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Intellectual Property Disclaimer: The characters in "Xena: Warrior Princess" such as Xena, Gabrielle, Argo, and anyone else mentioned from the series are the sole property of MCA/Universal, Renaissance Pictures, and their creators. No infringement upon anyone's copyrights is intended. The use of these characters in this tale is for personal enjoyment only. Characters unique to this story and the story itself are all mine. Copyrighted July 13, 1997.
Content Disclaimer: Graphic violence and mild sexual activity between adults of the same sex are described in this story. Those of you under the legal age of 18, who live where it is illegal to read such stories, or who find such things inherently offensive, STOP READING NOW.
Quality Disclaimer: This is only my second attempt at fan fiction. Please be kind. All constructive critiques are sincerely welcomed at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Queen Of Air And Darkness
by Bongo Bear
The dream came unbidden yet again into Xena's unconscious mind. She saw, she felt, a darkness pour out from the Abyss and enfold her body and her mind. The darkness had substance, a cool, silky clinging weight. The darkness settled around her shoulders, torso, and thighs. Where it touched her flesh, it first tingled like ice, then burned like fire. The darkness had a voice, too. It murmured in Xena's head in cloying, dulcet tones, "I heard you call me. I'm here. Just for you."
Gabrielle awoke to the moans issuing from Xena's lips. She rolled over to look into her lover's face and saw lines of pain, relaxation, then ecstasy play across her face. What could you be dreaming about? Gabrielle wondered. Xena began to struggle within her dream. Gabrielle held her in her arms, trying to quell whatever demon Xena was wrestling with. Xena' eyes opened suddenly, with a confused look about her. "It's okay. You're safe," Gabrielle whispered gently in Xena's ear.
Xena turned to look at Gabrielle with unexpectedly hooded eyes. She suddenly pulled her bard's lips to her own, seeking to do battle with her lover's tongue. Gabrielle tried to push herself away, but Xena held her tight. Then Xena rolled her over on her back and began to make love to her bard. At the height of their passion, Xena shouted out not Gabrielle's name, but Lilith.
"So, who's Lilith?" Gabrielle asked as nonchalantly as she could. Xena shrugged her shoulders. " I don't know who you're talking about." Xena busied herself with packing up their camp and loading up Argo. As Xena began to tightened the leather straps on Argo's saddle, Gabrielle grabbed her hand to stop what she was doing. Xena looked at Gabrielle, waiting for her to speak. "You called out her name last night, when you were with me. Was she someone from your past?"
"No, I don't know who or even what she is." Xena paused then decided to tell the truth, "I've been having these dreams. At first, it was just confusing colors....then strange sensations....then a shape or form, not yet solid. It's almost as if it was coming into being....coming alive. Maybe that's Lilith."
"Whatever or whoever Lilith is certainly got your attention and mine last night! I think the gods are at work here," Gabrielle said.
"It's only a dream," Xena said dismissively. Gabrielle countered, "You should never underestimate the power of dreams. Or of the gods. We should see an oracle about this."
The oracle's elixir threw Xena into a deep trance. She floated weightlessly in the midst of her now familiar dream. A dark figure approached from the horizon of the dreamscape. As the figure drew near, Xena could see it was a beautiful woman, dressed in a black shimmering sheath. A long, dark cloak billowed out from gold epaulets. Her pale skin contrasted with startling grey eyes and a flowing, ebony mane.
"Lilith!" Xena breathed.
"I'm here for you. You're my Gateway out of the Abyss and into the World. Let me thank you." Lilith held Xena by the shoulders and kissed her tenderly on the lips. Upon contact, the dreamscape melted away and they found themselves, still embracing, in the hall of the oracle's temple. Gabrielle stared at the sudden appearance of another person in the hall. "Who....who are you?" Gabrielle asked.
Lilith released Xena and turned to speak to Gabrielle. "I am Lilith, the first wife of Adam, the first Woman of Creation. I am a goddess in my own land, far to the east of Greece. I am here at Xena's bidding."
