Of Myths and Men
By Jade Marmalade
"Well, huh, that was unexpected."
"Unexpected!?! Unexpected!?! Is that all you can say!?! This is more than freakin' unexpected here, this is preposterous!!!"
"Chill, man. We've dealt with weirdness before and come through it. This is just a tad . . . different."
Dick Grayson, the man known as Nightwing, looked around. So he might have understated the situation a bit, but there really was no reason to get into a panic about it. Sure, one moment he, Wally, Donna, Kory, Vic, and Gar were celebrating their reunion after saving Vic from the Technis (and not incidently saving the Earth from him) at Guy Gardner's bar in New York, and the next they were standing in the middle of what appeared to be a battle between an army of pseudo-Roman warriors and a small band of people in funky leather outfits.
"Okay, we have to look at this rationally. Starfire, scout out our situation from the air. Flash, do a sweep-" Dick felt the wind of Wally West's passing and knew that his old friend had already anticipated his words.
"-of the field, right?" the Flash said, breaking to a stop. "Looks like a pre-technological, Greek-like culture. But Dick, they're all speaking English! And they don't look anything like what was described in MY history book."
"Dick? There is something . . . odd here." Nightwing turned to face Donna Troy, the heroine known as Troia, sister of Wonder Woman. "The dress . . . and the land . . . it almost looks like Paradise Island. But yet, it is not. I can't explain it."
Nightwing nodded. This didn't look good. "Okay, people, let's get some distance between us and that fight. We need to consider our options."
The former teammates fell into old habits, following Nightwing's lead and withdrawing from the field of battle. Garfield Logan, the shape shifting Changeling, took the shape of a hawk and flew along side of his best friend, Victor Stone. They made quite a sight; Vic with his new golden body and the green Changeling. Vic and Gar had an unshakeable friendship. When everyone else had almost given up on him, Gar had championed his cause--going so far as to convince the Titans to fight their mentors, the JLA, to help him. The stalwart Garfield had saved Victor's soul by having the half-demon Raven put it into the Omegadrome war suit, which had been a gift from the alien Jarras Minion. Even with all the hardship the couple had seen and the horrors they had been through, they still loved each other with a deep and abiding passion.
Once they got out of sight, the Flash did a quick reconnoiter of their surroundings and Starfire landed to tell them what she had found.
"A battle rages," Kory said. "It is four people against that entire army. A tall man who the others were calling 'Herc', a shorter man with a sword, a fierce, dark-haired warrior woman with a sword, and a small blond woman with a staff. Their fighting skills are extremely impressive. They are holding back the entire force of these men. It seems they are protecting a small town from the encroaching army. The people in the village are waiting for the attack. They seem to be farmers armed with their tools."
"We should help them," Vic said.
Changeling morphed back into his human form. "No way, buddy," he said. "You still haven't gotten used to your new body. You're not going anywhere!"
"I have a lot to make up for, Gar. I almost destroyed the world--and the Titans! I have to make up for it somehow," the golden man said.
"Look, nobody's going anywhere until we've figured this out!" Nightwing interjected.
"Dick's right," Troia said, "we need to have more information before we can go charging in."
"We have to help those people!" Starfire protested.
"Yeah," said Wally, "they're in trouble. We have to help. It's what we do."
"Which is exactly why I brought you here."
The super heroes turned as one and took up defensive positions at the voice of the intruder who had not been there a second ago. The man had dark wavy hair and wore a skin-tight outfit of black leather. He was leaning against a tree with his arms crossed and fairly radiated raw sensuality.
"So you're the guy who brought us here, eh? Well let's see how you like the unexpected!" In less than the blink of an eye, the Flash was in motion. Wally West was the fastest man on Earth (or wherever they were). He could move his molecules so fast that he could literally vibrate himself through solid objects. No one should have been able to even see him when he got up to speed.
The stranger did. None of the Titans quite saw what he did, but suddenly Wally was flying backward, knocked senseless.
"Flash!" Starfire launched herself into the air. The Tamaran warrior gently lowered the speedster to the ground and then stood, her solid-green eyes gleaming. "You will pay for this!"
"Oh? You going to make me pay, babe?" the man grinned insolently.
Kory glared. "How dare you!" She launched herself toward the stranger. "I am Princess Koriand'r of Tamaran!"
"Starfire, wait!" Nightwing yelled but it was already too late. The leather-clad man grabbed Kory by the throat and threw her off as he had the Flash. This time it was Troia who flew up to catch her friend.
"Everybody, stop!" Nightwing assessed the odds. They were facing somebody with a lot of power and two of their number were already down for the count. But on the other hand, the strange man who claimed to have brought them here had only struck when he was attacked. That was something, anyway. Dick addressed the man. "Who are you and why have you brought us here?"
"I am Ares, God of War!" his voiced resonated and they could all feel the power behind those words. "And as for bringing you here, well, I need your help."
"But why not just ask us?" Donna protested.
"You, of all people, know not to question the will of a God, Amazon," Ares replied.
