The Poisoned Quill

Title: The Poisoned Quill…
EAD: 2019
Author: Kylia
Fandom: Xena: Warrior Princess/Hercules
Genre: Episode related (310-The Quill is Mightier…)
Relationship(s): None yet (eventually Joxer/Ares, Strife/Auto, Cupid/?)
Content Rating: PG
Warnings: None
Word Count: 5540
Summary: Aphrodite losing her powers has unintended consequences.

Prologue

“Are you sure this is necessary?  Thetis asked her mother, clutching her belly protectively.

Doris stared sadly at her daughter.  “Yes child, the fates verified your prophecy.  The life of your child is in great danger.”

“By Zeus.”  Thetis asked.  

“I don’t believe so child.  I believe that the danger comes from somewhere else

“Very well mother.  What would you have me do?”  Thetis wrapped one arm around her barely rounded stomach.  She had just learned of not only her pregnancy but of the prophecy which held her child’s life in its hands.

“He must be taken into the mortal world, raised as one of them.  No one must know who he really is until it is time.” Doris placed a hand on Thetis shoulder, trying to reassure.

“How will we do this?  Even the mortal’s will notice if a child just appears.”

Doris wrinkled her brow.  “Perhaps not.” She turned her face towards the sky and silently called her cousin.

Hera flashed into the cave set deep under the ocean.  She bowed slightly. “How may I assist you cousin?”

Doris nodded back slightly before turning to her daughter.  “Thetis unborn child is in danger. We must protect him at all costs.  I thought perhaps you know of a mortal woman who could serve as surrogate until it is safe for him to return home.”

Hera thought for a second before a smile curved her lips.  “I believe I know someone who will do nicely. She is a priestess of Eris and has just learned she is expecting twins.  Perhaps triplets will not be so unusual.” She placed a hand over Thetis slightly protruding stomach, a slight blue glow surrounding the area before it began to move away from Thetis and began to form a ball.  Hera removed her hand from the now barren stomach and allowed the ball to slide gently into her hands. “Come young one.”

Hera flashed away, taking the essence of the unborn God with her.

Thetis allowed one tear to slide down her cheek.”  I hope we have done the right thing, Mother.”

“Me too.”

In a quiet house on the edges of Corinth, a woman slept, her hands resting unconsciously on her pregnant belly.  Hera flashed silently into the room and carried the ball of light to the bed. She used the power of her godhood to place the new life alongside the two already forming inside this mortal woman.

“Be safe, child.”  She whispered as the little godling settled, automatically shifting his form to match that of his new brothers.  

The queen of the God’s flashed home to Olympus, vowing that she would do whatever was necessary to ensure that life was protected.

Joxer watched Gabrielle scribbling furiously on her scroll and was about to say something but then shook his head.  She probably wouldn’t listen to him, anyway. Besides, he was hungry. He hadn’t gotten very far when he heard a heavy grunt and the sound of something falling heavily to the ground.

He looked through the crowd and saw Ares looking very irritated and Gabrielle bent over her scroll writing even more quickly than before.  Perhaps he should just go for a walk. That seemed like a good idea.

Several minutes later Joxer sat against an out of the way tree and ate some bread and cheese.  He watched as Gabrielle kept writing. He watched as Aphrodite fell from the sky, and landed directly on top if of Gabrielle, who looked more than a little bewildered.

This couldn’t be good.

Cupid nocked an arrow and took careful aim at the fisherman coming off the ship.  He felt the air around him move subtly with the appearance of another god but didn’t break his concentration.  He let the arrow fly and watched as it hit its mark. The target shook his head slightly and looked across the dock and spotted someone coming out of the local merchant square, carrying a crate full of merchandise.  The fisherman ran over to lend a hand. Cupid smiled at his handiwork.

“Another job well done, eh Cuz?”  Strife asked following Cupid’s stare and watched as the Love God’s arrows did their job.

“Not all of us can go around fomenting chaos willy nilly.”  Cupid grinned turning to his favorite cousin.

Strife grinned back.  “There is no willy nor nilly, whoever they are. Although I do admit I like me a good chaos.”

“What’s up?”  Cupid asked, placing his bow back in the holster.

