A Demon’s Rebirth – Chapter II

Status:
  • Work in Progress
Content Rating:
  • PG-13
Fandom(s):
Xena: Warrior Princess

Relationship(s):
Ares/Joxer

Warning(s):
  • Dark Themes
  • Violence - Canon-Level
Genre(s):
  • Alternate Universe
  • Time Travel
Word Count:
5500

Author's Note:
Family Drama

Summary:
Joxer continues his mission, with Xena's aid.


“What did I miss?” Joxer asked, looking around the hall carefully.

It wasn’t so much that anything seemed wildly out of place as it was the absence of the key people he had expected to see. Both of his brothers were still in attendance, along with their spouses, though if Joxer was honest, the look Jayce was wearing could not be mistaken for friendly, under any circumstances. Jett was sporting some unforeseen combination of sour and amused, which didn’t bode well, regardless of the cause.

The party itself seemed to be in full swing, which did nothing to explain the look Jayce was aiming in his general direction. Joxer chose to believe that Jayce’s ire wasn’t explicitly focused at him but just concentrated near where he was standing. It was safer that way, for everyone. Xena and Ares were missing, which didn’t necessarily mean anything terrible had happened, and his own parents were missing which was typical as they weren’t fond of Olympus get-togethers, though they usually made some sort of appearance, for Jayce’s sake if for no other reason.

“Ma is smirking.” Strife commented nodding in the direction Jett and Eris were standing.

“Your mother is always smirking.” Joxer pointed out. He looked around again, spotting Cupid talking to Aphrodite. “Go talk to Cupid. Find out what happened.”

Strife was already heading in that direction before Joxer had finished speaking.

*

Joxer watched Strife move towards his husband and shifted his eyes across the room, studying the small groups of people carefully, trying to determine what may have happened in his absence. Nothing seemed out of order. Still, he couldn’t shake the feeling that something had happened.

“Must you always cause a scene?” Jayce asked dramatically as he strode up to his brother, face drawn in a frustrated scowl.

Joxer sighed. “Jayce, how exactly did I cause a scene? I haven’t even been here for most of the party.”

“Exactly!” Jayce stomped his foot. “Tall, Dark and crabby has been stalking around looking for you all evening. I don’t know why he even bothered to show up if all he was going to do was scowl at everyone. Eris has been glaring daggers at Apollo ever since you and Strife disappeared. I will never understand what Jett sees in that woman. She’s creepy. And to make everything perfect, Ares stopped scowling long enough to corner Xena and whatever they were talking about made him pass out. The God of War fainted at my party!

Joxer, I will never live this down!”

Joxer shook his head at the barrage, running it through his mental Jayce-filter and then frowned. “Ares passed out? Where is he?”

*

“Have fun baiting your father?” Eris asked sweetly as she stepped in front of her son on his way to Cupid. She nodded towards the side of the room Apollo was slumped in, speaking quietly with Artemis.

She had seen her son talking to Apollo, and while she didn’t begrudge Strife the desire to mend fences with his estranged father, knowing her son as she did, she wasn’t sure it was possible. Too many years had passed, and too much bad blood, and above everything else, Strife was her son. He could hold a grudge like no one’s business. She had seen the way Strife’s body had tensed during the conversation and how Strife had run off after Joxer broke up whatever had been said. While she was too far away to hear their exchange, she knew her son well enough to know that whatever they discussed had hurt Strife and probably just widened the gulf between father and son.

Strife snorted, his own eyes moving towards his father and his twin. “It’s not important.”

Eris reached out a hand and placed it against Strife’s cheek. “It’s important if he’s upset you again.”

“It’s fine, ma.” Strife smiled at her and then moved away slightly, not far, but enough to let her know he didn’t need her coddling. “I was upset about something he said, but Jox and ‘Dite made me see that maybe he’s just clueless…not cruel.”

Eris’ eyes drifted across the room again. “Apollo is a lot of things, but I don’t think he’s ruthless. If he said something to upset you, it was probably unintentional.” Her eyes narrowed on the Sun God. Of course, that didn’t mean she wouldn’t be observing him very carefully from now on.

