Chapter 109:

Returning to Chaco

Elyon - Gods among us

The eight days of ritual preparation had passed so that Epona could be treated for her fears that kept her from sleeping.

Ana led Epona by the hand, who continued to look downcast with haggard eyes. Her appearance was already skeletal, and her hair, which the goddess always took great care of and often styled differently, now looked whitish and disheveled. Her face and arms bore scars since the goddess would hurt herself out of fear when she heard unintelligible voices at night.

Unfortunately, there was no ambrosia in Chaco or anywhere in the New Continent, so to treat Epona's wounds, they could only use medicinal herbs. The equine goddess felt that Rodrigo would reject her, for the face that Rodrigo so loved now bore not only the scar inflicted by Belenus in Denmark but also the wounds she inflicted upon herself at night.

Ana and Tania accompanied Spider Grandmother , who, in turn, was escorted by divine spirits called Kachina, similar in rank to malakim in other divine realms. Behind them, human priests followed. All wore ritual masks with minimalist faces and headdresses made of feathers, as well as white robes with geometric colored details. They walked in procession to a vast esplanade in a high part of the city, protected by a large wall and accessible only by a staircase. Smoke emanated from within.

—That's a kiva, a ceremonial center where we'll treat the girl— Spider Grandmother said. —It took eight days to purify it, so now it's possible to cleanse the evil that has taken hold of her—

Arriving at the steps, the Grandmother stopped.

—From here on, it's sacred territory; only the girl can enter with me— the elder said. —Under normal circumstances, you could have come in, but a very high sacred level was needed to heal her—

Tania nodded, let go of Epona's hand, and hugged her.

—Everything will be fine, Epona; you'll see— she said.

The Celtic goddess nodded, albeit without much enthusiasm.

Spider Grandmother offered her hand to the equine goddess and led her up the stairs, with the Kachina following them into the fascinating sacred architecture. The priests then surrounded the building and began to dance as if they were in a trance.

Epona and Spider Grandmother reached the top, where there was an esplanade painted entirely white. Smoke rose from a small hole in the center, and in the back, stairs led inside the structure. Spider Grandmother guided Epona there while the Kachina surrounded the esplanade and, like the human priests, they too began to dance.

Ana lost sight of them, wishing her friend good luck. But she also felt more relaxed, knowing that Epona would get better, and she could finally rest.

Fatigue hit the goddess immediately, who almost fainted, but she leaned against the wall of one of the houses near the sacred structure.

—I'm so tired. I haven't slept in almost a month— the goddess thought, feeling herself fainting amid the place's heat and crowd noise. The adrenaline that had kept her upright had faded, leaving behind a woman who had exhausted all her energy.

At that moment, Ana didn't see clearly who was lifting her, but that person was carrying her in their arms away from there.

Without wondering who it was, Ana closed her eyes and said: —Rui, you're back— smiling and falling asleep.

Ana woke up at night. She realized she was on the mat in the room they had stayed in at Chaco. She had shared that room with Epona for eight days, as she had been taking care of her, but now she was alone in the room.

From the window, she could see a crescent moon and countless stars. Ana couldn't help but notice the constellation Pegasus before any other and smiled.

—I can't stop thinking about Epona, not even subconsciously— she told herself. Then, she spotted the Ophiuchus constellation and thought of Rodrigo.

The room was small and square, adorned with several fabrics with geometric patterns on them. In the middle of the room were the two mats where Ana and Epona had been assigned to rest. The torches were off, and opposite the window, a wicker staircase led to the roof. The building they were in was carved into the canyon wall that guarded the place.

Ana then felt the desire to climb to the roof and look at the stars from there. The goddess went up the stairs and came out through a small hole in the roof. Upon exiting, she saw Loki sitting, still transformed into a woman. The god was also stargazing.

—Oh, it's you— Ana said with annoyance upon seeing the Norse god.

—I'm sorry I'm not your beloved 'Rui'— Loki replied sarcastically.

