Coughing and stumbling, Seriana cleared the dust from her
lungs and from the air around her face. It would have nearly
driven her mad in other circumstances, but nothing could dampen
her spirits now. She remembered her name. She remembered who she
was. She was alive to enjoy the remembering.
When she could breathe clearly again she turned to Medea.
"You saved my life."
"Don't remind me," the Regent snapped.
Seriana held her hands up peaceably. "Right, right.
Thalia, weak with morphing, flopped onto the ground and
panted. Seriana knelt next to her and helped her to stay sitting
"You okay?" she asked.
Thalia nodded. "I just need a minute to catch my breath.
I'll be all right. And you?"
Seriana grinned. "I remember."
"You're also bleeding from the head."
She put her hand against the side of her face and felt the
stickiness in her hair. "It'll wash out."
Thalia took a few deep breaths. "Okay. Let's go figure
out what's going on and find the Queen."
"And Samsara," Seriana reminded. "And
"Look! Flying right above us! It is a hawk!" Swift
Blazer pointed upward to show the other Amazons. "And it is
not an ordinary bird."
"Yes, you are right, Swift Blazer. The hawk is unusual.
You have good observation skills as well as keen eyesight,"
replied Valkyra. "All Amazons should be so aware of their
Raizlith asked, "But why is it circling us?"
Valkyra answered, "The hawk does seem to have a
particular interest in us, especially in Queen Celosia. It
watches us as a vulture watches a dying animal. However, I
believe that the bird intends us no harm. It is just the
opposite; she watches over us in a protective manner."
"Why do you refer to the bird as female?" asked
Valkyra squinted her eyes so as to see through the lingering
clouds of dust from the cave entrance explosion. "I say
'she' because that is Ardra, Jadea's guardian hawk. She flew
from the direction of Crescent Hill. That is one of Jadea's
favorite lookout spots."
"But why are you so interested in Ardra?" asked
Valkyra smiled and said, "Sooner or later, Jadea will
bid Ardra to fly to her. If we follow the hawk, it will lead us
to Jadea and Samsara." As Valkyra continued to study the
circling hawk, she thought to herself, That is, if Jadea does
not use her magic to prevent us from finding her.
Feeling internally exhausted, Jadea rested on a large stone.
She looked at her niece, still unconscious, and wondered if she
did the right thing by saving her. Rumyna had once told her that
each time you save another person, you are saving a piece of
yourself. At the time, Jadea had been confused by her mentor's
words. It was not until she later learned that each time you
take a life you lose part of yourself did Rumyna's words truly
Ardra is going to flip when she hears that I have Samsara.
Jadea made a weak smile, part of her knowing that if Ardra
had reached the Amazons, then she most likely already knew.
Thalia had not seen her, but Jadea was certain that the Amazon
had heard her voice when she spoke.
A muttered groan came from the woman that laid a few feet
away. Slowly, Samsara rose to her feet and looked around.
Something of a growling sigh followed when she set eyes upon her
"Where are we?" Samsara demanded in a tone that
might have been intimidating, had Jadea not seen the Goddess
weakened moments earlier.
"A place where your powers are of no use to you."
Disbelieving, Samsara attempted to strike the Sorceress and
failed. Furious, she then tried to vanish. Again, her endeavor
"How much do you know about your mother?" Jadea
asked in a softer but still steady tone.
Samsara didn't answer. She began studying her surroundings
and after a few minutes she turned back to her aunt. "We're
in Cirra, aren't we?"
"Well..." Jadea sighed a little, "That partly
answers my question. Here's another one for you. Why would I
bring you here?"
The Goddess's eyes fell to the ground. In her mind, she saw
flashes of her mother. But they were mere glimpses to what she
would come to see in clarity.
Samsara looked up and met Jadea's patient gaze. "What do
you know about my mother, Sorceress?"
Her tone wavered, and she cursed herself for sounding even
the slightest bit timid. Jadea looked upon Samsara with a
gentleness that the Goddess was unaccustomed to. She was far
more acquainted with hardened glares or expressions of
indifference, and sometimes the occasional glance of sympathy
from her sister.
The Sorceress Empress rose to her feet and began to walk past
her niece. Instinctively, the Goddess followed. Jadea lead them
to the very spot where Cirra had once stood as prosperous town.
A forest could be seen in the distance not five miles away.
Jadea stared into it with a far-off gleam in her eyes. Not until
Samsara spoke did she break away.
"This is where it happened, isn't it?"
Jadea nodded and began to walk in the opposite direction. She
stopped about seven steps away the Goddess. Her pendant began to
glow a vibrant green. Jadea watched as Samsara's eyes closed.
Somewhere in midst of all her concentration, Jadea heard the
voice of Ardra. Despite her focus on her niece, something of a
smile appeared on her face.
By the Gods . . . oh by the Gods, tell me you did not take
Samsara! Have you lost your smeggin' bloody mind?
While Ardra's thoughts were intended for herself, she knew
there was a chance that Jadea would hear them. Knowing that she
had Samsara with her, Ardra also knew that Jadea would not
respond to Ardra's thoughts. Not until she was ready, at least.
Samsara saw her mother's flaxen hair lying on her shoulders.
She shook her head and tried to escape what she saw. For all her
efforts, the images became ever clearer as she saw Xena's army
engulf the town.
The Goddess saw her grandmother's face, bold and strong, but
fearful for her daughters' lives. She saw men defending their
families only to be slaughtered by a merciless onslaught of
warriors. Samsara soon smelled the smoke of fire. She turned,
forcing her eyes open but the images remained with her.
