Brandon and Freya used their powers to halt all the traffic in front of the hotel and freeze the people already out there. Once that was done, Freya conjured a sleigh out of thin air and gestured for Ev to get in back of it. He did so, though he felt silly. The two gods got in front after attaching a harness to Freya’s tigers. They evidently were meant to pull the thing.
“As ready as I’m going to be, I guess.”
Freya took the reins. “Let’s go!” The cats begin running, and the sleigh followed suit. Down
they went, and they must have been quite the sight—if anyone could see them.
After a minute the tigers took to the air. Ev felt a rush of excitement as the
sleigh rose off the ground. The skyline spread out
before them, a glittering collection of lights and skyscrapers. Ev couldn’t
help but marvel as they got a grand view of the magnificent city. Seraphim
Before long they passed over
Jaxon Harbor and the
on their way out of the city. No one on the ground seemed to notice the sleigh
flying above their heads. That was probably due to the gods’ magic—or powers or
whatever. Treadwell Bridge
Soon they were over the
, heading east. The
sleigh must have picked up speed, because before Ev knew it they passed over
Sea . Murnau Islands
Despite the fact they were exposed to the elements, Ev didn’t feel cold, and the wind wasn’t whipping loudly through the sleigh.
Ev shrugged. “They don’t think very highly of women, I hear.”
“That’s an understatement,” Freya said, keeping her eyes ahead.
Ev was curious about that statement. “What do you mean?”
“They have absolutely no respect for women. They don’t even consider them to be human,”
explained. “You’ll find out all the ugly details soon enough. For now, it’s
best not to think about it. Ignorance is bliss, in this case.” Brandon
“Uh…OK.” Now he was really curious, in that “I want to know, but I don’t want to know” sort of way.
* * *
After flying for a while (Ev’s cell phone said it had only been an hour, though it felt like longer), they arrived at their destination:
. True to Mt.
Oleia ’s map, the mountain
rose out of the sea like an angry rock giant. It was mostly comprised of one
massive crag, with two smaller crags flanking it. Brandon
Freya maneuvered the sleigh around to bring them closer to a tiny, almost imperceptible opening on the main crag’s face. They flew into it and landed in what appeared to be some sort of hanger. Inside were other sleighs of varying sizes and colors. Some looked like they could hold at least twenty people.
They got out of the sleigh, and a young man in a jumpsuit came over to them. “Welcome back, Miss Freya, Mr. Strong. How did it go? The old girl didn’t give you any trouble, did she?”
“None at all, Josh,” Freya said. “She handles as good as she ever did. My kids really have the hang of it by this point.” She indicated the tigers. She then whistled, and they retreated back into her chest. Ev wondered whether they were, in fact, her children or just her pets. He didn’t know anything about the Old Gods, but then again, no one did.
Ev cocked an inquisitive eyebrow. “The President?”
Freya explained, “The school’s president. He’s also the dean and overall mentor to everyone. He’s the one who sent us to get you.”
“Oh. That makes sense. So he’s like the head god or something?”
They began walking across the hanger. Freya said, “The President is actually fairly young for a god, but he’s shown an amazing ability to grow as a deity.”
“He’s a natural born leader. That’s why we Lost Gods follow him.”
They reached the end of the hanger and got into an elevator. It took them down one floor, where they emerged into a circular reception area. A middle-aged brunette woman sat at a desk in the center of the room. Vending machines and a coffee dispenser were located to her left. Behind her was another elevator. A map of the school hung on the wall to her right.
“Welcome back, you two,” the receptionist said to Brandon and Freya.
“Good to see you again, Aphrodite,”
replied. “Tell the President we brought Ev Bannen. I’m sure he’ll want to see
him as soon as possible.” Brandon
Aphrodite clicked her tongue. “Unfortunately, he’s in a meeting at the moment. I’ll let him know you’ve returned. Nice to meet you, Ev.”
“Uh…thanks,” Ev said, not really sure what to do here.
“We’ll head on down now,” Freya said.
“I’ll let you know when the President gets out of his meeting,” Aphrodite assured them.
They proceeded past the reception desk to the other elevator. This one had more buttons than the other:
Level 2 – Offices
Level 3-4 – Classrooms
Level 5-6 – Dorms
Level 7 – Recreation
Level 8-9 – Training
They got off at level five, which Brandon and Freya explained was the men’s dormitory. The elevator was situated in the middle of a long corridor. The hallway was brown with a white floor, and various flyers hung on bulletin boards. It looked just like any other college dorm, except this one was inside a mountain in the middle of the ocean.
They sat him down at a chair in the hallway and told him to wait there until they returned. Minutes passed.
Soon the elevators began letting off students. They were dressed in seemingly every fashion on the planet. It then occurred to Ev that the
probably recruited from all over
the world. Kami Dios Academy
He didn’t know any of these guys, so he decided to keep his head down. However, one student, a bronzed-skin youth with short, spiked brown hair, approached him. “G’day, mate. Don’t think I’ve seen you here before.” He offered Ev his hand.
