Convert this page to Pilot DOC Format
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
Unfortunately, Xena and Gabrielles second landing was as bumpy as the first. Spewed out of the vortex, they tumbled across the grassy field, finally rolling to a stop tangled together like a puzzle.
Quickly distangleing herself from the little bard, Xena jumped to her feet and scanned the area. They were in a large, rolling green field. Wild flowers colored the hillside and she spotted what looked like a dirt road in the distance.
"Are we home?" Gabrielle questioned as she sat up and joined Xena in the looksy.
Xena was trying to spot the robed man that had proceeded them but saw no sign of him. "I dont know." She answered and extended her hand to Gabrielle.
Taking the offered hand, Gabrielle pulled herself up. "Do you see Dahoks guy?"
"No." She grunted in frustration. Then jerked her head to the left toward a steep hill. "Lets go." She called as she broke into a sprint.
They crested the hill, Gabrielle a few steps behind. Xena smiled as she saw what lay below and beyond.
Mount Olympus filled the horizon and in the valley the battle was drawing to a close. Dahoks followers were making a hasty retreat into the surrounding forest, the Olympus warriors pursing. "Home." Gabrielle sighed wistfully.
Desperately, Xena tried to locate the virus carrier but the robes Dahoks people wore were so similar, it was impossible. "He got away." She stated, defeat leaving an unpleasant taste in her mouth.
"Xena? Gabrielle?" A mans voice called from the distance.
They spotted Iolaus running toward them from what remained of the village and dashed down the hill to meet him.
He was tired, sweaty, dirty and covered with blood. His smile was radiant and glowed with relief as they came together, "Thank the Gods. Are you two okay?"
Their own appearance mirrored his as both returned his warm smile, "Fine." Xena answered steadily.
"I got worried when you jumped into the vortex." He explained, "I tried to follow you but it closed before I could reach it. Youve missed the whole battle. All three days."
Xena frowned, "Three days." Then her mind turned elsewhere, "Is Hercules alright?"
Iolaus nodded, "Yes. Hes helping some villagers. What happened to the two of you? You look like youve been through a battle of your own."
"Long story." Xena sighed, "Im sure Gabrielle will fill you in later. Right now we need to worry about Dahok."
"Nothing to worry about." He replied, resting his hands on his hips, "Hes gone and his people are retreating." Seeing their surprised expression, he added, "Looks like well both have a good camp fire story later. Right now though, there are a lot of injured people that could use both of your skills."
Both women were exhausted, aching and curious about the outcome of the battle they had just left but without hesitation they followed Iolaus and began tending to the injured.
Well into the night they ministered to the villagers and warriors alike. As Xena was bandaging one childs broken arm, she asked Gabrielle for another strip of cloth. When she received no response she cut her eyes to the side and saw the young woman had fallen asleep sitting up. She finished splinting the childs arm and then eased Gabrielle to the ground, the young woman never waking or stirring.
Moving on to the other injured she finished up a few hours before dawn. It was only then that she allowed Iolaus to stitch her own wounded shoulder. When he was done, she returned to where Gabrielle was still sleeping and joined her in a nap.
After resting and getting cleaned up, Iolaus filled them in on the events of the battle after their departure. The fighting had raged on day and night, the battle swinging back and forth. Hope had disappeared shortly after the vortex did but the robed followers continued to appear, fueled by the light show atop Mount Olympus. Shortly before Xena and Gabrielle had appeared a thunderous wail had sliced through the air from the Mountain top. Flashes of light and a huge black cloud had engulfed the Home of the Gods. The sky itself seemed to glow as a mysterious light wrapped around the dark cloud. Suddenly, Dahoks people had stopped fighting and all eyes turned to the mountain watching the turmoil between the cloud and bright light. Another painful wail pierced the air and then there was a final earth shattering boom. The black cloud seemed to slink away and seep into the mountain, like a wounded animal seeking escape. It was then that the followers began their retreat, confusion and fear etched on their faces.
Ironically, the only two people who understood what had happened were now getting the other side of the story from Iolaus. His news confirmed to Xena and Gabrielle that Dahok had been defeated as Avens history books had foretold. Both women were surprised they had not been more involved especially after what they had just been through. But neither complained or questioned the end result and the forces surrounding them.
