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The mighty deity opened his eye to the silken light of a new day. As he strolled across the chilled stone floor his loyal beasts flanked his left and right. Throwing open the shutters, letting in a flood of sun light, Odin felt the two ravens launch themselves from his broad shoulders into the sky. The large wolves, Geri and Freki, sat at his side as he stood there watching the sunrise over the high mountains and cast radiant light over the fields. Patting the gray beauty on his left, Odin turned and said, "He’ll be here soon, my friends."
Long silver white hair fell in thick braids, covering a thickly covered battle scarred back. The God made his way through his sparsely filled chamber to the foot of his bed. His strong immortal hands lifted a heavy oak case from the worn chest that sat there. The wolves watched as their master sat the case in the center of the only table in the vast chamber. Odin sat himself at that table and ran his fingers through the course hair of his long beard. With a heavy sigh, Odin reached forward and opened the case. It folded open to become a large chess board with a set of elegantly carved pieces. One set was fashioned from white oak and the other from black cherry.
Piece by piece Odin put the little statues in their respected squares, stopping only briefly when, Geri, the brown wolf, nudged his arm. After a pat on the side, Odin went back to the board. "He’ll be here soon. Must have it ready," he explained to his companions. No sooner had the great god placed the last pawn than a brilliant light appeared in the chamber across the table from him. Odin did not shield his eye from the light, but looked at it and smiled. "Wonderful day for a chess match," he said.
Still throwing shadows around the room, the light began to fade and across from Odin sat a man, not unlike himself. The man had no great battle scars and still had both eyes, but for that they could have been twins. "Odin, God of Hanged Men," the new god said with a respectful bow of his head.
"Yahvah, Lord of Hosts, let us play," Odin replied.
So it began, each player being equally skilled and taking the time to work through their minds each move that could be made. For hours they sat, saying little and through the day the sun moved along its path until the shadows of dusk began to fill the chamber.
Looking up from a pawn he had moved, Yahvah said, "The day is over, but tomorrow we will play again." Odin gave a nod as he studied the board. "Until then." Then in a burst of that same brilliant light the god was gone.
Odin did not study the game for long that night. When his ravens came to him at full dark, he asked, "What takes place today, Huginn, Muninn?" They flew to him and perched on his shoulders and they whispered their secrets to him. He learned of great battles many miles away and of joyful celebrations. His ravens told him all that they had seen. When they came to the end of their story Odin stood, closed the shutters and lay down to drift to sleep.
The following day was much like the first. The Lord of Hosts appeared once the God of Hanged Men sat again at the table. Then before full dark the god vanished, leaving Odin to await his ravens. The third day was much like the two before, but Yahvah sacrificed his knights and three pawns to take Odin’s bishop and a knight who protected two pawns which were also taken. That night his ravens brought him news of invaders far to the south. They said these people offered peace with their violence. Odin said a silent good bye to his lost sons and dreamt of odd faithless beings with no honor that night.
On the fourth day Yahvah lost a rook to lead two pawns across to regain a knight and his lost rook. The Lord of Hanged Men began to see the trap laid out for him as the regained rook forced him to move his king. That night Odin’s ravens spoke of the foreign forces building strength in his lands. He slept an uneasy sleep that night filled with mindless metal beasts fighting meaningless wars.
On the fifth day Odin lost his queen and his last bishop. Yahvah's knight began to corner in on one of Odin's rook. His ravens told him his people were dying. Odin spent many hours staring at the chess board that night. His hand reached out to the lost queen. "Jord, forgive me for your loss. I hope only that Vali keeps you well," he said quietly, brushing the chess piece with his fingers.
On the sixth day Odin opened his shutters slowly and looked over Asgard. Already the sun seemed dimmer than before and his beautiful home not as bright. When Yahvah appeared that day he asked Odin, "Do you believe you will go on? I have won many other games." Odin gave no answer, but lost both rooks that day and his king was pressed by Yahvah's queen and knight. The Lord of Hosts left as always and Odin sat before the table feeling the aches and pains of old age begin to set in. When his ravens told him of this new faith drifting about in the minds of his people he simply closed his eye and stroked the gray wolf.
Odin did not sleep that night, but thought instead of the creatures that had filled his dreams. "Surely mankind will not come to this," he questioned aloud. His ravens, perched on the mantle above a roaring fire, flapped their wings and Muninn whispered truths from the past. "Then he will take them all?" the god questioned himself. The wolves at his feet lifted their heads with course looks. "We shall see."
When dawn found the shutters still open, the ravens flew away into an overcast sky. Odin, still seated, awaited his opponent quietly. As always the Lord of Hosts appeared and the game went on. Each player took longer and greater care with their moves on this day and still neither said a word. They hardly spared a glance from the board. Odin would work his stiff fingers or run a hand through his beard as he thought. Yahvah would simply sit, doing nothing. Dusk found them at the end of the match. As the final rays of light past on and darkness fell, Yahvah moved his bishop into checkmate. "Your ravens come." Yahvah’s voice was calm and somehow regretful as he spoke the words.
Odin closed his eye and covered his face with one still strong hand. He needed no one to tell him the outcome, but the ravens came still and sat upon his shoulders. They told him a sad tale that night, but in the end the final words came from Huginn, "They will remember us still. Not all is lost, Great King."
Yahvah had not bothered to take the last three pawns Odin had on the board. "I had to win today or the story would not be the same," the Lord of Hosts explained and then with a somewhat sadder brilliant light he vanished.
Well written, thought provoking story.
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