Author now declares: I hold no ownership over the quotations taken from Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol which is in public domain, nor do I claim ownership over Thor. This is written for the purpose of fan entertainment only.
Laufey of Jotunheim was dead, to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. The register of his burial was signed by the clergyman, the clerk, the undertaker, and the chief mourner. His partner himself signed it. And whoever knew of his partner knew that old Odin's word held more valor over things than that of the King's himself. Yes, old Laufey was as dead as a door-nail.
Mind! I don't mean to say that I know, of my own knowledge, what there is particularly dead about a door-nail. But what truly matters is for the reader to know that Laufey was dead and decaying in his grave.
Though there are not many who mourned his death.
Odin, his business partner and friend in time of life, has been his soul mourner (at least, if one is brave enough as to consider Odin capable of mourning), sole executor, sole administrator and sole person in all the Nine Realms who could still paint a face to the name of Laufey. Not even his previous employers could recall their former master's face much. Quite a little mystery considering Laufey was not a man you didn't notice. His tremendous stature and blue skin were quite distracting features to possess when around aesirs.
Yet, in contrast, none could dare forget the face of Odin.
From the times of Laufey's lifetime, old Odin was known by most, if not all, as being a cold and cynical creature on his best of days. Quite so! He was a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone, old man Odin! a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner! Though brilliant when it came to accounts and business strategies, he was still that one person to be avoided. If his sharp tongue did not wound you, then the coldness his mere presence seemed to send about in waves would certainly cool you to the core. People learned to knew of him and as thus learned to keep away from him. No beggars implored him to bestow a trifle, no children asked him what it was o'clock, no man or woman ever once in all his life inquired the way to such and such a place, of old man Odin. It seems the sun itself came to shine littler and littler upon him, for when one came close to Odin, one would feel but the frostiness of the most bitter of winters.
Yet Odin cared not for such. In fact, Odin appeared to care quite little to none for matters concerning himself and his fellow men. What he cared about though was his money. Upon his passing, Laufey has left him quite a pretty penny. His formal partner's now former residence was now the place he called his own, though probably did not refer to it as "home". Few probably would, for the home was a dark and decaying building, always cold, always unwelcoming. But the house suited Odin well. As well as his firm did, if one would pause to ponder on the matter.
It was at this firm where Odin was found on one very special day of December the 24th. He had just completed some papers and was running over his books, head filled with numbers and hands busy writing them down when the nearby church bells struck the hour. Odin turned in his seat, sharp eye (for he now had only one; the other has been lost during a war which nobody seemed to remember anymore) now gazing upon the world from beyond his window. He sneered. With the setting of the sun the fog and darkness thickened so, that people ran about with flaring links, proffering their services to go before horses in carriages, and conduct them on their way. A fact was certain, and that was that no more customers will be shading Odin's doorstep for business this evening. Time was flying much too fast for Odin's liking, yet far too slow for that of his loyal clerk, whom – dare Odin say – appeared quite bored up in his Tank. At some point, the man even dared to wave at a figure who was passing by Odin's firm.
Odin grumbled. Why ever did he hire that man?
This clerk I speak of is one Thor Odinson, a tall, blond blue-eyed man still in the prime of his youth. His eyes shined with boyish mirth in conversations and the whole town knew of his glorious adventured which extended all the way into the icy lands of Jotunheim. But times had called for him to settle down. He was married now and providing for his wife and a daughter Odin had not taken the time to meet quite yet. Also, from what the old man gathered, it seems he had recently taken in his younger brother, who was living through some hard times as of now.
But when that brother happened to be Loki "Liesmith" Odinson, the town jester and mischief maker, Odin wondered just what led his son into this madness. Thor was much too charitable for his own good.
Still, like was life, and to live one must have money. Yet times were hard for all during those days, and work was scarcely found within the city. But old Odin had taken Thor as his clerk. He had need of one, after all and though probably not the sharpest person whom Odin has ever encountered in his life, Thor's strength was legendary and Odin was known to hold a great deal of money at his firm. A little bit of extra protection was always welcome. And of course, Thor was probably one of the very few who were still willing to work for the sharp old man, and did not complain much over the measly pay Odin offered him.
The fact that Thor was Odin's son did not influence the old man's decision in any way.
"Sir?" The clerk called, poking his head inside the office. "It appears to be closing time, sir." Odin grumbled at the notice, but he agreed that indeed it appeared to be so. When the clerk did not immediately ran out when Odin excused him, the old man became a little confused. Why did he still linger? It was only upon watching the clerk's blue eyes sparkle with a strange mirth, cheeks rosy from the cold and obvious excitement, that it finally struck him. Ah yes… it was the time of the year again – the moment when his silent, dim-witted clerk re-became the merry, loud, obnoxious blond giant of a son.
