Elyon - Gods among us
The banquet hall of Valhalla was a gigantic and impressive room, filled with golden columns and rectangular tables made of oak, which were adorned with elaborately red tablecloths and golden ornaments. The ceiling was so high that it couldn't be seen, but it was covered by a mist that seemed to be scented with aromas that can only be perceived in the forest.
On each column, there were statues of Valkyries holding a lamp with fire, which served to illuminate the gigantic hall. The number of tables couldn't be counted, as the room was so large that it was impossible to see the walls or the limits of them. Each table could seat approximately a hundred diners.
Rodrigo and the others sat on the left side of the table, while Thrúd, along with Magni and Modi, sat on the right side. Along with them, other individuals began to arrive, which Rodrigo correctly guessed were Norse gods.
The Valkyries began to arrive with enormous jugs of beer, mead, and wine. Other group brought a gigantic roasted boar, still skewered by a stick with which it was roasted, and placed it right in front of the Norse gods. Thrúd, with much enthusiasm, tore a leg from the gigantic boar and began to eat it without any class or elegance. At the same time, Modi and Magni were drinking beer from enormous glasses in a very uncivilized way.
The room was filled with laughter, shouts of joy, and singing; it was as if they were in a seedy tavern, with the difference that the place was majestic. Most of the diners that Rodrigo could observe looked like northern warriors; all were dressed with helmets and chainmail. They all ate, drank, and sang.
However, the discomfort with such an environment by the members of Orniskem was noticeable, as they were not used to such harsh surroundings. Epona, mainly, just soaked bread in oil and ate discreetly, as there was only meat to eat. Although both Ana and Epona were known for drinking a lot and having fun at parties, the atmosphere there was so heavy that they preferred not to.
At that moment, some men approached lewdly the goddesses of Orniskem, but quickly, one of the diners who was present in front of Rodrigo and company, stood up and hit the table with her beer mug.
—Get lost, deviants. These girls are our guests, don't bother them!— she shouted furiously.
The men got scared and left.
—I apologize for the attitude of our Einherjer, most only know how to fight since they were born— replied the goddess, who was a tall woman with long blonde hair and very pronounced green eyes.
—Don't worry, Lady...— said Tania and became speechless as she didn't know her name.
—Frigg. I am the queen of Asgard and wife of the great Odin— replied the woman, who wore a simple white dress and a silver crown on her head.
Rodrigo was surprised because he expected the queen to be on a throne or something similar, but there she was; sitting on a simple wooden bench like all the diners, and sharing the table with several people.
—Lady Frigg, it's an honor— quickly replied Menrva, while giving a slight bow to the Norse goddess.
—Please, we don't do those things here in Asgard; without formalities— replied the annoyed Norse goddess as she stood up.
Menrva felt embarrassed and quickly sat back down.
Frigg then turned to her diners to introduce them.
—You already know the children of Thor: Thrúd, Modi, and Magni— said the queen of Asgard.
Thrúd raised her hand while she continued eating the boar's leg like a wild beast. Modi and Magni continued drinking beer and just nodded.
—Nice to meet you, Orniskem, I am Sif, Thor's wife and mother of these three boys— said a small woman who was next to Thor's sons. She had very long curly blonde hair and a long green dress. —I hope my children didn't give you any problems—
—Don't worry, ma'am, they didn't give us any problems— said Tania with a smile.
—What do you mean we didn't give them any problems?— Modi shouted furiously.
—She's calling us weak!— Magni added furiously.
—I didn't mean that— Tania replied, embarrassed.
—This calls for a fight!— Modi shouted cheerfully as Magni shouted jubilantly.
At that moment, the entire banquet hall was shouting: —Fight! Fight! Fight!— as they raised their beer mugs and swords to the sky.
Tania was nervous as she watched everyone shouting for the Norse gods to fight, while Modi made his ax appear and cheered the crowd to start the fight.
—I knew it, this was a trap— said a nervous Epona, watching several Einherjer raise their swords, spears, and axes in preparation for combat.
But, as if a lightning bolt had thundered, Frigg hit the table again. The sound was so loud that the room trembled, and a very loud noise echoed throughout the hall.
—Behave yourselves, you fucking drunkards! Our guests are not accustomed to your foolishness and senseless fights— the Queen of Asgard shouted furiously, so much so that it felt like a lightning bolt had struck. The entire room immediately fell silent.
