Elyon - Gods among us
The Punic goddess found herself in a vast darkness, unable to see anything, not even her own hands.
—Where am I?— she wondered.
—The last thing I remember is seeing that man with the bull mantle, and apparently, I fell into this abyss— she continued to recall.
The goddess groped her way forward but could see nothing but darkness. Then, she saw a faint light in the distance. Tania began to try to approach that light.
—It's the way out— she thought.
Tania ran and ran, but she couldn't reach the light. The goddess started to feel desperate.
—Damn it, is it just an illusion?— impatient Tania thought as she continued to run as fast as she could. But the light remained motionless and out of reach. Nothing changed. It was just there, unmoving. Tania, at that moment, came to a sudden stop.
—Enough! Get me out of here, or you'll deal with me!— Tania shouted furiously.
A laugh echoed in the background.
—Reveal yourself, you coward!— Tania shouted.
—But my dear Tannit— said the voice, —I haven't trapped you anywhere. You are within yourself at this moment. These are your memories— the voice continued.
Then, Tania saw the light again. It was a cheerful little girl running, holding a small doll in her hand. The girl had red hair, a crimson triangular dress, slightly tanned skin, and amber-colored eyes. A red crescent moon was drawn on her forehead. Tania understood then, that girl was her.
—Bastard, I understand what you're planning to do— Tania said angrily as she watched the joyful girl.
The darkness began to dissipate. It was a room, the room where Tania lived as a child.
Tania, or as she was called, Tannit, was born in Lel in the 8th century BC. She never knew her mother but knew that she had died a long time ago, and she, Tania, was her last daughter. Her father, the king of the gods, Elyon, never met her. The little girl grew up among the female malakim who served in the palace in Lel.
A few years later, in her early teens, she received a marriage proposal from the lord of the city of Carthage, one of the cities created by the vast expansion of Lel into the human world. The city was located in the northern land of Libya. The young girl was given in marriage to a much older god named Hammon, who had helped the ancient Phoenicians found a city in that region, and now, Carthage was emerging as the most powerful city in the world.
The marriage was only symbolic to increase the faith of the citizens in that city. They celebrated the new goddess Tannit, depicted as a woman with a triangular dress and a moon above her head. However, since it was only a symbolic act, Tania never spent time with her husband, they never even slept together. Tania now felt lonely and abandoned in a foreign land.
Hammon, known as Baal Hammon, a title earned through power and heroism, lived in a palace isolated from Lel called Qart-Lel, meaning 'New Lel.' The bearded god wore an orange-red crown in the shape of a blooming tulip, with two ram horns protruding from it. He was dressed in a simple orange tunic and was usually seated on his throne, which was adorned with two golden sphinxes on each arm.
Tania frequently descended to Carthage to see the humans living there, observing them with curiosity. Since she didn't know anyone in Qart-Lel, interacting with people made her feel happy. Although there were specific rules regarding how often she should descend to the human world, Tania chose not to follow them.
The goddess visited the bazaars, adored the food prepared in the city, and tried to imitate the recipes when she returned to Qart-Lel, although the female malakim reproached her, stating that a goddess like her shouldn't engage in such activities.
She constantly visited the ports and was fascinated by the ships. Men brought items from a distant land called Iberia; tin from an island far to the north, beyond the Pillars of Melqart, and regions that, according to the Punics, were hidden in the south beneath a vast jungle. Tania had seen all those regions from the sky but had never been there. She dreamed of one day visiting the Iberian region since it was said to be teeming with rabbits, and she adored those little animals.
Among her adventures, she visited a temple dedicated to herself, finding amusement in the image the humans had chosen to represent her. When the priests asked who she was, she responded with a smile, —I'm the girl from that little figurine you have there—
The priests obviously didn't believe her, and Tania didn't attempt to display her divinity either. She knew that if she did, the humans would view her with fear and treat her differently than they did now.
A terrible plague struck Carthage, and Tania volunteered to help the sick. Many affected individuals were taken to the main temple of Tannit, where the goddess personally attended to them. The priests began to suspect that indeed, this teenager could be the goddess Tannit when they witnessed those she treated quickly recovering.
Amidst the crisis, the Egyptian kingdoms sent a delegation to Carthage to provide assistance to the people. Tania realized that two of the envoys were deities and approached them to get acquainted.
