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Heritage-Chapters 3 & 4

Angeleeta Sosnowski


Xena, Gabrielle, their pals are all property of MCA/UNIVERSAL. The events which take place in this bit of fan fiction have not been officially endorsed and are intended for the enjoyment of those who chose to read on. No disrespect or copy right infringement intended.

HOWEVER, Wolf, Merlina, Erik and their pals are all property of Shapoopie Inc. Any use of these characters without my consent is way wrong, so please don't. (A special thanks to my number one gal Laura the Krusty Biscuit who helped edit this tale.)


A-Watch out for the subtext. If a same sex relationship freaks you out or is illegal where you are, please don't continue.

B-Things aren't always pretty in this story. Some of the action scenes are quite violent and graphic in nature, so if you're squeamish, watch out. Also, there are quite a few naughty words in this tale, the one's banned by the FCC, so be warned.

C-THIS STORY TAKES PLACE sometime during the what would be the fifth or six season of Xena. I'm made some decisions about what has happened to some of the characters based on third season shows and rumors. I started this story before "Maternal Instincts", "Armageddon Now", and the season finale aired. Some alterations have been made to accommodate those episodes and subsequent shows, but Dionne and I aren't buddies, so some things could turn out wrong. Oops!

D-There is a touch of Star Trek in this story which requires a little explanation. The universe is laid out in this pattern for my story: there are many dimensions (called realms) which exist next to each other. Between each dimension/realm exists an area of black space called the "void". Within each of these "realms" there is a land for the gods, mortals, and the dead. It is possible to travel between realms as well as between the lands. If I tell you any more, I'll give away too much of the story. If you're confused, drop me a line and I'll try to explain things a little more. Bachlorette (lyrics by sjon) copyright 1997 Bjork Overseas Ltd. Alarm Call (lyrics by bjork) copyright 1997 Bjork Overseas Ltd. Army of Me (lyrics by bjork) copyright 1995 Me Company


Chapter Three

"i'm a whisper in water, a secret for you to hear,"

"you're the one who grows distant, when I beckon you near"

The Immolation left the river and headed out to sea in the mid afternoon of that same day. Xena had spent most of her time on deck watching Greece go by and thinking. Gabrielle had been below deck, worrying about what was ahead of them. The bard decided that she and Xena needed to talk before this mission progressed any further.

The bard left their cabin and was headed above when she ran into the Warrior Princess who was on her way down to see her. "We have to stop meeting like this," Gabrielle said dryly, "People will start talking about us."

Xena smiled, "I figured we'd better talk, you know, have a plan, make sure we're okay."

"Me too."

"Do you want to go back to the cabin or above? It's really a nice day." Xena asked.

"Let's go on deck, I'm tired of small spaces," the bard replied.

The two companions walked hand in hand to the bow of the ship. Donner was at the wheel, Erik was in the crow's nest, and Gunther was working on some rope midship. Each man smiled and waved at the pair as they made their way to the front of the ship.

"They seem nice enough," Gabrielle sad as the leaned against the side of the ship, "even if Erik made that 'of no consequence' comment earlier."

"They are, and I don't think he meant anything by it," Xena replied. "I spoke with Donner for some time. He said to pay Erik no mind and that it's just the mission taking a toll on them."

"How long have they been the crew for Wolf?"

"More years than they can count."

"What do you mean?"

Xena looked at Gabrielle, trying to come up with words to describe the impossible. "These men, this ship, Wolf....they've been doing this all of their lives, and I mean all of their lives. From what I gathered by observing these three, they weren't born recently. I mean, look at their manners, their clothes, they are not only not from Greece, I'd say they haven't been on shore in maybe 50 years or more."

"Come on Xena, only Gods can live forever, and we know Wolf is mortal. She even said so."

"Gabrielle, Donner remembers Athens as a 5 hut town. Gunther hadn't ever heard of Caesar, or Rome for that matter, and Erik didn't know that Sparta existed."

"But Wolf isn't that old, Xena. She travels around the known world. I'm sure she knows Athens has a lot more than 5 huts these days."

"That's true, but that doesn't mean she's not as old, if not older than the rest of them." Xena paused, thinking, "Let's go over what we know. Here, on the ship, Erik talked about the 'chosen one', so did Dahok's lackey. At the inn I overheard Wolf arguing with someone, I think it was one of her god pals, about the Greek gods, and who visited you earlier that day? Ares, who warned you that Wolf wasn't all she seemed." Xena paused again, "And the real kicker is that Wolf says that I'm a descendent from her family who has been picked to take over the family business, the quest against evil."

"Against Dahok," Gabrielle said somberly.

"Well, I asked Wolf and I still don't feel like I got a straight answer from her. I doubt there is any truth to that story."

"Oh, it's true Xena, believe me, it's true."

"Ares," Xena said coldly, "I should have know this is all your fault."

"It's mostly his fault, but not all." Another god appeared, one which Xena had never seen before, but the voice was very familiar.

"You're Wolf's friend," Xena said.

"I'm sorry you overheard our conversation," the god said gracefully, "my name is Thor."

"But you can call him Blondie," Wolf said fondly. She had snuck up on Xena and Gabrielle without them noticing. "He's the one who saved us in that fight."

"Many thanks," Xena said graciously. She turned to Wolf, "So now can we get an explanation?"

Wolf motioned to some barrels which made perfect chairs. Xena, Ares and Thor each took one. Gabrielle chose to sit on the deck in front of Xena. Wolf looked the assembled crowd over and began.

"For some of you this is old news, so bare with me, I'll try to stick to the main points." She exchanged a look with Thor. "At the dawn of time, when man did not exist, there was a realm in which all of what we now call gods dwell. There were many great families, the Greek Gods and the Gods of the Northmen were the greatest two. The gods were all knowing and all seeing, so when a new realm appeared, the land of men, each family was eager to conquer it. I'll spare you the details of who got what when, but eventually we settled into what we have now: Zeus, Ares, Aphrodite, and their family claimed this region which includes Greece and Rome; Odin, Thor, Loki, Freya and their family claimed the lands to the far north and part of the land east of Gaul; some claimed more distant lands such as Chin, others are in lands unknown to us all, but I'm sure you get the picture. All the families are related in some distant way. That's why the Odin is Zeus's cousin."

