Author: Cyrene
Story Title: The Path Not Taken
Characters: Ares & f (Nika)
Rating: NC-17
Summary: A young woman gets a lesson on the price of ignoring a god.
This rating is for explicit m/f sex.

The characters belong to Studios USA and Renaissance Pictures and were used without permission. No copyright infringement was intended and no money was made.

This story contains explicit descriptions of male/female sexual relations.

You can find more stories by Cyrene at Hercules After Dark

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The Path Not Taken
by Cyrene

Part One

Nika knelt before the small altar. She carefully kindled a small fire, then placed her simple offering upon it. As the smoke lazily curled upward into a brilliant blue sky, she humbly gave thanks to all the gods she knew, with one exception -- Ares, God of War.

Nika knew she was seventeen summers old. Her mother would place a notch on a stick each summer for each of them. She used to have an older brother (he had eight more notches than she did), but he was killed in a war. They didn't want him to leave, but he was determined to join an army that was passing through the area. When they received word that he would never return home, her parents seemed to age overnight. They managed to continue for five more summers until Nika was fifteen, but the sorrow still weighed too heavy and finally claimed them. They passed to the other side within six months of each other, leaving Nika on her own.

She lived in her family's modest one room cottage with a door and window at one end and a hearth at the other. Along the other two walls was a place to sleep and various shelves and bins for storage. A small table and four chairs stood in the center of the room. Her house was built on a hillside, just below the top, which gave some measure of protection. The top of the hill flattened out and Nika had a small field that she planted each spring. It was hard work for one person, but it yielded enough for her needs with some left to trade for the things she couldn't make herself. Beyond the field the woods started and a short distance into the woods a stream ran. Her house overlooked her neighbors below, where the land flattened out for several miles before the hills began again. A row of buildings stood in the center, which comprised the small village of Nicolosia. There was a small tavern and inn for the occasional travelers passing through to more exciting places, a blacksmith, shops, and an area used for their weekly market and meetings. Extending from the village proper to the hills, farmhouses and their fields lay in a surrounding circle. Nika's hill was along the outer boundary. A worn path wound down the hill and through the fields finally ending at the market place.

Nika added a few more sticks to the fire to ensure her offering was completely consumed. Her parents taught her to fear and honor the gods and their powers, and she did. She was very respectful and offered a daily sacrifice. They were not elaborate, most of the time a few choice bits of her evening meal. Sometimes she would find something unusual that she would offer. Since today was market day, she was making her offering in the morning instead of the end of the day as she usually did. Nika was just about to rise when she heard a deep voice behind her.

"So, you like to offend the gods." Startled, Nika twisted around on her knees. She did not hear this stranger approach. Fearfully, she quickly looked about to see if there were more. "Well," he spoke again, "how should I punish you?"

Nika's mind was whirring. Who was this man? She blurted out, "I'm sorry, I don't know who you are." She started to register the details her brain was recording. He was tall and very muscular, his low-cut leather vest revealing as much. His black leather vest, pants, and boots complimented his dark hair, mustache, goatee, and eyes. A very large sword hung by his side.

"I am Ares and it's time I punished your insolence."

Nika blanched as a cold fear sent a spasm through her. She had never considered the possible consequences of omitting Ares from her daily offering. She just couldn't bear to give thanks to the god that took her family from her. He raised an eyebrow as his eyes drilled into her. Nika felt paralyzed by fear, but she managed to stammer, "I..I.." before the thought of her lost family and the lonely time since flooded her with anger. "You killed my family!" she blurted. This merited her two raised eyebrows and a "so what" look. "I cannot give thanks to such a hateful god."

Ares chuckled, "And who do you think gives you peace? When I choose not to have a war, there must be peace. You cannot have one without the other. But, we digress from my purpose here. I am going to make an example of you so others will not be so fool hardy. Hmmm, I know! I'll have my army destroy this village. They'll take particular care of you!" He turned to look over the valley. He spread out his arms. "It will be wonderful!"

Nika found her voice as she scrambled to her feet. "Wait, please! Don't destroy Nicolosia because of me! Punish only me!" Nika was shaking with the knowledge that she would be the cause of so much death and destruction. Ares glanced in her direction. A gloating smile spread across his face.

"Ahh, even better, I will leave you untouched. You can see and hear the carnage from here and know that you are the cause!" He turned and started down the path. "They should be here within the hour."

Panic pushed Nika into motion. She ran in front of Ares and fell to her knees. "Please! Don't destroy the village! Make an example of me!"

Ares didn't even glance at her as he brushed by. Again Nika raced in front of him to resume her pleading. Once again he brushed past. The third time, desperation drove Nika to grab onto his ankle as he passed. Unfortunately, this did not even slow Ares as Nika was dragged along.

"Let go of my leg!" Ares hissed.

"Not until you hear me!" Nika pleaded. Drag. Drag.

"I'm warning you!" Drag. "If you don't let go, you'll lose your arms!" Ares stopped and looked at his new appendage.

Again Nika pleaded, "Please, I have an idea. Please hear me out."

"That does it! Now you've pushed me!" Ares growled. Nika heard him unsheathe his sword.

Part Two

Nika cringed and closed her eyes, but still hung on. She heard the whoosh and thud, but didn't feel anything. As she dared to breathe again, she realized he was speaking. She risked a peek and saw the sword planted in the ground. "Wh-what?" she shakily inquired.

"I said you have until the shadow of my sword reaches that rock to speak." His eyes bored into her. "It better be good!" he threatened. Nika found herself joyously flexing her fingers as she shakily scrambled to her feet.

