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Archive: AJCS, RCOS and JLA. Others, just tell me where it is.
Disclaimer: Ares, Joxer, Xena, Gabrielle, Jett and Jayce do not belong to me. I wish they did, though. The rest is my version of the Celtic myths.
Feedback: I wish you would. I've been working hard on this, although it isn't completed.
Author's Note: This is majorly based upon the celtic pantheons. Due to problems of consistency in their myths, what I've done is taken and merged the gods of many different celtic races. Although Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Britannia and parts of Norway, Sweden and Denmark share a commonality in their myths, because of the different races and languages, each tribe had a different name for the same god. Over time, each tribe would add stories which were inconsistent to another tribe's stories. So, because it is extremely hard to keep track of the mythology, what I've done is adapted Irelands, Scotland's and Wale's tales into my own. I'm not going to explain the gods and goddesses beforehand. I believe it would ruin the story. Instead, I think I've given you enough information so you all can understand. The dates are actually fairly accurate as well.
Acknowledgements: I wish to thank Scorpio for her wonderful stories which caused me to finally try my hand in this fandom. I wish to thank my sister for beta'ing this story.
Taillten, in the townland of Teltown between Navan and Kells in the County Meath, Ireland (Gathering place of the God Kings and Mortal Kings, and their fealchs)
"Father!!", a chorus of voices sounded out loud in the star filled night.
The man on the throne sat there frustrated, "There's no excuse for what you've done! Thanks to you three, I now have several subjects who are no longer mine, because they've been killed for one of the stupidest reasons I've ever seen in my life. I've had it with you!! I've taken the liberty to send for Nuada."
"What, but..." a trio of exclamations rang out.
"I'm here, milord." The quiet voice interrupted the abrupt outbursts. A man stood there with long dark brown hair and eyes that seemed to be a bottomless black pool. Tall, wearing dark blue robes trimmed in scarlet red, that was open in the front where he had on a rich maroon uniform tunic. Regal in bearing, Nuada, as the official fatasimen or portal opener, stood before the king of the Ancient ones.
"Nuada, as you've no doubt heard, thanks to my son's actions, my followers are now even more uncertain of my leadership and reign. I'd hoped that one of them would prove worthy to be my successor, especially...but I digress from the point. It doesn't look as if that will be the case. I've decided that I can no longer accept the actions of my blood children. They shall, as punishment due to the fact that Lian has already been killed and only by the grace of Miach does he still have his life and the others barely escaping with their lives, be exiled until all should prove worthy of my throne, not just one. If all three can gain control of their natures and find what they need to complete them, can one or all three come home."
Realizing and knowing what his liege wanted for they had talked about this before, Nuada, waving his hands, quickly caused a swirling circle of matter to appear within the throne room. Shimmers of gold, silver, blue, red, yellow, all the colors of the rainbow and many more were fluid within the ring of power. Another wave and the three soon found themselves with a necklace surrounding each of their necks. Old power could be felt within the room, both from the portal and the necklaces which were now permanent fixtures around the young men.
Before the young men could do anything or argue anymore, their bodies were pulled into the portal. Minutes later, after disappearing within it, Nuada asked, "My liege, are sure you're doing the right thing?"
"Yes. No longer can I allow my sons to get away with their actions. This bull and queen matter was the last straw. I'd considered just exiling Lian, but since it seems as if his main trouble is constantly following the advice of his brothers without considering the consequences, I don't think that would do the other any good. They must finally learn that their actions effect all of us. They may be just fifteen, but all of them were gifted with accelerated growth. They're supposed to be adults."
The frustration burst out of the kings voice. He was at the end of his rope and terrified for his sons' life. "As it stands now, Nuada, none of them won't live for much longer. Because they all are to blame, all three had to leave as well. I never wanted to do this. Especially, since...you know, Nuada. I no longer care who has the throne after me. Since it looks like my bloodline will not continue as the ruling house, it no longer matters. As I've always wondered what they'd have been like if they hadn't been born in the gods forsaken family, this will give them all a chance to find their destiny without having to worry about the rest of us."
"But, sir, to do this?!"
The god king stood up, walking over to the balcony that overlooked the great courtyard. Two beautiful crows perched upon the rails to the balcony. Petting his bonded seekers, he stood looking out upon the world of Albion, two moons gleaming brightly in the night sky, and two large stars nearly as bright as the moon. The legendary land of the lost tribes. Tall, with rich, pure, luxurious, short-cropped blond white hair, a green cloak clasped with a broach of white, silvered bronze flowing from his shoulders covering the dark velvets enveloping his person, he gazed upon his world, feeling the sorrow of knowing that his time was nearing an end. If he didn't have a blood heir when he died, then his kingdom would destroy itself. Unfortunately for him, he was almost sure he wasn't going to have a blood heir. He had the feeling
this was the last time he'd ever see his sons.
After minutes of seeking for the answers within himself, Lugh of the Long-Hand, king of the Tuatha de Danann (Tribes of the Goddess Danann), turned to his uncle, Nuada Argetlamh or Nuada of the Silver-Hand, former king of the Tuatha, hero of the Battle of Magh Tuireadh against the Firbolgs of the Fomorian race, and his chief advisor. He watched as Nuada tugged the glove which covered his right hand off. His hand was revealed, gleaming brightly from the silver metal making up his hand, filling the air with his strength and power. The shimmer of his vitality graced the ebony night, bringing confidence to the golden War God King.
The Sidhe god king answered, "Yes, this is the only way. You know that, Nuada. We've talked about it numerous times. Lian has achieved more in his short life, than many achieve in their entire existence, including gods. It hurts to know that Lian has never truly had a childhood, cursed to adult strength, body and height and inheriting that which should not have been inherited."
Lugh turned back away from his uncle. Leaning his arms against the railing, the soft cooing of the nightingales songs filling the soft sweet air, he tried to relax. Evidently, anxiety was not going to go away anytime soon. Finally, as he'd gathered his wits together, he continued to speak, "For any other, I would have betrothed him as a child. But, I couldn't do that, especially since I'd never been able to find out for sure or not, if the curse was inherited. As the elder, if he had received it, then I never wanted him to experience what I have."
Moments filled the air, as Lugh clenched and unclenched his hands in frustration. Curses upon my mother and my wife! I should never have listened to grandfather Math and father Gwydion. With those firm thought silent in his mind, he went on to say, "Nuada, you know, the only good thing about my marriage is the children and that they were born before she killed me. Although I hate father for tricking me in the first place, I'm grateful that father was able to spirit the triplets away. After returning and killing my accursed wife and her lover, the children and you were the only things that helped my sanity. After helping you kill grandfather Belor and with you stepping down to let me become king, I found the strength within myself to lead and try to live a full life. But none of that doesn't take away the fact that I can never take a wife whose race lives upon the earth. I can never have anymore children that I can acknowledge openly without destroying both them and myself. I've already died once, I don't wish to do so again. Lian, Fianbar, and Aalann will be the only children I'll ever have that I can acknowledge without fear and not one of them is capable of ruling after me."
He paused for few moments, reconsidering what he'd just said. "I take that back. Lian might be able to lead, but not as long as his brothers are around. And as for exiling his brothers, they weren't the ones who seduced Maeve. They weren't the ones who insulted her so greatly that she declared war on our people, using the Brown Bull of Cooley as an excuse. Hopefully, this will work. But, if it doesn't, than at least I'll know I gave my sons the best chance they'll ever have to live. I don't know what my sons as individuals need, but if they find it, then they'll have the strength within themselves to lead. Right now, the only thing I can do is make sure that they have the chance to grow up. Because they are too young for leadership, and due to fact that I don't have much longer to live, as king of Albion, I no longer have a choice to let them grow up in their own time. My time is coming soon and that I don't have much longer."
Knowing his lordship was right, hating the fact that he was soon to lose him, Nuada went to join his king upon the balcony. Looking within the beautiful dark blue eyes of his lord, he told him, "I doubt you'll have to wait very long then. Lian is strong and if he returns, will most likely be your heir if he finds a mate. The other two will learn to control their own natures. You're right in the fact that they've never been able to learn here, with blood and family. As your sons, they've plenty of intelligence to see them through. As you no doubt believe, I too don't doubt they'll find what they seek. To give them the best chance they have, I've done what you asked and sent them into as distant a future as I believe is healthy for them. It's a great distance in both time and space. As soon as all three have found their true desires and needs, the portal will open and only if they're willing, can one or all three return."
Smiling gently, the king took his chief advisor and beloved heart mate in his arms and kissed him, forgetting for the moment his impending death and they found joy if not the answers.
West of Athens, Greece
A crash sounded through the forest, followed by some very vocal cussing. Moments later, three young men stood and tried to take in where they were. They saw the single moon in the night sky and the stars and constellations though familiar, were shifted. It told all three of them that though they're still on earth they were far away from the kingship gathering in Erin. They most assuredly were nowhere near Albion, not with constellations of the stars in the sky. As they adjusted to their new reality, all three uttered a single word at the same time. It was a common occurence between the triplets.
It was when they realized the truth, one of the triplets turned upon another brother and started pounding upon him.
"Oh, no! We won't get in trouble. The warriors won't be able to call for the king now that their service is over. They follow Queen Maeve, not their clan king. Maeve can't have The Brown Bull of County Cooley. We'll fight with the chieftain of Louth to last man defending a blasted cow. Why don't you, Lian go and seduce her! After all, she's just a woman. They're all the same between the legs. The Goddess Don won't respond to their prayers because we're her great grandsons, and the Goddess Maigwen won't respond because it's her sacred time of peace in Albion." The pounding continued, tears pouring down the face of the one doing the hitting. The other brother, too, had tears. But, since he wasn't one to turn the other cheek, he responded to the violence and started pounding back. Neither was able to come out on top, basically equal in skill.
The last brother was standing there quietly, trying to gain control of himself. Different from his brothers, he'd always followed them. Because of that, as a result, he always got into as much trouble as they did. But, his heart had never been in it. Empty inside, he'd always done what his brothers, father, family, and clan had wanted, never speaking for his own self. The only thing which had always been his and had at least partially filled him, was his bonded servant. He knew it was because his father hadn't known he'd taken a bonded servant, that he'd been exiled this way. Keeping the identity and fact of his bonded from his brothers had been hard. It was also the only thing that he'd ever kept from his brothers. Now, since his father hadn't known, because he was so far away from his bond animal, the loss of Leeare was hurting his soul more than he could explain.
Watching as the verbal fight disintegrated into a out and out brawl, he'd finally had enough.
The sudden command had the two men brawling, halting in a sudden shock. They turned to look at their brother and finally saw within his eyes, the light of authority shining out of them. They'd always known he was the one destined to be their father's heir, but now they truly understood the reasons for that. Never having experienced or seen it, they were shocked at the anger overcoming Lian. As a berserker, there was power and as a god, control. Although, right at the moment he was losing it. Nodding, they both scrambled to pull themselves up from the ground, not wanting to irritate him further. They definately weren't Lian's equal. As they stood before their brother, they fidgeted in unknown anticipation. Despite the fact their brother had always followed their suggestions and always got into to trouble because he'd been protecting them from their stupidity, he was also the one who most likely had the best answer to their problem.
"Now, listen! I'm tired, groggy, and worried as hell. I don't know where we are and haven't a clue how to get home, if we even can. We've got to keep our wits about." Lian stopped his ranting. Conveniently forgetting his own role in this and filled with arrogance at his own importance, he continued, "Thanks to you two, I'm stuck in the position of having to bale your asses out of the sling once again. I'm tired of it. I've already lost my life once and nearly lost two of my brothers. I sure don't want to lose anything else. First thing we need to do, is establish where we are. Then, we do the best we can and try to find a way to survive. You'll have to help me because right now, I'm feeling a lot more pain than I know what to do with. Don't count on me to defend you. The reason I need your help is that dad all unknowingly, separated me from my bonded."
A gasp exploded between his two brothers at end of his explanation. They knew what a bonded was, what it was doing to their brother to be so far away. It was only by the grace of god that he hadn't already lost his sanity. Only a matter of time before he'd start to lose, first, his memories, then, his strength and knowledge. Both brothers couldn't understand why he'd never told them about having bonded. As triplets, they told each other everything. They were that close. As for bonding, it was rare for it to happen on it's own. The current king was the only one allowed to bond, and only after he'd been crowned. The heir was never allowed to bond because many heirs would die before becoming king and leave an insane bond animal behind, who had to be killed. Their father was bonded to his seekers who were two crows, his eyes and ears."Come on, we need to leave now and see if we can find a settlement. Since we've no idea where we are, I suggest we head west. Sooner or later, we're sure to find humans. Remember though, we aren't likely to know the language. Be careful." They had no idea of the spell placed upon the necklaces which would allow them to absorb any language.
Not able to argue with their brother's reasoning, Fianbar and Aalann followed behind Lian, hoping against hope, things weren't as bad as they seemed. At least the three of them were together..
A few miles from Sparta, Greece
As he followed behind Xena, Warrior Princess of Amphipolous, and Gabrielle, Queen of the Grecian Amazons, Joxer was disgusted. In one of his more lucid moments, he'd had just about all he could take of the torture he was receiving from the blasted Gabby. Cursing under his breath, he began praying to his great-grandmother for patience as he continued to follow the two heroes. After about the fifth time in an hour he'd stumbled and fallen, and from just as many nose pullings from Blondie, Joxer couldn't take anymore. He decided to get in a little torture of his own. He burst out singing Joxer the Mighty. The two blasted heroes had no idea of just how embarassing this was. It was one thing to sing it when he wasn't lucid. At least then, he could blame it on insanity. But, to sing it when he was completely in his right mind, was an entirely different story.
After the eighth chorus of Joxer The Mighty, even Xena, who usually had more patience than Gabrielle, had enough of it and threatened to kill him if he so much as sang one more line. With his head down, Joxer smiled to himself in amusement. His amusement quickly turned to a scowl as he felt the hardness of his necklace shift under his armor, reminding him of why he was here in the first place. Even knowing that the necklace was invisible to anyone not of his family and blood, he still went to great lengths to hide it. Since this was painful thinking about, his mind began to brood over what he couldn't do anything about.
He was so tired of constantly losing what little sanity he still retained. He was at least grateful he wasn't immortal anymore. In the state he was nearly constantly in, he wasn't sure he could take more than a lifetime of it. As it was, he wasn't sure he could take much more, anyway.
Since he was without his bonded animal, his mind often went into a trance to search for him. While his mind was unconsciously searching for his bonded, the rest of his awareness was run by a sort of backup personality. This seeking didn't hurt him in anyway, but while his mind searched, it took more time to think and process. As a result, walking, fighting, and conversation with others were out of the question. It was only because of that, that he'd adopted this hated and dreaded outfit, making him appear crazy. He knew that at least as a fool, most would forgive him if he did something stupid while in his trance state. It was human nature to feel sorrow for those not in their right mind. Also, people never wanted to be around an insane person.
For nearly ten years, he'd taken his gradually deteriorating mind and body for granted, assuming that there was nothing he could do to stop it. The only three things he'd truly had to grateful for was that, one, his brothers weren't around to cause trouble, two, he'd been able to find a protector who was good enough to keep him alive in the condition he was in, and three, it was due to his unerring seeking that he'd come to worship his god, Ares. All things considered, he was doing a whole lot better than he'd thought. It was while he was considering these things, that it happened. Suddenly, the War God Ares flashed in before the three of them. The dark god was smirking as he looked upon his daughter, terrible amusement showing on his face.
"Well, Xena. I wanted to thank you personally for stopping that little skirmish in Sparta. It seems my nephew decided to try his own hand at starting a war and did a little experimenting. By stopping the conflict, not only did you save me the time needed to stop it, but by staying conveniently out of the way, I now have everything in motion for a greater, necessary war." With the amused expression in both his grin and sparkling, dark eyes, Ares started to turn and leave. As he'd forgot something, Ares went on to comment, "Just wanted to make sure you knew you had my ::personal:: gratitude. And this time, I didn't even have to lead you around by your noses." That last statement caused Xena's face to turn bright red with fury and Gabrielle paled as she realized she'd actually helped the God of War. As Ares was beginning to disappear to the frustration of his daughter and her bard, a great blast suddenly lit up the area in bright light. A blast of power burst forth out of nowhere and and hit the war god directly on the chest. The shock and surprise of the blast caused Ares to tumble down from the boulders he'd been standing on. Xena, Gabrielle and Joxer all landed flat on the ground and Argo had bolted into the forest when the blast came. As they all tried to figure out where the blast had come from, Xena and Gabrielle searched for the enemy's source, hoping they could knock whoever it was out. Joxer, seeing the war god unconscious, took the initiative and decided to see what he could do to help him.
Moments later, after crawling along the ground to reach Ares, he turned the god over and found a huge scorch mark burned upon his chest. Joxer also noticed blood seeping out of what looked like a deep head wound. Then, seconds later, he felt Xena and Gabrielle next to him. They'd also had the idea of seeing how Ares was. While they didn't particularly like the war god, they didn't want to see him dead, either. They'd crawled over to Ares and him and as he was tearing strips of his shirt sleeves apart, to bind Ares' wounds, Xena was doing her best to protect them. That was when another blast burst out of the surrounding forest. It blew the boulders a few feet away into smithereens.
After the blast, Gabrielle cried out to Xena, "Xena, what're we to do. We can't fight a GOD! That's got to be a God!"
Xena, still looking around for what was definately another god, she turned to her companion and said, "It's definately a god, alright. Whoever it is must have a big problem with Ares, since it appears as if he was the target. Only thing concerning me now is why hasn't the god come over here and destroyed us. Is he afraid Ares'll wake up as he's blasting us. I've heard that's one of the only ways a god is vulnerable to other gods."
With Gabrielle not able to say anything more, which was surely a first, Joxer was binding a strip of his shirt around Ares' chest. Minutes later, he'd efficiently bound up Ares' head wound as well. Grateful for the fact he was in one of his rare rational times, Joxer's mind analyzed what would be the best course of action. Xena was probably right. The other god couldn't be sure that Ares' wasn't playing dead to lull him into a sense of security. Evidently, the other god was afraid that Ares' kill him as he was trying to take the rest of them out.
At the moment, he realized that getting Ares awake was the answer. Joxer started to slap the god's face. When didn't work, another power blast had them all crouching to the ground again. It was then that Joxer noticed another man walking toward them. Dark hair falling down to his waist, the man was dressed in flowing silks. Knowing there wasn't anything he could do, Joxer, about ready to meet his maker, suddenly felt it.
