Chapter 105:

Rodrigo and Tezcatlipoca

Elyon - Gods among us

Since childhood, Rodrigo had recurring nightmares in which he saw a majestic and gigantic feathered serpent. The serpent's body was green like an emerald, with a huge red crest on its neck, and it had two powerful horns like those of rams. The enormous dragon descended into a desolate world where a feline that resembled a lynx, but larger in size and with dark spots on its body, awaited him.

The lynx and the serpent would engage in a fight, and despite the lynx's small size compared to the massive serpent, it would leap directly at the giant creature's neck, causing significant damage. At this point, Rodrigo would always wake up frightened in his bed.

However, these dreams had stopped when he reached adolescence, becoming only part of his childhood memories. But once again, he had the same dream and woke up at the exact same point he did as a child.

Upon opening his eyes, Rodrigo realized he was still chained and lying on the ground in front of a campfire. On the other side, he could see the goddess Bellona cooking meat skewered on a long branch.

Bellona, who wasn't wearing her toga but was dressed in the typical attire of the local people, wore a long dress that seemed to be made from animal skins, reaching down to her ankles. The dress had no sleeves but had straps that covered her breasts. She also wore a necklace made of precious stones and a gold ankle bracelet. Her hair was tied in two small pigtails, and she had red paint on her face, likely for camouflage among the ethnic groups of the region, though her gaze seemed tired and melancholic.

Rodrigo realized that the goddess was lost in her thoughts and hadn't noticed that he had woken up. How long had he been asleep? He didn't know.

He also noticed that it was night, and the scenery around them was very different from what he had seen before. The mountains were dry, and only small shrubs grew on the ground. Vegetation was scarce, and he couldn't see any trees around. They were likely in a desert, perhaps one like the ones he had heard existed to the south of Spain.

What puzzled Rodrigo now was, why hadn't they killed him? Wasn't that what the 'King of Tula' came for? Thus, this woman and the man should have the same plans. Moreover, were his friends alright? The uncertainty gnawed at him.

Then, he saw Bellona stomp the ground in frustration and exclaim: —Ah, cursed King of Tula! How dare he leave me stranded in this dreadful place!—

The goddess turned to look at Rodrigo, trying to ascertain if he had awakened, but he had closed his eyes. She went back to tending the cooking fire.

—I have to free myself from this chain and... confront her— Rodrigo thought, but then he remembered how much he disliked fighting women.

—When I tried to attack her, I was desperate watching her try to kill Menrva and attack my friends, and I couldn't contain my rage... but now it's different. Fighting a woman isn't something a gentleman would do— continued the young man's thoughts.

—Don't pretend anymore, I know you're awake— Bellona said, looking at Rodrigo while continuing to cook. —These chains are like a part of my body, and I can sense what you're thinking right now—

Rodrigo fell silent, realizing he wouldn't gain anything from pretending otherwise.

—Yes, I'm awake— he finally admitted.

—Well, at least now I won't have to carry you if we need to move from here— commented the Roman goddess.

Rodrigo then sat on the ground, watching as Bellona tossed him a stick with grilled meat, likely rabbit meat. Although he was chained, he could move his arms since they weren't under the chains. He raised the stick and began to eat.

After savoring the food, the young man finally asked: —Why haven't you tried to take my life?—

—Tezcatlipoca ordered me not to take your life because he wants to speak with you— the Roman goddess replied while cooking another rabbit. —Although, of course, I can't expect the same from your friends who were sent to Cahokia—

Rodrigo began to chuckle discreetly.

—As if they won't be able to escape that ordeal, don't underestimate them!— he exclaimed.

—As if I care— responded the Roman goddess, completely ignoring Rodrigo.

The young tannin then began to search for an alternative to escape from there and try to find his friends in Cahokia.

—I advise against trying to escape. You won't just cause me trouble, but we're in the middle of the desert. There are no civilizations or villages nearby. There's no water, and very few animals roam these parts— commented the Roman goddess.

—Still, I swore to reach Tula, and I won't let a traitor like you stop me— Rodrigo defiantly retorted.

Bellona sighed and fell silent for a while.

—Why do you fight against Lel, young man?— Bellona asked, puzzled.

