Chapter 111:

Looking at the stars

Elyon - Gods among us

—Can't you sleep?— asked Tania to Ana, who was gazing at the stars in the night sky over the city of Chaco.

It had been a day since Rodrigo and the others had arrived in the city. After almost a month of almost non-stop activity, they had been able to rest, while exploring the bustling streets of the vast city.

Tul and Tania visited food markets, where the rabbit goddess joyfully tasted the various corn dishes, famous in this part of the world. Tul's body had finally fattened up and regained her original figure.

Money was basically a huge problem. Ana thought that gold would be a trade item anywhere in the world, but many people there despised gold, considering it 'excrement of the gods'. Fortunately, Tul had cacao seeds, which were highly coveted in that part of the world, and with them, they were able to barter in various markets.

Freyja, on the other hand, inquired about blacksmiths who could repair totemas, as hers remained broken, as did Ana's. Normally, totemas can self-repair like a living organism, but the damage from Anath's attacks was so brutal that a blacksmith's help was necessary. In Yggdrassil, the dwarves living in Nidavllir could easily repair these armors, but metallurgy in this part of the world wasn't as advanced. Eventually, at one of the city's sacred enclosures, similar to the kiva where Epona was located but smaller in size, the priests claimed they could revive the two totemas, but the ritual would take about five days, one day longer than Epona's treatment. The goddess agreed, seeing that there weren't many other options.

—It was foolish of us to try to go further south with that dead totema— Menrva remarked at the time, seeing Freyja's armor still broken and damaged.

—Either way, we would've had to stay here, as with Ana's and my totema in that state, we would've just been a hindrance— the Norse goddess thought with a disappointed look.

Ana, meanwhile, stayed in the room along with Loki and Susanoo. The Oriental god didn't care much about exploring another city, so on the roof of their quarters, he had been wielding his katana to maintain his training routine.

Ana couldn't stop thinking about Epona and Rodrigo. She remembered being able to invoke the Excalibur sword twice, but now she was unable to manifest it. She recalled that in a moment of bravery, the sword appeared before her. The problem was that the first time she mentioned protecting Rodrigo... and that she loved him.

—Do I love Rodrigo?— she kept asking herself while lying on the mat she used for sleeping. Loving someone wasn't something she had wanted or even thought about. Yes, she had some adventures when she was younger, but the event she lived with Dagda made her suppress her desires for love and sex.

—Was it true what Tania said? That the idea of Rui living with us was mine?— she wondered. She was sure that initially, it was just out of compassion, seeing the boy in a situation that reminded her of her own life.

—So, why? When did it happen?— she kept asking herself.

Then there was what Loki told her. —Did he really feel something for me, or did he just want me like most men I've met?— she kept wondering, but the mere idea of even touching Loki repelled her. Deep down, even though she appreciated the efforts he made, especially when they faced Anath, she still despised him.

Rodrigo, Anpiel, and Menrva went to the markets to buy provisions and items that might be useful for the journey. Thanks to the cacao seeds, they were able to buy several things, especially fruits and meat.

—Is this the famous 'xi'im' that Tul mentioned?— Anpiel asked when seeing the cobs in one of the stores.

—Yes, Tania told me that she and Tul ate it in Cahokia, and it's the most common and popular vegetable in this part of the world. Kind of like wheat is in Europe— Menrva replied.

Although the vendor woman didn't understand what the young gods were saying, she took a cob and roasted it over a fire. When the cob turned golden, she gave it to Menrva to taste, who was amazed by its flavor.

—This is really good!— exclaimed the Etruscan goddess, passing it to her friends. All realized the exquisite treat they were enjoying.

Then, the vendor shelled another cob and, through gestures, explained to the young gods how to prepare a dough with the corn kernels. She also provided some corn tortillas, which also amazed the group.

Finally, the vendor took some corn kernels and put them in a clay pot over a high flame. The kernels began to pop into popcorn. Rodrigo tasted them and was also amazed.

—Now I see why it's so popular— marveled Menrva, tasting the delicious items the woman was offering. The goddess bought about thirty cobs and paid the woman with cacao seeds. The vendor gave them a blessing, and the gods continued their shopping.

In the other markets, Rodrigo looked curiously at the silver pottery that the merchants were selling, which was quite beautiful. There were also vessels with black and white headdresses and very intricate geometric figures, as well as the strange masks that soldiers and priests wore. The young man decided to buy a small silver choker with a sun figurine for Epona.

Everyone reunited at the guest house in the afternoon, where they chatted a bit more and eventually went to sleep. But as Ana had dozed off most of the day, she wasn't sleepy and had gone to gaze at the stars from the rooftop. That's where Tania found her and sat down beside her.

—Do you know the constellations, Tania?— the dark-haired goddess asked her friend while still gazing at the sky.

—I know the Canaanite interpretations of them, which are somewhat different from the ones used nowadays— Tania replied, somewhat embarrassed. —Still, I know a few, as to study to become a physician, you need to know some astrology—

—If I interpret them according to Greek knowledge, we can find all of us in the sky— Ana explained.

—Don't tell me— Tania commented intrigued.

—Yes, look, that's Pegasus, just like Epona— the Irish goddess pointed her finger at the constellation.

—Can you imagine Epona with white wings in her mare form?— the Punic goddess commented sarcastically.

—Well, if Anpiel and she merged, it could be something like that— Ana said with a smile. Tania laughed at that.

—Then there's Leo, which represents you— Ana continued.

—I'm pretty sure I'm not a male lion— the fire-haired goddess responded with a sarcastic expression.

