Disclaimer Disclaimer : There are lots of disclaimers here. Some are actually even important, so you might want to read through them, even though they are in no particular order. At the time I started working on this story, lo these many moons ago, that was the pattern in Xena fanfic... Disclaim everything that could possibly be disclaimed... so I did, and I've kept that pattern in this work even after revising it.
Ownership / Archival Disclaimer : Gabrielle, Xena, Hercules, Iolaus, and any other characters whose names or natures you might recognize are owned by MCA / Universal / Renaissance Pictures / Studios USA / Rob Tapert / Oxygen / etc. etc. et al. and are used without permission. This work is not to be reproduced for profit, but may be freely archived wherever so long as you drop me a note telling me where it is and keep all disclaimers and warnings intact. You also may download & retain a copy, and/or print it out for your personal use and enjoyment while offline. This work is used solely to tell a story within the bounds of the Xenaverse / Hercverse.
Revision Disclaimer : This is a slightly revised version of this work, polished and a little changed from the original version, which had been posted on Katrina's (Bearblue) site, which is still available on whoosh.org - or it least it was as of the time of this re-writing; permanency is not exactly a hallmark of the internet, after all. It is the same story, it's just been revised after a long time, which enabled me to have a fresh look at it and proofread it a little more objectively. The changes in this version are largely cosmetic, and not storyline based, and are primarily to improve the flow, but there's also been some commentary inserted, but you'll have to go to the source to read it (Ctrl-U in Netscape).
Sexual Content Warning : There are no explicit descriptions of sexual acts in this story. Sorry. However, there is innuendo, double entendres, occasional bathroom humor, the nonexplicit expression of and allusions to physical intimacy between persons of like and unlike genders, as well as references to kinky sex including, but not necessarily limited to, bondage and bestiality. Before this frightens you off, be aware that all of the more... unusual references and practices found in this work are taken directly from episodes from the two television series that inspired this work : "Hercules : The Legendary Journeys," and "Xena: Warrior Princess." Consequently, if you've seen all the episodes of these shows, nothing in here in regards to these alternative practices will be truly new, although they may be emphasized differently here. Nothing explicit is described "on camera" as it were, but there is plenty of subtext in here - make that dripping with subtext - and a portion of Chapter 20 is a bit heated, but even there it remains non- explicit, at least from my perspective, and a link to bypass that portion will be made available in this revised version.
Alternate Universe Disclaimer : This takes place sometime after the Sacrifice storyline is resolved, and assumes that X & G love each other, but have neither consummated the relationship nor even admitted anything to each other yet. This was started some time before, but a good portion was worked on during the hiatus before "Sacrifice 2," aired and continued intermittently through the start of the next season, and even sporadically through the end of the series, so some things which were canonical when I first wrote this, will not be now that the show has completed its run. I attempted to remain true to the series continuity when writing this, but aside from the occasional allusion and reference, this work diverges fairly severely from the canonical storyline at that point. Accept this as being an alternate universe starting sometime prior to "A Family Affair," and leave it at that.
Language Disclaimer : There are some somewhat salty terms in here, but nothing major (at least until one of the epilogues), and where used they are in character and in context. Heh... If you're still reading this after reading the "Sexual Content Warning," you can easily handle the occasional blue word that shows up in here. Zeus is Anthony Quinn from the original Hercules movies - 'nuff said. Ares and Discord are probably the only two gods that have remained more or less consistent across the series and throughout the seasons, and consequently need no further explanation, other than the fact that some references are made to Discord's appearances in the "Young Hercules" series as well.
Miscellaneous Disclaimers : Joxer is mentioned in passing, but doesn't show up as a central figure, a few drinks of alcohol are consumed in both a tavern and social setting, no drugs are used (other than ambrosia) or henbane eaten, although the possibility is mentioned, and subtext - well, a lot in here is subtext and not-so-sub- text. As I said, nothing really explicit, though.
Spoiler Disclaimer : Events up to the third season & the resolution of the Sacrifice story arc of X:WP (as much of a resolution as they gave anyway) are mentioned in passing, but without much detail given since that part of it was written prior to that resolution actually airing. More spoilers apply to various episodes of "Hercules : The Legendary Journeys," since the big guy tended to deal with the gods on a more regular basis. People and events from many episodes are alluded to, or show up, but not in such a way that the episodes will be ruined. Still, if you're worried, watch the episodes on USA (or Oxygen now , I suppose), then come back to read this later. I won't mind. Really. By the time you come back, I might even have finished this.
Xenite Disclaimer : Although it suffered a great deal of abuse, changes, & modifications - especially at Ares' hands (foreshadowing! foreshadowing!) - Gabrielle's BGSB will be back to normal by the end of the story. (And boy, doesn't THAT tell you just how long this has been a work in progress?)
Author's Note : Where did this story come from? Well, there's all this ambrosia lying around the Xenaverse, and well... Gabrielle's notorious for her appetite, so... The title is derived from "deus ex machina," the literary and theatrical term for god appearing and solving everything (read the end of the Odyssey for a great example). The translation literally means "god from the machine," for the apparatus involved in causing the effect used during the staging of a play, only in this case, it refers to "god from Gabrielle." This probably violates all sorts of grammatical rules, but oh well. Incidentally, the quotes that head some of the parts are usually an actual line from an episode, followed by what my immediate reaction was, or a reinterpretation of a section from the show...they don't really advance the plot, they're just there for your reading pleasure. What can I say? Sometimes I get in an odd mood when watching X:WP.
Flame Warning : Comments and feedback are always welcome, but don't bother flaming me, since all flames will immediately be fed to Ammit the Devourer, and will be weighed with your heart against the feather of truth upon your eventual demise. Hades wanted to feed the flamers to Cerberus, but Ammit beat the 3-headed pooch 2 falls out of 3 in a steel cage match. <VBEG> Feel free to write me, though. I like commentary and suggestions, even if I've not been online terribly much in the last year or two or three... And any ACTUAL letters I get will be much more exciting to get than another 100 herbal viagra, niagara, bloussant, weight loss, breast enlargement, penis enlargement, mail order bride, low mortgage rate, free porn, chain letters, viral spam, low interest loan offers, mortgage, invitations to sue, or sex toy ads. Warning : since I started getting about 50 spam messages or more a day on my Yahoo email account, I've gotten less diligent about answering messages, and might have accidentally deleted some of the real messages I've received while trying to delete them all, and sometimes the mailbox has gotten filled up because of the same... Sorry about that. I do try to read and answer all my messages, but RL has interfered with my online time a lot, and lately a lot of the ones I've tried to reply to have come back as undeliverable. I'm not sure if this is Yahoo's fault, or not, but be forewarned that this is possible.
"None of your business," Gabrielle retorted, blushing slightly as she smoothed down the front of her skirt.
- An exchange between Joxer & Gabrielle in "Girls Just Want To Have Fun" that was left on the cutting room floor.
Gabrielle kicked a rock idly across the road, thoroughly bored. It was already well past noon, and Xena was late. The Warrior Princess had been expected candlemarks before, and this deserted stretch of road was not the most inspiring place to wait for her return.
They had been literally in the middle of nowhere - no towns, no shelter, not even any decent places to camp - and so had travelled throughout the night. Naturally, at the point when they were exhausted and finally ready to stop early the next morning, a wounded man had staggered into their camp and collapsed. He had barely managed to croak out a warning of a warlord's attack on a town before dying.
Upon hearing of the attack, the warrior had immediately rushed off, pushing the already tired Argo to her limit. Gabrielle understood the mare's limitations and had agreed to wait; reluctantly to be sure, but she had finally agreed. She had buried the poor unfortunate in a makeshift cairn, then proceeded to their agreed upon rendezvous with all due speed, lugging the spare gear that Xena had been compelled to leave behind to limit Argo's load as much as possible. Now Gabrielle was tired, hot, cranky, bored, and she was beginning to grow nervous at her companion's continued absence... and she was hungry, too!
High overhead, a figure standing on a narrow golden platform zoomed by, the wind from his passage through the air ruffling his perfect locks and bringing a smile to his tanned face. He rarely ventured this far into the hinterlands; when he had to spend time with mortals, he much preferred to do it in the cities where the best temples were - and where the women weren't stooped and gnarled from working in the fields or mending fishing nets all day. But today, riding an awesome but aberrant jet stream, he had wandered far from his usual haunts. Finally growing bored, despite the awesome turbulence that continued to rock his board beneath his feet, he would have continued home to Olympus without stopping had not a woman's voice caught his attention.
"Oooh! Where are you?" Gabrielle cried out irritably, stamping one foot in distress while futilely searching the road for Xena. "I hate it when you're late!"
Apollo, for that was who the golden figure was, heard her cry. With a wicked grin, he curved his way out of the stream of air flowing through the heavens and made a mental note to thank Boreäs for sending the air currents for a loop today. Shifting his weight gracefully on the board, he headed towards the waiting woman, mentally turning himself invisible as he went.
"She's gorgeous," he mused silently, coming to a stop nearby as he admired her golden red hair shining in the sunlight. He gauged her soul, and noted happily she had a touch of prophecy in her, which gave him a claim to her - not that such niceties were really needed, but lately Zeus was in one of his moods. Zeus was usually as eager to seduce anything with two legs (and sometimes more) as any of the other gods, but sometimes when he had a crisis of conscience... All the gods had learned to put up with the moralistic decrees he issued during these periods. He always got over it soon enough anyway (usually after he'd found a young virgin sunning herself while naked on a beach somewhere). Shaking his head at Zeus' inconsistency, Apollo mulled over his options momentarily; if she pleased him well enough, he could even set her up as an oracle somewhere more convenient for him to visit than these bucolic surroundings... Though he admitted that such thoughts were getting a little ahead of himself.
Smirking, he set aside future plans as he took a closer look. She was a bit more muscular than he preferred, without that soft, sleek roundness of form that the idle young daughters of wealthy citydwellers sported oh so well. Seeing the way her abdomen rippled as she paced, he was easily willing to overlook such a minor thing. He licked his lips, and savored her appearance, enjoying the view with a voyeuristic thrill.
Her skirt gave a delightfully flirtatious flip as she turned in her pacing, and he breathed out slowly in delighted anticipation. Who cared about riding the windstream? He could do that anytime. Now he hungered for a different ride... His eyes burned lustfully as he envisioned her stripped of the rough clothing she presently sported, and dressed in the low-cut, easily torn gown that his oracles wore.
A small shiver passed through Gabrielle's frame as a sudden gust of cool air ran over her. Feeling an odd sensation, and shivering as goosebumps crawled across her skin, she surreptitiously looked around, but saw nothing. "Funny," she said under her breath, taking a firmer grip on her staff, "it feels like I'm being watched."
She looked around again, but still saw nothing. "If that's you," she called out, thinking of Xena and her tests, "it's not funny. Come out where I can see you, and stop playing these games."
Apollo hopped off his board, and mentally banished it back to his home on Olympus. Walking carefully, he approached her from her blind side, taking care not to give any hint of his presence to the now visibly worried young woman.
The staff that abruptly whirred through him - passing through his substance without effect - came as a complete surprise. Not that a mortal could truly harm him, but had he been human it would have damaged a rather delicate portion of his anatomy. "Feisty," he mused, a lascivious smile growing on his face.
Waiting until her back was turned, he faded into view, the flash of smoky pyrotechnics accompanying his materialization causing her to whirl around, staff held at the ready. Quietly she berated herself; she hadn't seen the stranger approach. She made a mental note to remember to get Xena to teach her how to sense people sneaking up on her. If she ever returns from fighting that warlord anyway, she cursed to herself, abruptly missing her friend even more as the man halted in front of her. "Who are you?" Gabrielle demanded, readying herself to fend off an attack.
"A humble admirer," Apollo lied smoothly, pausing and turning his head in a studied movement, silhouetting his face against the light and showing off his muscular chest to the best advantage inside his unfastened and partially open vest.
