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Disclaimers: Xena is the property of MCA/Universal/Renaissance and I'm just using her for this non-profit bit of fanfiction entertainment. I don't think they own Ares, but if they do..umm..put him under their name also I guess. There is violence, but it's not even explicit IMHO. I'm working on a sequel to this, called "Ares' Chosen". Enjoy.
A henchman sworn of Ares, Lord God of war, I live,
And a master of that beauty the Muses' hands can give.
Archilochus of Paros
How I remember that dread day going to Hephestaus' forge. That place, so dark and filled with the heat and smell of hot metal, is one of my favorite haunts. It is here my fellow god creates wonders that rival any made by poor mankind.
I care not for the rings and bangles he makes, whether they be magical or not, for here by the deep glow of the forge are the Lame God's most beautiful creations in my opinion. By the Heavens, I love how he takes common metal, heats, shapes, and creates a sword that in the right hands is more exquisite than some annoying flower, and made of such strength to make even a Titan groan with effort. Aphrodite's beauty is nothing alongside a weapon created by Hephestaus. Oh, how I envy his gift.
But where he can only create, I wield. And so that fateful day I went to his forge, to gaze upon his newest creations, but I found not his newest sword at the bench beside his forge. Instead I see arrows. Dainty little things they were, all gold with creeping silver roses along the shafts.
Not made for war these arrows, I could break one just by looking at it. Pathetic.
I felt a presence at my side, and glanced over. Cupid, Aphrodite's beloved son, stood there grinning at me inanely. I have very little use for the other gods, unless they suite my purposes, but this young godling and his voluptuous mother both tend to annoy me. Love is an emotion fit only for peasants, not warriors. My heart is cold steel and has no room for flowers and soft love. And I had no use for the gods that spouted it either.
"Ah Ares, what brings you here?" Cupid had said.
I scowled at him, disgust plain on my face. "I've come shopping, hoping Hephestaus has some new weapons for me."
The godling nodded, then picked up one of the golden arrows. "Like these? He just finished them for me."
I remember laughing, throwing my dark head back in mirth. Those weren't arrows, but toys..fit only for a boy god at that. I said so to him. Then reaching out a hand I picked one of the small arrows up, intending to break it in my grip and show this young upstart that true warriors had no use for golden arrows made for children.
Imagine my surprise as I thought I had wrapped my fingers around the shaft, and instead felt a slight prick upon my palm. Releasing the arrow I frowned as it disappeared in a shower of golden light and sparks.
I had grimaced at the slight pain and watched as the blood welled up in the cup of my hand and trickled over.
Cupid, that young imp of a god, just smiled and disappeared in a ball of light, taking the rest of his toys with him, and leaving me in a great state of stress. Anger and another emotion, perhaps longing, raged through me. Suddenly I was in the mood for something more...bloodthirsty. And though I would rather that blood had come from the young god at that moment, I knew patience. I would get my own back...revenge is a dish a warrior knows well.
What I needed was a battle, and with that thought my mind expanded, searching the lands for that particular taste I knew well. The taste of blood pouring from wounded men upon the dark ground. The taste of hot anger on a warrior's tongue as his fellows collapse and die around him. The taste of glory and joy as a soldier swims in the emotions of battle, enjoying the feel of a sword in one hand and the smooth leather of a bucklers grip in the other.
My mind found a place and with a thought I was there, going from the forge to the battlefield in an instant, unseen to the conflict's participants.
Ah...I recognized these men. Scum. Barely worth the Gifts I give warriors who shouted my name and spilt blood. Masked, all of them, led by a warlord named Cortese. How this coward grew powerful enough to lead men was a mystery to me. Mankind is fickle sometimes. I thought so then, and I still believe it.
This band of rogues, this warband, was raging through the countryside of Chalkdice and now threatened Amphipolis. I watched as Cortese and his men, who expected a quiet village as easy pickings, found instead a lion in its den.
Villagers, men mostly, resisted and fought together as a group driving back the raiders before them.
Who was their leader, I had wondered. Who had taken milling peasants, brought them together and trained them, making them into a cohesive force that was holding its own against a much more heavily armored one?
I watched, exalting in the bloodshed, then my eyes were drawn to her, and my heart...the heart of a god, stopped.
By the blood of Chronos, she was beautiful. Tall she was, and lean with muscle, but as graceful as a cat. Her hair flew about her, alive like a battlefield raven, whipping in the wind caused by her flowing movements.
Her skin bronze and flawless, the rippling of her muscles under that flesh like the waves under seafoam.
