AUTHOR'S NOTE: When they did the Ragnarok story in Action Comics -761, they did it wrong. Fact is, they just did it wrong. So, I'm doing it now.
- - - - - - - - - - - -
The greatest son of Odin stood over the field, watching as the great land was washed in tranquil sunset. The sun fell to night once more in Asgard.
"My Lord," one of the sons of Asgard said. He strode slowly, but purposeful to the Odinson.
"Report," he said.
"This battle falls to Asgard," he said, managing to revel a little in their glory.
"Good news for weary ears. We break for camp. Secure this land. I hold no wish to again lay blood upon its soil." The bloodied and filthy warrior of good Asgard nodded and was off to the troops.
Thor, wiping a meaty hand down his bearded face, looked to the sky in time to see two figures lift slowly, moving faster as they climbed to the clouds.
"Praise Odin's good eye you be with Asgard," he said, watching them cross back to the tents.
"My lord," a young godling called, running with the carelessness of youth that even gods may envy.
"Ho, boy, what have you?" he asked, receiving the bundle from the runner's hands.
"I found it on the fields, my lord. It is his, is it not?"
"It is, boy. It is. It is safe in my hands. Go. See to your duties."
"My lord," he said, bowing his head and running off to help with the dead and wounded.
Time passed. Thor spoke his words over the carcasses of the dead, brave warriors who fought for their lives and their home, then sent them as ash to the wind on great pyres that lit the night sky like brightest noon.
It was in the tents strung together, serving as their great hall that he found his two greatest soldiers. They were solemn, and doubly so for the merriment of those around.
"Drink, my friends," Thor laughed. "Tonight is a good night. We are one battle stronger. Those that fell surely drink to our fight in Valhalla." He sat with them at the great table. Twenty years fighting at their side and he had never seen the greatest champion ever to walk Midgard take more than but a single sip. The woman was different. She knew their ways. Many were hers as well.
"None for me, thank you, Lord Thor," the man said. His voice was like controlled thunder. He had heard him bark commands at the ranks on the field of battle that shook the very land.
"Kal, you have no need for titles with me. I am not your Lord. These maggots are mine to command," he yelled, sweeping his mug at his laughing Asgardians. They raised their mugs and drank heartily with him. "You," he said, wiping his mouth on his forearm. "You are a comrade. Your power," he said, lowering his voice. "By Odin you have power," he said slamming his fist down and laughing. He saw a slight, if not entirely for Thor's benefit, grin. "You and the princess are both equals here at Thor's table. I am not my father, though I love him dearly. I care not for such decorous displays of title and position. You lead Gods, Kal! Enjoy that for just a night."
"Kal does not find this as enjoyable as some, Thor," Diana said, taking a big drink that got an even bigger yell of approval from his men.
"I think I'll retire for the night," Kal said, sliding his chair out to leave. He raised his mighty arm, splaying his thick farmer's fingers to the men, bidding them farewell 'til next they all did fight. They rose and lifted high their mugs. Such loyalty that Thor wondered if the mortal understood it.
Diana rose with him, getting a slightly more raucous farewell from the men. Thousands of them, down through the tents, that night. Hundreds in the great tent alone. She laughed and turned, smacking a hand to her nearly bare behind as she left. Laughter followed and then the general chaos of the supper of gods.
"Kal," Thor said, following them through the back. "A moment." The great man turned, waiting calmly. Everything he did was calm. Reasoned. A good counter to Thor's own admitted rashness. Diana waited with him. Kal's lieutenant. His companion in what was surely a strange land.
"Something wrong?" he asked.
"No, my friend. No. I have something for you. One of the boys found it on the field." He pulled the folded length of red from inside his loose shirt and handed it to Diana. She smiled and gave it to him as he waited at the tent's flaps.
"I know that you have a fondness for it, and truth be told, so do the men."
"Thank you," he said, losing that wall for a moment.
"Why not a new one? Surely we could fashion a cloak of better repair than that weary old thing."
"My mother made if for me," he said, running his hands over the cloth. "Under the soot and the blood… I can still smell Kansas. The dirt and the air…"
"Hold close those things of family, my friend. My father told me such, and I understand it now at too great a price. Go. Rest. We return to the palace tomorrow."
"We'll be there," he said, still running his thick fingers with such gentle care over the cloth. The faded lines of the diamond shield were barely visible. They left. Diana with a look and a respectful nod as they ducked through the flaps.
"Where are the women?" he barked, taking his seat again.
"What would lady Sif think?" someone yelled.
"We will tell no one!" he yelled back, laughing with them. "Surely this can be kept to a secret amongst warriors?" It was laughter that he carried with him that night. Laughter and promise of victory.
