Friday, November 7, 2014

Daughters of Ixion: Prologue

Remember, this is still a very, very rough draft... draft zero, if you don't mind. But, I figured I would share my adventures and successes during NaNoWriMo with you all throughout the month. Here is the prologue, as it stands right now. Enjoy!

Daughters of Ixion 

Prologue 

He held his breath as he unrolled the tied parchment. Spittle collected in the back of his throat, his throat working hard to overcome the lump of fear lodged beneath his voice box. In his heart, he knew this had to be the summons he expected, his exile from Thessaly, from Hellas. Perhaps even his death sentence. The silken strand which sealed the scroll floated to the floor like an eagle's feather on the wind as the few inked lines were revealed.

Ixion, son of Ares, king of the Lapiths, husband of Dia, and slaughterer of Deioneus, Zeus, king of the gods and father of mankind, welcomes you to dine at the table of the gods on Mount Olympus. His pity falls upon you and feels your heart's shame. Thus, this honor is extended to you.

Raising his eyes to the stranger standing before him, dressed in the cloak and hat of a traveler, Ixion watched as the disguise shimmied and melted away. Hermes, messenger of the Almighty Zeus, now filled the threshold. With a tilt of his head, the swift-footed god smiled and the parchment in Ixion's hand disappeared.

"Your reply," he said. His voice echoed in the vast hall, mischief lurking in its harmonious depths.

"I accept."

Hermes extended his youthful, slender-fingered hand and stepped aside, beckoning Ixion forth. Ixion's steps were determined, haughty, unswayed by his recent troubles and untroubled by his mind's dark thoughts. Chin thrust forward, head held high, the king of the Lapiths boarded the chariot waiting in the courtyard. Hermes joined him and flicked the reins at the harnessed eagle. Lurching high, the chariot proceeded to quickly climb into the sky, where Olympus loomed in the distance.

Tonight, he was to dine with the gods. For the first time since his murderous act, Ixion felt hope rise in his chest and he grinned. Giddy with the relief that flooded his veins, he fought to urge to laugh. It would not do to greet Zeus with such joy. He was still a king, after all.

He was Zeus's equal.

Pulling the chariot up short, the eagles soared in a gentle loop around the tallest tower of the Olympic palace to rest in a clearing among the gods’ garden. Hermes alighted and offered a bow and hand to Ixion. Ixion accepted the help in stepping from the chariot. Spinning in a lazy circle, he took in the grandeur that surrounded him.

Built like the fortress-palaces which dotted the Hellenic landscape, but on a far larger scale, the home of the King of Gods covered the entire peak of Mount Olympus. The wall was built of marble blocks at least as tall as him. The paved stones which lined the road seemed made of precious stones. They glinted and shimmered in the setting sun. From his perspective, he could see down to the lesser deities’ residences, each similar in design, yet still unique. The white clay-slabbed buildings each surrounded their own private gardens, bits of which Ixion could only make out.

Zeus’s home, however, was by far the grandest structure. Columns marked its entrance. Marble eagles sat perched upon the lintels. Ixion admired the eagles. Their regalness, their speed, their focus and attention. For not the first time, he wished the horses which guarded his own threshhold appeared more intimidating. Each time he passed beneath their striking hooves, he had to hold back his derision. They seemed so weak compared to the lions of Mycenae and the bulls of Knossos.

Keeping his eyes on the gaze of the eagles, Ixion strided within the shorter-walled compound of the main palace. Five stories of expansive, stone made rooms with large, latticed windows greeted him. One atop another, the palace tiers mimicked the gradual rise of Olympus itself. Ripping his eyes from the columnated heights, Ixion lowered his gaze to the large oak doors standing open before him. Hermes stood patiently beside the marble lintel waiting for Ixion.

Sounds of merriment issued forth beckoning Ixion closer. The clatter of dishes laid out upon the table, the jovial discusion among a close-knit family, and the songs and music from talented entertainers brought a smile to his face. It had been far too many years since those same sounds had filled his own palace halls.

