The High Priest Of Hera

It was a warm summers morning, the air was humid and there was a rustling from the trees as a slight breeze washed over them. The birds chirped and the bees buzzed. Heading down the old dusty dirt path was Xena and her friend Gabrielle. They were heading to a small village for a friends birthday.

"I can't wait to surprise, Lexia," said Gabrielle cheerfully. "This party is going to be a great way to relax."

"I know what you mean," Xena smiled. "I can't wait to sit back with an ale and have nothing to worry about."

They walked on further down the dirt path taking in the scene. It was quiet and peaceful, not a soul in sight. The path bent around a great pond and when they got back onto the straight and narrow path, they bumped into a man selling fast-food from a cart. "Hello there my friends," he said excitedly. "Can I interest you in my great foods? The finest around these parts."

"I know what you mean," Xena smiled. "I can't wait to sit back with an ale and have nothing to worry about."

They walked on further down the dirt path taking in the scene. It was quiet and peaceful, not a soul in sight. The path bent around a great pond and when they got back onto the straight and narrow path, they bumped into a man selling fast-food from a cart. "Hello there my friends," he said excitedly. "Can I interest you in my great foods? The finest around these parts."

"I could eat," Gabrielle said, holding her grumbling stomach. "What do you have for us?

"Well I have Kebabs, fish sticks among other tasty treats," he smiled, showing his slightly yellowed teeth. "Go on give something a try."

Xena walked over to the cart and stood by Gabrielle who was looking at all of the food on offer. "Gods be, this stuff stinks," Xena whispered.

"I know, but I'm starving," she pointed to a meat piece that was hanging above a small fire. "I'll take some of that on a nice bit of bread."

"Excellent choice, my dear, you won't regret it." he turned and prepared her food.

"Aren't you having anything, Xena?"

"No Gabrielle, I'm not hungry."

The man turned back and handed the food to Gabrielle. She grabbed it and immediately tore into it. She ate it so fast that she could barely taste it. She turned to Xena, who was staring in another direction. "What's the matter, Xena?" she asked.

"Hurry up and eat that," she said with urgency. "There's smoke rising from the town ahead."

"What?" Gabrielle asked as she dropped her food. "That's Lexia's town, let's go now!"

They both began to run to their friends' town. "Hey wait, you haven't paid for that yet!" the man shouted, but before long they had both disappeared from view. "I should get the money first…"

After half an hour of sprinting down the dirt path, they arrived at their friends' town. The smoke was thick and black as the night. It hung to the place like a cool mist on a cold winters morning. Xena and Gabrielle walked around looking for any survivors. "Split up and see what you can find," Xena said. "I'll go see who is responsible for this massacre. And I have a good idea who it is!"

Gabrielle nodded and walked off to look for wounded survivors. Xena walked in the opposite direction and surveyed the utter destruction. She walked around, but she saw no survivors, only charred remains were all but left. Suddenly she felt a strange sensation in her body, her skin seemed to want to crawl off. "I know you're here, Ares!" she shouted. "I can smell your stink!"

Suddenly a flash appeared and a large heavy built figure emerged. "It always amazes me, Xena, how you know when I'm near," Ares said.

"You make my skin crawl," she growled. "Did you do this? Are you the reason for this peaceful town being destroyed?!"

Ares walked away and inhaled the foul air. "No I did not destroy this town," he murmured. "But you're right to think it was because of another God."

"Who?"

Ares bent down and picked something up. "Here's a clue," he handed her a feather of a peacock. "I'd check out the temple of Hera if you want to find the culprits." He walked off and in another flash of light, he was gone.

"Xena!" Gabrielle shouted. "There's nobody left alive! I think Ares has something to do with this!"

"No, it wasn't, Ares,"

"How do you know that for sure?"

Xena turned to face Gabrielle and held out the peacock feather. "It was, Hera!"

"Why? Why would she do this to all of these people?"

"I don't know yet, but I'm going to find out."

"Good, what are we going to do?"

"We're going to find the temple of Hera and ask a few priests what caused this!"

"I remember where it is. It's about two miles away."

"Let's go."

Back on the old dirt path, they headed north towards the temple. Storm clouds gathered above their heads, but that didn't seem to slow them down. The fury they both felt was of equal strength to the power of the Gods themselves. Along the road they were both silent, listening to the clouds roll and begin to thunder.

