Chapter 85:

Between two foes

Elyon - Gods among us

It had been a week since Tezcatlipoca arrived with his garrison of soldiers at Nitassinan. The god-king stood on a cliff that overlooked the east, where the boats could arrive. There, whether it snowed or rained, he didn't move without looking away. His men stood guard with him, but being only human, they took turns.

The local women had gifted them all bear and antelope skins to withstand the exhausting cold temperatures. However, Tezcatlipoca hadn't accepted the gift and continued to stand, dressed in his usual clothes: A colorful headdress of white and red leaves, huge earrings in each ear, greenish feathers and bells with white feathers, a large obsidian mirror on his chest, which hung with the help of his shoulders, a loincloth with white plumage on the front and back.

The god leaned on a staff, which had a pointed tip at the top, as he was missing one of his legs. Most notably, in his left hand he held an obsidian sword like a huge saw. Petrified blood stains could be seen on the weapon.

Standing and looking towards the horizon, the women of the Nitassinan kingdom brought him food from fish and shellfish that the men had caught fishing, and fruits that the women had gathered. Tezcatlipoca ate quickly without taking his eyes off the east.

Clearly, this almost obsessive presence of this deity made Sedna nervous because she knew she could no longer keep up the lie in possibly one or two weeks. The goddess was powerful, but she knew that the king-god of Tula fed constantly on human sacrifices, which had made him exceptionally powerful. The chances of victory against such a threat were very low.

There was also the problem with Loki's supposed escape. Seven days had passed, and Tezcatlipoca had given a limit of ten days. No more, no less. If that deadline was not met, it was very possible that the terrible god of Tula would take reprisals against the small kingdom of Adlivun.

Fortunately, it was only him, and he couldn't feel any divine presence in the god's servants, but he knew that if he was so powerful in the human world, despite the suppressors, in the divine world he should be invincible.

—Seven days have already passed since I arrived, Sedna. Any news of the fugitive prisoner?— asked the king-god to the lady of Adlivun.

—Great king of Tula— replied Sedna, who remained in the form of an old woman and leaned slightly towards the majestic but terrible god.

—We continue to search every corner of our tiny kingdom, but it seems that the prisoner fled using the outterspace, and it will be more difficult for us to find him in this way— she commented.

Tezcatlipoca remained silent looking at the horizon. After a few awkward seconds of silence, he finally began to speak.

—It is not my duty to criticize the inefficiencies of your kingdom, Sedna— he said, —but it is worrying that a single man cannot be found by your entire great army. That speaks very poorly of your staff—

—I think it is very wise not to do so, king of Tula— Sedna replied. —We all have skeletons under our tents—

—I know that phrase, just a bit different— the king-god replied humorously. —And I think you're right—

Sedna sighed and sat back down. She knew she couldn't maintain this farce for much longer, but she couldn't do anything. She was trapped, she and her realms both the human, Nitassinan, and the divine, Adlivun.

Nukilik, who was Sedna's particular human bodyguard and who could speak a minimum of divine language, approached the polar queen and bowed.

—Lady Sedna— he spoke in the Innu language to the goddess of Adlivun.

—We only have three days before this man and his army attack Nitassinan. We will at least have to help you escape beforehand— he said.

The man tried to maintain a calm and serious look, despite his words of despair. If he showed such weaknesses to the goddess, Tezcatlipoca would surely understand that they were discussing worrisome topics, despite not knowing the language.

That morning, a light snow fell all over Nitassinan. The gray sky was colored with a white fog caused by the celestial phenomenon. A north wind blew with great intensity, making the pines and trees around them sway their branches fiercely. The Innu had built houses made of earth, wood, and stones to withstand the cold wind that emanated from the north, which were similar to Eskimo igloos, but made from the aforementioned materials.

Given the phenomenon, it was hard to keep the fire that warmed the village, and many of the women rested inside their improvised houses. The men had gone fishing, despite the great wind that was blowing. It was strong, but not enough to prevent the daily activity of the people of the great Sedna.

Nukilik, who still stood to the left of the polar goddess, didn't seem to feel the ravages of the cold, though this time he wore more cozy clothes, such as a moose skin shirt and dark pants. The man continued to talk to Sedna, maintaining his natural voice, even under the feeling of worry.

