Disclaimer: I don't own any of these people.
We all knew this crossover was going to happen eventually. Mel requested it, and this is what I came up with. Hope you all like it.
"I said fix it, boy."
It was not his fault. It was not really anyone's fault, he'd already argued; it had merely been a misunderstanding about what exactly the Midgardians were sacrificing to the Æsir. Loki thought their offering of vegetables and grains—an offering frankly unnecessary to the Asgardians, who did not demand it—feeble. "If they insist upon calling us their gods, they ought to show their obeisance in a more fitting way," he'd said, looking more innocent than a man who'd just stolen an entire herd of cows and transported them to Alfheim had any right to look. Their father had not agreed, thundering that the beasts be returned, with apologies to both the elves and the humans, had they noticed.
"May I take Loki with me?" Thor asked with hope his father found foolish.
Odin spoke slowly to his oldest son. Though beloved, he was stubborn, and had suffered many blows to the head besides. "You are going to undo the ill he has done. We will not give him the opportunity to wreak more mischief. He will stay here."
Thor pressed on. "Might I take the Warriors Three?" He had no desire to herd cattle between the worlds alone, and less to beg forgiveness for another's act. But the All-father shook his head.
"No, Thor. Take only Mjolnir and do it quickly. Try not to draw attention to yourself." As his son left, Odin added, "If you find it possible."
A brilliant light flashed behind Ragnar's closed eyelids, with a resounding crack following soon after. He sat up, carefully casting an eye around the hall. Next to him Lagertha stirred but did not wake; she was heavily pregnant, and needed her sleep. Ragnar left the bed swiftly, taking care to keep the blankets tucked warmly around his wife. He pulled on boots and armed himself with the first weapon at hand, an axe. As he passed a hound by the door whimpered; Ragnar bent to pat it reassuringly before he left the hall.
Outside all was quiet. The hall was whole; no predators or enemies stalked the shadows. Above him the norðrljós rippled across the sky in green and blue waves, brighter than he'd ever seen. Ragnar stared into the night, thinking. The flash may have been lightning, and a storm may have felled a tree; but it could not have been louder if the storm had been within the hall itself. Yet there was no damage, and there had been no storm—there were not even clouds. He sat with his back to the wall, watching the dark for answers.
Thor was not best pleased. Upon his return to Asgard, he would have words with his brother. The elves had willingly given back the frightened cows, and had accepted with grace Thor's apology on Loki's behalf. They knew too well the habits of the trickster god, and they also knew that the apology, though in Loki's name, came from Odin himself. The chief elf had happily passed to Thor the end of a rope on which the cattle had been strung, and at his call Heimdall had opened the Bifrost.
The cows had been safely deposited in their pen. It was night on Midgard; no one was about to apologize to, and for that Thor was glad. He did not think he could have debased himself to apologize to a mortal. Thor closed the gate of the pen and walked away. He and the cattle had landed some distance away, to leave as little trace of their arrival as possible; to spare the poor cows more fright he would return from the same spot. So he trudged back the way he came, cursing his brother and the people of this realm.
Ragnar had almost made up his mind to return to bed when he heard a noise across the village. He bolted up from his position, head snapping back and forth as he listened. Whoever or whatever it was was approaching the hall. He crouched, axe at the ready, but remained in the shadows.
It was a man. Metal, certainly armor of some kind, glinted subtly on his arms, though Ragnar could see no weapon. What kind of man would be walking through Kattegat in the middle of the night? he wondered. The man paused and peered up at the hall; then with even steps he walked forward, clearly intending to enter. That Ragnar would not allow.
"Hold," he called, low but firm, as he stepped out of the shadows. The stranger looked at him, his expression more annoyed than anything else, and stopped.
"Good evening." The voice was strong, the tone cordial, but Ragnar ignored the words. He needed answers, and had no time for polite conversation.
"What are you doing here?"
The man spread his hands slightly. "I am returning to my home and thought to ask at this hall for a drink."
"You're traveling in the middle of the night?"
"It was not night when I left."
"You have been traveling long, then."
"And I am thirsty." The stranger took a step toward the hall; in response Ragnar moved to stand more directly between him and the door. The man stopped, nostrils flaring.
With a tilt of his head Ragnar warned, "You presume much on the hospitality of people sleeping."
"Who are you to deny me entrance?" the stranger demanded. He was taller than Ragnar, and bigger, too. Ragnar had fought and killed men bigger than himself before, though.
He set his shoulders. "I am earl, lord of this hall."
The other snorted. "And you must guard your own hall? Have you no men pledged to serve you? A poor earl you must be, then."
