So here you go. Let me know in the comments what you think. If enough people like it I may revisit it- after all, Hawkeye has unfinished business at the end? And affairs of the heart are the worst kind of unfinished business?
"I must take my leave."
Thor and Steve were talking over by the coffeemaker, and I was shoveling in the Wheaties (who ate the last pop tarts, anyway?) but this got my attention. Where was Thor going? I glanced up as Steve filled his mug. Earth's mightiest heroes or not, coffee still made the trains run on time. He nodded, blowing on it to cool it off, and asked, "When will you be back?"
"I do not know," the Asgardian replied. "I am told there are matters that need my attention, but as usual the details are sparse. Possibly for some time, however."
Steve extended his hand.
"Well good luck, and don't be a stranger. As always, if there's anything we can do..."
Thor took the proffered hand and they shook.
"I thank you, Captain. I will return, and in the meanwhile Jarvis will have a respite from the grocery bill."
They both laughed, but my curiosity was piqued now.
"What's up, Thor? Need some company? I've got some downtime, and this old carny hand-slash-Avenging archer has never seen Asgard."
It was just a throwaway comment. Little did I know what I had just set in motion.
Thor and Steve looked at me.
The first thing that strikes you when you see Asgard are the colors. I'm standing on the Rainbow Bridge- Bifrost for all you Norse fans out there- and it's breathtaking. So vivid. And it hums. Like you're standing on a power line - there's an energy there that I could feel in my bones. You know how rainbows look, right? Imagine that times a thousand. The colors are like their true selves, and every time you've seen that color before is like a pale shadow. And in the distance- the gleaming spires.
I've been in this business a long time, and let me tell you- I've never seen anything like Asgard. It looks like we have a bit of a hike to get there- why couldn't we have just landed in the city?- but I really don't mind. Everywhere around us are stars, the immensity of space, and dominating everything is the Golden City. I see why they call it that now. I feel giddy as we approach, almost like a kid experiencing Disney World for the first time.
Asgard is magnificent. I didn't want to be that guy, bumping into people as I stared in awe around me, but it may have happened. In my defense it is Asgard. I guess I imagined it would be Valhalla- all warriors and fighting- but there are shops and avenues and grand promenades, market squares and soaring towers. Everything seems giant sized, for some reason, even though the Asgardians are more or less human sized. But there's a grandeur to it all. I don't know what to call it- Viking chic? Is that a thing?
Doors aren't just doors. They're archways, or they're oak banded with iron and make a thunk sound when they close that is strangely satisfying. I haven't seen any electricity, but there are a lot of torches flaring in meadhalls and in the streets, and these globe things that give off light. Magic, I guess? I asked Thor how they work and he just grunted. I don't think he knows? The building are immense, and let's not even discuss the royal palace. That is of course the first place we went, and in the following days as I wandered I was struck by how much there was to explore. The palace itself goes on forever, literally. I got lost several times, and the vaults and subbasements have vaults and subbasements of their own.
The well frequented passages are well lit, or there might be torches beckoning you down a lesser used corridor, but then there are the passages that are dark as pitch. Where do they go? I haven't the foggiest. Some go down into the depths and you can hear strange noises if you venture too far, and on one occasion I came upon a great pool of water deep beneath the palace- lifting my torch I couldn't see the other side, but there were boats moored there. I had free reign to go where I pleased, although Thor did warn me to not venture too far.
Let's talk about the food. I mean, this is ridiculous. Every night is a feast, seems like, with roasted boar or goat, and of course the ale flows. And not just ale either- you can call me a new convert to mead now, thanks. It's made with honey, I guess? Thor never seems to get drunk- well, maybe occasionally- but I can't say the same for his companions. It's party time in the royal palace on a regular basis.
And of course the people. They ride horses through the city, there are ravens everywhere, and it can be a lot to take in, but the people are cool. My penchant for archery soon made the rounds and before long I was matching skills with Uller, the god of archery, among other things- so many of these people have multiple titles- and it's fair to say he's pretty good. I mean, he's a god right?
Oh, and I ran into Amora. Also known as the Enchantress, she's a real piece of work. I've seen her before, of course, but only briefly. She's a bit like Loki, I guess- people respect her but they're wary of her too. She wasn't happy to see me in town, and made no secret of asking Thor what I was doing there. Afterward she came over for a word
"Welcome to Asgard. Are you enjoying your time with us?"
"It's been eye- opening, I'll say that."
"Mmm. I'm sure. And what exactly are you doing here, if I may ask? It's not often that Thor brings one of his...mortal followers with him to the home of the gods?"
"Followers?" I rejoined. "Why I merely thought to tag along and see the sights. You know, not having had the privilege before. I must say it's an amazing place." You know, lay on the charm.
She smiled and leaned in close. "Oh, the sights I could show you, oh man. I know some wonderful destinations that Thor will never deign to show you. Perhaps if you grow tired of the carousing you might wish to see what other secrets Asgard has to offer?
I won't lie- I was a little over my head at this point. The Enchantress is intimidating as all get out, but up close, with her turning on the charm- I was a little dizzy. I managed to stammer out a thanks but no thanks, and was afraid how she'd react, but she just smiled and took her leave. I still felt like I'd escaped from a snake pit. On a somewhat happier note, I did make another acquaintance. A shield maiden named Lys came up to me at a feast and challenged me to arm wrestle. I was, after all, one of Thor's boon companions, was I not? Surely I would acquit myself well?
Well, not so much. After I picked myself up off the floor she threw an arm around me and laughed gustily. We drank til dawn amidst the roistering and she even helped me to my chambers when I found I could no longer walk. I'm not sure what intoxicated me more- the mead or her presence next to me. As she half carried me across the threshold I thought perhaps she meant to stay, but she merely saw to my comfort, covering me with furs and stoking the fire. Her laughter was like the sun on new- fallen snow. I asked her if I would see her again, and she just smiled, and with a wink took her leave.
To be continued?