May 18, 2021 4:29 AM
anakin did not have "getting adopted by a god of war" on her clone wars bingo card
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Ares buries Xena and Gabrielle outside of Xena's home village. The temple that once stood for him here, where Ares tricked the man who would've been Xena's father, is nothing more than an outline of stone in the dirt. The buildings and fields that once sheltered his daughter are little more than skeletons, the village abandoned after the gateway to all the Hells of this world was ripped open under it. 

Ares has no idea why it wasn't abandoned earlier. Mortals are strange. 

Well.

He's mortal now, too. His godhood still lurks in the back of his mind, in the weave of reality, but the world has changed. No more room for the gods or heroes of old. Just mortal bodies and minds and fates, and he doesn't really know what will become of him and his siblings anymore. Xena will be reborn someday, he knows - time has tangled and looped back in on itself enough to confirm that -

But it won't be his Xena. No one will, but...

Especially not some girl born to peace. 

He can't stand this 'fixed' world. 

But outside of this world - it's still true, fundamentally, that Ares is a god, and he is not bound here. 

He steps out of reality and turns his gaze further afield, to worlds that still have room for war. To see if there's another Xena ready for war, perhaps without a him looking over her. 

...Or one with a him who needs a slap upside the head still. 

He casts his gaze far afield, to strange worlds. Many of them have no room for gods, either, though the ones with reflections of his Xena do more frequently. He sees many shadows of those reflections, some more warped than others, and narrows his search to just those reflections that resemble Xena most strongly.

Not many of them have an Ares at all. Fewer need him. 

But -

His gaze draws to one world, to the shadow of a girl that resonates with similaritues to his daughter. Nearly the same mold. The world different, the logistics of the wars grander and more complicated, but -

Still the same. Still warlords. Still the great and the small, a land without enough heroes. A young reflection of Xena, not yet a warlord, certainly not yet the hero she ultimately grew into and died as. Already swept up in war and the futile effort to preserve her homeland, though, a home that will ultimately have no place for what the effort of defending it will shape the girl into.

A strange birth, questionable parentage, but - no Ares involved. He squints at this Xena's father. Specifics of a world are hard to get without immersing himself in it - and therefore removing this distant view - but there's something to the patterns...

Rage floods through Ares, an old, familiar friend, long since thought killed by exhaustion.

He was a terrible father for Xena. But he wasn't as bad as the shadow lurking over this war. 

Ares steps into the world, searching out the local reflection of his daughter. 

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War sucks.

Anakin's somewhat past having moral opinions about the grand sweep of war. What it's for. If it's righteous on either side. Who's the worst bastard. If it'll ever be worth it. 

She hates it, and it sucks, and every death feels like it's chipping away at her mind, her sanity, and she wants it to stop

Her formless anger and exhaustion hasn't dulled her one bit, though, and she senses a stranger manifesting suddenly near her as soon as he materializes in the world, spinning, lightsaber in her hand and already lit, held defensively.

(Okay, she's maybe a bit on edge. Still, she hasn't lashed out, and if she's hallucinating or something dumb this room's at least empty. It's her meditation room on her ship, which lately has meant her 'stare blankly at the wall and try not to scream' room.)

She narrows her eyes at the man. "Who are you?"

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"My name is Ares," he says. "I'm not here to harm you."

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"Then what are you here for?"

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"To help you," he says. "You appear to be at war, and that's rather my specialty."

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"You're rather lost if you were looking for a recruitment office."

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"I wasn't, in fact - I was looking for you, and it's you, not whatever flag you march under, that I want to help."

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"Why?"

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"You're interesting, and I recognized the pattern of your life even from outside this universe."

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"...Outside this universe," she repeats in a flat, skeptical tone. 

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"As I said. I have the power to move between them, though not trivially."

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"Can you prove it?"

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"Depends on how skeptical you're feeling."

And he vanishes, reappearing behind her. 

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She turns immediately and squints.

"...Do that again."

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"As you say."

And again - and again - turning around the room, sometimes moving quickly, sometimes fading in and out slowly. 

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"That's possible with the Force," she concludes after a bit, with perhaps more certainty than she should have given she's never seen anyone do that. "But you're not using it that I can feel."

Squint.

...She tries to levitate him.

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He doesn't move. 

"...You just tried something, didn't you?" he asks. "Also, what's the Force?"

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Hmm...

"The Force is a kind of energy that nearly everything is partially made of or interacts with. Its exact nature is unclear. I was trying to use it to make you float, which didn't work - but you interact with it, since I can feel you in it and you felt me doing something..."

Shove him back? 

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"What other things can you do with it?"

He doesn't react. 

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Read the emotions of, make herself invisible to...

"Lots."

"You want to jump on one foot." Mind trick? She's not very good at it, but...

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His emotions are curious, amused, but also somewhat oddly muffled and distant. He doesn't lose track of her. 

"Are you trying to mind control me?" he asks, sounding very entertained. "I felt that, by the way, but it didn't feel like my urge."

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"Not very effectively, apparently."

"Congrats, you're weird. Not sure I buy 'alternate universe,' and I definitely don't buy 'no ulterior motives,' but I'll acknowledge both are possible."

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Heh.

He's felt how she's poking him...

He tries to stop interacting with her - magic system? Weird physics?

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"And your Force presence just vanished. Feels a bit different from when most Force sensitives hide themselves..."

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And interacting fully...

"Try floating me again."

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Strange dude go up...

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