Chapter 135:

Ordeal of the Thirteen Heavens

Elyon - Gods among us

—Hold on a moment, Tláloc— King Otontecutli interrupted with a look of concern. —The Ordeal of the Thirteen Heavens, no one has ever been able to surpass it—

Otontecutli's hall was empty, with only two guards protecting the entrance to the chamber. The nobles who were usually present in this room were currently absent.

—What is the Ordeal of the Thirteen Heavens?— Menrva inquired.

—It's, essentially, a continuous fight against thirteen gods— Tláloc remarked. —However, as Otontecutli mentioned, nobody has ever passed this ordeal—

—Are you planning to sacrifice us again?— Tania asked the Toltec god in annoyance.

Tláloc denied. —No, not this time. I'm confident that if you pass it, you'll become even stronger— the Toltec god replied.

And then, he began to narrate: —Our kingdom, Ilhuicatl Iohtlatoquiliz, is made up of thirteen planets, or as you might call it, thirteen heavens; and each heaven is ruled by a different god— the Toltec god elaborated.

—So, we'd have to battle each of the gods as we travel from planet to planet?— Anpiel asked.

—Yes, the goal is to reach the thirteenth heaven, the realm of Quetzalcóatl, where the god will grant the victorious warrior access to his wisdom— Tláloc continued.

—Isn't Rodrigo supposed to have gone to see this Quetzalcóatl?— Freyja questioned with confusion.

—Well, in reality, out of the thirteen heavens, only nine remain— Tláloc answered. —The heavens of Quetzalcóatl, Ehécatl, Nanahuatzin, and Xólotl were removed from the ordeal—

—Nine heavens... nine gods, and we are eight, excluding Anpiel— Susanoo pondered. —So, it would be eight against nine—

—Indeed, but I must also give you a warning— Tláloc pointed out.

The gods looked with intrigue at the two Toltec deities.

—What you'll face there are not really gods, but copies of us that retain the memory of our most powerful era; from when we lived in the city of Puh— the blue Toltec god added.

—That means, you'll encounter copies of me and Xipe Tótec in that ordeal, but in reality, neither of us will truly be there— he concluded.

—Indeed, traveling to Ilhuicatl Iohtlatoquiliz was banned since the fall of the city of Puh— Xipe Tótec added.

—That means those copies of us will seek to kill you without hesitation— Tláloc continued explaining.

—But, wait a moment— Menrva interjected. —If the realm of Quetzalcóatl no longer exists, what reward is there to bother undergoing this ordeal?—

—A sacred golden Macuahuitl was placed in the last heaven, the ninth— Xipe Tótec remarked. —This can amplify the power of anyone by hundreds or even thousands of times—

—What's that?— Tania asked, puzzled.

Tláloc pointed to Otontecutli's guard. —See the weapons those soldiers carry?— he questioned. —That's it, precisely—

—Ah, what looks like a club with saw-like protrusions— Anpiel observed with intrigue.

—Exactly, that weapon will grant you powers to confront Itzpapálotl and her Chichimeca allies— Tláloc stated.

—And why don't you use it?— Loki asked.

—Because that weapon was placed there a long time ago when Quetzalcóatl died— Tláloc replied. —However, at the moment, the only way to retrieve it would be if we passed the ordeal ourselves—

—It would take several months to erase the memories of the copies of us and gain access— Xipe Tótec replied. —That's why Tezcatlipoca went to Cholollan, as it was easier to recover the teotonli of the Feathered Serpent—

—Actually, that weapon doesn't matter to me— Menrva commented. —However, if we face this challenge, we might be able to completely break the barrier—

—Completely break it?— the two Toltec gods and Otontecutli asked.

—Tha means— Menrva continued, —that the rules of this barrier won't limit our power at all—

—But then, you could destroy this planet in one blow— the Otomi god replied in fear. —That's the purpose of the barrier—

The Toltec gods also looked at Menrva uncertainly. No one had ever considered surpassing the barrier. They had grown up under the effects of the barrier, learning to break some rules such as flying or increasing their physical or mental powers... but ignoring their limitations entirely was a different matter.

