I don’t move. I can’t move.
“You died.” Is the best I manage.
“Good to see you too, brother.” She walks by me with a bundle in her arms, placing herself before the Council.
“I am Theia and I am one of the Titans.” She speaks with authority that I don’t remember my sister having. “I vouch for the betrayal that Hyperion is so passionate about. His response may be disproportionate, but the Olympians did turn on us. Unless I am mistaken, this Council has a belief in justice to the exclusion of much else. Aside from perhaps self-preservation.”
There is some discomfort at that, among this Council. They shift in their seats and Set snarls a curse. Odin can’t stop grinning beneath his beard. He enjoys the drama, this one. I begin to think he is not fond of this Council.
“These Olympians attempted to kill me.” Attempted, she says. As if I hadn’t carried her body out of the prison or given her ashes to the sky. “They believed they had succeeded. Their deaths seem justice enough for the Council, do they not?”
Erlang Shen is impossible to read. Kali and Set are both grinding their jaws. Svarog chuckles. Mama Killa stares at me. Not angry, just staring.
“The word of a Titan, in support of Titans? Then all is forgiven.” Kali’s voice drips with sarcasm.
“The word of a Titan is not enough, I cannot argue this.” Theia begins to unwrap the bundle in her arms. “That is why I have brought evidence of the Olympian betrayal. Zeus sought a station far above his worth, this was obvious.”
She reveals the article and throws it down in the center of the chamber.
“Zeus was building an army. Hoplites, he called them. Hera took blood from those who were Titan born and infused it into mortals. Hephaestus was then forced to make weapons for these would-be god killers. These weapons.”
From the wrapping spills swords and daggers. There is a collective sucking of breath in the room. These weapons are unlike anything we have ever seen before, at least nothing like what I’ve ever seen. They crackle with white energy just beneath the surface, something that should be impossible. Even to a god.
Hephaestus harnessed the power of Zeus’s lightning into god killer weapons.
Odin isn’t looking at the weapons. He’s looking at me. I understand.
Zeus wanted to be God. Not a god. He wanted us to give over our powers to make it happen. He wanted our deaths to be his source of power. Zeus wanted to enact a coup. That means we prevented that from happening. We would either die and create a new pantheon or we would end up standing here, in front of the Council.
“We’re heroes.” I say. I don’t mean to say it aloud. I see from their faces that I did, and that Set is displeased with that. I’m beginning to think that he is generally displeased where I am involved. “We stopped that from being buried in your spine.”
“Set, Kali, do you have anything further to bring forward against the Titans?”
Set glowers in his seat. Kali’s eyes scream that she wants me dead, but she says nothing.
“They still killed my people.” Set says but there’s less fire. He’s lost the moral ground to be enraged at us. He knows it.
“After thousands of years in prison. It was not a slight, it was not intentional, in fact I would wager that your people started the fight. Hyperion and the others have shown remarkable restraint in all of this, with limited casualties among innocent mortals. We will vote on this matter. All those in favor of punishing the Titans?”
Only two hands rise. I can’t help the smirk that plays across my face when Set is defeated. I am fully aware that this does not end here, the realm of the gods will not have changed so much. There may be forgiveness from some group with a modicum of respect but there will always be solutions that are outside those groups. We are not safe from retribution, merely avoiding some sort of all out war. Sometimes, all out war is preferable to the shadow games that gods play for power. At least you know who your enemy is.
Odin knows this.
“Hyperion. Kronos. This Council finds you to be relieved of fault in the deaths of mortals under Set’s purview. I will rest assured it will be avoided now that you are made aware of the world you have returned to?”
“Yes.” Kronos answers for us. Smart, I have not been a bastion of calm and measured response to this Council.
“Then our next order of business is to extend an offer to join this Council and all the protections, and rules, that entails.”
Kronos and I exchange a glance. That wasn’t expected.
“You will have seven days to decide on this, as I expect you will wish to discuss it. We would also welcome the outcast Olympians as well.”
More unexpected information. The shifting fates of the godly realm continue to be unpredictable. Odin stands from his chair and folds his arms across his chest. He gives each member of the Council a curt nod, Kali returns it. Set does not.
“Then our business is concluded.”
They stand. I remain in place, Set steps from his chair and to the entryway. He stalks down the steps and brusquely brushes past me, to be generous. His shoulder pushes on mine but I hold my ground. He sneers at me and whispers something before he throws open the large doors and disappears. Kali is about to follow him when I hold out a hand. I can feel Kronos’s horror at the move. Kali looks at my hand as if it is diseased and then at me for an explanation.
“I’m sorry, Kali. Truly, I am.”
