No Man is an Island
 By Candace
Part 1

The naked godling sat back on his heels, nervously chewing a strand of his
impossibly red hair. His master was clearly agitated, a state in which he was
seldom seen. Energy hung around the dark, angry god like an invisible haze of
power, thicker, now, due to his heightened state of emotion.

The ruby haired god wet his lips, thinking. Perhaps, somehow, this mood swing
could be used to his advantage. Did he not seize the opportunity to claim
this cavern as his own *before* he dutifully reported the magical scrying
pool it held, and did he not have the foresight to pile a luxurious heap of
furs beside this pool, to encourage its user to lie down and stay a while?
Did he not have the most delicious god in the pantheon sprawled in his bed at
this very moment?

"You're troubled, boss?"

His voice wove between the chorus of trickling drips that made up the ambient
noise in the cave. Everything the godling uttered, no matter how banal, was
dulcet. He couldn't help it. That was how he was made.

His master sighed angrily, sending a delicious shiver down the godling's
spine that went straight to his core. He tasted anger in that sigh. Most

"This was a wretched idea," Hades replied, the quiet stillness of his voice
raising the tiny hairs on the godling's arms.

"You had your reasons at the time." The youth rocked forward until he was on
hands and knees, then crawled gracefully to the sumptuous mound of furs. The
slink of his warm ivory flesh gliding over the perfectly formed muscles in
his limbs as he did so was a work of art. Again, he was created to move in
such a fashion.

Hades scowled as his eyes flickered over the image of his wife lying beneath
the mortal Adonis with her legs spread wide.  "Yes, that plot, that plot that
turned out to be naught but my overactive imagination. I bought her three
more months on Olympus to report to me on this nonexistent plot, and now she
must pay for it," he gestured angrily at the scrying pool, "with *this!*"

The godling trembled as he slunk over Hades' outstretched legs. If ever, now
was his chance.

"She doesn't seem too unhappy about it."

The cave's temperature plummeted and the Death God's eyes shone with an eerie
blue nimbus. A small muscle in his jaw twitched menacingly. The godling
braced himself for the shock that never came, as Hades quickly composed

"She has to make the best of it," he replied unsteadily. Charon saw that his
eyes shone with unshed tears.

The redhead lowered himself gracefully onto his master, thrilling at the
touch of him even through Hades’ clothes. That simple drop of suspicion was
enough, for now. If anything, Charon knew how to be patient. "Of course," he

Charon stretched himself atop Hades’ supine form, resting his head on his
master's chest. Hades automatically drew his arm around the boyish godling,
fingering curls that made silk feel coarse as hay. Yes, Hades was clearly
upset, and yes, Charon knew he should keep his head clear and press his
advantage, but it was difficult to do anything but bask in the divinity that
was Hades.

It was better than the first time, anyway. At least the godling was able to
hold off from coming just at the sound of Hades’ voice.

“Don't watch if it upsets you,” Charon murmured musically, dipping his
swanlike hand into the pool and stirring up the disturbing image. It had its
desired effect. It could go away.

“Yes.” The Lord of the Underworld's voice was little more than a whisper.
“Perhaps you're right.”

Charon dragged his damp finger down Hades’ cheek, painting a tear on the face
of his Lord. He'd never seen Hades cry, but who knew what he did when he was
inside that huge palace of his?

Absently, though no less hot for being that, Hades’ onyx tongue darted out to
catch Charon’s palm. The godling thought of Olympus momentarily to still his
jerking cock. He'd developed many staying techniques over his centuries of

“Boss, I don't want you to be sad.” Slender, girlish fingers worked open the
lacings of Hades’ tunic.

The dark god tore his glance from the rippling pool to gaze at the perfect
pleasure giver who was easing his tunic open, twirling his fingertips in the
thin line of dark hair that extended from Hades’ navel to his pubis. Charon’s
limpid green eyes devoured Hades’ beautiful face shamelessly, hypnotizing, as
they were meant to be.

“I’ll be fine,” Hades breathed, catching his lower lip in his teeth, watching
the gentle rise and fall of Charon’s creamy ass as he slowly ground his hips
against Hades’ thigh.

“’Course you will.” Charon caught Hades’ nipple between his teeth and flicked
his tongue against it firmly. No light touch for his lover. Charon knew Hades
liked it aggressive.

Hades arched his back slightly, and Charon knew he was on the right track.
He'd never seen the boss’ eyes glow like they had earlier, so he suspected
Hades was mightily angered, but perhaps the sharp words had triggered the
intended desire for revenge rather than the more predictable bout of

Hades could be so truculent when he was pining for that lackluster whore

Charon wormed a hand down Hades’ hose, grasping the burgeoning erection he
found within. He smoothed his hand around the filling cock, warming it,
encouraging it, while placing tiny bites across his master's smooth white
chest. He alternated his nips with soft kisses. The kisses were for his own
pleasure, the bites for his master's.

Ever pliant, Charon adjusted himself to Hades’ new position as the elder god
summoned some cushions on which to prop himself so as to watch the godling
pleasure him. Charon embraced the delicious shiver that coursed through him
in response to Hades’ gaze, then countered it with the recollection of that
sick look of pity he'd gotten from Hermes as the major goddesses cursed
Charon for his beauty. His cock settled quickly.

What did Hades see when he thought of him, Charon wondered, as he dipped his
flexible tongue into his master's navel. Did he see the sixteen year old
boytoy that was the seed from which he'd sprouted, or the shambling creature
that he'd become? Lovingly, he took the tiny black hairs below Hades’ navel
in his teeth and tugged, eliciting the throaty gasp he would live or die for.
He supposed it didn't much matter how the boss thought of him, as long as he
was allowed to do this.

The godling's cock wept at the sound of Hades’ voice pitched in pleasure as
he moaned softly. *Think of something, anything...*

...the way Hera's eyes danced as she gifted him with the beautiful, flowing

Charon’s cock stilled.

Hades’ gentle hands were nudging Charon’s head downward. He resisted
initially just to enjoy the sensation of his master's hands urging him on,
but it was difficult to maintain the facade of reluctance for long. The
hunger for the cock in his hand was Charon’s constant companion and he was
eager to slake it. His fingers danced lightly over the luscious cock that was
now steel wrapped in silk.

Another gasp escaped Hades’ lips as his prodding became more insistent.
Charon grinned eagerly, allowing his hair to brush his master's straining
member, increasing the pressure of his grasp but slightly. His own cock had
left a silvery trail on Hades’ thigh. He could feel the warmish air in the
room flowing gently over his slick cockhead.

A strong hand twined in his hair, urgent now, pulling his sweet mouth toward
its greatest desire. “Charon,” Hades whispered, setting the godling's whole
body ablaze.

Remember the curse -- on the cloak -- the disfigurement -- the frigid, empty

It didn't matter, nothing in his twisted past mattered, his lips were
wrapping around the turgid cock of Death, and Death was calling his name in
passion, and nothing mattered, nothing mattered but his Lord, his love, his
only love.

He was spurting his seed on the furs, on Hades’ smooth marble thigh. The
feeling of his Lord's shaft in his mouth was so exquisite he wept for joy as
he emptied his juices.

Hades brought a second hand down to cup the side of the boatman's face as he
suckled him. “Charon, please...”

White stars exploded behind Charon’s eyes. That word. That precious word from
the divine mouth that would cause a river to run backwards, if only Hades but

Somehow the godling managed to continue sucking eagerly, though his
disobedient limbs twitched wildly in response to his soul-emptying orgasm.

“Yesss...” the Lord of the Underworld hissed as he held Charon’s head in both
hands and thrust his hips upward in quick, shuddering jerks. “Yes, so good,
so good...”

Charon ceased his attempts to control, to seduce, to do anything but exist as
Hades held him, twitching and leaking, and worked the long, hard cock in and
out of his soft throat.

“So sweet...”

Charon made wet sounds around Hades’ cock, scrabbling blindly for one of his
hardened nipples.

“So beautiful...”

Charon’s balls and cock screamed, dry of semen, pushed beyond climax. Yes, he
was wanted, he was needed.

“Ahhh -- uhn...” Hades’ eyes rolled back, his black tongue protruding
slightly, sharp white teeth flashing in the dim, ambient light of the cave.
Charon’s flailing hand found purchase on a nipple, grasped hard, twisted.
“Yes!” Hades cried, throwing his arms wide, arching his pelvis up off the
mound of furs. “Yes, my darling, uhhhnn...”

Charon watched with vision going gray and fuzzy around the edges the look of
complete and utter rapture on his Lord's face. The first spurt of his Hades’
nectar shot directly into the godling's throat, burning an exquisite trail of
warmth down his gullet. A blaze of fire that ignited in his center raged
quickly through the boatman's limbs. He was so full, so complete, so sated on
Hades’ seed. Charon groaned incoherently as the divine cock slipped out from
between his lips, still shooting ropy streams of the Death God's essence. His
smooth cheeks were splattered wetly as Charon lay, gripped in the glorious
inertia of pure bliss, anointed by his love, his Lord.

Tears flowed freely, tears of bitter joy, that he had again pleased his Lord
-- that Hades would eventually have to leave, to see to his myriad, never
ending duties.

“Yes,” Hades whispered, petting the silken, red curls, “my love.”

Charon’s spent body managed a twitch in response to the words upon which his
unlife revolved.

He floated in a haze of satiation, of longing, for though he'd been wrung
dry, he somehow desired more, could never be completely fulfilled.

Charon’s delicious lethargy was broken as an alarm sounded somewhere in his
dazed mind, feeling that his Lord's body had tensed beneath him.

“Charon,” he whispered urgently, “I feel an Olympian!”

Charon tossed his hair back and sniffed. He sensed nothing, though his every
fiber wasn't bound to the landscape of the Underworld as inexorably as those
of his Lord. “I’ll go see,” he whispered soothingly, extricating himself
reluctantly from the tangle of smooth white limbs. He crouched gracefully,
for that was how Zeus had modeled him when he created his perfect fucktoy,
and plucked his tattered cloak off the floor. The garment wasn't aging
gracefully after all the millennia it had seen, though it still crackled with
cursed power as Charon shrugged it over his nakedness.

The boatman gasped as the ugly worms of magical energy writhed from his cloak
to his alabaster flesh, bending him painfully, nearly double. His skin
bubbled and crawled as his features distended grotesquely, nose and chin
lengthening and eyes sinking back. His skin blanched, the color of warm ivory
taking on the cast of chalk as his hair faded to the shade of ashes. Slender
hands curled into wicked claws, strong talons with which to rend any intruder
into HIS realm. Or Hades’ realm. Same thing.

He hobbled through the twisting cavern, his shuffling steps punctuated by the
musical drips and splashes of his home. Before long, the hollow roar of the
Styx announced that Charon approached the cave mouth.

“Well?” The melodic voice was now gravel. Charon wasn't sure when he had
first begun talking to the River of Hate, but it seemed natural to form a
kinship with her. After all, hate had made him what he was. He stooped
painfully and dipped a claw into the Styx, touching her bitter essence to his
tongue. She wasn't her normal self today, the Styx. One would almost say she
tasted -- distressed?

“Not good, not good,” he murmured, running his hand along the prow of his
tiny ferry in passing. He squinted, spotting a few of the newly dead roaming
about across the river. They could wait.

Charon sniffed again, his senses now augmented by the evil, hateful magic of
his cloak. Oh yes. Something was very peculiar.

Step-clump. Step-clump. Charon had come to accept the impaired locomotion
that was one of the many drawbacks of this hideous form, though he wished he
could move a bit faster, just now, just for today. He couldn't risk slinking
outside in his boytoy form though, not in front of all these new dead, not
with an unknown Olympian nearby who could surely blast boytoy to cinders with
a thought. Step-clump. Step-clump. Slow, but wily. Those who encountered the
length of his steely claws hadn't screamed quickly enough to alert others to
the secret of Charon’s deadly prowess.

Step-clump. Step-clump. He paused behind an eerily vertical willow, gnawing
his black lower lip impatiently. He could smell the god now. Whoever he or
she was, Charon hadn't known the god well when he lived on Olympus as Zeus’
concubine. Hera, Demeter, Aphrodite and Athena, the jealous bitches who had
transformed him into the creature, those he knew. And Zeus, of course, though
Zeus never came to Asphodel. His claws clacked gently as he sharpened them
against one another, a nervous habit of his.

It wasn't Hermes either, unfortunately. Hermes was getting to be a permanent
fixture for a while there, until he disappeared. Selfish bastard, starting a
job like that and then not carrying through. Well, that was just like an
Olympian, wasn't it? And now Hades had all the more to worry about. Why, he
had to put a dead mortal to the task of deadwalking. Now how does that look?

