Following Pan Post 146, Pan Post 148 sees Hermes Trismegistus remembering why he hated parties so much and he seeks some solitude from the commotion. There he is splashed by a Apollo pretending to be a dolphin. He feels Runekeeper's Book wanting him to read it. He manages to shoo Apollo, who keeping quacking like a duck instead of a dolphin, and is then met by Thoth. Thoth opens a discussion of what it means to be a god, especially after seeing Apollo act the fool. Hermes reveals that when he was human he studied Thoth's philosophy on magic but Thoth is merely pondering this subject while he waits. A bookshelf then moves and reveals a doorway to The Great Library, much to Hermes' surprise. From it comes Thoth's wife, Ma'at, the god of law. Then The Devil's Advocate arrived and Thoth tells Hermes they are holding him in the meeting so he wouldn't be blindsided. Ma'at, a god of human law, creates a ruling that non-Earth gods may not interfere in human affairs any longer. Hermes warns that this may draw the ire of those cosmic deities but Ma'at is resolute and is supported by The Devil's Advocate and Hell itself. Hermes may act as himself when on Earth but as the new Runekeeper, he cannot. To prove this he feels the lure of the book weaken.
The Laws of Earth
Not long after the party had begun did Hermes remember why he hated them so much. Merfolk were dangling from chandeliers (he had no idea how they got up there out of the water nor where the chandeliers even came from since he was sure they weren't there before the party began), the HorseGod was getting high on interdimensional farts once expelled by Phractal and a bunch of exotic dancers were there (unfortunately from the planet Glob where the dominant species are gelatinous mounds that slop along the floor and their exotic dancing mostly involved splattering everyone with pink, goopy ooze). After Bacchus arrived and got everyone playing spin the bottle (which resulted in a lot of ooze-on-mouths) Hermes had had enough and he stalked off into another area of the ziggurat to get some peace and quiet.
Hermes: "Never again..."
Then he's splashed by some water from one of the hundreds of canals that exist in almost every single room of this underwater palace. He groans and turns, expecting to see a mermaid, but instead finds a dolphin. A dolphin with a very expressive, human-like face. The dolphin grins madly and splashes him again.
Hermes: "Do you mind!?"
Apollo Dolphinius: "Don't mind me! I'm just a dolphin!"
Hermes: "Apollo, I know it's you! It's not like you haven't been a dolphin before! What do you want?"
Apollo Dolphinius: "What do dolphins want?"
Hermes: "Uh... fish?"
Apollo Dolphinius: "Then I want fish!"
Hermes: "No fish here..."
He looks back down at his book. While looking at it he senses the heavy tome of magic beckoning him, as though it's jealous he'd be reading anything but it. The sensation feels like a weight on his mind and he subconsciously pets the tome.
Apollo Dolphinius: "Quack! Quack! Quack! I'm a dolphin!"
Immeasurable irritation vibrates behind Hermes' eyes.
Hermes: "Did-did you just quack!?"
Apollo Dolphinius: "I'm a dolphin!"
Hermes: "Dolphins don't quack you fool!"
Apollo Dolphinius: "What do dolphins do?"
Hermes caught himself before he started clicking like a dolphin and glowers at Apollo instead.
Hermes: "Will you just bugger off? The party is back that way."
Apollo Dolphinius: "Ever the misery guts, Hermes."
Apollo, still as a dolphin, sails off - quacking the whole way.
Thoth: "Sometimes I do wonder what it means to be a god..."
Hermes snaps his attention from the canal and back to the quiet room he'd seated himself in. There, now sat in an armchair opposite Hermes, is Thoth. He is sitting comfortably and wears an expression of deep thought, as though he'd been sitting there for hours. Hermes isn't surprised though, it was only a matter of time before the Egyptian god of magic came to pay him a visit. Hermes wouldn't say they were friends (actually Hermes probably doesn't have friends) but he recognises that the two of them are like-minded and Thoth's quiet, temperate demeanour always suited Hermes. Oddly enough Hermes likes the excitement and raucous of other people - so long as he doesn't have to be a part of it.
