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Coming Of Age

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Modi found the map by his pillow on the day he came of age. He wasn’t sure who put it there, but he opened it and poured over it, absorbing every detail with wide eyed excitement. Once opened, it was so large it fell over the sides of his bed, shimmering with subtle movement in the lines and microscopic in its intricacy. It did not take him long to realise that it was a map of the entire Citadel- far more comprehensive than any he had previously studied. He found points of familiarity; his bedroom, his sister’s rooms, the training grounds, the throne room, the large banquet halls… he found one corridor, just off the hall of science and frowned. There was much to discover he knew, but he was so familiar with this corridor- he walked it every day… so why had he not spotted that room? It was small… just off the main corridor, was there even a door there? Not that he recalled....

‘Good morning brother!’ Thrud had become so good at stealth, not that it was difficult when Modi was so absorbed in his musings. She had snuck into his room and leapt on his bed behind him with a shout ‘Happy Coming of Age day!’

‘Thank you!’ He croaked as she hugged him tightly.

‘How does it feel to be a man now?’ She asked, releasing him.

‘Very much the same as yesterday,’ Modi replied mildly, with a smile.

She shrugged ‘You’ll feel different at your feast I expect.’

‘If by different you mean sick and desperate to leave then-’

‘Oh brother!’ Thrud rolled her eyes ‘You have duties and rites to perform, you can’t just leave. You’ll be fine!’

Modi nodded ‘I know but still...’

‘What’s that?’ She asked, suddenly, leaning over his shoulder ‘Is that… the Palace?’

‘The entire Citadel,’ Modi explained ‘It was left on my pillow.’

‘Oh, some mysterious benefactor,’ Thrud said peering at it ‘aren’t you lucky?’

‘Clearly,’ Modi agreed ‘but… did you ever notice this room before?’

He pointed to the corridor, but Thrud shook her head ‘I don’t go down that way often, I wouldn’t know.’

‘I suppose we still don’t know this entire place,’ Modi conceded ‘we still haven’t travelled this entire Realm really.’

‘No, of course not, we can’t even get to the other realms!’ Thrud sighed ‘I’d love to go to Vanaheim some day. Mother said the Berserker rituals were amazing!’

‘I still… would like to go to Midgard,’ Modi said, wistfully.

‘I wonder if the Mortals are any more advanced?’ Thrud looked at the map ‘I suppose since you’re a man now you could probably go alone.’

‘No one can go,’ Modi pointed out.

‘Well, it’s your Realm really, I mean you were born there… surely you have a right to?’

Modi considered this ‘I don’t want to test Father’s patience. I’ll ask him soon… just not today.’

‘In the meantime!’ Thrud stood up ‘Wash! Dress! There’s food is in the small hall and I’d imagine there’s something special for you!’

Modi watched his sister leave and relented, getting dressed and washed, whilst still keeping half an eye on the map, still thinking… he could always check later? After he had eaten?

What was there that no one had told him about until now?

 

‘Modi! What have we told you about eating too fast?’

Modi looked up at his father, realising that in his haste, he’d stuffed his cheeks with bread, cheese and barley porridge. He looked sheepishly at his father, who sighed.

‘Thor, don’t scold him,’ Sif reminded him ‘he’s supposed to be a man now, besides, you’re hardly a master at manners yourself.’

Thor raised an eyebrow at his wife ‘I just don’t want him to get a stomach ache.’

‘He’s not a child anymore husband,’ Sif rolled her eyes ‘but you are in a hurry to go somewhere. You have plenty of time Modi, no need to rush on our account.’

Modi looked just as surprised at Sif, but chewed a little more slowly and swallowed ‘Yes stepmother,’ he managed, when his mouth was clear ‘thank you.’

Thor rolled his eyes ‘Don’t mind me.’

‘We won’t,’ Sif smirked.

Modi slowed down to eat, but in his chest his heart was wound up tight and beating fit to burst. Thrud was grinning; she knew what was on his mind. All he could think of was the map and that one room he kept missing.

‘May I be excused?’ Modi asked, when he had cleared his plate.

‘You do not have to ask any more my Son,’ Thor explained ‘but… I appreciate it anyway.’

‘So I… can be excused?’

Thor just laughed ‘Of course, Modi, please, go. Do not let us keep you any longer.’

