Kassandra's fingers traced the outline of the engraving, following along the ridges of the letters and the shaping of the stone. The hours she spent on this were many, far more than she should have. Her father's words echoed in her mind, reminding her of how wasteful time spent on nothing more than something pretty were. How she should use her time constructively, to learn a new skill or trade. To better herself, or her mind. Yet, she couldn't have stopped herself from doing it if she tried. The words carved in the stone, simple yet full of meaning to her. They meant a childhood of love, of adoration - and sometimes of being pushed beyond the limits she thought her body capable of. They were a quote, spoken from the lips of a man far wiser than she. And yet, time caught up to them all. She finished tracing the words, her lips curling into a frown and her eyes welling with water beginning to slide down her cheeks.
"Idle hands are the Devil's playground, child" the words etched read, attributed to Samuel - her father. They adorned the site of his grave, giving some semblance of beauty to the blood stained battlefield. Days ago the war ended here, and the old Gods lost. Her father fought on their behalf, alongside fourteen thousand men and women. They danced the blades gracefully, but the enemy outnumbered them and the Old Gods forsook them. Their blood fertilized the land, and many of their bodies still lay exposed to the prying, carnivorous beaks of the crows. The calls of the carrion-eaters echoed throughout the now barren fields, screaming for their kin to come feast upon the flesh among them. Ravens heard, and they came. They came in droves, thousands of them descending - the crows abandoned ship, taking flight into the darkening sky. Their beaks tore through flesh, pressed against bone and ripped the bodies to bits. They all, in unison, cawed their song of approval.
Except for one. One sat upon a broken spear-haft, its gaze focusing on Kassandra - never leaving her figure as she stayed amongst them. Her chest heaved with sobs, and water strolled down her cheeks as easily as it flowed through the riverbed. The raven watched her for moments longer, before taking flight. The unkindness remained behind, deciding food was more important to them than one among them behaving strangely. As it flew away, it seemed to just disappear on the horizon. Kassandra noticed none of this, as she cried over the gravestone she painstakingly carved for her father. She choked on her own tears, sobbing uncontrollably all the while cursing the gods in her head, screaming at their very existence. She tried to vocalize her feelings, her emotions - but they came out only as uncontrollable screams. She collapsed across the stone, finally her pain and heartbreak consuming her consciousness. Everything faded to darkness around her, and she slept the nightmarish sleep of a daughter who lost her father.
And Unknown Amount of Time Later
The sensation of moving jarring her body, the sounds of oars sweeping and of grumbling voices began to stir her from her slumber. She froze stiff, barely opening her eyes and looking around. The voices seemed to come from nowhere, and yet were everywhere. They invaded her mind, invaded her ears. She couldn’t locate a source. Her eyes focused in the dim light, a greenish glow surrounding the atmosphere. She looked toward the rear of the boat she seemed to be on, and located what seemed to be a man in a cloak - his hood pulled over and his head down to hide his face. Startled, she shifted further from him and sat up, her hands holding her upper body up as she scurried backwards. “What…where…how…who…WHAT IN THE NAME OF ODIN IS GOING ON HERE!?” She screamed, clearly freaked out beyond her wildest imaginations. She looked around erratically, every thing her eyes took in seemed to be impossible. The boat moved not on water, but on an eerie glowing substance that seemed to swim with faces along the surface. That seemed to be the source of the grumbling voices, now that her mind was wakening from the fog of sleep.
Her hand slapped against something that moved, and she grabbed it quickly - standing up and shifting her feet shoulder-width apart with one behind the other. She pointed the make-shift weapon toward the hooded figure. “Who are you? How did I get here, what is going on?” She spoke over herself, her words rushed and full of panic. The figure simply kept pushing on the guide-oar. Steering them through the river of souls. “Is this Styx? Am I dead? Are you taking me to the underworld, Kharon?” It seemed to be the only logical explanation for what was happening, but even her mind seemed unable to fully comprehend it.
“No, you’re not dead,” The eerie man continued guiding the boat, “but by the time they finish with you, by the time he finishes with you, you’ll wish you were.” His voice was soft, barely audible. She strained closer to hear, and the way he spoke sent chills through her spine. She held onto the stick firmly, preparing to fight against him. “You’ll see soon enough, for now…sleep.”
