Chapter 87:

Haida Gwaii

Elyon - Gods among us

—Are purr having fun, Thor?— a female voice asked with great annoyance.

—How could I enjoy this trial?— responded a strong, male voice.

—Well, because, purrhaps, coming to this fucking island was purr idea!— The female voice retorted loudly.

—It was a collective decision— another voice, drier and raspier than the previous one, responded.

—No, this has nothing to do with finding Father Odin— the female voice continued to argue.

—Come now, little sister. We needed to become stronger first, and this place seemed perfect for it ♬— a smooth, melodious voice replied.

—And explain to meow, how is a naval war going to make us stronger?— the female voice, which belonged to Freyja, questioned. The goddess was donning her totema and crossed her arms on a poorly constructed wooden boat, featuring a carved dragon face on the bow. The other three Norse gods, Thor, Freyr, and Tyr, were on each side of the makeshift raft, fending off attacks from four massive red ships that had surrounded them at sea.

Each enemy ship had an army of at least sixty soldiers. Each soldier wore a tremendous red armor with intimidating helmets and were armed with huge rocks tied to ropes. They launched these rocks at the gods' tiny raft, intending to sink it. Additionally, they held enormous oars to move the ship and defend it from enemy attacks. The soldiers in the center rained down arrows on the gods' raft to shatter it.

The enemy ships had carvings of raven faces in black and red on their bows. They were Haida warships.

However, the lake where they fought wasn't on the shore of a beach or bay; it was an artificial lake created in a sort of coliseum, where hundreds of Haida spectators watched and shouted with excitement. It was a life or death spectacle, akin to the Roman circus.

The Haida society was very different from their Innu neighbors in Nitassinan or Dene in Taltheilei. They were a warrior society, used to constant combat; they mobilized their ships and attacked smaller, weaker villages, destroying everything in their path and capturing inhabitants to use as slaves. They were the most feared tribe in the north of Vinland.

Their soldiers wore terrifying red armors made from thick wooden shields, which had helmets that allowed only brief vision between the eyes. These helmets were adorned with horrifying human faces, to intimidate their enemies. Like other warrior tribes in Europe, the Haida believed they must die in battle to reach a paradise called: 'The House of the Sun.'

Thor and the other Norse gods who had set foot in Vinland decided to go to Haida Gwaii to face what were said to be the fiercest, most violent, and powerful gods of the northern region. Odin's son was so excited about it that he had even forgotten his mission to find his father. Of course, this arbitrary decision had been debated by Freyr, and especially Freyja; but the god had convinced them to 'train' there to adapt to the anti-divinity barrier present across the region.

The gods had arrived in Haida Gwaii, the capital of the Haida, ten days ago. It was located entirely on the west side of Vinland.

When the Haida men saw them entering their territories, they quickly pointed their bows and arrows at them. Thor and the others raised their arms seeking to dialogue with the group, but due to a lack of communication skills, the men attacked them, viewing them as invaders.

Thor released a slight electrical discharge, leaving all the men unconscious.

—Really, Thor? Have we traveled thousands of kilometers on foot for you to come here and electrocute humans?— the goddess Freyja complained, still in a bad mood. Since she was not wearing her totema, she didn't talk like a cat, as she usually did.

—Freyja, aren't you too young to be going through menopause?— Thor taunted in response, while Freyja gave him a disdainful look.

—Little Thor, little sister, please, no more fighting ♬— Freyr interrupted.

The Norse gods were wearing their usual clothes from Asgard. Although it was very cold, they didn't feel it, so their outfits might even seem suspicious, but they cared very little about attracting attention that way.

Thor was wearing his green outfit and brown trousers, along with his bear cloak tied around his shoulders. His totema, the Mjolnir necklace, hung around his neck.

Freyr, as always, only wore a white tunic that barely covered his private parts and was tied around his neck. He didn't even bother wearing shoes or any other clothing. His neck bore the golden Gullinbursti medallion, which also served as his totema.

