Iphicles kicked the body over and eyed the ornate wooden throne resting against the wall. Despite the valiant struggle of the Sugambri King and his servants, the room looked peacefully domestic. A fire still crackled in the hearth and there was a soft hint of woodsmoke in the air that even the smell of fresh blood couldn't overcome. Only the bodies littering the floor and the blood sprayed across the tapestried walls betrayed the mayhem of the previous few moments.
Iphicles scanned the room, noting its simple furnishings. It wasn't much of a palace, but this was a barbarian land. He mounted the dais and stood in front of the throne, running his bloodied hands over the carved back to the boar's head armrests, his long fingers tracing the lines of the boar's snout and tusks in admiration. Turning, he sat on the wooden seat and leaned back. As he stretched his arm out to touch the boar's snout, he saw a smear of blood that had splashed over him as he slit the King's throat. Clots of it stained the leather and metal armor he wore, and it was already starting to dry around the metal spikes on his wristband, greaves and his thick belt. He blinked, and then wiped the blood away from his eyes. Beheading a man was much harder than he imagined.
"Kill him before he kills himself," Caesar had ordered once the balance started to tip in Rome's favor. "You've had so much success today, it should be you who takes his life. Go to his residence. My informants tell me he's back there, preparing to kill himself in shame. I want his head on a spike for all his warriors to see. That ought to dampen their barbarian fervor."
Now Iphicles sat on the King's throne, the King's headless body lying at his feet, his own body covered in the man's blood. He'd bring the head to Caesar in a moment, but now he wanted to be alone, let his heart rate slow a bit before facing Caesar.
"How does it feel? Does it feel 'right' somehow sitting there?"
Iphicles startled at the sound of the deep voice behind him and turned. There, in the doorway was the tall warrior he'd seen on the battlefield earlier in the day. Iphicles remembered him, standing there amidst the bodies, fighting barbarians as if it was child's play. So strong and brave, Iphicles had thought as he watched the warrior. Iphicles hoped one day to be so fearless.
Some of his countrymen in the cavalry whispered he was Ares, the God of War, but Iphicles couldn't believe it. Iphicles had seen a statue in Athens, but the likeness was not very good -- the statue had been stiff and formal, but this warrior was anything but stiff. Besides, it was Jupiter himself who protected them on the battlefield, not Zeus' son.
Now, ominous in his black leather, the warrior stood in the doorway, leaning against one of the jambs, a half-smile on his chiseled face. The warrior held the Sugambri King's great broadsword in his hands and admired the carved bone handle.
"Who are you?" Iphicles asked, his voice cracked, his throat dry from the exertion of the fight, irritated from the bile he vomited after his task was complete.
"Who am I? You don't recognize me?"
The warrior disappeared in a flash of blue light and then reappeared in front of the throne where Iphicles sat, mouth agape. It was Ares. Iphicles slipped off the throne and knelt down, his head bowed in respect.
"You can stand," Ares said, a note of humour in his deep voice.
Iphicles did and took in a deep breath as the god moved closer -- so close, Iphicles could feel the incredible heat emanating from his body.
"What..." Iphicles began, taking a step backwards, choking on his words, his throat suddenly dust-dry. "What do you want?"
"What do I want? Well, just to see the young hero who routed the Sugambri, killed their king."
"I saw you on the battlefield," Iphicles replied, "but I didn't know who you were. Caesar is a Priest of Jupiter. I -- I didn't expect to see you here."
"No," Ares replied, walking in a circle around the young warrior. "Caesar does favour Jupiter. I'm here, in part, because I need strong young warriors like you."
Iphicles stood with his head down, trying hard not to look at the god, but his eyes were drawn to Ares all the same.
"You can look at me. I won't turn you into a pillar of salt."
"Pillar of salt?"
"Just an inside joke," Ares replied, chuckling to himself.
Iphicles looked into the god's dark eyes, and swallowed hard. That look -- it was so confusing. It was penetrating, almost angry but at the same time, amused. Ares seemed to appraise Iphicles, his eyes moving over Iphicles' body from head to foot.
"You have certain. . . attributes that I find appealing in a warrior, a follower. If you agree to serve me, I'll make sure you have victory on the battlefield, success in your career."
"And in return?"
