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Prose Equus 26: Bleeding Gods.

By MAndroid
Created: 9th March 2021 08:40:43 AM
Modified: 9th March 2021 08:49:31 AM
AiE Safe Anon OC Adventure Drama Action

  1. Prose Equus 26
  2.  
  3. >You stand on the balcony of your room overlooking the city of Asgard.
  4. >The apple in your hand crunches as you take a hearty bite out of it, refocusing your thoughts around the sharp taste and sighing.
  5. “Back to it then…”
  6. >You return into your room and back to the desk kept in the corner. Upon the desk was a piece of parchment, curled at the edges from being rolled up and stuffed into the space behind a loose brick you’d found.
  7. >Ink upon parchment swirled together at your touch to create a web of connected bubbles over time, as each piece of the puzzle the gods around you thought you too dim to notice was silently gathered into your hands. Let them keep thinking you a dullard, they wouldn’t be the first.
  8. >You start at the center, the biggest word circled and with the most branches stemming from it.
  9. “Ragnarok…the end of the world…”
  10.  
  11. >From the cave murals found in the Griffon kingdoms to Twilight’s book and the lecture All-Mother had given you, the doomsday prophecy seemed carved into every facet of every story you’d heard up here.
  12. “All things must end…but why like that? Why together?”
  13. >You trace the lines from the center out to other, smaller circles that each still contain questions.
  14. >What was the truth black ooze that you and Loki had been collecting? The Eitr.
  15. >What exactly was the relationship the All-Mother had with the Sirens at the bottom of the Well of Urd? Even the fables knew them as the Norns and they were intrinsically tied to Ragnarok, but somehow, they were also the ones Starswirl the Bearded banished so long ago?
  16. >Moreover, what was the deal with the Queen’s children? Baldur had his mysterious aversion to pine trees, Mjolna held incredible power and an even greater adversarial relationship with her mother that no others held, Tyr beat the crap out of you when you first arrived and remained distance since, and even saying Loki’s name was enough to understand everything SHE was hiding. That doesn’t even mention the perpetually furious Vidar out on his farm or the mysterious “Hermod” that you’d yet to be formally introduced to.
  17. >All these things had one thing in common; the Queen you knew so little about. Beneath her bubble on the parchment rested a phrase you’d heard dozens of times since entering Asgard, one that burned in the back of your mind each day.
  18. “But WHY are there no Frost Giants?”
  19.  
  20. >Tales of the giants themselves reached all the way down to Midgard, stories of monsters that lived in the hills of the Crystal Empire or Gryphus or other equally frigid climes. How could there be such an incongruity between the myths recorded down below and the reality that you were told up here? Especially when the Queen was detailing that the book you’d read in Twilight’s library on Ragnarok was about as good as talking to her about it.
  21. >You’d heard talk of Jotunheim so you know that their ancient home exists, but never had you heard of anyone traveling to it. Over time you’ve seen antlered elves, stout dwarves, and ravenous flame spirits arrive in Asgard as diplomats, each with an attitude as icy as the mysterious giants, but never the creatures themselves.
  22. >Your eyes drift upward towards Queen’s bubble as you think. All these branches lead back to her, and she was as connected to the prophecy of Ragnarok as anyone else was.
  23. >You think; She’d sent you and the others out searching for mystical visions through time of her slaying deities and monsters before any of her children were born, why? Was it her way of telling you about herself? If it was, you had no idea what it was for.
  24. “If I knew more, then perhaps…”
  25. >Your eyes drift from her name to the names of each of her children connected to her.
  26. “If any would know the Queen…it would be her children, wouldn’t it?”
  27. >You take the last bite of your apple and chew both it and that thought over. Right now, it was all you had to go on, so it was either have a series of uncomfortable talks with the Princess and Princesses of Asgard or give up here.
  28. >You gulp down the fruit as another thought enters your head.
  29. >The Queen knew everything that happened in the palace and possibly beyond, she would notice if you went around asking questions.
  30. >Meaning first you’d have to find a way around her sight.
  31. “Hmm…Loki may have a trick up her sleeve…”
  32. >She was as good a place to start as any.
  33.  
  34. >”More.”
  35. >You sigh
  36. “Loki, I’m offering you my ice blade, the Golden Fleece AND my helmet. I don’t have much else I can give.”
  37. >”Well you better find something because that is not enough!” the princess says, striking her bed she lay on with her hoof.
  38. >”You come to my chambers and ask for an amulet that can hide you from Mother’s sight?? Do you know how DIFFICULT those are to create?”
  39. >Loki gestures grandly and frightens her pet eels. “I don’t see you finding any old hoof clippings from the Naglfar!”
  40. “I really don’t know what that is.”
  41. >”IT’S-“
  42. “And I don’t have the time to find out!”
  43. >Loki puffs up her cheeks. “You are STUNNINGLY bad at haggling!”
  44. “Look, it’s important! I’m investigating something!”
  45. >”And what might that be!?”
  46. >She was getting annoyed; this would turn into a full blown argument if you raise your voice.
  47. >Instead you sigh, take a mental step back, and keep yourself calm.
  48. “What do you know about your Mother? Truly know, I mean.”
  49. >Loki makes a face. “Wh-what’s this about all of a sudden?!”
  50. >Oh no.
  51. >”Why would I know anything?! I avoid Mother whenever possible! Our relationship is one based on mutual avoidance and that works FINE for the both of us! She doesn’t have to see me and I don’t have to upset her! When she’s not upset at me, I’m not punished which is just FINE with me! I-“
  52. “Loki!”
  53. >You raise off your seat and spread your hands like you would to calm a wild goat, Loki silences herself.
  54. “Relax. You’re going to burst a blood vessel.”
  55. >Loki take some time to regain her composure while you take a seat again, sighing to yourself.
  56. “I’m sorry, I forget your situation sometimes. Being the youngest as well as adopted…”
  57. >”What?” Loki asks, tilting her head to the side.
  58. >Oh boy.
  59.  
  60. “Uh…well…” you begin. “Adoption, you know. Being in a family you aren’t born into. It must be hard on you.”
  61. >Loki goes “tch” dismissively and sneers. “Perhaps that may be the case on Midgard or other backwards realms, but you’ll not find such a practice in Asgard.”
  62. >Now it is your turn to tilt your head.
  63. “Beg pardon?”
  64. >”Our customs, No-name! In Asgard, you be considered a part of a family is to BELONG to it! Don’t think you can trick me with your mind games to improve your haggling position! I am Loki Sleipnirdottir! Princess of Asgard and heir to the throne!...Even if it’s last in line!” she boldly proclaims.
  65. >You take a few seconds to chew that over.
  66. “Hmm…I wasn’t aware of that.”
  67. >”I can’t see how. Why would I call my Mother or sister or brothers such if I didn’t see them that way?”
  68. >You click your tongue a bit befuddled, you hadn’t expected that kind of swerve.
  69. “I honestly can’t say. I apologize, Princess.”
  70. >”I magnanimously accept! For the grace of the Crown knows not any boundary that exists!”
  71. “Don’t push it.”
  72. >Loki sticks out her tongue.
  73.  
  74. “What happened to your birth parents?”
  75. >Loki’s tongue goes back in her mouth and her face morphs to an almost disinterested one.
  76. >”They died.”
  77. “How?”
  78. >”Not well.”
  79. >Right well that was a clue to shut up if you’d ever heard one.
  80. “Message received.”
  81. >”Mm.”
  82. >Loki flips through the book she was reading and lights a candle without looking at it. “I’m told I’ve been at this palace since near the day I was born and have no memory of who birthed me. If you’re searching for information like that, you’ll need to ask one of my siblings.” She says as she turns the page. “Perhaps they can help you with your newfound creepy obsession with Mother.”
  83. >You let that slide in the presence of business.
  84. “I’d need a way to avoid Her sight if I were to do that.”
