I thank S.R.; R.T. and Ren Pic for letting me use Xena, Gabrielle and Eve in this story. The characters belong to them and not me.
There is violence but no sex in this story.
I love feedback folks. So if you have an opinion, good or bad, I hope you will feel free to share it. I can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org
This tale builds on my previous story, An Intimate Conversation, and happens a few weeks after that incident. Although I enjoyed the episode "Siege of Amphipolis" I have my own idea of how Athena would look so please take it as no offense to the lovely actress who played her that I have described her differently here. I hope you enjoy.
ATHENA IS COMING.
BY JACKIE F.
The orange wavering ball of the sun was already halfway above the eastern horizon, flooding the Greek hills and valleys with its new light, as Xena rubbed a sleepy eye and rolled onto her side. She carefully pulled up the blanket wrapped around Eve, to protect her neck and face from the morning chill. She smiled to see the peaceful expression of her partner, the Bards head resting on her arm; the other arm draped protectively across Eves little body. She had to fight the urge to reach out and caress that beautiful face, glowing with the morning light, but they had been traveling hard the last few days and it was good to see Gabrielle so soundly asleep. She rolled back and thought idly about weather to catch some rabbits for breakfast from the hutch she had spotted in the corner of the abandoned Temple of Zeus they were sheltering in, or go out to the stream that flowed behind the stone structure for some fishing.
Suddenly she bolted to a sitting position, her hand on the sheathed sword lying at her side. The Bard was awake instantly at the movement. Instinctively she pulled Eve close.
"Xena?" she said quietly, eyes wide and alert.
The Warrior Princess kipped to her feet and pulled her weapon from its case with a decisive scheenk.
"Ares," she growled low in her throat, her cold blue eyes narrow and menacing as they scanned around the building.
Gabrielle sat up and gathered Eve into her arms. After a moment of tense silence a dull sparkle of light appeared on the other side of the Bard and the God of Wars muscular, bearded form quickly took shape out of the empty void. Instantly the Warrior Princess moved to place herself between Ares and her family.
For a few moments cold black eyes stared warily into cold blue ones.
"Hello, Xena," Ares said, a slight sneer on his lips, "have you missed me since Amphipolis?"
"Not for an instant," the Warrior Princes shot back.
Gabrielle stood up with Eve hugged to her neck and moved close to Xena, till their bodies touched, the blade of a sari in her free hand.
"What do you want, Ares?" the Bard asked, undisguised tension and hostility in her voice. "Youre not welcome here."
The War Gods head cocked slightly to one side and an eyebrow arched contemptuously at the Bard.
"Uh oh, Im not welcome here," he repeated mockingly. "I believe that hurt my feelings, Gabrielle."
After a moment his black intense eyes shifted to the Warrior Princess.
"Does she do your talking now, Xena?" he said, sarcasm dripping from his words. "Are you that whipped?"
The end of Xenas mouth curled up and she let out a dismissive little snort.
"How could anyone so childish be a God?" she said.
Ares smiled an oily, unpleasant smile.
"It does strain credibility sometimes doesnt it. I guess they just dont make Gods like they used to." The smile became a superior sneer. "Ill try in the future to live up to your high expectations for me."
"I wont hold my breath," Xena sneered back, her eyes locked with Ares. There was a long moment of strained silence. Gabrielle pressed herself closer to her partner and hugged Eve tighter.
"So," the Warrior Princess said at last, "why are you here? After what I did to you in Amphipolis I thought we were finally through."
"No, Xena," Ares replied. "I said the day would come when you had to have my help, like it or not."
"That day will never come," the Warrior Princess said quickly. "We," she emphasized the word, "need nothing from you."
" We " the War God scoffed. "I didnt come here to talk to we." His eyes narrowed. "Im only interested in you, Xena. What you need. And what you need, Warrior Princess, is me."
Ares hesitated. His face became darker and more concentrated than the partners had ever seen it.