All day, his mind had constantly felt like it had found what it was searching for, that whatever he sought was getting closer to him. Because it was the one thing he'd been praying for, for nearly ten years, he'd thought he'd been imagining it. Now, there was no doubt in his mind. He knew exactly what the presence was. It was no wonder his thinking was clearer than it had been in years. With no warning, what appeared to be two horses plunged out of the forest. Argo was there, bright and golden. Running before her though was a creature. A horse just wasn't the word for it. Huge and colored a rich, royal dark red, the horselike creature had what appeared to be ram's horns upon his head. With no neighing, no sound except for their thundering hooves, Argo and the creature ran straight toward the enemy. Paralyzed, the god didn't even have time to flash away. Before he knew it, the great animal had reached him and with one sharp, efficient butt to his midsection, the creature rammed his horns into him. The god flew away from the creature, landing against a tree many feet away, unconscious, although most likely dead. No one had a chance to check because Argo, not wanting the creature to have the last say over this, ran over and raised her body up, slamming her hooves down in blow after blow after blow. It didn't take long, before the god was nothing but a bloody pulp.
In shock, Joxer just stared. It was Leeare, his bonded, the Fomorian war steed he'd found penned up in his father's forbidden stable. The forbidden stable was where only the most violent of the Fomorian and Albionian steeds were stabled. All of them were ones which had killed anyone who tried to ride or break them. Mostly it was because they'd already been mastered and their master had died. Because of their fierce stubbornness and the ability of never forgetting, both breeds, once a steed was mastered, could never be mastered again. The only reason they were kept at all and not killed was because they were useful for breeding. The foals were not claimed and were sold or given away by the king.
He'd never forgotten the day his brother's had gotten him drunk and dared him to ride one of the forbidden. In his arrogance, he'd believed he could master even a forbidden steed. When he'd entered the stables he'd noticed that all the horses were beautiful. Of course, that didn't really surprise him. But, after exploring down the isles, he came to a stable and stared. In it was a great Fomorian war steed. Colored a beautiful dark red, with eyes the color of molten gold, the creature stared at him calmly. Ram's horns of brightly gleaming gold, curved around behind his ears, the wicked sharp points ending precisely beside his chin, ready to kill at a moments notice. On his foreknees, golden, twisted spikes curved up from them, ready to slash and kill. On all four legs, at the back of the fetlocks, four, small spikes curved downward. Finally, his tail was long, narrow and prehensile in nature. Instead of ending in a soft, tuft of hair, as some cattle and goats did, it ended with a sharp, narrow, hornlike spike.
Dangerous to the extreme, it didn't prevent his beauty and intelligence that could be seen in his eyes from drawing Lian. Calmly opening the first stable door, which was the first barrier against the horse escaping, he closed it, locking it firmly behind him. Moments later, he opened the second one. Standing there before the creature, Lian watched as the stallion started to fill with hatred, ready to kill. Advancing on this human that dared to capture him, Leeare was determined to kill this intruder. But, before he could do so, the creature found himself immobilized. Leeare was astounded, for it hadn't met anyone who had that type of magic. Now, for those not aware, Fomorian steeds were human like in their intelligence. While Albionan steeds were not dumb and far more intelligent than mortal steeds, Fomorian steeds were actually a race of humans that had offended their god. If return for sparing their life, the people were punished and cursed with a new lifeform. Created to be the eternal steeds of their royalty, many rebelled, and surprisingly, were not punished for it. For some reason, maybe since they were created and blessed by the Goddess for their unique nature, no harm could come to them at the hands of a God. The only thing able to kill them, were humans and mortals and they usually didn't have the strength or ability to do so.
That vulnerability was the only one they had. They recovered from all other wounds. Even the removal of the head was not permanent. Leeare watched as this slender young man, about nine or ten in age, stepped forward, his large shoulders denying the fact that he was as young as his senses were telling him. A heartbeat later, Lian placed his hands upon the immobilized beast and swiftly entered the creature's mind. After a timeless period, Leeare and Lian woke from their trance. A strange union had awakened, binding Leeare and Lian, causing them to be forever changed.
This young Lian was now his new master and he had to answer when he called.
Lian was horrified. He may have been drunk, but there was still some common sense left. Somehow, he'd done the impossible and bonded with a forbidden. It hadn't taken him but moments to know that he couldn't reveal what had happened. But for all the horror of what he'd done, there was a completeness he'd felt in his mind. The overall nature of the Fomorian had somehow complimented his nature. But, he knew the punishment for what he had done. As a king's son, he knew that it was forbidden to bond until one became king. Then, and only then, one or more animals were chosen who were graced with an intelligent awareness that complimented the new king. The reasons for the bond was so the king could feel as if there was someone who was entirely theirs. Even consorts, wives, and children had other duties or wasn't entirely theirs. A bond animal helped a king's sanity by providing a neutral advocate. One who didn't judge and could be used as a sounding board as needed. It was punishable by death to gain a bonded without crown of royalty. As Lian knew this, with their minds now joined, so too did Leeare know it. He knew that his his master wanted him to stay silent on this. Realizing what would happen if he didn't and knowing his first and only priority was now his master, Leeare agreed to keep quiet. They'd keep the knowledge to themselves. Not even his triplet brother's could know, since he'd be killed if it got out that he'd bonded.
From that moment on, Lian taken every chance he had to be with his bonded in secret. When his father had exiled him, he'd nearly killed himself trying to deal with the pain of seperation. These last nine years had been hell without being able to openly claim him as his mount and advocate.
Finally, getting his emotions under control, Joxer, or rather, Lian ran forward and threw his arms around the Fomorian and cried, "Leeare! What! How! How did you GET here!"
Chuckling in his mind, Leeare answered. "After I'd found out what your father and uncle did, I used a couple of hawks that owed me a favor to steal one of Nuada's portal stones. I found out, at least in general, where you were and was able to set the stone for a one way trip into the future, although it couldn't bring take me anywhere outside of Erin. Then, I used magic to disguise myself as a common horse and allowed myself to get caught by some traders. After a long time of manipulating human's minds, when we came to this land, I knew that I'd find you here."
"Wow! You did that for me?" Joxer was so overwhelmed with love for his bonded mount that the words were spoken in his head, not out loud.
The immortal Fomorian nodded his head, responding in unspoken words the answer to his master's question.
Seconds after he continued to hug his mount with tears pouring down his eyes, Xena and Gabrielle walked cautiously over to Joxer. Having seen the danger of this creature, after all, it had just helped kill a god, both thought it was wise to be cautious around this creature Joxer was hugging with obvious familiarity.
When Joxer felt the presence of the heros, he turned and faced them. Standing up straight, Joxer looked into their eyes without fear. Now that his bonded had returned to him, his sanity, strength, knowledge and skill had also returned. Even Xena, Hercules, and many gods weren't a match to him. As he looked in his friends eyes and took in the questions he could see they were just waiting to ask, he suddenly remembered and exclaimed, "Damn! Ares!"
Racing over to the fallen god, Joxer/Lian, now fully rational, ran his hands up and down Ares' body. Feeling the energy of the slowly healing wound on the war god's head, Lian looked up and began to prepare himself to heal Ares. He noticed that Leeare, Xena and Gabby had followed him. Xena and Gabrielle had cautiously gone around to his other side, not wanting to be in the immediate distance to the horse creature.
Xena, realizing that Joxer's bearing had become more regal, as if he were confident of his authority. She didn't doubt that she was about to see and learn something very important. Deciding to be careful, she softly asked Joxer, "What's going on, Joxer?" Xena took a moment to turn her gaze and look at the great creature, then turned back again and continued, "What is that huge creature that just killed that god that you just hugged?"
Smiling gently, Joxer answered some of her questions. He wasn't ready to reveal all of it to them. "First of all, I want you to call me Lian." He pronounced it in a liltic, foreign accent. "It's not my full name, but it's the one that friends and family call me. As for the creature behind me...I want you both to meet Leeare, my bonded Fomorian war steed servant and advocate. He's a Fomorian war stallion and as intelligent as any human. If you want to know more, just ask him. He's perfectly capable of talking to you himself, telepathically. As for right now, I need you two to be quiet. I've got to heal Ares."
As soon as he'd said that, Lian positioned his hands on both sides of Ares' face. Grasping the god's head between his hands, he closed his eyes and let the power flow from his body. Hands turning a rich gold, Xena and Gabrielle gasped as they watched the clumsy fellow they'd allowed to travel with them because they'd felt sorry for him, begin to heal the Greek God. Once the damage to the head was healed, Lian started to move his hands slowly down Ares' body. He smoothly let his powers expand until the entire body of the god was enveloped in a gentle, soft golden glow. By the time he'd reached the god's chest, where most of the damage was, sweat was pouring out of his skin. The light increased in strength, quickly building up until in a sudden poof, it became a majestic gold outburst of power. A second later the power died but now, Ares' chest was completely healed. There wasn't even a bruise upon his body.
Lian, finished, tried to stand up. Feeling exhaustion overwhelm him, he collapsed to his knees, tired beyond imagining. This was the first time he'd ever had cause to use the healing skills that only a few, such as Miach, his teacher, and his father, brothers, and uncle knew about. Because the warrior side of his nature was stronger, he'd never blessed anyone with his healing gift. In his overwhelming superciliousness he'd felt that if it were up to him to provide healing, than fate didn't want them healed. It had been the height of the ridiculous superiority which had always been the cause for most of the trouble he'd gotten into. After nearly ten years of slowly losing everything that had made him Cuchuliann, eldest son of Lugh the Long hand, that attitude had disapeared down the drain. In his tiredness, Lian began to pray for strength from his grandmother, the Goddess Don. Not only was she his great great grandmother, but she was also the eldest of the sky and harvest goddesses. As wife to Beli, God of Winds, they ruled as king and queen of Aurinoc, hostland of the dead.
Lian felt something press against his back. Knowing what it was, Lian didn't even turn around. Falling back, he let himself be cocooned between the legs of the Fomorian, joining Ares into the deepest unconsciousness of those who required healing.
Xena and Gabrielle were confused and somewhat frightened. They didn't know what was going on with Joxer. The only thing they knew for sure was that creature wasn't going to kill him. They observed the Fomorian, as he laid his body down and provided a soft, warm cushion for his master. Then, the creature turned his head and graced them with his burning gold eyes.
"Well, are you going to just sit there? You don't need to keep standing! I'm not going to hurt you!" The insolent and sentient voice addressed them in their head.
Noticing that they were standing there like fools, Xena pulled Gabrielle down with her and they sat down on hard earth, watching Joxer and whatever he was slumbering with.
Feeling amusement at their confusion, Leeare took a moment and accessed the minds of his master's companions. That necessary distraction turned to fury as he witnessed and reviewed the events that had occured to his master while in these two women's company. Trying to gain restraint over himself, Leeare's anger and hatred little by little started to come under control. But if these two did anything, anything at all, to hurt his master, they wouldn't live but a instant longer. No one harmed his master like that. No One!
No longer entertained by those he had thought had helped his master, Leeare, after he'd reigned his emotions, told them, "As my master has told you, I'm Leeare, his bonded. Basically, I'm just his battle mount."
"Battle Mount! As if! What does Joxer need with a battle mount?" Gabrielle's stuck up voice made the comment before she could realize the implications of the way it sounded. Xena's eyes went wide as she heard what Gabrielle said. It didn't take much to see the absolute fury burning within the Fomorian's eyes. She expected to be killed along with Gabrielle any minute. But, as she watched it, the creature took a few moments to master itself again. After the Fomorian had his temper sufficiently under restraint, the sarcasm they next heard took on a whole new meaning.
"What did you expect? You, Blondie, evidently never took the time to get to know the real person you know as Joxer. If you had, this wouldn't have come as a surprise. As far as my master needing a battle mount, there isn't anyone who needs one more. As the God King Lugh's heir, and leader and hero of the Red Branch Fiannas at the age of seven, who better should have need of a battle mount. But, in truth, although I'm officially his battle mount, I was kept secret because if his people had found out he'd bonded, he'd have been killed."
"What did you mean, Leeare, I believe?" Xena asked it, having moved her hands to cover Gabrielle's mouth. She wasn't letting anything else come out of it. She didn't want them to die.
Hearing laughter in their minds, Xena and Gabrielle felt the smile of the Fomorian instead of seeing it upon a human face. At that moment, Gabrielle started to realize what she'd blurted out. Turning to Xena in horror, Xena just gave her a grim look that spoke of gruesome punishement if she said so much as one more thing.
The Fomorian war steed went on to say, "Even though he is the king's heir, noone is allowed to take bonded animal unless they're king. The reason for that is to protect the animals that would be bonded. If my master were to die today, I wouldn't survive for much longer. As heir, he could die anytime, and a new heir would replace him. Only leadership has true need for a bonded, which is why only kings are allowed to have them. Unfortunately, our bonding was an accident and by the time we had realized it, we had to keep it secret." Within the Fomorian's soft explanation, there were overtones of regret and concern that they felt within his mind voice.
It was minute later before the creature was able to gather himself and continue. "It was only my master's arrogant attitude toward humans that lead to his downfall and exhile. During his last Erin battle, Queen Maeve of Connaught killed him. When brought back to life, his father Lugh decided that he could no longer accept his sons' actions. Because my master was always influenced by his brothers, always getting into trouble because he really didn't care for humans, none of them were ready for kingship. Understanding that the only way to protect them and keep them alive was to give them a chance to live away from the influence of their family. Their father Lugh's chief advisor and lover, the former king of the Danann and Lugh's uncle, Nuada of the Silver Hand and keeper of the portals, sent the triplets into the safest place he could foresee. Centuries in the future in a distant land where there would be no easy return to the de Danann, was where he sent them. Only, the king didn't know that we had bonded. Even his brothers hadn't known about me. Because his father didn't know, when he separated us by sending my master into the future, it started the process of integrating the master's mind. The longer we were separated, the more he became insane. But, now that we're together, that's no longer a problem anymore."
The steed paused and looked up into the sky and the same constellations only in different positions. Leeare could still feel the hurt of no longer having his bonded near him. It hadn't been long before the pain had become too much. After finding out the truth, he'd found a way to steal a portal stone from Nuada. With the magic inherent in his blood, he was able to travel to the same basic time as his lord was in, although he could not travel the distance. Knowing his master was somewhere oversees and over much land, He set off to find him. Disguising himself as a plain horse, he'd used mind manipulation to influence different humans so that he could be brought here. As soon as he'd come to this land, he'd known his master was somewhere in this land. As soon as his mind had been close enough to home in, it hadn't taken long to find him.
Leeare, almost as tired as his master Lian, sent a sharp command directly into the human's minds. Instantly, they fell on the ground in a deep sleep. After the overwhelming emotions he'd experienced from finding his master and his anger at his treatment at the hands of these two, he was ready for sleep as well. Relieved from finally having found his rider, Leeare vowed never to be separated again from his master. It was but seconds after he'd made the vow, Leeare fell into a deep slumber as well.
The next day, after they'd all woken up, the disorientation from awakening after having had a hectic and emotion filled day before made everyone somewhat sheepish. A beautiful morning, Lian couldn't help but be influenced by the happiness he felt at near completion. Since Ares was still unconscious, Joxer decided to wait and not to let them push for any more explanations, especially since he'd only have to repeat himself soon to the god. Might as well just wait and do all the explaining at once. His glance kept returning toward the slumbering war god. His concern for Ares was nearly enough to cause him to have a panic attack. He was fearful that he'd been too late to save his god's life. From the moment he'd landed in Greece, once he'd found out about the delicate nature of the local pantheon, it had been second nature to begin worshiping the local war god, Ares. As a war god himself, even though his sanity had been gone most of the time, his true nature made him continue to follow his most dominant aspect.
Among his people, the duties of the various gods were shared. One goddess might be both a sky and harvest goddess. A king god may be war god, harvest god, fertility god, and sky god, all rolled into one. Even the goddesses known for one singular nature shared duties, such as Epona, both horse goddess and fertility/nature goddess, and the Morrigu, animal war goddess and goddess of water. As a result, the violence that came was mostly because of the different races. Unlike the Greeks, in Erin and the associated worlds connected to it, there were different races which controlled different realms. Nearly all the realms contained immortal or godlike races. Because of the great differences in race, war was constant, never abating. One god would gain control over a land, and before another king of the blood could be crowned, another race would take their place. After this continuous warfare, it was necessary for everyone to become a warrior. This included the females. War made men and women equal on the battlefield. The would be conquerers weren't concerned with a woman's child bearing capability. As long as they were an adult, that's all that most races cared about battling. But, maybe because of the everyday violence, even children were warlike in nature. If one wasn't a warrior or one who had little skill, than it wouldn't take long before another killed you.
The only good thing about the whole mess was that foreign countries found it difficult to hold and contain it's people. The power that their gods held was also different than those the Greeks had. Returning to life was common in their God races. His father had returned to life as had he. Death wasn't certain. As long as something holds your soul, it wasn't dead. That was how one can restore a head to a body or keep the head alone, alive.
After the long, drawn-out instants of silence, Lian got tired of the suspicious quiet between Xena and Gabrielle. He went to check up on Ares, hoping he was close to awakening. Just as he was removing the cloth around his head, Ares groaned. Overjoyed, Lian watched as Ares slowly opened his eyes. Squinting into the bright sun pouring into his eyes, Ares moaned in pain. When Lian noticed the god's pain, he positioned himself so that his shadow fell on Ares, blocking the sunlight. Seconds later, Ares began to pull himself up, groaning as he used the little strength he had left to sit. Providing support with his arms, Lian silently waited until Ares had scooted back, and had made himself comfortable as he could propped against the boulder.
Ares didn't say anything. He took in everything, noticing how Xena and Gabrielle wouldn't meet his eyes. This was surprising. When his curiosity
got the better of him, he also noticed that while Joxer was the one helping to support him, he wasn't meeting his eyes either. Something was going on. He knew that by now, the two heros especially, should be laughing at his vulnerability. He was pressed to understand why none of it wasn't happening. He took those moments and considered his options.
It was at then that he saw the Fomorian. Eyes going wide, it took all the strength Ares had to keep himself from hyperventilating. He'd seen those creatures before. During one of the inter-pantheon meeting, one of the gods of Erin had been riding a steed like that. If he remembered right, he'd been told it was a Fomorian war steed. Big and brutal, they were known for their terror on the battlefield. In truth, after he seen it, he'd wanted one himself.
Trying to go for a light tone, eyes fixed firmly on the dangerous creature, Ares asked, "Would someone like to tell me what a Fomorian war steed is doing here? For that matter, could someone tell me why I'm not dead after all?"
Xena remained silent. The blond airhead, totally disgusted with him, forgot herself, exclaiming hatefully, "Hey, if you want answers, you need to ask Joxer. After all, he's the master of that creature." She made creature sound as if it were a totally vile and violent thing.
Confused, Ares turned to Joxer, wanting to know what Blondie had meant by that. But when he looked Joxer's way, the fool wouldn't meet his eyes.
