The Warrior Princess was gone.
Xena was no longer righting wrongs and singing songs. Instead, her life had dwindled down to nothingness.
She had been given only one purpose: serve Ares. And oh, how the God was determined to see her spirit break.
She would not give him the satisfaction, however. Though she knew she would be punished, Xena remained defiant most of the time. She had nearly submitted more times than her pride should have allowed, she always fought back, and always had a witty retort on her tongue.
Ares was no longer the God she knew. He forced her to call him "My Lord," and treated her like a common slave. They shared nothing together save for physical intimacy, which consisted of only of Ares taking what he wanted and leaving Xena feeling dejected.
In fact, he ignored her most days, leaving her locked in his chambers until he had use for her.
In a matter of weeks, Xena had almost fallen. She kept her head held high, of course, but both she and Ares knew he was getting to her.
During the day, Xena was left plaqued by thoughts about what had become of Gabrielle. Was her best friend desperately searching all of Greece for her? Or had she traveled to Gaul with Krastafar?
One afternoon, when the thought of the bard was too sickening to bear, Xena had called Aphrodite from the aether.
The Love Goddess had appeared immediately in a burst of showering light and hearts. It was only when she saw Xena that she was left speechless.
Covered in bruises, and wearing nothing save for a sheet she had wrapped herself with, Xena looked purely miserable.
The Love Goddess only hoped the Warrior Babe was not going to ask her to take her away from Ares. Both of them knew that, should they try to hide her, Xena could be killed by the War God's blind rage.
"I could take some of bruises away, Sweet Pea."
Aphrodite said, solemnly.
Xena shook her head.
"No. Ares will know if you do. And, besides, I'll have another layer of them soon enough."
Xena staitened, standing taller, determined not to appear broken.
"I need you to take me to see Gabrielle."
"I don't know if that's a good idea, Xe. Big Bro is really tense right now, what with the whole Dahak thing going on. He might take it out on you."
Xena raised a brow.
She asked, quietly.
Aphrodite gave Xena a sorrowful look.
"He didn't tell you? Dahak is the One God. He wants to take Greece from the Olympians. It's this whole big thing..."
"Ares and I don't do a lot of talking these days."
Aphrodite pursed her lips.
"So you can see why it isn't a good idea to take you to see Gabrielle. I mean, if Ares finds out..."
"He won't. He doesn't see me until nights, anyway. Please, Dite, I have to make sure she's all right."
Aphrodite seemed to mull the idea over, before finally coming to a decision.
"I'll take you to Gabrielle."
Aphrodite had whooshed them away with a flick of her wrist. They appeared in a flash a moment later. They were in a forest, next to a barn.
Xena looked down to see that she was wearing her old battle armor, curtesy of the Goddess of Love.
"Where are we?"
Xena asked, peering around at the abandoned state of the forest.
"Hmm, Gaul, I think. I don't know, this whole travel through the aether thing like, really, messes with my sense of geography. This one time, I thought I was in Egypt but it turns out I was really in Chin for like a whole week and—"
"Dite I don't have much time."
Xena cut in.
"I'll be out here when your'e ready."
Xena held her breath upon walking up to the barn.
Upon entering the barn, Xena was caught off guard by a wail of pain straining from the back. She broke into a trot, opening another door, which led to a hay-filled room. Gabrielle laid against a wooden post, sitting half-way up. Sweat glistened on her forehead. Xena's brows furrowed in confusion at the sight of her friend's, who she had only been separated from weeks ago, swelled belly.
She looks as if she's been pregnant for seven months!
Gabrielle said, softly, hazily. She smiled slightly. Suddenly, her face contorted in pain, and another wail escaped her lips. The Warrior Princess rushed to her friend's side and kneeled beside her.
"Gabrielle! What's going on? How can you be..."
The word slipped off her rogue before she could say it.
Her friend looked at her, dark circles beneath her eyes.
"I'm going to have a child, Xena."
"How can you already be so far along?"
Xena's eyes were wide.
"It was Krastafar, Xena. He wasn't what we thought he was. When Ares took you, I agreeed to travel with him to Gaul. He told me the One God would be able to help me save you."
Her bright green eyes watered.
"I was a fool. Xena...I-I...took a life. It was in self-defense, but still, It was all so confusing. I was just standing there, and, oh Gods, the blood was everywhere. And then there was a flash of fire, it lifted me up and it put this inside of me."
Gabrielle laid a hand over her stomach.
"Oh, Xena, I'm so afraid. I don't know what to do."
"Shh, Gabrielle. It's ok. You aren't a fool. We're going to get you through this."
Xena assured the girl, trying her best to offer a resemblance of a smile.
"I can feel it. It's almost time. It's strong, Xena, my baby's so strong."
Gabrielle cried out again.
"Oh, Xena, What are we gonna do?"
Suddenly there was a burst of light in the barn. It faded from pale pink to fushia as it died. Aphrodite stood in its place, ocean blue eyes locked on Gabrielle's condition.
"Dite. I'm not ready to go back. I have to help Gabrielle."
"Xe, it's Ares. He's returned to his temple. You don't have much time."
The Love Goddess insisted.
"I'll take my chances."
"Xena, you know what will happen if you defy him."
Xena said, almost coldly.
"I'm sorry, Xe."
Aphrodite suddenly garbed Xena's arm and whisked them into the aether. They appeared back in Ares' chambers in an instant.
"Aphrodite what are you doing!?"I have to help Gabrielle!"
Xena growled. Aphrodite put both her hands up defensively.
"I'll help her. Just don't do anything to get yourself hurt, kay? I promise, Gabrielle will be fine with me."
Xena nodded, tensely.
"Go to her."
Dite disappeared, and Xena quickly stripped of her leathers and armor, shoving it under the bed. The moment she had stripped herself the door opened, and the God of War strode it.
Xena cast her glance down to the floor.
"And what have you been up to today, my dear?"
Xena didn't look up. She refused to answer him. A dark chuckle passed his lips.
"Not very talkative, I see. Let's see if we can get that pretty little mouth of yours moving, shall we?"
Ok, so shorter chapter today guys. And we are nearing the end of the story, so probably just a few more chapters left. Thankyou for being the best readers ever and reviewing! xoxo