StormWarning by TQ


Something Wicked

by Daniel Kaden

Copyright, 2003 Daniel Kaden.
This material may not be reproduced or distributed in any form
without express written permission of the author.



He stirs in a sleep like Death, so cold. A world of which he knows nothing howls around him; he hears its voice, and to him it is the voice of the Valkyrie. Great White Crow.

Carrion Angel.

Wake now!

He came to the world lying on his side in a patch of dead thorns, half-buried beneath a blanket of snow. His good eye shifted fitfully beneath the lid, then snapped open. Then he was on his feet, striking blind at the near-solid walls of snow the wind threw at him, aiming killing blows at enemies who were long gone. The wind stilled, and he realized dimly that he was screaming.

Suddenly -- perhaps from everywhere, perhaps from nowhere at all -- a double-voice like a dark tide whispered:

Be still, Father. We are with you.

He looked around him. "Show yourself, Demon." An icy grin burned on his face, and his next words carried the promise of Death with them; "Show me your face." His fists clenched and unclenched at his sides.

Hold your ire, Father, the voice rode the wind back to him. We are of you. These words made ice of the old man's blood; the smile flickered and died on his face, and the winter chill of that alien world bit him to the bone.

"Enough!" he roared -- Death stalked him, and like a fool he stood here arguing with his own ghost! His eyes swept the horizon again, not for the dead this time but for the living, for the smoke that would lead him to desperately needed shelter.

The great sky-blue cloak that trailed from his broad shoulders snapped angrily in a wind it could but barely turn. His hair, long, wild and as white as the snow that dusted it, whipped about his battle-scarred face, a face from which one eye blazed as blue flame.

He reached up, readjusted the rough leather patch that covered the empty socket of his other eye, and stared into the white walls of the wind as though his gaze alone could burn through to show him what he sought.

Finally, the horizon did open up to him; the remains of a high stone wall shivered in the grip of the blizzard. He staggered, fell and rose up running.

That way lies Death, Father. the Voice whispered. Approach it not.

The old man uttered a short bark of mirthless laughter. "Death surrounds me, Demon," he replied, "and I fear it not; but I would be out of this damned wind!" As if on cue, the wind gusted, chilling him to the core and quickening his steps.

We can warn you, Father, the Voice was sorrowful now, but we cannot bend your will. See this golgotha, then -- but see it through our eyes, that you may see the Truth.

A shape emerged from the curtain of windborne snow, as black as the world was white. The old man stumbled, stopped, his breath caught in his throat by what he saw. A crow came gliding serenely toward him; the winds that threatened to send him off his feet and into the snow did not dare touch it.

We come, Father, it whispered in its dark double-voice. We come to show you the world behind this veil.

The old man shivered. "If this world is in disguise, Demon, I don't think I want to see the face beneath."

That is a choice best not left to you, the crow whispered, and then it was too late for argument; it was upon him. The old man staggered under the combined impact of the bird and the battering wind, fell to his knees in the powder snow. Then darkness stole his sight; he felt the cool smooth run of the obsidian beak as it caressed his ear, his throat, and he would have screamed, but his voice had fled.

Instead, the voice of the crow began to whisper through his head, to whisper a chant that set his heart hammering in his chest with dark emotion because, inexplicably, he knew the words:

We set our hearts to burning;

We set our Eyes aflame;

We set our Path on learning

Our enemy's true Name.

The Hour of our destruction

Draws near, quickens our pace.

Make plain the Source of Chaos,

Make plain our enemy's Face.

The world of wind and snow vanished in a stroke of lightning, left behind only the heavy tang of ozone. The wind, hot and acrid now, still carried the debris of the world through which it danced -- except that what stirred in the air here was not snow but finely ground ash.

He struggled to his feet, took in the sight before him, and felt his throat tighten with -- what? Rage? Anguish? Why these things? His face was a battlefield.

