CHAPTER FIVE - BLOODLINE
The present ...
“Wake up, Liam,” a warm masculine voice said. “It’s time to open your eyes.”
But despite the natural note of command in that voice, Liam found he could not open his eyes. They seemed sealed shut. The rest of his body felt distant and it seemed an incredible burden to even twitch one of his fingers. He was tired, so tired and in pain of some sort. Not physical, but emotional though whenever he tried to figure out what was causing that pain he would unconsciously veer away from the answer.
“He flew far,” another male voice said, amused. This man sounded older, gruffer than the other, but there was still a musical tone to his words, an otherness that was beautiful. The amusement increased as he added, “He must be tired after all that flapping.”
Flew? Yes, I flew. I was fleeing. But what was I fleeing from?
“Father, you know that no flapping was required to get here. He activated the Bifrost. I don’t know how as it barred to us,” the first voice answered, irritated and amazed at the same time.
Bifrost? I’ve heard of that before. It’s the name of the mythical burning rainbow bridge between Earth and Asgard. But no Valkyrie can go to Asgard. It is solely the home of the Aesir, if any of them even exist other than Odin!
“You do know how, my son, you just do not want to accept how much influence he has on this bloodline,” the older voice pointed out, but with little heat. “I know that Liam is your favorite --”
“He fights like all our blood should fight! He is nothing like him!” the son snapped.
Bloodline? Are they -- they relatives? But who ...
“Again, you let your emotions lead you where logic would do far better,” the father sighed. “How else was he able to get through the Gash’s barrier and use the Bifrost if not because of his connection to --”
“Our betrayer? The traitor of all?” the son’s voice was bitter and acidic. “How do we not know the simple purity of his heart did not get him through the barrier? The strength of his soul?”
“After what we glimpsed of him and his brother you still think him pure?” Amusement was rampant in the father’s voice now.
And with those words Liam remembered what he had fled from and it felt like a boning knife slipping through his ribs and piercing his heart.
Cam. I – I violated Cam! Cameron’s face floated up in his mind’s eyes. The angelic halo of hair. The stunning blue eyes. The artistic hands. The darkness and loss that seemed to cling to the young man despite his youth and beauty. How could I not ask his name? How could I take a risk like that? He has my brother’s coloring and the same eyes. He is an artist. He is the right age. And I am drawn to him like a moth to a flame, like it has always been between us, but this time sexually Why did I not see the signs? Or did I and close my eyes to them?
“They seemed two halves of a whole to me, Father. I saw only love and need there. No corruption or evil,” the son replied mildly.
Love and need. Yes. Desperate need. Even more desperate love. But who are these people that they know these things about me and Cameron?
“Perhaps your mother is behind such a connection. It was she who wove the fate of that bloodline so that Liam and Cameron would come into the world at nearly the same time,” the father said. “Just when we needed them.”
“Just when Midgard needs them,” the son answered softly.
Midgard. Earth. That’s the Aesir’s name for Earth.
“He is strong. So strong. But he must be stronger and he must be awake,” the son said and a large hand was on Liam’s shoulder, shaking him. “You just wake, Liam!”
“We should let him wake naturally.”
“I fear if we do not wake him now that he will sleep forever,” the son said and Liam felt that large callused hand on his forehead. “Liam, can you hear me?”
Yes, I can, but I don’t want to wake. I don’t want to confront what I’ve done. Leave me be. Leave me alone!
“He can, but he does not know you or me yet and sees no reason to heed our requests. We need to give him an incentive to wake,” the father suggested. Something in his tone had Liam feeling that this one was clever and less straight-forward than his son.
“What do you suggest?” the son sounded suspicious confirming Liam’s thought that the older one was canny.
Liam heard the shift of cloth over wood as if a cloak were passing over a wooden floor. Then there was the warm rush of breath by his left ear. The father was leaning over him, lips practically pressed against his skin.. Such intimacy was unwelcome and yet to get away he would have to move, have to occupy his body rather than floating almost outside of it, and he would not do that.
“Liam,” the older man whispered and there was a hint of command in his voice and something familiar, too, as if Liam had heard that whisper before. “You must wake up. Cameron is in danger. So much danger. The Gash circles him even now.”
And that threat to his brother had Liam fighting to open his eyes. He would save Cameron! The Gash would not get him! His eyelids flew open, no longer sealed shut. His limbs moved at his command even as they tingled at the shock of nerves awakening from a long sleep.
“CAM!” Liam cried, rocketing upwards.
“Hold there, Liam. He is in danger, but not right this minute,” the son said gently. Liam looked towards the speaker, but could not see him. The dazzle of sunlight had him covering his eyes and blinking rapidly, but still everything looked to be a mix of gold and crimson. The son continued, “Evidently, your love for your brother is enough to rouse you from the deepest of sleeps. Mother must be behind this.”
