[sequel to Xena in Time-Warp - Prelude to Ascension]
by Richard B.Kloosterboer
Disclaimer: Xena: Warrior Princess belonged to Renaissance Pictures. Only the characters Xena and Gabrielle are loosely, but not fully borrowed to enhance the story.
Any events or circumstances depicting creed or race is purely coincidental. All other characters belong to the author of this tale. The characters state of mind are part of the author's own development on the characters borrowed.
Note: This story was created on 2 September 2001 before the tragic events of the 11th of September. Any characters used in this tale are purely coincidental and have no bearings on current events.
* * *
It seemed that she had been wandering this world in a delirium forever. The sun was beating on her exposed head for an eternity. Everyone that was with her was dead. The attack by the raiders was calculated and precise when they came out of nowhere. Everything precious to her was lost and stolen including her precious work - her one remaining reason to live. Her life was in that work and she was determined to get it back.
The sand was slowing her struggle as she sluggishly pulled herself forward one step at a time - cursing herself for coming to the Land of the Pharaohs. She winced as a forgotten numbness made a festering wound in her side break open. Encrusted blood broke and fresh blood flowed freely from the wound. The raiders left her for dead. The rage within her kept her alive. Her friends lay dead in the sands of the desert. Their bones lay exposed to the desert sun. If she survived she would avenge them. Nothing would prevent her from completing her quest. Her determination and stubbornness was what kept her alive today. And unless she found water soon - then today is all she was going to get. She stumbled again and saw a mirage. Maybe two or three miles away, she thought as she struggled on. Another vision came to her minds eye. A spectral figure from the past. The shadow said something - words of encouragement. Then the shadow too was gone. She was overwhelmed with loss as she collapsed in the sand awaiting anything the fates had in store for her. People were coming. They were hurrying to catch her. All was lost as she succumbed to the awaiting darkness.
* * *
'Rashid, what are these things? They are worthless.'
The bargaining had been entering a final stage. The handwritten scrolls of a foreign bard could fetch quite a bit of gold on the free market. Ahmed Abu Rashid knew this little fact.
'Don't try to misle me, old man. I went through a lot of trouble acquiring these scrolls.' Rashid confided mysteriously. Then he showed him a most unusual weapon.
'That's a chakram! Only one person carries a chakram!' The old man exclaimed.
'Yes - Xena the Warrior Princess. I killed her!' Rashid boasted with pride.
'Impossible! You lie - no one can kill the Warrior Princess.'
'Nevertheless she is dead - and I have witnesses.' Rashid gestured around.
Ali, the old fence - looked at this young protégé with disdain. 'That chakram will buy you an army.'
'I rather want to master its blade. It is not for sale. The scrolls belonged to a Greek bard.'
'Any survivors?' Ali asked.
'You think me a fool. What use are survivors to me. They are all dead.' Rashid said confidently.
'If Xena still lives '
Rashid grabbed Ali by his tunic. 'Respect, old friend,' he hissed. 'Xena is dead - a formidable fighter - there was no one quite like her, let it be.'
He let Ali abruptly go, looking around for other ware. 'How much for the scrolls?'
* * *
A vision was in front of her. A vision of great strength and great beauty.
'I miss you.' She thought.
'I miss you too.' The vision spoke softly to her, embracing her with strong loving arms. She started to weep. The vision left her - gliding silently away.
'Please don't go!' She whispered her thoughts. 'Don't leave me, I can't go on without you.'
The soothing light was gone. The vision was gone. She was alone. She was awake. Tears still stinging her emerald eyes.
'She's awake! Send a messenger to Irene go now.' A voice of authority. A bright light flashed briefly as a tent flap opened and closed. A pretty face appeared in front of her.
'Can you hear me? Here, sit up, take this.'
She was helped up and a cup with some foul smelling stuff was thrust in her callused hands. Not questioning it, she gulped it down quickly - choking on the foul taste.
'Hey-hey, take it easy. Oh, too late.'
She started to convulse heavily, then a surge of pain went through her right side.
'I'm afraid you've lost a rib. We found the remains of your caravan and your track led us to you. Another day and '
Lying back no voice came as she mouthed the words 'Thank you', she squeezed her new friend's hand tightly.
Squinting, the tent flap opened abruptly and a familiar silhouette came in. She knew this person. An Amazon leader from the Land of Arabia. Irene kneeled in front of her.
'Queen Gabrielle! Welcome.'
* * *
After a few days recovering from her ordeal Gabrielle felt much better although the wound was severe to cause some discomfort for several months to come. She soon learned that the method of attack was a signature strategy of a notorious raider named Ahmed Abu Rashid. His thrust is so severe it can crush bone on impact.