Inwardly, Joxer was fuming. He didn't know how he was going to get out of this. Ares had always been the one constant he'd had since he'd been stranded in this place. Worshiping the war god, gave him a since of familiarity, a way to remember his warrior god family. As soon as they'd absorbed the language when they'd come to the nearest village, Lian had realized it'd be better to separate. It was partly because he constantly followed his brothers that had caused the mistakes which had got him into this mess in the first place. Having been together all their lives, his brothers had been against his suggestion to separate. But, he'd needed it and known that he'd never be able to survive on his own and find a way to rid himself of his arrogant superiority if he always had his brothers to depend on. The only concern he'd had about the whole blasted thing had been his insanity.
Knowing that he could no longer stop his revelations to the war god anymore, he lifted his head so he could meet Ares' eyes. When he did, a totally unrelated thought popped into his head. It occurred to him then, 'Ares. He's got the most beautiful dark eyes.'
"What did Blondie mean, Joxer?" Ares asked when he'd seen the deep intelligence in this person's, who he'd thought of as a fool, eyes.
As Lian continued to meet the god's eyes, he whistled. Leeare came over to his master. "Ares, I want you to meet my bonded advocate, the Fomorian war steed, Leeare. It's taken him over nine years to find me, but find me he did. As for what happened with the other god, Leeare and Argo killed him."
"What's going on with you, Joxer?"
"I'm finally whole, now that I've got my bonded with me."
"I don't understand. I thought Fomorian war steeds could only be ridden by the gods of the Erin pantheons."
"Wait a moment!! Are you trying to tell me, you're a...." Ares voice fell off at that moment.
Shaking his head in affirmative, Joxer went on to reveal, "First of all, I want you to call me Lian. As for who I am, my birth name is Setanta, and my granted name, the one by which I am known by is Cuchuliann, the hound of Cullain. I am the son of the Sun and War God King, known by the names Lugh, Loucetios, or Lleu Llaw Gyffes of the Long(Skillful) Hand, nephew to Nuada or Nudd of the Silver Hand, War and Thunder God, who is the former king and current lover and chief adviser to my father. I headed the Red Branch of the Fiannans at the age of seven, becoming protector of the realm of Erin after I defeated one of the immortal hounds of Cullain in combat. Eldest brother, I am triplet to the younger Fianbar, god of the Spirits of light and darkness and lord of the battle march and Aalann, god of fertility and the harvest. Our grandmother, Arianrhod, placed three taboos on our father. He was not to have a name until she gave him one. He was not to bear arms until she gave them to him. He was never to marry a woman of human or godly blood. Grandfather Gwydion and Great Grandfather Math were able to trick grandmother into providing the first two. But the last, grandfather and great grandfather created our mother out of flowers. Known by the names of Blodeuwedd, Nemetona, and Dectera, she fulfilled the prophecy and curse when she killed my father for her lover. But, grandfather Gwydion restored him from the shape of the eagle from which he'd fallen into at his death. He returned, killing both my mother and her lover. Unfortunately, that didn't
entirely stop the curse. Due to the fact that as my father was an eldest triplet, so am I. For that reason, I inherited the curse."
After he'd finished that long recitation, Lian paused and tried to gather himself. There had never been a time when he'd ever felt complete and truly happy. Because of that blasted curse, he'd never been able to find true happiness with a woman. He'd never been able to officially claim any children he fathered. It was mainly because of that, that he'd become a great lover of women, snorting at that thought. If those same women could see me now. It was his attitude toward both mortals and women that had gotten him into all that trouble with Queen Maeve. After using and discarding her, it was no wonder she'd been insulted at the way he'd treated her. He'd have wanted revenge as well, although she decided to pay back had to come from the lives of his people. She got her revenge, both with the war and after she killed me. I still can't believe father was able to reach me in time to save me.
Lifting his head again, he regarded Ares. It was obvious that the god was stunned. The Celtic pantheon had been around for as long as the Greek pantheon had, although because of the various races which inhabited the land of Erin, gods carried different names among the different people. For all the violence of the Greek states, it was nothing compared to violence in the land of Erin. Due to the fact that the races were constantly at war, no one tribe of the Danann ever achieved mastery over all, as Zeus, Hades, and Poseidon had with the Olympians.
"So, I take it, you're an Erin War God of the Tuatha de Danann, right?"
Joxer or Lian as he wished to be called now, nodded his head in agreement. He was terrified that he would lose the god he'd worshiped and come to love for years now. It nearly had him in a panic attack. It was only the soothing presence of his bonded which prevented it.
"You said your father has a male lover, your uncle, I believe?"
"Yes, after the curse fulfilled itself with our mother, Father swore never to marry again. He took countless female lovers, fathering many illegitimate children. After a while because of the pain of never being able to acknowledge any children as his, he vowed to never take another female as lover. If he'd ever officially acknowledged a woman's child than according to our laws, they'd have become married. It wouldn't have mattered if he was already married, because among us, polygamy was accepted. Instead, he took my great uncle, Nuada as his lover. After my great uncle officially conceded the throne to father, over time, father and Nuada came to love one another. The vow he'd made became much easier to bear once he'd accepted his love. Nuada and father had much in common which made them even closer. Nuada knew first hand how it feels not being able to control one's destiny. After losing his right arm in battle, he was forced to vacate the throne, even after the healing god, Miach was able to create for him an new arm made of silver. Among our people, one cannot hold the throne if the person has any physical flaw. The only exception is scars earned in battle, as long as they are not debilitating. When he died in battle, trying to defend hi throne, he was brought back to life by a water goddess because of his dedication to duty. Having been brought back to life, Miach was able to find his real arm and restore it to him. Now that he was whole once more, he fought for the throne again, challenging the Fomorian Firbolg Belor, his father, who had claimed it. With the help of my father, who was young at the time, they defeated him. Even though he was now whole again, he instead abdicated the throne to father. Asking Miach to restore his silver arm, he made sure that father could never doubt that he wanted the throne. Because of that dedication, Nuada became chief advisor to dad. Later, after some time, when the loneliness became too much, they became lovers, each knowing what the other had been through."
"What did you mean by the curse continuing to you?"
"The same applies to me. Luckily, our mother named us and had our arms ready for us at our birth. Like father, the only part of the curse which concerned me was marrying without dying. I never had any hope because there isn't a woman who doesn't have some human or earthly blood in her veins. Even the goddesses are creatures of Erin. I know now that because I never had to worry about marrying, I became overbearing, following my brothers into dissolution, where drink, women and war became my staple. It's due to that awful pride that I'm here now. I fucked over the Queen of Connaught, Maeve of the flame red hair, refused her rights to the Brown Bull of Cooley, and basically was an all out bastard to her. She set my death up and killed me herself. Father was able to bring me back, but it frightened him enough that he no longer had a choice. He exiled my brothers and I here in the future. He left us with the awareness that if we should ever find a way to completeness, we can return. It's only myself who is left. I must either find a way to destroy the curse or escape it in someway. As soon as I find my lifemate, I'll fulfill my part of the exhile, since my brothers have already fulfilled theirs. Fianbar, or he who you know of as Jett, fulfilled his part when he accepted his godly nature, which before he'd always denied. Having always hated death, it had been hard for him being a god of death. Now that he's in a land where there is few if any of the Erin blood, he doesn't feel as guilty taking lives. By becoming an assassin, he fulfilled his nature. Aalann, as a god of fertility and harvest, was still a virgin, never able to seek out the pleasure which was inherently part of his nature. Now that he is working for Aphrodite and accepted what to many are perverse desires, he, too, is fulfilling his nature. Now me, I've already lost my disdain for humans. I'm the only reason my brothers and I are still here. I've yet to find my lifemate. Unfortunately, the curse is still in existence."
Taking deep breaths, Lian finally looked deep into his god's eyes, seeking to implore to him the truth, "You know, Ares? I've always envied you Greek Gods. At least you're able to bear children as males. If my people had that capability, I wouldn't have to worry about the curse. I could have just taken a man as consort and either born his children or he bore mine. I don't even have the pleasure of knowing I'm immortal here, although I still have my godly powers. Due to the fact that it's been a year since I've partaken of the sacred pigs which are to us as the apples and ambrosia are to you, I'm not even a god anymore. The only thing I'm grateful for is that now I've got Leeare back, I've got my sanity back as well. I've hated having to depend upon Xena, when at one time, I was a far greater warrior than she is or ever will be. I think you, of all people, know what it's like to have my strength, my skills and my memory returned to me after not having them."
Xena and Gabrielle had been silent the entire time Joxer had explained. They'd listened to Joxer as he'd told the war god his story. Xena was
embarrassed at the way she'd treated Joxer. She should have known that his occasional lapses in memory and clumsiness were an illness. There'd been times when Joxer had been the one to come up with the most brilliant observations and suggestions. She'd just rolled her eyes and passed it off to pure luck. Gabrielle was shamed also, although she was frightened for her life as well. After the way she'd insulted and treated Joxer, it's a wonder she wasn't dead yet. It was obvious to her that the Fomorian wanted her death. She was surprised Joxer wasn't letting him have it.
As for Joxer, he waited as he watched Ares process it all. At that moment, he didn't care about Xena or Gabrielle. While he was thankful for their watching over him while he was a fool and keeping him alive, because of the way they'd both treated him, he wasn't concerned one way or the other about their feelings for him. He'd prevent Leeare and himself from killing them due to their prior actions, but the future was in their hands. He wouldn't stop himself or Leeare if they even thought about doing it again.
Ares, taking in the details that had been revealed to him, could tell that Lian wasn't a god. He could also knew that he wasn't lying. There was also no escaping the underlying desire in his voice when he'd spoken of the males of his people able to bear children. He'd never cared much about it, determined to never be on the receiving end of any relationship with another male. There was no way he'd ever be willing to bare children. But, after hearing the pain, hurt and loss within Joxer's voice, he didn't doubt that what to him had always been a curse to his people, would be a blessing for him. It did make him consider the fact that maybe he'd taken for granted all the wonderful aspects of his pantheon and people. Compared to the god tribes of Erin, there truthfully wasn't any comparison.
"Joxer..er..Lian, I'm sorry for your pain, and I thank you for healing me." At Lian's startled confusion, Ares smiled. "You didn't think I wasn't aware
of who'd healed me, were you? I may be weak, but I can tell it wasn't anyone from my family who healed me." Lian nodded and his lips turned up with hope that he wasn't going to lose his lifesaver. Ares turned to his daughter. Xena met his eyes, the rueful expression in them telling him she was more than aware of her treatment to Joxer and that her punishment would probably be soon in coming. Gabrielle was pale and had a terrified expression on her face as her head constantly darted between Leeare, Ares and Joxer. She'd sidled around, until she was almost directly behind Xena. It was obvious she wanted Xena to be the first in the path to any punishment she might face. Evidently, she hoped that Xena would once again be able to save her.
Turning back to Lian, Ares met his follower's eyes, amusement and humor in them. He silently told Lian that he was more than aware of how Lian felt about his two former companions. Even though Xena was his daughter, Ares felt no need to interfere in any turnabout Lian decided on. He trusted Lian not to kill either of them, and as for anything else, well, they could just accept their punishment. About time Lian got the revenge and justice he deserved.
"Lian, don't worry. You don't have to worry that I'll deny you. I know that you've been following me for years now. I'm guessing that's because you're a war god, right?"
Chuckling, Lian agreed and went on to explain, "Yeh, although in truth, because of my chaotic nature and multiple aspects, I'm also what could be considered a god of mischief, mayhem, discord, conflict, confusion and illusions. Kind of a mixture of Strife, Discord, Phobus, and Psyche as well as both yours and Athena's job as well. My pantheon doesn't separate the duties. We all do what's needed to be done. If my father can not perform his duties as the primary light giver and Danann War King, then I could perform those functions. I'm also a major healing god, although when young, I'd vowed never to use them. I'd felt that it wasn't my duty to save anyone. I still can't believe the arrogance I had when I was young. And as for humans, I'd felt they were beneath me, that there wasn't any reason to even save them, except when they called upon my war aspect, and as far as I was concerned that just meant that I could kill more humans when I went into the berserker rage."
"Oh, I'd forgotten about that. I've met Epona and was astonished at what she could do with the horse or horselike creatures under her. She'd told me about their multiple aspects when we met at an inter-pantheon meeting. Very enlightening. I'd thought MY family was dysfunctional, but we have nothing on you Erins."
Lian burst out into explosive laughter. He knew just what Ares meant. He'd always thought it a shame that Ares, Hercules, and Xena had never accepted their blessings for what they had. At least their gods weren't constantly at war with themselves. It was some time later, after Lian had gained control of himself, and after eating a hearty meal of baked fish, they all retired falling into a deep sleep. Ares was too exhausted to flash out and even if he'd been able to, for some strange reason didn't want to contact any of his family to help him. Ares watched as his foreign god follower fell into a deep sleep, still recovering from yesterdays and today's events. 'There was just something about him' was Ares' last thought as fell into Morpheus' realm along with them.
Aurinoc, home of the Erin's elder gods, The Deathlands
Within a sacred grove temple perched high upon some cliffs overlooking a vast sea in one direction and a vast plain in the other with a forest surrounding the temple cliffs, was a beautiful woman with flowing gold hair sitting at a desk. No wall and no roof surrounded her as the wind blew constantly into the place. As fierce as the wind was blowing, all it did was caress her skin, and the parchment and quills upon her desk didn't move an inch. Ornate mirrors surrounded her, each showing individual lands that her subjects lived in. But the one mirror that she was watching at that moment, didn't show her scenes of Erin.
Within the mirror, she concentrated upon the young man sleeping, surrounded by his god and companions. Getting up for a moment, she walked over to the edge of the wall-less room. No fear was in her movements and there was confidence even as she stood at the edge of a deep abyss. The ancient goddess considered her options.
Known as the Goddess Don or Danu, wife of Beli, God of Thunder, Lightning and the Harvest, known by many as the first Horned Lord, she had a dilemma on her hands. Cuchuliann had always been one of her favorite great great great grandchildren. There had never been any doubt in her mind that with a father like Lugh, two grandfathers like Gwydion and Belor, and a great grandfather like Math, that as the eldest of triplets, he'd be the greatest of the three as his father was before him. Because it was her grandchild who placed the curse upon Lugh, there'd been nothing she could do to prevent it. Before Lugh's birth, she hadn't been able to prevent her son Belor from stealing the Sacred Cow and impregnating her, fathering Arianrhod. After Gywdion took Belor's daughter during a battle, impregnating her with triplets, it's no wonder that Belor had his grandchildren kidnaped. With the prophecy stating he'd be killed by a grandchild, he wanted no grandchild living. Only by the ancient graces did Lugh fall into the sea and was the only child living of the three. As an adult, he fulfilled the prophecy, killing Belor as he fought alongside his uncle Nuada. And as for that blasted woman, She didn't know why Gwydion had lied to Lugh, telling his son that his wife had been created from flowers not of Erin. She was as much a creature of earth as any human was and there wasn't any wonder she'd fulfilled the curse.
She cursed her grandchild. More pain was caused by that blasted curse, allowing no happiness to be found by the God of Light, Sun and War. And now, to see that bloodline die out....
She'd been considering the tapestry of fate, that which the wind weaves, the earth measures, and the lightning cuts. She knew that Lugh would be the last of his bloodline to rule on earth. If the triplets returned, the tapestry of life could not allow them to live any longer. She also knew that to do what she planned, she would need assistance. It was her only option. Calling her sacred Owl to her, she sent forth a message, calling to her, her equal and contemporary. After the Owl had disappeared, it was but moments before a shimmer appeared within the Room of the Four Winds. Two women stood before her. The first, the elder, was a beautiful woman with hair a mixture of browns, greens, oranges, reds, blacks, blues and golds, which flowed down her back until it seemed to merge with the floor. The other was a young woman with dark red hair and rich blue eyes that revealed the knowledge of the ages.
Smiling, Don calmly walked forward, taking the elder woman hands in her own.
"Sister Gaea, it is wonderful to see you."
Gaea responded by pulling her sister in her arms and hugging her. They had so few contemporaries living that when they met, it always felt wonderful to see each other. When they were silent for what seemed like ages, Don finally spoke up, "Sister, you're aware of why I have called?"
Nodding, Gaea pulled back from her sister. Don, being a perfect hostess, turned to the stranger and asked her, "And who might this young woman be? I don't believe we've met."
Waving her arms to indicate the woman next to her, Gaea told Don, "Sister, I would like you to meet my granddaughter, Moira. She is the mother of the three fates." Don's smile lit up her face. She knew then why Gaea had brought her. "Moira, I would like you to meet the Goddess Don, mother of the tribes of the Danann. She is the elder sky and harvest god of the Erin people, queen of Aurinoc."
Moira stepped forward and curtsied. "It is wonderful to meet you, grandmother." She used the courteous honorific which is spoken to all elder.
"Wonderful to meet you too, young lady. Now, can I offer you seats?" Don waved her arms and two cushioned chairs appeared across from her own chair.
After they'd taken seats, and Don had seen to their refreshments, Don finally asked Gaea, "I need your help, Gaea. Will you grant it?"
"I'm aware of what you want and I agree. That is why I've brought Moira. She can work with your tapestry of life, and help to weave it so there can be no options left to those woven into it."
Moira, not having been told why she'd been brought, had to ask, "Grandmother, why have you brought me here? I don't understand."
Smiling at her granddaughter, Gaea told her, "Moira, Don and I wish you to do something very special. Something which is rarely done."
Nodding for her grandmother to continue, Moira waited for more information. It was Don who continued with the explanation.
"At this moment in time, my great grandchild, Lugh is the Sun/Light/War God King of the Tuatha de Danann, my tribes of children. Lugh fathered three children, triplets who have reached an end to their weaving within the Tapestry of Life. All of Erin from it's beginning is woven into the
tapestry. The earth, the wind, and the lightning itself weaves the patterns of fate. These children are special. Cuchuliann, the eldest triplet, is the greatest hero our land has ever known, and he is but fifteen years old. Working against the weavings of the tapestry, Lugh and his uncle Nuada
brought Cuchuliann back to life and therefore started the degradation of the patterns of fate. In the normal course of fate, Lugh, while he was supposed to marry and be brought back to life by his father, was never supposed to have children with that wife. There was an ancient curse placed on Lugh by his mother where he could not marry a woman who carried the blood of earth. Now, as you know there isn't any woman who doesn't come from the earth. By working against the tapestry, Math and his father Gwydion tricked him, not with his wife, but by assuring that she was fertile. This therefore fulfilled the curse, but because it took a year for his wife to prepare for his death, she gave birth to triplets in that year. There were never supposed to be children born, she was supposed to be unfertile and killed before that could happen. Trying to adjust itself, the tapestry had to reweave the patterns and fit these children in. But, it was not perfect. Due to the various problems, none of the children would be allowed to live beyond their fifteenth year. Cuchuliann died at the hands of Maeve and had he not been brought back to life by his father, would not have been able to save his brothers. This was the way that fate had rewoven their lives. But now that all three were still alive, something had to be done. A plan was created to s end the triplets outside the realm of Erin, beyond the influence of Erin's tapestry of Life. So, they were sent into Greece's future. It was hoped that the three could fulfill their true natures that way. The patterns of fate always leave spaces for the unexpected that is not of Greek origin. The three have done well and have fit into your patterns. But now, it won't be long before the pattern is fulfilled. Because Lugh is destined to be the last of his bloodline to rule in Erin, those children cannot be allowed to return. If they do, then I don't know how long Erin will survive."
