Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Ain't No Grave (Gonna Hold This Body Down)

The Baron was in my head this time. I don't remember what all he told the others.
Go look into Tartarus. That was the gist of it. That big prison thing that used to hold all of the biggest, nastiest shit we godly types could stuff into it?
Yeah, go stare at it.

Great advice from the Baron, a guy who doesn't seem to mind the idea of being dead.
Well, okay, I don't mind it so much anymore, either. I have a theory that it's a side effect of crawling in and out of underworlds and graves like some sort of boomerang zombie. Good luck keeping me in a grave, if I ever actually do bite it. I could probably still get a lot accomplished if I were dead for a while. But there is some stuff I still want to do that I am kinda sure requires a pulse. Like that other kid of ours Gunnar said he saw in Wuhai. I'm in full support of the conventional wisdom which says that having a kid requires a pulse. I refuse to consider evidence to the contrary.
Oh fuck, tangent. Um... yeah. The whole reason we were talking to the Baron was we weren't sure where to go next. I think Nate and Harlan were itching to go after Ixion, who we found out from Gunnar's dad was on a submarine in the Pacific Ocean with a dead crew and that there were a lot of simulacra of him around the world, but the real one was the one in the Pacific.

Oh. Uh... before that, we did stuff. Well, before the Baron and after Carmen.
We got Gunnar's dad back. Yeah, big victory there. I guess. I don't know if it was the best thing to do, I know if I were Gunnar's dad I would have wanted to know for damn sure who the fuck was implicitly responsible for my captivity in the first place. Well, I don't know if that's right. The guy that the others heard about, Malsum, he may not have had anything to do with pop-in-law's (I hope he can't read this with his crazy good vision. Um... Heimdall, if you can read this... Hi! Sorry I called you pop-in-law. How's tricks?) imprisonment. I do know that I feel like shit for calling Odin in on a false alarm, saying that we had found Loki when it was actually this douche-nozzle pretending to be Loki. Calling Odin in meant he wanted to grab Thor the wonder-boy, when Thor was supposed to be backing up my father-in-law while they picked a fight with some frost giants. I think that's just a passtime for the Aesir, like baseball and drinking used to be for Gunnar. Except Thor wasn't there, and Heimdall got put on lockdown. I like to imagine that, in an unwittingly perfect impersonation of Schwarzenegger, Utgard-Loki told Heimdall to "chill out."
That seems like his kind of joke.

Oh, but about the guy who actually stole the device from me when I called Dionysus. Malsum. Malsum is a wolf god from an old Indian tribe that nobody seems to care much about anymore. I know I'd never heard of the guy, but then there are a lot of people I haven't heard of. Doesn't necessarily mean they aren't important, or they aren't powerful. Just that nobody's fucking heard of them in recent years. This Malsum guy was the reason they found Loki in Mag Mell. It's a little bit confusing.
The story is that Loki was working with Malsum because Loki wanted to get Fenrir freed from his bondage, Glaupnir. Yup, Loki wanted to free his kid who is supposed to start Ragnarok. Parents do crazy shit for their kids, even if the kid's a massive scary wolf who's supposed to eat the moon to kick off the apocalypse. Or something like that. I've slept since I read the Edda. But damn, if my kids ever start the apocalypse, they are so fucking grounded.

Uh... Anyway. So how did Loki end up underground? Elementary, my dear. Malsum tricked Loki.
Sur-fucking-prise. A trickster god, pulling tricks.
Nobody could have possibly fucking predicted that one. Oh wait, except for everyone. Well, okay, maybe it's a little surprising that anyone managed to pull anything over on Loki. I mean, we kinda expect him to be the troublemaker these days. At least I do. Maybe I'm a little bit prejudiced.

Uh, but yeah. I digress. I was talking about Utgard-Loki, and Heimdall and that hair the giant king had.
Utgard-Loki (probably) had that guy (Malsum)'s hair. At first I think we would have just used the hair to find out who the machine-stealing culprit was, but maybe since we already had that information (which came from Loki, who is apparently the most reliable source ever), nobody else thought it was all that important. Now, I'm not an expert on the subject, but I've got a sneaking suspicion that a body part, even if it's just a piece of hair, would probably be a pretty nifty thing for anyone who wanted to magically fuck over the plans of a trouble maker who keeps stealing godly devices. I am not capable of doing any of this magical-fucking-over type stuff, and like I said, I'm not an expert. My forte is shooting people, and hitting people, and keeping other people from getting shot at or hit, and failing that, making sure that people who do get shot at or hit survive it. So long as I want them to.
Magic is Gunnar's deal, plus it was his dad in captivity, so I felt like this was one of those rare moments where I should - and actually would - just keep my mouth shut.
But I hope that if Gunnar ever had the choice between freeing me from an icicle pincushion or literally getting a piece of the asshole responsible for a lot of mortal deaths, that he wouldn't pick me. We've had this talk before, and he said he wouldn't pick me. I hope he sticks to it. If it's between saving me or kicking Titan ass, or godly ass that's just acting Titanically dickish, I hope he'd pick to kick ass and let me find my own way out of the godsdamned ice.
Who knows, I might just get pissed off enough to evolve lasers in my eyes, and shoot my way out of the ice. Yeah, that's what I'm going to go with. Eye lasers.
Heimdall probably could too.

