Grit and sand filled her mouth as the horse made its way over yet another dune. Months of searching had ended here. In this desolate spot of earth, there was nothing but sand and heat. But, somewhere, waiting was the daughter of her dearest friend. In the time that she had been away the hatred towards the followers of Eli had expanded from the Pantheon to the edges of the known world. All those in power feared the coming of his new order and wished to stamp it out by any means necessary. The most sought after trophy in this was Eve. A high bounty had been placed on her head, sending her into deep hiding.
A glimmer of light from a small campfire drew Gabrielle's attention. Her eyes searching the heavens, she prayed that the search would finally be over. Drawing closer, Gabrielle palmed her sais, ready for any possibility. Through the dusty fog, four figures could be seen huddling around the dismal fire. Dismounting from her horse, she crept closer. As if sensing her presence one figure began to rise and look around. The thin veil around her face fell away, revealing a set of familiar blue eyes. Gabrielle stepped into the fires light and gasped at the changes five years had etched on the girl’s face.
The two woman rushed to embrace each other, and Gabrielle stilled herself waiting for the question she knew would come.
"Where is mother?"
For the first time in a long time, a tear slid down Gabrielle's face. Without a word, Eve knew that the worst had happened. Her mother was dead. The two women, who had meant the most to the warrior princess, embraced once more sharing their loss.
"When did she die? Was it in Egypt, I know you two were thinking about going there?"
Gabrielle paused, ashamed to admit to Xena's child that it had been five long years since her mother’s death.
"What? What aren't you telling me?"
Releasing her breath, Gabrielle let it all out in a rush, "Eve, Xena died five years ago. I am so sorry that I didn't find you before now. I know it's unforgivable, but you have to understand something. It took me this long to work up the courage to return home. I just couldn't face the reality of her not being here when I returned. It was simpler to travel from place to place, pretending that she was out there waiting for me somewhere. Eve?"
Through her entire monologue, Eve had remained silent with a blank expression on her face. The blank stare turned to outrage and she pushed Gabrielle away. "How dare you talk to me about pain and loss! She was MY Mother!! You are supposed to be her friend, yet you left me waiting for five years! Five years of wondering and hoping she would come home. Five years of hell, being chased by every ruler in the provinces, while you were off gathering the courage to come home. I never figured you for a coward, Auntie Gabrielle." she added with disdain.
"I'm sorry. You don't know how sorry I am. But, if you will let me, I will help you through this. There has to be someway to end this manhunt."
"Forget it Gabrielle. I don't want or need your help! Go back to your life and stay the hell out of mine!" Eve turned away and whispered, "It should have been you, not her."
Gabrielle turned away; her head slumped down into her chest. Defeated, she returned to her horse and allowed herself one last look behind her. The wind caught her words as she mounted and rode away.
"It should have been me."
Staring up from the base of Mount Olympus, Gabrielle wandered at her sanity. He was the last person she should be coming to for help, but there was no other way to get the information she needed. She owed it to Eve to put an end to her problems. Concentrating on remembering the whereabouts of the secret entrance, Hercules had once told her about, she did not hear the distant flapping of wings.
Cupid looked down and saw a beautiful woman scaling the side of the mountain. Intrigued, he moved in closer. Something about the woman was very familiar. He could see her mind was elsewhere as she seemed to be looking for something. Landing softly behind her, he was startled when she turned around with sword drawn.
"By the heavens Cupid, you scared the life out of me!"
"I'm very sorry about that, my lady, but do I know you?"
"I am Gabrielle, your mother Aphrodite is my friend."
"Oh yes, Xena's sidekick. Now I remember. I haven't seen you since my boy Bliss was a godling. What are you doing here at Olympus? If you have come to see mother, you should know all you need do is call for her."
Gabrielle grinned, "I do know that, but it is not Aphrodite I need to see. I've come to speak with Ares."
"I see, well if you ask nicely, I'll take you right to Unc. It will cost you though."
"Yes, but the payment is not very steep, I promise. A favor from the god of love requires a kiss as payment."
Gabrielle laughed in spite of herself. Aphrodite had once told her that her son was a consummate flirt and she had not been joking.
"Well then, take me to Ares and I will give you your payment once I have spoken with him. Is that alright?"
"That's fair enough, but the acceptance of payment is at my discretion, not yours. Is that alright?"
"I agree, now can we go? I really want to get this over with."
Wrapping his wings around her, they disappeared.
The Halls of War
Ares was lounging comfortably on his throne when Gabrielle and Cupid appeared out of thin air.
"Hello Unc, I brought you a present."
Gabrielle elbowed Cupid in the arm and stepped forward. " I need to speak to you, Ares."
Ares shot his nephew a look that said, "Get out". Looking back and forth between Ares and Gabrielle he shrugged, "I know where I'm not needed, but I'll be back beauty, for that payment." In a flash he was flying from the chamber, leaving the two of them alone.
