By Kandis "The Kiwi" Glasgow
Real live disclaimers(As opposed to those dead ones we see so often): Xena, Gabrielle, uhhhmmm Xena Gabrielle one two(counting on fingers) ..Ephiny three uhhhh Lets see. (Whispering to self ) Xe, Gab, Eph .OH yeah! Cyrene uh Screw it. Those guys you know that belong to them that dont belong to me. I have so many flippin characters of my own I tend to forget .. OH WAIT! Jan and Mel. Sorry guys!
"You fuckin bet youre sorry!"
"Janice Covinton, you will not use profaniatay on the writah!"
"Well, shit Mel! She forgot us!"
"We foahgive her!" Nudging Jan. "WE foahgive-her-Jan," Whispers to her lover. "Oah she may write us outta the storay all togethah."
"Ahem. We forgive..you."
Dont hurt yourself Jan! I said I was sorry! Sheesh. Touchy! Anyway, they dont belong to me and why they think they can get off being so mouthy is beyond me. BUT, needless to say I am not making any money at this and I sure as heck wish I was. TPTB tend to make a little off of this as only to keep their fan base happy and full through the long weeks and months we have to go without seeing the show.
Lookin for love disclaimer: Nookin foa nub in ah duh wong praces! ( IF you have to ask..) If you have an allergic reaction to sex and love between women, get out the anti itch cream if you intend to read this. If you are not allergic but live in a place that is, you, may want to read something that wont cause a rash in your home town. If you are too young to have those kinds of rashes, chances are you shouldnt be reading this. All of you rash prone people need to run along and stop scratching before you leave a scar.
The Ill be damned swearing disclaimer: Jan does it. Candace does it. Xena, Gabrielle, and Taylor do it. Mel only does it if she is over heated! If Swearing offends you dont read the disclaimer. Too late? Sorry.
Howdy do Disclaimer: Gosh this writing thing can be hard while your skipping around in a foreign country. I really am trying to get this finished! I have the end written. Its that back to front thing you know. Hey, I wrote Return to Reality before I ever finished Stranger Paths. It seems to be a trend with me. ANYWAY things here are turning colder and strange thing is no one has heat in their home. It was 9° c in the house this morning. That is 37° in F. Now correct me if I am wrong, but I should NOT see my breath IN the house. Thank you Lord for my space heater. I will say that if you want Xena and Herc goods, this is the place to get them. Duh. This is getting there I promise! I have a web site if you want to see it http://www.btinternet.com/~langrish/k
Thanks so much to Kim my wonderful and talented friend!
Cheryl, I love you and this should be posted about the time I get home! You are my heart and my soulmate. Without you this story would never have taken this long to write and I am so glad for that!
Taylor beamed as she watched her betrotheds blonde hair sparkle in the bright Amazonian sun. The deep purple colored ribbon twisted in her locks was only a symbol of what was to come. Gabrielle accompanied the small pregnant woman to the stand for marriage to her. To her. Candace had agreed to join with her and she didnt feel worthy of such devotion. Yet here she was and Candace was coming to stand with her and take that vow. She stood still, her heart beating violently with in her chest. Xena elbowed her lightly as a light whisper rang in her ear.
"Breathe, Junior. If you pass out, I am not catching you." Senar leaned over with a frown to see who was speaking. The Warrior Princess made as if she had never spoken. Eyes straight forward.
Taylor looked over at her friend and soulmate from the corner of her eye. She whispered back to the woman who stood with her. "I cant believe how beautiful she is."
"Junior, you should have seen her the day ." Xena caught herself. The firefighter did not need to hear this right now.
Taylor grinned anyway. She knew Xenas mind and shed be thinking the same thing if it were her. "I can only imagine, Xe." Understanding weaved into her voice.
Senar made to hush them when she was signaled by her queen to just let it go. The Queens Champion nodded. They had gone so far beyond protocol anyway that a bit of banter on the dais was not surprising. Besides she and Xena had had a few words to say on the day the Warrior Princess had married. She returned to her relaxed stance when a change in the air made her stiffen. There was a battle brewing and she could feel it in the very marrow of her bones. She wished to be with her daughter out patrolling the perimeter. Krista, as Captain of the Guard, was the only member of the royal family not attending the festive wedding of Taylor and Candace. Normally they could afford to wait until the sentries had a chance to be substituted for a royal wedding to take place. Today this was not the case. This was a marriage that had to take place this very day if Candaces daughter was to be born an Amazon. It was protocol broken to keep protocol. Senar shook her head. Sure! Why not let them have a chat.
Xena shifted on her feet. Her eyes squinted as she felt the atmosphere around her shift. A slight frown came to rest on her chiseled features. In the very far distance, as if it were a lovers whisper in her ear, she could hear it coming. She could smell the change in the breeze. She cursed in her head. //Shit! Why now?// She knew the gods would never let them have one minute of peace. But, they would learn soon enough. Time was running short for all of them. She shifted her attention back to the matter at hand. This was more important at this moment in time. //Speaking of time, where are those two?// She shook her head.
