Chapter 94:

Epona

Elyon - Gods among us


—Sorry for bothering you this early, Mr. Atepomarus, but Avalon will once again go to war against those wretches from Saturnia and we'll need horses— said a man standing at the door of a small stable.

It was very early in the morning, the sun was just beginning to rise in Avalon, so the sky still looked dark with streaks of red and orange. The small stable was located on a vast meadow surrounded by green mountains and beautiful apple trees. A lake was also illuminated by the dawn, which was right behind the small, modest building.

The stable was made of wood and had a high, triangular straw roof. Next to the small structure, there were wooden fences where several horses of different colors were eating, being fed by a young blonde girl with green eyes.

—Why are they going to war with Saturnia again? Why can't they just sign a peace treaty?— asked a man inside the stable.

The man had bowl-cut orange-blonde hair and a long mustache of the same color. He wore a simple green tunic and blue pants. His eyes were a very bright green.

—I'm sorry, sir, but I'm just a messenger; I don't make war decisions— replied the other man, who was escorted by several Avalon soldiers. All of them wore steel helmets with a golden dragon on top. They wore red capes and bronze armor, with checkered skirts and leather boots. All the soldiers, except the messenger, zealously carried spears with white and golden tips.

—I understand that, but does sacrificing these horses really serve any purpose? I mean, humans do it, but there's no need for us to— replied the man named Atepomarus.

—The great King Esus believes in taking any necessary action to win the war— replied the man, to which Atepomarus only nodded, albeit reluctantly.

The men then entered the stable and took away seven horses, an act the little girl watched with sadness, knowing these were seven friends she would never see again.

—The great Esus will be grateful for your service— the man replied as he and his companions took the horses away.

—The great Esus won't get my horses back if they keep making wars, and the number of horses run out— Atepomarus replied sarcastically.

Atepomarus then sat on a bench inside the stable and put his hands on his head, his expression one of frustration.

—Dad— said the little girl, —why did they take the horses again?—

—Because this kingdom is at war with another, and they'll need the horses, Ep— the man replied dejectedly.

—But those horses will never return, right?— the sad little girl asked. —What will happen when they die?—

—Sometimes, Ep— the man said, stroking the little girl's head, —our only purpose is to sacrifice ourselves for others, like those horses—

—But you said that was a lie; I heard you say it— the girl retorted.

The man sighed and looked out at the dawn over the hills.

—Unfortunately, we can't do anything, nor can we oppose such acts. We're just farmers living on the outskirts of the capital, and our job is to raise horses— the man replied in a choked voice.

—Is it because we're useless, right dad?— the little girl asked, her eyes filled with tears.

—Epona! Never say that again!— the man exclaimed, looking at the little girl with an irritated expression.

—But they come and steal our horses and then kill them. And we can't do anything— the girl replied.

—Listen, Ep. In this world, we all have our roles. You may not see it, but even in this humble life we lead, we can help our kingdom in different ways— the man replied. —Even if what we do seems insignificant, it will have a significant impact in the future—

—Yes, dad— the little Epona replied, and at that moment everything went dark.

—So... this is the end— thought Epona. —Rodrigo, Anpiel, Ana, even Tania, Susanoo, and Menrva... I hope my sacrifice is enough to understand how to break Anath's barrier—

The two halves of Epona's body fell to the ground, her entrails spilling everywhere. The life had gone from Epona's eyes, and her body became cold. Epona, in that moment, said goodbye to her loved ones and her consciousness faded.

Ana screamed in horror and anguish, while Menrva held her tightly by the waist to prevent her from sacrificing her life in vain.

Anath then kicked the upper half of Epona while preparing her katana to slice Thor, who remained immobilized by her grip.

—That's it; that girl gave her life to tell us how we can strike Anath— thought Thor as he tried to gather energy in his body, having been numbed when Anath touched the hammer.

—Come on body, come on. Don't let that girl's sacrifice be in vain. Just one strike, just one. Without her totema, I can hurt her badly— Thor told himself.

—Now it's your turn, thunder god— Anath said with a gleeful expression and her eyes shining red, as she prepared to cut Thor again.

At that moment, Thor revitalized his body electrically, and with all his might, he released his hammer from the Phoenician goddess's hand and struck her with it in her face. Thor then jumped in front of Anath, and again with his hammer, tried to hit her, but the goddess stopped his attack with her hand, and once again, Thor felt his entire body go numb. The goddess's face only had a bit of blood, nothing more. The blow hadn't been significant.

At that moment, golden spears fell from the sky, generating electric energy. Thor looked up and saw Menrva furiously summoning these massive spears. This diversion allowed the thunder god to break free from Anath's grasp.

