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Ouroboros

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Atop the peak of the highest mountain in all of Greece, he stared emotionless at the dense cluster of dark dreary clouds that hid the Aegean Sea. He knows this place yet it was so long ago in a land so very far away.

Echoes of his despair brushed against his ash skin like a lover's caress, seeking entrance through one of the many small chinks in his mental armor. It felt familiar and with its familiarity brought a sense of morbid comfort. But Kratos was no longer the man he used to be. 

Close your heart. 

He is older. Wiser- wise enough to recognize his old "faithful" companion. If he greets this sadness and let it in, he knows he will never be able to make it leave again. Memories of another life time resurfaced to the front of his mind. Years spent drowning in anger, guilt, sorrow, and bitter wine. Not a moment of peace graced his days or nights.

Every battle, and there were many, fueled his rage. It gave him the strength to crush his enemies and anyone else who stood in his way. It made things easy. It made things simple.

It became addicting.

When he wasn't controlled by his anger in battle, he was alone with his real enemies. He has defeated gods and monsters but his thoughts always emerged victorious against him. His fists that can punch through rock cannot harm them. His Blades of Chaos that can strike any foe down cannot harm them. Not even his screams for release could make them go away.

It was madness.

He craned his head back to gaze at the sky. 

"The gods of Olympus have abandoned me." He had once said, not knowing that they were never with him to begin with. He looked down where the edge dropped off into the sea covered clouds below and felt... nothing. "Now there is no hope."  He thought death was the only way to escape. 

Kratos closed his eyes and remembered how warm Faye's hand was against his cheek. 

"There is no point in looking back, Kratos. You suffer and suffer but to what end? Do not dwell on who you used to be because you are not that person any longer. Focus on who you want to be now. Be better than the man you hated. Be better; be good."

Remembering her words brought forth a strength stronger than his rage could ever match. It helped him clear the muck of toxic anguish from his mind. With his new found clarity, Kratos narrowed his eyes in suspicion. He has not for many years thought of the day he jumped of a cliff to die and after meeting Faye and then having their son... Greece and Olympus were but distant memories. There is no reason he should be dreaming of his past, especially this moment. His lips curled down and he could feel his anger rise but he kept it in check.

"Athena," he growled low in his chest. He didn't have to see her to know she was there. The Greek goddess revealed herself as she went to stand next to him by the cliff. He glared at her, ready to banish her from his sleeping mind but before he could do or say anything she spoke.

"I saved you," she said coolly.

"You robbed me of choice." Kratos corrected her sharply.

"I made you a god."

"All I wanted was peace."

"You could have had it!" she snapped, raising her voice. A tense moment of silence followed and when she spoke next the goddess of wisdom was back to sounding calm and collective. "You could have had peace if you would have just given back what was mine in the first place. Instead, you gave it to them. To mortals." Athena waved her arm and the air before them shimmered and an image of Olympus appeared, restored to its former glory and shining with gold. "We could have built a new world together. A better one than our father could have ever created because it would have been in our vision-"

"In your vision, Athena. Do not think me a fool after all this time."

"No, of course not," she said, dropping her hand and letting the visage of Olympus fade. Her face betrayed nothing to let him know what she was feeling but he knew her better than that. 

She clasped her hands together and strolled away from him, forcing him to turn around to keep her in his sight. She stopped and with her back facing him she said, "I understand we've had our differences, Kratos. But we are still family... or what's left of it." Her shoulders slumped as she sighed wearily. "You are not the only one who has had a long time to think about things. The past and its regrets, the future and the hope it could still hold. How lonely it can be in a world of chaos." 

The edges of his vision darkened and he felt heavy, as if an invisible force were weighing in on all sides. A cacophony of identical screams filled the air. Kratos had the undeniable feeling they were Athena's. The goddess in question didn't appear well. She was shaking slightly and had her hands raised to either side of her head, her fingers curling in a way that resembled the crooked branches of a dead tree. 

It ended as quick as it began. Everything reverted back to normal; his vision cleared, the air lightened, and the screaming stopped abruptly. All that was left was Athena who stood facing him, calm as ever. 

