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The Great Hunt (Oslo, Norway)
Yggdrasill shivers,
the ash, as it stands.
The old tree groans,
and the giant slips free.
- The Poetic Edda

Grand Hotel
Oslo, Norway

To Rowan, it seemed as if years had passed since their little group had ventured forth from Siberia into the west – when in fact it had been less than a week. They had started out on foot, assuming that their target was less than a day’s walk from that clearing. The frustration was palpable after their twelfth hour of aimless wanderings. West. They had to go west; that was all they knew. The Eyes saw, as they always had and always would.

It had been Armande that had pushed Rowan and her sister deeper into the visions – urging them to seek out the finer details, urging them to give him something to work with. They had struggled to move past the pillar and the lightning, moving out behind the vision of Rowan and into the west.

After the third day and the seventh vision, they found it. Keeping Armande and the Holy Father out of the trance had been key. Vale and Rowan had to slip away from the men. They had to find a safe space where neither could hear or see them. After the men had fallen asleep, the two had slipped away and into the endless forest. They used their Eyes to find it, that small pond under the bower of aspen trees. It was there that they had stripped down and waded into the shallow depths. The world seemed to freeze as they embraced, not even the swollen Moon interrupted them with her diaphanous light.

The Eyes saw.

The pillar filled their vision, but they were quickly pulled through Rowan and into the western skies. They soared above the continent and through the clouds before descending slowly down onto a familiar peninsula west of the CCD. They fell upon the back of a raven and soared with it as a wooden longship sailed below in an ice-covered sea. The bird went up as the peninsula’s coast drew close, soaring higher and faster before descending once more upon a frost-covered forest.

A hole seemed to grow from the center of the forest; its border widening with every flap of the raven’s wings. A gigantic ash tree shot up from the hole and unfurled beneath the star-spattered night sky. The tree seemed to breathe as its form swelled a hundred-fold. The raven landed on the topmost branch and looked down.

A dead man with one eye missing swung from a noose tied beneath the raven’s claws. In his hand, he held a key. The raven swung down to take hold of the key, but as its beak touched the dead man’s fingers, the key slipped from his grasp and shot down into the deep darkness that surrounded the tree. The raven shot down and gave chase, but as it went into the shadows below, the Eyes were pulled from its back and up into the sky. They arced back towards the night sky, the peninsula retreating from their vision until the clouds smothered them.

With a slam, they were forced back into their bodies still entwined in the small, secret pond.

They told Armande and the Holy Father of this, of course, and it was by sheer luck that they had found their way into a small town the next morning. The place was not so remote that they could not make arrangements to be taken to Bratsk. From there they had been able to charter a plane to Zurich and then on to Oslo. Rowan had run the risk of discovery when she drew money from her personal account to fund the entire expedition, and so she had taken out a small fortune in cash before they departed for Zurich.

Rowan had been convinced that the peninsula in the vision had been the Nordic countries; the imagery of Odin and Yggdrasil only further cementing this logic. None in the group had protested when she had put this forward, indeed, it seemed to be the only option. The problem was that they had not known what forest in the Nordic countries that they had to go to. Starting their search in Norway had only been chosen because Rowan and Vale had been thrown so far west in their trance.

And so, they had chosen the capital of Norway. Rowan had poured over maps of the area during their twenty-nine hours in transit – straining to remember the space in the visions that she had been thrown from as the raven found the darkness. Oslo seemed to be close enough, in so far as she could tell. No one wanted to fight her on this point either.

A bit of the old Rowan had come back to the surface as they checked into the Grand Hotel; accommodations that strove to live up to their name. The place was grand, and its luxe décor invoked images of the Bottom of the Cup Café in Rowan’s mind. Strangely enough, she did not miss it as much as she had anticipated. Too much had changed for her to go back now. Perhaps in the future, but not today nor tomorrow. Now was the time of revelations. Now was the time for change.

Their group had been placed into one of the finer suites and Rowan had paid in cash, making them all the harder to track. She did not know what she would do if Gareth had shown up. It had been unfortunate that Aiden had crossed her path. It would have been so much simpler if they could have just forgotten about her entirely.

Rowan sat in the parlor of the suite, her maps laid out across the breakfast table. A burner wallet was clasped in her left hand as she went through a list of the forests that surrounded Oslo, marking them all out on the map of the area. The Eyes would see again in a few short hours, just as the moon reached its apex in the sky. If it had gone like the last one, Rowan would simply have to figure out which direction the raven pulled them towards and then compare it to the map she was now making.

The plan wasn’t as solid as she had liked – there were too many qualifiers in the equation. Part of her was worried that things would not unfold as easily as she had planned, but where else were they to start?

“Seven nature reserves,” Rowan murmured to herself as she plotted the last mark on Grytdalen, “Seven again. Can’t be a coincidence.”

Telemarkskanalen, Hardangervidda, Ostensjovannet Lake, Lillomarka, Haldenkanalen, and Fronsvollen had also been plotted on the map. Rowan set the wallet down and felt her stomach turn. Few of the plotted points were small areas to cover. Even if the raven showed them the proper direction within their visions, how were they to know where the site was once they figured out which park it was in? The visions would be the only way and that would probably take days.

