|Dates run:||September 1-27, 2012|
|Read the logs:||Sonatorrek|
Deke pushed away the untouched beer, and downed the shot of whiskey instead. "Two years all in. It didn't seem like any big thing at first - just weird-ass dreams and shit. Then..." The biker shook his head. "A year ago he barbecued a meth-house with a lightning bolt, in the middle of a sunny and cloudless fucking day. All downhill from there."
Deke's face congealed into a stone mask, as he gestured for another shot. "The last few months - he's just gone, as good as. This thing, it's eaten him." He wasn't looking at the agents as he slammed down the glass. "But he's still my son."
An investigation into the manifestation of an immensely powerful mutant leads Garrison Kane and his allies down a dark spiral of sex, sacrifice, and black magic of the worst kinds. At the end, they face an evil that is entirely too familiar for any of them.
Part 1 - Reginsmál
She woke to find
her joy had fled,
In the blood of the friend
of Freyr she lay.
Reports have reached the FBI through an informant of a potential mutant gang war heating up between two rival biker gangs in Minnesota. One of the gangs, the Valhallas, have been seen with a member who can apparently shrug off bullets and possesses superstrength. Apparently, to counter this, the rival group 'Sons of Hel' have upped the ante and there's the possibility of serious violence breaking out. Duncan wants Kane and Brand to investigate the gang and determine if this kid is a mutant, how best to get him out of there long enough to settle down the gang violence. The pair fly into Aitkin, Minnesota, and are met by the local chief Arnie Snorinsen.
Arnie explains that the Valhallas have been in Aitkins since the sixties; they are a biker group and have been involved in illegal activities, but mainly small stuff that has been worth turning a blind eye to in order to keep things peaceful. The town is only 3000 in the winter, about double that in the summer as seasonal workers stream in for timber camps, lake resorts and fishing/hunting tours. The Sons of Hel are more hard-core, involved in smuggling heavier narcotics and involved in the gun trade. The ATF has been after them for years, but they've managed to stay outside of major charges. There was a peace long established that kept Aitkin and the surrounding areas Valhalla territory, but that's been broken, and now the fight between the two gangs is escalating and threatens to spill over into innocents.
Responding to Kane's feeling as if something is off in the town, Arnie explains that Aitkin's is experiencing their worst summer season for tourists in years, and that it is showing signs of being 'wintersick', a term used for isolated communities during bad winters, where the constant proximity of the same few people causes increases in domestic violence, assaults, etc. He thinks it has to do with stress regarding the possible gang war.
They speak with the Valhallas via their chapter leader Deke Blake. Deke was a decorated Vietnam vet, who lost an eye in an ambush near Hue. His father was one of the original founders of the club in the fifties, bringing together his army buddies from the Second World War. Deke married late, in his late forties, and his son Donald was born in 1991. His wife died in a car accident several years later, leaving Deke to raise his son. He's naturally suspicious of cops in general, especially since he thinks they've come to try to lock his son up in a mental institution. He reveals that Donald believes that he is Thor - the real, mythical Thor of legend, and that the new leader of the Sons of Hel is Loki. To regain his full godhood, he must defeat Loki's evil. They get only a brief chance to talk to Donald, and slightly longer with his girlfriend - Sylvie Lushton.
Lushton is the owner of Harga's Titty City - a strip bar just outside of town limits - and a porn production studio in the back of it called Lush Productions. Lushton, under her alias Lexxie Lush, was a major porn star in the last decade, rumoured to have starred in her first movies at the age of fifteen (which residents will confirm), She ran away from Aitkin at 14, and eight years later returned, having made enough money to easily buy the old strip bar her mother used to work at and retrofitting it to hold a production studio in back. Most of her business involves private webcam shows, or streamed new videos. The Valhallas invested some money in her venture, to help put her over the top, and the girls have a close relationship with the bikers.
Luston admits that Donald thinks he's Thor, something that has happened in the last year since they started dating. She inadvertently lets slip while sparring jealously with Brand about him that he had an STD screen with her a few months ago at the local hospital so he could do some work with her in the studio. Kane cuts the encounter short, as they head out. Intercepted by Arnie, he asks Kane to accompany him while Brand goes to get the blood sample.
Arnie takes Kane out to the site of a local party/rave, to show him something. A woman reported being attacked by two young men attempting to rape her at a local gas station close to the site of the party. They got away and the woman was unharmed, but Arnie can't remember the last time there was a random attack like that. In the clearing, a goat has been ritually disembowelled and burned, still strung up to the alter. They find an MP3 player dropped in the grass, without much to identify it, but filled with Nordic black metal. Kane follows Arnie back and does some research, noting an uptick in attacks and disappearances in the surrounding areas. More and more, he suspects that they made lead to a single person.
