AUTHORESS'S NOTE: RATED PG-13 for language.
The once simple home of the 3 Fates now looked like war central, as Ares and his minions worked steadily day and night, preparing for the menacing God known as Dahok and his demon seed Hope. Since the death of Strife, Ares had made many visits to the Fates, they being the only Gods other than himself, with enough foresight to see the theat Dahok brought. When Atropos had had to cut Strife's thread, they had summoned him with their concerns. The casual death of Olympian Gods could not be tolerated, even the death of one as insignifigant and virtually powerless as Strife.
Ares stood imposingly over the three women, who in all outward appearence, where performing their Godly duties, spinning, weaving, and cutting the threads of mortals and Gods' lives. Ares let out an exasperated sigh. For allies, these 3 were being quite difficult. "I still don't see why you just can't find the threads of Dahok's mortal followers and snip snip," Ares made a scissor motion in the air.
"We've explained it to you before. We can't just indescriminently kill mortals by cutting threads. Each mortal has a certain time to die, even the evil ones faithful. The threads must be able to weave themselves together until it is the proper time for clipping," Lachesis, the weaver, tried to explain calmly.
"So millenia old Gods like Strife must just lay down their lives, in order to protect the mortal fabric! To Tartarus with the mortal fabric! We Gods existed before mortals, and we would exist without them!" Ares shouted angrily, the memory of Strife's slaughter still fresh in his mind.
"And what kind of existance would that be? Gods would be poisoning themselves with hinds blood within a century," Atropos returned, snipping an old Roman peasant's thread.
"What, you afraid your hand would cramp up?" Ares shot back without thinking.
Clotho found one particular thread, handed it down to Lachesis, who handed it to the offended Atropos.
Atropos grabbed the War God's arm and pulled him over. "See this thread Warmonger. This is the thread of the Warrior Princess. The two threads that seem to intertwine it at several different junctures belong to you and her Bard friend. If I cut it here," the Godess menacingly opened the blade of her shears around the living fiber, as Ares stiffened at the thought. "then not only does she die, but the bard does too, and your thread slacks off, refusing to weave anymore. A fate far worse than that incurred by Strife with these shears. At least that was death," Atropos finished coldly, her voice barely a whisper.
Ares shivered despite himself, then let out the breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding.
"And you are not the only God with such close ties to the mortal world," Atropos finished, dropping Xena's thread, as Ares thread weaved itself closer with Xena's. Ares grumbled in frustration, as Lachesis gave him a knowing look.
"What the... No!" Clotho shrieked, as the mostly blackened thread of the War God started pulling backward, unravaling from the begining. It had snagged on those of the Warrior Princess and the Bard, and pulled their threads back towards the beginning of the tapestry, back through generations, back before humans were little more than cave dwelling apes.
Ares screamed in pain, as the thread that was his long life span so far slacked.
"It was all I could do," Clothos said to her sisters, had I continued spinning his thread it would have snapped, and he would have died. At least now, with the Warrior Princess and the Bard back at the beginning, he has a chance. We must tell Zeus!" Clothos finished, standing up.
Before the three sister Fates could reach the door to their hut, it slammed shut, and a horned beast demon appeared in the room. "I am the Deliverer. Whith the War God's life sacrifice, Dahok shall reign for eternity!" the evil thing shouted.
The sleepy bard turned toward her best friend. "What," Gabrielle said, not really even asking, as she was still half asleep.
"There is a strange spider of my leg. I don't want to move in case it's poisonous. My chakram is under the bed roll, near my head. Slowly get it, and put it in my hand," Xena said, slowly inching her hand to her stomach, as not to threaten the spider. When Gabrielle had removed the chakram, she handed it to Xena with a small encouraging smile.
As expected, the weapon flew from Xena's hand, even at such an awkward angle, slicing off the offending arachnid. As she sat up, she caught the mighty circle, as it obediently returned to her hand.
Xena looked around, and her brow furrowed. "Where are we?" she asked.
Gabrielle looked around. "I don't know," Gabrielle said, looking up at the tall trees around her. They had made camp in a clearing near the main road to Amphipolis. Now they were in what looked like a rain forest. They stood up, and felt the soft, but walkable mud under their feet.
Xena looked for the sun, rising as always, in the East. "Well, wherever we are, we aren't going to get any answers out here. Lets get moving, and find a town or village. I'm sure someone can tell us where we are," Xena said, rolling up her bedroll, and stretching.
