Chapter Two – A fate apart
Disclaimer: I do not own Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Smallville, or any of the Norse Mythology that I am about to mangle to suit my own twisted purposes. Frankly, if you recognize, I don’t own it. This work may not be sold or used for profit in any way shape or form for that very reason. Please don’t sue me because I don’t have anything worth taking…
-== Chapter Two – A fate apart ==-
“Say what?” Xander asked forgetting the pitiful whining of the still technically alive vampire in the wake of Eve’s words. “Me?” he asked incredulously. “Why would it wait for me? And how do you know all of this anyway?”
“I am Eve, or in the language of the Aesir: Yve, Valkyrie of the All-father, Chief Herald of the High-king of the Asgard and Keeper of Thor’s line on Midgard,” she answered proudly. “I stood as bailiff at the trial of the thunder-god and watched as he was exiled to live as a mortal in Midgard. I was charged with keeping care of Thor’s line of mortal children until one such child claimed Mjolnir and the legacy of the Prince of Asgard. For nearly fifteen centuries, I have watched and waited, carrying the souls of Thor’s worthy descendants to the mead-halls of the All-father in Valhalla. That is how I know all of this.”
As she spoke, her voice grew increasingly haughty, as though his question had somehow insulted her. “And yet you, a mere child so far removed from the blood of the Aesir that I had discounted your entire line as worthless more than a century ago, have claimed that legacy.”
“The Harris family is worthless, if that’s who you’re referring to,” Xander agreed. “And my father has drug my mother down into his drunken uselessness right alongside him, but she wasn’t always like this…”
“Then your nobility of spirit was the product of your maternal line, for there is none in the line of your father…not since the day they set foot on these shores.” Eve said solemnly. “That nobility has drawn Mjolnir to you and gifted you with the divine essence of Thor.”
The injured vampire chose that moment to begin screaming again, drawing Xander’s attention back to it. He spent a long moment staring at the hammer in his hand before striding purposefully down to the devastated vampire and bringing down the maul-like edge of the great hammer on the vampire’s neck. Despite the bluntness of the edge, it passed cleanly through, reducing the creature to dust.
“Do you have any idea how insane this sounds?” he asked rhetorically.
“That does not make it any less true,” the self-proclaimed Valkyrie asserted.
“Yeah, well, that’s life on the Hellmouth for you,” he grumbled as he climbed back out of the crater left by the vampire’s landing. “So, what exactly do you mean when you talk about gifting me with the divine essence of Thor?”
“You are no longer a mere mortal man. You have been given the greatest gift the All-father could give anyone,” she said with a strange look on her face. “You have been given the strength, the resilience, the very immortality of the Aesir. The full powers of the god of thunder are yours to command…once you learn how.”
“Immortality?” he asked dismayed. “You mean I can’t die… and I won’t age?”
“No,” she responded immediately. “True-born Aesir are truly immortal and ageless, able to perish only at the hand of another true-immortal or one specifically gifted with the power to kill them. Unfortunately, you will be forever marked by your mortal birth. You cannot be injured at the hand of any mere mortal, only at the hands of a supernatural being. You will heal those injuries you do sustain with incredible speed, but if you are injured badly enough, you can perish.”
“Oh,” he said a moment later after taking in her answer. “What about aging though? Please tell me that I’m not going to be trapped in the body of a fifteen year old for as long as I live?”
“You are still a child, Alexander Harris, by the standards of both men and the Aesir. You will continue to mature until you reach your physical peak.”
“Okay, so what’s the catch?” he asked finally.
A puzzled expression crossed Eve’s face, “Catch? I’m not sure what you mean…nothing has been thrown. Is this one of your slang phrases?”
Xander chuckled. “I guess it is… What I mean is… well, nothing comes without a price. So, what’s the price? What will be required of me for having these powers?”
Still puzzled, Eve shook her head with a sigh, “You are too young to be so cynical, Alexander, far too young. The only price these powers carry is a responsibility you have already undertaken, a responsibility shared by all of the Aesir: preventing Ragnarok. Or, should we fail in that responsibility, to stand with the Aesir against the darkness to come.”
“Ragnarok? The end of the world?” he asked. “The Norse myths say that’s all set in stone, unavoidable and unchangeable…”
“That,” she said with an un-ladylike snort, “is pure human fantasy. Prophecy is mutable. You yourself have altered prophecies, proven them wrong. Ragnarok has come before and may come again. That mortal man still thrives in Midgard proves we have prevented it and beaten it back before. The battles foretold in the Eddas and sagas of Norse mythology are naught but stories.”
“What is Ragnarok then?” he asked, confused by her denial of the myths.
“The return of chaos. The world falling into darkness that would allow the Old Ones purchase on Midgard’s reality again,” she said flatly.
