This is getting real old, real quick. These warlords can really drone on when they want something, can't they?
I lean back against the black marble column as I shift from one foot to the other. I've been in one place far too long; if I don't move soon I think I'm going to go crazy. I fight back the urge to giggle at the ridiculous thought. Me, go crazy? I don't think so. A saner person never existed.
I'm bouncing lightly on the balls of my feet now, trying to hold back the restless energy threatening to overflow inside me. That damn Tresius isn't helping. Could the man possibly be any more boring? How does Ares stand it?
"Oh, great Ares. Have I not proved my courage in battle? Have I not shown my worthiness by bringing victory in your name? Have I not--"
Bored us to death? You're getting there.
I roll my eyes as Tresius continues to go on about his accomplishments. "Accomplishments." Yeah, right. The twit hasn't done anything more than any of Ares' other warlords he's just ambitious -- and stupid if he thinks Ares is going to buy any of this. I swear, this idiot would probably brag about organizing a bake sale if he thought he could make it sound good.
"Oh great Lord Ares, I have worshipped you faithfully, honored you, made sacrifices to you at every alter I passed, I am --"
Kissing ass for all you're worth; yeah, we get the picture. What, was this guy, a politician in a former life or something?
I'm drumming my fingers silently on the column behind me. I can't do much else without risking discovery. Gods! How can a guy with no brain talk so much? I'm dying back here!
I've got to calm down before I do something stupid, like using Tresius' head for target practice. Actually that sounds fun, I do have this lovely new dagger -- whoa, stop there! The guy may be as clueless as a Hestian virgin at an orgy but he's still one of Ares' warlords. So no killing until the boss okays it.
I need a distraction, something fun. A nice memory maybe. Like how this all started. How I ended up hiding here in the back of Ares' temple being slowly bored to death.
"Let me get this straight. You want to serve me but you don't want to be a warlord and you aren't interested in serving in my temple." Ares' expression was calm but his tone betrayed the fact that he was losing his patience.
Hold on a minute Sweetcheeks, you've got a shorter fuse than I do.
"I'd never be a good warlord, besides you've got hundreds serving you already. You've also got plenty of priests and priestesses here and they're way better at their jobs than I'd be," I explained reasonably, absentmindedly running the fingers of one hand back and forth over the side of my black leather pants.
"Then what good are you?" Ares, seated casually on his throne, one leg thrown over the armrest raised his hand and a fireball appeared there.
Oooh, he's threatening me!
I knew I was grinning but I couldn't help it. Force doesn't frighten me it just makes things more fun.
Ares didn't expect that reaction. He frowned slightly and the fireball disappeared.
"I'm a jack-of-all-trades," I explained, lacing my fingers behind my back as my gaze roamed over the room, memorizing the layout. "I'm real useful. Anything you need done I can do."
"I'm a god. Anything I want done I can do myself."
"Yeah, but why waste your time with the small stuff when you can have someone do it for you? You want an errand run? I'll be there and back before you know it. Someone annoying you but you've got more important things to do than deal with them? I'll take care of 'em for you. Peace breaking out all over Greece and you're feeling depressed? I can cheer you up. Hercules and Iolaus interfering with your plans again? I'll keep 'em too busy for them to even think about you." As I spoke I began moving, unable to stay still any longer, too much energy.
Ares' eyes followed me as I wandered about the room, looking at everything, touching everything. I knew there was a good chance he'd kill me for my lack of reverence but what's life without risk?
"I've got Strife and Discord to do all that for me," he informed me.
"And when was the last time they did anything right?" I returned.
I ran my fingers over a shield hanging on the wall and they came back dusty.
"Time to change the maid service," I said in a bored tone, wiping my fingers off on a nearby curtain.
Two quick backflips and I was at the dais. Taking my weight on the balls of my feet I dropped into a relaxed crouch, resting my arms on my bent knees. My grin widened as I looked up at him. The ball was in his court now.
Ares said nothing, merely continuing to look at me.
Staring contest, huh? I can do that. I can keep it up for hours. How 'bout you, Cutie?
Not taking his eyes off of me Ares slowly straightened up in his throne, swinging his leg off the armrest.
Wow, I thought my leather pants were tight. His actually creak when he moves!
Ares was frowning now, his expression thoughtful as he looked down at me.