"In return, you give me your absolute loyalty and obedience. I know you follow a general who is loyal to Jupiter, but Jupiter has less interest in war than I do. Oh, he likes the glory," Ares said, taking Iphicles' place on the dead King's throne. "But he isn't all that interested in the actual grind of battle. If you want to be a great General one day, you'll need an involved god, not a distant one. That's me."
Iphicles stood mute, not knowing what to say in response or if a response was even required.
"You have promise," Ares continued, running his finger along the sharp edge of the sword and sucking off the blood that seeped from the cut. "With my help and a few military victories under your belt, you could be a very great leader one day."
Ares handed the sword to Iphicles. Iphicles took it and shifted it from one hand to another, testing its weight. He peered at the hilt of the sword, trying to discern the creature carved in the bone. A beast with fangs bared, eyes bulging out, ears back. A grinning wolf? He handed it back to Ares, but the god shook his head.
"Keep it," Ares said. "You earned it. It's quite a responsibility, killing a king. When you use this sword, think of him. He ruled here for many years. Who'll replace him?"
"That's not my problem," Iphicles replied. "Caesar'll install a friendly client king. Someone who supports Rome."
"Who will it be? Some upstart? A fool with no subtlety? You don't even know, do you? You just did what he ordered, without even asking questions. I like that in a follower."
Iphicles bristled. Of course, he obeyed Caesar. No one questioned his tactics except his closest advisors. Certainly not a green young cavalry officer from Greece.
"You don't think Caesar should have killed the King?"
Ares smiled. "Caesar didn't kill the King. You did."
Iphicles shook his head. "I did it on his orders."
"Just so we're clear on this. YOU killed the King. Caesar merely ordered it. When you use this sword in battle, think about the king you killed. Would you be a strong enough leader to be a king yourself one day? As good a king as him?"
"I won't ever be a king," Iphicles replied as he sheathed the sword. "Jason will be one day. I only hope I'm a good enough warrior to serve in his army."
"Now, don't hope for too much," Ares said. There was something in the sound of his voice that irritated Iphicles. "You don't want to aim too high. After all, you're just the hero's older brother."
Ares tone and words set Iphicles' teeth on edge, bringing a flush to his cheeks and stiffening his spine. He looked at the god with just a little less deference than was likely proper.
"So, what is it you want me to do?"
"Can you elaborate a bit? I mean, I don't want to get into anything--"
"Let's just say you could be useful to me, in a number of ways."
"You have to explain, I won't just --."
Ares stood and grabbed Iphicles by the shoulders and pulled him close, pressing Iphicles against his body.
"In case you forgot, I'm a god. I don't explain."
Iphicles expected those strong hands to circle his neck, choke the life out of him for his insolence and he struggled, determined not to let it happen. A hand went to the back of Iphicles' head and fingers combed through his curls. When the kiss came, it was completely unexpected.
The hand on Iphicles' throat tilted his head up, and then soft lips, warm and moist, covered his. Iphicles' eyes flew open, but he couldn't see the god's eyes, for they were too close. He stiffened at the feeling of arousal that swept through him from the touch of the god's body against his and tried to pull away, but Ares' grip was tight. He'd never been kissed like that before. Never. It was so invasive, so devouring. He struggled, but it was useless.
The kiss went on, and Iphicles panicked, the feeling of fear replaced by a throb in his groin, then suddenly, Ares released him, and Iphicles staggered away. He leaned on the ornate throne to catch his breath, sick that he'd responded so strongly to the touch of another man.
"Just follow your instincts in the next few days, Iphicles. Don't give in too soon, but make sure you know when to fight. I'll let you figure it out."
"And if I don't accept your terms?" Iphicles asked, wiping his mouth as if he could wipe away the memory of those lips.
"If you don't," Ares said and smiled, baring his teeth. "Don't expect my protection on the battlefield any longer."
"Any longer? I haven't asked. . ."
"Come on, Iphicles," Ares said, his arms crossed. "Do you really think old Jupiter was out there on the battlefield protecting you, stopping all those barbarian blades?"
"You mean. . ." Iphicles felt a deeper flush spread across his cheeks.
"Don't worry," Ares said and ran his hand across Iphicles' shoulder and down his arm. "You're good. Very good. But that was quite a battle. You were one of the. . . blessed. Make sure it stays that way."