"You'll want all day tomorrow, I suppose?" It was a question, yet coming from Odin it sounded more like a statement.
"If quite convenient, Sir."
"It's not convenient," Odin complained, now finally stretching from his seat, picking up his hat and heading for the door. "But as you're sure to remind me every year, this day comes but once upon the year." Thor fallowed suit, puffing his candle out as he did so. He would have also tended to the fire, had the last bit of coal had not burned out hours prior.
Odin was prepared to bid Thor a good night and retire to his home when the boy stopped him.
"Yes, Thor? What can I do for you?" a perfectly normal question, but the way Odin chose to say was enough to kill off the merriest of spirits dead upon their tracks. His son though, had grown to become immune to his father's dead-cold words. Mind you, he knew better then to ever show it to his father's face, which was also his employer, and thus his soul mean of income, which much to his growing sadness, was hardly ever enough. Still, Thor was feeling like showing that bit of cheekiness his father has long since tried to "cure him" of.
If only once a year.
"Sir… Father" Thor was pleased to note his father appeared to cringe at the use of that familiar term. "As you must probably know, tomorrow's Christmas."
"And what of it?" Odin asked, eyes cold, posture rigid.
The mirth did not leave his son's face at the unfeeling words, though his eyes had taken a sad, almost disappointed, if not even revolted glow to them.
"It means, father dear, that as it had become customary in the last couple of years, I wish to extend my invitation for a home-cooked Christmas dinner. With us. Back home."
"And as it had become customary for me in the last couple of years, I will hastily decline."
"You have forgotten about the part where it has become customary for you to mock Jane and I's financial income and observe over Loki's 'uselessness as a living creature', thus also expressing your distance for ever needing to be in our presence for more than absolute necessary. But we still welcome you. It is, after all, Christmas. And family should always be together on Christmas. And we all agree that living of merely bread and cheese does little for your health, father." Thor completed his speech in a most triumphal manner, earning a very odd look from Odin, just before the old man found the answer to his unvoiced dilemma.
"Such grand wording coming from you, Thor, my boy… Wording which I know you are incapable of coming up on your own. Tell me: has Jane forced you to memorize the words back home, or has Loki written them for you upon a piece of paper so you may practice while I wasn't looking?"
Thor's booming laughter seemed so extraordinary for the normally grin rooms that Odin could not help the stare.
"A bit of both in fact, father." Thor replied. "You know us far too well."
"I know you more then I should." Odin returned. "This is even worse than last year's demand."
Thor shrugged. "Loki was under the impression that my natural charm should have sufficed."
"Further proof of what a fool he is."
"Father!" cried Thor, now virtually revolted. "I will just not stand and hear you treat your youngest son with such disrespect!"
"You will very well do so as long as you are in my employment!" his father roared, now standing to his full height. He was not a man who could be considered taller than Thor - yet very few where those who could be considered taller than Thor – but Odin was a man whom most would consider "larger than life". As a former man of arms, old man Odin lived through very hard times from which he had emerged victorious and even in his old days traces of that youthful strength could still be found within him. That combined with his current state of mind made the words he uttered sound more than just menacing. They were a threat, one which Thor, of warrior blood himself, was able to catch.
Wisely enough, the younger of the two stepped back. "If you ever change your mind, sir… you still know where to find us. Not that long ago you used to call that house your home."
With that, he was gone… off to join some street urchins on their merry sliding off the ice, rough voice booming in delight. Odin grumbled again, shaking his head
"May I be saved from mindless simpletons."
Promising himself he will not pay the lad any more mind, Odin took a rather melancholy dinner in one melancholy tavern (and no, he was not taking anything his clerk said to heart); and having read all the newspapers of the day he went home to bed. Or better said, he went to the house to bed, for as I had mentioned previously Odin had yet to really think of Laufey's old house as "home" quite yet. But alas, the hour was growing late, and off to bed he needed be. Still, while struggling with his keys, he noticed something oddly peculiar about the knocker on the door. Mind, Odin knew the house far better than even old Laufey probably did, and has gazed upon the knocker countless times before. Yet now, while he looked at it…
It was Laufey's face! As blue and wrinkly as it always had been. And those red eyes were watching Odin with that accusatory air to them… it was unreal!
Odin blinked, and in an instant, the knocker went back to being a knocker.
"... A trick of the eye."