Strife frowned.  “I…need some advice.”

Cupid raised an eyebrow.  Strife and he had been close since they were toddlers but this was a first.  “Advice, from a Love God? Have you been into Dionysus’ special brew again?”

Strife rolled his eyes and straightened up from his traditional slouch.  “Look…I’m curious…about the Mortals and Gods…you know hooking up.”

“For sex, or more?”  Cupid asked carefully while he tried to figure out what exactly Strife was asking and why.  Was it work, or something else?

“More.  Definitely more.”  Strife answered quickly, a slight flush coloring his pale cheeks.

Cupid blinked.  Okay that was vague, and he had noticed that Strife was real careful about not naming anyone specifically.  “Okay. Well, grandpa’s extra-curricular’s aside it’s generally frowned upon.  It’s okay for a fling or whatnot, but most don’t agree with handing out immortality, or worse, Godhoods.  I think a lot of the Pantheon doesn’t like the idea of spreading around our power bases. And you know how Grandma feels about infidelity and demigods in general, but there are exceptions.”

Strife nodded rapidly.  “Like you and Psyche. Although come to think of it, that whole situation was an exception, and was over and done before Hera could approve, or not.  Plus I’m sure the marriage bit helped.”

Cupid smiled.  “Exactly.” Cupid grinned in that way that made it seem as though he had nothing going on inside his head.  The same way that reinforced the opinion that he was just as air-headed as his mother. Not that Aphrodite was as stupid as she would have people believe.  “Psyche’s fantastic, isn’t she? And so beautiful.”

“Uh, yeah, I guess.”  Strife nodded and searched around for something else to say, to get back to his own problem.  “Hey, did you hear about what happened in Polantes?”

Cupid blinked and focused back on his cousin.  “Polantes?  You mean that wedding that turned into a funeral march when the bride’s family discovered their priceless heirloom was missing?”

Strife grinned in pride, even though he had absolutely nothing to do with what happened, well mostly.  “That was a nice bit of mischief, wasn’t it?” He turned to Cupid in concern suddenly. “That wasn’t one of your arrow jobs was it?”

Cupid shook his head.  “Nope, that was all natural.”  He took a closer look at Strife.  “The way I understood it, that was all a mortal’s doing…the theft of the Rubies of Melara.”  He narrowed his eyes. “Did you have a hand in that?”

“Nope.  That was all Auto.  Well I may have mentioned the jewels in passing, but the plan, the perfect, flawless orchestration?  That was all Auto. Fantastic, wasn’t it?” Strife’s cheeks were flushed again, but this time not from embarrassment.

Cupid narrowed his eyes.  He had been close with Strife most of their lives and although Strife took just as many lovers as any other on Olympus, he had never known him to get attached or worked up in any way.  “You know Strife, Autolycus isn’t Mortal, so the same rules don’t apply.” He said cautiously.

Strife nodded.  He had a feeling that was the case but he also wasn’t sure how things were going to develop and if his being a demi-god would work in his favor or not.  Hera did have a funny way of looking at Olympus relationships, plus Hermes being another of Zeus’ bastards probably wouldn’t help.

“Thanks Cuz…see you around.”  

Before Strife had finished speaking a wave of dizziness overcame Cupid and be began to lose his balance.  Strife caught him before he could hit the ground and transported them back to Olympus.

Psyche, Goddess of the Human soul watched her son as his wings fluttered unsteadily as he tried to fly higher and higher.  They were out in the garden for a picnic and she was watching closely, hoping that he wouldn’t get too high and lose control.

It had been six months since that mess with Bliss stealing Cupids arrows and wreaking havoc in the mortal world.  She knew her son was perfectly capable of flying on his own, but still she was concerned. Cupid had grounded Bliss from flying and the restriction had only recently been lifted.

“Bliss, honey, why don’t you come on down and we can have some lunch.”

“But, Mommy, I can go higher, just watch.”  Bliss flapped his little wings and flew a little higher.

Psyche sighed.  She stood up and started to levitate up so she could be closer to Bliss in case he started to fall.  Just as she approached her son’s level a wave of dizziness hit her, she lost her concentration and began to fall.

“Mommy!”  Bliss screamed and began to descend more quickly than was probably wise.  His mother was just lying on the ground, not moving.