With that, Ares disappeared, jagged lines of blue and silver streaking out from around his diminishing form. ___
The next day was cool and damp. The air tasted of wet leaves and burnt wood from the fires still smoking in the forest. The sweat from his exertion trickled down Iphicles' back and sides and made him shiver. He sat on his chestnut warhorse, remembering the battle as he waited for his unit to regroup and take stock of their losses. The infantry was still fighting in the distance, but Iphicles' cavalry unit had attained complete success. Their attack had been a stunning victory - unbelievable in its ferocity and speed.
Scarcely an hour earlier, a flaming arrow shot into the air with a graceful arc, signaling the start of the final push. Iphicles reacted without thinking, shouting to the other cavalry officers, urging his mount forward with a loud battle cry. Down the hill they flew, swords brandished, mowing down the barbarians who retreated from the advancing army. The cavalry had them cornered in a small clearing and picked them off, one by one.
Iphicles raised his sword and screamed, bringing it down to slice deep into the shoulder of one barbarian, then he stabbed another, the blade of the Sugambri King flashing in the early morning light. With their King dead, the barbarians were disheartened and they fought with less determination, running more often than advancing. Killing them was easy -- almost too easy.
Now as he sat surveying the battlefield, he thought about how the enemy had succumbed to his blade like felled wheat before a scythe and wondered if it was the god at work, and not his own skill. He dismounted and stood beside his horse, listening to the sounds of battle off in the distance. Here at least, the worst was over. All around were the dead and dying, the smoking stumps of trees, and the healers tending to the fallen legionaries.
It irked him to think he was indebted to this god, so arrogant and self-assured. So at ease with taking what he wanted. Ares wasn't the way Iphicles thought a god should be - distant, cold, uninvolved. The kiss confused Iphicles and he didn't know what to think of Ares' interest in him or his own response.
When Iphicles caught sight of him on the battlefield earlier, Ares was standing amidst a crowd of soldiers, his great blade flashing, slicing through the enemy with deadly accuracy -- loving every minute of it. Iphicles had never seen a more skilled warrior and he felt a strange mix of emotions -- admiration and anger, attraction and fear.
As if summoned by Iphicles' thoughts, the god appeared and stepped over the corpses to stand in front of him. His black leathers were crusted with dried blood and muck and his long dark hair was dripping. Sword still brandished, Ares took a deep breath, his wide chest expanding, his face flushed with bloodlust, nostrils flaring.
"Oh, I love the smell of incinerated Sugambri in the morning."
Iphicles could think of nothing to say in reply so he said nothing and waited for the god to speak.
"Come on, Iphicles," Ares said, sheathing his sword. "Wasn't that a great battle? You can't tell me you didn't enjoy it."
Iphicles shrugged. It did feel good. Too good. Killing with such skill and ease -- it made him feel so powerful. Yet, there was this nagging doubt. . . .
"It was too easy."
"Now don't get all moral on me," Ares said and shook his head. "Your side won. It doesn't matter how. *You* fought exceptionally well. Your -- prowess -- was impressive."
"How do I know if I have any skill if it's really you who swings my blade?"
"I don't swing your blade," Ares replied, pushing Iphicles back a step. "I merely give you a bit more. . . confidence. That gives you an edge, makes you appear more threatening. Look," he continued, anger now clear in his voice, setting it on edge. "I don't understand you. I did nothing more for you that I do for any warrior I choose to help rise to the top."
"I don't want help."
"You may not want it, but believe me, every warrior needs help."
"I'd rather do it myself."
"And die? If I hadn't been there earlier--"
"If you hadn't been there earlier, I would have died as a warrior. Your *help* makes me feel as if I've been cheated," Iphicles replied and walked away.
"Stubborn son of a bitch," Ares said, muttering under his breath.
"Maybe I am stubborn," Iphicles replied, turning to face Ares, forgetting for a moment to whom he was talking. "But I have something to prove."
"Prove to who? That brother of yours?"
Iphicles stopped, unable to reply. Yes, to his brother. To Hercules, to Jason, to his mother. To just about everyone. But most of all, to himself.
"Listen. I know I should be flattered. But all your help does is prove how -- how I can't do it on my own."
Ares grabbed Iphicles by the shoulder, stopping him when he tried to leave.