Still, to say that he was not startled would be untrue. But the moment had passed and as he comes to notice everything was as it should be. So with that in mind, Odin put his hand upon the key he had relinquished, turned it sturdily, walked in, and lighted his candle. He was probably just weary from the long day and his brief dispute with his son. He was no longer as young as he used to – far cry from it in fact – so he probably just needed a good night's sleep for everything to be right again. Yet upon reaching his bedchambers, he has yet to feel any ease. If anything, he feels even wearier of his surroundings. Instincts from long ago came back to him, warning him that something was amiss. His one eye came to search the house with all the experience of a former warrior.
Sitting-room, bed-room, lumber-room. All as they should be. Nobody under the table, nobody under the sofa… Fire-place as usual. Slippers, nightgown – all at their place. The house was empty and quiet. Not even a mouse dared disturb its eerie silence. Nobody save for Odin was in the house. Still, years of experience did not let him drop his guard.
He took a seat near the fire he just lid, now fully clothed in his nightgown. For a moment, he just listened to the sound of fire-wood cracking, glass of sherry laying much forgotten at the side of his chair. Almost unwillingly, his eye jumped from the flames to the pictures lined upon the mantle, pictures which showed him a much younger him, surrounded by merry faces. There was a lady in almost every picture, a lady whose smile seamed to glow even in the dimness of the light. She smiled as she was playing with two boys, she smiled on the swing and she smiled in her wedding gown. The lady smiled... and Odin ran to the mantle to knock the pictures off of it.
The clock which fell from upon the mantel together with the pictures struck twelve. A day had reached its end while another began anew. It was Christmas day...
... and the fire burned out.
Odin, who until now had tried to get his breath under control, shove old pains aside to take notice of the strangeness of the events. Newly-lid fires did not just burn out all out of the blue like thus. And speak of the blue... Asgardian rooms did not also take on the look of those of Jotunheim even if their former owner was a Jotun. Especially when that former owner was dead for well over seven years.
Odin instantly knew that someone else was in the room with him. He could feel it in his bones... and he knew that presence well. His fists clenched and Odin tried to focus. The figure was walking towards him, coming closer and closer... and closer...
"You must come to understand, my friend..." Odin said, not yet turning towards his visitor. "You must understand that I am not a man to believe in ghosts." The footing stopped and silence took hold of the little room once more. But then...
"What do you believe in then, Odin?"
With reflexes any young man today would be invidious of, Odin called upon the magic he had not called forth in years and fired at the intruder. Had the man been living, the blast would have killed him instantly. But alas, the door was the one which took on the damage, for Laufey was dead... and grinning at the old man.
"I see your aim still rings true." The figure said. Odin stood his ground. "Peace, my friend, for I do not seek your harm. I haven't done so for years, why should I start now. It is not like I can gain anything from your death... in death." Chuckling at his own strange joke, the figure glided over to the chair Odin vacated, apparently making a show out of inspecting the rooms.
All the while Odin took in every detail of this visitor of his.
Everything of the figure spoke of Laufey: the same narrow red eyes, the same blue skin, the same strange markings, the same iciness to him, the same clothes, the same humongous high of him! He spoke like Laufey, watched him like Loufey, chuckled like Laufey and walked like Laufey, though Odin took to notice quite early on that the figure's feet did not quite touch the ground and could swear that he could see though him.
"You seem to doubt your senses, old man." The apparition stated.
"Indeed I do."
"Why is that?"
"Because so very little things can affect them. I might have taken ill to my stomach and you're the result of it. Or, for all I know, weariness had taken its hold on me quite early on and you are nothing save a bad dream."
The figure laughed. "Would you want me to pinch you? Convince you that you are not asleep?"
"I would rather you not."
The figure continued to laugh. "Oh, Odin, and to think there were times I wondered why I made you my partner... You never cease to amuse me, old man. Oh, and I knew I did the right thing when I left you the house. It looks even colder and more dismal then it did when I was alive. And this is coming from a Jotun, Odin. You should feel proud."
"Forgive me if I will refrain from doing so."
"Understandable. Aesir people rarely take kindly to Jotun compliments. Most say that we are far too different... but I found I had no qualms with you while in life."
"Though our blades did seem to seek each other on the battlefield..."
Memories of war came to Odin's mind - memories of the times when Asgard and Jotunheim were at war. Nobody remembers who fired the first shot, but the outcome had come with a heavy price. Both sides had lost more men then a mother should ever be aware of, and much too many children had been orphaned. At long last, peace was set between the two realms, for as different as the people of the two were, they all bled and had families to mourn their death.
