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Talons of Tyranny was an event in SMITE made for the introduction of Gilgamesh and Morgan Le Fay. It begins right after the conclusion of Dawn of Babylon's story. It began on March 23, 2021 and ended on August 24, 2021.

Description[]

TalonsOfTyranny Chapter4 LobbyBG.png

Welcome to the Talons of Tyranny Event![]

There will be 4 chapters in this event spanning over 4 updates. Each chapter has a chest containing 5 Skins and a Cosmetic Bundle.

On release of a new chapter, there will be an initial discount. Once the next chapter releases, the discount will no longer be available.

You can either roll the chapter chest or directly purchase the skin you desire in the store.

Quests[]

Purchasing ANY item from a chapter will unlock that chapter's quests which reward Gems.

Unlimited Chapter Rewards[]

In order to obtain the unlimited chapter reward, you will have to unlock every item in that chapter.

Unlimited Collection Reward[]

Unlock all items from ALL 4 chapter chest to receive the Unlimited Chaac Skin!

Talons of Tyranny Cosmetic Items[]

These are the items that are available during the event. Items are bound to Chapter themed chests. Upon rolling the chest, the player will randomly receive one of the 5 items. The chests start with only 3 items, with more being gradually added per update up to 5 items per chest.

These are the chests currently available:

Unlocks[]

God Skins[]

Bit Slayer
Icon Type Release Date Description
T Tsukuyomi BitSlayer Icon.png God Skin March 23, 2021 An exclusive skin for Tsukuyomi. It has custom animations and ability effects, and custom voicelines.
Discoveries
Story

Video

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Unholy Doodle
Icon Type Release Date Description
T Ra UnholyDoodle Icon.png God Skin March 23, 2021 An exclusive skin for Ra. It has custom animations and ability effects, and custom voicelines.
Discoveries
Story

Video

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Battle Tagger
Icon Type Release Date Description
T Skadi BattleTagger Icon.png God Skin March 23, 2021 An exclusive skin for Skadi. It has custom animations and ability effects, and custom voicelines.
Discoveries
Story

Video

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Prince of Lightning
Icon Type Release Date Description
TalonsOfTyranny ZeusSkin Icon.png God Skin April 6, 2021 An exclusive skin for Zeus. It has custom animations and ability effects, and custom voicelines.
Discoveries
Story

Video

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Rune Machina
Icon Type Release Date Description
TalonsOfTyranny GaneshaSkin Icon.png God Skin April 6, 2021 An exclusive skin for Ganesha. It has custom animations and ability effects, and custom voicelines.
Discoveries
Story

Video

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Cosmetic Bundle[]

Overlord
Icon Type Release Date Description
Title Overlord.png Title April 6, 2021 An exclusive title.
Discoveries
Story

Video

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Talons of Tyranny
Icon Type Release Date Description
Frame TalonsOfTyranny Icon.png Loading Frame April 6, 2021 An exclusive Loading Frame.
Discoveries
Story

Video

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God Skins[]

Chilling Hersir
Icon Type Release Date Description
T Ares ChillingHersir Icon.png God Skin April 20, 2021 An exclusive skin for Ares. It has custom animations and ability effects, and custom voicelines.
Discoveries
Story

Video

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Headless Horror
Icon Type Release Date Description
T Chiron HeadlessHorror Icon.png God Skin April 20, 2021 An exclusive skin for Chiron. It has custom animations and ability effects, and custom voicelines.
Discoveries
Story

Video

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Lady of the Sea
Icon Type Release Date Description
T Discordia LadyOfTheSea Icon.png God Skin April 20, 2021 An exclusive skin for Discordia. It has custom animations and ability effects, and custom voicelines.
Discoveries
Story

Video

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Kuzenbot
Icon Type Release Date Description
TalonsOfTyranny KuzenboSkin Icon.png God Skin May 4, 2021 An exclusive skin for Kuzenbo. It has custom animations and ability effects, and custom voicelines.
Discoveries
Story

Video

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Stitched Creation
Icon Type Release Date Description
TalonsOfTyranny AgniSkin Icon.png God Skin May 4, 2021 An exclusive skin for Agni. It has custom animations and ability effects, and custom voicelines.
Discoveries
Story

Video

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Cosmetic Bundle[]

Lamassu
Icon Type Release Date Description
Avatar Lamassu.png Avatar May 4, 2021 An exclusive Avatar.
Discoveries
Story

Video

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Tiamat
Icon Type Release Date Description
T Tiamat Default Icon.png Announcer Pack May 4, 2021 A Tiamat custom Announcer pack.
Tiamat Announcer pack
Discoveries
Story

Video

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God Skins[]

Malware Master
Icon Type Release Date Description
T AhPuch MalwareMaster Icon.png God Skin May 18, 2021 An exclusive skin for Ah Puch. It has custom animations and ability effects, and custom voicelines.
Discoveries
Story

Video

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Depths Defender
Icon Type Release Date Description
T Odin DepthsDefender Icon.png God Skin May 18, 2021 An exclusive skin for Odin. It has custom animations and ability effects, and custom voicelines.
Discoveries
Story

Video

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Moon Seer
Icon Type Release Date Description
T Olorun MoonSeer Icon.png God Skin May 18, 2021 An exclusive skin for Olorun. It has custom animations and ability effects, and custom voicelines.
Discoveries
Story

Video

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Infernal Beast
Icon Type Release Date Description
TalonsOfTyranny GuanYuSkin Icon.png God Skin June 1, 2021 An exclusive skin for Guan Yu. It has custom animations and ability effects, and custom voicelines.
Discoveries
Story

Video

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Cultus
Icon Type Release Date Description
TalonsOfTyranny ChronosSkin Icon.png God Skin June 1, 2021 An exclusive skin for Chronos. It has custom animations and ability effects, and custom voicelines.
Discoveries
Story

Video

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Cosmetic Bundle[]

Talons of Tyranny
Icon Type Release Date Description
MusicTheme TalonsOfTyranny.png Music Theme June 1, 2021 An exclusive Music Theme.
Discoveries
Story

Video

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Kappa Bot
Icon Type Release Date Description
Ward KappaBot.png Ward Skin June 1, 2021 An exclusive Ward.
Discoveries
Story

Video

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God Skins[]

Deep Space
Icon Type Release Date Description
T Ratatoskr DeepSpace Icon.png God Skin June 15, 2021 An exclusive skin for Ratatoskr. It has custom animations and ability effects, and custom voicelines.
Discoveries
Story

Video

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Tyr-Rex
Icon Type Release Date Description
T Tyr TyrRex Icon.png God Skin June 15, 2021 An exclusive skin for Tyr. It has custom animations and ability effects, and custom voicelines.
Discoveries
Story

Video

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Tombstone Rider
Icon Type Release Date Description
T Hachiman TombstoneRider Icon.png God Skin June 15, 2021 An exclusive skin for Hachiman. It has custom animations and ability effects, and custom voicelines.
Discoveries
Story

Video

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Star Sentry
Icon Type Release Date Description
T Eset StarSentry Icon.png God Skin June 29, 2021 An exclusive skin for Eset. It has custom animations and ability effects, and custom voicelines.
Discoveries
Story

Video

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Spirit of the Bear
Icon Type Release Date Description
T Terra SpiritOfTheBear Icon.png God Skin June 29, 2021 An exclusive skin for Terra. It has custom animations and ability effects, and custom voicelines.
Discoveries
Story

Video

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Cosmetic Bundle[]

Dark Magic
Icon Type Release Date Description
Icon LoadingBG DarkMagic.png Loading Screen June 29, 2021 An exclusive Loading Screen.
Discoveries
Story

Video

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Morgan Le Fay
Icon Type Release Date Description
T MorganLeFay Default Icon.png Announcer Pack June 29, 2021 A Morgan Le Fay custom Announcer pack.
Morgan Le Fay Announcer pack
Discoveries
Story

Video

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Chapter Reward[]

Deathy Chibi
Icon Type Release Date Description
T Thanatos DeathyChibi Icon.png God Skin March 23, 2021 An Unlimited skin for Thanatos. It has custom animations and ability effects, and custom voicelines.
Discoveries
Story

Video

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Tormented Soul
Icon Type Release Date Description
T Medusa TormentedSoul Icon.png God Skin April 20, 2021 An Unlimited skin for Medusa. It has custom animations and ability effects, and custom voicelines.
Discoveries
Story

Video

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Sea Nymph
Icon Type Release Date Description
T Sol SeaNymph Icon.png God Skin May 18, 2021 An Unlimited skin for Sol. It has custom animations and ability effects, and custom voicelines.
Discoveries
Story

Video

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Divine Axe
Icon Type Release Date Description
T Izanami DivineAxe Icon.png God Skin June 15, 2021 An Unlimited skin for Izanami. It has custom animations and ability effects, and custom voicelines.
Discoveries
Story

Video

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Collection Reward[]

Forgotten Gods
Icon Type Release Date Description
T Chaac ForgottenGods Icon.png God Skin March 23, 2021 An Unlimited skin for Chaac. It has custom animations and ability effects, and custom voicelines. Also comes with a Jump Stamp and a Recall Skin.
Discoveries
Story

Video

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List of quests[]

At least one item from a chapter has to be purchased to unlock that chapters quests. The player is able to earn 100 Gems per chapter by completing both quests.