Modi managed to get up slowly, only starting to run once he was sure his family couldn’t hear him.

 

He grabbed the map and some supplies- journal, some magic texts, water, some dried fruit, a clean shirt- and headed towards the corridor. Servants bowed as he passed, scholars got out of the way, as he opened the small section of the map that concerned him. The corridor was small, off of the main route to the Hall of Science and he kept going, frowning when he got to what appeared to be a blank section of wall. Well, naturally, of course it was blank. He’d have noticed if there was a door- it would probably take magic to open. He pressed his fingers to the wall, once he was sure no one was looking and tried to get a feel for what sort of enchantment was holding the room. He felt cold, a strange empty cold just past the ridges of his fingertips that suddenly felt an outline. It was a pattern, a definite shape- as if he were feeling a raised surface blindfolded. He kept his excitement muted, pooling his patience and concentration to trace it, to get a mental image of what it was. He picked up his journal and used a pen to copy it as he felt. When he was sure he got it all, he saw it for what it was- a seal. He knew the runes as well; they spelt out an incantation familiar to Norns and prophets- for scrying and seeing into the future. It was the very foundation of the Seidr. It was old, but he was familiar enough with it. After some quick inspection of his book, he found it’s matching rune and the necessary means of opening it. More concentration, more focus and he persuaded the seal to yield under his gentle instruction, his focused mind.

‘My name is Modi Fosterson, Prince of Asgard, I am named for my anger, and for my mother,’ he told the seal, deep within his mind ‘but my mind is at peace. My turmoil comes from my thirst for knowledge, it is sated with each new discovery I make. I wish to know… what is behind the door?’

The seal replied ‘Either your future, or someone else’s.’

‘What must I do to enter?’

‘Decide- whose future do you wish to see?’

Modi considered.

‘If I do not chose my own, who else would it be?’

‘The last person who entered, asked for their own future.’

‘Then… I would like to know their future.’

Modi was familiar enough with legends to understand the burden of knowing your own fate… though he couldn’t shake the curiosity that niggled at the back of his mind.

‘You are sure, Son of Foster?’

Modi strengthened his resolve ‘I am.’

‘Then you may enter.’

 

He had no memory of opening a door, or walking through a wall, or anything… when he looked up, he was standing in another room as if he had always been there. It was a dome-roofed courtyard, lined with strange, crystal like surfaces that reflected him many times over. The floor was cracked marble that grew with errand plants and weeds, but at the room’s centre, was a fountain. It was simple by design, circular and walled, but at its centre stood a statue. From the back, it looked like the figure of a young woman in a flowing dress, facing away from him, her hair flowing freely down her back. He was about to walk around to face it, when he heard someone crying. It made him jump, he had not heard someone else in the room, had not heard someone enter… he turned slowly, to see…

‘Oh, God, sorry,’ a woman, dressed in simple robes, her dark eyes red rimmed with tears looked up at him from where she was sitting on the edge of the fountain ‘I didn’t see you there. I’ll leave if-’

‘No,’ Modi said, embarrassed ‘I didn’t see you either, I’ll go-’

‘You were here first,’ she replied, getting up with difficulty, due to the fact she was very clearly with child.

‘I don’t think I was… besides, you look as though you need to rest.’

She hesitated ‘Thanks… I guess I do… I’m just tired...’ she rubbed her eyes and sat down again, easing her bulk a little ‘so tired right now.’

‘Um,’ he began ‘how did you… get in?’

She frowned ‘Through the door?’

‘The door… there is no door, no physical door that is,’ Modi looked back behind where he had been standing. There was no door, only a solid wall of crystal, much like the rest of the room.

‘Well… I can see a door, right there,’ the woman pointed to the wall Modi had been standing in front of.

‘I cannot,’ Modi walked back to it, placing a hand on the wall ‘am I touching it?’

‘Yes,’ she said, slowly ‘you can’t see it?’

‘No,’ Modi squinted ‘that… is strange.’

‘You’re telling me,’ the woman scoffed, but smiling ‘but I guess it’s to be expected.’

‘Is it strange when it’s expected?’ Modi asked.

‘Uh… for me? Here? Yeah,’ she sniffed ‘but that is a bit of a paradox.’

