Welcome to the Celestial Convention, the annual site of congregation for society's literary and literal figments, freaks and fanatics.
This gathering is dedicated to all inhabitants of the demesnes of the human imagination, as here be dragons, dryads, demolition rays and a myriad of other extraordinary things not beginning with "d", all of which can be found, discussed and adulated here, in this yearly shrine to the obscure.
All this is brought to you by the Celestial Society, a group devoted to the preservation and glorification of all things improbable.
Keep in mind that entry is at your own risk. The Celestial Society is a registered non-profit organization and will not be held responsible for any injury or confusion found or created within the confines of the Convention.
We hope you enjoy your stay.
Interwoven sounds of multitudinous conversations, blaring music and thudding feet ensure that the Celestial Convention for Sci-Fi and Fantasy Enthusiasts can be heard long before it is seen. The usual few 'normals' who accidentally wander in are assaulted by this, and the disquieting company of some of society's true unsung individuals.
Or, as most would (albeit less romantically) term them, Geeks.
Here they abound. People who for today go only by their hobbit name, comparing tribal tattoos from invented geographies, dressed as aliens, as rangers, as Jedi, as half-dragon sorcerers. People who sit at crowded tables playing with brightly painted figurines and dice with more than six sides. People hugging close either their dog-eared or pristine first-edition copies of their favourite books, lugging them about in desperate hope of getting them signed by authors. People who rush excitedly from hall to hall, to better reach the half-remembered locations of favourite events from previous years.
A few writers of works that are obscure but (in the right circles) well-known, use unsubtle subterfuge in an effort to manoeuvre from conference to conference, but mostly in vain; they are ambushed cheerfully by amateur critics and autograph collectors, who either declare the virtues of the authors' works or denounce the spelling errors on pages 237 and 632.
More feared (and assiduously avoided) are the so-called 'hard-core fans', who demand to know not only when 'the next book' will come out, but also why did "Character X (not) do Z when G happened?"
It is in this climate of the weird and wonderful that a man leans with studied nonchalance against a wall papered with tawdry signs advertising a conference called "Defining Deities". Thick blond hair hangs freely to the collar of his fur-lined leather jacket, and were it not for the large tag hanging from a lanyard about his neck, denoting his status as "Loki- Privileged Membership Holder", the "man" could easily be mistaken for a walk-in.
When asked on occasion what he actually holds membership for, the mocking reply is that only members are privy to that information. Due to this impertinence and his oddly (for this place) 'accidentally' fashionable clothing, Loki sticks out like the proverbial sore thumb. Despite or perhaps because of this, the more 'conventional' attendees leave him alone.
Checking his watch, he groans aloud.
"For the love of me, what's taking her so long?"
Chairperson: Celaeno, Harpy
The Convention begins at 8.00am, EST.
Latecomers who wish to chance incurring divine wrath do so at their own risk.
Unconcerned by the mixture of looks that he draws, Loki stretches in lazy annoyance and folds his arms as he waits impatiently for the "auspicious personage". As her renewed worship in recent times has caused unusually speedy elevation in the ranks of her contemporaries, she is this year's designated head of the conference.
Thus, it cannot be started without her.
Almost certainly, it is the annoyance-value that has sparked the uncharacteristic tardiness. If it weren't for the fact that this will give him more time to complete the setting for his customary (near-obligatory) prank, Loki would be considerably more aggravated.
He has the situation all arranged. Convincing Cai Shen, the Celestial Financier, to save him two seats was a slight struggle, but the opportunity to sneak a mortal into the annual reunion for those once-revered is just too priceless to let past.
Now all he needs is to watch the crowd and wait for a likely candidate to appear…
Overweight glittering alien? … nah, too obvious.
Death-white vampire with hollow eyes and dripping blood… makeup?
If he wished to consort with dead people, his visits to his daughter Hel's domain would be far more frequent. As Viking ruler of the damned, she has corpses to spare.
No, somehow he doesn't think that dragging in some being who failed to decide if they were alive or dead, (even if it was just a costume,) would get quite the effect he was after…
What about… no, that "dryad" had a miniature twig thing. No good- it'd probably start bawling in the middle of the proceedings again wrecking his big moment of revelation.
Damn it, you'd think with all of the assembled fringe elements here, he'd be able to spot one suitable candidate!
"So tell me, you a Peter Pan fan?"
Loki starts, turning to face a short female convention-goer who to his amazed chagrin has somehow managed to approach without alerting him.
Garbed in a traditional Japanese Kabuki theatre costume of a pale-faced madwoman swathed in a midnight and scarlet kimono, the human mockingly inclines her head, so that Loki knows she is grinning behind her mask.
With a smile as bright as her costume, she continues, "Because if you are, I believe your Lost Boy costume is a little literal."
Loki raises an eyebrow.
