CHAPTER FOUR HUNDRED AND THIRTY-NINE
“Uh …” Tanesha said.
“Just start when it started,” Seth said. “I’ll ask questions if something is unclear.”
“Okay, that helps,” Heather said. “It started with my father, Eros. He created a shade of himself. Before you ask, that’s a sliver of himself. He sent the shade into the world at some point, we’re not sure when.”
“But it sounds like you knew it was in the world,” Seth said.
“I knew,” Heather said. “My grandmother, Aphrodite, and Hera knew. I also knew the Gods of War were coming out of their long sleep.”
“How did you know that?” Seth asked.
“Athena,” Heather said with a nod to the other woman.
“What does it mean that the Gods of War were coming out of their long sleep?” Jeraine asked. “It sounds very … biblical.”
“They are a lot older than that,” Perses said as he appeared behind them. “You’ve heard of ancient civilizations giving human sacrifices to the Gods?”
Almost everyone nodded. At the gruesome idea, Noelle grabbed Teddy’s hand and held it tight.
“The sacrifices were for the Gods,” Perses said. “The Gods do not have physical form. They can only manifest in human bodies. Thus, the sacrifices. Once they had physical form, they would advise human elders and dignataries how best to win a war.”
“It never occurred to people that the Gods of War were behind every war,” Athena said. “It took me a few hundred human years to figure it out myself.”
“Athena put them to sleep finally after the last world war in Europe,” Heather said. “They had been asleep until that whole Nazi thing. You’ve probably heard that they were very interested in the ‘occult.’”
Heather nodded. Delphie, Sam, and Seth nodded, while the younger people looked on.
“It took a while, and I had to put them away from human eyes …” Athena said. “In their slumber, human beings have learned to get along with each other. Wisdom rules over war, now.”
“How did all of this unfold on my daughter, Honey, and Jill?” Seth asked.
“We’re getting there,” Tanesha said.
“My father’s shade lay millions of spells throughout the Castle,” Heather said.
“I thought you cleared those with the Sword of Truth,” Noelle said.
“So did we,” Heather said. “When Honey, Sandy, and Jill were taken, we realized that we’d missed the purpose of the shade.”
“He was harvesting for souls for the Gods of War,” Athena said.
“Why them?” Seth asked.
“They were mentally ready for the transformation of ceremony,” Heather said with a note of finality. “And, they are my best friends. He wanted to stick it to me again.”
“You and Tanesha are best friends,” Jeraine said, irritably. “Should he have taken her?”
“Why don’t we put that aside for a minute?” Sam asked. “Let’s see what they have to say.”
“As you probably know, the Gods of War sent their page to capture Honey, Sandy, and Jill,” Heather said.
The pointed to the screen Abi had created and they watched Honey, Jill, and Sandy talk to the page of the Gods of War.
“He’s annoying,” Nash said under his breath.
“So there we are,” Heather said. “We went to the Gods of War. They were restless but not quite awake. They had no idea what woke them and were not happy that they were waking up. In their minds, they had taken care of humans for a long time and were more than sick of doing it.”
“We decided that the easiest and safest thing to do was to hide Sandy, Honey, and Jill,” Athena said. “I was able to comfort the Gods of War and get them to settle down. With any luck, they would have fallen fast asleep again.”
“So we slipped through time and hid Jill, Sandy, and Honey,” Heather said with a nod.
“Which is how we ended up having a wedding at all,” Tanesha said.
“But …” Heather’s eyes flicked to Perses.
“I forgot to temper my voice,” Perses said in a remorse laden voice. “And …”
“Now’s a good time to show what happened,” Heather said.
She nodded to Abi and gestured to the screen before the fire. The scene began to unfold.
The picture began to slowly clear. The image seemed to resolve somewhere in the altar of the amazing church. For all of the activity, there was a kind of solemnity and silence to this moment. Sandy was walking down the aisle with Seth. The plain silk of her mother’s wedding dress rustled as she moved. Honey and Jill stood on one side while Jacob and MJ stood on the other. They were slightly turned to watch. When Seth and Sandy arrived to the middle of the aisle, the couples turned toward the priest.
“Who brings this woman to this marriage?” the priest asked for the third time.
“Her father,” Seth said, as they had practiced. “Me. Her mother is here in spirit.”
The priest nodded and Seth went to sit next to Ava. Aden stepped next to Jacob.
The priest opened his mouth and the page of the Gods of War appeared in the rafters of the church. The page seemed surprised to have landed in a church in the middle of a ceremony. He floated down to the aisle of the church. His face reflected a mixture of surprise and delight, as if he was delighted to have such a large group of humans to mess with. He smugly strutted toward the front before realizing that no one could see him.
