DISCLAIMER: Xena, Gabrielle and any other characters featured in the actual TV series are copyrighted to MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures; just borrowing for this story. The rest of the story and other characters are mine. Please contact me before using any of my stuff. Thanks.
SERIES DISCLAIMER: This is the final part to the Sins of the Father series and the first part of the "Beginning Again Series.
You will need to read Nightmares from the Past, Pain of the Present and Healing for the Future to understand what is going on. You may also want to read Sophia's Family and Sophia's Choice for some background info, but it isn't absolutely necessary.
Part 1 of Beginning Again Series
by Paully Adams
Each new step Hecuba took felt heavier than the one before. Dread filled her heart as the guards escorted her towards the village. The sweet air that invaded her nostrils and lungs felt like poison to her soul.
For years, Hecuba watched as her life slowly disintegrated before her eyes. For years, she let fear control her actions as well as influence the lives around her. Along the way, fear had been replaced with guilt and anger at her own weakness and selfishness. For her part, she knew exactly when her fear started to control her:
She was young and in love. And when one is young and in love, one tends to think that one is invincible. Hecuba was no exception and she dared to dream dreams of the impossible becoming reality. It was then that reality decided to rear its ugly head. Civil war broke out among the members of her lover's family. His stepmother was cruel and would sink to any level to destroy him and any siblings that were not of her bloodline. So, in order to protect Hecuba and the unborn child, they both decided to end their relationship. From then on, things grew worse.
Her family married her off to a young man named Herodotus, whose family had hoped that the marriage would cause him to get his head out of the clouds.
Herodotus was more than happy to comply, so he left his studies at Spatmos and they began afresh in a new town where no one knew either of them.
Herodotus seemed nice enough at first, even doting. He even promised to love the child as his own, but that was before Gabrielle was born. The minute he saw her and saw that she wasn't normal all Tartarus broke loose. "Is there something you need to tell me Hecuba?" he asked accusingly. Knowing that he would find out sooner or later, she told him the truth. "A god? She's a child of a disgusting god!" He swiped his hand through his dark hair. "I want a normal child, not some freak!" he screamed as he stomped off.
Fear griped her as she held her newborn child close to her bosom. "He is going to leave me, how am I suppose to take care of you?" She looked down at her newborn. "Oh, please let her turn out to be normal. Please, I don't want to lose my child." Hecuba knew the hard truth-most half-mortals did not live long and stable lives. She did not want that for her daughter.
*My daughter. All I wanted to do was to protect you.* Hecuba looked around at her surroundings as they finally entered the village. Mothers were walking hand-in-hand with their young daughters. Young warrior women were honing their skills in practice areas. Women farmers were tilling the ground while women blacksmiths were forging metal into different instruments. The images were far cries from the stories that she grew up hearing and believing. Amazons were suppose to be man-haters, predatory in nature, the most violent of warriors lusting for battle and blood. But the women that she saw did not live up to the stories.
As she continued walking, Hecuba noticed some of the women staring at her. Others began to whisper. Hecuba hung her head low as she continued on following the guards. She did not notice that a lone figure was watching her and was coming closer.
The middle-aged woman looked up at the mention of her name and found herself staring at a pair of intense brown eyes. "Sophia."
The two stared at each other for a few moments in complete silence. Finally, the young ex-guardian spoke. "Why are you here?"
"To see my daughters. I need to explain to them..." A pale white globe of light
appeared behind Sophia. The moon goddess stood, her verdant eyes flashing with anger. "You are not welcomed here Hecuba."
"Gabrielle and Lila are my daughters Artemis. You can't stop me from seeing them."
"You want to bet?" The goddess eyed the bow in her hand and looked back at Hecuba. Hecuba gasped at Artemis' implied threat. "My chosen one and her sister are safe here. Besides this is where they belong, here in Amazonia. Here with the Amazons."
"I'm not here to take them away Artemis. Don't try to take them away from me."
Sophia watched as the two eyed each other, acting as if no one else was around.
Artemis finally noticed that an audience was gathering so she grabbed Hecuba by the arm and led her away from the crowd. Everyone stood their ground and watched the proceedings.
Sophia never saw Artemis so intense before. Everything was vehement-- from her green irises to the way she was moving her hands as she spoke. And even though the blond goddess was a few inches shorter than Hecuba, she was right up in the middle-aged woman's face. A ring of familiarity sounded in Sophia's mind, but she couldn't place it; not until she felt a small hand grab her shoulder.
"Hey, what is going on?" Gabrielle stood by her friend, with Xena right behind her. Sophia glanced at her friend and did a double take. She then looked back at the arguing couple. *Impossible. Oh Tartarus.* Sophia did a quick physical assessment of Gabrielle in her head, and realized that she may have stumbled onto the truth. "Um, looks like Hecuba and Artemis are having a discussion."
Gabrielle looked over at her mother and patron goddess. "Looks more like an argument to me." She glanced back at her soul-mate. "I guess I better break this up before it gets ugly." Xena nodded and the two made their way over to the rivals.
"What is going on here?" Gabrielle asked, looking first at her mother then at Artemis. Artemis ignored the question. "Gabrielle?" She reached over and caressed the young Queen's cheek. "How are you doing?"
"I was doing great this morning." She glanced over at Xena, "In fact, I've never been happier." She returned her gaze to the goddess. "That is until I saw the two of you arguing over here. Now, what is going on? What are you two arguing about?"
Hecuba spoke up. "We were arguing about, or should I say over you. Artemis tried to stop me from seeing you."
The bard and the warrior both stared at the goddess. Xena had dealt with the gods for many years of her life, and she thought that she had seen it all, but Artemis arrogance on this matter took the cake. "Is that true Artemis?"
"Yes, and I would do it again." The goddess looked over at her Chosen One. As she looked into her eyes, regret filled her own. "I couldn't protect you from the pain that they caused. But I'll be damned if I let them hurt you again. Gabrielle, she rejected you. You don't need her."
"Artemis, I appreciated what you are trying to do,but understand this. I'm the one who decides what role, if any, my mother will play in my life; not you nor anyone else can decide that."
Artemis nodded, even though she would like nothing more than escorting Hecuba off her lands, she knew Gabrielle had to make the decision.
Knowing that she made her point, Gabrielle escorted her mother towards her hut.
Artemis, Xena and Sophia watched as the Queen and her mom entered the hut. "She is a feisty one, isn't she Xena? You are going to have your hands full with that one."
"Don't I know it?"
Sophia walked to the pair. "She takes after someone I know." She turned and watched the hut, waiting for fireworks to go off. "Artemis, can I borrow the temple for a while? I feel the need to speak to my mom."
"Sure. Is it something important?"
Sophia turned to the goddess. "Sure is. I want to tell her thank you."
"Have a seat."
Hecuba walked over to the table and sat in a chair. Her hands grabbed her knees in an effort the keep them from knocking together.
Gabrielle leaned back against the post of her bed and crossed her arms over her chest. "What is it you want to speak to me about?" Her tone was cold and very business-like. Hecuba realized she would rather hear anger and resentment than the detached tone of Gabrielle's voice.
"You aren't going to make this easy, are you?"
Hecuba lowered her eyes to the ground. "No, you shouldn't." Hecuba looked at her eldest daughter. "I need to apologize to you. I should have believed you and I'm so sorry that I didn't. Please forgive me. I need my daughters back in my life."
"It is not that simple mother. You were there. You saw what he did to me. Nevertheless, you said nothing. And then when I finally get the strength to tell you what happened on those trips, you turned your back on me. It felt like you had plunged a dagger right into my heart.
But I could have forgiven you, after all, no one wants to believe that a loved one could turn out so hideous, but when I needed you the most, you weren't here. Xena was, Sophia was, and Lila was constantly by my side. Even Artemis was here, but you weren't. All that time, and you couldn't find a way to pull yourself from the farm, at least to make sure that I was alive."
"I know I'm asking a lot from you Gabrielle..." Hecuba's eyes pleaded with Gabrielle for understanding and forgiveness.
"You are asking too much."
Hecuba lowered her head as silent tears rolled down her face. She knew that she had truly lost her daughter this time, and she had no one to blame but herself. "Do you want me to leave this village?"
Gabrielle sighed. Part of her wanted to lash out at her mother and tell her to go. Another part of her wanted answers to her questions. But the last part of her still loved her mother. "I really don't know. But if I do allow you to stay, I need you to understand that I need time to deal with this and with you. You need to give me that space and time; don't push yourself into my life."
Hecuba nodded. "I understand."
"I'll have two of the guards to escort you to a hut." The Queen opened the door and motioned two of the guards to lead Hecuba to her quarters. Before she left, Hecuba turned to her daughter. "Thank you."
Gabrielle nodded. After the door closed, Gabrielle dropped the strong facade and let her tears flow.
Xena watched as Hecuba left. The Warrior Princess made her way to the hut. As she entered the hut, she saw the slump-over shoulders and heard the soft sobs. Without saying a word, she walked over and wrapped her arms around the bard. She gently rocked her soul-mate as she hugged her. They stood there, just holding on to one another.
Hecuba looked around at the no frills hut. Nothing adorned the hut except a chest, bed, basin and two candles. Hecuba wished that her life reflected that simpleness.
The older woman quickly spun around. "Apollo." Years had past since they last saw each other, and as in the past, both their eyes were filled with tears.