He smirks. "Seeing as this is a Fiction convention, I assumed everyone present would be literate." Gesturing lazily towards his nametag, he adds sardonically, "How human of me."
Unexpectedly, the Kabuki woman laughs.
"Oh come now, as if some moody, jeans-wearing guy is in any way representative of Loki the Viking trickster god," she says derisively.
"Oh you've heard of me. Refreshing, but I have to say, it would take an idiot to not see that jeans are far more comfortable than semi-cured furs and rusty iron, let alone a god," Loki comments lightly.
"More to the point, I've just spent a millennium in a cell having acidic snake venom dripped upon me. Now that the freedom-induced euphoria has worn off, I think that I am in fact, well and truly qualified to be 'moody' as you term it.
"And besides," he adds with a melodramatically surreptitious look over his shoulder. "I'm trying to blend in with these mortals. Showing up in all my divine glory might be too much for them."
The woman half-smiles in reluctant appreciation. "Okay, so you can stay in character, I'll give you that. Alright, so… what is a Viking god like you doing in a place like this? Plotting something?"
Loki's eyes glint mischievously, and the woman is surprised to feel a slight shiver running down her spine. He observes this and his grin widens.
"Actually, I'm just whiling away the time waiting for someone, but there is a certain endeavour that I believe you could help me with, Eve," he says.
Eve's eyes roll in sarcastic amusement. "Cute. You noticed that I'm wearing a nametag too. How exactly am I supposed to help you? What can a mere mortal like myself do to serve your… sorry, I can't really think of a title worthy of your godliness, oh Sire," she completes, her tone laden with enough irony to keep a blacksmith in business.
Lightning blue eyes glint, but before he can answer her, there is a distant roll of thunder.
Loki stiffens reflexively. He was sure his family had decided to skip this one! The last thing he needs (particularly now that he's chosen his pawn) is for Thor or Odin to come tearing down from the heavens in a fit of righteous wrath. It wasn't his fault that they couldn't take a joke, and besides…
A sudden gust of wind, interrupts his train of thought, and he sighs in relief. It's not his family.
He takes a step forward, hearing a sullen mutter of, "Stupid weatherman. Sunny skies, hah!" and the entrance door blows open.
Confused, Eve frowns, raising her mask for a better view.
She was sure she remembered that particular door being of the automatic, sliding variety.
The entrant strides through, and Eve's thought-stream is dammed.
Oceanic billows of hooded cloak when viewed in conjunction with the yellowing taloned feet provide onlookers with an intriguing image. Throwing the cloak in the general direction of the desk just inside the doorway, the stooped figure reveals a Greek-style chiton, split at the back to accommodate monstrous, raven-feathered wings. Stretching lazily, a rope of silver-streaked ebony hair flops from her shoulder almost to the floor, the thin escapee strands framing a haggard face, reminiscent of a pandemic survivor.
At the Harpy's upward glance, surprised onlookers alternately stare unashamedly, or fake blasé expressions, despite the fact that many of them are jealously aware that they are probably observing the winner of the costume competition.
The wicked green eyes spark maliciously as she spots Loki and his companion. She smiles nastily, displaying somehow surprisingly perfect teeth.
"Sorry I'm late! Got caught up a little, what with the foul weather and all," she croaks amusedly at her guide's scowl. The Harpy's gait is awkward as she takes half-hopping strides towards them, suggesting to Eve that this "bird" is far better suited to the air than the ground.
The hoarse greeting appears to be the cue to break the echoing silence, as sudden admiration is expressed from all corners, concerning the "authenticity" of the Harpy's "costume". One glittering alien is pushier than the others, and grasps the Harpy's elbow, demanding to know the secrets of how she has managed to "rig up" such a "fabulous outfit". She looks at him in annoyance, and the overweight "Venusian" hastily acts on a near-forgotten desire to move to the Aleutian Islands.
Loki whistles in appreciation as the guest moves closer. "So," he smirks, "I take it you're in a goodmood today, Storm Wind. Tell me, where exactly are the Aleutian Islands again?"
The Harpy nonchalantly flicks her plait over her shoulder with unexpected grace. "You of all Loki, understand the joys of a little improvisation," she murmurs, amused. "Besides, I didn't encourage anything that wasn't already there. It just so happens that his lifelong ambition has been to go to Alaska… Fortunately for both of us, it is in a different hemisphere." She frowns a little and continues, "And I'll have none of that labelling, young man. My name is Celaeno, so call me by it. I don't go for all of these fancy titles… unlike some I could name, Trickster. Or is it Sky-Traveller today? But then maybe you wouldn't feel up to it in my gorgeous gales. Perhaps Sly One? Or Shape Shifter, or…?"
The trickster god rolls his eyes exasperatedly at her cackling. "It's Loki today. Although it might change to Not Here if anyone takes exception to your timing- I am unsure whether it is brave or stupid to keep assembled divinities waiting."
