01.0 Calypso

“Hail, Lord of Asgard,” a young woman’s voice spoke, ringing like a single horn in the vast hall.

The man seated on the throne did not stir, but his eyes scanned the lengthening shadows behind the pillars. All the courtiers and nobles had retired, and he appeared to be alone, propped on one elbow, chin in his hand, pensive. In his other hand he grasped his staff.

At length, he spoke, saying, “Come forth.”

From the shadow behind one of the pillars came a withered woman, bent, leaning on a cane and in very modest attire.

“A word with you, my Lord!” she said in the clear tones of the young woman.

The great bearded man showed no surprise, except to look intently at the creature before him.

“Who are you?”

The old woman smiled faintly, and then said, “My Lord, you know who I am.

I am as old as the mountain,

young as the wave,

light as the fountain,

deep as the cave,

warm as the sunlight,

cool as the snow,

fearsome as the night,

gentle as the doe.

Ever changing, always the same.

Calypso is my name.”

The old man joined her on the last line.

She bowed low.

“Calypso, the shape-shifter,” the king said with some acidity. “But you have not come here to kill me, or to disrupt my reign, I fancy,” the great king spoke, “for if you had, you would have struck me before all the people, tore away the mask while the actor is on the stage, so to speak.”

“Indeed, My Lord. And I perceive that while I stand alone before you, a defenseless woman, you hesitate to kill me. Shall we set aside these masks, oh young Asgardian?”

The illusion veiling the man on the throne melted away, revealing Loki in his natural form. For her part, the old woman before him stretched and moved and gradually morphed into a tall, voluptuous young woman, with dark hair cascading in waves down her back. Her indigo velveteen gown glistened with sparkles like all the stars in the cosmos, gathering in soft folds about her feet. Her graceful hands of warm brown grasped her ivory staff.

For a moment, they stood gazing at one another in silence, her dark brown eyes fixed on his.

“Are you afraid, my Lord?”

Loki rose from the throne and descended the steps to stand before her. “You are powerful, woman.”

“Is that how your father described me to you?” The two figures began to circle one another.

“He told us that when he came to earth, you contended with him. He said you were a great sorceress, and that anyone who encountered you fell under your spell. But he withstood you, and ruled the people of earth as a god, defeating the Jotens when they invaded, despite you.”

“Yet you doubt his tale,” she stated. “My Lord would not have allowed me to speak if he held his father’s rendition to be accurate.”

Loki did not respond, but, continuing to circle her, he slowly unsheathed his sword and pointed it at her.

“You have nothing to fear,” Calypso said in the most soothing tone, taking very little heed of the shining steel. “I come as an ambassador from earth.”

“Speak,” he said.

Becoming grave, she said, “For many moons – a life-age – I have guarded and ruled this realm. I lift up the lowly and bring down the mighty. I protect the wayfarer, and slay the king in his sleep. Many a sailor have I rescued from the depths. I am mother to all, and a sorceress to some. I have been known by many names, and in all lands. I hold all in my heart.

“Now, Asgard mounts another invasion. If you are intent on continuing your father’s legacy of mighty power and a heavy hand, then we are at war, and I will show no mercy.”

Loki lifted an eyebrow, but let her continue.

“It was not Odin who rid the earth of the frost giants. Nay, he brought them! It was my power that defeated them!” and she struck the marble floor with her staff, and the echo reverberated down the hall. As the staff struck, energy like purple lightning burst from the staff in all directions.

At this, Loki leaped forward, and their staves struck together with a loud crack and a burst of lightning. At that moment, the last light of the sun vanished, and in the dark, the two figures vied with power and skill and wit. Round and round they went, striking and parrying. Loki held back Calypso’s staff with his, and then struck at her with the sword in his other hand. But he hit an invisible shield around her, and the force of the hit caused the sword to ricochet back and out of his hand. With a loud clatter it slid across the floor and out of reach.

Now they had nothing but their staves and their powers. Loki leveled his staff and a beam of energy shot forth toward Calypso. But she did likewise, and the two beams met in the middle, and the energy scattered out in a reddish vertical ring between them. For a moment, they were locked like this, the energy pulsing out in a vertical plane. Then, Calypso closed her eyes and seemed to relax, almost as though she were retreating. But then, from her surged forth a wave of energy that burst through the vertical plane and struck Loki so that he fell to the floor. In an instant, she was standing over him, looking down her staff at him.

If however,” she continued with what she had been saying, “my Lord is not like his father – if he is a wise and benevolent ruler –“ she paused, tilting her head and gazing at his face. He remained motionless, pinned to the floor, eyes intent, but silent. “He will not interfere with Earth. You are young and have much to learn, especially about the people of Earth. If you come with great force, power over Earth will ever elude you. The loyalty produced from fear is no match for the loyalty produced from love. Earth needs a worthy ruler.”

With that, she lifted her staff and the hold she had on him. He slowly rose to his feet, never taking his eyes off her.

Gathering her mantle about her, and looking at him from under dark lashes, she said with a sly smile, “Consider well, young Lord of Asgard!” And she vanished in a thousand sparkling lights.

Loki was left standing in the thin cool evening twilight, staring at where she had been, pondering. On the floor, she had left something behind. Loki stooped and lifted a pendant. It was a gem in the shape of a nautilus, and it glowed deep red – or rather pulsated slowly brighter and dimmer in a rhythmic pattern. Verily, he held the “heart of the sea” of ancient tales.