The Cycle of Axer Carrick
Part IV -- Reading the Endtrails
The Revised Version
by Henry Wyckoff
Axer made one of his special drinks: Guinness over Bass over Absolut. Sure, the vodka mixed with the Bass pretty quickly, and it was tasteless, but it would give a hell of a kick after a while.
Heimdall was pretty pleased as he looked at Axer. "I'll have to say you're a great bartender. I haven't had anything this good in a long time." He took a sip and sighed deeply, "This is *really* good."
Just to be fair to Axer, Heimdall'd told him what he had told Nick and Tracy -- during that time, Tracy took a cat nap and Nick tried unsuccessfully to talk to Nat. Nat absolutely refused to speak to him, choosing instead to spend her time at a table, staring at the corner.
Heimdall finished giving Axer the background information and then looked around, "Hey -- I thought this place thrived at night! Where is everyone?"
Axer nodded over to the door, "Didn't you know? Whenever we have a little get-together, LaCroix closes the place down -- he calls it 'inventory time'. Nobody seems to mind."
"Hmm..." Heimdall drained his imperial pint glass and reached for a pitcher of beer that Axer had just set down. "Oh well." While he rested his throat with some more beer, Tracy woke back up and Nick drifted on over. It worked out rather neatly, because Heimdall was ready to finish his story.
Although Nick and Tracy had threatened to pin him with the murders, he didn't seem to mind. Taking another draw of beer, he continued where he had left off at the station. "Like I was saying, Kerry and I were up north. North of the Arctic Circle..."
...and we were making sure that the natives wouldn't treat us like fresh meat ready to be smoked. Kerry sure had a real knack for that skill -- keeping from being smoked, that is.
We stayed with them for a week, resting our feet from our most recent road march. We must have walked for a full week there, so we really deserved it. Once the week had passed, we both started to get cabin fever.
That was when we started to get social with the natives. I don't have much trouble picking up a language -- that's just the way I am. But Kerry -- he was a wonder. He was able to make his needs be known from the start, and after a few days, he was having conversations with them. Of course, it was child talk, but hell -- I challenge you to pick up a primitive language in a few days!
It took a month for me to catch up to Kerry's skill. By this time, we were respected because both of us were crazy enough to kill polar bear and walrus. Sure, we weren't the only ones, but it was still a big deal back then, so it kept us useful. It also kept us fed.
In retrospect, I really wish that Kerry hadn't learned their language so much, because he started nosing around about their rune tattoos. One thing led to another, and he started night-dreaming, looking up at the stars, and talking about stuff that made no sense to me. Stuff like 'starry wisdom', 'smoking mirror', and 'the branches of the tree'. Maybe it was the aliens that did it to him. I still don't know. All I do know is that he was touched by some sort of lunatic.
It was a few weeks later, when we were both drowsy from eating a big feast, that he told me, "There's a cave not far from here that I want to explore. The People say that the Gods left great treasures in there. I want to see it for myself."
"Don't you think there's a good reason they'd leave it alone?" I asked. I hadn't heard about this cave, but I figured that legends were better off left as legends instead of sad facts.
"Don't you want to find out for yourself?!" he stood up and ranted at me. "This is *wisdom*!"
Wisdom is not a good word to use around me. I had more than enough with wisdom. I obey my common sense, and that's good enough for me, and I told him so.
Kerry sulked on his own, and didn't talk to me for a week. Time heals, though, and he forgot about his little snit. He even seemed to forget about the cave, and when he made another suggestion, it was that we go out and hunt some caribou. It was that time of the year, and I was all for it.
We went out with a team of hunters, so I thought this would be hunting as usual. And you know, it was. We went out and killed more caribou than we had in a long time, even on the way up. We were on the way back when a storm buried us in snow, and Kerry and I were separated from the rest of the group. They moved on, figuring it was better to reach the village with the meat than to risk dying in search for us and leaving the meat out in the field where nobody would be able to find it before it was too late.
There wasn't any wood out here, so Kerry was starting to fret, but I must have started laughing and told him not to worry. "You can eat this meat raw, you know," I told him. He looked skeptical, so I ate a good chunk of meat just to show him. I came from a culture where we ate raw meat just as much as cooked, so it was like old times for me.