Celaeno smiles innocently at him. "What's their problem- it's not as though they don't have time to waste, no? Besides, it might give some of them something to do for a few centuries. Humans never stop to think how boring it is to live forever… and yet they never stop attempting to reach immortality. Oh well, if you listen to the humans, to forgive is supposedly divine. Those layabouts will just have to bear with me. In saying that though…" she gestures irritably towards Eve.
"Why is this human part of my welcome party?"
Loki grimaces sheepishly, then says, "Well, I was going to sneak her in as my guest, to observe from a fresh perspective our…"
He is interrupted by the Harpy's raised hand, and Eve looks confusedly at both of her companions. They weren't serious, were they? She'd heard of how dedicated cosplayers1 were, but these guys were something else.
There is a pregnant pause, as the Harpy scrutinizes the bemused be-costumed woman. Slowly, the Harpy's expression becomes suspiciously benign.
"You know," she reflects, "this could prove to be quite amusing..."
Confused, Eve observes Celaeno. The name sounded familiar… she had a feeling that she had come across it in her studies of Greek mythology, specifically, Virgil's Aeneid…
Ah yes, she had it now. The creature who, upon having her and her sisters' cows stolen by Trojan refugees from the famous war, had declared that the Trojans would never cease roving until they were so hungry that they ate their tables. Somehow the prophecy had been bypassed, but the details escaped her…
Despite this, she had remembered thinking that both parties might have handled the situation better- sure, the Trojans shouldn't have purloined the beef, but they were starving men…
A little harsh of the Harpy and her sisters…
As though reading her thoughts, Celaeno enhances this image by chuckling malisciously as she continues, "And I cannot wait to see how she is received by our compatriots! Yes, though it would be best for them not to find out until afterwards I daresay- they wouldn't speak so freely in front of a mere mortal," (and here she barely contains an ungodly snigger,) "if they can help it… and their reactions will be so much funnier this way!"
Turning her back on Eve, Celaeno smirks at the Trickster god. " But also, I should find it highly entertaining to watch the reactions of a mortal in such exalted company. Ah, it has been such a long time since I have had direct dealings with a human."
She pauses for an instant, and then her eyes narrow. "You, Loki, have however been pretty busy of late, I hear."
A varying mixture of defiance, relief and amused chagrin flickers across Loki's features as he protests, "I haven't done that much! Just hurried a few things along and nothing happened that wasn't going to happen eventually. What's a war or two to the history of humanity? People die everyday," he says.
Eve opens her mouth to argue the ethics of his hypothetical assertion, but Loki motions her to silence, his angelic smile belying the callousness in his previous platitude. "Besides," and here the smile widens subtly towards a savage grin, "as you say, I have to do something with my everlasting life. I have literally all of the time in the world, and the godly powers to use it whichever way I like. Now that I have finally been granted parole for my past actions, my intent is to exploit the situation for as long as possible, before I manage to upset my interfering relatives all over again."
"That's the problem with you major gods, you all think you rule the world. Hah! Though it's far worse when mortals like that louse-ridden Phineus come to the same conclusion." Celaeno shakes her head in disgust.
Some past event has causes the Harpy to quiver in rage, (be it real or artificial,) and Eve tries to remember the reference from her studies of mythology.
Phineus, Phineus… nope doesn't ring a bell. Oh wait, wasn't he that seer who helped out Jason and the Argonauts? Damn these actors are good!
Loki eyes his companion closely for a time and wisely chooses to save the first point for another time. "Do I detect just a hint of bitterness Celaeno? You know, that story still does wonders for your credentials- you've become the symbol of all anti-social harridan feminists, and I must say that I envy you- some of your worshippers are positively devilish! I mean, burning underwear? What a way to attract attention!"
Eve giggles slightly.
It is Celaeno's turn to raise her eyebrows at Loki and ignoring Eve's outburst, she comments, "They're also persistent and independent, although at last these two are becoming relatively virtuous qualities. I was getting increasingly tired of the swooning corseted bunch who were more interested in keeping up appearances than actual quality of life… although a few of these you must have found just as amusing. It's about time some men woke up to the idea that they don't control everything- they only represent half of the human race, after all. That Mary Wollstonecraft is maybe one of my favourites from that time, and a few others like that Lucretia Coffin Mott did their share as well, but it has been so… refreshing to be receiving so many new adherents over the last century or so."
Vague recollections of her history class discussion of the origins of the feminist movement stir in Eve's mind, but she ignores them in favour of listening to Loki's reply.
"Well they at least are dead and gone, but their work sure isn't. I suppose that for a change you are surrounded by worshippers, be they intentional or not… though whether or not this is a change for the better remains to be seen."
Celaeno grins at him in a predatory fashion, and Eve is interest to note that Loki shivers at the sight. In an obvious effort to change the subject, he casually wonders, "So, what was it with you and that Phineus business… Somehow your part in all of that has always seemed to be a little, shall we say, exaggerated?"