"I, uh, I thought that maybe," she nervously glanced at the shadow. It seemed to be moving rather quickly. Already a quarter of the distance was covered. "If you punish only me, you could adopt the village as your own. They could build a temple for you and worship only you. In return, you would give them your protection. If you wanted, you could make the whole area a kind of neutral area, a place where soldiers could rest between battles or wars without constantly being on guard. Opposing forces would have to lay down their weapons here. If anyone broke the neutrality, then you could make an example of them. The people of the village would also prosper under your protection as they could sell supplies to the armies without fear of being destroyed! I'm sure they would agree to it." Nika sneaked a sideward glance at the sword. The shadow was well past the rock. She felt a small surge of hope. She seemed to have his attention.

"Hmmm, that's an interesting idea," Ares mused. "Very interesting. I think I like it. Yes, maybe I will spare this village after all. Yes, I'm sure they'll agree given the alternative," he smiled. Nika felt relief flooding through her until his next words. "So, how shall I make an example of you? It will have to be hideous of course, to discourage your type of behavior."

Nika felt her throat go dry. She didn't think she could speak, but managed to stammer, "I um, I don't know about these things. I thought you would know."

Ares gave her a raised eyebrow look. "What? All out of ideas?" he mocked. "Let's see. Maybe a Roman style crucifixion." Nika had never seen one, but heard a traveler speak of one. She felt her insides turn to liquid. "Naw, I don't want to spend days here. Hmmm, maybe we'll use you for javelin practice! No. No, that would be too quick. That wouldn't be much of an example." Ares turned to study her. He could see she was already frightened half to death. Good.

Nika desperately tried to pull herself together. "Just remember that whatever he plans, all my friends and neighbors will be safe," she coached herself. She drew herself up as straight as she could and forced herself to return his stare.

"I know!" He snapped his fingers and smiled. I'll have you drawn and quartered! We haven't done that to anyone in a long time. The whole village will watch as a warning, so they don't forget their agreement with me." It sounded horrible, but Nika had no idea what he was talking about. Seeing her puzzled look, Ares went on to explain. "First we gather the four best horses in the village. Using local horses will serve as a constant reminder to the people. We trail a rope behind each one. Then we fasten one of the four ropes to each wrist and ankle. I'm afraid it won't be very comfortable for you once they start pulling in opposite directions!" he smugly told her. "We can make it last for hours too! We'll have a drumbeat, and the horses will take one step for each beat. We'll do it real slow and make a day of it!" Happily he turned and started down the path again. Nike was rooted to the spot, frozen once again by her fear. Ares stopped and looked back. "Well, are you coming or should we go back to my original plan of rape and pillage?" Nika concentrated on making one foot move in front of the other.

"Yes, this puts me in a good mood!" Ares crowed. "What are you so glum about? You saved your village didn't you?" Nika couldn't find any words to reply. A little further. "So, it's a good thing it's market day. Everyone is already gathered together," Ares commented. Still no reply. Coming to a path that branched off into the woods, Ares stopped and turned. Nika almost bumped into him. "I can see you're having second thoughts." Ares stated. "I'll give you a chance to change your mind. You can take this path and leave now. I won't even make you watch the destruction."

Nika searched his face and she decided he would really let her go. Ares turned and continued down toward the village. Nika looked at the path to freedom with longing. Forcing her feet to follow Ares was the hardest thing she ever had to do, but she could not abandon her people. She was the one who caused this trouble, now she would have to pay the price.

Ares heard her steps behind him and smiled. She did have spirit, not to mention looks. She had long, dark brown hair and eyes. Her build was slight, but she was a nicely endowed young woman. He would never have noticed her if the other gods had not brought her to his attention. He heard them laughing as he entered the great hall on Olympus. Athena, Apollo, and Aphrodite were highly amused over this mortal ignoring him. When they saw him they all sauntered off in different directions trying to stifle their giggles. He peered into the basin and waved a hand to recall the image they were looking at when he entered. He saw Nika as she was finishing her offering. He watched her a few more days before deciding what to do. He smiled to himself. He was enjoying this more than he had thought he would.

They were approaching another rarely used path snaking toward the woods. "You can take any path before we reach the market place. After that, your decision is final," Ares threw over his shoulder.

Nika found herself pausing even longer at this path. She wanted to race to the woods as quickly as she could. Once again she forced her feet to follow Ares. They passed one more path causing her to fall even further behind. By the time she reached the market, Ares had the crowd hushed and waiting. Just then his army arrived, surrounding the market. He explained her offense to the group, and gave them their alternative. Lekos, an old soldier living in the village, stepped forward.

"It would be an honor to serve you again! A temple is a splendid idea."

The others looked at each other and shrugged. It sounded profitable to them, and if Ares would protect them, how could they lose? Of course it was too bad about Nika, but then she had only herself to blame. The villagers quickly agreed to Ares' terms.

"Good! Now who has the best four horses?" Ares demanded. After a brief consultation, four farmers hurried to unhitch their horses. "Since we haven't done this in a while, we should probably have a practice run," Ares declared. "Bring a straw dummy and hitch it up. I want to make sure we have the drum beat properly timed." He turned to Nika. "This will give you the chance to see what's in store before we get to you."

Nika could only dumbly nod. She was feeling light headed and feared her courage would fail her. Ares gave her a sideward glance. At a nod from him two soldiers stepped up to hold her arms. The sound of the drum vibrated into her as she grew more terrified with each beat. Nika thought she would pass out when she noticed how much Ares was enjoying his revenge. She felt her anger returning and this revived her strength. She straightened and stared at the ground determined to ignore what was happening around her. Ares again smiled to himself.