His neighboring kings had shunned him, his wife and children stayed cloistered in their quarters, afraid of his anger and grief. Suitors for his eldest daughter had ceased to come beseech him for her lovely hand. Even his own people abandoned him, leaving their fruitful lands bare of cultivation. He had nothing left in the world to celebrate. And though he had never noticed the absence of such joy until now, listening in on the feasting taking place made him earn even more for tonight.

“Ah, Ixion, greatest of the Thessalonian kings, welcome!”

At Zeus’s booming greeting, all the other noises in the grand hall died down and every face turned toward him. Hermes, he noticed, had already disappeared into the throng of deities, taking a seat at the right hand of his lord.

Ixion bowed before the assembly. “My lord and king.”

“Come, sit,” Zeus continued, pleased by Ixion’s show of respect, motioning to an empty chair beside Ixion’s immortal father, Ares, and across from his proud-bearing wife, Hera. “Enjoy the food and company. We welcome you to dine among us and share in our pleasures. Let your heart be stilled tonight and forget the troubles which color your soul.”

“Your graciousness is well-received lord,” Ixion answered, taking the proffered chair and breathing in the heavenly scents wafting from the varied and exotic foods that lined the table’s center.

Turning to Ares, he added, “Father.” Ares stared for a moment, taking in the strength and breadth of his mortal son. Ixion held his breath under the scrutiny and sighed only when Ares nodded his assent. No smile creased the hard line of his scarred cheeks, but the soft glow emanating and the drop which welled unbidden in the corner of his eye spoke volumes. It was enough for them.

After choosing among the delicacies a plateful of divine creations, Ixion raised his eyes to see Hera studying him. Her cheeks reddened at the instant their eyes met and for the first time in many years Ixion began to feel a stirring between his legs. She flicked a glace toward her husband, engaged in a friendly argument with Ares. Catching her husband otherwise occupied, Hera once again settled her stunning mahogany pupils on the mortal man who so obviously intrigued her.

“My queen,” Ixion began, noting her interest and surreptious study of his features.

“Tell me, are the stories true? Did you kill your wife’s father?”

Ixion fought the rise of bile and swallowed the lump of honeyed bread he’d been chewing. Placing a hand to his mouth, he quelled the coughs which threatened and cleared his throat, thinking of how best to answer. From the summons Zeus had sent and Hermes had delivered, it was clear the gods knew of his breach of xenia. Perhaps she was testing his sincerity for forgiveness—recently, he had frequented the many gods’ temples across Thessaly in search of a way to make amends—or whether the madness which had seized him after his murderous act had truly passed.

“Yes, my queen. I committed the sin of kin-slaying. The fame of that deed has shadowed my every waking moment and haunted my every nightmare. I have been hounded from my slumber by the furies.”

“What do they ask of you?”

“Queen, I will not put you from this wonderful food with their words. Such are not pleasing for a woman to hear. But at their insistence, I have sought to make amends.”

“I see.” She smiled then and he read pity in her features.

The stirring between his legs grew more pronounced and he shifted under her watchfulness, trying to ease the ache in his groin. Beside him, his father tossed a frown in his direction, no doubt uncomfortable with the immature restlessness he perceived. At the move, Hera’s smile widened and she raised a strong and feminine hand to her mouth to disguise her glee.

Her own motion caught the attention of both Athena, sitting at Ixion’s other side, and Zeus. Staring at the queen of the gods, both then locked stormy grey eyes on each other and Ixion had the sudden feeling of a full conversation taking place over his head, silently, between the father and daughter. Hera, too, must have noticed for immediately her eyes grew darker, more somber and her face morphed into one of jaded, haughty pride. Ixion’s own joy faded along with the queen’s.

The dinner continued on, Ixion conversing with both his father on the matters of mortal kingdoms and alliances and with Athena on the matters of the strongest kingly traits and scholarly pursuits. Across from him, Hera spent the rest of the banquet in silence, engaging no one else.

Following the meal and the entertainment, Ixion was invited by his father and Zeus to spend the night on Olympus and return in the morning with Hermes—it being suggested that Hermes was an unfit messenger after a certain number of Dionysian goblets. The suggestion was accepted eagerly and one of the lesser nymphs was directed to ready a room for his stay.

