For light can only come into existence if there is darkness first.
The marketplace of Athens was a stunning spectacle of sights and sounds during the first night of the Olympian feast. Wrapped still in the arid heat of summer long after the golden sun had set, proud men and women of the Grecian city lined the bustling streets, food and cups of wine abundant in their hands. Sounds of laughter and merriment filled the air as sports and dances proceeded, both nearly-naked athletes and performers in brightly hued garments swirling fine grains of flaxen sands throughout the paved stone surface. The moon shone radiant in the height of the dark heavens, accompanied by the diminutive but no less luminous glimmer of the twinkling stars.
Two young men stood in the middle of the grand market square, both nursing half-filled cups of well-aged grape nectar. The younger of the two appeared to be enjoying himself, his wine-drenched lips curling into an enthralled smile as he took in the gaiety of his surroundings. The other man, in contrast, seemed unimpressed if not disinterested.
"Spoilsport much?" The first man spoke before proceeding to empty his cup of wine, crudely wiping his mouth with the back of his hand afterwards.
"This is a bore, Kol." The older one replied dryly.
"Oh, Niklaus, of course it is. They're mortals. No feast they honor us with will ever impress us, but if you lift your ass from that stuck-up throne of yours for a second, then perhaps you might be amused as have the rest of us."
The oak-haired god of celebration made a sweeping gesture with his hand, causing his sun-god brother to be aware of the Olympian presence all around them.
At the high balcony of the royal palace overlooking the city were Mikael and Esther, the god-king and his queen wife. Olympus' powerful rulers were guised as royal visitors from a far-away kingdom, mingling sociably with the other patrician guests. Their war-god brother Elijah was competing at one of the arm wrestling tables, his violent strength tempered by the soft touch of Tatia, the goddess of love, upon his shoulder. To the nearby east, the fiery red tresses of the goddess of wisdom and mistress of war, Sage, flew like blood-washed waves crashing into the shore as the god of the sea, Finn, took hold of her waist and led her to a dance so brimming with passion that it could have summoned Atlantis back to the surface of the earth. Their moon-goddess sister Rebekah even shed her huntress cloak tonight in favor of a feminine chiton to aid in her current goal of charming her way into a blond mortal's bed.
Klaus raised a brow. "And Henrik?"
Kol grinned impishly, remembering the quiet instruction that he gave his adorable baby brother before they left Olympus. "Oh, here and there, sending his charming little arrows of affection to romantic purposes. Athens could use a rise in population, don't you agree?"
"And I suppose you would be all too happy to help achieve that? If you think that your little partnership with Henrik has escaped my notice, then you are wrong, brother."
"And if you think that you could put to good use that well-heralded body – I mean, really, why don't these annoying Greek sculptors ever tire of carving your form into marble? - by merely stand there like a goat, then you are wrong, brother." Kol mocked.
"There are enough strumpets in our family, Kol. My addition to the list is barely necessary." Klaus replied, unperturbed.
"Oh come on. Is there no maiden fair enough to make the sun-god feel the heat?" his brother shot back, grinning wider. He motioned at a buxom woman who was already sending flirtatious glances at their direction. "Then again, you can always spare yourself the trouble of educating a virgin. How about her? I bet she already knows a trick or two."
Klaus rolled his eyes, not even bothering to look at the woman his brother was referring to. "I am going back to Olympus. There is nothing for me here."
"Fine, suit yourself. I am off to aid Tatia and Henrik in spreading love in the mortal realm." Kol declared, pushing himself off the wooden rails that the brothers were leaning on, undoubtedly to finally begin his night of self-indulgence.
"From the looks of it, the only thing you'll be spreading is some unfortunate woman's legs." Klaus retorted half-heartedly.
"Say what you want, Niklaus, but it's to my credit that she can't walk tomorrow. Score for Kol, nil for Klaus." the wine-god said gleefully. Not a wink later, the woman was sweltering in Kol's arms as the deity's hasty hand disappeared under the many layers of her garment.
Niklaus carelessly threw away the wine cup he had emptied and started for the direction of the city gates.