The two women walked for a day, when finally, as the sun was descending again, the obscuring treeline broke, and the Earth became more firm under foot. All day long they'd walked, and not a sign of civilization. They'd only eaten what rations they'd had, and those were running low. The plants were mostly foreign, and Xena was worried about poisoning. If they didn't find edible food soon, they'd have to take their chances on the fruits and grubs around them.
They made camp, agreeing not to eat dinner, as to save food, and each wished the other a good night. Xena had taken first watch in this new and odd environment. She could only hope that tomorrow would prove more fruitful.
The next morning, Gabrielle and Xena shared a small breakfast, then started continuing their trek east. Today was going a bit better. They had found a lake, on the now firmer ground, and they had successfully fished for their dinner. Neither said much. There wasn't much to say. They didn't know where they were, how they'd gotten there, or if they'd ever get back. Still, they hadn't come across another living soul. Gabrielle had commented, before she'd gone to sleep that night, that it seemed like they were the only two people in the world.
On the start of third day in this strange place, Xena awoke to a blood curdling scream, Gabrielle's scream. She jumped to her feet, only to stand face to face with a giant mutated creature that looked like a cross between a snake and a scorpion. The creature sized her and Gabrielle up, and Xena was sure they were on this things breakfast menu. She waited patiently for the thing to make a move, for the battle to begin, when the creature slowly eased back. When it was a few feet from the two women, it opened its mouth. "What are you?" it asked.
Xena and Gabrielle looked at each other in shock. "What are you?" Xena countered.
"I am Seeto, daughter of Gaia and Uranos. What are you?" the creature asked again, this time more insistent.
"My name is Xena, and this is Gabrielle. We're mortals, people," Xena tried to explain.
Gabrielle's mind did a back flip. She pulled Xena aside, whispering. "Xena, Seeto was slain trying to protect her 10,000 children during the war with the Titans. Zeus went on a rampage, killing her kids because they were so monstrously ugly, and when she tried to stop him, he killed her too."
Xena looked at her incredulously. Then she turned back to the creature before them. "This question may sound strange, but we really need to know. Where exactly are we?" Xena asked.
Seeto hissed, as she seemed to mull over the question. "You are where you are. I do not understand your question, Creature that calls itself Xena," Seeto answered.
Xena looked towards Gabrielle, who seemed to have just had a revelation. "I don't think the question is where we are, but when we are, Xena," Gabrielle hypothesized, then turned towards Seeto. "Seeto, who is the king of the Gods?" Gabrielle asked.
"You Creature Mortals are quite stupid and annoying. The King of the Gods is Chronos, and why would you need to ask such a question?"
"Chronos is still Leading the Gods? Great!" Xena shouted. "Not only are we in the past, we're in the ancient past!"
"Well, it explains why we haven't seen any other human beings. There aren't any yet, except us! Hey, that makes us the first people!" Gabrielle said, teasing Xena with a smile.
"That explains why you are so stupid. There are other 'humans', Creature known as Gabrielle. They live in the caves 3 hills away. They are little more than smelly animals. I sometimes snack on a few to keep then and their pointy sticks in line. You are the first to even consider a dialogue, so I will not eat you, but I will not continue conversing with such lowly things," Seeto stated, disgustedly, then turned her gigantic body around and plodded back into the treeline.
"Titan Monsters!" Xena said in exasperation.
"And to think I felt sorry for her and her 10,000 children, when I first heard the story," Gabrielle said, shaking her head. She then gathered her supplies as Xena stared at her.
"Where do you think you're going?" Xena asked.
"Three hills over, to were the people are. Maybe they have a map for around here, or at least supplies," Gabrielle explained.
"Gabrielle, that may not be such a good idea. These people are not what we're used to. They may not even be able to speak; that Monstousity did refer to them as 'smelly animals, who don't even attempt to communicate'. We know they're armed, though I doubt they have very advanced weapons. I say it's not worth the trouble, yet," Xena deducted, the stress begining to get to her.
"Do you have a better idea, Xena... Xena, Xena," Gabrielle called, trying to get her friends attention.
"Gabrielle, look over there, the general shape of those mountains, in the far distance. These slight slope of this land leading into those hills, and then beyond, to... the main road towards Gaul! I don't think we ever left Greece," Xena stated astonished, ideas running through her mind.
Gabrielle got a confused look on her face, as she too stared into the distance. Then it hit her. "Same place, wrong time? Why?"
"Why any of this?" Xena asked back, as a plan began to form. She reached to the ground for her bedroll.
"You're on to something. I know that look. What have you figured out? What's going on?" the Bard asked, stopping her friend from refastening a loose stay on her bodice.
