A writer, I would fancy myself, if things would be. But take note, I do not write for others – I write for my own amusement, and my brand of storytelling is my own – I only share these worlds that I dream up.
"What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty or democracy?"
"When we rode toward the other encampments, we saw demons. They danced in the fire, danced on the bodies of the dead and dying, crushed our souls under their ugly feet."
The crunching of rock underfoot is synonymous to his footfalls, but Harry sighs out aloud, "If you wish to follow me, I would request that you cease from walking like a bumbling drunk. You give away our position generously to those who gladly serve under the name of Zanadu."
The footsteps slow, and Harry does so as well, making sure to let his shadow see how to walk with near silence even on loose sand and rock. He allows Hogun to follow him, because the stubborn brat will more than likely perish while searching for the Mystic Mountain and Harry does not like the idea of traversing the entirety of the terrain just to reap a child's soul – one whose circumstance of death would be nothing but the cruel turns of fate. Not when he can prevent it.
The headway that he has made is woefully short without the use of magic, but Harry settles into making camp. He has an unofficial charge under his wing now and the young ones always tire easily.
Hogun stares, and Hjortrson ignores; and it is an opportunity for him to discern the features of the man who has saved him from the certainty of Death of a land that is unknown to him.
Neither of Dvergar lineage nor of Vanaheim descent – Hogun is sure, for his own people are mixed of each bloodline from ages past – Hogun recognises the cut of Asgardian clothes and the hum of Dvergar blades, both made of incomparable quality, and both exceptionally rare to find in the sole ownership of an outsider of the three Realms. The man commands attention just by subsisting, and Hogun thinks that he can begin to understand why Haraldr Hjortrson has been tasked by the Dvergar to seek Mogul of the Mystic Mountain.
Loki gives a good swing at the insistent nose nudging at his side, and feels immediate guilt for hurting his only companion wilfully. He whispers his apologies into the side of the large head, and the apology is accepted when Dáinn offers his horns to pull him out of the tangle of sheets. There are many things that he may do, but he wishes to make his father proud when he returns from releasing Niðavellir from the terror of a monster.
He spends part of the morning breaking his fast in the kitchens, surrounded by the hearty and bustling atmosphere, a far cry from the Royal Hall. Lifa sets down cheese and bread for him, as well as choice cuts of fruit. She gives him a great hug that smells of freshly baked bread and earthy grains, and then sends him off with his leftovers of fruits and nuts, wrapped in cloth to share with Dáinn and Eylir.
His father's horse is brushed as best as Loki can manage, and he nibbles at his hair in return when the black coat positively shines under the light. He has his midday meal with the Queen and her son Prince Thor, and then spends the better part of the noon listening to the scribes detail the inner workings of the Court to a drowsy Prince.
He slips out of the room with an excuse when he cannot bear it any longer, and Dáinn then carries him to the training halls, where the men have organised an all-weapons-barred competition. It is no surprise that Hallvarðr has an undefeated winning streak for the day's matches, and by then Loki has picked out a few moves that he is eager to test out himself.
The evening is spent in one of the many rooms of his father, sifting through some of the oddities that his father has crafted out of boredom and curiosity. All of the ones in the rooms are 'relatively harmless', or so his father has told him, with the more dangerous wares locked up beyond locks and keys of any sort.
Still, Loki stays in the first few rooms – the fifth room down the nearly endless hallways of their quarters is harmless to his father perhaps, but Loki will not take his chances; his sighting of a book with monstrous teeth is surely not a figment of his imagination.
He finds a small carved box, and falls asleep tucked into Dáinn's side listening to the melody playing over and over again.
The flames dance and writhe sinuously, and the light that the fire gives off is no brighter than the moonlight that spills overhead. It is an unnatural thing, but the nights have been growing unforgiving as they travel towards the heart of Mystic Mountain, so Hogun edges closer to the blazing warmth that the ghostly flames emit.
He soothes the ragged burn of his throat with the waterskin that he has received from Hjortrson – a curiosity on its own – it never runs dry, and the water is cool and fresh, as if from a spring. The man has seen to his throat, and declared that the damage can be reversed by the skilled Healers of Asgard, but Hogun thinks that he will let it be. He has decided to never give voice to the folk songs of his people now, because those are songs that require the participation of more than one.
He will let his damaged voice remind him forevermore of the things that he has lost.
He watches fire, imagining demons to be dancing on the ashes. The translucent fire is hidden from his view when Hjortrson steps in front of him, and Hogun looks up from the flickering sway of shadows at the booted feet.
