Evan wants to buy a little time, and it didn't escape his notice that he and his friends aged not a minute on their first time through the dimensional barrier. He wants children while they are still young enough to have them, and a whole year has passed since their last trip. He and Valaura are in love, but she is unwilling to marry, and he believes that another trip to the magical dimension may provide the answer. Suspecting that the Wand won't work for them a second time, he has an artisan rework the metal and the jewels into a chalice.
Lilly and Marshall were living a fairy-tale existance until he had to go on tour. She is attending a university near his chalet in Stockholm, and doesn't want to abandon her studies to accompany him. Disgruntled, he goes on the tour and, finding himself lonely and besieged by willing women, he gets into the kind of trouble that could only be worsened by Lilly walking in on him and his parvenu. The result is that Lilly leaves him, going to live with Valaura and Evan.
Evan arranges a reunion where they all drink from the chalice. They arrive in Lucifer's Land of the Chalice and discover that twenty years have passed. In that time Sterling and Ariel have twice become parents, of a girl named Silvera and a boy called Abbadon, and almost no one else has aged even a little.
Silvera is a spoiled princess and wants Marshall, the Savior. She does not see why Lilly, as a commoner, has any right to be more than his mistress. Evan, having brought Valaura to this side of the barrier, discovers that King Lucifer would like to aquire her for his own.
As if the situation were not awkward enough, Evan and Marshall are kidnapped by a group of women called Amazzones, and need to be rescued. Once that is accomplished, and a few messy details (such as an uprising by rebel Anjeles) cleared up, they all return to their own side of the barrier. Evan and Valaura are looking forward to their wedding, but they have neglected to discuss one very important issue. Lilly and Marshall both want to reconcile, but Marshall has developed a problem due to the rough handling he reveived a the hands of the Amazzone, and doesn't believe it is possible.
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Prologue: Evan Stone
Funny, the house didn't seem so damn big before. Laura with her ceaseless energy could fill any room. On the bottom floor was a big, all-inclusive area -- kitchen, dining room, conversation pit, television alcove. One floor up was the big balcony office they would share. And on the third floor were the bedrooms, four of them. Plenty of room for a family.
Evan spent much of his time that first evening admiring Valaura's work. The laundry area was part of the kitchen; behind bifold doors it was unobtrusive most of the time, but when opened it was complete. Washer, dryer, counter space, sewing machine, ironing board were all easily brought to hand. Every detail was perfect. The colors were warm and inviting. She'd done a marvelous job. There was still a bit of a mess in the garage. The first floor shower needed tiling, and a water heater was being installed on the top floor.
Almost done, almost perfect. Why weren't they settling down to this new life? Why did Laura pace the rooms? And why did he feel as though he'd captured a child-bride? Laura was indisputably adult. She was always responsible, and responsive to his needs. Well, he smiled to himself, not in the matter of the sunken tubs; but then he'd started that as a distraction. She'd been flirting with the contractor. A gentle flirtation involving nothing more than a few teasing smiles, but Evan had made his presence felt by annoying her about the tubs. He looked around the empty rooms. God, he missed her.
A thought which brought him full-circle, back to the matter of her restlessness. Why weren't they settling down, and what was it about Valaura that she wanted to flirt with every man who noticed her legs? Which most of them did, he grumbled.
He went over their adventure in the Land of the Wand, and had to admit she'd been a flirt even then. She loved him; it was a tangible thing, this love they shared. So why flirt? And slowly he came upon an answer. When he first saw her in the mall she had not been attractively dressed, though nothing could have hidden those legs. Later Valerie, her mother, had credited him with `turning my little girl into a beauty'. And had gone on to say `I never saw her play like this before'. She'd been a good, hardworking girl from her early teens on. No nonsense, just hard work, family responsibilities and her studies. She'd been more than equal to her burdens, but where did she turn for lighthearted play? The answer was ... nowhere. And that was a shame, for Evan considered that one of the major jobs of one's teenaged years was to learn how to play.
He turned the issue over and over, and in his opinion it was no wonder that Laura was restless. An important part of her path to maturity had been bypassed. And if she was going to have children the time was growing short. If you wanted to enjoy your kids, first you had to know how to be a child yourself. But that took time, and Laura was approaching an age where her child-bearing days were numbered.
There was only one way he knew to gain the necessary time. They had been in the Land of the Wand nearly a year, and had returned to Chicago at the same exact second they left; not a moment older. In the alternate universe, one aged only if it was desirable to do so.