  85. >Loki rolls her eyes and groans. “Fffffiiiiiiiiiiine, No-name, Fine. Your pathetic nature has scraped out some of my pity. I will allow you to BORROW one of my talismans, but I will demand it back!”
  86. >Loki points her book at you. “Any scratches and it comes out of your hide!”
  87. “Alright, I get it! Thank you!”
  88. >”Hmph!”
  89. “…Who would I even ask about this?”
  90. >”Well, Mjolna is the closest to me in terms of age…”
  91.  
  92. >Later on, at the tavern in the lower city, Mjolna slams her ale stein onto the counter. “She’s a bitch, is that all you needed?”
  93. “Uh…”
  94. >You clutch the amulet Loki had lent you in your pocket.
  95. “I must admit, I’d hoped for a tad more when I came searching for you.”
  96. >Mjolna snorts and drinks again. “Alright. She’s a controlling, manipulative, cruel, aggressive, and egotistical bitch. How’s that?”
  97. “Also a bit unhelpful?”
  98. >”Well if I keep talking about my mom, I’ll say something so nasty it’ll make you blush.”
  99. >From the first day you’d met Mjolna, you could tell she didn’t have the usual reverence for Sleipnir that was common in Asgard. The way she invoked her name was without weight or presence like even Loki had. It sort of reminded you of the way one would refer to a piece of refuse.
  100. >You begin to think this could be a waste of time.
  101. “Alright, I get it, fine. You don’t think highly of your mother, I’ll just-“
  102. >”WRONG!” Mjolna says, slamming the stein down again. Silence passes between the two of you as the once-wayward princess grinds her jaw.
  103. >”That’s wrong. I dislike my mother, sure, there’s a lot to dislike. But what do I THINK of her? Tch. Respect the Hel out of her…I have to.”
  104. “Okay…That is a monumental contradiction.”
  105. >”Life’s full of little inconsistencies.” She snorts.
  106. “Can you tell me why at least?”
  107.  
  108. >Mjolna turns and spits into a plant, you make a mental note that the well-beloved teacher was a bit of a mean drunk. “Oh you bet I can. You may have found me on Midgard, but I grew up here, under the crown. Since I was little I had that old goat glaring down at me, telling me I was her heir, that I had a mountain of expectations to climb before I could walk.”
  109. >She finishes off her drink. “But I guess stubbornness is genetic because you know what? That’s exactly what I DID. All the pressure of the world and every challenge she made and I STILL rose to it, to where now I’m the only one in the whole Nine Realms who can lift her magic mallet.”
  110. >Mjolna kicks the hammer on the floor with her hoof.
  111. >”But it was never ENOUGH. It was always ‘more more more, I demand more from you’. Pteh…”
  112. “The crown is…heavy.”
  113. >”Don’t I know it…” she says quietly. “So yeah, my mom’s awful, and the way she raised me was worse. But think low of her? I don’t think that’s possible.”
  114. ”How come?”
  115. >”Because across all of Asgard I’m considered the most powerful Aesir, but everything that I could do is barely a notch on mom’s teeth in comparison. I hold dominion over thunder, but she holds so much more than that. Really, you should look up a recording of her titles one day, the list is longer than you are tall.”
  116.  
  117. >Two children down and you weren’t closer to learning enough about Sleipnir to satisfy your curiosity…that didn’t bode well. Perhaps it was time for a different tactic.
  118. “I remember when we first met, you said that Frost Giants killed your father…”
  119. >Mjolna grumbles in a new way, not in anger but something else. “Yes…dad died…not well.”
  120. >Her choice of words makes you narrow your eyes.
  121. >Drink and sadness made it clear to you that you weren’t going to get anything else out of her, but you don’t exactly want to anger the god of thunder.
  122. >You place ten hacksilver coins on the counter.
  123. “Keep her in drink, barkeep. The tab is on me today.”
  124. >Mjolna laughs and gives you a wry smile. “Buying my forgiveness for ruining my day, No-name?”
  125. “Yep.”
  126. >Why lie? This wasn’t Loki.
  127. “Enjoy your drinks princess, and please don’t smash me when we next meet.”
  128. >”If I do this right, I won’t even remember.” She says as her next drink comes.
  129. >You exit the tavern and grip the talisman again.
  130. >Mjolna was far too dour on her mother to question about this, you’d need to ask someone with a sunnier disposition.
  131. >And that left exactly one candidate.
  132.  
  133. >You confirm from a steward that Baldur was practicing his swordplay in a nearby courtyard and you arrive just in time to catch him being slapped through the air and crushing a pile of crates.
  134. “Oh lord.”
  135. >You make haste over to check on the prince and find him raising himself out of the wood and fruits expectantly unscathed. “One more time! I feel I’m getting the hang of this! Oh, hello No-name!”
  136. “Enjoying the air, Prince?”
  137. >”I’m being taught swordplay!”
  138. “How’s that going?”
  139. >”You can ask my teacher!” Baldur says gesturing behind you.
  140. >You look over your shoulder to Rover resting is blade on the ground.
  141. >”Throwing pony prince not get Rover head chopped off, right?”
  142. “Let’s say ‘probably not’. Can the prince and I have some privacy? I need to talk about something important with him.”
  143. >Your outings with Baldur had been more known of late, so Rover didn’t resist in the slightest. “Rover be drinking out of fountain when you need him.” he says before walking off.
  144. >Baldur gets himself out of the crates of fruit he squashed and sets his sword down. “Something to talk about? What questions can I answer?”
  145. >You almost laugh at how on-point that was. Your mind was a storm of unknowns that ensnared every one of your thoughts, you have no doubt you could keep Baldur here for an hour just reciting them all before he even got a chance to answer any.
  146. >You decide to settle.
  147. “What’s your mother like?”
  148.  
  149. >Your attention is immediately piqued. Both of Sleipnir’s daughters reacted to that same question with some level of anger that you were asking it.
  150. >However here, with her youngest son, you words cause a dark cloud to cover the courtyard. Baldur’s face dips a bit.
  151. >”Mother? What do you mean?”
  152. “I’m afraid I don’t know how best to say it beyond just that, Baldur. You’ve known her for your entire life, how would you describe her having grown up with her?”
  153. >Baldur’s face falls more and he looks to the ground. The calm breeze that came through the courtyard and carried the scent of lilies is no longer.
  154. >“Mother…complicated…I suppose ‘complicated’ would be the word I would use the most freely…”
  155. “Meaning?”
  156. >Baldur laughs a sad, solitary laugh and looks upwards, past the palace spires and to the sky beyond.
  157. >”Do you ever recall those memories in the back of your mind, No-name, from when you were but a babe? The thoughts you were sure you had once upon a time but that have become so clouded by time that you barely make them out anymore?”
  158. “I can’t say I do, Baldur. I was an adult when I arrived in Equestria, and an amnesiac at that.”
  159. >”Mm…” the prince mutters. “Even at my age, I still remember some of those earliest recollections…through these clouds, I remember a warmth as pure and potent as the setting sun soaking into my hide and behind it, my mother’s loving smile…”
  160. >Baldur smiles a bit and blinks something in his eyes away. You hear him ask “Was it truly so long ago…?” beneath his breath. ”Whenever I seek to be the kind of prince I wish to be…I try to recall that warmth I felt once, and perhaps impart it onto others…”
  161. >The queen smiling was an odd enough sight but a warm one at that? That was decidedly new.
  162.  
  163. “All who have eyes can see that’s not the case now, Baldur…what happened?”
  164. >Baldur’s smile fades as another cloud rolls in; his eyes unfocus as he recalls something that you don’t have any answers about.
  165. >”Her heart froze over…”
  166. >Your eyes narrow.
  167. “Frost giants do that, did they?”
  168. >”There are no frost giants, No-name.”
  169. “There were within Mjolna’s lifetime, she says.”
  170. >You hear Baldur suck air through his teeth and see his eyes widen before he turns to you. The look the invincible god met your eyes with, one of downright fear and shock, reminded you of the night with Krampus.