Taylor noted the change in Xena, but had no time in her heart or mind to analyze the change. She had too much to occupy her thoughts already. The tall firefighter turned back to watch the glorious vision, that was soon to be her wife, proceed to the platform. Silk adorned the petite body as it had in the past. A pale aqua the color of the summer sea floated behind her as the long skirt caressed the curves of her expanding belly. The skirt was attached to the kid leather bodice that covered her breasts. The symbolic bracelet of rank that she had worn the last time she had done this, was proudly displayed on her wrist. She was beauty wrapped in human flesh. Taylors chest swelled to almost bursting. She should have done this much sooner. She herself was a picture of striking majesty. She had chosen the dress of a warrior. The length of her muscular legs was decked in leather the richest color of a deep royal purple . The high collared silk shirt matched the exact shade worn by the woman who would soon be joined with her. It was the same shade as the single ribbon strand that was braided in her hair. The purple vest that ran the expanse of her chest was embroidered with golden threads in the recognizable pattern of the Warrior Princess and her clan. At her side, clipped at her hip glimmering in all its menacing glory, was a wedding present from Xena. A new Chakram to call her own. She had earned it after all they had been through. Small dagger slipped smartly into her boot sheath. There was no doubt that the sword she wore on her back was more than a decorative piece. Taylor, firefighter from another land and time, was prepared to take a wife and to fight for the right to be called Amazon.
Candace reached the dais and waited at the base, looking up the wonderful view of love and beauty that waited for her. Ephiny stepped up to address the gathering. "Welcome Amazons to this glorious occasion. We are here to witness the joining of Candace and Taylor." She turned to Candace. "Please join us, Regent." Candace climbed the steps to stand beside the queen. Ephiny turned to Taylor. "Taylor, Warrior of the Amazon nation, is it your wish to take vows of marriage with this woman before Gods and the Nation?
"Candace, is it your wish to take vows of marriage before Gods and the Nation?"
"Hooo yah!" Several snickers were heard.
The queen smirked. "Ill take that as a yes. Very well. Taylor, collect your intended." Taylor walked to the small pregnant blonde and offered her arm along with her heart. Candace smiled at her so sweetly it caused an ache to touch her. She didnt think she would ever be as happy again as she was at this moment. If she were it would kill her. Candace took the offered arm and let Taylor guide her to the appointed position.
The Queen of the Amazons had one more bit of business to get to before they moved forward. "Candace, who will release you to marriage with this warrior?" She looked to Melinda and Janice who stood with her.
Melinda began to speak when a shimmering appeared beside her. A crystal voice rang out for all to hear. "I release her to Taylor and to the nation."
A murmur went through the mass of women as they tried to figure out who this woman was. They had never seen her before, but she looked vaguely familiar. There was no doubt her beauty rivaled that of the land of Aboria in all its splendor. Golden tresses fell from her crown and shimmered like they had been touched by King Midas himself. Her skin was smooth and radiant. But it was her eyes that captured all who stood in the assembly that morning in the Amazonian air. Her deep emerald eyes told the story of a thousand loves. She but had to gaze upon you and it would seem as if she could capture the very soul within your chest. The most amazing thing of all was that you would willingly allow it.
Xena grinned at the woman while Taylor looked utterly confused. Spencer smiled to himself while Terran squinted as if trying to piece together an intricate puzzle. Melinda and Janice grinned from stem to stern. This was an unexpected surprise.
Ephiny was speechless. She came to learn that when it came to the eight people in her company, anything could, and usually, did happen. She began to address the beautiful woman, but never got the chance. Once again Amazon protocol went out the window. It did make her feel safer that her spouse and Champion had taken a protective stance almost the split second the stranger had appeared. Senar was always alert. Ephiny sighed and let things go for the moment.
Candace didnt want to seem rude, but she couldnt help herself. "Do I know you? Should I?"
Gabrielle spoke before the woman had a chance to reply. The smile that plastered across her face showed her thrill at seeing her again. "Mother, how honored we are to have you with us."
"Ah! Of course. Erianna. Thank you. This is an honor." Candace smiled and nodded at the queen.
"No, sweet girl. The honor is mine." Aphrodites spouse put a soft hand to Candaces cheek causing a light blush to sneak on to the blondes delicate features. With the other hand she furtively passed to Candace a small metal object. Candace grinned in response and slipped the object to Gabrielle. The other blonde took it with out question.
Ephiny smiled at the Regent. It was appropriate that her ancestor be the one to offer her up to marriage. "Very well. Do you release her and bless her union?"
Erianna turned to face the monarch. With a bow she answered. "It is my honor."
"Accepted. You may be seated." Erianna kissed Candace gently on the cheek and gracefully ventured down the steps. Jules escorted her to a seat that suddenly became vacant. Several Amazons had fallen over themselves trying to give up their places. Giva was sitting near enough to share a quick wink with her lover. Jules blushed and smiled back. Erianna noted the exchange.
"She is lovely, Commander." The blonde smiled at the tall woman. She had made quick note of her insignia.
"She is indeed. I am quite lucky." Jules nodded and stepped away from the woman, impressed that she would make notice of rank so quickly. //So this is Gabrielles mother. It is not a wonder of their beauty.// She returned to her post.
"Who will release Taylor to marriage?" Ephiny scanned the group. There was silence for a few moments.
