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Chapter 1


Emperor of Greece and Rome and Holy Roman Emperor
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Mar 19, 2018
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In the most recent round of Guess the Author, I wrote a piece. General consensus seems to be that the piece was way too short, which was somewhat intentional, and I really enjoyed writing it, so here we are.

This first chapter is the original Guess the Author piece with a few changes for clarity and flavor.


It was a bright night, and the light of five moons illuminated the pure white sky. It was a perfect scene for the coronation of a king, and the empty throne looked beautiful in the moonlight. After everything that had happened, he was grateful that there was moonlight at all. He had missed it during those final years on Midgard. Once, Helgi would’ve thought that the gods were favoring his tribe, and he did believe that they were favored now, although he was unsure of who favored them now, as the gods were dead.

He didn’t know who was favoring them, of course, since he knew that the gods were dead, and so did his regal nephew, Sigfrid. Both of them had witnessed Ragnarok come and go, and it had been horrifying. Their tribe had barely managed to escape Midgard alive - and even that had been an accident.

Helgi’s brother, Ragnarr, had died during Ragnarok, but his sacrifice had not been in vain. His death kept the attacking Frost Giants away from the Norse escape ship that had been secured by the sacrifice of thousands, ensuring that the Norse and their traditions survived.

“Helgi,” a voice said. “The coronation is beginning. Stop reminiscing”. It was one of his soldiers, and it got his attention.

He turned and looked at the moonlit throne, and he watched as Sigfrid sat upon it. His nephew still looked young, but that didn’t matter. He had been elected by the jarls of their tribe, and he would grow up quickly - no, he had grown up quickly during the Twilight of the Gods.

“Our old world is lost, and we have fled beyond any of the Nine,” he began. “We do not know what occurs on Midgard now. In all likelihood, all of our gods are dead. We have personally witnessed Thor’s death and the fall of Odin Allfather. The ancient prophecy has been fulfilled, but we have escaped from the realms that answer to Fate. We are now free to pursue our own destiny, unburdened by prophecy. This world is free from gods! We can do whatever we wish here. And I propose a toast - to freedom! A toast to the freedom to do whatever we want!”

His nephew raised his glass, and it was met by the glasses of his subjects. “To freedom!” they proclaimed.

Helgi was part of this toast, but his words and his thoughts didn’t match each other. Freedom was fine, but too much freedom led to anarchy, and Helgi knew how that ended - in fire and ice, in unbearable heat and freezing cold, in dead gods, and in apocalypse.

Indeed, Helgi knew that their new colony still had many problems that they had to deal with. The most problematic was that they had only brought over a limited amount of meat from Midgard, and it would soon run out. They feasted on some of that meat. Helgi had a few ideas on how to deal with the food problem, but now was not a time to deal with such things. Now was a time for celebration and not worry. Worry could come after the party ended.

After the feast, the tribesmen slept, but Helgi’s dreams weren’t cheerful. They were filled with the deaths of thousands of his comrades. He remembered the ship of the dead carrying a massive army that intended to bring all that he knew to an end. He remembered his dead comrades riding to his aid as einherji… and of getting struck down. He remembered oceans of blood and castles of skin. He remembered the flames.

The world had been so devastatingly red, and even the river water that he and his comrades had been forced to drink tasted of copper.

He remembered the moment when he had first realized that the prophesied Ragnarok was upon him. He remembered looking up at the sky one cold night and seeing the moon shrinking - he remembered seeing the moon being eaten by a wolf. He hadn’t seen a literal wolf, but he knew that was what was happening. There was no other explanation for the crescent moon shrinking.

He remembered attempting to gather an army to save the sun and failing miserably. No one had dared to aid him. Their excuses were different, of course, but the reasoning was that he was either delusional and seeing things or correct, in which case they shouldn’t attempt to prevent the will of the Norns. His old tribe had even claimed that the last battle against the giants would be glorious, and they would even get to fight alongside heroes from Valhalla. Most of his old tribe had looked forward to Ragnarok. They were fools. Still, he hadn’t been able to even attempt to save Sól - how would he even get to where the battle was taking place? He couldn’t reach the sky.

He remembered the End of the Nine Worlds, and it hurt. He had been so powerless. He had fought as best as he could, but it had meant nothing.

He awoke because it hurt to sleep. He knew that he would continue to think about Ragnarok in his waking hours, but he would no longer see it. He needed to remember to ensure that the events never repeated but did his memories have to follow him into such vivid dreams?

As he awoke, he thought of the ancient prophecy that had predicted these events and knew that they had been fulfilled. He wondered why nobody had seen Ragnarok coming, but he quickly realized that he already knew that answer. The Völva’s Prophecy had been laden with metaphors. They had expected a literal three year long winter, but no such event had ever come to pass. Instead, there had been three years of a dishonorable shadow war that was rife with kinslaying, and the few kingdoms that existed in their homeland had collapsed by the second year. A never-ending war between thousands of distinct tribes had followed, and not even the kingdoms outside of their homeland had been safe.

Indeed, not even the beginning of Ragnarok itself had stopped the fighting. The Æsir had attempted to unite the Norse in vain, and Helgi still remembered Odin’s speech that had begged that his people unite to face the Jotuns and perish with dignity… and he remembered how Odin had been answered with a spear to his one good eye.

That was why he felt the sin that he was about to commit was a necessary evil. He slipped out of his resting place under a tree and looked up. He saw no sun, so he slipped into the cold night. His tribe wasn’t the only tribe to have escaped with the gift that the last of the Æsir - the prophesied survivors - had sacrificed their lives for.

Internal division had exacerbated Ragnarok, and he couldn’t allow history to repeat on his new world. His nephew was still idealistic and naive with his beliefs in freedom. They were free, but so was everyone else, and that needed to be… mitigated. Helgi refused to tolerate anarchy in his new world.

He slipped into the forest where the Ship of the Æsir’s sacrifice had landed. The other tribes couldn’t have gotten very far from there…

The forest was refreshingly free from blood. He was thirsty, so he went to a river that was very close to where the Ship of the Æsir’s Sacrifice was. He looked around him to see if anyone else was nearby. He saw two other people, but only one looked human. Still, they weren’t very close to him, so he thought that he could talk to them later.

He drank the water as if he had never before drank cold and clean water in his life. He’d almost forgotten what fresh water that wasn’t filled with blood had tasted like.

Then, he began to walk towards where he had seen the other figures. He wanted to talk with someone, and he would have to figure out where the other refugees from Ragnarok were before he could deal with them.

As he approached the figures, he saw that only one of them was human. The other looked vaguely like a human being, but his complexion and dimensions were wrong. He was far smaller than a short human - indeed, he was even shorter than the few dwarves that Helgi had seen. His skin was yellow like the color that the sun had been before it went out. His head was also in the wrong area, appearing to be located under his neck. Out his neck protruded long horns.

As Helgi approached, he nodded at both figures.

“Where do you come from, stranger?” he spoke to the human. “Of what tribe are you, and how did you react to the End of the Nine? What is your name?”

