Convert this page to Pilot DOC Format
Standard Disclaimer: Xena: Warrior Princess, Gabrielle, Argo and all other characters who have appeared in the syndicated series Xena: Warrior Princess, together with the names, titles and backstory are the sole copyright property of MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures. No copyright infringement was intended in the writing of this fan fiction. All other characters, the story idea and the story itself are the sole property of the author. This story cannot be sold or used for profit in any way. Copies of this story may be made for private use only and must include all disclaimers and copyright notices.
NOTE: All works remain the © copyright of the original author. These may not be republished without the author's consent.
Specific Story Disclaimer: This is a work of general fan fiction. The violence levels are quite low and profanity is there, but at a minimum. Feedback is welcomed and appreciated, email me at Dlc@capital.net
One More Thing: This story was originally called "Of Warriors, Prophets, and Gods" but when it was completed there were no prophets in the story, so I dropped that part of the title. Also I'd like to thank everyone who kept after me to finish this story, your encouragement was greatly appreciated.
Continued from Part I
Of Warriors and Gods
By Crystal Barrett
The midday sun streaked across the valley. It's light cascaded down upon three mounted men galloping full speed towards city walls that were bustling with activity. Heavily armored men walked in shifts atop the imposing battlements, their weapons held at ready as they watched the approaching riders. The leader of the watch identified the riders as friends and gave the order for the large wooden gates to open and allow them passage. Their prince had returned from his mission.
The gate slammed shut behind them and the sweat drenched men jumped off their horses. They were met by the curios gazes of the villagers who had gathered in the courtyard at the news of their approach. Hace and the others handed their horse's reigns to an awaiting stable hand, the tired animals eagerly followed his lead. Hace took in the mood of the crowd and turned to his companions.
"Why don't you both go to the inn, get yourselves something to drink." He said as he began to unbuckle the sword that he had strapped to his back.
Kyle's eyes darted from the crowd in front of him and back to Hace. The looks and gestures of the villagers ranged from intensely curious to outright hostile. The sounds of people preparing for battle rang throughout the courtyard. Young and old ran about the yard carrying weapons and armor to locations where others were waiting to receive the equipment that they would carry into battle. The sight of children walking around carrying weapons, knowing that outside the cities walls waited an army, did not sit well with many of the villagers. Their anxious glares towards Hace and his companions told Kyle that right now he was standing on the wrong side of what was about to be a tremendous confrontation. The young man took the prince's advice and made a beeline for the inn. Not stopping or turning around even when the crowd of angry villager's began advancing on Hace and Del. The twelve men of the King's council passed by him as he approached the steps to the inn. Kyle gave the first minister a slight wave and ran up the steps and into the deserted inn, where the sounds of the yelling mob could now barely be heard.
Del stood patiently at the prince's side, his eyes never leaving the crowd of villager's that were approaching with nothing short of menacing intent. He placed his hand on Hace's shoulder and gave it a squeeze to reassure the boy that he was not going anywhere.
"Just go Del. It's not you they're mad at." Hace said to the older man
"No, lad. You didn't need my protection against Xena. But you need it now." Del replied as he stepped in front of the prince to confront the mob that had stopped just a cart length in front of them. From his left, he could see the members of the council rushing to positions where they could step in, should things get out of hand. Blocked from behind by the gate and encircled by a mass of anxious villagers, who resented the boy's efforts at stopping Xena, the council stood silent and waited for someone to make the first move.
"Are you done making us look like cowards?" Said Warin, who had taken up a position directly in front of the mob. "Sire" he added, mocking the young prince. His remark was met with roaring laughter from the crowd behind him. That only added fuel to his already raging anger and resentment towards the boy who would pretend to be their king.
"What are the terms of our surrender?" he asked. Knowing that talk of surrendering to the army that was approaching them was equal to treason in the eyes of the villagers.
They were a proud and honorable people who had been weaned on the idea that they were the best. Watching the king's royal guard practice everyday gave them a sense of security against whatever force might come to their city. Most of the villagers had gone through some form of training to help aid the kingdom in case of attack. That training and the presence of heavily armed soldiers made them all believe that fighting was the only answer to a threat. The fact that they had never gone up against a force that could match their skills at defending their homes, made them believe that they were undefeatable. The rumor that had been running through the city since Hace and his party left the gates earlier that morning, was that the prince intended to surrender. This was unacceptable to the villagers. They had all heard many different versions of what the plans were. But all of them included Hace selling them out to Xena's army and then leaving with her. He, after all, never really belonged amongst them anyway.
While the other council members had spent the morning seeing to war preparations and to their dying King. Warin had made sure that the entire villager's knew exactly what their prince was doing outside their city walls. He was planning their demise and with the passing of the king, the boy would take the throne and make it happen. In the few hours it had taken for Hace to convince Xena to take a second look at what she was doing, Warin had convinced almost the entire kingdom that Hace was as dangerous as Xena, if not more. He had them so riled up that when Hace and his companions arrived without smiles or cheers, they concluded that Warin had been right, and the boy had to go.
Hace watched the activity around him as the tension in the courtyard increased. The remaining council members stood off to the side. The first minister caught Hace's questioning glance and all he could do in response was shrug his shoulders at the confused boy. Hace was waiting for the crowd to do something, and the first minister was waiting for Hace to do something.
Hace did not respond to Warin's taunts or the crowds yells for answers. Confusion and uncertainty began to erase the confidence that his meeting with Xena had instilled in him. Up on the hill standing next to her he had felt at ease. He wasn't scared and it felt natural. The power, knowledge, and wisdom he had felt in Xena's presence had deserted him the instant he rode through the gates and was confronted by this angry mob. It was made up of people who were supposed to be his friends.
"We're not surrendering, are we boy?" Del asked Hace. A perplexed look crossed his slightly wrinkled face and Hace could see the pleading in his eyes. "You didn't say anything about surrendering to those heathens."
"That's because were not." Hace said to Del.
The prince took the older man's hand in his own and gave it a quick squeeze. "Thanks for standing by me." Hace said.
Del was a good deal taller than the young prince before him was, so it took some effort for him to look into Hace's eyes. When he did he witnessed the boy he once knew turn over control to the man he was becoming. Del found himself silently swearing his allegiance to the prince before him who would soon be his king.
"Give it to em', your highness." Del said as he kneeled before Hace.
Hace then stepped in front of Del, still carrying his sheathed sword in his hands, he began closing the short distance between himself and the crowd. "Quite down all of you" Del yelled over the loud voices of the crowd from his position behind the prince.
They quieted down quickly as Hace stopped directly in front of Warin and began to speak. "I do not surrender. I am not a coward." Then he stared straight into Warin's eyes and continued. His voice rose just enough so that the crowd could make out what he was saying to the man. "Anyone who questions that is questioning my honor. That makes them a traitor." Warin's eyes left the boy's face and he laughed as he turned toward the crowd at his back. They were not laughing with him. "If they attack, we defend this city or die trying. Is that understood?" he asked to a now very anxious Warin. "I am in charge here Warin, not you. When I give a order it is to be followed with no questions or hesitation." Hace said this as he got nose to nose with the older man and in one quick motion grabbed his shirtfront and spun him away from the crowd.
Hace was not worried about his back being turned on the still agitated crowd. They were slowly beginning to realize that the boy that he had been was no longer here. He was now a confident and strong willed leader, who had risked his life to give their village a chance. If that did not work, he would die to protect them.
Warin felt his face turn bright red as the boy effortlessly lifted him off his feet and into the air. "You disobeyed a direct order. Now these people are going to die because you failed to get them to safety. Your selfish desire to bring me down has clouded your judgment Warin." With that, the prince tossed the councilman to the ground "I will deal with you when this is over." Hace then turned back to address the crowd and the other council members, who had come forth to enjoy Hace's manhandling of their most disliked coworker.
"You are nothing." Warin shouted as he stood and brushed himself off. "You're not a prince. No one even knows what you are. You're just a vagrant who played on the sympathy of a deranged old man." He screamed
Hace stopped and turned back to Warin. He smiled a full tooth grin at the old man. "You may be right. But I sure am good at it." Hace said to the man as he walked back to the crowd. Leaving the elder man staring dumbfounded at him. Warin watched as the crowd gathered around the prince, listening to his animated retelling of what had happened at his meeting with the Warrior Princess. Warin scowled at the crowd. They were so anxious to believe in the boy. It had taken hardly any effort to convince them otherwise. Now they were right back on the prince's side, leaving him standing alone. Warin sulked off toward the inn and ignored the cheers that were now coming from the crowd.
Hace explained to the anxious villagers that they were not going to avoid a fight. The size of the attacking army was the only thing they could not be sure of. If Xena called off the attack the reactions of her soldiers would be mixed. Some would not care one way or the other. They were the scared kids who really just wanted to go home. By calling off a planned attack, Xena would look weak in the eyes of the more hardened soldiers. That is where the line would be drawn. Those who chose to obey her would do so at their own price. Those who decided that she was no longer fit to lead would make sure that she did not. Without a strong leader of Xena's caliber, the army would fall apart. The kids would run for home at the first opportunity. And those allied with Xena would find other places to be. The rest, would then become Hace's problem. A problem that would cause the deaths of many innocent people who should have been well out of harm's way by now. Instead, they were here, standing before him awaiting his orders.