"The day of reckoning has come," he said slowly, voice deep and serious. "The day the fates foretold. The day the universe is altered forever." The God took a breath. "Athena is coming, Xena, coming to destroy Eve. And without my help you cant stop her."
The Warrior Princess jaw flexed as she ground her teeth with tension. She gripped her sword till the knuckles were white. She took a slow breath as she summoned the courage and hardened the iron will that had carried her through a thousand impossible dangers.
"Ive fought the God of War to a standstill," she rumbled, glaring at Ares. "Athena is biting off more than she can chew coming here alone. Shes not going to hurt my daughter."
Ares shook his head. "You truly are the most arrogant mortal Ive ever known," he said admiringly, Gabrielle noticing the tinge of affection in his voice. But then the dark eyes blazed and the face became harsh and threatening. He leaned toward the partners, his hand on the hilt of his sword. Xena instinctively brought her weapon up to a defensive position.
"But its time to wake up from the self important fantasy world you live in, Xena," he growled. "The real nature of the universe is about to come crashing down on you. Something youre completely ignorant of. So listen very carefully to what Im about to tell you, because Im only going to say it once. And when Im done you wont have much time to decide the fate of your daughter and the future of mankind on this little planet."
Ares leaned closer.
"I said Athena is coming, you foolish woman, Athena, the golden child of our little family of Gods. Mommy and Daddys" Ares voice dripped acid contempt of the words, "proudest creation together. A better lover than Aphrodite. A better hunter than Artemis. A better swimmer than Poseidon. And a better, the god hesitated and took a gulp of oxygen, as if he needed more air to force the next words out, "a better warrior than me."
Xenas face clouded and a chill raced up Gabrielles spine. It seemed impossible that such a statement could come from Ares arrogant lips. That he would admit such a thing only increased the terrifying implication of his words.
"We all, Ares continued, "envy, hate and respect her. Even Zeus feared her. He knew as well as any of us that if she ever challenged him, there would be a new ass sitting on the throne of Olympus. But in whatever twisted way he was capable of it, old dad also loved her. And for reasons that surpass understanding, she was fond of him too. She never took what was by all rights hers."
Ares took a step closer, his eyes cold flame as he stared into the Warrior Princess blue eyes, his focus so absolute it was like only the two of them existed in all the universe.
"Shes finished mourning her little pet, Xena. The one you killed in Amphipolis. Shell be here very soon, to finish this. Your bloated ego will have finally ascended into madness if you think for one instant you can face her alone. Shell cut you to pieces and feed you to your horse. Then shell step on your annoying little blonde like a cockroach and finally shell ring Eves neck the way a farmer does a hen before throwing it into the pot. It will be the end of prophecies and destinys and fates. It will be the end of this rebellion of mortals against the rule of the Gods. It will be the end of you."
There was a moment of charged silence. Then Xena growled quietly, "unless?"
Despite his effort to stop it a wry smile crossed Ares face.
"Thats my Warrior Princess," he whispered seductively, "always cutting to the chase."
The smile disappeared.
"Unless," he said commandingly, "I fight at your side. Between the two of us we have a chance, a very good chance, of stopping her. Today, Xena, could be the first day of the new reality. The first day of mankinds liberation from the Gods. The first day of mortals shaping their own destiny for their own ends." The Gods eyes narrowed. "That is what you want, isnt it?"
Xenas jaw flexed unconsciously. "And the price?"
"The price," Ares repeated. "You mean, whats my life, and the lives of my brothers and sisters, worth. What is the price of my betrayal of them?"
The War God took another step closer, until Xenas sword across his chest stopped him.
"The price is you, Xena," he half growled, half whispered. "You at my side, you in my bed, you having my children, you for all the years I have left, till mortality claims me. You as my partner, my wife."
The Warrior Princess did not move. Her face was granite, unreadable, unknowable. Gabrielle hugged Eve tighter.
