I didn't plan on beating the crap out of my half-mortal bastard brother this afternoon, really. Wasn't on my list of things to do at all. But I had one of those days and then he popped up, all sanctimonious and superior and I lost my temper. I'm a god of war, after all. I'm supposed to have a bad temper. Goes with the job.
Maybe if Plotinus hadn't died last night, I might have been in a better mood. Plotinus was one of my best men, tough, clever, respected by his men and willing to listen to me. Unfortunately, like all mortals, when he started to get old, he started to worry about death and tried to deny the inevitable. I do not understand that. Mortals are born, live and die. Why do they have so much trouble accepting that?
Plotinus tried to prove he wasn't getting old by taking a young new wife. She was supposed to marry his son but the old man got a look at her and decided he'd marry her. I'll grant, Aphrodite was paying attention when that girl was born. She was a lovely thing, all soft curves and warm sighs, but old soldiers shouldn't marry young wives. It distracts them from their duties.
Plus, he drank too much and ate too much and then tried to prove he was still a stud in bed. I felt sorry for his wife. She was lying there, pretending to be nervous virgin, and the old man suddenly turns toes up and dies, right on top of her.
Next thing I know, I'm getting frantic petitions from Plotinus' men and his son, all praying up a storm, trying to decide what to do to keep the old fart's death a secret until after the war I had them fighting was finished.
So, that's how my day started. Listening to a bunch of whining cowards, none of whom had half of old Plotinus' brains, trying to convince me I should chose one of them to succeed the old man. I was so mad at Plotinus for dying the way he did that I didn't care. I let his successors fight it out themselves and made a quick trip to my uncle's realm to make sure that Plotinus didn't get any credit for dying a noble death in battle.
Hades, of course, got his nose out of joint for my thinking he wasn't capable of keeping those sort of details straight. So we had one of our little arguments, which did nothing to improve my temper. Hades is so crabby in the summer time. Why he doesn't get someone to keep him company in the summer is beyond me. All that marriage and keeping faithful nonsense is for mortals, not gods.
Then I get back to my favorite temple in Thrace and find the damn thing on fire. Seems there was an orgy going on there last night, to which my priests forgot to invite me, and there was a woman who twirled fire on the end of a couple of sticks. I would really like to have seen that. I'm told she did it naked. Problem is, the rafters in the main sanctuary are old ones. That part of the temple was constructed a couple of hundred years ago. A flaming stick got tossed too high and next thing I know, my very favorite temple is torched. I was pissed.
By the time the fire was out, most of the main structure was gone, along with a few priests and priestesses. After one of the survivors told me what had happened, I torched a few more folks.
So, by early afternoon, I was in a rotten mood. I was trying to decide if I should go back to Plotinus camp or write that lot off and check up on some new up-and-comers I had my eye on when my sister shows up.
Now, I don't like anyone in my family. None of them like me, so we all know where we stand. But I dislike my family to varying degrees. Some of them I barely despise, some I loathe with a passion. While there are moments when I get along well enough with some of them to have sex with them, I never get along well enough to want to actually spend time doing something like talking to them.
So when I showed up at another temple of mine, one I didn't like as much as the one in Thrace, who is there but Discord, my darling twin sister. Discord was in a snit, which was like saying I was tall, dark and handsome. She launched into a tirade about Aphrodite interfering in some plan of hers.
Now, Dite I can almost get along with. Aside from being incredibly good in bed, she is the mother of four of my children and, for the sake of the kids, we do manage to be civil to each other most of the time. She keeps to her area of concern, I keep to mine, and we avoid each other unless we absolutely have to see each other or have sex with each other. It works for us.
Discord, on the other hand, always rubs me the wrong way, even though she is one of my chief lieutenants. Can't have a war without a little discord to get things started, she always says and, as much as I hate to admit it, that is usually true. But there is something about her that I just can't stand. Maybe its her voice. Maybe its those big teeth of hers. Maybe it's because we spent too much time together in the womb, I don't know, but she gets on my nerves.
I can stand a few minutes of her when we are either working together on some scheme or, very rarely, rolling around together naked. But I can't stand her when she whines and follows me around, complaining about something.
She isn't observant enough to recognize when I am in a foul mood. At least Strife and some of the others know when to lay low. Not dear Discord.
So, I arrive and two seconds later, there she is, whining about Aphrodite. I told her I wasn't interested but she had such a head of steam going that she wasn't listening. When she started saying nasty things about my son, I lost it. I'm not real fond of Eros, or Cupid, as his dimwit mother insisted on calling him, but he does his job and he does it well, when he isn't distracted by something or someone attractive. And, hey, I can sympathize with him there.
Discord made some rude remark about Eros not being able to hit the
broad side of a barn and I replied with something about broad
backsides, probably in reference to hers, and then we were tossing
fireballs at each other.
