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Hel is a Four Letter Word. Chapter Thirteen.

James, once again, lies back and takes one for the team, while the gods have an argument...

8 months ago

Latest Post Three Poems by Edward Shaddow public

Previous Chapters.

The world turned black and the pain in my chest and lungs fell away instantly, it was a relief. I was expecting it this time so I awoke quickly. Light flooded out behind me as I walked uncontrollably across the wooden bridge amongst the throng of other souls passing into the new world. The guardian stood by the bridge’s exit watching over all who passed. Her armour shone in the dull light of Niefliheilm’s sun. I had a few moments to try and get her attention before I would be swept too far down the long mountain path. I struggled with my limbs only to find them numb and useless. I tried calling out, my voice still worked but I could feel my throat growing colder by the moment.
‘Hey!’ I shouted as loud as I could. ‘Guardian!’ She remained unfazed, ignoring me. I yelled again trying to be heard above the sound of a thousand voices around me. ‘Hel needs help! She’s trapped by Loki and she’s dying! Hey!’

It was no use. The guardian was too good at her job and would probably only react if something physically threatened the safety of the world. I struggled against my slowly moving body as it trudged once again down the grey mountain. Still I kept calling out, hoping that she would hear what I was saying. Soon I was out of her field of vision and my voice had given way to forced silence, the crowd around me also succumbing to the wave of quiet that flowed over us like a wave.

Contacting the guardian was always going to be a long shot, it just would have moved things along a little quicker. On to plan B I guess. I willed myself to walk faster, I needed to get to Hel’s hall before it was too late and I had no idea how time worked down here. While all my other sense were numb, my ears still worked and high above me I could hear the sound of a raven calling into the wind. I tried to move my eyes upwards but couldn’t see anything but the grey sky. There was a small hope that someone was watching and maybe, should I fail, would step in to fix things? Who knew with the gods. One thing I’ve learned over the years is that gods really don’t care unless something directly effects them, and even then it’s hit or miss if they do anything about it.

Once I stopped struggling and started to urge myself onwards the journey down the black path seemed to pass by quickly. The bulk of the other souls dropped away and soon it was just myself wandering onwards taking in the dull grey scenery forever moving onwards towards that black hall. The city was just as it was when I last died, the black and grey buildings illuminated by the dull orange torches that lined the streets. This time I noticed a few shadows hiding amongst the buildings. None looked remotely human, maybe possibly a long time ago but their bodies had turned to a black shimmer drifting around the empty streets. I guessed that once you’d been dead for a few millennium you didn’t really need a body anymore.

The imposing black gates came into view as my body wandered slowly down the center of the city. The gates rose by unseen hands and soon I was back in control of my body and walking up the steps into the hall of Hel. Like before it was entirely empty, without its queen I guess a hall isn’t really that much. Maybe she needed a giant statue of herself just to keep up appearances when she’s away? This time around I ran over to the throne at the rear of the hall hoping under my breath that he was still here. The gleaming white place setting gave me reassurance as I neared the pitch black throne. When I reached the end of the hall I turned and waited, staring at the entrance, bracing myself. I didn’t have to wait long.

The doors flew open and the black specter roared through and sped towards me. I threw up my hands and yelled for it to stop. Still it kept coming.
‘Baldr! Stop! Hel needs your help!’ My eyes had forced themselves shut as I waited for it to pass through my body and rip my soul from it, or worse, but nothing happened. I lowered my arms and opened my eyes, the specter hovered in mid air a few meters away from me. The dark cloak was ancient and tattered just like you would expect the ruler of Hel to wear. Red eyes glowed out from under the hood as we sized each other up.
‘You’ve got her eyes right.’ I said, smiling at a memory that felt so long ago. In a split second the black cloth imploded in on itself and disappeared leaving only the man underneath. Clothed in the whitest tunic I have ever seen, Baldr was a stark contrast to the grey world of Hel. His smile radiated out and I could feel my dead heart filling with love and emotion. It was overwhelming even before his body began to emit a glow of the purest light. I had to shield my eyes and step back to prevent myself from being completely engulfed by it.

