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The Hammer

By Herculena

All right, here come the disclaimers. Xena, Gabrielle, and Argo are the property of MCA/Universal as is the Kevin Sorbo incarnation of Hercules. Ares, Thrud, Loki, Balder, Axetime and Shining are all public domain. Thunderhead and Balder’s white horse are all products of my won imagination and I do not own them. This story is free for everyone but if you want to copy it please ask me!

Alerts: Language, mild violence, sexual situations, along with . . .

Hurt/Comfort Disclaimer: There is hurt/comfort (kinda sorta)content involving Gabrielle and a male character. If you are offended by that don’t read this story. Incoherence alert: This writing was the result of sleepless nights and migraines . . .might not make sense. Oh well.

Mixing and Taking Liberties with Mythology Disclaimer: There is a mixing of characters and situations in Greek/Norse mythologies and liberties have been taken. If you are offended by mythologies being presented in any other way than what has been established don’t read this story. While you’re at it, don’t watch Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Xena: Warrior Princess and definitely do not pick up the upcoming issue of The Mighty Thor.

Now all our butts should be covered. Read on if you still desire.

This place makes Hades look like the Elysian Fields, Ares thought as he braced himself against the chill, smiling evilly. Stinks in here. These barbarians know how to do an underworld right, that’s for sure! The taps of his hard-soled boots rang on Niflheim’s stone floor as he walked toward who he was looking for.

A very tall, handsome, naked man with long reddish brown hair lay bound to three boulders. A viper coiled above the man’s head, a bead of black venom sparkling at a corner of its mouth. Ares bent down with a creak of leather and said, “Hey, pretty boy, bet you’d like to kiss those rocks bye-bye.”

Loki looked frantically for his wife, who was emptying the bowl she had caught the snake’s poison in. “Sigyn!” he bellowed, then screamed as the venom dripped on his head. He writhed in agony and a great rumble shook the rocks and echoed in the world of man.

Ares held onto a root and chuckled. “Bet you’d like to lose your pet too! Your race is about to destroy itself...and you too, my, uh...” Ares looked down and winked, “large friend.”

“Buy me a drink and introduce yourself if you’re going to keep leering,” Loki sneered, looking the Mediterranean war-god right in the eyes. Loki pondered transforming himself into a seductive woman and using his/her allure to get this man to free him from what his own magic could not. That is, if one could call this guy in black leather a god. Ares obviously is of that decadent race that lounged around on a mountaintop, ate jelly, and copulated with anyone and anything.

Ares held out one large hand. “Ares, god of war. And you are Loki, god of not much of anything right now.” He pulled his hand away, raising an eyebrow. “Oh, I just realized, you’re a little...tied up? Caught between a rock and a hard place! I can free you on one must do a favor for me.” Loki listened and agreed. Ares pointed and the bindings broke apart. Ares pulled Loki up by his wrists. The drooling snake uncoiled and slithered away, disappearing in the shadows.

Ares chuckled. “Well, you can’t go to what you call Midgard looking like that, you’ll be mauled.”

“By you and your brothers, probably, Ares. I am not bending over to pick up anything I may drop while in your land on Earth,” Loki said in a dry tone of voice. He was given enough grief by the Æsir for his ambiguous sexuality, along with his ability to change gender as well as shape, for giving birth to children and beasts as well as fathering them. He pondered impregnating Ares with some unpleasant monster.

Ares merely grinned slyly. “Like a catapult you are, Loki. Here, don’t catch cold. How do you Asgardians stand this weather!” With a wave of his hand Loki was suitably garbed for his journey to Earth. Ares disappeared in a puff of smoke and Loki found himself standing at the foot of the rainbow bridge.

It was quite warm in this part of Midgard as Loki, dressed in a homespun black tunic and leggings and black boots, strode down the dirt road, whistling. He spied a well-muscled man with long cinnamon hair approaching. “Afternoon!” Loki called to him. The man stopped short, surprised by Loki’s strange guttural accent and glittering eyes like emeralds.

“Afternoon!” the muscular man returned the greeting in a deep, pleasant voice. Loki looked at him and thought of Ares’ description. Hmm, definitely tall, muscular, long hair about the same color as mine but more brown than red...but he’s not much bigger than I am and I’m definitely taller than he is. Can’t be.

“Do you know of Hercules?” Loki asked. “I have a message for him.” Real original, Loki, you’re losing your touch, he thought miserably.

The tall man said, “I’m Hercules.”