"No one can do it on their own, Iphicles. Not even Caesar. The more you try to rely solely on yourself, the more vulnerable to attack you become. That's a lesson both of you have to learn."
"Look, I already told you I don't want your help. Why do you persist? What do you want from me?"
Ares smiled, baring those teeth once again like a wolf before its prey. "You."
Iphicles frowned, but there was a surge inside him of -- what? Fear? Excitement?
"What do you mean? You want my loyalty? My obedience? What?"
"That sounds good. Gods expect loyalty and obedience."
"And what do I get in return?"
"Power. You do as I say and soon, you'll be the most powerful General in Caesar's army."
Iphicles turned away, unable to look him in the eye. There was too much -- too much a feeling as if the god was reading him.
"I know you, Iphicles," Ares said as if he had read Iphicles' mind. "You want to be someone. You want to be recognized for who you are, not as Hercules' brother."
"This isn't about Hercules."
"It is. All your life, you've been in your little brother's shadow. You don't think I know how that feels?" Ares looked across the battlefield and then his dark eyes returned to Iphicles. "You deserve to be recognized. You're strong. You have natural talent as a warrior. Lightning reflexes. Strength. Judgment in the heat of the moment. One day, without my help, you might become a great warrior, if you manage to stay alive. All I do is ensure you become as great as you were meant to be."
"Not one you'll mind paying. Trust me."
"How can I trust you?" Iphicles said, knowing he was pushing his luck, questioning the god this way. He just couldn't stop. "You're a god. You can do what you want."
Ares grinned. "I can. And I want you. Look. This is really easy. All you have to do is obey."
"And if I accept?"
"Like I said, all you have to do is obey. So -- do we have a deal?"
Iphicles hesitated. Having Ares' protection would mean he could be very powerful. He'd return to Corinth a conquering hero. A general in Caesar's army. The victor who routed the Sugambri. Swearing his loyalty to Ares, fighting his battles. That wasn't too high a price to pay, and besides, wasn't that every soldier's dream?
"All right," he said, extending his arm. "So what do we do? Shake on it? Do I make a sacrifice in one of your temples?"
Ares smiled, eyeing Iphicles, ignoring his extended hand.
"Something like that. I'll be back later for the -- ceremony."
He vanished, leaving Iphicles alone amidst the corpses of his enemy.
Later in the day, as the sun was setting high over the treetops, Iphicles headed back to the camp to get some rest. The battle had ended in a stalemate. Although they'd defeated the Sugambri, the barbarian's allies had joined in during the afternoon. Iphicles' own unit had success in every foray, but the tide turned against the ground forces for a short while and Caesar's infantry suffered heavy losses.
Iphicles made his way back to his tent to have a bath and then sleep before joining the other officers in the mess for a meal. His muscles were tired, aching, and he had several small cuts and abrasions that needed tending.
"Not everyone had your luck today, Iphicles," Caesar said as he rode up on his horse, his guards flanking him. Iphicles bowed to the General and nodded.
"It was a very difficult battle," he replied.
"A battlefield promotion doesn't happen everyday. And your Unit was the most successful of them all, your strategy working when others failed. Jupiter favours you, I think."
Iphicles said nothing, then remembered his agreement. Loyalty. Obedience.
"Not Jupiter. It was Ares protecting me today," Iphicles replied.
"Ares?" Caesar said, frowning. "You mean Mars."
"Mars," Iphicles replied, shaking his head. "I swore my loyalty to him. He was fighting with the men in my Unit. If we had success, it was because of him."
Caesar said nothing for a moment, then pressed his lips together. "Well, I hope your change of allegiance doesn't hurt our chances. You can win a battle but lose a war. Remember that."
Caesar rode off, his officers in his wake. Iphicles watched, feeling a stab of regret, wondering if he'd made the wrong decision. Would Jupiter be angered if he supported Ares? Mars?
He continued on towards his own tent and when he arrived, he told his servant to prepare a bath. As the man filled the copper tub with water heated from the hearth, Iphicles undressed, and examined each wound. Nothing too serious. Just a few more battle scars to add to his growing collection.
