Tag: mythology (page 1 of 3)

Journalist of the Gods

They never bothered to name the city. They couldn’t settle on one.

If that wasn’t a metaphor for the deity denizens, Thoth couldn’t think of one.

He stepped into the diner in the center of town, an eatery and tavern formed out of the hull of an overturned longship. Shields bearing sigils and depicting animal aspects of the gods decorated the capsized hull, but not one bore the True Name of any of them. Thoth had made sure of that when the city was built.

True Names had power. Only Thoth knew them all. He never spoke them aloud. Someday, he’d take more action to make sure the power of the gods could never be abused.

But right now, he just needed some fucking coffee.

Hestia walked over to the booth where Thoth had sat, smiling her warm, welcoming smile.

“It’s good to see you again, hun,” she said. “Your usual?”

“Nah. Let’s start with a black coffee and go from there.”

Hestia nodded. She returned almost immediately with the drink. Thoth sipped the hot, blessed liquid.

“Which one of you suggested nectar instead of coffee? I forget.”

Hestia rolled her eyes. “Hera. She wouldn’t hear otherwise, no matter how much I told her.”

“Figures.” Thoth fished out his notebook. Hestia looked on.

“The election?”

“The election.”

Hestia nodded, and left Thoth to his jotting. Just notes; not writing anything into existence. That wasn’t his role. He’d given it up. The last thing he wanted was taking blame him for the way the world had turned out.

He certainly hadn’t intended for everything to evolve the way it did, but that was the nature of the best stories, the truest stories. They took on lives of their own. They transcended their established narrative. Life, free will, decisions for good or ill — that was what defined mortal existence.

Thoth hadn’t written people to be how they were just to meddle with them. Leave that to the Sky-fathers.

“Thoth! Good to see you, my boy.”

Looking up, Thoth saw the diner’s owner, Njor. Despite the fact he was in fact Vanir, who tended to be less belligerent than their Aesir kin, he wanted the diner to be a neutral, warm place for all. Thoth respected that and, by extension, Njor.

“Barkeep. Good to see you, too.”

“Are ye having the usual this morning?”

“I think I’ll skip the heavy stuff. Just some pancakes and syrup.”

The Vanir blinked. “Are ye on a diet?”

“No, it’s just hard to keep things down with everything going on.”

Another figure entered the diner. Both Thoth and Njor looked towards the door. For a moment, nobody moved. Then, the newcomer walked over to the table, all but ignoring Njor.

“So.” Her voice was quiet, not confrontational.

“So,” was Thoth’s response. “Here we are.”

Another silent moment passed. Njor took a step back before returning silently to the bar.

“I’d like to invite you to sit. Would that be okay?”

She regarded him coolly, but her eyes were windows to a soul in torment and indecision. Finally, she nodded. He slid over; she sat next to him. A familiar tension settled like a blanket between them.

“Where have you been?” Her question, again, wasn’t accusatory or even all that emotional. She wanted information.

Thoth resisted the urge to say something snarky about a goddess of the hunt being unable to find him.

“Were you looking for me?”

“Not all of the time. Just…” She looked down. Hestia arrived with a second black coffee, placing it in the younger goddess’ eyeline and patting her on the shoulder.

“How’s Ma’at?” Another diplomatic question. Thoth finally looked at her; really looked at her. She was scared. As frightened as the deer she’d hunt in the days of old.

“She’s fine.” He didn’t match her relationship question with one of his own. “Have you been well?”

She shrugged. “If things would just settle down around here, I’d be better.”

He nodded. “Same here. I’ve come out to try and make sense of everything.”

“Playing messenger again, Hermes?”

“Okay, first of all, I’m done being an errand boy. Second, you know I’m not a fan of that name. Thirdly —” He stopped, taking a deep breath. “Sorry. I’m not used to being out here again.”

“I know. And I’ve never been good at this sort of thing.”

“Yeah.” He paused. “I can talk a good game – because of course I can – but deep down…”

“You don’t owe me an explanation,” she said. “Nobody here is mad at you.”

“Tell that to the sky-fathers.”