Despite herself, Gabrielle was affected by the view. Most bandits she encountered in her travels with Xena were unwashed thugs, clad in mismatched (and often vermin infested) odds and ends of leather, metal, and fur, and were almost without exception distinctly unappealing. This man was none of these. She lowered her staff slightly and watched the golden stranger - golden tan, golden hair, and even shimmering golden clothes - as he posed dashingly in the sunlight. "Do you know Iolaus?" she finally asked, shaking off the effect of his incredible looks, "You look a little like him, and you even seem to dress a bit alike - though he does prefer purple..."
"No, beauteous one," he smiled, showing off his perfect teeth, "though he must be a paragon indeed to be brought to mind when confronted with the sight of my perfection."
The spell of his beauty abruptly began to fade in her mind. Another one, she sighed to herself. She had been flattered and even half-tempted the first time a guy like this had approached her in a tavern - the best looking guy in town, and well aware of the fact. Later, after a little more experience, she was relieved she hadn't accepted that man's...offer. Admittedly, his type usually went after Xena in the bars and taverns they passed through (it was the leather, Xena claimed), but a few saw Gabrielle as being more approachable (or possibly vulnerable) - especially after she had started wearing the Amazon skirt. This example of the breed was almost as good looking as he obviously thought himself to be, but his line was just as stale as the last one she had heard (though to be fair to this stranger, at least he hadn't offered her money yet - or wanted to know if Xena would be interested in joining them); still, he was far too full of himself. Frowning slightly, she raised her staff defensively again. "No thanks. I'm not interested."
Apollo's smile slowly evaporated into a blank look of incomprehension. First Daphne, and now even a mortal refuses my advances? Women just don't appreciate a good thing when they see it.
"Look, don't take it the wrong way," she explained, and her bardic tongue laced her dismissal with enough boredom and disinterest for it to be practically dripping from her words. Her eyes narrowed while her hands gripped her staff tighter, "but you're just not my type."
"Not your type?" Apollo mouthed silently in dismay as his thoughts froze. I? The most handsome God on Olympus? The paragon of manly beauty? Who does this annoying brat think she is? As his anger rose, he reconsidered his plans for the evening. Idle fantasies and half-formed plans for future encounters aside, he had only really wanted to have a bit of sport with the girl, just carrying her into the nearby woods and having some fun before heading back to Olympus, but now... now his wounded pride demanded he take a more... personal interest. "You don't desire me?" he asked with obvious disbelief, trying in vain to hide his growing irritation at her rejection. "I'll show this one exactly what I can do," he mused. He could already feel himself lifting in anticipation at the thought.
"You won't have that problem with me," Apollo reassured her, his smile returning as his irritation diminished slightly and his eyes resumed roaming freely and openly over her body. Maybe she has been burned before, he told himself, or she's just playing hard to get. His eyes widened as the long muscle in her thigh bulged as she shifted her weight, and he unconsciously licked his lips in pleasure. I'll forgive her for her insolence if she submits... immediately.
Rolling her eyes at his wandering gaze, Gabrielle demanded, "Look, what is with you? I already told you, I'm not interested, so take off. I don't want to have to hurt you, but..." enunciating clearly, she bit out, "In case I wasn't being obvious enough... I want you to leave me alone." She spun her staff in an intricate pattern she'd learned from Eponin, then glared in what she thought was a menacing manner, finishing the flashy maneuver with a flourish before dropping the weapon into a ready position.
Bored with the lengthy interplay with this irritatingly disinterested mortal, Apollo negligently gestured and caused her staff to fly out of her grasp. "I grow tired of this," he said commandingly while his eyes began to glow. "You will come with me - now!" With a sharp gesture, he and Gabrielle faded from sight, the smoky white fire of their transport flashing briefly before dissolving into a rapidly diffusing cloud of misty light.
When Xena arrived just over a candlemark later, all she found of her vanished friend were Gabrielle's staff, thrown beneath a shrub, and her pack and scrolls lying by the side of the road. Gabrielle had vanished, with not a single clue as to her fate.
Apollo and Gabrielle reappeared in what looked to be a bar - a bar with strangely uniform, sourceless light, odd metal and stone fixtures, and a crowd of beautiful but sycophantic weirdos with strange, complicated hairstyles who called out in greeting at the appearance of their divine benefactor. "Hail!" they cried out, raising their mugs to him in a toast of benediction.
Smiling, Apollo glowed under the open admiration of his covey of followers. Casting a sly glance at his newest acquisition and soon-to-be conquest, he pulled a couple of the beautiful people that surrounded them into his embrace. (He didn't remember their names, but then again... he also didn't care.) Dropping a kiss on the male's lips before nuzzling the giggling female behind the ears, he made a spectacle of it for Gabrielle's edification. When he'd finished bestowing his attentions upon them, he released them, roughly pushing them back into the laughing crowd of their fellows. He turned to look expectantly at his latest acquisition, eager to see her grovelling and begging his forgiveness for her impertinence now that she realized who she had been refusing... Great Hera, but I love this part!
"Why didn't you just say you were a god?" the girl demanded instead, her eyes flashing as she put her hands on her hips and glared at the god. "But no...you have to try to pick me up with some of the lamest lines I've heard in years." She took a deep breath to calm herself, then added, "Look, just take me back to the road where you found me, and everything will be fine. I'm not upset. Really." Despite her protests, she looked and sounded intensely irritated.
Taken aback, Apollo just stared at her. What's her problem? he wondered. Confronted by a god, brought to Mount Olympus, and shown what's expected from her - and instead of eagerly complying with my every whim like a good little mortal, she's demanding to be returned? And what is she doing, calling my pick up lines lame? What kind of a mortal am I dealing with...? "You know I'm a god, yet you continue to talk to me like this? You are impudent, mortal, and sorely in need of chastisement." A few ideas for doing just that - ideas involving leather ties, a scourge, some manacles, and his sky-board - made him smile slightly.
"No offense, but I have met a few gods before, so I'm sorry if I'm not more..." she trailed off, searching for the right word. Humble? Awed? Subservient? Unable to find a polite way of phrasing that wouldn't sound just as cheeky, she wisely decided to remain silent.
He had to smile at her ridiculous attempt at a defense of her behavior. "Have you met so many divinities then?" he asked, amused despite himself at her insolence. She was interesting - even with her impertinence - and if there was one thing that the gods hated, it was boredom. Eternal life and enormous power did tend to generate ennui after all. He found himself looking forward to her inevitable conquest (and putting that sharp tongue of hers to more... appropriate uses) with a great deal of anticipation.
"Let's see... there was Callisto, and Velaska..."
"Posers," Apollo sneered, "idiot mortals with delusions of grandeur." He looked smugly self-assured as he dismissed her first offerings with a languid wave of one hand before brushing a nonexistent piece of lint from one golden bracer. "They weren't really Olympians at all - and now they are even less than that."
"Okay," Gabrielle trailed off, stung, "how about Cupid, Aphrodite, Bacchus, Hades, Celesta, Poseidon, a couple titans - including Hyperion," she paused to think, then added, "Cecrops was an immortal, not a god, but I think you can count Hercules, since he's half-god," under her breath, she added, then raising her voice, she finished off with, "oh, and I've seen entirely too much of Ares. And since I've kind of been dead once or twice, I've gotten to know Charon pretty well, and then there was that time over by Athens that we met..."
"Apollo! How good to see you again," a man cried out, walking up and hugging the god from behind, halting her recitation before she could continue with her litany or he could respond. "Will you be staying for the...um," he trailed off, seeing the god was with someone he didn't recognize, then altered his next words slightly and stilled his wandering hands, unsure of what his god had told his new acquisition, "revelries?"
"Oh yes," Apollo smiled toothily in return, looking towards the divans arranged around the room. They could serve as beds - and often had - and he was looking forward to initiating this mortal into his little flock. From her lengthy litany of past exposures to divine influence, he was beginning to think she could survive one of his more... intense performances. "I'm looking forward to it..." his eyes oozed over Gabrielle's body in an oily caress she could almost feel as he licked his teeth in lewd appreciation.
The newcomer sniffed as he appraised her as well, taking in her dusty appearance, bilious green top and rust brown skirt. "Couldn't you have taken the time to clean her up a bit? Maybe found her something more suitable to wear?"
Laughing, Apollo gestured, and the man obligingly raised the covered bowl he carried clutched in one hand. Lifting the lid, he offered it to the god. The god reached in and pulled out a small reddish-orange sphere. He swallowed it, and shivered delightedly as he felt the small burst of energy it provided wash through him.
The man smiled, then lifted an eyebrow, pointing to the new girl with a motion of his head in a silent question.
Gabrielle listened to their brief conversation, but failed to understand what they were talking about. "Aren't you going to introduce us?" she finally asked, after the man motioned his head towards her. She was trying to be polite, since after all, despite being kidnapped (again), this was a god she was dealing with.
"Certainly," Apollo said, smiling hugely as he grew amused at the prosaic role of host she was asking of him, "this is Petrus, one of my..." he trailed off, and seemed to be searching for the right word, before finally finishing with a possessive, "one of mine. And this is..." he stopped again, suddenly realizing he didn't know her name. He hadn't needed to know it for what he had planned to do to her, after all. He snapped his fingers irritably, waving at her to introduce herself. He could have just pulled it from her mind, but without sufficient familiarity with the subject, trying to pull useful information from the muddled jumble of a mortal's thoughts was too complicated - and far too much like work.
"I'm Gabrielle," she finally introduced herself, realizing what the god had meant with the odd hand gesture, smiling at the man. In a way, he looked a little like Vidalis, but with less facial hair - though he seemed even less impressed with her than that worthy had been. As always, thoughts of him inevitably drew her mind back to that moment when Xena's glorious eyes had first opened after the medicine had been applied...and gazed deeply into her own. That memory always brought a smile to her face, and despite her present predicament, her face lit up with a smile glowing of her remembered joy and love.
Apollo watched the transformation of her face as she smiled, and gloated about his coming possession of the woman. This will be fun! he exulted. Maybe I'll find her a position as one of my oracles after all. A sudden thought about the coming orgy...er, revelry, brought a smug gleam to his eye.
Petrus, following his god's earlier directive, smiled in turn at the woman and silently offered the bowl to the bard. Maybe she'll work out after all, he mused, delighted by the transformation her smile had wrought upon her face.
Gabrielle hesitated, staring at the orange-red spheres within, and wondered if it might be ambrosia. It didn't look like the gelatinous stuff they had found in the vault unlocked by the Dagger of Helios while restoring Xena to life, nor the piece they'd found hidden in the Sumerian treasure vault, but this was apparently Olympus...even if it was clearly a sordid side of the divine realm.
The god misinterpreted her hesitation. "Oh please, like I'd need to poison you. If I wanted to kill you, there are lots more fun ways to do it." With an offhand gesture a lightning bolt disintegrated a nearby table, causing the people gathered around it to leap out of their seats in moves that tasked their inebriated bodies' coordination. "Like that, for instance."
Petrus clicked his tongue in disgust in turn, and calmly ate one for himself. "Really," he said, shaking his head as he chastised her, "just take one, and thank him - politely." Turning his head to face his patron god, he added, "Mortals," while rolling his eyes.
Summoning up her courage, she took one of the spheres, feeling the texture that was distinctly not like the piece of ambrosia that had once fallen down her blouse and swallowed it along with her sense of unease, feeling a brief surge of strength, and a slight easing of her hunger pangs. "Thank you," she finally said. She turned back to Apollo, glad that Petrus' interruption had finally identified her kidnapper, and pitched her request slightly differently. "Now, Apollo... maybe you remember me? I'm one of the people who brought your sacred urn back to your temple after it was stolen? Remember? So how about taking me back to where you got me, huh? We can call it even, or just consider it a favor for an old benefactor..."
"Later, later," Apollo muttered, growing irritated by her incessant chattering. He was eager to get down to business with her, but one of his favorites he had planned to visit later was not visible in the crowd and her absence was vexing him. (Not that he really cared about her, but losing a favorite toy can be distracting.)
