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

Chapter 20

Mulder woke up in the igloo. Pain flooded all of his nerves -- even the ones he didn't know he had. A sharper pain flooded through his system as Kate put a hot cloth on his forehead. She easily held him down.

"It's a wonder you're still alive," she snapped. "You were almost a block of ice when we got to you." She noticed the look in his eyes. "And don't be getting any ideas!"

Mulder closed his eyes. "What happened?"

"You missed everything." Skinner's voice came from the other side of Kate.

Mulder sat up with a jerk, barely missing a head-butt with Kate. "Skinner?!" He was there, looking even bulkier than he did a few days ago. His eyes seemed downcast, though, as if someone in the family had died and he was desperately trying to hide it. "What are you doing up here?" Kate pushed him back down.

"Powys brought me. He also brought along Cancerman and Mr. X, but Cancerman didn't make it. His parachute failed."

"Did the Viking come yet?"

"He came and left. Maybe Powys knows what it was all about, but it still doesn't make a lot of sense to me." He grimaced, "And you better hope you know your physics."

Mulder cringed, then tried to get up again, but Kate started to get stern. "Now you stay down! You're not going ANYWHERE!"

Perhaps it was the next day when he was let out of the igloo. They would stay here for a full week until a plane would pick them up -- Mulder wanted to scream in agony. All that time to think about all the opportunities that he'd missed.

It was midday when he wandered around the ruins -- he had no idea what time it was, since the sun wouldn't be visible for another few weeks -- it was the weather as much as the time of year. He saw the still corpse of Odin, covered with a layer of frost. Two fallen ravens lay next to him. His spear was left untouched, and the arrow that killed him was still red and white from two days ago.

Mulder kicked at the arrow.

"I'm sorry you missed it, but that's the way the coin falls." Powys came up behind him. Mulder hadn't noticed him approach.

"What happened?"

"You mean they didn't tell you?" He slowly blew out his breath. "Frey chased Odin down here, and Odin took the Viking hostage."

"That much I know!" Mulder interrupted him. "But who was the Viking? Why did he come? Why did he go?"

"So *that's* what's puzzling you? It's very simple. The Viking is something of a gardener or caretaker. He takes care of Yggdrasil -- and like any tree, it needs to be tended. He comes once a century to check up on things, and moves on."

"Why did the Vikings come here in the first place?"

"It was a dangerous time. The roots of Yggdrasil needed to be guarded. Back then, Odin wanted to sever the roots and branches, rather than bind them together."

Mulder accessed his memories. "Yggdrasil. The World Tree. Wasn't it a tree that touched earth, heaven, and hell? If it's here, why can't I see it?"

"Yggdrasil is real enough, but I think you'll be disappointed to find out that it's an analogy, just like a lot of things in mythology and religion. You remember that book you read -- Schroedinger's Cat? There's a diagram in there that tries to visualize the passage of time under the many-worlds theory. What does it look like?"

"A tree." Mulder's brain got slammed by the high voltage that comes with realization.

"The roots of quantum mechanics lie in the observations and philosophy of the ancient peoples. The Vikings didn't think about the passage of time that way, but the Aesir did, and they named Yggdrasil after its branching."

"Are you saying that space and time has a gardener?"

"More like a ... friend. Olaf likes to visit the tree that he planted. As it grows and develops over the years, it renews his own life."

"You're not making sense."

"What was the function of Yggdrasil?"

He tried to remember, "It was used by the Aesir to travel between heaven and earth -- Thor was too heavy to use Bifrost, so they used the Tree."

"Exactly," Powys tried to hide a laugh, but failed. "But if you read between the lines, you'll realize it had nothing to do with weight. Thor was a rather dense individual who was more concerned with fighting and killing than anything else. Travelling by means of the Rainbow takes a lot more conscious direction and intelligence than Thor could handle. I'd say that the Vikings had a hell of a sense of humor when they wove that tale."

Mulder just stared at him.

Powys looked frustrated. "Heavy? Dense? Thick-skulled?... You have no sense of humor!" He threw his hands up into the air.

Mulder groaned at the terrible joke, now that he got it. "Quit the bad jokes! Just make your point!" He was starting to get short-tempered.

Powys sighed, "The World Tree is another play on words -- a bad joke, as you might call it. Think about the logic chain here: World Tree = world = tree = bridge = world to world. See?"

"So you're saying that the Tree was used to travel between worlds?" Mulder looked upwards longingly -- perhaps a touch of zeal in his eyes.

"You're so close! Not 'worlds' in the sense astronomers think. I mean worlds in the sense of 'parallel' world! The many worlds that Schroedinger's Cat says must exist. Think about what's involved in travelling between the worlds. The Invisible Ones have tried to create a biological means of travelling between the worlds, but it's not possible without creating insanity."

