Gods at Play

by VC Noble

XI ~ XII ~ XIII ~ XIV ~ XV

XI

After his impromptu meeting with Cupid and Persephone, Ares appeared back at his temple. He agreed there was something more to the situation than met the eye. He headed for Destine's domain, but decided to stop by the armory.

Seilidhe was polishing Brett's sword when Ares popped in.

"Let me see it," Ares said.

Séi handed him the sword. Ares examined the jeweled hilt and the elegant length of the blade. A warrior's sword. Ares handed back to Séi with a nod and left the room.

Brett was resting. After Kiari left, he couldn't go to sleep. He could still feel her lips on his forehead, almost as if he'd been branded. Who was she? A priestess of Ares. But what else?

"I see you're awake," Ares said.

Brett sat up, ignoring the ache. "Lord Ares."

The god gave a nod, hearing the note of awe in the man's voice. Ares had known that the man looked like Hades, but to see him upclose still gave him a bit of a shock.

"What's your name, warrior?"

"Brett, Lord Ares, your humble servant," he answered, his tone sincere respect.

Although his face was darkly serious, Ares couldn't control the sudden twinkle in his eyes. Ahh, this one was definitely one of his followers. The Fates had a twisted sense of humor.

"Brett. Your wounds were severe. You fought a man."

Brett nodded. "Yes, I did."

"And lost," Ares said.

The warrior sighed. "Yes."

"That man was one of my prized warriors. A favorite of mine. He's dead now."

Brett paled, if that was possible. "But he won, he was beaten, but he won..."

Ares smiled. "Don't worry. He died in battle, an honorable death. But he went into battle with wounds from you. He might have survived if it had not been for you."

Brett kept his expression steady. The god would make his decision in his own time.

"If you were any other man, I would have you struck down for wounding one of mine. But I saw your sword. You serve in my name. That was why you were in the meadow that night, wasn't it?"

"Yes, my lord. Your warrior saw me and challenged me. I knew who he was. I wanted to prove my worth. I don't think he particularly liked me."

"Matus didn't like anyone. He was always worried someone would take his place." Ares studied Brett. He had heard of him, but he had always thought him more inclined towards Athena's type of warfare. "Perhaps you could take his place now?"

"Me?" Hope mixed with fear churned in his eyes.

"Who better than the man who fought Matus and survived? When you have sufficiently healed, you will begin training with my warriors here at the temple. The priestesses and the warlords. Your reward and your payment to me."

"I am honored, Lord Ares."

Ares allowed himself to smile. "You should be." With that, Ares disappeared.

Brett fell back against his pillows, trying to catch his breath. His body ached in places he never imagined. He thought of Kiari, priestess to his patron god. Strange how the thought of her brought him a bit of peace. She was the face in his dreams, those dreams that haunted him after the bloody battle that took his brother and friends. She was his comfort and he didn't know why. Yet...

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XII

Psyche was reading Ped's updates when Cupid sauntered into their chambers.

"Oh, another one of Ped's reports?" Cupid asked, peering over her shoulder.

"Uh hmm," Psyche answered, her eyes wide as she read her friend's latest.

"Let me see," Cupid said, snatching it out of her hands.

"Cupid! No, these reports are to me alone. You're not to touch them." She took the scroll back. "But I can't help if you read over my shoulder," she grinned.

Cupid smiled and resumed reading over his wife's shoulder. "Ahh, Brett the wounded warrior."

"Shh!" Psyche scolded.

Cupid grinned and gave her a playful nibble on her ear. She giggled.

***"... As per our agreement I promised that I would let you know of anything *really* weird happening at the temples, well the latest situation surrounding my sibling Kiari fits *nicely* into that category. As Cupid as more than likely told you by now (and Hello Cupid, since I know you're reading over your wife's shoulder) Kiari found a wounded warrior on the grass near the waterfall. Well, this warrior woke up three days later while I was tending to him.

Instantly this guy was asking for Kiari, by name... and that was *eerie* since I doubt I had said it. I was dying to scan him to figure out how he might have known... but got this feeling that if I tried to scan him, he'd know, somehow. Anyway, when she returned, I told Kiari that he had done so, instantly she knew his name as well... it's Brett. Well she walked right in the room (forgetting I was going to follow her), when their eyes locked time and space seemed to stop for both of them... and all defenses either of them had fell instantly.

Taking advantage of the situation I scanned Brett... The things I found! He and Kiari knew each other a long time ago, were lovers in fact. But before that love could be truly realized she was stolen from him... and he's been searching for her ever since. I didn't have to scan Kiari to know this was the truth... somehow I just knew. I will more than likely need to make a journey to the first realm soon so I can research this some more..."

