Cassandra fled sobbing into the night, Kronos' pained howl still echoing in the darkness. Methos watched her go with a wicked smile on his face and ducked into his tent. A slight shiver ran down his spine, different from an Immortal's Presence. He turned quickly, sword already drawn, to see a black-leather clad figure leaning indolently against the tent pole. Methos sighed and sheathed his sword. "Ares," he acknowledged coolly. "What are you doing here?"
"Keep talking like that and I'll start to think you don't like me," Ares said with a smirk, not moving from his relaxed pose. "I just thought I'd pop in, see how things were doing. You and your 'brothers' seem to be doing well for yourselves." Methos shrugged, moving across the tent to pour himself a cup of wine.
"Well enough I suppose. It's not as... challenging as it used to be." He sat down on a pile of furs, lounging in a comfortable sprawl. "Sack one village, and you've sacked 'em all. Well, not literally," he corrected himself, waving his cup in a languid motion. "But they're all pretty much alike. Hells, I can't even remember the names of the last three we've attacked. It's starting to get a little boring.Not that I'd tell the others that. They're still enjoying themselves. Me... I could do with a challenge." Ares began to smile.
"I have an idea." he said in a tone of silky-smooth seduction. "I have a warlord with a great deal of potential. Vicious, ruthless, and a capable fighter. Absolutely loyal to me, but impetuous. I need your... special talents. Your calculating mind, your coldness. I need you to make this warlord the best mortal conqueror the world has ever seen." With every statement, Ares drew closer to Methos' sprawled form, his every move a seduction. After he finished, Methos looked up at him with amusement.
"You know that doesn't work on me, Ares. I, unlike others I might name, have a bit of self-control. And I long ago learned how to think above my waist." His voice was cool and without inflection.
"And that's why I want you to do this! What do you say? I can guarantee it'll be a challenge." Ares purred.
Methos sighed."I suppose. It'll be up to you to convince Kronos and the others to stay in one place until I'm done, though," he said.
"Your 'brothers' are not invited. They would only make things worse and reinforce bad habits." Ares sneered. "Besides, you can be so much more than they could ever dream of. Kronos has potential, but the others *think* small, therefore they *are* small. Not worth my time or yours."
Methos thought for a long moment. He had been with the Horsemen for nearly two centuries. While it had been entertaining at first, as the years wore on, they had started to wear on him. Particularly Caspian. He took another sip of his wine as he thought. After all, it wasn't like he couldn't find them again later if the mood struck him. Yes, he decided, it was time for a change.
"All right," he said to the god whose eyes burned into him from a few feet away. "I'm ready when you are." Ares walked over and put his hand on Methos' shoulder. Suddenly everything exploded in a dizzying shower of sparks and wrenching feeling of disorientation. Then there was another shower of sparks and they were there. Wherever 'there' was. A tent stood at one end of the moonlit clearing, with a campfire's embers glowing softly.
"She'll be out in a moment." Ares said. "She can sense me, when I let her. She thinks it's her doing rather than mine." he grinned. "I let her keep thinking that. It amuses me."
"Her?" Methos said, cocking an eyebrow at Ares. "You didn't mention that part. What's her name?"
"Xena." Ares said. The word was barely out of his mouth before the tent opened and a woman stepped out. Methos looked over her appreciatively. She was tall, and obviously strong. Fairly intelligent. She could probably fight well enough to beat most mortal warriors, if she got lucky, or if they underestimated her. Less concept of subtlety than Caspian. He nodded to himself. She had potential, if he handled her right.
"Ares," she acknowledged. "Who's he?' she asked, with a quick jerk of her chin at Methos.
"This is Methos. He'll be teaching you tactics and strategy, among other things. I want you to pay attention to him." Ares replied.
"I don't need him." Xena hissed. "I've been doing fine on my own."
Ares opened his mouth to speak, but Methos interrupted.
"You're doing fine, hmm?" He purred dangerously. "Let me make you a deal. You prove to me that you don't need me, and I'll go. You'll never see me again. Just attack." Xena eyed him warily, clearly suspecting a trick, then took several running steps atart and leaped for his throat.
Methos never flinched. He waited until the right moment and backhanded her out of the air. She landed several feet away with a split lip and an eye that was already rapidly darkening. She rolled gracefully to her feet and charged him again, a little more carefully this time. Another backhanded blow sent her tumbling back again. The third time she attacked him, he was growing bored with the game and kicked her neatly in the stomach, with a fraction of the force he could have.
As soon as she landed, he was at her side, grabbing a fistful of hair. He hauled her to her feet while she was still trying to drag air into her bruised lungs. She tried to strike him, but he captured both of her wrists in one hand before she could. He used his handhold on her hair to bring her face close to his own.
"Listen to me." he said, shaking her a bit to make sure he had her attention. "I will teach you. You will learn. If I cannot turn you into a decent fighter, I will turn you into a corpse. Do you understand?" She managed to nod fractionally, hate blazing from her eyes. He released her with a shove that sent her stumbling and turned his back on her.
"Ares, I think you can go... do whatever it is you do."he said. " I have things under control." Ares shrugged and disappeared in a rain of golden sparks that momentarily brightened the clearing. Methos turned toward the single tent and sighed. "Though it would be nice if you'd have brought my tent or at least my bedroll!" he threw at the heavens. Ares' laughter floated in on the breeze, and his tent appeared in yet another shower of gold. He started to walk toward it, stretching and yawning.
"You might want to go ahead and get some sleep. It's going to be a long day tomorrow." he tossed over his shoulder. Xena responded with a wordless growl. He chuckled as he closed the tent flap behind him.
This could be interesting.