Chasing the Past
Gabrielle and Xena finally caught up with Livia. She was not happy to find the city gates closed to her. She demanded entrance as Octavian's representative and commander of his armies.
"Emperor Octavian left me in charge of the city, and strict orders that you longer have any standing with Rome.
His lips curled maliciously as he imparted the news to her. She had lorded over the men, treating them as if they were her own personal army. Livia had their fear, not their loyalty.
"The Emperor sailed for the mother country as soon as you were out of sight. No one will follow you again, Livia. Go and see if you can survive without the hand of Rome protecting you."
He spat over the edge of the gate causing Livia to jump back. She spun her horse around cursing Octavian, Xena and anyone else she could think of for her current predicament. That was anyone but herself. She looked up to the skies and screamed her lover's name.
He appeared with a flash of light and his trademark smirk firmly in place. "You screeched dear."
His eyebrow rose in challenge. Livia remembered their last meeting and quickly changed her tone.
"I need you, Ares. I have no one but you."
She moved closer to him, and smoothed her hands over his bare chest. They slid inside his leather vest to tease flat brown nipples.
Goose pimples pricked his skin, but he caught her hands to stop their movements. Ares knew Livia better than she knew herself. She reminded him so much of Xena in the early years. Just thinking her name caused her beautiful face to appear in his mind's eye.
Xena and Gabrielle watched from their hiding place. It was all Gabrielle could do to keep her lover from going after the God of War.
"Xena, please, calm down. We can't talk to her with him there. It's obvious they are involved and if you attack him, Eve will only pull further away from you."
The Warrior Princess walked away, knowing Gabrielle was right. It didn't make it any easier. She couldn't believe her daughter and ex-lover were involved. It felt incestuous in her mind. Too many things had happened in a single day for Xena to wrap her mind around them all. She closed her eyes, only to see Eve kill Elissa without remorse. It was still unfathomable to her mother's heart to realize Livia and Eve were one in the same. Her daughter surpassed her mother's ruthless and bloodthirsty past, which broke Xena's heart. She thought Eve safe if she wasn't around, but now she realized it had only made things worse.
"We did the only thing we could. Everything we did was to protect her, Xena. No one could foresee the way this would all come about."
A small hand cupped Xena's cheek to force her to turn back to the bright green eyes that loved her so well. Xena closed her own piercing blue eyes and reveled in the peace Gabrielle's touch always gave her.
"I know but she is so close, and I want to help her. How could she turn out this way? She is worse than anything I ever did. It wasn't supposed to turn out like this. She was supposed to have a good life…become a good person."
"You changed and it only took the right person to help you see what you were doing was wrong. Hercules helped you, and we will help her. I know what it feels like to do something you wished you could take back and so do you. We can teach Eve how to live with what she has done, and help her learn how to become a better person."
They turned back to continue listening to Eve and Ares' conversation.
"What happened, Livia? I thought you planned to show those heathens the error of their ways."
"There were more of them than the scouts reported and they ambushed us. They annihilated my entire army. I barely escaped with my life, but took out that Amazon bitch. Too bad, I didn't get a chance to kill the Warrior Princess."
Livia screamed when Ares hauled her roughly up to growl in her face.
"Did anything happen to her. Tell me now!"
"Why? What do you care about some pathetic fool who fights with these savages?"
Ares shook her until Livia thought her neck would snap.
"I didn't do anything to her…when I left she still lived."
Ares dropped her and walked away. He closed his eyes, taking a deep breath to calm his racing heart.
"She would have handed you your head. It's lucky you decided to run than stay and fight."
Livia's eyes narrowed as she felt the insult like a physical blow. She jumped to her feet in outrage.
"What are you talking about? I could have taken her.
She didn't like the way his lips curled into that knowing smile. Livia knew she needed to turn this situation around. She waved her hands as if to erase the air. She lowered her eyes, and allowed her shoulders to drop.
"What am I supposed to do now, Ares? Octavian returned to Rome without me. I thought he cared for me, but now can see you're the only one who really cared."
She looked up at him with a soft look in her eyes. Eve never intended to end her relationship with the God of War when she married Octavian.
"You'll take care of me won't you?"
Her lips trembled in an uncharacteristic display of innocence.
"Sorry Livia, you're on your own. I have something I need to take care of, ta."
He was gone as quickly as he appeared. Livia stared at the empty ground as if it would somehow make him reappear.
Elissa followed the trail all the way to the first outpost. During the night, six Amazons mysteriously disappeared from their holding cell. She sliced through the night, like a hot knife, knocking out the guards. Her tribeswomen's captures did not treat them kindly. Elissa feral smile lit the night as she watched them hobble into the night, until the shadows closed around them.