- - - -
She walked with him through the camps. Men called out to them, waving and raising weapons as they ate their well deserved meals around fires and in the open night.
"Seems strange still," he said. His voice pulling her attention from everything else. "Seeing gods eating under the stars. Sleeping in tents. Warring like men."
"Gods are but reflections of our lives. They would all tell us so."
"Maybe we all just aren't so different. Might just be that simple."
"Perhaps that is so," she said. He held his cape in his hands, seeming to walk a little brisker with it in his possession again. His uniform was long gone. The Asgardians continued to make his standard for him. He wore it proudly. Both for what it represented and for the sentiment behind their efforts each and every time. The lesser gods of Asgard sewed it into their own clothing. Scarred it into their flesh along with those of their houses and their lords. He ego saw none of it.
"Are you tired?" he asked her.
"Too tired to sit with me a bit?"
"Never," she said, calmly grinning. "Do you know how long I hated myself for bringing you into this?"
"I brought myself. If I remember, you told me this was gods' business and I should stay the hell back."
"I don't remember ever saying 'hell'." He grinned and shrugged his massive shoulders. The sun in that place was different. It gave him no more power than on Earth, but it seemed to have brought him to a point of balance. He no longer needed the solar energies to keep his mighty body working. He could tire, and he would simply regain his strength as any would. But his body had come to a point of being that no longer relied on the sun. He was truly a power greater than the gods.
He was stronger than before, certainly. But he attributed that to simply growing as he had always done. He said he had come to a point of maturation in his power. Mere degrees, to be sure, but in him, small degrees housed levels that were impossible to fathom.
"Why don't you drink?" she said, finding that it was only with him that she could finally speak in a more casual manner. Her first contractions were nearly clumsy in their attempts.
"I don't like it," he said, smiling. "Even the gods can't make something I can get drunk on, but I can taste every little thing in it. And I don't like it. That simple. Beer. I would pay real money for a beer right now."
"I had no idea," she said, walking to his tent. That was where they went to just be alone. She slept in hers, but they talked and just stayed with each other in his.
He held the flaps open for her and she ducked in, waiting for his heat vision to light the fire pot.
"But they don't care."
"They love you," she said. "These are gods who follow you into battle, Clark. Gods."
"Thor, Diana. Not me," he said, sitting on the strong wood pallet covered with furs. She sat with him. Sighing as he rubbed his face and inhaled slowly. A tired Superman was not something she liked to see.
"You, Kal. Clark," she said. "They follow you as well. Of course they follow Thor. His is their leader. He is…" she laughed softly. "He is Thor." She considered him a moment, taking in his stern gaze, and the solid set of his posture. The weight that laid heaviest on his shoulders, as always it would. He was only who he must always be. "This is a place of Gods, Clark. But it matters. It matters what happens and that was why I came to his call for help."
"No. You came to help me. I know that."
"Maybe a little," he said, nodding. That grave smile on his face. She would give anything to see the real thing. The one that used to make people believe that they could do great things.
"You miss her still."
"Not like I used to," he said. "She'd be 54 now. Moved on, I hope. Assumed I'm dead."
"Why do you not move on?" she asked him. Her hand covered his. She could do that and pretend it was nothing more than a friend comforting a friend.
"I made a promise. Until death we do part. She's still alive."
"She would want you to put some of this in the past, Clark. You are fighting for everything out here. This endless war."
"Nothing has no end," he said, his defense of absolutes rising to the surface. She loved that in him. It was the first thing she saw in him that spoke to her. He believed in options. He believed in choice. And he believed that things were what they were. Things had an end, and they had a beginning. The only thing that was endless was existence. It had to be. If it ended, he told her, then it would be non-existent. If a thing is something that can be quantified, it is now something. By being, it is something. Therefore, existence was simply absolute. It may be that a new existence would be marked. What was in that existence was another matter.
She had smiled and asked him never to bring it up again. That was the last time she heard him laugh. 15 years ago. Five years after arriving in the midst of the hellish war of the gods. 20 years and a handful of months and they were sitting alone in his tent, just trying to forget the day. She wanted to be out there. Laughing and drinking and having fun. And she would. Later. She would sit with him until he said otherwise. Sit with him until the sun snuffed out, the land turned to dust and the Ragnarok was a thing that only they remembered. She would do this for him. For her.
"This war isn't being fought right," he said. Dust dropped from the tent beams. His voice shook her. He was weary. His control fading. His power so great it required his constant attention to guide it. Restrain it. Demons of great power, power enough to fell the mightiest of Asgardians, they had had proved to be the lesser when faced with the power of her greatest teacher. Her greatest friend.
