Chapter 9:

One night of uncertainty

Elyon - Gods among us

Anpiel explained to Tania, Ana, and Rodrigo everything he knew about Denmark and its king.

Loki had appeared there a year ago and had managed to poison the mind of Prince Sweyn to incite a civil war against his father, King Harald, who had been attempting to spread Christianity in the Nordic realms.

At present, Denmark was embroiled in this civil war. Since that kingdom and the other Nordic realms were outside of Lel's jurisdiction, identifying fugitive gods or Malakim in those regions was complicated. And although Odin had allowed the spread of Christianity among his people, he also had no intention of preventing its extinction. For him, it was a win-win situation if Christianity failed because he could use it as an excuse to claim that he "respected" his people's decision.

That's why Elyon had requested Ana and Tania's support in stopping Loki. Both goddesses had an impressive track record in the world of gods, being incredibly strong, so a god like Loki would pose little threat to them.

However, there was also the matter of Ragnarok, an event prophesied by the Nordic seers and supposedly foreseen by Odin himself when he drank from the well of wisdom.

According to the prophecy, at the end of times, Loki, who was imprisoned for killing the god Balder, would escape along with his three children and attack Asgard, the realm of the gods. In this event, both Loki and his children, as well as the gods, would die, marking the end of times. It was also believed to be the end of the world, as Yggdrasil, the representation of the Nordic universe, would be completely consumed by flames, including Midgard, the world of humans.

The Vikings believed that if they died in battle, they would become Einherjar and go to Valhalla, the gods' banquet hall, where they would assist Odin in fighting against Loki's forces. As a result, the violence in these realms had increased exponentially.

Although Odin had never directly admitted it, in Lel it was believed that the supreme Nordic god had been mobilizing his Valkyries, his personal bodyguards, to incite the Vikings to attack Christian realms and destroy their monasteries and villages. After all, this Nordic religion seemed to be just a pretext to compel their warriors to kill and cause as much damage as possible, as the only way they could enter Valhalla was by dying in battle.

Odin had a history of violence predating Lel's rule over much of Europe. During the times of the Old Roman Empire, the gods of Saturnia, the Roman gods, had clashed several times with Odin and his armies, although his title at that time was Wotan. However, when Lel seized control of the Roman Empire, Odin's troops were completely defeated. His people, the Germanic tribes inhabiting Europe, ended up converting to Christianity under Elyon's supervision, and a peace treaty was signed between Lel and Asgard, a non-intervention treaty. But with the Viking hordes ravaging Europe, it was evident that these treaties had been broken.

Still, Odin had never admitted that these people had "religious" reasons to attack Christian towns in Europe, and even the Muslim kingdom in Spain.

For that reason, Lel had achieved a victory over Asgard under Emperor Otto I of the newly created Germanic Roman Empire. With this, Odin had agreed to join the group of nations loyal to Lel, and in theory, religious violence should subside. The violence between Christians and between Muslims had become of little importance to the realm of the gods.

On the other hand, Odin's Valkyries would constantly descend to Earth and continue to incite warriors to attack Europe. Although, when they were found, they were easily defeated since a Valkyrie, being within the Malakim range, didn't pose as big of a problem as a god mobilizing that army would. They never admitted to being sent by a higher power and always claimed to act on their own accord. But now, it wasn't just about Valkyries, it was about a god, and a quite powerful and feared one at that.

Ana mentioned that she had defeated several Valkyries mobilizing Vikings in Ireland, but she had never come face to face with a god. Although she considered the possibility of encountering Thor, the strongest son of the king of the Nordic gods, to be latent.

The fact that Loki was the opponent made things easier since the malevolent god couldn't use his full potential as a fugitive. However, if it was Odin himself who had released him, it could become a real problem, something that Tania considered as a possibility but preferred not to express.

Why would Odin release an enemy and give him the power to destroy the peace treaty with Lel? Such a theory didn't make sense, but the whole situation sounded strange. If Loki was a dangerous entity in the Nordic world, shouldn't Odin or Thor capture him?

And once again, the matter of Ragnarok...

Could it be that Odin and Thor feared for their lives, as they were prophesied to die in that battle? Were such brave and valiant gods hiding like cowards in Valhalla while Loki wreaked havoc?

There was definitely something fishy going on. But Tania chose to dispel her doubts and hoped that with her power and Ana's, it would be enough to subdue the Norse god. They had received orders, and they had to fulfill them; that was the only reality.

