Once upon a time in there lived in a nice house near Corinth a young man called Iphicles. He lived there with his mother and his half-brother Hercules, who weren't exactly wicked, but they had no time or love for poor Iphicles. Somehow their indifference hurt him more than their hate could have done.
Iphicles worked hard to keep the house neat and tidy, make sure the animals were all fed and the stables cleaned, but no-one ever noticed or thanked him. He worked from dawn to dusk and sometimes, most times, well into the dark, while his half-brother went about with his best friend Iolaus, fighting and rescuing people in distress, and his mother spent her days recounting Hercules' exploits to her friends and cooking meals for Hercules which he was never there to eat. Iphicles was usually too busy to stop for proper meals and survived on bread and cheese or the occasional bowl of soup or re-heated stew. Some nights he was so tired he went to bed hungry.
When Hercules and Iolaus were there, which wasn't often, they simply ignored him unless they wanted anything. They walked mud and dust all over his nice clean floors, expected fresh sheets on their beds every day, and always brought home lots of dirty laundry. Hercules tried to come home every year for Mother's birthday, of course, and most years he was. This year they'd come to take part Ares' Trials to chose his new Champion. Once every ten years, all the young men and warriors in and around Corinth were invited to compete for the honour and Hercules and Iolaus were no exception.
"You know the best thing about coming home is being able to have a long hot bath, " Hercules yelled at Iolaus.
He was splashing about in the tub in front of the kitchen fire. There was water everywhere. Iphicles sighed as he carried another pail of water to add to the tub. He had already mopped the floor that morning, and he was way behind with his chores. He poured the water into the tub.
"Hey! Watch what you're doing. Idiot," laughed Hercules, winking at Iolaus. "That's hot. You nearly scalded me!"
"Sorry, Hercules," Iphicles mumbled.
Iolaus sat on the table swinging his legs and munching an apple. Iphicles had asked him to use a chair, because you couldn't prepare food on a table someone sits on until you've scrubbed it again, but Iolaus ignored him. Sometimes Iphicles thought Iolaus didn't hear a word he said. Sometimes he thought, and he cried himself to sleep when he thought it, that his mother and Hercules would be much happier if Iolaus was the brother and Iphicles didn't exist. But they were his family, and he loved them, so he stayed.
"Herc," Iolaus said, with his mouth full. "Why are we here? I mean you don't want to serve Ares."
"No. But just think how mad he'll be when I win all the competitions," Hercules replied, climbing out of the tub and dripping on one of the few dry bits of floor as he dried himself.
"All!" exclaimed the small blond. " I'll win the archery. And I'm a better swordsman than you."
And they flew at each other in a mock wrestling match, knocking stools and the bath tub over, flooding the kitchen floor.
"Oh whoops," they chuckled in mock horror at Iphicles before they fled outside.
Iphicles felt tears prickling at the back of his eyes as he looked at the mess. He took a deep breath, picked up the mop and began restoring the room to rights.
The kitchen cat, his only friend, sat on the hearth and watched him. She always seemed to know when he was feeling really miserable and rubbed herself against him purring, or got herself adorably tangled up fighting a piece of yarn, to make him feel better.
When he'd finished he picked up a small piece of parchment from the mantelpiece. It was his invitation to the games with his name on it. He read it again and gently stroked it before putting it carefully back in its safe place.
"I'd like to be Ares' Champion, Cat." he whispered to the cat. "But the God of War wouldn't choose me." He looked down at his rags. "I don't look like a warrior. How could I go to the Trials?"
Iphicles worked really hard for the rest of the morning so he could have a little time to himself while Mother had her nap after lunch. He took a towel and some soap and left the house. Hercules might have hot baths but Iphicles had to make do with the cold stream.
Iphicles undressed as he approached his favourite bathing pool so he could dive into the cool water as soon as he got there. He rounded the rocks screening the place and froze, stunned. Someone else was there. The stranger was a tall, dark, black leather-clad warrior with dark eyes and long, curling, black locks which looked so soft Iphicles wanted to stroke them. The warrior was draped elegantly in Iphicles' favourite hollow, moodily skipping stones across the water. Iphicles stepped backwards, tripped and fell backwards shouting in surprise. He landed flat on his back, winded.
The stranger loomed over him and asked, with genuine concern, "Are you all right?"
"I'm sssorry" Iphicles stuttered, caught in the gaze of the warmest chocolate brown eyes he had ever seen. "I didn't mean to disturb you."
"That's all right" the warrior replied, pulling Iphicles back to his feet without any apparent effort. He must be stronger than Hercules, Iphicles thought, completely overwhelmed by this amazing man. He couldn't speak. The warrior looked him up and down appreciatively. Iphicles blushed under the direct gaze. He pulled his arm back. The stranger reluctantly released him, but didn't move away.
"Who are you?" Iphicles finally managed to blurt out.
The warrior raised an incredulous eyebrow .
"Oh Ares!" Iphicles thought. "How stupid can you be? He must be someone famous!"
"You see I don't get out much.." Iphicles stumbled on, blushing. The wonderful man placed a finger on Iphicles' lips.
"It really is all right." he said, stroking a stray brown curl off Iphicles' forehead. "I'm not all that special."
"Oh but you are." Iphicles said before he could stop himself. "You must be Ares' Champion! I'd love to be a warrior like that. I'd love to serve Ares. "
"Maybe you will."
"I don't think so." Iphicles replied sadly. "I would like to meet him though. Just once."
The stranger, laughed but it was an affectionate laugh and Iphicles smiled in response. Then the stranger grasped his arm in a warrior hand-shake and pulled him into a hug. It was warm and safe. The studs on the warrior's vest rubbed against his naked chest. His nipples hardened in response. Iphicles relaxed, closing his eyes. He felt soft light kisses on his neck travelling up to the point behind his ear. The man used the tip of his tongue to caress that sensitive point. Iphicles' knees began to tremble. He wanted to melt into the man's arms and forget everything. The soft kisses moved along his jaw and stopped at its point. Iphicles opened his eyes to meet the warrior's gaze. He was drawn into the deep dark depths of those beautiful eyes. He was drowning in them. His lips parted slightly as he moaned quietly. The stranger's lips pressed against his and his tongue slipped into Iphicles' welcoming mouth. It was the most wonderful moment of Iphicles' life. He felt dizzy. His knees wouldn't hold him. He slipped out of the embrace as he almost blacked out.
Then he was aware of someone ordering him to breathe and counting. He was sitting on the turf with his head between his knees. The stranger knelt beside him with his arm draped around Iphicles' shoulders. He looked up and was surprised to see those wonderful eyes full of concern. That anyone could care about Iphicles being hurt was too much for him and tears welled in his eyes.
"You are supposed to breathe as well," the stranger commented, ironically. Iphicles was so distraught about upsetting his new friend that a tear escaped. The stranger brushed it off his cheek, and changed his tone. "Please don't be upset. I can see I'll have to be careful with you. I'm not used to people who don't want anything from me."
Iphicles smiled weakly.
"That's better!" The stranger sat next to Iphicles. Iphicles could see how soft and full his lips were. He wanted to try kissing them again. He moved shyly towards his new friend, who seemed to know what was wanted. This time Iphicles remembered to breathe. He let the man's tongue explore his mouth, stroking the inside of his cheeks. He
tentatively ran his fingers through the dark curlsand found they were as soft as they looked. His friend's hand gently and slowly stroked the inside of his thigh. Iphicles wanted to lie back on the springy turf in the warm sun and let go of himself; let himself drown in the man's touch, and scent, and those amazing eyes. But they'd only just met!