'Tell me about it - it nearly killed me, Irene.'
'Gabrielle, in the name of Allah, you should be dead.'
Gabrielle looked Irene in surprise, 'You spoke the name of your god out loud.'
'Yes - in front of a warrior who has cheated death so many times your gods and mine watch over you - you are in their favour.'
Gabrielle looked away, hiding the sudden blush that flushed her face. Tufts of reddish blond strands escaped the turban she wore. Crimson and black to indicate her noble stature. A leader born of a different nation yet willing to uphold her right of caste as long as that right remained to her. The camel that bore her feather-weight sauntered sure-footed over the mountain dunes. Their destination was clear. Walking on from one water hole to the next. Gabrielle saw a shadow form in her minds eye. A friend long dead now, pointing the way for her destination. Her friend's ashes were to the East of where they were. Maybe Rashid was still there as well.
'We have to travel East. How long before reaching a major city in that direction, Irene?'
Irene looked at Gabrielle with barely a surprise showing. 'A week, maybe ten days travel, Gabrielle.'
'Good enough, the son of scar-face will pay dearly for his crimes.' Gabrielle smiled sadly as she watched the shadow disappear from sight.
* * *
The scoundrel turned drunkenly at the sound of his name.
'You are in big trouble, man. The Amazons are after your hide.' An informant told the thief.
'I made no trouble with the Amazons.' Rashid challenged.
'That's not what the rumors are. You tried to knock off one of their Queens and now all the tribes are hunting for you.'
'WHAT!' Rashid grabbed one of the fellows by tunic. 'I never touched any of 'em.'
'Ha! This Amazon queen is a Greek Bard. And if this happens to be the infamous Gabrielle then she will not be too happy for you knocking off her...ungh!'
Rashid plunged his dagger into the bearer of bad tidings. He wiped his blade clean on the corpse's tunic. Sculled the rest of his ale and left the tavern. No one dared to stop him.
A grumbling chuckle stirred the most drunken vagrant to quiver with fear as the dead body stood up and morphed into the immortal God-of-War himself.
'Aaaah! A villain after my own heart! This looks very promising.'
* * *
Somewhere in the future a different adventure had just ended. A descendant of the Warrior Princess was discussing an incredible experience.
'Miles was it a dream or did we really travel to the past?' Angelica Zenexia asked her friend Professor Miles Bronwyk after arriving back from their trip to the past.
'I think we did break the time barrier. To dream such a dream with so much splendor and atrocities does not fit in with dreaming as a whole.' He paused. 'How did you like meeting one on your ancestors?'
Angelica considered her answer carefully. 'A sad but strong-willed character. Xena has a long way to go before settling down.' She seemed to be in deep thought for a moment, then continued with a determined smile, 'Obviously she will have a child in her future.'
'Why do you say that?'
'I am related to her. I am here.' She laughed. 'If she has had no children I would not exist.' Angelica's thoughts turned suddenly dour. 'If Xena dies prematurely I will cease to exist also I think I should go back and travel with her.' She said resolutely.
Miles sat up straight. 'That would be too dangerous no, I won't allow it ' A sharp blow in the back of the neck silenced the Professor temporarily.
'I'm sorry Miles. But it is something I have to do.'
Angelica propped the unconscious Professor on the couch in the living room and locked the door leading into the lab. Xena's look-a-like descendant quickly stored up a few provisions before nimble fingers set up the machine to new coordinates.
The humming began and the machine started spinning anti-clockwise.
Angelica Zenexia felt the time distortion as she traveled back in time. Her own life had changed so dramatically that she felt an overwhelming determination to redeem herself just like her ancestor Xena did. She felt the craft lurch sideways into another time-zone and everything slowed to a halt. Angelica remembered this place from old photographs, fascinated that thousands of years could leave some dwellings so unchanged. Leaving her time-machine near an oasis she sauntered over to the dwelling. An intuition of sensing danger alerted her to an arrow being launched in her direction. Just like her ancestor Xena, Angelica caught the arrow in mid-flight. A gasp was heard and Angelica suspected it was a surprise of her skill. She stayed standing absolutely still and proclaimed. 'I come in peace. Do not be afraid.'
'Go away demon.' A shout from the dwelling.
'I am not here to harm you. I need some guidance.'
