Satirea stormed across the practice field oblivious to everything and everyone around her. She was on a mission.
“Aslea,” Satirea’s voice thundered across the field to where her sister was preparing to toss a javelin at a moving target. “Janis is plotting again.”
Aslea tossed her spear, and then turned to her furious sister and said, “So what? It is doubtful she can do anything to harm any of us. Corrigan is getting so fed up with her manipulating and moodiness that he is seriously considering setting her aside.”
Satirea returned, “That deviate has something diabolical going on behind the scenes, and something tells me our beloved brother knows nothing about it.”
Aslea frowned as she commented. “If Janis tries to do anything to harm us, and Corrigan finds out about it, he is sure to toss her out like the nasty piece of work she is.”
Satirea knew more than Aslea did. Janis wasn’t after them, and she passed on her information. “Janis isn’t after us, she is going after Ele.”
Aslea tossed her head back and gave a short bark of laughter, “Foolish child. Janis has no idea what she is facing, does she? Our illustrious sister has more power than the two of us put together, though no one would guess it. Our sister is one cool piece of art. I dare her to face off against Ele.”
Satirea pointed out what she thought should be the obvious, even to Aslea. “Janis hates Ele with a passion that is unhealthy. Ele has a way of making her so jealous and frustrated that she is getting reckless.”
Aslea narrowed her eyes and studied Satirea carefully as she asked. “What is causing this new bout of animosity? I realize there have been few breaks for Ele from Janis’ hatred since Corrigan brought her home, but Ele has always managed to come up on top. So what makes you think anything changed?”
Satirea sighed and admitted, “Nothing concrete, although I have been getting signals from Janis that she is getting tired of Ele’s defense mechanism. Our sister has refused to have anything to do with Janis, and Janis has been complaining to Corrigan. Our brother laughed at her, and she stormed off. The way Corrigan has been acting towards Ele lately, I am surprised he didn’t take the opportunity to try to take control of her. He doesn’t like the way the other gods have been looking at our sister, and he has gotten into a few fights trying to protect her honor.”
This was news. Aslea couldn’t remember Ele doing anything to invite unwanted attention. She was, however, beautiful enough to attract the notice of every man on the planet. Corrigan wouldn’t like that. He was very protective of all of them. “What is going on there?”
With a smug grin, Satirea passed on what she knew, “Corrigan tried to do some matchmaking to keep Ele safe. So, he set his friend on her. The young god cornered her in her garden. She squashed him like a bug and sent him home in a basket. To say the least, Corrigan wasn’t pleased with her actions. It made him look bad to his friend.”
Aslea looked thoughtful for a moment. She hadn’t heard a thing, which meant that although Ele had sent the man home, she hadn’t hurt him badly enough to cause an incident. “So, what irritated Corrigan about that? Ele often makes his friends look like fools. He has never let it bother him before.”
Satirea smiled smugly and answered. “Corrigan wouldn’t have cared so much if Ele hadn’t bound his best friend to the surface of Earth so firmly he came close to becoming a part of it. The man looks like a walking corpse. No one can hurt one of Corrigan’s friends without repercussions, not even Ele.”
“I am assuming Corrigan doesn’t know about this yet or there would be a war going on.” Aslea sighed in irritation. Ele, for all her beauty and grace, was an exercise in frigidity, though she seemed compassionate enough.
Satirea continued to pass on more information, “Well, Janis knows about it if Corrigan doesn’t, so you know it is only a matter of time before he becomes aware of what happened.”
Aslea grew even more thoughtful as she asked, “What do you think Janis intends to do with this information?”
Satirea sighed, “I suspect Janis intends to have Ele banished from our home.”
Aslea gave a snort laugh, “Janis can try, but I doubt if she will succeed.”
Satirea warned. “Janis knows how to play Corrigan, and when she puts her mind to it she can, even when he is determined not to let her have her way.”
Aslea sighed, “Do you really think she can get Corrigan to act against Ele?”