“This is the message!” Loki rapidly unstrapped the mallet and swung it above his head. Hercules had barely braced himself for defense before a bolt of white light stopped him in his tracks. Hercules tried again to charge Loki but was blocked by a wall he could feel but not see. Loki raised Mjolnir again and aimed, calling upon the hammer to leash a deadly force. More white light issued forth and Hercules was knocked flat on his back. He struggled to rise and stumbled. This only can be Hercules, anyone else would be stew meat after that! Loki tried to hallow Mjolnir again and nothing happened. Mjolnir’s power must be running low...time to run.

“I’ll be finishing you off later, Hercules!” Roaring with laughter, Loki vanished in a puff of smoke.

Hercules stood up slowly. He was blinded by a white light, similar to one he got during a severe headache but far more intense. He stumbled down the road as the sky turned gray. The two women trudged along the dirt road where Loki had encountered Hercules. “This weather is very strange,” Xena commented as a wind ruffled her dark long hair. Thunder rumbled in the distance and flashes of heat lightning arced across the sky but there was no damp rain scent in the air or any other sign of a storm. Xena’s mare, Argo, did not act restive like she usually did before a storm.

“Sounds almost like a battle, far away,” Gabrielle began. Argo interrupted her with a nicker. Xena and Gabrielle looked and saw the familiar form of their friend shuffling slowly down the road, leaning on his sheathed sword. “Hercules!” Both women ran to his side. “What happened?” Xena asked.

Hercules said in a hoarse voice, “I was attacked by a stranger up the road by that olive tree...he had a Northman’s accent and red hair...shot light from the hammer...blinded me...”

Xena reached into her saddlebag and pulled out a length of black cloth, which she wrapped over Hercules’ eyes. Gabrielle watched Xena give Hercules a leg-up remembering the stories a bard from the Northland told of gods and heroes. Hammer shooting hair...could this be Thor the thunder god whom the Northmen believed in and held in such high regard? Why would he attack Hercules if he really existed?

In the ruined hall, the surviving gods and goddesses sat at the long table, discussing how Loki had escaped and was nowhere to be found. Odin’s eye at the bottom of the well revealed Loki to be in a land in Midgard not part of Asgard’s domain.

Balder sat in a chair next to the head of the table. He did not feel himself worthy to sit in Odin’s place at the head of the table even though he was now the rightful ruler of Asgard. “Thor’s hammer must be recovered and Loki brought back for trial before any more damage is done. A good man, a hero, has been injured. There is only one of us who can rightfully reclaim Mjolnir. Once Mjolnir is safely in her hands, Loki can be vanquished and captured.”

All eyes were on Thrud, Thor’s surviving child, a tall, fleshy but muscular girl of eighteen with light red hair and a quick temper like her father’s. Thrud stood. “Then I must leave at once.” Her blue-green eyes burned brightly in her fair freckled face.

Balder handed Thrud a small leather sack. “In here is an orb filled with powder made from the mistletoe Loki killed me with. When you come upon him, take the capsule and throw it at or near him. It will neutralize his magic, thus, you will be able to safely recover Mjolnir. I will come down to Midgard at once when Mjolnir is in the hands of its rightful heir.” Balder unhooked a pair of iron gauntlets and a matching belt from the wall behind him and handed them to two of the Valkyries. Axetime and Shining carefully fastened the belt around Thrud’s waist and placed the gloves in her saddlebags. Balder hugged his niece goodbye and the others followed suit, wishing her well. Thrud leaped aboard Thunderhead and galloped down Bifrost, the rainbow bridge. The gods and goddesses stood where they were until they could hear the horse’s hoofbeats no more.

Hercules, Xena and Gabrielle looked up at the approach of a horse. A figure in a voluminous dark gray cloak was upon the back of a dappled iron-gray horse with a silvery mane and tail. They could not see the rider’s face but long red-blonde hair escaped from the hood in braids. They heard a husky voice curse in a language laced with grunts, scrapes, and hisses. Thrud pulled back on the reins as two women leaped seemingly out of nowhere. She pushed her hood back, shook her braids loose, and held her hands above her head. “I mean no harm ...” she began.

"Xena, that’s a girl!” The blonde girl about Thrud’s age holding the long staff cried. She wore a two piece garment of a grass-green skirt and short top, revealing her belly. The other woman, a tall brunette wearing a leather dress and armor similar to what the Valkyries wore (but with a swirled pattern of leaves and rosettes gracing the breastplate) approached. She pointed her sword at Thrud and stared hard at her with icy blue eyes.

