Excerpt from ATLANTIS REDEEMED
Book 5 in the Warriors of Poseidon series
Coming from Berkeley Sensation, March 2010
By Alyssa Day
Copyright Alesia Holliday and Berkeley Sensation
Rome 202 B.C.
Brennan fell against the stone wall of the tavern, his wild laughter tinged with madness. “Another round for the house!” He fumbled in his pouch for a fistful of gold coins and tossed them on the serving wench’s tray. Her dark eyes widened until he could see white all the way around her irises.
“But this is far too much,” she protested, her gaze darting furtively toward the fat innkeeper. “He will cheat you, you know,” she whispered.
He took the tray out of her hands and dropped it on a table, uncaring that the mugs and coins flew in all directions, and pulled her close in a drunken embrace. The generosity of ample breasts, overflowing the bodice of her gown, distracted him from his pursuit of ale for a moment. Her right nipple was barely covered by dingy lace, and he experimented with tightening his embrace to see if it would pop out entirely.
Sadly, his brilliant ploy didn’t work. He inhaled a deep breath of the roasted meat and ale scent of the tavern and immediately wished he hadn’t, as his head started spinning.
“So, my lovely one, is there someplace more private we might go and I will give you a chance to earn even more of that gold?” He grabbed a fistful of her lovely round arse and squeezed, grinning.
But her face wore an expression of utter confusion. “I’m sorry, I don’t know any foreign language,” she said, almost cringing as if he would beat her for her failure. She sidled away from him and scrambled for the scattered coins, slapping the hands of greedy bar patrons trying to help themselves to either coins or free mugs of ale.
Brennan blinked, momentarily bewildered, but then he realized he must have been speaking in Atlantean, which he had a tendency to fall back on in the heat of battle or the lax-brain befuddlement of extreme drunkenness.
He spoke Atlantean a lot these days.
He felt the rumble coming up from his belly and managed to considerately turn his head to avoid belching in her face. “An—Another place? Private?” he managed, this time in her native tongue instead of his.
“Oh!” Her face cleared as she understood instantly. He probably was not the first, or even the tenth, of her customers to seek out a dark and private place with the buxom wench during the past several days. The thought momentarily sent a shudder of distaste through him, but as he released her and downed the bottom half of his mug of ale any misgivings vanished in a sea of effervescent intoxication.
Catching his hand, she dragged him through the cheering crowd of revelers, all raising a toast to their benefactor. He bowed sloppily, nearly tripping over the unfamiliar sandals, but the determined woman, almost certainly more enchanted with the contents of his pouch than with himself, righted him with a steadying arm and herded him toward a doorway in the back of the tavern.
“Give her a good one, Brennan,” one of his most regular drinking buddies, a Centurion called Sergius, called. “She likes it if you squeeze her tits while you tup her.”
Brennan stumbled again, a disquieting sense of wrongness pervading his sodden mind. Why was he here? He was one of Poseidon’s finest, finally called to service in the sea god’s chosen elite, and he was rotting out his brains and his gut with second-rate women and third-rate ale.
The wench shoved the wooden door shut behind him and grabbed his cock through the heavy folds of his toga, and his doubts disappeared in a spike of lust.
“Now let’s be seeing what coin you have for a poor innocent girl,” she cooed, leering at him with pursed lips and narrowed eyes that had not seen innocent in years. Then she squeezed his cock again, harder.
He roared out a great whooping noise and grasped her melon-sized tits with both hands. “Now that’s the idea,” he said. “Why don’t you lift that skirt and let me see what you’ve got under there?”
As he bent his head to hers, the wench’s eyes widened again and then went blank, almost fish-eyed, as they glazed over and then closed. Her head fell back and her plump body went limp, oversetting his already precarious balance so they both went crashing to the filthy floor. Some remnant of courtesy stirred Brennan to flip them as they went down so he landed on the bottom of the heap, cushioning her unconscious body from the fall.
“Well. I never had exactly that effect on a woman before,” he muttered, staring around himself in befuddlement.
AND SO YOU STILL HAVE NOT, a voice thundered through the room. Brennan’s free hand automatically went to his dagger, but he found only an empty sheath.
