Author's Note: In many Greek Mythology books, Enyo is listed as the Goddess of War and Discord is listed as Strife's mother. For the sake of this story, the latter shall be ignored. Though this story will never be seen by Rob Tapert, this is my plea for him to ....... Bring Back Strife!
Smoke and ash rose high into the night sky obscuring the view of the twinkling stars. Underneath the otherwise clear sky, three leather-clad figures watched the funeral pyre. All three had nearly jet-black hair. The male's wavy hair, accented by a black goatee and sideburns, reached down to just above the shoulder. The taller of the two women kept her hair in a tidy braid that reached mid-way down her back while the shorter of them wore her shoulder length hair loose and flow.
The shorter woman let out a heavy sigh. "How much longer do we have to stay here?"
The other turned towards her companion with piercing blue eyes and snarled, "You can leave anytime you want, Discord."
"Look," Discord snapped back, "just because you're mad about losing your little boy toy, don't take it out on me."
"Strife was not my boy toy!" Enyo denied adamantly. Strife had been many things to her, but a toy was not one.
"Could've fooled me," Discord countered with laugh.
"Enyo. Discord." The male of the trio said softly, finally turning away from the fire. "Would you knock it off!" he growled. "We're here to pay our respects to a fellow God, the least you can do is quit your bickering for once."
"You're right, Ares," Enyo replied turning back to the fire. "He deserved better and he didn't deserve to die."
"You mean to tell me, you're not going to plot revenge?" Discord mocked. "I expected more from the God and Goddess of War."
"What are you talking about Discord?" Ares' temper boiled at the thought of just who was responsible. "Callisto is gone ... and with the Hind's blood, I might add."
"But it's not all Callisto's fault."
Enyo folded her arms across her chest. "What do you mean?"
Discord rolled her eyes. "Do I have to point out everything to you? It's just as much Xena's fault as it is Callisto's."
"Shut up, Discord." Ares pulled his arm back to smack the annoying little Goddess.
"Wait!" Enyo held up her hand. "Maybe the little wench is on to something." She motioned to Discord, "Continue."
"See, if Xena hadn't been so set on getting revenge against Caesar, she would have never gone to Britannia and Hope would have never been born to release Callisto."
Enyo thought for a moment. "For once, Discord, you're right. Since we can't punish Callisto, I say we punish Xena."
Ares pointed a threatening finger at Enyo. "Leave Xena out of this."
"Why are you protecting her?" She slapped Ares hand away. "Strife was family. Xena is just some tramp you have a passing fancy with."
"Xena may be many things, but a tramp is not one of them," the God of War snarled in return.
"Oh? Shall I go through the list of men she's been with ... a list that includes a certain half-brother of yours?" Enyo waited for Ares' retort, but he had none. "Fine," she continued, "Xena will be punished. Since you have such a fondness for her and since Discord couldn't kill a half dead fly. . ."
"What do you mean?!"
Enyo shot Discord a threatening look. "I shall handle the situation." She returned to staring at the funeral pyre and thinking of Strife. She had seen a side of the God no others had. When they were alone, Strife had an air of confidence about him that he never showed with the other Gods. Perhaps it was because Enyo treated him with a respect that the others didn't. It was a respect that turned into a caring relationship that they hid from the others. Now all she could do was quietly mourn the loss of her friend.
"So, if a tree falls in a forest and no one's around, does it make a sound?"
"Gabrielle, if no one's around, who cares?"
Gabrielle stopped walking and planted her staff in the ground with a sigh. "That's not the point, Xena. The point is..."
Xena stopped with Argo in mid stride, silencing Gabrielle with a wave of her hand. Something rustled in the thick brush to the right side of the trail. The brush rustled again and Xena drew her sword. "Whoever you are, come out now. Slowly."
The brush parted as a cloaked figure with a walking stick limped out onto the road.
Xena sized up the figure whose height was between that of hers and Gabrielle's. The cloak hid any proof that the person's limp was real. Xena's guess was that the person was female judging from the size and shape of her hands. That didn't make her any less dangerous though. "Pull back your hood." Carefully, the woman complied, revealing her dark hair blue eyes to Xena. "What's your name?" Xena lowered her sword, but kept a watchful eye on the stranger.
"My name is Erin."
"What are you doing out here by yourself?" Gabrielle inquired.
Motioning up the road with her head, she replied, "I was headed to Thebes. I got thirsty and went down to the river for a drink. That's where I hurt my ankle. I was barely able to get my boot back on." She turned her leg to show the unlaced boot.
Xena looked up into the sky. "It'll be getting dark soon. We passed a clearing not too far back. We'll make camp there and take a look at your foot. Can you walk?"
Erin nodded then followed Xena and Gabrielle down the road to the clearing. She smiled to herself, knowing the beginnings of her plans were taking form.