In the heart of the house, those second-floor offices, hung the Wand. It's filigree and crystal beauty had been the means of their transport the last time. Why not now as well? He cradled it in his hands and there came unbidden the image of the Cup, and with it the beautiful masculine face of Lucifer, the Daemona king who ruled in the Land of the Cup. Behind Lucifer was a deep-blue lake, ringed with snow-topped mountains. This faded, and Evan saw Marshall and Lilly's chateau standing before the same lake, viewed from the opposite side. Evan groaned to himself. Why did it have to be Lucifer?
The King was a dangerous person. His wit and charm (not to mention his body) could seduce many a less vulnerable person than Laura. Pulling down his reference book on the Tarot, he looked up the significance of The Cup. Yes, the winds of change were upon them and he knew he couldn't hold them back. Better to greet them with open arms. The next morning he took the wand to an artisan he'd met at a crafts fair and asked him to change it to a Cup, with the crystal embedded in the design.
The man clearly felt Evan had slipped a cog. He studied the wand with its' delicate beauty, and sniffed. "You're weird, man. Somebody sweated blood to make this pretty bauble, and you want to screw up the artist's vision?" But as he traced the delicate metallic design, his expression changed. Evan watched, fascinated, as the man ran the tip of the crystal across his closed eyes. When the eyes re-opened, they clearly possessed a vision of their own. "A Crystal Chalice," he stated firmly. "Get out of here. I'll call you when it's done." Evan smiled to himself. He personally knew the strength of any vision wrought by that crystal. "And it's going to cost you," the man called after him. "I don't like messin' with someone else's magic."
In two days, the Chalice was delivered to the house with a note attached:
It wanted to come home. Any amount over $1500 will be acceptable. Send it before you use the chalice. See you next time." Ned
Evan looked from the box to the note and back again. He wrote and mailed the check before opening it. The Crystal Chalice, indeed. The golden cup seemed carved, not molded, into the semblance of a large natural crystal with the silver providing the light that played over it. The top was left smoothest just over the crystal, which seemed to be merely the brightest of the Chalice's facets. Carefully Evan closed the box and carried it down to store in the hutch by the glass dining table.
The trouble started that same evening. Laura was due the next morning, and Evan was happily baking bread; a heavy loaf full of rye and good health. He repeated the phrase to himself, remembering the moment when Laura had first inducted him into the mysteries of baking bread. Evan sat back with his coffee and was contented looking at a perfect loaf while ignoring the huge mess that had yet to be cleaned up.
It was with no sense of foreboding whatsoever that he answered the doorbell. There stood a tearful Lilly, and behind her a gruff cabdriver who sat her luggage down with a thud. "You responsible for all this?" the man asked threateningly.
Lilly threw herself into Evan's arms. He withstood the impact easily, and cradled the little blond head against his shoulder while looking quizzically at the driver. "I'm taking responsibility. Do we owe you anything?"
The driver looked around at his surroundings. "Yeah. Wouldn't charge her nuthin', but you're different. That'll be twenty-eight-fifty."
Evan settled Lilly on the couch before pulling his wallet out of a jacket he'd left thrown across a chair. He handed the driver two twenties.
"Thanks," the man said, none too graciously. He turned to Lilly. "You sure you'll be all right, girl?" At her affirmative nod he glared at Evan. "She's too good to have all this grief. Don't give `er no more." He stomped out, having conveniently forgotten to offer Evan his change from the second twenty.
Lilly turned to Evan with a watery smile. "Sorry I've landed on you like this, complete with bag, cabdriver and tears. I'll bet Valaura isn't even here."
"Due back in the morning. Let's get you some coffee."
Over the steaming coffee, she gave him her tale of Marshall's sordid perfidy, leaving out only a few irrelevant details. Evan listened, becoming angrier by the moment. Laura's innocent flirtations were one thing, but Marshall had sown plenty of wild oats. Evan translated his anger to energy and began to clean the kitchen, Lilly slipped easily into the role of helper. She began to fill him in on some of juicer details, and he dropped a plate when she described the lovely black-haired witch who'd come out of the hotel room.
Evan had shown the poor little thing to one of the guest rooms, and was trying fruitlessly to get some sleep when the doorbell rang again. He stalked down the stairs knowing who was waiting, and rounded on Marshall with a stunning blow to the jaw. "How dare you treat Lilly like this, you little bastard!"
