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Disclaimers Xena Warrior Princess and all Characters of the Xenaverse are the property of Ren Pic and Universal. My deepest gratitude goes to them for the loan of these folks and I returned them none the worse for wear. Thanks for the Fertile fields.
BY APRIL MCKAIG
Across vast seas of time, two thousand years from where Xena comforted Gabrielle by the fire, another woman came out of a nightmare screaming.
She sat up and scanned the darkened bedroom. The feel of the dead hands still burned her skin. She reached for the lamp beside her bed. With the twist of a knob the darkness retreated from the room.
As the shadows receded, she found herself alone and in her own bedroom. Fear settled about her like a cloud. She pulled the covers around her and drew her knees to her chest. Sweat had drenched her and she shivered as the air-conditioning kicked on. The taste and smell of death seemed to linger for a moment then it vanished. The faint odor of potpourri replaced it.
Tears began as she ran a shaky hand through her curly blond hair and erupted into deep sobs. Turning her head to the side she saw the phone on the night-stand. It seemed to glow like a beacon. She leaned over, grabbed it from the cradle, and started to dial. After she had punched in three numbers she stopped and hit the cancel button, then dropped the phone to her side. Fragments of the nightmare flashed in her mind. Dead bodies, devastation and even more frightening-Him.
His evil smile and confident manner. The child beside him, face scarred with yes that shone with hellish light. Still more frightening, however was that the shade of those nightmarish eyes were reflected in her own.
Terror had almost overtaken her when her best friend vanished and the wasteland and man had appeared. But then she had seen the other woman been filled with relief. As they faced one another she knew that this was a friend and that together they might defeat the evils confronting them. When she felt her best friends hand on her shoulder and saw that the other woman had been joined by a friend as well she knew that they could defeat any foe.
The demons had sensed it as well. The barrier and animation of the dead proved that.
When she picked up the phone this time, she dialed the complete number. It was answered on the fourth ring by a sleepy, irritated female voice, "This had better be an emergency."
"Mel?" The dreamer began hesitantly, "I know its late, Im sorry but . . . "
The voice on the other end of the phone was more alert now, "Aven, whats wrong?"
"I... I had a dream. A bad one."
"Ill be there in twenty minutes." The voice assured and hung up without waiting for a reply.
Gabrielle finished packing up camp as Xena saddled Argo. Neither woman had gotten any sleep after the nightmare. Gabrielle calmed, however as the nightmare faded into memory. As dawns light covered the land she seemed more like her old self, but Xena sensed that she was still troubled.
"Ready when you are." Gabrielle smiled as she joined Xena.
"You know we can camp here another night if youre not up to traveling. Theres no hurry to reach Athens." Xena suggested.
Gabrielle handed the rolled blankets to Xena to tie onto the saddle, "Im fine. Moving will help me forget and like you said, it was only a dream."
Xena stiffened and whirled around, hand on her chakram as a figure came crashing through the bushes. She recognized him the minute he was clear of the foliage and crashed at her feet, his makeshift armor clanking loudly as he hit the dirt.
Gabrielle had taken a stance beside Xena, staff ready. The noise and ridicoulus armor alerted her to the strangers identity. She rested upon her staff.
The man held his head up from the ground and began spitting out dirt. He stopped when he saw two pairs of boots facing him. He did not move for a few seconds and began a nervous laughter as he brought his eyes up.
The legs and short skirts he saw stopped his laughter and he began to grin. "Xena! Gabrielle!" He said, pushing himself off the ground and rising to his feet.
"Morning Joxer." Xena replied softly.
"Ive been looking for the two of you." He stated as he dusted himself off.
Gabrielle waved away the cloud of dust that drifted off him, "You found us." She coughed.
"Yea, well it wasnt easy. You guys dont leave an easy trail to follow."
"Thats the idea." Xena replied as she turned to Argo and finished tying the bed rolls on the saddle. The lack of sleep and Gabrielles nightmare left her edgy and short tempered. Such a mood was not a good combination especially with Joxer around.
The angular man finished straightening his armor and placed his lopsided helmet back on his head, "If I didnt know better Id think you guys were trying to avoid me."
"Funny that?" Gabrielle answered bluntly.
"Joxer," Xena began, "It has not been a good morning, so now is not the time . . . "
His face fell like a scolded child, "But I brought you a message."
Xena sighed, "What kind of message?"
His expression turned serious and his chest stuck out with pride, "A message from Hercules."
Now he had their full attention. "What kind of message?" Xena repeated.
"I was in Theopolis, helping take care of a nasty little guy who was trying to rob the local widows blind, when Hercules found me. Can you believe he didnt think I could find you in time to deliver the message? I had to tell him about all the times weve taken on Warlords and other things like the Bacckae . . . "
"The message, Joxer!" Both women ordered firmly, before his tangent widened.
"Right!" He grinned unfazed, "Hercules says he needs your help and wants you to meet him in Corinth as soon as possible."
"Corinth? We havent heard of any trouble there." Gabrielle replied.
Joxer rolled his eyes, "Corinth is fine. Youre just supposed to meet him there. The trouble is heading for Mount Olympus. Home of the Gods." He emphasized, "Hercules said that Evil was coming and that the Gods needed all the help they could get if mankind were going to survive."
Xena and Gabrielle exchanged worried glances. The nightmare weighed upon their minds.
"Joxer, make sure Gabrielle gets to Athens. Ill meet you there as soon as I can." Xena instructed and walked to Argo.
Gabrielle was hot on her heels, "Im not going to Athens. Im coming with you."
"Yeah. Me too." Joxer said, following her lead.
