What hempen home-spuns have we swagg’ring here, so near the cradle of the fairy queen? Puck, Midsummer Night’s Dream
A Midsummer Night’s Blog Hop has high hopes of honoring the 2012 summer solstice with a character interview spectacle. Characters will be interviewed not by author/reviewer bloggers…but other characters. The twist…the characters will be paired by lots drawn out of a hat.
See participating authors, characters and links below….
Jean Murray + Wendy Russo
Asar, Egyptian God of the Underworld, desires vengeance at all costs against a malevolent goddess that stole his soul. Meanwhile, he serves as judge, jury, and executioner for the souls seeking refuge in Aaru, Paradise Isle of the Underworld. Seventeen-year-old Matty Ducayn, an unruly math-minded genius and occasional smart ass, may offend Asar in three seconds flat. Or maybe not.
Gate to the Afterlife
The fun continues with our character interviews….
Asar paced the short slab of sandstone walk in the garden. His gaze was met by smiling green eyes.
“You are going to wear a hole in the garden path if you keep this up. Why are you so nervous anyways?”
He stopped and sat next to his wife on steps and looked out over the green expanse of flowering bushes and trees. Lilly leaned against his shoulder, which prompted him to wrap his arm around her waist and tug her closer to his side. “I have no idea. I have faced down harden criminals without blinking an eye, but this boy, Matty…” Asar shook his head and smiled. “I like him very much. He is curious and is not swayed easily by my presence. Much like you on the day you stood up to me in the tunnel.”
She chuckled. “I like Matty already.”
“You would.” He brushed his thumb over her smooth pale cheek. “He has gotten me thinking though. Have you given it any thought of having our own children?”
The familiar weight of energy press in around them. Black smoke rose from the floor. Matty’s physical form solidified out of the air, shadowed by his brother, Kamen. Asar stole one last glance at Lilly before rising to his feet. He would have to wait for his answer.
“Matty,” Asar said extending his hand for the boy to grasp, more out of need to stabilize him than a friendly greeting. “The dizziness will pass quickly, just keep breathing.”
“The air is sparkly,” he said breathlessly. The boy blinked his eyes.
“Here let me help, Matty.” Lilly brushed her hand over his sandy blonde hair. “It’s not easy getting your molecules scrambled. It took me awhile to get used to it.” His wife’s ability to heal would quickly make the boy feel human again.
“That’s a great trick…Lilly, is it?”
She smiled. “It is very nice to meet you. Asar has told me much about your world. I also hear you like astronomy. Well, you’ll get to see the stars tonight. Orion’s belt, Ursa Major and Minor.”
“Northern hemisphere constellations!” the boy said excitedly. “That means Mars and Saturn will be on the western horizon at dusk. Leo and Gemini, too!”
Matty turned slowly in a circle. His eyes widened when the enormous sandstone palace came into view. The sun glinted off the gold shields on the front entrance. “Huh.”
“Is everything to your liking?” Asar inquired.
“I expected beautiful…paradise isle, you said.” Matty cupped his hand under a flower, but didn’t touch it. “Underworld…I wasn’t expecting sun.”
“Aaru is a reflection of the human realm, but the cycles are in opposition. Morning here. Night and evening there.” Asar turned to Kamen and gasped his forearm. “Thank you. I will take things from here, brother.”
”He doesn’t talk much, does he?” the boy asked, glancing in Kamen’s direction.
“Kamen is not known for his idle conversation.” Asar shifted his gaze to Lilly. “Matty, you already guessed that this is Lilly.” His eyes lingered on his wife, but he was drawn back to the boy. “I want to show you something before we go into the archive. Follow me.”
Asar led the group around the edge of the palace to the beach. The serpentine river of the Underworld snaked off into the distance. He knelt next to Matty and pointed. “See the temple there…just to the right of it is a large expansive gate that traverses the width of the river. Do you know what that is on the other side, Matty?”
With his eyes glued to the massive structure, the boy shook his head.
“Those are the gates that separate Duat from Aaru. The temple you see to the left is the Hall of Judges, where the souls come to be weighed. Those worthy will pass and live eternity in the isle you see across the river.”
“Some doors cannot be opened once closed,” the boy said quietly, “or closed once open.”
Asar knew a smart intellectual boy like Matty would understand and appreciate what he was seeing. No living human had ever gazed upon the gates, except maybe Lilly and her sisters, but that was an unusual circumstance in and of itself. Asar gathered the phrase Matty spoke had a more personal significance than a time honored cliché. “Your appraisal holds truth. Where did you come by it?”
