Chapter 113:

Good bye, Chaco

Elyon - Gods among us

—Let me treat those wounds on your body, ch'úupal— Tul said as she applied a cream to the scars Epona had on her face and arms, which she had gotten while under the influence of the grotesque creature.

—Thank you... rabbit girl?— Epona asked, watching as Tul applied a white cream gently to her skin.

—My name is Tu'ul-Uj, but people call me Tul— the rabbit goddess said with a smile. —From now on, I'll be joining you as well—

—She's Tania's daughter, so be careful criticizing her— Anpiel commented with a sarcastic smile.

Everyone present began to laugh, except for Tania, who was annoyed by Anpiel's comment.

They were all gathered outside the kiva, which was semi-destroyed from the encounter with the creature from the otherworld. The esplanade had cracked streets, and several nearby houses had suffered cracks. The large cliffs had caused landslides, so some houses were destroyed. Fortunately, the Speaking God and his brothers had evacuated the town at night, knowing what was going to happen.

Spider Grandmother, who followed Epona, left to inspect the city's damage with a group of soldiers. The members of Orniskem were all gathered around Epona, and with them, the Speaking God and his brothers were also resting after the tough battle in which they had exhausted all their manna.

—You have a larger scar on your face, but it looks much older. Do you want me to remove it too?— Tul asked, noticing the scar on the left cheek of the Celtic goddess.

—No... that one's fine— Epona said with a nostalgic look, remembering when her siblings attacked her. Somehow, that scar reminded her to be strong and not give up on her crusade.

Tul then remembered that Tania also didn't want the scars on her abdomen or face to be removed. —I admire their courage— she thought to herself.

After applying the cream, the equine goddess's scars began to disappear. Menrva showed her her totema, which was also a mirror, and Epona saw her beautiful face, looking as clean and radiant as before. Tears of joy streamed down her face, and she turned to her companions.

—Thank you all! Thank you for caring about a simple Igigi like me!— she exclaimed. Then, Epona turned to Ana and hugged her.

—Without your help, I wouldn't have made it this far. Thank you, Crow-face friend!— Epona said, crying with happiness.

—Compose yourself, Epona— Ana replied. —Remember you're never like this—

Epona stopped hugging her and laughed. —Enjoy this moment; it won't happen again— she said.

—And are you feeling better?— Tania asked, approaching the equine goddess.

—Yes, that pressure, that fear, and those voices are gone— Epona replied.

—But my memory is a bit foggy about what happened when Anath attacked me— the Celtic goddess confessed.

—That's precisely what we wanted to talk to you about— Tania continued. —Loki told us that suddenly you started coughing after being dead for several minutes—

—So, how did you come back to life? Do you remember?— Ana asked, equally curious.

—Ladies, please. Epona just went through a treatment that must've exhausted her. Why not ask her once she's rested?— Menrva interrupted.

—No, Menrva, don't worry, it's fine— Epona replied. She then looked at Rodrigo and smiled, then looked up at the sky again.

—When Anath attacked me— Epona began her story, —I woke up in a white world where there were no boundaries or anything. I felt I had died and my soul would be erased—

Ana and Tania listened to their friend's story anxiously. Rodrigo was also eager to hear his partner's story.

—I felt peace and calmness like never before. I felt like I could finally rest and leave everything behind— the equine goddess continued, but her expression changed.

—But in that world, there was something I can't quite remember. I only recall it was gigantic and monstrous, and I was drawn to it, unable to resist it devouring me— Epona went on.

—It's the same as Eshmun told me— Tania thought. —It's that dweller from the otherworld—

—But when I felt it was going to consume me, I heard the children in Horsens we helped, the women we rescued in Toulouse, and some other people I had recently aided. I felt they were praying thanking me for my help, beliving was some kind of Christian guardian angel— Epona explained.

Ana and Tania were shocked. Their faces went pale, and they didn't know what to say.

—What's wrong?— Menrva asked, puzzled.

—Epona, did you regain consciousness after that?— Ana asked, puzzled.

—Yes, after that, I heard a voice that I can't remember what it said, and suddenly, I was with Loki, coughing— Epona continued to explain.

—I experienced something similar too— Ana nervously said.

—You too, Ana?— Tania asked, intrigued.