“So…where’s Unk? I thought he’d be waiting around for Joxer to come back.”

Eris smirked. “Oh, he had to take a little trip…to the Underworld.”

*

“This is awkward,” Hades observed, peering from Thanatos to the God of War and back again.

Ares snarled and tried to stand up. He was still a little disoriented. “How did we end up down here?”

“I brought you,” Hecate answered with a raised eyebrow, daring the War God to challenge her.

Ares stared at her for a second and took a deep breath, let his anger go. He wasn’t about to challenge her. Aside from her being Joxer’s mother, she was scary, and God of War or no, he wasn’t afraid to say so. Anyone who said they weren’t fearful of Hecate was either a liar or a fool. “What happened?” He asked carefully.

Hecate smirked. “You tried to peek into things you shouldn’t, young Ares.” She patted him on the knee. “If you want to woo my son, the first thing you need to understand is that he has a destiny and sometimes that means that we can’t always follow where he leads and sometimes he has a need…sometimes he asks people to do things, and he can’t tell them why and they may never know…you have to have to trust in Joxer. There is a bigger tapestry at work…one we may never see.”

Ares tried to work out what she was saying, and what she wasn’t and how precisely it applied not only to what had happened earlier and the mission Xena was sent on but to his general understanding of Joxer.

“Joxer isn’t like other Gods,” Ares said, at last, his eyes straying not to Hecate but to Thanatos. Death simply nodded. Ares sighed, having suspected as much. He turned back to face Hecate “This destiny…it’s important, isn’t it?”

Hecate smiled and tilted her head. “I believe it’s time to return you to your party. I think Joxer has returned as well.”

Ares opened his mouth to protest. He wanted an answer to his question, but between one blink and the next he found himself not in the Underworld but sitting around Aphrodite’s table listening to her tell Hephaestus how she and Cupid planned to turn both Sparta and Athens upside down during the winter festival.

Aphrodite didn’t seem surprised in the least by his unexpected arrival. On the contrary, she turned to him and included him in the conversation as if his appearance had been expected.

Only on Olympus.

*

“Are you going to tell me what happened earlier?” Cupid asked after Strife had reached him.

Strife stared blankly back at him.

Cupid snorted. “Don’t give me that look. I saw you talking to ‘Pol, and I saw how upset you were when you disappeared. My mother left right afterward. This is not a coincidence.”

Strife looked away, surveying the room, his eyes once more tracking his father’s whereabouts. He saw him slumped in a corner sharing words with his aunt, Artemis. “How about you tell me what happened while I was gone instead?”

Cupid huffed out a sigh. “Pop has been making the rounds, scowling at everyone. I think he’s a little peeved you ran off, and Jox followed.” Cupid shrugged like it made no difference to him. “Then little ‘sis shows up, and Pop corners her. I don’t know what they were talking about, but it made Pop scowl some more, then he touched Xena, and the next thing I know, Pop’s lying on the floor…he passed out. What in Tartarus was that about?”

Strife grinned. “He probably tried to read Xena’s mind…find out where she’d been. Jox had her doing an errand for him. He would have blocked it so no one could read her.”

Cupid’s eyes widened slightly. “He blocked Pop? That won’t end well.”

Strife shrugged. “Whatever Jox asked her to do was probably important.”

“I know.” Cupid sighed. “Pop is just a little…intense when it comes to us. We’re all grown up now, but he likes to believe that he can protect us from…well, everything.” He paused for a second before continuing, “It’s gotten worse since you…since that thing with Callisto.”

“You mean since I died.” Strife said flatly.

Cupid swallowed heavily. He hated thinking about that time, how confused he had been…how devastated and alone. “Yeah, he uh, tried to get Hades to release you, or something, but Hades wouldn’t even let anyone see you.”

Strife took a deep breath before letting it out slowly. “That was my fault.”

*

Joxer watched as Ares returned to the party in what was apparently not under his own power. He had that perplexed expression on his face which told Joxer more about where he had been then any of the information he had garnered by other observers.

