And Then?

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    So what happened after Asgard sank back into the Dream Sea? Did the Gods go with it? Or did they remain here, perhaps after arranging for Asgard to return for them some millennia hence? How would we know the answers to those questions? We can seek evidence upon which to build answers, but we will find none. The questions are not within the realm claimed by Science. No, we are seeking a truth beyond matters of fact. We must use imagination to look behind Reality and see what might be playing puppeteer with the facts of the world. As an example, consider the following:

Shock Troupe

    As they have sailed the seas of History, the people of Norway have gained some small knowledge of the ways of pirates. For that reason Norway is a ship not easily boarded and once boarded she is neither occupied nor left cheaply. Reason alone should suffice to convince anyone that these statements are facts, but the perpetrators of Operation Weseruebung were obliged by their deficiency in the faculty of reason to discover the truth for themselves. Oh, yes, the direct cost of invading and occupying Norway seemed small enough, but that's only because the Germans paid the larger share of the cost indirectly, to a little piece of "bad luck".

    Spring is thaw in Norway. It's the time of year when the country puts off its wind-tattered winter coat of grey and white and puts on a fresh green one sporting the wildcolor promises of the coming summer's fruits. It's the time of year when snowmelt rushes in white, thrashing torrents to the sea, setting an example followed by many of the people, who bring from the sea a bountiful harvest. To see Norway in the winter and then to return in the spring is to be convinced that something beyond the natural has blessed this land and its people and that it will protect them.

    Consider, for example, the spring when the sea washed a foul tide up onto the land. It was early that spring when the Stukas and the Junkers first defiled the clean, blue sky of Norway, when the deluded lickspittle minions of the insane dictator, like so many plague-bearing rats, first goosestepped their putrescent beliefs onto the sacred soil of the Norsefolk. It was the time when King Haakon and his government, shielded by the valor of the Norwegian people, made a heroic retreat in order to organize a more effective resistance to the disease infecting their country. It was the time when the Wehrmacht, pretending to have been invited to "protect" the false government of the madman's toadies, Josef Terboven and Lauritz Vidkun Quisling, sent its columns marching like pustulent tentacles slithering across the land.

    Slithered is a fair name for the way in which one minor pustule, Lieutenant Gerhardt Dietz's Blut und Eisen platoon, came into the little fishing village of Asvik. Even the two half-tracks more slid than rolled along the elongated quagmire of axle-deep mud that so poorly impersonated a road. Following the Wehrmacht's April 09 invasion of Norway, Dietz's platoon, fifty of Germany's finest as far as Lieutenant Dietz was concerned, had been assigned the task of occupying Asvik, suspended in limbo somewhere north of Trondheim. The assignment was simple guard duty, not involving any real fighting at all: Dietz's platoon was to provide early warning of any Allied counterattack and to deny the Allies an easy landing at Asvik.

    Not that any general in his right mind would ever land troops at Asvik, Dietz thought. Located on Norway's west-central coast where two narrow valleys spilled their little streams into the North Sea, Asvik was too small for landing any significant amount of troops: Dietz's single platoon felt cramped in the tiny village. And the road up the southern valley, the only road out of Asvik, was no good for troop movements: Dietz knew that from direct experience. No, Asvik would make a better trap than an entrepot for anything larger than a commando. Dietz posted lookouts against that latter possibility and against the possibility of the Norwegians attacking, but he truly expected to see nothing that he would call action until he and his men were pulled out of Asvik and redeployed to a proper military target.

    Ever the thorough soldier, Dietz decided to inspect Asvik on foot once his men had secured their positions. Strolling up the haphazard array of cobblestones that made up the village's only street, he saw weatherbeaten and timeworn wooden houses, kept in good repair, standing shoulder to shoulder to face the blows that the sea threw at them. Between the houses on both sides of the street he saw a gap where he expected one to be, where the combined streams from the two valleys passed between the houses and under the bridge before splashing into the surf. Near the north end of the village, though, he saw another gap, one that he had not expected to see. It was a wide gap between two of the houses on the landward side of the street, a gap into which the street seemed to flow, a gap that seemed somehow wrong. He saw that the stones between the houses were covered with moss and he was about to walk onward when he noticed that the moss had been scraped off some of the stones.

