The Snake and the Mirror

The Highest Peak

 

The halls of Olympos were second to none in their grandeur. Every building on the stony peaks was of spectacular size and impossible craftsmanship, ever room upon a great cliff was a theatre to creation marked by frescoes and mosaics and art pieces all so perfect in their idealization as to cause mortal men to weep. Roofs were tiled with gold and what wasn’t beautiful marble in the construction was made from precious stone.

Really, it was all very ostentatious.

These were Odin’s thoughts as he entered the halls of Olympos, casually strolling with his ragged cloak and gnarled old walking stick as he tapped through the divine halls, footsteps echoing off the vast walls as he kept his stride steady.

Odin had his own divine hall in Valhalla, but it was nothing like this. Where was the feasting? The jollity? The telling of tales? Why did the gods of Olympos work so hard to make a realm for the mortals to envy before denying them the right to ever even see it? It struck him as bizarre and rather vain, though he had been often called such things as well.

“Good day to you, great Lord!” A voice rang out as a woman tumbled down from above to meet him, her feet sliding over the brilliant scattering light of a rainbow as she flew to him, coming to  a halt as she kneeled before him.

“Heh, rainbow,” Odin chuckled. “Only way to travel. Who’re you then?”

“My name is Iris, messenger of Olympos,” The girl perked up. She was quite pretty, and she looked slightly less…’well formed’ Odin settled on. Likely meant she was a lower class of God for the Greeks. “And if I am not much mistaken, you are Odin the Raven Lord.”

“That would be me, yes. It is about time I was properly greeted,” Odin growled, causing Iris to stand with a fresh rigidity.

“Apologies, my lord. I’ll have it seen to that the doorman returns to his post. Where might I guide you?”

“You’re hosting a Vanir,” Odin said. “I would meet her first.”

“A Vanir…oh! One of your fellow Norse gods, of course. I will take you to her.”

Iris turned to lead him, and received a sharp strike to the bottom courtesy of Odin’s staff. “Ow!”

“Rule one of being a tour guide for foreign gods,” Odin said. “Never be quick to assume. Freyja is of Norse inclination as I am, and we may be on the same side, but there is no blood between us but bad. She is Vanir, I am Aesir, their king no less, understand?”

“Yes, my lord. Apologies,” She bowed her head deeply, still rubbing her backside tenderly. “This way then, my lord.”

As she turned to guide him again, Odin smiled. Olympians might think themselves beyond reproach and for diplomacy’s sake he had to act restrained, but it was fun to mess with the help.

A brief walk through cavernous halls and among great pillars soon led them to their first destination. Iris was an eager guide, pointing things out and giving long-winded histories of the wall-art that Odin could sum up as ‘Olympians are great’. It was impressive, but it got old.

Freyja was in a large room chatting with another armored war goddess. Odin cleared his throat and tapped the butt of his walking stick against the stone floor. Freyja continued to chat away, showing no sign of having heard him. Odin sighed, it was going to be that kind of day.

“Freyja!” Odin boomed through the hall, enough to make Iris practically jump as the two goddesses turned to him. Freyja rose to her feet, as ever the utmost vision of divine beauty. She lacked the doe-eyed coquettishness of Aphrodite however. For all her beauty, Freyja was a war goddess and looked it. She was an iron fortress painted gold.

“So, you really have come all the way to Olympos, Lord Odin,” Freyja said. “I hope it was not on my account.”

“Only partially,” He said. “But I do like to know where the Vanir sneak off to when they think I’m not looking.”

“I hardly snuck anywhere,” Freyja said. “You made it very clear when you let Folkvangr burn that you saw my presence as superfluous.”

“On the field, yes,” Odin said. “But I came more pressingly because your presence is required.”

“My presence?” Freyja arched an eyebrow.

“I’m meeting the big players,” Odin said. “I imagine the Vanir want their fair shake in representation.”

“…” Freyja’s eyes scanned him carefully. Odin gave nothing, but damn the woman’s eyes were cold.

“Very well,” Freyja said. “Let us go meet them together. Will you be joining us at the meeting, Athena?” She turned to her silver-eyed companion.

“I plan on it.”

“Very good,” Freyja walked to Odin, moving to his side as she spoke to him. “So how goes the front? How is Thor?”

“Having the time of his life now that he’s back to full form,” Odin said. “Smashing giants as only he can.”

“He is quite good at it,” Freyja nodded as she addressed Iris next.

“Iris, we wish an audience with the regent gods. See to it.”

“Yes, my lady!” Iris had been sitting at the edge of a nearby fountain, but in a flourish, she sprang to life, colored light bursting at her heels as she flew off through the building.

“You seem comfortable,” Odin said, following her as she led him through the halls of Olympos. “The Greeks treating you well?”

“Better than most ever have,” Freyja said. “Good food, excellent views, fine company, and I don’t have to worry about Loki inevitably ruining my day.”

“Heh, he is good at that,” Odin smiled. “So these Greeks are agreeable? I always found them a bit stuck up.”

