“Look, just don’t fuck it up and you won’t get crucified.” said Sissyface as she towered over the trio of morose musicians too frightened to go on stage. As the Celebratrix of the Emperor, the mistress of ceremonies for the peace talks that could save the city of Port Marigold, she could not a little case of mortal stage fright derail her carefully-laid plans.

In her platform goddess sandals, she loomed over the troupe like Mt. Olympus over the cowering mortals. She tugged her gold lame stola tight over her broad shoulders and glared down at them through heavy lashes and lids painted like a sunrise reflecting off the bay. Almost nine feet tall with a tiara of sapphire roses, she wore a stola cut into a deep V that showed off generous cleavage emphased with contours drawn in a smudge stick of potash and seal fat. A gold belt of aegis shields joined together by links of coins stamped with the emperor’s face girded her hips and cinched in a skirt of scarlet taffeta bordered with runners of brocaded ivory.

She could understand their anxiety. Until two weeks ago, they had been traveling musicians came to the capitol city of the waning Empire Marigold to seek refuge ahead of the advancing armies of the Goths. It was a reasonable plan. If the war encroached approached upon the high alabaster walls of the city, they could have made a reasonable escape by sea out the back, via the docks known as Pluto’s Toilet. They did not know about the encroaching blockage of Vandali ships that choked the Bay of Marigolds like a black reef that had sprung up underneath. No one did. She certainly would have been on the first trimeme to Circe’s resort island to cool off with the other earth-bound goddesses until the war blew over.

“Look, I promised you safe passage once we pull this off and I mean it.” She lied. Oh, she would ensure their safe passage, but she just left out the part about the River Styx. “You were playing this very same song when I found you in that refuge camp. Consider that dress rehearsal. Ooh…” she trailed off with a wince.

Pressing lacquered fingernails against her aching temples, she tried to massage away the pain of the heavy tiara and the teased coiffure dragging on every centimeter of her scalp. It had been hours since she last took a line of ambrosia and it was wearing off around mortals. Too many fucking mayfly mortals. She did not understand how Jupiter did it. Or Apollo. Even Venus had the occasional dalliance among these creatures who’s overarching motivation sprung from a fear of death.

It was too much even for her to handle some times, especially with everyone watching through divine means. All of the celestial and chtonic courts with their Mercurial spies and scrying cylixes were tuning in to watch her fail. One bet with Venus and she found herself in the dire position of having to save face. The eyes of Olympus usually fixated on more salacious endeavors, but not when it came to Morta. “Can’t throw a party my eye,” she steadied herself and worked through the pain. The cost of looking this fabulous and all.

“Fine, you want a show, I’ll give you a show,” She vow with the full import of a goddes of her stature. They should know better than try and call her bluff. After all, she was the literal decision maker of when someone died. She just hoped her sisters could handle the responsibility and were paying attention to the story she was weaving. If one golden thread was out of place, then this whole situation would unravel rather quickly.

She rummaged in her black leather hand band but it was just too full of crap. Between the makeup, the brushes, the three flasks of port wine and a apothecary worth of poltices and powders sampling the known world’s favorite intoxicants, she could not find the one thing that might be helpful in this situation. “Here.” she said, extracting items and sticking them into the paralyzed fingers of the mortals.

She asked the sticken lutist to hold onto a long shears. She carried the giant golden scissors just in case, but left the really sharp pair back in the work room of their cottage bordering the River Styx. Even these backups dripped with a malevolent green ichor that dissipated into whiffs of screaming souls. She did not appecriate the heaviness of the burden. The lutist grabbed the scissors and groaned under the weight as the tip veered to toward the floor.

The lutist screamed as the dying moments of every severed soul threatened to unleash their rage through the mother-of-pearl handles. Malignant green energy and a rising cresecendo of screams from the depths of Tartarus swirled around the lutist feet as the goddess watched impassively. With a shrug, she rummaged around in her cavernous bag until she found her alabaster setting powder she kept packed in a clam shell. She would use the gift of Venus' amphoras of cosmetics dispensed in her signature mollusk packaging against her.

“Sorry.” she feigned an apology as she plucked the shears from numb fingers. She inspected the gnarled digits and blew off some of the smoldering frostbite.“You’ll be fine. You don’t need all of your fingers for the chorus.”

Touching up her face in the reflection of the polished silver glued into the top half of the clam shell, she bought herself a minute to breathe and think. She had plenty of time as the current act droned on and on. Give a poet a stage and they’d rehearse all of Marigoldian history just to hear themselves talk. They were perfect for padding out a thin itinerary when most the performers were either displaced or dead.

Seegar the Barbarian just now broke into his third chorus of his ode out on the main stage. Nudging the stammering precussionist out of the way, s5he squinted through the purple curtains and could just make out the pate of his bald head as he droned out the lyrics of his song protesting the pointless and bloody siege.

“You got about ten minutes to get your respective acts together.” she warned as she beat her face with the bit of golden fleece resting atop the bone white compact. No amount of cerulean shadow or indigo pencil could cover the bags under her eyes. The stress and the strain threatened to crack her mask of calm composure and blended highlights.

These mortals and their perpetual need to cling to their lives hurt her. They hurt her more than the bronze bars of her corset crushing her rig cage into an elongated, waspy posture. Remembering Minerva’s techniques on controlling her emotions, she practiced her breathing exercise and whispered her mantra, “Water off a nymph’s back. Water off a nymph’s back.

