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         “I thought the meeting with the villagers was pretty successful,” Ileana told Chess later. “I think we can make this work, but it won’t be easy. I guess we’ll have to see how it all unfolds.”
         Chess shrugged. “The artificers, uh, they all seem okay with it, as long as people leave them alone to do their thing. You know,” he added, “since those kids showed up, all I can think about is those poor kids back in shelter, at Razor’s. I think about going – uh, I wonder if they are still there.”
         Ileana seemed to know what he had been about to suggest. “Probably some of them are. I understand how you feel. I wish we could send out emissaries to bring in all the lost people out there.”
         Chess was thoughtful for a moment. “Well,” he suggested, “we could do the next best thing: we could set you up to talk to people through the samiz network. It would be like you used to do before, at Razor’s, except you wouldn’t be trying to convince people to leave civ and become dissidents…” He watched her frown at the memory that he had just conjured. “Well… you give it some thought, okay?”
         “Okay,” she agreed, and Chess did not say anymore about his idea of going to find them, himself.

         Gryff was leaving. Chess had known this was going to happen, of course. But not yet.
         “I’ll tell people about Lodestar,” Gryff promised, as he packed up his gear. “I’ll send them here if they need a place to go.” Then he looked up at Chess. “Last chance to come with me -- for a while, anyway.” For a moment, Gryff appeared hopeful, but then he dropped his gaze again. “Not sure when I’ll be back,” he muttered. He strapped his rifle on, and then lifted the knapsack to his shoulder.
         Chess watched him without speaking. His mouth was dry and he felt lightheaded. Traveling with Gryff sounded great, but he just couldn’t leave Lodestar, and the girls, and the game...
         No. Chess followed Gryff out of the building and down the path through the trees. No, he corrected himself: that was not the reason. Chess could imagine possibly leaving here, himself, for a while -- even though the idea of leaving someplace where he actually felt happy bewildered him. But if he did go, he would go where he wanted to go. The truth was that he didn’t want to go with Gryff. He was not interested in following someone else around. And he couldn’t be what Gryff wanted, anyway.
         Feeling defeated, Chess trailed his friend out to the road, stepping just beyond the archway of trees. Finally, he opened his mouth and croaked out, “Keep in touch, okay?”
         Gryff gave him an exasperated look. “You… will be out of here before I come back,” he predicted. “I’ll meet you out there somewhere. The girls will be okay here. But you need to get out there…” He actually gave Chess a tiny smirk. “And maybe find someone who’s as crazy as you are.”
         Chess smiled back at him. “Okay, maybe,” he agreed. “Take care.”
         Gryff turned away and started to walk. He went down the road for about five meters and suddenly stopped. Then, Gryff dropped the backpack from his shoulder and turned back -- and Chess blinked in surprise as he watched Gryff now determinedly stomping toward him.
         The expression on Gryff’s face was so intense that Chess took an involuntary step backward as he got close. Then Gryff reached out to him, sliding one hand up along the side of Chess’s cheek, and, leaning in, pressed his lips to Chess’s open mouth.
         In the first moment of surprise, Chess jerked his head back, but Gryff had his other hand on the back of his neck, holding him there. Then, Chess breathed in the scent of him. And it was the scent of woods, and leather… and Gryff. Hesitantly, he returned the pressure against his lips, and he tasted Gryff’s tongue, and his heart went into a rapid, unsteady beat, as if tasting Sariel’s herbs. Chess gasped for breath, and then he was gripping the muscled arms that embraced him. Inarticulate sounds came from his throat, and he was pulling Gryff closer with his hands, and with his mouth.
         Then, abruptly -- as abruptly as he had started -- Gryff tore himself away. And, wheeling around, he strode off down the road once again. Chess, now breathless and sweating in the coolness of the morning, watched Gryff stop and casually swing the pack onto his shoulder. And at that moment, although his friend was walking away, Chess was absolutely certain that Gryff was smiling.

Continued next page...


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I'm not that gay, b-, b-, but you are!
- Last Gay Song by Mindless Self Indulgence

         I really enjoy reading works by Joseph Campbell, and although I believe that I can see his own personal ideas coming through in his interpretations of mythology, I have to admit that I am rather fond of his overtly feminist theories. I hope to explore some various ideas that he only hints at in blogs for my next story. However, here I want to mention another scholar of mythology who fits in with the current blog subject: Margaret Murray. If Joseph Campbell, consciously or not, stretched his interpretations a bit, this famous anthropologist -- on whose life and work as an “Egyptologist” I believe a number of fictional characters have been based -- inserted her opinions much more definitively, seemingly using her interpretations to make a personal point.
         In Murray’s case, her point was to show a definitive link between the hundreds of people who were executed for practicing witchcraft in the Middle Ages, and evidence of the survival of a pre-Christian pagan religion. Essentially, she believed that these unfortunate victims of a zealous political-religious environment were actually practicing adherents of an old religion, perhaps with Celtic basis -- so, really, it seems that she was saying that those executed truly were “guilty,” according to the law at the time!
         Murray’s works, including The Witch-Cult in Western Europe, are believed to be the foundation for the modern practice of Wicca. This has caused a large amount of disparaging opinion directed toward both her work and toward the practice of Wicca. However, there are a number of religions that have as their foundations old legends and stories of deeds and people that are remembered only by writings set down after many years of oral traditions, and cannot have avoided being infused with the personal opinions and ideals of storytellers along the way. In fact, it’s probable that nearly all religions fall into this category to some extent, so why single out one?



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