“I am Ahkemiella,” the stranger replied. “I did not know of your gods before the End of the Nine, and my people believed that your struggles against one another were foolish. We knew that only through unity could we survive the disaster that was upon us.”

“Pretty words,” Helgi responded. “If you speak the truth, where did your tribe live? And why did they not warn my kin of the consequences of their actions? And how did you realize that the Nine were ending if you didn’t know of the Æsir?”

“We lived north of your lands, and we did warn the Norse that civil war would only lead to sorrow,” Ahkemiella said. “We traded with your people, so we knew some of what you believed in. Our traders saw the signs of your apocalypse and warned us, and we began to prepare for it. We didn’t truly believe that you were correct, but we figured that it was better to prepare ourselves for nothing than for something to occur and catch us by surprise. Our people prepared, but it didn’t aid us. I suppose that’s what we get for trying to change fate.”

“Here, there is no fate,” Helgi said. “I suppose that gives us an opportunity to do better.”

“I suppose so,” Ahkemiella said. “Why did you wish to talk with me? You want something.”

“Too much freedom will lead to anarchy,” Helgi said. “I intend to mitigate the consequences of our newfound freedom from fate. There must be authority to reign in the tempers and ambitions of men. The internal fighting helped destroy Midgard. I will not allow it to destroy our new home. However, I don’t know where the other settlers are. If I am to bring them into the fold, I need to know where they are. I was hoping to ask you about their location.”

“My people and I have been living near here, but we know how to reign in our ambition,” Ahkemiella said. “I think that you wish to know where your own people are, and you were right to come here. There are a few collections of survivors near this river, but your kin have spread across this entire forest. It will be very difficult to bring all of them into a single regime,”

“I need to start somewhere, and, actually, I could use a little aid,” Helgi replied. “Also, how are you eating? My small tribe brought some food from Midgard, but I know that it will run out soon. Does this world have any food?”

“I would be willing to aid you in your quest to bring order to this new world,” Ahkemiella responded. “I will not kill anyone myself, but I would be willing to convince other people - including my own tribe - to ally with you. As for food… the other being that was near this river was one of the natives of this world. I trade human things for food with him, and that was why I was here today.”

Helgi briefly glanced at the riverbank when Ahkemiella talked about the natives. Sure enough, the native had left, but his new companion’s wording suggested that he would be back. His new companion would also make a great ally in his quest to unite this world.

“Let us prevent another apocalypse, then,” he said. “We have work to do.”

“Yes, we do,” Ahkemiella replied. “And tonight’s as good a time as any to get started.”
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Very interesting. I have so many questions. Perhaps some will, in time, be answered.
Chapter 2
Ahkemiella and Helgi parted ways immediately after, but they agreed to stay in touch by meeting near the riverbank each night. They would scheme there with night to conceal their activities - there would be many men in both of their tribes who disagreed with their cause, after all. Helgi thought that these men were fools who prioritized their own well-being over that of the tribe as a whole, but he couldn’t deny the power that they held - enough power to undo his plan and keep chaos entrenched in this world.

He reached his small house just before the sun rose, and he knew that he wouldn’t be able to sleep again, although there were bags under his eyes. His nightmares weren’t something that he wanted to return to, and he was needed to aid his nephew in governing throughout the day anyway. He suspected that a few men were waking up with the sun, and he couldn’t afford to allow them to do whatever they wanted. Men were helpless while they were asleep - they could affect nothing at all. He couldn’t allow his realm to be destroyed by his negligence - not again. History wouldn’t repeat itself.

And so he remained awake, although it pained him. The benefits of this were quickly made clear when a man snuck into his home. Helgi asked who the man was and why he was trespassing in another man’s house, but the man didn’t respond. Instead, he was briefly silent, and then he offered Helgi a drink.

This made the king’s uncle extremely suspicious. A man snuck into his house where most people would be asleep, and he was offering him a drink? That made no sense… unless the drink was poisoned. Helgi was quite familiar with poison - it had been used often enough during the Three Years of Sin.

“No,” he said. “Now, what are you doing here? Answer, leave, or die. I don’t care what you choose, but I imagine that you like living.”

For a brief moment, there was silence - and then the man turned and walked away, and he took the drink with him, which only increased Helgi’s suspicions. Clearly, there was something incriminating within that drink… and that meant that he would have to be cautious. While it was possible that the man was acting alone, that was very unlikely - it was far more likely that the man was part of a larger conspiracy, and that meant Helgi wouldn’t be able to trust anyone. Anyone could be part of a conspiracy with bad intentions towards him or his nephew and his king.

This was a state of affairs that Helgi could never allow. Any conspiracies - against himself, against his king, against his kingdom - would need to be crushed. Their members would need to be eliminated. The problem was that he would need to identify any such conspiracies, and schemers were good at cloaking their activities in shadow. The most important thing was ensuring that they stayed in the shadows and couldn’t invade the light. To do that, he would need to guard his king…

Helgi walked out of his home and towards the royal house. This wasn’t very difficult to find - while the house was nowhere near the sheer ostentatiousness that the southerners liked to call palaces, it did have a few features that weren’t shared by the other houses in their small settlement. It was slightly taller, and it had beautiful tyrian purple doors. He knocked on those in order to indicate his presence, and Sigfrid was quick to let him in.

They exchanged pleasantries before his nephew asked him about what he was doing there. He replied that he had news, and Sigfrid reminded him that they had a meeting at midday. He could give his news and make his concerns known then.

Helgi knew a dismissal when he heard one. He left his nephew’s residence and went to his home to grab something to eat. He frowned when he saw that his personal stock of food that he had managed to rescue from Midgard was running out. Thankfully, he still had some meat and a lot of mead. He grabbed some elk and ate at his table.

After he had eaten, he realized that he was starting to lose consciousness. He fought to stay awake, but it was no use - his face hit the table as he drifted off into the realm of Nótt. Immediately, he dreamt of Ragnarok. Fire fell from the sky as he attempted to escape the Doom in vain. He gripped his sword and waited for the cowardly fire giants to show their faces. He knew that, once they were dead, these horrifying flames would vanish, and, just as a denizen of Muspelheim was about to make itself known, his dream shifted.

His new surroundings were calm, and there were no flames. It was oddly peaceful, which failed to put Helgi at ease. If his nightmare had changed, then there had to be a reason - he was self-conscious enough to know that his memories would never escape the Doom of the Nine Worlds. Someone - or something - was messing with his dreams… again.

This encouraged him to look around, and what he discovered shocked him. The area was so tranquil because there was nothing except darkness around him. He was in an empty void - except for a single and massive throne. As he looked closer, he realized that this massive throne was occupied by someone. Finally, the person who dragged him into this dream was revealed.

“Are you always this paranoid when someone drags you out of your haunting memories?” the man asked.

Helgi blinked. What kind of question was that? His reply was simple affirmation, which the other being seemed to find hilarious for some reason.

