Previously, in Thor:
Kole Baldan, a gas station clerk from nowhere, after recovering from a near fatal wound, has begun to be haunted by a voice in his mind claiming not only to be the Asgardian demigod of thunder THOR, but that Kole himself is the new Thor.
Believing himself mad and succumbing to the voice’s demands, Kole journeys west and begins to encounter other mythical creatures and beings – a Norse troll, the Greek god of WAR Ares, and reuniting with Thor’s ancient allies, Volstagg, Fandral, and Hogan – the Warriors Three – to defeat the Dark Elf Malekith.
Slowly, reluctantly, the possibility that the voice may in fact be telling the truth grows ever more in Kole’s mind and heart. As astounding as it may be, the possibility may be fact… that Kole actually is THOR.
Randy Lander presents
Thor – Issue Six – Hammer of the Gods
By T.C. De Witt
The smoke and ash billowed around him, and sweat dripped from his body. Blood ran freely from his wounds. He heaved and gasped for breath. The bodies of the army lay at his feet. He had lost count of the dead as he fought. It did not matter. They had all died at his hands, and they threatened him nor Asgard any longer.
A chill washed over his damp skin, and he shuddered. The frost of the bodies nearest clung to him like the final scratches of the deceased. The cold reached out to him and held tightly to his bare arms.
With a grunt, he pulled his cloak from the ground; a frost creature’s limp form rolled away as the cloth came free. With another painful grunt, he swung the cloak over his shoulders.
He let his eyes fall upon the battlefield, and his heart thumped in agony. There were more bodies than ground for his eyes to see. All around him were theFrost Giants and his Asgardian brethren. Dead. All of them dead. What ground he could see was red and black with the blood of them all.
He stumbled forward, not sure where he was going, but listening sharply for any moan or cry – any sound of battle still being fought. But he heard only the wind and his own boots crunching over bone, spear, sword, and broken shield. The sun cracked through the gloom, and a soft beam of light fell upon a clearing just yards ahead.
His eyes grew wide in terror.
“Nay,” he whispered. His voice was cracked and strained. He struggled to speed toward the clearing, but his broken and beaten body would not allow him to make haste.
He reached the clearing, the sun still falling through the clouds onto what he saw there, and he collapsed before it, his hands not daring touch the thing. Sharply, with pricks of pain in each quick movement, he looked left, right, everywhere for the body – for any sign of the fallen warrior.
Where was his son?
Where was Thor?
Odin lifted his face to the heavens and cried out with what little voice he could manage. His call echoed for minutes, but no call came in return, and the clouds rolled on.
When had he last seen him? When the battle begun? When the castle had split in two? When the Frost Giants had fallen upon them like the waves of an ocean damned and bloodthirsty. Yes, Thor had raised arms before anyone. He had called all to fight!
And then… where had he gone?
Ymir, leader of the Frost Giants led the army of the accursed and Asgard went to war. Every being from every Realm was at their doorstep, and the castle fell to the clouds and earth. Odin had taken Gungnir, his mighty spear, and he had launched himself into battle as fully as any of his men. He struck down his enemies with passion, with anger, with the boiling hatred he harvested for those who would dare threaten his realm – who would dare bring Ragnarök upon them.
And the battle went on…
He knew not how long they had been in this war, but now – now it was over, and here laid the bodies of thousands, and here laid the one thing that could only mean that among those bodies was his child, his eldest. Before him, holding to the sliver of light, was Mjolnir, stationary, unmoving, uncalled.
“Thor,” came a voice, light and airy, “is dead.”
Odin turned and raised the broken tip of Gungnir, but a foot came down upon it, snapped it from his hands, and grinded it into the dirt and bones at Odin’s knees. He looked upon the thin figure of his youngest son.
Loki grinned coldly down upon the All Father with careless, heartless dead eyes that shimmered green and gold. He stood over Odin with his chin tilted up in disgust and pride – a conqueror’s pose over a defeated King.
Odin licked his cracked, chapped lips and growled up at the other, “Loki, what madness hath thou brought upon our worlds?”
“I have brought the end of all things, Father. I have fulfilled the destiny of all our worlds.”
“Thou hath brought Ragnarök!” Odin bellowed and lunged for the weakling, but it was useless. Odin was dying, his body succumbing to the ravages of war. He could feel the life leaving him.
“Destiny, Father,” Loki said as he circled the fallen King and dusted the lapels of his clean, green tunic.
“Thy destiny is to fall at the hands of thy brother,” Odin spoke into the dirt, a cloud of marrow puffing from his hot breath. “Thou hath always known this to be true.”
Loki chuckled, “And yet…” He was standing over Mjolnir eyeing it. He lowered his gaze, bent over the hammer, and touched the tips of his slender fingers to the end of the handle. The leather was warm.
Odin barked and fell upon the hammer, but it did not move. He hugged it, coughing from the sudden strain. “Thou will not taint Mjolnir with thy traitorous touch!”
Loki took a quick step back and laughed, “Pathetic.”
Odin stared at the hammer. “Destiny shall not so easily be halted, boy.”
“Hm?” Loki peered down at the All Father. “Thou still speaks? Is it not time for thee to die yet?”
Odin gripped the handle of Mjolnir and used it to brace himself. He rose unsteadily to his feet. With pops of his bones and strain to every muscle, he stood to his fullest height. He towered over his youngest child. He filled his chest and in a booming voice, spoke, “Loki Laufeyson, Child! Shapeshifter! Trickster! Thou hath brought the end of all things upon this world, but thou hath not achieved the holy end of all worlds! Asgard lives on in those who hath fled, be it in fear or cowardice! By the hands of my father Bor, by the hands of his Father Buri, I curse thy very name! Thou hath no place in Asgard. Thou art banished from these lands until the end of the end of times. You shall sit at the gates of Valhalla for all eternity never to enter!”
Odin ended with a mighty roar to the heavens. Thunder rolled and a crash of lightning echoed over the endless field of death. And as the final crackles of the proclamation faded, there came a soft, honest chuckle.
Odin’s eyes came to find Loki, who was smiling widely and laughing – a smile that was sick and evil and cold, full of hateful joy.
“Oh yes, my dear Father,” Loki said, his smile still wide on his pale face, “I dare. Thy power over this realm is gone. Thou cannot curse me. Curse thyself, if need be.”
“THOU DARE!” Odin went to grab the trickster but collapsed to the ground. His face collided with the stony earth. What little blood remained began to spill from the All Father’s mouth. His shaking hand grouping for Loki’s feet. Still he muttered in disgust, “Thou… dare?”
In a singsong lilt, Loki proclaimed,” Now have I snatched much of the mead of Buri’s heir Bor’s son.” He did a wave of his hands and smiled.
Odin’s hand grabbed at the dirt. He wanted so badly to push himself upright, to seize his child’s body, but he had no more strength. He could do nothing. He collapsed under his own weight and slowly rolled to his back. His hand found Mjolnir.