"As I'm sure you've all guessed, not all of the gods were able to claim territory in this new realm, the land of men. Some just didn't want to, but most weren't strong enough, so they turned to darkness and evil to accomplish their goal of getting here. It is from this category we get our buddy Dahok. In a sense, when the rest of the more powerful gods left, no one was tending the farm, and Dahok was one of a few who was able to gain power, enough to break into this land. Some say his power has grown so much that he can crush other gods easily." Wolf looked at Ares with thinly veiled disgust.

"But making it here isn't as easy as it used to be. After his first failed attempt in the area controlled by Odin, the Norse gods got together and formed a plan. Dahok needed two things to make it in this realm, followers and form, so my gods tried to deprive him of those two things. Well, he found followers in other lands, such as Gaul an Britannia, and form, he was able to pull together something which allowed him to sustain him in this realm enough to create what he really needed. He needed someone who could open the closed gate for him because the 'god quota' had been filled in a sense He need a child." Wolf paused and looked at a shaken Gabrielle.

"Don't worry Gabrielle, Hope was powerful, but not as powerful as his first son. Dahok somehow managed to create a son with a mortal woman and this allowed him to enter our realm. Thankfully the Norns, the northern version of The Fates, had seen this coming. My gods their own heroes were alerted to the threat. Odin picked the strongest, bravest, most trustworthy woman in the land, and had twins by her--myself and my brother. When we were old enough, we fought a great battle and defeated Dahok's son and sent him to the Void. After that, we relaxed, foolishly thinking our job was done. I continued to make my living as a fighter for justice, my brother got married and settled down to run a farm. He had four children, 3 boys and 1 girl. The youngest son, Sigfrith, is your ancestor Xena." Wolf paused to let the information sink in.

"So, some time passes, allowing Dahok to grow in strength. He also learns more about men and how to manipulate them. He is able to cultivate some powerful followers who bring him back into this realm. He has another powerful child, a girl, who was even more evil than his son. My brother, his two oldest children, and myself went to war again, and won, but at a high cost. Both my brother and his two sons were lost, forever, in the void. I was killed, for the first time, and dwelled in a land somewhere in between the land of the gods and the place of the dead."

"Excuse me, Wolf," Gabrielle asked, "what is the Void'?"

"It is a place, a no man's land really, in between countless realms. It separates this land from Dahok's land. All that is there is blackness, desolate, never ending blackness. Once there you are doomed to wander eternity alone, always searching for the passage back to where you came from. It is far worse than anything Tartarus has to offer. Trust me, I was there once."

The bard nodded and Wolf continued, "And so this has been the pattern for countless years. Dahok is defeated, I return to my land, and everything goes back to as it should be. Each time, however, it's harder and harder to outsmart and out muscle Dahok. We got really lucky this last time, and thanks to you Xena, we survived yet again." Wolf smiled at her friend.

"This brings us to the Greek connection. About 50 or so years ago Dahok had a major uprising in the lands just south of my home. I was able to defeat him, but it cost me dearly. In a moment of carelessness, as I was about to return home, I taunted one of Dahok's demons, who sent me into the Void. I was already severely hurt by the battle and time alone in the Void made it worse. Luckily I was able to escape thanks to Thor and Merlina, my partner. To make matters worse, my recovery was slow. In this time it was decided that I would need help, possibly a replacement, so the search was begun for the children of Sigfrith. He had left the farm and became a sailor. After many years on the sea he, his wife, and seven children settled in Greece. It was then decided that the Greek gods would take over, watching over the descendent who could match my own skill and strength. It is you Xena, and Ares was supposed to prepare you to take my place, but his greed and ego got in the way." Wolf looked darkly at the god of war, who averted her gaze.

"They allowed you to become evil and corrupted, so much so I've heard even Dahok was starting to take notice. Thankfully you were able to see the light and change your ways. Fate was able to arrange a small meeting between you and the followers of Dahok to see if you were ready to claim your true destiny, but the evil one was able to twist it into serving him when he saw you brought a friend with you to Britannia, Gabrielle. I think we are all very familiar with that story."

Wolf looked at Thor who stood, it was time for the Norse God to take over the story. "Thank you friend," he said grinning at Wolf. "As I'm sure you know by now, Dahok has gathered enough power to return again. This time however, things are different. He has so much power he can come through on his own and sweep the world we know away, replacing it with a place of sickness and misery. Wolf, despite her many skills, can not defeat him alone because she has not only lost some of her strength, she has become an immortal."

"I think I'm going to be sick," Ares said under his breath.

"She's not a god cousin," Thor said to Ares, " Her many travels between this realm, the land of the dead, her time in the Void, and battling Dahok had given her some of the same capabilities as us, but not the same powers. Only true mortals can kill gods," he looked at Xena and Gabrielle. "That is why we need Xena, who is almost identical to the young Wolf in strength, experience, and skill, but whose connection to her god heritage is missing. She will be the one to kill Dahok at the appointed time."

"Appointed time?" Gabrielle asked.

"Yes," Ares said flatly. "There is a legend, some say prophecy, from our land that when a mortal kills the darkest of our family, it will create a great change. The gods of old, that's us, will fade away and a new God will take our place. We will return to our own land and not interfere with the lives of mortals again."

"The Greek gods, in their infinite capacity for self adsorption, have chosen to ignore this ancient prophecy." Wolf said sarcastically, "The Norse gods, after a couple of run ins with Dahok, believed it to be true. They knew the person who defeated Dahok would have to be fully mortal, so they created me, a sort of ancient female Hercules, to bide them some more time in power. The threat has become too great, so we can wait no longer for the 'chosen one' to come into play."

"Say Xena is able to kill Dahok once and for all, what then?" the bard asked. "What will happen to all of you? People need the Gods."

"We won't suddenly disappear," Thor said, "Some of us will merely lose popularity and leave, others will never truly fade out, some will even take on different roles for man. For the Norse Gods however, this is only a shadow of our foretold demise." Thor looked knowingly at Wolf, who turned away in sadness. Shaking himself from his stupor, Thor said, "But that is far off. Come, it must be almost dinner, let us go below decks and discuss this over some of Gunther's fine cooking."