"I don't know, but I think I know where we can get some answers. Remember that old temple, we past a day before all this happened?" Xena asked, gesticulating to get her meaning across.
"Yeah, why?" Gabrielle asked.
"Well, when I was still a warlord, my army frequented that road we were on. I once asked a frightened old peasant what God that temple was for. My men wanted to burn the structure, and build a new one to Ares, since we controlled the road. The man said that that temple had long ago been dedicated to Chronos and his wife Rhea, and was on a spot sacred to the former King and Queen of Gods since the begining of time, before any humans existed. So I figure, if we return to where that temple will stand, and make a little noise..."
"We might get Chronos and/or Rhea to send us home," Gabrielle concluded, smiling.
"Yep, now lets get moving, we have over four days journey to get back there. I'm almost sure, now that I know where we are, that I can get us back to the spot," Xena stated more confidently than she felt.
"Almost sure?" Gabrielle asked, hearing the uncertainty in her companions voice. Xena gave her a hard look, and Gabrielle raised her hands defencively. "Alright. I have faith in you. You'll get us home. You always do," Gabrielle stated, truth, slipping into her words as she said them, and by the time she was silent once more, she fully believed them too.
Xena could only hope that the odd creatures stayed away, as they seemed to be doing, and they didn't run into any more like Seeto, only even less friendly. To Xena, everything posed a danger here, and she had to be ready for it. This was not HER Greece, and she had to admit that she was also a bit worried about her future meeting with Chronos and Rhea. What if they wouldn't send them home? She knew very little of the Gods ruling in this age, and too much of those to come after.
A shuffling in the bushes got her attention, and she looked around. "Who's there?" she asked. She looked over to the battle ready Gabrielle, holding her trusty staff. She walked towards the brush. "I said, who's there?" she called even louder.
Suddenly there was a flurry of movement, and Xena pounced on it, barely catching the speedy creature in her steel grip. A muffled cry escaped from underneath, a baby's cry.
"Let me go, you insane mortal woman!" the person beneath her howled.
Xena got up slowly, keeping her sword on the woman she'd caught. The woman was fit and tanned, and quite attractive. While she wasn't a warrior, she looked like she knew how to give a good fight, and if she wasn't carrying the squalling baby at her chest, she probably would have given Xena and Gabrielle a bit of a workout.
"Hera," Gabrielle, whispered in amazement. She had seen ancient statues in her travels, and the resemblence was uncanny.
"How do you know me, girl?" the Queen she would become, shining through.
"I... I've seen statues and engravings," Gabrielle answered, breaking out of her stupor.
The woman laughed a hearty laugh. "Statues of me! Wife to the fallen God, Zeus! You must be insane! My family and I are public enemy number one! If you mortals, and I'm surprised you two are of those beasts, as you are wearing clothes like we Gods do, were ever to dedicate so much as a pebble in my name, Chronos would wipe your whole species out of existance!" Hera laughed, bitterness filling her voice.
Suddenly there was a mild tremor, and Hera's eye's widened. "Shit! I've stayed here too long, talking to you baboons! I've got to go!" Hera shouted under her breath, her green eyes, pleading with Xena to let her up.
The warrior confidently, moved the sword closer to the Godesses neck. "What are you so afraid of?" Xena asked, as the baby started screaming, as a second thud rattled the Earth beneath them even more forcefully.
"Look, if you don't let me up, Japetos will find me, and probably kill you two in the process! If you run, now, you may have a chance!" Hera pleaded in anger and fear.
"Xena, if that is Japetos, then we'd all better get out of here! He's one BIG, MEAN Titan! Not to mention if we're in the middle of the war between the Titans and Olympian Gods..."
"We'll be squashed like bugs," Xena concluded, removing her sword from Hera's neck.
Hera quickly sprinted away, and Xena and Gabrielle, knowing nowhere else to go or hide, ran after her, barely keeping pace.
The baby around Hera, shrieked the whole run.
Stopping suddenly, Hera, not too gently, removed the papoose from her neck, laying the frightened infant against a tree. She then turned, as if to set off in an opposing direction.
"What are you doing?!" Gabrielle shouted over the baby's cries.
Hera, turned around, still running in place. "He's leading Japetos right to us! He's expendable! I can have more children! Go, now! Run!" Hera called back, as she disappeared out of sight.
"DAMN THE GODS!" Xena swore, scooping the child into her arms, as she and Gabrielle continued their escape, the baby's cries having ceased.
