Joxer, Meg, Xena, Gabrielle and the Sovereign all belong to Universal Studios/Studios USA. I'm just borrowing them for this piece of experimental fiction.
This story is not for kids under 16 years of age. Some brutal stuff happens in this piece. My writing's pretty intense.
THE GENESIS OF THIS PIECE
Yeppers-this is fanfic number 4. And remember this line from my author's notes on A TASTE OF DEJA VU??
"Despite what some of you may say, this really is my final Joxer/Meg story."
There are those-a certain Mary Draganis among them-who would say, "Why am I not surprised by who's in this new piece??" >:-)
Oooookay. Yes, I admit it. I decided to cry wolf. But there is a good reason. I was very angry that no other serious Joxer/Meg fan fic had been written since I did my two stories. I'm sorry-but I just can't see Joxer and Gabrielle together, folks. It's like oil and water. But Iam vindicated by the fact that both Joxer and Meg get married on the show. It makes me feel I was on target with my fanfic!! (gets a smug look on his face ;-) )
Seriously, since I don't know how much longer I'll be doing fanfic, I decided, what the heck-let me do one more story with Joxer and Meg in it. But Joxer and Meg are really only part of the story.
The REAL story here is Xena vs. Hercules' evil twin-the Sovereign. I kept thinking about what a great idea it would've been to have Xena and the Sovereign fight each other. Sadly, due to the scheduling conflicts on both shows, it was not to be. But I just loved the irony of a good Xena fighting an evil Hercules. I had to write a fan fiction piece about this. No one else was going to.
So here it is. Let me know what you think. As usual, send me ANY kind of feedback-positive or negative. You can be as brutal in your critiques as you want. Don't hold anything back.
One final thing-in a sense, A SWITCH OF THE ROLE is a sequel to A TASTE OF DEJA VU. There are one or two characters in this story that may be unfamiliar to you unless you read BRAVING THE INNER STORM and A TASTE OF DEJA VU. But it shouldn't detract from your enjoyment of the piece.
June 3, 2000
The burly man stood on the cliff, gazing out at the harsh moonlight above him. He
sighed deeply and took a drink from his wineskin, swirling around the contents inside his
mouth. He scratched the back of his head. He turned to his right. Another man, smaller in
stature, sat on a rock. He was biting into a piece of bread.
"You've got wine?" asked the larger man.
The smaller man nodded.
"I'm good, Galian. Thanks."
The larger man took another drink of the wine. He enjoyed the cool, crisp sensation it created inside his mouth and throat. He lowered the wineskin, looking at it with admiration.
"This is good stuff, Parses."
Parses gave a thin smile.
"I only get the best. With the money I made on those goods I stole, I thought, 'what the heck.' Ya gotta live it up once in a while."
"No argument there."
A few moments of silence passed. Parses spoke again.
"I hope Martus shows up soon."
"Don't worry. He's the best there is. He even puts that dungheap Autolycus to shame."
Parses looked up, raising an eyebrow.
"Yeah, but this is Hades' temple we're talking about."
Galian shrugged, chuckling slightly. He turned towards Parses.
"One thing ya gotta remember. The gods are cocky and self-assured. We've gotta use that to our advantage. They think humans are inferior, just because we lack their powers."
Parses nodded slowly.
"That's true. Boy-how I'd love to just show them what we're made of."
"If our little plan works, you may just get that chance."
There was a rustling of bushes. Galian and Parses dropped their food and beverage, instantly drawing their swords. Another man stepped into view, carrying a small leather bag. He quickly raised his hands.
The other two smiled. They sheathed their weapons and walked over to the third man. Parses spoke.
"So Martus-did you get it?"
The dark-haired man smiled coldly.
He opened the bag, and took out two large blue rocks. They were shaped like eggs, and both had a smooth, shiny surface. Each emitted a soft blue-green glow from their centers.
"Gentlemen, the Hades Stones. Take a look!"
Both men reached out, each taking a stone. They felt the warmth and power that churned though them. The two men studied the stones with rapt curiosity. Martus smiled, full of cockiness and excitement. He spoke again.
"Sooooo-I guess that does it. Parses has the location of the ambrosia, and you've got that cracked Cronos Stone."
Galian studied the stone in his hand.