—Loki! Come here and take everyone away!— shouted Menrva tearfully with a very hoarse voice. The goddess had to knock Ana unconscious to prevent her from sacrificing herself in vain. But now, she was ready to obliterate Anath with her ultimate technique.

Loki appeared, glanced at the halved Epona with a pained expression, and promptly teleported everyone away.

—Fools, do you think I'll let you live after this?— said the Phoenician goddess, smiling as she sheathed her deadly katana.

—No matter where you run, I'll find you and kill you— she remarked.

—Thor!— Menrva yelled. —You're a Jupiter, just like me. Let's burn this witch with our combined electrical powers at full strength—

—Wait, Menrva! We can't harm her until she draws her sword, just hold on a bit longer— Thor replied, pointing again at the goddess Anath with his hammer.

—Indeed, Thor. My barrier only exists when my sword is sheathed, but it's impossible for you to make me draw it— replied Anath, smugly.

Thor then threw his hammer towards Anath's barrier, it got caught, trying to break through while generating electric strikes.
—Do it now, lady! I will support you with a powerful bolt!— shouted Thor to the Etruscan goddess, who was preparing an electric triangle to bury Anath.

—But... her sword is still sheathed!— Menrva exclaimed worriedly.

—Trust me!— Thor shouted, simultaneously summoning a mighty lightning bolt with his skill 'Bregda upp Thunraz'.

Menrva then chanted: —Cerichunce in Tmia Lauchum Flereum

The electric triangle was struck by Thor's mighty bolt. As if an electric spear was plummeting from the sky like a meteor, it descended upon Anath's head. Ignoring her shield completely, the attack hit her full force.

The electrical explosion set off a chain reaction with the electric spears placed all over Haida Gwaii that Menrva had created. A massive explosion that covered the entire island erupted as Thor and Menrva fled from the powerful blast.

—Even with the power suppression, that attack was awesome!— Menrva said excitedly.

—We surely hurt her this time— Thor replied.

When the smoke cleared, Anath had half of her face bloodied and part of her purple dress torn. The hand holding her katana was burned. Anath's expression was filled with rage and hatred. Her pink eyes shone blood-red, and blood dripped from her lips.

—How did you break through the barrier?— Menrva asked the god.

The barrier was made solely from her ultra-fast sword strikes. No matter how weak her targets are, she always struck them.

Then, Thor raised his hand and retrieved his hammer, Mjolnir.

—My hammer produced millions of sparks that Anath, unconsciously, had to destroy too, making it impossible for her to dodge our combined massive attack— he explained.

Menrva smiled and closed her eyes.

—Thanks to you, Epona, we managed to do this— the goddess thought to herself.

But Anath's wounds quickly healed due to the accumulation of ichor in her body. Still, her expression remained the same; the goddess was enraged.

—You love to mess with me, right? You think you really gained something from that idiot's sacrifice, right? I'm going to exterminate you now!— Anath furiously screamed, revealing a golden pendant of a woman with an Egyptian crown seated on a throne. It was her totema.

Meanwhile, Ana finally woke up in a forest. The Irish goddess sat down and saw the Norse gods sitting close, looking downcast.

—Where?... Where is Epona?— Ana asked, but the Norse gods looked at her and lowered their heads.

Ana then stood up, looking for Epona, only to see Loki desperately giving ambrosia to the now still body of Epona. The dark god had joined the two halves together, but Epona still didn't react. The damage had been too severe, and her body was dead.

The Irish goddess saw her friend's lifeless eyes and felt the world blur. Ana almost fell but steadied herself. She quickly ran to Epona's corpse and tried to shake her back to life.

—Epona! Epona! What am I going to tell Rodrigo, damn it?!— the goddess cried, but there was no response.

—She's dead, Ana, stop trying— Loki said darkly.

—Who the hell are you supposed to be?— Ana started recalling the day she met Epona.

The equine goddess was riding a white steed, dressed in her totema. —I am Epona; I work for Britannia— said Epona somberly.

—What's a Brit doing setting her dirty feet in Ireland?— Ana shouted, drawing a sword from her back.

—What do I fucking care? This is a bloody invasion. It's time for Christ to enter this island's life— replied the Celtic goddess, dismounting her steed and taking a fighting stance.

Though this encounter had happened over six hundred years ago, the goddesses' appearances were somewhat similar.

Ana had forward-facing hair, a messy style covering part of her face, dark eyeliner, black lipstick, and nails. She wore a long black dress.

Epona had long hair tied at the end with a golden headband, leaving a small braid at the tip. She wore a simple green blouse with a long white dress.

The two goddesses fought all that day, trying to kill each other. It wasn't the only time they met.

—We've faced each other several times— Ana said one day.

