Chapter 39:

The banquet before the battle

Elyon - Gods among us

Rodrigo, Ana, and Epona returned to their room immediately. The horse goddess sat down in one of the armchairs and stretched with a big smile.

—Well, at least we can rest these last few hours before the fight. I'll spend them sleeping, if you don't mind— the blonde goddess said.

However, Ana stood by the door in silence with a concerned look, then took a deep breath.

—Rui, Epona, I need to talk to you— the Irish goddess said.

—What's the matter, Ana?— Rodrigo asked as he grabbed a fruit from the central table to eat.

—Is it uncomfortable for me to be here, lovebirds?— Epona asked playfully.

—This is serious, Epona— Ana replied, annoyed.

—Oh, what's wrong? Worried about the fight?— Epona asked.

—No, well, it's not that— Ana replied.

—It's about Tania, isn't it?— Rodrigo asked.

—Yes, Rui. There's something very strange about her— the dark-haired goddess replied.

—I thought she was still upset with me— Rodrigo said with a depressed look.

—Are you still on that, Rodrigo?— Epona asked, annoyed.

—We've all been distant because of the training and everything, and that's why we haven't spent much time together— Ana mentioned. —But Tania has been even more distant and melancholic, as if she's lost in her own world—

—What do you think could be happening to her?— the blonde goddess asked.

—I don't know. I've known her for many years, and I've never seen her like this. But I have a theory— Ana said.

—What is it?— Epona asked.

—Remember that my teacher had spies in Lel? What would prevent Lel from having spies here as well?— Ana asked.

—Spies? Do you suspect someone?— Epona asked.

—I think...— Ana paused for a moment. She approached Epona and Rodrigo and spoke in a very low voice.

—I think that Nabu guy is a spy and he's brainwashing Tania—

—Why do you suspect him?— Epona also asked in a hushed voice, leaning in close to Ana.

—Ever since that man started treating Tania's depression, she's been acting like this— Ana responded.

—Even worse, he decided to leave just when the war against Ares is about to begin. It's possible that he's setting a trap for us or something— Ana continued.

—I heard that the man can enter other people's dreams. Do you think Tania is being manipulated by him through nightmares? Once, I arrived very late and I saw her awake, like a sleepwalker— Epona said.

—It's a possibility, given Tania's past and her immense depression that she hasn't managed to overcome. I think they must be blackmailing her to do something she doesn't want to do— the black-haired goddess said.

—Could it be the village where she lives?— Rodrigo asked.

—Would Lel dare to destroy a human city?— Epona asked.

—They shouldn't, it would cause rebellion among their allies. But they could lead a human army to destroy the city. And it would be something even Tania herself couldn't prevent— Ana replied.

At that moment, Tania opened the door to the room and looked at the three of them in the living room, discussing in hushed voices. The goddess looked at them with a tired and sad expression, and then continued walking towards her own chamber.

—If something happens— Ana said, —we won't know until we leave Pallas. Let's be very careful—

—Agreed— Rodrigo and Epona replied.

That evening, Rodrigo and the others were invited to a farewell banquet in the main dining hall of the palace. Tania decided not to attend, excusing herself by saying that she was very exhausted.

There were lamb and pork dishes, as well as wine and mead, and plenty of bread.

At the table were Horus along with two other men dressed in Egyptian attire, Mithras, Sol, Asclepius, Myrddin, Erinle, Khine, and Zorya, as well as several gods and malakim that Rodrigo and the others didn't recognize. Indeed, Nabu was not present, further fueling the suspicions of Ana and Epona.

"I'll have to make it with bread and wine. I can't believe they have no consideration for us vegetarians!" Epona said angrily.

—I've already told you, Epona, there's plenty of grass in the garden. Just pull out a bush and put it on your plate— Ana sarcastically replied. The two goddesses began to argue.

Athena entered the room with a glass of wine in her hand and stood at the front, in the highest part where she could be seen by all the guests.

—I am grateful to see all of you here, gathering and enjoying yourselves in this room— the goddess said as she raised her glass high.

