1964-10-15 - Asgard Aflame: Helasspa I
Summary: The goddess of fate strives to understand the balance of things in an alternate Asgard.
Related: Asgard Aflame
Theme Song: None
bucky kai kelda karnilla 


Thresholds serve the Queen of Nornheim well. Boundaries of day and night, for one. Wealth and squalor. Humanity and alien races. Divine and mortal. Choose one and it explains why a dark-haired woman clad in the thinnest mortal guise stands at the very boundary of Asgard's embassy. The old Wildenstein Mansion fell into Asgardian hands near on a year ago: another anniversary, another tolling. No guard under the realm's provenance comes near her, all stationed as far away as they can possibly get. She is, after all, one of the two Aesir who can smirk at Odin and get fully away with it.

A minute ago she was not here. Now she is, holding a slim dagger bladed in starlight, pointing the quarters from that spot. Behind her the scent of crushed leaves and herbs fades on an icy patina around Kelda's feet. "This has enough sympathy to suit my purposes. Now we need the children of life and death. Freeze the apple and cleave it, lady. By sundown they will be here, or they'll answer the Call."

*

"Of course, your highness," replies quietly the Shield-Maiden of Thor, she who wields the might of borrowed Boreal's Tear. The ranseur is a fearsome weapon, able to conduct both elemental water and ice magic to equaling degrees — still, she searches for her original weapon, Mellakaldr, the only way to fully tame the blizzards to bend to her whims.

In her palm, a freshly-picked specimen of said fruit, its color not diminished by time. She blinks once, looking upon, and even as her pale lashes rise, the thin layer of ice creeps to encase it. An easy task to set the ranseur's blade to its skin and with a crackling pop, it splits in her palm. No blood is spilt for the stop-gap between edge of weapon and skin.

"They will attend upon us…one way or another." Her glacial-blues shift to look about the property.

*

He comes. And he comes armed, does Sergeant Barnes. Admittedly, only with his usual array of knives hidden on him, a pistol under his layered shirts. His face is calm, but his pale eyes are alight with what might be a cold, restrained rage. James Barnes is the name he's still answering to, but that look is all Winter, even if it's Winter coopted to Bucky's will. He's with Kai, and the line of his back is stiff with anger. He'll let the elf do the talking at the gate of the embassy, let Kai the charming explain their way in.

*

Kai hangs close to Bucky. Whereas the assassin looks angry, Kai is uncharacteristically quiet and subdued. Not so much though that he can't turn on the charm when he approaches the entry to the Embassy. "We're servants to His Royal Highness, Loki Odinson, and I'm a citizen of Alfheim." He's been here before. They've let him in every time so far.

*

Never once does Karnilla flinch as she draws a complicated series of runes in the air. Ornate sigils blend and bleed together, visible only for a split-second upon their completion. The apple melts away under the Shield-Maiden's hand, drops of frozen flesh sublimating into the very spell-essence she weaves into the stream of city lights and traffic along the fringes of Fifth Avenue and East 64th.

The spell takes. Clarions know no distance as far as she is concerned. Those starry, terrifying eyes watch kingdoms rise and fall in the interceding moments. Lives turn to dust, dooms known by the Lady of Fate. The two men gathered at the gates earn a nod to Kelda. "There they are. Wouldst thou spaketh to them of the purpose?" Aesir, for that sake. The guards if they hesitate for a moment receive a pointed, expectant look from a monarch bred. Move aside, sirs.

*

"Aye, your highness." The guard will at least recognize Lady Stormrider as constant shadow to their liege and all will meet within the main foyer of the opulant mansion. Kai and Bucky are hailed first by the raise of Kelda's empty hand. Willowy and lithe, with blonde hair nearly white and braided into an intricate weave about her skull, robed in rich ice-blue silks lined by silver, the warrior-mage steps towards them, her smile a mild and cool thing in the end. The long pole-arm is easily held in her other hand.

