Round Robin 3 10-?
10. Waiting for God
The goddess appeared almost immediately. This must be too important for her to play her usual manipulative games, reflected Iolaus sourly.
"He's there, Artemis." The hunter was uncharacteristically serious. Threatening Ares had been just a little too enjoyable for his peace of mind. " And he's a prisoner - there's no way he'd take that kind of abuse from me otherwise. No signs of your brother anywhere."
The goddess frowned. "Did he let anything slip about his plans? He's got to have some cunning plan; there's no way he'd put himself through this kind of abuse otherwise."
"Ares was definitely scared by what I told him. If he can contact anyone, he's going to do it now before anybody else can take over Olympus." He paused, eyes flickering to the rose and gold streaked dawn sky. Time to say what had to be said. If he wasn't back soon, Herc would know something was wrong.
Iolaus expressed his uneasiness. "Artemis.." He searched for the right words, conscious of the arrogance of the Olympian gods. "I know you think that Apollo is playing both sides, only pretending to help your conspiracy, but have you considered that it might be one of your other brothers?"
The goddess was silent, her normally serene face twisted with doubt. "It could be. But I just don't see Ares going to these lengths to foil anyone else. I." She stopped, unwilling to confide in the mortal. "I'll consider it."
Iolaus opened his mouth to argue further but even as he did, the goddess flicked a hand towards him casually and he felt a spinning, falling sensation before he found himself once more in the Halls of War.
Exhausted by the day's events, Ares drifted into an uneasy sleep. Iolaus' words haunted his dreams. More than once he woke, sweat-soaked and hoarse from screaming from nightmares where nameless dark shapes tortured his mortal body.
A hand shook him roughly by the shoulder and he opened his eyes to see his brother staring appreciatively at Ares' naked body. He sat on the edge of the bed as Ares tensed in his chains, readying himself for another assault.
"Just checking in to make sure you were alright, brother dearest." he grinned. Ares would have given almost anything to knock that smug smile from his face.
"I've got such a surprise for you. Let me be the one to tell you the good news." He leaned forward to whisper in the former god's ear, enjoying the dismay and alarm displayed there as the news filtered through his sleep befuddled brain.
Laughing, he stood and surveyed his captive possessively from head to toe, then gestured with one languid hand and disappeared in a showy display of golden sparks.
Ares struggled against the ropes that bound him, frightened by the implications of the visit. Sexual and physical abuse he could take, even threats against his lover but the implications of this were far more worrying, particularly when combined with Iolaus' visit. He wrestled with his conscience, unsure of what to do. This was not the way events were meant to turn out. Finally, he reached a decision.
"Hera?" he called softly.
Minutes went by, but Ares refused to panic. Of all the gods, Hera was the one he trusted most. Admittedly, that wasn't much, but she stood to lose as much, more than he did if their plan was revealed. He tested the strength of his chains again to pass the time, surprised at the amount of pain a mortal body could stand. It wasn't enjoyable, but it certainly gave him interesting ideas for when he was a god once again.
*Again* was the important word here. Ares felt the panic bubbling up instead him and clamped down on it again fiercely. Even in mortal form, chained naked to a bed, he was the God of War. He would not be cowed or dominated or afraid.
"Hera!" he shouted, losing his patience.
A shimmer of blue-green caught his eye. Twisting his head, ignoring protesting muscles, he watched as the goddess materialised in the dim chamber.
Hera looked at the mortal body of her son. "Ares," she acknowledged, inclining her head. Her face was dispassionate as she looked at the bruises, blood and semen that covered the body of her favourite son. Hera had never been a particularly demonstrative woman, slow to anger, but when it came to vengeance there was no-one to compare. She didn't just get even, she made the offender sorry he and his family had ever been born. It was that trait that endeared to her to her son. They had many enemies in common. They had planned to have one less soon..
"I need my godhood back now."
Hera arched an elegant eyebrow at him. "So soon?"
Her unspoken criticism of his commitment to their plan did not escape Ares. He bared his teeth and snarled at her lack of faith in him, his teeth gleaming whitely against his black beard and purple bruised face. "There's more going on here than our plan, Hera. Hercules' little friend came to visit me. Sounds like he's working for the other side. He's involved in some mad plan to strip all the gods of their power and concentrate it all in one individual."
Hera looked doubtful. "And you believed that, Ares? You're too ready to accept the worst. I can't see him doing anything that would upset Hercules." She sneered as she pronounced the hated name.
Ares nodded, acknowledging she had a point. "True. But it was my other visitor who gave me the really bad news. Somebody has done a deal with the god or gods of the alternate universe. The Sovereign is on the loose again. My thrice damned brother, not content with chaining me up and raping me, has somehow managed to get that mad fucker resurrected."
Hera's face clouded. As much as she hated Hercules, his evil doppelganger was a much worse problem. Without respect for god or man, and sharing the demi-god's awesome strength, he was better off screaming futilely in Tartarus in her mind. This could upset the balance. Or perhaps it could be used to accelerate matters.
She looked over at Ares. "This..complicates matters, Ares."
"Complicates ? Complicates ! " he screamed, losing control finally. "I killed that asshole and now he's resurrected. You can bet your last worshipper he's out to get me and I'M MORTAL!"
I watch as Hera answered Ares' scream for help. Wonder if she'll do what he wants ? I'm betting she'll prefer to leave him as he is rather than risk her chance for revenge.
Now, to retrieve Ares' little present. It's really been way too easy so far. Did you know that in the alternate universe Apollo is the God of the Underworld ? Sooooo easy to manipulate, particularly for a god of my talents. Simply a threat or two - oh and the timely disappearance of his lovely wife Daphne. I do enjoy my work.
A little pressure, a few subtle hints and voila ! The Sovereign was mine. Partner in crime and all that crap. When it all comes down, he's almost as easy to manipulate as .but I'm getting ahead of myself. I've always thought I wasn't appreciated. Now I will be. I will have everything I deserve - and no one can stop me.
Fucking Ares was sweet. But the sweetest part is yet to come.
11. Dangerous Liaisons
By Lisa B
Even before the coins clattered on the table, Althea began to See the future unfurling before her like a forbidden banner in the breeze.