—Well, I don't know if we can do it completely, but our goal is to break as many of its limitations as possible— Menrva responded.

—Where we come from, from the other side of the world— Ana interrupted, —we use pocket dimensions to avoid harming this planet. But the barrier prevents us from activating those dimensions—

The goddess then pulled a small spark from her clothes and showed it to the Toltec gods and Otontecutli.

—This is a pocket dimension, and I have a theory that, by breaking the barrier, we will be able to use them again—

—They are very ambitious, overly so— Tláloc thought, and then remembered Anath's absurd power. —Are all the gods from the other side of the world like this?— he wondered.

—Anpiel, I believe that if we give you this mace, you will be able to fight alongside us as well, would you like that?— Ana asked the angel.

—It would be an honor— Anpiel replied.

—Then it's settled— Ana replied. —We will pass the ordeal and give the prize to Anpiel, if there are no objections—

—Are you going to give a legendary weapon to a Nahua?— Otontecutli asked.

—Nahua?— Ana asked, puzzled.

Tul quickly explained to the gods that Anpiel's rank, known as "malak," was called "nahua" in the territories of Anahuac.

—Well, what the hell does rank matter?— Ana asked and turned to her companions. They all made gestures indicating that they didn't understand the problem.

—If you could, you would probably use humans in your teams as well— Tláloc commented, shaking his head with disappointment.

—Well, a group of deities from the other side of the world uses humans and awakens their divine powers— Menrva responded. —And believe me, they are exceedingly powerful—

The Toltec gods were surprised by this.

—It shouldn't be that odd for you; we saw that Xólotl in the Chichimeca realms did that with his ballgame players— Freyja remarked, puzzled.

The Toltec gods and the Otomi king were then embarrassed.

—It's just... we all do it to ensure our ballgame team always wins— Tláloc said, trying to look away.

—Yes, so the challengers have no chance— Xipe Tótec added.

—How dare you defile the sacred ballgame in such a way?!— Tul exclaimed furiously.

—You should be ashamed, cheaters— Tania scolded, but when she turned to look at Otontecutli, he was also trying to look away.

—Anyway— Tania said, trying to change the subject. —As I was saying, we accept the challenge— she stated energetically.

All the members of Orniskem nodded.

—We'll depart right now if necessary— Tania added.

—Did you not sustain injuries in the fights you had today? Don't you wish to rest first?— Otontecutli inquired.

—If we stay longer, we give Tula more time to attack again— Menrva responded. —We will pass the ordeal and then we will invade Tula—

—Overly ambitious— thought the blue Toltec god in surprise.

—Well, to access the ordeal, you must go to the ruins of the city of Puh and find the two pyramids in the main plaza— the blue Toltec god mentioned.

—Actually, those ruins are just a thirty-minute flight to the west from this city— Otontecutli remarked. —The ruins of the great Hñahñú metropolis—

—Eh, no! It was a city of ours, the Nahua gods— Xipe Tótec snapped back annoyed.

—Then why is it on my territories and not on yours?— the Otomi king challenged.

—But everyone knows its real name was Teotihuacán, not that ridiculous name Puh... stupid Mayans— Tláloc cynically remarked.

—Hey, I'm right here!— Tul shouted in annoyance.

—Well, if you're done arguing over trivialities, we'll be going— Menrva stated.

—Do you know the way to Tula?— the Otomi king asked.

—To get to Tula won't be a problem since we'll use the map Father Odin gave us— Freyja added.

—Alright, anyway, Tula is just to the north from here, approximately an hour— Otontecutli stated.

—Still, I'll provide you with a mental map of the location of Puh and Tula; I also have that ability— said Tláloc.

With that, the gods of Orniskem had clear directions to the ruins of Puh and the city of Tula.

—So, when you arrive at the pyramids— Tláloc continued explaining, —you'll notice one is taller than the other. The taller one is the Pyramid of the Sun, and the shorter is the Pyramid of the Moon—

—Does that mean there are two paths?— Tania inquired.