Hace stepped away from the assembled villagers and listened as an older man captured the crowds' attention with an impromptu speech about how he planned to stand against this enemy regardless of the cost. The man pumped his fists in the air and was met by thunderous applause and a roar of cheers from the assembled crowd.
Del looked towards his prince who was standing just outside the circle with his hands clasped behind his back and his eyes fastened on the once menacing crowd. He walked towards the prince intending to ask what he was to do with this unexpected addition to their ranks. As he approached the prince's gaze turned toward the palace gates. Del followed Hace's line of sight and stopped dead in his tracks as he made out the familiar form of the King's healer, Kay. She was just outside the palace gates anxiously tugging on the first minister's robe. As she spoke, sobs broke through making her voice crack and waiver.
Del looked down at his booted feet and whispered to himself, "By the gods no. Not now." He looked up and met the prince's stare. Hace's blue eyes had locked with his own and the prince did not even blink until the palace's metal gate slammed shut with an eerie finality that brought tears to the older man's eyes.
Hace's most trusted guard closed the distance that lay between them and taking the prince's arm he turned him away from the gate. Hace did not even respond to the roughness of the action. He merely looked straight ahead, but not really seeing anything. His eyes betrayed no emotion and his body remained rigid. He did not even try to fight when Del grabbed his face in his hands and forced the prince to make eye contact.
"Now is not the time to do this Hace, you know that." Del said, when he recieved no response he continued. "You go putting up walls so know one knows your hurtin and it's gonna blow up in your face."
Finally, Hace acknowledged that he knew that Del was there and was speaking to him. The prince angrily jerked out of the guardsman's grasp and turned his back on the older man. It was not the response Del was looking for, but at least it was a response.
"In about a candlemark, the first minister's gonna come out here and tell these people that their king is dead. Then their all gonna be lookin to you. You bein in charge will become real to them. If you go pretending it doesn't matter to you that your father's dead and your now the king, their gonna start wondering again if maybe Warin was right. Maybe you are just a power hungry outsider who was just using all of us."
"You know that's not true." Hace said turning back to face Del
"Then damn it boy, let yourself feel it!" Del yelled. He thought that the prince was going to run. But he didn't. Instead, Hace let himself be taken into the older man's arms where he began sobbing uncontrollably. He was still there when the palace gates creaked open and the council members filed out and into the square where they related the horrible news to the entire kingdom.
Three hours later the preparations for war continued at a feverish pace. Hace stood in the center of the Village Square not seeing or hearing anything.. His eyes remained obsessively pinned to the still smoking alter that had once held his father's body. Now, all that remained were ashes and tears. He was not the only one still observing what was left of the tall wooden platform. Now that the fire had reclaimed the body, the platform was all that was left. Clustered in small groups around the raised platform the elders talked amongst themselves, the older women and women with children exchanged gossip, and darting throughout the crowd were three small boys, with ear to ear grins plastering their faces. Nearest to what was now just a smoking woodpile were the King's attendants. They waited beside the platform exchanging idle chatter and occasionally peeking a glance at the Prince. They had volunteered to be the ones who would recover the King's ashes and scatter them around the boundaries of the kingdom. Believing that the King's soul would then protect the entire kingdom from any threat.
They had been standing there beside the platform leaning against its wooden braces, waiting for the Prince's signal that it was okay to go about their work. No one wanted to disrupt the Prince's mourning, event though everyone who could fight was now preparing to do so. With the ominous funeral pyre in front of him and the noisy preparations behind him, Hace realized that he needed to be alone. He walked away from the Village Square, nodding towards the attendants as he passed. The prince began walking towards the castle gate. On his way, he passed by the inn where Del and a few other royal guardsmen were sitting and discussing the battle plan that had been drawn up a few hours earlier. Hace felt their eyes follow his movements and when he was within earshot he stopped and looked at Del.
"Everything almost ready?" He asked his trusted guard
"Aye, sir. Just finishing up now." Del replied with a tone that held more seriousness then the Prince had ever heard in his advisor's voice.
Hace gave the guardsmen a nod and continued towards the castle. He beat the castle guard to the gate and pushed its iron bars forward before the guard could do it for him. Swinging the doors shut behind him he found himself inside the castles well kept garden. Outside, no one noticed the Prince's departure from the scene, except for the five officers on the porch of the inn.
"Where in Tartarus is he going? He should be out here helping." Said Mersky; a stocky older man whose forte was stating the obvious.
"He is helping us." Replied Del, turning his attention away from the now closed castle gates. "He's getting his shit together so when the time comes he'll be ready to lead us. So, leave him be."
With that, the subject was closed and they returned to studying the map spread out in front of them. Inside the garden Hace had made his way to a secret door within the castle walls. It lead outside the city walls and to a first hand view of the land he was going to have to protect from these invaders. The door was molded out of the same stone as the wall and it was just as heavy. No one except his father knew about this exit. Hace frequently used it to escape the confines of the city, just to sit atop the nearest hill and think. He walked onto the sunlit grass and took a deep breath. It was the same air as inside the castle walls, the same sunlight, and the same cool breeze, but still out here, it felt different. It was free and unobserved. No one could see him out here; not that anyone was going to be looking. They were to busy worrying about the assault that was coming.
The way the kingdom was built dictated a frontal assault. There was no back wall to the city, just an impassable mountain that his great-great grandfather had used to build his city against. On either side of the city were steep hills that buffered the kingdom. Only a single file line of men could get atop those hills, and without any equipment it negated the idea of a side assault. Except maybe with archers, but even they could be picked off from the kingdom's high tower and guard posts. The kingdom was small, it had to be to fit into the area between the two sets of rolling hills, but it was well protected and rarely got flooded. The fertile ground sucked up all the water it could. The river to the east was also situated between another set of rolling hills. The kingdom was well contained and so were they, at least for the moment.
Atop the nearest rise Hace sat and watched the area around him. Except for a few birds and the sound of the wind whistling through the trees of the nearby forest, the land was silent. The road that led to the kingdom winded off into the distance leading to another village and beyond. It was a three-day ride by horse to the next village. However, the subjects of the kingdom very rarely ventured out there. The market place of that village was well known for it's fine goods, but even better known for its thieves, rowdy warriors, and advantageous mercenary's. All of whom would love to know the amount of wealth that waited just down the obscure path that led to Hace's kingdom. No one ever came down this way unless they knew where they were going. The only thing out this way was woods, a sometimes-raging river, an impassable mountain range, and amazons. Which is why most people stayed on the more familiar roads that led towards the more heavily populated villages.
The kingdom had been nestled into this space of land for generations. Attacks had been rare, and none of them had succeeded. The only real battle that Hace had ever been in was fought in the valley right below the hill he was now sitting upon. He had been only twelve the day of that battle and his father had forbidden him to participate. Despite this, Hace had joined in the charge with courage that even the most experienced of warriors sometimes lacked. The attacking forces had not been much of a challenge. They were few in numbers and lacked the skills of the craft to inflict any serious damage on the king's men. Ultimately, the royal guard had succeeded in chasing them off, almost entirely on their own. The bandits had taken off on foot, leaving their war-horses behind, and had ran for all they were worth. Following each other on a path that took them straight across the valley, through the unseasonably quiet river and right into the thick woods that marked the beginning of amazon territory. The small band of warriors never came back and years later, no other strangers had ventured down the overgrown trail that led to Hace's kingdom.
Hace chuckled to himself as he remembered the sense of honor and defeat he had felt that day. After the battle, every soldier in the field returned to the village singing his praises. He had done nothing special that day, but it was his first real taste of combat, and he had done well. Once inside the city walls, Hace met the consequences of his actions on the battlefield. Standing, still and silent, inside the village gate was his father. Hace dropped down off his horse and watched as his father fought with conflicting emotions about his son fighting in a battle. Anger and pride had danced in and out of his fathers' eyes. Finally, the wrinkles around his father's eyes had softened, as he seemed to come to a silent conclusion. He smiled at his son and put a loving arm around his shoulders. The crowd around them had cheered at seeing their prince complete his rite of passage towards maturity. King Agnon had smiled and waved at the crowd as he led his son towards the castle gates. The king had turned his attention back to Hace. The young prince had given him an ear- to- ear grin that matched the sense of satisfaction in his eyes. Agnon's smile had widened and he bent his head lower so that his shorter son could hear his words.
"Your in big trouble, you realize that right?" he had asked still smiling
Hace had simply nodded, the smile never leaving his face as he felt his father pulling him into a hug.
The memories of his father flooded his mind and made Hace let out a deep sigh heard only by the wind. It hurt knowing that he would never see that smile or hear his father's soft laugh. Tears slowly made their way down his cheek as he wavered between trying to block out the pain and letting go. He knew that the time for mourning was growing shorter with the every movement of the sun across the horizon. People would come looking for him soon and everything after that would become a blur of nameless faces and senseless violence. Hace sat motionless, his hands resting on his knees, and his eyes gazing off into the distance, focusing on nothing but the path of the sun as it dipped closer towards the amazon's forest. Dusk was fast approaching and so was the advancing army.