On his way back to the hotel, he stops to talk with the girl at the counter, the owner's 16 year old daughter Jane Foster. Going up to his room, he finds Brand waiting for him. The lab will take several days to process the blood and determine if Donald is a mutant. Arriving back at his room, he discovers a symbol has been scrawled in blood on the door – that of a ‘Blót’
Brand once again propositions Kane, but unlike every other time, Kane finds himself agreeing. He initially doesn’t understand why, but desire trumps his normal reluctance. While he’s initially angry with himself and a little ashamed, he finds himself agreeing the next night as well.
He continues his research, now certain that several of the missing girls fit a pattern of someone moving towards Aitkin. Convinced he has a ritual serial killer on his hands, he starts to dig deeper. But once the sample comes back negative, instead of helping him, Brand notifies Kane that she's off on the next flight back to DC on SHIELD's orders. No mutant means her involvement is done, and his attempts to keep her longer to help him investigate are brushed off. Left with a serial killer and a possible god on his hands, he doesn't see any other option and gets in touch with the mansion and former mansion residents.
Part 2 - Lokasenna
The foeman cleft
and head did sink,
And legs and feet
did backward fall.
Kane makes a call to Marie-Ange, who quickly gets Amanda and Wanda involved. Amanda mentions the possibility that it could be Thor. Asgard exists and they had fought their gods on Earth before. Despite the fact that Donald Blake had been born and grown up in Aitkins, gods followed different rules. The only way to know was to get close to the bikers and look for information on Donald Blake. There is also the potential serial killer, and the signs point to Nordic cults, like those linked the Hel. Marie-Ange suggests that if there is a wider link to Asgard, then it should resonate with those who have been there before. The question is how to get into town and close to Blake without arousing suspicion.
Marie-Ange gets back to Kane regarding the biker angle, and suggests that some of them could come in as members of an allied gang looking to make a deal. Kane gets the Bureau to dig up the Secret Empire name, which has enough credibility to still pass, and an informant in Milwaukee who's willing to pass along a call about a deal for them to clear through. For the other, MA discovers that Lushton just recently posted an ad looking for new talent, making it easy for them to get jobs and close to the bikers that way. While some of them are less than happy about their cover as strippers and porn cam talent, MA brushes it aside, pointing out that as women and outsiders, they didn’t have a lot of other options.
A mixed team reaches the town, setting up secret meetings. They're to get as much information that they can about Thor and the Sons of Hel. The stories about their leader suggest he has abilities, and Kane believes that based on the Nordic supremacist nature of the Sons, that he might be tied in with the encroaching murders. Wanda takes the lead on that end, noting oddly that the background levels of chaos energy in the town feel like they should be much higher than they seem to be.
Meanwhile, posing as members of the Secret Empire, they are welcomed into the clubhouse itself by the Valhallas. Marie-Ange’s cover as their tattoo artist gets her access to Donald and some of the others to talk, while Amanda crafts a few special runes for her to ink on them.
They settle in for a period in their roles, slowly discovering that the unknown leader of the Sons is most certainly powered in some way, and that Donald doesn't have any tertiary history before 2000. Everyone remembers him as a kid, going to school, etc, and all of his official documentation is there. But they can't find him in a single class photo before 2000, sports team photo, trophy; any of the normal additional details of life that people leave behind. They quickly come to the conclusion that Donald Blake is a manifestation of Thor - maybe the true manifestation.
The Sons of Hel and their leader start to relinquish details finally as well, as during their off hours, Wanda, Jubilee and Paige discover a disturbing pattern of rising violence and sadism. Older members have put most of the blame on the new crew, and hint on the identity of their new leader as being linked to their past. None will confirm it, but three years prior, the son of the club founder disappeared and after the founder died, the remaining hierarchy met with the strange figure and made him their leader. Several brutal and lethal challenges cemented his position.
Meanwhile, Kane's investigations start to get progressively darker. A male college student has been found dead out in the woods, viciously sexually assaulted before runes cut into his body on the way to being gelded, disemboweled and left to die. A young wife is found dead, obviously raped and tortured, husband found shot and killed in the woods, more symbols tracing back to Nordic runes, confirmed by Amanda and the others as old magic. The further he goes in the investigation, the more brittle Kane starts to grow, and the more obsessed with finding and stopping the killer he grows.