"You're not completely sane, are you?" he asked suddenly.
I couldn't help it, I giggled. "I am too sane!" I protested through the giggle.
"Right." Ares looked away, running a hand over his beard. "Okay, I'll give you a chance to prove your usefulness." He looked back down only to discover that I wasn't there anymore.
"Cool!" I said brightly from beside his throne, arms crossed on the armrest, my chin resting on my arms.
Ares didn't look surprised but I'd bet my last dinar that he didn't hear or see that last little cartwheel that brought me up there. I'm good and I wanted him to know that.
"Whatchya want me to do?" I asked.
"Stay still for a moment," he growled.
"'Kay." I froze, not moving a muscle. "Anything else?"
"Something of mine was stolen from one of my *former* warlords. I want it back."
"No prob, just tell me what it is and who took it and leave the rest to me. One thing though," I wasn't grinning anymore, just smiling a nice little smile, "can I, like, kill the thief and if so, can I torture him a little first? Just a little," I added when Ares raised an eyebrow.
"Are you sure you don't want to be a warlord?" he asked. "There's a position open."
"Nah, I just wanna be a gopher, it's way more fun." I giggled again.
He was trying not to smile I could tell.
"Yeah. I go for whatever you tell me too."
"I know the joke."
He sounded annoyed but I think he was starting to like me. I knew he would.
"'Kay. Can I move now?"
Pushing off of the balls of my feet I backflipped off of the dais. Three forward flips and I was back in the center of the room. Pivoting quickly on one foot I ended up facing the throne. I laced my fingers behind my back again, giggling when I saw the way he was watching me.
I've gotchya confused, huh, Funbuns? Cool. It's good to keep the boss off balance, especially when the boss is a god.
"So?" I prompted, shifting my weight slowly from one foot to the other.
"The theft happened in Thebes but I doubt you'll find anything there."
That's all I needed to know but it looked like he was gonna tell me more; fine, the more information the faster I'd have what he wanted. So I listened.
Tracking the thief was simple. Finding exactly where he was staying was simple. Disguising myself as a harmless traveler was simple. Sitting in the tavern half the night while the man bragged to the local whores about how he was the best in the business was one of the more mind-numbing experiences of my life.
I was tempted to forget about finesse and just whack Mr. Perfect, grab Ares' property and leave. Ares had specified no killing though and starting a tavernroom brawl wasn't my style anyway. I just had to be patient and wait. I can be patient. Really. I can.
Anyway, after hours of drinking and what had to be incredible exaggeration in his stories the thief grabbed one of the whores, a pretty blond young man, and went up to his room.
I continued to sit down in the tavern. In order to avoid suspicion I joined in on a game of cards, it gave me the appearance of having a reason to be there. It was a way to pass the time. One of the players was cheating but I cheat better. By the time the whore came back downstairs I'd won a fair sum.
I left the tavern then, ditched the disguise, and entered the building again from the outside. I'd determined hours before which room the thief had rented so I just went up the wall to the window and climbed inside to his room.
Just as I'd figured he was passed out, naked, face-down on the bed. Too much drink combined with vigorous sex. I checked to make sure he was really out before searching his belongings. I found what I was looking for quickly but before I left I had an idea. I'd found quill, ink, and parchment amongst the thief's belongings and I thought for once I'd be nice. I'd teach him a little lesson.
I wrote out a short note on a piece of parchment and stuck it in the place he'd had Ares' property hidden. I was ready to go then but I hesitated, looking at the thief.
He was very handsome, I'd give him that much. He probably was good at his job, he just needed not to brag about it. Well, maybe after tonight he'd learn.
I knew I had to go, he could wake any time, but then my gaze fell on his bare ass and I felt my sudden urge towards niceness disappear. I looked at the quill and ink I still held and then back down at his ass. I felt myself beginning to grin.
So now I'm here. I returned from my assignment this morning but I won't disturb Ares when he's listening to petitions from his followers. I didn't come straight to the center of the temple anyway, I took the time to look over the entire temple.
I know the layout of the whole place now, I know all the priests and priestesses. I took the opportunity to observe them, learn about them. I find that I really like them. I was fortunate enough to hear them reading some of the stories they'd written for Ares and I like their style. Yes, lurking does have its advantages, certainly in my profession.
