I love Gunnar. I would give my left arm to see him strong and healthy and happy and normal.
Like, he wanted his youth back so I fed my arm to a hungry, hundred-headed dragon to help him get it. I would have given more. Well, technically the plan was for me to give the same arm, over and over for about a month, to make him immortal.
And I don't mean the standard "we're going to be gods and live forever" type of immortality. I mean the "not even fucking Ragnarok is going to kill him" type of immortal. I was kinda psyched about that idea, the more I thought about it. But Gunnar didn't think me being away from the World for a month was such a good idea.
Right. Um, beginnings time.
So, we parted ways with Brendan back at the airport in Australia. He was Ireland bound to do I'm-Not-Really-Going-To-Think-Too-Hard-About-What. Gunnar, Never and I continued on the Greece to get Gunnar the mother of all facelifts.
We went to one of the temples of Hera, and just in case this journal of mine ever gets hijacked I don't think I'm gonna spell out which one. If I ever forget I can just ask Gunnar. Or Nevermore, who consistently reminds me how much better his memory is than mine and become a snarky motherfucker since no one but me and Bruce Willis can see him.
Anyway, the temple is apparently a pretty big tourist attraction and there were a bunch of tourists there. I guess we counted toward that number, too, we were just doing a different type of sight-seeing.
I don't remember it perfectly cuz I don't remember anything perfectly, so fuck off if I'm wrong about it, but I'm pretty sure we attracted some attention. That kinda happens when I walk around anywhere. But then Gunnar and I got the idea that maybe this wasn't such a bad place to show off, just a little, so we chatted up some of the people around us about how we are both kind of awesome.
Somewhere in there it hit me that maybe Gunnar and I should have some idea what we were up against, so I pulled out Sibyl, sat my happy ass down and was going to make with the prophesying. There's a problem with doing things like that at a tourist attraction. The problem is that Sibyl is still a big-ass, solid marble six-shooter, and I was pointing it at my head while I was surrounded by tourists. I had some old woman telling me that I was so young and so pretty and that I shouldn't throw my life away. I guess that's what she calls "giving up pretty much everything to protect mankind." I kinda rolled my eyes at her, grinned, unloaded the gun and did the trance thing.
Gunnar looked a little disappointed when I came to. I guess that means I didn't have any seizures like last time, if Nate was right and not just talking crazy. I still think I would probably know about something like that.
I don't think I saw anything incredibly useful. There was Gunnar, talking to a dragon. I couldn't hear everything that they were talking about. Something that was coming. A date, an event, a really confusing metaphor that my brain needs to learn to represent in a more understandable symbolic fashion because seriously, fuck this interpretation shit.
Then I think it shifted and I was holding hands with Gunnar, and there were like... a bajillion dragons flying around in the air. Okay, maybe not that many. But a lot. Half a bajillion.
Then... okay, it's hard to describe. It's like I was busy looking at one thing and someone standing behind me grabbed my head and turned it and made me focus on something else. And I heard Atropos, one of the Fates, say to me, "It's still happening." And I saw six hands, instead of seven like there had been before, grabbing at the Earth. Darkness, and all that jazz. Nothing new and insightful there, aside from one less hand which might have been helpful if I could tell who the fuck any of the hands belonged to in the first place.
So, all in all, not very fucking helpful.
In hindsight, I probably should have paid attention to... well, everything. What the hands looked like - male, female or other. Nationalities, to see if maybe my weird brain was trying to tell me something about lineage. And everything about all of those dragons. Aside from holding hands, I couldn't really tell what Gunnar and I were doing, like where we were standing and whether we seemed to be bothered by the fact that there were so many creatures that sound just like our ancestral enemies just whizzing about. And I couldn't tell if Gunnar looked any younger, so I couldn't be sure our plan was going to work or that we were going to survive the encounter with this hundred-headed dragon. I guess on the bright side, if we were dead we were still with one another. So, there's that, I guess.
You know, I remember when the thought of dying used to piss me off and make me all emo. Frolicking through these underworlds I guess I've gotten used to dead people. Funny. Now I'm just not so worried about where being one of Apollo's kids is an automatic death sentence. There are worse things to be than dead.