Suddenly, a scream pierced through the air and cut louder
than the other yells and desperate pleas for mercy and help.
Callisto struggled against the arms of her mother and ran to
find her sister. She saw the commanderess of the army, and an
urge to fight the woman swelled up in her heart.
For a brief moment, the two met each other's eyes. Callisto
quickly ducked behind and ran toward her sister. A man by the
name of Darphus struck the girl on the back of her head and
grinned when she hit the floor. He looked around and caught the
eye of his superior, who with one steely gaze warned him not
kill the girl.
Samsara closed her eyes again and violently shook her head to
drive away what she saw.
Jadea's heart went out to her. For she knew all that
overwhelmed her niece had once done the same to her.
The strength is inside you, Jadea. Use it to face what you
are running from. Rumyna's words echoed in the halls of her
mind once again. They often did so on their own accord, acting
as a constant reminder.
The Goddess took a couple of steps and opened her eyes. She
saw one of the warriors take a torch and throw it into a barn.
For some reason, that enraged Samsara and she ran towards him
with the intent of killing him. Just as she did, a loud yell was
heard as one of Xena's men warned that a fire had broken out. If
the men remained, they would be surrounded by the flames in a
matter of minutes.
Then, Samsara fell to her knees and put her head in her
hands. She began to cry. Jadea walked over to her and resisted
the urge to heal her niece. There was one thing left she needed
With her head resting in her hands, her eyes closed, she saw
the warriors pull out. She saw a few guilty faces on some of
them, the markings of conspirators Xena would later face. The
Goddess saw a young Jadea feverishly fighting to find her sister
through the chaos and destruction. Tears had stained the girl's
face, a bruise a several trails of blood on her body.
Finally, Samsara saw Jadea walking through dead bodies, being
respectful enough not to step on any of them as she looked for
her sister among them. From a distance, a woman watched as Jadea
went inside burnt homes, looked under fallen pieces of wood.
Callisto was not among the dead. Or, if she was, her body had
been so consumed with fire that she was by now nothing but
ashes. Samsara saw Rumyna go to Jadea. Saw Jadea reject the
woman and declare that she would find her mother and sister. The
Goddess's last vision on that field was of Jadea reluctantly
leaving with Rumyna.
Silence fell between them. Jadea knew that she had gotten
through to her niece. What happened next would be crucial, and
the Sorceress could not risk the Amazons hunting the Goddess.
She looked at Samsara, and began wondering how much time she had
before Ardra's concern for her Mistress outweighed her concern
for the Amazons and she would sought out Jadea. Yet before she
had the chance to form a plan to evade that possibility, her
niece would do something she never expected.
"Jadea, would you take us home?"
In her mind, the Sorceress Empress debated the question. She
knew the risks of bringing Samsara to the Amazons, but her
answer came when a sudden flash hit her.
A lesson is only learned when it is used, Jadea. I could
tell you all the secrets of the world, but unless you live . . .
then they are just words, just images. Life is meant to be
lived. Never forget that. Rumyna's words filtered into her
"To take you back to Amazon lands would be death. For
you and for them. Samsara, I fear it is time that you remember
who you are." With those final words, and a tender but
confident look in her eyes for the woman before her, Jadea left.
The Sorceress Empress did not go as far as she made it
appear. From one of the trees on the outside of the forest, she
laid quietly on a thick limb. Only Rumyna and Ardra knew the
extent of her powers. And while that may come to change, Jadea
had the advantage until it did. She licked a golden paw once and
looked up to see the Goddess standing where she'd left her.
Watching her, Jadea could not help but feel a pang of guilt
despite knowing she had done the right thing. But when at last
Samsara chose a direction and moved, Jadea rose up gracefully
from the branch, dropped to all fours on the ground, and
followed from a distance.
The hawk wheeled around Celosia in a tight ring, never close
enough to be touched, but never too far away as to loose the
Queen's immediate attention.
"What are you?" Celosia asked it, though not at all
sure that it would be capable of any sort of answer.
"It is Jadea's," Seriana announced as she and
Thalia showed up. "It smells like Jadea."
Medea nodded, enough to express her agreement without making
it look like she would allow Seri to be right. She could still
smell magic and the difference between a god and a sorceress was
Celosia, who was standing next to her horse, reached into one
of the saddlebags and drew out an elbow-length leather glove.
After tugging it on, she held up her arm tapped the wrist
smartly. "All right, down you come."
The hawk dove and flared, landing neatly on the glove, and
began absently to preen herself.
"Thalia, can you talk to it?" Celosia asked.
"Perhaps it can tell us where the others are."
Thalia, always anxious to obey, let sighs rack her exhausted
body. "Yes, your Majesty. If I take hawk form I can speak
"Please, your Majesty, she's exhausted," Seriana
"I've got plenty of fight left in me, Seriana. You don't
have to worry so much."
"But you've just gotten over that wound . . ."
Thalia smiled. "I am Amazon. Rest can wait until my
sisters are safe."
"Then for everyone's sake let's hope this gets settled
soon. Something always seems to be happening in
"Keeps life interesting," Medea observed. She
stalked off to find her horse in the sea of mounts.
Thalia gathered her strength to change again . . .
The Amazons are asking questions, Jade. They want to talk
Ardra's words cut through the Sorceress's thoughts. She had
trailed Samsara to the ruined temple of Ares that lay outside
Cirra's borders, quite overcome by a sense of amusement at the
They're going to use Thalia? She questioned, being
mindful to use light steps while stealthily following.