‘Yes, you’re right,’ Modi retreated back to the fountain and sat a little way from her ‘I am sorry if I disturbed your solitude.’

‘No… it’s okay, I’ve been crying here for a while now, I need to… stop,’ she took a deep breath ‘probably hormones.’

‘A while?’ Modi asked, surprised ‘But… I didn’t see you...’

‘Yeah… Neither did I,’ she remarked, thoughtfully ‘... huh.’

She reached down to where she kept a bag and retrieved a tablet like device, holding it up and bringing it to life with a swipe across it’s surface. She stared at it for a moment, frowning in thought ‘So… this is weird…. but that looks a lot like an actual tachyon particle. Or at least it matched the theoretical model… holy...’

‘What is that?’ Modi asked, moving closer to her.

‘It’s a Stark Pad I had modified to pick up traces of certain Infinity Stones… Time wasn’t thought to actually exist as a physical concept until it turns out that a Time stone exists and that it gives off these theoretical particles like it ain’t no thing. I’ve found a ton of them here it would seem… so there’s some time travel shenanigans going on- not an Infinity Stone, I’d know if it was, but something weird.’

She glanced at Modi ‘So… are you from the future? Or… okay, you wouldn’t know, because you’d be talking to the past… or am I in your future?’

Modi shrugged ‘I was about to ask you the same question. Sort of.’

She laughed ‘Okay…I’m not sure I should tell you who I am in case I cause some sort of universe ending catastrophe.’

‘Well, I think I am safe in telling you who I am, since I asked the enchantment on the door not to tell me my future, I asked it to show me someone else’s future. I’m assuming it’s showing me your’s.’

‘So… you’re my future?’

‘It would seem so,’ Modi felt the dawn of understanding bloom across his face.

Oh no.

‘You...’ The woman leaned in to look closely at him ‘you’re… my future?’

‘I think...’ Modi stood up ‘I think I should leave.’

‘You’re….’  He backed away to the wall, the woman getting up.

‘I have to go, it could be disastrous-’ he began, but she made a move toward him.

‘Please, don’t go, wait a second!’ She winced ‘Just a moment, I think you’re my son!’

‘I really should leave!’

‘No please! Wait! You look so much like-’

‘But you’re dead!’ Modi burst out ‘You’ve been dead the whole time! I’ve never known-’

They both stopped.

Jane Foster’s eyes swam with tears again ‘Please… sweetie,’ she sobbed ‘don’t go just yet.’

He hesitated, his own eyes prickling ‘I… how is this possible?’

‘You’re magic,’ she smiled thickly ‘you tell me.’

‘You said it could end the universe.’

‘I said it could… but since we’ve been in a room for at least five minutes and nothing’s ended, we should be okay. I don’t think speaking to my… son, from the future will end anything. It might… mess us both up emotionally but hey… I’m dead so what would I know?’

Modi smiled at that ‘You’re dead now… but where you’re from, where you’ve just entered, you’re very much alive.’

He pointed to her pregnant belly ‘Is that… me? In there?’

‘It will be,’ she looked down ‘if you could ask yourself to not give me such a hard time I’d be super grateful by the way.’

Modi laughed ‘I’m not sure I’d listen. Probably too busy daydreaming.’

‘Yeah, sounds about right,’ Jane sat down again ‘you’re… okay? Everything’s okay?’

He nodded ‘I’m very well, I’m… happy,’ he sniffed ‘well, right now I’m sad and happy, but mostly… my life is very happy.’

‘How’s your Pabbi?’

‘My what?’

‘Your Dad- your Father?’

‘He’s… fine,’ Modi sat with her again ‘he’s… busy, being King, but he has given me a library and I can learn magic on my own. I like it that way.’

She nodded ‘But does he pay you enough attention? I mean… he hasn’t just…’

‘Yes, I feel very loved,’ Modi glanced at the wall ‘my Father is a good man and he has provided for me.’

‘He loves you?’

‘Of course,’ Modi looked at her.

‘I just wanted to check, ’cause I’d kick his ass if he wasn’t treating you right. In the past I mean.’

Modi laughed ‘There is no need, I am content and happy.’

‘Glad to hear it,’ she sighed ‘you have a library? You said you could use magic?’