—Also, there's Crow, which represents me— Ana continued explaining.

—And Anpiel, what would his be?— Tania asked.

—He would be Eagle, who's about to snatch Aquarius— the Irish goddess pointed to the farthest part of the sky.

—Isn't that the story where the father of the Greek gods turns into an eagle and kidnaps a beautiful boy to be his lover?— Tania asked intrigued.

—Well, I doubt Anpiel has those tendencies— Ana said, laughing.

—And that's Rui— the Irish goddess pointed to the Ophiuchus constellation.

—I think he's more of a serpent like the constellation of... what do you call the constellation of the massive serpent?— Tania asked, intrigued.

—Female Hydra and Male Hydra— Ana replied with a smile.

—Ah, well, one of those— the Punic goddess replied.

—No, Rui is more human than beast— the Irish goddess commented, shaking her head, her face turning a bit red.

—Yes, you're absolutely right, Ana— Tania replied with a smile, but noticed that Ana looked down at the ground.

—I'm in love with Rodrigo, Tania— the Irish goddess finally confessed openly.

—I already knew, but I'm glad you're finally admitting it— Tania replied.

—What do I do, Tania? Do I tell him how I feel despite what's happening with Epona?— the Irish goddess timidly asked.

—I think telling him something like that right now would just upset him. I think you should wait until Epona wakes up at least— Tania replied.

—It's just... something happened that I haven't told anyone yet when I confronted the so-called King of Tula— Ana finally said, avoiding eye contact while she spoke.

Ana then told her friend about Excalibur, how Myrddin had hidden that weapon in her body, and how she managed to unlock it by confessing her love for the boy; also about how she was now unable to use it again.

—Maybe with that sword, you could fly, like Rodrigo and I managed to do— Tania said excitedly.

—I didn't really try to— Ana said, embarrassed. —But I'm no longer able to unlock the sword—

—Do you think the only way to do it is by confessing your love to Rodrigo?— the fire-haired goddess asked.

—Yes, I'm almost sure of it, or it will only manifest again in a dangerous situation, like when we faced Anath— Ana replied.

Tania fell silent for a moment, trying to think of what to say to her friend.

—It would be disrespectful to Epona to do it, even at any other time— the Irish goddess replied sadly.

—But you shouldn't repress yourself either— Tania countered. —Honestly, I doubt Epona doesn't know you're in love with her sweetheart—

—Am I really that transparent?— Ana asked, embarrassed.

—Very much— Tania commented.

—When I brought him to the inn, after the incident in Coímbra, you couldn't stop looking at him. You rushed to remove his clothes and wash the blood off him. Then you insisted he should stay with us, when I was just going to leave him armless. You even shared the little ambrosia you had so he could recover his arm— Tania said.

—Well, I admit I found him attractive, but that's it— Ana replied, pouting with puffed cheeks.

—Throughout the trip to Ibiza, you sought to talk to him. Sometimes I felt I was intruding. Then, you wanted to bathe naked with him, insisting 'gods do that,' when that was a complete lie— Tania continued.

—Alright, alright. I admit I was attracted to him; but there's a difference between being attracted and being in love— Ana replied defensively.

—I guess you started to change a lot when you were with him, smile more, get excited more— the Punic goddess added.

—I admit he helped us see the world differently, breaking us out of our routines. Among all that, I'm sure you started seeing him more with love than lust— she concluded.

—It's just... I never thought I could love after what I experienced— Ana confessed, looking down.

—Ana, did you really not realize you were in love with him, especially when you shielded him from that giant that was with Loki?— Tania asked, surprised.

—How did you find out about that?— the Irish goddess asked in shock.

—Athena told me— Tania calmly said, leaning her head back on her hands.

—That gossiping teacher... I hope she's alright— Ana replied, a bit annoyed.

—She's fine. She plans further ahead than we can see— Tania said casually.

—About that... I didn't really think about it. I just... did it— Ana confessed, embarrassed.

—That's love, Ana— Tania finally said, staring intently at the goddess.

—I just don't get it... Why Rui and not other men before?— Ana continued, trying to understand her feelings.

—Well, many men just approached me out of pure lust— Tania began.

—In Carthage, there was a sailor who watched me go see the ships every day, and he began gifting me things— she recalled.

—Oh, a childhood crush?— Ana asked with a teasing look.

—Not at all. When he tried to kiss me, I had to beat the shit out of him— Tania said nonchalantly. —After that, no sailor dared to try anything with me—

—You're so savage!— Ana responded with a disapproving look.

—But, as I told you that day in Denendeh, Rodrigo made us change and grow as people— Tania added. —I'm sure none of the men you've met had that effect on you—

—Yes, I accept that— Ana replied.

—Listen, Ana, I know you're anxious about these discoveries, but again I insist, wait for Epona to wake up and discuss it with her first— Tania advised.

—Alright— Ana replied timidly.

—And another important thing— the Punic goddess continued.

—What?— Ana asked, puzzled.

—Ana, don't see this as a way to make yourself stronger, or you'll just see Rodrigo as a tool; and surely, Excalibur won't awaken if you do that— Tania warned.

—Yes, I understand— Ana replied.

—Ana, tell me, are you envious of Epona?— Tania bluntly asked.

—N... no, not at all!— Ana answered, hesitating.

Tania smiled at her friend and bid her farewell. Then, the Punic goddess jumped off the roof's balcony to return to her room.

—I think I'll go back to my room too— the Irish goddess said to herself, making a similar jump towards the roof's door.