The blond head looked up at him from the pavement. "Lilly breaks my nose, and I believe you've broken my jaw. The girl really wasn't worth it."
"Of course she wasn't," snapped Evan, and then did a double-take. The singer's nose was swaddled under cotton and tape, and the black-and-blue was spread across his cheek. "Lilly did that to you?"
An hysterical giggle answered him from the top of the stairs. "Damn right. I hope you broke his jaw, too." Then she ran down and stared at Marshall in some confusion before dragging him into the house. "You're causing a scene on Evan's front step." Her tone was crisp.
It's like watching a tennis match, thought Evan; and I don't know how to referee. Laura, where are you when I really need you?
Chapter Fifteen: A Move Toward Madness
It took Marshall hours to find a blacksmith who could execute his requirements, and only the awe that `The Savior' evoked in the Daemona made him consent to what he obviously thought was a demented request. In an hour, the job was completed. Marshall waited for Silvera to appear at his door, as he was certain she would. He hoped Lilly trusted him enough to wait for him to come to her -- and to open the door to him when he did. Although he was grateful that the demands of Silvera had forced Lilly to reverse her position on their relationship, he knew it was predicated on a very tenuous premise ... and he could see that Lucifer and Sterling were going to do their best to pressure him into an alliance with the princess...
It was nearly midnight when the door swung open, and a female figure stood outlined in the moonlight from the window. She was clad in what appeared to be a nearly transparent robe of gossamer; it reminded Marshall of the gowns her mother, Princess Ariel, had worn when she was young. But Princess Ariel would never have displayed her charms so brazenly. She moved into the room, surveying him uncertainly.
"Close the door." Marshall's voice held no emotion.
She turned back and did so. Then, as she neared the bed, she said, "I had thought you would come to me."
Marshall closed the book and tossed it onto the carpet, which appeared to be spun from fluffy silk. His eyes met hers, coldly. "Why would you think that? Surely, if I went to anyone it would be Lilly."
Silvera's fists clenched at her sides. "Why won't you understand? You were brought here to be my consort! You will be! You will!"
Marshall thought she would throw herself onto the floor and drum her heels like a child. Quickly, before she knew he had left the bed, he was at her side. "Will I, do you think?" He grasped her wrists and dragged her towards him. "Perhaps you won't want me to, when you know me a little better."
She stared at him in disbelief. "What ... what do you mean?"
"Come ... I have something to show you." Not waiting for her response, he dragged her behind him, into the adjoining dressing room.
"Yes, all right. Lord Marshall -- you are hurting me!"
"You have displeased me, and you must suffer the consequences. I am your Master, princess ... you'll learn that tonight." Marshall pulled Silvera towards the far wall, where the mirror had been removed to leave the surface bare. In the wall had been set black-iron chains, and from the chains hung gyves of the same iron, padded with layers of leather on the inside. The princess didn't know this, but Marshall had no intention of hurting her -- he didn't even want the gyves to chafe her wrists. But he was determined to be rid of her attentions, and he had no intention of being the `Savior' of the Daemona yet again -- by mating with their princess. He hoped he could scare her into casting him off -- he'd deal with Lucifer and Sterling when that happened, no matter how angry they were.
"What ... what are those? I've never seen the like. Whatever can they be for?"
Marshall smiled grimly down at her. "Let me show you." Pulling her towards the wall, he enclosed one of her wrists in the cuff and snapped it closed. Before she knew exactly what he was doing, he had her against the wall and had imprisoned her other wrist. She was immobile.
"Lord Marshall -- release me! Is this some kind of game from your world? I don't like it." Silvera attempted to use her usual imperious tone of voice, but she was obviously frightened.
"These are one of the milder `toys' used in a game known as Bondage and Discipline in my world. As I said, you have displeased me greatly by your behavior to my friends. I will release you when I am ready -- not before. And you, my dear, will have to be patient until then."
"I shall scream! My father and grandfather will hear me, and come to my rescue. Then they will deal with you -- and my grandfather will be very angry that you have done this to me!"
Marshall seemed unmoved by her threat. "Yes, I'm certain he would be. But you're not going to tell him, and you're not going to scream." He leaned nonchalantly against one of the wardrobes. "If you do, you'll never have me. Is that what you want, Silvera?"
"I ... I ... want you to release me!" She was close to tears.