"Yep, I do. Like I said, we can't time-travel with it, but we can get into the dimension where the Sovereign's remains are."
Parses shook his head in amazement.
"I can't believe we're going to try and revive Hercules' twin."
Galian looked at Parses, raising an eyebrow.
"Well, he's the only one who can get us access to that cave. And as I understand it, the ambrosia in that cave is the last on this earth."
Parses turned to Martus.
"So-how do the Hades Stones work?"
"Well, it's like this, you see. You take one stone and place it in the chest of a cadaver or a skeleton. You hold on to the other one. Now, the stone inside the cadaver generates a power that rebuilds the body and links the soul back with the body. Then you control the revived person with the other Hades Stone. Hades or his soldiers used these for special missions to send the dead on."
Parses raised an eyebrow, nodding his head.
"Aaaaaah...Okay, I get ya. So, that's how yer gonna bring back the Sovereign."
"Yep. And when he's opened up the cave for us, I use my Hades Stone to will his death again. And that's it. We get the ambrosia, and all three of us become gods!!"
Parses chuckled nervously, lowering his head.
"That's it, huh?"
A moment of silence. Galian placed a hand on Parses's shoulder.
"C'mon, Parses. You wanna become a god, ya gotta take some risks."
Parses raised an eyebrow, giving a puckered smirk.
"Okay, that settles it then." said Martus. "Let's get some sleep. We'll get up bright and early tomorrow morning."
His companions nodded. They walked over to their bedrolls, and settled down for the night.
The three men walked into a courtyard.. A large stone temple stood before them. It had considerable wear and tear in it. Galian looked up into the sky. Dawn was becoming more and more prominent. Orange-yellow rays of light pushed back the dark blue-black of night. Galian took a breath of crisp, cool air. He turned to his companions.
"This is the place. Ares' old temple. Place's been abandoned."
Parses looked around.
"Uhhhhh-okay. So-now what? How do we get into this dimension?"
Galian took out the Cronos Stone. The yellowish-green stone began to glow intensely. Galian followed the pull of the stone. It pointed towards the black of night. He smiled eagerly.
"I think this is the way in, boys."
Suddenly, there was a violent flash of lightning. A powerful wind began to blow. The air before the three men began to ripple and bend. Suddenly, a gigantic hole opened up before them. A twisting, churning, glowing vortex roiled inside of it. Flashes of lightning rippled through its walls. Galian turned towards Martus and Parses. They stared at the vortex in awe and fear. The wind tore around the three, ripping at their clothes. They could barely keep their balance. Galian raised an eyebrow.
"Well?!?" he shouted above the howling wind. "Ya wanna be mortals all yer stinking lives, or ya wanna be GODS?!?"
Martus and Galian stared into the churning vortex, twisting with awesome savagery. Their eyes narrowed in determination. They turned towards Galian.
Galian smiled wickedly.
"LET'S GO THEN!!!
The three men rushed forward, leaping into the vortex. They whisked through it with impossible speed, following the vortex's twists and turns. As they looked forward, they saw a glowing light ahead of them. It grew more and more intense. Suddenly, it overwhelmed the three men. They then crashed into hard, rocky earth. They rolled to a stop and lay still, groaning in pain.
"Ohhhhh- damn..." mumbled Parses.
Martus clutched his head and stomach. He slowly sat up. His head and body were throbbing in pain. He shook his head to clear it.
"Whoa...what a trip...!!
He looked around. Martus found himself in a cave. Light shone through an opening in it. He looked along the ground-
And spotted a skeleton. It was wearing a leather outfit. Martus raised an eyebrow.
Galian slowly sat up, rubbing his head. He grimaced in pain.
"Guys, I think we've found the Sovereign's corpse."
Galian and Parses shook their heads. They then followed Martus's gaze. They spotted the skeleton. The three men slowly rose to their feet. They walked over to the skeleton. It was laying face-down in the dirt. Martus kicked the skeleton. It flipped over onto its back.
"So...Ares killed the Sovereign?" asked Parses.
"According to the stories I heard, yeah." said Galian.
"What do you know about the Sovereign?" asked Parses again.
"That he's the total opposite of Hercules. He was a ruthless tyrant in his dimension. One real temperamental son-of-a-bitch. Executed people every day just for fun."
