Saga: The Hades Wave
Title: The Key Of Hades or Tales of a Road Warrior Princess 6.0
Rating: PG-13 (Strong Language)
Genre: (Gargoyles/ X-Men/ Hercules/ Xena Crossover) Supernatural/ Fantasy/Angst
Characters: Wren Summers-Nightkind (Moirai), Demona, Elisa Maza, Goliath, Hank McCoy (Beast), David Xanatos, Charles Xavier (Professor X), Kevyn Xorbo, Gabrielle, Demetrius Nightkind, Kurt Wagner-Darkholme (Nightcrawler) and Xena; Road Warrior Princess
DISCLAIMER: I DON'T OWN X-MEN. THEY BELONG TO MARVEL. I DON'T OWN GARGOYLES. THEY BELONG TO DISNEY. I DON'T OWN HERCULES: THE LEGENDARY JOURNEYS OR XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS. THEY BELONG TO RENAISSANCE PICTURES. ANYONE AND ANYTHING ELSE BELONGS TO THEIR DEITY (ME) DENIGODDESS2001. ORIGINAL CHARACTERS MAY NOT BE USED WITHOUT EXPRESSED PERMISSION OF THE AUTHOR.
Author's Note: I don't believe in actorfic. It violates the privacy of the actor and it's usually lazy fic. However, in the 4th season, Kevin Sorbo portrayed himself in "Yes, Virginia. There is a Hercules." I have chosen to use that fictional representation here in this tale. To show respect and distinction, I have purposely misspelled the fictional portrayal's name...thus, Kevyn Xorbo.
Warning: Spoilers for the Xena episodes "The Xena Scrolls," "Chakrum," and "Send In The Clones." There are also references to my previous fics.
If you are thoroughly confused or have questions...don't be afraid to ask. To make smoother reading...email me at Denigoddess2001@aol.com and I'll fill in the gaps for you.
[Bracketed words indicate private thoughts or psionic transmission]
Tuesday, November 8, 2001
The Xavier Institute
Wren stared at the accursed device sitting on the desk before her. She silently cursed Alexander Graham Bell a thousand times for inventing the blasted contraption. Her gut twisted into several knots as she attempted to find courage to do what needed done. [Why do I get myself into these things? Why couldn't I have just kept my mouth shut? No, I had to pipe up and suggest possession. That was not the most brilliant thing I've ever accomplished. I can't believe I said I knew Professor Xorbo. Now, the entire lot is looking to me and I just want to go home, swing on my front porch with Demetrius, sip his homemade lemonade, and watch the sun set.]
The telephone still sat in front of her as a silent, lurking opponent that refused her denial. She half-expected it to show teeth and growl. [I have to do this some time. Remember Wren...heart of an eagle...heart of an eagle...BULLSHIT.]
She reached within her purse and withdrew her organizer. Her life as she knew it was contained within the small leather tome full of addresses, business cards, telephone numbers and Internet URLs. She flipped though the pages with efficient speed. The organizer became an augmentation of Wren's methodical temperament with hundreds of addresses and named written crisply in legible block script. Some would have called the young researcher anal-retentive and regimented had they seen her calendar filled with appointments with clients and colleagues for the next eighteen months. She swiftly found her fingers dancing along the pages of the "X" section of her address book. A satisfied smile spread across her features.
"Xanadu...home number, Xanatos, David ...office number, Xanatos, David ....home number, Xavier Institute...general information, Xavier Institute. ...Hank's lab, Xavier Institute ....Charles' office number, home phone. Ah!" Her finger tapped the next address triumphantly. "Xorbo, Kevyn Dafydd...office number, official fan club number, home number."
She hesitantly lifted the receiver from its cradle. She glanced briefly at her watch and saw that it was 10:30 Eastern Standard Time. Linoma Bluffs Metroplex was located in the Central time zone. She knew it her former employer was probably tending to the first paperwork of the day I his office. Wren let her finger do the walking and the numbers flew from her fingertips. 402-824-1958 (NOT A REAL NUMBER, FOLKS!)
She waited several seconds as the phone took it's sweet time to ring. [I hate bothering him like this, Kevyn's has to keep the world safe from Ares and I'm bothering to ask for directions. What a way to start my day.]
"Hello, Linoma Bluffs Museum of Ancient History. This is Gabrielle, how may I direct your call?" A pleasant voice with a subtle southern drawl greeted Wren. Her delicately arched brows almost flew off her face. Wren pulled the receiver from her ear and stared at if as though it had grown legs and a tail. [Since when does Kevyn need a secretary?]
"Yes, this is Wren Summers with Xanatos Enterprises." She used her best authoritarian tone. She hoped that she sounded confident and influential. "I'd like to speak with Professor Xorbo please."
"I'm sorry, but Professor Xorbo is currently in conference with a patron." The voice droned. "May I take a message? Then, he can return your call at his earliest convenience."
