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Authors: Jack L. Chalker

Tags: #Science Fiction, #Fantasy, #Fiction

Horrors of the Dancing Gods

BOOK: Horrors of the Dancing Gods
10.37Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub



Published by Ballantine Books:










Book One:
The River of the Dancing Gods


Book Two:
Demons of the Dancing Gods


Book Three:
Vengeance of the Dancing Gods


Book Four:
Songs of the Dancing Gods


Book Five:
of the Dancing Gods
















Book One:
Midnight at the Well of Souls


Book Two:
Exiles at the Well of Souls


Book Three:
Quest for the Well of Souls


Book Four:
The Return of Nathan Brazil


Book Five:
Twilight at the Well of Souls: The Legacy of Nathan Brazil






Book One:
Lords of the Middle Dark


Book Two:
Pirates of the Thunder


Book Three:
Warriors of the Storm


Book Four:
Masks of the Martyrs






Book One:
Echoes of the Well of Souls


Book Two:
Shadow of the Well of Souls


Book Three:
Gods of the Well of Souls






Book One:
Lilith: A Snake in theGrass


Book Two:
Cerberus: A Wolf in the Fold


Book Three:
Charon: A Dragon at the Gate


Book Four:
Medusa: A Tiger by the Tail 




To Steven Lloyd Chalker, in spite of whose best efforts this book got finished anyway.














I WRITE VERY FEW SERIES IN SPITE OF MY REPUTATION. OH, I write a lot of very long books, which publishers try to chop up into thirds and fourths and sell as "the latest series" but they're really not, and those who read them
it for the most part. The
Dancing Gods
books, however, are very much a series and so open-ended that even I have no idea when I start one if it's going to be my last.


For those who don't remember and those who came in late, the
Dancing Gods
is set in an alternate universe separated from ours in which the realities of our myths, legends, fantasies, and phantasms exist along with humankind. Connected by an ethereal realm known as the Sea of Dreams, we are influenced in our thoughts, fantasies, and imaginations by reflections of this alternate reality. The framework is Judeo-Christian in terms of good and evil, right and wrong, and so on, and while Heaven continues to stay out of things directly—so far—Hell, as usual, cheats.


This alternate Earth in fact was created as a reflection and in the backwash of the Genesis creation of
Earth, our universe, and God spent all His time, along with the time of the top angels, in setting ours up. Being merciful, He didn't destroy the other one, just assigned all minor angels and such to straighten it up. Being minor, of course, they weren't really up to the job and were prone to shortcuts. Magic, for example; it was more convenient than inventing a lot of physical laws. And how much easier to let the wood nymphs protect and keep the trees healthy, and the
water sprites the seas, instead of actually having to deal with the complex sciences involved.


In fact, all the natural laws and shortcuts were basic enough to fit into a
fairly stock volume, the Book of Rules. The few details the book missed were left to the powerful magicians and sorcerers to tidy up, and they've been doing it ever since. In fact, they've been overdoing it ever since, acting just like a massive bureaucracy. Nothing is too minor for their notice; no cliché remains untouched or unmandated. My theory is that this is why it often seems that everybody's sword and sorcery epics are variations of the same book—after all, we know they are better writers than that, right?


Under the Rule that mandates that all great adventures be at least trilogies, the
Dancing Gods
series was always intended to be at least three. This is, I believe, the fifth. In the fourth,
Songs of the Dancing Gods,
we resolved a ton of questions and polished off a lot more enemies, but we left one in the wrong state and another in the lurch, I'm here to get him out.


I hesitated to take on the horror boom at its height, even though it probably produced the most hackwork since cyberpunk. Movements always tend to do that. Some folks who are really good do something new and original and creative, and then it's piling on the bandwagon and going to the Sea of Dreams to see what clichés and stock situations drift through. Still, I figured they'd have their day—everybody deserves one now and again—and I pretty much waited until the cycle crested and fell.


This book is an excellent example of kicking people when they are down. I've limited my easily recognizable targets to the dead and the superstars (and been fairly nice to the latter lest their lawyer birds and Del Rey's lawyer birds have sky battles). The knowledgeable can pick out all the little items here and there that twit those who really deserve it. Have fun finding them.