"Clark, your voice," she said, rubbing her ear.
"Sorry." Softer. Gentle. Such care. Such understanding of what he was. "We're doing this wrong. They just keep coming. We need to press on. Press forward."
"What have we been doing?"
"Holding the line. Taking this field or that. The enemy has patience. The gods have patience. I have fewer and fewer."
"You're tired, Clark. You should rest."
"I will rest."
"Go enjoy your victory, princess," he chuckled. He did it every time. Whenever he did that, it happened. She was now nearly 50 years old. Looked to be far less, but that was their blessing in life. But he could make her feel like a little girl.
She wanted to feel like a woman.
"You didn't eat today," she said.
"You must eat. This is food that sustains gods, Clark. It might do you good."
"I'm fine," he said, rising and pulling off his tunic. "Fine."
"Alright," she said, hand to his huge shoulder. She kissed his cheek and walked out into the night. The flap snapped behind her as he blew out the fire. Dark smoke rose through the little hole in the top.
She walked through the camp, tossing her outer furs to her tent, knowing they would be there when she returned. She wore animal skin, rubbed soft and strong, wrapped around her large breasts. A simple length covered her sex and her rear, the long flaps of excess material hanging over the rawhide string that was tied tight around her wide, smooth muscled hips. She strode with a little extra emphasis to her walk, enjoying the looks she received. Her hair flowed behind her, and she felt like a woman.
But what use if it wasn't with…
- - - -
She had been shocked those many years ago when he killed for the first time in front of her. On the battlefield, his eyes searing a creature and cutting it in half before it could swing down it's mighty axe on her body. He just moved on. His feet shaking the land, and his great hands hurling boulders into the mass of demons and their legion as they fought their way to a secure palace.
He told her that killing was nothing he wanted to do, but something he understood was necessary in the most desperate of times. He had made it widely known that he would never kill in his duties to the public as Superman. A Superman who killed would be a fright. A Superman who did everything he could to avoid act had the people's trust.
But this was a desperate time. And he wasn't Superman. He was just a man.
So, after all that time, and after all the battles and raging, brutal warfare, to see him move through the ranks of beasts and dark gods, it was a thing to witness. She cleaved through her opponents with her sword. A gift of the Asgardians.
"Your man fights like ten of my brothers," Thor said, crushing his way to her side as Clark spun tornadoes into the air, destroying everything he could of the enemy's lines. Even in a world of gods, he could be a thing of elemental, brutal force. He was unmatched in the air. And there were things there that could do battle in the sky. Many things.
"He is not my man," she said, taking the head from a grotesquely muscled thing of sickly green skin and many horns.
"So you have said," he laughed. He brought down his hammer and sent waves of force outward, breaking up the advancing little creatures that had killed so many in their horde-like methods. Flesh ripping. Blood pouring into the ground… Horrible.
"This is not the time, Thor," she said, cleaving a thing that looked disturbingly like a man.
"Later then," he laughed, throwing himself into the fight. He was a brawler. Nothing elegant to his style. Just destroy that which seeks to stop or harm you. Rip it, crush it, hit it, cut it. Just destroy it.
She screamed her anger at the things that had brought her to that place. Taken him away from his life. Taken him from the people who needed him. For him, she sliced her way through the lines. They cut her. They hurt her. But she just moved on, the wounds already healing over.
Again and again. More killing than she had ever witnessed in all her life. Every day was more than all those before it. And it never ended. Never.
- - - -
There were days when they could forget the damned war. The in between times. Days when the sun shone bright, and the wind carried with it a scent of the fields that had healed the scares suffered in battles decades past.
Days when the rain would fall softly, letting them just lay and close their eyes.
He watched her. She laughed with them. She was the general on the ground. The one the men could accept as one of them. She was a woman. They could view a general like that as an equal. He understood them and decided to not bother to change the social habits of gods.
He had decided that in the broadest sense, he liked the gods of the Northmen better than the gods of ancient Olympus. Perhaps they were just more human. He had no idea.
Diana seemed to find herself in that place. The barriers of propriety she had set up over the first years of her time as Wonder Woman had slowly fallen. She laughed, fought, and enjoyed herself when able. He wished he could do that.
"Kal," Thor said, walking into his chambers.
"Out here," he said, still leaning over the balcony watching her stand and trade stories with the common gods, if there could be such a thing.
"I come to see if you are enjoying your day and you are just standing around?" he laughed.
"This is enjoying the day," he said. Thor stood with him, leaning over the rail and clasping his thick hands as he smiled. His thick red beard was bright in the sun. His hair long, and braided back into a thick mass.
"We begin to make progress," he said.
"About damned time," Clark said.
