Welcome to Dragon & Tiger


Title and Chapter Number: StormChild 1/?
Fandom: Xena/Ares' Temple
Rating: NC17
Disclaimer: Xena, Ares, and other Herc/Xenaverse Characters are owned by their respective creators and they retain all rights. Priestesses own themselves. Fireheart and other OC's are owned by me.
Special Warning: None
Beta: None
Cast: Ares, Priestesses
Timeline: AU
Spoiler: Not really, since this never happened
Summary: Ares gets a surprise visitor.
Notes:


What a peculiar storm. Ares could feel the power in the night. He watched the lightning through his new skylight, right above his bed. It wasn't raining yet, and between flashes, he could still see the stars.

He stretched, feline like, across his red silk sheets, content to be alone. Even a god needs his rest.

The thunder rolled across the hills that his temple was nestled in. It's echoes made the glass in the windows rattle. Through it all, Ares fell asleep.


A night bird winged it's way across the landscape, staying ahead of the storm. Soaring, gliding, it saw a temple, candlelight still gleaming in a few of the windows. The bird spiraled down, in tighter and tighter circles, looking for just the right window. The wind was starting to pick up, the storm was nearing. It scanned the sky, waiting.

The storm was fierce. The bird was buffeted by the winds, but it struggled to stay over the Temple, near the window it had searched long for.

A bolt of lightning shot from the nearest thunderhead, hitting the night bird, continuing down, to enter the temple through the very window the night bird had been watching.


The God was so exhausted that the storm crashing around his Temple was inconsequential. Even when a flash of living lightning entered his room through his skylight, he slept the sleep of the innocent and the dead.


A figure stood in the shadows of the room, looking at the sleeping god. She brushed back her hood, and moved silently to the side of the bed, her raven black hair dripping. Her cloak brushed the floor, leaving a rainwater trail. The air smelled of ozone. The candle on the nightstand had burned almost to it's base. It gave a warm glow that did nothing to light her eyes; solid black orbs.

Ares stirred in his sleep, as if he knew what power was near him. The woman stood by his side for what seemed an eternity, studying him, contemplating her task.

Her inhuman eyes watched his chest rise and fall, the pulse beat in his throat. The candle cast sultry shadows over his face. The storm still raged above the Temple, with a special fury for the power it had released, for the power that had been stolen.

The woman reached for the clasp of her cloak, released it, and dropped it to the floor. Beneath it she wore only a necklace, a moonstone on a silver chain, hung just at the base of her throat. It caught the light, and glowed softly.

The candle started to sputter and smoke, and finally went out. The only light in the room was a residual glow from her pendant, and the random afterglow of lightning. But her black eyes could see in the dark.

She'd never had a challenge like a god before. He slept in such peace. Her human body felt him with inhuman senses. She could smell him. The life in him, the power in him. She could feel him through the air, his aura caressed her skin, leaving her tingling. She opened her lips just a centimeter to suck in the air of the room, the air he had breathed. Yes, what a prize he would be.

The dark woman took another step towards the head of the bed. She reached for his hand dropped over the edge, trailed her fingers up his arm. She leaned over him, breathing deeply of him. Her hand reached his shoulder, trailed up his neck. His head was turned slightly away from her, exposing his throat. She brushed has ear with the back of her knuckles.

The rain poured down, pounded the skylight. She ran her fingers under his chin, and up the other side of his face. Putting her palm flat against his cheek, she turned his face towards her. Leaning forward, she place a feather light kiss on his lips. Settling on the bed, she licked her lips - his taste was on them.

He stirred again, taking a deep breath. He was so close to the surface of consciousness.

She knelt up on the edge of the bed, then straddled him. With amazing slowness he woke.

Ares felt a body near him, atop him. He looked up, but all he could see was a deeper shadow against the lighter square of the skylight. Which of his Priestesses could have snuck in without waking him? He decided to let her have her anonymity for now, the mystery was intriguing...

Ares moved his hands to her hips, his body was far ahead of his mind, responding to her nearness.

