Disclaimer: The characters of Xena and Gabrielle and others mentioned, belong to MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures. No infringement on their rights is intended.

Subtext Disclaimer: This story contains references to a loving relationship between two consenting adults, who happen to be of the same sex. If this offends you, or you are under 18 years of age, or you reside in an area where this type of material is illegal, read no more. There is plenty of general fanfic out there for you. Go find it.

Violence Disclaimer: This story contains scenes of graphic violence.

Shock Factor: Let’s just say that Plan D #21 isn’t going to be lucky for anybody. People are gonna get hurt and possibly worse, so you’ve been warned.

Note: This story is in segments, due to it’s size.

Please send any comments to asdease1@gte.net

Enjoy, I hope.

part three

Written by FlyBigD

The bridge was set in between the two banks of the river and wide enough for three people to ride abreast on horseback. It’s wooden planks were tightly interlocked, with no slits for light, or rain to get through. The simple beveled railing ran above the decking in a smooth, seamless arch. Made of trees that had been hand selected by the first King to come to the forest, it had no paint, or adornment. It was a simple, strong wooden structure that had withstood countless little feet padding across it, as well as the thundering hooves of war horses charging into battle. It’s history was as old as the Palace of both the Ancients and the King. The notches and scars it bore told innumerable stories of both joy and pain.

Untold generations of Ungaran children and adults had dived off it’s edges in pursuit of relief from the summer sun, into the cool water that runs slowly below it’s arch. And many generations had been conceived on the sloped shadowed bank beneath. The bridge had seen many a romantic interlude, reveled splash and marital spat in its day. It was the sole link between the two Palaces’ front doors and the outside world. The aged and faded wood, stained by the elements and mother nature’s wrath was no longer the bright blonde of it’s youth. Too many centuries had robbed the bridge of it’s original luster and now, it only shined when it rained, but neither mother nature or the elements had faded it’s strength, or rotted a single plank of it’s span. No repairs had ever been made, or had been needed. It’s simple design, constant use and the passing of time had strengthened the pine into a stony hardness that belied it’s ancient age and maintained it’s solidity.

This is what held the four combatants above the water. The bridge that had seen more days than history recorded, was again bearing the weight and witness to the eternal battle of good and evil.

On one side, a god in all his evil glory. Dahok stood, just below the apex, ready and able to take what was rightfully his, and his reinforcement, the wall of flame. This stood as a reminder of his power and reflected his kinship with the white hot orb hanging behind the clouds. Behind the fire, the smoldering wreckage of his wake; the charred remnants of a forest that was now a wasteland, reaching further than any mortal eye could see.

On the other side stood three mortal women. Staggered in intervals, stood a king, a warrior princess and a bard. Ready and able, they stood to defend, not take. Their claim was not in question, nor their resolve. Behind them, stood a row of thirteen men, dressed in the dark blue and green of their empire and their King. They too were ready to defend the soil on which they stood and sacrifice their souls to keep it safely in the hands where it belonged. To the rear, the fallen and the wounded. Removed from the battle in body, but not in spirit. Next came the innocent life, newly born, cradled in the arms of Love herself, who was the child holding the pendulum of victory inside one tiny balled up fist, nestled against the face, a mirror image of the one on the bridge. These were the players in the tragedy to unfold, along with the ones not yet present.

The band of brothers treading over ground they had not seen since the dawn of time and following their more knowledgeable ensigns to the battle. The Ancients would be the last to arrive and were the last vestige of defense against one of their own kind. Their power gone with the departure from their home, they came on to face a foe no longer recognizable as the brother they knew. And staggering his lonely way forward was the one who had led the fight for good, suffering the ramifications of both victory and defeat. Staggering his way, far behind the others, was Ungara. The younger twin of Dahok, the god over the night and the King of the Ancients.

Taking the last steps up the bridge, T held her sword out to the side and began rotating it in a pivoting circle close to her shoulder.

With one last glance to the clouded sky, Dahok lowered his eyes. Staring deeply into the crimson set getting ever closer, he raised the tip of his sword. “No last words of wisdom, Daughter of Ungara? No false promises to give your minions diluted hope?”

Slowing her sword, she smiled and nodded. “Gabrielle.”

“T?” Her eyes shifting, the bard looked away from Dahok and stared at the back of T’s head.

“I think I’d like to wear my crown, if you don’t mind?” Bringing the sword up, she held it straight out from her body and watched his face contort into pure fury.

“My pleasure.” Smiling, the bard turned on her heels and was off the bridge before she figured out the ruse and heard the clash of metal. Cursing under her breath, she turned again, to retake her position, but was grabbed by the strong arm of Cargan. “What are you doing? Let me go!”

Turning to watch her leave, Xena was caught by a round house punch that sent her rolling back down the bridge, to land unconscious just below Gabrielle’s kicking feet.

Picking up the warrior’s sword, T tossed it behind her, then raised her own. “Two down, one to go.” Smiling, she charged forward, spun and swung a two-handed back slash at Dahok’s middle.

Having the shotgun snatched out of her hands, Gabrielle looked up as the warrior rolled toward her, then she looked up to the top of the bridge, where the battle had begun. “T, nooooo. Lemme go!” Pushing down on the hands holding her tight, she tried to kick him. “Lemme go!”

“Forgive me, Gabrielle. I have my orders.” With both hands around her waist, Cargan held the bard off the ground and had to enlist the aide of two Guards to keep her from ripping his eyeballs out. “Get Xena.”

Picking up the warrior and her sword, the Guards moved her behind the line and placed her next to Bud.

Lifting his head, the tiger rubbed his paw across her face to get the hair out of her eyes, then laid back down.

“Oooo. That’s gonna leave a nasty bruise.” Aphrodite commented on the large red spot on Xena’s cheek.

Her sword in constant motion, T was putting forth a continual offensive assault, keeping Dahok on the defensive. Using the skill she’d acquired two millennia earlier, gold met silver in a shimmering blur of movement. Grunts and groans mixed with the deafening rings of metal against metal. Giving him no room to maneuver, or use his powers, she pressed hard and fast. Swinging high, then low, she kept him beyond the top of the bridge and in front of her. Scoring only nicks and cuts, she suffered the same fate and soon the light sheen forming on her body melded with small trickles of blood.

His frustration mounting, Dahok was pressed to keep his sword where it was needed. Each attempt at a strike was blocked and countered with lightning speed, which prevented him from landing the one lethal blow he desired. Growling low, he tried to advance, but was held in check by a golden barrier.

Watching from a vantage point beneath one of the Royal Guards, Gabrielle was on the ground, her eyes glued to the bridge. Still struggling to participate, she heaved and strained to no avail. The considerable weight on top of her was too much for even her temper to overcome and she panted heavily with the effort. As she watched, her heart was torn between the knowledge that she’d been tricked and something creeping up from her memory. The movements she could see were registering on her subconscious. Though they were almost too fast to see, the moves still struck a chord in her mind, as if she was seeing a dance she’d done as a child. There was a pattern forming from the apparent random swings of T’s sword. “She’s setting him up.” Unable to see the lower part of T’s body, because of the bridge, the bard could still recognize what was happening. “Cargan.” Looking up, she swiveled her head looking for the Captain.