"Come on, Xena," Ares leaned against the sword, pressing closer, till the woman could feel the Gods hot breath in her face, "its time to decide. No more strategies, no more mind games, no more tricks. Im ready to give up my immortality for you. Im ready to help you and your daughter destroy my family. Im ready to give up my birthright for you. What are you willing to pay for that, Xena? What is Eves life worth?"
The Warrior Princess let out a long breath, her blue eyes sparkling with a cold brilliance.
"Why, Ares?" she said finally, quietly.
The Gods head snapped back, like he had been slapped unexpectedly in the face. His expression changed instantly into one of almost helpless confusion. He took a step back and let out a shocked gasp of air. He paced back and forth several times like a caged tiger. Xenas eyes focused on his every movement, every expression.
"Because, because " Ares sputtered, "because Im insane, obsessed, bewitched because"
"Is love the word youre trying to choke out?" Xena asked coldly.
Ares stopped and his black eyes flared.
"If thats what you want to call it, Xena, yes," he said harshly, "love. I love you. My heart burns for you."
Xenas icy blue eyes began to glow with a fire of their own.
"And you express your love by trying to blackmail me with the life of my daughter?!" she said, her voice building to a shout.
Ares took a step toward her, his face contorted with barely controlled rage.
"What did you expect, woman?!!" he shouted back. "Rose petals at your feet and love poems whispered in your ear?! By all thats unholy, Im the God of War, Xena!!" The veins in Ares neck bulged and his eyes danced like the flames of a city burning in the night. "After an eternity Ive finally found a spirit that understands!! A soul that burns like mine, with a white hot lust for power and glory!!" The God leaned closer. "Dont lie to yourself, Xena." His voice was suddenly a quiet, seductive purr. "I could feel it as well as you, there in Amphipolis, your hand in my pants stroking me, your tongue in my mouth. We felt it together, something more powerful than any pathetic sexual desire. We shared our longing to dominate. To seize this world by the throat and bend it into any shape we desire. To make it and remake it as our will commands."
Ares eyes flicked to Gabrielle, then back to Xena.
"Its time to stop wasting your life, warrior. Youve wasted too much already. The time for us to grasp our common destiny has come. Together well stop Athena and bring an end to the reign of the Olympian Gods. Then well start our new life together. Well carve out an empire greater than Alexanders. Well found a dynasty that rules it for a thousand years. Human history will be the chronicle of our history and the history of our line. We will achieve our immortality through them. Well live as long as humans inhabit this earth."
Slowly Ares put out his hand, palm up, toward the Warrior Princess. She stood motionless, her face an unreadable mask, her gaze riveted on the God.
"Come, Xena, time is almost up," he said, his voice a hypnotizing purr. "If you love Eve, if you want her to fulfill her destiny, then take her," Ares eyes flicked again to Gabrielle and back to Xena, "kill your little blonde, and lets go."
Xena sucked in a shocked breath through her teeth, eyes suddenly wide with surprise. The Bard glared at Ares without any reaction, as if she had expected the request all along.
"What?!!" Xena exploded.
Ares did not respond. He simply continued to stand, hand out, waiting.
"Youve completely lost your mind havent you?!!" she demanded finally. "You want me to murder Gabrielle?! What is that supposed to be? My wedding gift to you?!!"
"If you like," Ares growled. He slowly lowered his hand as Xena stared at him in astonishment. His eyes shifted to the Bard.
"You made a pretty little speech in Amphipolis to those ridiculous, frightened peasants about sacrificing for their future. Was it all hot air, Gabrielle?"
"What in tartarus are you talking about?!" Xena shouted, her face reddening with outrage.
"Ask her," Ares answered coldly.
For a brief instant Xena took her eyes off Ares to look at the Bard pressed with Eve against her side. Gabrielle glanced up at her partner, then back at Ares.