Hermes: "I suspect it doesn't mean anything."
Thoth: "I would have said it means taking responsibility for the machinations of the universe, whether physical or metaphysical. But then I see a dolphin quack and I draw the same conclusion you just did. Then I have to wonder why we bother to be gods. What is the point?"
Thoth: "And did you, while you were human?"
Hermes: "Find meaning in existence? Or find the meaning of the gods?"
Hermes: "I suppose I felt the gods were there to govern and guide humanity. That's the meaning humans give to gods. When I was human I was a teacher of philosophy, science and magic. I studied your teachings, Thoth, and it led me to produce my human works. Honestly though, a lot of my human life is a little hazy. I can't even remember why I decided it was a good idea to try it out now... being human is quite disgusting, you know? So many bodily fluids."
Thoth: "Then I shall take that to be my continuing role, even though I find myself without the followers I once had..."
Hermes: "I am still seen as an important prophet in Islam, so by extension you are still significant to the religions of today. Religion is the accumulation of previous religions and philosophies so you'll always be worshipped, Thoth. If indirectly."
Thoth: "I am not really concerned, if truth be known. I'm simply pondering."
Hermes: "Did you really come down here just to ponder this?"
Thoth: "No. I am pondering while I wait."
Hermes: "For what?"
Thoth: "For whom."
They proceed to sit in silence. Hermes resumes reading his book while Thoth gazes across the carved slabs of stone towards the stone shelves where lines of books stand. Ancient books from the Kumari Kandam civilisation that built this ziggurat and even older documents from the Lemurian Empire that preceded it. Once a great academy of magical learning, now the residence of the Runekeeper - the maximum authority on magic in the NeSiverse.
The distant sounds of the party echo into the small library for rare books and to Hermes' ears it sounds like Bacchus has "Livin' La Vida Loca"[Ext 2], Bacchus' favourite track, on repeat again. At least Ares hasn't shown up to this party, else he'd be trying to blow up the stereo after the tenth time the song had played over and over.
Then one of the bookshelves moves. Hermes is drawn from the Richard Dawkins[Ext 3] book to watch the mysterious shelf move itself to one side, careful not to disturb the other books on their respective shelves. Where the bookshelf had stood Hermes sees a whole aisle of books running away from him into an even larger, grander room that is infinitely unlike this room. He recognises it instantly.
Hermes: "The Great Library links here?"
Thoth glances towards the new entrance.
Thoth: "I always suspected it links everywhere, so long as someone wants it to. Provided there are books present."
Thoth stands up as a woman emerges from The Great Library, beyond the bookcase. She walks straight up to him and kisses him gently.
Thoth: "How was the nexus?"
Ma'at: "Growing steadily. Now that prisoner isn't being kept inside the friggin' pyramid anyway. Yo, Hermes Thurmygurmy."
Hermes: "Just Hermes will do, Ma'at."
She saunters past him and looks around the room, the door to The Great Library slides shut behind her as though it had never existed. Ma'at looks like a supermodel; beautiful, spoilt and vain. Her skin is light brown and practically glowing. Her hair is dark and silky soft as it runs down her back in exotic, wild curls. She wears a short red dress that shows plenty of leg, supported by very high heels. She tugs the big Ray-Ban[Ext 4] sunglasses from her eyes and looks straight at Hermes with her lilac coloured eyes.
Hermes chooses to ignore her and, instead, looks to her husband.
Hermes: "You came here just to wait for your wife? Did the Egyptian heat finally get to you?"
Ma'at: "What do you mean just wait for me? Are you trying to say I'm not important enough to wait for?"
Hermes: "Why do you have to question everything I say?"
Ma'at: "Everything someone says doesn't necessarily mean what they are saying."
Hermes: "... you haven't been yodafied have you?"
Ma'at looks down at herself.
The Devil's Advocate: "I believe Yoda was a tiny, green gremlin..."
The three of them turn to see The Devil's Advocate emerge from a pillar of Hellsfire. He is dressed in a pinstripe suit with a silk, red tie to match his leathery, red skin. He grins his brilliant, white teeth at them.
