The corridors rang with the sounds of argument. The Olympian counsel was in session and as usual the petty grievances were turning into a full fledged fight. Sitting at the head of the counsel Ares yawned. Ever since his return from Rome his fellow gods had been in a snit. They believed the messengers death was a sign that their power would be restored. They refused to listen to his arguments to the contrary, so he just sat back and ignored them. Besides, he had other, more important things on his mind. Today was Gabrielle's birthday and he wanted to make sure he gave her the perfect gift.
Gabrielle stared down at the bevy of food in front of her and grimaced. Did they really think she could eat all of this? Sugared cakes, stuffed dates, asparagus tips in butter and something that resembled roast rabbit. Bryton and Virgil seemed to be having no trouble wolfing down the feast, yet her stomach rumbled at the very thought of food. After last nights festivities and the amount of wine she had consumed, she was nearly green with nausea.
"Eat up, Gabrielle. It's your birthday after all," the new kind of thieves bellowed.
Virgil was the only one who seemed to be taking pity on her plight and patted her hand in sympathy. He too suffered from a ravaging hang-over and understood her pain. But, being a man, nothing could deter his appetite.
Gabrielle tried to smile and tentatively took a bite out of the roasted meat. The second it reached her stomach, she knew it was over. Dashing from her chair, she barely made it outside before it came rushing back out.
"That's it! No more wine for me," she choked out between gasps.
"You never did have a head for wine!"
It was bad enough making a fool of herself in public, but in front of Ares! She wanted to curl up in a corner and die. The feel of his hand patting her back did not make it easier.
When she was finally able to stand without waves of dizziness washing over her, she reached for the scrap of cloth Ares offered to wipe her mouth.
Trying to recapture a shred of her dignity she stepped back and tried to smile.
"Come to crash the party, Ares?"
"No, not really. I just wanted to bring you a gift, for your birthday. You are how old now? 55...60?"
"Very funny, but you know a lady never reveals her true age," she laughed
"I can respect that."
"Coming from someone older then the hills, that means a lot."
"Now who is trying to be funny? You want your present or not?"
Always a sucker for presents, she put out her hands, closed her eyes and waited. She felt something small and cold resting in her hands and looked down. A beautiful necklace was waiting for her. At the end of the thin gold chain was pendant in the shape of a star.
"It- it's beautiful, Ares. Thank you."
Ares helped her place the necklace around her neck. Careful not to catch the chain her golden hair, he purposely let his fingers brush the nape of her neck. The simple touch sent a warm feeling all through her body.
"I'm glad you like it but this trinket is not the real gift."
Almost afraid to ask, she did "What do you mean?"
Looking around her pointed to a tree.
"See that old tree? Aim your hand at it and think "fire"."
"Just do it, ok."
Pointing her hand and doing as he instructed, she nearly fell to the ground when a blast of fire came shooting from her fingertips turning the tree into cinders.
"Whoa! What was that?"
"THAT, was your gift. I'm afraid it is only temporary though. For one full day you have all the powers of a god."
Gabrielle fingered the necklace. "How is that possible?"
"It's fairly simple. I asked each member of my family to touch the charm. Doing so
ingrained a bit of each one of their powers inside."
"I don't know what to say."
"You already said thank you, that was enough."
Raising up on her toes, she placed a kiss on Ares cheek.
"Use it wisely, we don't want another incident like the one with the enchanted scrolls again, now do we?" he said with a twinkle in his eye.
"Want to come in and join the party?" She asked hopefully.
"No, I better not. I leave the others alone too long and they will destroy Olympus with their squabbles."
"And to think you lusted after your new position for ions!" she laughed
"Yeah, be careful of what you wish for, right?"
"Right. Thank you again, Ares."
"I don't suppose there's another kiss in there is there?"
Laughing through a subtle blush she once more leaned. This time Ares turned in time so that her lips met his own instead of his cheek.
"Your sneaky," she grinned as the warmth once more swept through her.
"Yes, I am." he laughed as he disappeared.
Back inside the tavern Virgil and Bryton were involved in a bout of arm wrestling. The two were equally matched and neither would give and inch. Amused at the looks of absolute concentration that was fixed on their faces, she decided to up the stakes.
"If you two ever finish, I will wrestle the winner."
The two men looked at their petite friend and back at each other. Eager to prove their manhood they began to put more effort into the battle. The match went back and forth for sometime. Then the light glimmered off her necklace and being a sucker for the lure of gold, Bryton lost his concentration. Virgil grabbed the moment of distraction and slammed his opponents hand down onto the table.
"Ah Ha! I win!"
"That wasn't fair I."
"My turn," Gabrielle cried as she took Bryton's space at the table.