She directed them to stay within the woods, which belonged to Artemis. Elissa reassured them that their patron goddess would protect them on their journey home. Artemis as the Goddess of the Moon and Hunt provided safe haven to her warriors, regardless of their location.
Assured her Amazons were safely on their home, Elissa turned her attention back to the matter at hand. She moved through the town until she found exactly what she was looking for - the slave auctioneer. She slipped into the house and made her way to the master's bedroom.
Selicious woke when he felt the cold edge of a blade pressed into his neck. He fought the need to swallow.
"What, what do you want? I am but a humble tradesman and have no wealth."
"That isn't what I heard. The Amazons you sold, brought you a pretty price. I want to know who bought them and where they went.
The sharp blade pressed further into his skin. Selicious closed his eyes, and prayed to any god who would listen. The voice whispering in his ear scared him nearly as much as the knife they wielded.
"Tell me and I will leave you as I found you. Speak or I start slicing…wonder how you would look with one ear."
Elissa nicked his ear for good measure.
"Don't please, don't. I will tell you whatever you want to know but please don't hurt me. A man who serves Gurkhan bought them for his harem. His stronghold is in the city, Mogador. It is in North Africa. A wall surrounds the entire city. But, Gurkhan is not a man you want to mess with."
"Let me worry about that. How many did he buy? I know they wouldn't have taken all of them."
Elissa removed her sword but didn't move away from the slave trader. She didn't want him to get too comfortable.
"There were two others that took some of the girls. One was from Japan and the other from Norway. I'm not sure who the girls were for, I swear. That's all I know."
Selicious was sweating and praying to every deity he could think of. He closed his eyes expecting to feel the cold steel bite into his neck. When nothing happened, he opened them again only to realize he was once again alone.
Elissa moved through the outpost to the outskirts where she had left the black. She quietly led the large horse through a dense forest. Creating a smokeless fire, she sat staring into it until her eyes no longer saw the flames.
"Artemis, I call to you. Your humble servant needs your guidance and council."
The Moon Goddess appeared before Elissa in a blink of blinding light.
"What do you need from me, child?"
She sat across from the fire and looked at the woman who would carry on the Amazon ways after she was gone. No matter what Athena thought, Artemis knew the Twilight of the Gods would soon be here. The Fates were never wrong and their tapestry was almost through.
"I have sworn to free my sisters from their enslavement, but the need to avenge my mother's death weighs heavy on my heart. Which should I pursue first; I am afraid if I don't get them back quickly, they will be lost forever. Please Artemis, what should I do?"
Large green eyes looked into the blue ones of the Goddess of the Hunt.
"You will face a choice, and only you will know which path to take. Until that time arrives, go and free my followers. Your numbers are growing smaller and if your tribe is not strong then I'm afraid your way of life will fade forever. Elissa, there is much you will learn in the days to come. Know the most important is to always follow Amazon law. It will carry you through even the darkest times. Promise me, you won't forget my words."
Elissa bowed her head in obedience and supplication.
"I promise. My mother taught me why our laws are so important. I will honor your request and her teachings."
Artemis kissed the small blonde's forehead then disappeared. Wrapping her cloak around her tired body, Elissa quickly drifted off to sleep. Artemis continued to watch over her charge guiding her to witness part of her lost memories. She knew Elissa wouldn't find out Gabrielle was her mother until the time was right, which wasn't now. Elissa couldn't interfere in the gods coming twilight; it was not part of her fate. Artemis was saddened to know she would not be there to watch this woman mold the Amazon nation into a glory none had ever dreamed. When the Fates told Artemis of Elissa destiny, she could barely comprehend how this small child would play such a large part in the world's future.
Elissa fell into the dreamscape. She saw a clearing and recognized a group of Siberian Amazon's. It was almost as if they could feel her watching them. She continued to watch and to her surprise, she saw one woman held a baby in her arms. The others surrounded mother and child, creating a living wall of flesh. Somehow, Elissa could see everything that happened. She knew how each woman had ended up here, who they were and why they could not cross over into the Amazon's land of the dead. She didn't understand why they were here instead of in Eternity.
In the blink of an eye, she knew she was the baby. It represented her spirit, her soul. The woman who held her was her mother but she couldn't see her face, only blond hair the same as her own. A sharp pain hit her directly over her heart and it was all she could do not to cry out. Memories rushed at her with a Fury's rage. She saw the woman impregnated by Dahak then herself in the womb. Elissa felt the struggle between her soul and that of the abomination. It was her darker half. The one called Hope then later the Destroyer inherited everything that was dark from Dahak, where Elissa was the only piece of good left buried deep inside him.
