When the sun rises, so do Kronos and I to make the trip to see this Council. A small fleet of vehicles arrive in the suburb, brimming with tough looking mortals with sunglasses. Some of them are shiny with nervous sweat, it is too cool a morning for anything else. Kanati guides us to the lead vehicle, a large black thing that does not scream subtlety, and one of these men opens the door for Kronos and me.
I stop to stare at his hand, where a blue inked tattoo catches my eye. It is an X with a diamond at the intersection of the lines. This man is calmer than the others. He raises his eyebrows above the sunglasses and holds up his other hand, palm facing away from me. There on the skin is another tattoo, this one three connected lines.
“SunSpear, Odin’s personal security.” He says. Then he leans in. “The nervous ones have Ankhs, Set insisted on sending them. Careful with them, they’re twitchy little bastards. Just as likely to blow their own heads off as yours though.”
I laugh. He is a tall man, packed with lean muscle and his gait betrays all the easy confidence that his voice carries. Though I sense an eagerness for fighting in each fluid movement. His short blonde hair is cut close to his scalp but his braided beard is a thing of beauty. There are more like him, men that carry themselves as warriors. The Northmen are born of honor and war.
I sit and the door closes, leaving me with Kronos in the back seats. The Sunspear man sits in the front, beside a driver, Kanati takes a seat opposite Kronos. Artemis watches from the house, Cerberus beside her. I told her to stay but I expect she will ignore that. It could cause problems, but I am only a god, I do not control her. That would require something beyond the powers of a god.
“I expect we’ll have a shadow.” The tattooed man looked back to us, tilting his head towards Artemis and Cerberus. “I’ll have a man keep an eye on her. If he can keep up. I’m Rune. This is Astrid.”
The driver, a woman with long braided blonde hair, waves her hand and looks at us in the mirror. She has hard blue eyes, a twin pair to match Rune’s. I like her as well, she has the same aura as Rune. It is the comfortable movements of a practiced warrior. Astrid eases the lead vehicle away from the house, where our siblings and the surviving Olympians begin to disappear into the distance.
“It’s a long drive.” Kanati leans back in his seat and closes his eyes.
“Is this really you?” Rune turns around in his, holding a device in his hands that plays a video. I see myself, swirling flames gathered around as I make a scene. Just before we killed Poseidon.
“Ha!” he says to Astrid. “I told you.”
She slaps something into his hand, shaking her head. I catch her eyes in the mirror again.
“I thought it was fake. He said it wasn’t. He won.”
“Why would you think it was fake?” I ask.
She looks in the mirror.
“You’ve been gone a long time. We don’t believe in gods.”
“You work for Odin.” Kronos says, bluntly. How can a mortal not believe in gods when they work for one? Rune looks back, blue eyes sparkling.
“I think you’re missing the point. It’s not that we don’t think gods exist. We just don’t believe in them. We have some objective understanding that there are immortals among us. Odin is intelligent, resilient, capable. He’s a man of power. You, well shit, you have powers. That’s the difference.”
I stare at him.
“It’s a brave new world, Hyperion, where gods walk among us mere mortals. That’s what my brother means to say.” Rune shrugs. “He believes in you. He thinks change is coming.”
“Do you?” I ask.
She doesn’t answer.
It’s a long drive.
Kanati takes the time to offer us some practical knowledge. After the long silence of the first hour of our trip, I am glad of this. He explains the history of this country we have found ourselves in, in brief. These United States are a curious thing from his explanation. He suggests that the powers of the nation do not appreciate our war on their soil.
“Zeus carries the blame for that.” I say.
“Yes, which is why they’ve allowed the Council to take this one. Or they’d have come for you.” Kanati offers no further explanation. We ask for none. This world provides enough enemies already, even I would prefer to avoid adding more to the list.
The mortal world continues around us, as it always has. We pass through small towns that grow progressively larger as the drive continues. It seems almost impossible that the mortals would have grown so far and vast in these thousands of years. Billions of mortal lives, so many intertwined and yet unconnected at the same time.
