{Story Sample} Thanatos, the Hero of Death’s Lover

Now that I’m done writing the story and have it published, I thought it would be fun to post a series of story samples from Death’s Lover and talk about what inspired the scenes. To start off this inspirational series I want to share the scene that inspired the entire book. Which is actually in My Lord Hades, but also shows up in Death’s Lover in Lilith’s point of view and is about 20 chapters into the book…

The Story Sample:

Thanatos was no stranger to death.

He’d seen every possible way there was to die. He lived with it day after day, century upon century. But even a feral predator such as himself knew that the outright destruction such as the scene before him wasn’t natural. It couldn’t even be considered war.

He’d seen war. He’d even participated in battles. War had never bothered him, but the utter devastation and meaningless loss of life he saw as he stood outside the small village, sickened him to his darkened soul.

There was no reason for it. This was no natural disaster with Rhea sending warning signs of impending doom that had been ignored because the people thought the signs read in sheep intestines were more reliable. No flood by Okeanos’ unpredictable mood. Coronus was too busy being tortured in Tartarus with his Titan allies to destroy creatures he saw as beneath his notice. This wasn’t a bid for survival.

What lay before him was a slaughter.

The men had died horribly in the defense of their women and children, clutching farm implements, knives, and dull axes. Many lay where they fell. Others were strung up on display for everyone who passed this village to see. But the fighters were not the only dead.

Women had died shielding their children. A spear driven through a young woman’s back had pierced through the child, pinning them both to the side of a home. The women had died with their men, their children and infants slaughtered like diseased cattle. The unborn ripped from their mothers’ wombs.

Covering his mouth and nose with a cloth from his belt, he tied it behind his head and wished it could mask the stink of so many dead. The scent of iron was long gone, even if the dark stains and sticky pools of red-black blood were not. The stink of so many dead bodies, charred by fire and baking in the noonday sun, became a stomach-turning stench of decay and rot.

A woman with empty eye sockets and a hole torn through her stomach lay in his path. She’d probably been killed with a sword to the gut. The wild animals had started their work. The birds had taken the eyes. The scavengers had torn into the damaged flesh to feed their bellies. The insects buzzed around her.

Stepping over the woman’s body, he moved swiftly through the fire blackened village, searching for the souls of the dead.

Only he found nothing. Not a single soul.

Usually he found them sitting beside their bodies in a state of confusion as they tried to piece together what had happened and what they were to do next. Sometimes larger groups huddled together, a form of comfort from their mortal lives. They sought the familiar.

But there were no souls here for him to collect, only the ghosts of memories burned into the very ground he walked. Images that haunted his vision. Children playing in the streets, chasing each other, and shouting their victory. The giggling groups of young women watching the young men strut and demonstrate their prowess as providers. The stolen kisses of soon-to-be lovers. Mothers cuddling their babes and smiling at the antics of the young. The elders reminiscing of their youth, when everything was different and life was better. There was even the occasional tender moment between mates who’d aged together, loved and bore the hardships of life. The celebration of the tribe with the birth of a child and the group mourning at the passing of a loved one.

Their whole lives and their horrible screaming deaths played out before him like a gruesome play that Ares’ might convince the Muses to do.

These people were farmers, tilling the ground for food and raising wild beasts for meat. They weren’t warriors. They had no weapons to defend themselves except the knives they butchered their livestock with and the scythe they used to cut their harvest. They hadn’t a chance against the force that sweep through their village.

The first to die and those who fought until their last breaths had been lucky compared to those who sought mercy at the hands of their murderers. Because there was no mercy in the war-like men and women who thought it easier to kill than gather their own food for the coming season. They were the type to prey upon the unsuspecting population of dirt grubbers, revel in torture, and drink in the pain and death like elixir. They would rather massacre an entire village, burn the fields to soil, and steal what they wanted than work for what they needed.

He witnessed the tortures of the men sliced to pieces and the raping of the women until the fight left their eyes. He watched the killers bathe in the blood of the dead and dying. He watched them perform unspeakable acts upon their victims that would probably impress the ever bloodthirsty Furies and his own daughters by Kerena, the Keres.

He became their witness.

