The Cycle of Axer Carrick
Part VI -- Cats Eyes
by Henry Wyckoff
Surtur entered his office. All this excitement, and nobody
had known where he had been, what he had done... or even who
he really was. All they knew was that he was the mayor of
Toronto, coming in for another day at work.
Nobody could have warned him about the unexpected visitor who sat in his chair, looking at him impudently. He wore a well-used trenchcoat and a crumpled wide-brimmed hat, shading his face a little bit. The hilt of a sword pushed aside part of the coat, but it was still strapped to the scabbard. It wasn't ready to be used. A pair of dice bounced in his hand, and he rolled them on the table. Double ones.
"You sure have a lot of nerve," Surtur stared the man down, who didn't seem concerned in the least. The man had a roguish element to him, but he looked human enough, so Surtur ruled out insanity.
"Do I?" the man's accent was distinctly Welsh. "Most tell me that, but I'm not convinced. You, on the other hand, have a hell of a nerve. What do you think most people would do if they found out that their mayor was actually one of the last of a race of giants, and that he was ready to turn their city upside down? Perhaps you'd also care to tell me what you were doing over the corpse of an Invisible One? Why did her death shock you so much? Were you... I don't know... lovers, perhaps?" This last was said with a vicious grin.
Surtur growled like a bear, pulling Powys out of *his* chair. "Who the hell are you?"
"What an intriguing word," smiled Powys. "Who the *hell* am I? You, the Firelord, need to ask who *I* am? Does not my reputation precede me?"
Surtur dropped him like a rotten fish, "No. But I know your kind well enough. You're a damned egomaniac."
"I don't think you answered *my* questions. Perhaps you'd care to enlighten me?"
"I think you need to mind your own business."
"I have friends in the press..."
Surtur glared at him, his position suddenly dawning to him. "The people wouldn't believe you. They'd think you were crazy."
Powys' eyes lit up, "You didn't think I was going to tell them the *truth*, did you? How does this sound? 'Mayor *believes* he is Surtur, King of the Fire Jotuns, and in his insanity he has made plans to destroy the city! Plus, learn how he lied about his current identity!' Do you have any idea how many *voters* want to hear this kind of garbage?"
"You're the one who's insane!"
"Yeah, but I'm crazy like a fox. Your move."
Surtur stared him down, "I could kill you."
Powys smiled, "But why would you want to kill me? I could be the best friend you ever had!"
"Why would you say that?"
"Because I could tell you about the people you *really* want to kill..."
Surtur's eyebrows raised a fraction, but he was listening.
* * *
Richie and Methos were drinking some of the local beer -- a
vast improvement over what they had been drinking at the bar
with Coleen and Kwai Chang Caine, who had both left them to
themselves. Nobody had bothered the two, perhaps because
they were afraid that they would be even worse than
Coleen, or that Coleen would hear about any trouble. Either
way, they were left alone.
"I can't believe that Caine won't talk to us!" complained Richie.
Methos sympathized with him, but also knew that everything had a reason. "Don't look at it that way. It's not what you think. It could be that he doesn't trust anyone who doesn't like his favorite drink."
Richie looked towards the shut door. "I wonder what's going on in there..." He took a deep drink of beer, feeling better as it washed out the bad tastes from his mouth. "Sometimes I'd like to enter her head for a brief moment -- just a brief one, mind you -- just to see what it's like."
Methos laughed pretty loudly at that one, drawing some brief glances. "Abandon hope, all ye who enter here..." He spoke in a deep, rumbling Shakespearean accent.
Richie laughed at that, "Yeah, pretty scary!"
Methos lost some of his merriment, "How are you holding up?"
"Me? Not bad."
Methos left it at that. //The kid's growing up, but still... Damn it! I hate this job!//
* * *
Coleen stood in the storm, unconcerned by the cold and wind.
Neither was Caine, but he was better dressed for it. Coleen
was dressed for warmer weather, with tattered jeans, soft-
soled leather boots, and a flannel shirt. She wasn't
carrying a sword, but she was packing assorted knives and
two small pistols.
"You are troubled." It was a simple statement, but it seemed to hit Coleen like a blow.
Coleen stomped his attempts from the beginning. "I know you mean well, but you're barking up the wrong tree."
He smiled, "Even when you are screaming out in pain from that very tree. You may be able to live with your pain, but it's evident for all to see. ...Most throw away their pain and cling to the pleasures in life. You do exactly the opposite. Why?"
