By Hind's Blood
The bard sat on a rock overlooking the majestic mountain ahead. Consumed by her thoughts, she didn't notice a figure approaching from her right. Startled by a slight touch on her exposed shoulder blade, she finally raised her head to meet familiar coal black eyes. "What do *you* want, Ares?" sneered Gabrielle, not bothering to hide her contempt. "Is that a proper way to greet your old pal?" retorted the god of war. "Well, I forgive you." He hurried on before she got a chance to answer. "Anyway, I have an interesting proposition for you." "Not interested. Go away." Was all he got in reply. "But you haven't even heard it yet. " Ares pretended to be offended. "Whatever you're up to, I'm not interested." The bard turned her face away from him, hoping he'll get the message and leave. "Why do you always assume I'm up to something?" insisted the war god. "Maybe because you never act without some hidden agenda. You'll do anything to gain more power. You even tried to get me and Xena killed once." The blonde bard raised her voice in anger. "Oh, you mean the business with Dahak's daughter? That's blood under the bridge now." Gabrielle rose to her feet to face him. "Not for us, Ares, but you just can't get it, do you?" "All right, I understand. But I promise you my offer will just benefit you both." Ares lowered his face to meet the bard's, gently placing his palms on both her shoulders. "Save it for someone who cares, Ares. I'm going back to Xena now." The blonde shook his hands off her, and started pacing away from him. Soon, the war god stood ahead of her, blocking her path. "Getting kinda desperate, are you?" sneered the bard at him. "Just listen to me, OK?" the god of war ignored her obvious contempt and went on. "The warrior princess has become sort of boring lately, don't you agree? I hardly think she'll notice you're missing, and I'm afraid you know it's true. She's been giving all her attention to that amazon brat." "Amarice is a young girl in need of guidance." Answered the blond sidekick. "But you feel it's being done your expense. No, don't deny it" the war god placed his index finger on the bard's lips to stop her from answering him. "I just want to chat with you for a while, Gabrielle. And then I'll return you safely to your beloved Xena." He added. The young woman paused for a minute, then said: "All right Ares, say what you came here to say. Just make it quick." "I have something I wanna show you. Come with me." And before she could even protest, he bolted them both away.
Gabrielle opened her eyes to find herself in unfamiliar surroundings. She was standing in the middle of what seemed to be the Halls of War. But the bard found the place utterly different from the one she remembered. The vast hall was dimly lit by an unseen source, flickering in all the colors of the rainbow. Cushions, pillows and sofas were placed all along the walls, carrying a substantially large crowd of people. Gabrielle turned around to take a second look, and almost bumped into a young girl, clad in a minimal brown leather outfit, carrying a tray loaded with drinks. The bard uttered words of apology, but the girl just grinned at her and hurried on. Pacing around the room, more careful this time, Gabrielle noticed a group of people dancing. She stopped and eyed them. They were moving frantically, orbiting themselves as well as the other dancers. One of the girls placed herself in the center of the circle. She waved her arms upwards and then sideways, rocking her hips as she moved to the sensual rhythm. Then she arched her back, letting her heavy breasts sway with every motion of her upper body. She was soon joined by a young man ("he must be no more then eighteen harvests", reckoned the bard), bareback, covered only with a wide piece of cloth tied to his waist. He drew himself closer and closer to the young dancer, placing his right thigh between hers, then grabbing her by the waist, synchronizing his circular motions with hers. Gabrielle felt herself mesmerized by the sight. Never had she seen before such exotic moves, perfectly coordinated. She began imagining herself doing the same with Xena, and the thought sent waves of warmth to her loin. The bard shook her head and turned away, determined to find the god of war and demand he takes her back. She located Ares in a distant corner, sitting on a gigantic sofa, surrounded by a group of people. One arm was wrapped around a girl, the other occasionally toying with her semi – exposed breasts. As the blonde bard approached, the girl on his right got up at a quick motion of his chin. His eyes