Hello, Lovely Readers. It’s June 21st. Summer solstice. And to celebrate the longest day of the year, several of my writer friends and I are engaging in a blog hop. Eighteen of us have posted interviews (links to the right) of our characters, by our characters, for your reading enjoyment. And some of the authors have opted to give out PRIZES, but you’ll have to click on all the links to find them.
To kick things off, I am standing in King Hadrian’s glass-domed observatory, where I am about to turn my blog over to my favorite genius, January Black’s Matty Ducayn.
“Matty.” Looking around the dim space, I find myself alone. “Matty?” He’s late.
“Please forgive him. Matty is working on a special project at the moment, I’m sure he’s…”
“How do you know about that?”
Turning around toward the boy’s voice, I see a lanky kid emerging from behind the copper clad telescope. His sandy blond hair is hanging into his eyes, and his hands are stuffed into his trouser pockets.
“I gave you that project, Matty.” The boy scrunches his eyebrows at me. “Or are you working on something else? Something you don’t want Hadrian to know about.”
He scowls at me. “You wanted me to talk to someone?”
“Mat!…I’ve left you a half-dozen messages!”
“No, Wendy, you’ve left rambles with dropped words and vague….”
“…pronouns.” I sigh. “So, my editor and husband like to tell me.”
“It’s June 21, after sundown. Here I am, in the palace observatory.” He looks around the room and sees only four of the king’s guardians. “Where’s this guy I’m supposed to talk to?”
“Not just a guy, Matty. Egyptian God of the Underworld. I know I mentioned that.”
The boy stares at me. I stare back.
“I thought you were joking! What the fu…um, I mean, why me? Why not Hadrian? Isn’t this a king kind of thing?”
“Hadrian’s not available.”
Matty’s glance turns suspicious. “Egyptian god comes to Columbia, and Hadrian’s too busy?”
“No, I sent him out of town on holiday,” I admit. “I want you to talk to Asar.”
The boy sighs in resignation. “What do you want me to ask the guy?”
“Whatever you want,” I say, taking my leave.
Matty calls after me, “Sure! I practically write your book for you and now you want me to talk to a god while you look down from your kitchen ta…”
Matty catches movement at the edge of his vision, in the shadows near the telescope. “Um, hello? Mr. Asar?
A silhouette crosses in front of the glowing lamps recessed in the base of the wall. Even though it’s dim, Asar does not disappoint the boy’s imagination. The Egyptian god is a massive column of muscle in coal-black skin. But his clothing is disarming—loose silk and sandals. It gives Matty hope that Asar and King Hadrian have some things in common. Matty looks to the guardians stationed about the room. They have noticed the visitor as well and have their weapons trained on him. Matty waves his hands for them to stand down.
Asar circles the copper clad telescope, the only thing in the room bigger than him.
“Her name is Aster,” Matty says, walking toward Asar. “She’s the king’s pride and joy.
“They are a sight to see, are they not?” Asar looks upward past the telescope. With the glass dome completely retracted, there is a full bowl of stars overhead. “The majestic stars are a source of divine power, Matty. It is no wonder man has sought to reach out to them.”
Matty points towards the sky. “The bright blue star. We call her Aster. My ancestors followed her on their journey here.”
Asar knods approvingly.
“I was just playing with Wendy,” Matty says. “I read Jean Murray’s book, so I’d know what to ask you. I’ve been counting down days!”
The boy’s enthusiasm surprises Asar. Had human apathy for Ancient Egypt changed?
Matty continues, “And then I went through every book Hadrian has about the Egypt. The dynasties, art, architecture, political turmoil in the 20th and 21st cen…”
Asar interrupts, “You read the entire book? How old are you, Matty?”
“Zombies, and girls with black snakes in their backs, and gods whose skin turns cold and black in the human realm.”
“Sex. Sex. And more sex.”
“In a romance novel. Shocking.”
“Not quite appropriate for a boy of…how old are you?”
“Not really all that interesting either,” Matty says dismissively, still evading the question of his age. “I’d rather talk about the Pantheon? Where do you fit in with the gods?”
“There are two pantheons, one of life and one of death. As God of Death and the Afterlife, I am the Principle of the Underworld. Unlike so many religions today who look to the heavens for peace, in my world paradise is in the Underworld, a plain of existence where the Sun meets the horizon.”
