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ASCENSION

by Richard B.Kloosterboer

Disclaimer: Xena and Gabrielle belong to Renaissance Pictures and SUSA.

Violence: the usual XWP fights we expect

Subtext: plenty

Warning: this story has reference material that could be construed as educational. However this is my first attempt at botching up ancient history.

References and names of Egyptian Gods used from the 'Book of the Dead' and the 'Earth Chronicles' are purely coincidental.

* * *

Somewhere in lower Egypt, near the border of Ethiopia, a convoy of rowboats wind their way through a verge of jungle rivers. The quest was a lonely one, but she wants to do it, she was determined to do it - for otherwise she loses her will to live.

Her name was Gabrielle - a living legend. One that befriended a mighty warlord named Xena and helped her redeem herself. Now Gabrielle herself was the warrior - keeping the legend of her friend the warrior princess alive by using her skills as a storyteller. She was the warrior bard - and Gabrielle was on a quest to find the 'Stream of Immortality'. Not for herself, but for her friend. Following the legend of Moses she hoped to find these magic waters that can restore what once was dead, back to life.

* * *

A few months ago Gabrielle befriended an African girl named Naomi. Gabrielle was just passing through an African village when she noticed the usual signs of unrest developing. Sitting back a bit she watched and listened. It took but a moment for Gabrielle to realize that there were a half dozen sea louts posing as slave-traders. They had rounded up the village women and girls, whilst keeping the men at bay by sheer force.

Nothing new here - always the same where-ever she goes.

Finishing her tangy ale in one scull Gabrielle stroked the urn of Xena's ashes at her belt affectionately, 'Get ready for another fight, Xena.'

'Always by your side.' Confirmed the ghost.

Gabrielle strolled up to what seemed to be the leader of the group. 'Excuse me,' she interrupted politely, 'What exactly are you doing?'

'Mind your own business.' Growled the man.

'I'm sorry, I cannot do that right now.' And with one swift move she tripped him up so that the bully fell flat on his back.

Two of the slavers saw their comrade fall and pounced on Gabrielle. 'Come on, one at a time.' As she unsheathed her sais methodically.

As they attacked Gabrielle at the same time, she jumped up and kicked them simultaneously in their faces, knocking them back. Quick as a panther she somersaulted backwards and landed near her first assault victim - knocking him out with one of her sais, 'talk to you later, dude.' She promised.

Leaving their victims unguarded the five remaining slave traders combined their effort to subdue Gabrielle. She in turn sheathed her sais and unsheathed Xena's long-sword strapped to her back. Swinging the sword in calculated eighths, the little woman was possessed by Ares himself as she giggled with berserker glee - a warrior madness spewing green fire from her eyes. The hesitation from her foes was enough to throw them off-balance a second time as she yodeled her battle-cry before attacking.

'ALALALALALALALALALA!'

With superhuman skill she wounded two of her assailants by breaking their sword-arms with the flat-side of her own sword. The remaining three struck simultaneously at thin air as Gabrielle easily eluded them by jumping out of the way. As a typical Xena tactic she turned her back on them and stuck her sword in the ground in front of her - still crouching she smiled a big evil grin as she observed the reflection of her assailant within the sword. Unsheathing her sais, she blocked the fatal blow without turning around. Using her strong legs Gabrielle catapulted herself up, over and behind her back-stabber. Knocked him unconscious with the butt of both her sais and turned around to tackle the last two boys. The remaining two decided to call it quits and threw in the towel.

'See ya later, boys.' Gabrielle smiled pleasantly as they made a hasty get-away.

'That was too easy.' Said Xena's ghost.

'Well, I needed the practice - let's use the Pinch on this guy.'

'I'm starting to regret why I ever taught you this.'

'I wish you would've taught me sooner - I could've stopped you then - on your suicide mission.'

'Aaw, c'mon Gabrielle. It's not like you to hold a grudge.' Xena looked at her friend concerned, then recognized the teasing twinkle in her emerald eyes.

'Tricking a ghost…' chuckled Gabrielle.

'There is no way I can make it up to you now.' The ghost said sullenly.

'Xena, we both decided it was for the best.'

'I'm not so sure now - I miss being with you - I miss these skirmishes we had together.'

'And now you're just my personal genie in the bottle.' Gabrielle's reassuring smile did not help to cheer up Xena's ghost.

'I yearn to have a body of my own.' Xena continued agitated.

'But your soul is stuck with me. If there was some way to resurrect you…' Gabrielle trailed off. 'Pinch time, hey,' she slapped the leader. 'Wake up - time to talk.'

'Eh? What the...gasp?' he choked as the pinch was applied.

Gabrielle stood up unconcerned. 'I just cut off the blood-flow to your brain. In a few moments you will die unless you tell me who you work for and why your rounding up these people.'

Gasping to breath the man struggled to answer.

'You know Gabrielle, it would help if you unlocked his vocal chords so that he can talk.' Observed Xena's ghost.

