King's Rook to God's Pawn
An abdication, a wedding and a coronation, all in one day! It had been a wonderful day, possibly the best day Salmoneous had ever known. And it wasn't over yet! Perhaps it would have been better if it had finished on schedule, with the ex King, and his new bride, leaving the new King, and his Queen, to settle in on their own. Certainly it would have been better without the attentions of Hera and her ghastly sea monsters and mercenaries. That, however, was not how things had worked out.
Salmoneous had been given free run of Jason's palace, now Iphicles' palace, the merchant supposed, any one and every thing had been at his disposal to help organise the best wedding ever. He would always remember the look on Hercules' face when he realised how well Jason knew Salmoneous, let alone how much Jason trusted him to organise the celebrations. When everything had been finalised he had finally had time to go join in the celebrations he had spent so long sorting out. Now all that hard work was behind him, his favourite King was King no more, and this unknown quantity that was Hercules' brother was on the throne of Corinth. For good, or bad, the country had to put up with Jason's choice of King.
As he drifted, quietly, calmly, through what remained of the flower garden, Salmoneous recalled the clamour of colour and fragrance, as all those beautiful blooms meshed into one exquisitely coiffured bouquet. On that happy memory he decided he'd better go thank Jason's head gardener for all his efforts. He was a pleasant fellow, he recalled his many pleasant hours he'd spent with the painfully shy man, the latest had been that very morning, the memory made him smile. As the memories of his time spent with that quiet soul always did. He had such an expressive face, so open, honest, trusting, innocent.
He could clearly hear the man's voice, echoing in his memory, telling him how he'd not always been good with plants, how he'd killed more than he had saved as a younger man. Telling him how it had been King Jason, taking him in when the last of his family had died, having confidence in him, showing him the right way to do things. Finally telling him that he was worried for the future, King Jason was leaving the castle that night, never to return, and he didn't know if King Iphicles would be as patient with him. His love for Jason so obvious to anyone looking at him as he spoke about his beloved King.
If he could do nothing else, Salmoneous could reassure him of his continued place in the palace staff. He had mentioned the poor man's plight to Jason himself, and the former King had looked at him, with an oddly strained look in his eyes, and told him not to worry. He'd make sure Iphicles knew everything he had to know before he left.
Somehow, the merchant felt a wave of sorrow at the former King's expression, yet he was at a loss to explain why. Just as he was at a loss to explain Jason's almost spontaneous decision to give up the throne and remarry!
The gardener's private quarters came into sight, away from the rest of the palace staff, actually closer to the main halls of the palace than any other staff quarters. It looked wonderful, with it's barrage of colours and smells from the many flowering plants covering its walls, and the warm light spilling out from the bright, cheerful room within. Salmoneous knocked once and walked in, as he always did.
"Hi, how are you feeling now? Not still worrying about your job I hope? Jason said he'd talk to Iphicles and mention you especially.." The door swung shut as Salmoneous stepped over the threshold of that welcoming place, almost a alace within the palace, should anyone ask the merchant. Not that anyone knew he was there, Salmoneous liked to think he kept his own secrets just that, secret.
Elsewhere in the Corinthian palace, two Kings were meeting. Neither wife was there, no brothers or brother's friends were there. Just Jason and Iphicles and the heavy expectation of someone watching them.
"This is all very mysterious Jason. You asking me to be King in your stead, after all, we don't know actually each other...." Iphicles, the new King of Corinth walked around the quiet library they were meeting in, touching things, things that were now his to touch if he so desired. Suddenly he stopped his searching and turned to face his new step father. "Oh, I get it, Hercules turned you down, didn't he?"
Jason blushed, a deep red, not just from all the wine he had drank that day.
"How did you know? That Hercules had been asked and had refused?"
"Contrary to popular belief, I'm not a stupid man. What I can't figure out, is who recommended me for the job as Hercules' understudy? Because, it certainly wouldn't have been Alcemene." Iphicles looked at Jason, eye to eye, not letting the older man prevaricate a moment longer than he thought suitable. "Well?" He challenged, again.
"How do you know that it wasn't your mother? She's very proud of.." Jason was interrupted by the bitterest laugh he had heard from a mortal throat.
"My mother only has one son. And his name is Hercules, not Iphicles!" The new King didn't shy away from his mother's husband's scrutiny, on the contrary, he welcomed it. "So, why did you pick me?"
"I.. I.. " For some reason Jason couldn't tell him the truth.
"You were desperate. Tell the poor fool the whole truth, if you must tell him anything!" A new voice sounded from behind the new King. As the light faded from the newcomer's arrival, Jason turned away from Iphicles to face the newcomer, slowly.