One by one the gods and goddesses excused themselves from the feast and disappeared back to their own residences, beds, and consorts for the evening. Athena left early, followed soon after by Dionysis with a saucy wink tossed in Hermes’ direction and a mouthed promise. With the way the god of wine had been watching Athena’s every move all night, Ixion had a pretty good idea of what he intended tonight. Ixion wished him luck. His own situation, though flagged at Hera’s drop in interest, still remained alert for the subtlest alteration in her change.

When it came, he was delirious with joy. As soon as Athena left the table, Hera’s face went through a series of minor convulsions. The corner of her lips twitched. Her bottom lip plumped, and her top lip relaxed, letting the red blood blossom beneath the thin skin. Her cheekbones arched and her eyebrows calmed. Her eyes lit with a slow-burning glimmer and she once again made contact with the mortal sitting across from her.

“My step-daughter, Athena. A man in woman’s clothing, yes?”

Ixion nodded. “Indeed.”

“Prude,” she added. “Casts aside my ambitions, my desires, and my power. Will not accept a husband and will not consider bearing her own child. What a waste!”

He laughed.

At the noise, Zeus raised his attention from the bosom of a nymph refilling his own goblet and looked down the half-empty table. Both Hera and Ixion immediately lowered their eyes and filled their fingers with food they had no real intention of eating. Everyone was beyond gorged. Once he returned to the nymph, his moment of worry passing, Hera sneaked a look back toward Ixion. 

“Ignore my husband. Serves him right to find me engaged with another man. Even a mortal.” Perfect, white teeth showed between her wide smile. “You are an interest to me, Ixion.”

“How so?” 

“I decreed your marriage to Dia. Convinced her father, myself, of your superiority. It was at my direction which your bride-price was seized upon and accepted. Why did you not follow through in your promise?”

His head dropped at her words, though another part rose at the sound of her voice and the husky tone her speech had taken on. He preferred women who spoke their minds and the realization that Hera was just such a woman spurred him to answer her as honestly as he was able.

“I saw in his eyes how much my offer pleased him. Along with that pleasure, though, lurked greed. It darkened his gaze and filled me with fear. He would have asked for more had I given him the promised price. I feared for my kingdom and its wealth.”

She said nothing for a long time, her eyes closing as if in thought.

“You are a wise man, Ixion. Athena was right to worry about my heart.”

At that, Hera rose abruptly, spun briskly on her heels and marched off to her quarters, head held high. Ixion felt himself rise in response and his feet take a few steps after her before realizing he moved at all.

Staring in silence after her, Ixion jumped at the heavy hand on his shoulder. Taking a few quick breaths, he looked over his shoulder at the broad chest of Ares. Feeling the heat of embarassment and shame crawl up his neck, he tried to control his wildly beating heart.

“Don’t mind her, Ixion, she has always been a cold woman. Her manners need some polishing, for sure.” Grinning, he chucked his mortal son under the chin and turned to lead him to his prepared quarters for the night.

As Ixion was led from the banquet hall, he caught the eye of Zeus and frowned. The king did not look pleased. He appeared deep in thought, a storm brewing in the creases of his forehead and the flashes of light sparking in his pupils. With a shake of his salt and pepper head, he watched the retreating figure of his wife stalk down the long corridor to their shared rooms. Stumbling over a split slab of marble, Ixion redirected his attention to where Ares was taking him. Any argument between the king and queen of gods was really none of his business.

Why couldn’t he just let it go?

He lay upon the feather-stuffed cushions of the wooden frame bed staring up at the ceiling, an artistic frescoe decorated in a perfect representation of the Hellenic starry night filling his gaze. Sleep would not come. Thoughts of Hera swirled in his mind, keeping him awake, very much like the nights spent with the Furies turning his every thought toward the moment of Deioneus’s death. Those stark white eyes glared blindingly at him in accusation, his palms covered in the sticky blood of his father-in-law. The horrors! But thoughts of Hera, as mind-consuming as Deioneus, were of a far more delicious style. The proof of the switch in themes was evident in the tenting of the thin linen sheet that covered his naked form.