"What do I owe the pleasure of this visit, Gabrielle?"
"I need to know who or what is behind this manhunt for Eve. I thought, maybe you could help me."
"You mean you don't mind owing a favor to the God of War, again?"
"I'm not asking the God of War for a favor. I'm asking you, Ares. I figure you owe Xena and I this much for helping you get your Godhood back."
"Ah, very clever, I'm impressed."
Ares stepped down and took Gabrielle's hand. Silently he led her down an ornately adorned hallway. Together they walked into a dark room.
'This chamber belonged to my father. There is a something in here that should answer your question."
Motioning for her to follow, they walked over to what appeared to be an ordinary bowl. With a wave of his hand images began to appear in the shimmering water. Gabrielle moved closer and peered into the bowl. Suddenly the images came into focus and she found herself looking into the very pits of hell. The Lord of the Underworld, Lucifer, was sending out his minions in every direction.
Gabrielle looked to Ares.
'Lucifer is behind this? I should have known. He has the most to gain by killing the messenger of Eli. Her being the child of the woman who sent him there, has to be a major bonus for him."
"Yeah, being tricked into hell would piss me off. Now don't give me that look. I'm on your side."
Gabrielle concentrated on the pool listening as Lucifer ordered his demons to find Eve of the Eliasians. His evil face snarling into a grin as he added "Bring me her head on a spike!"
Back in the Halls of War, Gabrielle sat staring into nothing.
"A dinar for your thoughts."
"I'm thinking, I don't have a snowball’s chance in hell of defeating Lucifer."
Ares laughed, "Nice turn of phrase, you should write that one down."
"This isn't funny. How can I stop Lucifer from killing Eve? I don't have Xena's power to kill gods. I don't have anything."
"Here we go again! When did you become so pessimistic? Scratch that! Forget I asked. What about your friend the angel? What's his name Milo?"
"Michael, not Milo and your right, surely he will help. After all it was his plan that actually led to Lucifer’s fall. Xena was just the key to getting him there. Now you want to tell me how I call an angel? Archangels are not like gods. They cannot be summoned at will by us mortals."
"I'm afraid you've got me on that one, my dear. Not my field. In fact his field has pretty much wiped mine out."
Ares realized that Gabrielle had not heard a word he said. She seemed to be deep in thought and suddenly her head snapped up.
"I know what I have to do!"
"Ok, clue me in." he asked
"I have to die!"
Ares looked at Gabrielle wondering if she had truly lost her wits.
"You're going to kill yourself? Are you insane?"
"Well I hope it doesn't actually come down to that, but if I have to do this to save Eve, I will."
Still confused he motioned for her to elaborate.
"I'm going to put the pinch on myself. If my hunch is correct, that will bring Michael to me. If not I guess it will have to be the hard way."
Ares walked off shaking his head.
"I was right the first time, you have lost your mind!"
"It's the only way, Ares. I have to stop Lucifer's madness, before Eve killed."
Ares thought a moment and then turned to Gabrielle.
"If you are set on doing this, I insist you do it here. At least if it doesn't work, I can bring you back. But, YOU are going to owe me big for this one."
"I was hoping you would say that!"
Ares looked through the many totems and charms until he found the one he was looking for.
"This is it! When Athena took over for father it was necessary for her to use this charm to bring life back to the dead. I will need it to amplify my powers enough to bring you back."
Gabrielle looked at the small stone and wondered how such a simple charm could harness the power of life and death.
"Are you sure that's it? If you grabbed the wrong one and my corpse gets turned into road kill, I promise that I will haunt you, Ares."
Ares studied the stone for a moment, and then looked up at the sound of her laughter.
"I was only kidding. I trust you, I think." she added with a grin.
"When do you want to do this crazy stunt?"
"No time like the present!"
Lying down on the floor, Gabrielle gave one last look to Ares. Using her fingers, as Xena had shown her, she cut off her air supply. At once she could feel the wave of dizziness and confusion. Her body thrashed around, fighting the effects. Ares watched in horror, the pain she was going through. Kneeling by her side he offered words of comfort and sat silent when she fell unconscious.
The other side
A soothing white light seemed to envelope her body. In the distance a figure emerged from the source of the light.
Michael's face came into focus as his hands reached out to guide her. Gabrielle's thoughts returned to her mission and she pulled back from Michael.
"Michael wait! I came here to ask your help. Lucifer has sent his demons out to destroy Eve. He is corrupting the minds of rulers and warlords, ordering them to kill the messenger of Eli."
"We know all about it Gabrielle, but there is nothing we can do. The war between Heaven and Hell is worse than before. Lucifer's power is growing by the hour and it is taking all our resources to keep him at bay."
"But what about Eve? She is Eli's chosen messenger. Is her life now forfeit for the sake of this war? There has to be something you can do to stop him."