    He looked again and saw that the scrape marks seemed to form two parallel lines that led into the forest that came down to the village from the northern valley. He followed the implied trail to where the underbrush grew over it and he saw there that branches and twigs appeared to be recently broken. Out of the corner of his eye he noticed a curtain flutter, so he went to the front door of the house and knocked. The knock was answered by an old man, one of those Norwegian types who seems to be made of equal parts sea salt and mountain goat.

    "What do you know of the road behind this house?" Dietz asked.

    "Only that it goes up Asdal," the man said, "and that no one ever uses it."

    "Someone has used it," Dietz said. "Quite recently, too." He beckoned for the man to follow him and, when the man complied, led the way to show him the scuff marks in the moss and the broken foliage. "Who has come through here?"

    "I don't know," the man said.

    "You live next to this road," Dietz said, resting his right hand on the butt of his Luger, "and something big has traveled on it within the past few days. How can you not know anything about it?"

    "There was a storm one night last week," the man said. "That's when the Asdal Road is used...on stormy nights."

    "How convenient," Dietz said sourly, his grip on the Luger tightening. Then he took his hand off the pistol. "Yes, I see," he said.

    "If you ask the others in the village when the Asdal Road is used," the man said, "they will all tell you the same thing."

    "So everyone knows of this," Dietz said, "and yet you do not know who and what are going through your village on those nights. Has the thought never come to you to investigate?"

    "No," the man said. "It's clearly none of our business. Whoever they are, they have never harmed any of us, so we are content to leave it as none of our business."

    "You're not even curious enough to follow the road to see whither it leads?" Dietz asked.

    The man shook his head.

    "Those who do so do not return."

    Dietz pursed his lips as he stared into the forest. Then he smiled.

    "Yes, of course," he said. "You have been quite helpful," he told the man. "The Reich is grateful."

    "But not grateful enough to take you and your men home?" the man guessed.

    Dietz chuckled.

    "No, not yet," he said. He wished the man a good day and strode back down the street to where his men were camped.


    Next morning's sunrise spilled its first light onto eager preparations for a sortie up the old road. Leaving Iron Squad behind to guard Asvik, Lieutenant Dietz led Blood Squad north and east into the mountains. Riding in his command car, followed by a half-tracked troop truck towing an Eighty-Eight, he told his radioman to be ready to transmit immediately: if their expedition were to find what Dietz half expected and fully hoped to find, he would want to call in the Luftwaffe quickly.

    The road turned out to be more passable than Dietz had guessed from first impression, but, then, Dietz thought again, it would be. Of course, underbrush grew over the road, as if to disguise it, but nothing grew up through it. And a few hundred meters from Asvik the underbrush thinned out as if it had been cultivated by magic. From that point the two riflemen that Dietz had sent ahead as scouts were able to advance at a fast walk. The scouts slowed the expedition's progress up the narrow little valley, but if the Norwegians were hiding something important in this valley, they would have it well protected and Lieutenant Dietz wanted to find that protection in time to call in the Stukas.

    Two hours after setting out, Dietz and his men came to where the forest was thin enough that forward scouts were no longer needed except to reconnoiter around blind corners. The rush of the wind in the trees and of the little stream in its rocky bed still camouflaged the noise of their vehicles enough that they made more rapid progress up the valley. Further into the mountains the valley grew narrower, so much so that in places the road was little more than a ledge with cliffs rising above it and descending below it. It was several hours after noon when they came to where the valley began to widen out again. From there the road went over a spur ridge and descended a gentle slope into a wide meadow to end at a farmstead.

    Leaving the vehicles parked below the ridgetop, Dietz went to crouch by a bush and examined the meadow and farmstead through his field glasses. What he saw was a large, steep-roofed farmhouse, one large enough for a three-generation family but not large enough to house any significant military force. A pair of goats grazed in a pen in front of the house. Fifty meters from the house stood a large barn and, next to it, what appeared to be a barracks. If this farmstead were the disguised entrance to a secret underground laboratory of some kind, then that's where its first line of defenders would be. Dietz noted further that the meadow was wide enough to serve as an airfield, so that reinforcements and supplies could be brought in quickly by air should they be needed.