When the bath was ready, Iphicles dismissed his servant and stepped into the small tub. The hot water felt incredibly good on his aching muscles, and the sting of his injuries took nothing away from his enjoyment. He ducked under the water and rubbed his face clean, the dirt and blood washing off in the process. Sitting back, Iphicles closed his eyes, enjoying the heat as it penetrated his muscles, soothing them. He drifted in and out of sleep.
A splash woke him and when he opened his eyes, he saw a naked Ares stepping into the small tub. The god knelt over him, his knees on either side of Iphicles' hips on the tub's seat, the water splashing over the sides onto the floor.
"What are you doing?"
"What does it look like I'm doing? Just be quiet. In case you can't figure it out, now's one of those times when you shouldn't put up too much of a fight."
Before Iphicles could take a breath, Ares kissed him, those full lips pressing against his mouth. Ares ground his body against Iphicles and the god's thick cock stabbed Iphicles' thigh.
"Stop!" Iphicles cried, pushing Ares away, panicking at the feelings warring inside of him. "I don't want this--"
"Don't fight me," Ares said, his voice steely quiet. "Besides, what's this I feel? Don't try and pretend you don't want this."
Ares grabbed hold of Iphicles' rapidly swelling cock and squeezed, forcing a grunt out of Iphicles that sounded far too much like pleasure.
"Ares, I don't--"
"You don't what? Don't like men?" Ares said and laughed. "Or is it just me? Tell me, what is it about me that you dislike so much that it's made you hard as rock?"
Ares stroked Iphicles' cock until it was completely erect and stared into his eyes, unwavering, seeming to enjoy Iphicles' embarrassed arousal.
Iphicles hadn't really been with a man, not a grown man. He'd played around with a friend when they were younger, but all boys did. This -- being with Ares -- this was different. Ares was a man -- a god.
"I don't, I haven't--" Iphicles said, unable to continue.
"Don't worry. I have," Ares replied and smothered all other protest with another kiss, his mouth covering Iphicles', his tongue pushing past the reluctant lips to explore hungrily. The feel of Ares' tongue touching his own sent a shock of desire through Iphicles and he couldn't help but groan, his cock jerking in Ares' grip.
"So," Ares said, breathless, as he pulled back, stopping the kiss. "You mean you've never been touched by another man?"
"When I was a boy. . . . We. . . ."
"You what?" Ares said and smiled. "Played little jerk-off games? Or did you suck each other's little cocks?"
Iphicles eyes widened. He remembered how great it felt when his friend had licked him, taken the head of Iphicles' cock into his mouth. He closed his eyes and swallowed, his heart pounding when he thought of doing that to Ares.
Ares stepped out of the tub, pulling a startled Iphicles with him over to the cot. He threw Iphicles down and lay on top of him, their wet skin sliding against each other, arousing Iphicles even further. Another kiss, this time even more passionate, while Ares licked and sucked Iphicles' lips, then down, Ares kissing his neck, shoulder, until Iphicles felt Ares' tongue on his nipples.
"Oh, gods," Iphicles groaned, closing his eyes and trying to blot out the idea that this was another man, a god, licking him. He thrust his hips up greedily, wanting to feel a mouth there instead.
"That's what I like," Ares said, biting Iphicles' nipple, then running his tongue down the washboard stomach. "An eager learner. Now, sit up. I want to watch while you suck my cock."
"No, I don't--"
"Sit up. Do it voluntarily. Don't give me an excuse to use force or I'll use it, gladly."
Iphicles sat up, his heart pounding, his breathing ragged, while Ares stood, spreading his legs so that Iphicles' mouth was a mere hands breadth away from his groin.
"Now, show me how quickly you can learn," Ares said as he grasped his cock and squeezed it, milking some of his fluid so that it glistened in his slit. Ares rubbed the head of his cock against Iphicles' lips, stroking all around them until they were slippery with his juices. Iphicles licked his lips instinctively, sampling the god's salty essence. Ares squeezed his cock again, stroking the shaft and more clear liquid leaked from the tip, running down the swollen head.
"Lick it off."
Iphicles looked up into the dark lust-filled eyes and licked the head of the god's cock, tasting the fluid as Ares smeared it on Iphicles' tongue.
"Perfect. Now, take the head in your mouth and suck."
Iphicles opened his mouth and felt the silky skin push past his lips, and sucked the head inside his mouth, running his tongue along the underside. Ares was stroking his shaft all the while, rocking his hips gently, his breathing loud.