We stop at lights in one town, where I look out the window to see a young boy walking with his mother. She pushes an infant in a wheeled apparatus while holding the little boy’s hand.
“Look at that.” Rune says, looking out towards them.
“Beautiful, isn’t it.” I say.
“A little full of yourself, isn’t that?” He says. I look at him and try to fathom what that means. I have no part in the lives of these mortals. They just go about it and have no concerns about gods or their problems.
“On the wall. There.” He points. I follow to a painted wall of brick, where in the center there is a bright white image painted there. It is a sun.
And the word “Hyperion” written underneath.
I have no words. Even as we begin to move away from the image, I can’t find them. I see the little boy point and dance in the excited way of young boys, pointing at the name. My name. I will see more as we drive on. There will be a trident, a sickle, even a lion. Mortals require little to believe in something.
We have brought more than a little with us these past weeks.
“Yeah.” Astrid says. She looks at me in the mirror. “I believe change is coming.”
The building they take us to is glass and concrete, a building with dozens of flags that flap in the wind. It is at the heart of an enormous city where an endless supply of mortals continues with their lives with little concern for our vehicles. Astrid curses at many of these mortals when they block our vehicle. They do not care. Some of them curse back.
She weaved through the city until we arrived here, at this building. A heavy black metal vertical gate blocks our entry, flanked by two small booths and armed men and women in uniform. Astrid and Rune roll down their windows to speak to the guards. I see tattoos on several of them, the same as the ones I saw on Rune’s hands.
They are Odin’s men and women. Rune greets them with all the familiarity that goes with being family.
“We come bearing gifts.” He says. The guard laughs and waves for the gate to open.
“Welcome to the United Nations, sir. Please don’t destroy anything.” The man says, before we drive through the now open gate. Astrid weaves into a parking area filled with other vehicles.
“Why did he look at me when he said that?” I ask Kronos.
“A great mystery. Maybe he saw the flaming cyclone. Or heard about your outing with Dionysus. Take your pick.”
“Ah.” I say. A witty retort. I turn back to the window while Astrid slows us to a stop. We step out and are greeted by several more guards from a side door, escorting a woman with olive skin and hair as black as the night. I remember her.
“Hyperion, Kronos. Three thousand years and you haven’t aged more than two thousand. Not a day over immortal, either of you. You simply must tell me your secret. Calf’s blood? Sunlight? Raw eggs? I bet it’s raw eggs.” She closes the gap in a few strides and hits me, her arms around my neck.
“Nephthys. How I’ve missed you.” I say. “I didn’t recognize you with your hair up.”
“And you shaved. And lost weight?” She steps back and pokes my midriff and arms and slaps my cheek. Then she embraces Kronos. “You didn’t. Shave, that is. Looks good on you. He looks like an unshorn sheep when he keeps it. Though a sheep would have fewer lice and the stench of a sheep is more bearable. It’s good to see you both.”
“You too Neph, you too.” Kronos says it for both of us.
“Ma’am, the meeting?” Rune interrupts the reunion. “We should go.”
She takes our arms in hers and leads us through the door, Kanati following behind while Rune and the others take a formation around us. We leave behind all those with Ankhs tattooed on their necks. Our escorts only have rune tattoos. I sense Odin’s instruction in that. It’s almost too obvious. Rune catches my glances towards the escorts and winks.
Through the building we travel, winding through halls and past rooms.
“You know we tried to get you out. Odin too. Your location was lost to us and the Olympians who would have aided you went to ground. Ptah and Sekhmet went to war over it. They lost. Ptah died in the Nile, Sekhmet escaped. They threw her out. There wasn’t much I could do. Any of us. Set and Osiris joined in support Zeus’s claim to godhood. Odin wanted war. It would have cost him everything and still he wanted it.”