'Oh sorry.' Said Gabrielle sheepishly and released a partial pinch from the man's throat.

'I've still got to get used to this.'

With frightened eyes the man cowered even further and stayed mute.

'He's not going to talk, Gabrielle. You've frightened him to death.' Said the ghost.

Gabrielle released the pinch, 'maybe the other guy knows.' And she walked towards her other victim.

'Watch out Gabrielle!'

Xena's warning came in the nick of time as Gabrielle dropped and rolled sideways. Her sais came up just in time as a sword came slashing down - blocking it from further movement. 'Methinks you are not very smart.' Chided Gabrielle. 'Another lesson is in order. Moving with the agility of a panther, the hunter and prey stalked each other. Gabrielle was confident and experienced. Her assailant was a clumsy fool. He struck time and again. Gabrielle just chuckled as she danced around him - gauging his weaknesses.

'Who do you work for?' she asked him, trying to distract him.

He lunged again. Gabrielle side-stepped and tripped him. He fell straight into a vat of manure.

Gabrielle pounced on him. 'Time to talk mate.' As she grabbed his hair.

'I've got nothing to say to you, wench.' He spluttered.

'Wrong answer.' And dunked his head in the manure.

'Now that really stinks.' Chuckled Xena's ghost.

'Y'know, I don't think he knows anything.' Gabrielle said releasing him. 'You can go.'

The slaver quickly made haste in his escape shouting, 'Draco will get you!'

'Draco?' Xena and Gabrielle exchanged puzzled glances.

'Maybe the villagers can fill us in.' Gabrielle walked towards them.

'Maybe…' said Xena sullenly.

The villagers were grateful and Gabrielle could stay as long as she liked. Although they feared Draco might be back with a larger force.

'Draco? He would be what…sixty, at least?' asked Gabrielle to Naomi, whom she befriended.

'This would be the son of Draco. He is a mighty warrior with a lust for power.' Said Naomi.

'Like father, like son.' Chuckled Xena.

'So what is he doing in these parts, Naomi?' asked Gabrielle.

'He is looking for the 'Stream of Immortality'.

* * *

Young Draco was in good spirits. According to the translation of the copper scroll the river he seeks will be within his grasp. His was not only a hungering ambition to be better then his father, by simply anticipating and surviving. But also to become Immortal - like a God.

That power was close within his reach. He could feel it. He could smell it. The smell was of a faint perfume.

'You're right Xena, he is like his father.' Said Gabrielle.

Young Draco realized a little too late and spun around facing a little blonde woman with a very big long-sword aimed at his throat.

'If you are here to kill me…' he defied.

'Then you'd be dead. Actually I am here to talk.' Gabrielle smiled - sheathing the sword.

'I make it my business to know my acquaintances.' He looked sternly at Gabrielle. 'I do not know you.'

Unconcerned and matching his tolerance Gabrielle replied. 'You should, your father and I go way back.' Gabrielle paced smoothly around the table with the map of the region. 'My name is Gabrielle.'

'Not the Gabrielle - you don't look a day over twenty.'

'Isn't it amazing what an ice-cave can do for your complexion.' Gabrielle winked a cheeky smile at him.

'Then its true, you are here for the same reason I am. You want to be immortal too.' Young Draco intuition said unguardedly.

Gabrielle let him talk - she heard some scuffling near the tent and assumed an ambush. Tracing the chakram's edge with her finger she edged a little closer to Young Draco.

Using her most seductive gaze she said, 'We can come to a compromise without any bloodshed.'

'Legends say that you do not kill in cold blood like your friend Xena.' Young Draco observed.

'A lot has changed since then,' Gabrielle said huskily, inching closer.

Young Draco looked her in the eye. 'An assassin you are not.' A hidden dagger was in his hand and coming down for the kill.

Gabrielle anticipated the move and used the pinch in several key places in his chest and shoulder to incapacitate his sudden attack. She then side-stepped the surprised Warlord smoothly before tripping him on top of the table in front of him.

Quickly she grabbed the map, rolled it up and decided to exit through the back of the tent as Draco's mercenaries gathered around the entrance of the tent. She easily sliced a hole with one of her sais to make a quick escape.

Naomi was waiting for her at the jungles edge. Not lingering for a moment longer they hid under the foliage as Gabrielle's pursuers closed the gap. Gabrielle felt something smooth slide against her palm. The snake would have brought forth a scream from the young inexperienced bard she used to be, but the older more experienced Gabrielle simply brought forth one of her sais and impaled the python in one stroke through the head.

'Dinner.' She whispered to the astounded Naomi.

Retrieving her sais and cleaning the goo off it, she and Naomi dragged the dead snake deeper into the jungle. Their pursuers were not wanting to risk their necks in going deeper into the jungle which was fortunate for Gabrielle and Naomi.

'They've gone.' Said Naomi to Gabrielle.

Carrying the snake the best way they can, Gabrielle and Naomi escaped two mighty foes that afternoon. But tonight they will feast on what the jungle had offered them and share it with the village.