"He knows," she began slowly, "that as long as Im alive he can never truly possess you. That Ill never stop looking for you, trying to rescue you from his evil. He cant kill me himself. That would only make it impossible for him to have you. He needs you to do it. To voluntarily break our connection. Only then, when he forces you to give up hope forever for something better in life, can he finally own you completely."
The Warrior Princess shook her head uncomprehendingly at the War God.
"You want to capture my love by making me kill the person I love most?"
Ares scoffed with a harsh, dismissive, contemptuous snort.
"What do I care about your love, Xena. Im not in the business of love. I want your hate. I want your passion. I want your rage. I want a Warrior Princess, a Warrior Queen. And I have no interest in sharing you with anyone. I want your focus on us, our goals. Not on a little blonde bitch you hope will appear around a corner one day and carry you away"
"So Gabrielle is to be a blood sacrifice on the altar of your jealousy," Xena growled.
"I like that turn of phrase," Ares smirked with a slight, unpleasant smile. "Ill think of that when I see her lying dead."
He looked at the Bard, eyes narrow.
"You havent answered my question. Are only helpless peasants to sacrifice themselves for mankinds freedom from the Gods?"
Gabrielles face clouded, eyes intense. Hesitantly she looked up at her partner.
"Xena," she said quietly, "Ill do anything for Eves li "
"Those people," the Warrior Princess interrupted, her voice loud and angry, "died standing up, weapons in their hands, fighting for a better future for themselves, not meek lambs led to slaughter. Gabrielle and I will face what comes the same way."
Ares shook his head. "Dead is dead, Xena."
For the first time the Warrior Princess took a step toward Ares, till their noses were an inch apart, blazing eyes locked on blazing eyes.
"Let me tell you, War God," she said with quiet menace, "the one certain thing Ive learned in this life Ive led. Its that there are worse things than death. Now," she brought the point of her sword up till it was under Ares chin, "I believe Gabrielle said it plainly enough even for you to understand. Go away, Ares, youre not welcome here."
The War Gods face twitched as he struggled to control the volcano of fury that seemed about to erupt. Suddenly his head pulled back and his eyes scanned quickly around the room, then they returned to Xena.
"Weak," he said, almost sadly. He took a step back. "In the end, even you Xena, too weak to understand. Too weak to act. What a bitter disappointment." He straightened to his full height, chin up, eyes imperious, hand on the hilt of his sword. "Good bye Xena," he said quietly, "we wont meet again."
His form began to shimmer and after a brief moment the God of War dissolved into nothingness. At almost the same instant a bright light erupted behind the partners. They turned to see a rainbow of breathtakingly brilliant colors sparkle and dance in a swirling kaleidoscope as a human form took shape. Suddenly in a golden flash the colors disappeared to reveal Athena, Goddess of Wisdom and much more, the revered founder and patron of fair Athens, the crown jewel of Greece. The Goddess was tall, taller than Xena. An ornately carved golden helmet adorned her head; a cascade of fine, lustrous, auburn hair spilling from under it down to her shoulders, framing her perfectly formed tan face. The eyes were brown and clear and expressive of a deep intelligence. A gleaming golden breastplate covered a golden tunic. A narrow golden skirt wrapped around her waist, ending with an ornate pleat just below her knees. Golden straps that wrapped around and up her calves held her golden sandals. The presence and beauty of her appearance was wondrous to behold. Broad shoulders and rounded biceps conveyed intimidating power and an athleticism that hypnotized in its grace, yet still a feeling of sensuous womanly softness and a capacity for true gentleness informed her every movement and expression. Gabrielle sucked in a stunned little gulp of air to see up close for the first time the most perfect example of the female form she had ever seen, or even imagined, and at the same instant a frightened chill attacked the pit of her stomach. Ares had not exaggerated. This truly was the golden child of the gods. She understood at that moment that there was no hope.
Athena was in a slight crouch, her flashing blade in her hand, the weapon in a defensive position. Her eyes quickly scanned the room, ignoring the two women and baby before her. When she was satisfied that they were the only occupants of the abandoned temple she straightened and her blade came down. She shifted her eyes to Xena and Gabrielle.
