Part 2

Dawn came with her dewy shimmer, beckoning the sun forth to shine upon the land. The temple of Ares was already bustling with activity. But the weaving room was strangely idle.

Somewhere west of the temple, a priestess, a thief, and a horse walked along companionably with the sun on their backs. The horse had their provisions packed in bags hanging at his sides. The thief had his tools in their usual hiding places. The priestess had her bag slung over her shoulder. They were dressed in what the horse called wild west gear, though neither the priestess nor the thief knew exactly what he was talking about.

"I don't think you should tell such an impressionable young woman crazy stories," Autolycus argued.

Comet snorted.

"I don't care if you think they're true!"

"Autolycus," Kiari laughed. "It's no use arguing with him. He's stubborn."

Comet huffed.

"Yeah, yeah, I know she's a former goddess. But she's still impressionable. All women are," Autolycus grumbled.

"I am not impressionable!" Kiari said.

"Oh, so you think this is perfectly normal?" Autolycus raised an eyebrow. "You know, I'm only here because you were REALLY good at convincing me. Ares will have my hide when he finds out you're gone."

"I told you not to worry about him," Kiari reminded.

"Oh, and what about Hades? I'm sure he'll be none too pleased to find out you're keeping company with me, the king of thieves though I am. Yeah, it's perfectly normal for me to traipse the countryside with a gal who belongs to not one, but two of the gods."

"I don't belong to anyone. I serve Ares of my own free will and Hades has no say over what I do on my own time."

"Ares does."

"Okay," she conceded. "But like I said, he won't even notice that I'm gone."

"You're dreaming."

So the rest of the day went, Autolycus and Kiari verbally sparring or Auto and Comet arguing. Kiari knew better than to argue with her horse, so she had more pleasant conversations with him. They walked westward, heading for a dense forest. When they came upon a clearing they set up camp.

"Well, we're a day away from the temple now," Autolycus observed. "And nothing's really happened. Do you think we'll actually meet other people dressed like this?" He took his hat off and placed on the ground beside him.

Kiari was loosening her hair from its braid. "Hmm, you never know."

After dinner, they spread their blankets. They were both too tired to do anything more than lay side by side and stare at the stars above them.

"I will never cease to be amazed by the beauty of the stars," Kiari sighed.

"Like jewels," Autolycus said. "Precious, pricey jewels."

She laughed. "You don't really mind being with me like this, do you Autolycus?"

He propped himself up on one elbow and smiled down at her. "Nah. I never mind being in the company of a beautiful lady. Now, your horse on the other hand, he's a different story."

Comet neighed from his spot and the duo laughed. Autolycus dropped a quick kiss on Kiari's forehead, then settled beside her.

Kiari dreamed of the temple. They hadn't missed her presence until now.

Autolycus dreamed of a chest in a castle. He knew that the chest held a wondrous treasure, but as he lifted the lid...

"Gone? What do you mean she's gone?" Ares snapped. Seilidhe stood before him undaunted.

"I mean gone. She left a note telling me that she was leaving her sword, but she was taking a dagger. Ped got a note asking that she take her tapestries to the village on Tuesday to sell at the market. Dreemweaver got a note saying that she was taking Comet on a journey. And Carnation got a note apologizing for raiding her kitchen--"

"Enough! Where did she go?"

Séi shrugged. "Her notes didn't say."

"Why wasn't I told of this sooner? A whole day has gone."

"We thought that perhaps she was in the underworld, but a messenger came from Hades, asking for Kiari."

For a moment, he thought the same, that Kiari was in the underworld. But if Hades thought she was at the temple, then something was definitely going on. Ares' connection with Kiari was strong, so he had not noticed the distance between them until now. Where did she go?

Séi was uncertain. "She's okay, isn't she?"

Ares noticed the apprehension in his priestess' eyes. "She is, but she won't be when she gets back." He noticed something else in Séi's eyes. She wasn't telling him everything. "What else?"

Séi took a breath. She was glad Kiari was all right, as far as Ares could tell. But she didn't want to get her fellow priestess in more trouble.

"Séi," Ares warned, following the her train of thought. "Tell me."

"Well, Autolycus is gone as well. A couple of the priestesses noticed the two of them together yesterday."

"Are you saying he might be with her?"

Séi clamped her mouth shut. She didn't want to jump to conclusions.

"Kiari is with Autolycus." Ares knew it, he could almost feel it. That self proclaimed king of thieves was nowhere in the temple. He tried to follow the link to Kiari, but he could only tell that she was all right. She had honed her skills to a point where all he could really feel was her presence and state of mind. Damn her former goddess life! He couldn't just appear to her, she had enough of her blocking up for that.

"Should we send out a search party?" Séi asked.

"No. She left with intentions of coming back. I will allow her this sabbatical." But Ares did not look very happy about it. Oh, she would hear about it when she got back...

Kiari opened her eyes. The air was still, except for the steady breathing of the man beside her. She could feel Ares trying to figure out her location, but her block was in place. Ohh, he was livid! Maybe she should have left him a note? She sighed, closed her eyes, and fell asleep.

"Gold," Autolycus muttered in his sleep. He woke up with a start. Above him the stars twinkled brightly. Kiari slept beside him, slightly snoring. He grinned. He would have to tease her about that later. Now what was he dreaming?

Oh yes, a golden light in a chest. A treasure chest? Something more. An abandoned castle. He concentrated, but the dream was fading. He shrugged to himself and closed his eyes. He fell asleep...

