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Best Friends, Better Enemies Ch.16

Shirley Pint

Xena stood at the foot of the shrine, looking around her surroundings. Not large, by any means, Hermes temple glittered with the wealth of a thousand master thieves, who over time gave the god their tribute by creating this place of homage.

"I'm suprised no ones been tempted to carry off this treasure before."

Xena didn't realize she had spoken aloud until Phrixus answered.

"None dare. Once given to the god, it's his property. Just as donating to him will grant you his favor, stealing from him will grant you your death."

Xena nodded her understanding and returned her gaze to the focal point, a large gold statue of Hermes, classically posed with his winged sandals, winged hat, and his wand, the caduceus, gripped firmly in his hand. The figure was beautiful and Xena remembered Polyidus' words.

"Ask for his grace and ability to strengthen you."

Xena was not used to praying, to any god for that matter. The closest she had come in a long time was her visits to her brothers' grave. But if I don't do something, Gabrielle will be lost to me. She hesitated only briefly, then knelt down at the foot of the statue humbly.

"Great Hermes, you know I am not a loyal follower of your temple, but please, grant me your strength for the trial I will soon face. Benefit me with your cunning to steal my best friend back from the evil spirit Petros, who uses her body to carry out his cruel intentions. Please, I ask for your mercy. Help me save my friend."

Xena's head dropped dejectedly. She had been staring fixedly at the face of the golden figure, but nothing happened. No malevolent presence filled the room. No great power was in evidence. It's no use. Hermes must not want to help me. Feeling strangely conquered, Xena began to rise to her feet, but a warm hand rested itself on her bent head. Xena looked up sharply and ceased her initial urge to struggle as the cool green depths of Hermes eyes stared down at her. The statue was gone, and in it's place stood an amazingly attractive young man, wearing the same sandals and had, and carrying the same wand in his hand.

"You are not used to being crept up on, are you Xena? You should have remembered my story."

And then Xena did remember it. On the morning he was born, he began his career by stealing Apollo's herds before nightfall. Of course, Zeus made the babe give them back, but he had been the masters master ever since.

"You seek a request from me. To give you the ability to steal away your friend. I cannot help you do that."

Xena tried to control her emotions upon hearing his words, but she wasn't quite successful. A single tear traced a glistening path from the corner of her eye down her cheek. Hermes, upon seeing this rare sight, took pity on the woman so humbly kneeling before him. With his free hand, he reached out with gentle fingers and wiped the drop away.

"Cry not, warrior princess. I said I wouldn't help you steal her body. I said nothing about not helping you at all."

He turned and paced several feet, before swinging around and asking abruptly, "How did you find this place? My temples are only known to my faithful followers. Rarely does a non believer find my grottos."

Xena sat up, her composure regained.

"I used my head, of course."

Hermes nodded. "Yes, I can see that. But is it your way to seek shelter from chaos?"

Xena frowned. She had ducked into the alleyway just to escape the crowds. That's not usually my way, she wondered.

"I thought not. Your spirit told you the way, Xena. And that tells me your quest is just."

Hermes stepped close to her and raised his caduceus.

"You must set out for the realm of Aries. Your friend goes there to conquer him. If she succeeds, all will be lost. If she joins him, all will be lost. You must stop Petros before he destroys all. Close your eyes, Xena and prepare to accept my gifts."

Xena trusted the god in that moment and obediently lowered her eyelids. >From behind them, though, a fierce golden light shot through, making her squint her eyes tight from the brightness.

"May my wisdom and cunning imbue you, granting the knowledge you require and the ability to carry it out. Your actions will govern the future. Follow your spirit, for it always knows the correct path. Choose wisely."

As suddenly as the cavern had been bright, it then sank into darkness as the god disappeared. Xena opened her eyes and could feel the difference in the room. He's gone. But Xena had what she came for. The knowledge of how to destroy Petros and free Gabrielle.

"I did my part. Now, are you going to show us where this treasure of yours is?"

Phrixus' voice cut through her musings. Xena remembered her deal with the boy and wasn't about to welch on it.

"Gather as many people and bags as you have. You'll need them."