She considered returning it, but after hearing the explanation of where the gods got even their water, she didn't want to risk something more exotic. A grumble from her stomach returned her hunger to her attention. "Of course. Um, do you have anything to eat back there? Anything at all...? How about something simple like... like fruit - an apple, maybe?"
The bartender silently set a golden apple of the Hesperides in front of her. As a bard, she instantly recognized it.
Staring at the golden fruit, Gabrielle somewhat breathlessly declined the bartender's offering, "Sorry... I've changed my mind. I think I'd better just wait to eat until I'm back down below. Thanks, anyway."
Just as silently, the bartender made the apple vanish. Muttering something about, "Damn fickle mortals," he headed for the other end of the bar, leaving her alone with her thoughts.
Glancing around, she saw Apollo deep in conversation with Petrus, obviously irritated and clearly not in the mood to be asked to return her. The other people - humans, gods, or whatever they were - were eating, drinking, and carrying on, dancing, playing games she didn't recognize, and not a few were making out on the couches.
Another growl from her stomach made her briefly consider chancing the bartender's temper for some normal food - despite the potential risk of eating food from a divine source - but a nearby bowl of the orange-red spheres caught her eye. Since she had already eaten one without any ill effects - or unusual side effects like suddenly becoming a goddess - she eagerly grabbed a handful and started eating. You'd think the gods would have pretzels or nuts or something normal to eat at a bar, instead of these... these... whatever these are, she mused.
The sensation of the rush of strength didn't recur after she had eaten four of the spheres, and even a handful of the capsules mostly failed to quell her hunger. She idly leaned against the bar, watching the couples, triads, and other groupings entertaining themselves, and disporting on and among the tables and silently continued munching on the spheres, wishing for some normal food. "Nutbread..." she said dreamily, squashing a gelatinous sphere between her teeth and feeling the contents slither down her throat.
Wishing Apollo would hurry up and finish with Petrus, she grabbed a third handful of the spheres from the bowl. Too bad Apollo didn't bring my bag, she mused while chewing thoughtfully on a pair of the spheres; I've got almost a full wheel of cheese in there. The thought of real food brought another growl of discontent from her midsection, and sent her diving back into the bowl of snacks.
"But how could she have gotten back to the mortal realm?" Apollo demanded, staring angrily into Petrus' eyes. "I certainly didn't take her, and none of the others care about my toys."
"She begged Athena to help her, and eventually she agreed. Apparently she then tried to seek shelter with the Hestians, but after she... er, failed the entrance test," his sly grin to his god went unreturned, so he hurriedly continued, "she decided to become one of Athena's temple maidens instead."
"Damn!" the god cursed. "Just because I tell her I don't really love her, and was just using her for sex, she runs away. What's wrong with these mortals?" he demanded. "She should feel honored I deigned to even touch her. Zeus' balls, I even healed her after I was done! What more could she possibly want?"
"I'm sure I don't know," Petrus demurred, looking briefly coquettish, "if I were in her position..." he trailed off as a bright white flash centered on the new girl Apollo had brought illuminated the room. The energy filling the room pulsed, sending waves of light streaking into the small woman standing by the bar and briefly caused her to glow with a blindingly bright light.
Apollo's hand shot out and gripped Petrus by the throat. "How many of those did you give her?" he demanded harshly.
"J-J-Just... one," Petrus forced out, closing his eyes and trying desperately to breathe through the constriction of his windpipe. "Y...Y...You said it was..." he was forced to stop, both because he was running out of air, and because his eyes were threatening to leave their sockets.
Staggering slightly, Gabrielle turned to look at Apollo out of glowing green eyes. "Oh, this is just great! Now look what happened! What am I going to tell Xena?" she demanded rhetorically of the room at large. She looked down at herself, seeing that the grime that coated her had been washed away in the energy pulses, and her clothing had changed colors, becoming a pure white. "Oh no, look what happened to my top! I liked that color!"
"Apollo..." Gabrielle growled irritably, her eyes glowing momentarily brighter, "this is all your fault!"
Dropping the nearly unconscious form of his sycophant, Apollo strolled up to the newly empowered goddess. "Well, well... Gabrielle, was it? I must say, this is a surprise."
"You're telling me," she agreed crossly. "What was in those things anyway?"
"Ambrosia," he responded simply, hopping up to sit on the bar next to her. "I would think that would be obvious right about now."
Gabrielle shook her head slowly. "No - it couldn't have been. I've seen ambrosia before... it jiggles. This stuff was...sort of crunchy."
"In pure form yes, ambrosia is somewhat mobile, but this is my own special blend... dilute. It keeps my little toys young and pretty," he added while waving at his followers, "but it is not supposed to turn them into gods." He looked her up and down, seeing her without the light covering of dirt and road grime for the first time, and liked what he was seeing. "One should have just refreshed you, not..." He trailed off, then started again. "I don't know how this," he waved one hand in her direction, "could have happened. Unless...was your mother or father a god? Demigods can be affected by just one."
Looking into the large, empty, once full bowl of the spheres she had just eaten, Gabrielle somewhat guiltily said nothing. "Just great," she finally uttered.
Apollo had meanwhile continued his silent appraisal of her form, liking it more and more. "Don't worry about it, you look great. Godhood agrees with you." He jumped down off the bar, then pulled her into a sudden embrace, "You'll love what we can do... I can't wait to show you everything," he leered. After a brief pause to admire her figure, he tried to bury his face in her breasts. She stopped him with what would have been a ladylike slap if it hadn't been powerful enough to shatter marble.
The god flew across the room and smashed into a stone pillar, bringing it down in a thunderous avalanche of debris to bury him in the shattered fragments of marble. The new goddess looked down at her hand - which didn't even sting despite the force of the blow - and said simply, "Oops."
Pulling himself out from under the rubble, and shaking his head to clear it, Apollo looked utterly pissed. "Dumb bitch, you need to show some gratitude." He stalked up to her, looking like he was ready to murder someone - or at least her.
In an indefinable way, she reached out...and somehow Gabrielle's staff was in her hands. Down on Earth, the frantically searching Xena happened to glance aside while examining the muddled footprints in the dirt road and saw her friend's staff fade out of sight in a burst of greenish white light, letting her know a god was involved in her friend's disappearance. Somewhat understandably, given her history, she picked the wrong one. "Ares," she murmured, a snarl of rage growing on her face. "ARES!" she screamed.
Back in the heavenly bar, Gabrielle was surprised but pleased to find herself abruptly armed. She spun the staff, then caught Apollo in a swift reverse that struck him in the ribs. Apollo flew back, demolishing another pillar.
Snarling, he threw a bolt of shimmering blue fire. Gabrielle ducked, thinking to herself, So that's how Ares does that, as her newly divine senses "felt" how he had summoned and shaped the burning energy into a missile. Her evasion caused the fireball to fly past her shoulder and impact behind the bar, sending flame and shards of glass everywhere. Without pausing to think of how she did it, she erected a shimmering wall of green force between the cowering bartender and the rush of flame as the fireball blew up the bottles of potent spirits. The man fainted, but was unhurt.
Turning to face Apollo with eyes glowing green with righteous anger at his wanton destruction and casual risk to innocents, she barked, "Don't hurt them; they're your people! If you want to fight, fight me, not them!" Her eyes stopped glowing as she stopped to think for a moment, and actually considered what she'd just said; inviting a god to attack her was not the smartest thing she'd done recently. "Besides," she added in a much milder tone, "it's your own fault for bringing me here."
Sneering at her concern for what were, after all, mere toys for his amusement, Apollo nevertheless closed with her, not bothering to throw another energy attack. The two divinities duelled for several minutes, neither landing a telling blow as they fought. The crowd of Apollo's sycophants, ignoring the common sense notion that mortals should run when gods fight, cheered each blow and block as the two slugged it out. Wagers were called out and met, and the mood was soon festive for the spectators.
Gabrielle's staff slipped by Apollo's defenses once again and crashed into the same location on his ribs she had struck before, drawing a pained grunt from the golden god. Pausing to get his breath, he rubbed the spot for a moment with one hand before saying, "Not bad." He then leaped back into the fray.
Trained by Xena and the finest of the Amazon weapons masters, and using skills honed across the length and breadth of the known world, the bard Goddess fended off his attacks with growing ease. Freed from limitations of strength, speed, and stamina by her new divinity, she was able to use everything she had ever learned about fighting with a great deal more effectiveness. Despite being only newly divine, she more than held her own against the more experienced god, her staff - glowing with unconsciously infused might - lending her attacks the advantages of reach and flexibility.
As the combat went on, Gabrielle slowly began to notice subtle weaknesses in Apollo's fighting style. He relied too much on strength, and not enough on skill; using brute force whenever possible and trying to crush her, rather than simply worrying about hitting her. He continued to rain hammer blows that would have powdered granite in her direction, only to have the massive attacks be swept aside with negligent seeming moves of her staff.
With growing confidence, she diverted his blows with the staff, her fingers knowing intimately every inch of the aged wood, and understanding completely its handling and strengths. She instinctively imbued it with her power, making it gleam with divine might and causing small tendrils of lightning to snake across Apollo's body when it struck.
At length, drawing him into making a rash wild punch, Gabrielle spun, clipped him in the ribs again, then spun back into a deft reversal, taking his legs out from under him in one of her favorite moves. She finished the move with a flourish, spinning the staff and ending with the butt end pointed at his throat. Had she chosen to, she could have crushed his throat in an instant, and they both knew it.
Before she could say or do anything, he vanished in a burst of white light. "Coward!" she screamed, shaking her fist in the air. "Get back here! You need to fix this!" Her only consolation following his ignominious flight was learning how to teleport by watching him vanish.
Looking around, she saw the wreckage left in the wake of their brawl, but thankfully saw no injuries amongst the bystanders. Walking slowly back to the bar through the silent ranks of the spectators (though some were quietly gleeful as they counted their winnings), she sat down heavily on a padded stool, propping her staff against the glowing metal edge of the bar as she sighed in frustration.
"You'll need this," the bartender said, offering her another glass of water and a small, wiggling piece of actual ambrosia. Knowing it couldn't hurt her - now, since she was apparently already a goddess, and still being hungry - not to mention tired from her exertions - she ate it, washing it down silently with the water. "Thank you, great lady," he finally said as she remained silent, staring at the spot where Apollo had vanished, "for saving me."
"You're welcome," she responded absently, sipping delicately at the water. "Sorry about the mess." The ambrosia recharged her, and with a shiver, she abruptly felt much better.
"It's quite alright," he reassured her. "This is nothing. You should have seen it the last time Hercules showed up. Now THAT was a mess."
Gabrielle instantly leaped to her feet. "Hercules! Of course! Thank you," she told the bartender gratefully, "I don't know when I would have thought of him."
"Think nothing of it," he bowed, accepting her thanks graciously, even though he didn't quite understand what her thanks were for. A servant of the gods knew when to simply say nothing and accept what they did or said - no matter how strange it seemed.
Gabrielle grabbed her staff, then concentrated on what she had seen Apollo do. "I hope this works," she murmured, then disappeared in a burst of greenish light.
The bartender watched as her afterimage faded into nothingness, then called out to the surrounding people, "Alright people, lets get this place cleaned up." With many a moan and complaint, they slowly complied with his instructions.
End Of Part 1
"Sorry." - Gabrielle responded, blushing and edging away.
- Missing scene from "Tsunami"
Hercules awoke abruptly, feeling a crawling sensation running down his spine. "Ares," he said grumpily, sitting up slowly, "can't you come back at a decent hour? I'm not in the mood right now." He looked around the darkness, being careful to look away from the embers of the fire in an effort to preserve his night vision.
"Sorry, Hercules, it's only me," Gabrielle said, crouching down next to the demigod.
"Gabrielle? What are you doing here? Where's Xena? And..." he broke off, then reached for some firewood, wanting to stoke the fire to be able to see better.
"Never mind all that," she replied, waving a hand and causing a glowing green ball to appear in midair. "Neat!" she exclaimed, "I didn't know I could do that... I just wanted to see better." She smiled happily up at the glowing sphere, then remembered what she wanted. Gathering herself, she said, "Look, I need some help."