[*** as written by Ped herself]

Cupid frowned. He still didn't understand Ped's whole existence. What did she mean that Kiari and Brett knew each other long ago? Brett was mortal. Kiari was a goddess. She'd been around as long as he remembered.

"She means in a former life," Psyche said, catching her husband's thoughts.

"Former life? No such thing."

"Oh my darling Cupid, you can be so naive at times. There are greater powers in the universe than the current circle of gods. It's entirely possible that we've all lived former lives."

"Ha! I'll believe that when I remember one of those former lives."

"Hmm, perhaps I should call for Kiari," Psyche said, rolling up the scroll. "She's been neglecting her duties at the temple."

"Don't bother her, she's got a lot on her mind right now. The petitions can wait."

"You are far too lenient with your priestesses," Psyche scolded him. "And perhaps too friendly."

"Now Psyche, remember our first lesson in jealousy?"

Psyche smiled. "I'm not jealous, husband mine, but I certainly wouldn't be as passive as Persephone is with her husband. Everyone in Olympus knows Kiari is Hades' mistress. If you should ever do the same..."

Cupid pulled her into his arms. "No need to worry there, love. Besides, Kiari and Hades are a special circumstance."

His wife shook her head. "Yes, I know. But really, if he truly loves her, he would let her go on. Or he should have waited for her. How fair is all of this to any of them?"

"Who said love was fair?" Cupid grinned. "Besides, I can see a change coming in the very near future."

Psyche eyed him suspiciously. She opened her mouth to ask him a question, but he kissed her and made her forget what she was going to say...

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XIII

Business first, Kiari realized as Hades outlined his plans for the underworld. He wanted more organization, more structure. Would it be any use to tell him that death had no structure, Kiari asked herself.

"I see Ilaria is now in charge of the Elysian Fields. What does that do to the warrior chambers?"

"I thought you'd like to oversee that section," Hades said. "Unless it would be too much?"

There was no missing the slight note of sarcasm in the underworld lord's tone. Kiari just gave him a tight smile. "That would be fine. But I know some of those warriors. Would it be wise for me to oversee their section?"

Hades shook his head. "They know you as Ares' priestess. Here, you are goddess. Any concerns you had for them as living should be put aside. You can do that, can't you?"

Kiari gave a nod. "Of course. And the children's section? I see it's increased from this winter. Shouldn't those souls be taking a trip to the River Lethe?"

"You can take them there at the first opportunity. You know the way."

Kiari's breath came out in a hiss, willing herself to let that one go too. He was definitely in a snit of a mood.

-A snit?- He asked.

-Yes, Hades, oh lord of the underworld, a snit! I do not appreciate your little jibes.-

He smiled. -You seem to bear it well enough.-

-This is your domain. I will not disrespect you aloud.-

-Oh, but you'll do it like this?-

Kiari dark eyes flashed. -Yes, I will. I still have that liberty, don't I?-

-You have all the liberties owed to you as my right hand in the underworld,- Hades reminded her. -You are no mere servant, Vasia-Kiari.-

She stood straight. "I never thought that."

"Then cease the deference to me," Hades snapped. "Save it for the war god."

"Fine! Besides the fact that your wife is aboveworld, what's got you in such a mood?"

Hades' eyes narrowed. "Your late arrival, for the most part, has me in such a mood. Is that what you wanted to hear?"

"If it's the truth," she said.

He took her hand and pulled her to him. They were both angry, but their long time away from one another suddenly caught up to them. He took her face in his hands and kissed her. She could feel a matching hunger in her response as she deepened the kiss. With remembered ease, she had his armor off. He was doing quick work with her clothing as well. In a flash they were in her chambers, making their way towards her bed.

"I've missed you," he whispered between kisses.

"Mmmm, so I feel," she teased, pushing him onto the bed. She straddled him and leaned down, her dark hair flipped to one side as she brought her lips down to his. He put his arms around her and rolled her onto her back, his body hot and hard against hers as his lips left hers to trail down her neck. She sighed as his hands began their journey on her skin, his lips and mouth following until he had her right where he wanted her. Where she wanted him.

She was more than ready when he was finally inside and the world disappeared in shattering pleasure...

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XIV

KimD was Brett's next visitor. She strolled in, eyeing him as he slept. Well, another handsome warrior to play with, she thought to herself.

"Can I help you?" Brett asked without opening his eyes. Didn't anyone knock in this temple?

"Oh, awake are we?" She asked, sitting down in the well worn chair.

