The Great War had ended six years ago. For some of us, though, it was still a part of our daily lives.

I had enlisted when I was seventeen. Six months later I was in hospital with pieces of shrapnel embedded in both of my legs. I recovered fairly quickly and returned to the fighting. As luck would have it, only a week before the Armistice was declared I was back in hospital, this time with two bullet wounds in my upper right chest.

The wounds were fairly clean and the bullets had gone completely through, nevertheless it took over six months for me to be released. Miraculously I didn’t succumb to infection and my healing was fairly successful.

While I was in France fighting for my country, both of my parents died as victims of the influenza pandemic that was raging that year. I was unable to even attend the funerals.

My sister, who was older than I, had made a successful marriage and was well provided for so she insisted that all of my parents’ estate come to me. As soon as I was well enough to travel I returned to Baltimore.

I discovered that there was nothing for me, there. My close male friends had all died in the war and I had never had a lasting relationship with a woman. Only a few months after my eighteen birthday I was independently wealthy and rootless. I returned to Europe.

In the years since the War I had wandered aimlessly, never spending much time in any town or country. I knew that I was wasting away, both physically and spiritually.

I found myself in Rome and had already spent two months just wandering the city. There was a dealer in antiques and books that I visited several times, purchasing a few small items but more intrigued by an object which he refused to sell. In the private area behind his counter he had several objects on the wall. One of these was a mask of Pan which I coveted. It was carved wood and covered the top of the head like a helmet, with eye holes in the front and a curved bridge that rested on the nose. Curled goat horns were carved on each side. He and I had discussed the mask and he told me that it wasn’t old but was very dear to him, for which reason he couldn’t part with it.

On this particular day I had unearthed a portfolio of prints and engravings representing various Classical paintings, sculptures and mosaics. There were several pages in the portfolio that were of a particularly erotic nature, most of them dealing with sexual congress between males.

I was looking at the prints when I became aware of the shop owner standing at my elbow.

“I can give you a very good price on those.” he said. “They have been here a long time and are not as popular as I expected.”

I was a bit embarrassed to be caught out looking at erotic pictures but I did want the portfolio. He and I agreed on a price and as he wrapped the package he said, “You are an American?”

“Yes,” I replied, “I’ve more or less been in Europe since the War ended. I can’t seem to stop wandering from city to city.”

“Perhaps you need some time in the countryside.” he responded. “There are many interesting small villages where one can rest and recuperate. They also often have undiscovered advantages. There is such a village that I often spend my holidays in. It is very small and quiet and it has some most spectacular ancient ruins that are hardly known.”

“Roman ruins?” I asked, skeptical that anything of that much interest could be undiscovered by tourists.

“No, these are much older than the Romans. These are prehistoric ruins, though I am uncertain even in calling them ruins. They are the remains of a religious compound I believe, somewhere that was sacred before my ancestors even arrived in this country. I think you would find them of great interest. Also, the mask of Pan that you are so interested in was made in that area. Perhaps you will find one like it.”

I agreed that I would like to spend some time in the country, the Rome summer was torturously hot and the city had already had several outbreaks of summer fevers.

The shop owner picked up a pencil and on the brown paper of my parcel he delineated a series of clear instructions on how to arrive at the village he’d mentioned, trains to take, where to change trains, where to disembark and how to walk to the village from the train station. I decided that I would take advantage of his recommendation and early the next morning I began my journey.

After a day of traveling I found myself at the station where I was to stop. There was nothing more than a covered platform, not even a ticket seller in the office, so I shouldered my pack and began my walk. I still retained the pack I had carried through the War as my only luggage.

The dealer had told me that the village was a distance of about seven miles from the train and after walking for several hours I found myself entering the settlement just as dusk was falling.

There was a small café with a few outdoor tables on the main street where the proprietor was closing his business for the night.

My Italian was rudimentary but serviceable so I approached him and asked, “Pardon me, sir. Is there an inn or a rooming house where a traveler may spend the night?”

