Chapter 25

"So, a being from the future…" Discord, Goddess of Retribution, cooed after Ares informed her of where he'd been. "Hmmm, interesting. I'll have to go and see for myself."

Ares laughed at the very idea. "Little hint, Discord, she's with Xena and Gabrielle, if you're even thinking-"

"Let me worry about what I'm thinking, and you worry about your precious little armies, Ares… Besides, don't you want Xena on our side? I may just have a way to achieve what you never could." She turned around and shimmered away before the God of War could reply.

* * *
"Xena! Gabrielle! What a wonderful surprise!" Cyrene grasped the two women to her bosom and squeezed. "It's been far too long…"

"Mother!" Xena clasped the woman tightly with one arm, laughing as Cyrene tried to hug the very breath from her. She worried that Gabrielle wouldn't fair so well and stood to release her bard from further suffocation.

"We'd like you to meet a friend of ours." She gestured to Dari, who was untangling herself from the horse. Failing, she fell to the dirt road with a thud and a groan.

"First time on a horse," Xena explained with a glance at her mother, then Gabrielle.

"I'd give anything to have an automobile right now," Dari growled as she got to her feet. She brushed herself off as Gabrielle took her arm and led her to Cyrene.

Cyrene studied the younger, but much taller woman intently. Those eyes… she mused and smiled at last. "It's a pleasure to meet you."

"Likewise," Dari said, her tone a little gruffer than she intended. Her sour mood wasn't getting any better since earlier in the day when she'd first fallen off the horse.

"Why don't you fill her in and I'll get us settled?" Gabrielle said to Xena, who nodded and gave Dari a pat on the shoulder and a sweet smirk.

* * *

"So, meet any men from the future?" Cyrene asked, a winning smile playing at her lips.

"Mother…" Xena whined. "For the last time, I don't need, nor want a man in my life. Why do you persist in wanting one for me?"

"But Xena…"

"No buts, Mother. I've told you, Gabrielle and I . . ."

"I know, I know." Cyrene sighed. "She's all the family you need on the road. Yes, you've told me. And I know you certainly don't need the protection of a man."

Xena rolled her eyes. "You'll never get it, Mother."

"I get more than you think, my dear daughter." Her eyes held a hidden thought that Xena missed as Cyrene turned her back to her. "So what do you plan to do with this Dari if you can't return her to her home?"

"I haven't thought of that yet. I'm still working on the 'I will get her home' idea."
From outside they heard, "OW! Hey! Quit it!"

Xena mumbled an expletive under her breath and dashed from the room onto the porch. Joxer… of course. The scrawny, stick of a man stood, if you could call it standing, on the tips of his scruffy brown leather boots. The helmet that covered his dirty dark head to below his ears was twisted to the right side so that only one of his brown eyes had any idea what lay before him.

Dari held Joxer by the collar of his bearskin coverlet; the top of which now reached up to his pointed chin. If it weren't for the overly ornate belt cinched around his tiny waist, she would have found herself holding the piece of thick fur, minus its owner.

"Xena!" He beamed, and then scowled when Dari released him and he fell at her feet. "We gotta talk about the company you keep."

"What is this?" Dari questioned, pointing down at Joxer and gazing at Xena.

Xena smiled, she had to. "Joxer, I'd like you to meet our friend, Dari."

Joxer smirked, "Pleased, I'm sure," and stood, backing away from Dari as he did so.

"Bumbling fool," Dari retorted and headed back to their room at the inn.

Gabrielle was standing in the doorway watching her return. "You'll get used to him. He's harmless."

"He should keep his nose from other people's windows," she growled as she walked past Gabrielle and into the room.

"Some welcoming committee you have there." Joxer was whining as he came up to stand beside Xena.

"Joxer, what are you doing here?" Seeing the little warrior wannabe on an average day was irritating enough, but now . . .

He leered at Xena. "Word is, there's a bounty on some future chick in the area. I'm gonna find her and get that reward!"

Just great! This is all I need. Xena grabbed Joxer's shoulder and drew him up, nose to nose. "You so much as lay a hand on her and you'll be whistling through your-"


"Xena…" Cyrene was behind them.

Xena released the tall, skinny man with a shove and a glare. Then she had a thought. "Joxer, I have an important mission for you…" and she walked off with him, whispering.

