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GENERAL COPYRIGHT AND ALL THAT JAZZ: Xena, Gabrielle, et al who you see in H:TLJ and X:WP are the property of MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures. The gods are property of no one. The real life characters involved are property of no one but themselves. Please do not picture, in your mind, Loki as looking like the bleached version of Ian Hughes on the Norse crossover eps of H:TLJ. This uber story contains actual people in history (US Civil War and immediately after) and in popular culture. There are also adult situations, some sexual content, drug use, death, violence, and foul language.
P.S. No time-traveling chakrams (chakra?), Greco-Roman or Norse deities, or horses were harmed in the making of this writing. Point to ponder: Was the time-line damaged? You be the judge of that and think of what the past and present could have been and could be . . .
NOTE: All works remain the © copyright of the original author. These may not be republished without the author's consent.
Part I: Through the World Tree
Somewhere outside Poteidaia
The sun was rising, turning the eastern sky pink. Red sky at morning, sailor take warning, Gabrielle said drowsily but happily as she leaned on her staff and gazed at the sunrise in the east. Glad we're not sailing, I've had enough raw squid to last 'til--
Son of a Bacchae! Xena yelled suddenly, dropping to the ground and clawing at the grass.
Gabrielle turned and looked at her friend. What's wrong, Xena?
My chakram! Where is it? Xena repeated over and over as she rummaged through her saddlebags and shook out the bedrolls.
I swear by the gods the last place I saw it was on your belt, Xena, Gabrielle set down the staff and joined Xena in her frantic search.
Missing something? someone inquired. Xena and Gabrielle looked in the direction of the faint, hard-accented voice and saw nothing.
Show yourself, Xena commanded.
A ball of fire appeared behind her, shifted and became a slender, handsome man of about six feet and six inches tall. Flame-colored hair framed a mischievous face lit by eyes like peridots and fell past his shoulders in waves. He wore a black homespun shirt with no sleeves, revealing arms tattooed with designs of what looked like twisted, scrolling vines and dogs, horses, fish and monsters. His trousers were of the same fabric and his boots a soft black leather crisscrossed with rawhide thongs along the calves. Xena, how in Niflheim do you do that? he wondered.
Loki! Gabrielle shouted, grinning. She leaped over the scattered piles of gear and caught the foreign god in an exuberant hug. Loki swung Gabrielle around, kissed her on the cheek and set her down.
Loki, your hair, its...lighter, Gabrielle pointed out, remembering the rusty cinnamon color it had been when they first met.
This is my natural color. All those centuries of venom dripping on my head while I was tied to the rocks in Niflheim made my hair darker, Loki explained. It's since washed out.
Loki, Xena studied him with her glowing, icy blue eyes. You're out of your jurisdiction yet again. What brings you here? Ares send you on a mission to kill me this time?
I love you too, Xena, Loki smirked, taking her hand in his. He bowed his head over the warrior woman's hand and kissed it, forcing Xena to giggle in spite of herself. Still holding her hand, Loki continued, Since Balder assumed the throne as big cheese of Asgard, he wants the remaining Æsir and Vanir to offer mutual aid, so to speak. Actually I came here on a little vacation and thought I'd look the two of you up. I heard cries of alarm, noticed your magnificent ring-knife Flying Death was missing from its usual place on your person and am offering my assistance.
Not Flying Death, Loki, I don't name my weapons like your race does. Xena made a fist and pulled her hand free. It's called a chakram.
Bless you, said Loki, grinning wickedly.
I would much prefer to find it on my own. If I wanted help I would have sent for Hercules or Autolycus. Dealing with gods has caused me more problems--
Loki ignored her and went on. Autolycus. I taught him a lot of what he knows, so did my pal Tezcatlipoca on the other side of the world. Anyway, I happen to have a knack for recovering lost weapons. I hate to cut this little visit short but I will be back with your...
Chakram, Gabrielle reminded him.
Bless you. Sounds like you both are catching a cold. Loki held his arms out to his sides, closed his eyes and a large black crow appeared in his place. With a rasping caw to his voice Loki said, I will be back.
"Thanks for the warning," Xena muttered as Loki turned, took to the air and vanished.
Loki, not one to work harder than necessary when searching for lost things, alighted in the doorway of the temple of the Oracle. He hopped in and saw the prophetess seated at her throne, her eyes half-closed, the whites showing in a ring around the bottom of the irises as if she was about to convulse.
I know you, crow, you are Loki of Asgard, god of fire, of mischief, Shape-Changer, the Oracle droned. The All-Seeing Eye of Odin in the Well of Mimir hasn't been blinded so why do you need my help?