—Exactly. In one pyramid, a sun god was born; and in the other, a moon god was also born— Tláloc replied.

—You mean we should carefully choose our path, based on the elements we each possess, right?— Freyja asked intrigued.

—That's correct, and eventually, both paths will converge on the ninth sky, Tezcatlipoca's sky. If you defeat him, you'll have passed the ordeal, and the macuahuitl will be yours— Xipe Tótec answered.

—Once you choose your groups, you must ascend to the top of the pyramids and recite: 'Nictemoa Quetzalcóatl in tlamatilistli'. With that, you'll be teleported to Ilhuicatl Iohtlatoquiliz and you'll enter the Ordeal of the thirteen skies— he added.

—Wait, what?— Tania asked stressed.

—And if only one says it, does it work?— Anpiel inquired.

—No. Everyone must say it, or whoever doesn't won't be able to access the ordeal— Tláloc clarified.

—Don't worry, said Anpiel. —I'll write down the phrase so you can memorize it as we fly to Puh—

Then, Anpiel repeated the phrase from memory. The Toltec gods and Otontecutli were surprised at how well-versed he was in languages. The angel then conjured a parchment with an inkwell and a quill; and began writing down the phrase. He then asked who knew the Latin letters. Susanoo, Tul, and Freyja admitted they weren't familiar with the language.

—Tul, you won't need to read the phrase because you know Nahuatl— the angel commented to the rabbit goddess. She admitted it with a slightly embarrassed smile.

Anpiel then wrote the phrase in runes and asked Freyja if it was correct. The Norse goddess read the phrase without difficulty.

The biggest problem was Susanoo, as his language was completely unknown to the group. Anpiel told him to repeat the phrase throughout the journey to learn it since the Oriental god admitted that his language was pictographic and not very useful for representing foreign sounds.

—Alright, we'll leave then— Menrva said. —Once we've passed the ordeal, we'll head to Tula—

—We'll enter Tollan at seven in the morning— Tláloc stated. —We hope to see you there at that time—

The members of Orniskem nodded.

—Anpiel, you better stay here, I think there's no point in you going for now. You won't participate in the ordeal— Tania commented.

—Alright, I'll stay here and wait for you.

—Good, let's go— Menrva said, and the gods left the palace, activated their totemas, and headed west as Tláloc had indicated.

—Do you really think you can pass the ordeal?— Otontecutli asked the Toltec gods.

—I don't know, but these individuals give me hope that I haven't felt since the days of Quetzalcóatl— Tláloc responded animatedly with a smile.

After flying for about twenty minutes, the gods of Orniskem found ruins engulfed in extensive vegetation among the mountains. The ruins had two gigantic mounds in the central part.

—That's it, that's the city of Puh!— Tania shouted, and all the gods descended towards the ruins.

—Halt! Access to this area is forbidden by orders of the Great Lady Itzpapálotl!— a man's voice was heard in the distance.

When the gods turned, they saw a squad of giants dressed in feathered headdresses, loincloths, and carrying gigantic obsidian macuahuitls. These giants were about five meters tall, and there were dozens of them. The gods then remembered that Tláloc had mentioned that access to these ruins was prohibited.

—Who are you? Identify yourselves!— the gigantic man continued shouting at the gods.

—It seems they are Quinametzin— Tul commented. —A race of giants created by the ancestral gods—

—Do you mean that the primordial gods here could create life?— Tania asked in amazement. All the gods were intrigued by this discovery because, although humans believed that the gods had created them, the reality was that it was a lie told to them to make them worship the gods. Creating life was completely beyond their divine abilities.

—Not exactly, they are more like humanoid figures with artificial life or something like that— Tul explained.

Tania then remembered that when she faced Hephaestus in Sicily, he used subjects made of bronze that had their own life, but it was artificial life and not real. The god called them Automatons.

—So that means they're not alive, right?— Loki asked.

—Exactly— Tul replied.

The Norse god then froze all the giants completely with a wave of his hand. Then, with another gesture, he made them explode into hundreds of pieces.

