Son of Earth, Champion of Midgard

Recorded: March 27, 2014
Characters: Beth, Cher, and Lena (NPCs); Gaea (NPC); Gramma Jody (NPC); Thor
Location: Middle of Nowhere, California
Summary: Thor makes short work of the three biker chicks, then meets an unexpected acquaintance.

Morning begins before the rooster even has a chance to crow on Jody's ranch. The first warning rays of sunlight are beginning to peak over the distant plains, but already the animals are stirring in their pens and the people are stirring in their home. Gramma Jody is in the kitchen pulling hot biscuits out of the oven. Jerry is outside checking the chicken coop for eggs.

Thor has spent much of the night preparing himself for the coming day and had stirred from his sleep early enough to watch the rising sun. He comes in wearing simple clothes, a t-shirt and jeans over a pair of sneakers. A length of rope is wrapped about his torso while a pair of hatchets have been tucked into his leather belt. "Good morrow." He greets, closing the door at his back and striding to the table.

Gramma Jody has also been thoughtful about the day, though her face portrays the same stern opposition it did the other night. Only when she hears Thor's greeting does her brow settle to reveal her resolve. When she turns to face Thor, she sets a basket of fresh biscuits on the table between a bowl of grits and plate of bacon. "Eat up. The boy'll get his fill when he gets in," she comments before turning back to the stove. She keeps to herself while pulling pots and pans from the stove to set in a sink of rising water. "Been thinkin' 'bout what you said the other day. That you'd get revenge for what happened to Storn an' Oren."

"I leave after this meal." Thor confirms, leaning aside to tussle Jerry's hair then digging into the biscuits. "They each bear a queer pendant. I believe those are the key to their uncanny might. If they are not, I will find the cause. Or I will perish."

The old woman spares a glance outside, watching Jerry get sidetracked by petting some of the wandering goats. "If you die, ain't no hope left for that boy out there." She looks at Thor. "But if you come back, I'll do what you and yo' momma keep askin'. I'll let Jerry go to his grand-daddy's home."

"He shant be making the trip alone. You can join him." Thor murmurs, scooping up some bacon and cramming it down. His essence is immediately consumed with finding milk.

Almost instinctually, Gramma Jody heads for the fridge and retrieves a pitcher of milk and pitcher of fresh-squeezed orange juice. They're added to the table's breakfast stock before she returns to the stove for another pan. "We'll see what the future brings," she says, then gestures out towards the distant town. "Not far to the south, past the town's edge. There's a place we all come to know as Blood Barn. The ground beneath it been turnin' red for some time. I s'pec them witches to be there. It's where Oren went to look for 'em." The pan sizzles with a pat a fresh butter. "It's where my boy came from when he died."

"…came from?" Thor inquires, pouring himself a glass then returning the pitcher to the center of the table. "Did Oren or Storn say anything before they left? Anything they may have learned?"

Gramma Jody remains uncomfortably silent as she retrieves the last of the eggs from the fridge. She cracks them open, adds them to the pan, and begins agitating them into a scrambled mix before speaking her mind again.

"When they first showed here, they was doin' nothin' but causin' trouble. Makin' the menfolk uncomfortable, which usually don't happen with the menfolk 'round here. Storn, bein' the man he was, went to confront them." Her eyes stay fixed on the scrambled eggs. "He left here sure of himself. Came back… different. Like there weren't no strength or will in him no more. Stayed in bed for three days. When I tried to wake him on that fourth mornin', he was gone."

Jody shakes her head and carries the pan to a large plate. "Oren was hurt more than I was by it. Them two were father and son, through and through. The witches disappeared for years but my boy never forgot. When they showed up again, I warned him not to avenge his daddy. He couldn't be told right, though. Not even knowin' that he was all Jerry had. He found out where they were, told me he was goin' after them, then came back the next day, same as his father." Her teeth suck in a hmph that masks her hurt as she recalls the events. "Weren't nothin' more I could know. They go to the Blood Barn. They come back an' lose the will to live. The same happens to all the men fool enough to go with those girls."

Thor refrains from explaining that he is no mere man. He thinks it plenty loud. "This ends. I can only imagine how many mortals they must require to slake their dark hunger. Especially after tasting Asgardian vigor."

"Do what you gotta do. You have my warnin', and my word." Gramma Jody carries the plate of eggs to the table just as Jerry comes in with a fresh basket. She gestures for the boy to take a seat while she exchanges cooked eggs for raw. "Eat up before it gets cold, Jerry. You know your chores are waitin'."