Loki immediately changed back into his god-shape. Xena the warrior woman has lost her weapon, Flying-Death. I was searching for it and--
The Oracle held up her hand. Loki fell silent as she began: The chakram . . . it is . . . Her eyes rolled up more and the lids closed. Her face took on a blank, slack look. Loki thought, Oracle? She's not a prophetess, she's merely a woman with a form of the falling sickness. He waited for her to pitch, convulse, start walking aimlessly around the room, but instead the Oracle continued.
The weapon of Xena of Corinth is in a land on the other side of the sea, in a time far into the future. The country is under the smoke of a devastating war. Two threads of the Fates snapped for no known reason, one of a man of air, the other of a man of earth. You will go to this land, taking the Warrior Princess with you. The two of you can set things right and at the same time recover the chakram.
The chakram is in the possession of one of the broken threads. . .the man of earth, of ivory, of silk, of onyx, of anger. He is the handsome man, the agent of disruption, the child of Melpomene, son of Brute, brother of the Prince.
He is of the country that split from another and fell in the war, though his family is not. The chakram is giving him power he has no business having and a malignancy I can't name is making sure he will do its will. First you will go to the hall of Gefjon and research, finding when and where you and Xena need to go. Take this portrait with you, though it is only one clue in a convoluted cipher it is a key to your research. As soon as you are finished with the books, take Xena to your peoples World Tree, it is a doorway to this land where Xenas chakram can be found.
The Oracle held out a small piece of a stiff parchment-like material Loki turned back into his crow form, picked up the card in his beak, flew high into the sky and crossed the rainbow bridge.
Loki sat in the only intact part of the ruined Hall of the goddess who built Denmark and could see the future. Propped against a stack of bound-together scrolls known in the future as books was the card the Oracle gave him. On it a black-and-white painting or print of a dark-haired man with sloping shoulders. He wore a brimmed hat and a long coat over dark trousers. His piercing eyes glared at someone off to the side as he held one fist jammed into his coat pocket. He pored rapidly through scrolls, stones and parchment fragments, finding nothing.
Who are you? You look something like Xena. Are you a descendent of hers? he asked the man in the picture. The man did not answer, preferring to glower at the unseen person to his left. Loki picked up a book from the top of the stack on the table and read. Finding nothing he needed there, he set the book aside and picked up another. In the third book he found prints of men dressed similarly to what the man in the picture was wearing, prints of women in stiff dresses. The prints faded on contact with the air. As he read the Roman-lettered text, he was shocked to see the letters dissolve into meaningless dots and then to nothing.
Odins beard, the future is erasing itself! He closed the book rapidly before any more words and pictures could disappear. He managed to glean the coordinates he needed to pinpoint the location along with bits and pieces of disorganized facts he stored for later. Loki turned himself into Time itself and disappeared, the hours he passed in Asgard folding back on themselves into mere minutes and seconds.
The man was handsome. Sometimes he knew it, sometimes he didn't. His face, pale and dusky at once, was the amalgam of his English-born parentage and a Sephardic ancestor. In his hotel room, he tried to relax. Unable to do so, he sprang from the chair to the massive steamer trunk and rummaged around until he found the brass quoit. He had found it at the bottom of his father's missing trunk that had languished in the cellar of a theater in Chicago for years. How it got there he wasn't sure, he did not remember his father ever showing it to him or using it as a prop in any play he starred in.
His large, dark eyes, like pools of India ink, moved over the ring. A weapon, he thought, possibly Oriental. He ran one finger along its edge, noticing tiny worn spots where it must have been sharpened. The ring was decorated on both sides with a turret like design. Father must have found, purchased or was presented with this during one of his tours abroad. What is it? Who owned it? Was this used for sport or war? He walked over to the mirror and held the ring up, testing its weight, hearing it sing through the air. He admired the effect of the old but still shiny brass, set against his pale, fine-featured face, glossy black ringlets, and silken black moustache. I must have Gardner photograph me holding the ring. No, a painting would be better, there the fall of light can faithfully rendered. He had forgotten his original mission for the time being as he smiled at his reflection.
For an instant the face that stared back at him every day from the mirror was superimposed with a frail-as-smoke image of a swarthy, bearded man with cold eyes as black as his own. He could feel, rather than hear, a ghostly voice whisper a string of what sounded like Greek. He strained what little Greek he knew to hear what it was--
Throw it, you sissy, throw the damned thing!