What was he thinking of? He pulled back slightly and his friend let him go.
"I'm sorry..." Iphicles began.
"SSh," his friend replied, smiling. "You're a good boy. I know that." The warrior stood up. "And I must be going. They'll be looking for me." He ruffled Iphicles' hair as he took a deep breath, and determinedly walked away.
"Good luck in the Trials." he called, as he mounted his highly-bred black stallion and galloped off.
Iphicles was too stunned to say he wouldn't be there. He watched the strange warrior ride away before undressing for his bath. He was surprised to find it difficult to remove his trousers. He was so used to being too tired for any thought of sex, he occasionally wondered whether his cock still worked. He tentatively ran his fingers up and down its length thinking about the kisses. Somehow he felt using the memory to jerk himself off would sully it, and it was too special a moment for that so he quickly finished dtripping and dived in. The water was so cold his erection quickly vanished. While he bathed he thought. By the time he left he was resolved to go to the trials. He had to find a way to see his "lover" again. He tasted the word in his mind and mouthed it to himself. He liked it.
There was a very old shrine to Aphrodite on his way back home. Not many people came that way so it was neglected and didn't have many offerings. Feeling refreshed after his dip and wonderful encounter, and wanting to thank the goddess for a few moments of love, Iphicles picked a big bunch of flowers, choosing them carefully for their colour and scent. The shrine was a mess, so Iphicles set to work to remove all the dead flowers and rotten fruit, pull out all the weeds and cut back the over-hanging branches. The low afternoon sun burnished the statue's hair into a delightful red-gold. Iphicles knelt and began to arrange his flowers around the figure.
"That's so cool," a voice remarked gleefully behind him.
Iphicles glanced over his shoulder. The voice belonged to a woman shrouded in a grey cape. He had the feeling she was admiring his butt, so he sat back, self-consciously and said, shyly, "I thought she needed a little bit of care and attention."
"You are so right, sweetcheeks," the woman replied walking round the figure. "You've done a really great job. That light is just so flattering! And it brings out the highlights in your hair too."
Iphicles looked across at the setting sun. "Oh Hades!" he moaned. "I won't be back till after dark. Mother will get upset and Hercules will be so cross!" He dropped the rest of the flowers and ran.
Aphrodite picked them up and, deep in thought, finished his arrangement.
Next morning Iphicles was up even earlier than usual and raced through his chores. He got his best clothes out of the chest in his room and checked his invitation was still in its special place. After his mother had gone to take her place in the stand to watch the events, he solemnly got the box of his father's weapons out from under the dresser and opened it. Now he had a sword.
Hercules and Iolaus bounced in.
"What's this junk?" Iolaus asked looking over Iphicles' shoulder and lifting out the sword. The blond swung it experimentally.
"My father's armour," Iphicles said quietly but firmly. " I thought you'd gone. Please put that back."
Iolaus continued as if Iphicles hadn't spoken.
"You're not thinking of entering the Trials?" Hercules laughed incredulously.
"Why not? Everyone is invited. I have as much right to be there as you," Iphicles replied with as much dignity as he could master.
"Iphicles! There isn't a mop-wielding competition," Hercules teased. Iolaus laughed so much he accidentally swung Amphytrion's sword hard against the fireplace. The force of the blow shattered the old blade and shook the mantel so hard that Iphicles' invitation went swirling into the fire.
"NO! NO!" Iphicles yelled. "No," he added, his heart breaking as he saw his precious piece of parchment, and all his dreams, go up in smoke.
"Oh whoops! Sorry," Iolaus said, handing Iphicles the sword hilt.
"That's what you always say," Iphicles cried, heart-broken. He sank to his knees and began to collect the bits of old metal. Tears rolled down his cheeks.
Hercules rolled his eyes upwards. "Temper. Temper," he admonished. "It was only an old sword. You couldn't have used it. You need good weapons to enter the trials."
Hercules and Iolaus left still laughing while Iphicles rested his head on a stool, buried his face in his hands and sobbed his heart out.
There was a sudden pleasant burst of rose scent in the air and delicate fingers brushed through his hair.
A low voice said "Don't cry, sweetcheeks. It wrecks the complexion."
Iphicles looked up. The voice seemed vaguely familiar. The woman standing before him wearing a few scraps of pink gauze was stunningly beautiful.
"Who are you?" he asked.
She laughed. It was a wonderful laugh which skipped up and down Iphicles' spine making him feel warm and tingly inside, and, he realised with slight amazement, aroused him a little.
"Well. That statue isn't a good likeness ..."
"You're Aphrodite!" Iphicles exclaimed, sliding to kneel before her.
"The one and only," She replied, stroking his head and adding, with a giggle. "You do know what a girl likes, don't you? C'mon now. Don't get bashful. I came by to see if there was anything you wanted. You did such a great job yesterday and you dashed off before I could thank you. Any girl you want to impress? You want to fall down at your feet?"
Iphicles looked up at her. She could see the despair in his eyes, the smudges on his cheeks and the tears still gleaming in his long, dark lashes. He looked cute in a pathetic sort of way.
"I don't think you can help me," he replied, desolately.
"Sure I can. I'm a Goddess."
"But you're Goddess of Love...... and I want to enter the trials to choose Ares' Champion. I met a warrior yesterday. He looked wonderful. And so powerful...... How I'd love to be... but to do that I need weapons and armour. A sword and a bow.... so thank you very much but you can't help."
She bent down and patted him on the cheek. Iphicles tried hard to keep looking into her eyes but he was only human and his gaze wandered downwards.
"Remember who I'm married to?"
"Hephaestus!" Iphicles made eye-contact and held it this time. Aphrodite saw hope grow in the depths of the big brown puppy-dog eyes. "You wouldn't..."
"He'll need something to work with."
Iphicles showed her the remnants of his father's armour and the remains of his sword.
"Not much." She noticed the woebegone expression on Iphicles' face and added, "If anyone can do anything with this Heffie can. Don't go anywhere. Wash your face. Have something to eat. I'll be back." And she was gone in the twinkling of an eye and a cloud of rose petals.
Iphicles followed her instructions and felt a lot better once he'd washed his face and combed his hair. He was sitting in the chair by the kitchen fire, with the cat curled on his lap, day-dreaming of his wonderful dark-haired warrior, when his father's chest reappeared on the table and Aphrodite returned.
"You look so cute like that," she remarked.
Iphicles stood up and gently placed the sleepy cat on the chair seat. She opened an eye at the disturbance but decided to curl up tight and go back to sleep.
"He couldn't do anything then." Iphicles said, sadly.
"Hey! Think positive! Negativity really messes up your aura, y'know. Now come here and open the box. Trust me."
Iphicles smiled apologetically and did as he was bidden. He lifted out a beautiful, gleaming sword. He swung it slowly and reverentially. It was perfectly balanced.
"There's a bow and arrows too," Aphrodite said unpacking the box. "Ooooh. Don't you just love presents! And these." She lifted out a pair of gauntlets made of plaited brown leather inset with gold and cornelian.