Ares spoke to Aphrodite briefly before he turned in his seat and looked around the semi-full ballroom. His gaze went first to his nephew and son, then across the room to where Joxer stood, drinking something blue. Joxer lifted his drink slightly and grinned at him.

Ares narrowed his eyes and stood up, moving across the distance separating them. “You’ve returned,” Ares said quietly.

“So have you,” Joxer observed. “You really should have listened when you were told to stay out of Xena’s head.”

Ares looked uncomfortable for a second before scowling. “She’s my daughter. I was…concerned.”

“Were you? And did you imagine that I would have injured her in some fashion? Or perhaps you thought she couldn’t take care of herself?” Joxer smirked slightly. “No, neither of those…perhaps you just don’t like being left out of the loop.”

Ares scowl deepened, but he didn’t say anything. He didn’t really have anything he could say.

“Your mother suggested we should talk,” Ares said finally, ignoring his actions and his reasoning, for the moment.

“Did she?” Joxer raised a brow. “Somehow I think she did less suggesting and more vaguely threatening.”

“Your mother is…interesting,” Ares said carefully.

“I think the adjective you’re looking for is scary,” Joxer smirked.

Ares opened his mouth to deny that he was afraid of Joxer’s mother but then thought better of the blatant lie and closed his mouth. “Maybe you’re right. She is a little frightening.”

Joxer smiled, pleased that Ares was willing to admit to the truth. “All right. We probably should talk…before this gets any more complicated.”

“This?” Ares frowned.

Joxer sighed. “Father told me you asked them for permission to court me and that they granted it. However, I don’t think you fully understand the situation.”

Ares wanted to know how exactly Thanatos had told Joxer anything. It wasn’t his experience that the God spoke in any way either mortal or God understood. However, Ares more immediate concern with Joxer’s statement was that Joxer didn’t seem on board with the courting idea.

“What’s to understand? You are a God. I’m a God. We’re immortal. End of story.”

Joxer snorted. “The future I’ve prophesied will come to pass.” Joxer began, becoming serious and placing a hand on Ares’ arm, teleporting them in a flash of subdued power. “These beings will walk the world one day. I must prepare for that eventuality.” Ares looked around their new location and recognized Joxer’s temple. He moved his eyes across the disturbing images depicted on the tapestries lining the dark walls. He thought of a world in which these scary demonic creatures roamed free, how different would it be from the world of now with Harpies and Hydras. These things were not God-created but something else…something darker.

“These…things…there’s no stopping them?” Ares asked, already guessing the answer.

“No.” Joxer shook his head. “It’s too late for that. They are still forming, it’s true. Still young, infants, really but, there is no stopping them, not anymore. That time is passed.”

“Infants?” Ares tilted his head slightly. “Wouldn’t it be easier to kill them now then, while they are weaker?”

“It wouldn’t help.” Joxer walked away, his fingers brushing softly over one of the tapestries. “Besides, the things I have seen…some of them…they have to happen. These horrors are the darkness that must exist before humanities future generations are ready to fight it.”

“I can help,” Ares said seriously.

Joxer sighed. “I know you think you can, Ares, but this isn’t like any battle you’ve ever started. This is…different. I don’t think even you are prepared for what’s coming.”

“Whatever you have Xena doing…it’s tied to this?” Ares asked carefully, trying, against his usual practice, not to press for information Joxer wasn’t ready to share.

“Yes,” Joxer answered simply. “Ares, I know you want to know more, but it just isn’t safe.” He paused, hesitating slightly, not sure if he should leave well enough alone but deciding to just get it over with. “I also know you think that we can work something out, I assume, between us.”

Ares smirked at Joxer’s hesitance and the slight confusion he was showing at the change in subject. He was evidently not nearly as confident on the future of their relationship as he was on the future of the world. “You assume? Joxer, I would think, at the very least, your friendship with my nephew would have taught you to never assume anything, especially where I am concerned.”