I heard a mumbled apology coming from the dead god and the light disappeared and my heart felt lighter, albeit a touch sadder.
‘Sorry.’ He said, his voice filled with light and happiness. ‘I forget sometimes it can be overwhelming to mortals. Even the dead ones.’ He walked towards me and placed comforting hands on my shoulders. His face concentrated for a moment and I could feel him inside my head as flashes of the past few days flooded my mind. It was over before it started and he stood back. What is it with gods and a complete lack of boundaries? For once I’d like to meet one who knew what informed consent was, or at least asked politely before doing whatever they wanted anyway.

‘You’ve been through a lot, James. Don’t worry your sacrifice will not go unrewarded.’ He smiled and patted me reassuringly on the shoulder. Baldr walked past me with a smile on his face and sat on Hel’s black, stone throne. The stark contrast between the being of, what appeared to be, pure light sitting on an impossibly black throne seemed fitting considering Hel’s own dichotomy. His hands rested on the arm rests, gripping around the skulls that had been carved into the chair, and without much effort he ripped one of the skulls cleanly away. He looked at it, inspecting the smooth black rock. Finding what he wanted he placed the skull in his lap and simply said, ‘Shall we be going?’

I didn’t have time to respond before the world began to blur and pull away from me. Once more I was pulled upwards through the roof of the hall and out into the grey land of Niefeilheilm. The difference this time was the lack of claws digging into my back and my body, or whatever passed for a body in Hel, stayed with me. I looked down and saw a gentle white glow spreading out from my feet. I wanted to absorb the light, I wanted to breathe it in and let it overcome me completely letting me feel at peace. I knew then the power of Baldr and understood why everyone wanted him. I closed my eyes and let myself be carried upwards and out, thinking the entire time how peaceful it was being dead. Again.

When I next opened my eyes my lungs burned and they screamed for air. I sat bolt upright and drew in the largest breath I have ever had. The fire in my chest cooled as cold Icelandic air filled my lungs, and with that fire quenched I began to feel the fast thumping of my heart as it struggled to kickstart my body. The pain hit next as my nerves rebooted and I was once again pushed back down to the ground as my ribs and neck exploded in pure white heat, flooding my brain with blackout worthy agony. I felt a cool hand on my forehead and realised that Hel was still kneeling next to me. I looked up at her and croaked, ‘My neck hurts.’ She smiled and told me to hush.

I was vaguely aware of a warm glow above my head before it touched me. The warm glow landed on my forehead and quickly spread downwards through my entire body, filling me with a serene calm. Almost instantly I could feel my pain drain away. Even the wet sounding pops as my ribs reunited inside my chest cavity were pain free and didn’t make my breakfast want to repeat itself. Soon my entire body was aglow and pain free. In fact I hadn’t felt better in years. I wanted to spring up and run laps around the building but it was only my body that felt healed, my mind was still foggy from the trauma of dying yet again. I did however manage to sit up with some unneeded assistance from Hel.

The glow faded as I felt the warm touch slip away from me. Twisting around I saw Baldr crouching behind me smiling happily. In the real world his glow was quite muted compared to when were were in the underworld but his skin still shone like neon, almost fading into the white robes he wore. He exchanged a look with Hel who in turn reached out and put a comforting hand on his arm. He touched his forehead to hers before standing up to face Loki. I wasn’t sure how much time had passed since I left but it didn’t look like long, perhaps a few seconds? The look on Loki’s face was enough to make the whole dying experience worth it though. Wiping smug looks from old gods was without a doubt the highlight of my sad, short life.

The two gods faced each other off. Loki looking like he’d been caught with his hand in the cookie jar and Baldr looking as happy as I’d ever seen him. Not in a smug way, just…happy. I pushed myself up into a standing position gently shrugging off Hel’s help. My refreshed body felt slightly unstable standing, like a newborn puppy wobbling about for the first time but it was quickly overcome with a few awkward steps, and soon I was ready to take on the world again. Then a slight wobble and misplaced step knocked the confidence out of me quickly, luckily Hel was there to catch me. I thanked her quietly as we both turned our attentions to the only people with power in the room.

