Aricles ground his teeth at how good it felt whenever she held him like this. There was nothing he loved more than the sight of her face when she came for him. She was the earth and heaven to his Kalosis. Completely lost to her, he buried his face against her neck so that he could inhale her lily scent as he found his own release.
Shaking and breathless, he laid himself against her, taking care not to crush her with his much larger frame.
She ran her finger down the line of his jaw as she stared into his eyes. “My precious husband.”
“My beautiful wife.”
Leto turned toward her son with an arched brow as Apollo manifested next to her to see the slut-whore with her bastard human. “Told you, didn’t I?”
He gaped at the sight of Aricles rutting with Bathymaas. Fury mottled his cheeks. “When did this happen?”
“From the way they went at it, without hesitation, I’d say it’s been happening.”
“And the bitch dared to deny me while whoring herself for a f**king mortal!”
Leto rubbed his back sympathetically. “She’s not worthy of you, my son. Rather she craves the c**k of a mongrel dog. The last thing you want is to touch something so fouled.”
But that wasn’t what he felt. He wanted vengeance on both of them for this betrayal.
And by Zeus, he would have it.
Leto smiled at him. “We now have the way to break them both.”
Apollo caught his mother’s arm as she started to leave to tell the others that Bathymaas wasn’t as impartial as they thought. “Wait… let’s think about this for a minute. If we tell the other gods, Bathymaas still has her band of warriors to fight us and interfere with our plans. But if we hold off, we can use this to destroy the Ēperon for once and for all, from the inside out. We can make them turn on each other.”
She laughed. “I knew I raised you right, boy. And once those bastards are dead, we’ll destroy both Bathymaas and her human tsoulus.”
November 1, 12,249 BC
Aricles froze on his way to the stable as he felt a now familiar presence that made him sick to his stomach.
Ready to battle, he turned on the Olympian and glared at him.
“What do you want?”
With a sinister smile, Apollo ran a hungry gaze over Aricles’s body. “What I want is not the same reason as to why I’m here… It seems my mother learned something quite fascinating about you and the goddess you serve.”
His blood ran even colder as he steeled himself to show no emotion whatsoever. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” He tried to step around the Greek god, but Apollo cut off his path.
“Oh, I think you do. And I have a little proposition for you.” Apollo raked him with a smirk. “You will either get a cold and be unable to fight in the next couple of battles we intend to initiate, or I’ll tell every god in existence that our little justice queen is doing the forbidden dance with her champion. In fact, for all I know, she’s hav**g s*x with her entire Ēperon.”
Growling, Aricles started for Apollo, but the god blasted him back so hard, he rebounded off the wall.
“Don’t push your luck, Atlantean. You’re not that good, either in bed or out of it.” Apollo closed the distance between them and seized him by the throat. Using his powers, he held Aricles completely immobile. “Will you cooperate, or do I ruin her forever? Have you any idea of the mockery she’ll endure? Or what the other gods will do to her for violating her sacred duties as an impartial judge?”
Bile rose in his throat at the prospect, but what choice did he have? No one could ever learn about him and Bathymaas. It would destroy her. “I’ll do it.”
“Good, boy.” Apollo ran his finger down the side of Aricles’s face. “Pity I don’t have more time for you today. But I have a battle to plan. Next time, however…”
Aricles jerked away from him, wanting to plant his xiphos straight through the god’s stomach.
If only he could, but their weapons only worked against the gods when Bathymaas charged them.
Apollo stepped back and raked a sneer over him. “By the way, I’m not the only one who knows about you two. There’s another god, so if you’re thinking you can spear me during battle and protect Bathymaas… think again. So long as I live, my mother will remain quiet. Should I expire too soon, everyone will know about your transgressions. Both with Bathymaas and with me. So much for your vow of chastity, right?” His smile turned even more mocking. “And tell me how much your goddess would love you if she ever found out that I had a piece of your ass, too? And if you breathe a word of this to her, I will see her powers stripped and kill her myself.”
Aricles looked away as shame and fear filled him. A tic started in his jaw as he gripped his sword and forced himself not to attack. “I will never understand how the Greek people stomach you.”
And he was going to find a way to kill this bastard. Sooner rather than later.
January 20, 12,248 BC
Dressed in his armor, Aricles stood on the edge of the battlefield as the rest of the Ēperon readied for the coming battle. He’d started to fight with them, until he’d seen Apollo. The god had given him a look that let him know Aricles wouldn’t be a part of this skirmish either.
The moment Aricles stepped back from his horse, Hector glared angrily at him. “You are going to fight this time, aren’t you? Or are you sick again?”
When Aricles didn’t respond, Haides slammed his fist into his cuirass, forcing Aricles to take another step back. “He has no intention of fighting this day either. Look at him… he’s not even armed with his spear.”
Galen frowned. “What’s wrong with you, brother? What changed with you while we were away? This is our fifth battle that you’ve refused to fight in.”
When Haides went to attack him, Malphas came between them. “Ēperon, down. Save it for battle.”
Haides spat on Aricles. “I’m not battling with a coward I can’t trust at my back. He’s as likely to stab it as my enemy is.”
Malphas turned to Aricles. “Are you still ill?”
Wiping away the saliva from his face, Aricles nodded.
Monokles curled his lip. “There’s nothing wrong with him. He’s as fit to fight as any of us.”
Phelix shoved him from behind. “Get him out of our sight, Malphas. None of us want him here. Send the bastard home with the rest of the women.”
