Prologue“Look at that! The great god Hades gathering flowers on the riverbank like a lazy milkmaid.” The lieutenant of the Heirs of Socrates sneered. “Our emasculated Gods no longer care about the people of Greece.” Despite the touch of silver in his own hair, the lieutenant knew himself to be virile and manly. Not the sort who would wander like a barefoot hippie to appease his spoilt wife.His superior officer spoke. “They will care after today.” Pale blue eyes gazed over the valley of the River Styx. Nightmares, horses made of black smoke and red hooves, champed at their bits. “Easy, girls.” The general’s strong, competent hands gathered the reins for the chariot. “We charge as soon as he reaches for the narcissus.”The lieutenant squinted. Distance in the Underworld was deceptive. What had once been a properly somber gray light was tinted with the gold of spring; another one of Hades’ ridiculous ideas to honor his wife, Persephone. No deity should cater to a woman in such indulgent ways. Instead of the traditional ash and cinders, the underworld now sported daisies, roses, and aromatic herbs like rosemary and thyme. The lack of tradition hardened the lieutenant’s resolve.Capturing Hades was the pivot point for the next phase of the Heirs’ plan to purify the land.Hades plucked a daffodil. He caressed the cup-shaped center. A whiff of flame, and the flower transformed into a spray of yellow diamonds on an emerald stalk.The General slapped the reins on the night mares. “It is time.” The chariot surged forward down the slope, a streamer of red, black, and bronze as the nightmares unleashed their full speed.The lieutenant’s gloved hand rose in the air, signaling the troops behind him to ready their weapons.“Today we get the Gods out of the way of what must be done,” he stated. “We charge in, three, two…GO!”
They had the element of surprise on their side, but Hades, King of the Underworld, was not some helpless, minor deity. All the dead, no matter their afterlife, obeyed his command. The land here itself responded to his desires. Never had he been defeated. The black-robed, black-haired god, his arms full of blooms for his beloved, waved a hand.
Hades saluted the oncoming enemies. “Defend our land.”
Unexpected bullets ripped through the offense.
“Shit, shit, shit,” the lieutenant muttered. Guns? Where did an ancient God get guns?
Salt peter and sulfur assaulted his nostrils. In front of him, scores of his troops fell, the horses screaming and the men writhing in agony.
Bolstered, the army rode on.
The shock troops trampled the skeletons, temporarily breaking them apart. Behind them, the second wave scattered the precious dragon’s teeth into the blood-soaked dirt. The general had traveled alone into the land of Colchis to find them. Giant soldiers sprang from the ground, the same ones that had defended the Golden Fleece from Jason and his Argonauts.
“Attack.” Hades shouted and gestured with his staff. He placed his helmet of invisibility on his head and disappeared. The reformed skeletons engaged the dragon’s troops. Neither yielded, neither gained.
“Hiya!” With the skeletons busy, the general’s nightmares raced to where Hades had stood. The God was old and smart. Fortunately, the leader had done the proper research.
Invisible was not intangible.
A gloved hand dug into the pouch on the side of the chariot and flung what was found there. Fine, glittering dust flew into the air, coating everything and everyone in an incongruously pretty mist.Not six feet from where had he had stood, Hades brushed at himself. The general dared much and grabbed the King of the Underworld. The Lieutenant removed the helm of darkness and swung his own club.
Hades fell insensate to the floor of the chariot.
“To the Caucasus mountains. I have the chains. They held the Titan Prometheus. They can tame this uninterested god.”***Hades twisted within the ancient manacles chained to the side of the mountain. The rocks reeked of old blood, viscera, and eagle droppings from the generations of Prometheus’ captivity. The old iron bit into his wrists, chewing away at his skin. Even though he healed as fast as he was damaged, blood dripped from the cuts. He was used to the cool shadows of his kingdom. The bright sun brought tears to his eyes and heated his black robes until he baked inside of them.
Zeus! He mentally shouted. I’m captured and trapped. Come rescue me with your lightning bolts.”
Brother, he cried again. Someone wants to destroy Greece.
Nothing. As God of the Sky, Zeus saw everything. Hades panted, panic nibbling at his psyche. What could have happened to his younger brother?
Poseidon. Where are you? Bring your earthquakes and topple this mountain to the ground. Together we can stop these horrors.Again, silence. Something had gone wrong.
And Hercules was long dead, a mighty shade in the Elysian Fields. There were no heroes left that could break these chains.
Small black dots moved fast against the wind.
The god gritted his teeth. There would be no respite from this torture.
The birds landed, clawed their way through his abdomen. These were not the enormous noble beasts of his brother Zeus. They would not carry a message to the lord of the sky, warning him of the Heirs of Socrates’ plans.
Their sharp beaks tore his skin open and they feasted on his liver. He made not a sound. His dark-eyed gaze held the enemy general, challenging his captor to witness what they had started.The General broke the staring contest and turned to the white-faced army. Over the eagles’ triumphant noises, Hades heard the leader exhale.
“Forgive them, my Lieutenant. They are not yet inured to the realities of the necessity to overthrow the government and make Greece great again.”
“I will remind them we needed the Gods crippled to prevent any interference.”
Buy here!“We don’t want a literal Deus ex Machina.” The General wiped at blood streaked forearms. “Phase Two is complete. Now, we start Phase Three.”