After stretching the straw man for an hour, it finally burst apart. Soldiers quickly removed the pieces and led Nika forward. If it weren't for the soldiers holding her arms, her wobbly legs would have collapsed. She felt herself starting to shake as they tightened the ropes around her wrists and ankles. Silently she prayed that she would not lose her courage and give Ares any further satisfaction. As the soldiers stepped away, Ares stepped forward to address the crowd.

"One last piece of business. If I am to have a temple here, I need a priestess. Where are the maidens so I can choose one?"

The question hung in the air as parents nervously glanced at each other. Who would want to give up their daughter? As the silence stretched uncomfortably, Lekos stepped forward once again.

"Why don't you make Nika the priestess? She caused all this trouble!"

There was a general murmur of agreement. Ares gave her a backward glance. "Well! That thought has some merit." Ares walked to Nika and looked into her eyes. "This really is your last chance. Will you serve as my priestess? You will belong to me body and soul." This was the moment her courage chose to flee and she found herself dumbly nodding yes. "Good!" Ares sounded pleased. "Now I will place my mark on you so all will know you belong to me." He suddenly had a large gold ring upon his finger. It was flat except in the center where it raised to form his symbol. He reached forward and firmly grasped her left arm just above her elbow. He pressed his ring into her upper arm near her shoulder. She felt a burning sensation and just when she thought she couldn't hold still another instant, he pulled his ring away. There on her arm was an inch long black mark in the shape of Ares' symbol. It was too late to turn back now.

Part Three

Ares gave her a smug look as he said, "Now you will serve only me!" Nika could feel her arm throbbing. It felt like a burn, but there was no damage that she could see. She suddenly felt very heavy inside. Ares addressed the crowd. "Here is your priestess. Make sure you serve me well!" Turning once again to Nika, he tauntingly said, "Well, priest-ess, build me a temple!"

Nika managed to force her words through clenched teeth. "Where-would-you-like-it?"

Giving her a cold smile, Ares stepped back to one of his soldiers and seized a javelin from him. Turning towards her, he hurled it. She fought the impulse to duck as it whistled past her, though she did shut her eyes. Feeling herself still in one piece, she turned to watch the javelin sailing over the fields. It planted itself at the edge of the woods near the base of her hill, where it burst into flames. "There," he growled, "I want it right there!" He turned to his commander. "Continue on to Telekas." Then he vanished.

The soldiers mounted up and rode away, as everyone breathed a sigh of relief. Only then did Nika allow herself to sink down, covering her face with her hands. "What am I going to do? I don't know anything about being a priestess!"

Lekos, still feeling important, told her not to worry that he would help her. "First, though, you must make a thanksgiving offering! Ares will be offended if you don't properly thank him."

Nika stared at him. "Yes, yes, of course, you're right." Nika took the hand he offered her and pulled herself up. Turning to her neighbors, she told everyone to bring something to be part of the sacrifice and meet her at the javelin at midday. Lekos had some of the men take a wagon to gather some stones to build a small altar at the site of the temple.

When everyone bustled off, Nika started her walk home berating herself the whole way. "If only I hadn't been such a coward, I might already be dead and done with this business! Instead, where am I now? A slave to the one god I hate!" Tears stung her eyes. She would allow herself to cry this one time. No more after this. She really had no one to blame but herself. Why had she said yes? And how were they ever going to build a temple? Most of the buildings in the village were simple and she didn't think Ares would be pleased with one for his temple. Her head started to ache and she realized she still hadn't eaten anything. At her cottage she prepared a simple meal, then looked for a thanksgiving offering. Her eyes settled on her age stick hanging by the fireplace. Taking it down, she thought it fitting. After all, as far as she was concerned, her life was over anyway. It was time for her to go. She closed up her cabin and started down the hill.

The villagers were gathering when she arrived. The men had built a rough altar and gathered some wood. Nika took a deep breath to steady herself, then spoke. "You may approach one at a time to place your offering on the altar. I will offer them all together since we are now bound together as Ares' people." She almost choked on the last few words, but managed to get them out. Glancing at Lekos, she saw his look of approval. So far, so good.

When all was ready, she placed her age stick on the pile and took the torch Lekos handed her. "Speak loudly so everyone can hear you," he whispered.

Nika nodded as she lit the offerings. "Great Ares, please accept this humble offering from your people. We thank you for sparing us." This was all she could manage to utter. The flames quickly consumed the gifts and everyone left to continue their day.

"Lekos, how will we build a temple? Have you ever seen a real one?"

Lekos puffed himself up. "I have seen Ares' temple in Sparta and it was magnificent! It was the size of this whole field."

Nika angrily turned to Lekos. "We would need a whole army of people to build something like that! And even if we had that many people, what would we use to build it? You better forget your grand ideas and think of something practical."

Lekos shuffled his toe in the dirt. "Well," he finally said, "I suppose we could scale back a bit. You need an offering room and Ares should have a throne in case he decides to be there. Then he should have sleeping quarters in the back if he wants to stay here. You should have a room also since your place is in the temple."

Nika bit back a retort at that last remark. They could build the room, but she would stay in her own cottage unless Ares commanded otherwise.

"How often should the village offer a sacrifice? I will offer a small, daily one, but how often do we need a big one?"

Lekos looked uncomfortable. "I'm not really sure. Maybe once a week would suffice, unless something special comes up."