Within the stone wall that marked its outer perimeter, a city; or, rather, a city's remains. Rubble lay everywhere, the blackened bones of houses casting shattered shadows into the streets. And then the crow, still perched on his shoulder, leaned closer. Welcome home, Father.

If he heard this, the old man gave no sign.

The city was dead, but not abandoned. A few pitiful shacks squatted in the dust, huddling against the scouring wind. Some of the windows burned with a greasy, dawn-tinted light. There the old man would find out ....

(Welcome home, Father.)

...what had happened here. He started forward.

No! The crow's beak darted behind the old man's jaw, just beneath his ear, expertly pinched the soft flesh there; the old man cried out.

Before he could curse it, the crow overrode him: Look, Father! Look closer!

He did... and saw that the buildings were alive, alive with half-hidden taloned things that scurried and screeched and bred and died in bestial madness among the trash, things whose eyes left searing tracers in the pre-dawn darkness. Their laughter exploded like glittering black glass against the silence; it stretched, became distorted, until the world howled with it.

The old man shuddered. "What are--"

Be still, the crow shifted on his shoulder, ruffled its wings. You'll see.

As he watched, the crow's words came true. A pack of the creatures raced, chittering, up the side of a pitted stone wall to the foot of a colossal statue, a statue whose face the old man recognized with a shock--

He enters their bedchamber in the Great Hall, hangs his cloak on a sturdy peg inset upon the wall. She pretends to sew, the flying needle shining as silver flame between her fingers... but he senses her anger like black smoke, acrid and bitter.

"How goes it, Vena?" he asks.

"What is it to you?" she snaps, her fingers flying the needle still.

He sighs, knowing she has still not forgiven him after all these long years. This rift between them is old and faded, a blanket of unspoken bitterness that has brought no comfort. It is time, he decides, to throw that blanket away.

"I have known for some time," he begins, "that you disapprove of my decision to send them away. You must trust me, my wife -- it is for the best."

Her fingers snap to a halt; she stands abruptly, hands at her sides, her face a mask of defiance and rage. "Best for whom?" she demands. "Them? Sent away from their family to be raised by bumbling dust-monkeys, and for what? To protect them from some ludicrous calamity that only you have foreseen!"

He tries to explain. "Vena --"

"No!" She won't hear it. Her fury is building; every item on every shelf in the room is buzzing angrily in sympathy. "Your way is not the right way! Not this time! Damn your arrogance! Damn your Sight! Damn you!"

She screams -- and at the sound, every inanimate object in the room explodes. Shards of wood, glass, metal, stone and porcelain become a whirlwind of destruction.

He takes his sobbing wife in his arms; at his outstretched hand, the destruction freezes in midair. At his thought, the debris returns to its assigned forms and places.

He looked on that beloved face etched in white stone, those... things racing toward it, and he roared -- the crow's words ...

(Welcome home.)

... had finally struck their mark.

"You! Fucking bastard rats! Get off--"

Be still!

"No! I--!"

SILENCE! the crow's voice thundered in his head; his hands flew to his ears. If those things swarm you now, none of this matters! It ruffled its wings, sullen. Just be still. And watch.

(To be continued)


Something Wicked
"Chapter Two"

The creatures swarmed over the statue's stone head, over the face of Vena, Queen of the Valkyries, the only real friend the old man ever had -- and, squealing, began to tunnel into it, their sharp little teeth ripping through it as easily as through soft, warm flesh.

And in the absence of the wind's moan, in the diseased half-light of what was to be the last dawn for a burned down world, the stone goddess screamed.

The old man screamed in a chorus of rage, and the crow was whispering again, the world graying, fading, dropping out from around him...

We dream of Time and Memory;

We dream the Past awake.

We dream us there to show this one.

The Future that's at stake.

We dream us back to Asgeyr's fall.

We dream the Battle through.

And all of this we pray we dream.

To make the dream untrue.

Lightning snapped across his vision again, and now the dead city was a shell of flame, staining the skies with heavy smoke. Battalions of armored men and women charged the field beyond the city wall; in the violet smoke of sunset, their blades winked and flared. Someone or something roared not five feet from him, and the old man threw himself to the side as a massive spiked hammer, its head the size of his own, split the air where his skull had been a moment earlier.