Anyway, that wasn't the choice that was made, and I didn't have any say in it because I wasn't even there when the choice was offered. I was pregnant then and wasn't sure if I went through that I could get back and I was going to do it anyway and then Gunnar gave me that look that reminded me how fucking stupid it would be to get myself stranded in giant country, so I got to sit outside Jotunheim playing a rousing game of "Watch the Tatzelwurm." It's right up there with watching a monkey pick its nose; only entertaining for about ten seconds.

I didn't stay outside this time. I got to go with them, and it was different from the moment we even got there. Like, there was pretty much an army of ice giants outside of where Jotunheim even began. That was new. Fortunately for us they weren't terribly bright.
Someone talked our way past them, and there was something important about it... I don't remember what it was, though. Something we convinced them to do, or say... I don't know. We got inside without too much trouble, and that's really the part I care about.
Utgard-Loki himself was alright. Not really rude, and he made good with his part of the deal without too much goading of the god he'd been holding captive. There was some other ice queen there, though. She smelled like frost and sounded like whales, the way Gunnar smells like amber and his heartbeat sounds like lightning. I don't know, I didn't pick the smells or the sounds. Her name was Sedna and she was kind of an unnecessary bitch.

So, yeah. We got Gunnar's dad, which was awesome. Yeah, I know, I said it wouldn't have been my call, and I'm glad it wasn't my call because it was what I wanted to do, just not what I would have done. It makes sense, just go with it.
Heimdall kinda freaked when he looked at me and realized I wasn't pregnant anymore. That was a little weird. At first I thought maybe he could just see it, the way my dad and I can, but now I figure that that's just where Gunnar gets his crazy hearing from, and Heimdall probably just noticed that the heartbeats weren't there like they were supposed to be.
I wanted to go on a bitchfest about what was probably one of the least fun pregnancies and craziest deliveries ever (yeah, Dad and my aunt probably have me beat on the last one; look up Leto's delivery of Artemis and Apollo), but I also did not want to waste the time of a god, especially not a god who'd been out of the loop for a while and probably had Really Important Shit to be getting back to. Yeah, more important than family. At least more demanding. I don't have to like it, but I get it.
Gunnar and I did manage to convince Heimdall that everything was okay, though. We asked him to think way, way back into the past (for him. For us it was last fucking Tuesday), when he and Kairos laid some major hurt on Pan, creating Cernunnos and... someone else. I don't remember, and I don't really care.
Anyway, we were like, "Hey Heimdall, you remember those random nine-year-olds you saw that time when you cut a god in half?"
And Heimdall was like, "Wait, which time? Oh, that time. Uh, yeah..."
And we were like, "Well those were your super-awesome grandsons."
I paraphrased.
Heimdall seemed pretty happy about the news, and just a little bit awe struck about having seen his grandkids before he ever even knew he would have children. I have to admit, it is kinda wicked. My kids are time-traveling badasses.
Seriously, other moms can brag about their kids' report cards and school plays. I get to stand up and tell the soccer moms to shove it, because my sons were born in a temporal anomaly, and that's way more badass than straight A's. The first time my sons saw snow it was in the drifts of Fimbulwinter. Years before it happened. They'd been to not one, not even two, but three different underworlds before they were ever born. My sons are fucking awesome.