“Oh, fuck those old windbags,” she snapped, bitterness finally unsheathing in her voice. “They think they are so entitled to run all of this, corral us like their pet project herd of little -”

Thoth held up his hands. “Artemis, please. I didn’t come out here for a fight.”

“I don’t want to fight you,” Artemis responded, still agitated but not completely losing her cool, at least not yet. “For fuck’s sake, Thoth, did it ever occur to you that as bad as things got, some of us still gave a damn about you? That some of us still do?

“We’re getting off-topic.” Thoth bit his lip. Sometimes he wished he still had the ibis-head so his expressions were harder to read. “But… I appreciate it. I appreciate you. Always have. I just didn’t know what to say. Still don’t.” He looked down at his mug. “Ironic, isn’t it? Here I am, heavenly scribe, father of magic, the schmuck who wrote this entire mess into existence, and I had neither the words nor the spine to say anything when everything went to shit.”

Artemis said nothing. Very loudly. She stared at Thoth. Then, slowly, she turned back to her coffee, lifted it, took a drink, set it back down. “Yeah. We’re off-topic.”

“Right.” Thoth took a deep breath. They could hash out their personal shit later. “I’m not playing messenger. I’m playing journalist.”

Artemis’ mouth twitched upward at the corner. Just a bit. It was so fast most would have missed it. But Thoth knew that face, and the person behind it, way too well to ignore that there was truth in what she said. She still cared. And she still found him interesting and great for a chat or a laugh.

Right back at you, he thought. Even if neither of us is in a laughing mood.

Artemis and Thoth drank their coffee in silence for a moment.

“So where are you starting?”

“Zeus,” he replied.

“Hmm. I thought you might go the other way.”

“Nah. It’s time I faced some of this bullshit before it festers any longer.”

“Think he might go off-topic as well?”

“Oh, he can bluster and blow about rumors and unsubstantiated accusations as much as he wants.” It was Thoth’s turn to get agitated. “I want facts. Facts are all that have really mattered. And he can’t hide the facts behind what sounds good and fits his narrative and makes him look more bangable.” Thoth scowled and turned away.

He was aware of how closely Artemis was watching him. Hestia appeared, a fresh pot of coffee in her hand, pouring for the pair, smiling at them both before retreating again. Thoth took a deep breath.

“Anyway. His latest hobby seems to be talking a lot of shit about Isis.”

Oh, yeah.” Artemis became a bit more animated, getting on to a safer subject. “He says that the older gods have always been the weaker gods, and that Sky-fathers should be in charge of a city in the sky. He also says he can do something about the climate change on Earth.”

Thoth shook his head. “We gave the world to mortalkind, it’s up to them to fix it.”

“That’s Isis’ stance. But there’s a lot of dirty laundry on that side. Marrying her brother. The whole thing with Set. Zeus has gone so far to say that these days, Isis and Set are in collusion to let the souls of more mortal prophets into the city the way they did —”

Thoth held up his hand. “Yeah, yeah, that’s something I need to talk to Isis about myself, especially if we’re going to nail down proper names for those two. And you know how I feel about True Names getting uttered.”

Artemis stared, then slowly nodded. “Sorry. Forgot that was a sore spot.”

“No worries. It’s been a long time.” Thoth looked up as the pancakes arrived. He looked down at them, wondering if he had the appetite for them after all. “Anyway. I should talk to Odin, too. I can’t believe he’s stepping down.”

“He’s had a great run. And he might be back after this next Odinsleep. It’s been long enough since his last one, though, that it could put him out for several mortal decades, if not longer.”

“And then we’ll have another election.” Thoth shook his head. “Beats another war.”

“At least in a war, you know who’s got your back.”

“Provided nobody shoves a dagger into it.”

Artemis blinked. “Oh. Oh, you don’t —”

“Not you. I don’t mean you. You didn’t… you never…” He looked down at his pancakes. “I’m sorry.”

There was a pause. Then, Artemis picked up the syrup and poured a bit on Thoth’s stack. “It’s okay. This is going to take some time.”