"And so I will. When I have impressed upon you the necessity of obeying me. Because if you do not, I have worse punishments I can inflict on you. Much worse than this, little Princess. And you won't scream for help, because if you do, then you know you'll never have what you want of me." He pushed himself away from the wall and came to take her in his arms, and pull her body against his. "A child to rule this world -- a child born of a Daemona princes and the Savior -- oh, yes, little Princess ... I know what you want."
He lowered his head to kiss her, and when he felt her respond, he pushed her back against the wall. Then he walked to the door and left without looking back. Once he got outside his chambers and into the corridor, he sagged against the wall, his legs nearly collapsing under him. He thought he was going to vomit, and wished he hadn't eaten dinner or drunk several tankards of ale. If he had known how difficult it would be -- how truly repulsive -- he would have done better with an empty stomach.
Now he must find Lilly, and he only had an hour. That was all he could bear to leave the princess chained to the wall. And he had no idea where they had put Lilly -- as far from his chambers as possible, if Silvera had anything to do with it. He hoped she was near Evan and Valaura. He didn't want her to be alone in this place. In Marshall's mind the Land of the Cup was proving to be ten times worse than the Land of the Wand had ever been.
He finally located a servant who could lead him to Lilly's chambers, but by the time he reached them, a half-hour had elapsed. He would only have a few minutes to talk to Lilly, and then he would have to run back to his chambers if he was to be there is time for his self-imposed deadline.
He knocked on the outer door, and was relieved when it was Lilly who opened it. Over her shoulder he could see that she had nothing more than a bedroom. The chamber didn't even appear to have a private bath. He frowned. "Lilly, I have to talk to you, but I only have a few minutes. May I come in?"
She stood aside and let him pass into the chamber. As she closed the door behind him she said, "I suppose you have to get back to the Princess." Her voice was bleak.
"Yes, I do. And if your idiot friend Evan hadn't brought us here on one of his stupid whims, there wouldn't be any Princess for me to deal with!" Marshall realized his voice was going up in volume, and attempted to keep it under control. "Sorry, Lillikins, but if you think you hate my having to be with Princess Silvera, you can't even imagine how I feel." He threw himself on her bed. "Or how she feels at this moment!" He started to giggle uncontrollably, and Lilly stood in the middle of the carpet, staring at him uncertainly.
"Uh -- how does she feel?"
"How would you feel if you were chained to the wall of my dressing room?" His laughter was out of control, and Lilly sat on the edge of the bed gingerly, watching him in horrified amazement.
"Like killing whoever put me there. Oh, Marsh! You didn't ... did you?"
"Yes, love." He stopped laughing, and sat up to meet her eyes. "I had to do something to discourage her, didn't I?"
Lilly thought about tis for a moment. "Did you hurt her?"
"Of course not!" Marshall was indignant. "And I can't stay here very long. I have to go back and let her go."
"You know, love, I don't think it's going to work."
"Why not? Would you want a lover who chained you to the wall?"
"No, but Silvera wants you; and she has more than one reason for doing so. Marshall, I have to know something. When you made love to the Princess -- were you the first?"
"Yes. How did you know?"
"I suspected it from the fuss that Lucifer and Sterling have been making. They seem to have a different standard for princesses than the do for ordinary folk. Or maybe it's just that Silvera has to bond with a male before she can take other lovers. But my point is that if she's never had a lover before you, how can she possibly know what to expect? For all she knows, all the men from our world chain their women to the wall."
"Surely not! Not after seeing you and Valaura."
"She has no idea what we do in our bedchambers. That's why this may not work, love. She has no standard for comparison. If she's going to realize that what you're doing constitutes unusual behavior, to say the least, then someone is going to have to tell her."
"You tell her."
"What! You don't seriously think she'd believe me, do you? You're not thinking very clearly, Savior of the Daemona."
Marshall groaned and put his head down into his hands. "Then what are we going to do?"
"I'll think of something while you're gone on this hunting trip. Trust me, sweetheart, and bring me a baby Frost Monster for a pet."
"OK. What is a Frost Monster?"
I have no idea. Marsh, did you use dialogue out of one of those bondage movies? `You Are My Slave, I Am Your Master' -- that kind of thing?"
"Exactly! How did you guess?"
"You wouldn't have known what to say, otherwise!" They both collapsed in laughter again.