Nika thought. "These people don't really have much. Maybe we could assign each family certain weeks to provide something. That way it wouldn't be such a burden."

Lekos shrugged. "Well, one thing is for sure. If Ares is displeased, you'll know soon enough!" Then he too turned and left.

Nika faced the altar to make sure the fire was out. She didn't want any stray sparks flying into the brush. All of the sacrifices were consumed -- except for her age stick, which still lay among the ashes. She picked it up, then turned angrily up the hill. "If he doesn't like my offering, then too bad!" she thought. She could have sworn she heard the echo of a chuckle.

Part Four

The following day, Nika showed the villagers the rough floor plan for the temple. She had outlined it on the back of her wooden plate with a piece of charcoal. "Who ever has a wagon will have to take a group to gather stones in the hills. I can stay here with the others to start clearing the area." Nika tried to sound more knowledgeable than she felt.

One of the farmers spoke up. "Nika, we can't spend all our days building this temple. When will we tend the crops? If we don't, we'll all starve!"

She knew he was right. "What if we take a few hours each morning, then spend the rest of the day in the fields? It will be hard for a while, but hopefully we'll be done before next spring."

There was some dissension, but nobody could think of a better plan. Over the next few months, progress was slow. Between broken wagon wheels and more rain and mud than usual, Nika felt close to despair. That night as she offered her sacrifice, she swallowed her pride and asked for help. "Ares, please hear me. I fear we will never finish your temple. We don't have enough people and the weather is not cooperating. I don't know what to do anymore." She waited a few minutes, but didn't see anything she could take for a sign.

The next day was bright with sunshine when the villagers finished hauling stones and returned to their fields. Nika sat on a stone and surveyed the scene with despair. The outline was complete, but the walls were only about a foot high in some parts. She needed to tend to her own field, but she was just too tired to move. Nika felt them before she heard them. She twisted around to see three riders drawing near. They were leading a beautiful black stallion. She could see they were soldiers by their dress and weapons. She stood as the leader dismounted and approached her.

"I am Tomaros, commander of the army of Patria. Where is the temple of Ares?" he demanded.

Her mind raced. How could they know about the temple? "Uh, you're standing in it."

He gave her a dark look. "Don't waste my time. That old fool of a oracle said he dreamed I must bring this stallion to the temple of Ares for an offering."

Nika was just staring at him. She couldn't believe what she was hearing. "This is, or rather will be, Ares' temple when it's finished. I am his priestess." She showed him the mark on her arm.

He looked at her strangely, then handed her the reins of the stallion. "Well, I want you to sacrifice this stallion for me."

Nika looked at the animal. He was magnificent. "No," she replied as she thoughtfully stroked his nose, "this stallion is too beautiful to be destroyed. I will keep him here until Ares comes. He may want to keep him."

One of the other soldiers approached Tomaros and whispered something to him. Tomaros grunted and said, "Bring him." The two soldiers mounted up and rode away.

Seeing Nika's perplexed expression, Tomaros offered an explanation. "I told them to bring Articus here. He's my oracle. He's been having strange dreams, but he was so insistent this time I thought I should listen to him." Again Tomaros gave her a strange look. "He also spoke of the black mark of Ares."

Nika started at that. "What do you mean and why do you look at me so strangely?" she queried. "What is so strange about Ares' mark? Don't all his priestesses wear his mark?" She was beginning to feel uneasy.

"Yes, they wear his mark, but it is usually just a slightly raised area that is still skin colored. I have never seen a black mark before."

Nika blushed as she realized that Ares had marked her differently as a punishment for defying him. She was feeling very unsure of herself.

"I am going to eat my midday meal. Would you care to join me?" Tomaros asked.

Nika was suddenly apologizing, "I'm so sorry. I should have offered you some refreshment. Please, my cottage is just up the hill. You can eat and rest until your men return."

A group of soldiers arrived just before nightfall and proceeded to set up camp near the temple. Tomaros summoned Nika to his tent. "Articus says Ares wants us to divert from Telekas to complete his temple. He wants it finished by spring. I reviewed the plans you showed me and made a few modifications."

She saw that the temple now had an outer room where offerings could be left. This room led into the throne and altar room. Ares' quarters were also a bit more elaborate. Opening off the back, close to where the stream flowed down the hill, was a bathhouse. Off to the side of the temple were some guest quarters. "Will you be able to build all this?" Nika asked wide-eyed. Tomaros just looked at her.

"We have built many fortifications and bridges. With the villagers helping under my direction, we will be finished by spring."

Nika was overcome with relief. "Once the harvest is in, they can devote all their time to the temple."

Within a week Tomaros' army was camped on a field near the temple and construction was in full swing. The villagers were heartened by the help and expert direction. By working through the winter, the temple quickly rose up. It was a beautiful day in early spring and they were building the roof. Nika was standing by Tomaros hearing an update from one of his captains, when they heard his voice.

"Nice temple."

Nika spun around to see Ares giving her a "you owe me" look. Nika blushed and looked down.

Tomaros spoke, "I hope this meets with your approval. We should be finished by the end of the month."

Ares nodded, "Yes, that will do." Turning to Nika he said, "I believe you have a horse that belongs to me."

"Oh, yes. Yes, he's on the upper field. I made a shelter for him and tried to make a fence, but he keeps jumping over it. He wanders around the fields and hills, but always comes back, so I gave up trying to pen him. I've been riding him a bit, I hope that's all right." She was suddenly very self-conscious.

"I want to see him," Ares demanded.