—She is undoubtedly the queen of this place, everyone fears her— thought Anpiel, surprised.
—Modi, dear, would you like to return to your seat?— Thor's mother asked in a sweet voice tinged with annoyance.
—Yes, mother— replied a chastened Modi, who returned to his seat in shame.
—Well, on the other hand, let me introduce you to our other diners. This is my grandson Forseti— said the goddess Frigg, putting her hand on the shoulder of a blond god with a neatly shaved beard and a white robe.
—It's a great honor to have the members of Orniskem present here— said the blond god.
The goddess Frigg took a few steps and placed her hand on another deity. He was a rather young boy, easily about fifteen years old. He had long, orange hair, green eyes, and a face full of freckles.
—And this is Vidar, one of Asgard's prodigies— said the Nordic queen.
Vidar merely nodded. The other members of Orniskem did the same.
Frigg returned to her seat and placed her arms on the table, clasping her hands and staring intently at Menrva. The Nordic goddess had a serious and steady gaze, which made Menrva feel a bit intimidated.
—Alright, Menrva. Athena spoke highly of you, especially of you being a warrior of Ares before being part of Orniskem— the goddess said seriously.
—My only loyalty is to my master Athena, my past doesn't define my present, Lady Frigg— the Etruscan goddess replied defiantly.
—I'm not judging you— replied Frigg, not changing her serious demeanor.
—I know how powerful you are and that you could easily conquer this wounded nation if you wanted to— continued the queen of Asgard.
—I would never dare such an audacity— replied Menrva without losing her defiant demeanor.
—I know, I have complete confidence in Athena's decisions. Even to these faraway lands, we heard of the exploits of that goddess when she still lived on Olympus— replied Frigg.
—Thank you for your trust in me, ma'am— replied the Etruscan goddess as she adopted a more relaxed posture.
—I say this for the following reason. Vinland is a land full of warrior deities, similar to Asgard— continued Frigg.
—We don't know much about Vinland, ma'am. I would like to know what you know, and if you have heard any news of Thor and the others; likewise, about a member of our organization in those lands— replied Menrva.
—Well, according to the latest reports from Thor, they haven't found any signs of my husband, or that anyone has arrived in Vinland recently— replied Frigg.
—So?— asked Menrva intrigued.
—Well, it could all have been a machination by Loki to take our warriors to a dangerous land— replied Frigg.
—Excuse me, Lady Frigg, but we don't believe that was the case— Ana interrupted.
—Do you have any evidence to support that?— asked Frigg, turning to look at the Irish goddess.
—I saw it in his eyes, he was quite sincere— Ana answered bluntly.
—Oh yes, of course! Loki, the god of lies, was sincere with you— Frigg said angrily, tearing off the boar's head and starting to eat it as if it were a chunk of meat. Rodrigo and the others watched this with a look of surprise and disgust.
—It doesn't matter, Thor is as naive as you are; and that's why he, along with Freyr, Freyja, and Tyr embarked on this adventure— continued the queen of Asgard, taking a big bite out of the boar's cheek.
—If it were up to me, I wouldn't have let them go— she continued talking while chewing.
Rodrigo then remembered Athena talking while eating. Did these gods not have a grain of education? he wondered.
—We understand that, Lady Frigg; but you see, we have orders from my master to go to Vinland and find Odin, even if we have to comb the entire continent. That was our deal, and we only ask for information about the place— replied Menrva.
—I've seen the continent from space, it's much bigger than Europe; finding someone there is almost an impossible mission. However, if Thor has found something or if you have maps of the place, I would appreciate it very much— she concluded.
—Well, I don't have maps, but Sedna, the queen of Adlivun, will surely provide one for you— replied Frigg.
—Is there anything else we should know? What alliances does this Sedna have? We also want to know if you know anything about Mississippi and Tula; two realms that seem to be the most powerful there— Menrva asked impatiently.
—I only know that to the west of the Adlivun kingdom, there is the Haida kingdom, which is a group of very powerful warriors. If Thor were to know, I'm sure he would head towards those lands— the queen of Asgard answered.
—I see— Menrva replied, intrigued.
—Also, throughout Vinland, you'll see gigantic totems; these monuments were built to limit the divine powers of the gods. You won't be able to fly, and your powers will be at a minimum. You also won't be able to create alternate dimensions in that area. That's why I remind you, it's a very dangerous region— the Nordic goddess continued, as she bit into the head of the boar again, this time tearing out an eye.