Iphicles put the gauntlets on. They were wonderful but they made him realise how shabby his own clothes were. He could see by the frown on Aphrodite's face, she thought so too. He began to remove them.
"Don't do that." she commanded, as she pulled the laces tight and tied them off.
"I can't go dressed like this."
"No. But I can fix that. Need to do something about your hair too," she added, critically. "Close your eyes sweetcheeks and trust me!"
Iphicles did as he was told. There was golden tinkling sound, a feeling of having rose petals showered over his naked skin, and wind brushing through his hair, before Aphrodite told him to open his eyes. He looked at a tall, strongly-built warrior dressed in dark brown leather trousers with a studded ox-blood knee-length vest over a crimson shirt. The warrior had brown hair with red highlights, drawn off his face and tied back showing strong cheekbones and full lips. Iphicles raised a hand and stepped forward. The warrior mirrored his actions.
Aphrodite belted his sword round Iphicles' waist. The belt and scabbard were inlaid to match the gauntlets.
"I can add beard - a goatee? What do you think?" Aphrodite asked looking critically at his reflection and leaving her arm around his waist.
"I think my mother wouldn't recognise me! Thank you so much." Iphicles replied, his eyes shining. He took Aphrodite's free hand in his own and kissed it. He was too full of joy to speak.
"If Ares turns you down," she said, snuggling closer to him. "Tell him from me he's mad and come to my temple. I'll have you in my service any day." Her hand went from his waist to squeeze his butt. He jumped away in surprise.
"Nice buns." Aphrodite remarked, laughing at his reaction. "What else? You'll need a horse." She considered the cat.
"There's the old horse I use for the cart in the stable," Iphicles said. "If you think you can turn a cat into a horse you can make him younger. I think Aphros would like that."
"Sure thing. Nice name."
"He's the colour of the foam on the sea. When we were younger I thought he could run as fast as the breakers."
Aphrodite pinched his cheek and fluttered her eyelashes at him. "You are such a sweetie! Sure you don't want to serve me?"
She sighed as Iphicles shook his head.
Iphicles saddled and bridled the old grey gelding and led him out into the yard. Aphrodite blew the horse a kiss and, suddenly, there was a magnificent white stallion, looking slightly surprised, and dancing about eager to be off.
"Before you go." Aphrodite warned. "This is not a forever thing. It only works until sunset then you get your old look back. Except for the bits Heffie made of course."
Her sudden serious tone made Iphicles think, and ask anxiously, " Won't Ares see me as I really am?"
"No way!" came the indignant response. She switched to reassurance. "He can't. It's kinda complicated so just trust me. It's a god thing." "Anyway, sweetcheeks," she added to herself, "This is who you really are. Somethings we can't fake."
Iphicles mounted Aphros who now moved as smoothly as silk in water. Iphicles had always dreamed of riding such a fine horse. "Thanks Aphrodite. Thanks for everything." he shouted as they galloped off.
"I know. Be back before sunset!"
To Iphicles' relief other warriors were waiting to be admitted when he arrived at the practice grounds behind Ares' temple. He wasn't too late then!
One of the Corinth City Constable's men armed with a scroll approached him and asked for his name. Iphicles panicked. "Iph.." he began before he realised he couldn't use his own name. "...sand," he concluded, with the first sound that popped into his head.
The deputy checked the scroll and ticked off a name. "Iphsand. Gotcha. Go through the arch and report to the priest. He'll tell you where to go next."
He was off to the next warrior before Iphicles could mumble a "thank you".
Once through the arch Iphicles could see the full extent of the practice grounds, with the Temple behind. The large space had been roped off into smaller compounds where warriors practised different fighting skills. He spotted Hercules and Iolaus fighting with staffs. Ares' priests clad from head to foot in blood red silk directed and supervised the groups.
An awning stretched from the back wall of the temple to shade an area of seating, packed with spectators. Alcmene was in the front row clearly watching Hercules and commenting on his prowess to her neighbours. In the centre of the seating was a large black throne, with a darker figure elegantly sprawled across it. Iphicles drew his breath in sharply. It was Him!
Iphicles couldn't see Him clearly but he felt his friend was bored and unhappy. The dark gaze scanned across him and Iphicles' heart skipped a beat. He told himself sternly that he hadn't been seen and anyway He wouldn't recognise Iphicles in this guise. He'd seen a young man in rags not a warrior. But the thoughts that He would be watching and that He might speak to him filled Iphicles with joy. However badly he did in the Trials, this was going to be a beautiful day!
Iphicles' reverie was interrupted by an officious priest telling him to dismount, signalling for a junior acolyte to lead Aphros to the stables, and explaining the order of the day. He would meet the guests of honour, make his bow to the God and then, as part of a group of twelve, progress round the different martial disciplines - archery, staff, unarmed, spear [throwing and fighting] and sword.
Iphicles dismounted. The priest bustled off. Iphicles moved to follow him. No. He couldn't. He had to see that Aphros was comfortable first. He took the bridle and said "Lead the way" to the acolyte. The boy looked scared and confused. Iphicles could hear mocking laughter behind him but he was so used to being laughed at it was easy to ignore.
Aphros snorted disapprovingly as he was led towards the well-appointed and airy stables. "Is there somewhere he can have a run?" Iphicles asked the boy. "This is a day off for him too. I'd like him to enjoy it."
The acolyte led them a little further to an open field with a clump of trees in one corner shading a small pond. A few other horses already grazed there. Aphros whinnied at them and they came over to investigate.
"There you are!" The officious priest snapped in exasperation as he bustled up. "People are waiting. The Magistrate can't leave until he's greeted everyone. And he doesn't want to be here all day!"
"It's OK," whispered the acolyte. "I'll make sure he's happy. I'll give him an apple if you like."
"Thank you" Iphicles smiled in reply, relieved Aphros was in good hands. He followed the priest to the reception area.
Iphicles was right. His friend was unhappy. In fact, Ares was very, very unhappy. He wanted to see the young man he'd met yesterday again. The youth hadn't shown up. He probably wasn't going to. He probably wouldn't have anyway. To make matters worse Hercules and Iolaus had arrived. They couldn't be refused entry and were impressing everyone, and Alcmene was in the grandstand to watch her golden boy! His High Priest was now fussing over his every step. Hercules would win everything, as always. So it would be a perfect day! He growled moodily to himself as he watched Hercules work through a spear routine. The sound of mockery filtered through his depression. Someone else was having a hard time. Good. He looked up to see who.
A tall, broad-shouldered but neat-waisted warrior in dark red, brown and gold had just been introduced to the Magistrate and the High Priest. Ares heard a smaller, scruffier fighter in dusty black say, " ... and he went round to the stables to make sure his horse was all right!"
"So you thought your horse was more important than meeting us?" the High Priest enquired, blandly.
The warrior thought for a moment before he replied, seriously. "Surely, a good commander puts the welfare of his troops before his own? And a good war horse is worth his weight in gold. "
The magistrate harumphed. The Priest looked slightly surprised, and moved the Magistrate on to the next contestant. Ares' interest was aroused so he looked more closely. Brown hair with red highlights, or was it chestnut? Dark brown eyes. The lips looked vaguely familiar but the man wasn't.
An acolyte offered his honest warrior a tray of drinks with a chant of "Red Wine. Dry white wine. Sweet white wine. Ale. or mead." Ares' brown - no chestnut, he decided. Ares' chestnut-haired beauty considered these options briefly before asking if there was any water.