Asar places a gentle hand on the telescope. “This is why astronomy was so revered by Ancient Egyptians. Both the sun and lunar shadows are spiritual destinations for souls in the human and underworld realms. Only one path can take you to Duat, where the soul must past the final test before I will grant eternal life in Aaru, my home–the Paradise Isle of the Underworld. A soul which resides in the heart must weigh less than Ma’at’s feather in order for me to let it pass on beyond the gates. If a soul is burdened with many misdeeds and self-righteousness then it must be fed to the beast.
“So many humans fear death these days, they have no faith in what awaits them on the other side.”
“So…” the boy drags out the word, “…when I die, you comb through my whole life and decide whether or not I’m worthy to actually enter the Underworld?
Asar nods his head. With his hands clasped at the small of his back, he paces the space in front of the telescope to formulate his answer. The boy must think him a hypocrite. If the boy truly read Soul Reborn, Matty knows of Asar’s misdeeds. Asar’s only defense is that he was soulless at the time.
“I’d like to apologize now. It’s incredibly likely that I will say something stupid before this conversation is over,” Matty says self-consciously.
“Not to worry,” Asar replies with a smile, relieved at the boy’s concern. “Your soul is safe with me.
“Mistakes can and will be made. My judgment is based on what you do with the knowledge you gain from these mistakes. It is part of discovering your spirit. Gods know I have made many errors of my own, but what is important, Matty, is the legacy you leave behind. There are those who knowingly choose the path of darkness. It stains their souls black until nothing good is left. You are nothing if you have no soul, trust me when I say this.”
“Can we talk about your powers? You surprised the Kitsune—” the boy stops and looks around at the guardians. “Them, I mean. They’re paid to never be surprised. I think Wendy’s readers would like to know how you got in here?”
“All gods have these powers to dematerialize into our celestial forms and then solidify back to our physical forms. It allows us to travel between the realms.”
“That’s fantastic!” Matty giggles. “I’d love to be able to do that!”
“All humans have these powers, but only in death. You do not need your physical form to exist in my world. In fact, the body is but a vessel for your life force. In death, you too will be able to travel great distances, but only in the form of your spirit.”
“What other special powers do you have?” Matty asked.
“As in anything, there is a balance between life and death. The gods that belong to the Creation Pantheon of the human realm create life. I, and other gods of the Underworld, absorb the energy. It feeds my powers of fire, lightening and kinetic force.”
“What’s the Old World like? The human realm I mean?”
“The human realm?” Asar moves closer to Matty, scratching his temple. He is curious the boy has not asked about Aaru.
“The Old World is lost to us…buried under ruin,” the boy says sadly. “All we have are the writings and artifacts of our ancestors. But…you’ve been there.”
Asar understands now. The human realm that he knows is just as mythical to the boy as Aaru is. “It had been over three thousand years since I had been there to observe the humans that cared for the earthly realm. So much had changed. Instead of stone houses and temples, large metal buildings pierced the sky to house the humans while they worked, slept and raised their families. Gone were our followers and only temples raised to one god not many.
“We have saved much of the history in my archive. Perhaps, Wendy would allow you to visit.”
A sparkle lit up the boy’s eyes. “Oh, she’ll say yes.” The brightness fades. “Can I ask you something personal?
Here it comes, Asar thinks. Based on the boy’s stare, he guesses his question. “Yes.”
“When you found out Lilly freed Kepi, you lost your head.” Matty shrugged. “And then…nothing.”
Asar frowns, remembering the time gone by. The emptiness and hatred that had eating a hole within his chest. ‘Nothing’ is not a word he would have used to describe it. He hurt someone he loved with his anger. “Lilly might disagree with you on that.”
“You swore to make everyone pay, but just like that, you forgave the person who actually freed your mortal enemy. I guess I’m wondering…how?”
It is a fair, but tough question, Asar thinks. The boy’s soul flickered like a torch within his chest. It was vibrant and iridescent, very much like Lilly’s. Would he understand what it would mean to be without it?
Asar sat down on the steps behind the telescope’s observation chair and leaned his arms on his knees. Matty sat down next to him.