We ate our meat and tried to move on, but the storm got worse, and eventually we reached the strangest cave. Most caves are set into the sides of hills and mountains -- this one was a natural cave with a mouth that opened on flat ground without any mountains in sight. It opened up and sloped gently downwards into the darkness.
Kerry looked at me, saying, "You know that it's the only thing we can do now. The cold'll kill us for sure without any fire."
I was feeling the chill pretty strongly, so I agreed with him and let him lead the way. Since we didn't have wood on either of us, we had to descend slowly enough to let our eyes adjust as much as possible. Enough light cracked through that it was like walking through a house at night. There's enough light that you can just barely see.
The cave sloped downward for about a mile, then reached a man-made door of lead and stone. It looked almost medieval in appearance, and I said so. "This could be almost Roman in design!" But I could find no writing or any other artifact identifying this place. Then again, it was dark in there. Maybe I missed something.
I was curious enough to try opening the door myself, but it wouldn't budge. Kerry snickered and opened it himself with great ease, telling me, "It's all in the touch."
On the other side of the door was a natural source of light that blinded us for a moment. It came from some minerals that created their own light -- faint by our standards in this room right now, but bright enough to give us headaches and force us to close our eyes a few minutes until our vision returned.
When our vision did return, we found ourselves in a great hall. It was like being inside of a great Viking feasting hall, except that instead of wood, it was stone. It was obvious that some group of people had invested a great deal of time and energy in carving this room out. It might have even explained the cave, except that I still swear that it looked natural.
Not only did it look like a Viking hall by design, but it also was filled with Viking relics and artifacts. The tables set in the center of the from door to wall, the swords and shields set on the walls, the Chief's weapons set against the Head of the Table.
It was like I had traveled back in time and entered the feasting hall that I knew so well. I almost expected my Father to stare me in the eye with his own and ask me what I had seen during my observations.
But this was empty, and so for me it was like roving through a graveyard.
"This is it!" cried Kerry with some bit of mania. "This is the place that the People were talking about! See -- at the far end of the room!"
He ran towards the Chief's chair, grabbing a spear. I saw it. Memories flooded back to me, shaking my nerves pretty well. I remember being on my knees somehow as I saw Gungnir, the spear of Odin. This was not his hall, but somehow his spear was here. I scanned the other weapons and saw the belongings of the Aesir. I saw the bow of Ullr, the hammer of Thor, the swords of Frey, the Axe of Loki, and my own sword. I had lost it in a bout of drunkenness -- I believed.
That was in 1066, when I lay collapsed on an English tavern table. Hadradi died that very night in an unsuccessful raid on the shores of Britain. The king who represented the old order lay dead.
No, it's not really important. I was just remembering...
By the looks of it, my sword must have been taken, because I can't just forget and leave it in a place thousands of miles from England, to a place I'd never been.
I was shaken from my memories as Kerry yelled, "And I, the Allfather, will shake Erde and Yggdrasil itself! I, Odin, shall bind the many into *ONE*!"
As I stared at this lunatic, I saw many things fall together. The coal-black hair that he had allowed to grow long, the thick beard now on his face, and his now thin and ropy frame. He looked exactly like Odin had before he lost his eye.
That was soon fixed, because Kerry pulled out a belt-knife and took one of his eyes out, screaming, "The Well! Let me drink once more from the Well!"
I didn't know what was going on, whether this deranged boy was just that, or the next incarnation of Odin. I couldn't take the chance, so I took out my pistol, which I always kept loaded when I had a chance. This was during the days where you had to pack in some gunpowder and a pellet each time you shot it.
I see you nodding, Nick. Good to see I'm not the only one who can remember *that* pleasant little experience...
Well, I shot Kerry in the shoulder. I hit where I aimed. I could have shot a hole in his brains and let them seep out, but I still felt a pity for the boy. Taken by who knows what and living an odd life. I hoped that I could knock whatever spirit or demon out of his skull without killing him.
I was rewarded for my efforts with a loud laugh, "Ever the pacifist, Heimdall, my son? You should have used that shot on my skull, and now you'll ever regret your choice."
Centuries of instincts and reflexes took over as Kerry attacked me in his madness. Though the boy had never fought as I had, those reflexes and instincts said different. He nearly ran me through before I could reach my own sword.
All I had to do was touch it, and I felt the ecstasy that I had not touched for many eons. Just wrapping my hand about the grip filled me with power, and I guess I must have been mad myself when I faced him, actually glad to do so.