"How is she?"
"Gabrielle seems to be doing well. I really don't know. I just arrived here."
"I know. Where have you been? You should have been here."
Anger flashed across Hecuba's face. "Don't tell me where I should have been. What gives you the right?" Brown eyes met the gaze of sea-green eyes. "You weren't there."
"We both agreed that it would be best if I wasn't, but I would have been if you would have just told me what was going on. I would have protected her from Herodotus."
"And what then? Could you protect her from Hera? I'm sorry Apollo, but I knew she would survive Herodotus' beatings, but not even you could protect us from Hera."
Apollo swiped his hand through his flaxen blond hair. "Look I don't want to argue with you about this. Our daughter needs the both of us."
"What are you saying?"
"You need to tell her."
"You have no choice Hecuba. I don't know how much longer I can keep Artemis from telling Gabrielle the truth."
"She's your sister, can't you do something?"
"No, I can't. When Artemis gets an idea in her head; no one will stop her. She is so stubborn; and right now she thinks that it would be best if Gabrielle knew, and more importantly, Gabrielle is her chosen one, therefore Artemis doesn't need our permission." Apollo walked over to Hecuba. "Listen, no matter what happens, Gabrielle is not going to want to have anything to do with me.
However, if she hears the truth from anyone but you, that will all but destroy your chances of being in her life. Do you really want to risk that?"
"Apollo, I'm trying to rebuild my relationship with both of my daughters. I can't tell them the truth right now. I need time."
"Hecuba, I can't promise you anything, but I'll speak to Artemis." He took a couple of steps back form her. "Please think about what I said." The globe of light returned, engulfing the god as he disappeared from sight.
"Athena, goddess of wisdom and war, your daughter awaits."
A simmering light was the only signal that announced the presence of the goddess. "Must you be so formal my daughter?" Athena wrapped her arms around her only child. "Is everything okay?"
"As well as can be expected." Sophia waited for her mother to sit before continuing. "Hecuba came today."
"She did? Good, she needs to be here."
"Humph, I don't know about that, but I didn't come here to talk about her." She reached up and grabbed Athena's hands. "I just wanted to thank you for loving me so much. Thank you for giving me up so I could have a somewhat normal life. I know it wasn't easy. For years I didn't understand why I couldn't stay with you. But, after meeting Ares, I understand."
"You know I only wanted what was best for you."
"I know, and I want to thank you for choosing Poteidaea. One of the best things in my life was there. I just wish things could have been different for her. She deserved so much more." She turned to face her mother. "Can I ask you something?"
"Sure. What is it?"
"Well, why did you pick Poteidaea anyhow? Wouldn't I have been safer in Athens or in one of your other cities? What is so special about Poteidaea?"
Athena looked away from daughter, as she tried to figure out just what Sophia was thinking. "Nothing really, just a small town where people minded their own business. That was the main thing."
Sophia nodded. "Yes, I guess that quality is important." She looked at her hands nonchalantly, "Especially when more than one god is hiding their child there."
Athena quickly looked at her daughter, shock filled her gray eyes.
"Drop the surprise look from your face mother, I know the truth."
"And what truth is that?"
"That I wasn't the only half-god growing up in Poteidaea." She decided to spill the beans. "How is Uncle Apollo doing? Tell him that his daughter turned out well, especially for one whose father never looked her way."
"That's not fair Sophia. You don't know what was going on at the time."
"So enlighten me."
The goddess sighed."This doesn't just concern Gabrielle, but you and other half-mortals as well. A number of years ago, Hera finally had enough of Zeus' infidelities. You can say that the birth of Hercules was the last straw. And what really hurt Hera was that Zeus seemed to prefer his other children over the sons that Hera bore him.
Hera saw all of us as a threat to her and her children. She knew that one day, one of Zeus' children would inherit the throne, and it looked like neither of her children would be that one. Hept is the most decent and gentle of the gods, and as the eldest it is his right, but he doesn't want it. Ares may want it, but the rest of us will make sure he never gets it.
Anyway, Hera decided that enough was enough. She declared war on all of her step-children, including the gods. And after some of her cruelties, many of us were more than happy to oblige her. What we didn't realized was the depths she was willing to go in order to hurt us. She knew she couldn't kill us, but she could kill the ones that we love. And since most of us had mortal lovers and children, they became Hera's targets. That is why so many of you were hidden."
Sophia shook her head, doubt shining from her eyes. "I'm sorry mother, but I can't believe this about grandmother. She has shown nothing but love to me and little Evander."
"Then go ask Hercules. Ask him what Hera did to his wife, his children, and members of his family. Ask him how Hera tried to kill him as a baby and continued her rampage through most of his life. And he is just one of many who had felt the anger of Hera, all because of no fault of his own." She placed her hand upon Sophia's shoulders. "I know that this is hard for you to accept, but you must remember that she did not find out about you until we found out that Ares was your father. Of course she loves you, you are of her bloodline. But anyone else, and she is willing to sink as low as it takes to get what she wants. Your grandfather finally forced the gods to come to a truce. But none of us trust her."
Sophia rolled her mother's words in her mind. She tried to imagine the horror that Hera could have afflicted upon her best friend and her family. What would Hera have done if she knew that Hecuba was carrying Apollo's child? She couldn't think of anything worst that what had already happened to her beloved friend."Mother, just where is Grandmother now?"
"Spatmos is holding their annual festival for her. That town has one of the largest cults dedicated to Hera. She loves going to that festival."
Sophia knew she heard of that place before. Then it came to her. "Did you say Spatmos?"
"Yes, why?" Sophia didn't respond, so Athena tried to take matters into her own hands. As she tried to read her daughter's mind, Sophia quickly threw up a mental block. "Mother, what have I said about reading my mind?"
Athena crossed her arms. "I see you've learned another trick from your father."
"He said it might be useful one day." She smiled at her mother and said, "I've got to go. Talk to you later." She ran over and gave Athena a kiss on the cheek. "Love you, and thank you."
Athena watched her only child left the temple. "What is she up to now? I better warn Artemis and Apollo." She crossed her arms over her chest. "And then I need to go and have a talk with Ares. Damn him."
Xena opened the door. "Sophia, come in."
Sophia nodded as she entered the hut. She made her way to Gabrielle. "Hey bard, how are you doing?"
"Okay. It was a shock seeing her here, that's all."
"I bet." The ex-guardian reached out and gave her best friend a hug. "Listen, I need to go away to take care of some personal business. I should be back in two weeks."
Gabrielle looked at Xena and smirked. Then she turned back to Sophia. "Personal business huh? So tell me Sophia, which of my Amazons' hearts did you break?"
"Yeah, and what weapon is she coming after you with?"
Sophia looked at her two friends with a mock hurt in her eyes. "I'll have you two know that I have been a perfect angel. I'm not running from anyone, just some personal business. I just came here to warn you two not to do anything stupid while I'm gone."
"And what would that be?" Xena crossed her arms and waited for Sophia's response.
"Getting hitched. After all, I brought you two together. I deserve the best seat in the house."
Gabrielle sighed. "That is really a shame, because we had already made the seating chart."
"Yes, we have. The ceremony will take place in the temple of course." Xena grunted. "Or maybe by the lake?" Gabrielle looked over at her soul-mate. Xena nodded her approval. "And we have placed your seat next to the healer's hut."
"Healer's hut? I won't be able to see anything from over there!"
"Gabrielle, you shouldn't tease Sophia like that, after all she is our friend." Xena placed an arm over Sophia's shoulder. "Your real seat is over by the mountains."
"Yeah, the other side of the mountains."
"Ha-ha you two. Real funny. See what kind of gift I get the two of you."
Xena went and wrapped her arms around her love. "You have already given me the best gift I could ever have or want."
"Oh get a room."
Gabrielle looked at the hut. "We are already in our room."
"Well then, I guess I better leave."
Xena walked Sophia out. "Hey Xena, I know that I don't need to tell you this..."
Xena raised a hand, interrupting her. "I know, 'Take care of her.' You know I will."
Sophia smirked. "I know."
Hecuba watched in the shadows as Gabrielle and Lila practiced with their staffs. And even though Lila and her were mending their relationship, Hecuba had yet to see a sign from her eldest that she wanted one with her. So she kept watch from a distance ever since she entered the village. And during these times, she no longer saw the young girl that she recognized as her daughter. Gone was the farm girl who played the pan flute and told stories about adventures; instead stood an accomplished bard and Queen, a woman who lived adventures as well as told about them.
*And from the looks of it, an accomplished fighter as well.* The thought made Hecuba shiver. The thought of her daughter fighting bandits, slavers, and other types of bad guys did not please her. For years, she blamed Xena for taking away her daughter. And during the few times that she saw her daughter, she blamed the Warrior Princess for those changes. But as she watched her two children hone their skills, she had to admit that Xena wasn't at fault. *You were just the right person at the right place and time. She would have taken off eventually. And who could really blame her?* A sudden screech brought Hecuba out of her musings.
"Hey, watch it Gabrielle!" Lila rubbed up upper arm as she dropped her weapon. "That smarts!"
Gabrielle placed a hand on her hip, "Listen Lila, we are going slow. Maybe the staff isn't your type of weapon." Gabrielle twirled her staff.
The two sisters laughed and Hecuba smiled in spite of herself. *It's been so long. I never thought it, but I miss the sound of you two arguing.*
"So what weapon do you want to try now?"