He looked at me with no expression for a moment, and then beckoned me to follow. He led me several doors up the street until we arrived at one of the last buildings in the village. He knocked and the door was shortly opened by a handsome middle aged man.

While the two of them conversed I looked him over. He was of the typical swarthy complexion of those parts with abundant black curly hair. I could see from the thick musculature of his arms and chest that he was used to physical labor. He had on a fine linen shirt that clung to his chest and which had several buttons unfastened, exposing his curly chest hair.

I could decipher enough of the conversation to know that he had been told that I was American and that I needed lodgings for the night.

He thanked the inn owner and then turned to me.

“Come in.” he said.

I entered and he closed the door behind me.

“I suppose that you haven’t eaten.” he said in lightly accented English.

“No, but please don’t trouble yourself. I can get something in the morning.”

“When did you last eat?” he asked. He had a very unsettling way of looking at one; his intense eyes seemed almost to bore into you.

“It was early this morning.” I replied. “But I’m used to skipping meals.”

“Nonsense, you look like a ghost.” he replied. “I can make you something. It won’t be fancy; I was not expecting a guest. Would an omelet suffice?”

“An omelet would be wonderful.” I said.

He ushered me down the hall and seated me at his kitchen table while he made his preparations. I observed him from behind, admiring his virile physique and fleshy buttocks.

When the eggs were cooked he served me with home made bread and a light wine. I found myself ravenous and ate everything on offer.

I cleaned my plate, ate all of the bread and downed two glasses of wine while he sat and watched me. When my hunger was finally appeased he asked, “Was the meal satisfying?”

“I believe that was the best meal I’ve eaten in years.” I said. “Restaurants in the capital could do no better.”

He smiled at the praise and sipped from his drink while I looked around me. The kitchen was large and spotlessly clean with large copper pans hanging on the wall. Wide windows were flung open to the night and I could see a forest at the edge of his cleared yard. I became aware of an odor, slowly growing stronger, that permeated the room.

It was the scent of some flower, somewhat like the smell of violets but earthier. There was a strong under note to the aroma that at first I couldn’t place, I only knew that it was somehow vaguely stimulating.

“What do I smell?” I asked. “Do you have a garden?”

“It is the scent of a wild flower that grows only in this part of Italy. They bloom at night.” he said. “Do you find it disagreeable?”

“Rather the opposite.” I replied. “I wish that I could have cologne that smelt so good.”

I suddenly realized what the underlying scent reminded me of. Many times in my life, during the War and during my travels, I have spent sometimes days without the luxury of bathing. The subtle scent in the flower’s aroma was almost identical to the smell of an unwashed masculine body, the heady aroma that comes from the cock and balls when they are allowed to ripen. Realizing this caused my cock to unexplainably stiffen a bit.

My host refilled my wine glass and asked, “Why have you come here?”

“On a whim, actually.” I said. “I met an antique dealer in Rome who told me that there are unusual sacred ruins close to this village that he thought would interest me. I was tired of Rome and wished to be somewhere less urban, so here I am.”

“I know who you speak of.” he said. “He has often stayed here. Did he tell you anything about the sacred ruins?”

“I’m sorry, we barely conversed. I neglected to even ask his name. I suppose I had been looking for a reason to move on.” I sat musing for a moment and then I asked, “The ruins, are they as unique as I’ve been told?”

“I will allow you to be the judge.” he said. “The local men do not like strangers intruding there uninvited. I will arrange for one of the locals to guide you in the morning. Now, come, I will show you your room.”

He rose and bade me follow him down a short hall. At the end, he flung open a door and lit a lamp. From where I stood in the doorway I could see the entire space, a whitewashed room with heavy old rustic furniture. The bed was high and soft with snowy white sheets and white curtains also covered the broad windows along one wall. My host crossed the room and, drawing back the curtains, flung the windows wide. The scent of the wildflowers filled the room.

“What a lovely room!” I exclaimed.

The host smiled broadly and said, “The bathroom is through here.”

He stepped into the hall and opened another door across from my room.

“I will leave you now to get some rest.” he said, then stood looking at me. I peered back, unsure of what he was waiting for.

