Elyon - Gods among us
—Ch'úupal, ch'úupal, wake up!— Tul said, shaking Tania vigorously, who remained unconscious after being kicked by the falcon god.
Tania slowly woke up and looked at Tul with concern. —What happened?— asked the Punic goddess, puzzled.
The rabbit goddess had cleaned the blood from Tania's face, so she no longer looked as battered as she did a few hours ago. However, the fire-haired goddess had very little strength and could hardly move.
—A guard came and brought this— Tul mentioned, showing Tania a clay tray filled with various dishes. One had three buffalo steaks with a berry sauce on top, another was a pot filled with corn soup, and finally, there was a roasted cob of corn with two thick rounds of what appeared to be corn cakes. There was also a small jug of fresh water.
—That food? But why?— Tania asked.
—I think it's because of what you said earlier to that guy, that you're going to be released or something for being the sister of someone important— Tul remarked.
—I see. They don't want me to die because that would really cause them trouble with Lel— Tania mused.
Tul then brought the tray closer to Tania and took the roasted cob, holding it to Tania's mouth.
—Go ahead ch'úupal, I'll feed you— the rabbit goddess said.
Tania smiled. —You eat first, Tul— she responded.
—But this isn't my food. They gave me another dish which I've already eaten— Tul replied.
—How about we both share this? It's too much food for just me— Tania suggested with a broad smile.
Tul's face lit up with joy and anticipation.
—Do you really mean it, ch'úupal?— she asked.
—Of course, start with that strange fruit you brought over—
Tul energetically began devouring the cob. Meanwhile, Tania reached for one of the steaks with berries and started to savor it.
—I suppose you're like a friend of mine who doesn't eat meat, right?— Tania inquired, chewing her food.
—Mhno, ihnomht , emhamht mehhmht— Tul mumbled as she continued eating the corn.
Tania couldn't help but recall Athena speaking while eating. Although it looked unbecoming on the Greek goddess, she found it endearing in Tul, seeing her as a cute and innocent girl.
Tania then motioned for the soup and brought it closer to Tul.
—Look, I don't see any meat in it. Go ahead. I'll eat the steaks— she said with a smile.
—Thank you, ch'úupal— the rabbit goddess replied, grabbing a corn cake. She began to drink the soup like water.
Tania continued eating the steaks, realizing they were quite delicious.
—They must've had a good cook prepare this. Are these people really that afraid of Lel?— she pondered to herself.
After their meal, the goddesses drank from the jug of water. With that food, Tania finally had enough energy to sit up. Even though she couldn't see much, she noticed Tul seemed very happy, and internally, she was overjoyed.
—You mentioned something called 'Lel' earlier. What is that, ch'úupal?— Tul asked curiously. —Are you something like a princess?—
—Something like that— Tania replied.
—How exciting, ch'úupal! Or should I call you princess?— Tul asked excitedly.
—No, please... I don't know what chupal means, but that's fine— Tania responded, blushing.
—It's a friendly way to refer to girls where I come from— Tul explained.
—Then that's fine, Tul— Tania replied. —I hate formalities—
Tania then hugged her legs and looked down. She noticed the pants she'd been gifted in Greenland were now torn and dirty. She also realized that despite the horrible smell in the room, they were able to eat with great enthusiasm. They were both that hungry!
—Lel is a vast and powerful kingdom from across the world that wants to control everything, using a pair of intolerant religions and causing wars in the human world. It seems this empire has an alliance with them— Tania said somberly.
—That sounds a lot like the kingdom of Tula. They are wicked and cruel, wanting to conquer everything— Tul remarked.
—We came here because it seems one of my companions is from that Tula kingdom, and he wants to know about his past— Tania continued.
—But, it seems he was sent as a prisoner to that kingdom, and I must go rescue him. But first, I need to rescue my other friends who must be in this place— she added.
—Wow, all of that is really interesting, ch'úupal. I'd love to help you!— Tul exclaimed as she watched Tania, laboriously, trying to stand up.
—Well, first we need to get out of this cesspool to rescue my friends and get out of here— Tania said.
—But, being in here, we're in a powerful anti-divinity field that wouldn't even let us break through this wall—Tul commented.
Tania, still swaying, approached the wall and began to hit it, but her punches were futile. On the contrary, her fists started to bleed, so the goddess leaned against the wall exhausted and tired.
—You don't have the strength for that, ch'úupal— Tul said, hugging Tania to prevent her from hurting herself further.
Tania gritted her teeth with frustration. —There must be a way out of here, or my friends will die— she said.
—I have an idea, ch'úupal— Tul commented as she moved Tania away from the wall.
Tul then shared her idea, to which Tania looked at her with a disapproving gaze.
—"I don't think that will work— Tania said.
—But why not, ch'úupal?— Tul asked with a sad look.