Gabrielle looked at Xena skeptically. Xena was standing there, staring at Lilith with a blank expression. "I don't believe that. Xena has never called the gods except in times of desperation."
"Indeed, Xena has forsaken the gods of her own land. And they her. Even bloody Ares holds no sway over her." Lilith walked in a slow circle around Gabrielle, trailing light finger tips around her shoulders. The touch raised goose bumps on Gabrielle's skin. When she stopped in front of the bard, she left her fingers in hollow of Gabrielle's throat, leaned in and softly said, "That leaves room for the likes of me." The bard looked into the depths of Lilith's eyes and saw darkness swirling within. She took an involuntary step backwards.
"Xena will become my consort, my general of terrible armies yet unknown. Together we will conquer this land and its impotent pantheon of gods. In short time, I shall rule in Olympus and Xena will be my Queen of Air and Darkness. Come, there's kingdom to build and a throne to prepare." Lilith waved her arms above her head. A heavy mist rose from the temple floor, enveloping everyone in the hall. When the mist finally cleared, Gabrielle stood alone.
"What!? Some foreign usurper dares threaten my sovereignty?" Zeus smashed another thunderbolt into the earth at his feet. Hermes cringed, hating to be the bearer of bad news. Dust from the ceiling scintillated in the air. He brushed off the dust from his shoulders and shook it out of his hair. Zeus read another line from the scroll Hermes handed him.
"Xena's a Gateway, eh? I'll bar that door now!" he growled, "I'll send that bitch straight to Tartarus....tell Hades to expect some company!" Zeus raised his arm, winding up for a thunderbolt aimed straight at Xena's heart when Artemis stepped forward to stay her father's arm. "Why do you protect her? She's renounced us all!"
"I protect my Chosen and the ones she loves. Therefore, Xena is under my protection," Artemis said.
"How do you propose to stop this Lilith," Zeus spat, "from taking over?"
"I don't know, yet. But my Chosen One is the key. Hermes, find Lilith's lair and take Gabrielle there. Tell her that she must persuade Xena to throw off Lilith's influence. I have business elsewhere, in the East."
"Artemis, I will not stand idly by while you work through your Chosen. Athena! Ares!" Zeus called out to the Gods of War, "We have battle plans to make."
Lilith stood behind Xena, who sat upright in the ornate throne with her arms clutching the arm rests. She had earlier removed the leather wrist straps that held her captive in place. She knew that her spells put Xena completely under her control now. Xena's face was strangely blank, but her eyes were bright and animated.
Lilith twined her arms around Xena's torso. She rubbed her breasts against her willing captive's back, nibbled her ear, and began nuzzling her neck. Xena slowly closed her eyes and stretched her neck back languorously, exposing her white throat. As Lilith sank her sharp fangs into the proffered neck, she eyed Gabrielle as the bard approached the throne. She finished drawing just enough blood to stain her lips.
"So, little one, you wish to pay homage to my Queen?" Lilith said in a low, sultry voice. She licked an errant drop of blood running down Xena's neck. Gabrielle winced at hearing her pet name spoken by Lilith.
Gabrielle gathered her resolve. She straightened her back and stamped her staff by her feet, proclaiming, "No, I'm here to take her back. She can never be your Queen. Her heart is not pure evil, unlike yours." Extending her hand, she called to Xena, "Come with me. I can help you."
Lilith's laughter filled the chamber. It sounded like the tinkle of broken glass. "Are you so sure? Let Xena speak for herself." Lilith untangled her limbs from Xena and pushed her forward. Xena stood up and approached the bard until they were a few paces apart.
Looking past Gabrielle's face, Xena said, "Lilith now rules my life. She is my master. My destiny lies with her. I don't feel anything for you, not any more." Her voice sounded distant but clear. Xena took a step closer and placed a hand gently on Gabrielle's arm. She dropped her eyes so she could see directly into Gabrielle's and she said almost too softly to hear, "Please go, before I hurt you. I can't...."
Xena stopped speaking abruptly, looked straight ahead, turned stiffly around to sit back on the throne. Lilith and her Queen stared at the bard silently. Then slowly, almost imperceptibly, a toothy, evil smile grew on Xena's face. But her eyes were dark and soulless.