"What weapon haven't I've tried? Maybe I'm just a lover and not a fighter."
Gabrielle shook her head. "Oh no, you are not getting out of this so easily. Every Amazon has to learn to use a weapon proficiently, including an Amazon Princess. Besides if I had to, you do too." She tossed her staff to her sister and watched as it hit the ground with a thud. "Lila!"
"Okay, okay. So maybe the staff is not the weapon for me. How about the bow?"
"Fine, let's start our lesson then."
"Who's going to teach us?"
"No one is going to teach us. I'm going to teach you."
"What?! When we were kids you couldn't hit the side of a barn with a rock."
"Lila, we aren't kids anymore, and as Amazon Queen, I had to learn to use the weapons of the Amazons, including the bow." She placed her free hand on her hip as a smug look engulfed her face. "And I have you know that I was a natural at the bow. It took me less than a few candlemarks to get it down to an art form."
Lila mocked her sister as she looked down at her fallen staff. "Do I really need to learn about all these weapons?"
"Not all at once. For now, you need to pick one and become good at it. You never know when you are going to need it." She picked up the staff and handed it to her sister. "There is another thing you should know. Weapons can be classified in two categories: ones whose primary purpose is to kill and those that aren't.
In other words, if the bow is going to be your weapon, be prepared to kill. One doesn't usually shoot an arrow at someone in order to maim." She looked Lila right in the eye. "You think you can handle that?"
Lila looked down at her hands. "I don't know."
"Good answer." Gabrielle began to separate the staff. "Well, we better get over to the target field."
"Wait." Lila slowly twirled the staff, as trepidation showed in her face, "let's give this another go around."
They practiced for another few moments as Lila's muscles burned from the strain.
"Okay, Gabrielle, enough." She lowered herself to the ground. "How long did it take you to learn the basics of the staff?"
"You really want the truth?"
"About a day." Lila looked on in shock. "But I had Ephiny and Eponin as my instructors. And it took me weeks to get real good at it. Xena had me doing drills at least twice a day."
"So all I have to do is practice twice a day, and I too can become a hero, huh?"
Gabrielle sat down by her younger sister. "What are you talking about? I'm not a hero."
"Oh yeah, well how about those stories I heard about you? From what I heard, you and Xena are walking legends."
Gabrielle turned to Lila. "Xena does most of the fighting, I record the events."
"Not according to this bard that came through town. He told a story about you and Xena. I told him who I was and then I asked him where he heard that story from, because it sounded like one of your stories."
"And he said he heard the story told by a young man named Loka, Loko..."
"Yeah, that's it! So sis, you are a hero."
Hecuba smile became a frown as she listened to her youngest child's words. The word hero rang in the older woman's mind. Hecuba refused to give in to the fear that threatened to overwhelm her.
Gabrielle groaned as she lay down with a thud. "I'm going to kill Xena."
Lila giggled. "You can't do that."
"And why not?"
Lila began to badly hum a tune, "Da--da--da-daaa, da--da--da-daaa."
Hecuba snapped out of her thoughts as she listened to Lila's humming. Who's getting married? Hecuba hoped it was Gabrielle. Maybe now she will settle down. She listened carefully to the conversation.
"And have you set a date yet?"
"And when are you going to do that? As Queen it is your decision."
"I don't know, maybe next spring."
"Can I help plan it?"
Gabrielle smiled. "I can't think of a person who I want more to help." Lila shouted and pulled her sister into a hug. It was then that Gabrielle saw their mother looking on. "Looks like Mom wants to talk to you Lila."
Lila pivoted and glanced back. "How you know she doesn't want to talk to you?"
Gabrielle looked at her mother and stood up. Hecuba, thinking that this was her chance, took a step forward. Gabrielle then turned and walked away.
Lila turned back to her mother and watched as a desolated Hecuba walked to the food hut. Lila ran after her eldest sister.
"Gabrielle wait!" She caught up with her sibling and placed a hand on her shoulder. "Gabrielle, you may not realized this, but this isn't helping. She misses you so much."
"She did this to herself."
"And she knows that Gabrielle. She told me about her promise not to push herself on you, to give you time to come to terms with her. And she has kept her end of the bargain." Lila turned Gabrielle so she could see her face to face. "Do you know what Mom's day is like? She wakes up bright and early and goes to the food hut to teach the cooks her recipes of your favorite foods. Then she stands by the tree lines or in the shadows and watches you, wishing that she could see you up close. And at night when she goes to bed, she cries herself to sleep. I know cause I'm sometimes in the hut with her." Lila softened her voice. "Mother is trying, can't you give her a chance?"
Gabrielle sighed. "Lila, I don't know what to say to her."
"What do you want to say?"
Gabrielle looked at the sky, trying to gather her thoughts. "I want to ask her why. Why did she let Father have so much control over us? Why didn't she step in? Why didn't she believe me?"
"Gabrielle, no one can give you those answers, except for her. If you really want to find out, you are going to have to ask."
"The problem is sis, I'm not sure I want the answers."
Sophia had traveled four days to reach Spatmos; and those four days of travel did not do much for her disposition. For four days she thought about what Hera did to her stepchildren, their mothers and families; the torture and cruelty her own grandmother unleashed. As she entered Spatmos, she saw that the celebration was in high gear, and it was all in honor of Hera, Queen of the gods. *Like she deserves any honor.*
She hitched her horse and headed into the temple. As she closed in on the wooden front doors, a priest stopped her. "Excuse me, young lady, but where is your offering?"
"I'm her grand-daughter, Sophia, daughter of Ares. I don't need an offering."
The priest grabbed her arm. "I'm sorry, but no one, not even Ares himself can enter without an offering."
"Really?" Sophia stared at the man. He gasped as her eyes became pitch black and he quickly released her arm. "How about you?" she said as she grabbed him by the throat, "A pig like you should fit just fine on her altar." The man shook with fear. "Now, if you don't mind, I'm going in." Knowing she had made her point, Sophia threw him aside and entered into the temple.
She barely made it into the inner sanctum before shouting, "Hera! Hera! Show yourself!" When Hera did not appear that very second, Sophia started tossing the offerings of fruit, grain, and jewels off their pedestals along with the priests foolish enough to stand in her way. "Damn it Grandmother, show yourself! Or I swear to you that I will destroy this place brick by brick!"
In a blaze of light, Hera stood before her agitated granddaughter. She nodded to the priests and they scurried away. "What is the meaning of this Sophia? Not even you should dare barge in here like that."
Sophia spoke through gritted teeth. "Just came to tell you that your little plan to kill Apollo's daughter failed, that she survived Herodotus' abuse. Yes, Gabrielle is doing fine, no thanks to you."
"Gabrielle is Apollo's daughter?" She looked at Sophia and saw that she was barely able to control her rage. "Listen to me please. I did not know that Gabrielle was Apollo's daughter, not until you just told me."
"Yeah, right. Tell me, was Herodotus one of your priest or just a too willing servant to do your bidding."
"I didn't send Herodotus into Hecuba's life." Hera sighed as she realized that her granddaughter did not believe her.
"I want the truth Hera. Did you know him?"
Hera lowered her eyes. "Yes, I did know Herodotus."
"So you admit it."
"No! Please listen to me. Herodotus was a young man when I first saw him. He had come regularly to this temple for a year. The High Priest thought that Herodotus should be a priest. I looked into Herodotus' heart and saw a darkness there that disgusted me; so I rejected him.
I knew that Hecuba was carrying Apollo's child. And I had planned on destroying that child myself. I laughed when I realized that Apollo and Hecuba thought that I knew nothing about the child and were going their separate ways in order to protect the baby. I wanted to hurt Apollo and I knew that the best way was through this child. I watched for weeks, waiting for the best opportunity to strike, trying to come up with the best way to maximize the pain that Apollo would feel. But then the Fates stepped in, and I saw that Hecuba and Herodotus were to be wed. And so I decided to let nature take its course. Herodotus would destroy the child, and I had no need to involve myself in the matter. So then I turned my attention to other concerns."
"Like destroying everyone else's life."
Hera looked up at Sophia. "I will admit that there was a time that I desired nothing more than to destroy my step-children and their families..."
"I think it is a bit late to confess." She swiped her hand through her ebony hair. "You knew what he was capable of and you sat back and did nothing. You may not had sent him into her life, but you did nothing to stop him." She chuckled and shook her head. "Well, let this be a lesson for you grandmother. If you want the job to be done right, you better do it yourself."
Sophia looked around the temple and tiny statues of families on the altar. "I come from some very sick stock don't I grandmother. You and father don't care who gets hurt as long as you get what you want." Sophia walked up to the statuettes. "The goddess of childbirth and family. What a load of crap." She picked up two figurines of two little boys and placed them on a table in front of the goddess. "Ares claimed he learned everything from you. He must make you proud Hera. I wonder how much was learned and how much was biological? Ares inherited your darkness; your lessons just fine tuned his natural abilities, and I was born with that same darkness. Probably have that same self-serving, selfish streak in me as well." She took her eyes off the small figures and stared at Hera. "Which is really a shame. Because right now, my darkness is telling me to hurt you, to hurt you through the only thing that you have ever loved." Sophia raised her fist and drove it into one of the figurines, pulverizing it into sand.
