by Taz & Thamiris
Part 1 by Taz
"Who can surprise well must conquer."
King Iphicles looked over the field. In the morning, it must have been fragrant with jasmine ready to harvest. The wives, daughters and youngest sons of local farmers had come early when the dew was wet to harvest the flowers. Boiled down the petals gave up their essence to make the perfumes that this part of his kingdom was famous for. Now there was a stranger harvest close to the ground-bundles of bright colors. He could see blues and yellows-but mostly red and white and red, lying still amid the ruined plants. There was black smoke in the distance; the town of Corcyra was burning and beyond it, Pydna and Pella and all the villages beyond.
"How?" Iphicles turned and demanded of General Anticles. He jerked on the reins and his horse already spooked by the smoke and smell of carnage danced. Behind him, his guard and the troops his General had been able to gather muttered and buzzed with anxiety. "We'd have had warning of any approach by Athens across the isthmus and there's no way a band of pirates large enough to wreak this much damage could get this far inland and not be spotted.
"I don't know, Sire." Anticles was pale and breathing through his mouth-his son lived in Pydna. "The lad who brought the warning only said a band had attacked. I thought brigands. This had to have been an army."
"Roman?" Iphicles pushed.
"I don't know, Sire." Anticles could only repeat himself.
"Sir!" One of the soldiers standing at the edge of the column was pointing up the road. From the direction of the burning towns, a rag-tag group of people was approaching. Some where helping others walk, two were carrying a litter and Iphicles, from his vantage on horseback, could see that one of the figures was much taller than the rest. There was no mistaking the form, even though his brother was burdened by what he was carrying. Where was Iolaus? Iphicles spurred his horse, ignoring his general's anxious shout and took off toward the group leaving his guard to pelt after.
He smelled them as soon as he got close, fire and fear. Six - no seven survivors, all women if you counted the tiny girl in Hercules' arms. They stared at Iphicles in dead silence. Iphicles stared at his brother. There was a bloody bandage tied around Hercules' forehead and the raw stripes that wrapped around his arms.
"Tell me who did it!"
His brother's blue eyes, pale in a smoke blackened face were as shocked as the child's in his arms. He opened his mouth and nothing came out. Cursing as he realized, Iphicles jumped down off of his horse and seized the water skin from the first soldier who caught up with him. Hercules collapsed in the dirt and dropped the child who didn't even whimper.
Iphicles held the water skin to Hercules' mouth and let him gulp a little before he pulled it away. "Tell me, Herc!"
"Jason's dead." Hercules met his eyes and choked out the words, his gaze never wavered. Iphicles began to feel cold. "I saw his body. I saw his."
"Who did it?" Iphicles said the words gently this time.
"Iph, he has Iolaus and mother." Iphicles prayed not to get sick in the dirt and while he was controlling his rebellious stomach, there was a flash of blue light close by.
"He's called the Sovereign," the god of war said. "And it you want to save the world from him, King Iphicles, kill your brother now."
Part 2 by Thamiris
Smoke, acrid and warm, flayed Iphicles' lungs. He sucked down more stinging air, a breath for each fear.
His mother and Iolaus kidnapped.
A god demanding fratricide.
"We'll fight him," Iphicles said evenly, forcing his fingers to stop the nervous drumming against the sword hilt. "We'll hunt him down and--"
Ares' mocking laugh swallowed his words, shriveled his balls.
Herc, crouched beside the dead girl, stroking her grimy hair, looked up, his blue eyes the only color in the blackened landscape. Even they seemed dulled, although his skin, stretched taut over tensed muscle, thrummed with a furious energy. At no time did his glance leave Iphicles, wishing away the god's existence. "Look, there's only one way we can win. We can't go after the Sovereign directly; he's expecting that, and it'll put Mother and Iolaus in danger. But I've got a plan."
Before he answered, the king nodded at Anticles, who knelt to take the small, still form against his chest. Hercules resisted for a moment, then let the man gather up the child, whose thin, pale arms hung limply, fingers pointing to the Underworld. Silently, the women followed in solemn groups of two, heads bowed, backs hunched in defeat. One of them cried softly, and another took her hand, whispering comfort. Iphicles watched their retreating forms as they headed along the dusty road twisting back into Corinth, then turned back to his brother.