Joxer scowled. “If we were talking about a quick romp in the fields, we wouldn’t even be having this or any conversation.”

“Is that so?” Ares queried, curious.

Joxer narrowed his eyes. “I’m not sure where you got your information, but I am not opposed to meaningless sex.” He paused, his eyes shifting to their more natural fathomless state. “But that isn’t what you want. If it were, you wouldn’t have gone to my parents.” Joxer sighed. “You shouldn’t have done that.”

“It was the proper thing to do,” Ares said as if it was apparent.

“I know, Ares. But my parents, they’re well…my parents. They love me; they want me to be happy and to find love and all of that crap that keeps people worshiping Aphrodite.”

Ares raised an eyebrow. “That’s as it should be, Joxer. As my parents want for me, and what I want for my own children.”

Joxer nodded. “True. My brothers, they’ve found people to make them happy, but I don’t think my mother ever truly believed there was any hope for me, not with the path I must walk.” He looked up, and Joxer narrowed his eyes again. “And then here you come, the God of War, walking into the Underworld and doing things the proper way. Asclepius courted Jayce, but he still won’t go anywhere near the Underworld unless someone is ill, and while he’ll interact with Mother around Olympus, Father still freaks him out a little. Needless to say, he did not ask their permission to court Jayce.”

“I’m sure that went over well with Thanatos.” Ares grinned.

“Not especially,” Joxer said dryly. “He takes any opportunity to scare him, just because he can. It’s become a game.” Joxer shook his head. “My point is that you’ve made things very difficult for me. You endeared yourself to my parents both by following protocol and by just wanting to court me. I can’t really deny you without making things awkward.”

“Do you want to deny me?” Ares asked. He stepped closer to Joxer. “Do you want to deny me? Not because of your destiny or what you think is best, but because you, yourself don’t want me, or what we could be?”

Joxer paused and then sagged. “No.”

“Nothing else matters,” Ares said, a smirk forming. His eyes moved back to the tapestries, his mind drifting towards the future and what horrors awaited them.

He finally looked back to Joxer. “You have a plan?”

“I do.” Joxer nodded.

“It sounds like you’ll be fighting a war,” Ares observed.

Joxer blinked. “With the preternatural.” He allowed.

“But a war nonetheless.” Ares pointed out. “Who better to help than the God of War?”

Joxer blinked again. What could he say to that?

*

“Are you giving up?” Artemis asked as she watched her nephews across the room. They were speaking quietly to one another, and neither looked happy about what was being discussed.

“What?” Apollo asked in confusion. “Why would you think I was giving up?”

Artemis shrugged. “That’s what you usually do when things get too…complicated.”

Apollo slumped in his chair. “Fair point.” He allowed. “But this is my son.”

Artemis snorted. “You say that is if he’s the only one, and as if that makes one iota of difference.”

Apollo opened his mouth to retort but then shut it. She had made a valid point, again. Still, this was different. “This is different.”

“How?” Artemis asked.

Apollo wasn’t sure what to say because he wasn’t entirely sure why it was different, but it was.

“Is this because he died?” Artemis asked quietly, her shrewd eyes studying her twin.

Apollo started to shake his head but stopped. Was it? Maybe that was part of the reason, but not the only one. “Perhaps, a little bit, but Artie, he’s so angry, and I…just don’t want him to hate me.” He finished solemnly.

“He has reason to be angry, ‘Pol.” Artemis pointed out. “You need to decide whether or not you’re willing to follow this through because I can tell you if you start down this path…to fix things with Strife, and then change your mind, you’re going to have a lot of pissed off Gods on your hands, and that side of the family? They hold grudges…long ones.”

Apollo nodded. “I’ll think about it.” He offered, knowing she was right, but also knowing he couldn’t just let this go.

*

The Demon God screamed. His anger was a living thing. He couldn’t feel his daughter any longer. She was gone from this world. Gone, but not dead. He couldn’t sense her shade. Someone had trapped her. He didn’t know who, and he didn’t know how, but without her, his plans were ruined. She was the Mother of so many. Her work wasn’t near finished though. The children already birthed would have to suffice.