She wore poor armor and wielded a sword better suited to a waste pile than a warrior. She was young, but fully a woman, her body called to me, the blood she spilled feeding me, though she didn't call my name.
Like a hawk she moved, swiftly and sure, blocking, parrying, and driving her blade into foe after foe. She was a wonder to me, and I knew these villagers wouldn't have survived without her. I had to have her, I knew it, as sure as I knew she was made for battle.
Then by her side stepped another. I thought at first it was just another villager, but then he moved. Blood called to blood. Two halves were these two, though I saw the man was slightly younger. Brother and sister. Hair the color of wheat...eyes of burnished ice. They were not twins of body or birth, but of soul. Together they flowed as one, killing man after man.
I felt Fates direct hand in that next moment and wondered at it, but my attention was distracted by the young woman warrior in front of me, and I thought no more of it. I saw the blow come from behind. A true hit without remorse from the sword's wielder, a warrior dealing death. I did nothing about it, instead I relished in at. For I was the God of War, and Death herself follows me when I go to a battle.
As the fair-haired man fell to the earth, for a moment time seemed to stop, then I witnessed beauty personified. She erupted, howling like one of Hades' Harpies. Like a volcano overflowing she swept through the men before her. My eyes halflidded, the emotions coming from her arousing me and making me drunk. Sweet the taste. I drank deep, my eyes glued to her unable to leave even if I had wanted to.
I watched in satisfaction as Cortese's men fled, their leader in the fore. They wouldn't try this village again I knew.
As the raiders sped away, my lioness collapsed next to the still body of her brother. But she didn't cry, and this endeared her towards me more. If anything, as she held her brother's body, her emotions of rage and hate intensified, mixed with the sweet taste of bloodlust.
Then I felt it. Like the abrupt cessation of rain after a storm, that flood of emotions was suddenly controlled under reins so tight that I marveled. This young woman, barely out of childhood, had just lost something very precious to her, and now just knelt there, the eye of the storm.
That raven-haired head raised and seemed to look in my direction, piercing blue eyes as cold as the peak of Mt. Olympus caught my own. Or seemed to, for I knew I was invisible to all.
I was frozen by those eyes, like an animal cornered by a ruthless hunter. It was a new experience for me, and so was the emotion I was feeling inside, ever since the moment I had first seen her.
Gone, was the yearning for blood to be spilt in my name. Gone was the anger at the boy god. The pain in my hand eased and healed in that moment. Instead, I felt a new pain. My hand, the one marked by Cupid's Arrow, reached up absently and rubbed the flesh over my heart.
A heat as hot as the burning of my fellow god's forge ached within me. Could it be this woman...this warrior, was affecting me? It could not be! I was Ares, God of War! Lord of Battles!
My palm rubbed harder, the ache growing. I knew I had to have this woman. She was young and had much to learn still I knew. I would be her mentor, her teacher...and more. She would be one of my Favored...NO! She would be my Chosen! I knew together we would conquer the world. I just knew it.
At that instant I almost became visible, but her eyes shifted and with a great heave she picked up the body of her brother. I followed her as she led her men, for they were surely hers now, back to their village. Other villagers were also carried by their fellows, the wounded, the dying and the dead. No Amphipolian was left to rot on that field. But then, that is the way of Greeks, to bring the dead back home if at all possible, whether it be buried or the ashes from the pyre.
I usually don't watch the burial of soldiers, their lives end when they die, and I have no use for cold flesh. But this one I watched, not for him...but for her I had stood there, watching as she lovingly carved a coffin. His mother had washed his body and together they placed it inside.
I never understood this...why wash off the blood of a soldier? That blood he shed for them. They should be proud of it, and not let it seep away into the uncaring ground with the thrown away water. He was more perfect of form with blood and that terrible rent in him, then when they sewed him up and washed away the crimson. Mortals...I do not understand them.
I watched as they placed his coffin in a carved out cave, the mother crying. It was then, as I saw the mother's face, that I was startled with shock. I recognized her at that moment, and recognized the town past just the name, and the small temple that had been built for me there.
Cyrene. I shivered as I looked at her silent daughter. A calm blade that one, kneeling alongside her mother's sobbing form. A drunken father, jealous of the love that his wife gave his daughter over him. He was a devoted follower, though he was a terrible warrior, I remembered. Murdered by his own wife, because he had planned on killing his daughter in my name, and suposedly by my command. I remembered him, and I remember my ire at the time. No command had been given for the child's death, and I had made sure Hade's knew this when it came time for the man's judgement. Spending an eternity drowning in pig filth would teach him to not lie about the gods.
