After Herme’s abrupt departure, Dianmu turned to Ryan. “You were just about to ask a stupid question?” she asked.
“Right,” Ryan said with a wince. “Seems even more of a long shot now – I almost think we should just forget about it.”
Isabel shot him a glare, and Athena shrugged. “A stupid question is better than staring at each other, wishing we had a plan. Who knows, we might get one from it.”
“Thanks for that,” Ryan muttered, and sighed. “I’m just…I mean, I was wondering if…” He gave Isabel a helpless look.
“Oh good Lord,” Isabel said with a roll of her eyes. “We were wondering if there was any magic fix we’d overlooked. A wise old man on a mountain, a mystic artifact, some way we could get an easy fix to the whole end-the-world problem that Ryan and I overlooked because we’re not millenia old and don’t know everything.”
Crystal snorted a laugh, and Isabel flushed, shooting Ryan yet another glare. “I would have said it,” Ryan said with a grumble.
“Not before the world catches on fire,” Isabel shot back.
Ryan held up his hands in defeat, then looked at the assembled gods. “I know it’s a long shot. But we figured it wouldn’t hurt to ask. So…anything?”
For a moment, there was nothing but silence, and Ryan could feel himself joining Isabel in blushing. “There are the Curators,” Dianmu said slowly.
“Come again?” Crystal asked. “They won’t do anything to intervene. It’s not their style.”
“It hasn’t been their style,” Dianmu corrected. “However, you and Ryan have already gotten more from them than anyone else in the cosmos I’ve ever heard of. Certainly more than they’ve ever given me.”
“Or me,” Anansi added.
“I can third that,” Athena said.
“We sent Horus to talk to them already,” Crystal said, although her forehead was furrowed in thought. “And we never did hear back. Maybe something happened and he got waylaid after leaving Officium Mundi.”
The other three long-term gods nodded. Ryan raised an hand. “Why are we talking like that’s a good thing?”
“Love, you saw what happened when Nabu felt he owed you a debt. If someone used seeing Horus on Officium Mundi against us, we could probably convince Nabu that increased his debt. Might be able to get some answers out of him.”
“But what would we ask?” Athena said, leaning forward to rest her elbows on the table. “We won’t get many questions – probably only one – and I don’t think we should waste it on a magic artifact that probably doesn’t exist.” She gave Isabel and Ryan a small grin. “No offense.”
“None taken.” Ryan replied, glad that the question had at least produced something productive. “And I think the question is obvious – if someone’s pulled it off before. If someone, somewhere, managed to stop their sun from exploding without wiping out all life on the planet.”
Anansi shook his head. “I think you’re on the right track there, but we run a very real risk that the answer will be ‘no,’ and we’ll be right back where we started. Perhaps instead asking how Nabu would end the world without genocide?”
“Better,” Dianmu said, “but still leaves room for a useless answer. The answer could easily be ‘I don’t know,’ and again, we’re back where we started.”
“I know the question,” Crystal said, leaning forward in excitement. “I know exactly what bloody question we need to be asking that wanker. We ask him exactly what the rules are. Right now we’re trying to base our plans off my half remembered concept of the rules, but if we know exactly how it works…then we can find a loophole.”
“I like it,” Isabel said with a smile. “I like it a lot – it actually gets us somewhere. Although, and maybe this is because I’m just a dumb mortal, but it seems like there’s a follow up question we should ask.”
“What’s that, love?”
“If they’re consider getting off their asses and doing something.” Isabel said. As she saw everyone’s dubious looks, she held up a hand for patience. “Look, I know the Curators don’t do that. But they also don’t take sides, and Nabu did. Lucifer doesn’t quit being King of Hell, but he did. Gods don’t live more than twenty or thirty thousand years, but both Crystal and Moloch managed it. It seems like there’s so many things you all don’t do because you’ve got it ingrained in your heads that it’s the rules, but they aren’t as binding as you think they are.”
Ryan watched the faces of the other four gods, noting that, while they seemed uncomfortable, none of them could exactly refute Isabel’s point. “It doesn’t hurt to ask,” Athena finally said.
“Damn right it doesn’t,” Ryan said. “Okay, so that’s one thing. But we don’t need all six of us to go talk to the Curators.”
“We definitely don’t,” Dianmu said, giving Isabel a gentle smile. “They would not react well to us brining a mortal with us, even one as unique as you.”
“What, they’d kill me?” Isabel asked, a slight tremor in her voice.
“No,” Dianmu said, “they just wouldn’t allow you to see them. As far as you’d be able to see, you’d be standing with us in an empty plane.”
“Oh.” Isabel relaxed some.
“Besides,” Crystal said, “it’s not like there’s not other things we have to deal with. Horus is still missing. We might want to consider aiding the Olympians against Poseidon, since at least Artemis knows she can trust us. Bast is somewhere out there still, although I’m hoping she went to ground once Enki got a bloody nuke to the face. When it’s time for the endgame, I want as many pieces off the board as possible.”
“So that’s a no on the magic artifacts, I guess?” Ryan said with a grin.
It got a few smiles in return. “No,” Athena said. “As much as it would be, I know of only one artifact that could have helped us, and it’s been missing for almost four thousand years.”
“What was it?” Ryan asked.
“The Staff of Ra.” Athena sighed. “If we had that…but there’s no point to getting into that. No one know where it is.”
Anansi cleared his throat, drawing everyone’s attention. “So, and lets just be clear here…if one of us happened to know where the Staff of Ra was, we’d consider using it?”
“Yes, love” Crystal said slowly. “Why would you ask?”
“Hold on, we’ll come back to that.” Anansi said with a wave of his hand. “But I want us to make sure we’re on the same page. As dangerous as the Staff of Ra could be if it fell into our enemies hands, we’d be willing to risk it?”
“Absolutely,” Athena said firmly. “The entire world is at stake.”
“Yes,” Anansi said, “and the Staff of Ra could put whatever comes after the end of the world in danger.”
“Even if it does, at least we’ll have an after,” Dianmu said.
Anansi looked around the table, and sighed. “Then…it’s entirely possible I know where it is. Or at least, where it was lost.”
“How would you know that,” Athena asked, her eyes wide.
Anansi gave her a wide grid. “Well…it’s entirely possible I was the one to lose the thing in the first place.”
The other three older gods stared at Anansi. Ryan raised a hand. “Just so Isabel and I can join you all in looking at Anansi like he just grew a second evil head…what’s the Staff or Ra?”
“It’s a magic artifact,” Crystal said, not taking her eyes off Anansi. “It’s a magic artifact that’s powerful enough to give us a chance to actually pull this off, love.”
Ryan felt hope leap into his chest, but looking at Anansi’s face, he couldn’t help but still worry.With something that Crystal clearly held in such high regard in play, it didn’t make sense for the Trickster to look so sad.