The meeting adjourned for the time being. Thor and Ares didn't eat, but joined the passengers and crew for dinner anyway. Wolf took a plate and went topside to relieve Donner at the wheel. The ancient daughter of the gods needed time alone to gather her strength and her wits. Xena soon joined her.

"So you're my ancestor," Xena said as the two warriors looked across the calm sea and into a deeping night.

"Yeah, sort of a great aunt," Wolf said with a grin.

"That's why you became my cook isn't it? You wanted to keep tabs on me."

"I had seen what the Greek gods had done to you," Wolf replied distantly, "so I wanted to make sure that the darkness you had embraced wouldn't become a permanent part of your soul. You were quite a warlord Xena, and did some truly horrible things, but deep down, you weren't wholly evil. Someone with so much natural ability with the chakrum couldn't be."

"So the break you were taking was from Dahok."

"That and other things." Wolf looked at Xena with tired eyes. "I had come back from the Void hurt, dejected and restless. As soon as I was able, I left my home to clear my head. I became interested in a young warlord who skills reminded me of my own at that age in my only real life, so I joined up in a non-combat role. I found out when I got back that you were the one."

"And Merlina?"

"It was hard." Almost as hard as it is to talk about this, "We will always be in love, she and were made for each other, just like you and Gabrielle are. During that time when I was fresh from the Void, I was a different person. I was black inside and I couldn't clean up the blackness with her there, so I fled. After my two years with you I went back to Merlina, and after some work, we became as good as new."

"That song you played at the inn, it was about you two wasn't it?"

"Yes it was. Our story has a pretty big following in our land right now, but give it time. It'll fade soon, especially since this is my last trip to the land of mortals."

"Assuming we win, what will you do after this is all done?"

"Given my immortal status, I'm going to take Merlina to the realm where the gods came from. Dahok rules there now, and as soon as he's gone, it'll be safe for us. It will also allow the families to return. There are still many battles to be fought which don't involve this land which I'll have to attend to as well."

Xena was deeply moved by Wolf's honesty. She knew just how hard it was for someone like Wolf, who was used to being the strong one, the person who always had the best plan, the most skill, the constant champion, to admit to making mistakes and nearly losing the person she loved more than life itself. Xena had already been to that place with Gabrielle and was now finally back from it.

"You're that sure that we'll win." Xena said questioningly.

"I have to be," Wolf said with a balanced voice, "but victory won't come easily. I hope you realize that you may have to die in order to win and be separated from Gabrielle, possibly forever. Are you willing to make that sacrifice?"

Xena looked and Wolf's placid face. She had never seen the warrior so at peace with herself. "We're you?" she asked.

"I met Merlina my second time back. She and I became close after she found me half dead next to a river in barbarian territory. Her care, later her love, brought me back from death, so I told her who I was and what she was getting herself into." Wolf paused, grinning broadly at the memory, "She stood by me as I went into battle with Dahok and her sword helped me win, but I knew that I had to return to my homelands until I was needed in this land again. I told her to find someone else because I wouldn't be coming back again in her lifetime, but she said ' No, I love you to much. I won't fear death because I know you'll be there waiting for me.' We were separated for the remaining years of her life. We are separated now, just like every other time I've had to come back. Sometimes I come back and kill Dahok's crew quickly. Other times I have spent may years in this land, and we can only visit occasionally. It has not been an easy time, she is always with me, but we have spent most of our time apart." Wolf looked at Xena, "I make that sacrifice every time I return to the land of mortals."

"I don't know if I can do that Wolf," Xena replied sadly, "I can't risk losing her again. There has to be a way we can defeat Dahok that will allow both of us to be with the people we love."

"I figured you'd say that," Wolf said, " so our plan is taking on Dahok in his own land."

"Is that possible?"

"Yes, but we lose the advantage if we go there and if he manages to defeat us," Wolf paused, her face grim, "No god or mortal will be able to stop him. Then we can look forward to spending all eternity in torments greater than anything Hel or Tarturus has to offer."

Xena clasped hands with Wolf and went below deck to talk with Gabrielle. She needed the bard's consent before she'd agree to anything that dangerous.

Wolf watched Xena go and sighed, "We have to go to Dahok this time."

Thor materialized next to her, "It's a good thing you called in that favor then. You'll need all the help you can get in his realm, because I can't give you any."

"I know, but the help may cause a bigger problem than Dahok."


When Xena arrived back at the dinner table, Gabrielle was in a heated discussion with Erik over who was the greater warrior. Erik, of course, was arguing for Wolf, the bard, for Xena. Ares and Thor where nowhere to be seen.

"You just haven't experienced enough yet little one," Erik said condescendingly, "trashing a few measly warlords doesn't make someone the greatest of all time. It goes deeper than that."

"A true hero will always help those in need, even if they are an enemy," Gabrielle stated.

"True," Erik replied.

The bard continued, "A hero is willing to make the hard choices, even if it involves sacrificing something very dear to them." Gabrielle looked lovingly at Xena, who was standing in the doorway, invisible to Erik, Donner, and Gunther, "They always think of others before themselves, but most importantly, they know what evil is, and what it can do to a person, so they will go to any length to defeat it."

If only you realized just how far I have to go, Xena thought. Gabrielle smiled with satisfaction and leaned back in her chair, sure that she had won the debate. Erik exchanged pained expressions with his mates, and looked harshly at the bard. "Is that what they taught you at the Academy for Performing Bards or whatever little school you learned those naive platitudes from?" His voice became lower, darker, "I have watched Wolf slice through an army of demon soliders like a knife through cheese to save children from the evil priests of Dahok. I have seen her stand against her best friend who had become emersed in the dark arts, kill her, and then turn around and praise her for their many years of friendship. When her brother was lost to her forever because of the ineptitude of our gods, did she turn to darkness? Did she turn against them? No, she stood by them again when one of Dahok's evil henchmen came to our land."