Wren resisted the urge to growl in frustration at the secretary-playing goalie with her call. She abhorred speaking with people over the telephone. She wanted to throw the phone receiver against the wall and watch it shatter into a hundred plastic piece, but she thought better of it. There was an eerily familiar note in that voice. [I know I've heard that voice before, but where?]
"Gabrielle, it's very important that I speak with Professor Xorbo immediately." Wren pressed. "Once he knows that it's me on the line, I'm confident that he'll take my call. I have to ask you to direct my call immediately to his office."
"I'm sorry, Ms. Summers, but I can't do that. That is against office policy." The pleasant voice efficienctly cut her second attempt off at the roots. Wren's grip tightened on the receiver. Her hand tightened on the receiver. [Wanna play hardball, honey? Try this.]
Wren stared again at the receiver and let her luckmagick brim within her body. She'd never attempted sending her energies through an electronic medium. [If I can help Elisa set up residence, maybe I can persuade this chick to let me talk to Kevyn.]
She heard a torrent of words spoken in a harsh voice on the other end of the line.
A rush of realization flooded over Wren. Each word echoed inside her mind. Each became warped as it reverberated inside her thoughts. She felt as though she were reaching back through the mists of ancient memory as each word zipped from Linoma Bluffs to Wren's ear. It became pristinely clear exactly where Wren had heard that voice. She had been an active card-carrying member of C.H.A.K.R.A.M (Center for the Historical Accuracy of Key Research in Ancient Mythology) doing dissertation research at the International Institute For Herculean and Xenaic Studies in Linoma Bluffs.
Wren remember how her supervising instructor, Dr. Alexis Los Alamos, seethed about Wren's minor inaccuracy in a Xena scroll involving Alti. The experience at the Institute turned Wren into a hard-core nutball Xena fan. She also remembered that summer when Dr. Los Alamos challenged the authenticity of the scroll. Wren's summer vacation to Macedonia to the Tomb of the Scrolls provided her with much information. That information allowed her to read Dr. Alamos' research notes for the Xena Project. She had also seen the work in progress and talked to the clones produced by Dr. Alamos.
Wren had been slated to teach them English, but one too many inquiries from the young researcher resulted in her termination from the Xena Project. Wren knew that voice. She mistook the Southern Grecian lilt for a Texas drawl. [Maybe it's time I try another approach.]
She cleared her throat and dug through the remnants of her recent trip to Greece. She hoped that her grammar and inflection were flawless. The ancient Greek flowed from her lips as she directed her words to the secretary on the end of the line. [Conversational Ancient Greek 101..Just what every time-traveling mutant should know!] "Gabrielle, this is Rensumeres. I need to speak with Hercules at once."
"Nice try." The skeptical reply came in English. "I thought I had heard them all. If you want Professor Xorbo's autograph, try contacting his official fan club. I'd be happy to give you the number-"
"You don't understand-" Wren retorted in Greek. "I served as one of Draco's lieutenants as Rensumeres. I worked for Professor Xorbo, alias Hercules, earlier this summer. I know that Dr. Alexis Los Alamos cloned you from a two thousand year old hair sample. Now, by the seven bowels of Tartarus, will you let me speak to Hercules!? Or do I need to go into the strategic battle plans used by Draco when he captured Amphipolis?"
There was a silence on the other end of the line. Wren waited anxiously for any sign from the woman she knew was the Battling Bard of Potedeia ...or at least, a clone thereof. The reply in Greek caused Wren to exhale the breath from her bosom. "One moment, please."
She heard the woman's voice say something to the effect of, "Kevyn, there's some nutcase claiming that she's Rensumeres."
Instead of music wafting across the phone lines, Greek Amazon tribal music kept a lively cadence while Wren remained on hold. She didn't know how to anticipate her treatment of the second "Gabrielle." [She could have just hung up on me. I hope she's connecting me with-"
"Wren, Kevyn here." A silky baritone warmly greeted her ears. [Speak of the demigod.] "Gabrielle said that you sounded upset. Is everything all right?"
"Not quite." Wren made a mental note to apologize to Gabrielle at her first opportunity of speaking with her. "I'm sorry to bother you, but I need your help."
"It's not a problem, Wren." The demigod reassured her. "What's up?"
"Kevyn, I don't know where to start. I'll just give you the rundown." Wren tried to keep that waver from her voice. "A mutant by the name of Mystique found a way down to underworld and stole water from each of its five rivers. She brought them topside and somehow they were modified into five very deadly mutagens. I know it was part of a larger plan to contaminate the water supply. However, a lost soul from the Elysian Fields broke through my psychic barriers and managed to send me a premonition. Does this sound insane to you?"
"Totally and utterly normal to me." Was the deadpan reply. She heard the amusement in his voice. She visualized Hercules with his feet crossed and propped upon his desk. She imagined him leaning back in his expensive leather executive chair listening to her rant and rave, "Please, continue."
