Chapter 18:

A morning of determination

Elyon - Gods among us

After undoing the alternate dimension, Ana, Tania, Epona, Rodrigo, and Athena attended to the survivors of Surtr's attack. Unfortunately, many had died, and others were badly injured from burns or being crushed by debris. The locals blamed the war in the north, while others believed it was a divine attack due to the proximity to the year 1000.

Rodrigo felt disgusted. He had certainly witnessed wars and the death of his own people. But this time, it was a god directly responsible for this massacre among humans. For the first time, he felt guilt for the soldiers he had killed in his fit of rage.

Epona helped the children pray and tried to cheer them up by singing. She didn't understand their words, but gestures were enough to communicate. Using some flowers, she made a crown and placed it on a crying child, who then stopped crying.

Rodrigo couldn't take his eyes off her; he was fascinated by that maternal side of the horse goddess. There was something wonderful about her dual nature, at times appearing as a drunken peasant and at others as a sweet and affectionate woman.

On the other hand, Ana was tending to the wounded, always wearing a smile. She had shielded Rodrigo to save his life, and he couldn't forget the face of the smiling goddess while her insides were being crushed by the giant.

—Why was Ana willing to die for me? What makes me special?— Rodrigo didn't understand. He had also heard the giant call her 'Morrigan', but she seemed to hate that name. Rodrigo desired to know everything about her and help her in any way he could.

Tania showed excessive diligence that night. She organized rescue teams, lifted stones, and pulled people from the rubble. Ana was worried that she wouldn't sleep because she would be exhausted the next day, but Tania kept working as if all of this were her fault. It was impressive how someone who couldn't speak the native language of those people could organize them. The goddess's leadership skills were remarkable.

Finally, everyone was able to rest in an improvised camp. Rodrigo and Ana slept in the same tent, which was set up next to several others in front of a fire to keep warm. The goddess simply touched her blanket and fell into a deep sleep, having expended a lot of energy in the battle and assisting the people.

Meanwhile, Tania stayed awake with Athena, who sat on the outskirts, drinking a little mead. The goddesses didn't exchange words; they just watched the sky silently turn red with the sunrise.

Epona, on the other hand, slept with the orphaned children as a true mother goddess.

The sound of birds awakened Rodrigo in the morning. He was so tired that he couldn't wake up as early as usual. To his surprise, Ana had moved in her sleep and was now embracing him. Nervousness consumed the young man as he felt that they shouldn't be sharing the same bed at the same time. In that moment, he thought once again about Ana's attempt to sacrifice herself alongside him.

—It won't happen again— he thought. —Next time, I'll be the one to protect her—

The birds continued singing louder and louder, as if they were speaking to Rodrigo. He gently extricated himself from Ana's embrace and got up to see what was happening.

Outside the tent, several people were sleeping on the ground, and the fire had already gone out. It was dreadfully cold, and the sunlight had not yet appeared, leaving the sky still dark. Then he noticed two birds perched on a dried-up tree in front of him. The little creatures had two shiny objects tied to their bodies.

Rodrigo approached them, and the birds didn't fly away; it was as if they were still calling to him. One bird had a stone with a crude sketch of a woman with a crescent moon and a triangle-shaped dress attached to it, while the other had a symbol of three spirals.

When Rodrigo took them, the birds flew away.

At that moment, Rodrigo understood, they were the totemas of Tania and Ana. Anpiel had sent them using the birds, although there was still some slightly fresh blood on the totems. What had happened to the angel? The young man feared the worst.

Tania, who was still awake and had ignored the birds, greeted Rodrigo. He immediately shouted, —Tania, look, is this a totema?—

Tania jumped up and saw the stone with the crude girl's sketch; she took it and squeezed it tightly as tears streamed down her face. —My totema, it's my totema— she said.

—It has blood... Anpiel— Tania placed the stone on her chest and closed her eyes.

Rodrigo approached Tania and placed his hand on her shoulder. —His sacrifice will not be in vain— he said. Tania nodded.

Ana, who was still asleep and snoring blissfully, was abruptly awakened by a kick from Tania. —Wake up, Crow face, look at this!— the goddess shouted as she kicked her.

Ana woke up startled, but her expression changed when Tania held her totem in front of her face. A glimmer of excitement appeared on her face. —Thank you, Anpiel. I knew you would do it!— she said, filled with emotion.

Ana also noticed the blood on her totema, causing her expression to change from joy to anger.

—Tania, I'm going to kill Anath, do you hear me? Even if you decide to be my enemy, I will kill her— Ana said furiously.

Tania shook her head. —No, Ana; I've made my decision. Anpiel's blood made me make this decision. I will also join Athena's group— she said angrily.

Ana smiled then. Finally, the four of them would be together.

The two goddesses went to wake up Epona, who was still deeply asleep, embracing several children. They woke her up while placing the totemas in front of her face.

—I can't believe that useless...— the horse goddess began to say when she noticed the blood.

—Is he okay?— Epona asked.

—We don't know— Tania responded.

—If he is, he must still be in Lel, and we have to rescue him— Ana said.

The children woke up. Although Epona didn't understand what they were saying, she did her best to express that she needed some privacy because she had important matters to discuss.

The three goddesses sat alone inside the tent and took a seat on the ground.

—What do we do now? Are we going to fight against Loki? Or Tania, I don't know..— Epona asked.

—I have also joined you— Tania said.

—Well, well, now the three of us have deserted Lel— Epona responded.

—There's no reason to fight against Loki right now. We need to find out Anpiel's whereabouts— Ana said.

At that moment, Tania slapped Ana.

—Why did you hit me, Tania?— Ana asked angrily.

—Are you going to throw away Anpiel's sacrifice? Have you forgotten the people and children who died last night?— Tania asked, annoyed.

Ana and Epona fell silent.

—Besides— Tania added, —Lel must know by now that our totemas have disappeared, and they will hunt us down. Those Celtic gods planned to kill Loki; now they'll come after us— the goddess with fiery hair continued.

—That's why we have to invite Loki to join our group— Athena said as she entered the tent where the goddesses were discussing.

—I don't want those bastards with us— Tania said.

—The enemy of my enemy is my friend. We don't have a choice right now; considering what they know about you, your history, and now with your totemas, you are a threat to Lel," Athena said frankly.

Tania sighed deeply.

—Fine, but I'm going to kick that miserable one's ass first, and besides, you only need Loki, not that giant from yesterday— Tania said defiantly, looking at Athena.

—Kill that bastard if it satisfies you— the Greek goddess responded.

The goddesses left the tent. Ana noticed that Epona was downcast.

—Are you okay, Epona?— Ana asked her.

—I told him not to come back... now he's dead... because of me— the blonde-haired goddess responded, her eyes filled with tears.

—It wasn't your fault, Epona— Ana said, placing her hands on the blonde goddess's shoulders.

—Besides, he's not dead, I'm sure. And we're going to crush those who did this to him. I swear!— Ana continued, determined.

Epona nodded.

The rays of sunlight began to appear at eight in the morning, and all the survivors ate bread and drank a little beer or water. After eating and bidding farewell to everyone, while people thanked the goddesses for their help, Epona managed to acquire five horses for their journey to Aarhus.

—The moment of truth has arrived— Tania said.

—Let's defeat those bastards— Ana said.

—Let's make them pay for the people they killed— Epona said.

—And let's rescue Anpiel— Rodrigo said.

Athena nodded with a smile, and the five of them set off towards Aarhus.