"I see. I take it that the two of you want me and my children to weave the three into a permanent pattern within my Tapestry." The two elder goddesses nodded, knowing that as fate, Moira did not have to be told further what needed to be done. "If I do that, then I must have assistance. The triplets must be completely woven out of Erin's tapestry. The only way to do that would be to kill Lugh immediately, therefore causing a new king to be crowned, one who is not the blood. The children would have no need to return, especially if they find completeness withing Greece."
"You'll have it, Moira. The Tapestry has agreed to it, in fact, it insists on it. It no longer has any choice."
"I can do it, but there is one thing to consider. How do I weave my tapestry. Even integration with the Greek people, the triplets are still of Godly nature. There is no force within the universe that can change that. If that isn't taken into account, then they could cause just as much destruction with my people as with yours."
Don looked out beyond the soft blue sky. She'd known that Moira would ask that. It was going to be hard to lose her children but...being the only way...
Gaea, feeling the sorrow in her sister answered for her, "Moira, the only way that it can be done is to weave the triplets into the Greek pantheon, either as god's themselves, immortals or as a consort to a god. Once that's done, they can never return to Erin, Albion or any of the lands of the ancient. The moment they try to step onto lands claimed by Erin, than they'll die. It will be up to you to decide how you want to integrate them, but may I make a suggestion."
Seeing the humor in her grandmother's eyes, Moira knew instantly what she wanted. This would not only protect the triplets, but it would also kill two birds with one stone. Amusement filled her face as she spoke, "You know he won't like that. Nor will his father."
"It's about time my grandson and great grandson had some payback. If this doesn't take care of their arrogance, than nothing will."
Don had turned back to them as they'd conversed. When she heard Moira's agreement and knew what she was going to do, she too, smiled. They weren't the only ones who'd learn from their arrogance. Then, now that the decisions had been made, her heart becoming light once again, transformed into a breezy wind flowing back and forth within the Room of the Four Winds. Laughter could be heard coming from all three goddesses as their happiness filled the air.
Eve of the new winter solstice
County Connaught, Ireland
The battlefield was filled with the wounded and the dead. Blood flowed until there seemed to a be river of blood sweeping through the land. It was a dark day. At mid-day or noon, it was as dark as night. Not even a moon or stars in the sky. The weeping of the clans permeated the night with their sorrow. The Morrigu, goddess of war, water and death worked alongside Arawn, first king of Aurinoc and now only the god of death, travel and the winds. As a soul was ready to be taken a sacred crow or a death hound would be sent for to carry the soul of the dead into the Deathlands. Although only those dying could see them, their presence was certainly felt.
As numerous crows, ravens and these beautiful, big and tall, slender white hounds with crimson red ears carried over the dead, one man, weeping, could be heard a league away.
Nuada held his beloved king in his arms. He'd known he wouldn't have much longer. These last five months, he and Lugh had taken the time and packed it with as much love, laughter and emotions as they could. He'd always known he would not able to have his love for long. From the moment he witnessed Lugh in his first battle, watched as the young man fought overwhelming odds and win, it had been love at first sight.
Rare even among their people, not even immortality could assure happiness between lovers or to those who love. It had taken so long. Years of working with the young man, winning his trust, knowing somehow that he'd be the one to succeed him. At his first death, there'd been sorrow because he'd never know the joy of loving Lugh, of feeling their bodies become one.
But, he returned, and helped Lugh win against the Fomorians, then, because of his love for Lugh, abdicated his very throne. Even now, others had thought him insane when he'd given up the throne to Lugh and essentially become just a military and political advisor. None of them understood. It wasn't just because he loved Lugh. Lugh was a brilliant military leader, able to bring together even the most diverse races. His brightness brought joy to those who fought for him. He was also destined for the crown, as he'd foreseen when dead. Also, there was the fact that had he become king, it would have become his duty to kill Lugh, so that his subjects could not think him week. The bloody traditions of their tribe were horror to the extreme.
There was no way he could do it. So, even though he was fully eligible to be king again with his original arm, he abdicated, allowing his nephew to be crowned instead. Due to the fact that he didn't want Lugh to have to kill him as it was required by law, he returned to Miach and had him replace the silver arm. Now, with an obvious deformity, he'd be no longer eligible for the throne.
Knowing that Lugh would live quite a few years, he did his best to win his beloved's heart. It had taken years of perseverance, but he'd done it. The three years they'd had together had been worth all the pain and heartache.
Looking down upon the body of his love, he let the tears fall, graced the ground with the sacred rain of sorrow. From the moment of his death, he'd known the truth. The tapestry of life had shown him as well as showing what he needed to do. He'd done it, even though events could not be changed nor altered in any way. He made sure Lugh's sons lived, especially Cuchuliann who was his favorite. He taught Lugh that love did not need to be found strictly in the arms of a woman, also providing an example to his sons so that especially Cuchuliann could know that his life didn't need to be barren either.
When Lugh had come up with the plan to find a way to teach his sons what they were missing, it was he who suggested sending them away, far away. He never told Lugh that they would never return, but, he'd always known that Lugh had instinctively known anyway. He'd also known his death was coming. He'd wanted his children out of the way before they would die a gruesome death.
The sacrifices made and the love given were worth it. Nuada, although he could not take his own life, would make sure the next battle did. That way, he could follow Lugh into true death, becoming immortal in truth, becoming a warrior sky god of thunder and lightning.
As the tears fell and the anguish of the clan anointed the air with it's pain, Nuada never noticed, wouldn't have concerned himself if he had, the cheers of some of his people. He never saw them carry a man up to the sacred alter, sacrifice him in the name of the mother. He never witnessed Eochaid Ollathair the Dagda becoming king upon Aonach Taillte, the burial mound dedicated to Lugh's foster mother, Taillte, daughter of the king of Spain, wife of Eochaid mac Erc, the last king of the Fomorian Fir Bolg. He never saw, never wanted to see, didn't hear or feel the cries of the clan, crowning their new king.
Temple of Love and Pleasure, Olympias
Aphrodite flashed into her temple looking for her dratted son. There had been something wrong. Many of the matches that she'd thought for sure would last, were disappearing into thin air. It was as if someone was accelerating all the dark emotions of the people in her matches. Jealousy, discord, hatred, dislike, lust outside of love were all transforming her matches into a lot of broken couples. She hoped to find Cupid so that they could find out what was going on.
As she landed in her study, she had the surprise of her life. Her son was there, but so, too, was Hera. Hera was calmly talking to Cupid, no anger or disgust in her face. Cupid himself, she could tell from the frozen surprise on his face, didn't know what to make of it.
Cupid looked up at her flash and broke out into a relieved smile. He was tired of trying to entertain his grandmother. "Mom! Hera needs to talk to you! You mind? I need to go get Bliss and take him to the muses for his study lessons."
Seeing that her son was desperate to get out of there, Dite nodded and her son flashed out, a very relieved expression on his face. She turned to look at Hera, wary of the queen of the gods. From the moment she'd been lovers to Ares and seduced her child Hephaestus, there had never been any love lost between the two of them. Because both were powerful gods, they mostly stayed away from each other. It was safer that way.
Dite walked over to the conference table and sat down in one of the plush chairs surrounding it. Taking a moment to gather herself, Hera remaining quiet herself, she finally said, "Hera, I don't know what you're doing here, and frankly, I don't want to know. If you're here a love potion for your husband, you're barking up the wrong tree."
Hera didn't answer that at first, which surprised Dite. It wasn't like the queen mother to not become angry at the suggestion of her husband. Hera had turned her face was staring at the huge tapestry upon the wall, depicting every type of love making possible. Dite, becoming even more concerned now, waited until Hera turned her head again to look at her.
"I'm sorry for the intrusion, Aphrodite, but frankly, I don't have any choice but to be here."
Dite remained silent, hoping that Hera would continue with that statement without pushing her. Something was very wrong and her eep vibes were telling her that there was a lot of danger headed her way.
"I just received a summons from the fates and their mother. I've been instructed to some tasks that simply have me flabbergasted." Hera leaned back in her chair, obviously trying to gain control of herself. "I know what you're thinking, that I'm just here to find a way to destroy you and your son, but that isn't the truth. I can tell you that if I don't complete some specific tasks, Greece will fall into chaos after the gods die."
Dite squeeked in horror. After the day she'd had, it was far worse to find out it looked like another apocalypse coming. "What do you mean, Hera?"
"I need help. What the fates have asked of me, I can't do alone. Unfortunately, most of the tasks concern a matter of love and that just isn't my specialty."
Dite frowned, "Love? Why would the fates have you do my gig?"
"Because evidently, this is an inter-pantheon matter. It doesn't just concern the Greek gods. As the primary Greek love god, it's your duty to oversee Greece and it's people. But, when foreigners are involved, it becomes a matter of delicacy and it therefore becomes necessary for the rulers to involve themselves directly. On the orders of the fates, with a personal command from Grandmother Gaea, I've been given some things to do. If I don't help get the chaos straightened out, then the effects that are beginning to be felt all over, where everyone's powers are becoming corrupted in some way, will continue until there is no more control whatsoever. When I found out most of the tasks needed someone who was proficient in the love duties, I no longer had any choice to come here. I hate asking for your help. I've never liked you and you've never liked me. But, you've loved two of my sons, given me a grandson, who, while he drives me up the wall with his love mischief, also is one of the most powerful gods of the pantheon, even as young as he is. But, since I have to bite the bullet and ask, Will you help me in my tasks, Aphrodite?"
Realizing that whatever Hera needed concerned what had been happening all day, she didn't have a choice. Swallowing the instinctive sarcasm that wanted to make itself known to Hera who was asking for help from her in the first time in her life, Dite nodded her head, asking, "I'll help, my queen. What do you need me to do first?"
Suddenly, Hera smiled and laughter glimmered in her eyes, "Well....you'll never guess what the first task is. We need to take a little visit to Salmoneus and..."
The two goddesses huddled over the table, Dite and Hera breaking out in laughter as some of the tasks were explained.
Back at Xena's camp
Leeare, his master wrapped around him, woke up suddenly. It was the middle of night and there was something...That was when he saw her. The woman had rich golden red hair pulled up into a bun. She wasn't the most beautiful woman in the world, but there was no denying her attractiveness. As his people had once been human, he could identify a human's beauty as a human would.
Wary that this woman just appeared in their camp, he was about ready to spring up and kill the unknown intruder when she spoke.
"There's no need for that, Leeare."
Astonished, Leeare's golden eyes narrowed as they focused on the woman. "And why's that, woman?"
The woman walked forward, her elgant walk revealing a regal bearing. No doubt she had royal blood in her. She stopped a couple of feet from him, looking down. She suddenly crouched down and made herself at eye level with the Fomorian War Steed.
"Because I'm not here to hurt you. Nor am I here to cause anyone any harm. I'm here to help you, in fact."
"Who are you, woman!?" Leeare wasn't the most tactful being and never did have much respect for those he considered supercilous and arrogant.
Amusement and hilarity brightened the woman's eyes. She grinned and told him, "Well, first of all, you can call me Hera."
Quickly, as the name processed, Leeare became horrified and blurted out, "Hera!? Queen of the Greek Gods!?"
Chuckling, Hera nodded. She began to look around the camp, paying close attention to her Ares and Joxer.
"What do you want?"
"Don't worry, Fomorian. I'm here because I have a little task for you. It seems that the goddess love, Aphrodite and I need your help. Think you could help us?"
"I'm not going to.."
"Oh, don't worry. We're not harming your master. Actually, that's the little task we have for you."
"Oh, well...as long as master isn't harmed."
"I can guarantee it. In fact, I think you'll find your master and his brothers end up much happier."
Cautiously, Leeare listened as the Queen of the Greek Gods told him what he had to do. The camp remained silent, except for the words spoken out loud by Hera. When she was done, Leeare couldn't help himself. The next thing he knew, he was neighing and breying, laughing his head off, horse style. It was a good thing that Hera had made sure the camp members were all asleep and weren't going to wake up because the sounds he made were enough to wake the dead. Seeing that her job was done her, Hera flashed out, leaving Leeare still laughing himself sick.
Moments passed before the war steed got himself under control. He was never going to let his master hear the end of this later. And, his mind expression becoming dark, those two idiot companions of his master would certainly get what was coming to them. His mind lifting back up with happiness, Leeare commented out loud to the silent camp, although no one could hear, "Well, it's a good thing I don't have to kill those two."
It was much to his surprise, when, "Not if I have anything to say about."
The shock had him immobilized again for a minute. He turned his head, looking for the source of that sarcastic voice in his mind. It was then he met the eyes of Xena's war steed. Argo was glaring at him with an expression in her eyes that made certain he knew he was close to dire punishment.
"Well, well, if isn't Xena's noble steed. And what do you have against Hera's plan? After all, you're the one who'll come out on top after this."
"I don't care about that PLAN! You can't manipulate my mistress like that!"
"And how are you going to stop me?" To his surprise, Leeare found himself respecting the large, golden war steed of Xena's. It had been her after all who had finished off the enemy war god before he'd had a chance to do it himself.
"I wouldn't ask if I were you, Fomorian." Fomorian sounded like it was a disgusting word coming out of her mind. "You just realize that if you hurt any of them, any of them at all, you won't live to regret it. I don't care how much a bitch Gabrielle's been to your master, Xena loves her and I don't let anyone hurt her, even though personally, I don't care much for her myself." Argo turned her back on Leeare, calling over her shoulder, "Just remember, I may not be human after all, but I am mortal. I can kill you. Don't piss me off!"
Argo huffed away to the other side of the camp and started grazing. Leeare was amazed at the courage this beautiful mortal horse had. Not many would even attempt to go against his kind, and she hadn't even hesitated. He didn't realize it, but if he'd been able to hear himself, he'd have heard overtones of desire and whether he wanted it or not, love. He fell asleep again, this time dreaming of a gorgeous, dominant mare who sure to drive him up the wall before he was through.
Back on Olympia
Cupid flashed out of his mother's temple in the utmost relief. Trying to entertain his grandmother when they never got along tired him out after only a few moments. It had been strange to be around Hera when she wasn't on the warpath or pissed about something her husband did or wanting some type of love potion for this or for that.
He flashed into his cuz's lair, the suite of rooms Strife had in his father's temple. He found Strife playing peekaboo with Bliss, making an absolute fool of himself, which actually wasn't strange at all. It was Strife's job to make a fool of himself.
Watching for a few minutes, knowing Strife was aware of him, he enjoyed the pleasure of seeing his two favorite people playing together. For longer than he could remember, he'd always loved Strife. And, what was hard for him, was that he knew his love was returned. He'd never forgotten when they were young they'd been lovers. Both of them had every intention of making a formal committment of marriage.
When the rest of the pantheon had found out, they'd been called before the fates and their mother Moira. Zeus, Hera, mom and dad and his aunt Eris were all in attendance. He and Strife had taken one look at the grim look on their faces and realized that there was something seriously wrong. They were confused about what they were doing there. They didn't have long to wait.
Moira giving them a sorry look, waved her hand and provided seating for them all. She asked them all to sit, explaining that there was a reason that all of them had been called. There was a sorrowful feel to the glance she gave he and Strife that he hadn't any doubt that whatever they'd been called here for, had something to do with them.
After they had settled for a few moments, Moira spoke, "I know that you're all wondering why you've been called here. I'm sorry to say that there are issues which can no longer be ommitted by us anylonger."
"What do you mean, Moira?" Zeus was concerned, not used to being called before the fates.
"All of you are here because of the relationship between Strife and Cupid."
"Huh...what do you mean by that?" Aphrodite's shrill voice demanded, not liking where this was headed.
"You are all here because we must establish an ulitmatum which only Zeus and Hera can enforce by law."
"Okay, listen! I don't know what this has to do with my son and nephew but I don't care if you are fates, be careful what you demand. I would not like to do it, but I will go against the tapestry's weavings if necessary." Ares didn't raise his voice or anything, but it told all listening that he was serious. The fates evidently knew that too.
"It doesn't matter what you want, Ares. We must do what we must do. As for why you're here, I think all of you know that you're here because of Cupid and Strife and the relationship they've entered into which is nearly at the point of committment." Moira paused, visibly gathering herself together. All the gods remained quiet, seeing that she herself was having difficulty with this.
"From the moment of Cupid's birth, weavings were put in place which were necessary for the good of all Greece. The same for Strife's birth. It was only a matter of time before the two of them were born. Unfortunately, because of the compatability of the two souls, we, the fates, knew that it was only a matter of time before they acted on their love. But, because of outside events, there can be no confirmation of their committment and love."
Cupid, now terrifie, cried out, "What!"
Giving him a deeply regretful look, Moira continued, "I'm sorry, Cupid. This was taken even out of my hands. Not even we the fates have complete control over what destiny wants and needs. And, unfortunately for you and Strife, destiny does not want the two of you together."
"I don't understand." Strife spoke softly aloud. There were already tears in his eyes, because he'd known from the moment they were called there that it was going to hurt far more than he'd imaginioned.
"I regret the pain the two of you will have in the future and are having now, but we no longer can let your relationship continue. Cupid, there will come a time when you will have a great effect upon the world, not just Greece. Even though the stories of the gods is interpreted by humans, they record what they are destined to record. Millennia in the future, humans will have need of the gods again. It won't just be Greece and Grecians in other countries who will worship us. Unfortunately, time, that which is recorded and destined in even the other pantheons, has made sure that there is no mention, no indication, even in the anels of time, of a relationship between the two of you. Indeed, it is a future relationship that you will have, Cupid which will give hope and faith to those in need of some belief that love is real. Your name especially, Cupid, will go down in history, becoming the most beloved of gods, one who's worship far outlasts even the rest of us. Strife, according to the lines that have been woven, you were never supposed to be born." She turned to Eris, giving her a strange look, almost as if she wanted to blast her into oblivion. That wasn't something you see on any of the fates faces. They were far too even tempered for that.
"As I'm sure that you've figured out, Strife, you're not fully of Grecian blood. Since your mother has never told you who your father is, it is not up to us to do so. But we can tell you that, while your father was a god, he did not belong to the Grecian pantheon. Your birth was woven into fate, but not into this pantheon. Instead, you were originally destined for birth into the Celtic Pantheon, born into the Tribes of Danann. Your mother was supposed to hand you over to your father at your birth, but she didn't, therefore setting into motion events which if we hadn't taken steps, would have been catastrophic."