Staring first at the glowing orb, then at Gabrielle, he utterly failed to think of anything to say. Finally, he could only say, "Um, your eyes are glowing."
"Oh, sorry," she replied, grimacing in embarrassment and covering the offending orbs with one hand. After a moment, she removed the hand to reveal her eyes had returned to normal. "I'm kind of new to all this." She grimaced, then muttered, "They should give you a manual or something."
"Look, it's late, I'm tired, and I'm very confused. What's happened to you?" the demigod asked.
"Well, I kind of had a little trouble, and now I need a big favor."
"And um, when exactly did you get changed into a god?" he asked, with some irritation from his interrupted sleep leaking into his words.
Shrugging, she replied, "About a half-candlemark ago." She looked around at the darkness, then said, "I thought...but when did it get dark? I couldn't have been at that bar for more then..."
Finally, unable to deal with the lack of information and the confusing details she mentioned only in passing, he interrupted. "Enough. Just start at the beginning, alright? Tell me what happened."
Nodding, Gabrielle sat down next to him, smoothing her skirt with a graceful hand. "Well, this morning we, Xena and me, I mean," she paused. When Hercules motioned to her to continue, she did. "We got word that a warlord was attacking a village. Argo had a sore hoof, and we had been travelling all night, so she was too tired to carry both of us, so Xena left to help the village, and she sent me on ahead to wait for her at a crossroads."
Hercules nodded; he'd done similar things from time to time with Iolaus. "And then what?"
"Well she was late, and I was really starting to worry, and then this guy shows up, only it wasn't a guy, it was Apollo."
Hercules raised one eyebrow, but said nothing. After a moment she continued. "Anyway, he wouldn't leave me alone, and starts using these really tired pickup lines; finally, I tell him my friend is coming soon, but then he just gets angry and zaps me to some bar on Mount Olympus, only I didn't know it was Olympus at the time. It's a little strange, but it's a nice place."
"I know. I've been there," he replied drily.
Gabrielle smiled at that. "So we're on Mount Olympus, and one of his friends? cronies? servants?"
"Right, he gives me this little orange sphere."
"Well I didn't know it was ambrosia - every other time I've seen it, it was a slightly different color and sort of wriggly." She wobbled her hand on a limp wrist in demonstration. Seeing Hercules' raised eyebrow, she looked briefly indignant, "Hey, I've seen it a couple times before, alright? Is it my fault Apollo makes his ambrosia look different from every other piece of ambrosia in existence?"
He soothed her with a calming gesture. "I'm sure. So then you changed into a god?"
"Not yet," she denied. "Anyway, Apollo was in a really bad mood about something - I don't know what - and sent me to get a drink. The bartender offered nectar," Hercules winced, but relaxed after she continued, "but I had water instead. Anyway, I was hungry; I had been waiting to eat until Xena returned, but he zapped me to Olympus before I could grab my bag, so I asked if I could get something to eat, but all he offered me was a golden apple."
"You ate a golden apple of the Hesperides?" Hercules looked surprised.
"Of course, not! What do you think I am, stupid? I am a bard you know," she looked briefly indignant. "I know what they do."
"I should hope so..." he paused, then continued. "So you wouldn't eat the food, and Apollo was ignoring you..." he raised an eyebrow questioningly.
"And there was this bowl of those spheres sitting there like a bowl of nuts, so I..."
"So you ate a bunch of it," he sighed.
"The whole bowl," she confirmed. "I mean, I was hungry, and I'd already had one, so I thought it was safe. And that's when I became a god," she concluded triumphantly.
Hercules sighed and leaned back. He could already feel a headache coming on. "So what did Apollo do?"
"He hit on me again."
"He would," the demigod sighed.
"So anyway, after he got frisky, I slapped him through a pillar... What?" she asked.
"Nothing," he replied quickly, then urged her, "go on."
"So I slapped him through a pillar, summoned my staff somehow, then we fought, and after I beat him..."
"You beat Apollo?" he asked incredulously.
"Yes," she admitted, a little embarrassed. "He's strong, but he doesn't use his strength very well." She thought for a moment, trying to muster her wits. After a brief delay, she tried to explain what she had meant. "Do you remember that time you gave up your strength to remarry? How you had so much trouble fighting - even against those wimpy men at arms? Fighting Apollo was sort of like that. He's so strong he doesn't need much skill, so when I fought him, well I mean, I practice against Xena, so he seemed almost...easy by comparison. But...he teleported away before I could make him bring me back and fix this whole mess."
"You...beat Apollo," he murmured.
"Yes," she confirmed again, a little exasperated by his lack of clarity. "Now what are we going to do about this?"
"Being a god!" she looked at him funny, then asked, "Haven't you been listening to me? I'm a god. Now, how do I fix that?"
Shaking his head, Hercules slowly let everything sink in. "Have you talked to Zeus yet?"
Gabrielle looked a bit aback at that. She hadn't considered going all the way to the king of the gods...not first thing, anyway. "No."
"He can take away godhood...I know that for a fact, and probably some of the other gods can as well."
"Oh Hades," she grimaced, "sorry, I mean, what do I do, go up to the king of the gods and say, 'oops, help?'"
"I'll try to convince him to see you," he said easily, resting one hand on her shoulder in a gesture of support. "Have you told Xena yet?"
"No," she looked away, unable to meet his eyes. "I've been... trying not to think too much..." she began, her hesitation clear in her voice. "I mean, every time I start to think, I tend to realize things that I don't want to know - like what the sun really is - but... I haven't been able to think of a way to tell her what happened. And the way she and the gods get along...I'd rather not face her until I'm back to being a mortal. Besides, after Brit...I mean Hope...Solon...if I show up with my eyes glowing, she'd...I mean...oh, Hades. I don't know what I mean," she turned away in frustration, eyes glimmering in the dim firelight.
"I'll find her and let her know what's happened." He tried to reassure her by adding, "With any luck, you should be back to normal before I track her down. Now, where is she?" Hercules asked, trying to be encouraging even while rubbing the last of the sleep out of his eyes.
"Great!" she enthused, cheering up instantly as the big demigod's confidence was clearly projected. She smiled, then told him how to find Xena. "Can I give you a lift?"
"Actually, no. It's a... half-god thing. At least she's relatively close..." he murmured to himself. After a moment, he commented, "Gabrielle? Your eyes are glowing again."
"Thanks. I'll get the hang of this yet." The glow faded. "Can you talk to Zeus soon? I feel very weird. I really want to get this over with, and get back to being mortal as soon as I can; it's all well and good to be a god I suppose, but... it's just not me."
"Thanks again!" she faded from sight in a flash of green light.
"Gabrielle!" he called out, then reminded, "the light?"
A disembodied nervous giggle flitted across the campsite. "Sorry, I forgot," Gabrielle's voice said, then faded, along with the glowing orb.
Gabrielle followed the summons and appeared on a balcony overlooking a frightful abyss, surrounded by images of the world below being displayed on devices her newly divine mind told her were called video display monitors - among other things. She tried to keep the flood of new knowledge away by ignoring the machines and concentrating on the person who had summoned her.
A bearded male in an elaborately embroidered purple robe, fairly glowing with an aura of majesty and power stood next to her, gazing into the glowing display screens and absorbing the details depicted in their depths. He patiently waited until Gabrielle had adjusted to her new surroundings before breaking the silence. "Welcome, Gabrielle," Zeus said, finally turning to face her. "Welcome to Olympus."
"Thank you for seeing me, sir, um, your majesty, um..." she trailed off in confusion, unsure how to continue. She'd encountered the gods often before, but it was usually when they were in trouble and needed help (or were making trouble) - or had been turned into mortals themselves - or at the very least were bent on complicating her life. This was a new experience for her - being a petitioner before the king of the gods on his home territory, especially after the problems she'd just had with Apollo and her new...condition. Truthfully, she was unsure which was stronger : her nervousness or her fears.
"Just Zeus is fine, though I appreciate the respect you showed me... seeking an audience, rather than simply appearing and demanding my assistance. I like that; the simple courtesies are so rarely seen these days, particularly amongst the gods," he smiled briefly, and Gabrielle began to hope.
"Thank you. Did Hercules tell you...I mean..."
"I already knew about your...elevation." He gestured to the surrounding monitors, and said simply, "I do try to keep tabs on my children and mortals of interest, and watching from this vantage is much easier than running invisibly around the world - even if the use of such things is a tad untraditional."
"Then you will help me? Return me to normal, I mean?" hope glowed in her every word.
Zeus was silent as he seemed to weigh her request. After a time, he said, "Let's have a look at you, shall we?" He walked around her, eyeing her carefully and scrutinizing her with all his divine senses, seeing her outer form with only the least of them.
"Apollo always did have an eye for the ladies," he murmured appreciatively.
"I hope you don't take this the wrong way," she said softly, "and I'm sorry if this offends you, but I'm not interested, thanks."
"I know," he retorted. Behind him, a four by four bank of monitors lit up to reveal a scene of Xena and Gabrielle bathing together in a hot tub, their soapy hands running along each others bodies. Although there was nothing explicitly sexual about it, the sheer sensuality of the mutual gentle caresses held a heat all their own. "I told you I watched," he explained simply.
Blushing at such a revealing depiction of one of their rare moments of intimacy (and the fact that Zeus as much as admitted that he had been spying on them), Gabrielle fell silent while Zeus continued his inspection.
"Magnificent," he said at last. "I am very pleased."
"So you'll take away my godhood?" she asked, hope soaring once again.
He didn't hesitate an instant. "No," he said flatly.
She almost cried as her hope was crushed. "But...why not? It was an accident, I swear! I'm not worthy of godhood...I don't want it..."
"That," he said, holding up one finger and returning to her front, "is where you are wrong. Unlike most of us, you are worthy of it, and your desire to remove your new godhood is perhaps the best indicator of your worthiness."
"I don't understand," she finally said, confused by his reply.
"You are a wonderful person, Gabrielle. Despite your years of travels, all the fights, the conflicts with men and gods, and the... actions of the one great evil, you remain largely pure and unsullied. You are human, true, but do not overlook your essential goodness with excessive modesty or self-loathing."
Her blush of embarrassment and still unconvinced look made him reconsider his phrasing of his explanation. The king of the gods thought for a moment, then asked, "Many people over the years have irritated you or made you angry. You have faced danger and even death many times in the course of your journeys with Xena...now that you are a god, are you going to seek revenge?"
On the monitors while he spoke, many different images were displayed: Kleopatra flirting with Xena, many different warlords holding her at knifepoint, Joxer telling her memory-blanked body that she was his sidekick and that she liked to dance naked... more warlords holding her at knifepoint, and then some of the villainous and lecherous thugs who had accosted her in taverns - the parade of villainy finally ending with Ulysses' face smiling in deceitful friendship (and perhaps more) at Xena as they moved to kiss; a face that even now caused her to frown in distaste.
"Of course, not!" she denied, horrified by the seductively appealing thought of meting out some divine justice. "I would never do that."
"During the course of your travels, you've had the opportunity to eat ambrosia before - several times, in fact - once even while dangling over certain death in a river of lava. Yet you didn't eat it...you either destroyed it rather than risk it falling into the wrong hands, or passed it over to others - restoring Xena's body to life, and empowering Callisto - who you continue to feel sympathy for despite her murder of your husband and her involvement with Hope and the One Great Evil."
Her eyes widened momentarily at his intimate knowledge of the details of her life, but she remained mute. He smiled briefly, then resumed his questioning.
"How would you feel about scouring the world to find the most beautiful men," he paused, looked at her for a moment, then amended himself, "or women, and making them your personal slaves, their lives yours to command, and their very existence only at your sufferance?"