"Now all the way in," Ares said, pushing the head in deeper until Iphicles choked when it hit the back of his throat. Ares thrust a few times, making Iphicles gag, the tears springing to his eyes in response.
"Don't worry. You'll get used to it."
Ares pulled his cock out and lifted it up, pressing it against his body.
"Lick my balls. Suck them."
Iphicles leaned closer and licked around the sack, the cool skin such a contrast from the heat of Ares' cock only a moment before. The scent of maleness was strong and heady, making Iphicles' cock throb and he ached to take it into his hand and stroke himself. He pressed down on the shaft of his cock, hoping the god didn't see him, barely moving his hand on it, just craving the sensation while he had his face in another man's groin.
He licked and sucked the heavy balls, listening as Ares groaned above him, and began to slide his fingers over the entire shaft of his cock, feeling his own juice drip off the aching head and squeezed, pulling some down to lubricate his hand.
"Okay now, take my cock in your hand and suck it, suck the head. I'm going to come in your mouth, Iphicles, and I want to watch you suck it down, every drop."
Iphicles' own cock jerked, and he squeezed more tightly as his hand moved over it, his thumb and fingers caressing the head. He took Ares' cock as commanded and started to lick and suck the head, and soon, Ares was thrusting, the head sliding in deeply, gagging him, the fluid flowing as Ares neared his orgasm. Iphicles was close as well, his muscles tensing as he thought of swallowing the god's come.
"Oh, yeah, you're a natural," Ares moaned above. He took Iphicles' head in his hands and fucked his mouth, his whole body shaking with pleasure. Finally, he grasped the head of his cock and held the end just in Iphicles' mouth while he ejaculated, the thick come spurting against the back of Iphicles' mouth, over his tongue. Iphicles swallowed, shocked at the silky feel of it, the salty-sweet taste.
"Don't stop. Keep sucking. Oh, yeah. . . ."
Iphicles complied, feeling yet more of the liquid spurting in his mouth, swallowing again as he sucked on the head. Ares leaned forward, laying his hands on Iphicles' shoulders, rubbing the head of his still-hard cock against Iphicles' lips.
"Now, as a reward for you being such a skilled student, I'm going to fuck your ass."
Ares pushed Iphicles back on the cot and raised his legs high, positioning his cock against Iphicles' ass, rubbing along the crack, probing the entrance to his body. Iphicles' cock was still aching, and lay hard against his belly. He wanted to touch it, he wanted Ares to touch it, but lay back, startled, as the god prepared to enter him. He gritted his teeth as he felt his ass expand as the thick head of Ares' cock pushed inside.
"Yeah, you're nice and tight."
The pain was almost blinding at first, but soon it diminished, replaced by a sensation of fullness. Every now and then, the head of Ares' cock brushed a spot inside him that made Iphicles shudder at the intensity of the pleasure. Ares leaned over him, Iphicles' legs on either side of the god's body, and thrust deeply, watching Iphicles the entire time.
"Touch yourself," Ares commanded, and Iphicles gasped with relief, grunting like an animal as he grabbed his own cock. Ares looked down, seemingly pleased at how willing Iphicles was to stroke his own cock. "Make yourself come."
Oh, gods, but he was almost blind with pleasure, and could feel his body tensing as his orgasm neared. Iphicles felt wanton with this huge cock up his ass, the god watching him so closely, his own hand flying on his cock. Ares bent lower and kissed him once again, and that did it. Iphicles shuddered as his body convulsed, cock spurting, spraying his come over Ares' stomach.
Ares thrust faster, his hips bucking erratically, and then he shouted, grinding his hips against Iphicles, his cock emptying inside Iphicles' body.
He kissed Iphicles again, and then stood up, leaving Iphicles on the cot.
"That'll do for now," he said as his clothes reappeared on his body. And then he was gone.
Iphicles entered the mess tent and felt a flush spread over his cheeks when the men cheered him, calling out his name, holding their flagons of wine up in tribute.
Caesar reclined on pillows against one wall, looking every inch the triumphant general surrounded by his advisors. He waved Iphicles over and pointed to a spot next to him. Iphicles sat down, resting on his elbow, still slightly uncomfortable with his newfound status.