"This is a thing that takes as long as it takes, Kal," he said.
"It takes as long as it takes," he agreed.
"So perhaps we make it take a little less time," he laughed.
"My thoughts," he said, grinning thinly. He often wished Thor would just stay to his troops. He had grown tired of him. 80 years with the god and he had never stopped. Always laughing, or trying to convince him of the glory of it all. It was tiresome.
"Was there something you wanted?" he asked the god.
"Just to tell you that in two days we leave. We are gathering some of the harder hit battalions. Consolidating them. We want to hit them at our strongest. Prove the might of Asgard."
"We're waiting," he said, not bothering to hide his disappointment.
"Only for the right time," Thor said, clapping him on the back. He wanted to break the arm right at the elbow. Just rip it away and beat him with it. "We have faced Ragnarok before, Kal. It was ours to win. This will be no different. A new age when this is done."
"Good," he said, missing the sentiment behind his agreement entirely. "Do something that makes you laugh, Kal. It will help." He left, already yelling for someone as he left Clark's chambers. Clark just closed his eyes and lifted into the air. Moving slowly. Arms at his sides. Head up and feet close together. Like diving up. He just rose. Higher and higher.
"Clark!" she called. Miles below him. "Clark! Wait!" He stopped and waited. She caught him and took him by the arm.
"Just stretching my legs," he told her.
"We have two days before we must go back," she said, grinning. He smiled, not feeling happy, but just smiling at her.
"You think that's a mistake?"
"I think we have enough to take the fight to those bastards now. But he wants a grand fight. So, we wait, and we let them build their ranks while we build ours. Stalemate after stalemate."
"But we are winning."
"Winning?" he laughed. "Winning. Diana, we haven't gained a necessary bit of territory yet. They keep coming from whatever hellgate they come from, and we just keep soaking up that water and wringing it out as it comes in under the door."
"Tell him," she said, putting her hands to his shoulders.
"I have. He just laughs that damned annoying laugh and tells me that it will be a good fight. I've had my good fights. I want to end this."
"You don't like him, do you?"
"No," he said. "Not now. Maybe I never did. I don't know."
"Is it her?" she asked.
"Lois… I haven't thought of her in years. Not for real. Passing thoughts."
"Lois has died by now. I decided that years ago. I mourned her quietly and then I was done. So simple?" he asked her. "Should it be so simple?"
"You have been away from her for so long, Clark. How much grieving can you do?"
"I suppose. I didn't think it would be so simple. We… She and I were never on solid ground. I loved her. I think. I can remember everything as clear as if it was yesterday, but I can't remember how I felt. If I felt that, or if I thought I should."
"Why did you never tell me?" she asked softly.
"It wasn't something I thought you needed to hear. We were in the middle of that battle on the Ice plains. The Frost Giants."
"I always have time for you."
"You should be back home," he said. "You shouldn't be in a war. Not like this." He saw how beautiful she was. Floating with him. She was always with him. In every sense. She stood by him when no one would. When proved right, she was the one to point it out for him.
"You barely had time to become a woman and you were here," he said.
"As is the story down through time. Young men barely old enough to hold the title, off to war. Living or dying. Changed forever. I am not so special."
"Yes," he said, wanting to touch her. Wanting all the things he'd wanted forever. "Yes, you are."
"Clark…" He took her hand and dropped, stopping her from saying anything. They flew slowly and without word. He could see the enemy. Just sitting and waiting. He was sick of it. Sick of it all.
Her fingers laced in his made it bearable for that moment.
- - - -
They fought almost constantly. Disagreements about policy. Strategy. She stood outside and waited. All who had cause to pass did so without comment or even a glance.
"No! You goddamned arrogant son of a bitch!" he yelled. She winced as he yelled at the Thunder god.
"You dare speak to Odinson in such a manner?" They bellowed at each other like that for hours. Finally coming to some agreement and it was over again. No one would dare speak to either of them like that but for one another.
"Stubborn bullheaded…" he muttered as he stepped out into the setting sun. He ran his hands through his hair, letting out a controlled breath.
"Is something wrong?" she asked, innocently.
"Is… You pick the damnedest times to make jokes," he said. But he was smiling. She laughed, slipping under his arm and walking with him through the camp.
"What did you finally decide?" she asked. "I couldn't hear anything after you stopped screaming at each other."
"Yelling, Diana. Bellowing, maybe. Men don't scream at each other."
"Tell me," she said.
"We're hitting them. You and I. He thinks he needs to go in with the whole damned army. Let him. We'll have them half wiped out by the time he gets them all there. Now's the time. We hit them at midnight. The moon won't give them much to see."
"Can we do this?"