Giggling from across the table, the pink-cheeked maiden wove her fingers with those of the young man who sat at her side. "What do you see?" she asked hopefully. With a sidelong glance at her companion, she leaned forward. "Children?" she whispered conspiratorially. "Many children?"
Twisting the gaudy ring on a gnarled finger, the ancient woman bowed her head over the ornate crystal globe. Absently, in the shrouded vision of her mind's eye, she saw snippets of a darker future that came to her. Unbidden, these strange new visions overshadowed the frivolously happy one sought after by the giddy young folk at her Seer's table.
Swiftly ran the currents of the vision as she was overwhelmed by the sense of foreboding that flooded her being as the images burned themselves into her. An ornate mansion, marbled pillars rising into azure skies, loomed in gilded brilliance from the heavens. It was Olympus!
The scene shifted abruptly, the reverent mood shattered by the screams of a woman and the horrible echoes of other voices joining in the clamor of horror. A dead woman lay in the rumbling wake of a war chariot leaving chaos and a small child howling for its mother. A dark rumbling cloud swallowed the grieving child who emerged clad in battle armor, but a child no longer. With one hand grasping at the pillars of Olympus and a sword of flame in the other, an inhuman howl of agony shattered the stillness of the heavens. Shadowed under the armored helm of gold, dark eyes blazed in delight as a thundering blow from the sword brought the Halls of Olympus shuddering into ruin. Moments later, chaos reigned supreme over the world of mankind as a great shadow blotted out the sun.
A single ray of light pierced the darkness and a sudden strange peace calmed her pounding heart.
As abruptly as the vision presented itself, it was gone. Althea blinked, collecting her thoughts, suddenly aware again of the hopeful young couple who peered at her from the far side of her table.
"A pleasant future," she lied with a nod. "Your lives will be full and your love will bring you joy," she announced, grasping at whatever seemed reasonable or possible for them. "My vision for you seems unclear..if you could return again on the morrow, perhaps the meaning would be more readily apparent," she nodded, her thoughts already binding meaning to the vision. "At no extra charge," she added absently.
Happily, they agreed, floating back out of her tent on the same cloud of blind love that had brought them to her only a short while ago. She had precious little time to dwell upon the strange and forbidding vision before the stillness was broken by a flurry of activity at the opening of her tent.
"Mother! You must come quickly!" Gaius shrilled in a piercing tone that only six-year-olds can achieve. He snagged at her sleeve impatiently.
"Gaius, whatever is the matter with you, child?" she snapped at him in annoyance.
"Mother, come see, come see!" he begged, grabbing her hand, tears welling in those great blue eyes of his, tracking a trail in the dirt on his cheek. "It's a grand tragedy.perhaps the end of the world," he wailed brokenly.
With a disgruntled sigh, she stood, "It can't be as bad as all that, my child," she replied, not in a mood for his childish misconceptions of the world.
Even so, her heart softened, her eyes falling on the soft little hand as it grasped with white knuckles the battered walking stick that was his faithful companion. Many times she had watched while other children merrily danced and skipped in celebration of their youth, Gaius ducked his head in shame and dragged his lame leg into the shadows. She smiled, knowing that should Olympus itself crash about her feet, if her little blond Gaius bid her come to the ends of the Earth, she would do it simply to please him.
"Show me then," she said simply, allowing him to take her by the hand.
Out into the throng of carnival-goers he led her, beyond the little circle of Entertainment Guild tents, heading toward the direction of the city proper. She was somewhat surprised that he seemed to be headed directly for the Temple of Ares.
"Hurry, mother!" he begged, moving as quickly as his twisted little leg would allow.
Althea held firm to her ground, pulling the small boy from the steps he prepared to climb.
She felt unaccountably chilled on this warm summer afternoon as she stood in the shadow of the War God's temple. "My child," she protested quietly, "this is the temple of Ares himself and it is not a place for us. What in the name of Zeus were you doing here?" she demanded.
He bowed his head. "I---I came to offer a sacrifice to the great Ares," he stammered. "If.only he would make me strong and whole like other boys, then I would become one of his greatest warriors!" he announced, his cheeks burning with the admission of his greatest secret.
"But, something else happened, didn't it?" she asked, feeling her blood running like ice in her veins.
He nodded, tugging at her hand.
She allowed herself to be lead into the foreboding temple of Ares, God of War. If her blood had run like ice before this moment, she was certain it was irrevocably frozen as she surveyed the bloody scene before her.
"It cannot be," she breathed in horror, disbelieving.
"He's DEAD, Mother!" Gaius wailed disconsolately, pointing at the altar. "Ares is dead!" he shrieked in abstract terror, falling to his knees at the altar as he wept. "How can it be so?"
"I do not know," she whispered, the words leaden and dull.
A flash of light broke them from their horror as a man of exquisite and unspeakable beauty stood before them. Kindness exuded from his as he stretched his hands toward them, his face imploring and sweet.
"A great and tragic evil has befallen yon mighty God," he nodded, his voice full of eloquent sorrow.
"Who are you?" Althea rasped, barely finding her voice as she clutched her child to her.
He smiled and it seemed that the radiance of the sun filled the chambers. "It matters not," he replied gently. "I am but a humble messenger of the Truth---as you must now also become. You must go now, spread the word far and near. The Great Ares is no more! Let men know this and tremble!
"The old ways of gods and men will be no more. A new day is born in brightness and nobility. Let the temples be destroyed, let those names no longer be spoken, let there be no more sacrifice and tribute to Olympus. The beauty and newness of Truth dawns upon the world beginning with this." His voice trailed softly as he bowed his head toward the slaughtered figure on the altar.
The rumblings of a distant thunder echoed throughout the temple as Althea nodded, slowly backing away, Gaius in tow, before rushing out of the chambers.
Mere heartbeats later, shouts and screams began to erupt from the crowds as she began to announce what she had seen and heard. The birth of chaos and anarchy was swift as the news quickly traveled from one to another. "Ares..dead!" came the cries. "A god has been slain!" "The temples must be brought down!" "Olympus has fallen!"