Hace released the breath he had been holding and slowly stood. Out of habit, he automatically attempted to straighten the sword on his back, only it was not there. He remembered that he had taken it off at the Village Square and was suddenly struck by how naked he felt without it. Not too long ago the thought of carrying a sword strapped too his back all day, had made him cringe. It was heavy and made the small of his back sweat, not too mention that it made people nervous. His father had told him that if he wanted to be a guardsman then he would have to get used to it. Getting ready to head back inside the castle walls, Hace realized that he had in fact gotten used to it and that he missed it now that it's secure weight was absent.
The sensation hit him so hard he almost fell down the hill he was standing on. Dropping to his knees, Hace fought desperately to catch his breath. His stomach rolled with the now familiar feeling that he had come to associate with Xena's presence. Only this time it was much stronger. His heart was beating so fast he thought it would pound itself right out of his chest. A wave of dizziness crept over him and for a brief moment he thought he would actually pass out from the force of the emotions that had swept over him.
Then it was just gone. He could breath again and as he struggled to his feet, a vision crept into his mind. Xena, riding full out at the head of an army. Sword raised high, eyes glazed over with the fire of battle, and that shrill battle cry rushing to his ears as the wind carried it in a frightening echo around the mountain side. The words of the older fate crept to the front of his mind as the last traces of the vision faded away.
If Xena were to succeed in attacking this village, the entire world would be next.
Hace lost all track of his thoughts as the power he held within began to take control of his conscious actions. Running down the steep hill, he made his way to the front of the village walls. In front of the gates he stood silently and weaponless as he watched the land in front of him. Stretching out into the distance, the small dirt path that led to the village gates was empty. The air remained still, undisturbed by any war cry. But he knew it was coming. He did not know how he knew and he didn't question it.
High above him on the upper walls of the village, Hansol glanced down at the young prince and watched as the usually good-natured boy turned into a grim faced warrior. Hace's features betrayed no emotion; his eyes had glazed over to mimic the glare Xena had worn in Hace's vision. Cold as Ice. Their new king reflexively clenched and unclenched his fists, seemingly unaware of the world around him. Soldiers who had also spotted the young warrior outside the city walls began calling down to him and straining their eyes to see what the prince was so fixated on.
They saw nothing. The land was as it had been all-day, pure and undisturbed. The birds were still chirping, the breeze continued to blow throughout the valley, and the sun continued to make its trek across the horizon. The beauty of the day did not appear to be one that could be ruined in an instant by the arrival of an army. After several moments had passed with no response from Hace and nothing appearing in the distance. The young men atop the wall laughed to each other and sarcastic comments began to fly as they all walked away from their assigned posts and gathered in the center of the wall to continue the game of dice they had been entertaining themselves with.
Hansol remained where he was. His gaze shifting between the prince and the silent countryside that Hace was staring at. His calls to his friend had gone unanswered and Hansol could sense that something was about to happen, and Hace knew it. The boy had seen Hace do many amazing things in the years they had been friends. He was stronger than anyone he had ever known, including his own father. Hace had the ability to talk to anyone about anything. Most of all, Hansol had seen Hace display an uncanny ability to always know when something was wrong. Repeatedly Hace had been drawn to disruptions within the village; things that he had no way of knowing about. Bar fights would erupt and Hace would always know it. No matter where he was, he would go running to the situation and help get things back under control before anyone could get hurt.
Then there was the time when one of the village children had been separated from the rest of a large group that had gone into the forests looking for local herbs. Hace had lead them all to the spot where the young boy was huddled underneath dense foliage. Hace had wasted no time in locating the boy; it was if he just knew where he was. When Hansol had asked the prince about it later, Hace had simply replied that the boy was not supposed to be there. Hansol had thought that odd, of course the boy was not supposed to be there. He was supposed to be home in bed, not roaming around the forest late at night. Hace had ignored Hansol's further questions. Hansol had learned long ago that if Hace did not want to talk about something, he would not. Taking his cues from his friend, Hansol had never spoken again of the incident. When similar things would happen, Hansol would be content to follow Hace's lead and trust in him completely. As he did now. He did not understand what was going on, but he knew that Hace would not be alarming the entire village if something was not about to happen.
Below Hansol in the Village Square, the villagers had again gathered. The energy flowing throughout the place was about to erupt. Glancing behind him, Hansol took in the assembling crowd. Some were taking the same position he was to the heir's strange behavior. They had begun to strap on armor and gather up weapons. Others were laughing and snickering with each other. Many had contented themselves to stand upon the porch of the inn and watch and see what was about to happen. Warin and Kyle were amongst them.
The pair stood together, taking in the attitude of their fellow villagers, much like Hansol was doing. Only they were not being motivated to do so by Hace's actions. They saw it as another opportunity to make trouble for the young prince and his future as their king.
Hansol watched from his vantagepoint above the crowd as Warin left the inn. Followed closely by Kyle, he made his way toward the village gates. Obviously any bond that had begun to form between Kyle and Hace had been quickly erased when the youth had sat down in the inn next to a very angry Warin. Banding together with a few of the tavern patrons, they had decided that Hace would never rule them if they had any say in it.
Recognizing the pairs intentions, Hansol immediately turned back to the view of the valley that surrounded the village. Yelling down once more, to where Hace was maintaining a silent vigil of the area, he attempted to warn the Prince of Warin's approach.
Hace did not respond. Even when the gates opened and Warin and Kyle walked out of the village to stand beside the young warrior.
The feeling in his gut had returned, not as powerful as before, but growing steadily stronger with every passing moment. Hace could sense the shift in the world around him. The birds flew from the surrounding forest leaving nothing but silence in their wake. The wind had picked up considerably causing the young man's blond hair to take on a state of total disarray.
The three men stood silently together for a moment, all staring off into the distance. Until the silence was broken by Kyle.
"What in Tartarus are you looking at?" he asked in his usual gruff manner
Hace turned and looked at both men as if noticing their presence for the first time.
"They're coming." he said, before turning his eyes back toward the road
Warin laughed at the young prince, as if he thought the warrior was kidding. Kyle was not so sure. He took in Hace's solid form standing as still as a rock. His eyes glued to a spot inhabited by nothing but green grass and blue sky. Kyle saw nothing there, but Hace obviously did.
"What should we do?" Kyle asked. He did not understand why he said this. His loyalty moments before had rested with Warin in a mutual bond to bring down the prince. His lack of experience in such things was probably the only thing that was going to save his life on this day. If he had been older, he may have questioned why he suddenly felt compelled to prepare for something that nobody else really believed would come. Warin would stay here, mock the prince, and mentally rehearse what he planned to do when no battle occurred and he would be free to make sure that the prince looked like a fool.
And he would die when that battle began and forces more powerful then he could even imagine would swoop down to bring terror to their lives. A force that only the young prince would be able to conquer.
Hace did not turn to look at the duo next to him. "Get inside. Secure the gates and get everyone ready." He said before raising his voice to address his loyal friend, who he knew was still standing high above him watching this exchange. "Hansol, get my sword."
"Aye" Hansol shouted down as he ran to find Del, who would know where Hace's weapon was.
Hace dipped his head slightly as he turned around to eye the village gates. Kyle had done as he was told and was standing at the threshold holding the large oak doors open and waiting for Warin to follow him inside. Warin, however, did not intend to leave.
Warin eyed the prince for a moment before he laughed again. Hace stood facing him, his hands clasped behind his back in a stance of total control. He radiated energy and as the older man looked into the boys' eyes, he realized for the first time that he had been right all along. Hace was not one of them; he did not belong here. But despite that, they needed him.
"Go." Hace ordered as he nodded towards the gates. "Now." He added
Warin lowered his eyes from the prince's gaze and began to walk slowly back towards the gates. Hace looked up towards the village walls to see the soldiers who were stationed there gazing off into the distance with looks of absolute horror on their faces. Hace looked back to Warin who had halted his journey to the gates and was now staring at the spot that had so fascinated Hace moments before. Except now, it was no longer empty.
Hace spun on his heels to confirm what he had all ready envisioned.
Riding like a woman possessed by the fire of war was Xena. Her raven hair trailed behind her with the force of the wind that whipped against her. Her battle cry pierced the silence that had reigned over the valley. But in her arms, where Hace had expected to see her sword raised high above her head leading her in her charge against his village, was a body. She cradled the unconscious person next to her as she rode with one hand on the reigns. She had spotted Hace standing outside the gates and was heading straight for him.
Warin let out a sound like a cross between a cry and a gasp and quickly made his exit from the scene. He ran through the gates with speed that would make any coward proud. The council member all most toppled Kyle over as he pushed his way past the shocked youth.
Kyle stood, mouth open and at a loss for words as he debated between following the older man through the gates and joining Hace to stand against this woman. Before he could even make up his mind, Xena had pulled up her horse directly in front of Hace. The boy stood still, his confusion at this turn of events evident in his mannerisms. When the Warrior Princess vaulted off her horse in one fluid motion, still protectively holding onto the still form in her arms, Hace did not even move.