Strife was shivering by that time, and Cupid wasn't any better. Seeing the total fear in his lover's face, he huddled near, pulling his love into his arms, providing what assurance he could. It didn't help much. They both knew this was the end of them. Neither had any doubt at all. Cupid as god of love could even feel his own heartbreak.
Moira continued her explanation. "We the fates, had to compromise. We were able to save the woven lines, but there was a cost. Strife must remain unmarried and uncommitted. There can never be any children of his born to another. We were unconcerned about that, many gods never marry, commit or have children, but the problem was that the two of you are soulmates. It was never more unfortunate that it happened in this way, but, it did, and it is too late to do anything about it. So, we have called you together so that Zeus and Hera can place a binding upon to two of you which can never be broken. It will forbid either of you to be together, on punishment of Strife's death."
Cupid, horrified, "What do you mean, Strife's death!?"
"Since you are the god who was originally destined to be born into this pantheon, and you are the one who is destined to be the longest lasting god worshiped of this pantheon, and because Strife was never supposed to be born a Grecian god, this is the only way that it can be done. We know that the love the two of you bear will make sure that you abide by these geas. Now, Zeus, Hera, will you please create the binding."
"No!!!" Both young gods screamed but it was too late. The glow emmitted from Zeus and Hera made sure of it.
Coming back to the present, Cupid's heart felt the pain that he knew would never go away. They had seperated and tried to live without each other, but, the pain gradually became too much for both of them.
Seven years ago, Strife was nearly at the point of committing suicide. If there was one god who truly deserved children, it was he. It was no wonder. As the god of Mischief, children were his primary worhipers and yet, he could never have any children of his own. It was when Cupid realized that he would lose his beloved that he came up with a plan to help him. The geas stated that he could have no child born to another. It said nothing about a child born to him, having no father. Knowing it had been done before, by Hera and Apollo, he convinced Strife to give birth to a child.
A little girl was born, and Strife called her Talia. From the moment of her birth, Strife finally had something which gave him reason to stay alive. It
hadn't taken long, seeing the happiness in Strife's eyes that Cupid couldn't take anymore either.
Knowing he was doing something extremely stupid, he found a beautiful young girl, who was sweet both inside and out, and shot himself in the foot. Even he wasn't immune to his own arrows. He and Psyche married and if it wasn't true happiness, it was enough to keep him contented.
That was when it happened. Talia died. Maybe because she was never supposed to have been born in the first place, Strife found her dead in her sleep. He tried to take his life. There wasn't anything to help keep him alive. Leaving his pregnant wife, Cupid did everything possible to stop Strife from killing himself. When nothing he did worked, knowing that he wouldn't be able to stop it, no longer had any reason to fight the geas. For a day, they were lovers again, and their hearts filled with as much completeness as they would be allowed.
It was the next day, that an assignment of his father caused Callisto to kill him. Even knowing that it was going to happen, even knowing that Strife went to his death with joy in his heart, it almost made him follow Strife. The only thing that kept him alive was that Strife wanted him to live for his unborn son. If he couldn't live for his wife, Strife knew that his son would give him reason to live.
And so, he existed, giving his wife and son what was left of his heart after half of his soul dying.
Even though he rejoiced in the pact Hades made with Ares, which allowed Strife to return to life, knowing that neither of them could fight destiny,
both made a pact that as long as one lived, so to would the other. They would not let anything kill them because although they couldn't be together, as long as they were alive, there was at least some hope.
It was after that, Strife came to adore his son. He knew as well as Strife that both of them pretended that he was the result of their love, that he was theirs. It binded them even stronger and allowed them to create a family out of the catastrophe of their lives.
Cupid went and sat down and just watched to the two most important people alive to him. His beloved soul mate and his son and enjoyed just being around the love.
It was his life. He accepted it. It was all he could do.
Midtown market place, Corinth, Greece
"Come one! Come all! Come see the wonderful wares of Salmoneus!" a tall, heavyset man was yelling out to the shoppers. Behind him was a cart that had these little thingys, both big and small, shiny and soft, depended on what you wanted. Now, the caller who owned said cart was doing a good business selling those thingys.
Salmoneus had always enjoyed traveling and Corinth always was one of his favorite cities. With Iphicles as king and Hercules, the king's brother, things tended to be exciting a lot. Now, he was somewhat obsessive to doing a good business. He never could pass getting one over his customers and as far as he was concerned, money was money. When business started to slow for the day, he pulled out the scroll he'd found that morning laying on his pillow. It told him that an old debt was being called in.
He kept looking at it throughout the day, wanting to know more and yet, frightened that he wouldn't like what he found out. When the day was over, he packed his wares away and headed toward the merchant hostile he was staying at. After he'd entered his room, Salmoneus finished the meal he'd ordered brought up, set the tray outside and carefully locked the door, making sure he wouldn't be interrupted.
When everything was ready, he went to stand before the window, which was wide open letting the breeze blow through the room, cooling the night air. He stood there, closed his eyes. When he opened them, they glowed for but a minute and his appearance started changing. He became slenderer, his hair lengthened till it was to his mid-back and styled in braids beaded in specific patterns and colors. The hair darkened until it was a rich, dark blue black. His eyes were still the same hazel they were before, although there was a deepness that hadn't been visible before.
When the change was completed, Salmoneus went and picked up the scroll. It started glowing and he called out, "Who calls me?" The command was explicit, no room for denial.
In the corner, a flash of light lit up the bedroom. To his surprise, Aphrodite appeared, as usual, wearing as little clothes as she could get away with. Salmoneus didn't know what to think. He knew that there wasn't supposed to be any way that she could know about him. Wary, his stare remained on her, waiting until the love goddess deigned to explain.
"Aphrodite, what is going on? Who gave you the sacred seal?"
"Oh don't get your bones out of place, you old salmon. I'm here at the
bequest of Hera."
"That's who I thought was supposed to be here. That still doesn't explain just who gave you the words and authority to command me."
"Why don't you zip your lips, I'll explain. You don't have to get your panties in a wad."
Salmoneus just sighed and wondered what on earth he'd done to deserve this. He shook his head silently, he knew what he'd done to deserve it.
"Don't shake your head at me! I wouldn't be here if I didn't have to be. Although, I must tell you, you look scrumptious like that. Why don't you look like this more often?"
Patience lost, Salmoneus' temper blew up. "Aphrodite!!!"
"Okay, Okay. Here's the deal. I'm here to tell you it's time. Gaea and Don's commanded us. Everything's supposed to be in place and it's time for shift over."
Everything just went numb in his body. After fifteen years waiting for the command of his goddess, he was surprised it was coming from a Greek goddess and not his own goddess.
"Okay, Aphrodite, is everyone in place?"
The goddess nodded and Salmoneus began to pace as he gathered his thoughts together.
"I know the first thing I need to do is break out Jett. It's a good thing I'm an excellent actor or that'd be impossible. I take it Joxer's being taken care of by someone else?" Dite nodded again in agreement. "Okay, that just leaves Jace. I'll have to have Iphicles contact his brother and draw him here. I just hope Iolaus is keeping him well in hand."
Dite knew she had to leave, there couldn't be any connection known between them, then went on to tell him, handing him a scroll before he pop up with more questions, "Sweetie, here's the directions. That's everything you should need, both to get Jett out, and convince Jace. All explanations are detailed in that scroll.
As Dite quickly disappeared, a strong, violent, charismatic personality began to show through his eyes. Finn mac Cumhaill or Fintan was more than ready for this. He'd been waiting here in this blasted country for instructions of his goddess who'd granted him another life. As a Gaelic prophet, poet, and warrior, Finn had been the personal cook to his father's brother, king of his fealch, when he was but a young man. As he was preparing the red salmon that his uncle had thrown him to cook for him, with instructions never to let any part of the fish touch him, he'd accidently burnt himself on the salmon he was cooking. When he'd brought his hands up to suck, trying to alleviate the burn, the wisdom of the ages poured into him.
Becoming the personal advisor to the king, he'd had a wonderful life, leading the Fianna or what are known as the sacred foot soldiers of Erin. Performing many brave deeds, fathering many children, he'd been ready to go his sweet reward at his death.
But, that was not to be. Sent to this foreign land at the command of his ancestor goddess, Don, he was instructed to wait. Already a powerful magician, he changed his appearance and made it seem inoffensive, well, except to those who weren't buying. It took over fifteen years, but he began to fit into this foreign land. It hadn't taken long to realize that he'd actually traveled back a couple of centuries in time. This time was before his birth, not that it truly troubled him, because he'd had a full and long life before his death.
At the time of his death, he was divorcing his wife, Ceridwen. Knowing that he wouldn't be able to return anyway, he came here without looking back. The only regret he had was leaving his son, Taliesin, behind. At four years, his son could already play the miniature harp. He hadn't a doubt that his son would become a famous warrior bard in years to come, following in his footsteps.
The goddess Don sent here to make sure the God Lugh's sons were okay, especially Cuchuliann, and watch them until they were ready to come home. That's exactly what he'd done. It was strange how his name actually means to find in Old Irish and his family name Vindos which means from wisdom. Having partaken from the sacred Salmon of Knowledge, he was considered to be without equal in wisdom and knowledge. Having survived four sacred wars, his clan considered him to be without equal.
He'd been exiled for stating the truth, although he proved his statement, therefore winning the respect of his people. Then, after his death and coming to this country, he'd learned the Greek language and learned to read and write. Now, as a bard of his country, songs and tales were passed down through the oral tradition. There wasn't much need for written words. It was a surprise to find something that he enjoyed learning while he waited. Taking the name Salmoneus was also amusing. It's irony meant something to him, especially since the name was composed of a syllables which sounded like salmon, the sacred fish of the see and the ones that granted knowledge to those who would eat him.
He'd waited and now it was time. The only thing he wasn't exactly happy about was that he had to find a way in one month to make Jett, one of the most powerful assassins in Greece, fall in love with him. And what was worse, he was forbidden to use his own true appearance.
He groaned, throwing himself down on the bed. Times like these, it just wasn't worth it to wake up in the morning. His goddess sure expected a lot from him. It didn't help that he'd seen the laughter in Dite's eyes. Please kill me, Don. I'd really appreciate it.
Cavern of Fates
"Mother, it's beginning!" Lachesis came bursting into the cavern, excited with her knew. Her sisters, Clotho and Atropos had grins on their faces.
They cried as one, "We Know!"
Stopping in her tracks, Lachesis looks at her teasing sisters. "How do you know what I'm talking about. I just wove it!" The indignant tone in her
voice set her sisters off laughing. Lachesis was always so affronted when the got the goods on her.
"Girls, Girls, don't tease your sister. You know she doesn't like it."
The three young women turned their heads and watched as their mother, Moira came down the steps from the cavern which held the pool of destiny. Next to her were two women. They screeched and jumped to meet their great-grandmother, Gaea. There was another elder goddess standing next to her, with long flowing blond hair and rich blue eyes, which were twinkling in excitement at seeing so much happiness in her friends grandchildren.
Standing there three in a row, waiting for their mother or grandmother to introduce them, the three fates stood there, hardly able to stay still.
Moira, seeing the excitement in her daughters' eyes, introduced the stranger. "Girls, this your grandmother's friend, Don, Queen goddess of the sky and harvest in the Celtic pantheon."
Clotho, the youngest burst out, "You're the one we rewove the tapestry for!"
Nodding, Don smiled at the joy in the three daughters of fate. Somewhat different from the Celtic tapestry of Life weaving on it's own. After they'd sat down, Don spoke up, "Moira, children, I understand you know that we've begun the shift over?"
Moira spoke for herself and her daughters. "Yes. The weaving is nearly complete. Grandmother Gaea, I know I shouldn't ask, but for the weaving to work, is there anyway that an exception can be made."
Gaea frowned. It was the constant exceptions that kept getting her friend's pantheon into trouble. Don's children just did not want to leave fate alone. "It would depend on what you're asking."
"Well, you know the trouble we had with the tapestry at Cupid's then Strife's birth?" When Gaea nodded, Moira continued, "I don't think you're aware but by altering the Celtic tapestry, it's done something that we didn't expect. Now, we think that we know of a way to correct what Eris has done. Neither of those two should have had to face what they are facing. And Psyche does not deserve not having the love that she has given her entire life for."
Gaea and Don looked at Moira, waiting for her to go on. Don knew who she was referring to. That had been one of the most tangled situations she'd ever seen. If Strife had been given to her grandson to raise, than there wouldn't have been any problem to day. And to know that Strife and Cupid had the fewest choices able to be made in the entire Grecian pantheon.
"I can fix the tapestry because now that we're reweaving the whole pattern to fit the triplets in, there's a way to fit them in, too."
Suddenly, Gaea and Don caught on at the same time. They knew then what Moira was planning. When Moira saw their comprehension, she grinned and told them, "Actually, your weave and ours have already been working on it. We...um..decided to just go ahead and do it. Figured since we were the experts, might as well just give ourselves permission." Then, Moira gave Don a sly look, telling the ancient goddess, "Actually, Pappy and I got along great. It invited me over for tea next week. Think I'll go." She then just exploded into happiness, began to dance around the move, never standing stillin one place.
A stunned look on Don's face, she exploded with, "Pappy?"
Moira began to spin around, clapping her hands, bouncing, all together acting like the young girl she wasn't. Even her daughters stood there
flabbergasted. Watching their mother start act like a kid was embarrassing, especially at HER age.
Moira didn't care and just answered the elders question, "Well, I had to call it something. I rather like the sound of it. Can't wait to find out if its
good in the sack as well."
"But...But...uh.." Don was speechless, Gaea's mouth was closed in stupefaction and the kids weren't any better.
"Now, don't either of you two try to lecture me. I'm a big girl. As for you three, I want you on your best behavior. After all, if I have my way,
Pappy'll be your father. Now girl, come with me, I've a lot of things to prepare." She drug her shocked daughters away before her grandmother or the elder Don could say anything to her.
Finally, Don turned to Gaea and asked her contemporary, "Do know just how...uh...I mean...eh...Oh the hell of it! How the hell is she going to make love to a loom of STRINGS?"
Gaea kept her mouth shut and Don suddenly realized what she'd said. "Never mind! I take that back! What say we leave the happy, prospective bride, and go get some tea or better yet, some good strong ale. I think we're going to need it after 'Pappy' and Moira have their head."
She drug her friend to a local ale and tried to forget the images that just would not leave her head. How does one have sex with bunch a STRINGs?!
Back at Xena's camp, again
The next morning, Lian woke up and stretched. He couldn't help watch as Ares woke up too. His eyes were glued to those gorgeous pecs as Ares stretched and yawned. He shifted, trying to hide his sudden interest in Ares' body.
When Ares was fully awake, since he was feeling better, he tried to bring his power close enough to access and flash back home. But, to his surprise, there was something blocking it. He wasn't mortal. He found he could still materialize things, although when he tried to create a horse and chariot, it wasn't letting him.
He was confused. He didn't know what was going on. If he didn't know better, he'd swear someone put a limitation spell on him. But, that's supposed to be impossible. His parents and Gaea were the only two who had the power to do that. His eyes narrowed as he considered his options. They were headed toward Corinth. When they got to Corinth, he had a special teleport station at his local temple that could be used by a mortal if they knew how. He'd use that to return to his hall of war and find out what in blasted hell is going on.
"Joxer, we're leaving in a few minutes after we eat breakfast. Ares, you going home?"
"There's something preventing me. It looks like I'll have to go with you until we get to Corinth. At least this time, I'm not mortal. I should be grateful for some small favors."
Xena just nodded. She kept expecting Joxer to take revenge any minute. Of course, she knew she deserved it. And she knew Joxer wasn't cruel. She shook her head telling herself to just wait and see.
Now, while Xena was considering that, Leeare was working on the Plan. The one that he'd been given holy orders to implicate. Even while he considered this thing and that thing, laughter and mirth could be heard from his mind. Especially a certain mare who was just this close to slamming her hooves down on the arrogant asshole.
Argo found herself both confused and angry. Ever since she'd met the haughty Fomorian in the woods, after she'd been startled into bolting by that god, she'd wanted to hit some sense into him. She had never met a more chauvinistic steed in her life. It made her mad enough to want to scream.
Of course, she was also trying to deny the warm, mushy feelings he was causing inside her. 'I do not have mushy feelings for that pig. I do not want to sidle closer and take his neck in my teeth and shake him. I don't want him...'
'Yeh, yeh, you ol warhorse, you just keep telling yourself that. Of course, at least there's one good thing about queen witch's plan. If that doesn't shut Gabrielle up, than nothing will.'
When breakfast was over, they went on their way, all having different agendas they wanted to complete. The day had officially begun. All bets are off.
The Plan had officially started!
Cavern of Fates
"Strife! Report to the Cavern of Fates!"
Cupid had just left to take his son to the Muses for his daily instruction and education, leaving Strife behind. He was feeling down, although for
once, he was feeling somewhat happy. A uninterrupted day spent doing nothing but watching Bliss did that too him. But, hearing Moira's voice, it sent chills down his spine. There were few things he was frightened of, but after his experience with the Fates, they were almost enough to pass out. The only thing holding him together was if he didn't show up, then it would be worse for Cupid. He could never allow that.
Flashing out, only to appear in the Cavern, he popped in, evidently interrupting an argument between the three daughters.
"Lachesis, you're not the one that has to perform to the IT! Can't you DO something? I don't want a foreign tapestry as my stepfather!" Clotho was pacing up and down the cavern, her face was burning red with embarrassment and her fists kept pounding the air as if she wanted to hit something else.
"Oh, deal with it, Clotho! We're all stuck in this situation. I've told you before, I don't know what to do and I sure ain't going against mother! If
you want to, count me out. I'd rather deal with a blasted cloth for a stepfather than have mother as an enemy. That, I don't need!" Atropos had finally burst into her sister's argument. As the general peace maker, it took a lot for her patience to wear thin, but when it did, you don't want to be around her.
Strife took in the chaos in the cavern, his powers were actually receiving a boost of energy from the arguing, but since, he didn't want to get into
anymore trouble, "Am I interrupting anything?"
"Oh! Didn't see you there! Sorry about that, we're having a little family spat right now!" Atropos broke in before her sisters said anything. She knew how they were and she did not want them opening their mouths.
"Strife! You're here! Why don't you come to my parlor?" Moira was standing at the bottom of the steps. She was dressed, well, you'd have to see it to believe it. It definitely wasn't what the Fate's reputation had her represented as. It also wasn't what she'd been wearing when he'd seen her before. It, well it looked tacky.
"Uh...yes, you uh...called?"
"Sure did, Sweetie pie. Take a seat and have a load off."
Strife was beginning to feel dread from the way Moira was acting. "Uh, mistress, is there something wrong? Anything I can do to help?" He was
almost at the point of calling Asclepias, but Moira responded before he could.
