Gods at Play

by VC Noble

VI ~ VII ~ VIII ~ IX ~ X

VI

Séi joined Ped in the patient's room.

"So you managed to get her out of here," Séi said.

"Yup. He really does look like Hades though, doesn't he?" They both looked at the sleeping man's face.

"It's eerie," Séi commented.

The man's eyes popped open and the priestesses jumped.

"What's eerie?" He asked, his voice raspy.

"Well, if you heard that, then you must've heard the previous sentence, so don't play with us," Ped scowled at him. "You're not supposed to wake up like that."

He managed to raise an eyebrow. "No? How was I supposed to wake up?"

Séi grinned, liking him already. She decided to introduce herself. "I'm Seilidhe. This is Ped."

"Seilidhe, Ped. Where am I?"

"You are in the temple of Ares," Ped said.

"How did I get here?" He tried to sit up.

"Whoa there! I don't think you're supposed to be doing that," Ped protested.

He did it anyway. Séi got some extra pillows to prop behind his back.

"Thanks," he nodded at her. "So how did I get here?" He repeated.

Séi exchanged a glance with Ped. 'Get Kiari,' Ped mouthed. Séi nodded.

"I'll be right back," the armory priestess said, flashing the man a smile.

"Here's some water," Ped said, taking a cup and pouring from the pitcher on the bedside table.

He took it gratefully and drank.

"So," Ped smiled. "What's your name?"

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VII

"Who is he?" Ares asked.

"I don't know," Kiari shrugged. "I found him here a few nights ago. He was wounded. I brought him to the temple because I knew Destine could tend to him."

"You appeared in her healing room in your goddess gown," Ares reminded her. "I thought you vowed never to be goddess in my temple. You could have called one of the guards."

"There wasn't time."

"So why didn't you just heal him yourself?"

"You know I can't do that," Kiari said, irritated.

"Do you even know his name?"

"No."

As much as he hated to say it, Ares reminded her of her duties to his uncle. "You have responsibilities to the underworld, Kiari. Dare I say to Hades? Is this mortal worth losing your time with him?"

Kiari's lips set in a firm line. "I didn't think you cared. I thought you'd be pleased to have me home."

Ares stepped closer and took the hand that wasn't holding the sword. She looked up at him and saw concern in his dark eyes. He took a deep breath. "I am pleased to have you home, Kiari. But I don't think you should shirk your other duties, including your very important ones to the underworld." He smiled a little. "You're supposed to be the one to smooth Hades' temper, not ruffle it."

Kiari's expression softened and she sighed. "I know. It's just that..." Confusion lined her face. "Ares, this man. There's something about him..."

Ares just listened. He could see that Kiari was struggling with herself, unsure of herself.

"I want to be sure that he's all right," she said, as if trying to convince herself. "That's all. I know that if I go to the underworld, this concern I feel will lessen and I don't want it to. I want to be sure he's all right."

Séi came up on them right then. "Kiari, he's awake." She gave Ares a little bow. "Ares."

Ares didn't like the interruption, but he saw the flicker in Kiari's eyes.

"May I go?" Kiari asked, trying to subdue her eagerness.

He was silent, then nodded. She smiled and gave him a quick kiss on the cheek. As she turned to leave, he stopped her. "Close your eyes," he said.

She did and a second later she was gone.

"Oh, but leave me here to walk back," Séi grumbled.

Ares laughed, taking her hand. "Now, I'm sure you don't mind spending a little time with me. We can walk together."

Séi smiled, linking her arm through his. Well, the benefits of being messenger...

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VIII

The warrior didn't trust this woman's smile and so didn't answer her. She wasn't the one he remembered. Instead, he asked her, "Where is she?"

"Who?"

He sighed heavily. "Kiari."

The priestess sat back in her chair, her expression suddenly bland. He knew she was wondering how he knew that one's name. ~Well, let her wonder!~ He thought to himself. ~If Kiari wants to tell her, then she will.~

"Do the two of you know each other from before?" Ped asked carefully.

His mouth formed a stubborn line and he looked away.

Ped's eyes narrowed. There was more to this warrior than met the eye. She wanted desperately to scan him, but she figured that he would know somehow. She didn't want to risk it.

His gaze turned to the doorway and a moment later, Ped felt Kiari's presence.

"I'll be right back," she said, heading for the door.

Kiari was about to enter when Ped opened the door and came out.

"Séi says he's awake," Kiari said.

"Yup. And asking for you. By name." Ped glanced the sword in her hand. "Is that his?"