* * *

"That was the best meal I've had since, well, since I've been here!" Dari exclaimed fondly to Cyrene, who simply gushed at the praise. Gabrielle gave Dari a dour look. What was wrong with her fish? Xena, seeing Gabrielle's expression, rolled her eyes.

"Here, let me." Dari sat the woman back down when she rose to clear the table. "You rest. You cooked that huge meal, it's the least I can do. Gabby?" She grabbed the Bard's hand and hauled her to her feet to help.

"Thanks for volunteering me." Gabrielle growled as she sank her hands into a basin with a pile of dirty dishes. Dari beamed at her back, carrying in more plates. "I swear," the bard griped, "you and Xena must be related." She then told Dari the story of when she and her warrior helped the young runaway Princess Alesia realize there was no place like home and how Xena had made her Bard out to be the Fairy Godsmother of Dirty Dishes!

Xena and Cyrene heard Dari's laughter from the other room and smiled at one another. "She is rather fetching," Cyrene acknowledged. "And Gabrielle's sure taken quite the interest in her…" She watched her daughter's face for signs of jealousy, for answers to her questions.

Xena didn't give her the satisfaction. "Yep, she's a keeper all right."


Chapter 26

Collingsworth heard the telephone's receiver being slammed down from his location in the kitchen. He merely raised a downy covered eyebrow in response to his master's display. Mr. Ingles had been occupied all day in gathering information regarding the shiny bauble that held a place of honor atop the mantle in the study.

The manservant had gone into the room earlier that afternoon for a usual sweep of the area, looking for the odd bit of trash or glass that required washing. As Collingsworth had neared the fireplace, he found himself quickly intercepted by a most excitable employer shooing him away, like a child caught with his hand in the cookie jar.


The familiar sound of stomping alerted Collingsworth to the fact that the kitchen was about to be raided. Lutheran crashed through the swinging door, causing its heavy weight to slam into the doorstop attached the tiled wall.

"I want food." Lutheran announced dryly.

"Of course sir." Collingsworth was already on his feet before the hinged oak began its first swing. "Will you be supping in the study this evening?"

The crime lord nodded a sharp affirmative to the question, causing his jowls to jiggle slightly from the force of the motion. "I'm expecting calls tonight, so don't answer the phone; I'll handle it."

"As you wish." Collingsworth busied himself preparing Lutheran's supper, as his employer exited the kitchen in the same manner in which he had arrived.

Shortly after Mr. Ingles had returned to his seat behind the desk, Collingsworth brought in the tray carrying Lutheran's meal. The phone rang just as he sat the tray off to the side and began unloading the contents in a specific arrangement upon the desktop. Stubby fingers grabbed the receiver and began to listen to the voice carried through the line. Within the measure of a few seconds, Lutheran slammed the device back upon the cradle. "Damned incompetent fools! Can't tell shit from shinola!"


Collingsworth noticed the unflattering shade Mr. Ingles was turning and decided to intervene. "Problem, sir?" The manservant had taken note that on previous occasions his employer calmed down considerably when he talked about whatever was bothering him at the time.

"Yes! These so-called 'experts' aren't giving me the answers I need!" He held his head in his hands, shaking it back in forth with irritation.

"If I might inquire sir. You are referring to the stone, are you not?" Collingsworth jotted his gaze in the direction of the intense blue jewel.

"Yeah, that would be the object of my consternation at this moment." Lutheran raised his head and looked longingly at the gem. "I know it holds a secret. Don't ask me how I know." He turned to look at his servant. "I just do. Call it a gut instinct." A heavy sigh escaped through his thin lips. "If I could just unlock whatever that beauty holds . . ." He trailed off, not wishing to further torture himself with "what if's" and "if only's."


Collingsworth gave his next statement serious thought before he spoke. "Sir, I have a . . . friend, who is quite the aficionado in rare and unique . . . items. Perhaps she could be of assistance."

"Sure. What the hell. It couldn't hurt. Give her a call."

"Right away, sir." Collingsworth left the study and headed back to the kitchen. After putting away the serving tray, he headed for the servant's quarters. No time like the present, he thought with the slightest of smiles as he reached into the drawer of the bedside table and mentally calculated the time difference between where he sat and Western Greece.


Chapter 27

"Xena?" Gabrielle whispered in the gloom of night. Now that Dari was asleep she could talk to Xena freely.

"Mmm?"

"Have you thought any more about how to use the Scepter of Helios, if we can managed to find it? It's an instrument of the Gods, no telling what might happen if a mortal uses it. There's no guarantee that a mortal can even use it. But, so far, it does seem the only way."

