The Cycle of Axer Carrick
Part VI -- Cats Eyes
by Henry Wyckoff
December 1995


Chapter 12

Mulder frowned as he looked at the dwarf. In his rational mind, he saw only a man given a certain hand in life, and nothing more. He saw a man who perhaps had sacrificed a certain amount to become a successful and perhaps a distinguished engineer -- but nothing more.

The fantastic part of his mind saw a very magical individual who had something to offer... an explanation that might bring him closer to the truth. Although Skinner had done his best to hide Mulder from the truth using the excuse of 'protecting' him, the fact that Skinner had brought him here said something pretty significant -- that and the hammer and the beard.

Stein, as he promised, began his tale...

Stein's Tale
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Before I tell you about Thor's Hammer, I suppose you must know a little bit about us. In the world mythologies, you know of the 'dwarven race', and in your everyday experience, you know about 'dwarves'. But the images that come with both words are not right. We are something other than the 'image' that you get from those words.

It is correct that we are 'human' -- just of a shorter height than your average -- but it is also correct to say that we are a different race, because all the dwarves you see here are the children of dwarves, and not humans.

We began at the very bottom of the ladder, you might say, because we began as the refuge of humans. A human would discard a child that didn't look quite right, and would claim that 'the earth spirits' switched his or her child at birth. Thus the child would be left for exposure, so that the child would be taken back. We still find such practices abominable. The reason that the practice was continued, perhaps, was because we took pity on such abandoned babies and claimed them as our own.

And so the dwarven race grew, and so civilization grew. Since we were forced to live in such isolated communities, we developed our intellectual civilization much faster than you humans. Since we knew about wars, but were not affected by them, we developed iron by the date 1024 B.C., and algebra by 612 B.C. Since we were a focus of intellectual development, naturally your mythologies would view us as something magical, just as they did the elves, which is a different story...

This must give you an accurate background. Now you know that from the beginning that our 'mystique' comes from misunderstanding, and not some mystical source. I can see that you, Special Agent Mulder, understand my point, even though you are also disappointed...

By the year 645 AD., all the known world was in turmoil. Wars raged in all the lands, and murder was a common occurrence. We still laugh at the Christian ideal, because it encouraged slaughter, though it claimed to curb it. Our people lived in our kingdoms deep within the mountains of Norway, far under the snow caps.

A man came to us. He was a starved man of snowy hair and had a gleam in his eye that told us he was not completely human. We knew that he was something other. He told our head smith, "I am Loki, of the Aesir, and I bring you a challenge. I have met three other dwarven smiths, and have obtained such great works that are certainly unsurpassed. Perhaps you might be able to surpass them?"

At the time, we were proud people. We had to be. And so our head smith took his challenge. "I see that you have many weapons, but you do not have a hammer or an axe."

Loki nodded. "Those, we do not have. Is that what calls to you from the earth?"

The head smith nodded, "That is what the earth calls, an axe and a hammer, but also a necklace of gold and obsidian, and a ring of silver and turquoise -- a stone that is from so far away a land that you will never hope to see it, should you live a normal life-span."

And so our smith made them, but what he did not tell Loki was that we truly surpassed our cousins -- that while our cousins to the north were fine craftsmen, they were not sorcerers, which is what made our clan distinct. So we made the hammer, the axe, the ring, and the necklace in the most visually pleasing fashion that we could -- but we also infused them with the strength of the elements.

The hammer, we infused with the power of the earth, so that the wielder would be full of stability and battle-madness. The axe we filled with water, so that the wielder would feel the full torrent of emotion, and thus conquer all manner of enemies with the power of the raging tide and floodwaters. The necklace was infused with air, to give the wearer a soul-beauty that would bring harmony to all. Anyone who wears it will find that all will look them straight in the eye without malice. The ring is infused with the power of the void -- the formlessness the brings about all possibilities.

Loki took our offerings without anything in return. Before you look at me that way, you must understand that this was the way that things were. Strangers always came, and we made things for them without any thought of compensation or payment, because we produced things for the love of creation.

Perhaps this was the biggest mistake that we could ever make.

The hammer was wielded by Thor, who you must know from your mythology. He was such a hardened killer that he brought about the deaths of countless Jotun. I understand that Surtur, who still lives, has vowed that he will die only when the last of the Aesir are dead.

We have no idea who wielded the others, but we know that they are still out there. Perhaps they were famous killers or healers, or perhaps they were not. But I would bet that they were all individuals known in history.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Mulder raised a question at this point, "For an engineer, I find that your 'infusion' of elements into common objects is quite odd."

"Spoken like a true scientist," smiled Stein. "You find such a statement opposed to your objective training. But let me ask you this: is elemental theory invalid because you cannot quantify it?"

Mulder found himself thinking, //People living in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.// That made him wonder where Scully was, and if she was all right. "I find that I don't know enough about these weapons to make a judgment of any kind."

Stein smiled even more widely, "You have a heart like my own. What would you say if I told you that the elemental power of these weapons rise from their physical shape, the care that resides in the heart of their creator, and the intangible feelings that are produced in the user? Would you say that alcohol produces a mystical experience because the drinker enters an altered state of consciousness? Would you say that art is mystical because it brings an art lover into a different state of being?

"The problem with explanations that involve 'magic' is that it excludes the perfectly reasonable explanations. Though I say 'infused with earth' for instance, all I really say is that I infused it with a 'mood' that people either pick up or not. There's nothing magic about it."

