It wasn't even dawn when a man approached her cell. He asked if she would like to take a bath. "Fancy prison", - she thought to herself and agreed. She had been watched all night and wanted a chance to be alone at least for a while. Of course, possible escape plan also crossed her mind, but after her legs and arms were chained and she was lead outside her hopes were gone. There was a full yard of armed warriors waiting for her. They had their swords prepared just in case. She looked around and noticed that part of the warriors were on the upper floors of the castle, in the passways, with prepared crossbows. All of them and that meant 150-200 warriors were not taking their eyes off her. She could admit that even if she wouldn't be chained her chances to stand against them would still be quite small. Even if she had a chance, she probably wouldn't try anything anyway, as she needed to know what Ares wants with her.
The spa house wasn't far, it was about 300 meters away. She hoped that she wouldn't need to take a bath with all those men staring at her. Luckily, they let her in, removed her chains and locked her from outside. She could see her armor from old times laying few meters from the tub. She checked everything to make sure she was really alone, removed her clothes and got into the tub.
After she finished her bath and put the armor on, she was chained again and led to a big square surrounded by high fortress walls. It was not too hot there, as it was still early sunny summer morning. She could feel a warm breeze and a smell of freshly cut grass few hundred meters away from her and Ares' troops. The morning sun was shining intensively on the sand ground. It was clear that this square was used for fights and maybe for punishments as few high poles with chains and cuffs could be seen. "It is going to be an interesting morning", - she thought. That place was very familiar to her. She looked around to make sure and saw familiar architecture far away from her. An image of young herself training with Ares there flashed her mind.
The image was interrupted by one of the troops. To her surprise, he bent over and removed her ankle cuffs. Her handcuffs were removed too. Then most of the men backed away, leaving her in the center of the square.
Instantly she felt a familiar tingle down her spine and with a flash of blue light the God of War appeared in front of her. The sound of shields pressed to the ground caught their attention and she turned her head to see that all soldiers kneeled to salute him. With Ares gesture, they all stood up again.
"Good morning, my dear, slept well?" - he asked as he closed the distance between them. His brown eyes were shining like ambers in this light morning and looking at her blue ones. When he was looking at her like this and smiling, she couldn't get rid of a feeling how strong and powerful he was.
"The dungeon was quite cold, but I can't complain about the bath" - she smiled back after deciding to play along. "Why am I here Ares? As far as I remember, we used to communicate privately and that meant without 200 armed men looking after me. Do you think you can't handle me just by yourself anymore?"
He was glad that she didn't look mad. She looked so good in her old times' armor. He hoped that he wouldn't need to hurt her, that she would just give all the information she has willingly. The matter was of great importance to him and he could not allow anyone to spoil it, not even her.
"Oh, what hasn't changed, but you are here for an important reason, and to have you staying here they all are needed. You can think of them... as my appreciation for your skills..." - he said as he stroked her black hair.
"And what is that reason?" - she inquired without stepping back. She didn't want to admit, but his compliment to her fighting skills elated her.
"The map of Alantos" - he waited a bit for her reaction, which didn't come, before continuing. "Rumors say what it can be reached easier this moon, so I am sending a group of my best current protegees to take its pieces. And since my precious warrior princess would try to stop them, she will be staying here. Protected." - he added. "Of course, you may share any information you have about it with me right now as I know you know something." He smiled without actually expecting her to reveal anything.
"I don't know where it is, Ares.", - she answered him smiling.
"Oh really? Xena... I'm not playing this time, I know you had it. Do you really think that I believe that you just let somebody else have it or that you accidentally lost it in the forest?" - he didn't sound mad, but she could tell from his voice that soon he will be.
"And do you actually believe that I would just tell you if I knew?" - she asked with the same smile.
"Look..." - his eyes looked mad now. "I really don't want to hurt you on such a beautiful morning, so better give me the information I need", - he said firmly. He sounded serious now. Suddenly she felt something new – a surprise what he is actually threatening her mixed with an extreme betrayal. He had never threatened her before. Xena knew about Ares abilities to cause pain, she was not sure if she could take it if he took this matter into his own hands, yet she also knew that he was certainly not a sadist, at least not with her. Despite that, her heart started to beat faster.
Suddenly, a soldier ran to him and gave him a quill, he opened and read it to himself.
Ares was fast to boast - "Well, that is not important anymore, at least not now, as I have just got some very good news and I am very glad to inform you that everything is going according to my plan. So, lucky day for you, my sweet!", - he stated happily. "Now if you excuse me I've got few things to do..." - he turned away planning to disappear, but suddenly stopped, an image of her training with him popped into his mind. He glanced at her again with his irresistible grin. "Since you are already here, how about a morning workout?" He didn't wait for her answer. A lightweight sword she used to train with appeared in his hand. He threw it to her.
It was a very hard fight. He was even faster and stronger than she remembered. Or weren't her opponents good enough during the last two years?
Ares enjoyed this, he saw she was starting to get tired, he also saw her smiling time from time. It seemed that he had not known how he missed her before that fight started, she was his best opponent. He couldn't resist showing her a few new moves, she picked them quite fast and was successfully blocking him when he tried to use them against her again.
Soldiers were looking at them amazed by their skills. They also began to feel worried that they actually have to protect her, with those deadly skills. It seemed that hour or more passed, Xena felt that her muscles began to sore, she felt so tired that she missed Ares strike and felt her sword fell from her hand. Another thing she felt was a strong backhand on her cheek and she fell to the ground with her head spinning. She felt her blood on her lower lip.
Soldiers were just staring at them, not making any noise. The fight was so good, so amazing, it seemed that it would be a shame if Ares killed her.
She slowly tried to get up. Ares, who was also gasping for breath, stopped and sheathed his sword. He decided that the workout was over. He looked at her evaluating the damage he had done. It seemed nothing – just a small scratch on the cheek, few bruises, and sore muscles – nothing that good night's sleep won't fix.
Xena slowly stood up with her sword in hand, expecting that Ares might strike again. Her tired blue eyes met his brown ones. "Take the sword from her and cuff her" - he ordered without looking away.
Three soldiers run instantly her way, took the sword and cuffed her. Xena showed no resistance. He was still looking at her. "It was a pleasure, my dear." - he smiled. "I hope that cell won't be that cold tonight."
Then he turned to his men and shouted: "Get her back to her cell, do not come close to the bars in any circumstances, if you see something unusual or strange call me immediately, do NOT let her out of your sight".
When she entered her cell, she saw additional furs on the bed and fresh water which she immediately drank. She felt so tired that she went straight to bed. Maybe she was still hot from the fight because it seemed to her that the cell was much warmer than yesterday.
To be continued...
Thank you for reading, I know it's not perfect (I bet that native speakers found a lot of mistakes), but if you liked it at least a little bit and if you haven't published your story about Xena and Ares yet but have an idea, please publish it! I'm a huge fan and would like to read your story :)