"Oh, No, I'm just in love." The smile on her face sent Strife's heart plummeting even further. Scared didn't even begin to say how he felt. "As for why you're here, well, I got a surprise for you!"
Cautious now, Strife was starting to hyperventilate, not looking forward to what had Moira so bright and cheerful.
"If you do a little job for us, working with Hera and Aphrodite, than I think we can fix the problem with you and Cupid."
"Wait a minute, now! If you're trying to break them up, I won't let you. Damn it, you were the ones who said Cupid and I couldn't marry, you were the ones who told me I couldn't have a child, you were the ones who placed the geas on us, and now, when you totally screw up our lives, you expect me to let you hurt the one person who's been able to bring Cupid some happiness! Lady, I don't know what you're doing, but you have another thing coming if you try to hurt them, after all you've done to us!"
Softly, Moira spoke, knowing she had to be careful how she explained the facts, "Listen Strife, we're not going to hurt Cupid or Psyche. In fact,
there's a way to bring happiness to all of you. We wanted to speak to you first, because if you don't agree than we can do nothing. If you agree, than we need permission from Psyche as well. You have to realize, neither of you will be hurt, and in truth will set right what should have been corrected from the beginning, but couldn't be."
Strife was silent as he considered his options, he wanted to be with Cupid so much, loved him and his son with his entire soul, but he wouldn't be able to live with himself if he hurt the beautiful woman who not only gave Cupid a beautiful son, but loved him when he wasn't allowed to. Psyche knew the truth and her heart was big enough to accept what couldn't be changed. She never got jealous, knowing firsthand what it was like to go through hell for your love. She deserved more than Cupid could give her. He'd always known that and continually felt sorry for her.
But she dealt with it all, and thrived on the love she received, even from himself. She was like his little sister and he cared deeply for her.
She'd once told him that her father had planned for her to marry this old warlord. She'd have had no say and would have had to do what her father told her to do. It had changed her life around when Aphrodite became jealous of her and forced her to marry her son, under the condition that she was never to see his face. She'd been a fool for listening to her sisters when they became jealous. She should have trusted what her heart told her, that Cupid would never hurt her, even if she didn't know what he looked like. But she had, and then had passed the challenges to win her husband back, therefore learning to have confidence in herself and her strength. She'd told him that it didn't matter if she didn't have Cupid's whole heart. What she did have was far more than she'd ever expected in life and she was grateful for it.
"I'll agree, as long as it doesn't hurt or harm Psyche and Cupid in any way, and only if she agrees as well."
Moira smiled, "I'd hoped you'd say that! Psyche, please, come here! You are summoned!"
Psyche suddenly popped into the room, concern on her face, and fear at having been summoned by the Fates. Her husband and beloved Strife had told her what had happened the last time they'd been summoned, although they sure hadn't told her to prepare herself for Moira's appearance. "You called, Moira?"
"Yes, Psyche, dear, please sit down next to Strife. I need to ask you two some questions and then I'll ask you two to make some decisions."
Psyche sat down next to Strife, trembling from an inner fear. When Strife saw that she was shivering, he pulled her in his arms, trying to provide the comfort that he didn't feel himself.
"Now, the reason I've asked the two of you here is that thanks to a foreign tapestry, we are at a point where if certain actions are taken, then we can actually correct what was wrong before."
It was Psyche who was confused now, since Strife had an inclination of where this was heading. Seeing there confusion, Moira continued.
"Strife, as you know the whole point of the reason that you and Cupid could never be together was because of the actions taken by your mother in keeping you against the patterns woven in the Celtic pantheon's Tapestry of Life. Psyche, if Cupid and Strife hasn't told you, than you need to be aware that while Strife's birth was foretold, his mother was supposed to give him to the foreign pantheon, as one of their gods. When Eris kept Strife, what happened was that I and my daughters were pushed to weave and figure out a way to keep Strife alive within the Grecian Tapestry of Fate. It was basically a rush job. That was why the conditions were placed upon Cupid and Strife. Cupid was always supposed to marry you, and it's your marriage and love that will last thousands of years in the hearts of mortals. They need to believe in your relationship with all their beings."
"Cupid and I were destined to be together?" Psyche voice trembled as she asked that.
"Yes, dear. But the problem was that if Strife and Cupid had stayed together, than when you two were destined to meet and marry, Cupid would
already have been married. You would have been forced into marriage by your father and died soon after. Bliss would never have been born and your heart wouldn't have healed the relationships that you have since you've resided upon Olympus. Within you is an instinctive ability to heal the mind. It is the destined outpouring of your godly gift and why you were destined to be the goddess of the mind and mind healing. You have the ability to make people see the truth, to understand truth, where it plays out in life. You also understand the need for lies or untruth. Mortal or God, noone is ready for pure truth. Noone could survive. You understand that and you will go down in history as a goddess who is able to heal what is broken, see the underlying cause of what makes people destroy themselves."
Moira stopped and considered what she wanted to say further. She had to be careful and not insult either Psyche or Strife. They both had to agree for this to work.
"Now, why we've called you two. As I've just told Strife, there is a way to correct the patchwork weaving we did in the past as far as Strife is
concerned. But, to do so, we'll need an agreement from both of you. Psyche, as you know, Strife was supposed to be born into the Celtic Pantheon. When he wasn't, they had to do some patchwork weaving of their own. But now, since the problem with the three triplets, who were sent here to protect them, the patterns of both our tapestries have to be woven and it must be much stronger than it was before."
Strife was thoroughly confused. He blinked, trying to get his thoughts together. "Uh...what did you mean about the triplets?"
"Oh, I forgot, you don't know about that! Well, just so you know, we aren't the only ones who have gods going against the weavings. The foreign Warrior God of the Sun, King of Albion went against fate by fathering triplets, three legitimate children. He was never supposed to have children by his only wife. There's a longer story than that, but suffice it to say, because these children had to be woven into the pattern, suddenly, like we had to do with you, it did just as patchwork job as we did. As a result, the three boys were scheduled to die at age fifteen. But, again, their father brought his son back to life after he died his scheduled death. This also saved the life of his brothers because the eldest triplet then saved his brothers life. When this totally screwed up the tapestry again, it had to do something. It therefore sent the boys into the future, to here in Greece. It's been ten years since they've been here and all three grew up in both nature, skill and personality. The youngest, Jace as a god of desire and fertility, he learned to control and harness the needs he has inside. The middle son, the one you know of as Jett, is a god of death, of spirits. His duty has always been to help those who die pass over calmly into their Otherworld or Aurinoc. But he'd always been afraid, of both taking lives and being a god of death. Here in Greece, he's learned to control his abilities and to overcome his fear of what was unknown to him before. That's why he's a great assassin."
Moira paused, taking a few moments to catch her breath before she went on to the difficult part of that story. When she had her breath back, she went on, "As for the last, well he caused so much trouble within his people that it's a wonder their tapestry isn't worse off then it is. The eldest, Cuchuliann or he who you know of as Joxer was a warrior hero, strong, powerful and arrogant. He gained too much at too young an age. Due to the fact that a curse passed to him by his father kept him from marrying a woman, he became a womanizer which eventually lead to his death. That's why their father sent his sons here, to learn to control their natures and for Cuchuliann to find a way to either break the curse or find a way around it."
"Wait a moment, why is he forbidden to marry?" Psyche was the one who broke in this time. She was intrigued by this story and without realizing it, her power was utilizing itself to try and figure out a way to heal the cursed man.
Moira smiled. "The curse states that he can't marry a woman made of earth. Unfortunately, even the God's come from the earth, so basically, he can't marry without dying."
"But what about a man! Why can't he marry a man if he's forbidden to marry a woman?" Psyche burst out with the obvious solution.
"Unfortunately, the Celtic Gods are different in some ways than the Grecian Gods are. One of the major differences is that there males cannot progenate themselves. All Grecian Gods are able to both sire and bear children. It is that way to insure that there will always be children born. The Celtic's are not like that. If Cuchuliann had been able to marry a man and have children it would have been a moot point. But, the boy wanted children and it affected him growing up, making him a womanizer, arrogant, and unconsidering of mortals."
"Hey, now! That doesn't sound like the Joxer I know!" Strife exclaimed. He knew Joxer, and rather liked the mischief making man.
Chuckling, Moira agreed, "Yeh, he's not like that now. His father inadvertently made a mistake when he sent him here. He accidently separated
him with his bonded, a Fomorian war steed. When someone is separated from their bonded it changes them, makes them lose their memory, lose their mind's ability to process information, making them slower, not as able to comprehend things as they should be."
Psyche interrupted, "That sounds interesting, Moira, but that doesn't explain why the two of us are here."
"I was getting to that. Now, because we're in the process of reweaving, both the Celtic's tapestry and ours, together we've been able to find a way to balance out the fates. The first thing is that none of the triplets can ever return to Erin. They must remain here in Greece. But, because they're gods, we'll have to weave them in as gods. Now, what this is doing is basically making their tapestry even more unbalanced, losing so many potential gods. So, we have found a way to even it out. That's where the two of you come in. Psyche, because the Celtic pantheon needs replacements for their gods, what we propose is to have you transferred to their pantheon. I know you love Cupid, but as you know, you aren't his soulmate. Strife is. By sending you to Erin, you'll basically have a fresh start. You'll still retain your godly nature and they could use someone with your ability. In fact, they truthfully need it more than we do. You'll have your pick of husbands if you want one."
"That is a problem, Psyche and we do know it will be hard for you. We have found a way to help with that. What we propose to do is to send you to the pantheon, pregnant."
"Pregnant!" It burst out of both their lips. Strife and Psyche were both shocked.
"Psyche, we know that you came to love Strife's daughter, Talia as much as your own Bliss. It was nearly as hard for you to lose a child you had taken into your heart as your daughter. What we've agreed to is to let Talia be reborn as your child, into a foreign pantheon. This not only allows her to live again, but it will help your loneliness to know that you still have someone who connects you to your origins."
They were stunned. Strife had never considered this. It did sound wonderful, although to lose his daughter again...well, at least she'd be
living which she wasn't doing now. But then, he remembered, "That still doesn't help what you'd told us about Cupid's destiny, even Psyche's godhood, how they'd become beloved of the mortals for centuries."
Moira laughed. She'd known they'd come to this. It was great finally having a solution to all their problems. "Actually, everything will be as it was
supposed to be, at least as far as mortals are concerned. Strife, there will be a sacrifice required from you as well. When Psyche leaves, that will leave a gap in the pantheon that won't be filled that easily. Mortals must continue to believe in Cupid and Psyche as a couple. What we suggest is by duplicating Psyche's godhood within you. You'll perform your duties as Strife half of the time and Psyche's the other half. Now, I know that doesn't seem like a sacrifice to you, and that's because it isn't. What we need is for you not only to take on the godhood but her appearance and personality. The time you are performing her duties, you'll basically be Psyche. In every way that matters. Even her memories will be transferred to you, so that your representation will be complete. But, Strife, you don't have to worry about your soul. It'll still be you and it will still be your soul that is the other half of Cupid. We think this will be the perfect way for us to finish off the patterns."
Psyche and Strife were speechless. Moira had basically handed them everything they'd ever wanted in a nutshell. Psyche would have her freedom and be able to choose her own destiny, which she'd never been able to do in her life. Strife, well he'd get Cupid and Bliss. He might have lost his daughter, but he'd gain a son. Turning to the beautiful woman who was like his sister, he saw the same thoughts running through her mind.
They turned as one, "We'll do it!" It came out at once at the same time.
Moira leaned back in her chair, grinning now that she had their agreement, "Before this can be done, though, I need the two of your help. Strife, I want you to visit Salmoneus soon, as in..." She went on to explain the plan. Before she was through explaining what both Psyche and Strife had to do, they were rolling down on the ground laughing. It seemed as if hysterical laughter was an contagious thing, if the number of people who laughed at the Plan were anything to go by.
Corinth's Old section, Original thoroughfare, Main Holding Prison
Salmoneus watched the comings and goings into the prison all day. He questioned and found out that you had to be a relative to get into the prison to see one of the inmates. Even though he'd never been in the prison before, with everything he'd heard, he wondered if Jett would even still be sane. Erin didn't have prisons, they just killed those who violated law. Trials and Justice were a far cry in his homeland.
After he'd seen and learned all he could, he went back to his hostile and tried to come up with a decent plan to get Jett out of there without hurting them or anyone else.
"˜Why in the world did I claim that Don wasn't my goddess anymore. That I didn't owe my wife and children to her.' Salmoneus shook his head ruefully. That's what one gets for insulting one's goddess, especially in front of kith and kin. Then to find out that as punishment for his stupidity, he was going to be sent on a long trip and be required to marry whoever the goddess wants him to marry.
He knew he should be satisfied that Jett was at least not ugly, as far as a man goes. It could have been worse. The biggest problem he had was that he didn't care for men. Never had. He'd had plenty of woman, his wife and servants, plus anyone who caught his fancy. Being a famous poet and warrior, his rep let him have just about any woman he wanted. Now, he was on the returning end of it. Not only had his marriage become annulled, but he wasn't allowed to let the anchor which held his illusion of a somewhat homely man, slip or be revealed for any reason.
As he sat eating his food, he went over the scroll Aphrodite had given him. He'd known ever since he'd seen Jett, that he was who his goddess wanted him to marry. He went to rub his rear as he remembered the slap that had startled him as he'd been watching Jett assassinate one of the council members. He truthfully just hadn't cared to stop Jett, didn't really care for Grecian people at all. What was one more death to him? Unfortunately, his goddess hadn't seen it that way.
After being knocked on his ass and knocked out by Jett when the assassin spotted him, he woke up to find his goddess Don sitting on an ornate chair before him, telling him he should have known better. That just for that, he could marry Jett.
Not only would it keep him occupied but it would amuse her as she watched him try to court the famous assassin, especially since he wouldn't be able to use his own form. He pouted without realizing it. It didn't help that his normal appearance was a hell of lot better looking than this. Just how was he supposed to woo him. Bring him flowers, feed him chocolates, hold down his next victim so he could kill him easier? Yeh, right, like Jett need that.
He shook his head, trying to clear it and work out a plan. As he considered things for a while, it suddenly occurred to him. Only a wife and children may enter to see the prisoners.
Well, if a wife was what it took to get Jett, than a wife was what he'd have. Now all he had to do was figure out a way to get a child. Hmmmmm....
Joxer was cussing loud and making sure that everyone knew he was pissed. After all this time, after finally getting his bonded back, in a way that wouldn't kill him and he couldn't ride him. Xena wanted to walk and what Xena wanted, she got. And Ares was too tired to flash out, so they'd have to take it slow heading toward Corinth. He still wanted to know why Leeare wouldn't let him ride him. The only thing he got out of his annoying so-called steed was that he needed to be patient. They needed to walk to Corinth, so that's what they'd do.
He did have to admit that talking to Ares, finally communicating on a one on one basis was wonderful. It's, in truth, what he'd always wanted. Well, he wanted more than that, but he'd take what he could get.
He was getting fed up with Leeare, though. Maybe it was his suspicious mind, but he hadn't thought Leeare was that clumsy. Everytime Leeare tripped, he fell against his master, which in turn pushed him against Ares. Not that he really had a problem with that, but he didn't want Ares to get the wrong idea. If there was one of two things he couldn't survive, it was to lose Leeare completely and to lose Ares as his God.
They'd been traveling hard that day, trying to make up for the time that they'd been halted, waiting for Ares to revive and recover. Xena and Gabrielle were both trying to make sure that Joxer had too much else to think about than them. Of course, they both knew he wasn't going to hurt them, but nothing was said about not making them pay.
Quickly, Xena stopped, Lian right behind her. They both listened. Ares, who already had his head tilted to the side, softly commented, "There's eight of them. They're well armed and it's going to be hard to fight them, especially since I'm not up to full strength. My strength is about what a mortal's would be right now."
Lian nodded, understanding that the way Ares felt, he wouldn't be much good in this fight. He also knew that Gabby would most likely not be careful. He knew, as an experienced warrior, it was her overconfidence which was most likely what would kill her in the end. Of course, he didn't have any room to talk. It was that same overconfidence that had killed him, getting him into the situation he was in right now.
They reached the ambush site and all eight jumped out, trying to surprise them. Instead, they turned the surprise on them. It wasn't minutes late,
that all eight were out of order, lying on the ground unconscious. Gabby hadn't even had a chance to touch one, before Xena and Lian had taken them out.
They were about ready to travel on their way, when Lian noticed a flash of white in the trees. He ran over to the trees and looked around. He stopped when he came to the clearing off the main road. He stared. It was two horses. Beautiful war mares, one an exquisite white-grey in color and the other, somewhat larger, was even more beautiful. At first glance she was nearly black in color. But, as he looked closer, he noticed that she was a dark blood bay. He'd never seen a color like that on a horse. Both were definitely expensive and how the thieves got their hands on horses as fine as these, he had no idea.
Going up to them, he untied their reigns and started to pull them out onto the road. A glance around told him there were no saddles to go on the mare. Oh well, I'd better take them to Corinth, maybe there's an identifying mark on them for the owner.
As he led the two out onto the road, he didn't notice the intelligent look the two mares were giving him. If he had, he'd have run fast the other way. Instead, he all unknowingly, brought his doom upon him.
We return to Corinth
First, Salmoneus looked at the list he'd made of to do things.
1) Find Jace, Need his help.
2) Need to go shopping, have to hunt for appropriate items.
3) Need kid.
4) Make sure guards on duty are on the take.
5) Need the one of Eris' apples of Discord
6) Got to find Auto, so he can get said apple.
Looking over his list one final time, he thought that should do it. He rolled it up and got his things together. First things first.
Salmoneus headed to the section of Corinth that was like a street of nothing but temples. Nearly every god had a temple there. In fact, Iphicles was constantly complaining about the upkeep of said temple. He just made sure he only did it when no gods were around, or at least when he thought so.
He quickly found Aphrodite's temple and entered it. It was all he could do not to just back out and scream. Pink and he just did not get along well together. Then his mind did a double take. Oh Shit! Better retract that. Please, Goddess, don't let it be PINK!
Shaking his head, trying to get rid of those most horrific thoughts, he went to one of the priestess'. It's a good thing that Dite hadn't made him have to hunt all over the cosmos for Jace. If he was under some kind of time limitation, which he wasn't sure he wasn't it was better to be safe than sorry.
Damn, the gods sure must want us married, Joxer, Jett, and Jace, and all at once. He didn't know what the world was coming to.
Waiting for Jace in the reception room, he heard a soft voice ask, "May I help you?"
He turned and stared. If he hadn't known that this was a male, he would have thought she was one of the most beautiful women in the world. He was speechless for moments as he took in the middle triplet. It was moments before he could gather his mind together and form some type of speech.
