by Joseph Anderson

Xena and Gabrielle are the property of MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures. No copyright infringement is intended with this fan fiction which may not be sold, may be copied for personal use only, and must contain all notices of copyright.

This story takes place following the episode Sacrifice II. I don't consider this part of my extended storyline.

The Warrior Princess looked with relief one more time at the figure walking beside her, scarcely able to believe she was back. It hadn't been easy but Xena had managed to get her back.

The smaller woman looked up at her. "I'm real, Xena. You don't have to keep looking at me that way."

The Warrior Princess smiled and shook her head. "I'll look at you anyway I want to."

"Xena, look. It's Hercules!" Gabrielle said pointing as she recognized the tall figure. She looked up at her friend but Xena had a serious expression on her face, her smile gone. "What is it, Xena?"

"He's here for a reason, Gabrielle. It's not likely to be good news," the Warrior Princess said. She began walking down the road to meet the demigod, with the bard right behind her attempting to stay up with her long strides.

"Hello Hercules," the warrior said looking up into his handsome kind face.

"Hello Xena. Gabrielle." He didn't say anything more and looked uncomfortable.

Xena said, "Just say it, whatever it is."

Gabrielle was nervous. What would affect him like this?

"It's about Ares, Xena. He tried to betray the other gods. He planned to destroy them and sire a new race of gods in the service of Dahok."

Xena said, "I know all that. I'm the one who stopped him. Is he up to something else now?"

Hercules said, "Even though you were fighting him, he still asked you to join him. Ares could've simply killed you himself anytime. Haven't you ever wondered about that, Xena?"

Xena didn't answer for a moment then slowly said. "He wanted me as his chosen, as his general like always. That's all it was."

"Xena, he's your father," the demigod said sadly.

The Warrior Princess made a hollow laughing sound. "No, he's not, Hercules. That was just a story I fed the Furies. He's not really my father."

Hercules looked in her eyes. "Xena, I'm here from Zeus. Ares IS your father. He's a prisoner now on Mount Olympus. His punishment has been decided on. If he had killed you as Hope wanted him to, their plan would have succeeded. Zeus is rewarding you by telling you the truth. If you wish to speak to Ares before his punishment you can."

"By the gods," Gabrielle said softly.

Xena was pale. After a moment she said, "What's his punishment to be?"

Hercules answered, "The same as Prometheus. Ares will be bound to a rock and have his liver eaten by an immortal vulture for all time."

"Why can't Zeus just kill him?!" Xena said angrily.

"He's a god, Xena. He can't die."

Xena said, "Ares is his son! How can he do that to him?"

The demigod answered, "Ares planned to kill his father; how could he do that? He wants to speak to you, Xena. It was his only request. That has no weight with anyone now, but Zeus thought you might wish to speak to Ares. What's it to be, Xena?"

"I don't want anything to do with him!" she said harshly. Gabrielle laid a hand on her arm. "What?" she barked. "Sorry. What is it, Gabrielle?"

The smaller woman seriously said, "Xena, I think you should talk to him. I really do. You'll regret it if you don't. You know that."

Hercules hadn't said anything and was quietly watching the two women. Xena looked away from the bard, then looked back at Hercules. "Take me to him."


The sky was the color of beaten gold. Xena looked up at the terrible harsh cry and saw the great wingspan of that THING. Hercules hadn't quite had the story right. It wasn't an immortal vulture; it was a creation of Hephaestus: a giant mechanical bird of prey. A great brass instrument of torture for a god.

"Quite a sight isn't it? My brother outdid himself. He's just been waiting for his chance ever since he found out about me and Aphrodite. It's flattering really. I mean that IS impressive."

Xena looked over at the low voice and caught her breath. It was the God of War but instead of his usual black leather he was only wearing a loincloth. He looked down at himself and held his hands out and smiled. "I know, Xena. It's a new look for me. Simple...unencumbered. Think it'll catch on?"

"Maybe...I dunno," Xena answered like an idiot. She didn't know what to say.

Ares looked at her and smirked. He took a step toward her but stumbled and Xena saw his feet were shackled together. She stepped forward and kept him from falling. He looked up at her. "Thanks. I keep forgetting about that."

"You're my father. Why didn't you tell me?" Xena finally said.

"I wanted you to serve me because you wanted to, not because you thought you had to. Filial duty...what's that? Nothing. I sure don't feel any for Zeus."

Xena said harshly, "Why did you do this? WHY? All we had to do to stop Dahok was kill Hope. But you betrayed the other gods! Why...why?"

Ares took her chin in his hand. "I had a chance to be more than just Zeus's son. I'd never be king of the gods with Zeus alive. I had to take my shot."

"But you would just serve Dahok instead....No, I get planned on betraying Dahok."

Ares smiled at her and nodded. "Go on."

"Your children with Hope. You would be their father. They would be loyal to you instead of Dahok..or you hoped they would. You'd overthrow Dahok just like Zeus did Cronus."

The ground shook at a loud screeching cry and a huge shadow passed over them. Ares frowned for a moment involuntarily as he looked up at the giant mechanical creature which had swooped down to pass close over them. Xena's hair blew in the wind created by the great brass wings. She suddenly bared her teeth. "This isn't gonna happen! Not to MY father!" Xena pulled her sword.

Ares gently said, "Xena...don't." She looked at him. "You can't fight Zeus. You've only fought me, and I was never really fighting to win. You can't fight us. Your sword's a joke, Xena. When we fought..don't you know I could've killed you with a thought? And Zeus is the king of the gods."

Xena felt a new presence and turned to see a beautiful figure with a great shield and spear, her face shadowed in a sleek Corinthian helmet.

Ares said, "You...they sent you...well, I should be flattered, I suppose."

"It's time, brother," Athena said.

Xena leapt at the goddess slashing down with her sword. She found herself landing with a thump. To her horror she had no arms or legs.

"Athena! She is Zeus's grandchild and your niece!" Ares said.

Xena found herself paralyzed but again with all her limbs. She looked up at the helmeted figure which walked over to stand above her.

"Niece, never...I mean NEVER do that again."

"I'll save you somehow, Ares. I swear it!" Xena called.

Athena ignored her and walked over to her brother. The shackles around his feet disappeared. He looked at her. "Thank you." She nodded. The goddess led the way up the steep path and Ares followed her.

"Don't go with her like that! At least fight!" Xena cried.

Ares and Athena stopped and looked back at her. The darkly handsome god said, "The God of War isn't going to be dragged off kicking and screaming. Goodby, Xena."

The huge mechanical bird swooped low again, its cry rattling Xena's teeth. Then it flew higher and higher until it was nothing but a tiny speck in the golden sky. The Warrior Princess willed it to stay there but it made a circle and began its descent toward the rock. Xena found herself standing but still unable to move and Athena was beside her. The impassive perfect face of the goddess looked at her. "Come. You should not witness this." Just before the giant brass creature reached its prey Xena found herself sitting next to Gabrielle in front of a campfire.

"Xena! Thank the gods!" the bard said and threw her arms around the warrior. "Xena...Xena...say something!"

The Warrior Princess unsteadily got to her feet. She searched the night sky but saw only a crescent moon and the expected stars. She listened for a raucous brass cry but only heard the normal sounds of the night.