The beautiful man casually glanced at the apparently slain figure of Ares, the smile creasing his face making him less beautiful as his countenance shifted and shadowed. The flawless white robes changed in an instant to shimmering silks of blues and green.
In the place of the ethereal messenger stood Hera, Queen of the Gods.
She smiled. "All right, my son," she said quietly, gazing at the slaughter on the altar, remembering with something akin to amusement how he had howled in distress as she left him behind in his mortal form, still imprisoned and helpless to the whims of his cruel brother. Knowing that here and now it was not her beloved and favorite son did help to ease the distaste as her eyes
surveyed the carnage.
"They who dare to twist our plans and betray our trusts, let them deal with this fly in their ointment. Let them cope with the chaos and fear of mankind while it buys us the precious time we need to put this thing to rights. We will calm this last small matter easily and re-establish the imminence of Olympus!"
A hollow laugh echoed against the stone walls as she vanished in a spray of sparkled hues.
12. And Hope Rules Eternal
In the Halls of War Iphicles dropped into Ares' favorite chair and sighed. He felt exhausted, confused, and miserable. All he wanted to do was curl up in bed and cry. He felt empty inside, missing his lover. And staying here in the Halls of War wasn't helping, it was making things worse. All those memories... He constantly expected to see Ares again, to feel his presence, hear his low voice, the sexy laugh. It hurt, especially now that he knew that the ghost he'd met in the temple wasn't Ares but someone trying to manipulate him. He cursed his own weakness, this need to believe, to hope that Ares was still around.
He sighed again, but this wasn't the time to indulge in his grief, not yet. So he forced his thoughts to concentrate on what the other had found out.
Shifting slightly in the chair, he focused his attention on the other god. Ares, the alternate world's God of Love looked concerned and worried. So much like his Ares and yet so different. He tried to find a smile for this gentle version of his lover, and watched silently while Ares came to him and settled on one of the chair's arms. He almost flinched when the god reached out to softly touch his cheek, before trailing his fingers into his hair. The touch was so soft and gentle that it almost broke Iphicles' resolve.
He jumped up and strode across the room, stopping in front of the mirror, staring at his reflection, at his lover's face. For a moment he actually believed that it was Ares before he remembered his changed appearance. He stared at the mirror, his mind going over something Herc had told him. The alternate Iphicles going to the temple. What if...
He turned back to Ares. "Can you contact Cupid?"
The beautiful lovegod blinked and finally nodded. "I can try. Why?"
"Good. Ask him if he's seen your world's Iphicles lately. Or even better, if he knows where he is right now." If he was right, then Ares might still be alive, maybe imprisoned. But there was still hope.
He watched impatiently while this Ares tried to reach his wargod and cursed softly when he finally looked up and shook his head. "Sorry, but he's not responding."
At that moment the air suddenly changed, became charged with energy. In the mirror, Iphicles saw the alternate God of War appear, wings extended and a smile on his lips. He had always thought that their Cupid was beautiful but this dark creature was even more fascinating, the danger only adding to his appeal. Iphicles felt the first stirrings of arousal, which he tried to force down. Now was not the time and place for this; he had to focus on Ares. He might still be alive.
Cupid wrapped his arms around Iphicles' waist and smirked at him in the mirror. "There was something you wanted?"
"What are you doing *here*?" Iphicles demanded, barely stopping himself from leaning into this powerful embrace. That hard body pressing against his tempted him to just let go, to rest against the offered strength.
Cupid shrugged, his green eyes glinting. "I just felt like dropping in, see how you two are doing. So?"
Iphicles tried to gather his thoughts, not really ready to deal with the seductive winged god. Especially when his body was developing a mind of its own, seeming more interested in the god touching him, than the problem at hand. "Your Iphicles. Have you seen him lately?" he finally asked, still frowning at the image in the mirror, trying to remain calm and unresponsive.
The wargod frowned slightly before he finally shook his head. "No, I haven't. Why?"
Iphicles nodded slowly. "Then he might be dead. And Ares still alive."
Cupid's eyes narrowed. "You think that the killers changed our Iphicles and then killed him as a substitute for your Ares."
"It's a possibility," Iphicles admitted, feeling hope flare.
"I always thought, when one died, his counterpart died as well," Ares interjected
"True. But look at Herc: the Sovereign is dead but he's still alive. So there must be ways around it."
Iphicles felt Cupid pressing against his back, swaying slightly. It was difficult to think with that hard body rubbing against his, the hardening cock pressing against his ass. He tried to get free but found himself caught in the wargod's strong arms. Forceful and domineering, so much like Ares. He glared at Cupid in the mirror. A smirk was his answer before Cupid spoke: "So, someone wanted you to believe that Ares is dead. Who? And why? And where's your Ares?"
Iphicles was wondering about that himself. With Ares the possibilities were endless. He had too many enemies and any one of them would love to get their hands on him. He might be imprisoned somewhere, chained, maybe tortured, in pain. He forced the images away and focused his attention back on the conservation and the god still pressed against his back. Only Cupid now had begun to kiss and bite his neck. He bit his lip to keep the moan in. Ares too had liked to start with his neck, loving to leave marks on the soft skin.
"Someone could have kidnapped him and is keeping him imprisoned somewhere," he finally said, finding it difficult to speak.
"Or Ares himself planned this, having some ultimate goal." Cupid pointed out before nipping his earlobe.
He'd tried to avoid that thought, but he had to admit that Cupid could be right. But it hurt, the very fact that Ares could do something like that to him hurt. "He might have," Iphicles finally admitted before he was distracted from his thoughts by a tongue in his ear. He shivered under the teasing caress. And when he felt Cupid's callused fingers stroking his chest, the fingertips softly circling his nipples, he couldn't stop a moan from escaping. He was waiting for the pinch, knowing that it would come and Cupid didn't disappoint him. He arched against the cruel, exploring fingers -- so good, so right.
In the mirror their eyes met again, but Ares' face looking back sidetracked him. The winged god growled slightly when he noticed that and waved his hand. Iphicles gasped softly when his own, familiar face looked back at him. Cupid's grin broadened. "Much better."
