Lasha hadn’t met any of the other gods of the world before. They didn’t seem to visit each other, or maybe Lasha simply wasn’t thinking in their timeframe. Five years might just be five minutes to them. She hoped time would not accelerate like that for her. After warning her not to try and pet them, Algasath had given her an idea of what each is like.
The first to arrive was Cynthia, the goddess of air. She took the form of a grey cat, though Lasha doubted she would’ve come close to her. She exuded an aura unbefitting of a normal cat. The meeting was held in the throne room. Lasha hadn’t gotten out of the habit of calling it that and even passed the habit on to Algasath. Cynthia sat down on the table like a cat would do, exuding an unapproachable authority. Lasha was glad she wasn’t sitting at the table yet, instead standing by the door to the library, waiting for her father to get ready.
Ralsathi, the goddess of water, appeared next. Simply popped into the room. Naturally, as gods they could teleport. Algasath explained her to be a relaxed person. Unlike Algasath, she did not involve herself too much in the affairs of the people assigned to her element. Like there were Asterians of land-dwelling animals, there were also those that lived in the ocean. Essentially mermaids. Ralsathi took on the form of one herself, swimming through the air like water. Even her hair floated accordingly.
Kekremu, the goddess of fire, had only few animals ascribed to her element, and none of them with a civilization on the level of the other elements. Though, apparently there were living creatures living in the molten core inside of the planet. Despite that rather terrifying information Lasha learned through her, she appeared to be the opposite to Cynthia in personality. She took the form of a serpentine dragon with red scales.
Varhaysel, the goddess of dreams, was another dragon with lime green scales. She looked younger, smaller and thinner than Kekremu. Lasha could place her hand around her and make her thumb and middle finger touch. In her claws, she held a pig plushie. Algasath couldn’t tell her much about her. No one really knew what she did and why the concept of dreams warranted a deity to oversee.
The next arrival was one Lasha was dreading to see. Jaliehv, the goddess of light, had the appearance of an Attejs. An eyeless being of light, with insectoid wings and antenna like those of an anglerfish, with which they saw. Jaliehv was an impulsive and self-assured person. She was the one that declared war on the Sjetta 24 years ago. The war in which Nelub’s former life ended.
Madrian, the god of death, appeared as a cat, though he had white fur with red stripes and wore a grim reaper cloak. He looked like someone’s pet dressed up in a halloween costume and then photoshopped for social media likes. In retrospect, Lasha was surprised to remember this was the god that became a father before Algasath. She wondered if his daughter was also a cat.
Midori, the goddess of time, appeared strangely late. Algasath kind of hemmed and hawed when describing her. Apparently the years had not been kind to her, past present and future. She was an orange dragon.
Cralvalas, the god of magic, was the last to appear. He had the appearance of a purple bat, which apparently was the form he had when he decided to not change with the trends anymore. He was kind of a loner, keeping to himself in some corner of the world. Still, he came.
Unlike the last god, Apolomyem, the god of earth. No one was surprised, this was typical of him. Humans fall under the element of earth, so this meeting actually concerned him quite a bit, but Algasath had already resigned to just have someone find him with the results of the meeting and get an ok or not.
With everyone present, at least those expected to come, Algasath finally sat down at the table, Lasha joining to his left. Jaliehv was the only other one to sit, all the others opting to remain on the table or float above their chairs, depending on their form. It was a sillier sight than expected, but these gods didn’t really care to appear more dignified than mortals. It was a sympathetic quality.
“Alright, thank you all for coming.” Algasath said. “Now let’s discuss our handling of the situation regarding humans. To begin the discussion, let’s each make our case for what we should do. Cynthia, you begin. What do you think we should do?”
Cynthia placed herself facing the others with Lasha and Algasath to her back. Lasha watched the space between her shoulders while she spoke. She felt compelled to touch her fur, now that it was within reach. She fought the urge so hard, she struggled to actually listen.
“I think we should reveal ourselves to humans. Unless we do that, we cannot properly integrate them into our world. It is big enough that, so far, we did not have to fight over it, but the humans are expanding their territory, assuming they’re the only ones here.”
Kekremu spoke with words that went quieter the longer she went on. “I believe we should reveal ourselves eventually, but we should prepare for it. We really don’t know much about the humans and we should use the fact we have one amongst us now to learn more about them. This is a big decision and the time to make it carelessly has long passed.”
“I don’t think we need to be that cautious.” Ralsathi commented. “ We have no reason to believe the humans would be hostile towards us. I believe Lasha had accepted Algasath as family after only a few days.”
“I agree with Kekremu.” Madrian said. ”Sure, I don’t think things will break out into war, but we should still make sure to do this right.”
“So you all admit you’ve just been sitting on your hands the past 300 years not thinking about the issue?” Jaliehv said, the loudest voice so far. “I think the biggest point of conflict at a reveal would be, how would we explain just sitting in the dark for such a long time? Each year is just going to make us look more ridiculous, or maybe even untrustworthy. I doubt they’d just believe we did nothing and just avoided it. What are we hiding? And how would we quell those fears? Really, we already fucked this up tremendously. If you are talking damage control, we should just come out and finally start working on fixing it, rather than letting it build up more.”
