Graegus: The Legendary Walkies
Iphicles closed his eyes against the view of the sun dappled forest path winding out before him. The commotion of plant life being obliterated and the terrified squeals of fleeing creatures were drawing closer. Again. With pink dots of light dancing across his eyelids, Iphicles reached blindly forwards to pet the tensing neck of his snorting mare. Honey-Pot was not a nervous horse, he had chosen to ride her on this venture because of her steady nature, but being knocked over by three hundred pounds of excited war hound was enough to give anyone a nervous twitch. Iphicles sighed, gently brought Honey-Pot to a standstill, then put up a hand to halt the column of six guards riding behind him. He then dismounted to the sound of hooves shuffling against the hard dirt path, and moved to stand a few steps away from Honey-Pot as Irulis, the Captain of the Guard, rode his grey gelding forward to take her reins.
"Here it comes," Irulis' words were muffled by his helmet's face shielding then almost drowned out by the terrific sound of ripping undergrowth. Moments seemed to stretch into eternity as Iphicles stood on the path awaiting the inevitable.
The sun hid behind the clouds when the thick forest bush exploded for Graegus Dog of War to break onto the path. After executing a clumsy turn that nearly had him down on one of his mustard-coloured shoulders, Graegus' fat paws were beating the ground into submission as he hurtled towards Iphicles. Iphicles squinted at the dark object jammed into Graegus' black muzzle, stifling the dog's heavy panting. As realisation dawned, Iphicles felt his resolve crawl away with his balls at the thought of getting the biggest, slimiest toad he'd ever seen shoved into his groin complete with the obligatory coating of drool. What was wrong with this mutt? He'd heard of dogs taking after their owners but Graegus seemed to think the only way to get Iphicles' attention was to shove something -- be it his nose, paw or a well-mauled animal -- into his crotch.
Iphicles steeled himself. He waited until he could see the flare of those soggy nostrils before he squeezed his eyes shut, took a deep breath and bellowed, "GRAEGUS, SIT!"
There was a sudden scraping, scrabbling noise, followed by the rapid thumping of tail against ground over the heavy panting. The horses whinnied and scuffled. A bird fluttered overhead. Iphicles opened one eye, and then the other. Graegus was sitting with one paw half-raised in excitement, his eyes expectantly bright and his tail digging a rut in the path behind him.
"There's a good dog." Iphicles moved forwards half a step and Graegus shuffled a few eager inches to meet him. "What a...nice...thing you've brought me." He smiled into the big brown gaze and reached for a toad leg. As soon as he had a firm grip of his 'gift', Graegus let go with a noisy slurp of his jowls to pant happily up at Iphicles. "My, my." Iphicles eyed the unfortunate toad. "Doesn't that look yummy." He gingerly patted Graegus' head and received a large slavering tongue up the length of his wrist for his trouble. "Yes, it's so lovely that, you know what, Graeg?" He carefully backed away from the confused dog, rubbing his wrist dry against his leggings and watching Graegus' head cock to the side as he laid the dead toad by the side of the path. "I'm going to keep it here for later." He straightened up with a grin. "Yeah, that's right." He kicked a few tufts of grass over the toad. "We'll leave it here for now and pick it up on the way back from walkies along with everything else you've brought me this morning. Okay?" His grin was getting pained.
Graegus' head cocked further to the side, seeming to consider this statement. He then looked from Iphicles to the half-covered toad and back again. His mouth slowly closed so one side of his upper lip caught in a lopsided grin and the tip of his tongue poked out ridiculously between his front teeth. Then he stood and brushed past Iphicles to trot merrily up the path.
Iphicles remounted Honey-Pot convinced the dog was sniggering at him as much as his guards were. Become King of Corinth and get forced into taking the Dog of War walkies or watch him tear your castle apart searching for his 'daddy'. Iphicles scowled at Irulis, who, to be fair, was the only one of his guards that he knew for a fact wasn't smirking, before walking the column after Graegus' swaggering behind.
They had only moved on a few hundred paces when Iphicles came around a turn to find Graegus standing tensed in the middle of the path, his ears pricked and his tail straight out behind him. Edging Honey-Pot forwards, Iphicles was about to call Irulis to him when the distant thunder of approaching hoof beats had his guards riding up to take defensive positions around him. The hackles along Graegus' back rose with the sound of his deepening growl as the riders broke over the horizon, their drawn swords glinting under the sun.
