There was an almost angry mutter from the crowd, which was completely different than what I was expecting. These guys seemed to like fighting, and being warriors.
Why are they mad?
Heimdallr had stopped watching Coyote so he could stare at Loki, a stare that made me shiver even though I wasn’t being looked at. Both of Odin’s Ravens, and Odin himself were staring at Loki still. It really looked like he might launch himself at Loki any second.
Then I glanced at Thor and wished I hadn’t. Thor was intimidating before. Big, rough, wearing armor, with those electric blue eyes most of the Norse gods seemed to have. When I looked at him this time, he appeared ready to explode. Maybe literally. His eyes were the source of visible arcs of electricity which traveled across his face, and down his neck to his torso, before crawling over the rest of his body. “Loki! You DARE use me in one of your manipulative plots? I will break both your legs and throw you off the bridge!”
People were moving away from Thor, quickly, except for Odin and Loki.
Thor started walking towards Loki, pulling Mjolnir from his belt, and putting his helmet on his head with practiced precision. Odin interposed himself between the rapidly approaching Thor and Loki, who was examining the fingernails of the hand holding his goblet. “He has the right, Thor, son, unless you believe yourself to be strongly overmatched in a physical contest with the challenging Einherjar?”
“Of course not. He cannot match me. In a purely physical melee, I would pit myself even against you, Father, with near certainty of victory.” Thor carefully moved to the side so that Odin was not between him and Loki, and launched a gobbet of spit at Loki.
Loki looked bored, but did something, and the spit never hit him, disappearing.
How can I see all this? I’m watching spit in the air at over a hundred feet.
Maybe Heimdallr is helping us, like Coyote made me faster?
Heimdallr glanced at me for a moment, almost like I had called his name, and nodded, very briefly. Still very angry-looking, but the anger was clearly not meant for me. Then he turned back to watching Odin, Thor, and Loki.
“Father, when I win this contest, no matter how well he fights, Chris Smith is repudiated as a warrior by his own challenge, that in turn leaves Zeke Collins with no warrior to stand for him. If I lose this contest, all of Asgard might suffer, as confidence in my battle prowess is a great part of why I am as powerful in battle as I am. I lead the host, from the front, I must be as powerful as I can be.”
“This is true, son. And yet it doesn’t matter.”
“How can it not matter, father? Give me fifteen minutes with him. Loki will retract his challenge to Chris Smith’s warrior status, you will be free to grant a warrior’s boon to Zeke Collins, and I will go lead the host against the Jotunn who are massing even now.”
“Asgard will then be free of law and tradition will hang in tatters.” Odin spoke, in cold words. Loki was smiling and Odin was looking at Thor with nearly as much anger as he had directed at Loki before. “My power is grounded in people’s faith in my wisdom, in the faith that the rules, laws, and tradition that I force others to obey are just. If I start encouraging lawlessness, I may well become lawless, and in turn we might all become lawless, chaotic. How well would Asgard fare then?”
Odin stared at Loki. “Yes, Thor, Loki has made us both angry, but I will sacrifice Chris Smith, I will sacrifice Zeke Collins, I will sacrifice even your strength for a time and lead the hosts myself, if need be, in order to avoid the risk of anarchy taking roost in my being, because Asgard might not survive it.” Odin paused, and then pointed at his missing eye and Thor flinched back. “I didn’t give this eye for no reason, and I see much clearer now than ever I did before Zeke Collins’ victory over Ahmed. Obey me. Fight your battle with Chris Smith. One fall. I recognize your choice is a hard one, but I have no choice. You will not force your brother to change his mind by torture, and if you insist on trying, I will banish you, which will rob the host of all of your prowess, not just part of it.”
Odin sat in his throne. “It is not right for a father to have such dark thoughts directed at his son, Loki. One day, you will cross a line that I cannot ignore. I can see those days now. Some of them are very soon, others are thousands of years from now. You are no longer playing games with a father who is half blinded. You might be more powerful after Ahmed’s passing, but you were touched less heavily by him than I was. I will say no more, as I will not take away your free will. Think on it.”
Loki stared at Odin, bit his lip, and then smiled. “Yes, Father.”
If anyone ever looked like they were going to have a stroke, at that point, Thor did. He spun on his heels and walked towards the sand circle. After he stepped onto the sand, he pointed Mjolnir at Chris Smith, and said “Bide a moment, and we will have our contest.”