The shadow put her hands on his chest, leaned forward, allowing him to shimmy out of his silk shorts. She kissed him deeply and he responded in kind. Ares put his hands back on her hips, pulling her back down onto him, and him into her.

She settled back, arching her back, tilting her face towards the sky. For an instant, the room was lit by a blinding flash of lightning, and thunder rolled simultaneously.

In the momentary light, all Ares could see was dark hair. It could be any one of his Priestesses.

Slowly they rocked together, their bodies moving as one. The storm increased in intensity, and their passion matched it. Together they climaxed, The woman silent, Ares moaning his pleasure.

She rolled off him, settled against his side, her head resting on his shoulder, to recover from their exertions. But they fell asleep in each others arms, the storm finally abating.


Ares woke to gray light filling his eyes. False dawn. The memory of the storm and the woman came slowly to his mind. Savoring it, he turned to see which of his Priestesses she was.

But it was no woman of the Temple. He sat up fast, knocking her off of him. She turned to him, their eyes locked, shock and almost fear on his face. Seeing the light, the woman panicked, bolted for the door.

The stranger emerged from the temple into the blinding gray light. In the middle of the front courtyard, she stopped. She raised her hands, spread her arms wide to the sky. The captured lightning released crackled away into the atmosphere. The woman was gone, a night bird winged away higher and higher, towards the western mountains, towards the night.


A short time latter, the priestesses gathered at the breakfast table. (Carnation had whipped up a quick batch of pancakes, thanks to the enchanted stove Ares had brought her.) Ares still hadn't appeared.

The priestesses were in a frenzy. Ares had obviously been extremely agitated. Waking them at dawn, a naked woman running form his rooms, then disappearing into thin air, and to end all, Ares chasing her in his all-together. He'd returned to his rooms, instructing them to go eat breakfast, that he'd join them soon.

Tyrus looked up and down the long table. Deirya and Diteí looked to be deep in private conversation. Fireheart was looking distracted and thoughtful, if troubled. The rest were just talking, each trying to out do the others in shear volume.

"Hey. HEY. HEY! SHUT UP! This is just making the confusion worse. Now, who knows anything for sure?"

Of course, that just started the clamor again. Tyrus rolled her eyes and screamed "QUIET! One at a time!"

Rachel raised her hand. "All I know is that I was very rudely woken up from a very nice dream by Ares roaring at the top of his lungs." All the priestesses nodded their agreement.

Sei was next. She'd been in the lead on the way to Aresí rooms. "I'd swear I saw a naked woman with black hair running from Aresí chamber." Some of the priestesses who had been slower to wake gasped, and asked Sei if she was sure.

Then Kriket, who had been right on Sei's heels. "Ares came running after her, and he was nekid too," she blushed. "Tyrus, where were you? I was at the front, and I didn't see you."

"I was busy. None of your business."

Dragonflyer. "I was about the last to come out of my room, but I got to the front door just as lightning hit her, and she disappeared."

"Lightning hit her?" Nymph asked. "And she's not dead?"

Kiari noticed Ares lurking in the doorway, listening to their accounts of the chase. "My Lord!"

All the priestesses rose, and curtsied to their god.

"Sit, sit. This is not the time for ceremony. So, no one knows anything?"

"Don't you know who she was M'Lord?" asked Deirya.

Ares looked perturbed. After a moment of thought, "As a matter of fact, I don't."

The priestesses looked at each other, unwilling to give voice to their disbelief. Finally Dite spoke up. "Can you tell us what you know? Maybe we know more than we think. We just need to put all the pieces together."

He shot Dite a scathing glance, but fortunately for her, she was already conferring with Deirya again.

"She just appeared in my room. I thought it was one of you." Warming to his subject, "She had the strangest eyes. All black. As black as her hair."

Fireheart looked up sharply. Standing, she put her hands flat on the table and leaned farther forward over it, "Black Eyes? Did she take anything from you, My Lord?"