"And these reasons," he announced triumphantly, "are why you will remain a god. You care about the world, and the mortals that inhabit it. That is something we Olympians so often sadly lack. I don't expect that will remain...wholly unaltered once you are given a position on Olympus, but to a degree that essence will remain in some form. You will serve as a fine example for the others, no matter whose ranks you join, and could very well shift the course of Olympus' destiny." His eyes (figuratively, this time) glowed with the power of his vision.
Satisfied with his decision, he concluded, "If you think about it, you will eventually come to understand my reasoning. You will make a fine addition to the pantheon, and will hopefully inject a healthy dose of what we - all of us - have become sadly deficient in. Besides - it'll be good to have some new blood around here," he smiled slightly, as he finished. "I have spoken," he intoned gravely, and the finality of that pronouncement was wrenching.
She was forced to resort to her last argument. "But...but didn't you once tell Hercules that if he was supposed to be a god, he would have been born a god? I don't want to fight the Fates, so..." she smiled somewhat hopefully.
Zeus was as interested in hearing his own words used as a defense as any adult is upon hearing their own words echoed back by a querulous youth. Which is to say, not at all.
Shaking his head, he turned down her final sally as he lifted one accusatory finger. "That situation was entirely different... and only subject to my whim. Since you know my son so well, I'm sure you'll remember that I eventually offered him full godhood despite my initial misgivings? The greater good was the final arbiter... and your divinity serves that goal admirably."
Slowly, Gabrielle nodded her head, understanding his reasoning, even if she didn't like it.
"My decision is final." He smiled briefly, his beard crinkling as his lips twitched. "Cheer up, Gabrielle. It's not like this is a punishment." Zeus vanished in a flare of white light, leaving her crumpled on the balcony, weeping bitter tears of frustration and grief.
How can I ever face Xena again? she despaired.
After a time, when her tears had dried, she recovered herself enough to watch the monitors, as she tried to decide on a course of action. Zeus would not help her, but Hercules had said perhaps some of the other gods could take away her godhood as well... A monitor suddenly flickered and changed scenes according to her unconscious will; now it displayed Xena, huddled miserably over her forgotten staff.
Forcing her turbulent emotions aside, she quietly strengthened her resolve. I will be restored to normal, and Xena and I will be together again. And if the gods won't help me, I'll find a way to do it on my own. She turned away from Xena's desolate image, and quietly walked away from the edge of the yawning abyss.
Now the first thing to do is to try and find a god who will help me... But which of the gods we've encountered over the years would be inclined to help me? she wondered.
She ruled Bacchus out immediately. After she and Xena had killed his demigod form, he had lost most of his freedom to influence the world. Although restored to life and granted full godhood by his father, he was now bound by the same strictures as the other gods - but was too closely watched to overstep his bounds...unlike the others. So even though he was now more powerful, he was considerably less potent. Briefly she wondered how she knew all this, but eventually dismissed it as another irrelevant quirk of godhood. Besides, even if the wine god did cure her, he would likely simply turn her back into a bacchae as punishment for her treachery - for daring to side with Xena against him.
Poseidon was another immediate rejection. Between the adventures with Cecrops and Ulysses (though she now fully sympathized with him on that feud), and his past history with Xena, there was simply no way he'd help her sidekick, even if it was by returning her to mortality.
Cupid? He had potential...she and Xena - mostly Xena - had helped fix the problems Bliss had caused with his bow, and although their meetings in Aphrodite's temple had been brief, he had seemed reasonably fond of her. With a grim smile, she faded in a flash of green light and vanished, leaving the monitor room to itself.
Unnoticed by anyone, a monitor above the balcony changed its display, and showed her reappearing in an antechamber in Cupid and Psyche's home.
End Of Part 2
"Really? With ropes and chains? Meg charges extra for that." -Joxer.
- Deleted scene from King Con, where Gabrielle is ministering to the beaten Joxer
Gabrielle looked around, admiring the tasteful decorations. Psyche's mortal heritage lent her a more reserved taste than most of the gods - who tended to favor cluttered, often tacky gaudiness as a reflection and proof of their power. Firmly gathering her resolve, she tentatively called out, "Cupid?"
Cupid and Psyche walked in together from a back room, one of his wings wrapped around her shoulders in a feathery embrace. A silly smile graced his countenance, and they both looked deliriously happy together. "Gabrielle?" Cupid asked in surprise. "What are you doing here?"
Psyche looked briefly askance at her husband as he recognized her, but her flash of jealousy soon vanished.
"I'm kind of in a jam, Cupid, and I need your help," Gabrielle explained.
"Hey, now...I like the personal touch and all, but I already shot your warrior for you - twice, as a matter of fact. You need to make a move yourself. The gods can't do everything for you," he protested, holding up his hands in denial of her request.
"Um, I'm not here about that...but thanks." A small smile crossed her face before she could stop it, and a momentary thought of Xena actually loving her almost distracted her from her purpose. She shook it off after a moment, and continued speaking. "I...um, kind of got turned into a god, and I need to get it undone."
Cupid and his wife shared a look, then looked intently at her for a moment as they verified her claim. "Heavy," he said at last. "Have you checked with Zeus?"
"No go," she replied sadly, echoing a phrase she'd heard Aphrodite use once.
Shaking his head, Cupid sighed. "Sorry. I'd love to help, but I just don't have that kind of oomph. Maybe check with Mom? I know things haven't been quite copacetic for you, but she does kind of like you - a little."
"Thanks for the help," Gabrielle said sadly. "And I appreciate your advice." She perked up a little. Looking around, she saw no sign of Bliss. "Where's your little boy? Can I see him? It's been a while, and he was awful cute when I saw him, even if he was causing trouble."
"Sorry. He's down for a nap - and finally asleep," Psyche softly replied, "and we wanted to get in some quality time while he's out."
Grimacing, Gabrielle apologized. "Oops. Sorry, didn't mean to interrupt. I'll get out of your hair."
"Hey, Gabrielle," the new goddess waited for Cupid to continue. "No matter how it goes, come visit, alright? Maybe we can, you know, help you get adjusted?"
"Thank you, both," she said, pulling them both into an impulsive hug, being mindful of his wings. "I will, I promise."
Gabrielle vanished in a flash of light, leaving the two gods alone.
The two shared another surprised look, a bit startled by the odd events.
Cupid's wife was the first to recover her equilibrium. "Now then," Psyche began, shaking off the distraction as she turned to wrap her arms around her husband's neck, "where were we?"
It was hot where Gabrielle appeared next, and the rough hewn rock walls and sulfuric smell unpleasantly informed her she was inside a volcano - a situation that brought back several unpleasant memories. She wandered aimlessly down one passageway after another, smelling the sharp tang of molten rock and the stench of sulfurous gasses. Heading ever deeper into the earth, she continued on her way.
Hearing a small noise, she followed it down another tunnel, and emerged into a lavishly appointed bedroom, where Aphrodite and Hephaestus were...
Blushing a flaming red, Gabrielle turned and ran, her feet moving in a blur as she flew through the tunnels until she emerged inside a massive forge. She couldn't stop blushing, though she tried to tell herself she hadn't seen anything...
Unfortunately, she had seen far too much. No wonder Aphrodite loves him if he can do that, she thought in awe, blushing even brighter and trying to banish the image from her mind. Unfortunately, her newly divine state had total recall and every motion, every sound, and every inch of revealed flesh hung quivering before her mind's eye for her inspection.
Desperate for a distraction, she began examining the various half-completed and finished projects, weapons, and artifacts that were scattered through the forge. One unadorned sword caught her eye, and with a smile, she realized Xena would love it. She picked it up and admired the craftsmanship, every inch of the blade sheer perfection without any unnecessary ornamentation. She returned it to the rack it had been hanging on, then walked over to examine a magnificent bust of Aphrodite made from solid gold and standing in a place of honor. "He really loves her," she murmured, appreciating the craftsmanship and love that had gone into the creation of the beautiful sculpture - it practically glowed with the love Hephaestus had shaped into every curve.
"I know," Aphrodite said from behind her.
Gabrielle blushed again, turning to meet the goddess. "I'm sorry...I didn't mean to barge in on you like that, especially when you were...occupied." Aphrodite was wearing a transparent negligee that clung to her voluptuous figure and hid nothing.
Although Gabrielle had met Aphrodite before, it was different this time. To her divine senses, the goddess of love was incredibly, irresistibly, insanely beautiful, and seemed to be giving off waves of love that rocked the new goddess with the force of their emanations. She almost shook with the effort it took to remain unmoved in the face of her power.
"No problemo, babe, we were almost done." She stretched luxuriously, causing Gabrielle to suddenly catch her breath at the magnificent display. Aphrodite smirked, well aware of what she was doing to Gabrielle, and loving every instant of it. "What are you doing here, anyway? Not that I don't appreciate the visit, but Heph's place is a bit out of your way, don'cha think?"
"I need some help, I..." she trailed off as Aphrodite interrupted before she could explain.
"Whoa, babe. That's Cupie's department. Not that I'm not digging the longing vibes you and the warrior babe are sending, but... let's face it - you need to do something yourself. We can't do everything for you."
"That's what everyone keeps telling me," Gabrielle murmured.
"Thanks for dropping by, though. Nice to see you again." And the sparkle in her eye let Gabrielle know just how nice she meant.
Gabrielle spoke again at a higher volume as Aphrodite turned up the heat a notch. "No, actually... I didn't come about that...I sort of got turned into a god," she explained the situation, then continued, "and I need to get it fixed."
"Fixed? Helloooo... It's not like a disease or something. Go with it. You wouldn't be my first choice to be made into a god, but," she shrugged, "you wouldn't be my last choice either. You should try it... it can be a blast, though the hours can be a drag sometimes." She smirked slightly and openly ogled the new goddess. "Anyway, you seem to be dealing with it pretty well."
"No offense, but it's just not me," she denied. "Besides, considering how Xena is about the gods, do you really think I should confess my love, then say, 'oh by the way, I'm a goddess now?'"
"Why not? She already worships you...and I should know." She was smugness personified at that moment.
"It's not the same thing, Aphrodite," Gabrielle dismissed the idea.
"You never know 'til you try." Seeing that Gabrielle remained unconvinced, Aphrodite relented, and sighed. The waves of love emanating from the goddess began to diminish as she focused on the problem at hand. "Did you talk to the old man?"
"Zeus? Yes. He refused. Said I deserved it, even if I don't want it."
"Really? Coolness. Then welcome to the club!"
"That's it?" Gabrielle demanded. "Zeus said I deserve it, so... end of story? Can't you just take it away? Please?"
"No can do, babe. Not in good enough with big daddy to get away with going against one of his direct edicts. Relax, and enjoy it for a while - things will work out."
She looked thoughtful for a moment, then a truly wicked grin crossed her face as she stared at Gabrielle in surprise. After a moment's thoughtful reflection, the Goddess of Love then turned and sauntered slowly up to Gabrielle, breasts and hips swaying seductively as she moved, every tiny movement a lesson in pure eroticism and seduction. She trailed one arm up Gabrielle's arm, raising a crop of goosebumps as she slowly walked behind the blushing young goddess.
"Let me make you feel better...I can show you pleasures that would stop a mortal's heart," she murmured in her ear, running her tongue gently over the inner whorls. "I saw you admiring that frieze in my temple...I can teach you things your warrior's never even heard of, let alone done...and that's saying something, babe, let me tell ya. Give me a few nights to train you, and you'll never have to worry about being able to satisfy her." She began nibbling on an earlobe, sending waves of delicious heat through the smaller goddess' body.
"Hephaestus!" Gabrielle said brokenly, gasping for air as Aphrodite worked her wiles on the panting newly elevated goddess.
"Oh, hi Heph." Aphrodite didn't pause in her efforts, though she added in some easily visible caresses with her hands while she spoke. "Wanna help me convince blondie here godhood's a good thing?"
"Maybe later, 'Dite," he responded, enjoying the show. "Have fun, you two," he chuckled, turning back to the swordblade he'd been working on, while pulling on a leather apron for protection from sparks.
"Wanna join the mile high club?" the Love Goddess whispered.
"I hate heights," Gabrielle protested, realizing what a mile was, and what she had meant - and being more than a little frightened - on several levels.
