1965-09-21 - Týr's Hand
Summary: Halgrim meditates, and he and Adam get a whole lot more than they bargained for.
Related: None
Theme Song: None
halgrim adam 


Meditation isn't exactly something Halgrim's ever taken up. Of course his upbringing was filled with rituals, but most of these involved chanting, singing, blót, and so on. At best, he could argue that the quiet time he would sometimes spent in the family's personal shrine in the forest had been a sort of meditation. He hasn't been able to return there for over a year, though, and anyways there wasn't a perpetually angry spirit he was trying to come to grips with back then. So this directive of Strange's is very new for him.

He asks Adam to come to Central Park with him for this first attempt, since there's always the chance Fjorskar will decide meditation is an invitation to come forth for the evening, and that's not precisely the idea tonight. It's after dark, and the moon is rising; the park is, by and large, empty in this deeper area. He's brought a long, thin rope of braided horsehair with him, and proceeds to string it around a small stand of maples in the midst of their fall color change from green to gold and orange and red. "I have no idea how well this is going to go," he warns Adam. "I'm still researching various rituals to see which might be best adapted to this."

Adam comes along, of course, although he privately thinks it will probably go all right. He doesn't mention that. It might not go all right and then Halgrim would be more disappointed. Unacceptable.

He takes his cloak off when they reach the stand of maple, swinging it off and hanging it on a branch, where it casts a terrifying shadow of its own. He shakes out his hair, of which he might be accused to be a little vain. It's the only pretty party of him. "I'm here. If she comes, you need not fear for what she might do."

Halgrim sets down his workbag and takes out a few items: a bell, like one would find on a horse harness at Christmas time; a braided copper bracelet; a handful of smooth stones and pieces of antler and bone with runes burned into them; a large, black raven feather; and a small knife with a cast iron blade and an antler handle. "Thank you," he says, "because it's entirely possible she sees," he indicates the horse hair rope encircling the trees, then everything he's taken out, "all of this, and draws the wrong conclusions." He pulls out a small, black and gray blanket with the suggestion of a large tree in its pattern out of the bag and spreads it out on the ground next to his collection, takes a seat.

Adam looks at the things, curious. "What do you intend to do with those? What do they represent?" He crouches to study them closer, but doesn't touch. "What is it you think she might conclude?" Oh, the questions! So many. "Or perhaps this is best discussed after you have done what you intend to do," he adds, glancing at Halgrim.

Halgrim taps the bell and the copper wire. "These are hers, for lack of a better way to put it. I woke up and found them in the Metropolis, in the lean-to. The copper was just a wire; Djoura, one of the mummy girls? She formed it into the bracelet for her." Indeed, the bracelet is overlarge for Halgrim to wear without it falling off. It's for a much larger arm than his. He taps the bell, which jingles bright and harsh in the otherwise quiet evening. His mouth twitches in amusement. "Her raven-nature, I suppose."

He picks up the feather, hold it up. "Obviously, one of hers." He uses it to point at the pieces of stone, antler, bone, and wood with the runes burned into them. "Runes, to…well. I'm no proper seiðmenn to divine with them. But I was thinking to use them to set the tone." Now he takes up the knife. The black of the cast iron blade is a sharp contrast to the polished edge, and the antler handle, held together with a series of copper rivets, has runes burned into, the same on each side: ᛗ ᛇ ᛟ ᛝ. He offers it to Adam, handle first. "Can't do rituals properly without a knife."

Adam takes the knife, turns it so he can read, or not-read, the runes. "What do they say? Might you teach me to speak her tongue? She refuses to speak any of the other Nordic tongues I know. She says they are vulgar." He's amused, because English is the most vulgar of them all. "Ah, you think she might decide you're attempting to call her." Examining the knife, he tests it against his thumb. "All of these things are handsomely made. I can understand your concern."

Halgrim snorts a laugh. "Vulgar," he says, because it is indeed funny that English is the one she opts to use. "I suppose they are—they're Christian." He gives Adam an amused look. "I can teach you, though," he takes the knife back, "until…unless, we do something about the geas, she won't be able to understand." He runs a finger over the runes. "But I can," he says, like it's the first time it's occurred to him to wonder about that. He shrugs it off; the night's not getting any earlier.

"I chose them based on their names, as one would for the runes. They don't form a word in this sequence." He points at each one in sequence. "This is man, which would be of course, myself, but also…I think it can be used to mean, humanity." He glances up at Adam, "That part of her she's not keen to acknowledge." He moves on to the next one. "This is the sacred yew, for Yggdrasil, and this is heritage, or inheritancewhat I'm trying to reclaimand the last is for Freyr, who is Freyja's twin and a god of sacrifice and ritual." He turns the blade over in his hand. "Jeb helped me make them." He says this to explain the quality of the work, smiles at the memory.