"That's all I've been thinking about, Gabby." Xena turned her head to look at Gabrielle over her shoulder. "Something will come to me." She knew the Bard needed her assurance that everything would be ok. "Now go back to sleep."

"If she can't get back, can she travel with us?"

"That's up to her to decide. Now go back to sleep."

Gabrielle sighed deeply and laid back. "I wish she'd stay; she's nice to have around."

"She's not a pet, Gabrielle."

The bard smiled. "I know that, Xena. I only meant . . ."

"I know what you meant. Now, please, try to get some sleep."

Gabrielle growled but did as she was told, slipping happily into dreams and letting her mind's adventures take her away.

Dari's dreams were dark and filled with pain. She tossed and turned, pulled from one terrible scene to the next, each vision more horrifying than the previous. In each, she saw death and agony, Gabrielle and Xena's deaths, to be specific, and her agony at having cost them their lives. When she awoke in a cold sweat, she knew she couldn't remain with them; she couldn't handle the thought that she would cause their deaths. Xena had not given her any details about what the Shamaness Alti had put the warrior and Gabrielle through, but Dari would not allow herself to be made into an instrument of torture to be used against them.

Quietly, she gathered her things and slipped from the Inn. The small town was silent. Not one candle was lit to offer her sanctuary from the starless night. She was extra careful as she moved through the town's unfamiliar territory.

"Boo!" came a shrill cry from the darkness. Dari jolted and turned to run in the other direction. Without warning, her feet were stopped by something immovable. Her strong forward momentum caused the normally coordinated cop to fall flat on her face. Arising unscathed, Dari groped the ground with her hands until the tips of her fingers made contact with what had impeded her escape. After a relatively short inspection, she found it to be a fallen tree limb. Dari cursed loudly and tried to make out where the voice had come from.

"Such language." The ebony haired figure 'tsked-tsked' at the woman stretched out before her. "That's no way to speak in front of a Higher Power."

"'Higher Power' is a matter of opinion." Dari countered.

"You don't look like you're from any future time," stated the Goddess of Retribution, with a snicker.

"Maybe you have the wrong person then."

Discord smiled and shook her head, appearing from the darkness so Dari could finally see her. "No, I think I found exactly what I was looking for." Just hearing her speak, Discord knew this had to be the right mortal. She extended a hand, but it was ignored. Dari decided she would either stand up on her own or not at all.

"Oh… tall aren't we."

"What do you want?"

Ares suddenly materialized beside his sister, blocking Discord's path to Dari. "And just what are you doing roaming around without your little bodyguards?" he asked Dari, moving closer, circling like a wolf stalking his prey. The cop kept a close, but weary eye on him.

"Going for a walk."

"Is that so?" He drawled. "I saw you fight that band of thieves the other day. I was most impressed."

Discord flicked a disinterested fingernail. Let Ares have his fun, she decided as she vanished in a glimmer. My time will come soon enough.

"You'd be a great warrior, leading a great army… I can supply you with . . ."

"Don't hold your breath." Dari interrupted with a raised palm. "I'm not interested, but thanks for the offer."

Ares sighed long and hard. "You haven't even heard my proposal. At least give me the satisfaction of listening. I did save your mortal life. You owe me." The God whispered softly beside her left earlobe.

Repulsed, Dari turned her head to the right. The nearness of this being turned her guts into knots, but she knew she was stuck. There was no way around it. She did owe this man... god... whatever he was… her life. "Frankly, your satisfaction is nothing I'm concerned with, but go on." Having to say the words sickened her.

"I knew you'd see reason," he beamed. "I thought Xena and I would make an awe-inspiring team, but you, you far surpass mere warlord status. You could rule with a word, never have to lift a finger." Ares shifted his position so they stood eye-to-eye . . . blue ice meeting black coal. "Men would fall at your feet to obey you. As you've already so deftly proved."

"Does the offer get interesting soon?" Dari intimated boredom. "I really should be on my way."

Ares' hooded his expression as he studied her for a long moment. "Maybe I can help you to see things my way?" He lifted a hand and touched the side of her head with the pad of his middle finger. Dari fell to the ground in a tangled heap. With a gleeful laugh, the God of War disappeared taking his newly recruited disciple with him.

