Author's Note: This story is set in the same AU as RadiantBeam's work The Best Laid Plans. If you haven't read it, go do that. Seriously. Now.
For Better or Norse
Lie Ren straightened his jacket and tried to act as through being in Director Ozpin's office was not intimidating to him.
"Coffee?" The older man offered, the combination of silvery hair and youthful features making it difficult to get a read on his actual age. "Water? We might have some tea, though I fear that is more Glynda's preference than mine so I've no idea where it would be stored."
"No, sir," Ren said. He was rather more nervous than his calm demeanor showed, and drinking anything didn't sound like a good plan right this moment. "In truth, I confess to being confused as to why I was even invited. Grandmoth—Matriarch Xiulan asked me to attend, but I only completed my trials and coming-of-age ceremony when I turned eighteen last month. I'm far from the most gifted hunter in the Lie clan, and easily the least experienced."
Ozpin smiled slightly. "Your grandmother is one of the canniest women I've ever had the pleasure of being slightly afraid of. The Lie clan and Beacon have always had good relations. Your clan's efforts were directly responsible for the dragon population in China, Korea, and Japan surviving the purges and beginning to repopulate, and I can say without flattery that she is among the finest leaders you have ever produced. I asked her to recommend one of her family for a task, and she chose you. I trust her judgment."
Ren tried not to show his nervousness at the immensity of this praise. The pressure to succeed was great if Lie Xiulan had personally chosen him for a hunt above any of his cousins and siblings. But then, Ren was a hunter now; he had completed his training, passed the clan's rite of a adulthood, and earned his sword. And it was true that the Beacon organization had always been an ally to his family, a blessing when their... somewhat unique practices had alienated many other old hunting families. The Arcs and Winchesters, in particular, had open disapproval of the Lie's tendency toward focusing their efforts only against openly hostile magical creatures, and outright genocidal fury at their willingness to protect peaceful enclaves of them against human hunters. Only the fact those two families rarely ventured into Asia kept open war from breaking out, and that could change at any time. Beacon was too valuable an alliance to lose.
Ren nodded once, and said, "I will do what I can."
Ozpin's lip curled almost invisibly. "Who can do less? Though you may change your mind when you hear what I am offering."
"Never, sir. My duties to my family and their allies are clear."
"If I could replace half of the high-strung children we have here with people like you, Glynda would give me a medal. But then, that would make things a bit too easy on her. Must keep the girl on her toes, or she'll realize she's better at running this place than I am," Ozpin said with a chuckle. "As to your task... Beacon's manpower is limited, as you know. We are hamstrung, in addition, by our need to avoid the public eye, and our desire to avoid open war with the various factions in play in the supernatural world. We seek only to keep them out of the view of humans, avoiding the potential catastrophe that would result from a full-on war between the human race and the magical entities that share its planet with it. As a result, this means that we are not able to openly enter certain places, or simply lack the personnel to do so. This is where you come in.
"You are, to put it bluntly, an experiment. You will be a freelance hunter, free to pursue your own agendas as you please, but discreetly on Beacon's payroll. You will act as something of a backup force for us, able to take on cases our own agents cannot for one reason for another. We have made small arrangements with hunters in the past, but you mark our first attempt at any sort of long-term arrangement. If you are a success story, other hunters of similar promise and moral code will be scouted out. Congratulations, Lie Ren, you are a trailblazer."
Ren blinked in confusion. "I... it is a tall order, sir. I know my grandmother suggested me, but..."
"She suggested, and I approved," Ozpin said mildly. "As I said, I trust her judgment... but not so much as I trust my own. She sent all the relevant data. Your training has been exceptional, marking you as skilled beyond many hunters three times your elder. You passed your adulthood ritual in record time, and against a creature of no small threat... you slew a Nian, I believe?"
"It was nothing, sir. The creature was distracted," Ren said.
"Yes, by the eight-year-old child it was attempting to eat when you found it. Who will, I might add, survive," Ozpin said with a raised eyebrow. "You have all the best traits of your clan, Ren. Skill, bravery, and a moral compass that actually points in a rather straight direction. The first two make a good hunter; all three make a great one. Your family thinks you have the potential to be one of the greats, Ren. Care to prove them right?"
Ren took a deep breath to steady himself, gripping the sword at his hip, taking comfort in the familiar weight of it. "Yes, sir."