Coming over, he knelt down beside her and was already shaking his head. “No, Gabrielle.”

“No, listen.” Shaking her own head, the bard looked back to the bridge. “You need to get your men down. Have them sit, or whatever, but you’ve got to get them lower.”

Frowning, Cargan stared befuddled. “What?”

“Just do it! You’ve got to trust me.” Growling out the words, she tried to kick him. “Get them down, now.”

Nodding, despite his confusion, the Captain signaled his men to kneel, see that this would not deminish their ability to defend the line.

Unaware of what was happening on the far side of the bridge, Dahok began to rally. The defensive stance he’d taken was shifting and he was able to slip past the constant attack to drive T back slowly. Still looking for the one death blow, he worked at wearing down her strength. The effort she was putting forth was showing on her body, if not her face, and the watery drips darkening her clothing were a sign he was getting closer to his goal. Consumed with the smell of victory, he pushed harder.

Stepping back an inch, T was still in constant motion, but her blows were losing their stinging bite. Having a mortal body again, even in the shape it was in, was going to make her strategy all the more important. She had to use his ego against him if there was any chance that this would end quickly, without anybody getting hurt, but it was going to be difficult. Moving back inch by inch, she let him get his digs in and allowed his sense of power to build, because she needed it. It was the only way to mask her agenda and it was the only way to get him off balance. Her face calm, she was primed and ready. Dahok was becoming more confident and they were almost at the top of the bridge, so now all she needed was a few more swings and he’d fall and her destiny would be fulfilled again.

The first signs of consciousness was a moan, then a hand going to her head. “Ow.”

“Oh, look. Auntie Xena is finished with her nap.” Aphrodite chuckled and turned the baby around, so he could see. “I think she’s not going to like Mr. Mirror for awhile.”

Grabbing her jaw, the warrior moaned louder and opened her eyes. “What hit me? A bus?”

“Close.” Nodding, the goddess shook her head. “A knuckle sandwich from our fearless leader.”

“Our fearless . . . T!” Sitting up quickly, Xena found her sword.

“Just calm down, or else the goons will sit on you.” Waving her back, she sighed, then pointed to the bard. “They got blondie as soon as she stepped off the bridge.”

Finding Gabrielle, she saw that the bard was virtually being sat on and she knew why. She also noticed that all the Guards were kneeling and this made her head hurt more. “What are they doing?”

“The Gabster told them to duck. I think it has something to do with the tall, red and ugly up there.” Pointing to the bridge, she shrugged. “Hey, how did he get undead anyway?”

“I don’t know.” Shrugging back, Xena got on all fours and crawled over to where the Guards had the bard subdued. “What’s going on? Ooof. Get off me.”

Turning her head, Gabrielle found the warrior under three Guards. Rolling her eyes, she shook her head. “Give it up, Xena. They’re under orders.”

Struggling anyway, the warrior lost her sword again and was pressed on by nearly everybody that wasn’t required to hold the bard down. “I can’t breathe here.” Gasping, she shoved a couple of the weights off her chest until she could breathe, then calmed a bit. “Look, I promise not to go anywhere unless T’s in trouble, so would you please get off me?” Glaring up at the face an inch from hers, she bored her baby blues into Cargan.

Nodding, the Captain waved his hand and the Guard crawled off. Pushing off himself, he kept her sword and went back to sit beside the man sitting on the bard.

“Why didn’t I think of that?” Groaning, Gabrielle sighed. “Cargan, you’ve got my promise too.”

Giving her a speculative stare, he finally nodded. “Okay.”

“Thank you.” The girls said in unison and began dusting themselves off.

“So, why did you have everybody get down?” Getting to her knees, Xena moved up beside Gabrielle.

“Watch what T’s doing.” Pointing, she waved her finger. “I think I’ve seen it before.” Glancing at the warrior, she waited to see if she saw it to.

Staring intently, she watched T’s movements carefully and tilted her head. “I don’t . . . wait. She’s setting him up.”

Nodding, the bard smiled. “That’s why I had everybody get down.”

Patting her wife on the back, Xena nodded. “Good move.” Leaving her hand in place, she pulled the bard to her and kissed the top of her head.

Smiling, Gabrielle leaned into her and sighed. Staring at the bridge, she looked beyond it to the wall of fire and thought about the beautiful forest that was gone. “I wonder how long it will take the trees to grow back?”

“It’ll be beautiful again, Gabrielle. It might be in our next life, but it’ll come back. T will take care of it.” Smiling sadly, she looked down and saw an expression more sad than hers. “What?”

“Xena, T’s mortal again. She may not be here in our next lifetime.” Swallowing hard against the lump in her throat, she shook her head. “She’s going to get old, now.”

Looking up to her friend, the bard’s words hit her like a ton of bricks. In the excitement she’d forgotten that fact. “No, she can’t. We’ll just do the blood thing, ya know. Give her another transfusion. She’ll be back.” Glancing back down into the same sad face, she shook her head at it. “It’ll work.” Smiling, she hoped she get one back, but she didn’t.

“Xena, she’s still got the same blood. I don’t think a transfusion will make her immortal again.” Lowering her eyes, Gabrielle closed them and leaned heavily into her wife.

“No. She can’t just get old. She’s always been that way. She hasn’t aged a day since we met her.” Shaking her head in denial, Xena turned to the Captain. “Cargan, tell her. Tigers live really really long, right?”

“That’s true.” Nodding, he smiled. “The oldest King on record lived to be over two hundred years old before he was killed.”

“Killed?” Opening her eyes, the bard turned to him. “Who killed him?”

“No one. A wagon collapsed on top of him while he was repairing a wheel. No King has ever died of old age.” Shrugging, he looked back to the bridge. “They have all been killed, one way or another. T’s father was nearly a hundred when she was born and according to Lemet’s diary, he didn’t look any older than he did in the portrait when he died.” Turning back, he shrugged again. “No one knows what the true life expectancy for a King really is.”

“Seeeee. All we have to do is keep her out of trouble and she’ll be here for a long time.” Smiling, Xena didn’t get one back again.

Looking up, Gabrielle shook her head, then turned to stare out at the bridge. “Define trouble.

Following her gaze, the warrior was hit again. As her mind had just reconciled itself to the fact that her friend would be around for may lifetimes to come, she was then struck by the knowledge that the trouble she needed to avoid was baring down on her like a rampaging bull. The only person to ever defeat T was on the bridge. Dahok had died and so had her friend. It was all coming back like nightmare. The heat of the lair. The crumbling walls. The echo of his dying screams. The desperation she’d felt when T had been trapped under the rubble. It was fresh and it was real. The site that had met her eyes, when she’d awoken above the river of lava and discovered the sacrifice T had made for her own survival. That instantaneous crushing feeling of loss came back, as she watched and it burned her soul, causing the warrior to see only what had been, not was to be. “No, no, no, no.” Shaking her head, he heart sank and she began to rise. “We’ve got to do something. She can’t die.”