"It doesn't have to be this way," she said, a tinge of hope in her voice. "There is still time. You can fix all your wrong-doings! Everything will be better again. All I need is your help, Brother. You are all I've got left."

"I will not help you, Athena," Kratos declared. "Whatever delusions of hope you have are false and will lead you nowhere. Forget the past and move forward."

"Forget the past?" she echoed, a chuckle escaping her lips. "I am the past. You-" she pointed as his pale skin, "You are wearing your past."

Anger hot as lava filled him, catching him off guard. He hasn't been this angry in a long time that he has forgotten how powerful it was. How easy it could consume him. He looked down at his hands. They were shaking violently. A flash and his hands were smeared with blood but when he blinked his hands were clean. It was only an illusion.

"Ah," Athena said with a small smile. "There is that famous spartan rage. You were always a slave to your emotions."

In a burst of perverted rage, Kratos lashed out with a shout but his fist merely phased through her body. Immediately he wanted to strike again but he forced himself back. He was not some undisciplined child and his anger will not control him and make him act irrationally. He is better than this. Better than his rage.

Athena was apparently taken aback. "I see. You've learned to have better control over your anger. I am impressed, Kratos. You may not believe me but I am also proud." Her usually stony eyes softened. "I've always wanted what was best for you. When Ares betrayed Zeus, I knew you were the only one who could defeat him. I didn't only help you for the survival of Olympus. What Ares did was cruel and I felt for you. I wanted, in a way, for you to avenge your family. I never wanted..." 

There was something in her eyes that confused Kratos. Perhaps even make him feel the slightest hint of concern. Athena had always been there for him, right from the very start of his bloody quest for vengeance. She was an ally in his darkest of times. Yet towards the end of his journey, something happened and she started becoming less of the Athena he knew and more of some distorted version of the goddess who eagerly encouraged the blood of her father and the rest of her family members.

"Athena?" He said softly, reaching out a hand to touch her even though he knew he could not.

Her glowing green eyes snapped open. "If you won't help me then you've left me with no choice. Remember that, Spartan." Her ghostly body began to brighten. In a matter of seconds she became so bright it was like staring at the sun. Kratos had to shield his eyes from being blinded by it. "The past is the future. I will be the future!"

It all comes around, Spartan, he heard her voice in his head. It all comes around...

"Father!" Atreus' voice cut into his mind crystal clear. The fear in his child's voice snapped Kratos awake, his hand instinctively reaching behind to grab the leviathan axe at his back but his fingers wrapped around nothing but air. It was then he realized, after taking a quick scan of the area, there were no enemies in sight. In fact, he was standing at the edge of a cliff, barefoot and without his armor. 

"Father?" A small voice said from behind him.

Kratos turned half-way to see his son, barefoot in the snow as well and shivering, griping the back end of his pants. 

"What are you doing, Boy?"

Confusion welled up in those round eyes. "What am I- What am I doing?" he asked rather incredulously. "What are you doing? You were about to walk off a cliff!"

He waved half-haphazardly at said cliff, prompting Kratos to glance back at it. His frown deepened. Gods and their foul tricks.

"What happened?" Atreus asked. "I woke up and I didn't know why until I saw you walking out the door. I thought you were going off to do whatever you do but I saw you were barefoot. When I tried to stop you, your eyes were closed and no matter what I did or say you wouldn't wake up! And then I saw where you were heading. I didn't know what to do. I thought you were going to fall. I was ready to stuff snow down your pants if I had to!"

"It is of no concern to you." Kratos said, "Come, it is foolish of you to be in the cold barefoot and without warmer clothes. If you get sick it will be because of your carelessness."

"I won't get sick. I'm a god! And a giant!"

Kratos sent him a disapproving look, "And part-mortal. Do not forget that."

"Oh... yeah. But I just- Urgh, whatever," the boy muttered and trudged after his father towards the direction of their home.

