"The approach of Christmas brings harrassment and dread to many excellent people. They have to buy a cart-load of presents, and they never know what to buy to hit the various tastes; they put in three weeks of hard and anxious work, and when Christmas morning comes they are so dissatisfied with the result, and so disappointed that they want to sit down and cry. Then they give thanks that Christmas comes but once a year." - Mark Twain
Commercial break! My publisher, Trestle Press, is running a special deal between now and Christmas Eve. Buy any Trestle book during that time, and you get another one of your choice (and same price) for free. If you haven't already purchased Cataclysm, then, now's a great time to do so. Once you do, let me know and I'll put you in touch with the guy who can provide you with the freebie of your choice.
Buy it at Amazon.com!
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Buy one get one FREE!
And now--on to the story
Crystal stood in the throne room shifting her weight back and forth. Rellgll's reports were always interminable.
Outside, Matt's magic had created a winter wonderland that beckoned to her. Land that was normally green was now carpeted in the fluffiest, cleanest snow Crystal had ever seen. As much as she enjoyed riding across the glades on Lady in the summer environment Matt's shell normally maintained, there was something about trotting through the white fields with the fog of cold breath trailing both horse and rider that Crystal found intoxicating.
She wanted to be outside, but the business to come was too important.
A few moments of silence brought her attention back from fantasies of rides across snowy fields to the end of Rellgll's report. She looked up at Matt in time to see him nod permission to speak toward RJ, who stepped forward nervously. Crystal glanced around the room at her fellow humans; they were all as tense as their chosen leader.
"Yes?" Matt asked, his voice making it clear that he sensed RJ's unease.
RJ cleared his throat and dove in. "Matt--Mars--Sir--um, we've--the humans, that is, have all conferenced together and discussed the period of year, and we believe that it would be in the best interest of everyone involved to hold a morale-raising celebratory event on...."
Matt cut him off, his face stern, "Cut the crap, RJ. What do you want?"
RJ glanced around for support, panicking over being bumped out of his planned speech. Ah, well, Crystal thought, careful to hold her thoughts away from the telepathic link to her husband, you can take the president out of the college, but not the college out of the president.
Clearing his throat, RJ plunged ahead bravely. "We want to celebrate Christmas."
"I'm sorry," Matt said, a wicked smile playing across his face. "I couldn't hear you."
This from the god who can hear a gnat fall on the other side of his estate, Crystal thought drily, still holding her thoughts closely to herself.
"Christmas. The holiday. We would like your permission to celebrate Christmas."
"You want to celebrate--Christmas?" Matt asked. He was playing with RJ the same way Crystal had watched cats playing with mice before making the kill.
"Yes. Is that a problem?"
"What do you think? You want to celebrate Christmas? As in Christmas? YOU'VE COME TO THE GRECO-ROMAN GOD OF WAR TO ASK TO CELEBRATE CHRIST MAS?"
At the end of the chamber, the bell other deities used to signal their approach chimed softly into the silence, its vibrations apparently caused by the explosive power of Matt's last sentence. Everyone but Sorscha had shrunk away from the angry god; Crystal, meanwhile, recovered quickly and barely managed to keep from chuckling at the oddly ironic bell-ringing.
Krista stepped around her cowering husband and cleared her throat to speak.
(to be continued)
Writing about religion is hard. Hell, any communication about religion is hard. I've spent a decade and a half managing classrooms, and I can tell you from personal experience that I can't even say the word "religion" in a group of people without offending somebody.
Well, all right, that was a bit of an exaggeration, but still....
A good friend of mine on Facebook wrote a book that's sorta-similar to Cataclysm. She then had a good friend who's Christian get on to her about her book because it talks about other gods. I had something similar happen with Cataclysm, too. In fact, the expositional chapter (the talk over dinner) almost got yanked because a) it didn't contain any action, and b) it veers off into sacrilege if you're sensitive to that. In fact, that chapter pokes fun at nearly every religion or pantheon out there. Oh, and c) exposition tends to be a very bad thing to have in prose; it's hard to maintain suspension of disbelief when one guy's just standing there lecturing. Anyway, I went back and forth on it and revised it several times, and ended up--well, it's there. Flip past it if you don't like it. It's fiction, anyway, as in not-intended-to-be-considered-true. Or as in suspend your disbelief, but don't really believe. Say after me: there is no Hogwarts, and Frodo doesn't really exist. And TOSK doesn't really hate Christmas.
So all that said, this story I'm telling (in three parts) is less about Return of the Gods and more about my own thoughts on Christmas and its meaning. I hope you'll all enjoy it.
Oh, and buy my book.
Buy my book.
Buy my book.