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The visitor, Ares and Joxer appeared in the War Room of the Halls of War. Ares was livid, and began to speak. "How dare you give Hephaistos my rightful place as King of the Gods!"
With his declaration made, Ares struck out with a fireball hitting the visitor full in the chest. After staggering for a moment, The visitor responded with a lightening bolt aimed at Ares head. Ares snapped his hand up and deflected the lightening bolt back at the visitor. At the moment when the visitor was impacted by his own lightening, Ares let loose a volley of a dozen throwing knives. The visitor impacted the wall from the force of the lightening bolt and was immediately pinned to the wall. Knives were pinning the visitor through his wrists, legs and several knives stabbed through his torso. The final knife was between his eyes, pinning his head to the wall. In a move as fast as the lightening bolt, Ares was in front of The visitor clamping a slave collar of Hephestian metal around The visitor's neck.
The visitor looked Ares in the eyes. The visitor was showing no outward signs of pain and made no struggle against the knives, "Ares, what do you know of the coming Twilight of the Gods?"
"It's supposed to be a time when mortals rise up and overthrow the gods." Ares said, somewhat puzzled.
"And you know what happens when you lose your sword of power..."
"Yes, there is no control over the impulse of war among mortals. War runs rampant throughout the country in an ever increasing intensity until all the people are destroyed." Ares answered bewildered as to the connection.
The visitor shifted his eyes and looked past Ares to Joxer, "Do you know why the god of Mischief is necessary in this and other pantheons?
Joxer thought about it for a second before answering, "I suppose it's like the sword of war. Without a god of mischief, every impulse of mischief would become an act of mischief."
The visitor looked surprised by Joxer's answer. Joxer noticed and said, "Ares...uh... explained some things to me."
"He did a good job of it. Without your mischief god, not only do you have mischievous actions running rampant, but they don't have any underlying purpose. The culmination of the mischief is nothing but chaos. Most pantheons understand the necessity of having a mischief god but yours is one of the few that actually uses the forces of mischief in concert with the forces of war to achieve a benefit. Loki is allowed to run wild in his pantheon and has nearly caused it's destruction many times. Coyote is a respected member of his pantheon, but works alone and is sometimes at crossed purposes with his own people."
Ares spoke up, "Now that Joxer is god of mischief, he can learn to channel the impulses and turn the mischievous actions to some purpose."
The visitor shifted his focus to Ares, "Yes, in time. Unfortunately, it is time that we don't really have. Take the condition of the mischief godhood and extend the same reasoning to the godhoods of debauchery and retribution.
"The impulses of those godhoods have been unchecked among mortals, building, leading toward ultimate destruction." Ares said with realization dawning.
"Now put together the impulses from all the abandoned godhoods, throw in a couple self-righteous demigod heroes and a harpy with an agenda..."
"...And you get a Twilight of the Gods." Ares finished.
"And it's already in the making. All the ingredients are there. It will take an experienced War God paying his full attention to prevent the Twilight from coming to be."
Joxer interrupted the ensuing silence. "You are talking about preventing the Twilight of the Gods, but is it something that can be prevented? I mean, since it has been prophesied, doesn't that mean that it will happen?"
The visitor looked approvingly at Joxer and answered, "Yes and no, Joxer. The Twilight of the Gods will come to be. There is no preventing the eventual destruction of the gods. But it doesn't have to be this week, or this year, or this millennia."
Ares nodded, "I see why you need me where I am. If I took on the job of king of the gods now, my attention would be divided between the king duties and war duties."
The visitor became transparent and stepped away from the wall, leaving the knives behind. The visitor took the slave collar from his neck and handed it to Ares as he walked past him to sit on a nearby chair. "Right, and since Hephaistos can't father any children, he can't create an heir by right of inheritance. That insures your place as the designated heir of Olympus."
Noticing the bewildered look on Ares face, The visitor said, "Oh that, no power in this universe can hurt me... You looked like you needed to work off a little steam before you could talk reasonably."
The visitor was apparently counting down his mental checklist again, "Oh, and I wanted to offer up a warning. Now that Zeus is out of power, don't go straight for Hercules. If any of those four are killed, they will be elevated to the status of martyr and the twilight will be assured."
A look of profound disappointment crossed Ares face. Joxer walked over and placed his hand on Ares shoulder and said, "Well... Uh... If you hurry, you can have the... Uh... pleasure... of telling Hercules the news."