"Of course! At once!" Nika put two fingers to her lips and emitted a piercing whistle. She was soon answered by the sound of hooves as the stallion came into sight. He trotted up to Nika and she shyly led him to Ares. "I hope I did the right thing keeping him here for you." She was afraid to meet his eyes.

Ares made a show of looking the stallion over then said, "Yes. I'm pleased you kept him." Nika breathe a sigh of relief. She hadn't realized she was holding her breath.

"You said you've been riding him. Show me what he can do."

Nika pulled herself onto the stallion's back. Holding onto his mane, she gave a kick. She galloped halfway to the market then turned to come back jumping some rows of bushes.

"I think I will enjoy riding that," Ares chuckled.

"He is a beautiful stallion," Tomaros agreed.

"Hmm, oh, yes, the horse is nice too." This time Ares laughed.

Tomaros gave him a side-glance, mumbled something about looking at the roof, then left.

Nika rode up and slid down. She looked flushed with pleasure. "What do you wish to call him? I didn't know what would be appropriate."

Ares thought a moment, then smiled. "I think I will name him Insolence."

Nika felt her cheeks burn. "Uh, will you be taking him with you?"

"No. I want you to keep him here for me until I decide what to do with him. Be sure you exercise him."

Nika nodded, "Of course." She stroked the animal's nose.

"Make sure he learns his name."

Nika heard the amusement in his voice and could feel her cheeks burning again. "As you wish." She refused to look at him.

"Call me when the temple is done. I will receive your offerings in person." Then he was gone.

Part Five

The villagers and soldiers gathered for the first offering in the completed temple. Lekos and Tomaros had coached her for the day. After the offerings there would be a celebration with feasting and dancing.

Nika woke early that morning and went to the stream to bathe. She then dressed in a new white gown that Lekos insisted she get. Tomaros agreed with him, so she went along. It was quite simple, just a floor-length, sleeveless gown with shoulder straps. She had a gold colored rope to tie around her waist. She had a matching gold ribbon to braid in her hair. When she was ready, she once again took her age stick from the fireplace. It was time to add her eighteenth notch. Once again she thought of her family. She still missed them, but she no longer felt that intense anger well up in her. Ares had kept his word, and the village was prospering. More merchants had moved here and more travelers were passing through. He had even intervened when a pack of wolves started to ravage the outlying farms. Most important, they were at peace. Nika carved a notch into the stick and holding it by the leather thong took it with her.

Nika stood in front of the throne. "Great Ares, please come to your people so they may worship you in person! Please come and accept our offerings." Suddenly, she was staring into his eyes.

"Very nicely done!" he whispered conspiratorially. He turned, stepped to the throne, and sat facing the gathering. He arched his eyebrows and looked at Nika. "Well?" they seemed to ask.

Nika found her voice. "The people have brought offerings of thanksgiving. I thought you might like to hang some in the temple."

She turned and nodded to Lekos. He proudly stepped forward. "I offer you my shield. The one I carried in so many battles for your glory!"

Ares nodded to Nika and indicates the wall to his right with his eyes. She took it and handed it to one of the soldiers to place by the wall.

Next Tomaros came forward. "I offer this sword, the one I took from King Thellas, when you granted me victory over him."

Ares indicated the wall to the left. It continued in this manner, some offerings were kept for display, others were placed on the altar to be burned. When everyone made their offering, Ares looked at Nika. He was looking slightly amused, trying to tame a smile that was threatening. "And what do you bring me, Nika?"

Nika stepped forward slipping the thong from her wrist. She knelt at the foot of his throne and stretched her hands forward, the age stick resting on them. Boldly she stared into his eyes. This time Ares could not suppress a chuckle.

"It seems I've seen this before."

Nika's stare did not waver. "Will you accept my offering?"

Part Six

Ares tried to match her solemn look. Finally he reached forward and took the stick. Nika looked relieved. He studied it a moment, then looking at her, he slipped the loop over the armrest. "This will stay here -- by my side." He cocked one eyebrow.

Nika felt flustered, but managed to stammer, "Thank you, Great Ares."

Ares stood. "Now I have business in Telekas." With that he vanished.

Nika stood and looked toward Lekos and Tomaros. They were looking pleased, so she started to relax. "Now, let the celebration begin!"

The feasting was still going strong when Nika slipped away to her cottage. It was only late afternoon, but already she felt tired. She hadn't realized how tense she had been until Ares took her offering. Only then did she start to relax a little. The feast was nice, but she hadn't really felt a part of it. She felt like she had to be formal. After all, she was the priestess and this was a temple feast. Now she just wanted to be alone. As she passed the small altar outside her cottage, she paused. She felt she owed him a thank you. Retrieving an ember from her fireplace, she quickly kindled a small fire on the altar. She knelt and unbraiding the gold ribbon from her hair, she laid it in the fire. "Great Ares, thank you for accepting my offering earlier. I know you're busy in Telekas, but I just wanted to, …I mean, I just wanted to say thank you for keeping your word and," she struggled for words. "-- Oh, and for sparing my life!" she blurted out.

By the time she finished, it was starting to get dark. She went into her cottage and built up the fire for the night. As she added a final piece of wood, his voice made her jump.

"You're welcome."

Nika turned to face him. He was staring at her intently and she began to feel flustered. She took a few steps towards him. "I am honored by your visit. Is there something you want me to do?"

"It is time I made you completely mine."

"What do you mean? I already belong to you." She was confused.

"Tonight I will lay with you."

Nika gasped and took a step backwards, her mind reeling. A cold fear clutched at her.