A deathscream heralded an explosion of blood, brain and bone beside the old man; as he looked, a young soldier fell, his skull smashed, his sword meaningless in his lifeless hand. The young soldier's enemy -- a gigantic proto-human animal with, the old man decided in disgust, more hair than brains -- roared with obscene mirth and ripped the hammer from his victim's remains. The


(Storm Giant)

raised the hammer, drove the shaft up over its shoulder, snarled as he brought the massive weapon to apogee --

and was blasted nearly in half by a liquid shadow, a massive wolf of deepest jet.

Too close, Father. The crow, a wolf now, its ebon fangs tearing through the giant's throat, chided. Too close.

He looked away from the gore, set his eyes toward the fringe of burning blood-gold the sun made as it seared the horizon... and saw something that soured his soul.

Over the battlefield, attracted perhaps to the coppery tang of fresh blood on the air or perhaps simply to the madness of Battle itself, he could almost see masses of something floundering, flailing, almost dancing, Things formless, bodiless, from which the light of the setting sun shied away... and something else; the pounding of running feet, of hammers smashing unfortunate skulls sounded out across the fields, the returning echoes like irrhythmical, muffled drum-beats. And the wind's high, fluting keen, so much like a demonic flute...

The old man's heart pounded a triphammer beat in his chest. What was this? Formshifting demons who spoke in his head, armies of giants slaughtering the people of some strange city,


entire worlds changing in the blink of an eye, and this enemy, these Things -- no more. He would have no further part in any of this. He turned to run --

and found his way blocked by a man on horseback, a man wielding a hammer of his own, deadlier than any carried by the enemy. The man on horseback turned, looked down, his face framed by wild, white hair.

Time froze while the man on horseback and the man on the ground stared into identical faces, one the face of a tired, wind-beaten old man... the other the face of a terrified god.

They stood like that, mute and frozen, each disbelieving what he saw, until the face of the god hardened; he looked straight into his own face, twisting the demon-crow's spell, bending Time to his will, and spoke a single word that promised everything, doomed everything: "Worldstorm."

"No!" The old man's face crumpled and the world darkened around him; the spell was broken, the past nothing more than dust and charred bones. Valhalla, the great city, his city, was again dead, and in her corpse, Silence raged. He sank to his knees in the flying dust, his face ashen, his good eye tightly shut. For a space of minutes, he made no sound. When he looked up, tears coursed his cheeks... but the light of madness was back in his eye, and the crow, wolf no longer, nearly shouted with the joy of it.

He remembered a little; he had been Odin, the Allfather, King of the Aesir... but who was he now?

But one thing came first. "Tell me your name, Demon. If you are to be my guide through Hell, tell me your name."


Something Wicked
"Chapter Three"

The crow was silent. Then:

We are Legion. The Wheel has been set to spinning, Father. Can you feel it?

Thunder rocked the sky again; bird and man recoiled from the hot, bitter scent of ionized snow on the wind. The old man, shaking, pulled his cloak tighter around him. He could feel it, spinning inside his skull. His mind was a tornado inside his head; memories blurred into visions, visions into memories -- past, present, future, and he could contain it no more.

"Help me!" he sobbed into the raging storm of wind and moorless mind. "I can't be all there is! I can't be the highest power in this place! If there is someone else, if you're out there, help me!" The only voice inside his head that seemed to be whole, that of Legion, sighed.

There can be no help for you now, Father. You know it as well as we. That body you wear has been touched by Them, and it is damned.

"Those Things I saw..." The old man shuddered.

You have looked on the First Ones, Father; you have watched them dance in the light our world's final sunset, and the sight of it has stained you. You cannot save yourself, but you can save what remains of the Nine Worlds. There must be a sacrifice, as of old. Remember.