The god of light rarely took part in these mortal celebrations that the rest of the Olympian residents were so fond of because he had learned early on that intoxication with wine made humans forget their place. Always there was a man and occasionally a woman in drunken state who would boast of being the best in this and having the best of that, the outburst inevitably ending with a statement that he or she was better than the gods. He never could stand it and he often took things into his own hands.
Mortals were keen on romanticising him as the comeliest of the male divinities, a patron of the arts and lover of all things beautiful. They tended to forget that he was a warrior foremost, that he slew the Python of Parnassus and that his fiery arrows would find any mark no matter what height or distance. They conveniently disregarded the fact that he was basally stern and cruel, for light can only come into existence if there is darkness first.
What they ought to know was that he, in a way, was far worse than Elijah. At least the god of war had his beloved Tatia to placate his vehemence - it was not in Klaus to allow a woman to temper his rage. He handed punishment swiftly but no less painful; let Niobe and her children serve as warning.
The sun-god had barely walked a few yards when he saw from a distance a crowd of Athenians gathered together, beholding the absorbing sight of a group of women who danced to the entrancing beat of drums and stringed-instruments. Klaus squinted slightly as his eyes landed on the familiar sight of a dark-skinned Athenian with (oddly) golden hair and eyes as piercing as a cat's in the dark. She was the sole person whose face was revealed, as the rest of the dancers wore porcelain masks that hid their identities.
Klaus smirked. The woman was Gloria, the chief priestess of his temple in Athens. Which must mean that all these women were his priestesses, and the dance that had held the attention of all the people in the vicinity was a dance meant for his honor.
At least for a few more minutes, the god of the sun decided to stay.
"What did I say? Less than fifteen minutes. Next time, give me a more challenging task."
Katerina of Athens tossed into her sister Elena's hands the alabaster mask that not a quarter of an hour ago adorned the face of a raven-haired warrior. Elena saw the aforementioned warrior emerge from the darkness of the alley where Katerina had led him into, a smug expression drawn on his handsome features. Clearly he enjoyed whatever happened in there.
"Heavens, Katerina, the dare was only to take his mask. You didn't have to…" spoke a blonde girl embarrassedly, not even able to finish her statement.
Katerina laughed. "It's alright, Caroline. It's not as if he didn't like it. The magnificent blond specimen he is now in conversation with is his brother, shall your dare be to do the same to him?"
Elena frowned, evidently offended by her sister's suggestion. "Sister, you know that Caroline is spoken for."
Katerina rolled her eyes. "Of course, Elena, who doesn't know that Caroline of Corinth has been given for marriage to that Roman prince what's-his-name. Such beautiful eyes, though. Deep and bronze and almost… wolverine. I could stare at them all day."
Caroline's brow furrowed slightly, an amount of possessiveness rising to her chest at the sound of her coquettish friend speaking like that about the man she was betrothed to. Since they met at a celebration in Argos four months ago, Tyler of Rome had been calling in on Corinth for her, bringing gifts of gold and jeweled stones and even military aid from his home. A fortnight ago he extracted his first conquest of the Corinthian princess' sweet lips and the very next day he declared to her father that he was going to marry her and heavens help the royal if he dared to refuse. The King of Corinth, for his part, could not be more pleased at an alliance with a powerful empire.
Noticing Caroline's reaction, Elena sent a quick squeeze at her sister's arm. Katherine glared at Elena with a thinly veiled 'You didn't have to pinch me' message.
"So anyway, it's your turn for the dare." Katerina said, proceeding to survey their surroundings for the possible task that she could set Caroline up to.
"Remember, no flirting, no touching, no kissing." Elena reminded her sister, lest the latter came up with something that could hurt their friend's impending marriage.
"Ugh, where's the fun in that? Shall we have her steal a horse or something?"
Caroline reeled in shock. "Steal a horse!"
"I was kidding." Katherine assured her, chuckling at the reaction she drew from the Corinthian.
"How about eating a whole watermelon?" Elena suggested innocuously.