Charon stilled his raving thoughts and his nail sharpening, cocking his head,
sniffing. The intruder! The Olympian neared. The boatman smiled. It was so
much easier when they came to him. Charon waited calmly, wondering what this
one's blood would taste like.

Calmly, calmly now, easy and -- step out from behind the tree.

The Olympian gave a startled jump, accompanied by a tiny “eep!”

Apollo? Charon’s scowl deepened. Why the fuck was Apollo, the Sun God,
standing on the shore of the Styx?

“Ah! Uh, you must be, um, the ferryman!”

Charon’s scowl twisted even further. This wasn't the Apollo he remembered
from Olympus, the arrogant rake that leered at him each time his father's
back was turned. Maybe a few thousand years had taught Blondie some humility.
Who knew?

“Naw, I'm the queen of Sparta, you idiot!” Blondie wouldn't recognize him, of
course, not even clever Hermes had. The double identity was quite liberating
at times like these.

Apollo's mouth worked stupidly. He was still handsome, even though he was
doing his carp impression. His gilded curls glowed softly in the ambient,
pearly light of Asphodel, while his azure eyes recalled the skies of Greece.
He wore no beard, his chiseled cheek and jaw too perfect to be covered. A
tiny dimple beside his full lips, his only asymmetry, begged to be kissed.
His looks did nothing for the boatman, however, who only had eyes for one
god. “What. Do. You. Want?” Charon threw a little extra gravel into his voice
for good measure.

“I -- I...” Apollo trailed off, gesturing helplessly. A far cry from that
condescending prick Charon remembered, and not nearly as smart. Maybe he'd
had a head injury.

“I ain't got all day, Blondie, and this ain't no petting zoo! You tell me
what you're doing here, or you get the fuck out!”

Apollo's hands fluttered to his gaping, pink lips as his wide eyes stared
guilelessly at the fearsome creature that screamed at him. He shook his head,

Good, he was afraid. Charon knew he could have very well been fried for that
little show of bravado. Apollo was, after all, one of the more powerful
Olympians. Luckily, his little show had worked.

“I don't -- know,” the Sun God gasped shakily. Abruptly he turned on his
heel, and ran.

“Aw, fuck,” Charon complained to the Styx. There was no way he'd catch the
sprinting god, not with his bowed, misshapen legs. He dragged his lumpish
body back his cavern to report to Hades. Apollo didn't seem threatening,
certainly, yet he could give no good explanation for his presence. Something
was up.

Part 2

Autolycus looked over the gaming table listlessly while he sipped at his
frothy Egyptian beer. He longed to slide his mountain of chits onto an
improbable bet, a ludicrous bet. It wasn't that he wanted to be poor again,
nothing like that. He just liked to prove to himself every now and again that
he would win anyway, no matter how ridiculous the wager.

Auto grasped a handful of chits and bet it on black, a safe enough bet to
prevent any undue suspicion from falling on him. He'd been banned from all
the finest gaming houses on the mainland, even though there was no solid
evidence that he had cheated. Sure, he knew a few tricks that could be
accomplished with lodestones and silvered platters, perhaps a few willing
accomplices, but the King of Thieves hadn't actually been cheating those
nights that he cleared the gambling houses of their dinars.

Ever since he'd come back from the Underworld, Autolycus couldn't lose.

The notched wheel clicked happily away as it spun, slowing, then settling on
its mark.

“Four black swords,” announced the spinner, raking in most of the chits,
trebling Auto's and the other fortunates that happened to bet on black.

Auto scooped his winnings into his pile and allowed his original bet to ride,
black to match his slinky silken caftan, his foul mood. He placed a few chits
on number three, and a few more on cups. When he spread his bets, he'd
noticed, they didn't all come in at once. It made his curse of continual
winning a little less obvious.

“Squid?” whispered a sultry voice in his ear. Auto glanced disinterestedly at
the voice's owner, a buxom serving wench with naughty eyes and a platter full
of briny delicacies.

He grasped one of the rubbery morsels between his thumb and his forefinger,
staring at the wench as he ground the tiny body between his teeth. She wanted
him. Maybe she was attracted to his money, maybe his reputation. Everyone
loves a winner.

“Eight red cups,” called the spinner. Autolycus rearranged his bet in a
completely random matter, bored with the game after only a few rounds. He
plucked a ripe, black olive from the tray, suckling the ovate globe as he
stared at the serving girl's high, firm breasts. *Just a few short seasons
ago, those would have done something for me.*

“Just help yourself,” the woman smiled, her tongue subtly brushing her lower

Autolycus spat the hard seed on the floor and selected a cube of cured
cheese. Salty, like everything, the tidbit made it that much easier to drink
to excess.

“Five white swords.”

Autolycus noticed his pile of chits had grown alarmingly, and accordingly
reduced his bets.

The serving girl stood by patiently with her tray, smiling serenely. People
simply crawled over one another to serve him now, interesting at first, now
simply tiresome. Auto swallowed some vinegar cured fishes with rubbery bones,
chasing them with a few more rich olives. He'd gotten too thin lately, not
that his thinness seemed to matter to never-ending queue of men and women
waiting to pleasure him.

The beer was mostly gone, suddenly. Auto pursed his lips. “No more, thanks,”
he said to the girl. She was disappointed. So what. She'd live. Auto hadn't
meant to drink much. Another ship was coming in at dawn, and he wanted to be
somewhat cognizant when it did.

He downed the remaining swallow of his beer and signaled one of the gambling
house boys to come over and collect his winnings. A youth in ivory linen
jumped to the task, a dusky boy of perhaps twenty. Autolycus scrutinized him
automatically, for although he wore his hair short, in the Roman style, his
skin tone was promising.

*Ugh. Wrong. All wrong. Narrow shoulders, terrible eyebrows, and a crooked
tooth. Not even remotely similar.* Just as the youth became aware of the
older man's protracted gaze, Auto dropped his eyes, disappointed.

The befuddled lackey trailed Auto to the changer, the mound of winning chits
clacking together brightly in his painted wooden tray. Auto tipped the youth
with a hefty handful of the chits, probably more money than the boy earned in
a week, but the painted wooden lozenges piled up with such regularity that it
was painless enough to sprinkle them around like salt. The dark boy flashed
his teeth, murmuring his thanks. *Wrong, wrong, that smile's all wrong too.*

Autolycus accepted a handful of plump pearls in lieu of a majority of the
dinars. Though the changer was overvaluing the pearls and obviously expected
Auto to haggle stiffly, the thief put up but a token protest. He didn't need
to lug half his weight in gold and silver to the wharf, and truth be told, he
didn't much care if the changer was ripping him off. It was only money, after
all, and money had become as dull and flavorless as food, of late.

He tucked the packet of pearls and dinars into a small pouch he wore on a
thong around his neck and slunk numbly out into the night air. He stepped
carelessly, unusual for the King of Thieves, yes, but it wasn't as if he
needed to rob anyone anymore.

He walked the hour or so it took to get to the docks, being in no particular
hurry. The sun hadn't quite risen, and no vessel would risk reefing itself if
it could be avoided. Autolycus felt the eyes of the sailors and porters upon
him as he slunk over to a pile and leaned against it carelessly. He overheard
a few of the whispers over the course of the last few months. Was he a
panderer, a slaver, or something darker still? The locals couldn't make heads
or tails of his reclusive demeanor nor his unending flow of wealth. He made
them nervous, which was fine with him. He wasn't there to make friends, at
least not with all of them. The one that he sought just hadn't surfaced yet.

Auto smoothed his mustache and straightened his black caftan. Perhaps he
should take himself to a different part of the island, maybe southern Crete,
where all the ships from Egypt docked. He shook his head. There was more
traffic here in Khania, both legitimate and pirate. The object of his futile
search could turn out to be a pirate, for all he knew.

A gull screamed by his ear, rousing Autolycus from his reverie. Khania was as
good a place to look as any. The locals feared him, yes, but they didn't
harass him. Some even tried to curry his favor from time to time. He had an
attractive villa that was not too far from the ports, and the gambling houses
still tolerated his unusually lucky presence. He could stay in Khania for
another few months.

"Sirrah! Sirrah!"

Autolycus wrinkled his nose at the loathsome excuse for a man that was
staring up at him expectantly. His skin was leathery brown from the
Mediterranean sun, his once black hair sprinkled liberally with gray. He
stunk of cheap, new wine, and wrung his straw hat so tightly in his hoary
fists that it was likely now ruined.

Auto clucked his tongue. "What is it?"

"The one you want, the one you want, I can find him for you, yes?"

Autolycus stared at the wretch. Just after his wallet, most likely, but still
-- what if Auto tuned the man away, and what he said was true, that he
*could* find the one Autolycus sought.

“Tell me,” prompted the old man with his sour breath.

Autolycus pressed his lips together and crossed his arms. How could he
explain what he was searching for to someone who couldn't possibly understand
what it was like to spend weeks crawling through the Underworld, to be lost
in that infernal maze of a palace, thrown in a bland, featureless dungeon,
and impaled with the blazing eyes of Hades himself?

Tell me, indeed. About how close Auto had come to actually dying? He knew for
certain that he was a heartbeat away from perishing when Ares showed up and
struck him away from the Death God. Auto's spirit had been straining at its
bonds the whole time Ares plowed through his ghastly uncle. Hermes had been
there too, he remembered in spotty snippets. He'd done something to patch the
thief back up, after the damage was done. That part was still hazy. Autolycus
awoke disoriented and dragged out in a comfy Athenian inn, the horrid jeweled
chalice that Ares had promised him winking at him from the nightstand.

How could he tell anyone? Who would believe him?

“I'm looking for a man...”

Say it, Auto, just say it. A man who's been dead over a thousand years. A
Mycenaean. Then he'll know how crazy you are.

“He's my height, my age.”

He could have descendants here, somewhere. Some far flung relative with that
infectious smile and flattened nose.

“Muscular. A warrior.”

A relative with those wonderful, talented hands, those ripe, full lips that
kissed his breath away.

“Very dark skin.”

Traits like that could be inherited, Auto hoped. Otherwise, he'd just wasted
four months in Crete, searching.

“Come with me,” the leathery man wheezed, grasping Autolycus by the arm.

Auto peered out over the sea, squinting at the ship that materialized from
the early morning mist. He had to get a look at the sailors first. “Just a
minute, pops. Hold you pants on.”

“Now,” he hissed. “You must see him now!”

The man seemed strangely urgent. “How far?” Auto asked cautiously.

“Not far, not far. You come now.”

The thief shook his head. Maybe the ship would be slow to dock, and besides,
the sailors usually tarried about the dock and the seaside taverns long
enough for Auto to get a look at each of them.

The ragtag man led Autolycus down a crooked path to a pathetic shantytown
that hunched sullenly near the wharf. Dull eyed men and women sprawled in the
dust while their stick-limbed children ran howling through mud mingled with
human waste.

*Oh, please. Not here.* Autolycus thought he'd snap for sure if he found his
warrior living in conditions like these.

The man guided Auto to a wretched shed and swung the unlocked door open,
smiling and gesturing for him to go in. A sheen of sweat appeared on the
thief's brow as his eyes darted from side to side, trying to determine if
this was some sort of ambush. There was no telltale shuffling or stilted
breathing, no nervous rustling. Besides, the shack was barely big enough to
hold the stained pallet that was plainly visible from the door. Checking the
stilettos strapped to his forearms under his caftan, Auto ducked his head
under the low lintel and crept in.

The stench of sweat laced with the cloying odor of poppy resin was palpable,
and Auto chafed his arms as if to scrub away the reek of unwashed bodies and
stale opium in the shack. His eyes adjusted quickly to the dim interior, lit
by one flickering, rancid candle. Sprawled before him on the crude pallet was
a man, nude save for a stained breechclout. His face was common, though high
cheekboned from lack of food. He was most definitely *not* Auto's warrior.
His ribs protruded in high relief against his sunken belly and his limbs
looked awkward. Autolycus noted with disgust that the prone man's glazed eyes
were painted with kohl.

“Three dinars,” wheezed the foul creature that had dragged him there. “Take
him how you like, use his mouth, use his ass. Slap him if you want, just
don't mark him up; that costs extra.”

The heel of Auto's hand connected with the panderer's face seemingly of its
own volition. The man's head slapped against the wall of the shack with such
force that the whole structure shuddered. He crumpled to the dirt floor,
shielding his face with his hands.

“Don't you *ever* come near me again,” Auto hissed, voice shaking. “Got
that?” He spun on his heel and was gone, vaguely aware of some placating
whines directed at him by the fallen man.