—I didn't hear that voice, but... when I was fighting that damn idiot who's sitting over there and he impaled me with his ice spears, I could feel the prayers of the people in Horsens and the women from Toulouse. Thanks to that, I regained consciousness and could keep fighting— Ana recounted.

—In Adlivun... when we all froze, I could see and hear the prayers of the people in Ibiza I always helped— the Punic goddess began to tell.

—It was a moment when I had already lost consciousness, and that gave me the energy to awaken my manticore transformation, something I hadn't achieved up to that point in that cave— Tania finished her recollection.

The three goddesses fell silent, looking at each other in astonishment, until Menrva interrupted.

—Could it be... that you worked a miracle with the faith of the people you helped?— she asked.

—I hadn't thought about it when it happened, I just considered it adrenaline in a moment of desperation— Tania commented.

—But now, listening to what happened to Epona... it's possible that... I would have died that day too— Ana added.

—I don't think I died, but that power I experienced in a moment of desperation wasn't natural either— Tania explained similarly.

Then, Epona took a deep breath and looked at the three goddesses intently.

—Perhaps... we should help more and more people in this world so that we can work miracles— the equine goddess suggested.

All the goddesses looked at each other and nodded. Although it seemed obvious, it was a great discovery that no one had ever considered.

The thing was, the gods always saw humans as farms of faith, but it was very strange for the gods to live and interact with humans as equals. Moreover, there were many ideas of superiority among the gods over the human race. Living in the world among humans was seen more as a punishment than as a way of life. For that reason, a god genuinely helping a human, without seeking power or dependence for their cult, was something so rare.

—I think I understand why master Athena wanted me to travel with you— Menrva commented excitedly. —I had never thought that faith could be seen that way—

—It's not faith, I'm sure of that— Ana commented.

—But doesn't it work similarly to our totemas?— Menrva asked, puzzled.

—I don't think so, I think it's something different. Although I still don't know exactly what it could be— Epona added.

—But if it's something that could even help me escape from that creature, it must be very powerful— Epona commented.

—Well, Menrva, let's make a promise to help humanity in our capacities. Not as goddesses, but as part of society as well— Tania said to the Etruscan goddess, who watched all of this with surprise and admiration.

The four goddesses stretched out their hands and touched each other's index fingers.

—It's a promise— they said in unison.

Rodrigo listened with intrigue to the conversation and thought for a moment about what power that meant, and if he could achieve the same by helping humanity, as a human and not as a god.
The gods could easily create farmland in desert areas, create land extensions over seas and lakes; they could even cure human diseases, especially those blessed with powers of Earth, Moon, and Venus. But did that require effort? Did that require sacrifice?

Tania didn't help the people of Ibiza with her powers; she bought several medical manuals and learned to treat human diseases to help the people in her village. She didn't use her Moon powers; she did it with the knowledge gained from ancient Greek doctors and physicians. She had learned to heal people through her own effort.

—Was that the secret of that power they were talking about?— he wondered.

Epona turned to Rodrigo and smiled at him as she got up and approached the young Tannin.

—What do you think of me growing my hair long, Rodrigo?— Epona asked with a smile.

—You look very beautiful in both ways— Rodrigo replied somewhat embarrassed.

—You're so boring, Rodrigo! Make a choice!— the equine goddess said with a pouty face.

—Well, I'd like to see you with long hair, to see how it looks on you— the young man finally answered.

—Alright, I'll grow it long!— Epona said excitedly.

At that moment, Rodrigo took the necklace he had bought in the Chaco markets for Epona out of his pocket.

—Is this for me?— Epona asked excitedly.

—Yes, I thought it was a nice gesture for when you recovered— Rodrigo said as he placed it around her neck.

Epona looked at the necklace and saw that it had a silver sun charm, and she gave a big smile.

—You're so sweet, Rodrigo. Thank you!— the goddess exclaimed and kissed Rodrigo on the lips.

—And about that... forgive me for not being there to protect you when that Anath hurt you— Rodrigo said apologetically.

—Don't beat yourself up, Rodrigo— Epona replied, annoyed.—No one knew that bitch was going to show up in Haida territory, and besides, it was my decision to go there—

—Well, I swear this time I'll protect you... I've gotten stronger— the young Tannin said excitedly.

—Really? I can't wait to see it!— Epona said enthusiastically.

Ana watched the young man talking to Epona curiously, but Tania pulled her ear.

—Not now, silly— she said.