‘Hello Baldr. Long time no see.’ Said Loki, his sly grin returning. ‘Your brother Hoder misses you, you know.’ Baldr didn’t take the bait and ignored Loki’s attempt to rile him up. Even in the Greco-Roman community we all knew the story of how Baldr’s mother was so afraid of him dying that she got everything in the world to promise not to kill him except she forgot the mistletoe, thinking it too small to be of any problem. Loki had quickly grown jealous of everyone’s love for Baldr and one night as all the gods took turns to throw things at the son of Odin, a fun but odd game they played, Loki hatched a plot to kill him. Using Baldr’s own brother, blind Hoder, he gave him a sprig of mistletoe and helped him aim. The small sprig speared Baldr through the heart and the rest is history. Mentioning Baldr’s brother and murderer was a low blow but the god ignored it.
‘Greetings, Loki. You are looking as well as ever.’
I couldn’t detect a hint of anger or sarcasm in Baldr’s voice at all. He was a better man than I. Well, god, but that doesn’t mean much in this world.

‘You weren’t meant to be here you know.’ Said Loki. He shot a look at me, his eyes glowing a solid green. She has her father’s eyes, I thought to myself. He took a step back and I could see his muscles begin to tighten under the well fitting business shirt he wore. It looked like he was preparing for a fight. I’d seen my share of godly battles and I knew I didn’t want to be anywhere near one again. I gave Hel a nudge and whispered in her ear that we needed to leave. She protested but I started to push her towards the exit.
‘Trust me on this, you can get hurt now remember.’ I said moving her gently but firmly away from the two gods. Suddenly it felt as if I had hit a brick wall.
‘James.’ She said. I looked at her realising that I had been keeping my eyes on Loki the entire time.
‘What?’ I asked. My voice showed a hint of worry as I quickly assessed the amount of damage that could be done in this enclosed space. It took me a second to absorb what I was looking at but it soon hit. The pale pink of her face was quickly receding, giving way to an off grey tone. Her small but perfect lips flooded with pure black colouring and her eyes swirled, filling the empty grey with bright red tones. It was then I noticed the small back skull that hung from a pure white chain around her neck.

‘Oh.’ I said realising what was happening but at the same time still unsure. Then I felt her invisible presence push up against me like a gale force wind knocking the air from my lungs. ‘Oh!’ I attributed my slow response to the fact that up until very recently I was deceased and it was taking a while for my poor brain to catch up. Standing back I let the goddess of the underworld walk in front of me. This was going to get very ugly, very quickly. I looked around for some cover, finding only the heavy wooden tables. I judged the distance to the exit and figured if Loki wanted to, I’d be ash before I could even reach it. I sighed and resigned myself to the fates, slipping under the nearest table. Getting used to facing death head on wasn’t something I had planned on being comfortable with, but here we are.

Despite Loki being preoccupied with Baldr he still noticed his daughter moving towards him. From my view point under the table I could see the back of her and the subtle changes that were happening as her powers flowed back. The claw marks from the ravens closed over and disappeared and even her polkadot dress fixed itself, the straps repairing and sliding back up onto her shoulders. Seemingly from nowhere, black stockings slid up slowly from the simple black shoes she wore, completing the outfit. A faint breeze swirled unseen around her head giving life to her now perfect hair which swayed like a shampoo commercial around her shoulders. I guess even the gods aren’t immune to vanity.

By this time both the gods had turned to watch the renewed goddess approach. I was too far away to be sure but I thought I saw a flash of fear quickly cross Loki’s face. Two gods against one, if not pretty this was going to be good. Hel took her place next to Baldr. His white glow in stark contrast to the growing black glow that was slowly enveloping Hel’s body. A tightened fist at her side started to turn black from the aura surrounding it. The black fire growing with intensity as her face hardened into a snarl.
‘Father.’ She said coldly. ‘Nothing personal.’
Loki smiled and bowed curtly in response.
‘It’s always personal my dear.’ He moved back into a fighting stance and his fists were suddenly engulfed in green flame. Baldr still hadn’t made a move, his face locked in a happy smile, seemingly oblivious to the shit that was about to go down. His blissful outlook  disturbed me deep down but I was unsure why. Possibly because I could understand anger, fear, and even vengeance but happiness had always escaped me. Then again I could just be reading too much into it, but to me anyone who smiles at the onset of a battle was someone to be feared.