Parses raised his eyebrows.
"My kind of guy."
He turned towards Martus.
"Do you really think you can control the Sovereign? I-I mean, if he's like Hercules, he's a demigod. He's got Hercules' strength."
Martus's eyes narrowed.
"Don't worry. As long as I hold one of the Hades Stones, he has to do our bidding. If he tries anything stupid, he's gonna suffer some major pain."
He knelt down next to the skeleton. Martus turned to his companions.
Both men nodded. Martus then took one of the Hades Stones and placed it inside the ribcage of the skeleton. Martus rose to his feet and stepped back a bit. He held out the other Hades Stone.
"Okay." he said quietly. "Here we go."
Martus closed his eyes, and willed his thoughts into the stone in his hand. It began to glow brightly with a brilliant green-yellow light. As the two men looked at the skeleton, they noticed that the stone inside it began to glow as well. The glow spread throughout the skeleton. Martus opened his eyes. Then something incredible happened. As they looked on, they saw muscle grow out of the bones. Blood vessels threaded their way throughout the muscles. The body began to gain mass, filling out. Skin formed over the flesh. Dark-brown hair grew out of the head, forming a thick mane. A beard and mustache formed on the face. The body before them pulsated with power. Both hands clenched tight. The massive arm muscles flexed with fearsome energy. Slowly the glow subsided-
And the Sovereign's eyes popped open. They instantly darted to the right. A low, inhuman growl rumbled from the Sovereign's throat. A savage snarl formed on his face. He instantly got to his feet. All three men leapt back. Martus held out the Hades Stone.
"Hold it right there."
The Sovereign glared at Martus heatedly, his ice-blue eyes filled with rage and bloodlust.
"I'm gonna rip out yer heart." he growled throatily.
He rushed at them. Martus immediately raised the stone. A savage, blinding pain ripped through the Sovereign's body. He cried out in agony and crashed face-first into the earth. The three men spread out around him. The Sovereign shakily propped himself up on his hands. He turned to his left. Martus still held the glowing stone. The Sovereign's eyes widened in fury.
Martus thrust the glowing stone at the Sovereign. Another vicious explosion of pain ripped through his body and into his head. The Sovereign screamed in agony. He twisted and turned erratically in the dirt as if someone had sent a high-voltage current through his body. Martus kept up the torture for a good few moments. The screams echoed throughout the cave. Martus then lowered the rock. The glow subsided. The Sovereign fell face-first into the dirt, trembling. Martus's face grew hard.
"Now that I've got your attention... listen up."
The Sovereign rolled onto his back, gasping. He turned towards Martus.
"W-W-Who the hell are you?!" the Sovereign hissed. "H-How did you get here?!"
"We're from the dimension of your twin, Hercules."
The Sovereign's eyes widened in outraged shock.
"H-Hercules...?! You're from his...?!"
"I take it you met him."
The Sovereign slowly sat up, his heated gaze piercing the ceiling above him.
"If...I... ever see him again, I'll kill him. And his Ares. I've got a special score ta settle with him."
"Oh I know that. Ares killed you."
The Sovereign turned quickly towards Martus, surprised. Martus raised an eyebrow.
"We know the whole story."
A moment of silence. The Sovereign looked around at his three companions with a contemptuous sneer.
"What do you want with me?!" snapped the Sovereign. "You three went through a lot of trouble to come here and raise me from the dead."
"We're looking for a certain treasure. The only way to get into the cave it's in is to be a god or a demi-god. That's why we got you."
The Sovereign raised an eyebrow.
"Must be some treasure."
"That treasure doesn't concern you." snapped Parses. "The only thing you should be thinking about is your miserable life."
"Here's the deal." said Galian. "You help us get that treasure, and you're free to go. Otherwise-"
Martus thrust out the Hades Rock. Another explosion of pain ripped through the Sovereign's chest. He doubled over in agony. The Sovereign let out a long, strangled cry. Martus hunched on his heels as the Sovereign glared at him in pain and rage.
"Otherwise," said Martus matter-of factly, " you die again."
He willed the Hades Rock to stop. The pain went away as abruptly as it had come. The Sovereign fell back onto the earth, gasping. Galian knelt by the Sovereign.
"You clear on that??" he asked pointedly.