I remembered thinking at that moment, as the villagers left the two of them alone, how I envied her mother at that moment. Those long bronze arms wrapped around her shoulders protectively. My stomach had clenched achingly. I wanted this woman, but not like the others I had known. I was a conqueror..a god of conquerors, and yet I did not want to conquer this one, but I didn't know what I did want.
I watched her all that night, past the time when her mother had finally left. A lone torch was flickering against the tomb wall, the only light to shine upon the young man's coffin. After several moments she spoke, and once again my heart stopped, though it had been for a different reason.
"Someone is here. I feel you...I've felt you since the fight."
Her voice was sensous to me, and drove a pleasant shiver up my spine. I smiled in delight. She could feel my presence? I wondered what it felt like.
With a thought I made myself visible to her, and watched in amusement as she drew her sword and placed it before her.
"Xeeennnaa." I had drawled, letting the name of her ease out of the depths of me. I watched as she shivered from it, and smiled inside.
"Who are you?" Her eyes were wide, but not from fear I knew, but surprise.
"Who do you want me to be?" I remember asking, hoping that she would answer. But she didn't, instead she had asked me again my name. This time I told her. "I am Ares, the God of War. Lord of Battles. Son of Zeus and Hera. I am the blooded sword. I am the call of victory. I am the thrill of glory in your veins. I am the thirst for blood on your lips. I am the tingle in your arm as you block an ememies swordthrust. I am the gasp of pleasure that you feel as you rip out a man throat with your sword. I am Ares."
I don't know why, to this day, that I got so...poetic. It's not like me you understand. I was rather surprised at myself. But I found out, that when it came to Xena and me, I would always take myself by surprise.
She too, had seemed rather surprised, though I don't know if it was because of what I said, or who I said I was. That look quickly passed though, and in its place had descended that cool expressionless look that I've come to know and love. It thrilled me that first time I witnessed it, and it still gives me chills.
"God of war..yadaa yadaa..yeah that would be me." I had bantered. She brought out my playful side, a side I didn't even know I had. What was it with this woman that could so easily bring out unknown depths from within me, that I didn't even know existed? "You don't need that sword against me." I had pointed out, quirking an eyebrow at her humble blade.
She sheathed it, but I could see her body remained loosely ready for a fight.
My eyebrows had raised, what was she asking?
"Why take my brother?"
Ahhh...the other half of her again. I would have to deal with this if I hoped to have her. But how? Suddenly a idea came to me. Truth has its purposes occasionally.
"I had nothing to do with it. Cortese is not..." I had paused dramatically. "Chosen by me. He's a coward and not worthy of my attention. As to why your brother died, you would have to ask the Fates that." Little did I know that eventually she would. That little trip almost cost me everything. Those three goddess are a pain in my side sometimes.
I stepped up closer to her, breathing deeply of her scent. The smell of blood and death still surrounded her, and I shivered. Oh Hera, Oh Queen and Mother, what was this feeling that she stirred within me?
Then I asked her the question that could change her life. "What do you want?"
"What?" Her eyes widened, unsure of what I had asked. After all, I had come to her, not the otherway around.
"What is it, that you most desire? Don't ask for your brother, Xena, that I cannot give." I was most adamant about that point, I didn't want him messing with the plans I had for her.
She took no time whatsever to answer me, and as soon as I had finished, her eyes flashed and she spoke. "Amphipolis safe. If I can't have my brother, I want my homeland safe from the foul cesspool of men like Cortese."
"I can give you that, Xena."
"I watched you. You have much to learn, but everything I desire in a warrior is there...raw within you. I can see it..I saw it. Join me." I remember my hand trembled as I reached out and touched her cheek for the first time. "I can give you the world. You and me. Together, Xena. There will be no others. There doesn't need to be another."
"Amphipolis?" Her eyes closed partially and she leaned into my hand. Was she affected by me?
"With my guidance, I will teach you and together we will protect this village and the surrounding area. No one will dare to come against you here, Xena." Yes, Xena. A start. One village. Then more. Then a city. Then the whole surrounding territory. Then half of Greece. Then more...oh Xena...we could have had more!!
