Before he was the Allfather, Odin had been Wódin, Borr's son, grandson of Buri. He had been a giant child, a godling, potential given flesh. His mother Bestla taught him incredible magics, and together he and his brothers Wili and Wé threw down tyrant overlords, creating a great time of peace.
In legend, that is how it goes. The truth is somewhat different.
“Come, brother!” Wili shouted, leading the way. Wé laughed, dodging the spell Wódin threw at his back. “Catch us if you can, littlest!”
Wódin was merely a season younger than Wé, but he had been a weak infant, and Mother still coddled him. Wili and Wé thought themselves so much better, and to prove them wrong, Wódin needed to play such a trick Father’s court would speak of it for centuries.
And to do that, he needed to trap his brothers.
Mother’s brother Mímir was the first to ever mention the Oldest of All. He never used the Oldest’s name when he told the legends. Wili and Wé had no patience for the stories, feeling themselves far too mature for nursery tales, but Wódin listened avidly.
The Oldest was his inspiration for the prank that finally earned his brothers’ respect.
When he is much, much older (though nowhere near as old as the Oldest), Odin will repeat those myths to his sons, and he will only realize later still, that Loki listened while Thor relived childish battles in his mind.
Mímir and Borr died during a misguided war. Bestla burnt herself out avenging her husband. Wili, Wé, and Wódin fought side-by-side, and after the war, took the throne together.
In time, Wili vanished while on a quest. Wé was assassinated by an enemy Wódin then destroyed, renaming himself Odin when he sat alone on his father’s throne.
Odin married Frigga, had Thor, and found Loki.
Before Borr’s death, before earning his brothers’ respect, Wódin met the Oldest, but for a very long time, no one knew.
The Oldest of All, Mímir had said. Time beyond measure. Creator, possibly. Beyond ancient. A race of beings predating the first war, predating the Æsir and Asgard and even Yggdrasill.
The Oldest of All. Wódin met him in Múspellsheimr and much later, realized all his great hopes had burnt into ash.
"He was… he was just a man," Odin will tell Thor, staring out over Asgard. "He looked at me and dismissed me, and later, he fought against us, your uncles and I."
Odin will pause. He will glance at his child, his heir, Asgard’s shining son. His eyes will dart to Thor’s shoulder, where his brother should be, and he’ll look back at the horizon.
Thor must know, he will decide.
"He fought against us, though he didn’t need to. He wasn’t one of us, one of the Æsir or Vanir; he was… he never said why he fought." Odin will sigh. "Legend says," he admits softly, "that we won, and that the Vanir joined us."
"Father," Thor will say, when Odin hesitates. "Tell me. He has my brother; I must know everything."
Don’t lie to me, he means, Odin will know. Don’t lie to me like you did Loki.
It will hurt, and Odin will close his eyes, and he will admit, softer than a breeze, "We didn’t win that war. He had us, your uncles and your grandfather and I, he had us on our knees, and then he killed Borr and he killed Mímir, and Bestla attacked and he slew her, and we were given a choice, my brothers and I."
"Father," Thor will whisper.
"Methos, the world-killer," Odin will say, lost in memories of blood-soaked ground and bodies of the beloved, and Wili’s gasp, Wé’s scream. "Methos, Oldest of All. He gave us a choice, and we chose, and I have waited so long to avenge what was lost. He destroyed our world."
Thor will ask, "What was the choice, Father?" in a voice Odin has never heard from him before. Gentle. Hesitant. Almost like Odin is a skittish horse.
"The Oldest of All told us to submit and earn a throne – or defy and die. He had grown tired of Borr. Time for a change, he said." Odin will laugh, raising a hand to his mouth. "We were younger than you are now, Thor, and Methos threw down Gungnir. It landed at my feet, stained with my father’s blood, and Methos – he smiled at me, that horrible death’s grin, and he called me little king, and he was gone."
Odin will be silent for a long time, while Thor watches the sky, unable to look at his father. Odin will know it is his fault, Loki in the Oldest’s grasp, and then, finally, Thor will say, "I feel pain for your grave loss, Father."
"How is your mother?" Odin will ask, weary of gazing into the past.
Thor will wait a moment, and then he will allow his father to move on.
There is a fire giant of no importance bathing himself in a hot spring. Wili and Wé hunt in the hills; Wódin is curious. He and his brothers are on a quest to find new things, and Wódin has never before spoken to a common fire giant.
Wódin examines the fire giant’s clothes, and when the giant catches him and calls him little thief, Wódin denies it, angrily naming himself Wodanaz and a lord’s son. A lord’s son, he will say, defiantly raising his head, has no need for a peasant’s rags.
Wódin will realize later how truly young he was, barely into adolescence. But he thought himself so mature, with his brothers on an adventure.
The fire giant will laugh. If you’ve no need of my clothes, be on your way, little king.
Wili and Wé explode out of the forest, then, yelling about dragons. They herd Wódin before them, and he does not think of the fire giant for a long time.
Not until the war with the Vanir, and Father dies on Gungnir, and Mímir bows his head, his last words a murmured apology.
For the rest of his life, Odin will always feel out of place on his father’s throne.
(“Why do you hate Odin so much?” Van asks.
Ash says, “I once had a brother.” It was long, long ago.
And when Ymir was weakened, having used too much magick too quickly, a king and his own brother took advantage.
Because they were little more than children, he had allowed the king’s sons to live - Wili, Wé, and Wódin.
Van nods. A moment passes, and then he asks, “Will Odin do something – foolhardy?”
Laughing, Ash shrugs. “More than likely,” he says.)