meeting hers, the war god gestured Gabrielle to occupy the vacant space beside him. To her own surprise, Gabrielle obliged. "Welcome, princess. I hope you find my humble residence worthy of your presence, your royal highness." Said the war god with a mischievous smile. "I am not here for your little party, Ares. So say what you wanted to say and take me back to Xena" Gabrielle retorted dryly. "You could have fooled me. A few minutes ago you looked like you were making yourself quite at home." Sneered the god of war. "Anyway, I invited you to this shindig because I wanted to give you something, something I'm not in the habit of giving mortals." While he was still speaking to her, Ares motioned and a young boy approached them, carrying a bowl, filled with small pieces of reddish matter. The god of war grabbed one and slowly neared it to the bard's lips. "Place it under your tongue and suck on it." He ordered her. Gabrielle hesitated for a moment. Looking sideways, she was searching for signs of approval or warning from the people around her. But all eyes were fixed on her in anticipation for her reaction. She closed her eyelids, letting the god's fingers access to her mouth. A moment later she opened her eyes again to see Ares backing away from her to his former position, his black eyes never leaving hers. Making sure his guest was looking, he cupped the boy's jaw with his hand, pulling him toward him and kissing him brutally, his lips plundering the young boy's mouth. As she was turning her face away in disgust, a shiver started going up Gabrielle's spine, growing more and more powerful within moments. Gradually the sensation spread to her limbs, reaching the tips of her fingers. The metal-like shiver turned into warm waves, flooding along her body incessantly. Any resistance she had left melted away as the waves made their way into her head, clouding her thoughts. Her surroundings getting more and more hazy, the bard leaned back into the softness of the pillows and closed her eyes, savoring the new sensations. Another heat wave washing her entire body, Gabrielle discovered she could feel every inch in her body individually, by just bringing it to mind. Thinking about the tip of her left thumb sent a powerful flood of heat to the exact same spot, moving around it in rhythmic circles. A slight breeze on her exposed arms made her quack in unexpected pleasure. Suddenly the bard felt a gentle touch on her forearm. Gabrielle opened her eyes to find a fair-haired girl caressing her right arm. Her guards already down, she closed her eyes again, letting herself go with the sensation. The stroking grew more intense, as another hand joined in, focusing on the bard's fingers, giving meticulous attention to each line across her palm. Gabrielle gasped sharply at the feeling of another pair of hands treating her feet, slowly massaging her heels and toes. Occasionally, she tried to inspect her companions; the faces hovering over her kept changing: a woman with crimson red tresses, a Nubian girl, a young dark haired boy – one after the other. The motions grew faster, more sensual. All of a sudden, Gabrielle felt soft lips charting a moist map up her legs and thighs. The bard quivered uncontrollably as the stranger's mouth claimed her inner thigh, slowing its pace to mark new spots of pleasure on the bard's limbs, planting numerous kisses, swirling its tongue around. The slow rhythm sent bolts of pleasure along Gabrielle's body. She could feel her swollen nub starting throbbing in a maddening new rhythm, her need for release getting more urgent by the moment. Her hips started pumping involuntarily in need of some friction, yet the ministrations remained insufficiently gradual. Suddenly her attention shifted to her own mouth, as another pair of lips claimed her own, gently spreading them open, then a tongue, probing the depth of her warm cavern. With her free hand, Gabrielle delved her fingers into thick locks of hair, deepening the kiss. As she struggled for control, the bard sensed another set of lips on her upper chest, making a trail of kisses across her collarbone, then gradually descending to her semi-exposed supple breasts. The blonde's entire body convulsed under the ministrations it was treated with simultaneously, and she could feel her saturated core pulsing, craving for release. Yet her companions avoided removing her clothing, remaining on her exposed milky-white skin, leaving it flushed and aching, and at the same time – burning up with incredible pleasure, unfamiliar and new. Finally, Gabrielle lost herself in her blissful torment.