So, after we had freed Heimdall we asked him if he would be willing to do us a really huge favor. Seriously, the kind of huge favor that gets most lowly demigods killed for being presumptuous enough to ask. I guess we get some leeway for helping him out and explaining everything we knew to him (which wasn't a lot, but when you're stuck in ice I guess you take what you can get). We told him about the Aesir being trapped here in Midgard, that Tyr and Loki and him were the only ones we knew about. The "Loki" part interested him.
But Heimdall used his super-awesome-mega-ultra-I-can-fucking-see-everything-and-your-underwear-doesn't-match vision to tell us where Ixion was hanging out. Some of the Band is kinda hot about going after him. I'm not, not really. I don't think we're ready for it just yet.
I really didn't think we were ready for it when Heimdall told us where the real Ixion was, that sub in the middle of the ocean, thousands of feet below the surface. There were all sorts of problems with going after him that I wasn't sure anyone had thought about. I mean, I had, because I've wandered my ass down to the bottom of the ocean before, and I distinctly remember that it wasn't fun. I remember arguing as hard as I could to keep Nate from coming with me because I was pretty sure that just the pressure of the water at that depth would pop him like an unfortunate grape. I remember being really, really glad that everyone else got the call to go deal with the Nazi werewolves and that Gunnar and I were able to Lone Ranger and Tonto that shit, since we only have the one Nommo eye and as far as I know no one else can breathe underwater. It's not like the extra firepower would have even helped us against the Flying Dutchman or whatever that ship was.
Plus, if I were a mythologically powered dick with a submarine armed with nukes, I would wait just long enough for the dumbasses coming after me to get up in my submarine's personal bubble, then I would detonate the nukes and at least knock my enemies unconscious so that they could then either drown, be crushed to death, or get eaten by sharks. I wouldn't particularly care which. And then I would cruise away in my stolen submarine full of dead bodies, cackling like the Joker because that's what bad guys do.
We good guys were trying to figure out what to do next, and seeing if Heimdall could help us with it when the world sort of shifted. It faded and moved, and there was like this room type thing and in it was Odin, looking like a really grumpy badass, and then there were lots of other people. Aesir, all of them. Ty - the Sway junkie who went through withdrawal at mine and Gunnar's house - was there, along his dad Tyr, and Gunnar and Heimdall were there, and some other viking I didn't recognize, and Harlan and Sly and Loki, and Gunter, then me and mine and Gunnar's boys, Alexander and Erik. Odin explained that he figured out a way to get the Aesir gods back where they belonged. You know, back in Asgard. That was kinda important, since as far as we had known Asgard and Helheim had been cut off from Midgard.
I don't know what Odin did, but it was impressive, and then poof! Heimdall has left the building. Loki and Tyr and the other viking, too.
Odin also said that whatever was happening to cut off the over- and under- worlds, it wasn't happening from their side of things. Whatever is doing it is doing it from Midgard and it's up to the other side to figure out what the fuck is going on. All the gods in Midgard were being called home to defend against threats to the homeland, of which there are many. So, Odin explained, the Aesir who were left in Midgard, those of us who he had included in this vision thing, were charged with the responsibility of solving the mystery and stopping the badness. I don't have a better name for it. Maybe I should just call it the Darkness. Except I like that band. The Happening? No, not enough pollen. The Stuff. Yeah, that works for now. Odin told us to stop the Stuff.
And... fuck, I guess that makes me an honorary viking. He didn't have to show me what was happening. I mean, I don't know how much trouble it was to include me in the vision, but I assume it was some small amount of effort, at least. I don't know what I could have done to get in the good graces of the All-Father. Maybe it was volunteering for the apocalypse party, telling Heimdall I'd be there when he sounds the Gjallrhorn to call all the kids to Ragnarok.
Well, whatever it was... Odin, even if just implicitly... called me one of the Aesir.
Fuck yeah.

So, despite having marching orders from the All-Father, the rest of the band still wasn't sure about what to do next. I guess that's understandable, it's not like they really have close ties to the Aesir, and it's not like I really expect them to take orders from Odin when they weren't even there to hear the orders he gave... but still, when a god says "jump," I don't think it's a great idea to say, "Why?" or "Sure, but lemme go get my face nuked off, first."
I wanted to get on figuring out the Darkness. I still have underworlds to go to, and I want to make sure I can get there. We had leads for this already, Bast had recommended we talk to a death god. They get to be all up close and personal with Tartarus, or something like that. I can't remember exactly what the explanation was, I wasn't even there for this conversation. But I think it was explained that the underworlds go dark just barely before the overworlds, so maybe the people who run the underworlds might be able to tell us something. I suggested maybe we should go to Hades since I had business there anyway, and we could talk to Hades while we were there. It's kinda self-serving, if you wanna look at it that way. Or you could look at it another way and just fucking agree with me when I say I'm multitasking.
I would have suggested Duat, but I'm not dragging anyone into that mess with me if I don't have to.
Either way, that idea was gently vetoed, and replaced with the seriously much better idea of bringing a death god to us instead of having to go to one of them.