"Trust me, there's more; much more." She warned him. "It turns out that the visions were right. Some friends and I managed to retrieve those mutagens before they were launched on the space shuttle-"
"So, you're responsible for the supposed Meta Sapien attack on the Space Shuttle!"
"Please tell me that we're talking on a secure line." Wren hardly dared to breathe. "That's considered treason and I have no wish to see Sentinels or Ryker's Island any time soon."
"Your secret is safe with me." The mirth from Hercules' voice vanished in that sentence. "Wren, go on."
"We have the mutagens in custody, but they're decomposing at a cellular level. Within 72 hours, they'll eat through the casings they're stored in and they'll be airborne. Mutant, human, and a few other innocent species will die if exposed to those mutagens. Also, they'll open up several apertures and allow souls from Tartarus to walk the Earth. On top of that, your uncle Hades is imprisioned in his palace and has been robbed of his godly abilities."
"What can I do to help?" He asked urgently.
"Well, my friends and I need to know how to get to the underworld." Wren sighed.
"The entrances to the underworld have been blocked off for over 2,000 years." Hercules told her. "There's no way god or man can dig through the rubble to get through to the Underworld."
"Are there any other entrances you haven't told anyone about?" Wren knew that she dare not relent from her pursuit. Lives were at stake.
"No, I'm sorry." The note of regret in Hercules' voice did nothing to stem Wren's growing trepidation.
"Hercules, I know that you have a rule to not overtly use your abilities in public. But, you're a demigod. We really could use your help. Is there any way that you could ...well, zap me and my friends there?"
"Not possible, Wren." He lamented. "A Mortal can only enter the Underworld through one of the two entrances known....hey, wait a minute."
"What, Herc?" Wren caught the note of inspiration in his voice.
"There is one other entrance." He said slowly. "It's located at Mount Kel in Macedonia. Hades helped Gabrielle imprison Ares in-"
"The Tomb of the Scrolls..." Wren whispered. "That's how Ares was able to be corralled by a mortal. A god had to have helped her."
"Hades and Hephaestus escaped the Elysium Fields of the Underworld and imprisoned Ares in Mt. Kel." Hercules added.
"Along with Gabrielle's scrolls." Wren scratched her head in contemplation. "Question, I know from the Xena Project that she had her Chakrum. It was a combination of the Chakrum of Light and the Chakrum of Darkness. So, Ares was held in the tomb by the Eye of Haephestus and Zena's chakrum, right?"
"Right." Hercules confirmed.
"How could it have been split in two, when I've seen the combined chakrum at the Herculean and Xenaic Institute?"
"Hephaestus made more than one chakrum. Hang on, Wren. I don't like talking about this over the phone." With that, there was a click and the line abruptly went dead. Wren raised a querying brow.
"Kevyn, are you there!?" She pressed the cradle rest button of the phone several times. "Kevyn!?"
A brilliant cascade of golden particles came from nowhere and showered in front of Wren. They formed a loose silhouette of a humanoid form. Wren watched in mute fascination as the rain of shimmering lights meshed and solidified to form the most striking physique Wren ever upon laid eyes. 6'3", 215 pounds of sleek, muscular masculine perfection stood before the flustered young woman. She took a step back as she saw long chestnut hair fall about broad shoulders. She gasped when two eyes of Caribbean blue twinkled with merriment. Garbed in trademark braided leather pants and a sleeveless crème tunic, Hercules stood before Wren proud, majestic and in the flesh.
"Saints preserve me! That's quite an entrance."
"Some things are better said in person." His warm smile made her knees become about as solid as warm grape jelly. She motioned to the one of the chairs at the kitchen table.
"Have a seat. Would you care for something to drink?" She opened the refrigerator. "We have apple juice, pineapple juice, Papst Blue Ribbon...milk."
"Pineapple juice will be fine."
She reached for a clean glass from the cupboard and poured the handsome demigod a morning pick-me-up. "So, he made more than one Chakrum. Two of the originals are reunited into Xena's current chakrum?"
"Exactly. And there are several others he made as prototypes that are still floating around in the world. Most are in the Vaults at the museum. Two are in a private collection." He smacked his lips appreciatively after the first sip of sweet liquid hit his taste buds. "You make a mean glass of juice."
"Thanks." [Am I BLUSHING?] "You have me hooked, Herc. Tell me more about this."
"Hephaestus made a total of seven chakrums. Anyway, two of them were used to imprison my brother, Ares, at Mt. Kel in Macedonia. Gabrielle found it in a ruined tomb of Hera. One broke-"
"And the others remained unbroken and undetected." Wren guessed.
"Right." Hercules gingerly sipped his pineapple juice. "That second chakrum is called the Key Of Hades. It guards the entrance to the underworld that's located at Mt. Kel. There's just one problem."
"What's that?" [Where there's good news, bad news follows.]