She heard a faint crunching of sandals on sand behind her and Angelica launched herself up, over and behind her would-be attackers. Battle ready she awaited their next move. She did not have long to wait as the blades slashed close to her. Angelica easily evaded the assault by ducking backwards. Unarmed herself, she stayed out of reach from the cumbersome attackers. Her first attacker made a mistake and she easily blocked his sword-arm, grabbed his wrist, pulled it towards her and twisted it anti-clockwise, forcing him to not only drop his weapon but yell in surprise as Angelica was in full control of his actions. With a quick flick of her shoe she had the curved sword in her hand. The other man suddenly grew courage and attacked. Still holding onto the other in a simple wrist-lock Angelica had no problem defending herself easily - her spitting image of her ancestor Xena on her visage she cackled with berserker glee as her second opponent grew more desperate against the she-demon.
Another mistake and her second attacker's sword flew out of his nervous grasp. Holding the sword close to his throat she said, 'Enough of playing games. All I need is directions and then I'm on my way - I don't want any trouble. Understood?'
A quick nod. Then they moved to the mud-house.
* * *
At a peaceful oasis Gabrielle needed to meditate. Her grief for Xena still burned freshly in her mind. She wanted to let go, but couldn't. Only attaining a stillness of her mind to numb the physical pain of her side and mental pain of her loss would make sense of current events. She visualized a tunnel in her mind and reached eagerly for it.
Freedom at last.
She looked around the oasis in awe and noted the clusters of Bedouin tents nearby. Saw a woman dressed in dark grays and black, an unusual color for people from the desert. She hovered for a closer look and recognized herself. Her face was so sad as Gabrielle's soul recognized the pain of loss described on her countenance.
Gabrielle's soul was free from her pain.
She felt elated and free.
Her thoughts wandered through past events. A nightmare bothered her. A face etched in her mind's eye. The killer of her soul. The murderer of her friends.
She remembered little Alya.
Alya could draw such pretty pictures. Her father Benyam spoke of words in those pictures. Alya was writing a story of a warrior using their ancient language.
Poor Alya. So young. So much talent.
Gabrielle couldn't protect them.
Her guilt was showing her failure to protect her friends.
She was one against many.
The attack was swift and precise.
Alya screamed as five arrows struck Benyam down just after dawn. Taking up arms, Benyam's surviving family and friends took up positions defending the women and children. Gabrielle fought like a tiger. She knew not how many she dispatched to the nether regions until she faced off with the leader of the raiders.
His sword was not of the region - it looked too exotic for the Land of Arabia. Its blade was made of a bluish tinted wave and was razor sharp on four equal edges. A hand guard protected the wrist area but the hilt had a strange hand-grip perpendicular to the standard hilt. It almost seemed like that one could punch with this weapon.
Knowing the sais would have no effect on this weapon Gabrielle unsheathed Xena's sword instead. The unusual weapon seemed to sing every time the blades touched. Gabrielle proofed formidable in the eyes of her attacker.
Distracted temporarily Gabrielle let loose the chakram as her young friend was about to be struck. The chakram cleaved its way through the man's skull, but could not return to Gabrielle's hand. Cursing at the unreachable loss she continued to parry. Defense of herself and defense of her ward became paramount. Her opponents strategy was as simple as the weapons design was complex as he thrust the weapon like a punch.
Gabrielle was almost sure that this weapon was one of a pair, but her thoughts were painfully interrupted as her opponents blade deflected and cut through her side. Not stopping she felt a crushing blow to her rib-cage as the punch effect made itself clear.
As Gabrielle lost consciousness she heard Alya's scream abruptly cut-off as oblivion set in.
Her memory wavered and Gabrielle shuddered as she realized she had slipped into a nightmare.
'Gabrielle!' A voice she recognized.
'Xena! Where are you?'
'With little angel. Sharing life.' Xena's ghost replied mysteriously.
'My friends are dead. I couldn't save them. I couldn't save you.' Despair in thought. There was no relief in meditation. Gabrielle felt guilty of the loss of life.
Everything morphed around Gabrielle as she saw her surroundings change into the Chamber of War.
'I am not here. Not in the chamber of the War-God.' She denied.
A rumbling answer made Gabrielle turn towards an occupied throne, 'That's right. You are physically still in the Land of Arabia, but your soul is with me.' He stood up and sauntered nonchalantly towards her.
'Welcome to my humble abode, Queen Gabrielle!' Ares curtsied with a broad, cheeky smile.
* * *
'ARES!' Gabrielle spat the name out in fury and disgust. Anger overwhelmed her to have her spirit abducted to this place of despise.
Ares closed his eyes and breathed deeply, exited about the passion brought forth by the little Amazon Queen. For him anger, pain, revenge was like music to his ears. He can form any soul to do his bidding in this state. Gabrielle was no different and she was ripe for the transformation.
'What-do-you-want-now!' It was a statement, more than a question. His eyes snapped open and he relaxed more to study the creature captured in front of him.
'I offer you my services as your teacher for the mission you are about to embark on.'
