The Cycle of Axer Carrick
Part III -- Frostmelt
by Henry Wyckoff
Scully and Skinner sat at the conference table, drinking coffee and pretty much relaxing after a long week of pushing papers. Skinner was preoccupied with something that he refused to talk about, and Scully was more confused than anything else -- but she was also a lot more aloof than she had been even a few days ago.
"Perhaps you'd like to explain what's going on," suggested Scully with a raised eyebrow. "Mulder disappears without a word, and next thing I know, you're giving me a lot of meaningless paperwork."
Skinner nodded. "It's just preparation for your new case. I wanted to make sure that if anyone was paying attention, all they would know is that you're doing some routine peer-reviews. THIS is your real case." He passed a folder across the table. Rather than a stack of FBI memos, it was filled with recent newspaper articles from Iceland, Norway, Ireland, and Denmark. Most of the articles weren't in English, so she couldn't make sense out of any of them.
"Your job will be to find out how a seemingly-harmless object can affect a human mind and personality."
Scully looked puzzled. "Sir? I have no idea what you're talking about."
"Look at the third article. Look at the picture."
She did. It was an editorial in a Cork county newspaper, complaining about the pagan cults that were seemingly on the rise. There was a photograph in the article, but because it was from a fax, the picture was smudged. A closer look revealed... Krycek. She looked at Skinner in confusion.
He nodded. "Krycek somehow thinks he's a god -- I doubt it's an act -- he honestly believes he's a Norse god called Frey, God of the Elves. My theory is that it's the two swords that he grabbed back in that church in Toronto. I managed to obtain the spear, so I want you to run some tests on it. I'm gambling that whatever affected Duncan and Nick is affecting Krycek in the same way. I tried to get hold of the axe -- but Nick destroyed it!"
"Sir," protested Scully, "there must be at least fifteen labs that can do a better job at this than I can!"
"Yes, I know. Think of it as research into the effects of an inanimate object on a human being."
"But that's the work for a psychologist!"
"Maybe, but you're the only one we have. Would you trust this to anyone outside our circle?"
She shook her head, not knowing why she was thinking of Mulder at the moment. "I'll see what I can do, sir, but I still think you're making a mistake."
* * *
Frey stood on top of the large boulder, looking over the crowd of two hundred people -- mostly rural farmers, New Agers, and bikers. They had changed their normal clothes for very bad imitations of Viking clothing and armor. Some axes and hammers bought at the local hardware stores were brandished in the air, as were a few hunting rifles and knives. Though they might swear to be God-fearing Christians -- and Irishmen -- at the moment they were followers of Frey, nostalgic for a time they'd never seen in their lives.
The bitter war already tearing their country apart from the seams had apparently taught them nothing -- and it was the furthest thing from their minds. Anyone who mentioned the words "IRA", "bombs", or "terrorists" would most likely have gotten blank looks of confusion.
"The Christians are to blame!" Frey called out loudly, his booming voice rolling across the countryside. Though he was supposedly a Nordic god, he spoke in a fluent, native Gaelic spoken by the older ones of the region. If the listeners had the mind to, based on the language itself, they would have sworn that he was a local himself -- but no -- he was a god come from Valhalla to save them.
This, coming from a people who were sacked repeatedly by the selfsame Vikings who had ravaged Ireland as much as the other lands. Tradition supposedly ran strongly in this land, so strongly that Frey should have been chased out, but instead, tradition had been rudely shoved out the door.
"It is the Christian missionary who came to your land with his crucifix in one hand, and a dagger hidden in the other behind his back!" There were loud cries of agreement. "What has the Christian given you besides promises. 'Just have faith, my son,' says the priest while he's giving your sons and daughters a lot more than a taste of the Holy Spirit!" Coarse laughter followed that.
Frey continued. "I don't offer you faith -- I offer you proof! I am Frey, the God of the Elves, who never left you! I sat back, as did the rest of the Aesir, and watched the world make its choice. Did you know that Fimbulwinter and Ragnarok did not happen in the past -- they were prophecies of what is to come! The volcano that blacked out the skies of Europe and brought in the long winters was but an omen of a time to come much later -- the Ragnarok that the Vikings saw was but a dream within a dream! Brother will turn against brother, and father against daughter, but it must be! The war is to come, and you must ALL choose sides!"