When Iolaus finished, Gabrielle began relating the events of their adventure. Her story telling skills were at their usual peak but there was an underlying current of regret and sadness. It was something that haunted both of them as the story was relived. Xena couldnt shake the feeling that she had deserted Melanie and Aven and left them to battle Dahoks evil alone. He had been defeated here in their time but not knowing the outcome in the future nagged at her like a painful never healing wound.
It still bothered her the following night as she sat down by the camp fire. They had put a good days distance between them and the battlefield around Olympus. Her mind drifted over the contents of the scroll they had found with the Icon and she unconsciously shuddered.
They had eaten a light meal, both unusually silent and now faced one another over the campfire. Xena poked at the fire with a tree limb, unable to remain quiet any longer, "I wonder if they made it? If Aven is...?" She fell silent again. It angered her to contemplate Gabrielles descendant, a young woman she considered a friend, dead.
Keeping her eyes on the fire Gabrielle answered, "Theyre both fine."
"You had a dream?" Xena asked hopefully.
Gabrielle shook her head, "No. Its just a feeling." Tearing her eyes from the fire, she met Xenas questioning gaze, "Were connected. You to Melanie and me to Aven. I just know I would feel it if she died. If she was gone."
Rising to her feet, Gabrielle moved around the fire and plunked down beside Xena, "The Icon gave her the power and strength to fight Hawks. It was like John said, the Icon chose the warrior it needed. It had enough power to free me and take your pain and injuries away. Surely it could have healed and saved Aven as well."
Forever optimistic, Xena smiled at Gabrielle and considered what she had said. She had been been tossed around by Hawks until she could no longer feel her body. Agony had consumed her battered body but all the pain had vanished when Aven stood beside her. She had seen Avens injury up close and known that she was dying. When they had collided before and Xena had slipped the Icon into Avens shirt pocket, she had thought it was the safest place. She wasnt sure why she had done it, only that she had an overpowering urge to make sure the woman held it in her possession.
It was an urge she was sure had been a mistake when the woman lay dying in the temple. Yet she had not been able to convince herself to retrieve it. Avens words echoed in her head, the power chooses us. Works through us.
There was little doubt of that. Aven had gotten up and faced Hawks, when only moments before she had been barely breathing. She couldnt suppress the shiver that crept over her, "You may be right." She finally conceded.
Gabrielle scooted closer, draping part of her blanket around Xenas shoulders, "I guess well know soon enough." Gabrielle decided after a minute.
They sat together, silent and contemplating the power they had witnessed. Sneaking a look at the Warrior, Gabrielle noticed her frowning, "Whats wrong?"
"I miss coffee." She answered wistfully.
OUR TIME- TWO DAYS LATER
Melanie sat at the kitchen table nursing a steaming cup of coffee. Early morning sun cascaded through the windows, making the kitchen bright and inviting. She was still a little sore from the fighting in the temple. Her leg offered the occasional ache but thanks to the Icon she was in much better shape than she should be.
The stillness of the desert was both comforting and eery. Deep in thought, she jumped when Janice and Pappy entered the room.
"Finished." Pappy smiled brightly and took a seat at the table, laying a legal pad in front of her.
Janice poured two more cups of coffee and joined them placing one of the cups in front of Pappy. "It wasnt easy." Pappy continued, "I had to dig out some really old text to get all the ancient letters accurately."
"So what does it say?" A soft voice interrupted from behind them.
Melanie raised her eyes as Janice and Pappy turned.
Aven stood in the doorway. Pale and small, she was snugly wrapped in one of Janices old housecoats. Her right eye had faded to a dull pink and she looked unsteady as she leaned against the doorframe.
"What are you doing up?!" Melanie barked and jumped to her feet. The movement sent a jolt of pain through her calf before she rushed to the doorway.
"Im okay." Aven replied and gently waved her friend back.
"No you are not." Melanie argued, "You need to rest. You are not completely out of the woods yet."
"Shes right." Janice agreed joining Melanie. "You need to take your time. Get plenty of rest and recover fully."