Sand Dunes
"Surrounded by a sea of dunes, lays a garden lush with vibrant plumes."
TalonsOfTyranny Chapter1 Icon.png
Requirement
Play 2 Arena Matches.
Reward
50 Gems.png
TalonsOfTyranny Chapter1 Icon.png
Requirement
Get 60 Kills and Assists.
Reward
50 Gems.png

Babylonian King
"The desert, harsh as can be, but one King rises, to seek immortality."
TalonsOfTyranny Chapter2 Icon.png
Requirement
Deal 50,000 Player Damage.
Reward
50 Gems.png
TalonsOfTyranny Chapter2 Icon.png
Requirement
Earn 60,000 Gold.
Reward
50 Gems.png

Dark Magic
"A tale of revenge as old as time, of dark magic and a queen in her prime."
TalonsOfTyranny Chapter3 Icon.png
Requirement
Get 2 Wins of the Day!
Reward
50 Gems.png
TalonsOfTyranny Chapter3 Icon.png
Requirement
Get 50 Kills and Assists.
Reward
50 Gems.png

Queen of Darkness
"Morgan Le Fay, they call her, she will be the end of your days."
TalonsOfTyranny Chapter4 Icon.png
Requirement
Play 2 Games.
Reward
50 Gems.png
TalonsOfTyranny Chapter4 Icon.png
Requirement
Earn 50,000 Gold.
Reward
50 Gems.png

Lore[]

Chapter 1: Diplomacy[]

TalonsOfTyranny Chapter1 LoreIcon.png

The moon rose over the Taihang Mountains, and the dead murmured contentedly in their graves. Mulan walked among them, listening to their stories. When she heard the soft hiss of blooming flowers, she stopped and turned. “Hello my friend.”

“Mulan,” Persephone said, stepping out of the trees. “I am glad to see you.”

“As I am glad to see you.” Mulan embraced her friend, and together they sat, listening to the night birds call to one another. “Hades has reopened the gates of the underworld?” Mulan asked, after several moments.

“He has.”

“Then he believes the threat is ended?”

“Isn’t it?” Persephone inhaled deeply, as if tasting the air. “I can no longer smell that creature’s taint on the wind. What of your own lands?”

“Better than they were. The corrupted jade has been…cleansed. And Cthulhu’s madness has faded from the minds of the other gods…” Mulan paused. Persephone was smiling. “What?”

“Other gods,” Persephone repeated. She plucked a white flower from one of the grave markers and held it up. “The mantle of divinity rests more easily on your shoulders these days.” The flower sprouted thorny tendrils of green that coiled lovingly about her wrist.

Mulan studied her hands. Still calloused, despite her ascension. Perhaps they always would be. “I have…come to terms with it. With myself.”

“That is good to hear.” Persephone looked at her. “Will you go to Olympus?”

“Will you?”

“I will not be welcome there for some time, I think,” Persephone said, leaning back. “Even so, I am curious as to the new arrival.”

“Tiamat,” Mulan said. The wind had carried her name across China. The saviour of the world, whose return had seen the banishment of Cthulhu. She did not know what to make of the dragon. Nor did the other members of her pantheon, come to that. Some thought her a potential ally, others thought her as dangerous as Cthulhu. “What do you make of her?”

“She is powerful I know that much.”

“She is the one who cleansed China of the jade.”

“She did the same for the rest of the world as well – and more than just the world. Asgard has been restored and Yggdrasill. It is as if none of it ever happened.”

“You must find that a relief.” Mulan paused. The dead had fallen silent – as if awaiting something. She glanced at Persephone, and saw that the other goddess had stiffened in alarm. “What is it?”

“Do you hear that?”

Mulan did. A faint, irregular creaking that grew louder with every passing moment. Suddenly, a raucous chorus of blackbirds burst from the trees and rose into the night sky. Then, a heavy, awkward shape erupted into view at the edge of the graveyard.

“Is that -?” Mulan began, staring at the apparition.

“Baba Yaga,” Persephone growled, rising to her feet.

“The very same,” came a familiar voice from behind them. They whirled to find the old witch crouched amid the grave markers, surrounded by a bevy of floating skulls. As they watched, she uprooted another and set it to hang in the air beside its fellows. “Don’t mind me. Just collecting on old debt.”

“What are you doing here, witch?” Persephone demanded.

“As I said, collecting on a debt. I am owed many favours, by many beings, alive and dead, mortal and divine.” Baba Yaga’s gaze fixed on them. “Come to think of it, don’t you two still owe me favours?”

“We paid our debt to you,” Mulan said. Her hand fell to her sword hilt. The old witch was dangerous, though in ways she did not quite understand. Even fierce Guan-Yu stepped lightly around Baba Yaga.

“Much good as it did us,” Persephone said.

Baba Yaga chuckled. “You have a complaint about my services, Queen of the Underworld?”

Persephone glared at her. “Your prophecy was wrong. The dark sea was thrown back – Cthulhu was defeated! But not by anything we did.”

Baba Yaga cackled. “And what makes you think I was referring to him, the great blubbery nightmare? Oh he was bad, to be sure – a doom that might have eaten the world. But he wasn’t the one I was worried about. Nor was he the one I warned you of.”

“What?” Mulan glanced at Persephone. “We thought -”

“Is it my business what you thought?” Baba Yaga gestured and the skulls danced in the air about her for a moment, before resolutely swooping off towards her chicken-legged hut. “You think Cthulhu was the sea? Ha! If that was so, why would the waters have bound him? No, the sea has swallowed him up – and it threatens to do the same to all of us as well.”

“What sea?” Persephone asked.

“The sea, girl. The first sea, that filled the abyss – the sea that birthed this world and all that walks or crawls upon it.” Baba Yaga leered at them. “The sea that she rose from, before any other, the Glistening One, in all her glory.”

Persephone grimaced. “Stop spouting cryptic nonsense and put it plainly for once in your misbegotten existence.”

“Tiamat,” Mulan said, softly. “She is talking about Tiamat.”

*

Olorun stood amid a garden of wilting greenery, studying the distant mountain and the immense ziggurat at its summit. The shadow of the newborn mountain shrouded much of Olympus and many of its gardens were suffering as a result. It was a small matter – the gardens could be reawakened at a touch from one or more of the gods now gathered in Olympus. But it irked him nonetheless.

He heard someone step onto the balcony behind him. “Looking at the stars, Olorun?” Yemoja asked. Olorun turned.

“As if I could see them with that thing in the way,” he said. Tiamat’s mountain blocked the moon and the stars as well as the sun. Yemoja frowned.

“I asked the rivers about her. Our new neighbour.”

Olorun paused. “And what did they say?”

“Nothing.”

Olorun’s eyes narrowed. “They did not know of her?” If Tiamat were as old as she claimed, it seemed impossible that the rivers would not know something.

“No.” Yemoja looked away. “They refused to speak of her.”

Olorun was momentarily taken aback. “I have never known the rivers to refuse you anything,” he said, choosing his words with care.

“They never have – until now.” She looked past him, at Tiamat’s temple. “They are afraid, Olorun. And they are not the only ones.”

“Have they arrived then?”

“Some. Not all. But some. Come. They are waiting in the meeting chamber.”

When they arrived in the meeting chamber, an argument was already in progress. Heimdallr, representative for the Aesir, sat with his arms crossed and a stoic expression on his face as Sobek, crocodile-headed god of the Nile, loomed over him. “And I say you are a fool, Aesir,” Sobek growled. “She is no benefactress, but a predator circling us.”