A strong voice came from beside the tall firefighter. "With honor, I will."
Taylor wanted to shed a tear at that very moment. Xena was giving her blessing and that was more important to her than anything except the love of her betrothed.
"What took you so long, Xena?" Ephiny knew the warrior was going to speak. The delay confused her.
Xena shrugged and looked over to Taylor and Candace. "I wanted to make sure there were no sudden appearances by lost relatives."
Even as she spoke there came a glowing at the base of the stand. Two young women appeared holding a large hour glass.
Xena smirked and shook her head. "See?"
"Sorry were late." Terra grinned. She had planned it this way for humors sake.
Ephiny was not so amused. "Since when is Time late?"
"Long story. Were here now. Go ahead." Skye tugged her lovers hand.
"See? I told you it wasnt that funny." Terra shrugged as they sat beside Erianna.
"Thank you for your permission." Ephinys serious voice held a tone of amusement. "Xena, do you release her and bless her union?"
Blue eyes gazed to the soul of the woman who was herself. She had been where Taylor was now and knew the blessing of marriage to the small blonde Regent. Both of them. "With all of my heart. Be happy my friend." Xena kissed Taylor on the cheek and stepped back.
"Accepted." Ephiny motioned to the women being married. "Step forward. Taylor and Candace, today you take vows before Gods and the nation. After today you will be of one heart, belonging only to each other. You will share a bond that no one may break. Taylor, you may speak."
Taylor cleared her throat as she faced Candace. Tear sprang to her eyes as she looked down at the small woman. "Oh my love. I have so many things on my heart that need to be said. And yet it all pales in comparison to the depth of love I hold for you and for our child. I not only become one with you this day, but I take also to my heart our daughter. I am sealed to you both by this vow that I make. I will love you, cherish you and though you are a great warrior in your own right, I will protect you. I will find out what you need to make you feel loved and I will do those things. I promise that I will give all I have to raising our children. When I pulled you down off of that cliff I knew my life had changed forever. Thank you for finding me. You are my completion." She squatted down and put a hand on Candaces belly. "Do you hear that, little one? I promise to love you as well and to be the best parent I know how to be to you." She bent her forehead to touch the enlarged stomach that held her daughter. She was summarily poked in the head by the tiny being. Candace jumped in surprise and Taylor laughed. "I guess that means yes!"
The queen grinned. "I suppose it does. Candace do you have words to speak?"
"I do." Ephiny bid her continue. Candace cleared her throat as long seconds passed. Her head was bowed as she tried to speak. She finally raised her head to look a concerned Taylor in the eye. Tears were streaming slowly down her cheeks. "Im trying, Tay."
The tall woman bent to her. With a sweet whisper she spoke in her beloveds ear. "You dont need to try anymore, Candace. Im here and I know."
Green eyes sparkled in gratitude. "Thank you, but I must speak." She cleared her throat again. "Taylor, warrior, firefighter, hero, leader. You are all these things and yet to me none of them are who you are to me. You are my lover and my very best friend. You are the heart that beats within my chest. Your eyes capture my soul with a glance. Your touch grips me with such tenderness, I beg you never let me go. I love you. I promise this day to love you and cherish you. To work beside you and play beside you. I promise you that I will be the best parent I can be to our child. With you at my side, I can not fail. I give you all that I am this day for I am already yours. You are my completion.
Taylor grinned from ear to ear. She whispered her response. "Thank you."
"Have you something to exchange?" Ephiny had almost forgotten.
Candace nodded and turned to Gabrielle. The Regent handed Candace the object that had come from Gabrielles mother. The ring was of the most exquisite platinum she had ever seen. The blue of the sapphire blazed with a brilliance that matched the blue of the eyes of her wife. Her eyes drifted to the small beautiful woman from whom the gift had come. Erianna nodded in affirmation. Candace swallowed as she turned back to Taylor. "May I have your hand?" Taylor extended her hand. "The other one, babe." A snicker went through the camp. Even the queen had a smile.
"Right. Its the left hand. Where did you " Her words were checked by the Warrior Princess.
"Taylor, with this ring I thee wed. I always wanted to say that." She grinned sweetly. "I give you this as a symbol of my never ending love for you. As it circles around itself so do our souls. I will never be parted from you, my love. In this life or in any other." She slipped the ring onto the tall warriors hand. It was a perfect fit. No wonder there.
The queen looked expectantly at Taylor. "I didnt have ti "She never finished her excuse.
"The RING. Terra, the ring!" An excitable blonde shook her partner with both hands.
"I have it. Calm down." Terra stood. "Your Majesty, may I?"
Ephiny drew in a heavy sigh and gave a nod. She would have rolled her eyes had it been any other time.
Terra took the few steps up to Taylor and handed her a small black box. She smiled at Taylor with such sweet sadness it gave the firefighter pause. Then the look was gone. She thought perhaps the play of the sun on Times face gave the impression. She nodded at her friend in gratitude.
"Enjoy the sweetness of this moment, Taylor. Bless you." Terra spoke her heart and returned to her seat. She pulled Skyes hand to her and forced back tears that wanted to fall. Skye kissed her shoulder in love.