Ares raised an eyebrow, "Take anything? Like what?"

"If my suspicions are correct, it could be absolutely anything. Even something completely worthless to you."

"No. No, not that I know of. What exactly do you suspect?"

"There is a legend in my homeland. It's about a creature, an elemental, called Illian, StormChild."

Dite and Deirya looked stricken. "We know that legend," Dite said. Deirya continued, "It can take any form, and she comes in the night to steel something from her chosen victim."

"That's basically it. In our version, it's just a nuisance, never doing any real harm unless it's threatened or cornered. But it always leaves something behind too." said Fire.

"What exactly do you mean by 'real harm'?" Sei asked.

"You know the lightning that 'struck' her? Well, it was her that was releasing the lightning. If she'd done that in here, the place would be toast." Dite said.

Fireheart nodded. "Yeah, we're lucky Tyrus was "busy". If she'd caught it, we'd be standing in a pile of rubble."

KimD piped up, "But what could she have wanted?"

"Let me get this strait, this elemental - or whatever - takes the form of a woman to steel things?" Ares asked.

Exasperated, Fireheart tried to explain it again. "Illian, or StormChild as it is known here, is an elemental, it's natural form is that of a night bird. It needs a huge amount of energy to shapeshift, and a storm is the perfect opportunity. It took the form of a woman because it wanted something from you. When it was clear of the Temple, it released the lightning, turned back into the night bird, and flew away. I want to know is why it was still here at dawn, and what it took."

Ares raised an eyebrow, "Not to mention, what she left."


Ares returned to his rooms, perplexed. What had she taken? He had immediately sent Sei to check on his sword. That safe, he was at a loss. Completely worthless eh? Then why am I worried? His godhood was intact, his priestesses safe, and the Temple secure.

That decided, his curiosity nudged him: what had she left? He gave his room another closer inspection. Nothing seemed out of order. Except - he didn't have a cloak like that. He held it up in front of him. She must have worn it, even if he'd never seen it. It was still wet.

 

As the weeks of spring passed into summer, the strange visitation faded from memories. Fire was still periodically troubled by the incident, but Ares seemed to have forgotten about it completely.

At least until the night of the next storm. It rolled in slowly, a steady soaking rain the gardens needed. The first distant rumble of thunder set Ares' nerves on edge.

His temple and his very person had been invaded, and he'd been powerless to do anything about it. How could he protect the Temple and his Priestesses when he couldn't protect himself?

As the storm drew lazily closer. Ares became increasingly agitated. He wouldn't be able to sleep tonight, not under the skylight. He might as well keep occupied with a pleasant distraction. Who's turn was it tonight? No matter, any of his Priestesses would make it a memorable night.

 

Fireheart gave her horses a last scratch, and left the stables. Ewwwwwwwww...I stink she thought. Hurrying to catch a quick shower before supper, she rounded the last corner between her and her rooms and ran *SMACK* into Ares.

"DOOFFFHHHH! Hey! Whadyathinkyou'redo --- OH, My Lord! Excuse me!"

Looking up at his High Priestess from his seat on the floor, he could either be furious, or find a suitable punishment for her. The horrified look on her face decided him. He threw his head back and laughed. Rising, "My dear, you know I'll have to spank you for that..."

Fire caught the tone of his voice. "Let me shower, and I'll meet you in your rooms, and I promise to be a good little girl from now on." She gave him the sweet innocent face that she'd been working on.

"No, I'll come to your room."

"But Ares, my rooms are being painted. I was rooming with Dite. Can't we please go to your rooms?"

Ares looked pensive. Understanding suddenly lit Fire's face. "We can cover the skylight if you like." He hugged her tightly to his chest and placed a kiss on her forehead. "My sweet priestess, you know me too well. You know, if you ever leave me I'll have to kill you."

"I know My Lord," she replied, and stood on tip toes to kiss his cheek. I'll need a shower worse latter, and I wasn't hungry anyway. Pulling Ares by his hand, she led him to his chambers.