"I know I am, but I don't know about you," he said wryly, opening his eyes. "Another priestess?"

"Very good! I'm Kim," she grinned.

"Brett."

"Nice to meet you Brett. So, you're the wounded warrior. Hmm, Kiari's got good taste, as usual."

He raised an eyebrow. "And what does that mean?"

KimD chuckled. "It means she's got an eye for handsome men. Oh, and gods. But that's another story. You know, your presence has sent the gossip vines in a tangle. I just had to come and see if it was true."

"If what was true?" He asked, sitting up.

"Kim!" Ped burst in.

"You again," Brett frowned. He still didn't trust her.

"Be nice, Brett the wounded warrior," Ped scolded. "You just never know when you might need me."

"I'll take my chances," he grumbled.

KimD scowled at Ped. Ped frowned back.

"You really shouldn't be bothering him," Ped finally said.

"I'm just visiting," KimD pouted. "I wanted to see if it was true that he looks like--"

Ped held up her hand. "I think that can easily be guessed, but perhaps others might not need to know right now."

"That I look like Hades?" Brett said for them.

"We really shouldn't be talking about this," Ped said.

"Why not? He does. You really do," KimD told him. "It's eerie, really. I can really see why Kiari--"

"Kim!" Ped stopped her. "Let Kiari tell her own life story."

"All right. Well, get better soon, Brett. Hey, maybe I can come back in the morning and tell you some stories about the temple." KimD winked at him.

He smiled back at her. "Sure."

"I'll come visit again soon too," Ped promised, ushering her fellow priestess to the door.

"Oh, I'll count the minutes," Brett called out to her retreating back.

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XV

"We should really get to work," Kiari yawned, resting her head on Hades' chest.

He chuckled. "I think the staff will be all right for at least a couple of hours."

"If you say so," she sighed contentedly.

-Kiari, there's something I want to ask you,- he said.

She closed her eyes, almost lulled by the sound of his heart against her ear. -Yes.-

-I've been thinking.-

-Uh-oh,- she teased.

-I'm serious.-

She lifted her head and looked into his eyes. -Go on then.-

He could think of no easy way to say it, so he just said it. "I want you to be the Lady Consort of the Underworld."

Kiari's eyes widened. He was proposing marriage. "You can't be serious."

"I am. I want to show you that I'm committed to you. You cannot deny the bond we share."

"I don't, but Hades, you're already married. I am perfectly content with our moments. You know that. I do not need to be your consort."

"Maybe I need you to be," he said.

Kiari shook her head as she sat up. "Have you talked to Persephone about this?" She couldn't imagine the queen of the underworld agreeing to such a proposal.

"Not yet," Hades admitted, sitting up as well. "But she already knows that we spend time together and she hasn't really said anything about it. Besides, she has no say over what I do when she's not here."

"She's your wife! She has every say in your life, even if she tolerates me. That's all that is, Hades. She tolerates our relationship. Don't be fooled by her passive and sweet nature. She's jealous of the relationship we share. If you move to make it official, our lives could become very difficult. And there's Ares to consider as well."

Hades' jaw tightened. "What could he say? You would still go to him during the months Persephone is here."

"Hades, a vow as priestess is almost as sacred as a vow of marriage. He would have the ultimate say."

"I suppose," he grumbled.

"And Cupid?" She prodded him.

"You could go to him anytime you wished."

"How generous," she drawled. "Even if you could get the three of them to agree, and I really doubt it, there are the other gods to contend with. And my father!"

"You never talk to Morpheus anymore, why worry? Besides, you have to say yes first, then we can worry about all the rest of it."

Kiari sighed. "I need time to consider."

"Not too much time," he said.

"As much time as I need," she said, raising an eyebrow.

Hades saw the stubborn expression on her face. "As you wish."

Kiari rested back against the pillows. He smiled at her and leaned down and brushed his lips against hers. She couldn't help but smile back at him. Then a thought came to her.

"Hades?"

"Yes."

"What if I fall in love with someone else?"

"What?!" His eyes flashed angrily.

"Well, you did," she said mildly.

"Who are you in love with? The thief?"

"Hades, calm down. I'm just putting out a hypothetical question. A reasonable one."

"But you love me," he said. "How could you fall in love with someone else?"

"You loved me," she stated quietly. "That didn't stop you from falling in love with Persephone."

"I still love you," he said, looking into her eyes.

"And I you," she said, tracing a finger down his jawline. "But sometimes, you just have to let go."

He took her hand and kissed the palm. "I won't ever let go," he promised.


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© 1998 VCN