Hera eyes grew wide as she realized just what Sophia meant. "Evander is your brother."
"Half-brother, just like Hercules and Ares. What's your point?" Sophia smirked. "But you know me too well, grandmother. I would never hurt a hair on my brother's head. He is so sweet and innocent. And unlike you, I don't kill innocent children." She picked up the second figurine. "No, I'm going to protect my brother. I'm going to tell him the truth. I'm going to tell him about all the things you did, so that he can be aware of who you really are, and the poison that you have past on to us."
"You would turn him against me?"
"He doesn't need someone like you in his life."
Hera's eyes pleaded to her grand-daughter. "Sophia, I've changed. Yes, I hated the children born from Zeus' infidelities, but I realized I was wrong. You are right, Evander doesn't need the old me in his life. But he does need me, the goddess that is standing before you today, and so do you. Grandchildren need their grandparents. You may find this hard to believe, but I am capable of love. I have shown you nothing but love ever since I found out about you." She reached out toward her granddaughter, but Sophia pulled away.
"I don't want nor need your kind of love Hera. Stay away from my little brother and me. We have enough monsters in our nightmares, we don't need them in our lives." Sophia walked out of the temple, all the while wishing that this was truly just a bad nightmare.
Xena frowned as she stood outside; watching the members of the council filed out of the building. Six candlemarks had passed since the council was called into session. *What could have been so important?* She stood there for a few more moments, waiting for Gabrielle to come out. When she didn't Xena walked past the four guards and entered the building.
Two of the royal guards watched as Xena entered the room and made her way over to the hunched over Amazon Queen. "Hi."
Gabrielle didn't bother to lift her head from the table or open her eyes. "Hi."
"I hate treaty discussions. We had the usually three today: those who want the treaty to remain the same, those who want to change the treaty, and those who want to forget about treaties altogether and fight to regain the ancient Amazonian lands and glory."
"I'm sorry, but I figured it was rough, especially after seeing that you guys worked through lunch, so I came here to see what I can do." Xena reached down and began to massage the Queen's tense shoulders. Gabrielle moaned as the tension began to dissipate. "That is nice. So what have you been doing all day?"
"Training the future Amazonian warriors." Xena bent down and whispers, "I've got something else for you, but you have to dismiss your guards." Gabrielle turned and gave Xena a quizzical look, before she dismissed the guard. "So what is it?"
Xena bent down and delivered a sizzling kiss. Neither of them looked up as Chilapa and Lila stood in the door way. "What do you want girls?"
Chilapa smiled. "Hey, don't let us interrupt you two. The gods knows that both of you needed that."
Lila began to giggle. "I don't know Chilapa, I think Xena needed it more. Every time she got a little bit.." she paused to find the right word, "frustrated, we trainees had to work harder." She showed Chilapa a few bruises. "But I'm getting real good with the staff."
Gabrielle cocked her eyebrow at Xena. Chilapa looked over at Lila. "Looks like someone is in trouble," and the two Amazons rolled with laughter. It was then that Xena turned to them and quirked her eyebrow. They quickly stopped laughing.
"Your Queen needs a break, so tell the council that she will be unavailable for the rest of the day."
Chilapa folded her arms across her chest. "And what are we suppose to do? The Queen has to be here for treaty discussions."
"Yes, but she doesn't have to be here to talk about bonding ceremonies and traditions." Lila eyes danced with glee as she thought about the possibilities.
Gabrielle saw the look in her sister's eyes, and she knew it could only mean trouble. "Maybe I should stay."
"No, that's okay Gabrielle. Lila's right, we do need to get started on that anyway. The Queen's bonding ceremony and festivals are suppose to be the biggest celebrations in the life of the village."
Xena looked over at her two friends. "Did you say festivals?"
"Oh yes. See I've been reading up on this stuff." Lila started to count off along her fingers. "Let's see, there's the party to celebrate Artemis' blessing upon your relationship, the party for each of you before you get married, the official celebration to announce your engagement, the ceremony itself and the three day celebration after the ceremony." Lila looked up and saw the couple missing. "Hey, where did they go?"
Chilapa smiled. "You know how Xena feels about festivals. She's probably going back to the hut and trying to convince Gabrielle to elope."
"That would be breaking protocol."
"Xena remind me to tell Lila to stop taking her studies so seriously."
Xena chuckled as she grabbed her lover's hand. "So which of the numerous tests are you going to have me go through in order to prove myself worthy?"
"That is not my decision, but the council's. But it should be a dozy, especially with Lila helping out."
"She's helping?" The Warrior Princess quirked her eyebrow. "Oh, that just great. I can see it now, she will have me going after the Golden Fleece or a feather from Cupid's wings."
Gabrielle giggled as Xena rolled her eyes. "Thanks for the suggestions. But if I were you, I wouldn't worry. Lila is very excited and wants the ceremony to take place as soon as possible."
"Well, it seems Amazonia will be celebrating our bonding for at least a month. Isn't there a way we can just come in for the ceremony and leave right after it?" Both began laughing as they made their way to their hut.
Hecuba heard the laughter and steeled herself in front of the Queen's hut as she thought back to the events that began her day: Apollo appearing in her hut, telling her about Sophia's confrontation with Hera and the aftermath. But the most important issue was Artemis. Artemis thought it was imperative that Gabrielle knows the truth so that she could protect herself from Hera. Artemis and Apollo didn't trust Hera and her words about change, and frankly Hecuba couldn't disagree with them. Artemis demanded that Hecuba tell Gabrielle. "I'll give you until tomorrow night to tell her. If you don't tell her, then I will."
Gabrielle looked up and saw her mother sitting in front of the hut, fear and sadness evident on the older woman's face. "Wonder what is wrong?"
Hecuba watched as Xena and Gabrielle approached. She saw them holding hands and realized that the rumors that she had heard were true. But instead of being upset, Hecuba was happy. During her time in Amazonia, Hecuba saw the sly glances and smiles between the two. She had seen how happy her daughter was when Xena was near and vice versa; and she realized Xena and her daughter had something that she never had with Herodotus. *For once in my life, I'm going to do whatever it takes to make you happy while I still can.* Hecuba looked at her daughter, *Because once you find out the truth, you will probably throw me out of this village.*
"Mom, is everything okay?"
Hecuba gave her daughter a weak smile as she stood up. "Gabrielle, we need to talk, there are some things I need to tell you."
Hecuba placed her hands upon Gabrielle's shoulders. "How about tomorrow afternoon, at the temple?"
"Do you want to talk now?"
Hecuba shook her head. "No." After she gave Gabrielle a gentle squeeze, she turned to face Xena. "I know that I haven't always treated you with kindness and respect and I want to apologize. I also want to thank you Xena for you have made my little girl happy, and she deserves all the happiness in the world." Hecuba began walking away from the couple.
Gabrielle took a couple of steps towards her mother. In her heart she knew that something was wrong, but she couldn't figure it out. "Mom, if it is serious..."
"It can wait." Hecuba gave her daughter a small smile. "Besides, you need to rest, you look tired. We'll talk tomorrow." She headed toward her hut.
Gabrielle turned back to the Warrior Princess. "I'm worried about her, Xena. I've haven't seen her that frightened in years. I use to think that Father was the cause of it, but now I'm not so sure."
"Do you want me to go with you tomorrow?"
"No, we need to work this out between the two of us."
"Just remember; I'm here for you."
Gabrielle grinned at her intended. "Always."
Sophia opened her eyes and focused on the person standing above her. "I'm in no mood to see you Father."
Ares reached down, grabbed her by the arms and pulled her out of her bedroll. "Too bad because we are going to talk."
She shoved him away from herself. "Let me guess, you want another go at it? Fine by me, I'm itching for a fight. Let's see, I think I won the first round. Yep, I did; I kicked your arse all over Athena's temple. Round two was a tie, but I'll give it to you. Round three was a toss-up. Round four, winner takes all."
"I didn't come here to fight you Sophia. Damn it, what's wrong with you?"
"What's wrong with me? Why nothing, dear father, just showing off the family traits."
Ares lowered his voice. "You can't change the past Sophia. What's done is done."
"And the people I love are still suffering because of it. How do you think they are going to feel when they found out the truth?"
"Why don't you ask them yourself? After you left, Hera confessed to everyone on Mount Olympus to her actions, or should I say her lack of actions. It took most of us to keep Artemis and Apollo from ripping Hera to pieces."
Confusion clouded Sophia's eyes. "Why would she do that?"
"Because, unfortunately, my dear mother has changed. There was a time that you would have been fried for entering her temple as you did. There was a time that she would have enjoyed hearing that Apollo's child had survived because it meant she could finish the job herself." Sophia could hear the joy in his voice as he spoke. But that joy quickly turned into disgust, "But now, she's been redeemed."
"And I can see that makes you so happy."
"Damn it Sophia! You just don't get it. Today, you caused her to do the one thing I've never seen her do."
"And what is that?"
Ares came nose to nose with his daughter. "You made her cry."
The words hit Sophia hard. In the time she has known her, Hera had always maintained her cool exterior. Even when she was mad, she maintained this sense of control. "She cried?"
"Yes." Ares backed away from his daughter. "She cried because she realized how much she hurt you. She cried because she couldn't go back and change the past. She cried because she realized that she hurt the only person you have ever loved..." Ares paused. "And still love."