'What's in it for you?' Sarcasm flowing between clenched teeth.
'For me the satisfaction that your revenge will be complete,' he paused, then continued ominously, 'with my help.'
Gabrielle considered momentarily. She remembered something.
'There is a weapon - a sword ' she started. 'It is like no other sword I have ever seen. Do you know where I can find one just like it?'
Ares held out his hand and an image appeared of a similar sword to that owned by Rashid, except that this one had tints of red instead of blue.
'There was a legend attached to these swords. They belonged to the Titans. This one,' Ares held up the reddish sword, 'is the Sister of Fire. You've met the crushing blow of the Sister of Air. This sword can be found in the catacombs under the city of Dianathea.'
'You could just give it to me.' Gabrielle said coolly.
Ares laughed. 'Where would be the fun in that? I want you to earn your sword.'
'I haven't agreed to anything yet '
'And you haven't said no either. You've named your prize - now go claim it.' The God of War instructed.
With a wave of his hand Gabrielle found herself back inside her body at the oasis. Rattled about the meeting she could not confide to her friend Irene what had just transpired. Her mission had a new direction and she wanted this weapon to defeat her enemy. The one that killed Alya and her family. The one that crushed her compassionate soul and allowed Ares a hold on her heart.
* * *
Angelica changed into desert garb to blend in and paid for a horse after she had explained her good intentions with the superstitious farmer. The time-machine would remain hidden until such a time it would be needed. The farmer had pointed her direction towards Dianathea, about a good day's travel on horseback. Taking only what was necessary she was on her way. Her intuition told her that she was needed there.
At dusk Angelica reached the city gates. She hoped that there would be a tavern with rooms. As it turned out she could stay in a loft by the horses. She decided to seek out the local inn. Her translator was securely fastened and hidden as were the various weapons hidden under her cloak.
Angelica entered an establishment. 'Women are not allowed in here.' Informed the barkeeper rudely. All eyes turned to her menacingly.
'This is a good start.' She thought. 'I only want some information.'
Four burly Arabs blocked her way. 'So much for hospitality.' She thought again, then smiled cheekily. 'I don't want any trouble.'
'This is a private establishment and you are already in trouble - throw her out and teach her some manners.' The barkeeper instructed, not even looking in Angelica's direction anymore.
The first two guards grabbed Angelica from either side. She had no trouble twisting free and using their own power against them as she easily flipped them over simultaneously. A booted low thrust kick knocked both of them senseless.
The crowd gasped in surprise as the other two guards unsheathed their curved swords. Angelica anticipated them by somersaulting backwards to give herself some room. Upon landing she had a curved sword in each hand. The Xena look-a-like eyes lit up in anticipation and an intimidating smile struck fear in her enemy as she looked forward to slicing and dicing her opponents.
Patrons ran through hidden doorways or escaped through windows as Angelica realised she found a hornets nest by accident.
Another useless instruction as Angelica would like to talk to this barkeeper as soon as this skirmish has ended. The two slashed their swords toward her, one high and one low. Angelica blocked them with a little strain and counter acted by slicing up and down both her opponents sword arms. Undeterred and ignoring their screams of pain as they both clutched their bleeding forearms Angelica walked towards the a little black urn. A spectral figure hovered a little ways above it, smiling at Angelica's approach.
'Xena?' Angelica asked surprised and touched the urn.
Xena's shadow melted with her descendant. 'Angelica - don't panic. I need to borrow your body for a little while. Gabrielle is lost and we need to find her.'
'Xena - you're dead! I came too late.' Angelica sobbed the words in her thoughts.
Xena's thought warning came in time as the barkeeper attacked Angelica. She side-stepped the old man easily and tripped him. He fell noisily over table and stools grunting in exasperation.
'Angelica - let me interrogate him.' Angelica's soul moved aside as Xena possessed her new body temporarily.
Xena moved her descendants body steadily towards the barkeeper and pushed him over on his back roughly with her boot. He struggled to get up.
'Don't bother Ali.' Xena said knowingly and Ali gasped suddenly as the Pinch was applied.
'Xena ' Ali gasped in recognition.
'You know you have a few moments of life left - talk fast. Where's Rashid?'
'He's gone into hiding <gasp> as soon as he learned <gasp> that the Queen of the Amazons is after him.' Ali struggled.
Xena released the pinch. 'The feeling will come back soon.'
Ali continued voluntarily. 'He will try and kill you again. His reputation depends on it.'
Xena gave Ali an icy stare. 'It seems as if Rashid should be more worried. Gabrielle keeps her promises. She has vowed to bring him to justice one way or another and she will succeed. I guarantee it!'