  171. >”How much do you-“
  172. “Enough to start demanding answers but not enough that asking three of you godlings has satisfied me.”
  173. >Baldur takes a step back from you like you’d just drawn your sword on him. Your first instinct is to calm your friend, it was no use prodding him with these questions if he never spoke to you again, but he wouldn’t let you.
  174. >”I cannot say anymore No-name.”
  175. “Baldur you don’t-“
  176. >”PLEASE don’t think poorly of me it—I can’t say any more about—”
  177. >A tense moment passes between both of you before Baldur turns and runs into an adjacent hall.
  178. “Dammit…”
  179. >You hear a dog slurping behind you. “Lessons over?”
  180. >You didn’t see any of that coming, but you bet someone who did might have answers.
  181.  
  182. >From the courtyard down the bridge to the Keep of the Bifrost, you march. You push both doors open with all your might and find the battlement empty of all save the solitary watchpony overlooking the well that lead to the rainbow bridge.
  183. >Heimdall tears his gaze from his station and looks you in the eyes. Even here you feel the weight behind his eyes, like looking long into the Queen’s only there were two of them and they were colder.
  184. >”Go on, ask.” He says knowingly.
  185. “I’m not asking. Let me into the realm of the frost giants. If I can’t get the answers I seek here, I’ll go there, you lot are clearly hiding something there.”
  186. >Heimdall waits a moment before responding. “That it? All done?”
  187. “I’m not playing here, Heimdall!”
  188. >”And yet you come to my keep asking things so foolish that they could only be jests.”
  189. “I-“
  190. >”You weren’t asking, I know. I am choosing to have heard you phrase it in a more respectful manner so that we don’t have an incident here.”
  191. >Your frustrations mount and your temper flares, you take a few steps towards the watchpony gripping your pocket to avoid any “incidents” being seen.
  192. >”I see that talisman as well.”
  193. >And then you stop in your tracks. Nuts.
  194. >Heimdall’s face contorts into a self-satisfied grin. “The Queen may perhaps be too busy to notice such a thing, but it is not beyond my sight.”
  195. “Oh yeah, did you see this?”
  196.  
  197. >You reach forward and grab one of the many maces on the many racks scattered around the keep, to protect from invaders more than likely.
  198. >Heimdall raises his eyebrow while you glare at him.
  199. >”Seriously?”
  200. “If you’re desperate enough and can’t get what you need by asking…”
  201. >”All this over a scrap of paper you keep?”
  202. >You point the mace at Heimdall and assume a fighting stance.
  203. “Just because you see everything doesn’t mean you know everything. You don’t know me, or what I’ve seen, or how far I’ll go to do something about it, which is a damn sight more than anyone in this city.  So the next words out of your mouth better tell me you’re ready to protect that well or else you’re going to be losing some teeth.”
  204. >Heimdall appears unamused, but tilts his neck to the side and cracks several of his joints. “I’ve held watch on this gate for my entire life. You believe you can do what nearly all of Asgard’s enemies couldn’t?”
  205. “Gotta try.”
  206. >You duck low and rush to the stairs at Heimdall’s side, sparing him a quick glance to assess the situation.
  207. >You wish you hadn’t.
  208.  
  209. >The eyes of Heimdall the watchpony see all there is to see in the Nine Realms, so that no enemy of the crown can make an attack on Asgard.
  210. >His gaze is unyielding, his vision absolute, and his perception nearly infinitesimal.
  211. >Unlike before, this time when you meet his eyes, you are overtaken with a profound sense of vertigo and yet you have difficulty looking away.
  212. >Images flash in your mind of everything that’s happening at this moment. You see Princess Celestia lowering the moon while a pair of elven children dance in an open field.
  213. >Smoke billows from mountains as dwarves continue their craft and the fires of Muspleheim rage and cinder all they touch.
  214. >The evening mists of Niflheim’s frost settle in and you see yourself dropping to your knees as the keep is approached by another.
  215. >You gasp and find you are indeed on your knees.
  216. “A-“
  217. >”Careful now.” Heimdall says. “If I’d looked any harder, I might have killed you. Get some air back in your lungs before you do anything else stupid.”
  218. >You grit your teeth and take heavy breaths, feeling the ignition of your heart send fire into your limbs. After getting the runaround by everyone all day, you are more than a little cheesed off. You push yourself up with your mace, ready to make another go at your doomed charge before another voice cuts you off.
  219. >”Enough Heimdall, this fight is anything but fair.”
  220.  
  221. “Wonderful…” you say, spitting the copper from your mouth. “Here comes the fun police…”
  222. >You turn to the door in time for High General Tyr to make his grand entrance into the keep. Normally the general was accompanied by his honor guard or at least a squire, but today finds him alone.
  223. “My lord…”
  224. >You say that with an exaggerated flourish.
  225. “You’ll have to excuse me if I don’t bow…your guard dog knocked the wind out of me.”
  226. >You hear Heimdall snort up the stairs. “Never heard that one before…”
  227. >”Stand down, No-name.” the lord orders. “Baldur came running to me at the Ulfiborg fretting, worried that you were sticking your snout where you have no business to.”
  228. >Tyr gives you a stern glare that’s probably melted the resolve of countless new recruits like the end of winter snow. “This is a direct order from your superior. Put the mace down, return to your quarters, and forget everything you spoke of today.”
  229. >You, however, are no raw recruit holding a weapon for the first time.
  230. “…I think I’ll lose respect for you if you honestly intended for that to work.”
  231. >Tyr snorts. “This is not for you to-“
  232. “Oh please do COME OFF IT!”
  233.  
  234. >Tyr recoils at your outburst which allows you to march up to him waving your mace.
  235. “I have spent the ENTIRE day getting lead around like a lamb by every member of your family saying the exact same thing like you believe everyone who’d hear it is an idiot who can’t make the simplest connections!”
  236. “Everyone who looks knows your line about the Frost Giants is a bold faced lie! Your own sister told me that the Giants killed her father when we first MET!”
  237. >Tyr’s eyebrows dip in anger but you don’t let him talk.
  238. “That’s another thing! You ask her and Loki how their parents died, and you know what they BOTH say? ‘Not well’. Well General I happen to come from a realm where we teach our children such things like BASIC DEDUCTIVE REASONING so that when they hear the same answer from two different ponies about two seemingly unrelated deaths, they may think there’s some sort of correlation!”
  239. >You point up to the sky where the clouds have not left.
  240. “Even Baldur is running scared from this conversation enough to drag you all the way down here to be useless in a new locale for once! I’ve been dragged from my afterlife by your family, done whatever you’ve asked of me for MONTHS, risked my second life and generally acted like a good soldier and now I am cashing that in! I DEMAND an answer for what in Hel’s name is going on here and how I related to it and if I can’t get it from you then I’ll get it from somewhere else!”
  241. >Tyr glares again. “You don’t get to DEMAND anything of us, No-name!”
  242. “Did the Trio beneath the Tree tell you to say that?”
  243. >That may have been the wrong thing to say, in hindsight.
  244. >Both Tyr and Heimdall’s eyes widen like you just pulled your pants down.
  245. >”You-“
  246. “I’ve been. And I know. Now start talking.”
  247. >The General doesn’t start talking, instead he starts shouting. “You…you are an OUTSIDER! That you’ve even dreamt of what you speak of is an insult to everyone in this city, to ME!”
  248. “Then I take it this is a personal issue?”
  249. >The general grits his teeth and undoes his heavy cape, shifting the enchanted metal cap on the end of his hoof into a broadsword.
  250. >Fine! Violence is the only language these ponies understand anyway!
  251.  
  252. >You and Tyr fought, once before, before you’d revealed yourself to Midgard.
  253. >He had, as expected of a war god, handed you your rear.
  254. >But this time you were more than a little “cheesed off” some might say, and it carried your weapon arm well.
  255. >You whip your mace forward to block Tyr’s initial thrust with his blade.