"Hello Ares, I was wondering if you might 'drop by' tonight." Jason tried to look at the God, eye to eye, just as Iphicles had look at him.
"Ares? You have dealings in this? What would the God of War care about Corinth, or who rules it?" Iphicles looked at the God, obviously expecting an answer. "Haven't you Gods fucked up my life enough? First your father fucks Alcemene, then Hera fucks with Hercules' family, now Alcemene's wedding? So what do you want from me?" The new King had known all along, that there had had to be a catch, to his being offered the Corinthian throne, he just had no idea that the catch was Ares. "So, are you the reason my brother turned the throne down? Nice of him to warn me, I must say!" Iphicles glared at both the God and the ex King. "So, enlighten me, what is the bloody secret, why me?"
"I... well, Ares... see, when we, Herc, Iolaus and me, when we were younger, we met this guy. A nice guy, and we, well we used his good nature to torment Discord and Strife and even Ares here... we convinced him to pretend to be Ares and help us make a peace treaty between Sparta and Thebes. Not that i lasted, but we used him, then left him, and Strife and Discord, well, they weren't too happy at being made fools of. They tried to.. hurt, Timor. That's the guy's name, Timor, he wasn't too bright and we took advantage of that. Anyway, after Ares looked into Timor looking just like him, he discovered that..." This time Jason did stammer to a halt, he was transfixed, looking into Iphicles' murderously angry face. Suddenly, he broke away to look at the God once more, then back to Iphicles.
"Discovered what? That you're a bigger idiot than this Timor? Tartarus, even I could have told you that!" Iphicles demonstrated his anger by tight, controlled, motions with his head and shoulders as he spoke. Jason just stood there transfixed, even Ares seemed intrigued, a little. "What are you two staring at? Shocked that I'm not so pathetically grateful to you, that I won't tell you when you've been an idiot? Shit, the biggest mistake you ever made was making friends with my bastard half brother. Mr. Ooh-I'm-So-Perfect-I'm-Better Than-The Gods!"
"That's no way to talk about Hercules, after all he's done for you!" Jason looked at the fire, at the floor, even at Iphicles' boots, anywhere but at the young King's face.
"What he's done for me?" Iphicles couldn't have sounded more outraged if he'd tried. "I beg you, Jason, do tell me, what am I to be so grateful for? Huh? Oh, I know, how about him taking all Alcemene's time and attention, all her effort and love, until there was nothing there for me? But what do I matter to her? I'm only a mortal and Hercules is her precious little God!"
"Our father's just the same, his precious Hercules this, that, the next thing!" Ares agreed with the new King, standing shoulder to shoulder with Iphicles, nodding in almost an identical manner. The similarities between Iphicles, Timor and Ares were too much for the former King, he was so glad to be finally leaving the palace and the God of War behind him. Timor he would also miss.
"Look, this isn't getting us anywhere. What is this fucking secret?" Iphicles swore, turned and kicked a burning log back into the hearth grate, sending a storm of sparks up the chimney, towards the heavens.
"I found out that Timor was one of my children. His mother died at his birth, it meant he didn't breath right away, and as a result he's a bit slower than normal people are. When I found out, I had Jason here bring him into the palace for his protection. And in payment for Jason's care and attention, I promised to protect Corinth from the continual Wars in this part of the world. Which meant that even through Jason's drunken years, the country didn't suffer, it didn't prosper, but it was never invaded. Which it should have been dozens of times over!" Ares looked out the library window and frowned. "A little over a week ago I stopped by, as I like to do, and wanted to see how Timor was doing, he's developed a real talent for growing things, and he's always soothing company, even if he doesn't always know I'm there. Anyway, I found Timor... with someone... and I told Jason that our agreement is over, twenty years worth of wars were about to catch up with Corinth, in a hurry!" Ares frowned as he looked out the window, obviously seeing beyond what the mortal men could see.
"When you say 'with someone' like that, I take it, it was a man? I don't suppose you'd mind so much if it were a serving wench looking for a little gentleness?" Iphicles walked over to the window and tried to see what it was the God saw.
"Yes, one of Hercules' strange little friends. Salmoneous, the merchant, he was sprawled over Timor, licking honey off his... body!" Ares' tight, controlled anger raged on, unasuaged.
"Honey?" Iphicles asked for confirmation.
"Honey! All over his.. him! And I don't care what the fucking world says, I look out for my kids, always have, always will. No one gets to take advantage of my son like that, especially Timor!" Ares looked back out the window and growled dangerously. "The bastard is there again!" But, before he could 'flash' out of the room Iphicles grabbed hold of him, holding him there, touching skin to skin, hand on arm.
