Authors: Lisa Beth Darling
THE HEART OF WAR
LISA BETH DARLING
Book #1 in the "OF WAR" Series
Moon Mistress Publishing USA
Moon Mistress Publishing
New London, CT 06320
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual or fictional events, locales or persons/characters, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Copyright 2010—Lisa Beth Darling-Gorman
ISBN-13: 978-0615424682 (Moon Mistress Publishing)
Library of Congress:TXu-1-717-952
Cover Art Designed by Lisa Beth Darling
Text set in Times New Roman 11
All Rights Reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or any portion(s) thereof in any form whatsoever.
Breakin’ The Law
-Performed by Judas Priest
Words & Music by- Rob Halford, K.K. Downing, & Glenn Tipton
Let’s Get It On
-Performed by Marvin Gaye
Words & Music by: Marvin Gaye, Ed Townsend, Kenneth Stover
Ain’t Too Proud To Beg
—Performed by The Temptations
Words & Music by: Norman Whitfield & Edward Holland, Jr.
My Funny Valentine
—Performed by Various Artists
Lyrics-Lorenz Hart Music-Richard Rodgers
This is the 2
Edition of "The Heart of War"
In Loving Memory Of
Gone far too soon
The Big Guy
Red & Andy
Even though it’s dangerous I hope too, boys. I hope.
Other Books by Lisa Beth Darling
Child of War-A God is Born
The Shame of Eminent Domain-Fort Trumbull
Child of War-Rising Son
Spoils of War
Lost At Sea
“What is that smell?” Ares God of War sneered, dark eyes glancing toward one of his women with a cold stare. Her name was Katrina but Ares never seemed to remember, even though she had been with him the last fifteen years and shared his bed each night along with whatever woman (or women) of his that he desired at the time. Ares never seemed to remember anyone’s name unless it was an Olympian or someone who may have had the misfortune of getting close to him. “Answer.”
Risking incurring his ire, she spoke cautiously. “My Lord, that is the third time you have asked me that.” She smiled a little bit for him before she continued. “I smell nothing but the salt air from the sea and the fire burning in the hearth.” Katrina met Lord Ares one night in Athens; she was twenty at the time and in the middle of a very heated bar fight with two men who tried to walk out on their tab. She had jumped over the bar with a full bottle of Ouzo in her hand and gone after them, her long legs bare and tan out in front of her and her long dark hair flying behind her as she bolted over the wood bar. Now at thirty-five and Mortal, her days of bar fights were over and her youth swiftly fading away. A decade and a half in the service of the God of War takes a heavy toll on a woman.
Ares’ upper lip curled into a snarl as he let out an audible growl and then sat up and leaned forward on his throne. Long before the Olympians bestowed the title The God of War upon Ares, he lorded over All Things Wild and Free, and still did. The wilderness and all of its creatures was his domain. As such he possessed the keen senses of his animal totem, the wolf—a shape into which he could shift into at will—and the odor was much more acute to him than it was to the Mortals around him. It smelled…sweet…something oddly rotting with a tinge of honeysuckle underlying the acrid scent of the coming decay. Something on the island was dying; something he could not identify. That was most unsettling, as Ares knew every inch of his island, every animal, every rock, every stone, and every tree right down to its moss and lichen. The scent was altogether unfamiliar and it disturbed him. “I’m going for a walk. You have my dinner on that table when I return, woman.” Ares ordered as he rose from the throne to stand at his full height of seven feet, his long wavy raven hair flowing around his broad shoulders, the razor sharp lines of the whiskers on his face bending upward as he gave an evil grin with those perfectly white teeth.
“Yes, my Lord.”
Sauntering through the hallowed halls of his empty cave from the throne room to the entrance, where four torches burned as the night began to descend, he passed the guards standing outside and paid them no mind.
Nicco had been standing out in here in the cool evening chatting with Daniel and David Jackson, twin brothers also in the service of Ares when the Master sauntered out of the cave with purpose in his long stride. “Would you like one of us to accompany you, my Lord?” Nicco, Ares’ Captain of the Guard, a tall strapping young man with dark skin and piercing blue eyes asked warily, not liking the glare in his Lord’s eyes.
The scent caught in his nostrils, making them flare. Swiftly he spun on his leather boot-heels. “Do you smell that?”
Nicco took half a step backwards and heard the twins behind him clear their throats. It seemed Lord Ares was in another one of his foul moods. “Smell what, my Lord?”
The scent was so much stronger out in the cool night air. Turning his ruggedly handsome face upward, Ares took in a huge breath, filling the massive lungs residing in his rippled chest. It was coming from somewhere by the cliff.
How could they not smell it?
“Useless,” Ares spat and walked away from his guards.
The cave in which Ares’ resided sat nestled in the base of a mountain upon a high cliff top, overlooking the sea and an array of small islands beyond. Apollo was high on Olympus commanding the Sun to go down and rest for the night. Venus twinkled above in a sky filled with color from the deepest of purple to the hottest shades of pink. Standing upon the precipice looking forward to the rolling waters, he realized the smell came not from the ocean but from the shore below. Casting his curious dark eyes downward, he saw something that he did not recognize lying on his beach. “What has Poseidon washed up upon my shore?” Ares asked himself. Not wanting to take the time to walk all the way down to the shore on the narrow set of steps carved into the cliffside, Ares used his powers and vanished from the precipice and reappeared on the sands below.