Loki tapped his lips thinking. “Thou make a fine point, Father. There are those who have fled – the women and children, certainly, but even warriors. I believe the swine Volstagg made no haste about escape to the Bifrost. Heimdall joined the fray, so I am sure he made it off-world. And there is Siff, of course…” He hummed and closed his eyes at the thought of her.
Odin’s hand wrapped around the hammer, and he began to drag it to himself.
“There is so much I could do here, now that I am Asgard’s King, but I should very much like to find my missing brethren. I need subjects,” he lamented. “I believe I shall make Volstagg my serving wench. The brute is quite fond of food…”
Sliding the hammer to his face, Odin ignored Loki. With a dry and painful swallow, Odin found the strength to speak in hushed tones, “Whosoever… holds this hammer… if he be worthy…” Odin swallowed once more and closed his eyes. The final moments of his existence were upon him. “…shall possess the power of … Th—.”
Odin’s wrist shattered in its skin and the hammer fell with a deafening THUD next to his writhing form. Loki had stomped, with all his might, onto Odin’s arm.
“Tsk. Tsk. Tsk,” Father,” Loki wagged a finger. “You have games left to play?”
Odin contorted and screamed. He shouted curses in every tongue upon Loki, but the trickster had eyes only for the hammer. And those devilisheyes shimmered green and gold, and he frowned. “I shall miss our games.”
Loki snapped his fingers. The pieces of Gungnir flew to him, and the ancient spear reformed, fully. It glowed golden for a moment, and Odin felt its warmth. Loki touched the tip of it to the hammer. His lips twitched, the smile gone. He spoke to the hammer, and the spear glowed stronger. Odin raised his hand weakly, but Gungnir’s tip found his throat.
“Finish thy words, Father,” Loki sneered. “I shall never claim Mjolnir as my own, so please, finish thy words. There be but one remaining.”
Odin hesitated. Why? Why allow this? Why… It did not matter. This was the final hope. Somehow, destiny could be set right by the power of the mighty weapon and Odin’s final breath. His hand grabbed the hammer. He yanked it to his face. His lips caressed it. “Thor.”
What came next was an explosion so powerful, so loud and awesome, that the very stars in the sky of Asgard ceased to be.
Kole awoke. He did not jerk awake this time. His eyes simply opened, and he was fully awake. The dreams and visions that had haunted him these months had become so commonplace, there was no sense in waking with such alarm. They came to him, these memories and visions, in his deepest sleep. They stuck with him, though fleetingly. No matter how he tried to hold onto them, they slipped away like smoke in the wind. He was left with feelings and the emotions of the time and place his mind’s eye had taken him. And he held onto those feelings as long as he could. He laid there breathing slowly.
It had been another battlefield; he had seen so very many of them now, foggy and bloody fields of murder and war. It had not gotten easier to experience these places and times.
Experience. He scoffed. What did he know of war?
Kole blinked at the sky above, the blanket of black peppered with pricks of light from the stars and planets and celestial bodies above him and the valley. He did not know war. He had had a half dozen fights – the only fights he had ever had in his life – but war? No, he was experiencing war through the visions or memories or whatever they were, but he did not know war, truly.
Sitting up, the heavy wool blanket slipped off his chest and the chilled north wind pushed through his sweater. He shivered and pulled the blanket back over himself. Next to him, the fire had died down. He picked up a stick from the edge of the small pit. The tip was smoldering and glowing orange-red. He poked at the embers hoping to stir up the last bit of life from the thick logs, but only a small feeble flame licked the tip and dwindled out. Kole held the stick for a moment willing the wood to light again, but to no avail.
The fights he had been involved with on this trip were the only battles he, Kole Baldan, had actually been in. They had been incredible. They had been like waking dreams, and more real than the visions. And he felt capable – truly capable in these fights against Trolls and an Elf and a God. He had never felt like a fighter before – had never wanted to fight. He had had scuffles as a child like any boy. He had been pushed around but rarely fought back. He had once shoved a boy who had thrown another boy’s hat off a cliff, but Kole had not been a fighter.
The blanket slipped from his shoulders as he stood and stretched. The eastern horizon was beginning to glow a soft yellow at the edges of the night blue. The sun was coming. The day was beginning. He may as well too.
As he gathered his meager belongings – the blankets, his backpack, the kettle, pot, and ice picks, and bundled it all with the climbing gear, he thought on the lingering moments from his dream. The old man warrior who had fallen under his foot… or someone’s foot… The venom in the words. The loathing… And the defeat. The defeat had been terrible. The losses all around him – bodies of hundreds – thousands…
Kole shuddered, and not from the cold Alaskan morning. He could still smell the air of that far away world. He could taste the iron of blood. He remembered the silence most of all. So many beings devoid of life lying at his feet, as far as his eyes could see.
Think not upon those lost souls. They died in battle. ‘Tis a death all warriors dare to achieve.
Kole shook his head at the voice. “I’ll bet not dying would have been higher on their to-do lists.”
They would rather have died than not fight at all.
As much as he hated to admit it, he understood. His hand gently touched the scar on his chest through his layers of clothes. He might not have understood before this journey, not comprehended why soldiers go to war so easily, but he knew now the thrill of victory, the rush of clashing with an enemy, and the honor of a well fought battle – Ares, Malekith, standing shoulder to shoulder with his warrior allies Volstagg, Hogan, and Fandral. Bone on bone, his muscles, so much bigger and toned than they had ever been behind the counter of the station aching after the adrenaline had subsided. The pride of a well-fought battle. He understood. It would be better to die fighting – fighting for something – fighting because of something good and just. He would never have believed it in himself before all of this, but now, he understood.
It was better to live a life with purpose. To fight for a purpose.
Thou hath come far.
“Yeah,” Kole said softly. He had. He stood and looked back down the sloping land to the south where he had trekked from.
The pull that had taken him across the desert and mountains had drawn him to the snowy north of Alaska. He had hitched most of the way, riding in semi-cabins with talkative long haul riggers or in the backs of less friendly drivers’ pulls. They didn’t ask a lot of questions. “Where you heading?” “Where you from?” But really, they just wanted the company, and Kole was glad to have someone other than the voice in his head babbling at him. At the very least, it was nice to hear someone who didn’t say “thee” or “verily”.
Kole was a very long way from the last post he had been let out at in Northern Fairbanks. His trucker friend bid him a farewell and began his own trek back south, back toward more inhabited towns. It was cold, and the layers he had accumulated weren’t doing much to fight off the wind, but he wasn’t too cold. His body was warming itself well enough. There was a time he could remember complaining when the winter desert months would put the temperature under 60. His body hadn’t built for what he considered cold. Now, he had so much more mass – muscle and weight. He even felt taller. He was twice the size he used to be. He didn’t remember it happening, but here he was.
“This all for you?” asked the clerk at the Bear’s Head, a gear shop Kole had bought supplies at.
Kole’s head popped out of his new sweater as he pulled it over his head, and he glanced at the mountain climbing gear: rope, carabiners, a harness, two ice picks, a first aid kit. “Yes, sir,” he said pulling out his money. “Do you know where I can—”
“Where I can—”
Purchase more of the teriyaki cured meat! The jerky!