He gasped again when Cupid turned him around and kissed him, just taking his mouth, ravaging it. For a moment Iphicles tried to fight him but then he surrendered, giving in to his body's demands. He wanted this, needed it even. Some wild, mindless sex to take his thoughts away from Ares. He wanted to lose himself, no thinking, no wondering, no hoping just feeling, experiencing.
Iphicles followed without objection when Cupid pushed him backwards in the direction of the bed, moaning when the god forced him down on the mattress. "This time, it's my turn." The husky voice carried a promise and a threat, but Iphicles knew he would comply.
All it took was a thought and they were both naked. Cupid grasped his wrists, lifting Iphicles' legs over the wargod's shoulders. The man shivered with anticipation when he saw the feral glint in those green eyes, knowing that it would be wild and even painful. And he wanted it.
Another hard demanding kiss, making his head spin, and the next thing Iphicles felt were rough fingers preparing him, pushing into him before being replaced by a hard cock. He was claimed, and surrendered to the god possessing him. Closing his eyes, Iphicles lost himself in the feeling of that huge cock pounding into him, groaning with pleasure when sharp teeth found his nipple. And whimpering with need when Cupid suddenly withdrew and rolled him over on his stomach. A hard slap on his left buttock made him cry out.
"Up on your hands and knees."
Iphicles hurried to comply with the order. He wanted that hard cock back in his ass and when he was penetrated again he pushed back, taking it all in one thrust, groaning with the mix of pleasure and pain.
"Ares, come here," Cupid suddenly said.
Iphicles had almost forgotten that the other god was also still in the room. He turned his head and watched the naked form of the lovegod climbing on the bed, leaning in for a kiss from Cupid before joining them. A hand in his hair forced Iphicles' head back and he felt Cupid's mouth touching his ear, his voice low and husky. "Suck him, but don't make him come. I want to watch while he fucks you later."
Iphicles complied with the order but it was Ares who stopped him, dragging him up for a long drawn-out kiss that left the king breathless and shaking with need. Only then was he allowed to take Ares' cock in his mouth. He licked the head, getting a first taste of the lovegod. Sweeter than his Ares, just like the whole god was sweeter than his version. A hard slap on his ass drew him out of his exploratory reverie. "Stop teasing, godling, and get down to business."
He obeyed and sucked Ares' cock down his throat. Fingers digging into his hips drew him closer to the hard cock in his ass, forcing it deeper in. Cupid's thrust became harder and with a triumphant growl, he came. Iphicles felt bereft when Cupid withdrew from his ass and Ares left him as well. His body was burning with need. Finally someone moved behind him and stroked his ass, fingers briefly brushing down his cleft, teasing his open, wet asshole. He whimpered with need, lifting himself up to the teasing fingers. And then at last he was given what he needed: a thick cock slowly pushed into him, filling him.
He turned slightly, trying to see what was going on and caught his breath when he saw Ares fucking him and Cupid leaning against the dark lovegod, watching avidly as his cock penetrated Iphicles' ass and pulled out again. Cupid looked fascinated. He grinned slowly when he noticed Iphicles watching him. "You have a great ass, little king, and it looks even better with a big cock splitting it open."
Iphicles whimpered at the mental image, almost coming. He felt Cupid's hand in his hair, forcing his head up and then his mouth was plundered, possessed. Their lips were still touching when Cupid spoke again. "You should see him: he's close to coming, his face all flushed, biting that luscious lower lip. He's enjoying your tight ass. And the fact that I was there before him." The wargod chuckled softly. "Now Ares, come for me." His voice was a soft, low growl and Iphicles shuddered when he felt a last
powerful thrust in his ass, heat filling him.
They rolled him over on his back and touched him, gentle fingers tracing his face, outlining his mouth, crueler fingers on his nipples, hands stroking his body, arousing him even more until he was almost incoherent with need. He tried to grasp his own aching cock but Cupid stopped him. "No, not like this."
"Please, Cupid, let me come," he begged, writhing on the bed. By now he was desperate for release. He stared up into the green eyes that were studying him closely. The wargod grinned and nodded. "Ares, suck him." Iphicles whimpered with relief when Ares' mouth closed around him. He thrust up into that wet heat, hunting for the relief it promised, growling, forcing himself deeper into that teasing mouth, but only when Cupid's teeth closed on a nipple and bit down hard did he explode. Panting harshly, Iphicles collapsed back on the bed and watched the two gods through half-closed eyes exchanging smug smiles before they kissed above him, sharing his semen.
Barely able to keep his eyes open, Iphicles felt the mattress shift and he turned to curl up against the wargod's muscled body, murmuring his appreciation when Cupid pulled him closer, throwing an arm and a leg over him. The possessiveness of Cupid's embrace again reminded him of Ares. Was this some personality trait all wargods shared? He sighed softly when he felt another warm body pressing against him, gentle lips caressing his neck. This was nice.
Wrapped in the gods' embrace he finally surrendered to his body's demands for rest.
~ ° ~ ° ~ ° ~ ° ~
Ares watched silently while Cupid studied the sleeping mortal between them. "You want to keep him, don't you?" he finally asked, shivering slightly when Cupid looked up and smiled. He knew this smile only too well. It didn't bode well for the beautiful Corinthian king.
"Don't you?" the winged god asked, his smile feral and wild. "Look at him, so gorgeous, so much potential." His voice became huskier. "We could share him. He's a fighter and a lover, enough to satisfy both of us."
"He loves his Ares," the God of Love objected, feeling for the tortured mortal but at the same time tempted by the idea.
Cupid shrugged. "And?" He trailed his fingers through the soft hair. "Just look at him, so beautiful. And then his strength and the vulnerability. I know you want him. As for his Ares, if he's really still alive he obviously didn't care very much for his lover, did he? Making him believe he was dead, forcing him to live with the loss, the grief."
Ares had to agree: what kind of lover would inflict this kind of pain on their beloved? Maybe it would be better for Iphicles if he came with them. And Cupid was right, he wanted the mortal, more that he'd ever wanted their own version. The same face and body but much more approachable, much more emotional. He wanted to keep him.
