"That's why this is impossible, Ares," Iphicles said earnestly. "Surely you can understand that." He moved away from the god, crossing his arms tightly across his chest.
"Explain it to me, king." Ares arranged himself against the tapestried wall with leonine grace. "Educate me on the proprieties of powermongering, Iphicles."
"I'm on perilous ground here in Rome anyway, Ares. And I need this alliance with Caesar. As much as that galls me." Iphicles concentrated on swallowing wine through a throat gone tight with tension. "Corinth needs this alliance, and right now things are in a state of flux. I need to focus on the matter at hand." His eyes traveled down the leathered musculature of the war god, lingering on the always, eternally, bulging groin. Then he shook his head to clear it from the unwelcome humidity of his thoughts. "You interfere with that focus." He masked his nervousness with Ares as he always did, through the device of faltering wit. "After all, I'm just a mortal, and I have my limits. Cut me some slack. Please."
"You want an alliance, you've got an alliance," Ares said negligently. "I'll arrange it." He moved smoothly across the palatial bedchamber and took Iphicles in his arms. "It's done."
"NO!" Iphicles said loudly, shoving the god away with involuntarily defiance. "I don't want it that way."
"Why not?" Ares asked in a low voice. "Still afraid to take a favor from me, after all this time?"
"That's right. I don't want to owe you."
"You're being ridiculous."
"Or your Roman whore. I don't want to owe him, either," Iphicles spat out belligerently. "Him most of all."
"My Roman whore?" Ares grinned wolfishly. "That's funny, Iphicles. And ironic."
"Because that's what he calls you. My Greek whore. My pretty Greek whore, to be exact. He says it in the same sanctimonious tone of jealousy, too. I guess great minds do think alike." Ares' chuckles turned to full-blown laughter.
Iphicles looked at him, hatred and lust pounding through him in equal measure, and he took a deep breath to quell the quivering in his gut. "All right, Ares. I'm glad I was able to amuse you." He drew himself up to his full height, the muscles along his spine stiffening reflexively, and he finally succeeded in swallowing the lump in his throat. "You've had your fun. Good night."
Ares abruptly stopped laughing, although mirth still danced in those black eyes. "Am I dismissed then?"
"Yes," Iphicles said firmly. "You can go, Ares." It took every ounce of will in him to turn his back on the god. "Maybe Caesar can amuse you further. Why don't you go there?"
He stifled a groan as he felt the painful squeeze of massive hands on his shoulders, and hot breath near his ear. "You think you have the power to dismiss me, little king? You don't."
"Ares, I meant no --"
"Let's correct that mistaken presumption, shall we?"
Iphicles gasped as he felt consciousness swimming away from him.
"Iphicles. Up and at 'em, your majesty." He heard the insolent drawl coming from a distance, and opened his eyes carefully. He was sprawled gracelessly on hard-packed sand that smelled of the battlefield: horseflesh and sweat infused with the coppery tang of blood and the bitter bile of split intestines. His eyes follows levels of carved stone risers that rose up and up, encircling him in ever-widening arcs that wreathed the cavernous enclosure in which he lay like rows of stone teeth. Even in near darkness he could make out the vibrant colors of mosaic-tiled panels that resembled closed windows in the walls of the enclosure. Gradually, he became aware of a muted flapping sound, and he looked toward a large circular banner of snow-white cloth that hung over the side of a square platform, jutting out from the very top of the arena, which was half-enclosed on three sides by ornately scrolled stone.
"Ares," he said softly, the word clicking in his dry mouth. "Where ...?"
"The scene of blood and gore and conquest and defeat, not to mention a good time for Rome's citizens, patrician and plebeian alike," Ares said maliciously.
His mind registered thick chains attached to large metal rings embedded in the ground at regular intervals around the periphery of the enclosure at the same time he noticed the thick metal grill of rectangular gates set into the lower walls around him, and Iphicles realized where Ares had brought him. He got slowly to his feet and faced the god. "The Colosseum."
"Yes," Ares said tersely. "The perfect place to educate you on the nature of power." He waved his hand so slightly Iphicles was unsure that he had actually seen a movement. Confusion faded, and dull apprehension took its place, as Iphicles watched four metal doors set into the surface of the arena lift up and fall backwards with a clanking thud that puffed dry dust into the air.
"Lesson One," the god intoned into the night air, "I have power."
Ares snapped his fingers, and out of the corner of his eye Iphicles saw four panthers, their coats sleek and gleaming like black satin, rise silently from the pits below the open trapdoors. They came toward him swiftly like an ebony tide, sapphire and ruby, topaz and emerald, reflecting glintingly from their jeweled collars. He shivered with alarm as they surrounded him, and turned panicked eyes on the god silhouetted darkly against the backdrop of the moon.