Erik leaned down, with his face mere inches away from Gabrielle's, he said, "But the biggest reason why there will be no hero greater than Wolf is because she has sacrificed everything, her family, her friends, her faith, even her eternal beloved, to keep the likes of you safe from evil for all time. Her acts not only affect the present, they will pave the way for a new, better future for mankind. Tell me, has you precious Xena done that?"

Gabrielle looked down, unable to stand Erik's intense gaze. The tall man leaned back, "I thought not," he said. "I hope you don't think I have something personal against you Gabrielle, or you Xena," he said loudly. "I know that the foolish Greek gods kept you in the dark until now, and that's not your fault."

"Thanks," Xena said as she sat down. With a more menacing tone she said, "Isn't it your time for watch boys? Your mighty captain was looking for you."

Erik and Gunther got up, and in a huff they went off. Donner lingered a moment to speak to the pair. "Erik really isn't a bad guy, none of us are. I know that we haven't been treating you fairly, and I apologize for the three of us. Remember however, Wolf has saved us countless times and is a great hero among our people. To see her taken down by Dahok was very hard, to watch her being replaced is even harder." He smiled weakly and left.

Xena and Gabrielle sat in silence, each trying to recover from their recent encounters with the crew of The Immolation. Xena slid closer to the bard and asked, "Are you okay? Erik was pretty rough."

"I'll be fine," Gabrielle replied. She leaned into the Warrior Princess, "It's all been too overwhelming-- meeting Wolf, Dahok's return, finding out that you're part of this great prophecy to save mankind-- my nerves are shot."

"I know how you feel," Xena smiled down at the bard, "as much as I don't like to admit it, it's been hard for me too. I don't know if I'm up to the challenge of Dahok. We barely beat him once, I don't know if we can again."

"Oh, come on Xena, you always find a way to win."

"It's not just about winning here Gabrielle," Xena said with a sigh, "I don't think I can make the emotional and physical sacrifices it takes to see this through."

"But Xena," Gabrielle's voice shook. She had never heard Xena sound so defeated, "if we don't defeat Dahok the world will become a new Tarturus and evil will rule. I know you don't want that to happen."

"I don't," Xena turned and took Gabrielle's hands in hers. She gazed deeply into the bard's eyes, "Do you know what it will take for me to defeat Dahok?" The bard nodded no, "I have to go to his land to face him. I may die, we all may die. There's a good chance we could spend eternity apart, alone and suffering. I can't sacrifice that Gabrielle, I can't lose you forever."

"Even if it means Dahok wins?"

"Yes," Xena said flatly. "I just can't be the big hero this time my bard," emotional exhaustion showed in her voice.

Gabrielle stood and looked down at Xena, the shock visible on her face. "I'm deeply touched by your feelings love, but I can't just stand by and watch you let all civilization go to Tarturus. I don't want to lose you either, believe me, but I can't let countless people suffer because of your selfishness." Her look turned hard, "I'm going to talk to Wolf. We need to plan for our attack on Dahok."

The bard turned before the tears started to flow. Xena's eyes followed Gabrielle until her own vision blurred.


By the time Gabrielle reached the deck she had managed to get her emotions under control. Xena's just not thinking clearly....about the big picture....I know she'll come around she thought. Between Wolf and I we'll convince her fighthing Dahok is the right thing to do.

Wolf was sitting near the bow with Donner and Erik, quitely discussing the day's events. Gabrielle's courage almost left her, but she straightened her shoulders and sat down with the formitable trio.

"Erik was just telling me about your chat below decks," Wolf said dryly.

"I hope he wasn't too harsh," Gabrielle said amiably.

"You are a wise woman Gabrielle, albiet a little naive and overly optimistic." Erik said grinning, "but your passion for the cause of good is what these dark times really need."

"That's what I came to talk to you about," she said, looking at Wolf. "It's about Xena.."

"She doesn't want to do it," Wolf said, not suprised by Gabrielle's information, "I could tell as soon as I told her about what I've sacrificed over the years."

"Don't be too harsh on her Gabrielle," Donner added, "it's a hard choice to make, and I for one don't blame her."

"How can you say that?" Gabrielle asked indignantly.

"I've traveled with Wolf on this ship for so long that I don't remember what I did before I came here. Sometimes I get flashes, images, of people who must have been my friends, family, but I don't know there names. I have spent many a night second guessing myself, wondering if this endless trek across the sea is worth what I've given up. I always come to the conclusion that the sacrifice was worth it, but as the time passes, it becomes harder and harder to reach that decision. And now...."

"And now with Wolf's untimely demise," Erik continued, "it seems like even a bigger mistake. What if we don't win, what then? Yes, we return to land at last, but to strange people and places. My home village doesn't even exsist anymore. Where am I supposed to go?"

"So, as you can see," Wolf said, looking at her two friends, "we all have our doubts about what we do."

"I can't believe this," Gabrielle was now becoming angry, "you drag us off, away from our home and our families, only to tell me now that perhaps it was all a mistake. Maybe we'd just beter give up and let Dahok win? Are you insane? I've never seen so much selfishness! And from someone who is supposed to be the greatest hero of all. You make me sick!"

"You don't get it do you," Wolf replied, remaining calm, "we may have our doubts, our regrets about choices we made long ago, but that doesn't mean that we are giving up. It means that we're..."

"Human," Xena finished Wolf's statement.

"Xena!" Gabrielle was startled by the suddent appearance of her friend.

"It's hard to save the world, it takes a lot out of you," Donner continued. "Sometimes fighting comes easily, naturally, and you know that you were born to do it. Other times, like now especially, things aren't so clear cut. Moral is low, doubt is high, and the drive to win isn't so great. Everyone needs a moment to feel sad, to feel bad about life and what it's given you."

"And after that moment is done," Erik said smiling, "we move on with new energy and desire."

"The pressure gets to me sometimes, that's all Gabby," Wolf patted her arm. "People have these expectations of who you are and what you should do for them. They want you to act a certain way, have a certain demeanor. It's a lot of work to live up to this image of the super hero that people have in their heads, but I do it gladly. People need hope, and I'll provide it to them, no matter what the cost is to me." Wolf smiled and the trio got up to allow Xena and Gabrielle to talk in private.

