Dark and Deep
"From the time of Nathaniel Hawthorne to the outbreak of the war, current literature did not suffer from any lack of fauns."
"In 1923...I happened to be in a milieu where satyrs and dryads, Silenus and Bacchic revels were as common as cattails in a Jersey swamp."
J. S. Perelman
"Post-modern literature, too, shouldn't suffer from a lack of fauns"
It was a long, hot hike back to Corinth through the Arcadian forest. It was close under the trees, the air rich with the creamy smell of wild roses and heavy with dust gleaming in shafts of light that broke through the leafy cover.
On the way to Megara, he'd stopped and killed a small monster that had been terrorizing a smaller village but Iphicles' scrolls had still been delivered to the Tyrant Damocles on time. Hercules was hurrying home with the reply, but the shortcut Damocles had recommended was more of a winding old goat path, easily lost in the undergrowth.
When the trees finally opened into a bright lea complete with softly burbling spring, Hercules had to pause. Even a demigod needs a break and it looked inviting; the water bubbling up and spilling from an outcrop of rocks at one end of a small oval pool rimmed with thick clumps of moss and green violets. There was even a low stone bench to rest on.
Pulling off his over shirt, he kicked off his boots and plunged his feet into the pristine water. Thrilled by the cold, he sighed, and deliberately dug his toes into the soft muck at the bottom, kicking like a child and raising clouds of brown silt.
Letting his eyes close, he lifted his face to the sun overhead and the world became sound. Wind in the trees. Chirping birds. Bees poking industriously amid the briars. And, in the distance, a rhythmic thrumming deeper than the bees' drone that seemed to grow louder the longer he listened but, when he opened his eyes to look for the source, faded into the background of rustling branches.
He watched the bees wondering if he had time to follow one back to its hive. With so many flowers to ravish, they must have enough honey that they could spare a little. But the wind picked up and he shivered suddenly, thinking of the distance that he had yet to travel. No honey.
Quickly, he bent to dip his shirt in the pool. (He could drape it wet over his shoulders when he started walking again.)
A twig snapped.
Knowing he was being observed, he straightened slowly, just as a man, naked to the waist, emerged crouching into the sunlight from the nearest bushes.
It raised up and Hercules stared. The face, though slightly flat, was graced with a wide sensual mouth and eyes the color of gold dinars. But the pupils of the eyes were slitted like a goat's. And like a goat's, were the heavy horns curving up from its forehead to crown the tight auburn curls on its head.
Powerful thighs and shanks covered with a mat of thick curly hair ended in neat cloven hooves. It was the hooves that made the drumming sound on the ground as he moved. Definitely hebetween the goat legs, a bright red cock protruded from a hairy sheath, thick and wet, and the balls hanging underneath it were dusky and large.
This wasn't one of the little paneskoi he'd played with as a child visiting Olympus. This was the lord of the woods himself and he was standing calf deep in a springremembering that it had been the god's lover once.
"Breek lawrr," the god said.
"Great Pan, I didn't..." In his haste to get out of the water, he stumbled backwards, tripped on the stones and fell on his ass.
The god stretched his lips and bleated as Hercules tried to finish his botched apology, "didn't mean...."
Not good enough.
Pan seized a rock and, leaping like a goat, bashed him over the head with it.
The sun exploded.
He curled up, instinctively trying to protect himself, as the god crouched on top and jerked his head up by the hair. A mortal's brains would have decorated the ground and it was as hard a blow as Hercules ever taken. It hurt so badly, he couldn't help the tears streaming down his cheeks and didn't realize the whiffing noise was the god sniffing him. He tried to catch his breath, to speak or beg, and was enveloped in a rank odor as the god knelt higher. Floss and thorns were tangled in the hairy thighs on either side of his face.
Retching, he looked for some intelligence or pity that he could appeal to in those gold eyes, but they were as hard and flat as the coins they resembled. Hooves dug into his flanks. He gasped and the god's thick cock, slick with juice, filled into his mouth and his head was jerked back and forth, back and forth. Then he was gagging on an acrid, bitter mouthful that he had to swallow or choke and keep swallowing until finally, with a last spurt, the cock slipped out of his mouth and he was free.
He rolled over. Above him, Pan capered on silver hooves, emitting little baa-bleats of laughter. The pain was fading as warmth spread in his belly. He touched his smeary chin, then licked his fingers and sucked on them. It came to him how soft the grass was and he stretched out giggling. His undershirt had come up and his nipples were tingling. He felt them between his fingers. It make him want to spread his thighs but the pants stopped him from feeling all of himself when he reached down.