(His vision is fading, drowning in waves of blackness... and at the end of his life, with the noose he had tied so exactingly still tightening by microns around his throat, after the sun has risen and set nine times over the gallows from which his lifeless body swings in the clear Nordic air, there is contact.

We are Stormangel, a voice rolls out of the dark fibers of his approaching death. And we bless the sacrifice that is given here. Father of the Aesir, Sorcerer-King of the Children of the North Wind, you have made sacrifice, yourself unto yourself, and it is good to us. Now speak your Will unto us, that we may see it served.)

Then, all he had needed of the Source, of Stormangel, were the secrets by which he could manipulate the small things of mind and heart, matter and energy, and Stormangel had given him the Runes, engraved the sigils of power on his soul as easily as white iron leaves its mark in flesh. This time, it seemed, the thing he must ask could not possibly be within Stormangel's power to grant him... but too much hinged on the consequences of inaction not to try.

You have come half-circle, Father, Legion intoned, from Life to Death to Unlife. To cleanse the stain of the First Ones, to regain your full measure of Life, you must give this half-life up. You must be erased.

Without a word, Odin stood and removed his cloak, let the icy wind rip it away. He began to walk with as much dignity as the knee-deep drifts would allow. "I have no rope this time, Legion, no tree to swing from... but I think the Stormangel shall have talk with an icicle as soon as with a windchime." Odin tried to laugh, but the sound was frozen in his throat. He started to remove his shirt, his nerveless fingers fumbling the leather thong that bound it shut.

At last he succeeded in loosening it; he pulled it over his head, and nearly lost his nerve when the wind chill hit his bare chest, his back. He could feel his insides coiling like frightened snakes. Through chattering teeth, he asked, "Legion, where is Death, and how will I find my way back?" He had to speak more slowly now; the cold was already making mud of his words. "This part perhaps I still do not remember."

Nor should you, Father. the crow replied. For you have never truly ceased, and perhaps you never will. After a few minutes, the crow offered all the advice on the subject it had: It is a dark Road, Father, and swift; keep your eye upon the Way.

After another hour of walking, the old man fell back into the snow from which he'd risen; Legion lit beside the body. The chest rose, fell... and did not rise again.



The word echoes, rolls gently across a sea of darkness. But he cannot sleep; his dreams are restless. Falling hammers, their heads trailing blood and bone, burn in his eyes. Screams are choked off in his ears. Smoke stings his nostrils, bitter smoke in the dark. There is smoke, fire, burning, and yet he is ice, frozen into a dream from which he cannot wake, must wake, the Valkyrie calls him--

The past is dead. A voice rolls like a tidal wave over his mad thoughts, drowning them in cool power. But we are not. We are what was, what is, and what is to be. We are Stormangel.

"What's going on here?" he asks.

You are reborn. And you have work to do.

What do I have to do?" He can feel this Presence now, this


far away, an immense source of mind-numbing light, emanating from some object he can't quite make out.

You were called Lord of the Wild Hunt once. Ride, for the Hunt is on.

"Kill those things, you mean. How--"

Three of your children remain; Vidar, Saga and Vor. They walk Midgeyr, though the humans know naught of their blood, nor they themselves. They are your Army, and they alone can know the way to bring final Death to the First Ones. This is why you sent them, though even you knew it not. But you have no time to waste; you may be able to reach the eldest, Vidar, through the Drymgrind, the Gate of Dreams. The Voice grows silent.

"Tell me this one thing, Stormangel." the dead god's voice regains for a moment its old edge of command; for a moment, he is once more Odin, Chief of the Aesir. "Tell me the name of the one who betrayed us to the First Ones and so gave victory to the Thursar."

Have you forgotten so much? Stormangel's voice is cold. The traitor is your own brother. He is reborn by Them.

"I suspected the answer, Stormangel." he replies, his heart downcast. "It was my hope that I be wrong."