“Ixion, son of Ares?” The tenative voice coming from the opposite side of the curtained entrance startled him.

“Yes.” Slipping from beneath the sheet, he quickly donned his under tunic and walked to the curtain, sliding it open to reveal a shivering and naked nymph. In her hands, she gripped a piece of torn parchment.

“For you,” she said, thrusting the papyrus into his hand, then spinning back around and disappearing down the dark corridor as fast as her bare feet could take her.

He retreated to the table and lamp settled against the wall on the other side of the sparse room. Twisting the wick to relight the oil lamp, he brought the note close and squinted to read the thin handwriting.

Come to me, Ixion. I need a wise man.

Rereading the note again and again, he couldn’t believe she would have put such words to paper. What if Zeus was to find out? What if Zeus already knew? The nymph? He studied the note for any hints of subterfuge. All the while, his erect staff roared its own opinions and his heart beat rapidly in anticipation. A chime sounded in the distance, another change of the guards. A quick look out the window confirmed it. The moon hung at its peak in the blackness of Uranus.

Ixion made his decision. Tossing on his royal chiton, the purple as deep and fresh as Zeus’s own robes, he stepped into his sandals and made his way back down the corridor to the banquet hall, across the now cleared and scrubbed space, and down the same hallway Hera had taken. Without directions to her room in the note, he assumed her room would be obvious. As the columned walkway stretched on and arced into a gentle curve, he discovered she was correct in her assumption. The large, etched peacock spread across her pine wood doors drew him closer like a moth to the flames. He knocked upon the slightly ajar door, noting the easy swing as he did so.

“Enter.”

Her voice. He paused. Closing his eyes, he forced himself to settle down. It was a hard battle.

“My queen,” he started, pushing the door open and striding within her vast, gemstone-hued room. “Hera.” He whispered her name.

She reclined on a massive mattress, nude, glorious in her maturity and glowing with power. His breath escaped him. He walked to the edge of the bed, his eyes never leaving her body. As he moved closer, he studied every inch of her, memorizing this moment in his mind. So unlike his Dia, this woman, goddess, queen, radiated with the force and strength of born-royalty. A faint aura surrounded her, pulsing with pure authority. All of her drew him in, filled him and made him crave her all the more.

“Join with me.”

Those words were all he neeeded to hear. Stripping his chiton away, he let it fall softly to the tile floor and joined Hera on the mattress. She rolled toward him as the mattress sunk beneath his weight. He caught her by the shoulders, holding her in place as he moved to straddle her ample thighs. Her lips were soft and wet, her tongue sneaking out to run a caress across the plump red flesh. Lowering his head, he licked across the same path, pressing forward to deepen the kiss. Her husky moan was all he needed to proceed.

His palms stroked down each arm, reveling in the ethereal softness of her skin. She seemed to grow younger under his ministrations. Leaving her mouth, he trailed kisses across the hard line of her chin and jaw, to the scented flesh below her ear. Amber filled his senses, setting his soul on fire and his cock to rage. Suckling on the skin there, he lapped at her with his tongue and marked her as his own. She writhed under the attention, the sensation, and he chuckled softly into her ear.

“Enough play, Ixion.”

“I’m at your command, my queen.”

“Then fill me.”

Hera spread her legs, stretching Ixion’s thighs wide and making him sink into her welcome cradle. Sitting up, he scooted further down her body and lifted each knee to rest between her long legs. Lying atop her, he molded his form to hers and flexed his hips to arch his staff into her warm, wet heat. With forceful thrusts, he drove himself again and again into Hera. His lips found their way to her nipples and plied her passions with a skill born of expertise.

Nearing his climax, he let the nipple fall from his mouth and sat back, resting his bottom on his legs, and pulled Hera up and closer to him by her hips. With her knees draped over his elbows, he watched as he slid his cock in and out of her in long, strong, strokes. Her woman’s flesh blossomed dark pink, then bright red. She was as close as him. He stilled, waited for her half-lidded eyes to open fully and focus on him, then used his leverage on her hips and his own strength of limbs to fill her one last time as deep as physically possible. 