"I'm…concerned she'll make assumptions. So, if she does," he winces, "apologies if you're on the receiving end of her temper."

"Mm. Christian." Adam seems like he might agree there. Christians are the worst. He looks over the runes as Halgrim explains them. Glancing at him when he says the Fjorskar isn't eager to acknowledge her humanity. She isn't the only one with something to accept, here. Smiles, that Jeb helped make the ritual tools. "Our Jebediah," he murmurs, without really saying anything about him. Just happy to hear it. He smiles, too, that Halgrim is apologizing in advance. "If so, it won't be the first time. Worry not on my account."

"Yes, well. I know you're one of the least likely to be greivously injured by her, but I reserve the right to be concerned about it anyways." Halgrim surveys Adam. "After all, what would we even do if she did injure you? Obviously we can't show up at a hospital." Of course, they probably can't show up at a hospital for anyone she injures. How likely is 'a grizzly bear did it' to work in the middle of New York City?

He stops himself from running off on this tangent, however. It would just be an excuse to avoid this thing he's already decided to do. He sets the knife down, takes up the feather again. "Before I try this, I was wondering. You offered to show me what she looks like, some time ago, and I said no." He glances up from the feather to Adam. "I was wondering, if you had it with you."

Adam passes on by the question of what they would do if he's injured. There's really no need to upset Halgrim with it, when the answer is 'ask Morbius to raid a graveyard'.

He meets Halgrim's eyes, pleased. "I do." Taking out his sketchbook, he opens it, paging past dozens of fine charcoal and graphite drawings until—he turns it around to present it. There, in delicate graphite, is Fjorskar. A rough sketch of her standing upright, with a scale in meters. A close up detail of her head, with all its disparate parts. Curling horns. Ruff of gleaming black feathers. She is looking at the viewer with her lip pulled back in a snarl, her massive wolfen teeth shining. Beautiful. Horrible.

Adam looks at the drawing with an absurd fondness for the hostile creature. "Matriarch and pack-sister." Then back at Halgrim. "And part of you, my friend."

Halgrim is too distracted by the drawing to wonder over the lack of response to his question. He'll just assume, as he always has, Morbius and John have it in hand. The specifics of how they'll go about handling such a scenario will only matter if they ever need Halgrim's help, and really, what could he possibly offer there (except his own limbs).

Halgrim blinks, surprised. "She has horns." He reaches out like he might touch the picture, thinks better of it and withdraws his hand. "I hadn't realized." He frowns. "Like a ram," he says, voice low. He's quiet as several thoughts tumble through his head, colliding and making it hard to think: this was the last thing they saw, this way why people were afraid of him, this was what someone's foolish grab for power had resulted in, this was the face of the one anchored to him, or that he was anchored to — maybe both? — with her voice silenced, leaving her only his to use.

He sighs and ducks his head. "Matriarch." He can't help but smile as he says it. "I suppose that's why she's so angry and…stubborn." He glances up, raises an eyebrow. "Pack-sister?"

"Ram," Adam agrees, long, long finger hovering over the sketch. "Raven. Wolf. And…a scaled creature of which provenance I am not certain. It strikes me as some extinct beast, perhaps one of the giant snakes." He considers it, then lets it go. "Yes," he says, smiling again, more openly. Pretty awful to look at. "She and I are siblings in the way we were fashioned. Parts of the many, forced into one. When we hunted…" His expression goes intense, focused on his inner eye. "We were a pack. She the lead female, and I her brother."

Halgrim nods, finding it quite easy to understand how, in this light, that would be significant for Adam and Fjorskar as well. He considers the sketch again. "Frigg," he says, sounding like he's just thought of something. "Her sacred animal is the ram. She's a goddess of foresight and knowldge." He hesitates, adds, "And is known as the mother who grieves." He runs his fingers over the feather and, rather than follow that thread any further, thinks about the scales. "Serpents…well, perhaps Jǫrmungandr wasn't just a legend." He huffs a quiet laugh at the thought. His eyes move to the sketch again. "Here we all are, us, and you," he includes Adam with a wave of the feather, "a great many pieces trying to be whole."

"A curious animal for a goddess, and one of knowledge at that," Adam says, raising an eyebrow. He's seen enough rams be complete idiots. But he looks back at Halgrim, closing his sketchbook and tucking it away. "Perhaps later, you'll enlighten me." Kneeling, he settles nearby, but not too near. "Yes," he says, soft in that immense voice. "We struggle to be whole."