Kole closed his eyes and sighed. “And some teriyaki beef jerky, please.”
The kindly clerk rang Kole up and helped him wrap the climbing gear correctly. He was a bushy faced older man with a pale pallor from so many months – years, really – without sun. He was missing his two front teeth, and his smile made him look like a jack-o-lantern. He explained the easiest way to unwrap and repack Kole’s gear. “…and make sure ya bury your fire pits. Not that the Rangers will come down on ya for it, but it’s a courtesy to the Eskimos. Respect the land and all.”
“Of course,” Kole replied as he pushed the pack over his shoulders. “I’m heading North. What’s the best way to go from here?”
The old man gave him an odd look. “Ya walking?”
“You trying to get dead or something?”
Kole smirked. “No, just taking a little trip.”
The old man snorted. “Little?” He scratched his beard with his stubby fingers and looked the strange young man before him over. “Yer healthy enough, by the look of ya. Don’t seem nuts either.”
Kole tried not to roll his eyes at that questionable comment.
“What are you looking for ‘zactly?” the clerk asked.
Kole looked out the window at the wilderness that surrounded them. The pull, the light that shimmered in his peripheral vision, was as bright and as strong as ever. Whatever was at the end of it was close. “Hopefully a pot of gold at the end of a very weird rainbow,” Kole shrugged.
The clerk gaped at him, blinking. “Come again?”
“Adventure,” Kole replied, trying to sound daring and casual, but he could hear the tremble of uncertainty in his words.
The clerk waddled up to the other and put a hand heavily on Kole’s shoulder. It was an awkward move, as the old man was over a foot and a half shorter. He patted Kole grandfatherly and said, “Boy, maybe ya’d better spend a night at the motel before ya go off and do something hasty like dying in the woods. We get yer type up here all the time – college fools trying to be Jack London. Kids doing some soul searching.”
Tell this fool that he is of no more use to thee and be gone! The call of destiny draws us!
Kole ignored that and smiled at the man. He could see the old fella meant very well by him. “Thank you, but I’m going to be fine. I’m ready for this.”
The clerk squinted and looked back at Kole sternly.
Kole kept his smile, but there was that small part of him that doubted the truth in that statement.
Thou art ready.
Kole felt his chest puff with pride. There were still moments when he lost control of himself. He played off the movement as a need to cough and covered his lips with a fist, fighting off the control. He nodded with a kind smile to the clerk. “I’ll be great. I just need to know where to start.”
The clerk gave him one more look over. “Okay,” he said. “Come ‘ere.” He led Kole to the wall and a giant map of the Alaskan territory. He pointed a pudgy finger at a red circle. “We’re right here. Ya wanna go north?” Kole nodded. “There’s a ski trail that starts right here.” He traced a path away from the dot. “And right here is where the sled trail starts. Ya take this – this is North Slope Haul here – It’s gonna take ya pretty far north. Not sure how far ya looking to go, but at about twenty miles, you’re on yer own. It’s just wilderness at that point. Mountains – the good climbing ones – those are about 40 miles out. You’ll have plenty of options.”
Kole studied the map and then out the window again. The path the old man had traced appeared to be right underneath the light that was guiding him.
“You be careful, boy. No one will find ya out there shit goes bad. Cept maybe a caribou or two”
Kole nodded slowly, but his gaze was still out the window, and his thoughts were already heading into the forest.
He had walked for a day, and it had been quiet, lonely. He walked without thinking. The voice would speak from time to time, but nothing more than a comment on the terrain and how much it reminded him of lands he had been to.
…Lands of Giants.
“Giants?” he asked, huffing as he moved through the deepening snow. Kole heard the word and it caught his attention. The slope of the foothills was steadily increasing. He would be upon the mountains soon.
“Like, Jack and the Beanstalk Giants, or of the “Andre the” caliber?”
I know not of this Jack nor Andre! What sort of Giants be they?
“Well, Jack wasn’t a Giant. He was just a kid who killed one. And Andre is quite possibly one of the most famous of the Giants… though he was really just more of a very tall guy with muscles. He sure seemed gigantic though.”
A child kill a Giant? Ha! This babe must have lied. No child could kill a mighty Frost Giant.
Kole rolled his eyes. “I’m pretty sure he was a Cloud Giant – er… Sky Giant? Anyway, he lived in the clouds and Jack climbed up to him and—”
“Right. On a beanstalk – a really, really tall plant that grew from some magic beans. Jack got up to the clouds and found the Giant’s castle and all his gold, and he took some stuff.”
Stole the Giants belongings!
“Yeah… Hmm… I guess it was pretty bad, now that I think about it.” Kole had never taken the time to consider that Jack had broken into the Giant’s castle and robbed the guy. That wasn’t very heroic. Why was Jack a hero, anyway? Maybe he was getting the story confused. It had been quite some time since he’d even thought about it.
And he slayed the Giant?
“Well, he chopped down the stalk as the Giant was climbing down it and… Boy, Jack was kind of a jerk. The Giant didn’t do anything that I can remember.”
Giants are evil things. T’was very noble of the child to slay the foul thing before it could wreak havoc on the lands.
“I guess,” Kole shrugged.
But alas! Magic beans, stalks, “Sky Giants”, and a child slaying one. These be fantasy! They be not the stuff of reality. They are fairy tale!
“Yeah, of course Jack and the Beanstalk isn’t real,” Kole said exasperated. “That’s the whole idea. They’re stories. That stuff isn’t real.”
Kole closed his eyes and shook his head. “Wait! What am I talking about? I’m up to my eyeballs in Norse mythology. What the hell do I know about what’s real and what’s fantasy? And you just said Frost Giants are real!”
Aye, but whoever heard of a “Sky Giant”. That’s just ridiculous.
Kole groaned, “You’re ridiculous.”
Before they could exchange any other words, a gentle pulse rolled over Kole. He staggered to a stop and put a hand to his forehead. He was momentarily dizzy. The sensation had felt like he had dipped into a warm bath for an instant and then pulled right back out completely chilled. He stood regaining himself, and looked about. The forest was thick, and the path he had been trudging was lost in the snow. Above, the white, glowing early afternoon sky was a blank canvas. The stars of the night had diminished with the sun. His gaze traced the white and fell upon the horizon where the tops of the trees broke apart. There, only miles away, like a beacon, like a rocky lighthouse in the ocean of wilderness, was a black mountain peak. And the light that pulled him glowed brightest.
Sweat dripped down his face. It cooled him as the gusts of mountain wind would chill them and become icy tracks. He was so warm and cold at the same time. He was burning from the exertion of the climb, sweating his clothes damp, but the air was thin and freezing, and the ice forming on his coat and top layer of pants were beginning to weigh him down.