Rodrigo remained silent, pondering his response. The truth was, he didn't really have substantial reasons to fight against Lel. Deep down, he still clung to the idea of a God, one called Elyon. Although he found it strange that Tania was his daughter, or that Anath, a seemingly evil woman, was also his daughter.

So, why did he fight? Why did he risk his life? Did he have a reason to do it?

—I do it for my family, my friends who are always by my side!— shouted Rodrigo, as he once again tried unsuccessfully to break free from the chains.

—So, you have no reason to fight other than to blindly follow your friends— remarked Bellona.

—But I understand. I saw how you were affectionate with the blonde girl, so it makes sense that you'd just follow her wishes without thinking— she added.

Rodrigo was furious, wanting to shout back at the presumptuous goddess, who continued cooking the rabbit meat over the fire. The goddess then took the meat off the fire and took a bite.

—How foolish! But I suppose I don't have any better reasons to swear loyalty to Lel either— said the goddess, after chewing the piece she had cooked.

The goddess sat more relaxed on the ground and stretched her legs, then took another bite.

—I was furious with Lel when those fools took control of Rome from us— Bellona began to explain. —They introduced that garbage called Christianity and told us we were no longer needed, that they would control the human world from Rome and Constantinople—

Rodrigo saw that the goddess was angry. But if she hated Lel so much, why did she follow him?, he thought.

—But, they couldn't keep Rome out of the hands of Odin and his degenerates, so they turned back to the Roman gods to create a new empire: The Römisches Reich in the territory of Germania; while giving Eastern Rome in Byzantium to Zeus and his gods— the goddess continued.

Bellona then pulled a canteen from her back and drank. Afterward, she tossed it to Rodrigo to drink as well.

—Don't finish it all— she warned.

Rodrigo lifted the canteen and started to drink. The cool water felt good, as he was a bit dehydrated.

—Even though I'm no longer part of Saturnia, I'm still loyal to my people and only wish for them to be the most powerful in the world. If Lel allows that, it's all the more reason for me to serve them, even if it means humbling myself before them— concluded the goddess.

Rodrigo stopped drinking and realized that Bellona wasn't as evil as he thought. It was like when he was slaughtering soldiers in Coimbra for what they did to his family. Everyone was willing to fight for their own goals and ideals.

—Did we come to this world just to fight each other?— he pondered.

—Ah, I don't know why I'm telling all of this to my enemy— Bellona exclaimed in frustration.

—But, for some reason, I felt you'd understand my reasons— she said, ruffling her hair wildly.

The young Tannin tossed the canteen back to her, and she caught it.

—I'm sorry, but I won't change my mind because of your story— remarked Rodrigo. —I don't even know where Germania is or that Rominish whatever. I only know that some Germans are my ancestors, and they were called Visigoths—

—Your ancestors?— Bellona asked in surprise.

—I'm not a god— Rodrigo clarified. —I'm a young Spaniard whose family was massacred by Muslims. I was born and raised there, and almost a year ago, I learned I have divine blood, God knows why—

Bellona tried to hold back laughter but suddenly burst into it.

—Do you mock me for not being born a god?— the young man inquired, somewhat annoyed.

—No, it's not that— Bellona continued after laughing. She took a breath to stop her giggles and explained, —You're fighting against a system established for millennia, when you've barely known this world for a few months. Don't you see you're being manipulated? You could be living the good life on Earth or seek a virgin planet to conquer—

—They don't manipulate me!— Rodrigo retorted angrily.

—I guess they've just brainwashed you with their nonsense— continued the Roman goddess.

—Do you know that your friend Tannit could live the high life as Lel's princess while negotiating a pardon for you and your friends? Yet she prefers to have you all risk your lives fighting her father— Bellona said, nearly laughing.

Rodrigo was furious. Bellona only thought of herself and never tried to understand the emotional complications Tannit had gone through. The weight of the children sacrificed to her, her desire to help the people she lived with.

—You don't know Tania or understand all she's suffered!— Rodrigo shouted defiantly.

—Oh, yes, of course. She's traumatized by human sacrifices made to her. So what?— Bellona replied with dripping sarcasm.