Autolycus dreamed again of the chest in the abandoned castle. He lifted the lid and his eyes were met with a wondrous golden light. Gold, he thought, rubbing his hands together. Then the light faded to a strange darkness and a hand rose up and grabbed Autolycus by the throat.

"What the--"

A dim light shone to reveal Ares, a menacing smile on his face. He tightened his grip on Autolycus' throat. The king of thieves could barely gasp for air. Then Ares let him go. Autolycus fell to his knees.

"Don't worry, mortal. You're not going to die. You're just dreaming," the god said casually.

"Oh, well that's a comfort," Auto coughed, getting up.

"You have my priestess with you," Ares got to his point. "I want the two of you to come back to the temple."

"Oh, I'm sure you do. But have you ever tried to reason with Kiari? I told her you would be angry, but noo! She had go on her adventure and she convinced me to go with her. Did she listen to my warnings? No, of course not. Well, it was all her idea. Really," Auto said with false bravado.

"Well, make it your idea to come back," Ares ordered.

"Why don't you just zap us back, Mr. God-with-big-powers? You can do that, can't you?" Heck, if this was a dream, he could cut the kiss butt stuff, right?

"No, I can't zap you back. And no, I wouldn't cut the kiss butt stuff if I were you. I can still make things difficult for you," Ares promised.

Autolycus cleared his throat. Alrighty then.

"Kiari is immortal and has certain skills, among them being a mind block to her physical whereabouts. I can't get a lock on her or you because you're with her, so I can't bring you back to the temple. You need to convince her to come back."

"Well, your gal is not easy to convince. She's got a pretty stubborn streak. It's probably because of serving you. And don't you think I've been telling her how foolhardy this journey is. I have! Doesn't that count for anything?"

"No. What kind of man are you? You let a woman decide your direction? Take charge, damn it!"

"Hey, a woman can almost always decide my direction. She's your priestess, Ares. Why don't you visit her dreams? You convince her to come back."

"I can't."

Autolycus raised an eyebrow. "What was that?"

"I can't!" Ares exploded. "Her block won't allow me in. That's why I'm here, in your pathetic dream."

"Hey, my dreams are not pathetic," Auto protested.

"You're a simple thief."

"I'm the king of thieves, thank you. There is nothing simple about thievery. Now go away. I don't think I like the idea of the god of war in my dreams. It reminds me of your impromptu visits when I'm in the room of one of your priestesses. Scares the heck out of me. Why do you do that?"

"Autolycus," Ares warned.

"Not gone yet? Fine then, I'll just wake up. That should get rid of you." Autolycus pinched himself.

"Damn it!" Ares reached for him.

Autolycus jerked awake. He sat up quickly, scanning the surrounding forest. Nothing stirred.

"Ares?" He whispered.

No answer.

Autolycus sighed. Dawn was still a few hours away, but he didn't want to risk running into Ares again. He wrinkled his nose distastefully at the thought of the god of war in his dreams. Lucky thing he had only been dreaming about a treasure chest.

Kiari slept peacefully beside him. Lucky her, he thought. He wondered how sound a sleeper she was.

He poked her. "Hey," he said quietly. "You awake?"

She made a noise and turned onto her back.

A thought passed through Autolycus' ever active mind. He wasn't so tired anymore. He thought of a rather wicked way to wake her up. Kiari would like it, he was sure of it...

Kiari felt the tickle of his mustache just behind her ear as she slowly woke up. His lips were trailing kisses down her neck, then back up. She opened her eyes and met his.

"Oh, there you are," he greeted, dropping his lips to hers. "Have a good rest?"

"Good enough," she grinned at him. "A little early morning exercise?"

"Sure, why not?" Autolycus smiled back at her.

"You know, I could get used to waking up with a lovely lady gently snoring beside me," Autolycus commented later.

Kiari frowned. "I don't snore."

"Oh, but you do," Autolycus insisted.

High clouds filtered the morning sun and a slight breeze rustled through the trees of the forest. After their morning "exercise," Autolycus and Kiari took a quick swim in a nearby lake, had breakfast, then packed up camp. They headed west, deeper into the forest.

Comet snorted.

"I do not talk in my sleep," Autolycus frowned at the horse.

Kiari giggled.

Comet huffed.

"Hah! I told you," Autolycus grinned at Kiari.

She was now glaring at her horse. "Comet, I do not!"

"Oh, you do," Autolycus assured her. "It's really cute though. Like I said, I could get used to waking up with a lovely lady..."

"But you need your freedom, Autolycus. I could not imagine you set up in a house somewhere with a wife and kids."

"Who said anything about kids? Although, they would be handsome fellows, wouldn't they?"

"Or lovely ladies," Kiari smiled. "You're not thinking of settling down, are you?"

"Are you thinking of leaving Ares? Thought not. No, as long as you or KimD or Ped are a priestess of Ares, I'm afraid I shall stay the single thief. Then again, who knows?" He grinned, smoothing his mustache.

"You've got to keep your options open," Kiari laughed.

"Oh yes indeed."

The forest gave way to a very large clearing, revealing a sprawling castle. Nothing stirred. It was obviously abandoned.

They stopped.

"Very interesting," Autolycus said. "Come on, let's have a look."

"I don't know," Kiari hesitated. "There's something strange about this place."

"Hey, you're the one who wanted the adventure. You can't back out now. Besides, you never know what they left behind." His eyes glazed over at the thought. "It's a big castle..."

They ventured forth...

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