AresJoxerCupidStrife - Jay


Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6 Part 7 Part 8 Part 9 Part 10 Part 11 Part 12 Part 13 Part 14 Part 15 Part 16 Part 17 Part 18 Part 19 Part 20 Part 21 Part 22 Part 23 Part 24 Part 25 Part 26 Part 27 Part 28 Part 29 Part 30 Part 31 Part 32

Title: Lord Chaos
Author: Jay
E-mail: Jessica.Robertson@ncl.ac.uk
Rating: Hard R to Soft NC-17
Fandom: Xena/HtLJ
Pairing: For this part Zeus/Ares - yeuch
Disclaimer: Not mine, they belong to those nice people at
Renaissance Pictures, who I'm sure won't sue me - well except for
Entro and Alitia, I made those two up myself.
Warnings: Contains description of rape and reference to child abuse,
both physical and sexual. In addition includes self-mutilation, m/m
sex and issues of dominance/submission in a relationship.
Summary: Ares has been abused by his father, now an ancient god has
found out and offers to help him. They develop a relationship.

Ares shivered as the clamour of Hera and Zeus fighting filled Olympus. He knew what always followed those fights, and he only prayed that this time Hera wouldn't see fit to refuse his father her bed. But of late she was doing so far more often, she didn't know what effect it had on him - and even if she did he doubted she would bother to change that practice, she'd stopped protecting him the moment the Sword of War chose him. Holding one hand protectively to his belly Ares flashed to one of his less frequented temples on earth, hidden away in an overgrown forest, to await the inevitable.

It took six hours before Hera and Zeus finished fighting, and his fear only grew the longer he waited - the worse the fight, the greater Zeus' rage afterwards. To make matters even worse, when Zeus arrived it was all too plain he'd lost the fight - he looked like Cerberus had been using him as a chew toy. Ares knew better than to speak first, or show any emotion at all. He simply looked up from his throne, where he'd been toying with a dagger, to Zeus.

"Hiding away here are you boy? What a cowardly excuse for a War God your mother carried. I wonder if you're even mine. Well boy, have you nothing to say to your father?" There was nothing but contempt in Zeus' voice.

"Does it make it easier to pretend I can't be your son? That I'm not the result of your raping my mother? Can I take it she had the good sense to throw you out of her bed, my lord father? And I know you've shielded the temple - do you really think anyone would care?" Ares put the dagger to one side, knowing that he couldn't put what was coming off and instead provoking it. A lightening bolt hit him on the chest, just above the heart, knocking him off the throne and to the floor. He didn't cry out, not yet - Zeus would stop when he did, but if it happened too quickly the next stage would be even worse than usual.

It wasn't until most of his clothes had been burnt off that Ares risked a scream, he couldn't hold it back any longer, but once he'd screamed the first time it didn't matter if he continued to scream, or sob or anything else. He hadn't really tried to get away, what point was there? But he had turned onto his front, exposing his back, and protecting his vulnerable belly and groin. Zeus strode over to him and, lifting him by one shoulder, threw him across the temple, into an outer wall. He tried to remain limp, but it still broke at least half a dozen bones - it would have killed him had he been mortal. Now Zeus began using his feet and fists to beat Ares. He tried to put up some resistance, but it just meant more pain, and he no longer tried to avoid screaming, after Zeus broke his hand trying to protect his already damaged ribs he sobbed continuously, tears rolling down his face.

He'd lost track of time while Zeus was hurling lightening at him, certainly didn't know how long his father had been beating him when he saw Zeus free his erection from his robes and felt his strangely gentle hands turn him over, spreading his legs for easier access. For the first time he really tried to get away, begging, struggling and even desperately lashing out with his powers, but Zeus just summoned chains of Hephaestian metal that he used to fasten Ares' legs apart.

"Tell me, my little whore - do you still want my child?" There was a sneer on his face as he positioned himself to drive into Ares. His comment referred to an earlier time, when Ares had told his father he was carrying his child, and asked him to be careful of their unborn offspring, only for his concern to be rewarded by a beating severe enough that he miscarried. Ares was beyond reply, he only begged incoherently - he might well have been begging for a child, all that could be heard was the word please, everything else was distorted by moans and whimpers. Zeus forced himself inside Ares with no consideration for how much it hurt, somewhere he was grateful that he'd already been bleeding from the earlier blows, and some of the blood had offered a little lubrication at first. When Zeus finally left him in his temple, aching in every part of himself it was dawn - it had been dusk when he'd been found. Ares had just enough ability to think that he replaced his father's shield with one of his own, then he collapsed.

Joxer hurried through the woods towards Ares' temple. It was almost never used, so when he sensed Zeus putting a shield up around it he knew something was wrong, even more when he felt Ares replace that shield with one of his own at dawn - the power signature felt wrong. He'd risked teleporting himself to within twenty-four hours walk of the temple when he felt Zeus use his powers, but any closer and the Olympians might realise what he was - they couldn't hurt him, but he loved this mortal avatar too much to give the bumbling idiot persona up without a good reason. He could get away with some degree of inhuman stamina because he'd been born into a family descended from Strife - he was the grandfather of Jett and Jace's mother - and so he ran through the night at the sort of pace Jett would have set if he was in a hurry, reaching the temple just an hour after Zeus had left.

He hesitated, then he walked calmly into the temple only to see Ares collapsed in one corner, huddled against the wall. He was naked; and battered so badly that he was barely recognisable - a mortal wouldn't have recognised him, it was only the power signature that allowed Joxer to identify him. For this he would permit Ares, and Zeus to know who he was. He lifted Ares carefully in his arms and carried him through to one of the bedrooms he'd found, all without waking him. Once he'd done that he conjured warm water and cloths to bathe Ares' broken body.

Ares woke to the feeling of someone tending to his wounds, cleaning his aching body. Fear flashed through his eyes when he recognised Joxer, only another god, or a demi-god of his line could have gotten through his shield, and if Joxer was here his bitch of a daughter Xena had probably been the one to break the shield. That or worse - he hadn't put a shield up at all.

"Hush, you did put a shield up as Zeus left you. And Xena didn't break it to let anyone in. I'm a god myself, or something like it - just not of your pantheon, and I can walk through anyone's shields without any effect on me, and without damaging them. Just let me take care of you."

"Oh!" Ares couldn't manage anything else and remained silent through the process of tending to his injuries. When Joxer turned him over to take care of his violated anus he stiffened in fear, Joxer saw this and gathered him into his arms, whispering soft words of comfort. He conjured a healing salve, with just enough of his essence to kill any infection that sought to set in.

"I'm going to need to touch you, to help you heal. I won't hurt you, not if I can help it. Do you trust me to do this, or would you rather I left you to deal with this on your own?"

"Go ahead." It was barely a whisper, but it was enough, Joxer carefully tended to Ares' injuries, cutting off sensation from that part of his body while he worked then restoring it once he was done.

"It's alright, you can turn back over now." Ares obeyed without thought to question him, it had stopped hurting altogether for a while and when the pain came back it was much less.

"I didn't feel anything." There was wonder in his voice and something akin to worship in his eyes as he gazed up at the man he'd so often ignored, thought only fit to be a diversion in the past, who'd revealed himself to be a god from some other pantheon and taken care of him with more care and gentleness than he'd ever had from his mother - even before he was chosen by the Sword of War.

"I can't heal injuries, only diseases, or I would. But I can give you energy to heal yourself if you are willing to take it."

"I don't want to leave you short of energy…" He'd never expected such generosity, but if it was only offered from pity…

"You won't. You can't. Nothing could drain me that badly. Here!" Joxer lowered his shields slightly and extended a testing filament of his power, tamed and controlled as much as he could manage. When he felt Ares accept it he changed it to a stream, flowing slowly at first and increasing until he was sending almost as much energy as Ares could manage down the link. It was Ares who broke the link - he could have taken more energy, but he had enough to heal the worst of his injuries, and Zeus would be pissed if his skin was flawless the next time…Besides he didn't want to take too much from Joxer, sure that despite his protests it would deplete him if he took all the energy he needed. Annoyance flashed over Joxer's face briefly, then he composed himself quickly.

"Can you tell me what happened? Can you bear to?" For some reason he wanted to tell Joxer what had happened, he'd seen how his father - although perhaps Janos wasn't his father if he was a god - had treated him growing up, he knew Joxer would understand and keep quiet about it.

"Zeus was fighting with Hera, he'd lost and she made it clear he wouldn't be sharing her bed in the foreseeable future, she must have or he wouldn't have taken me. Every time they have a fight Zeus comes after me once it's over and beats me, first with lightnings then physically. If Hera won't let him sleep with her he rapes me after that. If it's just a beating then that's a one off, he doesn't touch me again until the next fight, but if he decides that I should replace my mother in his bed he keeps on coming after me until she takes him back." Ares was humiliated to feel tears in his eyes, Joxer would despise him for a coward, and for some reason Joxer's good opinion was very important to him. He could see that Joxer was getting angry, and he was afraid it was at him and his cowardice, after all if Joxer could cope with being raped from when he was four why couldn't he deal with what Zeus did to him?

"When did this start?" Joxer's voice was low and lethal, then he realised that Ares was scared of him. "It's NOT your fault, I'm angry at your father, not you. I just want to know how long he's been beating and raping you for."

"Since I gained my godhood - I was eight or nine at the time." It almost sounded as if Joxer was planning on defending him, but no-one had ever defended him, and who would dare challenge Zeus? Joxer would, it seemed.

"The next time he comes and starts beating you call my name and I'll come to make sure he never hurts you again."

"Joxer?"

"No, call my true name, Entro." He'd disregarded one of the Elder Two? Thought him a mortal fool?

"It's alright." Entro hastened to reassure Ares, seeing how he trembled. "I didn't want to be anyone special in this life, I only wanted to be a troublemaker and it made things easier that people disregarded me. The childhood you witnessed was my choice, as was the abusive behaviour most of my `friends' display. Every five lives or thereabouts I arrange for a really miserable life, abused childhood, total incompetence in every walk of life, the works. I incarnate as a mortal on a regular basis, it is my choice, and not something my sister would ever choose to do. I can't be the incompetent I play if I want to protect you, but it's worth it; I cannot abide those who use whipping boys - and that is what the bastard treated you as."

"Thank you. Please, is there anything I can do for you?"

"I'll need to leave your `service' and enter Strife's. Agree, as I was dedicated to you at birth I need your permission to transfer to another deity's service, and explain to Strife who and what I am."

"Of course. He'll be thrilled to have an adult worshipper at last, even if it is mostly pretence."

"I'll offer him worship as true as I ever offered you, and I'll still pray to you, it's just he'll get more prayers and if he wants me to do something for him I will. Oh, and I'll build him a few shrines, even if I don't maintain them myself."

"You are incredibly generous, it will be nice for him to actually have some shrines, I could never think of a way to justify having shrines to him built into my temples."

"It is nothing. Unless you wish me to stay I will leave now." Ares smiled up at Joxer, his gratitude and awe fast turning to adoration and refused the offer, not wanting to keep Joxer from whatever it was he wished to do.

It was three days later that he had to call on Joxer. Zeus summoned him to one of his own temples, deserted as Zeus had driven all of his priests out. As soon as he flashed in Zeus hit him with a lightning bolt, for once Ares managed to remain on his feet.

"Not this time father." He ground out. "Not this time. Entro!"

"Do you really expect the incarnation of chaos to come to your defence boy?"

"Yes, he does. I keep my promises." Joxer was suddenly standing between Ares and his father.

"You?" Zeus laughed and threw a lightening bolt at him. Joxer didn't even react, just let it hit him and absorbed it. Ares couldn't understand how, but he was absorbing, draining energy from his father. Suddenly it was his father collapsed on the floor with Joxer standing over him threateningly. Some of his power flickered out, as coherent light that had more effect than any fireball, burning through Zeus' body and cauterising the wound as it went.

"Ares is under my direct protection. Harm him again and I will keep you screaming for a hundred years. Now go!" With a wave of his hand Joxer dismissed the King of the Gods, sending him to his temple on Olympus. Then he turned to Ares, who sank to his knees, bowing his head in submission.

"Thank you my lord." He murmured the words, then turned his head to expose his neck in further submission.

"Get up! You don't need to do that." Joxer waited until Ares obeyed before continuing. "Have you had a chance to explain matters to Strife yet?"

"Yes, it was one of my first priorities after you helped me before. He understands what you are offering. He won't try to command you, and he'll give you personal attention as you're his only true adult worshipper. He doesn't mind if you use him to explain things, or as a cover. Apparently he'd like to have someone to talk to apart from me or Cupid - the rest of our family tend to ignore him. He's the only god less popular than me, all mischief gods, of every pantheon go insane, or so my mother told me when I asked about it."

"Well I need you to perform the transfer ceremony now, to explain why all of a sudden I'm a dangerous warrior. I'll tell my friends that I had brain damage when I was about five, and after that I couldn't fight properly, when Strife healed me I could actually use what I'd learned."

"And I would never have bothered because I have so many worshippers, but Strife will only have one adult worshipper. Besides there aren't that many gods who know how to do something so delicate - I know I never bothered, but Strife was always into more subtle methods of torture. Yes, they might buy that. Strife!"

He appeared in a shower of green and purple sparks. "What's up Unc? Hey, Joxer."

"We need to perform the transfer ceremony now. Oh, and if anyone asks, you healed some brain damage from when he was five when I gave Joxer to you."

"An if they ask why ya didn't Unc?"

"He just wasn't that important to me, which is why I granted his `request'. I'd never bother to heal one of my worshippers unless they were really vital to some plan of mine. Any way I don't actually know how to heal something like that. But to you an adult worshipper is worth the trouble, isn't he?"

"Oh yeah. But I don't know how ta do anything like that."

"I'll teach you once we have a link, it will make the lessons easier." Joxer stepped towards Strife and lifted a hand to lay it against his right cheek.

Ares cleared his throat to distract his nephew and patron from their absorption in each other, an absorption that tore at his heart. "My lord, how much do you know about the transfer ceremony?"

"Just use my mortal name, Ares. I don't want my identity to become too well known. Perhaps later we can tell a few others, but not just yet. As to the transfer ceremony, I know that when I was dedicated to you ties formed between us so any undirected prayer goes to you. It doesn't prevent me worshipping other gods or goddesses but I can't enter their service, because that would involve ties being formed between me and whoever it was I wanted to enter the service of. So I know that the purpose of the transfer ceremony is to break the ties between us, formally, so new ties can be formed between me and Strife. But I don't know what sort of ritual is involved."

"With me it's a ritual combat. You can take the phrases and actions required from my mind. But to summarise, at first you challenge me and fight me hand to hand, when I start to press you back you need to call to Strife for aid, then I let him defeat me. We don't need another god as witness, although it is customary. We can justify not bothering with that on the grounds that Strife doesn't really have any strong alliances except his friendship with Cupid, and that isn't official."

"Besides that might cause some unwanted questions.

"I wish to challenge you for my freedom that I might serve another, Lord Ares."

"You wish to challenge?"

"Yes."

"You know the cost of failure?"

"I do."

"Very well." With a wave of Ares' hand he clothed them both in light leather armour and armed them each with a hand and a half sword. He held his in his right hand while Joxer took a two handed grip on his. It was a ritual combat; Joxer moved first, feinting high towards Ares' head then swinging low in an attempt to take out his legs. Lifting his sword to parry the swing to his head Ares leapt over Joxer's sword when it went low. As he landed Ares launched an attack, barely parried, towards Joxer's midsection. Pressing the attack he forced Joxer backwards until he stumbled and fell backwards.

"Strife, my lord, aid me now!" Strife conjured a sword of his own and stepped between Joxer and Ares to halt the savage down-stroke that threatened to bisect Joxer. He forced Ares sword back and proceeded to force Ares back, away from Joxer. Finally he disarmed his uncle who knelt.