  256. “Touched a nerve, have I?!”
  257. >Your voice is mocking, but your mind is dreadfully cold. The bruises from your last fight are fresh in your mind, and the General was fueled by a fury you’d yet to place and using a bladed weapon with expert precision. He could fight an army if he kept that up.
  258. >Your only hope is to do this fast, before his superior stamina can overtake you, and hope that his temper can be picked apart with more words.
  259. >What would the old chief say?
  260. “You can do better!”
  261. >Tyr’s pupils shrink as he snorts and rears back, flailing his hooves as ponies occasionally do.
  262. >Right there!
  263. >You can almost hear the Captain now. Your body follows his instructions on an instinctual level.
  264. >Distract and bait target.
  265. >When vulnerable press attack.
  266. >Heel kick to abdomen.
  267. >Weaken shoulder with mace strike.
  268. >Punish weakness.
  269. >Discombobulate with reverse roundhouse kick to the face.
  270. >Dazed, confused, he’ll attempt a wild overhead swing with his sword, which he does.
  271. >You use your superior height to catch the swing early and block with your mace.
  272. “Not today!”
  273. >Hooves above his head, impact jaw with armored knee.
  274. >Wound shoulder.
  275. >He finds himself against the wall and creates space.
  276. >Low on options, he charges.
  277. >Sidestep, then grab with free arm.
  278. >Push to wall.
  279. >Strike ribs.
  280. >Ears ringing, use momentary lapse to deliver heavy wind-up uppercut to jaw with mace.
  281. >The general flies over onto his back and your mace flies out of your hands striking what feels like solid steel. No matter.
  282. >Punish loss of footing with leaping punch to neck.
  283. >Straddle chest.
  284. >Pummel him.
  285. >Pummel him.
  286. >Pummel him.
  287.  
  288. >Punching the General in the face felt like beating on a rock covered with flesh. You didn’t know how long you could keep at it, but that was not enough for you to even consider stopping.
  289. >You were going to get to the bottom of this even if it killed you.
  290. >The sound of your fists bouncing off Tyr’s jaw in a rapid one-two rhythm filled the keep and even Heimdall simply stood and watched in shock.
  291. “If! This! Is! The! Best! Asgard! Has! Then! It’s! No! Wonder! You! Needed! Me!”
  292. >Tyr tries to bring his hooves up to protect his head and begins to slip past you. You needed to finish him but standing up for more strength would let him compose himself.
  293. “If you hate people finding out about your secrets so much then try not keeping them in the first blasted place!”
  294. >The general opens one eye, continuing to defend and never for a moment relenting. Whether due to your past frustrations with him or his pompous attitude, you start getting angrier.
  295. “Come on Wolf-boy! What happened to the pony who floored me in front of all his minions to show off!”
  296. >”Wasn’t showing-!” Tyr starts to get out before you hit him again.
  297. >You think back to the last time the two of you fought and what lead to it.
  298. “What is it then, huh? HUH?! What about me drives you to such fury! And why did it get worse when I told you about Captain Geaus!”
  299. >”My oh my…” you hear Heimdall say.
  300. >Through using his shoulder to block your assault, Tyr gives you a glare that could be ripped right from his mother herself. The fury behind that eye was not of the High-General, but of the one who muzzled the Dread-Wolf. It successfully gives you pause for a brief instant.
  301. >”You blinked!” Tyr says.
  302. >Looking down, you see that he’s angled his prosthetic metal hoof cap directly at your head. There’s a loud BANG as the cap fires off and impacts you in the jaw, sending you flying back off the General and onto the stone floor.
  303.  
  304. >You groan and rub your jaw.
  305. “Who…let that mammoth that hit me…in here?”
  306. >Rolling over and pushing yourself to your feet, you see that Tyr is already up and re-affixing his prosthetic hoof. He’s glaring a hole through the floor that he turns to direct at you, but keeps his mouth shut and remains still.
  307. “…Nice to see I haven’t ruined your stupid face.”
  308. >”I’m amazed you still have a head, let alone a jaw.”
  309. “Your mother has been forcing those golden apples you lot eat down my gullet every month. I guess they made me less fragile than you think of me?”
  310. >”You could only go up from what I thought.” He responds.
  311. “Prince Charming over here…”
  312. >Another pregnant pause holds the keep.
  313. >”…My lord?” Heimdall asks from atop his dias.
  314. >Tyr is silent and still for a moment longer before he finally bites out a response.
  315. >”Fine.”
  316. >Tyr stomps forward and strikes the ground with his metal limb. “Heimdall. As High-General and Crown Prince of Asgard, I command you to open the Bifrost to Jotunheim. Now.”
  317. >Heimdall contemplates his words. “You know what will happen, Lord.”
  318. >”Allow me to worry about that.” Tyr says.
  319. >”Very well, General…” the watchpony says before weaving his mystics upon the well.
  320. >Tyr turns his gaze to you and sneers.
  321. >”Wipe your mouth and leave your stolen mace here, No-name. The truth you seek will be your epitaph.”
  322.  
  323.  
  324. >You and Tyr ride through the Bifrost on the back of his war chariot as soon as it arrives, letting his three goats pull you through the sky.
  325. >From how Tyr spat out the word “Jotunheim” as well as Heimdall’s recalcitrance, you’d prepared yourself for seeing something drastic and awful.
  326. >What you saw was not something you were prepared for.
  327. >This was…not a realm, and it sapped all the anger you’d thought you had from your recent fight.
  328. >The air hangs with a stillness and finality you had not believe could be.
  329. >Mountains and ice stretch below you on the remains of what earth there once was here, traveling from where you arrived into the distance.
  330. >Looking down over the edge of the chariot, you drink in some of the apocalyptic view. Mountains risen around millennia old fortresses and battlements lie flattened into the ground or ripped from their roots. You see your first giant, a towering and frightening creature even from up with a wild mane and featureless eyes. An army of them stretches out along the path that extends before you, all frozen in an instant of fury and outrage.
  331. >At least the ones still in one piece, for there were just as many scattered limbs, torsos, and heads laying upon the ice.
  332. >No wind played against your skin in this world frozen in horror.
  333. >The sky above you, black as pitch with barley a single mote of light in it, like the stars themselves were afraid to look in its direction, was all around you.
  334. >There was no realm here.
  335. “Tyr…what in the Hel happened here…”
  336. >The General stares ahead as he directs his carriage, face as hard as stone but eyes deep and full of regret. He sighs the sigh of one who doesn’t know where to begin his tale.
  337.  
  338. >”You asked my siblings of how they view our mother…correct?”
  339. >You nod.
  340. “I did…”
  341. >”What happened here…can only be understood with my answer to that question. So I ask that you bear with me.”
  342. >Just as you, Tyr seemed to has lost all his rage from the fight after laying eyes on Jotunheim, or perhaps it was simply the memories he was recalling.
  343. >”Once…long ago it feels now, I was the chosen heir of Asgard. After Vidarr had left, before Mjolna was born, I was being molded for the throne from my earliest memory…”
  344. >Tyr strikes his armor above his heart with his prosthetic. “I am my mother’s son, war is in my blood and it was what I was bred for, and yet she tempered me with countless lessons from diplomats, peace weavers, and kings.”
  345. >”Once…it was my destiny to follow in her footsteps, mend the wounds she could not, and finally bring peace to our Nine Realms…”
  346. >You remain silent and nod so he knows.
  347. >”I was not like my brothers and sisters, faith in Mother was all I knew growing up and always felt like the right thing to do.”
  348. “What about-?”
  349. >You nod towards his metal hoof cap, Tyr laughs as he looks into it.
  350. >”Ah…this old thing. The aftermath of binding Fenrir to his prison. He would only sit still enough if one of us kept our hoof in his mouth, which I volunteered for.”
  351. “And then what?”
  352. >”Haha. He didn’t take kindly to seeing that we’d actually succeeded in trapping him afterwards.”
  353. >You nod.
  354. “Do you regret it?”