The god broke the rhythm of their connection. "So what's this plan?" He folded his arms across his chest, one dark brow raised skeptically.
Herc, still bent, straightened to his full height, a pointed move that emphasized his few inches over Ares. Inadvertently, Iphicles, shorter than both, intercepted the dig. His brother's words didn't help; he'd heard them before, as a child, then a teenager. "This doesn't concern you. Go play your games somewhere else."
"The Sov made this my business, little brother. I don't give a shit about you or your playmates, but that bastard's interfering in my turf with this invasion. Like it or not, I am war god, and there are rules to follow. Indiscriminate killing breaks a few of ‘em. Besides, I still owe him some payback."
Iphicles, imaging his mother under that psycho's care, followed the god's lead. "Herc, you don't have time to argue. Just tell me the plan, so we act."
"I can see who got the brains in that branch of the family," Ares said approvingly, giving Iphicles a small smile. "Besides, Hercules, you'll need someone to open the portal."
A cloud of uncertainty passed over Herc's face, then he shrugged. "We need someone on the inside. Since the man closest to the Sovereign is your counterpart, Iph, we'll replace him with you."
Ares was nodding. "Maybe you're not as dumb as you look. I've seen the General, and these two look almost exactly alike. With one major difference." He moved directly before the king, grabbing his chin. A silver dagger appeared in his other hand. Hercules' fist went up, but the god waved him aside. "Relax. Just helping the cause." With one swift stroke, Ares drew the sharp blade down Iphicles' right cheek.
Startled, the king touched the raw wound. Without thinking, goaded by a dark impulse he refused to question, Iphicles ran his blood-stained fingers along the hollow just under Ares' left cheekbone, leaving a red smear. He saw the god's tongue come out, the pink tip catching between strong white teeth. Ares raised his hand, but the king didn't flinch, standing his ground. The god only pressed his hand to the wet cut. A sudden heat, then a tightening, before he pulled away. Then, at a flick of Ares' wrist, studded bracer catching the hazy light, Iphicles' brown wool pants and thick jerkin disappeared, replaced by fitted black leathers and a white shirt open to his waist.
"Now you look just like him," Ares said. "Powerful. A little slutty."
The wound, now healed, left a scar; Iphicles could feel the groove in his flesh. "So what do I need to know about my twin?" The god's hot gaze confused him, breaking through his anger and worry; the last thing he needed to think about now was Ares inside him.
It was Hercules who spoke, insinuating himself between the other two. "I don't know much about him; only what the Jester told me. He's as crazy as the Sovereign, but more quiet, controlled. Likes to stay in the background, pulling strings. And he and the Sov are...very close." His tone changed, and he studied the blackened fields over Iphicles' shoulder.
"He's trying to tell you that, in the other universe, you two are fucking."
Another surprise. He kept quiet, though, as his brother spoke.
"Look, Iphicles, if you don't want to do this, I understand. It's gonna be dangerous. I can figure something else out..."
"I'm ready," he said impatiently. "Open the portal. We're wasting time."
"Once we're over there, I'll talk to Aphrodite and the other Ares. They might be able to help us, although they're both terrified of the Sov and his brother."
But Iphicles wasn't paying attention, focused instead on the round curve of air that flamed blue before him.
"Jump! I can't hold this for long," the god ordered, face turning ruddy with the strain as power leapt from his extended fingertips.
The king remembered the dead girl, her boneless form.
"I'm right behind you," came his brother's voice, already from a distance, as Iphicles charged headfirst into the sparking vortex.
He was gasping again, swallowing mouthfuls of burnt ether that tasted like blood. Jason's face floated before him, fueling his anger, and he thought he heard a woman's cry. His mother. Was Iolaus with her, protecting her?
The last face he saw, though, before the blue whirlwind spat him out, was all dark, cruel eyes, and a full, ripe mouth.
