Gabrielle opened her eyes, surprised to find herself still alive and breathing. Was she still breathing? Yes, she could feel oxygen filling her lungs as her chest rose and fell with every breath. Yet she was clearly underwater. The sea around her was the most amazing shade of turquoise she had ever seen, the water as bright as a precious gem. Schools of brightly colored fish swam past, seemingly unaffected by her intrusion into their world.
"How can this be?" Gabrielle asked herself. She remembered drowning in the cold sea, yet now the water felt warm. Her golden hair floated about her face like the finest seaweed, swaying in the tropical currents. Glancing down, she gasped. Both her legs were gone, having been replaced by an orange fish tail! And the thing she was sitting on, why, it looked like a giant hand!
Slowly she became aware of being watched by a steady gaze. Tilting her head back to peer upward, she found herself staring into the giant eyes of the Sea God, Poseidon. Gabrielle had never seen the Sea God before, but she had heard of him and this had to be him. His body seemed to be made of water, yet the hand she rested on was as solid as stone. His skin was bluish-gray, so maybe the made of water look was an illusion. A golden crown was on his head, proclaiming his ownership of all the earth's oceans. But the main thing about him was his size. Gabrielle figured if he were ever to stand on land, he would be as big as a mountain.
"Hello!" Gabrielle said as she swam up before the Sea God. Within moments she got the hang of using her new tail. It was rather quite easy. She just had to move it up and down, as if moving both legs at once. "Thank you for saving my life."
YOU WILL COMPLETE THE TASK I SET FOR YOU, MORTAL, OR YOU WILL DROWN.
"Oh, so I owe you a favor?" Gabrielle asked, her ears ringing from the sound of Poseidon's voice. "I'll gladly help you in any way I can. I like helping people. What is it you want me to do?"
SOMETHING IS KILLING SEALIFE. YOU WILL FIND OUT WHAT IT IS AND STOP IT. ONLY THEN WILL YOU GET YOUR LEGS BACK.
Gabrielle wondered briefly why Poseidon didn't stop it, as he was a God. But maybe he was using this as an excuse to save her life? From the stories she had read of him, saving mortals was not one of his big priorities. In fact, he often worked against them. Poseidon was Ares', what, Uncle? So maybe he had already heard of the upcoming marriage and had decided to help out. Yes that had to be it. And now that she knew who the giant eyes belonged to, she wasn't frightened anymore.
"Where is this happening? And did it just start recently? If I'm going to solve it, I'll need more information." Gabrielle informed the God.
IT BEGAN WHEN A ROCK FELL FROM THE SKY AND LANDED NEAR SOME SEA VENTS. THE THING FROM WITHIN THE ROCK DISSOLVES SEA LIFE, YOU MUST STOP IT.
"The thing from inside a rock?" Gabrielle asked, confused. She glanced up at Poseidon, only to see she was alone. The Sea God had already left, vanishing in the way of true Gods. "How could anything be inside a rock? I'm going to need help on this one!"
As far as she knew, the God hadn't set her any time limits so she started swimming towards shore. At first she tried swimming by using both her arms and tail, but soon found that clumsy and awkward. So keeping her arms at her sides, she flipped her fins up and down as she effortlessly glided through the sea. After a short time, a big grin broke out on the bard's face. "What do you know? I'm not seasick anymore!"
Ares sat in the dry sand, his head resting on his bent knees. The sun was up and the sea calm once more. Noisy seagulls cried overhead as they flew about in circles, unaware of the problems below. Ever since Xena had pulled him out of the tossing waters the night before he felt terrible.
"How could I do it?" He asked himself for the millionth time. "How could I be so careless? I should have reacted faster I should have saved her! What's the use of being a God if I couldn't save the one I loved?"
It was hopeless though. Gabrielle was dead, drowned by his jealous sister, Discord. He'd never see her again, never hold her in his arms, and never see that smile that made it worth living. Just as he was starting to realize what living could really mean and his heart awakening to something so much better than just plain lust, the light had been snuffed out. He knew later the anger would come and then he'd mop the floor with Discord, but now he wanted to be alone in his grief.
Perhaps she has survived. She is a lot stronger than she looks. She has been through so much with Xena and has survived. Why shouldn't she survive this time, too? Yet the sea had been so rough, the storm magical in nature. And she was seasick. I shouldn't have taken her out there.....
He knew Xena has been prowling the beaches since she had found him, searching tirelessly for her friend. Even his half brother, Hercules and that little friend of his was out looking.
I should be out looking, too. I could use my powers to find her.
Then why am I sitting here?
Because you don't believe she survived. No mortal could survive it. You would have drowned, too, if you weren't a God. Only your Godhood saved you, not Xena.
A lump formed in his throat and Ares quickly swallowed it. He never realized loosing someone could be so hard. How did mortals stand it? Was love worth all this pain? It felt like a raw bleeding wound in his heart. All he wanted to do was hang his head and cry ... and that was so unlike him.
Footsteps approached him and Ares lifted his head. Xena stood before him, a glum look on her face. It was clear she hadn't found Gabrielle, alive or dead. He noted her bloodshot eyes and thought his must look the same. "Anything?"
"Nothing." Xena admitted sadly. "I looked as far as I could. Maybe Herc or Iolaus found her."
"You know, Xena, the sea swallows lots of people who are never seen again." Ares shifted his eyes from the Warrior Princess to the calm water before him. After yesterday's storm, the sea was like a looking glass with hardly a wave marring its surface. "Look at it: so peaceful and yet so deadly."
A large splash got both their attentions.
"What was that?" Xena asked, taking a few steps towards the water's edge.
"I don't know. Maybe a fish?" Ares rose to his feet. He supposed there was sand sticking to his black leather, but what was the point of looking good if he didn't have that special someone to look good for?
The splash repeated itself and this time they both saw white water mark the location. The third time they caught sight of a large orange tail just before it disappeared beneath the surface.
Ares started to turn away, disappointed. "It's only a fish porpoising."
But Xena ran up to the sea and splashed in, excitement in her movements. "No, it's Gabrielle!"
"What?" Ares turned around again just in time to see Xena bend down and reach into the water. "Xena, what are you talking about?"
Xena straightened, Gabrielle clutched in her arms.
Ares' heart skipped a beat when he recognized the long blonde hair. He saw her arm move as she hung onto Xena's shoulder. It was Gabrielle and she was alive! Yet from the way Xena was standing, her head, hair and part of her back was all he could see.
The Warrior Princess carried the bard up to Ares and pushed her into his arms. "Here's your future bride, Ares. Just watch out for the tail."
"Tail?!" Ares gawked at Gabrielle's new bright orange tail.
It was going to be another one of those days......