“Yes, Frigg has been weaving, I think, Thor,” the father chuckled.
Thor … Frigg … No, this isn’t possible. The old gods are lost to us. We are separated from them forever or that is what Elda was told.
Liam’s eyes slowly began to adjust to the light and he could see where he was. He was lying in a rather magnificent bed with a gold frame and thick, white pelts as soft as anything he had every felt covering his bare body. The room was circular and all walls were made of glass except one where double door stood closed. He thought he heard the rush of water and when he looked out the nearest window to his right he saw a magnificent waterfall that looked to fall into … nothing. It fell forever.
“Liam Blake,” it was the son that spoke to him, saying his name as though it were a title.
Liam’s gaze snapped towards him. The son was a massive man, bigger than Liam, bare arms rippling with muscles. A deep crimson sleeveless silk tunic covered his heavily muscled chest. He had long legs encased in black leather pants and knee-high black suede boots. His blond hair fell in golden waves to his shoulders. A neatly trimmed beard framed an expressive mouth. Piercing sky blue eyes regarded him out of a handsome, aquiline face. But it was not his face that Liam’s gaze fixed upon, but the gigantic hammer with the strangely short handle attached to the belt at his waist.
A hammer? His father called him Thor. They spoke of the Bifrost and Frigg. The hammer is Mjolnir, the magic hammer that only Thor, the god of thunder, can wield!
Disbelief, followed by wonder, followed by the desire to prostrate himself before this god went through him. He stared at the hammer then back up at Thor’s face. The thunder god grinned.
“I see you have guessed my son’s identity,” the father chuckled. “Can you guess mine?”
Liam’s gaze swung to him. He was older than Thor, but both of them had a timeless quality and there was nothing infirm about this older man’s tall form. He was not as large as his son. Instead, he was leaner of build and ascetic looking. A dark grey cloak swathed his still formidable form. The hood was drawn over his head, but Liam could still see his handsome, weathered face and he immediately noted that one of the older man’s eyes was missing. In the myths, Odin had sacrificed one eye for wisdom. It seemed that some of the myths were true.
“Odin. Allfather,” Liam’s voice sounded rusty, but certain. He looked between the two men. “You are Thor and you are Odin.”
Liam tried to get off the bed and onto the ground to bow before them, but his limbs were still heavy and ungainly and resisted his efforts to move them swiftly. Thor grasped his shoulder and pushed him back down with an affectionate pat. Liam had always thought himself strong, but under Thor’s hand he felt like he had the strength of a child.
“Hold there, Liam, you need to recover yet. Give your body a chance to wake up,” Thor advised.
“But you’re gods. You’re Thor and Odin. I can’t just -- just sit in your presence!”
“A man like you should never bow,” Odin said though he did look pleased at the respect Liam was showing him. “Besides, you are family and we do not stand on ceremony among each other.”
“Family? We are family?” When the two gods nodded, Liam ran a hand through his long blond hair. “Am I dreaming?”
Thor grinned and clapped Liam’s bare shoulder with his large hand. Liam felt the warmth of his welcome. “Not anymore for which both of us are quite grateful. You are wide awake, I assure you.”
“You are a Valkyrie why would you doubt our existence?” Odin asked.
“It’s not that. It’s -- it’s the connection.”
“But we look alike,” Thor pointed out. “And you fight just like me.”
Liam’s gaze dropped to Mjolnir. “Not just like you, I think. I wield no hammer than can level mountains.”
“Perhaps not. But you fight with the same spirit!” Thor laughed as he patted the hammer.
“My son is quite impressed with you, Liam Blake. He watches you most of all the Valkyrie and not just because of your connection to us.” Odin gave his son a slow smile.
Thor arched an eyebrow at his father. “I am proud of him. Who would not be?”
“I am honored.” Liam tipped his head forward, but then he thought what else Thor must have watched and his skin prickled with shame. How could these two gods look at him with such affection and feel respect after what they had seen?
They cannot read minds. They likely think that I did not know it was Cam when I was with him and believe that now I must feel only horror at what happened. They would be wrong.
But then he saw Odin’s single eyes glittering at him and he quickly said, “I believe I have heard your voice before in Valhalla, Allfather. It was faint, but I could feel --”
“My intent. Yes, you are not mistaken. You heard my voice,” Odin answered him.
“You are the first to hear Father since Elda,” Thor explained, more pride in his voice.
“But you hear me far more easily and with far more understanding than anyone even our most revered Valkyrie Elda,” Odin qualified.
“Is that because we are … related?” Liam asked.
Odin and Thor shared an amused look between them before Odin answered, “Once upon a time, we were able to tread the ground of Midgard and we shared our blood with many a young lad and lass. Those myriad bloodlines were woven together by my beloved wife Frigg ensuring that instead of our influence being diluted over the generations, it was strengthened.”