Once they were finished laughing, they began to explain the situation at hand. They offered cryptic warnings of danger and told him that his new kingdom couldn’t be allowed to fall. Apparently, they had a great destiny, although the other man refused to tell him what that destiny was, which was extraordinarily annoying.

Once their monologue was over, the dream’s scene changed. The man was still there, and he was still concealed by shadows, but the throne had disappeared. Instead, the man sat under a great tree. Helgi was near this tree, but he did not truly care about the man’s identity. He looked around and saw that he was in a vast forest with many rivers. That wasn’t the strange part. No, the strange part was that this forest had a clear edge - a wall, and there were openings in it. A beautiful blue sphere was what appeared to be beyond those walls.

“That’s your new planet,” the man said. “Beautiful, isn’t it?”

It was rather beautiful. Blues clashed with greens and even reds on that sphere, and it seemed to be surrounded by massive structures. It was glorious. Briefly, Helgi wondered if this was where the gods had lived. He turned to ask the mysterious man, but the man had vanished from his dream.

And on that note, he woke up. He quickly panicked, thinking that he had slept through his meeting, but that worry died quickly. The sun was not yet at its highest point in the sky. Still, it was probably a good idea to begin heading towards his nephew’s residence again. He had to ensure that Sigfrid was not led astray by bad advice.
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Very interesting. I have so many questions. Perhaps some will, in time, be answered.
They probably will... you're welcome to ask ahead of time, though!

I'm planning on posting a new update every Monday. We'll see how that goes. I was just busy this month.
Chapter 3
When he arrived at Sigfrid’s house, he found that many people were already there. He didn’t know many of them, but he could recognize his brother, Olaf. That was vaguely reassuring since his family didn’t betray each other often - they had even managed to remain mostly united during Ragnarok itself.

His nephew’s voice brought his attention back to the present. “Now that we’re all here… let’s begin to discuss what we need to do. The first order of business is simple - our food is running out. As all of you know… our escape from Midgard was rather rushed. We only brought limited supplies. These are almost out. How are we going to avoid starvation?”.

Helgi did have a solution to this, but he was unsure if he should share it. He had a way to avoid starving, but it involved trading with other people - with an entirely different species, actually. He was unsure of how well that would be received, especially given that the last interaction with a different species was during Ragnarok. He worried that it would bring back… unpleasant memories.

The silence continued for several minutes, and Helgi decided that meant that nobody else had a solution. He winced. This was going to be painful. “I decided to walk to the nearest river last night. There, I found two beings… one was human, although he wasn’t Norse. However, he said that he traded for food with the other being, who is apparently native to this planet”.

Naturally, this led to a cacophony, as everyone started trying to speak at once. Helgi vaguely heard the words “treason”, “trade”, “folly”, and “royal power”, but that was all. He couldn’t make out a single coherent thought in all of the confusion. He had absolutely no idea how he was supposed to respond. Still, two words in particular - treason and folly - caused him to worry that he had undermined his nephew’s power, which wasn’t something that he wanted to do at all. What if his actions led to more anarchy? What if he was just as guilty of causing unrest and quarreling as the men whom he so hated for letting old grudges take precedence over preventing Ragnarok?

Thankfully, his nephew took the initiative, which saved him from his self-doubt. “Quiet,” he shouted while slamming his fist against the table. Everybody immediately shut up - as much because of the surprise as because of the order. “Good. Now, you will share your reactions to and thoughts about my uncle’s suggestion once at a time, so that the council will be able to understand your opinion. Once we have everybody’s opinion, we will then vote about what we’ll do next to obtain food. Olaf, you may start”.

Helgi’s brother rose from his seat. “Thank you, my king. I believe that, while my brother may have overstepped his authority, he still had good intentions. We should talk with these new people and accept their aid - the alternative would be to starve to death, and everybody here knows that”.

This response reassured Helgi that he did the right thing. The two situations were nothing alike - he had taken initiative to prevent starvation, while the men on Midgard had cared for nothing but their own personal glory. He did what he did for the greater good of the colony as a whole, not merely for himself.

“Very well,” Sigfrid said. “Now, sit down. Is there anyone here who disagrees with my uncle’s actions, and, if so, why? Please only have one speaker at a time”.

For a glorious moment, there was silence, and Helgi dared to think that he might be able to move on to identifying the suspicious characters on the royal council. Then, slowly, a man rose. He had a glorious beard that Helgi was instantly jealous of, and his hair was whiter than snow. He was dressed in a luxurious purple garment that reached his knees, and Helgi instantly hated him.

“Yes,” he said. “While I imagine that your uncle meant well, his actions still undermined your authority. This group may view him as a powerful leader of our tribe instead of you. If he wished to launch a coup, it would be very easy for him to succeed…”. Once he had said his piece, he sat down.

Helgi narrowed his eyes. That wording was extremely suspicious. The strange man couldn’t have chosen his words better if he was trying to make Sigfrid suspicious of Helgi in preparation for killing Helgi himself. Helgi would need to keep a close eye on him and figure out what he wanted… and what he planned.

Almost instantly, Helgi’s eyes were drawn around the table. To his relief, there were many men frowning at the man… they could serve as good allies.

Well, it's a lot shorter than I would have liked, but it's out. Next chapter should be longer, and then we can hopefully get to doing more world building and remembrance of Ragnarok... Criticism would be appreciated! Also, I think that I can actually manage an update every other Monday from now on.
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Chapter 4
Olaf stood up. “I highly doubt that anyone plans to launch a coup, especially given how insecure our position still is. Helgi’s words were… poorly chosen, perhaps, but I imagine that he only wishes for your well-being, my king”.

“Be that as it may,” Sigfrid began. “The fact remains that he did conduct personal diplomacy without my approval. While we could reject his deal, we find that such an act would be unwise. In order to reduce any chances of this being interpreted as a coup, I will make Helgi the official diplomat of our tribe and empower him to negotiate deals in our name. His decision about the food supply will be our plan for the moment.”

Sigfrid stared at each and every one of his advisors, daring them to challenge his decision. None of them did. In that moment, he looked every inch a king. “Council dismissed”.

Helgi left the house quickly and resolved to follow the mysterious man who had objected to his proposal. The man took a strange path through the small settlement, seemingly avoiding all of the residences. That only further convinced Helgi that he was up to something - why would he take such a strange pathway if he had nothing to hide?

His suspicions were quickly proven correct when the man moved out of the settlement and began to climb a mountain that sat just outside. Helgi followed him, but his new environment was much less conducive to subtlety. He was forced to duck behind small bushes in order to stay out of sight.

The climb up the mountain was long and treacherous, and it was not made easy by Helgi’s need to avoid being seen. The mountaintop, though, made the trip worth it. There was a vast and ostentatious palace covered in diamonds and surrounded by rivers. It was made like the Greek buildings of Old Midgard, and Helgi hated it as soon as he saw it. It must have been a massive waste of wealth. The mysterious man walked directly into it, which put Helgi in a bit of a bind. He could simply sacrifice subtlety entirely and hope it worked out, but that path would likely end in his death. He could also attempt to continue hiding, but that would be extraordinarily difficult.