“Aren’t you going to ask me what I will charge you for your room and meals?” he asked.

“I’m sorry, I’m such an ass. I’m not very good at this kind of thing. What will you charge?”

“Something appropriate but not too dear.” he said and turned and left me there.

I washed off some of my travel grime, marveling at the luck of finding a place that had indoor plumbing. The large porcelain bath tub beckoned but I decided to go to bed and wait until the morning for more thorough ablutions.

The bed in my room was exquisite, soft but firm and wide enough for two or three. I stripped down to my briefs and climbed in, reveling in the cool night air blowing softly over my bare chest. I must have fallen asleep immediately.

Some time later I awoke, badly needing to urinate. After I had satisfied the urge, I came back into my room and stood at the open windows. The moon was almost full and flooded the landscape with its cold light, making the shadows and the leaves a shade of black. I became aware of movement at the edge of the forest and as I watched a white figure passed through the trees. I could tell that it was a man by his tread but he was too far from me to discern anything more than the paleness of his dress. I lie back down and once again fell asleep instantly.

The next morning my landlord woke me by coming into the room. I had kicked the sheet off in the night and lay, clad only in my briefs, sprawled across the bed.

“I’ve drawn you a bath.” he told me. “Afterward, you will have breakfast and I have already arranged for Paolo, one of our local men, to guide you to the temple.”

He came and stood beside the bed as I sat up and swung my feet to the floor. I became aware that he was staring at the scars on my chest and shoulder.

“You were in the War.” he said. “And so young.” He touched the scar on my chest with one finger tip and asked, “Were you a hero?”

“Nothing so grand.” I replied. “I was just another of the millions of foolish young men who thought that we were fighting for something that mattered. I even lied about my age so that I could join up early. I never had an inkling that we were merely fighting and dying to appease the egos of other men who wouldn’t deign to dirty themselves. But my scars remind me every day.”

He looked down at the many shrapnel scars on my legs and said, ‘So many wounds.”

“I was lucky.” I said. “At least I came back. So many beautiful young men were lost forever.”

“Most of the men in the village are also veterans.” he said. He came back to himself and said, “Your water will be getting cold. Not that that is a bad thing in this heat.”

I followed him across the hall to the bathroom. He had filled the tub almost to the brim and there were the blossoms of blue flowers floating in the water.

“The local wild flower we spoke of.” he said, indicating the blooms. The odor rising from the steaming water was intoxicating.

He turned to go and I dropped my briefs at my feet and began to climb into the tub.

“If you will give me your dirty clothing I will arrange to have it laundered.” he said from where he stood in the doorway, still watching me. “I shall go see to breakfast.’

The deep warm water was sheer luxury and I lay back and enjoyed it. The flowers in the tub were even more fragrant close up and their scent caused my cock to harden and expand despite my efforts to control it. I hastily washed myself with the rough cloth and climbed out of the tub before my host happened back and found me with a stiff cock and wondered what sort of freak he was sheltering.

When I returned to my room I found that my host had unpacked my belongings. Fresh clothing was laid out on the bed and awaiting me, including a shirt of fine spun linen identical to the one my host wore. It had been washed to a velvety softness and was the same pale blue of the unique local flower. He had found the portfolio of prints and etchings and had placed some of them at various points around the room along with vases of the pungent blue flowers. Initially I was embarrassed at the prints but, since he had thought them worthy of display, I ceased to worry.

When I was dressed I went to the kitchen where a sumptuous meal awaited.

“It was very kind of you to unpack my things.” I said. “It is also very kind to lend me one of your shirts.”

“I didn’t think your shirts suitable for this heat. That color is very becoming on you, it matches your eyes. I believe I also have some lighter pants that a guest left behind that might fit you.” he replied. I was wearing canvas work pants that I had bought in America. “I hope you don’t mind me taking the liberty of displaying your art works. I thought them very beautiful. I’m glad that you are an admirer of our ancient customs.”

“Ignorant, but an admirer, yes.” I replied. “By the way, the forest behind your building, is it safe?”

