"Lay off the doughnuts tub . . ." last words of Witchita Lineman

ALTERNATE ASGARD
by Ahmed A. Khan ©2020

1

Out of lush green fields, Valhalla stands with its chest thrust out towards the wide blue skies. Atop the heaven-touching peak of Valhalla, the spires of Woden's Asgard shine in the light of the rising sun. In a remote corner of Asgard stands Thor, the thunder god, his hands behind his back and his head raised skyward, deep in thought, signs of confusion showing on his handsome, bearded face. His hammer, the mighty Mjolnir, rests beside him on the ground. The only sounds are the sounds of birds and the bubbling sound of water from a spring streaming down the mountain.

"Good morning, son of Woden," a human voice joins the sounds of birds and water.

"Who?" Thor turns to find the bright face of the god of sun, Baldr. "Oh! It is you, Baldr. Good morning to you too, my brother."

"Lord of storms. He who laughs even when he is surrounded by a hundred foes with naked swords. What afflicts such a one?"

"Yes, Baldr. It must be some sort of affliction. I do not know what is happening to me. My monolithic breast seems to be filled with liquid fire."

"Since when have you been this way?" Baldr asks in a voice of wonder.

"Since yesterday."

"What happened yesterday?"

"I saw Sif, the goddess of love, flowers adorning her tresses."

"Sif? Yesterday was not the first time that you saw Sif."

"No, but it was the first time I looked into her eyes."

"Ah!" Baldr sighs. He now knows that he cannot help Thor.

Elsewhere Sif, the goddess of love, she of the beautiful face, beautiful body and beautiful mind, wakes up from a fitful and restless sleep.

2

In another remote corner of Asgard is the residence of Logi. Inside the palace, the god of fire and the possessor of shining, blood-red eyes sits on his throne, which is a copy of the throne of Asgard.

Rubbing his hands together, he murmurs: "Asgard! The centre of my desires. I know that you are waiting for me. Your throne, on which sits Woden now, is eager for my touch. Yes, Asgard. I must rule you. I."

Then he summons his son, Nari.

"Listen, Nari. I have found a way to capture the throne of Asgard. Do you know the dome that stands right in the centre of Asgard?"

"Yes, father."

"Eternal fire burns inside the dome. It cannot be extinguished. No one can pass through this fire, not even Logi, the god of fire. In the middle of the fire is a trumpet. One blow on the trumpet and every living being in Asgard will die except for the blower and those who are standing behind him. That trumpet is our road to Asgard's throne. I want to get that trumpet."

"How will you lay your hands on the trumpet when it is secure amidst the eternal fire?"

"That is where you come in, Nari. Listen carefully. There is an amulet which, when worn on the arm, will let one pass through the fire unharmed. Thor wears this amulet. Obtain that amulet and Asgard is ours. I have specifically selected you for this task because you are agile, strong and, like Baldr, no weapons can hurt you. Go, my son. Get the amulet and use it to get the trumpet."

Nari bows to his father and leaves.

Fortunately for Asgard, Nari's are not the only ears that hear Logi's plot. Floating through the air of Valhalla, Logi's voice reaches the super-sensitive ears of Heimdall, the guardian of the Rainbow Bridge. Of course, he cannot leave his post but he sees Baldr passing close by, riding his horse.

"Baldr," he shouts. Baldr stops his mount, turns it and comes to Heimdall.

"What is it, Heimdall?"

"Listen carefully, Baldr. This is a matter of life and death of the whole of Asgard." And he proceeds to narrate to Baldr what had transpired between Logi and Nari.

3

It is still morning on Valhalla, intoxicating and invigorating. Water from the mountain spring bubbles and sings its way down to the valley below. This is the same place where Thor had stood the day before, musing. On the banks of the stream, dewdrops shine like tiny pearls on velvety green grass. The morning air is filled with fragrance of blooming flowers. On a rock by the side of the stream sits Sif, her legs dangling in the flowing water. Her silken black hair is covered with dewdrops. A garland of fresh flowers adorns her neck. A sweet pain fills her heart.

Absorbed in her thoughts, she talks to herself. "The goddess of love herself in love? How ironic!"

Her thoughts are interrupted by sounds of heavy footsteps. Sif is not interested in meeting anyone at that moment. She quickly gets up from the rock and hides behind the thick stem of a yew tree growing nearby. The newcomer comes closer. Her heart skips a beat. It is Thor.