It wasn't long of a trek, made a bit harder due to the large trench in the earth which was a left-over effect from his and Baldur's fight. The memory made him frown deeper. It was a tough fight, not something he liked to admit even to himself. And even though he and his son defeated Baldur in the end, Kratos had to wonder about the possibility of fighting the other Norse gods, especially the one called Thor. It was going to happen, no point believing it won't.

Kratos used to believe he was infallible concerning his fighting prowess and his ability to defeat virtually anything in his path, but Baldur changed that. No, he didn't change it. He proved one of Kratos' worst fears: That there will come a day he cannot protect his son. Like he could not protect-

A growl ripped through him and he physically shook his head. No, he will not think of her. She is the past. He needs to focus on the future. He needs to focus on Atreus.

Kratos glanced behind him. Atreus was following loyally, his face casted downwards in a pout unbecoming of a boy his age. Kratos never pouted as a child. He never complained. Instead he endured. Life was harsh so he expected nothing and if you expect nothing you don't have anything to complain about. Why didn't his son understand that was the way of life for a spartan?

Because he is not you, Kratos realized. He is your son. 

"Thank you," he grunted over his shoulder. He expected Atreus to say something. He grew concern when there was no immediate response. He looked back to check on the boy only to see him grinning from ear to ear. 

"You're welcome!" Atreus replied cheerily, skipping forward to walk beside him. "I wasn't about to let you die from sleepwalking."

"I doubt I would have died."

"Huh, I guess you're right. I don't think any god has died from something like that." Atreus rubbed his chin in contemplation. "But hey, it would have been quite a surprise to wake up to!"

Kratos made a noncommittal grunt and quickened his stride when their home came into view. He was just at the door when Atreus froze, eyes wide and lips parted.

"Boy, what is it?" Kratos demanded, keeping the worry out of his voice.

"I- I don't know," Atreus answered. He then turned and looked at a spot high up in the trees. "It feels like... we're being watched."

Kratos shifted on his feet, fists at the ready in case they were about to be attacked. Faye's protection boundary stopped working when he cut those trees down. He intended to get the magic reinstated but the only person he could think of who may have the ability to do that was Freya and well...

Atreus visibly relaxed and rubbed the back of his neck. "No, never mind. It's gone."

"Are you sure?"

"Yeah, I'm sure."

Kratos didn't move when Atreus opened the door and stepped inside the warm confines of their house. He stood outside for a little while longer, waiting. When no beast came charging forth, Kratos relented and went inside. The temperature inside was slightly chillier than the time he went to bed and upon further inspection found the culprit. The fire from the fireplace had dwindled down during the night. In response, he went to fetch more wood from the stockpile in the corner. Usually it was not safe to keep a fire going unattended but without it he was sure his son would freeze to death in his sleep. Winters were never this cold but like Brok had said, this was Fimbulwinter- the winter to end all winters. It wasn't just an exaggeration.

"No need, Father!" Atreus sat by the fireplace and held his hand out and whispered a language Kratos did not understand. Soon the small flames grew to how it was at the time of its birth. The boy looked up from his work, pride written all over his face. He did not expect for his father to snatch his wrist in a tight grip, a scowl hardening on his face. 

"What is that? What did you do?" he demanded.

Atreus was quick to respond, "I didn't do anything! I only asked the fire to keep us warm until dawn."

"You cannot speak to fire, Boy." Kratos said, releasing Atreus' wrist.

"Maybe you can't," he said, rubbing his wrist. "But I can. I can hear the fire and the rivers and even the trees. They don't talk like we do. It's different. More like a feeling." His son looked at the wall across from them, a frown tugging the corners of his lips downwards. "The trees are cold and they are scared. They know this winter."

Kratos rested a heavy hand on his son's shoulder. "The trees can be afraid all they like. We do not fear." Atreus nodded silently which was enough for Kratos. "Come. We must rest." He climbed on the bed and slipped under the heavy fur covers, his son sliding in after him. They laid back to back and close together to preserve body heat. Kratos closed his eyes and practiced clearing his mind like he did every night. It was therapeutic and usually left him more relaxed. He was jolted from his calm reverie when he felt two icy feet press against his legs. 