Sophia looked away from her father. Ares shook his head. "You are so stubborn and pig-headed. Let me tell you something about your grandmother. You would have been dead if it haven't been for her."
"What are you talking about?"
He looked into his daughter eyes and made sure he had her full attention. "I don't get it. One minute you humans want the gods to interfere in your lives, the next you want us to stay out. You are no different from any other human, you want the benefits without any of the tribulations. You want the good without the bad. Well, too bad. We are who we are and you need to accept the whole package Sophia. We don't claim to be perfect, just who we are. And that includes your grandmother. The only reason the darkness did not kill you is because she made me teach you how to control it." Ares grabbed his daughter's hands.
"When you rejected me and the chance to be at my side, I was a bit upset. But then you added insult to injury by becoming a guardian of love once again. Do you know what it is like to know that your own flesh and blood hates everything that you stand for and chooses the other side? I didn't want to have anything to do with you. When the darkness started to destroy you physically and mentally, I didn't care. But Hera decided that I should act like a loving father. And I have been a part of your life since then; but now it is because I want to be."
She faced the God of War. "What do you want from me Ares?"
"I want your understanding. We gods are beings of light and darkness. But because we are gods, our light tends to shine more or our darkness tends to swallow up any light that is present. There is very little middle ground with us; when we love, we love all the way; and when we hate, we do that with vigor as well. You should understand that better than any human alive." He let go of her hands. "And maybe in time, you can forgive."
"I don't know about that. Right now, my main concern is getting back to Amazonia and being there for my friends."
Ares looked at his daughter. "Can I ask you something? What is it about that girl? My two best chances at conquering the world throw it all away for an irritating blond."
Sophia smirked. "Watch it Ares. I have on good authority that Xena and I are not the only ones fond of Gabrielle." She motioned for her father to come closer. "And if you are not careful, she will get under your skin, and you won't be able to get her out of your heart." She showed off her Chester cat grin.
"I'll have you know that my interest in her is purely business. She would be great as my chosen one. She knows when to fight and not to fight. And now that I know that she is Apollo's daughter..."
The smile completely disappeared from Sophia's face. "Back off Ares. She will never be yours. She is too good for the likes of you. Besides, she will become your chosen over Xena's and my dead bodies."
"This has nothing to do with you."
"If it concerns Gabrielle and Xena, it concerns me too. I will not allow you to hurt them. If you do, I swear there will be no place in Mount Olympus, on Earth or in Hades that you will be able to hide from me."
Ares frowned. "Why would you fight for someone you can never have? What are you getting out of it?"
"I guess you will never truly get it Father. Gabrielle has the ability to bring out the best in people. She did that with me. When my life seemed the darkest, she was there bringing the gift of light. So if you think I'm going to abandon her just because I can't have her or because you have designs on her, think again."
Ares smirked at his daughter. "Love makes people do the strangest things. That is why I have nothing to do with it." With his signature smoke and light show, the God of War disappeared.
Sophia shook her head as she watched Ares left. *Liar* "Bye Father."
"Gabrielle, come on now," Xena gently stroked her lover's arm. "We've already missed breakfast, do you want to miss lunch too?" The bard's stomach gave its answer as it growled. "Ah, the monster from the deep has spoken."
Gabrielle looked at the Warrior Princess. "Why are you always picking on my stomach, what has it ever done to you?"
"Nothing, it just amazes me." Xena stared into the pair of chartreuse eyes before her, "like every other part of you."
Crimson rushed to the Queen's face. "Don't start warrior."
A knock came upon the door. Gabrielle climbed out of bed, wrapped her robe around herself and answered the door.
Lila beamed as the door came open. "Hi Gabrielle. I was just wondering if you and Xena would like to join mom and me for lunch?" Her eyes pleaded with Gabrielle to say yes.
Gabrielle looked back at Xena and then back at her sister. "I guess that will be fine." Gabrielle gave her sister a small smile. "See you at the food hut?"
Lila's face beamed as she nodded. "Thanks."
Gabrielle closed the door. Xena jumped out of bed and began to get ready. "So, we are going to have lunch with Hecuba and then you two are going to talk. Are you sure you are up for this?"
"No." The young Queen began to change as well. "But she is my mother and she has been trying. I need to give her a chance."
After they were ready, they made their way to the food hut. The Queen's table sat Hecuba and Lila. Lila stood and waved them over.
During lunch, Lila chatted constantly about her plans for the bonding ceremony and the events before and after. Xena rolled her eyes to the ceiling and smiled at Gabrielle. Gabrielle chuckled and turned to her mother. Hecuba shook her head and looked over at her youngest. "Lila, don't you think that is enough? Not everyone is into parties like you. Have you ever asked them what they wanted? Maybe you should think simple, after all tons of people are going to be here and it would be a lot easier if things were simple."
"Amazonian festivals are not simple mother. There is tons of rituals and rules that have to be followed."
"Lila has been spending too much time with Chilapa," Xena whispered to the bard.
Gabrielle nodded and then turned back to her sister. "Lila, please take Mom's advice. It would be easier for all of us. And if you don't," she winked at Xena, "then Xena won't have to go through a test. By her attending all these festivals will more than enough to prove her love and loyalty."
"Hey, I'm just doing what the scrolls said to do."
"Speaking of bonding ceremonies," Hecuba looked at her daughter and future daughter-in-law, "are you two going to settle down here after you are married?"
Gabrielle and Xena looked at each other. "Well, to tell the truth, we haven't talk about it." Gabrielle turned back to her mother. "I assumed that we would be heading back on the road after a while."
Xena quickly interjected, "But we haven't made any decisions yet."
"Well, whatever they decide they can't leave for at least three days after the bonding ceremony, not until the bonding festival is over with." Everyone groaned as Lila continued with her chatter.
Gabrielle finally stood up. "Lila, why don't you and Xena continue this conversation. Mom and I have things to do." The Queen smiled back at Xena as she and Hecuba made their way out of the food hut. Xena narrowed her eyes at her love. *You know what they say about paybacks.*
"Oh goody. You and I have so much to talk about!"
"It is going to have to wait Lila. I have to train some of the youngsters. See you later." Xena bolted from the table and food hut.
Sophia rode quickly into the village and spotted Xena at the training grounds. "Hey Xena." The ex-guardian dismounted from her steed and embraced Xena's forearm. "Where is Gabrielle? I need to talk to her."
"With her mother. Hecuba wanted to have a chat with her."
"Do you know where?"
"They were heading towards the temple."
"At Artemis' temple?"
"Well, that is the only one here." Xena saw the concern in Sophia's eyes. "What's wrong?"
"That little trip I took was about personal business, but not mine. Xena, before Herodotus died, he told me he wasn't Gabrielle's father. I thought he was trying to hurt Gabrielle again. But he was telling the truth and from what you have just told me, I think that Hecuba is about to break the news to Gabrielle. I tell you the rest on our way to the temple." Both women mounted unto the equine and rode to the temple.
As they entered the temple, Gabrielle noticed that none of the priestesses were around. She turned to Hecuba with a puzzled look on her face.
"Don't worry. Artemis dismissed the priestesses earlier so that we could be alone." Hecuba sat down and looked nervously around the temple.
Gabrielle made her way towards her mother. "Mom, what's wrong?" She again saw the look of fear that haunted her mother's eyes. "What are you so scared of?"
"I should have told you the truth years ago. There are so many secrets and keeping them has hurt both you and Lila." She turned her head and looked at Gabrielle. "You must believe me, I never meant for you to get hurt, I just wanted to protect you." Hecuba took a deep breath. "I have to start at the beginning. Herodotus and I married, not out of love but out of need. He needed to fulfill his family's expectations and I needed a father for my unborn child. I needed a father for you." Hecuba looked up at her daughter and watched as the confusion grew in her eyes.
Hecuba lowered her eyes to the floor. "Your real father was at war with his step-mother. She wanted to destroy all of her stepchildren and she would have us killed if she knew of you. So we decided to part ways, that is when I met Herodotus. He knew that the baby wasn't his, but he claimed he would love it as if it was his own. But he didn't."
"He's not my father," Gabrielle barely whispered. "Why didn't you tell me? Why are you telling me this now?"
Hecuba tried to swallow down the lump in her throat. "You always had this far away look in your eyes, like a normal life wasn't enough for you. You have this heart of gold, and you feel this need to help everyone, and then you started to show extraordinary abilities. Herodotus beat you because he wanted you to act more like a normal person. I too wanted you to stop using your powers, I wanted you to stop dreaming of far off lands, and I wanted you to be where I thought you would be safe but for a different reason.
I knew that if you were to find out who you really were, you would go chasing after your dreams because you thought it was your destiny. And you would have died either by chasing after your destiny or by Hera's hands."
"What does Hera have to do with any of this?"
"Hera would have killed you.Maybe…maybe she still does."
Gabrielle's voice grew louder. "Why? Why would she want to kill me?"
"Because of who your father was." Hecuba closed her eyes before continuing. "Mortal children of the gods don't live long, especially if they have a hero's heart."
Gabrielle dropped Hecuba's hand and stood. Turmoil ripped through her soul as her mind tried to digest her mother's words. Hecuba opened her eyes and looked at her upset daughter's face. As Hecuba reached out to her, Gabrielle took a step back. "Who is he?" Her voice had an eerie calmness to it, like the quiet before a storm. "Which of the so-called gods is my father?"
