Music played all around as the festivities began. Bards from all over the known world had gathered to hock their wares. Vendors selling all manner of bardic supplies littered the street.
"Two fresh scrolls for a single dinar....two fresh scrolls for a single dinar."
Gabrielle walked up to the booth producing her dinar. Ares watched in amusement as she pushed the parchment to nose and took a deep breath.
"You really should see someone about that. It's freaky"
"Very funny, Ares. Remember this was your idea, if I'm grossing you out, leave."
"Huffy aren't we, jeez you used to could take a joke. Remember when sis enchanted your scroll? You kept your sense of humour during that whole fiasco. Even Jokesters little limerick turned out to be amusing, for me anyway. By the way, I've never asked, can you really dance like that?"
"You mean in the nude? I don't think so!"
"NO, not in the nude. Although I wouldn't mind seeing that. I meant the go go stuff. I'm a big fan you know."
"I imagine you would be, now can we move on? The readings are about to begin."
Ares chuckled as he followed her into the crowd. Caught up in his mirth, he failed to notice the little woman, before he bumped into her.
"You could have at least said I'm sorry, mister," the old woman snarled.
"What can I say, men are dogs, get used to it, you old witch," Ares snapped back.
He quickly disappeared into the crown, searching for Gabrielle. Behind him the little
woman began to smile evilly.
"That's two things you have right, insolent fool."
When Ares finally caught up with her, she was immersed in a bard's recitation. It took only a few moments to realize the story he was telling was one from her scrolls.
*The evil goddess Callisto fell helplessly into the fiery pit trailing her nemesis by mere seconds. The warrior princess peered down through her frosty blue eyes as. *
"Oh hello, Ares, where did you disappear to?"
"I was held up by some old crag, no big deal."
Together they listened as the bard finished his tale. Gabrielle was smiling as she walked away. She stopped in mid-stride and stooped over.
"What are you doing?"
When she turned around she held a tiny kitten in the palm of her hands. For some reason Ares felt an irrational urge to attack the tiny fur ball. The kittens constant hissing towards him, did not help and he found himself literally barking at the feline.
"Ares, what's gotten into you? It's just a little kitty. Get a grip!"
"Uh, sorry about that," he grinned while eyeing the kitten fiercely.
Gabrielle carried the kitten with her as they walked from podium to podium, listening to tales of woe, joy and courage. Ares kept a wary eye on the little beast. His attention waned only long enough to scratch a nagging itch that started behind his ear and worked down his body.
"For heavens sake, Ares you're scratching like a dog with fleas. It's getting embarrassing."
"Fleas? Gods don't get fleas. Wait gods don't itch either. What the hell is going on here?"
"That is odd. But you want to know what is really strange?"
"You seem to be sprouting some very odd facial hair and I'm not talking about those strange sideburns of yours."
Ares rubbed his face and walked off. Surely one of these vendors carried mirrors. After several stops he found one.
"By the gods!"
Gabrielle came up from behind and jumped back when he turned around. In the few minutes he had been looking, the hair had spread down his neck and covered his hands. When he looked up from inspecting his new growth Gabrielle was staring intently at his face.
"Your eyes look strange. What is happening to you?"
"I don't know, but this is really pissing me off," he literally growled.
"I think we need to get out of here, until we figure out what is going on."
"That's a good idea."
Together they made their way through the city. By the time they reached their campsite Ares features had started to stretch and take on a canine like order. During the rush out of the city, Gabrielle had forgotten about the kitten in her hands. When the little creature jumped out of her hands and began running across the grass, Ares was in pursuit. Using his arms and legs; he raced on all fours after it.
"Something tells me we are in really big trouble."
Two small fish sizzled over the makeshift fire as they sat in silence exactly what or who could have caused Ares transformation. Suddenly the incident with the old woman and his careless words came back to haunt him.
"I know who did this. There was an old hag in the market place today. I sorta bumped into her and well I must have made her angry about something I said and she did this to me. We have to find her Gabrielle. I do not want to be "the dog of war", if you know what I mean."
Gabrielle stifled a giggle as a picture of Ares leading his army into battle. A little black poodle decked out in leather ordering a horde of men. The image was completely ridiculous. Ares, however, was finding no humour in his situation.
"What did this old woman look like?"
Ares described the woman as best as he could remember. Going over the whole incident again trying to find a catalyst.