The three made it to a nearby cave, having lost the angry Titan. Neither Xena nor Gabrielle found a trace of Hera, and they realized, with some horror, that they were in posession of an abandoned baby God, who seemed to have fallen asleep during the chaos.
Xena looked down at the sweet child, a slight smile forming at her lips, despite herself, as the baby, nuzzeled his head closer to her, greedily trying to absorb her heat in the chilly cave. "Gods," she whispered to Gabrielle, as she rested her own head against her pal's shoulder for a moment of comfort.
The cave they'd discovered in haste, turned out to be small enough, as not to hide any living suprises, but large enough to give comfortable shelter for the evening. The two women decided to make it an early night, and set out their bedrolls, buy their fire. They'd eaten some of the fish they'd salted the night before and some tasteless roots that Xena had remembered eating once in desperate straights, with no side effects.
The baby God was another problem. He needed to eat too, only Xena and didn't have any milk on them. Xena had once been told by a midwife about mixing water and sugar with roots similar to those that were for dinner to feed a baby, if no milk or lactating female was available. They had suger stored away among their supplies, and so Xena set about preparing the stuff, which had to be softened down to a milky texture.
It took twice as long as cooking their own dinner, but luckily the baby didn't wake. Finally the concoction was ready. Gabrielle slowly picked up the baby, whose eyes suddenly snapped open, looked straight at her, and began to howl.
"SHH. It's okay. It's just dinner time," Gabrielle cooed to the child, who only screamed louder.
Gabrielle somehow managed a spoon full of the sticky stuff, and held the baby, as to get the 'food' in its mouth. It was not impressed, and squirmed away, spitting out the goo, as it slid past his lips. After ten minutes of trying valiently, Gabrielle had goey primative formula all over her and none in the baby God. She let out an exasperated huff, offering the bundle of malcontentment to Xena. "Here, you try!" was all she could say, as she stomped off to clean herself.
The minute Xena held the baby close to her heart, its cries stopped. It looked up at her with an adoring awefilled expression. "Obviously Gabbrielle just doesn't have the touch, does she fella?" she whispered to the baby who giggled. Feeding was another matter though. The baby really didn't want to eat what he was being fed, and fussed. He did however eat a little bit, after a stern look and word from Xena.
Once dinner was done, the two women put the baby down to sleep, and lay down themselves into their own beds.
Gabrielle's mind wandered. "Which one do you think he is?" she asked.
"Huh?" Xena asked.
"Which God? Which God do you think he is? I mean, we know he's Zeus and Hera's child, and we know he's not Hephestus, since his legs are well formed and strong, so who do you think he is? We can't just keep calling him 'Little Guy' and 'Fella'," Gabrielle explained.
"Perhaps he's Apollo," Xena said, running through the list of male offspring of Zeus and Hera.
"Yeah, but Apollo had a twin, Artemis. Where's she?" Gabrielle countered.
"Maybe she's with Zeus. I don't know. Maybe it's Ares for all we know!" Xena said, a laugh escaping her. The thought of the War God as a helpless infant tickled her.
Gabrielle laughed too. Then thought about it. "Xena, maybe it is Ares. I mean, it would explain a lot. His hair is black, and he seems to adore you; hates me. He kicks and squirms like a real champ, and he does have an uncanny facination with you breast dagger, the way he keeps trying to remove it," Gabrielle said, falling into a fit of giggles.
"I don't know. He is an awfully sweet baby, sleeps well," Xena countered.
"Sweet? That kid is a tornado with me!" Gabrielle shot back.
"Gabrielle, go to sleep. We'll ask him in the morning who he is," Xena said, sighing, as she settled herself. She hoped it wasn't Ares. It would be harder to hate him, having seen him as such an adorable baby. Xena decided not to worry about that now.
They had enough to worry about with baby in tow. With a child of Zeus and Hera in their keep, the chances of Chronos helping them get back to their own time was slim. Rhea had eventually sided with Zeus in this war, so she was a possibility still, but if she was still under her husband's eye, she probably wouldn't risk it for a couple of wayward mortals. The Gods here had even less faith in mortal kind, than those she knew. Perhaps, and this was risky, she had to make them believe in mortal danger. Well, taking on Gods was her specialty, she jested to herself, as her mind slowly silenced, and she fell asleep.
The baby gurgled and cooed at Xena, and she couldn't help but laugh and play with his feet, as Gabrielle filled their water skins by the lake.
They had been on the move for a little over five hours, and the noon day sun was high overhead. The small clearing they were resting in for lunch was lush with full green grass, and the trees were brimming with leaves. Obviously they had lucked out, and had been dragged out into the end of springtime, whenever this was.
