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Fate's Guardian

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The first time She appeared, it was in Tokyo, which, appropriate, if any major city was going to get a bizarre monster thing cruising through the streets it would almost have to be Tokyo, right? There was probably a rule, somewhere, the "Godzilla Ordinance" or something. Only this was no giant lizard.

News footage showed what looked like a statue made of transparent, molten glass, standing head-to-roofline beside the single-story shops, towering over the humans. Like, easily ten feet tall. She had a faint glow to Her, although that might have been because curved clear glass has a tendency to catch and refract the light around it. The only thing anyone could see inside Her body were three spheres, situated in a line from just below the throat to just above where a pelvis would be; one red, one black, one white. They all glowed brightly—even the black one, which was just weird.

Being weird, naturally, got SHIELD's attention, and they, naturally, called the Avengers in to "handle" it.

Everybody who saw the being called it a "She", even though it wasn't obviously female. But it wasn't obviously male, either, and apparently that was enough to call it a girl, people all over the planet being both obsessed with gender and kinda sexist. At least the voice was more or less feminine, toward the low end for a woman but reasonably alto rather than bass or anything. But honestly, that was pretty much it for femininity, and there wasn't a whole lot going for Her in the "human" department either. There was debate over whether it was an alien being or some kind of funky tech.

Her second appearance was in Shanghai; again with the wandering the streets, again with the screaming crowds, and this time with an eventual military action that had no effect on Her whatsoever. It wasn't like she was still standing when the smoke cleared. The mortar rounds didn't even explode—they vanished, and She just kept on walking as if She hadn't noticed there was even a threat. Luckily, "no effect" meant the attack didn't make Her mad, either.

She made her way west-ish across Asia, hitting all the very largest cities: Seoul, followed by Manila, then Jakarta, Indonesia. A couple stops in India. Dhaka, in Bangladesh. In each place, day or night, on news programs or on YouTube uploads, people would see the same thing. She would show up, walk among the streets, and stop now and again to address the people, then eventually vanish; like, literally vanish, simply turning to the left, taking a step, and disappearing. Which was irritating, because half the time the Avengers weren't allowed into whatever country it was to confront Her, and the other half they'd show up only to find She had already gone.

It took a few stops for people to stop running and screaming, and listen to what the alien statue thing had to say. "She said She was looking for someone," reported a few bystanders. "A guardian," whatever that meant.

Whatever She was, She was making an effort not to be hostile. No attacking, no property damage, no Godzilla rampages, and eventually the crowds caught on. In Indonesia a kid walked right up to her, said, "This is for you," and put a flower in the palm of Her hand.

"Why do you do this?" She asked.

"I see what you are," said the kid.

She replied, "Very good, little volva" (which drove the SHIELD analysts nuts, because that wasn't even a word in Malay or in any of the other main languages in that part of Indonesia). "You see much that your kinsmen do not. Do you know the guardian whom we seek?"

"No, sisters," and again, SHIELD was scrambling and the professional geeks were having a field day, "I have never heard that name."

"Then we must continue our search elsewhere," said She.

SHIELD interviewed the kid (of course they did) and all that was really uncovered was that her name was Aditi, she was eight, and she had a knack for perceptiveness that according to SHIELD suggested some kind of clairvoyant ability. Her local temple had already taken it as a given that she would go there to train as a priestess once she was old enough. The analysts figured "volva" meant something like "oracle" or "seer," but that was all they could figure out.

By the time She hit Karachi, in Pakistan, the general population around the world had caught on, and started watching for Her to appear instead of running away whenever She did. There were websites tracking Her progress across the world, faithfully listing sightings by location, time, duration, everything that an excited nerd could think of to record. So yeah. Websites. Blogs. Photo galleries. Supposedly there was even a cult set up to worship Her. Naturally there were conspiracy theorists, and a handful of poor saps claiming to have been abducted by Her underlings. Whatever. A lot of people were watching to see when She would show up, so they could have a chance to talk with Her themselves.

It was in Greater Cairo that the timing finally worked out, and a news crew was on hand to catch Her first statement to the populace there. Translated from the Arabic:

"We seek the guardian known as Loki."


Loki.

Wasn't he supposed to be dead?

"Fucking Loki. Shit." Everybody on the team had said that at least once, with the exception of Steve because profanity was unbecoming, or something. But he was still thinking it.

After Cairo, She did a quick tour through the rest of Africa, but apart from Lagos in Nigeria, not many locations there had the sheer masses of people that seemed to attract Her, so it wasn't long before She showed up in Europe.

Istanbul; Moscow; and then finally, finally, She turned up in Paris, and did Her thing, and someone was able to answer Her with more than a "Nope, never heard of 'em."

"I do not know this person," said the bystander, a youngish hipster-looking guy who stepped out of the crowd at her question, "but I recall hearing his name after an incident in Germany last year. And there are legends that someone called Loki was a god, but that was a long time ago. Another culture. Not here."