Kiari nodded. -I found it in the meadow. By name?-

-By name. Do you know him from somewhere, sibling?-

Kiari shook her head. -I don't think so. I mean, I still have gaps in my memory, but I would surely have remembered him.-

-You'd think,- Ped said wryly. -Let me take his sword to the armory before you go in.-

Kiari handed it over reluctantly, her face frowning in thought. Then her expression cleared. Softly, almost so that Ped barely caught it, Kiari whispered, "Brett." Then she without a glance at her fellow priestess, she opened the door and stepped in. Ped followed.

Kiari could feel her heart pounding as she let her eyes meet his. She had stayed in his room for three days, but this was the first time his hazel eyes were clear and alert. She felt as though they were sharing the same soul. How could this be, this moment of awareness? She let her mind touch his and saw that she was right. His name was Brett.

Ped watched the silent recognition between the warrior and Kiari. Almost without a thought, she scanned him. He was open and unknowing of her presence. She drew back before he could sense her intrusion.

-Kiari, you know him. And he knows you.-

-I know,- Kiari turned and gave Ped a slight smile.

-I don't think you do,- Ped said. -I'll leave you two.-

With a wave to the patient, Ped closed the door. Kiari frowned at the door, then turned back to the warrior.

"I found your sword in the meadow," Kiari began. "Ped's taking it to the armory. Séi will tend to it." She approached the bed.

"I've been waiting for you," he said softly.

"I wasn't gone that long," Kiari said, sitting in the chair. "How are you feeling?"

"Sore, slightly confused. How long have I been here?"

"Three days."

"You've been taking care of me," he said, a twinkle in his eyes.

"I have," she answered, her lips curving into a smile. She reached over and touched his cheek. He was warm, but not feverish.

He took her hand before she could pull away. He saw the question in her dark eyes. He looked down at her hand and studied the silver ring on her finger.

"You belong to someone," he said, looking up.

She didn't answer.

"Are you married?"

"I am a priestess of Ares."

"A priestess of Ares," he repeated. He closed his eyes and rested against the pillows.

"Brett?" She said softly.

He opened his eyes slowly, the smile playing on his lips again. "Yes, Kiari."

She gave a relieved sigh. "Should I let you rest?"

"Only if you promise to come back," he answered.

"I promise," she smiled.

With a light kiss to his forehead, Kiari left his room.

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IX

Cupid was disturbed as he appeared back in his temple. He could almost figure out how Brett knew Kiari, but how did the priestess know the warrior?

"CUPID!" Persephone stormed into his throne room.

Cupid grinned at the angry goddess. "Well, if it isn't my favorite goddess of spring."

"I'm the only goddess of spring," Persephone pouted.

Cupid shrugged. "Technicalities. What's up?"

Hands on hips, Persephone glared at the god of love. "A man who looks like Hades? He'll never believe it!"

"Hold on there, how do you know the man looks like Hades? I thought you were leaving it up to me. Besides, what are you complaining about? Kiari hasn't left the guy's bedside for three days."

"Cupid..."

"Look, he was the perfect choice," Cupid said. "He's been having these dreams of this mysterious woman. I got Ilaria to let me sneak a peek and the woman in his dreams looks a lot like Kiari. And then he came to the temple, asking to find this lady. I just steered him in the right direction."

"Dreams? But--"

"So, I was right!" Ares said, bursting in. After walking Seilidhe back to his temple, he decided to visit Cupid, since the god of love was the only one NOT demanding Kiari's presence. She was Cupid's priestess as well after all.

"Is my temple gods central?" Cupid frowned. "What do you want, Ares?"

"I want to know what the two of you are up to," the god of war said. He glanced at the young goddess, who merely swallowed and tried to remember that she was the queen of the underworld.

"It's none of your concern," Persephone managed to say with quiet dignity.

"Not my concern? My liaison to Hades is playing nursemaid to a warrior who just happens to look like Hades? Oh no, this is definitely my concern!"

"Ha! If you paid more attention to your priestess, maybe she wouldn't have to run to my husband!" Persephone huffed.

"Or maybe you're not enough for him," Ares said sweetly.

"Why you--"

"Go on," Ares challenged. "Work that little flower brain of yours."

With an angry growl, Persephone launched herself at him. Cupid caught her as Ares laughed.

"Persephone! Geez, what exactly do you think you're going to do to him?" Cupid said, holding her until she ceased her struggles. "Now calm down, take a deep breath."

She closed her eyes and did as he said. When he thought her calm enough, Cupid let go. Persephone opened her eyes and threw Ares a dangerous glance.

