Studies In Light
Chapter Six-Fates And Destinies
(Conclusion of Series)
Written by: Caina Q. Fuller
The weather seemed to match Xenas mood again on this morning as the Warrior Princess mounted Argo and rode through camp. She had been back with Ares for over six months and she was shocked at how easy it had been to fall back into her old life rhythm without Gabrielle there to remind her how wrong everything she was to do the things Ares led her to do.
Xena took a great deal of comfort in her conquests to eventually take over the world by telling herself that mankind needed a firm ruler. People had to have someone to tell them what they could and could not do. Otherwise they tended to run rampant, indulging their lusts to no end while only upholding an ideal of what was right and what was wrong. If there wasnt someone around to enforce the rules of society then all one was really left with was a bright, shining lie that allowed the innocent to suffer and the wicked to prevail.
On this day the start of a new beginning was coming. She would use the manpower she had amassed, with Ares public approval, to take not the first village, but the first city. In the battle plans shed been making with Livia and Ares, Corinth would be the first to fall. Rumors of her growing army had attracted much attention, and it seemed every thug in the world was rushing to join forces with her. Same ole, same ole.
Livia Xena had made certain that Ares had not just brought back one of the coldest individuals in history, but shed made certain hed altered her personality just a tick. If she was going to be his warrior Queen then he couldnt resurrect the past completely. Instead hed taken Eve and altered her into a warrior much like her mother. Like mother, like daughter, almost. Hed done little more than brainwash Eve into believing in Xenas new cause to cure the world of the disease of freedom. Any time man had freedom, chaos ruled. Only a stiff dictatorship under Xenas fist would put an end to the horrors and injustices people committed against one another.
Along with her new and improved daughter Xena had masterminded an attack that would bring Corinth to her knees gently. This time around on Xenas campaign, there would be as little blood shed as possible. Though Xena could feel her heart growing cold and numb without Gabrielles love, she was determined not to have a repeat of Amphipolis or of Varia. She would kill of course, but only when necessary. She wanted people to at least be able to feel loyalty to her. She wanted the people to do more than fear her: She wanted them to believe she was what they needed. It would start where she left off with Boreas in Corinth.
Of course no warrior could rise up and conquer the world without someone to oppose her. Humans werent the only ones to discover Xenas plan to take over the world in Ares name, with Livia on her right hand and the god of War on her left. Hercules, who was living with his wife Morrigan and their four children in Ireland, was returning home to put an end to Ares latest crusade and to find out just what had happened to Xena. Hed been absolutely shocked to discover that the woman he still thought of as his Xena would ever stoop to side with Ares again.
He took no joy in returning to his native soil this time. He wasnt coming home to visit with old friends, but to go to war. A war, he knew, that could cost thousands of lives before it was over. With Xena and Ares working together there was a chance that even after all the shedding of innocent blood he may still lose to them. Xena had always been the one mortal he was in danger of losing to in the heat of a battle. He was the son of Zeus and the son of a mortal. He could be killed.
He finally arrived at the temple of the goddess whod summoned him and when he entered he was just as shocked to see the changes being made inside as he was at the changes hed heard happened to Xena. The pink tapestries, feathers and mirrors that had once adorned the walls were gone, replaced by weapons of all kinds. The place looked like an armory, and indeed perhaps with the impending war it was.
Hercules didnt have to wait long before the goddess of Love appeared before him. She had changed so much he almost didnt recognize her. Aphrodites once luxurious blonde hair was now short, straight and a beautiful auburn that reminded him of Morrigans hair, only hers was longer than his wifes. Her pink, see through dress was gone, replaced with a battle uniform eerily reminiscent of Athenas. Truth be told it was Athenas uniform, only the crest on the helmet had been replaced with a black dove. She was also heavily armed with Athenas sword, daggers in each boot and a chakram.
Aphrodite I dont know what to say. Ive never seen the goddess of love dressed like this.
Aphrodites looks werent the only thing that had changed. There was something in her eyes, coldness perhaps, that Hercules had never seen in her before. She eased from the throne and walked toward him. Gone was her irreverent and somewhat flighty attitude. She was all business now.
There is no goddess of Love anymore Hercules.
Some changes have been made on Olympus. Since the death of the Olympians and the loss of Gabrielle the remaining gods have taken over the-
Wait a minute. Hold up. The loss of Gabrielle?
Yes. Gabrielle is no longer with us, and it is because of me that this war is about to happen. There is much to explain Hercules.