—It's too... childish— Tania said with a slightly embarrassed look, not wanting to put it that way to the little rabbit girl who saw her as a child.
—It's not childish, it's awesome! You'll see, it'll work!— Tul said excitedly, with such a cute smile that Tania couldn't help but be moved by it.
—Fine... I'll give it a try— the Punic goddess said, still blushing, and approached the door of her cell. It was made of wood, with copper bars.
—Hey, guard, hey!— Tania shouted when suddenly, she saw a soldier peeking through the opening where the bars were.
—What do you want?— the soldier asked in Pawnee, to which Tania didn't understand anything but guessed what he meant.
—I feel very sick from being surrounded by filth, and I think I'm going to get sick. They wouldn't expect my sister to be happy if I die in this cell, right?— Tania explained, making her expression as suffering as possible.
—Fine, wait here— the guard responded in Pawnee and left.
—What happened, ch'úupal?— Tul asked, intrigued.
—I don't know, the guard said something and left— Tania replied, puzzled.
The soldier, who understood the divine language but couldn't speak it, approached his superior and explained what Tania had said.
—"Damn— his chief commented. —As far as I've heard, they haven't been able to communicate with that Anath person yet, so for now, that girl will have to remain our prisoner. But if we leave her down here in the sewers, she'll probably die, as she said—
—Should we move her somewhere else? She might accuse us of treating her like a rat to her sister— the guard suggested.
—Take her to the guest chambers upstairs, but seal the door and window with anti-divinity wards so she can't escape— the guard's chief ordered, and the guard nodded.
The guard then opened the door and signaled to Tania to come out. Tania, who was still with Tul, hugged her and said, —I won't leave without her. I want her as... my pet—
The guard made a gesture of uncertainty and looked at his superior who was nearby. The man told him it didn't matter and to proceed. So the guard nodded to the Punic goddess and indicated for her to leave.
Tania and Tul got up, still embraced, and finally left the filthy cells they were in. However, when they emerged, they realized it wasn't a prison, but rather a sewer system in that place. Tania was disappointed that neither Anpiel nor Susanoo were there.
—Follow me, we'll take you to the guest chambers— the guard said, gesturing for the goddesses to follow him. Both goddesses nodded and continued to follow him.
The guard chief approached the goddesses and tied their hands with enchanted ropes. Tania felt it was something like the divinity blocker in the cell they were in. Naturally, it was to prevent them from escaping. The goddesses continued walking with the guard as they left his chief behind.
Exiting the sewer system, which was just massive, long walls of red bricks, they climbed a staircase and passed through a door. They found themselves inside a huge palace in shades of ochre and red, with large windows and men and women strolling through the luxurious surroundings. The massive palace clearly had two stories, and the walls were adorned with hawk drawings, with everything enhanced by copper statues.
Several guards protected every corner of the place. Tania assumed it must be some kind of guesthouse. In the center of the room, there was a spiral staircase leading to the second floor. The guard indicated they should go up, so the goddesses nodded and began to climb slowly, as both were still quite weak, and the straps on their hands weren't making it any easier.
The upper floor was a completely red hallway with drawings on the walls of hawk-headed men and birds, and there were several doors. One of them had a red circle drawn on it, which Tania could identify as similar to the circle in which she had been trapped in Onondaga.
The guard removed their restraints and gestured for them to enter the room, to which the goddesses nodded. Inside, there was a large stone bed with palm leaves covered by a huge cotton sheet. There was a small water cistern and a bucket for bathing, as well as a table with fruits on it.
Facing the bed, there was a large window with a view of a gigantic pyramid, much larger than the pyramid they had seen in the previous village. The window was covered with cotton curtains adorned with drawings of beasts and buffalo.
—How lovely!— Tul exclaimed, jumping with excitement. She hadn't left the prison for several months, and she finally felt as if she were being reborn.
—I owe you an apology; your plan worked perfectly— Tania said.
—I told you, ch'úupal— Tul replied and approached the table to examine the fruits. However, as she was about to take one, she turned to Tania with a bashful look.
—May I?— she asked.
—You don't need to ask me for something like that, Tul. Go ahead and take whatever you want— Tania replied.
—Thank you, ch'úupal!—" Tul exclaimed excitedly, and she began to eat the berries with little elegance.
Tania then sat on the floor and touched her side. She could feel that she had three broken ribs and winced in pain, but she was happy to have managed to get Tul out of that prison.
—Ahmg yhg gohmg thm slmhmp?— Tul asked while continuing to eat. Tania inferred that she was asking if Tania was going to lie down on the bed.
—I'm covered in filth; I'll take a bath first— Tania said, but she couldn't hide her wincing from Tul due to her broken ribs.
