Title: Dragons of Despair

Title: Dragons of Despair

Author: Smenzer

Rating: PG

Pairing: Ares/Gabrielle

Archive: Yes, please. Let me know if you take it, OK?

Teaser: Ares' thoughts of Gabrielle falling down the lava hole with Hope

Disclaimer: The characters are not mine. They belong to Studios USA, or

whoever owns the Rights to Xena: Warrior Princess.

Ares stared at the spot where moments before Hope and Gabrielle had stood.

Now thet were both gone, burned alive in a pit of fiery magma. This was not

what was supposed to happen!

Months ago, when he had first became aware of the new dark presence now know

as Dahok, he had gone to the other Olympian Gods for help. He had tried to

explain the threat Dahok was, but no one had listened to him. They were all

caught up in their own little petty disputes and games. Worse, they didn't

believe Dahok could actually do them anything. Their attitude had been all

wrong. Athena had patiently explained to him that Dahok couldn't do them

anything because he wasn't part of their pantheon. The way she had said it

was condescending, like he was a five-year-old child and not the God of War.

So he had gritted his teeth and popped off.

Next he had visited the other pantheons of Gods seeking alies for the

upcoming battle with Dahok. But they, too, had seen Dahok as nothing more

than a harmless godling. He watched as they exchanged glances with each

other, smirking. No doubt they thought he was jumping at shadows, getting

paranoid. It was obvious by now he was on his own.

His heart heavy with despair, Ares returned to Olympus. He entered a room he

hadn't been in for ages: the Olympus Library. Here shelves were full of

arcane knowledge known only to the Gods. By the heavy layers of dust over all

the ancient scrolls, it was clear none of the other Gods ever came here,

either. Ares had no idea what he was looking for, but he hoped he would

recognize it when he found it. He was thinking along the lines of a powerful

artifact, like a Demon-Slaying Sword that might be still lying around

somewhere totally forgotten. Artifacts were not easy to make, even for the

Gods. But what he did find surprised him.

Ares heart had sunk even lower. He had gone through almost all of the scrolls

and found them useless. His black clothes were covered in dust, as were his

hands. He felt ready to give up, convinced there was nothing interesting in

this unused room. Deciding to look at one more scroll, he opened it and saw

it was about dragons. Reading further, he grew excited. If he could find a

dragon, a real dragon, he might have a very powerful ally. His heart swelled

with excitement as he popped off to see Zeus.

"Father," Ares had asked. "Where can I find a real dragon? Not one of those

large lizard beasts that mortals call dragons, but a true fire-breathing

dragon? This old scroll says the dragon is War's chosen animal, yet I have

never seen a real dragon. If I could find one, we could defeat Dahok."

Zeus had rolled his eyes and sighed. "Are you with that Dahok stuff again?

Why are you so obsessed with this Godling? And as for dragons, be glad there

are none. They are a worse threat than this Dahok."

But Ares would not give up. "Just tell me where they are."

"They lived during the Age of the Titans. A true dragon is more powerful then

we are. They lust for power and would surely destroy us if they were around.

Be glad they are extinct. I destroyed many dragon eggs in my youth before I

married your mother. It was very...messy. Trust me, Ares, you would not want

to see a real dragon. Go do your war duties."

"But surely they can't all be extinct! This scroll claims dragons are

immortal, although they may be killed. And if they are, why in the world did

you give me an extinct animal for my chosen beast?"

"Because they love death and destruction, why else? A perfect companion for

War. Now go, Ares, and don't bother me any more about this Dahok nonsense."

Ares had popped off to his favorite temple to think. He had gotten his hopes

up only to have them crash at his feet. If dragons were truly extinct as Zues

had said, then there was nothing else left. He knew he couldn't fight Dahok

by himself. Dahok was just too powerful and he was growing stronger every

day. So he had cooperated with Dahok, stalling for time as he raked his brain

for other ideas. He thought he might be on to something when he had told Xena

to destroy Dahok's temple, but she didn't. In fact from then on, matters had

grown only worse.

Xena didn't understand his partnership with Dahok. The first rule of war is

to know thy enemy. And the best way to learn about Dahok was to work with

him. Besides, what other choice did he have?

Ares blinked his eyes and snapped back to the present. He watched as Xena

stabbed Calisto with the hind's blood dagger. The life fled from her wide

eyes as she slumped to the floor lifeless. The temple began to shake and

rattle. He wasn't too sure what was the real cause of the shaking: Dahok or

the active volcano outside. Last he saw it, it was belching huge amounts of

black sooty smoke from its cone.

He saw despair fill Xena's eyes as she stared down into the pit. He had never

meant for Gabrielle to die or even get injured! An odd tightness filled his

chest as he thought of the blonde bard. How warm and solid she had felt

against his chest when he had grabbed her from behind just a few hours ago.

Was it really hours? It felt like years. No one deserved to be burnt alive in

hot magma. Certainly not the innocent bard. Only Hope was supposed to die,

along with her demon spawn.....

He knew Dahok expected Xena to try and kill Hope. But they would never expect

the bard to do it. He knew they both wanted Hope dead. He himself had heard

Gabrielle agree with Xena that Hope had to die. He thought it was the perfect

plan. All the bard had to do was give Hope a push. The magma would do the

rest. Even if it didn't kill her, it might give them more time. But Gabrielle

had sacrified her own life. He never expected her to do that.

Realizing he would never feel her soft, honeysuckle-scented hair against his

cheek ever again, Ares throat tightened and he popped out.