Chapter 35:

Orniskem

Elyon - Gods among us


The next morning, a malak led Rodrigo, Ana, Tania, and Epona to a huge hall located in the main corridor of the palace. Inside, it was an open area with a view of the enormous central garden. There were numerous ivory columns with golden details, and the scent of various sweet fragrances could be appreciated.

In the center of the room, there was a gigantic round table with several chairs; there were fifteen chairs in total, but some were unoccupied. Athena was sitting in the chair facing away from the garden.

To her left, there was a man with white hair, tanned skin, and a large dark patch covering his left eye, while his right eye gleamed red. The chair to the right of Athena was empty. These three chairs were slightly peculiar, with three birds carved into them. Athena's chair had an owl, the man's chair had a falcon, and finally, the empty chair had a bird unknown to Rodrigo's eyes.

To the right of the goddess Athena, there were two young lads. One had curly brown hair and amber eyes; he wore a Phrygian cap, a red tunic, and was quite handsome. The other was completely blond, with skin almost bronzed like gold, his golden eyes had a hypnotic gleam, and his right arm was completely bandaged.

There were others at the table as well. The Yoruba doctor who had operated on Tania and Ana, an elderly man dressed like a wizard, a bearded man in a Greek tunic, a man wearing an African mask, a bearded man in an orange outfit with a spiked crown, and finally, a woman with curly blond hair dressed like a Slavic queen.

—We have been waiting for you— said the goddess Athena as she stood up from her chair. —Welcome to the Assembly Hall of Orniskem. I apologize for not having all the participants present, as some of the leaders of our group are on important missions— said the goddess.

—Hello, nice to meet you— said Rodrigo and his companions, bowing slightly.

—These are Tannit, the Punic goddess of Carthage; Anand, the Irish goddess of war; Epona, the Celtic goddess of horses; and Robert, whom I mentioned earlier— Athena introduced them to her comrades.

—Definitely, I don't think remembering a name like Rodrigo would be that difficult— Rodrigo thought upon hearing that he was being called Robert.

All the members of Orniskem stood up and greeted them.

—I am Horus, an Egyptian god and one of the three leaders of Orniskem— said the tanned skinned man sitting to the left of Athena.

—We are Mithras and Sol, pleased to meet you— said the Phrygian cap-wearing god and the blond god with bronzed skin, both speaking nervously.

—You already know me, I am Doctor Erinle— said the man who had operated on Ana and Tania.

—I am Myrddin, or as I am known in the human world, the wizard Merlin— said the elderly man dressed as a wizard.

—I am Asclepius, a Greek Nephilim and senior physician of Orniskem— said the man in the Greek tunic.

—My name is Nabu, and I am the chief scribe of Orniskem. I come from the mythical kingdom of Babylon— said the bearded man with horned crown.

—And I am Zorya, the Slavic goddess of the Morning Star— said the beautiful blonde goddess.

Finally, the man with the African mask stood up and made some gestures.

—His name is Khine, and he is a deity from the Ghana Empire— Erinle mentioned. —Please excuse him, but he is taking a vow of silence that he cannot break— he continued to explain.

The masked man bowed and sat back down.

Rodrigo and his companions thanked the introductions with another bow.

—Please, have a seat— said Horus, indicating some empty seats at the table. Rodrigo and his companions nodded and sat down.

—As you can see, we are a group of diverse pantheons that are currently under attack or being destroyed by Lel. Most of the gods from these pantheons have agreed to make peace with Elyon. But those you see here decided not to and have faced persecution, taking refuge here, just like you— said Athena.

—We have never had a Punic deity, who was a direct member of Lel's faction. We would like for you to take the sixteenth seat, Tannit— said Horus.

—I prefer to be called by my human name: Tania— said the goddess with fiery hair.

—And I would like to be called Ana as well— added the goddess with black hair.

—Any particular reason?— asked Horus.

—We identify more as part of the human world at the moment— Tania replied.

—Of course, no problem— responded the Egyptian god.

—I'm sorry to decline your offer for now. Honestly, I still don't feel entirely comfortable in this place, and I would like to learn more about your objectives before considering a position of power— Tania replied as she rubbed her right arm.

—Of course, we understand— Horus replied.

—And the group is called Orni... something, I don't know, what does it mean?— Rodrigo asked nervously.

The gods laughed.

—I must say it's a very complicated and unmelodious name— said Nabu.

—Orniskem means Black Birds— Athena said. —Both Horus and I have avian totemas, so we combined the word 'black' in Greek, 'Ornis,' and 'Kem,' which means bird in Egyptian—

—The third member is not a bird, but he was born from a stone egg, so we have assigned the phoenix as his symbol to make sense of this group— Myrddin added.