—I know— the Irish goddess replied reluctantly.

—Don't be so transparent— Tania commented, shaking her head.

They all chatted for a while in front of the now-ruined kiva, and then they went to the guesthouse, which had luckily suffered only minor damage.

That night, there was a gathering in the main plaza, where Spider Grandmother sat on a chair at the highest part of the square, while soldiers protected the deity. The Speaking God and his brothers stood behind the great seat of Spider Grandmother. All four had their hands behind their backs, and although they no longer shone as they did in the morning, they still wore their respective colored robes covering their bodies.

The entire town had been working to rebuild the houses that had collapsed due to the massive earthquake. Rodrigo and the others had also helped. So, a meeting with food and drinks was held in the main square, where much of the town's population was gathered.

That night, they served buffalo stew, which was a broth made with spices and chili, along with golden corn and a kind of thick tortilla, similar to the ones Tul had cooked, but these were thinner.

The surviving Kachina who had fought the beast began to perform a dance called the Corn Dance. To the beat of drums and rattles, the men danced, lifting their feet as if they were marching in unison, while invoking the fall of rain and snow to their land.

After the dance, Spider Grandmother stood up from her seat and thanked the Kachina for their performance. They bowed to the goddess and then withdrew.

Spider Grandmother then took an ear of corn in her right hand and raised it to the sky.

—I want to take advantage of this gathering to give thanks to our father Tawa for this excellent corn crop he has provided us this year, and we hope for his blessing for the next— she said in Tano, the language spoken in Chaco.

The crowd erupted in joy at the words of their leader deity as they lifted the corn cobs to the sky.

—Now, let's eat and drink to bid farewell to these gods from across the ocean who have come to visit us, and they will leave satisfied with the hospitality of the Hisatsinom— the elderly woman exclaimed with joy, and everyone again shouted with joy.

Anpiel, who had studied a bit of Tano during her stay, commented that the words referred to them, and the gods got up and greeted the people.

To everyone's surprise, Anpiel, speaking in Tano, said: —Great Gogyeng Sowuhti, we are very grateful for your hospitality and for helping our friend. I wish I could express my appreciation to you and your culture more, but I am still limited in this wonderful language you have—

The crowd cheered and applauded the angel's words, who, in those five days, had learned a bit of Tano just to express his gratitude to the city of Chaco.

—Anpiel, you're amazing— Epona commented with her mouth half open.

—That's why he's our diplomat— Menrva said very excitedly.

—Haashchʼééłtiʼí and his brothers— Anpiel continued in Tano. —Unfortunately, I couldn't learn Na-Dene in these brief days of hospitality, but I appreciate your efforts to save my friend from the monster that possessed her—

The Speaking God and his brothers, as if they were mirrors, all bowed their heads in acknowledgment of the angel's words.

Anpiel then lifted his golden ear of corn and said again in Tano, —I toast to the friendship between this beautiful Hisatsinom town and the Diné people for many centuries to come—

The people cheered, and then the angel sat down. As he did, all the other gods greeted the people and sat down as well.

After eating and socializing for a while, one of the soldiers approached the members of Orniskem and told Anpiel that Spider Grandmother required their presence. Anpiel informed his companions, and they all agreed to go.

Everyone sat down in front of Spider Grandmother's seat as she looked at them with concern. The Speaking God also approached the conversation and stood on the left side of the Hisatsinom deity.

—I remember that when you introduced yourselves, you said you were going to the southern territories, where Coyote lives— the elderly woman remarked.

—My friend and I tried to enter that desert previously, but after walking a bit, we ended up back where we started— Freyja commented with an intrigued look.

—Indeed, there is a barrier preventing our people from entering the south and the nomads in the south from reaching the north, and it's all because Coyote has established his base in that desert— Spider Grandmother explained as she made appear a small amulet.

—Take this; it's a dreamcatcher— the Hisatsinom goddess said as she handed the small amulet to Menrva. —With this amulet, you'll be able to cross the barrier without any problems—

The amulet was a circle with a web-like design in the center, adorned with white feathers at the bottom.

—It would have been more helpful if you had told us this before— Menrva said, somewhat annoyed.

—You left in a hurry, and I knew you wouldn't be able to cross the barrier, so it was just a matter of time before you returned— the elderly woman replied.

