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Xena entered the tent and found a typical warlord commanding his weak-willed flunkies. Then she noticed who it was.
"Lessy?" Xena said in a playful tone.
"That's Lesarnum! What are you doing here Warrior Princess?" The oafish man glowered.
"Lessy, that's no way to talk to an old friend. I came here to see why you are going to war with your neighbors." Xena said reasonably.
"None of your damned business." Lessy said in a huff.
"No, I suppose it isn't... yet. When you've decimated your army and Airolous' army in this battle, then what's left might be my business." Xena said with slyness in her voice.
"What's that supposed to mean?" Lessy asked with a hint of fear.
[I got him.] Xena thought with satisfaction. "I mean, once you've killed his men and Airolous has killed yours in this battle, the whole valley will be up for grabs. And since Ares didn't sanction this war, he won't care if I take the spoils." Xena said with confidence.
"Why would you think that I'm going to lose? I will be victorious!" Lesarnum bellowed, but his eyes showed his doubt.
"It doesn't matter who wins, once you go to war, all I have to do is come in and take care of what's left. You've actually done me a big favor Lessy. I wouldn't have come to this valley with the threat of your army plus Airolous, but now... it's like you're handing it to me. And all the farms and homes are ready to move into. You're too sweet." Xena said and batted her eyelashes.
"Get out of here! There will be no war here today! And if you or your warriors come anywhere near this valley, you will be destroyed!" Lesarnum bellowed from the depths of his grubby little soul.
"You sure Lessy? I've always wanted my own valley." Xena asked mock demurely.
"Go away or I'll have my men drag you out!" Lessy screamed.
Xena turned and said, "I'll be watching. Wait for me?" And ducked out of the tent.
* * * * *
Deimos appeared in the castle in Corinth. He looked at his paper and walked unseen to mortals through the gardens of the palace. There was a fair maiden sitting on a bench, working on her embroidery. With a thought from Deimos, the needle slipped and the woman stuck her finger. A shiver of power ran up Deimos spine and he sat beside her to enjoy the tingle. [Must take it when it's right there.] Deimos thought to himself.
Now he had to find a way to get this maiden, Vanera, to become attracted to Iphicles captain of the guard, Grakkon. [Crime, painful, bloody crime. That'll get him.] Deimos thought. He pulled out one of his many daggers and was ready to start carving when he thought. [Might send him looking for who did it.]
Reluctantly he put the dagger away. He watched her carefully embroidering and was inspired. He ran to the nearest guard and came up behind him. With a thought he produced a needle and jabbed the guard in the butt.
As expected, the guard yelped and felt around for whatever had stung him. When he found the needle, he threw it away and forgot about the incident. Deimos repeated the performance with guard after guard until they had all been stuck with needles at least twice, all except for Grakkon.
The guards began reporting the incidents of being stuck with needles to Grakkan. None of them had seen who had done it. Deimos placed the idea in Grakkon's mind to check in the garden. As he walked through the garden, he saw a woman using a needle to do embroidery.
He made his way to her and began to talk. He was formal and questioned her of her whereabouts. Deimos became disgusted and thought, [They're never going to get to it like this!]
Deimos materialized a needle and a vial of poison. He dipped the needle into the poison then jabbed Vanera in the butt.
Vanera screamed and felt for the needle. When she pulled it out, Grakkon took it from her and examined it. He recognized the scent of the poison and lifted Vanera easily. He ran through the garden and into the castle. He took her immediately to a priest of Asclepius. She began having violent cramps in her stomach. Sweat was flowing off of her as she began to have painful, twitching spasms throughout her body.
Grakkon stayed by Vanera, he held her hand and talked soothingly to her as the priest concocted the antidote to the poison.
Within minutes the antidote was ready. Vanera was jerking violently and gritting her teeth with the effort to remain sitting upright. Grakkon held her close and helped steady her hand and lift the antidote to her lips. When some of the antidote spilled, he gently wiped the spill away with a towel provided by the priest.
He held her close as the antidote began to work. As her condition improved, he refused to let go of her. She felt so safe in Grakkon's arms that she didn't mind at all. They stayed close together and talked into the night.
As the God of Pain looked around, he decided his work here was done. He thought, [When Cupid is all better, maybe I could help him sometimes.]
* * * * *
Asclepius and the 'new and improved' Ganymede appeared in the Temple of the Sun. Apollo looked at the new arrivals. When he saw the man who was over six and a half feet tall and had bronze skin and flowing black hair, he nearly swooned.
"Ace, aren't you, like, going to introduce me to your friend?" Apollo said with a leer.
"Back off Dad, he's mine. This is Ganymede, he was here with me earlier. I had to help him change his appearance."
"Dude... you do good work." Apollo said as he stared.
Ganymede leaned down to Asclepius' ear and whispered, "And Cupid said you needed to be more assertive?"
"You bring out the best in me." Asclepius whispered back with a smile.
Noticing that his father was leering at his boyfriend Asclepius asked, "Don't you need to go check on Psyche?"