"The Nazi's ramsacked the temple in 1942." Hercules set his empty glass before Wren. "Could I have a refill?"
"No problem." She quickly poured the demigod another glass of juice. "So, they captured the Key of Hades?"
"They did. They broke it. One of Hitler's top people was a Crowley fan and decided to cast a circle with it. Things got out of hand and some extraplanear entity broke the chakrum. The remnants are in the vault at the museum." He shook his head in dismay. "Wren, there's no means I know of to reunite the broken shards. I've tried. Technology has tried. Nothing works."
"We haven't tried all the magicks." Wren reminded him.
"I'm the king of the Greek Pantheon and my magick didn't do a thing." [I wonder who does his hair. He's gorgeous.]
"Do you have the remnants with you?"
"Not at the moment." Hercules waved one toned, tanned arm over the expanse of the oak kitchen table. Three pieces of metal materialized before Wren on the table.
"What metal was used to construct the chakrum?"
"The same metal used in my gauntlets: the metal of Hephaestus."
Wren leaned forward and carefully examined the three pieces lying on the wooden surface. "Adamantium?"
"That's the modern name for it."
"I'm thinking that no HUMAN technology could put this together." Wren's mind almost hummed in contemplation. "Not normal human technology anyway. I have an idea..."
"That's dangerous." Herc laughed. "Wren having an idea."
"Screw you." She spat with uncharacteristic vulgarity. A deep chuckle filled the kitchen.
"You're practically married." The Demigod reminded her. "Otherwise...'
"Cute, Herc, really cute." Wren held out her hand to stop his insinuation. "Can you clear your calendar in Linoma and stay for lunch?"
"I can do that." He agreed. "I'll have to let 'Dite know that I can't attend the Ricky Martin concert with her in Hong Kong,"
"Are you sure that you want to come between the Goddess Of Love and the Latin Love King?" Wren giggled.
"She'll get over it."
"Follow me...and I'll introduce you to some of my friends." She gave Hercules a knowing smile. "And I'll introduce you to some of the greatest schemers of the age."
Wren just shook her head in amazement as she observed the motley crew around the table eating lunch. Professor Charles Xavier, the world's most powerful telepath, was discussing ancient Greco-Roman Sociology with the Hercules, king of the Greek Pantheon. Demona/ Elisa sat coyly with legs crossed as she chatted casually with Demetrius. It occurred to Wren that Demona seemed far less threatening with Elisa in control of her body. Hank intermittently studied the broken shards of the ancient weapon while he fought a flesh-and-blood Goliath for the last three pieces of pepperoni pizza. The Mutant inhibiter collar had been tinkered with by Demona to allow the lavender leviathan to remain flesh during daylight hours.
For the first time in days, Wren smiled. She pushed the bridge of her gold-rimmed spectacles so that her eyewear rested comfortable on her nose. The complete ludicrousness of the dining party caused Wren to giggle. Yet, there in her midst were ancient Greek gods, mythical monsters, multi-billionaire entrepreneurs and powerful superheroes fighting over pizza. [Truth is stranger than fiction.]
She eavesdropped on Goliath's and Hank's conversation. They decided the best way to reunited the broken shards was through use of a high-powered laser to weld the pieces together. Demona and Elisa argued amongst themselves about indigestion. Then, Demona/ Elisa turned her attention to Hank and Goliath. The room grew silent as the conversation became the focus of everyone's attention. As a human, Demona wasn't only stunning; she was otherworldly. With long flowing locks and luminous green eyes, Hank was enraptured. Yet, nothing could tear him away from the mystery of the Key Of Hades.
"Why can't we simply use a combination of sorcery and technology?" Demona/ Elisa carefully handled the pieces in her human hands. She eyed the jagged edges of metal with great unerring scrutiny. "I know of a spell that would do this quite nicely. Combined with the ruby quartz laser you've suggested, Hank, that would bond the metal quite nicely."
[That doesn't sound like Elisa.] Wren's brows narrowed in suspicion. [Uh-oh, the lights are on...is Demona at home?]
Wren's sensitive ears heard Highland lilt overtake New York burr. She noticed that the speech patterns shifted radically from short, direct sentences to formal communication, [This is NOT a good thing.]
"We need to assemble a team to descend into Hades." Professor Xavier gently reminded them. "We don't need everyone going. Kevyn, will you be leading the expedition?"
"I can't, Charles." Genuine regret laced his smooth voice. "Ares is working his influences in Genosha and I need to be there to stop him. However, I know two very capable colleagues that might be just what your team needs."
"Whom did you have in mind?" Charles's brow quirked upwards with growing interest.
" Professor." Rogue's sultry southern brogue came across the intercom as an interruption of their conversation. "Ah got somethin' on the monitor here that ah think you're gonna wanna see."
"Patch in the feed to the War Room, Rogue."
