Conversation With A Legend
By Triad Orange (AKA Dannell Lites)
"Get up off your knees for the love of space!"
Oh, Valor help me! He was shouting at me. Valor, the World Seeder was shouting. At me. I wanted to cringe and cover my ears, but but What had I done? What? Obediently, I scrambled to my feet, trying my very best to avoid looking at the dark scowl of rage twisting his features.
"Yes, my Lord," I stammered. "I'm sor -"
"Don't call me that!" he shouted again, cutting me off in mid word.
At his side his hands balled themselves into fists and I fell back, hanging my head in shame. Why was he so angry? I've never felt such inadequacy. Here was the moment I had dreamed of for most of my life, that everyone in our Church prayed for. I was face to face with the source of all my beliefs; Valor, who rescued my distant ancestors from the Dominator labs and prison camps and brought them to Cargg. Valor, who seeded the Gandian worlds with the metahumans he rescued from the horrors of genetic manipulation the Dominators subjected them to and found homes for them all. Valor, who defeated the Khunds and taught us all to live in peace. And then left us for a thousand years.
"No," said that deep voice, softer, gentler, now. "I'm the one who's sorry. I didn't mean to fright - to upset you. It's all right. Thanks for the sandwich." He smiled disarmingly. "How did you know I like grilled cheese sandwiches, anyway?"
I flushed at his praise. "It - it's in the records The historical records, I mean."
His eyes widened in appalled silence. "What I like to eat is part of your historical records?"
I nodded, eager to please him.
"Well, it is if you know what to look for. Lex Luthor the Second kept very meticulous records of your stay at LexCorp. And every day for lunch you had a grilled cheese sandwich."
He shook his head in rueful dismay. "Yeah, that sounds like Luthor, all right. I suppose you also figured out what I like to drink?"
"Sugar Bubble Cola," I replied almost instantly. "I'm pretty sure you also like spaghetti with meatballs. And Combo Pizza. You're not too fond of liver, though. You only ate that once." He made a sour face and I giggled. "But you certainly ate a lot of Cheese Puffs .. what ever they are "
He grinned. "It's not easy bein' cheesy," he quipped.
I tried not to frown in puzzlement, but I think I lost the battle. He shook his head again and shrugged.
"Never mind. I watched a lot of television, too. Okay, so I'm a junk food junkie. What else does it say about me in those records?"
"Well," I considered, "Luthor did seem to be very pleased that you were so attracted to Supergirl 'I have the boy by the short hairs!' is how he explained it in his private diary whatever that means."
He turned the brightest shade of red I've ever seen on a human face and fell back onto the bed, covering his eyes in humiliation.
"Arrrrggghhh!" he arrrgghhhed. "That's
in the records too?"
"Oh Gods! My life is over! Luthor's a grease spot! If he weren't already dead for a thousand years, I'd have to kill him!" He raised himself back up and glared at me, making me suddenly very glad that no member of the Durgo family had ever been named Luthor. "Is there anything else I should know?" he asked, voice dripping sarcasm.
I know a thousand tales about Valor. Furiously, I thought, searching for one that wouldn't upset him. Yes! Just the thing! "I was always fond of the story of your fight with the evil Lobo," I told him in haste. "How you defeated him and made him apologize for insulting the beautiful Phase. That one is so romantic!" He stared at me and my heart sank when his jaw dropped. Somehow I had the definite feeling that I had done it again. When he burst out laughing, I was sure of it.
"The beautiful Phase? " he choked. I nodded in puzzlement.
"That's right," I returned meekly. "'The One'! You mean you mean she wasn't beautiful?" My disappointment must have glowed in the dark.
"Oh, Phase was pretty enough," he amended quickly, beating back more laughter. "But that's not how it happened." He looked very abashed. "'The One' was my spaceship, Pilgrim One. Lobo called her a 'sissy cruiser', I lost my temper and fragged him. Not my finest hour."
My face crumpled, I just know it did. Purple says anyone can read me like a trashy holonovel. I guess she's right.
"Oh." was all I could say, biting my lip. Gently, Valor took my hand.
"I'm sorry," he said, "I didn't mean to disappoint you, either." He sighed and my hand began to tingle where he touched it. He grew very serious. "But that's what I've been trying to tell you," he said quietly. "I'm not Valor at least not the Valor you know. My name is Lar Lar Gand and I'm a man. Just a man. I'm only eighteen years old I'm not some perfect demi-god. I screw up all the time." He rolled his eyes at the ceiling. "Gods, do I screw up!" He drew in a deep breath. "The only thing I've ever tried to do is the best I can, that's all." Sadness spread itself though his clear blue eyes. "Most of the time I don't even succeed at that." It was terrible to see him so vulnerable like any other being. My lips flew open to protest, but I swiftly closed them again.
"Why are you so afraid of being venerated as you deserve?" I finally asked, the softness of my words hiding their blasphemy, I prayed. His face stormed over, and I was terrified that he would yell at me again. Valor's sake, why couldn't I keep my foot out of my mouth around him? Why couldn't I say the right thing? What was wrong with me? Tears threatened, but I steeled myself, knowing that I deserved his anger. He leapt up off the bed and for a moment I was afraid that he'd leave me, filled with contempt for my ignorance.
But he didn't.