—Well, we'll gather provisions and depart the day after tomorrow— Tania said as she stood up from the table.

—Make yourselves at home— she added as she left. Her countenance was somewhat gloomy, but it went unnoticed by the others.

—I don't want to stay in this filthy and damp cav— Epona grumbled.

—Malak, go to the village and rent me a good room there— Tania said, looking at the angel defiantly.

—I will immediately search for a stable where she can stay, my lady— the angel replied sarcastically.

—Well, if that's how Jesus Christ was supposedly born according to the Christians, I guess a stable will be fine for her— Ana said, bursting into laughter.

—Forget, you bitch, that I can freely enter Lel, unlike certain dumbasses who can't even use their fucking totemas whenever they want— the goddess of horses said furiously.

Rodrigo was taken aback by the blonde girl's vocabulary. She spoke like a drunken peasant. Yet, he found her fascinating.

—Do you need to go graze to relax?— Ana retorted defiantly.

—And you, peck at a fucking corpse?— Epona stood up furiously, hitting the table, causing it to break under her strength.

—Girls, girls, enough. Take it with humor— the angel said as he positioned himself between the two angry goddesses.

Rodrigo hadn't noticed, but both Ana and Epona were actually very worried about the mission, and that made them bring out the worst in each other.

—We'll go to an inn. See you here the day after tomorrow to leave for Normandy— the angel said as he held onto Epona to prevent her from exchanging blows with Ana.

—Thank Elyon! One more damn minute here, and I would have shitty fungus growing on my feet and hands— Epona said as she pushed the angel's hands away and turned around proudly.

—Hooves, you mean— Ana retorted defiantly.

Epona snorted.

—Don't be mad, Ana. You have such a beautiful look to be frowning— Rodrigo said in a conciliatory voice as he touched her arm.

Ana turned to Rodrigo, looking annoyed.

—I didn't say anything wrong— Rodrigo replied, concerned, and immediately released her arm.

—Sorry for touching you!—

Ana closed her eyes, sighed, and smiled.

—You must be the only person who has told me that I have a beautiful look. Thank you— Ana replied.

Epona and Anpiel left Tania's house.

—Well, I'm going to bed too— Rodrigo said.

—Rui... wait. Stay with me tonight— Ana said, looking down with a lost gaze.

—What's wrong?— Rodrigo asked.

—Nothing... really, just stay with me tonight— the goddess replied with the same concerned expression.

Rodrigo realized then that the mission was worrying her. That would explain why Tania had left so suddenly.

The young man sat back in the chair as Ana continued to stare into space.

—Tania will be upset about her broken table, don't you think, Rui?— Ana said, trying to force a smile.

—Are you worried about the mission?— Rodrigo finally asked.

—The mission? No, not at all— Ana said, looking at Rodrigo with her persistent attempt to smile.

—...Well, maybe a little— she continued.

—Rui, if you prefer to stay, do it. I think it will be more dangerous than we think. I have to be honest with you, and I wouldn't want anything to happen to you— Ana went on.

—I will go and protect you— Rodrigo responded with a determined look.

—I don't know how, but I will do my best to do it. Tania helped me save the survivors of my village, and you helped me overcome my pain. Both of you have been wonderful to me— he said.

—Thank you, Rui— Ana said.

Then she approached and hugged him.

Nervously, Rodrigo returned the hug.

—I went through a traumatic situation a long time ago, too, and my teacher helped me a lot. I just wanted to do the same she did for me— Ana said, and Rodrigo began to hear her sobbing.

—I'm a goddess of war, and everyone says I should be a wild monster without feelings— Ana continued. —But I have them, and sometimes I feel very weak because of it—

—You're a beautiful person... goddess— Rodrigo said as he continued to embrace her.

—Only you think that because you don't know me— Ana replied.

—I know enough of you to say it," Rodrigo replied.

—Thank you, Rui. I feel better now— Ana said as she rested her head on Rodrigo's chest.

They remained embraced for a while.

—Well, I think we should go to sleep now— Ana said as she released herself from Rodrigo's arms. —We need to go shopping and prepare everything for the trip— she continued.

—Yes, I think so too— Rodrigo replied.

Ana kissed him on the cheek and bid him farewell. Rodrigo remained pensive in silence.