—Besides, I know your sacred dress was torn and is currently being repaired, so you wouldn't have had the opportunity to travel further south— she added, turning to look at Freyja.

—Well, that's true— Freyja replied apologetically. —I thought it would fix itself like it has in the past—

—Nevertheless, I would like to persuade you not to continue traveling south— Spider Grandmother continued with a pained expression on her face.

—Don't worry about us, Grand Gogyeng Sowuhti. I'm sure my friends and I will safely cross the territories of this demon called Coyote— Anpiel replied, but neither Spider Grandmother nor the Speaking God reacted positively to his words.

—oung ones, I understand you're eager to cross, but I believe you should explore other ways of doing so. If you travel by sea, it's better, although it will take longer. But you have no idea what you will face if you cross that desert— the Speaking God finally interrupted.

—Who is this Coyote?— Tania asked, bewildered.

Spider Grandmother and the Speaking God looked into each other's eyes, then turned to the gods of Orniskem once again.

—A long time ago, when giants still roamed the world of the gods, an evil spirit, an ancient god, came to these lands and caused great harm to the world, unleashing floods, chaos, and death in its wake. That being is Coyote— Spider Grandmother explained.

—Coyote believes that chaos is the only form of justice. It believes that in times of turbulence, humans and gods reveal their true nature, and that's what it considers justice— the Speaking God continued.

—Wait a minute, an ancient god?— Tania asked, surprised.

—Yes, he is a being over 20,000 years old, but he is not a giant; he is more of a spirit, although he often takes the form of an animal that you have seen in these deserts, similar to what we call 'Coyote,'— Spider Grandmother explained.

—These animals are coyotes. Since this demonic being likes to take on the form of these animals, we have given him the name Coyote— the Speaking God added.

—And when it comes to danger, what kind of warrior is he? Or why is he so feared?— Menrva inquired.

—He has a mental power beyond current comprehension. He is what is called a trickster deity— the Speaking God explained.

—Well, tricksters and their mental powers are my specialty— Loki said arrogantly. —Not to brag, but I defeated the Crow God in the Haida territories—

—Do you mean Y'aahl of Haida Gwaii?— the Speaking God asked.

—Yes, the Haida captured us, and we had to fight to free ourselves— Freyja said, trying to justify their attack on that people.

The two gods fell silent for a while as they didn't quite know what to say to the members of Orniskem.

—Coyote wouldn't be that strong, would he?— Loki continued in a presumptuous tone.

—I don't think Y'aahl would have stood a chance against Coyote— the Speaking God finally explained.

—Y'aahl is a god of my generation, and we are old and tired now. That has caused our powers to wane— Spider Grandmother added.

—But Coyote, despite being older, as a spirit, his power only increases with time. We ourselves don't know how long the barrier will be able to stop him— the Speaking God explained.

Loki remembered that when he saw the aged face of Y'aahl, he understood that if the Crow God had been younger, he wouldn't have been able to defeat him. At that moment, the dark god felt fear for his destiny.

—Well, we have Loki's mental powers to protect us, right, lad?— Freyja said cheerfully while putting her arm around Loki, who was still in his female form.

—Lad?— both the Speaking God and Spider Grandmother asked.

—Yes, well, I am a male— Loki commented and settled into his presumed superiority. —If I could deceive all of you, Coyote won't be a problem for me!—

—Well... we'll pray to the Great Tawa for your victory— Spider Grandmother said.

—Excuse me, sorry for interrupting— Ana spoke up. —Who is this god Tawa you mentioned? Why isn't he here?— she asked.

—Tawa... I imagine you come from the North, right?— Spider Grandmother asked.

—Yes, we've been in Irokis territory and Missippippi territory before coming here— Tania replied.

—Iroquois territory and Mississippi territory— Anpiel corrected.

Tania looked dejected while the Hisatsinom and Diné gods chuckled discreetly.

—Well, does that have something to do with Tawa?— Ana asked.

—I'm sure you've heard the name 'Great Spirit' in your travels— the elderly woman said.

Rodrigo then remembered that Hé-no, when bidding them farewell, entrusted them to the Great Spirit, and he nodded.

—We heard it in the Iroquois territories, Spider Grandmother— Rodrigo replied.

—The Great Tawa is the same being; he is... a God to us— Spider Grandmother explained. —He is, so to speak, the Demiurge who created this existential plane, the will of the great universe itself—

—I'm sure you've seen his representation in the village, in the form of a singular sun— the Speaking God added.