He looked around and wished he could just create another like her, but her own mother had gotten herself killed and cut off the doorway between worlds. Still, so long as he held his present host, he could travel between them. He could devise a new plan. And looking as he did, he might even be able to wreak some havoc as a bonus.

*

“How is the courtship going?” Hecate asked as she watched her son quietly. He seemed to be focusing inward.

At her question, he turned toward his mother and rolled his eyes. “Why are you pushing this?”

“Joxer, son. I love you. And I know you. You have a great burden, it’s true, but you do not have to bear that burden alone.”

“There’s work to be done. I don’t have time to be…courting.”

Hecate raised an eyebrow. “You have nothing but time.”

“Mother, things are complicated.” Joxer tried again.

“Things will always be complicated, son.” She responded. “But, if you don’t allow someone in, you’ll not only be unhappy, but you’ll crack under the pressure.”

“I’ve let people in.” Joxer protested. “Strife, my brothers…”

Hecate stared at her son, the inky black of her eyes saying more than any words could.

“Okay, I’ll try.”

“Excellent.” Hecate smiled. “Now, are you still fighting with your brothers?”

Joxer frowned. “I wouldn’t call it fighting, exactly.” Joxer hedged. His mother wasn’t pleased when the triplets fought, and she always seemed to know when something was going on with one of them.

“Jayce seemed rather put out after his party,” Hecate observed, her fingers adjusting one of her plants while she turned away from her son.

“He’s difficult.” Joxer agreed, “but he’s not truly angry.”

“No.” Hecate nodded to herself. “Jett?”

“He’s a bit more problematic,” Joxer admitted. “He’s still upset I didn’t tell them the truth about my time in the mortal world.”

He thinks you don’t trust him.”  A whisper came to him through the wind.

“No, father, that’s not it…I don’t think.” Joxer frowned. He honestly wasn’t sure whether his father was correct or not. “He would have tried to help.”

That’s what family is for,” Thanatos told him patiently.

“He can’t help with this.” Joxer scowled. “I don’t get involved with his business.”

Joxer.” Thanatos mind-voice didn’t shift, but Joxer could feel the irritation.

“Sorry.” He whispered.

“You’re all good boys,” Hecate said with a smile. “Just different.”

*

Joxer watched as the demon wreaked chaos around the village.  The people were unaware of the Dark God in their midst, and Joxer was tempted, oh so tempted to intervene.  Not only to save the village people but to try to save what was left of the soul of the man the God had possessed.

However, it wasn’t time yet.  Joxer still needed to wait.

Soon though.  Soon, he would be able to free Iolaus, and trap Dahok.

You must have patience, young one.  The voice whispered through Joxer’s head, and he sighed, feeling the presence drifting through the wind, so like his own mother’s infinite patience, yet different.

“I know.”  He whispered back.  He waited a moment to see if the Titaness had any further wisdom to offer, but there was only silence.  “Very well.”

His great-grandmother had done her duty and moved on, but sometimes she liked to take a look at what was going on.

Joxer supposed she was something he and Apollo had in common.  Perhaps they were not too far removed after all. If Phoebe had felt safe enough to leave her duties in his safekeeping maybe there was hope for him yet.

*

Joxer opened his eyes and stared into the darkness. He could feel the chill in the room covering everything. There was a dense fog that tended to drift in the air when the temperature was lowered. It was another side-effect of Hecate’s influence.

Joxer had inherited more than one gift from his mother, but it was his ties to his father which grounded his power the most. Grounded him and troubled him equally.

Jett was his father’s son but had grown into his own godhood in a way that made his parents proud. Jayce, while dedicated to his duties, was equally committed to other pursuits, and had left his upbringing in the Underworld behind. Hecate and Thanatos didn’t begrudge him his freedom though they did wish he’d visit more often.

Joxer was the odd middle child, a perfect blending of both parents. Something that at times had caused dissension among his brothers. He didn’t have Jett’s penchant for causing death, but he was attuned to its frequencies. He could also sense magical energies in the world in a way few others could manage.