Celaeno sighed. "You've heard tell of us tormenting poor blind Phineus, haven't you?"
"I heard that you stole all of his food, and… let us just say 'ruined' the rest?"
Eve's eyes widen in dawning recollection. Of course! Jason and the Argonauts fought the harpies because they were plaguing King Phineus, who told them how to get through the Clashing rocks on their way to get the fleece. On that note, she remembered something else… Hadn't the god Loki been incarcerated underground for some prank he pulled that ended up with a poor guy getting killed? Eve whistled silently in appreciation. Wow, this amount of research just for one day of dressups?
"Why is it that no one ever considers why we were there in the first place?" Celaeno demands in clear (and, Eve considers, authentic) exasperation. "We let him live, even though we tried to make his existence resemble Hell, but tell me, do you know why?"
Loki smirks, saying, "I heard that it was because the old fool uttered too many prophecies."
Celaeno rolls her eyes and Eve is shocked to see literal sparks coming from them. She opens her mouth to comment, but is surprised into silence as Celaeno aims abrupt antipathy towards Loki. "So that's the version that they're telling is it? Well the story has changed since I was part of it. Old Phineus was blind; ever hear how that came about?"
"I thought all seers were blind," Loki shrugs, seemingly ambivalent to his friend's fervour.
"This particular one lost his eyes for his sins, at the hands of his brothers-in-law, North Wind Boreas' winged sons no less. Darling Phineus set aside their sister, Kleopatra for a younger woman, and then blinded all of his sons in a fit of jealous rage, because his eldest had the gall to look at his step-mother. Honestly, it's Phineus' own stupid fault for marrying a girl young enough to be his daughter. The tales of her inciting him to blind them were all lies- and besides, none of them ever mention the fact that as soon as her husband went into exile, the poor girl threw herself off a cliff because she was so distraught at the idea that any of the tragedy was related to her."
Eve frowned. An interesting interpretation, but it somehow rang true. If she didn't know better, she would have sworn that Celaeno actually believed what she was saying… no. She's just a really, really good actor. Loki too for that matter…
"I heard that the winged brothers chased you and your sisters away, and that the Olympians had them swear an oath to kill you," Loki calculatedly murmurs.
"Oh please. They had," and here indignation diffuses into her tone, "the temerity to believe that they could handle the situation better than my sisters and I.
"As if they know anything about justice! My sisters and I were Zeus' Hounds, the storm winds personified, but did that earn us any respect? No."
Loki tries to hide his amusement, but fails miserably, and Celaeno glowers at him, as he gives up and guffaws at her. Eve does likewise, for she cannot remember ever seeing such compelling performances. She is considering whether or not she should clap, when Loki continues, either oblivious or insensible to Celaeno's death stares.
"Zeus' Hounds? Was that because you followed that old lecher around and looked disapproving?" he snickers irreverently.
Celaeno attempts to ignore his mirth, but the corner of her mouth twitches as she replies, "I have never been that bored." Eve grins as Celaeno continues, "But I would love to have met the girl who first came up with that explanation- cheeky, but ingenious. The number of those 'inexplicable' pregnancies that suddenly got proxy divine approval... an adopted divine parent could come in useful in a pinch, although they are notoriously bad for paying maintenance. Living up to the legends must have been so hard for those poor children." She smiles with vicious humour, then nods towards an entrance on the far side of the crowded hall.
Funny, Eve doesn't remember anything being in that exact location before.
"Shall we go in then? Their Royal High and Heavenlinesses might be getting a little shirty. And I would simply hate to keep them waiting."
A reminder to all that this year, as in years previous, it has been seen as necessary to include a security detail, in order to prevent any unwanted interruptions. Please keep your passwords in mind, as last year there were a few unfortunate misunderstandings of which we wish to avoid repetition. We thank you for your patience.
Executing a deft spin on her heel, (an incredible feat upon taloned extremities,) Celaeno heads towards a roped-off area denoted as "Members only".
"As if I'd be seen there on time," Loki mutters to Eve as he hurries to catch up. "I'm the Trickster- turning up on time would be bad for my credentials. It's got to be extra early with or without an innocent looking late entry, or not at all…"
"Is that why your kids have issues?" Celaeno muses looking over her shoulder, "I mean apart from them being a half-dead girl, a dirty great snake, two wolves and an eight-legged horse of all things… Although I heard an interesting rumour about that last one…"
Eve goggles. "What?!"