Ares looked angry. "You're refusing me?" he asked incredulously.

Nika forced herself to step forward again. "No! No. I mean… I mean I know I belong to you. I will do as you say." She hugged herself protectively.

Ares narrowed his eyes. She looked positively terrified. He softened. He stepped up to her and gently stroked her cheek with the backs of his fingers. "Why are you so afraid?" he softly queried.

Nika looked miserable. "Well, it's just… I mean I've never…"

"Of course you haven't!" Ares chuckled. "If you had, I wouldn't have chosen you for my priestess."

She still looked very nervous.

"There's something else you're not telling me," he stated. He tilted her chin up so she was staring into his deep brown eyes.

"It's just that when my friends married, they… well, they all said how much it hurt." Nika just wanted the earth to swallow her.

This time Ares laughed. "They never laid with me! I promise you. The pleasure will far out-weigh any pain." He was still chuckling.

Nika felt a little more at ease now that he knew her fear, but she still felt uncertain. "I, um, I'm not sure what to do."

"Oh, don't worry! I'm going to teach you everything you need to know."

Part Seven

Ares gently took her face in his hands and slowly kissed her. His soft lips lightly pressed hers. Her felt her initially stiffen, but she slowly relaxed. He lazily traced the outline of her lips with his tongue. He held her head with his right hand while his left hand slid down her neck and back to her waist and gently pulled her to him.

Nika was being overcome by sensations she never thought she would experience. His lips felt soft and he tasted delicious. Without thinking, she put her hands on his arms to hold onto him. She could feel his warmth and the hardness of his muscles. The warm length of his body pressing hers made her feel she was melting into him. She felt his fingers on her shoulders, and suddenly her dress was on the floor. She felt a small rush of fear, but he quickly gathered her against him again.

Ares trailed light kisses across her cheek down to her neck where he gently nuzzled her. This delightful tickling sent small shivers through her. Meanwhile, his hands were rubbing their way down her back to her buttocks, which he alternately squeezed and stroked.

Nike was being overwhelmed by these delicious sensations. She couldn't seem to get her body close enough to his. She had her arms around his neck trying to pull him even closer.

Ares chuckled into her neck, "I love an eager pupil!"

Suddenly he was also naked, and Nika felt his hardness against her. She experienced a brief thrill of fear, but his roaming hands quickly overcame it. His hands cupped her buttocks, then his fingers started to probe into the crevice formed by the back of her legs. She moaned and could only hang on.

He lifted her and carried her to the bed where he gently placed her. Ares took a moment to admire the sight. Her hair fanned out around her slightly flushed face. Her ample breasts were rising and falling with the little panting breaths she was taking. Her smooth stomach and slight hips bordered her sweet mound of womanhood. Her shapely legs completed a very appetizing picture.

Nika also took the moment to look at him. There was a breathless beauty about him. Dark waves of hair framing a handsome face, that beard and mustache that could tickle so delightfully, and those deep pools of brown eyes that could drown her. His arms and chest looked as hard as marble, but she now knew the warmth they held. Fascinated and fearful, she followed his body down, taking in the flat abdomen and his proud manhood straining forward.

"Tonight it's all yours," he murmured to her as he lay down beside her. He leaned over her to hungrily devour her mouth, gentleness gone. This time his kiss was more demanding, his left hand now cupping her breast and playing with her nipple.

Nika felt a shock of sensation travel from her nipple down to that secret place between her legs. She felt she would die of need, but she wasn't sure what she needed. Her body seemed to move of its own accord and she was just along for the ride. Her left hand had its fingers curled in his hair while her right was stroking his back.

Ares left her lips and licked a trail over her chin and down the middle of her neck veering off in the direction of her hapless nipple. He licked her nipple oh so lightly forcing a moan from Nika. She clung to his hair with both hands trying to force his mouth closer, but he wasn't done teasing. She tried to arch upward into his mouth, but he held her shoulders down, and the weight of his leg draped across hers effectively pinned her to the bed. He continued to tease her nipple with tiny licks, then turned his attention to the other one. Again he just lightly teased until Nika begged him to come closer. He finally took her nipple into his mouth and suckled it.

Nika could only moan with pleasure. She was vaguely aware of a growing wetness between her legs. She wanted to open them and finally Ares shifted his leg to let her. She felt his left hand slowly sliding across her abdomen toward her mound only to veer off down her thigh. She groaned with frustration.

"Patience, the night is young!" she heard him chuckle.

His hand stroked down the front of her left thigh to her knee then he trailed his fingertips back up along the inside of her thigh. He could feel her hold her breath as he got closer, only to be expelled with a groan when he skipped his hand to the front of her right thigh to mirror his teasing. On the next pass he allowed his fingertips to dip into her curls and trace her crevice from the bottom to the top. Nika was moaning and thrusting her hips. Area smiled to himself. She certainly seemed to be over her fear! He moved down to kneel between her legs and grasping her knees, gently bent them and spread her legs all the way. He felt his own heat rising, and if it weren't her first time, would have plunged in. He wanted to hear her begging him again. He leaned forward and dipped his tongue into her crevice. Using only the very tip of his tongue, he licked the length of her slit, just grazing her clitoris.

Nika jumped as the jolt of unbelievable pleasure hit her. She couldn't believe how good she felt. She couldn't stop moaning and didn't care if the whole village could hear her! She grasped his head and tried to force his face closer, but he wouldn't let her. His hands holding her thighs open were again pinning her to the bed. She never wanted this pleasure to end, but at the same time couldn't stand it anymore. She heard herself begging him to please come closer as every lick sent sparks shooting through her. Finally he showed mercy and moved closer lapping harder and faster. Nika felt her breath coming in gasps and as the ultimate pleasure closed in, she felt her hips frantically bucking and she was calling his name.

