***Note: I am posting this both here and at The Temple of Ares, since some of the action is moving
there; however, I don't want to lose the story's thread of continuity for late-comers.***
Ares was still holding Amethysta tightly by her wrist when they materialized in the middle of His Temple's Great Hall. It took Him just a moment to spot the Queen of the Gods, sitting quite comfortably on His throne, in the center of the room's dais. Salmoneous was standing, like a wax statue, to the side of Her.
A muscle beneath His left eye briefly twitched, as the War God, gritting His teeth, jerked Amethysta in front of Him, forcing her to fall at His feet. He finally let go of her, and she quickly pulled herself into a more modest, kneeling position. Hera, who had been watching Her son with amusement, frowned at this, but kept silent.
"Hello... Mother. I got Your cute little message," Ares said, barely hiding His frustration. "Please, for once, tell Me the truth about this visit of Your's, and why You're now resorting to Temple infil...TRAITORS!"
Hera slowly shook her head, but still remained quiet.
At this, Ares once again lost His composure, and, threatened, "I don't know why You've taken My Priestess, Ped, or what Your plans are for her, but I've had it with Your sick mindgames. Take Your spying wench away from here," Ares demanded, glaring at Amethysta, and added, "Hera, give me back what is mine!"
Hera responded with an icy tone, "Yours? Boy, everything which You think You own is what has been given to You by Your Father and I. You have NO clue as to that which is TRULY Yours! You'll just have to wait for Your little pal Ped to come out and play once more."
Ares took a couple of steps towards the dais, shooting His Mother a deadly stare. "I'll say this only once: Give her back, unharmed, NOW!"
The Goddess chuckled, and then became serious, as She called His bluff, "Or You'll do what?... The dear child is ...basically safe from harm, so You need not fear that... too much, anyway. No, My Son... My stubborn, impetuous, immature, irresponsible, foolish Son..." She gave Him a sweet, sad smile, then continued, "You're getting to be so much like Your Father these days...TOO much like Him."
Ares, clenching both his fists, narrowed His now-darkened gaze, and said, "Don't patronize me, Mother, and don't kid Yourself. Zeus and I have precious little in common!"
Her eyebrows raised at His comment, and She questioned, "You genuinely don't see the resemblance? Huh! Maybe it's because neither one of You is capable of caring for anything but Yourself!" With this, Hera gave a quick snap of her fingers, and Amethysta found her necklace was now intact, properly in place around her neck. Zeus's Wife, giving her a charitable smile, continued. "Ares, this poor girl's mother is widowed because of You, and Your mistakes. Her mother gave sacrifice at My Temple in Amphipolis in trade for that necklace; her only request was that I give My protection to her child while she travelled to serve the very one responsible for her father's death."
The God of War shrugged His shoulders, and retorted, "Hey, Mom, the guy was being an absolute jerk! Would You put up with one of Your follower's comparing You to a half-bit, egotistical mortal who thinks she doesn't have to do Your bidding? Noooooo! I know You wouldn't! 'Daddyman' had the audacity to compare Me to XENA, and said that she could beat Me, in battle AND bed!"
"Sometimes, Son, I wish I COULD see that happen!," Hera responded. "Ares, I love You, but... Sometimes You can act like such a moron! The girl's father was comparing Your abilities to his homeland's equivalent of the combined talents of both Athena and Aphrodite; and as irritating as I sometimes find Zeus' Daughters, because of Their mothers' relationship with Your Father, I am inclined to agree with the man's opinion!"
She continued, ignoring the shocked expression on Ares' face, "That's the largest part of Your problem, Dear. When it comes to the ladies in Your life, you have the nasty habit of not giving credit when it is due. In other words, Ares, You have taken for granted, once too often, the women in Your life. Your Priestesses give You their love, their loyalty, and their energies. For what?" She continued, not giving Him time to answer the rhetorical question. "Oh, they are fed, clothed, and sheltered. Their lives are given Purpose...but do You really reciprocate their feelings? Do You really care for these women?"
Ares, like Amethysta, realized it safest not to interrupt the Goddess.
Hera stood, stretched, and slowly walked to where Salmoneous still stood, as if frozen in time. Looking back at the War God, she whispered, "Why, Ares, why?..." She put her right hand lightly on top of Salmoneous' balding head, and said condescendingly, "I've been patient with You far too long. Why should You care for these girls, when You don't even care about My feelings? You've spent this night being civil... accomodating... friendly, in fact, to the sons of My enemy, Zeus' mistress, Alcmene. You know how I feel about Hercules! But that other one, too! Oh, Ares, how COULD You?"
Ares, about to lose His patience, strode to the dais, leapt up the three steps, and stopped a yard's distance from Hera. "Hera, I don't have to take Your insults! My Priestesses are well-taken care of, and as for Hercules and His mortal brother... I was merely polite to them, out of courtesy to My own Priestesses. In case You didn't keep score, I kicked that mortal's butt!"
"...only because Your Sister 'inspired' Your obsession with Her Daughter!," His Mother countered. "You had absolutely NO intention of stopping the mortal from his flirtations, otherwise! As I said, I've been too patient; and I'm not the only Olympian whom You've angered. You were left in charge of overseeing the training of Strife and Discord. You've been so obsessed with Your attempt to sway Your plaything, Xena, into coming back to You, that You've become negligent in Your duties!" Hera's cheeks were flushed.
"Negligent... Whatever do You mean, Mother?," He asked, struggling to understand the Goddess' accusation.
"Son, Your newest Priestess is indeed loyal... to You. She has offered You her forgiveness, while You have offered her Your accusations. While You were avoiding Your responsilities, ignoring Strife's activities, Your Nephew managed to start the very argument which led to this girl's father's so-called denouncement of You! Not only did You misjudge the man, but because of Your irresponsiblity, You were to blame for his 'crime'! Because of Your error, You put to death one of Your faithful followers!" Hera paused for effect, and realized that Ares appeared visibly shaken.
She sighed, and finally shared the full purpose of Her visit. "For this, it has been decided You will be punished. Your Father has agreed to the form of punishment, which will be made known to You, in good time." Hera turned Her gaze towards Amethysta, advising her, "The Gods of Olympus regret what has occurred. Thank you for your faithfulness to My Son, Child. Now, please leave this room, and tell any who ask of his whereabouts," the Goddess nodded at the motionless form of Salmoneous, "that I have sent him to carry My message, but that he will return, when My work has been completed."
Amethysta quickly stood, curtsied again before the Queen of the Gods and Ares (who, she realized, gave her a quick, sad smile), and she exited the Hall, heading for her Dreamscape room.
"What I am about to do is just the start of Your punishment, which will be over when You have learned Your lesson. I hope this won't take very long, Son, but if You don't learn now, You, like Your Father, will never be able to respect women, or be happily married, and bring me lots of legitimate grandbabies!," advised Hera, who, turned back to look at Ares, then snapped her fingers.
Suddenly, Ares felt a strange, overwhelming sensation, which He did not have time to consider, when Salmoneous suddenly vanished, then reappeared, now reanimated, dressed entirely in black leather, and seated on Ares' throne.
"Lord Ares," spoke Derex, as he entered, escorting two of the Priestesses, "is it Your desire that I remove this beggar from Your presence?" Ares, confused because no others were present, became horrified when He saw both His Warrior and His Priestesses bow before the rather dazed Salmoneous!
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