‘I can,’ Modi waved a hand to demonstrate, using his magic to bring up his hard-light model of Midgard. Jane gasped ‘Oh… Modi… it’s… gorgeous!’

‘You like it?’ He tried to blink away tears.

‘I do, oh… you made this? Like… you made this all by yourself?’

‘I did,’ he sniffed ‘it’s… not complete, but I’m working from the books and scrolls in my library and the Hall of Science… I’ve not been back to Midgard since I was… a baby.’

‘I was planning to have you on Earth,’ Jane said, distantly, staring at his model ‘I had to persuade your Dad I would be safe, but… he relented. Half Asgardian babies are tough. I’m just here to be checked by the Healers… then I’m Earthbound till after your Dad’s taken care of Thanos.’

‘Thanos?’ Modi’s eyes widened ‘As in the Mad Titan? That’s a legend now, my Father’s full title is The Mighty Thor, All-Father, Protector of the Realms, Avenger of Midgard and Defeater of Thanos.’

‘I’m so glad to hear that, but I kinda figured he won since… well, you’re alive,’ Jane peered at his model ‘Saturn has fifty three moons by the way. Plus nine more discovered recently.’

‘Oh, how many do I have?’

‘Not sure, but, you’ve missed out the three named after figures in Norse mythology, ironically… hang on, I have an updated model you can use...’

Jane called it up on her tablet and Modi compared them ‘I didn’t know Pallene orbited between Mimas and Enceladus.’

‘It does now… but… it’s in the future for you? Well, for me. Things might have changed… even a little.’

She reached out a hand and gently, hesitantly, touched his cheek, wincing as if something would explode. Nothing happened. Modi’s model faded at the contact, he felt his mother’s touch, fingers against his skin and… nothing bad happened.

‘How old are you?’ She asked, weakly.

‘I’m um… I’ve just come of age. Today in fact.’

‘So… you’re thirteen?’

‘Well, I’m nearly seven centuries by your measurements, but… yes.’

Jane just stared at him.

‘My son lives seven hundred years after I die… God,’ she muttered ‘that’s… a lot to take in.’

‘Nearly seven hundred years,’ he corrected, without thinking. She snorted ‘Spoken like a true Foster,’ she sighed ‘you got my pedantic gene.’

‘My full name is Fosterson,’ he said, pursing his lips ‘Father named me as your son.’

Jane nodded, tears stopped for a moment ‘I’m glad… but, listen, you’re more than that okay? You’re your own person.’

‘I know that… but you’re why I’m me. You gave up so much for me.’

She took a deep breath ‘Gave up?’

Modi cursed inwardly.

‘I die in childbirth don’t I?’

‘No...’ Modi said, quickly ‘you don’t but...’

‘You’re not just saying that?’ Jane accused, with a weak grin.

‘I am not just saying that, you live after my birth.’

‘Glad to hear it,’ Jane shrugged ‘but I give something up? Like what?’

Modi hesitated ‘I should not say.’

‘No… no you probably shouldn’t,’ she agreed ‘but it’s not my actual life.’

‘No,’ he shook his head ‘it’s not.’

‘Good, that’s good,’ Jane hugged her middle ‘But I’m still a Dead Mom Cliche.’

‘A what?’

She laughed a little ‘In most of the stories, the hero has at least one dead parent, usually the mom. It’s ’cause traditionally women die in childbirth in Midgard’s legends… but also because moms weren’t usually seen as potential heroes… so I’m… a part of your story.’

Modi nodded, his heart heavy ‘I’m sorry.’

She sighed ‘It’s not your fault sweetie, I know what I signed up for when I agreed to be your Mom,’ she conceded ‘I knew in theory that I’d never live to see you grow up or… take your first steps or… anything… That’s why I’m here, I found this place by accident whilst I was on my way to the Hall of Science… I just felt… overwhelmed I guess. Needed some time alone and I just… started crying. Haven’t stopped.’

Modi wasn’t sure what to say.

‘But… I’m so happy to know you’re okay and… I’m talking to you. I got to see you on your coming of age- oh! Happy Birthday!’

‘Thank you.’

‘Did… you get any presents or…?’

‘I’m due to receive gifts tonight at my celebration feast.’

‘Is your Father going to tell you about my people’s customs for when boys turn thirteen?’

‘I don’t know.’

