2019-11-03 - Crimson Fire


Hod aids in Betty's search for the Crimson Gem of Cyttorak. Sif bravely aids the pair!

Log Info:

Storyteller: {$storyteller}
Date: November 3rd, 2019
Location: {$location}

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Hod stands outside of the Brevity HQ building in Manhatten and sighs, reaching up to rub at something behind his mirrored shades with his forefinger and thumb, "So. It's in there." he says. It's not a question, he can /feel/ it, sort of, but his powers aren't what they were and so while it's /not/ a question persay… … …it still kinda feels like one. Doubt is an insideous thing and it gnaws at Hod. This is Quest level shit. Hero shit. Hod is not a hero, nor does he do Quests. He does drinking. And bitching. Lots of bitching. He also plays a pretty mean guitar/piano/trumpet. Less helpful today.

"I'm not sure what security they have, but the Way to the entrance is uh… convoluted. Which means I'm guessing pretty good damned security. Am I right?"

"It is." She agrees. He knew how to find things and she knew a thing or two herself. She was healed up mostly, a slight limp here and there, but she was moving. Was she dressed for heroics? No - sundress, bangles, rune-beads and slipper flats. Just standing here, looming, that was questionable enough.

Thinning her lips, she pulls the bracelets off, killing their melodic tinkling, stuffing them into her side bag. A hair-tie out, she pulls up her hair and sets it back, well out of the way. "Of course you're right. Nothing like this is ever simple." Glancing his way, she breathes and waits. "Hey," she murmurs gently. "It's ok. We can do this, alright? In and out, with what you can do, no one will notice."

Hod takes a long moment and tilts his head to the side, "That's like saying because Thor is god of storms there's no tornados or hurricanes that levels small island nations." he says flatly, "I do what I do, and I'm pretty good at it, but don't mistake that for infailability. Or even competance. There's a reason I don't break into places. Video recording is one of them. Preasure plates. Lasers. Infrared and thermal sensors. I do being unnoticed, I don't do invisible. Not… not anymore." he rolls his neck a bit and hitches up the hipstery messenger bag that's strapped to his hip, making sure it's secure.

"This is how this'll go. When I move, you move. You stay /right/ with me." he grabs her and pulls her almost pressed up against his body, close enough she can feel how he's not packing normal body heat since being this close is like having minor portable AC. "Never more then this. I will make sudden movements, I will shift from side to side. You move with me. Like a dance. Only instead of being embarassed if we trip, we go to jail, which I can get out of and I'm guessing is less likely for you." he lifts his cane off the ground, grips it in his hand, tilts his head to listen, "Here we go." and he steps off the curb and towards the building at a sudden and brisk pace, all outward signs of his handicap vanishing as he keeps his head tilted to the side clearly listening intently.

"That's not what I'm saying. I'm being optimistic." She mutters, her body stumbling at first after being gripped and lead up against his form. Shuddering, feeling the shiver rolling down her spine from the chill, she exhales and nods. "Does praying help? We get in a bind and I pray my heart out…power?" It was a joke, something light even if that tension builds in her form and lingers in her voice. Breathing, easing, she nods and starts moving with him. It's in that moment she misses her trusty pumps - but he did say to wear something she could do lots of running in. The pumps were good for sprinting.

Hod snorts, "That shit's for gods." he says flatly as he takes her across the street. They seem to find the perfect time to make a break in traffice, slipping between slow moving cars without having to deviate from the path. The front door of the building has one of those fancy doors with a camera over it's entrance, and he stops /just/ before they get to it, hessitating for a half a second before moving forward again in a sudden burst of speed. A passing panel van, the kind that services large office buildings with new fancy windows drives past, the massive sheet of glass attached to it's side catching the slanting rays of sunlight at /just/ the right angle, and as the pair of them reach the door they stand in a single beam of almost white out light, slipping throuhg the door and letting it close behind them just before the van moves on.

Hod takes two steps to the side and pauses next to a ficus in a planter, one hand going behind him to sort of corral Betty between him and the fern tightly. He waits there, listening to the room. It's a large open sort of office space, but busy, with people moving about. A man delivering those massive jugs of water on a hand truck pauses at the reception desk and then turns towards the bank of elevators. Hod moves just as the guy makes a comment to the receptionist who offers a strained smile and turns away rolling her eyes in exasperation. Turns away from the pair of ne'redowells. They move up behind the man, Hod's footfalls silent as a house cat, slipping to the far side of the man just as the woman at the desk looks back up in time to hit the elevator unlock/call button from her desk, the two miscreants blocked from her view by the stacked water containers and the delivery guy. Said guy is looking back at the lady and winking as the doors chime and open, letting the pair slip in just outside of his peripherals. Using the handtruck as a mechanism, Hod possitions the pair of them so that while the guy knows he's not alone in the elevator, offering a sort of grunt of acknowledgement, he can't get a good look at them. "18th." Hod says in a voice so flat and devoid of personality, the man just hits the button for them without asking, offering the barest nod social norms require, then staring straight ahead at the doors.

The timeing has to be /perfect/, and his description of a dance is extremely accurate. He was right, he doesn't do invisible, he does unnoticed, slipping between the raindrops while everyone else is staring up at the lightning.

Betty Brant keeps as close as she possibly can, fingers digging in, keeping them linked together as they pass through. He stops, she stops, he moves, she moves, head down and flowing in step as he guides her. She knew how to dance, at least, a few classes she was very thankful for. Also, by now, she keeps her eyes away from everything, everyone. She notices the fabric on Hod's body, the length of his beard, and not much else. She doesn't speak, she breathes only when necessary. She wasn't use to being unnoticed, and in that time she was also thankful that her clothing was dark instead of its normal bright, brilliant flare.

They wait, her fingers tighten on Hod's coat, the others around his wrist.

Hod at least wears nice natural fibers in his clothing, high quality, and he smells like winter morning, all crisp snows and faint evergreens. There are worse things to sniff one supposes. He waits, patiently, and eventually the door dings and opens again. And in the exact moment the man with the water looks up to check the floor number, Hod surges forward, slipping past him and into the hall beyond like a flickering shadow, so that when the man's eyes track back down, he only gets an impression of dark clothing and movement.

And so it goes. They slip through cubicles by dint of shielding themselves with a mail guy, they pass by office doors by always managing to be walking past when someone inside is answering a phone or scanning an email. They walk long complicated pathways through otherwise open areas, often doubling back or darting into janitor closets randomly or when it hardly makes sense, only to slip back out again seconds later and it be made obvious how close they came to disastor.

Eventually they've weaved, serpentines, ducked, and sprinted their way deep into the heart of the building, and the pair are pressed into a decorative alcove in a deserted hall, waiting. Beneath her fingers she can feel Hod's heart hammering and feel the tension running through him. "You didn't tell me this was a Hammer building." he hisses through his teeth. There's a sheen of sweat on his forehead, "This place is /riddled/ with high tech. I can hardly think with the buzz in the walls… which I'm pretty sure are weapons platforms or something."

Not a peep, not a word is spoken as she slips around and through the building with her guide. At long lost, they're in their new hiding area, she, too, catching her breath along with him. Her chest heaves lightly, and though she can feel his pulse racing, she wonders if he can hear her heart crashing against her breastbone. She smells of vanilla and lilacs, soft and flora with a hint of salty-clean sweat. Her fingers loosen if only for a moment, holding to his hand in an attemp to comfort him.

"I did," she whispers, hushed in tone. "I know I said that Brevity was a branch of Hammer." Jaw tight, she glances around them, still calming her nerves. "We're in it now…if you need to stop, we stop." To the thought of tech, she blinks. "How can I help you? What can I do to drown it out?"

Hod shakes his head, "Give me eyes?" he queries in a dry tone, "So prolly nothing." he takes a couple of long calming breathes, "I don't know who's office that is at the end of the hall, but the doorway is through there. I can feel it. And, what's worse, is that I know where it leads. We do NOT want to go that way." he reaches up to press the silver sphere at the end of his cane to his forehead and offer a slow exhale of breath, he looks like he's meditating. "I don't know what you've heard about Yggdrasil, but it's not like whatever you're thinking. This is the sort of shit that gets you killed. Badly." he turns so she can see herself reflected in his glasses, her face distorted by the lenses contour, "Are you /certain/ you want to do this?" he holds up a finger, "Think before you answer." the last line is hissed before she can respond with some unthinking easy 'yes' or 'absolutely!', and his tone and the intensity of his gaze is the sort of thing that is likely to remind anyone familiar with mythology of how infrequently the mortals in said stories turn out okay in the end.

"If I could let you borrow them, I'd offer." She answers, and though her voice is light in that moment, there's not a single sliver of amusement to it. She was genuine. He speaks, she listens, following after his direction visually, her hand still linking with his own in an offer of support, or at least letting him know she was still there. "Yggdrasil? I-I always thought it'd be beautiful. Some passage or well-spring of life. You're telling me all those pretty necklaces with the world tree are lying?" The attempted joke falls flat, her own smile not exactly reaching her eyes, mockingly so in her reflection.

"Yes," she answers at length, having given it thought. "I promised, we're here. We need to collect that crystal and get it out of Hammer's hands."