A shudder finally woke the bard. Slowly regaining consciousness, she felt a sudden chill throughout her body. Not yet fully aware of her whereabouts, Gabrielle struggled with the scanty bits of recollection, trying to assemble them into a coherent explanation of her present state. Stricken by realization, she collected herself, rose to her feet, inspecting her surroundings. The Halls of War were now as she remembered them; the vast room was dark and grim, various weapons hung along its walls. "May I say you've adjusted quite magnificently to royalty, your majesty. Sleeping in… well, well.." "Ares" Gabrielle hissed, then raised her tone of voice, "Ares", she closed the gap between them. "What have you done to me?" The bard reached her host with extraordinary speed, shoving him hard with both her hands. "Done? Sounds like an accusation. No, I actually did you a favor, princess. I gave you a rare gift, something that will benefit us both." Retorted the war god. "Speaking of which, how are you feeling today?" The bard paused for a minute, then replied momentarily, oblivious to the person inquiring. "I feel like an unknown force was poured into me. It's like new lifeblood coursing through my veins." All of a sudden, the blonde's green eyes glared in realization. "ambrosia… you gave me ambrosia!?" This time the war god managed to block her repeated attempt to push him back. Grabbing the bard's wrists, Ares locked his eyes with hers. "You have a strange way of showing gratitude, princess. This *force* you mentioned is the answer to all your prayers. In the last few years you have grown from a pathetic peasant girl to an impressive amazon warrior. Your only problem is that Xena refuses to acknowledge that." "That's not true, she…" protested the bard. "She's holding you back, Gabrielle, because deep down inside she knows you've got *it*. The truth is that Xena is afraid you'll steal her thunder. She's not blind. She can see the fire in your eyes, and so can I. And unlike her, I just gave you a chance to fulfill your potential." The speech made its impression on Gabrielle. Her muscles relaxed, which allowed the god of war to let go of her wrists, then he resumed his speech. "I have bestowed the power of a god upon you, Gabrielle, and with it, you can do what the warrior princess has been trying to do all this time: bring order to the world. Contrary to her – you'll succeed." The war god placed his palms on her shoulder blade, moving in closer. Gabrielle felt herself slightly tremble under his gentle touch. Ares lowered his face, his luscious lips rapidly approaching hers. In spite of herself, the bard closed her eyelids, anticipating his kiss. Instead, he chose to slowly circle her, his hands never breaking contact with her body, his voice husky and seductive. "You'll be fighting with the strength of a dozen Xenas, vanquish evil wherever you find it. Gabrielle, you'll be the guardian of justice, you and Xena, of course. In time, she'll probably retire, maybe grow a vegetable garden. But you, my dear, will go on and keep the order. Think about it: a perfect world, no outlaws, no killing. With you keeping the peace, not as Xena's number two, but as the fates decreed, as an amazon queen." The last words were whispered in her ear. Gabrielle could feel his goatee tickle her left cheek, which sent a pleasant shiver down her spine. "Don't fight your destiny, Gabrielle. Embrace it. Accept me into your soul." The god of war completed his circle, and was now standing in front of her. The bard could feel his warm breath closing in on her. Then his lips met hers, first caressing them softly, then unleashing their might. His tongue spread them apart, thus enabling access into her mouth. Gabrielle surrounded herself to the war god, letting him explore every corner of her hot cavern, swirling around with his tongue. With each of his expert motions, she came close to utterly succumbing to him, body and soul. Ares broke the kiss, then slowly backed away, enthralled with his conquest. "No" started the bard, coming back to her senses, then louder "NO". That caught the god of war off guard. "You were trying to lure me into your little trap, telling me all I wanted to hear, playing my lyre." The bard's emerald eyes were now glistening with defiance. "Any gift of yours comes with a price, Ares, and this one is no exception. You expected me to pay for it with who I am, and with the lives of the people dear to me. You don't care about *justice* or *peace*. Your goal is to make yourself supreme, rule over gods and men, obliterate those who dare to defy you. I'm merely a vessal, a tool. Your notion of *order* is the very thing Xena and me fight against: the suppression of the many by the few. This is the true evil, which you wish to perpetuate, through me." "That's an interesting insight, princess" replied the war god, who seemed now less smugged, "but you're forgetting one thing. You came to me on your own free will, because you knew I was right. You do resent being second to the warrior princess." His expression now regained self-content. "That's where you're wrong, Ares." Sneered the blonde. "Xena and I are equal partners now. We are different people – she's a warrior, and I'm a bard, occasionally