Ten, twelve, fourteen black armoured soldiers hammered their horses down the forest path, their swords slicing the air before their furious battle cries.
"Go, my Lord." Irulis seized Honey-Pot's reins to turn the mare around, forcing Iphicles to release his grip on his sword hilt to regain control of his mount. "Delcus, take the king to safety."
"No," Iphicles growled, grasping his Captain's hand and pulling it from the reins. "The odds are bad enough. We can't split up."
"We can't let anything happen to you, Iphicles," Irulis returned, his fingers locking around Iphicles' wrist. "We don't stand a chance if we have to fight and protect you at the same time. You know that." He looked steadily back at Iphicles. "What would you do in my position?"
His mind racing with the approaching hoof beats, Iphicles nodded curtly, briefly squeezing Irulis' wrist before nudging Honey-Pot after Delcus' mount. With a glance back to see Graegus tumbling the leading attacker to the ground, Iphicles urged Honey-Pot into a full gallop after Delcus.
Trees and flashes of sun whizzed by as Honey-Pot overtook Delcus' horse, affording Iphicles a look over his shoulder at their pursuers. There were two, one of them stringing an arrow. Iphicles immediately turned Honey-Pot into the forest. He heard Delcus turn to follow, but too late. Iphicles looked around just as Delcus cried out, an arrow buried deep in his back. With a tug on the reins that nearly toppled Honey-Pot down the overgrown incline she was negotiating, Iphicles was able to stretch back and catch Delcus' cloak. Helping the dying man to stay atop his horse, they struggled on through the treacherous undergrowth with their would-be murderers crashing after them.
"Delcus?" Iphicles shouted over the ripping, clawing forest. Ducking a branch, he shifted his grip on Delcus' cloak, his fingers burning and his knuckles white with effort. "Delcus?" He tried again, not daring to look back at their pursuers and ignoring his shoulder's howling as he twisted under another low branch. Then Honey-Pot stumbled and Delcus' cloak was ripped from Iphicles' fingers. The forest disappeared to be briefly replaced by a sunny glade before Iphicles was thrown against Honey-Pot's damp neck as she slipped at the top of a steep, grassy slope. Scrabbling to stay on his mare's back, Iphicles heard Delcus' mount scream and turned to see the horse roll down the hill, thrashing and crushing Delcus until they both lay still on the grass below.
An arrow shooting past his ear put to rest any thoughts Iphicles had of doing anything for Delcus at that moment. Snarling in determination, he hunched close to Honey-Pot, kicking her on as another arrow cut close by. He snatched a glance under his arm and saw just one pursuer, the archer, readying another arrow. The trees on the other side of the glade were approaching fast. Iphicles kicked Honey-Pot on again. He desperately needed those extra few seconds her hard-pressed effort would buy him. Another arrow shot past but they had reached the shade of the forest. Iphicles quickly pulled Honey-Pot up short to direct the snorting, shivering mare behind a thick thorn bush where they waited with gasping lungs and hammering hearts.
The archer crashed into the forest, and brought his mount up short. His arrow at the ready, his head began to turn in Iphicles' direction.
"Shit," Iphicles cursed, drawing his sword with a clear ring and riding out to attack.
The soldier's burning red eyes came to rest on Iphicles. His long forked tongue tasted the air and he loosed the arrow.
"Holy Hera!" Iphicles ducked. A deep gash burned a long his upper arm. He brought his sword up in a short, fast arc.
The archer's head fell to the mossy floor with a dull thud. The serpent tongue flicked once then lay still. The red eyes dulled and closed.
Iphicles gulped air and wiped a trickle of sweat from his upper lip with shaky fingers before tearing his gaze from his gruesome attacker to inspect his injury. His arm was bleeding but not badly damaged. He could move it well enough and--
"No!" Iphicles quickly sheathed his sword and dived for the demon archer's horse, trying to stop it returning to the glade. He failed. Watching the horse run back across the grass, the decapitated body of its rider still grotesquely erect on its back, Iphicles saw the forest curtain across the glade quake then explode for four black armoured soldiers to ride straight at him.