"He is yours, I wish you joy. Take care of him." The final sentence was not part of the ritual, but it didn't matter. Joxer could feel the ties between him and Ares snap while new ones formed binding him to Strife.

"Thank you Ares."

"Yeah Unc. Thanks."

"You do not need to thank me Entro, nor do you Strife; I should have done something like this a long time ago. You'll need to discuss your new situation; I'll leave you to it." Ares flashed away from his temple, he'd noticed the lust in Joxer's eyes when he'd looked at Strife and the near leer Strife had directed at Joxer when Ares said the word discuss. He'd fallen in love with Entro near as soon as he'd realised who he was, or perhaps before when he was tending to Ares with a kindness he'd never known before - and he'd found Joxer appealing even before that. But apparently his interest wasn't returned. Once he had some privacy he reached for a knife, to take to his own flesh.

Strife looked at Joxer, wondering what they were going to do, why someone so powerful was willing to pretend to be in his service. But he was certainly desirable, first question was could he get Joxer in bed?

"Well, ya didn't specify 'xactly what sorta service ya were offerin' me. We gotta decide on that don't we?"

"You're working up to asking to have sex with me aren't you?" Joxer couldn't conceal his amusement.

"Um, yeah."

"I intend to offer you the same sort of service I did Ares, with a few extras that I'd have given him if he'd asked. It's almost unconditional, I'll carry out any missions you ask me to, but I won't be tied down to a single place, nor will I commit injustices. Fucking, or being fucked by me is just an optional extra. But not in Ares' temple, that would be wrong."

"Cruel, ya mean?"

"Yes, you noticed too I take it." There was sorrow in Joxer's voice, he'd put up a shield so Ares wouldn't be able to check what they were saying.

"Pretty obvious. What didja mean, ya won't commit injustices?"

"I'll give you an example - I'm happy to assassinate a threat to Greece or a criminal or evil person, but I wouldn't kill a woman who was going to give birth to someone dangerous sometime more than a year in the future, not as a rule. And I won't hurt a child."

"I wouldn't ask ya ta do anything like that. Want me to take us back home so we can fuck?"

"Yes - understand I will never love you, you'll just be a fuck buddy or a bed toy to me. I don't mind indulging your tastes, whatever they might be, but I will NOT do anything too blatant in front of your uncle. He's been hurt enough. I refuse to hurt him anymore, but he's so grateful to me for saving him at the moment, and he's so submissive because of what Zeus did to him that I'd be taking advantage of him, and I won't do that. Oh, and if this gets out - you'll be begging to be sent to Tartarus before I'm through with you."

"I won't tell anyone what ya said, I promise. Anywhere ya want us ta go? I ain't got a temple of ma own and ma rooms're in Unc's temple."

"Nowhere in particular, actually come to think of it, there's some caves near where I grew up that me and my brothers turned into a hideaway, we sometimes meet there, often on our birthdays. Could you take us there ?"

"Yeah, sure." And Strife did just that, flashing them to beside one of the beds in the surprisingly well-appointed cave. Joxer pushed him backwards onto it and began kissing him. Finally Strife got enough sense to push him away. "Wait…How're we gonna do this?"

"I like biting, but apart from that I'm easy. And you are supposed to be my god now."

"But yer still tha more powerful o' us two. I don't have much power 'cause mosta my worshippers're children. Ya should be on top, I'm easy either way - and I like some pain with my sex."

"As you wish little god." Suddenly there was a knife in Entro's hand and he began cutting Strife's clothes off, deliberately nicking him on the hip as he did so. He dropped his head to lick at the blood, then flipped Strife over easily, thrusting his fingers in dry, just one at first but swiftly moving up to two, then three. "Feel free to add oil if you want it - I'm not going to. But I will let you suck me first."

Strife began to struggle at that, turning over beneath Entro. "Then let me."

Entro laughed and moved to straddle his shoulders, making Strife bend his neck and lift his head awkwardly to take him into his mouth. He made sure to coat his `worshipper's' dick thickly with saliva and pre-cum. Strife had just finished doing that when Entro pulled out of his mouth, flipped him over again and thrust into him hard. Strife was still dry, but he didn't care about that - loved it in fact. He stayed motionless, for a few minutes after that, giving Strife time to adjust, and biting around his neck hard. "This what you like young god?"

"Oh yes my lord. Fuck me, take me." Entro smiled and obeyed, powering into him and thrusting hard until Strife climaxed, with as much pain as pleasure. Strife ended up covered in bites as they fucked for hours, towards the end Entro persuaded him to bite back and gained a few bite marks of his own. Finally Entro spoke.

"Strife, I need you to send me to a weeks travel from Miramus. It doesn't matter what direction, but I need to break my brother out of jail - oh and I'm going to tell him you gave me the things I'll use to do it. You can take the knowledge of my plan out of my head."

"Why not just go straight there?"

"I need to make some preparations, and I don't want to raise suspicion by appearing out of thin air."

"Of course." Strife obeyed quickly, returning to the Hall of War on Olympus. By this time Ares had hidden all evidence of the damage he'd done to himself - there were still shallow cuts on his body, but hidden, he couldn't bring himself to heal them. He was careful not to react when he saw Strife appear, looking thoroughly fucked, even though it tore at his heart.

"Ares! What have you done to my Joxie?" On the rare occasions Aphrodite got mad it was best to be very careful - or better yet run for cover - and Aphrodite was pissed.

"Nothing! Well…I have been talking to him, but that's all! And I gave him to Strife at his request. But Strife works for me, and Joxer was dedicated to me at birth - there's no reason I shouldn't talk to him." Ares hated sounding defensive, but the last person to be rude to his sister when she was mad found himself married to a gorgon.

"You gave my Joxie to Strife?"

"He hasn't stopped praying to me, just less often, and his undirected prayers go to Strife now. Strife doesn't have any adult worshippers, when Joxer offered to serve him I thought it was perfect - after all Joxer causes a lot of mischief himself, and I know that Strife will take good care of him, because he's such a wonderful energy source."

"That he is. I got more energy from his prayers about that bard of Xena's than from anyone else, ever! But why's he breaking his brother out of Miramus prison?"

"He's WHAT?"

"Breaking his brother out of Miramus prison - and he's changed."

"Perhaps he feels he owes it to his brother, after all Joxer helped put him there. And I expect it would cause a lot of mischief, probably give Strife quite a power boost. I think Strife said something about healing Joxer, that's one reason he asked to transfer his allegiance."

"Healing Joxer? What was wrong with him?"

"Brain damage when he was five. I hadn't realised Strife knew so much about healing. What exactly is he doing in Miramus prison? Perhaps I can get some of my warlords free as well."

"Why don't you come with me and watch?" 'Dite had calmed down significantly, and Ares lost a subtle tension from his body. He smiled at his sister and agreed, more to placate her than anything else - although he did want to see Joxer, it would be a bit too painful in person. They relocated to Miramus prison, staying invisible and watched as Joxer moved gracefully through a prison where all but he were unconscious. He'd taken the keys to the cells and his brother's chains from one of the guards and worked quickly, pausing to crush a glass ball beneath his brother's nose once Jett was unchained.

"What?"

"Coherent, aren't you brother." Joxer stood and smiled down at his brother. "I got a little divine assistance and I'm breaking you out of prison, so get up and come with me." Jett was just shocked enough to obey - at least until they got out of his cell. The first guard he laid eyes on brought him back to himself, and he kicked him in the groin - hard.

"Did he do something to deserve that? Apart from being one of the prison guards?"

"Those chains kept me helpless - he liked that. He used to beat me when he got in trouble with his commander and…"

"We'll take him with us then, it's no fun hurting someone who can't respond. You can punish him properly later. Here," Joxer thrust a set of keys and some more glass balls at his brother, "your weapons are in a locked room off the ground floor west corridor, third door on the right from the north. You can unlock some of the cells and toss these balls in as well, just don't unchain anyone - stick to cells where the prisoners are unchained. It should help camouflage your escape. You've got about half an hour."

"Why…"

"I can't abide people who take advantage of the helpless, or use whipping boys. I'm not too fond of eavesdroppers either."

Ares froze for a second then prepared to flash away. Aphrodite sensed it and stopped him with a hand on his arm.

"Where are you going?"

"That was directed at us."

"He's mortal; he can't tell we're here."

"Yes, he can."

"That's impossible."

"Ares is right Aphrodite." Joxer waited until his brother had gone before he spoke to the squabbling gods. "So you might as well be polite and make yourselves visible."

"How did you know, Joxie?"

"I've had enough dealings with you Olympians that I'm sensitised to you. Ares is easier because we used to have a link, but you aren't that much harder, considering that you've interfered with me so often." Aphrodite seemed doubtful for a moment then assumed that he was part god himself and didn't realise it - must be a few generations back, she mused.

"Why did you ask your brother to release some of the other prisoners?" Ares suddenly smiled at Joxer. "And can I persuade you to release some of my warlords while you're at it?"

"No, but I'll give you a few doses of the antidote and you can release them yourself. You'll want to get them away from here anyway - there's going to be chaos with the less dangerous prisoners escaped. Should give Strife quite a power boost. I know that the other escapees won't be really good camouflage for the purpose of the jailbreak, unless some of your warlords are dangerous enough to be kept in chains. I don't have the same options for creating chaos that I did before Strife healed me, not that I'm complaining. They will be recaptured eventually. Now, how many warlords did you want to free?"

"There's only two that could be useful to me. But as far as the guards are concerned they'd be as likely targets for a jailbreak as your brother."

"Then here." He handed two glass balls over to Ares, then paused and added another ten balls and a pear shaped flask. "If you want to release some more of the less dangerous prisoners I'd appreciate it, and Apollo or Asclepius, might want to analyse this, it's what put them all in this state. They don't feel anything so it could be used for surgery."

"Apollo, probably, he's senior. I wonder if it works on gods as well - he'll want to test that later. My thanks Joxer." With that Ares flashed away to get his warlords, handed the knock out potion to Apollo, and reached for his knife on returning to his temple. Aphrodite looked at her brother curiously as he left - she'd NEVER heard him thank a mortal before, and he'd treated Joxer as almost an equal. She was beginning to wonder if he was in love with Joxer. For real, rather than the infatuations he sometimes had with mortal warriors. Joxer's voice brought her out of her musings.

"Can you take me and my brother somewhere a month's travel or more away from here? You might as well make yourself useful after all."

"You presumptuous..."

"I did not invite you to interrupt me, or seek to spy on me. And perhaps I could help you in some way? You have certainly been able to use me in the past."

"How could a mortal help me?"

"If I understand the basis of a potion I can usually come up with a way to make it work better - I designed the potions I've been using for this escapade."

"Very well. I'll give you information on how I make love potions and you can find something that makes people reveal their true feelings."

"Agreed. But I'll be telling Strife and Ares how to make sure it doesn't affect them. Ah, Jett. Did you do as I asked?"

"Yes…what's Aphrodite doing here?"

"Taking us far away from here - aren't you?" Joxer bent and slung the unconscious guard over one shoulder then wrapped his arm around 'Dite's waist. She froze for a second, then smiled and nodded.

"Sure Joxie. I need to get ahold of you for this to work Jett sweetie, so come a bit closer." Despite looking as if he thought Joxer was insane for being so casually intimate with the Goddess of Love Jett obeyed moving to within grabbing range. Aphrodite brought them all to a barren mountain at the borders of Greece and let go of Jett to push Joxer off. She thrust a heavy bag of scrolls at him. "Here's the information you said you need. I'd like results within a year."

"Of course, gracious lady." Joxer bowed, and when he stood again she'd gone, leaving him to try to explain to his brother.

When he realised that he'd been feeling nauseous in the mornings for the past week Ares checked his physical condition. What he discovered made him go pale, and flash to a deserted temple.

"Fates. Not now. And not by HIM." Tears running down his face he erected a shield around the temple and picked up a knife. At first he made parallel cuts running down his arms, healing them only to inflict more - but he steadily lost control until he was slashing at himself in frenzy.

It had been a month since Joxer freed his brother and last saw Ares, and when he walked into the temple, drawn by the power surge he had sensed he was shocked to see the God of War crying full out and cutting his arms down to the bone.

"Stop that right now." He commanded Ares, and flashed over to him, taking the knife from his unresisting hand. "Now heal yourself."

Ares obeyed numbly. Entro took him into his arms, and the God of War cried on his shoulder like a heart-broken child. When he had calmed him a little he led Ares to sit on his bed in the hidden quarters of the temple.

"Now, can you tell me about what just happened?"

"I..Sometimes when things get bad I cut myself. If I'm hurting from something I did it's easier to cope. Does that make sense?"

"Yes. I did something like that in one of my earlier lives. At first I never remember who I am. It takes a god's influence to bring me back to myself. I added this about the time that gods started to last, to be worshipped by more than just a single tribe. But what prompted it this time?"

"I'm pregnant, with Zeus' child. Male gods can get pregnant. For the others it's a case of active intervention. But for me…the closest equivalent to my fertility is a mortal woman. I have no control over my fertility at all. And I don't even have menstruation to tell me when I am and am not fertile. Goddesses can prevent a child being conceived, or encourage its conception. I can't.

"I'd love to carry a child to term in my body. But I don't want my child to grow up knowing he was the result of rape, or never knowing his parentage. And it would be very hard to do my job pregnant - can you imagine how my warlords would react?"

"Not very well, I'd imagine. Do you want me to abort the child for you? I could, and it would be painless."

"NO! I want this child…I just don't want to carry him myself. If I was married it would be different…but I'm not and…"

"Hush. It's alright. We'll find someone who can carry the child for you as a host mother, and Apollo can transfer him. It will probably cost a few favours, but I'm sure we can find something to bribe him with."

"He owes you because of that anaesthetic you sent to him anyway, my lord. But you'll have to reveal who you are. I can't ask you to do that for me."

"You're not asking. I'm offering. There's a difference. Shall we go?" They stood and flashed to Apollo's temple.

Apollo was alone, thankfully. To be precise he was playing an idle tune on his lyre when Ares and Entro flashed in. Ares paled and clung to Entro for support, much to his surprise.

"What's going on?"

Ares bit his lower lip and looked to Entro to explain things, only adding to Apollo's confusion.

"First you need to know who I am. My true name is Entro - and it was actually my power that created the anaesthetic I sent to you via Ares.

"Next, were you aware of the fact that Zeus has been raping his son for almost as long as Ares has been alive? I put a stop to it only a week ago - but not before he got Ares with child."

"It isn't the first time. Just the first time my child has a chance to be born. He always made sure I miscarried before." Ares barely whispered what his father had done to him, but both Entro and Apollo heard.

"Fates! I didn't know. I swear it, or I would have done something. Please - is there anything I can do to help now?"

"Ares can't risk carrying this child to term. Zeus might hurt the offspring he sired through rape, and there could be problems with warlords. But he doesn't want me to abort it for him. I thought perhaps you could arrange for a goddess to carry the child in her body, then when he is born Ares can acknowledge him."

"Yes, that can be arranged. But there will be a price. Terpsichore has been asking me for permission to bear a child. I'll grant her permission to bear a child of her own on condition that she carries your child to term first. The price is that if she wishes it one of you has to father her child. And I plan to reveal your identity to her, Entro."

"Agreed. But you cannot tell anyone else, and nor can she."

"What if you took one of your earlier forms and we told her that if she wants you to father her child she can contact you through me, my lord? It would put your identity at less risk."

"I would prefer that. If you can accept that Apollo?"

"Yes, I just couldn't think of anything that would explain why a mortal would be present." At Apollo's agreement Entro shimmered out of existence for a moment and reformed as a man seven feet tall, with dark red hair almost that long, and deep purple eyes. His skin was like white marble and he had wings that were the same shade as his hair on the upperside and matched his eyes on the underside. Ares was watching him in adoration as Apollo summoned Terpsichore.

"Yes Apollo."