"My lords. You heard the call. Her highness, Queen of the Norns, and I were the architects of the summons. I am Lady Kelda Stormrider, Shield-Maiden of Prince Thor of Asgard. He is occupied by heavy-hearted words with his parents, the King and Queen; thus, I speak in his stead." The subtle lift of her chin challenges them otherwise. "If you are unknowing of our reason for your presence, the Golden City recently received a dire warning. A rift upon the worlds was opened and Prince Thor spoke with himself, in flesh and lost blood. It seems that in another reality, parallel to our own, there has been treason. The throne is taken. With the loss of this…Other-Thor," she gives Karnilla a wary side-glance and then looks back to the two gentlemen; " — it leads our path to the realm of Hel. We solicited you, my lords, because of your abilities and skills."

*

This is James Barnes's dubious face, try as he might to conceal it…but that tension has eased considerably from his shoulders. "Ma'am," he says, politely, not arguing the designation of 'lord'. He can quibble about the fact that at most he's a sergeant, later. Maybe. "We heard your call and answered. I'd heard from a…a friend that trouble had befallen Asgard, but not to the extent you've just named to me. I'm not sure how much I can do, as a native of Midgard, but I've made my oath to the Allfather, and if there's need of me, I'm here." A beat of hesitation, and he adds, a little ruefully, "If there's going to be fighting, I have better armaments than I brought with me. Time enough, I'd like to go get them if I can." Fighting giants with a tac knife….there's bravery, and there's suicide by proxy.

*

Kai toys with the pendant at his neck and says, "I've all I know how to fight with with me. I'll do everything I can for the cause, of course." For someone who claims Asgard is 'the worst' he's sure bright-eyed and eager to defend it. "I'm… I'm not afraid of Hel." If he says it enough, maybe he'll believe it.

*

"There would be no value in gathering the weapons you have, for they would not serve any such purpose against the shades. We go not for giants. We go to dine with Death and discover where lies the Crown Prince." Karnilla's voice shifts effortlessly into the refined English that comes with a purring accent. Italian, naturally, the slightest catch delivered on every sound. It has to fit the human persona she presents, someone who could make Coco Chanel seem dowdy and Yves St-Laurent or Emilio Pucci so terribly passe. She slides the blade back into a sheath at her waist, which otherwise acts as a designer belt. She opens her palm; in it blooms a wellspring of foggy light rotating in a somnolent orb. "You should be afraid of Hel, ljosalf. Mortality governs us all. Bravery is acting despite your fear." The circle she draws spills out the orb onto the marble floor as the sun dips past the horizon. Thresholds are powerful and they have their price. "Step through. Breathe as you do and you will find there is no air."

*

Kelda's own accented English is lightly Scandanavian. Why not? She'd be the belle of any lutefisk celebration.

"I would trust in her highness's thoughts on the matter." That's all the softly-spoken warrior-mage apparently has to add to the conversation at hand. Fearlessly, she lifts the hem of her robe in a courtly manner and steps into the horizontal break upon reality. Not too unlike walking into water, the Lady Stormrider then simply…disappears.

*

Winter contributes his share of sangfroid, but a good deal of it is James's own. How many times has he died, by now? A dozen? Explosion. Electricity. A bullet to the brain. The teeth of other beasts. And here he is, determined to march out his share of mortal time, despite the best efforts of foes, human and not. "Oh, she's going be really happy to see us again," he mutters to Kai. "Fair enough, lady," he says, imbuing the latter with the proper tone of respect - more Tolkien than the Brooklyn sense of 'Hey, lady, watch where you're going.' He takes a deep breath, and steps into it. Sooner begun, sooner done.

*

Kai says, "Yes, but I'm not going to admit it." His brows lift. Argue that flawless logic. He looks down at himself and smooths his chinos. He dressed for comfort, not for hanging out with a godess. All things considered, he doesn't get too bent about it. "To be fair," he tells Bucky, "I was never at that dinner. This will be the first time back since I escaped." And boy isn't he sheepish about it. Upon Bucky's heels, he steps into the portal. Sooner begun, sooner done.