At that moment, T found the opening she’d set up and pivoted on one foot, dodging a blow aimed at her chest and came around, arcing her sword in low sweep. Catching Dahok’s outstretched blade from behind, she dug the edge of hers into the edge of his near the hilt and hooked his sword. Planting the other foot, she continued the turn, pulling Dahok forward and yanking the sword out of his hands to send it hurtling in a straight line with the flick of her wrist. Then she was supposed to spin again and behead the demon, but as her eyes caught the trajectory of the sword and the rising form of her friend, she froze. “Noooooooo.”

Her mind in another place and time, Xena stood intent on undoing the past and didn’t see the elongated bullet coming at her. The sound of T’s agonizing scream didn’t reach her ears until she felt the ground slam against her back. Blinking in confusion, her mind came back to the present and she looked up to see what had happened. Rolling her head and eyes backward, she saw what had happened and found Cargan with Dahok’s sword through his chest pinned to the tree behind her.

“Xena!” Crawling over, Gabrielle put her hand on the warrior’s chest. “Xena?”

Still staring, her mind took a moment more before her relexs and instincts came rushing back. “Cargan!” Jumping up, she stood beside the Captain. Touching the sword lightly, her eyes saw the damage done, but put that aside. “It’s okay, it’s okay. Just relax. We’ll take care of this.” Giving him a smile, she checked the flow of blood coming from around the hilt of the sword.

Staring down at the sword, Cargan tried to breathe and sent a wash of blood out of his mouth.

“Oh, my god.” On the other side, the bard put her hand on his chest. “Just hold on. We’ll get you down. Just relax.”

“Tell my wife and son that I love them.” He whispered and never looked up, as his eyes closed slowly.

“Nonononono!” Holding him as he went limp, Gabrielle looked to the warrior. “Xena?”

Shaking her head, Xena felt for a pulse and got none. “I did this.” Closing her eyes, she hung her head for a moment as the anger of being both the blame and helpless rose up from her soul. In a flash the warrior princess had her hands on the sword and yanked it out of the Captain’s body and the tree. A fire of her own in her eyes, she let the bard take care of Cargan as she turned to head for the bridge. “Your ass is mine, Dahok.” Fingering the handle, she was past the stunned Guards before they had a chance to stop her. “You are mine.”

“Xena! No!” Lowering Cargan to the ground, she watched the warrior walk off. “Xena! Get her!”

Aphrodite turned the baby away and closed her eyes. “I liked him.”

It took Dahok less time to recover than it did the warrior and as T stood in shock, he pounced. Roaring to his feet, he grabbed her sword arm and dug his claws into her flesh.

A heartbeat after that, T was back in motion. The rage she’d been lacking during the battle emerged in full force. Roaring in unadulterated fury, she spun and dug her claws into his chest, dragging them downward, ripping skin and muscle as she went. Spinning the sword in her hand, she brought it back to gash his arm.

An agonizing roar replaced the one of fury as Dahok was ripped open. Unarmed, he raked his claws across her chest, doing what had been done. From then on there was no finesse with sword to deal with, just claws, teeth and madness. As before the King was everywhere at once and he matched her ferocity with his own.

Digging and clawing, she ripped whatever her hands came in contact with, her eyes blinded by rage. As they grappled, they tumbled over, rolling down the fire riddled side of the bridge, their bodies a mass of undistinguishable flesh, she continued to attack him like the tiger laying half alive under the tree and like the tigress she was. T forgot the sword she held, letting it fall to the bridge behind them, her mind set on killing him with her bare hands. Ignoring and unfeeling the wounds she received, she aimed for heart and throat.

Xena came up the bridge, Dahok’s sword held high and let loose her battle cry. Following the trail of blood, she charged over the top and was hit by a blue ball of energy. Dodging most of the impact, she bounced off the railing and fell to her knees.

“Xena!” Leaving the body of the Captain, Gabrielle charged the line of Guards and this time would not be stopped. Shoving them aside, she picked up the warrior’s sword and swung it menacingly to clear her path. “Xena!”

Panting heavily, the warrior glanced at the seared spot on her shoulder, climbing to her feet. Keeping low, she crested the bridge and found a heap of convulsing bodies roaring and rending each other into a bloodied mass. “T!”

Hearing nothing but her own anger, T continued her ravaging battle as they rolled toward the wall of fire. While the flames licked it’s burning tendrils over the foot of the bridge, she sank her teeth into his shoulder, breaking bone and tore away putrid bile.

Ripping his claws across her back, Dahok sent a burst of energy into her body, then heaved the stunned tigress through the air, back onto the bridge. Seething and oozing from every imaginable place on his body, he crawled to his feet. Letting loose another roar, he lumbered toward the prone figure before him. Now, he would have his victory and the Crown.

“Noooooooo.” Planting her feet, Xena torqued her body sideways and drew back his sword like a javalin thrower. Swinging forward, she hurled the silver blade, aiming for his heart. Stumbling with the effort, she went to her knees again, right behind the Sword of Ungara.

Impaled by his own weapon, the Evil went back into his burning wall with the force of the impact.

Grabbing the golden sword, the warrior scrambled down the bridge toward her friend. “T! Get up!”

Right behind was the bard, her eyes focused on Xena, she followed her down the other side toward T. Seeing the body lying motionless, she glanced toward the fire. “Get her arm. We’ve got to get her out of here.” Taking one for herself, she pulled back, straining against the dead weight and the hill behind her.

Sheathing T’s sword on her back, Xena grabbed one arm and began to pull with Gabrielle. Her eyes on the fire as well, she backed up blindly, moving her unguided feet as quickly as she could. “We’ve got to get her to the other side.”

“I know.” Groaning, Gabrielle continued to pull.

Frowning, Aphrodite hefted the baby in her arms and stood. “Hey! Did somebody feed him or something?” Opening the jacket to see his face, her eyes went wide as the face began to change from the small newborn. “Oh boy. Guys. Guys!” Holding his expanding body, she leaned against the tree. “Whatever you’re doing, just stop it, okay. Please?” But the baby didn’t comply and continued to grow. “Nobody ever listens to me.”

Xena and Gabrielle were at the center of the bridge when Dahok came roaring out of the flames. Dropping the hand she held, the warrior unsheathed the golden sword and two handed the grip. “Gabrielle get her out of here.”

Pulling harder, the bard drug the body of her friend a little way down their side then let her go. “Get her off the bridge!” Giving the Guards a quick glance, she turned back and moved to stand beside Xena with the warrior’s sword at the ready.

As blind as his opponent had been, Dahok charged upward, not seeing either woman in his path. His sword still piercing his chest, he was focused on the retreating form of T, still unconscious and being carried away by the Guards.

