Author's Note: I do not own Xena, Hercules, or the Greek Pantheon.
Along an empty, moonlit shore, waves lapped gently. It was a deceptively peaceful night; frequently, smugglers and pirates chose this secluded beach for its ease of landing and relative distance from any civilization. Tonight, however, nothing stirred. Nothing, that is, until a gigantic whirlpool formed just offshore. The water churned white, spinning faster and faster, until a hand emerged from the epicenter. With a gasp, a dark head broke the surface.
“I sure hope this is California!”
* * * * *
Xena and Gabrielle had been traveling for nearly two weeks of peace. For some strange reason, they had not been attacked by either bandits or warlords for that entire time. Considering that the area they were passing through had seen far better years, the quiet seemed the calm before the storm. They were nearing the outskirts of Chaeronae, a medium-sized village where they hoped to get some news.
On approach to the city, the two beheld a rather gristly sight. There, in front of the town gate, was a cluster of stakes, each one displaying the severed head of a man. Judging from the scars, they appeared to be either soldiers or bandits. The only other thing that seemed out of place was the apparent care taken in washing the heads-each seemed very clean, in contrast with their rough appearance.
Gabrielle leaned closer to Xena. “I don't like the looks of this. Why are there so many dead? Was there an invasion?”
Xena shrugged. The heads, while gruesome, weren't very disturbing compared to the average battlefield. “I don't know. Maybe a scouting party was ambushed, and it's a warning to others? Either way, stay close until we figure it out.”
The two proceeded into the town, keeping a sharp eye out for trouble. They first headed to the central marketplace, as it was too early to hit a tavern. While a market might not have as good of information, it was usually cheaper to obtain. Xena dismounted at a small farrier's stall, and leaned in.
“Ampelios, you old dog, how are you?” Xena briefly clasped arms with the older man.
“I'm well, Xena, times here are good, very good indeed for business.” He crossed his arms. “And what brings you here? I would have thought that you'd head off for more troubled areas. There's very little to fight around here.”
“That's what I'm curious about. On our way into the city, we saw the heads mounted on pikes. Were you invaded?”
Ampelios shook his head and gestured for his visitors to sit. “Nothing of the sort. Actually,” he nodded to Gabrielle, “the story is more like one of your bard's tales rather than anything as commonplace as that. We'd been having more than our fair share of bandits in the area, those are the heads out at the city gates. Then, one day, a strange sign appeared in the air, a sign made of water. Some said it was the mark of Poseidon.”
Gabrielle shifted impatiently. “Well, what did the sign say?” she demanded.
“We couldn't read it,” the farrier smirked. “It was written in some strange words that no one knew how to read. Kleitos, one of the old soldiers here who's done some traveling, said that it looked like something from the far east.” He paused to take a drink of water. “Well, the city sent out some soldiers to take a look. They found the place where the sign had been, and it was a mess. Near as they could figure out, some bandits had been attacked by water. No one was left there, though. So, the alert was sent up and the next time the sign was spotted, a patrol went out right quick.”
“Did they manage to catch anyone?” Xena's posture was relaxed, but it was clear to anyone who knew her that she was fascinated.
“Oh, yes, indeed. Half the bandits were knocked out, and they were all tied up with their own belts. They were soaking wet, too, looked to have been half drowned. Before they were, well, you know, finished off, they all said that they had tried to attack a lone traveler, foreign by his looks. When they tried to rob him, his eyes glowed, his hair grew, and great big columns of water attacked them. He was shouting in some foreign language, and only knew a few Greek words like kill, death, and apocalypse. They figured he must be some sort of foreign water god or sea god. No idea why one of those'd be here, though.”
Xena and Gabrielle exchanged looks. Finally, Xena stood up. “Thanks for your help, Ampelios. You always did have the most interesting news. We'd better find this guy, and make sure he's not going to be a problem. If Poseidon hears about a foreign sea god in his territory, who knows what he'd do.”
He beamed. “Well, if you do find him, thank him for us. He helped make this area a whole lot safer.”
The friends made their goodbyes, then headed to an inn for the night. If the story was true, there might be a new god or demigod out there, making Greece a safer place. But if he was a danger in disguise...he would be dealt with, one way or another.
Thank you to everyone for their suggestions. Keep them coming!
Next time...clash of the Titans! Or Xena vs. Xander!