Hod's grip on her arm tightens painfully, "NEVER. OFFER. THAT." he says, and he leans in close enough that she can see her own eyes distort in the reflection of the glasses. "You forget to whom you speak, as if taking an eye was so difficult a thing to someone like me. Do you know nothing of our lore??" The losing and taking of eyes is kinda a thing with the Aesir. He lets out a slow breath and seems to slump a bit, "This… this wide eyed worshipful naive girl thing you have going on, get rid of it. My people are not kind or generous, they do not have your best interests at heart, they live for combat and self agrandizement. However they have changed in the millenia I have been trapped here, do not think they will pass up freely offered power at your expense. Read your myths, study them, /know/ that when you truck with my kind, your kind almost always dies bloody." there's pain in his voice, and he seems almost desperate for her to understand him. He shakes her once before slumping further and wipeing sweat from his forehead with his sleeve.

"Enough. Focus." he seems to be talking to himself, and he leans back, giving her room to breath (a little) in their alcove, "We need muscle. If we run afoul of that fucking squirrel or raptor, we may need an arm stronger then mine have become." he makes a face and shakes his head, "Bor's swinging cod… I'm gonna owe her again." and unless Betty is mistaken, the light in the hall dims ever so slightly.

Across town, in the embassy where Sif works her sword arm against a magically animated training dummy, the lights flicker. The shadows whisper. It's not like it used to be, millenia ago when Hod would scout for the war party, he was always so clear, the darkness carrying nuance and tone in it's messages, clarity. Here, she gets the impression of a building, of the 18th floor, of… … …Yggdrasil. Oh shit. Surely Hod's not so stupid as to step out onto the World Tree with Odin's judgement hanging over him. Surely.

"I know what and who I'm speaking to." She snaps back in a hushed tone, building with anger. "I'm not wide-eyed and I'm not naive, and you sure as hell should I know I do my homework. What I've learned along the way? Not all the stories are true, you have the power to change or do as you'd like, being different than what you've been written to be. I know what I'm offering. I know I offer only what I would honestly give."

So close, she even rumbles a growl within her throat. "I'm fine with blood and I'm fine with death. I know I don't live forever, might as well do something worth a damn while I can." As he slumps, she frowns, feeling that hot burn across her gaze. Her fingers touch, hugging as her other hand settles on his shoulder, giving it a comforting squeeze. "R-Ratatoskr?" She asks, a heavy blinking driving her prior tears away.

The instant the lights start to flicker, Sif pauses in her training and looks around, then gets said impression and recognizes the style of information delivery, if not the building depicted.

Hastily strapping on the armor she'd not bothered with for the practice, she hefts her buckler and shield then steps toward the image, not at all sure that she'll know how to find this building with Yggdrasil.


Hod can't see her cry, so the tears are lost on him, but her words aren't. He'd respond with anger at her, pointing out that not all of them can change their fates. In fact. Of all creatures in the universe, the gods are likely one of the few without the freedom of fate unrestrianed by destiny. Hod is a Seer, and a powerful one when it comes upon him. Everything he Sees will happen. Will. No wiggle room. No obfuscation. No lies. Once Seen it cannot be altered. Hod knows how he will die, strangled to death by his youngest brother, birthed for the single purpose of murdering him. He know how his brother will die, by Hod's own hand. These things cannot be changed. Ever. It is the gift of the mortal.

Luckily for everyone, and likely their stealthy moment, he's incapable of saying any of this, of imparting the sad dark truth of his exsistence to her, of informing her of /exactly/ how wrong she is about him. Because Hod like to crush the dreams of others, he's a bit of an ass like that. He's incapable of this because the amount of effort it took him to send the message, even to a place of power, to a person linked to him as closely as Sif is, even with how pathetic the message was, was monumental. He slides down the wall and to the floor, his skin taking on a gray palor, his breath hitching in his chest, and he shudders almost violently as if trying to maintain a grip on something that refuses to listen to him. He bares his teeth as his shirt begins to soak sweat off of his skin, dark patches appearing on it as it clings to him. He raises a hand that looks leaner and almost claw like, and draws something in the air, a Vegv sir to be precise, unique and different from the kind most often seen in hipster tatoos. He flicks his wrist and sends it across the hall, a shadow that flitters before hitting the door opposite them and vanishing.

The Embassy training room's lights flicker again, and on the door that that the room uses as an exit or entrance, a once familiar sygil appears, one Sif has not seen in over two millenia. Hod has opened a Way for her, which, in his current state, must cost him something.

Betty Brant doesn't get an answer, she just waits there, drowning in that dense space between them. She didn't know his thoughts, couldn't read them, but she was at least good at reading people, or at least having enough empathy to know when to and when not to. She parts her lips only in time to watch the man shudder in place and cast shadow down the passage way. The drain on his flesh, the soaking of his shirt, the shift of his body causes all rage to drain instantly from her being. Her fingers grip around his wrist as her voice calls to him. "Hod…Hod?" Her other hand reaches now, holding to the forearm of the limb she claimed as her own lead.

"Tell me," she whispers once more. "Tell me how to help you…"

Sif looks at the sigil for a shocked and wide-eyed second, then rushes forward to go through that doorway. If she knows anything about Hod, he would not have summoned her to him in such a way if it were not absolutely necessary. She spares half a second to wishing she could ask Fenris and Astryd to join them, but doesn't stop from stepping through the doorway. There's no way to know how long the sigil will last, and she suspects that the exile would not be able to send a second so quickly.

She's not letting it go to waste.

And Sif stumbles through the Embassy training room door and into!! !! !! The most boring looking office space hallway ever. Toupe colored walls, a ficus over in an alcove (there's always a ficus somewhere), artwork on the walls that just screams DO NOT OFFEND ANYONE by being old scematic sketches of some device or another. Original sketches of the Otis Saftey Elevator mechanism or the first blueprints of the Airbag Deployment System. And oh yeah. One slumped over sweat covered godling of dim light, slightly chilly weather, and mostly accurate GPS currently being fretted over by a reporter in a sun dress.

Sometimes you just can't make this shit up.

Hod weakly waves a hand at Betty, swatting at her with all the effectiveness of a gentely flailing feather duster, "Leave me be woman." he mutters, his head leaning back against the wall, his shoulders almost curled in on himself with exhaustion. "Just need… a minute." which of course, they don't have. Because of course they don't. As Sif steps into the hall, the lighting changes color, taking on a more uh… redish hue. And a computerized voice comes from speakers overhead, <Intruder Detected. Security officers deployed. Lock down protocols in effect.> at which point, one can hear locks secureing doors with heavy thunks from nearly every direction. "Fantastic." Hod says in a flat empty tone.

"Please, there has to be something I can - " There's a Sif. Eyes round and glimmering with wonder, she eyes the warrior and offers her a light wave. "Lady." She greets with a breathless voice. That gentle sound, keeping all quiet as can be is shattered by the sudden shift in color and the sound of their, well, failure. "Shit," she cuts under her breath, her hand back to Hod's arm and then to the low of his back. "We have to move. We have to keep going to get that Crystal. I'll nestle up under your shoulder and drag you, I mean it." She warns Hod.

Looking around quickly, Sif can't help but notice the change in lights or the disembodied voice saying that the building's guards are likely to be en route any moment. She then shifts her sword to her buckler hand and reaches to help pull Hod to his feet.

"Ms. Brant," she greets shortly. "She is right, Hod. Staying in one place would be folly." Yes, she is extremely curious about WHY she's suddenly here, but she is also very much aware that that conversation can and will have to wait. They're about to have far more pressing problems.

She suddenly and irrationally wishes she could have borrowed Steve's oversized shield for this battle.

Hod grunts and leans on Sif, shying away from Betty a bit, which is likely for the best as touching him is uncomfortable for most people. He's chill to the touch and that generally feels 'wrong' to most peoples minds. "The door." he says, pointing with his cane towards teh door at the end of the hall, "Beyond it, the Way to Yggdrasil." he tilts his head as if looking in Sif's direction, "It's roots." his tone conveying warning.

Betty Brant looks at the pair, watching Hod shift in stance. Her lips soften for a moment, she exhales and keeps her hand against the Seer's wrist. The door - she looks to Sif and then toward the door in question. Nodding to the duo - or to one and the reflection of herself rather, she makes for the door. "We have to hurry. That Crystal we spoke of at the Embassy, this is how we reclaim it, Lady."

Sif is fully aware of the warning in Hod's words, and Betty's added explanation makes things like her presence much more understandable. "Then let us hurry."

Securing her arm around the Seer, she follows Betty to the door in question. It doesn't just open when she tries the handle, so she lets go of Hod to lean against the wall next to the door and nod to Betty to stay with him. "I will ensure that it's safe to proceed."

She takes one step back, then kicks the door open with enough force to send it flying completely away from its frame to slam into an armored security guard on the other side. She rushes in after the door, and it's only a couple of seconds and loud thumps before she's stepping back out to help Hod again.

"There is another door in here, but it is not mounted in a frame."

Hod grunts as he's set aside, and yes, leans on Betty. He snorts as Sif does what Sif does and redecorates some poor shmuck's office with her foot before stepping inside and, to his ear, does battle with a robot. Once she proclaims the path clear, he begins to head inside using Betty as a crutch, "Yeah." he says, stumbling over to said door and reaching out a hand to touch it. "That's what we came here for."

The door in question is actually two doors. Old cracked and seasoned wood so long gone it looks almost petrified, wrapped in black iron so layered with scales of rust as to be on the border of crumbling, thick studded iron nail heads jutting out like dulled spikes add to the look of crumbling decay with their almost flacky texture. Hod reaches out to touch the door and sighs, his fingers running over it, "What are you doing here in this place old friend?" he whispers to it as if the door were a living thing.