Celaeno snorts. "Well, apparently Loki made a bet with a giant that he couldn't build a wall around Valhalla in a week… Not counting on the fact that the giant had this horse that could work all night and day, and that said horse would be so good at its job that the giant was right on schedule…. Which would have been quite unfortunate for Loki's sister, Freya, whom I believe was the stake in the bet." Eve gapes just slightly, and Celaeno nods at her unspoken criticism. "Personally, if I were her I would have made him the first god of the eunuchs for that, but fortunately, he was able to… distract the horse, by transforming into one himself… only, I could have sworn I heard that the giant's horse was a stal…"
"Kapre! How are you today?" Loki interrupts brightly, greeting the bouncer, a bearded, humanoid rock, clad in a loincloth. Anywhere else, to suggest that he would be conspicuous would be gross understatement. Here, ironically enough, Loki in his jeans and jacket attracts more attention.
"What's the password?" the Kapre demands, standing up to his full height of two and a half metres, melon-like fists held at his sides.
Celaeno flexes her wings into view and gives her predatory smile, saying in Filipino, "How's the family, Tiny?"
"Good enough. My sister really wanted to come observe this time, so she's elected to be one of the artworks in the gallery across town when she isn't at the convention."
"Thought so," Celaeno mutters with a grin as she waltzes past the burly giant, and Eve suddenly recalls the 'statue' that took up almost half of the southern gallery's floor space. Supposedly a 'late entry', her friends who worked there had complained that no one had been able to figure out how on earth it had gotten there.
Seemingly there is one person now.
Nonchalantly tugging Eve along behind him, Loki makes as if to follow his winged companion, but is stopped in his tracks by a limb that could be a tree's.
"Password," Tiny growls.
"How come she got through so quick?" Loki queries, obviously miffed.
Teeth show in the beard, teeth the colour of dried blood.
"She had a good password. Besides, she's in the programme."
Loki cocks his head to one side, and fork lightning flashes across his eyes.
The Kapre shrugs and stays put.
"Any wizard worth his pointy hat can do that one too, Boss. You'll have to do better than that. And what about her?" he demands, indicating Eve, "The Japanese deities arrived here hours ago. What is she doing with you?"
Loki sighs, and effortlessly grabs Tiny by the throat.
"She is the source of my entertainment for this conference. Is there a problem?"
Wide-eyed, Eve looks on helplessly. Suddenly she has a really bad feeling about all of this, and her failed attempt to pull out of Loki's sudden vice grip does nothing to dissuade her.
"Okay, Okay, Sheez! I was just kidding. You Vikings have no sense of humour!" the Kapre gasps.
Ignoring the gawking mortal, Loki grabs Eve with an iron grip and stalks through the doorway.
Staring around in bemusement, Eve sees that she is in a crowded auditorium of people who seem to know each other really well.
"Cai Shen! How are you?" Loki calls to a wizened oriental man seated upon a monstrous black tiger.
The man grins, displaying a mouth-full of decayed molars.
Wincing, Eve allows Loki to drag her by the elbow towards his customary seat at the back of the crowded auditorium.
The indescribable scene of mythological beings, both past and present, mingling in unsubdued divine splendour is broken by the suspiciously mundane islands of customary mustard plastic chairs, that apparently even deities have trouble getting comfortable on.
To Loki's vast amusement, Eve is rendered speechless.
Finally, she opens her mouth to ask the obvious questions, but his eyes sparkle with mirth as he shushes her.
The proceedings are about to begin.
8.00- Opening Address
Please keep your mobile communication devices switched off.
Those who do not adhere to this courtesy shall be smote.
The podium is lit from below with coloured lights, lending the speakers an unearthly glow of lime and fuschia. Apparently, the previous people to use this auditorium left their lighting effects behind. Either that or Loki's previous claim about his "extra early" entrance was true. For a change.
"And now, for the one we've all been waiting for…" The disembodied voice pauses to allow for the comments of a dozen disgruntled or delighted demigods, "The Darkness in the storms, the Harpy Celaeno!"
The Harpy flaps, and then lands on the podium, whereupon she perches, her talons digging great slivers out of the wood.
She inhales slowly, and waits for silence. In the hush that follows, even the distant sounds of the myriad conversing mortals are cacophonous. Whether or not inspired by this, Celaeno looks almost fond as she begins.
"Stories told by mortals are rarely accurate. That is in the nature of the beast, as all of us who have claimed sovereignty over these pitiful creatures can observe. In the same wilfully ignorant spirit, which causes these short-lived beings to both dread and ignore the future, resources once thought to be endless are being diminished. They are emptying the oceans, felling the forests, and poisoning the very air that they breathe. Our subjects feel that the world is no longer big enough for them, as they contemplate travelling to new worlds, to ravage new places." The Harpy laughs bitterly, adding, "And all in the name of that new God, Science, who as usual, sends his regrets, and by his own dictates, cannot, or at least should not, exist.
"When people blindly accept on faith the Word of Technology, which will of course provide all of the answers in the face of the disasters that periodically visit the human race, including 'Acts of God' such as mudslides, global warming and dramatic erosion of coast-line from beneath expensive beach properties… It never ceases to amaze me how there can be so many atheists out there, who want to have 'Acts of God' included in their insurance policies."
Hilarity ensues at this statement.