They were two beautiful women dressed in Egyptian princess attire. The first was called Sekhmet, and the second was Hathor. Both goddesses were very similar, with black hair, tanned skin, and same height. Only their eyes differed; Sekhmet had amber-colored eyes, just like Tania, while Hathor's were silver.
Tania developed a close friendship with Sekhmet and deeply admired her, dreaming of becoming like her one day. But it was impossible. Sekhmet was a Sun warrior goddess, and she was a Moon goddess dedicated to peace and prosperity; they were entirely incompatible. So, Tania began attempting to create fire with her hands instead of water.
Sekhmet invited Tania to visit the Land of Manu, the realm of the Egyptian gods, as both Qart-Lel and the Egyptian pantheon had good relations. The Punic goddess was captivated by the architecture and beautiful gardens of that realm. Sekhmet took her on a tour of the kingdom while riding in a golden chariot.
—Are you the daughter of the legendary god Ra?— Tania asked, surprised.
—Oh, come on, Tannit. You are the daughter of Elyon. I've heard that ever since he ascended to the throne, his kingdom has done nothing but expand. He's very powerful— Sekhmet responded with a big smile.
—Although I never met my father, I know that he is greatly respected in Lel for defeating a very cruel and wicked god. I also lost my mother in that incident— Tania replied with a tinge of sadness.
—I'm sorry, princess— Sekhmet replied.
—I've heard a lot about you, Queen Sekhmet. I heard that you're a mighty warrior and one of the few Egyptian goddesses who can wield the solar disk like your father— Tania said excitedly.
—My dream is to grow and become like you— the Punic goddess confessed, her face beaming with a smile.
—I'm sure there are more positive role models to follow than me— the Egyptian goddess responded.
Tania visited her friend Sekhmet in the Land of Manu multiple times and began visiting Memphis, the capital of the Egyptian humans as well. However, Tania's constant ventures into foreign territories began to cause unease in Qart-Lel. Finally, Hammon summoned his mischievous wife.
In a vast dark room, adorned with terrifying faces hanging from columns and covered with an extensive purple carpet, Tania presented herself before Baal Hammon, bowing to him.
—How long has it been since we last saw each other, dear wife?— Hammon asked.
—For over a hundred human years, my lord— Tania responded, still prostrated.
—That's right, Tannit. Our marriage has brought peace and stability to our kingdom, and thanks to your visits to the human world, I have seen that your cult has been growing significantly. It seems that some priests have discovered your identity and now proclaim you as a goddess who delivers them from great tribulations— Baal Hammon explained.
—It was never my intention to be discovered, my lord— Tania replied.
"Please, Tannit, stand up," Hammon ordered, remaining seated on his throne. Tania stood up and looked into his eyes.
—Thank you, sir— the goddess responded.
—You see, Tannit, Carthage is seeking to expand militarily throughout Libya and from there into Iberia and the southern Italian peninsula. Our prosperous kingdom will soon be able to compete against Lel and become the most powerful human realm— Hammon said as he rose from his throne and began pacing in circles in front of the goddess.
—I am not a proponent of wars, my lord— the goddess replied.
—I believe that with extensive trade and diplomacy, we could find understanding among ourselves— she added.
Baal Hammon stopped and looked at her eyes in annoyance.
—That is a utopian and fantastical world, my dear wife. The only way others understand is through weapons, and if we don't throw the first spear, we can only wait to be pierced by them— Hammon replied irritably.
Reluctantly, Tania nodded.
—Those jealous ones in Lel now seek to seize our prosperous kingdom as well, now that they have lost several human cities like Tyre and Sidon to the Assyrian Empire. We must expand and create an empire, now that this terrible realm threatens Egypt— the god continued to explain.
—I don't see how that concerns me, my lord. You know that I am a simple lunar goddess who helps people, not a goddess who wields spear and shield and marches against enemies— Tania responded, still wearing her displeased expression.
—Your power has grown significantly, my dear. Thanks to the devotion in Carthage towards you, your abilities are now strong enough to be considered a Katteres— Baal Hammon replied.
—But my strength is not meant for...— the goddess tried to interject, but the Carthaginian god interrupted her by stomping his foot on the ground.
—This is not a request, it is an order!— he shouted.
Tania fell silent, her face filled with discontent.