"Iphicles. The hero of the day. The only one of my officers to have success in every venture. And not even a Roman citizen, at that."
Caesar's officers nodded to him, raising their own cups.
"I owe my success to Mars," Iphicles replied, returning the gesture, raising his own cup and saluting them. He drank down the fragrant liquid, suddenly thirsty and overwhelmed with an incredible hunger.
"Eat, drink. Tell me about Mars."
"I swore my loyalty to him," Iphicles said between bites of thick bread and succulent roast game. "In return, he promised me success on the battlefield. He was there, with my men, fighting. Seeing him made them fearless."
"Yes, I suppose seeing a god fighting beside you does give one confidence."
Iphicles nodded and took another drink from his cup.
"Did he advise you on the battle?" Caesar asked, leaning closer.
Iphicles frowned and tried to remember the content of their conversation. The only thing he could remember was the heat of the god's body against his, the feel of the thick cock in his ass.
"He only told me to trust my instincts. That I had to know when to fight and when to give in."
"That is the question, isn't it?" Caesar replied thoughtfully. "I find it difficult at times, to give in. It seems to have worked for you."
"Come by later, speak with me about your experiences," Caesar said, as he sipped his wine. "I'd like to hear your thinking about how to achieve our objectives."
Caesar's attention turned from him to the day's events and Iphicles sat back and listened as he and the other officers discussed the battle. It felt good, if strange, to have moved from the sidelines to the frontline so rapidly. It was Ares -- it had to be. Sitting with Caesar like this, listening, offering his own opinion, made Iphicles feel good, but at the same time, he felt as if it could all disappear.
Why did Ares pick him? The one question that nagged him, taking the edge off Iphicles' enjoyment.
That night, Iphicles shifted on his small cot, unable to sleep. He remembered the feel of the god's mouth on his, the scent of his masculinity, the taste of his come and it made his heart pound, his body respond. In his mind, the god's dark eyes watched him as Iphicles pushed Ares back, taking his place above, his cock now pressing against Ares' tight hole. Then taking turns pleasuring each other, Ares kissing him, always kissing him with that incredible mouth. Maybe in the forest, after the battle, Ares would take him, fast and hard against a tree, or during the battle, with the shouts of men around them, the sound of clashing metal. . . .
The god had chosen him, had picked him out from all the other warriors. He remembered watching Ares fight, how their eyes had met if only for a moment, and felt that connection. As his hand stroked over his cock, he imagined it was Ares' body he was thrusting in and when he came, it was Ares' lips around the head of his cock, sucking, lapping, rather than his fingers milking out his come.
Even sated, he couldn't sleep, and he rose from the small bed and dressed, leaving the tent to take a walk, get some air. Caesar's tent was off in the distance, and Iphicles walked over, not really intending to enter. In spite of Caesar's invitation earlier, he still didn't feel like he really belonged. He just wanted to get a closer look at the tent that held one of Rome's greatest generals.
When he neared, he saw light spilling out from under the tent's door, and heard the sound of muffled voices. Caesar was still up, talking to his men, no doubt, about the battle, and plans for the next day. He stepped closer. Caesar had invited him to come by and talk. Perhaps since they were both up.
He lifted the flap covering the door and entered, standing in the dark of the doorway, his eyes adjusting to the light. There, at the other end of the room, stood Ares, with Caesar on his knees, the god's thick cock in his hand, the head in Caesar's mouth. Caesar sucked with great concentration and Iphicles remained unnoticed in the darkness.
The blood seemed to drain from Iphicles' face as he stood and watched, biting his lip to stop from shouting out in his shock and anger, his hurt. As if he sensed he was being watched, Ares turned towards the door and for an instant, their eyes met. Ares turned back, and ran his fingers through Caesar's short dark hair, urging the General on with soft words.
As quickly as he could, Iphicles slipped back out and ran along the muddy lanes that led to his own tent, his heart pounding in his chest, his throat choked. Once inside, he lay down on his cot and looked up at the dark ceiling.
Caesar was servicing the god.
Waves of blinding hot jealousy swept through Iphicles and he could do nothing but replay the scene over in his head, again and again. It did no good. Nothing could relive the ache he felt at the image of Caesar on his knees before the god. It wasn't that he believed he was special, deserving of the god's attention. It was this sense he had that he'd been merely a pawn, a way for the god to get to Caesar. Ares' real target was the General. He'd used Iphicles as an example of what loyalty to him would bring.
