When Michael asked if I would be willing to participate in his book tour, the answer was a resounding, "Of course!"
Ares listened to the boy and his immortal mother from the adjoining room. To the untrained eye (of which there were none in the otherwise empty suite), he was seething. His teeth gritted, his hands clutched at the fireplace poker he’d grabbed in the event anything should need pokering, and his pacing feet ground into the carpet in a way that would, given perhaps a decade, give the Grand Canyon a run for its money. The trained eye, however, would tell you that seething was the wrong word. (There were no trained eyes in the room either, but as we are also imbuing trained eyes with the power of speech, questioning their existence in a given area is unfairly pedantic.) Seething was among Ares’s five resting states, along with raging, blood-lusting, hating, and missing important details. No, Ares was more than seething, more than raging, more than hateful at Thad’s utter failure to do as he was told.
Ares was annoyed.
When Athena first designed the turtle-frog (official Olympian registry name: “Testudomeleon ATH 4R”), she had for whatever reason consulted Ares about its greater arms. In an uncharacteristic fit of cooperation―perhaps brought on by either boredom or the hope that the goddess would sleep with him―he had given a small bit of help. Then the thing got killed by that Monster Slayer guy. Ares was the first one Athena told. The insufferable bleeding-heart-defense queen blamed the whole thing on failure of his arm design, of course. Argument ensued, and damned if it didn’t come out then that the victorious hero got a little help. The pieces were easy to put together from there, especially since Ares wasn’t alone when he was told and therefore had some help to figure it out.
And so Ares was annoyed. The blond mortal bugger got away from them so easily! The others were fools. Send another mortal to watch in their place? A mortal? Discretion be damned, that’s what he should have told ’em! Who cared how much attention they’d attract? Stupid jerk Hades!
Okay, so they’d flick Thad back on the job and put the fear of the gods into him if he screwed it up again. Titans’ armpits, that wouldn’t be enough! And what the heck was taking her so long?
The goddess returned just as he’d made up his mind to yank the boy out of the water and throw him where they needed him.
“So?” Ares asked.
“Boy’s as smart as his father,” she sighed.
“Yeah, so?” That didn’t tell him nothing, even if he’d known who the boy’s father was.
“He’s back on the trail. I gave him a good head start.”
“A head start? That’s it?”
She pouted. “Apollo’s champion might have a Muse watching, or Apollo himself. Do you want them to see him just teleport in?”
Ares growled. “Then I’ll go myself.”
“Don’t be stupid.”
“I’ll be what I bloody want to be! Can’t matter anyhow if they see me. I said I killed Zeus all along! I got no cover to blow.”
“Ares, you’re a boasting, blustering brute.”
“Um . . . Thanks?”
She rolled her eyes. “I mean no one believes you! They just think you stole the credit to look stronger. Please, for me, let Thad do his job.”
Ares held her gaze and grunted, thinking a few moments before seizing on an alternative that would end this whole thing a small sight quicker. “You’re right,” he said.
She beamed. “Always am!”
“See you back on Olympus.” Ares turned to go. “There’s things I got to take care of.”
She grabbed his arm and drew him back.
“You’re planning something, aren’t you?” she asked with a poke at his chest. “I mean insomuch as you plan anything.”
“What? Nah.” He turned again only to have her yank him back, glaring.
“Or, to put it another way, ‘yes,’” she said. “It’s all over your face. What is it?”
“Oh for the love of—” He shoved away her grip. “So what if I am planning something?”
“Hrm. We’ve already got a plan? Stick to that!”
“Your plans’re what got us into this! We wait any longer for this one to work and we’ll still be waiting while Zeus shoves lightning down our throats! I’ll just kill the twerp! He’s mortal; that’s what they’re for!”
“Sure as Hades I can. Just one more dead mortal on a long, long list. I’ll make it quick if you’re so squeamish.” In fairness, he supposed she didn’t look squeamish. She looked angry, which frankly was quite a good look for her. Then again, it was a good look for everyone so far as Ares was concerned.
“Ares, no! Hades said you can’t just—”
“You can ram a pike up what Hades said!”
“We don’t know enough about what Karlson might do!”
“We don’t need to know nothing!” he fired. “What if he did what he was supposed to when your little pipsqueak lost him, eh? What if he does it when Thad loses him next time?”
“Thad will not lose him again!”
“Bettin' our hides on that, are you?”
She hesitated. “Even if Thad does lose him, Karlson’s distracted. He’s in love! Mind-bogglingly, distractedly infatuated!”
Something slid into the war god’s mind and failed to stick. Ares stopped. “. . . He’s fat?”
The other blinked. “Infatu—! It means ‘in love.’”
“Yeah, like that ever solved anything. This ain't a movie.”
She went on. “Fine, don’t listen to me. But you kill Karlson and you know, you know that Hades will come down on you. Hard. You know what he’s like when he’s angry.”
“He don’t scare me.”
“Liar. He’s older than you, Ares. You can’t stand against him alone.”
“So you can help me.”
“I agree with him! Karlson’s death might be the very trigger to bring back Zeus!”
“And . . . it might not be!” he stammered. “You don’t know!”
Ares glared at her. He hated arguments that made sense. They usually meant that he couldn’t do what he wanted to, if he paid them any attention. So as a matter of course, he ignored them as best he could. But she wasn’t going to stop nagging him.
“Fine,” he said finally. “I won’t go kill him.”
“And you won’t go watching him either. Not yet, anyway.”
He only then realized he still had the fireplace poker in his hand. He tossed it to the floor, glad for the chance at least to throw something. “Fine.”
She smiled. “Thank you. You know how these things work; there are all sorts of little rules and such, especially with death.”
Ares just grunted at that.
“I’ll make it up to you in some, oh, creative way, I’m sure. Come on. Let’s go.”
He followed, pondering. All sorts of little rules and such, especially with death. Another scheme was creeping into his mind in an attempt to take form. He started to hum Wagner to keep it from showing on his face this time. After all, he’d only said that he wouldn’t kill Karlson. Didn’t mean someone else couldn’t. Heck, if he played it right, even Hades couldn’t fault him for it.
About Michael G. Munz
Michael developed his creative bug in college, writing and filming four exceedingly amateur films before setting his sights on becoming a novelist. Driving this goal is the desire to tell entertaining stories that give to others the same pleasure as other writers have given to him. He enjoys writing tales that combine the modern world with the futuristic or fantastic.
Michael has traveled to three continents and has an interest in Celtic and Classical mythology. He also possesses what most “normal” people would likely deem far too much familiarity with a wide range of geek culture, though Michael prefers the term geek-bard: a jack of all geek-trades, but master of none—except possibly Farscape and Twin Peaks.
Michael dwells in Seattle where he continues his quest to write the most entertaining novel known to humankind and find a really fantastic clam linguine.
Find out more about him at michaelgmunz.com. While there, it wouldn't hurt to get a FREE copy of Mythed Connections, the spiritual prequel to Zeus is Dead.
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