The office in question is one half power broker's office and one part museum. There are standing cases hither and yon, tapestries and manuscrips under glass and given a sort of careful spot light, softly illuminating them should anyone be curious enough to take a closer look. There is a brass plaque next to each, engraved with the tale and date and importance of each of the items. There seems to be no theme to the collection outside of 'old' and 'valuable' or 'cool', but they all clearly belong to just that, a collection. The doors are set up against a wall as if they could open at any moment and lead to a room on the other wide. They lack a frame or any real visible means of support, meaning they must be cunningly attached to accentuate this lack of structure.

Hod summons Better with a wave, "There will be a key hole, but it won't look like a key hole. It will take a different shape, find it." he says, slumping slowly to the floor. Then he points at a blank space on the wall opposite them, "Sif, that is an elevator door. I suspect for security purposes." if he hadn't have pointed it out, it would have gone completely unnoticed. "Try to keep us alive until she can find the key hole, yes?" he offers in a quavering voice.

Betty Brant listens to the battle, she feels the weight of Hod returning to her body as she cradles up and against him, leading him through. Hey, the cold never bothered…nevermind. Once the door in question was found, Betty can't help but to see the rest of the items left in silent guard. Hod speaks, she looks, her hand digging into her bag to take a few shots with her phone. Not many, just something to remember this place by. Some clue to some riddle she'd deal with (maybe) later.

"Keyhole." She nods, looking at their passage way, her hazel gaze sweeping over it attentively "Keyhole that isn't a keyhole…keyhole that isn't…" Sighing, she swallows and steps back. She tries to settle, closing her eyes and reminding herself, her mind, to slow down. Don't look for it specifically or you'll never find it. She knew time was ticking down, and during all of this, a warrior watches over them.

At length, she opens her eyes and looks once more, her fingers reaching out for one section of the door, only to hesitate and reach for another section. She grips to a nail, pulling it from its post, holding the aged iron within her grip, staining it a chalk burnt orange. A look down, she sets the spike against a vacant cavity and pushes it into place.

Sif looks at the space that Hod tells her is an elevator door and nods to him. While Betty studies and figures out the way to open the door, she makes sure that Hod is out of immediate eyeshot of the way they came in or the other door he indicated but doesn't look like anything to her. Well, until it slides open and more of those Midgardians wearing bizarrely wrought and highly ineffective armor arrive.

Betty's meditative study of the door is punctuated by the banging, crashing, yells, and general chaos of Sif very soundly beating up the newly arrived guards. And then, to keep more from entering the same way, she takes up the door she's originally kicked in and wedges it into the elevator's doorway. That … will likely start making annoying 'I can't close' noises very soon.

It does. Very very soon. Ding. Ding. Ding. Dingdingdingdingdingdingdingding. It's enough to drive one mad. Hod for his part, just rests against the wall and breathes, letting the ladies handle things. Betty working out the basic but deceptive key/no key riddle of the door, and Sif working out… her frustration? on poor security guards just trying to make a living and protecting their employers priceless treasures from what are clearly two theives and a Cosplayer.

Once the key's in place, Hod pushes himself up once more and presses his palms against the door as if trying to push the whole thing over. His fingers run over the rough wooden planks, tracing the lines of the seasoned wood, the rusted iron, and he makes an annoyed sound. "Rollo you prick." he mutters to himself, "I need the blood of a reformed Christian from the Church of Rome, made Pagan." he says, his head thumping slightly against the wood of the door. "Rollo, the king of Normandy, brought this door over from his homeland to England, converted, and locked it behind old seidhr spells. He did not think anyone would ever take the path opposite of his own. Only I can open it," he snickers, "the long 'dead' son of Odin, and only with a key fashioned from the blood of a convert that can't exsist." he chuckles dryly into the wood where his face is pressed exhaustedly, "He always was a bit of a self righteous twat." pause, "Good host though." which his tone suggests is somehow important.

"You…me." Betty answers Hod, her gaze doe like as she skips back and forth between Sif's battle and the Seer speaking of Rollo's door. "I-That's me. How much do you need?" She asks, stepping closer and feeling her chest heft up and down at a rapid pace. This was terrifying, exciting, insane - something she'd hope to live through to write about. "Hod, quickly! How much do you need? A drop? A cup? A bucket full?" Her hand on the door, her eyes back to watch after Sif, worry and stress dripping from her expression. "I-I'm converted. I was raised Catholic and Fenris has-has my soul now."

Yes, that dinging is annoying. But Sif's dealt with worse during battle. She steps back toward the doorway she kicked in originally, to guard against anyone else arriving from that direction. "She speaks the truth. If Ms. Brant fits the spell's requirements, Hod, then this can be done." She steps back toward them, pulling a slim but wickedly sharp blade from under her left vambrace to offer to Betty.

"Whatever you do, choose quickly."

Hod's breath catches and he turns his head so that he can 'stare' at her, though he's looking over her shoulder slightly, his face grave and sunken, "Fenris ha-" he stops, goes silent. He doesn't say anything else about the matter, just… sort of 'looks' at her, then shakes his head, "Just a bit." he answers finally. He reaches out and plucks the knife from Sif's hand and with a flick of his wrist slices open Betty's palm.

He holds her hand so it's cupped, and dips a finger in the puddle that grows there, before turning to draw a pair of glyphs on the wood, one above and one below the keyhole she found earlier. Then he pulls a handkercheif from his vest pocket and holds it out to her, "Clean up and bind that, where we're going you want as little fresh blood scent as possible." Then he turns his body so that he blocks the light from the little spot light overhead and gathers shadows in his fist. After a moment, they slide like silk into the keyhole, and with a sound like thin stone snapping or perhaps bones breaking, the doors, which have no hinges and are set in no frame, swing open inward, towards the wall they rest upon. Ignoring all physics and laws of reality, they swing /inward/. He takes a breath and sighs, "Brace yourself child, this is not a place mortals tred." and he steps through into the shadows on the other side…

Reaching for the knife, she watches it pull into Hod's grip. Hand out, slit and ready, it takes her a moment to feel the sting of broken flesh and fresh air. Hissing, she cups her hand, watching the pool of crimson gather and then mark the door. Oh yeah, her DNA is all over this place now. Whatever words, expression Hod had for her, she notices but says nothing. Wrapping up her hand, she holds it tight and applies pressure. A look to Sif, she nods her thanks.

The door pushes through and the mortal follows. "Wouldn't be the first time…" She whispers.

Sif takes the blade back when its work is complete and returns it to its place. She'd offer Betty some additional bandaging for the cut on her hand, but as she's wearing her practice clothing with her armor, she didn't really come prepared.

As Hod steps through the seemingly impossible doorway, she says in the native language of Asgard, "Fenris, Astryd, if you could join us in this quest you would honor us greatly."

She can only hope that one or the both of them pick up on her request.

The human mind is not built to witness such things. It just isn't. Not in it's unevolved form. It's like staring into the heart of a dimension for which math hasn't yet been invented, or being able to fully comprehend the concept of infinity. So close and yet, so far away from what the mind is capable of putting into realization. Betty Brant, for a handful of seconds anyway, taste colors, smell sounds, see touch given sensation, hear flavors. She can see into dimentions man is not yet ready to travel. She can understand infinity.

It's enough to drive one mad.

Hod's hand, cold and rough with callouses, presses over her eyes, firm but gently, and he speaks words in a language she can understand, at least for the first couple. Then everything instantly becomes comprehendable. He waits for a couple more seconds before removing his hand, mirrored shades reflecting her face back at her, showing her whatever expression the experience left there even as the entire thing begins to vanish from her mind replacing itself with a far safer rewrite. Beyond him she can see … the universe. At least, as her mind can perceive it.

There is a vast nothingness, a blackness, that stretches beyond the beyond, a horizonless expanse that's humiliating in it's vastness. An eternity of small specks of light glimmer in the darkness, stars one would hope, and spread like water color paints across the darkness are spatterings of colors that English has no name for, vast nebulas twisting and twining amid countless spinning galaxies of infintesimal pinpricks of light. It's breathtaking.

And under her feet is tree bark. Because of course there is.

Winding through all of the nothing, is a twisted cornicopia of tree limbs, or in this case, more accurately, roots. Knots upon knots, so big around that they seem to have no curve to them, to narrow spindly finger thick extensiond, reaching out hungrily into the expanse. This mingling of dark rough wood and vast nothingness continues endlessly in either direction, disappearing faaaaar beyond Brant's ability to see, the scope of the thing is daunting in the extreme, and contemplating it's exsistence in a reality where things like gravity and time function by unshakeable laws seems somehow /wrong/ on a fundamental level. But at least now she's not going mad. She's able to absorb the very razors edge of the truth of the nature of Yggdrasil, The World Tree.

"They're not coming cousin," Hod says to Sif as the doors behing them close with an ominous booming echo, "we're not in Kansas anymore, and Toto isn't welcome here."

Betty Brant stands in mind-shattering awe of the space before her, all around her. It felt…familiar in a way. That rip in reality, other worlds without names, violet skies, crashing stars, singing crystals housed within the earth. So familiar and yet so painful. She was forgetting how to breathe, her eyes wide and wet with tears that flood and roll down her cheeks, lips gaping and soundless. Her lungs burn, her heart aches, her mind screams. Then she can no longer see. She can hear, and after those words pass through to her melting mind, the woman gasps deeply and pants aloud, chest heaving.

As the light returns, her vision dulls down the beauty all around her. She settles and shudders, trembling in place and smells the treet there underfoot. Leaning over, she reaches down to touch at the bark with her fingers. She brushes, she smiles, a small exhale of a laugh escapes her lips. At length, she stands, pulling off her flats and allowing her bandaged feet to touch the tree. Packing her shoes away, she remembers that she's not alone, her eyes shifting from Hod, to Sif, and back again.

