Today’s release catch-up is Gods Among Men, an m/m novella published by Forbidden Fiction.
The idea is essentially a reworking of the myth of Perun and Veles, Slavic gods who are kind of related to Thor and Loki respectively. Despite how the cover may look, I was not influenced by the Thor films, nor by Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston (the story came to fruition in 2011), but hey, it works quite well in my favour I suppose.
This is a reworking of “Storms of Ancient Gods”, which appeared in Erotica Apocrypha (a great anthology if I do say so myself, which is unfortunately not with us anymore). In fact, you can see the original form of the opening (which is excerpted below) here on my site, if you are curious to see how it changed. The short answer – extensively. My editor for Gods Among Men James Wolf is a hard task master, which is awesome. 😉
You can read about the content notes on the publisher website, and probably important that you do.
Ilya, self-appointed protector of his Croatian coastal town, hates Nikolai, the one man who has never bent to his will. Meanwhile, the gods—Perun the Thunderer and Veles the dragon god of the underworld—do combat in ancient times. Ilya and Nikolai discover the battles of old may not be so far in the past, and that each of them may be closer to the gods than they could have imagined. (M/M)
Croatia – Present Day
Nikolai leaned languidly against the frame of the window of his second-floor study and watched the bay below, and beyond. The water shimmered with the afternoon sun. Yachts and fishing boats bobbed at the docks, and in the distance windsurfers sped along the Adriatic. Vendors sold cold lemonade along the boardwalk while mothers and fathers pushed prams and held dripping ice-cream cones for their capering toddlers. Three old men sat on a bench: one stared vacant out over the harbour while the others contemplated a chessboard. A pair of teenagers kissed and giggled as they sat on the low wall above the water. Other groups played in the water or sunned themselves on the beach. Nikolai smiled; this was summer at its most perfect, for the day was pleasantly hot, and peaceful.
That was, until Ilya charged along the harbour road in his bright red American Mustang. He parked the car, slammed the door and stomped up the boardwalk. Straight towards Nikolai’s house.
Nikolai narrowed his eyes, glaring down at Ilya. Although he’d been expecting a visit, he ground his teeth together.
There he was: Ilya Gromovnik. The same nick-name as his father, also the namesake of St Ilya. All of them—saint, father, and son—called Gromovnik; that is to say, Thunderer. Ilya Gromovnik, owner of the furniture factory, the largest employer in town, president of the chamber of commerce. So well-respected by everyone in the town for his capacity to employ many people, to be good to them in return for their complete loyalty; for his generous donations to public works (the painting of the town hall, the play parks for children, the new local museum); for his gorgeous, buxom wife Dobrana and that brood of children. How many did the man have now? Six? Nikolai had lost count.
His striking looks aided him too. Ilya was a tall man, his chest square and broad. As he charged along the boardwalk, the sun caught glints of his close-cropped coppery hair and long, neatly kept beard. His features—handsome and with a hawk-like nose—were creased in anger and he walked as if he owned everything that lay before him.
Nikolai supposed in many ways he did. Not only did he have his factory, but he also had his house on the hill that overlooked the town with pompous pride. It was high enough that anyone in the market square could gaze up over the rooftops and see Ilyaʼs home, watching over them all. Like a beloved god.
Beloved. Nikolai snorted. Feared is the better word. For who would dare to cross a man who could make drug cartels scurry away to neighbouring towns with a single phone call, an action the police could not take? Who would fight with a man who, when riff-raff sailors made trouble when they came ashore, would ensure said sailors would be found floating in the harbour the next day? And those who failed to give him proper respect or decided to try and run the town or their business a little differently had felt Ilya’s wrath, and found themselves friendless or destitute.
Lord and protector. In a town where councillors were weak-willed and the police ineffectual, who needed a mayor when they had Ilya Gromovnik?
Nikolai sighed. He was well aware of the power of Ilya’s rage. Well aware, too, that everyone in town knew that he and Ilya despised each other. Even now in the bay below, the teenage girl turned her head. Likewise, a father pushing a pram saw Ilya’s progress; stopped to grasp his wife’s shoulders and whisper something into her ear. The man who’d been staring dumbfounded out to sea started as Ilya passed him, and a child’s ice-cream tumbled to the ground as the kid froze to gaze at Ilya. As Ilya closed the distance, Nikolai could feel and hear—even through the glass—Ilya’s thundering purpose and the hush that fell over the bay. Only the gulls continued to chatter.
They were not business rivals; Nikolai ran a shipping business. He, too, was a member of the chamber of commerce. Longer than Ilya at that—he suspected that Ilya would have blocked his application had Ilya been a member first. However, he kept a number of smaller operations running that the upright and self-righteous Ilya would have loved to have seen abolished. His dance club, for instance, which on paper was perfectly legal, but where Nikolai well knew all kinds of licentious and illicit behaviour took place. His patrons—mostly tourists, male and there for other men—as far as he was concerned, were dancing and embracing the joys of life. Nikolai turned a smirking blind eye to what else besides dancing went on there.
Someone at the chamber told Nikolai he was surprised that Ilya hadn’t run him out of town yet. Nikolai had only grinned. Ilya probably would have if not for Nikolai’s generosity: people in need of loans found themselves with a discreet envelope slipped through the door. Builders would arrive at a storm-damaged house and do the repair work, refusing payment and shrugging when asked why they had come. No trumpeting, no fanfare, but Nikolai was aware that his name was mentioned. He’d have preferred otherwise, but secrets were a near impossibility to keep.
The only kept secrets he knew were the ones between himself and Ilya.
People left in Ilya’s wake, quickly packing their bags and rushing up the beach. On the horizon, dark clouds began to gather, the signs of a sea-born storm, bringing with it a suffocating heat.
Nikolai sighed, rolled his shoulders back, and stood up straight. For all his irritation and hatred of Ilya, this meeting was unavoidable. Inevitable. The wheel that had been set in motion since they were children was now rolling towards a climax that neither of them could ignore.
Where to Buy
- Gods Among Men is also available in Bi Magic!