—From now on, you will lead the human troops. I want you to inspire men and great generals, to take the war to the nearby Mediterranean islands like Sicily. Use your newfound power to conquer other lands. Furthermore, I forbid you from entering the Land of Manu ever again. If we must confront Egypt, we will. Understood?— Baal Hammon spoke with a loud and commanding voice.
—Yes, my lord— Tania replied, annoyed.
—Good. Now, speak with the fool Sid Babi to determine when the city's territories will begin expanding— he said, waving his hand dismissively to bid the goddess farewell.
—As you command, my lord— Tania replied, her annoyance evident as she bowed and left.
The kingdom of Carthage began to expand, and Tania's strength grew more and more. Malakim, Igigi, and even enemy Katteres were no match for her. Tania had learned to control fire, inspired by the Egyptian goddess Sekhmet.
—Sekhmet is a warrior goddess; I must be as strong as her— she thought.
Cartage gained control over almost all of North Africa, all thanks to Tania's power. In a victory ceremony, Tania was rewarded with a golden necklace, which she proudly wore to intimidate her enemies. She began to be known as the Lioness of Libya.
However, when Carthage began its expansion into the Mediterranean, Tania faced Greek gods and suffered a defeat on the island of Sicily at the hands of Hephaestus. Ashamed, she pleaded with her husband to give her more power, as what she had was not enough.
—Of course, my dear, I will grant you more power— the god replied with a smile.
Later, Carthage clashed with Rome, and Tania faced the might of the Roman gods. They were led by Janus and Mars. But Tania was powerful, and she easily defeated them. However, Tania learned the reason why Mars was so beloved and respected among the Roman gods; he never knew when to give up. In the end, the persistence of the god managed to overcome Tania, who returned humiliated once again to her husband.
—It is not enough yet, I want more, give me more!— the goddess exclaimed, her eyes now bloodshot with hatred and desperation.
—Soon, Tannit, you will be even stronger, strong enough to destroy those Roman peasant gods— Baal Hammon replied.
The Punic goddess settled in Iberia, something that had been her dream for a long time, but she no longer thought about it. She only desired to kill and destroy. She planned to massacre Mars and crown herself as the queen of Saturnia, the realm of the Roman gods.
Leading a singular man named Hannibal, she crossed the Alps and achieved great victories against various Roman gods. Finally, in front of Rome, she found herself face to face with Mars once again.
The god appeared as a Roman centurion, wearing white and red armor. He carried a large sword and a Roman shield. His hair was reddish-brown, and he had a thick beard. His eyes were green.
The Roman god and Tania faced off, but this time, Tania was much stronger and defeated him without difficulty.
Defeated, Tania lifted Mars by the neck and began to choke him.
—Go and tell your father Jupiter and the circus freak Janus that I am now the queen of Saturnia, do you hear me, you weakling?— Tania said with a bloodthirsty hunger.
—No matter how much you fight, Tannit, we will not be defeated by a monster that feeds on innocent children to increase her divine power— Mars replied defiantly, despite being choked.
Tania threw him aside and fell silent.
—Children?— she asked.
—Don't you enjoy watching your people burn newborns and babies in your honor?— Mars asked, coughing from the choking Tania had inflicted on him.
—You're lying!— Tania shouted.
—Of course, I'm lying. Look at the vast difference in power between you and me, when just a few human years ago, we were equals. Right now, you are even stronger than my father Jupiter. How many babies achieved that? How much did their parents cry when they were burned alive? Or did you think your power magically appeared?— Mars continued, causing Tania to doubt.
—You're lying! You're lying!— Tania shouted furiously, covering her ears.
—You're filled with hatred, your eyes are bloodshot; you're nothing but addicted to human sacrifices. How many children are being sacrificed in Carthage right now in your name?— Mars asked with a smile.
The Punic goddess ordered her men to retreat and they did not take the Roman capital. When she returned to Qart-Lel, she descended to the city, which she hadn't visited since she started fighting. Tania was horrified to see that, next to her temple, there was now a mound with hundreds of graves. This mound was called Tophet, and it was where the burned corpses of sacrificed children were buried.
The Carthaginians had started sacrificing children since Carthage went to war. They were burned and sacrificed in honor of Tannit, and all these babies became part of her energy.