“I go high, you go low.” Eyes set, Xena raised the sword and drove it directly above the one she’d impaled him with bracing her legs against his momentum.

Not even having time to nod, Gabrielle swung her sword in a descending arc as she spun clockwise, catching him behind the knees. Going down, as she followed through, she swept his legs ou from under him. As he fell, she sprang to her feet, driving Xena’s sword downward to join the other two in his chest. Twisting the handle with the thurst, she drove it up to the hilt and continued to push, leaning on it with her body. “Die!”

Putting her weight on the other two, the warrior twisted them as well. “Die you bastard!”

Flailing under the attack, Dahok grabbed one leg each and squeezed as he pulled them off their feet.

Hitting the bridge hard, both women tried to get away using their free leg, kicking and shoving at him. Taking hold of the railing, Gabrielle pulled with her arms while she kicked at his arm. Grimacing in pain, she felt his claws dig into her calf and cried out. “Aaaaaaaaaaa.” Throwing her head back, she kicked harder as her leg was lifted off the ground.

Pushing off the deck with her arms, Xena held on to the rail and jammed her boot into his throat. “Let her go!” Nearly jumping up and down on his neck, she grabbed a sword and pulled it out to drive it in again. “Let her go!”

He released the bard, ripping cloth and muscle as he did, then sent her crashing into the Guards with a ball of flame. Sending several more, he then grabbed the foot on his throat and twisted it until he heard bones snap.

“Aaaaaaaaaaaa.” Screaming, the warrior went down twisting with her leg. Her hand still holding the sword, she drove it into his shoulder, using it to pin his and to lean against in her attempt to rise. “Get off me!” Straining against the pull on her legs, she kicked wildly with the one that wasn’t broken and managed to get to her feet.

Furious, Aphrodite put the baby down next to Bud and put her hands on her hips. Staring at the bard, she then stared at Dahok. “Okay, that’s it! First you knock off my brother, then waste T, but nobody messes with blondie and get’s away with it.” Stomping past the wounded Guards, she knelt down by Gabrielle. “You stay here. I’m on it now.” Standing, she pulled up her pink sleeves and wound up a good one. “Hey! Ugly mug! You want some action? I got some action for ya! I’ll teach ya to mess with a blonde!” Hurling a ball of whatever the Goddess of Love was capable of throwing, she reloaded quickly and continued to barrage him with multi colored balls, as Xena limped her way off the bridge. “Take that you scum sucking, butt faced, naked meanie!”

Unconscious, bleeding and burned, Gabrielle lay unaware that she was being championed by her fellow blonde.

Crumbling to the ground, as her feet hit soil, Xena crawled to where the bard lay. Dropping the sword, she pulled Gabrielle in her lap, cradling her limp body. “Gabrielle?” Tears steaming down her face, she stroked a burned cheek and brushed away singed hair. “Honey? Come on, please. Gabrielle? Wake up. Talk to me. “Gabrielle?” Looking up for help, she glanced around frantically and saw no one standing but Aphrodite. The Guards were in the same condition as the bard, except that some were semi-conscious and withering in pain. Ares was dead, as was Cargan, their bodies next to each other. Bud was barely alive and couldn’t walk, or stand, because his back was broken. T was a short distance away and so bloodied and torn that she wasn’t recognizable anymore. Staring at the still form of her friend, the warrior knew she’d lost her best friend again. Closing her eyes, another wave of tears down her face and she pulled the bard into her arms. Cradling her close, Xena held Gabrielle’s head against her shoulder, rocking slowly. Looking around again, she caught something moving out of the corner of her eye. Snapping her head further, she saw it again and laid the bard gently to the ground, as she picked up the sword and stood to face whatever was coming up from the rear. Balancing on one leg, her eyes searched intently.

Spreading out as they came close, the Ancients fanned out to form a solid line of bodies two deep. Behind them were their ensigns on foot and wing.

Lowering the sword in disbelief, Xena ran her eyes from one end of the line to the other. The sight was impressive and though she was shaken, exhausted and had a broken leg, she was happy they were there. Feeling as if a weight had been lifted off her shoulder, she slumped back to the ground and laid the sword at her side.

Moving forward as a whole, the gods stepped out of the trees, past the bodies of Ares and Cargan, bowing their heads in unison to the fallen and Katai gave Bud a comforting pat as he passed. Continuing forward he signaled the ensigns to stay back. Joining his brothers, he checked the warrior and bard. “We’ll get you medical help soon.”

“Don’t worry about us. Get that rat bastard and I’ll be happy.” Nodding toward the bridge, Xena smiled.

Nodding, Katai signaled for them to move forward and followed his brothers, slipping past them to kneel beside T. Placing his hand on what was left of her chest, he held them up from passing. Though his powers were gone, he could still feel the slightest bit of life left in T and nodded. “She lives.” Smiling, he rose and signaled for the line to move forward.

Turning at this news, the warrior stared at the body of her friend as the gods moved forward again. “Hang on, T. We’ll think of something.” Smiling, she held her wife close. “We’ll make it. We’ll all make it somehow.”

“Oh, now we get back up?” Throwing her arms in the air, Aphrodite fumed. “Where have you been? I was running out of bad love.”

No longer under attack from balls of jealousy and unrequited love, Dahok ripped the swords out of his chest and hefted them toward the sky. Rising to his feet, he roared in victory. “I am King!” His body still torn from T’s attack, he surged with power, sending his wall of fire higher than the trees they were burning.

“No, Dahok. You are not.” Speaking loudly, Katai shook his head. “You are not now, nor will you ever be.”

Lowering the swords, the Evil roared at his brothers. “You are nothing! You stand their as mortals, defenseless and weak. You cannot stop me! The Crown is mine!”

Unseen and forgotten, a leather jacket moved around like it had a life of it’s own. Beneath it, a boy, now a near toddler sat up, his eyes wide, he looked around. Arms caught in the sleeves, he tried to crawl toward the noise and stumbled until he was big enough to stand and teeter. Naked, except for the jacket that drug the ground, he toddled toward something shiny. When he got to it, he tried to pick it up, but the sleeve wouldn’t let him. Frowning, he rolled it on it’s side and tried again. Growing with each moment, he saw his reflection in the curved gold surface and smiled at the Crown.

Unable to rise, Bud lifted his head and tried to catch the edge of the jacket with his paw, but it slipped away as the boy toddled out of reach. Stretching his head as far as he could, he watched the boy walk over to Ares, where he sat down.