"Us more so that others," Halgrim says, running the feather along the edge of his beard. He sighs, sits back up and sets the feather down in front of him, between the bell and the bracelet. He takes one last item out of his bag: a small, flat chunk of split shale, the kind upon which one might place a sacral offering, and sets it between himself and Adam. He lays the feather on the ground across the stone from himself, and the bell to one side.

He picks up the knife and runs a finger along the blade, just above the edge. "I've read that the seiðmenn of old were said cut their palms and then heal them after, but," he gives Adam a rueful smile, "I've no idea how to go about that, and anyways I'd rather not hit a nerve and injure myself permanently. So."

He pricks his thumb with the tip of the blade, carefully urges out a bit of blood, enough to draw a rune on the dark gray stone: the tiwaz rune, for Týr. He sets the knife down opposite the ball and slips the copper bracelet on. As it was woven for Fjorskar and not himself it goes clear to his elbow, where his shirt helps keep it in place. "Please bear in mind," he tells Adam, "I've never done this before." It's as much an admission of mild embarrassment for assumed failure as he can manage.

Adam watches avidly, fascinated. The little plate of rock. The blood rune. He dips his head to Halgrim, encouraging. "Nor have I. We are novices both. We will discover what comes." His is always a spirit of exploration and discovery. As old as he is, as much as he knows — he's always ready for more. "Proceed, my friend." His giant hands rest on his thighs, massive slabs of bone and sinew.

Halgrim takes a moment to simply breathe, slow and even, and settle himself in the moment. This goes on for a minute or two, and around them the only sounds are the nightjars and bats and the insects they hunt; raccoons arguing with feral cats over detritus; and much more distant, the city at night.

He begins to chant, voice low and even, in Proto-Norse; or rather, as close as he can manage to it, based on his understanding of Old Norse, and so it has more than a little of a Swedish inflection to it. He starts with a small section of the Song of Spells — "Hail, thou who hast spoken; hail, thou that knowest; hail, ye that have harkened," — and continues with fragments of rune poems. "Estuary is the way of most journeys, man is an augmentation of the dust." He continues with these five lines, back and forth, careful to keep the meter just so. It's not unlike how he's used poetry before, yet those were the words of modern men and women; these are the methods of Fjorskar's own time, the language that she knows.

He keeps at this for some time, and gradually his eyes lose focus. The tell-tale yellow creeps in at the edges of his irises in a brilliant halo, but there's no other sign of a change. He stops with, "Hail, ye who have harkened," and something in his voice changes.

A look of panic steals over Halgrim's face, and he exhales sharply; just as quick it's gone, overtaken by stoic resolve. "No," he says, and there's something in his voice which says someone else is doing the speaking. "Don't look. Not at that." He's still for several seconds, then begins examining his hands, turning them over and running them up his arms in evident curiosity. He finds the bracelet, pauses to finger it, looks down at the stone in front of him, then up at Adam. These are Halgrim's eyes, yet it's not Halgrim that's looking at Adam with frank assessment.

Adam leans forward, weird white eyes rapt. The change in Halgrim's body language is clear to him. There is another person looking out from the mortal eyes. "Greetings, thee who dwells within my brother," he murmurs, examining Halgrim head to foot, then returning to his eyes. "Who art thou?" Whoever this person is, they are not Fjorskar, that's obvious enough.

"What a question, Child of Man," Halgrim says, and reaches to take up the knife. He turns it over in his hands. "I'm a memory," he says, running his fingers along the runes burned into the handle, "of a very grave mistake." He peers at the rune drawn on the flat stone, throws his head back and laughs, a fierce and ugly sound. "Týr's hand, you could say."

"My brother is a man of multitudes," Adam says, without irony. He does not complain about the appellation; he was born of a man, no lies there. Arms crossed loosely in his lap, he cranes forward, huge head looming over Halgrim, or whoever is currently occupying Halgrim. "You—are you the creator of the Fjorskar?"

Halgrim snorts, glares at Adam with obvious derision. "*Creator*," he says, like it's a curse. "Is that what he did?" He looks out over the park around them. "In as much as I'm anything, I'm the shard that survived. The thorn in the beast's paw. A reminder," he grips the blade of the knife in his hand, "of what happens, when one takes, and fails to account for what must be given in exchange." Blood drips between Halgrim's fingers where the knife cuts in.