The warrior Princess and the Prince of Agnon stood facing each other in silence. As if neither one could believe that the other was actually there. Xena spoke first, taking a deep breath as she did so.
"I did as I promised" Her ice blue eyes met the gaze of the young man who stood before her. Eyes the same shade as hers shone brightly as the realization of her words hit him. "Help Him." She continued, as she thrust the body she had been holding forward, into Hace's arms.
Hace looked down at the form he held in his hands. A boy about his age, but much smaller and weaker then he could remember ever being. Blood poured from a large gash on the boy's head. Finally the prince found his voice and he asked the question that was on the minds of everyone who was now gathered, both on the walls and at the village gates.
"What happened?" he said, searching her face trying to match the image of beauty and goodness that stood before him with the vision he had previously held of her.
Xena took a moment to answer as she watched Hace hand the young man he held off to Kyle. Kyle passed the boy to the waiting Kay, who quickly rushed him off to deal with his wounds. "He took a mace blow that was meant for me" the woman warrior said, looking off to where the boy had disappeared. "Stupid kid" she added shaking her head and looking back at Hace. "Their still coming, most of them anyway." She said looking away from Hace and settling her gaze on the path she had just traveled.
Hace simply nodded as if he had already known this. "We'll be ready" He replied "Thank you"
Xena looked quickly back at Hace and then lowered her gaze. The overwhelming desire to run away from here began to surface again and the uncertainty she was feeling penetrated her eyes. Despite her efforts to conceal her feelings behind her warrior mask, she knew that the young warrior standing before her could see it. Hace seemed to be able to see right through her, right to that spot in her inner soul that knew everything that she was afraid to admit. The feeling that had accompanied her as she rode towards this village had grown to a fevered pitch as she stood before Hace. But that no longer frightened her as much as the thoughts that kept creeping into her mind. When she had returned to camp from her meeting with Hace, she had already made her decision. She would not attack this village, no matter what that cost her in the eyes of her army.
The soldiers under Xena's command reacted quite predictably to this news. She could have pointed to individual men and guess which side they would end up on. Many took her announcement as relinquishment of control, and they welcomed that as an opportunity to go home and attempt to right the wrongs they had done in their lives. Others, the more hardened and cruel soldiers, took it as a sign of weakness and an opportunity to take over where the Warrior Princess had left off. And they did, proclaiming that they would do what they pleased and if Xena chose to get in their way, she would suffer the consequences. Xena had simply nodded and walked away, leaving them to do what they would while she went off to try to figure out what had gone so wrong with her plan to protect her home village. Then the attack had come.
From behind one of the soldiers, she never saw who it was, had come at her with a mace. Nat, the boy Xena had turned over to Kay's capable care, had been with the army less than a month. She did not even know when he had joined her army. She assumed he had been picked up at one of the villages they had been through recently, but had never really concerned herself with exactly where her troops came from. Following orders was all that mattered. Nat had jumped in front of the mace blow and had taken the full impact of it. Xena had not even seen him there, as she whirled to face the group of men who were not prepared to let her go so easily. Then chaos had erupted as the two opposing forces, those who had remained loyal to Xena's wishes and those who would not be content with her decision, faced off in an all out battle to see who would come out on top. Watching from where she had gathered up Nat's still form, Xena felt the sense of dread threaten to take over. She knew who would win. There was a reason that some men refused to give up the lust for battle. Because they were good at what they did and most of the time, they actually enjoyed it. The ones who looked for any opportunity to get away from the bloodshed were not soldiers. They were simple men who had just been in the wrong place at the wrong time and gotten caught up in something they could not control.
When the fight was over, Xena had known that Hace's village would be the first target of the army that would emerge. Xena had decided then and there that this would all end, today. Starting with warning Hace and then standing with the residents of this kingdom. She intended to help protect them against this threat that she had created. Her lust for power had caused so much damage to so many villages just like Hace's. It would end today and she would take the path that Hace had shown her. No matter how futile her attempt to fix her mistakes might be, she would at least try. She owed herself and her victims that much.
Now, standing beside a man who represented what being a warrior really meant, she realized that this was where she belonged. Helping others to protect themselves from people just like her.
The dust in the distance began to stir and once again, the silent valley was disrupted by the sounds of horses galloping toward the village at breakneck speed. Hace stood beside Xena and waited. The village gates slammed shut behind them with a solid thunk as they were braced from the inside to prevent anyone from entering. Upon the walls, villagers lined up in their positions. Bows and spears were readied for the assault that was coming.
Xena pulled her sword from its sheath in a powerful motion. The uncertainty in her eyes was quickly swept away as the warrior within her took over. She looked at Hace, who still seemed a bit surprised to see her there preparing to defend his kingdom. The dust cloud in front of them grew larger and solid forms began to emerge from it. Soldiers on horseback charging with their swords raised high, evil grins plastering their faces. Their victory all but assured in their eyes. What could a bunch of measly villagers do against an army of trained killers, even if the destroyer of nations had joined them?
"Hansol?" Hace shouted up to the wall breaking the uneasy silence that everyone had fallen into
"Here, Hace" Hansol answered as he appeared upon the wall. Leaning over it, he dangled Hace's newly sharpened sword over the edge.
Hace nodded and Hansol dropped the sword watching as it embedded itself, point first, in the ground. Hace walked over to his weapon and pulling it from the ground he shifted its weight in his hands and rejoined Xena in watching the army's approach.
The Warrior Princess' presence at his side should have confused the young prince, but instead he felt comforted by the waves of energy that were practically rolling off of her. She stood tall and proud, eyes focusing solely on the approaching army. Men who used to serve her were now being subjected to the icy glare that Xena saved for her enemies. Whatever Xena's reasons for making this decision, Hace accepted her assistance and even welcomed the chance to fight side-by-side with the woman warrior.
Hace turned to the stoic warrior and waited for her eyes to meet his own before he extended his hand. Xena hesitated a moment before accepting this gesture of newly formed friendship. Smiling briefly, the warrior shifted her sword to her other hand and reached out to grasp the offered forehand.
As skin made contact with skin and two pairs of blue eyes locked gazes, an old fate let out a sigh of relief as she turned to the king of the gods, a slight smile creeping across her wrinkled features.
"He has done it." She said, as she continued to watch the scene unfolding far below them in the mortal realm. "Xena has decided to stand and fight against her own army."
Zeus looked from the fate and back to the large pool of water which showed him two warriors standing, arms clasped and ready to take on the danger that was fast approaching them.
"It is over then?" Zeus asked the fate
The elder woman simply nodded and turned back to the two mortal souls that she had fought so hard to bring to this point. "Xena's destiny has been changed forever by this moment. She will never again represent the threat she once was."
"What of Ares? He will not accept that his chosen has decided to walk a path that does not include him." Asked Zeus, stroking his long silver beard as he walked back to his chair.
"Ares will just have to find a new "chosen"." The fate replied, with a touch of scorn in her voice. "This one has her own path to follow. Xena's destiny is unique and Ares will only play a small part in it." The Fate paused briefly before continuing "She may one day return to his way, but the consequences of her actions will never be as important as they were here today."
Zeus accepted the fates explanation and nodded his thanks to the old woman before he turned and left the dimly lit room.
The fate was left to stand and watch the events that continued to unfold far below Mount Olympus. On the grounds of a beautiful valley, a battle was about to take place. Leading the charge against the attacking armies, were two souls that were connected by something she did not even understand. But she could see it, as could her sister fates. It was their job as guardians of life to watch the mortals as they made their journey through that life.
Every individual possessed an inner energy that the fates could see. If that energy grew weak, the mortals life thread was cut and they were brought to the Elysian Fields to be restored. For ions that had been the fates duty, keeping their senses tuned to the sight of a weak mortal. That was the way things had always been and they had assumed that they would continue on that way for ions more. Then, in a fit of rage, Ares, the god of war had managed to disrupt that. In the process the destinies of two people, one a mortal the other a god by birth, were tossed to the wind with nothing to guide them but their own inclinations.
Haceran, The God of Destiny, became a mortal child whose path in life was as unclear to the fates as it was to the boy himself. Acting quickly, the three fates had seen to it that the boy would find someone to raise him as their own. They had found a man of exceptional courage, strength, and love. Someone who could teach the boy what it truly meant to be a man and how to live his life with honor and kindness to others. Agnon had succeeded beautifully in his position as guide for a god trapped in a mortal's body.
But there had been a second victim of Ares' haste. One born of mortal parents and possessing nothing but her own natural skills and a determination that fed her desire to master her own body and the world around her. If the fates had realized that someone other than Hace had been affected by Ares condemning the boy to the mortal world, they would have stepped in. Preparations would have been made to assure that the young Xena's path would never have brought her this close to disaster.
