Pan sat with Bacchus outside the Pantheon Hall. His cloven hooves couldn’t reach the floor and clattered against the sides of the granite bench.
“Please stop that,” Bacchus said between bouts of gnawing on his fingernails.
“Of course, Sire.”
An angelic page poked her head out the gilded doors of the Pantheon. “The Council is ready for you, Bacchus.”
Pan hopped down to accompany his master inside, but the page held up a hand.
“Just Bacchus, I’m afraid.”
“Oh, well, as the humans say, Sire, I hope you break a leg.”
“We shall see.”
Bacchus had been summoned to the Pantheon Hall only a handful of times in his reign as a god.
Usually it involved some sort of Bacchanal run amuck, and he’d never been formally censured. To be on trial, fighting for his place back among his peers left his mouth dry and his hands damp.
A gulp from his wineskin settled his nerves. He executed an unsteady bow in front of The Father and The Mother.
“Very clever using prayer to communicate your desire to meet,” The Father said.
“Thank you, My Lord. I thought so too.”
“Arrogance before The Council will not be tolerated,” Antithesia snapped.
“Easy, Anti, Bacchus means no harm,” The Father replied. “We’re here today to entertain an
appeal to the decision that Bacchus no longer belongs to the world of the divine for the greater good of our children. Who’s speaking the arguments against the proposal?”
Carpenter spoke up after brushing his wild hair from his face, “I am. No hard feelings, Brother Bacchus.”
The fallen god shrugged. Carpenter in the past had supported Bacchus. Antithesia must have appealed to the emaciated divinity’s infatuation with abstinence and asceticism, but at least Bacchus could trust Carpenter to play fair.
“Our greatest concern is for the purity of our children’s souls. Intoxication all too often leads to the debauchery and decadence that lines the path to Darkness. Overindulgence leads to fornication and fouls the vessels from which new life should spring. Rampant fornication leads to disease and death, two of the most powerful Sorrows. I’m sorry my loyal friend, but I feel in every fiber of my being that our children are better off without your influence.”
Bacchus considered Carpenter’s words.
“All valid points, my friend. I’m sure I need not remind you that my gift of wine once helped protect them from disease and death by purifying the water essential to their survival.” Bacchus made a veiled reference to his role in one of Carpenter’s greatest displays of power. “And having lived among them, you and I know better than any here how Darkness can consume them, but they are also capable of such joy and my gifts are part of that joy. They celebrate happy occasions with champagne. And did you know they even have children who are called ‘wine babies’?”
“Wine babies?” The Mother asked.
“Children who are conceived by chance after a night of revelry.”
“How charming.” The Mother reached out an ebony hand to caress Bacchus’ cheek. Warmth and delight spread through him and tears sprang into his eyes. So long had he labored against the icy chill in his heart. He now knew that Hades was not a fiery pit, but a cold, desolate state of mind that overtook the soul when it was distanced from the love of The Father and The Mother.
Emboldened the fallen god went on, “And I’m not asking for a blanket invitation back into the fold. But at least give me a chance to prove myself. Let me show my worth to The Council. If I can help just one soul overcome The Sorrows, then may I be reinstated?”
Bodhi’s face lit up with a wider than usual grin. “I think that is a fair proposal.”
“Well said.” Carpenter nodded.
“Let’s put this to a vote, “ said The Father. “All in favor?”
A chorus of ‘yeas’ rippled over the majority of Council members.
“All those opposed?” asked The Mother.
A smattering of ‘nays’ popped up within the ranks of The Council.
“So shall it be,” The Father and The Mother said in unison. “The will of the Council has spoken.”
“Who chooses the soul in question?” hissed Antithesia.
“Well, I already have someone in mind,” Bacchus replied.The Council looked into the Oracle and saw Bacchus’ dark beauty, still deep in slumber.