Fire rolled away from Ares, completely exhausted. Sprawled on their backs, side by side, they both had the same thought: Shame the skylight's covered. Fire stretched and rolled onto her side, pulling Ares' pillow into her arms. Her hand felt something cold under the pillow. She pulled it back with a jerk. (She'd been having terrible NightmARES about being attacked in her bed, and when she reached for the dagger she kept hidden under her pillows, it had turned into a spider.)

"What is it?" Ares asked sleepily.

"I don't know. You look."

Exasperated, Ares sat up and whipped the pillow off the bed.

Silver sparkled in the light of many candles. "Well?" Fire asked. In the low light, the stone started to glow.

Ares leaned towards the object. "Her necklace," he whispered. He remembered seeing a faint point of light glowing against the shadow that had come to him the last stormy night. Ares picked it up.

"How did it get here?"

"Zeus only knows. Here, I don't want it near me. Get rid of it." Ares handed the necklace to Fire.

"I don't think that's a good idea Ares, She left it for you. It is a very bad idea to discard a gift of the StormChild."

"Then you take it."

She hesitated, "But it wasn't given to me."

Ares gave her a quelling look, she accepted it, and subsided.


The night was hot and thick, but under her fan, Fire slept soundly. Her NightmARES had finally stopped.

The wind was shifting, a cool breeze blew down from the mountains. With it, it brought the shadows. A darker darkness swirled around the temple.

Monster, Fire's cat, stirred from his place on her feet, lifted his head. He sniffed the air, hissed, and bolted under the bed. The cool breeze blew through the sheer curtains of Fire's windows, and across the bed. A shadow loomed outside the window, drawn there. It drifted through the window.

Slowly it gained substance.

Fire felt the air in the room change, and it woke her. The shadow was still, but she could see it against the starlit night. "Illian?" she whispered. "Nu sa tuneth nu sela hule vai. Nada suath den vel." (My heart and my soul honor you. I am your servant forever.)

The figure stepped forward. It raised a hand and motioned towards Fire's throat, where the moonstone glowed. Fire raised her hand to it, then reached back to unfastened the chain. She held it out to StormChild, and dropped the necklace into its hand. It moved back to the window, placing the moonstone around its neck, but stopped at the sill.

Turning back to Fire, StormChild reached into it's pouch and held it's hand out to her.

Fire extended her open palm. Illian dropped something into it, then disappeared into the night.

Fire shook her head. She lit a candle. A stone. Hematite, polished to a deep finish.

 

"Oh my Gods, Fire! Where did you get that?" Calee asked at breakfast a few days later. The dark stone had been placed in a setting of silver leaves, and rode Fire's right ring finger.

"Oh, uh, a friend gave it to me, and I set it."

"A friend, huh?" said Snow with a wink. A roll of snickers went around the table.

Zep took her hand from across the table to admire it from a better angle. "Wow, you do great work."

"So I've been told," Fire shot back, with a sly wink.

Dee would have laughed, but she looked up to see Ares standing behind Fire's chair.

"Bragging again?" Ares whispered in her ear, as he lightly kissed Fire's shoulder.

Fire snatched her hand away from Zep, not wanting Ares to see the ring just yet.

Ares sat down at his place at the head of the table, Fire and Zep on either side of him. "So, tell me, what were you ladies talking about? Don't let me interrupt."

"Ah, nothing my Lord, we were just discussing Fire's 'many skills'" Ped said. Another round of giggles circled the table, and Fire blushed deeply.

"You're not kidding", he said, squeezing her left hand.

Breakfast went well, Carnation had out done herself again: blueberry waffles with whipped cream. How did these girls keep their figures with all the whipped cream they ate? Seemed like every meal included the sweet stuff.

Ares noticed that Fireheart was up tight, nervous. He took her hand again, and leaned to whisper in her ear. "What's the matter my dear? You're not yourself."

"Um, nothing my lord. I-I'm just tired."

"Something keeping you awake?"

"No, I've just been busy."