And when the killers finally met him, he would make sure there was a special place in Tartarus waiting. They would soon know the pain and suffering they inflicted upon their victims. They would understand fear.

Walking past a mostly intact hovel, Thanatos at last found the shades. They were standing at the edge of the village, watching something he couldn’t quite see through the mass of their diaphanous bodies. A man, bent with age and a wasting disease that would have taken his life within months had he lived, turned toward him, his eyes bright, as if he was crying. Slowly the others faced him, sensing his presence among them.

This was the moment he hated, because there was no way to explain to the newly dead, who rarely understood their new roles, that the gods they prayed to had abandoned them. That they cared about humans as long as it suited their needs. That upon their death they were now under the guardianship of the Queen of the Underworld and that she, of all the gods on Mount Othyrs and Mount Olympus, had willingly accepted her fate as their guardian. That she’d taken stewardship over the shades once condemned to roam the world, confused and scared, and created a haven for them. They could follow him to the Underworld and a chance at happiness, or they could remain lost souls, forever wandering.

He couldn’t force them. His Queen forbade it. They had to follow him willingly into the darkness and judgment. They had to accept their deaths and move on, maybe even decide to be reborn into the world. She would only accept those who came willingly and criminals who could not be left to roam the world.

A few refused his offer, wishing instead to cling to a life that held no solace for them, and continue as if nothing happened. No matter how he explained it, they would not move on, and he hated to see them ruin the lives of the living they loved by remaining behind. It never ended well.

These shades were different. Their energy thrummed with power. Their souls glowed red. They understood what happened to them. They’d accepted it.

They knew who he was and why he was there. He could see it in the expressions on their faces. And he knew beyond a doubt they would not come with him.

The looks of determination implored him to understand, to leave them to the fate they’d chosen. The question was why. They had nothing left to stay for. They couldn’t even enact the revenge they sought. Everyone was dead or gone.

If they wanted to remain for those who’d been captured and taken, they wouldn’t be here now. Which made him wonder why. Why did they stay? Why would they risk eternity trapped on the mortal plane? Why would they risk angering the goddess of death they so feared?

Not that Persephone was all that fearsome when it came to the free will of her creations. She’d created the Underworld for them, a place where the lost could reside. It didn’t mean that she was a pushover either. She hadn’t earned the title of the Iron Queen for nothing.

He was so distracted by the souls he barely reacted to the woman stalking toward him with a look of deadly determination on her lovely face. Black haired, dark-eyed, small in stature, and pale of skin, the blood-splattered, soot-covered woman-child struck out with a wicked-looking knife, cutting through his tunic and almost decapitating him with the bloody scythe in her other hand. He danced out of her reach as searing pain blossomed from his neck.

A chance meeting changed the course of their lives…
Thanatos is no stranger to death. He’s seen every possible way there was to die. He’s lived with it day after day, century upon century, collecting the souls of dead mortals and taking them to the Underworld for judgment. An endless routine of tiresome duty and resounding loneliness that echoed in his heart, until she came into his life…

A second meeting will change their hearts and souls…
Saved by a stranger, Lilith never forgot the mysterious man who gave her the chance to blossom into the strong woman with a spirit of fire and a heart of ice, anymore than she can the lessons of the past. She must hide her secrets deep and never get close to anyone. Sex is merely a means to an end, and pleasure isn’t something to share with a lover, until he came back into her life…

What happens next will change the Underworld….
Lilith’s ability to see a person’s death has attracted the attention of the warlord, Adman, and seals her fate. He will do anything, kill anyone, to possess her talent. And the only one standing between him and Lilith is Death himself. Thanatos will break every ancient law, and even a few newer ones, to save her, and in the end it might cost them both their lives.

You can read more Story Samples from Death’s Lover, visit my Story Notes on Death’s Lover to read about the inspiration behind the book, or buy the eBook at Amazon US ~ Amazon UK ~ Barnes & Noble ~ Smashwords ~ Kobo

Published © August 2014 by Stephannie Beman
Cover and Layout copyright © 2013 by Ruis Publishing
Cover design by Stephannie Beman/Ruis Publishing
Cover art copyright © Veronika Galkina and Zastavkin | Dreamstime.com