“Did you hear her accent?” Xena hissed to her companion, still keeping her eyes on Thrud. “Perhaps Hercules mistook her for a man! Off the horse! Now!”

Thrud could have struck and killed this Xena woman easily but instead dismounted. “Who is this Hercules and why would he mistake me for a man?” she asked.

“Hercules was attacked by a Northman with a hammer. How many Northmen are seen in these parts? None lately.”

“A Northman with a hammer?” Thrud asked. “Blast Loki to Niflheim and back!” Thunder rumbled behind her voice.

Xena and Gabrielle looked at each other. “Okey-dokey,what’s a loki?” Xena wondered in a deadpan voice, the corners of her mouth twitching.

“Nif what?” Gabrielle looked amused as well as bemused.

Thrud sputtered, “Loki“ She then remembered Balder’s instructions and said calmly. “Loki is the name of a fugitive I have orders to bring back alive. My name is Thrud and yes, I am a Northwoman.”

Gabrielle introduced herself, Xena and Hercules. “You look tired, won’t you rest with us and have something to eat?”

Thrud looked at Hercules, who other than his flash-blindness was unhurt. No danger there. “There’s no time.” She shrugged off her cloak, revealing a leather dress with some silvery fur trimming the skirt. Over this was a breastplate plated in gold, the part over her breasts shaped to fit, a design of a hammer and lightning bolts etched upon them. From her saddlebag she pulled the bag containing the orb and tied it to her belt. She donned the iron gauntlets. Immediately they thrummed with the energy heralding that the hammer, and Loki, were near. Once the hammer was back in the rightful possession of the thunder-daughter Loki would be powerless! Thrud dug her heels in her horse’s sides and raced away.

“Gabrielle, stay with Hercules,” Xena said. Without another word she leapt into the saddle and galloped after Thrud.

Xena found Thrud standing in a field about a mile away. “Xena, get back!” Thrud shouted. “He’ll kill you.” The he in question was a tall man with lean hard muscles and long wavy red hair. In his hand he held what at first glance looked like a sledgehammer with too short of a handle. The man’s dashingly handsome features were contorted with rage and bitterness.

“Ja, Warrior Princess, I would kill you...but you are nothing to me, nor is this barely weaned bitch pup. What I want is Hercules. Bring him to me and I will let the little girl go.” He lifted the hammer with difficulty, causing a ring of fire to sprout around Thrud.

“Stay there, Thrud, don’t move!” Xena ordered, one hand on her chakram.

“Xena, no! Let me handle this!” Thrud fumbled with the binding on the orb, the iron glove making her fingers clumsy. If I break the glass now this will be of no use! Xena, stop distracting me!

“Thrud, I cannot let you fight a god alone!” Why am I just standing here arguing? Xena thought.

“Xena, I’m a god too!” Thrud shouted.

Loki struggled as the hammer tried to get away from him. They would have to send Thrud wearing Thor's gauntlets! No matter...if she’s anything like her pigheaded father she will burn up before letting Monotone Princess over there help her! Not that a mortal could do anything against Mjolnir!

Thrud snapped the thong from her belt and flung the orb at Loki. It cracked apart on his forehead, sending a puff of greenish-gray dust. Sneezing, he dropped the hammer and collapsed. The fire-ring immediately went out as Mjolnir flew up into the air and aimed straight for Thrud’s right hand.

Xena took no time to stare in shock . She ran over to the fallen Loki and turned him onto his belly. Loki was limp and did not struggle as Xena tied his wrists together and dragged him up. "Ooh baby," Loki cooed. "Tie me up and have your way with me!" He leered and stuck his tongue out, flicking it lasciviously . "I love it when you play rough, you got me all hard ...mmmmm--"

His sentence was cut off with an oof! when Xena thumped him in the belly and glared.

Xena tried not to show her discomfiture. He is very good-looking, to say nothing of that voice...but those eyes are very chilling.

“Thank you, Xena,” Thrud said, attaching Mjolnir to her belt.

“You’re not welcome, Thrud,” Loki growled. “Nice fastball by the way but your aim needs help.”

“Shut up!” Thrud thundered. She unhooked a slim rope from her saddlebag and tied one end around Loki’s waist and fastened the other end to Thunderhead’s saddle.

Loki pouted. "I was only trying to spare you the heartbreak of not making the majors. Tell Mistress Brass Brassiere to let me go so I can take my base now."