The door closes, her toes flex and relax. "Where do we go?"

Being from Asgard and not Earth, Sif fares better than the Midgardian did, but not by much. It's all still so close to completely overwhelming. But as Betty regains her composure, Sif manages the same. Though, she does look at Hod questioningly, not understanding the Wizard of Oz reference.

Tighening her grip on her sword — though really, if something chose to attack them here she's sure there would be naught she could do about it — she squares her shoulders.

"When you are ready, cousin." Hey, Hod started it. She's not going to let him deny the relation if he keeps using that moniker when addressing her.

Hod does not walk the Paths this way often, perhaps three dozen times in two and a half millenia. Being stripped of his strength, his speed, his resiliance, everything that made him Aesir, left him afraid and fragile. Yggdrasil is no place for an Aesir without that which makes them so. What jaunts he's taken have been incredibly short, very fast, and often made with him running full out without stop, throwing caution to the wind and hurling himself in a mad dash from one doorway to another. Twice he was nearly killed. There are things that lurk in the roots of The World Tree that do not appreciate intruders but /do/ appreciate snack delivery.

Still exhausted from the effort made to summon Sif from before, Hod slowly slumps down the length of his cane, gripping it with white knuckled hands that lack the strength to keep him upright, his palms squeaking slightly as he slips down it's ebon length to settle against the bark. There he 'rests', cheek pressed against the wood, panting softly. Huh. Other then gaunt and tired, he looks different somehow. Could just be how out of place a hipster is between the Realms though. "I need… a moment…" he pants softly, rolling over onto his back and clutching his cane to his chest as if it could give him strength. This is hardly the fearsome warrior Sif once knew, he's never looked so very mortal.

All the Aesir, the Vanir, they know of the Paths, but to travel between Realms they all use the Bifrost. All but 2. Loki's ways are secrets only he knows, magical spells or portals he forces or cajoles open. But to Hod, these have always been as natural to him as walking a cobbled street. Maybe because he's blind, the majesty of it all doens't overwhelm him, or maybe cause of who he is, he's built to accept it on a deeper level. Whatever it is, he's never been shaken by the Tree, nor the Paths. What's on them? Sure. The places they lead? Maybe. But not the Ways themselves.

He grunts after a long moment and reaches up to pull the glasses from his face and lets his arm flop to his side, the shades tumbling away from his fingers to clatter against the back softly. "Thor used to call this place the calm before the storm, when we had to travel my ways to get certain areas. Made him jittery." he offers a weak smile, "Big wuss." he rolls back over onto his stomach and pushes himself to his feet, "Okay." he says after a long moment, squaring his shoulders and forcing himself to stand upright, "This way." the cane in his hand makes a soft sound like metal scraping on metal and it just… grows. In short order he's holding a spear nearly eight feet tall, it's lear blade covered in graceful runework and it's cross guard glinting with a silvery moonlight like light. The butt spike makes almost no noise as they walk, despite the metal clearly striking the bark, as if it were muffled by layers of snow. "It's going to be a hike." The twin holes in his face, the giant gaping wounds where eyes should be, swim with their own shadows as he takes the lead and begins an even quick pace, leaning on the spear as much like a walking stick as a weapon in his current state. "Don't get lost." he adds unnecessarily.

Betty Brant thins her lips, worry present and washing over her wonder as the mortal looks from Hod, to Sif, and back again. There's a questioning there, left silent and unspoken. Moving toward Hod, Betty offers her hand, her arm, her shoulder should he need it. Best way not to get lost, too, being so close to the leader. Barefoot as she was, she shuffles quickly and then falls into stride and pace with Hod.

Sif watches Hod in growing concern, having seen him in varying states of exhaustion and injury, but never to this level. It's honestly disturbing. And it's making her want to break one of the foremost rules of Asgard — taking one Idunn's apples without permission. As much as she wants to help the man to his feet, she holds back and lets Betty do so. She suspects he would rather accept the Midgardian's offer over hers, and that hurts a bit. But she fully understands why.

As they set off, she keeps her sword ready and follows the others to watch and protect their backs.

Hod is many things but a liar isn't among them. Today at least. The hike is long. While the majesty and splendor of endless spinning galaxies and a water color sky never quite lose thier sense of scope, after long enough, with lactic acid building up in the muscle tissues and feet blistered by rough bark against usually shoed feet, they take a back seat to personal suffering. Or at least, personal discomfort. For as stripped down as he is, Hod is still not mortal, and so as they walk he appears to slowly regain a portion of his previous nature if not a whole measure.

The hours pass, plural, one after the other, and not once do they leave the single root they walk upon, nor does it seem to narrow or widen any, and after long enough it is starting to feel no different then walking any long flat empty highway across a great empty expanse in the American heartland. His quip about Kansas earlier may have been more foreshadowing then clever jab at Fenris' doggy like nature.

Beneath their feet, the root trembles.



"Oh. Shit." Hod says, pulling up short. He tilts his head to the side and seems to go pale. er. He, of course, heard it before the ladies, a scrap of steel on bark, as if someone were dragging a hundred thousand steel sheilds over the root, weighted down by countless tons of earth and rock. The tremble becomes a tremor, a continuous slowly growing shaking beneath their feet, and Hod's eyeless empty gaze snaps to Sif, his tongue flicking over his lips once, "I know where we are." he whispers, fear tinging the words like the nebulas over head color the sky, "I know where we are going now." this news doesn't seem to make him happy. He points in the direction they've been going, a direction that is wide, open, and devoid of anything resembling cover of any kind. An open expansive path of bark and empty space. "That way… past Nidhogg."

Betty Brant understood the joke, but the amazement (and worry) happening around her held her tongue, even on slights against the Old Wolf. Her fingers hold to Hod's arm as she walks by his side. Time passes and she swallow, her thighs pressing together now and then. Thoughts pass and after awhile, she pushes them aside. Now was not the time.

The world shakes and she pauses, stance somewhat wider for balance as she looks back toward Sif to check her state. "Are you…going to tell us?" She stresses to Hod only to blinks and stares back toward Sif for clarification. "Nidhogg? Are we…are we hiding behind a great serpent?"

The tremors and scraping sounds tell Sif quite quickly enough that they're about to be up against something truly daunting, and Hod confirms it with the name. She responds with a faintly muttered Aesir curse.

"No, Ms. Brant. You are thinking of Jormungandr. If only we were so fortunate as to be faced with that serpent instead." She steps carefully around the other two to put herself in front, as she's guessing that that's where Nidhogg will be.

Ms. Brant, if you have some means by which to defend yourself, I suggest you prepare it now."

Hod chuckles, "Jormungandr is the serpent that will devour the world… Nidhogg feasts upon the The World Tree itself, the thing so large it connects Realms one and all." he rolls his neck and the bones in it crack and creak audibly. He lowers his stance slightly and the spear in his hands moves into a slight angle. "Jormungandr is a serpent." he says to Brant, as in the distance a volcano spews flame and ash a thousand feet into the air. Far away as it is, it takes a full twenty count before the heat wave of expanding gas hits, and it does so like storm winds, buffeting their clothing and blasint hair out of their faces. "Nidhogg," Hod explains with a wry calmness, his fear starting to leak away in the face of Aesir nature, "is a dragon." That was no volcano.

It's about that moment that Betty will realize that something has begun blotting the stars from the sky ahead of them, first low on their horizon, and growing higher, as if an expanding circle were simply blotting the lights from the sky. It's not until a rainbowy nebula begins to disappear that she can see it's true edge and begin to understand the scope of their foe. The mind fights back against the size, attempting to readjust the perspective to make it make sense. Maybe it's not that far away. Maybe it's closer, because if it's closer that would make sense, but that far away? Nothing is that large. Mountain ranges aren't that big. "We need to go." Hod says, "Before we're noticed." he points with the spear, /towards/ the approaching bulk, still nearly a league away, "The door to the gem is that way… though, I'm not sure it's going to lead to anywhere better then here."

"No, I…Yes, the one biting the roots of the, yes…" she clarifies. She'd have to just correct those studies she did herself at some point. Serpents, Dragons…same diff? As the sky grows dark and a warmth brushes at her body, kicking about her skirt, the mortal shudders and looks between the pair. Digging into her side bag, she pulls a hand canon of a gun and pulls back its slide, making sure a bullet is ready and in the chamber. "Do hollow points hurt dragons?" She questions, in all seriousness. When Hod says move, she moves, steps quick but careful.

Sif certainly isn't going to argue with Hod. He says they need to move, they'll move. She'd sprint the rest of the way with Betty thrown over one shoulder like a sack of turnips if that would get them there faster. She's … fairly certain she'd not be able to similarly convey the eyeless man even if he were to permit it.

"I do not know, Ms. Brant, but it is worth trying at least once." Hurry, hurry.

Hod doesn't wait around for either of the women, and the spear in hsi hand is held in a bent arm with the familiarity of someone for whom the weapon is more extension of being then extra object. He begsins to run, and sure, he's not longer the Aesir he once was, but running is one of the few things he's gotten /better/ at with time, not worse. Practice makes perfect. He barrels forward in a blur, his strides beginning to eat up yards, the spear hovering at his side as if in counter balance to the wild pumping swing of the arm opposite.

