This story takes place on the eve of advancement before the Greek-Roman battle of Heraclea in 280 BC. The main characters are Macedonian and part of the allied army of Macedonia who advance with King Pyrrhus of Epirus. I tried to be largely realistic pertaining to the sexual conventions of the time, which makes it a little less typical than most erotic fiction.
Blurb: On the eve of the Greek-Roman battle of Heraclea, General Karanos of the allied Macedonian army enjoys the hospitality of his old friend and once-lover Nikanor. Nostalgic for old dalliances, he quickly learns Nikanor has a new dalliance of his own: a beautiful, fierce young man named Amyntas. However, old passions are not so easily quelled--nor are new ones.
Time passed and Karanos sunk deeper into the cushions of the couch, his limbs heavy with wine. The dancers sat upon the men’s laps and laughed, their voices tinkling with the music. A few tried to draw Nikanor’s attention but he waved them off. When Zeuxis finally rose and went to another couch Nikanor sprawled out, one foot on the cushions and the other on the stone floor. He wore a simple unadorned chiton without a cloak, no special dress for his farewell celebration. His feet were bare. Karanos felt a fondness deep inside him and smiled. Nikanor’s lack of convention made him ironically more appealing, to everyone. Nikanor stared at the ceiling, head reclined on the arm of the couch, his hands folded and resting upon his stomach.
One of the dancing girls came by, swaying her hips, and stopped beside Nikanor’s couch. She reached down and put a finger to his chest and Karanos heard her speaking lowly. Nikanor drew her down by the arm and whispered something in her ear.
Thetima spoke. “Women love my son, but he does not suffer them well.”
Karanos glanced at her, and then back at Nikanor. The girl suddenly stood upright, frowning petulantly, and moved away from him. Clearly, whatever Nikanor had said did not please her. Nikanor stared up at the ceiling again.
“He has no time for such pursuits,” Thetima said, never looking up. “Love for a woman is weakness. Do you love your wife, General Karanos?”
Karanos blinked, his cup hovering near his lips again. “I do. She has borne my son.”
“And does your wife understand your life? Your life of war and killing?”
“Of course not. But I do not ask her to. I would rather she not realize the truth of such things.”
“So I think Nikanor feels, that any wife he took would suffer.” Thetima gave a soft sigh. “He could not bear to expose her to it and yet he could not keep it from her. For it is who he is.”
Karanos thought on that. “I understand. But it is lonely without a wife. Even if they do not understand, at least they are there.”
“Is she here?” Thetima paused in her threading. She held a shell up to the light and examined it. “Is your wife here to ease the loneliness?”
Karanos did not speak.
“Of course she isn’t.” Thetima rested the shell on the cloth again. “She is not here because you would not expose her to it. And so you are lonely, when you sought not to be. This is the problem Nikanor knows full well. He could only ease his loneliness with one who understands his life. So it is with many men of Macedon. You lay with each other to share wisdom, but it is not only that. ”
Karanos was surprised to hear her speak so.
“Do not look so startled.” She glanced up at him, her eyes as calm as a windless sea. “Long have I been in the midst of men. Long have I heard tales and jests when they thought it did not matter if I heard, for I was only a woman. I do not fault you for it. You must take your peace where it is offered. I know of men and their ways.” She drew a small pouch from her side and from it, dumped a pile of glittering glass beads. “Loneliness must east itself where it may.”
Karanos wished for more wine in his cup.
“You desire my son,” she said.
It was bold of her to speak of such a thing and he had to restrain himself from chastising her, for she was not his mother and it was not his place. Nikanor sat up suddenly on his couch, placing both feet on the floor, and leaned down to retrieve his cup near the leg of the couch.
“I know men your age do not desire one so old as my son.” Thetima began stringing the beads with the shells. “I know this desire only arises from a need for understanding and companionship. But you have a past with him, one that you do not speak of.”
“Why do you say this!” Karanos was finally unable to withhold his outrage. “Do you seek to shame me?”
“No, my intention is not shame. It is a warning.”
Karanos frowned, studying her profile. “A warning?”
Suddenly, a draft passed through the hall. It made the lamps flicker and the fire burn brighter for an instant. Karanos felt a warm tingling on his arms and wondered how much wine he’d truly drank.
“How long has it been since you last saw Nikanor?” Thetima asked. “Five years? Six?”
“Things have changed a bit since then.” She glanced up.
Karanos turned to see where she was looking and his gaze fell upon the doors. They had just opened, accounting for the draft. A young man entered the hall. He wore a deep blue chiton that fell to mid-thigh, pinned twice at the shoulders so they peeked through the resulting gaps, narrow and golden. His legs were long and lean, bronze as the rest of his skin, the laces of his sandals lashed to the knee. He wore his hair long like Nikanor’s, though it was darker and straighter. Around his neck hung a shelled necklace similar to the one Thetima wove. He was Amyntas, son of Timandros, and Karanos had known him as a boy. Thetima cared for him after his parents were stricken down by typhus and in letters to Karanos, she often spoke of his growth. He was going with them to see his first battle.
“Amyntas!” Karanos lifted his cup, though it was empty, to the youth in greeting. Amyntas nodded in return. The firelight on his skin and in his eyes made him glow like a bronze-cast sculpture.
“So potent he is,” Thetima murmured. “Do you not feel it?”
“What do you mean?” Karanos asked softly.
“He is young, and full of power. He is also as the lion that adamantly guards its territory. Beware, Karanos. Study well before you assume old dalliances. He was but a child when last you saw him. He is a child no more.”
The other men greeted Amyntas, and he them. Nikanor made no sound or move. He remained lounged on the couch, tugging idly at a lock of hair. Amyntas came near him and stopped. Karanos gazed upon Amyntas and wondered at Thetima’s words.
Clear they became when Amyntas fell elegantly upon the couch and draped his long, sleek legs decisively across Nikanor’s lap. He held his hand out for a cup from one of the serving girls. His eyes fell on Karanos, and though his smile was friendly, his gaze was fierce.
As fierce as a lion’s.