Stated in the first story of the series with the same warnings and rating. So this story is rated PG-13 as well. Also, I have borrowed the idea of "changing the stars" from the movie, A Knight's Tale, and twisted it to fit my story. It's not mine, so don't sue me! Oh yeah and I'm using a couple, maybe more, quotes from the series. I changed one of them: the one where Xena and Gabrielle are brought back to life, after being crucified. It is the speech that Ares makes to Xena, when they are in the bathhouse of Caleb. None of it is mine! So like don't sue me okay?
Before I even begin, please realize that this is a Xena/Ares story. If such offends you, just remember that you have been warned.
Sex: There are hints plus kissing
Language: Just a little
Subtext: No! Can anyone help me find the I Hate Gabrielle Club?
Violence: Please! You cannot have a Xena story without bashing people! If you are sternly offended by violence, then how did you end up watching the show anyway?
Author's Note: As you probably know by the title, this is the second story of the series, so, for this story to make more, nay, any sense, please read Discovery and Loss before reading this one. Oh and thank you so much for those of you who sent me feedback for the first story. Your words were what drove my fingers on the keyboard to write this one. Thank you very, very much, and I hope that you like this one as well!
Dedication: The first story is dedicated to all the writers whose stories and poetry I have always enjoyed; however, this one is dedicated to the actor whose loving memory will always be with us—to Kevin Smith. It is said that the ones who pass away are only gone when they are forgotten. Well Kevin, it seems that you'll be with us forever.
The author of this story is Mary at Elektra215@yahoo.com. Bards are always hungry for feedback; please send a note.
Changing the Stars
I have heard, from many reliable sources, that the night, which welcomed me to the world, also had embraced the full moon. They said that the wind had howled like an angry mother throughout the deadly silent of the earth. They said that the sky, though clear from the clouds, was as dark as my hair. They said that not a single wail escaped my lips when my blue eyes were bare to the world. They said that, that is why I came to be like this—so "manly." For you see, in my world, women did not hold swords, they hold flowers. Women did not scream, for their voice was to be never heard. Women did not lead, for they were followers. Those were the jobs of men and yet I did them with a passion and vigor that they said only men could possess.
There were, of course, the Amazons, but according to many, they were extremist women who would cut one of their breasts! The idea seemed disgusting. I later found out that they were lies that were meant to scare girls, such as I, from joining the doughty women.
Every one abashed my so-called manly and defaming actions; so did my mother, and though my father covertly relished it, he, too, had some concerns for my well-being. My father, you see, was a modern man. He did not believe in these traditions—complications is a word that is perfectly fitting for these customs—and thus, to prevent any affect of others' discouraging words on my brothers' and my judgments, he would send us to other cities—sometimes countries even—to let us know the world through our own eyes and touch it with our own hands, and then decide which path was ours to take.
I was so free then; so utterly deaf to the fact that sometimes the terrible events that I had seen through my travels, could one day touch my family and I, too—until it did and everything, including me, changed. I was twelve then, and cried from the depth of my soul beside their lifeless corpses. I remember everything as though it was yesterday.
I had heard screaming coming from outside of my chambers, where I had been locked in by some traitorous Spartan Soldiers who had joined Labdacus—my father's greatest, and now backstabbing, general. There were cries for life and I was afraid, but I was to change the stars. I was to become a warrior and fear had no place in the heart of the brave! So, breaking a pole from my bed, I halted all my fears and lamed whoever dared to stop me. I broke the lock with my staff, for that was what the pole was to me.
The cries, they were coming from everywhere and the well being of my parents became indefinite. A strange and horrible feeling had crept to my stomach and all I had wanted to do was to throw up—if only I had eaten anything. I ran faster and, though my blood ran warm within my every vein, I was icy-cold and at the same time, I burned with a fever. My cheeks were hot and wet and as I ran through the vacant corridors, I hoped that the wetness was not of my dismay.
The site that I found…I will never forget the way that the milky-marble floor was scarlet with brave and his lover. I will never forget the way they slept so soundly in the arms of one another. And all I had wanted to do was to wake them up…tell them that they had fallen sleep. I wanted to call them so bad, and yet, their placid faces as they dreamed in each other's arms, suggested that I wanted to sleep with them, in their arms, just as I had done as a child.