“You mated with humans? That’s what you mean?” Liam asked, his cheeks burning at the thought.
Thor nodded without any embarrassment. “You have bloodlines from myself, my father and …” A strange look crossed his handsome face, but he smoothed it away and added, “And another. All have added to your strength and courage.”
Liam wanted to ask who this “other” was, but he was distracted as he looked past Thor to the city that lay outside the walls of windows. What he saw outside them had his heart clenching at the exquisite beauty. There were countless pure white towers that seemed to spear the peerless blue sky, silver topped domes that glittered like stars and crystalline palaces that appeared too delicate to be real. There were walkways seemingly made of colored glass that stretched spiderweb thin between the towering structures. There was lush trees and flowering plants everywhere. All seemed to float upon an enormous blue lake.
“Where – where are we?” Liam asked.
“Welcome to Asgard, Liam,” Odin said with a subtle smile.
“Asgard?” Liam blinked and craned his neck. “I’m in Asgard? Really in Asgard?”
“Yes, you are the first to use the Bifrost and cross between Midgard and Asgard in close to 1500 years,” Thor answered and there was such longing and frustration in his voice that Liam dragged his gaze from the gleaming silver and white city to him.
“You sound as if you would like to come to Earth. Why don’t you?” Liam asked. “You could destroy the Gash in moments with Mjolnir.”
Odin glanced at Thor again and a meaningful look was exchanged. He then said, “While shame and anguish allowed you to fly farther than any Valkyrie has before, Liam, I think it is fated for you to have come here now. We have much to tell you before you return to Midgard.”
Shame and anguish? They do know everything. Liam gulped as he heard the memory of Cameron’s voice calling out his name as he had fled from the brother he had defiled.
“If he can return, Father.” Thor’s hand went and gripped the haft of Mjolnir. His knuckles whitened as he tightened his hold. “We have no certainty that the Bifrost will send him home.”
“If?” Liam nearly leaped from the bed. “You said my brother was in danger. I have to get back to him!”
“He is and you will. Thor, as much as Liam is of our blood, he is not us and I believe the same power that allowed him to slip past the Gash’s barrier and use the Bifrost to get here will allow him to pass back.” Odin raised a hand and seemed to pat the air before his son to calm him.
Thor’s shoulders slumped. “To be trapped here when battle with the Gash is ongoing on Earth? It is the heaviest burden I have ever carried.”
“You are trapped here by the Gash?” Liam clarified, looking between the two men.
“As my father said, there is much to tell you, but I imagine you would like some pants on to hear it.” A smile twitched at Thor’s lips and Liam looked down at his lap. In his agitation about Cameron the furs had mostly slipped off of him. He quickly pulled them back up, cheeks heating.
“We will await you in the antechamber.” Thor pointed to the closed double wood doors with scrolling silver hinges. “Clothes are on the divan to your right. They should fit you. You’re not that much smaller than me.”
Mentally measuring Thor’s height and breadth against his own, Liam thought that the clothes wouldn’t exactly swim on him, but they would be looser than he was used to.
“Thank you,” Liam said as the two men left the room and closed the doors behind them.
He immediately got out of the bed and padded across what looked like lapis lazuli floors threaded with silver to an elaborately carved divan. On the divan’s fur cushion was a pair of dark grey leggings, a white tunic stitched with silver, a woven leather belt and a pair of knee-high black boots. Despite these clothes being Thor’s they fit him far better than he had hoped. The boots seemed made for him. He was about to turn to the doors to go out and meet the two gods when he looked outside. Once more, his breath caught at the sheer beauty of Asgard.
Cam would love it here. He would have to paint every aspect of it. I can see how some of his statues would fit in this place as well.
But the moment he thought of Cameron two warring emotions awakened within him. The first was shame. He had violated his brother. His beloved Cameron. What was worse was that he could still feel Cameron’s mouth on his, he could still taste his brother on his tongue, and he longed to feel and taste him again. He put his head in his hands for a moment and scrubbed his face.
What does it say about me that I STILL want him even MORE now that I know who he is?
But it was the second emotion that had him lowering his hands, turning away from the beguiling view and heading towards the double doors. He needed to find out what Thor and Odin had to tell him then he should try to return to Earth though he had no idea how to do that. He had no idea how he had gotten here in the first place. How he had activated the Bifrost. All was a blank.
I just had been trying to get away from what I had done. But that was wrong of me. I left Cam alone to face the news that I still exist and the consequences of what we had just done together. What must he be thinking and feeling now? Last time I left him against my will. This time … it was my choice. I must get back to him.
Liam pushed the double doors open and before him was another circular room, but this one was sheathed in pale marble. Like the spokes of a wheel, more doors like the ones to the bedroom Liam had been resting in dotted the walls. He expected to see Thor and Odin waiting for him there, but instead there was a woman with hair the color of straw and Thor’s startling blue eyes. Liam found himself bowing.