"I would do well to start early, then." Thor decides, guzzling the rest of his milk and snorting brain freeze away. "We will speak more when I return." He says, gathering his plate to bring to the sink then slipping out the door.

Many farms have started and stopped in this part of California. From that constant change, more than a few barns are left abandoned near the small town that serves the active sharecroppers in this area. The Blood Barn stands out against them all with its sinister appearance matching its nickname. A rusty red hue has seeped into the earth and plants closest to it, displaying a sickness that has spread over the years. Not a single animal can be heard wandering near it.

Three familiar motorcycles are parked to the left of the barn door, which is mostly closed. From inside, one can hear loud arguing from the bike's owners.

"This isn't working, Lena. We've sucked dry three country bumpkins this week, but I can still see crow's feet."

"Cher's right. We should have gone to the city. Super-powered people are always in the city."

"Quit your panicking. Old Jody's got another man and he's gotta have the kind of power those other two did. Besides. There's still the boy, and we can take him the next time they head into town for supplies."

The crown prince of Asgard assesses the situation from nearby, skulking towards the barn with as much cover and concealment as he can acquire. His footsteps are light, muscles relaxed and motion conservative. He stalks the women as if he were on the trail of a great stag.

Inside the barn, the three women are too distracted by their argument to notice any outside movement. They stand around a wide table in the middle of the building and seem unconcerned with the the young man secured to the wood by sturdy ropes. He would be recognized as the young bar-hand that they sized up the first time they were encountered.

"You put a hand on him and he couldn't lift it," the girl in jeans grumbles to Lena. "If he was super-powered, we would have known by now. If any of these chumps were, they would have stuck their necks out by now. There's nothing good here. We should drain this idiot and head to Sacramento while it lasts."

All three women are showing signs of aging that weren't noticeable before. Lena's auburn hair is losing its vibrant red, the skin on Cher's bare legs is sagging and the girl in jeans has liver spots on her hands. All three have crow's feet and age lines on their foreheads. Lena's face seems especially wrinkled as she sneers at her gang's cowardice.

"We'll drain him, but we're not leaving, Beth. We'll go to Jody's and deal with this today. Now let's do what we gotta do." All three pull their crystals from their necks and raise them high above the frightened youth, then close their eyes as they chant in a foreign language.

Not good. Not good at all. Thor looks in his immediate vicinity for something to grab a hold of and clasps a stone. He eyes it dubiously then hurls it into the treeline on the other side of the barn. Whatever those women are doing, he can only assume it ends in that human dying and unholy vigor returning to their form.

The chanting stops when the women hear the sound of thumping outdoors. They eye each other warily, then Cher elects to check outside. She sticks her head out the barn door to take a quick glance around and especially eyes the motorcycles for any signs fo tampering.

Thor elects to inspect the boards near the rear of the barn for any loose planks then looks for another rock. His other hand lowers to his belt and readies the hatchet.

Lena and Beth stand around impatiently while they wait for Cher to return. "It's probably just an animal," Beth calls out the barn door.

"Animals don't come here, stupid," Cher calls back and inches her way along the barn wall. She's heading in the direction of the sound, leaning her head around each corner of the barn before the rest of her follows.

Silent as the grave. Thor creeps towards the edge of the barn and crouches low. His eyes remained trained and his mind clear. The hatchet is gripped tighter still in his hand, his other remaining open and relaxed. Once Cher passes the threshold he lunges one hand forward to snatch the necklace then swing the hatchet to open her throat.

The sudden lunge catches the woman off-guard. She jerks back to avoid the hand but the barn wall is in the way. Her voice cries out when the chain breaks from her neck but the sound is cut short with a wet thunk.

Lena and Beth exchange looks, then march for the door together. "Cher? What's going on." Their friend has no answer for them except for the sound of her body spasms thrashing against the barn and dirt.

The pendant is pocketed. It can be inspected later. Thor gathers the woman and flips her over his shoulder, moving back to the far end of the barn then carefully propping her up.

He pauses as he listens to their voices and footsteps then glances skyward to gauge the height of the roof.

The barn is a traditional build, meant to stable horses and store hay in a loft. A ladder is required to reach the roof and there doesn't appear to be one that's readily accessible.

Lena and Beth look in opposite directions when they step outside. One calls for Cher and when they get no reply, they walk together with a quick stride to round the barn and try to find her. "Whoever's there should give themselves up easy," Lena calls. "Let's not do something we'll regret."

Thor dubiously studies the overhang, gently bunnyhopping up to grip the edge of the roof. If it appears to bear his weight without protest, he will pull himself up to roll onto his back.