    The day's remaining time was diminishing quickly, so Dietz decided to act while he still had light and could receive reinforcements. He put enough men into his command car to take the main house and assigned Sergeant Muehlenfeld the task of leading the remaining men in the half-track to take the barracks and the barn. Then, with his heart pounding a wardrum's beat, he led the charge.

    He leaped from the command car as soon as it braked to a halt and, Luger in hand, he led his men into the house. He halted his rush in the middle of the main room and, while his men searched the house for any sign of resistance, took note of the fact that he had surprised a gathering of young men and women. He saw that they were definitely not soldiers and they certainly did not look like scientists: none of them looked old enough to have obtained a doctorate; indeed, they all seemed to be in their late teens. Had he and his men invaded a youth camp, he wondered. If so, it was a camp for crippled youths. He noticed that one young man with black hair and beard wore a black patch over his right eye, that another man was missing his right hand, that a woman with black hair had no eyes, that.... Well, no sense in cataloguing all of the deformities: the Reich knew what to do with such people.

    As he introduced himself and explained the situation to his captives, his eyes drifted their gaze to a blond woman who was absolutely the most alluring woman he had ever seen, an island of Nordic perfection in a sea of deformity. She returned his gaze with a haughty look, as if she were looking down her nose at him. He felt confident that he could change that attitude and teach this insolent girl how women look at men in the Third Reich. He was distracted from that pleasant thought by the sudden awareness that he was having difficulty understanding what these people were saying to him. They were speaking Norwegian, of that he was certain, but it was some strange dialect.

    It sounded especially coarse coming from the big, beefy young man with the bright red hair and beard. Redbeard was objecting to Dietz's claim that he and his companions were captives and he punctuated his objection by taking from the leather pouch on his belt a hammer with a ridiculously short handle that barely spanned his palm. He hefted the hammer as if it were a symbol of authority, like a gauleiter's baton.

    Dietz pointed his Luger at the man.

    "Put that away!" he commanded. "You do not know with whom you are dealing."

    "Neither do you," Redbeard said. Very gently, as if offering a salute, he reached out his hammer and touched the Luger.

    The pistol shattered. The hand that held it exploded into shredded, bloody flesh and exposed bone. Dietz shrieked as the pain hit him and his bodyguards reacted. Twin Schmeissers farted fire and Redbeard staggered backward under the impact of the bullets. Then Dietz saw Redbeard draw back his right arm and throw his hammer at the guards.

    He was dazzled blind by a flash of blue-white light that seared his eyes and was staggered backward by a bang that shook the air and blew out the house's windows. Through the swimming spots and the bright streak that obscured his vision, through the tears that flowed from his stinging eyes, he thought he saw the hammer simply rematerialize in Redbeard's upheld hand. Then the young man ran outside and Dietz saw, more or less, that he was alone in the room with the two smoldering lumps of char that had been his bodyguards. Over the ringing in his ears he heard more explosions and, clutching his right arm, he staggered outside.

    Thunder rolled off the mountains in booming peals. Dietz saw that the half-track and the Eighty-Eight had been reduced to smoking junk. He was hearing gunshots now and he was seeing his men retreating from the barracks.

    "The Wehrmacht does not retreat!" he called out from habit. He started to call out louder, to inspire his troops as a lieutenant must do, but his mouth failed him when he saw that his men were retreating from...a gaggle of schoolgirls.

    They wore uniforms like those that schoolgirls wore and none seemed to be more than sixteen years old. Like Redbeard, they were only slightly inconvenienced by the gunfire directed at them. They were armed with spears and they were stabbing the Germans to death, giggling and chattering among themselves as if they were engaged in nothing more serious than some gymnastics exercise. The last soldier, in desperation, threw down his Mauser, grabbed his assailant's spear, and struggled to wrestle it away from her. The girl treated the fight as a game, playing Tug-of-War with the man, moving her body suggestively and flirting with the man, then abruptly pushing on the spear and releasing it. Caught off guard, the man fell backward and was impaled upon the spear that a second girl had propped against the ground behind him.