The visitor saw Ares face light up at that and laughed. "Go ahead, we've had enough seriousness today. Ruin Hercules day and enjoy yourself."
Ares smiled and nodded before flashing out with Joxer in his arms.
* * * * *
Ares and Joxer flashed into a wooded area near Hercules and Iolaus' campsite. They walked toward the firelight and waited to be recognized. Hercules' head turned at the movement and he immediately got to his feet. A moment later Iolaus was at his side.
"Ares, what are you doing here?" Hercules spoke Ares name as if it were a curse.
"I just came to give you the latest family gossip, little brother." Ares said with a smile.
"I don't want to hear anything you have to say." Hercules spat.
"Fine, Iolaus would you be interested in knowing that Zeus is no longer King of the Gods?" Ares said with glee.
"What!? Ares what kind of game are you playing at?" Hercules screamed, ready to pounce.
"Hercules, you didn't want to hear it. I'm talking with Iolaus if you don't mind." Ares then purposefully turned to Iolaus and said, "It's been quite a day. Zeus was removed as King of Olympus, and Hera was removed as Queen. And that means that Zeus protection order is no longer in effect for any of his children..."
"Father!" Hercules screamed into the air.
"I don't know if he'll be able to come to you Herc, he's probably busy clearing out his desk." Ares said with ever increasing satisfaction.
Iolaus noticed Joxer standing behind Ares watching the events unfold. "Joxer? What are you doing here?"
Joxer looked up, not expecting to be noticed. "I... Uh... Just came along with Ares to deliver the news."
"What are you doing with Ares?" Iolaus questioned curiously.
"I... Uh... kinda work for him now." Joxer said shyly.
"Joxer, Ares will just use you. You don't owe him anything." Hercules stated in a commanding tone. Then turned his voice toward the sky, "Father!"
Zeus appeared in a muted white flash looking smaller and more tired than any of those assembled had ever seen him before. "You called, my son?"
"Father, Ares said that you aren't king of the gods anymore. Is this true?"
Zeus flashed a withering look at Ares and said, "Yes, it's true."
"But how? I thought you couldn't be removed from your position except by your death." Hercules asked, somewhat weaker as the situation was becoming more real.
"I honestly don't know. An unknown god came along and took my power away as if it were nothing to him. He left me weakened to the point that I can barely transport myself. And he dissolved my marriage to Hera." Zeus ended in a voice so small and defeated that it could barely be heard.
"So is this unknown god the new king of the gods? Where is he from, who is he?" Hercules asked, paranoia streaking his voice.
Ares stepped in to answer, "No, he named Hephaistos as the new King of the Gods. I get the impression that he is just here to set things right and then he will leave."
"Set things right? For whom?" Iolaus chimed in.
"For all of us." Joxer said with uncharacteristic confidence.
Ares turned to look Hercules in the eyes, "Herc, I don't like you. You don't like me. But this is a new day so I'm willing to let our old battles lie in the past. I'll leave you alone as long as you stay out of my way."
With that declaration Ares turned to leave, Joxer turned to leave with him when Hercules said, "Joxer, you don't have to go with him. You can stay here with us."
Ares looked at Joxer seriously and said, "He's right, you can stay here if you want."
Joxer gave Ares Aphrodite's 'Duh' look (pat pending) and walked ahead of Ares into the woods. Ares just smiled and followed him.
Without a word, Zeus walked in the opposite direction and disappeared in a muted flash of white light.
Hercules and Iolaus stood silently, and Hercules realized that a perfectly good day had been ruined.
* * * * *
Ares and Joxer appeared in the Halls of War. It wasn't the war room, but the décor was similar enough that there was no doubt of where they were. Joxer sat on a nearby sofa and waited for Ares to seat himself. A moment later Joxer asked, "Is this going to change things between us?"
Ares considered the question for a moment, then answered, "Yes, it probably will, but I think it will be a good change."
Joxer looked puzzled.
"We've been friends for a couple of years. When one of us needs someone to talk to we seek each other out and discuss our problems. But there have been times when I felt like I couldn't tell you certain things because mortals and gods are so different." Ares reasoned.
After a nod from Joxer, he continued, "Now that we are both gods, our relationship is bound to change because we both have a similar frame of reference."
Joxer began to look lost so Ares decided to use an example. "How old are you Joxer?"
"27" Joxer answered without knowing where this question was leading.
"At 27 a mortal is 1/3 to 1/2 of his way through a mortal life-span..." Joxer gave a nod of acknowledgment.