“The Aesir have no complaint against this new goddess,” Heimdallr said. “She has restored Asgard to its former glory. Whether she intended to do so or not is of no importance. The deed was done and the Allfather has decreed we treat it as the gift it was.”

Sobek snarled wordlessly and turned as Olorun and Yemoja entered the chamber. “Surely you must see sense,” he said. “Tiamat cannot be trusted.”

“Set evidently disagreed,” Zeus put in, from where he sat. “It was by his cunning that she was awakened, after all.”

Sobek grunted. “Set is a vainglorious fool, and he always has been. That he thought it best to awaken this creature is a sure sign that it will have dire consequences for us all.”

“Whatever his intentions, the deed has been done,” Olorun said, as he took his place at the head of the table. He looked at the gathered gods – representatives from all of the major pantheons. Fewer than he’d hoped, but more than he’d expected – especially after recent events. Enough, perhaps, to achieve some form of consensus on the matter facing them. Though, given what he’d seen to date, perhaps that was a vain hope. “The question is, what is to be done about it?”

“I am all for knocking that oversized rock pile down,” Zeus said, grinning fiercely. “Can’t have it casting its shadow over Olympus forever, after all.” He looked at Hera, but she did not return his smile.

“I believe Tiamat has earned a moment’s grace, at least,” she said. Zeus’ smile became a scowl and he looked away. Olorun knew that like their leaders, the Olympians were divided on the matter. So were most of the other pantheons.

“As does Odin,” Heimdallr said. Asgard’s restoration had gone a long way towards garnering Tiamat allies among the Aesir, Olorun judged. Or, if not allies then peaceful neighbours, at least.

“She is dangerous,” Sobek said. “More dangerous than any being we have ever faced. Better to destroy her now, before she destroys us.”

“And is that Horus’ opinion – or yours, Master of the Nile?” Hera asked.

Sobek bowed his head. “I speak for Horus in this – and the rest. The Egyptian pantheon stands united in this, if nothing else.”

“All save Set, of course,” Olorun said, stroking his chin. “Where is he, by the way?”

Sobek scratched at his neck with a talon. “Vanished. Horus barely managed to escape the collapse of Tiamat’s temple. We assume Set and his cronies must have done so as well.”

“Loki has yet to return to Asgard,” Heimdallr put in. “I have sought for any sign of him, but he has gone to ground – possibly in one of the other realms.” He shrugged. “Perhaps Bellona and the others are with him.”

“They must be found,” Ares spoke up, startling everyone present. The god of war had spoken little since his return to Olympus. “They may know something of this creature – some knowledge that could be of use to us in the future.”

Olorun gave him a sharp look. Ares spoke as if he were already planning for the worst. Then, given his nature, perhaps that was to be expected. Olorun took some comfort in that. He’d had his doubts about Ares when Hera had first suggested eliciting his aid. But the war-god had more than proven his mettle in the struggle against Cthulhu.

“Set and the others are not important,” Chaac rumbled. The Maya god of the storm rose from his seat. “Tiamat is all that should concern us. Kukulkan advises patience and wariness – I say let us see what she plans before we make any rash decisions.”

Olorun’s eyes scanned the assembled gods. Most were nodding in agreement with Chaac. Others, from their expressions, seemed to prefer Zeus’ suggestion. He paused as his gaze came to rest on the noble features of Arthur, king of a forgotten kingdom and defender of Avalon. During Cthulhu’s rampage, Arthur and Merlin had done what they could to defend the innocent souls of the Celtic lands – a heroic, if doomed effort.

Olorun thought of Mulan – another newly-ascended mortal – and felt a flicker of sympathy for the tribulations Arthur had undergone. He’d had his own dragon to fight – one that was still abroad in the world, despite the best efforts of Hera and the others. He cleared his throat. “What do you think, Arthur?”

Arthur was silent for a moment. Then, his hands found the sheathed form of Excalibur laying on the table before him and he said, “Dragons lie. They poison the very air with their untruths. Though their scales shine, they are things of darkness.” He met Olorun’s gaze squarely. “I think you would be a fool to trust such a creature, whatever it claims.”

Olorun sat back. The pantheons were, as he’d expected, divided on the matter. “The truth is we know nothing about her,” he said, after several moments. “She is older than most of you, and unknown to me. If she is a friend, that is unfortunate. If she is an enemy, that is dangerous. So we must learn all we can, however we can.” He paused, considering his next words carefully. “That is why I have already sent several of our number to seek out those who might possess some knowledge of her, even as I take a more direct approach.”

“What do you mean?” Hera asked.

Olorun rose. “She invited us to visit her. So that is what I am going to do.”


Chapter 2: The Questing King[]

TalonsOfTyranny Chapter2 LoreIcon.png

Tiamat shifted her weight and drew herself up as her gaze picked out the figures climbing towards her temple. To her eyes, the gods shimmered like precious jewels, each one connected to the world by strands of divine light. It would be so easy to sever those strands. One quick slash, and the world would have one less god.

Too many gods – that had always been the problem with this world. They proliferated exponentially, too swiftly for the world to bear. It groaned beneath their weight, and it suffered for their childishness and selfishness. She could feel it, in the air and the water. Even now, after all she had done to correct it, there was still an echo of the pain they had caused – and would cause again, if someone did not take them in hand.

Tiamat settled back to await her visitors. That they had accepted her invitation showed that there might yet be hope for them. Or some of them at least. The rest would have to be disciplined if they would not accept her as the rightful ruler of this world and all that it contained. After all, had she not created the world? Had she not drawn the stuff of it from the abyss and shaped it to her will?

Her claws bit into the stone and she forced herself to relax. To be at ease. It was difficult. She knew that the beings below could not be trusted, not truly. She had trusted their kind once, and had been repaid with treachery and imprisonment. All for the crime of trying to defend what was hers – of trying to avenge those she loved best.

A part of her yearned to destroy them now, before they had a chance to turn on her. To smash their temples and cast down their heavenly palaces. To claim the skies as she had claimed the seas, and all that stretched between them.

But no – not yet. Perhaps never. She did not wish to wage war on them. She’d had her fill of war the last time. And perhaps a part of her, a tiny part, feared that it might turn out the same as last time. That they might once again separate her from the world she had made.

So, she waited.

*

“This is not a palace,” Ares said, as the Olympian delegation climbed the steps leading to the apex of Tiamat’s ziggurat. Hundreds of rounded towers rose like mountains from forests of looming pillars. The tallest towers were topped by immense statues of gold, representing unfamiliar creatures – gods, perhaps, or monsters. The base of each tower was girt by a bountiful garden, full of life and sound.

“It looks like a palace to me,” Zeus grumbled.

“No, Ares is right,” Olorun said. “This is a temple.”

“And so?”

“It is a show of strength, father,” Ares said. “Our temples are raised by mortals. Tiamat is telling us she does not require worship.”

“But she desires it,” Hera said, softly. “Look about you – Ares is right. But it is not just a show of strength, but a message of intent. She sets herself above us, beckons us to visit like pilgrims…”

“You almost sound as if you admire her,” Sobek growled. The towering crocodilian lagged behind the others, his great head swinging from side to side. Ares glanced at him. The God of the Nile was ill at ease – not afraid, but wary. Like a beast caught in the territory of a rival predator. Ares felt a flicker of sympathy for the Egyptian deity. Sobek did not wish to be here, but had come nonetheless at the behest of Horus – to give thanks on behalf of his pantheon for the safe return of Ra from the cosmic abyss.

No other gods had dared accompany them. Some, he suspected, were biding their time, watching to see what Tiamat’s intentions were. Others, he thought, were simply afraid.

“There is much to admire,” Hera said. “I admit it. She is powerful, and this place – temple, palace or fortress – is quite beautiful.”

“It is too big,” Zeus grunted, as they came to a wide, flat landing. Ahead of them, a long bridge of stone stretched towards a square structure with a high plateau roof. Massive braziers threw sweet smelling smoke into the air. “She insults us.”

Privately, Ares agreed with his father. Tiamat was insulting them. But unlike Zeus, he was not certain that it was intentional. Olorun seemed to be of similar mind. Like him, Tiamat was something older than the world. Unlike him, her powers did not seem diminished by her return. Perhaps there was something to her claims to have created the world.

He pushed the thought aside and concentrated on the reason he’d come. He studied the shape of the temple, searching for weak points and potential avenues of attack. The structure was beautiful, but flawed. He could bring it down, if it came to it – though given what he’d seen of Tiamat’s power, he might not walk away from such an assault.