His grandmother believed this was due to his Godhood and the future that lie ahead of him.

His visions weren’t always clear, but they very rarely were meaningless. Even more, rarely did something he See not have some bearing on his godhood or his task ahead or some challenge he would have to undertake.

Of late, he’d seen the objects he needed to secure. It helped him to know where and when to send Xena. Some of these things were necessary and needed protecting until he could release them for their own dark purposes. They would eventually make their way to the proper place, at the appropriate time, but only if he put the pieces in play now.

Then this vision.

He could sense the power in the stone, its age, and flashes of the battle with the Titans where it had been put to use before. It had been many years since then, a time forgot by mortal man. In fact, he’d be surprised if most of the Gods even knew about what had occurred. Still, this could be the answer he was looking for.

*

Joxer approached the cave cautiously. He wasn’t nervous exactly, but he did want to get some insight from his grandmother. She always understood him better than most. Perhaps it was the nature of her children and her understanding of things.

Clotho looked up from her spinning and smiled at him.

“Are you keeping Ares out of trouble, Cousin?” Atropos cackled.

Joxer ignored the questions and moved towards the back where his grandmother sat weaving a quilt.

“Who is this one for?” Joxer asked quietly. His grandmother seemed to know about additions on Olympus way before they were announced and she liked to weave baby blankets as a combination welcome gift and protection.

“I don’t think I’ll share, child. You’ll have to wait just like everyone else.” She continued her weaving, but Joxer noticed a twinkle in her eye.

Joxer frowned. His grandmother usually only became silent on the matter of new and upcoming births if it affected Joxer in some way. He wasn’t sure he wanted to push, so he left it alone.

“I’ve had a vision,” Joxer said as he sat down across from her.

Nix nodded. That in and of itself wasn’t surprising.

“I think, it may be the key to containing Dahok.”

Nix nodded again. She had been waiting for the answer to come to him, whether that be by self-realization or his own foresight, she hadn’t been able to determine.

“And does your vision trouble you, young Joxer.” Nix watched the young god, her dark eyes seeing through him. This one, of all her children’s children, had the potential to understand what fate had in store.

“Troubling? Not exactly, grandmother. However, I see how it could benefit both the present and the future.” Joxer sighed.

“Do you also see how they used it in the past?” Nix asked quietly, knowing of what he spoke.

“Yes,” Joxer answered sadly.

“Then, you know what you must do, who you must ask?” Nix continued solemnly.

“It cannot be helped,” Joxer answered.

Nix smiled. Her grandson had a strong spirit. Perhaps it was time she spoke to Ares on his behalf.

*

Joxer entered the Temple of Memory cautiously. Acolytes were going about their business, but no other immortals. There was a raised dais to the left which had terracotta bowls filled with some sort of liquid that Joxer dare not touch. He remembered his mother’s lessons on the service Mnemosyne provided to mortals.

“It has been a long time since a child of Night has visited me.” The disembodied voice came from everywhere at once.

Joxer turned to where a throne would have been in a typical temple. “I don’t suppose we have need of your aid.”

“And yet, here you are, Son of Thanatos, Son of Hecate.” Mnemosyne materialized in front of him, her face ageless, but her crystal blue eyes curious.

“Yes. Here I am.” Joxer agreed.

“What need has the God of Demonic Prophecy of me?” Mnemosyne asked.

“The Stone of Creation,” Joxer said quietly.

Mnemosyne’s expression didn’t change, but her eyes darkened. The two stared at each other for a long moment before she sighed. “May I know what purpose you wish it for?”

“Dahok.”

“You wish to use it to exorcise him from the mortal Iolaus?” Mnemosyne clarified.

“In a manner of speaking. I wish to use the Stone to trap him.” Joxer knew what he was proposing was not easily done and not something easily explained, even to a Titan.

“Can you kill him?” Mnemosyne asked carefully.

Joxer hesitated. “Not now.”

“Can you send him back to his realm?” Mnemosyne pressed.