Celaeno's expression is slightly amused but calm as she waits again for quiet.
"You all just illustrated my case in point. Most of us here only ever laugh at the truth, as our natures respond to something that is as similarly worshipped by us. People believe in the Truth, and they go searching for it compulsively. Lies by their very nature are ephemeral, the most potent of these being the closest to the truth. Yet self-deception seems to be one of humanity's specialities."
"Oh come now Celaeno," a fertility god laughs, "the way you tell it, it sounds as though humanity is one of the most confused races that we ever created- how can they possibly be searching for the truth and living in self-deception all at once?"
"It is hardly difficult," muses a Muse, "seeing as pretentiousness can be so intrinsic in what my adherents like to both create and destroy. They attempt to capture Beauty, as though once caught she would do anything constructive for them, or they tear at the tissue papers of comfortable lies that people use to create and pad the ideologies which drive them… and all of these, in their own ways have their own way of claiming that they are not only the way of seeking or procuring the truth, but even that their way is the only truth, and any who believe otherwise must be forced to see things the same way."
"Or be eradicated," interjects a half-forgotten Celtic entity. "My worshippers were all but wiped out by those bloody Christians. Call me crazy, but somehow I doubt Jesus, who preached peace and tolerance had much to do with those crusades. And don't even get me started on the Saints. 'St. Patrick drove the snakes from Ireland!' Hah! As though my worshippers were little better than animals for not worshipping his particular deity."
Suddenly realising whom he is speaking of, the entity cringes, then looks heavenwards and yells, "It's nothing personal, God of the Christians- I know exactly how difficult it can be to direct humans into using that free will they are so proud of in any way that can be construed as constructive."
A thunderclap of unconcern sounds, and the entity grins nervously before resuming his seat.
"You restate my point," Celaeno nods towards the entity. "Humans, by their very nature are inconsistent- they revel in hypocrisy, so long as their life is comfortable, they rarely consider others existing outside of their sphere.
"It is perhaps just this quality which has ensured that for the last few centuries, Humans have been telling half-truths. Particularly," and here Celaeno gives the impression of being more than a little annoyed, "in their portrayals of themselves and us."
"Speak for yourself, you old Wind Bag!" a muscular-looking alpha-male proclaims, "Just because you're bitter about being a little reinterpreted over the years, doesn't mean that the rest of us are!"
The Harpy glares viciously, but isn't given opportunity to reply.
"Hercules, just because you received all of the credit for a dozen men's deeds does not I repeat, not give you the right to comment," calls a ten-armed Hindu goddess. "I for one stand with the Harpy on this matter- people tend to forget that it was I, Durga who was the only being able to defeat the demon Mahishasur. None of the gods, not Brahma, or Vishnu, or any of the others could accomplish what I did."
Hercules observes the look of livid pride in her three blood-rimmed eyes and prudently resumes his seat.
Durga pauses for a moment, and then changes incarnation. Eve's gape widens as the number of the goddess' arms suddenly decreases to four and her visage takes on a far more benign aspect.
Saraswati continues where her last incarnation left off. "We goddesses, like the heroines in stories, reflect our creators, so perhaps not all of the blame lies with the males. Yet whenever a strong one has appeared among our ranks, tales of her exploits have been either swamped by the overwhelming numbers of 'fresh' tales about the miraculous feats of you gods and your heroes, or they are glanced at through the narrowest of scopes. The century before last was particularly appalling that way- every old tale passed through the filter of a dusty bourgeois penny-pincher of a middle-aged male editor before it was allowed to be published."
"Hah, you think you've had it bad?"
In the far corner, Itzli, Aztec God of Sacrifice, polishes one of his stone knives. "At least you have some worshippers left! All of mine were wiped out centuries ago- I'm having to subsist on the whims of a few of those dusty men- archaeologists they call them- and a few individuals who seem to regard the human sacrifices that once occurred for the other members of my pantheon's glory as gruesome. As if I or my siblings ever requested an unwilling sacrifice! I mean, most of them were more than enthusiastic! It was a glorious honour to die that way, but now, my people are seen as the fallen barbaric nation who slaughtered thousands in brutal fashion. Forget the fact that my followers were so devout that they conducted the War of the Flowers to provide sacrifices to our glory. Forget the fact that the wise men of our nation were some of the most gifted astronomers and mathematicians to ever exist, before they were butchered by that Spaniard… As it stands, let me ask you this; is it better to be remembered falsely, or entirely forgotten?"
The auditorium dissolves as the audience all begin talking at once, arguing with their neighbours. A fair percentage seems to be nauseated by Itzli's rhetoric, and yet quite a few seem to be considering the Aztec's point.
"I know exactly how he feels…"
"…Sacrificing his own devotees! Small wonder no one remembers him! There's no one left!"
"…but how horrible! Can you imagine if that should happen to us?"