Driving at insane speed along the curvy county highway was a figure clad in dark leather. The person leaned forward almost lying on the bike. The powerful Harley-Davidson's engines roared through the audio feed. Strains of BTO's "Magic Carpet Ride" filled the room as the motorcycle hugged the hills and curves of Highway 22. The face remained a mystery because of the helmet worn. The bike skidded in front of the high wrought-iron gates that separated the Xavier Institute from the rest of the world. The tall icon brought down a boot heel to engage the kickstand. Wren studied the solid physique of the biker on camera. A metallic copper-hued helmet hid the features of the road warrior. A long dark brown leather duster added to the air of mystery. It was a coat tight that fight tightly too the body.
"Professor, Ah'm engagin' security procedures." Rogue's anxiety was almost tangible.
"Professor, wait." Kevyn laid a gentle, large hand on the Professor's arm. "Just watch."
Charles Xavier flashed Professor Xorbo a questioning stare but continued watching the monitor. The tall figure clad in russet leather place hands on hips and seemingly surveyed the height of the iron gates. Arms swung back and the person ascended into the air. Knees tucked tightly to the body as the biker sailed head over boots in a series of flips over the gates. Wren thought it strange that the rider had something akin to a pool stick carrier strapped on the back of the duster.
"Shheeeeee-ahhhh!" Came a shrill shriek across the speakers. The dark icon landed deftly on the other side of the gates. The landing crouch reminded Wren of being graceful and quite feline in nature.
"I-yi- yi- yi- yi- yi- yi- yi- yi- yi-yaaaah."
Demona looked at Goliath. "She's either crazy or in great pain."
"You're both wrong." Wren barely contained her growing exhilaration. It was every dream she had coming to life. She knew that particular battle cry. She recognized the skillful dexterity executed by the road warrior. "I know exactly who that is."
"Are you sure?" Kevyn smirked. He gave her a knowing wink. "Are you positive?"
"No one calls out like that! No one moves like that. No one dresses like that!" Wren babbled as her hands became quite animated. "How did you do it?"
"Professor Xavier, that person's knockin' at the door." Rogue's pointed out to the group. "Do I let him in?"
"No need." Kevyn smiled. Kevyn waved his hand and a shimmering globe of golden light hovered inches from his extended palm. It bounced a few times on the conference table and darted around the bewildered observers. The glowing orb levitated for several seconds. It began to subtly change shape. It became thinner until it was a small vertical line of light. The thin strand of brilliance lengthened until it stood as tall as Professor Xorbo. The slender beam of light widened until it was three feet wide. Instead of a bouncing sphere, there was now a radiant aperture in the middle of the War Room.
Silence filled the room as the others stared blankly at the statuesque figure standing in the middle of the portal. Clad in dark brown leather, it was difficult to discern if the person was male or female. Gloved hands rose to the copper-hued helmet worn by the rider. Once the helmet was removed, bone straight black tresses flowed down the rider's back. It wasn't a pool stick carrying case strapped to her back. It was the scabbard for a sword.
Dark hair, bronzed skin, and pale blue eyes added to the enigmatic charisma of the warrior. Foreboding in leather, she walked into the room and took in her surroundings. Xena's face was an undecipherable mask. She found a free chair and plunked down unceremoniously. She spun it around once and kicked her feet up on the table. She gave a casual wave to Kevyn.
"Everyone this is Xena Argos...." He began. Goliath nodded courteously to the strangely clad woman sitting across from him. Demona/ Elisa didn't to know what to make of the woman in leather. Jean shook Xena's hand. Wren stared.
"Xena...road warrior princess and world famous professional wrestler." She whispered. She turned anxiously to Kevyn. "This is actually Xena from 2000 years ago...BEFORE she died?"
"I'm a god, Wren, but I'm not that good." His chortle brought a slight stain to Wren's cheeks. He whispered discreetly into her ear. "This is Xena Argos, she's Xena's Clone made by Dr. Los Alamos for the Xena project all those years ago."
[Wow. This is like actually having Xena right in front of me. She's so tall. I don't know what to do first: kiss her feet or ask for an autograph. She's so beautiful. I didn't think she'd be so intimidating in person. Where's Gabrielle? I thought that those two always traveled together. Those two are inseparable. You know, I wonder if they're really love-]
"Wren!" Kevyn's deep voice sliced through Wren's frantic reverie. "Snap out of it. You're staring."
"Oh, sorry." Wren's stain spread from her cheeks to the roots of her hair. She wondered if it were possible to crawl under the table and hide for the rest of her life.
Over the course of the next hour, the group disclosed all the information to Xena. She sat in her chair with hands steepled and nodded in understanding. She registered every fact and digested every account carefully. Eventually she removed her coat. Wren noticed the chakrum of legend hanging from the side of Xena's belt. Wren thought she had died and gone to heaven.
[It's a bit smaller than the Annulus.] She noted.