"Two days' of hard travel from the location of Zanadu's scouts. From today onwards, we will be travelling in the cover of night."
Hogun blinks at the sudden appearance of under armour at his feet – carefully maintained weaves of cloth – light as cotton, but strong, impenetrable even, when Hogun puts a knife to the fabric close to the seam to test it.
The afternoon brings a flood of warmth upon the courtyard, and Odin watches with a keen eye from the window far above as two children tumble about the yard under many watchful eyes. It will be many years yet before his first-born will grow into his title as the Crown Prince of Asgard - and Odin is keen to keep it that way.
He looks upon his son's companion, watching as Haraldrson nimbly dodges Thor's lunge. By some prearranged gesture, the two boys team up on a laughing guard, who surrenders his weapons to his partner before chasing after two boys and one stag. Dressed in the finest clothes of Asgard, he supposes that the two of them would look to be close as brothers of royal blood to an uninformed person…
But Haraldrson's very nature is not Ӕsir, and he will never be. The boy that he calls his son is of Jötun stock - his very skin is composed of an intermingling of seiðr and frost-pelt. And even if the boy were Hjortrson's get, he would still not be true Ӕsir - Hjortrson is an inconceivable creature; Odin would call him a golem, but the man has free will and spirit to match, and once upon a time was made of mortal flesh, and interwoven with seiðr and something more than Odin's eye can comprehend.
He looks down at his right hand, and sees the scar that slashes across it. Wicked schemes had been born of it, the panic that had bloomed when he has discovered Hjortrson's vague binding of his newly–sworn blood brother to his will, and everytime he looks into green eyes, he remembers the betrayed gaze that no one else sees. He would not have done such deeds, had he the chance to return to those times, but he does not regret.
The flesh of his scar draws tight as he flexes his hand, and Odin returns to his throne, to head the matters of the Court.
The Allfather, Sovereign of Asgard, does not regret anything. He has taken charge of the safety of Yggdrasil - he cannot falter.
Regret is the mark of lesser beings.
The weak moonlight overhead barely stops Hogun from stumbling over rocks. They have walked between the split of the Mountain for a second night, and his mind has started to wander when Hjortrson sends a palm backward to halt Hogun's advance.
"Wait here," it is an order worded as a request, so Hogun nods, watching as the man slinks past the corner, sticking to the shadows like a great animal on a hunt. There is the sound of a boot scraping on rock, and Hogun freezes instinctively, relaxing when the mysterious Asgardian reappears and motions Hogun to come forward. Only to freeze again when his line of vision comes into contact with four soldiers dressed in the armour of Zanadu. They stand stock still, apparently insensate to either intruder. All four pairs of eyes are glassy, and when Hogun nears the team of soldiers, their breaths are slow and steady.
They move on through the labyrinth paths, stopping a dozen more times for Hjortrson to repeat his feat of subduing the guards with nary a sound after the first time. Hogun never even witnesses how the man does it. He does not even know how the man senses the soldiers who have been said to be as silent as Death. He thinks he sees for Hjortrson for who he is – a predator stalking its hapless prey – and feels no more assured at the realization than when the man had pinned him down a few days ago with the weight of those emerald eyes.
The first time is an exception. The sting against his senses is a familiar and unwelcome one, and Harry turns the corner to see four men and an unmoving lump on the ground. The blood is apparent even with the weak moonlight and the shadows, and Harry stumbles at the sudden stabbing sting as a sword runs through the lump one last time.
The men turn, and Harry immobilizes them with a simple spell. It is far too late for the fallen man – Saguta is his name – who hails from the same lands that Hogun is from. The man leaves with Harry's blessings, and the body is stowed away in dimensional pocket for a proper and respectful disposal.
The group of soldiers undergo a quick swipe of the mind, and Harry reconciles their knowledge with his understanding of the canyons from his probing tendrils of magic.
He is unable to find rest in sleep tonight.
The nights are when he feels more vulnerable than the other hours. The Jinni Devil is of no use to him in the night, as are his golem subordinates, who cling to their mortal tendencies in the night. The safest place is in his stronghold, but its narrow hallways are far too small to house the great monstrosities that pass as his guards.
It is then when Mogul feels the chill upon his spine at the silky voice that calls his name.
"Mogul. Otherwise known as Mystic Mogul. Warlock Supreme. Prince of Darkness."