The city on the mountaintop had very few places to hide. It looked like the home of a wealthy people, and, were he a younger man, Helgi probably would have tried to plunder it. At the moment, however, the Viking had more pressing concerns. He now knew that the man was a spy of some kind who answered to someone who was not his king. Helgi needed to figure out why anyone cared about his small tribe enough to spy on them.

That was easier said than done. Eventually, Helgi decided to go with an unorthodox solution. This settlement looked like the refuge of the Greeks, who had once ruled a mighty empire on Midgard. Conveniently, this empire had employed the great Norse as soldiers and as guards. Even more conveniently, Helgi happened to be related to a man who had once served in their famous Varangian Guard, and that man, his uncle Erik, had told him many stories. He could easily pretend to have been a member of the Varangians.

With that plan in mind, Helgi finally exited his small hiding spot and entered the city. He was quickly stopped by a few men, but he simply told them that he had heard of a great refuge and was a “servant of the emperor from the distant North”. This was enough to get the city’s residents to leave him alone. After that, he was left undisturbed on his route to the great palace at the city’s heart.

As he reached the palace door, he realized that he had forgotten one key element of his plan. He had absolutely no idea what he was going to do when he entered the palace. Any ruler in their right mind would have his guards seize him immediately and interrogate him, and he had no desire to answer any questions. Being subtle in the small settlement had been easy, but being subtle enough to avoid detection in a ruler’s palace was next to impossible. He had heard enough stories from Uncle Erik to know how that ended.

Still, he could form a quick plan. Unfortunately, the plan that he did create sucked - it involved many difficult things, such as climbing the palace and hiding behind a throne. He knew that it was an utterly idiotic plan, but he didn’t have any better ideas, so Operation Drill a Hole in the Roof was a go. Thankfully, he did bring a small bit of rope.

He used the rope to travel up the palace. In this endeavor, the ostentatiousness of the structure aided the Northman, as the presence of many diamonds gave him useful places to put his rope and to use to steady his hands. He quickly swung from diamond to diamond and reached the top by nightfall. No one tried to stop him, although Helgi figured that was because they thought he was insane and stupid. Such a visibly insane man could be no threat to anyone. He shuddered as he thought that - Ragnarok had proven that theory wrong to him.

The thought of the past apocalypse almost caused him to fall into a flashback, but he got ahold of himself. This was a good thing, too, since a flashback would surely have caused him to lose hold of his rope and of the diamond he was using to steady himself, and he would have fallen from the palace and likely died.

Once Helgi reached the top of the palace, he began searching it for openings. The people of Rome used to have openings that they used to bake, but these men were apparently wiser. He could find no openings on the top of their palace. That was annoying, but it was far from an insurmountable issue. If there were no openings, he could always make one. It would not be quick or easy, of course, but it would be possible.

All he needed to do was punch the structure really hard and repeat that motion a few thousand times. He did just that throughout the night, but it took until the moon was at its highest point in the sky for any progress to show. He only barely managed to punch an entrance into the palace by dawn. He then proceeded to use his rope to swing into the building safely.

Thankfully, he entered the throne room, and no one was awake quite yet. He snuck behind the absolutely massive throne and waited for the leader of this city to enter his hall and begin discussions of policy.

He did not have to wait long. Helgi didn’t get a good look at the man, but his voice revealed his presence. He said nothing of Helgi, so the Viking continued to listen in on the meeting.

We're moving updates to Thursdays, which I should be able to manage. Also, expect longer updates.
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Chapter 5
Most of the meeting that Helgi heard was boring and useless. It was mostly stuff about how these people had arrived on this strange planet and how they were settling in. Still, amidst all of the dreck, a few pieces of pertinent information emerged - the two men referenced their origins (they were not of the Romans directly, but they had known the City of the World's Desire) and what they were fleeing from (a supernatural event of some kind, although Helgi didn't recognize the description as anything similar to Ragnarok).

"And of our patron?" the leader had asked, and Helgi immediately began paying close attention. These people were spying on his people, and a religious justification might explain that. Helgi began listening to all of their words extremely closely.

"Our patron remains as supportive of our cause as ever," the spy said. "He needs us just as much as we benefit from him. Our deal remains in place - we will free him from his prison, and he shall grant us power and glory beyond our wildest dreams. What was will be, what will be was."

The leader dipped his head in silent assent. "What was will be, what will be was. This deal has proven beneficial - and betraying a god never ended well for anyone."

The mysterious spy raised an eyebrow. "A god, my friend? Is that not a strong term for our ally? There is only one god... and he is not corporeal."

The leader rolled his eyes. "You and your religion. Fine, an extremely powerful entity with powers similar to those that our myths tell us that the pagan gods allegedly had. Is that better, or will you continue on squabbling over semantics?"

The spy sighed in exasperation. "I care nothing for religion, but you know as well as I do what the consequences of officially abandoning the faith could be. We would be executed as blasphemers or else lose all of our authority. The semantics are important."

"I suppose that they are, which is why I have you as my interpreter," he said, but then he tilted his head and murmured, "I think that we're being spied on. Give me a moment..." before looking directly at his throne. Helgi, despite the fact that the throne itself would have logically hidden him from view, shivered. He did not move, though - that would be cowardice, and it could very well give his position away.

He focused on obscuring his mind... It was difficult to do, but Helgi had a lot of practice - the art of mind shielding was rare before the great battle, but it had become much more common during the event. After all, it was rather difficult to fight gods who could read your mind. He looked up and began considering how he planned to leave the palace. He hadn't considered that, and he was beginning to regret it...

Meanwhile, his position got worse by the second. The two schemers began to search the room for his presence, but they found nothing. "I don't sense anything except us," the spy finally said. "Are you absolutely sure that you sensed something? Could it have been a coincidence?"

The leader blinked. "Of course I'm sure. There is someone spying on us - as surely as any sun rises, someone is here who doesn't belong. I know how to use my gift from our patron, and it was telling me that the palace wards were breeched. They have not been repaired since. Someone who doesn't belong is here."

"How would they have even entered without our knowledge? Our guards at the doors were hand-picked. They wouldn't let anyone in without our authorization. Is it even remotely conceivable that the wards snapped by accident or by coincidence?"

The leader glared at his servant. Helgi stopped listening closely and began to consider how he might possibly escape. As the two other men in the room brainstormed possibilities about how he could have gotten in, he considered the logistics of exiting the way that he entered. It would be difficult, but he figured that he could try to climb up the throne. There would be no easy handholds, but it might work. As long as he could get to the roof of the palace, his escape would be assured. The two men might figure out that he was there, but he wouldn't be there to confirm or deny anything. Even if they somehow figured out where he had come from, there would be no proof of anything. It would be the safest way out.

