TARMA GROANED AND brushed a lock of long blue hair out of her sweaty face. Why did it have to be so hot? At the rate she was sweating sea water, she’d be absolutely dry.
Rayes didn’t seem to notice the excruciating heat as she prattled on about a new god in the ranks of the Olympians, her gait quickening as they reached the Olympian encampment. Tarma sighed. What did she care if another self-centered god joined the ranks of the Olympians? This stupid war was about power and dominance! It wasn’t as if any of the nymphs would benefit from the change of regime. One god was as bad as another. They all wanted the nymphs as willing bedmates, although they would accept the unwilling ones too.
“There he is,” Rayes said, jumping up and down excitedly and pointing to the right of them.
Tarma blinked at the very uncharacteristic, emotional display playing out before her. Rayes had the personality of a leaf; in other words, none. She was too serious and too composed for one of the fun loving nymphs. Nothing like the emotional species they were. If a God could make Rayes throw her dignity aside and act as a child, Tarma had to see him.
Turning toward the practice ring, she scanned the area, searching for the object of Rayes’ excitement. All she saw was Ares and a man in rags circling the arena with swords in their hands. A few feet away, several nymphs and gods she recognized watched. “Where?”
“Fighting Ares, of course. Isn’t he magnificent?”
Tarma arched a brow. The man was dirty and disgusting. She glanced at her companion to see if Rayes could possibly be joking. She wasn’t. “I don’t see—”
A sound drew her eye back to the arena. Ares and the repulsive man were moving…circling. At first they were slow, testing each other. The speed of their movements increased as they danced around the arena.
Amazingly, the man kept pace with Ares. He barely looked able to stand on his own two feet. He was tall and painfully thin, closer to emaciated, with greasy hair that snarled over his bowed back and a scraggly beard that had been wrapped around his neck to keep it out of the way. She thought it might be black, but it could also be brown, or even blond.
She didn’t see what Rayes saw in him, until he attacked. Weaving and twirling, the blade glittered in the sunlight, slicing through the air, ringing off metal. It was a deadly dance of blades that the man was more than adept at playing. He moved with the fluid grace of a panther, attacked with the speed of a viper, and stuck with the strength of a God.
She’d never seen its like. The strange, new God was built for war, even more so than Ares. While Ares hacked away, missing the lithe man more often than making contact, the man’s blade struck every time. He was taunting Ares, sparking the God of War’s anger, and the angrier Ares became, the more mistakes he made.
And then the man made a fatal error. He came too close to the swinging blade. Tarma cringed at the thought of the blade slicing through flesh and muscle, embedding itself into bone. She hated the thought of this magnificent man dying so soon. One moment the glittering blade was descending toward the man’s neck and the next the blade was sailing through the clear morning air, a deadly glitter of cold steel. It landed in the grass with a thud.
Tarma looked back at the man. Was he a god? A Titan? Or a Daemon? For no mortal could do what he had.
Ares cursed loudly and glared at the man. “You’re a dirty cheat, Hades.”
Tarma started at the name. Hades? The immortal enemy of Coronus? The prisoner of Tartarus for the last thousand years or more? The daemon of awesome power? How had he gotten out of Tartarus?
“I fought to win,” Hades said. His voice was deep, soft, and deadly as he sheathed the beautifully crafted sword.
Ares glared at Hades, his hands balled into fists. Tarma held her breath. Ares’ temper was legendary.
“You cheated,” Ares growled, stomping away.
Tarma and Rayes scampered out of his way. No one wanted to incur the wrath of Ares when he’d been thwarted. It was a death sentence…or some wished it was.
Hades watched Ares disappear into the village of tents, before he bent to retrieve Ares’ sword from the grass. He cleaned the blade on his ragged clothes.
Startling blue eyes met Tarma’s over the distance. The grief in that one look struck Tarma to her heart. This was a man worthy of her attention. This was a man she could love. In that moment, Tarma knew she wanted this daemon.
Originally Published January 2012
Copyright Stephannie Beman