"I don't get it."

"Is this the product of universal education?" cried Powys loudly. "Think about it! You've had more education than a single Viking ever had! In order to travel the worlds, you have to travel through time, and the only way we could do it biologically would tear our minds apart! But we CAN do it through mechanical means!"

Powys pointed at the empty sky above the ruins. "That, Mulder, is the most elaborate device ever made!"

"WHAT are you pointing at?! I can't see a damned thing! And what happened to it being only a metaphor?"

Powys shook his head, "You still don't get it, do you? Look -- let's just accept that you don't understand, and leave it at that, agreed?"

"NO!!" he drew out his gun, pointing it at the unconcerned Powys. "I've come too far, and I won't leave without some answers!"

"What do you think I've been giving you all along? Insane ramblings?" He paced back and forth, "Think about it this way. Yggdrasil is a CREATED means of travel, but it's not like a bridge or a bus. Though it was created, it's also a living, natural thing -- from a certain point of view."

"From a certain point of VIEW?!?!" ranted Mulder. "Give me a black or white answer!!"

"What do you think I'm trying to give you? Now just listen. There's a good man." He patted Mulder on the head like a marvelous child. "Since none of my explanations have worked so far, think of it this way. I know that you have been near the lands of the Anasazi. Have you noticed the ancient roads that were build there? Perfectly straight -- even going down cliffs and up mountains. They were sacred roads that had a meaning beyond simple utility. That's about the best analogy I can give you."

"I don't want an analogy!! I want an explanation!!"

"Mulder," Powys finally got irritated, "you're as dense as a brick. If that keeps you from understanding me, then that's your own bloody fault!"

"O.K.! I'll drop that for now." He kicked the ground some more, putting away his gun. "Tell me why Odin was so dangerous. What was he trying to do?"

"Odin was a rare man. Do you remember how Odin came to gather the runes?"

Mulder's eyes widened. "YES!! Loki sent it to Scully through the e-mail, but it was different! It said:

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 whatever good is wisdom
If you can't remember a word?"

"That's the true story," nodded Powys. "Odin was the most knowledgeable of the Aesir, and he opened his mind to the true nature of the universe." He shook his head, "What we sense is not truly what is. Our senses are TRANSDUCTIONS of what is real -- and any scientist will admit that -- and they're so for a good reason. They FILTER what is real. The simple fact is that we can't handle reality... and neither could Odin.

"He saw reality as it truly was, and lost his mind. The fact that he had good intentions were meaningless, because he brought about the end of his world. Though the Aesir live on, as do the Vanir, the world they know is irreparably dead."

"But what was he trying to do?"

"I can't visualize dimensional geometry higher than the number three, but I think Odin was insane enough to see it in some sense as it actually was. He wanted to mesh together all the branches and create one world -- the infinite merged into one. Can you imagine the mental maelstrom?"

Something else clicked in Mulder's mind. "What is Bifrost?"

"The Rainbow."

Mulder thought about it some more. "Is that real too?"

"You're talking about the large-case Rainbow? It's certainly real. What's so special about a rainbow?"

"I contains the whole spectrum of light."

"Can light be used for physical transportation?"

Mulder was shocked at the implications. "It can't be! Star Trek is one thing, but this is the real world!"

"Go back to your assumptions. Follow the logic chain. I think you'll find your truth. If you're going to pronounce your 'truth' with an upper-case 't', I think you'll only be able to find it by deductive reasoning. Although I had a strong urge to kill Doyle, his character said it best, "Eliminate the impossible, and no matter what remains, no matter how improbable -- must be the truth."'

"You misquoted him!"

"So? You got the message, and that's what counts."

Even when the plane arrived by the end of the week to take them back, there were still too many holes for Mulder to fill with logic alone. He was so deep in thought that he never even noticed that Krycek had kept his two swords and remained in Canada.

* * *

Duncan and Richie sat in the Paris boat, sipping some wine and mulling over events.

"It just doesn't make any sense!" fumed Richie. "Why would the guy have such an elaborate setup there for a bunch of dummies?"

"Maybe they weren't just dummies... What if they were more?" aAdawning revelation shook Duncan to the bone. "What if those dummies had speakers, microphones, and video cameras inside? It looked like a council room -- what if it really *was* a council room? I never thought to look for any wires -- did you?"

Richie jumped. "No. I never thought of it! But why do it?"

"It works if you want to keep anonymity, but have the freedom of talking face-to-face."

They felt the presence of an immortal, and stood up with their swords drawn. Another presence joined them -- from opposite sides came --

Duncan: "Sharpe?!"
Richie: "Adam?"
Sharpe: "Methos?!"
Methos: "Sharpe?!"