The bard looked down at the wooden planks of the deck and spoke in a low voice, "I feel so ashamed. I should have never doubted you. Sometimes I forget how hard it is to be a hero."

"No, Gabrielle, I'm the one who needs to be apologizing to you. You were right, I was being selfish, thinking of my feelings first. I love you dearly, but I can't trade the future lives of thousands so that I can have a few years of confort. If I don't defeat Dahok once and for all, more innocents like Solan will be lost."

"I'm glad that you made the right choice, I don't think I could have seen you in the same way if you hadn't."

The compainions smiled warmly at each other. "Come on," Xena helped Gabreille up. "Let's go check out that swanky cabin Wolf gave us." They walked hand in hand below deck to rest. Wrapped in eachothers arms, they let the gentle roll of the Immolation lull them to sleep.

Chapter Four

"i'm a path of cinders, burning under your feet,"

"you're the one who walks me, i'm your one way street"

"How much longer do we have to be on this stupid boat?" Gabrielle asked Donner as the two worked on fixing rope. Donner had taken to the young bard and was always the first person she turned two with questions about this voyage.

"Let's see," his brown eyes sparkled, "we've been traveling for about two months, so it shouldn't be too much longer, maybe a couple of fortnights."

Gabrielle looked dismayed. Despite her not having gotten sick once on this mission, she still didn't feel comfortable on the open sea. "I just have a really bad feeling that if we don't get to land soon, Dahok will sink us."

"I can see why you might feel that way," Donner looked west, toward land. "We will enter the straight between Britannia and Gaul tomorrow. Dahok has a lot of power in those lands these days, and if he were to make a move, it would be there."

"How long will it take us to make it though those waters?"

"Not long, only a couple of days or so if the weather holds."

"Donner, have you ever been in a shipwreck?"

Donner's brown eyes misted over and his face grew somber, "Once," he replied softly. "It was long ago, right after I was picked to join the Immolation. I was making one last trip home to Moorish lands when a mighty storm hit us in the open sea. I was knocked unconscious as our ship capsized and went down. When I awoke, I was in total darkness. It was cold, wet, and very eerie because I was still on board my ship, pinned under something which I couldn't see. I managed to free myself and reached for a nearby lantern, but it wouldn't light. That's when I noticed it.." his face grew pale

"Noticed what?"

"All around me was a dim white glow, which allowed me to see where I was--the bottom of the ocean. Floating nearby were the bodies of my fallen shipmates. The glow, coming from outside the ship, was from the souls of the dead who were lost at sea. Unable or unwilling to cross over, they were drawn to me because somehow I was dead yet still alive. When I reached the deck of the sunken ship there were thousands of people walking along the bottom, looking for me. I quickly swam to the surface and was spotted by a fisherman who took me to shore. I knew then that my service on The Immolation wouldn't be an ordinary one."

The bard was speechless. Over the past months she had seen and heard amazing things about Wolf and her crew, but this surpassed them all. I'll never look into the water in the same way again, she thought.

Donner, seeing the distressed look on Gabrielle's face, patted her on the arm. "It's alright my friend, I have taken that experience and learned from it." He smiled, "I hope someday that I might return to the bottom and free all those souls trapped in the sea's depths. I want to help them find the peace they are so desperately seeking."

The pair smiled at each other and continued to work in silent reflection.


Clang! Clang! Wolf and Xena's sparring blows echoed across the deck. Both needed to keep their skills at a high level to battle Dahok, so daily duels had become routine.

"Ah, my little Xena," Wolf said in an affected tone, "how you thrusts excite me so. If only you were free from that bard."

"Do you always have to talk so much?" Xena said, annoyed. Wolf was one of the best sparring partners and teachers she had ever known, but her nearly constant chatter was maddening. "Even Callisto didn't talk so much!"

"Come now Xena, my prattling on isn't that distracting is it?" Wolf grinned, "Not all warriors are as stoic as you. Even at rest I can see the tension throughout your body. You can't be so wound up when you face the D-man, he thrives on that stuff. He'll turn it against you before you know it."

Clang! "And how would you," clang! "the queen of the flippant remark," clang! "have all of this knowledge," smack! "about being tense?"

"Because kiddo, I was just like you once remember?" Wolf turned Xena's momentum against her, causing her to lose balance for a split second. "I was all--train, workout, practice-- for ages, but then, after my battle against Dahok and that annoying brat daughter of his, I realized what I was doing wrong."

The two struggled in silence for some time. Finally, an exasperated Xena asked, "Are you going to enlighten me or what?!"

"There isn't really a sure fire way to win. You can't plan, or practice, or force things to go you way with him. Sure you have to be in shape and have the right skills, but he can read your thoughts, understand your body language, and that's how he gets you." Wolf stopped fighting and leaded on her sword, "I was so mad after my first few bouts with Dahok. I had set up these grand plans of how to attack and what moves I would use and such, but they never worked. Sure, I still won, but it always seemed like luck. Then I realized that the key was in the unorthodox ways the chips fell into place. Gods follow the numbers, so they only expect the average response of what people in certain situations would do. When they swing at you, take the hit, when they get out the sword, get out the whip. (pause) I know I'm not explaining myself very well. I guess the best way I can sum it up is, don't do what you normally would in battle, be creative. You stand a better chance of not only winning, but saving yourself some injuries in the process."

"So that's why you've developed this wise ass persona, to help you win?" Xena asked dryly, "That's rich! What a great rationalization."

"No, I've always had that kiddy-po, I've just learned to take more advantage of it. Especially on dullards like you." Wolf replied teasingly.

With a shout both warriors were at it again, trying to out man and out nerve each other in preparation for the real battle against Dahok.


The first day spent traveling in Dahok's waters were uneventful. Even the normally quiet Gunther had made a comment on the unusual calm at sea. Sometime during transition into day two things got a lot worse.

"Storm's comin', and it's a big one," Erik said at breakfast. The tall Norseman had been on watch all night and had read the changes in the weather.

"How much longer until we clear this stretch of ocean?" Xena asked.

"Maybe another day with good weather, but now, I don't know," Wolf's voice was somber. "In this time of year, bad storms are common, but if Dahok is powering this one.."