Then Thor walked towards us, quickly crossing the sand with long strides, his red braids slapping against his chest and back, staring me in the eyes, and I couldn’t look away.
I’m glad I can’t be scared, or else I think I’d be scared right now.
My family cringed back in the face of Thor’s angry presence, while Coyote merely stared at him. “My brother and father have earned my ire, you have not, and yet it touches you anyhow. I apologize for the fear that grips you from my very presence, but I must explain.”
Heimdallr spoke quietly, “Milord, please.” and made a hesitant pushing motion in front of his chest.
Thor stared at Heimdallr for a moment, and then took two steps back. “Apologies. I cannot, I will not lose this contest, because Asgard needs my strength.” He spun in place, and started walking towards the center of the circle of sand. “Do not consider yourself lost in childhood forever, Zeke Collins, I vow that we will find a way to restore you. You have given a gift beyond measure to the gods. Odin is not the only god who might heal you, and Coyote is not the only god unafraid to visit other pantheons.”
Coyote’s voice rang out. “I would be greatly indebted to you, Thor, if you would allow me to accompany you in order to see you acting as a diplomat. Please, please allow me to accompany you. Especially if you go visit the Greek or Roman Pantheons.”
Thor stopped, stock still, and turned to face us. After a moment, he pointed Mjolnir at Coyote. “Thank you for that bit of humor. Since you can’t steal the only thing that really matters to me, that isn’t a part of me, I would be happy to have your company. I’ve heard you’ve started walking a lighter path.”
He turned back towards the huge man waiting in the center of the sand. “You, Einherjar. Do you understand that if repudiated, Odin has the choice of releasing you alive into the world, or ending your existence?”
“Yes, Milord, I understand.”
“If you renounce your challenge, I will ask that you be released into the world, and I am confident that Odin will allow this to happen?” Thor ended the statement that was actually a question while looking at Odin, who nodded.
Thor continued. “You won’t be as you were, but you will be as you are now. If you do not renounce your challenge, you may risk showing cowardice when facing me. You are not now what you were before.”
“Thor, Milord, I like it here. I think I’ll stay. Please, if you would though, do me a favor and call me Trainwreck, and ask everyone else to do the same. I’ll understand if your esteemed father and my ex-patron choose to call me differently.”
“You think you’ll stay.” Thor paused. “As easily as that, and with confidence too. I see fear in you, but you leash it. Yes. I will call you Trainwreck, the name you used on Earth. The name you will use there again, I hope. Whatever happens here, don’t let your fear control you, and I’m sure you will return to this place, later, and I’ll damn well sponsor you.”
“Thank you, Milord. Besides, I promised I’d teach a few of the other Einherjar how to cook mangos on the barbie.” His voice grew even deeper, angry. “My sponsor branded my eyelids and drilled a hole in my head while he held me immobile with magic. I wish it were him facing me now, but I don’t back down from a fight, not even a fight I’ll probably lose. My life on Earth was a fight I was slowly losing for years because of Jaxr within me. I know what fear is. I defeated it years ago. Are you ready to start yet?”
Thor laughed. “Definitely. You’re coming back. And I’ll be first in line to try these ‘mangos on the barbie’ of yours. Gird yourself… Trainwreck.” Thor turned to face Odin. “Father, would you please have one of your ravens speak when the fight should start?”
“Caw.” A raven screamed immediately.
Thor threw himself forward as Trainwreck’s huge wrench passed through where his torso had just been. “I’ll take that as a ‘yes’, Father.”
Odin said nothing, but I could see a small grin on his face.
The crowd did not like this fight. There was a lot of unhappy muttering.
Thor quickly picked himself off of hands and knees, turning to face Trainwreck, who was striding forward, swinging again, this time towards Thor’s legs. “I won’t hold my father’s prank against you, Trainwreck.”
Thor easily leapt over the incoming blow at his legs, jumping at least five or six feet straight up with no apparent effort. “I know you’re faster than that. I have seen you practice. Don’t think to fool me that way.”
Trainwreck shrugged, saying nothing, and gripped his wrench two-handed, moving closer to Thor, who simply ducked and dodged Trainwreck effortlessly.