But they had not known that at the moment Ares was raising his hand to send Haceran to earth as a mortal, a young girl in a small village was deciding between either walking away from a tormentor or using her fists to solve the disagreement. As Haceran disappeared from Mount Olympus, Xena's fist was crashing into the nose of a boy who was twice her size. With the decision made, Xena began down a path where physical strength and power would direct her every move.
In an ironic twist, Ares had been the first to recognize the strength that Xena possessed and he had snatched up the young woman as quickly as his power hungry nature would allow him. He had molded her into the cold-blooded killer she became, watching as her original intentions to simply protect her home were forgotten. The God of War watched with glee, as Xena's lust for blood and glory grew to match his own. Never realizing that he was nurturing a power that could one day grow to overshadow his own, crushing him as well as the rest of the world.
As the years passed, Hace grew into the man who now stood, sword in hand preparing to defend his village. Xena had grown into the Destroyer of Nations. Somehow, Xena had come to possess an energy so strong that when the elder fate first came across her, she had almost mistaken her for a god. But she wasn't, the Warrior Princess was as mortal as they came. How Xena came to possess such strength baffled the fates to no end. It was a question that might never be answered. All they knew was that by some force, that even they could not understand, Xena and Hace had been bonded together.
If the fates had given up their monitoring of young prince Hace, they would never have realized what was going on until it was too late. From the moment the god of destiny became a mortal child, the fates had continued to watch over him. As Xena's strength grew, so did Hace's. Until they were so equally matched in intensity that the elder fate realized that these two souls must be brought together. So she had seen to it that Xena's destructive path through Greece would bring her closer and closer to the small village where Hace was being trained as a warrior.
Xena's path to Hace's home took over a year. As she grew closer the fate watched in disbelief as both Hace's and Xena's energy began to take on a similar hue and its intensity began to spike considerably. Knowing that everything happened for a reason, the elder fate began to use all her power to guide both Hace and Xena toward each other, realizing that at some moment they were destined to meet. She made sure that Xena would proceed into the underpopulated area that surrounded Hace's village. The fate called in various favors from the gods to create mudslides, floods, anything to keep Xena moving toward the dusty path that would lead her straight to Hace.
On the day when Xena jumped down off her horse and her booted feet landed on the dirt of that road, the old fate had breathed a sigh of relief. She had known that the reasons for the lives of these two mortals crossing now would soon be revealed to her. And they had been.
When Hace first laid eyes on the Warrior Princess, the fate had been watching nearby. Her form invisible to the mortals around her, she had watched as the two locked gazes. The two warriors had felt the connection they had with each other for the first time that day, but she had seen it. A brilliant flash of blue, that only her eyes could see, had erupted from the young boy's body and seemed to seek out it's counterpart. An equally powerful force, which had been streaming out of Xena's body in waves. Both energy patterns fought to cross the gap that lay between the bodies they originated from. The two mortals had gone absolutely still, not even breathing for the entire duration of the connection. The fate had not understood it and had watched in awe as the glow surrounding Hace intensified to a point where even she had to shield her eyes. Then it was gone.
Xena had turned away and returned to her army, breaking the connection and ending whatever had begun to take place.
The boy had stood still and silent for several moments before he also turned away. However, she could see the change in him the moment he stood. Something was going on and although she did not know what exactly, she could tell it was time to find out.
The search for the truth behind the mystery of these two souls had taken more energy than the fate was used to expending. Normally, information on any mortal's thoughts, dreams and destiny would be easy to find. She could just close her eyes and picture the person and she would know everything about a person and what fate held in store for them. In this case, she saw nothing. And the same went for every other god she talked to, no one could explain what was happening between the two mortals. When she described to Zeus what had taken place between Xena and Hace, he was as baffled as she had been. It was as if the gods had been completely cut-off from dealing with these two mortals. They could not read their fates, could not hear their thoughts, and had no way of predicting or even guessing what their motives were.
As Hace was speeding towards his village to warn them of Xena's presence in their valley, the fate was handed the only lead they had in this mystery. It was given to her by the person who was responsible for it all. As Hace galloped across the countryside, Xena was inside her tent receiving a visit from her mentor.
Ares had arrived moments after Xena had entered the tent. The fate had watched his exchange with the warrior with great interest. Ares had not known who Hace was, or at least who he used to be. Instead, he had simply told her to hit this village, then move onto the next where he would again appear to give her further instructions. The words were meaningless in themselves. What the fate cared about was that as soon as the god of war had appeared in the tent, a now familiar bluish hue had arisen from the warrior princess's body and mingled on the edge of the god's own darker energy. But unlike what had occurred only moments before, the two energy patterns did not attract each other, rather they seemed to repel each other. Causing sparks to jump every time the two patterns would come to close to each other. The energy in the room caused the hairs on Xena's arms to stand upright. The woman warrior could not see the war going on between the two forces, but she could obviously feel it, and she never stood to close to the god of war.
The fate had taken in the entire scene with rapt attention, realizing that in her search for the truth she had missed a vital link. Ares.
Ares had been responsible for Hace's banishment from Mount Olympus. The loss of Haceran's godhood and whatever future had been set out for him, was Ares' doing. Ares had also, inadvertently, been responsible for the same thing in Xena, the loss of whatever plan had been intended for the young woman. Now, here he was involved in both their lives. In Xena's as her patron god and in Hace's as the person who was ordering the attack on his village. Even if it was a coincidence, it was one that could not be overlooked.
The moment Ares arrived back on Mount Olympus he was confronted by all three fates, his father, and a room full of other gods. All of them wanted to know exactly what was going on far below them on earth.
The God of War had entered the chamber with his normal cocky swagger. His gruff voice rang against the walls of the room, as he demanded to know why he had been called to this gathering.
Zeus had answered with a voice that overpowered his sons. "Xena is why you are here. What have you given her?" the king of the gods asked
Ares' answer came in his typical arrogant manner. "I've given her nothing." The god of war paused and took in the anxious faces gathered around the room. "Why? Does my chosen worry you?"
Zeus had prepared to walk across the room and grab his son by the throat, but he was stopped as the elder fate made her way out of the shadows of the room and came to stand in front of the god of war.
"We are concerned Ares. We are all quite puzzled by how a moral could come to possess such strength." The old woman said, noting the confusion that stole across the god's handsome features. Ares did not have the answer to this question either, but perhaps he knew more than even he thought he did.
"What exactly are you implying here?" Ares asked walking closer to the fate "I haven't done anything that is not within my power." He added, afraid that his peers were assuming that he had somehow meddled with the natural order of things. It had been a hard lesson for the god of war to learn, but he eventually had. He now knew that such blatant attempts to increase his power would not be tolerated. Zeus had taught him that lesson well, after temporarily banishing his son from Mount Olympus for his part in sentencing the young god of destiny to a life on earth as a mortal.
The rooms occupants obviously did not believe the god. Their outbursts echoed off the chamber walls and the elder fate watched Ares visibly flinch at his fellow god's outrage.
"Come here Ares." The fate said. The god of war obeyed her wishes and walked to the middle of the room. "Give me your hand." The fate continued once Ares had reached her.
Ares did as he was told and placed the palm of his hand in the fates outstretched one. The elder fate closed her eyes and let the energy that was Ares flow through her. It was not a method that she liked to use because it opened her up to all of the god of war's thoughts, memories, and intentions. Her power to see what was happening around her and to foresee what was going to happen in the future was limited when it came to the powerful gods that occupied Mount Olympus. Physical contact was the only way to facilitate her connection with a god's fate.
Silence filled the room as all the gods who had gathered there watched this most fascinating display. They were all secretly glad that it was not they who were at the receiving end of it. As the fate begin to sort through Ares' memories to find the day when this all began, the god of war began to visibly tremble. When this procedure was over, he would be too weak to even speak, much less move about the room. In the time he would be incapacitated, the fate would know everything about him and about what was occurring down below them on earth.
The fate took Ares back to the day when he walked into the hall of destiny to find his father preparing to give a small boy all the tools he would need to defeat the powerful god of war. The rage he had experienced that day came back to him in full force. As the fate hoped it would. Ares' mind reacted in the same manner it had on the day when those events occurred. The fate watched from Ares' point of view as the god raised his hand and prepared to rip the child's destiny out from under him. The words echoed through Ares mind as the boy disappeared from sight.
Cast this boy from this place
Burden him with a mortal's fate
Until the day when he can see
How is destiny was changed by me
The fate released her grip on Ares's hand and the god of war slumped to the ground, unconscious. The old woman looked to Zeus and with amazement evident in her voice she said,
"I know now." She walked towards the king of the gods, leaving other gods to deal with the oblivious Ares. "Xena is the key" she continued "It is she who will restore the god of destiny to his rightful path."
With that revelation Zeus jumped from his chair and ordered the room cleared. The fate whispered to her sisters to leave her alone to speak with the king of gods. She and the god waited in silence until all of the rooms occupants had vanished, several of them taking the god of war with them. When the room was empty Zeus turned back to the fate and asked,
"How can a mere mortal restore a god?"
The fate shook her head briefly, "I do not know." She answered "Haceran was the god of destiny. When his own destiny was altered by Ares, something that we have never encountered before occurred." She stared into Zeus's clouded eyes before continuing. "It appears that Haceran's godhood was somehow divided into three parts, all of which were scattered."