The gods gained power through acts of human faith, and the greater the sacrifice, the greater their increase in power. When a parent had to kill or witness their own child being sacrificed, it was the greatest test of faith. Parents cried and tore themselves apart during the ritual, so there were musicians in the temple to drown out the mothers' tears.
Tania became dizzy, feeling disoriented and began to vomit. She then started to hear the cries of children within her.
—Enough, enough! I didn't know! Leave me alone!— the goddess screamed.
The people near her looked at her with concern and tried to help, but she violently attacked them with her fists.
—You are a group of genocidal maniacs! I will ensure that this city is burned to the ground, and each of you is massacred one by one!— Tania shouted furiously before flying away from there.
—Why didn't you tell me about the sacrifice of children?— Tania yelled as she once again confronted her husband Baal Hammon.
—Why would I tell you something so trivial? The gods of Lel have always used human sacrifice to grow stronger— the Punic god replied indifferently.
—Are you implying that my mother and father did too?— Tania shouted.
—Of course, Tannit. That's why I told you not to spend too much time in the human world, but you never listened— Baal Hammon replied.
—You are monsters!— Tania responded.
—The gods should protect humans, not make them sacrifice for us— she continued.
—You, protect humans? You can't even protect yourself! You fled in cowardice from Europe when you could have been the victor in this war, but you are nothing more than a cowardly crybaby who can't protect anyone— Hammon shouted furiously.
—I won't accept speeches from a genocidal man like you!— Tania yelled angrily.
—And what will you do now? Run away? Or do you want me to kill you right here for betraying your kingdom?— Hammon asked.
—I will kill all of you!— Tania shouted and stormed out.
Tania left Baal Hammon's chamber and saw Sid Babi, the second-in-command in the Punic divine army, with his sword drawn. Without hesitation, the goddess ran towards him and ripped off his head.
—Tonight, Cartage will burn— she threatened, as a group of Malakim tried to stop her, but she killed them.
Tania managed to escape and found refuge in Sicily. It was there that she encountered Mars once again.
—I spared your life, Mars, so I want you to do me a favor— the goddess said, with a worn-out look and dark circles under her eyes.
—What favor?— Mars asked.
—Kill all the inhabitants of Carthage, all of them, including women and children. I want that entire race to disappear. And those who remain, sell them as slaves— she replied.
—I'm not the kind of god who massacres innocents, Tannit. I'm not like that Ares they always mistake me for— Mars responded.
—Just this time, Mars— the goddess insisted.
The god of war remained in denial, but Tania persisted.
Mars closed his eyes and nodded.
—I suppose that way, we'll prevent rebels from rising in that region— he said.
Tania wandered through the world like a zombie. She had no direction or desire to live. She barely ate or slept. She constantly heard the cries of infants within her. She started drinking alcohol to drown out the screams.
Lying on the ground, drunk, like a beggar, she ended up in the dirty streets of Barcino, now part of the mighty Roman Empire. Tormented by the cries of infants all the time. Crying, screaming as they were burned alive.
Tania, who had seen her past as if it were a movie, began to see the spirits of babies appearing, crawling and climbing all over her. There were hundreds of them, and they all started to crush and suffocate her. Tania repeated, screaming: —Forgive me! I didn't know!—
But the babies kept climbing on her, covering the goddess with thousands of them. At that moment, people whom Tania could identify as Carthaginians appeared in masses in front of her as well.
—Why did you abandon us? Why did you allow the genocide of the people you swore to protect?— they asked.
Their eyes were dark and filled with blood, resembling the living dead. They, along with the babies, continued to suffocate Tania as she begged for forgiveness.
Laughter could be heard in the distance. Tania could identify her husband Baal Hammon's voice.
—You can't protect anyone, I told you so. You didn't protect the children sacrificed before you, you didn't protect your people, and you abandoned Qart-Lel, and now that kingdom is gone. You're a coward who can't protect anyone— the voice said, laughing.
—Kill yourself! Kill yourself! Do it now!—
—No, please, no!— Tania cried, pleadingly.
—You have only brought misfortune to the world, Tannit. Kill yourself so that, at least, you could serve some purpose— Baal Hammon's voice commanded imperatively.
The Punic goddess, being overwhelmed by the babies and the zombie Carthaginians, stopped struggling, closed her eyes, and accepted her fate.