He erupted, spurting his seed inside her, passing out with the pleasure as her scream echoed in his ears.

Strong, angry hands grabbed at him, pulling him upright. A voice, seemingly from far away, bellowed his name over and over. Somewhere, a woman sobbed and a slap of flesh against flesh resounded.

Ixion came to, desire still coursing in his veins and throbbing at the center of his passion. The flashing bulk of Zeus towered above him. His father’s hand was clamped around his neck, threatening violence, yet not delivered. Both gods glared at him. He forced his eyes to look away. A young girl, nearly translucent, reclined on the mattress where he’d last seen Hera come apart before his gaze. Her shape shimmered in a rising sun and morphed into a young Hera, then back again to a young girl. Shaking his head, confused, so very confused, he saw a swish of movement behind the gods. For a brief instant, the hard, etched face of Hera appeared in his vision. Her sorrow was evident, as was pain and a bit of fear.

What had happened?

* * * * 

Nephele modulated her voice as Zeus demanded to sound like his haughty wife. Similarly, she changed her ever nebulous appearance to look more like Hera. Allowing Ixion, the mortal, to bed her wasn’t a difficult task, not what she had thought it would be like. Though, nothing like letting Zeus have his way. Feeling the mortal’s seed coat her inner walls had been an exciting sensation. Zeus never permitted her to grow round with his seed. Already, she felt the mortal king’s seed begin to grow inside her womb. Her cloud-shape’s forced appearance wobbled with the change in her thoughts and focus.

No matter, Ixion had already passed out.

When Zeus returned to the room, after a pleasant night spent with the queen, Nephele, once again at Zeus’s request, did nothing to hide her body or that of the naked mortal. She stretched upon silken sheets and made very clear the events which took place during the night. Hera responded with her usual, barely supressed, anger and harshness. Grabbing Nephele from the bed, she struck her twice across the cheeks and pushed her heavily back to the mattress, screeching at the world incomprehensible curses.

Ares came running at the screams. Together, he and Zeus yanked Ixion from the mattress and shook him awake.

What followed next took even Nephele’s breath away. And she was one of the gods. She knew what they were like. Their trickery, their deceit, their lies, and their manipulations. The gods assaulted the poor mortal—how dare he fall for the trap they set, how dare they hold him responsible for Hera’s attentions—and charged him with the crime of broken xenia.

The trial was swift. The execution a trip straight to Tartarus.

The only tears that fell for Ixion were the drops from Nephele’s own eyes. Growing fat with his child, she was shunned by the other goddesses and chose to spend her time alone in her rooms or roaming across the mortal lands. Specifically, she loved the mountains, valleys, and fields of Thessaly—Ixion’s lands—and spent many mornings resting in the quiet wilderness and her afternoons sitting atop the highest peaks. She loved watching the mortals, who so reminded her of Ixion, go about their daily lives seemingly so joyful.

Nine months came and passed. Nephele felt the approaching birth of her child with trepidation. She had no idea how Hera felt about this birith and feared the worse. Would Hera punish her for Ixion’s fault? Would she make Nephele suffer for him? When, at last, the moment came for her to push, Nephele was pleased to see Hera’s nymphs in attendance. Nothing more than the usual pain accompanied the delivery. Her child was born easily.

Half-male child, half-horse, her son was the perfect representation of his own beastly begetting. Nephele cuddled him close, allowing him feed upon her breasts. His tiny hooves kicked and shoved against her ever-chaning shape while his hands eagerly kneaded the soft pillows of her bosom. It was Zeus’s doing or Hera’s. She wasn’t sure. It didn’t matter. He was hers and she would make sure he was left alone to live his immortal life beyond the control and influence of the rest of the Olympians. She would keep him safe on Ixion’s lands. Those lands, were, after all, his inheritance.

Little Centaurus drank until full, then fell asleep, tcuked into his mother’s cloud. Nephele cooed and hummed. A beast he may be, but he was beautiful to her.