All the guests turned to look at her.

—Tomorrow, we will fight against the forces of Ares as revenge for the deaths of Rikbiel and Samyaza, and to bring justice to their devastated families. We will not allow the demons in Lel to belittle and humiliate us. We will show them our worth and the power we possess when we fight for our brothers and friends. Because on this planet, we are all one big family, and if anyone messes with one of us, we will bring blood to them— the goddess continued.

The guests cheered with joy, raising their wine glasses.

—A long time ago, I created Orniskem with Horus to fight against the tyrannical rule of Lel, and I am grateful that all of you have joined me and placed your trust and faith in this humble servant.
Lel creates wars and pain in the human world for its own benefit, to empower that false Elyon sitting on the throne, and we will not allow it. Tomorrow, we will take a great step forward as a group, by presenting Ares' head to them— the goddess said excitedly.

The guests continued cheering, filled with emotion and jubilation.

—Let us also toast to the missions of our brothers who are not present here, but who are fighting in the Baltic Sea; the empires of Ghana, Kanem, Makuria, Ilé-Ifè, and the fallen kingdom of Axum; the kingdoms of the Indian Peninsula, Bulgaria, Magyarország, Polska, and the land of Rus. Regions that have not yet been corrupted by Lel's perversion or are fighting against it—

—This toast is also for them, our dear brothers. Let's raise our glasses and cheer— Athena said, still holding her glass up.

All the guests raised their glasses and shouted, —Cheers!—

"I also want to toast to our new friends: Ana, Tania, Epona, and Rocinante, who will be fighting against Ares and rescuing their friend from the clutches of Lel tomorrow— the goddess said, still raising her glass.

Rodrigo felt embarrassed, as Athena continued to mispronounce his name. He could only hear Epona laughing and spitting out the wine she was drinking due to her laughter.

—And finally, let us toast to the gods of Asgard, who have finally agreed to join our group, and to Bellona, who is currently accompanying them— Athena continued.

The guests cheered with joy.

—Tomorrow will be a day of victory for Orniskem, let's toast to that and to achieving peace in this multiverse. Cheers!— Athena shouted at the top of her lungs.

All the guests raised their glasses and shouted in unison, —Cheers!—

Everyone ate, drank, and laughed. Two guests tried to seduce Ana and Epona, which made Rodrigo uncomfortable. Fortunately for him, both of them rejected their advances. Then, Ana asked Rodrigo to dance while music played on a lyre-like instrument called a kithara, accompanied by flutes and tambourines. Rodrigo felt embarrassed, but Ana told him to relax and imitate her movements. They held hands and moved gently to the sound of the kithara.

Ana looked stunning that night, wearing a long red dress with long sleeves and golden details. The dress exposed her shoulders and part of her chest, and she wore an exquisite golden diadem on her forehead.

—Well, that's enough, now it's my turn to dance with him— Epona said as she stood next to Rodrigo.

The equine goddess wore a long white dress with a long black sash, and a white veil covered her hair. Epona's green eyes looked beautiful that night, and Rodrigo remembered how much he liked her. Despite having a slight scar under her lip, her smile, her tender eyes, her hair shining like gold in the light of the bonfires. It was as if a goddess had stood in front of him, literally.

Ana refused.

—Go find a dance partner at the stable— she said.

—At least I have class, Ana. What's with those trashy outfits showing half your chest? Well, I suppose that's what you call a chest, it looks more like the sagging breasts of an obese king— Epona replied as she took Rodrigo's other hand.

—I'm prettier than you, horse face— Ana responded angrily.

Epona held her breasts and shook them.

—Look at these breasts, Ana. You will never be able to compete with them with... those. Are you really a goddess or just a eunuch in a wig?— she said.

—Girls, enough— Rodrigo said timidly.

—Wow, Rowan, you're quite the Adonis with the ladies— Athena approached Rodrigo, putting her arm around his back.

The goddess was intoxicated, and her alcohol-laden breath could be smelled from miles away.

—No, it's just that they like to tease eachother— Rodrigo said, embarrassed.