Thoth managed a smile. “With all of this renewed bickering over who should run things, I guess we can’t afford to dwell overmuch on the mistakes of the past, or who did what to whom before.” He watched as Artemis syruped her own pancakes. “I’m glad you came here today.”

“I’m glad I found you here.” She picked up her fork. “Now, let’s eat these pancakes.”

They did, in relative silence. Hestia came by one more time with coffee. After they ate, Artemis reached into a pocket.

“Don’t,” Thoth said. “This one’s on me.”

Artemis paused. “How…?”

“I make his micro-brews. In exchange, I eat for free.”

“Damn. I’ll have to try one.”

“Let me know what you think after?”

“Sure.” She stood, allowing Thoth to slide out. They headed for the door. Artemis kept pace. Thoth blinked.

“I’m coming along,” she said.

Thoth said nothing, very loudly. She looked at him, smirking as they walked.

“You’re hunting. I’m joining you.” The smirk blossomed. “After all, what prey is more elusive than the truth?”

Thoth smiled back. “It’s so good to see you again.”

“Likewise. Now, let’s go question a sky-father.”


Written in response to the following prompt: “Every god ever worshiped by humanity exists. All of them live in a city in the sky and run everything that happens. However, many arguments arise over who gets to do what.

I hope you enjoyed the story!

Mondays are for making art.

From the Vault: Everything Old Is New Again

A post from last year: updated to reflect the fact that my memories of both Man of Steel and Star Trek: Into Darkness have soured considerably.


Courtesy Relativity Media

I’ve been blogging for years. I’m not sure if you’d call what I’ve done or have been doing successful or not, when it comes to blogging and other areas of my life, but what I keep coming back to is the fact that old stories still have something to tell us. I have no problem, on a fundamental level, with something getting a reboot or a re-imagining, as long as the core of the story remains intact and the talented people telling the story are either plying close to that core or going in an entirely new direction with it.

The problem, as I see it, is that it is far too easy to stick to the old story points and simply apply modern thinking to them, rather than take a tale’s themes or characters or message in a new direction. What really bothers me about the practice is how lazy it seems. If you want to use an old tale or property to tell a story, go for it; all that I would ask is that you do something new with it. Another example would be the difference between Immortals and the Clash of the Titans retread: while Immortals had a little trouble staying on-point with its storytelling, its visual imagination and portrayal of ancient Greece felt unique and striking, while the new Titans felt drab and lackluster on pretty much all fronts. I mean, sure, it was still fun to see Sam Worthington fight giant scorpions, and Liam Neeson was born to play gods, but the thrust of the story felt weak because there was nothing new about it.

As scarce as new ideas tend to be, it’s no wonder that older stories often come up for a rehash now and again. As I’ve said, I’m all about old stories getting told in new ways. The emphasis here is on ‘new’ – a good storyteller should try to do something that hasn’t been done before, or mix things together that haven’t been mixed. Any idiot with a keyboard can bash out a story about a superhero or vampires or old myths – the question is, what makes your story about a superhero or vampires or old myths stand out? What will make people want to read it? Why, at the end of the day, do you have to write it?

Flash Fiction: Gods and Robbers

Courtesy Wallpaperswide.com

Chuck’s weekly demand this time is to include four random items. Can you spot them all?


They dragged him into the office by his arms. His legs felt weak; there was no way they could support his weight with them yanking him along. He was tossed onto the carpet like a sack of garbage. He found himself looking at the skull of what some might have considered a large lizard, but he recognized as a small dragon. It had been re-purposed to serve as the base of an umbrella stand.

“We found him, Father,” said one of the twins.

“He thought to hide from you among the mortal officers of the law.” The other twin tossed the badge onto the expansive desk that blocked most of his view. He struggled to look up, fighting down waves of pain. He got a kick in the kidneys for his trouble.

“Castor, Pollux, I’m surprised at you.” The voice from behind the desk was deep, grandfatherly, almost kind; yet in it was the rumble, the muted flash, the sense one gets when a storm is blowing in. “This is my guest, not some common churl. Get him in a chair, for Gaea’s sake. And clean up his face. I won’t have him ruining my carpet.”

