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

Chapter 19

It was Axer's turn to take watch. Where Sharpe had been attentive but jittery and impatient, Axer was calm and collected. He took the time to notice everything -- the two ravens circling endlessly overhead, the band of wolves running along the horizon, the occasional caribou herd that wandered through, and the white fox that ambled on its way.

Ever since the dream h'd had back at the geologists' camp, life seemed so different. When he looked at things, he noticed their beauty, rather than their forms. For the longest time, he'd never understood why old ladies could go on for hours about how flowers could be so pretty, but now he began to understand.

He could look at this valley and see life. It wasn't the form but rather the life within that stirred him.

Kate sat down next to Axer and snuggled up to him, draping his cloak over her shoulders. "You've been sitting here for six hours!" she complained. "Get Mulder to take over."

"Mulder's hiding in the igloo," smiled Axer. "I don't think even LaCroix could drag him out of there. Besides, it's nice out here."

She looked at him oddly, "Are you sick?" She put a hand on his forehead.

"No. I've never felt better."

"You don't *feel* hot or cold."

"I'm *not* sick. Why are you so concerned?"

"You're too happy! You're never like this unless you're asleep!"

Before he could say anything, Axer sensed a presence. He stood up and turned around, drawing his sword. Out of the dark mists emerged Krycek with about a hundred Inuit, all armed with axes, knives, and hunting rifles.

Sharpe rounded himself up, and the others emerged from the igloos to find out what all the racket was about.

Frey looked at the assembled group, as wary as the Inuit were of them. Not understanding the sensations running through his body, he scanned them one by one. Most seemed to hate him for a reason that he couldn't understand. A small of his mind was gibbering with fear. //He promised he'd kill me!//

Then he spied Odin, who was looking intently at Frey. The films lifted from both of their eyes. It all fit together. //The voice must be scared of them because they are in league with Odin.//

The eyes of a full pack of wolves converged on the area, unseen by any of the humans. Even Frey was oblivious, but Odin certainly knew it -- he smiled.

"Betrayer!" screamed Frey, drawing both of his swords. He had misinterpreted Odin's grin.

Mulder whipped out his gun and emptied his pistol into Krycek.

The Inuit, already tense to begin with, attacked.

Odin charged.

The wolves moved in.

Chaos ruled.

Powys smiled.

* * *

Mr. X and Skinner no longer felt the cold, now that they had the weapons. Their strength was returning, along with their fine motor skills.

"We have to do something!" growled Skinner.

"No," smiled Powys, "we wait."

* * *

The skirmish raged all around them, but for Odin and Frey, it was nonexistent. They faced one another, rage all over Frey's face and madness all over Odin's.

"Your sister was a good rape," smiled Odin, making a pumping motion with his spear. "She screamed and scratched at first, but when I was done with her, she was *begging* for more! Nothing like incest to spice up one's life -- you should have had your way with her too!"

Frey became somewhat mad himself. All he saw was red. His skills were pushed aside as he blindly attacked Odin, who had retained the right kind of lucidity in his madness. The spear cut cleanly through the right bicep. His dominant hand opened and dropped one of the swords. Frey took a step back, his eyes rimmed with red.

"I'd put my right hand behind my back," Odin laughed, "but the spear is a two-handed weapon!"

"That's all right," snarled Krycek in English, the fog clearing from his mind. "I'm a lefty!"

Odin backed up a little bit, uncertainty clear on his face. "You mean you have a multiple personality too?" he pouted. "Mimic! MIMIC!!" His face was one of childlike anger as he attacked once more. His neck muscles were so strained that every individual thread was visible.

Krycek didn't even know the guy -- all he knew was that he was in the middle of some wasteland, there was fighting all around him, and that some maniac with a familiar-looking spear was trying to kill him. He had no qualms about killing a murdering lunatic (apparently that's what he was), and lost none of his mind in a red rage.

Odin's insanity seemed to clear up as it dawned that he was facing a much different fighter who had quickly gained back the use of his right arm. His style was much different too.

Only a few feet away, Axer fought without any weapons other than his hands and feet. He didn't know why, but the thought of killing any of these Inuit made him feel nauseous. Instead, he disarmed as many men as he could, knocking them out or cracking collarbones and shoulders. When he saw the wolves, only then did he draw his sword.

Mulder, having emptied his gun into Krycek and run out of ammunition, seriously considered burrowing under the snow. It took a few heartbeats of hesitation before his mind was made up for him. A solid blow to the head knocked him out.

Kate and LaCroix fought as a team, wrestling as many as they could into the ground and knocking them out. It was a reflexive action, since dead humans would be too far gone to be tasty food when they would have the leisure of draining them. A live human could be knocked out and drained later. The wolves pretty much left them alone, so they paid them no mind.

Sharpe fought like a demon, bashing in heads and spilling blood. A smile even crept up on his face as all the aggravations of life vanished in the heat of battle. He went after the wolves even more than the Inuit once they started to attack him.