About to, aye.
Ardra heard her Mistress sigh. Progress never ceased to be
hindered just as it is beginning. Samsara turned down a path and
stopped abruptly, unsure of which way to go. While familiar with
Ares' temples, she knew little of the land she was in and relied
solely on her instincts as a Goddess. Her powers had been
returned to her once she stepped foot off Cirra's soil.
I need time, and I need Seriana. Ardra, something happened
in that cave. I need you to lead Seriana to me.
A silent minute passed, and Jadea feared that Thalia was now
listening. When Ardra finally spoke, she used a neutral tone to
convey neutral words.
Where do I lead her? She asked, looking at Thalia as
she did so. The Amazon would only be able to hear Ardra's
thoughts and speech, but caution still needed to be exercised.
Jadea thought for a moment, unsure of her answer. The place
would entirely depend on what transpired when Samsara confronted
her father. Then, upon glancing to her right Jadea recognized a
large stone beside an oak tree. A temple to Artemis not two days
ride stood in that direction. If one could say that felines were
capable of smiling, then one would definitely have said that
Jadea smiled from ear to ear at that precise moment.
Do you understand me? Thalia asked, her sharp gaze
tracking the movement of Ardra's head. Can you hear me?
Ardra fluttered a bit and did not respond.
We don't mean any harm to anyone. Where is your mistress?
Where is Samsara?
Seriana, can you hear me? She's not talking. I know she
can hear me, but she's not talking.
No reaction from Seriana. Her grasp on powers came and went;
apparently, they had gone and she could hear nothing from her
With a groan of frustration and exhaustion, Thalia demorphed
to stand wearily on her human feet. "She's not
Groans from several Amazons who had been watching the action.
"Is there anything else you can do?" Celosia asked.
Thalia shook her head. "Hawks can be stubborn when they
want to be."
Where do I lead her? Ardra asked, as soon as her mind
was her own again.
Jadea was silent a moment before answering. Seriana won't
go willingly to a temple of Ares, will she?
I doubt it.
How about one to Artemis?
She's an Amazon.
So, you need her at the temple of Artemis at . . .
Cirra. Just outside Cirra.
Consider it done.
Ardra jumped off of Celosia's arm and circled for a minute or
so before diving lazily at Seriana. The Amazon threw her arms up
to protect her face and abruptly found a hawk perched cheerfully
She clenched her jaw against the pain of the talons. Before
she could take any drastic actions to free her arm, Ardra was in
the air again.
"All right, you've got my attention," she said
calmly to the bird. "What is it?"
Ardra flapped for altitude and headed off, away from the
"That's a good sign," Celosia observed. In an
instant she and those around her were mounted up, following the
Ardra perched on a low branch and preened, looking as
stubborn as a hawk can. The horses ground to a halt.
Thalia shook her head. "No use. You can just see it;
she's not moving."
"But I have to find my sister!" Seriana insisted.
She spurred Denius through the crowd until she was almost
"Tell me where Samsara is."
Ardra leapt airborne, circled once, and landed back on her
"I'm going to see if she'll let me follow her,"
Seriana said over her shoulder. "If Samsara's in trouble,
maybe I'm the one she needs."
Celosia nodded a little. "If one thing must be
understood among Amazons, it is the bond between sisters. Be
"I will." Seriana promised. "If I get in
trouble, I'll try to get through to Thalia or Medea or Tern. But
Ardra alighted, Denius snorted, and quickly all three of them
took off into the distance.
Samsara had just reached the entrance of Ares' temple when a
sudden pricking sensation sent a chill to Jadea's bones. She
crouched low and watched intently as her niece stood outside and
glared at the entrance of her father's temple. Strangely, there
were no guards standing in front. Ares generally guarded his
temples in the manner that Aphrodite counted the number of
offerings she had. Yet, if that was unusual . . .what happened
next could only be described as . . . entertaining.
Samsara raised her arm and blew open the temple door. She
walked in and looked around, half-expecting to find Ares there
but not surprised when he failed to be there.
The Sorceress Empress intended to keep watch until that
sudden pricking sensation returned. Only one man had ever caused
such a disturbance inside her.
Annnggguuusss...I know you're here. Best come out while
you still have a pulse.
As though summoned by the highest of kings, a man emerged
from behind a tree several yards away. He grinned at the feline
before him, a grin that flashed in his blue eyes.
"Good day, my pet. And how are ya doin' this fine lovely
Jadea growled and began to race toward him. He backed up and
instantly threw his hands up.
"Wait! Wait. I come in peace."
She stopped and bared her teeth, a low growl escaping her.
Whatever he wanted and however he had found her, she neither
cared nor wished to find out. The Amazons were her sole priority
for the time being, and Angus...a dispensable distraction.
Leave or be killed, Angus.
"I bring word of the Highland Tribe of Amazons,
She studied his eyes. As stomach churning as his presence was
to her, she knew she had to hear him out. He knew this, as well.
"Seems your god of war has incited them to war. I
thought you'd want to know."
Again, Jadea studied him. She always knew if he lied. This
time, she almost wished he had. Nodding slightly, she replied, I
would thank you, but your telling me this was not out of the
goodness of your heart.
She turned from him and began to enter the temple.
"How can you be so sure about that?"
Turning her head as she answered, Because you have none.
She screamed when she was sure he was not in the temple. She
was angry. Somehow her powers as a Goddess had returned to her
when she set foot off of Cirra, but she wanted her horse and her
"You beckoned, my sweet?" he said as he appeared.