Ares looked up at the creature – the goddess – as she perched atop the tallest tower, waiting for them. She radiated strength. Only a fool, or a madman, would attack her head-on.

They had reached the middle of the bridge when Tiamat reared suddenly, wings of crackling light extended. She let loose a roar and called down, “Well met, young ones. I feared you would not accept my invitation.”

“How could we not?” Olorun replied. He crossed his arms and looked up at her. “It seemed only polite to visit you in your home, as you visited us in ours.”

“Not yours, I think,” she rumbled, hovering gracefully over her perch. “You are not of this world, young prince. You smell of starlight and celestial winds. You grow frail here, separated from the cosmic light. Which begs the question – why are you still here?”

“A good question,” Zeus murmured. Ares glanced at his father. Zeus did not trust Tiamat, that much was obvious. Thus far he had restrained himself from acting with his usual bravado. He had made no challenges -–thrown no lightning. Perhaps he had learned something from their battle with Cthulhu after all.

Olorun paused before replying. “I have often asked myself that of late. I came here to bring an end to the conflict between pantheons. I stayed to battle Cthulhu, and heal the damage he caused to the world.”

“But now I have done all that,” Tiamat said, spreading her taloned forepaws, as if to encompass the world around them. “I have fixed what you children broke. I have sealed away the Great Dreamer and healed the madness that afflicted my poor world. I have even returned to you your little palaces – Valhalla, for instance. And yet not a word of thanks have I received, not even an acknowledgement of my gifts.”

Olorun glanced at the others. Ares met his gaze and nodded. Olorun cleared his throat. “Then let me be the first to say –”

“Tyrant!”

Ares turned as the cry echoed over the bridge. Two figures stood at the opposite end of the bridge. One he recognised immediately – Bellona, goddess of war. The other, a tall bearded man – not divine, at least not wholly – clad in robes and armour. It was he who’d spoken. He did so again, stalking forward as he spoke. “Tyrant,” he bellowed. “Mother of monsters and breaker of gods! I am Gilgamesh, King of Uruk and in the name of Marduk the immortal son of Utu, I will free this world from your shadow and cast you back into the starless pit you crawled from.”

Bellona grinned fiercely. “Stand aside, Olympians – we have come for her.”

“Have you, now?” Tiamat said. To Ares’ ears, she sounded amused.

Olorun put out a hand. “Hold – do nothing foolish,” he began. The newcomer, Gilgamesh, was in no mood to listen. He bounded forward, blade in hand. Bellona charged alongside him, her own sword at the ready.

They burst through the crowd of dumbfounded gods and headed across the bridge. Ares watched them go with a flicker of regret. A part of him longed to join them. If there was to be battle, he should be a part of it. But a wiser part of him prevailed. This was not his war. Not yet.

“Bellona…” Olorun began, a look of consternation on his face. “What is she doing?” Celestial light crawled across his form as he prepared for battle. “Are they mad, or just fools? To attack someone who has done us no harm?”

“No harm yet,” Zeus said, smacking his fist into his palm. Lightning flared about him. “You heard that creature – she called the world hers. She means to rule over us. I, for one, do not intend to allow that.”

“Husband,” Hera began. “Do not make enemies where there are none.” But her words fell on deaf ears as Zeus started after Bellona and the newcomer. She shook her head and Ares felt a flash of sympathy – his mother had ever striven to keep Zeus from indulging in his baser instincts, though never with much success.

Above them, Tiamat’s shriek split the air. Ares thought the sound was one of rage – but also something that might have been satisfaction. As if she had been expecting just such an event, and was gratified to be proven correct.

Ares looked up and saw her crouched atop her plinth, wings flaring with cosmic light, claws digging into the stonework. He paused, struck by how quickly her previous elegance had drained away, leaving behind only a bestial monstrousness.

“We should go,” he said, to the others. Sobek nodded, and Hera did so as well, after a lingering glance in the direction her husband had gone.

Olorun looked at him. “What do you mean?”

Ares turned. “We should withdraw. Zeus and Bellona have made their choice. But I do not intend to commit myself to a battle until I know whose side I am on.”

*

Gilgamesh raced across the bridge, sword in hand. Behind him, the strange gods gawped in confusion, or perhaps surprise. Above him, Tiamat shrieked. Smoke billowed and a bevy of feral creatures burst into view, loping to meet him. “What are those things?” Bellona shouted, as she ran alongside him. A grin split his bearded features.

“The children of Tiamat – she spawns them by the hundreds, or so the gods claim.”

“Which gods?”

“My gods,” Gilgamesh laughed. “I hope they are watching!” He was still laughing as the first of the creatures reached him. “See me, Marduk – see your faithful follower!” His sword slashed out in a wide arc, bisecting the monster in mid-leap. He pivoted, chopping through a second of the beasts. More of the beasts poured towards them. Bellona fought beside him, her grin matching his own. Like him, she too loved battle.

She was a worthy companion. Almost the equal of – but no. His mind shied from the thought of his oldest friend. He glanced at Bellona again. In the days since he had found her digging her way out of the ancient temple, he had come to learn much about her – and this new world. A world much changed since he had last walked it.

His time in the Netherworld had passed like a dream. Moments had seemed like days, and days had passed in moments. But now he had returned, and at last, his quest was on the cusp of fulfilment. The gods had whispered to him of Tiamat’s return and told him what he must do. She could not be allowed to roam free, and he was the one destined to defeat her – for good this time.

Tiamat shrieked. More creatures – serpentine monsters – squirmed into existence, slithering towards them. Bellona stepped forward. “You go. I’ll handle these worms.” Their eyes met, and Gilgamesh grinned.

“My thanks,” he said, and moved past her. Her attack distracted the creatures, and he slipped past, heading for their monstrous creator. Tiamat swooped low over the bridge.

“Why have you come here, little half-god?” she roared.

Gilgamesh extended his sword. “The gods of Babylon will bless me if I defeat you, old dragon. A feat not even Marduk could accomplish.”

Tiamat shook her bejewelled head as if saddened by his boast. “King Gilgamesh…I have heard of you. The spirits of my children whisper your name.” She plummeted downwards like a stone. Gilgamesh crouched, sword extended. He felt no fear as she crashed down on all fours, tail lashing, winging burning the air – only eagerness.

“You came here seeking immortality,” Tiamat said. “But you have found only death!”

Tiamat shifted her weight and drew herself up as her gaze picked out the figures climbing towards her temple. To her eyes, the gods shimmered like precious jewels, each one connected to the world by strands of divine light. It would be so easy to sever those strands. One quick slash, and the world would have one less god.

Too many gods – that had always been the problem with this world. They proliferated exponentially, too swiftly for the world to bear. It groaned beneath their weight, and it suffered for their childishness and selfishness. She could feel it, in the air and the water. Even now, after all she had done to correct it, there was still an echo of the pain they had caused – and would cause again, if someone did not take them in hand.

Tiamat settled back to await her visitors. That they had accepted her invitation showed that there might yet be hope for them. Or some of them at least. The rest would have to be disciplined if they would not accept her as the rightful ruler of this world and all that it contained. After all, had she not created the world? Had she not drawn the stuff of it from the abyss and shaped it to her will?

Her claws bit into the stone and she forced herself to relax. To be at ease. It was difficult. She knew that the beings below could not be trusted, not truly. She had trusted their kind once, and had been repaid with treachery and imprisonment. All for the crime of trying to defend what was hers – of trying to avenge those she loved best.

A part of her yearned to destroy them now, before they had a chance to turn on her. To smash their temples and cast down their heavenly palaces. To claim the skies as she had claimed the seas, and all that stretched between them.

But no – not yet. Perhaps never. She did not wish to wage war on them. She’d had her fill of war the last time. And perhaps a part of her, a tiny part, feared that it might turn out the same as last time. That they might once again separate her from the world she had made.

So, she waited.

*

“This is not a palace,” Ares said, as the Olympian delegation climbed the steps leading to the apex of Tiamat’s ziggurat. Hundreds of rounded towers rose like mountains from forests of looming pillars. The tallest towers were topped by immense statues of gold, representing unfamiliar creatures – gods, perhaps, or monsters. The base of each tower was girt by a bountiful garden, full of life and sound.

“It looks like a palace to me,” Zeus grumbled.

“No, Ares is right,” Olorun said. “This is a temple.”

“And so?”