It was at that moment that his thoughts changed. At the time, it had seemed a natural progression - but, in retrospect, something invaded his mind that day... and ensured that the glories and the tragedies that his people experienced would eventually come to pass. The thing simply reminded him that he was of the Northmen and that he was a Viking by trade. Taking the safest way out was a coward's move - and would be a betrayal of who he was. He was Helgi of the Crimson Hair, Terror of the West. He did not act in the shadows - he attacked in the light.

It was that reminder, more than anything else, that decided his course. He drew his sword and drove it through the throne, and a piercing shriek filled the air. Some strange purple liquid began oozing from the throne, and Helgi withdrew his sword out of pure, unadulterated shock. Through the small opening in the back of the throne that was not covered by the liquid, he made eye contact with the schemers. Both were dressed as ostentatiously as he had expected, but that wasn't what got his attention.

What got his attention was their eyes. The man who had attempted to cast suspicion on him had pitch black eyes that reminded Helgi of the darkest night of Ragnarok. They were darker than any natural night. The other man - the spy's ally or commander, Helgi wasn't quite sure which - had some of the strangest eyes that the great raider had ever seen. They initially looked like a pure violet, much like Helgi's own, but, as he looked closer, he noticed stranger elements... a black outline... and, strangely, specks of pure crimson - specks of the color that human blood was. What was even stranger was that those were not the only specks in those eyes - there were also specks of a purer red. Helgi recognized this color as the hue that the blood of the gods had once taken.

And that's a good place to end. Remember to go and vote in the Q1 ACAs!
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Chapter 6
For a moment, both parties simply stared at one another in shock. Helgi was the first man to recover his wits, and he immediately went on the offensive. He had no weapons on him, so he was forced to make do with just his bare hands, and that meant that he had to focus on only one of the two men. He decided to target the man with the bloody eyes since he obviously commanded more influence.

He began by throwing punches, and this move unfortunately snapped the other man out of his shock, as he tried to catch Helgi’s punch. Fortunately, Helgi saw that coming, and he moved the direction of his punch downward. It ended up hitting the other man’s legs, which wasn’t actually where Helgi was aiming for, but it thankfully still caused a howl of pain.

Helgi pressed his advantage by kicking the other man’s knee, which caused him to collapse to the ground. He then grabbed his foe’s neck and squeezed. To his surprise, it did not feel like his hands were touching skin. Instead, it felt like he was trying to squeeze solid gold. It felt like he was trying to squeeze solid molten gold… In fact, this felt very much like the time he attempted to choke Loki to death.

As soon as he had that thought, the man who he was fighting looked him directly in the eyes and waved his hands. A bolt of violet energy hit him, and he collapsed.

Naturally, he dreamt of Ragnarok. He dreamt of when he had foolishly tried to fight the God of Mischief with brute strength. He dreamt of his most glorious moment… and of his most bitter defeat. He dreamt of a duel.

The dream began when that day did - when the sun and moon had finally vanished from the sky. He had been awake when the moon vanished from the sky, and he had remained awake, hoping that it had merely been a nightmare, when the sun did not rise the next morning. That was the moment when his kin finally acknowledged that the final battle was upon them.

Helgi had been too angry at their ignorance to speak, and he had gone to the coast in hopes of clearing his mind. That was why he had been the first to spot the horrifying ice - the Ship of Nails, covered in ice.

A man had walked up to him then. “Why do you bother to fight fate? You know how this story ends - you recognize the signs.”

Helgi had almost been swayed by that argument, but he was a Viking. Words meant nothing to him, and so he had challenged the stranger to a duel and drawn his sword.

The stranger had said nothing, merely drawing a dagger of his own and attempting to get close to Helgi. Helgi had responded by taking advantage of the longer reach of his weapon to ensure that the distance between him and his enemy was great enough that he could not be hit but small enough to ensure that he could hit his foe.

The strange man had reacted by ducking under Helgi’s sword and crawling closer. Helgi merely lowered his sword, and it hit the man’s cheek, which bled blue blood. Helgi gasped - the stranger was not human! He began to slash at his enemy’s face even more quickly.

The stranger refused to take the injury lightly, though. He changed into a snake and slithered toward the Viking, who desperately tried to behead the serpent without any luck. Finally, he resorted to simply moving backward.

After a long game of cat and mouse, Helgi finally spoke. “Who are you, serpent?”

The snake blinked before hissing, “I’m surprised. I would assume that my kin” - he spat that word out like it was poison - “had told their subjects of me. I would assume that they would vilify me and forget all of the favors that I once did for them. This is my apocalypse - my judgement upon all who have betrayed me! I am Loki!”

Helgi blinked. “Isn’t your mouth supposed to be sown shut?”

The snake hissed. “Yes. Fortunately, I have found allies in my exile. The Worm has returned my tongue to me, and he has revealed amazing truths to me. What was will be, what will be was. I reigned on Midgard once. I shall reign here again. Now kneel!”

As Loki shifted back to his human guise and walked up to Helgi, a blast of violet light hit him, and he awoke from his nightmare - behind bars. On the other side of the bars stood the two vile schemers, and the one with eyes of the color of two kinds of blood was the first to notice his awakening.

“Our prisoner is awake, what should we do with him? Should we force him to serve in the Varangians, as befitting his heritage? Should we make him drive a chariot for the entertainment of our people? Should we blind him, in the tradition of our people?”

The other man clearly didn’t much care about the fate of the man whose kingdom he had been spying on. “You are my emperor. Do whatever you want with him.”

The man rolled his bloody eyes. “I was asking you if you have a preference. He did follow you to our great residence, after all. I was wondering if you had anything you wanted to do to… help discourage spies.”

The Black-Eyed Man smiled. “Ah. In fact, I do. I want to see him serve in the Varangian Guard of his own free will… or, rather, of his own ‘free’ will, if you catch my meaning.”

The commander responded with a demonic smile of his own. “Oh, yes. That is a brilliant idea. No one will spy on us if their spies keep defecting. Would you like to do the honors, or should I?”

Helgi had heard enough of the conversation to know that he had to get out of his cell as soon as possible. He grabbed one of the bars that he was behind and applied as much pressure as he could. It snapped with an audible crack, and he attempted to slip between the large hole between the bars. Unfortunately, he was still too big to fit, so he snapped another bar and then stepped out of the prison.

The two schemers noticed immediately, but neither of them attacked him. Helgi turned to leave, and he felt no resistance. This made him paranoid, so he turned his head. Sure enough, the two men were behind him. They were clearly following him, but the Viking could not figure out. Maybe they wanted to use him to search for something? If so, Helgi had no clue what since they already knew where the Norse settlement was…
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Chapter 7
Helgi decided to explore the city while he was here. Part of this was genuine curiosity, but he was also calling the bluff of the two conspirators - if he remained near them and in a place known to them, it was a strong possibility that they would give up on pursuing him. Even if they didn’t, the very act of following him might make the residents of this new city suspicious of their rulers. Hopefully that would mess with their legitimacy.

