He shrieked in glee and dodged around a tree, eyes bright with laughter as he chased after another child and trying to avoid being jumped on by a three-headed dog. Whirling around another tree, Strife clamored up and hid behind the multitude of green and blue leaves. Below him, the mortal children shrieked with glee and exploded with laughter as they dodged Cerberus and played in the multi-colored forest. Off to the side, watchful eyes on all the children were three or four adults plus Strife had spied Thanatos hiding behind a tree.
Whenever a godling was in Asphodel, either Thanatos, Hades, or Celeste watched over them to make sure they stayed in Hades's castle or the Elysian Fields. Most godlings were unable to handle the emotions that ladened Tartarus and even though Strife could handle it, being House of War, Ares and Eris both told Hades that Strife was forbidden from Tartarus and if they found out differently...there would be seven hells to pay.
Strife just ignored his babysitters, more intent on causing mischief and trying to keep Cupid from getting too serious in his new duties. Today however, Cupid was with Aphrodite and unable to join him in Elysian...which sucked. Strife wanted his playmate.
Shrugging, knowing it did no good to dwell on that which was impossible, Strife leapt from the tree and laughed maniacally. Cerberus, hearing the familiar laughter, barked delightedly and ran toward Strife. Seeing the black blur, Strife giggled and ran off, dodging the other children who both helped and hindered his process. Turning around another tree, Strife yelped as he found himself airbone, clutched against a somewhat broad chest. Twisting in his captor's arms, Strife opened his mouth to verbally blast his kidnapper before he grinned, spying white feathers and a impish gleam in blue eyes.
"Going to yell at me?" asked Cupid as he landed ontop of another tree, well above Cerberus and the other children but low enough so that Strife could see them with ease.
"Nah," said Strife as he waved at the envious children. "But I think ya got me in trouble with mah friends."
"They'll forgive you," said Cupid amused. "And what are you playing?"
"It's a mortal game from the future!" grinned Strife, losing his fake accent in his excitement. He never bothered to keep it up around Cupid anyway. There really was no point as Cupid knew full well how intelligent Strife was. "They call it Freeze Tag...though normally their dogs don't play with them."
"Freeze Tag?" asked Cupid before he looked down at the children. All he could see was a bunch of kids running around with seemingly no plan or purpose.
"Yeah," said Strife. "See Mika there," He pointed at a mousy looking girl with long brown hair in two plaits down her back. "Is 'It'. If she touches you, you have to stay in place...i.e, freeze. The only way to unfreeze is for another kid, not it, to touch ya. Game's over when everyone but the person who's it is frozen."
Cupid blinked, looked down at the children again, and burst out laughing. He almost fell out of the tree, he was laughing so hard. Strife cocked his head to one side, confused. He knew full well Cupid wasn't laughing at him...so what was he laughing at?
"Cupe?" Strife asked curious. "What's so funny?"
In reply, Cupid sent Strife a mental image:
Two warrior camps of Ares's stood in a huge field, tents lining both sides of the battle-site. On one side stood twenty men, clad in leathers and a red tabard with their Warlord's tabard lined in blue. On the other side stood another twenty men, clothed in leathers and a blue tabard, their Warlord's tabard lined in red. At some unknown symbol, the men began to run haphazardly around the field, leaving their weapons behind while their Warlords ran into the fray. The blue tabard lined red Warlord began to touch every man with red tabards while the red tabard lined blue Warlord began to touch every man with a blue tabard.
The red tabard'd men began to freeze in place when touched by the Warlord in the blue tabard lined red while the blue tabard'd man froze when the Warlord in red tabard line blue touched them. Once frozen, the men could only be unfrozen when touched by their team members. Pretty soon, the entire scene degenerated into a free for all where everyone froze if touched by anyone, allies or not.
A flash of black and red alerted the men to the arrival of Ares and all froze, eyes wide as Ares surveyed the chaos and glared at them all. One very brave soldier took a step toward Ares, quickly poked him, and ran away. Ares blinked, startlement clear in his eyes and he looked at the, to his eyes, very idiotic soldier. Another soldier, either brave or idiotic, creeped up and poked Ares before running away.
Within minutes, Ares had to transport away or else be poked to death.
Strife blinked, froze, and began laughing so hard he was crying. He clutched at Cupid's arm, mainly to keep himself from falling off the tree branch. The image of Ares, big and bad god of war, running away due to extreme pokeage would last him years of entertainment.
"Gods I need that," snickered Cupid as he scooted closer to the tree trunk and pulled Strife against him...purely for safety reasons.
"Sure you did," said Strife before he stood up carefully, one hand grabbing a sturdy branch above him. "Come on Cupe, let's go play with the mortals. I need to get that out of my head before Unk finds out."
"Sure," snickered Cupid before he wrapped his arms around the mischief godling and leapt down, backwinging to keep steady. Once they landed, Cupid let Strife go and the black-haired boy took off, immediately joining in the game to the children's delight. Upon seeing Cupid, a couple of the adults frowned but it disappeared when Strife, seeing Cupid not playing, ran up to Mika and whispered something that had her turning to face Cupid, a mischievious look in her eyes. Cupid's eyes widened and he dropped his bow and arrows, placing a shield over them so only he or a full god could grab them, before taking off running. Strife snickered and shrieked with glee when Mika was actually able to touch Cupid. Cupid froze, amusement and delight in the sapphire orbs, as Mika grinned and then took off to tag another child while a third, seeing Mika distracted, ran up and touched Cupid, unfreezing him.
"Having fun?" grinned Strife at Cupid before the two quickly seperated as Mika ran toward them. Strife, paying no attention to where he was going, slammed straight into Cerberus's back legs. The three headed dog had quit while Strife and Cupid were laughing in the tree and stayed in the shadows when Strife and Cupid had joined in. Strife fell backwards, warm liquid spilling down his chin and front. Reaching up, the pain barely manageable, Strife pulled his hands away to see bright red blood. His eyes widened and he turned, about to scream for Cupid when said teenaged god knelt at his side. A yellow flash heralded the arrival of Apollo and seeing Strife, immediately knelt by his side.
"What happened?" asked Apollo as he reached out with his powers and stopped the already slowing blood flow and cleaned Strife up with a thought.
"He ran into Cerberus's legs," said Cupid as the children gathered around, worry clear in their eyes.
"Well," said Apollo as he looked at Strife's teeth. "Beyond loosing your front two teeth, you're fine. I am, however, ordering you straight to your temple room and you are to stay there for the day with plenty of food and liquids. I'm going to tell Ares as soon as you leave here, so don't dawdle!"
"I don't dawdle!" protested Strife as he stood with Cupid's help.
"I'll take him straight there," said Cupid. "Thanks 'Pol."
"You're welcome," said Apollo before disappearing. Cupid rolled his eyes as Strife sneered at the overt display.
"Why didn't ya call fer Ace?" asked Strife, his accent appearing due to his annoyance.
"Because Ace is with Demeter learning plants," said Cupid calmly. "Say goodbye to your friends Strife. I'm taking you home before Dad comes here himself to do it."
"See ya," said Strife to the children. "We'll play again later, a'right?"
"Bye Strife!" chorused the children before the two transported, leaving behind white feathers and black spiders in their wake.
Unseen in the background, Thanatos reached out and snagged Cupid's bow and arrows. He'll ask Hades to return them next time Ares or Eris are in Asphodel...preferably before the imps that lived in Tartarus got ahold of them.
The last thing they needed were a bunch of love-struck demonic imps.