13. Perchance to Dream
By Obsidian Rogue
Ares was in chains.
The insult was unbelievable. Ares. In chains. Unbelievable. He was the one who chained everybody else up; not the other way around. And for sex, not for . . . for . . .
Destroying the world. Or at least, its gods. Same thing right? Ares grinned to himself.
He was in a windowless cell, four feet by four feet by six feet. When he stood, Ares was struck by a feeling of suffocation. This place wasn't big enough for a god of war. Even one stripped of power.
The thought, the feeling of impotence enraged him. He surged to his feet, straining the chains, and threw himself against the wall.
No one responded. For all he knew, the world had fought and died in his absence. Ares slid back into a sitting position and groaned. "Let me out!" he screamed at the silent walls. With mere human strength, he could not break his way out of the prison cell.
He was trapped.
Ares' heart leapt into his throat. Had he heard something? Ares strained his ears, desperate for the slightest sign of life other than his own. There was only silence. He waited. No sound. Ares stared at his manacled hands and tried to distract himself, the way he had since the beginning of his capture-
There. A ticking. A scratching? Ares focused his whole existence on recognizing that sound. It went away. For long minutes he waited for it to return. Finally he gave up again. Ares bit his lip, truly frightened. "I know what they're doing . . . they're going to break me, by isolation, sensory deprivation. Disorientation. I bet my meals aren't coming at the regular times, just to throw me more into confusion. Damn! All my best tricks for breaking prisoners that have valuable information are being used
against me! Me!" He stopped.
"Wait a minute. Doesn't that mean they still think I know something? They still need me, for information, or . . . maybe they're hoping to convince me to join them, to get Iphicles to do something . . . or is this just the confused ramblings of a paranoid god?" He growled. "I can't think straight anymore. I need to kill something. That would get me back to myself . . ." For a moment he lost himself in fantasies of killing Iolaus, with Hercules occasionally thrown in for the hell of it, all for the entertainment of Iphicles, who watched with admiration.
Then Ares shook his head. "No. I can't get distracted at a time like this. I have to get out of here. And then, I'll kill the *bastards* that put me here. I'll take back my godhood, and I'll kill them slowly." He smiled, a wintry smile that very nearly put frost on the stone walls of his cell.
"I think I'll start with the skin . . . maybe a little flaying. No rape. They might enjoy it. They would enjoy it. Iolaus, my darling fool, your skull will become my cup, and I will drink the blood of your conspirators with it." The vow was spoken fervently, as some dying men recite vows of faith to distant gods.
Iphicles was in a cave, underground. Little air made its trembling way into this cavern's dark spaces. He took a step forward, unable to see in the dimness.
Someone moved ahead of him. "Who's that?" he cried.
"Iphicles?" It was Ares. "Oh, Iphicles!" Suddenly, Iphicles found himself being clutched in the powerful arms of the god of war. "I've been so worried . . ." Ares murmured into his hair.
"Ares?" Iphicles asked in an alarmed tone. "What's going on? I - we've never . . . that is, I didn't know you felt that way . . . " He trailed off uncertainly.
Shining eyes met his in the darkness. "Iphicles, I have always felt 'that way'." Ares spoke simply.
"You - I - Ares?" gasped Iphicles. "Ohmigod . . ." he sat down abruptly.
Ares followed him to the floor of the cave, his concern apparent even in the near total darkness. "Are you okay?" Ares brushed Iphicles' hair back with gentle fingers.
Iphicles trembled beneath his touch and nodded. "Yeah, I just . . . um. What are you doing here?"
"I . . . don't know. Where are we? The last thing I remember- wait. Shut up." Ares clamped a hand over Iphicles' mouth. "I don't want to know if this is a dream. If it is, I don't want to wake up."
"What else did you want to do?" Iphicles asked dazedly.
Ares grinned ferally. "Well, since you know now how I feel about you . . ." He leaned into Iphicles, pushing him against the wall of the cave, and pressed his lips to Iphicles' own. After a shocked moment, Iphicles responded in kind, drawing the body of his god to him.
Hands moved feverishly in the darkness. Somehow their clothes disappeared, and Ares kissed Iphicles' collarbone, running his tongue down the king's chest.
Iphicles moaned and tangled his hands in Ares' black hair. When the god stopped just short of Iphicles' cock, the king used his hands to drag Ares' head back upward. He glared into Ares' eyes. "All or nothing," he growled.
Ares' lips widened in a grin, and he leaned into Iphicles for a deep kiss. His tongue slid inside, and danced with Iphicles' own.
Iphicles' hands slipped down Ares' back and settled around his waist, caressing. When Ares shifted to a more comfortable position, kneeling in front of Iphicles, the king's hands went lower. Ares brushed against him. "Ares . . . " Iphicles whispered through the kiss.
Ares released his lips, a questioning expression on his face.
Iphicles bent forward, bringing his eyes level with Ares' cock. He touched it hesitantly with one shaking hand. Ares made a deep growling sound low in his throat. Iphicles caressed it. He glanced up at the god. "Let me do this. I've wanted to do this for . . . so long . . ." He leaned forward and licked at the tip. Ares shuddered and grasped Iphicles' shoulders.
Slowly he put his lips around it. Iphicles' sense narrowed to an awareness of Ares' scent, his eager cock, and a pulsing in Iphicles' own cock. He took more of it into his mouth until he was gagging. Ares was somewhere above him; face flushed and hands clenching. Iphicles' tongue moved, and Ares responded in kind.
When Ares came, Iphicles was ready for him. The salty liquid poured into Iphicles' mouth, burning down his throat like the tears of so many nights before. Ares' cum washed away the pain and fear that had shadowed Iphicles for the past months, and something broke loose inside his soul. Iphicles was sobbing before he even released Ares.
"Iphicles!" Ares gasped. The sobbing man turned away from him, huddling. "Dark pits of Hades, what's wrong?"
Iphicles' shoulders convulsed in a fit of weeping. Ares watched for one somber moment, then went to him. Ares pulled Iphicles into his lap and cuddled him like a small child. After a few minutes of startled sniffling, Iphicles turned and buried his face against the war god's chest. Strong arms held him safe.