Tossing his head, he sat up. The shirt was easy to get rid of but the heavy pants were binding. He couldn't figure out the leather strap that held them. Frantically, he struggled to his feet and tore it off, kicking free of the stinking dead things.
Now, other figures were coming out of the woods. Goat-tailed yawning satyrs and sleepy-eyed fauns, silenoi who looked human but with pointed ears, frisking little goats, maenads and men, brown skinned nymphs and green headed hamadryads from the oak trees: the forest lord's retinue. The mortals among them indistinguishable with their wild knotted manes of hair.
They gathered, an old satyr blew a sweet hollow tune on a set of pipes and they all began to dance, leaping and pounding the ground. He had never seen faces so alive. He reached to touch them and they touched him back as they danced, stroking his hair and arms, pinching his nipples, male and female cupping his balls; welcoming him.
The males were all hard, their hands stroking up and down on their jutting things as they looked him over. His thing was pointing straight up. He grabbed it and wagged it at them. A nymph, rubbing her hands between her hairy thighs, came and held her fingers under his nose. He sniffed at them, hungry for something, and tried to follow her but a man kissed him, brushing against him.
The god broke through the circle then, clouted the fool away and caught him around the waist, butting his ass. The fur tickled. He could feel the wet hardness nudging his hole. The god knew what he needed. He arched his back, presented his rump, and the god thrust, taking him rutting in the dance.
He'd never felt such pleasure. The hands petting his head and sliding over his skin. The fur. The god's thickness, pumping in and out of his ass. He screamed his coming and when the god released him, the others took their turn.
The old satyr took the god's place, laying him on the ground while a silenos, with a bull's black pizzle, plundered his mouth. There was woman between his legs on her knees who sucked him dry while a goat mounted her back. In a riot of bodies, he was held down, stepped on, bitten, poked at and thoroughly reamed. Seed dripped from of his mouth and flowed out of his asshole. Sharp hot piss flowed over his rump and the sun watched him strain and lap his own juice from the cunts of the females he spilled himself into.
Then they let him up on his knees and allowed him to worship the god.
In the time that followed, he slept the greatest part of the day, hidden with the others in wind fallen branches and piles of leaves. He woke to play when the god wanted him.
Twice he watched the moon fill and empty. One day, he woke in the sunlight, his head in the hollow of a faun's hip and two women curled against him. On the ground, near his hand, a leaf had fallen. The edges were green but the center was red-gold and he thought it was pretty. He lifted it and stared. It seemed there was something he should remember, someone...someone...name! The word hurt his mind.
One of the goats came up and ate the leaf from his hand bleating for more, stepping on the faun. The women he'd been snuggled with woke too, laughed and began to play with him. He forgot...someone...what was 'name' anyway?
There were nuts on the ground and brambleberries; large purple grapes with thick sour skins that burst sweet in his mouth; cakes and wine from the altars of forest shrines. He rived honey from the bees and sucked milk from the teats of the nanny goats. Meat was what they found or ran down.
Fire killed and shepherds torched the forest for their pastures. On the darkest nights, when the wind roared in the trees, he coursed with the pack, screaming as they harried those terror-stricken shepherds who let themselves become lost in the dark.
And under the moon, in the deepest, most secret heart of the wood where the oldest trees were, he danced before the lord's throne to a tune his lord's servant piped and worshipped his lord with his body. That was joy.
It got cold and some of the men and women went away. Some didn't wake up in the mornings. The dryads slept. But there were always the satyrs, the silenoi, the nymphsand his lord.
There came an afternoon when the company was gathered in the sanctuary. The snow was falling and it pleased his lord to take him squatting on the ground in front of the throne.
You're lost! I knew it.
Will you stuff it, Ares? It's around here somewhere.
Those were strange yapping sounds.
I swear, I'm going to
Here. I told you.
Curious, he raised his head as two entered the sanctuary. He knew they weren't men or satyrs. Like men though. One had silver curls and wore gray skins that only covered from the waist down. He carried a rod that had tiny glittering snakes twining around it and went barefooted in the snow with wings fluttering from the straps on his ankles. The other was dark, covered in black skins. That one smelled of blood and the bronze on his thigh.
His lord shoved his head down and went on ramming him.
He heard a sharp hsst of drawn breath.
A sharp barking noise.
Like father, like...