"What did you say to her, exactly?"
"Ummm, something about men being dogs?"
"She was being nasty first," he pouted.
"Oh, Ares, we are going to have to find this person and you are going to apologize. Maybe she will undo whatever it was she did. Right, now we better eat and get some sleep. I have a feeling tomorrow is going to be a very long day."
The first rays of sun were just beginning to shine, when Gabrielle stirred from her sleep. Rubbing the sleep from her eyes, she looked around for Ares. He was nowhere to be found. The sound of a cat's hissing followed by the loud barking of a dog, sent her head spinning towards a nearby tree. Barely visible on the lowest branch, her little kitten sat screeching. Underneath, a large black dog was trying without success to get at the kitten. Grabbing the chakram from her belt, she flung it harmlessly at the spot above the dog's head. The dog turned and with a last growl at the kitten lopped over beside her. The reality hit Gabrielle like a ton of bricks. The dog was Ares.
"Oh no! Ares?"
The dog barked again, shaking its shaggy head sadly.
"This is just great! Now what are we going to do?"
Ares laid his head down on top of his paws and looked at her through sad familiar eyes.
The motley trio entered the city as it was coming to life. Vendors were setting up their stands and people were beginning to gather for the closing day of the festival. When they passed a vendor selling dried, seasoned meat, Ares began to whine.
"Oh all right," turning toward the vendor she purchased several slices and handed them to Ares. He quickly gobbled down the treat. "Good dog! Oops sorry."
Going from vendor to vendor, Gabrielle asked if they had seen a woman like Ares had described. Finally after several attempts a young man selling quills recognized the description.
"You mean, Magda. That old witch hardly ever comes into the city, but I do recall seeing her yesterday. Why are you looking for her?"
"Uh, I think I found her dog." Gabrielle shrugged her shoulder at the menacing growl that followed.
"I'd be more likely to believe it was her cat that was missing. That old witch carries it with her everywhere, but I can't recall her having it yesterday."
Gabrielle thanked the young man and began to smile. If what he said was correct, she might have the answer to the problem right in the palm of her hands, literally. The tiny kitten purred as if reading her mind.
The day was beginning to wane and so far the old woman was nowhere to be found. Gabrielle was becoming extremely frustrated with the search as well as Ares constant hunger and need to urinate at the patron's feet. All of a sudden Ares began to bark excitedly. Right in front of her was the old woman, Magda.
Gabrielle walked up her and tapped her on the shoulder.
"Excuse me, but I think I might have something that belongs to you."
Magda turned around with a scowl on her face that swiftly turned to a smile.
"Romeo, is that you?"
She reached for the kitten but Gabrielle stepped back.
"So this is your kitten? Good, I'm glad to hear that and I'll be happy to return him to you as soon as you change my friend back," she said pointing to Ares.
Recognizing her work, she started to cackle. "So it worked. It's been so long since I worked a spell, I thought surely it would fail."
"So, you can turn him back?"
"Probably, but what is in it for me? If I wanted to I could merely take my kitten back and there is nothing you could do about it."
"Don't be so sure about that, I know a little magic myself. My friend Xena taught me many of her skills. Ever heard of "the pinch"?" Waving her fingers in front of the old witch she nearly laughed when her jaw dropped.
"Oh alright, no need to get nasty. Hand me my Romeo and I'll change back your arrogant friend."
Reluctantly Gabrielle handed her only bargaining tool to its owner.
Magda snarled down at Ares "First an apology!"
Ares barked in answer then hid his eyes.
"Good enough. When you wake in the morning, he should be back to normal. Well as normal as a snotty whelp can be anyway." Cuddling her kitten close to her, Magda blended into the remaining patrons.
Gabrielle swatted Ares on the behind, "Let's go boy!"
"I think you enjoyed all that way too much!" Ares growled angrily.
"Oh yeah, it was real walk in the park, seeing you do your business from one end of Athens to the other."
Ares blushed with embarrassment. "Don't remind me. Ever!"
Smiling Gabrielle took Ares hand and looked up into his newly restored handsome face. Leaning up as if to kiss him, she stopped right before their lips met and whispered. "Come on Rover, let's go home!" Swatting him on the backside, she ran off with Ares close behind.
"OOOOH. I'm gonna get you for that one, blondie!"