The Council room, heart of the Curia, is an impressive structure. Always kept in semi-obscurity in the interest of protecting the privacy of each of its members, its beehive-like structure surrounds the central platform like dozens of predatorial eyes set upon a helpless prey.
Or at least that is what it feels like to Ewá. Are the dark balconies empty? Or are they merely obscured to shield the ancient, feared and revered Archons from her eyes? How will they receive her report? How many voices will speak? Are these gods really the voices of reason or is this no more than a smaller, more powerful version of the Senate and the Tributa? Here, at the center of the Curia, standing on a pulpit overlooking a bottomless pit to speak to the darkness, the demigoddess wonders what happens to the Eyes who fail to see what this blind monster thinks is there.
For how long has she been talking? A couple of hours, at least. The lack of natural light in the room makes keeping track of time nearly impossible.
Is the Archon of time here? she wonders for a moment, before shaking her head. Control your thoughts, Ewá. Too much hangs in the balance, here.
Her voice fails her here and there. But she proceeds with her report.
“Having spoken with the Bunnies, I must say they are remarkable creatures. I gather that the crime of creating new creatures without a license is not new to Sergeant Alma’s family, but these are not the soulless, empty-minded Anubi created by her uncle. Created and artificial as they are, the Bunnies are fully formed beings, body, mind and soul. No two are alike. There is wisdom and compassion in them. They have aspirations. Dreams. They care for each other very deeply, and for those around them. And they very much wish to live. Destroying them – no, that is a word one would use for machines. Executing them would be a grave injustice,” she states with firm resolution.
A furious humming of whispered and hissed words rises as background noise at these words, making the hairs on the back of her neck rise in nervousness. Still, she forces herself to carry on.
“I believe they are harmless. And according to the witnesses of Archon Nekh’s demise, the youngest of them was indirectly responsible for his death. Very indirectly – but then prophecies are more often than not fulfilled in indirect, ironic ways, are they not? And thus with the Prophecy fulfilled, they pose no further threat. This concludes my report.”
“Thank you, Observer Nanã,” comes the poised, familiar voice of Archon Math.
“Well, that wraps it up,” another Archon adds. “Cast them all in Hell, I say. Rabbits and all!”
Eriseth, Archon of Anger, Ewá thinks. No other could make her words sound so… slithery.
“You have heard as well as we have,” Archon Ikenga, god of memory, grunts, grumpy like the old man he is. “They barely understand what happened to them.”
A gentle female voice follows his. “But if they do not understand their situation, is it not possible that they will inadvertently find themselves repeating history?”
Anura, the air and the wind, Ewá says to herself, reading from her own, internal notes on the Council. Soft as a breeze for the most part, but not to be underestimated.
“How many times can a prophecy be played out?” Archon Enki, oldest of water gods, asks and his voice sounds fresh and quiet, like an old river flowing in a deep bed.
“But was it played out?” Archon Chanti’s voice resounds from the walls.
The Archon of fire, another classic, Ewá thinks. I wonder if she is here to illuminate the others…or to burn me to a crisp.
“Ask Nekh, see what he says,” Archon Taleloc suggests in his booming voice, so close to the thunder and lightning that are the key to his essence. “Oh wait… he can’t. He’s dead!”
As controversy grows and the voices meld in that busy, nervous buzzing of dozens of voices trying very hard to be heard in a large, echoing room, Ewá finds herself forgotten by the Archons. She no longer feels the strength of their gaze on her and yet, for some reason, she cannot bend her mind around the thought of leaving. There is much to be learned from staying. Who knows when she will need to make good use of what she is hearing here today? And who knows if they have heard her at all?
“Why are we even discussing this?” Archon Eriseth insists. “An Archon was murdered. How can we question the sentence that must be applied?”
“That Archon was also a crime lord,” an impassible, slightly bored voice intervenes. “And you would be one to talk. Was he not troubling you with certain documents proving your torturing of slaves for entertainment?”
What is his name, again? Oh, right! Kadmyl, the most ancient of gods of life, Ewá remembers. I wonder if he would recognize Alma as his kin. After all, Alma’s mother is his niece.
“How dare you question my integrity, you who still demands virgin sacrifices?!” Archon Eriseth hisses angrily, clearly ready to put some muscle behind her words.
Archon Kadmyl merely chuckles. “I wonder if you know how I sacrifice them…”
“ENOUGH!!” Math suddenly bellows, startling Ewá to full alert.
So calm for most of the time… she considers. It is easy to forget he is the Archon of war and warriors. And strategists… No wonder Nekh was such an enemy to him, god of discord that he was.
“Archon Dergallin, your silence is deafening,” he says. “What are your thoughts on this?”
Dergallin, the god of wisdom? He is here? Ewá’s thoughts race. What will he think of my report?
“I say, let the Council’s Eye be its Voice,” Archon Dergallin replies.
Ewá’s eyes grow wide in shock at his words. Her? Is the Archon of wisdom letting her decide the fate of the Bunnies, along with that of Sergeants Alma and Gwydion? Is that really wise?
“I agree,” Archon Math states, sounding strangely pleased with the situation. “Observer, you have seen and spoken to all parties involved. What is your opinion on this matter?”
“M-My opinion?” Ewá curses her stuttering. “My role has been only to observe. It is not my place…”
How could I ever make such a decision for you? she panics, at great cost keeping her composure against an overwhelming urge to run out of the room.
“Of course, it isn’t!” Archon Ikenga barks.
“She’s barely a goddess!” Archon Chanti complains.
“But why can’t she speak?” Archon Anura intercedes softly. “Is she not our Eye?”
“She’s our Eye, not our brain!” Archon Chanti insists.
“And certainly not our tongue!” Archon Eriseth seems to spit the words.
“Yes, we have you for that, don’t we, Eriseth?” Archon Kadmyl replies with a loud yawn.
Ancient gods or not, their criticism makes Ewá’s blood boil in anger. How dare they? Her proficiency at her job has nothing to do with her social status. She is good at what she does and that is why she is standing before them now. Slowly, she straightens up, returns her face to calm, formal composure. Her hands open and clench one, two times before relaxing. Let them give her a chance.
She will show them.
The echoes grow until it becomes impossible to discern any one voice in them. The Council room nearly trembles from the angry bickering going on among the archons.
“Is this is the Council of Archons or a children’s playground?” Taleloc’s voice booms out of the darkness. “Speak, already, child! The worst that can happen is that we dismiss what you say.”
Ewá nods in return, raising her head to gaze, unseeing, into each of the balconies. “Very well,” her voice rings out. “The death of Archon Nekh brings into question the invulnerability, and consequently the mandate to lead, of the entire Council of Archons. Therefore, revenge is of far less import than preventing that question from becoming a topic of widespread public discussion.”
She holds her silence for a moment to let her words register with these petty, squabbling Archons before continuing, “Executing Sergeant Alma, Sergeant Gwydion, and the Bunnies would make the Council look weak. Particularly at a time when the entire Fourth Ring rages in chaos due to Archon Nekh’s massive criminal conspiracy gone awry. The best approach, then, is to bring as little attention to Nekh and his activities as possible. In addition, execution means removing from the board, permanently, some potentially useful pieces. Sergeants Alma and Gwydion, along with Inspector Tuma-Sukai, have shown considerable resourcefulness in the face of an army of criminals commanded by an Archon. Executing one or both of the Sergeants would alienate the survivors. Executing the Bunnies would do the same. Sentencing Sergeant Alma to Hell would also have the same unfortunate effect.”
“What solution would you propose, then?” Math prompts her.
Ewá breathes deeply. Well, here goes nothing…
“I propose… a compromise.”