I've been hiding here behind this column for over two hours now and I'm about ready to scream. Tresius is *still* talking. If I'd known things were gonna be like this I would've brought a scroll to read, a copy of "The Oddessy" maybe. No, too short.
"Oh Lord Ares, most powerful and influential of the gods, if you would give me command of your army I would bring you countless victories --"
Finally, we're getting to the point here. Come on already! Just ask Ares to put you in charge of his army, he can laugh in your face, maybe turn you into a nice little pile of ashes, and we can all get on with our lives!
When Tresius stops speaking I almost jump up and down and shout with joy. I restrain myself though, Ares wouldn't appreciate the interruption.
"So basically what you're saying is that you're the perfect warlord to lead my army." Ares' tone reflects severe boredom and I think I hear him yawn.
"I would never assume perfection, Lord Ares, I merely wish to present myself to you for consideration in the honored position --"
Oh no, here we go again. Maybe I was wrong, sounds more like he was a lawyer in his last life. That alone should be enough incentive for killing him.
That's the way things should be done, simple and direct. These warlords should get a clue from Ares.
"Lord Ares, if you would only consider --"
"What part of 'no' didn't you understand, Tresius?" Ares is sounding really irritated now. I sincerely hope Tresius pushes the matter, it would just make my day.
"Yes, Lord Ares. Thank you for your time. I will go forth and win more battles in your name until I prove myself worthy of --"
"Whatever, just go," Ares says.
I hear the clanking of armor as the soldiers file out of the temple. I'm a little disappointed that Ares let Tresius live but I'm too happy that the fool is gone to really care. I listen carefully to make sure no one else enters the room. I hear nothing. We're alone. Yes! My mood instantly goes from happy to bubbly. I've got to move, so I do. I feel like singing, so I do. Why not?
Keeping my back as straight as possible -- it could get really painful and a little messy if I don't -- I perform a series of cartwheels that take me out into the center of the room.
"Singing 'How do you want it and what do you like? I've been far out to sea for one-hundred-and-one nights. A lovely young wench will soon be my delight, but I fear that I can't hold it back, for much longer.'"
It's the chorus of a bawdy little ditty I used to sing at the Faire in my home town. I love that song.
As I come out of the last cartwheel my hand goes to the back of my neck and I grab the hilt of the short sword sheathed under the back of my black leather vest. On the last note of the chorus I pull out the short sword and toss it to Ares who is slouched down in his throne. Smiling, he catches the sword easily.
Able to bend now without skewering myself I bow grandly, an overly-theatrical gesture but that's the point. Coming up from the bow I immediately do one forward flip, placing myself just a few feet from the dais.
"Oh, great Lord Ares," I launch into an overacted soliloquy. "I, Tresius, have absolutely no skills to speak of but I will now stand here for six hours and tell you about them. I will, periodically, throw in as many titles as I can think of for you in the hopes that enough ass-kissing will get me what I want. If it doesn't then I will rely on my incredible talent for boring an audience to death to convince you to grant my request, if only to just be rid of me." I end my little speech with a grin.
Ares is really fighting back laughter.
Fight it all you want, Studmuffin, this is my mission, I've accepted it so you'll have to as well. I'm gonna make you laugh at least once a day whenever I'm here.
"So why didn't you kill the twerp?" I have to ask. "I mean, you could've just thrown one of those cool fireballs at him and his men and we would've had ourselves a nice little bonfire. You know, I'd go get the marshmallows, you'd gather up all the priests and priestesses and we could all join hands around it and sing. Maybe something like: 'Someone's burning, my Lord, Kumbia'," I sing that little line with a serious expression, watching him as I do.
He still manages not to laugh. I'll have to do better.
"I see you were successful." Ignoring my question he runs his thumb down the blade of the sword, frowning slightly at the dullness of it. Then he shrugs and casually tosses the sword off to one side, not bothering to look to see where it lands. "I couldn't care less about the sword," he said, his eyes never leaving me.
"Duh." I giggle. "I knew that when you sent me after it."
"Oh?" he raises an eyebrow.
"Like you were gonna send me after somethin' important before finding out if I was as good as I said I was; I don't think so." I roll my eyes.
Another forward flip and I'm almost at the bottom of the dais. As I did before I drop to a relaxed crouch. It's a comfortable position and one from which I can make a variety of moves.