"We can do this," he said, a little life in his step. He was a man of reason. A man who wanted peace above all else. But he was a fighter. Action was secondary only to concise, reasoned choice.
"Then we will do this."
Six hours later, soaring high above the clouds, they saw their marks. They dropped silent and without notice. He flew faster. Leaving her behind. Faster and faster and then…
She had seen footage of nuclear bombs. Had witnessed things of similar horror from alien sieges. The way the explosion carried outward, felling all in it's path. Kicking up earth and structure alike. Nothing survived.
She saw that very thing as he struck. But instead of the rising cloud of smoke, twisted and ominous, she saw thick flashes of red. Heard screams that pierced even that high in the air. Watched the ground shake, and great fissures open and crumble down in on themselves. Grass and tree falling with equal abandon.
She landed with sword in hand and shield over her arm. A helmet on her head, and her body nearly bare. It was the Amazon way.
The heat. The heat of his impact, and the energy released. The two beams that sizzled the air and the cries of the things that were horror and fright personified.
She cut into them and offered them new opportunity to learn fear. She fought as never before. Feeding on his conviction and his strength of will. They would fall before the two of them, because they simply must do so.
She felt things cut her. She ignored them. She felt things slam her from behind. Mere impacts. Bruisings. Ribs that would heal. Muscle that would find it's way back to right. When her arm was knocked out of its socket, she crushed her shoulder into the face of a thing that seemed sturdy enough for the task. It died, but her arm was hers again. A moment to let it heal and she could again raise her shield.
They fought and fought. No goal but to raze the army. Then, a surprise.
From far afield, a sound she knew. Thunder, but not thunder. Hooves. Great hooves driving a cart with a mad Norse god and his great hammer. And that laughter that Clark hated so much. But she welcomed it that night.
They had always fought to the death. One side won or lost in total. Lines were shored up, and they had whatever bit of territory they had. Bit by bit to reclaim a world.
This time, she saw frantic retreat. They ran. The things of horror and death, they ran. They. Ran.
"Keep on them!" Clark bellowed. His voice shaking her to her bones. It merely made Thor laugh and his eyes go wide with the lust for battle. He mounted his cart, pulled by his rams, each the size of a bull, and snapped the reigns. Behind him, she saw the growing plumes of dust and debris. More carts. More Asgardians eager to end the bloody, fated battle. No more content to wait than had been Thor once he saw the battle begun.
They raced after the horde, chasing it as far back as they could, destroying what they could. Cutting as many from the ranks as they were able. As the sun came up, Clark stood in the ruined land, watching as only he could watch.
"I doubted your strategy," Thor said, walking up behind him. She let them alone. The two great men standing and looking over the prize that was theirs.
"I'm not a god, Thor. I'm not as old as you. But I know a few things. You've had your battles, and I've had mine."
"Agreed," he said, a smiled parting his mad, red beard. His eyes big and full of fight still. "Good fight, Kal-L."
"Good fight, Odinson," he said. They clasped hands at the wrists and Thor was heading for his cart. He winked at Diana as she pulled her helmet off, shaking out her sweaty hair. She laughed and rapped the front of her shield on his powerful arm.
"Clark?" she said, stepping up to him. He turned and with an arm around her middle, he kissed her. It was hungry and needful. She dropped her sword, letting it fall point-down into the dirt.
"If we're going to fight, we fight," he said, his unreal blue eyes bright and burning.
"We fight," she repeated, breathless and smiling.
- - - -
"What happened?" he said, dropping hard into the palace throne. The open roof made it the one place that was perfect for him to fly in and out in the entire place.
"They attacked with no warning," the bloodied soldier said. "We had not seen the like."
"Where is he?"
"He…He in his chamber. He will not leave. Not until you come." Diana landed behind him. Streaked in dirt and blood, but safe and well as could be in that place. She carried her sword and wore her helmet. Her loin cloth that wrapped her pelvis and left her behind nearly bare, it was torn and soaked in blood. Some of it hers. Wounds already healing. The deeper ones he'd seared shut, staring into her flesh, holding her as she screamed and cried. She only cried in front of him. It used to be the opposite. Time was, she never cried in front of him. Only when he was gone. He knew that.
"Where is he?" she asked, the wrapped leather boots scuffing on the smooth stone floor as she walked.
"In his chambers," he said. She hurried alongside him, moving through the throne chamber and into the royal apartments that overlooked the city of Asgard.
He was there, surrounded by attendants.
"Give us room," Clark said, seeing them back away quickly. Not leaving their lord. He would never ask that of them. Thor was sitting against the wall. Blood everywhere. Bodies of the enemy. Spears stuck in their barrel chests and crushed bones deforming their remains.