"Thats all Ive been doing the last two days." Aven sighed, "I just want to move around a bit. Im bored."
Pappy grinned. "Shes your granddaughter alright." Pulling out a chair she held her hand out. "Take a load off."
"Bored." Melanie muttered under her breath as she steadied Aven over to the chair. "Bored. After everything thats happened, youre bored."
Aven eased into the chair, Melanie hovering close by until Janice waved her away, "Sit down, Mel. Shes not going to break."
Like a scolded child, she walked around the table. Her limp was a little more pronounced and plopped down in the chair across from them.
"Shes a Covington--" Janice began as she sat down beside her granddaughter.
"--And Covingtons are tough." Melanie, Pappy and Aven said in unison with Janice.
A ripple of laughter cut through the tension. The first laugh from any of them in two days.
"You were saying, Pappy?" Aven prodded.
After the battle and Avens awakening, Melanie had mustered strength she never knew she had and lifted Aven off the floor. She stopped a few feet from the altar, unsure of what doorway would lead back to the top. In an answer to her unspoken question stone slabs slid into place, sealing off all the doorways but one. "Thanks." She murmured to the unseen power that seemed to be helping them and moved to the door.
"Backpack." Aven whispered, barely conscious.
Melanie lowered her head close to Aven, "What?"
"My backpack. Important."
She was in a hurry to get her friend to medical help but she couldnt refuse her request. Scouring the temple, she spotted it beside the open doorway. Careful not to spill her cargo into the floor, Melanie squatted and with two fingers, latched onto the straps of the backpack. Tightly curling her fingers she had it in a steel grip. Then she noticed Aven sleeping again, the Icon still firmly in her grasp. Looking down at the golden object seemed to energize her. Clutching Aven tighter, she moved through the doorway.
She walked down a short hallway and found a stairway going up. One that led her straight back to the entrance of the cave. In a matter of minutes she had Aven and the backpack loaded in the Bronco and was flooring the accelerator to the Indian village where Janice and Pappy waited.
Waiting they were as she screeched to a stop in the center of the village. A cloud of dust continued on after she had stopped.
Jumping out of the Bronco, she began asking for a phone to call for medical help. The grandmothers informed her that the best doctor for fifty miles was already here, much to her relief.
That relief dissipated when she saw the old man approaching the Bronco. He looked at least eighty, hunched over slightly with deep brown skin and long snow white hair. He was remarkably agile and quick for his age as he scooted into the rear of the Bronco. Janice was right behind him.
Melanie took a few steps toward the Bronco, ready to protest when Pappy intercepted her. "He knows what hes doing." She assured her granddaughter, her blue eyes reflecting confidence and sympathy. Looking down she saw the bloody bandage on Melanies leg, "You need medical attention too."
"Im fine. Just take care of Aven." Melanie dismissed as she watched the old man motion for two of the younger men. Aven was gently lifted out of the Bronco and carried to the healers hut. Suddenly Melanie was swept off her feet. Glaring, she looked up and found herself in Johns remarkably strong arms. "You need to get that leg taken care of." He said firmly, leaving no room for argument.
Surrendering, she allowed him to carry her into the hut with Aven.
Indeed the healer did know what he was doing. He stabilized Aven and bandaged Melanies leg with the skill of a surgeon. He marveled at the condition they were in saying that for what they had been through they should have been dead. Melanie smiled knowingly at him and glanced at the Icon still in Avens possession, John never leaving it or her.
The Icons healing power along with the Medicine mans skill made it possible for them to return to the ranch the next afternoon.
It wasnt until they had Aven settled in the guest bedroom, that Melanie had gone through the backpack and found the scroll. The grandmothers had been filled in on the events at the cavern. When Pappy began to decipher the scroll she knew what era to begin in.
Now it was time for the mystery to end. Pappy picked up the tablet, "Except for a word or two, I think its accurate." She smiled at them and began reading, "Dearest friends. I address this to both of you because in my heart I know Aven survived. Xena and I both regret that we could not stay and help you. But we also realize that each generation must face their own battles. Alone. We have been through a lot together and I wish we could have had more time. Without you we could have never accomplished our mission. Although we failed to stop the man with the virus Dahok was defeated in this time."
