Chapter 10:

Barcelona

Elyon - Gods among us


Two days had passed since the meeting at Tania's house. Finally, the day had come to depart for Normandy.

Anpiel and Epona rang the bell outside Tania's cave early in the morning, where Ana, Tania, and Rodrigo were already prepared.

—Well, we'll take what we need here and stock up in Barcelona for a six-day journey to Caen, the capital of Normandy— Tania said.

—In Caen, we'll board a ship that will take us to Jutland; it's a journey of over seven days at sea to get there— Tania continued explaining.

—If only we could fly, we would reach there in seconds— Ana sighed in boredom upon hearing about the long travel itinerary they had ahead.

—Will we join a merchant caravan in Barcelona for the journey?— Anpiel asked.

—No, they would only slow us down— Tania replied.

—If we are attacked by bandits, we'll simply defend ourselves, and if we run out of provisions, we can hunt— she continued.

—What about the border between the County of Barcelona and the Kingdom of the Franks? Aren't they enemies?— Epona asked.

—We'll need to make a crossing through the village of Andorra, which serves as the gateway between the Frankish kingdoms and Barcelona, and even the Caliphate of Córdoba. It's a matter of convincing the guards that we are pilgrims— Tania said.

—I think those Berber Muslim looks of yours won't help much— Epona said sarcastically.

—Sure, I'll change and remove these face tattoos in Barcelona— Tania said, touching her face.

—But there's something that worries me. Barcelona was devastated last year, and as far as I know, it hasn't fully recovered. More than half of its inhabitants were executed or enslaved. Will we be able to take a ship from here to Barcelona?— Ana asked.

—Surprisingly, yes. I researched yesterday and found out that Barcelona has just reopened its ports, but in a very limited capacity—

—Still, we'll have to claim we're merchants to avoid problems with the soldiers there. That's why we're carrying some provisions from here to 'sell'— Tania replied with a smile.

—Alright, let's go— Ana said.

Leaving Tania's house, the whole team made their way to the port of Ibiza, where their ship was about to depart for Barcelona.

After an hour-long journey, they arrived at the port of Barcelona and couldn't help but notice that Tania looked different. She had removed her face tattoos and was now wearing a beautiful white dress. She had a headband on her head and a golden belt around her waist as well. Rodrigo couldn't help but notice that her breasts were quite pronounced in that outfit.

—It's rude to stare at a woman, Rui— Ana told Rodrigo while pulling his ear.

—But didn't you say those are stupid human rules?— Rodrigo replied, feeling the pain in his ear.

—They are universal rules!— Ana said furiously, unable to help noticing that Tania was laughing.

Finally, the group disembarked at the port of Barcelona. The temperature here was slightly cooler than in Ibiza. The scent of salty sea air filled the atmosphere, and seagulls flew in large numbers around the docks.

The port was heavily guarded by several soldiers equipped with spears and helmets, although Rodrigo noticed that they didn't look like professionals but rather like common people.

—What brings you to Barcelona?— one of the soldiers asked Tania in Catalan, who was leading the group.

—We have come to sell some seafood and olives from Ibiza, fresh and of good quality. Would you like to see?— Tania replied in Catalan.

Rodrigo was surprised at how many languages that girl could speak. Besides speaking the language of the gods, she spoke Galician, Arabic, Catalan, and that strange language spoken in Ibiza, which Ana had told him was Punic.

The soldier inspected the food sacks Tania had and granted them access to the city. Led by the fiery-haired goddess, the group headed towards the center of Barcelona.

Rodrigo had heard stories about how marvelous the city of Barcelona was for a long time, but what he saw was a city destroyed and partially in ruins, filled with poverty and people begging on the streets.

The city had been plundered by Almanzor last year and still hadn't fully recovered. It had been completely devastated, and the majority of its citizens had been killed or enslaved. Some survivors died from diseases caused by the hundreds of decapitated heads that the Moorish chieftain liked to throw into cities to spread infections and demoralize the people.