As with
this volume departs from the first three in being a
lot more serious for a long segment, possibly the  first third of the book, then goes through occasional gags, broad throwaways, gratuitous slaps and kicks, and the like, until at the end we just throw everything down the tubes and go completely bananas. In here is both serious writing and the sword and sorcery equivalent of the Marx Brothers doing
while I managed to talk myself out of introducing a character (for now) named Fungie, as in
Fungie from Yuggoth, I have committed some puns so horrible that I feared I was getting cross-linked with Piers Anthony. The idea is to eventually have a lot of fun, get a little serious stuff in between the nonsense, and in general build to a point where the reader has a really wild ride. Since this is also the first book I have written since quitting smoking, anyone who thinks maybe it isn't up to the others should examine his or her conscience for the logic of that.








April 1994








The immortal hero/heroine doomed to wander the world until judgment shall always be placed in proximity to important damsels in distress.


Rules, XXVI, p. 234(k)




A RELIGIOUS PERSON EXPECTED TO GO TO ETERNAL reward or punishment at death, but to be suspended indefinitely in limbo made even Hell seem attractive.


It wasn't just the wood nymph part, although that was bad enough; it was all of it. She'd never even fully accepted becoming a she; the rest was just dung on the cow pie. That wasn't a matter of good and bad, either; it was just that a person was more than a collection of cells. A person was the sum of all the experiences from birth, too, and had an ego, an identity, a sense of self that defined that person, made that individual unique. No matter what anybody said, a body's sex was one hell of a determiner in that whole sense of who a person was, and to have it wrenched out made you culturally nothing at all.


So if you hadn't started out as female, you were never going to get comfortable as a female. And everybody of course treated you as if that was the first defining thing you were—they couldn't help it. You didn't grow up that way, think that way, see the world that way, act and react that way. So you didn't really fit in comfortably with the ones who did, but you hardly fit in with the boys, either. Not when you looked and sounded like she did.


She'd accepted her lot grudgingly for the sake of the boy and seeing the boy grow into manhood, but even that was not the stuff of dreams. You couldn't have a father-son relationship when Dad had been changed into a wood nymph. Somehow it just couldn't be the same. And since he had been separated from the boy for so long while the kid was growing up, there wasn't anything in the past to hang a really strong relationship on. Worse, having any kind of close relationship with a wood nymph when you were an adolescent boy was likely to create a situation more embarrassing and downright distasteful than anything else.


Because of that, she'd never gotten close to him—Irv—and had left his upbringing to other hands. As far as Irv was concerned, Dad was dead and gone in a hero's fight to the finish against the epitome of evil, the Dark Baron; both had been destroyed, consumed, in a fiery volcanic ooze, thus saving Husaquahr and the world beyond it from being overrun.


Most times she felt as if it would have been better if it had really happened that way. Certainly it would have been better had she been able to die like the Baron rather than emerge as the wood nymph bound to the Tree of Life itself. Even the deities of High Faerie had at least one vulnerable spot—their powers were dependent on the number of believers. Remove the believers and you removed their powers. They wouldn't
exactly, but they would cease to exist for all practical purposes.


Not her. She required no believers, no supplicants at all. Even if something unthinkable should happen to the Tree of Life, its juices flowed within her and made her totally, irrevocably immortal. She was the only wood nymph who didn't even need a tree, although there was this instinctual affinity with them. Wood nymphs had no need to eat; they made their energy from sunlight or could absorb it indirectly from plants. She didn't even need to drink like the others of her kind; the fluids of the Tree never evaporated and never wore out. Lack of carbon dioxide to breathe or prolonged cold might make her go dormant, but that was the extent of it, and that wasn't a very pleasant experience, as she'd discovered. It kind of felt, well, like death in slow motion, not quite asleep or awake but very definitely aware—and the nausea after coming out of it lasted what seemed forever.


Sister wood nymphs weren't much company, either. They had rather boring and basic lives, had no major life experiences, and, unlike her, couldn't travel far enough not to get back to their trees by dusk. Even if they had great mental potential, which they didn't, this didn't exactly give them much of a chance to broaden their points of view. In fact, they weren't quite as smart as the bimbos they looked like, and emotionally they were something like thirteen. And frankly, that was
they needed to be in either area. Their entire function in life was to create a psychic group that could maintain their woods.


That and one other thing. The wood nymphs had a symbiotic relationship with plants but not much with animals of any sort. Animal control and management, from the pest to the squirrel and bird and beyond level, was entirely under their male counterparts, the satyrs. Those lecherous half goats weren't much brighter then the nymphs, but they played their songs on their flutes, did their dances, ate leaves and grasses, and, of course, made it with the nymphs. If there was a need for any reason, that was the way you got new satyrs. Nymphs didn't reproduce that way—they budded. That's why they all looked and sounded and thought so much alike.

BOOK: Horrors of the Dancing Gods
10.37Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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