I sad near, lifted a blade from a wall, so that I could dream with them their wonderful dreams.
Then, I realized that one was awake and his almost-lifeless hand reached for mine. I laid by him, my arms circling his soul, not allowing it to leave my embrace. No, I would not lose him. I cried then, in my father's arms, and he, with a faint and hoarse voice, told me, "Xena…oh my beloved child…remember my little one…my loved one…remember your promise…you can do whatever you wish…so look up at the heavens Xena…reach for it and change your stars…promise me…"
And then he fell asleep.
It changed me—my promise—but it was not only my determination that changed that night, oh no, it was all of me. All I remember from the events that followed is reinforcements—lead by my brothers—throwing out the traitors. After that, all I recall is that when I looked back at my past, I saw nothing that made sense. My past became but a blur, a road covered with a mist and within it, some blobs of clarity could have been found—but not much.
You see, after the loss my parents, my ambition for independence and reaching my dreams changed me oh so dramatically, that even when I could revoke my former self, nothing from my past—my emotions, understandings, decisions—none of them made any sense! It was as if I was made anew.
Revenge—that was all I had wanted and so I chose my path: a course that led to war. It is said that once the lust of battle is planted within you, once you enter its realm, its roots will be never removed and you can never escape its enchantment; that is true—I know. And so, through my ambition, I, oblivious to the fact, dived into the crimson waters of war, where I began to truly transform into this other person: a girl with a passion for war and a craving for the clashing of swords.
I changed from the young Princess of Sparta, who lived happily ever after, in the comfort of her parents and two older brothers, to a young woman, whose mind, uncontrollably, began to drain from the world, thirsting for more knowledge regarding this thing that was war.
Then the war hit us, for Labdacus wanted the throne of Sparta and—with my father out of the way—he was considerably close to it. It was such a terrible time, but not as horrible as when I found the murder of my parents atop the dead corpse of my beloved brother. I remember screaming for Lyceus and running to him—protecting his fleeing life.
We fought, me and Labdacus, the slayer of the pieces of my heart. Though I fought him, though my fury held my blade and blocked and hit as though it was the only emotion in me, I cried, silently, for my fallen brother. For I knew that even if I were get to him, even if I were to hold him, his spirit would not be with me for long.
As we fought, Labdacus reminded me of what he had done to my family and I could not take it.
Even now, I cannot say what happened to me, for all I felt was fire. It was burning inside of me as though my darkness—this mysterious thing that the night of my birth had blighted me with—had seemingly taken over me. I roared and this time, it was not simply a thirst for revenge and fury, but my screams burned with vehemence and something that drove everything away except the passion of war.
I killed him, as simple as that. It was the first time that I had taken life, yet no guilt laced itself upon my conscience—only satisfaction.
And then I sensed this feeling, this tingly sensation that made me want to melt. I ignored it. It was all I could do then, but then it came to me again, veiled by him.
Still, after all the time that has passed, I do not know whether our meeting was meant to be or whether the Fates had changed the coarse of our destiny, for it was so mysterious. All I know is that the moment the he entered my life, I found my other half—the person who filled the empty part of my heart, which I had never known existed…
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ Training Area ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
I have been releasing my fury on a dead tree, bitterness and hatred clouding everything but its cause. But then again, it has been a long, long time since clarity has diffused throughout the dark forest that my life has converted into. What is happening to me? Why can I not make any sense of this? Does losing one's loved ones do this to all who are its victims… does it take away their rationality and replace it with a new one? Does it change one so dramatically?
Ahh…oh Great, all I need right now, is my sword stuck into a tree. Like my day has not been chaotic enough. I still cannot believe what Toris told me. How dare he put me down like that! How dare he tell me to leave war to men! Oh yes, because it was men who brought Sparta victory against Labdacus, like it was a man who rid the world of the cruel and unjust creature.
After all of this, there is one thing that I am sure of: no matter how hard I try, they still see me as weak as my sex. There will always be vigorous hands holding me down, stopping me before I can reach for my stars.
I struggle to get my sword out of the painful-looking cut in the side of the tree (fortunately for the tree, it's dead already) but it is useless. My blade is too far in for me to just take it out. How did I get it so far in, anyway? I need to concentrate on my oh so many equivocal questions and the last thing I need is this!