YOU THINK TO DRAW YOUR WEAPON AGAINST ME? The voice continued, and now it sounded somewhat annoyed. Brennan’s head tried to clear, but the sheer quantity of ale he’d consumed during the day thwarted any attempt at mental acuity.
“I am a warrior of Poseidon,” he declared, but even to himself he had to admit the claim feeble, considering his present circumstances.
YOU ARE MY WARRIOR, YES, THOUGH I WOULD BE MOCKED AMONGST ALL OF THE OTHER GODS WERE THIS TRUTH TO BECOME KNOWN.
Oh, miertus. This was one tsunami of an ale-induced hallucination, if Brennan suddenly thought he was hearing the sea god himself. He struggled with the limp weight of the wench, trying to move her to one side so he could rise and at least face this . . . whatever this was . . . on his feet.
A flash of silvery blue light shot through the dark room, and suddenly the woman was gone—vanished as if she’d never been there. Brennan leapt to his feet and whirled around and around, nearly falling down again as vertigo overtook him.
“What? Where did she--"
THE WOMAN HAD NO PLACE IN OUR DISCUSSION. SHE IS NOW AT HOME IN HER BED, ALONE FOR A CHANGE, came the dry response.
“But why are you here--" Brennan belatedly realized that he was in no way showing appropriate deference to the sea god and dropped heavily to his knees. “My lord, accept my profuse apologies. Do you have need of me?”
WHAT SAD EXAMPLE OF GODHOOD WOULD HAVE NEED OF SUCH AS YOU? the voice thundered. YOU HAVE TRIED MY PATIENCE WITH YOUR CONSTANT DRUNKEN DEBAUCHERY AND EXCESS. HADES HIMSELF, RULER OF THE NINE HELLS, ASKED ME TO GIFT YOU TO HIM.
“Hades?” Brennan struggled to follow the sea god’s logic. His knees hurt from dropping on the stone floor and his head was thumping from the booming sound of Poseidon’s voice. In fact, he was feeling quite sorry for himself and not a little beleaguered by his severe misfortune. “What would Hades want with me?”
PRECISELY. A MATTER OF A SENATOR’S DAUGHTER, PERHAPS? BUT THE KNOWLEDGE THAT YOU HAVE FALLEN SO FAR, DRIVEN BY YOUR LUSTS AND EMOTIONS, THAT THE GOD OF THE UNDERWORLD WOULD DESIRE YOUR PRESENCE, SADDENS ME GREATLY.
SILENCE! BE ADVISED THAT I AM NOT A GOD TO ENDURE SADNESS. EVER. I AM AT AN END OF MY PATIENCE. NOW THAT YOUR EMOTIONS AND HUNGERS HAVE DRIVEN YOU INTO THE ABYSS, I WILL REMOVE ALL SUCH FROM YOUR LIFE FOR ALL ETERNITY.
Brennan shifted on the floor, daring to raise his head and search yet again, but the sea god had only manifested his voice. “Not to be impertinent, but when you say eternity--"
Lightning and thunder crashed through the room, the percussive force smashing Brennan, face down, into the ale-soaked stone.
DARE QUESTION ME AGAIN, AND YOU WILL SPEND ETERNITY CLEANING THAT FILTH WITH YOUR TONGUE.
Brennan nodded, not daring to say another word, as the hot slow trickle of blood from his battered head spread under the side of his face. Eternity. Silence. Understood.
I CURSE YOU THUS: FOR ALL ETERNITY, UNTIL SUCH TIME AS YOU MEET YOUR ONE TRUE MATE, YOU WILL FEEL NO EMOTION. NEITHER SADNESS NOR JOY; NEITHER RAGE NOR DELIGHT.
Thunder crashed through the room again, and Brennan belatedly wondered why none from the tavern had come back to investigate the storm taking place in their storeroom before the sea god continued.
WHEN YOU DO MEET HER, YOU WILL EXPERIENCE A RESURGENCE OF ALL OF THE EMOTIONS YOU HAVE REPRESSED OVER THE YEARS AND CENTURIES AND EVEN MILLENNIA.
