Chapter 7:

Addressing the Risk of Being Lost Forever

I Became the Plus-One to a Party of the Gods

That night, Caisey learned several things.

One: Lady Terpsichore—before she was ever known as Rina—and Lady Rán had a beef dating back over several hundred millennia.

Two: Apparently Lady Terpsichore, as the goddess of music and dance, had danced and twirled her way out of line and onto Lady Rán’s last nerve. As Lady Terpsichore’s very spirit appeared in the color blue which she so loved, she asserted one day that she wished to stake claim over the shining blue sea itself, which was part of the goddess of the sea, Lady Rán’s jurisdiction. Naturally, Lady Rán told her to shove it, and the two initiated an explosive godly battle that lasted over twenty days.

Three: The battle up in the heavens had caused a devastating series of storms in the Mortal Realm, upsetting the balance between realms, confusing and angering worshippers, and effectively pissing off Zeus who was shouldering all the blame and eventually broke it up.

Four: It was obvious who won the battle—and who would, given the state of things. Lady Terpsichore was forced to say a ‘tearful’ goodbye to twenty cherubs as the price to pay for the twenty-day battle.

Five: To celebrate the battle’s end, as well as to make it up to dutiful worshippers, Zeus pronounced the first two-day Festival of the Gods. Lady Terpsichore and Lady Rán were to be the festival’s first two hosts.

Six: Since then, it had become customary for the two hosting gods to toast to a successful and peaceful festival over a goblet of rum.

Seven: The "toast" that Caisey’s present-day Rina and Lady Rán made was, without a doubt, a peaceless declaration of war.

By far the most alarming of the things Caisey learned at Lady Rán’s palace was point number eight:

The Festival of the Gods was held once every millennium. Once every thousand years, a new mortal was either introduced to or fully welcomed into the Gods’ Realm. After undergoing trials, some prospects were returned to the Mortal Realm, others became demigods and returned to their lands able to conquer most any task within their skillset, while others agreed to become cherubs and live alongside their chosen god. Far rarer were the mortals who succeeded in being promoted to gods, living alongside the ancient divinities as equals.

In short, the focus of the festival had always been the mortal participants. Caisey’s nerves were finding it hard to get around that fact.

“This… This sounds like a death match.” He said, feeling beads of sweat forming along his hairline.

“Relax,” Lady Rán said in her stern voice, waving him off. “No one’s died in like… Wait, I can’t remember. It’s been so long.”

“That’s because no one’s ever died, you moron.” Rina cut in and turned to Caisey. They were sitting beside one another at Lady Rán’s long dining table, with Lady Rán and her Chosen One seated opposite them across the table. Rina leaned in close from her seat and took Caisey’s hand in hers. “I’ve gotta admit; everyone comes close to dying in the festival, but you’re surrounded by gods! What’s the worst that could happen?”

“Um, I could DIE?” Caisey offered with a ‘there’s-a-first-time-for-everything’ look. He bet on his wildly beating heart that he was just lucky enough to be the first victim.

Rina shook her head, a bit powerfully, Caisey noticed. He also didn’t miss the way she squeezed his fingers or the desperate look in her eyes. Somehow, his heartbeat managed to quicken. “Case, we have to win this.”

From his position on the chair next to hers, Caisey leaned so far towards Rina that their noses were almost touching. “Why?” He asked, his voice low and calming. “There’s something you’re not telling me, right?”

Rina took in a strained breath. She looked about ready to tear up. “It’s… Caisey, it’s just that if you don’t win…” She trailed off and looked over at Lady Rán who sat across from her, obviously not wanting to appear vulnerable in front of her.

“Tell me,” Caisey said, drawing her attention back towards him. “Focus on me. What’s the matter?”

I need to know, he thought. Whatever this was, it had to be momentous because Caisey had never once seen Rina look vulnerable or cry. 

“We… we won’t ever see each other again.” Rina said slowly, her lower lip quivering a little and then stopping. She was trying to get a hold of herself. “If you lose, I can’t ever call for you to come here again. I won’t meet you in your dreams. I can’t drop down to Earth to find you. Those are the rules…

“You were the first human to ever call for me. Your spirit sought me out. You chose me before I could even Choose you, and my spirit is tethered to yours for all eternity, Caisey… I’m immortal. But you… Your lifespan sucks!” She wacked Caisey's shoulder like mortal lifespans were his doing and squinted as tears began to fall from her shimmering blue eyes. “You’ll be lost to me forever.” She said, “You can’t lose.”