  355. >”Not for a moment, it needed to be done. Afterwards, when Mother saw what I’d given to stop the wolf, she congratulated my wisdom and declared me the God of Justice on the spot, for-“
  356. “ ’Power requires sacrifice’, she’s fond of that phrase, isn’t she?”
  357. >”Mm.” Tyr’s tired smile at remembering better days fades a bit as he recalls. “Though…that began to change just a few years later, after Mjolna was born.”
  358. >”After she met Geaus.”
  359.  
  360. >Your eyes widen.
  361. “You mean-“
  362. >”He was your captain, wasn’t he? I recall you saying such when we last fought…”
  363. >You nod and glance to your feet, recalling the old timer.
  364. “Captain Geaus was the Royal Guard Captain before the current one, Shining Armor. He…trained the two of us as his apprentices while our counterparts were off with…somepony else.”
  365. >You downright shiver remembering her.
  366. “I arrived in Equestria an adult with barely a brain in my skull, but the Captain looked past all that. He saw what I could do, how much I gave, and he let me try where others would have just let me wither. He shaped my entire life…my entire afterlife too, by the looks of it.”
  367. >”Mm..that sounds like him.” Tyr says, directing the carriage towards the only remaining mountain in Jotunheim.
  368. >”We met Geaus when he was brought to Valhalla, though Mother met him first. The Valkyries who brought him would take entire days to recount his heroic deeds that they saw upon his death.”
  369. >You nod again.
  370. “That adds up. The Captain sacrificed himself to stop a rampaging dragon from reaching a town when reinforcements were cut off. They ended up killing each other…”
  371. >”…Aye.”
  372. >Tyr turns the carriage.
  373. >”Mine, Hermod, and Baldur’s father is a powerful wizard, yes, nut he is simply a consort to the Queen, albeit her head consort.” Tyr looks back to you. “I wager you know what happened to Vidarr’s father.”
  374. >You recall the vision at his farm and swallow the lump in your throat.
  375. >”Geaus…was different, from all of them. Even a passing glance at he and Mother would tell you that they were obviously in love.”
  376. >The Captain fell in love with the Queen? Even crazier he made her love him back? You try to imagine the Queen Sleipnir you know being in love with someone and it makes your head hurt.
  377. “That sounds…like the plot of a crappy train station paperback I once read…”
  378. >Tyr lets out a deep throaty laugh.
  379. >”Indeed! But it was the truth!”
  380.  
  381. >Tyr’s carriage approaches the tallest remaining mountain in the realm, and you see it is no mountain.
  382. >You approach a palace, built of dark grey stones from the foot of the world until it scraped the heavens and frozen in eons of ice stretching over its surface.
  383. >Deep gouges in the ice and shattered black chains resting frozen in the cold herald more and more signs of Armageddon here, perhaps the worst of it. Shapes that were once frost giants are burnt into the wall in all corners of the ice castle, other corpses rest at the bottom of stairwells brought down by some force until it crushed them and an entire third of the palace looks to have been ripped from its foundation, exposing the tunnels beneath to what remains of the elements.
  384. >Tyr stops the carriage at the top of the palace and walks off it, locking eyes with a throne made of ice burnt black, the floor before it stained with frozen blood and slash marks.
  385. >Still though, the general walks reminiscing.
  386. >”Oh, that Geaus…if only he knew the effect he had, if only he knew of our history.”
  387. >You get off the carriage and follow him.
  388. >”Mjolna came along as fast as their marriage did, a culmination of their love for each other and, as I thought at the time, perhaps the first one of us who was truly unmarred by the past…For almost three years, Mother and the Nine Realms knew an astounding sense of peace…”
  389. >Tyr looks to the throne again and hardens his face.
  390. >”But…that all changed the day King Laufey and his Frost Giants began their march across Yggdrassil, intent on conquering all they could and freezing the rest. They marched on Alfhiem, Svartalheim, and even Asgard…would have made it to Midgard after had we not stopped them there.”
  391. “Should I be thanking you?”
  392. >Tyr snears. “No, No-name. You should not for there is nothing worth thanking.”
  393. “But you-“
  394. >”I remember that day better than any other day in my entire life…the day my demons I did not see caught up with me, when I failed to save this world…”
  395. “…What happened?”
  396. >Tyr looks back at you and opens his mouth to tell you a tale.
  397.  
  398. -Some Time Ago…-
  399.  
  400. “WITH ME MY BROTHERS! REDEEM THEM WITH SWORD AND FIRE!”
  401. >You slash your flaming sword through the chest of the frost giant before you and close one of your eyes to shield it from the blood spray that follows as he falls.
  402. “HAH!”
  403. >”My prince!” you hear behind you, as one of your soldiers tries to get your attention. You turn back to look at him. “They attack from all sides!”
  404. >You grin.
  405. “Then we will meet them at each one!”
  406. >You breathe deep and let out the war call.
  407. “RALLY TO ME! WOLF BRIGADE, ATTACK!”
  408. >”Let’s go!” you hear them call. “Follow Prince Tyr!”
  409. >The Frost Giants believed today would be their greatest victory, but you and your soldiers would make it their worst defeat! None would penetrate the Golden Realm so long as you still drew breath!
  410. >The outer walls of Asgard were a mess, but you found yourself more than up to the task.
  411. >There was some concern when you were taken to your post, some believed the All-Mother’s son being given a command was a sign of nepotism. You silenced them all when you sacrificed your hoof to Fenrir and here, at only your twentieth winter, would you show them why you were a God of War.
  412. >Giants spill forth from gateways at every corner of the walls, but most densely here where the boundary between realms is weakest.
  413. >Winged horrors and wendigo spirits dot the skies above Asgard, attempting to harass your soldiers but not counting on your archers.
  414. >Ice as cold as King Laufey’s soul creeps its way over the walls to try and take your home from you, but still you would endure.
  415.  
  416. >With your power and your might, you run along battlements and stairs, roofs and ladders, slaying the giants that dared force their way here from their accursed home. Dozens, hundreds, more fell by the edge of your blade. At the gates of the Bifrost keep, with giants ahead of you and your brothers at your back, there was nothing you couldn’t do.
  417. “And that’s a thousand!”
  418. >The landmark giant you’d slain falls before you and lets you see the rest of his misbegotten kind behind him. You take a step back to regather and find yourself flank to flank with your brothers, encircled by foes.
  419. >”My Lord, they have us surrounded…”
  420. “Hah! Fear denies faith, Bloodaxe! Give them none to chew on and keep your heart strong! We will not die this day!”
  421. >Your comrade quakes a bit behind his helmet. “What for, my lord? What should we have faith in now of all times?!”
  422. >In these crises, it was your duty as a prince to be a symbol for your people to look towards. Just as you prepare to respond, a rain of golden spears rains down from above.
  423. “Hah! In that!”
  424. >As the torrent of spears cease, you look to the sky and see Queen Sleipnir descend in her gleaming golden armor. “Like chaff before the wind…” she muses.
  425. “Mother!” you call out, stepping forward and getting her attention.
  426. “I could have taken them!”
  427. >The Queen laughs as she lands and pulls Gungnir from a corpse. “I have no doubt you could, my son, but I fear I would die of old age if I didn’t speed things along.”
  428. “Hah!”
  429. >You approach the Queen and bow, as do your comrades.
  430. “We are yours to command, All-Mother. What would you have us do?”
  431. >The Queen looks around at the battle and everything happening in Asgard. “Laufey overextends himself. Even now my ravens tell me that his marches into other realms are slowly losing their momentum. No doubt he’s focused the majority of his forces here, in Asgard.”
  432. “A clever trick; dominate the Golden Realm and the blow to morale across Yggdrasil would be cataclysmic.”
  433. >”Well then, we’d better stop them here.”
  434. >A great roar shakes the city as one of Laufey’s mountain elementals lumbers towards the southern wall, the Queen strikes her spear pommel on the ground with a resounding CLANG.