As Gabrielle returned to her friend and their ward, her bright smile dimmed a bit. "Xena, I'm worried about you. You seem to be becoming very... attached to that baby. You do remember he is a God, and that he does have parents, as dysfunctional as they may be," Gabrielle said firmly, catching Xena's eyes.
Xena sighed, though in her heart she had to admit Gabrielle had a point. For all they knew their assumption that this was Ares could be true, and she could be falling into a trap similar to that Gabrielle had fallen into with Hope, loving and protecting a monster, just because it took the form of a baby. She already knew that she wasn't willing to sacrifice this child's life to Chronos, as he would probably demand, in order to get home, and she wondered if that was the right decision. This baby was a God, and therefore should have his fate determined by other Gods, not two out of place mortals with a soft spot. But he was also a baby, and Ares was instrument to the future that she and Gabrielle called home, as bad as he was.
She was torn, but a small hand reaching up and smacking her on the chin brought her out of it. "Someone's upset that he's not the center of attention, isn't he?" Xena said, making a face at the baby, who just wiggled and laughed heartily.
Gabrielle shook her head. Xena saw it.
"Look, I know I'm getting all wound up with this baby, and I'm sure I'm going to hurt when I have to give him up, but I do know I have to give him up. And I will give him up, when the time comes," Xena stated sadly, staring longingly at the child before her who let out a big yawn, before looking back up at her and smiling. She smiled back, and gave the baby a gentle hug. She then rewrapped the baby in his papoose, and stood up, as the child slipped into slumber against her. "Ready to go?" she asked Gabrielle, trying to push away her emotions.
"Yeah," Gabrielle said, feeling a small amount of sorrow for her beloved friend, at what she knew she would soon face.
An hour later, as they walked along the stream, the baby God began to cry. Xena tried to feed him some fresh formula she'd made that morning, but he wasn't hungry. She tried burping him and checked his diaper, and still she could not figure out what was wrong. As they continued along, Xena saw some vultures flying overhead, near the spot where the baby had started to cry. SHe decided to investigate, and sure enough, as they grew closer, the child's screams became louder. Finally, she smelt the blood, and handed the child over to Gabrielle, who stood perfectly still, despite the squirming baby.
Xena inched closer to see a small group of wolves, picking at a carcass. As she got a closer look, she noticed it was a child, a small centaur child's body, which she realized could not be. Centaurs were created during Zeus's reign as king. She hastily chased the wolves and vultures away, her chakram and sword working as a team to take down three of the beast, before sending the others running for their lives.
As she neared the lifeless body, she realized what it was she was looking at, and her heart jumped. A young hind's corpse lay at her feet. From the looks of it, she'd somehow must have been separated from her group and mother and been hunted down by the wolves. Being only about five or so years old had made her easy prey to those hungry predators. She would give the small body a proper funeral pyre, but she also couldn't pass up this opportunity no matter what.
She knelt down by the corpse, and whispered an apology to the girl. Taking the dagger from her breastplate, she sliced open the child's arm, which was already partly gnawed by the wolves. The already half congealed blood, oozed slightly from the new wound, and Xena dipped her beast dagger and her boot dagger into the blood. She then did the same to the end of her sword, re-sheathing it quickly, as if to ward off the knowledge of the desecration she was committing, but really had little choice. Fighting a God was tough. She had done it before. But fighting would not be enough. She'd need to induce respect, and Xena knew from experience, Gods only respected mortals out of fear. Of hind's blood, they had good reason to fear.
She returned to Gabrielle and the squealing baby and told them what she had found, handing over her breast dagger to Gabrielle, both for the bard's protection and to keep it from the sneaky hands of the young God of War.
Xena no longer had any doubt as to this baby being Ares. She knew from experience that he could smell bloodshed a mile away, literally. He had probably picked up the scent of the girl child dying, rather than the blood after her death. As a warlord, she'd seen ample evidence of the God's dark craft, and she knew Ares. Had this been a human child dying, he probably wouldn't have let out a peep, but it had been a hind's blood being spilt, and instinctively, he'd recognize the danger to himself and gone beserk in her arms. At least he'd given them a potential weapon in the process.
"I'll take the baby, and search for more wood. You shouldn't have any problem lifting the small body, and bringing it here. Then we'll start on clearing enough space for the pyre," Xena instructed Gabrielle, as she walked off again, past the edge of the clearing, into the woods.