Rodrigo felt upset about this situation, but he had learned to accept the cruel reality of the world rather than harbor hatred for the things happening around him. It was difficult, but he had to try.

—Well, let's buy the rest of the provisions, a small caravan, and some horses— Tania said, looking towards the market.

—Now you need my help, don't you? I thought you 'don't use horses'— Epona mocked Ana, who preferred to ignore her.

—Well, if you want us to report that the igigi who accompanied us only delayed our mission, go ahead— Ana said without even looking at the horse goddess, who was already turning red with anger.

—If you wish, stay in that tavern while I buy everything we need for the journey— Anpiel said, bowing to Ana and Tania.

—And I'll go get the horses— Epona said, seeming excited now that her anger had dissipated.

Tania agreed, and the three of them headed towards a small tavern that appeared neglected and abandoned.

There were few customers inside, and many people outside were beggars asking the customers for food. Inside, there were several street vendors and even prostitutes trying to sell their services. The atmosphere felt heavy, although the aroma coming from the kitchen was quite exquisite.

—Rui— Ana said to Rodrigo, —whenever you're in a new city, you must try its specialty. In this tavern, they make a delicious soup called 'Escudella i carn d'olla.' It's a type of lamb meat soup with chickpeas, potatoes, and celery— the freckled goddess explained. Rodrigo agreed and ordered that.

Ana, on the other hand, ordered a plate of meatballs, and the three of them sat at a table, accompanying their meals with bread and beer. Wine was not available in Barcelona due to the precarious situation the city was in.

An extra plate of broad beans arrived next to Tania, and she took the plate with some potatoes and bread and offered it to a woman who was begging with her children. The lady smiled and enjoyed the dish with her little ones.

Rodrigo noticed that Tania enjoyed helping people. It was the same look she had when she helped the people who were going to be enslaved in Coimbra.

—Have you been to Normandy before?— Rodrigo asked Tania as she sat back down at the table.

—No— Tania said firmly. The smile on the goddess's face had vanished once again, returning to her serious and uncommunicative demeanor.

—But she has been to the great city of Rome— Ana replied.

—Really? The legendary Roman Empire?— Rodrigo asked with interest.

—Yes, but that was a long time ago. I didn't sightsee there— Tania continued to respond in a cold manner.

Rodrigo understood that Tania didn't want to talk about it.

—And you, Ana? Do you know other kingdoms besides Ireland?— Rodrigo asked the dark-haired goddess.

—I have been at London and York— the goddess replied with a smile.

—I also briefly visited Paris and Toulouse, one of the cities we are heading to,— she said.

—And how are they? Tell me— Rodrigo asked, surprised.

Ana began telling him about the castles in Britannia, the Highlands of Alba, exotic animals found there, how their oxen were completely hairy, and how the Pictish warriors, who used to live there, tattooed and painted themselves blue for battle.

She also talked about London, how it rained all the time, about circular stone shrines dedicated to a very ancient god that even she didn't know.

—Epona currently lives there, she probably knows more about that place than I do— Ana responded, excitedly discussing these topics with Rodrigo, who listened with enthusiasm.

Rodrigo and Ana continued their lively conversation while Tania started to feel uncomfortable.

—I think these two are getting along quite well— thought the fiery-haired goddess.

After an hour, Anpiel and Epona arrived at the tavern.

—Well, I found a small caravan at a reasonable price; it is located near the north gate of the city. The horses that Epona found are also waiting for us there— Anpiel said.

—Do you want something to eat as well?— Tania asked them.

—Thank you, Lady Tania, but I ate on the way— replied Anpiel, showing reverence.

—Don't do that here, or they'll think I'm a slave owner!— said Tania, feeling embarrassed.

—And I'm a vegetarian, so I doubt there's any food for me in this shabby tavern— Epona said, looking down at the establishment with disdain.

—There's plenty of grass outside— Ana said, while Anpiel laughed.

—Hahaha. Oh, by Elyon! I'm dying of laughter. Hahaha. How witty! I almost peed myself— the horse goddess replied sarcastically.