It was on this war that Odin had met Laufey.
"Indeed they did." The specter agreed. "You were... general, I recall?"
"As were you." Odin added. "But we both see how much that helped us."
The look on the specter's face was one of mischief as he nodded in approval. "But we still had it our way in the end, Odin old man." He took to his feet, which still did not touch the ground, and his eyes became set on the broken pictures lying by the fireplace. With a wave of his hand, the pictures took to the air, magically fixing themselves and returning, one by one, to the mantle. He appeared to watch the figures rather intently, one small child with black hair more than the rest.
"Indeed we did..." Odin agreed, for the silence which once would have been welcomed now seemed rather tiresome with the projection of his head business partner lingering by his mantle. Though Laufey's gesture puzzled him, and made him wonder...
"Aye, we did, Odin..." The specter said in turn, yet still not turning from the pictures. "A Jotun and an Aesir, working together... turning war into business. That was our business, was it not?"
"Indeed it was, Laufey." Odin did not pause to wonder why he was using his dead partner's name to address the figure. "Our firm is still the finest of weapon dealers in all of Asgard."
"Ours..." The figure repeated, now turning back to Odin. "Yes, ours indeed, for I did notice that my name has not left our name plank. You could have re-named it, but chose not to. I sometimes wonder why... Still thinking that you could put some blame upon my shoulders? Our profession is not what most people would call honorable, but then I remembered that your people's profession is that of war. All Aesir are born and raised for war."
Odin grumbled in agreement. That they were...
The specter continued. "You have done much for me, my friend. Though you did not look it, you have been good to me. You dared work with a Jotun whom you met in times of war. You helped me raise a firm in the heart of Asgard - the city of warriors!" The specter paused for a moment, and Odin felt like in the presence of a viper, ready at any moment to strike. "You kept my child safe." Odin said nothing. "And for that, I believed I would forever be in your debt. But tonight, Odin, I shall pay my debt, and maybe help myself a little bit as well."
The apparition walked backward from him; and at every step it took, the window raised itself a little, so that when the specter reached it, it was wide open. "Tonight, my old friend, you shall be visited by three Spirits. Take great heed of their words and keep in mind their learnings. It will help you greatly in the future."
Odin coked and eyebrow. This was... unexpected.
"I see you puzzled, old man." The figure teased. "Be not, for know that this is my payment for all your acts of kindness to me."With that, the specter floated out upon the bleak, dark night, leaving Odin alone to further puzzle upon his words.
In the end it struck him that in life Laufey gave Odin no reason to trust him.
Greetings to one and all and welcome to the madness which is this! Aye, a prompt on norsekink has caught my eye, it is Christmas time, my playlist consists of carols and I recently re-read A Christmas Carol (several times) so... why not? (Shut up school-work. Eat me alive at a later time.) Now, theoretically, this should have been a parody, but I can't seem to write humor to save my life, so I tried to settle for something as close to Dickens as possible with the obvious... erm... things which needed to be changed for this AU's characters not seem completely OOC. Thus... Odin does not say "humbug". Dickens himself is probably turning in his grave right now.
For those who wish to know, this is the prompt:
"... I really don't want to know how my brain comes up with these insane ideas... really I don't. But Christmas is coming and that means sanity left for the North Pole.
Odin takes on the role of Scrooge, a powerful, rich business man, yet a very cold man. After his wife passed away due to illness he was torn by grief and slowly, but steady, he begun to estrange himself from his remaining family. Years later, he lives alone, his two sons long since moved out. The only one he knows news of is his eldest son, Thor, who much like Bob Cratchet works under him. As far as Odin was concerned, his son was merely an employee.
On every Christmas Eve though, Thor would invite him "home". Each year, Odin would refuse.
One year though, everything changed, for three ghosts decided to pay him a visit.
+ 10 points if the ghost of Christmas past would show him moments spent with his wife and sons, when they were still a family
+ 100 points if the ghost of Christmas present will show his two sons still living together and though poor, seem very happy still (Thor is still Thor, you know, and Loki is still Loki)
+ 1000 if Loki has the same illness his mother did when she died
+ THE FREAKING INTERNET AND MY SOUL IF THE SCENE WITH THE GHOST OF CHRISTMAS FUTURE WILL BREAK MY HEART BEYOND REPAIR!"
... Yes, I have no life.
Question of the day: Who will play the role of the Ghost of Christmas Past?
Whoever gets this right will be able to pick a scene from this chapter to be illustrated. To give you a helping hand, I will mention that all the cats will consist of Thor characters. SO put your thinking caps on readers, win free art and REVIEW!