Ozpin nodded. "Good. Head down two floors and find Ms. Goodwitch's office, she will hand you the details of the first assignment we wish to give you."
Ren's eyes widened. "Already, sir? I haven't even unpacked or checked into my hotel, yet, and..."
Ozpin chuckled. "Good! Then if you turn out to be a flop and die on your first real hunt, all of your things will still be nicely packed for shipping back to China."
Ren stared blankly at the older man, his tone not at all clear if he was joking or not. Finally, he let out an exasperated sigh. "I see why my grandmother likes you, sir. You share her scary sense of humor."
Three Days Later...
The job was simple, at least. Or rather, the difficult aspect of it was not the work that needed to be done, but where the work needed to be done.
Ren had never been to Norway. He disliked it almost immediately.
To be fair, he suspected he wasn't seeing the best parts of it. The job requested took place well above the arctic circle, in the frozen backwoods of the country, a day's travel from the nearest city. Ren had never ridden a snowmobile before, but he took to it easily enough; it was faster than sled dogs, at least, and Ren wasn't really an animal person. He supposed it helped that the cold wasn't really a concern for him the way it was for other people.
Lifting up the goggles that kept the wind off his eyes, he glanced around for some sign of his quarry. He was in the right area, at least according to Beacon's intel on the mission, but he had no definitive proof of what he was even hunting. Something had taken apart a small party who had been out in the woods hunting reindeer, and while local authorities were claiming animal attacks, evidence suggested that the victims had not been mauled but rather literally pulled apart, no sign whatsoever of claws or teeth being used. Ren hadn't had a lot of time to do research on the local monsters, but the area had several humanoids able to meet the requirements... trolls, some of the Dwarves, and...
Ren's eyes locked onto something half-hidden beneath the snow, and stepped off his vehicle to examine it. Brushing snow off the buried form, he winced as it confirmed his impressions; the face of a very dead brown bear looked up at him, eyes glassy. Digging it out further, he found cracked bone beneath an indent in the skull, and no sign of blood on the claws or fangs.
Something had killed it with a single strike from a blunt weapon, and taken no wounds in return.
Ren sighed. A giant, then.
There were a few different subspecies of giant related to the region, though Ren had seriously been hoping they weren't around. They tended to live in a parallel dimension most of the time, though they were able to travel to this world if they chose. Given the intense cold of the region, Ren suspected a frost giant.
It had snowed most of the night and the bear had only been partially covered, implying the kill was fairly fresh. The creature might still be near. Ren ran a gloved hand along dead animal's head and closed its eyes. The bear was hundreds of pounds of quality meat and untouched, which meant the monster hadn't even killed it for food. Ren unhooked the submachine gun from this back and made sure the clip was in place, and shifted his sword on his belt to make sure it was within easy reach. He would progress on foot from here and try to catch it off guard; the giant was clearly enormously strong, so a surprise attack was probably the best option. Not terribly 'honorable', he supposed, but Ren had little patience with any creature that killed for fun, monster or otherwise.
It was barely thirty seconds of travel into the deeper woods before he found a pine tree smashed to so much kindling. And another a scant hundred feet away.
Well. Finding a trail wasn't going to be a huge problem, at least.
As Ren approached the center of the forest, he began to regret the ease of finding the trail.
The giant was one of the most brutal things he had ever hunted, and the discarded bones and blood in the snow told him that not only had it devastated the wildlife in the area, but what was clearly a human femur suggested it had clearly taken more human victims than the intel had suggested.
Ren tried to control his stomach as the stench of rot filled his nostrils. In this climate, this chill, meat would spoil very slowly. How long had this creature been hunting in these woods? How many people had it torn apart?
A low growling sound and the crunching of bones filled the air as he approached a cavern, a space where the forest met the mountains.
It was a shallow cave, and while the daylight was fading and dim early this far north and this deep in the wilds, Ren could see the outline of the creature. Bipedal, and human shaped, but even sitting down it was taller than Ren and at least triple the width. A club was set against the cave wall, and even in the dimness Ren could see a darkened patch on it as the creature tore at the carcass of something with its bare hands. Several other large, dismembered slabs of meat decorated the cave, so the abomination was more than well fed. It was killing everything that came near for... fun? Or some vague sense of territoriality, perhaps.
Territorial. This wasn't even its world. Ren was in no mood to be patient.