As he strode purposefully back down the crooked path on which he'd come, Auto
shoved the image of the opium-fiend whore from his mind, too disturbing to
ponder now. *If I'm lucky, I can catch that ship...*


The godling adjusted his weight within the torturous metal frame ever so
slightly. His body was suspended from the ceiling, face down in a bizarre
metal armature, his full weight resting upon thousands of blunted metal
points. Each metal finger pressed agonizingly upon one screaming bundle of
nerves or another. He'd hung there for months at least, though he'd lost
track of time rather quickly, each moment being one of raw, primal sensation.

If Strife wasn't dead, he'd be having the time of his life.

Strife's hands were immobilized in their own peculiar cages, a tiny vice upon
each fingernail. The manipulation of but one of these vices bestowed days of
white hot sensation. Much to his surprise, Strife found that the agony
resulting from the loosening of a vice was just as intense as the pain caused
by its tightening.

The true pinnacle of the bizarre apparatus was the tubular cage which held
his cock, allowing only the vulnerable head to peek out. Tiny screws studded
the length of the shaft, the turn of any one certain to magnify the
discomfort with which his tender genitals were held. A flexible metal strip
connected to the base of the iron tube passed between Strife's balls,
connected to another strip that passed behind his sac, holding him in snugly.

Hades had shown him that these strips, too, were fully adjustable.

As if on cue, Strife felt the familiar vibrations of a god walking down the
abandoned hallway that led to his cell, some wretched, slimy hole halfway
down the path to Tartarus. Though the tremors caused by the footsteps that
reached the hanging metallic skeleton were minute in the extreme, each
minuscule quiver set of explosions of sensation throughout the godling's body.

Hades entered the room quietly, a flickering, blue torch in his hand. Strife
blinked away the tears that seared his eyes, overwhelmed with the cool light
after days, perhaps weeks, in total darkness. The Mischief God's tears rained
down on Hades’ face as the elder god stared placidly up at his charge.

The tip of Strife's cock burned hotly where it was crusted over with old cum
as his tortured shaft swelled in response to the cold beauty of the Death
God. Hades kept his eyes on Strife's face, however, staring, pensive. At
length, he reached up and removed a metal clamp, encrusted with old, dried
saliva, from Strife's tongue, fingering the tiny contraption thoughtfully.
“And how are we today?” Hades murmured conversationally.

Strife found his dried, distorted tongue a challenge to speak with.
“Othay...masssther...” His voice was barely a dusty croak.

Strange, to be calling anyone Master, but the word came easier now, now that
Strife saw it to be true. Hades held the godling in the palm of his hand.
Strife's pain or pleasure, joy or sorrow, everything about him was dependent
on the will of the great god of the Underworld. Strife had pushed at his
boundaries after that frigid bitch Callisto snuffed him, testing his limits
in his new domain. He found out soon enough that impudence was not tolerated
in Asphodel. Hades had muttered something about “not needing another
Thanatos” as he strapped Strife into the contraption which was to become his
new home.

Hades continued to stare Strife in the face. There was something distracted
about his mannerisms that got the dead godling's attention, something
unusual. After scrutinizing Strife for quite some time, Hades strode to the
wall which held a series of levers and pulleys and chains, thrusting his blue
torch into an evil looking iron sconce reminiscent in design of the torture
room's main attraction, the suspended, body-shaped cage. Hades whispered
something to the gears and cogs, levers and controls, and with a series of
creaks and clunks, the mechanical bits ground into action.

Strife held his breath as the stone floor approached him, realizing as some
dormant nerves sprang to life that Hades was changing his position. He
trembled eagerly as the pressure points on his chest screamed from their
release, while the soles of his feet began to tingle as the blunted nubs
beneath them began to administer exquisite pressure there. He strove to sing
praises to Hades, the darkest of all gods, his master, the owner of his heart.

A dry, garbled groan was all his mouth could manage.

Hanging vertically now, Strife's cage swayed, pendulum-like, as he stared
feverishly at his Lord. His feet were a mere hands breadth from the floor,
his eyes just above Hades’ head.

“Let's try something different today, shall we?”

“Yeth Mathhher!” Strife rasped eagerly.

Hades scowled, causing the godling to writhe in anticipation, the motion
eliciting a further series of gasps as Strife's pressure points were
stimulated. The Lord of the Underworld raised his perfect, white hand to his
lips and ran his tongue along the tip of his middle finger.

That beautiful black tongue! Strife's whole body spasmed. *Want it, want it!*
He was sure that tongue was like velvet.

Instead, Hades thrust his wet finger between Strife's cracked lips. The
godling's vision tunneled as a searing cold-that-was-heat ripped through him,
burning away his fatigue, restoring him, replenishing him. A delicious taste
filled his mouth, only slightly sweet, like an underripe papaya, as his body
rehydrated. Dried excrement and cum flaked away from his thighs, leaving his
skin tender and moist as if it was just scrubbed.

*Oh sweet mercy he's gonna fuck me!!!* Strife's brain screamed as his cock
threatened to burst.

Hades stared at him quietly, running a tapered fingertip back and forth along
the godling's eager lips. “Tell me,” Hades whispered. “What do you know of

Part 3

Ares stood on the shore of Yithion, sea wind whipping at his long, curling
hair, bits of spray beading on his supple black leather trousers and studded
vest. He had followed Hermes' tracks as far as the southernmost shore of the
mainland, certain that they continued south. Kithira? There was nothing of
interest on that tiny island. Egypt? Ares shuddered. It was possible that
Hermes was hiding in that cesspool of slavery and debauchery, quite possible.
Crete? Ares knew the loose grouping of battling city states well, considering
that war was one of their favorite pastimes. Ares considered checking in with
Poseidon to see if Hermes had sought asylum in his realm, but decided it was
better to check all the islands first. Then he'd look to Egypt, but only if
it was unavoidable.


Apollo crept into a high-ceilinged room, its walls covered with rich, flowing
lengths of malachite silk. Huge jade sculptures dotted the room, likenesses
of his uncle, cold and aristocratic, staring at him from a huge grouping of
pedestals. Stately urns and bowls of green blown glass glittered from a
hundred different locations in the room, causing the ambient light to take on
a verdant cast as it filtered through them.

The god of the arts ran his hand over one of the busts, his sensitive
fingertips playing along each perfectly carved hair. So this was the fruition
of human creativity left to develop at its own pace, unhurried by fear of
death or the unknown. Each room a shrine, each trinket a work of art, a work
of love. The palace throbbed with a love so palpable that Apollo wept, the
emptiness in his heart a glaring rift beside the sublime fulfillment that was

“Excuse me.”

Apollo started at the rich, melodic contralto, baffled by the fact that he'd
been so wrapped up in his reverie that he hadn't noticed the goddess.

“Is there any way I can help?”

The lithe, honey-haired maiden stared at Apollo, wide eyed and beguiling,
distracting him momentarily from the gnawing hunger which had somehow lured
him there. The Sun God scolded himself for not paying more attention to the
goings on of the Underworld, for though they were shrouded in mystery,
certainly the basics could have been gleaned if only he had cared enough to
do so.

He felt ridiculous in his ignorance. The goddess before him wore her power
easily, and felt very potent, very ancient to his cursory glance. To probe at
her would certainly be rude.

“I don't believe I've had the pleasure,” Apollo said with a graceful bow.

The goddess smiled, fetching, very fetching. She allowed Apollo to graze his
lips against the back of her hand, the hand not occupied by the long, beeswax
candle she held carefully. “Celesta,” she supplied, a twinkle in her green
eyes that were so enhanced by the aura of the room.

Apollo smiled, vaguely curious as to where his brain had gone. The name
didn't ring a bell. He realized he hadn't released her hand.

“Hades' sister,” she informed him helpfully.

Apollo's instinct was to drop her hand, but her eyes were dancing at him so
merrily, he drew the delicate hand yet again to his lips.

 “I'm Apollo.”

The fair goddess grinned. “Yes, I can see that.” Gently, she withdrew her
hand from his grasp, touching the wetness on his cheek. “You're a long way
from home.”

Apollo nodded dumbly.

“Come, sit with me,” Celesta said, looping her arm through Apollo's and
leading him to a velvety divan. “You seem distraught. Tell me about it. Maybe
that will help.”

Apollo perched on the couch and peered at his long, beautifully sculptured,
sandaled feet. He had absolutely no idea why he was there, none that he could
articulate. This Celesta seemed so warm though, so caring. Perhaps she could
help him. “I've never been here before,” he offered.

“I would have remembered if you were,” Celesta replied invitingly.

“I -- I don't know why it's taken me this long to visit.”

Celesta waited serenely while Apollo grasped at his reeling thoughts.

“It's as if I was suddenly compelled to come here. Does that make sense?”

The goddess bit her lower lip endearingly and leaned forward. Apollo glanced
past her eyes and realized he could see directly down the front of her filmy
white gown. He steeled himself, attempting to control his reaction, though he
couldn't tear his eyes from the delicately pointed, rosy-tipped, creamy
mounds before him.

“Compelled -- as if by another god?” The breasts rose and fell hypnotically
as Celesta spoke. “Surely, few gods would be powerful enough to compel the
great Apollo?”

“No,” he agreed, drawing a great, shuddering breath. “Doesn't make sense.”

Celesta shrugged, sending a delicious ripple through her breasts that
captivated the Sun God even further. “If Hades wanted you here, he'd simply
have asked you.”

Apollo's eyes darted to meet those of the goddess, though it was nearly
impossible to tear them away from her bosom. If she knew what he was looking
at, which she probably did, she didn't seem to mind. She leaned forward and
pulled her arms closer to her body, deepening her lovely decolletage. She
definitely knew. “I don't know Hades well enough to say,” Apollo whispered.
“But if you say so.”

“What about Poseidon?” Celesta murmured, leaning closer still. She smelled of

Apollo shook his head. “No, that's not his way, to lay a compulsion on
another god. He's not secretive, and besides, what would he gain from me
coming here? It makes no sense.” His trembling hand ventured forward, coming
to rest on the goddess' slender waist. She leaned into his touch, cocking her
head to one side endearingly.

Her body language was all the encouragement Apollo needed to draw her against
him. He placed a soft kiss upon her jaw as she molded pliantly against him,
then another on her delicate neck.

“I can feel the power coursing through you,” Celesta gasped, running her hand
down the front of Apollo's toga, each finger playing over his hardened nipple
as it brushed by. “The only other one strong enough to command you, I think,
is Zeus.”

Apollo groaned and bent his head to take one of the goddess' luscious breasts
into his hand. He bit her gently through the filmy cloth of her gown, soaking
the fabric with his tongue, then sucking his breath in and out over the
quickly stiffening point. With his other hand, the Sun God took the
precarious candle from Celesta's grasp and set it on a nearby table. “You're
so lovely,” he mumbled into her dress as he took her other breast into his
hand, squeezing the two together, laving them both frantically.

“All the dryads say you're the most beautiful god on Olympus,” Celesta purred
approvingly. “It's always been a fantasy of mine that you'd come to see me --
and pleasure me.”

Apollo eased the dress over the goddess' shoulders, pulling it down so that
her gorgeous breasts could swing free. “Oh yes, tell me more,” he uttered
between mouthfuls of her flesh.

“I never thought it would be here, in my brother's house.”

Apollo groaned, as much from the reference to Hades as from his actions. He
slid his tongue down Celesta's flat belly, easing her dress further down. It
caught at the curve of her hips, causing the Sun God to reroute his
explorations to the gown's diaphanous hem.

“He'd be livid if he knew,” she sighed, as Apollo worked his teeth over the
tender skin of her inner thighs.

“He would?” came the muffled reply from below Celesta's skirts.

She stroked the eager head playing between her legs gently. “He's just
protective, is all. Like you are of Artemis.”

Apollo grinned against the goddess' velvety mound. “Ah, that I can

“I don't see why Zeus would subject you to that kind of temptation, and

Apollo snaked one hand out from under Celesta's gown to grasp at her breast,
kneading it gently, while the fingers of his other hand stroked gently at the
outer lips of her pussy. He let his quickening breath warm her, basking in
the scent of her arousal. Gently he slid one finger in, reveling in the
slickness he found within her. “'Tis strange,” he said bemusedly, knowing
that his end of the conversation would soon cease as his tongue worked on
more urgent tasks. “Don't think it was Zeus.”

“Of course it was.”

The Sun God spread Celesta open with gentle fingers and brushed his tongue
over her clit, feather light, while she gasped. “No, I'd have known if it was
Zeus.” He slid his forefinger tenderly in, burying it to his knuckles in
Celesta's hot depths, while he ran his tongue all around her clit in easy

The goddess thrust her hips, gyrating them side to side. “It had to be,” she

Apollo laughed good naturedly as he took her swollen clit between his lips
and sucked it gently. He had no use for words at that moment. He slid his
finger out of her, bringing that hand to his toga, hiking it up and pulling
his breechclout down snugly around his tight balls.