Taylor pulled the box open to discover the ring within. It was a perfect match to her own. The only difference was the glimmer of the bright green emerald set in the perfect metal. She pulled the ring out and handed Xena the box as she turned back to her love.
"I didnt come up with any words for this moment. I dont recall that I asked for a ring, Terra." She peeked over her spouses shoulder at her tall friend. "None the less, thank you. Candace, With this ring I thee wed. The words are perfect, although in my heart I married you the moment I looked in your eyes. I thank God for you. I thank you for the love you give me, show me, and share with me. As this ring circles itself, so shall my love be. Eternal and always returning to you." She slid the ring on the delicate finger of her lover then she bent to kiss the Regents forehead.
Xena stepped up to Taylor and Gabrielle to Candace. They unbraided the colored strands from the two womens hair and stepped back. Gabrielle handed the purple ribbon in her hand to Xena. Candace removed a white ribbon that she had wrapped around her wrist. Xena looked at her in question.
"There are three of us, now. This is for the baby." She blushed at Taylor who grinned broadly.
The Warrior Princess smiled at the thought. "Of course. Please clasp hands right to right at the thumbs." The two women did as they were asked. Xena braided the three strands together to form one, she then handed the new tie to Ephiny.
Ephiny, relieved that this wedding was almost a memory, stood before the two women and had a twinge of remembrance. She had done this in the past with two very similar women. How things change and yet remain the same. She spoke to the two and to the nation. "As these threads are joined to become one, so are you three joined in the eyes of the Gods, the Amazon Nation and the world." She loosely wound the ribbon around their clasped hands. "Please, seal these vows."
Still holding hands they two women gravitated toward one another. Floating gently until their lips met in a promise that sealed their love and their lives.
Cheers went up again as they always do in times of joining. Candace unwound the ribbon and tied it in her hair. She turned to Xena for a hug. The large woman wrapped around her with a vengeance. Candace could feel the tension in her body. She pulled back to see a trail of tears flowing down one precious cheek. The small blonde reached to wipe it away. "Xe? Whats wrong."
"I uh I." She looked at Taylor and Gabrielle who were standing with arms wrapped around one anothers waist.
"What is it, honey? Are you OK?" Gabrielle put a hand out to her.
"I am. I just remember before. You are so beautiful. I .I." She had words to say but wasnt sure if she could say them with out offending all involved.
"You wish she were still married to you." Taylor put all the cards on the table.
Xena tried to look shocked but did a horrible job of it. Gabrielle caught her. "Dont, Xe. You cant hide from us. Its OK. I would love to marry her myself. " The blonde smiled at her newly married friend.
"Technically, I am still married to you. I mean, I never died and you never divorced me .did you?"
"There you go."
"But, you are my wife now. I have dibs." Taylor pulled the small woman off of her feet for a sound kiss.
"Yes, my love. You have dibs." Candace laughed as Taylor nuzzled her neck. "Put me down, Taylor! The queen is waiting." To tell the truth there was a long line of well wishers waiting.
"Indeed I am. But please, dont let me stop you. We are so far off the mark today, it doesnt really matter." She turned to address the rest of the waiting women. "Ladies, please adjourn to the dining hall. I believe that Melinda, Janice, Terran and Spencer have set up a ..a what did you call it?"
"A reception." Candace grinned.
"A reception. The couple will be there soon to greet you." She turned back to her friends. "We will be ready whenever you are. She pulled Candace and Taylor close. "Well, chosen Candace. She is worthy of you and you of her. Be gentle with each other." She almost turned away when the whisper of a memory she couldnt quite grasp touched her. She spoke from an experience she never knew. "Cherish each moment. You can never know when it will be your last."
Candace grimaced at the thought. She recalled vividly the pain and grief of the queen. Her eyes met Taylors. She whispered to her. "I love you, Taylor."
The tall firefighter kissed the hand she had been holding. "I love you, wife." The title soared in her chest. She had married her soulmate and now had the right to call her wife. Life was good!
The soon to be mother and now wife, hadnt really expected much after having been gone for so long. It seemed that time had passed in the Amazon land, but they had been a part of it. Most of what they had gone through was now only a vague memory in the annuls of time. They remembered and knew there was much more to come. But right now this was a party to end all parties. Darail and her staff had listened, bent, measured, cooked, folded and come frighteningly close to doing away with four rather stubborn people from the future. But, even the head chef had to admit that Melindas southern fired chicken was a work of art. Wine was soon to flow freely and the band was striking up a grand medley. Candace grinned, this was perfect.
No sooner had the sweet thought crossed her mind when a very harried, almost frantic, messenger rushed in. "Senar. Xena Where are they?!" Her breathless words along with the blood and dirt on her uniform did not bode well for the gathering.
"Rian! What is the meaning of this?" Ephiny was not angry as much as she was concerned at the sudden appearance of the warrior in distress. Her heart clenched. Krista was out there.
"Forgive me your Majesty." She bowed deeply to the queen. "They came from nowhere! It was like they werent there and then they were. It was I we." The large warrior collected herself. Her eyes caught those of her betrothed. Kimi had never seen fear in the eyes of her partner as she saw it now. This was not good at all.
Senar stepped to the side of her queen. "What did you see, warrior? Slowly this time."