"Here's what we're going to do." A smooth, silky alto redirected her attention. Xena rose to her feet and walked behind the chairs at the conference table. "Goliath, and er...Elisa, you'll be going with us. Wren, we'll need your luck and your language skills on this mission. Demetrius, you'll be going with us and watching our backs. No offense, Jean, but we need someone who can get us in and out in case of things gone wrong. Professor Xavier, you said that you might have a couple of X-Men that might be what we need?"
"I'd suggest Kurt..also known affectionately as Nightcrawler." The Professor poured a glass of water and gingerly sipped the cool liquid before he continued. "Kurt has the ability of teleportation, Xena. His abilites allow him to teleport up to three miles. Should you need to hastily retreat, he'll be best to get everyone out."
"I see your point." Xena turned to everyone. "Goliath, Elisa, Wren, Demetrius, and Nightcrawler. Xanatos, we need your help to get past Macedonian customs. Can you get us there?"
"Not a problem. I can have you in Macedona within 24 hours." He nodded. "I'm afraid that I can't go with you. I am needed at home in lieu that the mission fails."
"Not a problem, Ms. Argos."
Hank and Demona worked well into the night trying to reunite the three broken shards of Adamantium. Shi'ar technology failed. A god's magick did nothing. Wren's luckmagick neither helped nor hindered the process. Hank let forth several curses as each attempt failed to unite the chakrum. Demona was in total control of her body and merely observed the beastly scientist in a throng of failed attempts.
With wings cloaked about her, Demona in Gargoyle form posed an intimidating presence in the lab. Hank concluded quickly after sunset that Elisa hibernated when the body assumed Gargoyle form. Hank also learned that Demona was haughty, condescending and astute. She was also an outstanding chemist physicist. When she wasn't gloating, she carried on an excellent conversation regarding the molecular composition of Adamantium. She expressed a great appreciation for the minds of Stephen Hawkins and Carl Sagan.
"Damnation, Demona!" He snapped. "We have tried exactly twelve different lasers and four different bonding agents and nothing is succeeding. Your sorcery hasn't worked in combination with science. Why do we need this blasted chakrum?"
"Because Big, Blue, and Becoming," Her silky purr definitely caught Hank's attention. "Mt. Kel was dynamited in 1942. We need the Key of Hades, the very chakrum we're attempting to repair, to be whole so that we can activate the Eye of Hephaestus. Not only did the eye imprison Ares in that Tomb of the Scrolls for two thousand years, the Eye of Hephaestus additionally opens the most accessible gateway that leads directly to the Underworld. It all starts with those three pieces of metal. Without them, we are doomed!"
"Thanks for reminding me." The grave tone in his voice revealed his frustration, desperation and defeat. "I've yet another great failure to add to my growing list of catastrophes."
"You whine and lament like a Human." Green eyes glowed brilliant crimson. Hank instinctively took a step back. "You are an X-Man. I have heard nothing but endless praise from Goliath as he prattles about your supposed brilliance."
"Then, he's wrong." Hank's voice became a soft, hoarse whisper.
"I think not, Hank." Demona took him by the hand. "How long have you been awake?"
"Thirty-three hours, 14 minutes...give or take a few seconds."
The Azure Dame nodded slowly. She took the dejected scientist's hand in hers and pulled him to his feet. "That stool you're sitting on certainly isn't good for your back. Poor posture lends to fatigue."
She led him to a comfortable hair at his desk. She pushed him none-too-roughly into the cushy office chair. "SIT and be quiet."
"Yes, Mistress." His riposte brought a small smile.
"Be a good boy and do as your told and I may reward you."
"Your wish is my command."
She swiveled the chair around and so that Beast faced her. Her hands went to his spectacles. "For what I have in mind, you won't be needing these."
She took the gold-rimmed glasses and folded them gently. Two dark blue brows almost flew off Hank's face in mild supplies. His eyes widened further as the ravishing redhead bent forward more so that her lips were millimeters away from his ears. Her rather coy position gave Hank an ample view of her curvaceous cleavage. "I'm going to make you feel much, much better."
"Oh, my stars and garters." Hank managed to find his voice. "Do you think this is appropriate, Demona?"
"Don't let your fantasies ruin the moment." She swiveled the chair around again. Strong Gargoyle talons buried themselves into the silky fur of Hank's back. He abruptly sat upright when Demona's strong hands firmly kneaded the tight muscles of his upper shoulders. He went rigid, more ways than one, as she leaned forward and the warmth of her breast brushed against the broad expanse of his back. "Relax, Hank. Just relax and enjoy."
Languidly, Demona gently pressed and stroked the knots that plagued Hank's back. She used the palms of her hands to spread the muscles. Her knuckles dug into his furry flesh to ripple and knead the sore spots. Her talons traced slow, sensuous paths along the length of his spine and banished the accumulated aches and pains of the past several days. Hank rested his arms on his desk and leaned forward so that the Dame had better access to his back. More than one soft groan escaped him as Demona adroitly found each pain and soreness in his back. With time, his rigid posture softened until the last bits of tension drained from him.