Strange sounds as his lord's thighs quivered against him. There was a hot gush of seed from his ass as his lord's cock slipped out of him and his lord, rising to greet his guests, shoved him away.
He went and sprawled among the others as his lord went to seat himself on the knee of the giant oak throne. He was still hard so he stroked himself. A satyr came and sniffed his ass. The satyr's prong wasn't as thick as his lord's but his hole was empty; he let it mount him. The pale one made noises at his lord.
Pan, we've come for Hercules, you have to release him.
There was whispering among the company but the satyr was stroking hard and the dark one was looking at him, making noise too. That one had a bulge beneath the black skins. Maybe, he would play with him too when the satyr was doneif his lord didn't want him again. He wiggled, stretching his lips as men sometimes did.
Ares has come for him.
"Lawrr ," was the sound, his lord made. Loud and angry.
The law is fulfilled, son.
"Mawnnn," his lord insisted leaping up. The dark one's hand went to the bronze stick on his thigh. His lord shook his head but the pale one's gray eyes were very hard like his lord's.
His lord turned and looked at him.
"Gaowww," his lord bleated and he felt a sharp pang in his breast.
Around him, all, including the satyr who was fucking him, began to edge away.
He keened at them, frightened.
Get up and wipe your ass, Hercules.
The dark one was coming toward him.
You heard the goat.
He got to his feet.
Ares, get him!
The pale one had guessed he was going to run and was beside him faster than sight. The dark one was slower but got there and had a grip on his arm before he could twist away.
Hang on if you want him.
His lord bleated loudly.
Don't you get it? You're free.
Lunging, he tried to break their hold.
No he doesn't get it. He's free when you get him out of these woods.
Then, for Hadessake, let's go!
The dark on stamped his foot jerking his arm. Nothing happened. Stamped again. Then made a disgusted noise: Half god!
That's the point.
What are we going to do?
What do you mean 'we' Wargod? I brought you here. I told my son to let him go. I'm not doing one thing more.'
The dark one evaded his snapping teeth.
Yeah? The deal was, I find him. After that it's your problem.
He sagged between them, swaying back and forth on his knees. The company was fast disappearing into the trees and he needed to go with them. The pale one was making barking noises again.
I might have some ideas, after he's had a bath, though. You didn't tell me he was so well hung.
His lord was prancing and bleating.
Tell goat-boy this isn't funny. What am I going to do?
You're asking me for suggestions?
Yes, blast you!
It's a nice day for a walk, Ares.
From somewhere the pale one produced a long strip of hide and tossed it at the dark one who caught it and started twining it around one of his wrists. He threw his body back and forth.
Hermes, I'm gonna kick your butt to Chin!
The dark one's hold on his arm slipped.
Tell it to the Argonaughts.
With a flash of silver light, the pale one was gone and he was free to run. He went tearing through the woods, following the troupe, with the dark one roaring after.
He ran until he was sure the dark one had fallen behind, then stopped and listened. The woods were silent. He turned in all directions. Not even the wind. He sniffed. Nothing but pine and snow. It came to him that he didn't know the way back to the sanctuary. All around him were bare trees; black branches against the gray sky and falling snow burying his foot prints. For the first time he knew, he was alone. And it was like being a hollow tree.
He began to walk
He began to run. Slipping and falling, and getting up again. Running, because if he stopped, the empty dead feeling caught up with him.
Running began to hurt.
At the bottom of a short ravine, he found a pile of brush that could have been one of the summer hiding places. He crouched and crawled inside, huddling in the briars with his arms over his head, rocking and wailing. His lord was gone. Those with their skins and blood and bronze had rived him from his lord.
Someone reached into his hiding place. He felt a burst of hope but it was the dark one dragging him into the open.
At least you were running in the right direction. Now, come on!
No! His lord may have left him but this one! He struck out and knocked the dark one down. He was tripped and he fell. The dark one jumped on him and began lashing the cord around his wrists, hauling him to his feet no matter how he twisted. With his fist raised, the dark one yapped and snarled.
Give me a reason!
He threw himself on the ground and started gnawing the bindings.
He felt a sharp kick in the ribs.
On your knees or on your feet. I don't have time for this.
The dark one dragged him, wrenching his arms until he stumbled to his feet. There had to be a way to escape. He'd find it. Then he could find his lord.
But, the snow kept falling and they kept going away from the heart of the forest.