"Trust me, you won't when I'm done with you," she cooed in response, tracing the outline of a nipple through her top with one fingernail.
Gabrielle slipped out of her grasp with a great deal of effort, then ran and hid behind the statue. "Sorry, I'm not interested. Besides, Hephaestus - your husband, remember him? - is standing right there."
Strutting sensually, Aphrodite slowly approached the hiding goddess. "Oh, you're interested alright," she smirked, looking down at the twin bulges tenting the material of Gabrielle's top. "And Hephie understands. He's gotta make stuff, I've gotta... well, I think you've got a pretty good idea of what I gotta do."
Poised to run, Gabrielle nervously backed away.
Aphrodite looked like she was going to chase her, the thrill of the hunt clearly visible on her face, when suddenly her expression clouded. "Not the fish, again!" She frowned, diverted from her plans. "Sorry babe. A priestess at one of my temples has decided to make an offering of fish. I need to go show her the error of her ways. We'll..." she smiled seductively, "talk... later - ciao!" she faded from sight.
"She does come on a little strong at times, but it's in her nature," Hephaestus commented.
"What?" Gabrielle whirled to face the god, who had continued to stoke his forge during the confrontation.
"All of us, we gods, are by nature obsessed with our spheres of control," he explained, beginning to pound a glowing shaft of metal with a massive hammer. Between impacts, he added, "I make things, Aphrodite well, is love, Ares is war, and so on. We can't go against our natures, even if we wished to."
Gabrielle watched him work, taking delight in his amazing skill and the way the metal slowly shaped itself into a blade under the controlled pounding of his hammer. "But what about me? I'm not the god of anything - and I just want to get rid of it."
The smith-god continued working, thinking on her question while he worked the glowing blade. When he returned the blade to the fire for reheating, he said, "Although you were not born to godhood as Aphrodite and I were, eventually, once you have assumed a role in the hierarchy of Olympus, you will become the position. For now, you are like a bar of stock, waiting to be shaped into whatever is needed." He gestured to his store of metals in a corner for emphasis, then resumed his labors on the blade.
She thought about that for a while, liking the analogy, but worried about how such a transformation would affect her. The idea that her fundamental self would be molded and reshaped to suit whatever job she was given was not pleasant, and, more than anything else, sealed Gabrielle's conviction to get rid of her divinity as soon as possible. Watching him work, she mulled over her potential options. Eventually, she worked up the courage to ask, when he was reheating the metal and seemed to be more or less free to speak, "Could you take away my godhood?"
"I could, but I won't," he denied simply. "Zeus wants you to be a god for a reason, even if you and I don't understand it. Perhaps he spoke to the Fates." He pounded on the metal, shaping an edge along the sides. He paused in his labors then held up the glowing shaft of metal, measuring the glow to check for impurities. "Know this, though. You are worthy of it."
"How can you tell?"
He looked briefly shocked at her ignorance. "Don't you know even that much? We gods can read each other's thoughts, to a limited extent anyway, and you haven't been shielding yourself - you've been broadcasting your thoughts and feelings all this time." He returned to shaping the blade, shaking his head in dismay. "Why do you think Aphrodite came after you so strongly? Your thoughts were filled with images of us, and of your warrior; they called to Aphrodite on her deepest level, and she was drawn to them, and especially the emotions underlying them... strongly."
"Nobody tells me these things!" Gabrielle cried out in exasperation, throwing up her hands in disgust. "Isn't there some kind of manual or training guide?"
The smith-god actually broke into a smile at that plaintive cry. Setting aside the blade for later finishing, Hephaestus wiped his hands on his leather apron. "Let's begin with the first lesson - how to tell if a god wishes to receive visitors."
Gabrielle blushed as her mind flashed back to what she had seen in their bedroom, then blushed even brighter as she realized she was probably still broadcasting her thoughts. "Alright." The smith-god smiled in amusement, making her blush even more.
"So where are we going again, Herc?" Iolaus asked, hurrying to keep up with his friend's longer strides.
"To find Xena."
"Why?" he asked. "We haven't seen her in a while, sure, but she seemed to be doing okay last time we met up with her."
"I had a visitor last night while you were asleep." He turned and looked at his friend, who was looking curiously at him as he trotted alongside.
"One of the gods?" Iolaus asked.
"Oh, yeah," Herc said, shaking his head and wondering how best to break the news about their friend. "And the god asked if we'd go see her."
"So who was it? Hermes?"
"No...and stop guessing, because you'll never guess in a thousand years."
Iolaus thought for a bit, then snapped his fingers and said suddenly, "Athena!"
"No," Hercules retorted, exasperated. "Alright, already. I'll tell you, if you'll just be quiet."
"So who was it? Artemis?"
"It was Gabrielle," he replied, hurrying forward.
Iolaus froze in place. "Gabrielle? What, you mean our Gabrielle? Xena's Gabrielle? The bard/amazon/sidekick Gabrielle? I thought you said it was a god?" he asked, running to catch up.
Laughing a little at the absurdity of it, Iolaus finally asked, "So when did this happen?"
"Apparently yesterday. Apollo decided she'd make a nice addition to his little harem, and so took her off to Olympus, where she ate something she shouldn't have."
"Huh," Iolaus said, then started to laugh again. "I always knew Gabrielle's appetite would get her into trouble someday."
"You haven't heard the best part."
"What? Better than her becoming a god?" he controlled his laughter with an effort.
"Apparently," he began, not looking at his chuckling friend, "she then proceeded to beat up Apollo."
Iolaus froze, not sure whether to laugh or not. "Uh..." he trailed off, watching Herc's back as he continued to walk, his mirth fading slightly. "Didn't you only manage to fight him to a draw, even when you were a full god?"
"Yeah," he replied, still without expression. "but he ran off before we could really finish it, so it wasn't really a draw. I still won." His frigid tone showing his feelings about that fact. "Besides, I was much younger then."
"So," Iolaus began, thinking better of teasing his friend after hearing the frosty tone in his voice, "what are we going to do about this?"
"Well, Gabrielle went to see Zeus this morning, so hopefully everything will be taken care of soon, but she didn't want Xena to see her until she was back to normal. So..."
"So, we let Xena know she's okay, and hope Gabrielle gets back before Xena starts to get too crazy?"
"That's the plan," Hercules confirmed.
Iolaus considered the potential effects of Xena deciding to storm Olympus, and didn't much like the possibilities. "Maybe we better hurry?" Iolaus thought out loud.
"Good idea," the demigod agreed. The two friends broke into a loping run.
Back in Hephaestus' forge, Gabrielle impulsively hugged the lame god after the final quick lesson. "Thank you for everything," she whispered.
"You're welcome," he replied, patting her awkwardly on the shoulder, unused to such displays of affection from anyone other than his wife. "Don't worry, you'll work things out in time."
"Maybe," she agreed hesitantly, then smiled. "At least now I can handle the situation a little better. You're a very good teacher," she complimented him.
Hephaestus smiled, the unscarred half of his lips rising higher than the other. He limped over to a rack of swords and took down the unadorned one she had been admiring earlier. "I have a gift for you," he said, waving a hand and summoning a scabbard from somewhere. He sheathed the sword, and held it out to her.
Despite herself, she started to reach for it before stopping and stepping back. "I couldn't...you've already given me so much."
"Then take it as a gift for your warrior," he retorted, still holding it out. "I saw how you admired it when I came in, and it has remained here unused for many years - it's too plain for the other gods' tastes - not even Ares wanted it. Please, take it."
Gabrielle hesitantly took it, then tried to make sense of the straps on the scabbard. Hephaestus helped her position it across her back, then paused to admire the look. Nodding, he smiled his approval.
"Thank you again," Gabrielle began, then taking a deep breath, added, "If I can return to being mortal, I probably won't be able to return, but if I am stuck as a goddess, I'd like to visit again...now that I can keep Aphrodite from getting too interested in me."
Hephaestus actually laughed at that, his amusement breaking through his customary dour demeanor. "Don't worry, she'll still be interested in you." Seeing Gabrielle's nervousness, he laughed heartily. "So, where to now? Are you going to keep going on your little tour of the gods?"
"I think," she began, "I'm going to go see Ares," she said heavily, then vanished.
The smith god continued to look at the empty air where Gabrielle used to be for a long moment, then quietly whispered, "Good luck," before turning back to his labors.
The screams and crashes of shattering furnishings were the first indications that Hercules and Iolaus were getting close to their destination. Following the sounds, the duo soon came upon a temple to Ares - presently undergoing major redecoration. The scattered guards lying battered and unconscious around the temple gave silent testimony to the intensity of the conflict raging inside.
"Come on," Hercules cried out, sprinting towards the temple. Iolaus followed at a slightly slower pace, breathing heavily from the long run.
"Give...her...back!" Xena screamed, smashing a priceless jar of sacred unguents before turning back to rage at the grinning statue of Ares again. Tearing down a tapestry depicting the glory of war, she shredded it with her bare hands then tossed the fragments onto the fire burning hotly in one corner - a fire built from the shattered remains of the temple's furniture.
"Xena!" Hercules cried out, coming to a halt nearby.
The warrior princess whirled, sword in hand, to confront him. With a mad gleam emanating from her red-rimmed eyes, she barked, "Stay out of it, Hercules. This doesn't concern you. This is between him and me."
"Ares isn't responsible for this, Xena," he soothed, holding his hands out so she could tell he was unarmed and nonthreatening. Not that she relaxed much, but still... "It was Apollo."
She looked blank for a moment, and in her surprise, she actually lowered her sword slightly. "Why would..."
"Apparently he thought Gabrielle was worthy of joining a group of servants he maintains, so he took her off to Olympus."
Xena's sword slipped from abruptly nerveless fingers. Of all the people in the world, she trusted Hercules the most - after Gabrielle, anyway - and if he was telling the truth... "Olympus..." she murmured, shock warring with dismay in her voice. "Then I have lost her..." she sank to her knees and crouched there, leaning heavily on her sword while silent tears began to trickle down her cheeks.
He cautiously approached her shaking form. "It's okay, Xena," he murmured, crouching and resting one arm across her shoulders. "It'll work out. Everything's going to be okay."
"It's not okay," she barked, anger momentarily overcoming her grief. "I've lost her, and I never even told..." she broke off and began sobbing, the tears streaming openly down her face as Hercules drew her into a comforting hug.
Iolaus charged in and took in the scene of devastation with a single startled glance. "Whoa," he said, then, upon seeing his friend comforting the weeping warrior, froze. Since you've obviously got things under control... he thought while he backed out of the temple silently, trying to keep from embarrassing Xena by letting her know that he had seen her in a moment of weakness.
"How did you..." she began, then trailed off, unsure how to phrase her question.
"How did I hear about what happened?"
Hercules helped her to stand, then together they sat on the broken altar, the demigod keeping one of her hands between his for emotional support - and to help keep her under control, if necessary. "Last night, Gabrielle came to see me."
Her head shot around towards him, "I thought she was trapped on Olympus..."
"Apparently," he began, "she ate some ambrosia."
"What?" she screamed, leaping to her feet, and pulling free from his grasp with ease. "Why? We've seen what ambrosia does to mortals that eat it , she would never..." Her lips froze as an awful thought struck her, and any hint of warmth drained from her eyes. "What did that bastard do to her?" she demanded.
Trying to soothe her, Hercules held up both hands again in a calming gesture. This isn't the reaction I had in mind. "It wasn't that..." he explained hurriedly, "She was hungry, and Apollo's supply of it apparently didn't look like the ambrosia you'd seen before, so she..." He shrugged awkwardly.
Her relief that her fear was unfounded was so profound, Xena almost fainted. "So she's a goddess, now..." Xena mused, an odd expression crossing her face. "Why didn't she just tell me," she asked softly, her expression falling again.
"It was an accident, Xena, and she's trying to get back to normal," Hercules explained, "She didn't want you to see her while she was like that. And she's probably right," he admitted slowly. "It was... odd seeing her that way," he continued hesitantly.