"Armies. Not one, but many. Shining uniforms. Black leather. Red chains. Horses breathing fire. All headed in this ." She looked around at the many guests of the party. All silent. All intent on her next words. "..direction."
The Queens Champion spoke loudly and quite clearly. "If you are a warrior, now is our time and there is none to waste! Go gather what you need and collect to your regiments. Squad leaders, to the weapons hut now!" There was a new fuel as the emotions changed from joy and gaiety to sudden reality. War was at their doorstep. The whirlwind of activity began in earnest. Senar turned to her wife, queen and lover. "I must go. I love you to the ends of the earth and beyond."
Ephiny had heard this line far to many times in this life or any other. "And I you, Senar. Come back to me my Champion."
Senar kissed Ephiny with intensity, she then looked to Xena. "Are you ready my friend?"
"Not this time, Senar. This is Ares. From the sound of it, it is Athena and Zeus as well. Maybe more" She looked to Candace, Taylor and Gabrielle. "This is it."
The tall woman nodded her acknowledgement. This was a battle only these could fight. "Very well, Xena. I can only believe that you have the power to stop this. For the sake of the child within you. For the sake of us all." She turned with one more look to her spouse then headed for a date with destiny.
Jan and Melinda rushed up to the only group left standing in the hall. They were closely followed by Terran and Spence. "Fuckin bull fuckin shit! Wouldnt you just know it!"
"Janice, Ah take it you dont appreciate Ares tahmin." Melinda couldnt agree more at this moment.
"I have to go with Jan on this one." Spencer sighed heavily.
"I think we are all in agreement here. What do we do first?" Terran stood beside his lover.
Candace, no matter her condition, was determined. "We go out to meet them."
Taylor stood behind her new wife. "But where?"
Ephiny saw a sparkle from the corner of her eye. She turned to see a group of beings she had never hoped to encounter in her life. Not all together like this. "I think you have your answer."
Xena looked to Ephiny who pointed with her chin. Eight heads turned in unison. "Shit!"
A bolt of thunder rumbled towards them. They all tucked and rolled at once. Smoke and cinder flew about the room causing a deep shadow to fall over most of the area. Jan rolled heavily into Terran. She grabbed desperately for his hand. He held tight to the doctor as he reached for Melindas grasp. The professor stretched as she could to reach his outstretched hand. Another bolt struck as a fire ball whizzed past her head. She pulled back for a split second then reached with added fervency. She heard her shoulder pop as she touched Terrans fingertips. In the depth of her mind she registered that her shoulder had just dislocated. Ashes fell in her eyes and burned the soft skin on her face. She was getting her bearings when a large body fell on her causing stabbing pain to shoot through her arm. She screamed in pain and outrage.
Spencers smoke roughened voice apologized to her. "Im sorry! Mel, are you ."
"No tahme grab my hand!" She held it out as best she could. Another blast rocked beside them just as they made the connection. Mel screamed again.
Jan lost her grip in the shaking. "DAMN IT ALL TO HELL!" Terran grasped her once again and the circle was complete. There was no more time to practice. No more time to talk. Now it was time to act. Jan closed her eyes and felt her way. She found her peace as first Terran and then Spencer touched her mind. But Melinda where was her soulmate? She grasped at strands of passing thoughts. Melinda was with them, but barely lucid.
She relayed her thoughts to the two men with her. <Support her, guys. Reach to her like you never have before> A fire ball lit so close to her it singed the hairs on her arm. She didnt flinch. There was no time for fear now.
They all reached to the southern woman with all every slip of thought they had and rescued her from total unconsciousness. The world of violence melted away from them as they achieved oneness. A glowing hue of color surged at first gently between them, growing in size with time and as Melindas strength returned. In the recesses of their thought, they recognized a scream. Time was running short.
"HOLD ON! Shit! DAMN YOU ARES!" Xena picked Candace up bodily to carry the small blonde to safety of sorts behind an over turned table. She peaked her head over the rim seeking the rest of the small band. She noted the four gathered in a tight bundle. Melinda, in obvious pain, was skewed on the ash and cinder covered floor. Xenas incisive vision noted the blackened fissure where they had been standing only seconds before. She caught a sight of black hair moving towards here in a ducking and bobbing fashion. "Taylor, hurry!"
"Right there, Xe!" She appeared out of the smoke with a protective arm around Gabrielle. There was an ominous silence for a moment then a rocking blast knocked Taylor to her knees. "Gaaaaaaaahhh!"
Gabrielle tugged hard on the firefighters hand to help her regain her footing. Almost as soon as Taylor had her feet back under her, she pulled them both flat to the floor. A streak of a silver arrow whizzed by, showering them with burning sparks as it flew.
Gabrielles green eyes thanked the tall woman. She started to raise her body from the floor when and insistent hand to her back held her down. The firefighters sapphire eyes warned her as Taylor spoke. "Dont stand up!" Gabrielle frowned searching for reason. "Crawl. Its the only way were going to make it." The blonde nodded her understanding.