"Gabrielle, we only wanted to protect you..."
"WHO IS HE?!?" Gabrielle screamed.
Tears streamed out of Hecuba's eyes as she spoke his name, "Apollo." Two globes of light engulfed the sanctuary, one a gentle white, the other a bright yellow.
As the illuminating orbs dissipated, Artemis and Apollo came into view and Gabrielle found herself staring at the god whose eyes and hair matched her own.
The bard's body shook with anger. "Let me get this straight," she stated as her fingers pointed accusingly at the three. "You lied to me, he abandoned me, and Artemis knew and said nothing." She sneered. "Things just keep getting better and better."
"Gabrielle, please, let me explain..."
Gabrielle raised hand silenced the Sun God. "So now you speak? Where were you? Don't you ever speak to me." She gazed at her family. "In fact, I don't want to have anything to do with any of you again." She ran out of the temple, and right into Xena and Sophia.
Xena grabbed Gabrielle and held her close while she motioned for
Sophia to go and see about the others. Sobs racked the young Queen's body as she tried to speak, "Please, let's just get out of here."
"Fine, we will go to our hut."
Sophia escorted Hecuba out of the temple. The older woman saw her daughter up ahead and tried to go to Gabrielle, but the ex-Guardian held her back. "No Hecuba," she whispered, "Gabby needs time. You will only make it worse."
But the older woman wouldn't listen. "Gabrielle?!?" The bard didn't turn around.
The older woman rushed to her daughter. "Gabrielle, please say something."
Gabrielle turned and faced her mother. "I wished I had let Artemis escorted you out of Amazonia when I had the chance."
As they entered the hut, Gabrielle rushed to their bags and began to pack.
Xena looked over at Gabrielle. She knew that the bard was acting out of anger and confusion, so she went and clasped her hands over Gabrielle's. "You are angry, and you have every right to be. But right now, you are too angry to be making a decision about anything."
"They lied to me. They have been lying to me all my life."
"They were trying to protect you."
Gabrielle stared at her soul-mate. "How do you..."
"Sophia found out the truth and told me today." Xena gently sat Gabrielle down on the bed and took a seat next to her. "Right before he died, Herodotus told Sophia that you were not his daughter. She thought it was his last attempt to hurt you, but then she started to put things together. She found out that, some time, ago Hera had declared war on all her step-children and their families. In order to protect the children, many of them were hidden and separated from their parents. That is why Sophia was placed in Poteidaea and why Apollo and Hecuba ended their relationship. And when Athena mentioned the city of Spatmos, Sophia went there to confront Hera." Xena looked at Gabrielle and gave her a small smile. "Sophia remembered that in all your childhood stories that the bad guys came from Spatmos. She figured that Hera had something to do with Herodotus being in your lives."
"Herodotus wanted to be one of Hera's priests, but she rejected him. That is when he returned to his family and married your mother. Hera knew what he was capable of, and she knew that Hecuba was carrying Apollo's child, so she figured that she wouldn't have to kill the child, Herodotus would do it for her. She forgot all about you thinking that you were surely dead." Xena looked into the tear-filled eyes of her intended. "We both know what Hera is capable of Gabrielle."
A white sphere of light emanated in their hut. Gabrielle faced the goddess. "Artemis, get out!"
Artemis crossed her arms. "You are my Chosen One, and I will speak to my chosen one when I feel like it is necessary." Artemis glanced over to the Warrior Princess and that Xena had placed a hand over her chakram. "That won't be needed Xena. I came by to explain."
"Explain what?" Gabrielle asked. "In all this time, you never told me."
"I didn't know for sure until recently."
"You expect me to believe that. It seems mighty coincidental that Apollo's child also happens to be Artemis' chosen one as well."
"Gabrielle, I made you my chosen one the minute you threw your body over Terris, trying to protect her. I saw your heart and right then and there I made you my chosen one. It wasn't until the first time you came into my temple that I saw your face. As soon as I saw your eyes, I suspected. You have his eyes. I confront him, but he denied having a daughter. My brother never had lied before to me, so I had no reason to believe that he wasn't telling me the truth. But he couldn't hide the truth no longer when I found him in his chariot crying after Xena and Sophia found you. I asked him what was wrong, and he finally told me. He also told me that he felt he had made the wrong decision when he walked away from Hecuba. But please understand that they both were trying to protect you."
Gabrielle bristled at the mention of her parents. "I don't need their kind of protection."
"You would be amazed to see what lengths parents go to in order to protect their children. Achilles was held over a fire pit, another child was held under icy waters. And another still was locked in a treasure chest and thrown into the sea. And every one of Hera's stepchildren were hidden from her, some didn't know who they were until they were grown; all in the name of protecting them from Hera's wrath. Unfortunately, my brother and Hecuba were no different and their fears blinded them. And none of us realized that Hera already knew."
"And now," the Warrior Princess looked at Gabrielle, "Hera knows that Apollo's daughter is alive."
"Yes, and in spite of all her talk about her change in attitude, I feel that we can't trust her." Artemis faced Gabrielle. "That is why I made your mother tell you the truth. While you are here in this village, Hera wouldn't dare attack you. But once you leave the boundaries of Amazonia, she could do whatever she wished. I wanted you to know what you may be up against and why."
"So either I stay here and have to deal with my family or I leave and may have to deal with Hera. What kind of choice is that?" Gabrielle looked around the hut as she felt the walls closing in on her. Even though she did not like it, she knew what she had to do. "Fine, I'll stay. But Artemis, you must do me a favor. Tell my mother and Apollo to stay away from me."
Artemis stared at her niece. "If that is the way you want it..."
A moment of awkward silence past as Artemis peered at her niece. She lowered her head to the ground, "I wish that things could be different, but I will respect your requests." In a ball of light, the goddess of the hunt was gone.
"Wow, I still can't believe that my sister is a half-god," Lila gushed.
"Shut-up Lila." Sophia rolled her eyes at the Amazon princess. For two days she had watched as Lila stared in surprise and wonderment at her older sister. For two days Sophia had to deal with a talkative Lila who didn't seem to know when to keep her mouth closed. Both Xena and Sophia tried to run interference, knowing that Gabrielle didn't need Lila's quizzical questioning. "Can't you see that this is hard on your sister?"
"Hey, this is hard on everyone. Mom barely comes out of her hut anymore. Can't you do something about this?"
"What do you expect me to do?"
"You are a guardian, aren't you? This is up your alley, isn't it? Or do you only deal with couples?"
Sophia crossed her arms and silently counted to ten before speaking. "First of all, I dealt with all issues when it came to love. And second, I'm a former guardian, so back off."
Lila lowered her head and stared at the ground. "I'm sorry. I just want to help her."
"So do I, but this is something Gabby has to work through herself. It is not everyday you find out that you are half-mortal. I can still remember..." Sophia paused as she thought back to the moment she found out that Ares was her father. "Let's just say that there is a lot that she has to work through." *I can't fix it, but maybe I can give her a push in the right direction.* "See you later
Lila." The ex-guardian walked off without looking back.
Lila watched on, confused and surprised. "Well, if you are not going to help, I guess I have to take matters into my own hands."
Xena watched the trainees as they went over their staff drills. The Warrior Princess smiled slightly as she eyed Lila and Tali. Tali was more experienced of the two, but Lila was giving it all she had. *Just like her sister.*
Lila kept one eye on Tali and one eye of Xena. *Come on, turn around.* The Amazon princess waited until Xena's back was turned. *Here goes nothing.* She waited until Tali swung the staff at her side, a move that she could have easily deflected, but instead she turned, leaving that side exposed. Tali couldn't pull back in time and the staff sharply hit Lila's rib cage.
Xena and the others turned toward the sickening sound. Lila was lying on the ground writhing in pain, a small trickle of blood escaped from her mouth. *Maybe this wasn't a good idea after all.*
The Warrior Princess ran to Lila, picked her up and raced to the healer's hut with a crowd of worried trainees following on her heels. As she pushed the door open, Garona rushed to her. "What happened?"
Tali spoke up. "We were sparring, and I swung at her. She has blocked that move all of the time, but this time she moved to the side, and the staff connected with her ribs."
Xena placed Lila on the bed and Garona began to examine to injured princess.
Tali turned to Xena. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to, it was an accident." Tears flowed down the trainee's face. Xena grabbed Tali by the shoulders. "Tali, calm down. This won't help anyone. I need for you to go the Hecuba and tell her to come to the healer's hut." She turned to the other trainees. "I want you to go with her. You two go and tell your Queen. The others need to go back to your huts, you will only be in the way."
After the hut had cleared, Xena turned back to Garona who was finishing her examination and giving herbs to the princess. "How is she?"
"Looks like she has a couple broken ribs."
"And the blood?"
"One may have scraped against her lungs. From the amount of blood, it doesn't seem too bad. But we do have to worry about infection."
Xena lowered her head. *This couldn't have happened at a worst time.* Xena gazed at the Amazon princess, wondering how this was going to affect Gabrielle.
Gabrielle raced to the healer's hut as soon as she heard the news. "Xena, what happened?" The blond Queen looked over at her sister.
"Lila was sparring and was hit in the ribs."
The hut's door opened and Hecuba entered. She glanced at her eldest and then at Lila. Tears welled up in the older woman's eyes. "Will she be okay?"