The paths others had taken had gradually faded as he reached newer heights than those who had attempted the climb before him. Tiny flag markers with “D and S 1976”, “Devine ‘88”, or “The Becker Party 1999” were now gone. Above, as the mountain side grew steeper and steeper for longer and longer portions, Kole could see no more flags. He was on his own now. A trailblazer clinging to the side of a mountain no right minded person should be on.
“You’re going to get killed!” Joe Levy had yelled at him from the path on the Grand Canyon Nature Hike.
Kole frowned angrily. He wouldn’t be climbing off the path and down the stupid mountain if the jerk hadn’t thrown Ryan Zimmer’s hat down here in the first place. And even more annoying was that Kole never wanted to be a boy scout. His mom’s lame idea of getting him to be more outgoing.
“Kole! Just forget it! I don’t care!” Ryan Zimmer shouted. “Forget it!”
“I can get it,” Kole reassured and kept lowering himself down the wall. It was really just like climbing a tree – easier even. There was way more places to put his hands and feet. The tree in the field off the I-70 and by the gas station was the biggest tree he knew, and he’d climbed it a million times without any trouble. This was easy.
About thirty feet below, Kole could see the hat. He looked up at the other boys all leaning over the protective rail watching him descend. “I’m almost there!”
“Don’t fall!” one of the scouts yelled.
“I’m telling!” another whined, but he did not move, obviously not wanting to miss the spectacular save or the terrible fall.
“You’re an idiot Baldan!” Joe Levy spit. “You’re gonna get stuck and we’re all gonna get in trouble!”
Kole glared at him. He didn’t like Levy. He was eleven, a year older than everyone else, and he picked on everybody because he bigger. He was always shoving them around and bullying them. It was obnoxious. He left Kole alone, for the most part, but that was only because Kole usually just stayed off to the side, quiet and easily forgotten.
He had been doing just that as Mr. Barrows was guiding them on their strenuous nine mile hike – made all the more worse by the late July Arizona heat – along the Canyon path going on and on about the plants and the Colorado River below, and whatever else it was he was supposed to be showing them on this Scout retreat. Kole had lagged behind until the group was out of sight. He was just plugging along when he came around a curve on the path and found Levy knocking Ryan Zimmer to the dirt, snatching his hat, and whipping it over the bar, the Colorado River a half mile directly below. Kole didn’t think about what he was doing. He ran forward, shoved Levy in the chest, and swung over the poll after Ryan’s hat. Everyone shouted after him in shock.
Kole’s hand snatched the Cleveland Indians baseball cap off the small ledge, and he smirked. He looked up to the boys to wave and shout something smart at Levy, but his hand slipped.
“AH!” Kole lost his hand hold on the icy Alaskan wall and fell backwards. He hung in the space inches away from the sheer cliff for an instant, his eyes wide and fearful, and then he fell. He took a gasp of freezing air to scream, but with a massive jerk from the rope secured to his chest, he snapped to a stop. The line held, taut and vibrating, and the metal clip ten feet above groaned but held tightly. He dangled there in the bright nothing, twisting and turning from the rope like a fish on a line. He closed his eyes and regained his breath. His chest throbbed from the sudden stop, but at least it had been a quick moment and not a sudden stop the hundreds of feet below.
Where is thy focus! Thou were lost in some damnable memory! Dwell not on thy life before this moment here and now. Focus on the pull of—
“All right!” Kole cut the scolding short. “I got it, all right.” He grabbed his line with both hands, swung his leg out, kicked, and began climbing back to the last bolt and carabiner hook point, and the reason he wasn’t a splotch on the mountain side.
He had learned a lot since that first mountain climb. He was thankful he had paid attention during the climbing instructional all those years ago. He had never thought he would be using that knowledge, but as his life had become a never ending series of surprises, he was able to roll with it. He accepted it, and he climbed higher and higher.
The sun was peaking in the sky, and the clouds had cleared up enough for the beams to shine down on Kole and the mountain. It was slightly warmer. He paused to lift his face to the warmth and took a long drag from his camel pack. The water wasn’t very cool anymore, but it was refreshing.
Why did thou retrieve that helpless boy’s hat?
“Ryan Zimmer’s hat?” Kole curled his lip a little. He shook his head and scowled. “What does it matter? It was dumb. I’m lucky I didn’t fall.”
Why did it matter so much to thee?
“It didn’t. I was just acting out.”
It did matter. Anger fueled thee watching the larger child dominate the others around him.
“Things matter more when you’re a kid, I guess. Everything is so much more dramatic. I was just overreacting. It was just a hat.
It angers thee still.
“That’s because Joe Levy was such a dick,” Kole said sharply. “I guess it just bothered me too much not to do anything about it. I certainly didn’t make a habit of standing up to him.”
But you wanted to.
“What?” Kole turned his head a bit, but the voice did not reply. Kole waited a moment, but grew impatient. He threw his hand up, grabbed the cliff side, and pulled himself upwards. He was frustrated. He did not know what the voice was getting at. He was trying to get a rise out him. That was all. He wouldn’t let it get to him. He had to focus on the climb. The next ledge was very close, and he was determined to reach it soon so that he could eat dinner.
Hand over hand.
Higher and higher.
His thoughts drifted.
He had become so passive just watching the world from the back of classrooms, from his counter and register. There was no use in standing up to the jerks like Joe or the angry customers. What did it matter? They would come and go, and never bother again.
Sweat. Deep breaths.
But he had to admit it, he had been bothered, from time to time. It was these past months that had shown he was more than willing to fight. He had always had it in him, he supposed – always had it in him to stand-up and confront some… villain.
With a final push, Kole slipped over the edge of rock and rolled onto the flat meters wide space. He flopped onto his back and huffed for air. He pulled his hat and goggles off and wiped his face with his dirty glove. He pulled his zipper down to release some heat from his body.
“No… kidding,” Kole muttered. He was ready for food – ready to roll up in his sleeping bag and let a fire mesmerize him to sleep.
Nay. Rest only enough. There be no sleep for thee.
“The hell there won’t be,” Kole glowered. “What makes you think I’m not going to just conk out and…” He stopped short. His eyes widened as he slowly sat up. Before him, like the mouth of a beast, was an entry to some dark and threatening cavern, forty feet tall and just as wide. A pair of black crows squawked from above on a small lip at the top, one rolled its talons over the stone; the other pecked for a bug in an engraved letter. There were carvings all along the lip of the cave entrance – a doorway, ancient and foreboding. The symbols carved in the stone reflected the slowly setting sun, and they glowed black and hollow. The dark cave was a black hole. No light entered it. Light avoided it. It stared down upon Kole – stared through him – this mouth of blackness and silence.
We are here.
Kole gaped and swallowed dryly. “And where exactly is here?”
Kole dropped his gear to the stony floor just inside of the cave. He pulled off his hat and thick coat adding them to the pile of things he would not be bringing into this eerie place. He stood looking into the shadows and gripped the two ice picks tightly in each hand. The wind howled deep within, slipping through the hidden spaces between hidden crevasses in high whining tones, like the distant screams of ghosts. Kole blinked. “Whatever is in here,” he whispered, “doesn’t feel all that welcoming.” He took one of the picks and slipped it behind himself and into his belt. He grabbed the flashlight from his supplies and flicked it on; the beam pushed into the black in a straight and solid beam. The wisps of wind kicked about loose snow and caused trails of white to whip about in lines that twisted away and down the passage. They curled like ghostly fingers beckoning him to follow.