"Loki has come to your world before," She said. "That is irrelevant. We seek the guardian who protected your realm, recently."

"I am sorry, great lady," said the bystander, "all I know of him is what I heard. Germany. Munich, I think. Or it may have been a different city."

She nodded. "These are greater tidings than we have yet received in our quest. We shall smile upon you henceforth." Which was another sentence that made the SHIELD analysts go a little giddy and panicky all at once.

"Wait!" said the guy, just as she was preparing to vanish. "Great lady, if I may?"

She turned back, and the crowds grew silent. "What is your petition, messenger?"

"I would like to know—we all would like to know—what are you?"

"We are the sisters of Yggdrasil," She said, or at least that was what the linguistic people came up with. Apparently knowing that she was looking for Loki helped them figure out a couple things. For one, a "volva" was a type of seer or witch from Norse mythology, like maybe a shaman or something, who could intercede with the Norns on behalf of the worshipers of Norse deities. For another, they were pretty sure She was talking about "Yggdrasil", known in Norse mythology as the "World Tree," where all the "Nine Realms" were supposed to live. According to Thor, the Nine Realms all had similar atmosphere and gravity to Earth, and their intelligent life forms were all at least a little bit similar to humans. Which was pretty cool.

They still didn't know what it meant to be a "sister of Yggdrasil", much less "sisters", plural. They still didn't know why She was looking for Loki, either, and they really didn't know why the hell She'd be on friendly terms with him, given everything the little shit had done the last time he'd shown up on Earth.

Still. It was something of a lead. They knew where She was headed, if nothing else, and for obvious reasons, SHIELD was able to get clearance to send the Avengers into Germany, so they went ahead and did that. The team set up in Stuttgart, figuring She would get there eventually, and lo and behold.

"We seek the guardian known as Loki," She said. Whole crowds of people confirmed that, yeah, they knew who the hell he was.

Her oversize glass self didn't exactly have a lock on facial expressions, but She seemed perturbed at the response She was getting. So Captain America put his best foot forward.

"Ma'am," he said, "Loki attacked people when he was last here. In this city he terrorized a crowd of over two hundred people and removed a man's eye. Another few hundred were killed and thousands injured when he orchestrated an alien invasion over New York. We don't mean any disrespect, but we don't get why you're calling him a guardian of anything."

At this, the spheres inside Her body flashed brighter, and everyone got ready for a potential session of shit-hitting-fan; instead, though, all She did was tilt Her head and kinda smile.

"Do you not? Perhaps we will show you. You fought the guardian; did you also speak with him?"

"Uh, yeah," said Iron Man. "Guy was a few cards short of a full deck."

She stepped closer and bent low, and damn if it didn't look like She could see right through that mask and into the very soul of the guy inside the suit. "We are aware of the role he played." After a nerve-wracking moment, She stood and looked around. "We feel the traces of his presence here. Whither did he go after your battle?"

"Uh, well, the main battle wasn't here, princess. You want to take a look at New York? There's plenty of traces of him there. We're still cleaning them up, as a matter of fact."

"Very well," She said, and stepped back and did the thing where she got ready to disappear.

"Oh-ho-ho no, you don't," said Iron Man. "We have questions for you. Why you came to our world, first of all; why the hell you're looking for a psychotic egomaniacal killer would be the second one."

"Is the guardian in this New York?" She asked.

"No," said the captain, before Iron Man could butt in. "After we defeated him, he was taken back to Asgard for punishment."

"Punishment." The spheres in Her torso flared brightly. She stood tall and proud, and it was kind of a wonder, since up to this point all they'd gotten was sort of a robot feel off of Her—go to city, ask for Loki, leave. Rinse, repeat. Now here She was, showing emotions… at least, insofar as a giant, melted-glass statue-person could show emotions.

"To answer your first question, we came in search of the guardian, Loki. In answer to your second, we bear him tidings he would wish to hear."

"What, got another world for him to go try and take over?" muttered Hawkeye. Black Widow elbowed him discreetly.

She studied them all for a moment, surrounded by the gathered crowds and cameras of Stuttgart. "These tidings are not yours to hear," She said finally, "but you demand truth, and are ignorant of Loki's true intent in coming to Midgard. You are protectors of this world in your own right. Further, you amuse us. We will do him, and you, a service."

The idea of being offered something that would somehow be good for both them and Loki was, again, more than a little dodgy.

"What service is that?" asked Captain America.

"Our tidings are for the guardian to hear," said She; "if the guardian is in Asgard, then we will go to Asgard…"

She took a step toward them, and the Avengers all watched as buildings just… morphed into golden pillars and walls, and the pavement into buttery marble floor, and the crowds were replaced with a handful of soldiers and people in fancy outfits, all startling and reacting in various ways, moving toward them or away, as the team all looked around in shock.

"…and we will bring you with us."