Tales of Ruma

Tales of Ruma is finally out! It’s an awesome collection of 17 short stories inspired by the myths and legends of ancient Rome, Ruma (an RPG setting created by the editor, Martin Greening), and Greece. The stories come in all sorts of flavors; you’ll find tales of the gods, telepathic unicorns, giant elemental creatures, and gritty, bloody battles. I’m super honored to have been included alongside a bunch of really spectacular writers.

My story’s a brief battle scene titled From the Pan to the Flames. I wrote it specifically for Martin’s Ruma setting in the hopes of contributing to his fledgling world and was thrilled when he accepted it into the anthology. It was also a really magical experience to see and hold my work in print for the first time, haha (my story in Lucent Dreaming was published first, but my copy took a bit of time to get across the pond).

The book is available in both paperback and Kindle editions via Amazon. You can take a sneak peak at the first story in the book, The Question that Matters by Jody Lynn Nye, thanks to Amazon’s nifty Look Inside feature. If you want to get even more of an idea of what the anthology has to offer, Jonathan Ficke, a fellow contributor, also did a great rundown of all of the stories over on his website.

Strands of Glory

Hanna sat in the booth of a small corner cafe, sipping from a large mug of coffee as she flipped through her book. It was an old, wrinkled paperback filled with stories and legends of her people. She’d uncovered the tome from the bottom of a book bin at a mom-and-pop thrift store. Years of use had split the book’s spine cleanly in half; Hanna had taped it back together, pressing a strand of her hair into the fold. The spine had been perfectly resilient ever since.

Hanna was, in truth, not Hanna. Or, at least, she wasn’t just Hanna. Hanna was an outfit. Not a costume, by any means, but a presentation. She was like a bride aglow in her wedding dress or a military officer in a finely tailored uniform. Hanna was youthful and calm. To mortal eyes she seemed ordinary enough, though her waist-length hair would still attract some attention as it flowed gracefully behind her. But beyond the simple projection of Hanna, she was truly so much more. She was Hariasa, a goddess lost to time.

Hariasa was an ancient deity. She commanded legions of devoted worshipers in her prime. Most were fierce warriors, lusting for the glory of honoring her name in battle. The greatest of these were granted strands of her hair, precious tokens which never failed to bring out the peak of their natural talents. Bloody conflicts were fought for her honor. Great halls were raised in her name. She would be toasted for eternity by her bravest warriors, all spending their afterlives feasting in Asgard.

Yet her legacy came crumbling down. Other beliefs took hold among the mortals through conquest, correspondence, and connivance. The worlds of Yggdrasil are deeply intertwined; the gods of Asgard found power in the beliefs of their human worshipers in Midgard. When those beliefs wavered, their strength fell alongside. Asgard exists as a shadow of its former self, inhabited solely by the few transplanted dead worthy to partake in the pleasures of Valhalla and Fólkvangr. Asgardians may come and go, but all are drawn back to the hopes and dreams of power that Midgard might still offer. They wander the world hoping for opportunities to seize any fragment of glory they can before the coming of Ragnarök.

Some of the pantheon managed to forge small but solid footholds for themselves again. Thor had amassed a brilliant following which outdid the rest of his colleagues. He convinced a comic writer of his potential as a modern-day superhero and rose to global adoration in the blink of an eye. Others, too, had been elevated with their mythology’s refurbished popularity; Loki loved being loathed as Thor’s villain, and Odin reveled in his newfound status in literature as a divine con artist. The gods were trickling back into prominence, and they all clung fiercely to the hope that the trickle might reform the rushing river of their past.

Hariasa was content to play a long, steady game. She drifted slowly, a decade at a time, from one place to the next. She worked simple jobs and rented affordable rooms. Her guise as Hanna was her vessel to connect with mortals, her method of attaining small, comforting moments of adoration. Hariasa was forgotten, but Hanna could reach people. She could listen to people needing to talk and give a shoulder to cry on for those needing to mourn. She gave meals to the hungry and did favors for her neighbors. Now and then, when someone was struggling beyond whatever they could take, she would weave them a bracelet to bring them good fortune. Her trinkets always hid a single strand of her hair within their braids.

The mortals didn’t need to know who Hariasa was. She had changed. Her old self was nearly as forgotten to her as she was to the world. She no longer craved the battles and halls which had once glorified her. The love of the people she touched was more than enough.