Ev stood up and nervously shook hands with him. This guy had at least a foot on Ev in height. He wore a brown vest and tie. “Uh…hi.”
“The name’s Jaysin. Jaysin Marx. Niceta meet you.”
“Ev. Ev Bannen.”
Jaysin said, “You new here?”
Ev nodded. “Yeah. Just got here literally five minutes ago. Had some trouble with rofghosts.”
“You mean refghasts?”
“Yeah.” Ev felt embarrassed to have gotten wrong the name of the things that had almost killed him.
“Ugly little biters, aren’t they?”
“Well…they didn’t actually bite me.”
Jaysin laughed. “Just a figure of speech. They can’t bite you. They’ve got no mouths for it.”
“I noticed. So how do they talk?”
He explained, “The hypnotic signals they use to lure you in also let them communicate. Don’t really understand how it works, myself, but there you go.”
Ev decided to change the subject. “So, where are you from, Jaysin?”
“Chrichton? I’ve never met anyone from there before.”
Jaysin replied, “Not surprising. Most Chrichtons never leave the country. It’s too much trouble getting over the mountain chains.
“Where are you from?”
Ev said, “
It’s a small town on Morovia, about a thousand miles south of Upton .” Seraphim City
! I’ve been there. Real twigging
parties they throw there.” Seraphim City
“Another bit of Chrichton slang. When you’re mostly cut off from the rest of the world, you develop your own unique vocabulary.
“So tell me: What kind of god are you going to become?”
Ev was taken aback by the question. “What kind…?”
“Yeah. Just like in religion and mythology, there’s different gods for different things. For example, Miss Freya is the goddess of love. Another person might be the god of thunder. Me, I’m gonna become the god of money.” To illustrate this point, he pulled out a fat wad of bills from his pocket.
Ev gaped at it. “Holy…!”
“Best to mind that kind of language around here. Never know who you’ll parse off talking like that.”
Ev wasn’t sure what to say to that, so he just said, “Thanks.”
“Don’t mention it. But going back to what I was saying—sooner or later everyone here has to figure out what kind of god they want to become. It’s your major, in other words.”
“All right, I’ll definitely be thinking about it.”
“Good.” Jaysin checked his expensive-looking watch. “I gotta get going. Maybe I’ll see you later.”
“Yeah, maybe. Thanks for the advice.”
“Don’t mention it.” And with that, he left. The hallway soon cleared, leaving Ev more or less alone again.
Fortunately, within a few minutes Brandon and Freya returned. “Sorry to keep you waiting. Have you met any of the other students yet,”
“Yeah, I met one guy. Said he was going to become the god of money.”
“Must be Jaysin Marx,” Freya said. “He might sound greedy, but he’s not. That’s because…well, better to let him tell you.”
Ev said, “Um…OK.”
“Come. The President is waiting for you,”
Chapter III: Getting Acquainted
They returned to Level 2. Brandon and Freya led Ev past rows of offices to the one at the end of the hallway. The name plate read “President Bethos”.
Ev did a double-take. “Wait,” he said. “The Bethos?”
Freya nodded. “That’s right. The god of Morovia. And he can’t wait to meet you.”
The level of anxiety Ev felt at that moment could safely be described as nearly overwhelming. He was as nervous as he had ever been, and his feet felt like lead.
Nevertheless, he managed to get himself moving into the President’s office. Unfortunately, his nervousness didn’t go away upon seeing Bethos. The President was certainly not what Ev had been expecting.
“Hello, Ev! Come in, sit down.”
Ev nervously did so. “Uh…hi.”
Bethos reclined back in his chair. “Not what you were expecting?”
He had to admit, “Well…not really. All the pictures of you are…” He didn’t want to finish that sentence, didn’t want to incur the President’s wrath.
Bethos finished the sentence for him. “White? Tall? Long beard?”
Ev nodded weakly, afraid that at any moment he would be struck by lightning.
In fact, Bethos was not any of those things. He had skin black as midnight, he was about three foot six inches tall, and clean-shaven. He wore a burgundy suit and tie instead of a toga.
He laughed at the massive historical discrepancy. “When I first became a god...” He turned to the bald, tanned man standing next to his desk—who was wearing a toga—and said, “How many years has it been, Ku?”
Ku? The famous prophet who came from an unknown land and worked to spread the word of Bethos all those years ago? The day got more exciting by the minute.
Ku said matter-of-factly, “Three thousand, one hundred and fifteen days.”
Bethos pointed to his servant with a thumb. “This guy keeps track of those things so I don’t have to. Hell, I imparted a bit of my power to him so he could live forever for that exact purpose.” He laughed again. “Now, where was I? Oh, yes. When I first started, the world wasn’t ready for a diminutive black god. So they made me a tall white guy.”