—They're just humans; human sacrifices were made to me too... Or why don't you ask your friend Morrigan how it feels to have people sacrificed to her as well?— she asked cynically.

—Did they made human sacrifices to Ana too?— Rodrigo wondered and felt disappointed for a moment.

Not knowing what to say to Bellona, the young man fell silent.

—In the end, that's not my problem; everyone does what they want with their lives— Bellona responded as she finished her meal and lay down on the ground.

—If you need to use the bathroom, please bury your shit— the goddess said as she started to snore.

After sleeping so much, Rodrigo wasn't sleepy. He thought about escaping but saw no way to remove the chains, so he meditated silently throughout the night under the moonlight and the howling of wolves.

The next morning, as Rodrigo admired the beautiful sunrise over the desert, he caught sight of a man approaching in the distance. It was clear he had one leg and used a cane to walk. At the same time, the young Tannin felt his divine presence and immediately knew who it was.

—Is that guy who attacked us at that lake and called himself the king of Tula— Rodrigo thought at that moment.

Annoyance and resentment appeared in the young Tannin's gaze as he remembered how badly wounded Ana had been by that man. He wanted to get up and attack. But those stupid chains.

—Niltse, nikniuuan!— shouted the Toltec king-god as he approached the now extinguished campfire where Rodrigo and Bellona were. The goddess was still asleep and snoring in a very inelegant sleeping pose.

—If you're not a coward, untie me and face me!— Rodrigo shouted when he saw the man approaching. The deity looked exactly the same as when they faced him in the north.

Tezcatlipoca looked closely at Rodrigo and smiled.

—Well, if you didn't have those green eyes, I'd really believe you were Quetzalcóatl. You're his living image— he said.

—Who are you referring to?— Rodrigo asked, intrigued by the man's identity.

The King of Tula approached where Bellona was sleeping and kicked her.

—It's daytime, lazy!— he shouted, watching as the goddess fell face-first to the ground due to the attack from the Toltec god.

Bellona woke up startled, and when she collected her thoughts, she saw Tezcatlipoca in front of her.

—Lazy, me? I've been waiting for you here in the desert for days!— she shouted furiously.

—I had matters to attend to— said the Toltec god, sitting down on the ground in front of Rodrigo and next to Bellona.

—What business could you have with me? Are you here to eliminate me?— the young Tannin wondered nervously.

—I don't know if we're lucky or the worst has happened to these lands— Tezcatlipoca commented as Bellona threw her water canteen at him.

—What happened?— the Roman goddess asked as she watched the Toltec god finish the water and return the canteen to her, which only put her in a worse mood.

—Anath... has disappeared— the Toltec king frankly replied. —The last time she was seen, she was heading to Haida territory. Even my communication sphere with her can't find her—

—Anath... is she dead?— Bellona asked, horrified. The fact that possibly the second most powerful person in the universe had died in these lands sounded like a tale to the Roman goddess's ears.

—Anath? Isn't that the woman Ana and Tania always talked about, the leader of Lel or something like that?— Rodrigo wondered.

—It's impossible— said Bellona. —Anath can't die or be captured, let alone by some barbarians—

—Not just that— Tezcatlipoca continued. —I also learned that there were gods on the other side of the great ocean in that region. It's possible that they destroyed each other—

—Wait a moment... Haida... wasn't that where Epona, Ana, and the others were heading?— Rodrigo asked, and at that moment, terror overtook him.

—Epona... must have encountered that woman for sure, and that's why she bid me farewell!— he thought, understanding the situation better.

—The gods from the other side of the world... did they survive?— Rodrigo asked anxiously.

—Who knows? I only know that Anath disappeared, and that could be good or bad news— Tezcatlipoca replied.

Bellona covered her head with her hands and began to have an anxiety attack.

—Impossible, impossible... if Elyon knows about this or his children... they will destroy everything— the goddess said nervously.

—Indeed— commented Tezcatlipoca. —From what I know, this Elyon has about 40 children as strong as Anath. They'll probably destroy this land in retaliation—

Indeed, the situation sounded terrible, but Rodrigo was only concerned about his friends.

—Are they okay? Were they who took out Anath?— he wondered.