Adam reaches out and gently but completely inexorably pries Halgrim's hand open from the bite of the knife. "I cannot permit you to damage this body," he says, calm, but not kind. No, not kind at all; there is ice in his voice. "Pray set down the blade." Very polite, with the unspoken threat that if the ghost does not, Adam will make it happen. "Speak, then, reminder, shard. Say what you wish."

The shade submits to Adam's insistance, letting Halgrim's hand open. They're shallow wounds at best; nothing that can't be bandaged. Halgrim's face twists with hate and joy. "Permit *me* to damage it?" the memory says with Halgrim's voice, chokes on a bitter laugh. "*I* didn't go on bloody rampages, slaughtering any human that had the misfortune to cross paths with me." He takes in a sharp breath between his teeth, speaks through them. "She deserved that box — she belongs in it."

"Does she?" Adam says, maybe leading the shade on. Mayyyybe just a touch. He claims the knife, setting it behind himself where the ghost can't possibly get to it without going through him. "Do you really think so?"

The shade tries to keep the knife, but of course Halgrim's body is not remotely up to the task of a tug-of-war with Adam, and it's relinquished with a snarl. "Misborn, ill-made, ragged thing, what else could she *possibly* be good for? Other than *death*, which she *excels* at." Halgrim's head tilts. With a wicked smile, the shade says, "Just like you, I think?"

Adam slowly turns back to the ghost. He grins. A horrible grin, a grin that Elizabeth Frankenstein saw in the last moments of her life. "Oh yes," he says, soft, menacing. "Yes indeed. Just. Like. Me."

Halgrim sniffs, diffident, raises his chin. "A shame it wasn't you who found the heart," the shade says. "You're so perfect for each other." He seems like he might have more to say, but his eyes lock on some fixed point. "Ah. Seems I'm almost out of time." He gives Adam another smile, reaches out to touch his face. "Better keep a good eye on that knife."

Adam has his eyes fixed on Halgrim, or rather, the entity borrowing Halgrim's body. He permits the touch—there's nothing the mortal form can do to him — with a lift of his lip away from his teeth. "Tell me your name."

Halgrim's finger traces the line of Adam's jaw. "Names have power, Child of Man." He smiles, and it should be a lovely thing, except it's too cruel. "Do you name the splinter festering in your side, or the pain and fever it brings? And does naming either of these matter, in the end?" When his fingers reach the bottom of Adam's chin he pulls his hand down and away, sharply.

Adam smiles back, that awful smile of his that pulls his dessicated features into a thousand thousand tiny wrinkles and seams. "Go back from whence you came, haunt. This world isn't yours. This man isn't yours. Your infection will be purged."

Halgrim runs his fingers over the cuts in his hand. "We'll see about that," the shade says, almost gleeful. "How long have I been here, driving her, helping devour her hosts? Sooner or later they all —" The word dies on a strangled gasp, and Halgrim goes rigid. Voice struggling, the shade says, "Ah — the mistress — of the house — returns," and doubles over, groaning. He stays that way for several seconds, rocking in place; gradually, the movement ceases, and Halgrim sits up. His eyes blaze yellow, but unlike in the past there's no change of shape, no shift to the beast herself.

He stares at Adam, wide-eyed and more than a little wild, then down at the implements around him. He spies the rune on the rock and bares his teeth at it. With an inhuman snarl from his human throat, Halgrim swats the rock aside, sending it flying (and probably doing a number on his hand, but that's not important to the one making decisions at the moment). It skitters away in the dirt, unbroken.

"Be gone!" he shouts into the night sky, and it's a good thing they're doing this in the middle of the night, because Fjorskar knows how to make her host's voice carry.

Adam *moves*; he pounces on Halgrim and wraps him up in those long powerful arms. Oh, everything has gone wrong. "Sister! Calm, my sister, calm, your form is not what it should be." He can hold Halgrim as long as he doesn't shift. If he shifts…well, we'll have to burn that bridge when we come to it. "Sleep," he urges. "Sleep again. We will hunt soon."

Halgrim's body shakes with Fjorskar's rage. "How dare he, how *dare* he," he whispers through clenched teeth. His fingers dig into Adam's arms, less in a bid for freedom and more to communicate the fury she's struggling with. He pants for several seconds. Then, "What did he do? What did that filth *say*?" Her command of English in Halgrim's body is on par with his own, though the accent is different; there's no sing-song pitch to how she speaks, and the words are all rounder.

It's surprising, hearing Fjorskar talk in a human voice and fluent in English. Adam cradles Halgrim, smoothing his hair back, considering how to answer. "He said…he torments you. He threatened us." 'Us'; they are all three of them in this together now. He adds, quite dryly, "I don't believe I care for him at all."