"Don't you sweet talk me," she created a fireball.
"I want my horse back and I want my staff back."
He pulled on his collar. He knew Samsara was livid. He knew
she could fight. He knew she would be even angrier if she found
out the Highland Amazons were at war because of him.
"You also lied to me."
He shrugged, unconcerned. He lied to everyone.
"I want Prince back and I want my staff back," she
toyed with the pendant as a threat. "And I want to know why
you wanted to stop me from going after my ambrosia . . . without
telling me that Artemis had plans."
He snapped his fingers and Prince appeared in the temple. He
snorted and trotted to his mistress. She took the reins.
"Now you really shouldn't kill me . . ."
"Or else what? The Olympians will come down and kill me?
Very nice threat, Father, but I have the only remaining hind's
blood and you can't do a damn thing about it. Now tell me why
you lied about Cirra!"
Jadea heard the shouts of her niece and padded inside. Hiding
in a corner of the temple, she watched as Samsara seethed.
Watching warily from a dark, obscure corner, Jadea bit down
on her tongue to keep herself from snarling. Temples generally
made any sounds echo inside them, and the risk of being detected
early was too expensive.
The crossing of paths between herself and Angus had also put
Jadea in a lethal state. The mere idea of him provoked her
stronger emotions. She set her eyes on Ares and locked them,
neither fearing nor caring if he could sense he was being
Only one thing pleased the Sorceress Empress at the present
time - Samsara's anger. At last, her niece's anger was directed
at the deserving source. Yet a feud between Ares and Samsara was
not precisely what Jadea had planned, but it could no more be
prevented than a truth from being revealed . . . as Ares had
Come on, Ares. Tell her. Tell her who the warrior was that
burned Cirra to the ground. If you don't tell her, Seriana will.
In her mind, Jadea provoked and taunted the God of War. He
could not hear her, but something powerful had entered his
temple and Ares wondered if his rebelling daughter had brought
No, she's much too like her mother for that. He
thought to himself, as he tried to conjure up a believable lie.
Ares was right in his thinking. Samsara was unaware of her
aunt's presence, and she'd no idea that her sister would soon
arrive. Jadea's plan depended on Seriana's bond with her sister,
Ares' desire to keep his hold on Samsara, and Artemis' own
fondness for the Amazons which had long since resulted in her
sacred protection of them.
"Now, I know you're angry . . ." Ares began, but
his daughter cut him off.
"No, Father. I am far beyond angry. So you had better
start talking. And make it good."
Ares looked into the eyes of his daughter and saw what once
flickered in the eyes of his beloved Xena. He saw betrayal
written across her face. And he recognized the same willingness
to avenge in Samsara that he had seen in Xena. One major
difference came in to play, however. Xena chose to avenge what
Ares had crafted her to do by atoning.
Samsara . . .well, simply put . . . she intended to kick her
father's butt until he told her everything, and then kill him.
She hadn't thought much beyond that, except for one vague idea
of going after the other gods once Ares had been dealt with.
Enter Seriana into Jadea's plan. The latter tried patiently
to bide her time, waiting for the fight to begin, and waiting
for Seriana. Jadea loathed waiting.
Ares slightly shrugged. "Okay." He drew and then
raised his sword at his daughter. "But you'll have to fight
"You want it?" she said. "Come and get
it," she slapped Prince on the side and the steed
maneuvered out of the way. She had her staff in hand and stood
with her feet shoulder width apart. Her powers were stronger now
that she had her talisman in hand. She could not wait for her
father to strike first. She was ready and able to kill him, and
she would do it the first chance she got.
"Fine," he responded. He conjured up a violent
force in his hands and threw it at his daughter. The worst in
his eyes was a child who refused to recognize his hold over
She swung her staff and deflected the blow, knocking down a
bust replica of the God of War. She smiled as the marble statue
shattered on the floor.
Ares turned around to see one of his prized possessions fall
to the ground, then turned to face her. "You . . . That was
She laughed. "Yes," she responded. "I
know" She winked at him, pleased to destroy a gift from an
enemy of the Amazon. She lifted her finger and brought down a
lightning bolt. She pointed her finger at her father and shot
from it. He created a force field and deflected the shots
She remembered back to when he last said that word to her . .
. Seriana had run off after Samsara forbade her from leaving
camp and he attempted to take her with him. She had come to her
sister's aid, not wanting her to go to Olympus. This was partly
out of concern for her, mostly of jealousy. Now the feelings
were different. She didn't trust the gods at all. She was no
longer envious of her empty sister Kaia Kakistos.
Samsara was now truly passed livid. She threw fireball after
fireball. The foundation began to shake as it did during godly
battle. Jadea sat in the corner, wondering when to spring to
action. Should she wait for Samsara's sister or should she stop
Samsara was glowing. Her staff was beginning to glow as well.
Only one was coming out a respected god. The question was who.
She threw her staff down. Ares pulled out his sword.
"How about we fight just as you always wanted to?" he
said. "You always wanted to beat me in hand to hand
"My pleasure!" she seethed, pulling out her
weaponry. Hephaestus had blessed her blade as a reward for when
she had cured his lame leg. He had promised her a black steel
sword, much like her dagger: the most impenetrable and deadly
steel in existence. One swipe and the black steel could turn a
mortal into ashes. Her arm guard and thigh guard were made of
the material, felling man after man whose blacksmith was not
blessed by the God of Metalworking.
She jumped up and cartwheeled in the air, landing before him.