Then youd better get started. From the rumors Ive been hearing over the past few days we dont have much time to get our men into position in Corinth.
You wont be going with me to Corinth Hercules. I have a much bigger plan in mind for you.
Xena rushed through the front door of the Inn. She had one last card to play to save Gabrielle and she intended to use it for all it was worth. She came through the doors to find Athena facing Gabrielle down, an energy ball glowing furiously in her right hand and getting larger by the second. Amaranda stood beside Gabrielle.
The goddess wasnt happy to find her former champion interrupting her execution. Forget it Xena. If you get in my way Ill kill you too.
Im calling in our vow.
The energy ball dissipated as quickly as the shock could form in her eyes. It was apparent Athena had completely forgotten about it.
You cant be serious.
Xena planted herself between Gabrielle and Athena, knowing that what she was about to do next would end her freedom for the rest of her life, but Gabrielle would live.
What vow? Amaranda asked from her position beside Gabrielle.
When Athena first asked me to become her champion I said no. Not without a little insurance. Care to tell them?
Fuming, Athena stood quaking with rage. She was being robbed of her victory and there was nothing she could do to stop it. No, I dont.
Fine, Xena said. She was clearly enjoying her bittersweet victory. She vowed that should I ever fall out of her graces she would grant me one request. After that my very soul was hers to do with as she pleased. She could sentence me to oblivion, she could put me in Tartarus or she could keep me her slave forever. It was up to her. Regardless of what she would have to grant me one request.
Then request godhood, Gabrielle said, hoping her new friend wouldnt do something foolish in the name of love like sentence herself to an eternity in Tartarus over her. That way you can fight her. Forever if necessary.
Athena never took her eyes from Xena, even as she spoke. God-hood was the one thing Xena would be denied.
I asked for this in the event Athena would ever decide to harm someone I loved. At the time I was thinking of my mother and brother but now that theyre both dead, I have you to use it on.
State your request, Athena said, a smile forming on her lips. If Xena gave Athena her soul, then she would finally have the one thing shed wanted from the moment shed met Xena: Complete, total possession of her soul. It was all so perfect.
I request that you spare Gabrielle and return her to her universe.
That is two requests.
Sudden rage boiled within Xena and it was all she could do not to slap that smug, self-righteous grin off her face. Youre splitting hairs Athena. Send her back alive.
I will spare her and that is all. If she wants to return home she will have to convince one of the other gods to send her back before the universe is destroyed. I wont do both. Now Xena.
Athena held out her hand and Xena felt her innards churn with disgust. She knew this god and she knew exactly what was coming for her. All hope was not lost however: Gabrielle was alive and Xena was determined to find a way to get her home somehow. Alive.
Xena, Gabrielle grabbed onto her hand before it could connect with Athenas, much to the goddess anger. Dont do this. Dont give up your soul for a stranger.
Im not giving up my soul for a stranger Gabrielle. Im giving it up for love. Good-bye.
Before anyone could object Xena pulled Gabrielle to her in a final kiss. A kiss through which Xena tried to convey a lifetime of pure, selfless love, and Gabrielle returned it with every bit as much passion. When they parted, Xena felt she was losing any hope of ever knowing happiness again, but it was all worth it.
Athena jealously pulled Xena to her and they faded away. Would it be the last time Gabrielle ever lay eyes on this world's Xena?
Gabrielle and Callisto rode full gallop down the road until they were stopped by a small group of Amazon warriors, one of who looked oddly familiar. It took both girls a moment to realize that one wasnt a warrior at all, but Lila. They quickly dismounted and ran to a tearful embrace.
Excuse me, one young woman said. She was beautiful with innocent looks and curly blond hair. I am Terreis, Princess of the Western Amazon Nation.
I am Callisto and this is Gabrielle, Lilas sister. Its an honor to meet a real Amazon. Callisto pumped Terreis arm enthusiastically and the Princess found herself liking the plucky girl more and more with each passing second. Shed been next to tears at being reunited with her sister, but there had been an underlying boldness to her gait and her eyes that attracted Terreis. This was no ordinary village peasant. She could sense that there was much to be mined from Callisto.
Its a pleasure to meet you as well. I was sent here by Aphrodite to reunite you with your sister, but also to tell you that youre not safe here.
Gabrielle was just about to answer when a decidedly male voice interrupted her. You got that right sister.