She pushes past my hand and follows Set out the door. Kronos rests a hand on my forearm while I watch her disappear. I catch Rune looking through the door and he offers a sympathetic shrug. The door closes on the room with a boom that feels very final. Odin speaks quietly to Erlang Shen and Mama Killa, who leave in a much more polite manner.
“Tell Oceanus I said hello.” Mama Killa says with a devastating wink. Then she leans in and kisses me on the cheek. “Also that.”
I blush. Kronos laughs at me, watching Mama Killa leave.
“That one’s on you.” He says.
“Hyperion, Kronos. We have things to discuss. Nephthys, will you keep Rune and Astrid out of trouble and wait for them?” She leaves the room and that means it is just four of us. Including a ghost that walked back into our lives as if she hadn’t been laying on a slab a few weeks ago. That we hadn’t burned her and given her to the sky. That I hadn’t carried her out of Tartarus in my arms. She is exactly as I remember. Her hair is golden and her eyes as blue as a clear sky and her hands are as real as anything I’ve felt when she takes my face in them. They are warm and real.
“How?” I ask. She is shorter than I am, her head fits under my chin when she embraces me tightly.
“We have a lot to talk about.” Odin speaks for her. There is a side door, opened at a knock from him, leading to an office. “It will be safe in here. Too many prying eyes and ears in this room.”
Theia releases me and we enter the office. Kronos stops me before we cross the threshold, his hand on my chest.
“What did Set say?” He asks.
I look at him, playing back the whispered threat that Set had been so pleasant as to provide.
“He told me that we were all going to die.”
“Ah.” Kronos says, removing his hand from my chest. “Here I thought we had earned some time away from war.”
We cross the threshold to the space, the door closing behind us. War, wanted or unwanted, is returning to this mortal world. We, the Titans, at the center of it.
“Sit.” There are chairs enough for the four of us, but Odin chooses to lean on his desk. Theia collected the bundle of blades before we left the room and hands the bundle to Odin. He sets the bundle on the desk beside him. She sits as well.
“You have questions.” Odin’s voice thunders in the small space, now that we are away from those prying ears and eyes he had mentioned. “She will answer them. It was her plan, after all.”
I stare at my sister and wonder who she is. What Tartarus turned her into. My sister was not a schemer, a plotter, a planner. She was a woman of soft words and actions. She speaks.
“When we agreed to the imprisonment, I doubted Iapetus’s intentions. Themis said something that gave me pause. She was going to climb the mountain and kill the two of you for your warring. That was justice for her. Iapetus instead offered the prison term and convinced her of it. He and Ares spent so much time together and it seemed so wrong. Ares relished in the bloodshed of your war, practically bathed in it. You two were too busy trying to kill each other and burn the mortal realm to question it enough. So I did it for you.”
She has the tone of a chiding teacher, chastising us for our inaction and inability to see past our violence. It shames me to know that she is right.
“A whisper in the wind was enough to reach Odin’s ravens. Intercepted by Horus. I simply asked Odin to come at the end of the term to ensure we were released. I should have asked him to come without pause. We could have prevented this.”
“I would have filled the seas with blood for you.” Odin says.
“By the time Odin, or any of the pantheons, realized that Zeus was reaching for power, it was too late. He had it in hand. Iapetus drained your powers from the armory and imbued them into the Olympians. He knew it was a fraction of the power that a Titan can wield but it was enough to create a new gods. Zeus told some that we had lost our way and they would do better, offered others endless power and fortune, threatened the few that would resist. Then he became a god. For three hundred years he burned what would become Greece, where we lived. Today it is called the Greek Dark Ages, there are no records. He created the myth of the Titans and it spread. We were monsters that brought death with us and he was the hero that drove us into Tartarus.”
“We sailed as soon as word began to reach our shores.” Odin speaks. “But, a hundred years to us is little more than a blink, you know this. When we sailed it was too late.”
“Rome rose to power and Zeus adapted to this, filling the ear of priests and priestesses while lining their pockets. Jupiter, they called him. Ares became Mars, God of War. Poseidon was Neptune, Hera became Juno. His most favored allies in the quest for power became the most powerful gods to the Romans. They built temples and worshiped, offered sacrifices, and Rome grew in size and power. Enough to challenge the gods. He raised armies in the guise of a mortal and marched to Egypt, where Set and Osiris made an agreement with him. Zeus killed Ptah and Sekhmet fled and that was it. They kept their power Zeus expanded his.”
“None of this answers why you’re here, now.” Kronos interrupts. “This is a history lesson, not an explanation.”
“I’m getting there big brother.” Theia says, perfectly patient, as always. “His power was consolidated and we were never going to get out. Unless, one of us never went in. For that, we needed a god that could fool Iapetus. No small feat.
“Loki.” I say. She smiles, still the teacher, but this time it’s a rewarding smile. I have done well.