"So, do I gotta run through some more tests or am I in?" I ask bluntly.
Ares smiles. I figured bluntness would be nice to hear after hours of listening to Tresius' bullshit.
"I've been watching you," he says.
"Cool. How? Didya follow me or somethin'?"
"No, like this," he makes a small motion with his hand and what can best be described as a window appears in mid-air between me and him. This window holds a picture though. It's me, inside the thief's room last night. As I watch I see myself pulling the sword out from under the bed, then writing the note and leaving it there. However, my body blocks the next thing I did with the quill and ink. The picture freezes there and I giggle.
"Come here," Ares says. It really isn't a command, more like a request.
What the Hades, I'm feeling compliant today. I jump to my feet, moving around the picture window and then skipping up the steps of the dais.
"Have a seat," he motions to the armrest of his throne.
I straddle it, bracing on foot on the seat of the throne beside his leg and letting my other leg swing free while I lean against the back of the throne.
"Want to see what happened this morning when he woke?" Ares asks with raised eyebrows.
I nod enthusiastically. If I hadn't been eager to return to Ares' temple as quickly as possible to prove how fast I was I would've stayed to see the thief's reaction.
"Have you, like, already seen it and all?" I ask.
"No, I had things to attend to this morning. I don't even know what you did there," he motions to the still picture.
"I was naughty," I reply in a child-like voice.
"That I'm coming to expect," Ares says, humor evident in his tone.
Another motion of his hand and the picture in the window changes. Now I can see that it's morning. The thief is lying on his back, squinting as the sun shines through the window onto his face.
Autolycus didn't want to get up, not with the headache he had. He'd only rented the room for the night though so he didn't have much choice.
Forcing himself up into a sitting position he immediately noticed that his head wasn't the only thing that was sore. He tried vainly to remember what he'd done the night before but it was all a blank. Obviously he'd gotten drunk and obviously he'd gone to bed with someone, a male someone.
He winced as he stood up. A sore ass was going to make traveling a bitch. Maybe he'd stay at the inn another night.
Stretching cramped muscles his thoughts turned towards the jeweled sword he'd taken from some idiot warlord a few days back. He winced again as he knelt down to pull the sword out from under the bed. Whoever he'd been with last night had ridden him hard. He'd have to see about a bath before breakfast, it would help ease some of his sore muscles, among other things.
Those thoughts disappeared from his mind though when he discovered the sword missing. Suddenly he was wide awake and alert. Soreness forgotten he lay down on the floor and looked carefully under the bed just in case the sword had gotten pushed further back somehow. The only thing he saw though was a folded piece of parchment. He pulled that out and sat up, unfolding it.
"Easy cum, easy go." That was all it said.
"Ha, ha;" Autolycus grumbled. "Really funny."
Crumpling the parchment he threw it aside and got to his feet. A quick check of his belongings showed nothing else missing, not even his money. Nothing even seemed out of place, not even his quill, ink, or parchment and whoever had been in his room had certainly used them.
There was nothing left to do but ask around the tavern downstairs. He did remember talking to a bunch of whores, maybe one of them took the sword.
Gathering his clothing up from where it was strewn in various places across the room, he passed by a rather nice mirror. Glancing at it as he went by he decided that he would definitely need that bath, he looked pretty bad. Grabbing his belt off of the floor he suddenly froze as something registered. He had to be mistaken.
Walking back to the mirror Autolycus turned to the side and looked at his reflection. His memory wasn't great right at the moment but he was certain he would have remembered getting a tattoo. That didn't look like a tattoo though, it looked like...writing. He turned his back further towards the mirror. It was an awkward angle but if he looked carefully over his shoulder he could see it. It *was* writing, on the left cheek of his ass. It was backwards in the mirror and his headache was starting to get in the way of his thinking, but if he could just spell it out....
The scream was heard on the other side of the village.
I did it. Ares is laughing. Hard.
"Oh, you're in, Erin, you're definitely in." He's still laughing as he drapes an arm over my shoulders. "That was perfect!"
"Told you I was good, Ar," I say calmly.
He raises an eyebrow at my casual use of his nickname but he doesn't correct me, he just continues to chuckle.
I know why he let me get away with it and why he'll always let me get away with it. He thinks I'm insane. I'm not though.
I'm perfectly sane.