The Trials of Hercules

The Trials of Hercules by Tammie Painter Read Free Book Online

Book: The Trials of Hercules by Tammie Painter Read Free Book Online
Authors: Tammie Painter
Tags: Fiction, General, Fantasy
depose me and put Herc in my place, I had wanted to order them to hurl Herc into the deepest pit they could find. Unfortunately, unless he directly committed a treasonous act against me, there was no way to do away with my cousin without my hands being dirtied by a blood crime or without turning my cousin into a rallying point for the people. 
    Still, all this is terrible timing. Don’t get me wrong, I do hate my cousin, I do wish he never existed, but before this gossip of rebellion, I had been thinking I could make use of him. After all, if I can’t wish him away, he might as well serve some purpose.
    Adneta’s wants have grown to impossible standards in recent months. For her last gift, she’d wanted one of the Herenes’ birds—the sacred peacocks of Hera—dipped in gold and brought to her. My wife wasn’t happy when I had Baruch bring home a peacock from the marketplace and cover it in a dusting of the gold powder he uses to add warmth to my pallid skin. No, not happy indeed. She withheld her pleasures from me for three weeks, until I finally caved in and did the deed. The head priestess of the Herenes raged for days over the matter, but I was too satisfied by my beloved’s passionate enthusiasm to care.
    She wants. I want. It’s a fair exchange and I would obtain anything to make her happy if only I could. One day a few weeks previous as I lingered in the immense tub of my private bathhouse, I had mused that if only I were a bit more daring, a bit more like my brawny cousin I could get her more. Despite my paunch, I still retain the trim, leanly muscled figure of my youth, but once my grandfather died and my mother took the regency she had insisted I stop childish sports like wrestling and any activity she considered dangerous. Instead, she insisted I study dance. The exercise toned me, gave me the skill to move gracefully, and taught me how to carry myself as a Solon should, but did nothing to endow me with the muscular power of my cousins. My father bristled at her turning his only son into the “prancing Solon of Portaceae,” but my mother’s word had always been law and hers remained the ruling voice in all of Portaceae until I came of age.
    By the time I was an adult, I had lost all interest in sports and now bed games with Adneta, a few autumnal hunts in Forested Park, and stair climbing at Hera’s behest are my only regular athletic endeavors.
    My cousin on the other hand seems always to be training, always ready for action, always working his body. There had to be some use for that. And I was just the man to discover it. I could send Herc on errands, telling him they were to benefit his treasured polis and he would have done them without question thanks to his unfathomable sense of duty. With the objects he could have obtained for me, Adneta’s gratitude would have been so passionate, so constant we would have had to replace our bed every moon’s turn.
    The carriage lurches over a rut in the road and my shoulder rams into the vehicle’s wall. I curse at Baruch, insult the workers who are to maintain Portaceae City’s streets, then slump down in my bench seat rubbing my shoulder as irritation nibbles into me. Damn Herc Dion. He just never seems to play the part I want.
    My stupid cousin has used his brawny gifts against his children ruining my hopes of using him to boost the frequency of my bedchamber enjoyment. To tell the truth, I still can’t believe it. Those children were his world, especially after Meg’s death. Seeing him in the agora playing with them, laughing at their childish observations made him seem a tad more human. Still, if the hag had seen him do it and our cousin who idolizes him confirmed it, there’s little room left for doubt.
    The bastard.
    Ah well, certainly I’m clever enough to come up with another plan, a more reliable plan, one that requires less contact with Portaceae’s supposed hero. I pick up my crown, pluck the final true gem from its setting, and drop the

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