Jace nodded, a wary look in her eyes. She didn't know who this man was, but when she's under firm orders from the Goddess Aphrodite to help and assist him, it wasn't wise to complain in any way unless you wanted your ability to function for pleasure abruptly taken away.
When Dite had ordered her to help the man who would ask for her today with all her capability, she'd become concerned. She didn't say anything to Dite, but she hoped having sex with him wasn't part of it. While she enjoyed sex on her own terms for pleasure she wasn't a whore. And she didn't like being treated like one.
"Jace, my name is Salmoneus. I understand Dite told you I needed your help?" When she nodded, he continued, "Well, I need some of your special skill that you're more than able to help me with."
"And what's that?"
"I need you to make me out to be a woman." As he said it, a bright, red blush flared upon his face. Embarrassment and mortification were the primary emotions he felt at that moment.
"OH! I thought...never mind. I don't know what I was thinking. Of course I'll help you." Jace felt a flush a relief run through her body. She was just so grateful that she wouldn't have to have sex with him, not that she wouldn't for her goddess.
Still blushing, Salmoneus decided he'd better reveal the whole truth if he wanted her help. He began to speak in an ancient form of Gaelic, "Aalann, the Goddess Don requests your help to put right the Tapestry of Life. Working along with the fates, lives are about to be changed real soon. Both you and I won't have a choice but to do what we have to, so we can stay alive."
Shocked, Jace's mouth opened and no words came out. Stunned and terrified, Jace was petrified that she would have to go home. She didn't want to. She'd found her place here. She didn't need to go back home to all that backstabbing, hatred and clan fighting. Then, as her emotions came under control, she looked hard at the man before her. While not ugly by any means, he was certainly homely. Although, as she looked into his eyes, she noticed the fierce intelligence in them. She decided she'd better be cautious. She definitely knew that she didn't want to get on the wrong side of this man.
"Who are you? How do you come to speak the ancient tongue?"
"My name is Finn Culainn. I'm Manannan's foster son. I was the leader of the Fianna until I...um...blasphemed the Goddess Don. She decided that since one of her decendants needed a husband, I'd make the perfect husband. So, I get exiled here to this place. If I'd had any idea I'd have to marry JETT, I think I'd rather had died!"
"Huh...Jett! You have to marry Jett?!" Jace screamed in total astonishment and shock. She knew her brother and if he had to marry this man...
Suddenly, Jace fell on the floor, laughing her head off. She couldn't help it. It was hilarious. Her brother, the most famous assassin in Greece having to marry a man as homely as this! She could just see it. If her brother didn't kill him, than he'd probably find a way to tame her brother, especially if the goddess told him so. She wondered. She knew the gods used toys to bind their servants to them. She wondered if this man had something like that for her brother. As she thought over all the possibilities, especially... She broke out laughing again.
"Okay! Okay! You don't have to keep laughing! It's not that funny! After all, your brother isn't the only one who has to marry. So too do you and Joxer!" Salmoneus was annoyed. It had taken him years to accustom himself to marrying a blasted assassin, especially one he didn't even like and here his brother was laughing his head off at the idea. It was enough to make him want to pound on something.
Jace stopped, looked up at him in amazement, "Say What?"
Realizing what he'd said, Uh oh, I don't think they wanted me to say anything about that. Oh well, "Yeh, you too. And if you think our marriage is wonderful, just wait till yours."
Before anything else could be said, Jace jumped up and grabbed hold of Salmoneus around his neck. Even though her current job didn't require armed warrior training, that didn't mean she wasn't one. With a father like Lugh and with the training she'd had since she'd been a child, it would have been expected. She'd killed more than her share of men in battle. Right at that moment, one more wouldn't hurt. Maybe she should take up Jett's job.
"Who, you asshole?" Jett growled at this Finn. Her grip left no room for argument.
Choking, Salmoneus hadn't been expecting this. He'd underestimated her and he should have known better. He'd known she'd been a great warrior and was the son of a warrior light god king. "I can't tell you!" He was able to get out with the breath he was drawing in.
"You'd better tell me. I don't give a shit if the gods or goddess' say otherwise. You'll tell me who they want me to marry now, and I'll be generous enough not to kill you!"
Barely able to answer, Salmoneus was finally able to breath out, "Hercules!"
The minute he said Hercules' name, he felt the grip loosen and before he had time to react, Jace had passed out in the middle of the floor.
"Oh Hell! What do I do now?"
Back again to Xena's Camp
As Joxer lead the two mares out to the others, Xena, Ares and Gabrielle all stared at the beauty of the two war mares.
Ares, who adored horses himself, exclaimed in a whistle, "Gorgeous!"
Even Xena had to nod at that. The two mares Joxer was bringing up were easily on pare or even better quality than her Argo and that was saying a lot, with how much Argo would be worth if she was sold.
Xena asked him, going up to the mare and petted them, asked, "Where did you find these beauties, Joxer?"
Lian looked at her and commented, with a smirking sound in his voice, "Well, you might try calling me Lian before you ask." After Xena blushed from her mistake, went on, "Found them in a clearing just ahead behind the trees off the road. I'm assuming the thieves stole them from someone. I didn't see any identifying mark, but someone's got to own these beauties. They'd be a fool not to try to get these back."
Before Lian had a chance to say more, the grey mare, pulling the reigns out of his hands trotted over to Leeare. Leeare didn't have chance. The mare was suddenly nipping his hind quarters, which among horses is a sign of claiming a mate. Stunned, Leeare didn't react. Further, the dark red bay, a darker color than his more blood or crimson red, broke free and went to fiercely nip the grey.
In the next moments, there was an all out fight between the two war mares. It became obvious very quickly that both were well skilled in the training they'd undergone. They were fighting as if they were at war. And they were fighting over a male stallion and they weren't in heat.
The fearsome foursome stood there and gaped. They didn't know what was going on. These two mares had at first been perfectly calm. One look at the blasted Fomorian, and they had two war steeds fighting over him.
It was at that moment that Argo decided to take matter into her own hands or hooves as they say. She ran forward, brought herself between the two mares and screamed out a loud neigh. The implicit command in it, even for the mortals who didn't understand her, was obvious. A second later, the two somewhat bloodied mares stopped, but, while growling at each other, to their surprise, decided to siddle up to Leeare, one on each side.
Argo watched in amazement and if she'd been honest enough to admit it, jealousy as well. They were trying to claim what was hers. If she'd been aware, she'd have realized that her thoughts were very possessive of the Fomorian. He was hers and they weren't going to have him.
As the humans and gods waited until order was brought, no one heard the comment the red bay mare said to the grey in their minds. Even the Fomorian and Argo couldn't hear them.
"Did you have to do that!"
"Of course! We were told to make it real!"
"You didn't have to bloody me!"
"Well what do you expect! How else is two mares supposed to fight over a stallion? Hold hands, recite poetry, what did you think they did! Jeez!"
"Oh, stuff it! We're stuck in this position and we'll do the job like we were told to!"
"But...but...I'm a FEMALE!"
"Oh, don't give me that! Do you think two Males would be fighting over a Stallion?"
"You don't have to sound so amused! I can hear the snickers in your mind!"
"So, deal with it!"
"I am never going to forgive you for this. How did I get myself into this? Oh right, because I was bloody told to! Please get me away from women. I can't believe I have to do this! Why did they..."
"STOP WHINING! IF I HEAR ANOTHER MORE SOUND OUT OF YOUR MIND, I DON'T CARE IF IT'LL RUIN THE PLAN, I AM COMING AROUND THERE AND POUNDING YOU UNTIL YOU CAN'T EVEN TELL YOU'RE A FEMALE. STUFF IT!"
Aphrodite's Temple, Corinth
Salmoneus just looked as his unconscious new companion. After passing out, he wasn't sure what to do about her. Finally, deciding he really didn't give a damn, he lifted her up and carried her over to a couch. Seeing a water jug nearby, he went over, wet a cloth and brought it back over to lay over her head. Jace groaned. Seconds later, she opened her eyes, saw Salmoneus, and screamed her head off, trying to back away from him on the couch as fast as she could.
Suddenly, Dite's temple priests and priestesses ran inside, some having some kind of weapon in their hands. One, who looked kinda important, ran over to Jace, asking her if she was all right. It was then, Jace came to her senses.
Nodding her head shakily, she turned to the priest. "It's okay, Idarius, I'm okay. I was just...um...I just received some terrifying news. Scared me for a few minutes. I'm sorry."
Idarius went over Jace's face, visually checking for signs of extreme trauma. He stopped when he didn't see any sign of forced touch on her. Turning, he looked at their guest. Seeing a concerned expression in his eyes, he finally asked, "If you're sure. You positive you don't want anyone to stay with you?"
Shaking her head, Jace said no. Moments later the entire entourage left. Jace took those precious minutes to compose herself. She didn't want to seem afraid or frightened, although, in truth, she actually was. No wonder Aphrodite wanted her to help him.
"Okay, whoever you are, whatever you want to be called, I've agreed to help you. But there is no way in hell that I'm getting near Hercules, let alone, MARRY him! So, you want to look like a woman. That'll be sorta hard, especially with your build, but we'll just add on some love handles. If you're wanting to free Jett, then I'd advise you to say you're from Siriuth. Jett had a lover from that village. It was well known she was screwed by him. It isn't so well known that they broke up. And since it was one of the temple priestesses of Hades, they kept it under wraps. Although people knew they were fucking, they made sure that few if any knew who it was. So, there shouldn't be any guards who know Cynthia by face. I'd recommend you be Cynthia for the purposes I'm guessing you need the disguise for."
Salmoneus nodded, liking the fact that she was still willing to help, even after he'd blurted out the truth. He was glad in one way. At least it meant that it would be up to the Gods to get the Jace and Hercules together. He smiled. That meant he didn't have to play matchmaker to the two. Dite would have to get someone else to bring them together.
Trying to hook up with Jett was enough of a headache. He didn't need anymore.
"Thanks for mentioning it. Now, what do I need to do first?" Salmoneus looked down at his tunic. It's glaring red-orange was probably not the most feminine of colors. "Um...I've been told that I'm not the most up to date on fashions. You have any ideas?"
Jace grinned. This was her specialty. Besides, anything to get her mind off the concept of having to marry Hercules. And unconscious groan came out of her. She was able to stop herself, only by focusing on the issue, which was getting this man to be a woman.
"The first thing we need to do, is go shopping. I hope you brought plenty of money."
Salmoneus whimpered. He loved to sell things on unsuspecting customers, but shopping, shopping was hell! A whine burst out of him, "Do we Have Too?"
Jace narrowed her eyes, giving him a glare to stop any further arguments. She told him through clenched teeth, "If you wanna look like a woman, then it's gonna cost. Now, I don't want to hear another word out of your mouth. The only thing you need to do is tell the merchants, Yes, Dear, I like that Dear. Anything else, and I can guarantee you won't be performing for Jett anytime soon, you got me?"
Horrified, Salmoneus just nodded. What had he gotten himself into. May I should have gone to someone else. It can't be any worse.
As they were leaving the temple, he decided to ask, "Jace, do you by any chance know where some children are for sale?"
The next thing he knew, a punch was aimed straight as his nose. With no time to duck, he landed on his ass, face hurting like crazy, looking up at a very pissed Jace.
"I think you'd better explain that!"
Ares was having a blast. It was actually quite entertaining to see two beautiful mares fighting like that, although...he rubbed his beard,
consideringly. If he didn't know better, he'd swear those two mares were Gods. But why would two Gods, change into horses and then fight over another horse. It didn't make sense.
Argo was prancing, hardly able to be kept under Xena's control. She'd already jerked her reigns out of Xena's hands twice, and was trying to do it again. Argo did not like those two prancing peacocks taking her claim. Raising her lips into a fierce growl, she burst out in horse-speak, "Get your hooves off him, NOW!"
The grey mare turned to look at her and gave her one of those horsy smiles that looks corny. "Hey, if you don't have him by now, he's up for grabs. Finders Keepers Losers Weepers. I'll take him any day. She turned her head, fluttering her eyes up at Leeare.
Leeare began to prance, trying to get away from the two mares. He was definitely not used to mares fighting over him like this. Their kind were not as proclivitive as Albionian war steeds were. They tended to take one or two mates and left it at that. Most just took one, especially since his kind lived a very long time. "Uh...Ladies!"
"Handsome, why don't we head off into those bushes and have a little fun. Or better yet, why not right now. I can sure provide with a helluva time." The bay sashayed up to his side, flirting in an obvious manner.
Argo, if she'd have been able to turn red with anger, she would have. About ready to pound these two poachers into little pieces of dust, Xena, somehow sensing what was going to happen, got her hands around Argo's reigns, getting a control bit in her, attached to her bridle. Xena rarely used it, mainly for the reason that you have to be an excellent horseman to make sure that the bit wasn't abused. But, in this case, Xena thought a little pain would be what saved her.
Finally, Leeare had had enough. "Now listen, you two, I just found my master and frankly, I don't want a female to bond to yet. Now, I'm sure you two lovely ladies would make excellent mates, but right now, stow it! I don't need it now."
All three mares stopped, astonishment in their postures and eyes, shocked that he'd said such a thing. The two new mares, pulled back and glared at each other. Argo shook her main, ignoring the pain of the bit, deciding then and there, before we get to Corinth, he's mine.
When Leeare broke free, he ran over to his master, needing to be petted and assured for once. Joxer crooned, "I know, luv, it's not easy having females fighting over you. One never knows how they'll react if you pick one and not them. I think females invented the concept of revenge. If they didn't, they sure must have specialized."
Ares was beside himself with laughter when Joxer said that. It was funny. Mainly for the concept of Joxer being fought over. He wasn't used to the idea yet, of Joxer being someone women would fight over, although, now that he thought of it...it was kinda funny that Meg's place had women falling all over him whenever he showed up.
Leeare noticed the contemplative look in Ares' eyes and decided it was a good time to implement the Plan. He moved in such a way that caused Lian to fall off balance. Ares, who was right behind him, caught him before he fell on his but. The movement put Joxer flush against his body. It caused both Joxer and Ares to pause, each feeling a sexual awakening that was apparent like that.
Joxer turned, raising his face a little to look up at Ares, "You..."
Ares nodded, "Yes." Then before anything more could be said, Ares bent forward and captured Joxer's lips in his own. Groaning, in a matter of a heartbeat, both were oblivious to their surroundings. For Joxer, it was like everything coming together. He still wanted Ares' love, but maybe sex would be good enough. It was more than he'd had before.
Ares felt a completeness that he hadn't felt in his lifetime. His mother, Hera, had always told him that it was his destiny to find his soulmate. Few
of the Gods would ever be so fortunate, Hera had told him It had amazed him that the fates were the ones who'd emphasized his destiny. They didn't usually give out that much information. Ares had waited, knowing that he would never be happy if he wasn't sure. He'd never been. But, kissing Joxer, he was now. His only trouble, would be to convince Joxer of that.
"Ewww, how icky can you get!?" Gabrielle suddenly exclaimed as she watched the two kissing. She made it sound gross as only she could.
Xena turned to Gabrielle and frowned, saying to her, "Gabby, I think it's cute. Besides, it's not like it applies to us." As she was saying that,
Xena was feeling kinda down. She'd been in love with Gabrielle for what seems like forever. After all they'd been through, it was as if she could
not get on the clue bus. It was times like that, that even she wondered just why she loved Gabrielle as much as she did. She shrugged inside, telling herself there's no accounting for my taste.
Joxer and Ares finished kissing, pulling apart with a great sigh. Inside, Joxer was trying to find a way to accept the fact that he'd never have Ares' love. Ever since he'd been exiled to this country, as soon as he'd found out about the War God, he'd worshiped and loved him to the best of his ability. In his life, there had never been anyone who he loved as much, including his brothers.
Ares, was surprised. He'd noticed Joxer ever since he'd followed Xena. He admitted he'd never been drawn to Joxer before but this was one time where someone who didn't seem to be a true warrior was ever in a place and time with the correct people to catch his attention. He'd always been amazed that Joxer had survived as long as he had. Now, he knew why. Evidently, Joxer's survival skills were always in play. He wouldn't doubt that a lot of his stumbling was deliberate, whether unconscious or not.
But, ever since he'd found himself stuck there with them, he was now opening his eyes and seeing inside of Joxer and liking him. In truth, he was probably in love with him, but he couldn't be sure. It wasn't like he had much experience with the emotion. The only thing he did know for sure was that Joxer was his. He wasn't giving up such a wonderful find and would fight to get him to return his feelings. He just hoped it wasn't just sex. Even if he wasn't sure of his love, he knew he wanted more than that.
Leeare, seeing the confusion, desire and uncertainty in his master's and Ares' eyes, just had to comment, "You know, you two look damn good together."
Joxer turned to his steed, giving him a dirty look, "Leeare, don't make me come over there. You wouldn't like it. I'm sure Xena wouldn't mind giving me the other control bit she has."
"Oops, sorry..." Leeare trailed off, quickly backing away from his master. He well remembered the experience of having one of those things in his mouth and it was enough to cause nightmares, since it had been in the hands of a terrible horseman, who'd tried to tame him. He did have to grin to himself, it hadn't worked but it was a time to remember.
"Don't give me that! You might want to learn to hold your tongue a little better."
Ares finally had to break in, "Lian, you know you don't have to jump on him like that. Take it for the complement it is. After all, you can't help it
if your steed and I think you're cute."
Joxer quickly turned his head, eyes meeting Ares' again. "You think I'm cute!" Joxer screeched.
Uh oh, looks liked I goofed, Ares thought to himself, "Now, Lian..."
"Don't you Lian me, God!" Joxer expressed God as if it was a command, "I could understand handsome, maybe I could see myself as attractive. A few have gotten away with calling be gorgeous, although those mostly didn't live long enough to say it again, but Cute. I am not nor ever have I been, CUTE! You got me?"
Ares nodded his head, quickly agreeing with a pissed off Joxer, trying to backtrack as soon as he could. "You're not cute, I mean...you're wonderfully presentable."
Joxer turned his nose up, as he considered that description. "Well, I guess that would be acceptable. Just remember now, cute and I don't get along."
Xena was smiling at the whole exchange, amused to see Ares falling back on his words as quickly as he did. Even Gabrielle found herself having to smile at the conversation. Even she saw the potential for manipulation with that.
Argo, seeing a chance to finally do something, stomped up to the humans, trying to convey with her body, come on, let's get going. She wanted a chance to win Leeare and she sure wasn't going to get it if she was stuck around there with the blasted bit in her mouth. Even she was careful not to go against it. It was painful if moved the wrong way.
She turned to Ares, sending him a pleading look in her eyes. Surprisingly, Ares understood. With a wave of his arms, he gave Argo the ability of mind speech. She was already intelligent, after all, she was one of the war horses from his stables. He'd given her to Xena as a gift and Argo was the one thing Xena had never denied of Ares.