"Should've chosen a people who had a written language- humans are so nosy when it comes to what their predecessors thought, it's an instant recipe for being remembered, albeit with a little wiggle room as far as interpretation goes…"
"How shocking, the poor things! More sacrificed to that God of the Christians!? Ironic, isn't it how they condemn such a practice and then carry it out with astonishing regularity…"
As the debates continue, Celaeno sighs and flaps off the podium.
Moonberries, comet's tails and planet rings, washed
down with a little primal soup. This soup, by the way, is very fine.
The assembled deities stand, vacating their chairs, as they make their way to the obligatory banquet.
Vigilant, Tiny the Kapre guards the entrance for his deific employers. This is much easier than he makes it look, as it wouldn't do for those who hired him to think him dispensable. He wishes that there weren't so many 'No Smoking' signs in the area. He hasn't had a tobacco fix in a while, and he glowers moodily at the crowd. Perhaps as a result of this, for the most part, the conventional attendees give him a wide berth.
In short, Tiny endures boredom.
Wondering what his sister is doing, Tiny resettles his position, and scowls resignedly at the confetti-cloud of gormless gaming enthusiasts. Some people he could swear he spotted at the last convention, and he wonders suddenly if all they do is travel from country to country following it around. Silly fools.
Enunciating a violent speech into a mobile phone, the short Eurasian woman who entered with Loki reappears. She wanders nearby, in her Kabuki costume and state of apparently increasing irritation. He notices her, and stands motionless in his effort to hear what she is saying.
"Will I go with him to the Aleutian Islands indeed! I've been going out with him for the entirety of a week, and he wants me to go with him to Alaska- just out of the blue! I refuse to be uprooted for the sake of some sudden whim! I mean he's nice and all but… Honestly! I… NO! What do you mean… you? Oh my god, you're insane. Uh uh, no way José, you are not telling him that… I mean it! No! … Ach! Good bye Mum. Yes, I love you too. Mum. I really have to go. Now. Please, there's this guy… alright, alright, alright! Love you!"
The woman removes the phone from her ear and firmly presses a button, breathing a sigh of relief.
"Thank the gods. Now, where is that wayward soon-to-be-ex-boyfriend of mine? Hey, you!"
Tiny starts realising that she is talking to him.
The woman sidles sanguinely alongside him and queries, "You're tall. Can you see a man in a glittery alien suit? He drove me here, and I don't have enough cash for a taxi. Ugh! I know that I went into this conference without him, but he had so better not have abandoned me. Can you see him?"
Tiny glances in the general direction of the crowd, spying a pirate, a mermaid, a fey, several gothic vampiresses in identical costumes, and a small green alien. No glitter here.
"Sorry. Nope," he rumbles apologetically.
"Typical," the woman sighs, her features a mix of resignation and annoyance. "I'm Eve Natsuki, by the way."
"So your family name is 'Summer Hope'. Pretty," Tiny murmurs absent-mindedly as he automatically scans the crowd.
"You speak Japanese?"
Tiny flinches, as he realises his lapse. "Sometimes," he says guardedly.
Delighted, Eve rapid fires a few sentences at him, indicating her general surprise at how it is he can speak her father's native tongue.
Tiny's scowl solidifies, and he says in English, "Why is it that you… people, are always so shocked that I can string more than two words together? Size and respective vocabulary are not inversely related you know." He switches to Japanese, and continues, "I'm a Filippino ogre. About 15 of our tourism comes from your father's country, so naturally Japanese is a reasonably popular language to learn."
Eve stares at him for a moment, then grimaces. In English she replies, " You have a point. Sorry. It wasn't my intention to stereotype you. You must admit though, there are a lot of muscle-bound men who have a tendency to think that because they overexercise all of their other muscles, the one in their head can be allowed to atrophy."
"Stop generalising! You can't prove that we're all like that. Whatever happened to political correctness?" Irony exudes from the last statement.
"Political correctness' emphasis is on tolerance. I don't want to have to tolerate or be tolerated by anyone. Acceptance is not only desirable but should be encouraged. Tolerance on the other hand is synonymous for putting up with something, thus suggesting that being different is somehow wrong. It can be a subtle difference, but the varied semantics separate someone who is an ignorant bigot and trying to hide it from someone who actually recognizes the fact that there are vast arrays of world experiences, and that equality is worth aspiring towards.
"As far as my personal prejudices go," and here Eve smirks, "there are exceptions to every rule, however, I'd go as far to say that only about one in ten body-builder types seem to have any utilised braincells at all."
The assembled gods are beginning to file back into the auditorium, and Eve slowly moves to follow them, still watching for Tiny's reply.
Shaking his head, his denial is nonetheless not absolute. "I won't say that they aren't out there, but…" Tiny trails off as a sudden thought occurs to him, and he chuckles.
"I have nine brothers."
12.00- Demonstration- A lost chapter of the Odyssey.