Katerina ignored her sister's prompt, her feline eyes gleaming with mischief as she spied the train of priestesses making their way into the marketplace for the much-anticipated dance in honor of the sun-god.
"No. Your dare is to dance with the priestesses of the temple."
"Dance with the priestesses?" Caroline repeated, the words almost snagging at her throat.
The dance of the priestesses was one of the highlights of the Olympian feast. In the old days it recounted the god of the sun's slaying of the Pythian beast, but now it served as a symbolic offering to the artistic deity, a wordless imploration for the sun to guard the Athenian sky and the fertile earth below it from devastating rains without scorching the land into parallel destruction.
Caroline had always thought of the dance as grotesque, in all of the words three meanings: distorted in a strange way, ludicrous through being out of place, and a blend of realistic and fantastic. On that lone night of the year the priestesses shed their dignified restraint and thrust themselves into the heated flush of unreserved yet similarly graceful movements aimed at honoring the god who is said to be keenest on genuine beauty.
She cast a downward look at the lavish blue chiton hugging her body. "But they wear masks and white robes. They would know that I am not among them."
"I'll get you the mask and the robe. You have to join their dancing." Katerina asserted.
Elena looked at Caroline hesitantly. "But too many people will be watching…"
"Duh, that's why it's a dare. You're not scared to dance in front of the Athenian public, are you, Caroline?"
The blonde bit her lip thoughtfully. Well, it was just a dance and she was going to be masked. There were an infinite number of far worse tasks that Katerina could set her up to.
"Fine, Katerina. Get me a mask and a white robe. I'm not going to lose this dare."
He did not know where she came from, but his heedful blue eyes went to her from the moment she first stepped into his sight.
She wore a resplendent white robe made of cascading layers of sheer fabric, the opalescent garment craftily preserving the honors of her maidenhood but allowing the luscious sight of every other inch of her skin. Klaus' jaw tightened squarely as his eyes greedily traveled the smooth line of her legs, encircling the full curve of her hips and upward to the delicate thrust of her peaked breasts. Her feet were lithe, her steps lissome, and each time her body undulated to the resounding beat of the drums she sent a pulse of something powerfully primal blazing through the sun-god's veins.
He tried to place in his mind who she could be among the priestesses of his temple, but the simple act of recalling who his priestesses were proved to be frustratingly difficult when waves of wheat blonde hair rippling against the black-blue hue of the night sky kept his eyes mesmerized and his mind occupied. His muse danced with grace and even a slight dignity, but at the same time her body was teasing and inviting, her dress parting to show skin at all the right places while concealing virgin flesh where needed. Klaus had half the mind to burn everything around her until she melted in his arms and he could rip her mask and garment off, to feel her dance against him, skin to skin.
Who was she and why had he never noticed her before?
She continued to dance for him unknowingly, arms raised and hips swaying, neck craned and head slightly tilted. He continued to watch every movement of her delicate form, his lips parching as heat that was more of the love-goddess' province than his own descended further down his body.
A wave of silence swept through the captivated Athenian crowd, and Klaus frowned in displeasure as he realized that almost all the other mortal males were taken by her as well. They were watching her, wanting her, and undoubtedly they were lost in the same thoughts as he. Spikes of hatred and possessiveness flared gold and green in the god's blue eyes - how dare they look at his priestess like that.
She lifted a hand to secure her mask, and after doing so she let her arm fall to rest by her bodice. The flimsy sleeve of her dress slid down her milk-splashed shoulder, leaving the entire base of her succulent neck bare.
Half of the male Athenian population present in the marketplace ceased to breathe; the other half swallowed.
"Is there no maiden fair enough to make the sun-god feel the heat?"
He wanted her. He had to have her. Damn Kol and his pleasure-seeking purview, but tonight he was going to have her and the gods help anyone who stood in his way.
Caroline was not entirely certain what happened. One second she was dancing with the rest of the priestesses of the sun-god's temple, and the next moment the quiet pyre in the middle of the market square had roared into a full-burst flame that sent the entire marketplace of Athens in chaotic panic.