But against the wall, hand to his belly and deep wounds in his chest and arms, Thor was struggling to stay in the world of the living.
"Valhalla. I will join my father and brothers. My mother. My dear wife. My Sif. I miss her. I do," he said, speaking quickly and in rushes. "My men fought bravely. Surprised. Many died this day, but the city is ours and the enemy is dead," he laughed. Blood gurgled out of his throat and he spit it angrily to the floor. It matted his wild beard. His hair was loose and tangled. Such a fight, it must have been.
"Kal-L. We have not been the friends I would have liked. But we…"
"We are friends, Thor. Friends that yell and gnash and fight, but friends."
"Friends," he said, laughing sharply. "Good… Good. You lead them, Kal-L. You take my people to victory. Only then will we be saved. Valhalla awaits me. I hear the horses of the Valkrye. My father is impatient," he laughed, grimacing in pain and sending more blood through his teeth.
"Diana," he said, bringing her forward. "Thank you. For heading my call for help. For bringing your might and the might of your man. I mourn only that I will not see your like in any aspect of Valhalla. Such cannot exist in more than once place, surely."
"Thor…" Her voice was pale and drenched in sorrow.
"Do not weep for me," he growled. "I am Thor! Odinson! I am to the hall of heroes! I have killed those who have killed me! If you wish to honor my death, take my people to victory. Lead them… Do… Do not let it…end… Do…"
Diana covered her mouth, keeping a sob back, staggering to her feet and walking to the open balcony. She screamed until her voice was raw.
"Take him to the courtyard," Clark said to the attendants. "Place the bodies of his men around him. We'll send them off together." They hurried to their task, wrapping their lord in the linens from his bed. Carrying his great body on their shoulders and out.
"He gave me this," Clark said, looking the hammer in his hand. Thor had pressed it to his palm, closing Clark's fingers around it with his own bloody hand. His last act. Diana, tears in her eyes and down her cheeks, making little cuts in the blood and dirt, stared at the thing.
"His hammer," she said, her voice thick and sore.
"His hammer." He rose and hooked it on his belt, kissing her softly.
"News has spread," she said, hearing the low, bailing horns that covered the lands. Death of a lord. First the father, then the son. Gods to be led by a mortal.
"Let's send him home," he said, walking to the balcony and lifting with her to the air, and down into the courtyard. They were coming in from all over. Bodies wrapped in whatever could be found.
Even in the place of gods, women wept for their men. For their sons and fathers. Some for daughters. Mothers. Life was life was life. Gods and mortals, only the life spans changed, he realized. Something he'd known, but forgotten. He would forget again, and he would remember again.
The bodies had been arranged, loyal soldiers and citizens who had fought and died, set with their lord of Asgard.
"We send Lord Thor, Odinson, ruler of Asgard to his hereafter. His reward," he said, his voice carrying to every ear present. "His last order was to not weep for him. But to fight in his name. Bring this to a meaningful end. The same would be said of all those brave souls who fought and died today. We shed our tears now, and we send them home." He looked around, seeing that the gods who seemed all too human to his mind, they watched him and waited.
"Thor bestowed this upon me," he said, raising the hammer. A gasp ran through those gathered. The city was already buzzing with the sight. "I am to lead this. By his command. I will do so." He stood with Diana, waiting.
"We wish you speedy journey, fallen heroes of Asgard," he said, lifting into the air, training his eyes on wooden mass pyre. Fire ignited and burned bright, lifting into the air as the wind fed it. He turned in the air and was flying off as far as he could, her hand in his.
- - - -
She carried the food covered on the wide wooden platter. The heat of it slowly leaving as she trudged through the thick snow. Thick animal skins draped over her shoulders. Boots, covered in the same thick, dark fur, rose up to her knees. Her bare legs felt the sting of the cold, but it was a passing thing for her.
Trees that were tenfold as big as anything in her world, her realm below, they rose high into the cold, windy sky. Ice cliffs in the distance caught the light of the setting sun, turning purple and red. Her long, full hair blew back, snapping behind her as the wind tore hard through the weary camp.
She wondered at a time when she had things in her life that were of civilization and art. Propriety and simple pleasure. From that to stepping through a camp of tents and battle weary gods. Great dogs the size of small horses that roamed with their masters, sniffing the air, looking for that scent of the enemy.
Laughter in the distance, bawdy and necessary for their moral. Nearly 900 years of constant war would test even a gods mettle.
Once, she wore gowns of silk and exquisite design and comfort to functions of great importance. She was the guest of embassies the world around. She was a princess. An amazon, to be sure, but a princess and a young woman. She still looked to be that young woman. A bit more mature, perhaps, but still full of youth and the promise of hope.