He glanced at the audience. Lord Perses sat with his eyes intent on the wedding. There were a few Goddesses, including that meddling Athena, intent on the process. He smiled. Whispering an easy sleeping spell, he put the audience into a trance. In the audiences mind, they were watching a wedding. They wouldn’t wake up until long after he was gone.
All he had to do was touch the proxies, not get caught, and the Gods of War would manifest again. He reached his hand out to touch the closest bride — Sandy. His fingers crept ever closer to her. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw something in the aisle.
He whipped around.
There was a black and white cat sauntering down the middle of the aisle. He gawked at the cat. What was this place where animals were allowed to sully their chapels? Shaking his head, he turned back to the front of the room. He had lingered too long. He needed to grab his proxies and get out of there.
“You do realize that any arrangement you made with Eros is not going to be upheld,” the cat said in clear words.
The page of the Gods of War turned to look at the cat. Shaking to clear his head, he returned to his task.
“He has retired,” the cat said.
“That doesn’t matter,” the page said to the cat. “We will jump to a time when he wasn’t retired. Easy.”
The page shook his head at the cat.
“Oh?” the cat asked.
The cat seemed surprised. The page turned to look at the cat.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” the page asked.
“Touch her and find out,” the cat said with malice.
Shaking his head at the cat, the page touched Sandy. She disappeared from the chapel. The priest gasped in horror. He raised his hands toward the page.
“Away demon, I cast you out!” the priest said.
Honey disappeared. The cat meowed and the crowd awakened. The page raced to touch Jill. The crowd was on its feet. A few human warriors stepped toward him. He gave them a smug smile and reached out for Jill.
The priest screamed at the page again. This time, he showered the man in holy water. The first to get away, Paddie rushed down the aisle with Katy on his heels.
“Bring them back!” Paddie said.
He held the sword in front of him and pointed it at the page. The page gave the child a cocky grin. He touched Jill at the same moment he was hit by a blast of the Sword of Truth. The power of the sword hit him square between the eyes.
“Thank you,” the page said to Paddie.
He tried to disappear, but was unable. He whipped around to look at the cat. The cat shrugged at the page.
“I would say that I warned you, but why waste my breath?” the cat asked.
“Bring them back!” Paddie screamed.
“You will bring them back!” Katy said.
“No, I won’t,” the page said.
With every passing minute, the audience was gaining on him. His nemesis, Athena, was now standing next to the cat in the hallway. There was a fairy-human child standing next to Hedone, Eros’s ungrateful daughter. The page felt an unfamiliar tingle of fear run down his spine.
“I am the powerful one here!” the page said. “I command the Gods of War.”
“Are you sure?” the cat asked.
The page began to sputter with rage. He tried again to disappear. This time he was successful. He jumped to where he’d left the brides.
They weren’t there.
But the cat was.
“Where are they?” the page asked.
“Who?” the cat asked.
“I need to fulfill my job,” the page said without bothering to keep the anger out of his voice. “I am to bring the proxies to the Gods of War! Without me, they cannot come into being.”
The cat laughed. The page rushed around looking for the brides.
“Has it ever occurred to you that the time for a world at war has passed?” the cat asked. “Has it occurred to you that the reason you are having these issues is that the Gods of War do not want to manifest?”
The page snorted.
“Just shows how little you know,” the page said. “The Gods of War always wish to live.”
“There’s where you are wrong,” the cat said.
“Did you say something?” the page asked, still franticly looking around for the brides.
The cat laughed again.
“Why do you laugh?” the page asked.
“They are not Gods of War,” the cat said. As the cat grew, he seemed to transform. “They are Gods of Life who have been misused for war. They have sucked the resources out of an abundant world which they created in order to continue to perpetuate the myth that they are Gods of War!”
The page warily watched the cat.
“How did you not know this?” the cat asked.
“You’re wrong!” the page said.
“No,” the cat responded. “This is not a world created in war. This is a world created in peace and love. It’s been misused.”
Shaking his head, the page jumped away from the cat to the next possible place for the brides. The cat followed.
“I guess, I’m confused,” Seth interrupted the playback. It halted in motion. “What does this have to do with my daughter?”
“Everything,” Athena said.
“But …” Seth said.
“Don’t worry, we’ll get there,” Heather said lightly.
Seth scowled and the show started again.