Chapter 28

Xena reached out in her sleep, felt the empty furs next to her, and opened her eyes. "Gabrielle?" she called and sat up. "Well this is just great," not only was Gabrielle missing, but Dari was gone as well. Her mood darkened as she suited up to go search of the two. As she was leaving, Gabrielle entered their room and smacked into the warrior.

"Gabrielle! What's wrong?" She held the younger woman by the upper arms and studied her face.

"Something's happened to Dari. She wasn't here when I woke up, and I've looked everywhere. Oh Xena, something dreadful happened to her, I can feel it."

"Just hold on, we'll find her, don't worry." She released Gabrielle and went down the front steps. She quickly spotted Dari's unusual boot tracks and started to follow them. Gabrielle trailed close behind, a hand on Xena's lower back.

When they were deep into the forest, Xena stopped. "Look, three sets of tracks over there," she pointed. "If I'm not mistaken, those are Ares', and the smaller ones . . . I wonder."

Gabrielle was steaming. "If he so much as touches a lock of her hair…"

Xena patted her friend's shoulder. "He knows better. I'm really surprised he pulled this little stunt in the first place. This doesn't put him any closer to my affections."

"Not that anything could, right?" Gabrielle was frowning at her friend.

"Of course." Xena smiled uneasily, realizing how her comment had sounded. "I just meant with him always trying to get me back in the fold, doing something stupid like this wouldn't do the trick, far from it, not that I would ever actually…" she trailed off, knowing with every word she was getting in deeper.

"I understand," Gabrielle said, but Xena wondered if she indeed did. She sighed and started off towards her mother's inn. Gabrielle didn't follow behind as closely as she had on the first trip to the forest. Xena's sadness grew, and by the time she reached the inn, she was lagging around the lips.

"There you are!" Cyrene greeted the two with smiles. In her hands was a pie, freshly baked. "A surprise for Dari." She noticed the missing third party and asked, "Where is she?"

Xena gave her mother a troubled look. "Ares has her, I think."

"Oh, no. What are you going to do?"

"Get her back. If he wants her for what I think he does, I know just where he has her."

"The Halls of War?" Gabrielle could read Xena's mind quite well these days.

"Exactly, then to his temple, if he hasn't already taken her there. We don't know how long she's been missing." She turned to Gabrielle and put a hand on her side. "Stay here."

"No, Xena, now you know-mmff."

Xena had a hand over her mouth. Cyrene smiled and turned to tend to her pie, keeping an ear on the two. "Just listen, Gabrielle. I sent Joxer on a wild Cyclops chase to get the Scepter of Helios. You need to wait here for him and make sure he stays out of trouble and doesn't make things any worse. I know I can rely on you."

"But Xena, you might need me. Cyrene can watch over Joxer."

Xena shook her raven-like tresses. "You know how he is. If he finds out that we're off on an 'adventure', he'll find a way to sneak away and follow us."

"Xena… I want to come." Gabrielle's tone grew more adamant. "Your mother can be very persuasive when she puts her mind to it. It runs in the family."

Xena really didn't have time to argue with Gabrielle, so she placed her hands on her companions squared shoulders and calmly tried to reason with her. "Gabby, when Joxer gets something into his head, you are the only person he'll listen to. Not me, not my mother, not even Athena herself could convince him of the wisest course of action. It has to be you."

Even with Xena's impassioned speech, Gabrielle's resolve held firm. "There is every chance that Joxer won't be back before we return. Besides, he comes through for us and you know that, Xena. He may bungle up some things, but he comes through on the really important ones. Anyway, I won't take no for an answer. Now let's go."

She did have a point, and Xena knew to further argue with her would only delay them and maybe harm Dari in the process. "All right, but you're not going inside!" She was firm on the last part.

Gabrielle smiled. "Don't worry, I won't take any unnecessary risks, Xena." She caressed the taller woman's face, and Cyrene saw it once more -- the true love, and caring the two women had for one another; now if Xena would just get off her horse and see it too.


Chapter 29

Discord stepped into the room and slowly looked the newcomer up and down. Her animal skins had been replaced by black leather, and no shortage of it either, she mused. Of course, Ares had a hand in her new outfit. The traveler was now a female replica of him, except for the vest, which was zipped up to the collarbone. 'Prissy little thing isn't she,' the Goddess thought. Ares turned and watched Discord descending the carved obsidian aisle. He beamed his most fetching smile at her.

"Hmmm." Discord drawled. "Very nice. Another you. Just what the world needs. I had other plans though, Dear Ares."