"There is nothing we can do, Gabrielle, but you can."
"What can I do?"
"If you are willing to sacrifice everything, you might stand a chance."
"Since I don't have a lot to lose, sacrifice is not a problem. Just tell me how to do it."
Back in Athena's chamber
Ares paced back and forth, watching Gabrielle's body for signs of life. With each passing moment he argued with himself on when to bring her back. Just as he clutched the stone and began to gather his power, a gasping sound came from Gabrielle's throat. Her hands sprang up, striking her neck, undoing the pinch.
"It's about damn time! I was starting to worry."
Through a raspy voice, Gabrielle whispered, "I'm fine, Ares. You can back off now."
Ares realized he was nearly lying on top of her and hopped back.
"Uh, sorry. So what happened?"
Gabrielle filled Ares in on what Michael had told her and the plan to get into Hell.
Gabrielle and Ares stood at the entrance of the peddler shop. The portal to Hell, in which Lucifer was cast down, had to be re-opened. Michael had given her the means to open the portal, but it would be up to her to close it again.
Ares used his powers to open the locked door and the two of them walked inside. Finding the spot took only a few moments. Lucifer's symbol was still etched into the floor under a hand woven rug.
"I guess advertising this place as a portal to Hell wouldn't be good for business."
Gabrielle put her finger to her lips and pointed upstairs. The old couple was surely sleeping and she had no intention of letting them walk into danger.
"Oops! Sorry!" Ares whispered.
Gabrielle merely shook her head before kneeling down next to the symbol. Taking her sword from its scabbard, she sliced a gash into her hand. Wincing slightly, she allowed the blood to fill the crevices of the symbol. Within seconds the blood began to glow.
"No turning back now, huh? Wish me luck Ares."
"No need for that, I'm going with you."
"I don't think so, Ares. Besides I may need you here to help me when I come back."
The floor began to liquefy and before Ares could stop her, Gabrielle stepped into the liquid, disappearing.
The first thing she noticed was the unbearable heat. It seemed to lick and tear at her flesh. Memories of falling down Dahak's pit assailed her and then disappeared from her mind. The further she fell, the fuzzier her memories became. Michael had warned her that this might happen. The reality of it was more frightening then she could have imagined.
The ground came up to meet her and she landed with a jolt. Shaking the cobwebs from her head, she looked up and found herself looking into the eyes of Lucifer himself.
"Well, Well, what do we have here? If it isn't that bitch Xena's little sidekick. What did I do to receive such a gift or rather what did you do that sent you here?"
Gabrielle gritted her teeth against the words she knew had to be said.
"I killed Xena!"
A look of disbelief came across the dark lords face.
"It is not very nice, lying to the devil like that. Shame on you." he laughed.
"I'm not lying, Lucifer. I held her life in my hands and took it away. I killed her. For that I was sent here."
"Well then, I owe you a debt of gratitude. I would have loved to do the deed myself, but what matters is the end result right. Welcome to hell, Gabrielle."
Swallowing the bile that rose in her throat, she stood up and walked over to Lucifer. Placing her hand on his chest she whispered.
"The pleasure is all mine."
"And why is that, my beauty? This is not the place you were expecting to end up, is it?"
Sliding closer she leaned up and whispered in his ear.
"You're here aren't you? You can't imagine how angry I was when Xena tricked you into this hellhole. I wanted you for myself."
Surprise registered on his face, followed by an evil grin.
"Then you shall have me," he laughed. His face returned to its former state and he pulled Gabrielle into his arms. Gabrielle ran her fingers through his black tresses and pulled his mouth down to hers. The bitter taste of sulphur insulted her tongue, but strangely his kiss was still enticing. When they parted he grasped Gabrielle's hand.
"You still taste of innocence. I find that exciting."
"I'm glad that I please you, my lord. I have to admit that I like you better like this. Xena's gravest deed was transforming you from this beautiful form. How did you manage to change back?"
"That is simple, Gabrielle. I am lord and master in this domain. I can assume any form I wish. I knew this visage would please you, so I changed."
"I see and yes, it pleases me very much."
Gabrielle spent her first hours in Hell both teasing and testing Lucifer. At times her mind would wonder from her intentions as the seductive qualities of Hell enticed her. When those times occurred, she concentrated on images of her friends and family to bring her back.
Little did Gabrielle realize, but hours in Hell, were days in the mortal world. While she cajoled and worked to get closer to Lucifer, Ares was getting anxious. Sitting idly by and doing nothing was not in his make-up. Boredom and worry began to take their toll. Several times he tried opening the portal as Gabrielle had, but since gods don't bleed his efforts were useless.
"Gabrielle if you don't come back soon I will find a way to come after you, if I have to move Heaven and Hell to do it."