"Water!" exclaimed the mocker. "That's not a warrior's drink! Why not have a lemonade?"
"I don't think there is any." Iphicles answered.
A chilled goblet of lemonade was held out to him. Behind it were those incredible chocolate brown eyes. Him!
"There is for those who want it." Ares said. " You would be...?"
Iphicles swallowed and tried to remember how to speak. He won't know you he told himself sternly. "Iphsand. Pleased to meet you. Thank you." He took the goblet and sipped. It was delicious. Just the right balance of sharpness and sweetness. He smiled at his friend, wondering what he could say next. Ares smiled back.
" How can a warrior fight on lemonade?!! Or water??!!" the mocking little man continued. " No warrior in history has done that! I mean can you name one? You can't!"
"Hercules does!" Iphicles replied, hotly. Ares growled beside him. The mocker took one look at Ares' face and decided to pick on someone else.
Iphicles turned apologetically, " I know Ares doesn't like to hear his name mentioned, and I shouldn't say things like that here, but even Ares would agree Hercules is a warrior."
Ares gave one of his considering shrugs. " Yeah. You're right," he admitted.
The High Priest interrupted them. "My lord, Ares," he said, bowing. "The Magistrate is leaving now. Would you come and say good-bye?"
Iphicles went white. Ares feared for a moment that his new interest would faint, but Iphicles pulled himself together and whispered, consternation in his eyes, "You're Ares? I'm sorry. I didn't realise...." His gaze dropped to the floor.
"Don't apologise." Ares whispered back, so quietly only Iphicles heard. "That was honest and brave. They're qualities to be admired in a good warrior. And you're right about the value of a good war horse."
He went to do his duty to his guests feeling much, much happier. His beautiful new warrior liked him without knowing who he was. A warrior who didn't want anything from him was a rare treasure indeed. One who could stand up for himself rarer still.
Iphicles stood transfixed watching the God of War escort the Magistrate to his coach. He had wanted to meet Ares once! Yesterday, he'd kissed him. Today, Ares had made him lemonade. He didn't dare to think how he could be any happier. One of the priests nudged him and he went to join his drill group.
There was only one way, Iphicles decided, to forget about being nervous in Ares' presence - and about Hercules and Iolaus and their mockery - and that was to focus on each technique. To concentrate on becoming one with the weapon. That was something his father's old drill sergeant, Eryx, said his father always said. Eryx had taught Iphicles basic weapon drills, as Amphytrion would have wanted, until Iphicles was twelve and Eryx had been killed by bandits.
The Trials required each warrior to perform an exercise showing the moves with each weapon before they paired off to fight practice bouts; each warrior fighting all the others before moving on to the next weapon. Sometimes one of the expert priests would spar with a contestant. The first part was easy for Iphicles. This was how he trained. The sparring was harder but he was fit, strong and agile and found he won more bouts than he lost. The spear was his worst weapon, but he had a bout with the staffs with one of the priests.
He wasn't sure how this system produced a Champion but he didn't care. He was enjoying himself. He knew that memories of this day would have to sustain him for years afterwards, so he was determined to make the most of every moment. Swords were his group's last weapon and they arrived there all too soon for Iphicles' liking. His was the last group too, so all the other contestants gathered round to watch.
Iphicles thought he was reasonably good with a sword, and Hephaestus' blade was so light and well-balanced that it almost moved on its own. Even so, he was surprised to win four bouts easily. The fifth was against the mocking man, who wasn't a bad swordsman either. Iphicles was vaguely aware of someone calling out odds on the match. He smiled and saluted his opponent, who glared back and attacked before the signal. Iphicles parried. Attack. Parry. Lunge. Riposte. A flick of Iphicles' wrist sent the other man's sword flying across the arena. The move unbalanced the smaller man who ended flat on his back with Iphicles' sword at his throat. There was a smattering of applause. Iphicles was pleased to notice that even Hercules and Iolaus clapped.
As Iphicles stepped back sheathing his sword, his opponent scrambled to his feet, drew a knife and charged moving too quickly for Iphicles to draw his sword. Iphicles blocked the attack with his gauntlet. The knife-point cut across the leather and through his upper arm as Iphicles turned and swept his attacker's legs from underneath him. The man landed heavily and was seized and dragged away by the priests.
Iphicles automatically clamped his free hand over the cut to slow the bleeding.
"Let me look at that," Ares said, removing Iphicles' hand. Ares was tempted to hold on to that hand, but the arena was too public to declare that this warrior was his new lover, even if that were the case. Which it wasn't. Yet.
The cut was deep and ragged and bleeding profusely. "Nasty!" Ares commented.
One of the temple healers peered round the god and added, "It'll need stitches. Even then it may not heal cleanly. There'll be a scar."
"No. There won't," Ares said, drawing a finger tip lightly across the gash. He wasn't having a blemish on that perfect skin. He wanted to take his warrior somewhere private. Somewhere he could use his tongue to slowly and loving lick the wound whole and the arm clean of blood.
Iphicles gasped. That touch was like fire but the wound closed as if it had never been. Ares put an arm round his shoulders and led him away saying, teasingly, "You do need a drink now."
Iphicles let himself be taken. He was deliriously happy. Not only couldn't he feel the ground beneath his feet, he wasn't quite sure if his feet were still attached to his legs. If Ares hadn't been holding him, Iphicles thought he would have fallen over. He was bemused that Ares didn't seem to notice how much Iphicles was leaning on him.
Ares did notice and was pleased by it. It meant this man wasn't afraid. It meant he wanted to be in Ares' arms. It meant that Ares' earlier assessment of him was right and he would be as open, willing and ready to be possessed by Ares as the delightful young man he'd met yesterday.
Ares led Iphicles to a bench at the back of the seating under the awning. An acolyte scurried over with a tray of drinks. This time Iphicles did take wine; red wine. He was having difficulty breathing again. He was so close to his dream he was trembling with excitement. He sipped wine in an effort to calm himself as he gazed helplessly into the concerned chocolate depths opposite. He wanted another kiss from that talented mouth. He'd learned a lot today about fighting, but he felt Ares could teach him even more about fucking. Yes. Fucking. That was the word. He felt himself blush as an image of their naked bodies entwining flashed across his mind, and he hurriedly broke the eye contact. He hoped Ares hadn't seen the desire in his eyes.
Ares had. He'd also seen the image, but he didn't want to rush. He could have any mortal he wanted, of course, but it was so much more enjoyable when the mortal gave freely. This one would give all of himself body, mind and heart if Ares had patience. Ares had already decided it would be worth the wait.
"Why did you come here?" Ares asked. "What do you want from me?"
Iphicles stared across the practice ground. He didn't know what to say. He could see Iolaus' hair glinting red in the light of the setting sun.
" I'm not sure." Iphicles answered, as honestly as he could, looking directly at the god. " I wanted ..... " His voice caught in his throat. What? To try? To be Ares' champion? Just not to be Iphicles for an afternoon?
He looked away into the sun and tried again, " I don't want anything from you." The sun had begun to sink below the horizon. What was it he had promised Aphrodite? Oh gods! he had to go! He couldn't, he really couldn't, let everyone see him in his ordinary clothes. Not after such a wonderful day.
