Wednesday, August 3, 2011

O' Feckin' Hel...Part 1.

If Jack had been with us, I'm sure he would have been queuing up an appropriate ACDC track for the occasion.

We met Harlan's divine "guide", who let us know what the requirements would be for reaching Helheim, the ceremony, advice on what to take, etc. I popped off to my apartment in Lyon to pick up my old Irish Army arctic survival gear from my former stint in the Irish Ranger Wing...amazingly it still fits me fine. I am still a reservist, albeit inactive. I also bought a pair of compact skis and ski poles, just in case. I looked more like a tourist headed for the Swiss alps than the Norse underworld, in all likelihood. If it had been possible, I would've preferred to trade in our M-16s for some Russian Federation AK-47s, but there was no time and far too much red-tape to cut through to make that happen on such short notice. Gunnar wondered aloud where to get his hands on some explosives in Germany, and I advised to try construction companies, which he did, means I'd rather just not ask about, acquired what he was after. I also brought along a flare gun and also some flare wands that GARDA uses for traffic control and/or to mark a crime scene.

We dug a hole at the base of an Ash tree over a century old (probably breaking at least a dozen German environmental regulations in the process), Harlan performed a little ritual, and Gunnar stepped up and jumped in without a second thought, just as he'd done at the Cliffs of Moher on the way to Mag Mell. Harlan's guide gave each person a gentle kick as they jumped in.

When my turn came, I can tell you, it felt first it was like jumping into any other shallow pit, but then everything went weird for a second and then I felt the pull of gravity acutely again and I realized I was starting to plummet through open air in a large cavern of some sort, or so it seemed. I concentrated on flying, my Celtic tattoo glowed softly and I was airborne. I saw some of my compatriots had splashed down into a freezing cold lake below, while Laurel landed unsteadily on a large....impossibly large...tree root? It took her a few seconds of struggling and stumbling but she did regain her footing eventually. I watched as Harlan fell straight down on top of where Gunnar was wading and I could hear both of them grunt audibly from the impact before this was covered up by the great splash of water a split second later. I felt my lips curl in an involuntary smile and I actually had to fight back a laugh.

Ciara activated her strange transforming keychain birthright and before long our party was in the boat, albeit mostly sopping wet & miserable, save for Laurel and myself, who remained comfortably dry.

Oh, and that guide of Harlan's of course, she was still dry as she followed in behind the last of our party. Her attention was focused on a rather mean looking Norse dragon whose attention we had all managed to catch as we fell into his domain looking not unlike food nuggets at feeding time, I wagered. They had a rather intense conversation in what I took to be Old Norse. Before my eyes, Harlan's guide transformed into a form utterly unmistakable...Brunhild herself, the Valkyrie! As if she's just walked onstage in our own Richard Wagner production...The dragon seemed to curse, glared at us all one last time, then flew off in a huff, if you can say that about a dragon.

Brunhild indicated to Harlan that basically, "you're on your own from here, Kid. You owe me for this, big time.", the details of which to be apparently worked out in future.

When we reached dry land our party were able to strip, start a fire, dry their drenched clothes and then dress again properly for the road trip ahead. Lucky we were all Scions with epic abilities; mere mortals, or even our sacred companions like my new wife, would have succumbed to hypothermia by now. According to our best intelligence, the journey ahead would take 9 days. It didn't matter at what speed we traveled, it would always take 9 days...underworld physics are kind of weird in that way.

A number of days in, we had a chance encounter with some hungry Frost giants who hoped to make us their next meal. We made short work of them, actually, and finally for once I was able to slay a foe with CĂșchulainn's weapon, Gae Bolga, with a single blow, in a manner befitting and worthy of CĂșchulainn himself. The Frost giant I had struck died in a horrible death spasm when Gae Bolga pierced his chest. When I ripped the mighty spear out of the corpse, I literally ripped the body apart into several uneven, gore-y sections, which to my mild disgust, became the meal of the surviving giants whom we spared after they surrendered. Gunnar told them to remember us as "Axes, Bullets, and Pain", and to spread word to others that we were not to be trifled with.

"Axes, Bullets and Pain" repeated the surviving giants dumbly and by rote. They trundled off with their next meal...feckin' cannibals...

After another day or so on the road, we were spotted by a Frost giant child, who waved us over, said we had been expected by his mistress and wouldn't we please stop to rest and have a meal? We were suspicious, but I guess we were also looking for some relief to the boredom. Ciara had been learning Old Norse from Gunnar, and I was getting tired of listening to her practice verb conjugations. I offered to teach her Old Irish and the Ogham script it is written in. She said she would get back to me.

Anyway, this old woman invited us into her hovel, and after letting Gunnar sample the stew, we decided it was safe and ate our fill. The old woman then showed us her pet bird, which sang for sweetly...I just....

The next thing I knew, Harlan was giving my face a good hard slap and yelling at me to "Snap out of it, Irish", before moving on to the next band member.

Harlan explained that the old crone had been a witch who was determined to use us as a tool for her own personal agenda against the goddess Hel, ruler of this realm. The witch is imprisoned in this hut and needed our bodies to escape. Harlan didn't tell us where she was or what happened, but insisted we get our of there as soon as possible. We liberated some firewood to use later and were on our way.

About a day later, it was once again Gunnar who noticed something, far far off in the distance. Crap, I wish I'd brought along binoculars on this trip...but before long I saw it too, a black, triangular shape in the sky, moving very fast. In the mundane world, I would've assumed it to be either a fighter jet or attack helicopter, but this being the Norse underworld, it was more likely...

...Feckin' dragon. Of course. Same markings as the one we saw that argued with Brunhild. I bet it was the same one. As I was speculating on this, we were within seconds bathed in an eerie, cold fire that light up everything around us in a blueish glow. I knew that if I'd not been wearing my birthright armor, this would've probably hurt like feckin' hell...

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