—The correct name for that bird is Fenghuang— Nabu added.

—But he is never here; it has been years since he set foot in this place— Horus said.

—Who is he, if it can be known?— Tania asked.

—His identity must remain secret for now, but I can assure you he is the most powerful member of this group, by far— Horus replied.

—Horus, I am stronger than him and stronger than you— Athena said challengingly.

—Please, Athena, you couldn't even touch my shadow, much less his— Horus responded with a sarcastic look.

—Oh, here we go again— Erinle said boredly.

—Go find a room and do your dirty deeds there— Zorya said.

The gods laughed while Athena and Horus blushed.

—That's enough of those jokes from the two of us. I am a virgin goddess, you degenerates— Athena replied.

—But yesterday you said you were a mother, teacher— Ana thought at that moment, but she preferred to keep it to herself.

The gods laughed and laughed, continuing to exchange childish insults. Rodrigo began to believe that the gods were more childish beings than humans. After all, in a meeting with high-ranking officials, humans at least tried to maintain composure, but here none of that happened.

—Well, well, calm down, everyone. You're embarrassing us in front of the new members— Athena said, trying to silence them.

The gods fell silent.

—Guys, as I mentioned, the Norse gods are interested in forming an alliance with us, but we have a condition: we need to find Odin in Vinland— Athena said.

Everyone nodded.

—Excuse me, teacher— Ana interrupted. —We would like to know first what happened in the war in Denmark and what happened to Thor and Loki—

—Well, you'll be glad to know that the war is over. The side Loki supported defeated King Harald, and he fled from Aahrus. Bloodshed has stopped, and Loki has created a stronghold of faith for Odin to regain his strength— Athena said.

Ana felt a little confused. She had gone to stop the war, but in the end, the war had stopped on its own. It seemed that it was actually King Harald, who was supported by the kingdom of Lel, who had caused that civil war. Ana felt like she had fought on the wrong side. But then she remembered what Surtr had done and felt uncomfortable again.

—Are Athena's men the same as that giant?— she wondered.

Ana remembered that Athena had a very misanthropic view of the human world. She believed that humans were weak and had homicidal tendencies, and that was why they needed a tyrannical government of gods to keep them in line.

—But why do you care so much about humans?— Ana asked Athena when she lived with her years ago.

—I don't know, Anand— Athena would say.

—Ever since we gods began to see them as energy minerals, I have always been interested in them. They seemed weak and bellicose to me, and I wanted to bring order to their world. I started to believe that using them as such was cruel, but it also saddened me to see them kill each other. So I tried to communicate with them to create better systems of governance.
But in the end, my people ended up under a barbaric king who caused thousands of deaths in Mesopotamia, Persia, and India, and those idiots still worship him as a great leader— she said.

Ana remembered that person was known as Alexander the Great, a great conqueror whom many kings wanted to emulate.

—So, I lost faith in them, but in the end, I also want what's best for them. They're not so different from us after all. If we're superior to them, we should protect them from ourselves and from themselves, don't you think?— the Greek goddess continued to say.

—It's possible that this group is just an extension of Athena's idea of ruling humans as if they were livestock. Although, after all, how would it differ from Lel? Well, at least Athena doesn't want us dead... yet— Ana continued to think, putting aside her memories of her past with the Greek goddess.

—I am worried about the regions we left behind at the moment, like Hispania and Ireland. Well, I admit Ana never wanted to be there, but I was trying to protect my region with zeal and devotion— Tania said, bringing Ana back to reality.

—It's very possible that they will start working with their immediate substitutes in Lel immediately. After all, they must already know the current situation— Athena replied.

Tania sat with a dark expression. She was afraid that she had abandoned her people to their fate.

She knew there were wars between Christians and Muslims, and there were even Viking raids. Although Tania did not get involved in the wars, she worried about the people in Ibiza. She had lived there for several years, trying not to interact too much with them, but that island was an easy target for Viking hordes. And if the Christians ever reclaimed Turtuxa, they might launch attacks on those islands and cause death, as they would only be a few steps away.

—No, it's better not to think about it. I shouldn't get too attached to humans— she told herself.

But she couldn't help but feel guilty. She had allowed wars to happen by following orders, but deep down, it affected her.

—Well, getting back to the topic— Horus interrupted, —Do you want these guys to go to Vinland to find Odin?—

—No— Athena replied. —These guys want to rescue a friend first, but he is currently a prisoner in Lel, so they need to train before they can do that— the Greek goddess said.