She reached the spot between his shoulder blades in the middle of his back. His eyes snapped open as Demona's talons manipulated his muscles in ways Hank never dared imagine. His ragged intake of breath confirmed to Demona that her careful administrations of touch and pressure were succeeding. "Woman, what are you doing?"
"Millennia ago, this was taught to me by a Dame well-versed in the mating practices of my kind." She whispered as her thumbs applied firm pressure to three of his vertebrae. "Done on a male during breeding season, this technique stimulates a male into a mating frenzy. On a human, it can incite lust or relaxation. More so than not, it's the latter result most common in humans."
"Your -your wings must ...b-be-be an erogenous z-z-zone." Hank shivered with feral delight at the delicious sensations Demona inspired with talons and thumbs.
"You catch on quickly." She turned him around to see his bemused expression. "Because of your ...unique mutation, it affects you much as it did Goliath. Hmmm...fascinating. Your mutation changed you enough to allow to experience new physical sensation."
He leaped from his chair. He turned and quickly faced Demona. "That's it!"
"What's 'it'?" She asked.
"Change...we've been approaching this Chakrum dilemma from an erroneous perspective."
"How so?" The slow drawl in Demona's voice caused Hank to shiver with pure epicurean delight.
"We're trying to reunite Adamantium. It can't be done with a laser. The molecular structure of the metal is too dense for the laser to effectively alter the metal's consistency with heat. However, if you're a sorceress of such great renown, then you're adept in alchemy."
"Yes...." Demona considered his words. Her eyes widened both in understanding and appreciation of his insight. "So, instead of changing the laser setting, we change the Adamantium into another substance."
"Precisely!" He nodded enthusiastically. Hank clasped her forearms in excitement. "We meld the shards in their altered state-"
"And then we revert the united chakrum to its original composition." Demona realized that Hank's enthusiasm was infectious. "Brilliant."
"Then let's hop to it." He rubbed his hands in gleeful anticipation. "Do you have anything in that handy Digest of Malkior that allows for alchemical transmutation."
"Indeed, a good sorceress is NEVER without her spellbook."
"Then let's get to work."
Within the hour, the menagerie was back in the War Room. The Key of Hades gleamed in the fluorescent light as a whole and complete weapon. Xena took it in hand and felt for composition and balance. She ran her fingers along the curve of the sharp blade of the weapon. She smiled in satisfaction as a thin line of crimson brightened across the tip of her index finger. She nodded mutely in satisfaction and placed it on the opposite hip of her other chakrum.
"All right, People." She stood and addressed the group. "We're leaving before sunrise in the morning .... Demona, Goliath, Wren, Demetrius and Nightcrawler. By the way, where is he? He's late and I haven't met him yet."
BAMF!!!! A flash of light and a waft of smoke filled the room. The stench of Brimstone hung heavily and caused more than one person's eyes to water or to cough. Demona let loose an undignified shriek as she found a blue-furred demon staring back at her.
Upon closer inspection, she noticed that the creature was anything but a demon. His skin was covered I dark indigo fur, but much shorter and finer than Hank's. It was more akin to fuzz than fur. She noticed that his ears weren't blunt like those of humans, but delicately pointed like those of a Gargoyle. Two pupiless golden eyes stared at her. His smile revealed pristine white teeth and slender fangs not unlike those of a Gargoyle. She looked down to see that instead of five fingers or four talons, the creature sported two large fingers and a thumb on each hand. She noticed his feet were much the same. What stunned Demona most was the slender prehensile tail that curled flirtatiously around her forearm. She noticed the triangular spade on the end.
"Guten Abend, mein Freulein." His dashing smile stole much of Demona's growing anger. His Bavarian accent sounded heavy and oddly exotic to her ears. "I think I have died and went to Heaven. I have landed in the arms of a most beautiful female."
"You'll find yourself embracing the afterlife soon enough if you don't remove yourself from my lap." She half-heartedly growled. "Who are you? WHAT are you?"
"My apologies." He removed his presence from her lap and graciously bowed. "I meant not to compromise your sensitivities or be tardy. I am Kurt Wagner-Darkholme, better known as Nightcrawler."
"Are you a Gargoyle?" Xena asked, not quite certain to make of the dashing young.... creature standing in front of her.
His tail released from Demona's forearm and flicked in merriment. "Nein. I am a Mutant."
"You look too much like ...Wren." Demona almost spat out the words. "Are you one of those half-breeds?"
"My Mother, Raven, is a half-blood of Fey and Human origin. My father, was a Bavarian count thought to be of mysterious bloodlines. I consider myself merely a humble mutant in your service." He took the surprised Dame's hand and tenderly brushed his lips against cerulean sensitive skin.