“Souls harbor all that is good within us. It is our compass. Without mine, I could see only my hatred. My vengeance was all consuming when I first met Lilly. I had vowed to kill all responsible, something someone soulless would do, take a life of another out of revenge. I did not realize it at the time but she was my salvation. When I found out Lilly was the one who released Kepi…” Asar shakes his head. “I jumped to a conclusion that was not true. By the graces of gods, Lilly had filled that part of me that was missing, even without me realizing it. It was because of her special gift that I could judge the moment and chose love over vengeance. Had she not given me my compass, the outcome could have been much different.”
“Kepi,” the boy says. Asar’s mood sours instantly. “She isn’t mentioned in our databases or any of Hadrian’s books. Who is she?”
Asar stood up to pace the floor, needing an avenue to burn off the energy. “Her name means wicked…I should have heeded the warning. She leaves a trail of pain and suffering wherever she goes.”
Matty gazes at him, expecting more. Asar continues, “There are many minor gods in my world that have not been recorded in historical texts or the texts have been lost. She isn’t worth the paper it would be written upon.” He stalked over to the telescope and peered in the lens at the bright blue star that Matty spoke of minutes earlier. He is surprised to see two stars instead of one, floating in a cloud of dust. “Kepi has never been satisfied with her station amongst the gods. So, she obtained what she wanted through manipulation and subversion, destroying from the inside out. Her history will never be written.”
“Our records do mention you, though,” the boy says. “They call you Osirus.” Asar scowls as the word rolls off the boy’s tongue. “Are our files wrong?”
“Not wrong,” Asar says. “To find my name you must go farther back in history before the rise of Greek influence. Osirus based on Greek nomenclature…I am not Greek.”
The boy nodded, as if a puzzle piece had fallen into place. “The Old World had many languages. We have only one. Our ancestors adopted English. It was the most common of all passengers on the January Black when they set sail. I assume that they called you Osirus.”
“Remember what is in your library has been written by humans. Much of the human documentation from this early age has been lost. As our worshipers evolved, so did their religion of us. Humans identify me by several names, but I much prefer my proper Egyptian name. I am a primordial god, one of the first in ancient Egypt’s rich history. Mut, the Mother Goddess, is my mother. She is mother to all things.”
Matty, still sitting on the steps that go up to the telescope, leans back on his hands with disturbed look on his face. Asar asks, “Have I said something wrong?”
“Mut is Lilly’s mother.” The boy points out. “She’s your sister!”
Asar laughs at the startled look on the boy’s face. He no doubt defines family, as the humans do by genetic codes and blood relationships. “We all share a common origin, Matty. I guess the best way to describe my connection to Mut is like seeing her as Mother Earth. She ensures life has a continuation. She is my mother, Lilly’s mother, and in reality your mother. We are all family. Gods are not created or defined by DNA or a genetic code, unlike humans. We are formed by the energy and cosmic elements of the universe. DNA only has a finite life expectancy, whereas gods are eternal without end. We do not have the same marital or genetic constraints, as humans. It is more existential. Does that make sense?”
The boy nodded, but still seemed unsure.
“I guess I could explain this further. The warriors in my service are my creation. They are formed by the blood and soul of a fire demon and the black waters of the Underworld. They are my children, created by my power and energy, but they are also children of Mut. I could not create them without her divine grace and power of life.”
“I see,” Matty says. “Back to your ability to dematerialize, what’s your favorite place in the human realm?”
“The mother land of Egypt. Even though the temples are but sand and dust, the spirits of old still live among the columns and along the Nile. The same waters ferry the souls to my doorstep. My second favorite is on the beach with my Lilly staring at the stars.”
“Could Lilly beat you in a sword fight?”
Asar laughs. “Now, there would be a sight. Lilly is very skilled swordsman and she knows my weaknesses.” He winks at Matty. “She might very well beat me.”
“I was right,” Matty says with a smile, as Asar sits down again on the steps. “You are a lot like King Hadrian.”
“I do not know of who you speak, but I would love for you to tell me about your King. Perhaps in Aaru? It would be a rare trip I assure you. Lilly and her sisters are the only living beings in the Underworld realm. You would be the fourth. It would be my honor to show you the archive. It may answer so many of the questions you seek.”