Strife deposited Cupid in his decadent bed and leaned over his cousin and shook him roughly.  He was about to call for Asclepius when Cupid started to come around. Cupid’s eyes blinked open, and he looked around in confusion.  “What happened?”

Strife helped his cousin sit up.  “You just sort of…passed out.” He looked his cousin over critically.  “You okay?”

Cupid stood up and his wings began to flutter as though they were shaking something invisible off.  “Yeah, I think so. What were we…what were we talking about?”

Strife frowned.  There was something…off, he could *feel* it.  “Uh, mostly just stuff.”

“Stuff?”  Cupid focused on his cousin.  

“We talked about Psyche and Autolycus.”  Strife said cautiously.

“Hmm.”  Cupid nodded.  “Autolycus. He’s a good match, I think.  And Psyche. She’s a nice girl. I have a nice local fisherman picked out for her.”  He frowned slightly. He could *almost* remember something but not quite.

“A good match for who?”  Strife snarled. He wasn’t going to allow Cupid or anyone put the whammy on his thief!  He paused, realizing what else Cupid had said. A nice girl? Fisherman?

“Uh, Cup…I think maybe you’ve forgotten some things.”

Cupid nodded though he couldn’t quite remember what he was forgetting.  “Yeah, I think you might be right.”

Bliss looked frantically at his fallen Mommy.  He didn’t know what to do. His daddy was in the mortal world working and Granma was…well he didn’t know where she was but she was probably working too.  Who else could he call?

The little Godling concentrated hard and thought of one of the other people he felt safe with.  There was a pop and a slight displacement of air and then a sudden thud. Bliss opened his eyes and smiled.  He had done it!

The man lying on the ground winced and looked around, trying to figure out what had happened.  His eyes widened when he saw the little godling crouched next to the unconscious form of his mother.

“Bliss, sweetie, what happened?”  Joxer asked standing up and trying to ignore the wave of dizziness which enveloped him.  Godly transportation always made him woozy.

“Jossie!”  Bliss cried, his wings flapping.  “Mommy won’t wake up!”

Joxer moved over to the goddess and tried to see if he could spot any sort of injury.  She didn’t appear hurt, but she wasn’t moving either and Bliss was clearly frightened. He placed his hand on her forehead like he’d seen his mother do when they were ill as children.

“Psyche?”  He whispered.

The goddess started to move as if the sound of her name brought her back to consciousness.  She blinked her eyes and looked around. “Joxer?” She asked in confusion.

Joxer grinned and waved a little.  “Hi.”

“Mommy!”  Bliss flew closer to his mother.  “I brought Jossie to help you.”

Psyche started to sit up.  “Yes you did. That was very smart of you.”

Bliss smiled and hugged his mother.

“Are you alright?”  Joxer asked worriedly.  “What happened?”

“I’m not sure.”  Psyche answered. “I think I’m okay though.”

Joxer watched her trying to get her bearings and turned to the little godling.  “You want me to tell you a story?”

Bliss nodded rapidly.  “Tell me about tollycus!”  He clapped his hands together. “Unca Stwife says he the bestest thief ever, and he causes all kinds of mischief!”

Joxer blinked.  “Does he?” He looked to Psyche who shrugged slightly.  “Okay then, Autolycus it is.” Joxer picked up the little boy and began telling a story he only had to edit a little and didn’t require too much embellishing.

“Married?”  Cupid looked at his cousin.  “Are you sure?” He was positive he had planned to set Psyche up with a fisherman.  Why would he marry her?

Strife nodded, a little confused himself.  Cupid was not acting like himself. Well he was, but not where his wife was concerned.  It appeared that Cupid’s memory had a few holes in it. “What about Bliss, do you remember him?”

Cupid’s smile got soft.  “Of course. He’s my son…with Psyche.”  He looked at Strife. “I remember now. My mother made her a goddess.”

“Yes.”  Strife agreed.  “You remembering being in love with her?”

“No.  I just remember marrying her.  Why would I…” Cupid looked confused.

Strife sighed.  “I don’t know. Maybe you were hit with one of your arrows?”  He ordinarily wouldn’t care so much, but Cupid was his best friend, and he didn’t want to leave him alone, as confused as he was.