Odin, realizing that he wasn't getting anywhere with Frey, ran away screaming, "Rush Limbaugh is a danger to us all!!!" Krycek followed him, a look of bafflement mixed in with the jumble of emotions.

* * *

Powys was looking at the battle. "O.K. *NOW* we act!"

* * *

Odin ran down the hill, screaming in fright, "No!! You can't do this! You're a weak pansy!"

Krycek almost caught up with Odin, but he slipped on some ice and hit his head. He stared upwards at the sky, and noticed that the storm was clearing overhead, and the stars were much brighter than usual. They seemed to be coming closer and closer.

* * *

It was then that the long-awaited Viking came. He appeared out of nowhere and walked to the center of the ruins, walking as if the walls and doors were still there.

He sank to his knees and produced a preserved wood root.

* * *

Odin ran across the ruins, and pulled the praying Viking up by the neck. Krycek froze with uncertainty.

"Stand back, Frey!" ordered Odin. "If the Tree-Tender dies, everything goes up in smoke!"

Krycek backed off, ready to strike.

The Viking mumbled something in Norse, but Krycek couldn't understand a word of it. Odin snarled something back at him, then looked back at Frey. "Do you know what this place is? It's where Yggdrasil touches this world. You traveled it once yourself -- but none of the Aesir ever guessed at the ultimate nature of the World Tree.

"Not only can you travel between the Nine Worlds, but you can also touch other times and places. Have you ever wondered what would happen if you ever bundled up the branches? They would all touch! Everything would happen at once!"

Powys spoke from behind him. "I think your physics are a bit off. Tell me, how can you bundle together the branches of time and space?"

Odin swirled around, "Loki's lackey! Don't you ever die?"

"Lots of times," smiled Powys impudently, "but I have this habit of coming back. Do you even know what you intend to do?"

"Of course I know!" He backed off from Krycek and Powys. "And you won't trick me into telling you how -- you just *do* it!"

Powys nodded. "If that's all you have to say..." he snapped his fingers, and a half-yard arrow shot through Odin's remaining eye. He dropped the spear and shoved the Viking away reflexively. Though he was brain-dead, his body didn't quite know it yet.

Odin twitched in the snow, making moaning sounds until Powys grabbed the arrow and tried to mix up some of the brain. The best he could do was make some internal slices. The twitching stopped.

"Fade to black..." whispered Powys as he ripped out the arrow.

The two ravens circling overhead made their death screams and fell from the sky.

* * *

Skinner was trying to restore some order with the war hammer at the igloo camp. Anyone who didn't immediately put down their weapons and lie flat on the ground got a few good slams. After about five minutes, everybody who hadn't surrendered suffered some broken ribs or limbs.

When it was all over, he wished that it hadn't ended.

Powys, Krycek, and Mr. X walked over the top of the hill, and looked amazed at all the blood and bodies everywhere. Skinner looked at them as if he were going to charge over and kill them on the spot, but something snapped, and he seemed to become his old self.

Skinner dropped the hammer and surveyed the camp in
disbelief. "Did I do this?"

"No," smiled Powys, patting him on the back. "You only put a stop to it. Let me take this." He took the hammer back, and after a moment of hesitation, took the bow and arrows from Mr. X, who suddenly looked confused.

"You can all get up now," said Powys to the crowd. Those who could did so, but Powys had to step in before things got too crazy. "It's over! The Viking left!"

That stunned Sharpe. "What happened?"

"Odin tried to kill him, and I put a stop to it. Apparently he was going to do something, but when he wasn't going to tell me how, I had him killed. The Viking went on his way."

"What part does the Viking play in all this?" asked Axer, moving over to Powys.

"It's a long story. I'll tell it to you later."

Axer nodded. Slowly, they began to clean things up.

* * *

In the no-longer sleepy town in rural Ireland, the riot stopped all of a sudden. That was because of a few well-aimed canisters of tear gas, which forced the rioters into a central area where the government troops could round them all up.

It was very baffling -- it seemed that everyone had participated in this senseless riot, and nobody could come up with a reason as to why it happened in the first place.

"I don't understand it," one old lady said to the other. "What could have started all of it?"

"Who knows?"

The one question they never asked was why the government troops were called in when had been a job for local law enforcement.

* * *

Cancerman opened up his eyes, his body crusted over by so much ice that he couldn't move. A figure stood over him.

||Man. Look at me.||

The voice came from a voice-synthesizing box. The fog drifted up from his eyes, and he tried to scream, but he had stopped breathing a long time ago.

||I have a bargain for you.||

Pain flooded through his body as sensation came back.

||If I save your life, will you perform a service?||

"Yes!" croaked Cancerman, with new breath.

||It is sealed. By your own word, you will perform a vital service for me.||

Cancerman was able to scream. The pain was nothing -- it was the fright that was soul-wrenching. The sensation was so alien, and the --

* * * *

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