The twins obeyed, hauling him into one of the chairs facing the desk. A wet rag all but smashed into his face, and as the blood was wiped away, he tried to will his bleeding to stop. Whatever charm they’d used to stunt his powers, it seemed to have faded, as his head cleared immediately. He blinked, and looked up to face the man he’d been dragged to see.

Behind the chess board on the desk sat what appeared to be an elderly man with broad shoulders and the solid build of someone who’d spent a lifetime perfecting his physical form. His suit was tailored, hand-made, and clearly costly. His white hair was long, and his beard was somewhat fluffy. Had the suit been red, one might mistake him for Santa Claus.

“Now, Prometheus. What would possess you to put on the airs of a policeman? In the game of ‘Cops and Robbers’, would I not be the cop?”

“It let me get close to one of Chronos’ servants. I was trying to help…”

Pollux backhanded Prometheus. “No lies before the mighty Zeus!”

“Pollux, please! Castor, look after your brother.” Zeus reached down and plucked the bishop from his side of the board, examining it. “Prometheus, you and I have had our differences. I’m still not certain how you escaped your prison in the first place. But we both know that my word is law. And that law cannot be countermanded, not by the cleverness of any being, mortal or Titan.”

“I could be back on that mountain now, if you willed it.”

“Perhaps.”

“Then why am I here?”

Zeus smiled, and replaced the chess piece. “I’m curious more than I am angry. How did you escape, and why?”

“The how doesn’t matter. The why does. I told you: I can help you fight Chronos and the other Titans. Time is against us. You should hear what I have to say.”
Zeus raised an eyebrow. Thunder rolled in the distance. “Have a care, Titan. I am not so curious that I am willing to permit you to command me. Begin at the beginning. How did you escape?”

“I made a deal with the eagle.”

Zeus laughed. “A deal? What could you possibly offer it that was not the liver of an immortal?”

“I told it about America. I told it that it was a sacred animal there. It, too, could be truly immortal, and not simply tasked with devouring me. I said, ‘If you free me, I will take you there, and you will be adored and loved.’ It took a few days… and a few livers… but it believed me.”

Promet heus tried not to blanch at the memories. Centuries, millenia had gone by, and every day, atop that lonely mountain that killed any mortal that attempted its summit, the eagle tore him open and made him feel every snapping sinew and every bite at his innards until death came like a merciful, dreamless, abyssal sleep. He’d long stopped cursing his fate each time he awoke, and it was only through the tiny fraction of power he’d had left that he was able to learn of the far-off land the eagle wished to see.

“Where is it now?”

“A zoo, in Chicago.”

“Hah! Duplicity worthy of any of my children. Even as a fugitive you do not disappoint.”

Prometheus nodded. “I am happy to have amused you, my Lord.”

Zeus waved his hand. “Pshaw. I have Wingus and Dingus here to kowtow to me. You, however, never bowed. You defied me, and not from jealousy or fear or anger. You defied me to do what you felt was right. Defiance had to be punished, but I always respected what you did.”

Prometheus blinked. The admission felt earnest, but oddly timed. It slowly dawned on Prometheus that he was right, and Zeus knew it. Chronos and the other Titans were growing stronger, and time was getting shorter. Slowly, so as not to antagonize the twins, Prometheus reached into his pocket, produced the sealed envelope, and handed it to Zeus.

“This is why I escaped.”

Zeus looked at it. On it was written a single word. Hera.

After a moment, the King of the Gods opened the envelope. He read the letter within. Twice. When he looked up at the twins, his eyes were alight with the fire of the sky, the lightning that was his herald and his wrath.

“Leave us. Prometheus and I must speak alone.”

The twins bowed and retreated. Zeus set down the letter, glared at Prometheus for a long moment, and reached across the chess board to reset it. He moved his white king’s pawn forward two squares, gesturing at Prometheus.

“Tell me how this treachery began.”

Prometheus, in spite of the pain, smiled. He moved his queen’s pawn forward.