His side hurt where the dark one had kicked him. The rocks had cut his feet. With his lord, he'd ranged the night; now there was blood on the snow, and it hurt to breathe. He kept his head down, stepping carefully as they waded icy rivulets. Sometimes, when he raised his head, he could see the heavy flakes melting on the dark one's shoulders and the water running down the skins on his back.
He tripped and the dark one turned to strike him again. Yap, yap, yap.
He glared back, licking his lips and panting.
The dark one looked him up and down. Something faded from his eyes.
When was the last time you ate anything?
The dark one jerked the cord.
Come on, it's not that far.
He tugged too, and yapped back.
Oh, for All right, I'm already out of my fucking mind.
The dark one looked around and led him to a tree. Pushed him down to his knees and knotted the cord around the trunk. So close, he could feel the warmth of the dark one's body. The smell of bronze and skins was wrong but underneath those he smelled...he shoved his face into the dark one's crotch, snuffing deep and the dark one yipped and jumped away, barking. The dark one's cheeks were very pink when he walked away.
He tried the cord. It wouldn't come loose. It wouldn't so he sat in the snow and waited. The sun must have begun to set; in spite the thick clouds, the snow had a rosy-orange tint. The longer the dark one was gone the more the empty feeling inside him grew. He took hold of the cord and held on to it.
I don't have much power in this place. This is the best I can do.
The dark one was back, handing him a honey comb. A few stuporous bees still clung to it. He grabbed it, brushed them away and began, ravenously, to suck the sweetness out of it.
The dark one went about gathering sticks, heaping them up. Yapping and yapping.
You are going to owe me, big time, little brother. And don't think I'm going to let you forget it either. You know better than to go around wading in sacred pools
The dark one dragged up a small log and hunkered on it in front of the pile of sticks.
A tiny flash of blue lightning made him flinch. As the sticks began to burn, he whimpered but kept sucking on his honeycomb, spitting the waxy residue on the ground. The dark one snorted.
If I hadn't.... Get warm so we can get this folly over.
The dark one was leaning close to the fire so he risked a quick look. It wasn't a bad face when it wasn't yapping, The cord let him reach, so, when he'd finished his honey, he held his hands out to the jumping flame. Closer. And jerked back. The dark barked at him. He tried again, not so near. It was warm. He scrunched closer, licking the honey that had run down his elbow.
The dark one stretched his lips.
This is a different look. Easy to mistake you for a faun. I wouldn't know you, if it wasn't for your eyes.
The dark one kept looking. Now there was something in his gaze.
You don't understand a word I'm saying.
And in the sound.
You don't know who I am, do you?
That made him look down.
What's my name?
He wrapped his arms around his knees...yap...yap.... Didn't he ever stop yapping? Animals made noises but he knew what they meant.
He looked up. The yapping was louder.
He buried his face in his arms.
You're filthy! You've probably got lice and I hope that's not blood in your hair. I'd leave you. Really. I always knew you were a goat- fucker, but your brother wants you back for some reason.
He couldn't shut out all the yapping but it got softer.
That was quite a scene to walk into. I wouldn't put it past Hermes to have warned Pan we were coming.
This time when he sneaked a look, the dark one's gaze was off in the distance.
Do you like taking it that way? If it weren't for...I'd...
Pink again with the heat that was on him and showing his teeth.
He stretched his lips too. He was warmer now and didn't need to sit all curled up. Maybe they could play. He'd feel better if they would play. The dark one wanted to. He could tell. He spread his knees and took hold of his prong to make it hard and discovered that he could make barking sounds too. The dark one looked at himand jumped to his feet.
The dark one started kicking snow over the fire. Yap. Yap. Yap. Untie the cord. What was wrong? He could see the bulge under the black skins and the smell in the air...he pressed himself against the dark one, humping against his leg, showing him how...
Don't do that!
Yap, yap, yap...
The dark one dragged him from the tree, pulling him to his feet.
You know what you smell like?
He didn't understand.
The dark one wanted to play.
Frustrated, he peed on the dark one's feet.
And the dark one stood there with his mouth opening and closing, and turning white.
While he danced like his lord, waving his prong, flicking drops on the snow, barking like the dark one.
Oh, 'somebody' is going to pay for this.
The dark one turned and stomped off.
And he had to follow, willy-nilly.
But he danced and carefully stepped on all the yellow prints in the snow until the light failed and he couldn't see them anymore. He didn't know how to get back to his lord. He didn't understand why the dark one wouldn't play. The dark one yapped constantly. But the dark one had given him honey. The dark one wasn't going to leave him.