“Likely because you think of everyone who isn’t dressed like a half-blind vagrant to be stuck up,” Freyja said. “They can be perfectly reasonable, and are no more or less proud than we are.”

“Yes, well, I tend not to paint my face on every wall…” Odin said, passing another fresco.

“Perhaps, but you do love the attention, oh He of Ten Thousand Titles.”

“Not actually one of my titles.” Odin said, “Though let’s see if that catches on.”

“You really are going to do it then?” Freyja said.

“Do what?”

“Meet the heads of the Greek and Egyptian Pantheons dressed like that?”

“I find it a rather good measure,” Odin said. “If they can’t see past this guise…”

“They absolutely can see past it. They know precisely who you are, Odin,” Freyja rolled her eyes. “They’re not unvirtuous mortals to be tested for their charity. Show a little decorum.”

“I’m here to discuss a war,” Odin growled. “Not measure who the best dressed god is.”

“For one, we already know who the best dressed god is and it’s me,” Freyja said. “Secondly, it’s not just Zeus, it’s Ra as well, so…”

“And you’re on me for how I dress?” Odin gawked at her. “Last time I met Amon-Ra he was stark naked save for his that shiny crown of his.”

“This is a different Ra,” Freyja said. “I forgot how isolated you were.”

“Different?” Odin asked. “So old Amon…”

Freyja nodded. “At the fangs of Apep the serpent.”

Odin’s face went very grim. Amon-Ra had been a stiff and uncompromising god, but a good one.

“Who is this new Ra then?”

“Isis-Ra, Queen of all Egypt,” Freyja said.

“Isis is it…hmm Isis-Ra I guess now….is she stark naked except for the beard and crown?”

Freyja rolled her eyes. “No, Odin, she is fully dressed.”

He clicked is tongue in clear disappointment as they walked into a new chamber, a vast meeting hall clearly meant for all of the twelve Olympians to convene. It was a huge circular chamber with the roof open to the sky and the walls marked by twelve thrones with a large and ornate firepit in the center. At present only three thrones were occupied, and a woman was bowed down by the hearth to tend the flames.

The grandest throne stood opposite the entrance, and in it was seated Zeus. Odin had always liked Zeus despite their many differences. If someone was going to claim the title of ‘King of the Gods’ then, in Odin’s opinion, they should at least look like Zeus. All the vitality, strength, and vigor of a man in his primed with bronze skin and thick muscle. But his head was awash with his long silver hair that gave him an air of wisdom and contemplation. Zeus was as strong as he was smart, or at least smart enough to never attempt to bully Odin or woo one of the Aesir. Neither would have ended well for him.

At Zeus’s side was his queen, Hera. Odin had met her before and she looked now much as she had then, beautiful and bored in equal measure. The cow-eyed goddess regarded him with an air of gentlest dislike, and Odin realized he still looked very much the vagabond. Odin knew they were smart enough not to throw him out for appearance alone, so he decided to make a different impression. As he stepped into the hall properly his form shifted. His cloak and old robe became dented but shining armor, his broad hat a helm of leather and steel and his cloak a mantle of wolf fur. In his hand, his walking staff shifted shape as well until it was a great spear, Gugnir, held between his fingers.

The third goddess on the throne was Athena, no doubt there to discuss the war, while the one by the fire was Hestia if he recalled correctly. His twin ravens, Munnin and Huginn landed on his shoulders informing him that she was, indeed, Hestia.

“Greetings to you, Zeus Olympios,” Odin took the due formalities and manners. He joked and he meddled, but he was Zeus’ guest in his hall. There was a certain respect due to that.

“And to you Odin, King of the Aesir,” Zeus smiled. “It has been some time since you were last on Olympos.”

“Several thousand years, and under far less dire circumstances,” Odin nodded. “Though not too long ago to remember your lovely wife. Greetings, Hera Basilea”

“Thank you, Odin, Lord of Valhalla,” Hera rewarded him with a subdued smile. “My best wishes to your lady Frig as well when you see her next.”

Zeus looked from Odin to Freyja. “And of course, Freyja of the Vanir continues to be welcome in Olympos.”

“So where is our Egyptian counterpart?” Odin asked. But as he did he noticed the light in the hall seemed to be growing steadily brighter. He glanced up and saw the sun coming into view from the open roof, far too quickly. As it came fully into view, a new figure appeared in the hall in a flash of light.

Odin had never met Isis in person, and she was certainly something to behold. Her skin was much darker than pale Hera and Freyja’s, and her hair a sheet of jet black. She held herself…not like Freyja as a warrior, nor like Hera as queen-consort. She stood with a powerful sense of regency. She was a queen, not through strength but through force of will. It was an impressive sight to behold.

“Odin, the Lord of Ravens, it is a pleasure to meet you at last.”

“Isis-Ra Aegypticas,” Odin doffed his helm, placing it under his arm. “The pleasure is mine. Now then…”

He turned himself to face both Zeus and Isis-Ra. “We’ve had formalities. I think it’s time the three of us talked.”

 

 

 

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The Cities Eternal©2017, Evan Murdoch, Ben Sousa

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