Sometime after FIN
"I'm sorry Ares. You know the rules. She doesn't meet them." The tall blonde Valkyrie has faced up to me toe-to-toe for this verbal battle. I'm in it for the long run. I know I can win. This is important. I have to win.
I hate arguing like this. Especially when she is right. I'm not going to admit that I am wrong, especially about something as important as this. Usually I am able to get my way, enforce my will, by pure brute strength. Doesn't matter if it is fighting or debating. When I'm right, I will win. When I'm wrong, I'm persistent and eventually the other side gets tired and gives in, so I win. I am Ares God of War, and that is my spin on "Win-Win."
"You can't tell me she wasn't a hero." It is worth a try. I know it is too easy to catch her on something this simple.
"And you know that is not what the rule says. It doesn't say she has to have been a hero, it says she has to have died a hero's death."
"Semantics. . . merely semantics." Usually I think of semantics as my friend, but in this case. . . ."You mean to tell me that you wouldn't allow someone who died of an infected wound into Valhalla because technically they died of the infection and not the wound."
"Of course . . .now who is playing games?" I smile. It's coming back. Maybe it has never left.
"So if she died from . . . er . . allowing herself to be killed . . . because she could only do the heroic deed as a ghost." I can't use the word that technically described how she chose to die. It is not a pretty word. Not a hero's word. At least she didn't just fall on her sword.
"She should have known all the conditions. It was a terribly stupid thing to do. Stupid and dead do not make a hero."
My blood is boiling. It is still boiling because she did something so stupid. It is still boiling because she is dead. It is still boiling because I love her. I duck around and try to come at her from a different angle.
"Where else is she to go?"
"She's Greek. Surely you have place for her in the afterlife. She can be with her family -- her mother, her brothers, and her son, Solan. She'd be happy there."
"I'm sure she would, but there is a problem. According to our rules to enter the Elysian Fields or even the Asphodel Caverns you have to have died on Greek soil."
"And that is my problem? Seems like you're the one with the semantic problem now, Ares. It's your afterlife, your religion, get a grip and solve it."
"Not that easy. Xena spent all her life defying the gods, killed a good share of them herself, I don't think she'd want to spend eternity with them in their world, abiding by their rules."
"Not much of THEM left, is there, Ares? What IS happening there?"
This gal is good. She takes my points and turns them into her favor. I could use her on my side. "Total chaos. . . " I pause to think of the next point.
"Exactly the same as it is in Jappa, the Amazon Land of the Dead, heaven, and, for that matter, hell. Xena seems to have successfully imposed her vision of anarchy on all of them. Tell me, why would I even consider admitting her into Valhalla?"
"It was where she wanted to go. I've heard her say so. I just don't think she wanted be there so soon."
"We don't want her. She's a manipulator -- a discontent. As far as we are concerned, she will be nothing but trouble."
"Is that a pre-requisite. Do your gods only take those THEY want? Thought you told me earlier the ONLY entrance requirement was the form of the person's death. One act of heroism, resulting in a person's death can transform a coward or worse. . . .
"Yadda, yadda, Ares. You know I was speaking as an administrator and not as an judge. But she is lacking in the required death, so I have some leeway as to . .. .
"My turn. Yadda. Yadda."
"This argument is . . .
I open eyes and look up at a dark sky peppered with stars and painted with broad strokes of aurorean light. I do not remember when I have slept so well. Perhaps it is because I am lying not on a mat of woven reeds but on a soft eiderdown mattress. My pillow appears to be covered with the fur of a white bear. I haven't slept this well since I was . . . why am I thinking of Odin at a time like this? It has to be another cruel trick being played on by that child witch Akimi. Another ploy to get me to forsake . . . no I've done that. I've turned on everything I've ever believed, everything I have ever fought for, forsaken it all - - - except I have still not lowered myself into sharing her bed. I will never do that. Never!!!
I'm hungry. I don't remember the last time I was hungry. I slip my long legs to the cold stone floor and stand naked. I think about wrapping myself in the featherbed, but figure that is overkill to protect some unknown and probably not present eyes from the sight of my naked body. If they want to watch, what do I care what they see. I walk down long halls, peering into empty rooms. I wonder where I am that I am so alone.
We've worked our way through consideration of the Amazon Land of the Dead, heaven and hell in similar fashion. I won't bore you with the details. Suffice it to say that there were problems with each of them. I was narrowing her choices. With each one I gave a little twist at the end of the jab about how gods who made rules had to live by them and such. She must really like to argue because she hasn't given in quickly -- even though she must know I am going to win.
