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         When Chess looked up, the morning sun filtering through the trees was partly obscured. Gryff stood over him, staring down with an unreadable expression on his face. Chess laughed in relief, and then got unsteadily to his feet. “Everyone okay?” he asked eagerly.
         “I saw you fall,” Gryff said flatly. “I watched them go after you, but then they came back.”
         Chess grinned more broadly. “Yeah, that was a good trick, huh? I--” He stopped as Gryff swept him up into an unexpected hug, holding him tightly. “Uh, the girls?” Chess asked, gasping a little.
         “They’re fine,” Gryff answered brusquely and let him go, stepping back. “Glad you didn’t lose my rifle,” he growled, and reached for it without looking at Chess. Then the girls arrived.

         That night, Chess drew Sariel aside, and they walked until they found a moonlit clearing.
         “Is Ileana okay?” Chess asked, sliding down to rest his back against a tree. “She seems extra quiet. What happened? I mean, how was she when you were there, with Razor’s gang?”
         Sariel settled next to him. “Angry. Protective.” She smirked, her eyes sparkling in the dim light. “She demanded to see Tez. And when they said he was gone, she threatened them with Razor’s wrath if they touched me, and so angered her.” Sariel gave a low chuckle, deep in her throat. “Where Ileana is concerned… what Razor would do, I am not certain. Fortunately, neither are they.”
         “Beware the wrath of dragons,” Chess muttered. “So, Tez was not there.”
         Sariel shook her head. “They said he took off with a small group of Razor’s men on the same night that we left.” She gazed up at the moon. “Lilly believes that Tez has gone in search of the water wizards. She thinks --” Sariel stopped talking when she noticed Chess’s surprised expression. Then she shrugged. “I mean, Ileana. Ah, well… the goddess who created humans also engenders human desire.”
         “Yeah, I remember,” Chess answered. He recalled the night when Sariel had given him the herbs that were meant to help him seek the goddess. And he remembered what had happened afterward: the overwhelming need that had taken control of his mind. He lingered over that thought.
         After a few moments, though, he realized that Sariel had just equated Ileana with Lilumei. “So…” he ventured, grinning, “you’re in love with a goddess, now, huh?” He looked down at his hands. “Well, no wonder you have no interest in me anymore. Can’t say I blame you.”
         Sariel giggled then, and reached for him, putting her fingertips on his chest. His temperature rose instantly. He watched her eyes flicker toward the woods, and wondered if she was looking for Ileana. “Perhaps the three of us…” Sariel proposed, sliding her hand up and around behind his neck.
         He felt shivers across his skin where she touched him. “Ah, no,” he breathed. He had imagined the possibility countless times over the past few weeks, but now the suggestion alarmed him. “I don’t think … I know I could never…” He felt beads of sweat forming on the back of his neck.
         “The herbs would calm your fears,” Sariel purred, pulling his head down toward her.
         “No… no!” he protested, jerking away. His memory of the herbs was hazy, but he was certain that, under their influence, he had not had any self-restraint. Open-mouthed, he gaped at her.
         She smiled teasingly. “It would be as easy as…” She ran her fingers over the tip of his tongue.
         The touch was unbearable. “No,” he begged. “Promise you won’t ever do that to me.”
         She raised an eyebrow. “We will see,” she said placidly, and then leaned back, away from him.
         “No, please,” he whispered, breathing faster. She frightened him because he knew that, in the end, she could always make him do what she wished. He found himself staring at her bared legs, her skirt bunched up high. Something in his brain told him that her manipulation should anger him, but instead it made his heart pound. He bent and lowered his lips to the inside of her calf. “My lady...”
         Sweat was running into his eyes, now, making them burn. He kissed slowly along the soft length of her leg, his dripping sweat leaving a glistening trail on her skin. “Please…” He licked at the drops as they slid sideways to spill tiny rivulets of liquid down the inside of her thigh.
         Behind him, Chess heard the soft sound of twigs snapping, but the world was fading away.

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Same God, Different Name

“Never laugh at live dragons, Bilbo you fool!” he said to himself, and it became a favourite saying of his later, and passed into a proverb. “You aren’t nearly through this adventure yet,” he added, and that was pretty true as well.
- The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien

         Even the followers of some mythologies occasionally seemed to recognize the similarities between all the stories and attempted to explain it. As the goddess Isis states, in The Golden Ass by Lucius Apuleius: “I am she that is the natural mother of all things... my name, my divinity is adored throughout the world, in divers manners, in variable customs, and by many names.” She then goes onto list a bunch of names by which she claims to be known, citing the lands/people who call her by each name, including: Minerva, Venus, Diana, Proserpine, Ceres, Juno, Bellona, Hecate, Ramnusie, and, “my true name, Queen Isis.” (Of course, as is human nature, the specific way that the author worships the goddess is the true way. All others are on the right track, but are somewhat confused.)
         Like the aspects of the gods, events, too, can also be remarkably similar across mythologies. Some include: the dichotomy of the good and evil gods - adversaries or partners behind the scenes; wars for supremacy between allied groups of gods - establishment and rebels; a god/saint/folkhero who slays a legendary monster, thus causing a great change in the world; a god who sits in judgment and punishes evil humans; a god or folk hero who descends into the underworld to bring back a loved one; a god who comes to earth, dies, and returns to heaven. (Even the story of Esther could be interpreted to be a goddess coming to earth and risking her life for a particular group of people.)
         Scholars of mythology have argued for many years over whether the interpretations of the varied mythologies must be overly-simplified in order to make them fit into one category or another. But since I am not writing a scientific paper here, I feel perfectly free to marvel at the apparent similarities.

But she dismissed it indifferently, saying there were hundreds of such old stories... “You have a great deal to learn, my son. Many an ancient god was dismembered and mourned by his goddess. Read of Actaeon and Adonis. The ancients loved those stories.”
- The Vampire Lestat by Anne Rice



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