Which did considerable damage to another of my favorite temples, and a couple of priestesses I liked. With my mood shot to Tartarus, I let Discord have it with a serious fireball, knocking her into the next province. That finally convinced her to leave me alone.
Fuming, I decided to go burn off a little energy in battle. I listened to a few prayers, trying to decide who sounded most interesting.
Being a god can be a pain in the ass sometimes. You can't ever claim you forgot an appointment, for example, because gods can't forget anything. I've envied mortals a time or two, when I had to be somewhere I didn't want to be because I couldn't come up with a valid excuse.
And, being a god, means you hear mortal prayers. All the time. Important ones, unimportant ones, doesn't matter. There is a constant babble of voices in the back of my head. Not even all the other gods understand. Most of them don't get the number of petitions I do. That's another reason I sort of get along with Aphrodite, she knows what it is like to put up with those annoying whispers all the time. I've gotten pretty good, over the centuries, at ignoring all but the really major stuff but, when I'm tired or in a bad mood, all those voices just make it worse.
I shifted through the voices, ignoring the people who were using my name as an oath or obscenity, skipped the ones that were standard petitions being presented in one of my temples or at a shrine somewhere, and focused on the pleas coming from actual warriors in actual battle.
Aha! Couple of young men, real possibilities. They were half-brothers, their father a former favorite of mine who died a few years ago of some mortal sickness, their mothers a pair of concubines he captured in Babylon and brought home with him. They were tough, battle-hardened veterans, for all they were both barely in their twenties, with cool, sharp wits and strong young bodies to match. My kind of mortals.
They were fighting with a small band of men, working as mercenaries in Macedonia. Things were disgustingly peaceful in much of Greece at the moment. I wasn't off my game, mind you, it was a really hot summer, which makes it tough to fight, and some annoying persons, who shall remain nameless, were running around trying to make peace everywhere they could.
I popped in, invisibly, to see what was going on. Archus and Atheus, the two half-brothers, were sending up steady, succinct, prayers but they weren't depending on them. They were in the center of their little band, fighting a large enemy for all they were worth. The other side was, to my disgust, sending up petitions to my sister Athena, who was ignoring them, as usual.
I moved over to stand behind Archus and Atheus, touching my hands on their shoulders, removing some of their pains and exhaustion and replacing it with my strength. Renewed, they increased their efforts. I sent a little blessing out to each of their men and was equally rewarded. A few men actually thanked me with quickly muttered prayers. That started to improve my mood.
Then Hercules and his annoying shadow showed up. Naturally, they were going to help the other side. I don't know why. It could have been because the other side were the soldiers of the king who actually ruled that little patch of ground, or because Hercules saw me, I don't know. I just know we were winning and suddenly men started flying through the air.
Since I knew Hercules could already see me, another aspect of his half-god background that pisses me off, I appeared to everyone, letting a little divine radiance shine, to bolster my side's spirits.
Archus was startled to have me suddenly appear at his back. We had never met, personally. I've observed him for years but he had never seen me in the flesh, so to speak. All right, I admit it, I should have given him a little warning, a little tingle in the back of his neck. Maybe I shouldn't have been pouring on the power. But I was mad and when I appeared directly behind Archus, he was so surprised, he spun around, leaving his back vulnerable.
A lucky shot from a crossbow on the other side of the battle took him between the shoulder blades and he fell forward, dying in my arms. He looked up at me, stricken, his first sight of his god the last thing he saw in his life.
I knew whose fault it was. If Hercules and his little companion hadn't shown up, I wouldn't have appeared and Archus would still be alive. I stood up, roaring in rage, scattering even those men I supported as I shoved my way through to Hercules.
My blood was boiling. I hadn't been this mad in years. I am the embodiment of bloodlust and violence, not cold calculation. Thus was I made.
I let Hercules have it. I skipped the godly stuff and went straight to a good, old-fashioned beating. I was so angry, I barely noticed when he got me a few good ones. I admit it, he can hurt me when he hits me. Another aspect of my father's blood showing in his bastard body. Today, though, I was so angry, I barely noticed his best efforts. I was so angry that I forgot, well, temporarily overlooked, Zeus' rules about not killing members of the family.
In my rage, I broke some bones and made him bleed. I tossed him across the battlefield into an ancient oak tree sacred to my grandmother, tough enough that it could withstand the impact of a demigod as thrown by a full god.
I was on him in a mortal heartbeat, dragging his head up by the hair. He was barely conscious. One eye was already swollen shut and I think I had broken his jaw. I know his shoulder was dislocated by the awkward way he lay, and one leg was bent at an unnatural angle.
All I had to do was twist my hand and I would snap his neck, getting Hercules out of my life for good, no matter what Zeus did to me afterwards.