"Lesson Two. You have none."
He heard a low whistle, like winter air through the mouth of a skull, and a hot growling mass pressed forcefully against the back of his knees, knocking him to the ground. A huge hot maw filled with lethal ivory fangs closed with careful pressure around each of his wrists and tugged him firmly until he was lying on his back on sand and gravel still sun-warm, soil that had received the blood of a thousand victims for the entertainment of Rome.
"Submit," Ares said quietly. Iphicles heard a heavy finality in his voice, heavier even than the immovable weight of the panthers that pinned his wrists and ankles like metal spikes in a crucifixion. Anger and fear warred with the helpless lust that throbbed in his balls, and he bit down on his tongue to silence the scream that came up from deep inside him at the coolness of the night air on his now unclothed body.
"I'm not Caesar," he said tightly, the taste of blood in his mouth stilling his fear and inflaming his anger. "Fuck you, god of war."
He heard a rumble of icy laughter that delicately tugged at the skin of his scrotum and sent a tendril of fire snaking up the underside of his cock. "Fuck you, king of Corinth. If you're lucky, that is." A large hand enclosed his shaft tightly, squeezing firmly, and a smoothly callused thumb rubbed with maddening slowness over the sensitive slitted tip. "Maybe I'll shove my cock into the depths of your sweet ass, and maybe I won't." Iphicles inhaled sharply as he felt Ares cup his sac in a rolling caress and push a thick finger inside him with delicious roughness. "I might give you to the gladiators," two fingers now corkscrewing into his ass as Ares twisted his wrist in a deliberate rotation, "or maybe the panthers. They need a new bitch." He heard the whisper of vanishing leather, and his hip joint creaked as Ares knelt between his legs and pushed against the inside of his thigh, and Iphicles' right leg was locked tightly between the firm satin of the god's naked back and the radiating heat of the panther's torso. "But I think I'll do this instead."
Iphicles gasped sharply as a moist tongue slithered over the head of his cock and thirstily lapped the juice that welled from the widening slit. He felt a finger tease him inside, feathery torture that arched his back and peaked his nipples into hard nubs, and still Ares licked skillfully around the swollen tip of his prick and traced the veins that pulsed down the shaft. Iphicles threw his head back, and felt himself being devoured by a greedy mouth that made liquid sounds of ravening hunger as it stroked up and down his thickening cock and sucked his balls wetly and pushed a hot tongue-tip in around fingers that opened him for the wet assault. Up and down, hotter and wetter with every circuit, Iphicles moaned continuously, and his head tossed back and forth as he writhed in a frenzy of lust and need under the expert torture of Ares' tongue.
"Ah, fuck ... Ares ... please ..."
Ares growled roughly, and fastened his full lips tightly beneath the bulging cockhead, tightening and releasing in a kiss that went on and on, and Iphicles groaned as sharp teeth scraped against him with precise design. He closed his eyes tightly and thrust his hips, unmindful of the answering growl of the panthers that held him. He tried to get further into the mouth that sucked him. He wanted to impale himself deeper on the four fingers that fucked him wide open with hurtful friction that was eased only by the welcome seep of blood from fingernail tears. He needed the humid clasp of the god's throat as it gripped and swallowed the full length of him. His hands clenched into fists beneath the panthers, and he screamed hoarsely, a raw keening wail that split the still air in the darkened arena, as his cock slid deep into Ares' throat. His heart pounded in his chest, and he felt the vibration of the god's deep moans along the length of his shaft as the powerful throat sucked at the thick cock with loving authority, sucked and swallowed with a rhythm that compelled and commanded. His balls clenched and emptied hot seed down the insistent throat that swallowed convulsively and emitted low grunts of satisfaction, and Iphicles felt helpless tears of exhaustion run from the corners of his eyes.
The feline weight disappeared from his limbs, and through slitted eyes he watched the panthers slink away like smoke before a summer breeze. He heard the creak of old leather and knew that Ares was upright and again clothed. Iphicles took the god's proffered hand silently, remembering when he had na´vely believed that the smoothly supple skin covered strength and not cruelty, and by the time he got to his feet his body was again clothed. A deceptively tender kiss captured his mouth, and he felt the tempered steel beneath the soft lips.
"Do you understand now, my king?"
"Does he?" Iphicles asked softly, gesturing in the direction of the closed platform high above them.
"You knew." Ares studied him for a moment, his eyes unreadable. "Yes. Probably better than you do."
I wouldn't count on that, Ares, Iphicles thought pensively. Not at all.
He felt the manacle of the god's arm slide deftly around his waist, and they walked toward the arched doorway.