With the hand that was kneading her breast, Apollo began whisking the unruly
clouds of her dress out of his way.

The sun god was vaguely aware that he had knocked something off the table
behind the settee.

A blazing feedback of power stuck Apollo to the floor, stunned. In place of
his fair maiden was a monstrous winged god, all wiry limbs, sharp teeth and
streaming black hair. His chest was bare and his leather trousers were
undone, his long, stiff, purple erection jutting forth menacingly. Black
torrents of power rolled off the pale god in sickening waves. “YOU KNOCKED

Apollo screamed and clapped his hands over his ears, his stomach heaving
painfully at the sound of the Underworld god's voice. It was the screech of
metal upon metal, the howl of the unseen nightstalker, and the scream of
every damned soul in Tartarus all at once. The dark god's fist worked
furiously at his cock while his lips pulled back in a sneer. His bloody teeth
were razor sharp triangles.

ghastly vision spread his wings, threw back his head, and came in angry
spurts on the Sun God's face and chest.

Apollo lay petrified in abject terror while the horrible god laced his pants,
staring belligerently at him the whole time with his disturbing, ivory irised
eyes. After what seemed like an eternity, the winged god strode around the
couch, high heeled boots clacking on the floor, and bent to retrieve his

His parting words were an eerie mental purr directly in Apollo's brain.
<<Tell Daddy the Reaper says you're not welcome in Asphodel.>>


Ares strode through the marketplace in Kastellion, swigging the rich, spiced
mead that the pirates had liberated from a Gaulish trader. Not bad, for a
mortal drink. His senses combed the area for clues, vibrations. Hermes had
been through the city, that was certain, but he apparently had left the port
town by water again rather than land. Ares sighed and relocated himself to
the next seaport over to continue his search.


Auto's heart stopped its nervous pounding as he jogged down the pier, taking
on the healthy pulse of one who'd just sprinted a good distance so as not to
miss anything. Slinking into the shadows between a few seaside shacks, Auto
trained his eyes on the hulking ships waiting in the dim predawn to dock. “Goo
d,” he mumbled. “Sun's not up yet. Didn't miss anything.”

He eyed the waiting craft predatorily, imagining the sweating, straining,
olive-skinned bodies manning the oars. It was a merchant ship, not a pirate
vessel. Auto decided that his lover was probably a pirate. How else would he
survive in such mundane times as these? Still, he needed to check this
merchant vessel out, just to be sure.

Auto tapped his foot and rolled the tiny pearls around in the money pouch
around his neck. He found a small hole in his sleeve, counted the pebbles at
his feet.

Still, the ship loomed in the dark distance.

“How is it that I'm early?” Auto wondered irritably. He had been certain that
his ill-fated encounter with the revolting pimp would have taken enough time
to allow half the sailors to slip by him, yet the boat hadn't even begun its
approach to the pier.

The King of Thieves' attention was drawn first by the lowering of the
vessel's life raft, and second by the crowd slowly amassing at the dock.
Sure, he could stay were he was and squint at the scene, but it wasn't as if
no one at the pier knew that he skulked there. With great care, Autolycus
slid out from his secluded vantage point and went to join the fringes of the

“Is cloudy, is all,” an old man said, his aged voice whistling through the
gaps where his teeth were missing. “Too cloudy for sunup. I seen it happen
‘afore, when I was a lad.”

“They'll just have to steer by the bonfire, just like all the ships what land
at night do,” rasped a bowed porter. “Unless they want to sit there all day.”

A washwoman shook her head. “Looks just like night. How could this be clouds?
There's no thunder, no lightning.”

*Aha!* Auto thought. *So I'm NOT late. The sun is.* His testicles crawled
closer to the thief's body as if seeking comfort. *Which means the gods are

After an interminable wait, a rowboat was lowered, and a half dozen crewmen
began paddling their way to shore. Autolycus edged discretely onto the pier
toward which the sailors were headed, though the cluster of onlookers now
paid him scant attention, most involving themselves with the lighting of
torches of the supervision thereof.

The first crewman to throw back his hood revealed a disappointingly blond,
cropped hairstyle. "Have you always such lengthy sunrises in Crete?" he
called when he drew within shouting range of the now sizable crowd at the
pier. "I don't recall having encountered such at our previous landings!"

Gaulish. Auto scowled, though he'd consider bedding a Gaul if he had the
right smile. And long hair. He had to have the long, curling hair. Dark,

The thief's reverie was broken by a maniacal scream. He looked sharply in the
direction of the shriek and cringed inwardly when he spied a crazed figure
darting from the direction of the shantytown.

"Just great," he mumbled. "The sleazeball panderer." Autolycus stopped
himself from adding, "Just my luck," as that wasn't technically accurate as
of late.

"Doom is upon us!" the filthy wretch howled, waving his arms, red spittle
flecking his lips.

"Sheesh. Didn't mean to hit him *that* hard." Auto cowered away from the
ungainly spectacle, hopelessness and self-loathing washing over him as the
pimp fell to the briny planks, moaning about the destruction of the world as
Crete knew it.

And so it was that Autolycus blamed himself for the riot that broke out on
the pier, for though, to his knowledge, he hadn't done anything to stop the
sun from rising, he'd given the raving panderer the pop in the nose that
apparently induced his doomsday rant, which he somehow managed to employ to
plant the seed of panic in the heart of every man and woman on the pier.

Autolycus slipped away, annoyed that he hadn't gotten a look at any of the
other new sailors. He deemed it better to retreat and cut his losses, though,
before the mob spotted and turned on him.


The silent, dark, thickly bearded sailor stepped off the rowboat, nimble for
all his considerable bulk. His silent twin shadowed him, though none of the
seamen could say if it was always the same twin in the lead, or sometimes
one, sometimes the other, so alike were the two. Neither had spoken to any of
them, though it was rumored that snatches of conversation occasionally passed
between the two stoic crewmen. None bothered to ask the pair where they were
headed or when they would return. It was as much use to talk to an oar.

Pollux slid his calloused hand between Castor's square fingers, the bustling
of the crowd hiding the small motion from plain view.

"Why no sun?" Castor whispered to his semidivine brother, his whiskers
tickling the other's ear.

Pollux shrugged inelegantly. "Could be the work of anyone." He squeezed his
brother's fingers as he scanned the crowd.

"Just as well we've landed," Castor muttered, the fingertips of his free hand
grazing Pollux's ass as he strode, "or the want of a sunrise would've been
blamed on the bad luck of sailing with twins."

Pollux flashed Castor a grin. "Aye, but sailors always were a superstitious

"Too true. Remember picking rat turds out of the gruel because Jason was too
hardheaded to keep a cat on the Argo?"

Pollux grasped his twin's hirsute face and kissed him soundly while
pandemonium raged all around them on the pier. "How many months?" he
breathed, his gruff voice thickening.

Castor rode the shift in conversation effortlessly. "It's been over five.
Soon, Pollux, soon."

"Hardly soon enough," Pollux whispered, slipping his hand between their
bodies, clad so much more than was their wont in the customary beige linens
of sailors.

Castor stepped back, grinning, shaking his head. "Not here," he whispered,
"though I sorely need it."

Pollux scowled briefly, but found himself returning his brother's grin before
long. "But a few more weeks until Asphodel, you say?"

Castor winked. "Aye. My prick aches just at the thought of it."

Pollux stared into his twin's eyes, then curled his lip at a disturbance that
kept plucking at his attention. "Something's wrong with that one," he
growled, sensing malignant god-energy afoot.

Castor nodded and the two moved as one toward the sobbing, flailing,
half-trampled man who had screamed himself hoarse. Castor knelt and pried
open the panderer's filthy hand, revealing the blood-red, pulpy remnants of a
fragrant, half-eaten fruit.

"Yes," Pollux breathed, carefully extricating the divine fragments from the
mortal's grubby paw.

Part 4

Iolaus held his hair in a cluster at the nape of his neck as he shrugged into
the weighty, silver studded vest. Lined though it was with a thick, gray pelt
for his wearing comfort, the stiff leather reinforced with metal studs didn't
allow the quick fighter the freedom of movement to which he was accustomed.

The Inquisitor released his hair, wincing as the unruly locks curled
themselves around the studs adorning his collar. Iolaus gathered his hair up
in his fist again, sorely tempted to lop off the offending hank with the
sparkling crystal dagger Morpheus had given him, but reluctantly he stayed
his hand. His mind reeled back to the first time Hades had almost smiled for
him. The glorious god had complimented Iolaus' hair, and then...

Iolaus realized he had been working his hand into the front of his tight
leather pants while his other hand held his golden locks up and out of harm's
way. He glanced at his reflection in the full-length looking glass that
graced his suites and couldn't help but crack a wide grin.

"Focus, buddy, focus," he told himself. He removed his hand from his trousers
and located a wide black ribbon upon his dressing table. With a quick knot,
his hair was more or less restrained, though a few saucy wisps insisted on
flying free around his face, framing it as if Iolaus had planned it that way.
Iolaus cocked an eyebrow and smirked at his reflection. Things tended to fall
into place for him like that, ever since his final death.

Iolaus smoothed a soft cloth over his hard, shiny boots. The tall heel had
taken a bit of getting used to, but it did make the swordsman's legs look
twice as long. He checked himself over again in the looking glass. Neat, save
for the overexuberant hair. Dour, though, very dour. Black boots, black
pants, black armor, black ribbon. Iolaus liked to wear a splash of purple
whenever possible, since it brought out his eyes. He turned to the side,
observing how the snug fit of the armor traced a graceful curve over his ass.
"If this is what Hades wants me to wear, who am I to tell him no?"

Iolaus buckled his swordbelt on as his heels clicked down the long, cool
marble hall. He could move quietly if he truly wanted to by balancing on the
balls of his feet, but he rather enjoyed announcing his arrival to the
scattered few that lived in Death's palace.

Click. Click. Click. Iolaus trod the grand, winding staircase with his head
held high, well aware that he cut a dashing figure upon it. He sighed at the
bottom. No one was there to witness his stately descent, as usual. Still, one
never knew where a stray godling or dead hero might be lurking.

On through the treasure trove of Hades' abode Iolaus stalked his prey.
Tracking was more difficult indoors, especially when one's prey numbered
among the gods, but Hades' plethora of trinkets that were kept just so
certainly helped.

Iolaus knelt by a rumpled, green velvet divan, scowling in concentration.
Pillows had been strewn about, figurines on nearby tables upended. Oily globs
of hardened beeswax marred one of the fine silken cushions that had tumbled
behind the couch, and a small, tasseled rug on the floor before on of the
doorways was bunched on its side.

"I'm tracking a god?" Iolaus mused as he headed through the doorway. He'd
seen wild boars with subtler moves.

The signs grew more faint the farther Iolaus got from the green room, but
they were still visible: Crooked rugs, as if someone had run over them,
displaced drapery folds. Hades would undoubtedly be obsessing for weeks over
the disturbance.

It was the trembling of a tapestry that gave Apollo away.

He'd holed up in the grand dining hall, a room that Iolaus had never seen
used in the many months he'd been dead, though someone periodically changed
the ninety-nine gleaming place settings and freshened the hall with new
flowers as the old ones dropped their petals.

Clack. Clack. Clack. Iolaus stopped before the god, legs spread wide, hands
on hips. Hades wanted him to act menacing, so he tried his best.

"Apollo." There. That was his sternest voice.

The ball of golden limbs on the floor behind the table uncurled itself just
enough for a bloodshot eye to rise out and seek Iolaus'. The inquisitor felt
an unwelcome stab of pity for the pathetic looking god, though he made sure
to be on the lookout for any sort of trickery. Apollo was a troublemaker, he
knew from experience, and he certainly had no business skulking around the
Underworld uninvited.

"You're Hercules' shieldbearer," Apollo said quietly. His voice was like soft
music, the most perfect voice Iolaus had ever heard. "Are you also a god?"

Iolaus beat down the urge to gather the Sun God (who *knew* who he was!) into
his arms and comfort him. Hades' assignment had been quite clear: Find out
what he wants, then get rid of him.

"No, I'm dead."

Apollo's blond eyebrows shot up. "Oh? Well -- it suits you."

Iolaus snorted and counted to ten, tapping his toe on the creamy marble
floor. He'd never seen a high god look so miserable, so sexy and so
vulnerable all at once.

Focus, buddy, focus.

"Apollo," he said in the tone of a man who has a dozen more pressing matters
to attend to, "what are you doing here?"