* * *
The Amazonian Nomads traveled from water hole to water hole. They asked for no trouble and no one made trouble with this band of formidable women. Self-sufficient they would travel from city to city to trade what-ever they salvaged from the desert or traded at other cities. After about ten days of traveling across miles of dunes a caravan of nomads entered the Roman occupied city of Dianathea, a name given by the Prefect Augustus in honor of his late wife. A merchant by trade, his recent occupation made this city the most thriving of all cities within the region despite of his position with the Roman Legions.
He was also the chief magistrate in the region. The locals found him fair and just, in spite of him being a Roman. A shrewd businessman, he does not see the point of executing potential clientele when there could be so much gained in profit for all, eventually.
Of course he did have a few thorns in his side and Ahmed Abu Rashid was just such a thorn. This time Rashid claimed to have killed Xena, the Warrior Princess. To prove his claim, he owned Xena's sword and chakram. Augustus was sure that this Rashid had stolen those items from somewhere.
In his youth Augustus remembered the Warrior Princess fighting alongside the Amazons. Not an Amazon herself she made a formidable opponent. Fortunately he himself had survived that crazy encounter. Whoever this brigand killed, it certainly was not Xena, of this Augustus was sure.
Such was the existence of the Amazon Nomads that Augustus, like every other male within these city walls was fascinated by these peaceful nomads. Until he heard the rumors of one Queen Gabrielle - a traveling Amazon from Greece, whom got raided by Ahmed Abu Rashid that her wrath for him was clear. Augustus knew enough of the Amazons that they would not let this matter rest, although a peaceful solution could be found Rashid must be captured first.
* * *
Alone with her thoughts Xena walked through the city streets. She figured the best place to look for Gabrielle would be near the camel stables. That was at the other end of town. Angelica's thoughts squirmed within her mind. She was still dealing with Xena's sudden demise. 'Don't worry, little angel. We'll find Gabrielle and keep her safe.' Xena whispered her thoughts to her avatar. She caressed the black urn with her ashes straddled in a black sash. Time had no meaning in the land of the dead and now Xena had renewed responsibility to keep her descendant and Gabrielle alive.
Xena found the camp within the walls of the city easily and sauntered over to the main tent of the Arabic Amazon Leader. The tent was obviously guarded well - Xena came in peace with the Amazons - but she also wanted to attract as little attention as possible. She sneaked around the back of the tent, then stealthily slipped in.
Xena realised her mistake too late as she got pinned down by skillful warriors. She struggled to free herself but recognized moves that she knew could have been taught by at least one other person still alive. She stopped struggling to free herself and the grips tightened restricting her movements further. Xena was led in front of a regal figure. She looked up into the weather-beaten face of the Amazon Leader Irene. Sitting on a dais a little beyond Irene sat another figure. Recognition was instantaneous as her eyes locked with her bard as Gabrielle gasped, 'Xena!'
* * *
Irene remained cool considering she was dealing with a phenomenon which occurred only in legends. It was enough to make cult followers to anyone who witnessed these events and miracles.
She was told by Gabrielle that Xena had died in Japan and now she was face-to-face with a woman who resembled Xena - had Xena's eyes staring through her. Yet this woman was not Xena. Her name was Angelica and she was a direct descendant of Xena. How this was possible was beyond her comprehension.
Gabrielle accepted Angelica too readily - even though Gabrielle claimed to have met this young woman before some thirty-five years ago.
Xena spoke through Angelica, 'We can find Rashid in the catacombs underneath the city.'
Gabrielle just nodded. Apparently not concentrating on the mission ahead. She turned to Irene. 'Can we have a moment alone?'
Then complied curtly taking the Amazon guards outside.
Xena suddenly recognized a multitude of emotions dancing on the Bard's face. Emotions she felt as well now that she was back in a body. She would be ably to express her feelings for her bard, but that wouldn't be fair on Angelica - her descendant - whose body she had borrowed.
Gabrielle's eyes lit up questioningly. Xena's reaction was physical before she spoke the words as she leant close. 'Not now, I'm sorry.'
'Why?' Tears well up in misunderstanding.
'This body is not mine,' Xena whispered, 'It wouldn't be fair on Angelica.'
'I need you Xena.' Gabrielle was openly weeping now. The emotions of loss flowing freely as she fell into the inviting embrace of Xena. She comforted her friend as best she could while Gabrielle lay within her arms.
Xena realized the loss of her own life would be too hard to bear for the emotional, compassionate creature she fell in love with over three decades ago. Yet in her own death she felt freedom of guilt. Her spirit could roam freely without restriction. The body needed nurturing and its sensations fed the soul with experiences. As long as Xena remained a part of Angelica she would never feel as close to her bard as she was in the past.