Epona looked at the pendant Rodrigo had bought for her and saw how the sun had a curious and smiling face. —This must be the God Tawa— the goddess thought.

—We are blessed with his light, and that is why, in this land, we were able to encase the dweller from the otherworld who was inside your friend, and it's also what prevents Coyote from crossing over here— Spider Grandmother explained.

—I didn't know anything about this— Tania said, surprised, and turned to the other members of Orniskem, all of whom shook their heads in agreement.

—That is... He must be God— Rodrigo thought, surprised, as he realized that his faith had never really been questioned.

—On this side of the world, we all have a concept of the Creator and the Will of the Great Universe that surrounds us. My brothers and I trained under the Will of this Being, but for us, He takes the form of four clouds rather than a sun— the Speaking God expressed.

—Yes, in Mayapán, we call that Supreme Being Hunab ku— Tul explained his knowledge of the Supreme Being mentioned.

—But in Yggdrassil, the closest we have to that would be Ymir, who, thanks to seeing the giant in Denendeh, I assume was from that generation. But if I remember correctly, he suckled from a legendary cow...— Loki said.

—That cow, if I recall correctly, was called Audumbla. Would she be that mentioned principle?— Freyja added, equally puzzled.

—In my land, Danu is the mother of our tribe, Tuatha Dé Danann, but I doubt she even was a giant— Tania commented on what she knew about her world's past.

—I have no knowledge of anything like that in Takama-no-hara— Susanoo said. —Although my parents were the seventh generation of gods... Could there have been a primordial god before them?—

—I, the farthest I know, is about the principle of the sky, Anu— Tania said. —But I understand that he was one of the seven rulers of the mythical Hubur, and he was a giant from the generation Loki mentioned—

—But Anu was the name by which they knew that god in Mesopotamia. In Babylon, there was a similar principle called Tiamat, but I don't think she was necessarily good— Anpiel commented. —However, I know that Elyon is only a title for the god El, and before him, there was a god by that name who is considered the father of our people—

—Both Athena and I have a principle for that, but it's not seen as good, more like chaotic. It's called Chaos— Menrva said.

—In both stories, then, we know about that principle, Chaos and Tiamat, as evil— Anpiel added.

—If there is a good principle, there might also be an evil principle, and those stories may speak of what emerged within Epona. I must admit that, when I saw that horrible creature that came out of her body, I also questioned the idea of gods being of a higher rank than us— Ana explained, somewhat embarrassed.

—There's so much to learn from these people— Tania thought. —Without this wisdom, on the European side, they might never have been able to heal Epona—

—Be that as it may— Spider Grandmother interrupted. —Tawa's light doesn't shine on the desert where Coyote resides. If you still wish to go there, all we can do is pray that the Great Tawa enlightens you with his power and wisdom—

—We are grateful for your words, Grand Gogyeng Sowuhti— Anpiel replied. —We will show you that we can cross the southern desert and reach Tula—

—Then I have nothing more to say. I assume you'll be leaving tomorrow, correct?— the elderly goddess asked.

—Yes, I was informed at the temple that our totemas will be ready early tomorrow morning— Freyja said with a smile.

—Very well, we wish you the best of luck, and remember... if you see something that doesn't seem right, it means Coyote is near you— the Speaking God said.

—Something that doesn't seem right?— Menrva asked, puzzled.

—You'll understand if you see it— the Speaking God explained.

The gods returned to the area where people were eating and drinking while another dance began. This time, the dancers wore large deer masks and performed acrobatic moves. The soldier who had flirted with Freyja when she had first arrived in the city approached her, trying to strike up a conversation. However, the goddess didn't understand what he was saying and politely brushed him off.

—How cruel you are, Freyja! First, you seduce them, and then you reject them— Loki commented.

—I'm sorry, Loki, but I've decided to be faithful to my husband now— the beautiful Norse goddess replied.

After the celebration, everyone returned to their respective homes. Those who didn't have homes slept under the waning moonlight on the plaza. Rodrigo and the others also slept there.

The next morning, Freyja returned to the plaza with the two repaired totemas and gave hers to Ana, who thanked the Irish goddess.

The gods bid farewell to the city of Chaco, where all the Hisatsinom were also saying their goodbyes, and they set off to the south, towards Coyote's territories.