‘Well, he is now,’ Jane sniffed ‘I’m going to make sure he does. And I’m going to make sure you get something from me.’

Modi chuckled ‘Of course.’

She took his hand, asking with a look, which he reciprocated ‘You’re such a handsome boy,’ she cooed ‘sorry, that’s what parents are meant to say, but it’s definitely true in your case. You got your Dad’s bone structure, you’re pretty tall… you’re kind of a blondie...’

‘I’ve got your eye colour,’ he pointed out.

‘Hah! Another Dead Mom Cliche,’ she shook her head ‘God, make sure you don’t have a magickal destiny!’

‘I don’t… not that I’m aware of, I have asked… I don’t want to be king. Father said I don’t have to.’

‘Oh...’ Jane smiled at that ‘I’m so glad he’s letting you make a choice but… who’s going to take the throne?’

‘My sister.’

The pause seemed to fill the air.

‘She’s… a half sister? I mean… different mom?’ Jane asked, cautiously.

‘Yes… but she was born many years after me. Long after you...’

Modi stopped.

‘Yeah, best not tell me,’ Jane sighed ‘but… I’m glad he’s able to love again.’

‘He is, but he… misses you. I can tell.’

‘Really?... I must’ve been dead a long time...’

‘Well, my sister says that her mother says he misses you still, at least a little.’

She nodded ‘Okay… well, I don’t think I wanna pull that thread too much.’

‘I understand.’

They both sat in silence for a long time.

‘You okay?’ She asked, at a loss.

‘Yes… I am, are you?’

‘Hmm,’ she got to her feet, a little clumsily ‘I will be, but… I am glad I got to talk to you. Especially on your birthday.’

‘I am as well… I’ve… only known you through your pictures and statues-’

‘Statues?!’ Jane exclaimed ‘I have statues?!’

‘There’s one behind us,’ Modi said, incredulous.

‘There is?!’ Jane turned and looked up ‘There’s nothing there.’

‘That is… interesting.’

‘Hmm,’ Jane swiped across her pad and brought up her tachyon readings ‘I think there’s two rooms, the same room, existing at once.’

Modi nodded ‘But such magic would require...’

He ran to inspect the walls, touching their shimmering crystal surface ‘The walls are made of the All-Father’s crystal.’

‘You mean the same stuff that the Bridge is made of?’ Jane exclaimed ‘Oh! That makes so much sense! Which also means that the Bifrost traverse light years so d’uh of course it’s somehow naturally strong enough to withstand the pressures of-’

‘The magic is strong, but it cannot repel the All-father’s crystal.’

She stopped ‘Yeah… that’s right.’

Modi walked to her ‘I have read your notes, all that you had made from when you were here… I’ve learned so much about my home Realm.’

‘You’re a magic user,’ she took his hands, trembling ‘my son can use magic! I’m so proud of you!... Not that I wouldn’t be if you couldn’t, I’m just… you’re… I worried about whether you’d be okay, y’know… without… But you’re so happy and confident and your Dad has done such a good job! I’m just happy… and babbling.’

‘I am happy too…’ he nodded planting a kiss atop her forehead ‘and… perhaps now I have a way to speak with you? I can come back here and see you again?’

‘Yeah, that’d be amazing! I can be part of your life! Finally!’ She raised a hand to his cheek ‘I have an idea for your birthday present!’

‘Mother-’

‘Call me Mom,’ Jane said squeezing his hand ‘if that’s okay?’

‘Of course… Mom?’

‘Modi, my boy,’ she managed ‘I have to go, I’m… due to go back to Midgard soon, but I’m going to leave something here in the Vaults. Your Dad will give it to you later today, I’ll make sure, then… then come back another day, I think I can replicate the readings so that I can calculate the right time to see you.’

‘Yes, I can use the magic to come back where you are here...thank you,’ Modi gave up trying to hold back tears ‘thank you- Mom.’

‘Happy Birthday,’ she hugged him as best she could ‘tell your parents that they did a good job okay?’

 

Modi was back in his chambers, preparing for the feast, contemplating seeing his Uncle in the dungeons, but decided against it. He did not need to get into trouble on his Coming of Age day. Uncle Loki could wait.

 

As they ate, sat at the table in Banquet Hall, with many quests, though not as many as one might of expected, for which Modi was eternally grateful. His father patted his hand to get his attention.