* * *

That evening Gabrielle couldn't sleep. She studied the map she stole from young Draco. 'Xena,' she whispered. 'If I find the Stream of Immortality then I can bring you back to life.'

The ghost seemed attentive, leaning close and protective by Gabrielle, longing to embrace her once more.

'Listen to this text Xena,' Gabrielle started to recite. 'In the land of Arabia, God has set the blackness of solid darkness, wherein is hidden a treasury of this knowledge. There too is the fountain of water which is called "The Water of Life"; and whosoever drinks therefrom, if it but a single drop, shall never die.'

Xena looked sullen, 'But I'm already dead and way past the time for resurrection.'

'But there is more Xena.' Gabrielle continued excitedly. 'Here's a passage from the copper scroll.'

'The what?'

'The copper scroll - stolen by the Romans, at some point. It talks about a journey that Moses made.'

Intrigued the ghost of Xena listened further as Gabrielle recited a further translation.

'Moses said to his attendant, "I will not give up until I reach the junction of the two seas or until I spend years of travel."

But when they reached the junction, they forgot about their dried fish, which took its course through the sea straight as in a tunnel.

When they passed on some distance, Moses said to his attendant, "bring us our early meal. We have suffered much fatigue at this stage of our journey."

The attendant replied, "I did indeed forget about the fish. It took its course through the sea in a marvelous way."

Moses said, "that was what we were seeking after."

So they retraced the steps of the path they had come.'

Xena and Gabrielle's eyes filled with hope. There was a way to get Xena back.

'Xena, if a dead fish can be brought back to life…' Gabrielle began.

'We can be together again.' Xena continued happily.

'Of course we'll have to deal with young Draco.'

'One problem at a time. He can still be useful.' Xena hinted mysteriously.

Gabrielle studied the map. She saw a region marked and circled in red. 'Zulus!'

It dawned on Gabrielle that she couldn't possibly risk the lives of her new friends by entering the territory of the Zulus. But using young Draco's army they will stand a better chance accomplishing their goal.

'I'll have to leave Naomi behind.' Gabrielle said resolutely.

'That's up to you and her - she can be invaluable in your quest.' Said Xena.

'Or a liability.' She shot the warrior ghost a dark look.

'I never thought of you as a liability.'

'Do I have the strength to keep both Naomi and me alive?' asked Gabrielle.

'Did I with us?' Xena retorted. 'You came through with your own skills - and you gained so much more.' The ghost whispered proudly.

'Naomi is young - she should stay home.' Gabrielle said worriedly.

'I see a lot of you in her - and you see it too. Give her a chance.'

Gabrielle chuckled, 'Now I know what you felt like with me being your side-kick.'

'You came through - you always did. Soon we will be together again.'

'I hope Naomi will understand.'

'She'll understand.' Xena nodded. 'Our souls are linked for eternity.'

The ghost and the solid intertwined their fingers, a combination of ethereal energies full of love and compassion for each other - mesmerizing in its comfort.

'Forever.' Gabrielle whispered.

* * *

As was predictable Gabrielle's side-kick Naomi would not leave her friend to go on her quest alone.

'I know this area better than you, my Warrior Queen.' Naomi teased Gabrielle.

'Should've known better,' said Gabrielle taking the hint. 'I did the same when I was your age. Looking for adventure…and finding trouble.'

Gabrielle looked worried and held Naomi close. 'I do not want to see you hurt.'

'You need me, Gabrielle. I know the language of the Zulus. I know their customs.' Naomi tried to convince her older friend. Gabrielle reluctantly agreed.

'We have to travel with Draco - I do not want to risk the lives of your people and family.' Said Gabrielle.

'How will you get us in?' Naomi asked.

'If young Draco is anything like his father - then I will have to use the best of my skills to win him over with the one thing he admirers.'

'What's that?'

'A warrior that can beat him in fair combat…' Gabrielle paused. 'Xena.'

* * *

Seeking an audience with the great warlord Draco. Sounds easy doesn't it? Not.

Their earlier encounter has left a delicate mark on their relationship. Draco's pride was hurt and that demanded certain satisfaction.

'We simply want to travel with you through the jungle.' Requested Gabrielle.

Young Draco had only one thing on his mind. 'You want me to take you on my quest of Immortality. I think not. If you want to come along, you will have to prove to me to me that you are worthy of being a warrior.' He paused, then imitated the pinch move, 'and no cheating.'

Gabrielle gave the innocent look, 'Fair enough.'

They all moved ouside. On the way into Draco's camp she noticed a scaffolding setup. A distant memory flooded back and she spawned an idea of repetition.

'Choose your weapon.' Demanded Draco.

Gabrielle smiled cheekily. 'You choose the weapons. I'll choose the conditions.'

'All right - staff.' He turned to face her.

'That scaffolding up there. First one who touches the ground dies.' Said Gabrielle.

'Didn't my father…?'

Gabrielle was grinning evilly in anticipation.