"We're up shit's creek," Gunther said clinically.

"Thank you Mr. Seaman," Donner said harshly. He knew that Gabrielle was uneasy already, and his mate's remark would only make things worse.

"Perhaps we can reach shore before it hits? Maybe find a safe harbor?" Gabrielle asked/pleaded.

"We'll be okay," Wolf patted the bard's head, "this ship can handle anything. I know, I've had it 27 generations. The gods, MY gods, protect it, plus it has the best crew to ever sail the seas."

"Better than Sinbad?" Gabrielle asked.

"A rank amateur," Donner said smugly. Wolf, Erik, and Gunther all nodded in agreement. "He's pathetic," Wolf said. "I've met him, lots of talent, but not enough work."

The ship was suddenly rocked violently by a large wave. Plates and food when everywhere. "Showtime!" Gunther said brightly.

"Gabrielle, Xena, secure below decks and then stay put. I can't risk having you swept overboard." Wolf shouted.

"I've spent a lot of time of the sea," Xena protested, "I can help you."

"Not on this ship you can't," Wolf's eyes turned hard. "The Immolation is a special ship. I can't guarantee your safety, because of the storm and because of the nature of this ship. Just stay below decks no matter what you see or hear. I'll come down and get you when we're out of trouble. You'll know it's me by this..." Wolf leaned forward and whispered something in her ear. Xena nodded in understanding, "Only if I say that come with me, your lives may depend on it." Her focus turned to Gabrielle, "Don't leave her side for an instant, understand?!" The bard nodded, eyes wide. "Good." Wolf looked to her crew, "Come on then, off to face the storm of this century."

The four crew members quickly left the dining area and headed above deck. Gabrielle clutched Xena's hand. The Warrior Princess leaned into the bard, "We'll be fine, Wolf knows what she's doing."

"I hope so," Gabrielle replied, "I'd like to tell a sea story and not feel bad about lying."


"Yeah, I never tell people how sick I get. This time, I wouldn't be lying because I haven't felt bad, even now."

Xena silently prayed to the fates that Gabrielle got her wish.


After awhile, Gabrielle couldn't tell which end was up. The ship had been tossed like a leaf on the wind, turning this way and that thanks to a force greater than it's own. At one point the ship had listed so far that the bard had been able to stand on the wall of their cabin. Through it all the bard managed to not get sick, and thanks to Xena's presence, remained calm.

"How much longer do you think this can last?" she asked Xena.

"I don't know," the Warrior Princess replied, "I've been trapped in storms that have lasted days, but none of those storms maintained their intensity like this one has."

"What do you mean?"

"This storm has been strong from the start and has stayed that way. Most storms are off and on, with some lulls in the wind, rain or what have you."

"Dahok's seen to it that we don't rest," the bard said sadly.

"Yes," In more ways than one, Xena thought.

Suddenly everything stopped. The ship, which had been rocking violently, settled as if on calm waters. An eerie reddish glow came through the one porthole in their cabin, matching the deathly silence all around them.

Gabrielle looked desperately at Xena, "Dahok?" she asked quietly.

Xena only nodded her reply. Something felt very wrong, "I'm going to go topside to check things our. Wolf may need my help."

"No you won't," the bard said harshly. "You heard her, 'don't come out until I come for you', remember?"

A piercing shriek suddenly broke the silence. The footfalls of strangers came from above, followed quickly by the clang of swords. The Immolation had been boarded by the evil minions of Dahok. Xena could sit still no longer.

With a shout the Warrior Princes threw open the door to their cabin and ran for the stairs. After a stunned moment, Gabrielle grabbed her staff and followed behind. She caught up with Xena at the top of the stairs. Never in their years of adventures together had she seen anything like this.

Fifty death troopers of Dahok were on the deck, attacking the four shipmates at full force. At first glance, Wolf and her crew seemed out manned and in trouble, but after a few moments of watching from the shadows, Xena saw that the foursome was holding their own, maybe even winning. Wolf's sword cut through the motley assortment of demons and mortals with ease.. Erik's mighty ax, Donner's two short swords, and Gunther, with arrows and lances, were also taking care of business. Xena and Gabrielle weren't really needed her at all.

Xena's second of indecision proved costly, as 5 demons saw her standing in the stairwell sword in hand, and rushed her. Xena was able to take down the first demon without problem, but she soon found out that these weren't ordinary foes. They were faster, stronger, and smarter than the average foot solider. They quickly adapted their attack strategy and were wearing down Xena and Gabrielle's defenses. Xena didn't have time to react when one of the demons, a really ugly dark purple guy with bright orange hair, knocked Gabrielle's staff from her hands. He was about to slice her head off when a sword emerged from his chest.

Gabrielle looked up at her savior, who she thought would be Wolf. An unknown warrior looked back at her. The warrior was wearing a helmet which hid the face effectively. The warrior's body was covered in black, metallic, very sleek looking armor. Gabrielle, unable to tell her saviors gender said, guessed, "Thank you sir, for saving my life." The warrior in black merely nodded and strode into the red mist that was starting to envelop the ship.

Xena, at seeing Gabrielle safe, redoubled her efforts against the three remaining demons attacking her. She never saw the blow from behind coming. She heard Gabrielle scream as she tumbled into darkness.


"I think she's coming around," an unfamiliar female voice said. Xena realized that she was in a bed and no longer on the ship. Slowly she opened her eyes to check out her surroundings. The day was bright, sunlight streamed in from four larger windows overlooking a lush green valley. The room spoke of opulence--fine pottery, statues and pictures were everywhere. Between two of the large windows was a fireplace. Next to the fireplace was a long couch, on which, sat a very pale Wolf.

Xena felt Gabrielle take her hand, "Xena, it's me, wake up please." Her voice was horse from what had been days of worry. Xena opened her eyes fully and looked lovingly at the bard, who's pale face was covered with tears. "Thank the gods," the bard whispered.

"Hey," Xena said softly, "Are you okay?"

Gabrielle chuckled, "Always thinking of others." She shook her head.

"Where are we Gabrielle?"

"Wolf brought us to her home on the edge of eternity. It's a place on the edge of the land of mortals, the dead, and the gods."