Tread lightly, lest thee fall to the specters that haunt this place.
Kole frowned. “Thanks for the comfort.”
‘Twas not comfort I give.
“Right,” Kole muttered. He swallowed and took a step into the darkness.
He jumped, startled. “Do you mind?” he asked. “If you’re going to keep talking, how about giving me an idea of what we’re going to find in here, hm?”
I know not.
Kole shook his head. “Why do I get the feeling you just don’t want to tell me?” The voice said nothing, and Kole continued into the cave.
The passage was very wide. He had no trouble moving down it, the beam from his flashlight leading the way. It snaked about so much that he could barely see ten feet down the path before the way turned and disappeared. His feet crunched on gravel and rocks, the echoes of each footfall like loud scrapping trumpets announcing his coming.
As he made his way deeper, the wind diminished, and the slinking trails of snow ceased to lead him. Further he went and the more cautiously he stepped. The walls remained wide for his descent, though the twists and turns became more and more frequent. The beam would find cracks and jutting rocks moments before he would have caught his foot and tripped. He wanted to slow his pace, but he did not want to stop. This was more than the feelings he had had when he was drawn to every other place on his journey – the waterfall, Portland, Hogan’s cabin. There was an intensity to this place – an intensity in the pull that felt like… like a conclusion to things. Could there be answers at the end of this gnarled path?
He turned a corner, and his foot, which should have found more solid stony floor, touched nothing, and, with a skip of his heart, he fell forward with a shout. His stomach turned; his heart hit his throat. He felt the rush of the fall as he dropped ten, twenty, thirty feet, twisting in the black nothing, the flashlight flipping around in the space like a strobe light.
His body crashed to the ground, and fireworks danced in his vision, though he could see nothing more than those lights. He was enveloped in black. His flashlight shattered somewhere on the ground.
His heart was beating intensely. He was in pure, complete darkness. There was not a prick of light anywhere. The void pushed on his eyes almost painfully as he desperately searched for anything that would allow him to see – see a shadow of his hand, the rock floor, his nose, anything – but the darkness was all there was.
Breath escaped him in gulps. His heart crashed against his chest. He was beginning to panic. To be in utter dark was to draw his instincts to a feral and ancient human fear – fear of the dark. Fear of the demons that the dark holds. It was panic like he’d never known.
And then came the low rumble.
Kole looked all around him, but still, his eyes could hold nothing.
The throaty rumble of some… thing touched his ears, and wherever he had landed, the space was large and open. The sound could be coming from anywhere in this place. He could not know.
The rumble began to form into a dangerous and steady thump.
Kole yanked his sweater off. He couldn’t breathe. He was suffocating.
The rumble became a voice. It became a laugh, sinister and wanting.
Kole froze, his hands and knees on the hard invisible ground.
“Heh-heh-heh,” came the voice.
“Who is there!” Kole demanded. He started feeling about finding rocks and stones.
“Heh-heh-heh,” the slow, amused laugh taunted.
Kole’s hand touched something – the ice pick! He wrapped his hand around it and knelt with it held forward. “Show yourself!”
Words formed, “Thou… have come… far…”
Kole swung the pick, the voice all around him. He shouted again, “Show yourself!”
“Weak… frightened…” the thing in the black said.
“Coward!” Kole’s shaking voice boomed.
“Thou call me—”
Kole closed his eyes. He slowed his breath. He exhaled deeply and slowly. “I call thee coward,” he growled.
The booming laughter ceased.
Kole slowly stood, and he gripped the pick with both hands. No more panic. He was not going to remain on his knees like a weakling. “If thee wishes to fight, let us be on with it,” Kole said forcefully and raised the pick before him.
There was a rush of movement from behind. Hebent and swung himself around. The end of his pick collided with some monstrous form, hard and weighty. It tumbled away, and another rush of sound came from his left. The axe found the mark with a squish; the tip of the ice pick pushing deep into a thick and large being.
There were roars of protest and pain. Thor raised the pick axe prepared for more, but none came. Instead, a light kissed his vision. A welcoming sensation of sight overwhelmed him as though he had been dying of thirst and been plunged into a pool of clear and cool water. The light filled the cavern, and he could now see his surroundings.
It was a quarry-like amphitheater with high sloping rises of steps and a flat open circle where he now stood. It was an ancient arena carved in the rocky cave. At his feet, two large human forms writhed – the two things that had attacked him. As the light directly above him glowed brighter and filled the arena, Kole could see dozens of other grey-blue figures standing at the tops of the slopes like spectators at the Coliseum. The beings were men, but over seven feet tell, dark skinned with blue and white hair. Most had shaved bald heads while others displayed long, flowing beards. They wore helmets and brandished weapons – great stone axes, clubs, and jagged swords. They swayed and heaved anxiously, their bodies poised for attack.
“By the Gods of the Nine Realms,” Kole whispered in amazement, “The Frost Giants of Jotunheim.”
Aye. Be thee ready to face these demons?
With the pick axe steady in his grip, Thor nodded gravely and said with dark determination, “Let us make a battle that will topple this mountain.”
The ball of blue light that flooded the arena dipped and floated slowly from the center of the ceiling to the top of the highest rise. Standing there, with his hand extended to receive the light, was a ten-foot-tall warrior in pelts of fur and bones. His long white beard was made of hair and snow, frost lined his skin. His eyes were blank pale orbs flickering in the blue light of the glowing orb. He snatched the ball and placed it on a pedestal to his right. The light spewed other globes from itself that flew about the cave and landed on dozens of other holders. He spoke, the thunderous voice that had greeted Kole in the darkness, “I be Ymir, son of Aurgelmir, Lord of Niffleheim, Ruler of the Frost Giants of Jotunheim, Bane of the Nine Realms, and birthed by creation itself. Who be thee – speak now.”
Kole raised his axe to the Frost Lord. He narrowed his eyes calculating the space from this center point in the arena to his quarry, the amount of speed he would need to fall upon the thing, the force he would need to plunge his axe into the being’s skull to end its existence, and he drew a breath.
Kole respectfully dropped to his knee, bowed his head, and placed the axe on the ground. “Lord Ymir of Niffleheim, I seek not to battle with thee and your people – I did not come to the top of thy mountain seeking to claim thy treasures or belongings. I am a humble wanderer on a quest that has drawn me to this place. I seek not to quarrel with thee. I am drawn by an ancient and powerful force within these caverns – a force that has taken me on a long and difficult sojourn. I seek only passage to the end of my quest and the object that pulls me here.”
Silence fell upon the place, all eyes upon the stony Ymir. The Lord of the Giants tilted his head and peered down his nose at the human knelt below. “Speaketh the name of this holy object, warrior. Speaketh loud and clear so that these ancient ears my hear you.”