Anger grips me again and the striving to release my sword increases. Oh gods, it is truly stuck!
I slump by the tree, my weak hand resting at the hilt of my sword. I sigh, not knowing what else to do, what else to feel. The gentle breeze combing my hair, suddenly becomes cold and hits me with a block of memories—a block of pain—then everything comes back, everything: my parents' dead corpses…wanting to join them…my father's last words and how they changed me…the war…Lyceus dying…killing Labdacus…Toris' words. Oh how enigmatic it is to be a princess in my position.
My brother is a fool—though I love him dearly—but he is…he is just not understanding. It is as though he obliviously shuts his eyes to keep everything away; it is as though he is deaf and his mind is still in the state of infancy. And those advisors, damn them all to Tartarus, all then want to do is use Toris to control Sparta. How dare they…
My head snaps up and I stand, releasing my infirm hold on the hilt of my sword. It crawls sensuously up my back, spreading throughout my ever fiber once reaching my heart. It is that feeling again, that tingly stimulation—it is back and this time I cannot ignore it. I grab the dagger from my side—trying to ignore the pleasure, though it evokes pleasurable sensations—and I throw it to where the feeling is most strong.
As my eyes focus…oh by the gods: the dagger has halted in midair, as though it rests in the hands of someone. There's someone there!
The air surrounding me suddenly freezes, I take a couple of steps forward to satisfy my inquiring mind, and then blue sparkles appear, only to be replaced with a gorgeous man.
I try to take it all in, but it's too much! He is a god, I know, but which one? Why is he here? What does he want…with me? As my mind is filled with thousands of more questions, I take in his form, inch my inch, and when I look into his rich, mahogany, alluring eyes, I know that he is doing the same.
Dressed in voluptuous black leader with silver decoration…oh gods how difficult it is to find the words to describe this man…no god…when he stares at me so lewdly and admires me like I do him.
He is mirthful, though a look of surprise is etched upon his handsome face, probably from my knowledge of his presence, even before he was visible. I feel the same, how did I do that? How can I feel him?
He steps closer to me and, though I feel drawn to him, I take a step back, holding our distance. 'I feel drawn to him.' Those words echo through my head again and again. It is true, I know, for I can feel an irresistible attraction, but, I fear him, I think. The fact that he is a god…his enormous sword…those sensuous lips…deeps brown eyes…oh yeah, he is definitely a bad boy…a very dangerous…bad boy and though I feel drawn to his features, I fear his soul. Fear—something that I have not felt for such a long time; something that I fear to feel.
I fear, fear; how much more absurd can I get?
He realizes my apprehension and stops. He raises my dagger for inspections and then suddenly his eyes find mine. It is as though I am the mouse trapped within the claws of a lion. Helpless I am, simply from his cobra-like gaze, and again my mind rings the danger bell, but his eyes shut everything away…far, far away…and all I am aware of is he and his eyes.
"You felt me presence before I appeared…no mortal has ever done that before."
His voice is…oh gods it is so difficult to find words that can describe this god. His voice is just so…it is like a quagmire and the more I struggle against it, the deeper it inhales me.
My philosophies abruptly surface: gods…how would he know of mortals when all we are to them are null pieces of a game. We have no value in their eyes and their extremist actions have caused none other than chaos within our world. Troy is just one example, though it did happen five centuries ago. Who does he thinks he is to speak as though he knows us mortals?
I am raging again.
"Maybe you do not know mortals as well as you think…" Oh yeah Xena, that'll keep him in a good mood!
His surprised features darken and now I am truly frightened. No, I will not be moved by the thought of pain or death! Showing weakness before the enemy is what makes one helpless.
"…and maybe our sight of you gods is as unclear as yours is, when regarding us." I add, a bit too quickly and I know that is a mistake. Now he is cognizant of my anxiety. Not Good.
He smiles and my doubt is confirmed: he knows I fear him.
"Your tongue runs as adeptly and as fast, as does your sword, mortal. It is a necessary skill and not many possess it."