The first move was Loki’s. His body disappeared from sight, quickly reappearing inches from Hel as he swung a glowing fist in a round house punch to the side of her face. His mouth twisted into an evil grin as her arm raised too slowly to deflect the the punch, and his fist connected with a sickening crack. Hel responded almost instantly with an uppercut to his jaw, seemingly unfazed by the surprise blow. I couldn’t help but wince despite knowing that neither of them felt anything from the punches. Probably. I might be wrong but it looked like Hel at least was pulling her punches, just a little. The two gods stepped backwards to give themselves room. They were just getting warmed up it seemed.

What occurred next was like something from a martial arts film. The two deities flew at each other in a fury of blows, their individual godly auras coming together in explosions of light as their hands connected. Hel gave her father a run for his money as she ducked and weaved most of his over powered punches, she landed a few ripostes knocking the trickster god backwards a fair way, his designer shoes dragging along the hall’s pristine stone floor. This only fuelled his growing rage as he started to flicker in and out of sight, moving incredibly fast around the hall. He would appear long enough to land a punch before disappearing again.

Caught unawares, Hel was knocked clean backwards as the Loki appeared inches from her face pushing both his outstretched palms into her chest. She screamed a little but it seemed to be more shock than pain as she managed block the blow by crossing her arms defensively. She slid so far back that she smashed into one of the long benches a few rows away. The loud crack as her spine hit the wood made my neck ache in sympathy. The shattered remains of the bench didn’t do much to help me forget about running. I looked over at the entrance, if Hel keeps him busy I might just be able to make it outside.

Turning back the the fray I saw Loki appear above his daughter’s prone body. With one hand he gripped her by the shoulders and pulled her up, she didn’t struggle but her face showed open defiance. The angry glow of her eyes shone on her father’s face as she stared him down.
‘It’s no use, daughter. Up here, even with your pretty necklace you’re nothing compared to me.’ He laughed and threw her through the air towards the other side of the room. I braced myself for another crash but it never came. Twisting in mid air like a black cat she managed to land soundlessly on the far wall of the temple feet first and gently bounced off it, leaving the wall intact, bar the need for a slight touchup where her foot caused the plaster to crack slightly. Two flips in the air and she was back on her feet. The goddess had moves.

The transparent black glow around her right hand started to darken and expand. Growing quickly it soon extended out from her fist in a thin black mist. I was transfixed as it suddenly solidified into a brutal looking long sword. The black sword shone like onyx and as she drew it upwards I could see a faint mist flowing around it. I flicked a look towards Loki only to see him holding a large, emerald green spear by his side. The only one who still hadn’t moved was Baldr. His calm white glow still present as he stood next to the statue of Odin, content to just watch the other gods battle it out.

I could see Hel tense up as she prepared to close the gap between her and Loki. He saw it too and ran at her spear held firm in front of him, its’ long, translucent emerald tip glowing brighter as they neared. Hel switched the grip on her long sword to a doubled handed one and pushed forward towards her father. Gripping the edge of the table above me for stability I slowly began to move backwards, heading towards the door. My eyes locked onto the battle, hoping I was insignificant enough to pass them all by.

The first clash of weapons rang sharp, reverberating throughout the sacred hall. My ears screamed as the sword and spear clashed again and again looking for the divine flesh of its opponent. Watching the goddess of the underworld wield a midnight black long sword, while wearing a black and white polkadot dress wasn’t exactly where I figured my day would lead. She danced around expertly like she had been born with a sword in her hand, the dress flowing around as she twirled and moved, adding to the pure artistry of the whole experience. She was amazing, even for a god.

In comparison, her father was messy and emotional. Where Hel seemed to push her anger down, her face blank and her moves powerful and fluid, Loki wore his rage for all to see. His face twisted into a snarl as he thrust and parried her attacks, he was sloppy and looked to be making mistakes. Not that I could talk, the only weapons I used were a gun and my wits. Neither of which help much in situations like this. As the two gods kept each other busy I crab walked down the hall under the relative safety of the long table. All it would take is for one of them to land on top of me or a weapon to go flying through the aged oak and it would be goodnight James. I didn’t think that I would get a third reprieve from the land of death.