The submachine gun he had brought was loaded with the Lie clan's 'special blend', a silver hollow point, each round filled with one of three substances; iron filings, water from a consecrated spring and laced with dust, and wood shavings from the sacred trees grown around the family temple. The frost giant knew none of this, of course, but Ren suspected that he was at least not happy with the results when Ren walked up to the cave mouth and emptied half the clip directly into its back from five meters away as it ate.
The giant screamed and reared up to its full height, over twice that of Ren, batting at its back as the bullets struck up silver sparks against its flesh. Thick clear blood oozed from the wounds as the thing thrashed, and for a moment Ren thought it might literally be that easy... only for the liquid to immediately freeze into a thick shell, sealing the bullet wounds and causing additional rounds to crash harmlessly into the ice, not piercing. Ren ejected the empty clip, eyes wide as the creature turned on him.
The giant's full height was upwards of twelve feet, and its skin was dark, glacial blue that. Its eyes were red, as was its beard... though the shock of white hair over its head suggested that was more due to blood than anything else. The creature wore only a loincloth, which showed off muscles that appeared to have been carved out of granite and spikes of ice jutting out from below its skin. It reached down, and lifted up a club larger than Ren himself and forged from some kind of dark metal.
The giant gave a feral smile, and its teeth were bloody ice. "Matr," it growled in a tone that made Ren's skeleton quake.
Ren didn't speak any Old Norse, but he suspected that this was something along the lines of 'dinner'.
The young hunter sprang backwards, dodging the descending club and feeling it brush the edge of his coat despite his speed, slamming into the snowy ground and tearing through the coat of frost to shatter the frozen soil beneath. Ren cursed lightly and slammed a new clip into his weapon, dancing lightly back and leveling it...
Just in time for the club to swing back across and shatter the weapon in his hands, and send a shock of agony down the wrist holding it besides.
Ren rolled in the direction of the strike, letting the impact add to his momentum and aid in his flight as he ran into the trees, letting the foliage offer some protection. The giant smashed through the trees as though they were toothpicks, of course, but he needed to stop briefly to do it, and each step Ren could get gave him more time. He leaped through the evergreens and rocks of the old forest without slowing, while the giant stumbled trying to match his pace.
Once he had made a bit of a lead, he stopped, and worked the glove off his injured hand. It didn't feel broken, but it was at an odd angle...something dislocated, most likely. He put the glove in his mouth, bit down firmly, and wrenched the wrist back into place. He screamed, a muffled sound, and fell to his knees from the sudden spike of agony.
A tree rolled past him, dislodged from the ground like it had weighed nothing at all, and Ren knew he had no time left to be immobilized by pain. He was a hunter, a warrior of the Lie clan. Dying alone in the snow was not for him.
He drew his sword, and reminded the universe of this.
Jade Dragon was a weapon forged specifically for Ren upon his completion of his training. A simple one-handed jian in appearance, save for two factors; the guard and handle alike were deep forest green, and as the name suggested the former took on the form of a dragon's wings sweeping down to cover Ren's hand. Second, the long, straight blade had an oddly placed blood channel running down the edge, apparently to direct the flow of blood so it would stay on the blade, not flow away from the wielder.
Which was, of course, exactly what it was meant to do.
Beneath the guard of the weapon, Ren pressed his thumb to a spike set in the handle to let his blood flow along the channel of the weapon, tinting the blade red... shortly before the blade burst into white flame. Ren opened his eyes, and they had gone a light red, the pupils slitted like a cat. His skin hardened, taking on the appearance of scales, and the snow around his feet melted into a flowing puddle almost spontaneously.
Ozpin had congratulated the Lie clan for doing so much to save the dragons in Asia, but the truth was they'd had a somewhat selfish reason for doing so. Dragons could interbreed with humans well enough, and while the half-breeds tended to merely be oddly athletic humans with higher than average body temperatures, one could, with sufficient training and a Dust-forged talisman... say, a sword?... draw out draconic powers from the blood of the halfbreed that were quite considerable.
The frost giant halted in its charge, openly confused. It should have turned and run the other direction.
Ren lunged, his burning sword leading the way and slashing through the icy coating on the giant's flesh with a hissing shriek, tearing through flesh like it didn't exist and searing down to the bone of the monster's thigh. Roaring in agonized rage, the giant swung madly at him, but it no longer seemed so blindingly fast as it had scant moments before. Ren didn't even bother to dive or jump away, merely ducking a few inches and allowing the club to slide over his head, before snapping his blade up and slashing the tendons in its wrist. The creature screamed and spiraled down, the combination of the overbalanced swing and its wounded leg sending it to one knee, its weapon flying from its grip and tearing another tree to splinters.