*
Into Hel

The portal awaits its lady's summons and pleasure. Stepping through is akin to taking a slap in the face from the coldest reaches of the cosmos and how not? Ice hangs brittle on the dark underbelly of the World Tree. Where did ice and fire commingle, the breath of creation flowed, so said the Norse. Her warning was insufficient: this is like being dipped into liquid nitrogen and dumped on a world where the very atmosphere collapsed for lack of warmth and light. A cruel planet wandering the outer dark without a star, and the terminal point isn't much better.

*

When she steps through, it's without the benefit of her total mortal guise. The illusion burns away to display her in wine-purple garments belted at the waist, a constellation settled upon Karnilla's hair. Actual stars used as ornaments, no lie there. She's taller than likely all of them.

Impressive, but so then is a half-mile tall wall of ice and irregular tongues of glaciers riddled all around them. None of these have the welcoming turquoise sheen of meltwater or warmth. Within the ice are bodies, barely visible, some skeletal and others clearly enveloped in the flesh.

*

Indeed, to step through is to endure the hyperconcentrated chill of a freezer ten times over. To Kelda, it's not balmy, but it's…tolerable. Her silks are warm for all they seem ephemeral on her body and takes a simple brush from gathering of collarbones to base of sternum to shift the robe to its more appropriate guise. Silvery-white fur, that of the Diresmithe hunted a month back with Prince Thor, lines the short-cape about collar. Touches at her wrists and along the edges of the robes give her a rather smart look, if not something rather Tolkienian in the end.

Her short sigh gusts nearly solid. "Your highness, I defer to your wiles in this instance. I am but bearer of his liege's word in his absence." Her eyes do contain that meltwater-blue as they shift to Kai and Bucky. "Be you hale, my lords?"

*

When does he get to the fun part of the realms that the Asgardians control? Where's the firefly wine? Where's the mead? Where're the cheerful and willing elf girls? He doesn't have his coat, even.

Bucky falls into step behind Karnilla, but he keeps close to Kai. Elf might need reassurance. Because surely mortal needs no such thing. His breath is a cloud around him, This makes Siberia look like Tahiti. He fixes Kelda with a wry look. "Ma'am," he says, "I'm going to freeze. And you needn't call me 'my lord'. I'm a - a peasant, basically. I work for Loki Odinson."

*

Holes and corridors carved from the ice give a sense of passage. No cloud hangs in the sky, only persistent mist. Karnilla frowns a little given the sight displayed before them, a uniform graveyard swallowed in the vastness of a glacier's bulk. "Now to find the volva." Her starry eyes peer into the dark, frosty walls. "The shade of the seeress will tell us what passes here, if the price is paid."

*

The ice-mage's smile is pale and yet present as she looks upon the Winter Soldier for a beat longer.

"Peasant or not, you are attending us for good reason." No 'my lord' for Bucky, not this time. Kelda is ever delicate in light of her courtly knowledge. Disavow the status, never regain it without good reason. "His liege, Prince Thor, would not have the hand of his true brother fall to chill on my watch."

The short-cape is untied about her shoulders and then draped over Bucky's in turn, whether he likes it or not. Maybe he looks good in pale-blue! On his frame, shorter than that of the Asgardian, it near touches his mid-thigh in the back and will be easily pulled closely about his front as need be. The Soldier could even pull up the hood and hide within its fur-lined shadows if he felt particularly mysterious.

This leaves the Lady Stormrider with bared shoulders and arms, though she seems no worse for wear for the cold for the moment. "These are mine own elements," she adds softly, " — though more base still and touched by shadow."

Karnilla speaks and the warrior-mage attends upon her, stepping to her side with all the bearing she can muster. "What price do you think the seeress may ask of us, your highness? Prince Thor would have it paid. He wants answers as much as his father and mother-Queen."

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