“Good, good balance, good form. It’s hard to tell if it’s your best form, since I’ve never seen anyone better than you that’s anywhere near your size, but whoever’s been teaching you has done an excellent job. Name them. I will know who trained you so well.”
Trainwreck said nothing for a moment, but then spoke a single word. “Tyr”
“You don’t speak when you fight?”
Trainwreck shook his head slightly, and struck again, faster than before.
Thor barely dodged, and exclaimed “Excellent blow! I’ll speak for us both then.”
Loki’s voice broke in. “Stop playing with the troll, brother, and end it. You have a battle to attend to, and the more time you waste here, the longer it will take for you to engage the Jotunn.”
“Loki, shut up.” Thor’s body coruscated with lightning again.
Trainwreck, instead of attacking Thor directly, slashed the end of his wrench into the sand, like he was trying to get a golf ball out of a sand trap, and a heavy spray of sand splashed towards Thor. It was clear that Thor saw the attack coming but couldn’t dodge, so he threw his left arm up, over his eyes.
As soon as Thor’s arm came up, Trainwreck threw his wrench at Thor’s legs, but the sand had apparently not blinded Thor as hoped, and the arm didn’t keep him from seeing the flying giant wrench in time to react to it. Thor leaped into the air, and Trainwreck, in his fastest movement yet, rushed to try to catch him while he was still in the air. Thor obviously saw the sequence of attacks coming though, and spun Mjolnir rapidly before making a throwing motion with his right arm. Trainwreck’s hands passed through the empty space where Thor had been.
“Tyr did not teach you that.” Thor spoke, but Trainwreck said nothing. “Enough of this. Loki is right, as much as it burns my mouth to say so. Lives may be lost in the time I waste in this fight.”
Trainwreck said nothing, merely moving quickly towards his wrench and picking it back up.
Thor set his shoulders and started walking quickly, straight towards Trainwreck, who aimed a huge blow at him. I noticed Coyote covering his ears. As he was continuing to walk up to Trainwreck, Thor held out Mjolnir with his right hand, in the path of Trainwreck’s wrench, and allowed the ten-foot-long several inches thick barrel of the wrench to strike the flat top of Mjolnir’s stone head with all of Trainwreck’s strength behind it.
The sound was catastrophic, briefly, but it didn’t hurt.
I could feel wetness in my ears though, and I couldn’t hear any more.
I could still see though, and as I watched, Thor pulled both arms back towards his ears, allowing Mjolnir’s strap at the base of the pommel to slide down his right arm to his elbow. Trainwreck didn’t seem to be affected, or maybe he had just been expecting it, but he had charged Thor again. Thor’s eyes widened, and his arms stopped moving towards his ears, and started to move the other way, to grapple with Trainwreck.
My hearing was restored, and my stomach grumbled madly. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Coyote’s finger leave my shoulder, and touch Anne, who had been holding her head. He moved towards Mom and Pops next. Mom was gripping Pops in a panic, and Pops was hugging Mom. Blood was running out of Pops’ ears. Danny seemed calm, there was blood at his ears, but he was holding his stomach.
Trainwreck and Thor met, and it was almost comical. Trainwreck, despite the fact that he was hugely larger than Thor looked almost like he had run into a brick wall, and Thor was standing, back unbent, casually keeping Trainwreck from getting a grip on him, striking Trainwreck’s hands away with terrific force, mailed gauntlet against mailed gauntlet. It looked like a fourth grader fighting a professional wrestler, and winning.
“I can see your intent, Trainwreck. I’m also faster than you, stronger than you, more skilled than you, even without Mjolnir, even if I had no weapon at all, this fight was over before it began.” Thor paused. “You cannot wield Mjolnir. Trying to use him against me is something others have tried, and all have failed, but I can see you’re going to try anyway.”
Time slowed down for me, I looked over at Coyote, who winked at me. Trainwreck’s left hand, with an open palm, was striking towards Thor’s right elbow, clearly aiming for Mjolnir, where it hung at Thor’s right elbow. Because Thor had been lifting his arms high to defend against Trainwreck’s much greater height, that put Mjolnir at mid-chest level. Thor wasn’t even trying to block the blow
He’s desperate. Everyone knows that only Thor can wield his hammer.