Satirea nodded. “Mark my words, Janis is going to try something underhanded, even if her position at our brother’s side is placed in jeopardy if Corrigan finds out what she is up to and what his friend is to her.”
“I doubt if Janis is thinking that far,” Aslea stated. “She has the brains of a lump of coal.”
“Unfortunately.” Satirea pointed out how apt the analogy was, “Both are able to incinerate with the same amount of heat.”
The two sisters exchanged a look, then Aslea added. “She will have to include more than just one god or goddess in her plans for it to work.”
Satirea thought for a moment then replied, “You can count on Janis’ brother being one of them. He holds a grudge against Ele for her last refusal of him and would be happy to cause trouble for her.”
Aslea nodded in agreement. “I can’t think of any goddess who will even talk to Janis. They know the type of trouble she is capable of causing, and she has been disagreeable to most of them. They also don’t trust Janis around their men. I still can’t see what Corrigan saw in her when he took her for his wife.”
“That makes two of us,” Satirea sighed. “Then again, he could have been blind to find what he wanted from her.”
Aslea chuckled as she replied, “That was a naughty thought, although you are right. He only looked as far as the surface and we have to admit, Satirea, Janis is well put together.”
Satirea snorted then replied, “Perhaps, but she slithers.”
Alsea speared a snake as it entered the field and flicked its body back into the bushes then spoke her thoughts aloud, “We better go and warn Ele.”
Satirea stated what she thought should be the obvious, “Ele probably knows about this already, but making sure is probably for the best. Janis is more venomous than the sand shifter you just dispatched.”
“And ten times more sneaky.” Aslea added.
Ele was in the midst of revitalizing some dying roses in the garden when her sisters found her.
“Janis is up to no good again, and you are the target. We thought you might like to know.” Alsea spoke first.
Ele smiled and hugged Aslea in greeting. “I am so pleased to see the two of you.” Ele then paused to hug Satirea before continuing. “It has been too long since you have come to see us. Janis will be overjoyed to see you both.”
Satirea narrowed her eyes thoughtfully and then mused aloud. “She will, will she? Just what are you up to, Ele?”
Ele smiled as she answered, “Returning a snake to the grass.”
Alsea pointed out. “You know she is going to come after you. The sneaky, conniving witch is not apt to play fair either. I would watch my back if I were you.”
Speaking confidently, Ele noted, “Janis doesn’t have the power to take me on and she knows it. That, my dear, beloved sisters, is why she is pushing her luck with our illustrious brother.”
Satirea admitted, with a touch of irritation, “We just thought you might not be aware of what Janis is up to.”
Ele gave Satirea a droll look and replied. “I know Janis will need the help of at least one of the more powerful gods to challenge me, just as I know that none are apt to ever think of doing it.”
The two sisters exchanged looks and frowned at the smug self-assured tone in Ele’s voice. This was not going the way they thought it would. Ele was supposed to be unaware of what was going on around her, in the way she seemed to be about everything by all appearances. She was too sure of herself by half, and she really rubbed them the wrong way by sounding so condescending. Their sister needed a lesson in humility to knock her down a peg or two.
Aslea replied, with a slight edge, “Well, as you seem to have things under control here, dear sister, we will leave. We just thought you needed someone to guard your back for you. I guess we thought wrong.”
Ele smiled, answering, “I appreciate the gesture, I really do. But Janis doesn’t worry me in the least.”
The sisters returned to their practice field and Aslea sneered. “Our sister is getting a fat head if she thinks Janis can do no damage to her. A little sneakiness and some backup, and Ele could be in major trouble.”
“Well, our brother lacks the strength as well as the balls to go through with anything serious.” Satirea stated.
Aslea sounded pleased with herself as she relayed her plans, “Which is why I am going to kill him. I do have a few ideas about what to do with our sister too. Just to show her she isn’t as invulnerable to machinations as she thinks.”