"Sorry," Atreus whispered, "It's freezing!" 

Kratos only grunted and tried to continue his meditation but dark thoughts plagued him. The coldness of his son's feet; would it be the same if he were but a corpse? If Kratos could not protect him-

He sighed heavily and stared at his hand. There were wrinkles there that had not been before.

Kratos balled his hand into a fist. He is old, not decrepit and if he can still fight he'll fight to his last breath protecting their son and that meant teaching Atreus how to protect himself when Kratos is gone. The boy cannot be reliant on him forever and Kratos cannot shield him from the dangers of this world- already proven by their journey to the mountain.

It has already been decided in his mind. Kratos will begin the next level of Atreus' training. The boy's spirit will be hardened, his skin will be turned to steel and he will become familiar with the taste of his own blood. Discipline and strength will be his only companions to walk with him on his long road into becoming a true warrior. 

That was the way Kratos was taught.

It was the only way he knew. So why did he feel so uncertain?

It wasn't the first time he wished for Faye to be here with him. To help him. She would have known exactly what to do. Kratos could only depend on his past experiences to determine his future choices. And, of course, to be better. That was Faye's saying and he followed it diligently.

Be better.  

Kratos waited until he felt his son's breathing even out to go to sleep himself. Thankfully this time, it was dreamless.

 

 

ASGARD

In the halls of the Asgardian Palace...

The Allfather sat back in his throne and rested his cheek on the knuckles of his fist, lost in deep contemplation. 

"The boy sensed I was watching him." He said out loud, his voice booming in the empty hall. "The magic of his heritage grow ever stronger."

"Indeed," said Odin's new adviser, her ghostly body appearing from thin air.

"He is becoming a threat." Odin didn't care that the boy was a mere child. Children grew up to become warriors. It will better to nip it in the bud and be done with it.

"Do not be so hasty," she chastised him, probably the only one in all of Asgard brave enough to do so. "Kratos' son may very well be the last of the true giants to walk all the nine realms and within him, all their secrets."

Odin huffed, annoyed that what she spoke is the truth. That small boy could be the key to unlocking what the giants kept hidden from him. The key to his survival come Ragnarok.

"I suspect you suggest I focus my efforts on the Spartan then, Athena?" Odin said slyly with a raise of a bushy brow, already knowing the answer.

"Kratos is not one to be taken lightly," she quipped. "Zeus knew that and killed his son when he saw the chance. Unfortunately for him, Kratos came back with an even bigger vengeance."

"This Ghost of Sparta is an anomaly in my world," Odin said with a wave of his hand. "As are you. You should know that who was once considered unbeatable in their realm can change in another."

"He has defeated your son," she reminded him.

"Out of pure luck. Baldur is a fine opponent but nothing compared to the strength of Thor. He has only kept up for so long because of the magic Freya casted on him. Without it, he is nothing. It was due to his own recklessness that he fell against your spartan."

Athena narrowed her glowing eyes, "Do not underestimate Kratos. Many have and they have all perished because of it."

Odin stilled and stood up to his full height, towering over the goddess' ghostly form.

"I underestimate nobody," he said grimly. "Not even you, Athena."

She raised her chin and met him square in the eye, not one to ever be intimidated, "I only want justice for my family. Nothing more. It is up to you whether you believe me or not."

Odin hummed deeply, peering at her with his one great eye. "Goddess of Justice. It must bother you, you do not live up to your namesake." 

He wanted a reaction from her but he did not get any. Her face was carved in stone and her eyes equally thus. No wonder Zeus cherished her the most out of all the others. If he had a daughter like her, he would have been just as proud. Odin drew away and walked behind his throne and towards the end of the hall where a circular shaft was built. He stood upon the elevator and it descended at once.

"Fimbulwinter has come," he stated gravely. He was greatly displeased of the fact. His plans of slaughtering all the old giants had failed when they escaped Thor's mighty hammer, Mjolnir. And it was with the help of the last person he thought would betray him. No- Odin knew Tyr would betray him, the man was too just for his own good. He just hadn't wanted to believe it.

