Lessons in Death 1-?
By Kara Darkstar
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.