The creature snarled his defiance, swinging a balled-up fist from its fallen position, fighting to the last. Ren supposed that showed some courage, but facing the end with dignity was also a virtue the giant clearly lacked. Ren stepped back, slashing the wrist along the entire forearm, the blood flowing freely, unable to freeze from the heat of the dragonfire.
The frost giant continued to try to rise to wobbling knees, but if it's body was anything like a human's, Ren had slashed three major arteries and cripple three limbs. Standing was simply a physical impossibility at this point. Ren drew his weapon back, preparing to cut the struggling thing's throat and end this...
An impact like a wrecking ball slammed into his shoulder, hurling him halfway across the clearing. His weapon fell from suddenly limp fingers, hissing madly as it fell into the snow and melted all the way down to the soil beneath. The broken connection from his talisman hurt almost as much as the shock, a bone-deep agony that rocked through his entire body as his gathered power faded.
Ren's eyes darted madly about the clearing, uncertain as to what had happened, looking for what he could only assume was a second giant...only to hear a loud crack, and see the left eyeball of the wounded giant explode, and the massive bulk of the creature fell dead. A high-powered rifle, large caliber... Ren's scales had absorbed the majority of the impact, thankfully, but he had been in shock before, and he knew he was now. His legs were numb, blood bubbling from his wounded shoulder. Struggling to his knees took every ounce of his willpower... and he was not able to reach his sword before the gunman entered the clearing.
He was a big man, at least a head taller than Ren and wrapped in a thick winter coat and snow pants in a winter camouflage pattern. A sniper rifle, the barrel still smoking, was across his back, and of all things a morningstar, a spiked mace, was at his hip. His face was hidden by a furred hood and goggles similar to Ren's, until he slipped them off to reveal reddish-brown hair and some of the most smugly cruel blue eyes Ren had ever seen.
"Fast," he said, almost cheerfully. "Was aiming for your head, but you were moving around so much it was hard to tag you. Of course, I'm guessing that was the sword, right freak? I gotta say, I was rooting for you until you pulled that thing out. But hey, I'm not bitter. Came out here for one kill. Got two!"
"Hunter," Ren muttered, pressing his shoulder to keep the blood staunched. "I'm a hunter too. Just..."
"No, see, that's the thing. I worked out who you are," the man... no, more of a boy, despite his size... said, a bit of anger leaking into his tone. "See, I'm a Winchester. Cardin. You've heard the name." It wasn't a question. And frankly, Ren had heard it, at least the surname. The Winchesters were an old hunting family, as old and renowned in Europe as the Lies were in Asia, and much, much more extremist and vicious. The youth's accent wasn't anywhere European, though; he must have been trained in North America. The main branch of the Winchesters were English, it made sense they'd have ties in Canada.
Cardin leaned down to look Ren in the eye from safely out of reach, a smug smirk on his face. "And you... you're a Lie. My parents told me about you. The rumors. A little too friendly with the freaks. Guess they were true! That what happened with you, man? Your mom bang a big lizard? Tell me, did she lay an egg?"
Ren spat at him. It fell far short, sadly, but it got the point across.
"Careful," Cardin murmured, his smirk never fading. "Who knows what kinda weird lizard diseases you got?" He drew the spiked mace from his belt, spinning it idly a few times. Ren saw spikes of several different kinds of metal in the weapon, which had to weigh at least thirty pounds and which the boy hefted with practiced ease. "I'm gonna have to be careful not to get any of your blood on me when I crack your skull open. But hey, look on the bright side... you'll be a good warning to your whole freak family to stay out of Winchester territory."
Cardin stood, drawing his arm back to prepare to crush Ren's skull, as the wounded hunter screamed as his legs to work, give him the strength to stand, to dodge, to do anything...
An enormous crack of thunder filled the clearing out of nowhere. Cardin jumped backward, stumbling in shock and searching wildly for the new threat, and Ren did the most similar thing he could do in his condition: kind of fall to the side in the snow.
"Behooooooooooooooooooold! Noraaaaaaaa, Valkyrie of the great god—where is everyone? I'm confused," said a female voice. Ren blinked a few times.