—Great Sedna— Nukilik continued, —we won't be able to protect you from the wrath of these men. You must flee to the south as soon as possible—

—I won't move from here, Nukilik— Sedna commented. —If I have to protect you, I will—

—But why would you fight for a group of mere humans like us?— the man continued to question.

—Because that is a mother's duty to her children— continued the polar goddess.

—Any problem, Sedna? Have they finally found the fugitive?— Tezcatlipoca asked, discreetly turning to look at the goddess Sedna and her assistant.

—Oh, don't worry, king of Tula— replied the queen of Adlivun. —Insignificant details because of the powerful wind blowing today, but there's not much that can be done—

—Inclement weather of this land, undoubtedly— the king of Tula replied humorously. —If it wasn't for these divine power suppressors, we would change this inhospitable climate without difficulty—

As Sedna nodded, a noise started coming from Tezcatlipoca. The deity then raised the hand where he wasn't holding the staff, and a communicator appeared. It was very similar to the one Athena had given the group from Orniskem, but it had Toltec decorations, with skulls and jaguars holding the crystal sphere. The crystal glowed and blinked, indicating that someone was trying to contact him.

—This is Yayauhqui speaking, who is contacting me?— asked the Toltec god-king, still holding the communication crystal. The sphere stopped glowing, and the clear face of the goddess Anath appeared on it. Her expression was serious, and there were dark circles under her eyes.

—Tezcatlipoca, it's Anath. I have something urgent to discuss with you— the daughter of Elyon said with a somewhat hoarse and exhausted voice.

—Anath? Isn't that the name of the current ruler of Lel?— Sedna wondered to herself, trying not to show surprise or fear.

—Yes, tell me, Queen Anath, what is it?— Tezcatlipoca asked.

—I know it's a bit strange, but I received a momentary call from one of my infiltrators on this continent, but it immediately cut off. Since we can't communicate mentally in this region, I haven't been able to check if it was a signal error, but I suspect that she might be in danger— Anath explained.

—Do you want me to track the source of the signal?— the king of Tula asked, showing a hint of annoyance on his face.

—I've triangulated the signal, and I'll send you a map of where it occurred. Tell me, where are you right now?— Anath continued to inquire.

Tezcatlipoca was about to say, 'Nitassinan,' but he kept silent and corrected himself:

—I am in an abandoned area in the northern region of the continent. I was told that men from the other side of the world settled near this region, and I thought it would be a good place to ambush the man you're looking for— the Toltec god replied.

—Oh, I see. I'm still in the middle of a desert; we got lost, but I think we'll find our way out soon— the goddess replied.

—If it weren't an emergency, I wouldn't ask you this favor— Anath added, still with a tired look.

—She's not used to moving without her ridiculous divine powers— Tezcatlipoca thought.

—Alright, I'll send you a map of where the signal was heard. Please check it out and get there as quickly as you can— Anath continued, and her face disappeared.

Immediately, a three-dimensional map of the northern region of the continent appeared, indicating an area near a lake.

—Alright, great Anath, I will personally go to that area— Tezcatlipoca responded with a nearly military tone.

—Sure, I trust you— came the response from the goddess of Lel, and the signal was cut off. The map disappeared, and the crystal sphere turned off its light.

The Toltec god-king made the communication sphere disappear and turned to look at Sedna, who still maintained the same expression, although inside she knew that it could only be the members of Orniskem. Worse yet, now they would probably trace their location.

—Sedna, I believe you heard everything that happened, right?— Tezcatlipoca commented, turning to look at the goddess in her old woman's form.

—I heard it— the polar goddess replied, nodding calmly.

—I think you know more than you're letting on. Like maybe you're hiding the prisoner, or the visitors from the other side of the world have already arrived and fled with said prisoner. Am I wrong?— the king-god of Tula inquired with a serious, yet slightly annoyed look.

—I have done nothing to arouse your suspicion, King of Tula— Sedna replied calmly.

—Do you know how upset I'll be if I find out you've had me standing here without sleep for seven days for nothing?— Tezcatlipoca continued, laughing discreetly.

—You're the one who insisted on standing in that same position without even taking a rest— the polar goddess replied. —It's something that you easily could have delegated to your men—

Tezcatlipoca started laughing even louder.

—But if your intention is to attack this village, I assure you it will be a waste of your time and your men— Sedna continued to explain without changing her serious expression.