Finally Iphicles stopped weeping and leaned quietly against his lover. "It's been hell," he murmured almost unintelligibly through the hair on Ares' chest.
"Iphicles," whispered Ares, moved beyond dreaming that this man suffered because of Ares' absence. "Iphicles, it's Apollo, and Artemis. Iolaus is working with, or I suppose for, them. They're going to destroy the gods. The dead body wasn't me, it was the other world's Iphicles. But the deaths of real gods will come soon enough. You have to stop them."
Iphicles gazed up at him, eyes blurry with tears. "Wha- Ares?"
Ares felt a sudden mental tugging, as if he were about to wake. Desperately, he demanded, "Don't let them get away with this! Get me out of here! Please, Iphicles, I love y -"
Ares woke. Groggily, he sat up from the neck-wrenching slouch he'd slept in. He glanced around. He was still in prison.
Had it been a dream? Or had he actually somehow told Iphicles who the conspirators were?
And had he actually revealed his feelings to the man he loved?
Or was it just a dream?
"The prisoner has been screaming wordlessly for hours now, dread lord," the glowing servant told the god. "Should we try to silence him?"
The god smiled. "No . . . I'm enjoying the sound of a god being driven insane."
14. More Truth, More Lies
Ares lay there. His body racked with sobs. Pain, grief, sorrow, and even fear. He was, for the first time in his life, helpless. That was the core of his fear.
Ares wanted out. He wanted a bath, he wanted to be free. He wanted his mommy. But mommy was not going to help, she left him there. She did not want him any more. "Mommy, please help me. I'm sorry, whatever it was I did I promise I won't do it again........Mommy?"
The other god watched, he was pleased. Ares the God of War crying for his mother. But Hera had other plans, didn't she? Even if Ares ever got free of him, there would not be much left of him, now would there.
Xena was upset. No, she was pissed. The interview with Artemis had gone very badly. The goddess would not meet her eyes, and also gave very evasive answers to the questions Xena asked her. So Xena decided to stick around and see what happened.
Artemis left as soon as she thought Xena was gone.
'Now where can she be going to? Well, only one way to find out now isn't there,' thought the warrior princess.
Following the goddess, Xena saw something that shocked her. Artemis was meeting with Iolaus. Xena got as close as she dared. She could not hear much, but she did hear the name Ares.
Xena's thoughts raced. 'Ares is alive! And Iolaus knows where he is!'
Her thoughts, however, were not happy for long. 'Hercules is going to be devastated when he finds this out. I find this hard to believe myself. Iolaus involved with this? No way.'
As much as Xena wanted to follow them both, she decided to play another card. Discord.
Xena popped back to the temple. "Discord. I need to talk to you."
"Yes, Xena what do you want?"
Xena rushed to the goddess and embraced her.
"Oh Discord. I have such wonderful news to tell you. Ares is alive."
Discord pulled away, turning away from Xena.
"What do you mean Ares is alive?! Do you know where he is?"
"No. But I know someone who does. I have already told Zeus and Hercules. They are questioning him right now as to Ares whereabouts. I just had to tell you knowing how much Ares meant to you." Xena smiled and again embraced the goddess.
Discord pulled away. "I must go Xena. Good luck getting Ares back."
With that Discord left.
Xena smiled to herself, one down, and a few more others to go. If she read Discord right she would head right to Artemis. And then to Ares. Now to get Herc, and some trustworthy help.
14. Questions, Answers and More Questions
I don't know if you folks have noticed, but this story seems to be getting just a bit complicated, what with the plots and subplots and people lying to each other left and right. I'm not sure I even understand all of what's going on, so I'm just gonna try and tell you what happened next and hope it all makes sense when I'm through, okay?
I suppose the best place to start is in the Halls of War. Ares is sprawled on the throne like usual. Only it's not really Ares - it's Iphicles pretending to be Ares, right? And Xena and Hercules are standing in the middle of the room, 'discussing' the latest discoveries they've made, while the poor king's head keeps bouncing back and forth trying to follow what they're talking about. You've seen them, haven't you? So you can just imagine our two heroes at their most determined, convinced they've finally
figured out what's going on and ready to make plans to save the world one more time. Only thing is they can't even seem to agree on the source of the problem, much less how to go about solving it. They make quite a pair, but they're starting to repeat themselves.
Fortunately, Iphicles still has some sense, so he breaks in before they become too monotonous. "Stop! I'm so confused! Let me see if I've got this straight. You," he points to Xena, "think that Artemis, Discord, Apollo and who knows who else have kidnapped Ares and are holding him somewhere." She nods, seeming relieved that someone's been listening. "And you," he turns to his brother, "think Ares set this up himself for some devious reason and is just hiding somewhere laughing at all of us." The demi-god gives a shrug of agreement.
"But you both agree that Ares is alive and well somewhere?" At this, Iphicles' confident tone fades into a sort of wistfulness, as if he's afraid to believe what he's saying, but can't stop himself from asking. Again. It's at least the third or fourth time he's said it since they started this conversation, but the question still seems to demand an answer.
The other two exchange a glance and Hercules says, "Yes, we agree that Ares is alive."
"I don't know how well he is," Xena's got to add her own perspective, "but if Ares wasn't really dead it would go a long way to explain a lot of things: why the Ares from the other universe is still alive, why the other gods didn't sense his death, why I didn't sense it."
Hercules gives Xena a sharp look. "Why would you--"
But Iphicles hurries to divert them before they start arguing again. "So where is he?"
"That's what we need to find out." Xena seems grateful for the distraction. "This whole thing just doesn't seem like something Ares would do."
"It seems exactly like something Ares would do." Hercules is so sure of himself. "But you're right, I'd like to know where he is now too. Just so I could get my hands on him!"
"Speaking of whereabouts..." Iolaus has been so quiet for so long that he catches the three by surprise. They might even have forgotten he was sitting over there by the wall. "What happened to Cupid and Ares from the alternate universe? I thought they were supposed to be helping us, but it seems like they've disappeared."
"Oh, them," Iphicles suddenly looks very uncomfortable. "They'll be back. They said they had, well, um, something they had to take care of. Besides, you were gone an awful long time yourself, Iolaus. You still haven't told us what you found out."