"Now, that you've made yourself known to everyone, let's get down to business." Xena's blunt statement cut through the sizzling chemistry coursing between the two. "Tomorrow we leave at 0600. Kurt, you'll be piloting the Blackbird, correct?"
"Ya, mein commandant." Kurt answered promptly with a mockingly crisp salute. "I live to serve."
"Wonderful. Goliath, remember to have new batteries for your inhibiter collar. We don't want you turning to stone down there."
"Agreed." He nodded curtly.
"Demetrius and Wren, you'll be in charge of the mutagens. Be careful with them."
"We will." Wren promised and crossed her heart.
"Demona/ Elisa, you'll be our resident sorceress and tour guide down in Hades. Make sure you have your spellbook with you." Xena turned her attention to the blue Gargoyle at the end of the table playing footsie with Hank. Xena sent a murderous glance that chimed the clear, but unspoken message 'Quit fucking around.'
Demona pursed her lips, shrugged and did her best to look innocent.
"It will be done." Her voice sounded like that of a little girl. It was a derisive mockery of the Road Warrior Princess.
"As for me? I'm your bodyguard and strong arm on this mission. I've been there and I've done that. This is a dangerous mission. I don't have room for cowards, quitters, or comedians on my team. The world is depending on us to circumvent a catastrophe and I'm counting on you. Are you with me?" Xena sounded half drill-sergeant and half-cheerleader.
The group replied in unison. Xanatos quietly cleared his throat. Silence filled the room as he they turned their eyes on the multi-billionaire. "There's one thing that I think has been forgotten?"
"What's that?" Xena raised a querying brow toward him.
"These." He held out seven bright gold coins. He let them fall into Xena's open hand. The clink of metal-on-metal sounded tinny to Wren's ears.
"Smart thinking." Xena agreed. "I forgot that Charon, the ferryman of the River Styx, won't let us into Hades unless we have money for passage. I haven't seen Dinars like this in a long time."
"Something from my private collection." He drawled.
"Why are there six? Only six of us are going?"
"Just in case Charon won't give you a two-for-one special on Demona and Elisa."
"True." Xena passed out coins to each of the group. "Don't lose these."
"I want to do something for each of you." Kevyn finally broke his pensive silence. He rose from his seat. He walked to Xena and turned her toward him. He placed a gentle kiss on her brow. "My blessing and magick are with you ...for luck."
"Thanks, Hercules." She whispered. "We need it."
He then did the same to Kurt, Demona/ Elisa, and Goliath. He came to Wren. As his lips were about to touch her brow, he stopped. "I can't bless you, Wren."
"Why?" Alarm wavered in her voice.
"Another god's blessing is already upon you. It's one I don't recognize." Kevyn mused. "But, it's powerful magick."
"The Blessing of Skylaris." She told him. "She is the patron goddess of the Gargoyles, Dragons. She also kicked Ares' ass a while back.
"I guess shaking your hand and wishing you luck will have to do." He took her hand in his. "Gods' speed to you."
"Thank you, Kevyn. Thank you for helping us and thank you for bringing Xena to us." Wren gave him an affectionate embrace.
"Hey, think of it as a favor repaid for recovering the Cronos fragments for me." He looked down at the Annulus on her hip. "Do you still have them?"
"I have the ones you gave me." She lifted the Annulus of Marcasite so that he could see. She whispered softly so that Kevyn strained to hear. "The blue tears of Skylaris for dimension-hopping are one side. The green Chronos fragments you pounded into the Annulus for time-travel are on the other. It's our little secret."
"Good." He placed a lingering, chaste kiss on her lips. "Good luck."
"Th-thanks." Wren went over to Xena to ask her a few questions that have been on her mind since they first met. Soon, she was engrossed in a conversation of ancient Greek on the topic of chakrum-throwing technique, Draco the Warlord, and the landscape of Thrace.
He turned to see lavender eyes glaring at him. The Demigod was taken aback at the smoldering fury burning in those violet depths. "She is MY mate. She has little need for your amorous attentions, Hercules."
"Her virtue is safe with me." Kevyn's gaze never left those lavender eyes. His voice was grave with an issued challenge. "Take care to protect her, Demetrius. Wren means the world to me. Make sure she comes back alive and well. If she doesn't...then nothing on Olympus or Earth will protect you from me."
"Is that a threat?" Eyes gleamed argent.
"No, it's a promise." Kevyn answered in a strong, low voice. "Also, bring yourself back in one piece. Wren loves you too much to survive without you. Her heart is wholly yours. So, be careful."
"We shall have Fortune with us." He glanced at his mate. "Thank you kindly for your aid."
"Despite what you think, Demetrius, I'd never take your mate from you. I'd never try. I respect you both too much."
"I believe you."
"Get some sleep, people." Xena yelled above the murmurs of the group. "We leave bright and early."
TO BE CONTINUED