Chapter 15:

Journey to Jutland

Elyon - Gods among us

It had been six days since Rodrigo and the others left Toulouse, and they finally arrived in the city of Caen in Normandy at night, where they would take a boat to travel to Jutland. The journey would easily take another seven days.

The Vikings took over the northern region of the disintegrated kingdom of Charlemagne in the past century. Although the Norse living there had agreed to become a protectorate of the West Frankish kingdom and try to adopt its customs and traditions, the truth was that they still behaved as if they were Danes. As further evidence of this, there were direct merchant trips to Denmark, and people continued to speak Danish instead of French. Tania's multilingual skills were no longer useful in this region.

—I speak a little Norwegian, which is similar to Danish— Epona said as she stretched after the long journey from Tours.

—It's so cold here!— Rodrigo complained as he tried to warm himself by curling up.

Rodrigo had served as the pilot in the caravan since Anpiel had retired. It had been six days already, and there was no news of him.

—Don't worry, Rodrigo— Epona replied, —They have good wine here! You'll see how quickly you warm up— the blonde goddess continued as she got off the caravan.

Rodrigo looked around. Caen looked very different from the other cities they had visited. The houses were picturesque two-story structures made entirely of wood with inverted V-shaped roofs. There was a peculiar castle made of stone and wood at the highest part of the city. The streets were not paved, but the crossroads were notable because the carts constantly left a passage, and the people dressed differently. This was their first encounter with Danish culture.

—We need to find a place to stay— Tania said as she jumped off the cart.

At that moment, the sky thundered, and it started to rain.

—Yes, it rains all the time in this region— Ana said as she got off the cart. The rain didn't seem to bother her much.

After parking their wagon, they stayed at an inn near the port. Epona tried to speak in her 'Norwegian,' but no one understood her. Fortunately, the innkeepers understood Occitan, and Tania was able to rent a room.

—I thought you had been in this region before, Epona. I thought you had enjoyed your exquisite wine here. What the hell was that Norwegian of yours?— Ana asked annoyed.

—That was a long time ago! Stop bothering me! It wasn't called Normandy back then!— Epona frustratedly responded.

Finally, they entered the room. This time they only rented one room to have more conversation within the whole group.

—Do you still have no news of Anpiel?— Ana asked gloomily as she sat on the bed in the room.

—None— Tania replied. —I hope he's not in danger— she said.

—Well— Tania continued, —we have to board the ship to Jutland early tomorrow. Try to rest—

They first went out and sold their cart since they wouldn't need it anymore. To Tania's surprise, many people knew how to speak Occitan and French, so communication wasn't that complicated. After having a few drinks and dinner at the inn's tavern, they went upstairs to sleep as they were all tired from the journey.

That night, they all slept in the same room, each sharing a bed. Rodrigo slept next to Epona and was quite nervous. During the trip, the blonde goddess seemed more and more beautiful to him, and he couldn't get her out of his mind. Even Ana had made a comment for him to stop drooling over the goddess of the stables. But there was no way to avoid it. And now, she was sleeping right next to him.

Epona had her lips slightly parted as she slept, and Rodrigo couldn't stop thinking about kissing her moist lips.

—A true gentleman would never do that— he thought. So, he turned around and tried to sleep.

The next day, they set sail early for Jutland on a ship. The only ships that reached Denmark were long Norman merchant ships that didn't allow much privacy. They were quite spacious. The passengers placed their merchandise in the center of the ship, while the ship captain and two rowers were at the highest part. The passengers sat and waited on a small platform above the bow. It wasn't the most comfortable way to travel, and this caused Epona to curse several times.

The ships traveled in small fleets, although there weren't many on this occasion, only two. Not many merchants were willing to travel to Denmark because the region was in the midst of a civil war, so the ships couldn't reach the city of Aarhus, which was supposed to be their route. But they would be dropped off nearby, at the port of Horsens.

Rodrigo started feeling seasick and couldn't stop vomiting. He had never traveled by boat for such a long time, and the North Sea current was particularly turbulent. Ana was next to Rodrigo, trying to make him feel better.

—I'll never bring a country bumpkin out of a village again— Tania said angrily, seeing Rodrigo unable to control his stomach.

At night, Rodrigo continued vomiting and vomiting. Tania and Epona had fallen asleep on the center side under a tent, using a group of blankets the captain distributed so they could cover themselves from the cold and rain because it was pouring in that region.

On the other side, at the bow, Ana continued trying to make Rodrigo feel better, but poor Rodrigo couldn't stop vomiting. He had already expelled everything from his stomach, so he was only suffering from the discomfort caused by the nausea.

Suddenly, they both heard a voice shouting at them in divine language: —Well, what a small world it is!—

Ana turned around and saw Athena on the other ship, sitting on the bow. Since it was night, the ships had stopped rowing as they moved slowly with the evening breeze, and they were close enough for people to communicate from one side to the other just by raising their voices a bit.

—What the hell are you doing here?— Ana shouted, taking a defensive stance.