I am slightly calmed by his words, but then I retract when he must have learned of my skill. It could have been when Lyceus died…
"Is it a hobby for gods to spy upon mortals?" I ask him, fed up with what ever it is that he is doing to me and making me feel, and angered at him for causing remembrance of the tragedy that I have tried to put aside. The thought that he is a god, however, suddenly disturbs me.
He, too, is confused by my attitude. His features are stern, yet his eyes betray him, revealing every single emotion to me in a laid out, enormous map. Abruptly, I realize that I do not know his name. Which god is he?
"Is it a hobby of mortals to question gods?" His voice is a bit raised, and I realize that I am crossing the line, though my fear has already taken over again. I need to get out of here, away from this god—whoever he is—and his mind games. This fear, though I doubt that it is apprehension, is taking over me and I do not like it. I want to get away.
I guess he sees this, too, for his features instantly soften, spreading a curtain of warmth and safety over my cold body, extinguishing the fire of my worry—but the embers are still there, ready to be made fire.
"Look," he says softly, taking cautious steps towards me. "I'm not here to discuss the relationships and roles of mortals and gods in this world." He smiles. "Though I believe that it is becoming quite an interesting…oh lets say subject…to look at…"
Leering Bastard! How I want to claw out those eyes of his and rip out his insulting and sensuous tongue before he drives me crazy.
Oh he's handsome!
A very deep breath…all right, I'm calm now.
It is my chance. "Then what do you want? Who are you?" The necessity to this knowledge laces my voice, and I, once again, curse myself for showing weakness.
He looks at me again, those brown eyes penetrating mine and it seems that—for an instant—he, too, is questioning his own seekings.
Then he is determined again and a bit arrogant.
"Ares," he says, "God of War, and I'm here to give you a chance of a lifetime."
I can swear that I have been hit by the most enormous block of ice. My hands freeze and my heart pumps excitingly warm blood throughout my body. He cannot mean that, right? There must be a mistake here!
Everything is suddenly vague and all I can hear is his confession and the loud beating of my heart.
Ares…yes, the God of War, the eldest son of Zeus and Hera, heir to Olympus, one of the most powerful gods, the patron god of Sparta and the most honored god in Rome…what in Tartarus is he doing here talking to me?
The next thing I know, he is standing before me, three or four inches taller than I, and a gasp escapes my chaining will. His eyes bore into mine again and I feel petrified in place. Is it his powers that hold me? Is it because he is a god or is it something else? Am I going mad? Oh gods let this be a dream!
He smiles, this time his pearl-like teeth are not shown by his gesture. I feel the warmth of his hand placing my dagger in its place around my waist, but his glow does not leave me. His other hand captures my chin, raising it so he can capture my eyes too. He is auspicious.
"You felt it didn't you? You still feel it—the warmth of battle, the tingle in your body every time your sword meets another, and the zestful challenge that a battle brings. That is me Xena, I am war, the thing that excites you like no other," he says in a deep, hypnotic voice.
A bliss—that is what his evocative words create and it takes much of my will to keep my lashes in control and my lips closed…wait, how does he know my name?
It is strange: how he affects me, arousing my body to sensations unknown to me before. Just his spicy odor drives me to the border of insanity.
I powerlessly look into his eyes, and see what I feel in them. He, too, is lost somewhere, in my eyes, and I can't stop thinking that maybe it…my feelings…his effect on me…is mutual.
"When you killed him—Labdacus—you enjoyed it, didn't you?"
I am not sure if even satin…that smooth, evocative cloth…can be as warm and flocculent as his voice is. Wait, that was a question. I have to answer.
I pause, trying to find another reply, but it is true. I wish I hadn't…I wish I didn't feel this way. I wish, oh gods, I wish my conscience would feel just a little…guilty…for at least taking a life, no matter how it was wasted. But I can't. I enjoyed killing Labdacus, the way I shed his life just as he had done to many. I relished the vivacity his warm crimson blood had brought my spirit. I had felt free, suddenly, released of…something that was hurting me. "Yes…"
He smiles, satisfied by my answer. Then he is serious again, his arm brings me closer and his hold on my chin tightens.
"You are right you know, about the council…your brother…he is blind and the council is taking advantage of that, Xena. You have to take control before they destroy Sparta."
So the possession of psychic powers in gods is not just a myth, for he must have read my mind.
