Chapter 12:

Athena

Elyon - Gods among us


—Athena!— everyone shouted.

Tania, Epona, and Anpiel got into a defensive stance while Ana retrieved her pocket dimension and prepared to use it.

—Friends, please. I am just a passenger here who was captured by some kidnappers. Is that a crime?— Athena asked, raising her hands.

—Athena, the leader of the rebellion against Lel. There is a high reward for your head— Tania replied.

—And are you going to try to capture me in this lovely little village?— the Greek goddess sarcastically retorted.

—We'll use an alternate dimension— Tania responded.

—And then what? The passersby here will see us disappear when we deactivate the dimension. Do you want to fill this place with ghost stories? Wouldn't that be 'divine intervention' within the human world?— Athena said with an evil smile.

Rodrigo could see that Ana was trembling, and Epona couldn't keep her legs still. He sensed that the goddess they called Athena was a true monster.

—Of course— Athena said, continuing her evil smile, —if you still insist on trying to stop me, go ahead!—

An uncomfortable silence filled the air. The people passing by started to take interest in the situation; a group of people speaking strange languages on the verge of a fight.

Ana put away her pocket dimension and sighed.

—It's pointless. We won't be able to defeat her even if we use our totemas. She's too strong," she said, approaching to try to calm Tania and Epona.

Athena, still with her hands raised, immediately lowered them.

—It was to be expected from my dear disciple— she said, maintaining her smile.

—Nevertheless, we should inform the authorities in Lel— Anpiel said, relaxing their combat stance.

—I think that won't make any difference, my friends— the Greek goddess said. —In fact, I was the one waiting for you—

—What do you mean?— Tania asked.

—Ana, Tannit; I'm sorry to have to tell you that Lel has put your heads on silver platters for this mission— Athena said, turning around.

—I wouldn't want to have to bury someone so dear to me— she continued as she began to leave.

—What do you mean?— Ana asked.

—You're a smart girl, I believe you must have already figured it out. But if you need more information, I suggest we meet at an inn. We're only drawing unnecessary attention here— the Greek goddess said as she walked away.

—It's three blocks from here, at 'Le maison de hibou.' I hope to see you there—

And the goddess in the white tunic bid them farewell as she disappeared into the smoky, dark streets of Toulouse.

—We won't make deals with a traitor like you!— Epona shouted when the goddess had already vanished.

Ana was paralyzed with fear. Tania felt a slight chill she had been experiencing since Anpiel gave them the mission. Epona had a completely pale expression.

—Shall we go?— Rodrigo asked.

There was no response.

Rodrigo felt he shouldn't have said that.

Ana fell to her knees and began to cry.

Rodrigo wanted to approach her, but he couldn't. Tania approached her and placed a hand on her shoulder.

—Perhaps resting for a while will do us good, Ana— the fiery-haired goddess said.

—Excuse me, I'm fine— Ana said as she stood up again and wiped away her tears with her hand.

—That bitch always knows where to hit others; she's cunning like a fox— Epona said.

—Would you like me to make a reservation at an inn?— Anpiel asked.

—Yes— Tania replied.

The full moon illuminated the streets of Toulouse, and some people were still walking around at night. It wasn't too late yet, around six in the evening, but thanks to autumn, the nights were longer in the land of the Franks.

The grayish houses with their red roofs and the cobblestone streets gave the city a somewhat melancholic atmosphere. There was quite a bit of noise in the area as many taverns and inns were in operation. Unlike Leon or Castile, even Barcelona, Toulouse was in a very good state, as the Frankish realms were quite prosperous.

They were called the Frankish realms because they were a collection of diverse semi-independent kingdoms, countries, and duchies supposedly governed by a central government in the city of Paris, but in truth, each region acted as its own kingdom.

Toulouse was the capital of an autonomous country of the same name, and this division was so evident that it was necessary to undergo soldier inspections between each independent realm or Frankish country. That was why the defenses outside the cities were so poor and had become nests for bandits and kidnappers.

The difference in cultures was equally evident. Toulouse was located in a region called Occitania, a culture and language very similar to Catalan but slightly more French, a language spoken more in the northern part of that country.

The city of Toulouse was quite large and was crossed by the Garonne River. The city was very peculiar because, in addition to the imposing walls it had, one could see ruins and remnants of Roman vestiges still within the city, as it was a very important town during the time of the Roman Empire. These ruins gave a cosmopolitan air to the city.

A cathedral rose in the highest part of the city, looking majestic, as imposing as the enormous palace Rodrigo saw in Tortosa.

Rodrigo and company stayed at a small inn called 'Maison de la lune bleue' and first went to the tavern.

—Sorry, guys, I need to get drunk— Ana said.

—Me too— Epona said.

That night, in the tavern, Ana and Epona were quite drunk, singing and dancing with the other guests.

The tavern was spacious, and there were several patrons. A group of troubadours with their enormous lutes sang heroic stories of the great King Charlemagne, while people drank beer with great enthusiasm.

—Come on, girls, show us how they drink in Britannia and Ireland— the other patrons said.

Ana didn't understand anything, but Epona translated for her. They began to compete in drinking. Epona couldn't handle it and vomited, causing the innkeepers to become angry.

—Sorry for my friend's behavior— Tania said to the innkeeper. —Take these coins for the trouble—

The party continued. Tania, Anpiel, and Rodrigo watched as the girls enjoyed themselves while being intoxicated.