Zeus sat back down in his chair at this alarming news. "Your telling me that not only does Xena have part of Haceran's godhood, but there are two other mortals out there who have the other parts?"
The fate shook her head briefly. "No. Haceran retained one part and the other now resides in Ares."
The king of the gods dropped his head into his hand and muttered under his breath. "This just keeps getting better and better." Finally he looked back to the elder fate and continued the discussion. "Ares now has the power to control destiny?"
"That power only belongs to the person who holds the complete godhood. This explains why none of them realizes what they have. In a god, such as Ares, it lies dormant and unexpressed."
"But in a mortal?" Zeus asked, almost fearing the fates answer.
"There is no other energy acting to suppress it. So it is expressed in a number of ways, strength, intelligence, and an almost prophet like wisdom. Such as we have seen in both Hace and Xena."
"You said that both Hace and Xena felt something today, while they were in each others presence. What does that mean?" Zeus asked
Lowering her head a bit, the fate hesitated with her answer. "It appears that the force of destiny that made up Haceran's godhood is trying to right itself. Somehow, it is calling them together. Much like it did between Ares and Xena. I believe that if all three are brought together, the godhood will restore itself."
"But in which one?" Zeus stated as he stood up again. "The last thing we need is Ares emerging from this with that kind of power."
The fate shrugged, a gesture that was uncommon for the normally stoic woman. "I do not know that either. But, I have seen that the destinies of both Xena and Hace have been substantially altered by these events. That is what worries me most. The tapestry that enfolds all of us has suffered a great tear. There may be nothing we can do to right that."
As the fates words echoed around the chamber the doors to the room flew open and a young god rushed into the room. Zeus turned to the boyish god and his bellows reverberated off the chamber walls.
"You're supposed to be watching those two mortals. What are you doing here?" he shouted
The boy dropped to a knee in front of the king of gods and hurried to get his explanation out.
"I was sir, but I thought you would want to know this." He said hesitating briefly as he waited for Zeus's response.
"Make it quick" Zeus's gruff voice responded.
"Xena is preparing to attack the city." The boy responded. "It looks like there is going to be a battle down there very soon."
Zeus dismissed the god without a word. Once the chamber doors had securely closed again, the king of the gods turned back to the fate before him. "Now what?" he asked her, obviously perturbed by this news and unsure of how to proceed.
"If Xena attacks that village, Hace will die defending it." The fate answered, the news disturbing her just as much as it had disturbed Zeus.
"You can see his fate now?" Zeus asked hopefully.
"No" the fate answered shaking her head as she did. "I have watched him grow from a boy into a warrior. He will fight, I know that."
"And you think Xena would win such a fight?"
"I know that as well." The fate answered "If they were to come into close contact during a battle, the confusion Xena would experience due to their connection would only cause her to react more violently and with less control. Hace could never defeat her under those conditions." The fate paused as she considered the situation "Either way, one of them would die. I do not wish to find out what would happen should one of the parts of Haceran's godhood suddenly disappear."
"God's have died before. Why would this be any different?" Zeus asked
"This is the god of destiny. Destiny controls us all, much like fate. If one of us ceased to exist," She said referring to herself and her sister fates. "The world would never recover. The same is true for Haceran's godhood."
The fate paused for a moment before making her decision. "I can not let that happen."
"If Xena's destiny involves attacking Hace's village, you can't interfere with that." Zeus said
"No, but Hace can." She answered. "He holds the power within himself to avert Xena's path. He just does not know that yet. But he feels something, I will only have one chance to nurture that into something he can use to stop Xena."
With that, the fate disappeared to pay a visit to a dying man and his son. Zeus was left to stand-alone in the dimly lit chamber.
"What is this world coming to?" he asked the darkness
As Hace and Xena's hands met in a grip of truce, the energy that was always visibly radiating from both of them strengthened considerably. The air around them took on the faint smell of burning wood and the gleam in both of the warriors' eyes was outshined only by the smiles on their faces.
"Let's do this." Hace said in a voice so quiet that only Xena's keen hearing allowed her to hear it.
Xena glanced at Hace once more, noticing the familiar sparkle in his eyes. It was the same as the one she often saw when she would glance at a mirror, just before going into battle. Only in his eyes, it was not as repulsive as it was in her own. In him, the fire seemed to give him strength. An unfamiliar sense of ease filled the warrior as Hace turned those eyes on her and grinned. Everything suddenly felt so right. This was where she belonged and he was the person who had helped her get here. She felt the power surge through her as the advancing army grew closer and the sensation in her guts suddenly stopped. Leaving her feeling stronger than she had ever felt before. Her mind grew clear and as each soldier began to come into view, knowledge of exactly where each man's weak spot was began to float to the surface of her thoughts.
Fighting side-by-side, the pair of warriors attacked the approaching army with strength that would have made Ares himself envious. Vicious sword swipes accompanied Xena's battle cries as she went about decimating men who used to serve her. Hace's own sword cut a path through the army's ranks with an accuracy that filled the attacking soldiers with a sudden sense of regret. From atop the village walls, arrows, spears, and the occasional loose brick rained down on the frenzy.
Riderless horses stampeded through the battle crushing their luckless riders and anyone else who happened to stumble into their path. Hace found himself in the middle of the battlefield, surrounded on all sides by attacking soldiers. Then a familiar presence warmed against his back and he locked eyes with Xena, as she grinned dangerously over her shoulder at him. Back to back, they began to fight off anyone who dared to come to close. The bodies began to pile up at their feet as their combined strength easily handled all comers.
Caught up in the rhythmic pattern of sword strike after sword strike, Hace felt himself slide into a zone where he lacked fear, lacked thought, and reacted solely on instinct. At his back, he sensed that Xena was probably in the same place he was. And loving every minute of it.
The sounds of loud shouts and screams coming from the village walls behind him, made Hace briefly glance back towards his home. The shouts seemed out of place, despite the battle raging around them. The attacking soldiers had decided after several attempts that attacking the village itself, with its incredibly accurate archers, was not the approach they wanted to use. Instead, most were focusing their attack on the two lone warriors.
Hace turned towards the village, managing to deflect several blows, as he tried to get an idea as to what was going on upon the walls. Standing high atop the upper battlements, Kyle and Hansol were vehemently arguing with a stone-faced Warin. The older man was gesturing wildly with his hands and yelling at the top of his lungs. A sound that was all but drowned out in the battle that surrounded Hace. Then a thought crossed Hace's mind as he realized that he and Xena were still the only one's defending the village.
"Where in Tartarus are the troops?" he wondered to himself.
Fighting off more attackers, Hace began to make his way back towards the village gates where he intended to get his troops out into the field. Leaving Xena's warm presence behind him, Hace fought a path through man after man until he was standing just under the arguing trio. Well placed arrows had aided him considerably in his journey to this spot and they were now continuing to keep attacking soldiers away from him while he shouted up to the men standing above him.
"Get the troops out here." He yelled
"Why?" Warin answered, his face turning bright red with the rage he was feeling and the effort it took to make himself heard over the sounds of the battle. "So that woman can lead her army right into the city? I don't think so boy."
Hace turned around and looked for Xena's form in the slowly thinning mass of men who were surrounding her. He made eye contact with her and watched as a well-placed sword strike decapitated one of her former lieutenants.
Hace chuckled briefly before yelling back to the older man. "She's on our side you moron."
Warin glared at the warrior below him and sneered back at him. "If you believe that, then your more of a fool than your father was."
Hace's eyes glazed over with anger as he reflexively clenched his sword. "Open the Gates!" he yelled
Hansol moved toward the ladder that would take him down to the city level where he planned to open the gates himself. Before Hace's command, every request to send the troops out had been met by Warin's forceful opposition. Now with the word given by their commander, Hansol was more than happy to send out the cavalry to assist his friend.
Reacting with a speed that Hace did not believe the old man had in him, Warin grabbed Hansol by the back of his shirt and pulled the shorter boy next to him. Leering at Hace he pulled a dagger from inside his tunic and held it tightly against Hansol's throat.
"Now," he said "What were you saying about the gates, your highness?" Warin's voice raised as he spoke and Hace was sure that everyone from the men on the wall, to the amazon's in the next valley, could hear him. "Keep them closed you say." Warin continued. "Do you really think that's wise?"
"You son of a bitch" Hace said, rage filling him as he wished he could get his hands around Warin's slimy neck. The council member intended to make it look like Hace had never ordered the troops to attack. If Xena and he were to fail in there attempt to stop the soldiers and they were to enter the city, few would survive and Hace would take all the blame. Hace wanted to scream out the order to open the gates, to prevent Warin from having the satisfaction of watching him fail. But, the fear in Hansol's eyes told him that Warin was holding the dagger so close to his friends throat, that a mere flick of his wrist could kill the boy.
Watching his best friends eyes, Hace recognized Hansol's silent agreement to sacrifice himself for the good of the village. Hace hesitated and locked gazes with the boy, trying to allow his eyes to ask the question he had never imagined he would have to ask. Would you sacrifice your life to save the people you love? Hansol's small nod answered Hace. The young warrior lowered his head briefly and began to gather the breath he would need to make his order heard over the raging battle.
