"Are you...?" Ares looks dumbfounded as he gets up.
He knows something. Focus.
"Look Ares, I'd love to catch up with you, but I've asked you a couple of questions and you have not answered them."
"Hold on, Xena... I mean, I've got some questions as well. Like when did you obtain the powers of a god?"
Ares rolls his eyes and waits for another explanation. None is forthcoming. "Xena, I--"
At this, the warrior reaches out and lifts him up by the front of his vest.
"So... do you know who is hunting the Amazons?"
The god of war makes a distinct growling noise of irritation.
"Just one flick of the wrist, Xena and you'll have to put me down."
"I'd think first before doing that, Ares. Now with my godly abilities, I don't think you are a match for me."
She can see the wheels turning behind the god of war's eyes and they are turning in her favor.
"Followers of Zeus." He says with a sigh. Xena drops him to the ground.
"You know, I don't think I like you as a god." Ares grumbles, dusting off his clothing.
Time to head south, find Gabrielle, and then find these followers of Zeus...He may know more...I'm sure he does, but I don't have time...
"Thanks for the chat, Ares." The warrior princess walks away, only to hear the god of war shout about her first question, the one about the spirits of gods and goddesses and where they go... They find new bodies, new souls, new lives...
But Xena doesn't answer him. South. Keep going south.
'If you come to me, make it completely. Only then will your suffering end, only then can you see her again.'
And it is morning, the sky still shaking off the remains of night, of darkness. For the first time in a long time, she is not tired. She is not weary. In fact, she is full of energy and vigor.
She still does not know who this person is, this man, that is now...Inside of me, he lives in me, like blood...
But Gabrielle feels new. Alive. Strong.
I don't feel broken anymore. I feel powerful.
Time to go. Time to return home.
"Yes...it is time to go. I need to reclaim...my life."
Her feet move like on air, taking her further and further, until she reaches the run-down remains of a mausoleum. It looks so familiar to her new eyes. It brings up pangs of heartache and longing. I've only felt like this once before, when Xena...Shhh...Soon, you may see her soon. Now, find it.
And so she digs. The dirt does not stick to her body and she does not sweat. Isn't this like my dream?... Then her hands find purchase upon a smooth rock, long as her forearm. It is blue and white. How beautiful. What is it?
Take it to the temple at the foot of Olympus.
This swirling sensation carries her forth, step after step... Even in the night, she can see. Any people that she comes across give her room.
I am a god. To them, I am a god. A god...
It sounds good to Gabrielle's ears, to her soul. And if she were to truly listen, if she were to find the place in her that shattered with Xena's passing - she would know how wrong all of this is.
But grief is a funny thing. Varia was right about that.
I was feeling nothing but pain. Now, I feel perfect. And I just might be able to see Xena again...
Grief is a funny thing. It will make you trust those you should not. It will make you desperate. It will break your spirit and your mind, leaving you ready for any way out.
And now I have it.
With that, Gabrielle finds herself in the temple. And she is not alone. Twenty figures are there, cloaked and chanting. They turn collectively to her and then drop to their knees.
"All hail the return of Zeus!" They shout.
Xena keeps moving, worry gnawing at her gut. Still no sign of her? You sure?...I do not sense her with my Amazons. I fear what this means.
"Yea, me too." Xena replies softly.
Xena finds it easy to let her thoughts roam into Artemis, to talk to the goddess inside of her own skin. My queen opened your soul...Yes, she did...Love shared is powerful. It will help with this quest.
Even though they share a body, Xena lets some questions hang and Artemis does not attempt to answer them. The answers might not be to my liking.
A call from above and Xena pauses, throwing her hands up in the Amazon greeting of peace. It is not long before the Amazons come closer.
Varia is the one who shouts at the others to stay back, the young Amazon's face deathly white as she halts her movement forward.
Xena takes a step, but Varia is having none of that. "Stop! Who are you? What trick is this?" The Amazon draws her sword quickly and points it at Xena.
"Varia--" She knows of my death...Hmmm. How to explain this? Xena clears her throat and keeps her hands in front of her, anything to let Varia know no harm will come. "Listen, this might sound crazy, but I am Xena. I am not dead. I am here to help..."
"You lie!" Varia motions at Xena's hip with the sword. "Xena would never go without her chakram. You are just another two-bit warlord, trying to kill us. But to pretend to be a former friend of the Amazons...? That warrants your death. Amazons!"
Damn. Anytime you want to jump in, Artemis.
Xena fends off the women with ease, trying her best not to hurt them. Each one battled down, Varia charges last.
The warrior princess grabs the sword and lets the blade slice her skin, only to watch it seal up again. Varia's eyes go wide and she stumbles back.
"What are you?" Varia gasps.
And without feeling it, Xena's arm shoots out and her palm molds to Varia's forehead.
Xena knows, somewhere deep in her mind, that Artemis is speaking to the young Amazon, telling her the amazing tale of Xena's rebirth.
Of my new mission, my chance to rest well with the souls of the departed, to save the Amazons... To save Gabrielle...
That is the first thing that registers to Xena's mind, the name of the one person Xena would move mountains for, the one person that the warrior princess would trade oblivion for...
"I said that Gabrielle is not here, Xena...Artemis..."
"Forget that. Gabrielle is not with you?"
"No. She left three days ago." Varia looks to the ground and Xena has to fight the urge to jerk the woman's head back up.
"Her mind...it is troubling her, I think. Badly."
Could it be...? Already?...I fear it is too late. It could be that I cannot feel her because Zeus has her now...What will he do?...He will take over her body, like I have with you, and use her to destroy enemies.
"I won't let that happen." And Xena did not know it was spoken out loud until she feels Varia's stare. The warrior princess closes her eyes briefly, wishing that she could turn back time, before Japa, before death and redemption. I wish I could have met Gabrielle, just randomly. Quietly. A smile or an understanding. I wish I could look over and find her there, feel her hand in mine. I wish so many things...
"Artemis told you everything."
"Then you know there is quite a battle ahead."
Xena grips the Amazon's shoulder. "We've got to find Gabrielle first."
The rest can be worked out later.
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