'Agreed. You two.' He pointed to a couple of archers. 'Kill who-ever touches the ground first.' Then he grabbed a staff and with a little help from his troops flipped onto the scaffolding.

'Just like old times, Xena.' Gabrielle winked at her ghostly friend. She grabbed a staff herself and winded one of Draco's men, who doubled ever. Using him as a jumping board Gabrielle somersalted yodelling through the air landing easily on the scaffolding.

'Show off.' Said young Draco.

'Shall we try something original this time?' asked Gabrielle.

'What did you have in mind?'

'Put on a blindfold.'

'I like it!' Young Draco beamed.

'And no peeping.' Gabrielle wagged her finger smiling mysteriously.

Both Gabrielle and Draco put on blindfolds and the fight began in earnest. Gabrielle listened to every sound, isolating Draco's rhythmic breathing. As soon as she heard him inhale and hold she knew he was about to strike.

The first swipe was a head strike. Gabrielle ducked, twirled her staff 180 degrees, hit Draco's staff and slid her staff down in one swift cutting move.

Draco realized the danger and used sheer force to unbalance Gabrielle, but his quick reflexes made him take a step backwards - narrowly being missed by Gabrielle's staff. He paused whilst Gabrielle crouched - sensing the air around her - shallow breathing - listening for Draco's next move.

Making an educated guess Draco decided on a series of katas - head strikes - groin strikes - left strikes - right strikes. Gabrielle countered each onslaught with ease and precision.

She surprised Draco with a foot sweep and he fell on his back. Quickly he jumped up and struck air where he knew Gabrielle should be. He heard a giggle fly over him and only just managed to block a head strike from behind as Gabrielle landed behind him.

'Did you nick yourself shaving?' Gabrielle asked.

Draco felt something warm glide past his face, winced when he felt the cut. 'How did you…?'

'I have many skills.' Gabrielle stated.

'Xena!' A realization dawned.

'Haven't you heard?' Gabrielle teased. 'Xena is dead. I am just as capable.'

'And they tell me I'm arrogant.'

'Chip of the old block.' Teased Gabrielle.

Draco struck with a rage - Gabrielle yodeled out of the way as Draco lost his balance. As if sensing his difficulty, Gabrielle struck his kidney area and he fell off the scaffolding. He got caught by his men, but before they could get him back up Naomi foot-swept a couple and Gabrielle - still blindfolded - knocked the others away. She heard the familiar thud and Draco swore.

Gabrielle landed right on top of him. Removing her blindfold she looked into Draco's humiliated eyes. 'I haven't touched the floor,' she started, 'but you have.'

The archers were confused. 'Looks like I have to kill you myself.' She teased.

She whacked his chin with the butt of her staff. 'Am I worthy as a warrior, Draco?'

'No man has beaten me in fair combat.' He seethed.

'Last time I looked I am no man.' Chuckled Gabrielle.

Draco got up, 'A deal is a deal.'

* * *

A couple of months later, somewhere in lower Egypt, near the border of Ethiopia, a convoy of rowboats wind their way through a verge of jungle rivers. The quest was a lonely one, but she wants to do it, she was determined to do it - for otherwise she loses her will to live.

Her name was Gabrielle - a living legend. One that befriended a mighty warlord named Xena and helped her redeem herself. Now Gabrielle herself was the warrior - keeping the legend of her friend the warrior princess alive by using her skills as a storyteller. She was the warrior bard - and Gabrielle was on a quest to find the 'Stream of Immortality'. Not for herself, but for her friend. Following the legend of Moses she hoped to find these magic waters that can restore what once was dead, back to life.

Gabrielle travels the river with Xena in her heart - Xena's soul is forever connected to hers. But now her feelings have included one other person. An African girl named Naomi. Gabrielle is unsure what sparked the relationship, but she was proud to have this friend as company on her lonely quest.

They traveled with the son of Draco - and like his father he was predictably arrogant, but could make a formidable ally or a dangerous enemy. Gabrielle beat him in fair combat and if it wasn't for Xena's vigil she barely survived him.

It was enough to have him here right now as protection for Gabrielle heard distant drums beating.

Naomi nudged her, 'The Zulus have spotted us.'

'Draco,' Gabrielle warned. 'Get ready.'

'I was born ready.' Draco said smugly.

Gabrielle just smiled - amused by his cockiness.

Things were getting tense as the drums beat louder and faster. And as they came to a y-split the drums abruptly stopped.

Ever alert the warriors were wary for trouble - Gabrielle sensed it - heard the slight whistle of hundreds of missiles slicing through the air.

'SHIELDS!'

The shields shuddered under the onslaught of spears. Screaming of pain and death for those who didn't react fast enough. Balancing precariously on the boat Gabrielle defended herself and those under her with certain bravado as she used her long-sword to counter the spears launched against them.

She glanced at Draco who was doing the same. He wasn't unscathed like Gabrielle, a slight nick on his arm - he was a lot like his father - and he loved every minute of the danger.