The Sovereign looked at Galian, eyes full of anger and fear. He gritted his teeth.
The blond woman raised her muscular arms above her head, stretching to loosen up some tightness in her body. She stood up on her toes, rocking gently on them. A cool breeze blew through her short hair. She gazed into the clear morning sky. A warm smile appeared on her face.
"Another beautiful day."
She looked to her left, towards some trees.
"Xena??" she called out.
"I'm just about done, Gabrielle!"
The blonde walked past some brush. A tall brunette, dressed in a brown leather skirt, knelt by the river. She was filling her water skin. The blonde walked up to her.
"Filled up and ready?"
The brunette finished her task. She placed the cap on the water skin, stood up, and faced the blond. The woman smiled.
The blond returned the smile. She gazed at the incredible natural beauty around them.
"So-we're off to Meg's place, Xena?"
"Yeah. We can stay there for the time being while we get supplies for our trip to Egypt. We should be able to take care of those three warlords while we're there, now that we know they're in Mirtan."
A pause. Gabrielle's face darkened as horrific memories surfaced. She chewed on her lip a moment before she spoke. Her green eyes roamed the earth.
"By the gods...I-I've seen some viciousness in my time, but these three take the cake."
Xena's face hardened. Her ice-blue eyes scanned the area around her.
"We've been after them a long time Gabrielle. They've been able to allude us before, but this time, we're going to get them. We owe their victims that."
"Gods...by themselves, Martus, Galian and Parses were incredibly ruthless. But together..."
Gabrielle shook her head. She grimaced as a wave of grief and nausea surged through her.
"All those women and children..." she muttered darkly, her voice trembling slightly.
Xena walked over to her, placing an arm around her shoulder.
"Hey." she said softly.
Gabrielle shook her head.
"I still can't get the image out of my mind."
Xena tenderly stroked Gabrielle's head. She gazed at her friend with sadness and pity.
"Me either." she said quietly.
A few moments of silence. Gabrielle turned towards Xena.
"So. Now they're here. In the kingdom of Mirtan."
Xena nodded her head.
"Mmmm. We'll set up shop at Meg's for the time being, and track them down."
Gabrielle sighed. She lowered her head.
"I'll be able to be at peace once we stop them Xena."
Xena gazed up into the sky. Icy determination formed on her features.
"They're smart. And they were lucky. But this time, their luck's about to run out."
The two women rode into town. The villagers were busy milling about, shopping. moving carts of goods, assembled in groups, chattering about the goings-on of the day. They continued past a few men guiding a herd of sheep into the center of town. Afterwards the two women rode their horses up a small, winding road. When they reached the top, they spotted a large, sturdy wooden building. It had a fresh coating of brown paint on it. Above the door was a sign that said MEG'S in bright red letters.
The two women got off their horses. Gabrielle's eyes widened in wonder.
"By the gods, Xena! Look at this place!"
Xena stepped up to her friend's side. She gazed at the wooden structure before her.
"Meg has really fixed this up nicely." remarked Xena with a smile.
Xena and Gabrielle walked up to it, leading on their horses. They tied them to posts and went inside. The delicious aromas of steak and chicken filled their nostrils. The pair noticed that the place was nearly at full capacity. Gabrielle glanced over at a man sinking his teeth into a huge, meaty chicken leg. Gabrielle licked her lips unconsciously. Her mouth watered.
Startled, she turned towards Xena.
Xena smiled mischievously.
"Doesn't your appetite ever take a break??"
Gabrielle smiled meekly.
"I have a feeling that you'll want some chicken. And soon."
Gabrielle raised an eyebrow. Her smile grew wider.
"Why Xena! I didn't know mind-reading was one of your many skills!!"
The two women turned to their right. Meg, Xena's twin, approached them. She smiled warmly. Gabrielle walked over and hugged Meg. Xena approached them. She smiled.
"Good to see you again, Meg."
Meg and Xena hugged each other. Xena pulled back, looking Meg over.
"You're looking good!"
"Eh! I'm doing okay."
"From the looks of things Meg, better than okay." remarked Gabrielle with awe and pride.
Meg smiled shyly.
At that moment, Gabrielle's stomach rumbled. Xena rolled her eyes back and laughed. Meg giggled. She spoke.
