A lonely figure had deliberately lost her way in the forest. Her mind was reeling and she desperately needed the solitude. The brightly shining moon threw its spidery tentacles of light upon the blonde with the troubled eyes. Off in the distance, too far away to be heard by the small figure, her friends were gathered around a campfire, trading insults, oblivious to her discomfort. Things were changing, things were changing quickly and she did not like the possibilities of that change. Was she being selfish, or was her concern real?
She had once told me she could smell him. It was not so much a smell as the feeling of the air pressing around your neck, caressing, applying pressure on your throat before stinging your nostrils. I felt my body surrounded by electricity and dared not move, not from traditional fear, rather a mixture of weariness and unexplainable excitement.
“Ares?” my voice rang out, I frowned at how insecure I sounded.
The air crackled and I heard what can only be described as small bells chiming, before the deep voice replied, “My, my - Gabrielle,” it acknowledged, “you’ve learnt.” A chuckle vibrated through the air.
I quickly turned around, already knowing what I would see. He was standing before me, towering over my slight figure. The neat beard, hair and deep brown eyes, covered his face in darkness. The leather of his clothing caressed his body, furthering his dark and somewhat primal appearance. The only aspects of light to his darkness were the small bright pearls adorning his vest, which caught the reflection of the moonlight, and his gauntlets that seemed to possess their own ethereal glow.
“What do you want?” I demanded of him once I had recovered from the initial discomfort of his appearance.
“Probably the same thing as you,” he replied sensually stroking his hair covered chin.
She had changed. I could feel her. She was once innocent, unimportant to me. Now…I smiled.
I saw it coming, but I let it happen. Still her speed impressed me as she reached for my sword. I refrained from moving. My sword sang as it was released from the confines of its scabbard.
“What do you want?” she repeated her question.
Her eyes were the colour of a stormy sea and images of my uncle flashed through my mind. Yes, he would have liked her as well. He had once tried to possess her. He had failed. Because of Xena.
Her face which had once been young and innocent now held the muscle and determination of heartache and pain. A jaw once soft, a tongue once lyrical, now tensed in anger and aggression. Yes, I felt her now.
“That‘s my sword,” I stated. “A delicious metaphor, don’t you think?!” I said as I took a step closer to her. The point of my own sword bit into my bare chest. I smiled. “You’ve felt it as well,” I confirmed.
“What?” her voice was demanding, but I could sense a deeply hidden discomfort, perhaps it was even fear. Her eyes held a feverish sparkle. I liked it. I could get used to it. She might not have the animalistic passion Xena possessed. Yet, those turbulent eyes with the glimmer of steele, promised me something I didn‘t know I wanted.
“The darkness. That part of her that made you fall in love with her. The part that was me. It’s not there anymore,” the God of War stated, and I knew he was right.
“No,” I replied before pausing. “It’s not,” I admitted. I don’t know where the honestly came from, but I felt no need to lie, no need to deceive.
His chest was still pressed against the sword in my hand. I could feel the moisture gathering in my palms, it surprised me, because I did not know why. I did not fear him, exactly. Still my hands hummed with an unexplainable nervous energy. I looked down at the opulent sword in my hands, there was no doubt this was the sword of a god, and not just any god, but the God of War. The brilliant blade shone in the moonlight, the curves reminded me of the fangs of a predator. The hilt elaborately decorated with images of death and destruction. I almost smiled, he had always been vain. Was that a general weakness of all gods?
“You know why?” he asked and broke my train of thought.
I didn’t reply, instead I kept looking at him while seriously considering his question.
“Her child,” he continued, “might not be evil, but it fills her with a light that should not be there.”
His reply surprised me to the extent that I briefly lowered the sword in my hands. Quick as the viper he is, he took advantage of the situation. With the grace only seen in gods and a handful of mortals, he disarmed me. One large arm wrapped around my chest, his hand clamped down on my shoulder, his gauntlet pressed against my collar bone. The other hand held the sword, now once again his. With my back pressed against him I could not see his eyes, but I knew he was inspecting his most priced possession. For what reason I didn’t know. As he sheathed his sword images of her shot through my mind. Memories of her hands, her arms, the feeling of being lost while surrounded by familiarity, and love. As his hand squeezed my shoulder, and I was pushed closer towards him, I couldn’t help but shudder. The same eclectic wave of sensuality her touch used to inspire in me, once again flowed through my blood. Once more I shuddered, he chuckled in response. My cheeks flushed as my mind realised what my body has known since the first time he touched me.