Freyja, on the other hand, wore her tight white tunic with a golden belt around her waist. A massive coat of black and red feathers trailed along the ground behind her. Her neck sported the Brísingamen medallion, a strange red stone that likewise served as her totema.

Tyr was dressed in a red Celtic robe, dark tights, and a tan belt. Attached to this, his Tyrfing sword hung safely in its sheath.

The Asgardian gods had left Adlivun behind, with Loki abandoned there as a prisoner; none of them, other than Thor, trusted him. However, Freyja regretted this action, because the continent was huge and they couldn't traverse it freely without their divine powers. They didn't know where Odin might be, and now, Thor had taken them on an adventure against the supposedly strongest warriors in the region. Everything was falling apart, and it frustrated her.

Still, the view of the region was spectacular. The snow-covered forests had been left behind, and the salty air of the ocean could be breathed a little. Pure rock mountains adorned the scenery and a group of cliffs rose over the region. Although it didn't snow, it was quite cold due to the strong northern wind.

Throughout the region, strange totems could be seen erected. These were gigantic wooden posts with faces of animals carved into them, often in various colors. At the top, there was usually an image of an eagle or hawk with its wings raised.

As the gods neared the Haida capital, more warriors appeared to stop them. It seemed the word had spread that a group of strangers had come to invade, but none was a match for the gods of the north.

—The great and powerful Haida warriors— Freyja kept sarcastically commenting in a bad mood.

Finally, in the distance, the gods glimpsed an island where hundreds of totems rose, and there were even images of angry human faces. The island was surrounded by a wooden wall, and houses made of reddish and black wood could be seen inside.

—I suppose that must be Haida Gwaii— Tyr commented, looking at the massive village on the island in the distance.

At the sea's edge, hundreds of rafts were seen tied up; and the men, who had already been warned, surrounded the four gods. Thor was about to discharge another bolt of electricity, but a voice stopped him.

—I wouldn't attack them if I were you, as that would be abusive. A god hurting humans— said the voice, which was a woman's.

—She speaks the divine language, so she must be a deity or a Valkyrie— Tyr observed upon seeing her. Since she didn't emanate divine power, the gods didn't consider her dangerous.

The woman was brown-skinned with slanted eyes. She had her lower face painted red and wore a large red and black tunic, which was quite thick and covered her whole body; but her boots and pants could be seen through an opening. She also wore an elongated wicker hat with small furry balls on its sides. Her nose had a big ring, and her hair was disheveled, dark as night.

—Foreigners— said the woman, —you are not welcome in this land. Please leave or suffer the consequences—

—I don't know who you are, but your divine power is practically non-existent— Thor muttered. —We have come here to find the strongest god, and if it's their ruler, even better—

—And what will you do if you find the ruler of Haida Gwaii?— the woman asked.

—Well, it's simple, we would defeat him and declare ourselves the most powerful in the region— Thor explained with a satisfied look.

The woman started to laugh, at the same time she stood directly in front of the group of Norse gods.

—Weren't you taught manners on the other side of the ocean, stranger?— the woman asked threateningly.

—We only learn to fight, ma'am— Tyr interrupted the conversation. —We are warrior gods; we fight and die in battle, it's our life—

—Wow, you have made me feel intrigued— the Haida woman commented.

—We have a similar tradition, and considering the offense you have already made on our land, I suppose you would be proud to participate in our sacred festival— she remarked.

—Festival?— Freyja asked, intrigued.

—No, we are looking for a man from our kingdom who might be on your lands— the Norse goddess tried to explain, but was quickly interrupted by Thor.

—What's your festival about? Beer? Combat? Sex?— Thor asked excitedly.

The woman began to laugh.

—You're incredible, boy. I'm intrigued by your free spirit— she said, still with a wide smile on her face.

The woman then turned to the men and said something to them in their language. The men backed away and started to approach their boats on the beach.

—So, I cordially invite you to Haida Gwaii, to participate in our sacred festival: 'Potlatch'— the woman said, extending her hand and pointing to the boats where the men were preparing a vessel for the gods to travel to their capital.