To her pleasure Naomi was fending off as best she could, keeping the boat from tipping over whilst trying to row out of danger. Finally the onslaught slowed, but the battle was far from over. Just as Gabrielle wanted to deflect another spear, she lost her footing and fell in the river. Luckily she held tight to her sword, but in the struggle to hold onto the boat she lost the urn with Xena's ashes.

Overcome with grief and anger she collapsed in the boat. The ghost of Xena stayed with her, but it was Naomi who consoled and comforted her.

Was her quest still worth to continue now that Xena's ashes were lost?

* * *

Unknown to the grieving Gabrielle, Xena's urn is making a remarkable journey on its own. The churning river waters are making the urn twirl in an unknown direction. Turbulence causes the odd little treasure to be sucked down a forgotten tunnel, which resembles a mouth of an ancient creature known as Amemit, the Devourer.

Falling down a waterfall the urn hits the rocks at the bottom and its contents spill in the water. The incredible and pure properties of the water make the ashes glow and grow. A membrane covers all the ashes up and they are being reanimated. Rainbow colored lights in all spectral frequencies boost its natural resources as new life is being reborn. The water bubbles, seethes and churns as the strange mix shows an embryo growing rapidly. The embryo grows at an alarming rate to the size of a newborn baby.

A child.

A teenager.

A young adult.

A full-grown adult.

A beautiful woman, perfect in every way floats to the surface. The membrane breaks and she takes her first breath. She floats down the Stream of Immortality blissfully unaware of her surroundings. Unaware that she is being observed by the Winged Measurer. He makes his way quickly down to the rivers edge. As if he expected her arrival, he has with him a robe she can wear.

She stares blankly at him and stays mute. As he guides her onto the shore and clothes her in the robe. In his Ancient tongue he asks her, 'Do you know who you are?'

She gives him a quizzical look - but the blank stare in her vacant blue eyes worry him.

The Winged Measurer realizes that her soul may have been severed from the body for a long time. He guides her up an ancient stairway to an unknown destination. Her original soul must be reunited with this new body soon else the creature will have to be destroyed. This saddens Horus and he will send Anubis, his cousin to find her soul.

* * *

The tiny band of mercenaries have holed up in a cave not far from where they first got attacked by the Zulus. Naomi recognized the texts and signs surrounding entrance as forbidden ground and the Zulus will not bother them here.

They make camp inside the unusually well-lit cave and Gabrielle tries to make the best of the situation when she notices something odd.

'Xena, you're glowing!' Gabrielle exclaims.

'I feel…alive.' Xena says elated. 'But how?'

'Your ashes.' Gabrielle realized. 'We must be close.'

Gabrielle was overjoyed. Her grief for the loss of the urn had given her an unknown twist of fate. 'Your new body must be nearby. We must look for it.' Gabrielle turned to her African friend. 'Naomi.'

'Yes Gabrielle.'

'We must go outside and look for the place where I lost Xena's urn.'

'It is crawling with Zulus out there.' Naomi was worried.

Gabrielle placed a reassuring hand on her arm. 'I understand - I'll go alone.'

'No, I will stay with you, my Warrior Queen.' Naomi said.

'Wait until you meet my Warrior Princess.' Gabrielle said with a cheeky smile.

* * *

Anubis had no problem locating our friends once he appeared topside and scouted around the area. His sharp vision missed nothing as his gaze passed through the overgrown foliage. He recognized the shape of the woman his cousin had found in an irradiant blaze. She seemed to be linked by the heart chakra of the little woman walking close to her. It was a most unusual occurrence to have soulmates united in such a fashion. Such closeness was rare indeed - and beautiful to watch.

He noticed immediately the danger they were in and had to act quickly else their quest would be in vain. The Zulus had laid a trap.

Anubis jumped onto an unusual contraption which hovered the instant he got on. Pulling a few levers the craft easily glided over the foliage gaining height at an incredible speed. He circled the craft around over the area where the Zulus lay hidden and noticed the two women and spectral image take notice too. To his satisfaction the Zulus scattered in all directions and Anubis landed his craft close to our surprised friends.

The jackal-headed god looked at Gabrielle and said whilst nodding to Xena's direction. 'We have found your friend's body. She must come with me if her new body is to survive.'

'I will not leave Gabrielle.' Xena said.

'There is one other way.' He looked at Gabrielle. 'You must earn the right to Ascension.'

'That's the Pharaoh journey, isn't it?' Gabrielle asked.

'You truly are wise.' Anubis nodded. 'Will you risk your life to save your soul-mate.'

'In a heartbeat.' Said Gabrielle without hesitation.

'Then I shall give you this key and some special instructions. You must follow them to the letter and you must go alone.' Anubis handed Gabrielle a special rectangular key made out of an unusual material with an Ankh symbol on it.

'The symbol of life.' Gabrielle beamed a smile.

Naomi found courage to speak, 'I will not leave my Warrior Queen.'

