Even as Folio #1 gets assembled for PDFing, and the Myth gets ready for being put out… Folio #2 is rearing its head. Folio #2: Generations and Originals stakes out beginnings and expands our options a bit.
This includes the next Justice Wing Banter Latte serial — alongside Interviewing Trey and Vilify 5 (which is also getting something of a rewrite), we begin to touch on the Halcyon Days of Justice Wing — before the Apocalypse Agenda and all the cynicism that seemed to come with it.
So. Here’s a teaser from that serial. It stars a thirteen year old girl named Kathy Keillor, who’s a bright young girl from Illinois whose brother — well, adopted brother, really — is both the first public parahuman and the greatest hero of the modern age.
This is a teaser, as stated. It stars Kathy, of course. And it stars the goddess Freya, one of the other founding members of Justice Wing. And as with all good, epic tales of heroes, it’s set in a treehouse.
The Paragirl from West Littleton is a Banter Latte serial, and will appear here for free the day after it appears on Patreon.
The treehouse had always been Chad Keillor’s refuge. When he was growing up — and growing into the abilities that ultimately made him Paragon — he would climb up into the treehouse when he needed to be alone. Even after he’d gone off to Crown City University, he’d sometimes fly back just to lie down on the floor of the treehouse and think about things.
These days? It was mostly Kathy Keillor who climbed up there. At thirteen most of her friends had outgrown treehouses, but if the Diamond Hard Man could still use it, Kathy saw no reason she couldn’t.
She was in the treehouse now, looking out at the sunset over the Illinois River Valley. There were days it all looked so big. And then, there were days it all looked so small. Since her big brother had told her he was the super hero who started it all? Small had been winning out.
It didn’t help when shadows fell over Kathy despite being in the treehouse. By any reasonable expectation nothing should end up over Kathy except leaves, clouds, and sky. Family members looming were downright unfair. It was in the little sister’s handbook, she was certain.
This shadow, though… this shadow was bigger than usually. She blinked, looking away from the valley and up into the sky. And there, in silhouette, was a female figure — ‘very’ female, as that dork Lou in Phys Ed would say — with bulky bits where metal and armor were covering her… not to mention the broad wingspan that swept behind her.
“Oh,” Kathy said, softly. “Uh… hi.”
“Hello,” Freya said, smiling warmly, still hovering in the air. Her necklace seemed to glitter even in the shadow, lighting up her face. “May I join you?”
“Uh… sure. I’m… not sure there’s room for the wings, though.”
“Actually, that I can handle.” The goddess drifted down, the wings fluttering slightly as she did. As she angled to slide into the open window of the treehouse, the wings fluttered again, then seemed to deflate — their structure collapsing and the feathers falling back and shrinking. As Freya’s armored boots touched the wooden planks of the treehouse, all that was left of those wings was a brown feathered cloak. Freya looked around herself. “This is nice,” she said. “Cozy. It reminds me of a little bit of an old torfbæir my siblings and I used as a hideout. That had a stone floor, though.”
“ Torfbæir.” Freya’s smile grew. “It was a kind of building made mostly of turf. Sod and the like. You’d lay down a foundation of rough stone, then use timbers for a frame, and then the turf and sod would be laid down over the top so that the grass would continue to grow. It was easy to keep warm in the winter and cool in the summer, and it smelled earthy and woody and full of life, like this place does. May I sit next to you?”
Freya smiled again, sliding down to the wooden platform of the treehouse. “It can be hard being a little sister, can’t it? Setting aside questions of profession. It’s easy to get ignored sometimes.”
“I… I dunno. I know it sounds selfish…”
“Not at all. I do understand. I was a little sister, too. Well, a twin, but I was still second born.”
Kathy looked dubiously at Freya. “It seems… crazy to hear that. I mean…”
“Yes?” Freya looked amused.
“I mean — you’re a goddess!”
“Yes I am. But I still had a mother and a father and I was still born the same way you were — honestly, if you want to look at ‘non-standard’ divine births that was always more a Greek pantheon ‘thing.’”
Despite herself, Kathy laughed. “You’re easy to talk to,” she said. “That’s kinda weird.”
“Because I’m a goddess?”
“Yeah. And a super hero. And beautiful and totally ripped and…”
“Goddess kind of wraps all those things up, doesn’t it?” Freya smiled a bit more, looking out at the sunset that Kathy had been watching before. “And goddesses should be easy to talk to, Katherine. After all, what good are we if mankind can’t talk to us? It’s hard to pray for a good crop or a successful courtship or making that one basketball free throw if you don’t feel comfortable actually addressing the prayee. In one sense, our first job is to listen to humanity.”