"Ares is pregnant. He can't carry the child to term, not and carry out his duties. You've been asking for permission to have a child. I've decided that if you agree to carry this child to term you can have another child of your own, by any father you choose. One of the Elder Two has agreed to father your child if you want him to, or Ares will. Ares will take this child once…"

"He, I'm bearing a son."

"Once he is born."

"Which of the Elder Two?"

"That would be me. My sister would never assume a male form. I have on occasion taken a female form, but not often."

"Agreed. How do I contact you when I wish to conceive my child?"

"Tell Ares, he'll be able to contact me."

"Very well." Terpsichore lay down on a bed Apollo created while Ares created a bed of his own to lie on beside it. Apollo smiled at Entro before speaking.

"Could you create some more of that anaesthetic you sent to me, so I can knock them out?" There was a flash of fear from Ares at this suggestion, so Entro refused.

"No, I could, but I won't. Instead I will make sure that they feel nothing while remaining conscious. Unless you wish to be unconscious, Terpsichore?"

"No, I'd rather know what is happening, my lord." Her voice was quiet but determined.

"As you wish." And suddenly neither of them could feel anything from their waists downwards. Apollo began to cut into Ares, working quickly, while Ares watched, glancing occasionally at Entro, who always responded by touching his face in reassurance. Once he'd removed the child he put Ares' son in a stasis field to keep him alive while he cut Terpsichore open, then implanted him into her womb. Apollo was slightly surprised when she didn't begin to heal herself immediately, and glanced over to Ares to see that he was in a similar state, and clutching Entro for dear life.

"Why haven't you started healing yourself Ares?"

"For that I'd need to be able to feel the damage - and I can't feel a thing."

"I'm sorry, I didn't realise. Let me fix Terpsichore up, then I'll start you healing and Entro can finish whatever he's doing to keep you from feeling your injuries."

"Then do it." Ares had remained silent while Entro commanded Apollo, holding onto him and watching him adoringly. He began to work more swiftly, knowing that Ares was still bleeding while he was taking care of his muse. Soon he told Terpsichore that she could go and turned to his other patient. Ares refused to respond to him in any way as he began to seal up the gaping wound, looking only to Entro. Finally he stepped back.

"It's finished. You can release them my lord Entro, and all three of you can go." That bought him a response from Ares, a grateful smile and words.

"Thank you for your help Apollo. I am in your debt."

And then they left, flashing away to Ares' temple.

"I'm sure you didn't come here to help me deal with this my lord. What did you wish of me?"

"I created a potion for Aphrodite that when ingested forces people to reveal their true feelings. I wanted to make sure you wouldn't be affected by it. The defence mechanism is simple; you merely create walls within your mind and put your deepest feelings behind them. But most people can't do that, they don't have the discipline required in their minds."

"Thank you again my lord."

"It is nothing. Has your bastard father touched you again?"

"No, my lord. He fears you."

"As he should. I must leave you now."

And with that he disappeared, reluctant to cause Ares any more pain.

Joxer sighed at the knowledge that he would be meeting up with Xena and Gabrielle. It wasn't as if he disliked them, but he knew he'd have to explain why he wasn't the incompetent klutz he'd been playing all his life. Still it would be worth explaining his new `allegiances' for the looks on their faces. And it was nice to be wearing some decent light leather armour instead of the pile of scrap metal he normally used.

He went into the tavern and ordered a tankard of ale while he waited. For once he didn't have to worry about some local ruffians thinking he'd make a good target and trying to beat him up, he was free to look as lethal as he truly was.

Entro frowned, considering Ares, he hadn't been expecting to find a beloved in this lifetime. This identity had been designed to keep him in touch with the weaker mortals, but now...Ares worshipped him almost. It would be taking advantage of the younger god to take him to his bed, but he also needed to protect the youngling from his father. Xena's arrival drew everyone's attention and distracted him from his musings.

"Xena, Gabrielle! Over here!"

Xena had a knife to his throat in seconds. "What are you doing here Jett? And what have you done with Joxer?"

"What in Tartarus are you talking about Daughter of Ares?"

"Did you really think we wouldn't know that you'd escaped from Miramus Prison? And you don't even look like Joxer - how could you think that you could fool us?"

"Precisely. I don't look like the Joxer you know. That is because I have entered Strife's service. I suffered brain damage at the age of five. That is why I was always so clumsy. Strife offered to heal me if I would enter his service, and I agreed. He gave me this armour, and now I can put everything I learned into practise. Freeing my brother and two of Ares' warlords from Miramus was the price Ares set on letting me enter Strife's service - I was dedicated to him at birth, so I needed him to release me from that. Releasing all those other prisoners was an incidental benefit, granting my lord Strife a lot of mischief energy. The main reason he wanted me is that for some reason gods get a lot more energy from my prayers than from anyone else's. I've already built him one shrine, and I intend to build him others."

"You're serving Strife?" Gabrielle sounded horrified and Joxer interrupted before she could start insulting his new god.

"Yes, he doesn't actually want much from me, and he offers me a lot. He won't ask me to do anything I consider wrong, he healed me and gave me the ability to defend myself if I needed to. All he asked of me was that I build him shrines, sleep with him, and help him come up with plans for just causes."

"Sleep with him?" Now Gabrielle sounded almost jealous. She didn't want Joxer, but she didn't see why anyone else should have him.

"Was freeing your brother a `just cause'? One of the guards was kidnapped during the jailbreak. I know for a fact that when his body was found he'd been tortured." Xena knew how to cut with her voice, but she didn't know everything.

"Good. I know for a fact that the bastard repeatedly raped my brother - violently. He still has some scars from the injuries that piece of filth inflicted on him. I know rape is usually a risk when captured on a battlefield, but prisons should not put men who can do things like that in positions of power. And yes Gabrielle, I do sleep with Strife, he's a wonderful lover. He's not into rape - most of the House of War aren't despite the stories, and I gave my consent."

"They aren't?" Now Gabrielle sounded doubtful.

"Not if Ares had any hand in their raising, or Zeus any hand in their training, no. What you did with male prisoners who appealed to you would never have been encouraged, or suggested by Ares, would it Xena? Zeus felt that members of the House of War needed to know all the penalties of defeat personally. He made sure that any of them he helped train spent at least a month in mortal form, not one that could be recognised, and put them in a position to be raped, among other things."

"I've never heard anything like that-" Xena cut Gabrielle's protest off as she spoke herself.

"It would have been too long ago for anyone alive now to know about it, and no mortals would have known anyway. I never could understand why Ares kept to business when I claimed the rights of the victor myself, but I see your point. The only question is how did you know all of this?"

"My mother was Strife's granddaughter. I got some of his memories when I bound myself to him. It was different from a dedication at birth, such as I had with Ares, the sex and the family tie just added extra depth. Strife was one of the gods Zeus insisted on helping to train himself.

"I'd rather not discuss this any more. Can we drop the subject now? I've arranged a room for you two for the night. I'll meet you in the morning - okay?"

"Yes, sure."

"Impressive." Joxer hadn't noticed Xena watching him as he practised an old form of meditation that he'd learned in Ch'in a few lifetimes ago. He didn't really like the Chinese gods, they were a little too open to bribery for his tastes. But then most of the gods were. Of course mortals weren't much better, they had the most annoying tendency of only praying to gods when they wanted something. And then making offerings in an attempt to bribe them into giving them what they wanted.

"When Strife healed me I was able to put into practise what I learned all this time. Because I understood combat intellectually once I was able to move properly, and stop tripping over my own feet I could put them all into practise. After that it was just a matter of building up the body memories, and getting familiar with what my body's limits are. I have had three months to begin getting in proper shape. I'm not quite there, but better than many warriors."

Xena seemed shocked that he didn't feel he was in proper shape yet, but she didn't contradict him. "Then would you like to spar with me for a bit?"

"Why not? I take it you want to assess my current level of skill?"

"Yes. And it would be nice to have a bit of a challenge for a change."

And he was a challenge. They sparred for almost half an hour, evenly matched, until Gabrielle came out of the inn and screamed in shock. Joxer spun to defend against the unexpected threat, but Xena put up her sword.

"Enough. Gabrielle I wanted to find out how skilled Joxer is now. Joxer, do you really think you can get better?"

"I'm not sure. I don't think I really have the stamina or the body memories yet. In a fight you really need to go by instinct, and I don't have those down yet."

"You'll do just fine. I'm sure of it."

"If you say so." He shrugged and walked away to clean himself off.

"Where are we going anyway?"

"Thrace, there're reports of brigands operating in that area."

"Oh yes, Strife did mention that there was more Mischief energy than usual coming from that area. And yes brigands do supply Mischief energy for the most part, even if they like to delude themselves into believing they follow War."

"How do you know so much about that?" This time it was Gabrielle, of course a Bard would be nosy.

"Strife likes to talk after sex. And Aphrodite asked me to come up with a potion for her, she gave me all sorts of scrolls on energy use, and its nature."

"Why would Aphrodite ask you to design a potion for her?" Xena sounded suspicious.

"Because I came up with the potions that put the guards at Miramus Prison out, and the counteragent. It was a bribe for her to get me and my brother well away."

"Did you manage to give her what she wanted?"

"Yes, all that was difficult was making sure that the…subject would be aware of what his or her true feelings are. After that it was just a combination of confidence, lowered inhibitions and a compulsion to tell or show people what his or her true feelings are.

"Are we ready to go, or do you still need to eat?"

"Gabrielle, I haven't eaten, have you?"

"Not yet."

"In that case I'll get the horses ready and we can go once you've eaten."

"Horses?"

"A god gave me a horse as a gift." Although that wasn't how Ares had put it, he'd called Shade `a small tribute' after Joxer had helped him deal with his unborn son two months ago. It troubled him that the God of War choose those words, implying as they did that the Olympian was in the same position with regard to him as mortals were in regard to his family. Joxer was still worried about him, his idea of stress relief, but he'd got Ares to give his word that if he felt that urge again he would come to Entro and talk to him first. If that didn't help Joxer didn't think it would be fair to stop Ares, after all he would at least heal quickly. And Entro had resorted to similar tactics in the past, when he'd been sexually abused in his mortal persona of the time so he could empathise. That was one of the reasons his sister thought him crazy for playing mortal.

They met up with Hercules and Iolaus about a weeks walk from Thrace. Joxer wasn't very happy with all the gaping they did at him, and his new appearance and behaviour. They didn't even believe it was him at first.

"Xena, why are you travelling with Jett? He just escaped from Miramus prison, and it's said he kidnapped one of the guards and tortured him to death."

"Yes, Son of Zeus, I did break my brother out of prison, and we did take a guard with us when we left. Because that misbegotten piece of filth had repeatedly raped and tortured my brother. I'm Joxer, Strife healed me of the brain damage that made me so clumsy, and gave me gifts. All I have to do in return is build him shrines, help him make plans and pray to him. I don't even have to pray to him exclusively, as long as my undirected prayers go to him anyway, as they do now."

"And that's worth making you into a warrior?"

"Herc…Joxer already had a warrior's heart, all Strife would have done is give him skills to match it."

"For your information I am a powerful energy source. Why do you think the gods tend to argue a little over me? That's the entire reason Aphrodite picked on me for that bell thing. Besides he didn't have any shrines until I built the first one. It was good exercise and helped me relearn how my body works; I haven't really understood it on a bone deep level since I was five. I also have a training regime that should give me the muscle memories I'll need in a fight."

"I don't understand."

"There's a reason gods and goddesses usually wear just one mortal or rather human form. If they didn't then they would be unbearably clumsy, trying to apply the movement patterns of their previous form to whichever one they had at the time. Muscle memory is what allows a fighter to react on instinct, rather than having to plan out each action. Don't get me wrong, that has its place too, but more as longer term than immediate." Hercules looked blank. "Never mind. You don't need to bother with any of the science behind learning how to fight, you've got strength enough to fight any way you wish and still win."

"Enough gossip!" Xena was getting tired of being ignored. "I assure you Hercules this is Joxer. Now, we're going to deal with those bandits around Thrace. Are you going to join us?"

"Of course. I'm always ready to help stop Ares' schemes."

"For your information the bandits only think they're serving War. Ares would not have ordered this. What they're doing is actually more the province of Mischief, which is far more closely linked to Chaos than is War, oh and the reason no one knows who Strife's father is? That's because he was killed before his son was born. He didn't even realise that he'd got Eris pregnant, nor who she was."

"You mean Strife's really just a demi-god?" Gabrielle always did want to know everything.

"No. The offspring of a union between a god - or goddess - and a mortal can either be the same as the parent who carries him in her - or his - body, or a demi-god. If that parent is a goddess - or god - then she has the choice of what to make the resulting offspring. It actually takes more effort for a goddess or god to bear a demi-god than a full god. Naturally Eris wanted a full god. She did love the father after all, and wanted a reminder of him." And there he finished the discussion, making it clear that he would not discuss the matter any further. The subject of Strife was a little touchy, he didn't like to think of how he'd failed his son, even though he'd been mortal, as Eris didn't want to influence him at all - and he'd never returned her love.



After they'd dealt with the bandits, while the heroes were still
gaping at Joxer's new-found skill, he took a knife and cut across
his wrist, not deep enough to do any real damage, but it set the
blood flowing.

"I offer you my thanks for victory Strife."

"Ya know ya don't have ta do that Jox." Strife spoke as he flashed
in, lifting his worshipper's wrist to lick at - and heal - the wound.

"I didn't have to. I wanted to. It's the easiest way I have of
contacting you. And it gives you a power boost too." Joxer laid the
hand Strife was holding along his cheek and turned his head so he
could see his eyes. "I do appreciate what you've done for me. Is
there something you wish me to do for you?"

"Well, I'm s'posed ta be makin' sure tha Hittites doan attack,
they've got their army doin' `manoeuvres' near our border. Ya got
any ideas 'bout how ta deal wit' that?"

"Oh yes." There was a cruel smile on Joxer's face. "Take me there."

Strife immediately flashed them to a mountainous area at the Greek
border.

"Well, what's ya plan?"

"Poison them all. Nothing too severe, just enough that they won't be
in the mood to fight. But something special for the leaders I
think." Suddenly he was holding a small jar of something, it wasn't
clear what. "I've got a nice little hallucinogen here. They won't be
dangerous under its influence, just kinda confused. And the really
nice part is it's addictive after one dose, the withdrawal symptoms
are painful enough that they won't be interested in anything but how
much they're hurting for at least a week afterwards. Come to think
of it, it might be better to drug everyone else as well, but with
airborne aphrodisiacs instead."

"Should be lotsa fun. So waddaya want me ta do?"

"If you can get this drug into the leaders, put it in their wine or
something, I'll spread the aphrodisiac among the others - plenty of
chaos potential there, and because Mischief is so closely aligned
with Chaos you should get quite an energy boost from this as well,
don't you think?"

"Yeah. Thanks Jox." With that Strife flashed away to follow his
worshipper's advice. While he was gone Entro created glass balls
containing airborne aphrodisiacs and dropped them at various points
around the encampments and training fields, making sure to get a
good spread of coverage.

"I've done my bit, have ya?" Strife spoke as soon as he was back
with Joxer, a bit hesitant about questioning a senior god, but
playing along with the pretence that Joxer was his follower.

"Oh yes. You want to go somewhere a bit more private and…" Joxer's
hand snaked out to cup at Strife's groin. "celebrate?"

"Sure thang Jox." Strife took them to his shrine, his first shrine.
It was deserted, no one was worshipping there, but there were signs
that people had been worshipping Strife in his shrine. Joxer stepped
back away from his lover, his…son.