—I just... thought I saw him when I passed out near the temple where Epona is— Ana responded, as she climbed out of the hole and sat on the roof, far from where Loki was.

—They haven't come back, and maybe they won't— Loki commented mockingly.

—Bah! What do you know about trusting others?— Ana retorted, not giving much importance to the Norse god.

—Well, about that. I still don't understand how the person who loudly declared her love for that guy to the King of Tula is sacrificing her well-being for the woman he's captivated by— Loki teased. —Is it perhaps guilt?—

Ana was furious and wanted to get up and hit Loki, but she tried to calm down and ignored him.

—Epona... is my friend— Ana finally replied calmly. —Even if Rui never loves me, I can't take away their happiness—

—Even if it tears you apart inside every day? Watching them cuddle, or possibly having a steamy lovemaking session, while you just sacrifice yourself like a slave in front of them and smile?—Loki asked.

—I pity you— Ana commented, biting her lips.

—Shouldn't it be the other way around?— asked the dark god.

—Pity because you don't know what love is— the Irish goddess stated.

—And do you?— Loki challenged.

Both remained silent for a moment.

—It was you, wasn't it?— Ana asked, turning to look at the Norse god. —You brought me here when I fainted?—

—Who knows?— Loki replied. —Maybe it has something to do with the fact that you're a very beautiful woman and I couldn't leave you in such a humiliating situation—

Ana blushed and looked away again.

—Well... thanks for not leaving me there— she said.

—My pleasure— Loki responded with a smile. To Ana, it was strange that the god looked at her that way in his female form.

—How... how long did I sleep?— Ana asked, puzzled.

—Almost three days. It's clear you were exhausted, and you had to catch up on all the sleep you lost because of the posca— Loki answered.

—Three days? So Epona's ritual will end in five— Ana mused.

Ana looked at the moon again, recalling a moment in Denendeh when she and Loki had conversed. The satellite's light made the goddess's eyes shine even brighter than usual, giving her face a silvery glow.

—It still stands, Ana— Loki remarked, noticing her gaze.

—What still stands?" Ana asked, looking puzzled.

—Your ex-husband from the Tuatha Dé Danann. I promised I'd help you kill him, and I'm no longer chained, so you shouldn't think it was just an attempt to escape— Loki said, also gazing at the moon.

Ana blushed and shook her head.

—No, no. I was very drunk when I told you that. Forget it— the Irish goddess replied nervously.

—Why forget it? He raped you, didn't he? At the very least, that wretch should be castrated— Loki asserted.

—Rui explained that we have to accept the negative consequences of this world. I also have to leave that in the past— Ana countered.

—That's cowardly crap!— Loki shouted angrily.

—It's not crap, it's called maturity!— Ana retorted, glaring at Loki.

—And then tell me, how many girls have suffered what you've suffered at the hands of your ex-husband? Do you think you're the only one that man has raped and gotten away with?— Loki asked angrily.

—Why do you care about that? You're a vile murderer!— Ana yelled back, challenging him.

—Yes, Ana; I, Loki, am a murderer— the Norse god calmly replied. —But I've paid for my crimes, and I'll still pay for the war I waged in the realm of humans—

At that moment, Loki looked at Ana. Even though Loki was still transformed into a woman, the Irish goddess couldn't stop thinking it was the same face of the Norse god.

—Revenge is the only right we victims have— he stated.

Ana went silent, recalling her sisters and how much harm Dagda could have inflicted on them. She then pressed her lips tightly together.

—Yes, I want to kill him— Ana finally declared. —But... he's the Annunaki of Tuatha Dé Danann, he's the god Dagda—

Loki was surprised and taken aback.

—Dagda? The wisest and most beloved god of the Tuatha Dé Danann? Are you serious?— the Norse god asked.

—He has excellent propaganda among the Irish gods and humans— Ana explained. —Only I know that rotten side of that old man. But that means making me enemy with all of the Tuatha Dé Danann again—

Loki burst into lively laughter.