Part 3 by Taz
The swirling winds spat them out with such force that Iphicles stumbled a few feet before sprawling on gritty stone. Hercules, with more experience at exiting the vortex, but wounded, didn't even try to keep his footing, just tumbled beside him. Iphicles waited until his brother lifted his head and nodded that he was all right before getting to his feet to try and figure out where Ares had sent them.
A temple-but what god's? Looking around it was obviously one little honored. Above them, the stained-glass ocular of the rotunda had been broken out. It let in a dim gray light that showed him an altar of roseate marble stained with bird lime, piles of trash and pools of rain water. No bright oil lamps or braziers burning sweet incense here. The shriveled remains of a pathetic offering of fruit had turned black long ago and the rank smell of mold and decay hung over it all.
"At least he didn't dump us in the middle of the marketplace." Hercules was
struggling to his knees as he looked around; Iphicles went to him and helped
"Do you know where we are?"
Hercules winced at his touch and Iphicles realized the stripes that scored his brother's arms were burns. "I've never been here before, but if this place were black granite, I'd say he sent us to his own temple in Corinth. It's close by the Sovereign's castle."
"This ruin is Ares' temple?" Iphicles looked around in amazement.
"Their Ar. . ." Hercules started to speak but was interrupted by the arrival of the god himself.
The flash that accompanied his appearance was pink and gold and Iphicles couldn't help that he dug his fingers into Hercules' arms this time.
"Ah, I thought I heard someone say my name. And it's you!" The god smiled at
Hercules then looked at Iphicles' face. He placed the tip of his index finger to his chin, cocked his head, and looked the king up and down. "Oh, very nice," he said.
Naked from the waist up, the Ares of this world was clean-shaven and wore white leather trousers and boots-and that was all. Except that, as he flipped his mane of dark hair back and took a step toward them, Iphicles could see a cascade of tiny gold chains dangling from one ear. But what make Iphicles grip his brother so tightly was the clean smell of jasmine that wafted through the stale air as the god approached. "I told him you wouldn't let him get away with it, but does anyone ever listen to me?" The god seemed to become aware of the ruination of his temple for the first time as he spoke. He sighed heavily even as he stepped daintily around a puddle of dirty water. "And I was right. You're planning to impersonate the General aren't you?"
"The Sovereign invaded my country. He's taken our mother and our friend," Iphicles said.
"He wanted his jester back," the god said.
"Help us," Hercules begged. "You did before."
"I'm a lover, not an assassin." Ares' voice was suddenly so flat that, for a moment, Iphicles, looking into his black eyes, had the fleeting impression that his war-like counterpart was speaking.
The resemblance was intensified when the god straightened from his indolent pose and Iphicles could see the power in the well-muscled torso. He was wondering irrationally if the god of war was patterned with the same dark fur on his chest and belly when Hercules slumped heavily against him. Iphicles could almost feel the despair overwhelming his brother. Hercules had been fighting all day and his had seen too much of death. Iphicles knew the demi-god was too heart sick for subtlety, but he had been a
king too long not to listen exactly to the words a man used. . .the god had 'not' said 'no.'
"My brother won't come to any harm, if I can help it." He took a chance and
emphasized each word. Black eyes stared at him.
"The General stays at the castle when he's in residence. How were you planning to get in?" Ares finally asked.
"In my palace, there's a secret entrance, and there may be here too--stairs between the walls that lead down to a door that opens into the sewer system. Herc can break the door if it's sealed."
"Yuk!" said the god.
"I'm not asking you to come with us!" Losing patience with the feckless deity, Iphicles almost snapped. "We slip in and make the exchange. Hercules can bring the General back here while I find out where our mother and Iolaus are. It doesn't look like anyone comes here too often."
"No, I'm not popular." There was that flatness in the god's voice again. "An
efficiently run society has no place for love."
There was something familiar in the god's eyes and Iphicles recognized it. Guilt--he'd seen it in his own eyes often enough. He didn't have a clue as to what a god devoted to love might be guilty of but he could use it. He held out Hercules' arm and showed Ares the blisters that marred it. "Heal him."