Cupid shook his head.  “No. My arrows don’t work on me, but maybe one of mom’s potions?  Why would she do that though?”

Strife shrugged.  “I have no idea.” He saw Bliss come running into the temple from outside and knew that his mother was probably not far behind.  “But here comes Psyche, so you better figure out what you’re going to do and fast.”

Cupid caught his running son and looked weakly across the temple to where his wife had just entered at a more sedate pace.

Strife was about to say something when he felt a prayer hit him.  “Uh, I hate to miss this, Cuz, but I have to go.”  He disappeared in a flash before Cupid could say anything.

Joxer leaned against the heavy oak tree, his eyes closed.  They were taking a break while Gabrielle tried to figure out the mess she had made inadvertently created by attempting to write fiction on an enchanted scroll.

“You don’t worship me anymore.”  Ares said quietly, startling Joxer.

Joxer opened his eyes and looked up at the currently powerless War God.

“I guess that’s true.”  Joxer admitted as Ares sat down, using a thick tree root as a chair.  “Things are different now.” He paused, trying to figure out what exactly he could say to make this seem less like a follower abandoning his God.  “Ever since I met Xena and Gabrielle, I don’t see things the same way I used to. I don’t see them how they want me to, but I don’t see them how I once did either.”

“How do you see them?”  Ares asked curiously.

Joxer had been something of a curiosity since long before Xena had taken him under her reluctant wing.  The man was a warrior in heart if not in body.  He was one of the few men who had a truly good heart and still considered himself a servant of War, even if he no longer actively prayed to Ares.  Add to that the fact that Cupid had a soft spot for him ever since Aphrodite tried to use Joxer to break up an important union.  Bliss was also quite fond of the seemingly hapless man. After Bliss had inadvertently caused Joxer heartache, many men would blame the small child, but instead, Joxer had offered to babysit Bliss if Cupid ever needed more ‘alone’ time.

Joxer looked up at the God for a second, weighing whether or not Ares wanted an honest answer.  It appeared he did if the honest curiosity in the dark gaze was anything to go by.  

“The world as we know it now is full of pain and death and misery, most of which we bring about ourselves.  There is hope and love in it, but regardless of what Hercules and Gabrielle believe mankind is not ready to deal with all life entails on our own.  We are not ready for peace. Maybe in another millennia we will be, but not now. Now we need the Gods, to fuel our passions, direct our energies so that wars have a purpose.”

Ares was more than intrigued.  “And what purpose do you believe War serves?”

Joxer wanted to roll his eyes, but having his powers or not, Ares was still dangerous.  “Wars bring communities together; they control the population so drought and famine don’t destroy everything and everyone.”

“Joxer!”  Gabrielle’s yell drew their attention before Joxer could continue or Ares could comment on the surprising understanding Joxer seemed to have of the responsibilities that went along with the power of War.

Joxer startled and stood up abruptly.  “I better…” He started to move away.

“Why do you let her treat you like that?”  Ares asked with more irritation than was practical.

Joxer shrugged.  “She treats me no different than anyone else, better than most.”  He moved towards where Gabrielle was trying to figure out a way to get Xena back from her fishing excursion, leaving the powerless God to watch him walk away.

—-

It was less than one lunar cycle later when Cupid found his mother staring through one of her mirrors at the seemingly dejected form of Joxer, sitting along on the bank of a river.

“He looks heartbroken,”  Cupid observed, sending his own power out to read the mortal.  “But he’s not. He’s…confused.” Cupid frowned. “He’s confused because he’s not heartbroken?”

Aphrodite smiled.  “He just realized he’s not in love with Gabrielle; that he never has been.”

“You seem…pleased by this,”  Cupid observed.

“Yes.  Joxer is special.  He deserves someone special.  Gabrielle could never be that person for him, and now that he knows it, I can help him find someone who is.”

Cupid stared at his mother.  She wasn’t the ditzy blond most in the pantheon thought her to be.  Nor was she nearly as self-centered as she appeared. She was the Goddess of Love because she had a real gift for seeing into the hearts of people, and being able to tell what a person needed, as opposed to what they wanted, or thought they wanted.  Even so, until this moment he had thought that she didn’t care one way or another about Joxer. He was the one who had chosen Joxer for their little bet all those months ago, not Aphrodite.

