Buggle watched as The Dawn Seeker flew east until it was a speck in the sky and finally disappeared. He felt himself relax as a weight he had not realized he carried was lifted.
Snookie’s quiet question “Is it really over?” broke his reverie.
Shaking his head slowly, Buggle responded “There have been many times when Midgard has trembled as the the war between the gods raged, but this has been the worst.” Continuing in a hushed tone that conveyed how close the end had really come “This is the first time Loki has been completely free of his prison.”
Pausing only for a moment to consider how much to reveal, Buggle mentally shrugged and continued “Had The Lich Lord not been secretly preventing the release of the great wolf Fenris, all would have been lost.” The thought of Odin’s throat being ripped out by Fenris did bring an involuntary smile to Buggle’s lips.
Losing himself in memory once more he remembered how it had all started for him so long ago, far to the north. A hot-headed young warrior with a lust for battle, Odin had whispered in his ear of the glory of battle. He became a leader of men, a great chieftan, a monster. Buggle became Odin’s spear, his warmonger, his chosen, blessed with immortality. Countless battle-hardened warriors died by his command and were lifted up to Valhalla to become einherar, soldiers for the final battles of Ragnarok.
There was always a small part of him that protested against the constant bloodshed and slaughter. The gentle part of him that he had inherited from his mother who had taught him about love and forgiveness. The part of him that had once looked into the eyes of an auburn-haired girl whose freckles seemed to dance across her face and whose laughter was music. The girl he had wanted to settle down with, perhaps start a farm.
But he had listened to the war god’s whispers and had gone out to seek fame and fortune. Giving into the raging anger he had inherited from his orcish father, after a time battle and war became all he knew. All in the name of Odin, god of a hundred names. Odin was the Allfather, but he was also Evil Worker, Blusterer, Deceiver, Ripper, Killer, Screamer, Smith of Battle, Terrible One. Balder’s death had changed Odin and now all he seemed to care about was punishing Loki and preparing for Ragnarok. The half-orc led an army that stirred up war wherever they went, which meant that Odin’s worshippers on both sides of the conflict were sent to Valhalla after dying a “glorious” death in battle.
One day Buggle had been inspecting the wreckage of a small village he and his men had razed because it was in the wrong kingdom at the wrong time. He looked down and happened to notice that one of many corpses was that of a woman whose gray hair was still tinged with auburn. Whose freckles were covered with drying blood. Whose lips, gray and parted in death, would never again sing with laughter.
He dropped his sword, vowing never to pick up a blade again. He shed no tears, said nothing to his men, but he knew he was done as he started walking towards the distant mountains he suddenly remembered from his lost youth.
He sought oblivion in the mountains and instead found a mentor that had shown him a different path. The bear tooth he had on simple leather strap around his neck was a reminder of that time.
A teasing shove by the female half-orc by his side and a snide “Getting lost again? Old age finally catching up with you?” made him smile.
“Keep that up and you may never live to see old age yourself” Buggle said in mock anger with a grin that would have terrified most small children and a few adults to show that he was only kidding. “I was just thinking about my own rebirth.”
Sitting up taller and putting hands to hip, he spoke in his best impersonation of an academic “Perhaps the world has a chance to be reborn as well. A new world with people of all races and colors – including green – will come together in peace to work for the common good. If there is hope for Bridgette, the daughter of the evil Tamm Porthos, she who was supposed to be the bride of Thrym, is there not hope for us all?”
A snort of derision was the only response he got from Snookie.
Standing now as if to lecture, he continued “Let us review the facts.” Counting off on his fingers with each statement “We know that Loki has been defeated and put back in prison. The final battle to end all battles never happened because the chains of the dwarven gods held strong and Fenris did not escape. The prison island Tarrakos is under new management and the shield around the island is as strong as ever and still contains the evil trapped within. Loki’s spawn, the Svarloke, have been contained if not completely defeated. Orcs, goblins and giants war amongst themselves once more, as they should.”
Pausing to look at the destruction around him, of a once vibrant city laid to waste and tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands dead, Buggle sighed heavily before proceeding in a serious tone “The Lich Lord, also known as The Lady Kolfinna, has been significantly weakened. Even her minor demonstration of power here probably drained much of her remaining reservoire of power. She will not be a significant threat for years to come. She will have to be dealt with some day.”
With a nod towards where the Ghost Tower used to stand “In many ways the world is more dangerous. The seal to a doorway to Jotunheim’s Abyss has been cracked. It must be sealed before this land can heal.” With only a slight hesitation before going on “If it can be sealed again. At least the seal was only partially broken.”
“You’re just a bag full of chuckles today, cousin.” Snookie responded before asking “Were you ever going to tell me about being ‘Chosen of Odin?’ What does that even mean?”
Suddenly busy with all of his worldly possessions, which fit into a few small bundles at his feet, Buggle was slow to answer. “As far as I know it means that I won’t die of natural causes, although I could still die in combat.” Shuddering as he remembered the cold and hunger the days following his rejection of the warrior’s path as he wandered the mountains of his homeland “I can’t even commit suicide. Odin will not let me go that easily.”
Finished with the bundles and hefting them onto his back he looked directly into Snookie’s eyes “It means I am cursed. I must watch everyone I love grow old and die.” Glancing down as he shifted the weight of the bundles on his back he continued “I must serve Odin.” Looking up again with an honest grin he continued “But it doesn’t mean I have to follow his orders to the letter. I fight to prevent the end of times … in my own way.”
Deep in thought, processing everything she had just learned, Snookie seemed to be almost thinking out loud when she asked “What about Sven? Why did he get released?”
Buggle was still for a moment and then merely shrugged. “Who knows the ways of the gods? I suspect Odin did not see him as a leader of armies that would cause war simply to replenish his supply of einherar as I did.” With another grin he said “Or maybe he was tired of two of his chosen being such pains in the ass.”
Turning north out of the city, Buggle hesitated only a moment “It would be best if we’re outside the city limits before full dark. We have a long road ahead of us.” Looking over his shoulder as he started hiking, he asked in the general direction he had seen a hint of movement “Are you coming Jarl?”