“Why ask such an odd thing?”

“In the night I awoke and was looking out of the window at the moonlight. I thought I saw a figure in the woods.”

“Perhaps you saw one of the satyrs that the ancients believed frequented these hills.” he said.

“This seemed to be a more mortal being.” I replied.

“Probably you saw some benighted traveler who had come late from another village. Or maybe someone who was on an emergency errand. I assure you there is nothing to worry about in our village.”

He watched me the whole time with that penetrating and discomfiting stare.

After I had eaten my fill and had another cup of his excellent coffee, there was a knock at the door. My host went to answer and came back leading a young man about my age.

“This is Paolo.” he said. “He will take you to observe the temple and perhaps answer any questions you might have.”

“I’m glad to meet you.” Paolo said in excellent English.

He, like my landlord was olive skinned with thick black hair. His features were sharper with a high curved nose and full lips. Thick black eyebrows capped eyes of a darkness and depth I’d never seen before, which were fringed with incredibly long lashes. I wondered what they must think of a man as pale skinned and anemic looking as I compared to them.

“Will it be acceptable for me to visit the ruins?” I asked Paolo. “I do not want to offend any of the local people.”

“No fear.” Paolo said. “With me accompanying you, no one will think twice about it. It is only the boorish and crude they wish to bar from the site. You will soon see why.”

We took leave of my host and, surprisingly, Paolo led me to the rear of the building we had just exited.

“The path through the forest begins back here.” Paolo told me as he led the way through a field of closed flower heads to an opening in the tree trunks. I could see a well worn path that had been invisible from my room.

“This must be the path that was taken by the person I saw last night.’ I said.

“You saw someone? Could you tell who it was?”

“No, it was too dark and they were too far away. I wouldn’t have even noticed if he hadn’t been wearing such light colored clothing.”

“It was probably one of the locals on a midnight errand. Or, maybe on his way to an assignation.” Paolo said.

As I followed Paolo through the pines and cypress trees I was struck by how much cooler it was in the forest. A lovely ambient light filtered through the treetops and I could hear a chorus of insects around me. I also noticed Paolo.

He had a very powerful slim body which his clothing seemed to accentuate. His broad back was roped with muscles that played beneath the thin linen of his shirt and even though his light cotton pants were loosely cut, they hugged the full globes of his buttocks. Again I found my organ responding, a condition I had almost never before experienced in connection with another male. My confusion was compounded when Paolo abruptly stopped and turned back to me on the path.

His eyes noticed the obvious tumescence in my trousers and he gave me a sly smile.

“We are almost at the site.” he said. “Look thoroughly at what I show you first, before you ask me questions.”

We rounded a curve in the path and at first all I could discern was a massive collection of boulders. Some of them were higher than a house, others just as wide. We followed the path around to the side of the mass and then I saw what was hidden in the forest.

In a sunlit clearing there was a massive shaft of stone that rose from the boulders, gracefully soaring with a slight curve. At the top there was a rounded, helmet shaped head that had the groove in the middle that delineates the shape on the underside of a cock head. I then noticed that there was a thick channel that ran down the length of the enormous phallus and that two huge rounded boulders were positioned at the base where a man’s balls would be. The huge cock stood at least fifteen feet high and was so large around that I wondered if two men spreading their arms could reach each other around it.

In front of the giant cock there was a flat space made from an enormous stone that almost appeared as some sort of plaza. I noticed that there were signs that a fire had been made many times in the past at the edge. Also, at the base of the cock, in between the enormous stone balls, there was another stone that had an angled face and several hollows worked into the surface.

I stood, literally speechless, before the breath taking sight.

“Who made this?” I asked Paolo. “Surely this is not a remnant of the Romans.”

“It goes back in history much further than that. So far, in fact, that the people are lost to modern man. Some have theorized that it was made by a cult similar to the Druids in England but no one really knows.”

“You would think there would be a rush of academics to claim this site as their own.” I said.

“That is why the local people are so secretive. They are very jealous of sharing it with outsiders.”