"There's something I have to tell you first. It will be easier if I
wear another form to explain, an earlier form, one I wore, and
thought myself mortal in near 250 years ago." The time of Strife's
conception. Entro reverted to the shape he wore then, very similar
to Strife, with the same bone structure and aquamarine eyes, but
shorter, and his hair was a pale white-blond that matched his
totally colourless skin. "In the life this form represents no god or
goddess ever used their powers on me, and so I never knew that I was
anything but mortal. I had a lover who used the name Rissa, and I
thought she was mortal as well. She wasn't, and I found that out
when I died - she obliterated the entire army on the side of the man
who killed me. She was a month pregnant at the time. I took mortal
form again on my usual schedule, a year after I died, but not before
checking that she had given birth safely. Eris seemed overjoyed when
she first gave birth, and our child was a full god. She seemed to
want a link to the lover she had lost…"

"Ya tellin' me that yer ma fathah?"

"Yes."

"Then why'd ya leave me wit' her? Why'd ya nevah claim me?" All the
heartbreak of the years he'd spent without a father was in his
voice. Strife had told Entro about the way his mother had abused him
before Ares had rescued him. For the first twenty years of his life
he had only felt safe when his mother had dumped him on other people
while she did her job, and then only barely.

"I thought she would treasure you as a reminder of her lost lover. I
didn't have much time to check up on you, and I didn't think it
would be safe for you to become known as my son when you didn't have
any power comparative to mine." Strife went chalk-white at the
thought that other gods might have attacked him to get to his
father, he knew what they were capable of. "I forgot that she might
resent your resemblance to me, and take the pain of my loss out on
you. Because I wasn't aware of who I was when I sired you, you will
never have power comparative to mine. I can grant you some extra
power, perhaps enough to make you strong enough to be safe, but
you'll never be able to draw on Chaos as any children I might sire
now would be. Of course I won't permit Terpsichore's child such
ability, but I never had the option of permitting you such in this
form. When next I was aware of who and what I was you were with
Ares. I realised what Eris had done to you then, but…"

"Ya couldn't do anything wit'out puttin' me in danger. I understand.
Least ya cared enough ta protect me wit' ya silence." In a
deliberate attempt to break the mood Strife grinned and thrust his
hips forward. "So, ya still wanna fuck me?"

"Of course! Strife. I've made a commitment to stay around for a
while, do you want me, as Entro, to acknowledge you as my son?"

"Nah, not yet. Yer protectin' Unc from tha big guy, an' if he knew I
was yer son he might try ta use it against you."

"If I ever wed into the Olympian pantheon I will declare you as my
son at the wedding reception. I can just imagine the chaos it would
cause, the arguments over your seniority…"

"Oh yeah! That would be a great piece a mischief."

They were both pretty turned on by the thought, but Entro returned
to his winged form before preparing the younger god carefully, and
taking him. Neither of the pair shared the mortal prejudices against
incest - after all they'd never known each other as father and son,
and Entro wasn't even in the same body.



Of course Zeus didn't stay cowed by Entro. It did take four months
for him to attack Ares again, which was more than Entro or Ares had
expected. They'd thought he'd come to beat Ares the very next time
he fought with Hera, but he hadn't. Instead what prompted his
attempted assault on his eldest son was a mortal princess rejecting
him for another suitor, a mortal to add insult to injury.

Ares hadn't realised that Zeus was in a touchy mood, and he'd almost
begun to grow complacent under Entro's protection. He'd been ranting
about Hercules' interference in a war that was supposed to teach
villages how to co-operate and pave the way for them to develop into
a bastion against the invading Romans. It had also had the side
benefit of reducing the excess population, as there would be a crop
failure that year due to other factors. Instead the villagers were
now facing death by starvation - probably the vast majority of them,
and Greece would have a weakness on the borders. Strife was there
with him, making the appropriate noises while Ares let off steam,
ranted and raved about his uneducated younger brother - uneducated
because Zeus had never bothered to teach him, he was easier to
control if he was ignorant.

Unfortunately Ares let his complaint stray to that area, and Zeus
heard him - the whole of Olympus heard him.
His father stormed into his temple - and the first thing he did was
render his son mute, by the expedient of throwing a lightning bolt
through his throat. Strife disappeared as soon as Zeus arrived, and
Ares could only pray that his nephew would get his master to rescue
him. Zeus grabbed him by the hair and took him to the most remote
temple to Zeus there was, one without any priests of worshippers for
some reason.

"You presume to question my skills as a parent?" Zeus threw Ares
across the temple, into the wall as he roared in fury. Zeus seemed
to be oblivious of the way his behaviour, his treatment of his own
son proved that he could never be a fit parent. Ares had been too
well trained to defend himself against his father; his only hope for
safety was rescue from his old master by his new one, by Entro. He
just lay at the foot of the temple wall, shaking in terror and in
pain.

"I see that piece of trash Joxer isn't here to defend you now. Did
you really think I'd believe that clumsy little mortal could
possibly be Chaos Incarnate? Especially when you gave him to Strife.
And how could you be stupid enough to believe that you could be
anything more than a passing fancy for someone so powerful?

"Not even the mortals you whored yourself to were ever interested in
you for long, they tired of you long before they died. They all knew
how weak you were." As Zeus taunted his son he was dragging him to
the altar. The only thing Ares could do to resist was make his body
go limp, be a burden and refuse to move at all. The price of that
was he suffered many more small injuries, bruises and scrapes from
Zeus treating him like a piece of garbage.

Zeus' taunts about his mortal lovers had struck home as well. Ares
had only taken five true lovers from among mortals - ever. He had
always been the submissive partner in every way that mattered, he'd
done anything they asked of him, but they had always told him to
leave before they died, when they started to age to the point where
they looked more than twenty years older than him. Even so he had
made sure they went to the Elysian Fields, Hades had not been cruel
sexually and he felt it a small price to pay to make them happy.

Finally Zeus managed to strip his son and tie him face down over his
altar, legs spread wide, available to sate his father's lusts,
sexual and otherwise.



Joxer was with Xena and Gabrielle when Strife flashed in, panicked.

"Jox, I need ya ta come wit' me now!" The god grabbed hold of Joxer
by one arm and took him to his first shrine.

"Pops, the big guy's got Unc. He came in and attacked, I didn't know
what ta do so I came ta get ya. Ya gave yer protection ta him didn't
ya? Please, help him, the big guy's really lost it this time. I
don't know why, Unc wasn't saying anythin' tha rest o' us haven't,
Tartarus he wasn't saying anythin' Zeus hasn't heard before wit'out
getting' so mad."

"Calm down. Why hasn't he called for me?"

"He can't, Zeus put a lightning bolt through his throat."

"Do you have any idea where he is then?"

"No." Strife was slowly calming down, gaining the ability to think
rationally.

"I know a way to find him, but it requires blood from a relative of
Ares, and of mine. I only need a little, do you consent?"

"Yeah, whatevah it takes ta help unc."

"Hold out your hand." Entro conjured a bowl of water, truly pure
water, and a knife, he slashed Strife's palm open and let the blood
fall into the water, as he concentrated an image of where Ares was
being held formed to his view and he immediately flashed there,
leaving Strife behind watching as Entro defended Ares.

The first Zeus knew of Entro's arrival was when a bolt of coherent
light hit him, throwing him off his son as he was trying to mount
him. Entro formed a cage of high energy laser beams around him while
he destroyed the chains that held Ares to the altar and pulled him
into his arms to give comfort.

"Are you alright, Ares?"

"I'll be fine, you saved me before he could really hurt me."

"Yes, and now I'm going to punish him for touching you." Entro stood
up and walked over to Zeus. "I promised you that if you hurt your
son again you would spend a hundred years screaming, well I'm going
to make good on that promise now."

Entro paused to consider what would work the best, then he created a
lattice-work of his power and laced it through Zeus, disrupting his
ability to access his powers and cutting through him. Then he set up
a system where the lattice would shift from being at absolute zero,
truly intense cold, to being as hot as the centre of the sun, and
vice versa, at rapid, but unpredictable intervals.

"My lord, he does serve a purpose, and we cannot be without a
thunder god for a century." Ares spoke quietly, but then Entro had
already created a disruption field around Zeus, to block out the
screams.

"Do you know how to create time bubbles?"

"Yes, but I do not have the power it takes to create anything more…
compressed than a week inside per day outside."

"I have the power, to burn. If I supply the power you can make it a
year a minute, can you not?"

"Yes my lord." Ares was smiling at Entro adoringly, he loved his
master whatever form he took, but he particularly liked seeing him
beat up Zeus wearing the form of `Joxer the Mighty'. Entro shook his
head and changed to his winged form. He came to stand behind Ares,
wrapping his arms around, and feeding his power into him.

"I thought I told you to just use my name? I'm not angry, but I
would prefer you to do so. Now, let's create that time bubble."

Ares obeyed, wrapping the power his master fed into him around Zeus,
warping time around him until for every minute that passed for the
outside world Zeus would suffer for a year. Finally he locked it
off, so he didn't need to feed power into the construct any longer
and set it to dissolve after a century had passed inside it. He also
used some of the power Entro fed him to heal himself, making the
assumption his master wouldn't mind.

"I'm finished now…Entro." The ancient one released him and Ares
turned to kneel at his feet. "I love you, please, might I offer you
pleasure?"

"No, Ares, I'd feel as if I were taking advantage of you."

"Then perhaps later?"

"I'll think about it, but I need to make up a cover story for why
Strife yanked me away from your daughter and her pet bard."

"As you wish." Ares left just before Entro did, but he returned only
a few seconds later, realising he wanted to take a knife to his
flesh again.

"What is wrong?" Entro was concerned.

"Could you return to my temple with me? I want to use a knife on
myself, and you said I was to come and talk to you if I felt that
urge."

"Of course." Entro took Ares into his arms and transported them both
to the temple in question.



"Strife." It was almost a whisper, but his son responded to Entro's
summons.

"What d'ya want me ta do?" The mischief god asked the question as
soon as he flashed into the temple.

"Make sure we won't be disturbed, and figure out an excuse for
dragging me away from Xena like that. I can meet up with them later,
but their bound to ask why you wanted me, and I want to get our
stories straight. You know how important that is in pulling off a
prank, or giving an alibi."

"Yeah, I know." Strife disappeared to guard the entrance to the
temple as Entro set up a field of his power surrounding himself and
Ares, so no one could just transport in, or overhear them. He pulled
Ares into an embrace, more for comfort than for any other reason.
That Ares could feel Entro's distinct lack of arousal against his
back discouraged him from making sexual advances, and reassured him
of his safety.
"Would you like to tell me what's bothering you?"
Ares hung his head as he replied. "I don't understand why you bother
protecting me. You don't want me, you'd rather have Strife and you
keep on needing to rescue me."
"I didn't say I don't want you, but I won't take advantage of you,
and using you sexually after I've just rescued you is certainly
taking advantage of you."
"So, if I want to please you later you will permit it?"
Entro answered reluctantly. "If I'm sure it's not gratitude that
makes you offer yourself to me, then yes. I can't imagine loving
anyone else for another fifty years" the rest of a long human
lifespan "at least. But it can't have been just my rejection that
bothered you?"
"Zeus said I'd never mean anything to you. Your rejection seemed to
confirm it. No one's ever wanted me around after a while, no matter
how much I submitted my mortal lovers all tired of me."
"What makes you so sure?"
"I would have stayed with them until they died, but they all told me
to leave after twenty to thirty years. I didn't expect to be their
only lover; I didn't care if they took wives as well, as long as I
could stay with them. I was faithful to them I swear it, except for
when I was caught up in the aftermath of a battle, but they all
understood that once they knew who I was."
"Were your lovers not warriors then?"
"Not usually, warriors don't live long; I didn't want to lose them
so quickly. My lovers all ended up among the aristocracy, even if
they didn't start out that way. I liked giving them gifts you see,
love tokens rather than tributes. There was one warrior, my third
lover, but he gave up fighting after we'd been together for ten
years. He had enough money to retire and go into banking by then,
and he made a lot more money that way."
"Ares, could it be that they just didn't want to force you to stay
with them as they aged? It can be hard aging when your lover
doesn't, you know."
"I never thought of that!" Ares sounded astonished and wriggled
around to face Entro, stealing a quick kiss from his master. "I
wouldn't have cared, that they looked older, they cared for me and
that was what mattered, but if it upset them…" He was actually
smiling, relieved that it might not have been him that drove his
lovers away.

Entro drew back slightly. "Do you need to talk about anything else?"

"No, my l-Entro. I won't keep you from what you wish to do." Ares
didn't want his master to leave, but he wouldn't keep him there
against his will, not after he'd been comforted. And Ares didn't
want to cut himself anymore.

"I don't want to leave Ares; I just wanted to know if I could drop
the disruption field and call Strife back. Although, there's
something I'd like to tell you about him, if he agrees." As he was
speaking Entro mentally called for Strife warning him to walk in
rather than transport himself to them. When he got in Strife
immediately moved to sit beside his father.

"Strife, remember what I told you after that incident with the
Hittites? I wanted to share it with Ares, how do you feel about
that?"

"Just Ares?"

"Unless you want me to tell anyone else."

"Nah, but Unc, ya gotta promise ta keep this a secret, from
everyone."

"I'm curious now, I promise." Ares looked from Entro to Strife, and
then back.

"Strife is my son, but I didn't know who I was when I sired him."

"And you didn't tell him later?"

"This is the first life since then I've been in Greece and known who
I am. I had thought Eris would treasure a reminder of her lover, not
resent him. I am grateful that you took care of my son."

"It was what anyone with any compassion would do; I was just the
only one who could make it stick." Ares smiled at Entro, he just
hoped the elder god was willing to stay for a while. "I've got
paperwork to do, is there anything you want me for? You're welcome
to stay if you want, but I can't really entertain you."

"Would music distract you?" Entro materialised a lyre to play with
while Ares worked.

"Not at all Entro."

"Then I'll just practise. Strife you don't have to attend me."
Strife decided to stay, and they made up almost a family for the
rest of the day. Entro even spent the night in one of the guest
rooms.



The next day Entro spoke to Strife as soon as Ares left.

"I want you to arrange a meeting with Hades for me. I have things to
discuss with him." His voice was cold, and distant, brooking no
argument, or questions. "I want to see him within a month at most.
Until you can promise me this I will be working on your new shrine
in Megara."

"Sure Pops, but how d'ya want me ta get ya tha meetin'? I mean can I
tell him ya real name?"

"Yes, tell him that Entro wishes to speak with him regarding a
desire to speak to certain of the shades in his care."

"Whatevah ya want Jox. Ya want me ta take ya there?"

"Go ahead."

Strife took Joxer to Megara, then flashed back to Olympus to check
whether he had anything important to do before he could go and do as
Entro had asked. He just hoped he didn't run into his mother,
Discord had not been happy when he turned her away from the temple
at Entro's command yesterday, only the fact that there was a power
field around the temple itself stopped her hurting him then.

"What do you think you're doing, brat?" She literally snarled at
him. Strife knew better than to tell her anything important, she'd
just use it against him, or worse, Ares if he was careless. Funny,
Ares had always been so nice to him but he'd never known why. Ares
had rescued him from his mother, but there had been no one to rescue
Ares from Zeus. Eris had never been embarrassed by what she did to
her son, but Zeus had kept just enough sense of decency to be shamed
if the pantheon had known that he was raping his son. And Ares had
always felt ashamed of being so weak as to submit to his father, so
no one had ever known until Entro intervened. Strife suspected that
had got worse since Ares rescued him and learned that Strife had
always tried to fight back, but Eris wasn't as strong as Zeus, and
Strife was a lot closer to being her equal than Ares was to being
Zeus'. Besides, if he fought back it meant that Eris might do less
damage, settle for just beating him, rather than raping him, he
might even beat her and be safe, but he knew that fighting back
would only excite Zeus, make him more likely to rape Ares, and even
more violently. Strife had seen how Zeus treated mortals and he knew
that there was no reason he'd change his behaviour with a different
victim. And Eris couldn't threaten the safety of Strife's loved
ones, as Zeus could do to Ares.