Satirea reminded Aslea. “You are not going to get nasty are you? She can kick both of our butts too you know.” Satirea wasn’t about to take Aslea’s threat to their brother seriously.
“I know,” Aslea replied. “I only want to teach her a lesson in humility and I know just who is capable of giving it to her.”
Satirea gasped, “Careful Aslea, this could backfire.”
“Maybe,” Aslea admitted. “But I am willing to take the chance it won’t.”
Satirea decided to go along with whatever Aslea had in mind. “Alright. What, or should I say who have you got in mind for our overbearing but lovable sister?”
Aslea answered. “ Sagan, Lord of the skies.”
Satirea frowned and admitted, “Never heard of him.”
Aslea smiled, “No, you missed him. No female who meets him forgets him and he knows it. He is a gorgeous piece of work who is fully aware of the fact. Also, before you ask, yes, he has a body of granite along with the face of an angel.”
That made no difference to Satirea, “Power?”
Aslea answered, “Enough to rock our brother while holding us back. Power is not a problem.”
There had to be something wrong with this picture, so Satirea asked, “So why am I getting a bad feeling about this? Is he possessive or something? That could be troublesome.”
Aslea admitted, “I have never seen anything to make me think he is unreasonable. Arrogant as hell, yes. But not possessive or anything like that.”
Satirea hummed. “So how do we get to meet this epitome of the gods?”
Aslea grinned, “He will come to us the moment I send for him, which I already have.”
Satirea wondered, “How long will it take him to get here?”
Aslea looked upwards then back down, “He should be arriving at any moment. The message I sent him should intrigue him enough to get him to move fast.”
Another thought occurred to Satirea as she thought about things locally, “So while our sister sitter is taking care of her, who cooks Janis’ goose?”
“Why sister,” Aslea purred. “I thought you would never ask. We do, of course. She hates us more than she does Ele.”
A slight breeze rippled through the trees and across the clearing. A few moments later a tall male form appeared before them, and he didn’t look happy to be there. Satirea leaned over and murmured into her sister’s ear. “You are right, this one I would not have forgotten.”
Aslea replied, “Down girl. He is not in a good mood. I hardly endeared myself to him when I sent him the note. That was guaranteed to bring him to us.”
Satirea gasped, “What did you do?”
Aslea gave a half grin and answered, “I began by nicknaming him the god of lust.”
“Really?” Satirea couldn’t see why that should bother the man. “An this bothered him?”
Aslea explained, “He is a prude, glorious or not. Much like our beauteous Ele.”
Satirea snickered, “Should be interesting.”
Aslea chuckled and agreed, “Yes.” She then greeted their guest. “Sagan, how magnanimous of you to visit.”
Sagan growled as he stormed up to Aslea and Satirea, “What the hell type of message was that?”
Aslea purred, her voice low and sultry, “My. My. You are in a lousy mood today.”
Sagan only snarled back suggestively while giving the impression he would rather have nothing to do with them. “Care to make the effort to do something about it?”
Aslea continued to tease, knowing it was probably the best way to deal with Sagan in his current mood. “Very tempting lollipop, but I have bigger and better plans for you.”
Sagan continued to growl. “Nothing you can offer would interest me.”
Aslea only smiled and continued, “Then why did you come?”
“Maybe because you threatened to hand out the location of my home to every oversexed goddess in the universe. How did you find out where I live?”
Aslea laughed, “You broadcasted it clear as a sunbeam. The rest is history.”
Sagan had no idea what Aslea was talking about. ”I don’t believe you. You also said something about my giving you a reason to forget what you did. What do you have in mind?”
“I want you to babysit someone special for us while we secure her future.” Aslea suddenly got down to business. “I am talking about our sister, Ele. She is attracting the wrong type of attention and needs the protection of someone trustworthy.”
“And you think I am that person?” Sagan laughed incredulously.
“Well, I did.” Aslea injected a little doubt into her words. “I could be wrong. Perhaps I should just find another god to do this little favor for us. We do need to be careful with her.”