The...girl... who had appeared in the clearing apparently by falling from the sky was lightly built, barely five feet tall and with bright red-orange hair partially hidden beneath a horned helmet that appeared two sizes too big for her. She was wearing what appeared to be an armored bronze breastplate, though given how loose it hung on her it might have been more appropriate to call it just a 'plate.' A small round shield and a war hammer that seemed, as with all of her armor, two sizes too big for her, hung crossed in a harness on her back.
Ren couldn't deliver much in the way of commentary on her face, since she was not actually facing him, instead staring out into the forest in apparent confusion.
Ren and Cardin, enemies with clear intent to kill, shared a look that clearly shared the thought, 'No, I don't know either'.
The strange girl turned to face them, big sky-blue eyes peeking through their helmet as opposite in intent from Cardin as was humanly possible. She had a huge and totally innocent smile on her face, at least what could be seen of it through the helmet slipping down over it. "Ooooh, there you are! I knew this was the right place. Now, let's see..." she coughed lightly, before bellowing, "Behooooooooooold! Nooooooora, Valkyrie of the great god Odin, lord of Asgard and all-father of the Norse pantheon! Gaze in awe upon me, mortals, as I have come to collect the soul of yon departed warrior!"
Nora paused expectantly, before saying, "Um... did I say it wrong? This is my first run. I mean, I have gotten one soul before, but he technically only counted as a warrior because he smacked the wolf on the nose before it ate his face. He wasn't the best option for a rookie, y'know? I didn't really get the full experience."
"Um... I'm not dead," Ren said. The effort of speaking hurt a bit, but some things had to be said.
"Yet," Cardin added.
"Whaaaaaaaaat?!" Nora squeaked. "Why aren't you dead?! It was very clear on the schedule: Lie Ren, brave warrior, slain in battle by the thrice-damned coward Winchester whose soul shall freeze in Hel's darkened realms in Niflheim among the cowards and betrayerrrrrs! You are totally ruining things, you know! This is gonna look so bad on my review!"
Review...? Ren thought vaguely, wondering if he was maybe just delirious with blood loss, or had passed out and this was a strange dream.
"What is this crazy little bitch babbling about?! She another of your freak friends, lizard boy?" Cardin snapped, his own opinions on the matter pretty much mirroring Ren's but in a much more unpleasant way.
"Hey, I'm not a bitch! I was voted 'Yea, Most Personable Amongst the Hallowed Ranks of the Valkyror' in my school!" Nora snapped right back. "Wait... waaaaaaaaait! You're the thrice-damned coward Winchester, aren't you? Red hair, tall, the cold and heartless eyes of a serial murderer... ugh it, fits! Oh cheese on crackers, I got here early! Waaaaaaaaaaah, Sigurd and Branwen are gonna tease me about this forever... okay. Okay. We can fix this. Um, Mr. Ren, you stay there. Thrice-damned coward Winchester..."
"Stop calling me that!"
"... you just... I'll turn around," Nora continued as though he hadn't spoken, "And you just give Mr. Ren his proper warrior's death, damning yourself to the frozen wastes of Hel for your cowardice. Then I'll run his soul right up to Valhalla, and we all win! Except not Mr. Ren, who will die. Or you, who will be doomed. But I'll win!"
Cardin stepped forward, murder in his eyes, and growled, "I don't know who the Hell you think you are, little freak, but Winchesters don't let your type just go. You wanna keep badmouthing me and talking up the lizard? You can join him."
Nora blinked. "Well of course I'm gonna join him, I'm taking him up to... oh. OH! Are you interfering with my holy duty?!" she squeaked, as though the thought simply hadn't occurred to her until that moment, despite the clear menace in Cardin's actions.
"I'm doing a lot more than that," Cardin muttered, raising his mace high...
… Only to freeze when Nora raised a hand under his nose and screamed "Hold it! I haven't consulted my manual!"
The girl pulled a scroll from somewhere in her armor (she certainly had enough empty space in there) and unrolled it, letting it fall down to her feet and roll halfway across the clearing as she murmured, "'Moste Holy Orientation', 'How Beste to Maintain thy Wingede Horse,' 'Der Ring des Nibelung, or 'Why Office Romances art Most Discouraged''... ah, here we go! Section C, Subsection B1, Paragraph 3. 'Verily young Valkyrie, know that 'pon thy travels twixt the Golden Realm and the lands of Midgard, thou shalt be beset by many foes. Many are the dark beasts and cunning mortal assassins who might seek to suborn the souls of the valiant from their eternal reward. Know that this is why thou hast been most fortuitously equipped with one (1) dwarven-forged weapon of mythical uru-metal, the divine armament of a goddess. Upon encountering danger, verily thou indeed should apply yon weapon to said danger in a firm smiting motion, as demonstrated in Exhibit A below'. Oooooh, okay! That's nice and simple, then!" Nora said in satisfaction, smiling cheerfully.