New York City, 2016
Kassandra awakened in a bed, or what she thought was a bed. It was unlike anything she’d ever known. Sounds from outside, and the lights coming through the window despite the darkened sky seemed strange to her. Of course she’d known of fires, but these glowed strangely in comparison to any fire she’d seen. She sought her mind, her memories. She was on the River Styx, and now…now she was in a very strange place indeed. A weird, hard film over the openings. She walked to the nearest window, tapping at it. Not understanding, not comprehending. Glass wasn’t a thing her people had, but her she was confronted with it. As she finished inspecting it, her eyes took in the outside world. And she immediately jumped back, her hands reaching for something familiar - anything that could protect her. Her fingers clasped around something, and she pulled it close to her. She looked down at it, the alabaster-tone of it seeming warm in her hand, to her touch. She looked it over, a staff. Good, a weapon would be useful, she was sure.
She walked back toward the window, pressing her face against it and looking outside - she took it all in, confusion was rampant, panic close behind. Her fingers clasped the staff tighter, and she whispered in her native tongue. “Odin, fylgjagð mik”
“Odin intends to, dear. As do the others, but that will be made clear very soon.” A soft voice spoke from behind her, and she whipped around swinging the staff wildly in her panic. “Cease, Kassandra.Cease.” She stopped instantly, as if some unseen force took hold of her body and took her control in that moment. She managed to move her lips, speaking softly.
“Kharon, what are you doing here. Where have you brought me?”
“My name is not Kharon, I am far more ancient than he, as you will soon find out. You’ve already been told, but your memory and your human mind could not comprehend without my presence. You forgot to protect your own mental health, but now your health - of any kind - is something you need not worry about.”
“What do you mean?”
“You hold my weapon, and through it my power. All you have to do is speak the prayer, in Norse, Greek, whatever language you want really. I’ll answer your call. All you must do is pray to me, and I will show you everything.”
“Pray to you, false God? You are not Odin, you are not Thor. You’re not even the Trickster Loki, why would I pray to you?”
As she spoke, the Raven flew to the windowsill. It watched them for a moment, before phasing through the glass - her eyes caught the movement and she turned, swinging the staff quickly and with force. As it neared the Raven, a ringed hand touched the bone - and the Raven became the embodiment of a man. “By Odin, is it you?” Kassandra spoke with awe, as she looked upon the bearded, one-eyed vision of Odin standing before her.
“Yes, child. It is I, Odin.Come to calm you, come to tell you to trust him. Forge knows what he means, he is our champion - and you his vessel. Pray to him, and you shall understand everything, my child.”
“Good,” Forge spoke, smiling. “The prayer is in your head, in your mind. Search your memories, and you will know what you must say.”
“Forge gefmikr makt, protect mik fran darknesanórr heartrinn. Save mik fran þessi jörð,” she whispered, and immediately convulsed. Her whole body seemed to be rocked by the power flowing from his body, into the staff, and then into her. She shook violently, and then collapsed to the floor for the third time in twenty-four hours…or a few thousand years, she wasn’t really sure anymore.
She awakened in the dark expanse of her own mind, and she saw through the eyes of her body - which she no longer controlled fully. She fought with an intruder in her head, battling against his willpower. They fought for control, for authority. Forge wanted to control her wholly, to be in command of her every move - but she could not surrender to him. She fought against the being who, now that they were one, she knew to be as ancient as the world itself.
“It’s my body, give it back!”
“You asked for this, in your prayer.”
“This is not what Odin promised me, Forge.”
“Odin promised you power, I am power.”
“I will use your power, if they wish it of me.” Her memories spiked of a meeting, one with a pantheon of Gods involved. She crushed those memories down, not dwelling on them at the moment. “But you will not use my body to your own desires, I will use their power. I will use your power. I will use you, not the other way around.”
“As you wish, Kassandra, but until full synchronization is made, much of my power will not be available to you.”
“I don’t care, Wizard. It will be enough.”
Regaining control of herself, she turned to see the image of Odin as a Raven once more on the windowsill, beckoning with head motions. She smiled, feeling the Wizard’s power coursing through her - she grabbed the Relic, and launched herself through the glass - shattering it around her. She fell four stories, twisting and landing with a knee pushed into the asphalt as it cracked and broke around her - up-heaving much of the street with the impact of her landing. She laughed manically, enjoying her newfound power. The Raven seemed to laugh as well, a weird, unnatural sound. As it landed on her shoulder, she broke into a run - each footstep ripping apart asphalt and ground.
She ran through the streets of New York City, the City That Never Sleeps, she knew it by now. Forge’s mind merging with her own, as much as she allowed anyway, gave her valuable information. She didn’t know the extent of herself, of what she could do now - but she was about to find out.