Hermes: "This is who you were waiting for? Why are you having this clandestine meeting here?"
Thoth: "I didn't want you to be blindsided."
Hermes slowly puts down his book, gently placing it on the tablestand beside his armchair, and wears a solid frown on his brow. He doesn't raise his eyes to meet Thoth's. He knows some kind of betrayal is going on here.
Hermes: "What do you mean?"
Nothing The Devil's Advocate says can be trusted. Even when he tells the truth, he only tells the truth that suits his the devil he is advocating for. His judgement is biased but his motives are always clear. Thoth is usually straight-forward and pragmatic, perhaps more so than Hermes himself, yet he is often enigmatic and his thoughts are always his own. Ma'at may act like a cad but she is the embodiment of truth and justice. The feather boa, made of ostrich feathers, that hangs around her neck is the very symbol of truth. At least this betrayal is going to be an honest one.
Ma'at: "I am the god of law. The cosmos may well abide by the laws of physics, nature or gods - but the laws of man are mine. Civilisation is founded upon laws and as Earth is dominated by humanity, so too is it subject to my laws--"
Her lilac eyes begin to glow.
Ma'at: "As of this moment, all gods, or other self-claimed deities, not of Earth must abide by the laws set forth by Ma'at on behalf of humanity. None but Earth-born human gods may hold dominion over human affairs--"
Hermes: "You're going to get yourselves into trouble."
Ma'at: "None may lay claim to any Earth-born human but Earth-born human gods--"
The Devil's Advocate: "Ahem!"
Ma'at: "Alive, or dead."
The Devil's Advocate steeples his fingers and bows his head in gratitude.
Ma'at: "Fate, magic, time, space -- if they are used within the Earth sphere then they are subject to Earth-born humans and only their chosen gods may dictate those affairs forever after this point in time."
Hermes: "You are upsetting a great many deities that you should not upset..."
Ma'at: "The laws of Earth are regulated by Earth."
Apollo: "Is this the part where someone shouts immigrants out!?"
They all turn to see Apollo, who is currently back in his human guise despite still being in the canal, watching them enthusiastically. They all then ignore him.
Ma'at: "And so, it is done. I don't doubt all the intruding deities felt that. They'll probably start by trying to break the law but they'll find it can't be broken."
Hermes: "And so you now believe that you've prevented all of the cosmic deities from interfering here on Earth?"
Ma'at: "Oh they can be here, but there influence over the planet and humanity is now null. They still have control out there, wherever they were ruling before, but now they'll have to defer to Earth gods to get their way here."
Hermes: "And so I wonder where that leaves me..."
Thoth: "I didn't want you to feel like I wasn't honest with you, Hermes."
Hermes: "Yes, but I am an Earth god and now, as Runekeeper, a cosmic deity..."
Ma'at: "Simple. You are able to act here as you are perceived here. On Earth you are Hermes Tris--Thisma--Thingythingy and so you can act here in that role. But you cannot affect Earth in the role of Runekeeper. Whatever power that title has bestowed upon you, will no longer work here."
As if to prove her point, Hermes realises that, for the first time since obtaining it, the Runekeeper's tome has quietened and its pull has weakened. Perhaps once he is outside of the Solar System, the book may rekindle its lure.
The Devil's Advocate: "And now, of course, our dear, dear humans will find their resting place in their proper place. Hell. As in our Hell. I know that probably doesn't sound like a good thing, but really it is."
Apollo: "Unless old Memnoch finds a way to circumvent this human's law thing you've cooked up..."
Hermes: "A loophole could be found..."
Ma'at: "You'd probably have to destroy humanity to get around the law."
Thoth: "And doing that would defeat the point of circumventing the law in the first place. So hopefully none of these cosmic intruders will act out of spite and just leave us to our own affairs..."
Apollo: "Earth is for Earth people! Foreigners out!"
Ma'at: "Apollo, why don't you go and swim off, huh?"
She shoos him with a waft of her hand. He instantly transforms into another sea-dwelling creature;
Apollo Manateeius: "Oink! Oink! I'm a manatee!"