"Is his potential for evil," Gabrielle finished, her words a bit close to home. She could still feel Hope's small arms around her neck, hearing her tell of Solon's death, knowing with certainty, when the creature had said his name, that she was holding the heartless murderer of her best friend's son, and yet still her own child.
She shook off the memory, shaking her head, and the action was felt by Xena, who turned around, staring deep into green pools of sadness.
"No. What I see is not his potential, but acts already completed. Horrors I saw, helped commit, which my father helped commit, and his father before him, and even those commited before my family began. But yet I know I can't prevent any of it, and for the greater good, must allow the horrors to happen, make sure they happen," Xena said, her soul trying to find logic in her words, knowing it was there, but unable to pin it down. She hugged Gabrielle tightly, hoping her friend could hear what she was saying.
"I know what you mean," Gabrielle said, guilt bringing tears to her eyes.
Xena took her chin in her hands, staring Gabrielle down. "I wish you didn't. But it is not the same here. For however wonderful Solon was, he was still one person, one life. Ares will destroy millions," Xena explained, hoping to ease her friends suffering and guilt.
"And I, billions," a cold, inhuman voice said, standing at the cave's enterance. The sound sent shivers through Xena and Gabrielle, and Baby Ares started to howl. "That one is a nuisance, isn't he? He just won't seem to die," Hope said, looking at the baby. The swaddled infant started to rise, as if being pulled by the evil force before him. "Those Fates thought they could trick Dahok, but they failed. Your thread is still intact, little one. I intend to cut it,"
Xena felt her instincts take over. She threw her chakram, and somehow, the force holding the baby was snapped, as if it was been cut by the metal ring. Gabrielle lept out, catching Ares before he hit the floor of the cave.
Hope stepped back, and Xena saw it, enlightenment filling her. "I was protecting him. Is that it Hope? Dahok likes rage. Dahok likes hatred. But those are artificial, human made. Hatred takes a knowledge of the past, while rage takes a capacity to remember past wrongs. I remember all the past wrongs Dahok has done me and Gabrielle, but I wasn't acting on those, was I? That would have only sharped your abilities. I was acting on instincts to protect a child I have grown attached to. I didn't even think about it. My aggression just happened. What's wrong Hope? Doesn't Dahok appreciate aggression?" Xena asked, her chakram remaining at her side.
Hope's buttons were sufficiantly pushed, and electicity ran from her fingertips, towards the Warrior Princess. Xena dodged the attack, dashing behind a boulder. Hope then proceeded to desintigrate the boulder, only this time, the effect took longer.
Xena rushed towards the little demon, knocking her off her feet. Hope stood up, and looked at a smiling Xena. It was then that she realized why the woman was smiling. Her hands refused to push out energy, and she suddenly felt drained.
"Takes a lot of hatred to fuel a kid like you, don't it, a bit more than two mortal women can generate, even if we were trying," Xena stated matter of factly. "And Ares, even as an adult, he's still not human. He's older. He feeds on more primal passions. It'd leave a nasty taste in your mouth," Xena surmised.
"He must be sacreficed to Dahok," Hope insisted before, slowly, and with great effort, fading away.
"Well that explained a lot," Gabrielle said, taking a deep, steadying breath.
"At least we now know how we got here?" was all Xena said, her mind working, stategizing, against her enemy. "We'll get up early tomorrow morning. If we hurry, we can get to the sacred ground by nightfall. After that, I may now have a plan," Xena said, cryptically, and finally, as she settled back on her bedroll, her mind churning with the possibilities.
Plus, not being exposed to the elements was better for a baby. Gods, getting Ares the infant out of her mind was going to be tough. Why couldn't he just be the callous, pompous, no good, jerk that he usually was? Or would become? Or... Xena broke off those thoughts, as time travel had never been her strong suit. Just keep walking. That was good.
As the sun began its decent, two very weary and one very cranky travelers arrived at their destination. It didn't look much different, except for the lack of the road and the temple. Otherwise, Xena knew the landscape well, and she let out a sigh. It was now or never.
"Chronos, Rhea, King and Queen of the Gods! I am Xena, and I wish to speak with you!" Xena shouted. She repeated the same two sentences four more times, and nothing happened.
"Now what?" Gabrielle asked nervously, checking her boot, making sure Xena's breast dagger was still there.
Xena looked at the baby, and seemed torn as to what to do. Baby Ares eyes met hers, and it seemed as if he could read her thoughts, as just then, thunder erupted, and all of a sudden, Chronos, king of the Gods stood before them. "Give me that child," he demanded gruffly.
"Nice to know something gets your attention. Now, we need to get back..."