The sound died in his chest as his ears caught the familiar hiss of an arrow leaving its bow. Hace looked up to witness an arrow plunge itself into the council members chest. Warin dropped the dagger he had held against the terrified Hansol and clutched at the wood now protruding from his chest. The older man looked up to meet the eyes of the man who had sent the arrow deep into his heart.
Kyle was standing, cross bow still resting on his forearm and aimed at Warin. He did not even flinch as Warin made an unsuccessful attempt to grab for him. The council member staggered over to the wall and fell over it. Plummeting to his death at Hace's feet.
Hace looked up and met Kyle's eyes as his former rival lowered the crossbow and nodded briefly to his king. "Open the gates" Hace yelled to Kyle. Kyle nodded back and ran to complete his assigned task. Hansol and Hace traded silent apologies for what had almost happened. The younger boy picked up the crossbow at his feet and went about reloading it. He brought it to his shoulder and fired it into the crowd at Xena's back. Hace frowned as he watched Hansol's target fall. He had never wanted his friend to have to do such a thing.
The welcomed sound of the village gates creaking open made him realize that it was something he was going to have to get used to, and quickly. Members of the royal guard, led by Del, were the first to burst through the now partially opened gates. Shouts of joy at finally being able to join the fray ushered them, and those following closely behind, into the battle.
Hace located Xena in the crowd and threw himself back into the heart of the battle as he made his way back to her. Allowing his own troops to clear out whoever was left over.
Hours later the warrior prince was tired, bloody, and felt better than he had ever felt before. Standing beside the warrior princess, his blood caked sword resting on his shoulder, he watched as villagers on horseback chased the remaining soldiers across the valley. The retreating forms of their former attackers could be seen scattering all across the area as each man made for the quickest route he could take away from this place.
"Don't think you'll be hearing from them anytime soon." Xena said smiling as she examined her own sword, heavily encrusted with blood from more soldiers than she cared to count.
Hace nodded his agreement. "What are you going to do now?" he asked his companion
"Take a bath." She answered with a grin as she took in her blood-splattered clothing.
Hace laughed and together they walked back to the village where the cheers of Hace's kingdom welcomed them.
Freshly bathed and newly clothed, Hace and Xena sat together on a hill overlooking the valley that surrounded them. Content to sit in each others company, both allowed the silence to remain between them. Each was lost in their own thoughts and contemplations about the battle they had just won.
Hace lay on his back, feet stretched out in front of him as his mind drifted. He tried to ignore the sounds that were coming from below them. In front of the village gates, the task of cleaning up after the battle was underway. Casualties for his side had been low, other than Warin, only a handful of villagers had lost their lives today. Xena's former army had not been so lucky. Xena and he had inflicted heavy damage on their ranks and when battle had ended, their numbers had been severely depleted.
The young woman sat silent and pensive, quietly observing the river flowing off in the distance. She continued to wonder how she had been brought to this point. Her ever-present doubts would not allow her to simply accept it for what it was. Knowing that she had taken the first major step to recovering the life she had once wanted for herself, she wondered if she could continue on that path once this day was over.
Hace, her young savior, was a king now. She could not expect him to be there to keep her on this righteous journey. He had a kingdom to rule and his own life to live. While she knew her place in the world was out there somewhere, he belonged here.
Xena's mind shifted to other concerns as she realized for the first time that somebody was not going to be at all happy with her about this sudden change of plans.
'Wonder what Ares is thinking about all this.' She thought, allowing a smile to cross her lips as she pictured the gods expression when he heard about her sudden change of heart.
It was if her thoughts issued the god of war an invitation to make his presence known. Xena stood up from where she had been sitting on the grassy hill and turned to where she knew the god would appear. The familiar sensation that she had learned to associate with the god of war enveloped her, sending a cold chill down her spine and causing the hair on her arms to stand up.
Hace had jumped up from his bed of grass as well. He stood beside her now staring at the same point in space that had her eyes so fixated. The young man had one arm wrapped around his stomach and his face had gone completely pale as waves of energy begin to push and pull around him.
Xena saw the change in Hace's expression as pain enveloped his features and caused him to cry out. The boy dropped to his knees, both hands now cradling his stomach as if he was afraid it was going to explode. Without thinking Xena knelt next to her friend and moved to wrap an arm around his shoulders. The instant their flesh came into contact, a tremendous surge of energy wrapped around her arm. A flash of blue blinded Xena's eyes as she was flung backwards, landing a few feet away from the now still Hace.
When she opened her eyes a few moments later the extremely angry features of Ares, God of War met her. The god was standing over her, the glare in his eyes enough to drive any other mortal into a state of fear. But Xena was not any mortal. And right now, she was more concerned about Hace's safety.
She fought to get to her feet as waves of dizziness threatened to bring her crashing back down. Gaining her footing, The Warrior Princess began to make her way to where Hace was still doubled over in pain. Ares grabbed quickly for Xena's arm. As his fingers wrapped around her forearm, an identical burst of energy flung both god and mortal back to the ground. Both lay stunned and unmoving on the grass for several moments.
The pain passed as suddenly as it had arrived. Hace staggered to his feet and took a few calming breaths as his heart slowly stopped trying to beat its way out of his chest. Turning towards where he knew Xena to be, he watched as the strange man who had appeared from out of nowhere, fought to get up off the ground. Xena was sitting; holding her head in her hands, her eyes tightly closed.
Hace did not realize who the man before him was or where he had come from. All he could see was that Xena appeared to be injured and this man seemed to be the most likely culprit. With his strength returning, Hace was across the gap between them in a few steps. Coming up behind the man as he stood over Xena's form, Hace grabbed for Ares's leather tunic and spun the god around with a quick motion.
Ares eyes glazed over and rolled into the back of his head as he was again swept up in a powerful burst of energy. This time the god managed to drop to a knee before falling face first into the ground.
Hace landed on his butt with a thud. His ears were ringing and the dizziness that had left him only moments before returned. His recovery time was much quicker this time and it only took a few shakes of his head before the fuzziness that had taken over his mind disappeared. The God of War took a few more moments as he fought desperately to figure out what was going on around him. His encounter with the fate earlier that day had left him unconscious for several of the mortals candlemarks. This new attack on his strength found him once again weak and disoriented.
Gingerly, Hace stood up and began to walk over to where Xena was still sitting in the grass. He reached out a hand to help her up and the warrior princess quickly backed away from it shaking her head as she said, "No, don't touch me." Shaking her head again with evident confusion, she continued. "Nobody touch each other."
The young warrior retracted his hand and looked from the now standing Ares to the Warrior Princess.
"What the Hades is going on here?" Ares asked, putting voice to the question that was on all of their minds. The god carefully moved a few steps away from the two mortals before him. "Who are you?" he asked staring at Hace.
"I was about to ask you the same thing." Hace replied as he watched Xena who was attempting to stand on still wobbly legs.
"Ares, Hace. Hace, Ares." Xena said as she introduced the two old acquaintances.
Ares sneered at the boy before him. Turning to Xena he smiled at her and with barely contained laughter he asked, "You're leaving me for that?"
At any other moment in time, Hace would have blushed profusely at such a statement. Now, with barely contained energy flowing around the trio and confusion reigning supreme in his thoughts, the boy simply glared at the god of war.
Recovered from what had occurred to him, Ares wrote Hace off as being insignificant and turned back to Xena. The god of war was fully convinced that Xena's brief trip away from the path he had set out for her could be fixed in a matter of moments. Whatever her reasons for helping this boy here today, he felt assured that it would not happen again.
"You have some explaining to do Xena." Ares said
Xena looked towards Hace and quickly averted her eyes as Hace's blue ones tried to lock with her own.
Hace tried to gauge the warrior princess's emotions but found that the woman would not meet his gaze. For but a brief instant he got a peek inside those azure depths and was horrified by what he saw there. Was that an apology he saw in the woman's gaze?
"No." he yelled, almost startling himself with the sound of his own voice. Hace waited for Ares to turn towards him before he continued. "She doesn't have to explain anything to anybody. Least of all to you." He said
Ares laughed deeply at this statement. But as Hace began to walk towards him, his smile quickly disappeared as he felt something deep inside him began to push towards the approaching boy.
"She doesn't belong to you anymore Ares." Hace said.
Each step Hace took brought him closer to where Xena and Ares were now standing beside each other. "Let her go." He added as he stopped less than an arms length away from the god. Hace could feel it now. An almost solid presence that existed between the three of them and was pulling him ever closer to them. The previous shocks that they had all received from physically touching each other was the only thing that kept the young warrior from reaching out to grab hold of the connection that he could sense was there.
"You," Ares began, pausing briefly for emphasis "are not worth my time." He finished staring at the young man who stood fearlessly before him.
The words resounded within Hace's mind. As Ares once again turned his back to him the words clicked with memories that had been buried within him years before. The young man found himself saying words that lacked meaning to him at the moment, but seemed to fit the situation.