The small body in my arms shuddered. She seems to do that a lot. I held her close. I let the silence wash over us. My arms held her for another moment. Then I released her. She jumped out of my reach and turned around. Her eyes, which in the darkness were the deepest of grey, shone. Even though the night obscured all colours I knew her cheeks were tinged red. I tilted my head. Unbidden my tongue wet my lips.
“What do you mean?” she wondered. My face remained expressionless. Inside I smiled, the power she gave me through her questions exhilarated me. Intoxicating.
“I know you’ve felt it as well. That thing inside of her,” I said with a hint of disgust, “it’s feeding her something that is not her nature.”
She looked at me. I saw she knew the truth. “The child is good,” she stated.
“I know,” I replied. “Ever thought it might be too good?”
She laughed. “That’s rich. You’re here to warn me her child might be too good?”
I gave her a lopsided grin and shrugged.
“Unless you’ve noticed, we are on different sides Ares,” she said with conviction.
“Are we really?” I wondered and took a step closer to her. She didn’t back away from me. “We fight. Good. Bad. Does it really matter? We fight, it’s what we do,” I said with another step towards her.
“Of course it matters,” her eyes took on the feverish shine again. I knew she could feel me.
“What happens if you stop fighting? What happens if Xena stops fighting?”
She at least pondered my words before replying, “That will never happen.” This time the conviction in her voice had disappeared.
“How do you think giving birth to something created out of pure goodness will affect her?” I pointed out. “Do you think I will be able to influence my chosen one, once Eli’s god have made her its pawn?”
“You are telling me to fear love?” she asked, she shook her head. “That’s the difference Ares. I don’t fear love, I embrace it.”
I ignored her statement and continued, “You’ve felt the change. This is just the beginning.”
“What’s happened to her? What will happen to her?” she wondered, worry clouding her face. I took one final step, and stood in front of her, less than an arms length dividing us.
“Her passion will be replaced,” I truthfully told her.
“With what?” Her breath is caught in her chest as I reached out for her.
“Now that….“ I looked down into those insightful eyes, “- would be telling.”
My chest constricted as his hand came closer, he placed his finger on my chest. I breathed out, slowly. The joke is old and instead of humouring him I kept his dark eyes locked with mine. How can something so sinister be blessed with such intense expressions?
We both waited, I’m uncertain either one of us was sure of what, or why. Time passed, neither of our expressions changed and the finger remained resting against my skin. It is moments like these that my own life baffles me. Should I, a simple peasant from a village of no importance, really feel this at ease to be touched by a god? My ponderings must have shown on my face, because suddenly his gaze drifted from my eyes down to my chest, where our bodies were connected. The electrical hum my body had experienced every time he has touched me, grew and amplified. I felt it spread through my body, just like the smile, no grin might be more appropriate, on his lips. White teeth shone through his dark beard, I felt my vision blur as the current running through me made my very essence tremble.
I stumbled backwards in an attempt to break the contact, I succeeded. No longer physically connected I was left with a rapidly beating heart. The air seemed to burn my nostrils and lungs as it rushed back into my body. The smells formed colours in my mind. The sounds that surrounded us had grown more crisp. I could hear my own heartbeat as an untamed beast in my chest. I heard his as well. Should I have been surprised it beat in unison with mine?
I closed my eyes and took another step back.
I was right. She is powerful. I couldn’t prevent the smile from appearing. Why should I?
Xena, Xena, Xena, I should have trusted you. I should have known. I should have tried earlier. How could something so small hold so much power? My smile grew. She could be mine. Yeah.
I opened my eyes only to see his chest expand from a deep breath. His nostrils flared and the smile on his lips sent a shiver down my spine. The dark eyes found mine.
“Think about it,” was all he said, it was all he needed to say. The implication was clear; think about me.
Before the God of War disappeared in a shimmer, and the Battling Bard returned to camp and her friends, their eyes met and a reluctant glimmer of understanding passed between them. There was something else there as well, something powerful, something unexplored.
There was potential.