When finally the dawn's light crept in around the blinds on his window, Iphicles rolled off the bed and splashed his face in the basin against the wall. He looked in his mirror -- fatigue was clear in the redness to his eyes. His servant brought in a tray of food to break his fast, but Iphicles felt no hunger. He drank some water, and ordered the servant to bring his armor.
Later, he rode out on his mount and joined Caesar and his officers at the front line. Caesar nodded to Iphicles and it was then Iphicles saw the flag flapping slowly in the light breeze. It bore the crest of Mars, the god of war.
"I see you've changed your loyalties as well," he said to Caesar as he and his advisors rode up. Iphicles' voice was only slightly bitter.
Caesar nodded grimly.
"I refused him at first, when we set out on this campaign. Jupiter favored me until now, but seeing how much success you had with Mars on your side convinced me to accept his offer. Only time will tell if I made the right decision."
Iphicles rode off into the forest, to the line of trees where his men were waiting. His face hot with jealousy and shame at being so foolish to think he was special, that he mattered. It was Caesar's loyalty Ares wanted all along.
He dismounted and walked to the edge of the forest line overlooking the valley to enemy's position against a far stand of trees. He scanned the battlefield, the burnt stumps of trees, the infantry in heavy armor, the lines of archers kneeling, waiting for Caesar's signal. The barbarians seemed to know no fear, and they stood and shook their weapons, swords, shields, and spears, shouting incomprehensible insults at the Romans amassed on the far hill. He wanted to scream with them.
"Ready for war?"
Iphicles turned to find Ares standing behind him, a half-smile on his lips.
"I see you convinced Caesar to change his allegiance. That's quite a coup."
"Yes," Ares replied, walking over to Iphicles side. "I've had quite a lot of luck in Gaul this time."
Ares pulled Iphicles against his body, crushing him into an embrace, his lips covering Iphicles' in a deep kiss. Iphicles couldn't help but stiffen, the memory of Ares and Caesar in his mind overwhelming the feel of Ares' lips on his.
"What's the matter, Iphicles? Jealous?"
Iphicles pulled away, angered at the grin on the god's beautiful face.
"You used me."
"And you me. You want glory. You want to be your brother's equal. I'm a way to get what you want."
Iphicles looked away, shamed at the truth in Ares' words. He had wanted to be someone -- someone Hercules could admire. He looked back at Ares, unable to speak.
"We're even," Ares said. "Now kiss me. I like to start a battle with a hard cock."
Ares pulled Iphicles back once again and kissed him, and this time Iphicles fought back, pushing Ares away, but not before he felt a swelling in his groin at the feel of the god's body against him. Iphicles looked at Ares for a long moment, wanting to speak but in fear that his voice would betray him as nothing more than a lovesick boy.
"I thought you wanted 'me'"
Ares shook his head. "Look," he said finally, scanning the battlefield as if to avoid looking at Iphicles' face. "I did want you. I do want you. You're damn strong, a natural warrior. You have a chance at being a great leader someday. I want you on my side."
"And Caesar? You want him too?"
"I'm a god, Iphicles. I want as much as I can get. Just accept it. You're good. I noticed you on the battlefield. I want you."
This time, when Ares grabbed him, kissing him deeply, Iphicles didn't fight.
The roar of the barbarians across the valley grew to an almost unbelievable pitch. Iphicles took out his sword -- the sword he'd taken from Ares' hands after killing the Sugambri King -- and turned it over, examining the carved bone handle. A grinning wolf. Such a superb killer, the wolf's teeth were bared, its fangs sharp and deadly. The wolf killed with stealth, creeping up on its prey without the prey even noticing. Only the strongest could survive the attack when it came.
Iphicles turned and watched as Caesar raised his sword and looked down the lines, left and right. Caesar's forces were standing still, calm, steely, waiting for the signal. It was that discipline that would make them succeed. When Caesar's arm dropped, sword slicing through the air with a hiss, an archer let fly a flaming arrow. It shot high up into the cloudless blue sky and fell in a lazy arc.
"Come on, Iphicles," Caesar said, pulling on the reins of his horse. "Let's go and win this war."