—Kid— Tezcatlipoca said, looking at Rodrigo. —I want to make you a serious proposition—

At that moment, the Toltec king moved a finger and Rodrigo's chains disappeared. This caused Bellona to protest, but the god completely ignored her.

—I want you to tell me about your past, who you are, and if you and your friends would like to stay in these lands and defend them against a possible retaliation from Elyon— the Toltec king proposed.

—Why should I believe you?— Rodrigo asked angrily.

—Because... you look just like my deceased brother— the king said with a cold and serious look that even impressed Rodrigo.

—Are you saying this guy is related to you?— asked Bellona.

—That's why I want to hear his story, to know who I'm dealing with— Tezcatlipoca replied.

—I have no idea— Rodrigo replied. —I've always lived in León, and I only know my late mother, who also lived in that kingdom her whole life. I came here to find out why a totema from this land said it was my servant—

—Ehécatl... your totema belongs to a Toltec god named Ehécatl, and he was my brother Quetzalcóatl's servant— Tezcatlipoca explained.

—So you mean... my father was that guy named Quetzal...and something?— Rodrigo asked.

—No, that's impossible— the king replied. —That's why I wanted to hear your story, because it doesn't make any sense—

—What do you mean?— Rodrigo continued.

—Quetzalcóatl was the former king of Tula. He was known as Tezcatlipoca. However, despite all that, he never had sexual partners, neither women nor men; he was completely chaste— Tezcatlipoca replied.

—So, he died?— Rodrigo asked, surprised.

—No, he...— the god began and then fell silent.

Rodrigo watched as the god's face darkened. It was possibly something he didn't like to talk about.

—We killed him on Lel's orders— the Toltec king finally continued.

—Lel wanted him dead? But why?— Bellona wondered, confused. —Anath or Elyon shouldn't make decisions of that nature on this continent—

Rodrigo was amazed. He felt that every moment he was getting closer and closer to finding out who he was and where he got his powers.

—Our dealings with Elyon had been ongoing for some time since we agreed to create a buffer zone in the great ocean that divides us to prevent our humans and theirs from meeting, due to the risk of technological differences, disease problems, and all that— Tezcatlipoca explained.

—Yes, I've heard that before— Rodrigo replied.

—But one day, out of nowhere, Anath appeared in our capital and demanded to see my brother— the king continued. —I don't know what they discussed, but the bitch left furious that day—

—Shortly after that, I got a call from this Elyon urging me to kill my brother. If we resisted, our kingdom and this entire vast continent would be invaded and colonized, plus they'd bring diseases that would decimate our population— Tezcatlipoca continued.

—Wait a minute... you... spoke to the Father of the gods?— Bellona asked, shocked.

—Yes, I did, or at least that's what that man told me— the king continued.

—Tania's father?— Rodrigo thought.

—NO! THAT'S IMPOSSIBLE! ELYON HASN'T SHOWN HIMSELF FOR YEARS! IT'S IMPOSSIBLE THAT HE DID IT WITH A FOREIGNER!— Bellona shouted furiously. There was so much rage in her eyes that it reminded Rodrigo very much of the same look he had when Tania and Ana told him that God didn't exist.

—And what do I care! Their hierarchies on this side of the world don't interest us!— Tezcatlipoca shouted angrily, and both stared at each other defiantly.

—Can you continue with the story?— Rodrigo asked, trying to end the argument.

Bellona then looked away from Tezcatlipoca and sat back down.

—It's obvious it was a fake Elyon— she said.

—As I said, believe what you want. I'm just telling you what I heard that day— Tezcatlipoca replied.

—After discussing it with the other gods, we decided to sacrifice my brother to avoid the wrath—

—After discussing it with the other gods, we decided to sacrifice my brother to avoid the wrath of the gods from the other side of the world— Tezcatlipoca continued his story.

—That's why it's impossible for someone like you to be his son, since he died and never traveled to the other side of the world, which, due to restrictions, would be impossible— the Toltec king concluded.

—I think in the end, this didn't resolve any of my doubts— Rodrigo commented, as he took the totema hanging around his neck and looked at it.