—Wait, ch'úupal. Let me check you— the rabbit goddess said, leaving her food and approaching Tania, touching the right side of her abdomen. Tania winced in pain.
—"They're broken, about three ribs— Tul said, then she took out a volcanic stone mortar with the face of a bunny from her bag and started searching for some herbs and seeds.
—Are you an herbalist?— Tania asked.
—Yes, I used to make medicine for Ixchel and her people— the rabbit goddess commented while grinding the herbs with the stone with remarkable vigor. —Although I can't use my divine powers here, I can still make some medicine—
Once the herbs were powdered, the goddess put them into one of the clay cups on the table. She then took water and filled the cup.
—I just need to heat it somehow— the rabbit goddess said.
Tania then created a flame with her finger.
—It seems the anti-divinity barrier isn't as strong here as in prison— Tania said, and with the flame, she immediately heated the clay cup that Tul held in her hand.
—Now, drink this concoction— the rabbit goddess said, handing the cup to Tania. It smelled awful, but Tania took a deep breath and drank it in one go.
Quickly, Tania felt her ribs mending, and the pain she had been feeling subsided. The tooth she had lost also regrew. The effect was similar to ambrosia, but not as potent. Still, she could feel her ichor recovering somewhat. She understood how Tul had managed to survive for so long in that prison.
—Did it work? I'm glad, ch'úupal!— the rabbit goddess shouted excitedly, and her ears lowered a bit as she smiled with her eyes closed.
Initially, Tania didn't understand what she wanted, but she realized that Tul wanted to be petted on the head and congratulated for her achievement.
The Punic goddess extended her hand and began to stroke Tul's head.
—You're a very good girl, Tul. Your medicine was amazing, thank you— Tania said, feeling Tul purring with happiness.
After petting her, the flame-haired goddess stood up from the floor and looked out the window at the gigantic pyramid, which seemed to be at the center of the city.
—I assume this is the capital of Cahokia, and that's the main temple of this place— Tania said.
Tul leaned over to look as well.
—Yes, in that temple, they probably perform human sacrifices like in Tula or Mayapán. Although the amount of human sacrifices in Tula pales in comparison to those in my land— Tul commented.
—I think it's probably very similar to Tula, as you say— Tania replied.
—Why do you say that?— the rabbit goddess asked.
—The smell of that man... he's addicted to human blood— Tania said.
The Punic goddess turned around and looked into Tul's eyes.
—Feces and dampness are normal in a sewer system, but not blood— Tania commented.
—So you're saying that large amounts of human sacrifice blood end up in the sewer system of this city?— Tul asked.
Tania turned to look at the great pyramid again and felt a sense of discomfort as memories from her past flooded her mind.
—Yes, I'm sure of it— she commented.
—Have you tasted human blood, ch'úupal?— Tul asked, surprised.
Tania took a deep breath and looked back at the enormous pyramid in front of her.
—I did a long time ago, which is why I recognize its effects— she said.
—In Mayapán, they started considering it a kind of health problem, so they've limited it as much as they can. However, there are still gods that demand large quantities of blood from humans. Since we're not a kingdom with a single ruler, there are many rebels and enemy factions among us— Tul explained.
—That's quite a problem— answered Tania, as she ripped the sheets off the huge window and climbed onto its lintel.
—Do you plan to escape now, ch'úupal?— Tul asked.
—Yes, Tul, I need to find my friends first, and then I'll come back for you— Tania said.
However, at that moment, Tania felt an overwhelming wave of fatigue and collapsed backward onto the floor. She realized there was an anti-divinity seal on the window that was draining her energy. If she were to jump, she would surely fall to the ground and break her bones.
Quickly, Tul rushed to check if Tania was okay, but the goddess got up quickly and gritted her teeth.
—Damn, we're like two imprisoned princesses in this room— Tania commented.
—Let's think through this situation, ch'úupal. But I think we should take a bath first to get rid of this disgusting poop smell from our bodies— the rabbit goddess suggested.
Tania looked at Tul with a melancholic expression, but Tul's pure smile immediately convinced her.
The two goddesses undressed and began bathing with the water from the small cistern in the room. Tul looked in awe at the large scar on Tania's abdomen.
—What happened to you, ch'úupal?— the rabbit goddess asked curiously.
—This?— Tania said, touching her wound. —Just something that reminds me of my own weakness—
—Would you like me to erase that scar for you? And the one in your face too?— the excited rabbit goddess asked.
—Can you really do that?— Tania asked, surprised.
—Of course! Want me to use my ointment?— Tul offered.
Tania thought for a moment but ultimately declined.
—These scars remind me that I need to become stronger to protect my family— Tania said and smiled at Tul.
The rabbit goddess smiled back in response.