I had reached a gap between the last two tables, and in another few meters I would run out of table altogether and need to sprint for the door. I checked on the gods again, making sure they were too preoccupied to notice me. Hel’s sword was locked under Loki’s chin, held there by his spear while he struggled to break free. Baldr simply continued to look on, smile unwavering. I took my chance and dashed awkwardly through the gap, sliding under the next table. My foot caught on one of the long benches that had been pushed in slightly and as I struggled to free it the entire bench rocked against the hard stone floor. My heart leapt into my throat as the noise echoed around the hall.

The gods froze on the spot and Loki shot me a look. Hel ignored me and continued to press her blade closer to her father’s throat. There was no use being stealthy now so I just turned and crawled as quickly as I could towards the exit. I could see the red wood of the heavy door from under the table as I neared. I was scrambling now. The sound of the battle behind me was still ringing in my ears but I knew it would only take a second for Loki’s focus to shift. If I could make it outside Hel would be free to attack without fear of hurting me, which I hoped was what she was doing. It would also give me a chance to think of a plan C, just in case.

The edge of the table was coming up just as my knees were threatening to give way. I reached out a hand to pull myself up and out from under my hiding space when my eyes met two black boots before me. Stuck half way out from under the table I looked up to find Loki’s imposing image staring at me.
‘You’re not leaving yet are you James?’ He asked, not bothering to wait for an answer. He gripped my throat and pulled me upwards. Gurgling sounds came from my mouth as I struggled to breathe in the god’s vice like grip. The green glow from his hand washed over my face, covering the world in a jade haze. I gripped his arm as I tried to relieve the pressure around my windpipe, my legs swinging uselessly underneath me as I felt the world going black. The sound of Hel running towards us echoed through my head as my vision faded slowly into blackness.

‘That’s enough, Loki.’ The words sounded as clear as day in my mind and suddenly I could breathe again. I hit the floor hard as Loki’s grip relaxed completely. Above me I saw the white god Baldr, his arm wrapped around Loki’s neck in a strangle hold. The serene smile not budging from his pure neon white skin. It was Loki’s turn to choke as he struggled agains the raw power of Baldr’s hold. The guy obviously spoke softly but carried a huge divine stick. I didn’t wait for Hel to arrive. Taking my chance I picked myself up and ran for the door as Baldr held the trickster god tightly in his grip. My shoulder rammed against the solid oak as I ran into it unable to stop myself in time.

I fumbled the thick, wrought iron bolt and the doors swung inwards pushing me back almost slamming me into the wall. A massive stream of ravens began to flood the hall. The sound of their wings was all I could hear as they settled over everything worth perching on. The once white hall now looked closer to Hel’s own underworld but with one difference, these black walls were living. The quiet caws of the multitude of birds settling into their new home cumulated into a dull roar that was more off putting than anything else I had seen today.

Once again dragging myself to a standing position I surveyed the room, not before a single raven swooped through the doors and alighted onto my shoulder. It’s claws dug in through my suit as it found purchase but it was strangely comforting and familiar. The raven cleaned it’s beak on my shoulder before looking around nervously as birds often do. I was too occupied by my new accessory to notice that the three gods had all dropped to their knees in front of me. To say it wasn’t an ego boost would be a lie. I tried to look over my shoulder but the raven was in my way, digging in its’ claws in if I tried to move too much.
‘What’s gotten into you three?’ I asked out loud. It shouldn’t have come as a surprise when the bird on my shoulder answered.
‘They’re paying their respects, idiot.’ I looked at the raven from the corner of my eye. He matched me as we sized each other up.