"I'm a lover, not a. . ."
"Healer. I know, but you can help him." Iphicles wasn't going to back down.
"You don't know what you're letting yourself in for. The General and his brother. . ."
"Are lovers. I know. Now help him!" Implacable.
Ares shouted. "Poseidon!"
This time the flash was white and although Poseidon's hair was steely gray, the god of Healing's eyes were as mild and blue as Hercules'.
* * *
"Rats," Hercules said.
"What? Is the door sealed?" Iphicles heard frustration in the demi-god's voice.
They were below the castle now and he'd been paying attention to keeping his
balance on an extremely narrow catwalk and avoiding pressing against the mossy bricks at the same time. He'd been trying not to pay too much attention to anything else down here -- like the contents of the fetid stream they were walking beside. Fortunately, the water level was low.
Hercules lifted his torch to show the show the heavy chains that sealed the door to the upper levels, the lock was on the inside. He hissed again louder, "Rats." Just beyond the torch's light, something splashed in the water. "Big ones," the demi-god added.
"Rats?" Ares squealed behind them.
"Shut up! Sound carries down here." Iphicles could have punched Hercules for that one but he didn't blame him. He'd wanted to discuss their plan further; at least learn more about the General and his relationship with the Sovereign. But Ares had decided to come along with them, after all, on their journey through the sewers of Corinth - whining the entire way. The god's presence had inhibited more than idle speculation about the possibility that the rebels could make use of the sewers.
"Iphicles, squeeze by me so you can hold the torch."
The only way to do that was for Hercules to spread himself flat against the barrier while Iphicles stepped around him on the ledge. At one moment in the transfer, he found himself holding Hercules' hips, pressing himself tightly against his brother's back. Against his nipples, he felt the cold studs of the peculiar harness that Ares had dressed Hercules in and was suddenly and embarrassingly aware of how neatly his crotch fit the saddle of his brother's ass. His foot nearly slipped on the ledge as he hurriedly stepped around.
"All right?" Hercules asked as he handed over the torch.
"Yeah," he said breathlessly.
He saw Hercules' white smile and grinned back in a rare moment of communion. Hercules turned toward the god. " Ares, give me hand with these chains," his brother said.
Iphicles silently mouthed *I'm a lover, not a blacksmith* along with the god even though he could hear Ares moving to comply. " I just want you to hold, this while I..." He couldn't see what Hercules was doing but there was a rattle, a grunt, the sudden scream of tearing metal, a shriek and a splash.
"Oops." Hercules sounded contrite. "It must have been rustier than I thought."
"I guess it must have been," Iphicles dead panned.
"I hope he's not the kind to carry a grudge." There was a down-rush of warm air as Hercules pushed the door open and looked over at Iphicles
"What kind would that be?" Iphicles asked. They shared smiles again.
Iphicles threw the torch into the water and then had to save his breath for climbing in the dark. The rising steps were steep, incredibly narrow and made more treacherous from having been worn smooth by centuries of clandestine feet. In his own castle, this passage had been part of the original old palace- the back stairs from the kitchen. A more ambitious king, who had wanted a secret way to get to his mistress's room with out the queen knowing, had closed it off.
He wasn't sure how long they climbed; he got used to listening for the creak of Hercules' leathers above him. But when it stopped, he misjudged how close they were and bumped into him. He wrapped his arms around his brother's calves and hung on.
"I can feel a tapestry." Hercules voice was a whisper.
Thick as velvet.
There was warm leather against his cheek.
"Herc?" He breathed.
"Don't do this, Iphicles. We'll find another way."
He didn't say a word. They understood each other. After a moment, he heard
Hercules sigh. There was a brushing sound and a tug against his arms. He let go and followed his brother under the tapestry and into a candle lit room.
Part 4 by Thamiris
For children, nothing terrifies more than the dark. They can hear the monster's heartbeat, the steady click of sharp talons against the floor, feel the rush of air as the thick-skinned paw is raised, but never quite see the beast reaching for them. Each shadow-shrouded fragment, therefore, prompts a new, more horrifying vision.