For now Gabrielle was overwhelmed with emotions that were bottled up for years and all Xena could do now was just hold her best friend.
* * *
Getting into the catacombs was not very difficult. Xena had been here before and knew about some routes. She recognized the various signs she left as markers about four decades ago. She also knew about pitfalls within the tombs and told the small party to follow her lead as closely as possible. Angelica stirred within her mind, 'the Oil of Rejuvenation was said to be hidden in these tombs.'
'That's not the only thing that's hidden here, little angel.' Xena whispered to her host.
Irene went with them with five of her most trusted warriors. The catacombs would have the odd cut-throat hidden in the shadows. Word had spread that Gabrielle was out looking for Rashid. Who spread the gossip no one knows for sure. Rashid would be on alert. And that spells danger.
Gabrielle seemed strangely calm under the circumstances. Xena presumed that her friend had to endure alone for too long with her own thoughts for company. She knew it would be hard to open up bottled up feelings that have been surpressed for so long. But at the moment their goal was clear. At least Xena's goal was clear. Xena feared that Gabrielle might be in the grip of a different strain. Time would tell.
Shadows followed behind them. Keen hearing and sharp intuition had already noticed to stalkers. Although they felt more at home in the forests, the Amazons proved they were cunning adversaries in these caves as well. Their pursuers were quickly and silently dealt with. Traps slowed them down at every corner. Xena guided the party through the obstacles with ease.
A twinkle to one side caught Gabrielle's attention. Curious she stepped in that direction. Idle hands pulled her back swiftly as she realized a cunningly devised trap was sprung and narrowly missed her. Before her a shadowy silhouette beamed a cheeky smile as she saw Ares' countenance disappear from view.
'Gabrielle are you all right?' Concerned voices of the Amazons but not from Xena.
Xena was examining the trap with curiosity. Studying it intensely she mumbled, 'This wasn't here before '
Irene came up to her, 'What do you mean?'
'There may be more of these new traps around ' Xena face was full of concern as she looked straight at Gabrielle. 'We need a different plan. A way to lure him out in the open.'
Gabrielle's lit up with a spark of sudden insight. 'How about the Sister of Fire?'
'The what?' An astonished question of Irene.
'If we can find that sword ' Gabrielle began.
'Who told you of that accursed sword?' Xena asked tensely.
Gabrielle realised she said something she shouldn't have.
'Come on, Gabrielle. Who told you of the Sister of Fire?' Xena was tightening her grip on Gabrielle's upper arms.
The Amazon's were getting nervous as well as they noticed the fury building in both women.
'ARES!' A hoarse whisper. 'Ares told me I could have it to defeat Rashid.'
Before anyone could stop Xena, she uncovered the hidden wound Gabrielle had acquired in the near fatal fight with Rashid. Xena recognized its significance immediately, compassion in her eyes as more understanding dawned that only Xena could explain.
'Oh Gabrielle. Rashid struck you with the Sister of Air.'
'How did you ?'
' Know?' Xena finished. 'Dangerous weapons of the Titans given as gifts to us humans long ago. Ares told me to seek these swords for him. Elemental swords, they must never touch each other.'
'You mean I could've died if I fought Rashid?' Gabrielle gasped.
Covering the wound gently Xena replied, 'Whatever deal you agreed to, my dear, would have ensured your sole survival - mostly in Ares' favour. Looks like you're the next of kin to the Warrior Princess status.'
Irene relaxed a little, 'now that we will no longer be needed here, we should go back to camp and see if we can lure our adversary out.'
'That won't be necessary. I have you right where I want you!' Ahmed Abu Rashid promised menacingly.
* * *
'This guy is really pissing me off!' Angelica's thoughts conveyed to Xena who remained stoic in a bemused way.
'Irene! Let's play hide and seek!' Xena instructed.
Instantly all the torches were extinguished and people could be heard moving. Rashid had not counted on the ingenuity of the Amazon's and within moments he felt a four quick jabs near his throat. He collapsed before another order could be ushered.
The light came on and a dozen of his men lay in a heap around the cavern, all the Amazons completely unscathed.
'We should play hide and seek more often.' Irene chuckled.
Gabrielle lunged towards Rashid suddenly, floored him and kept punching his face and kicking his paralyzed body.
Irene moved to stop her but Xena stopped her shaking her head with understanding in her eyes.
'Is her hate so far gone on this man?' Irene asked.
'She suffered several painful things within a short period. Her parents were executed by Ghurkan; I was killed in Japan and her surrogate family she traveled with were murdered by Rashid and his band of cut-throats. Do you understand?' Xena explained.