The round got silent for a moment. Finally, Cralvalas took it as his cue to speak. “Well, that’s a good point. I’m in favor of whatever is the least trouble. This issue probably won’t affect the balance of magic, but I prefer there to be peace on the mainland in case I feel like visiting.” Cralvalas at the very least managed to diffuse the tension enough to allow Midori to speak, even if his comment wasn’t very enlightening.
“We should probably deal with this soon. In my experience… Waiting never makes anything better.”
Varhaysel was the last one left to speak. Everyone directed their attention at her. “In regards to the dream...” she finally spoke, with no sense of urgency to get the words out. “...There is nothing to worry about. But letting them know would certainly be favorable. Just in case the dream is disturbed.”
“Well then…” Algasath said, waiting for the attention to be directed back at him.
“So what do you think?” Jaliehv interrupted. “It’s hard for me to believe you want to show yourself to humans. Did that girl turn you upside down so much?”
“Yes, I do. I don’t think that stands in contrast with my ideals.”
“Lasha, right?” Jaliehv ignored Algasath. “What do you reckon humans will do?”
“I-” Lasha wasn’t prepared to be addressed so suddenly. “I can’t say for sure. I don’t think I’m an outlier, I think other humans won’t hold any hostilities towards xenobeings. And I think we would understand that you were afraid of us, arriving here with technology you couldn’t begin to comprehend. Of course there will be bad people among us that might cause problems but I understand we are not unique in that way.”
Jaliehv smiled. Lasha didn’t like it.
“Well.” Cynthia turned around to face Lasha. Seeing her eyes this close diminished all petting urges in Lasha again. “You’ve not been back in human civilization for five years. And you were a child the last time you’ve been there. Maybe you should go back to assess the current political and social situations. Just for a day or two, let’s not overly delay this.”
“Yeah, sure, I could do that.” Lasha said, but felt a bit pressured into it.
“Does everyone agree?” Algasath asked the round. “Let Lasha scope out the situation and then meet with humans to discuss our coexistence?”
The assembled gave their approval.
“Cynthia, can you send someone to get Apolomyem’s approval as well before we go through with this plan?”
“Ah damn, for a moment I thought we were getting somewhere.” Jaliehv stretched out on the table dramatically.”
“I otherwise would’ve simply counted him outvoted, but he is the god of earth, we can’t just decide over his head on this one.”
Jaliehv responded with a sarcastic chuckle.
“But at least among us, we have come to a decision. I think this will give us enough time to think how we want to introduce our individual selves and discuss it with our fosterlings.”
Some gods teleported away, some lingered. After Cynthia had disappeared, Madrian approached Lasha with as wide a smile a cat could manage. “Hi! It’s nice to see another god take on the challenges of fatherhood.”
“Yeah.” Lasha said. It was strange to talk to a cat. The silly outfit made it even worse.
“Oh, hang on.” Madrian seemed to explode into a cloud of smoke, which reshaped itself into a larger form and faded to reveal a human. “This is the form I use at home nowadays. I hope it is easier to talk to.” He was a tall, white-haired man with scars on his cheeks where stripes had been. He got off the table and sat on Cynthia’s chair. “My daughter, Sinder, is 14 now, so a little younger than you.” Madrian pulled out a stack of pictures. It appeared he was rather starved of talking about his kid. Lasha was surprised to see Sinder looked like an ordinary human girl, the most unusual thing being the cherry red shade of her hair.
“I thought she’d be a cat.”
“Oh, no. She chose this form to resemble her friends.”
Oh, I see.” Lasha found a picture of Sinder playing soccer with some other kids. She guessed they were Asterians but one had no animal features she could discern. Madrian noticed the slight confusion.
“Oh, these were taken in the Afterlife. Humans and Asterians have been living peacefully there for a while now, so I think you’re right about that.”
“The Afterlife?” Lasha looked up.
“Yeah. I’m the god of death, remember? The Afterlife is where all the dead go, and where we can’t hide the truth from humans anymore. There, the dead can wait for their loved ones or be reborn into a new life. Only us gods and demigods are allowed to know about it though. So don’t tell any of your mortal friends. You won’t be able to, but it’d be less of a hassle.”
“I see...” Lasha flipped through more photos. Sinder was alone or with Madrian on most of them.
“Am I allowed to go there?”
“You mean, as a living person? Sure. Usually, that’s where we do our meetings.” Madrian watched her for a moment, then his smile faded. “Oh, I see… I forgot you weren’t always…”
“Am I allowed to see them?”
“They might not be there anymore. Only few actually stick around for more than a year.”
“But if they are?” Lasha’s tone came out harsher than intended. She was just sick of if’s, but’s and maybe’s.
“Then yes. After all, as an immortal, there might be no other way to give those waiting closure.”
Lasha gave back the pictures, satisfied with his answer.
“Do you think you’re ready for that though? You should know that, even if they waited for so long, they understand that they can’t linger forever. You may see them one more time, but you will eventually lose them forever. Remember that.”
Madrian placed a hand on her shoulder. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to bring this all up for you. I was thoughtless.”
“Don’t worry about it.”
“I’ll return and see if I can find them for you. I’ll meet you tomorrow.”
Lasha touched his hand for goodbye. He disappeared.
A while later, she felt Algasath’s hand on her. He quietly let her know he understood she needed a moment.