A small bubble expanded from the center of the chaos. The colors that sparkled ran brilliantly through the sphere. The spread was slow, yet steady. Xena watched in earnest both the firefighter and bard along with the encompassing defense that reached out to them. The eruption of increased attack gave evidence that the Gods knew what was coming. Taylor practically fell on the Warrior Princess, carrying Gabrielle with her.
Candace was safely tucked under Xenas arm. Taylor gave her a small smile. "Nice joining day, dont you think?" She ducked as a fire ball careened within inches of their heads. Candace returned with a sarcastic grin.
Xena spoke with a depth of seriousness that even Gabrielle had never heard. "NOW! We dont have a choice any longer." With eyes closed, she put one hand out and grasped the firefighter and the other to hold hands with her wife. Xena felt a wave pass of pure energy pass through her body like a ribbon of silk. Calm passed over everything. She opened her mind to touch the peace that had surrounded them.
<Hurry, Xena. Mel cant hold out for long.>
She opened her eyes as the circle was completed. Tendrils of white energy trailed from the center of their circle like spiders web floating on a breeze. She looked through the thin membrane of the power that protected them to the faces of the beings that sought to destroy her child. Her anger became confusion as she saw the face of her father. There was no time now for question or sentiment. His purpose was unknown to her and it would have to stay that way. If he wanted to destroy her child then he himself would face her wrath. She shook her thoughts and took to her task.
The power that snaked away from them took form above the dome that covered them. With no thought or design the four became one and that entity now floated silent and menacing. Taunting the Gods of Olympus to challenge it. They hesitated only a moment before the first steak of lightning came flying for a direct hit. It flew with all the anger and ferocity that Zeus could muster. The Being neither moved nor flinched in its hovering. The lightning simply dissipated inches before an impact. The Gods stared.
"That is not possible!" Zeus thrust both hands before his chest and bolts of energy traveled up his body into his fists. Intense ravages of power ripped away from him, streaking a path for the light that hovered in peace above their heads. Without so much as a whisper the lightning faded into the shadows.
"All of us! NOW!" Ares took command.
Arrows, fire, lightning, storms of energy flew from all the mighty hands, save one. "HADES! Damn you! FIGHT!" Athena was appalled at the lack of action her brother was taking. She sent and arrow his direction. He leaned back slightly and the shaft passed harmlessly by him. He remained placid while she glowered at him. She had no time for this. Her head turned in the direction of their new enemy.
Hades stood silent and waited. He knew what was coming. The hovering being began to change. A white hot glow began in the center and moved outward. It appeared to swell with intensity. A rainbow of colors began to dance around it as its light and power increased. All of the weapons thrown in the direction of the levitating body merely faded into non-existence. They were and then they were not. A single strand feathered out and touched the ruler of the underworld. He felt the effect wash over him as he was thrown to the ground. His eyes fluttered shut and he ceased to move. Athena cursed him for his lack of defense. He no longer cared.
Melindas mind began to float away from her grasp. She couldnt keep contact much longer. The protective membrane began to waver. Janice sent out her last plea to the others. <Hurry!>
As if by magic, urged on by the desperation of its creators, the single tendril became many. Seeking out those who would destroy the ones who made existence possible. This would not do. With lightning fast accuracy, the Being stung at each of the standing Gods with the tip of its octopus like arms. Because of his gifts, Ares saw the strike before it was thrown. He dove sideways and was caught on the leathers that were soon smoking with fire. Behind him he could hear the screams of indignation lifted from the mouths of his family. He turned expecting them to be burning cinders and ash. To his shock he saw them standing making desperate gestures as if to throw their power from now impotent arms. Athena looked at her body then up at Zeus. The crooked body of Hephaestus, the god of fire, shook with rage at being stripped of his heat. Apollos quiver stood empty of its never ending surplus of arrows. But he was the God of truth! What outrage was this? Hera cried with shrill agony. Zeus, God above them all stood dumb founded. Hades regained his feet with a broad smile upon his chiseled face. Finally, he had his wish. His dream. He was mortal. They all were.
On the field of battle where the blood of Amazons was being spilled by creatures that they could never defeat, there was suddenly silence. Fire breathing horses and riders dissipated into red mists. Sword wielding warriors in black armored shriveled away into rats that scampered around in fear. Silver breast shields cracked and dissolved into pebbles like large grains of sand that sifted slowly to the ground. The women that had held them became snakes that slithered away on their bellies, hunting the rats that had once been fighting machines. The storm of burning hail stones that had scalded their skin, turned to a gentle soothing rain that cooled their burns. The Amazons were left alone to contemplate the silence around them.
Senar spoke from horse back. "Amazons, collect our dead and let us return home with them and our wounded. It seems the battle has been decided." She glanced at Jules who nodded. The Commander began to dole out assignments and tasks. The Queens Champion frowned and then breathed a sigh of relief. Their lives would soon be very different.
Taylor felt the shield that was their protection burst from within. She leapt to her feet expecting a hail strum of fire and brim stone but was instead assaulted with cursing and swearing on an Olympian level. She frowned and looked at Xena who raised one eyebrow high enough to hurt the common person. Gabrielle stood up slowly and peeked in the direction of the once powerful people. She wanted to laugh at what she saw until she heard the gentle sobbing of the professor. She and Candace bounded to the side of their fallen comrade.
