Old Gods, New Faces

Posted on December 18, 2012


“Lord, we have found nothing.”

The great, bearded figure turned his gaze to the servant.  “He is coming.  He wants his day returned.”

The twisted figure bowed, then left the room.

Odin sighed and tried to rub the exhaustion from his eyes.  The fact of both eyes still startled him.  The Alfar and given their grace, Frigg her beauty, and he traded wisdom for survival and in doing regained his eye.  Now he knew nothing of his doom but would see its approach clearly.

He lowered his gaze to the table before him.  Half finished toys were strewn about.  He grabbed one at random and bent his attention to his task.

The Alfar worked in the new materials, the new ways.  But Odin was a  craftsman and worked only in the traditional ways.  It was good work.  Not a god’s work but good work nonetheless.

It was good work, and all that was left to him.  All that was left after the usurper’s armies came.  Came for war, came for conquest, came to convert.

War was one thing.  The men in longships went to war for many reasons, and the tribes before them.  But even when the conquered adopted a new patron the Aesir still flourished.  The invaders from the south not only conquered and killed, but stole worshipers for their Christ.

The others, his brothers and children, hadn’t perished.  They simply faded.  In the mad years that followed Odin could do nothing as his family vanished, as Asgard faded to naught more than a dream.  He could do nothing but steal a day already stolen.  Give up the essence of himself to survive.  Survive and hope for vengeance.

His fist clenched in impotent rage and the wooden horse shattered.

Odin picked the splinters from his hand.  The mantle he wore was the only one available but-

the room brightened and began to warm-

-he might still heed the call to war.

“Your minions didn’t look hard enough.”  Mithra gestured and a chair appeared.  He flopped into it.  “And you look terrible.”

Odin continued to pull the slivers from his hand.  “Get out of my home, boy.”

Mithra continued to lounge but his eyes grew hard.  “Careful who you call boy, Claus, I was ancient while your people were still afraid of fire.”

“And yet you’re still such a pretty young thing.”  Odin turned his attention back to the work on his table.  “You can’t win, Mithra.  You lost long before I did.  That whoreson destroyed both of us.  All that is left are these scraps.”  He picked up a toy soldier, one wielding a spear.  “I was God of the Gallows, and a cold god.  I can survive on scraps.  I can live in the cold of this realm.  Go back to the warmth, boy.  There is no place for you here.”

Mithra rose, and smiled.  “Haven’t you heard, old man?  The world is getting warmer.  The usurper is losing worshipers.  I will have my day.  I will crush you, and I will crush him.”

Odin stood and hammering cold surged against the warmth.  “You have no people.  You have no place.  You have no chance against me and mine.”

“You and yours?  You and yours?”  Mithra made no attempt to hide his scorn.  “I would have stood no chance against you and yours.  I would have been made a bleeding husk by Odin.  But you are not Odin, not anymore.  You are a fat, pathetic shadow of what he was.  Your woman is a sow.  Your wolves are gone.  Your ravens, like your power, fled.  You had a steed, but he has been rendered to eight pathetic prey animals.  Your servants are twisted remnants of what they were.”  Mithra didn’t move, but his presence swelled.  “I will crush you like the vermin you are.”

The tableau held for a moment, then Odin seemed to fold in on himself.  The cold faded.  “Get out, Mithra.”  His voice was weary once more.

Mithra smiled, thin and cold.  “I will.  But I’m coming again.  I will have your guts on the ground before me.”  He turned and made for the door.

“Before you go there is one more thing, Mithra.”  The eternally young god turned back and found an ashwood staff protruding from his torso, a leaf blade pinning him to the door.  “I still have my spear.”