“That would never hold him, Thrud,” Xena observed.

“It will. The effects of the mistletoe powder are long-lasting.”

So the whelp used my own weapon against me, Loki thought bitterly. Typical Æsir strategy.

Thrud noticed Xena and Gabrielle glancing at each other with looks of naked longing.

“You’re influencing them, Loki,” she muttered. "Stop playing with their hormones."

“That’s not me doing that, you killed my magic when you threw that thing at me ...the Greeks have a word for it and unlike our Northmen they do not exile their citizens for it. Sounds like the Greeks have a better policy, think about it.”

Loki leered at Xena, thinking, Wonder if I can persuade her to lose the irritating little blonde for one night. I’d like to handle what’s under her breastplate. He noticed his grandniece glaring at him and looked at the ground, thinking, You are a pitiful cold fish like the rest.

Unable to sleep, Gabrielle slowly crawled away from Xena’s side and added some dry sticks to the fire. She looked at the sleeping forms of Thrud and Hercules on the other side of Xena. Loki was awake, sitting up, hands still bound behind his back, his handsome sharp-featured face golden in the firelight. She looked at Loki, whose lips were parched. She picked up a skin of cold water and whispered, “Loki, would you like some water?”

“Please?” he asked hoarsely. She held it to his mouth and he drank greedily. Gabrielle had heard the Northmen's stories, remembered how Loki had gone from merely mischievous to cruel and malicious. She couldn't believe it now as she looked those hard green gemlike eyes and saw something flicker. Was it the firelight or...?

Loki stared into those soft blue eyes. She was the only one, god or man, who looked at him without contempt in a long time. His usual flippancy melted and he felt the hurt that was under the envy that had eaten at him until he turned on gentle Balder. Even though Balder was now alive again he felt something alien to him: remorse at murdering him. Regret for turning Thor’s hammer on Hercules who had not done anything to warrant such an attack.

Gabrielle smiled gently as Loki watched the firelight play on her golden hair as she knelt down to untie his hands, waist and ankles. She stepped away to coil the ropes and hang them on the saddle safely away from Thunderhead's reach. Quietly she walked back to the fire and saw Loki was still there, rubbing his wrists. “Loki...” Gabrielle began in a gentle voice. She could sense it...granted, Loki had turned people against him when his mischief had gotten to be too much. But she could see deep inside his secret heart was something twisting with pain. How horrible it must have been to have been bound by his own dead son's intestine to those rocks with that snake dripping acid on his head! The Northmen's gods are a cruel race. She shuddered at the image.

He lowered his eyes and bowed his head, his reddish hair shadowing his face. “I’ve never been good so save it for someone who cares.” Loki growled. “Why did you untie me? Odin should never have taken me into his household. Even my own father, Farbauti, the Jotun-king kept me hidden from the world for a good reason! I was an embarrassment to such a great warrior! I was a runt and weak so he kept me in a cave! He knew I was evil!”

Gabrielle took his hands in hers and said, “Xena was bad before. . .she killed far more than you ever did, she stole from defenseless people, she burned whole villages...and she changed. If a mortal can change...a god can...”

Loki felt something inside him break apart as he trembled violently. A single tear streamed down one cheek. “ I can’t...“ he choked.

“Loki, you can change if you want to. Perhaps the gods sent you here, away from your home, for that reason.” The bard was at a loss for words. Loki the evil was actually crying! A flicker of heat lightning skittered across the sky and was gone as she took Loki in her strong, thin arms and held him. Loki shook in fear of what was causing him to behave like a fool. Then it came to emotion he had ridiculed but truly longed Gabrielle held him bound in the way no magic or imprisonment could. With her innocence and selflessness she had awakened him.

Xena woke up to the agonized sobbing. A man --Hercules? She looked and saw Hercules was sound asleep. Loki! If Loki's tricking Gabrielle and meaning to harm her or else just escape...He has to be up to something!

There was a brief crack of thunder and the lighting was suddenly replaced by the sun rising. Loki and Gabrielle looked up and let go of each other. A man wearing a gray hooded cloak and boots like Thrud wore approached the camp on a white horse. A scent filled the air and small white flowers unknown to the region blossomed along the roadside and among the grasses.

Thrud awoke, sprang to her feet and roared, “Gabrielle! No! It’s a trick! He is using tears to mislead you!”