Ev dared to speak up at that moment. “But…couldn’t you make yourself taller? You are a god.”
Bethos shrugged. “What would be the point? To gain peoples’ respect? I’ve already got it! Everyone here has chosen to follow me out of respect. I have no reason to change my appearance now.”
That made sense. Still… “But why don’t you appear to the world and show them the real you?”
Bethos explained, “Being a god isn’t about glory or vanity. We choose to remain in the shadows and help mankind from behind the scenes.”
Ev was becoming more and more at ease around the President. “But mankind has fought countless wars because they don’t know what you’re all about.”
“And whose fault is that?” Bethos said, maintaining his carefree attitude. “My man Ku laid it out for them a long time ago. Some of them called him a liar and claimed they alone knew my true nature.”
Ev took the chance to ask the question he had always wondered about. “So where do we go after we die?”
To his surprise, Bethos shrugged. “Beats me. We gods live forever, so even we don’t know. Some think there’s an ultimate god who resides over the afterlife. If you become a god yourself, you will likely never find out.”
The thought was both encouraging and depressing. Ironically, if Ev indeed became a god, some answers could be forever denied him. Nevertheless, he thought it a risk worth taking. “Do you really think I can become one?”
“Anyone can—and will—become supremely powerful if they stay here long enough. The built-up energies left over from the Big Bang will see to that. You’re probably already experiencing increased vitality just from being here a half hour.”
In fact, he was. It wasn’t anything dramatic yet, but he did feel as though he had more energy. “Kinda feels like I just had one of those energy drinks.”
Bethos pointed at him and smiled. “Exactly. The longer you stay here, the stronger you’ll become. However, it is our job to make sure you’re ready for godhood. As you attend classes and take tests, we’ll evaluate your progress. If we don’t feel you’re going to become a proper deity, you’ll be expelled. Sorry, but we have to be honest with you going in.”
That scared Ev. “What will happen to me if I’m expelled?”
“You’ll have to leave the Academy. Mostly likely you’ll end up going home.”
Home? That scared him even more. “Professor Strong said you guys have been watching me. Does that mean you know what kind of home I come from?”
The President nodded grimly. “That we do.”
“Then you know home is the last place I want to go. My father used to beat me, and my mom just didn’t care. That place can’t even be called a home. I’d rather take my chances with those fallen gods than go back there.”
From behind him,
replied, “All the more reason for you to succeed here.” Ev hadn’t realized he
and Freya were still in the room. Brandon
“But do you really think I can?” he asked, to no one in particular.
“I think you have the determination necessary. Your high school GPA was quite good, so we know you can apply yourself.”
Yeah, but apply myself to becoming a god? That’s something else entirely. Nevertheless, Ev said, “Well, I don’t want to go home, and I don’t want to be killed by…uh…what’s that group’s name?”
“Carnivál,” Freya replied.
“Yeah. Them. I don’t want them sending any more of those refghasts after me until I can defend myself like the rest of you. So…” He took a deep breath, in case he found any arguments against what he was about to say. “I’ll do it. I’ll enroll here.”
“Excellent!” Bethos said. “We’ll give you the paperwork to fill out, and then you’ll be an official student here. Now, other colleges have tuition—”
Without thinking, Ev cut him off. “Oh, crap! I didn’t think about tuition. I have hardly in money on me. I was hoping to get a scholarship to whatever university I ended up attending.”
“You didn’t let me finish,” Bethos said. “Other colleges have tuition, but not us. You can’t put a price on godhood, after all. We use our powers to keep the school running, not money, so you can rest easy.”
Ev breathed the biggest sigh of relief of his life so far. “Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you.”
Laughing again, the President said, “Don’t mention it, kid.
“Now, there is one last thing I want to mention. You must eventually decide what kind of god you want to become.”
“Yeah, this one guy said that to me. I really don’t know what I want to become god of,” Ev said.
Freya said, “You have to become a god that can help people. We don’t allow our students to represent anything negative. With one exception, only Carnivál has the gods of hatred, vengeance, death, etc. You must choose something positive to represent.”
Ev remembered, “That Jaysin guy said you’re the god of love.”
Smiling, she said, “Exactly. There is nothing more positive in this world than love. I answer the prayers of mortals that pertain to love. For instance, I generally give them subconscious guidance. If I feel the mate you’re pursuing is right for you, I’ll help you succeed. But if that person isn’t right for you, I’ll nudge you away from them. The receptionist, Aphrodite, helps me out with that. Just because you’re a god doesn’t mean you can answer every single prayer.”
“But how do I answer prayers? Do I just put my head to the ground and listen or something?”
They all laughed. “We’ll teach you how to do it,”
Bethos said, “Just be thinking about what kind of god you want to become. Now, then—I think you should get settled in the dorm. I’ll leave that to you two.” He indicated Brandon and Freya.