Okay, so I know how long it's taken me to get started on the sequel, so sorry for that. Anyway…this prologue is written from Ares point of view, so the voice will seem a little old-fashioned and a little darker. Don't worry. The next chapter will be about Bri. Anyways, enjoy! And please review! Thanks to all my regular reviewers and thanks to all those who reviewed on the last chapter. Julez: I'm debating which way to make this story go. Maybe, after I've gotten a few chapters in, I'll take it to a vote and see which way they want Bri to choose.
Ares snaked behind the curly-haired blonde boy. The path was dark and gloomy, and he could hear the wailing sounds accompanied by the sounds of a trickling river nearby. His feet made little sound against the sandy path, mostly because the insufferable mortals wouldn't quit their wailings. It worked to his advantage at the moment.
Reaching out, he whipped Hermes around with supernatural strength and threw him to the dirt. The breath exploded from the boy's lungs as he hit the ground. Ares knelt beside him, his fingers reaching for the god's throat. He squeezed tightly.
Hermes sputtered, the playful smile finally dying from his throat. He sent Ares a furious glare but couldn't say anything because Ares had cut off his wind cords.
"You idiot," Ares grated. He'd never had any patience for Hermes or his games. "If you sneak off into the dark and leave me one more time—and I mean once!—the deal is off!"
Hermes stiffened at this comment.
"That's what I thought," Ares snorted, removing his fingers from the other god's throat. He straightened from his crouch and dusted off his toga. "No get up. And if you don't mind, would you change out of that ridiculous boy form. I'm not going to pity you because you look young and vulnerable."
Hermes' chest heaved forward and thickened, growing sinews and muscles as his face began to age. His legs lengthened with audible cracking noises that would have been horrid to the ears if Ares was not so used to the sound. Hermes sat up a full-grown man who would be in his early twenties by a mortal's perspective.
Ares shoved the last thought away with an angry flourish. Why should he even think about what humans thought? Why should it even cross his mind? He most certainly had better things to do. His whole life should include the god world and nothing else.
Ares kicked at the man's bare leg. Hermes was only wearing a loosely draped loincloth. The rest of his body was there for the world to see. He chose not to control his flashing temper at the moment, because he had nothing to gain by doing so. "Are you deaf? I said get up."
Hermes got to his feet, his longish curly mop nearly falling into his eyes. He regarded Ares with half-lidded eyes and a heaving chest. "I could just leave you here," he threatened. "I don't need the power."
"But you want it," Ares smirked. "You want it enough that you're willing to take me to Hades realm. Little insignificant Hermes," he continued mockingly. "Always one of the lesser gods. The only reason you were ever able to make anything of yourself is because for some blasted reason you can find your way through these blasted death rivers without getting lost for a thousand years! What kind of talent is that? Don't you want more?"
Hermes snorted. "I have taken you to Hades realm," he said. "This is it. Why should I care if you can't find your way from here?"
"Because the deal is not over yet. It's far from over," Ares hissed. "You know what it entails and you are going to carry it through to its conclusion or you will live out the rest of eternity as insignificant little Hermes. Do you hear me?"
Hermes shrugged and turned away from him, nudging a stiff shoulder in the direction he wanted Ares to move. He began to walk away defeatedly.
A cruel smile played along Ares lips and he followed. He liked it when he had beat them into submission. They would do exactly what he wanted afterwards and wouldn't make so much bloody noise about it. He couldn't care if they gave him sullen looks. His conscience didn't twinge at that.
They trudged on silently for what seemed like another hour. Ares could feel his nerves wearing thin—not that they weren't already thin enough. But it got tiring to be angry all the time. But it seemed to work for him. Snap at someone in a temper and they would usually submit to whatever he wanted.
He blinked his eyes wearily at the river running alongside the path. He caught the faint sight of moaning spirits running downstream. He kept his movements firmly to the path. He couldn't die by stepping into the waters like a mortal could, but it was always uncomfortable to feel their essences brushing through his flesh and bone to touch his soul. Most uncomfortable because they could see Ares as he really was and not just the image he displayed for the public. In fact, it was the most disconcerting feeling he had had in his long life. He imagined it was quite like the story of the mirror that showed you what you were really like.
But he liked himself as he was. It was only for that one moment, as that spirit had touched him, that he didn't feel so proud. He could suddenly see his life through the spirits eyes and it had not made him happy. In fact, it had made him far from happy. Ares pushed the memory quickly away.
He would not allow himself to think with human morals. He would not allow their beliefs to dictate his conscience. He would not allow any god's belief to dictate his conscience for that matter. It was little lapses in sanity like this that really drove him up the wall. He was a cold man—compassionless—and he should revel in that fact.