Strands of Glory by Ethan Hedman

The Woes of Gods

As was often the case among the gods, Janus initiated conversation. “I have a question to pose. Which of us has the most difficult existence?”

“Oh, that’s one for capital-G.” Loki lazily scratched at his jawline. “He’s too proud to admit he has problems, of course. But give him a third of a chance and he’ll wax poetic about his son’s troubles.”

“It’s true that Yeshua has often found his followers difficult to cope with since his crucifixion.” God gave a labored sigh and shook his head. “When he walked among them as a man, he was able to encourage good conduct. Now, he has transcended, and they prostrate themselves before the symbol of his tortured death without even speaking something resembling his true name. Jesus this and Jesus that. The things they do in his name and my own are often not what either of us would ever wish.”

“A name is not relevant,” the Buddha remarked. “It is only a device used to perceive an identity.”

“It is not so easy to brush away such a tender insult with reason when your nature is to be jealous. He and I are one in this way, though we do not share the same qualms. It has taken considerable effort for me to be comfortable in the presence of most of you. Our moments here together amount to time spent in a den of rivals. For my son, on the other hand, the crosses are the heaviest to bear.”

“Good one,” said Loki, grinning.

“I do not jest. His followers mean well, they only intend to honor his sacrifice. Yet each time he gazes upon a congregation celebrating their faith in him, he must relive his pain and torture, as they do so before a cross.”

“At least he has a congregation,” Mithras muttered. “Not all of us are so fortunate.”

“You are remembered and studied,” called a raspy voice from among the shrouded Forgotten Ones. “That is more than we shall ever be. We shall wait endlessly without a drop of recognition. We shall never again be celebrated, not even for a single moment.”

“Is it truly so horrible for you to be forgotten? I would give anything to have my name washed clean from all the damned minds of men.” Lucifer came forward, his fists balled tight in fury. “Show me someone who can promise that my name will mean nothing within a century and I’ll shower them with each and every pleasure that they could ever dream of!”

He dropped to his knees and slammed his fists against the ground, slouching thereafter in defeat. “Alas, no such power exists, and so I must satisfy myself merely with the few mortals who make an effort to think for themselves, the few capable of understanding my motives.” He glared at God. “The scraps that fall from your table.”

Prometheus struggled against his chains, inching towards his friend. “You had a difficult role to play. We can all recognize this.”

Difficult? We both did our damnedest to elevate humanity, and for what? Your punishment is a curse, but mine? To be loathed throughout the world, treated only as an object of contempt?” He was seething at the mouth and spat in anger. “The universe has been made hideous through cruelty, Prometheus. No man on the earth nor any of our fellows here are worthy of us in the slightest.”

“Fellows and man? Of course you would choose such masculine words when not a single woman has been heard from.” Saraswati chuckled. “Those of you engaged in this conversation must at least acknowledge the difficulties of goddesses and the female divine when contrasted with the inherent popularity of your masculine reigns.”

“Ah, well spoken. Mortal women face that issue throughout their lives; we cannot so easily forget that we ourselves are not excepted.” Aphrodite smiled, a warmth beaming into the souls that beheld it. “Thank you so much for speaking up.”

A brief pause loomed over the conversation before Janus chose to break it. “Is that all you have to say on the matter? Your opinions are not often so brief.”

“I can make no argument that my own state of being is difficult, Janus, nor would I wish to. As long as mortals live with love, I, too, am overjoyed.”

Anubis offered a stern nod. “Do not mistake silence with indifference. So long as those same mortals die, Hades and I will find ourselves satisfied.”

“I see.” Janus examined his peers thoughtfully. “Well, then, have we managed to achieve something akin to a consensus on the topic?”

Budai’s laugh bellowed through the gathering. “I mean you no offense, my dear friends, but this conversation matters little. Why should any among us dwell on our difficulties? That we can dwell on anything at all should give great comfort. Is it not enough to be? We here are all a part of a fascinating, beautiful world. What more could any one of us ask for?”

“Endings,” called the voice of Odin.

“Alongside new beginnings,” God added.

Odin’s eye sparkled as he smirked in agreement. “Yes. What is it all for if nothing is ever truly lost or gained? Even I cannot know our coming futures. Which of you can say with certainty that we are not mortal ourselves? We sit and we watch those with short bursts of life. Perhaps ours are destined for the same fate.”

“We shall find out,” Janus remarked. “As with all things, it is only a matter of time.”

The Woes of Gods by Ethan Hedman