"What the fuck is going on?" Iphicles jerked Honey-Pot around and kicked her into a gallop, planning to circle around the snake-tongued soldiers back to his men. "Who are those bastards?" he hissed his frustration but his mind was slowing with Honey-Pot's heavy hooves through the brush. He must be losing more blood than it seemed. The cut must be deeper than he'd thought. Iphicles ripped his sleeve to staunch the blood. In this moment's distraction, Honey-Pot leapt over a fallen tree trunk and a high branch struck Iphicles' head.
Blinding pain, Honey-Pot's leg, a flash of sky, and Iphicles was face down in a pile of prickling leaves. He coughed and spluttered, carefully levering up onto his elbows before moving onto his hands and knees. He then dazedly watched the final leaves settle after Honey-Pot's hasty departure. "Well isn't that just fucking great." He was just reaching up to feel the pulpy bruising at the side of his head when he froze, his heart skipping a beat. Something was approaching from behind. Something was crashing through the trees, chasing him. Scrambling across to the meagre shelter of the fallen tree, Iphicles drew his sword and crouched against the rough bark, hoping the demon soldiers would just pass by.
Relying on his ringing ears to trace the progress of his pursuer's approach, Iphicles soon realised that his blurry vision was the least of his worries; his sword had just slipped from his useless fingers to lie glinting up at him from the leaf strewn earth. "Poison," he mumbled, feeling the numbness spreading through his limbs. "It wasn't blood loss. You idiot," he cursed himself weakly, slipping down the fallen tree trunk he was propped against, feeling the bark scrape his cheek before his head rested on the ground. "At least there wasn't a stone there." He giggled light-headedly. "Maybe my luck..." the words died in his throat; something was rustling the leaves on the other side of the trunk.
A sudden loud thump actually rocked the fallen trunk in the soil before something soared over Iphicles' head to thud untidily into the same pile of leaves that had broken his fall from Honey-Pot. Heavy panting accompanied clumsy footfalls as the blurry shape walked towards the gap in the trees where Honey-Pot had ran.
Iphicles choked back a relieved giggle. He'd know that pant and those fat paws anywhere, even half out of his mind with poison. "Graegus." He stretched out his hand. The blurry shape bounded towards him, only to be swallowed in inky unconsciousness.
Damn, it was raining. Iphicles opened his eyes blearily and wiped his face. He hated it when he woke up in camp and it was--
"What the? GRAEGUS!" He bolted to sit upright but still failed to dodge the last splash of warm drool that splattered his cheek. "You disgusting mutt," he snarled, pushing the big lump of yellow hound from him. "Get your nose out of my hair. Fuck, that hurts, Graegus!" He slapped the soggy muzzle and Graegus backed off sneezing. "Just sit over there and don't touch me." Iphicles wiped the drool from his face and gingerly probed the bump on the side of his head. "I fell off Honey-Pot and it hurts like Tartarus." It was then Iphicles realised the poison had gone. Not only had the numbness fled, the only pain he felt was the steady throbbing of a nasty headache and the other bumps and bruises he'd received when falling off his horse. He quickly checked his injured arm. It was still streaked with blood but the wound itself was healing over and suspiciously free from bloodstains.
"No, it can't be." Iphicles eyed Graegus, who was busy chewing the end of his tail. "You didn't," he addressed the muscular shoulder. "You couldn't have healed me, Graegus."
At the sound of his name, Graegus' head whipped around and Iphicles was looking into a bright gaze that completely ignored the small tornado of leaves the recently released tail was causing behind.
"Did you do this?" Iphicles showed Graegus his healing arm.
"How could you have done this? Tell me it was a shapely healing nymph, Graeg." Iphicles scanned the surrounding forest hopefully then looked back at Ares' mutt.
Graegus cocked his head to the side and licked his nose.
"A golden hind with a penchant for handsome kings perhaps? All right, you don't have to 'mwurf' at me. It was worth a shot." Iphicles frowned and gently probed the itching scab. "Your drool must have some sort of healing property." Iphicles felt his face contort. "That is really disgusting." He rubbed his arm. "But thanks anyway."
Graegus scratched his neck then nibbled his toes.