"Ummm-you sound hungry, Gabby."
Gabrielle blushed a deep rose.
"Ummmm-yep. It's that chicken. It smells so good!!"
Meg smiled with pride.
"Thank my head chef, Francisca. She's got a heck of a talent. And she's taught me and my other girls a few things too!!"
Meg leaned in close to Xena and Gabrielle.
"The best thing is, our prostitution days are all behind us. For good."
Xena and Gabrielle smiled warmly at Meg. Xena placed a hand on Meg's shoulder, rubbing it affectionately.
"I'm so happy for you." Xena said with heartfelt emotion. "For all of you. I knew you could do it."
"It wasn't easy. But we did it." Meg said with obvious pride in her voice. "We did something positive. And we're thriving."
Gabrielle looked around.
"Where's Joxer, Meg?"
"Oh, he's in town nearby, doing some business."
Gabrielle turned to Xena.
"Okay, I'm going into town and check out what they have. While I'm at it, I'm gonna see if I bump into Joxer."
"Sounds like a plan. I'll be sure to get your chicken while I'm at it."
Gabrielle raised an eyebrow, smiling wickedly.
"Yeah, you do that."
She spun on her heel and left the restaurant. Meg turned to Xena.
"Let me show you around."
Meg looked at Xena's belly, and patted it. Xena raised an eyebrow.
"What was that for??"
Meg raised her own eyebrow, smiling.
"We need to fatten you up!!"
Xena rolled her eyes.
"Ha-ha. Very funny. Lead the way."
Meg bowed before the Warrior Princess.
Gabrielle walked around the village, looking at different odds and ends. She hadn't seen anything she wanted as of yet. She looked over the different items carefully, judging their quality and cost. She walked past one tent, and saw a few feet away from her a man wearing an ugly warrior's helmet and equally ugly armor, standing in front of another tent. Gabrielle raised her eyebrow.
She saw him walk into the tent. Gabrielle approached it. When she got to it, she overheard a conversation between Joxer and the merchant inside.
"You've got my engagement ring?"
"Yes Joxer. Just as you requested."
Gabrielle's mouth dropped in shock.
"Engagement ring?!" she gasped.
A moment of silence. Gabrielle strained to listen. Then Joxer spoke again.
"Gosh, it's beautiful. Mitros, thanks. Here's the rest of your money. You've earned it."
"And good luck to you, my friend."
Gabrielle stood there, stunned by what she overheard. Seconds later, Joxer walked out of the tent. He gasped in shock at seeing the blonde.
Gabrielle swallowed hard, forcing a weak smile.
Stunned realization washed over his face.
"You overheard everything, didn't ya."
Gabrielle lowered her head, deeply embarrassed.
Uncomfortable silence. Gabrielle looked up. A grin began to form on her face.
"Y-You're actually going to propose to Meg?!"
Joxer blushed. He smiled shyly.
Gabrielle rushed up to Joxer and hugged him tight. She pulled back. A brilliant smile formed on her face.
"Oh Joxer, that's wonderful!!"
She grabbed her friend by the forearm and dragged him near an alley. Gabrielle looked around, making sure they were alone. She turned to him, her face a mixture of excitement and worry. Gabrielle was concerned about her friend.
"Joxer, are you really sure about this??"
Joxer lowered his head, and sighed. He looked up at Gabrielle.
"Well...if you're referring to the feelings I had for you...well...Gods...I just had ta sit down and do some real thinking for once, ya know?? I mean, I'm not getting any younger. And I gotta admit-I was real torn for awhile between you and Meg. Finally, I decided that this was silly. I couldn't have both of you. And you didn't love me that way anyhow. Funny-I was actually grateful for that. I mean...Meg and I...the more I was around her, the more I realized that we-we just shared so many things in common. And the fact that she loved me unconditionally...gods Gabrielle, do you know how hard it is to find a person like that, who loves you that way??"
Gabrielle smiled warmly. She rubbed Joxer's arm.
"That's true. It's very rare, Joxer."
Joxer lowered his head in silence for a few moments. Then he looked up at Gabrielle.
"I-I can't see myself marrying anyone else." he said with quiet intensity." I-I just can't see myself being with anyone else. Not even you. Meg is my soulmate, Gabrielle. She makes me complete. S-She really makes me whole. I don't want to live my life without her. The thought of that terrifies me. I want to make her mine."