When the cat landed in the new location, the page of the Gods of War rushed the cat. His eyes filled with murderous rage, he grabbed the cat by the scruff of his neck. The cat laughed at the page. The page picked up a stone ready to bash the cat when he heard a noise. Unwilling to miss a chance to kill this meddling cat, the page smash the cat with the rock.
The cat was no longer in his hand. The rock was still in motion. The page bashed his hand with the rock. He yelped in pain. Someone cleared their throat. The page whipped around to see where he was.
He was standing in the chamber of the Gods of War. In a trance, the brides were standing next to the resting place of the Gods of War. The cat was calmly sitting at Sandy’s feet. At the sight of the brides, the audience at the Castle shifted uncomfortably.
“Is it done?” the page of the Gods of War asked.
He rushed to the resting place and stopped short.
“What is happening here?” the page asked. “The Gods are … gone.”
The page rushed to the brides. He leaned into each of them and then shook his head.
“They haven’t taken form!” the page said. “This has never happened before.”
As the page paced back and forth in front of the brides, a giant hole appeared in the floor. The page was so focused on his ruminations that he didn’t notice the whole. Athena materialized next to Honey. With her eyes on the page, she touched Honey’s shoulder and covered her mouth. Honey awoke with a jerk.
“Shh,” Athena said.
Athena nodded to the page. Honey nodded. Athena pointed to the hole. Honey gave Athena a “really?” Athena gave her a firm nod. Shrugging, Honey jumped through the hole. When she was gone, Athena moved to Jill. She went through the same motions with Jill. Jill jumped into the hole. Sandy and the cat were left.
“I just can’t figure out …” the page said to the cat without looking.
He fell silent and started pacing again. Athena quickly went through the motions to free Sandy. She was about to point to the hole, but Sandy reached to take her cat with her. Cleo licked Sandy’s cheek. Nodding, Sandy jumped into the hole.
This time, the page saw the movement out of a corner of his eye. He looked up and the brides were gone.
“Should we stop it here?” Athena asked Seth. “I don’t wish to bore you with anything that doesn’t include your daughter.”
“Where did they go?” Seth asked.
“The landed at the wedding,” Heather said. “At the precise moment they left. I thought that was a particularly great resolution but I suppose having them not taken would have been better.”
Seth raised his eyebrows.
“I want to know what happens!” Delphie said. “I think we all need to know.”
Everyone looked at Seth.
“How did their dresses get dirty and torn?” Seth asked.
“Have you noticed how filthy the air is now?” Athena asked.
Seth shook his head.
“Sandy’s gown was dirty on the very bottom, like she’d walked a long way,” Seth said.
“Honey’s gown was torn,” Sam said.
“That’s something else,” Perses said. “Not related to this.”
“If it is, I know nothing about it,” Athena said with a sniff.
“Will we get there if we continue?” Seth asked Perses.
“Of course,” Perses said with a slight nod.
Seth looked at Tanesha and she nodded.
“Let’s see what happened next,” Seth said.
“Where did they go?” the page of the Gods of War screamed.
He spun around and saw Athena standing next to the cat. He pulled back his leg to kick the cat. When his foot followed through, the cat was gone. The page of the Gods of War fell onto his back. He fell so hard that the wind was knocked out of him. He could only lay there and try to catch his breath.
With the cat on her shoulder, Athena leaned over to check the page.
“The world has changed, Lionel,” the cat said. “Just because you don’t like the change or think that it shouldn’t change doesn’t mean that the world hasn’t reconfigured.”
“How dare you speak to me in this way?” the page asked.
“Show him!” Ivy yelled to cheer on the cat. “Show him who you are!”
She suddenly realized that everyone was looking at her.
“Sorry,” Ivy said, blushing bright red. “I just…”
“You are correct,” Tanesha said with a smile. “That cat needs to show this mean little man exactly who he is.”
“She,” Noelle said is a soft voice. “Auntie Tanesha, Cleo is a girl.”
Tanesha grinned at Noelle.
“Yes,” Tanesha said.
The story continued to unfolded.
“How dare you speak to me in this way?” the page asked. “I am the page to the most powerful beings on this planet.”
“What is it woman?” the page asked. “You know as well as I do that the Gods of War are more powerful than you or any other God. They are the very nature of this world.”
“That’s where you’re wrong,” the cat said. “It’s taken me a long time to understand it, too. So I understand your confusion.”
“My confusion? My confusion?” the page of the Gods of War sniffed. “My biggest confusion is why the hell I would ever listen to a cat?”
“Oh Lionel,” the cat said. “What are we going to do with you?”
