Nothingness

Nothingness
The wall appears to be chiseled from one large block of marble. As if the Gods
themselves found a piece of black marble large enough to cover an area apparently the size of Kansas. In fact the Gods themselves did, for this is the wall of Asgaard, realm of the Gods.

Seated amidst mountains of mist and covering fully half of existence, the city of the Norse dead is surrounded by this towering wall of rough black marble. From the mountains, a stone paved path winds down to the foot of the wall. On the path a group of figures are descending its flagstones, working their way to the foot of an immense silver gate, that stands ajar, opening the way for any travelers.
The gate is a delicate appearing mesh of shining sliver; if closed, even Thor could not force it open. He has tried. It must be that strong, it guards the only path between the land of the living and the land of the dead. Approximately forty souls are approaching the gate; one leads. She is a large woman, with long blonde hair braided down her back. Her white robes flow around her, giving the appearance of reality and solidity, an odd sight in the spirit world. Turning to those who follow her she focuses her gaze on each in turn, ³No matter what happens, do not go through the gate. Only the Seekers may go through. You are not prepared for what will be on the other side.² Her followers do not react, those whose eyes are open are more interested in the terrain. The majority of the people appear to be sleeping, their faces are relaxed and their eyes are closed. Of those whose eyes are open, only a few are awake and alert. Two are especially noteworthy. One is a tall youth with shoulder length blonde hair, the other is sightly shorter, with long curly dark brown hair. He is wearing a kilt and a short, ceremonial sword at his belt. The blonde lad is standing still, absorbing his surroundings with a passion. He seems to be looking for something. After the leader¹s speech she turns to the man wearing the kilt, ³Adric, are you ready to find our guide?² ³Yes, I will go and seek a spirit whose knowledge can serve our needs.² With a solemn bow, he moves through the gate, vanishing quickly into the swirling darkness on the other side. The blonde youth finally moves, walking slowly to the gate, peering through intently. A piercing scream startles him and he nearly falls through. His proximity makes it more natural than intelligent to plunge between the silver mesh after a young woman who has brushed him aside and charged into the darkness after Adric. The youth regains awareness on a dirt road that winds away into a sunny forest. The young man leans down to check on the woman, who is lying prone on the ground, under a massive oak tree. She has a bruise on her forehead, most likely a result from her collision with a low hanging branch. ³Dana, are you ok?² Sitting up she asks ³Who are you, and why do you know my name?² ³My name is Chad, I met you at the Pombajira ritual last night, you dance very well.² ³Well Chad, no, I am not ok, I was just chased by a huge wolf and I ran into a tree.² ³Wolf? I didn¹t see a wolf.² ³How could you miss that? It hundreds of feet tall snarling and howling, it chased me!²
Dana shook with obvious fear as she relived her flight.

Regardless of Dana¹s assertions, Chad did not see the phantom wolf that drove Dana through the gate. Chad was more concerned with discovering where they were and how to get home.
³Any idea where we are?²

³No.² She replies. The sunny forest and winding road were as unfamiliar to her as they are to Chad. Before they could explore their surroundings any further, a tremor threw them to the ground. An ear splitting howl shattered the blue sky, and seemed to rend the world itself. Suddenly the woods before them exploded into splinters as a gigantic wolf towering 400 feet high at the shoulder ran through and nearly crushed them with his passing. Close behind rode a group of warriors, riding strong horses, with long braided hair whipping behind them. Shouting insults and battle cries, they shook their axes in the air and followed the wolf in close pursuit. ³What the hell was that?² Chad exclaimed, dragging himself to his feet. Before Dana could respond a familiar voice interrupted him, ³I wouldn¹t say that word too many times, the Gods tend to know if their names are spoken here.² Adric appeared over the same rise the warriors came from only moments before. He seemed much more at home here than he had before their journey. ³Hel, she¹s the Goddess of the dead lands, right?² Dana asked. ³Yes, and this is her realm you are in, don¹t speak her name unless you wish to meet her.² Chad stood upright, dusting off his denim pants, regaining some measure of dignity.
³Adric, where is the gate we came through, can you find our way out?²
³Yes, I can find it, and I will not ask why you came here, when you were told not to.

Now that I have found you, little harm can be done, this way.² Adric moves off in the same
direction the wolf ran. Before long they could see the towering wall again, Dana was certain she cold make out the sheen of the silver gate. ³What is that?²
³What?² asks Adric looking up from the path.
³There in front of the gate, I see it too.² said Chad. ³It looks like that wolf we saw²
Chad is right, it is the dire wolf Fenris, who killed Odin at Ragnarok. He has fallen asleep in front of the gate, barring all passage. The hoard of warriors is surrounding Fenris, hacking at him with their axes, all they succeed in doing is dulling their blades in his fur.