* * *
By the time Marshall had arrived back at his chambers, closer to two hours had passed. He felt horrible about that, but when he was with Lilly he had forgotten the time. When he entered the dressing room Silvera seemed composed, but he could see the marks of tears on her cheeks. He wondered just how close she had come to summoning her father and grandfather to her aid.
"I see you have followed my orders, Princess. I am pleased."
"Well, I am not!" She fairly screamed at him. "I order you to release me this instant!"
Marshall shook his head, smiling slightly. "You really are a very slow learner, my dear. God forbid you're intellectually inferior ... that would be very sad in a Princess of the Daemona."
"I certainly am not! I'm simply not accustomed to being treated in this manner." Her voice lowered, and became plaintive. "You are going to release me, aren't you?"
"Of course I am. And what shall I do with you then? Why did you come to me, I wonder? For this?" He stepped toward her and leaned down to kiss her gently. He felt her body soften slightly against his. She'd spent only on night with him, but Marshall had known instinctively, when he began to make love to her, that Silvera was a virgin. He had made her first experience in physical love as pleasurable as possible, and softened the pain where he could. This heightened her confusion at his present behavior, and he knew it. "Or for this?" Stepping back slightly, he took hold of the edge of her gown and tore it away from her, letting it settle into a shimmering pool on the carpet.
Silvera gasped and drew away, pressing herself against the wall. "Marshall -- not here! Please, my Lord!"
"No, little Princess -- not here." He reached for one of the manacles and released the catch on the side. There was no key, because Marshall had wanted anyone who found the princess to release her. Well, that little ploy hadn't worked ... she sagged against him slightly, as if in relief. Putting one arm around her, he lead her to the nearest wardrobe. Flinging open the door, he snatched up a cloak and wrapped it around her with a feeling of irritation. She shouldn't have been walking the corridors of the palace in that sheer gown, even if her chambers were near to his.
Hoisting her into his arms, he turned and walked into the bedroom. He kept going, out into the corridor and down to the chased silver doors that heralded the entrance to Silvera's extensive apartments. She was shaking slightly in his arms, and he knew he wouldn't be able to leave her that night. He cursed her, himself, and particularly Evan for the entire situation. He was definitely going to get Evan for this, and that was a promise.
* * *
It was early the following morning when Lucifer appeared in Marshall's bedroom on a beam of dewy sunshine. He turned eagerly toward the bed, exclaiming, "A-ha! I've got you now, my Lord!" His face fell ludicrously when he realized the bed was empty. "Damn the girl -- she's taken him into her chambers again, where I can't beam in!"
Angrily he dashed into the dressing room, hoping that Marshall would be there alone. It too was empty. It was the shimmering heap of Silvera's gown that caught his eye, and he crossed the room to pick it up, recognizing it as belonging to his granddaughter, The rent down the front was his first clue, and his eyes slowly moved upward to rest on the iron manacles and their chains. Dropping the gown, he picked up one of the manacles and studied it with some puzzlement. Suddenly, with a flash of understanding, he snapped it around his wrist. His gaze went to the other manacle, and with a roar of rage he disappeared into his beam of light, the empty manacle clanging against the marble wall.
Chapter Forty-four: Fundamentally Yours
Marshall needed time to think. He wandered out to the crystal courtyard, a very convenient spot. The people who walked there were usually quiet in honor of the unspoken convention that one went there to think, make love, or simply listen to the wind sing through the crystal. The crystals in question were those left behind by ice monsters who died a natural death. Their life force was spent and they were useless as a source of energy. At night they emitted a gentle glow that reached mere inches into the dark.
They sang when the wind blew, gently and with a beauty that carried pain deep within its' heart. The sadness suited Marshall's mood exactly and he began to hum a soft accompaniment that organized the crystals unstructured music into a more formal, more human, song.
The music came out of him naturally and effortlessly. It was the best bit of composition he'd done in years and he knew it. For the first time in a long time he really listened to his own voice. The register had deepened in the last few years but it was as clear and pure as it had been when he was in the boys choir in Stockholm. This was a pleasant surprise as he had rather expected it to show some damage. Some of the weird things he regularly did with it should have shown, and most especially the time when he had taken up smoking. That had not been one of his better ideas. A singer ought to be bright enough to protect the source of his income. Of course in the case of a rock singer his income not infrequently came from the way his jeans fit.
Not that it was going to do anybody much good to try getting into his jeans, what with the way things had been going lately. The worst of it was that he was beginning not to miss the women. In fact he felt that he was better off without them, all except his Lilly of course.