An awkward silence hung between the two gods, while Nukilik prepared his bow and arrows to fight. But at that moment, Tezcatlipoca interrupted again, laughing even louder than before.

—You're right, Sedna. Although I am a conqueror, I have no interest in taking these lands— the king-god of Tula replied, still laughing.

Sedna then raised her arm with her staff, signaling to Nukilik to refrain from fighting and put away his bow.

—I don't know why you would have lied to me, but I suppose you have your reasons, and I respect that. So don't worry; I won't take any reprisals— Tezcatlipoca continued, looking down with a smile.

—Besides, I've let that Lel bitch know that this isn't the location of your village, but rather an abandoned territory, so I suggest you start migrating to another area immediately— he added.

—I thank you— Sedna replied, still with a serious face.

—Don't thank me; it's a favor, and I want to be paid with another one— Tezcatlipoca replied.

—I am at your mercy, then. What do you want?— Sedna inquired.

The Toltec god approached the goddess and, making the communication sphere appear again, showed her the map Anath had sent him.

—This area, give me directions on how to get there and how far it is— he asked.

Sedna began to examine the map closely while murmuring.

—If my memory serves me right, those are Dene territories. That region is called Taltheilei, and it's more than six thousand kilometers to the west of here— Sedna finally indicated.

—I can't give you more directions because all those regions look very similar, but you'll see that it's a huge lake surrounded by pine trees and several tipi huts around it— she added.

—Six thousand kilometers?! That's almost the same distance from Tula to here! It will take me some time to get there. Damn Anath!— Tezcatlipoca replied, frustrated.

—It's a very long journey, and you'll take days to get there. Why don't you rest and enjoy the hospitality of the Innu people?— Sedna suggested, hoping to make the King of Tula stay longer.

—If I don't arrive immediately, that bitch will surely kill me— the Toltec king replied with a refusal. —I'll leave right now; with my speed, I'll probably get there in an hour or two—

—Without your leg?— Sedna asked, puzzled.

The Toltec god then began to increase his divine power, and his body changed drastically. His physical appearance transformed into that of an anthropomorphic jaguar, but he still wore the same dress attire. Under this form, his lost leg reappeared. The Toltec god not only substantially increased his strength and speed but also his size. He was easily twice his previous size, and despite being a jaguar, he could stand on two feet.

—Some time ago, I assimilated with the deity Tepeyóllotl, and I can use his form and strength. With that, I can reach there— the Toltec deity replied, with his voice now roaring and full of violence and agitation.

Tezcatlipoca placed his fists on the ground, and like a lightning strike, the god disappeared, flying through the air at full speed. Despite the significant suppression of divine power that prevented gods from flying, Tezcatlipoca had no trouble soaring through the air under this transformation. In the spot where he had stood, only debris remained from his departure propelled by his enormous speed.

—Mrs. Sedna— Nukilik asked, —why did you give that god the location of those people? Weren't you looking for them to kill them?—

—Because he was kind enough to spare our lives and protect us from the men of Lel, hiding our location— the goddess replied. —Now we must move from here—

—What about his men?— Nukilik inquired, looking at the Toltec soldiers who had accompanied their king. They had a puzzled and uncertain look, not knowing where their god had gone.

—I suppose he will inform them where their king went, but I doubt anyone here can communicate with them— the polar goddess responded.

—Do you think those guests from the other continent can face that god?— Nukilik asked nervously.

—We did everything we could to protect them; now it's in their hands, and we must have faith in them— Sedna replied, closing her eyes.

Meanwhile, right in the lake where Taltheilei was located, Menrva fell exhausted into it, creating a giant wave that covered the entire shore. The people who lived in the area, seeing what was happening, began to flee in terror, knowing that gods were fighting among themselves and there was little or nothing they could do about it.

On the hill where Menrva had fallen, Bellona rose, but her appearance had changed drastically. She wore a golden helmet with red feathers, a golden Roman armor that shone like the midday sun, and an elegant red cloak like blood. Instead of classic Roman sandals, the goddess wore high-heeled shoes with a similar style. Her chains had transformed into a whip, and in her left hand, a flaming blaze shone as if her hand were engulfed in fire.