Go away...please... he whispered hoarsely, fearfully. "I'm not mad, no--NO!" He threw the ring at the mirror, shattering the glass and the image of the bearded man. The ring ricocheted and whizzed past his left ear, grazing off a single curl before he could duck away. He threw himself down on the floor, eyes wide with fear and wonder, as the ring took on what seemed to be a life of its own. The howl it made in flight sounded like an angry soul. It bounced off the wall behind him and sliced through one leg of the washstand near the bed. Washstand, pitcher and basin swayed, hung in the air briefly and tumbled to the floor. The ring lost momentum and bounced one, twice on the rug, rolled on its rim to the hardwood floor and spun, then fell against the shattered pitcher and bowl.
His hands shook as he plucked the ring from the broken shards of china. A loud rap on the door made him stand up with a start and a gasp. Everything all right in there? a male voice inquired from the other side of the door.
Holding his head in his hands, the metal of the ring cooling his flushed cheek, he took a deep breath. His actor's control took over and he called: I'm all right, I tripped and knocked over the mirror and the washstand!
I'll send someone to clean up right away. Are you sure you're not hurt?
He shuddered, face gone an unhealthy bluish-white as he stashed the ring in the top bureau drawer. I'm all right. I'm going out, just tell the servants to let themselves in and lock the door when they leave.
Thank you, Mr. John. Footsteps sounded softly in the carpeted hallway and faded to nothing.
He pulled a flask from his jacket pocket and took a long hard drink from it. Calmed, he combed his hair by the reflection of a remaining shard of glass in the mirror. Picking up his cloak, he walked out the door, forgetting to shut it behind him. Damned headache, he thought, damned laudanum I took must be making me see ghosts. I need a drink, or two, or three.
Xena, I'm coming with you! Gabrielle insisted, sensing there was more danger than was being acknowledged.
Gabrielle, no, use this time to visit your family. Isn't that what we came here for originally? Xena pointed out. Loki knows where to find the chakram and I'm going with him. My help is needed--
I don't understand-- In truth, she did not want to let Loki or Xena out of her sight. Why does that concern you, Xena? Loki, maybe, he's a god, I mean, they deal with that kind of thing, but not you.
Loki immediately materialized. Gabrielle, I'm not a fighting god even though I belong to a tribe of warriors. I can hold my own in physical combat if I must but I'm not as accomplished as Xena. She is the only one who can completely control her chakram. I will look out for her. Time is short--
You--youve--you haven't been gone very long, Gabrielle stammered. How did you get to Delphi and back in these few minutes, let alone Asgard--
I'll explain later, Gabrielle. Are you ready, Xena?
I am ready, Xena affirmed. She turned and embraced Gabrielle, whispering, "I have to go with him. He may not come back and do you really want him carrying the chakram?" Gabrielle smothered a giggle as she let Xena go.
The god took the hand of the warrior and the two of them walked to a gnarled old tree. They passed through its trunk as if it were a waterfall and vanished within. Gabrielle turned, picked up her staff and her gear, and walked toward the village.
Xena looked around, seeing nothing but Lokis eyes, which were a pair of yellow-green lights, like cats eyes in the dark. Now where are we? she demanded, voice lacking inflection.
Yggdrassil, the World Tree. Its roots and branches bear all nine worlds. Before Ragnarok (which Ares saved me from being a casualty thereof) it was teeming with life. Now, nothing, Loki explained as he let go of Xenas hand. The eye-lights winked out, then came back, farther apart than they were, cylindrical and horizontal. With a neigh Loki said, Close your eyes, the light will be too bright for you to tolerate.
Xena obeyed. Through her closed eyelids she detected a white flash, there and gone in an instant. You can open them now, said Loki. Blinking, she saw they were no longer inside the darkness of Yggdrassil. Loki had transformed himself into a handsome red stallion, taller and heavier than Argo, with light feathering at his ankles. Before she could react Loki commanded, Time is short. On my back. We have to cross two oceans. Xena vaulted lightly aboard Loki's broad back and grabbed a handful of his long, thick mane. She took in the rocky barrenness of the land around them, the parched yellow grass here and there dotted with a spear, a sword, a shield, a helmet. The trees were dead and gnarled.
This is all that is left of Asgard, my home, Loki explained sadly. Ruins." He paused, then continued curtly, "Time is short though, enough sentiment. I can only time-and-space fly from here, not Midgard, er, your land. Hold on! Loki-stallion leaped high in the air to the sky. Xena hung on, hair whipped by the wind. Feeling suddenly dizzy, she focused on the starry blackness above, framed through Lokis ears. Then there was nothing, no wind, no air, no horse beneath her.
Nothing. . . until she fell hard onto a strip of grass.