"I knew my brother Ares was a traitor," she said in her strong, melodious voice, "but Ive never known him to be a coward. I expected all out war here today." A slight snort of air escaped her nose. "I have to admit, Im almost disappointed."
"Youll have your war, Athena, if youre here to murder my child." Xena said evenly.
The Goddess took a breath and let it out. Her expression was not angry or threatening. It was melancholy, resigned.
"Self defense isnt murder, Xena," she replied. "I have a right to defend myself, and my family, the same as you do."
The Warrior Princess glanced at Eve in Gabrielles arms and then back to Athena.
"Yes," she said sarcastically, "this six month old baby must be a terrible threat. Are you afraid youll drown in drool."
Athena shook her head.
"I have no idea how or when this child will become powerful enough to threaten my family," she said, "but to wait until shes become too strong to defeat is stupidity. In a war to the death, Xena, the only object is to survive. No one asks later if you fought fair. You understand that as well as I do. In my place youd do the same. I have the advantage now. Im not going to lose it through foolish sentimentality." Athena brought up her sword. "Put Eve down and leave Gabrielle. Both of you leave. I promise it will be quick and painless."
Xena glanced down at her partner as Gabrielle looked up. For the briefest moment pale blue eyes met soft green. In that moment two souls said goodbye, till the karma of their shared destiny brought them together again in some other time and place.
The Warrior Princess unhooked her chakram.
"The only one leaving is you," she said.
With a grunt of total effort Xena let her weapon fly. It zinged and caromed off the marble walls of the Temple a hardly seen blur, faster than the Bard had ever seen it move before. It made a last ricochet off a column and hummed toward the Goddess throat. An inch from its target Athenas hand came up faster than the eye could follow and she caught it on her index finger. She let it spin nonchalantly around her finger a few times and then with a gentle underhand motion she flipped it back at its owner. Xena knocked it away with her sword and it clattered noisily to the floor.
Athenas eyes fixed on Gabrielles. "Dont be a fool," she said almost pleadingly. "Shes no blood of yours. Save yourself."
The Bard answered by hugging the child tighter and kissing her cheek. A sigh escaped the Goddess lips. Then her brown glowing eyes focused on Xena and with a screech of a warcry she attacked.
The battle was ferocious and brutal. Gabrielle backed up against a wall out of the way, hardly believing what she was witnessing. Xena fought with the desperate, adrenalized effort of warrior with nothing to lose, reckless and violent. At times she had Athena backing up as she flipped and kicked and used every trick and tactic she knew, and some that she made up as she went. But the Goddess matched everything, and after a candle mark the Warrior Princess was soaked with sweat and having difficulty breathing through the blood running from her broken nose into her mouth and back down her throat, compliments of a vicious elbow. The Bard could see Xenas reflexes slowing, exhaustion building, energy ebbing. She began edging along the wall, looking anxiously for some opportunity to intervene, to give her partner some respite from the attack that was pressing her back. Xena caught a glimpse of the Bards face as she blocked a kick aimed at her face.
"No!!" she shouted. "Stay with Eve!! Get out!!"
She thrust savagely at Athenas throat with her sword but the Goddess sidestepped and answered with a knee to the belly that doubled her over, then a knee to the face that snapped her head and sent blood flying. Only semiconscious, she weakly attempted a backhand swing at Athenas head. The Goddess caught her wrist and with calculated deliberation executed a stunning front kick to her ribs. Xena was sent smashing into a wall, broken ribs puncturing a lung as she collapsed to the floor.
Athena took a few steps over to where Xena lay face first on the marble, gasping like a fish out of water, blood welling out of her mouth with each breath. She kicked the sword out of her hand and looked down with a sigh. She glanced up to see Gabrielle backing away from her, a look of utter anguish on her face as her eyes were riveted on Xena. She started to move toward the Bard when a weak hand gripped her ankle. She looked down in surprise.
