Gods at Play

by VC Noble

XXI ~ XXII ~ XXIII ~ XXIV ~ XV

XXI

Brett stopped, the color draining from his face. He had never spoken of his dream to anyone. How would she know of it?

"Because I was there," she whispered, leaning over him.

He didn't move, he just stared up at her as understanding lit his eyes. She was the one from his dreams, the one who brought him comfort when his heart was so torn. But he had thought she wasn't real, that she was just a sweet figment of his overactive imagination.

Kiari let his arms free, but stayed in place. Brett reached up and touched her cheek, watched as her lips slightly parted at his touch, her eyes darkening. He cupped the back of her neck and brought her face down to his, reaching up to capture her lips.

~It's too soon,~ she thought to herself, trying to control her reaction. But she could feel her heart racing as his tongue slowly teased her lips apart, seeking the warmth of her mouth. She obliged, deepening the kiss, her tongue meeting his as her body rested on top of his hard length. His arms came around her, holding her tight.

Footsteps in the hall reminded them of their place and they quickly drew apart, waiting. No one entered and after a moment, Kiari moved off of him, kneeling as he sat up.

"I'm sorry about drawing my sword," he said softly.

She smiled shyly. "It's okay. I needed the practice anyway."

He smiled too, then his expression turned serious. "Is it true? Do I really look like Hades?"

Kiari took a quick breath, the question unsettling her. "Yes, it's true. The two of you are practically twins."

"Is that why-- I mean, I heard a lot during breakfast, one of the things being that you and the underworld lord have a relationship of sorts."

Kiari knew what he was trying to say. With a sigh, she did her best to explain. "Hades and I were lovers when I lived in the underworld. He was my first love and for a long time, I thought my only love. But things happened and I left the underworld without my memories. When I was finally reunited with him, he was married to Persephone. My position as Liaison to Hades has brought us together at times, but the moments with him are just that, moments. Although I still love him very much, we can never have what we could have had. He moved on. So will I."

She stood up at the sound of footsteps passing in the hall. "Come on, let's get out of here before someone walks in on us."

After deciding to leave their swords in the armory, Kiari and Brett headed out to the waterfall. They were silent as they walked hand in hand. When they finally got to her favorite tree, he turned to her, the question still on his mind.

"I need to know," he said quietly. "Is all your attention to me because I look like him?"

Was it? Kiari wondered herself. Her visit to the first realm left her uneasy because she knew that she only remembered the surface memory. The deeper, ancient memory was like a long ago dream. All she knew was that this man was the one who completed her. It was as though the love she had for Hades was only a prelude to this.

Kiari didn't get a chance to answer him. In a moment, something flashed behind Kiari. She whirled around and met the furious eyes of Hades...

(top of page)

XXII

Kiari moved in front of Brett, as if to protect him. Hades hadn't bothered shielding himself from the mortal, so Brett knew exactly who he was.

"Is this mortal the reason you won't give me an answer?" He asked, approaching.

In a moment, Kiari had her goddess gown on. "Don't even dare think of it, Hades."

"You only want him because he looks like me. A pale imitation," he mocked. "He will die, Kiari. He's mortal. I offer you--"

"Everything but what I really want," Kiari finished for him. "Your heart and soul complete. You can't give that to me because they are not for you to give. Why can't you just be satisfied with what we have?"

"You said you loved me," he whispered.

"Not enough to accept your proposal," she said, ignoring the ache in her heart. She wanted to cry at the pain in Hades' eyes, but she kept herself in check. His pain quickly turned into rage and he raised his hand, the power gathering.

"Because of him!" He shouted, throwing the bolt at them.

Kiari took the brunt of the blow, falling back against Brett.

Ares appeared. "HADES! STOP THIS!"

The god of the underworld drew his sword on Ares. "And you. I know you don't care if she turns from me. You've been waiting for this day."

Ares easily unsheathed his sword. "Now why would I want that? She is quite valuable as my liaison to you."

Brett was on his knees, cradling Kiari in his arms. With a shuddering breath, her eyes fluttered open.

The gods were fighting, their swords clanging and echoing above the sound of the waterfalls. Fury spurred Hades on, Ares' skill easily matched each strike.

Cupid appeared, unnoticed by the dueling duo. He knelt beside Kiari and Brett.

"Kiari, are you all right?"

She nodded weakly.

Cupid held a hand to the both of them. "Come on, I'll take you two to my temple."

In a flash, the three of them were gone.

"NO!" Hades roared.

In the moment of distraction, Ares knocked Hades' sword out of his hand.

"Go from here, Hades," Ares ordered. "This isn't your place. Let her go."

"I will never let her go," Hades growled. In a flash, he was gone.

(top of page)

XXIII

Kiari and Brett were sitting on a loveseat. He was unharmed, but she was a bit dazed.

"This is all my fault," Cupid muttered, handing Kiari a goblet. "Go on, drink this."

It had a been a long time since Kiari had even a taste of ambrosia, but she took it and drank. She sighed as the liquid eased the ache of her muscles. But it could do nothing to ease the hurt in her heart.

"He's going to hate me now," she said, tears spilling on her cheeks.