They reached the clearing and Xena had Erin sit down on a large log. Gingerly, she pulled the boot from Erin's foot. The ankle was black and blue and swollen. "Gabrielle, take the deerskin down and fill it with water. It's cold and should help the swelling go down." Xena stretched the injured leg across the log. "Take off your cloak. We can use it to prop your foot up."
Erin once again complied. Her brown lightweight skirt and blue short sleeve shirt flowed in the soft breeze. She adjusted a small dagger that was attached to her belt as she handed Xena the rolled up cloak.
Xena tucked the cloak under Erin's foot as Gabrielle returned from the river, handing her the deerskin. "What sends you to Thebes?"
Erin winced slightly as Xena placed the cooling compress on her ankle. It really didn't hurt but she had to make it look convincing. "I came to spread the news."
"What news?" Gabrielle stopped gathering small twigs and branches for a fire.
"I was at the Temple of Hera and overheard some of the priests talking. Strife is dead."
"No great loss there." Xena said as she finished tying the deerskin to Erin's foot.
Erin fought back the urge to kill the tramp right then and there. "Well," she tried to continue pleasantly, "maybe not to you, but the Gods are mad. They're going to kill anyone they can to punish the one who ultimately caused Callisto's return. I guess Callisto is the one who killed Strife. I only heard bits and pieces of what they were saying."
Gabrielle met Xena's gaze. "Did they say who that was?"
"They may have but I didn't hear. I figured if I warned people, they could start giving more offerings to the Gods. Maybe it would keep innocent people from getting killed." Erin could sense the guilt already effecting Xena.
"Wait here," Xena ordered, patting Erin on the leg. "Gabrielle and I are going to catch dinner."
After the pair made their way down the bank to the river, the Goddess of War waved her hand across the fire. The images of Xena and Gabrielle appeared and Enyo listened intently to their conversation.
"You don't think the priests meant you, do you Xena?"
"Who else could they mean?" Xena plunged her arm into the river, pulling out a fish. "From what I heard Callisto disappeared after everything that happened. I am responsible for Hope releasing her to begin with."
"It's not your fault, Xena," Gabrielle replied, gathering the fish.
"Yes it is." She tossed another fish on shore. "My lust for revenge against Caesar is what started all this."
Watching the pair, Enyo chuckled. "She catches on quick."
"Really, Enyo," she heard from behind. Enyo jumped, startled by the deep voice. She looked over her shoulder. "Jealous because my plan is working?"
"I just never pictured you as the eavesdropping type," Ares teased.
"There's a lot you don't know about me, Ares. Now, beat it before you screw this up," Enyo threatened.
Ares frowned and disappeared just as Xena and Gabrielle returned.
The trio ate, fell asleep and woke up early the next morning to get started for Thebes. Xena checked Erin's ankle while Gabrielle put out the fire. "Swelling's gone down a lot. That's good. How's it feel?"
Erin carefully moved her foot from one side to the other and around it a circle. "It's a little stiff but seems much better."
"Good. Put your boot back on and lace it up tight around your ankle. That will help give it support," she advised.
Erin laced up the boot, stood and took a cautious step forward, then another. "This hardly hurts at all. Thanks, Xena!" she smiled.
"You're welcome. Now if I were you, I'd go back down the road to that little town so you can give that ankle the proper rest. It's closer than Thebes."
"But what about my warning?" Erin question with concern.
"Don't worry about that. Gabrielle and I will take care of it." Xena secured Argo's saddle and gathered the reins in her hand. "Promise you'll go back?"
Erin hung her head. "Okay, I promise."
"Don't sound so down." Xena squeezed her shoulder. "You'll have plenty of other chances to save the world. Let me handle this one." She led Argo up the road along with Gabrielle.
Enyo's hand dropped from behind her back. With an evil grin, she looked at her crossed fingers and then in the direction of the warrior princess. Under her breath, she warned, "Save the world? I think you should worry about saving yourself."
Xena and Gabrielle had walked for several hours when they came across a woman on her hands and knees crying. It wasn't until the woman heard the footsteps and looked up that Xena and Gabrielle could see the reason for her sorrow - the motionless body of a man. "What happened?? Who did this?" Xena quickly knelt next to the man, checking for any signs of life.
"It was the Goddess Discord," the woman cried. "She said it was for Strife and that he wouldn't be the last."
Horrified and mad, Xena jumped to her feet and yelled.
At Ares temple, Enyo let out a gratified laughed. "I wish I had realized how much fun this was before now." Her smile faded when she saw the frown on Ares' face. She strolled over to his throne and sat on his lap. Running a seductive finger down his cheek, she said, "What's the matter? Can't the God of War handle seeing his little warrior princess suffer at someone else's hands?"
He shoved Enyo off his lap without a word.