From that, she had come to wearing the hides of beasts she killed with her own hands. Bare underneath such a utilitarian garb. A simple wrap, like the ancestors of her mother. A sword strapped across chest and back. Slapping the back of her thigh if she walked fast enough.
"Clark," she said, bracing against the wind. The tent opened, and she stepped in quickly.
"Where did you go?" he asked, limping to his pallet. New furs covered it. Bright white with ridges of black.
"You need food. We both do."
"I could have gone," he said, settling with a slight groan onto his bed. He barely noticed the cold.
"The men cannot see their leader hurt so," she said softly.
"What about you?" His great hand touched her mouth gently. Feeling the deep scar of her lower lip and chin. In days, it would be just a memory.
"The worse I look, the more they respect me," she said, grinning. She pulled off her wet boots and set them by his fire. He nodded and propped his leg to a more comfortable position.
"This will be fine by morning. It's already better."
"You should not have been out there today."
"You have allowed me my time to rest, you must take some of that for yourself," she said, uncovering the huge platter of food. Food to sustain gods.
"Maybe," he said.
"Clark." She sighed, running her hands through her snow damp hair. "This is our war, not yours. Not a thing for you to fight alone."
"Let's eat," he said, taking a big piece of roast. His hair, longer than she had ever seen it, fell over his face as he leaned forward over the platter. His beard, short and trim, lost itself in shadow for a moment.
She shook her head, knowing that he would never relent, and took a piece for herself. It was something she enjoyed, if she thought about it. Simply eating with him. Alone. The war forgotten for a brief moment or two.
They would speak of things nothing to do with Asgard when they ate. Life before. After 900 years, they found they still had stories to tell. Sometimes not their own stories. His father. His mother. Her mother. The myths that men still told.
When they were done, she gathered the little bits that were left and covered it all.
"You should sleep, Clark. Rest. I know I can't stop you from going out there tomorrow, so rest. Be strong."
She stood, looking to check her boots, when she felt his hand on her wrist.
"You don't have to go," he said.
"Stay," he told her. Asked her.
"With you," she said, his hand still around her wrist. Feeling so small in his powerful grasp.
"I would like that," she said, smiling. Seeing him smile with her. He was renewed. He had been hurt, nearly killed, and rose to fight hundreds of times. But underneath the soldier king of the gods, there was still that man that she loved. The man who showed her what a hero was. What a champion was. What a man could be.
She unfastened the catch of her furs, letting them drop. He had seen her before. Been with her before. She had slept in his bed, just sleeping. Just sharing his warmth. She still got cold. She still felt weariness and fatigue deep in her bones. And she ached and bled and healed in his arms. Only his.
She would do so again that night. With him. As she always knew it should be.
- - - -
She sat with him. It was the final battle. A thousand years gone, and they were finally there. Weary. Hurt. Fighting on fumes. He had been there every step of the way. No one had fought as much. He carried the hammer. Something that seemed so much his now. Three hundred years and it was always with him.
His hair was long and thick. Shaggy after a certain length. It was well past his shoulders. His beard long and full.
"Clark," she said gently. His eyes snapped open and he sat up. Always those impossibly blue eyes. Looking around and his hand on the hammer's grip.
"Easy, Clark. It is time. This is it. We win or we lose."
"Time," he said, nodding.
"We must make you ready. They need to see you at your best. You make them fight. They would have given up centuries ago if you did not push them on." She stood up and pulled his covers from him. His body was something that still sent thrills through her mind. Warmth through her own body.
She combed his hair neat and straight, braiding it down the back as the Viking gods of old. He looked like a primitive, noble, warrior king.
"There is time, if…"
"A final night," he said, Pulling her around. He pulled the simple wrap from the catch at her breasts.
"Good or ill," she said. "Final."
"We won't lose," he said, sounding weary, but determined. His powerful body moving with hers. Her sword propped against the wall. His hammer laying on the floor. Shield and Helmet hung from the sides of their tent.
Passion that he would show in a different form on the battlefield, he showed her there. She wept for him. He would not. So she did it for them both.
He promised her that they would see another day. She believed him. She knew truth as no one did. She looked to the slender golden rope that hung from the pommel of her sword. The sword that had killed gods and demons and things that should never be named. From it, Truth.
Clark never lied to her. They would see another day.
- - - -
The same soul and mind that allowed such care and hope for an entire planet, and then for a realm of gods, unleashed brutality and a burning ferociousness that had no equal. All the fatigue and the centuries of endless fighting, they seemed to drift away in part.
He stalked through the dwindling hordes. His men falling in fewer numbers than at the beginning of the day. The enemy in greater numbers than when first they met. A great creature of bloated horror lumbered its way forward. The head of the beast. Finally, the head.
