I should have had this up before this, but have been sidetracked. Will try to do better The Fortress is part of the Gods and Goddesses anthology. Releasing on July 20/21/
Riel gave a hum of pleasure in his semi-sleep state. He was dreaming that he was in bed with a beautiful blonde. He dug his hands through her soft, lush, silky curls, and then pulled her head down to his so he could press his lips against them. Riel then chuckled as he heard this mystery person give a deep moan of passion. It was the rumbling sound of that voice that woke Riel. He viewed his partner with wide-eyed horror. Riel had sensed that there was something wrong with the kiss just as it had begun, but it had taken him a moment to wake up enough to realize just what this was. The person in his arms wasn’t female. Granted, the man was a blonde, and his hair was lush and silky, as well as a mass of unruly curls, but there all resemblance to a woman ceased.
As Riel sat up in the center of his bed to look around with blurred eyes, he noted no less than eight naked bodies lying in different positions throughout the room. This was not how he remembered going to sleep the night before. Riel had been alone, not surrounded by what he suspected was half of the gods and goddesses in this part of the planet. A soft sigh of satisfaction slipped from the lips of a goddess who had obviously participated in the orgy as she rolled onto her side, while one of the gods moved slightly away from her. The god who had been with the goddess continued to stroke her, even as he reached for another. The sight of what had obviously been a full night of debauchery that had somehow ended up in his room was more than Riel could countenance. He roared in outrage, even as he rose equally naked in the middle of his bed, and ordered. “Get out! I will give you three seconds to be gone from my room, and if you aren’t, you will reap the benefits of my rage!”
One of the goddesses, a slight, lithe redhead, reached out with her hand to run her fingertips upwards Riel’s bare leg, and gave a purr of approval. “You are magnificent, Riel.”
Riel gave a feral snarl as he kicked the goddess away. To punctuate the seriousness of his threat, Riel bellowed again. “One moment left. You don’t want to know what I will do if you remain so much as a heartbeat longer than what I said.”
There were resentful glances and grumblings about having to move, but the room was quickly vacated by all except for his older brother, who remained lounging on his side wearing nothing but an indolent grin.
Riel strode from the top of the bed as he spoke. “This means you too, Tash. I want you all gone.”
Tash put on a pouting expression and explained, “I was only looking for ways to lighten your mood, little brother. You are getting to be as serious as your twin brother.”
Riel came close to baring his teeth at Tash, but stopped himself when he heard his brother’s words. Riel knew Tash had to be high on something, the question was what? Some of the drugs Tash liked to indulge in were dangerous even to a powerful god. On the other hand, there would be no better time to drag information from Tash, and he was curious to know what his brother was talking about. “What other brother than you do you think I have?”
Tash, giving the impression of looking guilty, grinned. He then said only one word about his slip of tongue. “Oops.”
Tash’s reaction rang warning bells in the back of Riel’s mind. With a slight motion of his hand, Riel lifted Tash off of the bed, and as he suspended his brother in mid-air, he demanded. “Spit out whatever it is you are dying to tell me and get it over with. I don’t have the patience for your games this morning.”
With a frantic look at the cold expression on Riel’s face, Tash began to worry as he croaked. “You shouldn’t wonder why Mom and Dad quit speaking to each other towards the end of their relationship. The truth of the matter is nine months before you were born Mom ran off with a god from another world. What happened after she returned made me swear to never fall in love with anyone. Love only destroys peoples’ lives. Dad tried to make Mom happy for the longest time, but he couldn’t because Mom never recovered from loving your father. Before they met, we were a happy family. Even after you came to live with us, we continued to be. However, it was fleeting and came to a quick, sudden end when our mother returned to your father’s side. When Mom returned to us, she wasn’t the same. She favored you over the rest of us, and all she could talk about was how much you looked like your twin brother. She wanted to reunite you and Sagan, but Father hated the idea of losing her again. Dad became a shadow of the man he was, but Mom didn’t seem to care any longer. Eventually none of us mattered to her, only your father.”
Riel remembered how it was, although not very clearly, so he didn’t need to be reminded. No one, however, had explained what was going on. He had been too young at the time to understand. A few more years would have made the difference. Still, this had come as enough of a shock to Riel that he could barely remain upright. “Sagan?”
Tash sneered, “Don’t pretend that you have never heard of Sagan, everyone has.”
Slowly the name of the god, and who he was, had greater meaning to Riel. They had never met, but he had definitely heard of the god everyone referred to as the Lord of the Sky. As vast as space was, the system where gods lived was few, and news between their worlds was kept updated by the messenger gods. In the past, Riel felt he had reason to hate those harbingers of gossip, but this time he blessed them. Without the information from them about the others, he would have had no idea who the Lord of the Sky was. Riel was sure Sagan had heard of him too, for as Sagan had been given his title, Riel had one similar. The gods who knew him called him the Lord of the Sun. It made him wonder whether he or his brother was the more powerful.