  435. >”Hold, my son. Hold against this scum and make our home the rocks upon which the ocean waves may break. We will break Laufey’s back here and send his host back to Jotunheim with their tails between their legs.”
  436. >You stand and place your hoof over your heart.
  437. “I will not fail you, Mother.”
  438. >Your mother gives you a small but warm smile beneath her helmet. “You never have.” She says before running off through the air.
  439. >You turn back to your soldiers.
  440. “Come brothers! The enemy wishes a challenge! Let us indulge them!”
  441.  
  442. >Frost giants are larger than ponies, even gods.
  443. >And unfortunately, there were a lot more of them than you had initially planned.
  444. >Your shoes skid into the ground past the palace gates as you push back against a giant with your shield.
  445. “STAND TALL, BROTHERS! JUST A BIT LONGER AND WE HAVE THEM!”
  446. >”HOO! HOO!” your soldiers cry behind you as they add their might to your own to push the invaders back.
  447. >With lance and hammer and lash and magic, the Asgardians do push back the forces of Jotunheim.
  448. >You fight with a fury that would cause Fenrir himself to cower, unleashing your divinity and focusing your berserker blood into killing intent.
  449. “DRIVE THEM BACK! RID THE GOLDEN REALM OF THEIR FILTH FOREVER!”
  450. >You dive forward and thrust your sword arm through a giant’s belly, using your momentum to flip over his head and down his back before you throw what remains of him towards his comrades at the door, knocking them off balance.
  451. “ATTACK!”
  452. >”My lord! A trio of giants push past the line!”
  453. >You spare a momentary glance to the side and indeed see the foot of a frost giant gleamed in gold push further into a palace hall.
  454. >The urge to chase them down and skewer them riles up in you, but you recall Mother’s words on the bridge.
  455. “HOLD THE LINE! OUR COMRADES HOLD THE PALACE PROPER; THEY WILL CATCH THEM!”
  456. >Your soldiers cheer after you and continue to press against the giants, driving them further back towards the gates.
  457. >Did mere minutes pass in that time? Hours? None alive from that day have answers as they give themselves over to the battle fever.
  458. >You’re about to cut down one of the last giants in the hall when your soldier gets your attention.
  459. >”My lord!...What is that?!”
  460.  
  461. >You look over your shoulder to where he called and see cracks forming on the supposedly impregnable walls of the palace, a great purple light seeping through and the temperature rising with it.
  462. “EVERYONE DOWN NOW!”
  463. >You dive away from your quarry behind a pillar, giving him time to get back up. A few moments more and he would have crushed you, if not for what happened.
  464. >The wall at the center of the palace cracks and fragments before a flare of indigo flame, fueled by old magic explodes out from behind it. Your brothers, warned by your shout, take refuge behind any obstacle they can find as the hurricane force washes through the entire palace.
  465. >The giants are not so fortunate, burning from flesh to ash to dust in seconds as the power washed over them and literally blew them out the front gates on a gust of wind.
  466. >Silence falls over Asgard. You look outside from your hiding place and see the skies clear, the walls bare, and legions of defenders confused.
  467. >”What was THAT?” one of your soldiers asks.
  468. >”T’was the Báleygr! The great flaming eye! I’m sure of it!” one of the elder ones called.
  469. >”You’re mad, old one! Only the Queen has that power and she has not unsealed in in eons!”
  470. >You take a deep breath and feel a tinge of fear at the bottom of your stomach. What each of them said was true.
  471. “Something’s wrong…”
  472.  
  473. >You let your brothers continue defending the gate, there was something you needed to see. You race down the hall where you saw those giants go.
  474. >There were guards all over the palace, you were sure they could handle a few giants, but the thought burned its way into your brain all the same.
  475. “Mother! MOTHER!”
  476. >You pick up the giant’s trail by following their hoofprints in the carpets, racing up the stairs while calculating where they were headed through the castle in your head.
  477. >Evidence of general mayhem was scattered through the halls, but the hoofprints continued deeper and deeper with clear purpose in their step.
  478. >At this rate they were leading towards the room where Mother kept-
  479. >You double your pace, speeding through the halls and praying you weren’t too late.
  480. “SISTER!”
  481. >You hear chattering and yelling ahead right by where your newborn sister’s room was, you instinctively shift your hoof to your blade as you round the corner.
  482. “LEAVE HER BE YOU CUR-“
  483. >When your eyes drink in the scene, your words die in your throat.
  484. >The door to Mjolna’s chambers remained barred and secure, the three corpses of gold adorned frost giants laying in the hall meaning they did not reach her.
  485. >However, you saw they were joined by a fourth unmoving body.
  486. >A pony, of brilliant red coat and the silvered mane of age, clad in his own golden armor.
  487. >And standing above him as unmoving as stone with her back to you; Queen Sleipnir.
  488.  
  489. >Honor guard swarm around your Mother, securing the area and making reports to her that she barely reacts to. You can no longer feel anything below your knees, but you know you walk towards her regardless.
  490. >”All-Mother, we confirm that princess Mjolna is unharmed. She…hid under her bed when Ge-…when milord came to her to see that she was safe.”
  491. >Another inspecting the bodies stands. “The blood is still fresh, All-Mother. These giants were killed recently.”
  492. >You hear your Mother grunt in acknowledgement as you approach her from behind.
  493. >The guards continue to speak. “I can only deduce, Your Grace…that Milord intercepted these three before they could reach your daughter…but doing so cost him hi-“
  494. >”Enough.” She speaks, silencing everything.
  495. >The guards turn to you. “The Lord is here! Fall in!” and begin to gather at your back, expecting you to lead them from this moment.
  496. >But still you keep approaching the grisly scene, one heavy step at a time.
  497. >A pressure builds in your ears build up until you can no longer year save for an intense ringing and your own heartbeat.
  498. “Mo-“
  499. >Your eyes lock with the body of your step-father, praying to any who might listen that he might take a breath or move or show another sign of life.
  500. >”Mother I-“
  501. >A quavering in the chest, a lock in every joint, and that cold feeling that makes your hairs stand on end when someone is watching you. These deaths, this tension, this fear in the air, the fact that your sister now must grow without a father; you knew you were to blame.
  502. >If anyone is speaking, you can’t hear them over your own breath picking up and the heartbeat thundering in your ears.
  503. >If you’d sent even ONE of your soldiers he could have-
  504. >You choke at the Queen’s back.
  505. “Moth-“
  506. >The All-Mother stomps one of her hooves and snaps your temporary deafness away. She slowly looks over her shoulder at you, causing you and the rest of the honor guard to gasp and step back, despite having fought for your lives through the entire day.
  507. >With the light of the Báleygr barely being kept back by her eyepatch, Mother’s single eye bores into the lot of you. In the place of the fire and exuberance you’d seen on the bridge now rested something that compels all who see it to abandon any hope they once had.”
  508. >”Keep. Up.” She spits through gritted teeth.
  509. >And in a flash does she vanish.
  510.  
  511. -Anon PoV-
  512.  
  513. >Tyr continues to recant his dark tale.
  514. >He tells how he and every Asgardian defender was left in the lurch without a clue about what happened or where the Queen had gone.
  515. >Tyr raced through the palace, searching for any sign of the All-Mother or where she’d gone, but everything came to him at once by every voice that could talk.
  516. >He was suddenly the highest-ranking pony in Asgard, after all.
  517. >IT was discovered that the Queen’s entire armory had been stripped bare in an instant. At first it was believed that it could be the work of the frost giants, as raiding a vault of mythical weapons made the most tactical sense.
  518. >But Tyr knew where she had gone the moment he’d heard that.
  519. >What the Queen did however, took sages from every other realm more than a year to piece together.
  520. >Sleipnir had arrived in Jotunheim in the span of a heartbeat, at the same place you and Tyr had arrived.
  521. >With two dead eyes burning hotter than the extinguished sun of Jotunheim and across hundreds of miles, she and King Laufey locked eyes from the top of his frozen fortress.