He did normally.
He was so lost in his thoughts that he almost bumped into Hermes as the other man came to an abrupt stop. Hermes was watching the air, almost sniffing it with a curious ease—like he had finally come home after a long journey.
He pointed across a bridge to a small island with a golden fence to keep its inhabitants from actually falling into the water. He nodded to Ares stiffly. "I'm sure she's in there. What's more, Hades is nowhere to be seen."
"Are you sure?" Ares questioned.
"Feel for yourself," Hermes snapped in a tone that was so unlike his general playful behavior. "Do you sense his energy?"
"No," Ares admitted as he reached out with his mind.
He smiled then. It wasn't a genuine smile. But it wasn't mocking or evil either. He could be sociable and good when he needed to be. Gods needed bread crumbs and a scratch on the back just like any dog.
"Good work," he noted. "You've fulfilled the first half of the deal."
Hermes shrugged sullenly. "Why don't you just get her so I can lead you back?" he asked impatiently.
Ares gave him a dark look for his insolence and did exactly what the other god suggested. He was too gleeful to take to much offence out of Hermes tone. Everything was playing right into his hands. Bri wouldn't know what had hit her.
He slipped into the front golden gate, shutting it softly behind him. There was real light in this one section of the underworld. It wasn't just the eerie and incandescent glow that was released by the essences in the riverbeds.
A faint but beautiful hum reached his ears. He followed it to a small flower garden when a girl was kneeling with her back to him. Her long golden curls fell down the small of her back. She was thin and fine-boned. He had only seen her back but she was one of the most beautiful and seductive little treasures he had ever laid his eyes on. Only women such as Aphrodite and Psyche surpassed her.
He wondered how delicious it would be to take her. He reprimanded himself for the thought. Only one conquest at a time and right now that conquest was Bri. This beautiful little sprite was only the means to an end.
He could see why Hades had stolen her away from the upper world.
"Hello," he said in the gentlest voice he could manage.
Her shoulders stiffened and moved in a smooth half-circle, straightening as she did so. She let out a little gasp of breath as she saw him. Fear glazed her eyes momentarily.
Ares just stood there, letting her have her space. "Don't worry," he tutted. "I'm not going to hurt you."
"Who are you?" Persephone asked him in her light, almost musical voice.
Ares licked his lips involuntarily before he could catch himself. "I am Ares," he said. "I sent myself on a little mission to find you."
"Ares?" She asked. Recognition of the name shone in her eyes. "Find me? Why?"
"To take you away from here," he said. "Don't you want to leave?"
Her lip trembled. "Don't tempt me like that!" She took in a shuddering breath. "I can't leave here. You know that. I can't even leave during the summer. He even took that away from me."
"I know," Ares tutted. "And it has been most inconvenient. Zeus had to create a weather system for the earth so that the humans would not notice the change."
"So the problem has been fixed," Persephone said, biting her lip to keep it from trembling. Wistfulness shone in her summer blue eyes. "Why are you here?"
"Because I want to help you. I want to take you away from here," he said. "Wouldn't you like to see the sunlight again?"
Persephone swallowed hard. "Oh, so much!"
"And if I take you away from here, will you do as I ask? Will you help me with my goals and not cause me trouble?"
Persephone regarded him for a moment before nodding eagerly. "Yes! Oh, may I see my mother?"
"Eventually," Ares soothed, and began to move toward her. "It's best if we don't allow Demeter to find out about our little arrangement so far. We need to keep this hush hush so that we don't unsettle the balance between the upperworld and the underworld. Are we clear on that?"
Persephone nodded, more hesitantly than the last time but still eagerly. Ares reached up to trace the line of her chin. Mmm, he thought. As soon as he was done with Bri, he definitely wanted some of this wallflower. Hades had kept her to himself for long enough. It was about time someone else had a go.
He slipped his hand into his pocket and pulled out a pomegranate. He sliced it open with the blink of an eye and held it out to her. He told her truthfully. "Eat this and you will be free."
She snatched up one of the halves and began to pull out the seeds and place them in her mouth. When she swallowed, her lower lip jutted out sensually. Ares found his eyes drawn to it with utter fascination.
She finished off the entire pomegranate in only a matter of minutes. Ares pocketed the evidence back within the folds of his toga. Hades wouldn't know what had hit him. He'd only know that his little butterfly was gone.
He held out a hand and she clasped it without reserve.
"Come, my dear," Ares said, feigning a gentle smile. "It's time we left. Hermes will be waiting to lead us away from this place."