His emphatic words dive to my conviction, and I agree, I need to take power…tell me, oh War God, enlighten me; quench my need to protect my home. But…
"It is not in my power to disobey my brother. If I do so, it will count as treason and I will lose whatever power I have now." I tell him in a subdued manner, surprised that I can actually voice anything under his ossifying stare.
As much as I hate to admit it, it is true. I am helpless for my gender and, though I abhor this situation, I fear that it is not in my power to alter it.
He smiles and a new spark is apparent there, in his laid out maps. It is as though he knows something hidden to others, like he has finally reached the point of success.
"Well, I can help you change that, Xena. I can give you an army and you can…"
"No!" I yell, somehow breaking his hold on every shred of my soul, which he has somehow taken hostage in those eyes of his. I step back, looking at him suspiciously. "I will not go against my city and brother. I am not another Polynices. Though my brother does not have the sight to see what is befalling before his eyes, he is a good man and I love him dearly. I will never fight him."
How dare he even propose such an offer!
"Wow, wait a minute…" he says, raising his hands up innocently. I can't help but smirk inwardly at this gesture and I wonder how this god, a war god, can be like this. From what I have heard, he is not a god to appear to mortals in such manner and act so. He is said to be a bloodthirsty war god who cares for nothing other than slaughter. What is…
"…who said anything about going against your brother? I'm talking about Athens and Corinth. As I am sure you are aware, this is my city and I will do whatever I can to keep it away from the claws of cities who follow Athena."
Yes, I've heard of his many feuds with his sister; again, Troy is a good example. It makes sense that he wants to fight Athens—the Goddess' city—and Corinth, the city whose people worship Athena more than any other god, but why me? How did he come up with the idea of giving a sixteen-year-old control over an army that is supposed to fight the greatest cavalries in Greece and probably the world?! This is just too much! Does he actually think that I will buy this rubbish? My life is too important to be wasted upon his, or any other god's games…I have a promise that I must satisfy!
"You actually expect me to believe that you trust me with a battle of such importance! You don't even know me." I stare at him and take a couple of more steps back. He is surprised. This encounter is over! Even though he possesses powers beyond imagination, I will not be a tool in his games.
"Go and find another mortal to fool, War God…I'm sure there are many others who can be easily tricked into playing in one of your godly melodramas—just remember that I am not one of them!"
I take some steps back from his darkening aroma.
His face…suddenly, by his deepening features, I see the reality of the stories of this god.
"You dare speak to me…THE GOD OF WAR…as though I am a mere mortal peasant, girl!"
I recoil, backing myself into the tree that holds my sword. It takes but an instant, but he immediately appears before me, with his Herculean arms at my sides on the tree. How I will escape this situation, is out of my head.
But then I'm furious again and my thoughts about these creatures, once again, erupts through my tongue. It is my pride that dares not to show fear of the horror he can crash upon me, I know, but what is a warrior without pride?
"Why should there be any difference between you and a mortal, for all you gods think of yourselves is that you are the masters of a game—a game of our destiny! Why should I respect the ones who see me as nothing more than a tool, a plaything whose sheer life is worth nothing to you! Give me a reason then 'Oh mighty lord'…tell me why, oh so ever why, should I sacrifice myself, my life, to a god who will just spit me out once I no longer taste to his liking!"
I cannot believe I just said that. I cannot believe that I just yelled out, no, screamed at a god, insulting him like I did. I cannot believe that I am still alive. I cannot believe that his hands are not crushing me and draining my body of its life, but caressing me suddenly. I cannot believe that he's kissing me with an outburst and I cannot believe that I am returning it.
It's happening too fast…I have never even been kissed before! But oh what bliss it is to be crushed between the old tree and his luscious body—every ripple of muscle melding into mine as though I am a key and he is a lock or vice versa.
My need to gasp for air rips my mind out of the pleasure of his kiss. I need to breathe, but he does not allow it. I try to push him off, but slowly, oh ever so slowly, I weaken and every thing blurs and all I see and feel is blackness.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ A Room ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Tremendous pain—at least that is what I should be feeling, instead of the caressing silk tingling my back. I think. I know that I have opened my eyes, yet darkness still engulfs me. I try to move, but the soreness of my corpse keeps me still, preventing any upcoming motion. First there is the smooth sensation of silk covering me, and then under that, I discover the lacework of what I wear. Wait a minute, since when did I own…
For a moment, everything is unclear and then suddenly, the silk of my sheets bring back memories: memories of two silky lips entrusting me to sleep…Ares! What did he do to me?