The pure whites of his tiny avian eyes looked strange and otherworldly. It wouldn’t be me if I didn’t play dumb and push my luck so I asked what I was thinking.
‘Who are they respecting, you?’ I almost laughed before I realised who exactly I was laughing at. ‘Ah, Hel.’ I said.
‘She’s over there buddy.’ He replied, puffing up his feathers lightly. His name fell out of my mouth before I could stop myself from sounding even more stupid. ‘Munin?’ I guessed. One of Odin’s ravens; Hugin and Munin. Thought and memory. I hung my head a little in shame, also hoping it would be enough to avoid some terrible retribution for my faux pas. The stories said that Odin sent out his ravens into the world every morning and each night they flew back and told him all that they had seen in the day. The fact that one of them had turned up here meant that if Odin didn’t know about this already he soon would.
‘The old man sends his regards.’ The raven cawed at the kneeling gods. So the All Father knew already. This could be either a really good or a very bad thing.
‘Oh get up. I like a grovelling god as much as the next bird but this is a little pathetic.’

As the gods stood up sullenly, the birds filling up the hall shifted and flapped their wings in unison, unsure of the sudden movement. Hel and Baldr looked their respectful selves while Loki’s mouth was distorted into an angry snarl. Probably annoyed that his fun got interrupted, like a naughty child getting caught by father. Munin preened himself on my shoulder, ignoring his audience for a while. The power that its office held allowed the raven to get away with a lot more than it should have been capable of. The gods were not known for their patience, least of all Loki.
‘Get on with it bird before I decide to chance the All Father’s wrath yet again and dispose of you and your friends.’ He eyed the raven hungrily but it wasn’t phased.
‘Watch your tongue, trickster. You’re in enough strife as it is.’ The bird warned, his high pitched caws hurting my ears.
‘Strife?’ The god questioned. ‘I’ve done nothing wrong.’ He protested. I stifled an objection, Munin looking at me as my shoulders shook as I held in the snort of laughter. I apologised quietly and tried to remain still.
‘I’ve just had some quality time with my daughter in the mortal realm. Surely the all powerful Odin couldn’t object to a family spending time together? I even invited his son to join in.’

So good were his powers I started to believe he hadn’t done anything wrong myself. Luckily the bird wasn’t having any of it.
‘Your silver tongue wont work on me, so don’t bother.’ His claws shifted and dug fresh holes in my skin. ‘You’ve desecrated one of his most sacred temples with one of your twisted schemes. The fact that Hel is your daughter is naught. She controls the underworld, don’t think we haven’t noticed your attempts over the past millennium to gain control of that domain. An army of the unworthy is still an army and nobody wants you at the head of one.’ I could see the great mind working behind the scenes as Loki processed this information. Working out just how much had been figured out and where his wriggle room was. I’d seen it enough times on mortals as I pressed them for information. Sometimes it was best to knock the air out of the smug ones by telling them exactly what they were up to. Showed them you were just as smart, if not smarter. It tended to annoy the Hel out of them. Loki was no exception.

The god smiled. He’d been beaten but I could see he had another plan behind his eyes. He stepped forward and gave a curt bow to the envoy of Odin before turning and extending the other two gods much the same courtesy. He stood upright and smiled at Munin. His smug face soon turned to concern when nothing happened after a few seconds. You could see the concentration on his face. My only guess is that he was trying to teleport away but something was stopping him.

The raven laughed heartily in my ear, the sharp crackle of it’s amusement piercing through my head. Loki angrily thrust an accusing finger at the raven.
‘What have you done to me bird?’ His voice crackled electrically. I was suddenly very aware that the focus of Loki’s anger was sitting on my shoulder and quite possibly invulnerable, unlike his choice of perch. I tried to communicate my fears to Hel by rapidly looking at her and Munin but she didn’t seem to pick up on my concern.
‘You’re in the largest temple of Odin, trickster. And you just expected to blink out of here unpunished? You’re more fool than I thought.’ Munin’s voice was low and strong, for a raven. The glow of Loki’s eyes slowly started to fade, not entirely but they no longer flared when he blinked, which I took to be a good sign. I was wrong.