"Give me the son of Zeus! He has no right to exist!" Chronos hissed in a threatening tone, the sky echoing his mood.
"Sorry, I can't do that. I have a future to protect," Xena replied.
Chronos was not happy, and he raised his mighty hand. Xena tensed, ready for a fight.
Suddenly another light flashed, and an almost identical man stood in front of Xena, as if to shield her. "It's me you want! Leave my son alone!" Zeus shouted at his father.
"I will destroy you both!" Chronos shrieked, grabbing Zeus in a painful grip, his hand glowing.
Realizing what was happening, Xena handed baby Ares over to Gabrielle, and lept high into the air, her war cry piercing the approaching night. As she landed, she planted a sharp kick to Chronos's midsection. The God stumbled backwards, releasing his weakened son, who fell against the soft earth.
Xena unsheathed her sword, as Chronos charged her. Their blades met, and Xena whispered a prayer to Hephestus for making her sword. Had it been mere metal, it would have broken in half on contact with the divine blade Chronos wielded. Still, the current King of the Gods had the strenth his grandson Hercules would one day posess, and Xena knew that she had to rely on her agility and advanced skill, in order to stay alive She sacreficed her sword, letting Chronos disarm her, as she lept again into the air, keeping her distance from the furious God.
Chronos charged again, and she quickly parried his attack. He threw a lightning bolt, and though he set a nearby tree ablaze, Xena managed to avoid the assault.
Xena unclipped her chakram, and threw it, missing the King of the Gods. It richoced off a boulder, and headed back towards the God who had dodged it in the first place. Chronos knew he'd been set up, and hit the groud to avoid the flying blade. Xena caught it, then landed several kicks to the defending God.
But like an electric eel, Chronos charged his body on the last blow, shocking the Warrior Princess, sending her smashing into the boulder.
Gabrielle dashed to her side, finding her still alive, barely, but unconscious. "Please, don't kill her! Please!" the Bard begged, as she kept trying to wake her unconscious best friend. She placed the baby, down by Xena's side, and stood, shielding the fallen warrior and their charge, holding her staff at the ready.
Chronos sneered, and moved towards the two women. No one noticed the tiny hand, reaching into Gabrielle's boot.
There was a flying flash. Then Chronos felt pain, sharp, breathtaking pain, as he looked down at his stomache, and saw the breast dagger handle that stuck out of him.
He looked at Gabrielle, who was as shocked as he was.
Then he looked at her feet, and the baby boy, whom he realized had killed him. It seemed impossible. He was a God, the King of Gods. Even when he'd dethrowned his father Uranos, he hadn't killed him. No God had ever died. A dagger should barely annoy him, and yet he felt the life quickly seeping out of him. He fell to his knees, as his vision began to blur. The last thing he saw was his youngest son Zeus, the woman Warrior's sword in his hands, coming towards him.
Zeus swung the borrowed blade, decapitating Chronos, and thus winning the War of the Titans.
Xena awoke to the feeling of a small hand tangled in her hair, yanking happily and heartily. Her whole body felt loose, and her head seemed to spin a bit, as she sat up. She disentangled the baby's hand. "Thanks for the wake up call Ares," she replied, patting his own curly black locks affectionately. She guessed she'd never get him out of her blood, but she had to give him back to his family. At least she knew he'd be okay, even if because of him, humanity would be anything but.
She stood up, picked up the baby Ares, and walked towards Gabrielle and Zeus. Zeus opened his arms, and Xena placed Ares in them. He fussed, looking towards Xena and reaching out a grasping hand. "No Ares, you don't belong with me," Xena said firmly.
Zeus looked at the Warrior Princess closely. She was obviously feeling, very deep feelings right now, and was reluctant to hand over his son, but Zeus suspected an additional meaning behind her words. He chose his words carefully. "My wife, Hera, said that you had told her that you had seen statues of her. And you seem to know my son's name, even though he has yet to receive it, as his naming ceremony was postponed when Chronos last attacked my family's encampment. Who are you?" Zeus asked, trying to be able grasp what was going on. He was usually quicker. Perhaps Chronos had succeeded in doing some serious damage, before his execution.
Xena thought about how to answer. "I am Xena, and this is my friend Gabrielle. We are from the future. Somehow we were sent back to this time. We know it had something to do with the Fates, and we were approaching Chronos in order to get us back, since in this time he is... I mean was the head God. Now you are the King of the Gods, and Hera, your wife is Queen. In the future, mortals will build temples and shrines to you and her... and the rest of your family, including Ares..."