—When will you two grow up?— Tania asked as she left some coins on the table and stood up.

The group left the tavern and walked through the poor streets of Barcelona, full of beggars and garbage. Finally, they reached the main gate in the north of the city.

Outside, several caravans were being prepared by merchants to sell their goods in other cities. One of them, a small caravan, was being prepared with horses. Upon seeing Anpiel, the man gave him a greeting. It was the caravan that Anpiel had purchased.

—It's ready, sir— the man said as Anpiel handed him a coin and bid him farewell, entrusting them to God.

The caravan was ready, hitched to two horses, one brown and the other white. Inside, there were provisions of bread, fish, lamb meat, cheese, and spices.

Anpiel offered to drive while the goddesses rested in the wagon. As Ana and Epona continued to argue, and Tania seemed uninterested in talking, Rodrigo approached Anpiel to have a conversation with him.

—These girls never let you rest, Mr. Rodrigo, right?— the angel asked.

—Yes, I never thought they could behave like teenagers, to be honest, Mr. Anpiel— Rodrigo replied as he settled into the co-pilot's seat.

—Anpiel, my lord. At your service!— the angel responded.

—Oh, I see... and tell me, Anpiel, what exactly do you do? Ana and Tania haven't explained much about angels to me— Rodrigo asked the malak who kept his eyes on the road.

—Of course, Mr. Rodrigo— the angel said.

—The Malakim, or angels as you usually call us, are the intermediaries between Lel and the gods established on Earth; you could say we are their supervisors. We assess the work of the Grigori, and depending on those evaluations, they will receive certain privileges— he concluded.

—And is it true that there are warrior angels too?— Rodrigo asked again.

—Yes, sir. Any Malak can lead human armies or initiate a military conflict; although our power does not compare to that of the gods, we are also capable of using elements— the angel replied.

—Do you have any element?— Rodrigo continued asking.

"The wind, sir. I am a Malak capable of communicating with birds— the angel replied as he raised his hand and several swallows arrived and perched next to him.

—And does that ability come in handy for fighting? I've seen those girls destroy mountains— Rodrigo asked intrigued.

—It all depends on how the abilities are used, Mr. Rodrigo. In any case, it's not so much about being able to use birds to fight, but rather what can be done using their energies— Anpiel replied.

Then, the Malak pointed inside the caravan to Epona.

—The girl over there, Epona, is quite strong despite being a goddess of horses. Like me, she can also harness the energy of equines for herself. It would be difficult for me to explain, but I suppose you'll soon see the use of our abilities— Anpiel concluded.

—Well, I honestly don't understand anything— Rodrigo said.

—On the other hand, Mr. Rodrigo, you shouldn't underestimate us Malakim— the angel said.

—Certainly, the two goddesses accompanying you are exceptional, but let me explain that there have been Malakim who have far surpassed the power of gods like them, even cases of Nephilim and mere humans who have become threats to the gods through training and perseverance— the angel continued.

—Oh, I didn't know that— Rodrigo replied.

—One of the supreme commanders of our king's great enemy, Elyon, turned out to be a Malak, and his power was so high that not even the Elohim were able to defeat him. He was also the one who commanded the Tannin— the Malak continued.

—Tannin?— Rodrigo asked, intrigued by the new word.

—Serpent gods, Mr. Rodrigo. Gods with serpentine abilities who can wield the element of death at their will—

—They were the great rivals of our lord Elyon and his commanders, the Elohim. However, upon being defeated, the Tannin were banished from Lel and mostly sealed in Sheol— the angel replied.

—Sheol? Sorry, there are many terms I'm not familiar with— Rodrigo acknowledged.

—Don't worry, my lord. Sheol is what you call Hell or the Abyss. The serpent gods, the enemy of Elyon, and their supreme commander were locked away there. I'm sure you must have heard about it from the Malak Helel— the angel explained.
—Actually, no— Rodrigo responded.

—Oh, I see. In this world, he is commonly referred to by his Latin name— the angel said, and for the first time, he turned to look at Rodrigo.

—You call him 'Lucifer'—