'Xena, this is wrong.' Angelica whispered and struggled to regain control of her own body.
'No, it is Gabrielle's right to avenge the death of family.' Xena concurred.
'Are you family? You hurt her too with your decision. Was that fair?' Angelica sliced through the thought.
'What I did, I did to protect her. From more pain in the future.' Xena whispered her thoughts.
'Aaw come on. This is the future and Gabrielle is in more pain than ever. If you really were here you would have stopped her from this path.'
Xena's thoughts sparred with Angelica for a few moments longer.
Angelica regained control. 'Gabrielle! STOP!'
Glazed eyes and bloodied fists looked up into a familiar face.
'Gabrielle, look at your hands - do you what you are doing?' Angelica asked.
'Revenge!' Gabrielle replied and the Sister of Fire appeared melodiously into her hands.
Angelica leapt back as Gabrielle transformed in front of her and the Amazons. Rashid, his face bruised and bloodied brought forth the Sister of Air and the sparring commenced.
Angelica's thoughts were roughly pushed aside by Xena. 'Gabrielle! Don't let the weapons touch.'
Gabrielle had only thoughts of revenge as she stared menacingly at Rashid.
'Irene, get your people out of here. I fear I cannot stop her.'
Reluctantly she obeyed. 'What about you?'
'I shall attempt to stop Gabrielle, but if you stay here you will die.' Xena explained as best she could. 'The Sisters are fighting for control.'
Blue and red snakes leapt from both weapons yet the bearers of the weapons remained unharmed. The Amazons were not so fortunate as either made them convulse in sudden spasms.
'Irene, you cannot fight them. GO!'
But Irene wanted to protect her Queen to the death. A blue snake consumed her thus.
Xena could no longer bear to watch. Only one creature could get her close enough.
Ares appeared in a flash between her and Gabrielle . 'Xena, to what do I owe the pleasure?'
'I've never asked for help before and I won't do that this time either.' Xena fumed. 'But this is your doing and I want you to fix it.'
'She's doing great, don't you think? Just like you were once upon a time.'
Xena saw a move that she knew would be blocked and that would mean
An explosion sears Ares' back as Xena dives down.
* * *
Gabrielle wields the Sister of Fire expertly. Her rage inside her overwhelming her entire existence. The elemental sword sings joyously as it swings ever closer to the Sister of Air, wielded by Rashid. The swords collide and the resounding clang of harmony turns into a screech of agony.
Gabrielle's eyes widen with sudden disbelief as fire and air ignite to envelop her entire existence. Her body disintegrates as does Rashid's and their souls are still clutching the Sisters of Air and Fire. The thought of death does not occur to Gabrielle until it is too late to turn back.
Her link with Xena was severed further when her soul melts into the very existence of the sword, trapping her for eternity. Her soul screaming part of the melodious song that the Sister of Fire emanated as a warning for those who want to wield its power.
Rashid was no better off as he too was trapped instantaneously by the Sister of Air. Whatever schemes he had for past and future died with him and he'll never be freed.
Xena screamed in Angelica's head, but she paid no heed to her ancestor's anger and pain. Ares shielded her from the initial blast and she witnessed the extraordinary event as both Gabrielle and Rashid disintegrated before her. The resulting screams brought forth and beyond mixed with the screaming inside her own head as Gabrielle's soul got sucked into the elemental sword.
Angelica felt a nauseating pain deep inside her gut and clutching her heart as Xena's ghost wailed deep inside her. The bond was broken. Their soul-link severed. Angelica clutched her head with the continuous wailing. The pain was overwhelming and she fainted.
Ares fared no better. The ethereal flame gave him a bad burn on his back. He hadn't expected the abrupt death of Gabrielle.
'Whoops!' was his only response to the entire revelation.
Xena rose up and out of Angelica's body like the spirit she was. Distraught, the Warrior Princess confronted Ares in ethereal form. 'You could have prevented this. Now my soul-mate is completely gone. Trapped in that ancient monstrosity for eternity. I hope your happy, 'cause I'm certainly not.'
'I don't understand this wasn't supposed to happen.' Ares tried.
'Gabrielle no longer exists anywhere. She was my hero - my friend. She is not only dead, but she is completely gone. Our connection to each other is severed by that sword.' Xena shouted her ethereal words to the God of War. Then she drifted closer to the Sister of Fire. 'Maybe you can use your powers to break this sword.'
'Now why would I want to do that? What's in it for me?'
Good old Ares. He hasn't changed a bit, Xena thought with a smirk. 'You will have me!'
Surprised by the answer Ares recovered quickly. 'Lets do it!' And moved to the sword conjuring up most of his power.