Finally, coming back to the woman holding the child, she saw she was starting to fade. The others gathered around her trying to give comfort. Her mother wept loudly when she realized her baby wasn't going with her.
Cyane, the former Amazon Queen of the tribe Xena killed stepped forward. "We will watch over the little one. There has to be a reason for her being here, and we will care for her until it comes to pass."
"How can I leave my child? How will I feel whole without her in my life?" Tears filled her eyes and overflowed onto her cheeks.
"There is a special purpose for this child. We won't know until the gods decide it is time for her fate to unfold."
Before anything else could be said, her mother faded from site. Artemis stood before her followers but stopped them from bowing at her feet.
"No, my daughters, I come to help you cross over and to take this child onto her destiny. I will allow you time to give her a proper goodbye. Just know the Amazon nation and all it represents will rest on her delicate shoulders. Bless her with your best wishes, daughters."
The regal goddess stepped away, knowing each woman fell in love with the child the moment they saw her.
Cyane now held the precious bundle and her tribe came up one at a time to give there blessing.
"May you have my eye and see what is close at hand and distant. Look and understand, little one."
"I gift you with my skill with the staff for it kept me alive on many occasions."
"You will have my memory, so you will never forget all that came before so it will not be repeated in the future."
"My skill with the sword."
"My speed of foot."
"My knowledge of healing."
"My ability to track even the lightest of markings."
Each woman stepped forward placing a kiss on the small forehead and blessed her with their strongest trait. If they could do nothing else, they wanted the baby to have everything they could give her. They moved away with tears in their eyes and as each new woman joined the group, they held onto each other the way they longed to hold onto the child. As each gift was transferred to the child, a soft golden glow encased her tiny body.
Cyane was last. She looked down into eyes of the purest green. The baby looked back at her as if she understood everything that was happening and Cyane wasn't sure she didn't.
"My gift to you is my knowledge of warfare and the ability to lead. I know the goddess will watch over you and keep you safe."
Cyane walked over to Artemis and carefully placed the baby into her waiting arms. The Amazon queen went to join her tribe, finding comfort in their welcome embrace. They disappeared in a warm light leaving Artemis alone with her charge.
"You will not remember this time until it is needed, little one. You are the hope of all Amazons, and I pray you can handle the demand."
Artemis left Elissa's dreamscape. She knew it wasn't time for her to learn about Gabrielle. The Fates told her that she would know when it was the right time. Unlike her sister, Athena, Artemis was satisfied to allow the threads of Elissa's destiny to unfold at will.
Unknown to either woman, the self-proclaimed ruler of the gods decided to take fate into her own hands. She had just learned Livia was Eve, Xena's child. The one being in the universe destined to bring about the Twilight of the Gods. She knew the perfect words to say to the young Amazon Queen. The words that would set a chain of events in place none could foresee the outcome.
Athena appeared beside the sleeping Elissa. She woke in an instant. She couldn't help but wonder at all she learned on the dreamscape. Who was my mother? Why couldn't I see her face?
The Ruler of the Gods sat waiting for the young Amazon to fully wake.
"Hello, young queen. I have important information you must know and act upon."
Elissa bowed her head to Athena in an act of respect.
"Why do you want from me? I serve Artemis. Do you not have your own followers to give this task to?"
"You are needed to kill Xena's daughter. I have discovered she lives, and it will mean the death of the gods, including Artemis. My sister would never ask you to do this, but she needs you. We all need you or everything we stand for is lost."
"I didn't know that bitch had a daughter. Who is she?"
"You know her by Livia but her real name is Eve. Her birth is responsible for the death of my mother and father. I know she slaughtered entire Amazon tribes. If she isn't stopped, she will succeed in wiping out the rest."
Athena shook her auburn head and the shine of her golden armor glowed in the firelight.
Elissa knew she was telling the truth but there was something she was leaving out. A mental shrug did away with any concerns she had to the goddess' true reasons since they mirrored her own desires.
"I will take care of the bitch and her pup with pleasure. They are responsible for my true mother's death. Is the reason I didn't stay dead because of Dahak's blood flowing in my veins?"
"Yes, you are immortal because of him but you are nothing like him. Well, not the way he was when he was finally banished. All gods are one part good and one part evil; it is how we choose to use our power that determines which is stronger."
Elissa didn't bother to ask which one had the upper hand with Athena. Taking the reins of ruling Olympus, after her parent's death, had changed the goddess. She also realized Xena and Gabrielle not to mention Livia were several days away from her current location.
Athena was satisfied she would get what she wanted without disturbing the rules. She wasn't sending any gods after Xena and her daughter. It was ironic Gabrielle's daughter would kill them.
Happy to have set the wheels in motion, she disappeared in sparkling golden lights.