"I'm sorry I hit you." Iphicles kneeled up and reached out a hand to scratch Graegus' neck. Graegus turned to sniff Iphicles' fingers and Iphicles rubbed the warm velvet of his muzzle.
"Shit, how did the battle go, Graeg? Did you heal any of my men?" He leaned away from Graegus' reaching tongue. "Who were those fork-tongued bastards? Did you know them?" He rubbed Graegus' floppy ears and his fingers vibrated with deep groans of doggy pleasure. "Yeah, because you're going to answer me." He patted Graegus' head and stood before moving over to pick up his sword from its bed of leaves. "We'd better get back to the castle." He re-sheathed his sword. "I need to get patrols out after those murdering bastards. Did you see Delcus? Murdering demon bastards." Iphicles began to tramp down Honey-Pot's trail, knowing the mare would head straight home. He had barely walked a few steps when Graegus brushed past his legs, licking his fingers before loping on ahead.
Negotiating the forest trail made by Honey-Pot was a Hades of a lot easier than hacking through it with his sword, but Iphicles was still dead on his feet by the time they reached the glade. It was obvious from his sweating fever and trembling muscles that his body had not recovered from the day's trials. Far from it, Iphicles wanted to rest but feared he'd never regain his feet. So that's when Graegus decided to get pigheaded about the direction they were travelling in.
"Graegus, I'm the king here. I'm the man here, for Hades' sake. You're a dog. Let go off my damn boot!" Iphicles managed to wrench himself free of Graegus' slobbering jowls once more. "Don't bark at me. You can go that way if you like but I'm going back to the castle."
Iphicles' breath was suddenly knocked from his lungs as he was driven to the ground with Graegus' considerable weight pressing on his back, pinning him there.
"Get off me, you stupid mutt." Iphicles spat mud and grass, his assortment of bruises wailing at him. "I swear, when I get you back to Ares I'm going to--" That's when he heard it. Just a slight drumming at first, then it intensified to the distinct sound of multiple hoof-beats. Graegus crawled off him to lie at his side, allowing Iphicles to raise his head and see the demon riders thunder through the middle of the glade.
"There are still fourteen of them." Iphicles' gaze locked on the archer he'd beheaded. "I killed him. I killed him after he killed Delcus. What the fuck is going on?"
He watched Graegus chew a few blades of grass.
"This is all Ares' fault isn't it?"
Graegus whined and moved a heavy paw onto Iphicles' forearm.
"I knew it," Iphicles growled. "Demon soldiers trying to kill me, it has to be either Ares or Herc."
Graegus drooled in sympathy as Iphicles clambered to his feet.
"Do you think this kind of shit happens to Caesar?" Iphicles began walking in the direction Graegus had 'suggested'. "You can bet your ass this shit doesn't happen to Caesar. Are you going to 'grurmurf' every time I say Caesar? Well, feel free. Caesar. You don't like him do you?" Iphicles watched Graegus take the lead once more, never short of energy, his tail always wagging.
Skirting the edge of the glade, they had made good travelling time but Iphicles was all too happy to collapse by the side of a small stream and thirstily drink down several handfuls of water. "We haven't seen those soldiers again," Iphicles gasped, drenching his face and neck with cool water. "But we haven't seen Ares either," he continued, moving back to lean against the tree stump behind him. "I hope you know where we're going." He watched Graegus wade into the water, lapping noisily then dipping his face in as if he was looking for something. "Stupid question." Iphicles rolled his gaze to the blue sky.
That was his first mistake.
His second mistake was ignoring Graegus' splashing return from the stream until he could smell the wet dog hair because, by then, he was too late to stop the half-mauled eel being slapped into his crotch.
No matter how tired you happen to be, and Iphicles was very tired indeed, jumping to your feet with a shout loud enough to wake the Titans was one of the universal constants when it comes to having a semi-gutted eel greet your anatomy in such a manner. But Iphicles' shout of surprise soon died in his throat, his shock turning to anger with a sudden flash of godly light.
But the god standing before Iphicles after the light had faded wasn't Ares.
"Well, hello, Iphicles." The strange god purred over the fluttering of his emerald green cloak.
Iphicles backed away half a step, self-consciously brushing at the eel guts still clinging to his crotch as the god's green eyes roved his length.