The Sun God sighed and lay his head on his arms, which were clasping his
knees to his chest. "Nothing is as it seems, Iolaus. The beauty, the grandeur
of this palace takes my breath away. I had not expected the underworld to be
a vast haven for the arts, yet look around you. No surface is unadorned."

Iolaus had always found the decor a bit busy for his taste, but then again,
he wasn't the patron god of the arts. He held his tongue, though. If Apollo
was willing to talk, he was eager to listen.

"Yet even the most beautiful of flowers hides the wickedest thorn."

Hopefully Apollo had a point that he'd be making soon.

"And yet, the most persistent weeds may smell sweetly."


Apollo sighed so heavily that Iolaus was sure he'd sucked all the air from
the room. The hunter couldn't really see how bullying the downtrodden god
would elicit any information, considering the mood Apollo was in. Obviously,
a sympathetic approach was called for.

"Why so glum?" *Okay, so I'm no poet,* Iolaus thought.

Apollo turned a tearstained face toward the blond inquisitor. "Have you ever
sought that which you could not name, my friend? Have you hungered, thirsted
for that which you've never tasted?"

Iolaus hoped the questions were rhetorical.

"I'm grasping at smoke," Apollo declared, clutching at the front of Iolaus'
studded cuirass. "It is within my reach, yet I open my hand and there is

Iolaus nodded, at a loss for words.

Apollo sighed again, trailing his hand gracefully down Iolaus' thigh. "I'm so
empty," he breathed, barely audible.

*Yeah? I'll fill ya. Um, focus, focus.* Iolaus tentatively stretched out his
fingers, caressing Apollo's honey-colored curls, wincing slightly in
anticipation of the god-shock he always received when he touched Hades. His
fingers contacted the glossy locks. Nothing. Iolaus stared at his fingertips
as if the problem lay within them, but nothing seemed out of the ordinary.

"You're so kind," Apollo whispered, a tremor in his voice. "You're the only
one that has been since I came."

Iolaus buried his fingers deeper in Apollo's sleek curls, marveling at their
sublime, velvety texture. "What is it that you're looking for?" he asked

Apollo turned his sorrow-reddened eyes up toward the Inquisitor. "If only I


Autolycus dimmed his lantern and shuttered it as much as possible without
putting the flame out entirely. The blacksmith's boy had seemed so much more
promising from afar. Now that he graced the thief's bedroom, however, the
questionably motivated lad left quite a bit to be desired. Judging by the
cowering stance the boy affected as his clothes were removed, he'd never been
with a man before. Perhaps he'd not been with a woman either. Apparently,
some part of him wanted to go through with the encounter, though, for he knew
enough to sling his arms, thick for his age from his work at the forge,
around Auto's neck, pulling him close.

The young man's kisses left Auto flat. There was no joy in them, no spark,
barely any desire. Autolycus moved the curly, dark head to his nipple.
"That's right. Feels good," he murmured, rolling one of the boy's dark
nipples between his fingertips so the boy could experience a similar pleasure.

The King of Thieves lay back and closed his eyes, dreaming of the first man
he'd been with, no, who'd TAKEN him, who'd teased his nipples until he was
fit to weep. For one brief moment, a lock of black, curling hair brushed
Auto's chest while a wet mouth worked his nipple, and he was again in
Asphodel, if only for that moment.

"Oh yeah," he breathed, grasping one of the boy's hands and placing it on his
stiffening cock. "Feel what you're doing to me."

The young man stared at Auto's cock in the meager lantern light, then ran
facile fingers up and down its length, causing the thief to arch his back in
surprise. "Oh. Good boy. Yeah," he gasped, gladdened by the sudden appearance
of a talent. He supposed the kid was at that age where his hands got a lot of

Autolycus considered oiling the boy, but it would be a mood killer to stop
him from doing what he was doing just to oil him. The time for that was when
the clothes had first come off. Now it would just seem strange and awkward.
*Okay. Skip the oil.* He only oiled the really promising ones, anyway, and
those were so few and far between.

"C'mere, come up here." Autolycus pulled the flushed youth farther onto his
vast bed, turning himself around so that their cocks were in one another's
faces. The kid had a nice looking cock, straight and heavy, he'd give him
that. The boy squirmed as Auto took his balls firmly in hand and began laving
them, one, the other, the valley between. He took one testicle completely
into his mouth and rolled it around within its sac.

*How about a little in return, here?* Autolycus thought, thrusting his cock
impatiently at his partner's face. A tentative tongue grazed Auto's balls,
then quickly withdrew.

Autolycus rolled his eyes, the wet, slick flesh of the youth's scrotum filling
 his mouth, even his nose as he breathed. *Fine. The kid can't do balls.
Forget rimming altogether, I'm sure.*

Autolycus worked his mouth farther down, moving from the fleshy sac to the
base of the boy's cock. He tongued it unhurriedly, flicking, laving, lapping,
creeping slowly up the hard shaft. The boy clutched Auto's calves hard, his
loud, sudden gasps filling the room. Auto treated the slick, salty tip to a
thorough swirl of his tongue, then began engulfing the boy's wet, hard length
in his mouth.

"Mighty Zeus!" hissed the blacksmith's son as his cock bumped the back of
Autolycus' throat.

*Zeus got nothin' to do with it, kiddo,* Auto mused as the sweating,
trembling body beside him began turning him on a bit more. *A little lick
would be nice,* he thought as his cock hung, cold and lonely, inches from the
enraptured Cretan's face. *'Sokay. Probably can't concentrate on two things
at once.* Autolycus plunged forward until his lower lip met the boy's pubis,
opening his throat to accept the stiff cock in his mouth. He slid his mouth
up and down, up and down, in a steady, unhurried rhythm.

The boy's body stiffened, limbs twitching, hands clenched in fists. Strangled
noises leapt from his throat as Auto felt the bitter semen course down his
gullet. Auto swallowed, then swallowed again, running his palms up and down
over his partner's firm, young thighs until the jerking, whimpering orgasm

"No one's ever, um..." the boy whispered shyly, once he was capable of
forming words.

"Why don't you try it?" Autolycus encouraged. "Just, ah, keep your lips
wrapped around your teeth and you really can't do anything wrong." He rolled
onto his back and folded his hands behind his head, gazing at the mass of
long, dark, curling hair that had attracted him to this boy to begin with.
His posture was all wrong, Auto realized now. He needed to find someone
warrior-proud. Still, the black curls helped.

The thief sighed contentedly as a warm, wet tongue slid up and down his shaft
a few times. The boy seemed awfully tentative, but Auto was sure that if he
made encouraging enough noises when the youth did something that felt good,
the kid would find his rhythm.

He didn't.

Never content to suck or lick one way for long, the young man continually
shifted and repositioned his mouth, lingering only (it seemed) at the spots
which did nothing whatsoever for Autolycus. Auto tried whispering the
encouraging, "Yes!" when his partner hit a pleasure spot, but for some
reason, the boy's taunting mouth seemed to move on from those areas just as
quickly as if he'd said nothing.

When Autolycus heard the telltale, frustrated sigh whuff through the boy's
nose, he knew he'd had enough. "You know," he said quietly as he gently
guided the young man's head up and away from his crotch, "I've had a really
long night."

*So forget it, 'cos it ain't happening.*

The blacksmith's son looked mildly alarmed. "No, no, wait," he said, lowering
his head.

Autolycus took the boy's head again, a bit more firmly this time. "Really.
I've been awake for days. I think I just need some sleep."

Bewilderment was written on the young man's face, tinged slightly, Auto
thought, with relief.

"I really enjoyed myself," Auto lied, his deep brown eyes sincere as usual,
"but you know how it is. Being worn out."

The kid nodded slowly as Auto handed him his tunic.


Ares held the bloody red remnant of the fruit to his nose and sniffed. It was
the same damn globe of aggravation that had been popping up in all of his
temples throughout Greece, now found clutched in the hand of a Cretan beggar.
The heady scent alone filled Ares with a delicious melancholia, but he
shrugged the sadness off and concentrated on searching out a link of some
sort, some connection that would make the rest of the disjointed fragments
fall into place.

A vague notion tugged at Ares. He followed his instinct, having learned that
his gut feeling was a trustworthy ally. He strolled through the shantytown,
the tavern district, and a few clustered merchant stalls, invisible to the
mortals that ran through the streets, some looting the nearby homes and
businesses, others screeching prophecies of doom, and still more weeping at
the blackened sky, begging Zeus to save them. Ares shook his head. First he'd
find the sower of the fruit, and then, he was sure, he'd also have the
culprit in the sun prank.

Only one god was angry enough at Ares to plant the black and red fruits in
his temple, the same being the only one clever enough to steal and hide the


The boy-god slouched on the porch of an elegant clay villa, golden hair
tousled, bare arms crossed tightly over his naked chest, one leg dangling
carelessly. He turned flinty eyes toward Ares and shot him such a look of
unadulterated hate that the God of War took a few steps back.

Ares shuddered, wishing he had worn his armor. "Hermes?"

The nude god drew back his lips, exposing his teeth ferally. "You. Ruined.

Ares loosened the Sword of War in its scabbard. Though he had no idea what
Hermes meant, he'd defend against his brother by whatever means necessary;
Hermes reeked of danger. "Ruined? What are you talking about? Ruined who?"

Hermes shook his head in disgust. "And you don't even know, or care."

Ares approached boldly, hands on his hips, eager to establish the upper hand.
"Ruined who?" he barked.

"My favorite mortal!" Hermes said in a strangled voice.

Ares cocked his head, bewildered. "All this animosity is over some mortal?
Who? Autolycus?"

Hermes glared.

"Look," Ares snapped, puffing his chest out to appear larger than he already
did, "You saw it -- one kiss, just to mark him. That's it. And that was even
your idea."

"No," Hermes insisted, shaking his head. "There was more, in the dungeon.
Auto wouldn't be acting like he is over one kiss. He's stronger than that."

*The dungeon, the dungeon.* Ares cast his mind back. The only thing that
stood out in his memory about that little romp was that Hermes burst in
toward the end of it, and that it was the first time he'd ever seen Hermes
mad. *Come to think of it, he's been scarce ever since.*

"The dungeon?" Ares cried, his voice thick with the injustice of Hermes'
accusation. "I barely touched the thief! I just moved him out of the way a
little. No sex!"

Hermes eyes began to brighten, then a veil dropped down behind them once
again. "I don't believe you," he said quietly.

Ares flung his awareness out briefly, catching the scent of the thief just
inside the villa. "Why don't you ask him?"

"No," Hermes said stubbornly. "No more meddling. Just let him have his life."

Ares grinned mockingly. "Are you? This whole area reeks of you. Do you think
that just because he can't see you, it means you're not interfering?"

"Shut up."

"That's why he's so rich suddenly, isn't it?"

"I said, shut up!"

The front door swung open, causing both gods to start guiltily, although
neither could be seen by mortals. "There!" Hermes whispered, though the
emerging mortal couldn't hear him. He pointed at the bulky, tousled,
dark-haired boy, who shivered under the invisible scrutiny even though the
air was close and humid. "What do you call that? He's searching for you, for
one among the mortals to replace you."

Ares watched the dark young man scamper down the stairs, staring at the black
sky anxiously all the while. "A handsome boy," he said, shrugging.

Hermes leapt up, pacing like a caged tiger. "Handsome? Yes, Ares, they're all
handsome, they're all dark and they all have long, black, curling hair!"


Ares wished he could rescind the barb as he watched Hermes turn ten shades of

"Whoa, whoa. Seriously, I didn't touch him, I swear. Why would I lie, Hermes?
Especially about something you could verify so easily?"

Hermes continued to glare, but his rage seemed much less focused.

"Look," Ares coaxed, climbing the mosaic stairs two at a time. "Let's just
have a little look at him, see what's going on?"

Hermes' eyes darted about. He crossed his arms sullenly, but followed Ares as
he passed through the front wall of the villa.

As the gods traversed various greeting and sitting rooms, Ares noted a tiny
coat of dust lay on everything, as if most of the rooms were not used. They
passed through an outer wall into a verdant courtyard, a bit overgrown, but
nice, then through an open doorway into the master bedroom.

Ares simply walked through all the piles of clothing, blankets, dishes and
disarrayed furniture that Hermes stepped delicately around. He picked out the
thief in the inordinately dim lantern light, sprawled in his rumpled bed,
drinking wine from a plain pewter mug. Ares raised an eyebrow as he took in
the mortal's wasted body, disheveled hair and dull eyes. Something was
obviously wrong with him, the thief that was so once full of bravado and
bluster, but mortals were fragile that way, after all. It was part of their

Ares drew his brows together and looked into the mortal's mind, cautioning
himself to work as gently as possible, lest Hermes tear out his liver. He
began by peeling back the surface thoughts. These were usually of mundane
things, or of money, or food, or sex, though during times of war mortals
often kept memories of home and family there. Autolycus seemed to be reveling
in some gratuitous self-loathing at the moment, a result of some
less-than-stellar sex he'd just had. Ares couldn't see that it was anything
to get so worked up about, but he also was well aware that he was not
renowned for his sensitivity.