You'll be lost to me forever.

Though stunned by her words, Caisey slowly drew Rina into him and pressed his left palm against her back. He felt her tremble against his chest as sobs racked her body. He slid the fingers of his right hand through the strands of her black hair, massaging her scalp. Then, he rested his chin on top of her head as he thought for a while.

“Okay.” Caisey said aloud, though his thoughts were full of Don and Lisa, and his heart ached in a million ways. He thought of his family; though he hadn’t visited in some time, he missed them dearly. He thought now of how he would have liked to visit them more often. “I won’t lose.” He said.

I can't lose. He thought of Rina, the girl he’d met in his dreams, whom he had promised to spend his days with, and whom he’d unknowingly fallen for twice, both as a goddess and as a human girl.

I’d be stupid to let her go.

“Whatever they throw at me tomorrow, I promise I’ll win.”

Caisey sat General Style on a white marble edition of a Mortal Realm lawn chair set off to one corner of an impressive stretch of vivid, green grass. His back was straight, his hands were balled into fists resting atop his knees, and his eyes were heavily shut.

More like, his eyes were just heavy. He had slept like a baby in that giant bed Rina had set up for him.

“Do it.” He said and braced himself.

A slap so profound it tipped both him and the heavy marble seat sideways stung his left cheek, the sound ringing out into the open field. Feeling his head spin, he stumbled to his feet grasping his aching, red face.

“I said ‘Do it,’ not ‘Kill me!’” He cried, his eyes wild. He stooped to lift the marble chair while bracing for its heavy weight with his knees. However, to his surprise, he lifted the seat with amazing ease and righted it to its original position.

At the same time, the old man who had welcomed him into the Gods’ Realm waggled his hand in the air. “Oh, you’re still alive. I can’t exactly hold back all my strength, can I?”

Caisey made a face, but he had to admit that he’d forgotten where he was for a bit. The Gods’ Realm was a powerful place made up of powerful beings. As he’d righted that stone chair so easily, he realized that made him a little powerful, as well.

“Whatever you say, Sir Mimir. Thanks.” He’d learned that the old man was named Mimir and was known as one of the gods of counsel or guidance. Apparently unfalteringly wise, Sir Mimir was assigned as one advisor to the newly ascended Chosen Ones and again to any Chosen Ones selected to participate in the Festival of the Gods.

There was an identical white marble lawn chair beside his own that Caisey assumed was meant for Elise, Lady Rán’s Chosen One. It made him think of the other masterful counselor god, Lady Themis. Naturally, Lady Themis would be Elise’s advisor throughout the festival, and though Caisey hadn’t yet met her, he expected her to be intimidating—like all the gods and goddesses in this awe-inspiring realm.

“Glad to see you’re awake now.”

It was Rina. Even dressed in the rather battle-esque clothing she wore now had her looking more stunning than all the other gods and goddesses appearing on the grounds. A white neckpiece that fell over her shoulders like a hood; a black long-sleeved top with all-gold hemming, downward buttons, and intricately woven patterns dancing across her chest; and a blue flared skirt that matched the unreal blue of her eyes.

Caisey’s cheeks were burning with a blush. He let one of his closed fists cover his mouth, a guard in case he accidentally slipped a dorky-looking smile on his lips.

Rina’s eyes twinkled when she saw him like that, and he instantly wanted to run away. “Say to me what you’re thinking.” She said, and she stopped to pose, hop, pose, hop, pose.

Caisey shook his head at her audacity and let his hand slip away from his mouth. He’d failed to keep the dorky smile off his lips. He knew it was there, and it made him laugh. “You look—”

“All right, you slackers!!! Let’s get this show on the road!!!” Lady Rán suddenly screamed as she approached Caisey’s seat from their left, with Elise and the advisor goddess, Lady Themis, in tow. He didn’t know who the Viking goddess was talking to as the six of them were the only people there.

“Ooooh…” Rina growled, long and slow. “I’m gonna kill her!”

“N-Now now, Rina,” Caisey began, but a glance from Rina confirmed that he’d missed his chance to still tell her how beautiful she looked, and it sent him pedaling backwards a few steps.

Then, he sighed as he looked over and noticed the Chosen One, Elise, waving at him again. He immediately felt Death awaiting him and didn't dare wave back.

This is going to be a long day.