—Excellent! Let's go!— Thor shouted excitedly, but was quickly stopped by Freyja.

—Do you really intend to fall into an obvious enemy trap so easily? Idiot!— she shouted furiously.

—Excuse me, miss...?— Freyr inquired, approaching the woman.

—My name is Dzelarhons, a deity of this realm— the woman responded.

—Nice to meet you, Miss Dzelarhons. My name is Freyr and the blond girl is my little sister Freyja. Besides, he is my little friend Thor, and the one-armed man is Tyr ♬— the Norse god of light explained.

—Alright, Freyr— the Haida goddess responded.

—We come from a realm called Asgard, and our lord is lost in these lands as my little sister explained ♬— Freyr continued.

—We don't want to cause any trouble at all, and I'm sure little Thor's attack wasn't lethal for your men. Therefore, we don't want any direct conflict with you at all. Before accepting your invitation, we want to know if the safety of my three companions and myself can be guaranteed ♬—

—It's a festival, Freyr! Didn't you hear?— Thor shouted, still struggling with Freyja to free himself.

—Are the brave men from the other side of the world afraid of a festival?— Dzelarhons asked Freyr.

—We are not afraid— Tyr replied firmly. —But we also don't have time to waste on conflicts that don't concern us—

At that moment, the God of War placed his hand on the hilt of his legendary sword, Tyrfing.

—Alright, men from the other side of the world— the Haida goddess said, and her expression turned serious.

—You will either win the challenges or become our slaves forever. That's what this special Potlatch we will hold in honor of your audacity to set foot on our land is about— she commented.

—Unfortunately, being slaves doesn't appeal to us— Tyr said.

At that moment, the God of War drew his legendary sword Tyrfing and attempted to decapitate the goddess, but she stopped the sword with a staff she had hidden within her huge red tunic.

—Poor wandering spirits who don't know the power of the gods in this part of the world, where we have submitted to decreasing barriers of power since our existence— Dzelarhons challenged.

—My invitation wasn't voluntary; it was imperative. I wish you had taken it more jovially, like your red-bearded friend over there— she continued saying.

Tyr jumped back, feeling his hand numb from the force the Haida goddess used to stop his attack.

—Even with this barrier that diminishes our power, I am sure that woman is very powerful— the Norse god of war commented.

—Tyr, stop! Can't you see that's precisely why we're here?— Thor shouted as he continued struggling with Freyja.

—This is how we become even stronger, by overcoming challenges when the odds are stacked against us— he explained.

—You're an idiot, Thor. Don't you understand that if these people enslave us, we will never be able to rescue your father? Don't you understand that Asgard is currently vulnerable to an attack from Lel?— Freyja shouted furiously while pulling on the thunder god's cape.

—But if we can't defeat these gods, we'll never defeat Lel!— Thor shouted as he removed his bear cape so Freyja would let go of him.

Then, the thunder god took steps toward the Haida goddess, who watched them closely. Tyr and Freyr looked at him in surprise.

—We will participate in your festival and show you how powerful the gods of Asgard are— Thor said, with his face almost touching Dzelarhons'.

—That's the attitude I like— the Haida goddess said with a smile.

—Miss Dzelarhons ♬— Freyr interrupted. —Unfortunately, I cannot oppose the orders of my lord Thor. However, I would like to know what guarantees will be given to us if we are victorious in your festival ♬— he asked.

—The Haida are honorable warriors, and we always keep our word. We will let you go free to leave— the goddess commented as she turned around and walked toward the boat, which was already fully prepared to sail to Haida Gwaii.

—Thor always gets his way with these stupid plans— Freyja said grumpily as she threw Thor's bear cape at him and walked toward the boat.

—There's nothing to fear; we just need to be stronger than them— Tyr said.

—Cheer up, friends! We will be stronger after this adventure, don't you feel excited?— Thor shouted enthusiastically as he, like the others, walked toward the boat.

—Yes, if you say so, Little Thor ♬— Freyr replied.