Halgrim's throat can't growl like Fjorskar's can, but she gives it her best. "*Threats*," he snaps; it's barely a word. But Adam's hold and gestures do their good work; he shakes less, takes slower breaths. Presently, his voice hoarse from Fjorskar's misuse, "It taunted us in the cage." His eyes shine with tears. "Before that we had our own voice and the host to drown it out. Ignore it. Or, we could use the the runes to form a spell and…ease it. Pretend it wasn't there. But in the cage—" His throat closes and he shudders. "In the dark, in the silence, we were trapped with it. For a thousand years."

Adam bows his head over Halgrim. His long black hair slips forward, a shining curtain. Those enormous hands are gentle, holding his friend. Yet there's an anger simmering behind his eyes that bodes ill indeed for any daring to cross him.

He has dozens of questions, but he doesn't ask any of them.

"What would you have me understand?" he asks, instead, his vast deep voice rumbling under his ribs. "While you can speak with his voice. Tell me."

Halgrim takes several labored breaths, wipes the tears from his eyes with an angry gesture. Tears aren't something Fjorskar is used to dealing with. The host is emotional in all the most useless ways. "It came because it heard the words first. It still knows them. The geas binds me, not it. I didn't understand what they were, I couldn't recognize them." His gaze slides to the upended chunk of slate. "Not until I looked with these eyes." He sighs, exhausted. "I'll listen more closely next time." He grips Adam's arm suddenly, hard. "I *heard*. Don't let him avoid it just because of that…thing. If I hear first it won't be able to push me aside."

Adam nods. "I will tell him," he assures Fjorskar. "He does not know your tongue. He can only guess." 'We're doing our best out here,' he doesn't say that. "He brought your things hoping you would come and speak to him. Can you? Can you tell him the words you need to hear?"

"Yes." Halgrim sags against Adam, Fjorskar makes a frustrated sound. Such are the limits of a mortal body dealing with numerous stakeholders. He leans forward and takes the bell, gives it a shake and listens to the sharp ring. He sighs. "Next time," she says, sets the bell down. "Now we must rest. This was a worthy attempt, if not for…" He gives Adam a shake. "Careful. That thing will do whatever it can, to create pain and suffering, to consume us. Those are the only things it knows."

Adam's mouth twists. It's not bad enough, everything else Halgrim is going through. Now he's got a malevolent ghost out to make his mortal life hell. "I have noted it well, sister," he says, deep and soothing despite his pretty obvious misgivings. "Rest now. We have much to understand."

Fjorskar begins to drift away, and the yellow gradually fades from Halgrim's eyes. Just before the last of it is gone, he lifts one hand and looks it over. "Ridiculous," he mutters, and falls asleep. It lasts a moment, then Halgrim makes a conufsed sound and blinks, trying to focus. He makes no attempt to disentangle himself from Adam's grip; every muscle in his body is oddly tender and refuses to cooperate.

"Adam what the hell happened," he asks in Swedish. He sounds like he's woken up in the middle of the night after polishing off an entire bottle of whiskey.

Adam strokes Halgrim's forehead with his cool, odd-feeling fingers and sighs. "Too much," he answers, in Swedish, and actually dips his forehead lightly against the crown of Halgrim's head. "I believe, however, we can call this experiment a success…within certain parameters."

Halgrim winces, raises his cut hand to look at it. It's swelling, though not enough to suggest any breakages. He'll need to bandage it and put in ice. "Certain…parameters, is that what we're calling this." He rubs at his throat. His voice is hoarse from the abuse, in fact if he speaks much more he might lose it entirely. "I'd hate to see a failure, then. You're truly an academic at heart." He yawns. "Give me a second and we'll…pack everything up."

"Don't speak," Adam says. "The Fjorskar mistook your throat for her own. Rest. I will pack." He sets Halgrim down, as careful as if he was made of spun sugar. Then he turns his attention to the ritual things, packing them back up with swift motions. "Ah, Halgrim, my friend," he murmurs under his breath as he works, "we have more work ahead of us than we envisioned. Is it not always the way?"

Halgrim lies on his back, staring up at the sky. Ignoring the request that he not speak, he says, "Ah, well…isn't it just." He shuts his eyes and focuses on breathing, because he really *can't* afford to lose his voice for more than a few days. Instead he turns his attentions to the sound of Adam gathering things up, the smell of the park, the chilly bite of the Autumn night around them. It's Haustblót—he should think about what he'll want to do for that.

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