Tears came to Gabrielle's eyes. She shook her head, gazing at Joxer with happiness and pride. She hugged him again, and pulled back.
She chuckled with glee, and raised an eyebrow.
"W-when are going to pop the question to her?!"
Joxer raised his own eyebrow, a mysterious smile forming on his face.
"Soon. Very soon."
"You devil you. C'mon. Maybe you can help me with some shopping."
Joxer bowed before Gabrielle.
"Joxer the Mighty, at yer service!!"
Gabrielle sighed, rolling her eyes.
"Is here okay, Francisca?" asked Joxer.
The pretty redhead nodded.
"Yeah, you can put Gabrielle's stuff on that table."
Joxer placed the basket of food on the table. He turned to Gabrielle.
"You met Francisca, right?"
"Nope, haven't had the pleasure."
Francisca walked up to the blond, extending her hand.
"Wow...the Bard of Potedia. I'm Francisca. Nice to meet you!"
The women shook hands. Gabrielle spoke.
"By the gods...the food here smells so good!! You're responsible for this?!"
Francisca blushed, lowering her head.
"Well...I do some of the cooking, but so do the other girls here."
"Oh no you don't."
The three turned around. Meg and Xena walked into the kitchen. Meg waggled a finger at Francisca.
"Don't you play Miss Modest around here, Francisca. You're what's made this place a huge success."
Francisca rolled her eyes.
"C'mon Meg. I had help. And you cook great too!!"
Meg walked up to her friend, poking her lightly in the shoulder.
"Yeah, but you taught me a few things. As well as teaching the rest of the girls here. You're gonna take some credit and like it."
Francisca blushed even further. She lowered her head. Meg put an arm around her. She looked at the others and spoke.
"It's a team effort that makes this place work. Everyone here has pitched in."
Meg then looked at Joxer, and smiled warmly.
"Especially this guy."
Joxer blushed, smiling shyly.
"Aw, stop Meg."
Meg walked up to Joxer, and placed a big wet kiss on his cheek. She put her arm around him, holding him close.
"He's helped me so much around here, I can't tell ya. I don't know what I'd do without Joxie."
Xena and Gabrielle raised their eyebrows simultaneously.
"Joxie??" they repeated, smiling.
Joxer blushed even further, turning a lovely shade of red. He lowered his head. Meg nuzzled the side of it.
"Yeah. My Joxie."
Meg kissed him again. Gabrielle lowered hear head, biting her lip to keep from laughing. Xena folded her arms and smirked warmly, enjoying the tender moment between the couple.
The group turned to their right. A gigantic, muscular woman stood in the doorway, carrying some bags of grain. A mischievous smile was on her face. Joxer rolled his eyes.
"Geeze, Maria!! Lighten up, huh??"
The woman laughed, shaking her head.
"I don't think I will." she teased. "You're stuck with that name."
Joxer shook his head. Maria placed the grain down next to some crates. Joxer walked up to her.
"They should have that new wheel for the cart ready this afternoon."
"Oh, great! Thanks, Joxer."
She looked up.
"Xena!" she exclaimed.
Maria walked over to Xena, and they exchanged a firm warrior's handshake. Maria smiled warmly.
"It's great to see ya again."
Xena smiled in return.
Maria turned towards the blonde.
"And you must be Gabrielle. It's a pleasure to finally meet you."
They shook hands. Gabrielle smiled warmly.
"Joxer has told me some really nice things about you."
Maria turned towards Joxer, and smiled.
"Well, Joxer isn't so bad himself."
Meg walked up to the three. Her face turned serious.
"Maria, Xena is here to find out about Martus, Galian & Parses."
At hearing the three names, Maria's face grew hard. Her eyes turned to ice. She focused them on Xena.
"You after them?" she asked.
Xena looked at Maria with a grim expression.
"Yes. Gabrielle and I understand that they're in the area. We're going to be heading to Egypt, but now that we know they're around, we want to bring them to justice."
Maria's eyes narrowed. She folded their arms.
"If you want my help Xena, you've got it. Those bastards have to be taken down. One way or the other..."
Xena smiled slightly.