If Brant and Sif aren't fleet enough, they'll start to see him pull ahead. As the stars vanish into an increasing darkness, a sound like iron sheets dragged over gravel begins to grow louder and louder, and the further they run, the closer to deafening it becomes, and the less light there is to see by. It's like running into twilight towards a sunset, every step makes it harder to see where to place your feet on the uneven bark of the World Tree, and every shadow grows in size and silent imagined malice. By the time they've made it a solid half mile, the sound of iron on stone is almost deafening, the reverberations of it making the ears ring and the chest tingle. Scales on World Tree. It takes time to place it.

He was gone, giving Brant a moment to look toward Sif and back downt he path Hod sprints down. Shifting her side bag back against her spine, tightening its strap, the young woman in a sun dress with a hand-canon starts sprinting. It hurts - horribly, and the smell for those keen to it is of blood coming from the soles of her feet. Cuts there, one on her palm, she's offered this plain a great deal of her DNA already.

Huffing, panting, she keeps moving forward to keep pace. Into the darkness, the chaos and the deafening sound ahead of them. She was in it now, and there was no going back.

Too slow. Brant is too slow. Sif runs after her, but can already tell they're starting to fall behind. "Hold fast, Brant," is all the warning she gets, and then the black-haired warrior scoops up the blonde Midgardian and speeds up to as fast as she can go.

By the Norns Hod is fast. Even without Betty slowing them down anymore it's highly likely that the exile will totally outpace them.

Hod has been running away from fights for two and a half millenia, from frost giants, Ullr's hunting parties, the gods of any pantheon looking to curry Odin's favor, slavers, petulent masters, soldiers, priests, barbarians, memories, anything that could hurt him, he fled. Fought only when no other option presented itself… and he usually lost those fights. After all, one could not flee from nor stab the plague, one can only smell and listen to one's loved ones rot away into corpseflesh. And so, practice.

The sky has gone dark, what little starlight and filtered multicolors rays of glistening Else Sky light that flicker's through now only does so from behind them, their own shadows making footing harder and harder to trust, outlines and edges bluring themselves into indistinct shapes that lead the mind down the path of imagined monsters and villains a plenty. Hod, if anything, gets faster, more sure footed. Honestly, it's unfair. "There!" he points with the spear, it's leaf bladed tip and butt spike glinting in the darkness with a silvery moonlit quality, as if they were absorbing the light that Nidhoof itself was blotting out. Before them, a pair of roots as thick as the Nile at it's widest, split, veering away from one another, and the place where they pull apart the shadows are darker, deeper, as if they hid something more then just the split of Yggdrasil's infinite twining paths. The sound at this point is deafening, trying to scream over it, Hod will make himself hoarse, and so instead merely jabs with the spear again, pointing the way as he dashes towards diverging paths.

Ahead of him, maybe a hundred yars, the body of Nidhogg continues forward, it's roiling coils so tall the tops can no longer be seen, each scale is the size of a football field, it's edges glinting with a metalic glimmer. It's to big to see, to comprehend. It would have to be miles long, hundreds of feet high, the scales as they drag over the roots, tear at the wood, hurling about 'splinters' the size of the great Red Woods back on earth, sending them careening through the air with the same ease that a normal man might flick a toothpick, only on a scale unimaginable. The tree beneath them feet shakes hard enough to make footing treacherous, and as they run forward, /toward/ the meat grinder that is the place where dragon meets World Tree, the closest parallel that one's mind can draw, is being trapped in a /very/ tight tunner running right into the maw of an oncoming train… but even that seems to pale in comparison when the 'splinters' begin to rain down around them, impacting like cannonballs and exploding in shadows of shrapnel like mortar shells.

Betty Brant was too slow, by Gods she was trying, though. Sadly, it was not enough. In shock, her voice pitches up once Sif claims her form and starts gunning it. She huddles up, holds as tightly as she can so not to fall, yet starts to ponder if she were hindering the warriors ability to battle. Forward they move, her bronze-gold hair fanning across her face, taking away the sights before her. At least, she had hoped it would. She sees it, her hazel-gaze going wide and wild once more. Hod had helped her before, calmed that insanity this place might do to a mind like hers, but this was something else. This great, grant beast, something of stories and little more, looms. Sif can feel the woman shudder, shiver, tremble. She can feel the grip of her arm and press of her fingers, grow tight across armor and cloth.

As overwhelmed as Betty is, Sif is right there with her in being unable to comprehend what's in front of them. So, she does what she's done many times before, she puts her focus on the Odinson before her and puts all of her concentration on trying to catch up with Hod. She'll deal with what's ahead of them when she gets there. She has to forcibly keep reminding herself of this. She'll deal with what's ahead of them when she gets there.

She can't help but see Hod gesturing with this spear, and now finally she looks where he's pointing. She doesn't understand WHY, but if that's where they need to go, that's where they need to go.

It's the stopping that might prove a bit of a challenge at this point.

The mad dash is just that, mad. The sound becomes literally deafening, the shattering of massive tree like chunks of World Tree causes whisteling shards of enchanted shrapnel to hurtle through the air with lethal intent, the passage of Nidhogg shakes the very ground upon which they stand to the point that the last few steps are more stumble then steps, rolling falls and body slapping bounces that end, only barely, with Hod shoving the two women into the pool of blackness that only he can see in the now perpetual night the shadow of the dragon has cast. Himself hot on their heels as a wave of pushed up Yggdrasil flows over the Doorway, ripping it to shreds as the anchoring points of it's exsistence are torn asunder under the dragon's weight.

It's the heat first. The darkness remains, and along with it a ringing in the ears caused by the roar of the scales and the exploding 'splinters', the remnants of temporary deafness that still linger. Deaf. Blind. It's almost enough to make one feel as if they were without senses at all, as if they'd fallen into a vast pit of nothing! Only… Only it's so very very HOT. The silence is palpable as ears adjust from the screaming thunder to just the barest whisper of crackling flame. Seconds become a minute before hearing returns enough that they can even hear their own movements. Sif is the first to recover, as she is the most Asgardian of the lot and clearly the toughest. Then Hod, who lays mowaning in pain and exhaustion, what little powers he possessed before their trip pushed to their absolute limits in the face of this quest, draining him of more then just his limited powers. He reaches down and gingerly touches the place where a broken bit of wood the size of a baseball bat is imbedded in this thigh, it's jagged end jutting out into the world like a new limb, red and slick to the touch. Not that anyone can see it. Not in this darkness.

Sweat prickles the skin and begins to run rapidly, salt water mingling with the hundreds of small little cuts the mad dash gave them all, stinging wounds that annoy, burn, and remind them all they're not yet dead. "So." says Hod softly through gritted teeth, his voice filling the silence like a shout, "That sucked a dick from the back." a whimper, "Someone wanna help me with this fucking tree limb?" not that anyone else can /see/ in the complete darkness of course…

Betty Brant whimpers, feeling that throb and ache rolling across her entire body. Her skin is wearing the wounds, bright and red with irritation. The slack of her dress holds a number of splinters, painful to lay on or even think about touching. Pushing up from whatever ground below her reminds her that ever inch of her being was hit. She rolls her jaws, mouth opening and half-closing. At length, her ears pop and sound returns. Sniffling, reaching up and dragging crimson away from her nose, she swallows and hears that booming sound coming from Hod's mouth. Slick with sweat, her hair clings to her form, as does the rest of her sundress.

"Y-yeah." She whispers, reaching out and grouping at the darkness to find someone, anyone. She may have set a hand upon Sif first, still moving away to find something that might be Hod like. "W-who am I touching?"

Having been shoved through the … whatever that was, Sif is sprawled out on whatever passes for the ground here like the others. It's Betty's hand brushing across her shoulder that prompts her to try to move as well — up to that point she'd just been essentially sitting there, trying to reconcile what she'd seen just before landing in this complete and utter darkness.

Sitting up, she starts doing the same as Betty, reaching a hand out to try and find Hod. Her first attempt catches one of Betty's ankles, but she's much warmer on average than Hod tends to be, so she tries again, and this time puts a hand on the injured exile.

"Hod?" Hoping she has it right, she keeps one hand on the man and with her other hand fumbles a healing stone out of the pouch at her belt. Then she gently presses the stone to whatever part of Hod she'd managed to catch — hopefully his torso and not someplace inappropriate.

Hod is cool to the touch, despite the heat of the room, and he clears his throat, "Sif." he says in a stiff conversational tone, "Your hand is close to changing our newly burgoning friendship forever. Perhaps slide it /downward/ a smidge pleaseandthankyou." he makes it all sound polite and kind while he continues to speak through his teeth. "Everyone, just stop. Watching you be blind is frankly depressing." It's dark in here, not Dark, but dark, enough that Hod can, as is one of his few lingering abilities, see just the outlines of the shapes of them, fumbling about blindly. He feels a bit embarassed for them, and hopes silently that he doens't look as foolish all the time.

He reaches down and grabs Betty's wrist, pulling her hand up to his thigh and the wet slick jagged wood jutting from it, "Take this," he says through his teeth, "get a good grip," and he lifts his wallet to his mouth before sliding it between his lips to bite down on, "and yank." he says before biting into the leather.

Is it them, or is it getting hotter?

Perhaps it's stress, some people react differently when confronted by so much in so little time. His comment about Sif was enough to make the human giggle. Swallowing, she nods, nibbling her lower lip. "We're just trying to find you." But he finds her first. The grip around her wrist causes her to gasp. Eventually, she she feels the slick of vitae and the rough texture of wood. A shift, she drags herself closer, allowing her other hand to join the other, the gun resting beside her leg.

