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“Guess I'm just not much of an honor and dignity guy. Dunno. I'd just go for the beatings and call it a day, if I'm the one alive then I’m better by default.”
All that made perfectly good sense to Alex, and he said it with a very decidedly confident tone. However, he also listened very carefully to Ulv's words about pies, and he found they made a lot of sense. After all, she was right. There wasn't a lot of point to just being a cool dude if you did it all alone. That idea… It definitely gave him pause, and though he continued to push for a good while longer even after Ulv left, he eventually decided to take a rest, sitting atop his stone nemesis and staring up at the sky.
He didn’t want to admit it, but the rest felt good. Alex was plenty used to exertion, that in itself was nothing really new to him. But this level of singular effort was something that he had to admit was not in his normal portfolio, and that only drove the point home further in his mind. He was way out of his element like this, training and trying and wanting to be stronger. Even his time with the old man down in South America had pretty much just been a lot of drinking and talking, and at some point he realized he’d learned how to throw fuckin fire. God, he really needed to go back there some time.
Yet, despite the alien nature of all this work… Alex had to admit that it was rewarding in its own way. Sure, the end goal was still everything. But there was just something nice about really trying.
Ulv returned some time later, a large collection of pies and some drinks in hand. She gave Alex a grin, and could feel his new feelings. It was nice, to have a man who would and could grow when given something to grow with. Ulv was curious as to why he had come, but the rock was still there, so she would have to make sure to keep the rock test going. If only to see if he was truly one that could beat such a thing. The rock was impossible and stayed for quite a while, so managing it was really good.
"I brought one of everything so you can have a try out with basically half of all the pies. Unless you are one of them strange people that eats normally. I have been told I eat a lot of food" Ulv gave an abashed laugh and scratched the back of her head, before fishing out the pies and spreading them out on the fold-away table she had brought to store all the pies. And then, taking a swig from one of the flasks, she looked up at the sky. You wouldn't believe there was a war on. Power and Inaction had bought peace for her people, and she wouldn't regret that. Not ever.
"Now...were was I? Something something, you'd look cute in a dress, right?"
“Hey, I've heard I can pack it away with the best of 'em, but something tells me you eat a little more than I do. Call it a hunch. But hey, let's see what we've got here.”
Hopping off the rock with some obvious exhaustion in his movement, Alex inspected all the pies Ulv had brought without too much particular hassle. Food was food, and he imagined from the smell of them that whichever one he had picked would probably be pretty bomb. Plus, what was really important was getting fueled up to keep on pushing his igneous enemy over there, but he didn't wanna get too caught up on that. Good food was good food, after all.
“Ooh, nah, definitely not that. Pretty sure I'd make a real ugly woman besides. Something about honor? I think I mentioned beatings. Uh... I think we just finished the race? And Thor lost that one too. Are you sure this guy's all that? Maybe he's just the one that sucks. Is this like an overconfidence thing?”
Alex finished off the pie he had chosen (steak and ale for the record, he'd liked that a lot) and returned to his rock. He'd go back for another pie in a minute, he wasn't letting that go to waste. But he also didn't wanna just get sidetracked. He could definitely feel the beginnings of real exhaustion creeping into his bones, but he wasn't there yet.
This guy was a funny person. She liked him. If it wasn't a crazy request, Ulv was resolved to do it for him. Because she liked helping her friends out. And this guy could be a friend. Ulv snacked on the pies with him, and then he got her back on track with some interesting remarks about the story and about Thor himself. It made Ulv giggle, because it really was not a story in which poor Mr Thor stood out. At least, until the end of the story. But they were not at that part yet.
"No, it is not an overconfidence story. Kind of the opposite, sort of. Anyway, after the run, The next contest was to drink a horn of mead in as few gulps as possible. The best can do it in one, most Giants can do it in two, and children who are drinking for a special occasion take three. Thor grasped his Horn and took a mighty swig, but when he came up for air, the horn had only dipped slightly. Furious, he took a deep breath and swallowed as fast as he could, but his lungs were burning by the time he got to the half-way mark. The third gulp was a resigned gulp, and did not get very far. By this point, Thor was feeling pretty bruised. But there was still one last trial to go"
Alex had to admit that he also liked Ulv. She seemed alright, good cheer without it being too annoying or anything. Maybe it'd be annoying to someone else, but Alex had been told now and again that he was also pretty fuckin tiring. So maybe it all just canceled out or something, he really didn't care too much. Feeling his form loosening up a touch, Alex corrected it ASAP and returned to giving the shove his all, though he did admit that the faintest touches of “fuck maybe this is too much” were starting to creep into the back of his mind.
“Yo, hold on, you're telling me he can't drink hard? Dude I dunno, I've heard this guy is a man's man, but if he's taking so long to down some mead I dunno if I can support that. The eating was fair, that guy just ate the whole fucking table, and the running was pretty tragic on his end. But I'm listening, I'm listening. I've still got some hope for him.”
Alex's outbursts at Thor's poor performance made Ulv break down into full on laughter. He was so passionate about how Thor was being mistreated in this story, you'd have thought it was his best friend. Still, the story was doing very well, and the rock was not to last much longer. Nor, was the connection to Hvit. The strain was slowly creeping up on her, and little by little the bond was waning. When they recovered it would have strengthened from the waning, but that was later. Plus, she had enough in the tank for a bit more.