Yeah, so, my husband is a badass, too. He remembered the spell that summoned the Baron from back when we were organizing the party for Brigitte's funeral. All we needed was the hottest peppers on the planet, a black rooster, some rum and a lazy Saturday.
Now, this may not be the kind of fact that actually needs to be pointed out, but black chickens are kinda hard to come by in the Jotunheimen Mountains. We managed, though. I was two steps shy of just finding a chicken and painting the fucker black. It probably still would have worked.
Gunnar did the ritual to call down... er... up... the Baron. We thought he was going to "ride" Gunnar (yeah, it still sounds weird and sexual, like I'm betting the Baron would say it's supposed to), like he did last time. So Gunnar handed me all of his relics.
I don't really know why, now that I think about it. Maybe he thought the Baron was going to go crazy and try to kill us all?
If that was the case, I really doubt he would need a demigod's relics to do it. I mean, he could probably just strike us all dead with a look, if he decided we were worth the trouble. Maybe he was worried the Baron would engage in lewd and lascivious conduct with his relics.
Anyway, um, there was no need for Gunnar to have handed me everything, because I started feeling something pushing at my mind.
"Oh, uh, here," I shoved everything back at Gunnar.
And then everything kinda changed and I heard someone speaking using my voice, felt him moving using my body. He apparently approved of his new accommodations, quite vocally and to Gunnar's pretty obvious disapproval. From the back of my head I remember thinking it was more than a little weird to be feeling myself up in front of everyone.
But that's just what it's like to have the Loa god of Death riding you. Well, riding me. The Baron was riding me... and when I put it that way, I guess it makes sense now why Gunnar looked kinda ticked for the whole thing. Like maybe no one else is supposed to "ride" his... yeah, I can't write that, it's too weird.

We asked the Baron a lot of questions. His answers were mostly "I don't know" and "you should go see for yourselves" and "You want to save the world, Ixion's not fucking with the world, but this other stuff is so maybe that should be the higher priority."
And then he told us to go look at Tartarus. Like, not go into it, because that would be dangerous and stupid, and not even necessary. But the prison was built in a weird space, and all of the death gods are supposed to know something about it. So we should actually go talk to one. We should go look over the edge of the abyss. So that's three different gods from three different pantheons encouraging us to go check out an underworld. Even if I didn't have to worry about putting Marie back together, or taking Azzeza to Duat, I was willing to listen to the first god. But I guess the rest of the band needs to hear it from three. Third time's the charm.
We picked Hades. It's not supposed to be as cold as Helheim, it's not supposed to be as underwater as Guinnee, it's not supposed to be as kill-your-face-with-desert as Duat. The only threats I know about in Hades' realm are Cerberus and the man himself. Well, god. Oh, and his wife. Anyone who can stay in the underworld as much as she does and not be out of her gourd makes me a little nervous.
Watch, we will get there and everything will be on fire. Then I'm going to pitch a bitch about how that wasn't in the brochure, and I'm going to fire my travel agent.
So yeah. That's the plan. Go to Hades. Look at Tartarus. Hopefully let Laurel get Marie's memories back so that she can then traipse off to Duat with two kids in tow and figure out how the fuck to put it all back together. Not just Marie. Everything. The world, the underworlds, the overworlds - everything back the way it fucking belongs.
I haven't told Gunnar yet, but I'm planning on going right after we get done with Hades. He has to know it's coming soon, though. Just gotta tell the kids before we head into the underworld. Make sure Azzeza's ready for it. Say goodbye to my kids. Have Amanda teach me Ancient Egyptian. Finish those blueprints for Dionysus' temple. Nah, it's not a huge to-do list at all.
It is, actually, and it doesn't get any smaller. I check something off, and replace it with eight other things that all have to get done ASAP.
At least I don't think I'll have to worry too much about Gunnar and the others while I'm gone. I told the Baron about wanting to go to Duat. I told him I was worried about everyone else, and that I wanted to stay with them in case they did decide to go do something stupid like bullrush a nuclear submarine, but that I couldn't keep ignoring this kid and I was in over my head with putting Marie back together and I didn't know what else to do and the doors were closing and I think he got tired of me rambling. He said, to me, in my head, that he would see what he could do.
It made me feel a lot better about everything. I like the Baron.

When we were all done, the Baron said something about hanging around for a bit, I guess just using my body to walk the world. Get a vacation, since I guess he's still Guinnee bound.
Yeah, Gunnar said "No" at the same time I said "Yes."
Nobody heard me, since I was only actually talking in my head. Well, the Baron heard me. He said he had to go anyway. I wonder why Gunnar didn't want him hanging around. The Baron's a pretty righteous dude. I mean, yeah he's a skeletal Spongebob who binge drinks and chain smokes and he has a way of dancing that makes a person's hips vibrate like a particularly agitated tuning fork, but still. As death gods go, he could be a lot worse. A Hel of a lot worse. Haha, get it?

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