The boat journey lasted approximately half an hour. Dzelarhons stood at the prow, while Thor and the others traveled in the middle of the boat. The Haida men rowed in unison through the cold waters of the northern sea.

Arriving at the great city, the wooden wall was guarded by two warriors wearing wooden armor and helmets with human faces. Upon seeing the Haida goddess, they opened the gate without a word.

At the entrance, several totems displayed different animals, from eagles and wolves to whales and human faces sticking out their tongues. Several of them seemed designed to intimidate.

A large number of people walked through the streets of the grand village, looking surprised at the Northern gods. The path led directly to a large red house, with an angry face in Haida art with its tongue sticking out.

—In that house, you will stay until you are called to start the Potlatch— the Haida goddess said as the men opened the door to the place.

Inside, it was dark and filled with many bound people. Thor and the others assumed they were war prisoners or slaves.

—You gods won't stay with this riff-raff— Dzelarhons said. —At the end of this room, you will find a room for important 'guests'; we have cleared it for you to stay until the festival ends—

—I'd rather sleep out in the open— Thor said, still disappointed with the condition of the place they had arrived at.

The men opened the door to the designated room. Inside, there were blankets on the floor and torches attached to the walls. In the background, there was a hideous face with a grin and tongue sticking out. On the floor were water dishes, as if animals were meant to eat there. The room smelled of dampness, and rodents could be heard squeaking in the walls. A terrible stench of decay and death filled the room.

—Well, wow, thanks for the hospitality— Freyja said sarcastically.

—Settle in and don't try to escape, or we will all know, and we will enslave you immediately... or kill you, whichever suits us best— the Haida goddess said as she closed the door.

—Do you know, Thor? If we were to leave and attack this city, we could determine if we are more powerful than these famous Haida gods— Tyr said grumpily, observing the terrible condition of the room they were in.

—Indeed, Thor, this is downright humiliating— added a furious Freyja, as she sat down on one of the blankets on the floor.

—You let yourself be charmed by that woman, surely they will play dirty with us. We don't even know what we're up against— Freyja continued, noticing that there was rotten fish in some clay pots. The Norse goddess of beauty made a disgusted face and almost vomited at the smell of the supposed food they had been left.

—I support my little sister and Tyr. Little Thor, what do you decide? Will we keep letting them treat us like little dogs? ♬— commented the god Freyr as he leaned against one of the walls.

—We must see this as the worst case scenario, friends. If we come out victorious from this predicament, we will make that woman our personal slave, but we have to play by the rules they are giving us— said Thor. —The harder the test, the more triumphant our victory will be—

Then, the thunder god showed them his totema.

—See? They didn't even take our totemas, they really think we are weak, but we will make them swallow their words and humiliations— Thor continued explaining.

—I am almost on the verge of mental collapse, Thor— Freyja said annoyed, as she lay down on the blanket on the floor. —If you weren't the new chief of Asgard, I would have already ripped out those green eyes of yours—

—Let's try to rest, little sister. Surely tomorrow will be a new day ♬— said Freyr, as he continued to lean against the wall.

—You'll see guys, our victory will be epic. These people simply won't know who they were up against— Thor laughed, while the others shook their heads.

The sky darkened over Haida Gwaii. Torches were lit all over the city, while several soldiers stood guard around the house where Thor and the others were locked up.

The people living in that village, who were brown-skinned and only wore a small loincloth for clothing, made their way to the biggest house in the village. This house had a totem with a raven at the top in front of it, and it was jealously guarded by several soldiers. Thor, who was watching all this from a tiny window, could only assume that it was a feast or a banquet like the ones held in Valhalla.

How he missed the mead and roasted boar of his kingdom! It had been a month since he had touched a good bite. Now, on the other hand, he could only enjoy the rotten fish they had left him. Without much enthusiasm, the god tasted the fish, including its bones.

The next morning, as soon as the sun came out, the four gods were in the middle of a large esplanade of earth and grass. It was surrounded by eight totems that represented a different animal each, and the eight surrounded the improvised coliseum. Around them, there were seats where hundreds of spectators sat, protected by oak fences.