"That's why it's so bright."

"Yeah," the bard replied tenderly.

"How long was I out?" Xena asked. She tried to get up, but pain held her firmly in place.

"About three days or so," Gabrielle looked toward the fireplace, "Merlina saved your life." Xena's eyes drifted again toward the fireplace and couch.

Wolf held her head in her hands, next to her sat Merlina, Wolf's soulmate, Xena's savior. Merlina's head rested on Wolf's back, her hands wrapped tightly around the warrior's waste. Looking up at Xena, Merlina smiled, "Hello Xena, how nice to finally meet the one who my love has spent so much time searching for." Xena had seen many a beautiful woman in her day, and Merlina beat them all. She appeared to be the same height as Wolf, with light blonde hair which fell all around her. Her build was slight, but watching the muscles rippled through her arms as she readjusted her hold on Wolf, Xena could see that she was someone who could not be pushed. Her deep violet eyes memorized Xena and made her skin seem the hue of cream. With a voice like early fall, she said warmly, "Welcome to our home."

Wolf looked up, "Can't you listen to me just once?" Her tone was harsh.

"I'm sorry, I thought you needed help," Xena said in a remorseful tone.

"Wolf don't be so cruel," Merlina chided. "She was looking out for you."

Wolf stood quickly, breaking free of Merlina's grasp, and with disgust said, "Xena, you cost us a lot by your actions. The Immolation sits at the bottom of the ocean and Donner with it. He died saving your stupid neck." Wolf's brown eyes smoldered with anger, "I hope you're worth what I paid. Donner equaled ten of you." The greatest warrior from the north lands turned and stormed out of the room, leaving stunned silence behind her.

Merlina's eyes followed her partner, even after she had slammed the door. "I want to apologize for my pig headed friend there," she said distractedly, "she's in a lot of pain now and doesn't realize what she's saying." Refocusing her attention the Grecian duo, she said, "Donner meant a lot to all of us here, and he will be remembered fondly, but it's not your fault. He chose to follow his heart Xena, and someday Wolf will accept that." Merlina stood and adjusted her royal blue dress, "If you'll excuse me, I have to go see to my other patient." She smiled warmly and left Xena and Gabrielle alone to talk.

The pair sat in silence for most of the day, Gabrielle never leaving Xena's side or releasing her hand. Finally, around dusk, Xena asked, "So what happened?"

"What's the last thing you remember?"

"You, love, screaming my name," Xena smiled.

"Before that."

"Well, let's see," Xena thought for a moment. "I remember watching you being saved by Wolf, and then the world went away."

"Okay," Gabrielle cleared her throat. "Wolf didn't save me Xena, a strange warrior in all black body armor saved me, but that's another story." She scooted her chair closer to the bed, "Right after that is when you were hit in the head from behind by one of Dahok's goons. Suddenly the tide turned, more demons appeared. Wolf slashed her way over to me, but was unable to get to you. The demons had you surrounded and were guarding your body, waiting for something. The warrior who saved me was there as well, fighting Erik, keeping us from you."

"That doesn't make any sense," Xena said, thinking.

"I know, but it gets weirder. All of a sudden, the red mist clears and we see a massive ship, maybe six times the size of the Immolation, heading right for us. The demons became excited, and started to jump and shout. It must have been Dahok's ship, with him in it coming to kill us. Everything went into slow motion for me then: Wolf, Erik and Gunther throw themselves at the demons. Donner slips in and grabs you from the deck, and heads for the stern with me right behind him, keeping the demons off the two of you."

"I heard Wolf shouting something in a strange language, so I turn to look at her, squaring off against the warrior in black armor. When I turned back around to Donner, he's dropping you through this hole which has appeared in the deck. The light from it is blinding, so I looked away. More shouts, but this time from the demons. Erik, Gunther and Wolf are racing toward the stern, with the demons in pursuit. Erik and Gunther clasp hands with Donner and leap into the light. Donner hugs me and pushes me through. The next thing I know I'm here, outside this house. Erik has you in his arms and is heading inside. Merlina was waiting and began to tend to your wounds."

"When did Wolf get here?"

"Sometime the next day. Merlina was trying to hide it, but I could tell she was worried sick. The four of us were sitting in the kitchen when Wolf walks in and sits down like nothing has happened. We didn't even notice her at first until we heard her crying. Merlina rushed to her side, but Wolf pushes her away. Xena, she looked really bad. Her clothes were all cut up, blood covered her from head to foot, her left eye was swollen shut and oozing,--she was, well still is, a mess. She screams at us, 'Donner is dead! My brother has been taken from me once again' She looks at Merlina, her eyes full of pain, and said cripticly, 'It should have been me, it always should have been me'. She got up suddenly and went to a back room in the house and didn't emerge until sometime this morning. When I woke up here, she was just sitting on the couch starring at you blankly."

Xena laid there in bitter emotion. She felt sad over the loss of Donner and concern for The Immolation's crew, but Wolf's words and actions had ignited a small flame of anger. She has no right to treat everyone this way or accuse me that I'm responsible for Donner's death, Xena thought. And she calls me kiddo, please.

"Does Wolf always act like this? Have you asked Merlina?" Xena questioned Gabrielle.

"Merlina said that sometimes after a particularly hard bout against evil, Wolf's behavior can become a little erratic. She usually just spends a day sitting outside with her head in Merlina's lap crying and then she's fine."

"Something happened after we left the Immolation, Gabrielle, something that Wolf doesn't want anyone to know about."


"I thought I'd find you here," Merlina said sitting down next to Wolf under their tree. The pair gazed at the darkening sky and beautiful sunset. When all light had fled the sky and the moon had risen, Merlina ventured a question, "Do you want to talk about it?"

Wolf choked, and spoke in a harsh whisper, "I froze, Merlina, I froze in front of Dahok." Merlina took Wolf's worn hand and kissed it. After a few moments, Wolf continued, "Everyone else was safe here and it was the two of us versus most of Dahok's elite guard. That damned ship of his pulled along side, and the big man himself came aboard. The taunted me yet again, saying how weak I really was and how much Anthar was suffering thanks to me. He looked at Donner and smiled, noting how much he and my brother looked alike, and wondered if they would scream in the same way."