—What's the matter, Menrva? Is that all that an ex-Keres can offer?— the Roman goddess taunted. —No wonder you lost—

Menrva surfaced from the water with labored breathing. Just like in Nitassinan when they followed Sedna underwater, the Etruscan goddess didn't know how to swim and felt as if she were drowning, which was terrifying.

The deity wasn't used to fighting without her divine powers, but she knew that Bellona wasn't either. However, with the Hikaptha she was using, Bellona probably wouldn't feel as much difference as Menrva felt at that moment.

Bellona then attacked Menrva with her chain whip, which entangled around the Etruscan goddess's neck, causing her to choke while her neck bled profusely.

—Want me to get you out of that lake, Menrva?— the goddess taunted sarcastically as she lifted Menrva with her whip, causing her to be choked.

Menrva's neck bled heavily, and her eyes began to lose their luster. The goddess felt completely saddened that all her efforts were going to waste, especially the trust that Athena had placed in her. She had only one trick left up her sleeve.

At that moment, Tania attacked Bellona's back with her fiery claw, tearing her cloak in the attempt. However, to the goddess's surprise, her hand shattered upon hitting Bellona's golden armor.

—Is that all you could do, Menrva? Using Loki to rescue this bunch of losers?— Bellona taunted, laughing while Menrva continued to suffocate with the war goddess's whip.

—I couldn't do anything to her!— Tania shouted, surprised, as she recoiled in pain from her broken hand.

Bellona turned to look at Tania and pointed at her with her incandescent hand.

—Now let's see which fire shines brighter here, lioness— Bellona shouted with a maniacal laugh as her left hand blazed with tremendous intensity.

—My Manticore transformation, I can't do it here— Tania said to herself, feeling frustrated that she couldn't do much.

But just at that moment, a slash of water hit Bellona's hand, causing her to divert her attack from her incandescent index finger, which shot towards a group of pines, completely pulverizing them. The attack left a dark crater surrounded by glowing ashes.

Susanoo was standing there, holding his katana with both hands. He had launched that attack at full speed to save Tania.

—I'm sorry, Tania-san, but that's all I could do— replied the Eastern god apologetically, while Tania tried to thank him.

—Only you dared to attack me? Did the others wet their pants and ran away?— Bellona asked, shouting excitedly.

At that moment, dark ice stalagmites struck the goddess, but they melted upon touching her body. The Roman goddess turned to her left and saw Ana and Loki together, who launched a combined attack.

—Mars gods like me, we have no elemental weakness; except possibly among ourselves— said Bellona, closing her eyes with a malevolent smile. —It's a pity that even all together you can't scratch me—

Rodrigo was nervous. One of his greatest fears was there: A woman trying to murder them. His principles prevented him from attacking her, but if he didn't do something, his friends would get hurt; especially Menrva, who was being strangled.

—Rodrigo, don't think, let your instincts guide you!— Epona shouted seeing the young man hesitating. —Are your principles more important than your friends' lives?—

When she heard no answer, Epona turned to look at him and smiled.

—I won't judge you for what you do, but I know you'll do the right thing— she said.

The young Tannin took a deep breath, then shouted loudly and filled with frustration. He immediately fired several white energy balls, which hit the Roman goddess's body, but none had any effect.

While the young man attacked the Roman goddess, Epona threw her clean fist to hit the goddess's jaw. But when it hit her face, her fist made a crunching noise and the equine goddess's fingers broke; causing her to fall backward, victim of the enormous pain.

—It's useless!— Rodrigo shouted in frustration. The young man tried to access his chakras, but the anti-divinity barrier made it impossible.

—Can you transform into that hishishi... fire lion, Tania-san?— Susanoo asked, continuing to point his sword with both hands at Bellona.

—No, it's impossible. Can you create that destructive rain you showed in Denendeh?— Tania asked the Eastern god, without taking her eyes off Bellona.

—Muri muri, I used all my strength to launch that miserable attack— the Oriental god commented pessimistically.

—We're in trouble— Tania answered disappointedly.

—Don't rush, members of Orniskem. As I said before, I can't kill you, though I'll mention that Menrva's death was in self-defense— the Roman goddess replied with a flirtatious look, but at the same time, thirsty for blood.

Then, Bellona raised her fire hand to the sky, and around the feet of the Orniskem members, steel magical circles appeared.