"My job." He gave Eris the shortest possible answer, hoping he could
get away quickly, but if he couldn't he'd deal with it. Strife
wasn't going to scream for Ares every time he had trouble with his
mother, he never had before and he wasn't going to start now. If
Ares was there to protect him that was one thing, but he wasn't
going to drag his uncle from his job.

"Insolent brat!" She threw him against a wall, and then she followed
that up with a power-ball. Strife did his best to defend himself
against her, even getting a few licks in himself, but Eris had the
advantage, she'd taken the initiative early and had prepared for
battle. In the end he barely had the strength to flash back where he
felt safe. Or rather to who he felt safe with.



"Strife!" Entro had chosen a pretty deserted area of Megara to build
Strife's shrine in, not that Strife objected, so it was safe for him
to use his powers when the young god fell unconscious into his arms.
He created a bed to put his son upon, and he cleansed the wounds
with his power. He couldn't do anything more until Strife woke, but
he could pour enough power into his body to wake him. "Here, draw
from my power to heal yourself."

"Thanks Pops." Strife drew enough power to fully heal his wounds,
unlike Ares. He would enjoy showing his mother that he was fully
healed, spiting her.

"Now, can you tell me why you were so badly damaged? Was Hades that
upset by my request?"

"No, nevah got ta speak ta him. Ma caught me, she was pissed tha I
didn't let her inta tha temple yesterday."

"Your mother did this to you?" Entro's voice grew hard and cold at
the thought.

"Yeah. It's not too bad. I did get a few licks of ma own in on her.
Not like Unc wit' tha big guy."

"That isn't the point. I will have words with her. Wait here." And
with that Entro disappeared, searching for his one-time lover. He
found her on the training grounds at Sparta, taking out her
frustration on the best fighters that mortal Greece had to offer. A
cruel smile formed on his face as he assumed the form in which he
fathered Strife.

"Rissa. It's been a long time. Care to spar?"

"You…How…Whe…" She didn't get the chance to speak any more, because
Entro threw a dagger coated with just enough of his power to disrupt
her ability to function until he got them back to Megara. He stepped
forward and lifted her over his shoulder. One of the soldiers was
brave enough to try to stand in his way.

"You can't take the goddess Discord." He even drew his sword in her
defence. "We'll stop you."

"You can't. I'm a foreign god, I will return her, but I want to
discuss our son, Strife." And then Entro flashed back to Megara,
creating a power disrupting bracelet, with some of his essence. It
wasn't the same as the power binding chains Hephaestus made, Eris
could draw in power, but she couldn't put it to any use while
wearing the bracelet, Hephaestian chains prevented a god even
drawing in power, and they rarely stored enough power to do anything
useful in their own bodies. Even the power gods did store in their
own bodies was sapped by Hephaestian chains, which didn't let a
god's power level rise above that necessary to support life - one
reason it was best not to use them on a pregnant goddess.
"Strife, do you know how to bind her from repeating what she hears
today?"
"Yes, but I don't have enough power to enforce it."
"Try, you might find unexpected sources of power."
Strife obeyed, shocked to realise that he now could call on as much
power as any god short of Zeus and Hera. He easily bound his mother
from speaking of what she would learn next to anyone, then turned to
his father for an explanation.
"Whad'ya do ta me? I could match any o' tha gods 'cept tha big guy
now, an' I'm just a minor god."
"I gave you the ability to draw on my sources of power, although not
to use them in the way I can, or even in the way any children I
fathered in full knowledge of who and what I am could. I gave you
access to as much power as you are capable of handling by your
temperament, if I gave you any more then you would be corrupted by
it, and misuse it. You can't stand up to Zeus, no matter how much
you'd like to, for Ares' sake, but your mother certainly won't be
able to touch you."
At this point Eris interrupted them by waking up, she didn't get a
chance to say anything though.
"Rissa, it's been what? 250 years?"
"Who are you? And what are you doing kidnapping me and keeping me
from using my powers?"
"I'm Entro, you might have heard of me." He slapped her across the
face, hard enough to break her jaw. "We slept together 250 years
ago, you never once used your powers on me, and so I died believing
myself mortal. I gave you a son, and you abused him." With those
words he let his power flow through her. She screamed in agony as
she knew what chaos was, felt herself being torn apart on a cellular
level. "You will never touch my offspring again." Finally he
released and dismissed her, sending her back to her temple on
Olympus.
"Strife!" Entro had chosen a pretty deserted area of Megara to build
Strife's shrine in, not that Strife objected, so it was safe for him
to use his powers when the young god fell unconscious into his arms.
He created a bed to put his son upon, and he cleansed the wounds
with his power. He couldn't do anything more until Strife woke, but
he could pour enough power into his body to wake him. "Here, draw
from my power to heal yourself."
"Thanks Pops." Strife drew enough power to fully heal his wounds,
unlike Ares. He would enjoy showing his mother that he was fully
healed, spiting her.
"Now, can you tell me why you were so badly damaged? Was Hades that
upset by my request?"
"No, nevah got ta speak ta him. Ma caught me, she was pissed tha I
didn't let her inta tha temple yesterday."
"Your mother did this to you?" Entro's voice grew hard and cold at
the thought.
"Yeah. It's not too bad. I did get a few licks of ma own in on her.
Not like Unc wit' tha big guy."
"That isn't the point. I will have words with her. Wait here." And
with that Entro disappeared, searching for his one-time lover. He
found her on the training grounds at Sparta, taking out her
frustration on the best fighters that mortal Greece had to offer. A
cruel smile formed on his face as he assumed the form in which he
fathered Strife.
"Rissa. It's been a long time. Care to spar?"
"You…How…Whe…" She didn't get the chance to speak any more, because
Entro threw a dagger coated with just enough of his power to disrupt
her ability to function until he got them back to Megara. He stepped
forward and lifted her over his shoulder. One of the soldiers was
brave enough to try to stand in his way.
"You can't take the goddess Discord." He even drew his sword in her
defence. "We'll stop you."

"You can't. I'm a foreign god, I will return her, but I want to
discuss our son, Strife." And then Entro flashed back to Megara,
creating a power disrupting bracelet, with some of his essence. It
wasn't the same as the power binding chains Hephaestus made, Eris
could draw in power, but she couldn't put it to any use while
wearing the bracelet, Hephaestian chains prevented a god even
drawing in power, and they rarely stored enough power to do anything
useful in their own bodies. Even the power gods did store in their
own bodies was sapped by Hephaestian chains, which didn't let a
god's power level rise above that necessary to support life - one
reason it was best not to use them on a pregnant goddess.

"Strife, do you know how to bind her from repeating what she hears
today?"

"Yes, but I don't have enough power to enforce it."

"Try, you might find unexpected sources of power."

Strife obeyed, shocked to realise that he now could call on as much
power as any god short of Zeus and Hera. He easily bound his mother
from speaking of what she would learn next to anyone, then turned to
his father for an explanation.

"Whad'ya do ta me? I could match any o' tha gods 'cept tha big guy
now, an' I'm just a minor god."

"I gave you the ability to draw on my sources of power, although not
to use them in the way I can, or even in the way any children I
fathered in full knowledge of who and what I am could. I gave you
access to as much power as you are capable of handling by your
temperament, if I gave you any more then you would be corrupted by
it, and misuse it. You can't stand up to Zeus, no matter how much
you'd like to, for Ares' sake, but your mother certainly won't be
able to touch you."

At this point Eris interrupted them by waking up, she didn't get a
chance to say anything though.

"Rissa, it's been what? 250 years?"

"Who are you? And what are you doing kidnapping me and keeping me
from using my powers?"

"I'm Entro, you might have heard of me." He slapped her across the
face, hard enough to break her jaw. "We slept together 250 years
ago, you never once used your powers on me, and so I died believing
myself mortal. I gave you a son, and you abused him." With those
words he let his power flow through her. She screamed in agony as
she knew what chaos was, felt herself being torn apart on a cellular
level. "You will never touch my offspring again." Finally he
released and dismissed her, sending her back to her temple on
Olympus.




Strife only took ten minutes to return from his visit to Hades,
Entro's name opened a lot of doors. When Strife had left Hades was
frantically trying to decide what would be the appropriate greeting
and how he could possibly be of interest to the ancient god. He
finally settled on waiting in his office and being as polite as he
knew how to.

"Hello Lord Entro. What is it that you wished to speak with me
about?" He almost babbled in his eagerness to please.

"Ares said he had five mortal lovers who are in your domain now. I
want to speak to them."

"Of course. I put them in a special section of the Elysian Fields as
he requested-" Hades didn't have a chance to speak further.

"Tell me about this request he made."

"The first time one of them died Ares came to me before I judged the
soul and asked to speak with me in private. He knelt in front of me
as soon as we were alone and..." Hades sounded almost embarrassed as
he trailed off.

"He blew you. Was that all it took to get his lover a place in the
fields?"

"All he had to do was ask! But when he offered to spend a week in my
bed…well I was lonely, and I thought that perhaps he was too." Hades
didn't see how he'd done anything wrong, sex was common currency
among the gods for minor favours, like setting a special area of the
fields aside for a god's lover, or lovers. Entro wasn't sure that
Hades had done anything wrong either, but the idea of Ares trading
sex for favours disturbed him on some level, he had to check just
what had happened between them.

"And tell me how he acted in your bed."

"He was…submissive, he concentrated on my pleasure not his, but I
made sure he enjoyed himself as well." Entro knew that Hades was
telling the truth, and he knew that Ares was submissive anyway, so
he wouldn't hurt him. Still there wasn't any reason not to play with
him a bit.

"And why did you think the God of War was submissive?" Putting an
incredible amount of disdain into that last word.

"Because he was asking for a favour, nothing important enough to
need to offer anything but his body in return, but still, he was
offering his body for my pleasure in exchange for winning his lover
a place in the fields. The lover hadn't earned it, but I would have
given it to him as Ares' request, and chalked it down as a minor
debt, instead Ares chose to pay the debt immediately, and we made
the same arrangement for the other four lovers he cared about."

"I take it this was before you married Persephone?"

"Of course! My brother might betray his marriage vows, but I honour
mine."

"And you only take willing lovers I suppose."

"Of course. I would never rape anyone, that is one of the most
disgusting things I can think of." Hades seemed sincere, and he
swiftly changed the subject. "I'll take you to see Ares' lovers, you
can make your own way out easily enough." And Entro followed Hades
as they flashed out.



"This is Lord Entro. Answer his questions and co-operate with him unless you want to spend the next hundred years in Tartarus." Hades made the announcement quickly then disappeared, leaving Entro in a pleasant corner of the Elysian Fields with five men, Ares' ex- lovers. They were all fairly muscular, they looked as if they'd be able to challenge Ares, if he wasn't a god, and they'd chosen to look somewhere between their mid twenties and mid thirties.

"I want to speak to each of you alone. Who is the earliest of Ares' lovers among you?"

"I am, my name is Metheus." Entro led the brown haired, brown eyed man a few steps away and created a shield so none of the other men would hear them.

"I want you to tell me how your relationship with Ares started."

"How would he feel about you knowing this? And why do you want to know?" Entro was impressed that Metheus was willing to challenge him over Ares' history, so he answered honestly.

"I'm considering starting a relationship with him, and I want to be sure I won't hurt him. He'd tell me anything I wanted to know if I asked him, but he couldn't tell me about your thoughts and feelings, and it might hurt him if I asked."

"I met a warrior in my shop. I sold scrolls and vases. He was interested in the scrolls and we began to talk. Eventually we moved into the bedroom, but he told me who he was before we actually consummated our relationship. I'd made all the moves, and he told me that he'd understand if I didn't want him because he'd lied to me about who he was. It didn't matter to me if he was a god or not, and I told him so, then I pulled him into bed."

"Did he say why he'd lied to you?"

"He said he didn't want a lover who was only interested in him for his position, and I could understand that perfectly. I was pretty well-off and I didn't want a lover who saw me as a source of money."

"I see. He's always been submissive around me, I wonder if it's my rank =96 I'm more powerful than Zeus and senior to him to boot, I don't actually need worshippers unlike the other gods =96 or just his natural behaviour."

"I think it's natural to him, he was always willing to follow my lead in the bedroom, and I courted him almost the way I'd have courted a girl. Well except for one thing, at one point he must have become pregnant, because one day when he appeared after I invited him to my bed he was crying. When I asked what was wrong he explained that gods could become pregnant, and he was unusually fertile. He'd been pregnant, by me, but he'd lost the baby. I spent all of that night just holding and comforting him, and after that he insisted that I use something he called `condoms' when I took him. I'd have understood if he'd refused to let me take him after that, but he seemed to prefer being dominated." Metheus suddenly looked worried, that perhaps he'd revealed too much.

"Yes, he did let me see that he was interested, but he always spoke in terms of pleasing me, not of pleasing himself.

"I've got just one more question. Why did you break up with him?"

"I looked old enough to be his father. I knew he was faithful to me while we were together, and I knew he'd never find anyone else while I was his lover. I thought he deserved someone better."

"I thought it would be something like that. Thank you. Can you send his next lover over please?"

"Of course. I expected there'd be more of us, but I'll send Sileth over to you."

Sileth was a blond with light brown eyes. He walked over, his expression betraying his curiosity. He had a similar tale to tell when it came to his relationship with Ares, except that Ares had brought up the issue of condoms before they had sex for the first time. Sileth didn't bother checking that Ares wouldn't mind Entro knowing the answers to his questions, but just answered when he was asked how his relationship with Ares started.

"I was a bard, I was playing in a tavern when he walked in. I started playing to him, and he must have remembered me. I told him that I'd be there for the next week, and where I'd be playing next. He took the hint and came back, giving me time to court him. When we finally got to the point where he was ready to share my bed he explained who he was, and he asked me to use those `condoms' to make sure he didn't get pregnant. I hit him then, for not telling me who he was before, and as good as saying I wasn't good enough to sire his child, but when he didn't do anything I tried to understand why he'd let me make the assumption he was mortal. I asked him why he didn't want a child by me and he explained that he was afraid his job would cause him to miscarry. I didn't hit him again for a long time. When I did it was because he looked so much younger than me and I was jealous. That's when I told him I didn't want him anymore. I'd beaten him, and he hadn't made any effort to break it off. I was afraid that I'd start to really abuse him if I let him stay with me."

"You did the right thing then. I take it he was submissive to you?"

"He let me beat him! And afterwards he smiled at me because I tried to care for the damage I caused, he even asked me if I wanted to fuck him. He came back after I'd beaten him, I'd have thought he'd have ended our relationship and done his best to make sure I suffered, not bargained with Hades to get me this!"

"He probably didn't see what you did as wrong. Gods don't see any problem in violence in a relationship, and he could probably heal any damage you did to him pretty quickly if it's any comfort. Could you send his next lover over?"

"Nikos? He's a bastard. He abused Ares from what he's said."

"Yes, but I need to know about every man he's loved in the past."

"There's only five of us?" His shock was obvious, but when Entro nodded Sileth left and sent Nikos over.

Nikos was the largest, almost as big as Hercules, with black hair and eyes and a swarthy complexion.

"Well what do you want to know?"

"How did you get into a relationship with Ares?"

"Went drinking, met him and wanted him. Made sure to get the chance to see him again, I thought he was a virgin or something the way I had to court him. When he told me who he was I was pissed that he'd lied to me and I punished him for it. At least he had the sense to make sure he wasn't going to carry my bastard. The slut came back to me afterwards."

"I see, he was submissive then?"

"I don't sleep with anyone who isn't. Then I got old, and he stayed young. I couldn't stand to see him looking so young when I was aging so I got rid of him. I'd never had a lover who lasted as long as him, I still wasn't tired of him, if only he didn't look so young."

"Thank you. Could you send Ares' next lover over please?"

"You spent a lot longer talking to the wimps."