“A conversation I had with Hadrian a while back,” Matty explained. “When he gave me his challenge, he also gave me the option of going home…to my grandfather’s ranch in the country, but cautioned that some doors cannot be opened once closed.”
“Ah, carpe diem. Seize the day,” Lilly added. “A very well served lesson. So which did you choose? The challenge or going home? You don’t strike me as the stay at home and twiddle your thumbs kind of guy.”
Matty snorted. “Home’s nice,” Matty said with a nod. “My dad’s more concerned with consequences.”
“I only saw a small sliver of your world. Can you tell me more about it and its King? King Hadrian, right?” Asar pressed.
“Hadrian’s got a lot of layers,” said Matty. The boy met Asar’s gaze for the first time since walking onto the beach. “I can tell you this because we’re here. At home, I’m bound by this thing called The Privacy Act. Discussion of the king’s private affairs is a quick way to earn 18 months in jail.”
“No first amendment rights? I’m not down with that.” Lilly scowled.
“You need not worry, Matty. Your transgression is safe with us,” Asar joked, hiding his own concern over the matter. Even he would not be so harsh and that was saying a lot. Asar headed up the steps from the beach to the Palace hall. Matty followed at his side and appeared to be lost to his own thoughts.
“There are four Hadrians…and which one you get depends more on who you are than him. In Old World kingdoms, being the king was the greatest honor, but in Columbia…Hadrian’s not just the king. He’s the president of the assembly. He’s the prime executive officer of Steer Industries…the company that facilitated my ancestor’s migration. It’s not taught in school, but sources my schoolmasters would consider disreputable say that one man having all that power is not good for society.”
“We have our own problems with certain individuals wanting to dominate. I’ll join the merry band of disreputables in saying tyranny is bad for society. Even the Pantheons are not set up with one ruler. Asar shares rein with the Mother Goddess.”
“Hadrian makes the risk hard to see. Past the glamour and the guardians, he’s rather boring. He works 16 hour days, comes home nightly to an empty house. He cooks his own supper, cleans his kitchen, and goes to bed. On his rare days off, he reads, naps on his couch. Once he took a sledgehammer and demolished his bathroom, but other than that, his house is exactly as his father left it almost 18 years ago. In a word, I’d call him lonely.”
“The King has shown interest in you. What about your natural father? He is a general?” Asar asked.
“Natural…” the boy scoffed with clear sarcasm. “Centuries ago, our first Assemblymen were the officers of the January Black, the ship that brought our ancestors to Aventine and now lays at the bottom of our bay. When the need arose for someone to oversee the staff of the capitol hill, they called that man ‘commandant.’ Today, my father is that man.”
“There must be expectations of you. It has not left you much room for fun, has it?” Asar asked.
“Oh, I’ve made time for fun,” Matty told them. “My fun is what caught Hadrian’s attention.”
“Tell me of the quest your King has sent you on?” Asar knew better than to think the boy had chosen home over the challenge set before him.
“In Columbia, it is nearly impossible to work for the government without a diploma from the Regents’ School, so when one of my stunts got me expelled, it pretty much ruined any chance I had of living up to the expectation you mentioned. Not that I cared. I was perfectly happy to go to my grandfathers, but my admission was sponsored by Hadrian, so I had embarrassed him as well. Or I would have, if he had cared, which as I learned that night, he really didn’t. He offered me a Regent master’s diploma…which would qualify me to work in any government office I wanted…if I answered a question.”
Asar pulled to a stop and looked down at young boy. Lilly clasped his hand and squeezed. “What question would be worth what he offered you?”
“What was January Black?” The boy replied. “On the surface, it’s a silly question. It’s a ship, as I mentioned before. But the catch to Hadrian’s challenge is that the answer must satisfy him, and that’s not the answer he wants. Every road I’ve followed has led to black holes and locked doors.”
Asar guided his young guest to two large ornate gold doors with crystal handles. “Perhaps you are here for doors you can unlock?”
The boy looked at Lilly anxiously, then back to Asar. His hands fiddled in front of him. “I should mention, um…I uh…I have a…biological response to the smell of old books.”
“I should introduce you to my sister, Kendra. She gets high off old book smell. You two could balance each other out.” Lilly laughed.