The roaring from the audience continued to increase in volume, but Frey still made his voice heard. "Let me show you the proof of my divinity. Watch!" He pulled out both of his swords and shoved them into each of his lungs, and pulled them back out. "This is REAL blood! Yet I still stand and talk! What Christian priest can do that? None! Why do the Christians revere a WEAK MAN who ALLOWED himself to be nailed to the cross, to atone for Mankind's sins, when no sins were committed, no atonement is necessary? I say that a weak and compassionate man is a DEAD MAN!
"The time will come when you must shed blood! Why? For a cross?"
"No!" came back the thunderous reply.
"For a country?"
"For the shed blood of a sacrificial lamb?"
"Go back to your homes and family, and breathe not a word to anyone of what has transpired today. Say nothing openly -- and even deny it if you must -- but the day will come before the year is out when all is in the open, and you will let your zeal show!"
The mob shouted in ecstasy and dispersed, going back to their horses, cars, and motorcycles. Within moments, Frey was left alone on the rock, where he pondered what had happened in the last few months.
He looked at his hands, which were long and thin. He seemed to have a memory of them being shorter and thicker, but it seemed more like a dream, as were the names that continued to whisper in the vaults of his mind. ...Krycek... ...Patrick Morgan...
Frey didn't know where they came from, along with the dreams that came with them, but he accepted them. For everything, there is a lesson, even if it takes years to learn them. No, he would not let himself be bothered by them when there was much more important work that had to be done. He stood up and looked across the land once more.
His eyes wiped away all the roads, houses, and factories in the distance. He saw the land that once was, and vowed to see it that way again.
A hill. A stream. A roaming cow. All triggered memories that came flooding back to him. Were they memories? Visions to come? Or a dream? A dream within a dream...
...Frey stood on the rock, looking across the plane. What was once a gentle, grassy plain was now a wasteland of ashes, corpses, boulders, and raging fires.
The snow that had blanketed the whole land for three years had ended -- the sky had cleared, and what was revealed was THIS.
Freyja approached from behind and rested her hands on his shoulders, her long hair blowing forward and wrapping around his face. "I'm sorry."
Tears flowed down his face. "Once, this land was green and full of life. See that over there? That was Olaf's farm. His wife was named Helga. They had six children: Buri, Bjorn, Olaf, Egil, Skala, and Harald. Their cows grazed as far as this boulder." The last was a strangled choke.
She quieted him. "That is past. They were just mortals. They live and die faster than the blink of an eye."
"How can you say that?" he demanded, spinning around. His eyes were mad with grief. "How can you SAY that? They were our CHILDREN! How can you shrug off their deaths as much as you would shrug the death of a bug -- or blade of grass?"
"But they ARE blades of grass," she protested. "They die in moments, and give birth to more of their kind. Even this land won't remain barren forever. See the green shoots over there? Life will come before you can blink an eye!"
"But what of what has been lost?"
She turned him around to face the muddy, blood- and body-filled river. "Time is like a river, ever flowing -- and when it is frozen, it doesn't flow at all. You can never stop it without great effort, and the effect is never known. You can never step in the same river even once, and it is foolish to try.
"Be glad it flows, for it carries away the bloody corpses that you cling to. Olaf is dead. Helga is dead. Their children are dead. If you love life, then wait for the next generation to come -- and cherish them only for the moment that they walk Midgard."
"I know they are but fleeting thoughts in the wind," he whispered. "But WHY does it hurt so much?"
"It is pain, just like any other, and like pain, it is soon forgotten..."
...The word echoed in his mind.
"But nothing is forgotten, dear Freyja," he whispered into the ever-remembering winds. "Even you, who died so long ago. And I remember much more..."
...They stood on the field of battle. Ragnarok raged -- and will rage -- and Frey faced the Allfather with betrayal, fear, love, and hate all in his face at once. The battle raged all around them, yet there was a brief calm here. Blood dripped down the spear blade like an obscene discharge.