"That was a good try though," Ares said, that infuriating smile still on his lips.

"Look Ares, love is my business. Stay out of it," Cupid warned.

Ares raised an eyebrow. "Really? Then you won't mind me sharing my theory with Kiari? How do you think she'll react to this manipulation?"

Cupid fidgeted. He knew that once angered, Kiari had the potential to react in the most unpleasant ways. She was a goddess, after all.

"But right now, I think I'll save the little bit of information," Ares said smoothly. He almost laughed again at the expression of relief matching on the faces of Cupid and Persephone.

"Why?" Persephone asked.

"Well, maybe I'm like you, goddess of spring. Annoyed by the time Hades and Kiari spend together."

"If that were true, that thief Autolycus would be a pile of dust at the altar in your temple. Come to think of it, so would that new guy Rafe and even me. No, you're jealous of the love between Hades and Kiari," Cupid said knowingly.

"What do I have to be jealous of? She's my priestess."

"And mine."

"She was mine first. If she had to choose--"

"She'd choose Hades," Persephone cut in. "Will the two of you quit it! Look, what's done is done. Or can it be undone?" She turned hopeful eyes to Cupid.

The god of love shook his head. "You're not going to believe this, but the arrow was tipped with just the tracest amount of my magic. I wanted to do a gradual thing with her. But I'm beginning to think that they would have fallen in love no matter what."

"He's in love with her?" Persephone asked.

"If he's not, he will be soon," Cupid affirmed.

"At least he's a warrior. I can control him," Ares mused.

"Maybe," Cupid cautioned. "There's something more going on here. I just don't know what."

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X

Kiari was thoughtful as she made her way through the dim halls of the underworld. She was thinking of Brett. She couldn't explain how she knew his name, but she knew it had to do with her past as a goddess. Now, in her goddess form, she could feel the memory surfacing. She didn't realize there were things she still needed to remember.

"Vasia!" Ilaria called out joyfully. She rushed at Kiari, her dress swirling around her. She was the only one who really called Kiari by her first name.

Kiari grinned at her younger sister. "Ilaria. Well, don't you look regal?"

Ilaria giggled as she gave a bow and spun around. "I got a promotion here. Hades has me in charge of the Elysian Fields. You know, general upkeep and all of that."

"That's great. I'm so sorry I haven't visited in so long," Kiari said.

Ilaria shrugged. "Well, it's not like we don't have forever. How are things aboveworld?"

"The usual. Wars for Ares and love for Cupid."

"Well, I'm glad you've come back to take over your duties down here. It's been hectic! All these dead souls moaning and groaning when they get in. I just don't have your touch when it comes to counseling the poor things. I hear you have to spend the whole six months here. Is that true?"

Kiari sighed. "I'm not sure yet. Ares hasn't exactly agreed to anything and Hades has been unusually quiet on the subject."

"Still hanging out with that mortal thief?"

Kiari chuckled. "His name is Autolycus. Yes, I see him now and then."

Ilaria rolled her eyes. "Mortals! I just don't know what you see in them."

"Oh Ilaria, don't be like that! I happen to remember a certain mortal you fancied not too long ago."

"Ancient history. Besides, I think your mortal is his grandson. Ewww!" Ilaria grimaced.

"He's not my mortal. We're just friends."

"Yes, that's what they all say," Ilaria rolled her eyes. Then a serious look came over her face. "Do you plan on seeing Father?"

Kiari looked down at her hands. "I'm not sure yet."

"Vasia, you should really visit him. The stuff from before, well, can't you just forget it all?"

Kiari sighed at the pleading in her sister's voice. "Morpheus should have told me all the gory details, let me decide. But he refused to see that I was mature enough to handle myself. My existence now is because of him."

Ilaria looked sad. "You should forgive him, Vasia. You should have seen the misery on his face when he found out you drank from the River Lethe."

"I'm not ready yet," Kiari decided. "Anyway, I must report to the lord and master of this place."

Ilaria shrugged at her sister's stubbornness then grinned at the mention of Hades. "Well good luck. He's been in a snit of mood these past few days. Probably has something to do with Persephone leaving and you not appearing as commanded."

Kiari raised an eyebrow. "Hades does not command me. We are equal."

"If that were true, you'd be his queen and not that lovely but very jealous spring goddess. I know, a long story. I suppose I'm just lucky you still remember me."

"Oh get to work, Ilaria!"

"Find me later!" The young goddess laughed as she headed for the Elysian Fields. Kiari continued her way to Hades' chambers...


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© 1998 VCN