“I fear we will have to pack enough resources for a week if tonight is a success,” Rowan announced in a resigned tone.

"The power Voodoo. Hoodoo? You do! Do what!?"
The night was cold on the balcony. His breath fogged in front of him into the dark and then disappeared into nothing. The sounds of the streets below drifted up but barely impinged in to his consciousness. His memory of Norway was distant enough- the last trip short and not memorable, for all the momentary sweat and blood of a good hunt- he felt a first time visitor. Nothing in this place called to him. No exhibit to experience, no museum artifact to study, no library to search.

Being in a new place was something he'd done enough that even that should have felt normal and comfortable. And yet, he could not shake the disquiet or unease that had grown during the last week. He'd been silent through most of the week, aside from his agreement with Rowan that this seemed the correct direction to go. He'd stood back as Rowan had taken the lead in their preparations.

Something felt off. Only now, by himself on the balcony of their room did he let himself give solidity to his disquieting thoughts. The muffled voices of Rowan and Valeriya in the other room were part of the problem, he knew. Not them, exactly. Not all of them together. That was normal and felt like his natural home for all of the fact that it was a new thing.

No, it was something more. And less. Oh, the sting of having been left out of the last viewing was still there. How could it not? They were the Eyes, weren't they? But were not Eyes part of a larger whole? He had thought it was the three of them together that were the hand of God walking the earth. And yet the naked demonstration that they alone could see clearly only when he wasn't there- especially after he had pushed them to find the next step in their journey- had been a brutal revelation.

Of course, he accepted it. Facts were not disputable. Reality did not care about your feelings. They simply were. And he had made peace with it. Of course he had.

Still, the unease was there. It didn't help that for all his training and knowledge, he felt blind. Rowan's vision sounded correct. Of course it did. One eyed Odin and the great tree were well known, now, though the Marvelized version of the story had cemented itself in the general consciousness. Sacrifice for divine knowledge was a constant theme in human myth, from Eve to Prometheus to Ganesh. No price was too high for understanding.

And Rowan had paid the price. The loose skin over the hollow of her eye socket was an undeniable testimony of that. The thousand scars on Valeriya's back were her own payment too. And Armande? His body was covered in scars that bore witness to hundreds of battles and hunts in pursuit of knowledge. His devotion to his creeds had left still deeper wounds than anything physical could, the memory of a pair of green eyes having never lost their power to cut him to his soul.

What more could be asked of him? He had died and had been reborn countless times. Armande to Athari to Regus to Father Rasputin. until finally, he had found his place. The Heart of the Khylsty with the Eye Valeriya and the Eye Rowan. The pattern of the universe had finally revealed his role and who he was. Forged and shaped by his experiences and knowledge acquired, he was on the path, his battle with Apollyon at the very end of the road.

And yet they couldn't see with me there. The thought was a splinter deep in the finger, small and slight, and yet not ignorable. And surprisingly painful for all of that. Of his disquiet he said nothing. Of his disappointment he did not speak. Of his unsurety, he dared not utter a word, not even to himself.

But for the first time in as long as he could remember, he felt wrong. The vision was not his. The clues to follow not of his discovery. The direction not his to give. The loss of control was something he had not experienced in what felt like lifetimes.

And he did not like it. It was a loss he had trouble fathoming.

But what was he to do? Whining was weakness. Lashing out, seizing control would merely be a manifestation of impotence. None of that was him. He breathed deeply, the icy cold cutting his lungs, his first breath in what felt like a lifetime.

Patience. There was a plan. Or at least a Pattern. His life up to this point was proof of that. His connection to Nikolai Brandon, their mirrored life, their ascent in parallel, was proof of that. He had a role. He would watch and see. He had enough faith for that, at least.

He stood, preparing himself before turning to rejoin them. Faith. He must have faith. I have faith! Help me out where I need faith! He smiled weakly at the quote. It was something, at least.
A decade in Vatican City and the Holy Father rarely left the borders of his city-state. Then the last few weeks he’d visited no less than five rural dioceses all around eastern Europe. His visits were the same at each. He showed up without announcement, attracted a lot of attention from the surrounding community, spoke with the faithful, gave mass then left. The only other common thread among these surprise visits was that they were in dying corners of the world where the church’s reach, money and parishioners ran thin.

Norway was not known for their large Catholic population. Less than one or two percent of the population was affiliated with a diocese. Since the revelation of channeling, people seeking answers in the arms of religion gave church attendance a small bump, but the Bishops in Oslo were concerned (they all were). Philip never gave much attention to the flight of the faithful. So many within the media were curious about his new behaviors, and to Philip’s annoyance, attributed them as some sort of response to the CCD.

Therefore, his arrival in Oslo was noted as a stop through to another location yet even the Pope must sleep. He preferred a priest’s dormitory in St. Olav’s cathedral, but he was assured that the rooms were in an uninhabitable state of construction following disruption of the internal piping.

He ended up forced to sleep in a hotel in order to continue his journey to the more rural prelature that was his destination. 

Of course, there was no missing his arrival.
[Image: hiclipart.com_-e1597513863757.png]
Man is like God: he never changes. 

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