  522. >The king intended to mock the All-Mother, seeing himself great for bloodying her nose and unknowingly breaking her heart.
  523. >The fate of his realm was sealed before the air left his lungs when Gungnir went through his head.
  524.  
  525. >You digest what Tyr says.
  526. “The king was dead…and she didn’t stop?”
  527. >Tyr sighs. “Another would have risen to take his place…and in her rage, I doubt anyone could have convinced her otherwise…”
  528. >Tyr looks out over the blasted out remains of Jotunheim, now just a small disc of land. “…I have spent more time eating breakfast in the morning than it took to gather a force in Asgard and get ourselves here that day…the realm looks no different now than it did then…”
  529. >He gestures out and points to various scars inflicted on the land. “Landmasses ripped from their floors and thrown into the sun…legions and armies cut to ribbons by Armiger blades. She killed with lash or blade or magic from the moment she set hoof down on this world to make her way to this castle…”
  530. >”And in the end…the words you have heard for all this time are true.” Tyr closes his eyes. “There were no Frost Giants.”
  531. >You look out over the Realm-That-Was but say nothing, you can’t think of anything TO say.
  532. >”Jotunheim…” Tyr says for you. “The Queen, Geaus, Mjolna, Baldur…everything in Asgard that occurred after that day did so because I let three enemies run through our home unchallenged.”
  533. “Baldur? What happened to him?”
  534. >Tyr lets out another long sigh and his tired eyes look through the past in his mind. No tears fall from his cheeks, you suspect because they were all used ages ago. “Mother…was never the same after that day. The warmth she had was smothered and she was colder, harsher, and bitter…like the Fimbulvinter itself. Shortly after the attack, before Baldur’s next birthday, she made Baldur invulnerable…despite him only being four years old at the time.”
  535. “That sounds…rough.”
  536. >”It was not easy.” He says. “Mjolna, despite her age as well, was instantly chosen to be the next successor to the throne…”
  537. “What about you?”
  538. >”I was told to defend the walls and ensure an attack such as that never occurred again, a posting I did not fight against to make up for what happened.”
  539. “General…it was a battle, you couldn’t have known what would happen, the captain himself would-“
  540. >”Spare me, No-name.” Tyr interrupts. “You attempt to soothe an ego after twenty years of penance. There’s nothing left to calm.”
  541. >Tyr sighs again, his shoulders looking like they’re having trouble supporting the weight of his armor.
  542. >”You ask me, ‘Who is Sleipnir’? She is me, after a single mistake at the worst possible time.”
  543. >Tyr walks past you to his carriage. “This place steals the life from me whenever I visit…let us return to Asgard, it is getting late.”
  544. >Like he, you find you possess no will to resist him.
  545. “Yes, general…”
  546.  
  547. >The two of you return through the Bifrost and find the keep holding it empty.
  548. “…Now that’s unsettling. Where is Heimdall?”
  549. >”Dismissed, more than likely.” Tyr answers.
  550. “For what?”
  551. >The General tiredly walks to the doors of the keep and pushes them open. Across the bridge connecting the keep to the rest of the palace, the two of you see Queen Sleipnir patiently standing next to a lit brazier with the night sky above her.
  552. “Oh shhhhhhhoot.”
  553. >Tyr sighs what sounds like a final sigh and trudges along the bridge towards his mother. You follow along behind him trying to read what’s going on.
  554. >Tyr looked like a walking corpse, clearly drained from the stress of traveling to Jotunheim and reliving the day it ended.
  555. >The Queen looked as hard and stony as ever, the light of the fire dancing in her good eye.
  556. >Prince and Queen lock eyes when he gets closer to her and he simply stares ahead in tired determination. “Mother.”
  557. >”Son.” She responds. “Did you have an eventful trip?”
  558. >She didn’t sound mad, that could very well be worse than if she was.
  559. >”No more than Jotunheim is normally this time of year.”
  560. >”So still a tomb then.”
  561. >”Yes…” Tyr answers solemnly.
  562. >”…Good.” The queen says, poking the fire with a stick.
  563. >Tyr grimaces at her words and you clench your fists but find it a bit harder after the day you’d had.
  564. >”Why go?” she asks.
  565. “Because I was tired of getting the run-around.”
  566. >The Queen acknowledges your interruption by stabbing at the fire again. “I was asking my son.”
  567. >Tyr swallows a rock and looks to his mother. “No-name…speaks the truth. He desired answers only seeing Jotunheim could provide. He…earned the right to see after besting me in personal combat.”
  568. >”Yes, I saw that.” The Queen answers, inspecting the edge of her stick. “You were baited by an emotional trap, a surprising thing at your age.”
  569. “Wait, you saw THAT too?”
  570. >Sleipnir rolls her eye. “How many times will it take for everyone in my life to learn that no simple talisman haggled from a dark troll in a market untouched by sunlight is enough to block MY sight?” she stabs the fire again. “I see every realm, especially my own, especially after that day…”
  571. >She looks down to her son from her imposing height. “You did tell him, didn’t you?”
  572. >”I did.” Tyr says. “I believed he had a right to know as…you clearly favor him as your warrior over me.”
  573. >Wait, what?
  574. >Tyr continues. “You make a good choice. He is quick and strong in battle, and I can see Geaus’s instincts engraved into his very bones…at this point he could do all I could and more, better even, I think he’ll serve well as my replacement.”
  575. “Replacement!?” you exclaim.
  576. >Tyr keeps his eyes locked with his mother. “I failed, countless suffered. I accept the responsibility for my choices and the punishment that comes wi-“
  577. >”Oh shut up.”
  578.  
  579. >Sleipnir bends her neck down and places it alongside Tyr’s in the equine equivalent of an embrace you’d seen Twilight and Celestia do hundreds of times.
  580. >Both you and the general are stunned silent for an eternity at the suddenness of it.
  581. >”Are you finished?” Sleipnir asks.
  582. >Tyr’s jaw hangs open as he struggles for words. “I-Mother-But-“
  583. >”I’ll presume that means yes…” she says, withdrawing to her full height. She looks down at the High-General who had a manticore on his tongue.
  584. >”Tyr…On that day, many years ago, you set out to do something and you failed. There were unforeseen dire consequences for an untold number of souls.” She cants her head slightly like teachers do to fillies. “That makes you…exactly the same as everypony else.”
  585. >Tyr still fails to make words form. “I…am meant to be the god of war and justice…not…like everypony else?”
  586. >”Why?” his mother says curtly. “We are their gods, yes. Should they not see parts of themselves in us? Should we be so perfect as to be incomprehensible to them?” She goes back to stabbing her brazier. “We share a realm now, why should the mortals not see that we are like them in all the most important ways? No-name, would you like to worship those who told you that they were perfect?”
  587. “I can’t say that I would…”
  588. >”Exactly.”
  589.  
  590. >The queen turns back and looks Tyr over. “No matter what you did or did not do that day, Tyr…you are still my son. Still my son, still my prince…and still a fool.” She abandons her stick in the flames. “The day anyone could replace you to me is truly the day Ragnarok will take me without a fight.”
  591. >Tyr looks down at his hooves, a mix of adolescent embarrassment and elderly shame playing across his face. “But…Mjolna-she was groomed from then on to-“
  592. >”The day of the frost giant’s attack was the day I realized that you were not the one best suited to fulfill the duties the realm would ask of you, I ensured your sister was.”
  593. >Tyr looks up at his mother again. “What did I do that she did not?”
  594. >”For one?” his mother answers. “You held too much faith in me…and not enough in yourself.” The queen watches her stick burn to ash with her good eye again. “With the benefit of hindsight…I believe that my time with Geaus blinded me to the realities of our lives that I thought I’d figured out in my eons before I became a mother…that is not a lesson I’ll ever allow myself to forget again.”