"I do not know that you are the god Ares," she retorted.
"Hmmm, yes. It is true that I am not the Ares that you know. This is Earth, but it is not your Earth. I am the Greek war god here."
"Like a parallel world, or something?" Victor asked.
"Yes," the god replied, "or rather, a divergent world. Things here are quite unlike your own world."
"So, you want us to help you. How? And will you return us to our own world if you do?" Nightwing asked.
"Yes, once your task for me is completed, I will return you to the exact moment and place that you came from. As for the task . . . You saw the four warriors fighting off the Roman legions?" Ares asked and Nightwing nodded. "I need you to protect them. I would do it myself, but they must not know that I am looking out for them."
"Protect them from what?" Victor asked. "They seemed to be doing a good job of taking care of themselves, from what we saw."
Ares grinned wolfishly. "Oh, they are the best this world has to offer, but even the mighty can be defeated. Each of them have faced things that even your Justice League of America would flinch at and survived, against all odds. They come close to the eternal embrace of Hades every day. Being who they are, Hercules, Iolaus, Xena, and Gabrielle would try to fight this menace themselves. But this threat is something that they could never even understand. It's more your area of expertise."
"What is it?" Dick asked, intrigued in spite of himself. He never could turn away from a good mystery.
"Aliens. But not your standard little green men." Ares glanced at Gar and the shape shifter bristled. "These are ruthless. They enslave any other species they come across. I and the other gods would fight them ourselves, but their gods are just as strong. A war between the alien gods and us would probably split the Earth asunder. I believe, however, that if they are faced with the prospect of humans who have powers equal to their own, the aliens will back down and leave."
"Makes sense," Nightwing nodded. They could do this. It was a good cause. "So you think we just have to do a display of force and they'll go."
"Yes. The aliens like people who can't protect themselves. They are also fearful of the unexpected."
"Hey, guys!" Gar called out. "I think the Flash and Starfire are coming around!"
"Good," Dick turned back to Ares. "Let us talk this through, um, Ares."
"Of course. In the meantime, you will be guests in my temple. My priests will provide you with refreshments."
With a snap of his fingers, Ares transported the six super heroes away.
"Well, what do you think?" Nightwing asked. Ares had taken them to his temple and the priests had seen to their needs as promised. Now they were alone once more. Dick had explained the situation to the two who had been unconscious.
"We can't trust him," Wally said.
"Of course not. But I do believe he was sincere," said Vic. "We have a chance to help these people."
Troia nodded. "I agree. While his methods may leave much to be desired for, Ares did bring us here for a good cause."
"How do we know that he's telling us the truth about these aliens?" asked the alien Starfire.
"We don't, but I tend to believe him. Besides," Nightwing sighed, "he's our only ticket home."
"But why did he choose us?" Changeling wondered aloud. "I mean, seriously, guys--there were others at the party who are just as powerful as us--if not more so. Since he choose Flash here, why not the rest of the JLA? Why not Superman or Green Lantern?"
"Good questions," Vic smiled at his lover tenderly. Gar grinned and, if he hadn't been green, would have blushed.
"Why don't we ask him?" Dick said. "ARES!"
"You rang?" The God of War appeared in a swirling cloud of blue energy.
"We will help you. But first, why us? Why the former Titans and not the JLA?" asked Dick.
Ares chuckled. "I just thought the name of your team was appropriate."
Comprehension dawned and Nightwing couldn't help but smiling. The war god had a sense of irony!
"I don't get it!" Starfire said.
Donna took her aside. "Let me introduce you to the finer points of Greek mythology..."
"You have the look of one thinking deep thoughts," the smooth voice interrupted Nightwing's musings. All the others were asleep, resting up for their trial tomorrow. Dick, however, was too worried to sleep, especially in this strange place. He was contemplating the stars. They were so like the ones back home, and yet, different in some subtle way that he couldn't put his finger on.
Dick abruptly turned to face the god. "I'm worried about tomorrow, and I don't completely trust you."
Ares threw back his head and laughed. "No, no one ever does trust me! If I were anyone else, I might take offense." He chuckled again. "I don't give people a reason to trust me."
"That must be very lonely," Nightwing said without thinking, and then cursed himself.
The god looked startled. Dick guessed that most people would never think to say such things to him. "Yes . . . it can be. And you? Do you not get lonely?"
Dick thought about it. He had his various families: the Titans, Haly's Circus, and Batman and Robin. But he didn't really have anyone close to him to love. There had been Starfire and Huntress, and there was something between he and Oracle, the former Batgirl, Barbara Gordon, but at the moment . . . he did feel alone. So he answered the question. "Yes."
Ares reached out and turned Dick's head, forcing him to look into the god's eyes. "Then maybe, for a little while at least, we can forget our loneliness with each other."
The god slowly lowered his lips to those of the mortal. Dick knew he could pull away, knew the god would let him go. Surprisingly, he didn't want to pull away. Nightwing surrendered his lips to the god and put his arms around those divine hips, pushing them together. Ares groaned as their bodies ground together.