His motions cause the overhang to creak in protest but it otherwise bears his weight. The noise attracts the women and they move in that direction, looking for signs of Cher and what they now suspect is some interloper. "Last chance, sugar," Lena warns as she wanders beneath the overhang. Beth stops outside the opening and turns around to scan the rusty-colored field.

That chance is enough. Thor presses his hand along the rough shingles he is sprawled against to get a feeling for it in his mind. His eyes lid as he focuses on the rough steps Lena takes below him and the direction of her voice. His fingers slowly curl into a tight, white knuckled fist. The breath grows heavy and stale in his lungs as he tenses. His window will be small.

Then it comes. Thor cocks his fist back then slams it through the overhang. squinting at the woman below as he swiftly snakes his hand down to relieve Lena's neck of the pendant.

The old wood of the overhang bursts into splinters that mar Thor's fist as it comes through. Lena barely has a moment to gasp when the rough hand takes a firm grip of her crystal. "NO," she yells and reaches up to grab Thor's arm, meaning to pull him through the shingles that continue to support his weight. Though their age is slowly seeping through, there is still some strength left in the witchy woman. Beth immediately turns at the sound and rushes to her leader's aid.

The pain is temporary. A dream. Thor winces as Lena tugs back and grunts as the weakened overhang gives way to his massive shape. The splinters dig and rip but he remains steadfast. Time is fleeting.

His weight shifts so that Thor can direct his fall into the woman and spear her into the ground as he tears the pendant from her body. If able, the sound of bone popping interrupts the struggle and allows silence to settle back over the tainted farm.

With the necklace removed, Lena's features seem to rapidly catch up to her true age. She has but a moment to look surprised at her aggressor before Thor's hand easily arrests her increasingly frail throat. The woman that lies dead at his quick hand looks far older than Gramma Jody and is barely recognizable as the seductress that approach the God of Thunder during his first venture into town.

Beth is stunned by Lena's death but not without action. She quickly turns and runs towards the front of the barn, meaning to get on her hog and ride away. No point in staying when her cohorts have already been dealt with.

"Nay, foul succubus!" Thor bellows, shuffling for the hatchet beside the body then scrambling to his feet. He stumbles forward until he picks up enough momentum to get into a jog. Once the fleeing woman is in eyeshot his arm snaps forward and the hatchet spirals towards the back of her head. "You will answer for your crimes!"

Beth thinks only of running. It is the last thought she will ever have. The hatched finds its place through her wavy hair and lodges deep in the back of her skull. She drops forward with one arm extended in the direction of the parked motorcycles. Her right leg spasms briefly as her eyelids flutter to a close.

The satisfaction Thor feels is only a transient joy. He drags his feet towards the woman and reaches down to claim he final artifact with a sneer. Now that he has the time, each pendant is scrutinized with renew interest and care then tucked away into his pocket. His attention then falls to the land. He heads back into the barn to free the captive from his restraints. "What is your condition?"

It may be Thor's intention check on the man, but he will find the young bar-hand is not alone. A fourth woman hovers near the table but unlike the ones that lay dead outside, there is an aura of serenity about this one that seems almost inviting. The captive youth is already fast asleep in the comfortable presence of the stranger.

Her sleeveless robe illuminates the barn with its shimmering white fabric. Though her body is still, a sourceless wind wafts the edges of her garment and long tresses of her blonde hair. She is momentarily transfixed on the bar-hand, then her emerald gaze drifts to the reddened earth that makes up the barn's inner floor. "That which has wounded the earth is no more. Now, the healing can begin." Her voice is lyrical and moves deliberate. She does not look upon Thor, for she already knows that he means her no harm. She merely turns to study the tainted land while pondering where to start.

A number of questions pass Thor's mind before anything comes to his mouth. By all appearances, this newcomer looks to be someone he should be aware of. HIs attention slips again to the prisoner then back to the woman. "What ails this land? Can I aid thee?"

The woman's gaze wanders tirelessly until it finds what it is looking for. With barely a gesture, she eases the table aside that bears the sleeping youth. His bindings fall away but that freedom allows him to simply curl up in a more comfortable position. The boy is having the best dream of his life.

"You are without power, but you have done what was required, and I thank you." She moves to stand in the dead center of the barn. Her bare feet tread against the tainted ground and in each footstep, green life begins to spring anew. "I do not interfere with the plight of mankind, for death is as much a part of life as birth. But this wound harms the barrier that protects my realm from Satannish and his ilk. Son of Earth, you have served your mother well." Her hands are thrown wide, sending a refreshing gust of wind in all directions.