“That’s right!” The voice is none of ours and comes from a book case, where the trickster god materializes as if from thin air. “It was I!” He bows to us and ignores Odin, who sighs heavily.
“Loki gave them me, while I remained free to find a way around war with all the pantheons. If Odin met Zeus, Zeus would call on Osiris and Set, Kali might have come, it might have torn the mortal apart and ended it. We had to be careful.”
“Three thousand years of careful.” Kronos is bitter, angry. I’m surprised that I am not. Perhaps I am just numb to this, distracted by all that has happened in such a short amount of time. Theia is hurt by his tone, I can see it in her eyes. It pains her to be so distrusted. I can blame neither of them. Kronos buried her just as I did, his pain is mine. Even so, she did what she believed right, and I cannot fault that. I am torn. The best I can do is put a hand on my brother’s knee and try to tell him that I understand. It seems to calm him, at least some.
“We couldn’t risk open war, it would have been moronic.” Loki says, sitting on the desk beside Odin and kicking his legs. Odin slaps his son on the back of the head and the scrawny boy falls silent.
“We had one Titan and not enough gods, the mortal world changed quickly, even for mortals. Zeus pushed his Romans to the edges of their world, we began a war through the mortals for control. There was so much blood for hundreds of years. We had to fight to keep our strength, new gods rose and old gods fell. It was chaos.” Odin speaks with his own bitterness. Memories that cause a storm in his eyes when he looks at me.
“We waited for them to make a mistake.” Theia picks up again. “Instead of marching to war we waited. I remained in hiding. Zeus had imprisoned Hephaestus but The Smith refused to make weapons for Zeus. He wouldn’t make Godkillers. So Zeus took his mortal armies to find The Vault, a place where the artifacts of the gods were stored.”
The Vault. I remember it, a place where the most powerful weapons of the gods were to be stored as a movement of peace among the gods. Mythical weapons passed down by generation upon generation of mortal lore. My chain is a weapon of power but it is a physical manifestation of it, it is as strong as the wielder. There are weapons that behave like gods. The more one believes in that weapon, the more powerful it becomes. Gungnir, Mjölnir, Sharanga, Dyrnwyn, Sharur, The Lance of Olyndicus.
It was a place of untold power and hidden from the gods by a chosen few. Very few.
“Thoth destroyed it. Or at least how to find it. All the records, the scrolls, a thousand lifetimes of knowledge wiped out in a day. The single most devastating loss that I can remember. A fire took everything. Even the mortals feel the ripple of that loss to this day, thousands of years later. That loss was Zeus’s gain, even if it was accidental. He wanted the weapons of the gods but instead he just lost them for eternity.” Odin says, venom on his words.
I understand why Odin is so angry, now. The Northmen were among the first to agree and some of the first to place their weapons in The Vault. Their agreement made it possible by nature of how much power they wielded. They were a people of belief and warfare, their weapons were powerful. Without it’s location they couldn’t have done more than they did to attempt to free us. They couldn’t have gone to war.
“What about those?” I say, pointing to the bundle that Theia had carried. “That’s Hephaestus’s work.”
Odin snorts and Theia smiles, a sly smile.
“It is.” She says. “But they are harmless. Props, not weapons. We stole him from Zeus and he is in hiding, producing real weapons for a war. For us. We just needed him to make those so we could be done with this farce of a Council.”
“So you want a war?” I ask. “You want more blood?”
“Your return has made it inevitable, even if you wanted to avoid it. Too many gods and too little belief for those that are left. This world is changing and we must also change. That can only mean war.” Odin is not wrong.
Even if I had not become a global sensation with the fire whirlwind, or if Oceanus and Kronos had not saved that town. Belief in the Titans grew, there are always those who will believe once they see. Even the mention of us in mere whispered rumor could grow our power. There were more souls on this planet than ever before, a billion drops of rain can cause a flood. We had tipped the balance in our return. It can only mean war.
“I’m really glad you’re alive.” I say to Theia. “And I’m sorry we won’t have much time to catch up.”
She is confused. Odin is confused. Even Kronos is confused.
“I know something none of you do. You may know the mortal world as it is now, you may have a private army and some long standing feud. All I really know is four gray walls of my prison cell and what little I’ve learned since being free of them. I gave my sister to the sky and here she is. I broke Zeus and his Olympians with my siblings. I have made enemies that will last an eternity and friends that I hope I won’t lose.”
“Well know all of that, get to the point.” Kronos says. I pause, locking eyes with Odin. With Kronos. With Theia. I ignore Loki. I will need more time, he convinced me that my sister was dead. I take my time and watch them squirm, trying to make sense of my riddle.
“Spit it out!” Odin cracks first. Leaning forward. I smile and speak.
“I know where The Vault is.”
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