“You must be Frigg,” Liam said still looking at the floor. In the myths, Frigg was Odin’s wife and Thor’s mother. It appeared that this was true as well. She also was said to have the gift of foretelling.
She let out a delighted laugh. “And you are Liam. I feel we know one another so well! I have watched you grow up and become the fierce Valkyrie you are now. But I forget I am a stranger to you. But please rise! I want no such formality between us.”
Liam rose with a grateful smile and looked upon the goddess. Frigg’s long blond hair brushed the waist of her aquamarine slip dress with gold ornaments that tinkled softly as she moved to clasp his hands in her dainty ones. Her skin was as pale and cool as cream.
“It is an honor to meet you,” he said.
“And you. I wanted to speak with you alone for a bit before we rejoined the Allfather and Thor. I sent them on ahead to the feasting hall to make sure there was food and drink aplenty for you there.” She laughed indulgently as she added, “I believe that they were so excited to meet you that they forgot their manners entirely.”
“They were more than kind, but …” Liam worried his inner cheek as he tried to find a way to say that he had to leave as soon as possible, that he had no time for feasting, without being rude.
“I know what you will say: you must go to Cameron! You cannot waste a moment on indulgence in food and drink!”
“I was,” he admitted with a sheepish smile.
“This time is not wasted. The sustenance you take in here will increase your strength when you return,” she assured him, staring up at him with those intense blue eyes that seemed to see more than just the outside of him. “And there is so much to tell you. We might as well fill our bodies as well as our minds.”
“I see. I will not object then to any such feast.”
She looped her arm through his and they walked through the doors opposite the bedroom he had emerged from. This doorway led into a hallway that ran along the outside of the city. Through the arched openings to Liam’s left he could see dozens of other islands, filled with the delicate white stone towers, floating on top of the lake. It was a dazzling sight that hardly looked real.
“What did you wish to speak to me about?” Liam asked after finally dragging his gaze away from the fantastic structures.
“How much do you know about us? About the Aesir?” she asked.
“I know some things such as that the Aesir are the pantheon of Gods in the Norse religion. Odin, you, Thor, Baldr and Tyr are the highest of all the gods. I’m just not sure how much of what I know is true. I tried to stay away from reading a lot of the mythology to be honest,” Liam explained. “I didn’t want my expectations to color what I … I felt or sensed is a better word, I guess, to be true.”
“Even though you found yourself an immortal Valkyrie living in Valhalla and you heard Odin himself in your mind you doubted the old tales?” Her blue eyes were full of mischief.
“Touche. But that was … real. Confirmed, if you will.” Liam struggled to explain his thoughts on the rest of the mythology that he had read. “The rest seems fanciful and, clearly, can’t be true. If Ragnarock had happened then all of you would be dead or in Helheim at best, but not here.”
Ragnarock was essentially the Norse version of the end of days. In it, Odin, Thor and many of the other gods were killed in a battle against Loki, his children and other giants. The world was then submerged in water before resurfacing and two humans appearing to repopulate it.
She nodded. “You are correct. The old tales are just stories. Truth, lies, exaggerations, and misinterpretations are rampant in them.”
“So what is the truth?”
“To tell you that would take lifetimes.” Her laughter was musical. “But I can tell you what you need to know for now to aid you against the Gash.”
“The Gash is in none of the myths.” He looked down at her as he said that and he saw a shadow cross her lovely face.
“No, it is not.” She let out a breath. “But it is real. All too real.”
“What is the Gash? What connection does it have to the Aesir? Why are you trapped here by it?” The questions poured out of Liam as they passed under an arched doorway that led back inside the city. Liam smelled the delicious, rich scents of roasting beef and chicken. There was laughter and eager conversation up ahead. It sounded rather like a party or a feast. The temperature rose as well and Liam caught a glimpse of roaring fires before Frigg stopped and turned to him.
“The Gash came from the darkness between the realms,” she said, her face looking drawn in the dimmer light of this hall. “It’s twin purposes are to corrupt and then to destroy. We, the Aesir, were able to trap the Gash on Midgard. We intended to destroy it there, but then we lost our ability to leave Asgard. The Bifrost became closed to us.”
“But I managed to use it. Thor and Odin said so!”
She closed one of her hands over his forearm. Her gaze was intent. There were no smiles wreathing her lips. “You did. You were able to because of another aspect of your bloodline.”
“What aspect?” Liam tensed as he remembered how Thor and Odin had spoken of another influence on him.
Her voice was cast so low that when she spoke next Liam wasn’t sure he heard her correctly, but what he thought she said was, “Genius and madness. Magic and mayhem. These are the gifts and terrors that Loki’s blood brings to you.”