- Available in: Mobi, Epub, Print
- Published: August 28, 2017
Once a warrior, now a fugitive.
Spartan fighter Theron has done the unthinkable—he’s disobeyed orders and fled Sparta. All for his helot lover, Andreas. They can run, or they can die.
They’ve sworn oaths to Apollo; now their future lies in the god’s sacred city. The road to Delphi runs through treacherous wilderness, filled with vengeful warriors, greedy bandits, and savage creatures. Nor are the cities safe for strangers wearing the red cloaks of the Spartan military.
Once slated for execution at Theron’s hand, Andreas finds it hard to trust the man who betrayed him. Forgiving Theron grows easier for Andreas with every step they take. He isn’t ready to trust Theron with his heart again—but remembering why is getting harder and harder.
A god’s scheming places a fellow exile in their path, Theron’s shield-brother Coridan. Still reeling from his own tragedy, Coridan could be the force that tears them apart forever, or who brings them together in Apollo’s service.
Three different men, three different pasts, who must unite in a common destiny.
If they can survive.
Gray stone crags rose on either side of him, bare and dull. Ice work traceries gleamed in the morning light—beauty even in such a desolate place.
The land dropped off before them. In the hazy distance, Andreas could see a valley leading north. He wondered how long until they reached the tree-filled vale. The downward slope appeared to be even more unforgiving than the one they’d just traversed—broken rock, and farther down, sparse stunted growth. Poor footing and not much by way of shelter or food to be had. He would have to keep his eyes open for anything he could forage to supplement their dwindling supplies.
“How far to Delphi?” Andreas had no idea—not even in which direction Apollo’s temple could be found—but he’d follow Theron there. His world had always been much smaller, just the distance he could walk in half a day.
Apollo had called Theron to serve him. And when one of the Olympians knew your name, it was never wise to balk. Andreas could understand what the god wanted from Theron. But even though he’d sworn himself to Apollo, Andreas couldn’t imagine what the god would want with him.
Theron extended his hand to point northeast and quickly drew his arm back within his scarlet cloak. “We’ll go to Tegea first. Then Corinth and finally Delphi. I don’t know how long we’ll have to travel. I hope to be in Delphi before the snows reach Mount Parnassus. Either way, we need to get off this mountain.”
Glancing over his shoulder, Theron’s expression darkened.
Andreas could guess where his thoughts had gone. Despite his words, Theron was looking back. He could think one thing, but one’s heart didn’t always agree.
Behind them stretched Lacedaemonia, the land of the Spartans, along with all of Theron’s hopes and dreams. He’d given up everything for Andreas’ sake. Warmth filled Andreas’ chest at that thought.
Obscured by clouds, tree-covered foothills faded into the fertile river valleys. Far beyond his sight, the villages comprising the unwalled city of Sparta continued to train warriors, but would no longer threaten Theron. Or him.
Once he and Theron set foot on the downward slope, they left everything behind and their exile began.
They could never return. The realization they were about to do something irrevocable didn’t bother Andreas. But he knew, while Theron might willingly turn his back on Sparta and embrace their future, the first stride would be difficult for a man who had dreamt of nothing more than being a Spartan.
With a heavy sigh, Theron squared his shoulders. “Come, let’s claim our future,” he said, and set off down the hill.
How much had that initial stride cost him? More than anyone should be asked to bear alone. Andreas could support him and keep him company every step of the way.