“Aectetis”

This is a little something I’ve fooled around with, off and on, for a number of years… Just a little project to keep my muse engaged with the active, battlefield mentality I often need to write suspense. :)

I’ve always had a love for Greek mythology, for vastly personal reasons. I will note that this isn’t a researched novel. References are ones gleaned from decades of pure fascination and study of Greek mythology and history. If I ever decide to turn this into a novel, I’ll be doing lots of research… for now, it just remains a little exercise for my muse, that I thought I’d share a bit of, with you. Enjoy! :)

“Aectetis”

They were sent from the gates, into the gaping maw of the desert cavern, but neither man went willingly.  No man who knew the tales, or believed in Hades’ wide dominion, would have been willing.  Aectetis blessed himself repeatedly and murmured prayers to Athene, while Taracles muttered curses against the darkness hovering around them.

“This is madness,” Taracles muttered as he thrust his torch savagely into the inky passageway, his sword clenched in one hard fist, his dark eyes steely.  “I tell you, Aectetis; Sikander’s run mad.”

Aectetis swallowed hard, but offered no answer.  He couldn’t have spoken, at the moment, had his life depended on it.  His scalp itched with sweat, beneath the cockle-crested helm, and his leather armor might as well have been Prometheus’ stone, about his neck. It suffocated him. Why was he here? He had neither Taracles’ Spartan toughness, nor the great Aristotle’s Athenian scepticism.  He was provincial, a farmer’s son, with little understanding of either war or philosophy. He believed in the power of the Gods, and mere mortals ought not to trifle with such things.

“I heard from the Emperor’s man that Sikander’s gripped with fevers that roll his eyes up in his head; that he hears voices.  Voices!” Taracles scoffed openly, his voice edged with dark humor.  “Can you believe that? The Furies come to claim his fool head, and yet none dares question his whims!”

A skittering in the darkness brought Aectetis’ gaze quickly around, and he battled down a rising wave of pure panic.

“Do you suppose it’s true? What they say of this place?” Aectetis dared not breathe more than that, lest he anger the spirits here.

“That it leads straight to Tartarus; that the voices of the damned echo here?” Taracles shrugged nonchalantly.

“No.  That there’s a demon down here.  A demon unlike any other,” Aectetis whispered, clutching his heavy bronze shield closer.

Taracles laughed harshly. “Demons?  Aectetis, you’re too old for such children’s tales!”

“But what if it’s true?” Aectetis insisted, unable the still the growing panic in his chest. He swore he could hear the monster breathing – Aechidna’s own foul spawn.  “General Ptolomy says the Emperor’s had terrible visions, in his sleep; that he dreams of a demon come to suck the very breath from his lungs.  Do you suppose –?”
Taracles’ scowl effectively cowed Aectetis.  “Now, you listen to me, Aectetis, and listen well.  Sikander’s a raving madman, and any fool with eyes can see it. I can tell you exactly what we’ll find in these caverns.  Nothing.  There are no demons here, or anywhere else, for that matter.”

“But the locals believe—“

“Ignorant peasants!” Taracles spat disgustedly, as if he’d tasted something foul.  “Their superstitions should not sway an Emperor, or a general, from conquest.”

The comment, spoken as only an aristocrat would dare, stung.  Aectetis forced the anger away, aware that it was a small enough matter, at the moment.  Survival was a more pressing concern than pride.

Silence hovered around them, and Aectetis’ heart beat in dread.  This wasn’t right.  There should be sounds – the echo if their sandaled feet on the cavern floor, the drip of underground water, the shift of rocks, even the sound of their breathing – yet no sound penetrated the oppressive stillness.  The closer they moved toward the wide cavern at the tunnel’s end, the heavier the silence grew, until Aectetis feared he’d gone deaf.

Moving cautiously, they entered the subterranean hall, and abruptly stopped.  No wind stirred here, no sound murmured in the stillness.  It was, Aectetis decided with a shiver of dread, a tomb.  The eeriness of it all crawled along his spine.

A form moved in the darkness of the torch’s jumping shadow.  Aectetis turned his head to better see, just as his torch sputtered and blew out.  A moment later, Taracles’ died as well, plunging the cavern into utter darkness.