—These circles will immobilize you while I kill that bitch Menrva, who dared to mock me— said the Roman goddess of war, while she watched the Orniskem members struggle to break free from the spell.

Then, Menrva, almost out of energy, concentrated electricity in her hands and gripped the chain with all her strength. The electricity traveled to Bellona, who, unable to avoid it, began to be electrocuted by the attack.

—Damn bitch, this electricity is nothing to me!— Bellona screamed in fury, while she struggled to look at the Etruscan goddess.

But Menrva held onto the chain, keeping her electricity active. It hurt her, but not as much as Bellona, who, being of a Mars element focused on steel, Menrva's electricity really hurt her.

—Didn't you say you're only weak against other Mars? Liar!— Menrva shouted, almost suffocating.

—Stupid!— said Bellona, just as she showed the Hikaptha to Menrva.

—As long as I have this in my power, I am invincible— she boasted.

Epona, who was just below Bellona, opened her eyes and realized that the Roman goddess hadn't bewitched her, because she was too close to her and out of her line of sight.

—Anpiel, if it's true what you say that I have a very hard head, this time I want to believe in you— she said to herself.

Then, with all her strength, Epona hit Bellona's jaw with her skull while the latter continued to be hurt by Menrva's electricity.

The attack was effective enough to make Bellona lose her balance and start to wobble. Then the Roman goddess spat out a bit of blood, and her hand let go of the magic stone that gave her those powers.

—The Hikaptha!— The goddess of war shouted the moment she felt it slip from her hands.

—I should have destroyed it as they told me. Damn it!— The goddess continued to curse as she tried to grab it in the air; but the electric shock, combined with the loss of balance from Epona's headbutt, prevented her from seeing clearly.

At that moment, a bald eagle flying nearby quickly swooped past the Roman goddess, and with its talons, quickly held the Hikaptha that had slipped from the goddess's hands.

The eagle then turned around and perched on Anpiel's right arm.

—Everyone always forgets the malak— replied the angel sarcastically, who hadn't been stopped by Bellona either because he wasn't among the attackers.

Epona then fell face down on the ground with a large pool of blood on her forehead. While the equine goddess cried out in pain, Bellona finally fell, buttocks first, onto the ground.

—Epona, quick, take this!— Anpiel shouted, as he threw the Hikaptha with all his might to Epona, who caught it with great effort.

—I don't know how this works, but I'm going to use it!— Epona yelled.

At that moment, the goddess changed her appearance again, this time to a white mare with red eyes. The Hikaptha entwined in her mane, and like lightning, she hit Bellona's head again, who was trying to get up. The Roman goddess lost her transformation, and her armor shattered into pieces. Bellona then fell back into the sea.

—Menrva, taking advantage of Bellona's weakness, broke the chain with her hand, just milliseconds before it fell with its creator into the great lake of Taltheilei.

The magic of Bellona that had prevented everyone from moving lost its effect, and everyone was finally released.

Menrva, as best she could, managed to cling to the cliff with her hands, which, from the impact, bled heavily, while the goddess continued to spit blood and lose energy.

But Bellona, who poked her head up from the bottom of the lake, threw her chain to drag Menrva into the water. However, Epona, who now had a human form, flew to the Etruscan goddess and rescued her, while stopping Bellona's chain with her right hand.

Epona pulled Bellona from the water using her chain, and then slammed her onto the ground several times. The impacts were so great that the earth trembled, while leaving huge craters in the ground.

The Celtic goddess then ascended the cliff floating, and left Menrva lying there.

—Ambrosia! Give her ambrosia quickly!— the equine goddess shouted in desperation.

—Th... thank... you... for... rescuing... me... Epona— the Etruscan goddess said exhaustedly.

Epona couldn't help but smile. Finally, both goddesses had settled their differences.

At that moment, Epona felt the energy leaving her hands and lost her new power, falling face down on the ground. The Hikaptha slipped out of her hands, but it had already lost all its shine.

Ana quickly made jars of mead with ambrosia appear, and immediately gave Menrva a drink; who was on the brink of death. The wound on the Etruscan goddess's neck completely closed, and she began to breathe calmly again.

Rodrigo, who was also nearby, gave ambrosia to Epona. The wounds the equine goddess had from her punch and the headbutt healed immediately.

