"Spoils of War," co-written with Aleksandr Voinov, February 2010

"Spoils of War" is a 5,500-word short story featuring the Greek god of war, Ares, and Achilleus, hero of the Trojan War. It is live on Smashwords and is due later this year for publication by eXcessica in their Divine Matches anthology. More news on that as we get it. In the meantime, here is the blurb, and you'll find an excerpt below.

When Achilleus, the greatest warrior who ever lived, falls before Troy (or Ilion, as it was known), Ares, God of War, stands ready to take his spirit with him to his palace. There, Ares demands that Achilleus yield to him. But can the embrace of a god and the offer of immortality make Achilleus forget his one true love, Patroklos?


See the Goodreads page for "Spoils" for more reader reviews.

Oh! Wow what a fantastic read. I don't give five stars lightly but this piece really stood out for me. It was a very original take on some truely classic characters. The dynamic, vivid use of words was quite frankly breathtaking and really brought the characters to life. I loved the personification of the god Ares and the way aspects of his mythology was incorporated into his interactions with Achilleus. I enjoyed being challenged to see Achilleus as more than an ancient warrior legend. He was instead portrayed as quite an angry, vengeful, grieving man whose beautifully fierce and very masculine love for his lost Patroklos drives him relentlessly. The more-or-less happy ending was more than enough for my romantic heart to accept and perhaps my only cautionary note would be that some prior knowledge or understanding of Greek mythology would be extremely advantageous. It's a short read but one definately worth the effort and, in my opinion, although it can at this stage be picked up for free from Smashwords, it's worth at least a few dollars if for no other reason than to keep this author producing more great pieces like this. - Winterjade.

This book should have been written in poetic form. The language (for the most part) was very lyrical. Reminded me of a translation from my high school Latin classes. (If only those classes had stories like this!) Achilles dies in battle and is taken by Ares as a spoil of war. Loved the ending. It was true to what I can remember of Greek mythology but still a surprise. - Dlee

"Spoils of War" Excerpt

Achilleus, son of Peleus, remembered falling. Falling back from the walls, ladder sliding past his hands after a piercing pain in his leg. Blood gushed, soaking his armor, running down his calves, sticky between sandal leather and skin. The impact drove the air from his lungs. He still heard the dull thud of bronze armor against stone. The din of battle, the Myrmidons, and the glaring sun of the afternoon.

A chariot drew up, and its horses were on fire, breathing living flame, eyes like the center of the sun, cracked open, a sight too terrifying to be real. Hands gathered him, lifted him with his armor—the shield slid from his arm, into the center of flames and darkness, touches that burned on his skin, but not with heat. He was only half conscious, no, dying, he realized, or already dead, but any thought of resistance or crying out for his comrades was wiped away by that force that couldn’t be denied. He lay in the chariot, on his side, seeing nothing but a pair of strong, armored calves and sandals, smelling blood and death and rage—if rage had a smell— then darkness descended.

* * * *

It was always a shame when warriors, true warriors, finally fell. They all did; they went down in a blaze of glory or simply fell like stones. They were all temporary, flashes of fierce light and splashes of scarlet blood against a background of dull gray. There were always more fighters willing to spill blood and wage war, but not many of them showed the glory of war. And none of them were Achilleus.

That was the only reason Ares had for descending from his palace, and the only reason he needed: the world simply didn’t need to lose a man like him. Not when Ares could reward him for his service.

Ares paid no attention to the dying body next to him; Achilleus’ spirit would soon vacate it, anyway. His main concern was arriving at his palace ahead of Hermes, who would certainly come after the elusive prize that was the warrior who had nearly escaped death. Ares urged his blazing team on and kept a close watch for his wily brother. Hermes had no chariot to announce his presence; many times, he simply appeared in the thick of things, or one never saw him at all, and only noticed what was missing.

The chariot was in sight of the gates when Ares spotted something, a glint or a shadow or both at the same time that betrayed Hermes’ presence. “Oh, no. This one is mine,” he muttered, and reached down beside him, seizing Achilleus by the back of the neck. He didn’t pause to think about why Hermes would announce his coming, simply moved faster, bursting through the gates of the palace in a cloud of fire, clutching his prize.

Outside, beyond the walls, Hermes just watched, thoughtful.

* * * *

It was almost like waking up—regaining consciousness like after long, restful sleep that followed exertion. Almost languid, but Achilleus knew something was wrong. The light, for example. It didn’t cast shadows. Everything seemed brighter, and yet more solid, more real than what he remembered to be real. His wound was gone, but he still had the smell of his own blood in his nose.

Somebody had taken off his armor and somebody must have washed him while he’d been unconscious—dead, insisted a voice that sounded suspiciously like his mother, Thetis. Where was she? Maybe she could explain what had happened. This wasn’t Ilion, and this wasn’t his tent—and no place he knew. Or had ever heard of.