Thor is unaware of his surroundings. He seems as absorbed in his thoughts as was Sif just moments ago. And he too is talking to himself.

"What is happening? He who controls storms, who can stare down death itself, a single blow of whose hammer can shatter mountains - he now finds himself helpless before this emotion."

He is silent for a while, as if listening to an inner voice. Then he speaks up, as if denying that voice.

"No. I cannot let this emotion of love rule me. Love for Sif is becoming a weakness for me. My only weakness."

"You are wrong," a voice is heard, startling Thor. Sif calmly steps out from behind the tree. "Love is not a weakness. It is a great strength."

"You... You...," Thor stammers.

"Yes, dear thunderer. I am love," her smile lights up the morning further, "and I am in love."

Thor stands transfixed. Sif comes closer.

"Look into my eyes, Thor. I am your strength, not your weakness."

Thor looks into her eyes. Slowly, the signs of confusion and worry leave his face, leaving it full of peace. They stand there, looking into each other's eyes with fire while the songs of the earth, water and air swirl softly around them.

4

Night falls on Asgard. Thor lies peacefully in the arms of the goddess of sleep. Silence reigns as stars look down upon the mountain beninely. Suddenly, silently, a figure materializes in Thor's bedroom. It is Nari. He steps forward and puts his hand on Thor's brow. Thor's sleep turns to unconsciousness. Nari removes the amulet from Thor's arm. "So easy," he exults. The next moment he is gone.

5

Flames of eternal fire burn high. Nari enters the dome. The amulet is tied to his arm. Fearlessly, he enters the fire. The fire does not burn him and the heat does not harm him. Suddenly, another figure appears at the edge of the fire. This is Baldr, who had been hiding there, waiting for Nari. His sword flashes through the fire. Nari is still within reach of the blade. The sword reaches its target. It does not harm Nari because Nari is immune to all weapons. But it achieves its objective. It severs the amulet from Nari's arm. No one - not even Nari - is immune to the flames of the eternal fire. Nari has time only for a single, short scream before the eternal fire reduces his body to ashes. With his sword, Baldr drags the amulet out of the fire, picks it up and leaves the dome.

6

Logi sits on his throne, alone. His red eyes are redder than ever, as if they would start spouting fire any moment. Sigyn, Logi's wife and Nari's mother, is sitting beside Logi, sobbing inconsolably.

"Nari will be avenged, Baldr," he mutters to himself as he clenches his fists. "Nari will be avenged." Sigyn continues sobbing.

7

Close to the highest point of Valhalla, a small mistletoe bush has grown into a tall and strong tree. As fate would have it, the wood of this tree is the only material in the world that can harm Baldr. And Logi knows it. He breaks a branch off the bush and shapes it into a javelin, sharp and deadly. Carrying this javelin in his hands, he enters Asgard's arena. Baldr is standing in the midst of the arena, smiling, while various gods form a circle around him and test their weapons on Baldr. And when none of the weapons harm Baldr, they all cheer him and hug him in camaraderie. In a corner stands the blind god, Hodr, head bent, listening intently to all the jocularity going on around him. Logi approaches Hodr.

"Why are you not participating in this game of gods, Hodr," he asks.

Hodr smiles sadly. "How can I participate, o god of fire? I am blind, as you know."

"Why should you miss the fun just because you are blind? Here, hold this," and he hands the javelin of mistletoe to Hodr. "Throw this at Baldr. I will help you aim."

Then he shouts to the other gods, "Give way. Hodr is going to try his weapon." All the gods of Valhalla laugh in good humour as they see Hodr and Logi join the circle around Baldr.

Guided by Logi, Hodr throws the javelin. The Javelin flies smoothly and pierces Baldr's throat. Baldr falls, gurgling as blood spurts from his throat. The gods shout in dismay. Thor tears his way through the gods and reaches Baldr. He takes one look at Baldr, raises his head to heavens and lets out a scream of sheer pain - a scream that makes the whole mountain shudder, and makes Logi smile inwardly. The beloved of gods, the ever-cheerful hero, Baldr, the killer of his son, is dead.

Suddenly, another scream is heard. "What did I do? What did I do?" This is Hodr. He screams once again and falls to the ground. The immensity of his deed, though unintentional, is too much for him. The gods run to him only to find him dead.

Woden, father of gods, is watching all this in his mystical mirror, but he is silent. This is not the time for his intervention.