At the north end of the esplanade, there was a kind of altar, which was the highest structure of the architecture; on it, there was a throne, and behind that throne there was a wall with orange, red, and black colors, and they had geometric figures with human faces drawn on it. At the front of the altar, there were men dressed in animal skins, who played drums that they vigorously beat. Behind them, the man sitting on the throne wore a huge wooden raven mask, which covered his entire face. Dark wings emanated from his back, and his body was completely covered with black feathers and the fur of some wild animal. The man was immobile in his seat, while next to him, several people stood, among them the goddess Dzelarhons. All these men and women dressed in very similar ways.

Dzelarhons, then, approached the fence protecting the elevated altar. Next to her, another man in similar garb was positioned just on the opposite side. The goddess began to shout imperatively in the local Haida language. For his part, the man who was with the goddess, translated the words she addressed to the men of Asgard.

—Dear people of Haida Gwaii, you will witness the trial of these demons who entered and killed brave warriors in our territories— translated the man. —Will they survive the tests of this Potlatch becoming our slaves, or will they be flayed and mutilated alive by our warriors? We will soon find out!—

The whole crowd began to boo the gods and throw stones at them.

—There you have it, Thor, they don't even give us the possibility of winning. If we survive, we will be slaves, and if not, we will simply die— Freyja commented trying to smile at the audience, but her annoyance was noticeable.

—Are you scared, Freyja?— Thor asked sarcastically.

—No, I just can't wait to kill all these bastards— the goddess said with an evil face.

—I have a proposal to make— Tyr interrupted.

—What is it about?— asked the intrigued goddess of Nordic beauty.

—Let's fight without using our totemas, and show these fools how powerful we can be— the war god continued.

The gods nodded and continued to watch as everyone humiliated and mocked them.

At that moment, the Haida goddess and the man accompanying her turned to look at the man sitting on the throne and paid him reverence, while the whole audience also kept quiet and stood up.

—Great and all-powerful Y'aahl, who brought the sun and light to this world, your people are grateful for the love to your offspring, and we hope these sacrifices are worthy of your magnanimity— Dzelarhons said, still prostrated to the man dressed as a crow who was still sitting on the throne.

A profound silence was heard all around, all the men were prostrated looking at the man on the throne. Then, he raised his hand and the men who had the drums began to beat them harder and harder, while all the other people began to applaud and shout again.

Dzelarhons turned to look again at the Asgardian warriors and began to shout.

—Our lord Y'aahl has prophesied the death of these demons at the hands of our warriors— said the Haida goddess in her language, but it was translated by the man beside her.

Then, four men who were behind the wall where the audience sat, jumped into the esplanade.
The four men, who were almost identical to each other, were extremely skinny and were only dressed in a red and black loincloth. They all had their faces painted black and red, and their hair was tied up in a small ponytail, making them look almost bald.

—What are these?— Tyr asked.

—I think they are at the level of a little valkyrie ♬— Freyr replied with a smile.

—These people are really underestimating us— Freyja said with a furious look on her face.

—I told you, they don't know what or who we are— Thor added. —They believe themselves to be the most powerful in the region, but there's always a bigger bear in the woods—

—Demons! These are our Sgana quedas, human beings who can transform into animals. You will die devoured, it is the will of our great lord Y'aahl— Dzelarhons shouted in divine language to the Nordic gods while extending her hand.

The men with drums began again to play their instruments with all their strength, as the men facing Thor and company began to transform into wild animals.

A bear, an eagle, an owl, and a wolf. Into these animals the four men transformed, although all four were much larger than normal animals, in fact, they were twice as big as a common bear.

—Begin!— Dzelarhons shouted in Haida language, and at that moment, the bear and the wolf threw themselves at the four gods, while the eagle and the owl positioned themselves behind them.

—They attack us with animals— Tyr laughed. —They don't know that we are the best hunters in the universe—

Thor then jumped towards the face of the large bear, and with a punch charged with electricity, he hit the man turned into an animal with such fierceness that he threw him towards the oak wood wall that surrounded the esplanade, causing people to jump in panic.