—I can't believe it, even I've been fooled by that guy. It's incredible!— Loki exclaimed excitedly and stood up.

—I suppose you don't believe me then, do you?— Ana asked.

—Are you kidding? Of course I have no reason to doubt you!— Loki replied enthusiastically. —In fact, I'm even more eager to help you now. He's not just some god, he's THE god of all the gods in a whole realm—

Loki then walked toward Ana and offered his hand.

—Let's make this alliance official, Ana. When we leave these lands, I'll go with you to help you in your revenge— the Norse god suggested.

Ana was taken aback. On one hand, she was impressed that someone like Loki would want to help her, but she knew that what she was up against would be almost suicidal. She was scared, but she still wanted to know what had become of her sisters and if they were still alive. Uncertainty and nervousness surrounded her.

—Let... let me think about it— Ana finally said.

—Sure, it's not like we're going to do it tomorrow or anything— Loki commented as he withdrew his hand.

—Why would you help me?— Ana asked, looking at the dark god more relaxedly.

Loki couldn't help but notice how beautiful Ana's eyes looked in the moonlight.

—It's very simple, Ana. It's because I love you, and I have since we faced each other in Denmark— Loki responded with a smile.

Ana blushed again and was left speechless.

—I know, I'm just an evil god who can't compare to your 'Rui', but whether you accept me someday or not, I've decided to help you— Loki said, looking her in the eyes intently.

—But... you're married— Ana replied.

—So are you, aren't you?— Loki retorted.

—It's not the same. Your wife is a virtuous woman, and my husband is a bastard— Ana nervously replied.

—Oh yes, my beautiful Sigyn— the Norse god replied.

—How dare you say that to me when there's a woman who cared for you for a thousand years when you were imprisoned? Do you think you can use me in the same way?— Ana asked, now irritated.

—Sigyn is virtuous, but she doesn't love me, and I doubt she ever will— Loki responded.

Loki then sat down next to Ana and began to explain: —There's a goddess in Asgard named Skadi. She turned my two sons I had with Sigyn into a serpent and a wolf. My son Nari, who was turned into a serpent, was killed to create the bonds that kept me imprisoned. My other son, Vali, I know nothing about, as he lost his consciousness as a deity and is just another wolf. He's possibly dead by now—

Loki continued explaining: —Sigyn, with no reason to live, dedicated her life to me. But now that I'm not there, I don't know what's become of her life, and no one has told me anything about her whereabouts—

—What did your sons have to do with your crimes?— Ana asked, irritated.

—Nothing, but that's Asgard's justice— Loki commented, lying down on the ground with his hands behind his neck.

At that precise moment, both Ana and Loki felt a gigantic presence approaching rapidly through the air. In fact, it wasn't one, but two presences. They were both startled for a moment, but quickly recognized the familiar energy: Rodrigo and Tania were returning. However, all over Chaco, bonfires were lit, and there was a massive mobilization of the Hisatsinom people's troops. Drumming sounds could be heard everywhere.

—Are you feeling what I'm feeling?— Ana asked.

—Yes, it seems two of your friends are coming back, and apparently, they're flying— Loki commented.

—That's what surprises me. How can they fly within this anti-divinity barrier?— Ana asked.

Then, Ana remembered that when Anath was fighting against them, she would swear the goddess was moving, flying at great speed through the sky. She also remembered that when they saw the King of Tula, he arrived, seemingly flying. Although she preferred to try and forget those thoughts.

—I don't know, but I feel a tremendous increase in both of their power— Loki said.

At that moment, everyone was surprised to see the Speaking God floating above the highest part of the city of Chaco. He had his arms crossed and a serious expression, although his face was impossible to see because of his mask.

—Wait a moment, those people don't know Rodrigo or Tania, they probably think they're enemies— Ana shouted and got up. She ran toward where she saw the Speaking God, but he was far away and she couldn't fly.

—Wait, Speaking God!— Ana shouted at the top of her lungs. —They are our friends!—

But the deity didn't hear them, and raising his two hands, ears of corn began to appear on the walls of the city of Chaco, and they emanated a powder that formed a gigantic barrier around the city.