assisting her in combat. At the end of the day, we see each other as we really are: best friends, lovers, soulmates." "But she can't give you what I just did – the ultimate power" replied the war god. "She gives me something much better. And that's something you can never give me, or even understand. And that's love" retorted the bard. "Your *gift* means nothing to me, so you can take it back." She concluded, anxiously anticipating the god's reaction. "I'll make ya a deal, princess. You're gonna have to fight me over it, right here, right now. If you win, I'll relieve you of the power, if not… then you'll have to deal with it." Ares sounded pissed off. "It's a deal" responded Gabrielle. With a swift motion, Ares summoned one of the swords hung on the wall. The weapon flew straight to his hand. Instinctively, Gabrielle did the same. To her utter amazement, a sword found its way to her right hand. "That's one of the advantages of godhood" said the war god in an amused tone. "Let's get it over with, Ares." Responded the bard impatiently. The god of war swung his sword around, closing in on her. Gabrielle knew she had to masquerade her utter lack of experience with a deadly weapon. To her surprise, her fingers took charge of the handle, swinging the sword, then skillfully striking the blow. "Not bad" exclaimed Ares, then retorted with a blow of his own. The two kept sparring, repeatedly blocking each other's blows, flipping and turning. Finally, Ares had the upper hand, and in one blow managed to cause the bard drop her weapon. "Give it up, Gabrielle. You can't beat the god of war." He snarled at her. "Shut up, Ares" she snapped at him. In one quick move the blonde drew her sais from her boots, throwing them both at him with all her might. The war god seized them in mid air, and tossed them on the side. "Need some practice with those" he mocked her. The bard's next weapon of choice was a pair of cho-bos. Soon the Halls of War were filled with the sounds of clanking as the two sets of sticks repeatedly met. After several minutes of imaginative maneuvers on both sides, Gabrielle was again the first to drop her weapon. The god of war seized the opportunity, and embarked on a series of kicks and blows, meant to catch his opponent off guard, but to his surprise, the young amazon princess responded with a well-coordinated attack of her own. Ares backed away slowly, panting heavily. "Told ya you have it in you." Taking the time to catch her breath, Gabrielle was outquicked by the more experienced war god. With one quick motion, he summoned a dagger into his hand. Before she could calculate her next move, his right arm enveloped her one one side, while the left one held the dagger to her neck. "You see, Gabrielle, it was pointless to try and defeat me. After all, you can't fight your destiny." He said, enthralled by his victory. "You know, Ares, Xena taught me one very important lesson." Started the bard. "And what could that be?" Ares feigned interest. "That sometimes, the greatest victories are achieved on the verge of defeat" retorted the bard, forcefully elbowed the god's right hand, disarming him. She completed her move with a swift kick to his groin. While Ares was still trying to recuperate from the latest blow, the blonde grabbed a nearby staff, approached her temporarily disabled opponent and applied a series of blows to his back, legs and arms. Finally, she managed to pin him to the floor with one to his neck. Without allowing him a chance to regain composure, Gabrielle straddled the helpless god of war, holding his own dagger to his throat. Ares gave up on his attempts to free himself from under her, and just stared at her, breathing heavily, awaiting her next move. "According to our deal, if I win, you'll take your *gift* away. Well, your turn to fulfill your end of the bargain, Ares." The bard started again, the dagger still at her defeated adversary's neck. "I'm a god of his word", replied Ares. "First, get off me." Gabrielle obliged. She stood up, gradually distancing herself from him, yet pointing the dagger at him as a threat. The war god collected himself, stood up and locked gazes with the victorious blonde. "You ingrate. I gave you the most precious gift a mortal ever received" he darted. "Just do it" sneered the bard. The god of war raised his hands, then shot long forked bolts at the blonde facing him. Gabrielle could feel the newly acquired power drained from her, until it was completely gone. "Now, take me back to Xena" she commanded. "We'll meet again, princess" hissed the war god. Gabrielle averted her gaze, her face wearing an expression of utter contempt. Then she was bolted away.
"That was quite a spectacle" sounded a familiar voice behind his back. "It's not every day we see a mortal bringing the god of war to his knees." The goddess of retribution snorted as Ares turned to face her. "Well, technically she wasn't a mortal" he retorted. "Nevermind. I'll have you on your knees too, if you're *bad*." Discord sent two fingers down Ares' chest. "Anyway", she said, "did you tell her your gift is… non-refundable?" "Oops, I guess I forgot…" the war god grinned devilishly. On their way to the bedroom, the two gods of aggression burst out laughing.