“What was that?” Aectetis’ horrified whisper finally pierced the hovering silence.  “Taracles?”

“It was probably a draught from the tunnel.” Taracles sounded annoyed.  “Let me find my flint.”

A moment later, a soft glow sparked in the darkness, and Aectetis’ muscles slowly relaxed.  “Thank you, Taracles.  I –“

“Quiet, fool!”  Taracles hissed, brandishing his blade.  “That light isn’t mine.  There’s someone else down here!”

Aectetis’ voice died on a terrified gasp, his heart pounding harshly in his ears as he flattened himself against the wall behind him.  More than ever, he wanted to flee this place.  But Taracles would see that as cowardice, and as long as Taracles remained, Aectetis could do no less.  He would not dishonor his family, or his people.

Join the Fight: Tell Congress That Being an Artist/Author IS a Business!

Like most people, I barely understand most of the legalese involved in tax law.  In fact, until recently, I blindly believed that, as an Author, since I considered myself engaged in business, and everything I read told me I had to file a Schedule C as a sole proprietorship, when I had royalty income, I was engaged in a For-Profit business.  Well, imagine my surprise when the State of Arizona tried to tell me, just before Christmas, last year (Thanks a lot Arizona Scrooge!), that because I couldn’t prove a profit (ie, more income than expenses) in three out of five years as an author, I was not, in fact, engaged in a For-Profit Business.

Apparently, being an Artist/Author is one of those areas for which you are supposed to be punished, in the good ol’ US of A (or, at least, in Arizona), thanks to one of a set of “tests” to determine whether or not a business meets the criteria for “For Profit.”  Unfortunately, one of those tests requires a showing of profit — something few authors or artists are familiar with, when it comes to their art.  And, equally apparent is the ridiculous notion that an author or artist should ONLY be engaged in writing/art in order to be classed as pursuing that For-Profit status without proof of said profit margin.  Apparently, we really ARE supposed to starve and end up in the poor-house/bankrupt in order to be taken seriously by the tax laws.

Well, if you’re an author/artist, or family or friends of such, you know how driven a profession this is.  We dedicate every spare moment we can squeeze out of our day for the creation of our creative minds.  And there’s not a one of us who doesn’t intend to someday be able to do nothing but write, paint, etc, etc  full-time.  But we’re also realistic enough to realize that with millions of books printed every day, and hundreds of thousands of artists out there, most of us aren’t likely to ever see our names on or far enough up the bestsellers list or on gallery listing, etc, to make that kind of money.  We hold down other jobs, to pay the bills, and our families suffer as much as we do, for our art.

It’s time to take a stand… So if you’re an artist or author, a friend or family of one, or a fan who wants to see your favorite author/artist/etc continue to create, we need your help.  Follow the link below, sign the petition, and let’s tell the US Congress that being an artist/author IS a business, and we deserve protection and fair regard, as such, under the tax laws.

http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/arts-irc-186-amendment/ (yes, I know the link has a mistake… I hit a “6″ instead of a “3″ when typing in the title, and can’t figure out how to change it).

Weekend Gems: “Gilded Cage”

“No one said this would be easy.” Maltai circled her cage, watched her stalking movements match his stride warily as she pulled against the golden chain and collar that encircled her neck.  “You’re not going to get out of there, no matter what I do, unless you’re ready to quit being so damned noble.”

She loosed a warning growl that rumbled in the air between them as he stepped closer, her bright yellow eyes narrowing as she bared her teeth.  Then, backing off, she shook herself, shedding her feline form in the process.  In the space of a breath, she went from imposing lioness to a lean, proud woman with tawny skin and dark hair, wearing only the short, tattered drape of cloth that denoted her servitude, and the proud, regal tilt of her chin that told him she was far from a broken slave.

“If I compromise my very core, and everything I hold dear, then I might as well stay here and become a slave in truth.  What reason do I have to be free, if I sacrifice my soul self in the process?”

Want to know more?  Stay tuned for details about Legends of Tirum and this book, Mistress of Cats!  Meanwhile, check out Books 1 & 2 at Desert Breeze Publishing