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Mythbox

It's the end of the world (and I feel fine)

He had been asleep when the horn called out, loud and clear. Groggily, he looked up at the simple thatched ceiling of his bed chamber, trying to remember why that sound was so important. It signalled something vital, didn't it? When the next blast shook the very walls, it suddenly came to him and he jerked up on the bed. Heimdall!

So soon? He thought, with the tiniest flicker of sorrow in his mind. Out of time. He got up from the bed as a great noise swept over the flowing plains of Asgard like the buzzing of bees. It grew louder and louder as the significance of the horn blasted dawned on the populace. The halls of Valhalla already rang with shouts for armour and weapons… and raucous singing.

He clumsily donned his breeches with one hand. It had been years since they tied up Fenrir the Wolf, but his arm still ached from the bite and he still had trouble working one-handed. He looked over at his armour. The mailshirt, the sword he'd have to wear on the left, the special shield he had made that could be strapped to the stump of his right arm. Even Gods with two hands sometimes need the help of servants to prepare for battle. But if this was going to be The Day, he didn't want to be belittled from the start. Not by himself.

A quarter of a mark later, he walked down the stairs to the Great Hall, fixing his helm on his head. He caught a glimpse of the golden shields lining the roof, before the chaos washed over him. The Einherjar, brave warriors who had died on the battlefield and now resided in the halls of the Gods, were already in their armour, calling for one last drink of mead. The Valkyrie, also in armour, moved among them, filling their horns. One or two even kissed, armour clashing together, the maiden and the warrior.

As he began to turn towards the dais, Freyr stumbled into him and caught his shield for balance, “Tyr! Have you seen my sword?” He is drunk, Tyr realised, or else he would've remembered. “No, I haven't seen your sword. Didn't you give it away?” Freyr shook his head, his golden mane of hair swinging this way and that, “Oh! Oh right. Yes, I did give it away. Excuse me.” He walked away, swaying slightly, and crashed into an incoming messenger. Tyr heard him repeat the question.

Tyr walked over to where the other Gods were sitting on the higher platform. Odin looked grim, his one-eyed stare sweeping over the assembled warriors. His son Vioarr sat on the steps of the dais, fastening his greaves. “Look who decided to join us! Can you wield that sword you are wearing, God of single combat?” The mocking tones were plain. Tyr turned to face Thor. The muscular Thunder God was carrying Mjolnir, the great hammer that caused lightning, and a grin beneath a helmet too small to contain his fierce red hair. The air smelled strongly of ozone. “We shall see,” was all Tyr said.

Odin stood up then, the birds of fate flapping over his shoulders. “Aesir and Einherjar, Asgardians. This day has been foretold long ages ago. We face what is called Ragnarok. I, myself, shall perish in the coming battle, as will many of you, though you do not know the exact nature of your deaths.” He looked up at the ceiling and said quietly, “All things are certain. This even more so. Romanticism. Why not?” He looked back down at the silent mass of listeners, “All of you present here have proven your worth on the battlefield. I ask you now to return our hospitality and to fight beside us, at this hour of death and destruction. Will you fight?” The answering din of yells and the banging of swords and axes on shields left Tyr's ears ringing. “THEN FORWARD!”
***
Tyr was in the vanguard, as was his right as a God of War. He had been given command of a troop of Einherjar, but he was not included in the hushed conversation between Thor, Freyja and Odin. Freyja was there by right of being the commander of half the mortal warriors that came to Asgard. It was hard not to look at her. Her blonde hair flowed over her shoulder, her beautiful, pale face stern in the face of the fear that was surely gnawing at her, as it was gnawing on him. She looked otherworldly…

He tore his eyes away. His mind replayed her drunken words: you're as useful as a wooden sword. The rejection still rankled, but he tightened his jaw. I will not go with regrets. They were coming up on the end of Bifrost, The Rainbow Bridge that was Asgard's connection to Earth. To prevent the giants and enemies of the Heavens to come up on Asgard unawares, Heimdall had been placed on guard with the Golden Horn, the mighty blasts of which would warn the Gods of danger. Heimdall waited a little way further. “They are all here,” he said, as the host of Asgard approached and he pointed with the horn. Tyr looked over to the horizon and felt a catch in his breath.

The invaders stretched over the land like black grass. From the southern sky, the Musspell rode out, wreathed in flames. Surtr, their king, was at the head, carrying his brightly burning sword. Hrym, the frost giant with his mighty shield, came from the north with his people. Far into the sea, the water rolled and boiled and huge waves came crashing on the shore: the great sea serpent, Jormungandr, that held the world together, was awake and spitting venom. In the middle of it all stood Loki, released from his bonds, strong from a diet of the marrows of the sinners that his faithful wife Sigyn had fed him. Hel's troops had followed Loki, screaming obscenities at the Gods. They were herded by Garm, the guard dog of Hel. Prowling slowly, apart from the others, came the son of Loki, Fenrir, the Great Wolf. Tyr's stomach clenched at the sight of him and he felt a tingle in the lost sword arm.

Odin rode forward, not wasting any time. His golden helm glinted in the darkening light of the sun. He raised his spear, and Heimdall blew one last note on the Golden Horn and the Gods charged down the bridge towards their enemies.
***
Tyr pulled his sword out from the ruined throat of a frost giant. His shield had splintered some time ago, but he didn't seem bothered by the lack of protection. It had been long since he had felt so alive. He fought down the raging bloodlust in his veins and looked around for his troops. It surprised him that he had strayed from the right flank to the centre of the battle. It wasn't frost giants he was surrounded by now, but the sinners of Hel. He laid about him with his sword, ducking under slashes, sidestepping thrusts, his enemies floundering after him, despite the lack of a shield and his obvious handicap. Between foes, he tried to get a sense of the battlefield.

Thor was wrestling with Jormungandr, though none seemed to have the upper hand. Thor's sons held the right where Tyr had been a few moments ago. They actually seemed to be gaining ground there. Heimdall and Loki were trading blows with such fury that other combatants gave them a wide berth. He could see no sign of Freyja or Freyr who had taken their troops to meet Surtr on the left. Odin's golden standard could be seen a little way along the centre. Beyond it, a huge shadow moved in the darkness at the edges of the fight. Fenrir, Tyr knew. The fear that he had forgotten in the heat of battle clutched at his heart again. He gave ground slowly, against lesser foes, backing away, keeping a wary eye on the shadow. So when he heard a growl behind him, he knew it was the end.

As Tyr whirled around to face his foe, a comet of fur and fangs hit him in the chest. His sword went flying as he stumbled backwards and fell. His wrist seared in pain as it fell on an upturned axe. Through the bloody film that covered his eyes, Tyr looked up at the grinning teeth of Garm, Hel's dog. His body shook, and he looked up at the sky as laughter bubbled inside him and spilled out of his bleeding mouth. He laughed loud and hard, at the irony and bitterness of it all. A crippled God of War, killed by a guard dog! Garm looked at him in confusion for a second, before taking away his air. But the echoes of the laughter lingered over the battlefield.

By Kazim Ibn Sadique
Title paraphrased from an REM song


 

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