"The God of Massacre," Zeus deducted, looking to the baby with some disgust.
"The God of War," Xena corrected. She felt her hackles rising at the nasty look, Zeus was throwing at his son, whom he now held rigidly. "If you hate him so much, why did you come after him? Why not have let Chronos turn him into a falafel?" Xena asked, not knowing she was going to ask that, till it was past her lips, and she couldn't take it back. The Gods really got her goat sometimes.
"Because he is my son. I have a duty to him, as he has a duty to our family. He is a necesary evil. He draws blood, as he has done here, and he will defend us, from those forces that would seek our own to be spilt. I do not know how, but he has killed a God. He has far exceeded the job he was designed to do," Zeus explained calmly.
Gabrielle was, for once, speechless at Zeus's statement. She almost felt sorry for Ares. And she'd thought him to be callous, uncaring, and insensitive. Seems the apple didn't fall far from the tree. How Hercules could be related to these two...
"Designed? You speak as if he were a chunk of metal fashioned on Hephestus's anvil; Just a weapon to be used against your enemies and to keep mortals in line!" Xena shouted.
"That is exactly what he is, and I will not argue it further, Woman!" Zeus stated with finality. Zeus handed her back her sword. "Now, I will return you to your own time."
Before Xena could say another word, she and Gabrielle were already on their way back, to the world they knew.
When they arrived in their own time, they stood, just where Xena knew they'd be. Right on the road that eventually led to Amphipolis. But now they had no time for visiting.
Xena knew this was not over. Hope had gone away too easily, still claiming her intent on sacrificing Ares. Whatever it was about him, Dahok wanted it dead, and therefore, despite her own feelings of anger towards the God of War, she knew she had to protect him.
Unlike the Greek Gods, Dahok was not capricious. There had to be a reason why he wanted Ares in particular. Hope had said that the Fates had tried to trick Dahok to save the Ares of the past. She would start with them first.
She turned towards the waiting Gabrielle. "Come on. We're going to see the Fates."
They traveled for three days, non-stop, and still they were only halfway to the cavern that led to the home of the Fates. At least they had Argo, having retrieved her once returning to the present day, and according to a traveller they had met on the road, they had been returned to the very time in which they had left.
The Fates were not easy to get to. There were traps and rough terrain, but Xena and Gabrielle knew they had to make it.
On the fourth day, as they inched their way up a tedious mountain, they were met by a warrior woman dressed in perfect armor. "Greetings, Xena, Gabrielle, I was told to wait for you," the woman announced.
"Wait a second. You're Athena!" Gabrielle replied in pleasant surprise. She had always wanted to meet the Goddess of Wisdom.
"Great, more Gods," Xena responded dryly.
"Xena, I was sent by Father to assist you in your journey. I am meeting you here, since here is where you must make a detour. The Fates can not help you, as they can not even help themselves. Some demon, calls himself 'The Deliverer' is holding them within their home," Athena explained. She did not like this Xena. Best give her message then go.
"He's a tough one alright, although not invincable. He can bleed, and he can be defeated," Xena informed the Goddess of Honorable Battles.
"The Fates are not the warriors we are Xena. They were brave in saving my brother's thread and telling the demon it had been snapped by their spinner, but they can not fight back. In addition Ares is not well. Zeus is having to hold him captive on Olympus to keep him from ripping Britainia apart tree by tree, village by village, to get to the followers of this one evil God, Dahok. He's gone beserker. This thing tried to kill him, and now he doesn't care what he has to destroy, in order to destroy Dahok. My brother has gone truly mad," Athena explained, annoyance crossing her face.
Great, Ares had gone nuts. Well, the first thing to do was to get him rational again. As much as she hated it, if her plan to bring down Dahok was to work, she needed his assistance. "Can you take me to him, Athena? I think I have news that may restore his sanity," Xena explained to the Goddess.
Athena's brows knitted. "What are you planning?" she asked the mortal warrioress. She never trusted anyone who had ever worked for her demented brother. No matter what Xena or even her own half brother Hercules said, once Ares lack, always his lacky.
"That's between me and your brother, Goddess. However, if you're into watching..." Xena winked provacatively at Athena, and the Goddess gave a disgusted snort. His brother was always one with the mortal whores.
"No thank you. However, against my better judgement, and under orders from my father, I will take you to my brother's cell," Athena explained curtly. Then with a flick of her wrist, she and Xena were gone.
Gabrielle just stood there, staring at the spot where Xena had been. "Great, ditched again!" she wispered under her breath. A nearby mountain goat baa'ed back at her in reply.