As an adult, you realize the light's far worse. There's no green-scaled monster, only a handsome, broad-shouldered man with dark eyes and wavy copper hair. He stands at the foot of an enormous bed, feeding the big, blue-eyed brother on the sheet-tossed mattress before him.
The younger, hungry one is on his knees, bent back, strong hands and ankles tied together so tightly behind him that his hard thighs quiver with the strain. All pretend, of course: he could break the ropes at will. But he doesn't, only lies there patiently, skin wet and glistening under the sun streaming through a high window. Between those shaking thighs, his cock, huge and swollen, juts out, weeping with pleasure, wanting the monster's touch.
His brother ignores the need, performing his own ritual of pretence: that he's removed from the whole scene, even though his own cock is far down his bound lover's throat. The base, though, visible above the greedy mouth, shines purple with blood, suggesting they've been doing this for hours, and that he loves it, loves how the bent man's straining body struggles to unfold, and how that pressure only forces his cock deeper. Proving his control, he refuses to thrust, barely moving, but his eyes never leave his brother's flushed face.
The air in the room, warmed by the bright sun, is heavy with musk and jasmine.
Minutes ago, Iphicles and his brother had left the dank tunnel, entering a small, bare antechamber. Nodding toward the heavy oak door before them, the king had whispered: "This leads to my room. If we're lucky, my twin'll be there alone. You can take him to the temple and find out what the fuck he's done with Mother and Iolaus, while I get what I can from the Sovereign."
At his brother's nod, he'd grasped the handle and turned it slowly, nudging the door with his booted toe. The slight squeal of stiff hinges froze them both, but when nothing happened, they'd peered through the long crack into a sun-bright chamber...and seen themselves.
Now, forced to watch and wait, heat spreading over him, Iphicles hated the light. He didn't need to witness this, especially not with Herc so close behind him, his chin almost resting on the king's shoulder. And he could see everything. Every fat, silver drop of sweat rolling down his own body, over his hard nipples, splashing down onto his brother's--the Sovereign's--upturned face. Every blue-hearted bruise on their bodies from hard fingers seeking leverage against oily skin. Every shudder rippling
over tensed muscles as they both neared orgasm. It was all profoundly embarrassing.
And with the compelled silence, he couldn't reassure his brother that those kinks weren't his. Ok, maybe alone in bed, late at night, he'd let himself wonder how Herc's mouth would feel around his cock. Who didn't think about their siblings, right? Look at the gods: always fucking each other. Nothing wrong with that. And Herc was a half-god. But he loved Iolaus, so Iphicles stayed away.
Well, except for that one time he'd gotten blitzed on Aegyptian beer and staggered up the castle's steep steps, falling once, painfully, on his right knee before he made it to his brother's room. Fortunately for everyone, it was empty: Hercules had abandoned it to sleep with Iolaus. Iphicles, however, had crawled beneath the sheets and passed out, breathing his brother's scent. He'd endured an awkward moment the next morning when he awoke to Hercules' startled face gazing down at him.
But a few midnight fantasies didn't match this depraved scene, hadn't prepared him for his own intense response. These two bastards had kidnapped his mother and his friend, maybe killed them. He knew that, wanted to hurt them for it. But his cock still thickened as he imagined standing in his twin's place. Only it wasn't the Sovereign tied up for his pleasure, but Hercules.
What in Tartarus did his brother, behind him, think about this? Probably just morally outraged. No lust tinting his thoughts of vengeance. Look how Herc responded to Ares. Just pure anger and loathing there, whereas Iphicles, who knew all the details of their history, still wanted that divine cock up his ass after a few heartbeats in the god's presence.
Goddammit. He hated the light.
He repressed the urge to charge into the room, sword drawn. Anything to stop this. But simple force couldn't work against these two. Their only hope: divide and conquer Especially if any of this world's gods were involved, like that jasmine-scented love god, whose dumb act didn't quite ring true. Hell, for all they knew, the Sov and the General had staged this little show for their benefit, some kind of sick prelude to more violent games.