Sagan gave a huff of impatience and ordered. “Perhaps you should just tell me what this is about before we both get old and decrepit and it no longer matters.”
“Fine,” Alsea snipped. “Our sister Ele needs asylum until we take care of a problem. When it is safe for her to return, we will send you word. We decided we could trust you not to harm or try to molest her.”
Sagan blinked and asked, “Why?”
“What do you mean, why?” Aslea returned.
Sagan clarified, “Why me?”
“Simple,” Satirea finally decided to put her two cents in. “Ele is an iceberg that most men drool over with no hope of being able to chip the surface. From all we have heard, you are a prude with little or no use for females. She should be more than safe in your company.”
Sagan gave a disbelieving snort. “What in the name of common sense are you trying to get me into?”
“Oh, just keep her safe until we tell you to send her home. You should be able to do that much. You are one of the more powerful on your planet. You should be good for something besides looking pretty.” Satirea sighed.
Sagan shook his head and looked thoughtful, “And what about Ele?”
“She doesn’t know about this. Ele thinks she can handle things on her own. Granted, she is one of the more powerful goddesses, but she is over her head with this problem.” Alsea made things sound like the information was being dragged out of her. When she noticed how dark Sagan’s expression was becoming, she sighed and relented. “Alright, fine. Ele is a major goddess. There are almost eleven temples that have been built in her name on the planet where she dwells. The danger is that Janis’ brother is garnering help in a concerted attack against her. He plans to take her against her will.”
Sagan repeated, “Why?”
“Why!” Alsea nearly screamed in exasperation. “Ele is beyond beautiful. She is untouchable, unreachable. The goddess of beauty and grace. She is the personification of elegance in motion as well as form. Janis is so jealous of her that she would kill her if she could find someone with enough power to do it for her. That is why.”
“If she is so powerful, why does she not take care of the problem herself?” Sagan wanted to know.
Alsea explained, “Because, like you, she is being arrogant about her powers. Ele is so sure no one would dare challenger her that she refuses to see the real danger.”
Sagan nodded thoughtfully. Finally he thought he understood, at least he hoped he did. “So, how do you plan to get this Ele to come to me?”
Alsea explained. “Ele would never go to you, no matter what. We will call her here. You will have to take over from the moment she arrives.”
Sagan sighed and asked. “The next two questions should be obvious. When and how?”
Satirea answered, “The sooner the better.”
“Well, at the risk of making myself sound lazy, I am here now. If we act now I only need to make this trip once. It is a long way to my home,” Sagan stated.
Aslea wondered, “Just how far away are we talking about?”
Sagan blinked at Aslea in disbelief for a moment then burst out laughing. “You charlatan. You have no idea where I reside. Your message was a hoax.”
Aslea shrugged, “It worked, that is all that matters. You have to admit it.”
“Perhaps and I have already implied that I will help. I am a man of my word. That said, I will hold to it, but it will be done in accordance with my own rules.” Sagan stated.
Aslea asked, “Which are?”
“I will guard your sister from her enemies. I will not subject her to rape or physical harm by anyone in my world, including myself. She will, however, live by the laws of our land and in my home. Those are my terms. If you agree to them, call her. If not, I will leave. Either way, when this is done, you will both owe me for doing this.”
The two goddesses exchanged a look and then nodded in acceptance. Aslea then sent a mental shriek to her sister, “Ele, I need you.”
The space in front of Aslea shimmered and Ele materialized. “Aslea, are you in danger? What is wrong?”
The fear and caring in Ele’s voice spoke volumes to Sagan. The goddess might be vain and arrogant, but she cared. Her sisters described her as a walking iceberg, but she loved them. She was also the most stunning, beautiful creature he had ever beheld. Without allowing her time to react, Sagan wound his arms around Ele’s slender form from behind, crushed her against his hard body, and before she could so much as draw a breath to scream, he transported them both to his home.
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.