Stormangel seems to nod in sympathy, though how he can sense this the dead god has no idea. Loki is dead, and a thing called Exodus wears your brother's Aspect. He is to be their Conduit. It is through him that they hope to take Midgeyr, and through Midgeyr to integrate themselves into the Stormcore itself.

[To be continued]


Something Wicked

"The Core!" the dead god's voice rings in the void. "They can't! It's--"

Impossible? Stormangel sends ripples of sardonic laughter cascading over the dead god. You forget... they are impossible. Regardless of notions of possibility or impossibility, they mean to try. It's the only way they can retake their old dominion now. It is through you and your children that we must deal with them. Seek out this Exodus, kill him before he reaches the Worldgrind, or it falls to your children, who may too easily be led aside. Think well on this. Stormangel falls silent.

He has one last question, and it hangs in his mouth. Fear nearly prevents him from asking the thing he most wants to know. "Who am I? Who am I now?"

You are your world. The voice is suddenly harsh. Your world is ash now... and so are you.

The gentle wave of Stormangel's voice is gentle no longer. Its last word strikes him, drowns him, smashes him aside, and now he is careening through chambers more sensed than seen, tumbling from one blackness to another, from tomb to womb, and the only sound is the sound of his own--

--footsteps, Legion was certain of the sound now. The crow cocked its head, listened more closely. Beside him, the body of the old man lay caked in a thin layer of ice. The crow had nested here beside, it, waiting. Finally, it seemed, the waiting was over.

A man-shape, tall and powerfully built, strode toward him against the wind. The face was hidden in the shadow of a broad-brimmed black hat, the form enshrouded in the folds of a black duster, but the stride was regal, the set of shoulder and jaw was that of a king.

Ash. the crow called. Midgeyr--

"I know." Ash replied. He was the same, and yet he had changed. The face that gazed down on the crow from a pair of pupilless golden eyes was younger, the once-white hair the shade of ink. "I remember now, Legion. I remember... almost everything. We have work to do. I'll need wheels, and a weapon."

Follow, Legion replied, and leaped from his place beside the body in a blast of black wings. Ash followed. The crow lit in the snow at the base of Valhalla's stone wall. Inside.

Ash had had enough of the snow, the cold. It was time to test whether or not he was truly whole again. He closed his eyes, concentrated... and pushed the illusion apart. When he opened them, the world was desert, hardpack, without even dunes to give it shape.

At the base of Valhalla's wall, a heavy iron door was set into the baked earth at an angle. He reached down, pulled it open, and descended into the shadows, Legion dancing for an instant on his hat. And in that place under the desert, a newborn god's eyes burned.

As Ash descended the final stair, a gigantic spider dropped onto his hand. The monstrous creature, not accustomed to the surface under it being in motion, turned to thoughts of striking out--and died instantly, its primitive brain sizzling in its shell at the brush of Ash's thought.

Barely noticing, Ash swept it off his hand to the floor, and moved on.

Iron horse for you. Legion said softly as Ash stood above a motorcycle, all black and gleaming steel, a beast made to ravage highways. The brand on its tank proclaimed it a Harley-Davidson Valhalla Glide; Ash looked, and saw that it was good. A small smile touched his lips.

Then he looked to the left, and saw what was mounted in a rack on the wall there, and the smile turned bitter.

Your son's Hammer. Legion's onyx head was bowed in grief and respect. Destroyer.

The Hammer was a hammer no longer; it, too, was reborn. Ash tok the shotgun gently from the rack, and almost unconsciously inspected the barrel and receiver for rust. There was none, of course. He worked the pump; the bitter scent of ozone drifted from the gun, and its pistol grip hummed with barely contained energy.

These things were all of his war cache, and these things were enough. He swung his leg over the Valhalla Glide's saddle, dropped Destroyer into its scabbard there, and kicked the cycle's engine into roaring life.

The Storm comes quickly, Father. Legion ruffled his wings, restless.

"Then we go to meet it!" Ash replied, and blasted up the ramp and out into the fire of the rising sun, the crow a dark windrider at his side.

And in the distance, thunder rolled.

-The End