—How will we fight without alternate dimensions? We could destroy the continent with one blow— Tania asked, puzzled.
—With your powers limited, you'll be lucky to knock down a tree with your fists— Frigg calmly replied.
—It's a land where only the strongest survive— added Thrúd. —That's basically why Lel hasn't wanted to enter those lands—
—It seems like an excellent challenge, don't you think, Rodrigo-san?— Susanoo asked excitedly, looking at the young tannin, who was shaking with fear at such a predicament.
—These kingdoms have gods that live among humans. The gods assist humans with wars; and these, in turn, reward them with inventions and technology— Frigg continued.
—But the most important thing is human sacrifice, it's abysmal there. In the kingdom of Tula, it's said that there are human sacrifices every day. Their gods, even with the limitations of Vinland, are very powerful— added Thrúd.
Epona was pale with fear, while Anpiel was tempted to request to abort the mission. Something Frigg couldn't avoid seeing.
—Do you want to withdraw?— the queen of Asgard asked.
—No!— Menrva shouted and stood up.
—However— Tania interrupted Menrva, —I think it would be best to discuss it with Rodrigo and the others—. At that, the Punic goddess turned to stare fixedly at the young tannin.
—Tania, our master Athena has faith in us. We must become stronger there. It's an order!— The Etruscan goddess replied imperatively.
—Does Athena not care about our lives if we are weak, is that what you're saying, Menrva?— Epona asked, annoyed, her face almost white with fear.
—Our master cares about everyone's lives— the Etruscan goddess calmly replied.
—So, I request permission for Rodrigo and Anpiel to stay here in Asgard... and if possible... me too— Epona said.
—You volunteered, Epona— Menrva replied, annoyed.
—I didn't know about this and we were never informed. Athena literally told us it was a place with not so strong gods, that they would be a lesser threat than what we faced against Ares; but this is ridiculous. We'll be at the mercy of an unknown land without being able to use our abilities. Does Athena want us dead?— Epona asked angrily.
At that, the equine goddess stared at Menrva.
—Or could it be that you're the one who wants us dead?— the Celtic goddess asked with a look of anger and fear at the same time.
Rodrigo took the equine goddess by the arm and tried to calm her down. —We gain nothing by fighting among ourselves— he said.
Menrva remained silent.
—Enough, Rodrigo! Lel wants me dead, and now we're going on another suicide mission. Don't you see?— The equine goddess said, annoyed.
—I want to go, Epona— Rodrigo said nervously.
—But, Rodrigo...— Epona exclaimed, worried, but the young man interrupted her.
—The totema I have is from that region. It's the only way I'll know about my past. I want to know who or what I am. But I'll understand if you want to stay in Asgard, you and Anpiel. I have to go— Rodrigo said as he squeezed the goddess's hand.
Epona went silent with a melancholic look.
—Epona, listen— Ana interrupted. —I won't speak for you or Rodrigo or Anpiel. But that Athena you're talking about, she supported us to rescue Anpiel, and that was our agreement. We would come to Vinland if she helped us save our friend's life. If you really believe she's as cold as you think, why did she help us on Mars to save someone's life she didn't even know, even risking her own life?—
—I'm very grateful to Athena, that's why I'll go to Vinland— Anpiel replied to Epona. —Also, without me, you're sure to do silly things as you always do—
—We'll all go, Epona. But we won't force you to go— Tania replied, and turned to look at Menrva.
—Right?— she asked.
—Alright, Epona. Stay here if you want— Menrva said, now more calm.
Epona took a deep breath.
—I won't leave Rodrigo or Anpiel behind... I'll go— Epona said with a tired look, and took her seat again while dipping a piece of bread in oil again.
—Well, I didn't expect to hear all this drama from you at this banquet, but I understand it's a worrying situation. If Thor and the others were to die, our kingdom would be very unprotected against Lel; only with the support of Heimdal and Vidar. We're also worried— Frigg answered while taking another bite from the boar's head.
Menrva then stood up and put her hand on her heart.
—Madam— exclaimed the Etruscan goddess. —I swear by my devotion to my master that I will bring your children back alive—
Frigg began to laugh.
—They are not my children, none of them... my only son died at Loki's hands. You'll understand the complicated situation I have with him— Frigg answered, stopping laughing and putting on a serious face.