"I am nearly 3000 years old and I'm not particularly old by the standards of gods, my life has no predetermined length."
Joxer became excited as realization dawned, "That means that when I talked about wanting to settle down and raise a family while I still have time, I was looking at a mortal life-span and you couldn't really relate to it because you have..."
"...Forever, basically." Ares interrupted with a smile.
"And now that I have forever too, we can understand each other." Joxer nodded knowingly.
"Time is just one thing we perceive differently, we'll discover other things and adjust to them as we find them." Ares stood and extended his hand to Joxer to lift him from the couch.
"I think, before it gets too late, I should begin to train you to use your new godly abilities." Ares said with a serious look.
"Uh... Okay... Um... What are you going to teach me first?" Joxer stammered.
//How about, this being your first day, we start with something easy?// Ares voice sounded in Joxer's mind.
"Okay Ares, that was really freaky. I heard you inside my head and my knees felt kind of funny."
Ares laughed. "That's mind-speak. Gods can call other gods that way or talk privately. It'll just take a few times of hearing it and you'll get used to it. Although I can't explain the thing with your knees."
"Can I do it?" Joxer asked.
"Sure, all you have to do is picture my face in your mind and think the words that you want to say to my face."
Joxer scrunched up his face and thought something at Ares but it didn't work.
"I didn't get it Joxer, try again and I'll see what you're doing..."
Ares looked into Joxer's mind and saw the problem. "Joxer, I think you're trying to protect me. You're actually making the picture of me, sending the words to it and pulling them back before they reach me. Just relax and let the words flow. You don't have to protect me. If they are too loud, I can shield myself.
//ARES - CAN - U - HEAR - ME ?//
//Yes, I can hear you. Now that you can do it, just do the same thing but in normal speech. You don't have to hammer the words in. How are your knees?//
Joxer scrunched his face and responded. //Ma Neez R still feelin funnee. Iss thiss enny bettr?//
//Some. But I think your trying to be quiet and it makes your mind-voice sound funny. Just think to me like you're talking to me.// Ares was really REALLY trying to keep a straight face.
//Just normal talk? Like this? Uh... What should I say?//
//Perfect Joxer!! Just like that. It's time for bed now. We'll practice again tomorrow.//
//It's really fun. But my knees still feel funny.//
Ares led Joxer through a door into the private chambers of the halls of war.
"Joxer, if you don't mind, I'm going to have you stay in my room tonight." Ares said just a little sheepishly.
"Uh... Okay. Why?" Joxer asked.
"Well, honestly, I don't have any guests that spend the night in another room. See this room, it's Eris'. Those are Phoebos and Demios. That one belongs to Enyo. And this one belongs to Strife. I'm going to visit with Strife and see if he minds that I give you his room. There are plenty of rooms but none of them are ready for guests. They'll need to be emptied and made ready to live in."
Joxer nodded his head and agreed. "I don't mind sharing a room if you don't."
Ares smiled at him, "Not a problem, what are friends for?"
At the end of the hall they came to a double door. When Ares opened it, Joxer stopped, transfixed by the sight of the enormous bedroom.
Ares stopped at the stunned look on Joxer's face and realized that Joxer probably hadn't ever seen a room done in full regal pageantry before. "As head of the House of War, and the Houses of Aggression as well as being the heir to Olympus I guess I am allowed one or two indulgences. I like having a nice bedroom.
"Nice? This is the most beautiful place I've ever been! And it's bigger than my village back home."
Ares laughed. "That's nice of you to say but I assure you that its not bigger than your home village."
"Still, its amazing..."
Ares led Joxer over to a tall cabinet. "Here is a wardrobe, the clothes should probably fit you. If not, we'll work it out when we need to. Through that doorway is a bath and through the other doorway is the sleeping chamber. I'm going to take a bath now, you're welcomed to join me if you like. Just make yourself comfortable."
Joxer stood silent for a moment as Ares walked to the bathing room. Then he followed saying, "Uh... I... Um... bath, yeah."
* * * * *
Back in the meeting hall, Gaia waited for the last of the gods to leave the visitor alone. She was appalled from being witness to hours of adolescent awkwardness and undisguised sucking-up. Apparently the other gods had no concept of dignity or self-respect.
"Gaia, I've been waiting to talk to you" the visitor spoke quietly.
Gaia looked at the visitor with shining eyes and said, "Grandfather?"