"I can see why Ares was trying to keep you his dirty little secret." The full lips, so much like Ares', twisted in a slight smirk then opened to tease a golden berry from the sprig he was twirling in his long, tanned fingers. "But don't worry, I don't have a burning desire to get fire-balled today." The god settled down on a large rock by the stream that had just materialised, silently, from nowhere.
Watching the god lick a trickle of golden juice from the corner of his mouth, Iphicles felt sure his visitor was one of Ares' brothers. With long black hair, longer and straighter than Ares', he wasn't one of the fair gods, so not Apollo or Hermes. When the god unfastened his cloak, letting it fall over the rock, what Iphicles could see of the lean muscled body beneath the green suede vest and leggings was also strongly reminiscent of Ares, if slighter and not quite as dark.
"Yeah, we're all built along these lines. Inbreeding, you know." The god closed his eyes and tipped his face to the sun. "I'm Dionysus. Ares should be along any moment."
Iphicles' gaze drifted from the sunbathing god to Graegus' merry splashes as he fished for another eel. Taking the dog's lack of concern as a good sign, Iphicles addressed Dionysus, God of Wine, for the first time.
"My Lord." He cleared his throat. "Can I ask where Ares is?"
The lazy green eyes focused on him again.
"It's just that I have a few questions for him." Iphicles smiled politely.
"I bet you do." Dionysus grinned, straightening up. "But don't be too hard on him. Anyone would drink a little too much if they had Angra Mainyu feeling them up all night."
"Yeah, the Persian god of dark stuff. Zeus and Hera have the Persians staying with them for a festival thing and old Angra has had his eye on Ares for centuries." Dionysus shrugged. "You'd think he'd take the hint by now, but that's Persian dark gods for you."
"Are you telling me all this happened because Ares wasn't in the mood?"
"Well, he was in the mood." Dionysus grinned. "Believe me, Ares with a few good shots of my special wine in him is certainly worth getting into bed."
"You mean, you and Ares?" Iphicles ignored the wet slap of Graegus dropping an eel on his boot.
"Oh, yeah. All night long, Iph." Dionysus drew his sprig through the air suggestively. "You can't keep a good god down, you know. And Ares is very, very good."
Iphicles ground his teeth. "He was supposed to pick Graegus up this morning. I had to take his mutt for walkies."
"Yeah." Dionysus smirked. "I watched the whole thing."
"What about Ares?" Iphicles snapped. "Did he watch the whole thing?"
"Hey, watch your mouth, mortal." Dionysus glowered, standing and retrieving his cloak. "As far as I know Ares was off fucking a nymph in the healing pools. But don't take my word for it."
As if on cue, the blinding flash that heralded Ares in a seriously nasty mood seared itself onto Iphicles' retinas and Ares was standing there: all muscle, black leather and blacker disposition.
"What do you want?" Ares settled the kind of glare that made a man feel like a eunuch on Dionysus.
"Nothing." Dionysus smiled, fixing his cloak around his shoulders.
"Did you correct that fuck up with his men?" Ares gestured at Iphicles.
"Down to the last horse," Dionysus sighed. "Don't you trust me, Ares?"
"Don't insult my intelligence, Dio." Ares shook his head. "Just hit the aether before you really piss me off."
"Fine." Dionysus strolled up to Ares until he was within kissing distance and then disappeared.
"Little weasel," Ares growled, then caught sight of Graegus staring at him expectantly. "What are you looking at?"
Graegus lowered his head and tail but kept his big brown eyes on Ares.
"Leave the mutt alone." Iphicles shook the eel from his boot and stepped towards Ares, gripping his upper arm to turn him around. To his surprise, Ares actually turned. "Just because you're in a bad mood."
"Yeah, you wouldn't believe the fucker of the day I've had." Ares glanced back at Graegus' hopeful tail waggling.
"You've had!" Iphicles began, then remembered Ares' words to Dionysus. "My men, they're alright?"
"Yeah, even the one that got it in the back." Ares kept his gaze focused on the stream.
"So what happened?" Iphicles watched Ares tip his head so his black curls brushed against his neck and Iphicles' finger's itched to join their caress.
"Does it matter?" Ares asked, his dark eyes now drawing Iphicles in.