    Their spears still dripping blood and gore, the girls all ran to the barn, from which the one-eyed man was leading a horse that didn't look quite right. Dietz blinked the tears from his eyes and saw that, yes, indeed, the horse actually had eight legs. Following the man, the blond woman led two black cats, each the size of a Siberian tiger, drawing a silver chariot. The woman with no eyes and the man with no right hand followed her with their own mounts and others came behind them.

    "Mein Gott!" Dietz moaned as the truth finally soaked into the dry sponge of a brain accustomed to shedding intelligent thought as a duck sheds rain. "Mein Gott, mein Gott!"

    "I'm no god of yours," Thor snarled as he led his goats, each the size of a pony, from their pen to the barn, "nor of any of your ilk."

    Dietz saw that Odin had mounted Sleipnir and that Freyja was standing by her chariot, waiting for the valkyries to bring their white horses from the barn and form up behind her.

    "Lady Freyja," he pleaded, "I see that I have made a horrible mistake, one that I regret to the depths of my soul. Is there anything you can do to help me correct it?"

    "Certainly," Freyja said. With what appeared to be one smooth, swift motion, she reached inside the bodice of her dress and drew her dagger, hoisted it back over her shoulder, and threw it with such force that it shattered Dietz's skull when it penetrated his forehead. Almost before Dietz hit the ground, a valkyrie scampered over to him to retrieve the dagger, gleefully licking its blade clean before returning it to Freyja.

    "Come!" Odin cried out, raising his spear over his head. "Let us go now and find out why German brigands are attacking Norsefolk in their homes!" And with that command the savage hunt commenced anew.


    "Ja, ja," the mad dictator enthused as he paced the wide study of his Eagle's Lair, "what you say is wonderfully important!"

    "That it was the River Vikings," Freyja said, "who entered the land and created the nation of Russia?"

    "Ja," Hitler agreed. "It means that the land of Russia is consecrated with Aryan blood."

    "Upon which the Slavs tread in their manure-covered boots," Tyr commented dryly.

    Hitler's face reddened.

    "That is a situation that the Wehrmacht and the Schutzstaffel can easily correct," he said. "But," he continued, directing his remarks specifically to the Lord of Contracts, "I have signed a non-aggression pact with the self-styled Man of Steel."

    Tyr stood with his arms crossed over his chest, his left arm over his right one lest the sight of his missing right hand remind the Nazi Emperor of how expensive the breaking of contracts can be.

    "Do you believe that an agreement made with inferior beings has the force of a contract?" he asked. His sneer was genuine, though Hitler did not need to know its true object.

    "Ja, of course, you are right," Hitler said, clearly not discerning the correct answer to Tyr's rhetorical question. He rubbed his hands together. "I know what to do now," he said gleefully, "and with the Gods on my side I cannot fail." He turned to address the valkyries, who were arrayed along a wall behind Freyja. "You shall carry many fine German boys to Valhall," he said. "This great battle, and our triumph in it, will help you to create the army that will fight at Ragnarok!"

    Several valkyries giggled, but a quick glare from Freyja resolemnized them. Again Hitler failed to appreciate the true meaning of what he heard.

    Odin and Thor stood by the large window that looked out over the mountains that rose above the village of Berchtesgaden.

    "Usually I dislike Loki's schemes," Thor whispered to Odin, "but I must confess that I like this one."

    "I will like it even more," Odin whispered back, "if Loki can devise a way to rescue us from having to listen to any more of that unbelievably ugly music."


    Thus it happened that on the second day of the following summer, goaded and guided by the insane corporal's delusions of military genius, the self-styled Wolf of Europe attacked a giant, vicious bear. And in a secluded valley somewhere in the mountains of west-central Norway certain Slightly-More-Than men and women, hearing the reports coming through their newfangled rah-dee-oh, laughed loud and long.


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