Now sad, the boy patted Ares’ arm gently, trying to get him to respond. When nothing happened, he pouted and hung his head. Leaning forward, he turned it sideways to lay it on his father’s arm, patting it softly inside the leather sleeve. Sighing silently, he rubbed his forehead on the cool skin and sat up, as tiny tears rolled down his face. There was more noise and he turned and stood. Dragging the Crown behind him, he was more sure footed now and walked a little better. Sniffing, he looked at the people towering in front of him and turned to find something else shiny that needed investigation. Padding over, he saw something gold twinkling in the light coming through the trees. Getting to it, he sat down again and propped the crown on T’s arm. The shiny thing was the gold fringe of her headdress and he leaned over to touch it. Frowning again, he reached hard and got his fingers to barely pop out the end of the sleeve, so he could feel it. Running a finger over the gold bob, he touched her skin, then spread his fingers to wipe her forehead. Doing it several times, he laid his head on her shoulder and closed his eyes as he sniffed back his tears. Patting her arm, as he had his father, the boy comforted his mother as best he could, while his silent tears mingled with the blood and gore covering her body.

Feeling the touch, through the blackness that surrounded her, T struggled to reach out to it. Her body destroyed, she used the only thing she had left and that was her soul. Drawing from the last shred of strength still held within her core, she fought the chill trying to eke it’s way in. Pressing it outward, she felt a flow of something warm take it’s place. A meandering stream of heat filtering down from the outside world, that was reinforcing her struggle, giving her a spark of energy. With that, she opened her eyes. Her vision blurred and unfocused, she saw only a diffused light. Closing her eyes again, she felt the touch more solidly and concentrated on it. After a few moments another spark filtered through and she opened her eyes once more, but they were still blurred. As the touch came again, she moved her eyes toward it and managed to turn her head. “Ares?” Not even a whisper, she looked into a fuzzy image. Blinking, she tried to focus her eyes, then slowly, she was able to make out a dark head on her shoulder.

Sitting up, the boy stared down with a look of innocent wonder on his face.

T blinked several more times before the face became clear and for the first time, she saw the face of her son. Not the newborn face she’d caught a quick glimpse at earlier, she studied this older face and could see it still changing before her eyes. It was a mirror image of her’s, with Ares’ pitch black eyes and short wavy black hair. Then he smiled at her and she saw her own impish grin reflected in the face of her child.

Patting her arm with his fingers, he got up and lifted the Crown. Rolling it over her arm, he let it fall on her chest, then turned to walk off.

Straining, she reached out and caught a barefoot with her hand. Holding him in place, she felt it growing inside her grip. Closing her eyes, she held on to her son and dredged up every ounce of life she had left. Groaning silently, she slowly began to sit up, as the Crown slid down her body.

“I am King!” Dahok roared again and started down the bridge toward his brothers. “My brother denied me my right and I am here to claim it! I am the first born of the gods! The Crown is mine!”

Lifting his battle axe, Katai stepped up. “You are not the chosen, Dahok. Your greed and evil cost you your birthright. You were given the same chance as Ungara to become King and you wasted it. We were given this earth to protect, not to toy with and use for our pleasure. You lost your claim when you chose selfishness over the responsibility we were given.”

“Save your self righteous prattle for mortals, Katai.” Stopping, he surveyed the line of his siblings. “I am a god and my power is meant to rule mankind, not coddle it. Mortals are worthless, piteous bile that plague this world. Their only purpose is to serve our desires.” Tossing Xena’s sword into the river, he held his up high. “This is the sword of the rightful King. The Sword of Dahok and I claim this land and this world as mine!”

Still holding onto her son, T grimaced, winced and groaned her way to her knees. One hand holding the Crown, her eyes closed as unconsciousness threatened to take her again.

Hearing something behind her, Xena turned to see T on her knees, then the leather clad boy trying to get away. “Oh, my god.” Her voice a hushed whisper of awe, she stared eye to eye with a pair of black orbs. “Junior?” She asked, slack-jawed.

Reaching out in frustration, which showed up as a determined pout, the boy grabbed her jacket in an attempt to free his leg. Grunting softly, he pulled at the captured foot held by his mother.

Easing the bard to her lap, the warrior reached out, wrapping one arm around the boy. “I gotcha.”

Opening her eyes, T turned to look at the startled expression on Xena’s face. Seeing her son safely in her grasp, she let go of his foot and took a deep breath. Bringing one leg slowly around, she leaned sideways and picked up her sword, from beside the warrior. Using it as a crutch, she pressed upward on her shaky leg.

“No.” Hanging onto the boy, Xena tried to stop T. “Don’t. Don’t get up, T. No. No.”

Turning around, Aphrodite’s jaw dropped. “She’s alive and and and he’s naked.” Pointing to the pint sized biker replica. “And where did the zoo come from?” Wrapping her scant attire closer around her, she pointed to the wildlife in the trees. “What is this? Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom?”

“Aphrodite, shut up about them and get her back down. She can’t fight anymore.” Setting the boy in her lap, beside the bard, she waved the goddess over. “Get her down.”

“Got it!” Nodding, the goddess fluttered around the back and grabbed T’s arm. “Not so fast, chica. You’re not going anywhere. We’ve got big guns now, so you just sit this one out.”

Using Aphrodite in conjunction with her sword, T stood all the way up and straightened, which elicited an audible groan.

“Down you go. Down. Down.” Tugging gently, she tried to get the woman to sit. “Bend your knees. Come on. Can you hear me? Hello! You’re half dead and we don’t want you to go all the way, so sit. Sit. Sit!”

Panting heavily, a pair of dark brown eyes turned to look at a pair of blue ones. Using the hand that held the Crown and was gripping Aphrodite’s shoulder for support, she pushed it away and growled.

Two manicured hands flew off. “Ooooo. I hate it when you do that.” Stomping her foot, she tried to get her to go down again and got growled at again. “Okay.” Hands on hips, she took a firm stance. “Listen, you’re gonna sit down, so you can just stop with the grrrrrr stuff. It’s not going to work. Now, sit.” Pointing at the ground.

T showed her fangs and growled again.

“Fine, do what you want. You can’t say I didn’t try.” Washing her hands of the affair, she moved to the far side of the warrior and folded her arms across her chest and huffed.

Sighing, Xena hung her head. “I don’t believe this. She’s not going to bite you.” Shaking her weary head, she took the boy in both hands and held him up to the goddess. “I’ll do it, just take him.”

“He’s naked. He might . . . you know on my outfit.” Waving her hands in front of her sheer pink get up.

“Aphrodite.” Growling herself, the warrior glared at her. “Take him, now.”

“Eeeeewwww. I just got this outfit, ya know?” Shaking her head, she stepped back.

As the two fought for custody of her son, T began moving forward. Her steps halted and unsteady, she walked slowly toward the backs of the Ancients. Stepping over the unconscious, or dead Guards, she weaved her way through them with her eyes straining to see between the heads in front of her. When she could go no further, she stopped to listen.

“This is the sword of the rightful King. The Sword of Dahok and I claim this land and this world as mine!”

Two over sensitive ears went back and she placed a hand on someone’s shoulder. When they turned around, she gave them a gentle push and slipped through the line. Taking a few steps more, she was beside Katai and stopped. “Then I guess you won’t be needing this?” Rasping out the words, T brought her arm up, holding the Crown in front of her.

