Stella of Akrotiri: Deminon
by Linda Rae Sande
What’s become of the Immortal Darius? His wife, Stella, worries about his fate as she rules over their city-state of Deminon, especially when she learns he’s been the victim of treachery. She’ll do anything to get him back.
Enslaved as a traitor to Rome, Darius is forced to fight gladiators as part of the funeral rites of powerful Romans. His years of experience on the battlefield serve him well in the arena—until he’s forced to fight Marcus—a younger, stronger gladiator who is unaware of his own immortality.
Sure he’s about to suffer a defeat by the hand of Marcus, Darius is forced to make a decision that will change his future and Stella’s—preserve his essence by allowing his body to die so that he can live on in Marcus. His two-thousand years of memories and life experiences should be powerful enough to overcome the essence of the untested Immortal. Allow him to return to Stella and resume their life together, even if she won’t immediately recognize him.
But Marcus isn’t giving up so easily. Especially when he meets Stella.
Will Marcus help Darius take revenge on the one whose deceit led to his arrest on charges of treason? Or will Darius’ essence slowly be subsumed, the memories of his nearly two-thousand-year lifespan—and of Stella—fading away in the mind of Marcus?
These Immortals once had all the time in the world. Now it’s suddenly of the essence.
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If she hadn’t been so angry with the gladiator, she would have simply closed the door, barred it, and allowed him to find out the hard way that, short of falling to his death on the rocks below, there was no easy escape from where he stood. But she wanted a word with the thick man. Wanted to be sure he understood his only chance at freedom wasn't going to come from Augustus of Assyria.
And besides all of that, he was Darius. Although why the older Immortal hadn’t seen to stopping the younger Immortal from learning first-hand she couldn’t die, Stella didn't know.
Perhaps it was time she find out.
She was about to demand an explanation, but another possibility entered her mind. Had his attempt on her life been done as a means of proof?
The younger Immortal had vanquished Darius in the arena. Perhaps he didn’t believe in immortality for that very reason. By allowing Marcus to kill her, Darius was merely teaching his host a lesson.
At her expense.
She lifted a hand to her throat. Although it no longer hurt, the memory of how his weight had crushed it was hard to shake. Especially as he stared at her in disbelief and then slowly dropped to his knees. Had he a sword in hand, she was sure he would have fallen on it.
Stella moved to stand before him, a hand reaching out to touch the top of his head. The gold ring wrapped around her fourth finger glittered in the dim light as her fingers splayed through his hair. Marcus was so unlike Darius!
“I have lived for over fourteen-hundred years,” she said in a hoarse whisper. “As I told you earlier, I am an Immortal.”
Marcus raised his face then, a tear escaping from the corner of one eye. “I only wanted my freedom, my queen,” he murmured. “Perhaps I may have that in death.”
Stella dropped to her knees and gave her head a shake. “Not in death,” she replied. “For you, too, are an Immortal.”
She watched as a myriad of emotions crossed the young man’s face. Watched as he considered her words against what he had paid witness to that day in the arena. Watched as disbelief turned to anger and then to despair. “No,” he said finally. “I cannot live as a slave forever—”
“You will not,” she countered.
“I must do his bidding,” he argued.
“Which is impossible, since I cannot die. Do you not see? The owner of your ludus has sent you on an impossible mission. One he knew you could not complete because he also knows that I cannot die.” She stopped then, suddenly curious as why Augustus would send him with such a mission.
Surely the senator knew Marcus was an Immortal. It was probably why he had sent this particular gladiator to kill her. To kill her and bring her body back to Veii.
But why would he do such a thing? He had sent Trevius and Antony on such a mission, and later, Aurelius. Why, when he knew she couldn’t be killed?
Or did he think that because Darius’ body was dead by the hand of Marcus, she might be vulnerable, too?
But that’s not why he chose Marcus, she reminded herself. I asked that he be sent. I begged he be sent, even with another who might ensure Marcus would be returned to the ludus.
She had even gone to the temple and spoken to Athena.
Perhaps she had been thinking of this all wrong. Augustus hadn’t mentioned knowing Marcus was an Immortal. In fact, he seemed oblivious to the possibility.
And yet Darius knew. He had always been able to sense other Immortals. Even if they hadn’t yet died for the first time. Darius was older, though—much older than any of them. An Ancient.
A god, perhaps?
Not for the first time, Stella wondered if her husband was indeed a god.
If so, who had fathered him?
Zeus? Or one of the younger gods?
Ares, perhaps. It would certainly explain his penchant for war. For his need to participate in every battle in which he thought he could make a difference.
Then who had given birth to him?
Athena, of course. He was always his best when he was at war. His days of peace never lasted long before he sought another war in which to fight. He was rarely the aggressor, though. Always the defender.
Darius had called her an Ancient once, and she hadn’t even lived a thousand years at the time.
Am I a goddess?
Perhaps she had been looking at this all wrong.
She thought of the others who had been sent to Deminon over the years. Trevius, Antony, Aurelius, and now Marcus and Leonidis.
All sent on a mission they could not accomplish, by an Immortal who had said he would take her to wife if he wasn’t wed to another.
Oh, Augustus. What have you been plotting?
A fan of action-adventure movies, she can frequently be found at the local cinema. Although she no longer has any fish, she follows the San Jose Sharks. She is a member of Novelists, Inc. (NINC) and makes her home in Cody, Wyoming.
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