Poseidon laughed, and his laughter contained the sound and fury of tidal waves that could destroy civilizations.
IF THAT ALONE IS NOT ENOUGH TO DESTROY YOU, YOU WILL ALSO BE CURSED TO FORGET YOUR MATE WHENEVER SHE IS OUT OF YOUR SIGHT. ONLY WHEN SHE IS DEAD—HER HEART STOPPED AND HER SOUL FLOWN—WILL YOUR MEMORY OF HER FULLY RETURN TO YOU, THUS ALLOWING YOU UNTIL THE END OF YOUR DAYS TO REPENT BRINGING DISHONOR UPON THE NAME OF THE WARRIORS OF POSEIDON.
Brennan, robbed of any coherent response as the enormity of Poseidon’s curse sank in, just lay on the floor, stinking of blood and ale, still too drunk to comprehend the full extent of what was happening to him. “Bit harsh, don’t you think?” he managed.
SHE TOOK HER OWN LIFE, FOOL, AND THAT OF YOUR CHILD SHE CARRIED; A CHILD THE ORACLES HAD DECREED WOULD BE OF GREAT USE TO ME.
With a final crack of thunder, the sea god disappeared with a booming admonition. REMEMBER.
The peculiar feeling of heaviness that always accompanied great power disappeared, and Brennan’s ears popped with a sizzling burst of pain as they adjusted to its absence. Warmth pooled in his ear canals and he wondered what had burst in his head and whether the healers would be able to repair what Poseidon himself had wrought, but the self-indulgent thought immediately vanished, crushed under the weight of Poseidon’s words. Corelia had taken her life?
Denial burned through the alcoholic haze in his brain. Surely not. He would have heard. Wouldn’t he?
A child? His child? Pain beyond the imagining of it ripped through him at the thought, and he clutched his roiling gut and rolled back and forth on the filthy floor. She had killed herself and taken his child with him? Because of what he, Brennan, had done? No. No.
No. It must not be true. She had known their meetings were only a bit of fun, not. . . Not . . . But a god had said it. Poseidon himself.
As the realization of truth seared through Brennan’s consciousness, he threw back his head and roared out his agony, slamming his fists on the stone, over and over. No. What had he done? What—what—
--what was happening to him? The pain was vanishing, slipping from his soul as easily as the clothing had fallen from Corelia’s body during their trysts. A bland numbness, hideous in its emptiness, settled over his senses. Suffocating him. A brief flash of terror at the alien feeling and then that, too, was gone. A vast nothingness established itself in its place.
Dragging himself up off the ground, nearly insensible to the blood running freely from so many gashes on his arms, face, and body, Brennan sent his thoughts and focus deep, deep inside of himself to discover just how far the void had burrowed into his mind and soul.
He stood there, alone, for minutes or perhaps hours, seeking for some fragment of the anguish he’d suffered for Corelia and the babe. Searching for some remnant of his terror at Poseidon’s curse.
Nothing. There was nothing. He did not feel pain, and he could not sense the terror. He felt precisely nothing, save for a vast, bleak emptiness in the wasteland of his soul where--just moments ago--his emotions had resided. He slowly picked up his dagger from where it had fallen into the filth and made his way to the door. He must return to Atlantis and face the punishment for this transgression. He neither feared nor dreaded the outcome.
Dread, then, was also an emotion. He dispassionately began a mental category of what he had lost, although he was unable to feel the loss itself. The irony was not lost on him, leaving him to believe that irony itself was merely an intellectual construct. Shoving his dagger into its sheath, he shouldered his way out of the door and through the tavern, intent on the journey to find sea water and thus the portal. The tavern fell silent as he made his way through it, and even the most foolhardy refrained from calling out to him, as if they could read his shame and dishonor on his face.
But of course they could not, since he could feel neither except as distant realities. To Atlantis, then, although the better, easier, course would be to shove his own blade through his heart now. It would be an easy death, though, and more merciful than he deserved for causing the death of an innocent and her child.
An eternity of punishment could not be long enough for what he had caused.
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