She swiped at his head and he ducked, avoiding the blow. He
attempted to stab her in the gut -- a useless move in a godly
fight -- but she turned slightly and kicked his knees in,
pulling his feet out from under him. As she pulled her sword
high in the air, sending it crashing down to his navel, he
rolled out of the way. Her blade slid through the marble and
deep into the floor. The force of her attempted blow made it
difficult to pull the weapon out.
Ares laughed. "You think you can defeat me?" His
voice boomed in the temple. "You think you can defeat the
God of War?"
She looked up from her hunched state and watched as he
created a transparent purple force in his hands. He intended to
knock her out, but what he was to do to her next was only in his
sick mind. She pulled out her breast dagger and quickly stained
the edges with hind's blood. It's either him or me, she thought.
These acts occurred in the span of mere milliseconds.
"I know I can. I am the Great Destroyer, Goddess
Kakistos of Destruction. You created me and now I will destroy
you!" She twirled in her position, throwing the dagger just
as he threw his force.
Jadea watched in horror . . .
Hawk, horse, and human seemed to fly as one through the
woodlands. Denius was a warhorse, but he could move when his
mistress required it. She was demanding it now.
Artemis' temple, Seriana saw the markers for it. That was
were they were going. As an Amazon heading to her patron
goddess' temple, she could be almost guaranteed safe passage.
There was no need for slow caution, so she flew.
She's coming, Ardra told her mistress. She's
coming. But she's on horseback; it'll take forever.
Jadea had to start concentrating on two things at once. Stop
her, and I'll bring her as close as I can.
Thank you! Ardra's wings had been getting exhausted
from the pace. She landed on the pommel of Denius' saddle and
took a breather.
Seriana almost jumped off of Denius when she unexpectedly
found herself in another area of woodland. One moment they had
been pounding through the forest, dodging tree trunks and low
shrubs, the next they were galloping down a worn road. Denius
himself shied, and it took a moment for everyone to calm down.
They were on a road now, next to a signpost marking the
destination of the trail. One marker pointed forward, and the
crescent moon was carved on it. The other one pointed down a
branching road and bore the symbol of the sword.
She turned Denius straight down the road and urged him
forward. "Come on, come on! We've got to hurry."
Ardra alighted from the pommel and screeched to wake the
dead. This girl has got to learn to speak hawk, she
muttered, half to herself and half to her mistress.
Seri pulled Denius to a halt again and watched Ardra wheel
towards the branching road. "Are you insane?"
Come on! Ardra practically shouted.
Denius was now tugging towards the other road too, if only
because he had caught Prince's scent and wanted a fight. She
tried to force him back, but he would have none of it. She
finally gave him his head and bent low on his neck as he took
off towards Ares' temple.
Once she could see the low stone building, Seriana forced him
to stop and tied him securely to an oak. "You stay
there," she ordered. "Come on, Hawk."
Ardra settled comfortably on Seriana's shoulder and the young
Amazon crept quietly through the ajar door of the temple.
Not far from the temple unbeknownst to the Amazon, horse or
hawk, a falcon lay hidden in the bushes, watching them with keen
Keep an eye on Seriana, Celosia had told her, knowing
Thalia could follow Seriana without being seen and could warn
Celosia if there was trouble.
She stood quietly perched on a branch, not making a sound.
She watched the scene intently, knowing that she mustn't
interfere unless there was an emergency. Seeing Seriana enter
the temple, she quickly morphed into a mouse and followed her in
as the door shut behind her.
Jadea watched in horror as Seriana walked into the temple in
the direct path of the force Ares threw at Samsara. The Goddess
managed to maneuver out of the way. Prince was too far away to
be affected, as he growled at the presence of Denius outside. He
trotted out as soon as Seriana ran in. The force enveloped the
breast dagger and continued on its murderous flight.
The action was in slow motion. Samsara watched as her weapon
seemed to be eaten up by the force, and saw her father's face as
he realized who was in the way.
I suppose it's all for the best, he thought. If the
Amazons come and find Seriana dead, they'll surely blame Samsara
and when they do, either they'll fall in line or they will go to
war against her . . . He internally smiled.
He knew the loyalties. If the Amazons blamed Samsara for
another Amazon's death, they would attempt to kill her and she
would most likely flee to her native tribe. They would side with
her and therefore go to war. The other tribes would probably
take sides and the Amazons would be so caught up in civil war
that they would most likely annihilate themselves. Ingenious,
he thought. INGENIOUS! She will then turn dark!
Samsara turned toward her sister, her still loose hair
turning crossways about her body. Oh, Gods, if she dies . . .
She saw as the force traveled toward Seriana and as her
sister's body flew back toward the stone wall . . .
Her sister's body flew back toward the stone wall and crashed
into it, crumpling onto the floor. Thalia and Jadea were
Samsara turned to Ares and growled. Tears began to stain her
cheeks. I vowed never to cry again after Ishtar's death, she
thought angrily to herself. She pulled her sword from the stone
floor and hind's blood was soon on its edges. With a violent
battle cry she ran to her father and almost swiped at his head,
but she stopped, thinking better of her act.
"No," she said. "I won't kill you like
He looked at her, stunned. "You won't kill me like
With her powers, she gathered the blood from her sword,
lifting her hand up along it. She knew that Ares' tolerance of
the blood was different than the other Gods'. If he were stabbed
by a dagger stained by it he would die, but if he ingested it .
. .He however, had no idea of this.
"No," she responded.