“It is a show of strength, father,” Ares said. “Our temples are raised by mortals. Tiamat is telling us she does not require worship.”

“But she desires it,” Hera said, softly. “Look about you – Ares is right. But it is not just a show of strength, but a message of intent. She sets herself above us, beckons us to visit like pilgrims…”

“You almost sound as if you admire her,” Sobek growled. The towering crocodilian lagged behind the others, his great head swinging from side to side. Ares glanced at him. The God of the Nile was ill at ease – not afraid, but wary. Like a beast caught in the territory of a rival predator. Ares felt a flicker of sympathy for the Egyptian deity. Sobek did not wish to be here, but had come nonetheless at the behest of Horus – to give thanks on behalf of his pantheon for the safe return of Ra from the cosmic abyss.

No other gods had dared accompany them. Some, he suspected, were biding their time, watching to see what Tiamat’s intentions were. Others, he thought, were simply afraid.

“There is much to admire,” Hera said. “I admit it. She is powerful, and this place – temple, palace or fortress – is quite beautiful.”

“It is too big,” Zeus grunted, as they came to a wide, flat landing. Ahead of them, a long bridge of stone stretched towards a square structure with a high plateau roof. Massive braziers threw sweet smelling smoke into the air. “She insults us.”

Privately, Ares agreed with his father. Tiamat was insulting them. But unlike Zeus, he was not certain that it was intentional. Olorun seemed to be of similar mind. Like him, Tiamat was something older than the world. Unlike him, her powers did not seem diminished by her return. Perhaps there was something to her claims to have created the world.

He pushed the thought aside and concentrated on the reason he’d come. He studied the shape of the temple, searching for weak points and potential avenues of attack. The structure was beautiful, but flawed. He could bring it down, if it came to it – though given what he’d seen of Tiamat’s power, he might not walk away from such an assault.

Ares looked up at the creature – the goddess – as she perched atop the tallest tower, waiting for them. She radiated strength. Only a fool, or a madman, would attack her head-on.

They had reached the middle of the bridge when Tiamat reared suddenly, wings of crackling light extended. She let loose a roar and called down, “Well met, young ones. I feared you would not accept my invitation.”

“How could we not?” Olorun replied. He crossed his arms and looked up at her. “It seemed only polite to visit you in your home, as you visited us in ours.”

“Not yours, I think,” she rumbled, hovering gracefully over her perch. “You are not of this world, young prince. You smell of starlight and celestial winds. You grow frail here, separated from the cosmic light. Which begs the question – why are you still here?”

“A good question,” Zeus murmured. Ares glanced at his father. Zeus did not trust Tiamat, that much was obvious. Thus far he had restrained himself from acting with his usual bravado. He had made no challenges -–thrown no lightning. Perhaps he had learned something from their battle with Cthulhu after all.

Olorun paused before replying. “I have often asked myself that of late. I came here to bring an end to the conflict between pantheons. I stayed to battle Cthulhu, and heal the damage he caused to the world.”

“But now I have done all that,” Tiamat said, spreading her taloned forepaws, as if to encompass the world around them. “I have fixed what you children broke. I have sealed away the Great Dreamer and healed the madness that afflicted my poor world. I have even returned to you your little palaces – Valhalla, for instance. And yet not a word of thanks have I received, not even an acknowledgement of my gifts.”

Olorun glanced at the others. Ares met his gaze and nodded. Olorun cleared his throat. “Then let me be the first to say –”

“Tyrant!”

Ares turned as the cry echoed over the bridge. Two figures stood at the opposite end of the bridge. One he recognised immediately – Bellona, goddess of war. The other, a tall bearded man – not divine, at least not wholly – clad in robes and armour. It was he who’d spoken. He did so again, stalking forward as he spoke. “Tyrant,” he bellowed. “Mother of monsters and breaker of gods! I am Gilgamesh, King of Uruk and in the name of Marduk the immortal son of Utu, I will free this world from your shadow and cast you back into the starless pit you crawled from.”

Bellona grinned fiercely. “Stand aside, Olympians – we have come for her.”

“Have you, now?” Tiamat said. To Ares’ ears, she sounded amused.

Olorun put out a hand. “Hold – do nothing foolish,” he began. The newcomer, Gilgamesh, was in no mood to listen. He bounded forward, blade in hand. Bellona charged alongside him, her own sword at the ready.

They burst through the crowd of dumbfounded gods and headed across the bridge. Ares watched them go with a flicker of regret. A part of him longed to join them. If there was to be battle, he should be a part of it. But a wiser part of him prevailed. This was not his war. Not yet.

“Bellona…” Olorun began, a look of consternation on his face. “What is she doing?” Celestial light crawled across his form as he prepared for battle. “Are they mad, or just fools? To attack someone who has done us no harm?”

“No harm yet,” Zeus said, smacking his fist into his palm. Lightning flared about him. “You heard that creature – she called the world hers. She means to rule over us. I, for one, do not intend to allow that.”

“Husband,” Hera began. “Do not make enemies where there are none.” But her words fell on deaf ears as Zeus started after Bellona and the newcomer. She shook her head and Ares felt a flash of sympathy – his mother had ever striven to keep Zeus from indulging in his baser instincts, though never with much success.

Above them, Tiamat’s shriek split the air. Ares thought the sound was one of rage – but also something that might have been satisfaction. As if she had been expecting just such an event, and was gratified to be proven correct.

Ares looked up and saw her crouched atop her plinth, wings flaring with cosmic light, claws digging into the stonework. He paused, struck by how quickly her previous elegance had drained away, leaving behind only a bestial monstrousness.

“We should go,” he said, to the others. Sobek nodded, and Hera did so as well, after a lingering glance in the direction her husband had gone.

Olorun looked at him. “What do you mean?”

Ares turned. “We should withdraw. Zeus and Bellona have made their choice. But I do not intend to commit myself to a battle until I know whose side I am on.”

*

Gilgamesh raced across the bridge, sword in hand. Behind him, the strange gods gawped in confusion, or perhaps surprise. Above him, Tiamat shrieked. Smoke billowed and a bevy of feral creatures burst into view, loping to meet him. “What are those things?” Bellona shouted, as she ran alongside him. A grin split his bearded features.

“The children of Tiamat – she spawns them by the hundreds, or so the gods claim.”

“Which gods?”

“My gods,” Gilgamesh laughed. “I hope they are watching!” He was still laughing as the first of the creatures reached him. “See me, Marduk – see your faithful follower!” His sword slashed out in a wide arc, bisecting the monster in mid-leap. He pivoted, chopping through a second of the beasts. More of the beasts poured towards them. Bellona fought beside him, her grin matching his own. Like him, she too loved battle.

She was a worthy companion. Almost the equal of – but no. His mind shied from the thought of his oldest friend. He glanced at Bellona again. In the days since he had found her digging her way out of the ancient temple, he had come to learn much about her – and this new world. A world much changed since he had last walked it.

His time in the Netherworld had passed like a dream. Moments had seemed like days, and days had passed in moments. But now he had returned, and at last, his quest was on the cusp of fulfilment. The gods had whispered to him of Tiamat’s return and told him what he must do. She could not be allowed to roam free, and he was the one destined to defeat her – for good this time.

Tiamat shrieked. More creatures – serpentine monsters – squirmed into existence, slithering towards them. Bellona stepped forward. “You go. I’ll handle these worms.” Their eyes met, and Gilgamesh grinned.

“My thanks,” he said, and moved past her. Her attack distracted the creatures, and he slipped past, heading for their monstrous creator. Tiamat swooped low over the bridge.

“Why have you come here, little half-god?” she roared.

Gilgamesh extended his sword. “The gods of Babylon will bless me if I defeat you, old dragon. A feat not even Marduk could accomplish.”

Tiamat shook her bejewelled head as if saddened by his boast. “King Gilgamesh…I have heard of you. The spirits of my children whisper your name.” She plummeted downwards like a stone. Gilgamesh crouched, sword extended. He felt no fear as she crashed down on all fours, tail lashing, winging burning the air – only eagerness.

“You came here seeking immortality,” Tiamat said. “But you have found only death!”

Chapter 3: The Storm Gathers[]

TalonsOfTyranny Chapter3 LoreIcon.png

The plan had been a good one, Gilgamesh thought. Tiamat had only just awakened, and would be confused – uncertain. Even better, she had expended much of her strength repairing the world. A perfect time to attack. Only it seemed Tiamat was not so confused as he’d thought. Nor as weak.