Silvera had him a little piqued, though. Her indifference was an entirely new experience to him. It was something of a relief to not have an eager woman panting after him. He'd begun to think that was his purpose in this place, to satisfy and impregnate all of empty womanhood. It was different, however, to not be wanted. For this reason, if no other, he'd been finding Paradiso a pleasant place to be. At the same time his ego was a little raw. She really didn't want him. He wasn't seriously hurt by that, but always before he'd been the one to do the rejecting. He wondered if his previous girlfriends had felt this funny emptiness at the thought that they were unlovable, or, at least, that he couldn't love them. Is this what had prompted Silvera's previous desperation? A new thought occurred; Silvera didn't want him and he was still here. Either he simply hadn't found the key to effect his return or his job here wasn't done. If he wasn't here for the primary purpose of impregnating Silvera, then why was he? Surely there had to be some purpose to all this sadness, there had been the time before. He resented for just a moment having the troubles of this strange world thrust upon him, but Silvera's sudden move to a more adult attitude had him thinking. He was beginning to feel like the ultimate Peter Pan, refusing to grow up though everything and everyone changed around him. Pouting wasn't doing him any good and since he really didn't have a clue as to how to get back home there had to be something he could do to be of service. The question was what.
Sterling found him there humming and making notes on his palm. It seemed to him that something was different about his friend. The resentment appeared to be gone from his eyes. He glanced about to be sure they would annoy no one. "Marsh, come on inside where we can talk, please." Marshall followed him in through the open door and they sat at a small table near a fireplace. The fire crackled cheerily and the singer noticed for the first time that he was cold.
"Mmm. That feels good." He stretched his fingers toward the fire.
"So it is. And it's rather late in the year to be out there in nothing more than a tunic and leggings. Remind Damask that you're not equipped for one of our winters, will you please?"
"It does begin to look like I'll be here for the winter, doesn't it?" He stretched as if his back pained him. "Your daughter is growing into quite a woman. You can be proud of her."
"Thank you. It's taken some time, and I know she was terribly hard on you and Lilly, but I think we're through the worst of it. I can't exactly thank you for your patience but I think you were of more help than you'll ever know. Didn't you hurt anyone when you were growing up?"
"When did I stop hurting people? Your daughter, for instance?" His voice was cutting. "I would like to ask you for a favor, Sterling. Could you gather you, Ariel, Puck, Silvera, Lucifer, and that ass Feldspar together in one room long enough for me to talk to them?"
"Most particularly Feldspar."
* * *
That evening found them all in Sterling and Ariel's private sitting room. Marshall had asked for a cup of tea, and Ariel was serving hot mulled wine to the rest of her guests. When she had settled into her own cozy overstuffed chair, Lucifer coughed slightly. "Do get on with it, lad. We're all waiting."
"First I'd like to ask Silvera a question. Why haven't you even asked me whether I'd like to be a father to our child in fact as well as bloodline?"
"It seemed to me that I knew the answer. If I have faulted you in this, I apologize. The disappearances of your friends have forced me to accept the fact of your ... well, your instability on this world."
"A reasonable answer. Is there nothing else?"
"I have no desire to be rude. Ask me that some time when there aren't so many people around."
He thought about what her reply might mean, and his conclusions were not particularly flattering. "You may have a point. Thank you for your consideration." He took a sip of his tea and carefully set the cup on a little table beside him. "Let's understand one another, I have no wish to be here. This is a fascinating place and all that, but I want to be home. I need Lilly, and want my own life back, but I don't know how to get it. The last time I was here I took a terrible risk and was very lucky to get home in one piece."
Sterling and Ariel exchanged distressed glances. Ariel cleared her throat. "I don't think suicide will work a second time, Marshall."
Silvera gasped, "Suicide. You committed suicide rather than be here? Are we so horrible?"
"You are a wonderful people, but you are not mine. Maybe when I'm Evan's age I'll feel differently about our world and the foreshortened life span it offers me, but for now it is home. About the suicide, Silvera. It worked, but I think your mother's right. That's not the way out this time. The pity is, I don't know what would do the trick. I'm not a lunatic, Silvera. There were a number of clues that led me to that decision last time. This time there seem to be none. Does anyone see a clue?" There was a definite lack of response among his companions. For just a moment Ariel seemed about to speak but them her eyes dropped and she looked at her hands in silence. Sterling frowned slightly and made a mental note to ask her about that later.
