The bright light of the moon shined upon the frozen surface of the sea.
All was quiet save for the faint deep sound of water churning below.
A tiny crack sketched itself along the surface, followed by another and another until the ice rippled and the peak of a head rose from the cold watery depths.
Fragments of shattered ice trickled down the body of a dead woman as she stepped onto the frozen sea. It had only been seconds in the time she had left the water but even then, the ocean wind attacked her face; her chapped lips turning solid and snow formed in her eyebrows and the tips of her eyelashes, making them appear white. Her fine expensive clothes were soaked and clung to her figure, her long hair pressed flat to her face.
If the woman were alive, she would have been dead, and since she was already dead, her corpse would have been frozen beyond functional use, but this was no ordinary corpse, and no ordinary woman, for from her eyes reflected something ancient and wicked:
The goddess of death locked her sight on a group of draugrs before her, the undead warriors standing still as statues. A guttural groan reverberated from her chest and there sounded the pop! pop! pop! as her fingers curled into fists.
She marched to the closest draugr, stiffly and awkwardly, snatched its sword and sliced the blade down her arm like one would do when skinning an animal.
No pain. The dead do not feel.
Hel raised her skinned arm and observed it with visible disgust.
This pathetic body dealt her a crucial defeat tonight. If only she were really here, things would have gone differently with that Aesir brat.
"Well that was embarrassing. I should know, I was there watching the entire time. You know, it's funny how nobody takes notice of the squirrel in the battlefield. Makes me feel invisible, to be honest."
Hel craned her neck in the direction of the voice- a small, ordinary looking red squirrel. The only peculiar thing about it was a tiny pouch slung across its shoulder.
The squirrel shivered, its fur perking up. "Alright, enough with the staring, will ya? Giving me the creeps."
"Ratatoskr," Hel groaned like the aging of old trees. "You have what I need."
"Got it right here." The squirrel patted his shoulder pouch with a cheeky smile.
Without a word, Hel bent down and held out her hand. Ratatoskr unclasped the pouch and furrowed around before magically pulling out a wooden vial, most definitely larger than his pouch.
He gave it to her and his curly tail twitched. "Hey! You could have warned me about the girl. The little shit tried to eat me!"
"The dead have no need for food," Hel said as she examined the vial.
"Yeah whatever," Ratatoskr grumbled, pawing at his nose. "What the hel is a living girl doing in the underworld, anyways?"
His question was ignored.
Hel straightened and gestured to one of the draugrs and hidden from behind, a little girl appeared.
Ratatoskr jumped with a squeak. "Ah! It's her! Don't let her eat me!... Oh, wait." He eyeballed the girl, his little nose twitching. "Hey, that's not her. It looks like her, but it ain't her. This one's dead."
The little girl approached Hel and looked up at her from frizzy feathery light blonde hair, the inky pale whiteness of her eyes the only telltale sign of her passing. Hel gazed down and cracked open her mouth, the girl copying her action. They did this several times, like the girl the puppet and Hel the puppeteer.
After making a few sounds through the little girl's mouth, Hel crouched down and placed her fingertips on the frozen surface. The ice disintegrated, leaving a medium sized hole, revealing the dark ocean water below. She stood and popped open the vial and tipped it sideways.
Droplets of blood fell from the vial, becoming lost in the sea.
The squirrel looked up at her inquisitively. "What're you doing?"
"Jörmungandr will smell her blood. He will come for her, even if he does not remember her."
"Jorm wants to eat her?" squeaked Ratatoskr.
"He will be curious." Hel tilted her head. "The giants may have taken his memories, but he will never forget her."
The little girl walked along the edge of the hole and sat down, her legs swinging in the water.
Hel backed away, and wisely, so did the squirrel.
She closed her eyes and focused all her energy on the girl.
The little girl began humming, her voice not her own but of another little girl who lived in the dark tunnels of the underworld; scurrying around like the rats, searching for her next meal and yearning for the company of her dead mother.
The little girl's humming was hauntingly beautiful and her voice carried throughout the watery depths...
There was no grand sign that the world serpent arrived; Only the shifting of something large moving beneath the ice.
The ground began to vibrate as the serpent hummed along to the tune.
Hel knew the serpent did not know how or why he knew the little hum. It was instinct, something lodged deep in his subconsciousness that'll never go away.
It was his downfall.
Hel seized the opportunity and drawing upon her strength, she unleashed a wave of magic, turning the water below into solid ice and freezing the world serpent within. It won't be enough to kill - he won't die by her hand - but it was enough to trap him. She did not need him interfering with her plans. When the time is right, she will release him to fight Thor.
Ratatoskr scuttled closer to the girl and knocked rapidly on the ice. "You froze him solid! Aren't you worried he'll break free?"
Hel gazed at the little girl still humming, her legs trapped in the ice. "She will keep him asleep."
"Risky business. He won't be happy when he wakes up." Ratatoskr's whiskers twitched with excitement. "Ooh, I can't wait till he wakes up! I've waited a long time for Ragnarök to happen. It's always fun to watch! It never gets old!"
As the demented squirrel squeaked happily, a strange throb pulsed through her body and Hel raised her arms. The pale dead flesh began to frost and when she balled her hands into fists, they shattered into frozen chunks.
Too much power was used and this mortal corpse couldn't handle it, just like how it couldn't handle Thor's daughter.
But her true body was still trapped in Helheim.
Though, not for long.
Everyday she could feel Midgard slowly dying and soon this land will be dead and cold enough for her true body to inhabit, and when that time comes, Asgard and all the others realms will be next.
It was only a matter of time.
And this time, the end will be permanent.