Chapter 7 – To Quest Or Not To Quest
"The purpose of this meeting is to consider whether or not, and on what terms, our Quest team will continue to Quest on Vanaheimer, or anywhere," Hermione announced immediately after calling the meeting together. "Each government must agree to allow the Quester or Questers from its community to continue and to impose whatever limits it feels appropriate to that participation. Odin wishes to frame the situation."
"The worlds of my domain, perhaps I should say of my former domain, are very closely linked, both by the presence of descendants of the ancient Aesir and because of the Black Stones and White Columns linking them to Yggdrasil and permitting travel among these worlds. A bad, aggressive government on one of these worlds is a threat to all of them. Invasions can and have happened. Vanaheimer was recently taken over by those allied with dark Gods. They plotted to change the histories of all of us by tampering with past and future history by edits in seid-space. These edits would have meant that some of you here, including myself, never existed. Our places would have been taken by evil beings.
"Your Questers played the key role in preventing this from happening. They have given all of us a second chance. Removing the dark Gods and their evil allies from the Vanir government left Vanaheimer in chaos, impoverished, and with magic still diminished. I sent this Quest team to restore and perfect magic, thinking the political situation was in far better shape than it was. Some of Frijjo's key allies were enemies, seeking to install themselves as absolute royal rulers, I don't know to what end, but believe they intended to conquer at least my world and make themselves strong enough to attack yours, by stealing our secrets and wealth. I implore you to continue the Quest for all our sakes. We will structure the continuation of the Quest in a way which does not turn the Questers into virtually Frijjo's army or ask the Questers to help impose a government upon the Vanir. They will be asked only to restore magic, consult, advise, and negotiate. For Frijjo, or for whomever the Vanir choose. I know this is not your people's civil war and that you do not wish your daughters to fight in it. I agree."
"Frijjo also wishes to speak, before the committee begins its discussion. Like Odin, she has agreed to answer any questions you have."
"I come seeking help. I do so honestly. I did not lie to Ginny, Hermione, or Odin about my status among my people. I believed my position was stronger than I later found it to be. I was more shocked by Arti's betrayal than anyone. I admit it was a near fatal blow to my plans and that it would have been fatal to me, without their help. I know that I offended their ethics by killing the prisoners whom they captured. I felt I had no choice. It was kill them or release them – I lacked the ability to imprison them for more than a day. That is an admission of how weak my position has become."
I thought she would say more, but she sat down.
Tony spoke next. "The Quest has already caused serious problems for our communities. The only acceptable reason for Questing is to improve our safety and prosperity going forward. I am very worried by the threat posed by bad actors controlling seid space. I have been informed that the Questers believe there is an entry to seid space on Vanaheimer and that is how Gna and the dark Gods were able to travel there and try to destroy us through seid. That must not be allowed to happen. There are a few ways to prevent. The most direct is to sever the links between our world and the others, but this limits what our communities might potentially gain through the exchange of knowledge with others and doesn't prevent a seid attack, although it removes any motive beyond simple revenge and mayhem. The second approach is a severe affront to our morality: eliminate Vanaheimer. That is a last-ditch action. It also could inspire a revenge attack in seid space. The third approach is for the Questers to help right conditions on Vanaheimer, while enough of our people learn enough seid to provide for a mutually assured destruction stand-off to prevent any seid attack. This requires that we control an entry to seid-space. Those may be extreme options, but we have a duty to protect our peoples. Unless anyone has a better alternative, we must choose among those options."
There was shocked silence.
"Was that a threat?" Frijjo finally exclaimed. "My people will not be bullied."
"You've threatened to invade us more than once. Your former pal Gna did invade us with demons. The Aesir also invaded us. We are not your playground. We will ensure our safety. I assure you that we have the means to do so. You are the biggest threat, at present. Your total disdain for us as inferiors and your belief that you have a right to treat us however you choose, make you very dangerous. You also seem emotionally unstable."
"That is most unfair. I have come in peace to seek your help."