Tears welled up in Gabrielle's eyes. She knew that she couldn't break Lilith's spell over Xena alone. She hurriedly left the temple. She could hear Lilith call after her, "Run faster, little one. It'll do you no good. She's mine, mine, all mine."
"A gift for you, my precious." Lilith hand swept over the scene outside the temple window, her other arm draped around her Queen's shoulders. Xena looked out and saw an army, thousands strong. She looked closely and she saw that they were not like the mercenaries and cut throats she had led before. This was an army of demons, with grotesquely powerful bodies and burning eyes. No ordinary human warriors, no matter what their bravery or skill, stood a chance against them.
"The weak gods in this land think they can oppose me. But I have you to lead this army. I made them especially for you. Athena and Ares have joined forces, for once. Athena left their combined forces under Ares' command. They are arraying their generals and armies nearby. You know what to do. It comes naturally, doesn't it, my dear?" Lilith giggled into Xena's ear.
Xena looked out with an anticipation of what she thought had been left far behind. She relished the memory of wheeling her war horse around and raising her sword high to sound an ear-splitting charge through the enemy's lines. "Yes, there are some things you just can't forget."
Thick black smoke and the metallic tang of blood filled the air over the battle field. The broken and battered bodies of men who were supposed to be heroes littered the battle field. Xena was disappointed. Ares' army was easily beaten down under the onslaught of Xena's demonic forces. A demon warrior, under Xena's orders, managed to steal his sword. With his godhood taken, Ares was just a man like any other.
Xena's lieutenants dragged Ares into her tent and dropped him on his knees at her feet. His face was bruised and his armor hung loosely. Xena grabbed his dark hair and jerked his head back hard. She leaned down to look into his face and snarled, "Hello handsome, how the mighty have fallen! I won't help you this time, within my body or Callisto's." Ares could only look back at her with dazed eyes. The demons had kicked and beaten him unmercifully before bringing him to their warlord Queen.
"Bind him to the those posts," Xena said indicating two stout posts buried in the ground. Each post had a short chain and shackle embedded near the top. The demons shackled an arm to each post. The chains had just enough slack so that Ares could stand if he were able. "Good, now bring me my whip." A demon scurried to the corner of the tent and handed the braided leather coil to Xena. "Now leave! I want time alone with my old master."
First, she drew her dagger and cut away the straps holding together his remaining armor. Then she ripped off his tunic, leaving him naked under her gaze. She noted where he had bruised, if not broken ribs. She probed them roughly, eliciting a painful grimace from him. She pulled his face up so she could see his half closed eyes, "You deserve what I'm about to do you. I promise not to disappoint." She kissed him until she could feel him start to involuntarily return the intimacy. Then smiling grimly, she walked behind him and uncoiled her whip, snapping it experimentally. Backing up a few more paces, she let loose the lash against Ares' back. He flinched under the pain and grunted under his breath, but did not cry out. The lash left a bleeding welt from his shoulder to the opposite hip. She cracked the whip again and again.
The man who was the God of War never screamed or begged for mercy. That angered Xena. She beat him until the sweat poured from her own body in exhaustion. When she was done, Ares slumped loosely in his chains. His back was a red mass of criss-crossing wounds. Wiping her brow on her arm, she dropped the whip and reached out a finger tip to touch the blood oozing from his back. She brought her finger into her mouth to taste the blood. "Ooh, the blood of a god! I didn't know it could taste so sweet! I'm ready now to taste the rest of you...."
She walked around to the front of her captive and knelt before him. "You've been trying to get me in this position for years. Are you happy now?" Ares looked at her first in confusion, then with growing alarm. Xena sat up to kiss him hard on the mouth. She drew blood from his lower lip as the kiss ended. Ares moaned despite knowing what she was going to do. She looked at him in the eye, "You still want it?" She smiled to show him a mouth full of sharp, white pointed teeth as she bent her head downward. He roared, "NO! Noooo...." Ares' screams echoed all through the halls of Mount Olympus.