The elevator came to a stop far beneath the earth, ending at its lowest level. He stepped off and strode confidently down a long dimly lit passageway, passing by rows and rows of prison cells.

"I have kept the bitch alive as you advised," he said. "Her belly is swollen with her soon to be runts."

Athena appeared floating beside him. "It is wise of you to do so. It is foretold one of her children will strike you down. But if you raise it to be loyal to you first, then you will have one less thing to worry about. Although the same cannot be said for Hel and her legions nor the Vanir and what is left of the Jotunns... and of course Kratos."

"I worry not of my sister and her Hel-Walkers. I have defeated her before and I will do so again, more easier this time now that I know the magic of the Vanir." He raised his hand, golden light twirling through his fingers. "Without Freya and her leadership, the Vanir will fall just as easily and of the giants, I will leave them to Thor to finish what he started."

They approached a circular room with hallways splitting off in all sides. Odin took the one on the left and came to a large door at the very end. Two guards stood in place at each side and bowed before their king. The door opened in a spiraling manner, revealing a ginormous round room that had one floating walkway that lead to the middle where the wolf mother was imprisoned. Or should have been.

Shocked, Odin flew to where the prisoner should be; shackled and chained yet there was no sign that the beast had ever existed save for the numerous claw marks on the floor. He bent down and snatched one of the huge shackles.

"No," he seethed between his teeth, the magical iron shackle crumbling in his fist. He straightened up, his eye burning gold and said in a deceptively calm voice, "Where is she?"

"Not in this realm," Athena answered, impassive to his anger. He could practically see the gears turning in her head. "The guards are still alive. If the beast had escaped the grounds, she would have left a bloody trail." She floated to the shackles laying forgotten on the floor and inspected them. "You yourself casted your own magic in order for them to open when you wanted them too. Somebody pried them open with their bare hands."

"Impossible. No one can defy my magic."

"Yet someone did," she said, crossing her arms over her chest.

The cell darkened and Odin appeared to grow in size, "Speak carefully, Athena. I need not to remind you it was your idea to keep the wolf mother alive and now your mistake could cost me everything."

"You should be more concerned of the person who released her," Athena replied, phasing through him to continue her investigation. "They did not escape using the elevator nor did they escape through the walls. They cannot still be in Asgard or somebody would have seen them by now and Yggdrasil is always protected. It appears they have simply vanished into thin air. Unless, you know of another way that doesn't require the World Tree."

"All beings need the World Tree to travel between realms. Without Sleipnir, even I would, too," he admitted albeit bitterly. "No one has ever traveled through the realms on their own except for the dwarves and-" 

Odin turned and swiftly left the cell that used to contain the wolf mother. His pace was quick and he wasted no time heading to another cell, this one far back and deep, with more guards stationed at its entrance. He stopped as he came upon the door to the cell and closed his eyes. It lasted for a fraction of a second before the door spiraled open. The inside was exactly alike like the previous cell with one main difference; its occupant was still chained and this prisoner was no beast.

With every step he took, the Allfather began to falter. He came to a stop before the prisoner and simply stared.

Odin could not see his face for the man held his head low, letting shadows shield him. He looked sickly, his body frail and his skin pallid. Once he were a mighty warrior, even able to contend against Thor himself. Now, he has withered away down here. All because he had betrayed his father.

"Father," Tyr rasped and raised his head to look him in the eyes even though Odin knew it must have been a great struggle. The next words to come from Tyr's mouth angered and astounded Odin. "Do not... hurt them."

"It is too late, Tyr. Thor has made sure many of the giants fell during their cowardly escape."

"No," Tyr groaned, his face twisting in agony. "There were families. Children. Thor would never-"

"He has," Odin stated coldly. 

Tyr gaped at him in horror and Odin watched the hope in his son's eyes disappear. He hung his head low again. A violent shudder jerked through Tyr's body as the God of War wept for the people he failed. 

Once, he would have been moved by his son's tears. But that would have been a very long time ago.