"The child in Silvera's belly is mine and I'm prepared to cherish it and do my poor best to father it. Always notwithstanding the fact that I may disappear at any moment. It's this eventuality that I wish to prepare for." He turned to face the glowering Feldspar. "Is it still your fond desire to kill me in some pre-civilized rite called a duel?"
"Yes, Savior. I have simply dropped the unseemly habit of trying to force a ... an unwilling man into fighting for his honor."
"Did Lucifer give you any reason why you should meet me in a duel, or was the prospect so very inviting that you felt no need for justification? No matter, once I've settled the business before me, I'll meet you when and where you wish. You, Feldspar, are my choice of surrogate father." His statement caused a flutter of involuntary noises amongst his audience. He now had their attention. "This strikes me as the best possible solution since you are in love with Silvera and she with you. Not that she hadn't plenty of reason for rejecting me without that distraction. I don't know how these things are done on this world, but I hope my wishes in this matter will bear some weight with you." He looked to Lucifer.
"Whenever possible we honor the wishes of a child's parent. Silvera, does this meet with your approval?" She nodded, and the face that had been bored earlier now held a vivid animation. Her grandfather smiled "So be it. Feldspar, I withdraw my request that you duel with Lord Marshall. If something happens to him it cannot be at your hand." He looked mischievous. "How would you explain it to the child?"
"Thank you, your highness." Marshall took back control of his audience. He did love the limelight ... "Since it is now unlikely that I will die at the hands of a man I do not wish to harm, my next statement carries rather more import. Aside from my desire to accept responsibility for the child Silvera and I created; I have what I hope are some useful ideas in how to get the Amazzone to co-operate in the matter of women for Paradiso. It seemed to me that a number of the women were more than greedy for my services, as well as those of Evan, and I am not so egotistical as to think it had much to do with me personally. A relatively small portion of society is homosexual by nature. At least on my world and, as far as I can tell, on yours also. I presume that most people leave off that sort of thing shortly after a few adolescent experiences."
"What is a homosexual?" Inquired Silvera.
"It means that their desires are directed towards the same sex, like the Amazzones or the Slamites. Valaura told me." Lucifer explained.
"How disgusting," She sniffed.
Marshall shrugged. "Often they are pretty nice people. Don't you know anybody who just isn't interested in sex?" At their nods, he continued. "Well, a few of those are probably homosexual by nature, if they aren't impotent. If your desire is for something you think is disgusting, it's natural to hide it even from yourself. To get back to the point, not all the Amazzone are lesbians. The word means female homosexual," he hurried to add. "I cannot seem to leave you. So I have decided to stay and do my best to help the men at Paradiso. It is a terrible thing to have no one to love. If I can't have Lilly, I'm going to do my best to love and help your people. Even to the extent of acting as liaison to the Amazzones."
The only person who seemed unsurprised when Marshall vanished was Ariel. "I watched his last departure too, and it is an amazing process. He grows transparent, you know. This time, for the barest flash of a moment, it seemed I could see through him into the other world. The line between must be terribly thin. The others were there and they seemed to be sitting at a dinner table. There must be some way to cross over by choice. Of course, the only one of us who could possibly do so would be Silvera, or Augustina the witch. I wonder how it might be done?"
Lucifer scratched his chin thoughtfully. "I believe you are right, Ariel. I wonder how we might arrange it? Would you be interested, Silvera?"
"Are you proposing that Silvera enter that barbaric place? How can you, her grandfather, even suggest such a thing?" Feldspar was indignant.
"Marshall didn't choose you for intelligence, did he? Only a footed person could possibly go there. A footed person with no wings. There are very few we could trust. I wouldn't want to send just anyone, and who could be better than my own granddaughter?"
"Oh, Granther ... Something special that I could do! Everyone else has wings or hooves or is a light bearer or something but I alone of those born on this world have nothing special about me at all. I think it's why I tried to shove my wants and needs onto other people."
"Not true, Granddaughter, there are the Amazzones."
"If it's all the same to you, I'd rather not be grouped with them!"
"But Silvera, they had to come from somewhere. Their people are probably relatively sane." Sterling tried to console her.
"I think you are right, Father. And, what's more, I think I know where these `relatively sane' people came from. The original Amazzones must have been dimension travelers like Marshall and his friends. Poor misused creatures who made the transition into the relative safety of their keep and were so frightened by their prior experiences that they created a warped society."