—I don't keep track of unimportant matters, crow face— Epona replied.

Both goddesses sat, bruised and battered, on a hill in Ireland. The sky was blue with few clouds. These hills usually served as gateways to the land of the Tuatha de Danann, which Ana had defended from Epona's attack.

—Bah! I'd rather do this than return to my kingdom— Ana commented.

Epona began to laugh.

—Let me guess— the Celtic goddess finally said, —you don't give a damn about the nonsense in your kingdom either?—

—Pretty much, there's an old man always harrasing me, and he disgusts me— Ana replied with a sour face.

—Is that why you dress like the fucking living dead?— Epona laughed, noting Ana's appearance.

—I'm a goddess of war. This is to look menacing!— Ana shouted.

—You look more like a goddamned corpse— Epona continued, laughing at Ana's appearance.

—Bah! What would a horse goddess like you know?— a grumpy Ana retorted.

—I know that if you styled your hair properly, you'd be more attractive. It's a pity your blue eyes are hidden by that dreadful appearance— Epona said, standing up.

Ana blushed.

—Do you think I'm pretty?— Ana asked.

—Haven't you looked in a mirror, asshole?— Epona replied and then fell silent.

—Well, not with that corspe fashion you wear, obviously— she added.

Ana blushed again and gave a weak smile.

—Well, time to head back. I'll report to my siblings that the crow-faced witch stopped me again— Epona said, mounting her white steed.

—Epona— Ana nervously began, —would you, I don't know, like to have a beer with me someday?—

Epona laughed again.

—Crow, we are enemies; our kingdoms are at war. Even if we don't owe them any loyalty, we must maintain appearances. You know, societal shit— Epona responded.

—I suppose that's how it has to be— Ana replied wistfully.

—Hey, but if Ireland ever gets Christianized or Britannia returns to paganism, I'll gladly accept that beer— Epona said with a smile.

Ana's memories with Epona kept flooding back. She was still in denial, crying inconsolably as she cradled her friend's body.

Meanwhile, the Haida gods had miraculously withstood the massive electrical explosion, but that attack had helped them defeat Anath's Malakim guard. Dzelarhons then declared victory for the Haida gods.

—We've saved our people from the foreign threat— the goddess proclaimed. —Even if everything's destroyed, we can always rebuild!—

The other gods raised their weapons in celebration. Suddenly, a malak emerged from the rubble and fled.

—Great Dzelarhons, one of the foreign gods is escaping— shouted one of the Haida gods, the interpreter for the Norse gods at the Potlatch.

—We don't have time for cowards— the Haida goddess replied, gripping her weapon again.

—Only one remains, the strongest goddess— she thought.

Anath, facing Thor and Menrva, majestically displayed her totema with her golden armor bearing a demonic face on its chest, her Egyptian feathered crown, and her vast purple cape. Her grin was sinister, filled with hate and a desire to kill both Menrva and Thor at the same time.

—Thor, can you fight her?— a nervous Menrva asked.

—I doubt we can even mess up her hair— Thor replied apprehensively, as they both sensed the goddess's divine power.

The sea surrounding the island was agitated, and smoke from the previous explosion circled in the sky around the goddess. Although Anath didn't access all her power, it was enough to cause environmental phenomena.

The fleeing malak then positioned itself behind the goddess.

—Lady Anath, your entire personal guard has fallen. We need your help!— cried the malak, a look of concern on its face. —Please come with me— it continued.

—All of you, Malakim, are nothing but trash that just gets in the way— Anath furiously said without even looking at him.

—If all of you die, I'll replace you with any other malak; that's how useless you are— she said with a look of disdain.

Suddenly, to everyone's astonishment, Anath's shoulder exploded, and a wave of blood gushed from the wound.

—I told you to come with me— the malak persisted.

Menrva and Thor's eyes widened in surprise.

Loki and the other Norse gods realized what was happening.

—Is it him?— Tyr asked excitedly.

—I told you he'd come— Loki shouted to Freyja, the goddess sharing his excitement.

Anath's wound quickly healed, but she was forced to turn around, and before her stood an old man with a patch over his right eye and a long beard. His golden helmet bore an eagle, and on his shoulder plates, sculptures of ravens peeked out. He wore a large green robe adorned with golden motifs. Alongside him, two wolves walked and two ravens fluttered, though they were illusions created by his divine power. The man held up his pure gold spear, Gungnir, towards Anath.

—As you must know, Anath, my spear Gungnir never misses its mark— the man said, as Anath glared at him with furious eyes.

—Father Odin!— Thor exclaimed excitedly, almost in tears.

—Save your tears for the weak, Thor— Odin replied with a stern expression. —Now, step back, I'll handle this cheap whore of Lel—