"Bitch, what are you going on a-" Cardin began.
"HAVE AT THEE, ASSASSIN!" Nora shrieked, whipping her hammer through the air in a blur and slamming it into Cardin's right knee with such force Ren swore he saw the leg actually bend backwards.
As Cardin crumpled to the ground, screaming in agony and clutching his horribly broken leg, Nora happily skipped over to Ren and knelt down to pat him on the head. "Hi! Um, I know this is a bit odd a request, but could you die, please? I'm on the clock."
"... I'd rather not," Ren said weakly.
"Ummmmmm... well, I get that, it's just that I really need to bring back the soul of a mighty warrior. Y'know... for the whole 'Odin' thing? It's kind of a big deal," Nora said warmly. She seemed nice about it, which did make Ren feel better about the fact she was asking him to die. Sorta.
"Actually, I was wondering if you could hand me my sword...?" Ren murmured.
"Oooooooooh, dying with weapon in hand! Befitting a mighty warrior!" Nora cheered. "Sure thing, sure thing, Mr. Bravery! I'll grab it right u-"
"You bitch! You broke my leg you goddamn freak whore! I'll kill you! I'll kill both of you!" Cardin screamed in rage and agony.
Nora rolled her eyes. "Hang on, I'll get your sword for you in just a second." Whistling a jaunty little tune, she hefted her warhammer and walked back over to where the young man lay. Ren was having a hard time staying upright at the moment, and so he could no longer see her, but he could certainly hear Nora very suddenly shriek, "CEASE THY WHIMPERING AND BEAR THINE WOUNDS LIKE A TRUE WARRIOR, COWARDLY DOG!" followed by a sickening crunch Ren assumed to be Cardin's other leg breaking. His screams became pained whimpers.
Ren heard some rustling in the snow, and that same jaunty little tune humming through the air as she dug around, before squealing, "Yaaaaaay, it's here! Sword sword, swordity swoooooord..."
The horrifying, horrifying woman pressed Jade Dragon into his hands, and Ren pressed his thumb into the spike, letting the blood flow into the weapon, the Dust awakening his dragon blood. The snow grew less cold, power flowed through him... and the sword burst into flame once again.
The bullet hadn't gone all the way through. He would need to have it surgically removed later, but for now...
He lifted Jade Dragon and pressed the flaming blade to his the jagged wound, screaming openly. He tasted blood in his mouth... his mind had been too fuzzy too remember to bite down on something before he cauterized the wound. Still, it was done. The bleeding was stopped, and agony could, in some cases, but a solid motivator. He rose, shakily, to his feet.
Nora looked crestfallen. "Um... are you standing up to die valiantly on your feet? Are those your... your... death scales? That you... brought out for... uuuuuum...dying...?"
Ren inclined his head to her. "I'm sorry, but I'm afraid I'm probably going to live."
"... … … Eeeeeeep," Nora squeaked.
Another massive bolt of thunder pierced the skies, and a tall, muscular blonde woman in the same outfit as Nora (though filling it out much more aptly) appeared, bellowing, "Nora! Thou hast upset the wheels of destiny!"
"... not on purpose!" Nora said, a bit lamely. "Sigrun, I swear, he..."
"Nay, Nora! Thy excuses fall on deaf ears!" Sigrun roared. "Odin hast declared his path! As this young man's destiny to fall hath been averted by thee, then thou shalt accompany him, banished henceforth from the Golden Realm of Asgard, until the day thou dost return his soul to Valhalla! Only then may thou rejoin thy sisters in the ranks of the Valkyror!"
"WHAT?!" Ren and Nora shrieked in perfect unison.
"I don't get to go home until he dies?!" Nora whined.
"She's going to follow me around the rest of my life?!" Ren snapped.
"This isn't fair!" they shouted in unison once again.
"Verily, thou should have considered that before thou screwed up destiny so very badly!" Sigrun shouted without a great deal of concern. "I ascend once more to the realms of the gods! Fare thee well!"