Panting, he leapt back as a wall of strangling, barbed vines erupted from the stonework around him. The vines swelled, thickening even as they latched onto statues and pillars, crisscrossing one another to create an ever-expanding barrier. Growling in frustration he launched himself at the plant-life, sword hewing through the greenery and splattering the stones with oily sap. But while there was a certain satisfaction to be had in chopping weeds, however, it availed him little.

For every vine he sliced apart, two more burst from the walls and ground to replace it. Past the whipping vines, he could see the gleam of Tiamat’s scales as she prowled back and forth, watching him struggle against her garden. Marduk had whispered to him of Tiamat’s pride – her arrogance. He had assured Gilgamesh that she could not deny a challenge to her authority. So why then did she refuse to face him?

Perhaps she did not consider him worthy of her time. He stifled the treacherous thought – he could not fall prey to doubt. Not when he was so close to his ultimate goal. “Coward,” he roared, casting the word like a spear. “Is your fear so great that you refuse to face me, Glistening One?”

Tiamat laughed. “Fear? What is fear to me, oh king? No – I am simply bored of this game. Take your new friends and go, Gilgamesh. Before I lose patience.”

Gilgamesh snarled and redoubled his efforts, trying to carve a path towards his enemy with sheer, brute determination. Something snagged his leg – a vine. Another crept up his torso, entwining itself about him, thorns digging into his flesh. He growled in frustration and kept chopping at the shroud of green.

More vines snaked about his arms, and even the blade of his sword. Her cursed as his feet left the path – the vines were hoisting him into the air, and tightening their grip on him at the same time. His struggles became tinged with desperation. He tore one arm free, only to have it snagged again, and jerked back. He bellowed in fury – until a vine closed about his throat, squeezing his windpipe.

Past the green, Tiamat crouched, watching in apparent satisfaction. “You make this too easy, Gilgamesh. Are you so arrogant that you thought you could attack me here – in my own palace?” She rose into the air, crackling wings spread. “I am almost disappointed.”

Her words stung him worse than the thorns. She had baited him in, and he had fallen for it. But he refused to allow his quest to end here. Not like this. He continued to struggle, desperation giving way to determination. The vines continued to tighten.

A bolt of lightning tore through the vines that bound him and smashed apart the pillar beside Tiamat. She jerked back, clearly startled. Bits of smouldering stone pelted her as she retreated. The vines grew agitated and began to slither in the direction the lightning had come from, dragging Gilgamesh with them. “There he is,” he heard a voice deep voice rumble. “Bellona – chop him free while I keep her occupied.”

Moments later, a familiar blade chopped through the vines, and Gilgamesh was able to tear his way free. As he did so, more lightning flashed overhead, striking walls, statues and pillars. The barrage filled the air with fire and dust. From behind him came a laugh like thunder, and when he turned, he saw a white-bearded god standing a short distance away, his arms sheathed in lightning. The god’s eyes flashed as he hurled bolt after bolt.

“Who -?” Gilgamesh began.

“Zeus,” Bellona said, appearing beside him. His ally’s armour was dented and stained, as was her face, from her battle with Tiamat’s spawn. Despite her appearance, she seemed in good spirits. “And you can thank him later. For now, we must retreat.”

Gilgamesh glared at her. “Retreat? Why?”

“Because she’s called for reinforcements.” Bellona chopped through a questing vine and pointed. More of Tiamat’s bestial spawn were racing towards them across the walls and domes of the palace-temple. Hundreds of them. Gilgamesh ground his teeth in frustration. Bellona was right; there were too many to fight, even for him.

Seeing his expression, she clapped him on the shoulder. “Setbacks happen in war. But in every defeat is the seed of victory.”

Gilgamesh nodded – then spun and beheaded a leaping spawn-beast. “Then let us pray for rain, to make that seed sprout and grow.” Together, they fell back towards Zeus. The Olympian was laughing as he tore Tiamat’s temple down – as if he bore the goddess some personal grudge. The thought heartened Gilgamesh immensely.

He would need allies, in the fight ahead. Tiamat would not be caught by surprise a second time. As if in agreement, Tiamat let loose a deafening shriek. A moment later, a heavy rain began to fall, dousing the fires and aiding in the growth of the vines. Spawn prowled through the curtain of rain, yowling to one another as they pursued the retreating gods.

“What was that you said about rain?” Bellona asked, as they joined Zeus.

Gilgamesh didn’t reply. Past the slithering curtain of vines, he caught sight of Tiamat, watching them. Her eyes sparked with rage as they found him and he bared his teeth in a broad smile. “This is not over,” he murmured, knowing she could hear him. “I will have my immortality – even if I must humble you to do it.”

*

Tiamat watched the trio of gods retreat and fought back against the tide of anger that threatened to overwhelm her. Gilgamesh. Of course it would be him. She knew something of him, though only a little. Semi-divine, and hungry for the power that true godhood brought – the perfect catspaw of the gods. The thought brought some satisfaction. That they had sent him after her, rather than coming themselves, implied that they still feared her.

She had not forgotten their treachery. She had not forgotten how they had bound her husband, and destroyed her children – and for what? For jealousy’s sake. For spite. Because she was mighty, they sought to bring her low.

Her gaze fixed on the distant towers of Olympus. Nor, it seemed, were these new gods any better. They too feared her, and had betrayed her hospitality as readily as Marduk. Some of them, at least. Not all. No, not all…she paused, considering.

Despite the anger that boiled within her, she did not wish to go to war. War brought only destruction. It would threaten the very world that she had expended so much effort to rebuild. But neither could she allow them to threaten her. This world was hers by right, and the gods merely guests upon it. It was time to remind them of that. It was time to –

“Great mother, why do you snarl so?”

Tiamat stiffened. She inhaled, detecting a familiar scent – as familiar to her as her own. She swung her great head towards the speaker. “Neith…” she breathed, almost regretfully. “Daughter of my daughters. I wondered if you would come.”

“How could I not?” Neith, Weaver of Fate, said. She held out a hand, as if to catch the falling raindrops. “I am only sorry that I was not there to greet you when you awoke.”

The way she said it made Tiamat narrow her eyes. “And what would you know of it, child of the first sea?”

Neith smiled gently. “Who do you think told Set where to find you, eh?”

Tiamat reared back, head cocked quizzically. “And why would you do such a thing, child? What am I to you? Though we call the same sea home, it is mine to command and you were but born from it.”

“You are the world’s hope, great mother. It’s only chance for survival.” Neith studied the rain that pooled in her palm. “The world-cycle is broken. And only you can fix it.”

Tiamat paused. She had sensed as much – a discord in the very air. A flaw in the world. But she could not see it – let alone begin to fix it. Not until she better understood what had happened. She glanced towards Olympus. “I do not think I will have time to do so.”

Catching her meaning, Neith nodded. “Thankfully, I am not the only one to understand the purpose behind your return. There are others as well, who come to pledge their friendship.” She turned and cast the handful of water into the air, where it shimmered and stretched, widening into a round portal.

First through was a goddess, clad in living rock – Tiamat could feel her power, echoing up from the very roots of the Earth. Then a hairy, antlered hunter, marked by knotted tattoos and stinking of blood. A hulking giant of rock and stone followed, shaking her temple to its foundations with his tread – one of Neith’s pantheon, she thought.

After the giant came a little old man, riding high in the branches of a walking tree – a curious being, but kindly in his demeanour. And finally, a goddess clad in dour finery and winding vines. She bowed before Tiamat, who gently tapped the goddess on the head with a claw-tip. “Rise, child, and tell me your name.”

The goddess rose, a beatific smile on her face. “Persephone, my lady.”

Tiamat hissed softly in acknowledgement. She rose to her full height, studying her guests for a moment. “Not enough,” she said. Experience had taught her that she needed more than five allies, however potent.

Persephone stepped forward. “There will be others, oh Glistening One, once word spreads. There are many whom wish to renew the world – and even more who will fight with you, so long as you stand against the tyranny of Olympus.”

“Tyranny, is it?” Tiamat murmured. “Strange to hear that word directed at others.” She looked back towards Olympus. Her gaze hardened.

“So be it. I shall save this world – whether your fellow gods like it or not.”

*

The great council chamber of Olympus echoed with voices. Angry ones. A sadly common state of affairs these days, Athena thought. The gods were arguing – discussing, rather, as Hera might say – what to do.