The slight rankled, though he wondered why no one else had woken. "Have a care," Ragnar warned. "This is my hall, and I will not be insulted."
"Nor will I, which you do by denying me." It was obvious that the man's patience, not untested to begin with, was wearing quickly.
"An earl does not need to explain himself to a freeman, if you are a freeman."
"And how am I to know that you are the earl you call yourself?"
"Even if I am not the earl, I am also Odin's son." Ragnar's eyes did not smile, though his lips did.
The stranger was unimpressed; Ragnar almost thought he could see the man roll his eyes, but it must have been a trick of the light. "The All-father has many sons. But not all of them he claims." It was a blatant insult, as good as calling his mother a whore. Ragnar's grip on the axe tightened. The movement did not escape the other's notice.
"And who are you, stranger?" he demanded harshly.
The man opened his mouth to speak, then seemed to change his mind. He thought for a moment, and a small smile crossed his face before he said, "I am Sönnungr."
The true one. Ragnar snarled. "And you all but call me a liar. Who do you serve?" he barked.
"I serve no man. I bow to none but Odin."
He spoke with a pride that his statement did not warrant. Ragnar narrowed his eyes warily. "Are you outlawed?" It would explain much about the man: why he was alone, traveling at night, hesitant to reveal his identity. An outlaw was dangerous, suspicious, a criminal. And harboring an outlaw was a crime itself, punishable with the same penalty.
The haughty expression dropped from the man's face. "You think me a coward, little earl?" he growled, stepping closer.
"I think you a stranger here, and I the earl." The two stared at each other, hard expressions highlighted by the shifting light of the aurora above.
He should have let the cows be frightened again. Instead, out of sympathy for cattle, he was here, toe to toe with this impudent mortal. Thor wanted nothing more than to take hold of Mjolnir and deal a single blow to this Midgardian who dared to speak to a god as if they were equals. The only thing between this man and divine wrath was Thor's memory of his father ordering him not to draw attention to himself.
That, and the growing feeling that this man, his self-proclaimed half-brother, was not so different from Thor himself. Even now Thor was staring into a pair of eyes nearly the blue of his own. More to the point, both men were hotheaded, belligerent, and stubborn; both were ready to fight, each believing himself in the right. There was no doubt of the outcome of any violence between them, but Thor reckoned it would be a good fight—which was, of course, the best kind of fight. The idea made him grin. If he laid Mjolnir aside and struck with half his power, and the man dropped his axe, they could have a worthy struggle…
The door to the hall creaked open and a small figure emerged. "Father?" a voice called, scratchy and heavy with sleep.
Ragnar cursed silently, turning his attention from the man before him to his son. "Go back inside, Bjorn," he said.
The boy ignored him and walked closer, peering with tired eyes at the stranger. "Everything's fine," Ragnar said, hoping Bjorn would return to the hall.
"What is your name, little bear?" the stranger asked, his voice now kindly.
"I am Bjorn Ragnarsson," he answered proudly, standing up tall as he could. As he stretched up, a pendant slid from under his shirt, and the stylized hammer he wore around his neck caught the light. The stranger smiled; wary of his change of demeanor, Ragnar frowned. He cupped his hand around the back of Bjorn's neck and watched the man opposite him.
He backed away, one slow step at a time. If the man wanted to leave Kattegat without a fight, Ragnar would let him. Bjorn's presence had reminded him that now that he was earl, it was not only his own family he had to protect, but the whole of the village. Not for the first time he wished that he was back on the farm.
Across the short distance the man grinned. He raised one arm as clouds began to gather overhead. Ragnar heard the whooshing noise of something approaching at great speed; Bjorn craned his neck, searching for the source of the sound. The boy yelped in surprise and even Ragnar could not suppress his startle when a hammer flew through the air and into the stranger's hand.
"Thor," Bjorn breathed. Ragnar felt his son shaking as the man—the god—laughed.
"I would have enjoyed battling with you, Ragnar," he boomed above the thunder now rolling. "Live a bold life, and we may one day fight together in Valhalla."
The earl nodded as wind whipped at his face. Thor grinned again and shot into the air. As father and son watched, a tunnel of light descended and enveloped the flying god in a flash that made Bjorn shield his eyes. When the light receded, there was no trace of Thor but a pair of footprints that abruptly disappeared.
Bjorn looked up at his father, speechless with awe. Ragnar smiled down at him, then herded him back into the hall. As he barred the door, Ragnar stole one last look at the sky.
It was just as well Athelstan slept soundly.