Iphicles leapt to his feet and ran. Ares jumped ahead of him to cut him off.
"I'm so sorry." Iphicles stammered. "I have to go."
As Ares moved to hold him, the High Priest hurried up, officiously. "It's time for you to announce your new Champion, my lord."
Iphicles took advantage of Ares rounding on the hapless man and snarling "Not now" to make his escape.
"But it's traditional......."
Iphicles heard Ares' bellow of frustration and rage as he passed the stables. He vaulted the fence and ran across the field calling for Aphros. The stallion cantered over and stopped. Iphicles grabbed a handful of mane and swung himself on to the horse's broad back, urging the animal on across the field and over the hedge on the far side.
They were still quite a way from home when Aphrodite's glamour vanished and Iphicles had to dismount and walk. He knew he was too heavy for the old horse. It was only then he realised he had lost one of his gauntlets. The little man's knife must have cut the tie.
Even walking Iphicles did manage to get back with enough time to bed down Aphros, light fires and candles, and set out some cold food before everyone else returned. He was exhausted but deliriously happy. He hid the remaining gauntlet and sword in his father's chest beneath the old weapons and mail.
Iphicles might have had difficulty hiding his pleasure if anyone had paid him any attention, but Hercules, Iolaus and Alcmene were too busy discussing the unknown warrior who'd captured Ares' regard, and then mysteriously vanished. Even Ares couldn't find him!
It had been a long day and they all retired early. Iphicles found he was too excited to sleep. He could hear Hercules' bedsprings at work, accompanied by muffled exclamations and Iolaus giggling. The sounds of love-making made it even harder to control his thoughts of Ares. He imagined Ares kissing him longer and even more slowly and thoroughly than he had done by the pool. Ares' mouth sucking, teasing his nipples. Ares' hands stroking his cock. Ares lovingly laying him down on a bed and arranging him to be totally and fully possessed by his god. He wondered what that would feel like. Given Hercules' and Iolaus' enthusiasm for the act, it had to be enjoyable. He wa nted that complete sharing. To open himself freely and obediently to serve Ares' desire. He buried his face in his pillow, pretending it was the dark and sexy God of War, and drifted into sleep. As he slept those thoughts infiltrated and dominated his dreams.
"But it's traditional for you to announce your Champion now, my lord " the High Priest, insisted. " There are two leading candidates...," he stuttered into silence as he faced the full blast furnace glare of Ares' rage.
"There's only one candidate," Ares snarled, picking the man up by the throat. "And. You. Let. Him. Get. Away."
He punctuated each word with a shake before dropping the unconscious priest on the ground. He yelled so loudly the sound reverberated round the sky. It was a cry of rage, frustration and loss. His priests, and the other contestants, stood around him frozen by the din.
"Get after him!" Ares bellowed. " And get them out of here!"
Some of the braver priests ran towards the stables, while others began to usher the contestants out of the Temple grounds. Ares closed his eyes and tried to focus on his Champion. He couldn't trace him. That wasn't possible! He tried again. Nothing. He moved towards the stables. He kept trying to make contact. He couldn't.
The black and terrible God of War appeared beside the small knot of priests by the paddock fence. At the knot's centre the stable boy held something. The priests took one look at the God's expression and vanished leaving the boy. He was shaking with fear but he managed to offer the object to Ares. It was one of Iphsand's gauntlets. Ares took it.
"I found it here." The boy indicated a spot by the fence, adding timidly, "You're bleeding, my lord."
Ares looked down. There was blood trickling from the palm of his left hand, where he grasped his sword pommel. He released the grip. Even with the gauntlet he couldn't trace his new Champion. He walked slowly back to the sword fighting arena and looked carefully over the ground. He found the small bloody patch of earth and knelt beside it. He pressed his bloody palm over the place and felt a very, very faint tingle of Iphsand's essence. It still wasn't enough to allow Ares to break through whatever barriers were hiding this mortal from him.
Now Ares was calm he applied his mind to the problem. He examined the gauntlet and recognised the craftsmanship. So the mortal had divine assistance, but whose? That deepened the mystery. No Olympian would willingly help any mortal serve another god. Particularly not Ares! He could ask Hephaestus. Who wouldn't tell him anything, and would discuss the whole miserable affair with Dite. The only better way of ensuring all the other gods knew his business would be to stand in the Great Hall and announce it himself!
If he couldn't use immortal methods, he would have to use mortal ones. He would have the priests make an announcement throughout the town and the surrounding countryside to the effect that whoever the gauntlet fitted would be his new Champion. And send them round to every household in the area. Iphsand had to be there somewhere. He reviewed the plan. Yes. That was the right way forward.
From the moment he first saw Iphsand, Ares thought about taking him to bed and teaching him how best to worship and serve the God of War. That was the traditional end to this day. Ares and his new Champion fucking, sucking, licking, kissing, biting, caressing and cumming all night long. The Champion begging and pleading and crying out Ares' name in ecstasy. What was he going to do now? Ares knew his priests would do anything he ordered. He could have each and every one of them kneeling before him, mouths open ready for him to insert his cock in one. Tartarus! He could probably command them to strip and form a circle with each man fucking the arse of the man in front, and even, order them to cum together. A formation fuck team! He laughed.
The priests waited in their refectory for their God to appear. Ares glanced at the ranks in front of him and realised he didn't want to play with them. He didn't want more mechanical coupling however pleasant. He wanted a little passion for once. So he explained his plan for finding Iphsand. It was obviously a false name but it would do for
Then he left.
When Iphicles woke next morning he wasn't entirely surprised to find there was a large wet patch in his bed. His hand was sticky with dried, and not so dried, cum. He laughed quietly, and stretched out. It must have been a wild night, even if he couldn't remember any of it. The house sounded quiet. The light shining through his bedroom window showed him he'd overslept. He dressed quickly, stripped the bed, and went through to the kitchen.
The kitchen fire hadn't be laid or lit. The kitchen table was strewn with dirty breakfast dishes and a note telling him that Hercules and Iolaus had gone hunting. He hoped they were after rabbit not quail. He hated quail. Nasty fiddly little birds with far too many feathers and guts. They took hours to prepare and were eaten in minutes.
Iphicles used the back of the note to write a shopping list, and grabbed a couple of apples and a handful of dried fruit to eat on his way to the market. It was a long list. He wished that just once Hercules would let them know when he was coming home, so Iphicles could stock the larder to cope with Iolaus' appetite.
Everywhere Iphicles went there was only one topic of conversation; the unknown warrior who had disappeared from Ares' Championship Trials. Some people thought he might be another god in disguise. Others considered he must be a prince or king who couldn't be seen to mingle with common warriors. Iphicles smiled at that. No-one asked for his opinion, although several people enquired what Hercules thought, and quickly lost interest when Iphicles answered that they hadn't discussed it.
The discussions slowed him down. He was just leaving the market place when one of Ares' senior priests arrived to make an announcement. A lesser priest carried a cushion supporting an object.
"Silence. Silence, good people. Ares has decreed that his new Champion would be the warrior Iphsand."
The statement carried through the silence and caught up with Iphicles. He stopped. Ares had chosen him! He listened further.
"Since the warrior disappeared before he could be crowned, Ares has further decreed that the warrior whose arm fits this gauntlet will be the Champion."
Iphicles left as the priest picked up the gauntlet and showed it to the crowd. The men surged forward to try it on.