Kole lifted his gaze to the Giant and spoke true, “I seek that which smashes, forged by the dwarfs of Asgard by order of the All-Father, keeper of the core of the Ever-Star, the Laufey Slayer, the weapon of the All-Father, the Hammer of Thor. I seek Mjolnir.”
The gathered Giants roared with blood thirsty vengeance. Their calls boomed and echoed around Kole, but he did not flinch. His eyes remained upon Ymir as the leader of the Giants stared back with unreadable eyes. One of the protesting roars sped toward him, Kole jerk about to find one of the Giants attacking.
Thor rolled to his shoulder, the Giant’s knee crashing into the rock where Kole had knelt, chunks of earth broke free. Thor came to his feet and swung the ice pick, but the tip missed its mark; the eight foot tall monster planted a balled hand into Thor’s chest causing him to lift into the air heaving the breath from his lungs, and losing the pick. It clattered to the Giant’s feet, and instantly, he kicked it away. Thor landed on his back roughly, but was rolling to his side in a heartbeat, fists raised. The Giant sped forward and tackled Kole. They fell to the ground, the heavy beast crushing his ribs. He took both thumbs and shoved them into the Giant’s eye sockets. The thing bellowed angrily, spit and mucus splattering Thor’s face. The thing thrashed, and Thor was loose beneath him. He jammed his knee as hard as he could into the thing’s side causing it to roll. Thor rolled opposite, skidded over the rough ground on his belly, wrapped his hands around the ice pick, spun about and threw it with all his might.
With a bloody, sickly THUNK! It planted itself directly between the Giant’s eyes, killing it.
Thor rose unsteadily, walked to the dead thing and looked down upon it. He closed his eyes momentarily honoring the death of the warrior. He then reached down, and yanked his weapon free from its skull. He turned and faced Ymir once more as the eruption of roars grew louder and louder. Thor stood stoically, waiting for more, but his eyes remained on the Giant Lord.
The commotion slowly settled, and the Giants returned their attention upon Ymir. “Thou seek the Hammer,” Ymir rumbled. “Though art weak. Thou art unworthy.”
Thor spoke clearly so all could hear, “Send me everyone of thy warriors, and I shall strike them dead to prove my worth.”
Roars. Calls. Shouts.
Ymir let his people settle. He spoke, “Be thee worthy, thou whilst face judgment and be honored for it.”
Strike him now whilst thou hath the moment!
“Honored?” Kole questioned.
“No more words, warrior. Prove thy will!” And with a curt nod to his people, the lights of the cavern were eclipsed by the dozens of Giants launching themselves at Thor.
He drew a breath, and as he exhaled, the pick axe planted deeply into the chest of a smaller of the Giants. It remained there as the body fell backwards and to the cavern floor. Thor leaped beside the falling being, snagged it’s dagger from its outstretched hand, rolled to the ground, stood and plunged it into another Giant’s leg. The creature howled and reached for the human. Thor dodged the grasp, dove through the Giant’s legs, twisted about and sprung into the air. He landed on a Giant’s back – one he had faced earlier who still had a spear in his shoulder. Thor grabbed the spear with both hands and swung down on it like a cross beam. The force yanked the Giant down. It hit the ground face first, and Thor was up and running in an instant.
All around him were the injured and unconscious Giants that he had disabled – ten already dead, and several more bleeding – but the wave of them continued. He sprinted between two enormous ones, scooped up a battle axe, and whipped it backwards slicing the leg clean off of one. In front of him was a row of stone seats – benches for the Giants’ Coliseum. He planted a foot on the bench, kicked hard, and leaped right over the heads of three creatures rushing down to him. They bumbled into one another attempting to reach for the soaring human over their heads. Thor landed on both feet, turned about, and sprinted adjacent the trio. Thor’s glance shot to the upper area and Ymir.
The Giant Lord stood passively watching the battle. He made no move to join the fight; his eyes captured it all lazily. At his side, the glowing orb of light bounced as if excited by the display. The Lord Giant’s arms were folded over his chest.
Reach the Bane of the Nine Realms and end this! Thy claim over this mountain kingdom will be just if thy hands strike Ymir dead!
Their was a unsettled whine in the voice, but Kole did not need the voice telling him what to do. He had no attention to give it right now.
How he lives cannot be! He fell to Odin!
“I care not!” Kole shouted as he kicked an enemy in the face and punched him just as quickly.
Speeding along as another pair of Giants swung twin clubs down, Thor skidded to avoid the blows, threw himself sideways, and shouldered a Giant twice his height in the back. The thing swung about and grabbed Thor by the chest like a child with a toy. The Giant lifted Thor up, grabbed his legs as if to yank him in two, but Thor forced his elbows down into the hand, pushed it open, and came loose. He flopped over, dangling from his legs, looked right into the face of the Giant, took his hand like a spear and jabbed the Giant right in the eyeball.
“AAAAARG!” the Giant bellowed and chucked Thor like a doll back to the center of the arena and at the feet of six Giants.
A wave of cold blew all around him. One of the Giants was using an incantation to bring the temperature down in the cavern. Thor’s breath was coming from his lips in puffs of white. Frost was forming quickly on his exposed skin.
They shall grow more powerful with the dropping cold!
“I know, dammit!” He shouted and looked around swiftly. He could see the Giant summoning the cold. He could see a globe of light at a pillar just past the approaching Giants. “Hope those things are warm,” he muttered.
Thor ran headlong at the pack of Giants. He snatched up a long spear, planted it at the ground before the six, and vaulted directly over them. As he passed their heads, he grabbed one of the small clubs being swung at him right out of a Giant’s hand. He sped through the air and crashed onto the rocky steps of the arena and next to the glowing pedestal. He looked quick at the cold summoning Giant once more, and swung the club like a baseball bat.
The globe of light rocketed across the arena, collided with the Giant, and ignited it immediately. As it screamed, the wave of cold wind was cut off. Several of the still conscious Giants fled from the warmth.
Kole had a moment of reprieve. He glared up the rise at Ymir and sneered, “Enough of this.” He began to run the length of the risers, dodging the reach of the remaining Giants, circling to the their leader. “Ymir!” Thor shouted. “Face me, coward!”
Ymir’s face finally changed. It grew dark and severe; his eyes followed the human rushing toward him. He turned and faced this brave man and he held up a commanding hand. The other Giants stopped chasing the man. They stopped and waited. Ymir stepped into a ready stance with his fists at both sides of his muscular body. A pulse of cold came off his chest with every steady and sure beat of his heart. He allowed a hint of a smile. It had been a very long time since he had fought anyone.
Thor, the club still in his hand, took the final speeding steps to Ymir and jumped high into the air. As he flew down, the Frost Giant Lord lifted his fists, ice gloves forming over both. He pushed both forward and met the blow of the club. The stone weapon cracked the edges of both ice fists, but the thing itself shattered from the force. Thor let go and landed on both feet before the Giant; he was half the size or Ymir.
