Z is for Zeus, king of the gods, but he's really just an excuse for the short story. He is in it, so I feel I fulfilled the brief, but he is only one of several gods and goddesses in the story. (Okay, I cheated, but the story didn't want to be about Zeus :)).
This story is suitable for most ages, although there is a little swearing and some innuendo It is contemporary fantasy humour. I do hope you enjoy it.
Place of the Gods
by Natasha Duncan-Drake
"He is very small."
"Hey!" Joel said before he even thought about it.
He was five foot eight, thank you very much and he worked out. He wasn't a muscle-bound behemoth, but that didn't mean he was small.
"He is also awake," another voice observed in a very dry tone.
Mentally cursing for giving himself away, Joel opened his eyes, wondering what trouble he had managed to find this time. The last thing he remembered was walking into the new Neolithic exhibit. Someone had dug up a stone circle and this inscribed stone tablet that someone a couple of centuries before them had transplanted to their back garden and now it was touring the country.
"What the hell?" he asked as he laid eyes on a huge man with a big grey beard and long wavy hair.
Several things immediately struck Joel as being wrong with what he was seeing. The first was the fact the man was wearing a toga that left most of his very well muscled chest bare. The second was even odder and that was the way the man gently glowed. The third, however, took the cake, the man was holding what looked like it might be a lightning bolt; not a lightning bolt shaped something, no, an actual, honest to god, looked like it might leap out of his hand at any second, lightning bolt.
Joel glanced around and realised he was surrounded by a group of people who all appeared as if they had escaped from a live action role playing game. Two of the others looked as if they might have raided their mum's linen cupboard just like toga guy, although the man had a slightly different style to the woman; another two appeared suspiciously like Vikings; one woman had bright red hair and was painted partially blue, so Joel guessed Celtic; although the freakiest award went to the woman with the head of a cat and the man with the head of a jackal.
Joel had seen enough programs on the Discovery channel and Xena repeats in his time to guess he was looking at several members of the pantheons of various ancient religions. He began to wonder if he'd played one too many games of World of Warcraft and had finally lost the plot.
They were all standing in what seemed to be a crazy mixture of Viking feasting hall, Greek or Roman temple and Egyptian palace; there were even some standing stones around the edge that Joel assumed was the Celtic influence. It was totally freaky.
"Child, we require your help," toga man, or Zeus as the back of Joel's brain kept insisting, said.
"What could you possibly need me for?" he asked.
"We are trapped," one of the Viking types said, looking at Joel with a very piercing expression, "we need you to facilitate our freedom."
"Here of course," the Viking replied, apparently amused by the question.
The man, or god if Joel let himself believe it, had dark hair and a superior appearance with a smirk that spoke volumes. His companion was blond and had a big hammer in one hand, so Joel was guessing he was looking at Thor and one of Thor's friends or relatives.
"But I'm here too," Joel pointed out.
"Only in spirit, child," toga man said.
"My name's Joel," he said; he was fed up of being called 'child'.
He also decided to stand up, because it was really weird being the only one not looming.
"When you touched the eye on the stone tablet you were transported here," toga woman said, giving him a friendly smile.
This was karma, it had to be. The artefact had been right there and he knew he shouldn't have gone too near it, but his curiosity had got the better of him. Now he was paying the price. Maybe some ancient tribal person had poisoned it and he was writhing on the floor in the British Museum foaming at the mouth. Not what he was hoping for, for his fifteen minutes of fame.
"I am Athena, my companions are Zeus, king of the gods..."
"Only your set," the dark haired Viking muttered with a laugh, but Athena took no notice.
"Neptune, one of our Roman cousins, Thor and Loki of the Norse, Ceridwen our sister from the Welsh and Bast and Anubis from the lands of the Nile," the goddess continued to explain. "We had come together to discuss a problem which is no longer relevant when something or someone trapped us within this pocket realm. We have been awaiting for one of the gifted so that we may be freed."
"Gifted?" Joel wasn't sure he understood.
"You are psychic," Loki said.
"No I'm not," he objected.
That earned him another smirk from the Norse deity.
"Such gifts are most often dormant in modern humans," Bast told him, her voice soft and warm, "but they are still there."
"What do you need me to do?" he asked, pretty sure he did not believe any of what was going on.
The only crazier thing that had ever happened to him was the time he had had a temperature of one hundred and four and been absolutely sure his room was full of dancing gnomes. He still couldn't pass a garden centre without shivering.