"Don't worry, after a while of this, I'm sure Xena will do just about anything to make us quit." She paused. "Maybe even go back to you."
Ares' eyes brightened at the thought.
"You'd like that wouldn't you?" Enyo scoffed in disgust. "But then, that wouldn't benefit me any, now would it?"
Ares shifted in his throne, still remaining silent.
"Ever since you found her, I've been banished to the far reaches of this world with a pathetic army waging pathetic wars that school children laugh at." Enyo knelt in front of him and took his hand. "I want things between us back to the way they were before you found her." She rubbed his hand against her cheek, sliding his fingertips to her lips. She kissed each one before wrapping her tongue around his forefinger and drawing it into her mouth.
Ares lifted his head, trying not to show too much pleasure. But, Enyo had always known how to satisfy him. He pulled her up so she straddled his lap. "I didn't banish you, Enyo. It was you who went off pouting."
She slipped her hands into his vest, massaging his chest. "I left because you gave all the best wars and warriors to her, a mere mortal."
"Mortal or not, she was one of the best warlords we'd ever seen." He unlaced the front of her bodice. Pushing the leather aside, he toyed with her firm breasts. "You could have shared that glory if you hadn't become so jealous. As you pointed out, she is just a mere mortal."
"Mmm. . ." she bent down and nibbled at his neck. "But you treated her like a goddess."
Ares growled in pleasure as she began to bite harder. "Perhaps. But it worked. She served me quite well."
Enyo pressed herself down on him, running her fingers through his dark hair. "And she can serve you again."
"If you can bring her back to me," he slipped his hand under leather skirt, "you can have anything you want. But you may have to share."
"Ohhh," she moaned as his fingers probed into her with expert precision. "Have to share you or have to share her?"
Ares looked into her blue eyes with a wicked smile. "Whichever turns you on the most." He roughly pulled her down into a frenzied kiss.
"Get a room!" a new voice hissed.
Ares jerked his head towards the unwelcome visitor and snarled, "This is my room, Discord!"
Discord looked around. "Oh, so you're right." She smiled, knowing she had already ruined their mood.
Enyo pulled her bodice closed and climbed off Ares' lap. "I should pound you into the ground right now!" she snarled at the intruding Goddess.
"But then who would help you carry out your little plan?" Discord asked. "And I do expect something in return."
"Don't worry," Ares rose from his throne and walked down the steps to her, "you will be properly rewarded."
"Good. Now how many more of the puny little mortals do you want me to zap?"
Enyo rubbed her chin. "I think two a day should work nicely. I'll make sure they're close to where Xena is so that she'll hear about them. Otherwise it won't do any good."
Three days passed. Xena's temper grew shorter and shorter every time they came across another innocent person slain by Discord. She snapped at Gabrielle every time the bard tried to talk things out. She hardly slept, haunted by visions of entire cities lying dead at her feet.
Xena had to bury victim number seven, a lone traveler who practically fell dead at her feet. Upon completing the task, she went down to the stream to cool off.
Gabrielle followed. She waited for Xena to walk into the stream before speaking. "Xena," she said hesitantly.
"What?!" The warrior princess splashed the cooling water on her face.
"Xena, we have to do something. We can't just let innocent people die like this."
Xena scowled at the bard. "You think I don't know that?! I've been trying to think of something do since this all started."
"What about Ares?" Gabrielle asked cautiously.
Xena climbed out of the river. "What about him?"
"Maybe he knows what's going on."
"I've thought about that." Xena paused, struggling with herself. "Gabrielle," she took her friend's hand. "I want you to go back to Potedeia. What I plan to do, you don't need to be involved with."
"Xena, what do you mean?"
"I'm going to Ares. If he'll stop this, I'll go back to him."
"You can't do that!" Gabrielle pleaded. "That's not what I meant when I said that he might be able to help."
"I don't have a choice, Gabrielle. If I don't do something, people will keep dying and I can't handle that." She pulled Gabrielle into a hug. "And for all I know, the next person might be you."
"But, Xena . . . " the bard begged.
"Just do it, Gabrielle. For me. If you don't want to go back home, then go to the Amazons."
"It isn't not about not wanting to go home, it's about not wanting to lose you," Gabrielle cried, tears rolling down her cheeks.
"I don't want to lose you either, especially not to Ares."
Gabrielle pulled back, wiping her face. "Okay. I'll go. I just hope you find another way."
"Me, too," Xena nodded. "Here." She handed Argo's reins to Gabrielle. "Take care of each other."
Gabrielle stood in silent agony, her face soaked with tears, as her best friend walked away.
The scene of a lone Xena walking down the road slowly faded from the Gods' view. Ares, Enyo and Discord glanced around at each other.
"Worked like a charm," Enyo finally said with immense pride.
"Because I did all the work," grumbled Discord.
"What?" Ares and Enyo chimed together.