* * *

Powys sat in a Dublin pub, sipping some Guinness, reading the morning paper. Several third page articles talked about the baffling events going on in the rural areas throughout the whole island -- unexplained riots in isolated villages, ransacking of churches and cathedrals, the assassination of IRA members, and the vanishing of a mysterious cult leader named Frey. His disappearance only strengthened the activities of a cult naming themselves the Vanir.

"That can't be right," muttered Powys. "Immortals are the Vanir!"

Some nosy old woman peered at him with an odd expression, shrugged, and went back to sipping her coffee.

* * *

Mulder knocked on Scully's door, holding a basket of assorted flowers. He didn't know what else to get her.

"Come in," she said. He stepped on through.

"How are you holding up?" he asked.

"Fine," she was barely able to smile. "The doctors say that I can eat dry steak in a week or two." The bruising was gone, and only a little bit of swollenness was left on her jaw.

He sat down, "Has Skinner dropped by?"

Her forehead wrinkled a little bit. "Yeah. He stopped by yesterday -- something changed him up in Canada. What happened up there?"

He told her *everything* that had happened up there, as well as his conversation with Powys on the ruins.

"I know that Skinner used the hammer. Maybe it affected him the same way the spear affected Duncan?"

Scully was skeptical. "I don't know... The chemical tests proved negative, so I don't know if the weapons are the true source of the odd behavior." She paused for a moment. "What do you think about what Powys said?"

Mulder nearly tore off his own head in frustration. "I don't KNOW! I mean -- I WANT to believe him, but I CAN'T! It's so preposterous! I just can't believe any of it -- it's an imaginative theory, I'll grant you that -- but it just can't be possible.

"...But it ties everything together so nicely..." He sat down.

Scully shook her head, and regretted it. //Sometimes I think it would be kinder to just shoot him.//

* * *

Joe Dawson was wiping off some of the tables. It was 1 AM, and by law, the bar had to close. That's why he looked startled when the door opened. In came a young kid in a business suit.
"Hey, we're closed!" snapped Joe. The kid held the inside of his left wrist up so Joe could see it. "Oh. You could have told me first!"

"I just got into town." The kid was pretty weary, like he hadn't had any sleep in weeks. "I need a shot of rum."

Wordlessly, Joe poured a glass full of coke on the rocks and spiked it with some rum. He handed it to the kid, who sipped it and nodded. "You don't remember me, but I sort of worked under you. You're the only one I can trust."

Joe sat down. "What happened?"

"It all started in Washington D.C. a few days back..."

The kid must have gone through several glasses of rum before he could calm down and stop gripping the table.

"So, while the others were busy leaving, I crept up to Odin's body."

"What happened?" asked Joe intently.

The kid said nothing -- the sleep deprivation and rum had put him to sleep. Not even a shout could wake him up.

Joe let him lie there, finished the rum glass, and finished up closing shop. Not too long afterward, he scratched his head and made a phone call.

* * *

Kate and Axer were at the Raven, talking at a table in the far corner, holding hands over the table. They looked like teenage lovers with those puppy-dog looks on both their faces.

LaCroix was shaking his head sadly at those two, but he soon got an even better reason to shake his head: Nick came in through the door and made a straight line towards him.
"Ahh... Nicholas. Perhaps you need help in a police investigation?"

"No," laughed Nick. "I came here for a drink."

"I don't serve your kind here." LaCroix was stern.

"No!" he snorted. "A *real* drink! It's a long story..."

With raised eyebrows, LaCroix grabbed a Red Rider and unpopped the cork. He sat down with Nick, who started talking, "You see, this guy came into the morgue early this evening..."

* * *

Kate gripped Axer's hand tightly. "Promise me there won't be any more wild adventures!"

"I'm staying retired this time!" he smiled. "Nothing can drag me out." He kissed her on the neck, holding back a smile as her neck tensed, and her hand tightened even more.

"You'd better be right," she ran her fingers through his fine, long hair. "And you'd better wipe that beard off your face!"

Before Axer could say anything, his eyes became shifty. He stood up with a hand on his sword handle.

* * *

LaCroix was listening to Nick with interest, but his attention became diverted. He stood up and looked around. It wasn't a vampire he sensed -- there were too many here to tell who was coming and going. He hadn't sensed Axer since that one day a few months back.

//Who could it be?...//

* * *

"Axer? What is it?" Kate sounded a little worried.

"An immortal. Who could it be?..." The feeling faded somewhat. "He must have moved on..." He sat back down with Kate, but the feeling suddenly grew stronger.

"Axer," smiled Coleen. Her sword was worn as openly as her smile.

"Axer?" Kate looked at Coleen, then at Axer a bit uncertainly.

The End

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