The Warrior Princess looked back with cold, clear, angry blue eyes.
"If youre going to kill my family," she gasped, blood spraying from her lips, "at least have the decency to kill me first."
Athenas face clouded.
"I dont want your life," she said. She looked up at Gabrielle. "I dont want her life." She looked down again. "I didnt want the lives of those people in Amphipolis. Even after they turned their backs on me. I just want to survive, Xena." She jerked her ankle from the Warrior Princess grasp. "I just want to survive," she said again in an unconvincing whisper.
The Goddess walked purposely toward Gabrielle, weapon clutched tightly in her hand, eyes dark and determined. The Bard backed away. Eve, feeling the desperate fear in her mothers body as she held her tight, began to cry. Athena drew closer and closer, but Gabrielles eyes were not on her, they were on Xena. She watched as the warrior struggled with all her will to get up, but after reaching her hands and knees she convulsed violently through a fit of coughing, red blood splashing on white marble, and collapsed. Something in the Bard snapped. The terror she felt for her child changed in an instant into a terrible fury. How dare this bitch hurt the people I love!!
With a screech of pure hatred the Bard attacked. The sudden violence of it caught Athena by surprise, she was forced several steps back parrying the thrusts of Gabrielles sari. But she quickly recovered, and with Eve held tightly in one arm Gabrielles vulnerabilities were many. Athena brought her blade down toward Gabrielles head. When the Bard blocked it she used her other hand to grab Gabrielles wrist. For a moment they froze and their eyes met.
"Give her to me," the Goddess said forcefully.
"Never!!" Gabrielle shouted.
Athena jerked the Bards wrist over. The snap of the bone was audible. She screamed in agony as the sari fell to the floor, the sound of her pain echoing through the hall. She tried to turn away, put her body between Eve and her enemy, but Athena grabbed a handful of hair and slammed her head into the wall only a few feet away. The Bards body went limp as she blacked out, but Athena held her up by the hair long enough to sheath her sword and pull the crying baby from her arm before letting her fall to the ground.
Athena, holding Eve by the arm like a doll, looked into the small, crying face, big tears rolling down her cheeks, and could not stop herself from cuddling the child to her breast. She looked deep into the blue eyes that looked up at her.
"Dont be afraid, little one," she cooed. "Your mothers
werent afraid. Be brave like them."
Eve looked up into the beautiful, tender face that hovered over her and she stopped crying.
"Yes, you are brave," Athena whispered with a slight smile. "Xena and Gabrielle will be so proud of you."
The Goddess took a breath and swallowed and then walked slowly out of the Temple onto the front portico, out into the brilliant sunshine of a beautiful summer day. The Temple was built on a hillside that afforded a magnificent view of a long, open lush valley. In the far distance, at the edge of vision, the Peloponese Mountains loomed, Olympus itself one of the jagged peaks visible. The Goddess closed her eyes and took a deep breath of the soft, warm fragrant air, a gentle breeze blowing in her face.
"What a magnificent day it is, Eve" she said. "My parents created all this, did you know that?" She turned her head so the sun could warm her cheek. "My brother is racing across the sky right now pulling that great warm ball of light, bringing everything to life. I love days like this." She looked down at Eve and caressed her face. "I love everything that is beautiful in this world, little one. Ive spent my existence trying to cultivate and nurture all that is beautiful. Beautiful in nature and," she caressed Eves face again, "whats beautiful in you. You humans are capable of so much that is inspiring and beautiful. Ive done all I can to bring it out in you. Its its my lifes work you might say."
She looked around at the breathtaking view again and then down to Eve.
"I founded a city on a great hill overlooking the sea. They named it after me," she said with a slight smile, "wasnt that nice of them? Its my pride and joy. Its become a beacon to all the world of art and creativity and freedom, of thought and science. Theyve built the most magnificent Temple to me there. They call it the Parthenon. The most beautiful Temple in all creation. I go there often just to sit and listen to the sound of humans growing."