For such a new construction, the city was shockingly beautiful - the houses (other than the palace) were relatively normal, but they weren’t small huts. There were a few buildings that seemed to be made completely out of gold. In the distance, there was a cathedral that resembled the tales that Helgi had heard about the famous Hagia Sophia with a single, glaring exception - this cathedral was painted a vibrant violet… and singed at its top.

There were unfamiliar structures as well, though. They looked like nothing that had ever been made by human hands - they were extremely small, for one thing. More importantly, they were made completely out of wood. Idly, Helgi noted how easy it would be to burn them. In addition, their shape was that of a perfect circle, and they had no doors.

These structures were located throughout the city, but none of them were present on the roads or in any of the buildings that Helgi had seen. It was as if they had existed before the rest of the city, and the migrants from the Roman Empire on old Midgard had simply not bothered to completely destroy all of it.

The most disturbing part, though, was that Helgi knew - knew beyond the shadow of a doubt - that these strange structures were inhabited. To make matters worse, their inhabitants were utterly terrified of… something that was now in the city. He could feel their terror - feel it as if it was his own. They would die before they left safety.

He blinked. Wait, safety? Quickly, a plan began to form in his head. The structures weren’t designed with human habitation in mind, but humans could probably still enter them. A man would have to kneel to do so, but this aided Helgi. He was not too proud to kneel if he must - and that thought summoned the spectre of a horrid memory that he had to push away - but he heavily suspected that his pursuers were that proud. The mysterious structures could easily prove to be an escape hatch from this unholy city that mimicked the City of the World’s Desire.

He looked over his shoulders. Yep, his pursuers were still following him. Worse, they didn’t seem to be impeded by any of their subjects. They were gaining on him, too. By his current estimate, they would catch up to him within the hour.

He broke out into a heavy sprint, attempting to reach the nearest of the circular buildings. As he ran, he continued to look over his shoulder to track his pursuers, but they didn’t seem to care about his sudden move. They were still walking towards him slowly. He breathed a silent prayer of thanks to the Eternal One and knelt in front of the tiny home. Without hesitation, he knocked. The door quickly swung open, and he was pulled into the place. It was about as cramped as he expected it to be, but that didn’t matter.

He turned to express his thanks to his savior, but the sight that met him caused his jaw to drop open in pure shock.

A/N: My apologies about missing last week. I had a bit of writer's block for this story, but that seems to have abated. I should have longer updates in the future. As always, comments - especially concrit - are appreciated!
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Chapter 8
Thanks for the likes @filcat! Here's the next chapter - it's really dark.

The small room didn’t look anything like a human settlement, but Helgi could tell that it was a city all the same. It was miniature, as its inhabitants were, but even they appeared far too large for their dwelling. Log hots dotted the tunnel, and, in the center of the strange settlement, there was what must have been their equivalent of a well. It definitely contained water, but its shape was a trapezoid. A small amount of dirt covered some of the buildings, and Helgi figured that those were structures of great importance - their temples, their palaces, and their centers of government. To connect all of these places, there were a few paths of purest gold. And, right in front of him, a fire crackled, welcoming him to this abode.

The area was certainly weird, but, deep beneath his skin, in an area that he had ignored for decades, another feeling assaulted him with such strength that he could not ignore it. He had felt this before he entered, but it was stronger within the settlement itself. It was an intense feeling of terror… and, as he now recognized, of loss and anger. Something had happened here - and it had been profoundly tragic.

With a start, Helgi realized that the buildings appeared too small for the inhabitants because they were. This place was no mere safe haven. It was a ghost town - a settlement that had once been glorious and prestigious, the envy of this entire planet. It was the ruins of a center for the native inhabitants of the world where Helgi and a thousand million survivors of Ragnarok had retreated. It was the ruins of a city that the men who called themselves Romans had seized and remade in the image of their former capital.

The sheer power of emotion in this place forced Helgi to his knees, and he managed to breathe out a simple apology for the actions of his people. The being who had welcomed him reassured him that he bore no responsibility for the deeds of the Romans - they would not judge him simply because he happened to be of the same species.

Helgi nodded in thanks and attempted to stand. He found that he couldn’t - the raw emotion of this place was still too much. He had to sever his connection to the Collective Mind of the Living to finally rise and walk with his rescuer. It was the hardest thing that he had ever done - it was harder than swimming in ice or tamping down his connection during Ragnarok.

When he finally rose, the being who had welcomed him grabbed his hand and said, “My name is Jagfon, and I need to show you something. Follow me - and, while we walk, we can talk of our common enemy.”
Helgi winced at the contact, and the flood of emotions that accompanied it - shock, anger, and a very understated feeling of excitement. There was a reason why he never accepted body contact. “Our common enemy being the inhabitants of this horrific mockery of a city?”

“Yes. Now, tell me - what have they done to earn your enmity - or what have you done to earn theirs?”

Helgi sighed. “That question’s answer is complicated, and it depends on what exactly they are. My knowledge of that has changed in the past few days - and it is still very incomplete.

Jagfon began to walk closer to him. “Go on. We have a while until we reach our destination.”

Helgi took a deep breath and continued his explanation. “Initially, my enmity with them was simple - they attempted to intervene in the internal politics of my tribe - and, to do so, they dared to question my personal honor. I could not allow that to happen, so I followed them here, which made them consider me their enemy. We fought, and I managed to escape here.”. He sighed. “But that’s the simplest version of events. The longer answer could take ages to tell - but I’ll try to keep this short. Their leader mentioned serving a higher being… and I suspect that this demon was at least partially responsible for the event that forced my people - my species - from our homeworld.”

“So you suspect that they’re worshippers of your devil? Perhaps you shall find our destination… enlightening. They’re guilty of many atrocities… some of which still keep me up at night.”

On that dark note, their conversation ceased, and they walked on in silence, united only by the force of their hatred of a common enemy. Finally, the gold on the paths began to dim as a structure loomed in the distance. From afar, this building had looked like just another one of the log houses, but, as they got closer, it began to look like something else. Indeed, as Helgi looked closer, he figured out what the place resembled.

He sucked in a deep breath. “Is that a cross? It looks like a wooden cross.”

“That is what a few members of these Romans called it when they arrived,” Jagfon answered. “At first, they were peaceful and so we allowed them to join our society. I befriended a few among their number. We began to find similarities between our traditions…” He paused.

“And? What happened to shatter this unified culture? And why didn’t you destroy the cross?”

A single drop of something green fell down his companion’s face. Helgi wondered if it was a tear - and if it was, whether it was of water or of blood.

“The men whom we had so kindly welcomed to our kingdom lived in peace with us for years. Then, one day, a small group began to kill our kind - and, when our loyal allies attempted to defend us, they did something. Our allies amongst the Romans turned on us, but, before they did, I could’ve sworn that their eyes flashed a dark shade of violet. A small few defended us, even then, but we were outnumbered. They drove us to these small settlements and called it mercy. They captured those who remained loyal to us and either killed them or forced them to swear allegiance. This cross serves as a reminder - of our former friendship… and of our loss.”