She looked into the storm, feeling the cold for the first time. "I've often asked myself that," she whispered. Then she stopped herself, "That's not what I'm here to talk about. I need to know what you've found out about Odin."
He looked at her sternly, "Why would you hunt a wounded man when you bleed from a dozen places? You're in no condition to face him."
She snorted, "I can handle any immortal."
"But he's not just any immortal. He is an Aesir touched by the Invisible Ones and the Well of Mimur. You are a young, inexperienced, and brash immortal who might not remain so." He smiled softly, "You remind me very much of my son, except for the fact that you are more polite than him, and at least listen to your elders."
Coleen smiled at that one, "I'm in disguise. Most people would call me an abrasive -- Well... I'll leave it to your imagination."
"If you wish to speak of what troubles you, then I am willing to listen."
She smiled in annoyance. "I don't want you to listen. I want you to talk. What's going on up there?"
It was his turn to look into the storm. "He's waiting. He's been waiting ever since he pulled himself out of his long sleep. Those who live nearby say that he spends his time looking too deeply into himself, and screaming in horrified pain at what he sees. Those few who believed that they would rid the world of such a man have learned the hard way that he is anything but weak or wounded.
"He is... to be feared even more, because he places no boundaries around himself. He will not even do what he must, because he will be under the control of that... chaos... that drives him. Imagination is the limit of what you can do, but also the conscience -- if you have imagination without conscience, you become an unstoppable monster.
"I don't know what he plans to do, but whatever it is, it will be something monstrous, and I do not believe that you will be in any position to stop it."
"I can take care of myself," snorted Coleen. "So he's insane? We knew about that from the last time."
"Do you know the nature of his insanity?"
"No," Coleen admitted.
"I do. His insanity comes from knowing everything that can happen. Your being is bounded by causality. For everything you do, there is a reaction, and after both, everything remains in the past. The future is a haze to you, and you can predict nothing with certainty. Odin sees past and future as a road, rather than a possibility, and when you see all futures laid out on a road... Do you understand what I am trying to say?"
"Then you will not be able to face Odin." He nodded inside. "They will not either. Even Methos. They are used to opponents who are fearsome warriors or diabolical geniuses, but not invincible lunatics." Caine began to walk inside.
Caine turned around, his eyebrows raised.
"I want to talk, but not about what you might think."
His eyebrows still raised, he returned to her. "How do you know what I am thinking?"
She took a deep breath. "Do *you* understand his kind of insanity?"
"Yes," he nodded. "I have seen some of what he has seen, though only for a brief moment. I had a way out."
"I have to face him, and I need to be able to do so. Can you help me to learn?"
He looked at her skeptically. "I don't know if I can."
"What makes you say that?"
He leaned back against a wall, "You are a cup that is full of water, and not only is not drained, but refuses to be drained. Your tea has become ice, and I don't believe that I can melt it."
"You're accusing me of being a stubborn blockhead who doesn't want to learn?"
He smiled, "I wouldn't put it that way. I would say that you have been trained by a harsh master who instilled much into you that must be unlearned. He did his best, and perhaps he helped you, but he has also made it so that I cannot teach you, especially in this short of a time."
"What do you know about my teacher?" she demanded.
"I have never met him, but I have heard tales about him. Even after these years, his reputation remains, as does yours. It did not take me long to visualize such a man. He is old, bitter, and cynical. A good teacher if you want to live in hell, but not if you want to live in this world. He teaches the way of the wolf and the bear, but not the way of harmony."
She shook her head, "Why don't you give it a try?"
He took her hands, "The first step to wisdom is admitting ignorance and asking for help in dispelling it. But it will not be easy."
"Nothing ever is."
"You will soon learn that even that is not true."
They walked back inside, and before they reached the door, he handed her an object.
"What is it?"
"It's called a vajra. You will need it."
The vajra was coated with brass, and at the worn edges, other metals could be seen. It age was evident, and the workmanship was almost unearthly. The weight of the object was unusual for something of its size, and after holding it, she could feel... something of an electric charge. It wasn't a shock, but more of a gradual increase, and it left once she noticed it.
She looked at him, and he made a face, "You should feel good. Peter still sees the vajra as an object, and not as what it is."
"And what is it?"
"What do you think it is?"
The door opened, and she said, "A thunderbolt."
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