"I'm not a fool. I have reports on every word you have uttered to the Questers, on every instance in which you have tricked and manipulated, on every instance discovered where Gna tried to destroy us. You supported Gna and Freyr. They both conspired to harm us. You come in peace with the open, smiley face today, because you are desperate for help, but what will your attitude be after you succeed in taking control of a Vanaheimer with greatly improved magic? Will we see the old, domineering, duplicitous Frijjo again? How can we trust you? You have no morals."
"The Quest has caused a lot of problems and turmoil in our community," Harry complained. "Frijjo is not one my government is eager to help. Her attitude of great superiority and "Adrienne doesn't matter" are very grating. All the members of our community matter. Justice matters. We don't slaughter prisoners. We've been through the Voldemort period of a government imposed by force and violence, which harmed many of our most vulnerable citizens. I'm afraid we are helping Frijjo to do that to her people. She has given us no reason to trust her. I don't want my wife or any member of my community risking death to support Frijjo. I don't see the benefit. When our government initially supported the Quest, we had not even a hint that it would occur mostly on other worlds. Families are split, because of the females-only rule and then a Quester is drugged and impregnated, and Frijjo thinks that's just us doing our necessary service to Gods. She and Odin did not oppose a revenge attack for killing in self-defense a nasty werewolf who preyed upon children. We didn't even have any way of knowing that he wasn't native to our world, but no, we had committed the inexcusable sin of killing an Aesir, who was a mass murderer. Why should we put our lives on the line to protect such privilege? I can't condone it. Ginny and Hermione have learned a lot, but thus far very little which can translate to helping our community. Seid could be important, but we have no independent access to seid-space, so what's the point?"
A very worried King Gobbledygook stammered "Quest is important. Quest is sacred to Goblins. My government supports Quest. You send more Questers, so losses bigger. I will send more female Goblins if this will help."
"I'm willing to send more Elves," Cotto promised, "but conditions must be right. I'm not as happy with the Quest as King Gobbledygook. It must make more sense. Much treachery has happened. I fear I hurt those who trusted me."
"Perhaps we should have a Goblin Quest to Vanaheimer," Odin sounded upset, his expression suggested he was deliberately goading me.
"No! The prophecy is clear: this Quest must be led by the Mother and her Muse. All the peoples who think from this world must participate. If the Witches don't lead the Quest, my Goblins will not participate. I did not mean to confuse you."
"I am willing to Quest to repair magic," I told Odin, "but I have problems. I would have handled the Quest differently if I knew how dangerous Vanaheimer is and how weak Frijjo's position is. I certainly would not have brought Hogwarts students. I am missing basic facts. We were rushed to move to fast. I won't do that again. I must understand what I am getting my team into. It must benefit our world. I don't buy that Frijjo overseeing her world makes my world safer. Only one Vanir who still lives has threatened to invade this world. That Vanir is Frijjo. I think the greatest threat to my world lies in seid-space. I think that is the first place we need to go. I am certain there is an entry point to seid-space on Vanaheimer. That is a great threat. I can't just take my world's resources to work, and probably fight, on Vanaheimer, when my world is in danger. Only one person whom I know to have access to seid-space threatened to erase us from history. As you know, since you were there, that person also was Frijjo. I feel guilty helping Frijjo, while she threatens everyone I love and openly regards all of us as inferiors who must be subservient to her. It seems very wrong. I understand that Arti betrayed Frijjo, but I am worried that those who last invaded the pyramid had rings which had the power to open the pyramid entrance. Why?"
"Thank you for pointing out the obvious: I have other traitors on top of Arti. I admit I am feeling my way as I try to establish myself on my home world. I was a prisoner for thousands of your years. My liberation can also be my people's liberation from control by the Aesir. I believe that I must take the lead, because I am the only Vanir with an understanding of all of Odin's worlds and a solid understanding of seid. I know forgotten magicks, which I can share with my people. The re-establishment of a thriving, magical people on Vanaheimer will benefit all of us. Moreover, it is the moral thing to do. I have told you what I thought you needed to know to work on our circles. It made no sense to try to educate you on our culture and politics. Besides, you have your own ambassadors to do that. I have talked to Percy..."
"It's not true that you have been a prisoner for thousands of years. You essentially co-ruled Asgard with Ve and then with Vili, while Odin wandered. Odin wandered a lot. You spent time alone in seid space. We have seen how easy it is to exit seid space to another world. You could easily have escaped at any time. For some reason, you chose not to."