The man touched the cross and peeled something away from it. Under the wood, there were human corpses. In that moment, Helgi understood the true meaning of hatred. He hated these Romans more than he had ever hated anyone. Under his breath, he quoted a holy man who had once visited Scandinavia - “they make a desert, and they call it peace”.

Because just being Worm cultists wasn't bad enough...
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Chapter 9
Helgi’s companion raised an eyebrow. “In all honesty, a desert would’ve been a kinder fate - for them and for us. No, they didn’t make a desert. They made a mausoleum and had the audacity to proclaim themselves peacemakers. They are the worst beings who have ever lived in this galaxy, and I intend to resolve that situation as permanently as I can.”

Helgi blinked. Apparently his companion had really good hearing. He would have to remember that - it wouldn’t be good if he whispered secret information and was overheard…

“You hate them, then?” escaped Helgi’s mouth before he truly knew he was speaking at all.

Jagfon scoffed. “I know your species is not any more forgiving than mine. Still, I suppose that answer depends on who ‘them’ refers to. I hate the leaders more than I’ve ever hated anyone - more than I thought was possible. They slaughtered my people and corrupted those who were once our allies. They even killed their own people for the crime of daring to keep their free will. I would end their lives in a heartbeat.”

For a while, Jagfon paused, and Helgi waited for him to finish. He clearly hadn’t finished his thought. They stood there, in front of that abominable cross, for a couple of hours. Finally, Helgi grew impatient and requested that Jagfon finish.

Jagfon sighed. “I’m sorry. It’s just… even speaking about them reminds me of everything I’ve lost - the peace, the cooperation… perhaps, before my journey is over, even my soul. Even after all of that, though, I’d still welcome my former allies back and resume cooperating with them if I could. I’d do anything to return to that idyllic past - to return to that age of peace. Even so… the corrupted remain innocent - I don’t want to kill them. I want to save them, if I can… but, if I can’t, I’m perfectly willing to kill them. It would be a mercy.”

Helgi could sympathize. How many of his fellow tribesmen - or even just of his friends - had been poisoned by Loki’s honeyed words at Ragnarok? He’d killed so many to save them from the tyranny of magic words. And, even now, how much would he give to return to the age before Ragnarok - when his kin were still exploring Midgard’s seas and raiding? How different was he from this being, in the end?

Helgi glanced at the cross of skin. “We shouldn’t stay here. I understand your struggle and your pain, but to willingly remind yourself of it… might not be the height of wisdom. Come. Show me how to return to my new homeland, and I shall do my best to attempt to bring down this pale imitation of a once-glorious city.”

As Helgi turned to leave, Jagfon walked up to the cross and knelt. He ran his hands over the skin before letting the wood cover it once more. After the cross appeared to be made out of wood, he put two of his fingers together and moved them straight down before bringing them up and moving them sideways.

Helgi watched all of this in surprise, especially because he was pretty sure that his new companion had just made the Christian sign of the cross. For a fleeting moment, he wondered if it was Jagfon’s ritual of remembrance.

Jagfon then got up and walked to his side. They walked in a companionable silence for a few moments before Jagfon broke it. “I know reminding myself isn’t wise. I’m just worried that, if I don’t, I’ll forget the atrocities committed against my old allies… and come to despise them.”

To that, Helgi had no reply. He would never forget Ragnarok, and what was the point of speaking ill of the dead? Insulting them wouldn’t change the past.

After Jagfon’s comment, neither man said anything until they finally reached the edge of the settlement. A small tunnel opened to the world above, and Helgi could already see the stars. Before he exited, he said one final thing to his companion. “Should we emerge victorious in this conflict, my friend, I promise you that I will give the ‘emperor’ of this city a Blood Eagle.”

“What’s a Blood Eagle?”

As Helgi walked up towards the moonlight, he looked over his shoulder and gave a very simple response. “It’s the worst torture method I know.”

A/N: Let's hope this doesn't get the thread locked. I just mentioned the Blood Eagle, so it should be fine... but I'm still a tad worried. Also, my time is limited this week, so this chapter is short.

On a less serious note, thanks for the likes again @filcat. You're on Chapter 5?
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Let's hope this doesn't get the thread locked. I just mentioned the Blood Eagle, so it should be fine... but I'm still a tad worried.
Considering some of the messed-up stuff I got up to in my old stories and the crazy shenanigans happening in Peter Ebbesen's work, I'm sure you'll be fine as long as you avoid detailed, graphic descriptions.
Considering some of the messed-up stuff I got up to in my old stories and the crazy shenanigans happening in Peter Ebbesen's work, I'm sure you'll be fine as long as you avoid detailed, graphic descriptions.

I realized that after I typed it out. I think I thought there was some kind of "no gore" rule, but... there isn't.

What do you think of the story so far, by the way?
What do you think of the story so far, by the way?
I've been quietly following along since it was first posted. I don't participate in the "guess the author" thread so it took me a while to track down the original version of your entry and compare it to "Chapter 1" of this story.

The short chapters (at least what I consider short) make it easy to follow along, which is very helpful since Helgi has been in one helluva jam since Chapter 5, with each entry rolling directly into the next.

Also, I'm curious about where you're going to run with the Worm-in-Waiting mystery. It's an event chain I've only run across in-game twice so I am very unfamiliar with its nuances and outcomes.
Note to self. I need to check this out when I have a free moment. I'll be commenting soon!

Thanks! I look forward to it.

I've been quietly following along since it was first posted. I don't participate in the "guess the author" thread so it took me a while to track down the original version of your entry and compare it to "Chapter 1" of this story.

The short chapters (at least what I consider short) make it easy to follow along, which is very helpful since Helgi has been in one helluva jam since Chapter 5, with each entry rolling directly into the next.

Also, I'm curious about where you're going to run with the Worm-in-Waiting mystery. It's an event chain I've only run across in-game twice so I am very unfamiliar with its nuances and outcomes.

Nice. I didn't change that much between Chapter 1 and the Guess the Author piece.

Helgi isn't doing amazing right now. It'll get better. Eventually.

I promise I have a plan for the Worm...
On a less serious note, thanks for the likes again filcat. You're on Chapter 5?
Cheers mate. Yes, making way slowly to Chapter 6, was planning to comment once keeping up with the speed, but the life does not listen to the wishes of the organisms while flowing through the time.

Though, the actual -first time- comment has been savoured for a very long time for The Rise of Russia; and even that was due to When the Night Gets Dark being on hiatus back then, for the latter is attractive in many more aspects, despite being an eu4 aar, and that was (and is) the main focus, but will post there (i.e. filcatesque post-invasion) later.

Back to Nordica; fortunately it is Stellaris, not the love-hate eu4 (more hate than love, or - whatever, it's complicated), or dreadful hoi stuff, or archaic vicky2, but pity that it is not a ck3 aar. As an interim measure for delaying in comments:
Interesting story, but the meticulous attention on the format is again the main source of its power: Clean and pure aar; neat presentation of the world narrated by only the words without a need of supplementary images. The shortcomings of Chapter 1 are there as mentioned in the GtA round, but it is remedied in the following chapters as there is now more space and time and opportunities to further develop the story.