"Yeah, yeah." He brushed her off with a hand wave to her face. "This is leader material, Discord. Don't even try to interfere with my plans."

Dari watched the two, hiding her fear rather well, she thought. If they continued to argue she would make her escape. She didn't know where she was, nor where she'd go, but escape she must. She had no plans on becoming the leader of any army, nor a ruthless warlord, no matter what Ares wanted.

"Do you know how to wield a sword?" Ares, finished with Discord, now turned back to Dari. She jerked to attention and shook her head no. "I've only learned how to use a lance."

"Hmmmm, raw material. This should be interesting." He shook his head, held up a hand, and suddenly a long, heavy broadsword appeared. Dari found out precisely how heavy the weapon was when he handed it to her and she nearly dropped it, not expecting the weight.

"I can't do this, sorry, but swords aren't… me."

Ares fired an angry look at her. "You'll do it or your precious friends will pay the price. Now hold it up, like a real warrior!"

She glared back at him, wishing she had her service revolver, and just one bullet. That would have been enough for her. She lifted the sword and aimed it, chest high, in his direction.

"Good, now deflect my thrusts." He lunged at her, and rather than using her sword, she kicked the sword from his hands in a lightning fast move even the God of War didn't expect. "Nice!"

Dari's eyes moved back to him. "I don't need a sword."

"Well I can see that now, but all great warriors carry one."

"I'm not a great War-"

"Oh, but you will be." The War God interrupted. "Under my hand and command, no one could stop you." He drifted off in daydreams of a future with this mortal and the power he'd yield over all who stood in his way. Even Xena and that bastard half-brother, Hercules would bow to him.

* * *

"I bet he was eavesdropping on that fight we had with those thugs and saw how well she defended herself." Gabrielle was rattling on as they trekked over a large hill.

"I would too. And that's what I'm afraid of. Dari owes him her life, and he'll use that against her, being the snake that he is."

Gabrielle smiled at that accurate description of the God. "So maybe he won't hurt her if he plans to use her." Relief sounded in her tone. Xena glanced at her then far off in the distance, where the tip of the Halls of War could be seen.

* * *

"Good, Good!" Ares praised Dari as he watched her battling - and beating -- one of his most prominent warlords. His eyes followed her progress as she back flipped her way across the room when the larger man descended on her with flailing sword swipes and lunges. "You could put Xena to shame."

His comment caused her to freeze. She did one jump kick that knocked her opponent out cold. She threw down her sword and turned to glare at Ares. "They saved my life, you didn't, not really. If Xena hadn't asked for your assistance, you wouldn't have even known I existed."

He laughed callously. "I would have known, my dear, you see I'm a God, God of War, nothing gets past me, and if it does, mortals pay."

"Fine, do what you want with me, but I won't be part of your sick plans any longer."

He disappeared and reappeared next to her, grabbing her shoulders and dragging her up against his body. "You will, and if you don't, I'll take great delight in killing Gabrielle and her precious Xena, and then what will you do? And you know that mother of hers that you find so charming, how would you feel to see her village burnt to the ground, and her right along with it?"

Dari was visibly shaking. "You wouldn't do that." Her voice quaked with the fear she felt in her soul.

"Oh, wouldn't I?" He lifted a finely shaped black brow. "Try me," he bellowed shoving her away from him. "Now, let's continue, time is a wasting." He snapped his fingers and two men appeared, lunging at Dari.

* * *

"Ok, you stay here. If anything happens, get away!"

"Nothing will happen. I have faith in you, Xena, always remember that." She caressed Xena's shoulder. Xena put a hand over hers and smiled, then turned and was off, sneaking into a hole at the back of the building.

Gabrielle waited a few more seconds, and then followed in Xena's wake. Memories flashed in her mind, sacrificing herself in order to save Xena. And the look in Xena's eyes when she tipped over, into the pit, as the realization of what her traveling companion and dearest friend was about to do all for the well being of one (as Xena would say) lousy ex-warlord. Gabrielle shook her head, clearing it. She needed to be focused if she were to be of any assistance.

* * *

Xena spied Dari down on the main floor, fighting expertly against three heavily armed men. From the outfit she wore, Xena knew she'd been right. Ares planned to make Dari into a monster, as he had been trying, from the beginning, to do to her. With a loud warrior cry, she leapt off the balcony and landed between Dari and the three warlords. She grabbed the slightly taller woman around the chest and dragged her away from them. Her eyes darted to where Ares stood and saw Gabrielle coming up behind him. Xena cursed under her breath.

