Poseidon wasn’t surprised when her messenger appeared in his chambers. Too much had happened as of late for her to turn a blind eye to. Kronos’ attempt to return to power, Gaea’s awakening, Apophis rising, the delaying of Ragnarök, the rumbling within the Maya, the nightmares permeating the Dream Time, the resurrection of Celtic heroes, and the disappearance of Lü Dongin, all having happened within a period of a just few years that was short even by mortal standards. No, he wasn’t surprised to see the winged-serpent appear before him and deliver her summons.
But it did scare him.
And fear wasn’t something a god such as he should know.
Yes, some of his divine brethren had fears, the fear of Kronos regaining his body or Gaea truly awakening were some of the more common, rational fears. But those fears were equivalent to a child seeing a shadow on the wall and calling out for its mother, paling in comparison to the horror she had revealed to him. The paralyzing knowledge of the what lied on the seafloor far from the reaches of both man and god.
If he could, he would ignore her summons and wipe his memory of her very existence, those accursed ruins, and what lay within. But she had bound him to her by an unbreakable oath the likes of which made the Styx seem laughable. It was an oath all gods and goddesses that knew of her existence were forced to take, one that forbid them from revealing her existence without consent and made them obey her every whim.
He still cursed Oceanus for passing this oath, this curse, onto him and would curse him until they were both long forgotten by mortal men.
It didn’t surprise him in the slightest that his Norse counterpart was waiting for him when he appeared in those lifeless waters.
“Njord,” he greeted his fellow sea god with a nod of his head.
“Poseidon,” the god replied with a nod of his own.
If he was to encounter Njord anywhere else on the planet no such pleasantries would be exchanged, the two of them engaging in immortal combat the instant they felt each other’s divine presence. It wasn’t that they hated each other or anything as pathetically mortal as that, but because it would be the physical embodiment of two radically different cultures meeting.
And when two cultures met, a clash was inevitable.
But not there.
Not where she held court.
“You’ve aged,” the barefoot god remarked as they slowly sank into the inky depths. Both of them were eager to get this gathering over with, but neither were in a hurry to reach their destination. “Gained a few kilos in the gut I see. Another few centuries and you’ll be more suited to be the god of whales than Ebisu…”
“As have you,” he responded. His right eye twitching in irritation. “But a few pounds can be removed with a snap of my fingers. Those bags under your eyes and those wrinkles on your feet are another story though…”
Njord looked down at his feet and wiggled his toes with a frown. “Well… these are stressful times. Even for us gods.”
He could only nod in agreement as they reached depths where the only source of light was the bronze glow coming from his trident.
“Pity about Sobek, eh?” Njord asked. His eyes searching the mist infused darkness around them for any signs of… something.
“Or perhaps we should envy him?” he retorted, gripping his trident tighter. “He’s the only one of us that’s been able to get out of this accursed oath without fading away.”
“I’m going to stick with pity. I imagine there’s not a whole lot to do in… wherever he went to. Definitely no boat races,” the Norseman said with a forced chuckle.
The conversation ceased after that as a pinprick of light appeared in the darkness beneath them. If he were anywhere else in the seven seas he would have written the light off as the byproduct of some deep sea creature hunting for a meal or even a mortal submarine or robot trying to unraveling the mysteries of the depths. But there was no life to be found for hundreds of nautical miles in every direction. Every creature from the mighty blue whale to simple single cell organisms somehow knew to stay clear of this part of the Pacific.
He knew not if this avoidance was some instinct or some meddling on her behalf.
The light increased in size and brightness as they sank through the abyss and soon he was able to make out the first details of the sunken city that haunted the periphery of his being.
The city’s origins were unknown to him and all gods before him, the only thing anyone knew for certain was that at some point it had once stood above the waves before some cataclysm moved it to its current location. However, one would never know that if they only gazed upon the towers and temple-like structures of a strange cobalt stone, all of them appearing as if they had been finished only hours ago. No, one would have to notice that some of the gleaming roads of gold abruptly ended in jagged sections that arced a golden energy in the waters and that there was a staircase that led to nowhere.
Njord let out the same long whistle he always did when the tallest of the windowless cylindrical towers met them. “The Hebrews have a story about towers like these, right?”
Poseidon had heard that same question from his northern neighbor more times than he cared to admit, but it had always been directed at their now absent Egyptian counterpart. Sobek always getting riled up at the mention of the chosen people, giving him and Njord something else to focus on instead of the growing sense of dread they felt from the domed structure the city was built around. “The Tower of Babel, if I recall correctly,” he answered, realizing he actually missed the crocodile-man. “But in it the mortals were never able to finish their tower. Their god cursing the laborers to speak with different tongue so that they couldn’t work together. So that they couldn’t reach the heavens.”