Ares gently peeled back a bit more. Distress about the lack of a sunrise,
replaying of the sounds of looters and rioters, and a concern for his own
safety. Ares grunted. Those thoughts seemed healthy and normal enough. Too
bad they didn't tip him off as to the identity of the sun stealer. He'd
though perhaps the King of Thieves was privy to the scheme.

Ares tapped a bit further and was flooded with acute longing, unquenchable
desire and profound feelings of abandonment. Paydirt. Now he'd see whatever
it was he'd supposedly done to ruin the mortal.

A grin crept over Ares' face as he found no thoughts of the War God
whatsoever. "Hermes," he said, shaking his head, "I know you respect your pet
mortal's 'privacy,' but maybe you should make it a habit of checking your
facts before you go accusing other gods of things they didn't do."

"What?" Hermes snapped. "What do you see?"

Ares continued to grin maddeningly and shake his head. Hermes still refused
to look himself. Strange standards.

"I see a two-thousand year dead Mycenaean warrior."

Ares watched smugly as Hermes cringed. "I forgive you for the unjust
accusation," he added magnanimously.

"Leave me with him," Hermes whispered.

"You know, you should've gone to Zeus' last big bash," Ares said casually,
looking at his fingernails. "Apparently it's become the vogue to grant
mortals immortality if you fancy one as a lover."

Hermes shook his head sadly.

"Well, whatever. Before you make up your mind for good, I'd suggest you go
ask dear old dad about Ganymede."

"Please, Ares. Leave us."

Ares thought it would be prudent to stop pushing his luck, but he felt
obliged, for the sake of the pathetic mortals all around, to do what he could
about the little sun crisis. "Sure, Hermes, sure. I'm on my way. I'll be out
of your hair entirely, just as soon as you tell me what you've done with the

Hermes stared blankly for a long moment, then shrugged. "Wasn't me, Ares.
I've been here all night, with Autolycus."

Though Ares would not normally consider the alibi of being with Autolycus to
hold any water at all, the look in Hermes' eyes was obviously sincere.

"You don't say. Who do you think..."

"Ares," Hermes snapped, "I don't know, I don't care. Some privacy, please."

Part 5

Hades sat rigidly on his ebony throne, eyes focused on the huge, gleaming,
bronze double doors that normally stood open when the King of the Underworld
was in residence. Beyond the door, a line of dead stretched as far as a god's
eye could see, waiting patiently for Hades to complete whatever business he
had to attend to and begin again his endless benedictions.

<<It's high time that you smite the interloper>>

"Thanatos," Hades admonished, turning slowly toward the spindly, winged god
who emerged from the shadows. "I would see him alone."

Thanatos nodded curtly. <<The Inquisitor brings him, even now>>

Hades stared at his oldest servant, who appeared, for once, to be weighing
his words. <<I will remain nearby, should you require -- anything>>

The Lord of Asphodel blinked, stunned at the other god's most unusual show of
support. "As you wish, Thanatos. And thank you."

The winged god nodded once, a fluid ripple gleaming off his waist length,
onyx hair, and he swayed as if he found it difficult to tear himself away.

"Come here, though, first," Hades said softly, motioning for the other god to
move forward. Thanatos stepped slowly away from the wall, gaining momentum as
he neared Hades, dropping to his knees before his lord, anxious, distressed.
"All will be well," Hades murmured, placing his hand on the Reaper's silken
head, allowing his mightiest benediction to flow through his limbs, into
Thanatos' ancient frame.

The Reaper gasped and shuddered, spreading his terrible wings to balance his
slender body. He clung to Hades' black robes like a child, grinding his face
into the midnight velvet, utterly filled with a pleasure so intense it could
barely be endured. Hades gazed tenderly at the dark god, abrasive,
recalcitrant, yes; but still his faithful minion.

Thanatos clawed at Hades' throne, shuddering as he sucked great sobs of air.
Still, Hades poured more pleasure into his servant. Certainly the sensation
was excruciating by now, but Hades knew Thanatos would enjoy it all the more
for that. The Reaper's body began to quiver and buck, and still he clung to
Hades, gasping, now drooling, blinded with the force of Hades' divine energy.
Only when Thanatos' movements became so jerky as to be autonomic did Hades
gently withdraw his benediction, for his servant had plateaued and could
experience no more.

The room was silent, save for great, wracking gasps and the leathery rustle
of wings. When Thanatos came back to himself enough to function, he took
handfuls of his streaming hair and scoured away the spittle that marked the
skirt of Hades' robes. <<Oh, my precious Lord>>

"You must go now, Thanatos," Hades said gently, fingering the Reaper's
marvelous hair. "Iolaus and our uninvited guest approach, and I would deal
with him now, while I'm of a mind to."

<<As you wish, so it shall be>> Thanatos bowed deeply, his hair brushing the
floor, continuing to bow as he backed out of the throne room, bathing Hades
with one final, longing, reluctant look before he slid through a side door,
closing it soundlessly behind him.

The Lord of Asphodel sighed and collected his thoughts.

"Enter," Hades intoned once Thanatos was truly gone. Iolaus strode in, head
high, posture erect, clad head to toe in form fitting black and silver. He
was certainly proving to be a fine addition to the staff. *If only he wasn't
so trusting.*

The thoughts of Hades' servant projected toward the Lord of the Underworld as
loudly as if they'd been spoken. Poor, harmless Apollo. Lost. Confused. Help
him, Hades. Help him.

Hades stared hard at his Inquisitor, probing him for signs of coercion. He
found none. Hades would take his opinion under consideration when deciding
how to handle the trespasser.

"Leave us."

Iolaus' mouth worked as if to protest, but he obviously knew better than to
contradict his liege. "I'll be right outside, master."

The second willowy, blond form stared forlornly at the Inquisitor as he
exited the room.

"To what do I owe the privilege of this unforeseen visit?" Hades asked
coldly, filling the room with his richly timbred voice.

Hades' nephew gawked at him stupidly. *No wonder Iolaus found no danger in
him. He's obviously become a simpleton.*

Apollo turned slowly, taking in the stark grandeur of the throne room, from
the impeccably polished marble floor to the darkly frescoed walls, to the
vaulted, midnight ceiling, inlaid with diamonds in homage to the beautiful
stars of the Grecian night sky.

"I didn't know," Apollo whispered.

Hades leaned forward, curious. Apollo continued his painfully slow pirouette,
taking in everything with the eyes of a child. "I was not told," he breathed.

Hades observed the Sun God patiently, Apollo's sleekly muscled limbs flowing
like molten bronze beneath the skimpy linen toga he donned. "Yours is the
realm of beauty."

"Of course." Hades found there was much less bite in his tone than he'd
originally intended.

"Hades!" Apollo sobbed, rushing toward the elder god, but somehow being borne
down by the sheer weight of his longing, collapsing a few handlengths short
of his greatest desire. "Oh, Hades," he crooned shamelessly from the floor.

"This is most unexpected, you must admit," Hades chided, alarmed at his
nephew's newfound fascination. He scrutinized Apollo intensely, seeking signs
of one of Aphrodite's pesky spells or Cupid's bothersome arrows, but found

"I know, Hades," Apollo said meekly, head bowed. "How strange that I should
be so drawn to you, now, like this. That I should obsess about you so until I
could do nothing but venture here to your foreign realm, unasked, with no
friend here at all." The golden god crawled forward, his every motion
artlessly fluid. "I have been asking myself all the while what has caused me
to seek you out, and, honestly, I find no good reason." Apollo ceased his
advance and prostrated himself before his uncle. "Hades, I have stopped
searching for the reason, for at this point, it matters not to me."

The Lord of the Underworld hid a smile behind one elegant, white hand. So,
the Sun God was no simpleton after all, he was simply bespelled. He'd said as
much himself. Try as he might, though, Hades could not detect any Olympian
influence on Apollo. Perhaps Hermes was somehow responsible, for he was
certainly clever enough to concoct some sort of spell that would leave no

Hades gave a small jump as Apollo plucked off his right boot. His exposed
foot felt disproportionately vulnerable as the Sun God caressed the sole from
heel to toe with his thick, golden eyelashes. "If this be a spell," Apollo
breathed, "it surely is the sweetest spell e'er spun by god or man."

Hades intended to command the Olympian to stop. The word had formed on his
lips. Somehow, the command was never birthed.

"Since I saw you last at my father's palace, I've thought of little else.
I've tried to keep myself occupied, I've given my strange impulse some time,
yet as the months wear on, my desire for you has grown stronger rather than
abating." Apollo ended his speech by engulfing Hades' great toe in his hot,
wet mouth, suckling the digit with a look of pure rapture on his ecstatic

Hades had meant to tell the Sun God something. He brushed away the thought
like an annoying gnat, fascinated by the moist lips caressing his toes, the
firm, agile tongue swirling around them. He glanced at the lacings of his
robe and the silken cord unfurled itself, Hades' velvety garment falling open
to reveal his sculpted alabaster chest, the rising marble pillar of his cock.

Apollo lowered Hades' foot, gazing in rapt fascination at the precious
treasure that had been unveiled before him. With unabashed enthusiasm, he
plunged his face between Hades' legs, caressing the dark god's inner thighs
with his smooth, golden cheeks. "Oh, Hades, you are beyond description."
Apollo's muffled voice cut in and out as he rubbed his face happily against
Hades' bare legs.

Hades continued to stare, apprehensive, yes, but incredibly aroused. Apollo
laved Hades' flesh with an avid tongue as he whispered sweet nothings to the
Lord of Asphodel's thighs. As his curly blond head brushed the underside of
Hades' balls, Apollo ceased his ministrations and lay his head in Hades' lap
like a docile hound.

Hades stared, frozen.

After a lingering pause, Apollo turned his face up toward Hades'. His was a
face that outshone the sun itself, the countenance that inspired countless
Kouros. It was a face filled with joy, and love.

"I wanted to savor the moment," he said softly, beaming.

Hades ground his teeth together. He could say one of several things: We
shouldn't be doing this, or, it's but a spell that's brought you here, or,
truly, you're painfully beautiful.

Hades said nothing.

Apollo slid a deft had around Hades' balls, cupping them gently, caressing
the hot, smooth bit of flesh behind them with nimble fingertips. "You're
hesitant, I know," he panted, "yet you're willing to give me a chance to
prove myself. I can't tell you how wonderful that is."

Before Hades thought to stay him, Apollo swooped down and lapped up the
perfect jewel of liquid at the tip of Hades' cockhead.

"No," Hades whispered inaudibly as Apollo threw back his head, mouth open,
radiating pure rapture.

"Yes," he laughed.

Hades grasped the Sun God by his shoulders and hauled him to his feet, though
Apollo simply fell into Hades, sprawled across him in the vast ebony throne,
burying his face in the crook of his uncle's neck.

"You link yourself permanently to the Underworld by partaking of my essence!"
Hades hissed, shocked at himself for what he had just allowed to occur.

"You say that as if it's a bad thing," Apollo cooed. "You essence is the
sweetest nectar, your realm utopia."

"You say that now, but this link is forever!"

Apollo drew back enough to look Hades in the eye, still grinning
uncontrollably. "Persephone didn't eat any pomegranate, did she?"

Hades' cheeks blazed with the unfamiliar heat of embarrassment.

"But she can't have had much, otherwise she'd never survive nine months on

Hades' panicked mind reeled as Apollo somehow began deconstructing his most
intimate schemes.

"What is she made of, that she would prefer Adonis to you?" Apollo whispered,
his sweet breath tickling Hades' ear. His tongue darted out to explore
briefly, then retreated as Apollo shivered with delight. "I've had but one
drop of you," Apollo said, low and sultry, "and I can tell it will be pure
torture to leave your side."

In an effort to stop Apollo's extrapolation on the nature of his relationship
with his wife, Hades did the only thing he could think of to shut him up. He
kissed him.

Hades' soul was buoyed on a ray of purest sunshine and warmth as he tasted a
mouth like honey, inhaled breath like a new spring breeze. Apollo wrapped his
strong arms around Hades' neck, deepening the kiss, drawing him as close as
he could. While Hades repeated to himself that he'd simply wanted his nephew
to cease his line of reasoning, part of him was strangely attracted to
Apollo's blazing purity. It was Hades that broke the lengthy kiss, taking the
sun god's face between his palms, attempting to determine what manner of
enchantment the Olympian was weaving. Nothing but frank desire blazed forth
from his innocent blue eyes; no duplicity, no subterfuge, and no hesitation.