"They still honor my name there, little one. They pray to me without fear. They look to me to inspire them to achieve yet greater wonders of beauty and creation. Im Im very proud of that."
The Goddess reached inside her breastplate and pulled out a long, golden needle. She examined it a moment, then carefully placed the point against Eves temple.
"It wont hurt, Eve," she whispered. "I promise."
The baby looked up and gurgled and stretched her little arms toward the Goddess.
Athena took a breath.
"I value my life to, Eve," she said. "I want to live, like any creature does. Why should I lose my life when I dont have too."
She took another deep breath and tried to force her hand to move, to insert the needle into Eves brain, but it began to tremble, till finally she pulled the needle away.
She let the breath out and closed her eyes for a moment to let her thundering heart calm. She opened them and looked up into the blue cloudless sky.
"Oh father," she said raggedly, "Ive been trying these last months to understand, understand why you let Hercules kill you. Why you didnt stop this birth when we both know you could have." She looked down at Eve. "With your death, little one, I assure myself immortality," she looked vacantly up at the valley before her, "and I make a sham of everything I believe in, everything Ive tried to do. I save my life, and lose my soul."
Athena stared into space a long moment, lost in a thousand swirling thoughts and emotions. Finally she looked down at the baby cooing and gurgling in her arms. She brought the child up and lightly rubbed noses with her while Eve stroked her cheek. Athena laughed.
"Perhaps, little Eve," she smiled, "there are worse things than death. Apparently my father thought so. He created your race, and he died rather than see you destroyed. I think I understand finally what he felt." She stroked Eves cheek. "I have the highest hopes for you, little one. I think its time I got out of the way and let you continue to grow. The way any proud parent does for her children." She bent her face down and kissed Eves forehead. "I surrender, little one, youre too powerful for me. But do me a favor, okay. Remember me. Remember Athena, and that she loved beauty and life and justice and learning and art. That she loved whats good in you. Will you do that for me?"
Eve smiled and cooed and gurgled and waved her arms. Athena shook her head and chuckled.
She bent down and placed the child on the portico. She stroked her head gently and looked into her eyes.
"Dont worry about the other gods, Eve," she said, "none of them have the courage to face your parents. Youll be safe." The Goddess smiled. "Your moms really are remarkable. Youre lucky to have them. I know youll grow up to make them proud."
Athena stood up and took a slow, deep breath and looked all around her, soaking in every sight and smell and sensation. "Father," she whispered through a smile, "what a beautiful day it is." The Goddess body began to shimmer with a golden light. The light grew and grew until it was blinding in its intensity. And then in a sudden flash it was gone, as if it had never existed.
"Gabrielle?" an anxious voice asked.
The Bard woke up with a start. "Xena?" she answered, looking up into her partners face as it hovered over her. There was dried blood on the Warrior Princess cheeks and chin and down her neck, but her nose was back to its normal shape and her blue eyes were clear and her voice strong.
"Gabrielle, are you all right?" Xena asked again.
The Bard bolted up. She grabbed her wrist. There was no pain and it moved normally as she twisted it around. She let out a shocked breath, then looked at Xena and put her hand on her cheek. "Are you all right?" she asked as her eyes searched her lovers body.
"I seem to be" Xena answered matter of factly.
She grabbed the Bards arm and pulled her to her feet. "Come on, weve got to find Eve," she said tensely.
The two women rushed to the entrance of the Temple, and there, sitting on the portico, waving a golden object in her little fist, babbling contentedly, was Eve. Gabrielle swept the child up in her arms and hugged her fiercely as Xena wrapped her arms around both of them. Finally, as tears of relief dripped down the Bards cheeks, the Warrior Princess pulled back a little and examined the object in Eves hand. It was solid gold. A delicately carved and molded olive branch.
The end of Athenas Coming
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