Angelica was stirring. She opened her eyes just as Ares let forth a burst of fire and lightning. Sitting upright, the resulting blast knocked her of her feet and she rolled down an embankment. This inevitably saved her life for the resulting explosion disintegrated a large part of the hill.
A leather piece landed close to her. As Angelica studied it closely she stepped back in horror as she recognized the piece as the severed arm of the God of War. She scrambled to her feet and climbed the embankment. Looking over the edge she shielded her eyes from the crimson glare as she saw the spectral figure of Ares and Xena fighting the arcane power of the Sister of Fire. In a last attempt struggle to get away they both disappeared screaming into the elemental weapon adding their freedom to countless other martyrs.
The sword's melodious screams reached a crescendo and then shattered its own existence imploding into nothingness, folding unto itself and taking all who it had trapped with her for eternity. Angelica ducked below the ridge as a crimson snake whipped out at her. A split second attempt to keep hold of this dimension.
* * *
'HEY WAIT A MINUTE!'
Xena looked up from the scroll she was reading. 'This can't be right. We are here right now ALIVE!'
Gabrielle was stirring the fire a bit more apparently amused. 'It is an interesting tale, isn't it my love. I died and my soul was lost. You and Ares tried to rescue my soul and were lost as well. Then the Sister of Fire, after consuming a God, simply shattered like a crystal.'
'There is more to this story isn't there, Gab?'
'Much more.' Gabrielle replied and handed Xena another scroll. 'You'll like this one. It's called 'Return From Oblivion.'
Xena accepted the scroll eagerly. 'Oblivion was where we were trapped?'
'I don't know. We were both dead or something like that and our souls were lost. Sometimes I think we still are lost in some small way.' Gabrielle philosophized.
The Bard sat next to her Warrior and Xena put her arm around Gabrielle's waist pulling her closer. Anticipating the mood Gabrielle said. 'Not now love. Read the story of how we became restored.'
Xena nodded agreement and continued to read. 'Angelica used her machine to prevent a past event from occurring. She thought that to prevent this oblivion of her ancestral soul should make things come back to normal.'
She looked up. 'Angelica went further back in time '
Gabrielle nodded. 'Yes, she went to Japan where you were so determined to die a warrior's death and Angelica had a hard time convincing you that we would all be lost in the near future.' Gabrielle continued.
Xena pondered. 'I wish I could remember it like that. But after hearing your name I instantly dove into that machine.'
Gabrielle hugged Xena and gave her an affectionate peck on the cheek surprising the warrior with the gesture. 'What was that for?'
'For coming to rescue me in the future. I was very lost without you.' Gabrielle's smile faded to sadness and she leaned her head on Xena's shoulder. Xena stroked the hair on the Bard's head in a comforting manner.
'I owe Angelica my life and as with you I would trade it in a heartbeat.' Gabrielle paused before continuing. 'She risked everything to repair a grievous rip in time by changing the past and saving the future.'
'Hang on I'm confused. Nothing changed in Japan ' Xena interrupted.
'That was true. Nothing happened on the surface. But Angelica needed your help more than Akemi.
'Actually I was the friend in need and having realized what must be done you eagerly went to the future to stop our souls of becoming lost forever.'
* * *
An ear piercing whistling could be heard and Angelica risked taking another peak over the ridge she saw the Sister of Air shielding the breach of non-existence. Intuitively she knew the world was in danger. She would need to travel back in time to prevent this from happening and she needed to move fast. If the Sister of Air should fail the results would be catastrophic.
Angelica had traveled a short time on peaceful roads. Everyone she met lived in harmony. There was no war and no progress. Everybody helped each other.
At first she was puzzled until it slowly dawned on her that Ares' death eventually led to peace. Progress and competitiveness had stopped. A peculiar feeling nagged at her ever since Gabrielle, Xena's spirit and Ares disappeared.
Was this supposed to happen?
Can it be prevented?
She knew what drove Gabrielle to her inevitable martyrdom, but at what cost?
At least Xena and Gabrielle are together. She hoped they were.
Or they could be forever trapped and searching for each other.
Angelica reached her time-machine without any problems. She entered the machine when a vision appeared before her. She recognized the features of Gabrielle, but her eyes haunted her. Gone were the emerald twins - instead complete nothingness stared at her. Nothing white nor nothing black.
Words were being formed and Angelica recognized the words 'Help!' in the slowly moving lips. The image disappeared and Angelica knew exactly what to do. A plea was asked from something that no longer existed in any world. She was determined to fix this problem.
The machine began to move and disappeared from this realm of this existence.
To be continued in:
RETURN FROM OBLIVION
by Richard B.Kloosterboer
* * *
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