"What are you going to do this time Ares?" he asked
The god of war turned back to Hace and as his last words were carried off by the wind, he suddenly realized where he had seen this boy before. Recently drudged up memories of a small blonde boy floated into his conscious mind.
"You" Ares breathed the word and unconsciously took a step forward. The god jumped back as the odd sensation of two energy forces mingling threatened to engulf him.
Hace pressed his advantage, taking a step forward and forcing the god back as he continued to speak. "There's no where left to banish me to, Ares." Hace said with a small smile.
Xena watched this exchange with rapt attention. Confusion and awe began warring across her features as she watched the god of war hastily back away from the approaching young man. Hace stopped directly in front of her and again she felt the warm wash of strength wash over her. Ares warily remained off to her side, but close enough that she could still feel his presence.
Ares' eyes darted from Hace to Xena and back again. "You did this." He uttered scorn pulling his voice to a deeper octave.
The young warrior simply shrugged. "Her destiny doesn't lie with you any longer." Hace said
The god's anger exploded into a fit of rage as he saw his plans for the Warrior Princess slowly beginning to crumble in front of him. Without thinking he darted forward, closing the distance between himself and the boy. Using all his godly strength, he managed to ignore the waves of energy that began cascading around him as he reached for the boy's throat. Wrapping his fingers around Hace's flesh, Ares picked the warrior off the ground and held him there. Fully intending to send the boy to Hades, where he would finally be rid of this nuisance.
Xena reacted to Ares' movement. Her instincts taking over even before the god had reached Hace. As the god's hands were wrapping themselves around the boy's throat, her own were grabbing onto Ares and pulling for all she was worth. Hace's own hands had found themselves wrapped around the strong hands that were holding him elevated above the ground. All three managed to get a secure hold upon each other before the force that had encircled them surged to life.
In a cloudless sky, the sound of thunder could be heard rolling across the valley. The exchange of energy was almost instantaneous as three pieces of one soul went sliding home together. The sizzling and crackling of released energy died away and the three individuals atop the hill slumped to the ground.
Hace opened his eyes to find himself staring into orbs as blue as his own. His head was being cradled in the lap of a woman he vaguely recognized. Memories of her had been erased by time and distance, but the warm sense of love he felt radiating from the woman was as familiar to him as his own body.
The young man's eyes blinked rapidly as he fought to clear the dizziness that had invaded his senses. Events of moments before eluded his grasp as he tried to recall what had caused him to now be lying in this woman's arms.
The woman's eyes lingered over his own and for a moment he was filled with an overwhelming desire to reach out and hug the stranger. But, she broke the contact by looking away. Glancing behind her she watched as another form approached the prone warrior, she so carefully held.
Hace recognized this visitor immediately. As she spoke his memories slid into place.
"How are you Hace?" the fate asked
Confused, Hace did not answer. He lay silently trying to make sense of everything that had happened. He remembered the woman before him paying him a visit in his father's room, he remembered what she had said, and he remembered Xena.
Jumping to his feet with a look of pure panic in his eyes, Hace shouted, "Xena, where is she?"
The fate walked over to the boy before her and patiently waited for him to calm down.
"What do you remember?" she asked when Hace had finally stopped frantically scanning the valley below them.
Hace paused briefly, and then he closed his eyes as if trying to put his memories into pictures. "I remember standing here, with Xena. And Ares." Hace's eyes grew wide as he uttered the name of the god of war. "He has her! I've got to find them." He shouted again.
The older woman stepped in front of him and placed a warm hand on his shoulder. "There will be plenty of time for that." The fate turned the anxious boy back towards the strange woman who he had first sighted when he awoke. "Do you know who this is?" the fate asked
Stopping his immediate impulse to say no, Hace considered the woman before him. She was young, perhaps only a few years older than he was. Her golden hair hung loosely about her shoulders and her eyes shined with intensity that Hace found to be vaguely familiar. In her hands, she clutched a small wooden horse, it was worn and the paint had begun to flake off in pieces. Hace found himself hypnotized by the toy.
The woman before him took in the boy's gaze and took a few ginger steps forward. She glanced at the fate and at the elder woman's nod, she began to speak.
"We thought that something from your childhood might bring your memories back." The woman said. "This is the only thing I managed to save." Wimia looked down at the small toy in her hands and remembered the day she had rescued her child's plaything from her husbands rage. Upon learning that his only child had been banished to the mortal world, Atlan had gone about destroying every trace that the boy had ever existed. Wimia had stashed this small item away; never really knowing why she had felt compelled to do so.
Her son, now fully grown, reached out and took the toy from her hands. His blue eyes shone with the thoughts that were racing through his mind. He fingered the rough edges of the item and when he finally looked back up to meet his mothers waiting gaze, the smile that had replaced the confusion was enough to make Wimia burst into tears.
"Mother?" Hace asked. Still not entirely sure how he now knew this, but trusting it all the same, as he allowed himself to be taken into his mothers embrace. The fate watched in wonder as mother and son were reunited. The glow that had surrounded him in her previous encounters with the young warrior was still there, but it's intensity matched that of any god she had ever laid eyes on. But she had to be sure.
"Give me your hand Hace." The elder fate ordered.
Hace did as he was told and placed his strong hand in the fates palm. The fate could feel the young man's power before their bodies had even connected. She smiled as the realization that Hace had somehow regained his godhood hit her.
Standing silently, his hand resting in the light grasp of the fate, Hace let himself drift in the calmness that surrounded him. He let his eyes slide shut and the power that was his godhood finally realized it had found its rightful place. As the strength of the God of Destiny returned to the once mortal body it was housed in, Hace found himself watching an image of a raven-haired beauty riding at a full gallop into battle. Ares laughing face protruded into his thoughts and the picture of him standing beside Xena, the battle lust evident in both their eyes made the newly reborn god's eyes flutter open in surprise.
"He's got her." He said as he turned to stare at the spot where the warrior princess and the god of war had walked away from the valley. Awakening well before Hace, Ares had made a quick exit. Unsure of exactly what had occurred, the God of War no longer wanted to be anywhere near this valley. Ares had taken a very dazed and confused Xena with him.
"Will you go after them?" Wimia asked. The fate had related all the recent events to the goddess moments before the pair of them appeared here on earth beside Hace's unconscious form. The fate had warned her that if in fact Hace's godhood had returned to him, as she suspected it had, things would precede rapidly from there. Almost as if the god's eleven years as a mortal had been but a brief distraction from the duties he would now carry as the God of Destiny.
Hace continued to stare off into the distance. The confusion that had ruled his thoughts only moments before had completely disappeared. He was left with pure knowledge of the world around him. He could see clearly what the future held for the Warrior Princess, and with a great deal of regret, he admitted to himself and the two women gathered around him, that he was no longer a part of the warrior woman's destiny.
"No." he answered his mother after a long pause. "No, I won't go after them." Hace let out a small sigh and turned away from the spot where Xena had last stood as a force against evil and as his friend. "Xena has no memory of what happened here these last few days. As far as she knows, she never left her path to stand with me."
Wimia could see how deeply this revelation had hurt her son. She saw plainly in his eyes the war that was raging between what his heart wanted and what the knowledge he had was telling him. "I'm sorry." Was all she said
Hace turned to her and smiled briefly. "It is what is meant to be." The order of things had been restored to a state that was as close to what should have been as possible. Hace now knew this, and no matter how much he disliked it, he realized that Xena was indeed destined to walk a portion of her path in life at Ares' side.
"Is that wise?" the fate asked, "Someone with her strength can be a very dangerous weapon in Ares' hands."
The god of destiny chuckled. "I believe Ares will soon learn that he has taken on a handful in her." Hace paused to consider his words before continuing. "But she will not be his for long."
"You will guide her back to her proper path?" The fate asked
Again, Hace shook his head in response. "No, that is not my place anymore. That task belongs to others whom Xena will meet during the course of her life."
"You can see all this?" Wimia asked her son. The goddess was still unsure about the full extent of her boy's powers. The fate had explained Hace's role to her, but she was still having trouble realizing that Hace was actually a god again and that she had regained her son.
Hace allowed the vision of Xena's future to play through his mind. He smiled as he watched her take one step after another toward redemption. Many souls would take over his task of bringing her back from the path Ares had started her on. Only one would actually succeed. An image of golden hair and shining emerald eyes filled Hace's conscious mind. He nodded once at his mother and let the sense of relief he was feeling work its way to his eyes.
"I know this." He answered. The image of two people walking down the same path, side-by-side and connected through a bond so deep that nothing in this world could ever separate them. The God now knew that at some point in Xena's future, her path would cross with the one person who could save her soul. The two of them, together, would change the world.
Hace walked back to the fate and his mother. He wrapped his muscular arms around both of their shoulders and smiled at them. "Everything will turn out alright in the end. Destiny is inevitable and it will always bring you back to where you belong."
A brilliant flash of white light filled the valley as the three beings atop a hill, in a valley full of them, disappeared from the constraints of the mortal world.
|Listings of works by Chrystal Barrett|
|Return to the Fan Fiction area|