Ariel laughed. "I think you are right, Silvera. A very good deduction indeed. Multiply fright by anger and I believe you have something very near to the truth."
Sterling looked meaningfully at his wife. "Speaking of deductions, how is it that you alone among us was expecting Marshall's departure?"
She smiled up at him playfully. "Something Silvera said about Evan's leave-taking suggested the idea of personal sacrifice as the key. For Marshall there could be no greater sacrifice than to do something not really of his preference. And to do it in the service of someone else. The way he wanted us all gathered here suggested a decision of some import. I could only hope he had learned the lesson of selflessness."
"Why not just tell him?" Her bond mate was amused.
"But love, it is obvious." She faced her daughter when phrasing this last. "A sacrifice made for personal gain is no sacrifice at all."
AUTHOR'S STATEMENT: THE LOST MYTHS SAGA
Debora...When Sandra and I began writing The Lost Myths Saga, we had only a nominal idea of what the series would entail. We started with four characters who don't know one another, and the concept of transportation to another dimension. The rest came later, and I can't remember, all these years later, which of us came up with the concept of the Lost Myths.
Many people have asked us whether it was our intention to insult the patriarchal religions of our world by satirizing them in the other. Well, yes...in a way. You see, as Neo-Pagans we have put up with ridicule and much worse in our time, and have become accustomed to being called Satanists and `agents of the devil'. Accustomed doesn't mean we appreciate it, however, and we decided it was time everyone else got a pie in the face. Because our satire is in fun...except for one point. Fundamentalism of any kind is destructive, and soul-destroying. So while our satires are meant in the spirit of entertainment, some of the more gruesome aspects of the Daemona holy wars were written to remind our readers and ourselves that evil exists, and even though we don't believe in Satan as an entity, we sure as Hades know the spirit of Satan is alive and well in our world. We just might not agree on who exactly is harboring it.
We had originally planned on only four volumes, one for each of the suits of the Tarot. But we love our characters so much that we are considering another series, using as the main characters our teenagers, in a few years, when Abaddon, Delilah and Vashi are old enough to get into some really important trouble on their own. The first volume has a working title of Path of the Fool, but don't look for it yet, gentle readers -- we have lots of other surprises coming up for you, first.
* * *
Sandra...I seem to recall a sunny afternoon while we walked through a Flea Market in Marin. I bought a huge, navy blue, straw hat. Debora was looking for a wicker headboard for her bedroom. It was a pleasant day with a valued friend and when we started talking about a plot for a fantasy novel, I didn't take it too seriously. My surface mind was on hats, you see. But the idea grew, and it was so much fun that we were off and running before I knew it.
Debora is, perhaps, minimizing the amount of nonsense we have put up with because of our satire. I am not certain why fundamentalists have no sense of humor, with a few notable exceptions, but we have certainly heard enough of their opinions to lead us to a very gentle yawn. Doesn't anyone else ever tire of listening to tirades about evil, when the foremost definition seems to equate evil with dispute?
Neither Debora nor I agree with every opinion spouted by our characters, although we try to let them sort it all out in their own way. However, many of the more violent actions in the book are supported by true life events found in the newspapers. Some of the harsher opinions are simple paraphrases of what we read.
It is not our responsibility to fairly represent all sides of an issue. Why should it be? Those who attack us don't shoulder any such responsibility. Witness that we are frequently called Satanists. Satan is a figure normally referred to only in certain religious texts. We do not ascribe to any of these religions. Certainly, evil exists, and if it is useful to some people to embody that in a figure they call Satan, well and good. But Satan is a ridiculous legend in my opinion, and I can't help but poke fun at him.
Now book three, The Sword and the Scabbard, will probably annoy many of my sister feminists. Yes, I know that is a forbidden word now, and that it is more acceptable to use scatological terms to describe human waste in public than to admit to being a feminist. I may like to wear high heels on occasion, and to flutter my eyelashes at the man in my life, but I am a feminist. It's just that I'm willing to laugh at some of my more radical feelings. I don't really want to escape from men. We must all learn to live together, even if I refuse to be referred to as `the little woman'. (Debora adds: must be especially galling when you are one; nobody's ever called me that, being Amazonian in stature!)
So, in book four, we poke a little fun at Satanists, the dark side of many Christian belief systems. We invite you to laugh with us. And as for our upcoming book... If one sets out to laugh at fools it must be remembered that no group has a corner on the market when it comes to that failing.