We are proud to bring you an experience, personally selected for your entertainment by this year's Chairperson, Celaeno the Harpy. As our distinguished guest has chosen to relate one of her own memories, we would like to advise that the following presentation contains content that cannot be verified.
She saw the ship coming for the better part of the day before it neared her strip of coast, having recognized instantly the contours of a Greek warship.
Only a Greek ship builder would be so unimaginative in their sail placement to maximize the use of the winds- too small to take advantage of a gentle breath of west wind Zephyrus, and stretched far too tautly to withstand north wind Boreas' fury.
But then Greeks had always been strangely fond of rowing- made them feel like they were all contributing to the voyage, the land lovers. Phoenician crews knew how to sail by instinct- when to tack in the blusters and how to ride a gale. Just how much strain from the winter storms their ships could endure before they took a berth for the wild season, in foreign ports where they sold their multi-hued glass, purple dyes and cedar wood. Sometimes they even bartered their skills, for the use of foreigners who thought they could compete with the sea traders.
The warship caused her little concern- she had nothing they could steal, and had no doubt that she could handle obviously weary soldiers playing sailor.
She made her way to the end of the peninsula, hoping for some news, or at best, a free ride to the nearest large settlement- her isolation was beginning to grow wearisome.
The Greek ship moved closer, and Celaeno perceived a man, tied to the ship's mast, being pointedly ignored by the galley oarsmen.
He was yelling, but was too far away for his words to be clear.
A few minutes later, she heard him indistinctly. Yelling something, looking right at her.
"I can't hear you! Try louder!" she hollered in amusement.
"Sing your sinister songs Siren, my men's minds and oars shall never be swayed!"
"What in Hades are you talking about?" Celaeno wondered, "My sisters snatch your wits?"
"Your curses shall do no harm to me!" His countenance was wild, and yet slightly bewildered.
"I'm not cursing you, you stupid Greek!" Celaeno returned in exasperation, "I'm a castaway Phoenician! Who are you?"
"I am Odysseus King of Ithaca, and I shall not fall for your trickery, witch! We just escaped the grasp of evil Circe, but are now continuing our journey home, victorious from defeating Troy! We shall not succumb to your insidious charms!"
Horror replaced mirth.
Celaeno bowed in grief, keening stricken denial.
Odysseus shouted, "We retrieved Menelaus' wife, Helen, and killed every man and enslaved every woman we could find! What do you think of that, witch?"
Horror-striken, Celaeno shrieked, "ACHYLUS TAKE YOU! HOW COULD YOU KILL SO MANY INNOCENTS FOR NOTHING BUT FOOLISH PRIDE?"
Odysseus glared, affronted. His ship was quite close now, Celaeno's narrow spit of land lapped by the waves of the galley's oars.
"I had no choice! I had to defend my honour and that of my allies! Besides," and this he called out in a tone of angry reasonableness, "I had to protect my family and people! If I had not joined Agamemnon they all would have been slaughtered or enslaved, with the fields sown with salt! They threatened to kill my infant son!"
"So you caused my brother's spawn Priam- whose only sin was to love his son too much- to suffer the exact plagues that you sought to avoid. You helped Agamemnon do as he threatened to innocent people from across the sea." Tears of anguish clouded her vision.
The boat began to pull away, the sailors occasionally glancing at the distraught Harpy in curiosity, unable to hear what she screamed of, yet realizing her grief. As one they rowed faster, the sense of pride from "defeating" a "Siren" spurring them to greater effort.
"Priam committed foolishness! He valued the welfare of his son over his people, the Trojans!" Odysseus refused to allow her the last word, but his defiance contained doubt.
"So did you, murderer! Between you and my aunt's descendents, the people of Troy didn't have a chance!"
With a shriek of a Fury, Celaeno launched herself into the air.
"Umm excuse me?"
An infinity of immortals turn and glare, and the slightly rotund woman in the princess costume blanches.
In the complete silence, they all hear her nervous inhalation before she says, "It's just that, well, this space has been booked for the Elven Dancing, and it was due to start about five minutes ago. We're on a tight schedule you …"
"Very well," interrupts a cross-roads spirit who happens to be near the door. He turns to face the congregation and says in a tone of irony, "Friends, I believe we will have to continue our little discussion at a later date. After all, we are not the centre of the universe are we?"
The woman blinks at the resultant mirth, and assuming that it must be an in-joke of some sort, looks down at her clipboard. Checking what other events are scheduled for now, she is about to recommend some of them when she looks up to see why the room has become so quiet.
Apart from a dazed-looking woman in a kimono, the auditorium is vacant.
1 Cosplayer- short for "costume player" a person who dresses up as their favourite manga, sci-fi, fantasy, etc character, and who wanders around pretending to be said character. A definite fringe movement amongst Trekkies and other extreme fans, they are guaranteed to appear before premier showings of such movies as Star Wars wearing a Wookie suit.