"As you have travelled here in spirit, one of us may travel back with you," Zeus told him.
"There's a but, I can hear a but in your voice," Joel immediately replied. "What aren't you telling me?"
He could spot bullshit at fifty paces.
"What the Greek is failing to tell you is that at the other end you will then be possessed," Loki said quite plainly.
Zeus glared at the other god. For the god of lies, Loki seemed to be far more up front than Zeus.
"For how long?" Joel asked.
"Until we are free," Zeus told him.
"And until the god or goddess possessing you decides to return to their own body," Loki added, only to be glared at again.
"You are scaring him, Loki," Thor said in an unimpressed tone.
"I am simply telling the truth," Loki replied. "This must be a bargain freely entered or it will likely as not fail."
"That is not true," Athena said and went down in Joel's estimation.
Loki just rolled his eyes at her. Clearly there was no love lost between those two. For a few moments Joel wondered if it might be fun to try and goad them into a real argument, but then remembered where he was and what was going on.
"Right," he said, before anyone else could chime in with pearls of wisdom, "possession. What happens while I'm possessed?"
"You touch the eye again and we are all freed," Bast said.
Joel found himself looking at Loki for confirmation.
"It is as simple as that," Loki said with a nod.
"Then why do I have to take one of you back?"
"Because it requires divine energy to release the lock," Zeus explained.
"You must chose one of us," Ceridwen said, opening her arms and indicating the gathered company.
"The one chosen will then merge with you and together your spirits will return to your body," Neptune added.
"Will it hurt?"
"No," Zeus said.
"Maybe," Loki said at exactly the same time.
"Loki," Thor admonished.
"Okay, I pick him," Joel said and pointed at Loki, since if he was crazy it didn't matter and if this was really happening at least Loki was being honest.
"Done," Loki said and Joel's whole world instantly did a loop the loop.
He almost lost his lunch, but then remembered he was supposed to just be spirit, so he didn't have any lunch to lose. The room and the other gods were gone and all around him was blackness.
[What is going on?] he asked, or tried to ask and realised he couldn't say anything aloud; his body seemed frozen.
[We are travelling back to your reality,] Loki's voice spoke in his mind and a sense of smug satisfaction came with it.
Freaking out seemed like a valid option, but Joel was a little beyond that stage; he was in to blank acceptance by now.
[How long will that take?] he asked.
[Not long,] Loki replied, [but we have to go the long way, because we are merged.]
There really was a very strong feeling of accomplishment coming from Loki that Joel could not ignore.
[Oh my god,] Joel said as realisation hit him, [you manipulated me into picking you. You bastard.]
Loki laughed in his mind.
[Of course I did,] the deity told him; [it has been ages since I have been allowed to possess a human. Odin is so pernickety about such things and it's so much fun to see through human eyes.]
[What are you going to do?]
[Free the others, unfortunately,] Loki replied in a put upon tone, [or I would never hear the end of it. I have had enough of listening to Thor whine about the lack of mead for two hundred years I do not need him whining about this as well.]
[You've been in there two hundred years?]
[Give or take.]
[Why would anyone do that?]
[A joke I expect.]
There was something off about the reply and it made Joel begin to suspect something.
[Funny kind of joke.]
[You have to understand how the pantheons do not get on to understand how funny it might be.]
That clinched it.
[You did it, didn't you,] he said, [and got stuck in your own trap.]
The silence that greeted that was enough to tell him everything he needed to know and he couldn't help it, he laughed.
[What a remarkable child,] was what Loki eventually said. [You must be one of mine; there is no other explanation possible.]
[What went wrong?] Joel asked, curious despite any warning voices in the back of his mind.
[Thor,] Loki replied, [what always goes wrong with my plans. He bungled into the trap before he was supposed to, but since he was drunk off his arse it wasn't overly surprising.]
[But why did you do it?]
[As I said, a joke. Gods and goddesses become far too full of themselves over time, that's why every pantheon has a trickster of some kind; we exist to bring them back down. I was going to leave them in there for a few months, tease them a bit and then let them out. It was fun even being trapped with them for a while, but you have heard nothing so boring until you have listened to Thor and Zeus discussing storms for two hundred years. It is enough to drive even stoic Athena to madness.]
Joel blinked and realised he was standing in front of the stone tablet again. Their journey was over.
[Ah, humanity,] Loki said in his mind. [How would you feel about a few weeks just running around having fun?]
[No,] Joel said very firmly.
[But I haven't been human in centuries.]
[But you like having fun.]