—What? Can't I travel to Jutland too?— the goddess asked with a smile. She jumped onto the ship where Rodrigo and Ana were and sat on the bow.

—You're following us, aren't you?— Ana asked indignantly.

—Has your malak brought you your totemas yet?— Athena responded with another question.

Ana fell silent, while Rodrigo tried to vomit again.

Athena turned to look at the stars.

—I never abandoned the heroes I supported, Ana. See that constellation? It's Perseus, and I helped him throughout so he could decapitate the Gorgon. Why do you think I want to hurt you or cause you harm?— the Greek goddess said, pointing towards the sky.

—You turned into a rebellious scum and disappointed me— Ana said, massaging Rodrigo's back.

—Although you and I think completely differently, Ana, you are no longer my disciple, you are my friend, and I will never let you die— the Greek goddess said with a smile.

—Since my spies informed me of this, I took control of the situation to help you in any way I could, without even informing my partners about these activities— continued the brown-haired goddess.

Rodrigo tried to vomit again, but his stomach was already empty.

—Boy, take this— Athena threw a peach to Rodrigo, and Ana caught it.

—It's a remedy for motion sickness. Although it may seem strange, I also vomit on ships— the goddess said.

Ana hesitated for a moment, but Rodrigo was so desperate that she took the fruit and bit into it.

—Wait, Rui...— Ana said.

Rodrigo's stomach calmed down, and he finally felt better. Relieved, he stood up again.

—Are you okay, Rui?— Ana asked.

—Yes, I feel better now— Rodrigo replied, then turned to Athena and bowed in reverence.

—Thank you very much for your help— he said.

Athena smiled and waved her hand in denial, then got up from the ship's bow to jump back to her own.

—If you need my help, just call me, Ana— she said.

Ana wanted to cry but held back.

—Teacher, I... I appreciate everything you've done for me. But I want to fix my life, I want to regain Lel's trust. I don't hate humanity like you do, I still believe that humans are wonderful beings, even if they can make wrong decisions. Please understand, I don't think like you, I can't join you— Ana said, bowing before the Greek goddess as well.

Athena smiled again.

—I've met a boy; he's very silly and absent-minded, but he always puts the well-being of others above his own. Even though he feels overwhelmed, he always does his best to keep going.
When I met him, I saw myself reflected in him, and I wanted to help him in the same way you helped me. His presence in my life has made me want to fight for humanity again!— the dark-haired goddess continued, maintaining her reverential posture as her hand sought Rodrigo's hand.

Rodrigo blushed as he held the goddess's hand.

Athena fell silent for a moment.

—Ana, that's fantastic!— the Greek goddess became overjoyed. Then she approached Rodrigo to have a closer look.

—Congratulations, young lad, you're a good match. Just invite me to the wedding, will you?— she said.

Rodrigo was perplexed. This elegant and dangerous goddess was jumping for joy as if she were a little girl who had just received a new doll.

—I didn't mean that, you silly teacher!— Ana shouted in a childish and affectionate tone of voice. Rodrigo had never heard Ana behave like this before.

—And have you already done it?— Athena asked playfully.

—Is your head empty or what? Silly teacher! He's my disciple, and I'm his teacher— Ana replied with the same tone of voice.

—Oh, child, if you knew what teachers did with their disciples in Athens— Athena continued teasing Ana.

—Shut up, you perverted teacher!— Ana shouted again.

Athena laughed and placed her hand on Ana's shoulder.

—I'm glad you're overcoming your past, Ana. I'll always be here to help you, never forget that— she said.

—Thank you— Ana responded timidly.

Rodrigo finally realized that Ana was dying to talk to Athena but felt that she shouldn't. She acted tough, but she still saw Athena as a mother figure.

—I don't think she's evil or cruel like the rumors painted her— he thought.

—Although our paths may diverge, even if one day we have to fight on different sides, Ana, I will be willing to give my life for you. Maybe you think I was the only one helping you, but you helped me a lot too, and even if it wasn't your intention, you gave my life a purpose. You're wonderful and have the ability to bring smiles to the world; not like the goddess of war they forced you to be. You're not a goddess of death, you're a goddess of light— Athena said, hugging Ana and Rodrigo at the same time.

Ana started crying, but she wasn't sad, she was happy. Rodrigo noticed a teardrop in the Greek goddess's eye as well.

Athena let them go.

—Well, it's better if we don't see each other, or Tannit will surely get angry when she sees me— the Greek goddess said as she moved away from Ana and Rodrigo.

—I won't say anything about this— Ana said with a smile.

—Good, remember, if you need me, just call me. I'll always be watching over you, Ana— with that said, the Greek goddess turned around and jumped onto the adjacent ship.

Ana turned to Rodrigo with a big smile.

—Let's not tell Tania about this, okay?— the black-haired goddess said.

—I'm a tomb— Rodrigo replied.

Both of them returned to where Tania and Epona were sleeping. Fortunately, neither of them woke up during the encounter.