"Ohh, poor Alex. If you think that's bad, you'll have totally lost faith in little Thor by the time this last one is done. For his final trial was a wrestling match. Against a woman grey and gnarled with age. Back bent and face wrinkled. Thor was to mad by this point to think of what he was getting into, and threw himself into the wrestling match. But this woman, Elli - who's name means Age - proved to be a contestant too great for the mighty Thor. And after an hour of grappling with this woman, he was thrown to the ground"
Ulv's laughter was quite infectious, and though the effort of actually pushing the fucking rock was still his number one priority, he couldn't stop from a quiet chuckle himself. He was getting pretty into all this, and he knew it might have seemed dumb even to himself not a month back. But hey, it was fun. It was really genuinely a good time to him, and that was kind of a surprise. He hadn't come here for a good time, after all. He'd come here to improve. That thought seemed to spur him on once more, and though pain was definitely seeping into his every fiber once more, he simply took a deep breath and continued his effort, pushing the rock with every bit as much effort as he had been. Giving up wasn't an option, after all, unless he was a fucking loser.
Did he want to be a loser? If the first thought had reinvigorated him, that one seemed to push him even further than he had managed before. This'd all definitely hurt later, but he sure as shit didn't want to be a fucking loser. Didn't wanna end up just helpless again. He'd take a beating, he'd take a loss, that was whatever, it happened. But he wanted to be able to at least see what the fuck had happened, and knowing he'd not been able to...deep breaths, deep breaths. Focus on the rock.
“So wait wait wait wait wait. Lemme just get all this straight. Lost at eating, lost at drinking, lost at running, and couldn't wrestle down an old woman? Was it at least, like, an old giant woman or something? I could kind of forgive that at least, like she'd be huge then right? And that'd stop from getting a good grip or something. I guess. That sounds right, yeah?”
"Mmm, he lost at all of the trials he was given. It is a sad tale. And, as for her giantness, it's not really a problem. Physics don't really matter when you are a God, you see. Or rather, only matter when they are thematically appropriate to matter" Ulv then kicked her legs softly, swishing in the breeze as she anticipated, and savoured this final one. With the reactions he was giving out, it was going to be really fun to see him freak out. "Thor was simply just not good enough to win at any of these contests, and you are about to find out why.
See, having failed all these trials, the Giant-Lord decided to give him one last test. Something with which he could walk away with a shred of pride left. Such a simple thing, Thor was invited to lift the man's cat. Thor felt somewhat insulted by the idea he couldn't, and walked up to the cat, yanking it. But the cat did not move a single milometer. Infuriated beyond all measure, Thor strained his muscles to their very limit, and lifted the cat far enough that a single paw came off the floor. Seeing this, Thor lost heart, and fell back, fully and ultimately defeated"
“Well that’s just fuckin depressing. You'd think he could use those sweet thematically appropriate powers of his to blast some ass or whatever.”
Every moment Alex pushed, he felt even more exhausted, but honestly that didn't even matter to him anymore. Pain was like, tertiary at best here. Primary was, of course, just keeping on pushing this fucking thing. And secondary was paying attention to Ulv. He definitely liked her, she was alright, and he liked this story she was telling. Not listening would be rude, plus he wouldn't actually get to hear how it went. A double no-good.
“Alright these games are fuckin rigged, they gotta be. Like I can accept a lot of these losses, maybe Thor's not as great as he thinks, maybe giants are just total ballers, I dunno. But a fuckin cat? Even I could pick up a fuckin cat.”
There it was. He went nuts, called out Ulv for being bullshit. Or rather, called out the tale Ulv was telling, for being Bullshit. Of which, she nodded to him. "Ohh yea, these trials were totally rigged. Absolute bullshit, much like your rock actually. For you see! We get to the glorious ending of our tale, and the trickery is revealed unto us!
The first test, Thor fought against Fire Itself. And there is no more voracious devourer of all than a raging inferno. Everything in it's path is consumed without hesitation or mercy.
The second test, Thor raced against Thought. The fastest thing in all creation, nothing could be faster than that of thought. And yet, Thor was close behind, an impressive feat.
For the third test, Thor's horn was connected to the oceans of Midgard - basically, us, The Earth - and he could go down to see them drained considerably.
For the fourth test, Thor fought against Old Age. Every being must fight against their own age, and it is a fight that while it must be done, can never be won. And yet, Thor took a very long time to fall.
For the final test, Thor grasped Jormungandr, The Midgard Serpent. A Snake so big it stretches around Midgard and bites it's own tail. Which means it's a 6,700km snake, and you can probably imagine how heavy that thing would be. And yet Thor lifted it's head off the floor, a short distance, but a distance all the same"
Ulv hopped off her perch, and walked over to Alex, smiling as she crouched down, and pointed something out to him. "Sometimes what we see belies what we do. The scale deceives us and we believe ourselves failure because we do not do what we expect. Even though what we do do is far more than we could have ever imagined"
In the dirt, there were two tracks, so heavy was it that it imprinted itself into the earth itself. The track that Ulv had pushed the rock, and then the second one that Alex was pushing. The amber rock slowly disintegrated into nothing, revealing that Alex had moved the rock two inches from it's starting position.
"So, hardly a subtle deception, but I am Ulv. You have come here looking for me and passed with flying colours. Anything I can do is yours to ask for"