‘There is one thing,’ Thor wiped his mouth ‘I must do before I forget.’

He took a deep breath and reached to a small book sized package at his side. It was wrapped in colourful paper and had a ribbon tied around it. Modi frowned and took it.

‘It’s a Birthday present,’ Thor explained ‘it’s how they celebrate Coming of Age on Mid- Earth.’

Modi took the package delicately and holding it, running his fingers over the paper. It was decorated with stars and planets- stylised versions that he was familiar with from his study of the Solar System of Midgard. A little card was carefully attached with his name written onto it.

‘It’s… from your mother.’

Modi paused, still holding the box, remembering just in time to look surprised.

‘She asked me to hold onto it until the equivalent of your thirteenth birthday, which in her culture, was the Coming of Age. She called it the… uh… Bar Mitzvah. I think. It took some time to find it, but I had it preserved in the Vault for this day.’

He hesitated, Modi noticing that Sif had taken her husband’s hand under the table.

‘You are supposed to open the paper and the gift is inside,’ Thor explained.

‘Can… can I open it now?’ He asked, voice strangely distant, still studying the paper.

‘Yes Modi, of course,’ Thor chuckled ‘that is the point.’

He took a deep breath and tugged at the bindings that held the paper together. It fell open.

Inside, was a flat, tablet device, apparently dormant.

‘There’s a.. button on the side, Modi,’ Thor tried to point, but Modi found it and pressed it. The screen came to life, showing… all the details of Midgard’s Solar System.

It took him a moment, but he saw that it was relevant for the era his mother would’ve been alive and… she had included a prediction model of what might have changed in his time.

‘Modi?’ His father’s voice seemed distant.

He nodded and pressed his lips together ‘I’m alright,’ he managed.

‘If you need to retire, please feel free,’ Thor leaned in ‘I… I am so proud of you my son… and I know your mother watches from her place in Valhalla and she is very proud to.’

‘I know to,’ Modi said, holding the tablet for a moment, before switching it off ‘but I shall perform my duties as a Prince tonight. I shall retire when the feast is finished.’

‘If you are sure,’ Thor said, cautiously.

‘I am… I am sure,’ he looked to his father ‘and thank you.’

They embraced across the table, Modi deciding to keep his mother’s room a secret for the time being. His father’s heart had only just healed, it would not be fair to him.

Or to his step mother for that matter.

‘May I speak to you Modi?’

Her voice came suddenly as he was carefully eating a platter of fruit.

‘I… of course Stepmother.’

He left his seat to walk round to her side, his father having left to speak to a few Captains of the guard.

‘How are you Modi?’

‘I am well… I am...’ he stopped, noting her expression.

‘You are sure?’

‘Yes… I feel much better.’

‘Good,’ she smiled at him ‘I am glad to hear it. I… know I am no substitute for your blood-mother and I never intended to be, but I hoped only to honour her wishes.’

‘You have done so, I know she would agree.’

‘You do?’

Modi blushed, Sif simply continued smiling ‘Well, you would know better than I.’

He stared at her, feeling the odd prickling of something.

‘I suppose I would.’

‘Well, go finish your food, then the ceremony will begin.’

He went back to his seat, trying to decipher what Sif had just said and… looking at her in an odd new way.

A Queen of Asgard would know how to find secret rooms and maps wouldn’t she?

 

A fanfare and a long winded speech from the All-Father later, Modi got to his feet.

‘My son is half of Midgard, his mother, Jane Foster, now at her rest, asked that he should perform a ceremony when he comes of age, pertaining to the traditions of her people. As a son of those traditions, he shall read from the laws of a book passed to him from his Mortal Forefathers.’

Modi drew a deep breath and stood before a great book, huge and Ancient, upon a special table.

It was a valiant effort on his father’s part, though the looks of the people gathered mostly registered as bemused or confused. The book was opened at a page which, with the help of the All-Speak, he could understand. His voice wavered, but he read aloud a passage that did not… make much sense to him, but it was about acceptance. It was about letting go of that he could not change.

He caught his stepmother’s eye as he retreated to his seat, she was smiling at him.

As he sat, he felt… different.

Taller some how.

He felt his sister nudge him in the side ‘Told you so,’ she muttered.