Speaking of Apollo, he showed up. Like, I had just finished sharing all the details of my vague and unhelpful prophecy with Gunnar, and we were reaching through the portal thing into the Garden and then poof, there was my dad holding onto us for a second. Not like as Hal or any other skin he decided to wear that day. My dad. Fucking Apollo and his motherfucking Sun Chariot showed up. He hopped out and all the tourists started taking pictures and videos and Dad still looked all wrong and won't tell me what's up with that, but did tell me that the Aesir were cut off and, like there was a fucking echo in here, "It's still happening."
It would be... fucking phenomenal if someone could be bothered to tell me what "IT" is. I'm not gonna hold my breath.
I told him, yeah, I knew about the "still happening" bit, that Atropos had just told me. Dad said he figured Gunnar would want to know, and then with some weird emphasis he said that he figured I would want to know. It sounded weird, and intense and foreshadowy, but my dad is a god of prophecy and I guess I should just expect that kind of shit.
Prophecy, for the record, is turning out to be a far fucking cry from "here's a simple and straightforward clue about what you need to know about the shit you're about to face. Here is a map and a list of your enemy's weaknesses and here is where you will lose your car keys." Instead it's a hell of a lot more like, "here is a puzzle piece, and when you find the other 18 million pieces, you will put them all together, and the image it will make is your Aunt Esther's shoe."
And that was it. He rode off into the sunset, literally. People applauded, which I encouraged the hell out of. I told them they'd better fucking applaud, that guy was my dad and he was risking his ass on a daily fucking basis for the safety of humanity. I should probably work on swearing less when I'm being recorded, now that I think about it. That shit gets around the internet fast.
Anyway, we get our asses into the Garden. I think. It was dark, and there was something cold and damp and stony right in our way. There was a little crack, and I could hear some water. Gunnar stood up on my shoulders to look through the crack, which I don't remember being all that helpful, then Nevermore flew through things which wasn't all that helpful either. He said there was a lot of rock in the way, and a small cavern, and then some more rock, then finally I asked Gunnar for a draught of that viking brew he's got on him and got ready to move the world out of my fucking way. The viking mead, by the way, was de-fucking-licious. I have missed being able to drink, even if people are trying to poison me. I'll get there, that comes after the Garden.
So I push the stone thing out of the way and let Gunnar slip through. I held it there for a little bit before my arms started getting tired, but I could still hear Gunnar talking to me. I did some clambering around on the rock, seeing if maybe I could squeeze through up top. Not so much.
Then I heard Gunnar talking to someone else. Three someone elses. Female, about to jump my husband, and I don't mean for his lunch money. And I heard Nevermore, having a shit fit:
"GUNNAR!!! GunnarGunnar Gunnar Gunnar, Gunnar, Gunnar, it don't matter whether you mean to or not. You touch that trollop and Laurel will get angry. You won't like her when she's angry, mate."
"NO! No no no no nonononono! Why are you letting her kiss you?!"
"I got yer back, Laurel! Get away from 'im, you fucking harlot! I'll peck your eyes out! ...Bollocks, I can't touch her eyes."
"Viking, why the bloody fuck aren't you listening to me?? Oi, Laurel, he just kissed someone who wasn't you! I mean... You probably know it wasn't you, because you're not out here, but... Laurel!!"
I took Mercy to the rock in front of me, taking a minute or so to tunnel my way out from behind the... impediment. Nevermore wasn't even done squawking by the time I stood behind my husband, hefted the axe in my hands and cleared my throat.
Gunnar Jesus Alexander Miguel Esparza, I wanted to say, What the fuck are you doing?
But I didn't. I didn't say anything because it wasn't his fault. I kinda know the trick they were pulling on him. Thing is, I've got my own tricks and mine are better because I'm his fucking wife.
The three women looked at me and took a few steps back. Gunnar just looked at me, like I was the most beautiful and interesting thing he'd ever seen. This is, for the record, the only time I've ever done something like that to him or even in front of him. He'd missed every other show, somehow. I couldn't help but smile, satisfied, at the way he looked at me. I guess I'm a little bit the jealous type. Who knew? Meh, go talk to that siren about it.
Once I had Gunnar's attention the Garden Hookers started backing off, so I turned off the charm. I'd be lying if I said I didn't think really hard about introducing them to the sharper bits of my axe, but word is this is Hera's turf and we were probably going to piss her off enough by taking the apples in the first place. We headed over to the big apple tree Gunnar had spotted, traipsing through some flowers to get to the dragon with a hundred heads. It was kinda like a vacation, fruit picking and flower fields and the like. Well, except for the Garden Hookers and Ladon and the coughing fits.