"With what?" If she hadn't been so evasive, he would have let it go, but her avoiding his eyes just made him more sure that she was hiding something.

With Ares watching her, she couldn't evade him any longer. "I had some work to do, a stone to set."

"A commission?"

"Not exactly, I was doing this." She held out her hand for him to see. He was not going to like the fact that StormChild had been back, and more so that she hadn't told him about it.

"Very nice, but what's the bid deal?"

"Where I got it. I traded it for the moonstone. Illian came for it and left me this."

Ares features hardened. He was going to be pissed, but not here and not now. "We'll talk about this later." he hissed, and went back to his waffles. Fire had lost her appetite.

 

Fire lurked in her room for the rest of the morning. Lunchtime was approaching, and she was getting hungry, but she didn't want to face Ares at the table, in front of all the other Priestesses. She laid on her bed and scratched Monster's ears.

Without warning, Monster jumped from the bed and bolted under her desk.

THUMPTHUMPTHUMP

Ares.

Fire shot up off her bed as Ares entered, uninvited.

"My Lord--"

He gave her a scathing look. "What exactly did you think you were doing?" Ares yelled, pacing back and forth across her room.

"Ares I--"

"That thing was in the Temple,--"

"No--"

"and rather than call the guard,--"

"I just--"

"you practically invite it to tea!"

"But I--"

"You could have been killed!"

Fireheart's patience was at an end as well. If he was going to yell at her, she might as well yell back. "Illian would do no such thing!" She stood nose to - well - chest with Ares. "She is the protector of my Clan. And I warned you about not keeping the necklace." She crossed her arms stubbornly.

Ares grabbed her by the arms to look her in the eyes. In a dangerous half whisper, "Do not push me, you won't like me when I'm mad."

"Don't threaten me Ares! I am your priestess, not your property."

Frustrated, Ares released her, pushing her away from him and turned away. They stood unmoving for minutes. The silence was charged.

Ares flexed his fists, trying to regain control of his temper. A vein stood out in his neck, and his jaw clenched.

Finally, he turned back, stuck a finger in her face, "This will never happen again." He stalked out.

Fire slammed the door behind him, knocking a tapestry off the wall.

Ares irritation lasted longer than anyone would have expected. Longer even than after his initial interlude with the elemental. He would not have his Priestesses keeping things from him. He would not have this insubordination!

And again he wondered what it was that Illian had taken. Fireheart couldn't give him any insight, her guardian was totally unpredictable.

It angered him irrationally that she never went with out that ring. She even went to bed with it on. He was reluctant to ask her to remove it when they were together, he didn't want to show how uncomfortable it made him. He swore at times it glowed from it's depths, it reminded him of Storm child's eyes.


Ares was in his bed, sleeping soundly, but he was also outside the skylight, watching.

A storm approached the temple, purple clouds swirled with orange, lit from within by lightning. A black speck grew larger against the clouds. He could just make it out as a bird. It circled the temple, fighting the wind.

A finger of lightning reached out to touch the bird. Momentarily blinded, Ares closed his dream eyes.

He opened them to look down into his room at himself, and a dark figure standing in the shadows by the foot of his bed. It moved towards him, threw back it's hood. The shadow didn't move again for a long time, until it dropped its cloak. The single candle went out. Ares dream eyes could still see; see the shadow sit on the bed, stroke his arm, his face; kiss his lips; climb onto the bed next to him; straddle him.

He threw his rage against the skylight, unable to wake. The woman tilted her face up towards him, and he thought for a moment she saw him.

Then he woke, sweating, breathing hard.

Fire stirred next to him, moving closed to his side. Her right hand with that damned ring laid on his pillow, her fingers touching his hair. He disentangled himself from her and went to his shower.


Finally he slept. He was outside the Temple again, but outside Fireheart's window. He drifted towards it, through it into her room. She slept soundly, but her cat looked right at him, hissed and hid.