Then, that miserable runt sidekick of his was on my back. I couldn't believe it! I'm a god and this lunatic had jumped up on my back, his hands around my neck, trying the same move on me I was using on Hercules.
Iolaus isn't an idiot. Well, not completely. He knows damn well that there is nothing he can do to stop me or hurt me. At best, he is a minor annoyance. Still, an annoyance can be distracting.
I let go of Hercules, reaching over my shoulder to grab Iolaus by that scruffy waistcoat he wears. I pulled him over me, landing him on top of Hercules, who made a soft "oof" sound as Iolaus, who is solid for his size, smacked into him.
"Ares!" he screamed.
Iolaus is a warrior, damn it. And a good one! His father was tough and smart when he was young and mine and even when he turned into an officer and went over to Athena, I still respected the old man. Iolaus should have been sworn to me in boyhood, should have served in my name all these years. Instead, he has given the worship I deserve to that bastard.
I had my hand around his throat, ready to crush the life out of him, as he gasped, "Remember Zeus!"
Great. He had to remind me. I could have justified killing Hercules in a rage if I really, truly, had, for an instant, been so lost in fury that I forgot the rule. But with Iolaus in my face, that excuse failed. The old man would be on that in a second, pointing out that I did too remember I wasn't to kill his beloved by-blow.
Snarling, I tossed Iolaus as far away as I could, not caring if I killed him or not. I yanked Hercules' head back and shook him until I was sure he was seeing me.
"This wasn't your concern," I told him, still so angry I could barely speak. "And if you hadn't interfered, one of my favorite mortals wouldn't be dead." So I was exaggerating a little. I liked Archus but I wouldn't really call him one of my favorites. "His death is on your head. And if his brother takes his revenge by killing you, then I will rejoice at your pyre."
I stood up, looking back to see if maybe I could nudge Atheus in that direction and saw, to my horror, that he had fallen on his sword so as to cross to the Underworld with his brother.
Great. Just great. Now I'd have to go bug Hades again, with him already mad at me, to get him to let the two brothers stay together, rather than send one off to the Elysian Fields in reward for his warrior's death and the other to Tartarus for his suicide.
Iolaus must be more resilient than I give him credit for. He was up and staggering towards me, one hand around his belly. Good. I broke a couple of his ribs. That would keep him and my brother out of the picture for a few weeks at least. Even Hercules would need a few days to heal from the beating I had given him.
I left. No point in sticking around to watch Iolaus get all maudlin over Hercules. Sheesh, those two sicken me.
Hades wasn't happy to see me but I figured I owed Archus so I girded my loins and was downright polite to my grim uncle. Hades was so surprised, he granted the request.
I went back to another temple, a small, out-of-the-way shrine dedicated after a battle I led a hundred or so years ago. It wasn't very well kept up and only had two elderly attendants, but it was quiet.
No word from Zeus. He must have decided that either Hercules deserved what I gave him or, since his darling boy wasn't permanently damaged, he ignored it. For someone who claims to be so fond of Hercules, Zeus sometimes treats his favorite as badly as he treats the rest of us.
Still, I was feeling better than I had in days. Getting in some exercise and clobbering Hercules couldn't help but improve my mood, even if I did have a tender spot on my chin and another on my side. As much as I hate to admit it, Hercules can throw a punch.
My mood improved even more when, to my astonishment, Eros showed up. We don't talk much, my son the God of Love and I. He gazed around the dusty temple, looking puzzled, before shrugging and coming over to me.
"Father," he said formally.
His wings twitched. I never liked those wings. They were his mother's idea. "Word is you defended me to Discord."
I shrugged. "She's a bitch. I know you hit what you aim for."
"Well, thanks for the good word."
"You're welcome. You are my son. You can use a weapon."
We stared at each other. He had his mother's blue eyes. For that matter, he looked a whole lot more like 'Dite than me until he smiled. He had my smile.
"Um, if you're not busy. . ." His arm gestured to include the nearly empty temple, decorated with dust and cobwebs rather than fresh offerings. "I've set up an orgy tonight."
I raised an eyebrow. "I thought you always invited your mother to those."
"Well, yeah, but this one is stag. So, I figured, you might be interested."
I thought about it. "Not a bunch of pansies, is it?"
"No!" He smiled. "Actually, it's a party for the Sacred Band. That's why I figured you'd like an invitation."
I looked around the temple. I could sit here and sulk until Discord or someone showed up to annoy me, or I could get laid in the company of a bunch of warriors. Not a tough question.
"Sure," I replied, slipping my arm around my son's shoulders. It wasn't easy, what with those damn wings. "Lead on."
So the day started out lousy. It was looking better. Sometimes, it's good to be a god.