'Then you are surely dead. Where your Warrior Queen is going means certain death for you. She is the chosen one and only Gabrielle can save Xena this time. No one else can, I'm sorry.' Anubis proclaimed.

'Now Gabrielle, listen carefully…'

* * *

The Winged Measurer has flown Xena's new body to the heavens. The medical equipment on Atlantis will keep the body in a state of comatose until it is reunited with her original soul. Horus hopes that his cousin Anubis is successful.

Using forgotten technology and crystals Horus finds an unusual strand of DNA pattern in Xena's genetic make-up. He's seen these links only recently in a race of men they created millennia ago called the Annunaki. Only a few remained and claim themselves to be gods among their human brethren. He remembers such a family called the Olympians. But most of them died out or were killed by - he smiled - this woman had the power to kill the Olympian gods.

No - it had been surpressed again. If she only knew that she still held the power to kill the Annunaki.

Xena shall be save here in the mother-ship Atlantis until his cousin finds and brings Xena's soul to reunite with her body.

Let him come soon.

* * *

Slugging through the Ethiopian jungles Gabrielle and Naomi are on a mission to reunite Xena's soul with her body. Gabrielle had to prove to these so-called Sky-Gods that she was worthy of Ascension. Her friend Naomi would stay with her for as long as possible.

Gabrielle sensed it first and stopped in her tracks, she scanned the area - looking for anything out of the ordinary. The whistles of arrows being launched was heard before the twang of the bowstring. Gabrielle threw her chakram at an odd angle, then caught two arrows. To her delight Naomi caught two others. Naomi would make an excellent Amazon - thought Gabrielle.

'Get them!'

The Chakram was bouncing back through the jungle trees, carving a path through the foliage. Gabrielle's Sais appeared magically in her hands and with a calculating gaze stared down her opponents. She easily blocked their thrusts, winding one with a side-kick mid-riff, then flipping him into oncoming traffic.

Naomi was fending of another admirer of combat - she easily disarmed her assailant and used his sword to thwart off another who impaled himself on it, she then foot-swept the first one knocking the wind out of him.

'STOP!'

Draco came out. 'Enough of this. Surrender, Gabrielle and I'll let you live.'

'You seem to be mistaken. We were winning.' Chuckled Gabrielle.

Young Draco heard it then, a slashing sound coming closer. He ducked down flat on his face as the chakram narrowly missed him. Gabrielle caught the ancient weapon with ease.

'At last he is showing proper respect for you, my Warrior Queen.' Laughed Naomi.

'Draco, by prostrating yourself before me, you are worthy.' Agreed Gabrielle.

Young Draco let forth a raging growl and launched himself at Gabrielle. Naomi cut him off by tackling him, then holding him secure by putting a blade by his jugular.

'Gabrielle, I will hold him here as long as possible. Continue on your quest.' Naomi said bravely.

'No, my friend, I will not leave you.' Gabrielle refused.

'It's just like Anubis said - death is certain if I go with you now.' Draco struggled a bit more. 'Go, I'll hold him as long as I can.'

Gabrielle still refused - then stepped forward and immobilized Draco with the pinch. 'You really have to teach me how to do that.' Said Naomi impressed.

It dawned on Gabrielle what Xena meant about teaching the pinch to people. It was a skill that demanded responsibility. One had to earn the right to use it and Gabrielle was sure that there must be a positive use for the pinch - but it had only been used for evil intentions.

'I am being irresponsible by doing this.' She said to Draco. 'You know I can beat you fair and square in battle and sparring. I wish no quarrel with you. Will you look after my friend Naomi until I return?'

Gabrielle asked undoing the pinch on him.

'I can do that, yes.' Draco agreed. 'But some of my men will escort you.'

'Agreed Draco,' she turned and embraced Naomi, 'I will come back for you.' Gabrielle reluctantly continued on her quest. Naomi had granted her a small amount of time to find her destination.

All ready she was eluded Draco's men. Luckily she found the entrance of the hidden temple. A strange structure out of this world. If she had time on her side Gabrielle would have spent months studying it - trying to decipher a long forgotten text.

For now she was looking for a special symbol and it didn't take long to find. Xena's spirit spotted it first and pointed a spectral finger at it. Sighing of relief Gabrielle used the special key given by Anubis and put it in the second slot beside the 'Sign of Life'.

A faint click was heard deep inside and a monstrous door slid open. 'That's an impressive door.' Gabrielle observed.

'Maybe it was the home of the Titans.' Pondered Xena.

'This key is too small for them. Look at these tracks.' Gabrielle pointed to some wheel marks with strange edgings zig-zagging within. 'What kind of wheel would've made these?'

'Its nothing I've ever seen in my lifetime.' Said the ghost.

'We'd better hurry - I'll be glad when this quest is over.'

'Same.' Agreed Xena. 'It will be nice to have a body again - and kick some butt.'

Gabrielle laughed. 'Then let's go - my Warrior Princess.'

'After you, my Warrior Queen.'