  595. >She glances over at Tyr again. “You are not responsible for what happened to Jotunheim, my son. I was the one who chose to go there that day, the frost giants slain by my hooves, not yours.” Her eye narrows in slight irritation. “Such a silly child, believing that you are responsible for the lives of all that live and that you can bear the weight of such a burden on your own.”
  596. >Tyr’s ingests his mothers words and falls flank first onto the stone, like he was both relieved of a weight and dragged down by his own fatigue at the same time. “…Thank you, Mother.”
  597. >”Mm.” she responds, looking to you. “And so what now, No-name? What now that you know why what I did what I did? Do you have more questions to fill out on your little hidden parchment?”
  598. >She knew about that too, huh? Well how’s this for a question.
  599. “Just one. You took your last husband out of Valhalla, should I be concerned?”
  600. >”Uhg.” The Queen replies, rolling her eye. Even Tyr beside you chokes back a laugh at the absurdity of what you asked. “Do not flatter yourself, you are not remotely my type.”
  601. “Sinfully beautiful?”
  602. >”Still breathing.” She says flatly.
  603.  
  604. >You let yourself chuckle before a real question forms.
  605. “…A mortal who could win the heart of not only a god, but the highest one in all the realms…what did that old codger do to catch your eye, All-Mother? One would think that such a love impossible for a war god such as yourself.”
  606. >The queen continues to watch the flame, though her expression softens an almost imperceptible amount.
  607. >”He knew all the words to all the songs sung in that hall before he’d even arrived…” she said wistfully.
  608. >You let out a breath you weren’t aware you’d been holding.
  609. >”No-name. Please help my son indoors and let him rest, I believe he needs it.”
  610. “At once, Your Grace but…one final question.”
  611. >”Mm?”
  612. “Why keep all this from me? Why go through all this trouble.”
  613. >A silence passes between just the two of you.
  614. >”It is late, boys. Go indoors.”
  615. >You could take the hint and considering the books worth of information you’d gotten already, decide to just take what you can get. You bend down and help the General up the stairs to recover, leaving the Queen and her motivations staring into the fire.
  616.  
  617. -Epilogue-
  618.  
  619. “It’s done.”
  620. >You drop the amulet you’d torn from King Laufey’s neck on the ground and walk past your retainer through the halls of Asgard.
  621. >”My Queen what-happened?!” he asks, no doubt noticing the ash and soot your armored covered with.
  622. “I. Just. Told. You. It’s. Done.” You bite.
  623. >The advisor gulps and nods his head wordlessly.
  624. >You speed through the halls back to where…It happened.
  625. >He was still there, unmoved from where he’d fallen, though the giants he slew were carted off.
  626. >”Prince Tyr…believed you would not wish to see those upon your return…but commanded that we were not to touch Milords body…”
  627. “Mm.”
  628. >Dutiful boy.
  629. >You pick up your husband’s corpse and turn, taking him up the stairs of the palace. Many thoughts go through your mind, about visiting the only daughter you’d had together just beyond the doors or finding Tyr, but any more reminders of today were not what you desired.
  630. >And what you did could not be done out here.
  631. >Your advisor tails you all the way to the doors of your bedchambers.
  632. >”All-Mother about your return from Jotunheim-!”
  633. “Deal with everything.”
  634. >”But-“
  635. “The diplomatic fallout of today will be felt for years, we don’t need to start now. See to everything else and leave me be until I call for you.”
  636. >Concern plays at his face, but the advisor hurries himself away.
  637. >You carry Geaus’s corpse in through the doors of your chambers and slam them behind you.
  638. >The moment they are closed, you collapse to the ground.
  639.  
  640.  
  641. >Pain.
  642. >Pain sweeps over your body, like a blanket in the night, and envelops you from your skin through your bones and down to your very heart.
  643. >You feel the same stabbing sensation you’d felt eons ago in the dried-out socket of an eye that sits beneath your patch, one mirrored in your good eye as well. It isn’t until you feel the liquid dribble down your cheeks that you remember the sensation.
  644. “If any could get anything out of these old eyes…it was you, Geaus…”
  645.  >Geaus…
  646. >You hang your head and try to sniff back the tears staining your coat like a child as the weight of everything in the last hour strikes you.
  647. >The grief you felt when you sensed Geaus’s demise giving way to the rage that unsealed Báleygr and drove you to Jotunheim, along with the long, lonely march back as Tyr and his host followed behind you after finding you on what remained of that ball of mud and frost.
  648. >The blood on your hooves was long clean, but the stench still sat in your nostrils at the idea that you would do it all again for what they did, for taking the first light in your life since time immemorial and snuffing it out.
  649. >Your breath hitches, you feel like your soul is being ripped from your body.
  650. >Yet still, your hooves begin to push yourself up.
  651.  
  652. >On the legs of a newborn, you force yourself off your rump. The aches between your bones, across your skin, within your teeth, and through your heart multiply but you force them away, the effort of it nearly tripping you again.
  653. >NO!
  654. >Your spear manifests itself in the air next to you, the ever-faithful companion you could still force yourself to look at that lets you brace yourself upon it to drive yourself to all eight legs.
  655. >Panting openly, you grab your husband and drag the two of you deeper into the chambers.
  656. “Not…today…this will not be…the end…of this…”
  657. >Dragging Geaus was harder than dragging any sundown, you found, and you can only get him about halfway through the room. Looking down at him again causes the icy hand of grief to grip your heart once more.
  658. >With your magic, you reach down and close Geaus’s eyes. Despite all this, he still wore that blasted smile that first caught your eye, just as he always was.
  659. “Damn fool…you probably died content that you were saving her, didn’t you?”
  660. >You reach down further and retrieve the golden amulet you set upon his neck the day you married. You see your tears still streaming down your face in the amulet’s reflection.
  661. >The pain of holding that amulet was nearly more than you could take, if not for what followed.
  662. >You think on the pain, the pain of today, and all the other days, and every day that you did something horrible to keep these nine realms at peace. All the lifetimes of pain and where it would be going; how, if fate had its way, none of it would mean a thing.
  663. >You look out the window of your chambers, spying down into the room Mjolna slept in. From here, you see Baldur, your little light, doing his best to comfort your daughter after what had happened.
  664.  
  665. >Still panting as your body tried to fight off the agony, your eye follows along the wall to a tapestry upon it. The tapestry was a deep green with golden trim, depicting the World Tree in the center as well as the brilliant light of Agard above it and three lights at its base representing the wells of knowledge.
  666. >However, the space directly beneath the tree had been left blank.
  667. >Through agony and grief, your body begins to shake again. This time however, not from tears.
  668. >How you HATED that blank space, what it was, what it would mean.
  669. >The hatred boils within you like an acid, straining your muscles and gritting your teeth for you. A new ache joined the countless others from your jaw as dribbles of blood crept down your jowls.
  670. >Your anger only broils as you glare at the tapestry, the edges of it now catching alight and casting harsh shadows across the room.
  671. >The pains begin to fade as your thoughts transform into plans, long and complicated plans that were formed in part from your instinct already acted upon.
  672. >All the pains from this day back to the day you’d taken your own eye and before defined your life and everything you’d worked for.
  673. >And if fate had its way, then they would all amount to nothing in the end.
  674. >And so as the fire consumes the tapestry, another casualty of the frost giant’s attacks as the scribes would say, you steel your heart on a single, resolute truth.
  675. >That you will MAKE all this agony and suffering mean something.
  676. >By now the fire consumes what’s left of the tapestry and falls to the floor.
  677. >As it does, you close your mouth and seal the wound you’d made. The last of your tears dry on your face and you harden your body and spirit for all that you now knew you had to do.
  678. >Even if it killed you.

Prose Equus 26: Bleeding Gods.

by MAndroid

Prose Equus 25: Windows to the Past.

by Mandroid

Prose Equus 24: Death Sentence.

by Mandroid

Prose Equus 23: Spooky Scary Symbiote.

by Mandroid

Prose Equus 22: Dust and Crypts.

by Mandroid