Wolf's sobbing grew in intensity, choking out the words, she said, "Dahok looked at me, really looked at me, and said "You have no soul, you've sold it to your petty gods so that they can only postpone the inevitable, my rule. If only you had joined me, Sarina, we could have ruled the world together, instead you fight for a cause you can't hope to win." The bastard turned to his new captain of the elite guard and said, "If only Sarina could have been as smart as you my pet, but alas she must return to the Void." He turned and looked at me again and said, "Kill me now if you can. Come on, I stand here defenseless, more in your infernal realm than my own, come on do it. If you really wanted to save the world, your gods, your precious Merlina, kill me now."

"So I raised my sword to strike him down, but I froze. Every fiber in my being said swing, cut his head off, but my body wouldn't respond. I couldn't kill my own father, despite his evil, despite all that he has done and will do, I couldn't kill him. He laughed and shot a lightning bolt at me. Donner pushed me down and was killed by the blow. Dahok laughed and left the ship, burning thanks to his men. I leaped into the portal as my ship sank around me."

Wolf collapsed in a heap into Merlina's lap, powerful spasms shaking her body. Merlina held her love tightly, stoking the short fuzz of Wolf's hair and rocking her gently. "Shhh, it's be okay love, next time. Next time, you'll finish it."

From Merlina's lap, Wolf sobbed, "I can't, I can't do it. Xena is our only hope now."

"I don't suppose you or Thor told her the truth," Merlina inquired.

"What, tell her that my brother, Odin's son, adopted me, the bastard first child of Dahok and some common whore, as his sister, and how when we first faced my true father, I faltered and Anathar saved the day. The second time, Anathar, thanks to my hesitation, was captured by Dahok and tortured until he converted. Then he came back and reeked havoc until I killed him and assumed his mantle of child of Odin. Even better, how about the Norse gods lied about how Dahok first entered this realm? They really invited him, made him one of their own, and only after he wiped out three villages and raped my mother they sent him back and closed the door."

"Wolf, that doesn't matter, it has never mattered. What you have done since then is what counts. I couldn't love you so much if you were evil. And I know how hard you've worked to push Dahok away, to constantly fight his armies, and help people. I'm sure that Xena would understand. I mean come on, she doesn't have a spotless past either."

Wolf sat up and wiped away her tears, "Do you understand Xena? Can you understand why I lied?"

Xena's dark form emerged from behind a nearby tree. Merlina, surprised by the Warrior Princess, let out a small gasp. Xena smiled at her weakly. It had taken all of her strength, and some help from Gabrielle, to come outside and find Wolf and Merlina. The tale she had heard drained the last of her reserves of control.

"How could you," Xena said darkly, "I was your friend. You were my mentor."

Wolf looked at Xena calmly and smiled warily, "What should I have done? Hi Xena, remember me? Would you help me out? Can you leave your friends and family forever, take your rightful place in the north lands, and kill my dad Dahok for me? You see, I've lost all traces of mortality and plus, him being my dad and all, I can't do it. Please, with honey on top?" Wolf laughed darkly at herself, "I've lived this lie so long, I almost believe it myself."

"You make me sick, with all of your tales of saving the world from evil. A child of Dahok, the firstborn, the heir, pawn to the stupid gods who in their vanity, thought they could control the greatest demon ever created. To think I trusted you, even liked you." Xena spat out, "Why am I even here now? Are you going to offer me up to daddy now or later?"

With a yell Wolf was on her feet, two steps later, swinging at Xena, who somehow managed to avoid the blow. "Is this what you want Warrior Princess? Princess of high morals, oh one free of evil, you want me? You want to see me suffer for all I've done? For what Pops did to your little bard? Let's end this now."

Evenly matched in ailment, Xena with her head injury, Wolf with internal damage, the two warriors lunged viciously at each other. Merlina rushed into the fray and was tossed aside by Xena, which set Wolf to a new level of anger. Within minutes Gabrielle, Erik and Gunther came running out of the house and tried to break up the fight to no avail.

"What are they fighting about?" Gabrielle asked.

"My guess, Wolf told Xena the truth," Erik said somberly. He turned and told the bard an abbreviated version of Wolf's history and her parentage. She sank to the ground next to a defeated Merlina, "You knew the whole time didn't you?"

"Wolf told me everything long ago, Gabrielle. I accepted her with all of her faults, her moodiness, her darkness and light. I loved her even more after the truth came out." Merlina sighed, "You have no idea what it's like to see the darkness eat away at the one you love."

"You'd be surprised," she replied softly.

Wolf, clutching her bleeding stomach, stammered, "Had enough yet or is it too hard to kill this old lying bitch?"

Xena, who's right eye was swollen shut, head spinning, replied bitterly, "I'll be done when I see you in Tarturus."

"You weak Greeks, you don't even have the right words for suffering. What a bunch of pathetic losers."

Xena picked up a large branch and swung at Wolf's head. The badly hurt warrior wasn't able to reach in time, and it contacted with a sickening smack, sending her flying backwards into a tree. Xena tossed the branch aside and walked over to Wolf, grabbed her by the neck and lifted her to her feet. Merlina came at her with another branch, but Xena used Wolf's body as a shield, and Merlina's blow stopped in mid strike. "Make any move toward me and she get's it!" A battle crazed Xena shouted.

Wolf made some gurgling noises as Xena's hand clamped down. With a feral grin and wicked laugh, she said, "Who's the kid now, Wolf? I've just taken you to school." Suddenly a flash of blinding bright light illuminated the grisly scene. Thor appeared, walked over to Xena, grasped her arm, and broke it, forcing her to let Wolf go. Wolf fell like a sack of wheat to the ground and was still. Thor grabbed the Warrior Princess by the shoulders and said, "Cool it! I don't want to have to kill you." Blue lighting skirted across Xena's body, knocking her unconscious.

"My gods rock," Wolf said painfully to herself as she passed out. Four mortals and one god stood in shocked silence still trying to sort out what they had seen.

"And I thought that storm was bad," Gunther said with a low whistle, "boy was I wrong."


Chapter 5

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