Melinda was well attended by Terran and Spencer, but they would do what they could. Candace caught a dark movement out of the corner of her eye. A shiver passed through her, but when she looked to glimpse the darkness it was gone. She shook off the feeling and turned back to her friends.
Her green eyes implored the doctor. "Ter, how is she?"
"I cant honestly tell without an x-ray, my guess is the arm only dislocated. I know that Spencer fell on her pretty hard. Id say broken rib or two. Mel, how is your breathing?" He poked and prodded as doctors do.
"I am breathin." She gasped in pain when Jan tried to help her up. "Aaaaaaaah. No. No. Not yet."
"Is your breathing labored, Mel? You sound fine, but we cant be too careful." He continued to examine her as he questioned her.
"Ah undahstand, Terran. My lung is not punctured. I have had it befoah and this is not that. My ahm is threatenin to fall away from my body, howeveah." She held the aching appendage to her as tightly as she could.
Jans face relaxed visibly. A whispered thank you went up to anyone who was listening. He was.
Taylor drew her sword from the sheath at her back. The face on the firefighter was now that of a warrior. Xena walked shoulder to shoulder with her as they approached the powerless Gods. Athena cowered in their presence. Zeus face turned to red with anger.
"WHAT HAVE YOU DONE!" He shook his fist in Taylors face..
She looked at it and then at him. "You cant be serious about that." She poked a finger at the offending fist.
"Ill trash you, you puny mortal." The words fumed from his lips.
"Dare ya." The firefighter wanted to have a go at this now defrocked pathetic excuse of a man.
He raised both of his fists and started a back swing when a very sharp, very pointed sword pressed at his throat. He pushed past the limit of comfort and had a sudden realization. It hurt. He stopped his progress. Pain. Now there was a new one on him. He felt a warm liquid run down his neck. He put a hand to the warmth and came away with a red substance he recognized as blood. His own. Without much fanfare he crumpled to the ground in a dead faint.
Apollo squealed in horror. "What have you done, you horrible wench?"
Xena grinned. This was fun. Taylor giggled then caught herself. She noted that the handsome ex-God was now staring behind her in fear and delight. She turned to see what he was drooling over.
Spencers large frame blocked out the sun from behind Taylor. His platinum hair shone like silver. Ice blue eyes stared holes in to the soul of the man before him. "Whos the queen?"
"I am NOT!" Apollo stamped his foot. Not helping his case. Athena tried to sneak into the underbrush but was nabbed one handed by Xena.
"Of course not. And you wear a skirt because ..?" Spencer ran his hand in circles trying to pull an explanation out of thin air.
"This is NOT a skirt! It is a golden tunic." Apollo huffed around with his hands on his hips.
"A golden tunic. You are wearing a golden tunic, huffin like a puffin. Sweetie, Mel is more butch than you." Spencers massive pectorals flexed with his words causing drool to form on the mouth of the golden dressed man.
"Got that rahght!" Mel was on her feet being helped to the healers hut.
"What she said!" Jan shook a fist at the sad beings and followed her wife to the hut.
"So, what do you suppose we should do with all of you?" Xena grinned evilly. She would love to torture them. Pull the skin off of them. Draw and quarter them. Pick something. She wanted revenge.
"I have a debt to collect." Hades grinned.
Taylor turned. She had almost forgotten he was standing there. "A debt?"
"Yes. With Time. I am now mortal." He stood waiting for a response. When he failed to get one he spoke again. "I can now be with y wife."
"Ahhhhhh. Yes But, wont that change the future?" Spencer knew his father as the man his mother had always lived with.
"No. My appearance will change and the man you recall as father will be once again." He waited again. This time he got what he was waiting for.
Spencer thought. Then he re-thought. "You?"
"All the time, Spencer. I will win her heart if she will have me and I will live with you as the father you have always known. Do you see?" It was like explaining trigonometry to a child. You could use all the right words, but it was still a mystery. Spencer got it right away. He was bright.
"It was you all along?" Spencer stood dazed.
Hades grin was bright and relaxed. "It was."
"I I ..I didnt know." Spencers guilt began to fester as he regretted some of the words he had spoken to Hades in anger.
The former ruler of the underworld was forgiving. "Of course not. How could you?"
The tall young man wanted to explain his words. "But I."
Hades held up a hand to stop his self recriminations. "No more, Spencer. There is no reason to feel bad. I will see you soon enough and you will know me."
"But, I know you now." Spencer squinted trying to see the man he remembered.
"And you know who I am." With these words a transformation took place in the man before them. His appearance changed..
Spencer smiled at the man he knew as his father. "And I know who you are. You have always been there .Dad."
"Exactly. I must go meet them. Good-bye, Spence. Ill see you in a bit." Hades ruffled his sons white hair.
"Sure, Dad. See ya." Spencer huffed a laugh through his nose. This was such an odd adventure..
Hades turned and walked away. Athena screamed after him. "TRAITOR! YOU " Her tirade was ended by a sharp yank of her hair.
"The first thing you might want to learn is manners, Thena." Xena wanted to thrash this puny little excuse for a woman here and now, but held her desire in check. She released the former goddess with a push.
The little silver spitfire turned on her. "Thats Athena."