"How about a trial visit. Take her for a month and see how she does."
"One month? You know it as well as I do what havoc she could wreck in a month. The others there would either be for her or against her. I do not want a war of MY dead."
"Put her off by herself. A place where no one else goes. After a month there she will go crazy being alone and agree to live by your terms. I'm sure she will give you no problem. Valhalla is where she always wanted to spend her afterlife. She'll definitely be happier there than in some afterlife in Jappa." I smile. It seems easy enough.
I continue to walk the cold and drafty halls. I find a room with a fire. There appear to be some clothes for me in there, too. Nice comfortable clothes, and not those red kimonos. I'm too hungry to stop and get dressed. Food is primal now. I need to eat. I make a note to return on the way back to bed, put on some clothes for tomorrow.
The next door is locked. That usually doesn't stop me. I rattle the lock. Maybe if I'd had put on the clothing there would be something in one of the pockets. I run my hands through my hair. It was too much to expect that I had a style that would have used a hairpin.
The lock is rusty, or maybe it hadn't been closed properly. I shake it again and it falls off in my hand. Inside I see a large table. My imagination sees it laden with food. I savor the smell and run quickly to it.
There are many dishes, glasses, pitchers and platters. They are all empty. No food anywhere. Knives and spoons and strange implements that look like tiny pitchforks. There has to be something here. A crumb somewhere.
Suddenly I see it. One apple. Actually it is half an apple. Someone has bitten into it. I look on the floor and see no sleeping beauty with the apple still in her mouth -- that's a good sign. If I just wasn't so damn hungry. There has to be a curse behind this somewhere. It's too easy. Too symbolic. What the hell, what harm can half an apple do?
Didn't even taste that good. Sort of mealy. Overripe, oxidized. . . . .
I am going to let her wake up before I touch her. In the meantime I can look. I never expected her here in my bed so very soon. The naked part is a good touch. I really like that. I can't wait for her to wake up. I want to kiss her. Not just her lips. Not just her neck. Not just her breasts. If she doesn't wake up soon I am not going to be able to control my self. . . . .
I know what is going to happen when she opens her eyes and realizes where she is. She is going to ask about her friend, Gabrielle. I am going to tell her that Gabrielle is in Santorini making babies with her old buddy Iolaus. She is happy. She doesn't have to know Xena has been made a goddess and is with me. In fact, we probably shouldn't tell her. I'll let Xena make that decision, later, but then my negotiating skills are at a honed to a sharp edge this week.
She opens her eyes and I know she sees me. She quietly smiles. That is a good sign. I wonder if she is ready. I know I am ready. It has been such a long, long time. She smiles again and reaches out for my hand and pulls me close to her. I take her in my arms and hold her quietly, our naked bodies barely touching -- her breasts on my chest, my cock grazing her stomach. It is almost like I do not want to bring her closer -- the fact that we touch foreshadows all that is going to come. Time is not important now. We have eternity.
"Am I a. . . ?"
I nod my head "yes." I still expect her to rebel, she doesn't. This is good. "What do you remember?"
"I was dead. I was awake. I was hungry."
"You were naked."
"Yea, that too."
"It must have been something you ate." I smile.
"I'm still hungry. . " she glances over with that look on her face.
"Pancakes or omelets?"
"What do you want for your first meal as a goddess, Xena, pancakes or omelets?"
She doesn't answer, she shows me.
Sometime much later
"Well it took you long enough. I was beginning to think that something went wrong. That she ended up someplace else. Maybe ended up with Gabrielle."
"Nope, everything's great. She's with me on Olympus. That's why it took so long. Hard to break away even for a few hours -- after waiting all that time." He beamed. "In fact, I have to be back soon. Just wanted to say 'thanks'."
"You knew it wouldn't work out -- that trial run in Valhalla.."
"Worked out fine for me. Just the way I had thought it would."
"And pray tell me, Ares, what would she have eaten for her mid-night snack if I hadn't loosened the lock on the door to the banquette room where someone had accidentally left a golden apple."
"Loosened. You mean you knew. . . that she would wake up hungry."
"Of course I knew, what do you think I am 'stupid'. Without your long argument, I would have taken Xena into Valhalla as soon as I knew she was dead. She always planned on coming here and we would have welcomed her. But when you were so insistent, I knew there had something more behind your plan than just getting her to spend her afterlife with us. It wasn't hard to figure out. I know what Odin would have wanted if I had ended up in your Elysian Fields. Hope you keep me updated on how it all works out."
"There will be updates, Grinhilda, continuing for the next . . . how many thousand years? Thanks!"