"She's not in danger, is she?" Xena demanded, the fire returning to her eyes.
"Not in the way you probably mean," he explained. "But she didn't really know how to control her powers very well yet, and she kept doing odd things - like having her eyes glow. It's a bit... disconcerting."
"I'll have to find Apollo and explain his mistake," she muttered, a feral smile crossing her features as she caressed the hilt of her sword.
Pulling her gently back to sit next to him, he cut that idea off before it could blossom into a full-fledged invasion plan. "She already took care of it. Apparently...she beat him up."
Xena looked at him, then raised an eyebrow in sudden pleased surprise. "Really?"
"Really." He looked somewhat disgruntled at the admission. "She said that after practicing with you, fighting him was almost easy." He shared a small laugh with her, then admitted, "It took me by surprise, too."
A pleased smile grew slowly on her lips. "So...what now?"
"Well, I hate to admit it, but...maybe an apology to Ares." He gestured to the surrounding destruction, and added, "You did do a fair job of defiling his temple."
She looked around at the destruction she had caused, then shook her head firmly. "Never. He still owes me for maneuvering Gabrielle into trying to kill herself with Hope." An evil smirk crossed her features, "Besides, he sometimes likes a bit of defilement."
Hercules wisely let that pass without comment. "In that case," he said, rising to his feet, "we wait. She was going to see Zeus, and if things go well with him, she could be back to normal at any time."
For the first time since discovering Gabrielle was missing, Xena began to feel hope that she would be reunited with her friend. "So... where's Iolaus?" she asked, a small smile rising on her face.
"Probably waiting outside," Hercules said wryly. "Last time we were in a trashed temple to Ares, he got sent into another dimension." Seeing Xena's confused look, he held up one forestalling hand, and added, "Don't ask."
Sighing in relief that Xena now knew the truth - and without having to tell her personally - Gabrielle leaned against the rail on the balcony overlooking the abyss of Tartarus and turned away from the monitors. Now it was the moment of truth; it was time to face Ares. She knew Ares could help her - he had once taken Hercules' divine strength after all - the question was only if he would. Using Hephaestus' lessons, she queried Ares to see if he was willing to receive a visitor, then vanished with only a small flash of light - she was getting better at that.
Gabrielle reappeared in a place she had never seen before - Ares' home. It looked...comfortable; even though the decor was mostly in shades of red and black and fit the expected martial theme with weapons and banners tastefully hung from the walls, she could easily feel at home in the lavishly appointed suite of rooms. "This doesn't look like the Halls of War," she thought out loud.
"Of course not," Ares said with a smile, turning his throne- like chair to face her and greeting his visitor with a friendly smile. "That place is for work. This..." he waved a hand about languidly, "is for relaxation...it's home. Welcome to my home Gabrielle," he continued, sitting up in the chair and motioning her forward. "Only a very few mortals have ever been honored by a visit here...but then, you aren't a mortal anymore, are you?"
The steaming hot tub in one corner, and the huge bed, she thought she understood, but some of the other accoutrements were more exotic and outre, like a rack of whips and other implements of torture, and the iron maiden standing in one corner. "Right," she agreed, eyeing an evilly barbed scourge lying on a dresser.
Noting the direction of her gaze, Ares rose and his smile grew wider. "There's relaxation, and then there's recreation," he chuckled, amused by her reaction. "Sometimes I like to take my work home. Can I help it if I love my job?" She said nothing in response, but continued glancing curiously around the room - a smiling Ares was not something she was used to dealing with (at least, not smiling at her), and she put off looking at him as much as she could.
Looking her over carefully, he smiled toothily. "You look good Gabrielle." Her expression clearly showed her distrust of his compliment. "No, really. I mean it. You wear power very nicely. I definitely like the sword. Been hanging out with Hephaestus, have you?"
"Don't bother with the flattery, Ares. I am not my daughter, and I'm definitely not interested in your attentions." She frowned as he continued to ogle her.
"Relax," he soothed, returning to his throne-like chair to sit down. "Have a seat."
Gabrielle gingerly sat in a chair that looked like part of the supply of torture equipment (and it was - it was actually a souvenir of Callisto, but Gabrielle didn't know that) and waited for him to continue.
"I never thought of turning you into a god as a way of separating you from Xena, but the way things have worked out has been... quite stimulating. She was magnificent when she trashed my temple." He wiped a crocodile tear from one eye. "It certainly brought back some fond memories."
"She knows the truth now, Ares. She won't be returning to you."
"Oh, I know that," he agreed. "For now at least. Though I must admit, I truly admired her performance in my temple... But let's not talk about Xena just yet. Let's talk about you."
"Will you help me? Take away my godhood, I mean," Gabrielle held her breath in anticipation.
Ares smirked. "Now why would I want to do that? Dear father was right you know; you are magnificent."
"Oh, please," she sneered at his flattery. "First Apollo and Zeus, and now you. Don't you people have anything better to do?"
"Not that," he corrected, then leered momentarily, "though right now you look better than Hope ever did."
Rolling her eyes, Gabrielle muttered, "Great. Trying to seduce me by reminding me you slept with my daughter."
"No, no," he explained with exaggerated smoothness, holding his hands to his heart to show his sincerity. "I meant only that you have enormous potential. I watched your little barroom brawl with Apollo, and I was very impressed. I hadn't realized just how good you had become with your...little stick."
"Enough with the flattery...I'm not interested." First Zeus and now Ares... Don't the gods have anything better to do than to play voyeur?
"You should be," Ares retorted, his mask of good humor slipping slightly. "Since Callisto perforated my nephew, Discord and I have had to work twice as hard to pick up the slack. It's irritating, and totally unnecessary."
"So what do you want - sympathy? For having to do your own dirty work now? My heart bleeds for you," she sneered.
Clapping, Ares rose and walked slowly around her chair. "Magnificent. Keep practicing that tone of voice, and we'll get along wonderfully. No, Gabrielle..." he leaned down and whispered in her ear, "as appealing as your bleeding heart sounds, I want something different. I want to offer you a job."
"You what?" She spun in her seat and stared at him with mouth agape, taken totally aback by the wargod's offer.
Ares gently pushed her mouth closed, causing her teeth to click audibly together. "Strife was a worthless idiot, and I usually couldn't understand half of what he said, but... Even you must admit that he was necessary to make the world work properly. Discord and I are doing our best to make up for his absence, since Deimos is even less suited than a turnip to replace him, but you... you were the most irritating mortal I've ever met, and now that you're a god, your potential to generate strife is all but limitless." He stretched out the terminal "s" sibilantly.
He ran one hand along the length of her arm, sending a rush of heat through her body. "Join me, and together we can take the world by storm. Picture it," he urged, "You've done me some favors, I've done some for you, you know we can work together when we need to - if it makes you feel better, I already like you better than I ever liked Strife - and he was family." His voice oozed temptation. "And with the both of us working together, Xena will have no choice but to join us...You, me, and Xena...together for eternity. Tempting, isn't it?" His voice dropped into a seductive whisper, the rumble of his words vibrating against her back as he started rubbing her shoulders gently with his hands, kneading away tension and filling her with an incredible warmth. He leaned down and whispered in her ear, "Imagine the possibilities..."
Fighting to control the heat coursing through her body that the wargod's touch inspired, Gabrielle remained mute. She had thought she knew Ares well, but she'd never realized he could be so... Her admiration for Xena rose to new heights. If she could voluntarily walk away from this... this delicious heat...
"I don't even mind sharing Xena with you... not now that you're a god, anyway." He looked off into space and pictured the scene, a smile growing as he did. "In fact, I'm rather looking forward to it. I'll even let the two of you use my hot tub since you're so fond of the water."
His leer made her desperately want to bathe. Zeus, Apollo, Aphrodite, Cupid, and now Ares...maybe it's a good thing I've never done anything sexual with Xena; the way things were turning out we would have had half of Olympus watching us. She shook off her irritation as he ended his pitch.
"What do you say?"
"No!" She fought off the tendrils of arousal he had been spinning around her, and rose unsteadily to her feet. Catching her breath, she shakily refused him while backing away, "I'm definitely not interested. I just want to get back to normal."
"A pity. Still, in payment for all we've done for each other, I suppose I should do something." He approached her and held up one hand. "Close your eyes."
Gabrielle narrowed her eyes instead, and they began glowing. "Not likely."
"Trust me." Her reaction was predictable, and Ares looked hurt at her mistrust. "Look, I swear on the Styx that I won't hurt you... not today, anyway. Satisfied?" he asked, looking exasperated.
Nodding slowly, knowing the strength of that oath, she closed her eyes, every muscle tensed for the coming blow. She felt nothing, but he abruptly said, "Oh yes, that's much better."
She opened her eyes, but felt nothing different about herself. Then she looked down... and screamed. Her clothes had been replaced with something skimpy made of black leather straps and silver studs. "What did you do that for?" she demanded.
"Are you joking? Your clothes were hardly suitable for a goddess - even if they weren't green anymore, thanks be to Zeus. These clothes are much more appropriate for your new position." He indicated his own, similar accoutrements of black leather.
"What, these are more suitable? What did you do, raid Discord's underwear drawer? I look like I work at Meg's! Give me back MY clothes, now!" she screeched, clenching her fists and looking mad enough to attack him with her bare hands.
He stroked his beard meditatively then mused, "Perhaps you're right. Black just isn't your color, at least not yet..." He waved his hand and the tight black leather turned a glimmering red the color of fresh blood. "No," he said, "still not right. Doesn't go with your hair." It darkened to the color of a clotted wound. Shaking his head, he made another motion, and it turned the bilious green of her old top. Shivering, he gestured again, and the leather turned a pure snowy white. "Much better...white isn't exactly my color of choice, but it does look good on you. Now it's perfect."
"No it isn't! Give me back my clothes!"
"I think not. Leather does something for you...and it definitely does something for me," he smiled toothily. "Hope liked leather...a lot."
Snarling, Gabrielle threw a fireball, which Ares promptly caught and quenched with an off-handed gesture. "Now, now," he admonished. "Don't be jealous. You know I had to let Dahak think I was going along with him. Sleeping with Hope was just...an added bonus." He ran one arm up her leather-clad flank and whispered, "If it makes you feel better, I was thinking of you the whole time I was with her."
Slapping his hand away, despite the sudden impulse that ran through her to lean into his touch to feel more of that liquid heat, she simply continued glaring at the smug wargod.
He suddenly paused and stared at her chest. "What's that?" he asked, pointing to a spot over her heart.
"What?" she asked, her anger dissipating as she looked down in surprise.
Abruptly lifting his hand, he bumped it into her nose, then burst out laughing. "I can't believe you fell for it again!" he chortled, turning to walk away.
"Remember Gabrielle - one god cannot undo what another has done," he gloated. Laughing wickedly, he vanished in a burst of crimson fire, leaving her dressed in the leather outfit.
"Get back here!" she raged, shaking her fist in the air. "You're making a bad mistake, pissing off a bard!" Disembodied laughter was her only response, and he failed to return.
With an irritated growl, she tried to teleport away, only to find that she was unable to. He had done something to block her from leaving. She was trapped in his lair.
After raging for a while at the god's trick Gabrielle forced herself to calm down. She had a strange suspicion he was trying to goad her into becoming angry enough to automatically assume the office he wanted her to take; which if what Hephaestus had said was true, would be a very nasty trick indeed. She looked around, and saw something she needed to use. On the wall next to his bed was a large mirror (there was one on the ceiling over the bed, too, but we won't go there).
Gabrielle examined herself carefully in the mirror; eventually, she decided the outfit wasn't as bad as she had initially thought. It covered all the vital areas... barely, and it did have a certain elegance - if you considered dominatrix gear elegant. In fact it looked a little like Callisto's armor, and shared some of it's attributes - like barely covering the breasts, leaving the abdomen bare, and having small highlights of glinting silver chain mail here and there to cover some gaps in the leather's coverage.
