The Cycle of Axer Carrick
Part III -- Frostmelt
by Henry Wyckoff

Chapter 3

Scully sat in puzzlement, reading the e-mail that had been sent to her account. There was no such thing as a *truly* anonymous e-mail. There were anonymous mail functions -- used especially for the sex-related Usenets -- but that wasn't truly anonymous, because any authorized individual could open up the database and look up the true origin of
any 'anonymous' message.

This message was truly anonymous.

It was a poem that read:

I hung from a tree for nine long nights,
My head upraised to the stars.
The cold, black wind has taken flight.
My senses become marred.

I sold my eye for wisdom.
I sold my soul for strength.
The runes slip past my nailed hands
And into the darkened gate.

I've made my dearest sacrifice
For the sake of saving the world.
But what ever good is wisdom
If you can't remember a word?

"Whatcha reading, Scully?" asked Mulder, entering her 'sort-of' office.

"Some Internet junkie's been sending me poetry," she shook her head. "Take a look at this one!" She showed him today's poem.

Mulder scanned it, and shook his head, but for a vastly different reason. "Do you know what that means? It's the hint I've been looking for! A child could figure it out!"

Scully stared at him in annoyance. "We'll, you'll just have to educate this child."

He paced back and forth, his own annoyance slipping into a lecturing tone. "Odin was the King of the Norse gods. The myths hold that he was crucified on a tree for nine long nights so that he could gain wisdom... the runes. But this poem is different than common mythology -- in the myths, Odin gained the runes, where this says that he missed them precisely because he was crucified, and couldn't move his hands.

"Now as to this darkened gate -- I don't know what it means yet, but I think it could be a very important clue."

"And the last part?"

Mulder shook his head, "It means that all of his sacrifice was for nothing -- that he gained knowledge and wisdom, but lost the ability to use it."

"Why am *I* getting this?" Scully fumed. "It's nonsense -- he should have sent it to YOU!! And even if it *is* a message, what do we do??? Answer me that!"

"It means that I make a few calls..." he muttered. "And
dress for *really* cold weather."

"Neither one of us is going ANYWHERE!" she yelled. "Do you see that stack of papers? That's our CASELOAD!! Three months worth of solid work that you won't abandon because you feel like going off on some damned adventure that's nearly killed you each time!

"And since *when* does Norse mythology become the Truth?"

"It became the truth since the Odinssons emerged and showed a link between a hidden power in the government, a forgotten religious war, and immortals walking the earth. Since Cancerman is involved, it also shows a link to alien abduction and human experimentation. Whoever it is that sent you the mail is taking a *big* risk, and you're ignoring it." Mulder's face was emotionless as he said, "Why are you working on the x-files?"

"What?" that stopped her cold.

"You heard me. Why are you working on the x-files?"

"Because I've been assigned to them!"

"Is that all they are to you? An assignment? I was beginning to think that you were seeking the truth. I guess I was wrong -- if you want a reassignment, I'm sure Skinner can work it out."

Scully couldn't believe what she was hearing. She wanted to scream and cry at the same time -- but instead, she went ballistic on him, "I don't believe what you're saying!! How DARE you say such a thing to me!! I've spent the last few years following along on your goose chases -- and where have they taken us? Where have they taken YOU?"

"Closer to the truth," he continued at the same volume. "We're here to search for the truth, not follow rules and shuffle papers. Don't you see that the rules are here to keep us from finding out the truth?"

"And don't you see that your gross negligence has nearly cost you a job and your reputation?!"

"It was worth it. I thought you would understand." He walked out the door. "I'm going to get some information, and when I get it -- I'm acting on it. I won't let you stop me."

"Don't count on it!"

Mulder nearly bumped into Skinner on his way out, who seemed to grow several feet taller in a split second. He kept his cool, though. "Mulder. In my office. NOW!" He wasn't in a good mood, that was pretty obvious.

Muttering, Mulder started walking towards Skinner's office, while Skinner stayed for a moment. "Are you OK.?"

She blew out a long breath of air. "Yeah. He's getting worse, you know. I don't know how much longer he'll stay stable -- if this is stable."

He nodded. "He's the best chance we've got, though. Remember -- most of our geniuses and heroes were frothing lunatics."

"What *did* he do?" she asked out of curiosity. "I haven't seen you get that mad in months."

"I'm afraid that's between him and me."

"I see."

Skinner didn't like the squeezing feeling that he felt in his gut, but he knew it had to be done. Their partnership was the best thing that could have ever happened for the both of them, but what he was about to do would be best for the greatest number of people.

He reached his office, where Mulder had dutifully sat down -- perhaps after checking for bugs, not that it would do much good. Skinner sat down in his chair, and took a very deep breath.

"I'm about to do something against my better judgment," he said to Mulder, who saw the sudden change in his mood -- from red-hot anger to somberness. "I'm going to separate you and Scully."

Mulder almost stood up in shock. "What the--"

"Shut up and LISTEN!" Skinner stood up himself, leaning forward in his desk and staring Mulder in the eye. "Just listen! I need you to do work with a different partner. This is an international case, and Scully wouldn't be able to cope in this one."

"What do you mean?! We've worked together for years in any situation!"

"This isn't *any* situation. *Any* situation doesn't have a damned thing to do with ... immortals, vampires, or cults."

Mulder was knocked back flat against the chair. Skinner had denied what had happened as much as Scully did, but more in the sense of, "My memory fails me between the dates of X and Y," than "There is a rational explanation for this."

Skinner continued. "I'm sure you met your new partner before. His name is Richard Sharpe." He handed Mulder a file. "It's all you need to know."

"And what will Scully do?"

"Don't worry. She'll have enough work cut out for her down here. If it makes you better, think of it this way: I'm just putting you two at tasks that you do best. You'll be off doing the field work while she does research here."

Mulder's eyes narrowed, and Skinner amended himself. "Don't worry! I'm not being sarcastic -- I truly believe that this is the best way of running this case. In the long run, I think you'll agree." His tone had become more of a pleading one now, than a commanding one.

Mulder thought about it for a few moments. "Let me read through this first." He scanned it briefly. "I don't get this... You want me to go the northern edge of Canada?? There's nothing there but ice and rock!"

"It's what used to be there that's the important part. Read on."

He did, and his eyes widened. "I can't believe that you'd buy this!"

"There's a lot you don't know about me."

When Mulder left, Skinner grabbed for the bottle of vodka he kept hidden in his desk. It was times like this that he needed a shot of alcohol to keep his guts from churning. The one thing that haunted him was the acknowledgment to himself that he was deliberately taking Mulder at least five years back in time.

He didn't want Mulder the X-Files Investigator -- he now needed Mulder the Zealot, even if it broke him and Scully.

* * *

Axer had spent the last few hours explaining about everything that hadn't been told. He tried to say as little as possible, but even so, it was a lot: the Game and its rules, the Quickening, and the Prize. When that was over, he also told her about what had happened in this very city some time back.

"It all started over at Tam O'Shanty's...."

For Kate, a great number of things fell into place -- the words, the photographs, bits and pieces of his personality, and the sadness. His protectiveness also became understandable.

//Anyone whose seen what he has...// she didn't finish her thought. Kate wrapped her arms around his shoulders, burrowing her face into his fine, long brown hair. //No wonder he hurt so much when he thought I left him.// She could still feel that look in his eyes -- like she had died and come back to life -- and the feeling that her heart had been gripped by a vise.

LaCroix had been listening the whole time -- feeling no guilt for eavesdropping, and certainly edified after catching a great number of facts that he hadn't known of before.

* * * *

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