Chapter 10
Before Helgi could walk out of earshot of Jagfon, his new friend apparently remembered something. “When you reach the top of this tunnel, be sure to preserve our secrecy… and our protection. We don’t want anyone hostile stumbling into our refuge by accident.”

Helgi merely nodded and walked on. After a while, he saw what Jagfon meant. The edge of the tunnel was far from unguarded. It was blocked by dirt. Under the dirt - and therefore in front of Helgi now - there was a massive block of ice. Helgi tried to walk around this, but it stretched across his promised exit.

Helgi quickly realized that he would have to break the ice. After he had done that, he could simply brush away the dirt and then put it back, which would protect the identity of his new allies. Hopefully, he could then find a way to fix the ice, adding the additional protection. Helgi did not want his new allies discovered and massacred because some curious traveler (probably from that abomination of a replica city) decided to dig a hole.

The problem was that the ice was a lot stronger than it looked. Helgi initially tried to break it with his elbow, but all that did was leave his elbow sore. It was like hitting a tree. He then tried to use his fist, but that was no more successful and made him wince in pure pain. He realized that brute force would not be enough to break this ice.

Then, he realized that this was probably intentional. If the ice was easy to shatter, or even if it was as easy to break as the ice that he had once known on Earth, then a random stranger could dig a hole and discover it. Their immediate instinct would be to see what it was hiding, if Helgi knew anything about human nature, and that would compromise the safety of the refuge as surely as any sun rose over any world.

Unfortunately, that didn’t actually help Helgi with his dilemma. All it told him was that using force wasn’t an option. He had no clue what he was supposed to use instead, though. He was of the Northmen! Force had almost always worked for him in the past.

He frowned. What had he done when force hadn’t worked? He knew that he had done something, and he knew that it was frequently successful… but he couldn’t remember what. That was in the days before his life turned into a struggle against a cataclysm, and he had forgotten their unnecessary lessons…

He sighed, shut his eyes, and tried to remember. Immediately, he felt his consciousness slipping away. He desperately attempted to stay awake to avoid the nightmares, but his day had been full of action… and exhausting. He was asleep against his will within an hour.

Sadly, his fears were quickly proven correct. His dreams were far from happy. The first few did indeed involve his past from before Ragnarok… but they weren’t helpful in the slightest. They were his failures - his first raid, a raid that had ended in disaster, the first time he had been captured in battle, and, worst of all, the first time he had fallen to Loki’s sweet song and betrayed his comrades in exchange for petty gold, which he could have stolen.

Desperately, he tried to change his dreams, but nothing happened. He was forced to live through his most humiliating moments again. Then, things got worse. His most humiliating moments got even more humiliating in ways that they had never been in real life. In his dreams, he was forced to renounce Odin. He was given a Blood Eagle for a betrayal, and he could feel his lungs leaving his body. He felt the moment of his death in a dream, and it horrified him.

Then, mercifully, the dream changed. At first, Helgi was relieved. He thought that nothing could be worse than relieving his failures. As the dream grew clearer, though, he realized that there were worse things. He saw the total destruction of the new Midgard - the end of that beautiful garden of rebirth and serenity. He saw an image of Yggdrasil, the World Tree, in flames. Next to it, there were a thousand other trees, and each and every one of them burned. The flames destroyed all the worlds that were and all the World Trees with them. Worst of all, he heard laughter. He heard laughter that he recognized. He heard Loki’s laughter.

Soon, he saw Loki too. The giant - the giant who should have been dead - smiled at him. His hands were aflame, and he touched every tree, ensuring that nothing survived.

Finally, he found the power to move within his own nightmare. He grabbed Loki in the neck and squeezed until the laughter stopped. It didn’t save any of the trees, of course, but he thought that it meant that he could at least be alone in his dream once everything ended there.

Naturally, his thoughts were wrong. Although the laughter had stopped, the fire was still being spread to trees that were not yet burning. Helgi had no clue who was spreading it, but he understood the meaning well enough. There was still someone else in his dreams - and it could very well be an entity that was alive and invading them.

After all of the trees were nothing except ash, he heard a voice speaking. It sounded raspy, like it hadn’t been used in years. Even so, it sounded happy, and its words backed up that impression. “Do you not see how beautiful this is, my glorious raider? Do you not wish to see it come to pass?”

He didn’t see anything beautiful about this, and he opened his mouth to tell the entity as much. To his surprise, no words came out. He focused, and, with an extreme amount of effort, he finally managed to get out a response. “I don’t see anything beautiful about ash. I certainly wouldn’t want to live in a world that contained nothing else.”

The entity made a noise that Helgi assumed was laughter, although it sounded more like a choke. “Do you not? A world of ash is a world open to sculpting. You could do anything you wished for in that world… you could make it a world of order, where no one would dare disobey your command. You could make yourself a god. Ragnarok started the process. All you need to do is help me finish it, and I will allow you to do whatever you like with the remnants of creation.”

He could admit, if only to himself, that the offer was very tempting. He was not a vain man, but he still occasionally suffered from pride. Even so, he wasn’t going to trust a being that randomly appeared in his dreams and made him an offer. “I can. Show yourself, and then we can talk face to face. Then, I can decide whether or not to trust you.”
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Cheers mate. Yes, making way slowly to Chapter 6, was planning to comment once keeping up with the speed, but the life does not listen to the wishes of the organisms while flowing through the time.

Though, the actual -first time- comment has been savoured for a very long time for The Rise of Russia; and even that was due to When the Night Gets Dark being on hiatus back then, for the latter is attractive in many more aspects, despite being an eu4 aar, and that was (and is) the main focus, but will post there (i.e. filcatesque post-invasion) later.

Back to Nordica; fortunately it is Stellaris, not the love-hate eu4 (more hate than love, or - whatever, it's complicated), or dreadful hoi stuff, or archaic vicky2, but pity that it is not a ck3 aar. As an interim measure for delaying in comments:
Interesting story, but the meticulous attention on the format is again the main source of its power: Clean and pure aar; neat presentation of the world narrated by only the words without a need of supplementary images. The shortcomings of Chapter 1 are there as mentioned in the GtA round, but it is remedied in the following chapters as there is now more space and time and opportunities to further develop the story.


Got it. I'll look forward to your comments on WtNGD. You can take your time...


(I do have a CK3 AAR, mind. It's in my signature, although you easily could have missed it because it also had a long hiatus.)
Okay, I've read the first half of the story. I must say, I'm intrigued. The further adventures of Norse survivors of Ragnarök is a compelling premise.

That one interlude where the character is shown his new planet reminded me of Slartibartfast the planet designer from A Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

It's definitely not what one would expect from a Stellaris AAR, but that's a good thing. It's innovative and clever. Keep up the good work, and I will catch up on the rest soon! :)