Melanie and Aven exchanged worried looks. Pappy looked at both of them, "The history books show that their was an outbreak of Anthrax in Ancient Greece. Even before those two showed up that part of history was set. There was no way you could have stopped it. It was destined to happen and now we know how it really started." Taking a deep breath she continued, "You are probably concerned because we did not go back with the Icon. It seemed to be the prize of the contest and it was but it was needed in your time. Now it is needed in ours. After everything youve done I hesitate to ask you to do one more thing for us. Aven said the Icon was found in Ancient Greece. You must take it there for the cycle to begin again."
Melanie sat back in shock, "Were going to Greece?"
"Ancient Greece." Aven corrected.
"Theres a map here," Janice took over, "and a few instructions. Of course it will be a little while before either of you are ready to travel but all the details are here."
Melanie leaned forward propping her arms on the table. "Am I to understand that this is like some kind of cosmic, pre-ordained time loop thing?"
Pappy and Janice nodded yes.
Aven smiled. Melanie was already set for the next adventure. When she put her mind to it, Melanie could become a sheer force of will and it was contagious. "Pappy, is there any way we could dictate a message to you and translate it back to their language?"
Pappy mulled it over before responding. "It may take me awhile and will have to be short but Ive already got a heard start on the language. Yes, I can do it."
"Hold it young lady." Janice addressed sternly, "It will be at least two weeks before either one of you are able to travel."
Melanie opened her mouth to protest but Janice shushed her, "Dont argue with your elders. Pappy and I are familiar with Greece. Weve been on digs there and we can help plan your trip."
Aven listened, quietly toying with the chain of the Icon. She kept it close to her at all times, appointing herself its protector until returned to its rightful holder. Glancing up, she caught Melanie staring at the bandage on her chest. Melanies sword had gone in deeply coming very close to the heart. In its wake was left a jagged four inch gapping hole. The healer had told her that had the sword gone deeper or any lower it would have been fatal. Melanie had overheard the conversation and her guilt over the injury had magnified. Aven tried to ease her friends conscience but Melanie would have none of it. She scolded herself for losing control and using her anger in the situation instead of her head. Aven repeatedly pointed out that had she not killed Hawks when she did, they both would have died, Melanie held onto the guilt.
Realizing that she had been caught staring, Melanie blushed and pulled her eyes away looking down at the table.
"Two weeks, huh?" Aven smiled, "We better get planning. Weve got two thousand years to cover. Right Mel?"
Melanie slowly looked up, the smile returning, "Count me in."
Xena had committed the map on the scroll to memory. As was the life of a hero, there had been Warlords to defeat, villagers to save and royalty to rescue. It was a little over a month before she and Gabrielle finally reached the caverns of Artemis.
Located on the steepest, rockiest side of a small mountain, only the most determined and skilled climbers could reach the haunted cavern at the top.
Legends said that the bravest, most loyal Amazon warriors who crossed in a noble battle were chosen to guard the birthplace of Artemis. Hades had agreed to the arrangement since there would be so few souls who would meet the requirements. The simple fact that Amazons in the Elysian fields could sometimes be destructive helped him make the decision. In truth he respected his sister, who was one of the few Gods that treated him as an equal, not just a powerful undertaker.
Spirits of the chosen warriors inhabited the caverns, driving off any who sought the rumored treasures hidden there or who wanted to desecrate the holy place. It was a most fitting place for the Icon and a place that as Amazon Queen, Gabrielle was welcome.
The climb was slow and arduous especially for a skilled climber like Xena. She took extra care because Gabrielle, although no novice was by no means an expert on these kinds of cliffs.
The cliff faced to the west so they had begun the climb just after dawn, hoping to reach the cavern before the sun beat down on them. They accomplished this shortly after noon. Entering the cool, dark cavern, both women were tired but the sense of curiosity was overpowering. Stopping long enough to catch their breath and quench their thirst, they began down the torch lit passageway. The walls were decorated with the tale of Artemis birth and battles. Normally Gabrielle would have stopped and studied the murals with rapt interest but she was anxious to reach the main chamber.