—I'm very sorry to hear that, ma'am— said Menrva, embarrassed.
—Don't worry, I appreciate your words— smiled the queen of Asgard, while biting into the boar's head again.
—And about Bellona, the other member of Orniskem, do you know anything?— Anpiel asked intrigued.
—Thor mentioned that he didn't find anyone there, so we even came to believe that Athena had betrayed us. But I trust that you can find her whereabouts— Frigg answered, just as she was getting up.
—Are you leaving already, my lady?— asked Forseti to the queen of Asgard.
—I think that meat was a bit heavy on me. You stay at home— said Frigg, leaving the gnawed boar's head on the table and retiring to her quarters; disappearing from everyone's sight.
—Our Lady of Asgard has instructed Heimdall to open the Bifrost bridge to Greenland tomorrow, where you will have to take a boat to Vinland— Forseti told the members of Orniskem.
—We would like to accompany you as well, but we must protect the kingdom from any attack by Lel— commented Thrúd while continuing to eat her pork leg, which was now just a bone.
—We understand— commented Tania.
—Excuse me, I'd like to retire as well. Could you tell me where we will sleep?— asked Epona while getting up.
—I'll go too— said Menrva, who quickly got up.
—Sure, the valkyries will show you the way. It's a shame you don't want to celebrate, especially if you two ate so little— commented Thrúd pessimistically.
—I'm sorry, I didn't mean to offend, but I'm vegetarian— Epona replied embarrassed.
—Girl! But you're missing the taste of life— said Thrúd laughing, and all the other gods began to laugh.
Epona felt embarrassed and offended, but said nothing.
Some valkyries arrived and opened a spatial portal. Both Epona and Menrva entered it, along with their companions.
In an instant, the two goddesses and the valkyries appeared in front of the door of their room. It was a small wooden door in a sumptuous corridor that looked like ivory.
—When you're ready to retire, please blow the horn over there, and we'll appear— one of the valkyries said, pointing to a small trumpet that was hanging next to the door.
—Yes, thank you very much and goodbye— Menrva replied.
The valkyries retired and both goddesses entered. It was a fairly simple room, with several bunk beds and a small table in the center with multiple bottles of mead containing ambrosia. They were for their trip to Vinland. In the background, there was a small bathroom as well.
At that moment, Menrva, annoyed, grabbed Epona by the collar of her blouse.
—Don't ever question me in front of other gods! Do you understand, Epona?— she shouted furiously at the goddess while shaking her like a rag doll.
—I... I just wanted to give my opinion— said the nervous Celtic goddess.
Menrva threw Epona onto one of the beds. She approached her and looked at her with angry eyes.
—We're all scared, Epona, everyone! I, Susanoo, Rodrigo, Tania. Everyone! But we're in foreign lands, in front of people who are our allies today, but can be our enemies tomorrow. Only unity and diplomacy can open the way for us in these places, do you understand?— Menrva shouted annoyed, with tears in her eyes.
—I'm sorry, Menrva, it won't happen again— Epona apologized.
—Who put those ideas about Athena in your head? Tell me!— the Etruscan goddess asked angrily.
Epona remembered Mithras and Sol's words about the coldness and cruelty of the Greek goddess, and that she should be the leader instead of Athena.
—N... nobody, I... thought that she... well, you know... being a leader...— Epona tried to respond, but she stammered because she didn't know what to answer.
Menrva sighed and sat next to Epona.
—Sorry for getting upset, but I really got annoyed that you showed weakness in front of these people— the Etruscan goddess said, now calmer.
—It was my fault, I really didn't know— Epona replied.
—Look, Epona. Although I adore Athena, I understand that she's not perfect, but I can assure you something, she would never betray us. I know it. She can be manipulative like any leader, but she's someone who will always put her body on the line in combat to protect her comrades; that's why she's always been loved by her own— Menrva replied.
—I'm scared and she's not here... why didn't she accompany us?— Epona asked nervously.
Menrva was silent for a moment.
—Athena... has to face another threat right now— Menrva said regretfully. —I'll tell you something, Epona, but don't mention it to anyone—
—What is it?— Epona asked intrigued.
—It's about Pallas, it's possible that there won't be a Pallas soon— Menrva replied with a distraught face and full of tears.
Epona opened her eyes and was left breathless.