Cover Reveal for A Spartan Love
When I conceived of the idea for A Spartan Love a couple of years ago, I had no idea that the story line would expand to become a trilogy. In fact, the current novel entitled A Spartan Love began life as a short story called Taming Theron and was intended to be the prequel/backstory for A Spartan Love.
Taming Theron began as a short story for an anthology. However, no matter what I did, I couldn't keep the thing under the 7K limit. Kind of like those cartoons when the box won't stay closed no matter how many times they put the lid on it and jump up and down. I finally gave up and it is now a 77K word novel.
It was just intended to give you the necessary background to understand the subsequent novel, the original A Spartan Love. But that story has grown until it will be two additional stories in the series: A Tested Love and A Shared Love.
Why A Spartan Love? The title is actually a bit of a pun. The story takes place in ancient Sparta, between an elite Spartan warrior known as a kryptes and a unique Spartan slave known as a helot. These two social classes were natural enemies. Hence, any love between members of these classes would be sparse at best.
Helots were unique to Sparta. Slaves in the ancient world were chattel—possessions not persons. In Sparta, helots were more like medieval serfs. They belonged to the land, not an individual, and could not be bought or sold. The rural helots enjoyed a lot of freedoms, being able to wed and have families without fear of being sold away from one another. As long as they produced the required "tribute" every year for their Spartiate, they were pretty much left alone.
The Spartans (citizens of the city-state, not just people living in the polis) were vastly outnumbered by the helot slave population. In order to keep the helots in check and limit the possibility of a slave revolt, the ephors ritually declared war on the helots every fall (after the harvest was in, of course). This allowed any Spartan to kill any helot without risk of ritual pollution/bloodguilt and avoid any resulting punishment for their deaths. Making it an act of war, not murder.
With nothing more than a knife and a cloak, the kryptes were expected to learn stealth, how to live off the land, and steal anything they needed to survive without being seen. But there was a darker side to all this scout training—think Marines and Black Ops. The kryptes roamed the countryside and killed any helots who looked too strong, were respected enough to be possible leaders, and anyone they found outside after dark.
Now imagine, if you will, what would happen if a helot set out to tame a kryptes.
Alone, Andreas toils on a remote farmstead for a Spartan overlord. When a kryptes enters his world, Andreas fears for his life. The dread warriors stalk and kill helots—like Andreas' father—as part of their training.
Andreas sees only one way to save himself: he must tame the fearsome warrior.
But what began as self-preservation develops into attraction. Yearning for the company of someone other than his ferret Ictis, Andreas decides to trust the Spartan warrior and risk the fate that claimed his father.
Born to rule by the sword, Theron sees the world as his and acts accordingly, taking everything Andreas offers and reaching for more. However, love between men in Sparta is considered shameful and requires either exile or suicide to redeem Sparta’s honor. Now, only the gods can save them from the terrible price Sparta extracts from men who desire other men.
"ANDREAS! GET in here right now. How many times do I have to tell you that the kryptes will kill you if they catch you outside after dark?" He could hear his mother's voice as if she were still alive, calling to him from the safety of their house.
"I'm trying, Mother!" he muttered to her shade. He would never forget that one of the Spartan warriors had slain his father for nothing more than being a helot. Andreas crossed his fingers and flicked them away from his heart in an attempt to ward off a similar fate.
Andreas scanned his surroundings, his gaze veering between his home and the tree line beyond the goats' enclosure. The mud-brick hut with its tidy little garden dominated the otherwise smooth grounds. Silhouetted against rosy clouds, safety beckoned. However, the encroaching darkness under the trees drove a shiver up his spine.
He was all alone. Or hoped he was.
A spur of the forest behind him jutted between his house and his nearest neighbor. Petros lived on the far side, his dwelling hidden from Andreas' sight. Petros' family would already be safely bundled under their roof, locked up tight as twilight approached. No helot was foolish enough to brave the dark and risk death.
Even though the hut didn't look like much, Andreas wanted to be within the shelter of his home.
But Pan, the aptly named offspring of mischief, had other ideas. For some reason, when Andreas brought his flock home, the big buck had resisted entering the enclosure. The rest of the goats were milling about, following his obdurate example as the last of the daylight bled from the sky and Andreas grew more desperate.
"Curse you, Pan! If you don't get in there, I'll have you for dinner. How would you like that?" Knuckles white, he raised his staff and shook it.
Almost as if he understood, Pan bolted inside the lean-to with a startled bleat, his harem quick on his heels. Not a moment too soon. Nerves pushed to the snapping point, Andreas might have been willing to leave them to fend for themselves. He muttered imprecations as he shoved the brambles into the opening, blocking their exit. Though disgruntled, he was glad he hadn't been forced to choose between their well-being and his life.
Leaves rustled in the nearby forest despite the lack of so much as a breath of wind, and Pan bleated uneasily. Andreas strained to hear anything else, anything at all. What was out there? A rival buck? Wolves? One of the kryptes?
Andreas shivered as cold sweat covered him. Please don't let it be one of the deadly kryptes stalking me, intent on proving himself. The young warriors, the best Sparta could produce, killed helots for sport and to hone their skills.
The final rays of sunlight faded, leaving muted colors and hushed twilight in their wake, weighing down his heart with apprehension. Andreas hoped the kryptes who had been haunting the area didn't consider sunset to be the definition of "after dark." By decree, the warriors killed any helot they encountered at night, holding the subjugated population in check and using terror to quell any revolts before they started.
Glancing warily around, Andreas wondered if he could reach his home before being attacked. It isn't dark yet. I can be inside before the last light fades. He couldn't see anyone, but a good kryptes would be nigh impossible to spot. Drawing a deep breath, he sprinted toward the hut, his heart pounding.
Nearly there! A branch snapped, and he lost his footing as he attempted to look over his shoulder. He scrambled to get on his feet and back inside before….
In his mind's eye, a red-cloaked figure strode calmly up behind him, a sword held in one fist. "Theos save me!"
Andreas made the last bit on his hands and knees, too shaken to regain his feet. The statue of Priapos with its obscenely large phallus jutting before him guarded his doorway. The god stood ready to protect this boundary against any trespassers, wielding his prodigious cock like a club. Having never been in this position before, Andreas had no idea if the deity would be able to protect him.
He clawed at the door for a moment before he managed to slip inside. Back pressed to the thick mud-brick wall, he forced himself to draw one deep shuddering breath after another.
The sound of another twig snapping came through his open window.
Oh Hades! Someone is out there.