Shifting his gaze, Dahok caught sight of the golden circlet and growled. “That belongs to me!”

Working up a smile, she tossed it at the foot of the bridge. “Come and get it, but it won’t make you King. It’s just a piece of jewelry, Dahok. The only significance it holds is what you place on it. If you want it, you can have it.” Lowering her arm, she gently moved Katai back. “I won’t fight you for it.” Shaking her head, she waited to see what he would do.

“Your ploy is wasted, Daughter of Ungara. I don’t need your permission to take the Crown. It belongs to me.” Lifting his sword, he aimed it at her. “As does your son. You took mine from me and now I’ll take yours.”

Sighing, T slumped her shoulders, sending a new trail of blood out from her wounds. “My son doesn’t belong to you and he never will, and just for the record. I’m not Ungara’s daughter, so stop calling me that.” Sounding mildly irritated, she sighed again and changed the subject in hopes of regaining more of her strength by stalling. “These are your relatives, not me.” Pointing from side to side. “Ungara chose my ancestors, he didn’t sire them. Just like they chose their clans. We don’t even look anything alike, okay? Ungara is not in my gene pool and neither are you, so just get it straight will ya? You had your chance at a clan and you blew it, so stop trying to crowd in on mine. You want a family, you got one and here they are. If you don’t like ‘em? Tough, that’s life. You don’t get to choose your relatives, so you’re stuck just like everybody else. If you don’t want them around? Don’t invite them for Thanksgiving, but don’t come crying to me because you’re stuck with a bunch of people who are more trouble than they’re worth. You want to blame somebody? Blame your parents. They’re the ones who pumped out brothers like a Pez dispenser. They’re the ones who made you share, not me. If you think they’re crowding in on your turf, well welcome to the club. I’ve got nearly fifty million people to take care of, who yank my chain every minute of every day. You think it’s easy to wear that Crown? Well it’s not and don’t think that being a god is going to help, because it’s not. That just means that you can be yanked 24 hours a day, because they know you don’t have to sleep, eat and expect you to be at their beckon call all the time. Where’s my college tuition? Where’s my lunch money? Where’s my pat on the head for doing the job I’m supposed to? Yak, yak, yak. On and on. And if you think you’ll get rid of them? Forget it. They are everywhere, do you hear me? You can’t turn around without one staring you in the face and holding out their hand. Ooooo. I got a paper cut. Heal it. Ooooo. I was stupid enough to go parachuting and my chute didn’t open. Fix it. Help! I’ve fallen and I can’t get up . . .”

Xena didn’t succeed in handing off the boy and now she was listening in amazement as the toddler turned into a preteen, while his mother ranted and raved. “Put on some pants.” She whispered absently and held onto his hand. Still cradling the bard with one arm, she sat in wonder, trying to tell if T had lost her mind. At first she thought it had been a stall tactic, but as her friend continued, she was waiting to find out if she was next on the bitch list.

“Geez! And I thought blondie could talk the paint off the wall.” Standing on her toes, the goddess shook her head. “What she trying to do? Talk him to death?”

Coughing her way back to consciousness, Gabrielle winced at the pain and opened her eyes. “Xena?”

“I’m right here, Gabrielle.” Smiling, she looked down into bloodshot green eyes. “It’s okay. I’m right here.”

Very groggy, the bard had to stare for a long moment until her mind cleared enough to recognize her wife. Then she smiled, as more of her surroundings came into view. “Did we win?”

“Not yet.” Rolling her eyes, the warrior helped her wife to sit up more and pointed over the bard’s shoulder. “Dahok is still on the bridge, but nobody’s fighting right now.”

Confused, Gabrielle closed her eyes and leaned into Xena, resting her head on her shoulder. Taking some deep breaths, she opened her eyes and looked up. Blinking, her forehead wrinkled and she leaned her head back to get a better look at the young man standing close by. “Xena? Who’s that?” Pointing with one finger, she got a bright face turned her way and a broad smile.

“That’s Junior and don’t ask, because we do not know.” Nodding, Aphrodite sat down beside them. “I’m just glad he got some pants on.”

Gabrielle had to close her eyes at that one. “Okay and I don’t want to know.” Taking some more cleansing breaths, she rested heavily on the warrior, who wrapped her arm around her shoulders for support. “So, what is going on?”

“Well, right now, T is kind of yelling at Dahok. I think it’s to stall, but I’m not sure anymore.” Laying her head against the bards, she gave it a soft kiss.

“T’s alive.” Opening her eyes, Gabrielle lifted her head. “I thought?”

“Yea, well, so did everybody else till Katai said she wasn’t and even then it was iffy, ya know?” Wobbling her hand, the Goddess of Love looked doubtful.

“Katai?” Turning her head, the bard saw the wall of bodies for the first time. “Are those?”

“Yep. The old geezers showed up after I started giving Dahok something to think about.” Bobbing her head, Aphrodite smiled. “Better late than never, huh?” Glancing over her shoulder, she shrugged. “The gang’s all here.”

“How long have I been out?” Holding her head, Gabrielle fell back into Xena’s arms.

“Not long.” Smiling, she gave Gabrielle’s forehead a kiss then looked up at Junior, who was now working on his mid teens. “You okay?” Squeezing his hand, she got a squeeze back and a nod. “Do you want to sit down?”

Shaking his head, Junior was becoming very interested in what was going on on the the other side of the Ancients. Standing on his tip toes, he peeked in between a couple of heads. Moving from side to side, he stepped to one side and frowned.

“What’s wrong?” Tugging on his hand, the warrior kept her eye on him, but could still hear T talking, so everything wasn’t totally wrong. “Junior?”

Frowning harder, he let go of Xena’s hand and stepped up.

“Shit! Aphrodite!” Pointing, she tried to get him back, but the bard and her broken leg prevented it. “Ow. Get him.”

Lunging forward, the goddess wrapped her arms around his ankle. “No, ya don’t.”

Held in place, Junior tugged on his leg and leaned forward. Staring through two heads, he was looking at Dahok through a slit about two inches wide. Taking a step, he pulled the goddess along and moved to stand directly behind the line of Ancient gods.

“This is a new outfit!.” Hanging on, the goddess was pulled over some sharp rocks that didn’t suit her liking. “Owwie.”

“Gabrielle, can you get him?” Trying to scoot forward, Xena’s leg was burning from the movement, but she was reaching for all she was worth, trying to get hold of Aphrodite’s foot.

Sitting up again, the bard took in the situation and lunged after the goddess, ignoring the pain in her body and caught Aphrodite around the knees. “Okay.”

Grabbing the bard’s ankles, the warrior wrapped both arms around them and began pushing back with her good leg. “Come on, big boy. Come on back. We gotcha now.”