—Come on, tell me, who would you sleep with tonight?— Athena slurred in her drunken voice.

—Teacher! Don't say those things!— Ana yelled angrily.

—I think she's pretty wasted— Epona said, annoyed.

—Don't be shy, girls. Epona, if you don't want to lose your virginity, there are other ways to uphold your virgin vows... you know... from behind— drunken Athena continued.

Ana and Epona blushed and wore expressions of anger.

—Enough, Athena! Don't talk about those things— Ana yelled furiously.

At that moment, Horus arrived and grabbed Athena's arm, placing it on his shoulder.

—I apologize for you witnessing that, ladies; I'll take her away now. Poor girl can't handle more than two glasses of wine— the Egyptian god said.

—Hey, hey, Horus, where's more wine? I'm not drunk yet— drunken Athena continued while Horus led her away.

—I think I'll go to the room. I've lost my desire to dance— Ana said, still blushing.

—Well then. Can I keep Rodrigo company all night?— Epona asked with a mischievous look.

—Do whatever you want— Ana said angrily as she turned around and left.

—Did you hear that, Rodrigo? You're mine all night— Epona said with a flirtatious look.

Rodrigo became nervous and nodded.

He couldn't help but blush and feel nervous around Epona. He really liked her. Since the first time he saw her, he felt she was the most beautiful girl he had ever seen. She started off as a foul-mouthed sailor-like person, but as he spent time with her, he felt her language had softened a bit. He couldn't help but think of her in a more intimate way, and when Epona's body brushed against his and he could feel her soft breasts against him, he had an involuntary erection that Epona noticed.

The goddess looked at him with a lascivious gaze but said nothing. Rodrigo felt embarrassed, but he couldn't push the goddess away, and at the same time, he didn't want her to move and expose that spectacle to everyone.

Rodrigo didn't have party clothes, so Epona and Ana had managed to get him a blue ensemble with black stockings and brown shoes, along with a medieval blue hat. His stockings didn't leave much to the imagination, particularly with his erection.

—Do you know, Rodrigo? I know you like Ana, but I think she can't help but see you as her disciple. Tell me, would you like to experiment with me what Atenea suggested? After all, we don't know what tomorrow holds, and we should enjoy life while we can— Epona said with a soft and seductive voice, gently moving her hands across the nervous young man's body.

—I don't think... it's a good idea— Rodrigo said nervously.

—Ana won't find out, and I see the way you look at me. And that little friend of yours is tempting me to do naughty things with you. It's of a good size, and I'd like to try it— Epona continued saying.

Rodrigo didn't know what to do. Of course, he desired Epona more than anything in the world, but it was wrong. They were heading into a war, and one of his friends was suffering. It wasn't the right time to be thinking about such things. But was it his fault? He finally had a chance to lose his virginity.

Human girls had always rejected him, and he had tried to be a gentleman, but he would always get nervous and ruin it. With his reputation as the son of a demon, women would quickly ignore him. But here was a goddess, wanting to spend the night with him. He couldn't even control his erection. He had to think.

The young man gently pushed Epona away.

—I'm sorry, Ep. I want to, but I know I shouldn't. Besides, you're intoxicated, and that means I can't take advantage of you. I apologize— Rodrigo replied.

—Well... never mind, Rodrigo. You truly make me envy Ana even more. She's beautiful, strong. Despite her past, she always wears a smile and is full of energy. I'm just a simple goddess of horses, weak and small. I tend to use cursing words because I was raised in the stables, and now I have a horrible scar on my face. I understand— Epona said as she turned her gaze away from Rodrigo.

—It wasn't my intention— the young man said apologetically.

—No, I understand. Don't worry, there's no problem, believe me. Ana is better than me, and I've always known it. It's better for me to leave— said the goddess of horses as she turned her back to Rodrigo and walked away. A tear rolled down her right eye.

Epona departed, and Rodrigo was left alone at the banquet, feeling like a tomb. He had ruined everything, but he didn't know what else he could have done or said.