Gabrielle was determined but she was no fool. Knowing that the legends of the ghost warriors and the climb wouldnt deter the most determined thief, she let Xena lead the way to search out any booby traps. Indeed they did encounter several similar to those in the temple cavern but with Xena, she of many skills, they finally made their way to the main chamber.
They couldnt mask their surprise as they entered the chamber.
The dark, dank hallway opened into a garden. Sunlight poured through a gaping hole in the roof of the chamber, lighting the room and nurturing a lush growth of greenery. A steady stream of water flowed down the cave wall and gathered into a small wading pool nestled beside a stone Throne.
Gabrielles voice was barely above a whisper, "By the Gods, Xena. Its beautiful."
"She is the Goddess of the hunt and forest." Xena agreed. Searching the area, Xenas eyes landed on a large rock settled by the pool, "There!" She pointed.
Gabrielle practically leapt to the pool, Xena close behind. Reaching the rock, she kneeled beside it. She started to reach into the crevice beside the rock and hesitated.
Xena knew why she hesitated. There were so many factors that had to occur to ensure the success of the mission and so many questions. Had Aven and Melanie defeated the evil and survived? Where they able to retrieve the scroll and could they decipher it? Would they again risk their lives?
Gabrielle felt Xenas strong, reassuring hand on her shoulder and bent down sticking her hand into the rabbit hole. She frowned as she reached further in, almost up to the shoulder and still found nothing.
Anxiously, Xena watched her friends frantic search. Then Gabrielle stopped. A smile spreading across her face. Slowly, Gabrielle pulled her arm back but stopped when the box became wedged in the opening. Impatiently, Gabrielle began yanking on the box, trying to dislodge it. Xena reached around her and placed her hand on top of Gabrielles. Pushing the box back in a little, Xena turned Gabrielles hand ever so slightly and this time they pulled the box out effortlessly.
"Thanks." Gabrielle said sheepishly and ran her hands over the long metal chest. Changing from the kneeling position to a sitting one, she balanced the box across her legs.
Xena took a place beside her, seeing the box having an almost dreamlike quality. Knowing that her descendant and hopefully Gabrielles had used the Icon to open a portal. Then travel two thousand years in the past to deliver the Icon to them, it seemed like one of Gabrielles tales. "Well open it." Xena said and nudged her shoulder.
Gabrielle obeyed, prying the lid off and revealing a cloth. As before she pulled back the layers and found a dagger, the same dagger she had admired in Rams truck so long ago. Holding the dagger tightly she looked to Xena, tears in her eyes, "Aven made it! She was the only one who knew I had my eye on this."
Xena smiled warmly, relief flooding through her. Suddenly she caught a whiff of something in the air or more precisely, coming from the box. Reaching for the cloth she pulled back another corner and found a blue brick sized bag. Picking it up, she brought it to her face and inhaled deeply. "Coffee!" She exhaled, "They both made it."
Gabrielle pulled back the final flap of cloth and found a smaller metal box. Lying the dagger beside her, she opened the lid. The Icon had been cleaned and polished. It glowed so brightly they had to squint out the glare.
"A scroll." Xena commented as Gabrielle stared at the Icon. Tearing her eyes away, she too saw the scroll lying in the bottom of the box.
Xena deftly plucked it out as Gabrielle returned the Icon to its metal home. "You do the honors." Xena replied as she held out the scroll .
Like a child with a new toy Gabrielle took it and quickly opened it. As she scanned the writing, her hand flew to her mouth and the tears flowed freely.
Misinterpreting her actions, Xena leaned in closer, brows furrowed with worry, "What is it? What does it say?"
Realizing Xenas concern, Gabrielle pulled her hand away and smiled. Then began reading aloud, "It says, Our war was won. We are both older, wiser and alive. We proudly swear to carry on the work you began and hope to continue the fine heritage we were given. You showed us the way and we shall follow. You have our love and appreciation and will never be far from our thoughts. Its signed A and M."
The message touched them both. Gabrielle wept tears of joy and although Xenas eyes were trying to tear up, she quickly rubbed the tears away. Clutching the coffee in her hand, Xena visualized Melanie and Aven continuing the battle for the greater good. With that image she felt pride swelling in her heart.