Dahok stood speechless for sometime, virtually mesmerized by the woman, who was so near death that she could barely stand up, yet seemed to be able to ramble without taking a breath. The Crown at the foot of the bridge was somewhat forgotten and from the looks that his brothers were giving her, he knew this was not a ploy. They didn’t know what was going on, anymore than he did. So, after hearing his family besmirched and her complete irritation with the duties of being King, he was held under her spell for a few more minutes before he could shake the incessant chatter going through his head. “Enough!” Shaking his head, he covered one ear with his hand. “I have heard enough!” Taking a breath, he glared at the woman behind his misery. “You have wasted enough of my time today. You will not delay me any longer.”

Shrugging, T looked unfazed. “I was just trying to let you know what you’re in for. That’s all.”

A ripple of head shakes went down the line of Ancients as they too were snapped out of the spell.

“Your troubles are over, so be thankful when I end your life. You will no longer bear the responsibility of the Crown.” Halfway smirking, he started down the bridge for the Crown.

Lifting her sword, T stepped forward. “Actually, Dahok. I think I’ve changed my mind. I think I just needed to vent and I don’t think you’ll be taking the Crown today, or tomorrow, or any other day for that matter.” Smiling, she lowered her sword as she approached and flipped the Crown into the air with the tip of her sword sending it over her head and behind the line of Ancients.

It took his anger less time to come back than it did to disappear and as the Crown went out of sight, he roared in fury. Raising his sword, he charged down the bridge toward T. “That Crown belongs to me!”

Losing her smile, T brought her sword up, holding it straight out from her body. Knowing she was only going to have one chance at this, she watched him carefully. Setting her feet, she held her ground and ignored the movement to either side and the mumbled curses, then she felt a hand on her shoulder. Giving whomever a shove, her eyes were glued to the demon. Then the hand slid down her arm and wrapped around the one she held her sword with. Unable to take her eyes off Dahok, she tried to push back with her body and ran into someone solid. Growling, she didn’t have time for this and was about to make a more forceful gesture when Dahok stopped in his tracks, then it only took a second for her to know who was behind her.

No longer frowning, Junior let go his mother’s hand and stood beside her staring at the person on the bridge.

Smiling, Dahok chuckled. “So, my son has grown up, has he? Good.” Nodding, he lowered his sword and held out his hand. “Come to me, my son. Come to your master. Bring me the Crown.”

Arching an eyebrow, the baby turned man tilted his head and held up what had landed in his hands a few moments prior. Turning it over several times, he watched the light dance off the polished gold, which made him smile. Looking up, he took a step toward the bridge.

“That’s right. Bring it to me. I am your master. That’s mine.” Staying put, he continued to smile and hold out his hand.

Her eyes never wavering from Dahok, T whispered and switched sword hands. Placing a gentle one on the shoulder of her son.

“You cannot stop what is right. He knows who the rightful King is. Come, my son.” Nodding in encouragement, he softened his smile. “Come on.”

“Junior, no!” Hopping on one leg, Xena shoved her way through the line, using the shoulders as support. “That doesn’t belong to him and neither do you.”

Turning his head, Junior saw the three women come through the line and smiled at them.

Hobbling over to T, the warrior held onto Katai and was joined by the bard and the goddess, as they watched his simple innocent face go through a stage of confusion.

“Do not listen to them, my son.” Raising his voice, Dahok glared at the trio. “They are jealous of what you possess and want to keep you from bringing me what is mine. They are mortals and unworthy of you.”

Looking between them, Junior’s eyes lowered to the Crown again and then he stepped back, out of the reach of the hand on his shoulder.

“Junior, no.” Shaking her head, Gabrielle leaned down to catch his eyes. “Listen to me. We’re your family, not him. You are not his son. He is not your father. Ares is, remember? You’ve got his eyes and his hair, and you’ve got your Mother’s smile.” Smiling herself, she could see the tiniest of smiles on his face. “That’s right. I’d know that smile anywhere because I’ve watched it grow for a long time, waiting for you.”

Lifting his eyes, Junior smiled shyly.

“Come on, sweet pea. You don’t want to go with him. He’s all eeewwwie.” Shaking her head, Aphrodite smiled.

Turning his head, he looked at the person on the bridge.

“Do not listen to them, my son.” Shaking his head, Dahok nodded. “You belong with me. You are a god and you belong at my side, so we can rule the world.” Taking a step closer, he wiggled his fingers. “Come now, so we can begin our reign. Bring me the Crown.”

Junior sighed and looked back down at the Crown in his hands. Then they slowly rose again to take in the profile of the woman with the sword in her hands. The side of her face was torn and bloody. Her neck and shoulder was in the same shape. As he moved his eyes downward, all he could see were wounds, blood, and ripped skin. When his eyes reached the ground, he saw that she was standing in a pool of blood, soaking the ground around her feet. “Mama.”

Turning her head, T’s eyes slowly left Dahok and she met the dark pools that she’d loved so much in Ares and now loved in her son. Staring at him, she saw that he’d grown taller than his father and smiled. “Gabriel.”

Xena smiled and looked down at the bard, who had her hand over her mouth, with tears forming in her eyes. Wrapping her arms around Gabrielle, she pulled her close.

Hearing his name for the first time, he looked up and into her eyes. There, behind dark brown gates, he saw into her soul filled with pain, sorrow, determination and love. The last shone brighter than a thousand suns warming his soul, making him smile. Then he turned to Dahok and searched the black eyes of the person on the bridge. Inside the dark orbs he found no soul. Just lust, greed, desire, anger and evil. A tainted and twisted hatred radiating from behind the smiling mask, that sent a chill over his soul. “Bad man. I don’t like you.” Shaking his head, he held the Crown out to his mother. “Mama’s.”

Gabrielle almost collapsed in Xena’s arms from relief. “Thank you.”

Dahok had a different reaction. One that was instantaneous and deadly. Dropping his smile, as he raised his sword and charged down the bridge, he aimed the blade at the face frowning at him. “Then die!” Roaring, he leapt off the wooden structure and drove his sword into the chest of T.

Roaring to match his, the King of the Ungara shoved her son behind her and took the blade meant to end his life, driving her own into Dahok’s heart, as they came together. Roaring again, they both were knocked to the ground by the force and she hit hard, driving her golden sword in up to the hilt, as his went though her, into the soil against her back.

“Noooooooooo.” Grabbing Junior, Xena threw him to the ground and was knocked aside, along with the two blondes as the bodies flew past. Rolling, she was on her feet and by the pair in a heartbeat. Seeing the gold sticking out of Dahok’s back, she paused, watching his body wither on top of her friend in agony and fury. Kneeling quickly, she shoved his massive form, using her good leg, all the strength she had and a power surging up from her core. “Get off her!” Joined by some helping hands, she rolled the demon over and saw T covered in his blood and the hilt of his sword in her chest. “No. Oh, god. No.” Leaning over, she jerked Dahok’s sword upward, then flung it behind her, into the river.

Pouncing on Dahok, his brothers dragged him away and waled on his undulating form with their weapons.