Brett put a comforting arm around her. "He'll understand, eventually." Kiari leaned on him, closing her eyes.

As he took the goblet from her, Cupid raised an eyebrow, clearly reading Brett's concern. The warrior was in love with Kiari, even though Cupid's arrow had only pierced Kiari's heart. He had to wonder how much he really had to do with the whole situation.

Kiari realized Cupid's words and looked up at him. "What do you mean it's your fault?"

The god of love swallowed, reminding himself that this goddess was also his priestess. He tried to figure a way to tell her without making her mad.

"Cupid?" Kiari prompted him.

As he opened his mouth to answer, Psyche appeared.

"By the gods! What happened to you?" Psyche asked, looking Kiari over.

"Hades," Kiari answered.

"Hades? But he would never!"

"I think I was the intended target," Brett cut in.

Psyche regarded the mortal, seeing the obvious resemblance to Hades. She also saw the same thing that Cupid did-- Brett was in love. Psyche threw her husband a questioning glance.

"Did you?" She asked.

"No," he reassured her.

"Unbelievable," she murmured, turning back to the couple.

"Did I miss something?" Brett asked Kiari.

She shook her head, but she saw the way Cupid wouldn't meet her eyes. "Cupid, answer me."

"It was the barest amount," he began. "I'm not even sure it took."

Psyche frowned at her husband. "On your own priestess, Cupid! How could you?"

"I'm definitely missing something," Brett mumbled as Kiari stood up.

"Undo it," she ordered the god, her dark eyes flashing.

"But--" Cupid protested.

"Cupid," Psyche warned.

With a frown, Cupid tapped Kiari's forehead. Nothing happened.

"Well, this is a downer. I guess I should've known better than to try one on you, Kiari."

She cocked an eyebrow. "Don't you know you can't turn my heart? I can fall in love quite readily without your help, thank you."

Cupid's eyes narrowed a bit. -So I noticed. Are you in love with him?-

She smiled, surprised by his mindspeak. -I do not kiss and tell.-

He grinned. -So you kissed?-

"All right, enough," Psyche said. "I guess you're not angry at him?"

"It was a good try," Kiari conceded. "No, Psyche, I'm not angry with your husband. He meant well, I think?"

"I only want you to be happy," Cupid nodded. He glanced at Brett. "He's worthy of you, Kiari. Just the kind of man you've been waiting for."

"What do you know of the kind of man I've been waiting for?"

"I'm the god of love," he reminded her, a twinkle in his eyes. "I know."

"Kiari, you're more forgiving than I would be," Psyche declared. "Come now, husband mine, I think we need to talk about your conduct." With that, the duo disappeared, leaving Kiari and Brett alone.

"I don't suppose you're going to tell me what that was all about?" Brett asked, standing up.

Kiari turned around and sighed. "Gods at play."

(top of page)

XXIV

Ares followed Hades to the underworld.

"Away, Ares!" Hades yelled at him.

"I just want to be sure you don't do anything stupid," Ares shouted back.

The residents and staff of the underworld kept away from the gods. Hades didn't stop until he was in his main chamber.

"Your display of temper is admirable," Ares began. "I always knew you had it in you."

"I'm only allowing your presence here because of my own intrusion on your grounds," Hades grumbled, pacing the floor. "Say what you will then leave."

"And generous too," Ares nodded. He took a seat. "Let her go, Hades. You can't have it all."

"Doesn't it bother you in the least bit?" Hades asked. "First me, then Autolycus, then Rafe, now this Brett?"

"I cannot dictate my priestesses' hearts," Ares said. "I keep realizing that with all of them. But especially with Kiari. I allow her diversions because she is immortal. It'll keep her on her toes when she deals with me. Besides, what argument could I have against Brett? A relationship between the two of them can only be to my advantage, since he is an excellent warrior loyal to me. Most definitely better than the thief."

"This is very unlike you," Hades said, coming to a halt.

"He's mortal, Hades. He will pass on in the end. Kiari is a goddess. You have all eternity to woo her, if that's what you want," Ares reminded him. "But if you really love her, you will let her go."

"And what does the god of war know of love?" Hades scoffed.

Ares smiled. "Sometimes the best wars are the ones of love."

"Get out."

Ares laughed, standing up. "Keep what I said in mind, Hades. She is still my liaison to you, no matter what."

"Leave!"

Ares obliged, leaving him a moment later.

Hades slumped down in his chair, defeated. Persephone was aboveworld for the next six months and Kiari was on her way to being in love with someone else. He was alone.

Someone knocked on his door.

"Go away!" He yelled.

The door opened nonetheless and he was about to hurl a bolt when Persephone walked in.

"Persephone!" He stood up quickly, surprised to see his wife in the underworld.

"I can only stay for a bit. Mother will pitch a fit if I'm not back by nightfall," she explained.

He took her in his arms, almost forgetting his heartache over Kiari. If only his wife could be with him all the year round, he thought miserably.

"I'm glad you came," he said, kissing her cheek.

She looked up into his eyes, seeing the hurt. She sighed, feeling contrite. It was because of her he was sad. Perhaps she should have left well enough alone. She so hated being jealous.