While Tania washed her companion's leporine hair, Tul lowered her head and asked Tania: —Ch'úupal, could I join you on your adventure? I swear I won't be a hindrance and I'll try to help in any way I can—
Tania hadn't considered taking Tul out of Cahokia when they fled, but she was delighted to have her along. She felt suppressed maternal instincts toward her, and she couldn't bring herself to refuse the proposition. The Punic goddess hugged Tul's naked body and rested her head on her neck.
—I couldn't leave you behind— she said.
Tul smiled and thanked her.
—But don't you have a family? Parents? Won't the goddess Ishiel you mentioned miss you?— Tania asked. —If one of my daughters were missing for months, I'd be worried and searching for her everywhere—
—I don't think the great Ixchel will miss me much, and besides, I'm not the only rabbit in her service— Tul commented. —And, on the other hand, no, I don't have parents; I'm more like a machine created to serve the moon goddess. I wasn't born; I was made— These words pained Tania's heart, and she could see the pain in Tul's eyes as well.
—Don't worry, Tul. I won't see you any differently— Tania said, and Tul nodded, grateful for her new friend's words.
Exiting the bath, they noticed there were two dresses hanging up. They were long, red and ochre in color, and sleeveless. On the front, they had geometric drawings resembling staircases.
—Well, at least we'll be able to dress in new clothes. We owe them something for that— Tania commented as she put on the dress. Tul also put on the dress.
Tania looked back at the enormous pyramid and saw that the sky was starting to turn red.
—I suppose the time of sacrifice is approaching. We need to plan how to get out of here as quickly as possible— she said.
—I have another one of my great ideas, ch'úupal!— Tul exclaimed with excitement.
—Don't raise your voice too much, Tul. What is it now?— Tania asked.
The rabbit goddess took the curtain Tania had torn from the window and then pulled out a white liquid from her bag and smeared it on the fabric. She then removed the bedsheet and took one of the palm leaves, covering the top of it with the damp curtain.
—Ta-da!— the rabbit goddess sang excitedly, presenting her invention.
—Is that a torch?— Tania asked.
—Yes, ch'úupal— Tul commented. —Use your fire ability to ignite the tip, and we'll get rid of the seal without having to touch the window frame—
At that moment, drums and sounds of wind instruments could be heard. Tania turned again to see the pyramid and saw three individuals with the lower part of their faces painted red and wearing elaborate ceremonial hats made of gold and copper on their heads. They were dressed only in a red loincloth, but they carried a kind of hammer made of copper and wood in their hands.
Toward the pyramid, then, dozens and dozens of prisoners began to march, all tied around the neck with ropes and being pushed by soldiers. Tania then saw that among those prisoners were Anpiel and Susanoo, both dressed only in simple loincloths like all the other men.
One of the men began to recite something, but neither Tul nor Tania understood what it was, but they sensed that the sacrifices of that day would begin. The Punic goddess quickly took the torch created by Tul and lit its tip. The fire immediately spread all over the sheet.
—It's a very powerful fire feeder, ch'úupal. With this we ensure the fire doesn't go out— Tul proudly said.
Tania then approached the improvised torch to the window lintel, where she saw the anti-divinity seal, and tried to burn it with it. But when the torch touched the seal, Tania felt her energies fading and the torch slipped from her hands, falling to the floor of the large building.
—I'm sorry! I couldn't!— Tania nervously said.
The guards saw the torch and pointed to the window where Tania and Tul were, and immediately ran from there.
—They noticed quickly— Tania said worriedly, as she saw the first men climbing the steps of the great pyramid.
—What do we do?— asked the rabbit goddess worriedly, but she realized that Tania was intently watching the first human sacrifice. One of the priests grabbed a man by the hair and, with his knife, cut off his head and showed it to the sun.
The soldiers began to knock on the door for them to open, but Tul didn't answer anything, while seeing that Tania continued watching the horrific spectacle as if she had forgotten everything.
—No, I told Rodrigo not long ago that one should not intervene in the cultures of other peoples— Tania told herself. —But the souls that inhabit my being cannot allow this perversion neither today nor ever—
Tania then began to change her hair color from red to reddish-yellow, as when she wore her totema. Her eyes also began to glow, and an intense heat could be felt everywhere.
—What power! And that's even though we're inside an anti-divinity cell— Tul said surprisedly.
At that moment, the soldiers broke down the door and entered armed with maces and knives, ready to attack the foreigners. But at that moment, the heat was so intense that the soldiers, despite being under the protection of Heshuka, which increased their powers to divine levels, had to back away, seeing how the room exploded into pieces.
Tul then looked surprised that the extent of the flames caused by Tania did not touch either her or the soldiers, who were scared to death at the sight. Tania wore her totema and fire wings came out of her back while her hair was emitting fire as if it was a bonfire. The Punic goddess had finally achieved her manticore transformation in the New World.