"Though appearances may indicate otherwise, I am a son of Asgard, not Earth." Thor remarks, blandly observing Jord's wake. "Who…are you?" He inquires. He approaches the goddess but leaves her a respectable space. Out of reach out of danger. As best a defense as he can muster.

"You are a son of Asgard, and a son of Earth," the goddess replies with no emotional attachment to her words. Her focus is purely on her work. Specks of green light flutter from her palms and settle in random points on the ground. At each point, a new sprout peeks from the ground and slowly blossoms into a flower native to this region. The rusted color of the tainted earth is gradually overtaken by a green hue that radiates from where she stands.

"Consider your curiosity for a land you think you have never known. It is only right that you would come to aid the mortals as you have today. Though you were raised on Asgard, heart and soul you seek to care for the land of your birth."

"It is in my nature to defend those being assaulted by overwhelming forces." Thor counters, waving a hand towards the scarred surroundings. "Midgard is, at all times, being overwhelmed. I must ask again, though. Who are you?"

The goddess turns slowly, admiring her work. The bruised earth quickly replenishes itself, becoming a rich landscape carpeted by soft grass and fresh flowers. Vines and other overgrowth begin to creep up the walls of the barn, overtaking the wood and converting the building into a structure of flora. "I am Earth, and she is me." She turns and settles her crystalline gaze on Thor. "I am known by many names, and they are all true. To the people of Earth, I am known as Gaea. Those on Asgard would know me as Jord."

"Jord…" Thor echoes under his breath, sliding around the woman to sit against a stall. "I had thought you perished long ago. Many did. Where have you been?"

Jord's gaze follows Thor's movements as a scientist might study the movements of an animal in their natural habitat. "I have and always will be here." She lifts a hand her lips and blows air off her fingers. A single pill of green light dances from her palm to Thor's body. It settles on the arm that was pulled by Lena and absorbs into his skin. A comforting energy radiates from its point of contact, healing any and all injuries he may have endured. Frankly, the feeling is downright rejuvenating. "Did your father tell you nothing of your purpose? It is a true shame in heaven when a god does not know himself. All that we do is done with the certainty of why."

Thor takes several experimental pats of the wounds after Jord heals them then silently regards her as he tries to decipher her words. "I have been appointed crown prince. My responsibility is to one day rule Asgard." He answers, missing any deeper meaning. "Are you able to restore my true strength? T'was not a curse."

"I can do that and more." With the land healed, Gaea has no reason to stay. Wildlife has already begun to creep into the barn and claim it as territory. In a flash, the two are gone from the space, leaving only the young bar-hand to sleep in peace. When he awakens, he will have the strong desire to wander home.

Thor will find himself in the mouth of a cave overlooking a wide lake. The cave is embedded in the foot of a mountain, and is cavernous if explored. The land itself may feel as familiar as the strength that has been unleashed within him. The God of Thunder now stands in his traditional armor with his winged helm planted firmly on his head. He only lacks the weapon left in the care of Asgard's current guard.

"Gaze upon the place of your birth, son of Odin." Jord spreads her arms and gestures across the lake bed she stands near. "Does the land not call to you as it does to me?"

The seamless segue takes the Lord of thunder aback. Startled glance drink in his surroundings and his fingers splay across the dark surcoat over his armor."What-" He croaks out, stomping forward and studying the lake. "Place of my birth? T'would be a lie to say I have not been drawn to Midgard. Not just the people, but the lost woods and unseen valleys call me further yet." He admits, gathering his brow then looking to regard the woman. "…do you imply, though, that your connection to me is anything more than a mutual connection to this realm?"

"I tell you these things so that you may know yourself, Son of Earth," Jord says as she turns away from the lake to look at him. "At the behest of Odin, I gave birth to you so that you might know strength that no other god has known on Midgard. You are as much her champion as you are Asgard's."

"If what you reveal is true why would the Allfather not reveal this to me?" Thor asks, shifting his footing to cross both arms over his chest. He open his mouth to inquire about why Jord would not seek him out but closes it just as swiftly. He thinks better of it.

"I am not the author of that answer, though if I recall, it was the All-Father who severed ties with Earth." Jord's gaze sweeps the untouched mountainside. "You denied yourself the gifts I gave you. I am proud to see that you still aid your mother without them, but do not shun that which sets you apart. A god exists only to champion the ideal that brought him into existence in the first place. Meditate in the soil where you were conceived, and you will know in your heart that my words are true." She turns to walk away. "The living earth calls to me, and I must answer. When you have come to embrace your earthly bond, you will know where to find me when I am needed." The goddess fades in a gathering of green light that sprinkles along the shoreline, causing new plants to grow on the edge of the lake.

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