Slowly, he backed away from me as if I were a great threat that he didn't want to face. I wanted to die. My family, the Durgo's, have been Valorists since the founding of Cargg. My grandmother Murlu raised me after my father deserted us and my mother drank herself to death. She was the only one who ever understood her poor aberrant grandchild with the three separate personalities one for each of her three Carggite bodies. Everybody else thought I was insane. And when Granny Murlu died, hanging over her bed was a picture of Valor. She was deeply religious. She passed into the next life with His Name on her lips, commending me into His care. I was about to say something when he answered my question.
"Because I like it," he said. He turned haunted eyes on me and his lips drew themselves into a thin, pale line of shame and private pain. "I don't want to be worshipped because I like it," he whispered. "I like it a lot." Looking very tired all of a sudden he sat carefully down in a chair well away from me.
"Do - do your records tell you what happened on Baaldur," he asked, staring at the floor as if it were the most fascinating thing in the galaxy.
"Oh yes!" I was enthusiastic. This was another of my favorite parts of the Legend. "You ended a hundred generations of continuos warfare and misery. Your presence forced the petty warlords from power and united the people against them. Until the defeat of the Dominators it was your most glorious triumph." Just saying the words made me flush with the memory of the first time I read the stirring Tale of Baaldur and saw the lovely holos from The Book Of The Legend.
And then I saw Valor's face. Pale and stricken, he looked as if he wanted to be very, very sick.
"Triumph?" I thought he might choke on the word he stumbled over it so. He ran unsteady fingers through his space dark hair, still refusing to meet my eyes. My heart clenched when I saw that. I clung tightly to my faith in the face of what might be coming.
"It wasn't any kind of a triumph," he whispered. "I was dying Baaldur was my last chance to - to -" He stopped himself, visibly gathering his courage. His voice, when he resumed, was stronger, more controlled but still hollow with shame.
"Baaldur was my last chance to really do something worth while with these great powers I'd been given," he explained, "I wanted so badly to accomplish something, to make a difference." Unthinking, I seized his hand and held it. He was in such pain it broke my heart to see him. I longed to hold him, to make him feel better. But, of course, that would have been the rankest blasphemy.
"Oh you did, you did," I cried in distress. "You saved millions of lives! Today the people of Baaldur are the staunchest Valorists in the galaxy!" He flinched as if I'd stabbed him through his invulnerable heart.
"You don't understand," insisted the founder of my faith, desperation touching his deep voice. "All the things I tried to give the people of Baaldur, the joy the freedom they didn't want them. In the end, they didn't know what to do with them. They - they wanted to serve me. They made me their conqueror, not their liberator. I spent the last of myself to free them and it was all for nothing." He rose, pacing at his shame and anger.
"And I liked it," he said. "When they bowed and praised me, rushed to do as I asked them, I - liked - it. I wanted their worship so badly it made me dizzy! Gods help me, I wanted it to last forever. When Glorith offered me my life and the chance to rule the galaxy at her side " His face filled with despair as his voice fell away from him.
"I - I - I almost did it. I almost said yes. And she saw through me like glass. 'I know everything about you, darling.' she told me, smiling. 'You forget. I've seen you perform ' I can still feel her hands on my face. 'I've watched you play to the natives, my lusty, sweet boy. Admit it we both thrive on adoration and worship.'" I reached for his hand again and this time he reached back.
"'And there's the difference between us, Lori.' you said to her," I reminded him, quoting from The Book. "'I'm not proud of it.' was your answer. Don't you see? You didn't give in. You didn't fall to temptation."
He sighed. "But I wanted to. I've never wanted anything more."
Startled, I blinked rapidly. "Well, of course you did!" I exclaimed. "You wouldn't be human otherwise!"
He gave me a bleak smile. "Human?" he asked, "I thought I was supposed to be a god or something."
I pulled him down and guided him to a seat next to me. "You really don't understand do you? Val - ah - Lar we don't think you're a god. Like all of us, his Children, you're a part of the Godhead. An especially blessed part. Blessed because you're human and not perfect. Because you can make mistakes and then try to set them right. Because you can be tempted and not yield. You struggled and fought and even lost but you never gave up, never refused to help when you could. If you were perfect, incapable of failure or error then your struggle wouldn't have any meaning. The struggle's the important thing; it doesn't always matter if you win. That's all anyone can do. You taught us that. We read about your life and it inspires us to try and be better people. Like you, we may not always succeed but we try. "
Flustered, I covered my mouth with my hands. "I'm sorry," I tried to apologize, "I'm not saying this very well, I guess." I watched his face soften and peace returned to his eyes. Slowly, he leaned forward and kissed me tenderly on the forehead.
"You said it very well, little one," he assured me, softly. "Thank you."
Blushing scarlet, I fled behind my hands again.
Laughing, he lifted my chin. "Olly, olly oxen free!" he called. "Come out, come out, wherever you are!" Giggling, I obeyed. He thrust a chill bottle into my hand. "Have a Sugah Bubble Cola," he urged, "you'll like it!" Tentative, then with authority I took a large gulp. It was all I could do to swallow.
"Sweet Valor," I sputtered, choking and coughing. "There's enough sugar in this stuff to preserve a dinobeast!"
"Yeah!" he enthused. "And then some!" Eyes twinkling merrily, he added sagely, "Just wait until the sugar high hits! Outstanding!"
"'Sugar high'?" I began cautiously, fairly certain I didn't really want to know. "What's that?"
"You'll see," was his enigmatic promise.
Smiling bravely but with trepidation, I had the definite feeling that I was going to regret this.
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This story is © 2000 by Dannell Lites
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