A volley of blows struck Ymir in the stomach, and he took pause; the Giant marveled for an instant at the power this mere human possessed. The blows forced him back, and he keeled over. As his head dropped, the human jumped with an uppercut and connected with Ymir’s jaw. His teeth clattered. He grunted painfully and annoyed.
Thor grabbed the Giant by the waist and pulled him hard. Before Ymir could balance, they titled and fell from the raised platform. They fell down the stone steps, one after the other, crashing unceremoniously to arena floor.
They landed, and Ymir recovered first. He grabbed the human by his long hair and lifted him as he stood. The man hung their by his hair in Ymir’s fist, and the Frost Lord sent a blast of cold from his lips, freezing Thor’s body.
“AAAAAAH!” Kole screamed and thrashed. His hand whipped out and grabbed Ymir’s bottom lip. With a tug, Ymir’s head was brought forward, and Thor’s knee connected with Ymir’s upper teeth, splintering two of them and slicing the knee open with a burst of blood. Ymir dropped Thor.
Kole flipped head over feet and landed on his back before Ymir. The Giant lifted his foot to stomp, but Thor grabbed the remains of a spear and forced it straight up and through the sole of Ymir’s foot. The Giant’s leg instinctively pulled away and Ymir fell to the side. Thor pulled the spear back with him, kipped to his feet, ran after Ymir as he rolled to his side, and jammed the spear into the Lord’s thigh. He used the planted rod as a lever and forced Ymir to roll to his stomach.
Thor kicked the spear in half, ripped the blade from Ymir’s leg – blood spurting from the wound – ran up the felled Giant’s back, right up to his head, and grabbed him by his hair, titled his head back, raised the spear tip high, and brought it down with all his might to Ymir’s neck.
And stopped just before the blade could slice the Frost Giant’s throat in two.
“Yield,” Kole growled.
What dost thou do! End him! Kill him!
“Yield to the might of this weak human,” Kole hissed into Ymir’s large ear.
He would not show thee the same mercy! Kill him.
“Thou,” Ymir’s said in a strained voice, his head titled back uncomfortably. “Thou art no human.” His eyes came to find Kole’s face. “Art thou?
Kole let the tip of the blade kiss Ymir’s throat.
“I yield,” Ymir nearly smiled. Kole dropped the blade and climbed off of Ymir’s back. He stood aside as the Giant slowly rose, rubbing his throat and wincing. The leader of the Giants looked slowly at all of his people, living and dead, and nodded. “That,” he said with approval, “‘twas a fine battle.”
“I did not wish to fight thee,” Kole said gravely. “I did not come here to kill.”
Ymir appraised the human and said, “But we thank thee for it.”
The Giants gathered around them, and Ymir waited until all were present. Kole stood silently, not showing any signs of pain or injury, though bleeding from several gashes and wounds. It had been a test of endurance, and Kole had to admit that he was exhausted, hungry, hurt, but he felt charged and alive; exhilaration pumped through him.
“Long have we waited – decades… centuries… We know not,” Ymir’s voice carried as he proclaimed these things. “Time does not pass within the dark we hold sanctuary within. But long have we sat in wait. So few have come to challenge us and make way to the Hammer of the Gods. All have failed and died swiftly.”
Ymir held out his hand, palm up, and one of the globes of icy blue light came to him. It rotated slowly and flickered with images as the Lord of the Frost Giants spoke. “We pray for the return of Asgard – the lands of our enemies and honored warrior rivals.” Kole could see an enormous castle surrounded by clouds and flying horses. He could see men in armor and women in gowns of light and gold. Ymir spoke on, “We pray for the rise of Asgard as it once was so that we may once ore fall upon it – that we may unleash vengeance upon the All-Father Odin and his kin.”
“You… want it back so you can destroy it?” Kole interrupted.
Ymir’s white eyes found Kole, “It is destiny that we shall rightly fulfill. It is destiny we shall not be denied.”
“But,” Kole went on. “Asgard fell. Asgard is gone.”
“By the hands of another. Our birthright was stolen from us by lies and deceit, and we were banished to this sullied Midgard by the trickster.”
A feeling of anger stirred within Kole, and he did not interrupt again.
“We found this place, and we found Mjolnir within it, and we lay in wait for the day when the worthy one shall claim it, for only one may raise the mighty hammer. Only one shall ignite the dawn of the fifth age! There be only one worthy enough to be called Thor!” Ymir stared unblinking at Kole. Kole licked his dry lips and stared in return. He did not blink either. “Be thee the one we await?”
Kole raised his head and turned slowly. He looked upon the gathered Giants. They watched him, silent and anxious, but not to attack. They were slaves about to be freed. Kole returned his eyes to Ymir and replied with a clear, “Aye, I be the Odin Son. I am Thor.”
There were no gasps or cheers. Ymir’s face moved closer to Kole and his lips parted to reveal his sharp and bloody teeth. “Prove it.”
“I will not fight thee any longer,” Kole said. “If I am able, I shall free thee all from this prison Midgard and return thee to Jötunheimr.”
Ymir chuckled his low and rumbling laugh and shook his head. “A noble vow, but I ask not that thee fight. I ask that thee raise the sleeping Mjolnir,” Ymir said. He lifted his large hand and pointed to a passage at the far end of the arena. A dozen balls of light rushed to the hole in the cave wall and lit it with a soft blue aura.
Kole faced the passage and a wave of excitement washed over him. His pain vanished. The aches of the fight vanished. He drew a long steadying breath and began to walk.
“Know this, would be Odin Son,” Ymir halted Kole, though he did not turn to look at the Frost Lord. “We shall honor thy claim to Mjolnir and leave thee on thy way, but thou hath given us solemn vow to return us to our world. If thee truly be Thor, thou will honor that vow, or we shall kill thee without remorse nor haste. If thee be but another deceiver, and fail to raise the hammer, thou shall die here and now in this dark and accursed realm.”
Kole nodded once, and walked into the passage.
Raise the Hammer, and thou must free the enemies of thy Father, leaving them to kill and destroy Asgard. Raise the Hammer but fail to free them, and they shall destroy Midgard and then Asgard. Be thee aware of the choice thou faces?
“Your forgetting the third case scenario here,” Kole said.
“What if I don’t raise the thing at all?”
The voice did not reply.
Kole scoffed. “Yeah,” he muttered, “that’s my least favorite too.”
The passage was lit by the tiny ice globes that cast dramatic and harsh shadows on the craggy rocks and boulders. The shadows were tiny dark dancers silently cheering Kole’s every step. A gentle tug drew him forward – the driving pulse of the force that had drawn him here from hundreds of miles away.
Nearly six months had passed since he had left the Colorado gas station he called home. Six months of travel and adventure after a lifetime of complacent serenity. He had never wanted to see the country. He had never thought it mattered to drive to exciting places and get involved in things out of the norm. How many people had passed in front of his counter on their way to Las Vegas or Hollywood, or were returning from some Spring Break in Cancun or Tijuana? He had listened to the excited survivors of weekends on the road and never thought much of them. They all blended together after a long while – all sounded like the same boring experiences exaggerated to make the trip more worth it to the storyteller. Kole had never desired a life of adventure.
