At first, he was not aware of what woke him. Quiet filled the dark room, broken only by the breathing of the naked woman lying next to him. But then, as his eyes adjusted to the night, he saw the funny little man. The plump figure was rocking back and forth on his heels while crouching and staring intently at the inside of his bedroom door.
“Hey–” he mumbled getting up, “Hey, what are you doing here?” He was not worried and did not reach for the sword in the far corner along with the rest of their scattered clothes. The strange man did not look like a thief and, even if he was, he was pretty sure he could best him in a fight.
The strange man jumped immediately to his feet and stared wildly at him, “Par-pardon, my friend,” he began stammering as he wrung his hands and kept glancing nervously at the door, “Pardon on the intrusion, but I am seeking a little sanctuary and thought this room would serve that purpose.”
“I am Spurius of the Third Gallica,” he said, now sitting in bed and looking intently at the nervous little man, “What could you possibly want in my bedchambers late at night? You are no thief nor murderer? You are not even armed, nor does it look like you would know how to use a sword or spear if you had one?”
The strange man nodded and attempted a friendly smile that came out more as a twitch, “Hail, Spurius of the Third Gallica. You are correct that I am not here out of bad intentions. I am hiding from my wife and I just felt that a man like you would understand that. You see, Spurius, my wife is not just anyone. She is the Goddess of Arguments, the Sayer of the Last Word. She is Caballus and she is angry.”
Spurius had drunk wine in the evening but he had not thought that he had drunk too much. Yet his head hurt. Ironic given the situation. He stood up slowly, finding his feet and reached for a leftover partially filled goblet. Almost contemplatively he stared down and it and then swiftly downed it before walking slowly to the corner to get his clothes. He chuckled softly as a thought occurred to him, “It is ironic that the cure for too much of something is more of it, is it not?”
The strange man nodded solemnly but did not answer. He seemed to be waiting for something or some response.
As Spurius swung his crumpled tonga over his shoulder, he began to speak. The Roman military practised and rewarded logic and practicality, and he had come far in his career as a soldier. “As unusual as that story is,” he began as he fastened the toga in place, “if your wife is a goddess, then you would have to be a god–“
“I am the Great Immortal God of Irony, Theodore Hoodwink Samuel, the Gi–“
“What!?” Spurius snorted but then lowered his voice with a careful glance at the nearby sleeping woman, “I have never heard of such a ridiculous thing. In fact, I have never heard of the Goddess of Argument nor the God of Irony.”
“–ver of Chuckles, or Teddy for short,” Teddy ended what sounded like an ironically long list of titles somewhat deflated, “Well, we are the lesser known gods, the Little Gods. You know, the kinda sub-pantheon below the big names. Ignotus the Being of Distraction? Lardum the God of Bacon? Luci the Goddess of Diamonds? Oblivus the God of Forgetfulness? Influffi the Goddess of Clouds? Any of these ringing a bell? Any?“
Spurius stood frozen, his headache slowly receding and his mouth hanging open. He shut it quickly and reached for his sword. The metal was colder than the warm night air and it felt comfortable in his experienced hand.
“Teddy,” he began slowly, narrowing his eyes and slowly stepping forward “Firstly, Teddy is a strange name. Secondly, I have never heard of any of these deities and, finally, suggest you leave my room by the means you entered it else you will leave it another way.”
Teddy’s face paled and he began to back slowly away from the sword-holding legionnaire, “Please, Spurius, I am the God of Irony, but I am also mortal! It is the greatest of ironies, but please afford me sanctuary here just for the night and I will grant you a blessing?”
It was a large bedchamber and the room led out onto a cool balcony. Spurius suddenly felt sorry for the strange man and, since he was up, the wine had tasted good and some male company may not hurt. He tucked the sword under his arm, grabbed a nearby amphora of wine and nodded towards the balcony.
“Sure, Teddy the Mortal God,” he chuckled, “I will grant you sanctuary here until the wine runs out and, in exchange, you will grant me immunity from angry wives. Now, please do share the tales of all your Little Gods with me, I am curious… How do the Hebrews feel about Lardum?”
When the door shut, Spurius found himself smiling. Maybe it was the wine. Indeed, those amphorae of wine had lasted much longer than he had expected but Teddy was also much more entertaining than his first impression had created. Quite a talkative guy, actually, once you got a few cups of wine into him.
“Teddy”… What a strange name! All he had said was that it was ahead of its time, which was ironic because when the time arrived when it was correct, they would have all become forgotten.