"Sif, follow my voice. I'm right here." She pants and blinks in the void, feeling more beads of sweat building and rolling down her flesh, stinging her eyes. "Get ready to put pressure on the wound." Pause, "Hod, I'm going to pull on three." Her fingers tighten, she feels the shard stabbing into her palms, the prior sliced one aching all the more. "One," she yanks the spike free. Panting, she tosses it aside and moves to slam her hands down and against the man's leg.

"…oh. Sorry." Sif moves her hands as instructed by Hod, keeping the healing stone in her hand pressed to the man. When Betty addresses her, she moves her non-stone hand to reach for the Midgardian woman and brushes against her arm. "All right."

Then the Midgardian woman does exactly what she said she wouldn't, pulling the wooden spike out of Hod's leg NOT on three. And Sif promptly helps to put pressure on the wound, hoping the healing stone can at least start to help with this. She's got more but only handful, not nearly enough to deal with a truly dire injury.

Hod screams. One would like to say it was a roar of pain, or a bellow at the very least, but it's not. It's a scream. It's a bit high pitched, there's a whimper in there, but luckily for him, for whatever it's worth, most of that is swallowed up by the folds of the wallet between his teeth. And it was just the one scream right? Should be some sort of hope for saved masculine pride in that.

Hod leans over the wound a bit, writhes the once, then leans back breathing heavily for a moment before reaching down to tear off a bit of his sleeve and then wrap it around his thigh. He pulls a pocket knife from his pocket, and twists it in the tourniquet, pinching off the flow of blood to his leg. Which is good, because it's currently flowing pretty good, preassure not withstanding. He pants heavily around the wallet before the leather falls from his teeth with a slightly damp plop into his lap and his head falls back with a thunk onto some stone, "Bor's swinging cod." Hod pants heavily through the pain, "I fucking hate wood wounds. Be… be pushing out splinters for two weeks." he says with a wry chuckle before his head tilts a bit and he grows very still. "Sif." he hisses very very quietly, that single word laden with more warning then a dark warm room should cause.

<BOR.> thunders a voice from all around them, a voice like rolling wildfire flames and boiling magma, <THAT IS A NAME I HAVE NOT HEARD IN LITERAL AGES…> the ground trembles beneath the power of the voice, just a little, shivers. Around them, flickers of red appear, flickers that become trickles of light, trickles that become streams flowing in and around stones at oddly up thrust cracked angles. Streams that become rivies… Until it culminates in small flames flickering to life, flames that climb the stone, that cover the stone, that seem to burn on and from beneath the stone. Until the flames shed enough light to unveil the horror of their new location.

Surtr, all 80 feet of him, leans forward on his throne of obsidian and lava, flames flickering to life around him, magma flowing through the cracks of basalt giving the entire Realm the feel of staring into a shattered mirror. Muspelheim. Realm of darkness and fire. More specifically, the throne room. <WHAT LITTLE GODLINGS SEE FIT TO INVADE MY HOME SO BRAZENLY?> the voice asks, sounding stronger as the flames grow brighter and the air around them increases in temperature. The enormous head leans forward, elbows resting almost lazily upon the arms of his massive throne as flaming sockets lean down to inspect the trio. <AH.> he says, beams like spot lights illuminating the trio, much to the jeering of a quickly expanding crowd of almost infinite fire demons, <THOR'S LADY AND WINTER'S FANG. HOW… QUAINT.> he has no lips on his skull like visage, but somehow, despite their lack, he conveys the sensation of a smile, teeth of stone and flame flashing brightly, <WELCOME TO MUSPELHEIM LITTLE AESIR. I DO NOT IMAGINE YOU WILL BE LEAVING…>

"I'm sorry, I'm so sorry…if I had my kit at home I could…" Before her full apology can slip from her lips, Betty's attention is elsewhere. Soaked to the bone in her own sweat, she blinks and attempts to look up from her place of applying pressure upon Hod's thigh. Her hands coat crimson and her hazel gaze settles on the fiery figure of this world's keeper. Reading was one thing, experiencing it was maddening. Her mind was going blank - what could she do now? He hadn't even seen her, or had he and she didn't matter? A look between the pair, she moves one hand to brush back tendrils of matted hair, painting her face with Hue of Hod in the process.

"W-we mean you no trouble." She speaks up, looking toward the massive giant - it was her first time seeing one in person. "We just…I asked to come here. I asked for help to find a stone so that evil people couldn't get their hands on it." A shiver, a tremble, she continues. "Don't hurt them, I wanted to come here. They just showed me the way…"

Sif keeps the healing stone pressed to Hod's leg even as he curses and tries to joke about the situation. But when he goes still and hisses her name, she promptly lets the stone fall where it will and pulls her sword.

By the time Surtr is leaning down to 'grin' at them, she's got her sword at the ready, and she's placed herself between the King of Muspelheim and her companions. Before she can speak up, though, Betty does so, and she opts to not add to the Midgardian's words, waiting to see if she's going to have to defend against the entire realm, or if her plea will intrigue Surtr.

She's fully expecting the former.

Hod's hand clamps down on Betty's arm, a silent plea for her to STOP TALKING. Betty is New World. She thinks rulers care about people who aren't rulers. That is not the case. Odin does not speak with peasents unless forced to, and he's the /nicest/ of the Realm Fathers. Surtr is not on the 'nice' list. Twin spots lights slowly turns to lock onto her, bathing Betty in a red tinted light that seems to start cooking her skin. It's not unlike finding oneself beneath an ultra high power sun tanning booth. If that booth also passed through a magnifying glass on the way. <AT LEAST YOU HAVE THE DECENCY TO BRING FINGER FOOD WITH YOU.> he booms. Fingers as long at limos attached to a hand the size of a delivery truck flex, and flakes of ashen stone fall from the joints to hit the basalt floor with a sound like shattering dinnerware falling off of a roof. Red magma pulses at the joints where the covering flaked away, as if they were flashing in time with his hearbeat.

"Don't." Hod says extremely quietly through his teeth. "Speak." he adds after a long enough pause one has to wonder if they heard the first word at all. He tugs at Betty, pulling her a bit behind him as he turns his head this way and that, listening to the room intently even as the dim light of flowing lava now becomes the flicking bright light of a thousand bonfires. The Hall of Surtr is lined in fire trolls, warriors each nearly 12 feet tall made of flame and stone and a hatred for Asgardians that matches the heat of their Realm. They all take a step forward.

"Sif." he says in the same quiet voice, barely above a whisper. "Protect the mortal. Mortal. Find the stone." he says as he lifts his spear and clinging to it with white knuckles, drags himself up to his feet, "I'mma have a conversation with the big man." which would sound way cooler if he didn't swoon slightly upon reaching his feet. The amount of his energy it took to cast the single spell to get them into Yggdrasil's roots nearly cleaned him out, the run afterward, the wound, now this? Hod's barely able to stand, running a second time is clearly not an option.

It was in line with mortals to dare, dream, fall to wonder, and be stupid. The heat burns her naturally pale skin, baking off the sunscreen she had on earlier that day. She can smell it and a morbid question flashes across her brain - does she smell nice? She feels Hod's pull on her, the plea in his voice. The tension of her body notes that she doesn't want to stop talking. She's trying to figure out how to change this situation. Bloody in face, feet, lined with splinters, she frets as Hod 'stands'. Quick to reach out for him, to keep him up, she looks to Sif and begs in silence 'What do we do now?'

"Where do I even start looking? Come wish us, please…Hod…"

Sif knows better than to question Hod's decision, though if she can manage it, she will protect them BOTH. Though Betty's question is entirely valid. Where DO they start looking? She looks around, trying to make it seem like she's looking at all of the fire demons around them, when she's more looking for either a big red gemstone set somewhere or a doorway to another part of this place.

It does NOT sit well with her, but she will do as Hod has instructed. "You WILL return with us, Hod. Do not make me have to come back for you."

Hod snorts once at Sif and Betty, saving double snorts for people who aren't saying basically the same thing, "I have Seen my death cousin," he says as he leans heavily on the spear, heavily enough that he's literally leaning at a bit of an angle, the butt spike imbedding in the stone being the only thing keeping the spear from sliding out beneath him, "this is not it." he says with a sort of tired certainty that only Seers get when they go all Destiny on someone.

Surtr tilts his head to the side which causes a shower of the stone plate like patches to fall down his body, ricochetting off of his shoulders, thighs, arms, glass sharp shards slamming into the floor and shattering lethaly. Hod, standing far enough away, doesn't flinch, just tilts his head so that he's not facing the giant so much as tilting his head as if to listen to him, "Mighty Surtr," he says, not loudly, but not quietly either, "our arrival here was, understandably, accidental. Clearly, had I intended to pay you a call, I would have send word before my arrival." Hod says in as conversational a tone as he can manage given his injuries and flagging energy.

Betty Brant looks to Sif and back again. Part of her yearns for the day she can do more. Today, today she's only meant to survive. Sighing, she reaches for Sif's forearm, begging to come along with her as she starts looking. The pull is brief, allowing the warrior woman full motion. In her other hand is her gun, and it comes to question if said things work against anything so amazing and otherwordly. Reluctantly, she heads off to begin her search, losing water ever step of the way.

Sif gives Hod one last look, but he does have a point. Still, even if he doesn't die here, forcing her to carry him back to Midgard will earn him at least very stern look. And then, she's keeping pace with Betty, hoping the Midgardian woman has a better idea where that Gem might be as she wouldn't know where to even begin.

It had better be worth all of this. Honorable quests are exactly that, but this is feeling less than honorable at the moment.