Garona placed a hand on Hecuba's shoulder. "Two of her ribs are broken and she is badly bruised. She seems to be breathing fine, but we will have to make sure that an infection doesn't settle in." Garona looked over at her Queen. "I've given her a poultice to ease the pain and so herbs to fight infection and help her sleep. Right now, what she needs most is rest."
Hecuba walked over to the bed and held her unconscious daughter's hand. "I would like to stay, if that is possible."
"Of course." Garona grabbed a chair and placed it by the bed. "I'll make sure that the guards know to bring you something to eat."
Xena walked over to the bard. "I need to go and check up on Tali. She was quite shaken up about all of this."
"It was an accident Gabrielle. Lila totally dropped her guard during the drills." Xena glanced over to Lila. "Don't worry about Tali, you have to attend to more important things."
"Are you sure you don't want me to stay?" Xena place her arm around Gabrielle. "I can, you know."
"I appreciate it, but you don't need to, I'll be fine."
"Well, remember to get some rest." Xena glanced over at the sleeping patient. "We don't need both of you sick."
Gabrielle nodded as Xena left the hut. The bard then took a seat near Lila, across from her mother. Hecuba glimpsed up at the Queen. "Are you staying?"
Gabrielle realized that those were the first words Hecuba had spoken to her since the day that she learned the truth. "Yes."
"Should I tell the guards to bring you something?"
Gabrielle shook her head no, stood up and walked to a corner, thus ending the conversation.
For the next few candlemarks, the only sound that could be heard in the hut was the sound of Lila's gentle breathing. Hecuba sat by the bed, her hands twitching nervously while Gabrielle stood in the corner, refusing to look at her mother.
It was then that Hecuba began humming a lullaby.
Gabrielle recognized the tune for it was the same tune that Hecuba had sung to her when she was younger. The memories that the tune invoked were bittersweet. *She would sing that tune every time I was hurt or afraid.* She watched as Hecuba wiped Lila's brow with a cloth, *Just like she did with me.* Before she knew it, Gabrielle made her way to the bed and sat down in her seat. Without looking at her mother she stated, "You use to do that all the time."
"Hum that song. Every time one of us was hurt, you would come along and hum that tune."
Hecuba glimpsed at her eldest child. "Yes, I remember. I guess some things never change."
"And some things can never be the same."
"Gabrielle, I understand..."
"Don't mother. Don't tell me that you understand or that you know how I feel."
Gabrielle looked away from her mother. "Just take care of Lila, okay?"
Hecuba returned to her task. Once again, out of habit, she began humming as she tended to Lila. As she finished she said, "Gabrielle, I'm going to..." As she looked up, she saw that her oldest had fallen asleep. *Some things never change.* Hecuba stood up, grab the blanket from the spare bed and placed it over the bard. She then quietly left the hut.
Gabrielle woke up and felt the blanket that covered her. The bard slowly opened her eyes and scanned the room. As her sight came into focus, she saw her mother standing, with her back towards her, saying something in a shaky voice.
Gabrielle listened intently to her mother's words:
"It's been a long time since I prayed to any of you, but please hear me. I am dead to my oldest, not that I can blame her. I really messed thing up with her with all my deceptions and fears. Please, I beg you, don't take away my youngest too."
"We won't lose her." Hecuba spun around to the source of the comment. Gabrielle looked at her sister and then back at her mother. "You won't lose her. And you haven't lost me. You sprung something on me that I wasn't expecting and I wasn't ready to handle it; I'm not sure that I am now."
Both women's concentration shifted when a moan came from Lila. Gabrielle jumped out of her chair while Hecuba rushed to her youngest daughter's side. "How do you feel Lila?"
Lila blinked her eyes. "Tired, in pain and hungry. Did anyone see the wagon that ran me over?"
Hecuba and Gabrielle smiled at Lila's reaction. "Well, daughter of mine, I guess you will be okay after all, thank the gods." She patted Lila on the hand. "I'm going to get Garona."
After their mother left, Lila looked up at the Queen. "Hi sis."
"Don't 'Hi sis' me, Lila. You gave us a scare."
"Where am I? How long..."
"You are in the Healer's hut and you have been here for over fifteen candlemarks."
"I guess I should have zigged instead of zagged."
"When you get better, you are going to have private staff lessons."
Hecuba came back into the room with Garona on her heels. After the second examination, Garona turned to the two women. "She will be fine, but she will have to stay in bed for the next few days. I guess the two of you can handle it." She turned back to Lila. "I'm leaving you in very capable hands. You are very lucky child, it could have been a lot worst."
*Boy, I need to get injured more often,* a smiling Lila thought to herself as she watched Gabrielle fix her a plate of food, "And don't forget the nutbread."
"You know, I'm going to make you pay for all of this when you finally get out of that bed," Gabrielle stated as she handed the full plate to her sister.
"Hey, you two have to take care of me. And I might be here for a while."
Hecuba looked at Lila. "How long did Garona say for you to stay in bed?"
*For as long as it takes to get you two talking again.* "Oh I think she said a week."
Gabrielle arched her eyebrow. "I thought she said a few days."
"A week, a few days, what's the difference?" Lila began eating, "So you guys want to place a game?"
"Lila, you are eating right now."
"I can handle two things at once Gabrielle."
Hecuba folded her hands on her lap. "That may be true. It is only when you try to do one thing at a time that you get into trouble," she stated as she pointed to Lila's injury.
Gabrielle snickered. "Got you there Lila."
Hecuba glanced at Gabrielle and saw a smirk. It was not much, but it was enough. * Maybe there is hope for us after all.*
Lila glanced between her mother and sister. Inside, she smiled as she noticed Gabrielle's smirk and the light in Hecuba's eyes. "Ha-ha. Just deal the cards."
Lila convalesced in the bed, milking it for all it was worth. She had Hecuba and Gabrielle at her beckon call for the past five days; playing games and chit-chatting about the village activities.
Xena and Sophia watched with smiles on their faces. "You know what is interesting Sophia?"
Xena glanced over at the Amazon princess. "Lila wouldn't had received the injuries that she did unless she completely dropped her guard. She may not be the best staff fighter, but she's too good to have done that."
"You think?" Sophia grin became a full smile. "She's a cunning one, isn't she?"
"You think we should tell those two?"
"And ruin all of Lila's hard work at getting them back together?" She watched as Gabrielle stuffed a piece of nutbread into Lila's mouth, causing Hecuba to laugh out loud. "No way."
"I'm glad we agree."
"Well, one parent down, one to go."
Xena eyed Sophia and motioned the former guardian to follow her outside. "Okay Sophia, what did you mean by that?"
"I know how you feel about the gods, but Apollo is Gabrielle's father, and whether you like it or not she will need him in her life."
"Sooner or later, her powers are going to fully manifest themselves. And only Apollo or Artemis will be able to help her."
"Not all half-mortals have powers Sophia."
"Herodotus' beating were successful in one way, they stop Gabrielle from developing her powers. But the longer she stayed away from Poteidaea, the more her powers started to show. Can you explain how she managed to get back from the Elysian Fields after she had died? No one gets out of there without Hades' permission. But Gabrielle died, talked to a number of friends and relatives, and managed to get out again. Then she survived the fall into a lava pit, and doesn't remember how she did it. If that is not enough, how about the way she learn weapons with ease, especially the bow? And of course there is Horse. She calmed a wild steed with the sound of her voice and manages to ride him without having to break him first. Sounds kind of extraordinary don't you think?"
Xena stared at the village as Sophia talked. "Do you really think it is best for Gabrielle to have a relationship with Apollo?"
"Apollo isn't like the other gods. I know that Ares loves to cause trouble for the two of you and Aphrodite is always popping in and out. But Apollo is much more reserved and laid back than that. He won't be interfering unless it is to protect Gabrielle or for special occasions. Listen, I know that the gods seem like more trouble than they are worth, but most of them only want what is best for the two of you. And besides, those powers can be mighty useful when you guys hit the road again."
"And how is that?"
"Think about the ease of hunting. You won't have to leave the campsite. Gabrielle could just call an animal over and you would take care of it right there. No need for tracking or crawling around in the dirt."
Xena smirked at her friend. "Gabrielle would never use her power in that fashion. Besides, if she can talk to animals, I can see her giving up on eating meat. Do you realize how many vegetables it would take to fill that stomach of hers?" Xena placed a hand on Sophia's shoulder. "Listen, I know you want to help, but let me talk to her."
"Talk to me about what?" The bard had her arms crossed over her chest as she stood in the doorway.
"Opps, I think I hear a heart breaking. See you guys later."Sophia rushed off, not looking back at either of her friends.
*Chicken.* Xena turned to face Gabrielle. "I may be overstepping my bounds, but since we are family, and this is a family matter, I think we should talk."
"About your father."
The Queen's eyes turned gray-green. She took a breath before she continued, "What about him?"
"He had no idea of what was going to happen to you. He did what he did because he loved you."
"That's not love."
"Oh no. So I guess I didn't love Solan and you didn't love Hope."
Gabrielle closed her eyes as she felt the sting of Xena's words.
Xena placed both of her hands on Gabrielle's shoulder. "We both separated ourselves from our children in order to protect them. I gave Solan up to protect him from my enemies." The Warrior Princess lowered her head, "And you gave up Hope to protect her from me."