She had gathered all the blood into a semi-solid ball in the
palm of her hand. She shoved her hand onto his face and made him
swallow the poison, then pushed him down onto the ground. He
still had to tell her the truth about Cirra and she was ready to
make him sweat. "I'll make you suffer first." She
sheathed her sword and went to her sister.
She lay in a heap on the ground. The force Ares had thrown
made a large indentation in the wall. The dagger was imbedded
there as well and Samsara pulled it out. Don't want to lose
my uncle's gift, she thought. Her mind was still on
acquiring more black steel for her army. "Seriana,"
Seriana stood up as easily as she had fallen. Thalia was
relieved, Jadea was impressed, and Samsara was surprised.
"Another trick Xena taught me," she responded.
"I managed to gauge the speed of that and react
accordingly. Great optical illusion, don't you think?"
Samsara smiled and blinked rapidly. "Ingenious."
The daughter of Ritani turned to her writhing father. Somehow
she knew about his quirk. "How about we watch him suffer
for a bit... Time for some answers."
Jadea had fought back every impulse her Amazon instincts were
driving. Remaining hidden held the one advantage she still
needed. Yet, that was soon to change. As Samsara neared her
father, his eyes left her and rested on an area past her. Jadea
followed his line of view.
Angus. She clenched her teeth.
She lunged forward and raced across the floor, ignoring the
exasperated expressions she received. Her sudden appearance and
the force of her leap knocked Angus down. As he hit the floor,
his power to cloak himself lifted, revealing a man sprawled on
the floor. Jadea rose up and turned around. She took one look at
the unconscious man before shifting her gaze to the poisoned god
Tell her, Ares.
He answered with silence, though he groaned every few
"Samsara?" Seriana's voice sounded as surprised and
fearful as the Goddess felt. The latter looked at the huge
cougar with a thoughtful interest. Neither sister moved. Not
until it donned on Samsara as to who the feline was.
"Say hello to our aunt, Seriana." She returned with
a smile. Her voice was strong but lightened by her amusement for
the truth she'd just spoken.
Seriana shot her sister a bewildered look. She looked at
Jadea, who began to walk toward Ares and tried once more to
Tell her, Ares. Tell her...and I will heal you. Do it not,
and I will let Artemis know you seek to destroy us.
Again, she received nothing more than a grunt from him. But
Samsara was now over the surprise of her aunt's presence. She
kicked her father, disgust for his weakness written in her face.
"My mother was right, Ares. You are weak," she said
and raised her sword, preparing to plunge it into him.
Last chance, Ares. Jadea warned.
"I told her everything!" He yelled. Samsara
exchanged a confused glance with her sister.
The Sorceress Empress threatened him with a high-pitched cry.
He buckled under the intensity at the last moment.
"All right! I did it! I started the fire."
Both sisters held their eyes glued on the black-leathered
"Very good, Ares. Now keep talking." Samsara held
the point of her sword against his chest.
Meanwhile, still hidden from view, Thalia remained and
watched. She couldn't decide whether to leave and report to
Celosia or stay and see what would happen.
"I saved Callisto's body so I could destroy her soul, so
I would have a fall back in case Xena got out of hand. I killed
everything she knew the same way I had Lyceus killed. The same
way I let Ritani die of that illness. And I don't regret it,
because look what it has created! Callisto, Warrior Queen.
Jadea, Sorceress Empress. Xena, Warrior Princess. Samsara, Great
Destroyer. Seriana, Fire-Demon. A whole army of manipulatable
"Don't call me Fire-Demon," Seriana told him,
flipping her dagger threateningly. "You were responsible
for more suffering than any mind can possibly comprehend, and if
that was our price than you were ripped off."
Jadea made a cat-like snorting noise of assent.
"Samsara," the girl continued, "do you realize
what this means?"
"Your mentor and my mother never had reason to be
enemies. It was all a misunderstanding."
"All a deception. Let's kill him."
Have you two thought about what would happen then? Jadea
The two glanced at one another.
"He would die," Samsara said, as if this should
have been obvious.
And then who is God of War?
"I see the problem," Seriana sighed. "Samsara,
you can't. Please, leave it alone. It would do nothing but eat
your soul. Let's just forget it and go home."
Samsara's eyes flashed. "When the power is in my
"Let it go. Please, let it go."
Seriana knew full well that she was next to powerless before
her sister. Whatever Samsara wanted to do, she would do. And if
she chose to take the Sword of Ares that lay with its master on
the floor, then she and Jadea would just have to run for it.
But Samsara was her sister . . . surely that meant something,
even when so much was at stake.
Just in case, Jadea and Seriana both glanced at the doorway,
ready to sprint if their niece/sister reached for that sword.
Glancing back, Jadea saw Angus coming to, a slight moan as
his head slowly came up and was met by his hand. A short-lived
smile flashed on her face. She'd knocked him down hard, she
Mornin' sunshine, she managed and turned her head back
"You said if I told her the truth . . ." The God of
War spoke to the Sorceress, already feeling the hind's blood
weakening his godly powers.
I know what I said. And unlike you, Ares, I keep my word.
She looked at Samsara whose eyes were still gleaming with the
possibility of her new promotion. Jadea shot Seriana a look. The
latter nodded and took a wary step back, turned and walked
across to the stranger. Samsara's eyes were resting on her
father in a debating gaze as she weighed the pros and cons of
taking his throne. But Jadea's thoughts broke in.
Ares, it's time.
"Time for what?" Samsara demanded suddenly. Before
she could decide what action to make, Jadea disappeared.