"I need you," Apollo rasped, standing suddenly, plucking briefly at one
shoulder, and again at his belt, causing his toga to fall in a heap beside
him, his breechclout following soon after. His body was smooth and tanned,
each muscle developed to perfection, yet lithe and graceful overall. He
displayed himself to Hades with unabashed pride. "Please."

Surely, Hades would deny him. The God of the Dead stood and pierced Apollo
with a look, a look that seemed endless.

With a thought, his robe and remaining boot vanished.

A broad smile broke over Apollo's face as he stepped forward and embraced
Hades, thigh against thigh, cock against cock, belly against belly, lips
against lips. Four eager hands explored curves and creases, ridges and
ripples, smooth and furred planes, hard muscle and yielding flesh.

Again Hades broke their kiss, only to replant his mouth on Apollo's sculpted,
bare shoulder, dragging his lush lips to the base of the god's throat,
tasting flesh so sweet, so divine, so unique, for each god had his own taste.

Once Apollo's mouth was released, he began a series of guttural moans and
startled gasps as Hades' hands and mouth nipped and tweaked, caressed and
lapped his every hot spot. "Yes... Oh yes... Oh please... gasp... yes..."

When Apollo's trembling legs would hold him up no longer, he captured Hades'
hands gently and sank down to the cool marble floor, pulling his uncle down
beside him.

"We shouldn't..." Hades began, suddenly guilty.

"Shh." Apollo placed his finger over Hades' lips. "Don't think about should
and shouldn't. Dig deep inside yourself, and observe carefully. What do YOU

Hades' first thought was that he wanted to be buried between the bronze
globes of the Sun God's ass. His second was that no one had ever asked him
that before. Hades drew the eager, handsome face toward his. "You are so
precious," he whispered into Apollo's mouth. The Sun God responded by running
his tongue across Hades' lower lip, darting it between his sharp, white
teeth, touching their lips together, first softly, then with urgent intensity.

Hades lost himself in the springtime kiss, in the skilled mouth that was not
as soft as his wife's, nor as timid as Charon's, nor as scalding as Ares'.
Apollo responded by twining his legs with Hades', bumping their cocks against
one another, drawing a rapid breath from both. Hades reached down to capture
the salty drop of moisture that Apollo's cock had left on his belly. He
placed it reverently on his black tongue, tasting the open air and sunlit
skies that were rarer to him than the most exotic spices. Apollo whimpered as
Hades thrust his tongue into the Sun God's mouth, sharing the lovely taste
with him, savoring it, allowing it to flush and develop within the twinning
of their mouths.

Apollo untangled a long leg from between Hades' and slung it over him,
caressing him with a lean, golden calf as he did so. The Sun God's hands
roved down Hades' sides, slid up his trembling spine, wove through his
tousled hair, caressed his heaving flanks, then gravitated toward his turgid,
straining cock.

Hades warned himself there would be some terrible price to pay, that Apollo
would shake off his enchantment and denounce Hades to all Olympus. Zeus would
find out about the tryst, as would Persephone.

Hades saw a brief vignette in his mind's eye: Persephone on her back with
Adonis heaving between her thighs, wrapping his mouth around her firm, high
breasts, teasing her nipples with his lips...

The Lord of the Dead snarled and clutched Apollo tightly by the hair,
caressing the Sun God's face and throat fervently with his passion ripened

A tart, new scent reached Hades' nose. The dark god sought its source, noting
a tiny, amber bottle of oil that Apollo had summoned. The room filled with
the heady scent of ripe citrus when the blond god unstopped the vial,
drizzling a fragrant ribbon across his hand and Hades' hip.

Hades shut his eyes, bursts of color dancing behind his closed lids as Apollo
took his cock in a strong, sure, oiled grasp, stroking it slowly, thoroughly,
running a slippery thumb over the engorged tip, then worked his way back down
to the base and started another slow, methodical stroke.

"Oh, my beautiful boy," Hades gasped, "so incredible."

Hades peered through half-shuttered eyes, espying Apollo's giddy grin. "I
love it that I'm such a youngster in your eyes," he whispered silkily in
Hades' ear. "I'm one of the oldest Olympians. But I'll be your fledgling
lover any time you like, oh Ancient One!" With that, Apollo tightened his
grasp on Hades' cock, squeezing until he approached the delirious point of
pressure that was nearly pain. Hades felt his limbs stiffen and the muscles
in his belly begin to bunch.

"Oh no. Not yet," Apollo whispered, gently withdrawing his slick hand.

Hades stared, dumbfounded. His lips and fingertips tingled in anticipation of
his unhad release. The tiny surge of panic, the notion that his nephew would
present a surprise agenda at such a delicate moment, was quickly assuaged.
The Sun God's blue eyes tinted dark with desire as he drank in the sight of
Hades, prone and panting for him.

Apollo poured another palmful of oil, filling Hades' nose with the scent of
fresh oranges. He lifted up his golden body, rising to his knees, gazing down
at Hades in loving fascination. "You're so beautiful," Apollo whispered,
massaging the oil onto his own erection. "There's no one like you on all
Olympus." He wrapped his had around his balls, setting them agleam. He shook
his head, murmuring, "I want you like I've never wanted another."

His pink tongue darted out to wet his lips as he slid an oiled finger into
himself, staring deep into Hades' eyes all the while.

Hades opened his mouth, but found speech impossible. The god before him was
simply too exquisite for words, pumping his oiled finger slowly in and out of
his ass as he stared brazenly into his uncle's eyes. His golden eyelashes
fluttered as he added another finger, his lips parting to emit a shuddering

"I -- we -- I never..." Hades stammered.

"Shh," Apollo crooned, dropping onto his side with his glorious ass spooned
into Hades' groin. "I know."

*How does he know I've never fucked anyone?!?* Hades wondered, heart pounding.

Apollo's firm, talented hand reached down between his spread legs and grasped
Hades' cock again, causing the dark god's heart to flutter.

"We all know you're true to your wife, but don't think about her right now,
all right? I understand if you've not been with a man in centuries, or even
at all."

The Lord of the Underworld stopped breathing as Apollo positioned Hades'
stiff, weeping cock at the entrance to his perfect body.

"It's not so different," Apollo panted. "Just help me with the first push and
I'll take it from there."

How ironic, Hades pondered, that his most hated brother's child should be
coaching him in the art of lovemaking. He was thoroughly familiar with the
initial breaching from the many times he'd sheathed Ares, of course, though
he saw no need to explain that to the precocious blond.

Besides, the question was not how to fuck Apollo, but whether he could at all.

"Hades, please! Take me now!"

The dark god's brow furrowed. If any Olympian would be strong enough to
survive his passion, surely it would be Apollo, the God of the Sun.

"Please, Hades, please!"

The tight, slick opening felt blazing hot against the tip of his cock, and
the blond god against him was squirming so alluringly.

"Hadeeees! If you don't fuck me now I'll die!"

Just one good thrust would do it.

"You're killing me!"

Hades slid his hand down Apollo's side, hooking it behind the other god's
knee and pulling his leg sharply upward, spreading him. "We'll see," he
whispered shakily, pulling Apollo against him as he thrust.

Blazing heat.

Incredible tightness.

A fabulous, bronze body jolting as if it had been lightning-struck at the end
of his cock.

An arc of the Sun God's pearly semen falling gracefully across his dais.

His breath torn from him with his seed.

Velvety darkness.


Ares gathered Castor to him with one arm and Pollux with the other. "Well,
boys, technically you're mine for eighteen more days, but since you've done
such a stellar job for me this year, I'm willing to let ya go a bit early."
Neither twin returned the War god's amused glance; instead, they attempted to
peer around him to look at each other.

Ares rolled his eyes. Sometimes they were creepy, other times annoying, but
tonight, on the cusp of their journey home to Asphodel, Ares found the twins'
autistic devotion to one another rather endearing.

"Not a word to Zeus about me taking you back ahead of time, ya hear me?"

Pollux plucked a bit of straw out of his hair while Castor shuffled his dusty
sandals on the sandy ground.

Did they even find that humorous, Ares wondered. He knew they could hear him.
They were able to follow orders, and were diligent and clever. The god
shrugged. His charges were obviously eager to get back to Hades. Apparently
the duties he gave the boys could be performed while naked and thrusting.

"Useful as you two are, I think I'll have better luck locating the sun..."

Ares flashed the three of them to Asphodel.


Castor collapsed with an animalistic howl, clutching his eyes, while Pollux
buried his face quickly in his hands.

Ares' eyes teared in the brutal white light.

The sun hovered, a blazing fat ball of brightness garishly spattered across
the refractory sky of Asphodel.

"Well, wouldja look at that?" Ares mused. "I'd have never thought to put it
here." The God of War squinted, picking out a grove of willows that blazed
forth a scorching blue light, endless, rolling fields of grass that sparkled
like thin shards of quartz, and the squat palace that was black no longer,
but smoldering red, like a burning ember.

The ever present line of supplicants had erected a number of makeshift tents
and lean-to's under which to resume their sickeningly patient wait.

"That's right," Ares said to the twins, "just keep your eyes covered. I'll
take us to the private entrance." He grasped each warrior roughly by the arm
and transported them all as quickly as possible, before the brothers clawed
through him in their panicked efforts to get to one another.

"Okay, okay, we're inside," Ares snarled, swinging the twins roughly around
and into each other's arms. "Just calm the fuck down. We just gotta find out
what's going on, is all."

The demigod Pollux cradled his brother's relatively fragile head, whispering
to him tenderly.

"Ah, forget it!" Ares snapped, stalking off down the glowing red corridor,
leaving his now-useless assistants to fawn over each other. While he doubted
the Lord of the Underworld would be in this throne room, a room designed for
receiving countless grasping supplicants, at a time like this, Ares thought
that he could at least locate a servant there to take him to Hades.

Ares grinned wide as he emerged from the hall, taking in the hot little blond
crouching with his ear to the throne room door. "Hear anything interesting?"

Iolaus snapped to attention, eying Ares guiltily. "Ares! What are YOU doing

"God stuff, Blondie.  I need to see your boss."

"He's not here," Iolaus said quickly. Too quickly.

"Step aside, little man. I'm gonna talk to my uncle." Ares brushed Iolaus
aside effortlessly and grasped the ornate door pull.

"Thanatos!" the Inquisitor cried.

Ares' gut wrenched as the atmosphere in the chamber displaced and a burning,
keening blast of energy rent the air before him. In a sulfurous cloud of
smoke, the Reaper appeared in his most terrible guise.

Tattered black robes swathed a figure fully three hands taller than Ares.
Death's hood was raised and nothing was visible of the god except two
skeletal hands. In one hand he wielded his infamous, bloody sickle, and in
the other he clutched a hank of filthy hair from which dangled a freshly
severed human head.

"A little melodramatic, don't ya think?" Ares usually enjoyed the dark god's
skeleton form. It was the one Death wore when he and Ares went out carousing,
wading through nice, meaty wars and scaring away the foreigners when they
were done playing with them.

Thanatos held the bloody head at eye level to Ares. "You may not enter," the
head wheezed, spraying Ares with a fine mist of blood as it spoke.

"Well, why not?" Ares opted to remain cool, disconcerting as it was to
suddenly be on the opposite side of his favorite comrade.

"The matter does not concern you," sprayed the head.

Ares attempted to stare down Thanatos, but since he couldn't quite see within
his cowl (and he knew all he'd find there was an expressionless skull anyhow)
he decided to reason.

"Look. You've got a big-ass sun in your front yard, and Hades is sequestered
in there. Ever think he might like a little help?"

Thanatos stared. At least Ares thought he was staring. He didn't know if a
skull could technically stare, having no eyeballs. Thanatos raised the head
again, shaking it for emphasis. "Hades is all-powerful. He does not need your
help," it hissed. Ares supposed it would have shouted that last part if it
had lungs attached to it.

Ares scowled, feigning deep concern. "But what if he's under a spell?" He
observed the Reaper's body language as if he was swordfighting. His posture
was self assured, but then it shifted. There. The head dipped. Then came the

When Thanatos flickered away to check on his precious master, Ares shoved
Iolaus farther aside and slid through the massive iron door.

The only figure standing in the room was Thanatos, leading Ares to initially
fear the worst, an image of his uncle appearing in his mind's eye, fallen,
bloody, slain.

Instead, he crossed his arms and ground his teeth together as he beheld his
secret lover wrapped around the naked body of his sickening elder brother,
blissfully unaware, sprawled wantonly on the cold marble floor for any to
see, slumbering peacefully. The look on Apollo's face was transcendent, as if
he would never again be the same. As for Hades, well, he looked happy. For
the first time ever, he looked happy. They fit together like sword and
sheath. Like fucking goddamn my lover sword and my son of a mortal freshly
fucked brother sheath.

