Shimmering ice crystals compacted into a large white blanket cover the once lush and fertile land. Tree branches heavily burdened by the snow dip towards the ground, their leaves no more than frozen crystals gently laying on the tundra slowly disappearing beneath yet another layer of snow. Upon looking over the frozen landscape one would admire the beauty of such a scene but beneath the beauty lies a hidden truth. Stone homes hidden underneath the blanket, where fires once burned only the frozen branches and logs remain the embers and flames long extinguished. The residents curled in a corner arms wrapped around one another in a meagre attempt to share heat, eyelashes decorated with small dustings of ice particles, skin solid to the touch and hearts that beat no more.
For the Aesir the sight of the desolate village reminded them of the Fimbulwinter's arrival. Moving almost reverently through the remains the sound of their boots compacting the snow beneath their feet seemed to echo throughout the valley. Subconsciously each man pulled his cloak further around his body in a feeble attempt to block out the icy winds as they danced around the army, cold wispy fingers freezing the skin with a single touch.
From his position at the front of the military force Thor halted and knelt down, a small brown object having caught his eye. Using a gloved hand he gently brushed the snow away from the item and inspected it. A small wooden horse carved by hand and inscribed with a boy's name, closing his fingers around the toy he lifted his head and brushed a loose strand of hair from his face. Slowly rising to his feet he moved towards a large pile of snow wrapped around the local well, moving around it he stood still and stared into the face of a young child in his mother's arms. His heart lurched imaging the pair as his own wife and son frozen to death but together. His eyes glistened with unshed tears as he knelt down once more reaching out to gently tuck the toy into the boy's arms, looking between the two he turned his head from the sight and climbed to his feet.
Behind him the soldiers had stopped their march and watched their Prince, several men shedding silent tears at the sight before them. With a heavy heart Thor turned to face them a lone tear marking his face, nodding he moved away from the mother and son continuing his trek through the village. Silently the military group marched on through the snow slowly leaving the frozen village behind, the mood sombre, so much death and over the next three years each knew that there would be more and they were powerless to stop it.
Reclining on her throne Hel looked up at the ornate ceiling above her, the intricate patterns creating a new story every time she watched, sometimes telling stories of battles others of romance. Today they spoke of her father and brothers each separated but the love between them no less than the day they parted.
"My Queen" Startled from her thoughts she looked at the shade standing before her "Fimbulwinter has its grip on Midgard, many souls have entered your halls" Nodding slowly she placed her head in her hand "The Odinson has requested an audience with you my Lady."
"Send him in" She ordered with a wave of her hand. The shade bowed and retreated from her presence only to reappear moments later accompanied by the transparent form of a large man, with another bow the shade exited the halls sealing the great doors as it did so. "Baldr"
"Queen Hel" Giving her a gentle smile he inclined his head "It has been a long time" When he received no answer the smile vanished from his face, slowly he moved forwards kneeling before her throne. "Queen Hel of Nifleheim, I have requested this audience to talk to you of the events that have been set in motion" Hel remained silent and Baldr took that as his sign to continue. "My Queen, you must know that my death has resulted in Fimbulwinter's creation, thousands of Midgardians are already dying and millions more will follow." Looking up at her he stood "Please I beg of you, return me to Asgard so that this may stop, do not let all of those people die because of your father's deceit! It is not their price to pay!"
Slamming her hand down on the arm of her throne Hel rose to her feet "Enough!" She roared glaring down at him. Swiftly she moved in front of him grabbing his face with her skeletal hand "This is my realm Odinson and your soul belongs to me" He flinched slightly at the hiss "You will not inform me of what I can and cannot do is that clear?" Growling when he refused to acknowledge her question she tightened her grip on his face pressing her thumb into his eye.
Giving a cry of pain Baldr shouted "Yes!" Curling her decaying lip she dropped him to the ground.
"You may be a shade Baldr but do not think for one moment that I cannot inflict pain upon you. Should you challenge my authority again or make another demand, you will experience pain like you have never felt before" Baldr faced the ground refusing to look up at her as she walked over to her throne and returned to her seated position.
After a few moments of silence between the two Baldr finally spoke up "What happened to you Hel?" Lifting his head his gaze met hers "When your father first introduced me to you and your siblings you were a shy and happy child. Now…" Sighing his dropped his gaze and shook his head "I fear you have become the monster your father wished to protect you from."
Removing her hood Hel allowed Baldr to see her half-dead form, a slight sense of satisfaction overcame her at the gasp that came from his lips. Slowly the Odinson rose to his feet and approached her pausing only to gain her permission before continuing forward; nervously he reached out and cautiously brushed a hand over the decaying skin. Hel remained impassive and simply watched the emotions running through his face.
"This should never have happened" Baldr murmured, reaching a hand up Hel clasped his wrist and removed it from her face.
"When I was cast from Asgard the Bifrost increased the rate of decay. Had I remained on Asgard my skin would only be discoloured, as it is my skin will continue to decay until the entire right side of my body is mere bone" Gesturing towards the hand currently holding his wrist "I have reasons to hate the All-Father Baldr. I dread to think of what has happened to my brothers. I fear Fenrir has lost his mind to his bestial nature and I have been unable to find Jorgmandr." Baldr released his hand from her grasp and moved backwards "This is why I must keep you here." Covering her head once more she looked at him "I will not allow my family to suffer any longer, once the Cycle has ended we will be free"
Sighing Baldr looked at her "If you fell this is what you must do, I cannot stop you for I am but a shade" Turning away from her he walked towards the doors stopping as they opened before him, casting a glance at the Queen of the dead over his shoulder he gave her a sad smile "Perhaps once all of this is over we can start anew" With those parting words he left the slam of the doors echoing throughout the realm.
Bowing her head Hel sighed "I would very much like that"