The trio: Ares, Samsara, and Jadea...appeared inside Artemis'
temple. Ares was cured, or he certainly gave that impression. He
held his sword in his hand. Jadea reverted back to her human
form. Samsara was dazed for a moment. She quickly regained her
senses and charged for an attack against Ares. This time, Jadea
made no intervention. Inside the temple, neither Ares nor
Samsara had their godly powers. It was forbidden for one god to
use their powers for purposes of destruction inside another
"You made a good run of it as an Amazon, Samsara. But
this is the end," Ares' sarcastic and confidant tone had
returned. There was now no doubt that he was somehow cured of
the hind's blood.
"You know what your problem is, Ares?" She seethed,
her sword raised. "You talk a better show than you
As they fought, Seriana approached the entrance. She smiled
when she heard the sounds of battle.
"Are you sure about this?" A man behind her and
slightly to her left asked. Seriana couldn't place the origin of
his brogue, but she nodded.
"I am. I have to be." After one moment, the two
entered the temple of Artemis. Neither one of them realized they
were being watched by a silent Ardra. And neither one of them
realized that a band of Amazons were on their way. Jadea's plan
had been modified some, but it remained on a smooth course. The
trick was to force Ares to reveal the whole truth . . .
including what he thought he'd cleverly hidden from the
For the first time there seemed to be no definite winner in
their fight. Swords clashed, punches were thrown, and grunts
heard as the two gods fought. Samsara still contemplated taking
his Godhood for good. She may be forbidden from using her
powers, but no temple was sanctuary against hind's blood.
Ares knew what his target was. He had to get that pendant
away from his supposed daughter.
Samsara was as agile as she was furious. "You taught me
well, Father," she said. "All those fights. The Second
War against the Centaurs, Velasca. Everything was just a test of
my skills . . . You had Ishtar killed didn't you?"
He laughed. "Just as I had Lyceus and Callisto and
Jadea's family . . ."
Tears came from her eyes at the realization. She never
thought it true. "You . . ."
In her moment of sorrow, Ares sought his opportunity. He
swiped with his sword and cut the chain that held the pendant to
her neck. Stunned still by what he said, she couldn't reach for
the hind's blood as it fell from her. He caught it before it
shattered on the ground and laughed.
"Now, I have the power to keep the gods in check."
What seemed to be a stunned Samsara was only a cover. She
used his momentary feeling of victory to spring to action and
high kicked his head sideways. He dropped his sword but held
fast to the hind's blood. He was damned to lose that now.
Samsara sheathed her sword as soon as she landed. She picked
up his and snarled as she glowed even brighter. "Samsara
the Great Destroyer, Goddess Kakistos of Destruction, Goddess of
War!" She cackled. "How do you like those apples,
Ares fell to the ground. He was quickly becoming mortal. He
had been around for so long and the cost of the battle and the
hind's blood in his body took its toll. His hair began to turn
white, his skin began to wrinkle. Would Ares die?
Jadea watched. Should she spring to action? She knew Samsara
was sent to Themiscyra to learn the Acts and Labors, the
Teloqian Amazon's road to becoming a Queen. Other tribes had
trials by Shamaness. Regent Ephiny and Chief Elder Serena
thought it best that Samsara take this route as soon as Kaia
Kakistos was exiled. They knew she could turn if she failed to
learn what she needed to learn.
You have to choose, Jadea sent to her. You have to
choose which path to take. Seriana's right, becoming Goddess of
War will only eat at your soul and Ares will win.
Samsara breathed heavily. Her godly health kept that from
becoming a necessity, but because of her lineage, she needed to
breathe. She looked at her father and sighed. If he dies, not
only will Greece be safer, but the Amazons will have few enemies
and I will still be Protector of the Blood, she sent back.
She was learning how to communicate with her mysterious aunt and
she was loving it.
She knew Medea had some connection to Tern, but she could
never decipher what they said to each other. She sensed it when
she walked into the Medic hut despite the looks from other
Amazons who were unsure of how to treat her. This may be the
only way to rectify what I've done. If the God of War dies,
they'll see it as the ultimate sacrifice and forgive me for
leaving and taking Seriana.
But are you prepared for what may happen? Jadea
Seriana merely watched the exchange, waiting. She was
half-excited at the possibility that Ares may no longer exist
and she could move on.
Jadea cast a spell. She needed for Samsara to stick to her
plan somehow. Images passed through the young Goddess' mind.
Images that the Sorceress wished she had never had to show
her niece . . .
War. Blood. Strife. Dead Amazons.
A dead again Phaedra. Body parts littering the landscape.
The Mark of the Destroyer becomes a common reality.
Samsara shook her head. She wanted the images out of her
mind. She only lay the Mark of the Destroyer for those she felt
deserved it. For villages who allied against Teloq with the
Renegade Centaurs and Criton.
I would prevent all this! she yelled to her aunt.
You remember how you were as an Olympian. You even thought
of killing Artemis.
I would unite the tribes!
Perhaps it's best they be separate for now?
Xena's dead and crucified body was Samsara's only
conciliation. She knew she and Callisto had no reason to hate
each other. It was just a sad tragedy. But in her eyes Xena
murdered Callisto, and there was no excuse for that.
She needs to learn foresight, Ardra sent. How are
you going to make her realize this?
I'm trying as hard as I can, Jadea responded. To her
niece she continued on. She sent more images of the dead and of
Ishtar's disappointed face. Perhaps the sad look of her guardian
would jar her.
I would resurrect her . . . take her away from Elysium and
bring her back to where she belongs, Samsara said.