"Wait! We all go! If this affects the safety of Corinth it's my duty to see to it." He glared at the God until Ares nodded. What he didn't see was the pride in Ares' eyes, seeing Iphicles stand up to him in a way Jason never had. The God of War could see the echo of his father's stamp, showing up through several generations, from his original messing with his pathetic mortal lovers. Not that Zeus ever checked up on his offspring's offspring. Which had eventually lead him to fucking his own granddaughter. That was a mistake Ares never made, he kept a close eye on all his descendants, like Timor. Which brought him full circle, back to his damaged son, and what to do for the best, though he was curious as to what Iphicles had in mind.
"If you must! I still think letting the combined armies of four countries rum amok over Corinth would be easier than Jason's solution!" Ares headed for the door, the new door right next to the window, the door that a second ago hadn't been there. "Well, what are you waiting on?" Without waiting for an answer he was out of there, Jason and Iphicles having to hurry to catch up.
"So, what was Jason's brilliant solution?" Iphicles paused, looked at the God and laughed. "Don't tell me? He went into voluntary exile from the throne, and married Alcemene?"
"Well, I've always liked your mother, she's a beautiful woman, even now, she's loving, giving.." Iphicles cut Jason's monologue of delight short.
"She's a good lay then? Well, I suppose having Zeus write her testimonials is to her advantage, at least it's to someone's!" The new King walked on ahead, until he walked abreast with the angry War God. "And you agreed to this crap?" He asked the silent God.
"Yes, I did, little King, so what?" Ares paused long enough to face Iphicles and challenge him.
"If my half brother had been even slightly capable of actually running a farm, let alone a Kingdom, you'd be having this conversation with Hercules!" Iphicles laughed at the idea.
"No, he'd be dead!" When Ares said it, Iphicles had no trouble believing it was true, and he'd pay good money to see it happen!
"This isn't his fault, you can't blame any of this on Hercules!" Jason protested his friends innocence.
"Isn't it? So, how did you meet Salmoneous? Who introduced him to your court as a commercial advisor?" Ares asked, not even looking at the former King.
"Okay, so it was Hercules. But Herc isn't responsible for anyone else's actions, other than his own!" Jason still defended his friend.
"Funny, he seems to think I'm responsible for everything that happens to him!" This was obviously an old argument, one that would probably never be resolved.
Before long a small, flower covered, building loomed up, out of the darkness, shedding warmth and laughter in to the coldness of the night. As the noise resolved into two male voices, laughing, giggling, obviously having a good time together, Ares roared in rage!
"He dies, Herc dies, and I'll deal with Corinth later.." He pushed open the door and exploded into that small home. Stopping in his tracks at the sight before him. The King, and the former King piled into his back, each of them peering over one of the God's shoulders, also struck dumb by the sight before them.
"Ares?!" Salmoneous squeaked, unable to move as Timor had him tied to the bedstead by several pink scarves, legs splayed with his lover between them, buried to the hilt in his body, very obviously fucking him.
"Ares?" Timor asked, his voice slow, his tone gentle. "Is he here? Ares, are you here?" Timor didn't think to stop what he was doing, he spoke to his father, but didn't look to him as he did so.
"Timor, stop that!" Ares' voice was firm, not the angry roar it had been earlier.
"Why should he?" Iphicles challenged the War God. "He's the one on top, he's making all he running here, and doing well too! Leave him too it, I say!"
"No, this must stop!" Jason was almost in a state of panic. "Think of Corinth!"
It didn't help matters when Iphicles laughed outright at his last statement.
"I always thought 'lie back and think of your nation' was a cliché the one getting fucked was supposed to do." The King laughed some more, and the sound of the new King's ribald laughter caused Salmoneous to wilt.
"That's not fair!" Timor pointed out, easing out of Salmoneous and off the bed, turning, naked, to finally face his father and his Kings. "I wasn't hurting him, he wasn't hurting me! Why don't you want me to be happy?" he looked at his father, but was answered by his new King.
"Because he's a user." Iphicles pointed to the merchant, still tied to Timor's bed. "And, he's over protective!" He added, pointing to the God at his side. "Not forgetting, all he's given up to protect you!" He finally pointed to Jason. "You could do better than him, you know!" Iphicles indicated the indisposed merchant once more.
"But we were just playing Gods and maidens!" Timor looked at his friend, his lover and saw only embarrassment, not love, not tenderness. Saddened by what he didn't see, Timor turned once more to his father, and for the first time, to his new King. "What do you want me to do?" He looked finally at his feet.