Iphicles had time to think as he trudged back laden with provisions. He could go to Ares' Temple and explain that he was the New Champion. No. They wouldn't believe him. They wouldn't believe Iphicles, Hercules' pathetic brother, could be a splendid warrior. He could show them the sword and gauntlet. And everyone would ask where he'd found them. He'd get pitying looks from Hercules and his mother, the "we feel sorry you think you have to lie to get our attention, but we love you anyway" looks. He hated their pity.
Maybe Ares would believe him. He was a god. He would know Iphicles was telling the truth. But he would also know Iphicles was Hercules' brother. Well, half-brother. Just like Ares. They had that in common. But Hercules said Ares hated him. Hercules certainly hated Ares. How could Ares ever trust his enemy's brother? Once Ares knew who Iphicles really was, he would turn his back on him too. Ares' rejection would be worse than his family's pity. Iphicles didn't think he could bear living if Ares rejected him.
No, he decided. It was better to have a few moments of happiness to treasure. He'd had his one day of glory. That would have to be enough. It will be for the best, he told himself firmly, but his heart sank.
Back home Iphicles changed into his oldest pants to do all the dirty chores he'd missed on the days he'd spent with Ares. He cleaned the kitchen grate and lit the fire. He cleaned the fire-pit under the big washing copper, filled the copper and lit the fire there too. The Inconsiderate Boys would want baths when they returned from their hunt
and he had sheets to wash. He mixed a couple of batches of bread dough and left it to rise. Then he set about mucking out the stables and putting down fresh straw.
Alcmene returned to start supper as Iphicles brought in fresh vegetables from their garden. She shrieked when she saw him. He was streaked with dirt, ashes and flour. Straw stuck in his tangled hair.
"Iphicles!" she exclaimed. "What have you been doing? You're a mess!" She wrinkled her nose. "And you smell!" Iphicles opened his mouth to explain that he had been working hard, but she waved him away. "You'd better get cleaned up. Hercules and Iolaus will be back soon. They'll want baths. I hope you remembered to light the copper. Don't use all the hot water."
"Yes mother," Iphicles mumbled. He could never argue with her.
The golden boys bounced in.
"We've got quail for supper! " Iolaus announced. "Look. We caught lots."
"How was your day, Mother?" Hercules enquired, tenderly hugging her. "I'm so tired."
"Fine, dear." Alcmene replied. "Give those to Iphicles. He can clean them while you have your baths. Iphicles. Take them outside. I don't want feathers all over the kitchen."
Iphicles sighed. He took the quail, a knife and the roasting spits and did as he was told. He got some cold water from the well and washed the dirt off his hands before he started. Why bother with the rest when he would soon have blood and feathers to add to his dishevelment?
He could hear his brother and Iolaus splashing and laughing as they bathed in the wash-house. Maybe they would leave him some hot water. Maybe there would be enough soapy water on the floor to clean him while he cleaned it up.
Iphicles plucked and gutted, and gutted and plucked. He'd filled three spits when Alcmene came out to check on his progress and the golden pair came across the yard clean and tidy after their bath
"I think we need one more spit filled, dear." she said, brightly. "You know what a good appetite Iolaus has."
"And I'm starving tonight!" Iolaus shouted merrily, catching Alcmene round the waist and twirling her round. "You cook quail so well," he added.
"Flatterer!" Alcmene responded as the trio entered the kitchen.
Iphicles started on the next quail. He began to wonder whether he'd made the right decision. Yes he had. Hercules and Iolaus would be gone in a few more days. Then things would settle back to normal and he would still have his memories of the last two days. In his dreams Ares would accept him and he could embrace Ares. He closed his eyes and thought of the God of War.
A loud knocking at the front door interrupted Iphicles' reverie. His automatic move to answer it was stopped by Hercules shouting, "It's all right. I'll go."
Iphicles was close enough to the kitchen window to hear his brother add, "He looks such a mess. We can't have people see him like that!"
Iphicles sighed as he returned to his task. Why couldn't Hercules say something nice about him? Just once.
Ares didn't have the words to describe the mixture of conflicting emotions he felt. This was the last house. When mortals were desperate they prayed to him. Who could he pray to? His physical presence made his priests nervous, so now he was invisible. He didn't think they knew he was there. They were arguing in whispers.
"He won't be here."
"This is Alcmene's place. It isn't Hercules. Or that blond side-kick. What's his name?"
"Doesn't she have help? Someone has to look after the place when Zeus' by-blow is off fighting monsters, and annoying Ares."
"I don't know."
"Ares said every house. I'm doing every house. I don't want to have to explain to him we didn't follow orders. Do you?"
The second priest shuddered and knocked very loudly on the door. Hercules opened it and almost closed it in their faces, but the priests quickly explained why they were there.
"Let them in Herc," Iolaus said, mischievously. " Think how Ares will feel if it fits one of us!"
One priest prayed to Ares that it wouldn't.
"How can I make that happen?" Ares enquired sarcastically, materialising. He knew Hercules could see him anyway, so there was no point in hiding any longer.
Hercules ushered the party into the living room so Alcmene could watch the Trying On of The Gauntlet. Ares leant against the wall farthest from the activity and tried to look unconcerned. He watched sideways through his lashes. He knew Hercules knew he was upset. Ares wanted it all to be over. This was the worst day of his life. So far. The pain and humiliation he was feeling now would be nothing to that he would feel when Hera found out he'd spent the day "mooning over some pathetic mortal."
Hercules tried first. Ares was relieved when Hercules' fore-arm proved to be too large for the gauntlet to be fastened around it. The priests tried it on Iolaus. It looked fine. Ares moved away from his supporting wall to embrace Iolaus. Then he noticed something.
"Move your arm away from your stomach. Let it hang by your side," Ares ordered.
Iolaus shrugged and did as he was told. The gauntlet dropped off! It was as tightly laced as it could be and it was too large for Iolaus arm. Ares rescued it from the floor.
"Oh well. Unlucky again Ares," Hercules remarked, maliciously.
"Unless it's Iphicles, of course," his sidekick contributed. "He couldn't be him. That guy yesterday knew how to use a sword. Iphicles only knows how to use pitchforks."
The pair were laughing their blonde heads off, tears trickling from their blue eyes. Ares wanted to wipe the smiles off those mocking faces.
"There's another man here?" he enquired, deceptively quiet. His priests exchanged an "uh-oh" look and began to edge towards the door.
"Yes," Alcmene answered. "My other son, Iphicles. Amphytrion's boy. But he's not a fighter. Not like Hercules and Iolaus." Her eyes glowed with affectionate pride at she looked at the two men. "He helps me with the house and garden, and looks after the livestock."
"But he lives here? And he's old enough to compete in the Trials?" Ares continued, deadly calm. Alcmene nodded. "Then he has to try."
Ares was pleased to see that announcement had the desired effect. It silenced the Golden Boys' laughter.
"Where is Iphicles?" One of the priests chipped in. If this was what his God wanted, he would make sure this is what his God got.
"In the yard," Alcmene answered. "He's ...."
Ares cut off her further speech with "Fetch him!"
"NO!" Alcmene yelled. "Not in here. Not in that state. You can see him in the kitchen."
She led the way. Ares didn't care where he saw this other man as long as he saw him, so he followed her. Everyone else followed them.