When all eyes turn to him, Iolaus looks at the ground and shrugs. "I didn't find out much of anything."
Xena's eyes narrow, but just as she opens her mouth to speak there's a shout from the doorway.
"Xena!" Joxer bounds into the room. "We found you!" Have you ever seen this guy when he's really excited? Well, right now he's very happy and he's practically bouncing as he comes across the room and gives the dignified warrior-goddess a huge bear hug.
Xena really doesn't seem to mind, she just smiles and returns his hug. But when he leans back, clearly expecting a kiss, she steps to one side and looks toward the doorway instead, leaving him standing beside her with a light pout. To give her credit, the voices in the hallway are kind of intrusive. They're familiar, loud and not at all happy.
"Come on. You have to go in. Xena's waiting for us." Gabrielle sounds like she's repeating the same words for the tenth time.
"I'm not going in there. Uh-uh. No way sister! This is Ares' temple and I don't care how many people say he's dead, I'm not messing with the god of war!"
Xena looks dangerous, even though she's smiling, as she crosses to the door, grabs the guy by the arm, and practically drags him into the room. "Actually, that's goddess of war now. And you're right not to mess with me."
"But.but." Autolycus is stalling for all he's worth. "If you're the goddess of war, who's that?"
"Yeah, who is that?" Joxer chimes in, moving to Xena's side and away from the amused figure lounging on the throne.
"That," Hercules speaks up proudly, "is my brother Iphicles. We thought it might keep everyone off guard if we had someone to impersonate Ares while we figured things out. Iphicles, I think you've met everyone here before."
Iphicles nods hesitantly and raises a hand in greeting. "What's this about people saying Ares is dead? I thought only the gods knew what'd happened."
"Oh, it's just horrible." Gabrielle senses a willing audience and goes into complete bard-mode. "Somehow Ares' body was seen in a temple and now the rumors are spreading. People everywhere are terrified. They're saying that the rest of the gods won't be far behind. In fact, in this one town--"
"Basically people are really upset," Joxer interrupts what could obviously become an endless monologue. Ignoring a dirty look from the bard, he turns eagerly to Xena. "So you'd better have some plan for how you're going to fix things."
"This is bad," Iolaus bursts in. "People weren't supposed to." His words trail off as he realizes he's speaking out loud and everyone is listening.
Hercules gives him a look, then turns back to Xena. "I agree, it's bad enough that Olympus has been turned upside down by this mess, but if the general public loses control we may never recover. On the other hand, this could all just be a trick to keep our attention from the truth."
Xena nods, the two heroes finally in agreement again. "Both parts of that are true. Iphicles'll have to start making public appearances as Ares to calm things down. Meanwhile, it's more important than ever that we don't let this keep us from finding Ares. Did you get--" Turning toward the three newcomers, she stops at the sight of a much less welcome addition to the party.
"Ares!!!" The roar from the doorway makes them all turn. "At last!!!" For a moment they're stunned motionless. And you have to admit the Sovereign is quite stunning: Hercules, with the addition of some facial hair, black leather and a bad attitude. Not something most people expect to encounter. So they're just standing there as he charges into the room and rushes the throne. Finally, just before he gets to Iphicles, Hercules overcomes his shock and steps in, throwing a punch that sends the guy crashing into a wall.
This wakes the rest up a little--enough to make 'em move at least. Xena goes to stand protectively near the throne. Joxer yells and moves into a corner. Autolycus crouches behind a massive pillar, muttering, "Just what we needed. Psycho-Herc." Gabrielle pokes him, but joins him in hiding.
Iphicles stays on the throne, looking horrified as Hercules picks up the bearded man and slams him against the wall again.
"That's not Ares. It just looks like him."
"Of course it's Ares." The Sovereign struggles free and glares at his twin. "Who else could it be? You're just trying to keep me from killing him!" He lunges forward again, only to be thrown back against the wall.
"It's not Ares. That's Iphicles!"
"Iphicles?" The Sovereign's voice is almost plaintive, but then he shakes his head and the moment is gone. "No. That's not Iphicles. Iphicles is gone. That's Ares and I'm gonna--"
This time Hercules throws him against the wall so hard his head bounces and he slides down to the floor. "Of course it's not the Iphicles you know. That's my brother, the Iphicles from this world!"
"No!" The Sovereign climbs to his feet again and stares his twin straight in the eye. "You're just trying to trick me. I've been waiting forever to kill him and you're not gonna stop me now!"
"Hercules." The soft voice stops them both and Hercules turns to see Iphicles standing behind them. But the king's not talking to him. "Hercules, calm down now. It may not look like me, but it really is me. Come on, you recognize me, don't you?"
"Iphicles?" The Sovereign's voice takes on a breathless, almost little boy quality. "Really?"
Hercules steps back and stares at this brother he suddenly doesn't recognize. At the same time, Iphicles steps forward showing no signs of fear at all.
"Really, it's me." He gently brushes a lock of hair from the bearded demigod's eyes.
"But.but you left! And they said you were dead!" The Sovereign looks completely lost.
"Well, it's kind of hard to explain, but I'm not dead, and right now what's important is that I'm here looking for Ares, same as you. Okay?"
The Sovereign nods, all resistance gone, as Iphicles leads him to a seat at the base of the throne. Then the king, who's suddenly not the king at all but a stranger, slowly sits back down and looks guiltily at the group gathering in front of him.
Gabrielle can usually be counted on to break the silence. "You're really not him, are you? You're the Iphicles from the other universe."
"But you can't be," Hercules insists. "The Iphicles from the other world was killed. That's where they got the body on the altar."
"And if you're not Iphicles," Joxer chimes in, "then where's the real Iphicles? Huh?"
The man on the throne gives a shrug and answers in a resigned tone. "Yes, I really am the Iphicles from the other universe. No, I'm obviously not dead. The other Iphicles is - around. I really didn't think this was going to work. But when they offered to let me out of that hell-hole of a dungeon, who was I to complain? I didn't see what was so hard about pretending to be some helpless little pansy pining after his lover. Didn't count on little brother here, of course."
