“Revenge! About! Seek! Burn! Fire! Kill! Slay!
Let not a traitor live!”
Shakespeare: The Tragedy of Julius Caesar-Act III Scene II
In the darkness a low rumbling shook the Earth beneath his feet.
Wide eyed he looked into the Northern sky as one after another rockets lifted off; the red orange glow lighting up the night sky above, the color reflecting off the faces of his men.
The man fell to his knees, his slender frame crumpling to the ground as hazel eyes stared up into the night sky. Soon the nuclear detonations would begin.
The words spoken with a tone of utter defeat, completely resigned that this was the end of the world.
Gabrielle squirmed in their bedrolls trying mightily to escape under the onslaught of tickling fingers.
“Do you yield?” The low sensual voice sounded in her ear with a hint of devious glee.
“Okay…Okay!” the smaller woman managed between giggles. “I yield!” she managed gasping for breath.
“All too easy…”
Gabrielle let out a huff of faked indignation, as a smug smirk slowly formed on the warrior’s face. Deep green eyes looked into blue and for a moment time stood still. The bond between the two was quickly becoming all-consuming. Gabrielle steadied herself; this perhaps would be the moment they both would have the courage to declare themselves more than friends, to announce their true feelings. Suddenly she felt the body above her tense “Xena what’s….”
“Ares!” The name left Xena’s throat accentuated with a low dangerous growl as she pulled away from Gabrielle. Those loving blue eyes turned cold in an instant as she regarded the God standing before them.
“Hope I’m not interrupting anything.”
Before the warrior could respond to the typical snide comment, Ares fell roughly to the ground, as his knees suddenly gave way. Never had Ares looked so worn, so... weak.
“Ares” Xena called out warily, raising one eyebrow pensively noting the God’s eyes were closed, his breathing heavy.
“Give me a moment, will ya?” Came a very tired response from a suddenly all too human looking deity.
Xena used the moment to rise up from the bedroll and don her worn brown leathers as Gabrielle reached for her own clothing, the smaller woman dressing hastily under the covers.
Opening his eyes, the God couldn’t help but be amazed by Xena as she stood before him. Truly she was the finest warrior ever created. He relished her tall, strong body, which had an aura of pure power. Just being near her seemed to give him the strength to sit up and lean against a nearby tree. For a moment, he thought about making another witty comment, but decided against it as he didn’t want to anger Xena as he desperately needed her help. As those blue eyes of hers studied him Ares debated how to broach the subject; typical bravado or humility? This time, quite uncharacteristically, he chose humility as much as it pained him to do so.
“Xena, I need your help…” he began softly, his eyes cast downward leaving hers.
“What happened this time Ares?” Xena began harshly. “Or, should I ask what little game you came here to play?” As he looked upward again, Gabrielle quickly picked up on the God’s lack of typical bluster.
“If you think, after all you’ve done…” Xena continued taking a menacing step forward “that I’m actually going to help you…” “Xena….” Gabrielle’s soft voice rose behind the warrior, eliciting a raised hand from the tall woman, ordering her silence.
“It’s not what you think.” Ares rasped, still trying to regain his strength. Even with all his powers, the woman was intimidating. In his weakened state he certainly didn’t want to raise her ire.
“Then what is it!?” Xena snapped. “What’d ya do this time?” The warrior quipped “Piss off the Godly family somehow? Is that why you look so worn? Did you finally get the butt kicking you deserve for all your stupid schemes?”
“Xena…” Gabrielle’s voice came up again behind her again as the small woman slowly stood, straightening her brown skirt before moving over to put on her boots. “Perhaps, we should hear what he has to say first?”
The warrior let out a pained sigh. Typical Gabrielle, the woman always looked for the best in people, or in this case Gods. She was willing to listen and probably would even give another chance to the God who had created so much havoc in their lives.
“Alright…” she finally stated, against her own better judgment.
Ares looked past Xena for just a moment, to give Gabrielle a tired smile; before his view was suddenly blocked by the warrior’s imposing form.
“Look…” the God began, raised his hands slightly in a weak act of surrender as his eyes warily traveled up the length of her tall body “I know I have a lot of nerve to come here…”
“Ya got that right.” Xena growled.
“And I wouldn’t have, if the situation wasn’t so grave.” Ares continued undaunted as his strength continued to return. The God cast his gaze downward again, letting out a pained sigh, sure that what he was about to say would cause a firestorm.
“Xena, the world is ending.” He finally blurted.
The words struck her as being so completely ludicrous Xena erupted in derisive laughter.
“I think he’s serious” The strawberry blond stated flatly as she came along side the tall warrior.
“Sure he is.” Xena snorted, turning to sit and pull on her boots.
“Trust me, I can appreciate just how crazy it all sounds” Ares began as he slowly got his feet under him again. “I’m not playing a game, or attempting some type of scheme.” He continued.
“Hope it won’t hurt your feelings if I say I don’t trust you” Ares watched as a sarcastic pout formed on the warrior’s lips. Moving away from him, she sat eyeing him warily.
“Fair enough, just hear me out, okay?”
