The Mind of Love

by FreeBard

Chapter 2- "An Old Score"

Ares was brooding. And though this was a common state for Ares, when he was not wrapped in quiet contemplation of dark things, he had grown peevish and irritable. Athena had had enough. Barely tolerant of Ares at best, Athena entered his chambers at her worse. She strode in purposefully.

"Starting wars and skirmishes is certainly not helping your popularity with the people. Not to mention me. Most the cities you’ve plagued with your notable influence have been those which pledge allegiance to me, Ares," she hardened her tone a little, "Ares?"

Ares inhaled sharply as he turned around from the scene of battle which flickered before him in a translucent bubble. He waved his hand and the scene disappeared with a whoosh.

‘"Ah," he started with a mock-blithe look, "dear sister, how good of you to notice me."

"I hardly take my attention from you," her eyes narrowed a little, "that would require some form of trust."

"Oh," he said, clicking his tongue, "so cruel. I’ll be out of your precious hair soon enough, you know, places to burn, people to see. In the meantime, why don’t you weave something nice…you’ll feel better."

Anger rushed through Athena’s body, but she refused to rise to the taunt. It wasn’t her style. She instead lowered her tone and said simply, "Piss off," turned and proudly left the room. When she had gone, Ares broke his pose and laughter broke through his black-leathered exterior.

Athena heard his laughter echoing throughout the great, arched hallways as she walked away. She heaved a sigh of indignation and yet relief that the storm cloud had, in its way, passed.

"By the gods, what has happened?" Gabrielle stood, stunned at the carnage that spread out in the valley before them. Curls of black smoke rose from countless sockets which used to be homes or stables.

Xena squinted a little. "Exactly."

"Hmm?" Gabrielle replied.

"The gods…this has a distinct taste to it. And its not one that I like at all."

Gabrielle inhaled sharply and simply nodded. Xena snickered a little and Argo acquiesced, the three continued toward the charred scent of death and war.

Bodies littered the ground and Xena moved through the mess with a grim determination and Gabrielle with a quiet awe laced heavily with compassion.

"There’s no one left," she said softly, checking the pulse on yet another cold forearm. Xena looked over at her, seeking Gabrielle’s eyes with her own, but her friend fixed her gaze on the bloody body that was cradled in her arms.

"Gabrielle," she said with a faint crack in her pitch. Gabrielle raised her head with a sigh and a questioning look. "Gabrielle, I want you to get me some water." She added, "Please," as Gabrielle’s face displayed her realization of Xena’s diversionary plea. Gabrielle nodded, slid away from the body and headed in the direction of the stream they had seen on the way into town.

Xena watched her go and when she was a way off, she got up and lowered her eyebrows, glancing around her like an expectant cat. She fingered the chakram at her side and then stood up. "All right, you can show yourself, Ares," Xena offered out into the still air with a distinct sound of displeasure. After an appropriate beat, Ares appeared in flash of light. If it irked him that she could predict his arrival, he didn’t show it. No, he was there with a purpose.

"Still so cold, Xena?"

Xena regarded him coolly.

Ares was unfazed "I’ve come to collect on a debt…I’m sure you can relate to that…"

To Be Continued…

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