Herc's breath tickled his ear, and he shivered as the warmth traveled down his spine, kissing each vertebrae. His treacherous cock pushed harder against the tight leather, and he seriously considered taking it out to relieve the pressure. They were gonna die anyway, so what the hell. Maybe he'd turn a little, let Herc see what kind of pervert Alcmene'd inadvertently spawned. Probably no surprise. After that fiasco over the name-borrowing, Hercules already thought he was fucked up. Discovering his
big brother couldn't untangle lust, revenge and jealousy here in this alternate universe would doubtless just provoke more annoyance, more disappointment.
Shifting uncomfortably, almost angrily Iphicles brushed against the body at his back and, for the barest instant, felt a hardness there. Then Hercules moved, and it disappeared.
But the sounds from the other room distracted him: his twin moaned, head tossed back, and finally thrust hard into the waiting mouth. The Sovereign moaned in chorus even as he swallowed, and creamy ribbons arced through the air between his thighs, shooting so far a few drops splattered onto the tiled floor near the watchers' door. Iphicles' own cock throbbed in sympathy, and he gripped the door's hard edge, trying not to come.
His orgasm done, his scarred twin stepped back from the Sovereign, cock dripping. While he dressed, his brother snapped his restraints, collapsing with a groan onto his back.
"Next time, you can be on the bottom," he said, sitting up to massage his thighs. His hand paused between them, scooping up the remaining semen, which he licked off with animalistic satisfaction.
The General, fastening a sword at his waist with slow, precise movements, went still. "Are you complaining?" The words, bitten out, hung with the dust-motes in the golden air.
"You know I'm not." His expression turned cunning. "I'll get that whore Ares to suck me, if you won't."
His brother shrugged. "You do that. Now I'm outta here. I've got business to take care of."
"Later. And remember: keep your fucking mouth shut. They'll be coming for us." Without a backward glance, the General left the room.
The Sovereign climbed higher up the bed, pulling a handful of pillows under his head. With a grunt, he rolled onto his side, showing the watchers a broad back marked with a thousand tiny scars. Whip-bites.
Within seconds, he was snoring, and Hercules gave his confused brother a little push. "Go talk to him. I'll follow Iphicles. If you get anything, head back to Ares' temple. Good luck."
They stepped through the arched doorway into the room, then Hercules slipped out, leaving Iphicles alone with the Sovereign. Unsure what to do, he sat down on the mattress, which sank under his weight.
"You're back," came the sleepy mumble. "Feels like I just fell asleep. I'm ready for you now, Iph." He moved onto his stomach, raising his ass.
Be like him. Controlled. Cold. He slapped the rounded cheeks aggressively hard, knocking his brother's twin face-first onto the rumpled sheets. "You're always ready."
"Can't help it. This morning got me hot. You know how blood turns me on."
Without thinking this time, Iphicles struck again, leaving a red hand-print on the smooth skin. Don't sound desperate. "Whose blood?"
The Sovereign laughed. "You know--you were there."
"I want to hear about it."
"You told me not to talk about it. In case they heard." Flipping onto his back, he began to stroke his hard cock. "I'll tell you all about it if you fuck me. I can tell you want to." Smirking, he ran one hand over the stretched leather between Iphicles' thighs.
His mother could be dead, Iolaus tortured in the castle's dungeons, and all he could think about was sliding into the tight ass being offered to him. His brother's ass. It would serve this twisted prick right if he did it, too. Pay-back.
"What's the matter, Iph?"
"Nothing," Iphicles said, picking up the whip lying on a bedside table, then straddled the Sovereign. "I just want to hear about this morning. Start talking." As incentive, he flicked the leather tip across one tanned nipple and a single red welt appeared, serrated, like the scratch from a monster's sharp claw. That's for Alcmene, Iphicles thought.
Beneath him, Hercules stretched, extending his arms above his head. "More."
"Only if you talk, little brother."
Behind his back, the sun poured in sweet, golden waves through the window.
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