Lilith appeared at Xena's side. She looked over her Queen's handiwork with an approving eye. "Have one of your lieutenants take what's left of this....man....and leave him at one of his own temples. Once the other gods see what you have done to their best warrior, how can they hope to oppose us?"
Xena countered, "There are still Athena, Artemis, Hera and the rest. I can't fight them all and expect to win. Especially Zeus."
"Just leave those fools to me, dear," Lilith said, patting her on the arm. "They'll surrender quietly enough. By the way," Lilith handed Xena Ares' sword, "you should take this. Consider it a well-earned trophy." Xena took the sword. Hefting its weight, she swung it around her head before returning it to its scabbard.
"Lilith?" Xena asked, "Why did you want me to humiliate...to unman... Ares?"
"You didn't enjoy it?" Lilith asked evilly. Xena looked at her feet in shame. "What I did was pointless and cruel. I forgot what I was, am, capable of doing. Why, Lilith?"
"Men are pigs. The male gods are the biggest swine of all. They're responsible for most of the pain in this world." Lilith thought to herself, just as Adam was responsible for *my* pain. "What Ares suffered at your hands and your....," Lilith reached out and caressed Xena's lips with her thumb, "will get the attention and sympathy of every male god in Olympus, especially Zeus. That so-called King of Gods. I want his majesty's undivided attention when we meet."
Lilith summoned Zeus. She told him that she knew the True Name of the One who created the universe. If she spoke it aloud, she could unmake creation, thus destroying all of existence. That included the gods and all of humankind.
Zeus knew that Lilith would destroy the World without hesitation, so great was her hatred. When Artemis returned from her sojourn in the East, she explained to the pantheon just who their enemy was. Lilith was the First Woman who was banished because of her disobedience to the First Man. She was imprisoned in the Abyss, where she was driven both mad and made incredibly powerful. She drew upon the raw energy of creation itself to become a goddess. In the World, she commanded the demonic spirits of the air and exploited the darkness that resides in every human heart.
Zeus conceded to Lilith's demand that all of the most powerful gods give up their mantles of power and place them into a chest that would be held in Lilith's keeping. In face of total annihilation, he had no other options. He ordered Hera to give up her peacock feather. Hades doffed his helmet. Athena placed her shield and helmet in the chest along side Poseiden's trident.
Artemis was about to place her bow and quiver in the chest when Lilith stopped her. "A huntress and Goddess of the Moon. Hmmph," Lilith sniffed. "Hardly a worthy adversary. Keep your toys, huntress, and go hide in the forest with your Amazon bitches. I have nothing to fear from you."
When Artemis returned from the East, she carried with her a carefully wrapped package. The Eastern king, David, had given her the scrolls of cabalistic knowledge, a sharp ceremonial knife and a scrying bowl. Artemis brought the items to Gabrielle and they read the scrolls together.
The scrolls revealed that the True Name of Lilith, once spoken aloud, would cast the demoness back into the Abyss forever and the Gateway would be freed. There were several conditions, of course. The Name had to be spoken by someone who loved the one serving as Lilith's doorway to the World. The Speaker would be Gabrielle. The Name must be spoken on consecrated ground. Artemis' temple would do. And finally, the Speaker had to sacrifice something most precious in life to learn the Name, for the sacrifice demanded tears of sorrow and blood.
Gabrielle agonized over her decision. She brooded alone, ignoring Artemis' pleas not to tarry. Realizing that the wrestling match with her conscience would yield no winners, she called Artemis.
Lila, upon receiving a summons signed by Artemis herself, arrived at the temple doors of the goddess. She was immediately seized by the Amazons waiting for her within. They dragged her kicking and screaming to the altar. They bound her arms from behind and forced her to knees. She sobbed and wailed for help, finding none.
Gabrielle walked out from the shadows of the temple and placed her hand on Lila's shoulder. Lila looked up, seeing her elder sister's face, sighed in relief, but she wondered about the tears she saw in her eyes. "What...why?" Lila asked. Gabrielle gently stroked Lila's hair as she whispered, "I'm so sorry....but I must" and slit her sister's throat. She caught the bright, red blood in the scrying bowl. The Amazons warriors carried Lila's still warm body away.