"I appreciate the help, Maria."
"All right then. I'll go into town now and talk to my contacts. See what they heard. I'm sure to find out something."
Xena placed a hand on Maria's arm.
Barely controlled rage roiled in Maria's eyes.
"I spoke to survivors of the attack on Ismalan. Some of them had lost whole families to these bastards. And the stories I heard of what they did to children...No. They've got to be brought to justice."
Maria turned to Meg.
"I'll be back soon."
Maria turned and left the kitchen. Somber silence filled the room. Joxer sighed, shaking his head.
"Ya know, ya've gotta wonder about life sometimes. Except I seem to be wondering about it almost all the time now when I hear and see things like this."
Xena nodded grimly.
"I know what you mean."
More uncomfortable silence. Meg finally spoke up.
"You ready to eat, Xena? Gabrielle?"
Both women nodded. Meg turned to Joxer.
"And you, hon?"
"Yeah. Besides, I've got some catching up to do with Xena and Gabrielle."
Meg turned to both women.
"Let me take you to someplace private."
There was a violent flash of lightning. The air twisted and turned. Suddenly a gigantic hole opened in it. Out of it flew four men. They crashed into the hard earth, rolling around in the dust. There were a couple of violent flashes of lightning-and with a loud peal of thunder, the hole sealed up again. Everything returned to normal.
The Sovereign groaned, getting up onto his knees. He rubbed his head vigorously. Slowly, he rose to his feet-
And Martus stood before him, holding the Hades Stone. Galian and Parses dusted themselves off, slowly rising to their feet. The Sovereign's ice-blue eyes roamed the courtyard. He suddenly spotted the temple. His eyes widened in fury.
"That's Ares's temple!" he blurted out aloud.
"It's abandoned." said Martus. "Anyway, you shouldn't be concerning yourself with Ares right now."
The Sovereign raised an eyebrow. He gritted his teeth.
"And what should I be concerning myself with, eh?"
Galian and Parses walked over to Martus's side.
"With the mission at hand." answered Galian.
The Sovereign folded his arms.
"So. You say only a god or a demigod can gain access to this cave, eh?"
Galian's eyes narrowed.
"And how far away are we from this place?"
The Sovereign chuckled, shaking his head. Parses stepped forward.
"What's so damn funny?!"
The Sovereign looked at him, pinning him with an intense gaze and a spiteful smile.
"Gee. I wonder why it is that you three knuckleheads couldn't just ask for ol' Hercules' help. What, he was busy, or sumpthin?? Turned you down?? Hmmmm??"
Martus gritted his teeth. He took a step towards the Sovereign.
"You're a real smart-ass, ya know that?? You're messing with the wrong people."
The Sovereign raised an eyebrow. He chuckled harshly.
"Oh, well, ya see-it just strikes me as reeeeeeal interesting that you brought me back to life and dragged me to this dimension to get this treasure. This ain't no ordinary treasure, obviously. You're desperate to get it. And you need me baaaaaad."
Martus thrust the stone at the Sovereign. A violent explosion of pain ripped through his body. The Sovereign cried out in agony and quickly dropped to his knees. He folded himself into a fetal position and fell onto his side. Martus took another step towards the Sovereign and leaned towards him.
"I won't hesitate ta kill ya, ya rat bastard."
The Sovereign glared at Martus with pain and rage.
"You...wouldn't....be so brave...without...that stone..."
Martus chuckled. He willed the Hades Stone to stop. The pain subsided in the Sovereign's body. He fell back, gasping. The Sovereign lay on the ground for a few moments. The three warlords walked over, standing over the Sovereign. The demigod glared at the three of them.
"What's gonna happen to me when ya find this treasure??"
Martus smiled sweetly.
"Simple. You're free to go, and wreak havoc wherever you please."
The Sovereign slowly sat up, sneering at him.
"And what guarantee do I have of that?!"
Martus's eyes narrowed.
"You'll just have to trust us."
The Sovereign snorted.
"Don't b.s. me. I'm not stupid."
"You can believe whatever you want. But the bottom line is, we control you, and you do what we say."
The Sovereign and Martus locked eyes for a moment. Then the Sovereign looked away. His eyes narrowed. Already he was formulating their deaths in his mind. And he was planning something slow and very painful.