"Why do you do this, Allfather?" demanded Frey, the bloody corpse of dear Freyja in his arms. "She was my light -- my soul!"
Odin's laugh was empty, "Dear boy, she is dead meat! You place a baffling value on her. There is no light or darkness, as you claim. There is only what IS. How can you place a value on what IS?" It was the same intellectual nonsense that the Allfather had said before, but its lack of emotion made it a frightening sound to hear.
"What has happened to you?" asked Frey, fear creeping visibly creeping into his voice. "Your quest for knowledge has made you mad! Was your quest for knowledge so important?"
"My quest has opened my eyes. I see all before me -- the starry wisdom, and it tells me that there is only one reality."
"The Maelstrom," whispered Odin, approaching Frey, who stood and backed up. "All events at once -- no barriers between the branches of the Tree of Life." His eyes became mad with bliss and horror, and he charged towards Frey, spearing the eternally-young man through the chest.
Frey dropped to his knees, his face contorted in agony. "You may kill me, but I will return to haunt you! There is no death in the universe -- only a change, and when the wheel turns once more, so will I!"
"I never believed in that Vanir wine-dreaming!" snarled Odin, who twisted the spear, and yanked it out, spilling Frey's guts a few feet in front of him.
The twin blades never fell from Frey's hands, and the blood mingled with the blades...
..."Odin!!" screamed Frey to the sky. "Damn you!!"
The two ravens watched him from the shoulders of a cow, innocently chewing grass, unimpressed by the insane howling. If they could speak, the would say the man was damned more than Odin could ever be.
* * *
Sharpe and Mulder arrived at the Raven, where LaCroix sat alone, amusement on his face. He noticed the arrival of the two and smiled, "I suppose I should expect to see a wolf dancing with the lamb next."
Sharpe certainly understood the reference. "More like the wooden spike dancing with the heart."
LaCroix shrugged, the arrogant smirk on his face never leaving.
"What seems to have grabbed your attention so much, if I may ask?..."
The vampire nodded towards the other side of the darkened room -- about forty feet away, on the balcony above. Axer lay his head on the small table, holding it in agony, while a young woman was having a low-volume, one-way discussion with him in a language that only Sharpe recognized.
A few spoken sentences were enough to make Sharpe wince in sympathy for Axer. "Let me guess," he spoke slowly. "He came home drunk with a lady friend."
LaCroix snickered. "Worse -- he got drunk with a male
Sharpe and Mulder turned towards him with shocked faces, but he shook his head, "Not in THAT sense. Powys and Kate left him at a bar while she went out to attend to her... ahh... needs, and Axer overindulged himself. A full bottle of scotch and fifteen bottles of ale, if I remember correctly."
Sharpe winced again -- he'd had enough run-ins with scotch to know that a mere five-double shots can put a good drinker out -- a full bottle and fifteen pints? Ooh... Axer was in for a hell of a hangover -- the tongue-lashing would probably be a relief compared to the pain he must have been< going through!
In a flash of insight, Mulder asked, "She's a vampire?"
LaCroix nodded. "I'm impressed. If only Nicholas can make observations as well as you seem to."
Mulder had enough tact to say nothing.
Sharpe asked, "Where are the others?"
"Powys is out attending to his own affairs. The others are not here. I gather that you come here for a reason?..."
Sharpe nodded. "The standards have raised, and we need to scout. I have a gift to bring you, and a boon to ask of you."
LaCroix' eyebrows raised. "I'm listening."
Sharpe presented a modified Roman gladius -- scaled up a little bit. The blade was an arm's length, and the grip double-handed, but the style was the same. The metal was not iron, but a dull carbon steel. Only the pommel and guard were bronze. LaCroix looked at Sharpe with puzzled eyes.
"LaCroix," said Sharpe formally, "your skills as a general are legendary among the immortals. We need them in the war to come."
LaCroix looked levelly at Sharpe and said, "And to think Axer accuses all vampires of being melodramatic."
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