She was barely catching her breath when he climbed up on her and with one plunge, he broke through. Nika felt a stabbing sensation and a brief burst of pain through the aftershocks of pleasure still racking her body. Then he was kissing her, plunging his tongue into her mouth, taking full possession of her. She wrapped her arms around his neck and held on. She felt his hardness sliding almost all the way out before plunging in again. The sensation was strange, but the friction he was causing was pleasurable. Then he shifted his weight slightly and she felt his fingers once again in her crevice, rubbing her pleasure spot.

Ares had started slowly wanting to give her a chance to adjust, but the heat and tightness of her were quickly bringing him to the edge. His fingers found her clit and soon he had her moaning and bucking again. When he felt her plunging into her own pleasure, he let himself go and he also groaned with pleasure as he shot his seed deep within her.

Once Nika peaked, she heard Ares groan of pleasure and felt him stiffen. What a sweet sound! She felt a rush of satisfaction knowing that she had given such pleasure to the God of War. He was leaning on his elbows, looking down at her.

"Well? Are you still frightened?" A smile played around his lips and eyes.

"I'm not sure. We better try again to be certain." This time Nika was stifling a giggle at the look on his face.

"So, you like to play. That's good because I have many games to teach you!"

Part Eight

Nika awoke to a tickling sensation on her nipple. It was still dark and for a moment she was disoriented. The she remembered who the tickler was! Ares was again suckling her breast. When he felt her awake, he paused.

"I wondered if I tired you so much that you would sleep through this time," he mocked.

"Not a chance!" Nika retorted. "There is no way I'm going to miss this!"

"Well, I'm glad you're awake because it's your turn to use your tongue." He lay back smugly.

Nika felt a brief flicker of panic. What was she supposed to do? But Ares had his hands on her head gently guiding her lower. "Just do what I did to you," he coached.

His shaft was already stiffening in anticipation. "Go ahead and touch me," he urged. "Look and touch and taste!"

Kneeling at his side, she gingerly reached out and grasped him. She was afraid of making a mistake, but he showed her how to stroke him and how much pressure to use. When she saw how much he was enjoying her ministrations, she tentatively stretched her tongue toward the tip of his penis and tried a small lick. She was rewarded with a groan of pleasure, which in turn emboldened her. She tried to imitate his teasing by slowly and lightly flicking the tip of her tongue across the tip of his shaft. Now he was trying to force her head closer! She slipped from under his hands and crawled between his legs. From this angle, he was pointing away, so she turned her attention to his testicles. She gently cupped them in her hand and felt him stiffen. Then she slowly started licking them. By the time she licked them all over, he was writhing and moaning, which only fueled her excitement. She then started at the base of his shaft and licked her way up. When she reached the tip, it was oozing. She lapped at it enjoying the taste of him.

Ares couldn't stand any more of this. Talk about a fast learner! When she started licking the tip of his rod, he groaned, "Suck on it! I want to come in your mouth."

Nika slowly sucked the tip into her mouth when Ares reached down to hold her head. He couldn't help pumping while she sucked and was soon spurting his seed again. Nika felt him tighten as the warm liquid went down her throat. She did it! She had him groaning with pleasure twice that night. She felt a deep sense of satisfaction, but Ares was grasping her arms and pulling her up to cover him.

"Now who's teaching whom?' he teased.

Nika blushed. "I never thought it would be like this! I never thought I would feel such pleasure!"

"Well get ready for some more because now it's my turn!"

He pulled her up until she was straddling his face. His tongue soon had her writhing and she surely would have fallen if he wasn't holding her hips in place. Once again he traced her slit with the tip of his tongue. Next he spread her lips with his tongue to reach her clit. This time he gently suckled it just short of climax, then he backed off to nibble somewhere else. His tongue gently teased and probed her opening, sometimes sliding in and out as his shaft had. Then he licked back up to her clitoris and suckled again, each time backing off just short of release. Just when she thought she would go insane from desire, he laid her on her back and entered her. This time it was not the gentle sliding in and out as before. Both of them wanted that furious pumping. Nika wrapped her arms and legs around him to hold on. Then that wonderful friction was sending her over the brink. She felt her heart pounding out of her and she didn't think she would ever stop bucking. Once again she felt his warm liquid spraying inside her. She was so exhausted from pleasure she barely remembered falling asleep in his arms, her head on his chest.

Part Nine

Nika awoke with sunlight streaming through the shutter. He was gone. Nika felt a sudden rush of loss, but she smiled when she remembered the pleasures of the night. She felt so languid; she knew she better bathe if she hoped to ever fully wake up. She started towards the stream when she remembered the new bathhouse in the temple. Of course! A hot bath was better than a cold stream any day.

The temple was cool and dark and quiet. There were a few small offerings in the outer room. She passed through the throne room to the back. The entrance to Ares' quarters was to the left. Her room opened off to the right. The entrance to the bath was straight ahead. Nika dropped her clothes by the door and approached the in-ground bath.

"It's about time you got here! Come and wash my back!" he commanded.

"I thought you were gone!"

"I think I have time for another lesson. That is, if you're not too tired," he mocked.