"Dionysus told me about Angra Mainyu." Iphicles found his voice but lost his hold on Ares' attention, which shifted back to the stream. "Then how you two got drunk and fucked like rabbits all night."
"Dionysus is always drunk."
"Then he said you went off to see a nymph in a healing pool while he watched me take Graegus out."
A slight creak of leather as Ares shrugged.
"So how does this lead to me getting chased by demon soldiers all day, Ares?"
"Hecate." Ares turned from Iphicles to crouch facing Graegus, who immediately responded to the unspoken invitation by bounding from the water, his tail whipping against his sides, to rush into Ares' arms.
Iphicles didn't know how Ares remained steady during Graegus' enthusiastic greeting of tongue, paws, and lashing tail, but it wasn't fair. Any other person would be on the floor screaming for mercy under such an assault. Not Ares. He just calmly petted Graegus, telling him what a good boy he was, until the dog had settled down to the occasional lick and adoring looks. It was sickening. "Hecate, the Goddess of Magic?" Iphicles scowled as Ares stood up, gently tugging one of Graegus' ears. "Did you fuck her as well?"
"No," Ares' voice was a low warning. "I didn't know Stilbe was Hecate's flavour of the season and she sure as fuck didn't tell me."
"The nymph of the healing pool."
"And I got dragged into this because?" Iphicles was suddenly finding it hard to breathe as Ares moved in so their bodies touched.
"Because," Ares whispered a warm caress over Iphicles' cheek, "Dionysus got Hecate and Angra Mainyu together and convinced them that the best way to get at me was to get at you." Ares moved around to Iphicles' ear and Iphicles snapped his eyes shut against the brush of lips that preceded the small nip on his earlobe. "But don't bother about that now." The soft lips strayed down Iphicles' neck, sending scorching bolts of pleasure straight to his cock. "Dionysus sobered up some and told me all about it. So now they all owe me or else Zeus finds out they let demons loose on the mortal plane." Iphicles felt his body give in to Ares' touch, panting under the little nips and kisses Ares placed along his jaw without an embrace to anchor him. "Angra Mainyu isn't worth a shit but Hecate owing me a favour is something I can use."
"I'm glad you're happy." Iphicles gulped a breath. "They're probably the only two gods on Olympus you haven't fucked."
Ares sighed a breath down Iphicles' throat then withdrew with a growl. "Don't bust my balls over this, Iphicles."
"Bust 'em?" Iphicles pulled Ares hard against him, winding his fingers deep into Ares' hair as he plundered the hot mouth that immediately opened for him. "And what about Dionysus?" Iphicles broke away from Ares' tongue to kiss a high, flushed cheekbone, feeling another tide of arousal wash over him when Ares ground against him in response. "What does Dionysus owing you a favour mean?" Iphicles suckled a trail of kisses down Ares' neck and worked his hands under Ares' leather to revel in the deliciously shivering skin beneath.
"Dionysus is as shallow as a worm's grave. He means nothing." Ares pulled Iphicles' lips from his neck with a sharp yank of his hair then swallowed Iphicles' protests in an urgently thrusting kiss. "He cares about nothing but pleasure."
"Whereas you don't care about pleasure at all?" Iphicles was gasping, the world growing fuzzy around the edges as Ares leaned to whisper throatily in his ear.
"Not in the least."
And Iphicles was driving himself against Ares: pulling, tugging, grasping, squeezing, kissing, biting, teasing, tasting -- anything to make the body in his arms writhe and push back.
"Are you just going to keep dry humping my leg?" Ares chuckled into Iphicles' ear.
"Fuck you." Iphicles ceased his efforts but still held Ares tight to bite him hard on the chin.
"Fucking was always my plan." Ares grinned, backing Iphicles up the grassy incline.
"Not the ground, Ares." Iphicles put up just enough resistance to stop Ares' insistent pushing. "My bruises are killing me." He kissed Ares' lips so softly they barely touched.
"The healing pools then," Ares replied, his voice rough with need. "Hecate owes me a favour."
Then Iphicles was blinking dumbly at the world as Ares turned away to face the stream once more.
"Hey, ugly," Ares called over Graegus' frantic splashing. "One more eel then home."
As Graegus barked back happily, Iphicles' consciousness was consumed in a bright flash of godly light.