I'm treating these shorts as my own personal playground, like I mentioned before (or I think I did), this is the first time I write proper classic XWP fanfic.
Anyhow, there is a section in this, a long speech in the first section which is not mine, but I have only slightly modified and used. It is originally pieces of classical writing translated by H.W. Parke (1939), but seeing how I'm stealing borrowing existing characters I thought I'd use his translation as well. If that section happens to be particularly confusing it's because it's an old translation of ancient Greek, things like that often get confusing. But we all need a few un-understandable moments in our lives.
Here we go, I hope you enjoy. Let me know what ya'll think.
The air was humid inside the extravagant temple placed at the foot of a mountain. Steam twirled in intricate patterns, seeking refuge through the small windows letting in fresh air and during the days sunshine. At night time, such as this, the interior was lit by flickering torches, creating dancing shadows on the dark walls. A sweet herbal smell clung to the air and seemed to drift down from the temple into the valley below, making its presence know long before any visitor set foot on the hillside leading up to the gates.
As night was at its peak the temple was abandoned, save one sole figure seated by the altar. Her face a map of a long life lived under the sun. Grey eyes, filled with more knowledge than the gods combined, studied the carvings on the wooden tablet in front of her. Her eyes stayed where they were as the air shimmered and a new figure appeared in her domain.
"I've come to seek your guidance," a confident male voice broke the silence.
"Sit down son of Zeus, and I will tell you what you want to hear and what you do not want to be true," the Oracle of Delphi said as she looked up. Her greying hair was bound away from her face by a purple veil, covering her forehead and draping over her shoulders. Despite her age there was an eternal beauty to the prophet of Apollo that shone through her entire being.
"What does my future hold?" the dark god wondered. Muscular legs strained in their leather confines as he kneeled down by the altar, his eyes never once leaving the old woman.
"You are a true god. Impatient and filled with arrogance. Yet you wish for the same as every mortal," the woman stated, her eyes once again returned to the tablet in front of her.
"I know what I am. Now tell me the future," he replied in a voice filled with both impatience and arrogance.
"Do you, know who you are?" she carefully regarded his face, the intense grey eyes boring into dark brown ones. "Do you have a soul, god?" she wondered, the last word pronounced like it was a curse. Their eyes fought a battle, eventually the Oracle relented. "Very well. The future you will have," she proclaimed.
Her eyes fluttered like butterfly wings before they closed. The air in the temple seemed to shimmer and almost come to life. The smell of herbs grew more intense and steam from inside the mountain pushed up through the many crevices in the floor. The Oracle drew a deep breathe and her eyes were once again opened. She appeared to look into the brown eyes of the god in front of her, but her grey eyes were now covered in a milky veil as she focused on events to come.
"Whenever the roaring winds of the upper air blowing upward are in contact, fighting against each other with rumbles-" her voice was loud and echoed against the walls as she spoke. " - the frost around the boundless universe will be windless -" her body shook as she spoke the words. Silence filled the temple before she once again returned and her voice rang out, "- and the upper air when hard pressed had no vent to escape, a sooty torch has fallen out on the earth." Her voice seemed to grow in volume as she continued, "The temples of the blessed gods and tall trees and the peaks of sheer mountains and ships on the ocean are subdued by fiery flights when it approaches. Then you have an unendurable grief at heart, but bear with the unavertable tricks from the Fates. For when nothing is left sacrifice to complete the destruction," she paused. The white veil clouding her eyes disappeared and the intelligent grey eyes were once back in the present. "Death is a most precious gift," she concluded as she looked straight into the eyes of the god kneeling in front of her, seemingly speaking directly into his being.
He scoffed and quickly got to his feet. "What do you know hag?!" he spat out.
"Your anger cannot erase the words spoken, nor their truth," she replied calmly.
"You call that truth? It is a bunch of mumbo jumbo from the mouth of an old crone. Truth is in action, not a verse spewed from the mouth of a bard," he said and nervously paced back and forth in front of her.
"Then why are you here, God of War? Why bother your brother's chosen one if you do not value my words," she asked, her voice tainted by a restrained anger.
Ares jaw clenched, but he refrained from answering. Their eyes bore into each other and eternal moments passed before he disappeared from the temple.
The Oracle went back to her task.
"Why are you watching her?" the melodic voice of the Goddess of Love wondered. As the final words of her questioned died, the blonde Goddess herself appeared in the dark accommodation of her brother.
"I'm not watching," Ares lied. The God was relaxing on his throne, a goblet of a crimson liquid in one hand, the other leisurely tracing the eye-sockets of one of the skulls adorning his seat. His eyes were on the mirror across from him, and the image flickering there.
"I'm blonde, not blind big bro," Aphrodite stated as she looked over to the mirror where the image of the Battling Bard looked back at her. She raised an eyebrow at her brother.