A ball of dark energy appeared in his hand as Ares calculated his odds of
blowing his brother to pieces without seriously damaging Hades.

Maybe it didn't matter if he hit Hades too.

The tip of a bloody sickle prodded Ares in the shoulder. He looked up to see
Thanatos shaking the head vigorously.

"No," it whispered.

Ares trembled as he stayed the violent energy coursing through his body,
allowing the black energy ball to fizzle out. It wouldn't do to display any
feeling of jealousy in front of an Underworld god, since Ares' relationship
with Hades wasn't exactly common knowledge.

"In case of, ah, intruders," Ares explained lamely, blowing a tiny puff of
smoke, the remains of his reabsorbed energy ball, off his palm and into the

The severed head grinned at Ares knowingly.

Ares clicked his tongue. "What?"

"If you kill the slut," the head wheezed, "he remains in the Underworld."

"Oh. Good point." Still unsure where exactly to look when he spoke to his
friend, Ares found he was beginning to talk to the head. The hood seemed to
be gazing at him, though, as if the skeletal figure was amused to learn that
Ares was involved with its master. Ares vowed to fuck Thanatos senseless the
moment the god took on one of his fleshier forms.

Ares spun as Iolaus, unable to contain himself, darted into the room, heels
clattering on the marble floor. He looked down. He looked at Ares. He looked
at Thanatos' hood. Finally, he looked down again.

"I never did like Apollo much," he commented.

Ares curled his lip. "Come on," he snarled, grabbing Iolaus by the studded
leather thing he was wearing. "We're sparing Hades the indignity."

The three black-clad figures trooped back out of the room and reconvened
behind the great iron door. "Okay," Ares said, voice low. "What's the plan?"

Iolaus hunkered down to begin brainstorming. "First we get a catapult, a
really big one, and the all we need is for someone to load the sun into it..."

"Shut up," wheezed the head.

"No, no, simple is best," Ares muttered. He turned to Thanatos. "Make sure
your brother Hypnos lets him wake up, okay?"

"I will relay this," mouthed the head.

Ares paused for a moment, took a deep breath, and pounded his battle-hardened
fist on the door.

*Thoom! Thoom! Thoom!*

"Hades," he bellowed, "you got a problem!"

In a brief moment, the huge door swept open and Hades stood, great and
terrible in his villainous black armor, framed by the portal. This was how
Ares preferred his uncle, not curled up like a newborn kitten with his stupid
blond brother. He wasn't really angry with Hades. Disappointed, yes, but not
angry. It was Ares, after all, who flicked Hades' tear into sunny-boy's food.
He'd just thought it would do something terrible to Apollo, and instead it
backfired. That was the risk one took when dealing with an untried battle
plan, he supposed.

"What is it?" Hades boomed.

"The sun blazes in the sky of Asphodel! Your subjects are in agony."

Hades spun sharply on his heel, his batlike black cloak snapping behind him
as he strode quickly to the huge, bronze double doors that opened onto the
facade of his palace, and to the terminus of the line of supplicants.

As Hades threw the great doors wide, the light crashed in with a palpable
force, illuminating every surface and plane with its harsh white brilliance.

Ares watched in disbelief as a small figure crawled forth from the closest
tent, a fey slip of a girl, holding her eyes. Nearly blind, she dragged
herself up the stairs, hauling a greasy looking wooden crate behind her.

"My Lord!" she sobbed, collapsing at Hades' feet.

Hades squinted down at her, the blazing star throwing its harsh light full in
his face. "What is wrong, Anphimone?"

The girl gestured helplessly at the box. "Three years I've waited to see you,
and now, my offering, the candles I've made for you..." Anphimone's face
crumpled as wax pooled around the bottom of the crate.

"Shh," Hades soothed, going down on one knee so he was at a level with the
girl. He plucked the crate from her hands and pried up the lid, whispering to
the box's contents. The candles hastened to reform themselves at Hades'
request, growing into intricately carved and shaped spires inlaid with tiny
dried flower petals in delicate designs.

"They are lovely, just lovely," Hades said in a tone so intimate that Ares
grew jealous of the dead girl. "Iolaus, place these somewhere in shadow for
now," he commanded, setting the crate behind himself and turning again to
face Anphimone.

Ares scowled as Hades touched his subject on the shoulder and the two figures
flickered, disappeared. "What's he doing?" Ares asked, realizing that he was
beginning to sound petulant, annoyed at himself for coming off that way.

"It's the benediction," Iolaus whispered in hushed, reverent tones. "See, he
takes us to a place he's found where time moves really slow. He hangs out
with us, talks, and, you know, does that thing with his hand on your head."

Ares had no idea what "that thing" was, but to speak of it caused Iolaus to

Hades flickered back in with Anphimone. The girl seemed a different person
altogether, happy, satisfied, content. She walked down the semicircular
stairs slowly, a small smile on her lips, veering away from he refugee-like
line and heading toward wherever she bided her eternity.

"I'm sorry," Hades announced to his subjects, "but I must restore the sun to
its proper place before we continue." The line rustled, but stared at Hades
patiently, a few people nodding. With that, the Lord of the Underworld took
three steps back, and the gleaming bronze doors swung together of their own
accord to afford their master some privacy.

*Screw the sun,* Ares thought. He yearned to take Hades aside, to scrub the
stink of Apollo off him, to find out where this secret, magical place was
that he'd hidden from Ares all these decades.

Hades turned his back on Ares, approaching the Sun God instead. "The sun and
my realm are a harsh coupling. I know you didn't summon him intentionally,
but now you must take him back where he belongs."

Apollo bowed his head, for obviously he saw that this was so.

Ares almost didn't hear his uncle's whispered addendum. "We shall always have
the night."


Hermes stared down at the shape he donned: Muscular and brown, with long,
black hair in a thick braid and an expressive face. He'd chosen modern
clothing, brown leather trousers and a traveler's vest, for the encounter.
The beaded kilt and jeweled hair simply felt like a farce in the current day
and time. He held his breath as the echo of his knock faded away. Maybe
Autolycus wouldn't answer the door with the streets full of looters and
lowlifes in the extended darkness.

The door opened a crack. Hermes stared, stunned, at an equally baffled face.
He forced himself to smile, to appear relaxed, though he was screaming
inside. "Hiya, sunshine!"

Autolycus gaped, then shook his head slowly, reaching out a tentative finger
and placing it on the Mycenaean's arm. "So that's that," he said in a
trembling voice. "I've finally gone mad."

The swarthy warrior grasped Auto's hand, capturing it quickly and holding it
to his lips. "No! Don't say that! It's me! I've -- I've -- gotten a boon from
Hades! The long night has intensified his powers so he could allow me to
return to the land of the living."

Autolycus stared at his lover numbly. "Right. So what's the catch? You turn
into a pomegranate when and if the sun ever rises?"

"No, nothing so stringent," the Mycenaean said, "but I'm still Hades'
servant. I'll need to leave sometimes, to perform various tasks for him, but
I'll be back right afterward."

Autolycus eyed the newcomer suspiciously for several long moments while the
warrior stared at him pleadingly, kissing each finger with his lush lips,
tasting Auto gently with a wet tongue.

"Gods," Autolycus whispered, reaching out his other hand to touch his lover's
cheek, his hair. "Oh, gods." He swung away from the Mycenaean, scrubbing at
his eyes, back heaving, retreating into the deeper darkness of the unlit
villa, door swinging open behind him. The warrior followed, closing the door
behind and sliding a broad beam into place to secure it.

Autolycus had made it as far as the hallway, where he'd leaned into the
stuccoed wall for support, then slid down bonelessly to sprawl on the cool,
tile floor.

"I really hoped you'd be a little happier to see me," the Mycenaean quipped,
crouching beside his lover.

"You're really here? For good? For real?" the thief's voice sounded hollow
and small in the stucco and tile hall.

"Come on, Greek. What did I say?" The dead warrior's voice was light as he
chided Autolycus, gathering him into a sitting position and wrapping strong
arms around him. "Me and you. From now on."

"Oh gods," Auto stammered, burying his face in the warrior's chest and
allowing the huge, wracking sobs that were months in the making to come forth.

"Shh, shh," soothed the Mycenaean, rocking Autolycus gently, kissing his
hair. "I missed you too. Bad. But it's okay now, it's okay."

"Well," Auto said shakily, wiping his face with the sleeve of his robe, "I
guess water doesn't melt you."

"No," the warrior laughed, "I'm pretty sturdy."

"So," Auto said, sniffing, but keeping his tone light with obvious effort,
"can you, ah, eat, drink? Any weird restrictions?"

"No, I can eat," murmured the swarthy warrior, dragging his lips sensuously
through Autolycus' hair.

"In that case," Autolycus chuckled stiffly, pulling away, "why don't you
sample some Egyptian honeywine with me."

The warrior gazed at Auto as the thief stood. "I didn't exactly come here for
the wine," he grinned.

"Truly, it's quite special," Auto bantered, his voice growing a bit more

"Oh? And how's that?"

"It's in my bedroom!" Autolycus leered, taking off in a playful dash. The
warrior sprang up and chased him, bursting into the untidy bedchamber
breathless and laughing. Autolycus grasped his lover's vest and stripped it
off neatly, tossing it in a heap with a hodgepodge of other garments.

"I'm sorry it took me so long," the Mycenaean whispered as Autolycus' deft
fingers unlaced the suede thongs on his trousers.

Autolycus shook his head. "Doesn't matter. Five months, five years, fifty
years. I'd still search 'till I found you." He glanced up, seeking the
warrior's eyes with some abashment, as if unaccustomed to giving voice to
strong emotion. "I was beginning to think I'd have to die first, which was
fine, don't get me wrong. But I suspected that if I died by my own hand,
Hades would consign me to an eternity in Tartarus without you."

"Hey, come on," the warrior scolded gently, "enough of that."

"No, no, I just wanted you to know. I'll do whatever it takes." Auto trailed
his fingertips down his lover's high cheekboned face as if to prove to
himself that he was real.

"You don't have to do anything," the Mycenaean replied, stepping out of his
trousers as he untied the sash of Auto's robe. "You're perfect just how you

The thief shivered, even in the humid air, as the man he'd been searching for
placed his lips at the hollow of Auto's throat, simply breathing him for
several moments, then slowly, with unhurried deliberation, trailed his tongue
over salty flesh. "You're here for good?" Auto wondered as he was laid down
tenderly on his tousled bed.

"That's right," his lover reassured him, learning the harsher contours of the
thief's body gently with his hands.

Autolycus stared at the other man in the dim lantern light as a bloody red
sunrise began peeking through his window, bathing the fine brown body in his
bed with a sensuous, rosy light. When there was enough light to properly,
see, Autolycus took a handful of the warrior's glossy, black hair and turned
his face toward him. "I don't think I could take it if you left me, Hermes."

The warrior's eyes widened, then settled into a smile. "Just you and me,
Auto, from here on out."



Eventually, the greedy stepfathers, uncles, bosses and pimps stopped sending
their charges the way of the eccentric Greek, for he was quite visibly
smitten with the dark skinned, long haired islander he'd selected from a
large pool of such men. Though they kept an expensive villa in Crete, they
were seldom found there, typically involved in some clandestine quest or
swashbuckling adventure that kept them from their nest.

Occasionally, a scantily clad, blond teenager was seen at the villa. While
the cattier villagers claimed he was Autolycus' lover, only hanging about
when the Greek's partner was away on business, the more generous neighbors
assumed he was simply some sort of houseboy.


Anphimone buffed the ninety-ninth plate with a soft towel until she saw her
own elfin reflection in it. While only three place settings were actually
used, she would rather change the whole table than simply clean the soiled
dishes and replace them. The care of the table was, after all, her only
official duty, and it filled her heart with joy to perform it.

She placed the plate carefully before the great, high-backed chair at the
head of the long table, nudging it minutely one way, then the other. Hades'
setting had to be perfect, for the symmetry soothed him.

Next, Anphimone turned to Persephone's place at her husband's right hand. The
servant made sure that all goblets and utensils were well within her queen's
reach, and scattered a few delicate apple blossoms around the lip of her

Finally, she moved to the last place setting, where the couple's lover would join them. Anphimone tucked an extra napkin discretely inside the first, for Apollo, being an Olympian, was so much higher spirited than her Asphodelian masters that he usually made an atrocious mess at the table.

Not that Anphimone minded cleaning up after him, as the Sun God's company
seemed to gladden the hearts of the Underworld's monarchs so.