Before Aricles could move, Haides ripped his helm off his head and threw it to the ground. “Go!”
His hand trembling, Aricles retrieved his helm and headed back to camp, leaving the others to fight without him. But with every step he took, he hated himself more.
I can’t do this anymore.
But what choice did he have? Either way, he’d be shamed. At least this way, he was the only one who suffered. Bathymaas was protected. So long as the bloody backlash didn’t spray onto her, he could manage to deal with it.
He clenched his sword in his angry fist, wanting to cut off Apollo’s head. If he took up his xiphos again in war, Apollo would tell everyone that he’d slept with Bathymaas. It wouldn’t matter that they were married. Bathymaas was a virgin goddess whose impartiality must always be above reproach.
Her love for him would make all of her judgments suspect. And the gods would band together to punish her for it.
It would ruin her.
He froze at the sound of Bathymaas’s voice. “Yes, my goddess?”
He shook his head, unable to tell her.
She placed a gentle hand to his arm between the mail of his shirt and his vambrace. “Tell me.”
“I know something happened with you. Why won’t you talk to me about it?”
Wanting only to pull her into his arms and hold her until the pain inside him stopped bleeding out his heart, Aricles stared at her. More than anything, he ached to tell her the truth about why he couldn’t fight with the others. It’d never been in his nature to lie or withhold. But how could he? How would she look at him if she knew how badly he, her chosen warrior – her husband – had been overpowered and used by another man? The last thing he could bear was to see her look at him with the same disgust he felt for himself.
“I should leave and return home.”
“Please, Bathymaas. I’m a distraction for the others. They no longer trust me or consider me one of them. It would be best for all.”
Tears glistened in those golden eyes that had carved a permanent place in his heart. “It wouldn’t be best for me.”
He cupped her cheek in his hand as his emotions shredded him. “You deserve better, my goddess. I’m not worthy of you.”
“How can you say that?”
“Because it’s true.”
A single tear fell down her flawless cheek. “Malphas is summoning me. I have to go.”
Wiping the tear away with the back of his fingers, he nodded an instant before she faded away. Heartsick, Aricles returned to the tent the Ēperon had been sharing as they fought the Greek gods in this latest war.
Yesterday’s harsh defeat after he’d refused to fight hadn’t set well with his friends or his brother. Not that he blamed them. He’d be angry at him, too.
I have no choice.
As much as he loved the others, he loved Bathymaas more. Let the rest of the world burn to the ground. She was the only thing that mattered to him.
For her alone, he would die.
Angry, hurt, and aching, he started packing his gear. I never desired any of this. All he’d ever wanted was to be a simple farmer. To have a quiet life far away from the horrors of battle.
To work hard in a field all day and hold his wife at night, and watch their children grow.
He kicked at the trunk that held his battle gear, hating it with every part of himself.
If not for Bathymaas, he’d be gone already. But he couldn’t leave her. Especially not now.
Sick to his stomach, he sat down on his cot and hung his head in his hands.
Hours later, Aricles had just begun to pack up for the others when he heard a furious bellow. He turned as Haides came running into the tent to pound him to pieces. He kicked the larger man back. “What is wrong with you?”
“Hector’s dead because of you, you bastard!”
Those words hit him like hammer. “What?”
“You heard me. You left us to die!”
Aricles knocked him back and ran from the tent to verify his claim. He didn’t have to go far.
Covered in blood, Hector lay just outside, his features pale and his eyes glazed. The other members of the Ēperon stood over his body.
Aricles fell to his knees by Hector’s side. Grief and guilt tore him apart. And it wasn’t helped as all of them turned to glare their mutual hatred and contempt at him.
Tears filled his eyes and choked his throat. “Who killed him?”
Malphas sighed. “Apollo.”
Aricles roared with the weight of his fury. He reached to touch Hector, but Phelix kicked him away.
“You’re not worthy to touch a hero, coward!”
His vision turned dark and for a moment, Aricles almost attacked him. However, his anger wasn’t for Phelix. It was for the bastard Apollo, and Aricles wasn’t about to shed the blood of an innocent.
Galen spat on the ground by his side. “Go on and leave us, Aricles. It’s what you’re best at.”
Then, as a single unit, they turned their backs to him to let him know that their brotherhood was severed. None of them wanted anything more to do with him.
Not even his own twin.
She paused at the unfamiliar voice. Turning, she was stunned to see the Greek goddess of war and wisdom, Athena, approaching her. Tall and dark-haired, the goddess was dressed in a bloodred peplos. “Athena? What are you doing here?”
“Something I shouldn’t, but I despise treachery in all its forms.”
Bathymaas frowned. “And what treachery do you speak of?”
She hesitated before she answered. “I overheard Apollo and his mother plotting… against you.”
Foreboding choked her, but she knew better than to let Athena see it. “Me?”
Athena nodded. “Apollo is extorting one of your men… Aricles. My brother has some kind of leverage over him and he is forcing Aricles out of battle so that we can win.”
Bracing herself for the worst, she made herself appear nonchalant. “What kind of leverage does he have?”
“No idea. But knowing my brother, I’m sure it’s foul.”
Bathymaas inclined her head to the goddess. “Thank you for letting me know. I won’t forget your kindness.”
Nodding, Athena left Bathymaas to her thoughts.
Bathymaas teleported instantly to the camp where she found her men attempting to tear Aricles apart. They had him bound nak*d on the ground while they took turns lashing, kicking, and stomping him.