The polo-clad god looked at the tower before them and then scanned city beneath them with a critical eye. “I can understand why he did it if those were the mortals responsible for all of this.”
He nodded in agreement as his sandaled feet touched down in the center of a glowing street. As always, he took in surroundings. The buildings with nary a straight edge or seam, and bulbous in appearance as if they had been grown rather than built. The intricate murals of platinum and precious stones that depicted winged sea-cucumbers and amorphous chaotic blobs of mouths and tentacles, night skies with stars that corresponded to none he knew, and horrific cephalopods surrounded by hundreds, if not thousands, of symbols whose true meaning were lost but their purpose as a warning was crystal clear. And of course, the subtle hum of machinery that existed at a subatomic scale; a scale modern mortals were just discovering. No, in his opinion any mortals that were capable of constructing such things were to be destroyed, as they would inevitably turn on the gods.
“Well,” Njord gulped, snapping him from his thoughts, “shall we head to the tomb? She’ll be waiting.”
Once more, he nodded in response. Afraid that if he opened his mouth his words would betray the fear he felt.
Erzulie, the loa of sweet water and love.
Atlaua, Aztec god of water, archery, and fisherman.
Ahti, Finish god of the depths and fish.
Ka-mohoali’i, Huna god of sharks and lost sailors.
Ebisu, Japanese god of fishermen, luck, and the god that kicked Apollo out of the land of the rising sun.
Tangaroa, Māori god of the sea.
Veles, a Slavic god of earth, water, and an underworld.
These were but a few of the divine beings that Poseidon recognized as he and Njord entered her court. All were gathered in small groups composing of the gods and goddess that were closest to them geographically, having hushed conversations. Under normal circumstances they would be enemies, rivals at best, but here… here, all searched for comfort in familiarity. For even the face of a sworn enemy was palatable to the horror below them or-
“I’m honored that you could all make the journey.”
All heads snapped to the solitary throne of white marble and gold at the end of the foreboding hall they were gathered in. The grandiose chair had been empty when he and Njord entered, but without so much as a ripple in the dead waters or a fluctuation of energy she now sat that in all of her horrific splendor.
“It seems much has happened since we last convened,” the being that simple was stated without an ounce of emotion in her voice. “And it seems our numbers have dwindled in the last century. How… intriguing.”
She was as beautiful as she was terrifying. A pair of golden curved horns grew out of the back of her head, making it appear that a crescent moon floated just behind her long silver locks that billowed around her despite there being no current. Her skin was flawless but paler than that of a corpse’s. Her proportions were a bit off, her torso, arms, and legs too long and thin. She chose to go nude rather than cover up in the splendored garb of the assembled gods, exposing her lack of reproductive organs and navel. Those features weren’t quite as strange in the assembled company, as Sobek had been half crocodile and some of the Eastern gods either possessed features of dragons or were dragons themselves, but it was her face that truly gave them pause.
Or rather lack thereof…
No one had ever seen her face (or if they did they weren’t telling) as she wore porcelain-like mask with blood-red lips and eyes made of emeralds that appeared to be simultaneously lifeless and alive. The most unnerving thing about it though was she could seemingly change its expression by waving her hand over it, yet none of them had ever actually seen or sensed the transformation. Despite all of his years of existence and all the power he had amassed, just gazing at it was enough to make him feel like a small child.
“You should allow us to bring our pantheons!” one of the dragon gods snapped in the back. “What purpose do these gatherings serve if our numbers are to dwindle?!”
“The guy’s right,” Njord hummed next to him. “If we couldn’t do this a thousand years ago when we numbered in the thousands, what makes her think a few dozen will fare any better?”
“Because there are more mortals now than there was then,” he grunted. “More mortals with a greater understanding of the world. And those tribal gods only had worshippers in the hundreds if they were lucky…”
She looked at him and waved one gangly hand in front of her face, her mask changing expression to a knowing grin. “A wise observation, my young god of the sea.”
Like the sunken city, none knew how old she was or even what her name was. He knew that she was old, but the few clues he had to her true age made him question their validity. She had once remarked that she was disappointed in the child Gaea’s progress. Another time, she mentioned she remembered when the first life formed in the water and how disappointed she was when the dinosaurs went extinct; perhaps it was a joke he didn’t understand as dinosaurs never existed. A few thousand years ago, she had mentioned in passing that she remembered the rains that filled the seas. And finally, she once declared to have seen the first stars flicker into existence in the night sky. These comments pointed to her age being impossibly old, as even the simplest of gods knew that they couldn’t exist without mortals. Still, even with all her ludicrous claims he believed that she was a primordial goddess nearly as old as Chaos itself.