The walls were solid rock, assembled as if by a giant’s hand, and painted with battle scenes, but nothing else. Killing, fighting, but never was there a victor, never one that was defeated, and no feasts, no resting, no kind of play, just men and armor and weapons. He sat up, unconcerned about being completely naked like an athlete.

Like any good master, Ares knew everything that went on in his household at any given moment. No sooner had Achilleus stirred than the god himself appeared, filling the doorway, broad shoulders and long limbs silhouetted even in the omnipresent light. He paused for the length of a breath, smirking, before he entered, flanked by servants that were little more than scuttling shades, unworthy of attention to next to the looming presence that was Ares. “Achilleus, son of Peleus,” he said, his voice the clash of swords and the thunder of war drums.

Achilleus felt his pulse speed up at the stranger’s voice, something deep and primal stirred inside him, something that strengthened muscles and pulled tendons taut. “I know you,” he said. “I saw you...fight between the enemies.”

Ares smiled, a dark, wild grin that looked all too human. “I was there. I’m always there. I saw you, certainly. Do you know who I am, Achilleus?” He liked the taste of the name, usually spoken in whispers, in awe and in fear. He spoke it with amusement, and maybe a bit of indulgent fondness.

A prince of Ilion... no, Achilleus had slain many of them, and even the magnificent Hektor, may he suffer in Hades, would only be a pale shadow against this man. And Hektor had been the best of them. There was no controlled discipline and duty in this one, he was nothing like Hektor. No eager boyish prettiness like Troilus, whose lips had been just as sweet as those of his sister Polyxena. It was slowly coming back. Who, then?

He knew the answer, because this was no mortal. Not a flaw on him, and he seemed, like this place, more real than anything Achilleus could remember. He’d seen him fight, felling men seemingly in passing, roaring like a bull with rage, blood flowing from his hands and face and armor, like spilled wine. There was only one amongst the gods like that. “Ares, god of battle...” and bloodlust, and rage.

Ares drew in a long breath, chest expanding, and released it in a single word. “Yes.” The red chaos of battle shone in his eyes, and his grin widened. He moved closer, openly admiring Achilleus’ naked form. The uniquely masculine beauty of a born warrior, muscles built in true athleticism, clean, shining and unmarked now that he had shed the burden of a mortal body. “You’re dead. That’s a shame, isn’t it? And unexpected. Your mother didn’t protect you well enough.”

“I knew it would come to this.” Achilleus met that dark red gaze, and shook his head. “Long life, or glory in battle. She told me. I chose to win glory.” And would he? Oh yes. Everybody already said that he had been the best warrior on the Greek side, bringing mighty Ilion to her knees. The only thing he regretted was not to have stormed the battlements and put every last inhabitant of Ilion to the sword. His nostrils flared at the thought. For what they’d done.

Ares laughed, and the sound was anything but human; in its echo came the ghosts of dying screams and howls of rage. “As if there was any doubt. Oh, yes, young Achilleus, your name will be spoken forever. It’s known on Olympus. Hermes aches to have you finally in his hands, to take you on your way. But you knew that already, I suppose. Are you ready to retire to a life of eternal bliss?” He leaned forward on the bed, his hands on either side of Achilleus’ knees, not quite touching.

Achilleus’ lips opened, but not to answer, or at least it took him a while to answer. “I want to raze Ilion to the ground and take their women and daughters into captivity. I want to strangle each and every last one of them.” That rage, that pain inside never subsided. A bronzed body, a laughter that gave him goose bumps, the long, strong limbs of his friend, his lover, as he made love to a slave girl, smiling because he knew Achilleus was watching him, eager to take her in turn. The comradeship, the desire, their mutual strength in each other. Love could indeed turn into a rage that nothing could quench. Not ever. “Can you grant me that, Ares?”

One blunt hand, made for wielding heavy weapons, lifted toward Achilleus’ face. It didn’t quite touch skin, but heat emanated from him, fueling the fire of the Myrmidon’s rage. “Can I?” he whispered, that mad smile never wavering. “Can I? I am a god, Achilleus, son of Peleus. Of course I can. Now ask me, will I?”

Achilleus swallowed. “Yes. Will you?” His blue eyes feverish with the heat reflected from the god, the way it burned his skin. His touch, Achilleus knew. It was the last thing he’d felt with his broken, dying body.

Ares’ hand traveled down to the bare chest and rested against the heart that no longer beat, hot as a brand, hot enough to burn a hole through Achilleus’ body. “Why stop there? Why not ask for divinity? You know the gods. You know what we can do. You could raze Ilion with a sweep of your hand, or walk through its streets and put your sword through every soul who crossed your path, as you chose.”

Achilleus shuddered under the touch, which almost made him gasp for air. The words seemed low and seductive, or maybe it was the image of undying revenge that stirred him so. Destroy Ilion. Destroy everybody who’d done him wrong. But what were the god’s intentions? It was difficult holding on to thoughts in his presence...something about him defied thought and planning, whipped up his emotions and desires into what could easily become frenzy. “Yes.”