Arnie notes how things keep getting worse around the town, visiting him regularly as well as Jane, having known her for years. The time creeps closer and closer to the possible showdown. A series of bizarre events punctuates the investigation, as many of Kane's friends encounter him at various points, sexually aggressive, and he finds himself hiding from the emotional distress he’s feeling with sex, discarding his normal self-control and ignoring elements that would normally stop him, including existing relationships. The combination of factors sends him into an emotional spiral downwards.
Part 3 - Þrymskviða
Much have I told thee,
and more would say
If fate more space
for speech had given;
My voice grows weak,
my wounds are swelling;
Truth I have said,
and so I die
Deke finally comes clean to the Secret Empire that Luston has been asked to arrange a meeting between the Sons and the Vahallas to settle the score. Meanwhile, Kane has finally matched up one of the symbols, a rune for Loki, which matches up with the location of the events he's tracked, expect for one; the porn studio. Only then does he realize the last time he saw Jane was when she mentioned something about a teenaged drinking party the day before. Going through the notes left behind by the magic people, he grabs a passage that he noted the first time:
'Meanwhile, the thrall girl went from one tent to the other and had sexual intercourse with the men. Every man told her "tell your master that I did this because of my love to him".
Thereafter, the thrall girl was taken away to the ship. She removed her bracelets and gave them to the old woman. Thereafter she removed her finger rings and gave them to the old woman's daughters, who had guarded her. Then they took her aboard the ship, but they did not allow her to enter the tent where the dead chieftain lay. The girl received several vessels of intoxicating drinks and she sang and bade her friend’s farewell.
Then the girl was pulled into the tent and the men started to beat on the shields so her screams could not be heard. Six men entered into the tent to have intercourse with the girl, after which they put her onto her master's bed. Two men grabbed her hands, and two men her wrists. The angel of death put a rope around her neck and while two men pulled the rope, the old woman stabbed the girl between her ribs with a knife.'
The X-Men and X-Force members follow the bikers and their female supporters to a wide open clearing, with a large fire in the middle. Standing there are the Sons of Hel and their supporters, and in the front, a tall, thin man who doesn't remove his closed, dark-visored biking helmet. Trickles of black energy pour off of him, as Thor goes out to meet him and call him brother. The magic people realize that this has to be a kind of elaborate ritual, and whichever kills the other will bind them to the ritual's master, whoever that is. They start to move to disrupt the circle, only to find the magic twisted back on them, binding them to it and holding them in place. As the magic crackles, Lushton reveals herself as the Enchantress, and is both angered and delighted to have them finally back in her clutches.
She explains Thor's expulsion from Asgard as punishment by Odin, forced to grow up mortal again and relearn what it is to be a god. However, she was able to track down his essence, and set about slowly working up her trap over the years, starting with an inverse gaese around the whole area in case of any unfortunate interference. Once 'her' Thor started to unconsciously manifest, she brokered a deal with Loki that in return for an avataristic manifestation, she's take Thor out of interfering with his plans for Asgard forever. Loki agreed, and the avatar quickly became the leader of the Sons of Hel.
It quickly becomes obvious to the magic people. Loki's avatar has been bleeding chaos energy, and thanks to the Enchantress's spell, it's been leaking out like magical radiation, pushing chaos through her own focus on hedonism. This explains why things have been getting uglier in the area as things have gone on.
Meanwhile, Kane smashes into the bar, scaring the elder Lushton who is the only one at the closed place. She tells him that Arnie went into the studio about two hours ago. As he arrives, he sees the monitors all playing the same video; Foster screaming, and worse. He finally makes it to the set, a wooden table, more runes painted in blood, and a butchered girl with her last moments played as a snuff film over and over. Kane, simply unable to process, shuts down as Arnie appears, naked and blood splattered. He explains that there was no serial killer. The events were linked, but the people committing them believed them spontaneous; the darkest expressions of the id and chaos channeled towards sex. When finally asked why, the Chief's only answer is that 'she felt good'.
Kane guns him down point blank. On the video, the elder Lushton sinks the killing blow into the girl, just as she stabs Kane in the back. He guns her down as well, staggering to his car and heading for the others. As he arrives, the Enchantress has readied herself to watch Thor re-manifest properly, re-earning his powers and hammer, and on killing Loki, binding his soul to hers forever. Kane is trapped in the same bonds, the Enchantress calling him the Blót - the soul sacrificed to bring it all together. Now, only the death of Loki at Thor's hand is needed.