The enchanted sword flies to his hand, and Mogul readies himself, "Who are you? Show yourself!"
There is a shift in his vision – as the air shimmers into a silvery fabric – and a man emerges from the darkened room like a shadow stretching into existence against the light. Mogul takes in the paleness of the man who is clad in nothing but the most ominous shades of black-green leathers and gold adornments.
And he laughs, because he has been waiting for so long – he has finally caught a worthy catch.
Yet another to enslave and add to his rank of guards.
Hogun walks in the flickering shadows of the tunnels, keeping out of the glow of the torches that line the walls. The minute trail of near-invisible indicators will lead him to the dungeons are scattered on the ceiling. There is a brief thought that he tries to squash down as soon as it surfaces, but it latches on mercilessly, and builds the fear in his gut.
"My, my. Look at what I've found, scuttling through the halls," his heart stutters in his chest, and he turns to the source of the voice, to see a woman dressed in green. Her eyes narrow at the sight of him, and her calculating gaze scans him up and down, "vermin come to free his own?"
The ground gives way, and the darkness devours him readily.
The last thought that Hogun has is that he will most probably see his brother out on those pastures that he has called home for all his life.
Mogul has always found a sense of greatness and belonging in the creation of terror on the face of another. He knows it to be wrong in all sense of the word, but he has always revelled in the sheer exhilaration that it brings. It is how he remembers his sire and dam – bruised, bloodied and soiled in their own waste. He remembers his sister with tears in her eyes, clutching at his hands with her own mangled ones, gratitude in her eyes for saving her from the very things that should have protected her from the ugliness of life.
He has risen above anyone and everyone, quashing their ability to overthrow him. He has grown strong. He has grown powerful. He has the right to make everything in Yggdrasil quail under his might.
But this man. For a moment Mogul is unsure if he even can be counted as a person, or even a living being. The strange mockery of a living thing who bats away his advances with the enchanted sword, who waves away the magical destruction of his greatest treasures like it is nothing more than dust on his clothes.
Nevertheless, Mogul is not out of moves. He has one final weapon, perfected with the deaths of the mightiest warriors that he has faced. No man, even one with impenetrable defences, can fight against a war that goes on in their very insides.
His aim is true, and Mogul smothers the grin when the vial shatters against the armour, coating the man in the most insidious substance that Mogul himself has ever seen.
The Spotted Plague.
Harry has very nearly forgotten this sensation; white-hot, crippling pain. The liquid burns wherever it lands, tarnishing the metal of his armour and seeping through the protective leather layers to burn at his skin. It scorches a trail as it courses through his veins, reminiscent of a Blood Boiling Curse.
It eats away at him, devouring his insides.
The floor is rough and foul under his cheek, but it is not that which wakes Hogun. It is the pain in his ankle that stabs him awake, but it is the realization that spears cold dread into his heart. He is not alone in this pitch black darkness, surrounded by rot and decay.
Something large lies in this cavernous room, and its breath rumbles the floor with dankness. The smothering despair is lifted when he feels fresh air, coming in the direction opposite that of the unknown beast.
He reaches out blindly in the direction away from the massive beast, trying to get as much distance as possible by inching along on his belly. He touches something odd, and his exploratory touches leave him recoiling in disgust when he realizes that he has stuck his hand into an eye socket ripe with flesh and wriggling maggots. The sick threatens to heave out his mouth, but Hogun swallows the bile. He grits his teeth, and pushes the skull away as silently as possible before moving again. It is painful journey, because his crawl along the gritty ground scores the skin of his forearms, and he discovers that his ribs are more bruised than his initial estimate.
But still, he reaches the sliver of an opening after it all, and the somewhat fresh air makes it worth the journey. It feels like the last few breaths that he will ever have.
Framework and characters (those with actual names) were borrowed from none other than Marvel Comics. Just about everyone in this canon mini-arc has origins that are somewhat vague, so I have taken (a ton of) liberties with it.
One update before I speed-pack and hop out of the city.
You know what? Let's just call this thing an intermittent hiatus.
The direction for Transliterations is already set - everything just hinges on the free time in my schedule.
That being said, my personal computer has died on me, killing some of the word documents as well. There'll be some downtime as I get my WIPs up to where I left off. I'll also need to wait a while to squeeze enough out of my finances to replace a few parts or get a new one altogether. (Possibly build one from scratch, mebbe. I've gotten a few ideas from thermoelectric components and my love for proof of concept is killing me.)