They turned to find Marcus of all people standing behind their group. He was damned sly to have managed sneaking up on a group of Amazons.
Marcus. Gabrielle spat the word out as if it was venom, and to her and everyone she held dear it was.
Thats him, Lila said to Terreis. Hes the one I told you about.
As the Amazons drew their weapons Marcus held up a hand. Without saying a word arrows began to shower down on the group. Lila pulled Gabrielle to safety but Callisto saw Terreis in immediate danger and rushed to pull her into the trees. She was too late however, and the Amazon Princess took an arrow to her gut. That didnt stop Callisto from shielding her with her own body however.
Terreis! Another Amazon shouted, coming out of the safety of the trees to check on the closest person in her life. She and Terreis had been friends since they were four years old. They were sisters in every sense of the word except blood, and now Terreis was dying.
Ephiny, Terreis said. Her voice was frighteningly weak. I give Callisto my right of caste. Please accept it.
Callisto didnt know what to make of what she was hearing. What was a right of caste? Oh, ok. Sure.
Terreis, you dont know what youre doing! Ephinys eyes bored into Callistos with something akin to anger but not jealousy. That should go to someone born of Amazon blood.
I see something in her eyes Those were Terreis last words as her life drained away from her.
Ephiny did what she did best: She utilized her feelings to make her strong. Right now she was hurt and angry over the loss of her sister, and she was going to make this male bastard pay for separating them.
Ephiny drew her sword as she yelled back to the sisters waiting in the trees. Get Lila, Gabrielle and Callisto back to camp. Now!
Her sisters did as told as Ephiny faced a very smug group of four men standing behind Marcus.
Youre outnumbered five to one little girl, Marcus said, examining Ephinys physique with open lust. Try not to cut her up too badly. Shes going to make an excellent addition to my harem.
The men charged and got a big dose of Amazon skill and anger. Ephiny cut one man after another as each clumsily charged her. In seconds it only she, Marcus and one man remained.
Not bad, Marcus said. He was practically drooling with anticipation of taking this proud warrior down and humiliating her the way hed done Lila for years. Remember. Dont kill her.
The two men attacked in unison, and Ephiny began to realize that she was out-skilled. Between the two of them it was only a matter of time before they had her captured and were leading her away to a life of misery and abuse.
Ephiny succeeded in cutting Marcus partner down but it cost her her balance. Marcus was on her in seconds with his left hand around her throat and his right hand exploring her body.
Your skin is so rough. Dont worry though. A few years in doors and Ill have you as smooth as-
His voice suddenly cut off and his eyes widened in shock. Marcus began clawing at his back in panic before he collapsed onto Ephiny. It was a struggle moving his dead weight off of her but she wasnt alone. Callisto had returned and was helping roll him off, and when Ephiny stood she found a sword stuck in the center of the filthy mans back.
Ephiny looked up at Callisto with new respect and she too saw in Callistos eyes what Terreis had seen: Bravery.
Ares wasnt sure how long he would have Xenas loyalties so hed decided to live next to her, and eventually with her, on the battlefield. There was no telling how long she was going to be his Warrior Queen so he wanted to make the best of it while he still could. Hed set up a luxurious tent on the field and situated it squarely between Xena and Livias tents.
Livia That was a strange story in and of itself, for she wasnt really Livia. At least not the Livia hed known and had fun with. Xena had been very specific in the changes that were to be made to her daughters new personality. It had been tricky carrying out Xenas wishes but hed succeeded fairly well.
She was ruthless...in the heat of battle. However getting her into battle was a war in and of itself. She was still Eve in the respect that she desired to spare life as much as possible, but Ares had brainwashed her into her mothers new world-view: Peace through conquer. The world would have to be forced to be peaceful and just, so if a nation or a village refused to surrender and live under Xenas laws, Xena would have to give the order to kill. If not, Livia would not kill.
He was pleased to learn another thing: Xena had erased her daughters memory of Eli completely as an act of loyalty to him. Livia also had no memory of being lovers with Ares, which was his own handy work. He didnt want to deal with jealousy should his ultimate fantasy of him and Xena becoming lovers was ever realized.
As Ares passed Xenas own massive tent he heard the distinct sound of an argument inside. He stopped outside and peeled back the flap, just enough to listen. From what he could tell it was Xena arguing with Aphrodite.
Xena stared at the new goddess of war with a rage so intense it even made Aphrodite nervous. I sent Gabrielles soul to another universe. Shes not dead.
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