That left both Mulder and Skinner with their heads spinning. After all they'd seen, and all they'd experienced, they expected a Castaneda-like explanation. The fact that they got as reasonable an explanation (as possible, at least) was as severe as shock as they could possibly get.

"So why is it that I get all these memories?" asked Skinner, his face downcast. "Am I going insane? Is it a dream?"

Stein threw up his hands. "You might be. Maybe you watched too much television as a child?"

"Wait a minute!" barked Mulder. "You've just spent the last half hour telling us stuff that we'd get thrown in the loony bin for even thinking, and you're saying that Skinner's transformation -- and Odin's transformation -- is the product of too much television?"

Stein threw up his hands again. "I'm sorry. I just don't know what to tell you -- whatever's happening, it's not our fault. We just made the weapons."

* * *

Mulroney stared right at Vachon with a dead look in his eyes.

Vachon's eyes were intent and stabbing right into Mulroney's. He even forgot about Tracy as he felt his own heart shaking his body more strongly than an earthquake ever could. ^^What are you?^^

Mulroney couldn't resist answering. "Altered."

^^What do you mean?^^

"I was an officer of Her Majesty's Army in India, long before Gandhi was even born, and was taken by the Invisible Ones. I don't remember what happened to me, but I was made immortal." Even while under vampiric control, he was a decorum-freak. He would not make it appear he was under control, even while he was.

That intrigued Vachon, who had no idea about any of the mess that Mulroney was mired in. ^^How many times have you died?^^

"More times than I could count."

//Hmm...// thought Vachon, //there's some potential here.// ^^What are the Invisible Ones?^^

"I don't know for sure."

^^Guess.^^

"They are the remnants of the Atlanteans, so they have said. I haven't seen anything to contradict that."

A voice spoke out of the shadows, "You're asking the wrong questions." The speaker emerged, and it turned out to be none other than LaCroix. Tracy hadn't been introduced to him quite yet, but Vachon had. He nearly broke his hold on Mulroney with his startlement.

LaCroix, however, didn't care whether Vachon retained a hold or not -- he muscled him to the side, taking over control as well. ^^How many are the Invisible Ones, and where are they?"

Mulroney began to sweat. "There are thirteen. I know that one is in Paris, five are in Toronto, six are in Washington D.C., and one is at the Landing, waiting for the band of immortals flying up there."

That shocked LaCroix so much that it was visible on his face, "How do you know about this?"

Mulroney smiled, even under hypnosis, "How much do you want to pay?"

LaCroix had a sense of humor, "How about eternal hell?" He grabbed Mulroney by the shoulders so strongly that the bones snapped, nudging his chin out of the way. "I pay you with hell, and you give me *all* the answers!" His teeth bit through the skin.

What happened next could only be described as something highly unusual to say the least. The taste of the blood wasn't too unusual -- the same taste that any gin drinker would provide. What was unusual was the *experience*.

He drank and drank compulsively, as if he were starving, and Mulroney's blood were the only blood left that would fill him. It filled him with an energy so powerful that he could have crushed walls down, or even battled the sun, but at the same time, it filled him with memories that he'd never had.

This was the boon and the curse of vampirism: with the blood came the memories. Some primitive cultures still believed that the life and mind existed in the blood -- LaCroix and the Romans had known better, that the mind and memory existed in the heart. And it was with the draining of the heart-blood that the memories came...

//What are you doing?! Stop!! NOOOOOO!!!!!!//

He felt his whole body being slashed to pieces, without the scalpel even touching his skin. Blood sprayed out in all directions.

Do not be afraid. We only wish to improve the quality of life...

He felt his very nerves catch on fire, in a way that sunlight could never do.

//Will you feed my hunger if I swallow lies right down my throat?//

Yes.

//The PAIN!!!!//

That too will pass.

It's time to roll the dice.

LaCroix opened his eyes with a sharp snap. In just a heartbeat of time, he saw both Vachon and Tracy staring at him with fear and confusion. Vachon knew what must be happening, and even he was confused.

Then he understood. He had drained blood with the intention of bringing one across. He hadn't provided his own blood, which would have made it all possible.

He spoke in a very shaking tone, "Die."

In a split second, he searched around for the implement. There was none... until he saw Detective Vetter's gun. Vachon, the much younger one, was barely able to flinch even after the gun was snatched away.

When five bullets blew away most of the neck, Vachon had only managed to extend his arm.

When the head was twisted off the body and tossed callously away, Vachon had screamed two syllables and had moved only an inch. Vetter hadn't even managed to blink.

There was no Quickening. Though LaCroix identified himself as a vampire, his recent experience with the Provincianus had led him expect to receive a Quickening after the decapitation of all non-vampire immortals.

"What have you done?" asked Vachon.

LaCroix stood still for many moments. Time had slowed down even more. A statue would have moved faster than time.

//It seems that Nicholas has influenced you, my flighty friend. The old Vachon would have understood. Even if I wanted to kill him for the sake of thirst, he would have understood.// LaCroix smiled slowly, "I gathered information that he would not have provided you. I have information from the source, and he is no longer necessary."

He stared down at Mulroney's form, "I suppose I should say 'good game,' but you weren't even a mediocre player."

The situation finally registered to Tracy, who vomited. She had killed her own, but only in the line of duty. She had seen vampires drain blood, but only out of hunger. She had only twice in her life seen murder face-to-face, and it still shook her.

LaCroix smiled at her. "You should be thanking me. You would have never had the guts to do it yourself... forgive the pun."

* * * *


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