Zeus had brought both Bellona and the newcomer, Gilgamesh, back to Olympus. Tiamat had raised her defences, shrouding the upper reaches of her palace-temple in living, vicious greenery. The sudden storm, too, was her doing. A persistent rain fell across the surrounding landscape, including Olympus. The porticos and balconies were drenched and dripping, and occasional flashes of lightning illuminated the darkness.

But the storm was the last thing on anyone’s mind. Gilgamesh wasn’t the only newcomer – representatives from the Norse and Chinese pantheons had arrived, and more envoys were expected. Word about Gilgamesh’s foolhardy assault had already flown across the world and back again, in the time it had taken Zeus and the others to return.

Athena sat at the council table, listening to what was said – and what was not. Heimdallr had voted to hand Gilgamesh over to Tiamat as a gesture of good faith; it was obvious that the Norse were still wary her, despite their protestations to the contrary. So too were the Maya. Chaac had advocated doing nothing until Tiamat had shown her intentions.

The Roman envoy – Hercules – stood near the doors, in quiet conversation with Arthur. The ruler of Camelot had a careworn expression on his face. Athena knew that he had good reason to look haggard. Camelot had been restored, just as Asgard had – but unlike Asgard, it was still empty of life. If Arthur’s folk still existed, there was no sign of them. Perhaps Tiamat had not seen fit to return them.

She caught the eye of Baron Samedi, who was speaking with Yemoja. The Baron tipped his hat to her, but did not cease his conversation. So far, Samedi had kept his own counsel on the matter of Tiamat – and that worried her. Usually, he was all too eager to share his opinion on whatever was going on.

“What were you thinking?” Olorun demanded. He sounded angry – a rare thing for the new king of Olympus, and she turned her attention back to the table. Olorun’s eyes sparked with starlight as he glowered at Gilgamesh. For his part, the demigod seemed unconcerned – defiant, even. He was brave, whatever else.

“I was thinking better to have done with it than to wait for that creature to gather her strength,” he said. Arms crossed, he met Olorun’s gaze without blinking. “If you were wise, you would join me in doing so.”

“He is right,” Bellona spoke up. “Tiamat cannot be trusted – she is too powerful, too ancient. What if she decides to rid herself of us as easily as she did Cthulhu?” There were rumbles of assent at this, mostly from Sobek. The God of the Nile had made his feelings on the matter – and seemingly those of Ra and the rest of his pantheon – perfectly clear.

“If she remade the world once, she might well choose to do it again,” the crocodilian god said, digging his claws into the council table.

“Except according to King Gilgamesh, she cannot,” Hera said.

“Not yet,” Zeus interjected. He did not look at his wife as he spoke. “But she will grow in strength with every passing day. If we are to act, it must be now.”

“It seems to me that you have already done so,” Mulan said. Athena glanced at the new goddess. Like Arthur, she had been mortal once. Unlike him, she seemed at ease with her new role – or at least was good at making the pretence. “You saw fit to declare war on behalf of Olympus – on behalf of us all.”

Zeus glared at her. “And is that not my right?”

“No, husband. It is not.” Hera shook her head. “You acted rashly. Tiamat has given us no reason to doubt her –”

Gilgamesh interrupted her. “Tiamat once enslaved the world. I do not intend to let that happen a second time.” He sounded passionate – determined. Athena was reminded of the heroes of old. Gilgamesh had that same fire to him. It was easy to see why his gods had chosen him for the task.

“We have only your word for that,” Olorun said, but Athena could hear the hesitation in his voice. It seemed he had misgivings of his own.

Gilgamesh nodded. “Yes. My word as king – which is equal to any.” He pointed in the direction of Tiamat’s mountain. “I have been sent by the gods of Babylon to ensure that Tiamat is returned to her slumber – and I will see it done, even if I must do so alone.” He paused and smiled. “Though I will admit, it would be easier with some help.”

“If you wished help, it might have been wiser to ask first, before you attacked,” Heimdallr said. Odin’s envoy looked around. “The Allfather has already sent word to Tiamat that we owe her a debt. One that we will pay – whatever the cost.”

Zeus snorted. “Odin? Admitting he owes a debt? Will wonders never cease.”

Heimdallr ignored the former king of Olympus – that he was able to do so, despite the insult, showed why Odin had made him envoy, Athena thought. He stood. “Because of this debt, we can no longer be party to this council – not until the matter is resolved.”

“Resolved how?” Olorun asked.

“However you choose to do so.” Heimdallr turned and started for the doors. When he reached them, he paused. “I wish you luck, Olorun. I think you will need it.”

When he’d departed, Gilgamesh said, “You see? Already she gathers allies. If you do not act soon, she will come for you, and you will find yourselves at a distinct disadvantage. I acted rashly, but only because I know what is coming.”

Olorun sat down. “You have given me – us – much to consider,” he began. Bellona drew her sword and buried it in the table, startling everyone, save Ares.

“The time for consideration is over,” she said, softly. “Sides are being drawn. Choose your allegiance – or have it chosen for you.” She glanced at Gilgamesh and smiled fiercely. “I stand with King Gilgamesh.”

Zeus stood and set his hand on Gilgamesh’s shoulder. “I stand with Gilgamesh as well.” He looked about the chamber, his eyes full of lightning. “Who else is courageous enough to join us?” A challenge, meant to shame the others. Athena hid a smile. Her father had always known how to play to a crowd.

Hera looked at her. “You have been quiet, Athena. I would hope that the Goddess of Wisdom might have something constructive to add.”

Athena was silent for long moments. “Whether we wished it or not, war has been declared. We must move forward from that position, rather than waste time on assigning blame. I suggest all those who have no wish to stand against Tiamat depart Olympus at once, for Zeus’ actions have ensured that she will focus her ire on us.”

Zeus made to speak, but Ares beat him to the punch. “I agree,” he said, speaking up for the first time since Gilgamesh’ arrival. Athena blinked.

“You what?”

Ares didn’t look at her. “I agree with you.”

“Truly, these are strange times,” Athena said, shaking her head. Ares shrugged.

“Of late, I have come to appreciate the merits of strategy.”

Athena held up a hand. “Stop – I might faint from shock.” She looked at the others. “We must make ready for war. Our side has been chosen for us.” Her grey eyes fixed on Gilgamesh.

“Let us hope it is the correct one.”

Chapter 4: Dark Magic[]

TalonsOfTyranny Chapter4 LoreIcon.png

Morgan Le Fay passed through the halls of Olympus like a shadow, draped in her strongest illusions, her sword following in her wake like a trained hound. None could see her, or if they did, they saw only what they expected to see. As she walked, she traced enchantments on the air. These enchantments coiled like invisible serpents, waiting for a chance to strike.

Some were but minor illusions, meant to cause confusion and chaos. Others were more serious charms, meant to sow discord between those already inclined to distrust one another. Already she could hear divine voices raised in argument. Such dissension would not last, of course. It would take a more determined effort on her part to set the Olympians and their allies at each other’s throats.

But for the moment, it was enough. She had come to Olympus with a purpose in mind, and she did not intend to risk interruption. Arthur was somewhere in this place, and she intended to find him before it was too late. Perhaps it already was. There was no telling what nonsense Merlin had filled his head with. Her former teacher had a talent for bending the truth to suit his needs – one of many tricks he’d taught her, in more innocent times.

As she searched, she found her mind wandering back to the day she had followed Arthur and Merlin into Avalon, hidden by her illusions, hoping to learn the truth of what had befallen them. When the pair had vanished, ostensibly to seek out the dragon that had laid waste to Camelot, she had taken full advantage of their absence. Camelot had been in need of a leader – one who would not abandon them.

Yet the question of their disappearance – and whether they might return – nagged at her. She had searched and pillaged, and finally found Merlin’s secret vault, hidden beneath Camelot itself. Her magics had showed her the way from there.

In the time since stepping through that silvery portal, she had wandered this strange world and experienced its wonders, even as she yearned to return home. But the way had been barred to her. Camelot was barred to her.

Merlin’s doing, she was certain. She suspected that much of what had befallen Camelot could be laid at his door. Though she doubted there was any way of convincing Arthur of that. He trusted Merlin implicitly. Though possibly less so, these days.

Merlin had made himself scarce during Cthulhu’s rampage, ostensibly seeking some means of combatting the creature. Arthur had been left to rally the gods of the Celts – with whom Merlin claimed some kinship, however distant – against the tide of madness that threatened to engulf both they and their worshippers.

