unless some one-god power dives down and helps... And I doubt that will happen.
"I wonder why Eli's one god hasn't shown up?" Ares murmurs and Aphrodite shoots him a disbelieving look.
"Sure you can't read minds?"
Ares smiles at her placidly, which is a truly scary look upon the god of war's face.
They both walk further into the temple, Ares saying how Zeus wouldn't just leave his 'soul' laying around this abandoned place and Aphrodite ignoring him, doubt gnawing at her gut.
But the sudden thrust of about fifty spears, golden-tipped and gleaming, into their respective faces as they neared the throne room... well, that knocked Aphrodite's doubts out the proverbial window.
"What was that about this place being empty, bro?"
Ares shoots his fist out, sending out a purplish current, which seems to knock these attackers back... it just doesn't keep them back.
"Sis, I don't think this is good."
It might as well be daytime.
That is what Varia thinks as they stumble at the edge of Athens, out of breath and ragged. A few minor skirmishes along the way, dealt with and only a few wounds to show for it... Only to find themselves here, watching the greatest city in Greece slowly burn to the ground.
There is enough fires blazing here, the sky is no longer dark... Artemis, are you here?
Varia receives no answer. Great.
Just as that thought ends, a shout goes up from behind, a warning of arrows coming down.
"Amazons! Take them out, to the trees!" Varia yells, ducking for cover. She watches as several of their group get cut down. The ones who make it to the shelter of the darkness scramble to find out where the archers are.
"What do we do?" A voice rasps. Varia watches, straining her eyes to see if any of the enemy is being removed.
Just a small opening, that is all we need...
An explosion to the right seems to rock the earthly surface, knocking those on the ground down. Varia gazes into the dust and darkness, and for a brief moment, she almost thinks she sees...
There is yelling then, coming from the city. The sound of death, reaching out into the night. Varia shouts to the trees, asking what the Amazons see.
"The archers are down!" A voice carries down and Varia wastes no time in yelling out, a deep cry.
"Go! Now!" She screams, shoving men and women and Amazons and centaurs forward.
Varia readies her blade, running as though her legs were not made of lead and her lungs painfully tight. The smoke is heavy, more so than any other place they have encountered.
Except for the last time we saw Gabrielle. And Zeus.
There are bodies everywhere. And the smell of flesh, charred and burning. Homes destroyed. This once bustling place, rendered to ash.
Varia engages one man, laying him out... only to find another killer to fight... and another and another.
No one else seems to have it much easier.
When one wave of Zeus's followers gets slaughtered, there is more coming into view.
Varia's sword slides out of a man's chest, blood coating her hand.
And then a familiar battle-cry rings out, piercing the atmosphere. And arrows, too many to count, come raining down from the shadows. Varia watches, stunned and rooted to the spot on which she stands.
It even seems to stall the followers of Zeus, their eyes looking around, frantic for a place to hide or run.
A crackle of not-so-distant thunder and the hazy blue illumination of the sky shows Xena standing atop a burning building, untouched by the flames.
But Varia knows it is not rain that is coming, it is the storm of Zeus.
He is here.
But Xena knows. She can feel Zeus and his power, his overwhelming need to consume and control the world. It swarms in the air, thick and cold.
She focuses harder, turning every bit of energy to going beyond that... beyond his grasp, beyond his hold...
I can find her. Give me time.
I think you are foolish.
That's fine by me.
Stop! Stop trying to change my mind and help me!
Artemis relents, with one last look to the only humans she cherishes below. And then she concentrates, putting out feelers, stretching into the unknown.
She can feel Xena with her, the warrior's nerves taut with longing and desperation.
And Artemis can feel the worry of the animals, the weariness of the Amazons, the selfish hatred of Zeus - she can feel it all, soaking her spirit form.
Somewhere, in all that, in all that shouting and grasping and demanding, Artemis finds the tiniest glimmer.
Like a flash of light in a long dark tunnel.
It is there and then it is gone.
But it is there nonetheless, much to Artemis surprise. She feels Xena's face break out into a wild smile, a relieved gasp of laughter leaving those warrior lips.
"Gabrielle is there. I could feel her, sense her."
"I'm going to get her."
And, for once, Artemis does not fight her.
Let's go then, Xena of Amphipolis. Let's see this to whatever end may come. And may Gabrielle, my chosen, be waiting at the end of this fight...
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