"I don't see that one little transgression, in twenty years, is worth all this hassle. But, your father obviously does, so, as your King, I'm telling you this, once, so listen hard. Tomorrow, you start training up a replacement gardener, and when we have someone who can do your job, you're going to go to Alcemene's place and work on her garden." Iphicles turned to Ares and grinned. "She never could grow anything, well, nothing that wasn't a weed and didn't deserve to be there!" Ares grinned at the analogy. Iphicles turned back to Timor. "You're going to split your time between here and there. You're going to learn to travel on your own, eventually, to manage money, to meet new friends, and maybe meet someone who really loves you, for you, you know?" The King watched as his pronouncement sunk into the slightly older man.
"Okay, your Majesty. I can do that!" He stood upright, still naked, and looked at his father. "Is it okay with you?" He asked.
"This is Corinth, I am its King, not him!" Iphicles demanded Timor's attention and got it.
Before any of the men in that cottage could answer, Alcemene's voice shouted out, screeching over the gardens.
"Ever the fishwife!" Iphicles muttered, making Ares laugh.
"You really don't like your mother do you?"
"No more than you do!" Iphicles confirmed, meaning his own mother.
"Nah, you're right I don't like my mother either.. nor do I like yours." Ares waved a hand and clothed his damaged son. "You will do as Iphicles says, all right, Timor?" Ares' voice changed, gentled, as he spoke to his damaged son.
"What about me!" Salmoneous complained, lying there, naked, tied to the bed, and, as they finally saw, still cover in honey!
"You're banished!" Iphicles told him, bluntly. He watched as the merchant absorbed the information.
But, Herc.." Salmoneous muttered, almost to himself.
"Isn't King here, I am!" Iphicles stood straight, looked hard at Salmoneous, stepped forward, pulled a dagger and had the cowardly merchant squirming away from him. All he did was cut the silly pink scarves securing his wrists and ankles to the bed. "Get dressed and get out of here!" He watched Salmoneous scurry for his clothes and run before he turned back to the former King.
"Hadn't you better run along? Alcemene screeched on you after all!" Iphicles dismissed the former King with a look.
Slowly, almost reluctantly, Jason walked back towards the main part of what used to be his palace, away from his stepson, away from Ares, away from imor, but only temporarily, Timor would be joining him again soon. And that thought was enough to put a smile on his face, a smile that was still there when he eventually found Alcemene in the library.
"Ready to go home?" She asked, looking at the fine figure of a man she had married that day. Not at all concerned that a new door was there, nor that her son was not there.
"Yes, ready as I'll ever be." Jason looked over his shoulder at the door, back to where Iphicles was, ignored even now by his mother.
"Where were you?" Alcemene asked, fussing with his collar, touching him stroking him, loving him.
"With Iphicles." He told her, watching her face for a flicker of reaction, and seeing none.
"Isn't his Rena a wonderful Queen?" She asked, smiling up at him.
"Let's go home." He pulled away from her, realising Iphicles was right, his mother didn't spare a moments regard for him. Maybe he had been a failure as Corinth's King, but he'd be damned if he'd fail as Iphicles' stepfather. "And leave our King to his duties and endeavours."
"Our King?" Alcemene actually sounded surprised.
"Our King, Iphicles, remember him? Your oldest son? My heir?" And he headed for the door, not waiting for a response. Like his stepson, he didn't really expect one.
The palace emptied, Hercules and Iolaus went with Jason and Alcemene, other guests headed out to the inns they were staying in, even Ares returned to where ever he had come from. Finally, it was Rena and Iphicles watching the exodus from their balcony. Waving at some of the departing guests, unsurprised when other's didn't even notice them standing there.
"Where's that little merchant fellow going? And at this time of night?" Rena pointed to Salmoneous as he scurried as far from Corinth, at least its palace and its King, as he could get in one night.
"Away from here. Other than that, who cares, except the Gods, and finding him will be their look out, not ours." Iphicles smiled at his Queen. "Ready for bed, your Majesty?"
"Damn right I am, your Majesty!" She laughed as she pushed her husband indoors, and towards their bed.
"You ever thought about the fun you can have with a jar of honey?" Iphicles' voice dissolved into a fit of giggles as Rena tickled him.
In his little home, Timor faced his future, he was getting out of the palace, away from there, but still there. Maybe one day he'd get to show Jason what Salmoneous had shown him? One day when Alcemene wasn't there!
For his part, Salmoneous just worried that Ares would get angry again and come looking for him, just in case, he ran a little faster..
Ares, though, was looking forward to seeing more of his distant nephew, Iphicles was looking like he was going to be a great deal of fun as the new King of Corinth!