As soon as she felt the power of the God come over her, Argo turned her head back to her mistress, making sure the reigns had enough slack, and spoke out loud in everyone's mind for the first time, "Mistress, can we please get on the road. I really don't want to stay another minute."
Shocked and astonished, Xena gaped at her horse, "You talk!?"
Giving her mistress a horsey grin, she shook her head and said, "Yep, Ares just gave me the ability to communicate with you. Can we go now, PLEASE!?"
Xena nodded, turning toward Gabrielle to see how she felt about the whole thing. Gabrielle responded to her look, saying, "I wouldn't mind going on now. After all, what are we supposed to do here, lay around and watch Joxer and Ares smooch and make kissey faces? I'd much rather get to Corinth sometime soon."
Although it was an insult, Ares didn't do anything. He was too bemused with trying to figure out how to keep Joxer that he wasn't paying much attention to what Xena's annoying blond said. He nodded his head too, wanting to get a little further down the road. It would give him a good chance to talk with Jox and learn more about him.
Market Place, Corinth
Having landed on his ass, Salmoneus stared up at the ferocious, fire breathing she-devil or whatever an angry, pissed, transvestite is called. It took him a couple of moments to remember what he'd just said to her.
"Uh, Jace? I didn't mean it like that!"
"Then exactly HOW did you mean it? I'm giving you thirty seconds to come up with a decent explanation before you're dead. 1...2...3..."
"Okay, Okay! The only reason I needed a child is that if I have to break into the jail by first going to see Jett looking like a woman, than I damn well need something convincing. I figured a child would more than convince the guards that I'm a lover or wife of Jett."
Jace looked down at the arrogant bastard in front of her. She'd been surprised to get the better of him, although from his looks, it looked like he'd let himself real down since landing in Greece. But, in all truth, she had to admit that he did have an excellent idea.
"I take it you want to borrow a child to be your kid for a day? Right?"
"Uh...yeh. I was actually hoping it could be for a little while longer. I don't know how long it's going to take to get Jett out of there. That's why I thought finding a child, most likely a slave, would be the best. I wouldn't be pressed to return the child and a mother wouldn't be worried until her baby can return. I can also make sure the child finds a good home once we're done with this charade."
Nodding her head, Jace replied, "I'll agree to that, as long as there'll be no abuse to the child. No child deserves to be hurt. They are the true innocents."
"You don't have to tell me that. I already know it full well. It's what I fought for those many years. The Goddess knows that I would never abuse a child and love children for their gift of insight, of believing in the best of others. Adults tend to lose that ability when they're older."
Deciding that they'd better get a move on if they wanted to be back before dark, Jace reached down and pulled Salmoneus up. When she did, she pulled a little too hard and yanked the blasted man up too quickly. He ended up pressed against her for a few minutes. Jace and Salmoneus were shocked and stunned into immobilization. For a few brief minutes until they were able to gain control, the intense heat that had flared up like lightning, dissipated, leaving them both breathless and not knowing what had just happened.
Jace was shocked. She'd never felt anything like that before. She'd been a servant to Aphrodite since she'd landed in Greece and it was only now that anything close to true desire had she felt. Trying to suppress the want and need that all of a sudden became extremely demanding, she tried to cope with the fact that if this was what she was almost sure it was, she'd swear she'd just initiated a soul bond.
Among her people, soul bonding was rare and it usually took a love god or goddess outside of a couple to marry their souls. But, a few couple's souls were powerful enough to join on their own. It also didn't help that she was a love and fertility god/goddess. The bearer of both sexes, she wasn't limited to one sex for reproduction. Her fertility demanded completion when it found a man or woman who was strong enough to join with her. The gift was instinctive and natural to her. It just hadn't happened to her before.
This man, Salmoneus was an arrogant asshole, who obviously thought he was god's gift to women and men, although why he'd think that looking as homely as he did, was another story. But, from the moment she'd seen him, she couldn't help but recognize the power of his soul and mind. It took a strong man to be able to leave Erin and perform a duty strictly because their goddess demanded it. She also knew that this kind of duty was never a punishment according to Don. It was considered a blessing.
And he was Jett's!
At that moment, she absolutely hated her brother for the first time in her life and wanted to kill him for having a chance to find completion. And yet, she was supposed to marry Hercules! That thing was a moronic shovel, who needed to find a way to shovel the shit out of his head as well as his locked-up ass.
She remained silent. At that moment, she questioned her loyalty for the first time. She still wasn't sure that Salmoneus would be worth it, though. And she knew, the more time spent with him, if she found out he was, then her pain would be a living hell.
She pulled away, trying to get herself together and face all the revelations that had occurred to her in just a matter of minutes.
Her life had changed.
Jace watched as Salmoneous walked ahead of him. Even as upset as he was for finally having found his soul bound mate, he was still willing to help out Salmoneous with his blasted plan for getting his dratted brother out of jail.
You'd think as good as assassin as Jett was, that he'd have been able to get out of jail if he'd wanted to. There were only two reasons that he could see for Jett still being in jail. Either he had some long term plans that a prison term would get someone to trust him or someone knew about his gifts and knew a way to bind Jett so he could not escape.
It wasn't common knowledge but silver merged with the blood of the binder could capture and keep one of the Danaan. Although they were gods, they weren't like the Greek gods. They were virtually immortal in the fact that they didn't age, but they were much more susceptible to death. His people were also much better at transforming into other beings. It was second nature to assume different forms, whether bird, canine, wolf, cat, horse, or bear, it didn't matter. It was a fact that his people tended to be attracted to one animal and it was that form that becomes second nature to them. Such as the Morrigu as the Raven and his father Lugh as a canine. His people also interbred with mortals so as to strengthen the pantheons. Unlike the Greek, there were various pantheons for the same land claimed. Different levels of existence that had been created for each people.
And the Goddess Don, Mother of the Danaan, was the mother of all.
If Don said jump, his people and the other races asked how high. The different Tribes of the Moon might fight against each other but they didn't go against the Great Mother.
And it was Don who made the claim of Salmoneous bonding with Jett.
He didn't know what to do. If had been any other god or goddess, whether Greek or Celtic, he'd say be dammned of it and go after Sal. But after knowing it was Don who made the statement, than there wasn't anything he could do, except make his soul bond happy and hope for the best. He wasn't exactly enthused about having to marry Hercules.
Salmoneous turned around and boomed in his loud, boisterous voice, "Hey, Jace, you comin' or not?"
Salmonous tried not to seem hurried but he wanted to get away from Jace. Ever since that moment....it was if he'd completed something, finished what had been undone. He wasn't exactly sure what it was that had happened, but he had the idea that it was his heart that had been claimed. Even his ex-spouse, it had been arranged and been more to please his community than himself. He'd always felt that he couldn't give his heart to anyone. At that moment, he was afraid that it was too late.
The boys ran from the chasing figure holding a wooden rolling pin running after them. The gang of them were swift and nimble and went to quickly split up. One of the leaders cried out "Split!" and in a heartbeat, they all disappeared in different directions. One of them was a slender, small boy that had a wiry physique about him. He found his escape root, slowed down, and suddenly went into his stealth mode, the one which allowed him to get away with pickpocking.
The only problem was, when he flashed around the corner, he landed smack into the arms of a tall man. A loud "eep!" was his only sound as he landed flat on his behind. Jerking his head up, the boy stared up at the man, the expression on his face one of pure fright. The only thing that could be seen through those eyes of his was the fear in them.
Salmoneous who'd had his introspective mood suddenly interupted, looked down at the young boy that had slammed into him. It was obvious that he was a thief and from the appearance of his lithe, wiry body, most likely a good one. At that second, Salmoneous had the brilliant idea to suddenly use this boy as his pretend child. He looked enough like Jett for someone to believe that he was his son.
Realizing that the boy was getting up and would disapear in a heartbeat, he grabbed hold of one the arms. A second later he found himself with a wildcat in his arms. The boy was fighting tooth and nail and continued to bite and kick until Salmoneous had the bright idea to push him against the wall.
Jace behind him had taken one look at the scene that had occurred so suddenly, and seeing this heavyset man who was having difficulty controlling a child that couldn't be no more than eight or nine, was hysterical.
Salmoneous getting fed up that he wasn't getting any help from Jace burst out, "Are you just going to stand there laughing your head off, or are you going to help me!" His demand was so plaintive in need that for a moment, it broke through the shell of laughter. But, it wasn't quite enough to get Jace to give up a source of amusement.
"I don't see why I need to. It looks like you've got him covered!" The double entendre, seeing Salmoneous pushing the boy against the wall using his body, had him in hysterics.
The boy stopped suddenly and looked rudely at the pretty woman that was laughing at him. His glare was enough to stop the laughter but it wasn't enough to stop the giggles that were continuing to come out of his mouth.
Salmoneous looked down at the kid and commented, "Well, Boy, it looks like I have an excellent use for someone with your capabilities." and started to drag him with him to the market.
The boy dragged his feet, seeming reluctant, but inside, well, the only thing that a certain high being could hear was "Get Me The Heck Out Of Here!" Blue eyes wasn't exactly enthused with his current job. But, a quick moment later, he began to laugh inside at the picture of his cohorts. At least he'd gotten to stay human. They hadn't. It was a good thing they couldn't hear his snickers.
During their break, Joxer and Ares were really getting to know each other. That included a lot of tongue swapping and continuous lip locks. Leeara enjoyed watching as his master kissed Ares. Joxer had been trying to get to know the War God, especially since he'd always been a womanizer in the past. He loved his master but he also knew that he had weaknesses. Unfortunately, women had been a major weakness. After all, it'd been the cause of his death. But, he'd noticed a change in his master since he'd returned to him and it looked as if because of that noticable maturity, he'd soon have another master. He wasn't above doing his best to throw those two together, but he had enough to worry about himself.
His life was nothing but a shamble and with three jealous mares after his tail, he wasn't having that great of a time. He'd been attracted to the gorgeous war mare, Argo from the moment they'd met. She was a spirited beauty who was more than a match for him. He wouldn't mind getting to know her if it wasn't for these dratted mares getting in his way.
Shaking his head, Leeara wandered over to golden mare. He was an intelligent creature and it seemed mighty strange for two other intelligent creatures to show up when they did. He was a Fomorian war stallion and suspiciousness was a part of his nature.
As soon as he'd made it next to Argo, he asked her, *Argo, what's wrong?*
*You have to ask that?*
*Yes, I do. I don't know what's going on or I wouldn't have asked.*
Argo looked at him as if she were considering what he'd asked, whether or not to answer. She finally sighed and hung her head down between her legs. It was obvious that she was not only physically tired from her jealous exertions but emotionally tired as well. *Sorry, Leeara. It's just that I've been attracted to you since I first saw you and that's never happened to me before. I'm a specially bred war steed. Ares made sure that we had human like thinking and reasoning capabilities so that we can better protect our masters or mistresses. Unfortunately, he'd had to make some compromises about our physical reproduction. Basically, that means we can only breed with another war steed. I wasn't expecting to find you attractive.*
*So, you do like me?*
*Of course I do! You don't think I'm jealous of those mares for nothing, do you?*
*I'm glad! I'd really love to get to know you, especially since my master will be a part of that war god's life, if looks are to go by.*
*That's one thing I've always disagreed on with my mistress. I don't think she's ever fully understood why the world need's war. As a creation of Ares, all of his war steeds are born with that knowledge. I love her, but Ares is my god. She should be grateful she still has me. Ares could have taken me away at any time and I would have been bound to leave. I was given to her for use because of her service to war. Now that she no longer serves war, I'm surprised that I haven't been ordered to leave.*
*I know what you mean. My kind were created for war as well. I'm just lucky that Lian was able to win me for his himself. I do have to say that it's been hell being separated and knowing there's not a damn thing I could do for him.*
*I know I've been a queen bitch lately but it doesn't help to be confronted with two other mares attracted to you as well. I not only have face the fact that you're not my kind, but you also have the option of two others if I don't have a chance. It's frustrating and I don't deal with well.* She looked up at the large, horned stallion, seeking the sympathing look he was giving her. Seeing it, she realized something. *What do you mean, win you? Did he win a bet or something?*
Startled, Leeare couldn't answer at first. He wasn't used to others asking about his kind. In his homeland, his race had been well known by reputation if not by sight. Just about everyone knew what it to took to win a Fomorian steed. He worked to make his answer understandable, although there were some aspects that she wouldn't be able to grasp. That was mainly because she wasn't a Fomorian. Haltingly, he started talking. *Although Fomorians were said to have been created by the Fomorian tribal race, that isn't true. We were actually created by the Goddess Don when the earth was first given light. We weren't horselike at first. We had a much more fearsome appearance and we were smaller in size. We were bred to be the guardians of the 12 light bringers, or what are known as the Tribes of Danaan. When Don created the tribes, she was worried about the conflicts that would occur. As a goddess, she knew that conflict is the only way humanity can grow. Without it, they can't learn the difference between good and evil and neither can they form the necessary way to think to hold free will. But, there are places that she created that were sacred and cannot be touched without fear of awesome repercussions. Fomorians were created to guard each Tribe's sacred place, making sure that nothing could be desecrated.*
Confused, Argo listened to the deep voice in her head. She wasn't entirely sure what Leeare meant about not being horselike. She'd just assumed that they had been manipulated from horses into the war steeds. It seemed as if she got that backwards. Shaking her head, she decided to just ask, hoping to clear up her confusion. *If you weren't horses, what were you? I mean, did the goddess change you that much?*
Chuckling, Leeare shook his head, soft laughter sounding in her head. *No, we were actually closer to what you think of as dogs, at least in looks. We were actually related somewhere between the dog and hynena families. What happened to cause us to look the way we are is that after a while, as the Fomorians bred robustly, since only a few were used to guard each sacred temple, the others decided to choose humans as their master. As we were intelligent and only wanted the best to serve as our masters, we created a competition between ourselves and the tribes. If the human won, we served them. If we won, we could either kill the human or enslave the human as our servant. This worked for years until the Fomorian Tribe found that some of their people had very advanced mage gifts. Realizing that we would make perfect war companion, the only drawback is that we were too large for easy hunting in human lands and we didn't get along with other animals that well. We were a loner race and only partnered if it was to our advantage. So, the mages decided that we needed to be larger in size, able to carry a human. We also needed to be somewhat more flexible in our maneuvering, therefore making a perfect war steed. They also needed us to be more sociable and able to handle being around other humans in their tribal society. The mages finally agreed on the horse to crossbreed us with. Using their magic, they combined our two races and gradually bred the Fomorian war steed. We still retained the clawed paws that have a much harder bottom because of the weight we carry. That why our feet look somewhat between a claw and a hoof. The body is mainly equus in design except that we retained a lot of the extra muscle groups that our original form had, therefore making us able to flex our body in ways horses can't. I'm actually flexible enough that if I truly had to, I could do a back flip and land without any problem. My back is that flexible. We still have fangs because we're more omniverous in nature, able to eat meat if necessary. The fangs are retractable where the teeth in between the fangs are blunt and able to harvest grass and other plants to eat. Our horns are one of the carryovers that the mages didn't care one way or the other about. Horns are useful in battle and the new Fomorian race kept it in our design.*
Leeare stopped and looked over at the cuddled pair of his master and Ares. He really wanted that type of companionship about now. He was really feeling his loneliness. He went on with the explanation to the war mare hanging on to all of his words. *Another aspect that remained is the challenges between human and Fomorian. A human still had to win their steed's heart. We test our potential riders in startling ways to see if the human is worthy of us. When our first war steeds were won, it was noticed that once a human bonded with their steed, it was for life. For some reason, it was as if to survive living around humans we needed to be bonded to humans. These bonds were magical in nature and when the mages found out about them, they tried everything they could to break these new bonds because the bond went both ways. If the steed dies, so too, does the human. We were now a liability, or a threat to our rider's life. Other side affects were noticed over time. One of the main ones is that our masters cannot be separated from us for long because of their dependency on the bond to keep them sane. If they can't be around their bonded, they become insane. That's what happened to my master. Neither of us were dead in the time frame reference of our lives so, I was barely able to function because of extreme loneliness and Lian (Joxer) wasn't able to function in his mind. To cope, he shut down everything that reminded him of our bond, therefore losing everything he'd need to master a war steed. It's wonderful to finally feel complete again. I do have an ability not dependent on our gods and that is that I can create a glamour which makes me appear to average mortals as a regular stallion. Anyone with immortal blood or godly blood will see me as I am. If we're headed to Corinth, then I'll have to use the glamour to disguise myself if I don't want to make the humans panic.*
Argo thought about what he'd said and nodded, understanding what he'd said, although there were still some things she wanted to know. But, she had a feeling that she'd never know. She finally got up the courage to ask a question that had been puzzling her and made her worried. *Leeare, I know this might sound paranoid, but don't you think it strange that two other war steed mares of my breed show up with no warning. I'm really worried that Ares doesn't recognize them. If he doesn't know them, then he didn't give them to anyone like he did with me and Xena. I know they're Ares' war steeds because they smell like it. So why doesn't he know about it? I'm becoming concerned that they're here to hurt someone.*
Leeare nodded, and softly said, *I agree with your thinking, Argo. I don't know who they are, and I'm worried about what they're here for, but I also don't sense any malice from them. I'm actually more worried that they're here for backup. If that's the case than what'll happen to us on our way to Corinth? Is there any god who sees the future enough to manipulate events to provide extra protection?*
Argo replied, *Apollo's capable, so is Athena. The muses could possibly see it. But, if it's someone able to know the future, the better bet would be the fates.*
*Ah, that might be it! If the fates know something that we don't know.....* He broke up with startlement, fear showing in his eyes. *You don't think anyone is suposed to be killed, do you?*
*I hope not. I couldn't bear it if that's true. I don't particularly like Gabrielle, but she's Xena's lover and I don't want my mistress hurt. I really care about Joxer a lot, too!*
Leeare thought about it and finally told Argo, *What say we keep an eye on things and if it looks like anyone is in danger we drag our masters and loved ones out of here by force if we have to?*
*Agreed!* Then Argo got an impish look in her eyes and she reach over and gently nipped between Leeare's shoulder blades. Leeare moaned with feeling that caressing touch. He was about to reply to her sudden advances with those of his own when suddenly there was a loud eruption in the hill pass little ways ahead of them. Before they knew it, they and the other mares were being mounted and raced to the pass to try to help. When they all stopped, the group as whole were wordless at the sight in front of them. Even Ares, who because he was war incarnate, had nerves of steel, was so nausous that he was ready to upheave like Xena, Gabrielle and Joxer were suddenly doing. If the steeds had been capable of it, they'd have been throwing up as well. It was all they could do to keep their bodies from bolting and getting the hell out of dodge.
The only word besides the expression of horror on Ares' face was, "Oh, FUCK!"