"I stayed to be my people's voice before Odin. I have worked ceaselessly to free my people. The Vanir give me no credit for this, but it has been by constant work."
A Stone message flashed into my mind from Hermione. I know how to enter seid space from our world. At least I know how to set up the conditions to do so after a seid lesson. I'm certain Frijjo knows this far better than I. Odin taught us how to find and remount the ribbon of time at the point where we left it. I don't know how long that route stays open, but we must find out.
"... discuss what my wife and my government is willing to do to assist Vanaheimer in general and Frijjo in particular. We also should discuss what we expect in return and what conditions we require on Vanaheimer for the safety of our Questers. I think we must negotiate specific protections and not be limited by Quest rules. I am willing to support a return to Vanaheimer if all of that can be worked out. I will ask my wife to lead her team back home at the first instance of Frijjo's prior talk of us as inferiors with a duty to assist her, or team members as not counting or being expendable, or threats against our world. Frijjo must behave in word and in deed. Of course, she must honor whatever agreement we reach."
"Of course," Odin declared. "When I said that Ginny, Hermione, Frijjo and both of your peoples are to be the successors to me and my fellow Aesir, that was the same thing as saying you must be equals from this point onward. My time is coming to an end as a corporeal being, but the worlds of my domain must not disappear with me. You both must help the Venera, who are also having problems, but that is a discussion for another time. So, yes, you must negotiate. I must intrude on negotiations to keep all moving forward cooperatively. You may certainly have time. I and Frijjo can certainly teach you more seid, before your Questers and whomever else you feel you must send, return to Vanaheimer. I'm sure Frijjo agrees with this approach."
Of course, Frijjo declared that she did. It was hardly a freely given agreement. Despite that, the negotiations progressed with surprising ease. Frijjo told us that she had three minor Goddesses, and roughly a hundred magical and two hundred nonmagical fighters, whom she fully trusted. She also had ninety loyal government officials and one Councilwoman, whom she thought supported her. Among the royals, she thought a handful were close to pledging their support. That wasn't a lot in a city of a million and a world of double that size. It again struck me as strange how low the populations of Vanaheimer and Asgard were. Frijjo obviously hedged when asked about Vanir magic, weapons, and fighting styles with which we might not yet be familiar. Hermione pressed her, saying it was important, given how much fighting we had been forced into on Vanaheimer. This knowledge would improve everyone's safety.
"You know all of the basics. If you're not interested in fighting on our behalf, I'm not inclined to share our secrets. That makes my people less safe."
"That isn't helpful!" Odin criticised.
"They are either allies or they aren't. I welcome their magical engineering assistance but see no benefit in sharing secrets with them. Alright, if you must know, you should be aware that assassination with poison is not uncommon, especially among our royals."
"That would certainly have been useful to know in advance," Harry complained.
I sent a Stone message to Cho telling her that our fighting strategies, weapons, and magic must be kept secret from the Vanir, which is what Frijjo was doing to us. All our weapons, critical supplies, and especially diamonds and other crystals must travel with them to Asgard and be guarded. And they must constantly check for poison. Not a great way to start a 'cooperative alliance', but that was reality.
We agreed that my team would spend two weeks on Asgard, learning more seid and beginning our education on building white columns. Then a week back home. then back to Vanaheimer for three weeks of work at Government House. Frijjo would send more fighters to the pyramid almost immediately and the Questers would immediately depart for Asgard. All of us would receive education and pampering.
In addition to building a purple-diamond circle at Government House and beginning the rebuilding of the White Columns, the truth-tellers on our team would assist Frijjo in determining if proposed allies were truly allies, and if those she was negotiating with would honor their agreements. Percy and Callista would facilitate negotiations with Council and the various groups of royals.
Juvenile spiders would patrol the pyramid. They could hunt in the dark by smell and fight in the absence of magic. They would be divided into teams, with one team receiving seid training while the other team was on guard and then swapping jobs.
Odin agreed to give Frijjo a ton of gold and five tons of silver to improve the economy of the City Vanir and to purchase food.