“The Old Ones are demon gods, beings beyond even the Aesir in power. They are a threat so grave that all of pantheons of light would stand against them, as we did in the beginning when we drove them out.” She smiled grimly. “But such a battle would destroy civilization as mankind knows it, returning them to a primitive state.”
“Ah,” Xander said finally. “How do we prevent Ragnarok then?”
“We keep the forces of darkness at bay. Maintain the balance between good and evil,” her smile softened as she spoke.
“What about the Hellmouth?” he asked suddenly. “Do we guard against it opening?”
“Why would we?” she asked back, clearly puzzled by the question. “The Hellmouths are merely unstable portals. They wax and wane in power like the moon. Even if one should open, it could not remain open for long… and the guardians of the mouth would kill everything that tried to pass through it.”
“Huh?” Xander’s confusion was quite obvious. “What do you mean? G-man said opening the Hellmouth would lead to Hell on Earth…”
Eve laughed at that, “That’s an old demonic myth. Every Hellmouth is guarded, on the Hell-plane, by a many headed beast that destroys anything that approaches it… from either side of the portal. The guardians are truly immortal, un-killable, and in the several thousand millennia since they were set to protect Hellmouths, nothing has ever gotten past them.”
“Oh,” he answered softly. “Wait, there’s more than one Hellmouth?”
“Indeed there are,” Eve confirmed. “There are six other Hellmouths on Midgard that are as powerful as the one here in Sunnydale and dozens of weaker ones. None of them could trigger Ragnarok by opening.”
“So the Hellmouths aren’t a real threat to the world?”
“There are two Hellmouths in the entire world that have had cities built around them, Alexander: Sunnydale and Cleveland. Because of the Hellmouths, those cities attract more demons and dark forces than most places, but that is the extent of the threat.” She shook her head, “This Hellmouth is actually more dangerous because the Slayer attracts so much attention to it.”
“The Slayer attracts demons?” Xander was shocked by the revelation. “Worse than the Hellmouth does?”
“Yes,” the woman said simply. “The Slayer spirit is like a great beacon light to demon-kind, attracting them like moths to the flame…”
“Okay, so if Hellmouths and Slayers attract demons, the Aesir must at least stay close to them a lot, fighting the demons and forces of darkness, right?”
“No more than anywhere else,” she countered. “Not all demons are evil, just as not all men are good. The forces of darkness and the hand of Ragnarok take many forms, most of them far more subtle than demon-kind.” Her face took on a hard set, “And most of the Aesir, as well as most of the other pantheons only intervene subtly, guiding the denizens of Midgard to deal with threats themselves and acting through champions and pawns like the Slayer and the Watchers. You, however, have a destiny beyond that. You alone, of all of the Aesir, are free to act as you will, un-bound by the laws of Asgard.”
“Destiny?” Xander replied sharply, shaking his head. “So what, I’m just some puppet on a string? No choice in what I do with my life at all?”
“You mortals certainly have managed to pervert the idea of destiny,” Eve said with a long suffering sigh. “Destiny and fate only govern those things that are beyond the control of men. Destiny decreed that you would be born to Anthony and Jessica Harris. You chose to follow your mother’s noble spirit rather than your father’s. Destiny set you on this path by having you born here of all places. You chose to befriend Willow, Buffy and Jesse, you chose to defy prophecy and revive the dead slayer. You chose to help. Ultimately, your life is in your hands, not the hands of destiny.”
Xander stared at the woman, the Valkyrie, for a long moment as her words sank in slowly. He head was spinning with the events of the evening so far. “I…” he started finally, “I can’t handle this right now. I need some time to think… to get a grip on everything you’ve told me.”
“A night’s sleep would serve you in good stead,” she stated calmly. “Your mind and body are still adjusting to the changes Mjolnir has wrought on you.”
“Yeah,” he muttered with a sigh, “that too.” He looked down at the hammer still clutched in his hand. “Is there somewhere safe where I can hide this?” he asked. “I can’t very well carry it around without attracting attention…”
Even as the words left his mouth, the hammer glowed brightly before shrinking down and turning into a necklace with a clasp-less chain long enough to easily go over his head. “Well, that’s convenient,” Xander said, glancing from the hammer back to Eve. “How do I get it to turn back?”
“The same way you disguised it,” Eve said simply, as though it were the most obvious thing in the world. “You merely need to consciously will it to change back to its normal form.”
“I’m going home. I’ll see you around or something.”
“I will be close by if I’m needed, Alexander Harris, child of Thor,” she answered.
Xander looped the chain over his head and dropped the necklace under his t-shirt. “Why does my life have to be so complicated?” he complained to no-one in particular as he started to walk away.
When no response came from Eve, he glanced over his shoulder to find that he was alone on the beach once more.