She stayed with him as she could. He simply pressed forward. They cut him. They hurt him. But he just pressed forward .
She cut him a path when he needed one. He crushed anything that came close to her. Easier to fend off each other's opponents than their own. One can become sloppy in one's own safety. Never in the safety of one's love.
Heat blistered her skin as he blasted an Asgardian god turned against his people. It was already pink and healed by the time she cut down her next five.
He pulled her from the throngs and flew just a little. Enough to bound over the mass of demons and beasts. All they could do in their state.
She had no way to comprehend the violence of the final battle. The man she loved. The man who inspired and shaped all heroes after him. The man who the world loved. He was delivering death upon a thing so old as to nearly demand its right to exist from the universe.
Heat. Cold. Pure force. Taking his punishments and pushing harder. She was on her knees. She had drawn her blood from the Beast. There was nothing left in her. Hardly more in him. But he fought.
She pulled her helmet off, finding it an effort to simply lift her arms. She watched. Watched her man as he launched into the air, grabbing the beast by the skin, so small to its bulk. Fire erupted in its eyes. From his. That fire became white hot. It moved down, consuming the beast and making it scream in pain.
The hammer swung never so powerfully as it did that day, found its mark over and over. Power enough to crumble mountains. Split moons. Shake the world. Power enough.
It was like hearing a mewling child. But twisted and wrong. Its voice the wind. A screaming that drove the air. Going into her chest. Making her ears bleed.
He fell to the ground, the heat from his eyes turning solid red, then white. No longer hitting it, just killing it. Emptying himself into the act. The air caught fire around them. Her lungs failed her as she tried to breath in the holocaust of brutality. The beast flopped and squealed, shaking the ground as it did. A fire conceived in the stars, born in a man, and released upon a place of godhood and myth. Fire that had no equal. No barrier. One master.
Then, stillness. Silence. No sounds behind. None before her. The battle was done. The air rushing in to the vacuum that had burned everything away.
"Clark!" she screamed, spitting blood as she jumped up. He fell to the ground. It was happening again. He saved them from Doomsday. He died. He saved them from the Beast. From Ragnarok. He could not die. It was not right.
Men ran past her, sticking their spears into the dirt. Their swords in the ruined grass. They lifted him and carried him to her.
"Clark," she said, stroking his bloodied face. The burning heat of his skin. The air shimmered around him. She felt his chest move as she held him.
"He lives," she said. "He lives…"
"Come, my lady," one of them said. They carried him, and one helped her to walk. It was over. So simple, she thought. It just ends. So much death and pain and it just ends. Such an end.
- - - -
It seemed appropriate. Things returned to their state, but the past not forgotten. A restarting of life, but without ignoring that which had happened.
It had been his idea. To the victors went the prize. Ragnarok had been won. The thousand year war and they had ended it. A new beginning and a prize to the ones responsible. Odin on his throne. Life as it should be.
She laid with him in their apartments. The enormous bed seeming never so grand as she had ever known.
"They say they can send us back," she said.
"Oh. I'd hoped."
"Back to the time we left. A gift, they said." She held back the sorrow, wanting him to make the choice without worrying about her.
"Sounds fair, I suppose. They get to start again, why shouldn't we."
"Then…" Her voice failed her. A tightness in her belly that brought tears to her eyes.
"But we're not them. We lived this, and we suffered, and to say it was for nothing… This is our life. I fought for this and I mean to enjoy a bit of it."
"Clark," she said, starting to cry, but then laughing, then crying again.
"Someday we'll go back. Maybe soon. But we'll go back to the world as we left it. Start over. Thousand years. Things must have changed."
"I took you from everything," she said, feeling the guilt like a knife in her stomach. Something she actually knew about.
"You promised that was done with a few hundred years ago," he said, kissing her.
"I did," she agreed. "I did."
"So, did you really think I would throw this away?" he asked her.
"I didn't know," she said, barely whispering.
"I wouldn't," he said, touching her. She laughed and let out a long breath.
"I love you, Clark."
"I love you, Diana."
"May we sleep a bit? Sleep until we find no need to do so again for many, many years?"
"It feels like that, doesn't it? Like we haven't actually slept in longer than you can remember?"
"To sleep and not wake to death and war around us."
"They're back with us, but I still feel their deaths."
"They died. That they are given a second chance, that doesn't lessen the pain of their leaving us."
"Guess we both know something about that, hmm?"
"More than we should," she sighed.
"Sleep, princess," he said, making her laugh deep in her throat when he said that. Made her feel a girl, and this time, she loved it.
- - - -