Taking up the position she grasped hands with Virgil. His muscles rippled as he flexed showing off for Gabrielle. Raising a brow at his antics she prepared for battle. Of course she now had an advantage the other two were not aware of.
Confident in his manly prowess Virgil boasted, "I'll take it easy on you ok?"
Gabrielle just smiled and waited for the signal to begin. When Bryton clapped his hands the match began. At first Gabrielle pretended to struggle with holding him steady. Twice she let him push her arm close to the table, before pushing him back to the middle. Finally when a smug look pasted itself on his face, she pulled out her ace in the hole.
Virgil's arm hit the table, shattering off the edge.
"OWW! Damn, Gabrielle you've really been working out huh?"
"Yeah, something like that," she grinned.
A roar rose up around them as the patrons began slapping Gabrielle on the shoulder, congratulating her on her win. She almost felt sorry for Virgil and told her about Ares gift but his words stopped her.
"I was just worn out from before, that's all."
"Men!" she muttered, and lifted a tankard of ale in celebration.
Ares watched from across the room, smiling to see how happy she was. It had been much too long since she had displayed real joy. Pleased that his gift had made it possible he returned to Olympus.
He would have stuck around if he had known that disaster was just around the corner.
As the celebration winded down and her natal day was nearly over, Virgil and Bryton announced that is was time for them to go. Each offered to accompany Gabrielle back to her room. It didn't take long for drink and ego to turn the simple argument into a full scale brawl. Caught in the middle Gabrielle could only watch as her two friends began rolling around on the floor, pummelling each other with their fist. The decision to intervene was not well thought out and after a flick of her wrist the two men were no longer fighting. Instead they were hugging!
In front of the startled crown her two friends began to declare their undying love for
one another and slipped out of the tavern.
"Uh oh!" was all she could utter at her spectacular blunder.
A giggle rang out from behind her.
Gabrielle turned around and smiled at her friend.
"Aphrodite! Thank goodness. I'm afraid I've really messed this one up. I only meant to restore their friendship. Now they are all gooey eyed for each other. What do I do?"
A flash of light beside Dite announced Cupid's arrival.
"This is why love should be left to professionals." he joked
"Your not helping, son." Dite took Gabrielle's hand and led her outside.
"You can fix this right?' Gabrielle asked hopefully.
Aphrodite shook her head. " You know we can't undo another gods spell. But, I can try."
In a flash the trio disappeared, only to appear again at Virgil and Bryton's side. The two men were looking longingly into each others eyes. Cupid laughed behind them, and received a scowl from his mother.
"Look, Gabrielle, just concentrate on undoing the spell."
Gabrielle focused on the two men and began to think. In a flash of red the two men broke apart and once more began to fight.
"Well that was a rousing success, now what do I do?"
"I say, let them fight it out!" Cupid offered.
When Gabrielle saw the rage that two men were displaying she wondered if her spell had taken them from one extreme to the other. Her fears were realized when Virgil drew his sword.
"STOP!" she screamed.
Bryton and Virgil literally stopped in their tracks, frozen! Neither man could move. Looking around Gabrielle was stunned to see that everything else had stopped as well. The light breeze that had been blowing through the trees was no more. The dog going about his business was stuck in mid task with his leg hoisted towards tavern wall.
Time itself was at a stand still.
"This just keeps getting better and better!" Cupid was nearly rolling around on the
Gabrielle growled at the god of love and looked to his mother for assistance. "Dite?"
"This is way out of my league, dear. Maybe we should call Ares?"
"No! We can't call Ares. It would be too embarrassing. Here let me try something."
Once more she concentrated and breathed a sigh of relief when the world began to move once more. Her relief was only for a instant, because once it started moving it just kept going.
Bryton and Virgil rushed over to her and their words came out in a blur. Their movements were fast and furious. She could not make out a word that came speeding from their lips. She watched in horror as the dog sped by like Hermes.
"Oh for the god's sake. This is getting ridiculous. If I just take the pendant off, will all this stop?"
"I don't think so. If you take it off you will no longer have the power, but the effects will remain."
"Just like that damn scroll! Ares will never let me live this down. I wish he had never given me this thing!"
Gabrielle was jolted back in time.
"You never did have a head for wine."
Gabrielle looked at Ares and felt for the charm around her neck. It was gone!
Jumping into his arms she began kissing his face all over. Astounded at her behaviour he grabbed her shoulders and captured her lips. When they finally parted Gabrielle stepped back and put her hands on his chest.
"Why don't you come inside and join the party? She asked with a smile.
"With an invitation like that, how can I refuse?" Grinning broadly he followed her inside.
His gift lay forgotten inside his vest.