—You attacked a woman to save your friends, Rodrigo. I'm proud of your progress!— Epona said to the young Tannin, with a tired smile.

Rodrigo was embarrassed and tried to look the other way.

—It was lucky she didn't paralyze Epona and Anpiel. I guess that fool underestimated them—commented Tania, who was trying to hide her broken hand from her friends.

Menrva then regained consciousness and sat on the ground. Then, the goddess apologized for being so weak.

—We're all weak here, Menrva— Ana said laughing.

Tania, likewise, tried to console her, saying that no one expected Bellona to have that trick up her sleeve.

The Etruscan goddess turned to look at Epona and smiled.

—Thank you for trusting me, Epona— she said with a tear-filled smile. —That made me happy—

—I've decided to trust you for the moment, but you still have a lot to explain— the equine goddess replied.

Anpiel helped Menrva get up, while Rodrigo helped Epona. Everyone quickly turned to look at where Bellona had fallen, but the Roman goddess was still unconscious, face down in the huge hole Epona's attack had made.

—What was that sphere Bellona was using?— Anpiel asked.

—I don't know much either, my former lord Ares used one of those things to fight against you on Mars. Bellona said they were Lel gadgets to increase power— Menrva frankly answered.

—Yes, but it seems it was only temporary, as the enormous energy I felt was lost instantly— added Epona, while holding the now dark amber sphere.

Tania approached to see the sphere curiously, and Epona showed it to her.

—Possibly Athena knows what this is— commented Anpiel.

When the angel was about to use his communication sphere, he froze. At that moment, everyone felt something that horrified them. It was an enormous power, and it was flying towards them at full speed.

—What is that? It's much stronger than Bellona— Rodrigo shouted scared.

—Is it flying over here?— asked a horrified Ana.

—It must be the man who was hunting us— replied Tania frankly.

—Even if we hide our presence, he surely felt the previous fight and will come here to attack us. We won't be able to stop him with our current powers— added Loki.

—Wait, there is a way— interrupted Anpiel. —Menrva, you use that golden sphere. I'm sure that, with the power increase, it will give you a chance to confront him—

—That's impossible— Menrva responded.

—Why?— Anpiel asked.

—Because those things seem to be charged in battles and wars as Bellona said. It's possible that she hadn't charged it completely, and that's why it lost all its power— Menrva frankly replied.

—Damn it, if Bellona tore us apart, I don't want to think about this guy— Rodrigo said discouraged.

—I will defend you as best I can, but I want us all to split up right here— Menrva responded. —That way, if he attacks one group, the other will be able to escape—

—But what are you saying, Menrva-san? We can't run away like cowards— retorted Susanoo.

—That's right, we can't leave you here. We'll all fight— added Tania.

—There's no time for games of honor. Our survival is most important— replied Menrva.

—One group will go with me to the Haida kingdom, the other south to look for that famous Toltec kingdom. You decide the team— said the Etruscan goddess.

—We're going to Tula with Rodrigo— Epona yelled, while Tania and Ana nodded.

—Not so fast!— a shout that was almost a roar was heard.

At that moment, a humanoid figure was seen in the sky in the distance, and it fell right in front of the Orniskem members making a gigantic crater. The being had landed as if it were the fall of a meteorite to the ground.

—Too late— Menrva said scared, as everyone else got into a defensive position.

—Don't be afraid, please, I just came for that green-eyed boy dressed as a bird, for a personal matter— commented the man who, when the smoke could dissipate, was the same god Tezcatlipoca in his ordinary appearance, although none of Lel's members knew him.

—Oh, where are my manners? My name is Yayauhqui, and I am known as the king of Tula; or as everyone knows me, under my title: Tezcatlipoca— answered the Toltec god.

—We'll shake hands formally if you tell us what your intentions are with Rodrigo— Ana said, who made her Gram sword appear and stood in front of the young Tannin; although Epona and Tania also did the same while nodding.

—Rodrigo? So that's your name? But definitely, I see that you're not Quetzalcoatl, since I now realize that you have a whole harem of girls, who are even willing to fight for you— the Toltec god said laughing.

—Do you know me?— Rodrigo asked.

—That's not important. You see Rodrigo, don't take it personally, but you have to die. Orders from Lel— Tezcatlipoca answered, just as he held the sword hanging on his arm with his right hand and pointed it at the young man.