Surtr's magma laced brow quirks slowly, and when he speaks the very ground beneath their feet trembles ever so slightly in time with his words, like an EDM concert controlled by Gaia. "And yet," the lord of Muspelheim intones, "here you are. Ininvited. Unwanted. Unrecognized." the beasts of flame and stone that surround the immense throne room's edges, hundreds of feet away, seem to move forward as one, cricks and cracks of stone, the hissing of escaping superheated gasses, the crunch of gravel, all whisper from every direction in a riotous cacophany of white noise. In Muspelheim, Surtr is all powerful, not unlike Odin in Asgard, or Hela in Helheim. Should he wish it, there is no way for the beaten, battered, and bedraggled party to successfully fend off a violent confrontation.

"And yet." the deafening sounds of stone and flame subside almost immediately, "I am curious. Your exile was the buzz of a century little cripple, and then a few centuries pass, and word of your death sparks new interest. The embarassment it heaped upon your father was," the room lights up brighter as Surtr grins and the churning flames inside him cast out a wave of heat and light like the words greatest oven thrown open wide. If one is not immune to such things, it's enough heat to make frayed threads curl and singe, rubber to smolder on shoe soles, and sweat to instantly pour, "delightful." he finishes after a dramatic pause. "Ymir's minions made efforts to pass into Midgard, repeatedly, as did a handful of Elves, a dwarf or two, and the word was always that they were seeking some rumor or dream about the location of the tomb of the son of perdition. Spells were cast. Omens sought. None returned with a shred of evidence. Each failure heaped truth upon the rumors, Hodr, Cripple of the Aesir, Shame of Odin, was in fact… dead. And yet." Surtr finally makes a full move, and he shifts his gigantic bulk to lean forward interestedly, sheets of razor edged obsidian and basalt the size of tracker trailers fall, exposing new veins of glowing heat and fire, the explosions of their landing deafening in the cave, the shards wicking about like bullets seeking to maim.

Hod doesn't blink, not even when one whistles past his cheek, laying the flesh open in a clean perfectly straight line and letting blood dribble forth. "And yet many did not return at all. What in Midgard could stand before the might of a Jotan? The clever deciets of the Alf? The cunning of the Dwarf? No other pantheon would have dared for fear of embroiling themselves in a war not of their own… but still they did not return. Surtr noticed." those two words make the entire chamber tremble, dust and pebbles trickle down the walls like streams. "He sent none."

Silently to himself, Hod hopes his companions know a monologue when they hear one and are doing some damned work! Luckily, no one likes to speak more then a tyrant, so Hod is certain he can buy more time if required… mostly certain.

Pretty sure.

Betty Brant reaches back and slicks her hair with a mixture of sweat and blood. Panting, her head was already starting to swim from the heat of the realm. This wasn't a place made for any of them, much less a mortal. They had to get the gem, they had to get the gem and go. Talking, good…talking is a good distraction and people in power often adore talking. Looking to Sif, Betty keeps up her pace, the blood coming off her soles hisses as it makes contact with the ground. Thankfully, it's like walking across coals - the moisture creates even a tiny layer against the heat.

At length, the woman passes it, only to jerk herself back around and stare at the sizeable jewel, eyes round and hopeful. There's a side thought, silly really, of herself becoming Abu from Aladdin. If she touches that thing, the world will crash around them, won't it? "I hope one of you is a flying carpet…" She mutters to herself before rushing for it, hands out, ready to claim the gem. "Sif, cover me. I'm sorry in advance."

Slipping her gun away, she opens her messenger bag and rests her fingers on the stone. Shuddering upon touch, she swallows and gives a pull, yanking it from its mount with effort. "Shit…I got it…" She blinks and slips the thing into the bag before turning to eye Sif. "Run!"

Sif stays close to Betty, having to stop short when the Midgardian woman abruptly turns back to the jewel that is clearly the point of this whole jaunt. She's not faring terribly well in the heat of this realm either, but she'll tough it out. She has to, the blonde woman isn't even wearing shoes for Hel's sake.

The instant Betty says to run, she scoops up the reporter and flings her over one shoulder like a sack of potatoes then turns to sprint back to where Hod is standing. She has every intention of flinging him over her other shoulder if need be.


She really hopes that calling upon the keeper of the Bifrost isn't a mistake, but she can't think of any other way to get out of here quickly, and she's not about to expect Hod to do anymore. Heimdall can even fling them all straight back to Midgard for all she cares, so long as they're away from here.

And then there is silence. Tension in the chamber is ramped up to breaking point every creature of Muspelheim leaning forward on it's clawed feet, waiting for the smallest signal from their King to hurtle in and murder the trio of interloper in what one can only mannage would be myriad painful ways.

But silence reigns instead. Silence, and a distinct lack of Bifrost.

Hod slowly turns his head to 'stare' at the two women, a gaze most unsetteling as in reality it is just a pair of deep holes in an otherwise very human face, pits of darkness that are to large and to round, their lack of lids or musculature and the skin therefore streches over his orbital bones giving his face a very distinct skull like appearance. A living human skull. It is extremely unsetteling, even to those who've known him it is just fundamentally /wrong/ to the humanoid physique. It would be /less/ unsetteling if he had two dozen spiders eyes, or great bulbous many faceted fly's eyes, those are least are living things. But not. He looks, for all the world, like a living skull. Also, it makes reading any expression he may attempt all but impossible. The mind has no frame of reference for trying to read a face without, not only eyes, but the musculature that would usually opperate the lids and flesh that eyes require. "Heimdall," he says slowly, evenly, "will not send the Bifrost." he sounds so certain, like he was simply stating obvious fact.

Surtr, leans back in his throne, the moment of tension fading, and then what sounds like a landslide begins to grind out of the King's chest cavity. Surtr, King of Muspelheim, Lord of Flame and Stone, Asgard's Doom, is chuckling.

Hod dosen't turn away from them, "I am Exiled cousin. Denounced. Denied /all/ of Asgard's support. Loki tricked Heimdall into summoning the bridge for me once, a single time, in over two millenia, did you think he would be so fooled a second time? No. There is no retreat, no flight. I am not my brothers. Father will see no finger lifted to assist me… or those who call themselves my allies." a grin slowly spreads across his face, white teeth flashing amid the black beard, "Unsetteling when Heimdall refuses to answer, is it not? So dependable, so /certain/ is he to respond to the simplest request, that when he does not it feels as though gravity itself has ceased to function, or wat forgets what it is to be wet."

Finally he turns away from them, "They do not understand, forgive them you Majesty, they believe they are heroes playing at a grand quest to save a world."

The thunderous rumble of a landside only grows, and soon thousand lesser, but similar, noises begin to join in.

Betty Brant finds herself atop Sif's shoulder, her body bouncing and one hand reaching down to hold at the low of the woman's back for support. She hears the cry out, she hears the call, she feels the nothing. Grumbling to herself, she pants and clutches the back against her chest, crushing it between herself and the warrior goddess' body.

"This self-pity shit is getting on my last nerve. Sif! Get him and lets get out of here!"

"I will remember this, Heimdall," Sif says darkly and mostly under her breath. She knows the gatekeeper will still hear and understand. She makes it back to where Hod is and stops despite Betty's admonition. Get out of here? Gladly. But HOW? She's not capable of travelling on the branches of Yggdrasil the way Hod and Loki are.

"Cousin?" she asks softly. "What do we do now?"

Hod says, "SELF PITY!?" Hod roars, his voice echoing against the stones of the place. "What do you intend to do little mortal? We are not trapped in a building, a city, this is a Realm. /His/ Realm. You would what? Board a plane? Call an Uber? How far would you run? Can you outrun the earth? Flee from the sky? Slay every living creature that exsists here by the grace of it's King until all that remained was you? Because then, /even/ then, you would only be alone in Musepelheim. Without the Bifrost to take you or me to guide you, there is no way out, no where to go to."

Hod is growing angry, and it shows even on a face without eyes, it shows. The ribbons of magma that flow around them begin to dim, as if night were falling just over them. The flickering lights of ten thousand bonfires seem lessened as the spear Hodr leans against gleams with an inner light all it's own, "You squeal like a piglet seeking the attentions of the butcher, unaware in your ignorance how foolish and short sighted such an action is! Self-pity!" Eyes or not eyes, rage is an easy enough expression to read, and for the first time since they arrived, there's a breeze, a bare kiss of room temp air, but it's there, and it's coming from Hodr.

"I have known squallor the likes of which you cannot comprehend. I have starved, been enslaved, tortured, buried, suffered diseases your kind's short memory no longer remembers. I have lain staked to the earth beneath the warm summer sun as my wife was raped to death, my children burned alive, drown, and skinned where I could hear, /smell/, it happen. Their eyes-" he stops cold, spittle having flecked from his lips to pepper his beard. "Do you think I did not call on Heimdall then? I did not plead and /beg/ my father to save my daughters? My son?" his voice is barely a whisper, but it cuts through the chamber like an Uru blade. "His /grandchildren/?!" he leans in close enough to Betty that she can smell the copper of the blood from his numerous wounds even over the smell of sulfur and charcoal that permeates this place. "Do you think I would not have gladly died so that they could live?" that is barely a whisper. "And Odin. Did. Nothing." each word hammered home like a nail in a coffin.