“Do people really pray to you before trying to make free throws?”
“They do now that I’m a public figure. Before that, it was mostly the neo-pagan movement that offered me prayers, and not to stereotype? There aren’t as many basketball players among them as you might think. At least, not ones who prayed to me during sports.” She smiled some more, leaning back. “In the old days, I got a lot of prayers about… almost everything, really. But crops and success in sports or battle were always up there on the list. These days? It’s either relatively non-specific or involves love. Or lust. Or lust that thinks it’s love. Until I showed up publicly, and now it’s all over the place.”
“So… you really hear prayers?”
“In one sense, yes. Though the Freya you see in front of you isn’t generally conscious of it, even if Freyja Seiðr, Lady of the Vanir, Master of the great hall Sessrúmnir on the broad plains of Fólkvangr where the valiant dead of wit and wisdom, cleverness and charisma reside in equal number and prestige to those in Odin’s Valhalla can see it clearly. In having my soul born into a mortal body, I accepted that I would see the world with mostly mortal perceptions. The rest of me’s still there, mind… and I can piece together things if I work hard. But it exists as much in the realms of magic and the divine as the mortal.”
“I don’t really understand that. And I don’t just mean the language.”
“Very few do.” Freya grinned. “And it doesn’t matter. Suffice it to say that ‘yes’ I hear prayers, and ‘no’ I don’t actually hear them as conversations in this body.”
“What’s it like, anyway?”
“What’s… what like?”
“Being a goddess.”
“Oh.” Freya considered. “You have two legs, Katherine. What’s it like being bipedal?”
Kathy looked startled. “Huh?”
“What’s it like to have two functioning legs?”
“I… don’t get it. It’s… I can stand and walk and jump—“
“Oh, I know. But that’s what you can do. I’m asking what it’s like. What does it feel like to possess two legs?”
Kathy frowned, looking down at her legs. “I… I’m… if I’m not going to talk about what I can do how do I tell you what it’s like?”
Freya nodded. “Exactly. I’m sure you could come up with something over time, but you don’t have a ready answer for what it’s like to have legs because you’ve always had them. It’s just ‘normal’ for you. Even if you imagine losing them you can’t really wrap your head around what it would feel like. What’s it like being a goddess? It’s like being a goddess. It’s what I am. It’s what I’ve always been. I have trouble imagining being anything else, and I don’t have the words to describe it to someone who hasn’t experienced it. And I’m exceptionally wise. Just read the Prose Edda. It’ll tell you so.”
“Okay… that makes sense. But you said you were born into a mortal body?”
“Yes. I petitioned Odin and Frigg and the Norns to be born into this world, and therefore my soul entered a newborn child as she was born. Which didn’t displace some other soul. I just went into the queue. It’s technical.” She smiled.
“So… you do know what it’s like to be mortal?”
“No. She does. The person I am when the Goddess Freya hasn’t expressed into this world. She lives a mortal life with a mortal understanding and very prosaic memories of what I did while I was gadding about. By the same token, I can remember the things she does when I’m submerged, but I don’t remember living through those things. They’re separate from me.”
“So… you’re two different people? So — wait, are you like Penny Prestige from the Captain Prestige comics? Do you shout a magic word and a comet come down and you transform into Freya—“
Freya laughed. “I’m familiar with them. My… other self liked them when she was your age. No. I’m not Penny Prestige. I don’t need a magic word to be Freya. I just am Freya. When my other self sees the need, she lets me come forth. When that’s done, I withdraw back within her mortality.”
“And either way you have the same soul?”
“But you’re different people.”
“We’re different selves. We all have different selves, Katherine. Different faces we wear for different people. For some, this becomes more obvious. They used to call it multiple personality disorder, but disassociation’s less a disorder and more… a less typical way of being the different selves we all are. I’m one being, but sometimes that means I’m Freya, and sometimes that means I’m… well, the other self.” She laughed. “I’m still not used to ‘secret identities,’ and it’s been years. Whippoorwill says I’m hopeless.”
Kathy nodded, thinking about it. “Are… you Jesus?”