"No, it cannot be!" Tyr cried, yanking at his chains that cut into his skin. "I do not believe you! Thor would never murder innocents! Never! Never!"

"Then you are a fool to hold onto your pathetic delusions," Odin thundered, itching to strike out and slap some sense into his son. Unexpectedly, Tyr chuckled weakly.

"A fool, that I am. To have trusted you, you because you were my father. I believed you finally wanted peace. Unity. I was wrong. You lied." Tyr tried to stand but he collapsed. "I want to see Thor. I want to talk to him." He tried again but his body was too weak. He fell onto knees and stayed there. He threw his head back and screamed.

"I want to see my brother!" he raged in his last finality that sapped whatever strength he had left from his body.

Yet despite his outburst, Odin remained stoic.

"You can see Thor. You can even be freed of your self-imprisonment," he said. "Redeem yourself as my son. Tell me how you traveled between realms."

"... Is that all you care about, Father?" Tyr said quietly, a deep sadness in his voice. "Your knowledge. Your power. Without those things, what will you have left?"

"Tell me your secret, Son," Odin persisted, crouching down to be at level with his son. "And if you cannot at least tell me who it is you taught it to."

"I never told anyone my secret."

"Do not lie to me!" Odin warned, "I know you have. Tell me who it is!"

Tyr's voice was thick and tired, "I do not lie, Father. Whoever it is you seek I have no knowledge of. You've wasted your time."

Odin growled and raised his hand to strike him but stopped. There was no point in this madness. Tyr was right. He was wasting his time and time meant everything to Odin. He smothered his anger and stood up, glowering down at the pathetic man who was his son.

"We know they have traveled using a rift in the dimensions." Athena said, revealing herself. "It is not much but there are traces of the location they might have went to."

"Where?" Odin grumbled.

"Midgard." 

"I will send Thor at once. There is too much at stake to allow the wolf mother to give birth now." 

"I wouldn't advise it," Athena said. "While Thor may be the mightiest of your warriors, Fimbulwinter has allowed Hel to claim the mortal realm. There is much discord there. Too much death. Your sister will be at her strongest."

"I cannot wait three years to kill my enemy!"

"You must. There is no other way."

Odin seethed at the situation he found himself in. What will he do? By the time he sends Thor, the wolf pup may have grown to be a challenge. It was, after all, destined to kill the Allfather.

"You really are out of time," Tyr said, breaking Odin from his thoughts. "Fimbulwinter? Ragnarok. The Doom of the Gods. It truly is the end of times."

Athena cocked her head at the shackled man. "Have no fear, Odin. The wolf pup may not even survive to adulthood if what they say about Fimbulwinter is true."

Odin barely registered her words. "Yes indeed, there are numerous possibilities. Events can change. There yet may still be hope. Meanwhile, I must begin planning and preparing my army for the last great battle." He made to walk away but hesitated. He took one last look at his son and felt something stir in his chest. He crushed it before it could grow. "You have brought this upon yourself, Tyr. The giants were not your family. We are."

The Allfather left. He could no longer bear it to see his son.

Athena stayed behind. 

She gazed melancholic at something only she could see.

"Knowledge. Power. These were all things I wanted." She floated closer to Tyr to get a better look at his face. He glared back at her with distrustful eyes. She placed her fingers as if to touch his cheek. Of course she could not. "You are a good god. Not like the others. Not like me. You understand the importance of family. Of love and honesty. I didn't care for any of that until I lost them all."

"Leave my father alone," Try growled. "I know of the madness that has befallen upon the Greek Pantheon. Do not bring your chaos to infect our lands!"

"You know nothing of true chaos. But you will. All of you will," she promised darkly, her eyes glowing brighter as her body began to fade.

Tyr struggled against his bonds. "Leave him alone!" he shouted. "Leave him alone!"

Through chaos comes order.

Athena's voice echoed throughout the chamber.

Through destruction comes creation.

Tyr was struck by a vision. Asgard was in ruins. The World Tree was on fire. All the nine realms were destroyed.

It was Ragnarok.

It was chaos.