Gabrielle peered into the scrying bowl, letting her salty tears mix into the blood. She held up the bowl and invoked the incantation asking for the True Name of Lilith. As she looked into the bowl, the blood and tears began to separate into individual streams and writhe like red worms. The streams formed letters that spelled out the Name. Gabrielle shouted Lilith's True Name into the heavens and was answered by the Abyss.
A crack into the World opened near Lilith. The hole grew wider and wider until a black tornado thrust its tail into the earthly plane. It wiggled like a snake, seeking out Lilith's body. She clutched at the thin air around her and tried to ground herself here. The tornado's tail grabbed her wailing form and twisted it until her bones cracked. Then the finger of the Abyss sucked her broken body into the swirling darkness. Even though her screams were cut off when the hole collapsed upon itself, the echoes could still be heard.
All around Greece, the demons of Xena's army burst into flames. The conflagration was so intense that the bodies were reduced to fine white ash in a matter of minutes. Then a wind blew in from the west and gathered up the ash into the air. It was as if the demons never existed.
Xena stood, awash in the blood and gore of opposing soldiers, in the middle of the battle field. She didn't understand why she was there. Where is Gabrielle, she thought. She looked at her empty hands; Ares' sword had returned to its rightful owner. She vaguely remember a throne room and Gabrielle pleading with her, but little else.
Athena's army took heavy casualties in the pitched conflict. Even without their patron goddess there to help, Athena's men fought valiantly against the demon forces. When the demons were burned away, the soldiers' battle lust still needed to be quenched. They turned their eyes to the unarmed warrior princess and charged her. Athena appeared in a blaze of light to her troops and commanded that they lay down their arms. Her generals protested that "the evil spawn of Tartarus needs to die!" Athena gathered her arms around Xena and disappeared before the soldiers could attack.
Athena reappeared with Xena at the entrance to Artemis' temple. "Gabrielle is inside. Go to her," Athena said as she pushed Xena though the door. Xena saw Gabrielle sitting with her head in her arms at the base of the altar. She still held the sacrificial knife in one hand. Xena ran to her side and wrapped her arms around her.
"Gabrielle, what's happened? I'm starting to remember a little. Why are you crying?" Xena took Gabrielle's free hand into her own. Xena could see Gabrielle's red rimmed eyes and her tear stained face in the dim light.
"Xena, I did it for you. Please forgive me....please," Gabrielle sobbed.
"Forgive you for what?" Xena asked. She brought Gabrielle's fingers to her lips to kiss them when she suddenly tasted the blood. "Your hand....is covered with blood. What did you do, Gabrielle?"
"I had to sacrifice Lila to free you from Lilith. There was no other way. Believe me, I would have tried anything but that. The scrolls...." Gabrielle pleaded. Xena looked upon her love in horror. "A blood sacrifice! Your own sister! How, how could you!" Xena stood up and backed away, her hands held out as if to push Gabrielle away from her.
"Xena, I did it for you!" As Gabrielle leapt up from the base of the altar, she swung her arms wildly trying to grab Xena. Her knife blade caught Xena on the side of her face, slashing across the temple and flicking through the eye. Xena slapped her hand to her face. Blood began pouring from between her fingers and on to the floor. Gabrielle froze. Xena stumbled in shock, turned, and ran out of the temple. She ran out of Gabrielle's life.
Gabrielle cried out as she collapsed on the floor, her tears mixing with the drops of blood, "I did it all....for you...."
Xena sought treatment for her wound in Athens. The healers did what they could but Xena would have a scar where her eye used to be. She wore a patch to hide the empty socket. She thought it made her look like a pirate. Xena could still see well enough from her good eye, but she could no longer be the warrior she once was. The Athenian healers offered to teach her their art. Xena was tired of killing and so she settled down to learn how to heal.
And what a healer she became! Her knowledge of battle field triage melded well with the treatment of diseases and other infirmaries. Soon, she wandered the countryside, dispensing her healing skills wherever she was needed.