Nika slid into the water behind him and soaped his back. "Is there anything else that needs washing?" Not waiting for a reply, Nika slipped her arms around him and soaped his chest. Slowly she washed lower and lower… then skipped back to his shoulders. Ares shot her a pointed glance as she slid around to wash his arms. "What?" she gave him her most innocent look. Taking his right hand, she rested it on her breast then busily soaped his arm. She repeated this process with his left arm. She trailed her soapy hands down his sides to his hips. She felt him stiffen slightly, then suffered another pointed look as she continued down his legs to his feet. She made a point of ignoring him, pretending to be absorbed with her task.

Ares put his hands behind his head and leaned back. He slid down a little so she could rest his foot on her lap as she studiously scrubbed his left leg. He studied her through almost closed eyes. She did like to play, this one. She was nearing the top of his thigh. He tensed slightly, but knew full well she wasn't going to touch him yet. He gave a slight jump of surprise when she allowed her fingers to brush against his hard shaft.

"Oh! Have I hurt you?" Her face was full of concern, but she couldn't hide the laughter in her eyes as she said, "I'll have to make sure I don't touch there anymore!"

Ares settled down to plot his revenge, enjoying the sensations coursing up his leg. She was meticulously cleaning his right foot, pausing to study it now and then while she stole peeks at him. He closed his eyes and pretended to ignore her. His eyes flew open as the sudden jolt of pleasure shot up his leg causing him to harden even more. He focused on her eyes laughing at him as she suckled his toe. Finishing with that one, she moved to the next. By the time she reached the little one he was squirming.

"Enough!" He reached forward and grabbing her arms pulled her to him.

Nika put on her most contrite look and said, "I'm almost finished." She soaped her hands again and slid them up his legs to his -- buttocks! He leaned back slightly so she could play with his cheeks. When she was done, she asked, "Have I missed anything?" He gave her such a smoldering look that she knew playtime was over. Soaping her hands once more she reached down and grasped his throbbing member. She stroked him slowly, drawing out his pleasure.

Ares leaned back again enjoying her attentions. He wouldn't mind doing this all day! She was starting to pick up the tempo, and he wouldn't last much longer at this rate. He reached forward and grabbed her hand slowing her stroke. He was enjoying this too much and wanted it to last. When he knew he wouldn't be able to hold back much longer, he pulled himself onto the edge of the tub and drew her between his legs.

"You did so well on my toes, now you can do this!" He leaned back on his hands and watched her take him into her mouth. That felt so good. She took as much as she could into her mouth, then pulled her head back letting her lips slid up his shaft until only the tip was still in her mouth. Ares groaned with pleasure. "That is sooo nice!" he purred.

Nika watched his face as she sucked him. She had her arms resting on his thighs and could feel him tense each time she neared the tip of his rod. She was enjoying this and was also growing hotter by the minute. Suddenly he was grabbing her head and pulling her face closer as he squirted down her throat.

Ares slid back into the water next to her and gathering her into his arms, kissed her. "That -- was exquisite!" he declared. "But," he added apologetically, "Now it's payback time!"

Nika felt a delicious mix of dread and anticipation. She looked forward to whatever he had in store, but at the same time knew he would have her begging for release. Ares pulled her onto his lap and soaped her back. Then wrapping his arms around her, he soaped her breasts. He took his time alternately rubbing and pinching her nipples. Nike started squirming in his lap, and let some moans escape as the shocks of pleasure shot to her core.

"Oh, am I hurting you?" he drawled in her ear. "Then I better move on."

Nika groaned with frustration when he slid her off his lap and moved to face her. Ares smiled to himself. Two could play this game! "Now for your legs!" he declared. He grasped her around the waist and sat her on the edge of the tub. Eagerly she opened her legs, but he only grasped her right foot and started soaping. He took his time sliding his fingers ever-upward stopping occasionally to scrub an imaginary spot. Just as he reached her mound, he dropped her leg and moved to her other foot. Nika tossed her head back in frustration. "You know," he was saying, "you really need to be careful about what you start!"

Nika felt his fingers creeping up her left leg, playing the same game he played on her right leg. She felt she would explode. Just as he reached the top, he grasped her waist and pulled her back into the water.

"Now. Did I miss anything?" He searched her face. "Oh, I know! I forgot your -- neck!" He proceeded to wash her neck.

Nika knew she deserved it, but didn't think she could stand it any longer. Taking hold of his face, she leaned forward to kiss him. "Please?" she begged. "Please? I want you to touch me here." She guided his fingers downward placing them on her mound. She felt his fingers rubbing her. She closed her eyes and leaned into him. She could feel the trembling start, then -- he stopped. Arrrrgg! He was trying to drive her crazy! She opened her eyes in frustration and saw the smoldering look in his eyes.

"Turn over," he instructed, his voice husky. He placed her hands on the edge of the tub and had her kneel on the built-in seat. He positioned himself behind her and she felt his shaft enter. He wrapped his strong arms around her waist and slid his fingers along her slit while the other hand played with her breasts. Between his busy fingers and his exquisite manhood pumping in and out, Nika was soon bucking out of control. She heard him groan behind her and knew that he too reached his pleasure. He leaned on her back a moment to catch his breath, then he sank back into the water pulling her with him.

Part Ten

When they were dressed, he pulled her to him for one more kiss. "I have to leave now. Take care of my temple for me until I return."

Nika didn't want to let go. When would she see him again? He had awakened her passion, but she was forbidden from having anyone else. Maybe this was her real punishment. Nika looked at him with tears in her eyes. "Will you be back?" she pleaded.

"Oh, course! You still have many lessons to learn!" Then he was gone.

Nika smiled. She would have to become a slow learner then! She walked outside to gather the offerings.

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