"They weren't quite so concise." Nikos left and the next lover came over, a redhead with blue eyes.

"Hello, I'm Althus. I was a travelling merchant. I tried to hire Ares as one of my caravan guards. When he refused I asked him if there was somewhere I could meet him again, gave him my itinerary for that journey. I think he was touched by the display of trust because he turned up at every stop, and by the time I got back to Thebes he was my lover. I certainly didn't mind that he was a god, or that he hadn't told me at first. Once I got married we only had sex while I was on the road, it just felt wrong fucking him, no making love to him while I was in the same city as my wife."

"And he agreed to this?" Entro had to interrupt to clarify that point.

"He agreed to anything I asked. He rarely took me; he was always the bottom even when I let him inside me. It was exhilarating, having that sort of control over a god, even if it was just during sex. He never left me unsatisfied, but I think I might have left him unsatisfied a few times."

"If it was so good for you why did you end it?"

"I was too old to travel with my caravans anymore, and I just couldn't bring myself to have sex with him in Thebes. I know I could have gotten another house there, or he could have and no one would have known I was betraying my wife, but I couldn't, not in her own city."

"I suppose I can understand that. Could you send the last one over please?"

"Sure, you didn't think Nikos was typical of us did you? We all hate him, but Phillip especially."

Phillip had brown hair and green eyes, the calluses on his hands were from farm work, not swordplay making it all too obvious why he hated Nikos, the type to boast about burning farms.

"Hello Phillip. I need to know about Ares' history with relationships before I can start one with him, I don't want to hurt him, and I'm too powerful not to be careful. How did you start a relationship with Ares?"

"I was taking my goods to market, my wife had died and I wanted to find someone to take care of my three kids, they were five, two and one year old. I managed to find a woman who could take care of them, she was missing an arm, but that wouldn't stop her taking care of my kids. No one else would employ her, I think Ares was impressed because when I got a drink he asked to share my table and told me a bit about Magda. I asked if he'd be there next market day, when he said yes I made sure to be there to meet him. He took some courting but eventually I ended up renting a room in the inn, he told me who and what he was but I didn't care. I still invited me to come home with me for a visit. He seemed really happy about that, and the fact that I didn't treat him like some dirty secret. It didn't even bother him that I asked him to do his shared of the chores around the farm."

"Why did you end the relationship then?"

"I'd sold the farm, I couldn't keep it up and thanks to Ares I could support myself another way, and my kids hadn't needed to go into farming. I knew that what he got from me was anonymity, the pleasure of pretending that he wasn't a god with all the responsibilities, and I was afraid he'd have to try and hide if we kept on seeing each other when I moved into a city."

"I see, thank you." And with those words Entro left to fuck Strife into the ground and consider what he learned about the god under his protection.



Joxer carefully hid his surprise when Ares walked into Meg's Place while he was drinking, surrounded by women. Without his beard, in ordinary – albeit expensive – clothes, and with his hair down past his shoulders Ares was completely unrecognisable to anyone but another god. Ares looked at Joxer above the heads of his admirers, obviously unsure of his reception, and Joxer responded by chasing them all away as swiftly as he could so Ares had a chance to make his way over to the table and sit beside him.

"Hello, it's a pleasure to see you. What do you need me for? Oh yes, and what should I call you?" Joxer kept his tone calm, and non- threatening, projecting reassurance to the nervous god.

"Hello Joxer. Just call me 'Res, it's a name I've used before. Can I speak to you alone, please?" Ares flushed slightly at asking and lowered his eyes in submission.

"Of course, just wait here and I'll get a room." Ares sat waiting while Joxer walked over to Meg and arranged for a room for them to talk in. He walked back and took Ares by the arm, pulling him to his feet and smiled at the women trying to flirt with them. "Sorry ladies, you'll have to find someone else, we've got business to discuss."

"Business, or pleasure?" One of the women asked with a flirtatious smile, looking at Joxer's hand on Ares' arm and the pleasure on Ares' face.

"Oh business definitely, but we are old friends." With that Joxer left, leading Ares up the room he'd paid for. They settled together on the bed, Ares glancing to Joxer for permission before leaning up against him, nuzzling at his shoulder while Entro put an arm around him, comforting the surprisingly vulnerable god.

"Why did you want to speak to me, 'Res? Has your father been hurting you again? Or have you had trouble with anything?"

"No, I just wanted to be with you, in your presence for a while, and… Strife told me that you went to visit Hades on my behalf about two months ago. Can I ask why? I'd tell you anything you wanted to know, if you just asked, you know that."

"Yes, I know, but you couldn't tell me what you don't know, and you don't know why your mortal lovers ended the relationship, do you?"

"No, I always thought they'd got tired of me, then you told me that perhaps it was because they'd aged and I hadn't. Was that the reason?"

"More or less. Metheus thought you deserved someone better, who looked the same age as you, and you remember that Sileth beat you shortly before you broke up?"

"Yes, I didn't understand why, but he was ready to comfort me afterwards. Was that why he ended our relationship, because he didn't want to hurt me again?"

"Yes, that's right. Nikos was just jealous of your apparent youth and Althus was getting too old to travel, and I take it you remember that he didn't like sleeping with you in Thebes after he got married."

"I admired him for that, he didn't want to risk embarrassing his wife by letting it be known that he had another lover in the same city. What about Phillip?"

"He felt that it would be unfair of him to make you sneak about, the way you would have had to if you'd continued your relationship after he'd moved into a city. He was too old to keep his farm up so he felt he had to move."

"Yes, there were crop shortages in the area then, and he'd feel that the land should be worked, and if he couldn't he'd sell the farm to someone who could.

"So they didn't get tired of me?" Ares was looking for reassurance, reassurance Entro was happy to give him.

"No, I can't imagine they did. Now, tell me how Terpsichore's pregnancy is progressing?" Ares smiled and launched into a description of exactly how the Muse was feeling at the moment, including her complaints about her new lack of grace and how she felt like `a beached whale' – even though she was still pretty slim for a woman six months pregnant.



Joxer woke up the next day and decided that he couldn't avoid his
friends any longer. He knew that they'd be stopping in at Meg's
Place in a few days, but he'd planned to be gone before then, so he
wouldn't have to tell them the story he'd concocted with Strife. But
after seeing Ares come to him, almost pleading for his attention,
because he had no other friends, he remembered the value of his own
friends, even if he had to deceive them. He made arrangements with
Meg to stay for a week – and slept with a different girl every
night, besides spending about three hours a night talking to them,
to assuage some of their disappointment from Ares' visit.

"Joxer?" Xena sounded wary, and slightly unsure as she asked the
question, not that he could blame her, he and Jett were hard to tell
apart now.

"Yes, it's me. Strife didn't need me for very long, but it was
pretty urgent. I spent two months afterwards building up another
shrine for him."

"What was he doing yanking you away from us like that?" Gabrielle
had a bard's curiosity and tended to assume she had the right to
know the inner workings of the gods.

"Ares had given him a rush job destabilising a potential alliance
between some of the Romans and a traitorous councillor of Athens. He
needed to be in two places at once and came to me to deal with one
end. Taking care of the Romans was the easy part, I just had to
steal one of the messages they were supposed to be sending and get
it to someone else – without them realising that it had disappeared."

"Um…Joxer, why did he need you to do that?" Xena paused when she
realised that her words could be taken as an insult and continued
quickly. "I mean couldn't anyone do the same thing?"

"I came up with a potion that lets us mortals do the same sort of
memory replacement as gods can if we know how to use it. It takes
Strife's power to create it, at least the way I designed it, and
it's pretty hard to use properly, and I'm his closest follower, he
trusts me most of all. He lets me play around with things and that's
one of the results."

"How did you get to be so important to that maniac so quickly?"
Gabrielle didn't try to hide the scorn she felt for Strife and she
was shocked to feel Joxer's knife at her throat.

"Do not insult Strife in my presence. He is after all my god." When
Gabrielle saw the stoney look on Xena's face she realised that she'd
gone a little too far this time, and recanted as much as she could.

"I just meant that surely he has other worshippers, ones who would
have seniority to you, and have his trust more. He seems like a
maniac to me, but most warriors do to be honest, I didn't mean to
insult him."

"I see. Actually I'm his only dedicated worshipper, he sometimes
gets prayers from other people, but I'm the only person whose
undirected prayers go to him. Do you mind if I travel with you for a
while?"

"No, not at all. You're pretty good in a fight now, and you do make
a good travelling companion."

"Thanks. I've got a room here, are we moving out today, or tomorrow?"

"Tomorrow, Gabrielle wants to get some more scrolls and we need to
stock up on supplies before we move on. What about you?"

"Yes, I'll need to get some supplies this afternoon, but I'll be
ready to move out as soon as you are. I take it you'll be staying
here?"

"Yes. Meet you in the common room around an hour past dawn."

"Fine." And with that they separated.



Joxer. I need to talk with you." Strife seemed uncomfortable for some reason when he flashed to his father, in company with Xena and Gabrielle, two weeks after they'd left Meg's Place.

"Sure. Do you need to speak with me privately, or is it alright if we have an audience?"

"Privately. But a spell can take care of that." Strife glanced over at Xena and Gabrielle as if he were seeing them for the first time.

"Guys, you don't need to wait for me, I can catch up easily enough, or Strife can bring me to you." The women blinked at the idea of using a god as transportation, but they nodded and agreed to carry on, they were in a hurry because they'd heard about a plot to overthrow the king of Thebes, and they wanted to try and stop it. "Now, what do you need to talk about?"

"I got a request from a kid just young enough to still worship me. His sister, his younger sister, was raped and killed by one a Unc's warlords, an' he wants revenge. But Philleas is onea tha big guy's favourites, and he's good at fightin' fer Unc'."

"Your grandfather cannot object your seeking to gain another worshipper. If you require this young one to worship you and maintain whichever of the shrines I built to you is nearest in exchange for his revenge then Zeus cannot take any form of vengeance on you for answering his prayer. Not by the rules of Olympus that he wrote himself. Do you think he will be willing to do that?"

"Yeah, but I don't want ta leave Unc' short, and Philleas is in an important position."

"Did he specifically request death?"

"No, just ta hurt him, and make sure he could nevah do that ta another little girl." Strife sounded as if he was thinking about the problem now. "Perhaps if I castrated him, that would sure hurt, and he wouldn't be able ta do that sorta thing again. It's what rapists deserve anyway."

"Yes, it is, but short of Apollo, Asclepius, or their priests giving a hand it would be pretty hard to make sure he survived it. I've got a better idea. Can you truly shapeshift, or is it just glamor?"

"Just glamor, least I think so, I haven't really tried it with all tha new power ya gave me."

"Try it now, this is how you do it." And Entro pushed the knowledge of how to do as he wished into his son's mind.

"Oh I see." And where Strife stood there was a little girl, apparently about six years old.

"Here, this is a potion that will make it impossible for him to ever get it up again. And you can beat him up once you get into his tent."

"That won't just hurt on tha physical level, will it - it'll strike at his pride, getting beaten up by a little kid."

"Yes, that's the idea. But be sure to get it on the mirror for your worshipper - do you think that will satisfy him?"

"If he believes me yeah."

"He will, I'm sure of it. Now, you need to get me back to those two - they don't need to know that I can teleport myself."

"Definitely not." Strife laughed and obeyed.




"Joxer, I need to talk to you." Ares had waited until Joxer was alone
in his bedroom at the inn they'd stopped at that night, being a bit
more discrete than Strife was when he felt the need for Joxer's
attention, but then he couldn't show the same sort of attention to
Joxer as Strife could without people wondering what was going on.

"What is it Ares?" Joxer sat up in his bed, and pulled the covers
back, wordlessly inviting the War god to sit by him. Ares joined
Joxer on the bed and leaned up against him for comfort before
speaking.

"Terpsichore is due to give birth inside of a month, and I've just
realised I don't have the faintest idea of how I'm going to raise my
son. What if I screw up? I half wanted to cut myself, so I came to
talk to you instead. I'm sorry if I've disturbed you but…" Ares
trailed off, unable to continue speaking.

"Hush youngling. I do not mind it if you disturb me, I am always
willing to see you and speak with you." Joxer pulled Ares into his
arms, holding the god close to comfort him.

"Thank you my lord. But do you know how I can raise my child, and
avoid failing him as I failed Strife, or hurting him?"

"Did you not raise Cupid also?"

"No, Aphrodite brought all of her children to her marriage with
Hephaestus; it was his duty as the lesser god to raise her children
with her. I was the father of some of them, I could acknowledge them,
but Olympian Law is that the mother keeps the children unless an
agreement otherwise was made prior to conception so I was not
permitted to raise them." Ares shivered, nuzzling at Joxer's chest as
he spoke. "And now I'm going to have a son to raise by myself."

"When did you take Strife from his mother?"

"When he was twenty, I didn't have enough grounds to do that before
then." Ares trembled, pressing harder against Joxer. "And if I fail
my child no one will care enough to take him from me. I don't know
how to deal with a baby."

"The first thing to remember is that you cannot do this by yourself.
Do you know what Aphrodite did with the children she got off you
while they were babies? You won't have time to take care of your son
all the time, even if you want to."

"She got some of her priestesses, and priests to look after them when
she couldn't. But I can't do that, my priesthood doesn't encourage
those skills."

"Could a mortal take care of an infant god then?" Joxer was surprised
at that, it wasn't something he'd expected, but then he'd never seen
a god grow up.

"Yes, at least until he gets his powers. After that happened
Aphrodite got one of the nymphs to take over and had Hephaestus make
a bracelet that would keep her kids on Olympus."

"You could ask her to recommend a nymph to take care of your son
then, or get mortals to do it for you. Set up a system where you are
alerted if he's neglected, or abused, for instance if he's left dirty
or hungry for too long, or if the caretaker hurts him. And spend
whatever time you have available taking care of him."

"And you think I will be able to raise him well enough?"

"Yes. I do. You did well enough with Strife did you not?"

"If you think so." Ares drew back a little and slid his hands down to

Joxer's groin suggestively. "Might I please you? That I do know I can
do."

"No Ares." Joxer moved the god's hands gently but firmly. "I would be
taking advantage of you. But if you wish it you can sleep in my arms."

"Please my lord." And Ares used his powers to change his clothes from
black leather to black cotton. He lay back in Joxer's arms, loving
the protected feeling it gave him.




`Joxer,

`Ares requests the honour of your presence at the naming of his son
and his godhead. It will be held three weeks hence, please appear in
Hera's Temple in Corinth at noon.'

Joxer looked at the invitation in his hand, the one that Hermes had
just delivered to him, and then looked around at Xena, Hercules,
Iolaus and Gabrielle who had all received what he suspected were
identical invitations.

"Are any of you going to refuse this invitation?" The heros looked
at each other for a while, and finally Gabrielle spoke for all of
them.

"No, but who's the mother of his child?"

"Terpsichore, sort of."

"Sort of? How can she be just sort of the mother of Ares' child?"
Iolaus sounded confused.

"Olympian Law states that the mother of a child keeps it unless
there was an agreement prior to conception. All gods can conceive
themselves if they wish to, and have the privileges of being the
mother if they do, but Ares' godhood means that he can't afford to
carry a child to term. Terpsichore agreed to bear the son Ares
conceived in exchange for the right to have her own child
afterwards – I'm not sure what Ares offered Apollo for that."

"Ares conceived his son?" Gabrielle sounded amused and
interested. "Does that mean he was the one who got fucked?" Her
voice was vaguely smug and satisfied at the thought.

"And who's the father of my little brother then?" Xena sounded
almost eager.

"He has refused to name the father, by Olympian Law the father
doesn't really matter in most circumstances. Zeus is an exception,
he uses mortal law to acknowledge the bastards he gets on human
women, if he thinks they're useful enough, and he makes sure any
goddess who caries a child signs a contract giving him rights over
the kid beforehand. And Gabrielle, Ares' sex life is none of your
business."