The coughing fits were because oh fuck, the flowers were poppies. Divine poppies. Like that scene in The Wzard of Oz, but different. We were kinda breathing opium. It hit Gunnar kinda hard a time or two, like he was breathing poison. Well, I guess he kinda was. He bent over once, coughing like he was about to lose a lung until I patted him on the back and made it better. I guess I can cure poison, which is good to know. Probably only works on the low-grade stuff. Well, if you can call divine-poppy-pollen "low grade."
When we got up to the tree we apparently already had the dragon's attention. Gunnar asked it a riddle, something about a woodchuck, I tried not to think about it too hard. Some of the heads were interested in it. Some of them were not, and started talking to me. I think the plan was basically to get all the heads distracted so Gunnar could go apple-picking, so I worked on being distracting.
Cartwheels in a poppy field, that was my strategy. It worked... kinda.
And by kinda I mean it irritated the dragon. Some of its heads kept asking why I was moving and not staying still. I told it I was fidgety.
At least I was smart about annoying the dragon, and turned my skin to gold shortly after we started chatting it up. It riposted by attacking me with seven of its hundred heads. Of the seven attacks, one actually drew blood. Then it looked at me like I tasted kinda yummy so I decided we should play the Most Dangerous Game of Fetch.
I hefted my axe in my right arm, held my left arm out to my side and cut my left arm off. I then set my axe down and threw my left arm far enough away that the interested dragon had to run off after it. Gunnar then hopped up into the tree and I was about ready to play the "mission accomplished" music. Enter Garden Hookers who ruined fucking everything.
"Hey Ladon," one of the bitches named Whofuckingcares shouted. "They're stealing your apples..."
I guess Nevermore was worried about the look on my face - which he later described to me as "pure murderous rage" - and started talking about "anger management" and "Don't piss off your grandmother." And now he calls me "Little Miss Murderface." But seriously, the bitches would have deserved it. Trying to mess with my husband and then when I was nice enough to not plant an axe in their face - plant, get it? Cuz we were in a garden, haha - they go and screw everything up.
Anyway, Ladon was then kinda pissed. I guess Hera has said that no one is supposed to have all twelve of the apples - which is exactly the number that we wanted, and so Ladon's witty retort was to poke his head into the tree and gobble one of them up. I wondered very briefly if cutting him open to get it back would work. It wouldn't, for the record.
So the dragon with a hundred heads turns to us and ready to snack-on-a-bitch. We started playing different versions of "Let's Make a Deal," all of which seemed to involve me getting eaten, and I was okay with that. I was pretty sure - ninety-nine percent sure - I would be fine.
But yeah, Ladon was like, "You can leave with the other eleven apples if you leave her," to Gunnar.
And Gunnar was like, "Don't think so," to the dragon.
But I was like, "Well hang on a second... If I stay can I eat one of the apples? Cuz I'd get hungry but I'd totally be willing to stay for like, a month and let you keep eating my arm every couple of days because godsdamn apples have got to get old after like a millennium."
And Gunnar was like, "Fuck no."
His problem, as I understand it, was not so much that I would be feeding myself to the dragon, nor that I would be doing it just for him. It was more that I would gone for a month, and not so much that I would be away from him - which was the part that I thought would be particularly full of suckitude - but that he didn't seem confident that the world could hold itself together while I was away. Kinda sweet, even if I didn't quite think my absence would bring about the apocalypse.
Anyway, he had a point. Bad shit happens when we're away. Though, bad shit happens when we're looking, too, we just get more of a say in what to do about it. So we took option A, leave now and with the five apples we'd gotten and glare the fuck out of the Hesperides on the way out.
He's not immortal, but... Well, fuck it. Who wants to live forever, anyway?
"There's no time for us
There's no place for us
What is this thing that builds our dreams yet slips away from us
Who wants to live forever
Who wants to live forever....?
There's no chance for us
It's all decided for us
This world has only one sweet moment set aside for us
Who wants to live forever
Who wants to live forever?
Who dares to love forever?
When love must die
But touch my tears with your lips
Touch my world with your fingertips
And we can have forever
And we can love forever
Forever is our today
Who wants to live forever
Who wants to live forever? Forever is our today
Who waits forever anyway?"
Queen, Who Wants to Live Forever?