The strange man dismounted, shrugged off his cloak, and draped it across the saddle. He looked at Loki, who was pawing at his eyes and trying to calm down. Balder placed a hand on his niece’s shoulder. “No, Thrud Thunders-daughter, that is not true. Can’t you see, Loki has changed.”

“Oh come on, Uncle." Thrud rolled her eyes. "You remember what happened the last time you trusted Loki!” Xena and Gabrielle looked on in silence. The man was handsome, with pale white-blond hair and beard and brilliant violet-blue eyes. He was big-boned like Thrud. He wore a loose white shirt with a sprig of mistletoe in green placed directly over his heart and black leggings and boots. Light issued from his pale skin in a golden aura.

“Trust in me, Thunder-maiden, don’t be stubborn,” the fair man said to his niece, who stood fuming with arms folded across her chest. The man turned to Gabrielle and Xena. “I am Balder, Thrud’s uncle. I have come to bring Loki back to Asgard...and I have something here that would help Hercules.”

Loki stood up. “Balder, you should kill me now...for me to die to avenge your death is an honor I am not worthy of.” Firelight glittered on the wet trails on his face as he bowed his head.

Balder walked over to his adopted kinsman and placed a hand on his shoulder. “Loki, I forgive you, now you must forgive yourself . You could learn a lot from Xena. She was once a heartless warlord...whose heart was merely sleeping. I remember you, Loki, when with your cunning you helped my brother Thor recover Mjolnir from the giant Thrym." He smiled at the memory of Thor disguised as Freyja in a wedding dress and veil and Loki dressed as a bridesmaid. "Would a truly evil heart go out of his way to help another? I see that Gabrielle has been instrumental in your awakening as she has with Xena’s. I am in awe of such a hero as this young woman, for her all the gods are her strength.”

Balder bowed to Gabrielle, who blushed and was speechless for once. He walked over to Hercules, who had been standing silently throughout. “Hercules. I have heard many stories of your achievements, it is an honor to finally meet you. And the least I can do is help you regain your sight.” From a saddlebag he plucked a single golden apple.

“Where did you get that?” Gabrielle wondered.

“In Asgard, a tree tended by the goddess Idunn grows bearing these golden apples. The gods and goddesses eat them to keep young and healthy,” Balder explained as he rapidly quartered the apple with a dagger. He placed a piece in Hercules’ hand and said, “Here, Hercules. Eat.”

Hercules obeyed and pulled off the blindfold. He opened his blue eyes, blinked, then grinned. “Thank you, Balder.”

“Glad to be--” Before he could finish his sentence, a white flash nearly blinded them all. In the resultant cloud of smoke stood Ares, arms folded across his chest.

“Loki, where do you think you’re going? You haven’t fulfilled your end of the bargain. You’d be dead on those rocks if it hadn’t been for me!” He shoved Balder aside and grabbed Loki’s arm.

“So Ares, you’re behind all this,” Hercules observed. “Calling in outside contractors to do your dirty work for you? How unlike you.”

“Fuuu . . .get the bargain, Ares,” Loki smirked, “I’m outta here.”

Ares looked at Balder, who had one hand on his sword. “Ah yes, Balder...Balder the brave and beautiful. Killed by mistletoe, were you? It never would have even broken your skin if I hadn’t intervened and dipped the tip of the dart in hinds’ blood!”

All were shocked by Ares’ revelation except Loki, who smirked. “Ah, but Ares, do you not know that Frigga took oaths from all things organic and inorganic in all nine worlds that they would not hurt Balder (overlooking the mistletoe, proving that danger does come in weak-looking packages)? Which means the golden hinds all swore not to harm Balder. Your point is moot, baby. You lose.”

With a howl of rage Ares burst into flame and was gone from view. “What bargain did you strike with the Olympian war-god, Loki?” Balder inquired.

“Oh I was just tied to the rocks minding my own business when Leatherboy showed up. He said he would turn me loose if I promised to kill Hercules and I almost did. Hercules, I apologize for blinding you.”

“No permanent damage done,” Hercules said. He extended one large hand and Loki shook it.

“We must return to our world. I hope we will all meet again, under better circumstances.” Baldur and Loki mounted Baldur’s stallion and Thrud swung aboard her mare. A rainbow appeared before them and the three gods leaped aboard it and rode away. Xena, Hercules and Gabrielle turned to break camp. Among the grasses the white flowers bloomed. “I wonder what Balder meant by all the gods being my strength,” Gabrielle wondered aloud.

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