"Sorry, you're right. It's just the thought of the God of War
getting fucked." Gabrielle shrugged, trying not to antagonise Joxer
considering how close a relationship he had with Strife.

"When you put it that way I can understand, but you do know that sex
is a common price paid for minor favours among the gods? And whoever
is asking for the favour has sex to please the other." Joxer
realised his words had been a bit convoluted and expanded. "For
example if Strife wanted Cupid to use a temporary lust arrow to
distract a king while he did something that would say reveal a
traitor he could trade a favour for it, or offer his body, and have
sex however Cupid wanted it. Not that Cupid would want to get sex
that way, but it was the first example I could think of, and they'd
probably trade favours instead."

"And he got pregnant by accident? That can't be right. Father told
me that gods could only get pregnant if they wanted to." Hercules
didn't believe what Joxer was implying and he made that clear.

"Ares is an exception. For that matter so is Zeus – he didn't intend
to get pregnant with Sarpedon after all. He just didn't want to
mention it to you." Joxer shook his head and smiled at the
heros. "Now, are you going to attend? And what sort of gifts do you
plan on giving?"

"I'm not sure. Would a dagger be inappropriate?" Xena sounded as if
she was trying to show family feeling and learn about her father
rather than rely on what she'd been told.

"Not so long as it looks good, is practical, and above all is well
made."

"That I can do. Gabrielle, do you have any ideas?"

"I'm not sure. Not jewellery, not really, but would it be alright to
get the kid something he'd enjoy, not something political?"

"You and Iolaus could do that, yes. So can I. But Xena and Hercules
can't. As demi-gods they're expected to give something with
symbolism behind it. A dagger is a fine gift from a warrior
daughter, to the son of a warrior father. Hercules, I'd think the
most powerful symbolic gift from you would be a pledge to build a
shrine, with your own hands, and at least a sketch plan for it, but
if you can think of anything else…"

"And what if I find his godhood repugnant?"

"Then think of something else! Now I'm going to arrange for a decent
gift for Ares' son's naming." And Joxer stalked off.




Joxer smiled coldly at Hercules as the five of them gathered at
Hera's temple to wait for a god to collect them. The demi-god was
carrying a rolled up scroll and shrugged sheepishly at him.

"I decided to go with your suggestion after all. I don't have to
provide priests for it or anything, but I've bought the land to build
the shrine on, and I just hope we'll get a decent god out of this.
Although considering whose kid it is I doubt it." Joxer gritted his
teeth at the unthinking insult Hercules had just offered to his
brother, and the god Joxer was fighting to avoid falling in love
with. On the other hand, knowing what he knew about the father of the
god in question…

"I'm more worried about the other side of his ancestry. What sort of
person refuses to admit fathering a child? Who with any honour would
evade the responsibility?"

"And if the father didn't know Ares got pregnant? You did say he got
Terpsichore to carry his son."

"Believe what you want, you will anyway." Bitterness coloured Joxer's
voice, and then he thought of another argument. "Of course Cupid and
Xena turned out pretty well don't you think?"

"Yes, but..." Hercules couldn't seem to think of anything else to say
then. And their ride interrupted them.
Deimos and Phobos arrived together, running their hands over each
other's bodies hungrily. They separated immediately though and
stalked over to Joxer, casually nuzzling at either side of his neck.

"Hello Joxer. You ever tried twins?"

"Yeah, Strife did mention that you were absolutely wonderful in bed,
seme, but very good at it. And you know when to get rough."

"Hey! He's mine! Hands off!" Strife appeared behind Joxer and pulled
him into his embrace, reaching up to kiss the warrior.

"Possessive little thing aren't you." Joxer laughed in amusement and
arousal at Strife's actions.

"I rank them. They have no right whatsoever to touch my lover." Now
Strife was stroking all over Joxer's body in a casually intimate
embrace. "Ares would be an entirely different story."

"There is that." Joxer let himself return his son's embrace and
smiled down at him. "But I won't sleep with Ares under current
circumstances, he knows that. Are you going to take me to see his son
named then?"

"Joxer, what is `seme'?" Iolaus was actually curious enough to
interrupt for an explanation.

"It's a term used to refer to the lover who does the fucking, not
that there's any reason for one lover to be exclusively seme. I
actually think it makes more sense to switch, but in some cases one
partner will tend to do more of the fucking than the other." Joxer
frowned, despite this his son believed firmly that unless it was to
repay a favour the more powerful of a pairing should be dominant in
all things, and he never seemed to want to be on top with Entro.

"Yeah Jox, I'm gonna take ya ta see ma cousin named. The freak twins
c'n take th' heros."

"Hey!" The two younger gods shouted in unison at that comment, while
the heros were too shocked by the notion that Joxer was the one who
took Strife rather than the other way around to make any protest.

"Be nice koi." Strife took Joxer to Olympus before he had a chance to
say anything else.




"This is my son, Tyrion. Father, what godhood is to be his?" Ares
stood alone in front of Zeus, all the guests sitting behind him, or
off to one side or the other, leaving a wide space around the War god
as he presented his son to his father. Zeus stepped down from his
throne taking the child from his son.

"He is to be god of Justice – and when he comes into his full powers
he will be able to stand in judgement over all the gods, including
me." Ares somehow knew that the last words were forced out of his
father, and he smiled to himself at the thought that in the future he
might not need to fear abuse, if there was some way he could publicly
appeal for justice.

"I see, it is something we have needed for a while."

The guests each approached Ares, after he'd put Tyrion into a cradle,
offering gifts, intended more for when he was an adult than for the
child he was now. Finally it came down to the demi-gods and the
mortals. Ares had been obliged to invite all the gods, but he had a
bit more leeway with the demi-gods and mortals. As his daughter Xena
was a required invitee, and Hercules had to come because Zeus
insisted, while Xena wouldn't come without Gabrielle, any more than
Hercules would without Iolaus – although Ares found him a lot better
company than his half-brother, or his daughter's bard for that
matter, but Joxer at least was his own choice.

"I got him a dagger, something that he can use no matter how he grows
up, and I pledge that if he needs my sword he can call on it."

"Thank you. He might not ever need your sword, but it is a thoughtful
gift."

Hercules handed over a scroll. "I pledge to build his first shrine –
and like Xena if he needs me to fight for him I will."

"That is a great gift from you Hercules." Ares smiled up at the demi-
god, hiding just how much he'd come to resent his father's favoured
child. "My thanks."

"I thought that your son should get a present fit for a child, so…"
Iolaus trailed off as he offered a set of wooden building blocks, a
bit fancier than usual, but nothing unusual as a child's toy.

"And I thought the same." Gabrielle stepped up now, holding out a set
of metal spinning tops.

"Nice to see someone thought of that. Politics mean that isn't
usually an option." Ares laughed at that. "My son will probably
appreciate your gifts more than all the rest put together, at least
at first. And your gift can be used to make him a better fighter too
Gabrielle." He knew that his last comment would irk her.

"I've actually got two gifts for your son. One's something that Entro
asked me to give him. As long as he wears this," this being a silver
chain about twenty inches long, "no god's power can touch him –
although that means he can't be healed by another god while wearing
it either. I just got him another toy." And Joxer held out a
carefully carved and articulated dragon in his other hand.

"Thank you, and I will convey my gratitude to Entro the next time he
condescends to meet me." Ares glanced at his father from the corner
of his eyes, in case he was going to give the truth away, but Zeus
gave no sign that he found anything strange in his son's words,
beyond shifting uncomfortably.

"Well, he did say he might visit later – he just didn't want to
overshadow the most important person at this ceremony. You wouldn't
want a stranger to steal your glory would you Tyrion?" Joxer let the
young god grab at the finger he was holding in front of him, smiling
up at Ares at the same time. The gathering dissolved into a party
after that, and no one except Ares really noticed when Joxer slipped
off with Strife.

Entro returned alone, perhaps an hour later, just long enough to have
had sex with Strife – and no one missed his arrival. He was barely
dressed, a red silk wrap covering his groin and not much else, but he
conveyed power rather than the sensuality Cupid would in such an
outfit. He strode swiftly over to Ares, laying a hand on Tyrion's
head.

"Your son has my blessing, and should he need it my protection."

"Thank you." Ares lifted one hand to lay it on Entro's face. "Please
allow me to show you my gratitude."

"I…will consider it." That was more than he'd ever gotten from Entro
before – he'd always refused, saying that he didn't want to take
advantage of Ares' gratitude. Ares carefully hid his shock as the
ancient disappeared, and then did his best to fend off the questions
all of his family bombarded him with, finally declaring that his
child was growing uncomfortable, and that he had to leave for
Tyrion's sake.





Ares didn't know why, but he felt hollow after he'd fed and changed
Tyrion, and gotten him back to sleep. He finally had a child of his
own that he could raise, something he'd longed for ever since
Aphrodite made sure her husband raised Cupid instead of him, but he
couldn't help feel something was missing. He wished that he'd been
able to carry his son to term, instead of having to get a host mother
to do it for him, but he'd never had the choice to do that really.
And he really wished that someone other than Zeus had sired his
child – almost any other god, or one of his mortal lovers would have
been an improvement, and in his dreams it was Entro who gave him
children.

Strife wasn't in his temple, Ares knew that that meant he was
probably off somewhere being fucked into senselessness by Entro, and
that made him ache inside too. He knew that it was better if the two
lovers didn't have sex where he could sense it, but it hurt to know
that the god he loved was taking pleasure in his own son, rather than
in him, and Entro had smelled of Strife when he came to bless Tyrion.
He reached for the old friend that was his knife again. But the
promise he had made Entro gave him pause – he was torn by his
reluctance to call Entro away from his lover, and the promise he had
made the elder god, and he was frightened that his lord would think
he had just called him to keep him from lying with Strife. But he'd
promised, and hands shaking he put the knife to one side, whispering
Entro's name as he knelt on the floor of his temple.

"Ares." Entro was there instantly, kneeling in front of him and
gathering him into his arms. He smelled of sex, and of Strife, and
Ares could feel his arousal against his body. "Why did you want to
cut yourself?" That gentle question, and the way Entro was ignoring
his own needs to help him sent Ares into tears, tears that he muffled
against the naked god's shoulder.

"I'm sorry." Ares finally sat back, eyes carefully averted from
Entro's body. "I don't even know why I wanted to cut myself, and I
called you from your son and lover."

"Why not tell me what you were feeling then?"

"I…I don't know why, but I felt hollow, I ached inside. I shouldn't,
I've just got something I've wanted for a very long time, a child I
could actually raise, rather than watch someone else raise him. I
know I took Strife in, but he wasn't a baby then, and he isn't my
child by blood, and I missed so much of his childhood."

"Do your reservations have anything to do with the father of your
child?"

"Yes, a bit. I love Tyrion, even though Zeus is his father, but I
wish I could have carried him to term myself. And that it had been
some other who had sired him, not…my father. Any other god, the
result of a minor favour I was repaying, or the outcome of an affair
with a mortal, anything but the product of incestuous rape!" Ares
felt himself begin to start crying again, and barely managed to avoid
soaking Entro's shoulder again.

"Go ahead, cry all you want." Entro's words were soothing, and he
stroked Ares' hair gently, calming him. Ares nuzzled at the elder
god's shoulder, beginning to kiss the bare flesh, hands sliding down
his body and knees falling open, to give more access.

"Please, the thing that brought this on most of all was knowing that
you find your son worthy of sharing your bed, but not me, and that
you were with him until I called for you. Let me give you pleasure,
an apology for the pleasure you lost in caring for me?"

"No, I cannot, you are too distraught, and too badly damaged, I will
not use you so."

"I'm sorry, of course you do not want a slut like me."

"You are NOT a slut." Entro pushed Ares back, holding him by the
shoulders at arms length. He could tell that the senior god was
angry, so he just went limp, submitting to whatever punishment he
wanted to deal, in the hopes that it would calm him. Entro just…froze
then, and he released Ares, who let himself fall limply to the
ground. The elder god gathered him back into his arms, holding him
gently, and put him to bed.

"Go to sleep child. I will watch over your child for you." Ares
obeyed reluctantly, but he did obey.






"I'm sorry Strife. I shouldn't have left you in that condition-"
Joxer didn't get any further in his explanation before Strife cut him
off.

"It's alright, when ya left like that I knew it was 'cause Unc needed
ya. I do have other ways ta get sex if I want, an' I went ta onea
Unc's warriors for relief, so ya could get him calmed down before I
came here."

"Thank you. You are being very understanding, but you shouldn't have
needed to do that."

"Unc comes first. Ya didn't get off and then just leave me, I doan
think ya got off at all yaself, did ya?" Strife reached out laying a
hand on Joxer's cheek in reassurance. "Ya know Cupid's started
courtin' me sorta?" It was a tentative question, as if Strife was
bringing up something he didn't want to.

"Yes, he seems like a decent enough sort. It was Psyche who betrayed
him, not the other way around if I remember. I certainly have no
objections to his suit."

"Yeah, about that…" Strife seemed to be trying to hint at something,
without saying it explicitly, and then Joxer remembered something
about Cupid's character, something he'd forgotten for a while.

"Oh, you want to end our relationship." Joxer smiled down at his son
gently. "Our carnal relationship anyway."

"Yeah, it's just, Cupid's tha faithful type, ya know. An' Psyche
wasn't. He needs someone ta be faithful, an' I like him, at tha very
least, I doan know about anything else yet. Ya doan mind, do ya?"

"Why should I?" Joxer took hold of Strife by the shoulders, pushing
him back, unlike Ares his son took this in stride, simply letting his
hand fall from Joxer's face. "We started having sex because you
wanted it. Until I'm ready to admit publicly who and what I am I
serve you, we agreed on that when Ares released me from his service.
And I am proud to have sired a son so sensitive to, and considerate
of his prospective lover's desires."

"Thank you." Strife actually blushed at this, his eyes dropping to
the floor. "Ya know, if ya wanna fuck tha twins ya can now. I won't
make any objections, and from what they said they'd rather ya were
seme with them."

"I...appreciate the offer Strife, but I'm not sure. I'd have to play
at being mortal when I was with them. I don't value the sex as much
as being able to act as my true self, as not having to play at being
mortal, or having to flaunt my strength and power for an audience.
That's something only you and Ares give to me."

"Have you told Unc that?"

"No, do you think I should?"

"Yes!" Strife stood up, turning away from Joxer and picking Tyrion up
from his crib.

"Then I will tell him so as soon as he awakens. Are you still willing
to meet with me and talk in private, despite Cupid's courtship?"

"Of course. Cupe'll understand tha' I need ta take care of ma
worshippers."

"Then you are denying me nothing of any importance. If you think it
will make Cupid feel any better he can join us at some point, and if
he'll agree to let me make sure he can't tell anyone else I'll even
tell him who I really am."

"Ya will?" Strife's eyes were open wide with shock at that.

"Well, he'll keep his word if he makes the promise, won't he?"

"Oh, yeah he will. Ya trust my judgement that much?" It seemed almost
as if he was the first person to actually trust his son's judgement
in his life, but that couldn't be true.

"Of course I do. That should be a given."

"Unc's the only other one who does."

"Then the other gods are fools. Whenever you want you can explain
exactly who and what I am to Cupid."

"Thanks. It looks like Unc's starting to wake up. I'll give ya some
privacy."




"My lord, was Strife just here?" Ares blinked in confusion as he
woke, stretching quickly, but thoroughly, before reaching for Tyrion
and cradling his son to his chest.

"Yes, he was, and he had interesting news for me, as well as a
request. One he should have known he didn't have to make." There was
an unhappy twist to Entro's lips, but he didn't seem to be truly
angry, just slightly insulted. "And how is it that you and I are the
only ones to trust his judgement, my son has a very level head for
anyone, and particularly for a mischief god. His insanity is one hell
of a lot more controlled than any other mischief god I've
encountered. It might have something to do with the fact that he is
my son, and because of that he has a mind better equipped to deal
with chaos than most." Then Entro shook his head at the digression,
and just looked at Ares, waiting for an answer.

