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The Favor

by XeniteSupreme

FADE IN: A battlefield, with small fires still burning and dead bodies strewn everywhere. XENA and GABRIELLE are there, but they have arrived too late to be involved in the conflict.

G(Pale-faced): This is horrible...all this blood-shed.

X: Yes. Ares has been busy today.

G: Did you know either of these armies, Xena?

X(Nodding): One side was led by Zagras, a blood-thirsty butcher who I kicked out of my army a long time ago. He was worse than...(Her eyes narrow as she stops, and tears the emblem from the armor of a dead man.) This man is, or was, with Dalia.

G: Dalia? (She sees something unfortunately familiar in Xenaís face. Sadness.) I donít recall hearing that name before. Is he a friend of yours?

Xena is silent for a moment, as she stares at the emblem.

X: She was one of my best friends. Daila is one of only a few people I knew in Amphipilos who fought with me against Corteze, and lived to tell about it.

G(Nods): So, is she a warrior like you?

X: Daila is a warrior, but sheís nothing like me. She fought with bravery and honor even back then, and I was proud to know her. But once weíd driven Corteze away and I started to...change, Daila was there to stop me. She tried to help, to keep me from succumbing to the darkness, but I would not listen. (She angrily crumples the emblem in her hand.) I pushed her away, and she left. She set out on her own, and I eventually heard she started her own army, but she was fighting for good, to help people instead of hurting them.

G: Did you two ever meet on the battlefield? Army to army?

X(Shaking her head): Fortunately, no. She and I might not have been friendís anymore, but we still had a great deal of respect for one another. We both made it a point to avoid each otherís armies, and for most of the time, we succeeded at that.

G: How long has it been? Since you last saw Dalia, I mean.

Xenaís hand strokes her chakram for a moment.

X: Almost seven years. We ran into each other at Pyreth, and we both agreed to withdraw our armies to avoid a conflict. (She smiles.) I remember I was glad to see her again, if only for a few minutes.

G: So...(She looks around, blanching at the carnage) ...if she was here with her army, do you think Dalia is still alive?

X: I donít know. But Iím going to find out.(She stuffs the emblem into her belt, and then movement near some trees on the far side of the battlefield catches her eye.) What in the...?! (She draws her sword.) Gabrielle, come on!

Gabrielle can tell her friend is troubled, and is trying to think of the best way to comfort Xena while she twirls her staff and follows.

G: Right behind you!

Trying to hide the anger on her face, Xena charges into the trees, sword ready.

X: Okay, you hold it right...there...(Her eyes widen.) You?!

A stunningly beautiful auburn-haired woman in a long white robe, carrying a candle, is crouched by a badly wounded soldier. He is shuddering, writhing in pain from a sword in his chest. She touches his arm lightly, and with a sigh, he stops moving. Without a single word, she stands up and turns to face Xena, a slight smile on her pale face.

X: Celestra...youíve obviously been busy today.

The physical embodiment of Death inclines her head.

C: Yes. This was quite a battle. I am almost done though, and I wasnít expecting to see you here...or to be seen. But, since you are here Xena, I should thank you again for rescuing me from Sisyphus.

X: That was a while back, but you are welcome anyway.(She sheaths her sword.) Celestra, I need to ask a question before you leave. (She hears a gasp as Gabrielle arrives, and recognizes Celestra from their last encounter. Before Xena can turn to comfort her, the bard freezes in her tracks, and she sees Celestra lowering her free hand.) What did you do to her?!

C: Do not fear, Xena. She is merely asleep. My face is not for mortal eyes. (She smiles.) Well, not for most mortal eyes anyway.

X: You didnít do this to her before, when you took Talus away. Why now?

C: That was an unusual circumstances, Xena. But I will release Gabrielle once I am gone, so donít fear. (Death smiles as her candle flickers slightly.) Oh that reminds me, my brother wants to have a word with you, Xena.

X: Hades? (Celestra nods.) What about? Iím kind of busy...

C(Sighing): Itís important, and it wonít take but a minute. (She raises her free hand.) Donít worry, I promise you Gabrielle wonít even know youíre gone.

X: I donít work for the Gods. You canít just... (Celestra waves her hand and a wave of white light washes over Xena, and an instant later she finds herself in eerily familiar surroundings.) ...just push me around. (Nearby a man in glossy black body armor sits hunched over a pile of parchments. He turns and looks somewhat surprised at Xenaís unexpected appearance.) Hades.

The God of the Underworld nods.

H: Hello Xena. Let me guess...Celestra said I wanted to talk to you, right? (He stands without waiting for her answer.) My sister always was headstrong and once she gets it in her head to do something, she never lets go.

X: Death is nothing if not persistent. (She crosses her arms.) What is it, Hades? I really donít have a lot of time...

H: Actually, you have all the time in the world. See, Celestra took a moment of your life, and put it on hold. Itís one of her little tricks. (He visibly shudders as Xena gives him The Look.) Anyway, I wanted to discuss the events of the past couple of weeks with you. I mean, itís not often someone comes so close to my realm without even stopping to say hello. Ambrosia or not, I had a hard time explaining that one, Xena.

X: I was dead Hades. Whatís to explain?

H: See, thatís part of my problem. You were dead Xena, but you never made it here. Mortals like you are supposed to come before me for judgment. (He smiles.) But I know better. I know how important you are to the other mortals on Earth, how you help and protect and watch over them. I couldnít just let it end like that, especially when I heard how much Gabrielle needed you, so I bent the rules. See, Iím not supposed to give mortals a second chance at life, but I did. It was a chance you took when you and Autolycus sought the dagger of Helios. (He smiles knowingly.) So, I guess you owe me, Xena.

X: And Iím here so you can collect, right? Forget it Hades, Iím not in the mood for games. Tell me what you want, and lets get this over with.

H: Straight and to the point. You know...thatís what Iíve always liked about you, Xena. (He clasps his hands behind his back.) Now then, what do I want? Well, I actually donít want anything Xena, not right now at least. I just like the idea of you owing me for a change.

X: I donít like the idea of owing a God. Any God. But better you than Ares, I suppose.

H(Smiling confidently now): Oh yes, this will definitely be a bur in his saddle. All the more reason I am glad youíre here. Youíre an exceptional mortal Xena, and a time may come that I actually need your help. I just want to make certain youíll be there for me.

X: I think youíre a lot more like your brother than you realize, Hades.

H: Oh, you wound me, Xena.

X: Is that all? Can I go now, Hades?

H: Yes, yes, since you donít seem to be in a very talkative mood. Not that you ever are. (He lifts a hand.) Oh, and while Iím thinking about it, let Gabrielle know she does not have to worry so much about Perdicus. Heís in the Elysian Fields.

Xena is engulfed in white light once again and once her eyes clear she finds herself back out on the battlefield. Behind her, Gabrielle starts to move again.

G: Who...what...Xena, what happened?

X: Itís nothing, Gabrielle. Iíll explain later. (She touches the bardsí arm and smiles.) Come on, letís go see if we can find Daila.


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