The world eventually forgot that Xena the Healer was once Xena: Warrior Princess. She would have completely found her peace except for one thing. Of the love she generously gave everyone else, none could be spared for Gabrielle.
Gabrielle lost her bardic voice. After Xena left her, she could no longer tell the heroic tales of the Warrior Princess. In fact, she could hardly speak in public at all. The darkness, planted in her heart when she killed her sister, prevented her from ever seeking the light again.
Obviously, she could never return home to face her parents. Nor did she wish to live among the Amazons, for their barely contained wildness, the clean smell of their leathers, and proud bearings reminded her so much of Xena.
Gabrielle withdrew into herself. Artemis took pity on her Chosen. She released her from her obligation to the Amazons and taught her how to draw down the moon. So she stayed in shadowed temples, worshipping and doing the will of her goddess. Even though Artemis did not demand celibacy of her priestess, Gabrielle took no lovers. She wished to preserve Xena's memory unsullied by other suitors.
Every once in a while, when the moon waxed full, she would pull out her scrying bowl and fill it with water from a blessed spring. She would gaze into the water's surface until an image of Xena appeared. Tears would sometimes ripple the surface. Over the years, she would check on her love's progress toward redemption. Her heart was filled with joy knowing that Xena finally found peace as a healer. But it also tore her heart to know that Xena had no love to share with her.
"Artemis, I never knew you could be so cruel. This is *your* precious Gabrielle you're talking about!" Hades exclaimed.
"It can't be help. Gabrielle needed to make that sacrifice. Without it, that demon Lilith would be ruling from Mount Olympus today and we would be powerless to do anything about it! I can't tell them the truth. Not yet," Artemis said. "But with your help, I can make it up to both of them. Hades, will you hold up your end of the bargain? No matter what?"
Hades hesitated, "It's easy to decide for Gabrielle. She was always destined for the Elysian Fields. But as for Xena; I don't know."
"The Elysian Fields might as well be Tartarus if Gabrielle is not with Xena! Xena will spend the rest of her life atoning for a decade of evil. Isn't that enough for you?" Artemis said.
"I'll make my decision when her time comes. Until then, I can make no promises." Hades turned to leave.
Artemis laid a hand on his shoulder and whispered into his ear, "Remember, Hades, you owe Gabrielle your godhood. We all owe her."
Gabrielle dropped her coin into Charon's skeletal hand, grateful to be finally at rest. Hades met her at the ferry and personally directed her to a grand banquet hall where he hands her a drink. "What's this? I don't remember being offered food or drink here before," Gabrielle asked as she took the goblet of wine.
"It's the first time you've become a permanent resident here. Once you eat or drink the food of the underworld, there's no going back," said Hades.
"That's all right. I've lived my life. It wasn't everything I hoped it would be, but I accept that my time has come."
As she drank deeply, the events of the past unfolded in her mind. Everything finally made sense to her. She saw Artemis pick up the sister Gabrielle had killed so long ago and heal her wound. Lila married and enjoyed a happy home life. Gabrielle realized that she didn't sacrifice her sister after all. She now understood that her sacrifice was the most precious thing in her life: Xena's love for her.
When the visions ended, Gabrielle face shone with relief at the new knowledge. Hades nodded in approval. "There's someone waiting for you." He pointed to a figure in the distance. The figure, clad in sky blue robes with a silver belt, walked toward Gabrielle.
"Xena, it is really you?" Gabrielle reached out timidly to touch Xena's soft lips and her silky, black hair. "The scar is gone and your eyes!" Gabrielle stared in wonder at both of Xena's sapphire blue eyes for the first time in years. "You're beautiful again!"
"You don't look so bad yourself," Xena smiled. Gabrielle felt her own face. The skin was as smooth and unblemished as it was when she and Xena first met.
"Oh, we wasted so much time," Gabrielle cried. "Our lives were too short to have spent it hating one another. Now that you understand. Now that *I* understand."
"Time is of no matter now," Xena said, embracing and kissing Gabrielle for the first time in the Afterlife. "We have the rest of eternity."
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