"Iphicles, dear. Can you come in here a moment?" Alcmene called as she entered the kitchen. Ares flicked out of mortal sight. He was so nervous and he wanted to see this man without being seen.
Iphicles entered. He had the final spit of prepared quail. Blood and feathers had added to the mess of grime and straw. He stopped in horror when he saw the visitors. The priests were equally horrified by Iphicles' appearance, but they rallied. They had their orders. They would follow them.
Ares rammed a fist into his mouth to silence his scream of pain and frustration. He tried to look through the layers of dirt. There was something vaguely familiar about this creature. He worked it out while the priests explained matters. Of course, the willing young man he'd kissed by the pool! Cleaned up he was quite desirable. Spending the
night fucking Hercules' half-brother would annoy the Tartarus out of Hercules and mean the day hadn't been a complete waste. He smiled.
"Please try on this gauntlet," one priest said looking at the other, who shrugged slightly, mouthing "You had it last."
Ares gestured and the second priest was startled to find himself holding the gauntlet. He had been in Ares' service for more years than he cared to remember but the events of the past two days were too much. He should retire. The priest held up the gauntlet. Iphicles held out his arm.
Iphicles knew he was dreaming and this couldn't be happening. The gauntlet slid over his arm and fitted perfectly.
"It fits as if it had been made for you", the priest exclaimed. "You're the one. You're Ares' Champion."
Hercules, Iolaus and Alcmene were stunned. Iphicles turned to escape and ran straight into Ares. The god grabbed his arm and held it, checking the fit of the gauntlet. Ares couldn't believe that he had found his charming warrior.
Aphrodite sparkled in. "Ooooh. I just love a happy ending! Hi Curly. Hercola." She waved at them.
"But he's filthy," wailed Alcmene.
"He cleans up real nice though, doesn't he bro?" Aphrodite chuckled, squeezing Iphicles' butt affectionately. Ares growled at her. That was his property she was messing with. "You got baths at your Temple? I have at mine." She fluttered her eyelashes at Iphicles. "I can lend you one."
"I have baths," Ares replied, icily. Iphicles was trapped between the two gods. He stopped trying to escape. He looked up ready to face Ares' anger and found himself drowning in the warm chocolate brown gaze. He read images there of his naked body being gently soaped, rinsed and dried. He blushed and looked at Aphrodite.
"Thank you," he said, simply. His heart was too full for words.
"That's OK sugar." The Goddess of Love and Beauty regarded him critically. "Do we ever need to do something with your hair!" She ran her fingers through it a few times. "That's better."
Iphicles heard one of the priests mutter, "That's the warrior from yesterday."
"What do you have to thank Dite for?" asked Ares, suspiciously.
"Helping me to meet you," Iphicles replied.
"He is such a sweetie!" Aphrodite squealed. Ares looked murderous. "Cool it, bro," she continued. "It's you he wants, not me. He was breaking his heart because he couldn't go to your Trial thingy. Curly there broke his sword. That was a mean thing to do," she glared at Iolaus. " And broken hearts are my business, right? So I sweet-talked
Heffie into making him a pair of gauntlets and a new sword."
"Lots of mortals break their hearts every day. Why help this one? You haven't had Cupid messing me about, have you?"
"No way!" She considered her brother's implacable glare and gave in. "I swear. I've got this old shrine. No one goes there now. It was a real mess. Iphy here tidied it up."
"It was the day I met you," Iphicles explained, smiling. "I didn't know it was you then. But you made me feel so happy; so loved. I have the other gauntlet and the sword. If you let go of me, I'll fetch them."
As Iphicles went to the chest, Hercules found his voice. "You can't be in love with Ares," he stated. " Ares hates me."
Iphicles unpacked the gauntlet and sword and laid them on the table for all to see.
"That's right," Iolaus as always backed Hercules up. "And, if you go, who'll take care of Alcmene?"
"You mean who'll skivy and drudge for you two whenever you're here!" Ares snarled, as he fitted the second gauntlet to his lover's other arm.
"I'll be all right on my own, dear," Alcmene interjected, nobly. "I can look after myself."
"Hercola," Aphrodite said, with a very set and determined look on her face. "This is not about you. I won't let you ruin my happy ending!" She stamped her foot. " Iphicles is going with Ares. That's what they both want. That's what I want. And if you and Curly ever want to get it up again, that's what you want too."
"Dite..." Hercules began, preparing to argue with her.
Iolaus went white at the threat. "I hope you'll be very happy together," he said immediately to Iphicles, offering his hand. Iphicles accepted the good wishes.
"What are you doing?" Hercules demanded.
Iolaus grabbed Hercules arm and begged. "Herc. Please. She's serious. And you maybe a half-god, so it might only half work on you, but I'm all mortal........ and there are girls throughout Greece I haven't... met yet... who will be very disappointed. Not to mention.....," he whispered in the demi-god's ear, before adding aloud. "So please wish
your brother, your brothers, well. Please, Herc, for me."
Hercules could deny his best friend nothing and something Iolaus said clearly made him think, so he swallowed hard and said, as graciously as he could manage, "Good luck Iphicles. Well done in the Trials. Best wishes for the future."
There was still a strong suspicion of this being said through gritted teeth, but Iphicles ignored it. He was far too happy. Ares noted it for future reference, but, at this moment, his main objective was to feel Iphicles' naked and willing body moving in ecstasy beneath him, so he let it go.
"You want me to clean him up some more?" Aphrodite asked Ares. She pressed herself against Iphicles' back and slid her arm across his chest. Iphicles gasped as she tweaked his nipple.
"No." Ares replied, firmly. He grasped his sister's wrist and removed her wandering hand. "Thanks Dite. But no thanks. I want to clean him up all by myself."
Aphrodite looked disappointed. "Sure you don't want a threesome?"
Iphicles was startled by the suggestion. "Surely Hephaestus wouldn't like that."
"Heffie would be getting it!" The two gods chorused, laughing.
"Thanks for everything, Dite," Ares said, kissing her lightly on the cheek. "But we have to go."
Ares pulled Iphicles into his arms. "Come here," he said. They kissed, and as they kissed they disappeared.
"I do such good work," Aphrodite exclaimed, delightedly. "Later." She waved her fingers and vanished in a cloud of rose petals.
The priests also made a hasty exit, leaving Hercules, Iolaus and Alcmene to consider the events of the evening. The quail started to burn on the spits and they were black and inedible long before anyone, even Iolaus, noticed.
Iphicles felt dizzy. He clung on tightly to Ares' vest as the god gently moved from kissing Iphicles' lips to his neck. Ares nibbled down one vein, and across probing the V in the centre of Iphicles' collar-bone with his tongue, and up the other side.
Iphicles heard a soft chuckle in his right ear, " You have to remember to breathe, you know." as Ares stepped back slightly revealing a room with tiled walls and a large bath - or was it a small pool? - of bubbling water.
Ares took pity on his lover's look of amazement and explained. "My bathroom. This is a sort of hunting lodge I keep for entertaining. Dite's right. You need a bath. I'm not having you between my sheets in that state."
With that Ares gave him a gentle push and Iphicles fell headlong into the warm water of the pool. His protest, as he surfaced and wiped the water out of his eyes, silenced by the sight of black leather stretched tight across Ares' firm, rounded buttocks as the god bent to place his sword on a bench before turning round to slowly unfasten his vest.