The blast took us all by surprise as Loki sent a bolt of green energy hurling towards the statue of Odin. Its marble face exploded, along with the several dozen ravens that had alighted there. Unlike their familiar companion, the ravens were not imbued with godly power and as such didn’t survive. The smell of burnt feathers and marble dust quickly reached my nose. Munin was unfazed by the display, and I wish I could have said the same for myself but that would have been a lie. I looked at the hole where Odin’s face had been and swallowed down my fear. This is what happens when you stick your neck out for people James, one day you’ll remember that.
‘Keep it up trickster.’ Cawed Munin. ‘At this point you’ve got nothing to lose.’
‘Don’t tell him that.’ I half whispered out of the corner of my mouth. Anyone with half a brain could see that a god with nothing left to lose is a dangerous thing. Loki’s eyes started to shine brighter, the green glow covering half his face. His hands had become giant balls of emerald light as he started to hurl energy around the raven filled hall. On instinct I crouched down, dragging Munin with me, his wings outstretched to balance himself but his claws dug in and held on.
‘Stupid, stupid bird!’ I shouted above the sound of marble and ravens exploding. I threw my hands up over my head in a pathetic attempt to stay safe. The explosions started to come less frequently as I saw Hel and Baldr crash tackle the enraged Loki. The three distinct colours of the gods danced around the floor as they struggled to subdue the errant god. A stray blast of green light sailed over my head as I quickly ducked back down. My eyes closed involuntarily as more loose bolts few overhead. Soon however they slowed down and ceased altogether.

‘Get up, mortal. It’s all over.’ The raven crowed next to my head. Cautiously I lowered my arms and seeing the trickster god, Loki bound by Hel and Baldr I felt safer and stood up. I surveyed what was left of the great hall. Black scorch marks marred the once white walls and little remained of the large oak furniture. Odin’s effigy was more the worse, only his legs remained intact, one of his wolves headless but still sitting loyally at his side. Worse yet was the massacre of the ravens. They say the collective noun for ravens is a murder, well if they weren’t before they certainly were now.
‘Quite a temper you’ve got there Loki. You should get that looked at.’ I said, hoping that the two other gods had a firm grip on his arms. Luckily he all but ignored me. His attention focused instead on Munin.
‘Odin won’t be able to hold me for long. He knows this. You all know this.’ He said, struggling against his own daughter and the son of the All Father.
‘Yes, we know.’ Replied the raven, his wing stretched out towards the door. ‘But for the time that we will have you, it will be worth it.’ The doors swung open and I half expected to see Odin himself standing there. Instead, the Icelandic town had disappeared, replaced with a stereotypical Norse village, like you would expect to see as a miniature in a museum. A high, circular wall ran the length of the area, its white stones glistening in the sunlight. At one point I swear I could see an eight legged horse flying through the air but my eyes were becoming increasingly painful the more I looked outside.

‘Asgard.’ Came the hushed whisper from Baldr. I looked at the god, his body practically shone with the same bright intensity as the Asgardian sun. Like me though, Hel had to shield her eyes from the world.
‘Is that true?’ I asked the raven. ‘Is this the land of the gods?’ He cawed and nodded his head before alighting from my shoulder. He landed on top of one of the temple doors and looked down upon Loki.
‘Let him go, he won’t be any trouble now.’ He said. Hel and Baldr released their grips and the trickster god righted himself, rubbing his wrists.
‘Come on, let’s not keep him waiting.’ Said the raven before flying off through the doorway. I had my doubts that Loki would comply but he was suddenly very cooperative and silently followed the speck of black that flew off into the brightness that was Asgard. In a second it was all over and the doors sealed themselves, leaving me alone with the two remaining gods. Both had dropped their otherworldly glows, except for Baldr’s natural white glow which I was now considered a part of him rather than a reaction to anything. Idly I brushed off the dust that had collected on my sleeves as I waited for one of them to say something. I sighed and took the initiative.
‘Where to now?’ I asked out of curiosity. ‘Home?’

Baldr smiled at me and placed a warm and loving hand on my shoulder. ‘Home is always with you, James.’ I was about to question him as it sounded like religious nonsense when I realised that I was in fact, standing in my pitiful apartment. Neither Baldr nor Hel were with me, just the empty hum of the refrigerator and the scuttling of the mice in walls to keep me company.
‘Bloody gods.’ I said to the empty and desolate room.

Chapter Fourteen...

Header image by Aleksey Ihnatov from Pixabay.

Edward Shaddow

Published 8 months ago