8

Thor sits on the ground in a deserted corner of Asgard, head bowed, alone and drowned in the memories of his friend and brother, Baldr. His steed is grazing nearby. His thoughts are interrupted when he sees a horse rider approaching. It is one of his servants.

"Sacrilege, god of thunder."

Thor stands up, "What happened. Tell me quickly."

"The goddess of love has been kidnapped by the god of fire."

"Sif? Logi has kidnapped Sif?" Thor can barely control his emotions.

"Yes, o Thor. She is now a prisoner of Logi's daughter, Hela, the goddess of death."

Thor's face turns red with anger.

"Logi has gone too far."

Without using the stirrups, he swings himself up his steed and races towards Logi's palace.

9

Logi reclines at his favourite place, his replica throne. Suddenly, he sits up as a dim light starts filling the throne room. The light slowly brightens up to a point that Logi has to shut his eyes. When he opens them again, he finds Woden in front of him. Woden's magnificence is such that Logi involuntarily bows before him.

Woden speaks and his voice has the vastness of the skies and the depth of oceans.

"Logi."

"Majesty." There is a slight tremor in Logi's voice.

"Cease and desist, Logi. Your designs on Asgard will never bear fruit."

"No, Lord. Logi cannot stop now."

"Don't you fear me, Logi?"

"Logi is aware of the fact that great Woden has vowed not to harm any resident of Asgard. And I am a resident of Asgard. Only Thor stands between me and the throne of Asgard, and even Thor cannot stand for long against me and my army." Logi seems to have lost his fear and his tone becomes daring, even mocking. "Once I defeat Thor, I will be the king of Asgard and even the great Woden will be helpless."

Woden laughs. "Father of gods helpless? You have not realized my might, Logi. I may not intervene directly, but..." Leaving his sentence unfinished, Woden vanishes.

10

Thor stands alone at the door of Logi's palace. The thousand-strong army of Logi bars his way.

"Get out of my way," says Thor. "Even you, in your great numbers, will not be able to stop me today from reaching Logi."

Not receiving any response from the army, Thor swings his hammer and brings it down on the ground with great force. The ground shakes and rumbles. Cracks appear in the ground and widen. Suddenly, ground opens up under the feet of the army, forming a gaping hole into which the thousand soldiers sink and vanish. Just then, the palace door opens and Logi steps out.

"You have destroyed my army," he says, "but you will die at my hands. I will possess the throne of Asgard," he smiles maliciously adding, "and I will possess Sif." He points a finger at Thor and searing flames surround Thor. Thor waves his hammer. There is a thunder-burst and rain starts falling, quenching the flames and leaving Thor just a little bit scorched but otherwise unharmed.

"My turn," says Thor and throws his hammer. It flies true and hits Logi on his left leg and returns to Thor. There is a horrendous cracking sound and Logi screams. He falls to the ground, his leg broken and useless.

Logi turns himself into a fireball and shoots out of there at the speed of light. Thor watches him go, unable to follow.

11

The fireball reaches a hillside and drops down in front of a cave where he assumes his form as Logi. In great pain, he drags himself toward the mouth of the cave. This is the entrance to his daughter Hela's domain, the only sanctuary left for Logi. He hears footsteps and looks up. He sees a feminine form coming out of the mouth of the cave.

"Daughter, help," he says, raising his hand.

The woman comes closer, looks at Logi and smiles.

"Sif," says Logi in a shocked voice.

"Yes, Logi."

"But you were the prisoner of the goddess of death, and none can escape death."

"As ever you are wrong, Logi," says Sif. "Love always beats death. And I am love incarnate."

Sif bends down. "Look into my eyes, Logi. See my love."

Involuntarily, Logi looks up and his eyes are locked with Sif's.

"No," Logi screams.

"See, Logi, see."

"No, no."

"See."

Screaming, Logi covers his eyes with his hands.

"Did you see, Logi?" Sif asks softly.

"No," says Logi. "I didn't see. I cannot see. You have blinded me."

Sif goes away, leaving the lame and blind Logi wandering in the caves of Hela.

12

The wedding of Thor and Sif is a memorable affair for all of Asgard. A loud cheer from the gathering pierces the skies as Thor puts his lips on the soft, moist lips of Sif.

x x x

Not exactly Marvel Universe and certainly not Disney, Ahmed's take on the Norse legends is closer to the Eddas than the cinemas. As usual, his superb writing and story telling skills are the best choice to begin anotherealm's new year. Thank him on our BBS. -GM



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