Everything changed after that gunshot. Everything changed after the voice had come to him. He doubted it was real – fought against it – refused to accept it. He was insane. He had lost his mind and his way. He was deluded and probably dying from some brain hemorrhage. But it all kept building and building. The thing of it was that he started to enjoy it. Kole started to crave it. Kole had a reason to be more than the guy in the desert gas station. He had helped people. He had saved people. He had become the hero. And the power that he felt deep within was growing with every moment he spent in this new and awesome role. He didn’t want to deny it anymore. He was driven by it – powered by it, this desire for adventure and heroics. Kole loved who he was becoming.
The passage opened to a room, cylindrical and rising high into the mountain ceiling, stretching up to an opening in the rocks that spilled light into the cave. The glowing and crisp moonlight illuminated the place with a halo that fell upon a single object on a raised dais. Kole stopped short; his mouth cracked open in awe. There, in the moonlight, was a rectangular hammer with a leather bound handle – the Hammer.
“Mjolnir,” Kole whispered at the same time. He dare not approach it. He couldn’t. He hesitated at what this moment would mean.
Approach thy destiny, Thor.
“I… I can’t,” he said.
Pray thee, what do you speaketh This is the force that has called thee! Approach the Mighty Mjolnir! Claim thy rightful role!
Kole did not move. He could even feel his travel companion attempting to move him forward, but he did not budge. “I can’t,” Kole repeated. “This is it. This is the end of the journey.”
Verily! Take the final steps!
He shook his head, forcing the shouts to silence. “Don’t you get it! This is the end! Everything I’ve done – everything you’ve lead me through – it ends right here and now when I touch that – that thing!”
No words came. The attempts to move his feet stopped.
“If I touch that thing – if I… if I can move that thing, then all of this, everything I have done was true and right and what I was always meant to do. If I pick up that hammer, then I know who and what I am for the rest of my days. I will be a protector. I will be a hero and a – a god…” He trembled. A wave of fear washed over him. “I will be a God,” he repeated the words in a hushed voice.
I have witnessed nobility and honor in all that thou hath done. I have bared witness to the deeds of strength, not just of a physical strength, but of will and conscience. I have seen thy courage and thy will, Kole Baldan, and thou art a God already. This shall prove it.
Kole nodded slowly. A realization he had been hiding from himself came to the surface of his thoughts. He wanted it. He wanted it so badly to be true. He wanted to be more than the cashier from nowhere. He wanted to be larger than life. He wanted a purpose. He wanted to be the God of Thunder. He wanted, truly and deeply.
Then why dost thou hesitate?
Tears came to his eyes. He didn’t hide them. He let them fall down his cheeks. The lump in his throat grew and he took shaky gulps of air. “What if it doesn’t move?” he whispered in fear. “What if it’s all a lie?”
He had taken a step without realizing it. The pull of it – the force that called to him had brought him closer to the Hammer. He stood over it now, and his tears drip-dropped onto the dais that held the dusty and ancient weapon. Ancient words he could not read were craved into the side of the object.
Is it a lie?
“I don’t… I don’t…”
Is it a lie, or are thee truly…
Kole’s hand lifted from his side.
It caressed the leather. His fingers slid around it.
The Odin Son?
He gripped it.
The God of Thunder.
He squeezed it.
The mighty and eternal…
Kole screamed, and his voice crackled in the silent cavern, “THOR!”
Lightning streaked overhead, the entire mountain vibrated from the explosion of thunder as Kole Baldan lifted the Mighty Mjolnir from the ground and raised it high over his head. A bolt of yellow-white electricity erupted from the godly weapon and spewed lightning up through the mountain hole, into the black night, and blinded even the moon itself.
There were those who would speak of that moment for decades far and wide in the Alaskan territories. Night sky watchers would speak of the moment the Aurora Borealis swirled and shifted like sand in the wind and the impossible light that washed over the heavens in a moment that stopped hearts and minds by the beauty of it. There would never be an explanation to those who witnessed it, but most would claim it was a glimpse at God himself, and they would take comfort in knowing that it had happened.
Kole stood with Mjolnir over his head, tears streaming down his face, his body shaking with energy and joy. And he laughed like a child. He laughed with glee and utter happiness.
And another wave of laughter joined his echoing voice. A laugh with words.
“Yes! Ha-ha-ha! YES!”
The voice cheered for him, and Kole smiled with gratitude.
“By the Gods, yes!”
Kole laughed on. His friend, this strange and ghostly voice in his head, cheered for him.
“It has happened! By all the gods in all the realms, it has worked!”
Kole closed his eyes to soak it all in.
“I have done it,” the voice said.
Kole’s eyes slowly opened. His own laughter started to slow as he listened to the voice laugh louder and more joyously.
“I have done it,” the voice repeated, and Kole realized that the voice was not coming from within. No, it was no longer coming from his mind but from behind.
“For so very, very long, I hath only dared dream it,” the voice trembled in a state of shock. The joy was changing to a deep disbelief.
Kole turned slowly, Mjolnir, still in his grasp, dropping carefully to his side. He turned and faced the voice, and he felt his heart skip. He couldn’t breathe. His smile vanished.
Standing before him – standing in the cave as though he had walked right in with Kole – was the Man from Minnesota – the man from the gas station. The last customer before the biker – before the hold up. Kole gaped in utter disbelief. “Wha… What…”
The Man was laughing still, staring into the heavens through the ceiling and cheering. “I knew it the moment we spoke – the moment I crossed thy threshold.” His excited eyes fell on Kole’s pale and confused face. “I always said a clean and well maintained establishment was the sign of a clean soul, and by thunder, thou are so very, very clean.”
Mjolnir slipped from Kole’s hand and clang on the stone ground.
The Man stepped closer, and his suit and tie began to alter and morph on his body. “Thou raised the Mjolnir. You. Are. Thor.”
“What is this? I don’t – I don’t understand,” Kole said, a terror growing within him.
“The words of thy Hammer say it all. Our Father’s words.”
Kole looked down on Mjolnir, and the words etched unto it were clear to him now. He read it in a hushed voice, “Whosoever holds this hammer, if he be worthy shall possess the power of Thor.”
“Ah! But there is,” the Man interrupted tartly as he stepped closer to Kole, his suit now vanished and a tunic forming in its place. “One teensy, tiny little addendum of my own.”
Kole shifted his gaze to read the carved words again. They changed on the engraved plate, and he read them. “…be he worthy, shall… BE Thor?” His mouth went dry. His eyes snapped up to the Man before him.
The face of the Man, it had twisted and changed too. He stood a foot from Kole grinning in a clean, green and black tunic, and his eyes shimmered green and gold, and with a snake-like hiss, Loki spoke, “Hello, my dear brother. I am going to kill thee now.”
…to be concluded in Marvel Rebooted: THOR #7