That draws a chorus of questions that's almost deafening. "When who let you out? Let you out of what dungeon? Around where? Then who was on that altar? Who're you calling a pansy?"
The indignant voice from across the room stops them all in mid-sentence, and the group turns to look. It's quite a sight, too. Iphicles, looking very much like himself again, stands ready to attack, furious at being insulted. To his left, a beardless Ares in white leather stands with a sympathetic hand on his shoulder and a head cocked to whisper in the king's ear. On the right, a dark-winged god of war stands close, arms crossed, but looking ready to defend them both.
"I'll have you know--" Iphicles starts in defensively.
"Oh, get over it, Red." The man on the throne isn't the least bit afraid. He casually leans over to lay a calming hand on the Sovereign's shoulder before the guy rushes to his defense, and then sits back like he's in control of the whole situation. "I didn't mean anything by it. You're just so obvious about it. Besides, there's bigger issues at stake here."
"Okay, that's enough." Xena breaks in with her most authoritative tone. "I'm starting to get an idea of what's going on here but I think some straight answers are in order." She turns to the Iphicles who still looks like Ares, but isn't really someone she knows at all "You first. How did you get here and why were you lying to us?"
"How I got here is easy: a god brought me, of course. As for why - that's a little more complicated. I'm not even sure I know. I guess it all started when they brought me to this world and sent me after your war god. Ares wasn't where they said, of course, and I think originally I was supposed to play the corpse. But then instead of dying I found myself chained up in a dungeon. Nasty place, like you'd expect, bad atmosphere, bad food, lots of screaming on the other side of the wall. I'm not sure but I think maybe that's where they were keeping your Ares. So anyway, when she showed up and offered to let me out, naturally I agreed without asking too many questions."
"Naturally." That little note of contempt in Xena's voice was enough to make even him shiver. "So who are we talking about here. Discord? Artemis? Why would they bring you here?"
Before Iphicles can answer, a new figure appears in a flash of light leaving them all gasping.
They gape for a while, before Hercules finally recovers enough to question his sister. "Athena, I never would've thought you'd be involved this! How could you?" And then everyone else starts talking at once.
"Calm down! Hercules! Everyone!" The goddess glares at them until they're quiet. "If you'll give me a chance, I'll try to explain. I'm not involved in this. At least I wasn't at first. But after everything that's happened, I started suspecting, like all of you apparently, that Ares wasn't really dead. So I listened and watched until finally someone led me to where he's being kept."
This starts a whole new chorus of comments, but she just closes her mouth and waits for them to get it all out. "Yes, I know where he is, but if you'll let me finish. While I was there I found this guy," she smiles at Iphicles, "and thought he might be - useful." The smile Iphicles returns seems to distract her for a moment before she returns to her story.
"Since I already knew at least one of you was working for the other side," she waits out another burst of questions, "I wanted to get more of an insider's perspective on what you were up to. Those guys," she waves at the Ares/Iphicles/Cupid trio, still standing off to one side, "were kind of involved in what they were doing, so it didn't take much to get them to disappear for a while. Then I just put Iphicles in place and waited to see what would happen."
Athena closes her mouth and then watches as they're finally free to talk. The babble of voices peaks as most everyone tries to ask questions, or put forth theories of their own. Finally, Hercules raises his voice above the rest and shouts, "Quiet!!"
Mouths close, and before they can recover Hercules asks what he considers the most important question. "What do you mean one of us is working for the other side?"
Athena seems to know that this will be a bombshell, so her tone is almost apologetic as she says, "Well, that's how I found him in the first place. I was following Iolaus."
Another group exclamation. They're getting good at this chorus thing. And Iolaus just stands there, looking as guilty as he can.
But before anyone can start in on him Xena claims their attention. "Hold on. Obviously this is really important, but it's getting late and there's something else we need to do tonight. Do you have it?" She's looking at Autolycus.
So then they all turn to look at her like she's lost it, except Gabrielle and Joxer, who exchanging knowing smiles and Autolycus who starts searching through his pockets. When he pulls out an intricately designed necklace and hands it to Xena, even Athena gasps as she recognizes it. "The Amulet of the Oracle."
"Exactly." Xena smiles as she holds it up. "I had a feeling this might be useful to us, so I sent Joxer and Gabrielle to Autolycus. It may have been hidden for centuries, but we all know no challenge is too great for the King of Thieves." She winks at Auto, then takes the scroll Gabrielle is holding out to her.
"The clues were all here in this ancient scroll Gabrielle picked up last year in Delphi, along with the ritual for its use. I wasn't sure how we were going to manage a gathering of twelve individuals by moonlight, but it looks like we've got just the right number and if we go into the courtyard now we should be able to satisfy the conditions. I know we're leaving a lot of questions unanswered at the moment, but if we see what the amulet can tell us now, we'll be able to resolve these other issues later." She gives Iolaus a hard look, and then strides out of the room before anyone has a chance to protest.
After a moment, Joxer speaks, "Well, I'm going!" Gabrielle shrugs at Autolycus, and the three of them follow the warrior-goddess out of the room.
Hercules turns on Iolaus, obviously intending to get some answers immediately, but Athena steps hastily between them. "Xena's right. We'll have time for this later." She holds her brother's gaze as the smaller man slips out the door, then takes his well-muscled arm and walks beside him as they leave.
A bemused Iphicles and his new companions trail after the group, seeming content to go along for the moment.
With a sigh, the other Iphicles, who still looks like Ares, stands up from his throne. "Well, we should follow along too, I suppose. You ready?" He looks down at the Sovereign, still sitting silently at the base of the throne.
The demi-god looks back up at him, tears of frustration forming in his impossibly blue eyes, as he cries, "I'm so confused!"
So that's the way things happened. Didn't take long for a whole lot of things to change, did it? Secrets uncovered, new mysteries revealed and all that. Still kind of confusing, but at least maybe you've got an idea how such an odd assortment of people ended up in the courtyard of Ares' favorite temple performing a moonlight ritual involving the Amulet of the Oracle.
And of course, that's another part of the story, now isn't it?
If you have any questions, contact Thamiris