³Not even Thor could move Fenris from that spot, we must wait until he moves, or find a way to move him ourselves.² Adric replies, strangely calm considering the large hairy problem barring their path. ³What?² Dana shrieks. ³You say Thor couldn¹t move him, and you expect us too?² ³I don¹t know how we could, but my patron will.² Adric replies, moving off to a clear spot of ground. Chad steps forward, ³Wait a minute. Who is your patron?² he demands. Adric looks back with a devilish gleam in his eye. Turning to the sky he cries ³Loki!² and steps back, waiting a reply. The response is not what he expects. A small tear begins in the air before him, growing larger until is it over twice the length of a man. Chad and Dana step back, Chad has a firm grip on Dana, to keep her from turning and running again. A man ten feet tall, wearing only short breeches and a steel belt steps through and seizes Adric with one hand, holding a mighty hammer over his head with the other. ³What do you want with that demon¹s spawn?² he bellows. The figure is obviously a God, his long blonde hair is tied back with a leather thong and he looks as if he could lift a mountain with one hand. A steady stream of yellow liquid drips down Adric¹s leg. ³My lord Thor, I merely sought his council on how to get home. I meant nothing by it.² ³It is forbidden to speak that name, you and your companions will return with me to face judgment.² At this point Dana shrieks and collapses to the ground, quivering and crying that she doesn¹t have anything to do with it. Ignoring her cries, Thor merely orders ³bring her² and steps aside for Chad to walk through the tear. Adrenalin can bring people through many encounters. While every part of his being cries to fall down or run away, Chad keeps his focus and manages to drag Dana through the tear, followed quickly by Thor. They materialize in the middle of a hall, filled with people. In the front of the hall is a table. Seated at this table are the Ancient Norse Gods, save Odin and Hel. Behind the trio of mortals are hordes of chanting Vikings waving bloody axes and crying ³Thor! Thor! Thor! Thor!² at a deafening volume. On the floor before the table, lying in a pool of blood, is the body of Loki, the trickster of the gods. As in legend he has fiery red hair, now soaked in blood. It looks as if his head has been caved in by a great hammer. Thor is now seated behind the table, holding Mjollnir in his right hand. In the corner a form is slumped over an empty tankard of ale. Thor stands, ³You are charged with disobeying the words of Thor, ruler of the Gods, the punishment for this is eternal death. Have you any words for your defense?² Chad steps forward, the other two are cowering on the floor, ³Yes, if we are already in the land of death, how is such a sentence to be carried out?² ³One of my warriors will stand over you at every sunrise and slay you once again. So you will not live in the next day.² ³Ah, thanks. Got it.² Chad nodded. ³One more question, could anything we say change your mind?²
³No.²
³I didn¹t think so, not even that we are not dead. Not yet, any?² Chad¹s sentence is cut off as Thor brings his hammer down on the table, smashing it in two.
³Wait! It is nearing sunset again, it is time.² Following Thor¹s decree all the Gods

rise and form a semicircle around the Body of Loki with Thor in the middle, his hammer raised.

Now that the Gods have moved, the humans can see a tall iron door in the wall behind the Gods, bound and barred tight. Several minutes pass and all in the hall remain motionless. Suddenly things begin to move, first the shattered table begins to reform, then Loki¹s body reforms as well. The blood that stains the floor pulls itself back into his veins and his heart begins to beat again.

Looking up in terror Loki only has time to stammer ³W-wait?² before Thor brings his hammer down on his skull. In unison the Gods chant, ³As life is given every night, so is Loki¹s taken with
evening light.² Adric¹s jaw is slack with horror as he stares at the recently butchered form of his patron.

After the Gods have taken their seats again, Thor sustains his judgment. ³Loki is the one who brought Ragnarok on us, and his blood condemned us to this unchanging Hel. For that will he be perpetually dead. Now you claim to be living?² Chad steps forward again, ³Yes, mighty Thor. We seek only to return to the land of the living, and to leave your affair; we seek no interference.² Thor¹s response is not heartening. ³If we cannot return to life, why should you? We require time to consider this matter. Your judgment shall be passed at tomorrow night¹s
council.²

The next evening the three are again placed before the council of the Gods. The ritual circling of Loki begins again, only this time as Thor raises his hammer, the wall behind him crumbles and Fenris crashes into the room, crushing countless warriors and inspiring Thor to alter his swing and hurl Mjollnir at the charging form of Fenris, right as Loki regains consciousness and rolls away from Thor. By the time Mjollnir returns to Thor¹s hand Loki is upright and standing next to
Fenris. ³Thank you my son. ³ he sighs, ³I do not relish the feeling of Mjollnir.² With the setting of the sun, the damage done to Fenris by Mjollnir is as past as Loki¹s death.
Thor steps forward and appears ready to smash Loki¹s head again, but Loki stops him with words. ³Brother Thor, would you like to finish the world as it was meant to be ended, and quit this mockery of life once and for all?²

Thor hesitates, ³I know your tricks, Loki. You brought the end upon us and betrayed us more than once.² ³I know the horror of this eternal life better than you Thor, and I know well how to end it.² ³How?² ³Hel has not had a companion since Ragnarok, I think we have found one for her.²
Turning to Adric, ³My child, are you ready to serve your master?²
The three humans have been staring in awe since Fenris crashed through the wall. Now
Adric falls anxiously to his knees. ³Yes my Lord, as always.²
A smile crosses Thor¹s face as he realizes Loki¹s plan. ³Open the vault!² The other Gods hurry to open the iron doors behind the table. As they open Chad discovers why Hel did not come when he spoke her name. encased in transparent crystal the Goddess Hel is as unchanging as her Land has always been.

The power that keeps the land of the dead, Asgaard, unchanged night after night, is the power of stasis which surrounds Hel like a diamond tomb. Gently nudging Adric to the front of the room, Loki places his hand behind Adric?s back and turns to Thor, ³You can apologize anytime, I¹m waiting.² Thor lifts his hammer, smiles and says, ³Lets see if it works first Loki.² In response Loki hurls Adric into the arms of Hel. His body seems to meld with the crystal. Adric¹s living essence comes into contact with the essence of death, a reaction unforeseen in the creation of the universe. The fabric of space begins to unravel as the paradox expands and it dawns on Thor what Loki has done. What Thor thought would free them from stasis has freed them from existence. The reaction here will expand and destroy them all. Even the lands of men will not escape this Ragnarok. Before the tear overtakes him, Thor hurls Mjollnir one last time, seeing it take a life one last time. The two humans only know that what has just happened is very very bad. As the tear passes through the Gods in just under a second, Dawn faints and Chad has time to think, ³We shouldn¹t have gone through the gate² before the nothingness over takes his senses.

Nothingness 7.7 of 10 on the basis of 1691 Review.