The skin of some unknown scaled beast was used as a sort of halter to cup and frame her breasts, and reminded her of the material used in the top she had worn briefly while in Illusia (though this was much more revealing). Sturdy strips of studded leather connected it to the low-slung, soft skirt made of strips of leather much like Xena's that girdled her hips, and attached them both to an overly elaborate set of shoulder armor with gleaming steel plates that were covered with etched swirling designs. The gauntlets were the only part of the ensemble that looked truly functional, though the shoulder guards did seem to provide a bit of protection. The sword across her back certainly no longer looked out of place, and the color of the scabbard had changed to match the rest. Her boots were the only things that remained the same, though like the rest, they had become a snowy white.
The whole outfit, now in white leather with gleaming silver studs, buckles, and chains, looked simultaneously erotic and dangerous - and was something she would not ordinarily have been caught dead in. With a scowl of irritation, she began loosening the buckles and undoing the ties in an effort to get the armor off.
It was at this point she found the second trick Ares had played on her: she was trapped in the armor. She could loosen it, or reposition it, and cautious experimentation showed she could lower her breeches and slide the halter up and down her torso, but as soon as she tried to actually remove part of it, the buckles and straps tightened themselves and the whole outfit snapped back into position. And, as he had gloated, she couldn't undo the charms he'd worked into the scanty armor.
Now thoroughly displeased, as well as trapped, she sank into a chair by a small desk, and drew forth a quill and parchment and began composing a story. "I'll teach him to mess with a bard..." she muttered sourly.
After a candlemark's labor, the rough draft was done, and Gabrielle found that she had to go to the bathroom - desperately. A hurried search of the suite of rooms revealed no facilities, or anything suited for use as a chamber pot. At last, seeing no other option, she lowered her breeches, crouched by the hot tub and spread the leather strips of her skirt. When she was finished, she stood and readjusted her clothing. She was embarrassed and humiliated by the whole experience, and looked forward to spreading her little story across the length and breadth of the known world in revenge.
"I'll get you for this, Ares!" she cried out, shaking her fist at the ceiling. "Just wait and see!"
"You won't be getting anyone else," a female voice proclaimed from behind her. The sound of a bowstring being drawn taut pricked her ears, and Gabrielle slowly turned to face the new arrival.
Gabrielle stopped when she faced her, and her eyebrows rose at the sight greeting her. She was tall - even taller than Xena - but with the sort of whipcord leanness that spoke of great strength and flexibility without the excess weight of added muscle bulk. She wore a matching brownish grey doeskin skirt and halter set, and a pair of low boots covered her feet. White feathers were braided into her brown hair and she wore an elaborate beaded necklace. Gabrielle noticed these things only peripherally; most of her attention was on the fact that she carried a great black bow that was drawn to her ear - and the arrow was aimed directly at her heart.
"My brother," the woman continued, "is under Aesclepius' care, suffering from the wounds you inflicted upon him. Do you have anything to say before we join the hounds for a hunt?"
Brother? Apollo? Realizing who she faced, Gabrielle took a deep breath, then slowly performed the obeisance from the Amazon worship service. She sank to her knees, then continued with the ritual. Drawing the armored halter down to expose her heart, she abased herself before her people's goddess. Prostrate before her, she solemnly proclaimed, "I submit myself to your judgement, my goddess, and stand ready to pay for my transgressions," completing the ritual.
The huntress goddess stared as the short figure in white armor performed the ritual perfectly, even going so far as to bare her breast in the traditional symbolic acceptance of her arrow. She eased the tension on the string, and lowered the bow slightly, for the first time taking a close look at the upstart goddess who had injured her brother.
"Gabrielle?" she asked in surprise. "What are you..." she trailed off, then impatiently motioned for her to rise with one hand. "I should have known better than to trust anything Ares told me. What happened to you? When did you become a goddess? And why would my chosen attack my brother?" she demanded.
Slowly rising, Gabrielle breathed a sigh of relief as Artemis' bow was lowered. She debated briefly how to phrase her explanation, then said only, "Let's just say your brother's idea of courtship leaves much to be desired."
Artemis' eyes flashed, and her expression darkened. "He tried to..." her mouth tightened. "I've warned him before about going near my Amazons. I think I need to have a little talk with him again - maybe let him run around as a goat for a few moons to teach him a lesson."
"In his defense," Gabrielle was forced to admit, "he didn't know I was an Amazon," she muttered, "Of course he didn't even bother to find out my name before he took me..."
Artemis' frown deepened, but she slung her bow before helping Gabrielle to her feet. "And where did you get that ridiculous outfit?" she demanded. "You look like Discord in that thing!"
"It was Ares' idea of a joke. I can't even take the stupid thing off!" she groused.
Looking it over carefully, Artemis was unable to find a way to defeat the charms woven into the armor. "It could be worse," she comforted, reaching out to lift the scaled halter back up to cover her chosen's breasts. Her fingers lingered momentarily in a soft caress before withdrawing. "I'll find a more suitable raiment for you."
"Thank you, my Goddess." Gabrielle gratefully stated.
"Oh, stop that," Artemis scolded. "You're a goddess too, now, or did you forget?"
"No, but hopefully the situation is only temporary."
"Oh?" she asked.
"Could you take away my godhood? I really just want to get back to my normal life, but no one will help me." She carefully explained her recent past to her patron goddess, watching as her expression darkened as Apollo's behavior was laid out before her.
"I'll turn him into a pig for this - no one does that to my chosen...no one!"
"It's alright, Artemis," she soothed. "It can wait. Umm, look if you can't take away my godhood, how about your bow? Instead of an animal, how about using it transform me into a mortal?" she looked momentarily hopeful.
The huntress still looked irritated, but let Gabrielle steer her away from her planned vengeance on her brother. "It doesn't work that way, my Chosen." She waved her to a seat, then perched on the edge of the bed.
Gabrielle took great pleasure in perching in Ares' own chair, and idly scratched "Xena [Heart] Gabrielle," on the arm with a dagger he had left lying on a nearby table. Smiling at her small vandalism, she turned back to Artemis, who had watched her calligraphy with amusement. "Why not?"
"The bow doesn't change your essence, Gabrielle. Otherwise, when I hunted those I transformed, I would only be killing a stag - and the lesson would be wasted." She sighed, then tried to explain in a slightly different way. "Did you ever hear about the time Hercules was transformed into a pig?"
"Sure," Gabrielle replied, leaning forward in interest, "Iolaus told me all about it."
"Even as a pig, he retained his great strength. Or when Discord was changed into a chicken - she still retained her powers, she just couldn't use some of them since she had no hands or speech to invoke them. If I tried to change you into a mortal with it, you would still be a mortal with the powers of a god, or in other words, exactly what you are now."
Gabrielle sighed in frustration. "I wouldn't have thought it would be so hard to get this taken care of. I mean when Velaska and Callisto ate ambrosia, nobody wanted them around."
Although her face clouded at the mention of the would-be Amazon goddess, Artemis forced a smile. "It's your own fault, Gabrielle. You are simply too nice."
Gabrielle sighed again in frustration, then stood. She carefully placed a small caltrop from the pile of martial implements in the center of Ares' chair, skillfully positioning it so it blended into the grain of the wood, then turned back to look at Artemis. "So, what do you recommend?"
"Zeus is preparing a convocation of the gods for tomorrow - all the deities of the pantheon will be there." She rolled her eyes. "Ares told me it was about what to do with you...letting me think if I wanted vengeance for Apollo, I had to act now - but not telling me who you were. Come to think of it, he was so careful in his phrasing, he was probably trying to wiggle out of an oath." She looked thoughtful. "Maybe I'll turn him into a goat for a while, too."
"He'd probably enjoy it," Gabrielle sourly muttered.
Snickering, Artemis rose and joined the shorter goddess, looking over the small modifications she had made in his chair. "I like the way you think," she said, snickering as she read what Gabrielle had carved, and saw the concealed spike on the seat..
She waved a hand, and suddenly all the weapons and torture implements throughout the room were blunted (save for Gabrielle's trap). The goddess noticed a parchment scroll lying on the desk and went to pick it up, her curiosity getting the better of her.
"No don't!" Gabrielle suddenly cried out, but Artemis picked it up anyway. The title read, "A Fowl Affair." Curious, she unrolled it slightly and began reading it in the middle.
"...he held the transformed Discord by her scaled feet in one callused hand, keeping her under control, while soothing her with gentle strokes of the other. Discord's clucking began to take on an air of apprehension? excitement? eagerness? - it was impossible to tell - as his hands lingered and lovingly caressed her crimson crest. With fingers shaking with anticipation, Ares frantically undid the front of his leather breeches, freeing the rigid shaft inside with one hand while a leer crossed..."
"Gabrielle!" she gasped, suddenly realizing what she was reading. Gabrielle's face fell in shame while her goddess continued to read. Artemis' eyes opened wider and wider as she read the... kinky story from start to finish. When she was done, all she could say was, "A donkey?"
"He made me angry," Gabrielle shamefacedly admitted. Her face fell as she stared at the floor, wishing she could melt through it. She could face many things, but the contempt of her goddess...
"It's perfect!" Artemis proclaimed.
Gabrielle froze - that was not the reaction that she'd expected. "Excuse me?"
An evil smile crossed the huntress' face as she looked off into space, picturing her own contribution to Gabrielle's subtle revenge. "Every bard, every library, and every temple from Britannia to Egypt to Ch'in will find a copy of this scroll in their collection tomorrow morning. Ares will never live it down, nor be able to destroy every copy!" Her smile transformed into one of loving admiration. "You're a genius, Gabrielle."
Gabrielle blushed at the praise for her admittedly unusual story. She gathered her few belongings, while her goddess roamed the room, looking over Ares' prized possessions for something else to vandalize.
The goddess paused when she was next to the hot tub. Artemis looked closely into the steaming water then started to laugh. She lifted her skirt, making Gabrielle turn away in embarrassment at her lack of breeches, then added her own contribution to the water.
The huntress smoothed the front of her skirt down and looked the room over smugly. "I wish I could see his face when he comes back," she murmured.
"He deserves all of it," Gabrielle agreed, though she was a little embarrassed by both the childishness of her pranks, and the fact that her people's goddess had gleefully joined in without hesitation.
Smiling, Artemis held one hand out to her. "There's some time before the meeting... Come, join me in a hunt."
"Um...I don't have a bow," Gabrielle ventured.
Artemis handed her one, along with a full quiver, summoned from somewhere. "Easily rectified."
"And I...don't really like to hunt," she admitted softly.
"We won't kill anything if you don't want to," Artemis soothed her. "Let's just see how skilled the Queen of my Amazons is at her woodcraft."
"I can't... Ares has trapped me here. I can't teleport out," she admitted.
Frowning, Artemis looked her over carefully, then expanded her search to cover the room. "The spell isn't on you - it's on the rooms." She grimaced in concentration. "I'll carry you out, and that will bypass it entirely. Once you're out of here, you'll have no problems."
Gabrielle sighed in comical relief, and Artemis had to stifle the urge to giggle. "Good. Now come along... it's nearly too late for a decent hunt as it is."
With a grimace, Gabrielle tried to create an enveloping cloak to cover the embarrassing outfit she wore. She thought she had succeeded, but because she was new to the whole concept of matter creation, instead she plucked the cloak from the closet of a rich merchant named Ali in Damascus. Since he'd never liked it anyway, and had buried it in the back of a storeroom and forgotten about it, everything worked regardless. Gratefully she put it on, hiding herself within the enveloping depths.
More than a little nervous, Gabrielle then joined Artemis. She was struck by a sudden thought - every library... Homer, er... Orion might find her scroll...or worse, her mother might be the one to find it in Potadaiea's small temple. "Umm, Artemis...is there any way you could keep my name off those scrolls before you send them out?" she asked.
"Sure," she agreed. "Just tell me... what is 'reticulated rhubarb,' anyway, and is it physically possible for a man to use it like that?" she finished as they teleported away in a flash of light.
End Of Part 3
Continued - Parts 4- 5
Return to The Bard's Corner