“Do you know who this mystery person is?”  Cupid asked cautiously. Aphrodite may be able to unerringly match up two people, but that didn’t mean that doing so wouldn’t interfere in his own plans.

Aphrodite smiled slyly.  “I have one or two ideas.” She turned her focus away from Joxer and narrowed her blue eyes on her son.  “Now, did you need something, sweetie?”

“A babysitter.”  Cupid sighed. “I have an orgy in Melthis.”

Aphrodite raised an eyebrow.  “Where’s Psyche?”

Cupid shrugged indifferently though there was a show of hurt in his eyes.  “I don’t know.”

Aphrodite opened her mouth to ask another question but decided it might be better to get the information elsewhere instead.  “Sure. Bring him to Hephy. I’ll be home as soon as I take care of one little thing.”

Cupid kissed her cheek.  “Thanks mom, I owe you.” He disappeared in a shower of sparks leaving Aphrodite contemplating her next move.

—-

Aphrodite appeared in a temple not far from her own.  “Aletheia.” She called out quietly. “Sweetie, you here?”

The Goddess of Truth appeared before her sister.  “Yes, Aphrodite, what can I do for you?” It wasn’t often the senior Love goddess sought her counsel.

“I’m here on official business.”

Aletheia raised an eyebrow.  “Go on.”

“I seek the truth about a personal matter.  I wish to know if someone is being unfaithful.”

“Sister, speak your mind!” Aletheia snapped, getting tired of Aphrodite’s vagueness.

“Psyche.”  Aphrodite said the name as if left a bad taste in her mouth.

Aletheia stared hard at the Love Goddess.  “Do you truly believe she has been unfaithful?”

Aphrodite sighed.  “It’s no secret I didn’t want Cupid to marry her, but if she was making him happy I would have left it alone, but he isn’t happy.  If she’s cheating on him…” She trailed off, her eyes darkening in anger.

“If I do this, you may not like the results.”  Aletheia warned. “If you are correct, Cupid must be told, and Hera must be informed.  What happens then is out of both our hands.”

“Understood.”

“And you must also understand that if what you fear is not true, you must find a way to put your doubts to rest and leave cupid in charge of his own happiness, with whoever he finds it.”

Aphrodite looked seriously at her sister.  “Psyche is keeping secrets. If she has not been unfaithful, then the truth of her actions must still be brought to light or Cupid will never know happiness.”

“Very well.”  Aletheia agreed.  “Go now. I’ll come to you when I have an answer.”

“Thank you.”  Aphrodite kissed Aletheia’s cheek before flashing out to retrieve her grandson.

—-

Autolycus quietly made his way out of the hidden entrance of the cave and looked around to be sure he hadn’t been followed.  The cave held a scepter which had enough jewels encrusting it to keep the king of thieves in riches for many moons to come.

As far as he could determine, the scepter had been hidden by the king of a neighboring land generations ago and knowledge of its existence had fallen out of memory.  Autolycus had only learned of its presence by accident. There was mention of an ancient curse on an old scroll Autolycus had seen recently.

Autolycus didn’t put a lot of belief in ancient curses but decided to be cautious, nonetheless.  He had been to the cave several times and had found no obvious hidden traps or anything that indicated any harm would befall anyone who came into contact with the scepter.  Except…

Except for the fact that there appeared to be…something protecting it. In order to get past that protection, he’d need a distraction.

Who could he get to distract the overgrown puppy guarding his treasure that he could trust not to betray him or try to steal the scepter for themselves?

—-

Autolycus thought through all the people he knew were close enough to assist and yet not more trouble than he could handle.  Before he had decided on anyone in particular, he heard a thump and the rustling of the bushes behind him.

There was more rustling, the clang of metal and muttered cursing before a man stood up.  

Autolycus stared incredulously.  “Joxer?” The last he’d heard Joxer had been traveling with Xena and Gabrielle, although that had been several moons ago.

Joxer grinned at the familiar man.  “Auto!” He came out from behind the trees he had landed in.