Tash watched as the dawning of understanding crossed his half-brother’s face. Tash couldn’t say he hated Riel for what their mother had done to the family. As powerful and handsome as Riel was, he attracted followers to his side as if he possessed some magical ability. Tash knew this wasn’t the case. Riel’s claim to fame came to him as honestly as Sagan’s did, through his might and the fairness that he treated others with. Both gods were considered powerhouses in their own right, and served men’s lusts well, for they led the armies into war. When it served their purposes, they even took sides and brought in their own well-honed fighting forces to bear. If and when Sagan or Riel did this, it was often with good reason and with the blessings of the gods and goddesses of justice, as well as the Fates. The gods of war might walk the thin edge of right and wrong at times, but it was done in all honesty.
Tash added fuel to the fires of thought his words had ignited in Riel’s mind as he passed on even more information that he had just learned about from the last messenger who had come from Sagan’s home world. “I hear that Sagan has been a busy man over the last few decades. It is said he killed his father, who everyone had believed was dead for years before anyway. He also destroyed his brother, Chasm, who we both knew was a vile and nasty manipulator of events and people. Neither Chasm nor Vosan will be missed, but that isn’t the point.”
Riel looked at Tash and asked, “He led his men to war for this?” Riel knew Sagan’s reputation in matters of fighting in battle. As a Lord of the Sky, Sagan was said to be brutal but fair. Sagan’s justice was always tempered by reason and thoughtfulness, or so it was reported. It was Riel’s opinion that if Vosan and Chasm had died by Sagan’s hand, they had undoubtedly earned his wrath.
Tash continued to feed the fires of Riel’s thoughts. “According to the messenger who brought this news, there was a woman involved, or perhaps two, for he mentioned more than one female name. It was said that in the past, Sagan and you had similar appetites when it came to the ladies. Sagan was known to use women, but he never abused them. It might be interesting for the Lord of the Sun to travel to see what the Lord of the Sky has been up to. Is Sagan beginning to step forward with ideas of advancement far beyond his world? Is he looking to expand his power this far? Sagan is already Lord of the Sky on five different worlds. Could his reach be long enough to reach our world and challenge you?”
Riel’s mind wrapped around Tash’s words to sort through what Tash was saying. He dismissed anything he felt was ridiculous or anything that gave a sign of Tash trying to cause trouble. Riel was familiar enough with Sagan’s reputation to have a good idea what to believe about the Lord of the Sky and what not to. Sagan was no King of the gods. The man didn’t want to hold that particular position any more than he did. In fact, Sagan’s thoughts were as close to Riel’s own personal beliefs as any true brother could have been. Yet Riel had never set eyes on Sagan and couldn’t be sure of what he knew because of this.
Tash knew Riel well enough to know what was going through his brother’s mind. Tash often found Riel frustrating because of the thoroughness he used to deal with even the most emotional of situations. It was what made Riel one of the most followed gods of war throughout history. But could he match Sagan for might? A quick comparison of all the information Tash had accumulated about the two men told him they would be closely matched. It would be interesting to see the two brothers clash if they took an instant dislike to each other, but Tash couldn’t see a reason for such a thing to happen unless someone was there to make sure it did.
As a god of mischief and mayhem, Tash was interested in seeing what would happen when the two of them got together. Could he benefit from their meeting? It was enough to make Tash hold his breath while he waited to hear Riel’s decision. There was no doubt in Tash’s mind that Riel would make one for there were too many reasons for Riel not to check on Sagan. The foremost of all of them was the fact that Sagan and Riel had never met, but they shared the same parents.
When Riel’s made his decision, it came quickly. “I am going to see my brother. It is time we got to know more about each other, and I want to see the man they call the Lord of the Sky. I am not sure why you waited so long to tell me about this, but I have no doubt you had your reasons.”
Well, as for that, Riel had the right of it, but Tash wasn’t about to admit it. He wasn’t that foolish. “You don’t mind if I tag along, do you? I wouldn’t mind meeting Sagan too. After all, Sagan is my brother as much as he is yours. Perhaps with me there it will have a dampening effect on a meeting which could be inflammatory.”
Riel frowned at Tash’s words. Taking his older brother with him wasn’t his first choice, but it wasn’t such a bad idea. That was unless Tash tried to make what was likely to be a tense situation worse. It was, after all, what Tash was known for. “You can come, but I warn you, if you try anything funny to sabotage this meeting, I will banish you to the moon.”
Tash had no trouble promising to be good, for Sagan was easily as apt to do the same thing as Riel if he got wind of him creating trouble on his home planet. Despite everything, this promised to be interesting as well as educational.