“Okay” Gabrielle said softly, her willingness to listen earning her a withering glare from Xena.
“I’m still trying to piece it all together, why the Fates have acted in this way.” The two women looked on curiously as the God ran his fingers though his dark hair and sighed. “What I do know is this timeline will end approximately two thousand seasons from now.”
Xena’s laugh rang out again “Well, too bad I won’t be there to see it!” she stated in a gleefully mocking tone.
Ares growled in frustration. “You don’t understand!” he suddenly yelled, before swaying at bit from the exertion in his weakened state. His condition gave Xena pause as she looked at the God. Truly, she had never seen him look so worn; yet she wasn’t about to go running to help him.
“This timeline, the future, its all interconnected.” He began “When time ends in the future, it ends here as well” “Think of it…” The God paused letting out another sigh as he tried to state his argument in a way the two women could understand. “Think of time as… as a long piece of rope, lots of fibers weaved together.” “Like a tapestry?” Gabrielle offered. A brief open honest smile brightened the God’s dark features. Gabrielle’s experiences of listening to and telling stories as a bard gave her the knowledge of the fates loom. “Right!” Ares encouraged. “And what happens when you pull on a loose thread on a tapestry?”
“The whole thing unravels?” Gabrielle answered hesitantly
“Exactly!” Ares tone took on a note of praise. “Like a tapestry pulling apart or a rope flailing apart. The end of time in the future will slowly unravel the entire timeline”.
“So let me get this straight…” Xena began, her words causing both Gabrielle and Ares to look in her direction. “Some event in the future happens, ends the world and the whole timeline begins to self-destruct?” “Including the time we are in?”
“Yes!” Ares stated exasperated. “As the world ends in the future, this world”, the God raised his hands to indicate everything around him. “This timeline will end. Time isn’t linear, its strands are woven together; different realities hinge on the choices made.”
Standing to her full imposing height, Xena narrowed her eyes at the God. “So, if the world really is going to end, why aren’t all the other Gods charging to the rescue?” “Why do we just get a visit from you? Hmmm?” she asked with a raised eyebrow.
Gabrielle could see anger erupt within the God of War. “Because they are cowards!” he roared. His dark nature now rose to the fore. “Even Zeus cowers from the Fates and their loom. They accept the Fates’ decree, choosing to meet their end; going like lambs to the slaughter!”
“Then nothing can be done.” Gabrielle’s words tinged with sadness in the knowledge that even the gods dared not tempt the Fates and the tapestry they saw fit to weave.
Gabrielle’s solemn pronouncement caused Ares to bellow in rage. “Why do I even bother!?” He turned suddenly pointing a finger at Xena who stood before him, not the least bit intimidated by the waves of anger rolling off the God. “You of all people should believe that mortals can control their own destiny!
“I do” the warrior stated firmly, refusing to drop her eyes from the Gods dark gaze.
“I’ve been forced to admit that some mortals can accomplish the impossible because of you.” The God conceded. “Xena, you can accomplish the impossible, you can succeed where everyone else, including me has failed!”
“So you’ve tried to keep this event in the future from happening” It was less of a question, and more a statement of fact. Now the pieces were fitting together. Ares had tried and failed; now he was reduced to begging for her help.
“Yes, Xena I have. I’ve interfered as much as I’m allowed. The Fates seem to have eyes everywhere! Look, I found a decent enough warrior in the future and manipulated events as best I could behind the scenes to bring him to his destiny. Yet every attempt so far has ended in failure. This is my last chance to affect change.”
“Why the sudden concern Ares?” Xena probed, stepping up to the God. “When did you ever care about humanity?”
“Perhaps, I finally developed a soft spot for mortals” Ares offered flatly. His statement of unexpected altruism caused Gabrielle to let out a soft chuckle.
“More like you are scared.” Xena offered, her statement causing the God of War to bristle. “If the world ends, maybe your pathetic existence ends with it?” His eyes told her all she needed to know. “That’s it, isn’t it?” she taunted.
The God said nothing in his defense, which caused Xena to break into a humorless smile.
“But…” Gabrielle interjected, breaking the sudden silence. “Let’s say that we succeed. What happens then?”
“The world continues.” Ares answered succinctly.
“How would it continue?” Gabrielle pressed. “What would the timeline be then?”
Ares sighed, looking over at Xena, he saw no support. The little Blonde was extremely annoying, yet quite smart.
“There are always certain intangibles…” Ares offered vaguely.
“Even he doesn’t know what might occur if the timeline changes Gabrielle” Xena stated with a wry smile. “He is as much a part of time as we are.”
“We will have to think about it…” Xena offered, unwilling to make a snap judgment, without talking to Gabrielle first. In the past, she would have made the decision without consultation with anyone. Their newly forming… relationship… had changed all that. For the first time in a long time, Xena cared for more than herself. That fact was quite unsettling to the ex-warlord. Feelings for anything, or anyone on her part had always ended in tragedy.
Ares grumbled, angry at having been reduced to begging mortals for help. Before either woman could respond further, he was gone.