Driving the golden sword into the ground with the broad side of his battle axe, Katai put his foot on the hilt and swung the axe high to come down on Dahok’s neck.

Pinned by the sword in his chest, Dahok screamed as his body was torn apart. Spewing black blood from his lips, he cursed them, even as his head was severed from his body.

Doing what they had been unable to do at the dawn of time, the brothers finished what Ungara had started and what T had nearly completed. Joined by their ensigns, they continued to mutilate the carcass until the Sword of Ungara was left standing, with nothing more than a black rancid stilled heart around it’s blade.

Falling to her knees beside the warrior, Gabrielle looked down at T. “No. Don’t do this.” Looking into her eyes, she could only she a faint glow of life that slid from the corner of her eye, as they turned to return her gaze. “Come on. Hang on, now.”

Drowning in her own blood, T coughed to clear her lungs and take in a breath. Looking up into a pair of crying green eyes, she smiled. “You and Xena take my son and love him.”

“No.” Shaking her head, Xena pushed the bard aside and took T’s shoulders in her hands. “No, we won’t take him. He’s yours. You have to stay. He needs you.”

Coughing again, she sent another mouthful of blood down the sides of her face and shook her head. “I will live in his heart and his soul.” Closing her eyes, she smiled.

“No, you can live. Junior can fix you. He’s a god.” Turning around, the warrior searched for him. “Junior! Get over here.” Spying the man-sized boy, sitting with the Crown in his lap, she waved at the goddess. “Aphrodite, bring him over.”

Nodding, she smiled and knelt down beside Junior. “Come on, sweet pea. Let’s get rid of Mommy’s boo boos, okay?”

Looking up, Gabriel had tears in her eyes.

“Come on.” Tugging gently, Aphrodite pulled him to his feet and led him over to where his mother was dying. “Down you go.” Putting some pressure on his shoulder, she went down with him. “That’s a good boy.”

Kneeling, he sat down and lifted T’s hand. Using his own fingers, he wrapped her’s around the Crown and put it on her stomach. “Mama’s.” His voice a quivering whisper.

“Okay, Gabriel.” Wiping her eyes, Xena shook her head. “Listen to me, okay.” Putting a finger under his chin, she turned his face to hers. “We need you to do something. We need you to use your powers to keep Mama from going away. Can you do that?”

Confused, he looked from his mother to the warrior.

“Xena, let me.” Pushing gently on her shoulder, Gabrielle took the warrior’s place in front of her namesake. “Hi there.” Smiling, she sat down beside her friend and took his hand in her’s. “I’m Gabrielle and I’m gonna help you, okay?”

“Gabrielle.” Ungara spoke softly, as he came up behind them. “He can’t help her.”

“Yes, he can!” Turning to glare, the warrior growled. “He’s a god. He can heal her.”

Shaking his head sadly, he knelt down beside the bard. “Look at his hand.” Taking Gabriel’s hand from Gabrielle, he wiped off the blood and held it up. “The soul has passed.”

Frowning in frustration, Xena looked at the hand and saw claws where fingernails should’ve been. “No.” Looking back to T, she pulled her hand off the Crown. Wiping off the finger tips with her shirt, she held them up and sighed. “We’re not too late.”

Seeing the same claws T always had, Gabrielle turned to Ungara. “He can still save her.”

“Mine.” Taking his hand back, Junior shook his head. “Not Mama’s.” Staring at four confused faces, he blinked and began to pout. “Mine?” Balling his hands into fists, he tucked them under his chin.

“Not Mama’s?” Seeing the adult version of the newborn, the bard turned to the warrior.

“That doesn’t mean anything.” Shaking her head, Aphrodite slapped Ungara’s shoulder. “He was born with those. He had them the whole time, you stupid geezer. I saw them when they handed him to me and her soul can’t pass anyway. He’s not a real Tiger. He’s half Ares, you dope.”

Confused, Ungara shook his head. “That can’t be. Only the King has the soul and it takes the soul to get those claws.”

“Oh, get with the program.” Rolling her eyes, the goddess sighed. “All that stale air must’ve pickled your grape.” Pointing to him, like it was obvious. “He’s the new and improved version. She’s still got her soul. How many times do I have to explain this to you? You made the rules here.”

Coming back to the point, Xena grabbed Junior’s hand from under his chin and put it on T’s chest, holding it there with her own. “Listen, Gabriel.” Staring intently into his dark confused and frightened eyes, she smiled. “You can save her. You have the power, okay. All you have to do is think about it. Concentrate on keeping Mama here. Just close your eyes and think. Think about keeping her heart beating and getting rid of all her wounds. Go head.”

Nodding, Gabriel closed his eyes.

“See her in your mind without the wounds. Make them go away.” Talking quietly, she moved closer.

Scooting out of the way, Gabrielle moved to the other side and watched T’s body. “Come on, T. Just hang in here.”

The Ancients tossed the bits of remains of their brother into the river, to join his sword and watched the water bubble, as it absorbed his body, washing it away in hundreds of pieces.

Staring across the river, Katai saw that the wall of fire was gone with it’s master, but what it left behind made him want to cry. For as far as the eye could see, there was nothing but charred ruins of the beautiful forest. The light breeze whipped up fingers of ash in the smoke drifting from the forest floor. Shaking his head, he turned from the sight to join his brothers and the ensigns in the circle they’d formed around the fallen King. Sliding through, he knelt beside Ungara. “It is finished.”

Nodding absently, Ungara stared at the hands on T’s chest. An eternity passed as he watched for any sign of change.

“Come on, Gabriel. You can do it. I believe in you and so does your Mom.” Whispering words of encouragement, Gabrielle smiled at him, though his eyes were still closed. “You can do it.”

Closing her eyes, Xena pressed her hand into his, in an effort to will his power to work. “Come on. You can do it. I know you can.”

Placing her hand on top of the warrior’s, the bard closed her eyes as well. “Please work. Please.”

Slowly, a golden glow spread out from under the three hands. Moving like water, it shimmered it’s way outward, gliding over T’s body.

Pounding on Ungara’s shoulder, Aphrodite bobbed her head and smiled. “You, go boy.”

Wincing, the Ancient smiled anyway. “She always said that through love, anything was possible.”

As the glow continued to grow, everyone watched with anticipation, in the hopes that this newborn god, with his unknown powers could overcome Ungara’s soul and heal T. That it could bring the King back to life, as well as the others who’d fallen to Dahok’s evil rampage. Not forgotten were the lifeless bodies outside the circle. Ares and Cargan laid in silent stillness beneath a tree next to Bud, who was hanging on to life by a thread. The Guards, who’d sacrificed themselves to protect the heirs to the throne, had passed to the other side while the battle continued without them. Sucumbing to the burns, they lay not far from the circle, still in the line they’d formed while alive. The glow spreading outward was a hope that all could be restored to it’s rightful place and bring some joy to the tragedy of the day.



No Epilogue, yet.

Thanks for reading.


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