—So, you want me to go to Vinland?— Horus asked.

—No, I assigned that mission to Bellona just recently when I returned, that's why she's not present— Athena said.

—Horus, you and I are going to accompany these guys to confront Lel— she continued.

—Wait a moment, you want to enter in Lel? That's insane!— Horus replied, rising from his seat in agitation.

—Well, I forgot you're very weak. I guess I'll wait for Bellona to come back— Athena mocked.

—I'm stronger than her!— Horus said, pointing at himself with his index finger.

—Then what are you afraid of?— the Greek goddess asked.

Horus sat back down.

—I think rescuing someone in Lel is too much of a sacrifice for us, unless it's a very powerful Anunnaki— Horus said angrily.

—No, it's just a Malak— Athena replied.

—Are you kidding me? Seriously?— the Egyptian god said, furious.

—Those were the conditions these guys imposed on me to join us, and I keep my promises— the Greek goddess said with an indifferent look.

Horus turned to Rodrigo in a challenging manner, then looked back at Athena.

—I hope that boy is as special as you think," Horus said.

—Great Athena, I believe the risk of confronting Lel is too great— said the old Myrddin.

—We won't confront them— Athena said. —I'm sure that Lel doesn't want a war against us either. They will most likely try to lure us in by using the captured Malak—

—So, you think Lel will set such a simple trap for us?— Myrddin asked.

—Of course— replied the Greek goddess, sitting defiantly. —I've been informed by spies that Ares has been having secret talks with Anath—

—That dirty, treacherous rat!— Horus exclaimed angrily.

—We know that Ares is a coward. I'm sure he's currently groveling at Anath's feet, trying to be reinstated in Lel— Athena added.

—And what does this have to do with the Malak?— Erinle asked.

—It's quite simple— Nabu interjected. —Anath will use Ares to lure these guys in and have him be the one to kill them. If he succeeds, he and his group of war gods will be readmitted to Lel—

—Indeed, Nabu— Athena responded.

The gods began to discuss among themselves. Rodrigo and the others listened intently.

—This is a great opportunity to defeat Ares and show Lel that we are to be feared— Nabu said.

—We just have to wait for the location where Ares will attempt to kill these guys to be leaked to us, and then we will defeat him— Athena replied with a smile.

Everyone nodded.

Then, Athena turned to look at Rodrigo's group with a serious gaze.

—Meanwhile, Ana, I want you to start training with Myrddin. He is a Nephilim who worked with the legendary King Arthur of Wales. I need you to learn everything he can teach you. After seeing your fight against Belenus on Earth, I noticed your poor resistance against sacred power, and I need you to be more resilient— the Greek goddess instructed her disciple.

—Excuse me, teacher, but I am a Saturn, destined...— Ana nervously said, but Athena interrupted her.

—And isn't your companion Tania a Luna who adapted to become a Sol? There are no impossibilities for us, Ana— Athena said, and Ana nervously nodded.

—It will be a pleasure to teach such a powerful goddess like yourself— Myrddin said.

—Mitras and Sol, I want you to help Epona increase her power, understood?— Athena said, looking at the two handsome gods.

—Y... Yes, Your Highness— Sol nervously replied.

—Wow, such handsome boys, but they seem so insecure— Epona thought to herself as she nodded.

—Tania, I feel like there's something inside you that's holding back your full potential— Athena said. —But I assume you are much stronger than what I could see. In fact, I would bet that with your true power, you could have defeated the Celtic gods without much trouble—

Tania wanted to look away.

—Don't worry, Tania— Athena continued. —You see, Nabu is an expert psychologist. I want you to go to therapy with him. For now, you won't need to train—

Tania took a deep breath.

—"Don't worry, Miss Athena. After I treat her, she will be able to overcome her past quickly— Nabu replied confidently.

—Of course, I'll try— Tania said.

—And finally, Rhodes, I'll leave you in the hands of Asclepius— Athena said, looking at the nervous boy.

Rodrigo nodded, although he believed the goddess was changing his name just to tease him.

—Asclepius is an expert in Tannin gods, and I'm sure he will be able to channel your power so that you can use it naturally without losing consciousness. In the absence of a totema, you'll have to rely solely on your serpent powers— she explained.

—Don't worry, Your Majesty Athena, I will take care of him— Asclepius assured.

—Very well, then, with nothing more to say, let's conclude this meeting and get to work— Athena said.

The group dispersed, each member assigned to their respective mentors, ready to begin their training and preparations for the challenges that lay ahead.