He replied by giving her a dour look.
"Why did you go to see the Oracle?" she wondered as she sat down on a crimson divan next to her brother.
"Doesn't Olympus have anything better to do than to gossip?" he wondered as he took a swig from his drink.
"You take her serious?" Aphrodite asked and idly fiddled with the pink fluff on one of her shoes.
"She is called the oracle," he replied with sarcasm as he tilted his head backwards to look at his sister.
"There's more to this, isn't there?" Aphrodite wondered. Her body stretched out to its full length, her elbow keeping her up.
"Like what?" her brother replied with a deadly stare.
"Something you're not telling me," she stated looking into his eyes.
Instead of replying he looked back at the image of Gabrielle.
"What are you up to?" Aphrodite wondered with suspicion.
"My old tricks," he replied and waggled his eyebrow.
I realised I had to see her. The bright young girl who had annoyed me to no end wasn't there anymore. As I watched her image in my brother's mirror I felt strangely compelled to help her, care for her. At the same time I knew she did not care for us gods, she and Xena never had. But that look of absolute pain in that adorable little face forced me to seek her out. Making sure Ares was otherwise engaged, a woman prefers her girl-talk to stay private. And definitely not to be witnessed by brother's with dubious intentions.
With a single thought I appeared next to her. As I looked into her green eyes I realised she wasn't surprised to see me. I couldn't help to wonder when she had become so used to us making a surprise visit that we no longer startled her.
She was preparing some foul smelling concoction, I think the mortals refer to it as stew. Whatever it was it had me wrinkling my nose, before I decided not to smell it. She stopped her motions and we looked into each other's eyes for a few moments, letting the world pass by around us.
No, this really wasn't the sweet little girl who's scrolls I enchanted and who fearlessly demanded my attention when she thought I made mistakes.
I had felt her long before she appeared, and I simply looked into her eyes for many silent moments. I knew she knew I was running. I knew she was aware of everything that had happened since I left Xena. And in that silent moment I knew she felt my fear of Xena finding me. Finally she broke our silent communication.
"Why are you doing this? You should be with that warrior babe of yours. Saving the world and la di da," Aphrodite said looking around. I knew she was looking for a place to sit, I also knew that look of disgust that crossed her beautiful features as she considered the boulders next to me. I wasn't too surprised when she remained standing. A musty cave filled with leavings from previous inhabitants, human and animal, was not high on the vain Goddess list of places to spend time in.
"Aphrodite, I can't," I replied with a sigh.
"Why not sweet pea?" she asked me. Her face showed me real concern and care, something I had forgotten the gods were capable of.
"Don't ask me that. Please," I begged of her, hoping she would not force me to voice my reasons.
I cupped her face in my hands and looked into the haunted eyes of this mortal whom I almost considered a friend. Well, at least as close to a friend a god will ever have. What I saw there would have broken my heart if it wasn't immortal.
"Please Aphrodite," she begged me. I could see tears at the edges of her eyes. I wished she would not cry.
"Why do you want me to hide you?" I asked, not understanding why she would want to run from love, why she didn't trust love to prevail. If I had been insecure I would have felt rejected by her desperate escape from true love.
"If you don't help me I'll go to your brother," she stated in a monotone voice. Her eyes now dried of all possible traces of tears.
"What is it with the two of you? Since when did you get all chummy?!" I wondered, a small seed of worry planted in my stomach.
I stared back at her, resenting her comment more than I wanted to let on.
"You sure this is what you want?" Aphrodite wondered, her voice serious and almost…sad.
"No, it's not what I want. It's what I need," I replied with a heavy heart.
She twirled her hand. Snapped her fingers.
"It's done," she stated sounding more defeated than I was. "Xena won't find you unless you want her to."
And just like that, with a snap of her fingers my life changed forever. The power the gods have over us mortals was breathtaking. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. At the moment I felt like crying, but no tears would appear. With the amounts I've shed in the past weeks, perhaps that was to be expected.
"Thank you Aphrodite," I said with a sigh, filled with equal parts defeat and relief.
"Take care sweet pea. Be careful," she warned, once again in a serious voice contrasting with her normally ditzy behaviour.
I laughed a short humourless laugh. "I've become perhaps too good at taking care of myself," I said indicating the sais strapped to my boots.
"All the more reason for you to be careful. Not all threats can be killed." Her beautiful features were clouded in honest concern and the otherwise twinkling eyes seemed to hold worry, but as I blinked it vanished and in front of me was once again the carefree Goddess of Love.
She leaned closer to me and placed a sweet kiss on my cheek before disappearing, leaving me covered in fragrant rose petals.
I no longer had to hide. I was now truly alone.
Now the tears streamed down my face again. I guess I still had some left in me.