"What did I tell you?" Xena yelled at her friend, but it was too late, Ares had known she was behind him, and with lightning speed he encircled her, holding her against his body as a shield.

"Now, Xena, you have what's mine, and I have what belongs to you. Don't be stupid; you know I could kill her in a blink of an eye. Can you claim the same?" His look was smug. He held all the cards and he knew it. "Let Dari free and you can walk out of here with Gabrielle fully intact."

"Like I'm insane enough to believe you'll actually let us go?" She laughed. "No, Ares, you don't win this time either." She unhooked her Chakram and flung the circular weapon at him. Gabrielle knew to take that as her cue to drop to the floor. She then shoulder rolled over to where Xena and Dari stood. "GO!" Xena yelled at the two and gave Dari a healthy shove down the gleaming ebony-colored hall.

Dari grabbed Gabrielle's hand and fled. They reached the outside in seconds, and Dari halted. "I have to go back, he'll kill her."

Gabrielle laughed. "You don't know Xena very well. Let's just get you to safety." She reversed their positions and this time she was the one who led Dari away from harm. They settled a mile or so away from the Halls of War to await Xena. It wasn't long before she made her appearance, unharmed.

Gabrielle hugged her friend, happiness glowing in her hazel eyes, giving them a golden hue. "He'll try again." She whispered in the warrior's ear, just out of Dari's hearing.


"Yeah, we have to be a lot more careful now." Xena eyed Dari. "What in the name of Tartarus did you think you were doing, running away?" She tried not to be angry, but the woman had nearly gotten herself killed, or worse, worshiping Ares.


"I had a dream, or rather a vision, of you two dying because of me. I couldn't let that happen, so I figured..."

Xena sighed. "Dari listen, Gabrielle and I have faced a lot, even death itself, and we've made it through the experience every time. We're survivors. You…" Xena tapped Dari in between the collarbones to emphasize her point. "on the other hand, are new here; you don't know what some of the Gods are capable of doing. You just had a small taste of what Ares is, but in truth, he's much worse. If any of the other Gods decided you could be of use to them, we'll be too busy rescuing you to find time enough to get you back home."

"She's right," Gabrielle agreed, squatting down next to Dari. "We need to hide you, somewhere no one would think to look." Her gaze fell on Xena to see if she had any ideas.

"Well, Amphipolis is out of the question now." Xena took a few steps away from them, her mind racing. "We have to get word back to mother where we are, so she won't send out a rescue party to track us down."

"What about the Scepter?" Dari stood.

"Oh don't concern yourself, Dari." Xena placed a reassuring hand on the cop's upper arm. "I'm not giving up on finding it. We just have to take precautions, and keep you out of sight."

"Cool, you had me worried for a minute." Dari could only imagine the look of relief that flooded her features. She casually glanced down and caught sight of Gabrielle's face. The mere mention of Dari returning home always brought on the same reaction from the bard, hope for Dari's sake and regret for her own. She smiled brightly at the blonde haired angel in an attempt to lift her lagging spirits. Gabrielle grinned back in a half-hearted effort. That was when Dari decided it would be better to get back to the topic at hand. "So why don't we just camp in a cave or something, then I'm home free."

"I wish it were that simple." Xena studied her, taking in the outfit again. "Ares won't give up, neither will Alti. She's the one who gave you those visions, and she'll haunt your every sleeping moment -- and most likely waking ones too as soon as she's strong enough."

Gabrielle was stroking a finger along her chin, a clear indication she was thinking hard. "We won't have any rest with them both on our trail, Xena. We'll have to take shifts keeping watch and sleeping."

Xena nodded in agreement. She turned to Dari. "Who else was there that night Ares took you?"

"A woman, Goddess more likely. Ares called her Discord."

Xena growled. "I should have known. Great, now we have Ares, Alti, and Discord to watch out for."

Dari tried a smile. "Well, on the bright side, it couldn't get any worse, right?" Xena and Gabrielle just stared at her, blankly. Dari's smile dropped, she cleared her throat and turned toward the setting sun. "So now what?"

"We pray Joxer can provide us with enough of a smokescreen to get us where we need to be before anyone catches on." Xena said with all the faith she could muster.

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"Homeland" midi by Orlandi