Asar guided the doors open. Matty held his breath and walked in with his eyes closed. After a moment, he blew out his breath and opened his eyes. With mouth gaping Matty slowly shuffled down the center aisle of the archive. Large statues rose from the thick black stone and shoulder the massive arched ceiling. Hieroglyphics etched into the ebony marble told a story of a past long since forgotten. Rows of books too many to count lined the outer walls of the expansive room. Only a few wooden tables stood off to the side. The most impressive pieces lay in the middle of the room, relics saved from the ruin in the human realm. Treasures of the pharaohs. Treasures of earth.
“Two-point-seven-one-eight-one…” Matty mumbled off a stream of numbers.
Asar looked at his wife for a clue of what it meant. She shrugged.
“It’s like Hadrian’s library went supernova.”
“Do you see something that interests you?” Asar asked.
“Everything,” the boy said greedily. Asar was surprised at the amount of sorrow hidden beneath the boy’s excitement. But then again, he only had a few hours to explore. Matty’s disappointment evaporated, his attention claimed by an object on display. A sextant, a device used by sailors to find their way at sea. “I’ll settle for holding that in my hands,” he said.
“Absolutely! Take as much time as you want, Matty.” Asar watched the boy’s facial expressions. They were nothing short of reverence and awe. This boy was truly special. The warm press of his wife’s hand on his arm drew his attention away for a moment.
“You look sad,” she said, as he wrapped his arms around her and pulled her back against his chest. He could still see the boy conversing with the sextant.
“You’re worried about him.”
“Sorry, I did not mean to burden you.” He should have known that Lilly would feel his concern through their bond. It was a blessing, but also made it difficult keeping feelings private.
“Do you think King Hadrian’s challenge is a ploy?” Lilly asked.
The same question had been bouncing around in his own head. Asar held his tongue. He did not want to think the King would abuse his power and put the boy at risk. Gods know, he had witnessed Kings behaving badly over several thousand years of human history. Even the Pantheons of the gods were not immune to it. Not a safe time to raise young ones, he thought sadly.
There were no certainties, but one– Matty finding the answer to his question.
Book of the Dead
Wendy Russo is a Big Horn Basin girl transplanted in South Louisiana. Her writing draws from philosophy, pop culture, classic literature, religion, art, anthropology, math, and science. She enjoy writing inquisitive and introspective characters. I like slow reveals and snowballing climaxes. Her novel, January Black, will be released January 2013 by Crescent Moon Press.
Sixteen-year-old Matty Ducayn is a disappointment to everyone who knows him. As the son of The Hill’s commandant, he is expected conform to a strict, unspoken code of conduct. Small acts of defiance over years—like playing in the dirt and walking on the grass—have earned him a reputation for being unruly, but it’s his sarcastic test answers that finally get him expelled from school. Instead of punishing him, King Hadrian offers Matty a diploma, with a catch. He must answer a question: What was January Black?
With the help of Iris, a gardener on his father’s staff, Matty takes his quest beyond The Hill’s walls and tightly controlled media. But trying to solve the puzzle puts him on a collision course with the Janus Law, a royal decree mandating death to those who trespass in a forbidden garden. Has Hadrian set him up from the beginning to lose?
Jean Murray, the owner of Wicked Romance, was born and raised in a small town on the east coast. In her pursuit of a nursing degree, she aspired to see the world and joined the Navy. One of the benefits of her membership in the Armed Forces, she has had the opportunity to travel and live in different parts of the world and the United States. Her travels abroad have given her the opportunity to experience different cultures. It inspired her to delve into Ancient Egyptian myths and legends for her debut novel, Soul Reborn, book 1 in the Key to the Cursed series from Crescent Moon Press, now available.
THE HUMAN REALM, HIS BATTLEFIELD.
Asar, the Egyptian God of the Underworld, has been tortured and left soulless by a malevolent goddess, relegating him to consume the very thing he was commissioned to protect. Human souls. Now an empty shell of hatred, Asar vows to kill the goddess and anyone involved in her release, but fate crosses his path with a beautiful blonde huntress who has a soul too sweet to ignore.
DEADLY SECRETS BETTER LEFT UNEARTHED.
Lilly, fearless commander of the Nehebkau huntresses, is the only thing standing in the way of the goddess’ undead army unleashing hell on earth. But Lilly has a secret-one she is willing to sell her soul to keep. If the Underworld god discovers her role in the dig that released the goddess, she will lose everything, including his heart.
CLICK HERE FOR MATTY’S INTERVIEW OF ASAR!!
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