“Freya? What happened to Visendakona,” asked Astrid.

“I am her and she is me,” said the goddess that stared into Astrid’s eyes.

Steam billowed around them as the fiery earth cooled underneath the steady torrent of rain. Water dripped off of Astrid’s braids as she looked back into Freya’s eyes. They were the kind gentle eyes of the old sorceress, but the face that they were part of had no wrinkles, the hair they sat beneath was now jet black, the body beneath young and beautiful.

“Why,” asked Astrid.

“Why? Why what?”

“Why did you wait until now to reveal yourself, why didn’t you step in when Logi appeared?”

“I needed you to prove your courage, prove that you had a warrior’s heart. That you could kill a god. That Odin chose you correctly.”

“And my visions weren’t enough proof?”

“Any mortal can have visions, Astrid. They just have to pay attention. Odin chooses but few. He sent me to earth years ago to watch you, to travel with you when this time came, I hesitated, though. Watching you grow up through the years, I doubted that he chose wisely, so I stayed hidden and waited for you to prove yourself. And you did here, tonight.”

The rain continued to fall as Astrid tried to understand. She was chosen from birth; for what she did not know. Visendakona never was, she was a goddess in disguise. A million thoughts flew through her mind.

Then, as if in response, the two ravens from her dreams broke through the steamy fog, flying frantically toward Freya and her.

“He is wounded,” they cried in unison, circling the women, “he is wounded. The All-Father is dying! Come, quickly!”

Then, as quickly as they appeared they flew off to the east, parting the steam with the flapping of their wings. Freya looked down at the ground, her eyes lost. Odin was on death’s bed, a turn of events she had not expected. Astrid walked over and embraced her, then whispered into her ear:

“This is no time for shock, it is time to act. The All-Father is not dead yet. We must fly to his side.”

Freya nodded as Astrid took her hand and began running east, up the far side of the crater.

#

Odin lay on a bed of goose down soaked in his royal blood. He had been pierced by the spear of Fenrir just below his heart. Frigg lay beside him, victim of Fenrir’s father and her son, Loki. The spell he had cast spread a deathly pallor over her as she faded. The servants brought them medicine to slow their departure, but it was all just putting off that which was inevitable. The All-Father and his wife would die. They only intended to hold on long enough to see Freya and Odin’s chosen.

Freya burst through the door in a panic as Astrid walked in sheepishly behind her.

“Sister,” Freya cried, “the crows only told me of Odin. Must I lose you, too?”

“I am afraid so, sister,” said Frigg, taking her hand, “Loki and Fenrir have joined The Interloper. They wish to end the reign of the elder gods.”

“What are we to do, sister?”

Upon Freya asking this question, Odin spoke:

“Astrid, you have arrived. Good, good. It is not too late, my eye is not too dim to see nor my voice too weak to speak. Tell me, dear girl, have you received my sword?”

“Yes, All-Father,” replied Astrid, in awe of the dying god before her, “your ravens delivered it to me.”

“Ah yes, the boys,” he said, looking over to the ravens perched beside the bed, “they are silly creatures, but so very smart. And loyal, a trait that is in short supply these days.

Frigg coughed weakly in the bed beside Odin. He squeezed her hand gently, “if only I could break Loki’s enchantment.”

“No, no dear,” replied Frigg, “we shall be together in death, just as we were in life. And we shall join our sons Baldur and Thor in the afterlife.”

“Thor and Baldur are dead, as well?” whispered Freya.

“Yes, dear sister. There are not many of us left. And The Interloper has now called upon the mightiest of his believers to fight by his side. Soon, we shall all be gone.”

“Astrid,” said Odin, “your husband is the general of The Interloper’s troops. Hrothgar is his mightiest warrior. You must go to him. You must turn him against The Interloper, return him to the old ways.”

“How, All-Father?” asked Astrid.

“Cross Bifrost, travel to my throne room. Face The Interloper. He will not notice one mortal and if he does, he will not see you as a threat, so your path will be safe. Challenge him in front of his general, your husband.”

“Won’t Hrothgar be duty bound to defend him?”

“Yes, but gods demand sacrifices.”

“So, I must…”

“It remains to be seen. There are many different kinds of sacrifice, dear Astrid. Freya will accompany you as far as she can. My time has come.”

A bellowing cough filled the room as blood drained from Odin’s spear wound. Frigg’s skin began to darken as she, too, began to take her leave. Odin squeezed her hand and she squeezed back. The cough dispersed and, finally, Odin looked over at Frigg.

“I love you,” he mouthed to her, his breath almost gone.

Frigg nodded and smiled at him, using the last of her strength to embrace him.

And in this way, Odin and Frigg passed into twilight.

#

Outside of Odin’s tent stood Bifrost, a burning rainbow, the road to Asgard. Astrid stared out the flap at its colorful surface, mesmerized by its beauty. The surface glowed spectacularly, the spectrum of colors vibrantly vibrating as if alive. She could not see the path’s apex, for it climbed so high into the sky. It stood against the starkness of the dark sky as if in protest of its dismalness. Freya approached her, drying the tears of mourning for her lost sister.

“The time to end this has come, Astrid,” Freya said as she pushed past Astrid and walked towards the bridge.

Astrid followed behind her, watching in wonder at the determination with which Freya walked. As her feet touched the head of Bifrost, Freya stopped and watched as it rippled around her foot.

“When we were girls, Frigg and I, we travelled on Bifrost between the nine worlds often. We followed our feet into whatever adventures that they would lead us. We fought frost giants and teased the demi-gods. Most of all, we watched Midgard; your earth; and laughed at how you mortals lived. All the dirt and grime through which you crawled, carving out a living on harsh land, no magic to speak of. Then, as we grew, we saw that you had true power, the power to change the land through will and hard work. You didn’t need magic, yet you continued to worship and pray to us.

“Frigg and I, we swore to watch over you, then. Help where we could, but you didn’t need us. You grew strong even when we couldn’t intercede. Now, I see that it is us, all of us gods, that needed you and need you now. You and your kind amaze me in your tenacity and perseverance. I am grateful that I get to fight beside you, Astrid, in this last fight,” Freya smiled at Astrid, then, “You remind me of her, you know? Frigg was just as tough and stubborn and honorable when she was young.”

Freya took Astrid’s hand and brought her onto Bifrost beside her, “You are the first mortal to tread upon this bridge; The Interloper bore his warriors upon a comet,” she said, looking at the wonder on Astrid’s face, “Now, let’s go kill a god.”

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