We stop in the hall and she releases our arms, taking a step forward and looking back to us.
“I’m sorry.” She says, with utmost sincerity. I believe her.
“We’ll be outside.” Rune interrupts, yet again. “The Council is waiting, just through the doors. If you need us, just start a fire or something.”
“Thank you, Rune.” Nephthys smacks him. He doesn’t seem to mind. “Are you ready?”
“No.” I say. She ignores me and pushes open the doors.
And we meet the Council.
“Ah, the god of wrath and fire and YouTube views.”
I know that arrogant voice, I know it well. Set hasn’t changed in the least, not that I would have expected him to. Some gods earn their reputation and position, Set’s position and reputation was that a god of violence and storms. He earned that and then some. Nephthys rolls her eyes and moves to her seat, one of seven arranged in a semi-circle around the room.
“Feels a little too much like a court for my liking,” I say to Kronos. It takes me a second to realize everyone heard. I can accept this. My feelings don’t change just because I am heard. I recognize most of those that fill these seats of power over us. Some make me nervous, others the opposite.
Set doesn’t like me, never has. I don’t entirely blame him for that. I would guess he may have even had some part in our imprisonment, if I were of a conspiratorial mind. Nephthys is rational. I trust her to be firmly on our side if we don’t give her a reason not to be.
“Welcome, Titans.” The largest man I have ever seen stands from his seat. The chair groans in relief as he does. His beard is streaked with gray though it was once a deep brown to match his hair. His face, behind the beard, is lined and battle worn. His single eye twinkles and the ghost of a smile is on his mouth. He wears a suit that could likely perform duty as a ship’s sail.
“Thank you, All-Father.”
“Odin, Odin will do. You know that, Hyperion.” He steps down, the room shakes with each step, takes my hand in his and pulling me in for a bone-crushing embrace. “It is good to see you free. We will talk after this farce.” He whispers the last in my ear. He returns to his chair after another embrace with Kronos. He stands there and opens his arms, addressing the chamber.
“Nephthys has already said her greetings, despite all decorum.” She blushes. I see that the almost-smile remains on his face. “Set has said his as well.”
The smile disappears. Set doesn’t notice, he doesn’t even bother to look at Odin. He’s busy staring at me with a storm of death behind those eyes.
“Svarog, of the Urals.” I never had cause to meet this god. He is broad shouldered, long graying hair pulled back on his head and a matching beard on a square jaw. He reminds me of The Smith, Hephaestus. If rumors from long past are to be believed, they are much alike. Svarog inclines his head to Kronos, then to me.
“Erlang Shen.” Erlang is a handsome young man and impossible to read, his face impassive. He nods as well, polite but curt.
“Kali.” She is cold. She joins Set in wishing death upon us. Mostly on me, if the burning hate in their glares is any indication. They don’t fall on Kronos, just me.
“Mama Killa.” When she smiles at us, I find myself glad that Oceanus isn’t here. Also, Artemis.
“We are the Council, the ruling body of the mythical world that exists alongside the mortal. In harmony, peace. I am All-Father, Odin, and I lead this Council.” Odin sits. I am sure the chair will collapse this time.
I do take notice that Set said something under his breath. I saw his mouth move but I didn’t hear the words.
“We will call the matter at hand, the return of the Titans and the deaths of the Olympians.” Odin continues.
“Only some of them.” Nephthys says. I hold back a snort. When all eyes turn to look at me I realize I did not, in fact, hold it back. I see a few smiles and a few frowns, split almost evenly. I think I see Erlang Shen’s turn his mouth up ever so slightly. That’s a good sign.
“Quite. Thank you, Nephthys. We are here to discuss the deaths-”
“Murders.” Set spits the word.
“-deaths,” Odin’s glare could melt ice. Set glowers but remains quiet. “This issue is contentious among the Council, not to mention the stir it has caused in the mortal community. You have been busy, leaving a trail of wreckage across the world. Aided by some Olympians unless I am mistaken. Ares’ death reeks of Hades. No matter how much he might have deserved it, it causes problems for us. There are those who took note of Ares’s wavering loyalty and consider his removal a favor. Others feel differently.”