As I watched, Trainwreck’s hand reached Mjolnir’s handle, but he didn’t close his hand, he just kept pushing with his palm. I watched as Thor’s arm bent back a little bit with the force of Trainwreck’s push against Mjolnir, and Mjolnir also swayed back, towards Thor’s chest.
Thor’s eye’s started to open wide as Trainwreck’s fingers began to close around the head of Mjolnir, his absurdly oversized thumb and forefinger in a ‘u’ around the base of the stone head, and his other fingers starting to wrap around Mjolnir’s stone head like a normal man’s hand around a baseball. Trainwreck’s entire weight pushing forward, still driving Mjolnir towards Thor, though Thor himself hardly budged.
Coyote apparently turned off the speed-up at that moment, because everything got really fast again. When Trainwreck’s hand closed on Mjolnir’s head, he and Thor simply disappeared, and a cloud of dust appeared where they had been. There were also a bunch of cracking noises, two screams of pain, and a huge thump, all of which happened almost instantly.
Thor’s voice came out of the dust. “Take your hand off Mjolnir.”
“I’m afraid I can’t, milord,” Trainwreck’s voice. “I appear to have grown a new elbow, and my fingers are trapped.”
“So you have. Eir should be able to help with the extra elbow. Oof. Give me a few seconds, and I’ll help you let go of Mjolnir. I think.”
As the dust settled, at first, all I could see was a vague lump with an arm sticking straight up, wriggling around while Thor made pained noises, accompanied by “Ow. Broken ribs. I hate broken ribs.”
As the dust cleared more, I saw that Thor was laying on his back, and Mjolnir was sitting in the middle of his chest, the handle facing to Thor’s right, still wrapped around Thor’s right arm, but above the elbow now.
Wow! Thor is on his back, what about Trainwreck?
Trainwreck was face down, laying across Thor’s legs and left arm, and his arm was definitely badly broken. The left forearm and the armor it contained were severely bent in the middle. There was blood dripping out of the left elbow and wrist of Trainwreck’s armor.
“Sorry about your ribs, milord.”
“I’ll survive, Trainwreck.”
Odin entered my field of view, walking towards the two fallen fighters as I watched them struggling with very small motions, to get Thor’s right arm free of Mjolnir’s strap, so he could put his hand on Mjolnir’s handle and lift it.
“You two look like you might need a little bit of help.” He leaned over with his right hand and touched Mjolnir’s handle, his left hand bracing his spear into the sand for balance.
Thor gasped. “Need might be too strong a word, Father.”
Odin stood back up and scratched his beard with his right hand. “Oh? What word would be good, Thor?”
Trainwreck gasped and then started talking in that absurdly deep voice of his. “Lord Odin, need is a perfectly good sounding word to me. Mjolnir hit your son pretty hard, he might be having problems with his vocabulary, especially after he created a new word just a short time ago. I suspect that there is only so much room for words up there, and making up a new one will probably cause problems for hours, if not days.”
Thor chuckled. “Ow.” His arm moved weakly against the strap holding his arm. “Father, I think Trainwreck is right. Clearly, need is an appropriate word.”
Odin chuckled and leaned over again, carefully lifting Mjolnir off Thor’s chest, which freed Trainwreck’s hand. With the trapped, anchoring fingers free to move again, Trainwreck’s arm collapsed onto Thor’s lower chest and both of them hissed loudly, cursing under their breath. Meanwhile, Odin carefully pulled Mjolnir’s strap up and over Thor’s arm, and then set it to the side. Thor’s right hand unerringly found the handle without his head appearing to move at all.
“Eir will be here shortly, unless you would prefer my healing, either of you?” Odin asked
Thor immediately spoke. “No, Father, I’ll wait for Eir, please. Trainwreck, wait for Eir. Trust me.”
Trainwreck didn’t say anything, and didn’t move. He was still breathing though, and his chest was moving.
That doesn’t sound good.
Thor is afraid of Odin’s healing, and that’s what I’m here for.
Odin laughed. “Thor, you find someone who can beat you in a match by trickery, and you already like them well enough that you have them disrespecting you and are trying to teach them to disrespect me.” He paused. “Chris Smith, Trainwreck, Thor gives good advice. You don’t want the healing I offer unless you are desperate. Wait for Eir.”
Trainwreck’s voice rumbled, a little muffled because his face was facing the ground. “Yes, Lord Odin.”