At which point, Kane shoots the Loki avatar dead. His curse has interacted oddly with the Enchantress' spell, inverting and mixing oddly with his curse to push him further into his own id than he’d normally go, but also protecting him from her bonds. He turns the gun on her as the man goes over dead, but Thor gets between them, hammer now in hand. Kane tells them that they are both under arrest as Thor closes for combat. The fight is brutal, but relatively short. Kane is simply no match for a god, and ends up badly beaten, unable to summon the strength to keep fighting. Thor lifts him up by a collar, demanding he surrender. Meanwhile, the Enchantress screams for him to kill Kane, knowing that it is the only way left to complete the ritual. Kane refuses and Thor drops him, before swinging Mjölnir in a killing blow. Kane impossibly stops it, catching it in both hands. The shock nearly kills him outright, shattering his arms, back and hands.
The magical shock wave set off as the magically properties of the hammer hit the curse running through Kane backlash, dispelling all bonds and controls. Thor staggers as the others are released. They shutdown Thor temporarily with a glyph that Amanda has had MA tattoo on him. The Enchantress pulls her thrall magic on the rival gang to attack them, including her own formidable abilities. However, she quickly learns that Loki has betrayed her.
A manifestation of Loki explains to Amora that she’s failed. He’s informed his daughter, Hel, of the blot falling on the battlefield. As he was not sacrificed to the Gods, he has no power to bind Thor to her. But because of Amora’s linking of Kane with the blot ritual, if he is collected by the Valkyrie, it will be as a failed sacrifice, and his soul will be brought to Hel, binding Thor to her and Loki’s schemes.
They fight a desperate multi-sided battle, as most of them engage the ice giants, Amanda slows down Amora and Paige confronts her sisters who have come to collect Kane. The blot connection is broken when Amora misjudges her thrall powers, and is stabbed through the stomach by Paige. The injured god teleports away to save herself, leaving the ice giants to be mopped up by the mutants. The Valkyrie depart, with a warning to Paige that there will be a reckoning for her actions in the future.
A few seconds later, they find themselves surrounded by a SHIELD suppression team, heavily outnumbered and led by Brand.
Brand explains that the men are actually part of SWORD, a subgroup of SHIELD that she has recently been put in charge of and are here to collect Thor. He goes with them without a fight, still rendered powerless by the glyph. Meanwhile, a combination of powers isolates and stabilizes Kane long enough to survive getting him back to the mansion. Brand agrees to provide them transportation and not file their presence this time.
Part 4 - Hyndluljóð
The sea, storm-driven,
seeks heaven itself;
O'er the earth it flows,
the air grows sterile;
Then follow the snows,
and the furious winds;
For the gods are doomed,
and the end is death.
Badly injured, they are forced to put Kane in a medical coma in order to hold him still and let his healing factor try and deal with the massive damage his body has endured. Initially held in a telekinetic cast, his bones start to knit back properly enough that they can allow him to recover under normal care. However, Kane doesn't awake from the coma when he's supposed to, and a CAT scan shows wide and erratic activity in his brain.
Having immersed into research, Amanda and the others think they understand what has happened. The curse, initially affecting him emotionally, has been slowly worming into his whole being and leaving him more susceptible to magic. The stress of Genosha accelerated the process, making him more isolated and unable to express himself. On reaching Aitkins, it was impacted by the chaos energy, providing the additional push past his normal restraints and delving deep into his id.
However, because of the effects, Kane's mind is now riddled with chaos energy, which is slowly tearing apart who he is. She thinks that the other magic users and Wanda can isolate it and siphon it off, but to do so will tear apart his psyche. If telepaths work in concert with them, they can do it and reconstruct his mind back to something close to what it should be. Emma Frost, Jean Grey and David Haller dive into Kane's mind and through a series of interventions, they slowly are able to clear the chaos and rebuild his shattered mind.
Trivia and Meta
At the end of the plot, Kane's rebuilt mindscape suffered long term disassociative issues, making his recovery an ongoing process. However, it did remove the curse finally, allowing him to properly process and get past issues built up over the last few years.
Sonatorrek ("the irreparable loss of sons") is a skaldic poem in 25 stanzas by Egill Skallagrímsson (ca. 910–990). The work laments the death of two of the poet's sons, Gunnar, who died of a fever, and Böðvarr, who drowned during a storm. The themes of being cast about by circumstances beyond ones control are a central point of the story, as Kane gropes for control of a situation he can't understand.
Nordic myths and rituals are adapted for the plot, but often with the mortal protagonists cast in the symbolic roles occupied by sacrifical animals or offerings. Diviations from traditional Nordic worship, such as the incorporation of human sacrifice, are intentionally a misunderstanding of true Nordic ritual by the parties responsible or twists engendered by the chaos elements at work, and are not to be taken as representative of existing or past ritual.
The events of this plot still occurred in Phase 2, but specifics, such as which characters were involved, remain fuzzy for the purposes of not breaking the world. ;)