I don’t speak. This is a new world, with new rules. I don’t like rules all that much, but I understand I stand in a room with only one certain ally, one I could trust if things turned to blows. And unless new information is to be made available, none of them have been imprisoned for thousands of years.
I might be able to take Mama Killa. She slowly turns to look at me, raising a single flawless eyebrow.
Well, maybe not. She smiles at me and part of me wonders if she knows what I was thinking.
Odin thunders onward, ignoring my thoughts. I don’t blame him, for many reasons.
“There is also the matter of several dead soldiers, soldiers that Set has requested a grievance for.”
This is the time. Kronos takes a step forward and I see something on his face that I haven’t seen in a very long time. He looks comfortable, my brother the leader. I do not move, he is better at this than I am.
“Odin, this Council may lay out the rule of behaviour for gods in this new world but are not of this new world, not yet. We have no accords with any other gods, nor do we abide by any expressed rules. We may acknowledge the authority, but we do not yet live by it.”
There is a silence and behind that massive beard, I see Odin’s mouth pull up in the slightest hint of a smile. That smile disappears to a frown when the sound of someone clapping echoes in the room, a slow clap. Set stands, bowing at the hip as he claps.
“Oh, the mighty Titan speaks. He bows to no man! No god!” Set sneers at me, specifically me. “They bring fire and chaos and expect there will be no consequences! We live among mortals now, not above. I demand justice! By my place on this Council, by the authority of my siblings, we demand justice!”
He doesn’t like me very much.
I have that effect on gods. He may have said it in an attempt to be facetious, his words were not lies. We are above this sort of thing. We are gods.
“Ironic.” Erlang Shen speaks the word. It is fact. An observation of reality. It brooks no argument and it is not said with malice or love. I like it. Set looks ready to spit a retort but contains himself, sitting back down and glaring at Erlang. Erlang doesn’t spare a glance.
“Set may have expressed doubts over this Council, but he is here!” Kali stands, a lithe frame of a stern woman that has nothing but contempt for me.
“Why do they always hate me?” I lean over and whisper to Kronos. He punches me in the side, driving a breath of air out. I bite back a coughing fit.
“See! Disrespectful for an Elder deity! They are no more than beasts with some power. Their nature is violence, that has been proven. Zeus, Poseidon, Hera! Dead! They have murdered gods!”
I open my mouth to correct her, Hera isn’t dead, but Kronos hits me again. I stop talking before he breaks one of my ribs.
“There must be justice!” Kali sits, crossing her arms and glaring directly at me.
“And where was justice for us?” I think it’s Kronos that speaks. He’s staring at me with wide eyes and I see that he’s readying another blow. I understand, after a moment, that it was my voice. “We readily accepted a punishment thousands of years ago, before we were betrayed. The Olympians are not gods, were not gods. They are but children that reached beyond their grasp. They stole from us, they left us imprisoned and yet none of you came to our aid. If there must be justice, there shall be justice. We will tear down this building on your heads.”
Kronos closes his eyes and sighs, his shoulders sagging. It’s too late now. This is why he is supposed to speak. Words cannot be taken back easily, once spoken.
“You will burn with the mortals and we will take a price in blood. There must be justice? Fine, we will see which of the just rules over the ashes!”
There is a heavy silence. I feel Kanati’s tension from the doorway, ready to strike should I make a movement that he finds unwanted. Set is frozen in his seat, staring daggers at me but not willing to throw the first punch. Kali stews in a bubbling rage that I worry will spill out.
I don’t hear the door open, I don’t hear it close either.
I just hear the voice.
“Ladies and gentlemen, the hot-headed one.”
I stop breathing. Not by choice, by circumstance. I turn my head towards the door where she stands.