I remember the silence most of all in those next few moments. Being a god, I have patience and time seems to flow past me much quicker than it does for mortals. But as she stood there, contemplating my offer, all I could do was gaze deep into her almost immortal colored blue eyes, and beg silently for her to speak. Time was a torture for me. My hand on her cheek burned, and its searing heat seemed to only prolonged time, until it stretched out before me like eternity itself. I was helpless before it..and her. Whatever it was within me that was in pain, I knew at that moment, its healing could only start to be cured by a simple assent from her. But still she was silent, and I grew more and more in pain. I, Ares, was in pain! Caused by the silence of a mortal woman! It stunned me...and still stuns me. Oh godling, the trouble you wrought that day!
Oh Father! The pain! My chest ached, my stomach rebelled, my limbs trembled. Was I ill? Impossible! What ailment could affect a god? None that I knew. But still I was ill, or so I thought at the time.
Such simple words, and yet they brought me back from my aches and pains, and sent a flood of excitement racing through my veins. She was mine!
I smiled. "Good. Are you ready to start? Are you done here?" I motioned to the coffin.
"Yes." She had said simply, wasting no words.
"Good. Then it is time to begin. Gather your men, Xena. You must get them to follow you past the confines of their village. You must get them to follow your dream."
At that moment, she stood taller then before. She once again had purpose. A mission. She turned and led me out of the cave and called together the men who had followed her against Cortese. It was here that I saw a part of her that showed me her true leadership abilities.
She could speak. Not like a peasant...or rather, yes..just like a peasant. After all...she was speaking to peasants wasn't she? She knew what to say, and in a short while, the men were more than eager to follow her to the pits of Tartarus and back. A humble beginning for what I planned for her, but a beginning nonetheless.
The other villagers weren't happy though, especially Xena's mother. I couldn't blame her totally, but she was holding back my Chosen and my plans. As Cyrene railed against her daughter, I spoke in Xena's mind.
For the good of Amphipolis, I told her.
For Lyceus death to not be meaningless.
That one I was especially proud of. I used her brother's own folly and death to my purpose. And it worked. I was estatic when Xena stormed from her mother's inn, vowing to protect her no matter what the cost.
I had my Chosen. I had that other side of me.
Its been so many years since that day. Ten years Xena followed me. Ten years of glory with moments of stupidity on her part. Caesar is only one of her nemesis. When it came to her heart, she trusted to much. But he cured her of that...for a time. That dark night in that cabin on Mt. Nestus created the very force I knew had been hiding inside her. And when it was brought out, I knew we had the world in our grasp. She was magnificent. Death indeed.
The Land of Chin. I almost lost her there...but it was the darkness that kept her to me. That sweet darkness of her. Such hatred and anger. And she used it all to conguer. Corinth was a crowning achievement, and I still tingle all over when I remember it.
To bad the dream ended. I've really come to hate my brother and bards. They ruined the dark part of her. But she's still in there. I know this. I can feel it still. Like a warm hand that reaches into your chest and gently grabs your heart, then rips it, still beating from your chest. She's still in there. Sometimes it comes out, which makes me smile and rejoice in the gift that is Xena.
Years upon years. I lay here, in the tomb she put me in. I can't be angry...well not too much, at her. After all, no matter what she says, she's still my Chosen. The very memory of her causes me to shudder and my chest become painful again. I still don't understand that.
The godling visits me sometimes. I definately still hate him. He gloats and talks about his arrows and how the God of War was wounded by the very arrow created for him. Sigh. Children. I wish he'd speak more plainly. After all...it was just a prick on my palm. What harm could a child's toy do to the God of War?
This story was based upon a Greek poem I came across. I thought you might be interested in reading it. Of course, I only used it as a basic idea to my story. I kinda think the poem is cool though:}
As, by his Lemnian forge's flame,
The husband of the Paphian dame
Molded the glowing steel, to form
Arrows for Cupid, thrilling warm;
And Venus, as he plied his art,
Shed honey round each new-made dart,
While Love, at hand, to finish all,
Tipped every arrow's point in gall,
It chanced the Lord of Battles came
To visit that deep cave of flame.
'T was from the ranks of war he rushed,
His spear with many life-drop blushed,
He saw fiery darts, and smiled
Contemptuous at the archer-child.
"What!" said the urchin, "dost thou smile?
Here, hold this little dart awhile,
And thou wilt find, though swift of flight,
My bolts are not so feathery light."
Mars took the shaft-and, oh, thy look,
Sweet Venus, when the shaft he took.
Sighing, he felt the urchin's art,
And cried, in agony of heart,
"It is not light-I sink with pain!
Take-take they arrow back again."
"No," said the child, "it must not be;
That little dart was made for thee!"