But she would only die in your crusades.
The Great Destroyer knew Jadea would never lie to her. She
looked at Ares and saw as he grew frail yet kept a tight grip on
the pendant. She knelt down and violently turned him over.
"Pendant for the blood."
He quickly agreed. The switch was made and as she was tying
the pendant back on, he jumped at her again.
Thalia blinked, bewildered as the figures in the temple
suddenly disappeared. Where had they gone?
Desdion, can you find them? She sent to the mystical
You'll find them at Artemis' temple, Desdion answered.
I imagine Artemis will not be pleased. Ares and Samsara are
Thalia took flight and swerved out the door. Should she go to
the temple, or should she warn Celosia? She was heading towards
the temple when she decided it would be best talk to the Queen,
and then return if her help was needed.
She turned around and was starting back when she was suddenly
hit by a force that felt like a load of bricks, sending her
crashing into a tree. She crumpled to the ground, still in
falcon form, unaware of who or what had hit her . . .
I think you need to see this. Ardra interrupted long
enough for the Sorceress Empress to see Thalia on the ground.
Angus? Jadea quickly asked.
No. He is there. Ardra returned, her tone becoming
What have I been accused of doin' now? The thoughts of
another broke in with just a hint of humor in his tone. Jadea
ignored the question, her attention shifting back to Samsara and
"Tell you what I'm going to do, Ares. I will leave you
and your daughter to kill each other in your sister's temple.
That way, if either of you is still standing when the fight
ends, she can justly kill you for your crimes. Meanwhile, I
shall go attend to Thalia. By the way, Ares . . ." Samsara
cut Jadea off sharply.
"What is wrong with Thalia?" the Goddess questioned
in a demanding tone that was meant for her father.
"She's hurt," Jadea stated simply and continued.
"That was some work you did with the Highland Amazon Tribe,
Ares. 'Tis a pity that your manipulation will not work."
Ares scoffed, and shot her an expression that attempted to
convey ignorance of what she was speaking about.
"Sorceress, I think your powers are screwing with your
"Well...you would be the one to know about screwing, now
wouldn't you?" She returned with a triumphant smirk. The
only way he could contest what Jadea said would be to spill the
beans. And he wasn't ready for the aftermath that would cause.
However, Jadea was.
What are you talking about? Samsara asked Jadea,
unsure of what was happening. Her train of thoughts was derailed
by this sudden obscure discourse.
Ares knows, Jadea stated pointedly.
"As I was saying . . .you two go about your indulging
battle against each other. I'm going to go stop a war," her
words were precise and effective. She turned and began to walk
away from them, catching Seriana's eye along the way. Seriana
nodded slightly. She understood Jadea more than she had ever
thought she could.
Seriana stood for a moment and watched as Jadea passed,
knowing precisely what she had done. What are my sister's
priorities? she thought. She knew hers was to get to Thalia
as soon as she could. She followed Jadea out.
"Jadea!" she called. "I know you have some
kind of power. Take me to my friend." The Sorceress Empress
peered at her niece's sister and nodded. She mentally took them
to the scene.
Meanwhile Samsara eyed her father. "What did you do to
the Highland Tribe?"
"What would I do?" he responded, on guard in case
his daughter would attack. "I'm the God of War. I have to
incite battle or else what would my use be?"
"Fair enough," she said. "But you forgot one
little thing," she walked up close to him until she was
inches away from him. "You tried to call my bluff. Now I
will make your life unpleasant until the end of time."
He leaned in for a kiss.
Disgusted, she swiftly kneed him between the legs and stalked
off. "Sick." In that second of rage, she realized a
power she never knew she had. She had reached into the War God's
mind and extracted the information she needed about what he had
He doubled over in pain. Wow, she has spark, he mused.
Too bad she thinks we're related.
She turned and as if she still read his thoughts she said,
"If you think that by making my sisters turn against me and
ruining everything I love you'll make me cross over, then you're
most certainly wrong. If you think you have any power over me
because you sired me, I'd like to see when you have none."
At that she walked out of the temple.
Just then, Artemis appeared. She was displeased. Her arms
were crossed as she inspected the fetal position of her brother.
"What did I tell you about your ugly head, Ares? When will
you understand that I don't appreciate your attempts on my
He looked up at her and smirked. "So smug, aren't
"With reason. Samsara, although the supposed result of
your supposed affair with Callisto, still knows where her
loyalties should lie . . . even if she diverges at some
points." Artemis knew the truth. She was the only god who
did. Ares was not Samsara's father and she knew that as
despicable as Ares was, knowing the truth would crush her
irreparably. This was not coming out anytime soon.
Samsara stood outside the temple and raised her hands high.
Suddenly, the wind blew up, raising her still-loose hair, but
before she could teleport her younger sister Kaia Kakistos made
an undesired appearance.
"What are you doing?" she said. "Why do you
care about these Amazons? They do nothing for you and they
attack you when you achieve what you were destined to
"They are my sisters. You feel no affection for
them," Samsara responded. "Just like your mother, you
are devoid of all emotions but anger and jealousy. You, my dear
younger sister, are jealous of my connection with the
Kaia laughed. "You'll come to realize one day that they
aren't worth the trouble. I did and I am much better off. I'm a
true Goddess, unlike you."
At that Samsara vanished, much to Kaia's surprise. Soon, she
reached the scene. She observed from the bushes nearby, noting
that her aunt knew of her presence. Seriana knew something was
different, but she could not quite grasp what it was.
All Samsara could do was watch and wait. The action was