Nightwing and Ares spent the night together in passion, forgetting their burdens, until the dawn came to herald the coming battle.
"Ah, great! As if we don't have enough trouble already!"
"What is that thing?"
"I don't know. Looks like something a god would cook up, though."
"Let's check it out."
Hercules, Iolaus, Xena, and Gabrielle ventured out of the gates of Lechaeum. At the crack of dawn, they had been awoken by frightened townspeople. During the night, a strange flying ship had touched down in the fields outside the town. After the attack by the Romans that the four had rebuffed the day before, the people of Lechaeum were understandably scared.
As they came closer to the strange metal ship, they could see that some sort of hatch was opening directly in front of them. An unearthly purple light shone from within. Then the creatures came out.
"By the gods! What kind of monsters are they!?!" Hercules asked in astonishment. The monsters were twice the size of an ordinary with a purple, segmented body. They seemed to have two legs and four arms and a head. Each creature had one eye and a horn. Some of them even seemed to have wings.
"Xena, I don't like this," Gabrielle whispered fearfully.
"Nor do I. I don't think they're friendly. Be prepared to defend yourselves," the warrior princess replied.
The four heroes prepared to fight a menace to their world once again. Suddenly, in front of the quartet, there appeared six figures in a godly shimmer. Iolaus couldn't believe his eyes. There, right in front of him, were six of the strangest people he had ever seen.
One was a man of impressive physique wearing a skin-tight, black and blue outfit and a mask. There was a man dressed in a red, form-fitting suit with a lightening bolt symbol on the front and wings on the sides of his head. That one made a circuit of the odd ship in only a second, leaving just a streak of displaced air behind him. Iolaus' head spun. Could it he Hermes? There were also two women, both hovering in mid-air. One had black hair and seemed to be wearing clothes made out of the night sky. The other flying woman had orange skin, glowing green eyes, long brown hair, and was wearing very revealing purple clothes. Finally, there was a man who seemed to be made of solid gold and a green being that kept changing its shape from a lion to a giant snake to an eagle and so on. Could the shape shifter be Proteus? Iolaus had never seen such people before in his entire, very adventurous and well traveled, life.
"We are the Titans! We will not let you harm these people or this world!" the man in black shouted at the aliens.
Xena glanced at Gabrielle when he said that they were Titans.
"Hey, don't look at me, Xena," the bard said defensively. "I haven't read any weird scrolls in any caves lately, and anyway, I'm not a virgin any longer. Besides, they aren't big."
'They may not be giants,' Xena thought, 'but they sure are impressive.'
The aliens started to advance on the Titans. In a flash, the red garbed man was all over them, striking them down faster than the eye could follow. The orange flying woman threw starbolts of raw energy at the advancing army of aliens. The other woman fly started attacking the winged aliens with super-human strength. The golden man and the one in black simply waded in and started hitting while the green figure turned into a large green bear and started swiping at the purple aliens with his claws.
"Looks like they started the party without us," Iolaus said.
"We can remedy that!" Hercules shouted and charged into the thick of things.
Xena let out her war cry and joined the fray, Gabrielle not far behind. Facing the ten defenders of Earth, the purple aliens stood no chance. They quickly retreated inside their ship, dragging their wounded behind them. Then, with a rumble like a volcano's fury, the huge metal ship took to the skies and disappeared.
"Well, that takes care of that." Xena was standing near the black-garbed man and heard what he said.
"Who are you, friend?" she asked warily.
"Ah, I'm Nightwing. This is Flash, Starfire, Troia, Changeling, and, um, Victor."
"You are Titans?" Gabrielle asked.
"Yeah," Flash answered, "and you guys must be Gabrielle, Xena, Hercules, and Iolaus."
"Yes," Hercules said, "but you . . . you aren't known to us. How could we have not heard of you? Did you fight against the Olympians?"
"Um, no. Look, we have to be going now. More people to save and all. Bye now!" With Troia's words, the six Titans disappeared.
The half-god, the warrior princess, the hunter, and the bard stood looking at each other after the strangers had left. Then, with a shrug, the four friends turned back to Lechaeum and the acclaim of the grateful townsfolk.
"Oh, man! I can't believe we were fighting one-eyed, one-horned, flying purple people eaters!" Changeling dissolved into a fit of laughter.
Nightwing chuckled and turned to the god who had brought them here. "We have kept our end of the bargain, Ares. Please return us to our world."
"Thank you for fighting for my world, young Titans. I will make sure that songs will be sung about your bravery. Your names will be remembered with honor."
Gar clutched his stomach, still convulsing with laughter. "Just think: on this world, we may become myths, while on our world, all the people we've met here are the myths!"
Nightwing shook his head at his friend's mirth but couldn't help grinning. "Let's get going team." He turned to Ares. "Thank you," he said, hoping his eyes showed how much more he wanted to say than that.
"No, Nightwing, thank you," Ares said.
They understood each other.
Ares cast his energy over the six super-heroes and sent them back to their own world. No one had even noticed that they had been gone from the party.