[Release them or I'm telling them who set the trap in the first place.]
There was a moment of silence and then, much to Joel's shock, a huge chuckling laugh.
[Oh, you are definitely one of mine, have you considered worshipping a new deity?]
[I don't worship any deities.]
[Really?] Loki sounded honestly shocked.
[I'm not into religion.]
[Oh, but we could have such fun,] Loki said, sounding eager. [I have so few worshippers anymore. I'd make you my high priest.]
The image that flashed through his mind at that offer was anything but innocent and Joel was sure he had to be blushing madly. Not that he wasn't interested; he had hormones after all and Loki could form very vivid mental images.
[Loki, focus,] he replied.
However, Joel saw his finger move without his conscious consent and then he was touching the eye again. It felt as if electricity passed from his feet to his finger and there was a loud clicking sound followed by an enormous crack. It almost sounded like a thunder clap and suddenly Joel was surrounded by people.
"Thank you, my boy," Zeus said and slapped him on the back, before disappearing in a flash of light.
The others quickly followed, leaving just Loki and Thor. Since he could move, Joel assumed Loki had actually kept his side of the bargain and unpossessed him.
"Hey you," someone called from behind him.
He looked round to see a security guard coming towards him. It was then he realised where the loud sound had come from, because right where his finger had been, the stone tablet was split in two. The exhibit was completely broken.
"Are you going to explain?" he asked, looking at Loki.
"Oh, didn't I mention," Loki said, grinning at him, "no one can see us but you."
"Oh you utter bastard," Joel said, took one more glance at the furious looking security guard and decided his best bet was to leg it.
He had never run so hard in his life and Loki's laughter and the security guard chased him for a good mile. When he finally lost the man, he dove into the nearest tube station and headed home, dreading what the headlines on the local news might be that evening. There was bound to be CCTV. They were going to be knocking on his door. Defacing a national treasure was probably worse than murder in some people's book. His mother would disown him when she found out. Never would his name be spoken again in his parent's house.
"By Asgard you're dramatic," a voice said from directly behind him as he closed his front door and leant on it.
He almost leapt out of his skin.
"What the actual every loving fuck?" he said as his heart tried to beat through his chest.
"I believe you just made my point," Loki said, still smirking at him. "Do you have any alcohol, I'm thirsty?"
Joel found himself replying before his brain could catch up; another win for British hospitality.
"Wait, what, how the hell did you get here and how do you know I'm being dramatic?" he demanded, following Loki into the living room.
"Oh, did I forget to mention, we're going to be a little bit connected for a while," Loki told him, fishing in the cupboard and then standing back up with Joel's lone bottle of whiskey.
"I'm going to die," Joel said.
"Oh, I like you," Loki said before swigging some of the whiskey straight from the bottle. "You seemed quite taken with the high priest idea, I thought I'd offer again, just in case you'd decided to say yes."
"And spend the rest of my life dumped in the middle of shit to amuse you?" Joel accused. "Oh I don't think so."
"I always look after my own," Loki replied, stepping a little closer to him. "If you were my high priest the authorities would find all of their video footage strangely damaged."
Joel stood there with his mouth open.
"You're seriously trying to blackmail me into being your high priest?" he finally said, not quite believing his ears.
"Yes," Loki replied, "is it working?"
The idea of his picture being flashed all across London ran through Joel's head, followed quickly by the disappointed expression that would be on his mother's face.
"What would I have to do?"
Loki beamed at him.
"I did not say yes."
"Oh but you will," Loki told him. "Mischief is fun, I promise and the last Ragnarok was phenomenal."
"The last Ragnarok?" Joel couldn't help himself.
"I told you, tricksters are there to bring down the gods," Loki explained. "It's kind of a game."
"But doesn't everyone die?"
"Well yes, but they all get up again afterwards. If I'm going to top last time it's going to take a lot of planning; using frost giants and fire giants in their elemental form to come together and annihilate each other in the middle of Asgard in an explosion the like of which had never been seen, was a stroke of genius, even if I do say so myself."
"Won't Odin and Thor try and stop you?"
For that he earned an expression that told him just how stupid a question that was.
"It's a game," was all Loki said, as if that explained everything. "By the way, you're bisexual, correct?"
Joel whimpered, just a little.
If you would like to see what all of my posts will be about in advance, click here to see my theme post.
My twin and I are also doing the A to Z Challenge over at our fantasy erotica blog: http://fantasyboysxxx.blogspot.co.uk/