Well, I was gonna break ou of my usual mold and do something with Freya and Odin here, but this bunny just WOULD NOT stop biting me. So, here you go. More Rufus-centric-ness. It turned out so corny, haha.
Heart of a God
The path that wound up the tree of Yggdrassil had become warped out of shape. Rufus wasn't entirely sure if this was a reaction to the upheaval of Lezard's world tree, or if the place was constantly in a state of change anyway. Neither would surprise him, and in a way he was grateful. He was happy not to pass by the same exact scenery that he and Alicia had witnessed together. It had only been a few days at best since he had been here, but enough had occurred within that space of time to fill an entire man's life with experience.
He had died, for starters; and had also (sometime before or just after that, it was hard to remember) realized that the burning, pulling sensation in his heart really was that popular idea known as love, that it really did exist, and that it wasn't overrated after all. Furthermore, he learned that the aforementioned concept was incredibly warm and satisfying, but hurt like all Hel when it was taken away. The whole problem about it, he figured, was that love was temporary, and the aftereffects of love were infinite--especially if you intended on living forever.
He had all hope taken away from him, and had been made completely helpless. He failed to protect Alicia; she ended up dying for him (and all of Midgard) instead. He didn't think that was very fair of her since he'd called it first. That was cheating, really. She had stolen his heroic death scene along with his heart, and that left him with very little.
He had realized a certain unfortunate truth: that Alicia was born from Silmeria's spirit, and belonged rightly with her. This was beyond love and companionship; it was a matter of the soul. He understood, but that didn't keep it from hurting.
But even after Alicia joined with Silmeria, as well as Hrist and Lenneth, as a single being--after her voice and her mannerisms had changed, and after he was sure that she was gone for good--after all of that, she still smiled at him, and touched her lips to the ring she wore. That feeling had been strong enough to supercede the thoughts of the goddess of fate, so that had to mean something, didn't it? It had to be some kind of hope. It was like she was saying "Hey, I still exist in here." Or maybe she was even trying to say "I wanted to be with you too, you know?" Well, really... her words probably would have been somewhat better-chosen than those in his head, but that was the basic idea. That was the gist of it--either that, or he was crazy.
Maybe he had imagined the entire thing, but even if so, it was enough to keep him on his feet. Oh, he had cried for a while at the foot of the crumbled tower, all right. He had cried right in front of Arngrim and the big guy hadn't said anything. He just waited there until Rufus stood up without shaking and turned to pick up what was left--the meager offerings that Alicia had left him: a ring and a spear. Somehow even gifts like the Ring of Mylin (eternal life) and Gungnir (absolute power) seemed like bad mystery grab-bag prizes from Solde's market compared to what he had grasped for a moment there--for a very brief moment.
Gungnir was now in his left hand, the hand where he wore the ring now, as if he was a married man or something stupid like that. It looked silly, but whatever. With the cumbersome spear in tote, he pressed through to the top of the world tree, through the vines and the twisted roots of silver, finally to the place where there was a chamber containing the knowledge of the gods.
He wasn't too impressed by the feeling that surged through him as he stepped inside. He had died here, and compared to that feeling of enlightenment within his cute little pseudo-valkyrie's warm bosom, the knowledge of the gods wasn't all that it was cracked up to be.
He stepped to the center of the chamber, the very center of the tree Yggdrassil, and and held out his hand to receive the much-talked-about "wisdom." He touched the crystal that stood there, half expecting it to pop him like a door knob charged with static electricity. Instead, he found that it was incredibly smooth to the touch and warm as if it had been left in the sun. He wrapped his hands around it, seeking out that warmth. It was like a fragment of hers, somehow left behind in this place.
The sparkling light which sprayed up from the center of the world tree like a high-pressure geyser wrapped itself around his hands and then his wrists and arms, forming fluid ribbons and veins of stardust over his skin and clothes. Where it touched him he felt amazingly warm. It was like becoming and Einherjar again; and not just Alicia's einherjar, but the entire universe's einherjar. Something huge and mystical like that, anyway.
"Welcome halfling child, son of elf and man," a woman's voice said to him.
He started at the noise. It had no real source, it came from all around him in the air. "Who is there?" Either he was crazy (which was starting to look like a strong possibility) or that voice sounded just like the alien sound which had come from Alicia's mouth after taking the valkyrie spirits into herself. His heart jumped at the small hope it presented. "Alicia?!" he shouted.
"She has gone, my Einherjar, as have the others--gone to the world of man. I am all that remains here. What I am, only those who drink of this fountain may understand."
"Gone to Midgard?" Rufus said slowly, because that was really the most shocking thing about her little speech. "To be reincarnated?"
"Aye," she replied. "My poor Einherjar, all that you loved has returned to the cycle of rebirth."
Rufus looked at his hands, still glimmering as the essence of Yggdrassil. It was trickling down his waist now, creeping up his neck. It felt like her touch. He wanted to submerge himself in it entirely. If Alicia still existed, and she was reborn along with the others, that meant that she would be able to live happily. He might even see her again. Wonderful news.
"Vessel of the gods, vessel of the worlds, what is it that you seek in this place?"
"To become a god!" he replied confidently. "To protect Midgard!" He tried not to get too excited because this was pretty important and he was certain he would find some way of screwing it up, but it was tough. He had the power of the universe at his fingertips. He could ask for anything. Anything, he reminded himself, except to have Alicia back right now. That thought calmed him, mellowed him down. He clarified his desire in the simplest way. "I want to ensure the future that was ideal to Alicia above all else."
"It comes at a price," she answered. "The power of a god comes at the expense of your mortal heart."
"You mean," Rufus said slowly, "that by accepting this power, I will become cold and emotionless like the gods are?"
"The gods feel nothing because they must feel nothing," she explained in cryptic terms that frustrated him greatly. "Human lives are meant to end within certain spans of time. If they do not, then the grief and loneliness accumulate, while joy and love fade, until the soul is rendered impure. They become the undead, souls lost forever. Not even gods are immune to this affliction."
"I promise that will not happen," Rufus said, as he clutched his fingers against the crystal they held. He could feel the light of Yggdrassil reach his feet and brush across his scalp. He closed his eyes and allowed it to cover his face. He wished that it was her fighting against his mouth, trying to silence him. He wouldn't mind that at all. "It won't happen because my feelings won't fade," he said. "My love will keep growing, and the pain will dull over time. I won't lose my way. I promised her."
"Are you certain?" she asked. Her deep, velvety voice sounded almost disappointed. "I could numb the pain you feel. I could give you a flawless heart."
"I'm keeping my heart and taking your power anyway," he said. "That's what I'm certain of."
She said nothing more as his ears were filled, and he could hear nothing more.
He smiled to himself as his body became completely enveloped. He thought of something strangely funny, and yet couldn't laugh. She had wanted to see this, in fact that was her whole persuasive argument for coming here. Stroking his ego like that would have gotten her anywhere. She must have learned that one from Silmeria.