“How did you get here?”  Autolycus asked in confusion.

Joxer looked around, trying to figure out exactly where ‘here’ was.  “Um…I think Bliss sort of…” He hesitated not sure how much of his time on Olympus he was supposed to talk about.  He’d never mentioned his visits to anyone before. “I was at this lake, taking a swim, and then Hephaestus needed a baby sitter and then Psyche returned and, Bliss sort of… well…”  He trailed off.

Autolycus raised an eyebrow.  “Bliss, huh?” He grinned. “Interesting company you’re keeping these days.”

Joxer smiled slightly, remembering Bliss excitement over hearing about Auto’s adventures.  “I’m not the only one. Bliss tells me you and Strife have a passing acquaintance.” His grinned widened at the look on Autolycus’ face.

“Yes, well…”  Autolycus shook his head.  “Since you’re here, you can help me out.”  He grabbed Joxer’s arm and started dragging him towards the secret entrance to the cave.

—-

“What exactly do you want me to do?”  Joxer asked suspiciously.

Autolycus grinned.  “Just…be yourself.”

Joxer looked around at where Autolycus had stopped.  There was nothing here but a cave. Usually when Autolycus asked for his help, there was some sort of distraction involved.  “You want me to distract…something while you steal something else?” He questioned in slight confusion.

“Will you do it?”  Autolycus asked, being very vague about what exactly he needed Joxer for.  It would pretty clear once they got inside.

“Sure.”  Joxer nodded, thinking this story would be good to add to his collection for when he babysat next time.  Besides Autolycus wouldn’t be doing anything too dangerous. At least, he didn’t think he would.

Joxer looked around the darkened cave cautiously.  It was clear that Autolycus must have been here before.  He seemed to know exactly where to go and didn’t have any trouble moving around the uneven cave floor.  There was a small pool off to the left side of the cave, several paces from the indentation in the cave wall Autolycus was headed toward.

“What is it you want me to distract again?”  Joxer asked nervously. It was really dark.

Before Joxer could take too many steps inside, he heard a scrabbling noise and what sounded like running feet.  A lot of running feet.

“That.”  Autolycus pointed to where the sound was coming from.

Joxer looked and saw as…something came closer.  It appeared to be…well Joxer wasn’t exactly sure what it was.  At first glance, he would say it was a pet of some sort, but well.  It had entirely too many feet and one more head than he was used to seeing. Plus when Joxer took a cautious step closer, foolishly wanting to see it closer, he noticed that he wasn’t furry as he would expect, but instead had a hide similar to a reptile of some sort.

Still, he did resemble an over-excited puppy the way it appeared to be trying to lunge at Autolycus, but playfully.  It couldn’t quite reach Autolycus though as it appeared it was tethered to a groove in the cave wall.

“Uh…”  Joxer started to say, not sure what exactly he was supposed to do.  “Why, uh…do you need me to distract this thing? What *is* this thing?”

“Watch.”  Autolycus whispered as he moved sideways, trying to move around the creature.  He was fairly successful until just before he reached an indentation in the cave wall.  The creature had turned its attention to Joxer but once Autolycus had placed a hand on a groove in the indentation, the creatures eyes focused on him once again and it…snarled.

Joxer jumped, surprised by the sound.

Autolycus stepped back, and the creature turned back to Joxer, overly excited again. “If I get too close…that happens.”

Joxer felt drawn to the small pool of water.  The water seemed to glow though Joxer wasn’t sure how that was possible.  The cave was dark enough that the light couldn’t be any sort of reflection.  And yet it seemed to call to him. He moved closer to the pool and was about to touch the water when something glittered inside its depths.

—-

Joxer lay on his bedroll, staring at what he could see of the night sky.  He’s been traveling on his own since shortly after getting that scroll mess with Aphrodite and Gabrielle straightened out.  He wasn’t sure what was next for him. He only knew that some kind of change was coming.

Just as he was about to drop off to sleep he felt a displacement of the surrounding air.  He recognized the feeling from when he traveled with Xena as the arrival of a God. Why a God would want to see him now that he was traveling alone was a mystery though, so he remained still.

“So, you’re Joxer…the Mighty.”  The newly arrived deity said with a giggle.