Hod falls back against his spear, panting for breath, spent long before they came here, those reopened wounds take almost all he has left. He visibly trembles, clinging to the buried spear more like a drowning man to a tossed line then merely a tired man leaning against a wall. That kiss of air is gone, the light of the fires rushing back in as the darkness fleas, and he turns his skull like face up to Surtr, who has sat in silent contemplation, happily allowing another to monologue for a time, "We are going to walk out of here unaided and unharmed." Hod says quietly. "Because Surtr is wise and now understands /why/ Odin exiled his crippled son." Surtr, who graciously ignores the use of his name, merely grins slowly, "You are my weapon." he says certainly, to which Hod snorts, "I am of Darkness and Winter, I could never by your weapon." Surtr frowns slightly, "But I need not be your weapon to be of use. I will be the spark that starts the conflagration that burns all Nine Realms to ash. If only there were someone who was fond of ashes and flame who could make use of such things."

And Surtr grins again, this time, wide. "If only." he responds."

Betty Brant simply stares. Soaked in moisture, drying out again, and riddled with splinters of the World Tree itself. She listens, how could she not, with little room to speak between it all, she simply listens. Sighing, tired now, she rests on Sif's shoulder and stares out at nothing. Waiting.

Tell us how you really feel, Hod. Don't hold back. No, Sif does not say that aloud, but she is thinking some variation thereof as she sets Betty gently back on her feet.

But then Hod says with complete certainty that Surtr is going to just let them leave and she looks at the man a bit sharply. He is? Her eyes shift up to the king of Muspelheim then back to Hod.

"I would not be here if I did not trust, cousin." She's even tempted to prove this by taking some of his weight to ease the burden of his injuries, but she hesitates to do so in front of Surtr. Appearances and all that.

Hod doesn't answer Sif, nor give Brant a second's attention, instead, his focus is on the giant mountain of fire that might just be the only thing in exsistence that could burn Hod. And the mountain just sits. Seconds tick by. Long. Silent. And it is as if the collective breath of the entire Court is held as Surtr considers, "You and the mortal are but a measly prize, and Lady Sif while an entertaining idea, is far more valuable to our end goals as your secret ally…" he sighs, and the breath that leaves his lips is a jet of flame fifty feet long, a shower of cinders falling down upon the party. "It is as you say little cripple. Surtr is to wise to waste such an… asset, as you could be." there's a gentle air of disappointment in the chamber as a whole at the words.

Surtr leans forward in his throne once more, and again there is a shower of lethal shrapnel that thankfully misses everyone. "But you have reached the limits of my mercy Hodn." he uses the insulting term for an Asgardian born with a disability, one that did not exsist before his birth and now has an obvious etomology. "Cross my path again and, useful or not, I will turn all you cherish to cinders… and I will start with any of your spawn your father has missed." the giant grins again, the smile cruel and vicious. "Now flee my Realm wastlings. Before my desire for blood overcomes my wisdom."

Sif SO wants to argue with the king of Muspelheim that Hod is an asset to him, but it's clear with the shrapnel bits that the bieng sheds with every movement that it would likely be a very poor idea. Thus, she actually takes a page from Loki's book and holds her tongue.

Will wonders never cease.

And then… Wait, Surtr is actually just letting them go? She frowns faintly and look at Hod, ready to scoop Betty up again like a Pomeranian so they can flee this place post haste.

Surtr lifts a clawed hand and slowly closes a fist in the air, which causes a sound not unlike thunder as a rift is ripped open in the black stone floor of the chamber, like a shattered mirror. The floor itself suddenly it torn assunder and in it's depths flickers and flows the graceful orange/red of a river of magma. Hod holds out a hand, to feel the heat, and tilts his head to the side slightly, pulling himself up to his feet against the spear, "You test me." he says flatly, and Surtr merely nods as if confirming something, and the heat from the crack vanishes, even if the light does not, "What use is an asset if it has lost it's power to effectual? I had to know you were still… you." he rumbles.

Hod merely nods, "The Way is open." he says to the ladies, "Go. Before he changes his mind. I will follow." Because if he goes first Surtr will have no reason to leave it open for the others.

Betty Brant holds her tongue as well, the look of annoyance and fatique plastered on her blood caked face. She knew Hod couldn't see it, but perhaps he could feel it. Eyeing Sif, her nostrils flare as she takes a breath. Not needing to be told twice, the mortal hugs the satchel to her chest and starts heading for the exit of this world.

Sif almost but not quite keeps from flinching at the rift that opens in the floor, but she understands completely when Hod tells them to go first. And thus, despite her every protective instinct, she turns and follows Better to and through the portal, letting Hod follow them when she'd really much rather he stay where she can see him.

But he's right. Surtr has no reason to allow anyone other than Hod leave. One thing is certain, she will have WORDS for Hod when this is all over.

Hod waits until the others have gone, using his own connection to the Ways to know where they're headed even as they fall, an experience which much be disconcerting at least a little. A face first plummet into lava… only to never reach it. The pair of them land, a bit unceremoniously, on the pitchers mound of an otherwise abandoned baseball field. It's night out, the sky darkish, the inumerable lights of Brooklyn glittering just beyond the home run wall of the field. It's the Columbia Smelting and Refining Works location, the last true smelting plant in NYC long since referbished into a series of slightly lead contaminated ball fields, apparently the old plant has left it's mark in reality however, if it's a place that Surtr can link to so readily.

Back in Muspelheim Hod begins the laborious trek to the rift, dragging himself one leg behind the other, the spear now more cruch then weapon, the sound of his half dead locomotion causing another of those whispering walls of snickers to sound through out the chamber. When he stands on the crevaces edge, he pauses and turns to address Surtr, not fully, but mostly, and lets out a long breath, "I have seen the future great King, and I know what becomes of you in your moment of triumph. Vengence, for both of us, does not end as we wish it too." Surtr stares at the little deformed and severly injured godling before him and nods his head once, "But still we shall try. Hope is like the stars little cripple, no matter how vast the darkness they twinkle on, each a great ball of unquenchable fire." Hod seems to slump slightly and he offers a weak bloody grin, "Perhaps. But I have it on good authoirty that in the end, one day, the Darkness will win out. The Dark is always more patient then it's enemies. Always." and then he falls backwards into the rift, toppling into the ball field behind the ladies like a ragdoll, a cane of silver and ebony dropping atop him a moment later. Surtr merely snorts in his throne room and waves a dismissive hand, causing the rift to vanish and the tectonic plates to smash together once more, seailing the Way he opened. "What good is winning out if you do so alone?" he asks, but quietly, so that none of his minions may hear.

Betty Brant lands and pants. Head down, feeling the sudden chill of air across her skin is shocking. Still clutching the bag, she looks for the other two, only finding Sif at first and then the slump that is Hod. Brant moves to stand, feeling a million aches digging and hooking into her form, digging at her very soul.

"I'm sorry about all of this Lady Sif. I'm honored you came with us when you didn't need to. I'll give this gem to Fenris and Astryd. Hopefully then, we never have to think about it ever again."

Looking to Hod, she considers him at length. The rage was still there, the pure annoyance of it all. For now, it was over, and they were in a place she knew at least. Sighing, she looks to Sif. "Will you help him or should I?"

Sif doesn't fall gracefully, but at least she doesn't land on top of Betty. She moves to get up just in time for Hod to fall in as well, and land on top of her. She oofs, but then promptly scrambles out from under her cousin and turns to check on him.

"I will help him, Ms. Brant. But here," she offers the reporter what looks like a palm-sized round river rock. "Press this to your injuries, it will help them to a minor degree." She's emptying her pouch of more of these stones, and seems displeased that she has only three left. But, she doesn't hesitate to lay all three on Hod, one on his leg and the others on his most severe injuries.

"We might need assistance leaving this field to a place where we can properly rest, however."

Hod would push Sif away, but on his best day she's stronger then he is, and this is not his best day. "Just… Just get me to Lukes." he says after a moment. "And /now/," hissing breath, "/now/ we can use an Uber." he adds before he just sort of slumps into a human shaped puddle on the mound. "even." he murmurs as he catches his breath, "Tell Astryd… we're even. I owe her," breath, "nothing."

Betty Brant just quirks a brow at the pair. "What does Astryd have to do with any of this? I asked for your help and you answered." Brant comments flatly. Accepting the stone from Sif, she gives the woman a thankful nod. "Don't worry. I won't ask again." Looking as if she were messed up in a brawl herself, the woman pulls at her phone and gives it the once over. For some reason, it still works. She orders the car in question, even helps aid the pair to outside of the baseball diamond's fencing.

"He'll be here soon. His name is Emilio. I've already paid for the service so don't worry about it." Frowning, she turns, starting to head off down the street on her own way home.

Strangely, Sif is by far the least injured of the three, and because of this, she's not going to take any of Hod's gaff. Tearing strips of fabric from her own clothing, she uses them to tie the stones in place and then simply picks up her cousin like one might a smaller sibling. "What is Luke's, and why do you wish to go there? Do you maintain a residence there?"

She knows she can't take him to the Embassy, but perhaps someone else might offer him shelter while he heals? She could ask Astryd, or perhaps Ambrose, possibly even Steve…

Hod grunts as he's healing/tied and lifted, but he doesn't bother to fight it. "Cane." he reminds her, making sure she doesn't forget it. He's managed not to lose Light Drinker for two and a half millenia, he's not about to give up on it now. Not given how it's likely more powerful then he is at this point. "Bar." he then adds, answering her question. "Allies." because he knows she was gonna ask something along those lines next.

Brant heads off into the night and Hod shakes his head weakly, "She's not ready." he says, his face flopping against Sif's shoulder. "Doesn't… understand…" he's getting harder to understand himself, mumbling and murmuring more then talking. A moment late it's clear why as he's an unconcious lump, bleeding all over Sif's fancy armor. Creepily, he looks more like a skull when he's all out cold then he did when he was awake.

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