—Don't you drink?— Rodrigo asked Tania.

—And join in the silliness those girls are doing? No thanks— Tania replied.

—Well, at least they can release some stress they've been carrying for a while— Anpiel said, amused by the spectacle.

—Who was that woman we saw earlier?— Rodrigo asked.

—Atena, she's a criminal goddess and the leader of a revolutionary group that fights against Elyon— Anpiel said with a serious expression.

—Furthermore, she is the mentor Ana often talks about— Tania added.

—I thought she should be a good person then— Rodrigo replied hesitantly.

—She was— Tania said.

—Some time ago, Atena was the envy and admiration of all us goddesses. For many, she was our role model, and we wanted to follow in her footsteps. She was beautiful, strong, brave, and there were rumors that her father, who was an Anunnaki in the Greek pantheon, would leave his throne to her. But for reasons unknown to me, she voluntarily went into exile and became a wanderer— the fiery-haired goddess explained.

—Ana met her when she was in exile, but not as a threat to Lel. She had suffered a lot, and Atena sheltered her and helped her overcome her traumas— Tania continued to recount.

Rodrigo felt that he shouldn't ask about Ana's traumas.

—But one day, Atena proposed to Ana to join a rebellion she wanted to start, so she and Ana broke ties. Since then, Atena has been a highly sought-after criminal because, despite neither she nor her followers carrying totemas, they are very dangerous— Tania concluded the story.

—I've heard a lot about these totemas— Rodrigo said. —What are they?—

—Oh, that's true— Tania said, amused.

—When humans worshipped the gods, the gods assigned them physical aspects in the form of statues, symbols, seals, and so on. Prayers and faith shaped special suits that the gods use to fight and exponentially increase their powers. You could call them faith magnets. The more a deity is worshipped and the more devotion there is to them, the more powerful these totemas become— Anpiel explained.

Then the angel took out a figurine from her pocket. It had the shape of a seated woman with two horses by her side.

—This is Epona's totema. When she needs it, I will give it to her— the angel said.

—And what about yours?— Rodrigo asked Tania.

—Well, okay, I think I owe you an explanation, Rodrigo— Tania said nervously.

Rodrigo looked at Tania in surprise.

—Ana and I don't have a good relationship in Lel... that's why a Malakim has come to observe our performance, but we don't have permission to use totemas yet. They are up there, in Lel. Unless the mission requires it, Anpiel will retrieve them and hand them to us," the goddess explained.

Rodrigo felt that he shouldn't ask about the reason for their bad relationship in Lel. It was already strange enough that Tania was talking so much.

—It's a strange mission, I must admit— Anpiel replied.

—Normally, totemas would be given if the combat were against a god, like in Loki's case— Anpiel concluded.

Tania fell silent for a while.

—I think Ana and Epona think the same way I do. I think Atena wasn't lying— Tania said, trying to avert her gaze.

Rodrigo was surprised. Would Anpiel take note of what Tania had said?

—I think we need to talk to her, but it's tough for Ana because of the history she had with Atena— Tania said.

—And won't this affect your grade with Lel?— Rodrigo asked.

Tania clenched her fist and almost hit the table but restrained herself.

—I won't say anything to my superiors— Anpiel said. —Maybe you don't know, but Tania helped us a lot when she still had favor in Lel. I'm sure this is also Anath's machination— the angel said calmly.

—I've worked so hard, completed every mission assigned to me, and yet I still don't have the right to enter Lel, I still don't have the right to use my totema, and now they want to kill me! Damn Whoranat!— Tania exclaimed, frustration evident on her face as a tear rolled down her cheek.

—Would you like a drink, Miss Tania?— Anpiel asked.

But Tania didn't respond. She lowered her face to the table and placed her hands on it. She was furious and frustrated. Sobs could be heard coming from her.

It was an uncomfortable situation. Neither Rodrigo nor Anpiel could do anything as they listened to the goddess's sobs.

—I'm sorry, guys, I'm going to bed— Tania said as she got up. —But tomorrow, I want to talk to Athena, even if Ana doesn't like it— the goddess concluded, leaving some coins on the table before walking away.

—I think I'll retire as well, Mr. Rodrigo— Anpiel said. —I haven't slept for two whole days—

With that, the angel got up and left the tavern.

Rodrigo looked at Ana and Epona, who were still dancing.

—Rui, Rui, come, dance with me!— Ana shouted.

Ana went and pulled Rodrigo, attempting to make him dance, but she was already too drunk and could only lean against Rodrigo's chest.

—We should go, Ana— Rodrigo said.

—Don't leave me here, Rui— Ana replied.

Rodrigo put Ana's arm over his shoulders and helped her out, while he saw Epona continuing to drink with the others. He took her to their room and laid her down on the bed. Ana immediately fell asleep.

Rodrigo realized that he shared the room with Tania, but the goddess was already sleeping and facing away.

The young man took off his shoes and sat on the bed when he heard Tania screaming, —Stop, stop! Leave me alone, please! I didn't know, I didn't know!—

She was screaming in her sleep, and Rodrigo didn't know what to do, but Tania kept screaming and crying. He got up and took her hand. Tania started to calm down and fell asleep again.

Rodrigo began to realize that the world of the gods wasn't so different from that of humans.

—Is this a suicide mission?— Rodrigo thought, but he promised himself that he would do everything possible to protect them all.