Joxer hesitated again because if his plan worked Dahok would not return to where he had been hiding for millennia, but neither would he have the power he once did. “I can sever his connection to this world until such a time as those who are able to defeat him permanently are equipped to do so.”

Mnemosyne stared at him, weighing his words carefully before she nodded. “Very well.” She opened a viewing mirror through time and showed him where the Stone would be found. “You do understand that the Stone will most likely be destroyed if you alter it in any way?”

Joxer smiled sadly. “If I am successful, it will no longer be needed.”

“Then I wish you luck.” She placed a palm on his forehead. “I grant you a boon, Joxer, Son of Thanatos. May time treat you kindly, and that you shall grow into the new gift I have granted you this day.” She removed her hand and stepped back. “I do not think we shall meet again.”

Before Joxer could say anything, the Titan had disappeared.

*

“I have another task for you,” Joxer said as he approached his friend. She was cleaning a fish, and her posture indicated she had been expecting him.

“Okay.” Xena nodded as she continued cleaning. The jobs she was doing might not have been in the plan for her life, if she had ever had such a thing, but they were important, and they helped her deal with what had happened to Gabrielle.

Joxer continued to watch her quietly. It was a little unsettling. “Is something wrong, Joxer?” Xena asked carefully.

Joxer turned away before focusing on the rolled-up scroll he held in his hands. He motioned with the scroll. “This one is different from the others.”

Xena got up and stepped a little further away to wash and dry her hands before returning and taking the scroll. “How so?”

“There’s a deep cavern outside Thalius. The cavern is far beneath the Earth. You’ll have to follow a line of hot springs to reach an opening where you may enter.  Once inside, I do not know what you will face, not exactly.”

“And what’s in this cavern? Will I be able to breathe once inside?” Xena unrolled the scroll and looked at the map.

“There’s a crystal there. It’s important that I retrieve it.”  He paused for a moment. “Essential.” He watched her for a moment before continuing.  “Before you get to the opening, break the outer shell of this.” Joxer handed her a necklace.  Joxer carefully held it out to her by the braided leather acting as a chain.

Xena lifted the leather equally carefully and looked at the pendant.  It was odd. She shifted it in her hand, almost afraid to touch it. There was what looked like a tiny version of the night sky suspended in a thin layer of what looked like a transparent bubble, like those made from soap.  But as she turned it, she noticed a weird iridescent glow emanated from it.

Joxer lifted a hand, and the necklace moved, the leather twining itself around her wrist, once, twice, three times until it was tight.

Xena grunted an acknowledgment to his words as she examined the map more closely.  There didn’t seem to be any easy access to the cavern that was marked on the map. She saw the path of the hot springs, and from what the map indicated there didn’t seem to be a better path.  In her experience, sometimes other routes were available even if not often used or mapped out, but without actually seeing the terrain herself she wouldn’t if that was the case here.

“Have you been here?” Xena asked, eyes memorizing the details.

“Yes.”

“How accurate is this map?”  She wanted to know if she could make a plan based on this or not.

“I drew it from memory.”  He answered.

Xena looked up at him for a moment and then turned back to the map.  “Okay. What’s the timeline?”

Joxer smiled at her acceptance.  She hadn’t taken long to realize that he was different from the persona she had first met and had been open to learning who he truly was.

“To you, you’ll have one cycle of the moon to retrieve the stone and make your way out of the cavern and back to the location where I will leave you.  Time will be moving differently here than where you are, so if you need help, I will be unable to provide it. By the time I would receive an alert and could respond, too much time would have passed for you to make any difference.”

Xena’s eyes widened.  “How much time?” She knew the Gods were capable of time travel, but she had no idea how they did it or what could happen.

“One moon cycle where you are going is only a full day here.”

Xena stared at him in disbelief for a second and then just nodded once.  “I won’t be late.”

*

 

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2 Comments:

  1. Another amazing chapter. So much is on the line and I’m delighted that Xena is all in to help Joxer. Thank you for sharing! 😀

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