"I'm the one who went around killing all the mortals."
"Oh, like killing a mortal is work." Ares rolled his eyes, strolling back over to his throne. "Enyo told you which ones to kill so you didn't even have to go hunting for them."
Discord folded her arms across her chest and disappeared with a disgusted grunt.
"Good riddance." Enyo settled herself on Ares' lap. "Why couldn't it have been Discord? No one would have missed her."
"Mmm . . ." Ares halfheartedly agreed. "But don't get too comfortable, either on me or in your glory. Xena will be here soon and she's not one to be underestimated."
Enyo nuzzled Ares' ear. "So I've heard. But so far she's done exactly what I've said she would."
Ares enjoyed the sensations running through his body for a moment before pushing Enyo off his lap. "That's what worries me. Xena always has a plan."
"We shall see." With a wicked grin, the Goddess of War faded away.
As the sun dipped down below the mountains and the crickets began their nightly melody, the Warrior Princess climbed up the stairs to Ares temple. With a swift kick, the doors flew open. Inside she looked around the dimly light room. She heard a snap and suddenly a half dozen torches burst into life, flooding the temple with an eerie glow. Xena look towards the throne where Ares lounged with one leg over its arm.
"Welcome to my humble home," he said with a slight nod.
"Cut the small talk, Ares," Xena responded impatiently. "We both know why I'm here."
"And why would that be?"
"Fine, I'll play your little game. I'm here to make a deal. You stop your killing of mortals and I'll come back to you."
"I'm flattered that you think this is all my doing," Ares swung himself around, sitting squarely, "but it's not."
"Then whose is it?" she demanded.
"Hello, again, Xena."
Xena whirled around to face the approaching female voice. She squinted in the low light. The face looked familiar. "Erin?"
"Not quite," she smiled as she walked past. Stopping at the steps to Ares' throne, she turned and faced Xena. "Allow me to properly introduce myself Enyo, Goddess of War." She flicked a fireball just past Xena's head.
Xena ducked to the side, out of the fireball's path. "I should have known," she snarled. "So what's this all about?"
"I told you, because of you Strife is dead. And as with any murder, the guilty must be punished."
"What about all those innocent people you killed out there?!" Xena shouted. "Who's going to pay for their murders?"
The Goddess of War laughed. "Why you, of course! Their deaths shall forever be on your conscience because you know you were the ultimate cause. Just like with Strife."
"I am not to blame!"
Enyo flipped her hand at Xena, sending her flying against the temple wall. "A liar as well as a murderer. You confessed your guilt to Gabrielle down by the river. Or is your memory fading as well?"
"My memory is just fine." Xena climbed to her feet. "And if you want to fight, why don't you fight fair? Leave your powers out of this."
"I'm a Goddess, you arrogant little mortal. Even without my powers I could crush you like a bug!" Enyo marched back down the steps to where Xena stood. "I'd much rather see you suffer. Suffer like I do because of the loss of a friend."
"If you're looking to place blame, you missed a few people in your warped thought process." The Warrior Princess did not back away from Enyo. She stood her ground.
"Oh? Like who?"
"Why not try the one who helped Callisto bring the Sovereign back and who let her steal the Hind's blood," Xena replied, pointing to Ares.
"You!!" Enyo growled, spinning to face Ares.
Ares flew to his feet. "How was I to know the bitch would turn on me?"
"Strife said he tried to warn you! But he didn't say it was you who helped release the Sovereign!" She leapt at Ares, kicking him soundly in the stomach.
Ares stumbled back but didn't fall. He regained his footing and lunged at Enyo, grabbing her by the throat. "You little wench! You think you can take me on?!" Slamming his forehead into hers, he threw her across the room.
Enyo was back on her feet and about to strike again when Xena interrupted, "Stop it!!" She waited for them to stop. "This isn't going to bring back Strife! Neither is killing innocent mortals." She looked from Ares to Enyo. "I'm sorry Strife died. And I'm sorry that it was by Callisto's hand. No one deserves that. But maybe you Gods will better understand how we mortals feel when we lose someone."
Enyo sighed, walking up to Ares. "She has a point," nodding towards Xena
"She usually does," Ares agreed.
"It's just not fair." Enyo finally let her true grief show as tears trickled down her cheeks.
"I know how you felt about him." Ares wiped the tears from Enyo's face.
"You don't have a clue, Ares." She pushed his hand away.
"Oh, I have more than a clue. I have proof" He grinned and leaded closer to her. "I walked in on you two."
"Oh no," the Goddess groaned.
"Oh yes," Ares confirmed with a nod. "They shouldn't have let him die. It was their rule, no God can kill another God."
"And they're the only ones who can bring him back," Xena added.
Enyo looked up, hoping that the powers that be were listening. Then at the top of her voice, she yelled, "Bring back Strife!!"