For his part, Freyr threw a large ray of light into the eyes of the owl, causing it to bleed and fall to the ground unconscious.

Freyja jumped towards the large bald eagle that was attacking her, and with a flying kick, she threw the animal towards the stands of the spectators, causing a brawl as it fell on the audience.

Finally, Tyr offered his arm to the large wolf, but when it tried to bite him, its teeth broke.

—You are nowhere near a match for Fenrir, who tore off my other arm— he said, and with the arm he had inside the animal's jaws, he threw it towards the large altar where the crow god of the Haida was seated. But before it could collide with the god, Dzelarhons stopped it with her bare hand.

—As you can see, Haida people, your warriors are no match for us!— Thor shouted at the top of his lungs. —We don't want leftovers for food, we want to fight against the strongest gods and show who we are! The strongest warriors in this universe!—

The people began to boo, although it was clear that they didn't understand what the god was saying, but the mere fact that they had defeated their champions was enough to cause them annoyance.

Dzelarhons looked angrily at the gods as she let the now transformed back into a human Sgana quedas fall to the ground. But then she saw Y'aahl rise from his throne and stand in front of her. The raven god looked down, towards where Thor and company were standing.

—Foreign men!— The raven man shouted in divine language. —I have not seen warriors as powerful as you in a long time, I am intrigued to see how far you can go in our Potlatch—

—So that's the leader of these people, I guess— said Tyr excited, while trying to grab the hilt of his sword Tyrfing. But Thor quickly stopped him.

—We have come from afar to fight against the strongest man in this region, which I assume is you!— Thor shouted looking at the man with the raven mask. —Why don't you come down and we see what you're made of?—

The crowd started booing again. They didn't understand what they were saying, but they knew that shouting at the great raven in that way was offensive and disrespectful.

—Kill them!— they shouted in unison in Haida.

—Congratulations, Thor. Now they hate us even more— Freyja said sarcastically.

—Does that bother you?— Tyr asked puzzled.

—Not at all! Now I won't feel any pity when we bathe this place in their blood— the goddess responded with an evil look.

At that, the god in the raven mask began to laugh.

—You really have guts to talk to me like that, but don't despair, you have won today's battle, tomorrow you will face a new challenge— the Haida leader answered.

—We hope it's not another disappointment like this one— Thor replied with a smile.

Ten days had passed since that encounter. Thor and his companions had faced and triumphed over the tests presented daily without any problem. Even with the divine power limiters, the gods of Asgard were simply too strong.

But on the tenth day, they had been ordered to use logs to build a boat. This boat had to be defended from the attack of enemy boats on an artificial lake created in the combat esplanade.

The gods, not being very good at construction, had created a quite mediocre boat, which barely stayed afloat on the lake. There, the four of them, carrying their totemas, had to defend the boat from a group of Sgana quedas on four gigantic boats, which attacked their small boat with stones tied with ropes and arrows.

—If your boat sinks, it will be considered a defeat— Dzelarhons mentioned, while she personally commanded one of the boats.

The other three boats were commanded by other three gods. Kaiti, Dzelarhons' husband, who wore a huge bear cloak; and T'axet and Tia, two somber gods with a mask that looked like a possum, commanded the other boats.

—We can't lose, or she will die— Thor finally said seriously.

—I understand that, Thor, but do you know the girl then?— Tyr asked, stopping a group of arrows with his sword.

—Is it one of the girls purr rescued in Denmeowrk?— Freyja asked while avoiding another rock with her kick.

—I think so, although when I saw her, she was unconscious and bleeding. I'm sure that Athena's men must be here by now— Thor answered animatedly.

At that moment, in front of everyone, a woman was tied to a post in front of where Y'aahl was sitting on his throne watching the fight. The woman was guarded by several soldiers armed with those horrifying armors with human faces for helmets. She was unconscious and her clothes were torn, which was a brown bear and sheep coat. Underneath it, the girl was wearing dark pants and fuzzy boots.

It was none other than Epona.