With my curiosity leading me, the pain of my grievous body is pushed aside and I try harder to distinguish myself out of my dark prison.
"Is that what you call a bed of silk? I had thought it to be a pleasant heaven, or at least something close to that."
The curtains around me are pulled aside by an invisible force as his silky voice embeds itself somewhere deep within me. I try to find him, but the sudden new light paralyzes me.
Slowly, taking in my surroundings from the bottom of the bed, I see the ebony-colored, lustrous marbles that have covered every inch of the enormous room—the walls, the floor, the small tables, even the high ceiling. Then there is the hearth, empty of fire and the window, larger and more beautiful that I have ever seen, which allows the morning sun to illuminate the dark room. How long have I been here and where is 'here?'
My lashes shield my eyes as a brighter light sparkles before me.
He stands there, looking at me from the bottom of the bed, a sexy grin plastered upon his sensuous lips that I remember so well. The memories rush back.
He grins wider and I gasp, letting his last words sink in: he reads my mind!
My grasp on the silk sheets tightens and I, fortuitously, pull up the covers, and glare at him, sending my sheer frustration through my, what others have called, fatal stare. "Keep OUT of MY HEAD!" I order, not fearing his motives. If he had wanted to hurt me, he would have done so before, back at the training area. However, even though my certainty is absolute, I cannot cover the tiny butterfly that ventures in my abdomen.
With his stern features, he saunters up to the side of the bed, and then a knowing smile and his now-infamous grin is developed upon his salmon-colored lips. Then he sits by me.
I want to distance myself from this god, but I have already shown too many signs of my dismay. So I keep quiescent, still holding on my silk covering.
There is a long silence, while he leans on an arm and stares at me as though my eyes hold all the answers.
He starts, and oh how glad I am that the burdensome responsibility was not dropped upon my already heavy shoulders. He is serious now.
When he speaks again, I am lost in his abysmal eyes and voice. They are so mesmerizing—his eyes—and his voice is somniferous, just as though he plunges into the depth of my mind…as if we are the only ones upon this world and all that matters is we.
"…I am war. They say that I am cruel…bloodthirsty. The ones who say this Xena, they are blind. All they see is the blood that is shed. They are deaf to the mire of emotions that a warrior is surrounded with. Oblivious they are of the passion, the power…the danger that is exciting! That is why I chose you Xena: you not only see this, but have you feel it. You have held it in your grasp before and you were magnificent!…"
He chose me?
He leans closer and my heart beats as though it has ventured to my ears. My mouth is dry and my body has bathes in a cold sweat.
"…The torrent of intensity that runs through you…I can give you more than that Xena. What you felt before cannot compare to what you will possess when you join me."
Oh how right he is! The power that surges through me once I hold a sword is unparalleled by anything that I have tasted before. It is the cool lake's embrace on your hot body, the joy of a lover in the clasp of their love, the way that the cool breeze combs your hair…it…is…astounding.
A lean hair separates our lips and he lingers there, enjoying the flood of emotions that he has brought me. I want to kiss him. He wants to kiss me.
But I will not be just another in his line of conquered. I will NOT be the mortal that is there only for his mirth!
"Ares, I am not a foolish mortal who will give her life, her dreams, to a god who will just squeeze me until nothing good can be gained. Swear it! Swear that you will not do that to me!"
My heart pleads him, and his face moves away, so that my eyes are completely his.
"I swear on the river Styx, Xena, that I will never let you go and that you are not just another." He pauses a moment, closes our distance and whispers, "it is all about you and me, Xena. Not Zeus, not even Olympus. Just the two of us…bringing peace and order to the world through force. Something that you and I are destined to do—together."
And then he waits for me to agree.
I do and I kiss him. When we are together, nothing will stop us. Nothing will stand in our way. I can feel it now. It has been our destiny to join together…it is our destiny to be as one!