"They don't trust him because he is a mischief god, and therefore
insane. No matter how well he controls it he is insane, I love him as
if he were my son, not my nephew and I cannot deny that. And if they
don't trust him how can they trust his judgement, or believe that
he'll give them his true judgement, not whatever he thinks will be
fun. It's stupid, but it isn't as if anyone will believe anything
that doesn't fit their prejudices. But you said that Strife had
interesting news for you, might I hear it?" It was an obvious attempt
to change the subject, not that Entro cared, and he came to sit on
the bed with Ares, noting the subtle tension that filled the younger
god's frame. Ares might be sexually submissive, but he had the
instincts of a rape victim – and come to think of it, he'd only been
a willing submissive with those weaker than him, those stronger
(meaning Zeus) had just taken what they wanted. Entro wasn't going to
do that. In fact if he ever did lie with Ares he would almost
certainly let the other take the lead, at least for the first few
times. That or keep it so gentle no one could be scared.

"He told me that your son has started to court him. Good news
wouldn't you say?"

"You mean Cupid? Oh, yes. And Cupid needs someone who'll be as
faithful as he will. Whatever else anyone has said about my Strife,
no one, but no one has ever claimed he doesn't keep his given word.
Oh, I suppose he asked if you'd stop bedding him? And he was
uncomfortable about it, because you're more powerful than him?"

"Yes, I just hope he gets over that fixation about power level
determining position in a relationship, or his involvement with Cupid
will probably be pretty short, considering that I've already given
him power equal to or greater than any god save Zeus and Hera. He's
about your equal in pure power."

"I don't think that will be a problem. It's not purely power he
judges by, rank's in there somewhere, and as my son, and a major god,
Cupid ranks Strife. So if anything Strife is likely to treat this as
a relationship between equals." Ares leaned up against Entro, rubbing
his head against the older god's shoulder. "You both outrank all the
gods of Olympus, and are more powerful than all of us put together.
Do you want to take pleasure with me instead?"

"No, Ares. It isn't the sex that I value; it's not having to play
mortal, being free to act as myself. Hmm, you say that Cupid's rank,
as compared to Strife's power should make it an equal relationship –
Strife did say Cupid was courting him, not the other way round, so
you're probably right. And when Strife wants to I've agreed to let
Cupid know who I am."

"If he promises not to betray who you are then he will keep his word.
How many does that make who know what you are now?"

"Just let me count. You, Zeus, Strife, Apollo, Eris, and when Strife
tells Cupid that will make six." Entro shrugged casually. "I suspect
this identity doesn't have much longer to go before it blows open,
but then I never expected to actually live this long as Joxer."

"You didn't?"

"No, and if I'm to keep up the act I need to get back to Xena,
Hercules and their sidekicks before they leave. Will you be alright?"

"Yes, my lord. Farewell."

"Be safe."



"Where've you been, Joxer?" Gabrielle was the one to ask the
question, almost demanding an answer.

"With Strife of course, and with Ares for a while as well. Not that
it's any concern of yours." Joxer glared at the young woman.

"Joxer, don't. We were just worried about you." And Xena took care of
calming him down. "How is Ares anyway?"

"He's happy to have a child he can raise, but he's worried about
failing his son, and I don't think he's too pleased about who the
father is."

"Do you know who the father is then?" Hercules was the one to make
that particular demand, and he got a glare from Joxer in return.

"Even if I did it would be Ares' secret to tell, not mine. So, what
happened after I left the party?" It was Iolaus who responded best to
the implied invitation to gossip, to Joxer's surprise, and he found
it very interesting to see how his actions had seemed from a mortal
perspective.

"Well, it was pretty boring for the first hour, then a really strange
god arrived. He was half a foot taller than Herc, and he had these
great big wings. They were two colours as well, dark red like his
hair on top, and dark purple like his eyes on the bottom. All he was
wearing was this little red silk wrap, but all the other gods acted
really impressed by him, even Zeus, and when he spoke to Ares about
Tyrion – I think he was giving his protection to Tyrion – it almost
looked like Ares was flirting with him. Was that this `Entro' who
sent you with a gift for Tyrion?"

"Probably. It fits his description anyway." Joxer smiled, wondering
how the others would react once they learned the truth, he fully
expected them to be furious, it was the form that fury would take
that he wondered about.

"Could Entro have fathered Ares' child?" Xena was the one to come up
with that speculation, but Joxer couldn't blame her for the thought.

"No, first Entro would have acknowledged Tyrion if he'd fathered him,
and probably offered to take over Ares' job while he was pregnant
too. And second, Ares said he wished that Entro had been Tyrion's
father. If you're going to speculate might I suggest you think about
where justice is supposed to come from?" Before Joxer could elaborate
Cupid, Deimos and Phobos arrived to take them all back to Earth.
Deimos took Hercules and Iolaus, and Phobos took Xena and Gabrielle
before they had the chance to protest, leaving Cupid with Joxer for a
few moments.

"Joxer, Strife mentioned to me that he's been bedding you and that
you agreed to break it off when he mentioned that I'd started to
court him. I just want to thank you for that." Then the winged god
smiled. "It was also pretty impressive that he wouldn't break it off
with you unless you agreed, most of us aren't that sensitive to
mortals, almost as impressive as the fact that he decided to break it
off just because I'm courting him, even though I never thought to ask
it of him."

"The second part was what impressed me Cupid, and I was bedding
Strife because he wanted it, no hardship to lie with him, but no
emotions other than friendship involved there. You should take me to
the others before they start to worry." Cupid just looked at Joxer in
shock for a moment, before Joxer prompted him. "Cupid, transport,
back to Greece?"

"Does Strife really let you get away with being so, flippant, and
well, arrogant?"

"You'll find that out when and if he decides he trusts you enough to
let you know. And you might want to check his power level some time."
Finally Cupid took Joxer to join the others.



"Does anyone else think it's strange that Ares has taken Joxer into
his confidence? I mean, Joxer?" Gabrielle was the only one who
actually cared about that, Hercules was too busy trying not to come
to some unpleasant conclusions about Tyrion's parentage, Iolaus
couldn't care less, and Xena found it perfectly plausible, with the
new Joxer anyway. This new Joxer was frighteningly competent, and
absolutely lethal, just the way she used to be, and Ares had confided
in her when she had been his warlord, so she could see no reason that
he wouldn't confide in Joxer, even if the warrior nominally belonged
to Strife now.

"Who cares! What in Tartarus did he mean `think about where justice
is supposed to come from'?"

"Perhaps that's where his speculations led him. Herc, think of it
this way, who makes the laws, say in Corinth, or in any other
kingdom?" Iolaus wasn't at all happy about having to break it to
Hercules that yes, incest was common among the gods, and yes that
could even include his father bedding his siblings.

"The king, my brother in Corinth. You can't be thinking that Father…
that Tyrion is my brother as well as my nephew?" Hercules seemed
totally horrified at the idea, no one could blame him for that, even
Ares and Aphrodite weren't that closely related.

"No, but I think that Joxer might be thinking that way. He said that
he didn't know, so what he thinks is just speculation. Didn't he also
say that if the mother is a goddess, or god, it doesn't matter what
the father is, the child will be a god unless the mother does
something?"

"So the father could be a mortal king?" Hercules found that a hopeful
thought, but… "No, Ares might submit to another god, if for some
reason he had to, but he'd never submit to a mortal."
Cupid flashed in with Joxer just in time for the warrior to hear
that, and he smiled at the thought, careful not to actually laugh out
loud. Every relationship with a mortal that Ares cared about had
involved the god submitting to that mortal.

"Does it matter who Tyrion's father is? He hasn't shown any sense of
responsibility to his offspring, and that's reason enough to ignore
him."

"It doesn't matter, not really, but we want to know." Xena vocalised
the heroes' thoughts on the matter. "You said Ares isn't happy about
who the father is, does that mean that it was rape?"

"Not necessarily. I really can't say. For all we know the father
could be from another pantheon, or he could have got so drunk at one
of Aphrodite's orgy that no one knows who the father is." Joxer
shrugged, hoping that they'd grab at the more pleasant possibilities
he'd given them, and that they wouldn't be too obnoxious in trying to
find out more.

"It couldn't be too pleasant not knowing who the father of your child
was." Xena mused that option over, she seemed to like it, and from
the sounds of agreement so did the others. Joxer was glad in a way
that he hadn't needed to shatter Hercules' illusions.



It was nearly a month after Tyrion had been presented to the pantheon
that Ares came to speak to him about Terpsichore. Joxer was off by
himself again, he was just finishing killing some bandits who'd been
particularly stupid about attacking too small an area – they weren't
leaving enough time for the area to recover between attacks. Ares
must have flashed in behind him, because Joxer hears a slight noise,
and the three bandits still alive look shocked, backing off just
enough for him to spin and confirm his suspicions. He must have
looked angry, because Ares paled, just a little, and took a step back.

"J-Joxer?"

"Just stay out of my way until I'm finished dealing with this." Joxer
was snarling at Ares and he knew that it was a bad idea even as he
did it, but he snarled at Ares anyway. He caught a glimpse of Ares
flinching, looking trapped from the corner of his eye even as he
turned his attention back to the bandits, who looked as if they
wished they had somewhere to flee too. He slaughtered his enemies
quickly, then he looked back at the now cowering god. Entro realised
just how much he'd hit Ares' conditioning and sensitive spots when he
saw that. He wondered how much damage he'd done, but even so he knew
he needed to calm down a little before dealing with Ares, or he'd
just do even more damage.

"Ares, I'm worked up from that fight, I need to meditate for a while.
But it isn't the normal sort of meditation. You can join in if you
want, just imitate my movements."

Ares swallowed, and nodded, obeying the implied order, even if Joxer
had framed it as a request. Joxer was calm enough to function first;
Ares was still shaking a little in fear, so Joxer continued until
Ares seemed to be calm.

"Now, you wanted to talk to me?"

"Y-yes." Ares still sounded timorous, and that wasn't good.

"But you're frightened of me now, and not sure you dare? It's alright
to be scared, I can't exactly blame you for that."

"Y-you were angry at me. I did something wrong, I shouldn't have
interrupted your fun like that, but I thought I was being quiet, and
I don't know what else I did wrong…" Ares was fast heading into
babbling.

"Hush." Joxer laid a finger on his lips, effectively silencing
him. "The only thing you did wrong was not waiting until I'd finished
with the bandits. I shouldn't have snarled at you like that and I'm
sorry. Would you like to continue this discussion somewhere more
private?"

"P-please. I can take us there?" Joxer nodded and agreed that yes, of
course Ares could, and swiftly found himself in the temple where he'd
first found Ares after Zeus had raped him. Joxer let himself take the
other form he'd started wearing again, and began to think of himself
as Entro.

"Ares, I was not going to hurt you, I was angry at the bandits, and I
was worked up from fighting and it spilled over onto you, it
shouldn't have." He gathered the, now smaller, god into his arms,
offering the comfort of his physical presence. Eventually Ares pushed
away from him and smiled up at him.

"You were angry, but you didn't hurt me. You...comforted me." There
was awe in his voice as he studied Entro's face.

"Of course I did. You're…not my equal in power," That was the kindest
way he could put it, fragile was the word that came to Entro's mind
when he thought of Ares, but he wasn't going to tell the other god
that, it might upset him. "I'm not going to abuse you, and hurting
you would be abuse. What was it you wanted to talk to me about?"

"Terpsichore wanted me to ask you to sire her child, and she's
willing to do it whenever you wish."

"Then I'll bed her now, unless there's something else you want to
discuss?"

"Not really, but, would you mind watching over Tyrion in about a
week? There's going to be a big battle then, an important one, I have
to be there, so I can't fit my work around caring for my son. I
haven't found anyone I feel comfortable leaving my son with for
longer than an hour at most. Well, perhaps Strife, except his work
tends to keep him busy at the same time mine keeps me busy, and
Cupid, who's every bit as busy as I am. I *won't* leave my son in the
position of having to virtually raise himself the way I had to and
Eris had to." That last sentence was delivered with an unexpected
fierceness that made Entro smile.

"I'm impressed. Of course I'll watch your son for you. If you have
problems you could always try grabbing Hercules – he seems to really
approve of Tyrion's godhood if nothing else, and it would get him out
of your way for really important wars. Would you like me to hang
around for the next week, so that Tyrion gets used to me?"

"Would you, please?" Ares seemed to be surprised that Entro had made
the offer. "I know it must be inconvenient for you to put aside your
desires for me, but I'd be truly grateful. I don't know if I dare
trust Hercules with my son, I'm so scared that he'd hurt Tyrion for
being my son, no matter what his godhood."

"I don't think he'd do that, and if you wish it I can do an initial
vetting of candidates to act as your son's nanny."

"Thank you. I appreciate your generosity. Come to my temple on
Olympus after you've finished with Terpsichore?"

"Of course." Entro laid a light kiss on Ares' forehead then flashed
away to the muse in question.



Ares watched Entro as he played with Tyrion, the elder god was very
good with children, and Ares envied him the instinctive trust they
seemed to have in him, most people seemed to have in him. No one
really trusted Ares, any more than they trusted Strife, or Eris, and
for much the same reason, their godhoods. Children did trust Ares and
Strife about half the time, but nowhere near as much as they trusted
Entro, and Ares lost their trust once they learned who he was, while
children stopped trusting Strife when they became adults.

When Tyrion settled to sleep Entro laid him in his cradle and sat
back down, Ares immediately moved to lean against him, enjoying the
feeling of being able to lean on the elder god's strength. He
considered himself incredibly lucky that Entro had been willing to
sleep in the same bed as him; even if all they did was sleep it had
felt wonderful. And perhaps it would encourage the ancient god to see
him in another light, possibly even to enjoy other pleasures with
him. He'd been getting back into his duties as well, and Entro had
been testing possible nannies for Tyrion as well, two dryads, one
naiad, and two air elementals had each taken care of Tyrion for a
day, monitored undetected by Entro. Then Entro had let Ares see his
memories of how his son had been cared for. None of the candidates
had been bad enough that Entro had felt the need to intervene, but
Entro's information had narrowed the field to one of the dryads and
the naiad, and Ares had decided to ask if they'd both take the job,
working on alternate days.

He felt the now constant tugging of the upcoming battle at his
awareness become suddenly sharper; it would start within two hours at
the most. Despite the hints he'd been given Hercules wasn't close
enough to help fight to defend Greece, and Ares knew that there was
no way his half-brother would trust him enough to allow himself to be
transported there. On the other hand...

"My lord Entro, you said that I would be able to trust Hercules to
watch over Tyrion in an emergency."

"Yes, I did. But you didn't really believe that."

"No, but would you be willing to test that, watch over them unseen if
I take Tyrion down to earth and ask Hercules to take care of him
while I guide a battle in Greece's defence?"

"If you want to do that then of course. It might stop Hercules being
so utterly stupid about the gods too, if he takes care of a baby god
for a while. Not that I hold out much hope of that."

"But we can try?"

"If you want it then yes." Ares took Tyrion then, and flashed to meet
his half-brother.

"Ares! What are you doing here?" Hercules stood, ready to fight
before he noticed Tyrion, and his attitude immediately changed.

"There's a battle in defence of Greece that I have to be at, but I
haven't had time to build the protections on my Temple to keep Tyrion
safe from Olympian politics, and that means I can't leave him there
in the charge of a lesser spirit. I can think of five gods offhand
who'd rather there was no God of Justice, but Zeus' protection will
let you keep him safe. Will you?"

"For his sake." And Hercules took Ares' son.

"I didn't expect you to do it for mine." Ares shrugged, and left for
the battle, creating bags with everything that Tyrion would need –
and more – before he left.



tbc


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