A figure entered her window, and slowly became solid. Fire stirred and woke. She spoke to it in her native tongue. It raised its hand and Fire placed the moonstone in it. It went to the window, paused, and handed Fire something. Then it disappeared.

Fire lit a candle, and the sudden light blinded him. He closed his eyes and woke.


He was curled on his side, his chest pressed against Fire's back. His arm was around her, and she held his hand in both of hers.

He rolled onto his back and stared at the sheer curtains of Fire's bed.

From across the room, Monster watched Ares, amusement in his feline eyes.


Ares was exhausted. Nightmares had plagued him for months. He'd taken his horse for a ride, looking for a bit of peace. He stopped next to a stream, stretched out on the mossy bank, his hands clasped behind his head. His night black horse cropped sweet grass nearby.

He dreamt of sand, endless dunes, the screams of a woman, the cry of an infant. He ran, the sand sucked at his feet. He had no voice, the only other sounds were those in his head. He ran down a canyon, stone walls rose up hundreds of feet around him. He came to a dead end. He whirled, screams echoing around him.

He woke suddenly, his horse dribbling green bubbles down his shirt.


Ares tossed and turned in his bed. Sleep was a long time coming, and when it did, it was troubled.

The clash of metal. Ares ears heard foreign words, but his mind understood them.

"No! Keep your guard up! Good! Come on boy, show me what you've got!" A dark haired boy sparred with a bearded man. "Keep it in check my boy - don't let your anger control you - use it!"

The boy pushed the old man back, until the man disarmed him with an easy twist of his wrist. "Your anger will not help you in a fight if you let it take over. You must keep your feelings under control. Now, pick up your sword, lets go!"


"DI-VI-ANT!!!!!!" Ares roared. Another nightmare. Damn her! Where did she get off anyway? Giving him NightmARES! She would loose her night this time!


"Diviant! How dare you give ME NightmARES!?!" Ares bellowed as he entered the asylum to find her meditating.

Dee turned to him, fists on her hips, irritated that she'd been disturbed only to get yelled at. "What are you talking about?" she asked, confused. "I haven't given you any nightmares."

"Don't give me that innocent look of yours, I know you too well. You've been giving me nightmares for months!" Ares face turned many shades of red.

"So, you've been having nightmares eh?" Diviant couldn't hold back a small laugh, infuriating him even more.

"Cut the act. This is no joke. You will cease giving me nightmares immediately!"

"I've told you once, and I'll tell you again, I AM NOT GIVING YOU NIGHTMARES!" Dee yelled.

Ares turned purple, holding his breath. He shook with fury. To his credit, he did not vaporize Diviant on the spot. Through clenched teeth, "Well then, why am I having them?" he asked sarcastically.

"I wouldn't know, they're not mine." Dee snapped back.

Ares started to pace the room. "You're the only one in the Temple who has the power to do it!"

"Well then if you don't want me in the Temple, just say so! Just Banish Me! I'll be happy to leave. Xena will take me in a second!

Ares stopped in his tracks, then advanced on Diviant one slow step at a time. "You - will - do - no - such - thing." Ares said menacingly.

"And you're going to stop me? I don't think so."

"Over - my - dead - body - will - you - be - leaving." Ares stood towering over Diviant holding her eyes with his.

"As if", she huffed.

Ares threw his hands in the air, totally frustrated. "I have no control over my Priestesses anymore!"

Diviant didn't have enough survival instincts to let it go. "Is that all you're worried about? Controlling us?"

"I just came here to talk about my nightmares, and you're flying off the handle at me!" (Ares turn for the innocent act)

"Well, gee, I wonder why. You come barging in here without even knocking, yelling and screaming, accusing me of something I didn't do!! Son of a &%$#@!!!" Her voice getting louder until she was screaming.

"Then maybe the Asylum isn't the place for you to be!" Ares bellowed.

Dee chucked a large vase at him, retreating to the far wall, near the windows and looked for more things to throw at him. Ares easily knocked the projectile out of the air, and it smashed against the wall.