Looming over the lump in sand, he saw a soaked length of purple cloth but the lump below it was too big to be cloth alone. Reaching out with a heavily booted foot he kicked up the corner of the cloth, the sea wind carried it upward. It floated away from the lump and flitted off toward the rocks closest to shore. “A woman?” With a flicker of interest he looked down to see the woman lying on her side in the sand with her head tucked deeply to her chest.
Wondering where she’d come from, Ares turned toward the ocean. In the two thousand years he had made this island his secluded little home, no one had accidentally washed up upon his shore. His dark brooding eyes scanned the distance between the island and the far horizon and saw no ship. No wreckage. No others on the beach or bodies floating in the water. He heard no plaintiff cries for help. Why should he? The shipping lanes were miles away from his secluded island. Weeks often went by without so much as a single ship on the horizon. That was the way Ares liked it. Quiet. When he was not off wreaking havoc somewhere, Ares enjoyed his solitude.
Out there tonight, just like everything other night before, there was nothing but the water, the peaceful quiet of the soulless islands scattered around his, and the coming night. The nearest island to his that held a single soul—actually, a small village of maybe 150 people whose ancestors had lived there since the dawn of time—was over a hundred miles from Ares’ shore.
Turning back to the woman on the beach, he squatted next to her to get his first good look at this new and unexpected arrival in the blazing last lights of day. At first he thought her an old woman, with her long gray hair clinging to her wet body. Hair so gray it was nearly white. “Hag? Do you hear me hag? What are you doing on my island?” She did not move or make any sound.
She wore a tattered white blouse, or it had been white; now it was covered with seaweed and torn to near shreds. Below that she wore a very long dark blue skirt that looked to be made of cotton or maybe linen. His dark curious eyes took in the sight of her alabaster skin below the dainty blouse, full ripe breasts pushed against the material of both blouse and bra. Judging by the way those nipples stood at attention, Ares thought she must be very cold. Between those chilly yet inviting mounds lay a silver necklace. Picking it up, he looked at it closely.
Perhaps it was a fashion statement of some kind; Mortals were so strange in that regard. Certainly the intricately crafted love knot with its willow tree and symbol of Cernunnos in the midst of the trunk could not mean what it once had; no one remembered or worshiped the Old Gods any longer.
“Woman? Wake up, woman.” He gave her a harsh nudge but she did not move. Squatting quietly on the sand with the sea breeze behind him, Ares heard her heart beating, it was slow but it was strong, maybe even strong enough to sustain her. Her shallow breathing had a harsh rasp but that was from the water in her lungs. He saw no wounds, no blood on the wet clothing clinging to her shapely form.
With the heel of his boot, he turned her over onto her back where Ares saw something else of interest; her hands were bound together at the wrists with a thick length of rope. If she
wrecked, how did she swim to the island? Her feet were bare and they were unbound so she could kick—although not very effectively with that skirt. So where did she come from? Yet there was no other answer to the riddle other than a shipwreck. Her clothes bore that out as well; there were several holes in them where sea creatures had taken a nibble or two. Perhaps someone threw her overboard? The bound hands would suggest that much was true, someone who did not want her to survive but, instead, to drown and spend eternity with Poseidon.
Without much thought, the God of War planted a big knee into her sternum and pushed down hard. The woman below him gave out a harsh cough as she involuntarily belched up the seawater in her lungs. “Don’t say I never did anything for you,” Ares mumbled. On the sand the woman coughed again, she drew in a harsh breath that sounded painful even to his experienced ears. Her eyes fluttered open and he swore they were as gray as her hair. “Woman? Do you hear me woman?” he said in a loud authoritative voice. Just as quickly as those strange eyes opened, they closed again.
In frustration, Ares sauntered down to the shore and began to call out to the water. “Poseidon! Poseidon!”
Since Ares banishment from Olympus over two hundred years before, Poseidon did not immediately answer his call but instead sent an emissary in the form of a dolphin. Ares crossed his arms over his broad, lightly haired chest when he saw the creature. “Get Poseidon!” the God of War demanded. “I want to know the meaning of this.” With a thick lengthy finger, he pointed behind him at the woman on the shore. In response to him, the damn dolphin began to chit, chat, click, and clack and…. “Ah! I can't understand you! Just get him! I am still an Olympian! Still a God! I demand to see my Uncle.”
In his kingdom at the bottom of the ocean, the Great Lord Poseidon rolled his watery blue eyes as he gazed into a crystal ball, watching Ares on the shore above as he started to pace back and forth on the sand. “He always was a brat,” the King of the Seas huffed. Ares seemed on about something and it wasn’t like The God of War to call upon The King of the Seas. “Better see what he wants before he throws a fit.”
Before Ares’ eyes, the water began to bubble and churn until his Uncle appeared on the back of a great white shark. “What is it, Ares?” Poseidon demanded as he floated there on the back of the shark with his golden trident in one hand and golden Crown upon his white head. The sight of it made Ares want to seethe.