Incoherent screams and shouts filled the air, dust and sand flying to cloud her vision as pandemonium gripped the city square. A stampede broke out, men and women madly running for safety without any regard for anything else in the way. Caroline squinted, coughing amidst the man-made dust storm, her mind questioning why such was the reaction to an intensified pyre. She rubbed her eyes with her hands and tried to look around her.
A cry of horror escaped her lips when she saw the sky.
The caged and tied animals reared and roared as merciless fires rained down from the heavens, relentlessly falling upon the Athenian territory and burning everything that they came in touch with in an intoned hymn of reckless destruction. What they were and why they were there, no one knew.
Caroline quickly took off her mask and searched frantically for Katerina and Elena, but she could not see anything between the powdery particles of dirt and the wild rush of people scrambling for cover. The Corinthian princess was filled with fear and it was sheer human instinct to survive that pushed her to race to the nearest stone refuge. She ran as fast as her small feet could carry her, no longer even bothering to look at the ground she ran on, clutched her chest protectively in her hands. She squeezed her eyes close as she prayed to the gods for deliverance.
And yet… heat. She felt the unmistakable sensation of burning heat crawling on her naked skin, hotter and hotter as she ran further.
Had one of the fiery spheres fallen upon her?
Was she burning?
Was she dying?
Caroline ran into something… someone… and halted.
She did not know who he was, but there was an unnerving air that surrounded him, emanating from the placid composure in his expression despite the vermilion inferno that the marketplace had turned into. The striking stranger made no move towards safety, instead merely standing in his place and looking down at her, holding her fearful gaze in his own knowing one. His blue eyes bore not the faintest hint of anxiety but instead reflected something red-hot, something dark and greedy, something almost to the fault of dementedness.
Caroline's head began to spin. She looked back up at him and the heat that crept on her skin intensified tenfold. She struggled to opened her mouth and say something about running for their lives, but the words were lost in her throat as she weakly turned her head to one side and then the other only to realize in horror that they were surrounded by an unbroken circle of roaring flames.
A torrential wave of nausea washed over the Corinthian as her mind registered the fact that there was absolutely no way out.
She felt her legs fail her and unwillingly braced herself against the man's chest. As her burning cheek rested on his pectoral, his lush lips curled into a triumphantly sinister smile, one of that who wanted something and used his cunning to take it rather than to have asked for it.
His arms enveloped her tight, and the heat that seared her body turned from scorching to unbearable as he pressed her closer to him in a manner that was both gentle and forceful at the same time. There was an unmistakable possessiveness in his hold, as if he was claiming her for himself. Caroline closed her eyes completely; the heat, the fear, the spinning – she just couldn't take any more of it.
Amidst the throbbing in her head, she felt his hand move upwards towards her mane - was he stroking her hair, right now, in the fucking middle of burning hell?
"Come to me, love." The stranger who held her said. His voice felt like silk against the abrasive crackling of the burning embers. "Let go and come to me."
Caroline blacked out.
1. This one is inspired by a suggestion sent to me by I Love All Books TVD Klaroline for my other story, Only Red Flames Live Here Now. She/He said something along the lines of "What if Caroline's side wins the war and Klaus kidnaps her?" The kidnap idea stuck to me so while I'm waiting for my muse to come back so I can continue Only Red Flames, I've decided to work on Solstice.
2. Homage is due and paid to fadingtales and Lovelylynn92 who preempted me in casting Klaus as a Greek god in their wonderful fics All's Fair and Pandemonium. It is my overwhelming respect for these two authors that made me avoid casting Klaus as Ares and Hades. Thankfully Apollo does have a history of kidnapping and seducing women who catch his eye so I suppose casting Klaus as Apollo here at least does make sense.
3. I have not yet decided whether I should continue Lay All Your Love On Me because as I said there is something about the story that seems to hit me the wrong way, but thank you very much to my four lovely guests and to Alixx4, Dramatic Melody, lilred-07, OKBooey31, MasterRoo, justine, peanut mm, Prosperina, nicaha23 and ilovetvd, luludancing, emma-sam-scarlatti, Lady Shaye and scarlettmoon66 for their reviews. :)
So tell me what you think about this one?