The Dark and Shadowy Places

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Coming Back Again

I could still see the footprints, etched in the mud, as is preserved for eternity. I never thought I would be coming back again, back to this place that haunts my thoughts daily, as well as my dreams.

After it happened, I left, as quickly as I could and didn’t look back. It was still mostly dark – the sun had not yet risen and a hazy glow on the horizon was the only indication that dawn was near. It was too dark to see the blood that had been spilled on the ground, and for that I was thankful.

A heavy hand fell on my shoulder, making me jump.

“Sorry,” the owner of the hand said. “Didn’t mean to scare you. It’s just…you’ve been standing here for fifteen minutes. I thought you’d turned into one of Medusa’s statues or something!” A laugh barked loudly near my ear and I jumped again. This place had me on edge.

I turned and looked at my companion. “Don’t remind me of Medusa!” I almost shouted in the pre-dawn quiet. I tried not to sound bitter or angry, but I don’t think it worked.

The man who had come to me took a step back and I saw his wings fold up tighter against his back. I could hear the whisper of their feathers across the metal of the armour he wore. He dipped his head. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to make light of it.”

I put my hand on Boreas’ shoulder. “It’s okay. You weren’t here. You don’t know what it was like.”

He ruffled his wings and a cold wind sprang up suddenly, swirling my cloak around my legs. I pulled it tighter around me and glared at him, realizing I was being disrespectful. He was a god, after all. The bringer of winter. But I was already uncomfortable enough, having travelled so far to get here again.

He must have caught my look because he apologized again, and then looked of into the distance, towards the jagged snow topped mountains. I knew what he was looking at. The cave. Medusa’s cave, that was no longer inhabited. Because I had her head. Not with me, but back home. There was no reason for me to bring it back here – to where all of this happened.

I scanned the ground, trying to remember where the fallen bodies of my friends and allies lay as the sun began to rise slowly stretching fingers of light over the mountain, but I couldn’t. I saw an indent in the ground and wondered if that was where Thor landed. I remember the crater that his hammer left in the soft earth. Being one of the more powerful of the gods on the battlefield that day, I remember being surprised at how easy it had been to carry him off the field, once it was all over and there was no more bloodshed. I shook my head, brushing stray hair out of my face. “I don’t understand why it was me.”

“Eh?” Boreas glanced at me again and I could see the concern in his eyes. “What do you mean?”

“Why did I survive? And not Thor, or Fenrir?” Fenrir’s wolf-self appeared in my minds eye, filling the hole in the ground in front of me. I remember the blood that matted his fur, and he hadn’t even had time to change out of his wolf-form before he died.

Boreas shook his head and ruffled his wings again, causing another icy wind to blow across the empty, desolate plains. “Even though we are gods, it is not our purpose to understand who of our races lives and who dies.”

I sighed. He was right. I tried not to pay attention to the long list of casualties that threatened to fill up my mind, being brought back to life by being back in this place. I looked off into the distance, skimming over the emptiness of the land. There were no markers, nothing to let anyone know what happened here – except those who were like me. The survivors. The few of us that were left.

I moved forward slowly. It was an effort to move my legs. I stepped over the disturbed ground, careful not to touch any place where someone had died. Gods are very sensitive to energy, and death leaves a residue. The last thing I wanted was a disquiet spirit of one of my friends attaching itself to me, in the wrong order. I shuddered, this time not from any wintery breeze that Boreas may have inadvertently caused. I had come back here for a reason, and I wasn’t going to leave until I had done it. But I needed to do it right.

I looked back over my shoulder at Boreas standing at the edge of the battlefield that had been full of chaos, looking forlorn. I could see his wingtips near his boots, crossed over each other.

He didn’t move, but instead shouted across to me as I picked my way over and around the invisible bodies of my fellow gods. “Are you sure you want to do this, Mercury?”

I barely registered his words, all I knew was I had to do this. It was my job. I was the god who guided the dead to the afterlife, after all. But I had never thought I would be doing this for my own kind. I was trying to picture Odin in my mind’s eye. Where was he? Where did he die? I stopped and looked around me, spinning in a circle. There were protocols. I needed to work top down, from most powerful to least. And then I saw him, as if he were there in the flesh. I moved toward him with a smile. “Well met,” I said with a bow, remembering how he liked to be greeted. I placed my hands on his shoulders. “Are you ready?” I asked with a heavy heart. He nodded and I got to work.

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