The story will be told by the young and by the old, many times this night, of the nine gods in masquerade. And it seems to me, that most of these storytellers have only pieces of a greater puzzle.
The masquerade is an ancient custom, they say. They all say that. And that part is right.
It’s the one night when the gods, in disguise, walk among the mortals, they say.
We all know there’s no such things as gods. Only ancestors, some of whom knew more and better than we do, and some of whom knew less and worse.
Not in the beginning, but early in the history of the world, many mortals suspected that the ones who called themselves gods were shirking their duty of properly governing the world. Some responded by entreating the gods. Others by railing against them.
But a few decided to try answering the question of what it was that the gods spent their time doing if they were not doing what was expected.
It was known that the gods lived far above the earth and somewhere below the stars. Their abode was not visible to mortal eyes, but if human sight could be extended, perhaps human eyes could see the comings and goings of the gods, and follow their course to where they landed in the mortal earthly realm.
She was far too kindly, and therefore looked upon with disdain by her fellow gods. The other gods feared that the balance of power was being tipped too much toward mortal creatures, to whom the kindly god had given many gifts. The kindly god argued that what she had given the mortal creatures shifted the balance by such an infinitesimal degree that all the gods could give what little she had given to the mortals, or else she could give all her power, and it still would not equal what the gods possessed.
To teach her a lesson, the other gods diminished the kindly god by half.
When the world was new, there was much chaos. Wars between gods. Wars between gods and those they were charged with guarding and guiding. The birth of terrible monsters on sea and land and sky. The birth of creatures who could cross between the realms of the living and the dead, who could haunt the dreams of all creatures who dreamed.
In the midst of it all, there were those who, perhaps in vain, still endeavored to live and love and build in the new world. Continue reading
“It is our task to maintain balance,” the god in the gray robes said. He lifted his head up, even though he was half again the sword-smith’s height. He cast his gaze downward.
The sword-smith knelt before the god and bowed his head. When he raised it again, his eyes were full of grief and disbelief. “How can one woman threaten the balance of the world?”
The gray god’s brow creased slightly. “Many ways. By questioning the gods for one, as you do now.”
The sword-smith bowed his head again. “I only seek to understand.”
“It is not your place to understand the will of the gods. Only to accept it.” The gray god’s voice was soft. His tone gentle. But the sword-smith would later remember that it was the first time he heard something else in a god’s voice. A tremor. Of doubt.
There are only three now.
Once, there were nine hundred and nine.
They were the army of the gods. They were vengeance on black wings. They were scourge and nightmare.
They were fury. Continue reading