She had watched that particular glorious struggle from the side-lines, hidden behind her most potent illusions. Had he required it, she would have aided Arthur, but thankfully he had persevered on his own – and made staunch allies of the Celtic pantheon in the process. She suspected that had been Merlin’s intention all along. After all, had he not counselled Arthur to do much the same in the early days of Camelot?

Her thoughts were interrupted by the sound of familiar voices. A wicked smile flashed across her face as followed them to a private garden. Rain fell steadily over the garden, but neither of the two men who stood at its heart seemed overly concerned.

Morgan paused behind one of the ornamental statues that ringed the green space. She realized that she had arrived in the middle of an ongoing discussion and decided to eavesdrop for a few moments before making her grand entrance.

Merlin and Arthur were sparring – magic against blade. Merlin’s expression one of frustration. “It is not Camelot, my lord,” he said, as Excalibur crashed down against his mystic shield. He winced and drew a serpent of fire from the air. It turned the rain to steam as it arrowed towards Arthur.

“I saw it with my own eyes!” Arthur cleaved the serpent in twain. “A green and pleasant land, but full of people not my own. It was as if it had been plucked from my dreams…and yet not. Where are our people? If Camelot is here, why are they absent?”

Merlin shook his head. At his gesture, mystic bolts erupted from the air and hurtled towards Arthur. “I know not, my king. This world – this strange world – is so like our own, and yet not. Perhaps there is – or was – a Camelot here, and Tiamat has restored it. But it is not the kingdom we know.” He paused. “Not yet.”

Arthur deflected the bolts and frowned. “What do you mean?”

Merlin’s frustration evaporated, and his expression became guarded. “I have spent the time since Cthulhu’s banishment investigating the changes – the renewal – this…Tiamat has brought with her. I wished to understand how it had been done, what magics might have been used. Alas, they are…beyond my capabilities.”

Morgan frowned to herself. It was unlike Merlin to admit such a thing. What game was he playing? Arthur seemed to be of similar mind, for he faced his advisor, a look of anger on his face. “Then what more is there to say?”

Merlin spoke quickly as Arthur advanced towards him. “The Camelot we know is lost to us, my king – but it could live again. There is opportunity here. We could begin again, here, in this realm. A new kingdom, founded on the principles of the old. The lands of the Celts are wild; untamed. Their gods are much the same. But they owe us much. We defended their lands, their people…and their lands border those of this new Camelot.”

Arthur pulled his swing and stepped back. “I did not do it so that they might owe us. I did it because it was the right thing to do.”

Merlin nodded. “Of course, my king, but even so – we must think of the future.” He stepped back as well, letting his magics fade. “This world is troubled. We might be the ones to bring it some measure of peace…”

“Strange words coming from you,” Morgan said, letting her illusions fall. Merlin and Arthur reacted as she expected. Merlin called forth a spell, even as Arthur leapt towards her, Excalibur raised. She gestured and her sword intercepted Arthur’s stroke. The blade parried his next blow as well, allowing her concentrate on deflecting Merlin’s attack.

“How did you come to be here, witch?” Merlin growled, preparing another sorcerous attack. “The path to Camelot is closed!”

“Yes, as I found to my detriment,” Morgan said. “Despite that, I did not come to fight.” She spread her hands and smiled. “Will you hear me out – or will we waste our time in pointless battle?”

Arthur lowered his sword. “Speak, Morgan. Begin with how – and why – you are here. And be quick about it.”

“I came through the portal in Merlin’s vault, the same as you. I hoped to learn what had happened to you both.”

“My vault…?” Merlin said, looking startled. He regained control of himself quickly. “What have you done Morgan?” he asked, quietly.

“I did what needed to be done. What you abandoned I took up.” She looked at Arthur and saw that he’d gone pale. She allowed her smile to widen. “I was a good queen, if I do say so myself.” Rather than attacking her in a fury, as she expected, Arthur merely looked away. She frowned in mild disappointment. “But I was a fool. I followed you two, and found myself trapped here, even as you are.”

“A sad story,” Merlin said. “My heart bleeds for you.”

“Merlin – silence,” Arthur said. He looked at Morgan. “What do you want, Morgan? If it’s a way home, I’m afraid we cannot help you.”

Morgan met his gaze. “No. But there is someone who can.”

Merlin’s eyes narrowed. “Tiamat.”

Arthur glanced at him, and then at Morgan. “What do you mean?”

“Think, Arthur – though I know it pains you to do so. If this Tiamat restored this world – locked away a creature as powerful as Cthulhu – do you not think that she could send us home to Camelot? Or even bring Camelot to us?” She gestured. “There is a new land, untouched by the ravages of Jormungandr…a land our people might grow and flourish in. All we have to do is bring them here…”

“Our people were all but wiped out by one dragon, and you ask me to trust another?” Arthur shook his head. “No.”

“What is it about her that frightens you, Arthur?” Morgan asked, as she circled them. She trailed her fingers across the broken statues and columns that marked the sparring ground, briefly illuminating each one as she passed by. “Is it her power – or because she reminds you of Jormungandr? Whom you failed to slay, despite your oath.”

“Cease, Morgan,” Merlin said. “There is no need for this.”

“I beg to differ, old man,” she replied. “There is every need.” She paused. “You are a fool, Arthur. To set yourself against Jormungandr was one thing. But Tiamat is not Jormungandr.”

Merlin stepped between them. “No. She is more dangerous by far.”

“Power does not mean danger,” Morgan countered. “Or it does not have to.” She looked past him, at Arthur. “She restored this world, Arthur. But swear your sword to her service, and she might yet restore your people. Our people.”

“She cannot,” Merlin said. “Those lands are not the lands we knew.”

“And how do you know?” Morgan asked.

Arthur stirred. “A good question, Merlin. How do you know?”

Merlin turned, frowning. “Arthur, I -”

“Ask him how he knew what he knew how to banish Jormungandr, Arthur,” Morgan said, stepping towards them. “Ask him how deep the waters of his wisdom run. Ask him their source, and you will see, as I saw, that he cannot be trusted.”

Merlin spun to face her, anger in his eyes. “And you can? You, who took what I taught you, and sought to usurp the crown for yourself?”

“Yes. I wanted to rule Camelot. But I cannot rule an empty land. In this, Arthur and I share common cause – no matter how much it might distress you.”

Merlin gestured, and the rain turned to shards of ice as it fell all around her. Her sword swung in a wide circle over her head, shattering the shards in mid-air. Merlin was already conjuring his next spell – and from the look of it, it was a good deal more lethal than some ice. She awaited it with arms wide, a smile on her face.

Mystic fire roared towards her, only to be parted by Excalibur. Arthur stood between them his expression grim. “Wait,” he said, firmly. Merlin flushed.

“Arthur, we cannot trust her – she lies as easily as you or I might breathe…”

“But not this time,” Morgan said. She smiled at Merlin over Arthur’s shoulder. Merlin’s eyes flashed and she could sense him gathering his might. She hesitated – had she pushed him too far? Merlin’s power was greater than she recalled. This new realm had something to do with it, she suspected – perhaps that was why he’d led Arthur here. “I mean you no harm, Merlin. Nor Arthur. Nor anyone. I merely wish to help our people. And Tiamat is the surest path to the restoration of Camelot.”

“Is she now?” a new voice interjected. Morgan turned, and her smile widened. Gilgamesh leaned against the entrance to the garden, his muscular arms crossed over his chest. “I would caution you against trusting such a creature,” he went on. “Tiamat is not known for her largesse.”

“Gilgamesh,” Morgan said, stepping away from Arthur.

“King Gilgamesh, if you please.” His gaze went to Arthur. “And you are King Arthur. Zeus told me I might find you here.”

Arthur sheathed Excalibur. “You were looking for me. Why?”

Gilgamesh smiled widely, and Morgan almost laughed. He was like a tiger trying to convince someone he was a housecat. “To talk, of course. One king to another.”

“You do have much in common,” Morgan said, as she drew her illusions about herself once more. “Both of you kings without a kingdom. I leave you to it. Think on what I said, Arthur. And for all our sakes, do not act with your usual rashness.”

Arthur turned, hand out as if to stop her, but her thoughts were already elsewhere. She had accomplished her first goal. A seed of doubt had been planted between Arthur and Merlin. In time, it would grow into something useful. And when it did, she would present it to Tiamat and ask of her a boon. She would see Camelot again, one way or another.

But until then, there was much yet to do.

Morgan Le Fay smiled.

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