Lucifer laughed at the amusing stories Gabrielle narrated. When she told him about Xena nearly drowning Michael, his laughter shook the very walls of his domain. With his interest gained it was time to complete the second part of her plan. Tricking him into stopping his hunt for Eve.
"You know, Lucifer as much as I'm enjoying your company, I really wish I had gotten a little more time on earth. I died before getting my revenge on that bitch Eve."
"Why would you want to hurt Eve, my dear?"
"Let's just say I owe her. When she was Livia, she killed someone very special to me. While Xena was alive I didn't dare harm her. Now that she is gone, well you know. Instead I find myself here, un-avenged, just as you were. At least you have the knowledge that your enemy is dead. My enemy still breathes and the suffering I wished to reek upon her existence will never be."
"What kind of revenge are we talking about, exactly? You don't wish to simply kill her?"
Cuddling up into Lucifer's lap Gabrielle licked the lobe of his ear before whispering,
"I wanted to make her life hell on earth for what she did. When I was through, she would have been an outcast and no one would listen to her Eli dribble any longer. No death is too easy. With the skills I learned from Xena it would be too easy killing her. I want to savor her pain, like she did his."
"Such the savage. I like it and I shall miss you when you are gone."
"I've decided to send you back. If his holiness can do it, why can't I? Besides, your revenge will rival the fate I had in store for the girl."
"Oh you can be sure, that if you send me back, Eve will be taken care of. But I have to ask you one small favor."
Intrigued by what she could possibly ask of him, he waited.
"You must promise not to kill Eve. Her death must be at my hands and mine alone. Consider it a thank you for ridding the world of Xena," she added with a wicked smile.
"You have my word, as lord of this realm, that no harm will come to Eve either by me or my minion. I can wait until she is down here to have my way with her."
For good measure, Gabrielle sealed the bargain with a kiss. The excitement of having bested him, without his knowledge was intoxicating. His promise insured Eve's safety and her return home.
Lucifer guided her to a secret stairway that would take her back to the mortal realm.
"I will miss you, Gabrielle but we shall take up where we left off when you return one day."
Turning she began to ascend the stairs smiling as she went and thinking to herself, "Don't count on it."
As she walked up the stairs, her memories began to come back into focus. Visions of her time as a demon were the most brutal, reminding her of what could have happened had she given in to the temptations of Hell. When she came to what seemed like a stone wall, she wondered if Lucifer had caught on to her scheme and began to panic. Running her hands along the slimy walls, she started to scream. Her terror was cut short, when a set of arms thrust through the walls and pulled her through.
Ares had watched, as the floor once more became a bloody pool. Through its murky waters he had seen Gabrielle climbing towards him. He saw the terror and confusion upon her face as she tried to find the way out. Out of instinct he thrust his hands through the murky depths and was able to pull her out. Relief swept through him as her still form lay resting on the ground. He knew it was a natural sleep and dared not wake her although his curiosity was immense.
Halls of War
Gabrielle woke up to find Ares sitting in a chair beside the bed she lay on.
"I'm back. I'm really back and it worked Ares. I got Lucifer to promise to leave Eve alone. I just hope Michael was right and even a deposed archangel cannot go back on his word once given. As long as he believes I'm here making her life hell, she is safe."
Ares moved over to sit beside her.
"You actually made one of your plans work. I'm impressed and I'm sure Xena would be too."
"Xena would be impressed with what, Unc?" Cupid called from the doorway.
"What are you doing here, shouldn't you be minding your brats. Since Psyche left you can't seem to keep them under control."
"Oh ease up, she'll be back. A few years of being mortal again will send her running back to me. Until then, I have a payment to collect."
Gabrielle looked to Ares for answers.
"It's a long story. Remind me to tell you about it sometime."
"Oh I will, you know how much I love a good story. Now about that payment, I'm not so sure, Cupid...Cupid."
Before she could utter another word Cupid swept her up and planted a breath-taking kiss on her.
Ares wanted to reach out and strangle his nephew, having a battle with the green-eyed monster in himself. Luckily the kiss ended as quickly as it began and with a wink Cupid high tailed it out of the room.
'Wow kissed by the Lord of Hell and the God of Love all in one day. It's enough to turn a girl’s head." Gabrielle laughed, but noticed that Ares was not laughing with her.
"I really don't see what's so funny."
"Oh, lighten up Ares. It's a new day and I'm alive."
Gabrielle spent the remainder of the day on Olympus, but as night began to fall she bid Ares good-bye.
"Thank you for your help Ares, I owe you one."
"You don't owe me anything, this one was on me."
Gabrielle smiled and before he could stop her she had placed a quick kiss on his cheek.
"Thank you anyway."
As she left through the secret entrance Ares showed, her she did not see the smile plastered on Ares face.
"I think she is starting to like me." he grinned and began to whistle as he walked back towards the Halls of War.