“With me?” the page of the Gods of War asked. “You dare to ask me this question? The real question is what are we going to do with you!”
“I think you’ll have to show him,” Athena said.
The black and white cat looked at Athena for a moment before realizing the wisdom of her words.
“Come with me,” the cat said.
In a moment, the cat and Lionel, the page of the Gods of War, were sitting on bench in the middle of a square.
“Do you recognize where we are?” the cat asked.
“Athens,” the page said.
“This is what current time looks like,” the cat said.
“But…” the page said. He leaned into the cat. “Where is the war?”
In a blink his eyes, the cat and the page were sitting on a bench inside an enormous hall.
“Do you know where we are?” the cat asked.
The page shook his head. He was too intimidated by the solemnity of the hall to speak in a normal voice.
“This is the International Court of Justice,” the cat said. “Inside there, they are addressing crimes against humanity.”
“What’s a ‘crime against humanity’?” the page asked.
“The things we used to do day in and day out,” the cat said. “War. Torture. Genocide. They were the stuff of our life once, Lionel. Now, they are war crimes.”
“But…” the page said.
“I promise you, it’s not a perfect system, but it exists,” the cat said. “People work their entire lives to wreak justice upon those we aided in war. Peace is the priority, now.”
“But…” the page said.
They whisked away again until they were standing in the back of a dark room with a large screen in front. There was a blue object on the screen with whispy white clouds.
“Do you know what that is?” the cat asked.
The page shook his head.
“This is what the world looks like,” the cat said.
“Pretty,” the page whispered in spite of himself.
“The world is monitored by things called satellites, now,” the cat said. “There are people who watch. If an atrocity occurs, the world knows about it within 24 hours. Nothing is hidden now. People even have little cameras they carry around with them.”
The page scowled. They were sitting in a wheat field. The sun beat down and sweat formed on the page’s brow.
“This is a wheat field!” the page said. “I know all about these. Most wars and revolutions have started when there’s been a wheat shortage. We get good mileage out of wheat.”
Grinning, the page put his hands on his hips and gave a smug look around.
“The world is warming, Lionel,” the cat said. “Humans are now aware that a lack of wheat usually leads to war.”
“I can hardly wait,” the page grinned.
“This wheat field is a new type of wheat designed to withstand the heat,” the cat said. “This and other crops are now being planted in what we used to call the ‘war belt’ of Africa.”
“Wheat is good business for us,” the page said with a nod.
“Listen to me, Lionel,” the cat said. The cat’s voice rang through the wheat. “In a few years, Africa will return to being the bread basket of the world. That is happening right now.”
The page turned to look at the cat.
“There may never be a war over wheat again,” the cat said.
“What are you saying?” the page asked.
“There is no need for war,” the cat said.
“You can’t tell me this world has no war,” the page said smugly. “What about Yemen? Syria? Afghanistan? Ukraine? Little Lithuania will fold under the imminent Russian invasion. Pakistan’s always up for a bloody war.”
“Most humans are outraged by these wars like they never were before,” the cat said. “Human beings now can win without war. There is no need for us anymore, Lionel.”
“Us?” the page asked.
“I didn’t believe it either,” the cat said. “It took me… a very long time. But Athena never gave up on me. She used her wisdom to show me that I could dedicate myself to life, and not death. And you know what? I like life a hell of a lot more than I liked war.”
The cat turned to look at Lionel.
“Can you give up your addiction to war, Lionel?” the cat asked.
The screen went out. Abi tried to get the memory back, but she was unable.
“Wait, who is the cat?” Sissy asked. She looked around at the others and they nodded that they wanted to know.
“Who do you think?” Athena asked.
She gestured to the cat as she wander through the grouping. As the cat passed them, their curiosity faded out of memory. By the time, Cleo the cat jumped up onto Noelle’s lap, no one remembered even the question.
“What happened?” Seth asked.
“We have to wait and see,” Athena said. “I can tell you that this is a conversation that has no end. Most of the world lives without war. Will all humans have the wisdom to give up this obsession with war? A lot of people make a lot of money off death and destruction.”
Athena nodded. She glanced at Heather, who was smiling.
“I’ll tell you,” Athena said. “By the look on our friend’s face gives me hope that love and wisdom will win.”
With that, Athena disappeared. The party came to an end and everyone made their way home.
“I forgot to ask about the dresses,” Seth said to his wife, Ava, as they changed out of their wedding clothing.
“Does it really matter?” Ava asked.
“Probably not,” Seth said with a nod.
She kissed his nose and led him to bed.
Denver Cereal continues next week…
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