After an hour of walking, they arrived at the Temple. The skies had just opened up as they reached the Temple doors, as they opened them and walked inside, thunder struck the ground.

As they entered the largest part of the Temple, they were greeted by a mass of priest, but these priests were not friendly towards them. Some scowled, some spat and some hissed. "Go to Hades!" Gabrielle spat, holding her staff in fighting position.

"We're here to find out…" Xena began.

"We know why you are here, Xena Warrior Princess!" a dark cloaked figure shouted. "You want to know why your friends' town was destroyed."

Xena sensed something in the air. She pulled out her sword and grabbed her Chakram. "Who did it, Priest?!" she bellowed.

The priests laughed. "It was us," they said in unison. "Now put down your weapons or be destroyed!"

Gabrielle looked at Xena and shook her head in defiance. Xena looked back and winked. "Why did you kill those innocent people?" Gabrielle questioned. "They did nothing wrong to anyone!"

"I received a glorious vision from the great Goddess Hera," the cloaked figure replied, laughing as he did so. "She warned me of the evils that were in that town. Beneath the smiles there was evil, beneath the laughter was sadness, beneath the joy there was sorrow. I killed that town and was rewarded."

"I'm tired of listening to this," Xena raged.

"Me too," Gabrielle confirmed.

Xena unleashed her devastating Chakram upon the priests. It flew through the air cutting the throats of the priests. Gabrielle rushed into the fight waving her staff around and knocking priests to the ground. Xena sounded her battle-cry and jumped into the midst of the priests grabbing her Chakram from the air before she released it once again.

"Kill them both!" the priests yelled.

The Chakram whizzed around slashing at the lesser priests. Xena's sword slashed and decapitated a few more priests. She turned to grab her Chakram from the air, but the cloaked priest had already plucked it from the air.

"I forgot to mention, Hera, in her mighty wisdom, granted me powers." and he threw the Chakram towards Gabrielle.

"Gabrielle, get down," Xena shouted.

Gabrielle hit the ground and Xena ran to he grabbing the Chakram inches away from Gabrielle's head. When she turned to face the priests, all but one had fled the building. The cloaked priest was stood still at the altar. "Now you will see the face of the High Priest of Hera." he chuckled, removing his cloak. "Now you will see the face of a new half God."

Once the cloak was removed, Xena and Gabrielle could see a twisted and disfigured face and body. His eyes were as black as Greek oil, his teeth looked as sharp and jagged as a shark and his skin was grey. Xena looked at Gabrielle. "You stay down, this is between me and him!"

She rose to her feet masterfully and raised her sword. "Come and get me," she taunted. "If you're so powerful now, come to me."

The High Priest accepted her invitation and met her in the middle of the room. The walked around each other, sizing up their targets. Without warning, the High Priest slashed out with his talon-like fingers. Xena stepped back. "You'll have to do better than that." she laughed.

He ran at her clumsily and she dodged him and slashed at his unprotected back. It bled profusely, however, that did not stop him. He rushed towards her again and managed to bite her on the arm. It bled, but she didn't seem to care. "Xena, are you alright?" Gabrielle cried out as she got to her feet. "I can help!"

Gabrielle ran to Xena's aid and whacked the beast on the back of his head with her staff. The blow knocked him to the floor, but he rose quickly and effortlessly. He grabbed Gabrielle by the throat and lifted her off her feet. Xena brought down her sword and cut off the beasts arm. Gabrielle fell to the floor with his hand stuck around her neck. The beast fell back clutching his stump, screaming in agony.

Xena saw that her foe was now distracted and pulled her Chakram off her belt. She threw it with all of her might, it shot through the air and into the beast's throat. It decapitated him completely. The head fell to the ground with a thud. Its body followed soon afterwards. Xena walked over to Gabrielle, who was still struggling with the severed arm attached to her neck and pulled it off.

Xena lifted Gabrielle of the ground. "Come on, let's get away from this mess," she said.

"I'm right behind you, Xena," Gabrielle smiled. "What's next after all of this?"

"We take our fight to Hera," she growled.

As they walked through the great doors of the Temple, the sun shone through the rain clouds and the world looked and felt a much safe place to live.