She balled up all of her distress into a deep inhalation and then sighed it out slowly. Her buxom breast heaved in a jangle of gold chains and pearls hand-picked by Oceanids picked for her seven hundreth birthday. She reminded herself that she was a very long way from the courts of Pluto in the underworld. She could not utilize her tactic of brandishing her shears and threatening to cut short their existential threads if she wanted them to perform.

Scanning the tables of VIPs and dignitaries from the gathered armies, she saw many faces struggling to stay awake as Seegar’s s

Trying again, she set her flawless lips lined with bright crimson and colored with a pink gradient that gave her mouth an oversized, volumptuous appearance somewhere between a blooming hyacinth and an overstuffed chaise lounge cushion. She adopted the intonation she used to train her beloved hell hounds, “Consider this an audition. You need only sing the Ballad of Mars and I will put a good word in with the Muses. You will become the heroes of legend. The bards who sang so beautifully that brought this bloody siege to and end, hmm? Emblazoned forever in the tapestries festooning the Golden Palace, hmm?” She stretched her hands to the arched ceilings of the vomitoriums abutting the grand hall. She helped them conceptualize immortal fame with sweep of her arm dangling in silk tassles.

Sadly, promises of celestial fame did nothing to ease their terror. The percussionist only clutched his tympanum to his chest and wet himself. The tall lanky one threw down his lyre and booked it for stage door. One of the myriad centurions materialized out of the shadows, all polished vambraces, hammered ab chest armor and studded leather and the retreating musician doubled back at the point of a glavius.

Sissyface considered her point made. “There you have it. Die on stage or die out here. Unless, you can sing and play so beautifully, there’s not a dry eye on the house. Now, wait for my signal. I must mingle while that blowhard finished up his ode.”

Leaving the musicians in the very broad and capable hands of their guard, she slipped out of the purple curtains that backed the huge semicircle of the VIP table - a stepped affair

She wore the heavy makeup and perfume of a courtesan. The alabaster rouge and bright pigments offset the platinum laurel leaf circlet riding high on her towering bouffant. Gold embrodery trimmed draped They were the next act soon to be on stage. They gripped their lutes and lyres with whitened knuckles and eyed the crowd with mortal unease. She was the Celebratrix, the imperial mistress of ceremonies for the Gala of the Festival of Mars. She would not tolerate stage fright and nerves at this late hour. Peace for the war torn empire and her reputation were at stake.

Behind the red velour curtains at the wings of the Emperor’s Grand Ballroom in the Golden Palace, she coordinated the stage show by reviewing her . Her seven foot tall stature, vibrant and flawless makeup and teased out crown of fiery red hair did not help reassure them. She ignored their panicked, beseeching eyes and checked her tablet to make sure they were on next. Every detail needed to perfect because any on of the gathered dignitaries could trigger a blood bath and that went doubly so for the emperor himself.
“Look, just don’t fuck it up and you won’t get crucified.” said Sissyface as she towered over the the group of morose musicians who stood at the wings of the Emperor’s peace talks. Her seven foot tall stature, vibrant and flawless makeup and teased out crown of fiery red hair did not help reassure them. She ignored their panicked, beseeching eyes and checked her tablet to make sure they were on next. Every detail needed to perfect because any on of the gathered dignitaries could trigger a blood bath and that went doubly so for the emperor himself.

The lutist took a step back and eyed the exits, but two Centurions blocked the arch ways off the stage of the Golden Palace. No one was leaving with the palace under lockdown. Every purple and red tapestry hide archers in the high mezzanines surrounding the grotto. Behind every bouquet of summer flowers bursting out of marble plantars, Centurions with glavius stood like well-oiled statues in tight fitting leather armor. The security protecting seat of power and preeminent entertainment venue in the capitol city of Port Marigold befitted the gathered political, military and commercial luminaries and would not allow anyone to leave until the arranged hour.

“Sissyface…” began the vocalist who’s throat showed so many tendons she wanted to take out her makeup brush and cover it with some thick ox fat foundation, “We… we can’t go on.”

and every garThey were the first night’s entertainment of the three day summit and a palate cleanser between the poets and the emperor’s opening address. These four hapless performers just so happened to be the best the Academy had to “volunteer” for these auspicious affairs of state where besieger and besieged tried not to kill each as Vandal, Goth and Marigoldian eyed each other with menace in between courses of hart and figs and the evening’s entertainment

And She, Sissyface, formerly Morta the Goddess of Death, chiefest of the three Sisters who determined every being’s fate, was the party planner and MC to one of the defining points of mortal history. If the pause in the hostilities during the Feast of Mars and its subsequent soirees did not go off without a hitch, she would never live it down on Olympus.

“That bitch Minerva would probably weave it into one of her tapestries and pass it around at the next Ambrosia Party.” She realized the musicians where still looking at her in a very terminal case of stage fright and that she had resorted to her nervous habit of chewing on her nails lacquered red and orange so they rose from her hands like candle flames. She coughed cuticle into the tule of her ball gown modeled after the stolas worn by the priestesses of Delphi but with far more ambituous bust line.

“You have precisely…” she peered around the curtain and squinted at Seegar the Barbarian as he ran over his set by a good fifteen minutes. The blasted warrior poet apparently wanted to sue for peace by boring everyone out of their collective blood lusts with his long-winded speeches. She practically had his speech memorized after all the times she heard it during rehearsal. She lip-synced the words until she caught the meter, “five minutes and then you better sing for your life. That veneal little shit doesn’t like mistakes or to be outshined.”

The entertainment turned the paving stones of the sidewalks in the Underworld. They looked out at the audience like the death sentence it was. They all saw then