* * *

Naomi wasn't able to hold the mighty Draco for long and eventually she found herself trussed up like turkey. 'Why don't you kill me now and get it over with.' Naomi spat.

'You mistake me for a barbarian, Naomi. Believe it or not I actually like you. There is not a man alive that got even close to what you did.'

'And what is that?'

'You had me at your mercy.' He said, then continued. 'I'm extending you the same favor.' He took out his dagger. The blade reflected the light in Naomi's face, yet she did not flinch. She eyed him defiantly that changed to surprise as Draco cut her free of her confinement.

'Why?' she asked, rubbing her wrists to get the blood flowing.

'I already told you why. I like you - a lot.' He looked seriously at her. Naomi despised him - yet he seemed to be very genuine. He had certain skills that she admired - and could learn. But she was the loyal friend of Gabrielle. She hoped Gabrielle was all right. Gabrielle would know what to do.

 

Gabrielle was following a long tunnel, strangely illuminated with an intense white flame within little rectangular boxes which glowed. They gave no heat which puzzled her further. Anubis had told her to follow the path of this long tunnel until she saw an unusual marking on a door. A yellow circle with three black marks within the circle. In this room she would find a cabinet with a container in it. The container would be marked with the Ankh sign. Gabrielle was to fill up her water bottle with the 'Water of Life'. This liquid would prove to be very important later on at her destination.

She found it without any problem. The cabinet felt cold to the touch and inside it was even colder. This was a wondrous place. She wished she could stay longer - but she was eager to save her friend Xena and wondered about Naomi as well.

Exiting the room she followed the tunnel further and saw the pipe which would go to a labyrinth. Grabbing her oil lamp she entered the tunnel with apprehension.

* * *

Gabrielle was mumbling, 'I hate dark places - I hate dark places - I hate dark…' she stumbled and her hand touched the icky skull of a decomposing colleague. 'Yuck.' She wiped her hand clean as best she could. The path was not easy as she came to her first split in the corridor. Using the oil lamp as a guide she declined going either left or right. Instead she moved closer to the wall in front of her and studied each pictogram carefully. Using the rectangular card she received from the Winged Measurer, Gabrielle slipped it easily into the third slot beside the Sign of Life.

A hidden door in the wall opened with a lot of hissing as the air pressure changed. Gabrielle took a moment to study this remarkable door. Made entirely of metal, its edges were surrounded by a thick black compound she had never seen before. It felt soft to the touch as it only slightly resisted her touch. Gabrielle giggled at first - then noticed a light coming in her direction. Quickly she removed her rectangular card and slipped inside the secret room. The door closed securely behind her as she heard a muffled cry of discovery before silence.

The silence was not complete. Gabrielle heard a soft humming. She felt a little vibration, a trembling under her feet. Exploration was in order, but first she took out a Valerian root that would calm her nerves and soothe her appetite for a while. Suckling on the Valerian root her oil lamp lighted her surroundings a little. She found a hatch in the floor with a wheel on top. She found that the wheel was stuck and would not budge. Gabrielle needed a lever to move it. Hermes was certainly with her today when she found a metal staff lying close by. With a little effort she coaxed the wheel to turn anti-clockwise.

Again air pressure was released as the ancient hatch opened before her. The vertical door was assisted so it took no effort from Gabrielle to either open or close the hatch. Ladder rungs were available on the side going down. Taking one last look around Gabrielle disappeared further into the unknown and closed the hatch - turned the wheel.

Carefully she climbed down the hole - counting each rung as she went - knowing that if she miscounted a trap would be sprung. The humming grew louder the further down she went, the oil lamp danced over the surrounding walls, but it was pitch black above and pitch black below. The Valerian root calmed her nerves as she continued with renewed determination. At a certain count she stopped climbing. With the oil lamp in hand she scanned the walls. Although it was obscure - the Sign of Life hovering over three slots was just below the rung held onto. This time she used her special key and slipped it into the second slot.

She waited a few moments, as per instructions. Then pulled the key out and put it in slot three. To her surprise Gabrielle noticed a faint green glow in the loop of the sign appear. Holding tight on the rung, the section she was on tilted in and she found herself moving gently forward through another tunnel. Gabrielle glanced behind her as the opening sealed with a click. Not able to see but a few metres in front of her, she felt the air rush past her at tremendous speed. The tunnel was not level as she felt gravity pulling against her through every sharp bend. She only wished that it would be worth it as she disappeared deeper into the mountain.

Gabrielle didn't know how much of the day had passed as the machine she was on slowed to a halt gently. The walls were illuminating an unusual substance from inside the walls themselves. The glow was soothing and somewhat eerie. She explored this ancient place carefully - listening for possible traps - towards a high-backed chair she crept. Curious about its strange design. Again she giggled as the chair gave way, betraying its softness - inviting comfort.

She decided to take up the challenge and carefully sat down. It was indeed comfortable. Pouting a little she reached back under her. Something Gabrielle was sitting on. She pulled forth the offending object - it looked like a lock attached to a strap. The belt was connected to three points on the side of the comfy chair. Within a few moments she found a similar setup on the other side. Except that this one looked like a key.