The woods ended at a river bank
It wasn't a wide river, but the water was black.
And, when he realized the dark one meant him to cross over, that was the worst.
On the other side, as far as he could see, there were no trees; it was all plowed and planted and barren.
The dark one untied his wrists.
I'll be happy if you drown but I'm not going to force you.
The dark one stepped into the water and vanished.
He turned back to the woods; somewhere in there was his lord and the company.
But the trees were lined up against him.
He turned and looked across the river.
The water was rushing by; without understanding, he stepped into it.
It wasn't deep but it was cold.
And there he was naked and filthy and shivering and he could hear bridles jingling, horses snorting and a man shouting. "He's over here, your majesty! In the water." To the right, someone called his name: "Hercules!" A torch flared. Then another. And his brother Iphicles was beside him, throwing a cloak over his shoulders. "I've come to take you home."
One early spring night, Hercules slipped into the temple of Ares.
In Corinth, the god's temple did double duty as the armory. Close to the palaceit made things simple: pray, grab a sword, run. And, if you wanted to make a sacrifice when the battle was over, it was convenient that way too.
He was alone in the dark. That was the important thingno priests around to see him leave the offering on the votive table. A sword. With an inscribed dedication. Atalanta's work.
Coals glowed in a brazier by the altar. He arranged sticks of aromatic cedar and lumps of precious myrrh. Lighting the pile with a splinter, he inhaled bitter smoke.
The resin was almost consumed before a shadow loomed behind him.
"I was wondering if you were going to stop by and thank me." A voice in the dark.
"For the broken rib?" he said. "Thanks."
The smoke faded.
"Much as I appreciate the gesture, shouldn't you be somewhere else?" Ares said. "The king of Corinth is entertaining an official delegation from Athens tonight. They want to talk about how the peace-loving people of Athens would really like to get tight with the peace-loving people of Corinth and it would mean a lot if you put in an appearance."
"So, when are you going to stop sulking and get back to saving the world?"
"I'm not sulking."
"You've been moofing around with a scowl on your face that would frighten a gorgon and snapping at anyone who tries to touch you. Hercules, I know sulking like you know a Hydra's sorry ass. What do you call it?"
In the dark, he scowled.
"Sulking," Ares said. Obviously, he wasn't going to go away.
Finally, Hercules said, "I feel dirty."
"Any particular reason.?"
"You should know."
"What should I know? That you got naked? That you ate some acorns? That you didn't bathe for two months and Iphicles' best blue cloak had to be burnt and your hair cut off? And...oh...oh, yeah...that you flipped your tail for every goat in Arcadia? Sounds like funbut that's just me."
"It would have happened to anyone who stuck his dirty feet in that spring."
"I'm. Not. Anyone."
"That's right. Ouranos himself would have danced to Styrix's pipe, but you're above all the laws of all the gods." Ares' voice was as bitter as the incense. "You know what the matter really is don't you?"
"You took to it. Such a randy little faun. All eyes and legs and rosy balls. You liked it."
Without warning, he was slammed against the altar. Ares' weight held him there and he could feel the cock hard against his ass. "Don't tell me to shut up! Do you know how much I wanted fuck to you? You were begging for it." Hips ground against him. "You wanted meas much as you wanted Pan's prick up your ass."
"Did you...did I...did we?"
Tiny dots of light swarmed in front of his eyes. His knees suddenly gave way, banging against the marble as Ares rolled him into his arms. Time passed. It had been so long since anyone had just held him that he didn't fight.
"Better?" Ares' hands combed his back.
"Yes..." he finally croaked.
"It changes nothing."
"You sure are," Ares said.
"You did it for Iphicles, didn't you."
"Yes. It suits me not to have the king of Corinth distracted with worry."
The hands had come to rest on Hercules' back.
"And, I'm not saying it's so, but, maybe, I missed having you around to fight with."
A soft sigh on his ear sent a cold shiver rippling up his back.
Arms tightened around him.
"If you had me where you've wanted me, why'd you pass up the chance?"
"You mean how could I resist?" Ares' jaw was suddenly jumping against his. "Because, at the end, the line was too long."
Already blushing, Hercules shoved Ares away, glad that it was impossible to see his face.
Just as well.
"I guess, the king of Corinth shouldn't have to put up with those Athenian clowns by himself," he said. "Maybe, I'll join him for dinner after all."
Time to get out while the getting was good.
Ares' voice in the dark:
"Because, when I do, I want to hear you screaming my name when you come."