"I heard about Kiari," she said softly. "I know that you must be feeling bad."

His eyes narrowed. News certainly traveled fast. "How?"

"Oh come now, Hades. Do you think I don't have friends in the underworld?"

"Spies?" He said furiously, pushing away from her.

"My love, please don't think of it that way. Please," she pleaded, touching his cheek.

He swallowed his anger. He should cherish these stolen moments with his wife, just as he cherished the moments with Kiari. He just didn't want Persephone to know everything. "What did they tell you?"

Persephone took a deep breath and slowly exhaled. "That Kiari missed her appointments because of a mortal she found. That she may have fallen for him. Is it true?"

He wanted to say that Kiari fell in love easily, that this would pass, but he remembered her protective stance for the mortal. The way she called upon her powers to shield him from harm. Had she found something deeper than what they had shared? The thought made him ache.

"She's showing the signs," he answered his wife. "Almost as if Cupid struck her with his arrow. But I know that it's a true thing with her. I can see it in her eyes."

Persephone bit down her jealousy, trying to rejoice at his growing acceptance of Kiari's newfound love. "Is that so bad? Don't you want her to be happy?" She asked.

"Of course I want her to be happy."

"Then let her be," Persephone said. "She is still your counselor to the dead. Nothing can change her place in the underworld."

"Were you jealous of the time I spent with her?" They had never discussed it, but now he wanted to know.

"I would be lying if I said I wasn't," she confessed.

"I'm sorry," he said.

"Don't be. I'm your wife. She is your first love. I understand that. You know, I do like her very much, when I'm not thinking of the two of you-- well, anyway. I want her to be happy as well. I want her to find what we have together, Hades. Is that so wrong?"

He shook his head "You are one of a kind, Persephone. You have the sweetest heart." He took her back in his arms.

Persephone hugged her husband tight, hoping he would forgive her if he ever found out...

(top of page)

XXV

Kiari and Brett left Cupid's temple in silence, her arm linked through his. Both were very thoughtful as they slowly made their way back to Ares' temple. The sun was high in the sky, but a cool breeze kept it from being unbearable. The air smelled fresh with the spring blossoms and growing grass.

"Do you love him very much?" Brett asked suddenly.

"I do," she answered quietly.

"He proposed?"

"Yes."

They slowed their pace. "And you've refused. Why?"

"Well, there's the fact that he's already married."

Brett shrugged. "Gods do what they will."

They stopped under the shade of the trees. Kiari faced Brett, her dark eyes unreadable.

"Another time, I might have said yes," Kiari admitted. "Regardless of the other gods or my obligations to Ares and Cupid. But I know that it would be wrong. It wouldn't be fair to me or him or Persephone. Besides, I deserve more than that. He found love without me. I know that I will too."

"Perhaps it's just a breath away," he offered, drawing closer to her.

"Perhaps it is," she smiled up at him.

He reached up and touched her cheek, saw the flicker in her eyes. "You must know that I've been searching a long time for you," he said softly.

"I know," she murmured.

"How do you know? I don't even know," he said.

"I'm a goddess. Some things I know." She rested her hand on his chest, felt his heart beating against her fingers. "I know it here."

"I've never been in love before," he said. "I don't know what it feels like."

"It's different every time," Kiari reflected.

"Is it like magic?" He asked, his voice barely a whisper.

"If you're lucky," she said.

"The moment I looked into your eyes, I knew I had found what I'd been looking for," he declared, his voice quiet, but strong. "And when we kissed, my heart found its home. Is that love?"

Kiari's eyes misted and she could only nod.

"I can't offer you eternity, but I can give you my heart and soul complete," he said, holding her hand against his heart. His words echoed the ones she had spoken to Hades.

"But you don't even really know me," she whispered.

"Don't I?" He leaned down and kissed her, felt her sharp intake of breath. His hands combed through her hair as her arms circled his waist. Their bodies closed the small space between them and their kiss deepened.

After a rather delicious moment, they inched away slowly, savoring the feel and taste of each other. She opened her eyes and sighed.

"Do you think you'll ever feel the same for me, even without Cupid's arrows?" He asked, uncertainty in his eyes.

A smile curved her lips. "But I already do. I think Cupid's arrow only made me realize it enough to admit it."

His eyes began to shine and a matching smile spread over his lips. He kissed her again. With a wave of her hand, a blanket appeared on the soft, fresh grass. He cocked an eyebrow when he saw it, then grinned at her.

"So you're naughty too." His breath was hot on her ear as he began unlacing her dress.

"Oh, just a little," she whispered, shivering as the cool air hit her skin. She closed her eyes as his lips began trailing down her neck. Her own hands were busy with his clothing as they lowered themselves on the blanket and gave in to their hungry desire...

The sun was beginning its descent, the air cooling around them. His head rested against her chest, their bodies still tangled together after their lovemaking. She was playing with his hair, unwilling to give in to the drowsiness, preferring to savor his body against hers.

He was dreaming of his spirit entwined with hers, of a piece of his soul finally coming to rest...


back to Prologue - V / VI - X / XI - XV / XVI - XX

onward to XXVI to Conclusion

back to FICTION

© 1998 VCN