—So, what do you say? If you stay in Tula, you and your friends could be treated as gods, while helping us protect this continent. With just one call from me to Heshuka, I will free your friends in Cahokia— the king of Tula offered.

—I decline— Rodrigo answered firmly.

—What? What do you want then?— Tezcatlipoca asked, surprised.

—It's simple, you sacrificed your own brother and tried to kill me out of fear of Lel, and especially that woman. My friends would have faced that Anath without hesitation. You're just cowards— Rodrigo replied as he stood up.

—Because, I'm sure, Ana and Epona fought against that beast— the young tannin thought.

—I am bound to protect my kingdom and my people! These aren't decisions I took lightly!— Tezcatlipoca shouted furiously.

—It's not just that— Rodrigo continued.

—What else then?— the king of Tula asked.

—Your massive human sacrifices, everyone talks about them. About how you gain superhuman strength from the blood of the innocent— Rodrigo continued defiantly.

—Fine, boy, if you don't want to be my ally, then I'll have to consider you my enemy— Tezcatlipoca remarked as he also stood up, staring defiantly at the young tannin.

Bellona then conjured her chains, but Tezcatlipoca motioned for her to stop with the palm of his hand.

—I am powerful enough on my own— the god said.

However, at that moment, Tezcatlipoca's communication orb began to ring. The god summoned it, and in it he saw Tlaloc with a worried look.

—What do you want, Tlaloc?— the Toltec king asked.

—Tezcatlipoca, you need to return urgently. A man from the north has taken your throne and massacred your servants. It's chaos! Chichimeca warriors have...— the rain god shouted, but the transmission abruptly stopped.

—It seems something happened in Tula, so we'll leave this confrontation for another day— Tezcatlipoca remarked, indicating to Bellona to tie him up again.

The goddess complied, and Rodrigo was once again behind her chains. The Toltec god then turned his back on Rodrigo.

—Two things I'll tell you. Quetzalcóatl's totema is still in the Toltec territories, in one of his temples. If you can use it, then you'll be considered the heir to his will— he said.

—The second thing— Tezcatlipoca continued, —is that I indeed spoke to Elyon, but I couldn't see his face. However, when I heard him, I expected an old man's voice, but it didn't sound like that, it sounded like an arrogant young man's voice. Someone over 10,000 years old shouldn't sound that way—

—An arrogant young man?— Rodrigo wondered.

—Hey! But what am I supposed to do with this guy?— Bellona asked angrily. —Also, I have to follow orders in Lel, are you still their ally?—

—Woman, I've just suffered a coup in my absence, and you're asking me that?— Tezcatlipoca said sarcastically, turning to look at the Roman goddess. He then added in an almost hushed voice: —Do as you please—

Tezcatlipoca then took a huge leap and disappeared on the horizon, leaving Bellona and Rodrigo alone in the desert.

At that moment, one of the goddess's chains wrapped around Rodrigo's neck and began to strangle him.

—I have nothing against you— the goddess said, —but I have to fulfill my mission here, and if those guys won't cooperate, I'll have to deal with you and then them—

— Why... are... you... fighting... with... Lel?— gasped Rodrigo, as he began to feel his strength wane.

—I already told you, it's for my people, for the glory of the Römisches Reich— the goddess firmly said, concluding with, —Goodbye forever—

At that, a golden spear hit the chain the Roman goddess was using to choke Rodrigo and broke it. At the tip was the rune 'ᚠ.'

Bellona then turned around and saw Menrva and Freyja standing on a mound. The Norse goddess was the one who had thrown her spear to save Rodrigo. Meanwhile, the young tannin fell to his knees, gasping for breath after almost being strangled by the Roman goddess's chain.

—See? Meow told purr, meow cat-like instincts never fail— Freyja said with a smile.

—I have to admit you were right, I never expected to find Rodrigo in this desolate region of this continent— Menrva replied.

Bellona then looked at them disdainfully and summoned her totema for the fight.

— Menrva, I hope you don't think a friend of yours with a broken totema can make a difference when facing me— the Roman goddess remarked.

— You're wrong, Bellona. She won't participate in the fight, I alone am enough to finish you off— Menrva replied, conjuring her electric spear.