"Get out of here! Go find somewhere else to play God!" A crystal figurine followed the vase towards Aresí head. Again he knocked it out of the air. "Leave me alone, I didn't do it!"

"Well then, where in Tartarus are they coming from?"

They both stopped at the thought. Dee had a miniature statue of Ares raised, poised to launch at him. A shiver went up her spine. Who could be giving him the nightmares?

She lowered the statue. "Come lay down on the couch over here, and tell me all about your nightmares. When did they start?"

With a heavy sigh, Ares laid down and told her everything that had happened in the last few months.

Uuugh. Not my style. She thought. "Repressed aggression towards your father perhaps. Or, could be a sign of sibling rivalry. Were there any cigars in your dream? No, we keep you to happy for that. But you know what they say, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar."


"Ares! You coward! Come and face me! You cannot hide behind your Priestesses forever!

A line of armored and armed Priestesses blocked the man's way. His resemblance to their Lord was not only uncanny, it was unnerving.

Victory had been sent to get Ares, if he hadn't already heard the racket.

The stranger didn't try to cross their line, and they were thankful. No one would admit it, and some not even to themselves, but they were afraid. He radiated power, and danger. His agitation was growing. He paced back and forth across the hall in front of them like a caged wild animal.

"ARES! Come and meet the last sight that you will ever see!"

Ares strode into the hall, taking the sword that Sei had brought for him. "Good thinking my dear. Now, everyone leave. Go to your rooms, and I will summon you when I have taken care of this impudent pup."

The priestesses reluctantly left, knowing that this was not the time to argue. Sura was the last to leave the hall, and closed the doors behind her. Turning to Fire and Zep, they exchanged anxious glances. "OK everyone, lets go. To your rooms." They herded the priestesses away from the hall, but not without one last worried glance at the closed doors.

The stranger fought Ares to a standstill, taking everything Ares threw at him, and giving just as good.

"Show me your power, father," he sneered. Ares faltered. The man pressed his advantage, forcing the God of War back on his heels. Ares shock was only momentary, but the stranger's fury was intense.

With a powerful blow that sent sparks from their blades, the stranger knocked the sword from Ares grip, and forced him to the floor. Ares sword stuck inches into the marble floor.

"What are you?"

"Only what you have made of me." He raised his black sword.

With the intruderís chest momentarily exposed, Ares saw his opportunity. He knew from experience that lightning would have no adverse effect on him, but it just might knock him off balance for a second. He threw a bolt. The demi-god absorbed it, but it made him pause, giving Ares just enough time to roll out of the way of the man's death blow and retrieve his sword. Ares stood and faced him, holding his sword in both hands at the ready.

"Who are you?" Ares asked.

Circling Ares, he laughed, "You cannot stop me father. I am everything that you ever were, and more! I am Abraxis, I am your son, I am the future, and I am YOUR END!"

Abraxis charged Ares. His fury made him reckless. At the last possible second, Ares side stepped out of the way, and brought the pommel of his sword crashing down on the back of Abraxis' skull. His charge carried him into the wall, where he collapsed.

Ares kicked Abraxis' black blade away and put the tip of his sword to his opponents throat. Ares instincts told him to kill the boy, but his curiosity stayed his hand. "How can you be my son?" Ares pricked him with the tip of his sword.

Abraxix laughed from his place on the floor. "Time is irrelevant, haven't you figured that out yet?"

The pieces suddenly fit.

"What do you want here?"

"Only your power. To take my rightful place as God Of War."

Ares laugh echoed around the hall. "You're not ready to be the God of War! You've no discipline, no maturity. Maybe someday you'll be able to beat me, but NOT today!"

Ares took his blade from Abraxis' throat and shoved him with the toe of his boot. "Now get out. Leave my temple."

Abraxis rose, and went to where his sword lay. Bending to pick it up, he rubbed the back of his head. "Someday, father, this will all be mine." He disappeared with a salute, in a ball of light.

Ares smiled as he turned to leave the hall. "Someday, son."


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