TRAVEL

At the Whim of the Gods #1

Atop Mount Olympus, Demeter, Greek Goddess of Harvest, sat in the living room of her condo trying to wrap up a conversation with Hera, Queen of the Gods. It was time for Jagged Journeys.

Hera’s palace had several scrying bowls, but for Demeter, multiple devices just weren’t in the budget, so she needed to get rid of Hera.  Ever since the number of worshippers fell off a millennium or so ago, things had been tight. She made do by performing all her far-seeing in this one bowl, but Hera, who droned on with her suspicions about Zeus’ latest infidelity, could still watch the show as she whined. Demeter didn’t want to miss the show, even if her brother was sleeping with his co-host.

As soon as the queen took a breath, Demeter said, “You’re a paragon of virtue, Hera, and my brother doesn’t know how to keep his loin cloth tied.”

“And you, more than others, can appreciate that fact.” Demeter grimaced, just as Hera had intended. What’s a little incest at the beginning of time? Hera wasn’t even in the picture then.

 Ignoring the barb, Demeter asked, “Do you watch his travel show?”

Hera’s disdain skewed her face. “I saw a few episodes last season, but surely, you don’t watch it.”

“Yes, I do, and it’s about to come on.” Demeter could hear the intro music to Jagged Journeys in the background, so she knew the queen was watching.

“Then I better let you go.”  As Hera’s face disappeared, Demeter tuned into the game show and settled back onto her chaise lounge. Her brother, sitting behind a marble desk with his co-anchor, Isis, replaced the queen on the surface of the water.  Projected on a screen behind them Mercury, Roman Messenger God, fluttered his ankle wings to stay afloat.  In the corner of the screen were the words, “Live from Dallas-Ft. Worth International Airport.”

Zeus grinned at his audience and said, “Good morning and thank you for tuning into this new episode Jagged Journeys.  I’m your Host and King, Zeus, Greek God of Sky and Thunder.  My co-host is Isis, Egyptian Patroness of Nature and Magic.” Turning towards her he asked, “What’s in store for us this morning, Isis?”

“Today Mercury is in Texas. He’s chosen two random travelers – and as our returning fans know, you’re about to shake up their itinerary.”

“Yes, I’ve got a humdinger of a storm brewing in the Northeastern United States and, as our previous seasons have proven,” Zeus beamed his white teeth towards his audience, “my storms can really upset a journey.” He turned back to Isis, “Why don’t you remind the audience of the way our game works?”

“OK, Zeus.  At the beginning of each game, Mercury goes to an airport, somewhere in the world, and randomly chooses travelers to act as our unwitting participants.  The only qualifying factor is an itinerary through a storm you’ve generated.  Then we follow the contestants to their destination and see how your storm affects their plans.”

“But I’m not the only one who gets a crack at them, am I, Isis?”

“No Zeus, you’re not,” she said with a brilliant smile. “Any deity can use their powers to help the contestants or hinder them. It depends on the score.  Each day of travel, one thousand grace points are awarded and then points are added or subtracted according to the contestants’ actions and attitudes.  As long as the points stay above one thousand, the contestants qualify for help, but when they fall below five hundred, they are at the mercy of any prank a deity chooses to play.”

“And that’s how the game is played” Zeus said.  Demeter didn’t like his new hairstyle.  All those stiff tufts looked ridiculous on him.  Next he’d be getting a tattoo. Wouldn’t Hera pitch a fit over that!  Especially if it was a crocodile or a hippo. He continued with a warm smile for Isis, “Go ahead and introduce our new contestants.”

“Well, Zeus, Mercury chose Bill and Jane Sadek,” Isis explained, “a couple of newlyweds traveling to Germany for the wedding of their friends, Tammy and Ludgar.  They’ll have to travel through New York City to get to Germany, and with your storm, it’ll be quite a challenge.”

“Yes, it will, Isis.” Turning back to the audience, but speaking to Mercury, Zeus said, “Hello Wing-ed One, what’s happening in the Lone Star State.”

“Good morning Zeus, I think we’re about to embark on the jaggedest journey ever!  Bill and Jane have just returned from their own halcyonic Hawaiian honeymoon, but we get to see what happens when they experience a little more difficulty on someone else’s.”

“Wait! Did I hear you right?  Our participants aren’t just on their way to a wedding; they’re also going on the honeymoon?”

“That’s right Zeus!  Our contestants and several other guests will be joining Tammy and Ludgar as they tour Germany and Austria.  In fact, about twenty folks are flying into both New York airports today and they plan to fly to Frankfurt this very evening.  What a recipe for disaster!”

“Well, Mercury, I think you’re right.  This certainly has all the makings of a jagged journey.”

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