'Use it Gabrielle. Strap yourself in.' A voice told her. It was not Xena.

'Strap myself in? What do you mean?' Gabrielle asked.

'No time to explain.' The voice continued. 'Put the key in the lock. Its all right, you'll be safe.'

"Trust him." Another voice - this time it was Xena - barely a whisper.

Gabrielle obeyed the instruction and strapped herself in. The comfy chair suddenly moved up and over. It positioned Gabrielle in a strange room. She was surrounded by strange windows showing her what outside looked like. Another chair appeared beside her. The seat was occupied by a fellow wearing the mask of a jackal.

'We meet again,' Gabrielle started. 'You are Anubis.'

'Then you know why I accompany you.' Said the creature mysteriously. 'Get ready for take-off.'

'Get ready for what?' asked Gabrielle surprised.

Steadily the humming had increased ever louder and more vibrant. It reached a certain crescendo and Gabrielle has never felt such a jolt in all her life as the craft she was in suddenly shot itself straight up to the stars. In one window she witnessed the earth falling away rapidly. Another showed a star becoming brighter - more complex. Soon Gabrielle witnessed a huge craft coming closer.

'Welcome to Atlantis, our mother-ship.' Anubis stated flatly. 'If the gods approve, then this will be your new home. For you and your friend Xena.'

'Legends state that Atlantis got consumed by the sea.' Gabrielle said.

'And our mother-ship escaped into orbit - knowing full well that no-one on Earth survived to tell that tale further.'

'Xena's body is here?' she asked.

'Yes,' Anubis confirmed. 'And we must hurry. Even now her body is losing too much of her life-force. You hold Xena's essence. You hold guard over Xena's soul.'

'So the choice is mine again.' Gabrielle whispers huskily.

The ghost of Xena stood close by her friend, 'A new life together, Gabrielle. To right the wrongs of the past.'

'If I do this.' Tears welled up in Gabrielle's eyes, 'promise me you'll never leave again.'

Xena glanced at Anubis.

Anubis answered. 'Xena cannot promise you that - but she can stay with you for a long time.' He pointed at the water-bottle containing the water of the 'Fountain of Youth'.

'Xena might not be the same person you have known most of your life.' Anubis warned.

'As long as she's back with me.' Gabrielle said resolutely. 'She is my life - my soul.'

'I may only guide you so far. The rest is up to you. I shall guard your passage.' The deity promised. 'The world you are about to enter is unknown to the Annunaki. They only know there was a higher being before them. The Divine One that created everything.' Anubis mused. 'The Divine One can give immortality to you and your friend.'

'I only want Xena back the way she was - my Warrior Princess.'

'We shall see, my young friend. We shall see.'

* * *

Gabrielle gets guided to a special room. She happily recognizes Xena's comatose and complete body lying in a glass coffin. The god Horus presses a switch and the glass dome slides down with a hiss.

'Ooh Xena,' she glances at the smiling spectral image beside her, then gently strokes Xena's face - making sure its real. 'Your beautiful.'

Anubis came towards Gabrielle. 'There is no easy way of doing this, but you must take a sip from the Water of Life and transfer it to Xena's body.'

'I understand,' Gabrielle winked at Xena's spectral image, 'we've done this before - many times.'

Taking just a sip of the magical liquid Gabrielle poured a little of the liquid in the slightly parted lips of the comatose Xena. She then bend close and gave Xena the kiss of life.

Images started to flow in mesmerizing fashion - the past - the future - life - death - several lifetimes - history - travels to ancient lands - old friends - new friends - old lovers - illusions - dreams - We Are Soul Mates For Ever - endless battles - endless emotions - all emotions - pain - grief - happiness - ecstasy - friendship - bonding - gods - old gods - new gods - no gods - I am a daughter of a god - selflessness - sacrifice - unconditional - peace at last.

Xena felt at peace, she was comfortable, wanted to sleep just a little longer. She felt someone stroking her hair gently, then her chin. 'Xena.' A voice whispered. She knew that voice. She opened her eyes - tried to focus. A familiar face. 'Gabrielle?'

Gabrielle was crying, and she was happy. 'Xena,' she hugged her friend tightly - not believing it. 'Welcome home.'

'Gabrielle, what happened?'

'Don't you remember?'

'I remember Japan and…' Xena faltered, trying to concentrate on something important. 'I died.' She touched her neck - looking confused. 'How?'

'That's a long story, Xena. I am so happy to have you back. I missed you so much.'

'I missed you too, Gabrielle.'

As they embraced each other again.

'Our souls are one. Forever!'

The End [see sequel: No Place Like Home]

Will Xena and Gabrielle escape their prison in orbit around Earth?

Will Gabrielle ever see Naomi again?

Is Xena still the same person we all knew so well?

ASCENSION

by Richard B.Kloosterboer

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