Everything Old Is New Again

Courtesy Relativity Media

I’ve been blogging for years. I’m not sure if you’d call what I’ve done or have been doing successful or not, when it comes to blogging and other areas of my life, but what I keep coming back to is the fact that old stories still have something to tell us. I have no problem, on a fundamental level, with something getting a reboot or a re-imagining, as long as the core of the story remains intact and the talented people telling the story are either plying close to that core or going in an entirely new direction with it.

It’s why I can’t bring myself to full-on hate or even mildly dislike the new Star Trek films. The settings and characters I and many others grew up with are being taken in a new direction. The storytelling stumbles here and there, and I’m not quite convinced that that Abrams and his crew can, in fact, give us something entirely new out of these old and familiar trappings, but I am cautiously optimistic. In fact, if I were to put Into Darkness and Man of Steel side by side, I’d say that Abrams and company are doing more right by the Starfleet folks than the current bunch at the helm of the DC film universe are doing in terms of breathing new life into their given amphitheater. At least Into Darkness didn’t rehash any of its narrative within the film and infused its characters with humanity and charm within the writing, rather than relying on the actors to do that stuff.

The problem, as I see it, is that it is far too easy to stick to the old story points and simply apply modern thinking to them, rather than take a tale’s themes or characters or message in a new direction. What really bothers me about the practice is how lazy it seems. If you want to use an old tale or property to tell a story, go for it; all that I would ask is that you do something new with it. Another example would be the difference between Immortals and the Clash of the Titans retread: while Immortals had a little trouble staying on-point with its storytelling, its visual imagination and portrayal of ancient Greece felt unique and striking, while the new Titans felt drab and lackluster on pretty much all fronts. I mean, sure, it was still fun to see Sam Worthington fight giant scorpions, and Liam Neeson was born to play gods, but the thrust of the story felt weak because there was nothing new about it.

As scarce as new ideas tend to be, it’s no wonder that older stories often come up for a rehash now and again. As I’ve said, I’m all about old stories getting told in new ways. The emphasis here is on ‘new’ – a good storyteller should try to do something that hasn’t been done before, or mix things together that haven’t been mixed. Any idiot with a keyboard can bash out a story about a superhero or vampires or old myths – the question is, what makes your story about a superhero or vampires or old myths stand out? What will make people want to read it? Why, at the end of the day, do you have to write it?

The New Mythology

Joseph Campbell

Some of our stories are hundreds or even thousands of years old. Every once in a while, a book or TV series will claim it has an ‘all-new’ story, but in reality most of the plot points and character turns have probably been told before. This is likely not a conscious decision of the writer, and it in no way dilutes the deeper truth the story strives towards, but it cannot be denied that the roots of most stories run very deep into our past.

Mankind has been telling stories since before language was something you wrote. Around fires and in caves, they relayed tales of great hunts, related how rivals were overthrown, and wondered about dreams and the world beyond what they knew. People wanted to learn about the triumphs and tragedies of others, and sharing these experiences enhanced them, gave them weight, and made them timeless. While more than a few of these simple, primal stories may have had some details forgotten, threads of them can be seen here and now, in the 21st century.

Themes and patterns such as the hero’s journey and good men struggling against their own natures as much as they do a rival or the elements persist because they still have something to teach us. Just as the ancient civilizations of the world found inspiration in their gods and champions, so too do we find it in big screen heroes and, occasionally, the actors who portray them. Myths have always been stories larger than life, speaking in broad terms to draw in as many minds as possible, and at the core of many you will find one of those timeless threads. The hero may be looking for his own identity in the face of a world that wants to redefine or obscure it. A good man is betrayed by a friend because of jealousy or greed. Tragedy causes someone to dedicate themselves to the pursuit of justice. None of these ideas are new, but the fact that they continue to captivate us means they are not without merit.

Our new myths connects us to the old, entertaining and educating and provoking us to think just as they have for thousands of years. Your message is still important, even if someone else has conveyed it before. What’s new about that message is how you convey it. Stories may share common elements but your voice is unique. Let it be heard. The new mythology needs new myth-makers, new storytellers to keep our stories going further into the future. Are you going to be one of them?

Older posts

© 2017 Blue Ink Alchemy

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