"Can... can I at least keep my hammer?" Nora asked.
"Verily, but be warned 'tis a rental from the armory! Lose or damage it and it shalt be coming out of thine paycheck!" Sigrun roared. "I GO!"
A bolt of lightning, a crack of thunder, and Ren and Nora were left alone in the clearing with only a broken-legged racist lunatic and a lot of confusion.
"Ummmmm...so," Nora said. "Do you... do you plan to die, anytime soon, or..."
"Well, no," Ren said. "But I can help you find a place to stay."
"It's my fault you can't go home. Sorta," Ren said. "My family can help you find a place to live while you're here, and there's always work to be done. You seem pretty handy with that warhammer."
"It's a gift!" Nora confirmed.
"The clan never turns away skilled hands. You're welcome to work with me until...well. Until I die. I guess."
Nora wiped away a tear of joy. "Th-thank you so much! I... I mean, that's so nice of you. I can't believe you'd do that for me when we just met! You... are the nicest mortal-creature I have ever met, and I've met two."
"You're welcome!" Nora chirped. "Oooh, before we go home, what do we do with the thrice-damned coward Winchester? We could slay him, but it seems a bit unsporting. Oooh, we could break his arms! That would make his limbs match!"
"... That seems a little cold, Nora."
"Well, he was supposed to kill you. I thought you might like some payback," Nora said cheerfully. "See? Helping already, new partner!"
"I never said we would be partners. Just that I'd find you a place to stay."
"Whatever you say, partner!" Nora squealed. "So... arms?"
"Just... leave him. He wouldn't be out here alone. I'm betting there's other Winchester hunters combing the area, and I'd rather them have to deal with a living wounded than a dead comrade to avenge," Ren said.
"Oooooooooooooooooooh!" Nora said, eyes wide. "That's amazing! How do you know he'll have allies lurking about?"
Ren turned his gaze on Cardin, and his smile was small, cold, and had no amusement in it.
"You said it yourself," he said softly, though he knew that Cardin could hear him over his whimpers of pain. "He's a coward."
Ren and Nora began their long trudge (well, Ren trudged, Nora kinda skipped) out of the forest, one of them keeping careful watch for any sign of the enemy, and one of them humming a jaunty tune and trying to talk to the occasional animal-shaped rock. It shall be left to the imagination which was which.
Honestly. This has been a disaster all around, and Nora might have been the most disastrous part, Ren thought sadly as he walked. He was slower than her with his wounds and fatigue, but she was mostly running in circles so it was not hard to keep up. I definitely need to get rid of her as soon as possible. I owe her at least making sure she doesn't starve to death, but the woman is clearly unhinged. I will contact the clanhold about funding, set her up in her new apartment, and part ways to continue my hunts for Beacon.
Yes, this was the best plan.
Seven Years Later...
Lie Ren, aged twenty-five, awoke in his simple apartment, washed up and dressed, and walked downstairs and across the street to the Sloth's Nest, Nora's coffee shop. She maintained it, she swore, as a 'perfect cover identity' which would keep anyone from realizing that she was a Valkyrie.
The fact she ran it under the name 'Nora Valkyrie' apparently did not cross her mind as suspicious.
"Reeeeeeeeeeeen!" Nora screamed discreetly as he walked in. "Free coffee and muffin for my hunting partner!"
"I don't like coffee, Nora," Ren said for what he estimated was the 1,000th time since he'd met Nora. "And that isn't keeping a low profile."
"No, see, I keep telling you," Nora said gleefully. "If I always talk about being a hunter, people will assume I'm lying because nobody would ever talk about being a hunter in public!"
"Also, everybody who goes here works with Beacon and we all know who you two are," Ruby Rose, one of the regulars, chimed in from her table as she sipped her usual coffee and with cream and five sugars. Blake Belladonna sat next to her as usual, holding up the book they were sharing and apparently trying to avoid Nora's attention. They weren't exactly...compatible.
"They're totally fooled," Nora said helpfully.
Ren sighed, but there was a smile behind the exasperation despite himself. "I'm sure she is, Nora." After all, Nora and her unique brand of logic...
Well, he of all people knew that they grew on you after awhile.
Author's Note : As always, check my profile for additional works, both fanfiction and published. Hope you enjoy! And if those of you who have the ability would be willing to, sharing the links to my publishing on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and the like would be a tremendous help, even if you don't buy a thing. Thank you!