"Uh... yeah... it's past time. Will you stay here with Jett and take notes as he calls them out?" Apollo said distractedly as he stared at Ganymede.
Asclepius took the scroll and quill from his father and pushed him toward the hall where Psyche was housed.
Jett was resting quietly, finally he said, "Ganymede, looking good."
"Thanks." Ganymede said shyly.
"You're going to have to get used to it. You're going to get a lot of attention looking so good." Asclepius said resigned to the fact.
"I thought this was what I wanted but if people are going to treat me like that, I'd be better off the way I was." Ganymede said shakily.
"Gan, don't worry. You and I are together in this. No one's going to bother you, I'll see to it." Asclepius said firmly.
"I don't need a protector. I can do it myself." Ganymede said, offended.
"I know you can, but as your boyfriend, it's my job... You still want me, don't you?" Asclepius asked honestly.
"Of course, I just hadn't thought it would be like this, I just thought I'd be like everyone else." Ganymede said in frustration.
Asclepius hugged Ganymede close to him.
"You are." Jett said from the other side of Cupid's table.
"What?" Ganymede asked as he pulled out of the hug.
"You are like everyone else. Apollo hits on everyone when he first meets them. He hit on me, I know he hit on Jace, I don't think he would dare to hit on Joxer but if Ares weren't in the picture I bet he would." Jett said plainly.
Asclepius nodded and said, "He's right Gan, I love my dad but he's a real slut."
Ganymede started laughing as he realized that Asclepius and Jett were right... he was just like everyone else.
Asclepius' eyes drifted down to the list and he noticed Ganymede's name. "What's this Jett?"
"That's the list of people that Cupid thinks deserve to call retribution on him." Jett said without inflection.
"Gan, you're name is on here." Asclepius said to Ganymede.
A dark look came into Ganymede's eyes. "I guess it would be." He said cryptically.
"What are you going to do with this list?" Asclepius asked Jett.
"He doesn't think that he's worthy to be forgiven for the things he's done. He wants to make up for them. So we need to get each person on that list to call retribution on him." Jett said clearly.
"But how is that gonna help? He doesn't even know where he is." Asclepius said, puzzled.
"That's where I come in. For the first few, I use my godhood to carry out the retribution on Cupid and he will be aware of it since retribution is what he's calling out for. After that, he'll be more and more aware of his surroundings, at least that's what Apollo thinks." Jett said with a smirk.
"I know what I want." Ganymede said quietly.
"Wait, this has to be real retribution. You can't just forgive him, he has to be punished or it won't work." Jett said with certainty.
"I know what I want." Ganymede said again.
"Okay, why don't you tell me and maybe it's something we can do now." Jett said with enthusiasm.
"Do I have to do the whole formal declaration thing or can I just tell you?" Ganymede asked seriously.
"Just tell me, you're not doing this out of anger or in front of the council so we don't have to be formal." Jett said casually.
"I want him permanently marked with my initial. A gamma permanently etched into the inside of his forearm where he'll see it every day and remember why it's there. And when anyone asks him about it, he'll remember it again." Ganymede said with determination.
"Isn't that a little harsh?" Asclepius asked and pulled on Ganymede's arm to pull him away and talk privately.
"It's what I want." Ganymede said without inflection.
"Will you tell me why? I mean, you don't have to but I'd like to know." Asclepius said solemnly.
"Cupid did something to me. What he did is something that I have carried for centuries and will carry the rest of my existence. I want him to carry something of mine, it doesn't undo what he did, but it makes us even in my mind. He must feel the same or my name wouldn't be on the list. I think I need to do this as much as he does." Ganymede said seriously to Asclepius.
Asclepius considered Ganymede's words and gave him a short nod before walking back to Jett and Cupid.
"You still sure?" Jett asked carefully.
"It's what I want. Jett, is that acceptable retribution?" Ganymede asked seriously.
"Will you forgive him when it's done?" Jett asked in response.
"Yes." Ganymede said calmly.
Jett picked up Cupid's arm, then paused. "Right or left?" Jett asked simply.
"Right." Ganymede said without emotion.
Jett took Cupid's right arm and turned his wrist to be facing upward. He placed a hand over the forearm, closed his eyes and concentrated the power of retribution to permanently mark a god. After long minutes of effort the glow faded. He pulled his hand away and a perfect gamma could be seen about the size of a thumbnail.
"That alright?" Jett asked tiredly.
"Yes." Ganymede said emotionlessly.
"Is he forgiven?" Jett asked to be sure.
"He is." Ganymede said with certainty in his voice.
Jett placed a hand on Cupid's head and a green glow flared briefly.
Asclepius, Ganymede and Jett watched as Cupid opened his eyes.
* * * * *
He opened his tearful eyes.
The room was dimly lit.
The air was bitter.
The people in the room were looking at him in disgust.
He could hear whispering voices, talking about him.
Ice flowed through him and he huddled close into himself.
He could feel clawing in his gut.
A fresh wave of despair washed over him.
[No one cares.]
[Can't go on.]
[Don't want to.]
There was something.
He turned his arm over and saw the letter 'gamma'.