Iphicles leant against the side of the bath and discovered there was a shelf conveniently placed for sitting. He sat. Ares deliberately removed his vest, revealing firm nipples set within darker circles and a muscular chest. Dark soft curls were scattered across the body gathering into a dark line as they descended across the belly, entered the waistband of Ares' pants and pointed the way to the large bulge beneath the straining cod piece. Iphicles was aware he'd stopped breathing again.
"Move over," Ares ordered and jumped in. He surfaced along side Iphicles, so close their thighs brushed. Iphicles started and blushed as he realised they were both naked and he had an erection the size of Olympus! Ares thrust something hard into Iphicles' hand. A bar of soap!
The god laughed softly at Iphicles' confusion. "You'll need it to wash! Now stand over there, where I can see you and get soapy. I want to fuck you so badly it's hard to keep my hands off you but first we need to talk."
Iphicles stood on the ledge fully exposed to Ares and aware he was blushing furiously. The god's eyes glittered with desire. Iphicles trembled with the same emotion. His hands shook so much he almost dropped the soap so he forced himself to go slowly and carefully, afraid if he touched himself anywhere sensitive, even his neck, he'd come.
"You are beautiful." Ares observed. Iphicles' blush deepened and extended from his face across his chest. It was delightful. Ares ducked his head under the water to refocus on what he had to say.
When he emerged scattering spray from his dark curls Iphicles was half covered with foam. That made this a little easier.
" Iph," Ares began hesitantly. "I need to ask you a few questions. You're a strong mortal but I could break you..."
"...so you need to know whether I've 'done it' with a man before?"
Ares nodded, smiling at the euphemism.
"The answer is 'No'. I think I know what it involves. I'm not stupid. And I did get lucky a few times at harvest festival so I'm not exactly a virgin."
"Ever been spanked?"
"Not since I was ten and I got too big to go across Mother's knee. Why?"
"Because you're not too big to go across mine!" Ares collapsed into a fit of giggles at the mixture of outrage and interest on Iphicles' face as he worked this out. "Come here," he commanded. Iphicles found himself lifted into the air, gently dunked in the pool and drawn through the water onto Ares' lap. The god's erection pressed against
his thigh. Iphicles had to bend his head to kiss Ares. It was his turn to initiate and control the contact, probing Ares' mouth with his tongue. There was a sharp electric shock as a thumb brushed one of Iphicles' nipples, and he went rigid, crying aloud in ecstasy, as Ares' clever fingers lightly stroked his cock and he came.
Ares was pleased when Iphicles relaxed against him after his spasm of release. The mortal had been too tense. Now he was ready for bed.
Iphicles was content to be held and comforted after an intensity of orgasm he'd never experienced before, even that special first time. Well this was a special time; his first time with Ares, with someone he loved. This wasn't a casual, slightly drunken and almost anonymous coupling. This was the nearest to love he had ever been in his life. If it wasn't love then it was mutual desire. Ares wanted him. He wanted Ares. He wanted to learn how to please the god; to explore every inch of that divine flesh and to be explored and shown what excited and pleased him in his turn.
Ares laid Iphicles beside him on the bed and watched as the mortal became aware of silk, not water, in contact with his skin. Then he struck, deliberately, patiently and with centuries of skill and practice, using his hands, mouth and tongue to stimulate and caress Iphicles' willing body into a state of readiness.
For Iphicles conscious thought was driven away as he became simply a mass of pleasant sensations. His eyes closed. He tried to hold on to Ares, only to have his hands placed firmly by his head. His nipples were on fire. The slightest touch now shot to his cock. He was hard. He seemed to have been hard for hours. The god was now working on the inside of his thighs, spreading his legs wider and wider. Iphicles didn't know he was that flexible. He gasped as Ares' probing finger found the small opening between his thighs, pushed and slid through. A reflex tightened muscle around the finger. Iphicles relaxed. A second finger. The pair pushed deeper and brushed against a sensitivity Iphicles' didn't know existed.
"Oh Ares," he moaned. The god stroked the spot. Iphicles' moaning became sound not words. The fingers withdrew and Iphicles managed to squint through his lashes at the dark figure kneeling between his outspread thighs. Ares' cock was the biggest he'd ever seen. He knew he wasn't under-endowed himself and Hercules was bigger but Ares surpassed even him. A third finger now joined the other two stretching and penetrating.
Ares saw Iph's eyes open. He bent forward and captured the mortal's mouth in a deep kiss. Iphicles felt a wetness streak across his stomach as the tip of the god's cock brushed past. He let the sensations overwhelm him and closed his eyes again. The fingers slipped out leaving him feeling empty. Something wet and blunt pushed at the
entrance and slid through. He gasped again, opening his eyes wide as this new sensation took him.
Ares' traced a pair of fingers across Iphicles' lips. Iph opened his mouth and sucked them as the god inexorably slid the full length of his cock into Iph's arse. Iphicles closed his eyes tightly and surrendered completely to Ares. He felt his cock taken by Ares' hand and pumped with the same deep, but slowly increasing, rhythm pounding into his
arse. He wanted it to go on forever but he needed it to stop before he broke apart. He was vaguely aware of someone shouting as he came flooding his belly and Ares' hand. He felt the god's orgasm fill him just before he blacked out.
Iphicles came to propped up on the pillows next to Ares. The first thing he saw was the anxious expression in those marvellous deep brown eyes.
"I know," he croaked, puzzled by the soreness in his throat. "I have to remember to breathe."
Ares handed him a cup of wine. "I'll have to be careful where I take you if you're going to scream like that! Someone might get the wrong idea!"
As Iphicles sipped he realised it wasn't just his throat that was sore, and he was exhausted. His eyes were closing.
Ares slid an arm around Iph's shoulders and pulled him close. "I think that's enough excitement for one day."
The sore, sated and drowsy future King of Corinth curled up against his god and flung one arm possessively across his chest. Ares took hold of it. He was usually more "Wham. Bam. Bye." but in this case post-coital cuddling was pleasant. Besides he had another question.
"Iph - i - cl-es"
"That name you used.."
"Yes. Iphsand. Where did it come from?"
Warm breath tickled his skin from his lover's sleepy giggle. Ares gently shook him, "Well?"
The chestnut curls caressed Ares' nipple beginning to arouse him as Iph's amusement increased and his head turned to meet the god's interrogatory gaze. The brown eyes twinkled with laughter meeting the mock anger in the chocolate brown. Laughter is infectious.
"Do you want me to spank you?" Ares was not entirely joking.
Iphicles considered the suggestion. "Not right now."
"Then tell me!"
"It's silly but..." Iphicles took a really deep breath and explained. "When I was younger I wanted a lot of things. I wanted to do a lot of things. I kept saying stuff like "If only I was as strong as Hercules" and "If only I knew my father" and every time my mother would say 'If "ifs" and "ands" were pots and pans there'd be no work for tinkers." I stopped saying 'If only..' until I came to the Trials. When the priest asked my name, I was thinking 'If only I could be the one. If only I could be Ares' new Champion.' I couldn't be Iphicles and I didn't have another name ready so I became 'Ifs - and'. Simple."
Iphicles smiled contentedly at Ares. Ares smiled back and pressed his lips lightly against his new Champion's brow and Iphicles fell asleep safe and happy in his lover's arms.