The Cycle of Axer Carrick
Part VI -- Cats Eyes
by Henry Wyckoff
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.Stein's Tale
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...
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
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
"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."
"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
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."