—Forget it, Ana. That guy, whose name is unpronounceable, has put up a barrier around the city— Loki commented. —I'm sure they will attack them when they get close enough—

—We have to stop him!— Ana yelled.

The goddess then began to jump over the roofs of the houses in Chaco. As they were in one of the elevated parts of the city, being a structure built at the base of the canyon, it was easier for the goddess to jump down to the houses and start running to where the Speaking God was.
But, the path of the roofs ended and what lay ahead was another gigantic canyon wall. Ana didn't have the ability to jump that high, and the Speaking God was floating just above.
From there, Ana tried to shout at the god, but he continued not to hear her.

At that moment, Loki appeared behind Ana and teleported her in front of the Diné deity.

—Why do you always want to do everything by yourself? Have you forgotten that I can teleport?— asked the Nordic god, who had Ana held by the waist. The goddess blushed and pulled away from the god's arm.

—Are you the foreign goddesses? What brings you here?— asked the Diné god.

—The ones approaching are our friends— Ana told the Speaking God, who turned to look at her, surprised.

—Two individuals with immense power are approaching, and apparently, they are not alone— said the Speaking God. —Are you sure you know them?—

—Yes, they're my friends; without a doubt— replied the Irish goddess.

—Fine, then, when they arrive, I will question them to make sure they don't have bad intentions towards the Diné and the Hisatsinom people— the god replied.

Ana was going to try to explain again, but was stopped by Loki.

—Imagine if two very powerful individuals were heading to your house, and only some strangers say they have good intentions. Would you trust them?— asked the Nordic god.

—I suppose you're right— Ana replied.

At that moment, in the sky, the night clouds began to move aside and two beams of light, one white and the other red, were approaching the city of Chaco at full speed. The Speaking God did not change his strict position, while in the city, on the walls, bonfires had been lit on the watchtowers, and archers were ready to attack the approaching threat.

—If they attack them and they counteattack, it will be our end and we will be expelled from Chaco— Ana thought nervously.

—My name is the Speaking God, and these territories belong to Tawa, the Sun god. Identify yourselves and state your intentions in this city of Chaco!— the Speaking God said energetically, but communicated telepathically. Everyone, hearing this, waited for the lights to stop. But they didn't.

—Second warning. Identify yourselves and state your intentions!— the Speaking God continued telepathically, while the men on the watchtowers prepared their bows. Ana was very nervous, realizing her friends weren't responding.

—What if they are controlled by some evil deity?— the Irish goddess wondered to herself.

—Final warning— said the Diné god. —If you don't respond, we will open fire—

But there was no answer.

—I'm very sorry, but we're going to attack— said the Speaking God. —We gave them a chance, and they didn't respond—

—No, no, wait! They surely have some problem that's preventing them from responding— Ana tried to explain, but the Diné god didn't respond to her pleas.

The Speaking God raised his arm to signal the start of the attack, just as Rodrigo could be seen enveloped in a white aura carrying Anpiel and Susanoo; while Tania came with her manticore wings and was wrapped in red energy, carrying Menrva, Freyja, and Tul, who was lying on her back.

Then, one of the archers shouted in the Na-Dene language to the Speaking God: —My lord— he said. —I think they're asleep—

Indeed, everyone began to hear the powerful snores of Tania, as the goddess came with her eyes closed and drooling from her mouth. Rodrigo, in the same way, was approaching completely asleep. And not only them, the rest of the team was also completely asleep.

—They fell asleep... flying?— wondered the Speaking God in amazement.

—What happened?— Tania asked inquisitively.

While Ana and the Speaking God were still talking, Tania and Rodrigo crashed into the barrier the Diné god had erected. The impact was so strong that they all bounced off, and were thrown towards the large cliffs outside the city, crashing into one of them and creating a massive hole in its wall.

—It seems... they were asleep— remarked the Speaking God, which surprised both Ana and Loki.