As for her identity, he had a few guesses at that as well. She had once mentioned that she was the last of three, the other two choosing to forsake their immortality and fade away; a strange notion to any god. At one gathering she claimed that she used to have a more active role in the world of man and god millennia ago but relinquished her position to a younger god to take her post in the sunken city. Finally, she mentioned that she had lost much of her power in a fight with an unknown enemy of tremendous power. These three clues and her sway over the gods led him to believe that her true identity was that of the Sumerian goddess Namma or the Babylonian goddess Tiamat.
If either was true, she wasn’t telling.
“Worry not about your numbers,” She said, waving a hand over her mask and returning it to its normal state void of expression. “Worry about completing your sacred duty…” With those last words the primordial being snapped its fingers.
A line of brilliant light erupted from her throne and raced across the length of the hall, growing wider by the moment. Every god, goddess, and divine being in the room propelled themselves to the top of the domed roof in a vain effort to distance themselves from what lay beneath the retracting floor and the aura of unparalleled malevolence that it radiated.
“I’m never going to get used this accursed fragment!” Njord cried, raising an arm to shield his eyes from power of the slumbering horror.
A fragment, that’s what she called it.
A fragment as if the thing before them that dwarfed even Typhon in power in its death-like state was but a piece of something greater. This slumbering being with power so vast that even a god such as he couldn’t look directly at it without risking their mind being torn asunder before being erased from existence. This being so far beyond comprehension that the only thing stopping him from thinking it was God itself were the bindings of Stygian Blue light that seemingly fed off its power to keep it contained.
Over the moans and groans of the other gods trying to keep themselves together her voice rang out. “Begin…”
As if they were puppets on strings all the assembled deities called forth their symbols of power and released all of their own considerable power in one fluid motion. Mortals liked to delude themselves that their weapons of fire and radiation were the ultimate power on the planet, but they were but a spark from a dying flame in comparison to the collective might of the gods. For in that instant they began their assault the sunken city was no longer engulfed in water, the sheer heat of the blast vaporizing every drop of liquid on the seafloor for dozens of miles. So powerful was the blast the last time the assembled, that several minor gods faded away.
But like the mortal weapon, the attack was over in an instant. Though it would be several seconds before his body regenerated enough to see, hear, or even feel the result of the coordinated attack, his divine being told him that once again they hadn’t so much as made the fragment's energy falter for a moment, nor had the surrounding city taken any damage even as the weight of the ocean came crashing down on it.
With another snap of her fingers, the floor slid back into place. The fragments malevolent aura dampened by the mysterious stone. “You worried about numbers, though your power has grown considerably since our last gathering,” the goddess chuckled as she sat in the scorched remains of her throne; the only thing to be damaged in the divine blast. With a wave of her hand her mask of joy turned to a mask of sorrow. “But still not enough,” she sighed. The ancient goddess then rose to her feet and walked to the center of the room with an inhuman stride; her slight mechanical movements propelling her across the floor farther than they should. She stared down at the floor where he believed a tentacled-head lay just beneath and shook her head. “You may take your leave…”
Every god and goddess blinked out of the tomb before the final syllable was uttered, but for some reason he felt compelled to linger. “That thing- that fragment… Where did it come from? What is it?”
She stood up and turned to face him, changing her mask to one of pleasant surprise and then to its normal emotionless state. “It came from beyond the stars in a time before time, or at least that is what the guardian told me and the other chosen so many lifetimes ago. As for what it is? That is simple: it is the end. If it or its ilk were to every rise again it would spell the end for everything.”
At that Poseidon scoffed. He had been coming to these gatherings for millennia and though the fragment had a power greater than any he had never known, it had never shown signs of life. It had never shown any signs of life to any of the gods before his time as well. “It’s dead, Tiamat. It is just a corpse too powerful to fade away. Much like Ouranos or the giant, Ymir.”
The goddess chuckled and shook her head in amusement. “Oh Poseidon, it is further from death than either you or I. And one of the human writers has even prophesized their return.” She cleared her throat and recited a verse that chilled him to his core. “Man rules now where They ruled once; They shall soon rule where man rules now. After summer is winter, after winter summer. They wait patient and potent, for here shall They reign again.”