—You shouldn't have been so harsh with them— Ana scolded the Norse god.

—Dear, that's why I confirmed if they were alive before— the dark god said.

Ana nodded, and the gods then prepared to head to the pyramids of that ancient city that had been consumed by the grassland.

There was a deathly silence in the area. One would always expect to hear birds or some wild animals, but there was nothing. Just ruins beneath extensive undergrowth. It was astonishing that this city had been abandoned only a century ago.

The two pyramids stood on a long path filled with grass and stones. The dark night sky was illuminated by a crescent moon, while thousands of stars shone in the firmament.

—Wow, those enormous mounds are gigantic— Epona exclaimed in surprise. —Did humans create those massive structures?— she asked.

—Everything you see here, or see in this region, was built by humans— Tul replied. —The gods don't have the talents of architects—

—Yes, it's the same over on our continent— Tania replied. —Humans are always more ingenious than us when it comes to building structures—

Epona turned to Ana and chuckled cynically. —For example, here's a goddess who can't even build a cabin from scratch— she said.

—Leave me alone, mare!— the Irish goddess responded, irritated. All the other gods laughed.

The gods stood before what they called the Pyramid of the Sun, as it was the larger of the two, and they admired it. Although it was overgrown with vegetation, you could still make out a complex staircase leading to the top. It appeared to be composed of five sections, creating a stepped pyramid shape. The red and white color that used to adorn the architecture of the region had faded, leaving only the color of the limestone.

—You know, Tul?— Tania said to the Maya goddess. —On our continent, there are similar pyramids in the desert, but they are completely inclined—

Tul was surprised by these revelations. —Ch'úupal, would you take me to see them?— she asked.

—Of course, Tul; we'll go soon— Tania said with a smile.

—I can easily teleport you there— Menrva commented. —Once we leave this continent, of course—

Tul smiled, looking forward to the day this adventure would end so she could finally fulfill her long-held dream of seeing the world and beyond.

Epona then began to look around. Only abandoned houses in ruins and traces of destroyed life were visible on the ground, like statues and pottery. It was clear that this region had been abandoned due to war. The goddess thought she could see a skull or two, still unburied, in the area.

—I expected to see animals in this area, but it seems that there is still a trace of divine power keeping them away— Epona commented.

—Or meowybe those enormous giants scared them off— Freyja added.

—So, how will we divide ourselves?— Tania finally asked when the gods stopped admiring the colossal structure.

—Tláloc mentioned that one pyramid created the sun, and the other the moon, so one must be a trial of fire and the other a trial of water— Loki explained.

—I'll participate in the water one— Tania raised her hand. —My element, fire, might be useful to fight against ice deities— the goddess said. In reality, Tania wanted to meet Tláloc and give him a beating because she still held a grudge against him.

—I'll go for water as well— Ana commented.

—Then I'll go for the fire— Epona said and touched her chest. —When I faced Nanahuatzin's flames, I discovered that I had a fire-related weakness, and I want to overcome it— she explained.

—I'll choose water too— Menrva said. —Lightning works well in that element—

—Watashi, fire— Susanoo said. —Like Menrva-san, my water element can deal a lot of damage to fire—

—I don't know which one to choose, but given that almeowst no one chooses fire, I'll go for fire too— Freyja decided.

—Fire as well— Loki said. —My ice ability can strongly affect flames—

—Then I guess I'm the only one left, so I'll go with ch'úupal Tania— Tul said.

—Alright, let's go to each pyramid to perform the ritual— Menrva said. The gods then separated, climbed up, and stood at the top of the pyramids.

All the gods, except Tul and Susanoo, took out the paper that Anpiel had written with the word they had to say. They read it slowly and clearly. At that moment, they were all teleported to the ordeal, except for Tania, who remained alone because she had read the paper incorrectly.

—No! Dammit!— Tania shouted furiously.

—You can speak like twenty languages, and you can't handle this one?— she scolded herself in frustration as she tried to read the phrase, but nothing happened.