Freya laughed. “I keep being asked that! No. I’m not a messiah for anyone, particularly the Jews. I think they’d be offended by the notion. I’m not here to be a messiah. And bearing in mind I don’t actually know anything about the divinities involved with the Abrahamic religions? If the stories are at all accurate then it’s an entirely different process. This body isn’t the daughter of Odin or myself as Freyja or even the god Njörðr. It — I — am the daughter of a mortal man and a mortal woman, exactly the same way you are. I just happen to have a divine soul that stretches back aeons and knows secrets from the beginnings of the world.”
Kathy smirked. “Oh, is that all. So you’re not Penny Prestige. You’re Doctor Who.”
“Now you’re getting it.” Freya smiled, lying back on the floor. “That’s closer than you’d think. Technically, not even counting being born into mortal flesh this time I’ve effectively regenerated three or four times. Though… it’s a bit more complicated on the divine side of things.”
“Wait — what? You died?”
“Oh yes. Once I was the witch called Gullveig, sorceress of the Vanir. What we called a völva. The Aesir stabbed and burnt me to death three times, and three times I was reborn in fire, known as Heidi and Vala and finally as Heiðr the bright. It was one reason why the Vanir — my people — went to war with the Aesir — Odin’s people. Ultimately, that war was resolved when all the Gods of Vanir and Aesir alike made a man out of spit, who then was killed and made into an alcoholic beverage.”
Kathy stared at the goddess.
“Alternately, maybe none of that happened.” Freya smirked. “Myth is wonderful that way. Anyway — at the end of that, my family and the Vanir in general were welcomed into a single people with the Aesir, and I rose up into my fullest self. Freyja, the priestess, keeper of the sacrifices. There were other concessions here and there.”
“I’m completely lost,” Kathy said. “I admit it.”
“That’s the other thing about myth, Katherine. It confuses and contradicts itself until you stop listening to the details and start listening to what lies beneath. My point remains. I’ve had many selves over time. Many faces, and many attitudes, and I can’t tell you what it’s like to be my mortal self any more than I can describe what it was like to be Gullveig. It was always me, but those points of view are distinct and distant.” She considered. “I will say this about being a goddess. I feel like my… perspective… is much greater than a mortal human’s perspective… but at the same time it is more narrow.” She smiled, turning her head to look at Kathy, who’d laid down on the floor next to her. “And you’re surprisingly good at getting even a goddess off an uncomfortable topic. How are you, Katherine?”
Kathy laughed again. “Call me Kathy.”
“No. You are Katherine. Aikaterina. Catherine. Caitlin. It means ‘pure’ in a surprising number of languages. A name held by saints and sinners and very good actresses. And if there’s one thing I’m certain of, it’s that a person has every right to be called what they prefer to be called. But I am Freya, Receiver of the Slain, Creator of the Death Maidens called the Valkyries, Goddess of love, of gold and the harvest, of the hunt and the falcon, of beauty, war, mysteries, secrets, magic, death, life, fertility, and — strangely enough — the element vanadium. And as a goddess with all that pedigree and prestige I elect to not use nicknames when I speak to people. If you changed your name I would respect that. But if your name is Katherine, then I will call you Katherine.”
Kathy looked at Freya for a long moment. “You must really annoy your friends,” she said, finally.
Freya laughed hard, almost howling. “Yes!” she shouted. “Oh you lqngubak meyla! It’s so true! You should hear Lieutenant Storm when he gets cursing at me about it.”
Kathy was laughing too. “What did you call me?”
“What? lqngubak meyla? Essentially a fish bellied little girl! It means I like you. Or hate you. Honestly, if we’re going to be friends we need to teach you to threaten people and call them horrible names.”
Kathy kept laughing for a long moment, before settling, finally. “We’re friends?” she asked.
“Absolutely — and it’s never a bad thing to be friends with a goddess. Though it’s not always safe. One of the finer people I know’s the current Tyche — but that doesn’t make hanging out with her the most secure way to spend the day.” She looked at Kathy. “So. Let me ask you something.”
“Do you still feel ignored? Because honestly, I’m not given to devoting full conversations to insignificant people. That’s also in the job description for a goddess.”
Kathy giggled. “No.”
“Good. We should go in for a while — it’s getting dark and your mother was making something that smelled good.”
“Okay.” Kathy pushed up to her knees. She then paused. “So… when a basketball player prays to you before making a free throw?”
“Yes?” Freya pushed to her own knees, her feathered cloak ruffling and shaking itself out behind her.
“Do you ever… you know. Help them make the free throw?”
Freya’s smile turned coy. “That all depends on what people on the other side prayed for, doesn’t it?”