The warrior snickered. "Ok Uhhhthena. Second thing you might need is a lesson on bathing." She had recalled the trouble that Gabrielle had suffered with Aphrodite at one time. The mortal hygiene thing was troublesome.
"Bathing?" She recalled that bathing required being naked in the water. It sounded pleasant enough.
Taylor leaned over her to whisper in her ear. "I am sure the Amazons will be more than happy to help you with that task."
The former Goddess looked horrified. "Those heathens! Id rather die!"
"That can be arranged." Xena ran her thumb along the length of her blade.
The small woman blanched at the sight. This was getting worse by the minute. Her hand went to her chest.
"Are you going to faint as well?" Taylor couldnt let a good goad pass.
Athena straightened her shoulders in defiance. "And give you the satisfaction? I think not! Lead me to the baths."
"Not quite yet .." The firefighter stopped in mid-thought. She stretched her neck and sniffed the air. "Fire. Theres a fire in the compound somewhere!" She ran with all of her speed, Xena trailing close behind. The Gods could do them no harm now. She would torment them later.
Mikaya was unaware of the mêlée going on at the edges of the compound. Sweat poured in to her eyes as she put the finishing touches on the gift she was creating for the newly joined couple. A wrought iron frame for their wedding bed. All dignitaries had a bed crafted by the finest wood carvers. She had driven Ephiny crazy begging for the opportunity to craft the bed for them. What a beautiful piece of work it had turned out to be. The black of the iron was so smooth it appeared soft to the touch. Intricate patterns of ivy interwoven with twisted and curled metal showed the skills of the young black smith.
As she blissfully worked away at tapping and polishing her work a dark figure stole into her shed. Lyceius barked loudly at the intrusion. Ares kicked the small dog out the door and locked it behind him. The white nuisance continued to scratch at the door. Ares laughed out loud. This was perfect. The dry heat of the shed would make a great tinder box. He took the lamp off the hook from where it cast its light. Mikayas head raised up to see the dark leather clad man in the back of the shop drop the lantern to the straw strewn floor. She bolted out of her squatting position only to be met with a fist to the side of her head. The hay ignited with a bright flash and spread quickly in a fire blanket across the floor. Ares and Discord laugh with wicked glee and sparkled out of sight.
Lyceius barked and scratched to get any reaction from the barn. The man that had come in smelled bad. Like anger. Lyce didnt like him. He was a bad man. Then there was a woman. He usually like women, but this one didnt smell the same as other women he knew. She wreaked of confusion and fear. It scared him. Then the big man had kicked him. It hurt, but it wouldnt stop him. He stopped and sniffed the air. This was very bad. Smoke and fire! He knew he needed to find the tall dark warriors. They would know what to do. The little white body turned sharply. The movement hurt making him yelp, but he wouldnt stop. His master was in danger. He sped off following his nose.
Taylor and Xena were met by a small barking dog as soon as they rounded the first corner of the large dining hall. Lyceious was frantic and urging them to action. He got a hold of Taylors leggings and tugged.
"Not now, Lyce! No playing now!" She shook her leg to get him off.
"He doesnt want to play, Taylor! Take us, boy!" Xena flung her arm out and Lyceius dashed off. He stopped once to be sure the dark ones were following.
Jules heard commotion uncommon in the compound. She didnt dismount as she rode into the camp. She needed to see what the problem was. Then she saw the smoke coming from the general direction of the blacksmith shed. "Mik." Her heart stopped. Her legs squeezed hard as she pushed her steed to action. The horse raced to off only being guided by the leading of the masters hands. Jules pulled tight on the reins and flew from her mount.
"MIK!" She ran towards the building that was billowing smoke.
A line of Amazons was forming to Taylors instructions. They were few and far between as the warriors were still on the field of battle. Anyone able bodied was in the line. Buckets of water were pouring in as fast as they could work. A frantic woman was rushing towards the building. It took all that Taylor had to stop the woman. "JULES! No."
"LET ME GO! Miks in there!" Her jade eyes were frenzied. She of all people shouldnt go in.
Taylor glanced back at the building. "SHIT! Stay here!" She ran to the building only to be stopped by Candace.
"NO! Youre not going in there!" Her green eyes burned with fear.
Xena pulled Candace back. "She has to, Cand. Its what she is." Xena nodded to Taylor. The tall blue eyed woman kissed her bride deeply and turned to the flames.
"Water!" The group doused Taylor with cool liquid. She wrapped a wet cloth around her mouth and jumped through the hole in the door.
The crew worked desperately to keep the water coming. Agonizing seconds passed as they worked with dire purpose. Then without warning a body was pushed out the window. Jules rushed to the prone figure. She praised the Gods that her daughter was safe.
Candace looked through the window into the flames. There she saw Taylor with her hands on the window to lift herself out. Candaces heart burst with joy to see her. Blue eyes caught hers. She begged without words for Taylor to hurry. Their sight was cut short as Taylor looked up. Candaces eyes followed as in dread she watched a gigantic burning beam fall as if in slow motion. It swung powerfully right where Taylor stood. Xena grabbed Candace from behind as they both fell to their knees. Gabrielle screamed from beside them as the shock hit them all.
The chain had been broken.
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