"Xena, our situations were different."
"Apollo is a god."
"Yes, and he was fighting against the all-powerful Queen of the gods. He knew he couldn't protect you every single moment of every day. He did the only thing he could do. Look, one of my biggest regrets is that I did not tell Solan who I was earlier. If he had known, maybe we could have had the relationship that we both wanted. It is not too late for you and Apollo. Don't cut him out of your life before you even let him in."
"She is my daughter. Why can't she accept that?"
Artemis watched on as her brother had another episode. "Maybe she has. That doesn't mean she has to let you into her life Apollo. Give her more time. Remember your promise to respect her wishes."
"I've kept too many promises over the years, and can you see where they have gotten me and my child? If she doesn't want to have anything to do with me, that's fine. But she is going to have to tell me herself." A brilliant yellow light consumed the Sun Deity as he disappeared from view.
"Just where does he think he's going? He wouldn't, he can't go there without my permission." Artemis followed her twin.
Apollo appeared in the center of the village, and started to head to the Queen's hut. Suddenly, he felt a tug on his arm. "And where do you think you are going?"
He snatched his arm away. "To see MY daughter."
"You can't. At least not without my permission."
"Why are you being so difficult?"
The Moon Goddess pointed at her brother. "Because I am the only one of us she is talking with at this point and time. I am the only one in this family she is keeping in contact with and I won't have you ruining it because of your pride."Artemis placed her hands on her hips. "Now, I'm willing to do you a favor. I will see if she wants to speak with you. If she does, then fine. If she doesn't then you must respect her wishes." She turned and walked to the Queen's hut and knocked on the door.
Gabrielle opened the door; surprised to find the Moon Goddess on the other side.
"What is it Artemis?"
Artemis stepped to the side so that Gabrielle could see Apollo. "He wants to speak to you. He said that if you don't want to have anything to do with him then you must tell him yourself." Artemis crossed her arms. "He's not accepting messages at this time."
"If that is the way he wants it, then that's fine by me."
Xena walked up to the bard. "Gabrielle, don't let your anger decide this."
"Xena, I know what I'm doing." She turned back to her aunt. "I guess I can't put this off any longer. Tell him to come in, through the front door. Xena, I'm going to have to do this on my own."
"Fine. But don't do anything that you are going to regret one day."
Xena walked through the door and stood next to Artemis as Apollo headed towards the hut. She watched as Gabrielle closed the door. "Artemis, can Apollo take no for an answer?"
"I guess we'll soon find out, won't we?"
The air was filled with tension as Apollo and Gabrielle eyed one another. The Sun God began to regret his brash decision to force his estranged daughter's hand. "I know I have no right in demanding this meeting..."
"You sure don't Apollo. Let me tell you something. You can't demand anything from me. I already had one lousy father in my life, I don't need another."
Anger flashed in Apollo's chartreuse eyes. "Don't ever compare me to him." The words stung the god and he lowered his head. *So is that how she thinks of me?* He had hoped that he could explain to Gabrielle that maybe they could start to build a relationship. *But if that is the way she feels, then we don't have a chance.*
Gabrielle watched as the god's shoulders slumped and his stance lost its stubborn proudness.
He raised his head and meekly looked at her. "Is that how you really see me Gabrielle? I'm nothing like Herodotus. I only wanted what was best for you."
"If I told you that the best thing for me was for you to stay out of my life, would you do it?"
Apollo thought about it. He looked back on the years and how his decision caused so much heartache. "No. For years Gabrielle, I kept out of you and Hecuba's lives and it helped no one. I learned from that mistake. I will not stay out of your life. You may never see me, but I will be there, watching over you like I should have done; but I hope it doesn't have to be like that. I know I made mistakes, but I willing to do whatever it takes for us to have a relationship. If I have to prove to you every single day for the rest of your life that I love you, then I will. But I'm not budging from this spot until you give me a chance. And don't even think about going to Artemis, because if she tries anything, you will have a war right here in this hut."
Gabrielle didn't say a word as she eyed her father. Apollo stared right back, but he couldn't stand the silence. "Why do you have to be so stubborn?"
"It is in the bloodline."
"Well, two can play at this game." He crossed his arms. "And I'm a god, and that means I can do this much longer than you can, so you might as well give in."
After a few more moments of silence, Gabrielle shook her head. "Fine."
Apollo was taken aback. "What did you say?"
"Fine. I'll give you a chance." The tension left the air as the quizzical look grew on Apollo's face. "It took me a while, but I finally realized from where you were coming from. Someone had to remind me just how far we will go in order to protect our children. But before you think everything is okay between us, let me tell you that there are a few ground rules."
This time Apollo nodded. "Anything; you name it."
"We are going to go nice and slow in this relationship. So rule number one, you can't pop in whenever you feel like it."
"Is that your rule or Xena's?"
"Fine. I'll only stop by on holidays, anniversaries, important occasions and birthdays. I mean, if that is okay with you?" Apollo smiled to himself as he counted the number of Amazonian holidays and festivals in his head.
"Two," Gabrielle sighed before continuing, "you are going to have to help me learn my powers and their capabilities."
Apollo smiled. "That's fine."
"And three, no more family secrets. If either you or my mother has something to tell me, you better tell me now. I don't think I can go through this again."
"Well I guess I better tell you this. This is a long kept secret." He winked at his daughter. "I'm the real hunter in the family, not Artemis."
A white ball of light emerged. "Who is the real hunter of the family?"
"I knew she was around here somewhere listening." He whispered to Gabrielle, "I may be stubborn, but she is the nosy one."
"I heard that."
Gabrielle looked at her aunt and her father. *Xena has to teach me that god-awareness thing she does. I've got a feeling I'm going to need it.* "These rules go for you too, Artemis."
"And when have I ever just popped into your life?"
Gabrielle rolled her eyes to the ceiling and then turned back to the Sun god. "So, do you think you can live by this arrangement?"
"I have no choice. So yes, I can live with it."
"I guess so. However as my chosen one..."
"I know. But make sure that they are emergencies, okay?"
Xena came running through the front door. The three relatives looked on in astonishment, wondering what was going on. Xena gathered her thoughts together. "Um, Artemis disappeared and I thought that there might be trouble in here. Is everything okay?"
Gabrielle, Apollo and Artemis looked at one another. "They will be Xena," the bard stated, "they will be."
Fall had turned to winter and winter into spring. The Amazon Queen and Warrior Princess packed their saddle bags onto their horses.
After making sure everything was secured, they turned to say their good-byes to their family. Hecuba handed the bard a bag full of food. "Are you sure you won't stay? You two really need to think about settli..."
"Mother, don't." Gabrielle gave her a hug. "Besides, Xena and I are going stir crazy around here. This is the longest we ever been in one place."
"You be careful out there, and do not get into too much trouble." Hecuba pulled her eldest into a big hug. Hecuba then turned her attention to Xena. "And you, you better make sure that the both of you come back safe and sound for your bonding ceremony."
Xena smiled at the older woman. "Nothing could stop us from showing up. Goodbye Hecuba." Hecuba pulled Xena into a similar hug.
"Better not," Lila chimed, "I've spent too much time planning this event out."
"Be quiet Lila." Sophia turned her attention to her favorite couple. Once again she had to say good-bye. "Hey you two, don't be such strangers, okay?" She grabbed her guardian pendant. "Aphrodite knows where to find me, so just call her."
Xena chuckled. "So she took you back I see."
"Yes, but she said this better be the last time I quit. But she said I could take more vacations."
Gabrielle hugged her childhood friend. "Thanks again Sophia. Always watching over me huh?"
Sophia squeezed harder. "Always." She then released Gabrielle as she gazed at Xena. Unspoken words passed between the two friends. Sophia grabbed Xena's forearm, but Xena wasn't having any of it, and grabbed the guardian into a bear hug. "Thanks."
Sophia nodded. "You know what I'm going to say."
Xena smiled. "And you know how I'm going to respond."
Sophia blinked back the tears that threatened to fall. "You two take care of each other."
Gabrielle and Xena walked over to their horses and hopped on, riding out of Amazonia territory. As soon as they crossed the border, Gabrielle exclaimed, "Alone at last!"
Xena snickered. "Yes, but for how long?"
"What do you mean?"
"Well, remember when you told me that Apollo was allowed to visit on special occasions. My dear that includes holidays as well. Do you realize how many Amazonian holidays there are?"
"And that is the reason why we are leaving Amazonia. They celebrate those holidays there, we don't have too."
"Yes, but you are forgetting one important fact." The Warrior Princess pointed to her lover. "You are Amazon Queen no matter where you are, and you carry those traditions with you no matter where you go, so technically, Apollo can pop in on us."
"Xena, this isn't about clouds or stars, but Apollo."
Xena smiled. "Yep."
The bard pulled back on Horse as she realized that Xena was right. "Oh no."
Xena looked back at her future wife. "Told you so."
Yes, this is the end of "Sins of the Father" series (Thank God). I hoped that you have enjoyed the ride. If you have, let me know. If you haven't, let me know. In other words, e-mail me. Thanks to
all the folks at Ex-Guards for helping me out on this one.
PSS-- This is only the beginning folks. Xena, Gabrielle and the rest of the gang are just getting warmed up.A new series (called Beginning Again) is on its way.
Written and ©Copyrighted by: Paully Adams
September 5, 2001