Joxer’s eyes widened as he sat up.  “Um…I’m just going by Joxer now.”

The newcomer grinned.  “Whatevah.  Come on, let’s go.”

The God grabbed Joxer out of his bed roll and transported them somewhere.

After the disorientation had settled, Joxer looked around.  Clearly they were in a temple. He wasn’t sure who’s though.  “Why am I here?”

“Doin’ a favor for someone.  They asked for you to be brought, so here you are.”

—-

“Do you even have worshipers?”  Joxer asked seriously. He was more than a little disoriented by being brought to Olympus against his will for no reason he could understand.

“Honest, true worshippers?  Not many who come to me of their own volition, which are also adult enough to know what they are doing.”  Strife admitted with a shrug. It was a good question, one which no one had ever bothered to ask. He didn’t know why Aunt ‘Dite wanted this mortal to be looked after, but he was finding the assignment intriguing, nonetheless.

“You said not many, but that means there are some.”  Joxer noted, looking around the temple. It was clearly decorated in the typical ‘house of War’ style, but there were little things here and there that proved that real people lived here.

“Yes.  There are some, mostly those who follow Ares and realize that having my favor might be beneficial to them.  Others are what you might call outsiders to the normal respectable professions. They can always use a little mischief as distraction.”

“You mean people like Autolycus and Jett?”  Joxer asked, suddenly realizing how mayhem and mischief could aid in certain cases.

Strife smirked.  “Yes, people like them.”  He watched Joxer looking around and decided that maybe a distraction was in order right now.

“What do ya say we take a walk around and see what kind of trouble we can find?  I have it on good authority you’re something of master of mayhem yourself.”

Joxer raised an eyebrow.  He had heard that about himself before; however it had never been said with the air of a compliment.  “Why not?” He didn’t know exactly what was going on, why Strife had brought him here, or under whose orders, but since he was, he maybe could figure some stuff out for himself.

—-

Psyche, Goddess of the Human Soul watched her quarry carefully.  She couldn’t afford to be caught. Not yet, not when she was so close to fulfilling her obligation.  She wasn’t sure what was going on, but it couldn’t be good.

She followed the two men around, masking her power signature and making sure that no one spotted her.  Mischief was especially wily when it came to detecting other Gods. Now if she could only figure out what the other one was doing here, on Olympus of all places, she might have enough information to take back.

—-

Joxer stared bewildered at the Goddess before him.  She was wearing a dress that was clearly made from some very expensive burgundy material; it wound around her body in a way that was not clearly apparent, and was accented with the odd peacock feather, which really was more than enough to identify her.

Joxer wasn’t sure what the Queen of the Gods would want with him, he hadn’t even seen Hercules in months.  He’d never been terribly comfortable around the Gods, though he wasn’t exactly sure why. It wasn’t fear, he was sure.  He’d felt that plenty of times, but this was an…unsettled feeling. Still, he should probably be polite.

“Hi.”  Joxer smiled slightly.  “Um…can I help you?”

Hera smiled, in a way that Joxer felt was either really misleading or he’d completely misunderstood all the stories about her.

She stepped closer to him and asked him to stand still for a moment.  Joxer obeyed and watched more than a little confused as she waved her arms around him and began to circle him.  He felt…something, but he wasn’t sure exactly what. It almost felt like she was unwrapping something from around his body, like an intricately woven toga, even though he knew he wasn’t wearing anything of the sort.  He decided he’d close his eyes and pretend this was all some sort of dream, or perhaps a hallucination from getting hit on the head once too often.

Hera kept making these little noises which really weren’t helping Joxer to pretend this wasn’t happening.  Also, it was kind of worrying.  She stopped abruptly and then took a step back from Joxer.  He could feel her staring at him with those unusual eyes.

“Joxer dear, I need you to come with me,”  Hera said at last.

Joxer opened his eyes and looked at the Goddess.  She clearly didn’t have him confused with someone else.  She also clearly wasn’t going to wait too long for him to respond as she had already turned towards an arched doorway and began moving through it.  

What could Joxer do but follow?

—-

Kylia

Dedicated pantser, who has a fondness for the underappreciated unicorn in every fandom....and a few of the appreciated ones.

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