Teddy had gone on to tell him all about the Little Gods, the sub-Pantheon as he called it. Such wild and wonderful tales! Teddy had told him about how the God of Northern Walls and the Goddess of Southern Walls had met at a corner, or how the Ignotus, the Being of Distraction was so distracting that no one could remember if it was a god or goddess, or something else?
Teddy had told him about how the infuriating Titillatio, the God of Tickling, had been caught in bed with Pluma, the Goddess of Feathers, and how her father had tried to beat Titillatio with a stick. But the stick had exploded into a cloud of white fluff! Indeed, this white fluff still blows through our world making everyone randomly sneeze and attaching to everyone’s dark garments just before special occasions.
Teddy had then turned to a story about how Oblivus the God of Forgetfulness had almost forgotten to turn up for his marriage to Influffi the Goddess of Clouds, and how he had indeed forgotten his vows at the wedding. Luckily Influffi was an immensely malleable woman and Oblivus had merely looked at her and seen what he needed to say.
More recently and, perhaps, more relevantly, Teddy had told him how everyone had just forgotten where Oblivus was!
Of course, Influffi had been distressed about her lost husband, and so Teddy’s wife–Caballus and Influffi were sisters–had ironically sent him to comfort her. At this point in the tale, Teddy had somewhat awkwardly manoeuvred around the topic, but Spurius was fairly sure he knew why Teddy’s wife was angry with him and it had a lot to do with what had transpired while he had been comforting Influffi…
Spurius chuckled as the door closed and yawned. The sun would be up soon and his duties would start shortly. The naked woman remained fast asleep in his bed and, indeed, his wife would be back soon and so–
Bang. Bang. Bang.
Three loud bangs rang on the door just behind him and he froze midstep. He suddenly realized that he had left his sword back on the balcony but he dismissed this thought immediate as unimportant. It was probably Teddy back for something or other.
Spurius swung around, flipped the latch on the door and opened it. He had only a split second to comprehend the immeasurably angry, red-haired woman on the other side of it before she stepped inside and swept the room with a furious gaze.
“Where is he, Spurius? Where is Teddy?” her calm, soft voice was at odds with her face and eyes. Spurius was no stranger to women and, indeed, he always feared when his wife stopped shouting and started talking softly and calmly.
“I-I, he, uh,” he stammered, trying to find his word and resisting an urge to flee, “Teddy is gone. He just had a glass of wine and left, but I do not know where to.”
The angry woman–Caballus, he assumed–narrowed her raging eyes for a moment and then nodded.
“I believe you are actually telling the truth there, Spurius,” she began keeping her voice terrifyingly flat, “Well, mostly the truth as a bit more than a glass of wine was drunk. Teddy tends to do that to wine but, ironically, he often cannot hold his liquor.”
Suddenly, her eyes darted to the naked woman in his bed and they narrowed again with a new, more terrifying type of intensity, “That is not your wife, Spurius,” she said, her eyes snapping back to him!
Spurius felt small. Tiny! The floor was roaring upwards and the walls grew dark as they reached toward the heavens. The red-hair Callabus loomed over him a thousand foot tall, thunderclouds of black smoke and fire raged above her as eyes turned to furnaces and chains sprang from all sides to slither across his frozen, frail limbs.
“HOW UNFORTUNATE, SPURIUS OF THE THIRD GALLICA AND HUSBAND TO DONNA THAT THAT IS NOT YOUR WIFE! HOW UNFORTUNATE FOR YOU, GIVEN MY RECENT EXPERIENCE WITH MY OWN HUSBAND!” lightning flashed from the clouds and struck the looming walls sending chunks of rock flying about him as the wind picked up intensity and the raging being of endless fire reached out to grab his small, chained, mortal form, “HOW UNFORTUNATE FOR YOU–“
Suddenly a blinding light flashed! The chains disintegrated as the walls slid down and the room lightened from eternal darkness to merely mortal night, the raging fiery storm and its wind subsided as the world suddenly felt its normal size again.
Spurius blinked. He blinked again and then rubbed his eyes…
He was alone in his bedchamber and standing at his open, empty door. He must have drank too much wine. There was no red-haired goddess of fire bearing down on him just like there was no longer any naked woman in his bed. Far too much wine! Had there ever been a Teddy..?
And, as Spurius stood there wondering, a soft breeze like the universe exhaling blew out of the chamber and he thought he heard a familiar woman’s voice on it saying the last word: “A blessing against angry wives! How ironic…“