However long we fought was a mystery, but it ended suddenly, I can remember that. He ran me through. I didn't die, but I was so wounded that it took me a week to recover enough to crawl back out of the cave. I left my sword behind.
When I did, I found no trace of the snow storm. I had enough ammunition to be able to catch enough food to keep myself fed as I made my way back to the village.
I returned to find almost all the menfolk killed by Kerry, or I should say now, Odin. He was possessed by the mad spirit enough to slaughter every warrior and hunter who faced him, and he laughed over their bodies. But oddly enough, he'd left the women and children alone.
I stayed for another year, and then I left for the south once more.
It was about thirty years later that I met up with Odin again. He had spent that time adventuring in the Caribbean and Central America. The one legend that surrounded him was that he had been cast overboard, and somehow returned to tell about it. Those who knew him said that he had become a changed man. For an innocent boy to be taken away and changed by mysterious beings, then possessed by the mad spirit of Odin -- to believe that he had changed again was a bit too hard to swallow. It was like being told that someone had come up with a redder red. It just can't be done.
I cornered him when he was drunk and pointed a rifle in his face. This was one of the 'modern' ones that one didn't have to repack with every round: this one used bullets. I faced him and told him he had a lot of explaining to do.
"I've made a bargain with the Invisible Ones," smiled Odin. "They found me on the island, and revealed to me that I was one of them all along. They understood my life-long vision and told me that they had revealed it to me when I drank from Mimur's Well -- the well that I sacrificed my own eye to drink from.
"It was they who told me the great act of courage I had performed by hanging myself from the wind-blown tree to capture the runes.
"It was they who revealed themselves and told me that if I wanted to survive, all I had to do was make a pact."
The rest of what he said was gibberish, but what I did understand filled in a lot of gaps -- concerning both Kerry and Odin.
I blew out his brains then, and believed that all had been fixed. I even threw the spear into the sea. This was Baltimore, so it wasn't that hard to get out far enough into the ocean and drop it straight to the ocean floor.
What I didn't know is that the Invisible Ones had acted. I may have killed 'Odin', but they had a large resource pool, and as it turned out, means of recovering the spear. You saw it surface, as did I on many an occasion...
Heimdall drained yet another beer, "And that's how I began to learn about the Invisible Ones. I spent the next fifty years searching for the clues that Odin left behind, finding enticing clues -- but only clues.
"I learned that the Invisible Ones were very real. They were a political power as well as a religious one. Though they were not blatantly obvious, their works were well known to the one who only observed. I found their fingers in everything from the Conquest of the Old World to the end of my own.
"As I learned the truth, I acted on it. I've tried to seek out everyone I could find who was connected to the Invisible Ones. Where I couldn't get what I needed by observation, I got it by torture. When I couldn't get information at all, I killed.
"I know, it sounds brutal, but you have to understand that the Invisible Ones are brutal as well. It's the Invisible Ones who are behind these series of black box murders, and it's the Invisible Ones who were responsible for a great many things that make no sense.
"They're not responsible for *everything*, but they're directly responsible for a lot of the key events that shaped our world and history."
Heimdall took another drink.
"I can't believe this!" fumed Tracy, pacing back and forth. "It's impossible!"
Heimdall lifted his face up a little, but he didn't look angry for having his words doubted, "What's so impossible about it? You saw what those weapons do to human beings, and you see impossibilities in this very room. What can be so impossible about that?"
"What about aliens?"
"What about them?" Heimdall looked at her steadily.
Before Tracy could say anything, the front door slammed open, revealing Mulder, Scully, and someone being dragged along the ground. Scully looked pale and exhausted, and Mulder looked like he'd gotten a face-beating.
Axer took a good look at the man being dragged along the ground, and jumped in shock, "Halscombe!"
Halscombe looked up at him with feral eyes.
Something deep within Axer surged, and he found himself screaming incoherently, without knowing why. The reaction was reflexive -- reacting to something deep within that Axer couldn't identify. It took Nick to keep him from killing
Halscombe then and there.
Nick stared into Axer's eyes, slowly restoring sanity, as he asked, "What is the matter with you?"
"Chain that monster in a padded cell!" Axer panted, his muscles straining against Nick's relaxed ones. "Put him in a strait-jacket and gag him!"
Nick looked at Scully, who nodded, "It's a good start."
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