Xena turned to argue but Gabrielle was waiting. "I have to go, Xena. We both know it."
"Gabrielle this may have nothing to do with your dream."
Confused Joxer looked from one to the other, "Dream? What dream?"
Neither spoke a word. Looking at one another Xena resigned herself. Gabrielle was going. "Lets get moving." She said as she climbed into the saddle.
"Okay." Joxer grinned with all the enthusiasm of a child and followed them out of the clearing.
The apartment was small but furnished nicely and emmaculatly clean. Melanie Prince sat on the overstuffed couch in the living room waiting on the coffee her friend was preparing.
The soft, soothing, new age music that Aven liked so well drifted from the stereo across the room. As Melanie glanced around the apartment she realized how much her friend had changed over the last few months. The living space was fully furnished but devoid of anything personal. Aven, like herself was a collector of unusual items, books and weapons. Six months ago she proudly displayed those collections throughout the apartment. She was fascinated by history and knowledge and was a walking encyclopedia of trivia. Now that collection was gone. Hidden away or disposed of just like the old Aven Gabriel.
Melanie sighed and shook her head as she heard Aven moving around in the kitchen. They had known one another as children. But as they came into adulthood had drifted apart. Ten years ago they had reformed their friendship. It had been a coincidence that both had come to a Renaissance Faire during mock battle. During the Faire both women had participated in a volunteer mock battle and ended up on the same side.
For years Melanie had been fascinated by weapons and medieval artifacts and had participated in several Renaissance Festivals. She had become very proficient with a sword and that skill along with her imposing five-foot eleven build had earned her a reputation on the festival circuit and the nickname Warrior Princess.
It had been Avens first Festival. Although she was good with a staff and greatly out skilled by the more seasoned fighters, she held her own. Melanie and the other competitors had been impressed by her enthusiasm and had taken her under their wing. During the next battle that day the two of them together held their own against the enemy army and emerged victorious. A friendship quickly formed as they spent the rest of the festival getting to know one another again.
Neither woman had ever met someone they shared so much in common with. Both were sports-enthusiast and were fascinated with the things most people considered eccentric. Magic, ancient cultures, the supernatural, weaponry, anything that was fantastic held their interest.
After the festival Melanie and Aven became inseparable. They attended fencing classes, karate classes, estate sales, museum exhibits and they traveled to other cities attending Renaissance festivals and shows. Over the years the two of them became quite a team during mock battles. Melanie with her excellent swordsmanship and acrobatics, and Aven with her amazing staff and gymnastic skills proved to be an outstanding partnership.
Together on the battle field they were fierce; off the field they were like teenagers. Aven and Melanie became soul-mates.
Six months ago, however, something had happened that changed Aven. Arguments and long periods of silence grew between them. That barrier had been punctured when Aven called for help this night.
"Sorry it took so long." Aven said as she came into the living room carrying a coffee tray.
Melanie snapped out of her haze and smiled, "No problem." She watched Aven set the tray down and pour the coffee and then noticed that even her friends physical appearance had changed. Aven was an outdoors person and always kept a healthy tan. Now she was pale and had lost weight. Her shoulder length, curly blond hair, usually neat and bouncy, hung lifelessly around her face. The once vibrant blond had become diluted.
When she accepted the cup Aven offered Melanie noticed the dark smudges under her eyes. "Aven." She began, trying not to sound frustrated, "Sit down and tell me whats going on." With a sigh Aven complied and flopped down on the opposite end of the couch. "I shouldnt have called." She said starring at the steaming fluid in the cup, "I was scared, but it was just a dream."
Just a dream- Melanie thought to herself. She had discovered a year into their renewed friendship that Aven had a gift. She could see things in her dreams. Events that were to come and events that had been. She herself had become a firm believer in Avens dreams when one of them had saved her from a fatal car wreck.
"You and I both know that theyre never just dreams."
Taking a large gulp of coffee, Aven began relating the details of the dream. Melanie listened intently, memorizing every bit of information, especially the other participants in the vision. When finished Aven slumped into the couch. She was exhausted from reliving the dream again.
Melanie set the cup down and leaned forward, "Okay. Very scary dream. Apocalyptic dreams do not always mean the end of the world. It could mean- "
"The end of me." Aven finished.
"Not if I have anything to say about it. If it is the end of you, Id like to know what part David plays in it." Melanie asked bluntly. She watched as Aven tensed up and pure fear blazed in her eyes at the mention of Davids name. "From what youve told me the little girl and man you dreamed about were evil. The man you described was David, so what gives?"
Aven pulled her knees to her chest and sunk into the couch, "I never mentioned Davids name."
"You didnt have to." Melanie said a little louder than she meant to.
David Hawks was CEO of Hope Industries, a large science and research corporation. He had also been friends with Aven since high school and later her boss. Eight months ago they had begun dating and it was after a long weekend of skiing with him that Aven had changed. She had quit her job, a job that she had loved for twelve years, stopped seeing David and become a hermit. She lost all interest in her former life and had cut herself off from her friends, even Melanie.
Melanie rubbed her tired eyes, "Im sorry. Its just that Im concerned."
Aven shrugged and smiled weakly, "I know and I appreciate it. I just rather not talk about him."
"All right, so lets talk about the other two in the dream. The two women you said reminded you of a younger and different version of us."
Aven relaxed some. "They were friends, Im sure of that and we needed them. The four of us together could possibly defeat this evil and it knew that. Thats why they threw up the barriers."
Melanie leaned back on the couch and propped her legs on the coffee table, "So who were they and where do we find them?"
"The past." Aven answered simply.